Author's Note: You know, I'm just going to stop making excuses for In medias res. I feel so bad for making empty promises, so it's probably better if I stop making them. I've gotten, like, a page down of crappy writing - sigh - TAT Anywho, about this piece...I can tell you right now this is going to be a two-shot at least, and in the next chapter, I'll go through a couple of scenes with Lelouch and C.C. living together ;) Sorry, there's not too much backstory, because this is actually for the WitchxWarlock forum prompt: UMBRELLA, and this is my sad attempt at that prompt. I've been having a lot of trouble writing C.C. x Lelouch lately, so I just kinda tumbled through my block with this story. Heh. The umbrella's not too prominent, but if you read carefully, I hope you'll see its importance. =) Enjoy, and please review~
He hated her.
Lelouch Lamperouge didn't hate many people. In fact, he didn't hate anyone…her being an exception, and he didn't understand why, out of all the other umbrellas, he had to accidentally pick up hers.
Lelouch blinked. Rivalz blinked. Milly giggled.
"E-excuse me?" Lelouch stuttered. For the very first time in his life, he was stumped. First day of the new school year and –
"That's right. You heard me."
The girl propped her feet up on the desk – like she owned it – and leaned far back into her chair until her hair lay sprawled over Lelouch's opened book.
Her eyes – two golden bullions of enigma – stared on, or rather through, Lelouch and remained totally and utterly void – and seemingly incapable – of emotion. She enunciated her next words very carefully and forcefully as though she were talking to a misbehaving 5-year-old (or younger).
"I. Don't. Like. You. Boya."
With that said – or rather, repeated – and seemingly feeling rather accomplished with herself, she pushed her chair back down and returned to munching noisily on a piece of frozen pizza as though nothing had happened, nothing at all.
Lelouch stared at the back of her green head of hair.
"Yikes. New girl's feisty," Rivalz murmured with a nervous laugh.
"And cute. You know her from somewhere, Lelouch? Ooooh, a secret girlfriend you recently dumped maybe? Because she sure seems to know you!"
"No," Lelouch stated flatly. "And please, Madam President, she's right in front of us. She can hear you."
"So what? It's the truth. She's cute with a nice rack to boo-"
Lelouch shook his head and returned to his book, just a little irked. Not at Milly or Rivalz, he was used to them. It was this new girl. He didn't even know her name, much less anything else about her, and he doubted she knew much anything about him. So…
Ah, it didn't matter. After all, she was just another girl, right?
Lelouch hurried through the otherwise empty halls, his shoes making a loud clatter against the floor tiles as the rain made an even louder clatter against the windows. Strange, the weatherman had been wrong again.
Lelouch glanced outside as he ran, taking note of the sheets of pelting droplets and menacing, gray sky. Just a few hours ago – had he really been tutoring Shirley for three hours? – there hadn't been a cloud in the sky. Now, it looked as though the world was going to end in a torrential downpour. It was a good thing he'd brought his umbrella. Nunnally might have been blind, but she'd developed an uncanny sixth sense for weather patterns.
And speaking of Nunnally, that day was a very special day. In fact, it was Nunnally's birthday, and Lelouch was late.
With his books in one hand and the umbrella in the other, Lelouch kept his attention focused on getting to the door without running out of air. He had to admit, it was a challenge, but imagine his pride when he finally reached it – after going down two flights of stairs, around four sharp turns, and through three insanely long hallways – without breaking pace. Or collapsing, for that matter.
Lelouch paused for a moment, wedged his books under his other arm, and took a few deep breaths of air, using the door handle for support. It didn't do much to help the burning sensation in his chest.
With another sigh and a slight furrow of the brow, Lelouch pulled open the door…only to be immediately drenched in rain. He stumbled back and blindly groped for the button on his umbrella.
There was none.
"Dammit," he muttered because 1) it was a manual umbrella and 2) it wasn't his.
But he'd recognize it anywhere. The pizza slice handle. The black mini-top hat. The irritating black-stitched smirk and blinding orange color.
It was a Cheese-kun umbrella, and there was only one person to whom it could have belonged.
Just mentioning her name made his frown deepen. It wasn't even an actual name but initials, and what kind of a girl went only by her initials? None. Lelouch, on the other hand, referred to her as "Witch" because he found swearing to be vulgar.
Lelouch sighed for the nth time. He'd have to return it to her, and he knew she wouldn't make it easy. She was never welcoming, and whenever he finished talking to her, he felt as though he'd run a marathon. She never answered his questions; it was enough to drive anyone over the edge.
But for now, he supposed he'd have to make do with what he had.
After a brief struggle releasing the umbrella (which finally fwumped! open and nearly hit him in the face), Lelouch ventured out, fighting the rain and wind. (He was losing.)
It was a good thing the school wasn't too far away from the clubhouse, else –
Lelouch stopped, listening to the loud crashing of water against Cheese-kun nylon and staring at what was unequivocally his umbrella in the distance.
"Excuse me!" Lelouch called over the din of the storm. No response.
"Hey, sorry to –" He winced when a sudden clap of thunder interrupted him.
His eyes squinted against the intemperate weather. It was definitely his umbrella.
Lelouch crept closer with poor Cheese-kun nearly turned inside out. "Hey, sorry to-"
"WHAT!?" she snapped.
"Oh. It's you."
"WHAT?" C.C. gestured absentmindedly to her ear with her free hand.
"I SAID 'OH. IT'S YOU.'"
C.C. just barely turned her head to acknowledge him with a bored, scrutinizing gaze as though she were appraising his value for an auction.
"That's my umbrella." Lelouch reluctantly sidled closer so he wouldn't have to yell to be heard.
"So it is."
"I'd like to have it back."
"You're the one who stole my umbrella, and you're complaining?"
Lelouch shook his head, already a little exasperated. He was soaking wet in spite of the trademark safeguard, and he could feel a headache coming on. C.C.'s condition wasn't much better than his own.
"Why are you standing out here anyways?"
"Since when did you care?"
"I don't, Witch," Lelouch half-growled. "I just want my umbrella back."
"Well, you can't have it."
"And why not?" he demanded, taking half a step closer.
C.C. raised an uninterested eyebrow. "Is that supposed to be intimidating?"
"Look, just go. I'll give it back tomorrow or something."
Lelouch was more than happy to oblige, and he turned to leave like she suggested. Something wouldn't let him though. Maybe it was his conscience. Maybe his pride.
He gritted his teeth and turned back around. "You weren't at the Student Council meeting today."
"Again, since when did Mr. Vice President care?"
"You know, this constitutes hazing."
"I don't," he insisted.
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
"I'm not a lady."
"Like I said, I think you protest too much."
"Look," Lelouch sighed and hesitated, fighting some invisible demon. She was a thorn in his side. They hated each other, they really did and yet…seeing her like this…almost vulnerable – almost – and obviously cold with water running off her hair in rivers…well…
"Look," he repeated. "I don't care why you're out here, but you might as well wait out the rain in the clubhouse…and it's Nunnally's birthday. I was going to have a little party for her and…I know she'd like it if you were there."
C.C. tucked an arm against her chest and looked away.
"My boyfriend kicked me out," she muttered, refusing to meet Lelouch's gaze.
"O-oh," Lelouch stuttered, surprised she'd reveal that much to him…or maybe not so surprised. C.C. was cunning, he knew that much, and if she wasn't lying, then there'd be only one reason why she'd suddenly say that. What could he say? There was only one thing to say.
Lelouch gulped. It was unfortunate he was such a gentleman.
He gritted his teeth and forced it out.
"You…can stay with us for a while if you'd like…"
"Onii-sama! I'm so glad; I was beginning to worry…oh! Did you bring someone home with you?"
"I got you a present…a, uh…roommate…"
Lelouch sighed and looked up from his computer screen. It was raining again. The room was bathed in a melancholy gray that reflected the clouded sky and frankly, Lelouch's mood. He couldn't concentrate on his work. He had a five-page essay due the next day on which he hadn't even started, and he couldn't concentrate. Great.
He frowned, leaning further back in his chair, and refocused his eyes on the empty page and the blinking cursor – his current enemy. He drummed his fingers on the mouse and sighed again, looking back out the window. Water shifted effortlessly across the pane on its way downward. The day wasn't much different from the one two months ago.
The last two months had been hellish to say the least. Around every corner, C.C. had some surprise waiting, something to goad him with. And then, quite suddenly…she hadn't gone to school that day.
Lelouch sighed for the third time and looked to the bed from which Cheese-kun stared accusingly, leaning sideways on the covers and motionless.
Lelouch frowned and looked away, but Cheese-kun's stitched-shut eyes followed him.
Lelouch tried to ignore him. Cheese-kun continued his relentless confrontation.
Lelouch growled, "What? What do you want me to do? Go look for her?"
He must have really been losing it. He was talking to a doll and a cheese-based doll at that.
A snack. That was it. That was what he needed. A snack, and he'd feel better. That was the reason he couldn't concentrate! He was hungry. It was so obvious; how could he have missed it?
Feeling better with his newfound decision, Lelouch hurriedly pushed back his chair and got up, pointedly ignoring said Pizza Hut endorsement on his way out.
Cheese-kun rolled his stitched-shut eyes.
C.C. had left early that morning, earlier than usual. No one had seen her at school. Lelouch thought it was just a prank, one of many, but she hadn't come home either, and it'd been raining all day.
Lelouch frowned, wondering why he was thinking about C.C. when he reached the refrigerator door. He popped it open and leaned down. Milk, cheese, eggs, strawberries…a head of lettuce…all the usual stuff…
He blinked. Where was the bread? How could they have run out of bread? Nunnally needed her whole grains! Well, it was obviously imperative that he went to buy bread right that instant. Bread was essential in the daily diet, and who knows what missing a day of grains could do to his little sister's health?
Lelouch sped walked to the door, grabbed his jacket out of the closet and the nearest umbrella, which unfortunately was the Cheese-kun one, and made to leave. "Nunnally! I'm going to buy bread! I'll be back soon!"
"Hm?" Nunnally set down her teacup and turned in Lelouch's general direction. "Wait, Onii-sama. There's– "
The door slammed shut.
" –bread in the pantry…"
Lelouch tugged on the sleeve of his damp jacket and noticed a deep puddle just in time to step around and avoid it. A surprisingly large number of people were out on the streets in spite of the rain and general darkness. It was evening, but it seemed more like midnight.
The nearest grocery store was less than a mile away, and the whole time, Lelouch kept his eyes peeled for…er…for…
Lelouch stopped in front of the grocery store and looked left and right. Nope, no sign of any green-haired witch…not that he was looking for her or anything…
He turned his attention back to the store front. On second thought, they probably didn't have any bread in stock. It was a Tuesday, and they usually restocked on Wednesdays, so there wouldn't be any bread left to buy – non-expired bread anyways. He'd go to the next store which was farther away, but they restocked on Tuesdays, and Nunnally deserved the best in grain products. Yes, he'd have a better chance of finding C. – er…bread there…
Lelouch sighed and looked down. His grip on the pizza slice handle tightened, and the plastic pepperoni dug into his palm. Maybe he'd been a little hard on C.C. lately. Maybe…Lelouch shook his head. What a troublesome girl.
Where could she go? Back to her boyfriend? It wasn't very plausible. She absolutely refused to talk to him and forced Lelouch to answer the door whenever the guy came looking for her.
That idiot. If she was wandering around outside – without an umbrella – she was definitely going to catch a cold or worse, pneumonia which Nunnally had contracted just last spring. As Lelouch trudged along, he couldn't help but find himself hating C.C. more and more. He hated her free will. He hated her twisted thinking. He hated washing her underwear. He hated paying credit card bills laden with Pizza Hut charges, but most of all, he hated not knowing where she was.
The rain had died down to a light drizzle just as Lelouch was coming to a river. He glanced up and looked around, taking in the passing faces and bridge up ahead…
"…I go to the bridge, sometimes, to think…"
Lelouch did a mental double take back to the bridge. That's right. She did say that, didn't she? He hastened his pace. The bridge was as good a place as any to find an erratic girl as C.C….er…he meant…erratic bread…
At first, he didn't see anything. It was a haze of mist and rainwater, and he was about to give up and go back to the main road when out of this haze, a figure slowly became visible. It was the silhouette of a young girl in an oddly familiar uniform with two pigtails and –
"C.C.!" Lelouch called out and pressed on, walking straight through the puddles instead of maneuvering around them. "C.C., what are you doing? You're soaking wet."
C.C. stood, motionless, at the railing. Wet, green bangs clung to her forehead as water streamed down her pale face, making it look as though she was crying, but Lelouch knew better. C.C. didn't cry; there was a better chance that he did. He couldn't, however, as easily dismiss the forlorn look upon her face.
She didn't acknowledge Lelouch's arrival. Her face remained as stoic as ever; she didn't even blink.
Her standing on the railing and leaning over the water made Lelouch uneasy.
"Come on, C.C., stop being irrational."
"You haven't been standing out here all day, have you?"
"You're going to get a cold."
"Get off –"
"Do you know what day it is today, Lelouch?" C.C. asked. Her unwavering gaze remained set on the horizon.
Lelouch shifted the umbrella to his other hand and remained silent. The pitter-patter of the rain seemed to surround and engulf them, separating them from the rest of the frenzied world. It was strangely calming and unnerving at the same time.
"It's April 9. Do you know what happened today?"
"My parents died."
Lelouch stepped closer. "C.C…."
"You know, my mother stood on this bridge. She jumped. A few hours later, my father put a pistol in his mouth." She smiled thinly. "Wonderful parents, aren't they?"
Her voice broke a little, but her face never changed.
Lelouch frowned and took another step closer. Thunder rumbled in the distance.
"C.C., your parents loved you."
"And how would you know that?"
"They did," he persisted.
C.C. laughed drily in response. "And so what if they did? How about now? They left me alone…"
"You're not alone." The words tumbled out without thought – naturally. "If you're a witch…then I'll become a warlock."
C.C.'s eyes widened, and she gasped softly, turning her head away from the horizon for the first time. Lelouch kept his sober violet eyes trained on hers and murmured, "I mean that."
C.C. exhaled sharply, surprised, and turned her face heavenward. She closed her eyes, letting the rain gently graze her skin. A few minutes passed like that, silently, and Lelouch began to fear he hadn't gotten through to her. Then…
"Ever the smooth talker, eh, Lelouch?"
Lelouch smirked. She was back to her old self.
Lelouch, taken aback, said nothing. C.C. had never thanked him before. Perhaps these past two months had done more than he'd thought.
C.C. dipped her head back and jumped lightly from the railing, toppling right under Cheese-kun's protective canopy. She smirked, but her eyes were smiling, and Lelouch found himself strangely glad of it.
"Thank you," she repeated.
Lelouch shook his head. "Come on, I've a five-page report I've yet to start on. I've wasted enough time..."
He stared at C.C.'s wet uniform.
"You know, if you're trying to see through my clothes, I'm afraid that only works with wet t-shirts…"
Lelouch ignored her and took off his coat, draping it about her shoulders while simultaneously prodding her forward. "You're going to catch a cold."
"Witches don't get colds."
"This one will. Hurry up, Nunnally's waiting."
He grabbed C.C.'s wrist and began towing her back to Ashford. She was blissfully quiet for a while, and there was only the sound of the rain, but C.C. never remained to herself for long.
"Hn," he grunted.
"What you said a few moments ago…does that mean we're boyfriend and girlfriend now?"
Leave it to C.C. to misunderstand his words…or at least pretend to misunderstand to get on his nerves. Lelouch sighed. "You know that's not what I mean-"
C.C. giggled uncharacteristically. "It's okay, Lelouch. I understand. But you know, in that case, we really don't need an umbrella…"
Lelouch glanced over his shoulder warily. "C.C., what are you talking abou-"
The umbrella dropped. Lelouch didn't bother to pick it up, and C.C. didn't want him to because kissing in the rain is so much better.