Knight of Zero

Takes place during R2 episode 22: Emperor Lelouch. Contains spoilers for everything. Just a short little introspective piece, looking at the relationship between Suzaku and Lelouch.

Suzaku had smiled at the irony as soon as the words left Lelouch's mouth. "You will be my Knight of Zero." Lelouch's ambitions had always outstripped his own. His ultimate aim had been to become the Knight of One so that he could rescue Japan from careless Imperial rulers. But Zero trumped One, just as Lelouch trumped him. Were they friends or enemies now? It was hard to say.

They had been both in the time since they met, nearly a decade ago, and never tepid or lukewarm – fierce enemies, but fiercer friends. Together, they could accomplish anything; even redemption. He and Lelouch were closer now than they had ever been, but it was a strange unity. He had always understood the advice about keeping friends close, but enemies closer; did Lelouch buy that, though? He seemed to keep everyone at arm's length, even those he cared dearly about. Or maybe particularly those he cared about. They were united in purpose now, so he supposed that could be seen as friendship. But that purpose was destruction, so they were technically mortal enemies.

When he'd asked Lelouch if they were best friends or worst enemies now, the Emperor had laughed.

"You were always my most frustrating enemy, Suzaku, but never my worst one...and my first friend."

"No one else was stubborn enough to get through to you, I guess," Suzaku responded to the dubious praise.

"No one else earned my trust," Lelouch said quietly, the smile falling away.

"You're one to talk about trust," Suzaku chided him. He looked over to see C2 frowning. She was withdrawn and pensive these days; Suzaku wondered if she'd always been that sad and aloof. Of the collaborators, she seemed to have the least at stake, but he would not bet on that.

It was a strange game they were playing now, to rules that only Lelouch made. But unlike before, Lelouch brought others into the Zero Requiem. Suzaku could not let his doubts get in the way of their dream, and he had his own sins to atone for. If Lelouch was the man who could make lies into truth by mere force of will, then Suzaku had an obligation to defend that truth, even if it meant living a lie. But standing here in this peaceful garden, far from Japan, it was easy to let the doubts surface. Britannia was crumbling around him, after all, and very soon the world would follow.

It was true that Lelouch was more than capable of betraying him now. Once the world was at his feet, would he really honor their agreement? Or would Suzaku be swept away as a trusting fool; a pawn who had played his part, but could be sacrificed now? If so, all he was doing was helping to usher in the bleakest dictatorship the world had ever seen. But even though he knew Lelouch could do it, his heart told him he wouldn't. There had been a change in him. Power was just a game to him now. As always, his eyes were on the end goal. That was where even Lelouch could not hide his own sincerity. Or so Suzaku believed, anyway. Lelouch recognized the inevitability of the path he had chosen, and strangely welcomed the end. Maybe there had been a chance, long ago...but when Zero refused to join with Princess Euphemia, he'd all but guaranteed that he could not live to see the new world he wished to create.

And Suzaku knew the truth was that they had both loved Nunnally, after a fashion. He could bring himself to serve as Zero's Knight for her sake. He did wonder, sometimes, what Nunnally would have thought of all of this. She was a gentle soul, like…like Euphy. It was easy to believe that they were sisters; the hard part was remembering they were only half sisters. Each had a ruthless full sibling. But any importance he may have once attached to bloodlines had vanished when he'd met Nunnally's parents. He smiled again. He could see them as Lelouch's parents! Lelouch even looked like his mother. That ambition that drove him – he certainly got it honest! But Nunnally…he had seen nothing of her in either of them. She and Euphy had become who they were despite their parentage, even in spite of their upbringing. There were truly good people in this world.

Too bad he and Lelouch weren't among them. He'd tried so hard to be upright and just, while Zero made a sham of the concept of justice. But in the end, he was the greater failure. Zero's lies became truth, while he had to bear the weight of the sins whose consequences he'd escaped. Perhaps he'd known all along that the ten year old boy who killed his own father was his true self. After all, once one has wiped out a million civilians whom he was supposed to protect, he cannot claim honor as a knight. But as the Knight of Zero…he did not have to pretend to have honor. He was an avenging sword of a ruthless conqueror, nothing more. He had become the very thing the Japanese had accused him of all along – a traitor, to both Japan and Britannia. But it did feel good to be on the same side as Lelouch for once, strangely enough.

They both understood that he had no choice but to preserve his own life – sacrificing it was impossible. It would have to be Lelouch. How very ironic that Lelouch would find the one way of torturing him, by the seemingly kind act of saving his life. He would return the favor, though – he would put an end to Lelouch's life if need be – out of friendship.

Friends or enemies? It was hard to say. They were accomplices and brothers. Everything they did was for Euphy and Nunnally, both to avenge their deaths and to create the world where neither of them would have been trapped and betrayed. He could only hope that truly good people out there would make it a gentler world if he gave them the chance. And for now, that meant defending Lelouch against the many enemies he'd earned…until the time came to strike him down.