Pray, Love, Remember.
There's rosemary, that's for remembrance: pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that's for thoughts.
Hamlet, William Shakespeare.

The day Lelouch died is considered a global celebration, especially in Japan. Festivals and music, and everyone celebrating the day the tyrant was killed. Newspapers and news shows will show puppets and dolls being burnt in his resemblance, and it's one of the many reasons why that day, and only that day, Nunally stays inside her chambers. She works, of course, but quietly, only her personal assistant allowed inside. She doesn't take calls, not even from her older siblings, and she works diligently on the paperwork, on the research she has to do, on the letters that need her answer.

But her grief is personal, and her people wouldn't understand it, much less the world. Many have forgotten that she is - was - Lelouch's younger sister. Many have created lurid tales of the abuse she must have gone through, chained to an insane relative who wanted to conquer the world. Logistically, Nunally understands this: as young as she is, as much as she still has to learn, compared to Lelouch or her father, she is a promising queen.

The few times she answered that Lelouch had always been kind to her when they were growing up, the story had been tweaked to say how it must have been that Lelouch, in his insanity, had wanted to fool her into believing he was kind. Her brother's final ploy had been successful. She can't do a thing but to remain silent, so that her memories of Lelouch remain untainted and free.

So Nunally doesn't talk about Lelouch to anyone, and she allows herself one day a year for remembrance, one day a year for her grief.

There is only one person who understands her, and only one person she allows to come into her rooms late at night, when the festivities are almost over. The only other person she speaks to whom she knows also misses Lelouch.

His steps are almost completely silent. If Nunally hadn't been blind for so many years, she probably wouldn't hear him, but the gentle click of his shoes against the floor isn't completely silent. Nunally turns her head a little, not quite seeing him yet, her hands crossed in front of her, still praying

"Your Highness," a soft voice says. Nunally doesn't quite turn at first, not until she's done with her prayer.

"Don't call me that," she requests, softly. "Not today."

There is the soft hiss of a mechanical helmet opening, and then the sound it makes as its put on a table. Silence for a moment, and then--


She smiles a little, and it's then that she moves her wheelchair, turning around, giving her friend a soft and private smile.

"It's been a while, Suzaku."

He doesn't quite smile either, but there's an almost softness in his eyes, a gentleness that she never saw when she was a child, but when she reaches to touch his face, her hands remember it.

"You look thin," she tells him gently. Suzaku shakes his head a little, but gently, kneeling down so that her hand remains on his face without her having to strain.

"I'm fine," he tells her, the only other person who would grieve for Lelouch and, like her, he's forbidden to do so. "You don't have to worry about me, Nunally."

Suzaku cradles her hand with his own, leaning his face against it. Nunally wonders if she has been the only person to touch Suzaku in the past year. Only during this day Suzaku lives, every other day of the year Zero stands behind her, protecting her, helping her, her brother's wish coming true at last, with her having Suzaku, in a way, as her knight.

Except he isn't Suzaku, at all, but Zero. Because next to her brother, Suzaku is the most hated person, even in death. And there is nothing she can do about that, the same way she can't do a thing about the way her brother is hated. She's sure that she wasn't supposed to know about their plan, that it had been a small mistake from her brother.

Still. It's what allows her to at least have Suzaku, even if it's only once a year.

So she shakes her head too and reaches for him, her arms around his neck and she kisses him, softly. It's only been the second time she does it, and still Suzaku can't completely repress the way he shudders. His eyes close but Nunally keeps her eyes open, feeling the way Suzaku embraces her, his arms strong around her waist.

Nunally hides her face against the crook of his neck. She whispers: "Please," and Suzaku doesn't answer, he barely nods as he moves, an arm under the crook of her knees to pick her up, taking her to bed, laying down besides her, allowing her to push open the clasps and buttons of his costume, until he's completely bare, nothing but Suzaku, her brother's best friend, who rests besides her, and they both take off the cotton of her nightgown, Suzaku kneeling down as he helps her take off her underwear, kissing her bent knee and Nunally likes to imagine that she can feel it, even if she does not. And then she's not a queen but simply Nunally, sixteen years old, an orphan missing her big brother so very, very much.

She reaches for him again before the day ends, and they don't wear masks. Suzaku holds her as her shoulders tremble, as she hides against his chest, sobbing for Lelouch, hating him a little for having chosen death, missing him so much that she fears she will break down. She caresses Suzaku's hair, his shoulders as Suzaku murmurs terribly dark things, hate and love and pain, and Nunally kisses Suzaku, he who loved two of her siblings so much that he decided to disappear for them. They murmur long lost memories of childhood, flower crowns and expeditions, paper cranes and shooting stars and a thousand things that Nunally never saw but that make Suzaku smile.

And by the time the sun comes out, Nunally will feel a kiss to her shoulder before her covers are drawn around her, gently and carefully, and she will keep her eyes closed as Suzaku dresses and leaves her chambers. No-one will ever know that Zero was there, much less Suzaku.

Even less about the hated ghost of Lelouch that was with them, between them, around them, except for a young man whose records say he died even before the emperor did so, and a young girl who is now a queen.