Disclaimer: I don't claim ownership of the Code Geass franchise and I'm making no profit off this fanfiction work.
AN: I know I shouldn't do this, but I've been dying to write a Code Geass for a very, very long time now. In many ways, it's the perfect environment for the sort of story I want to write, which can be both a blessing and a curse. We'll see which it is.
I will point out the immeasurable influence Cal reflector's magnificent work, "Lelouch of Britannia," had on me and on many others I'm sure. It showed what a capable writer can do with this fandom. I don't claim to be up to his level and I can't promise the same level of fluid prose or nuanced articulation, but I will endeavor to do my best.
This story has not been edited by anyone, so all errors are mine.
Chapter 1: The Handicapped Prince
The tangled mess that was the Eleventh Prince of Britannia groaned, but remained otherwise inert.
"Lelouch!" The voice called out impatiently a second time. A gurgled whine emerged from beneath the covers.
Nunnally sighed resignedly. Her brother could be such a child at times. But if he wanted to behave like a child then she'll just treat him like one.
A mischievous gleam entered her eyes. Leaning over the plush king sized bed, her slim hands snaked forward and beneath the covers and with the speed of viper, struck at his vulnerable ticklish spots.
The black-haired boy yelped, knocking the offending appendages away along with the covers. He sat upright, instantly alert.
"Good morning, dear Brother," she greeted cheerfully, earning the ire of said brother.
"How could you be so perky at this ungodly hour?" He muttered.
Nunnally tilted her head at him with an expression of amusement. "What do you mean, dear Brother, it's almost 6:30 in the morning?"
Lelouch gave his sister a deadpan expression.
"Nunnally, you used to refuse to get up before noon."
"True, but that was before. Roll call is at six at the academy so I got out of that habit pretty fast," Nunnally explained.
Lelouch stared at his sister more closely and noticed that not only was she perky and alert, she was also fully dressed. Her hair neatly combed and braided and decked out in a pilot's uniform, she really looked the part.
"What's the rush? I thought your match was scheduled for this afternoon."
"I want to arrive early so I can get a few hours of practice before the match. I know it's selfish of me, but I do better when you're there, Big Brother," the princess admitted with a blush, as if ashamed for having compelled her brother to attend.
No additional pleadings were required as Lelouch rushed to dress himself, which was no easy feat for someone in his condition. It would've been a simple affair to rearrange the timing of the event for a more suitable time, but Nunnally refused even this minor offer of special treatment. Her unwavering sense of justice could be rather infuriating at times, but it also made her all the more endearing and likely played a role in earning her the admiration of fellow cadets, especially amongst the non-nobles.
"Let me help you," Nunnally offered, seeing her brother struggle to get up.
Lelouch briskly waved her away so she waited patiently by his bedside as he tried without success to lift himself onto the nearby wheelchair. Only when he was panting with exhaustion and requested her help did she intercede. Both times, Nunnally spoke nary a word, understanding her brother's need for action. It has become a ritual of sorts for the siblings, both a grim reminder of their plight and a renewed call for future efforts.
After finally getting Lelouch seated in his wheelchair, Nunnally bent down and tenderly kissed her brother's sweat covered forehead.
"I'm sorry, but I have to go. I-"
"Go," Lelouch urged. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine," he smiled reassuringly, quickly adopting the confident and unwavering posture he was known for. "Go and prove to them that you're our mother's daughter. Make me proud, Sister."
Not that Nunnally needed to anything to make him proud. Her simple existence did that already, but Lelouch knew how much those words meant to her, so he said them whenever he could. The dazzling smile she rewarded him with proved, however, that he spoke correctly.
"I will and I love you, Big Brother." With a laugh in her heart and a spring in her step, Nunnally escaped through the double oak doors.
"I love you too," Lelouch uttered softly to the empty room before slumping into his chair, his body trembling slightly. Getting up each morning was a trial and it never seemed to get any easier. Although waking up with Nunnally by his side did make it more manageable, or did it make it worse?
Every time he saw her, he was reminded of his own weakness and inefficacy. Instead of being the protective big brother, he was the infirmed elder sibling who needed help to get to the bathroom. Meanwhile, his beloved sister was the one toiling away, preparing to be a good soldier for the Empire so that some vestiges of their mother's honor could be preserved, so that he could be looked after.
'Survival of the fittest,' Lelouch thought bitterly. What could possibly be less fit and less fitting than for a cripple to be a part of Charles zi Britannia's family. He saw "voluntarily" surrendering his royal heritage as his one way out, but Nunnally, Euphemia and a small group of sympathetic personages put a stop to that nonsense. Titled or not, as a former Prince of Britannia, Lelouch would remain vulnerable and be ripe for the picking out in the hostile world. Nunnally, bless her heart, refused to sacrifice her brother to the wolves and vowed to find another way.
And find a way she did, though it definitely wasn't what anyone could have imagined. Military service.
Britannia was a warring nation, much in the same tradition as Rome, as many were fond of recalling due to the obvious symmetry. With an empire spanning a third of the world, conflict was ever present and genuine military talents highly sought after. Valor and victory on the battlefield was by far the quickest and surest route to fame and fortune in the Empire. All that he and every other citizen understood by the age of five. What he couldn't understand was how his sister, his kind, gentle, pacific sister decided to seek this path for herself.
Nunnally fundamentally hated violence. It was anathema to her being. The only person Lelouch could think of as being more opposed to warfare of any sort was their half sister, Euphemia. No matter how much she reassured him, he knew she couldn't possibly have wished for this.
The one saving grace of the whole affair was that Nunnally didn't struggle. In fact, she thrived in the rigors of military life, so much so that skeptics who previously mocked the princess's desire to play soldier, now wondered aloud why such a natural talent was not groomed earlier. She was ranked first in her class by the end of her third year, earned her first kill during a harrowing training mission in her fourth year – one which still gave Lelouch nightmares, – and having her first tour of duty placement fought over by every Area governor and theater commander months before her final examination. Her status as a princess did help, but she also had the piloting skills to match her name. Lelouch lost count of how many times he heard her being described as "her mother's daughter."
Each and every single one of these events shocked Lelouch, but should they have? After all, he himself was exceptionally intelligent and was promised great things prior to the tragedy. Why shouldn't his blood sister be any less blessed in the gene department? Lelouch likely knew this in his mind, but not in his heart. When he looked at Nunnally, he saw the cherished younger sister he dotted on and snuck candy to and not the Cornelia Mark II everyone else believed she was destined to be.
He was, however, perfectly aware of the tremendous sacrifices his sister was making. Her stardom and rise mirrored his own comfort and access within the halls of Britannia power. Although, he also realized the Lamperouge name was still far short of its former glory. So Lelouch swallowed his anger, his pride and his seemingly unfathomable urge to rage against the world, and played the role befitting a prince, abet a diminished one. He carefully husbanded and marshaled the prestige his sister acquired, building new alliances and reaffirming old ones. Whenever he tired or despaired, he found strength in Nunnally example. If she could give up her livelihood for him, then he owed it to her to make sure her efforts were not done in vain.
"Master Lelouch? Are you all right? Do you need any assistance."
Lelouch finished buttoning his royal jacket and shook away the depressing thoughts. One day, he would find the culprits responsible for their family's tragedy and render the punishment they so richly deserve, but not now. Today was Nunnally's day and he was not going to ruin it by being depressed.
"I'm fine, Alfred. I'll be out in a moment."
When Lelouch greeted his personal butler, all traces of his previous discomfort and worries were gone. He was the Eleventh Prince of Britannia, the elder brother of Nunnally vi Britannia, and he was ready to face the world.
The sound of metal clashing against metal reverberated through the deserted valley as the three Knightmare Frames engaged each other. The two Gloucesters weaved around the jungle terrain, attempting to trap the Sutherland, which expertly avoided all such attempts.
Lelouch watched the battle play out from the VIP box inside a mobile command base.
The badly damaged Sutherland had been at it for hours, and it was doubtful it would last for much longer. The exclusive test, offered only to the very best, was called the "Gauntlet." The subject KMF was literally run through a gauntlet of opponents without rest or given the opportunity to restock until they broke. If the pilot wanted to last past the mech's battery life, they had to "scavenge" for fuel cells from the defeated foes.
Lelouch suspected that by the end of the day, at least half of the equipments used would be put out of commission for a significant period of time; an extravagant use of resources for a simple test. No other nation dared expend such precious resources in such a wanton manner. Yet, it was precisely this determination and zeal that made Britannia's military so potent and its Knightmare Frame pilots second to none. Aberrations existed to be sure, but no other nation boosted or could hope to boost the qualitative and quantitative advantages it held. It was no accident that Britannia had the Knights of the Round when no one else possessed anything comparable.
The dark-haired young prince grimaced as he assessed the live feed. Nunnally had already shattered the previous record for time elapsed, a stunning accomplishment, and still showed plenty of fight, but it wouldn't be long now. Her last opponent had badly mauled her slash harken, left motor arm and had damaged the Sakuradite Hydraulics System, resulting in a loss of maneuverability.
Sensing weakness, one of the attackers pressed home, intent on ending the cat and mouse game. Expecting and hoping for this, the defending KMF lashed out in response, smashing its Landspinner systems, and effectively knocking it out of action before finally falling to the onslaught of the second unit. Plus one more scratch for the record.
She did it! Seven disabled enemy mechs and a new academy record.
Lelouch would've pumped his fists into the air and boasted in a most ungentlemanly manner if he wasn't so worried about his sister. The Gauntlet was more or less the mech version of a live ammo scenario and fatalities have happened in the past. His concern intensified when Nunnally didn't immediately come out and only the reassurances from the communications staff that she was conscious and well stayed his hand. It appeared that the ejection system of the machine was damaged. After five agonizingly long minutes, the cockpit finally opened, dumping its diminutive pilot onto the muddy ground.
The Eleventh Prince didn't wait for the congratulatory greetings from the dignitaries present. Before the first words left their mouths, he was already out the door, speeding toward the battle zone as fast as his wheels could carry him.
"Cadet, are you alright?"
"I'm ok." Even so, Nunnally stood unsteadily, leaning against the proffered arm for support. "Thank you. Ah…" Her next words died in her mouth, however as she gazed through her blurry vision at the tall figure who helped her.
"Send for a medic. The cadet is injured," commanded the Second Princess forcefully.
"Yes, ma'am," answered an attending officer, immediately rushing off to comply with the order. Cornelia gently guided the younger girl to a nearby tree trunk while the pilot of the crippled Gloucester joined them.
"You are getting rusty, Andreas," Cornelia stated in a teasing voice. Nunnally gasped, realizing that the pilot of the second Gloucester was none other than General Andreas Darlton, Cornelia's second in command and one of the most experienced field commanders in the Empire. The tall, well built man had the grace to blush in embarrassment. To be caught off guard by a slip of a girl not even out of the academy. Rumors of this day would undoubtedly haunt him for a long time.
"A thousand apologies, my lady, but the cadet truly was impressive. It has been a long time since I've seen anyone move with such grace and precision. Truly, you are Marianne's daughter. I think we can expect great things from you," the general praised.
"Thank you, sir."
Further conversation had to wait, however, when the medic arrived along with throngs of excited spectators led by one wheelchair bound prince.
"For the third time, Brother, I'm fine," Nunnally said in exasperation as her brother fussed over her. "It's just a scratch." She loved her brother dearly, but his mother hen ways could be excessive at times, not to mention embarrassing when done in front of some of the most powerful people in the Empire. At least he had the good sense to restrain himself until they were out of the public limelight.
"I'm afraid I must leave immediately so I won't be able to attend your graduation ceremony," Cornelia explained apologetically.
Nunnally looked saddened, but nodded in understanding. The elder Britannia princess was an area governor and theater commander so she had her responsibilities to look after. For her to have come all this way was a treat already.
"Congratulations on your captain commission, Nunnally. You've earned this. I know I haven't always been the most supportive big sister, but know that I'm very proud of you," Cornelia said warmly with moisture in her eyes. Turning to her brother, she added, "and don't think I don't know what role you played, Lelouch. That maneuver she pulled had your fingerprints all over it."
"I don't know what you mean, sister dear. All I did was provide a soundboard for Nunnally's ideas," Lelouch answered with a soft smile.
"Nonesense. I couldn't have done it without Brother's help."
Cornelia smiled knowingly as the two siblings traded words, attempting to hoist the greater share of the credit upon the other. "In any case, congratulations to the both of you. I hope to see you soon."
The Second Princess and her associate departed soon after, pausing only briefly to greet an enthusiastic newcomer.
"Nunnally! You were awesome!" shrieked a high pitched voice. "Lady Cornelia even personally congratulated you! I'm SO jealous!" the new girl gushed as she playfully tackled the Imperial Princess.
"She is my half sister, you know. And I was close with her younger sister when we were young." Nunnally explained. It was impossible to overstate Cornelia li Britannia's popularity amongst the female soldiers of Britannia, especially aspiring KMF pilots. The Goddess of Victory's unexpected appearance and public praise would undoubtedly fuel rumors for many a news cycle.
Lelouch watched with a mix of amazement and amusement as the two girls hugged each other and happily twittered about like ordinary adolescents.
"Brother, meet my bestest friend, Marika Soresi," Nunnally introduced at long last, realizing that she was ignoring her brother. "Marika, you know my brother, Lelouch, the Eleventh Prince."
"Oh, gosh, I'm sorry, Your Highness," Marika gasped, her cheeks tingling with redness. The young brunette looked mortified at having acted inappropriately in front of royalty and offered a deep bow as apology.
"It's perfectly fine. If you can address Nunnally so, then Lelouch will be fine as well," answered the crippled prince.
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Your Highness. That would be improper." Marika answered with a strained smile. "Your sister is different and she didn't really give us much choice about how to address her."
Lelouch leveled his sister with a stare. "I can imagine. She still hasn't told me what she did to have things go her way."
Nunnally smiled cutely, offering and betraying nothing. Her friend chuckled weakly.
Sensing the girl's continued discomfort, Lelouch gave her a disarming smile. "I confess that I always worry whenever sister is away. I'm glad that she has a good friend in you, Marika. Thank you for looking after her."
Marika's cheeks turned a deep, deep red at the praise from the Imperial Prince.
"You're too kind, Your Highness. It's an honor and privilege being Nunnally's friend. Although, she doesn't need much looking after. Most of the time, she's looking after us," she replied honestly.
"Don't I know it," Lelouch agreed. 'Don't I know it.' He ruthlessly suppressed the desire to mope and feel sorry for himself. Even so, it was hard to think of Nunnally as the younger sibling at times given all she has accomplished.
Despite his efforts, Marika remained demure and hesitant in Lelouch's presence, but the trio still had a wonderful time catching up on events and talking about future plans, namely the girls' probable future deployments as newly minted KMF Knights of the Empire.
"I can't believe you, Nunnally," Marika exclaimed. "I can't believe you turned down Lady Cornelia's offer to join her force. Do you know how many girls would kill for the opportunity to serve under her, much less be inducted into her CA Group straight from the academy?"
Lelouch's mind grounded to an immediate halt.
Cornelia offered to take his sister under her wings and Nunnally turned her down!
"Oops, did I say something I shouldn't have?" Marika asked in a timid voice.
"Yes, you did," Nunnally answered resignedly, watching her brother's expression darken.
"Why, WHY! Just tell me why, Nunnally."
Sitting in bed, Lelouch was beside himself.
Serving under Cornelia would have been perfect. Aside from the extraordinary prestige and the rapid promotion path it offered, it would've kept Nunnally reasonably safe. Instead, his darling sister accepted an assignment to the European Theater.
"Our current European operation is a giant black hole. We throw men and materials at it and nothing comes out. If we really were the superior race, we would've sued for peace months ago. It was a badly planned offensive campaign to start with, is being handled horribly by the current commanders and will likely be a political nightmare for us afterwards."
"Yes, I know, Brother. You've told me that countless times," said Nunnally dryly. If she wasn't sure he would be angry and hurt, she would've laughed at his expression and wild gestures.
"You exaggerate. I'll be fine. Brother Schneizel is going to take command of the campaign so you don't have to worry about me being sent on pointless suicide missions," Nunnally added with a touch of mirth.
Lelouch bristled. "That's not what I meant."
"I know what you mean" Nunnally knelt on his bed and wrapped her small arms around him. "I do, I really do, Lulu. I know about the battles you fight with our half siblings and the other nobles. I know how hard you worked to make sure sister Cornelia could make me this offer without looking improper. I know all that."
The dark-haired prince gave a wry grimace. "Nothing escapes you, huh?"
"We both know this is the best path for both of us. I need, ahm, what's the expression, to earn my spurs. I can't do that if sister Cornelia is looking over my shoulder every time I go out. Schneizel won't do that, but he will look after me," the princess declared firmly. "Besides, he asked for me. I can't refuse him."
Lelouch wanted to protest, but seeing the fire in her eyes, he held his tongue. Nunnally was not entirely wrong. The Second Prince had come to their aid time and time again, without expecting anything in return. At their bleakest hour, it had been Schneizel's words and actions that stayed the hands and teeth of the ravenous noblemen. Barring himself, Schneizel was Nunnally favorite older brother by far. So perhaps, it was simply his jealousy wishing to speak out.
The Eleventh Prince squared his shoulders and nodded. "You're right. He has helped us so many times in the past. This time, if he really wants our help – your help…"
Nunnally squeezed him tighter in gratitude.
"That's not entirely why you accepted this assignment though," Lelouch guessed.
His precious sister shook her head. "No, most of my friends, including Marika, are being sent there. I didn't want to abandon them." A distinctively Nunnally-like response that Lelouch couldn't help but appreciate.
"Good. I'm glad you won't be alone."
He was being completely sincere. He would hate it if Nunnally was going off to war without a single friend by her side. Alas, it highlighted the fact that he on the other hand would be alone. It was an implication the sharp sister did not miss.
"Brother, can I sleep with you tonight?" she asked after a brief pause.
Although surprised by the request, Lelouch answered enthusiastically, "Of course! You never need to ask. You're always welcome in my bed."
Only after he said it did he realize how badly it could be misinterpreted.
Nunnally grinned mischievously. "Always, huh? I wonder what your future girlfriend or wife would say about that?"
"Oh you, devil you!"
The newly minted KMF pilot shrieked as her brother wrestled her to the bed and began tickling her without mercy. After reducing her to a laughing, quivering wreck, he began laying a trail of soft kisses along her exposed skin.
"Stop, stop! Don't do that. I haven't showered and I smell," Nunnally protested, though she did little to halt his actions.
"So? I don't mind."
"But I do."
Nunnally jumped up and rushed off to the bathroom. When she returned, Lelouch was laid out flat on his gigantic bed. She stripped down to her bare essentials and crawled under the covers. Instinctively, their bodies molded and folded together perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle; their limbs intertwined and their heads resting gently against each other.
"I love you, Big Brother."
"I love you, Nunnally."
AN: The starting premise is simple enough. Lelouch and Nunnally switched places during Marianne's assassination so that he ended up crippled in the attack, though not blinded. The second major idea was making Nunnally a Knightmare Frame ace or prospective ace, which was very appealing and quite plausible in my mind. Between Anya and the Valkyrie girls, I can even delve deeply into character dynamics without resorting to OCs, which is a huge boon.
Hope you enjoyed this appetizer. Comments, questions, concerns, please leave them in a review.