Musical Recommendation: "The Rueful Tale of Donna Noble" by Murray Gold from the Doctor Who Series 4 Soundtrack, followed by "Deeply Fast" by Nakagawa Koutarou from the Code Geass R2 Soundtrack and finishing with "The Somewhere In Time Theme" by John Barry
Mao's eyes fluttered open and he sat up groggily, pushing off of his elbows. "C.C.?" he called out loudly, searching for the emerald haired beauty. But he heard no response, only the moaning echoes of the raging alien winds.
Mao closed his eyes dreamily for a moment, savoring the lingering pleasure coursing through his body. "You were so wonderful," he mumbled contentedly.
Standing to his feet, he tilted his head to the side in wonder-making his way toward a curious structure of sorts that he could've sworn wasn't there but a moment ago. A kind of villa—stately but rather narrow.
As he entered, he was confronted by a long, vaulted room which seemed to stretch on forever, supported by the familiar smooth stone floor and towering columns, all beneath a canopy of emerald lights. "How strange," he mused. "Is this our new home, C.C.?" he asked playfully, stumbling about in search of her like a game of hide and seek.
As he passed through these surreal surroundings, he noticed several frames, ornate works of gold and brass filigree, hanging mid air in the spaces around him. There must have been thousands of them. Inside the frames, the pictures seemed to be…moving, as if they were windows to another world. "They are moving! …C.C.?" he mumbled. And what was more, he recognized the person consistently displayed throughout—it was C.C., her expression and garments changing with each scene. In some of them, she was even younger, a small dirty child in ragged clothes Mao had never seen, with wide amber eyes and a timid demeanor. In still others, a familiar phoenix sigil could be seen overtaking her iris. But that means...! No, it makes sense. Geass!
"Of course!" he exclaimed. "I can't believe I didn't realize it before…"
As he continued to peruse the gallery, he came upon more troubling frames—horrible, gruesome executions being played out in lurid detail before his eyes. C.C. was being beheaded, suffocated, burned at the stake, impaled, strangled, crushed, garroted, shot, stabbed…it went on and on. Mao looked away, searching for another to drive the disturbing images out of his mind. "C.C.!" he called out, more frantically, his voice echoing across the vast hall.
As if in reply, the frames rearranged, showing still other images—endless wandering through ruined cities and decaying battle fields, the world seemingly changing around her.
"These are my memories," he heard a voice call out from behind, stepping closer.
Mao turned around in relief. C.C. was standing there. Immediately, however, he had the uneasy feeling that something seemed...different about her though. Her voice was low and dry—emotionless-nothing like it was just a little while ago. And she was wearing the same faded blue garments she had worn during their years together in the country.
"I wasn't sure where-C.C.?" Mao asked tentatively, his relief ebbing away and replaced by a dread he couldn't quite understand.
"Who are you?" C.C. demanded suddenly, her eyes unblinking as she searched his face.
Mao's felt his heart sink as his world spun. "What do you mean? It's Mao," he replied, feeling quite bizarre. "Where have we gone? Is this apart of C's World?"
"We?" C.C. repeated, stepping closer. "I told you, these are my memories."
"Your memories? We're…inside your mind right now?" Mao asked in disbelief.
C.C. nodded, sweeping her hand to the side to indicate the hanging frames. "As you can see, I once had a Geass," she explained, noting the burning sigil shrouding his irises. "The Geass I manifested was to make people love me because…deep inside my heart, all I wanted was to be truly loved by someone. My wish was granted-because of my Geass I was loved by anyone I desired. But in the end, it was too much," C.C. continued. "Love without limit became love without meaning. Its power eventually overwhelmed me, bringing everyone around me under my spell and I forgot what love was—I became restless, cold-hearted and withdrawn. Because my Geass couldn't work upon her, the woman who gave it to me became the only one I could believe in. But in the end she had just been pretending to be friends with me-I was a tool, a way for her to end her weary life."
Mao blinked, feeling his mouth run dry. "So…you were...just like me," he muttered, his eyes turned toward the ground. "Just like me. Of course. How awful…"
C.C. tilted her head to the side, patiently observing his conversation.
"C.C.!" Mao exclaimed suddenly as he often did when an idea suddenly came to his mind that he just had to tell her right now, gripping her shoulders and bringing his eyes back to hers as he suddenly realized something desperately important. "Your Geass made people love you. But you don't need Geass for that! I fell in love with you without it," he explained. "I've granted your true wish!"
"You did? You must be someone very important to me," C.C. replied thoughtfully. "But who? I don't see you in any of these memories. So you must be from my future then. A real person."
Again, the frames rearranged, with some showing his own days with C.C. coming to the forefront. He stared expressionless at the images, which he realized now to be memories, hardly recognizing the young carefree boy he saw playing with her therein while she looked on with that familiar serene smile whose complexity ran the gamut of possible interpretations.
"I…I am," Mao stammered sadly, feeling tears well up in his eyes. "Why did you bring me here?" he demanded suddenly.
"The fact that you're here means I tried to save you from something," C.C. explained.
"Save me?" Mao echoed in disbelief. Suddenly, however, his eyes widened and he whirled around, frantically searching his surroundings.
"The world is too much for you. Here, you can be happy and free. And safe. You need time to heal."
"No, no, no, no…" Mao began repeating to himself, remembering her words. "No! This isn't right… none of this makes sense. She…she can't do this to me. Not now! C.C!" he shouted to no avail, his eyes suddenly darting up past the glowing canopy. "I should've known. The way she held me before—I couldn't understand it but it felt like she was saying goodbye… C.C. don't leave me here! This isn't you! It isn't fair! C.C. please…" he shouted into the air, his gaze spinning in circles.
The C.C. beside him tilted her head sideways in confusion. "Who are you looking for?" she asked.
Mao stared listlessly into her perfect face, his mouth turned to a frown. "How could she?" he muttered. But he knew how—she said she loved him. And he suddenly realized just how painful that fact could be. Out of concern for his wellbeing, she had put him inside her mind…and with herself for a companion no less. Or at least part of herself. She had only meant for him to be safe, happy, free. But if this was her mind…could she still hear him? Hear him even though she was down there.
"C.C. listen to me!" Mao shouted, turning his head around and staring into the skies above. "This isn't what I want! Don't leave me here. I want to be with you! All of you! Please… "
But it was no use. And eventually he realized that fact.
Eventually he would content himself as best he could with her memories and this strange manifestation of her personality. How much time would pass, he couldn't fathom—countless days bleeding together. He would spend all of them walking the lonely halls together with this C.C.—listening to her voice, holding her hand, embracing her. It was the only way to alleviate the longing he felt.
She appeared to regard all this affection with naught but curiosity, passively acquiescing. He showed her the memories of their time together to try and explain how much he meant to her, but she didn't seem able to understand love. It wasn't something to be found within her memories apparently. His headphones and visor had been cast aside, tucked away in case he ever found a way to return. He discovered he could use the gallery to create his own paintings, however, honing the skills that had fallen into disuse so long ago; painting meadows, sea shells, oceans, and portraits of C.C., of course. Slowly he could feel the deep scars and stains he had accumulated during his mad quest on Earth ebbing away. As he looked back, he couldn't have imagined what it would turn him into—things he would've though abhorrent suddenly became necessities. And in the end, he almost lost everything about him that she had found affection for in the first place.
So, beneath the burning skies overhead, Mao would peer through the veil of C's World and watch over C.C. on Earth below as she continued to, in her own willful way, aid Lelouch. He was becoming more than just another contract to her as the year went by, he had become a friend and she earnestly wanted him to succeed and achieve some happiness for himself and his sister. As Mao watched him and thought of Nunnally's words, though he had realized the wisdom in them too late, he even began to agree with her.
But yet he could not shake the dread out of his mind of what might happen as Lelouch lost control and the pressures upon him increased. He could see the young man taking the very path he had chosen-manipulating, exploiting, destroying—compromising little by little. But to such as them, it was worth it. It was love, perhaps even obsession. With the one person whose smile makes every derisive scowl, every gruesome wound, and every defeated enemy worth it. But when C.C. offered her life, would he prove his humanity in the end? Or would he crush his dreams to pieces?
It seemed Mao's sins had finally caught up with him—and what a punishment it was—and all he could do was watch and wait, forever tantalized. But also…hope. Whatever happened, he would never lose hope again.
Endsong: "Heaven's Not Enough" by Steve Conte
Author's Note: The place that C.C. sent Mao to is, in case you weren't sure, the same gallery she later sends Lelouch to in R2, which she explains she sends people "that she tries to save from something" to. I think it actually makes a lot of sense, considering that she wanted Mao to wait for her and there's always a spirit guide version of C.C. there, making it handy to leave Mao with.
My dearest readers,
We have come to a crossroads. I had anticipated a relatively tidy ending; one where Mao somehow descends back to Earth during R2. Quick, indulgent and to the point. However, I still have a few ideas swirling around in my mind concerning activities Mao might undertake in the background of R2 (or even post R2), but I have no general narrative to sequence them in mind. Obviously until I have some idea of where such a story would go, I cannot publish it. So I hope you have enjoyed this story and appreciated the admittedly bittersweet ending.
But remember, there may be a time in the future when I continue this story. If such a time comes, I will need you're support once more.
For her heartwarming Mao stories, characterization advice, and allowing me to bounce ideas concerning style and presentation off of her. Also for creating this story's own page on TV Tropes which continues to be expanded by other readers even now!
For writing some of the most hilarious reviews I have ever read! Seriously, you are hysterical and I immensely enjoyed the banter and discussions that cropped up. Oh and great taste in music as well!
For writing some of the most encouraging reviews I have ever read! They were such a relief and genuinely inspired me to continue and strive to increase the quality more and more.
For working the effort I put into this story into his own AU, expanding its presence in Code Geass fanon that much more. It's an honor.
I don't know if you've read this story (you've never left a review if you have). But your story "Better, Better" was the first fanfic about Mao I EVER read and I found it so beautiful and comforting.
And, of course,
Everyone who read this story, left a review, put it on story alert, added it to their favorites page, analyzed it for tropes, and linked it on other sites. Your encouraging support kept this story going.