Disclaimer: Code Geass – with its characters, settings, and all other borrowed elements here – is the sole property of its creators. I couldn't make money from this even if I wanted to.

Author's Notes: This was written for the Code Geass kink meme. The prompt was like this:

"ZERO!ZAKU x EMPEROR!LELOUCH

In honor of this post and this picture :

h t t p : / / community . livejournal . com / code _ geass / 1492826 . html ? page = 2 # comments"

It's basically Suzaku – inexplicably wearing the Zero costume – and Lelouch in his silly Emperor robes lying on rumpled sheets, in equally rumpled clothing. The picture was too cute, and the prompt too tempting, to pass up, and thus this 24-page word behemoth was born.

Some things to consider: this is my first smut-fic, ever. This is also my first SuzaLulu, ever. This is only my second Code Geass fanfic ever, and my first completed one; I'm actually fairly new to this fandom, but I fangirl it so hard (and because of this, long long looong fics are born.)

Warnings: Spoilers for the entire series, especially R2-25. Yaoi. Slash. Angst. Slight masochism (very slight; blink and you miss it).

Right-o. Enjoy the fic!


.. L a s t .. R i t e s ..

'A man's dying is more the survivors' affair than his own.'

- Thomas Mann

Kururugi Suzaku did not like creases.

It hadn't always been a problem, but he distinctly recalled the first time he received his orange Special Envoy uniform: the courier hadn't taken particular care of his cargo – something about Elevens not deserving of being "anything other than cannon fodder" – and as such the garments were severely rumpled when Cecile handed them to him, with an apologetic smile. He'd thought nothing of it then, and instead decided to remedy the problem himself, with a flatiron and several minutes of free time.

It fascinated him (far more than it should have, really) how easily the stubborn, unwanted folds yielded to the iron, and he ended up spending well over an hour on that uniform, turning it over and over and killing every small crease he could find, and then some. And it pleased him, because this wasn't complicated like everything else in his life. This was simply a uniform that had been tossed around and possibly sat on, and he could fix this (again, unlike many other aspects of his life he'd tried and failed to remedy.) And when the last crease had finally disappeared he looked over his handiwork and felt a strange sense of accomplishment for something that should have been so trivial.

Ever since then he had made it a point to always have his uniforms neatly pressed the night before, so that not a single crease marred his attire the next day. Not that his skintight flight suit needed it, but everything else – his Ashford Academy uniform, his ensemble as a Knight of the Rounds, his ceremonial Knight of Zero attire – was always crisp and pressed to perfection, to the point that even Lloyd had commented on it one day.

He tried to convince himself this was the reason that standing before a full-length mirror in his new Zero attire unnerved him – the sheer amount of creases in the material.

Suzaku bit his lip and watched his reflection do the same, tugging at his sleeves this way and that. No matter what he did to eliminate those pesky folds in one spot, new ones would sprout on another area, mocking his efforts. The outfit, it seemed, was only slightly too big...and yet this made all the difference.

He supposed it was his fault, in more ways than one. Firstly he wasn't sure why something so ridiculously trivial even bothered him, but that was beyond his control. He'd never sat still long enough for Lelouch to be able to get his measurements, so the Emperor must have a servant to steal one of his old uniforms and work off that. Was he getting thinner? He pulled at the cravat and exposed as much of his neck as the outfit allowed – not much. Perhaps he was. It couldn't be helped.

(After all, when your best friend asks you to kill him, with the entire world as a witness, you tend to lose your appetite every so often.)

He pushed that thought out of his mind through sheer will and regarded his relection once more. Zero's costume really was quite extravagant – a striking, deep purple with golden accents and trims, the suit alone was enough to draw much more attention than necessary; the odd mask and flamboyant cape, both currently laid out on his bed, would only make it worse.

He didn't like where that thought was going, so again he forced himself to clear his mind. He tugged at the cravat once more, wondering if he was imagining things or if it had really, suddenly, become rather hard to breathe.

He wondered how it had ever come to this – how he had agreed to become the very entity he had fought against with everything he had, less than two years ago. How he was going to don that mask and cape and (as though it weren't absurd enough yet) kill the very man who gave birth to that symbol, that character.

"So this is why you wouldn't answer the door."

"Your Majesty – " He frowned as he whirled around, suddenly self-conscious when he saw Lelouch leaning against the doorjamb with a smirk that seemed far too self-assured. "You could have knocked," he said flatly, dropping all formalities once he remembered that they were alone.

"Oh I did. But you were too busy playing dress-up." Without even waiting to be asked Lelouch walked fully into the room, closing the door behind him as he did so. "Well." And he gestured vaguely in the knight's direction. "Do you like it?"

Suzaku blinked, and wondered how in the hell he was supposed to respond to that. Was he being asked if he liked being Zero now, a man he had condemned and rejected countless times before? Did he like having to fake his own death, being forced to spend all of the past month counting down the days until the Zero Requiem? Did he like having to be the main attraction of that particular event, the climax to tomorrow's grand show that would dupe the entire world into peace?

But of course, that wasn't what Lelouch was referring to. "It all fits...just fine," he said slowly, barely loud enough to be heard.

"Hmmm." The Emperor walked from one side to the other, regarding him with a distant gaze that matched his lazy, deliberate pacing. "It seems a little big. I may have overestimated your size by a trifle. Pity."

It figured that Lelouch, of all people, would easily pick up on all the little details like that. "It's fine," he insisted.

"Yes, of course. I doubt something minor like that would throw you into suspicion, I was merely - "

"Lelouch." Suzaku hated how his throat hurt when he said the other boy's name, and how difficult it had been to force out that single word. Over the past month he had, with much difficulty, finally managed to wrap his head around what exactly the Zero Requiem required of him - kill Lelouch, become Zero (forever), lead the world into peace - but that didn't mean he was just okay with it, with any of it. Because it pained him, it pained him that that day was finally upon them, that this was really happening, and most of all that Lelouch was just standing there, nonchalantly discussing something as pointless as his wardrobe when tomorrow morning he would be... "What do you...why are you here?"

The smile stretched out slowly from the Emperor's face (it started more to the left, as always, before spreading the other way as the right side of his lips caught up) and when he regarded him there was...something...that shone in his eyes. "Suzaku, you...you have served me well, ever since we returned from C's world. Up until this point your efforts have been truly outstanding, and I would like to express my gratitude for your cooperation."

"Don't do this." The words had stumbled out of his mouth the moment the other boy paused for breath in what had obviously been a well-prepared speech, and he could not take them back.

"Do," Lelouch gave him a quizzing look, "what?"

Any of this, he wanted to say. Zero Requiem. Pushing through with that insane plan of his which, much to his chagrin, he had to admit would probably work out anyway, because Lelouch's well-thought plans always worked out in the end, and he knew he was too stubborn to see how ludicrous this all was, especially if world peace was (literally) the outcome. "That speech," he said instead. "I heard you give more or less the exact same scripted talk to Lloyd and Cecile and Jeremiah. I would think..."

He could feel the way Lelouch's gaze bored into him even as he chose to stare at the floor as though it were the most interesting thing in his world. "You would think what?"

"Nothing. Sorry."

Lelouch sighed, and it was only slightly more dramatic than it needed to be as he approached. "Suzaku – "

"I would think I'd get more than some stupid speech," he blurted out. "I...deserve better than that."

He wondered for a moment if he'd actually said that out loud, but the low, throaty chuckle that followed convinced him without a doubt that he really had. "Indeed you do. Which is why..." Lelouch turned away from him and walked languidly toward the four-poster bed on the other side of the room; when he reached his destination he pushed the mask and part of the cape aside to make room for himself as he sat down, turning his attention back to his knight. "I've come here to give you a final...parting gift, of sorts."

"I'm thrilled." Suzaku snorted, "Let me guess, a crash-course on Zero's theatrics?" he said in jest, trying – failing – to make light of the situation.

"Close, but no cigar." Lelouch raised an eyebrow in amusement, before sliding out of his shoes and swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, so that they were now stretched out in front of him, over the blankets. And then, without preamble, he lay down with a hint of a smile and a contented sort of sigh. "Come here," he said, patting the space on the other half of the bed – the half covered with Zero's cape – meaningfully.

"...What." (He couldn't help the fact that it came out less of a question, and more of a scandalized hiss.)

"I just want to talk." Lelouch shifted slightly so that he could look his knight in the eyes without straining too much. "We used to do this when we were young – lie down in the field behind your house with Nunnally. We would look for shooting stars and constellations. And we'd talk – about anything and everything under the sun. We'd just talk."

"It's raining," he said flatly. And Nunnally isn't here, and we're not at the Kururugi shrine, and we're not little boys anymore, he wanted to add.

"Which is why we will be doing this here," Lelouch replied with an exasperated sigh. He still made no move to approach the bed, and upon seeing this the other boy fixed him with an unreadable – (it spoke of sadness and wistfulness and...was that pleading?...but mostly, unreadable) – gaze, before speaking in a softer voice. "Suzaku, my parting gift to you shall be closure. I am offering you this now, but if you don't want it then say so, explicitly, and I will understand."

He stared at his friend for a very long time then, wondering which answer would be the correct one. Despite all the questions that still burned and stewed at the back of his brain – why did you give Euphie that order? / why did she have to die? / why did you ask me to 'live on'? - he wondered if he really, truly wanted them answered.

As such he stood there for a long time, holding Lelouch's gaze, before giving a resigned sigh and staring at the inviting hand resting on Zero's cape. "Yes, your Majesty."

He didn't bother to set the cape aside when he reached the other side of the bed; he simply sat down, feeling the bed give slightly under his weight, and picked up the mask. It was heavy in his hands, and it seemed heavier still than when Lelouch had first offered it to him, in the throne room that day. He wondered if he would see the world through Zero's – Lelouch's, really – eyes once he donned this mask. (Maybe then, finally, this whole plan would make sense.)

"Aren't you going to lie down?"

The fact that he had momentarily forgotten that the former prince was even in the room surprised him, and spoke much of his current mental state. "Um." Pausing, he bent down and undid the small zipper at the end of his leg partway, just enough to expose the laces on his shoe. It was amazing, really - the amount of detail Lelouch had put into designing the costume so that the shoes, also colored in a similar gold and purple, flowed seamlessly with the rest of the suit. He repeated this treatment to the other shoe, bending down further to set the pair neatly aside before straightening up once more.

...Right. He had been asked to lie down.

He moved to do so, but something made him change his mind at the very last second and switch sides – with much rustling and shuffling he brought his legs up so that his feet rested on the pillows, and settled down until he was lying face-up, with Lelouch's knees merely inches from his cheek.

Lelouch gave another chuckle as soon as he stopped fidgeting and finally went still, and he didn't need to see the other's expression to imagine the smirk of amusement that no doubt graced it. And as he hooked the mask under his elbow and pulled it towards himself (not that he felt particularly attached to it, oh no – he just didn't want it rolling off the bed) he could help the small, wistful smile that had etched itself onto his face without him knowing. He supposed they made an interesting sight: two childhood friends, who at the prime of their lives had taken over an Empire, collectively spilled the blood of millions, and alienated themselves from the people who loved them the most – all for the sake of the world.

But really, at this point he wanted to imagine them as nothing more than two teenagers awkwardly splayed out onto a bed that wasn't quite large enough, lying opposite ways and slightly out-of-phase (because it was simpler, this way.)

"Suzaku." He still had that half-smile on his face when Lelouch spoke, and the latter's voice sounded thoughtful, musing. "Would you like to begin?"

He wondered if it was horribly inappropriate, but he began to realize that lying down on Zero's cloak was a lot more comfortable than he would have imagined. "What are the rules?"

"Anything," came the swift reply. "Anything you want to say, anything you want to ask." There was a pause, before he continued. "Anything you want to do."

He sighed. He hadn't expected something like this, although in retrospect he realized he should have seen it coming; Lelouch was always the type of person to have airtight plans, all scenarios considered, all conditions pre-determined. It would make sense, then, that when it came his time to...to go, he would leave no loose ends, no unfinished business.

(Or was he granting him this courtesy because they had been good friends? Because maybe, after everything that happened between them, all the hate and violence and unnecessary bloodshed – maybe, they still were?)

"Shirley," he began, deciding to take this for what it was and leave it at that. "She...it wasn't a suicide, was it?"

"No. But you already knew that." Lelouch's voice had its usual bored, disinterested tone. "Go on - the question you really meant to ask."

Fine. "Was it you who pulled the trigger?"

"No."

He sighed again (relief, this time) and allowed his eyes to slide shut. "Thank you," he murmured. He had never wanted to believe that Lelouch would kill an innocent girl, a friend in cold blood like that, but all this time he'd been terrified to ask as well (for fear of being disappointed, perhaps.) Now he'd learned the faith he'd placed in the other boy – what little there was left of it, a mere pittance really – hadn't been unfounded.

And he hated to admit it, but upon hearing that answer it seemed as though a small weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Once again, Lelouch was right, this was a good idea and he was right to do this – as he often was.

"My turn."

He allowed a small laugh to escape between his lips. "I wasn't aware we were taking turns."

"Yes, well, we both know you aren't the only one who has to be at peace tomorrow, right?"

And then just like that, the small bubble of happiness he had allowed himself to feel burst, replaced by a flash of pain. "Right," he said numbly, swallowing hard.

When Lelouch spoke next, there was no hesitation in his voice: "Why did you take Arthur with you when you became a member of the Rounds?"

Suzaku blinked, giving himself a moment to let him sink in. "Are you serious? That's your question?"

"That cat hates you. You have to admit it's a valid, logical anomaly."

"I guess you're right," he chuckled. "Well...there's really nothing to it. He is my responsibility."

"You could have easily left him with Milly or anyone else at the Student Council," Lelouch pointed out.

"That's true, but...having Arthur with me reminded me of the Student Council, of everybody at Ashford. And..." He struggled to find the words to follow; there were always moments, every now and then, when he wished he were more like Lelouch, who could deliver an inspiring speech at the drop of a hat, who always knew the right things to say – this was one such moment. "I suppose, having him with me reminded me of those days, of...of happier times."

A short period of silence followed after that, but it was not the uneasy, suffocating kind – rather, it filled the room with an unlikely kind of peace as he (and Lelouch, he imagined) found himself lost in those lighter memories, of the peal of the school bell echoing throughout campus, of colorful festivals and ludicrous giant-pizza attempts, of being surrounded by hundreds of laughing, joyful students who didn't know how to shoot a gun or work a knife or pilot a Knightmare or betray friends to Emperors in exchange for a dubious promotion.

Those had been happier times. And they were recent ones too; he knew this, but why did it feel as though they were so far away, so long ago?

"This feels...surreal." The Emperor broke the spell of silence with that smooth, almost regal, declaration. "Wouldn't you agree?"

"What do you mean?"

"You and me, just...talking like this. Together." There was a slight rustle of cloth as Lelouch shifted, and for a moment Suzaku thought he was going to sit up. But he didn't. "After this past year...who would have thought?"

He shrugged, and it was a moment before he cursed himself, mentally, for forgetting that the other boy could not see him. "Do you want us to stop?"

"Of course not." The reply came as though what he had just suggested were simply ludicrous. "And you? Is this making you...uncomfortable?"

To be honest, it did, at first. But now there was something about all this – the easy conversation, the way it harked back to seven years ago, and (of course) the promise of closure – that slowly, but inexorably, sucked the tension out of his nerves. "No, it's...it's okay."

And he could practically hear the wide grin when Lelouch spoke again: "Then it's your turn."

Dimly, he was able to hear the thunder from the tempest now raging outside – the sound was muffled through the walls, but made its way to his ears nonetheless, reminding him (as though he had forgotten, as though he could forget) that there was still a world outside this room, and that time still marched on.

It was his turn.

He wondered if he should get it out of the way now, or save it for later...lingering on both options before finally deciding it was time to come to terms with it once and for all: "Euphy," he started, cursing the slight tremble in his voice once her name left his lips. "I want you to tell me...what really happened."

(Because if Lelouch didn't kill Shirley, then there was no way he would have deliberately murdered Euphemia, right? No matter how much she got in the way of his plans as Zero, Lelouch had loved his sister as well, and he was hoping against hope that it was all just...)

"An accident," came the quiet reply. "A terrible mistake. That...wasn't the way it was supposed to end."

Suzaku felt his throat tightening, and it took all his willpower to prevent his voice from shaking, from breaking. "She trusted you," he whispered. "I let her out of my sight for less than ten minutes and..." And a lively, inspiring ceremony had quickly turned into a bloody massacre. "She trusted you," he repeated. "And I trusted you."

"Suzaku." Lelouch said his name matter-of-factly, as though he were pointing out a landmark or delivering an answer to a teacher's prompt in class. And he said it correctly as well – no misplaced accents and flattened vowels, as most Britannians unwittingly used whenever they addressed him. "Did you know...that I really, truly planned to join her then?"

All he was able to offer was a grunt of surprise.

"That's right," Lelouch continued. "I went in there with all intentions of disrupting the ceremony, but...when I spoke with her, she told me she had relinquished her claim to the throne. That she realized the repercussions she would face for such a selfish act, but she didn't care. She..." There was a rustle of blankets and robes once more, and Lelouch must have turned away then, because when he spoke next his voice sounded a bit more distant than it had before. "That was when I realized: she was not as naive as she seemed, as other people made her out to be. And that, her intentions were indeed pure."

It was difficult – no, downright impossible – to imagine Euphy having anything but pure intentions; it was just unfathomable for her to have any malice behind her actions whatsoever. But maybe he was being biased. She had been nothing but kind to him, after all. "So you would have called off your rebellion? Disbanded the Black Knights? Surrendered your military forces?"

"Yes." The answer was swift, steady and sure. "All of those."

He clenched his fists around the material of Zero's cape. "Then what happened?"

"It was Geass. I lost control. And...one thing led to another, and it was all downhill from there."

As soon as he heard that wretched word, his mind couldn't decide if he should break down and finally cry – a relief he had been perpetually denying himself, ever since Lelouch took the throne – or grab his friend by the collar of those thrice-damned Emperor's robes and shake him violently for all he was worth. Instead, and perhaps to match the sheer absurdity of it all, he did something that suprised even himself – he threw back his head, letting it sink further into the mattress, and laughed.

(But it was a laugh that bled a year's worth of anger, sorrow, hopelessness – it was everything but joy, everything a laugh was not supposed to be.)

"That's what you get for accepting such a cursed power," he hissed.

"You're right," came the smooth reply. "Don't worry; I will pay my dues very soon."

Stop doing that! he wanted to scream, furious at how easily his friend played that card, like it didn't bother him in the slightest. As though tomorrow would just be a show of smoke and mirrors that they could –

"Did you love her? Euphy?"

- sit and laugh about the next day. "Are you using up a turn, your Majesty?" he said tightly.

"What does it matter? We have all night."

"Don't you have plans of...?" He was about to finish that with 'going to sleep,' but his brain caught on before he could do so. And it frustrated him even more, how easy it was to forget, how unreal it all seemed, that he clutched the mask with both hands and smashed it against his face, cursing – both his stupidity and the sudden flash of pain – in muted Japanese.

"Suzaku?"

"I did," he said softly, his lips brushing against the cold plastic of the mask's front. He saw his own distorted reflection there, blurred and tinged bluish-green by the tint. He imagined putting on that mask and vaguely wondered how soon it would be before he missed seeing things in their true, vibrant colors. "At least, I think so."

" 'Did'? Past tense?"

"I might have. I don't know." He brought the mask down again, grateful for the sudden influx of light in his eyes, before shaking his head to clear it. "But I think, until the time I finally came to terms with the fact that she...that she'd gone...I think I did love her, then."

"You think?"

He sighed, using his free hand to rub his temples. Euphy had showered him with kindness and warm smiles, fond glances and softly-spoken words of encouragement, of comfort. And he had been nothing but grateful for all of those, because she didn't have to be kind to him; in fact, protocol dictated that she look down on him, because he was a Number, because he was a father-killer, because he had failed her twice: once back at the infamous Kaminejima incident, and once more at the commemoration of Special Zone.

And perhaps that was why, he thought ruefully, nothing would have ever worked out right between them – because no matter how much kindness she showed him, he never once felt worthy of her, never once thought he ever stood a chance of returning all her goodness, because a broken sinner never deserved such an angel.

"She loved you, you know," Lelouch quipped at his silence. "She told Nunnally how she always wanted to be near you. Did she ever tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

There was a sigh of exasperation. "That she loved you."

"...Yes," he admitted, recalling that conversation they'd had over a private channel as he rushed haphazardly into what he thought would be his final battle, with the Lancelot's energy monitor beeping frantically in the background all the while. What had she said? She'd loved his strength, his sad eyes, something about cats – she would love everything about him, if only he would love her in return.

"Did you say it back?"

"I..." And he had smiled and called her spontaneous and impulsive, thanking her for her kindness, and requested that she erase his existence and pass on his final regards to his superiors at the army. He supposed that did not qualify as 'saying it back' in the slightest. "That's not fair," he said in jest, deciding to dodge the topic altogether. "You've thrown in a lot of questions one after another, your Majesty."

Lelouch sniffed airily at that. "I should have expected that. You were always a stickler for the rules like that, infuriatingly so - "

"I forgive you."

The silence that filled the room was absolute, so much so that the rush of rainfall outside became audible if one listened hard enough.

"What?"

"Don't make me say it again." Suzaku bit his lip, casting his gaze onto the mask now cradled on his stomach. But he did so anyway: "I forgive you...for what happened to Euphy." And as soon as the words left him, he felt as though another, heavier weight that had been crushing his chest for the past year or so had been lifted; all of a sudden, it was so much easier to breathe. Any doubts he'd had about this 'final parting gift' from Lelouch had now crumbled into dust. "Okay. That was my turn. You go."

Lelouch said nothing for a long while after that, and Suzaku used the moment of silence to bask in the newfound relief he had been granted. He wondered what would have happened if he'd never forgiven the other boy; would he have been forced to carry that cross until the very end?

"Suzaku. Do you really mean that, or are you just saying that to make me feel better before – ?"

"Shut up. Don't finish that sentence," he cut in, killing the topic at once. "It's your turn."

He got a low chuckle for his efforts, and then... "Thank you. That...means a lot to me."

He couldn't help but smile wryly at the ceiling. "You're welcome."

"Say, that time at the Kururugi Shrine...when you asked me to meet you there..."

Lelouch had trailed off meaningfully, and he knew exactly where this was headed. "I had no idea, I swear," he confessed. "If I'd known Kanon was following me, I would have done something."

"So you didn't have that all planned out then?" There was the barest hint of amusement in the Emperor's voice. "You disappoint me, Lord Kururugi."

"And you give me too much credit," he grinned back. He balanced the mask precariously on his abdomen and stretched out his arms above his head; he was never used to sitting still for long periods of time, much less lying down, unless he had turned in for the night. And then, just because it felt right, he spoke again: "I'm sorry I turned you in to the Emperor."

"You sold me for a promotion, is more like it."

"Does that make it better or worse?" he smiled weakly.

"It depends on how you look at it. But it doesn't matter; I forgive you. I – " A particularly loud clap of thunder broke that thought in two, and as such Lelouch had to repeat it when the silence rushed in once more: "I'm sorry I used your father's murder to try to cajole you into joining the Black Knights. That was...I crossed a line, there. I apologize."

Suzaku shrugged, clasping his hands behind his head. "Forgiven."

The apologies flew swiftly and easily after that, as though a dam had been broken between them and the confessions – months and months of pent-up frustration and guilt – poured forth without restraint:

"I'm sorry I used Nunnally to test if you'd regained your memory."

"I'm sorry for heartlessly mocking you when you tried to warn me about FLEIA."

"I'm sorry I stepped on your head and...said all those things to you at the Kururugi Shrine."

"I'm sorry for shooting you."

"I'm sorry for shooting you," and he chuckled softly at that. What horrible friends they were, he realized, what with all the times they had hurt one another, so deeply. And yet, they had the most wonderful partnership - no one could deny that anymore; together, they really could do anything.

Their friendship then, he supposed, was one of extremes. When they were on opposite sides, there was so much hatred, so intense that they dealt the lowest of blows with reckless abandon and tore each other's hearts apart, one bloody strike at a time. But when they were united, they were invincible – they stopped a madman, decimated an enemy stronghold with a snap of their fingers, usurped the Britannian throne, eliminated a nuclear bomb with even the most ridiculous of odds...and brought the world to its knees.

(And tomorrow, they would make it all better.)

"I'm sorry I used the Geass on you."

Suzaku sighed, almost feeling the twinge at the back of his head that he now recognized – Lelouch's mark on him, his order to 'live on.' "It's all right," he replied. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't come in handy sometimes."

"I realize that. But I also know it's caused you a lot of pain."

That was undeniable as well. If it hadn't been for that Geass, he wouldn't have thrown his loyalty – and Euphemia's honor – into question, he wouldn't have fired that damned FLEIA and killed all those people, and he would have been dead so many times over it was pointless to even keep track anymore.

"For what it's worth," the older boy continued at his silence, "I never meant to use it on you."

"Then why?" His tone wasn't accusing; far from it, it sounded more like a curious schoolboy question than anything else. Because really, what did it even matter anymore? The Geass was there and he had learned to control it; all things considered, it was just one more thing tacked onto a very long list of aspects of his life he'd wished he understood, but wishing was as far as he could go.

He felt the shift in weight before he heard the protest of cloth, and when he turned Lelouch had sat up. The sight of him tugged at the corner of his lips – regal robes rumpled, jet black hair slightly tousled – a far cry from the neatness and perfect grooming he'd always associated with the former prince. A part of him had the sudden, childish urge to point and laugh, but it was silenced by the intense gaze held by familiar violet eyes.

"Suzaku," (and when he spoke it was just as intense, his voice quiet but thick with an emotion he could not quite identify yet). "I should have thought it would be obvious by now."

He allowed his eyes to slide shut with a small sigh. "I think we've established that things which are obvious to geniuses like you might not be obvious to the rest of us mere mortals," he said lightly, hoping the humor would take away some of the tension that had slowly begun to build up again.

And he was rewarded by a laugh, but it was just as light and short-lived. "Well then let me make it clear for you: I cast that Geass on you because I want you to live."

That was quite the circular answer, he noted dryly. But... " 'Want'? Present tense?"

"But of course." There was some shuffling at this point, but he kept his eyes closed and simply continued listening. "That won't change, Suzaku. Remember this. Even after I'm gone...I want you to live on."

And like a switch that had suddenly been flicked on by those all-too-familiar words, this time he did feel that twinge, the slight burning behind his eyelids, a subtle reminder that his friend's curse – no, blessing – would be with him always. He gave the only reply that seemed appropriate, the same as it had always been: "Yes, your Majesty."

It was the least he could do, really: accept this gift with gratitude, because he was the one with an irrational deathwish; Lelouch had only meant well, and he owed it to the other boy to at least respect his intentions.

"Excellent. I will hold you to that."

With what? he wanted to ask, but Lelouch was moving again, and the bedsprings creaked ever so slightly in protest. He prepared to scoot over to the edge if Lelouch needed more space for...whatever he was doing, but just as suddenly the motion stopped and he Emperor spoke once again:

"And now, it's my turn."

Suzaku didn't have time to process the fact that the voice suddenly sounded so close; he barely had time to open his eyes in surprise before there was a flash of violet irises, and a soft pair of lips pressed tentatively against his own.

(And those lips were indeed so, so soft, as though they had never once birthed words that had broken hearts, crafted illusions, fanned flames and ended lives.)

"What – ?" When he finally squirmed away, it was almost as if by afterthought, and the shock that had lagged behind suddenly flooded his entire being. "Lelouch!" he sputtered. "What the hell??"

The former prince seemed to ignore his outburst, merely regarding him with a gaze that was earnest, and yet doubtful at the same time. "Suzaku," he ventured, much more hesitantly this time (and he knew the difference because Lelouch had never been hesitant, Lelouch was always proud and dignified and sure). "If I...If I try that again, will you let me?"

There was no inflection at the end of that sentence; it was truncated and that held all the meaning. Suzaku recognized the nuance in that tone, all too well, from almost a decade of following orders for a living.

And yet his expression must have betrayed him, because in the next moment Lelouch was pulling away, replacing the tension with a quiet, cultured laugh, smooth as silk. But those violet pools were devoid of any happiness whatsoever. "It's all right. I'd expected this."

A flash of white and the crack of thunder came in quick succession; for all their finery, the lights in the room flickered just a tiny bit.

"It wasn't the ideal outcome, but..." The older boy regarded him with a winsome smile that surrendered all hope. "I thought it would be like this."

Even when he finally found his voice again, all he could manage was a strained, "Your Majesty?"

"That you would deny me until the very end."

There was something about the way Lelouch spoke those words that made them sink deep into his being, latching onto his heart and promising never to let go. "No, it's not that," he said brokenly, disjointedly. "It's just...I would never...but this..."

"I have hurt you deeply," the soft voice cut into his stutterings. "I lied to you, turned your countrymen against you, took Euphemia away from you. And as such, I..." There was the faintest hint of a smirk when he heard, barely, the sound of socked feet hitting the floor. "I deserve nothing more from you."

Strangely enough, at that very moment the guilt gave way to a short flash of anger. Just because he refused, this once (and something so ridiculous at that) – did none of his recent sacrifices count for anything at all, then? Was his loyalty just of the same calibre as that of any of the legions of Geassed foot soldiers to the other boy? He had fought for him with everything he had, his devotion as steadfast and unyielding as it had been for his sister. And this...this...friends didn't ask this of each other, they –

Friends wouldn't murder each other tomorrow, either.

And it was in that frame of time, with Lelouch patting the sheets for his hat and preparing to stand up, to leave him here alone, that he finally understood.

"Wait."

Slender fingers stilled in their search for that elusive, flamboyant headpiece. "Hmm?"

"I..." He decided to nail his gaze onto his reflection in the mask once more, but he was well aware of acute violet eyes watching him. "Is this..." He couldn't believe what he was about to ask. "Do you really want this?" he finished in a whisper.

The chuckle was a familiar one by now – soft, quiet mirth, the laugh usually reserved for when he said something unclever, or otherwise reminded the other boy of his superiority in intellect. "There is no earthly reason for me to be unsure of anything at this point, Suzaku...let alone deliberately deceive you."

He nodded and bit his lip. "In that case..." He couldn't help the rush of warmth to his cheeks when he decided: "Okay."

"...'Okay'?"

"It's...it's okay."

Lelouch raised a delicate eyebrow, and a wily smile played across his elegant features. "You'll have to be a bit more specific than that, Lord Kururugi."

Suzaku allowed a laugh to bubble from within, but it came out weak, more like a sigh. (That he could still be so stubborn, so insufferable, even in moments like this...) And this time, he was the one who closed the gap between them.

Lelouch tasted of eucalyptus and fine wine. He learned this when the other boy's tongue – persuasive in more ways than one – had somehow slipped between his lips and brought what they were doing to a slightly higher level. He stifled a gasp at the intrusion but otherwise let it be; while a small, rapidly shrinking part of him was appalled at what was happening, he could easily rattle off a list of how this relationship – his first (and last) real friendship – had veered radically off the straight and narrow, so really, this wasn't that ludicrous at all, this was –

His thoughts slowed a bit when Lelouch pulled away, and took a moment to gaze at him, as though studying his features; they came to a complete halt when the other boy lowered his head and began planting soft kisses on the underside of his jaw.

"L-..." He didn't finish his half-hearted protest even as the Emperor pressed both hands on either side of his head and used the leverage to shift, so that he was now straddling him completely. This knocked the mask off his stomach and sent it rolling clumsily on the floor, but the sound was distant and muffled and he found that he couldn't quite bring himself to care.

Even as Lelouch had braced his forearms on his shoulders and started undoing the cravat at his neck, that tiny damnable voice in his head kept screaming at him that this was wrong, so wrong, that this was something reserved for lovers, or at the very least, for people who didn't utterly destroy one another to a point beyond all repair. But he didn't echo those sentiments aloud, and his arms did not fling the other boy off; gloved fingers simply threaded through silken black strands and lost themselves there.

(Because all things considered, Kururugi Suzaku was dead. And tomorrow, Lelouch vi Britannia would be as well. So what did it matter anymore? If something were to take place within these walls...how would that affect anything, affect anyone?)

He felt those lips descend once again, exploring new territory as the cravat finally came undone. Lelouch was gentle with his ministrations, yet methodical - running along the line of his jaw until he found a spot that elicited a gasp, and rewarding that with a husky chuckle and a teasing hum. He lavished his attention onto that spot – the hollow of his knight's throat - kissing and licking and sucking at the soft flesh there, but it was cautious and just so gentle and –

All rationality thrown to the wind, Suzaku finally snaked an arm around the other boy's waist, using the other hand to clutch his head close as he uttered a single, slightly breathless word: "Bite."

The wandering lips stilled for a moment, before humming against his skin when Lelouch finally spoke. "...What?"

"Please."

And he did, and he bit down hard and deeply and without mercy, and the jolt it sent through his system was so intense that he thrashed, the sensation drawing out a broken moan that filled the room.

Lelouch pulled away slightly and fixed him with an incredulous stare (although his eyes were cloudy now, half-lidded and unfocused, and his cheeks had been dusted a slight pinkish hue). "You...are strange," was all he said, a tiny hint of amusement in his voice.

"...Are you kidding me?" he laughed, and it surprised him how strangely hoarse his own voice had sounded; he finally noticed that he was panting as well, and it felt as though the garments clinging to his skin were on fire. "You...you started all this!"

"True," the Emperor conceded with a husky chuckle. "It makes sense though: you and all your self-loathing, of course it would manifest in - "

Suzaku shut him up with a kiss.

And as their tongues clashed and he felt the tickle of the other boy's staggered breath on his face, the little voice in his head – the one that had been protesting all this – finally succumbed to silence.

He ran his hands along the other boy's back, skimming over the bumps and edges of the ornamental jewels on the robe there. He could feel the heat from the other body, even through layers of cloth; it matched the heat his tongue basked in as it explored the other mouth, and all that heat was starting to make him dizzy and rob him of the ability to think straight, if at all.

Which was why when they finally broke apart and came up for air, it took all his remaining mental faculties to ask: "How far?"

Even in his present state – flushed, gasping for oxygen and his gaze hazy with lust – Lelouch was able to process the prompt in the blink of an eye. "As far as possible, if you'll do it," came the reply.

Suzaku nodded silently, pulling the other boy close and kissing at the exposed skin he could find there - cheek, throat, clavicle. It was a silly question, he realized; of course there would be no need to hold back anything on the eve of his demise.

"And you?" The strain in that voice was unmistakeable, as was the breathless quality it held. "You weren't quite enthusiastic about this when it began. Are you sure this is all right?"

He said nothing, merely settling his lips over the protruding bone there (Lelouch had always been so skinny, but he didn't realize just how much so until now) and nipping softly.

"Suzaku."

He sighed, closing his eyes. "Geass is like a wish," he mumbled, feeling the pleasant vibration as his lips moved against smooth, warmed skin. "When you don't have the power to go at it alone...you ask others for help." He was rambling, and he knew it, but quoting the other boy's words back to him – horribly out of context, he knew, even in his foggy state of mind – felt strangely right.

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"That's what this is, right?" he asked. "A wish?"

Because it had to be; ever since this had started, he had always assumed it was. This was a desperate, final request and it was not allowed to be anything else. Because otherwise, that meant this went far beyond last-ditch, random, meaningless sex, and Suzaku wasn't sure he wanted to contemplate that other option, especially on the eve of Zero Requiem.

Lelouch's next words were muffled, spoken into his shoulder. "And if it were?" he asked, his voice lilting with humor.

Perhaps it was best this way, then: never to know the answer to that question. He brought his lips close to his ear, smiling at the shiver that rippled through the other's body as he spoke. "Then I accept it. That Geass."

They shared breath and lip-lock for uncounted minutes. Outside, the tempest raged on and battered the windows, testing their strength. But Suzaku screened it all out, along with everything else; his every sense was heightened and focused only onto the beautiful boy straddling his hips and running his hands along his sides, across his chest, into his hair. And in those breathless moments, brief and fleeting though they were, he was finally able to forget: forget Euphy, forget his father, forget the Zero Requiem and the fact that he and Lelouch had ever been enemies, because all that mattered was here and now, and how damn good it all felt.

Every touch, every caress was electrifying; Lelouch seemed to treat this like an art, and each time those smooth, regal hands ghosted over his skin, they left him struggling for coherence, straining for air. So he knew it was only natural, but...he couldn't help but feel a twinge of shame when he suddenly became aware of the heat, the tightness, between his thighs.

When the proof of his arousal brushed against the other boy's leg, there was a pause, followed shortly by a quiet laugh. "Shall we take this further?" he inquired.

"As his Majesty wishes," Suzaku murmured.

Lelouch shook his head. "Always putting the needs of others above your own. Sad." With that, he pushed himself upright, tugging meaningfully at the lapels at the front of his costume. "Come on."

The soldier obeyed, shifting to a sitting position as he realized – once the wave of vertigo hit – that this was the first time he'd really moved since their little game had begun. He wondered if they were still playing it even now, in a different sort of way, but he had no time to ponder on that further; those long, pale fingers stood out like neon against the dark purple fabric as they groped for his nipples. They found their target within seconds, and when they did he couldn't quite suppress the moan that flew out of his lips faster than he could catch.

"You - have you...have you done this before?" he barely managed to ask.

"Actually, no." There was a hint of a smirk as Lelouch unzipped the front of his costume slowly, peppering the skin with maddening little licks as a line of flesh became visible from throat to breastbone. "But I already told you – strategy cannot be defeated by real-time tactics."

Suzaku decided he did not want to know what that meant in this situation, and simply ran his hands along the front of those baroque royal robes, searching for a zipper or a button.

"How does this..." The heat that positively radiated from the skin underneath was distracting, and it took quite a lot of self-control to stop himself from ripping the garments off.

The boy sitting on his lap merely gave his efforts a bemused smile, one that widened as he accidentally dislodged a large emerald from its setting. "Clumsy."

"Sorry," he muttered, watching as the jewel bounced off the bed and fell out of sight. "Should I - ?"

"Don't bother." Lelouch dismissed his concern with a careless wave. "No-one is going to notice the difference."

And then he leaned back a little and took matters into his own hands, first shirking off the wide stole of watered-silk, and letting it drop in ripples to the floor. The smirk never left his face as he undid clasps and hidden zippers with slow, teasing deliberation. And he held his knight's gaze steadily the entire time, as though daring the latter to rush him.

Suzaku kept his hands still, and when finally the Emperor's robes slipped willingly from those marble shoulders and joined the sash on the floor, it was worth the wait. Lelouch was perfect – from the graceful, almost feminine curve of his neck to the slight taper at his slender waist, skin smooth like porcelain and almost glowing.

Tentatively he reached out a hand, still encased in black satin, and ran the back of his fingers against his torso. He started at the shoulder, tracing a curved path down to the abdomen and stopping just at the waistband of his white pants. If he hadn't already been damned to hell for everything he'd done these past seven years, he was quite certain it would happen tomorrow (for surely it would be a sin to taint, to destroy something as exquisite and flawless as this.)

"Are you quite finished, Lord Kururugi?"

He drew his hand back and averted his eyes. "Sorry."

Lelouch said nothing for a moment after that, eyeing him curiously. "Stop that."

"Stop what?"

"Apologizing for the most trivial things. That's not how Zero behaves."

Suzaku smiled weakly at that, remembering – as if he really needed to – that tomorrow would be the first day of many long years, perhaps even decades, of masquerading as the faceless Man of Miracles, and that such an act went beyond costumes and theatrics. "Well I'm not Zero yet, am I?"

"Hmm. That's true." And then a devious smile lit up the other boy's face, highlighting those cat-like violet eyes as he reached out and tugged the zipper of the Zero costume down the rest of the way. "In that case, you will have no need for these."

In a flash, the Emperor was working to rid him of those purple garments, and it was then that Suzaku remembered something and closed a hand over his wrist. "W-wait, Lelouch – "

But those hands were insistent and dismissed his protests, and despite his best efforts the upper half of the suit was soon bunched up in folds around his waist and forearms.

And...

Suzaku bit his lip and looked away as Lelouch fixed his eyes on his exposed torso without a word. A soldier's body, after all, was often abused, and he imagined that of someone like himself – reckless and always on the frontlines – made quite the sight.

As such he understood that Lelouch went deathly quiet as he surveyed the damage done by seven years of being in the army: the scars and bruises mapping out a narrative on his body – some old, some new, some trivial, some near-fatal – all together, too many to count at a single glance.

Lelouch's voice was soft and strained when he asked, "Are any of these...mine?"

He shook his head. "Some are from the Black Knights, but none of them are – "

"Which ones." It was a demand, not a question.

So Suzaku acquiesced, pointing out the blemishes in question as though he were telling a story. This was from Kaminejima – he'd had it when he woke up on the beach and still had no idea how he'd acquired it. Those were from Tohdoh – when he'd sliced open the Lancelot's cockpit that day, some of the small shrapnel had buried themselves into his skin. That set of bruises was from Xingke, when the impact from the Shen-hu's Baryon Cannon flung him mercilessly around the cockpit. And these – a wide variety of scrapes and cuts and gashes all over – were from Kallen.

He spoke in a voice that was barely loud enough to be heard over the rush of rainfall outside, but Lelouch listened intently the whole time. And when he finished, the black-haired boy crept closer, lowered his head, and brought his lips fervently to the ruined skin.

Suzaku watched through half-lidded eyes as the Emperor planted a trail of feather-light kisses along every scar and bruise he had mentioned, and even some he hadn't. The actions were soothing, apologetic – as though he could make all the damage, all the pain disappear by re-tracing the paths they had taken, once upon a time.

He hissed when those lips descended upon a particularly long gash across his stomach, one that was deep and an angry shade of red and (apparently) had not quite healed yet.

That was from the day he had 'died' for his Emperor, but perhaps both of them knew that already.

"Does it hurt much?" came the quiet inquiry.

"No," he lied through gritted teeth.

Lelouch scoffed at that. "I almost forgot. You like this." With that he brought his head down once more, also sneaking a hand through the opening above the very edge of the zipper. And as such those soft lips made contact with the wound at the same time that assertive hand settled firmly over his arousal.

The sudden, choked cry filled the air like a gunshot.

And another, and another escaped the confines of his throat as Lelouch palmed him through his boxers and attacked the gash with his lips and a single-minded kind of determination. The mix of pain and pleasure was almost unbearable, but it was also intoxicating – it made his head swim and he had to restrain himself from bucking his hips, from clutching the former prince too tightly, for fear of leaving bruises (so he settled for running his hands appreciatively along the other boy's chest, his fingers shaking with longing, with want.)

"I won't break, Suzaku," he spoke into the gash as though reading his friend's mind, pulliing down those boxers and finally allowing his erection to spring free. "Do as you please."

He didn't know if it was the husky voice that gave life to that order, or the fact that Lelouch had closed his fingers over his weeping member and begun pumping without warning – it was something that made Suzaku finally snap, and he gripped the other boy's face and pulled him up that way, catching his lips in a rough, frustrated kiss.

He heard (felt) Lelouch moan into his mouth as he appraised (worshipped) his body with his hands. He didn't know when it was exactly, but at some point then the former prince yanked off his gloves, tossing them wherever, and tugged his arms free of the suit's sleeves. For the first time that night he touched flesh with his bare hands, and – as expected – the skin there was smooth and almost alarmingly warm. The white pants presented much less of a hassle than the matching robes had; he merely looped his fingers into the waistband and tugged downward sharply. And he saw then that Lelouch – although he was not quite as vocal about it – was not at all unaffected by what they were doing.

Distracted, Lelouch had ceased moving his hand, and Suzaku pried it off without much resistance before wrapping his arms around the other boy and pulling him even closer. They were practically pressed together now – the latter's erection pinned between them – and, wordlessly, he tightened his grip and squeezed.

The Emperor's gasp of pleasure at the sudden friction was loud enough to drown out his own hiss of pain. Suzaku squeezed his eyes shut as Lelouch began thrusting mindlessly (and he let him). He buried his face into the crook of his neck as he felt the other boy's cock grinding against the gash on his stomach, roughly, repeatedly. And he merely clenched his fists and groaned quietly into the flesh there, because although this was hurting him like hell, it also felt good, and he couldn't remember the last time he felt sensations this strong, this severe.

From the way his gasps and moans took on an erratic, feverish pace as his body shuddered within his arms, Suzaku knew Lelouch was close. So it surprised him a bit when the other boy suddenly clutched his shoulders tightly and drew back.

He blinked distractedly, trying to clear the spots in his vision as the white light assaulted his eyes once more. He felt disoriented; everything was a bit of a blur. "W-what – ?"

"Suzaku..." Lelouch was panting heavily now, his head bent and his eyes hidden behind tendrils of black that fell over his face and clung to his sweat-lined temples. The sight of him like this was oddly breathtaking. "Will you...will you take me?"

He blinked again, harder this time, as his clouded mind haltingly did its best to process the question. He'd known very well that what they were doing would eventually lead to this, but he'd always assumed that it would be...different. He didn't think it would be like this; he didn't even consider the possibility that he would be the one to... "If you'll let me," he answered slowly, after an eternity.

Pale, slender shoulders shook with soundless laughter. "Putting others' needs first? Again?"

"I can't help it," he conceded, offering a weak, lopsided smile.

"Well then..." Lelouch finally looked up at him; the gaze in those eyes was amorous, practically smoldering, and that single, powerful look made his breath hitch in his throat. Languidly, the other boy crept backwards, out of his lap, over his legs and onto the bed. "Let me make it clear: that was an order, Lord Kururugi."

He couldn't help the shiver that ran up his spine at those words, and he could see himself trembling when he finally set his palms on the bedsheets and folded his legs beneath him, so that he was now on all fours. "...Yes, your Majesty."

(Because there was truly nothing else to say.)

Lelouch was flawless from the waist down as well – something he learned when the Emperor tugged off his last piece of clothing and tossed it carelessly over the side of the bed; even in doing something as simple as this, the motion was graceful, precise. It was almost painful to even think about looking away, and briefly – irrationally – he wondered if this was all a twisted dream.

But he felt the warmth as he brushed his hand against a smooth, regal cheekbone, and it was all too real to be anything else.

"How about you?"

"Hmm?"

Lelouch smiled at his state of distraction, taking his hesitant hand and guiding it until his lips brushed over the fingertips. "Have you done this before?"

"Well...yes, but..." He didn't want to have to say 'Never with another boy,' so he let the thought die and simply shrugged. His friend seemed to understand, though, as he merely chuckled before taking two fingers into his mouth without warning.

A shudder shot up his spine at the sensation - the heat, the swirling, the way those half-lidded eyes locked onto him and held him there, paralyzed, so easily. There was a teasing hum and then the other boy was sucking, slowly, and he found the last remnants of self-control slipping from his grasp. "Lelouch – "

The tips of his fingers reappeared with a soft pop, and a slender ivory hand locked with his, digits interlacing as it was guided down, along the curve of a neck, the slope of a shoulder, the plane of a stomach, and finally... "Do it."

The first finger wasn't quite so bad; he had been gentle, and unsure – stopping almost every half inch until the slight look of exasperation shot his way assured him he wasn't committing some grave sin or betraying everything he held dear. The next one went in without much difficulty, and they never broke their gaze-lock even for a second. Suzaku found himself fighting for some semblance of control over his breathing, but it was hard; the sheer heat, the tightness, and the way the other boy simply looked at him with such intensity all promised that that was a battle he had already lost before it even began.

By the time a third finger tried to probe its way inside, though, the way Lelouch frantically sucked in air and clutched the material beneath – cape in one hand, bedsheet in the other – did not escape him. "Should I stop?" he asked quietly.

"N-no," the other boy stammered. "Go on."

Suzaku frowned. Even in his current state – rational thoughts blocked by passion, inhibitions choked with lust – he did not want to see his friend in pain. "Are you sure? I don't - "

With a surge of energy the other pair of lips suddenly collided with his, cutting him off mid-sentence. And the same tongue that had inspired a nation to arms, led two massive rebellions and had the power to bend any person's every which way...snuck inside his mouth and cleverly erased the rest of his protest clean away.

They broke apart when Lelouch fell back against the pillows, gasping for air. Suzaku pulled his fingers out, piqued at how cold they felt when the air of the room hit them, and hooked both elbows under the other boy's knees, sliding closer into the niche between them until the tip of his aching member just barely touched the puckered entrance there.

And (as a final warning, because there would really be no turning back after this), he gave the Emperor a carefully measured glance, freezing his entire body until he saw the firm nod, processed what it meant, and finally let go.

He pushed his way inside.

It took him a few seconds to realize that the moan which filled the room had been his own; the passage was unbelievably tight, and the sensations rushing through his nerves promised to drive him mad. Gritting his teeth, he pressed forward, ever so slowly until he was buried to the hilt, savoring the prolonged contact for all it was worth.

He hissed when the initial rush of pleasure settled, and he finally registered the many flashes of pain in his forearms – Lelouch was clinging to him, and his grip was so tight that his nails dug into the skin beneath, just short of breaking it.

"Sorry...sorry!" the former prince gasped as he realized what was happening. "I shouldn't – "

"It's okay," Suzaku murmured. He could imagine the other boy was in pain by now as well, so really, it was only fair this way. "Just...it's okay."

Lelouch bit his lip and nodded again. He was still looking at his knight, and there was a part that was unreadable in that gaze, a certain something that shone in those bright violet irises that Suzaku could not identify. But it unnerved him, a bit, so he simply did the only thing he could: shutting his eyes, he pulled out partway and thrust back in (and this time, his groan was echoed by the boy beneath him.)

They started off slowly, Suzaku rocking his hips at a tentative pace despite every fiber of his being wanting desperately to go faster. The self-imposed darkness he had been plunged into only served to heighten his other senses, and he was now acutely aware of Lelouch. Lelouch, clutching his arms tightly until he could no longer feel his hands. Lelouch, wrapping his legs instinctively around his torso, in an exotic quasi-embrace. Lelouch, and how he smelled faintly of coriander, bergamot and rosewood.

Lelouch, shaking and breathless, moaning his name like a mantra: 'Suzaku, Suzaku, Suzaku...' And he basked in it, each repetition warming up a shard of his long-broken soul, because he was well aware that after tonight, he would never hear his name spoken this way ever again.

It wasn't long before those long digits relaxed from their veritable death-grip, and began creeping up his arms. The paths they were tracing seared his flesh, but he yielded to the touch, quickening the pace of his thrusts when they settled upon his nape.

The action was comforting...reassuring, and he couldn't for the life of him explain why.

Suzaku felt the coil of heat beginning to build up, and he knew very well what that meant. But he didn't want to...not yet, not before... Gingerly he eased a slender leg down onto the bed, closing his freed right hand over the other boy's arousal.

"You..." Lelouch furrowed his brows ever so slightly for a moment. "You don't have to."

"It's okay," he said simply, and vaguely he wondered for a moment how many times he had said that phrase tonight, as though he needed this, this reminder to keep going on.

And then he began to stroke.

The throaty moan of pleasure that left the other boy's throat sent a shock that ran straight to his groin. Lelouch had his head thrown back, raven tendrils splayed onto the pillow and neck inadvertently bared. His grip tightened again, and Suzaku allowed himself to be pulled forward, lowering his torso until the other boy could run his hands up his back, tensing and clutching at the flesh there every few seconds or so.

The moans that left the Emperor's lips grew steadily louder, his breathing more erratic and desperate. Suzaku pumped harder, matching the speed of his hand with the thrusts of his hips, not slowing the former until Lelouch went rigid and finally cried out his release – a wordless moan, raw and jagged, and broken at the end. Hot white fluid spattered onto them both, spewing in short bursts. His grip had finally been tight enough for his nails to cut, and when he thrashed in the throes of pleasure there was a rough jerk of his arms.

And it was these sudden, searing lines of pain on Suzaku's back that threatened to drive him over the edge. "Lelouch," he groaned through his teeth, finally opening his eyes and gazing at the boy beneath him (breathless, shivering, beautiful.) "I - "

His friend nodded his assent, and it was only a few more thrusts before he reached his climax, his own cries sounding muffled and faraway, his vision blotted out until all that was left was this, this raw sensation that wracked his body into a violent shudder. For that one brief moment, his mind was clear – no worries, no sadness, no torturous memories, no guilt – and it was bliss.

Suzaku blinked when he finally came down from the high, only to find his face pressed against warm, heaving porcelain skin. He had collapsed on top of his friend, panting harshly, and when he finally realized what was going on he quickly used what little strength his arms had left to push himself off the other boy, rolling over and dropping like a stone once more onto the bed.

He heard the thick, breathless chuckle seconds later, and he couldn't help but join in. How had it come to this? He had just had sex with his childhood friend. Best friend. Arch-rival. Classmate. Nemesis. Confidante. Emperor.

He realized it didn't matter anymore. Lelouch had been (still was) so many different things to him, it wasn't surprising he would give his all, and more, to someone with whom he already shared so much of his soul.

The texture of the cape was exquisite against his bare skin, even as the scratches in his back stung in protest. He felt strangely drained, in a good way but drained nonetheless, and was only dimly aware of the other boy shifting on the bed, and insistent hands trying to tug the suit down over his legs. "W...wha – ?"

"At least lift your hips, Suzaku." There was a hint of annoyance in the other's voice as he pulled at the resisting fabric meaningfully. "We need to get this off."

He complied without really thinking about it; the pillow beneath his head was inviting in its softness, coaxing his eyes shut against his will. "Why?" What could Lelouch possibly be worked up about now, so soon after they had - ?

"Because we soiled it!" came the flustered reply. He cracked open an eye, looking down...and finally letting his gaze rest onto the streaks of white that marred the dark purple of the costume.

At that moment, he suddenly had a very vivid picture of tomorrow, and how it would be like to carry out his mission, in front of hundreds of witnesses and millions more watching from afar, wearing the Zero costume with very obvious stains of that...and the thought was so silly, so inane, that he laughed. He laughed, long and loud and uncontrollably, and when he saw bemused violet eyes taking in his reaction, he realized he could no longer remember when he had last enjoyed laughter as genuine as this.

When Lelouch finally stripped him of the rest of the outfit and stood up, he couldn't help himself: "Wait. Where are you going?"

"To toss this in the wash, of course," came the nonchalant reply, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"Well..." Suzaku bit his lip, staring at the hand that had unconsciously captured a pale, delicate wrist. He wondered if this was all Lelouch had wanted, and if the other boy would not have anything else to do with him anymore. He wondered why he suddenly felt this way. He wondered if it was even his place to ask at all. But... "Will you come back?"

Lelouch turned, and his gaze softened then; a smile tugged playfully at the corners of his lips. "That is if you wish."

"I do."

The Emperor folded up the garment in his hands, smirking at him. But there was only affection in those captivating amethyst orbs, the very ones that could bore through his very being and disarm him completely with a single look. "Then I will return."


The sound of rainfall had almost lulled him to sleep when he heard the door open and close once more. There was a click and the lights in the room died in a heartbeat, and soft footfalls padding against the floor.

And then there was Lelouch, climbing gingerly onto the bed from the other side, fussing with the sheets for a moment before he freed it completely and pulled it over them both.

"You came back," Suzaku commented.

"Of course," the other boy scoffed. "I said I would, didn't I?"

He said nothing, merely stretching out an arm and gesturing meaningfully. The other boy crept closer and lifted his head, allowing him to snake that arm around and underneath him, holding him close.

For a few minutes silence enveloped them like a cocoon, but Suzaku, for the first time in seven long years, felt safe. He relished the warmth seeping from the other body, the softness of the sheets and the thoughtful rush of rain. And he realized that in the end, he would have gladly sold his soul – if what he had left of it was worth anything – to purchase a few minutes of this.

It was a short time later, as he was teetering on the edge of consciousness, when Lelouch vi Britannia made his final requests.

"Mourn me?" The words were spoken quietly, and even if the thought ended there Suzaku knew his friend well enough to fill in those that remained unsaid, in his head. 'Because no-one else will.'

"I'll do that," he replied, staring up into the darkness.

"Thank you." Then there was another: "Take care of Nunnally?" 'I can't do it myself, and there's nobody else I can trust with her.'

"Of course."

Lelouch buried himself deeper into the embrace, lifting up a slender arm and placing it delicately over his chest, carefully avoiding the gash on his stomach. And he pressed his hand slightly into the skin directly above the brunette's heart. "Live on," he whispered. 'Even when the loneliness becomes unbearable. Even if it means losing yourself forever. Even if the world becomes ungrateful. Even if it hurts, live on.'

Suzaku sighed and brought his free hand up to meet the one on his chest; he felt his heartbeat beneath their intertwined fingers, still strong and steady despite everything that had happened to him, to them.

And he closed his eyes and gave his word.


The flamboyant Zero costume, for all its damned creases and folds, had shrunk in the wash that night.

It fit his form like a glove as he dodged gunfire, propelled himself repeatedly into the air, landed at the very top of the float and swatted a hastily-drawn sidearm effortlessly out of the way with a long, equally flamboyant sword.

And...

. : f i n : .


Author's (end) notes: Thanks for reading my very first (and very long) smut-fic ever! Comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated, so please do leave a review; there will be cake ~