He can never quite predict when she will come.

On occasion, she will not show her face for months and months on end, to the point that Nunnally will ask him with a concerned face if he doesn't know what Lady C.C. is doing and if he hasn't received a postcard from her lately, and Suzaku almost wants to snort and tell her that no, she isn't the type of girl to send postcards to anyone, but he bites his tongue and just tells her that she will be back eventually, that she has to come back eventually.

He doesn't know how he knows this, but he just does.

Sometimes, he'll just find her lounging on his bed after coming home from a meeting or a public appearance, and he'll just set down his mask on the desk and start to strip down while she looks at him with her face completely lax but a certain twinkle in her eyes that betrays her amusement.

Other times, she will stride into the doujo while he is there exercising, and before she even says hello or acknowledges his presence in any other way, she will ask him for his phone so she can order pizza, and he will have to give it to her before she finally collapses onto the next chair and leans backward, stretching herself across the surface and then telling him about the sights she's seen, the people she's met, the food she's tried, while he listens with his eyes flexed upon her and mild amusement settled across his face.

It's great, the things she tells him. Did he know there was sweet potato pizza in China? Or the opulent circus with it's wide tent, bloated with the wonder of gymnasts, lions, magicians, things he couldn't imagine, somewhere in India. Romania, and the opulent castles and ruins, or the wide plains of the Britannian Empire and its scenic highways, the road sliced right out of the side of the mountain like an abdominal suture holding the two pieces together, and the grass stretching on endlessly to either way while the sun breaks through the clouds and makes the rain drops on it glisten like liquefied diamonds.

Or, at least, so she tells him.

It sounds awesome, all right, and sometimes she'll tease him - or her version of teasing - fixing him with a look that pins and saying tonelessly, "Maybe I'll just stay there next time I go," with that twinkle in her golden eyes and the muscles tensing around her mouth like they can't decide if they want to smirk or not.

But she always does come back.

He knows that, knows it even when she packs her bags and announces that she's grown restless again and will go back to Argentina or China or Nepal. Knows it when she is already half-way out the door, her hair swinging at her back and the golden talons of her eyes latching onto his from over her shoulder with an expression that had once been unreadable but now spells it all out so clearly.

And Suzaku just nods and waves her away, continuing whatever it is he's been working on, signing documents or wiping the sweat off his brow before continuing to kick the punching bag or eating breakfast, and he'll hear the quiet click of the door closing behind her, the click click of her footsteps, and then she's gone, except not.

He knows that she'll be back, and he knows that she knows, but the next time she comes, she'll still be pretending that she only comes for his sake.

== other boy ==
chapter 1/6-ish

"Lady C.C. has been here for two days now," Nunnally says, raising a tea cup to her mouth and sipping on it.

Suzaku looks up from his newspaper. "She seems to be adjusting all right."

Nunnally makes a humming noise at the back of her throat, and wrinkles her nose thoughtfully, breathing into her steaming cup of tea. Suzaku can see its fumes writhing up to dance along her mouth and up along her cheeks like ominous bursts of fog, or some slightly less dramatic metaphor. "She didn't go to his funeral and this is the first time we've seen her since," she says thoughtfully. "I was worried about her." She puts down the cup and gives Suzaku a smile, warm as an embrace. "I'm glad she's here. She was important." She pauses, then goes on bravely, "To him. But, I do worry a little."

She is taking her brother's death surprisingly well – as well as she can realistically suspect to take it. Suzaku remembers the sound of her crying tearing through the walls at night the first few nights afterward and her puffy eyes in the morning that wrinkled slightly at the corners when she slapped on her smile of bravery, but –

Now, she keeps her shoulders straight and her voice stable, and her eyes are like a caress when she looks at Suzaku most days.

Strong, really. No wonder she is his sister.

Or was.

That's when Suzaku remembers to answer, raising his own cup of coffee to his mouth and breathing in the aroma of the fresh cappuccino. "You're not holding it against her, are you? That she didn't come to the funeral."

Nunnally shakes her head, strands of hair swinging with the slow movement. "It's not that. Everyone... deals with their grief differently, don't they?"

"You're right," he says, then trails off, catching a glimpse of her uneasy gaze down the dark whorls of her coffee, and he adds, "What's bothering you?"

"It's just - that I wish I could understand her."

"What don't you understand?"

"I think she's hurting a lot more than she shows," Nunnally says, so quietly that at first Suzaku wonders if he's heard right. "I think she's hurting," she repeats, louder this time. "Probably about – well, about," she bites her lower lip for a second, "O-nii-sama. Right? She hasn't talked to me much since coming here."

"She's not the type to announce her emotions, sure." Or ever let anyone squeeze anything out of her. "It's not your fault." He reaches out across the table, taking one of her hands into both of his. He feels the bones beneath his thumb as he lets it trail over the back of her hand, thin and fragile. "You're doing the best you can." His finger slips into the space between her thumb and index finger.

Suzaku's hand seem to be relaxing her – she always has reacted to his hands this way and probably always will – but the remains of worry still sit in the corners of her mouth. "I know that. Thank you, Suzaku." A small tug at the corners of her mouth. "It's just that – are you getting along well with her?" She cocks her head to the side. "She's not making things – uncomfortable for you or anything, right?"

"She's just her usual self. Nothing unusual." He smiles and squeezes her hand until he can feel the drum of her heart beat fluttering against his finger tips where he presses them into the palm of her hand. "Nothing at all unusual going on."

- xxxx -

Suzaku wakes up when he feels someone slipping into bed with him. His eyes are still bleary with sleep, but he can see well enough to know who it is.

She stretches out next to him without a single word, patting the sheets on top of her and not even bothering to look at him, as if it's her God-given right to climb into his bed at – his eyes slip to the blood-red numbers displayed on the alarm clock sitting atop his bedside table – two AM in the morning.

"C.C.?" he barbs with the irritation of half-sleep. "Why -"

She turns around to face him now, her eyes sliding open just enough to reveal the topaz-colored pupils hidden behind the veil of dark eyelashes and the moonlight-colored fringe of her hair, and when she slides a little closer to him, and a little closer still after that, he can feel her.

She is soft, all curves that meld into his muscles when their skins touch, and she smells old, of cobwebs and musty clothing and history, and there is suddenly something at the back of his throat, like a lump of meat that's clogging his esophagus, and he swallows before he asks, "What do you think you're doing?"

"What?" she asks, and – if he thought that her voice would sound any kinder now that she looks ethereal bathed in moon light, he's mistaken; her voice is still as stiff and drawling as it always was. "I didn't like the guest bedroom." She wriggles to make a point, and he can see the dark outlines of her breasts press together.

He can't help but feel a spark of excitement leaping from his eyes to his groin.

"The mattress was too hard," she states, stretching out her limbs.

Becoming aware of how rude he is being, he averts his eyes from her body and slides backward. "You're naked."

She sighs, sighs as if this is all terribly exhausting, then rolls her eyes and rolls onto her back, flexing her eyes upon the ceiling. The moonlight catches between the ridge of her lips, casting a silver sheen across the wet surface. "I didn't expect you of all people to have a problem with this. How disappointing."

She's just come back from her very first travels – China or somewhere – and she just strode into the palace one day - well, three days ago - and greeted him as if it had been only yesterday that she had left after that.

He catches the date looming out of the alarm clock across the swelling of her hair. Two months. Two months since -

He lets his eyes fall back onto C.C. now, on her hair fanned out all around her like a tapestry of limestone, and says, "You do know the implications it sends when a naked girl crawls into bed with a naked boy, right?"

She raises an eyebrow and sends a glance downward. "You're naked?"

"I always sleep naked."

"Huh," she says, rolling her eyes back to the ceiling. "Oh yes, you've always been more of a nudist than him, haven't you?"

He remains silent at that, just letting the words sink in, then decides to just go back to sleep, let her do what she pleases, not like she'd ever listen anyway, no, she's like a cat, those beings that can't be herded or trained and just look at you like it's your privilege to let them stretch out on your oven. And if there is one thing Suzaku Kururugi is in complete and total control of –

(and it surely isn't his emotions now, is it?)

- it's his body, and so he rolls over, shows her his back, breathes in deeply, in, out, in, out, and relaxes his body, letting the sweet fatigue lodge in every muscle again, slackening them against the pillow until he can feel the sleep spilling into his head and diffusing all rational thought as it attempts to drag him down its surface, and –

His eyes fly open when he feels her arms around him, feels her breasts flattening against his back, feels the warmth of her skin, the little poke of her nipples, but he keeps his eyes trained on the walls, on the furniture drenched in silver and shadowed in the darkness, and only asks, "What do you want?"

She moves against his back; warm and smooth.

He can feel the texture of her pubic hair brushing against the small of his back.

"You're just like him." Her voice is bland.

The seconds tick past. Tick-tock, the clock on his bedside table says. Thump thump, comments his heart.

He rolls around to to face her, maybe a little faster than necessary. "You did this to him?"

"What?" she answers in perfect mock-innocence, and she sits up a little, the sheets pooling around her waist.

His instincts latch onto his eyes like little weights attempting to drag them down, but he refuses to lower his eyes.

She cocks her head in mock-surprise. "More interested now that you think he got there first?" She pauses. "Or, the other way around?" She stretches out on the bed again, her movements languid and slow, but her eyes suddenly sharpened to golden flails. "That I got there first?"

He gives a little groan and rolls on top of her, pinning her down beneath his weight, his hands on her upper arms as he pushes his lower body over, and –

Skin slides along skin as her legs drop open, and then he's hovering above her and glaring down at her in the murky half-darkness.

She meets his eyes with a smile that is sweet in the way rotten apples are.

"Did you?" is what he wants to ask.

What he actually ends up saying is, "If you want me to fuck you, just say so."

In what seems like a lifetime ago, he would never have used that crude word. Back then, he would have said, "if you came here to solicit relations," or, "if you want me to – you know," but now he doesn't say anything like that, now he gets to the point, no longer softens his statements with "I think," or "I suppose," or any other kind of buffer that takes the brunt of statements and diffuses their essence.

Now he just says it like it is.

"If that is the conclusion you came to," she says calmly. Maddeningly so.

He's getting tired of this – so, so tired, so he just curses beneath his breath, and touches her shoulder, then lets his hands wander inward along her collarbone and then lower, along the smooth line of her muscles. The curtains on the room's window are drawn, but in the center a thin sliver of moonlight shines through, casting a narrow bar of light across a pale, bare shoulder.

Her skin is a shadowy landscape floating in the moonlight, like a fragment of dream, bleary and insubstantial, but it feels warm and smooth against his fingertips when he drags it lower and lower, over the hard curve of her ribcage to the soft flesh of her stomach and down over her pubic hair until his fingers brush against her wet folds.

Her face remains so bored it's as if he is doing all of this to someone else and she is watching it all with mild disinterest.

She doesn't close her legs nor does she attempt to push him away, so he slips one finger inside and then another, and when she only continues to look bored, somewhere inside him, annoyance hatches.

He pushes in his fingers as far as they can go and leans forward until their breaths fuse together, her eyes only inches from his, large and unblinking and the color of liquid bronze in the moon light. He can see her fringe of hair rippling in his own breath when he asks, "You want this? I'll stop if you don't." He leans down, closer, closer, until their lips are nearly touching and he can feel her clamping down around his fingers, wet and hot. "Do you?"

She draws her face to the side and says nothing, facial expression still bored and unconcerned, but she is moving, her hand trailing down her body and wrapping around his hand, pulling his fingers out of her.

It feels cold when the air hits the fluid on his fingers, and he just wants to apologize to her – clearly, he was being out of line, jumping to conclusions, being despicable, and yes, there is still that part of him left, that part that chases after other people's approval like a puppy – when he feels her wrap her legs around him and smash her heels against his thighs so hard the surprise is grand enough for him to jerk forward, and –


She winces a little, but soon smooths out her face. "Took you long enough." Then she fixates some point to the left of Suzaku's head, on the ceiling, and says, "Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. You are just a -"

Her words shatter in her throat and then drown out completely when he thrusts forward, burying himself to the hilt inside her, and he knows he's probably giving her a cocky look right now, supporting his weight on his arms and having his chin slightly raised and his cheeks flushed. "Just a kid, C.C.?"

She just looks up at him in response, eyes large and pretty from above.

She is wet enough, slick enough, that it feels good, opening up around him and allowing him to slide in and out of her easily, and oh God – he actually has to pause a few thrusts in and grit his teeth and lower himself on his elbows, because – oh, it's only when he is inside her like this that he really realizes how long it's been since he has last had sex, half a year or however long it's been, just long enough for him to forget just how it feels, and he has to concentrate on uncurling the tangle the his stomach to stop himself from coming early before he dares to move again.

Beneath him, C.C. is quivering, her muscles flexing, her back arcing slightly, her thighs wrapping around his hips and pulling him closer, deeper. But she makes no sound, not when he has climbed down the ladder from a near-explosive excitement to a kind of control and concentration that allows him to thrust into her in a steady rhythm, and not when he reaches down to brush his fingertips against the swollen nub of her clitoris, and not even when he picks up speed and angles his thrusts.

She says nothing, just lies there and writhes, with her eyes closed and her hair spread out all around her. Cars pass by outside, dotting her body with slim bars of yellow light, and he follows the line of her body, her sharp collar bones, her breasts that bounce with every movement of his hips, then back up to her eyes, her eyes -

It doesn't take long before he can feel her coming, her walls tightening all around him and her back arcing, and that's when she lets out one single, drawn-out moan and her nails scratch at his back and clutch at his shoulders.

Then she slumps back, a few small shivers running through her before she settles down beneath him, stretching like a sated lion, and the surge of masculine pride he's felt at feeling her reach her climax all around and beneath him gives way to the sparks of pleasure consistently shooting toward the top.

He's breathing harder, and the sweat that's starting to pearl on his body is slicking his movements when he lowers himself and his angle right along with it, his chest sliding against hers, his ragged breath washing over her face. "Where," he says, voice coming out clipped, even brusque. "Where – where can I – ?"

She looks at him, and for a moment he almost expects her to say, "Play time's over – down with you, boy," but then she just says, voice so quiet it's almost being drowned out by the sound of his own panting, "I can't get pregnant. So," she draws her face to the side, "anywhere."

He props himself up on his elbow and lets his instincts take over completely, a blank veil drawing itself over his mind. His breath is coming is spurts and he leans forward, his lips landing on her –

(not the mouth, move to the side)

- cheek, her hair rippling in the gusts of wind he releases with every pant, and he can feel his thrusts resonating throughout her body, moving through her hips to her chest and then shattering in her mouth where they won't come out in the form of moans.

Stubbornly, infuriatingly silent.

But no matter, no time to contemplate this, no matter, because he's almost there, and his hips snap forward automatically and he starts thrusting harder, no, pounding into her, in, in, in, in, in, and then -

And oh yes, he's coming, coming hard, and it feels good, so good, his world narrowing down to the white pinprick-glare of pleasure, and he's only half-aware of the way he shudders and moans and shudders and moans some more until the feeling ebbs away and he feels as drained as he ever has in his life.

He shivers a few times, his nerves suddenly sensitive, and then he withdraws slowly, sliding out of her, and it takes him a few seconds to compose himself and for his breathing to come back to normal.

Silence reigns between them.

Suzaku looks at C.C..

C.C. looks at Suzaku.

She's sprawled beneath him, one hand curled next to her head and the other on her stomach, sliding lower. "Tissue," she says.

He blinks.

Rolling her eyes, she repeats, "Tissue. As in, give me one." She sends a quick look down her body, and when he follows her gaze, he can see the stain even in the dim light of the room.

Oh. Oh.

He leans over her to the bedside table, retrieving a few tissues from the box there before settling back on his knees before her.

Moodily snatching them out of his hands, she unceremoniously begins to wipe herself dry between her legs, and Suzaku is suddenly so embarrassed he doesn't know where to look.

"I'm sorry," he says, more out of habit than because he really feels so. "I should have – not, I guess. I should not have. Inside you."

She pauses. Looks at him. Tilts her head. "Are you saying I should have kicked you off after I came and left you with blue balls?" She snorts, and goes back to cleaning herself without waiting for his answer. "Are you a masochist after all?

Suzaku just snorts, considers saying something, but then decides not to. There really is nothing left he can say, and so he flops down onto his back next to her without another word, feeling the post-orgasmic haze settle over him and beckon him toward a dead sleep.

There is nothing quite like going to sleep right after having sex: the relaxation drips through his bones like slow-pouring molasses, smoothing out all of his muscles and calming down his heart. Suddenly, the screeches of the cars passing by outside and the rustle of C.C. moving next to him is like a lullaby, and his eyes flutter shut.

They fly open again when she speaks.

"Was that your first time?" A conversational tone wafts atop her voice while she squints at the space between her legs, brushing a few strands of hair behind her ears.

Suzaku laughs a little, a strangled chuckle that dies in his throat before it can truly fall from his lips. "So that's what you thought of my performance?"

"I take it it wasn't, then."

He thinks of Mari, the soldier who served in the same division as him and always eyed him with that little glint in her almond eyes, he thinks of Sergeant Weiss, the Britannian woman with the stern eyebrows and the high breasts that seemed to point her way wherever she went, and then his mind wanders to two or three faceless prostitutes in those endless nights after being appointed Knight of Seven when both sleep and salvation seemed so far out of reach, and he says, "No. No, it wasn't."

She crumbles up the tissues and tosses them aside without even looking where they land. "Pity."

He snorts. "What?"

"I like virgins." Her hand drops down to her side and she begins to draw intricate patterns on the dirty sheets. "He was one, you know."

His heart is at the back of his throat. "I figured he was. Well, I was wondering if maybe with you –" He stops himself, licking his lips, wondering if he is being a complete idiot about this. "You didn't - ?"

"No." She pauses and trains her eyes on him, and Suzaku distantly wonders how she can look so impressive, even intimidating, when he has just fucked her. "We never did." A pause. "Not that it's any of your business, but -"

The pale silhouette of her silver-drenched body hugs her knees, her hair spilling across her back and arms like a veil. He expects her usual snark, expects her to roll her eyes and go on with a scathing remark, but she only says, "He died a virgin."

Suzaku says nothing. The clock is suddenly too loud, the tick-tock joining the tick and whirr of his own blood pumping through his veins, and he is uncomfortably aware of how much like sex the room smells now, the scent of sweat and musk and cum wafting in the air.

Suzaku used to think it smelled like mortality.

The sheets rustle when she stretches her legs out in front of her, and there it is, that familiar note of mockery in her tone. "Well, unless you and him, of course."

He almost wants to snort at that. "You think?"

She tilts her head, and there's something predator-like in the way her eyes glint, though her tone is her usual brand of subdued amusement coated with a veneer of boredom. "I wouldn't have been surprised at all. Never knew which way he swung. Or you, for that matter."

He pulls the sheets up to around his chest. "It's not like that."

"Never?" She raises one eyebrow. "Because I was wondering, you know – those awfully long meetings you had in his room. And the way he kept caring about you for all the time, no matter how often you betrayed him." She sounds more amused than sad now, a lilting quality to her voice. "Sad sight to behold, that was."

Pain sparks through his jaw when he clenches it too hard. "He was my friend, C.C. We never – well. No."

He doesn't need to see her to know she's smiling that morbid smile of hers. "How fitting, then – the Demon Emperor, the most feared man in the world." A snort. "Died a pathetic little virgin."

He doesn't want to hear anymore. He turns to the side, turning his back to C.C., and clenches his eyes shut.

- xxxx -

He doesn't expect her to come back to him the next night, exactly, but he isn't terribly surprised. He feels a sudden rush of cold teasing his skin into goosebumps when she lifts up the sheets before darting underneath them to stretch out next to him like a content house cat after a particularly nice meal.

"The mattress in the guest room still too hard?" He jokes mildly.

She doesn't even answer, just shrugs and buries herself deeper into the mattress before lying still.

He looks at her for a long moment, at her narrow nose and then down to those pretty lips that seem to be curved into a natural pout no matter what she's doing, and then back up to meet the tunneling gaze of her eyes. "You know," he says while shifting closer and placing his hand on her hips, "I think I can see now why he called you a witch."

And then it's there, for just a second: what looks like might be a real smile tugs at the corners of her lips, and Suzaku thinks may have lit up her entire face like all the fluorescent lights of his mansion going on, may have morphed into the fullest, most most rigidly unwavering smile, but –

It dies as soon as it blooms, and the apathy smooths out her face again, and she snorts in dismay as if to make up for the second she's let herself slip up. Digging her nails into his shoulders, she yanks him into her direction, and he's on top and then inside of her faster than he can think.

( But it's not so bad to be there, all things considered. It's warm, and he doesn't have to think. )

- xxx -

"What's love?"

He raises his head, the bed beneath them creaking.

She is on her back, throwing a little gummi ball – pink with silver stars in it, the kind that he used to get out of cheap vending machines when he was a boy – up and down, the stars winking in the moon light streaming in through the blinds. Her green hair is fanned out beneath her, dyed a murky tone of blond in the darkness, and her voice is so deadpan that at first , Suzaku thinks he hasn't heard her right.

"Love?" he asks. "You're asking what love is?"

She sighs – he knows that sound, it's her 'oh, do I really have to explain this to you?' kind of sound, and he's sure that if the light were sufficient enough, he could maybe see her roll her eyes. "Yes, Suzaku. Love." She throws the ball again and Suzaku follows its arc with his eyes, watching it stand still in the air for just a moment before gravity takes over and it plummets down into C.C.'s waiting palm. "You know, the one thing that humans seem to deem the most valuable in the world." She snorts. "I guess none of the centuries I've seen have cured that particular human ailment."

Suzaku is, at first, so stunned that he doesn't even know she's waiting for an answer, only realizing it when she stops throwing her ball and turns her head to look at him. A car speeds past the mansion outside, casting bars of light into the bedroom and making her eyes sparkle golden.

He shifts inside the bed, feeling the sheets slide against his naked skin. "I don't know."

C.C. makes a noise at the back of her throat and continues throwing her ball in the way that makes Suzaku think of a kitten tossing a ball of yarn into the air only to catch it with its claws and continue to tear at it as if trying to spill its glistening guts across the floor.

"Trust?" she asks.

Suzaku remains quiet for a while, mulling it over in his head.

"No. I don't think you need to trust someone in order to love them, necessarily." He lets the words sink in for a second before he continues. "I mean, whoever you love isn't you – can't ever be you. They are governed by desires and emotions that you can't even begin to fathom, and never will. How you feel about someone, though, is there regardless of if you'd trust them with your life." He pauses, frowning into the dark. "Is what I think, anyway."

"Huh," she says, and catches the ball, bringing it to her mouth and pressing it against her closed lips as if lost in thought. She's writhing a little next to him, making – perhaps unconscious – little movements, and he can feel her hips sliding against his own, warm and smooth and pliant. Her eyes slide over to meet his. "Sex, then?" She catches the ball one more time before stretching out next to him and then rolling to her side, her cheek pressed against the back of her hand, her eyes trained on Suzaku. "Is it a sign of love, then, in your opinion?"

He shrugs. "It can be. But not necessarily so."

She raises her hand and presses the gummi ball against his forehead, then against his nose. Bump bump. "So you're saying that there can be love without sex," she rolls the cool gummi down over his cheekbones and along the slope of the sunken flesh below. "And sex without love."

He growls; low and deep, and snatches the ball out of her hand, holding it above his head. "Yes, C.C. It's kind of obvious, isn't it?"

She looks at the ball for a moment as if she's considering to make a leap for it, but eventually she just sighs dramatically, as if everything is an exertion of marathon-magnitudes, and folds her hands beneath her as a pillow. "I suppose so." He can see the fringe of her green hair fluttering as she blinks. "But if it's not trust and it's not sex – what is it?"

"Are you asking about the ingredients for love?" Inanely, he images her sitting around a steaming pot, ticking off the ingredients for love on a piece of paper like a shopping list, then saying, "oh yes, a dash of trust, a breeze of sex, a spoonful of friendship -"

Her eyes pierce through the mental image and it scatters. "Fine then," she says, almost - almost - sulkily, and rolls herself back onto her back. "Suit yourself." Not even attempting to look modest like all the other girls Suzaku has been with who would always make sure to press the blanket to their chests with a shy smile, C.C. just slumps onto her side, one knuckle raised to rest lightly against her chin.

He can see her nipples in the dim light like landscapes of light and shadow.

"Why are you asking?" he finds himself saying while tracing the lines of her body. "Love? Why bring it up now?"

She closes her eyes lazily, and he watches how she lets her hand play across her collarbones then down to her breasts. "Love is everything to humans, isn't it?"

He actually has to think about that for a moment. Love – is it everything? He thinks that, given the option, most people would choose gold or eternal life (he snorts at that internally) over love, but there is surely no topic as romanticized as love, anything else that people want and want with the same hopeless abandon, anything else that people have dedicated so many poems and books and songs and tears to, anything else that –

"Love is an abstract concept without definition," he says. "It's fluid, it comes and goes. Like – like the tides, I suppose."

She snorts, and he sees her wandering hand stopping over her breast, lightly cupping it. "How very philosophical of you, Suzaku."

"Well, it was you who brought it up, right?" he asks, a hint of irritation slipping into his voice. "I wouldn't be talking about it if it weren't for you."

She seems to consider this, then she nods and turns her head to look at him, their eyes fusing together.

Somewhere outside, another car passes, plunging the room into a glow of yellow pumpkin light that traces golden curls in her hair where there are none.

"So you think love is conditional, then? Fluid?" Her tone is searching, testing, a gymnast testing the high-strung rope with a light pad from the balls of his foot, and he knows this is somewhat important, noteworthy, but right now, he -

Right now, he is starting to get frustrated, starting to feel the low burn of it in his stomach, so he just brushes her off with a low, "Love hasn't exactly been one of my primary concerns, C.C."

It's just for a second, the span of a blink of an eye, that she seems startled, before she lowers her eyebrows and says, "But you are human," and her voice is now lilting, the condescension burning through green and ugly, and he -

He gives her a blank look. "I fail to see how that has anything to do with it."

She rolls her eyes. "Oh yes, of course you wouldn't." She rolls onto her side without another word, turning her back to him while she leans halfway off the bed, stretching out her arm for the pizza box discarded somewhere on the floor. He can see the bones on her back protruding when she flexes her back muscles to lift the pizza box off the ground and into the bed, and he thinks they look like little angel's wings. "You've never been as clever as he was, after all.

He considers giving a biting retort, but says nothing – says nothing, because he knows that there's no sense in raising to her baits. No, he is not as clever as he was – has never been able to calculate square roots in his head, or memorize vocabulary after barely glancing at them, and to this day, there's a lilting Japanese accent sticking to his words like syrup to a jar – but he knows one thing, and that is that she is baiting him.

Baiting him to call her a witch and brush her off brusquely and hide the affection brimming just below the surface of his eyes that way.

Baiting Suzaku to be just like -

So, he keeps quiet and only watches her as she folds the slice of pizza in her hand and slips it between her lips, the grease dripping down her fingers like rain and falling onto her breasts and the smooth plane of her stomach.

He's told her often not to eat pizza in bed. He's given up by now.

"I would be delighted to know," Suzaku says, and she sees her stop chewing for a moment to roll her eyes to meet his, "that love isn't what is meant to be. That it isn't what is predestined. That it is simply what – simply - whether it is for a moment or a lifestime, but simply," he looks away from her now, focusing his eyes on the sheets, "what is. "

For a moment, she says nothing, but her eyes on him are like a palpable weight.

"Or isn't," she adds.

"Yeah." He gives her a quick sideways glance. "Or isn't."

She gives him a long look, bumping the ball against her lips, before she says, perfectly bored, "Huh."

- xxxx -

It's a sound that wakes him up.

At first, he can't place it. He startles awake, blinks, forces his consciousness through the grip of the last dredges of sleep, and darts his gaze around blindly before he realizes she's snoring.

It's a quiet, lulling kitten snore, and he looks over and watches her move her head in her sleep, rubbing it against the pillows just a little. For a moment, he is disoriented, switches on the lamp on the bedside table and checks his room for intruders and alternate sources of noise.

There is none. Nothing but the tick-tock and the zoo-zoo of her kitten snore, and then he looks at her, and suddenly it's there, and stumbles through a sudden haze of reluctant affection he didn't know he could feel.

For just a second. Just a moment.

Then he lies down, pushes the blankets over his body, and closes his eyes.

And waits. Feels time coalesce around him for one moment, feels the universe narrow down to him, and her, and the snore, and the beckoning sleep. Empties his head, until there is nothing.

Until there isn't.


Suzaku isn't quite sure what she does all day long. Not really.

When he gets up in the mornings, she is always asleep still, complaining beneath her breath when he yanks the curtains aside to let the sunlight fall in bright bars and then burying herself beneath the cover like a child whining, "no, sun bad", and it takes a lot of Suzaku's self-control not to gloat the ever-dreaded "rise and shine" (surely a sentence that is as universally hated as the evil that are obligations on early Monday mornings) and shake her out of bed until she falls to the ground in a yelping tangle of white bedsheets and green hair.

He does nothing of the sort in the end. He just walks into the bathroom without another look at her (sometimes he'll feel her eyes on him while he walks, naked as he is), switches on the lights in the bathroom, splashes water onto his face and stares at the way it whirls down the drain with each of his hands on the sink for support, one leg slightly bent and the tips of his curls falling before his eyes.

He always does his best to avoid the mirror, because he has learned that the fact that they gleam beneath the light is not the only thing they have in common with Lelouch's eyes.

He looks up when she slides into the room, and his eyes fall onto the mirror. He can see her reflection standing just behind him, her unreadable eyes trained on him, her hair falling down all around her, gleaming the color of dried moss.

He reaches for his tooth brush. "Can't sleep?"

"Oh, I could all right. If it weren't all the noise you made."

"Well, good morning to you too, C.C."

She just gives him an elaborate shrug, one that starts in her arms, migrates to her shoulders, and then just slumps downward as if she ran out of energy half-way through the movement. Bending down to pick up a towel, she turns toward the shower stall, and he watches her when she slides open the door. Then pauses, throwing him a look over her shoulder.

"That shower looks big enough for two, you know." She gives him another one of her cut-off not-quite shrugs. "Just sayin', boy."

He frowns at the mirror, seeing his own eyebrows furrow above his eyes, and he averts his gaze, biting down on his tooth brush to keep it in place while rinsing off his hands.

She just sighs, the kind that says, 'Fine, have it your way, kid', and steps into the shower, leaving the door open. The water bursts out of the shower head and rains down on her head while she throws it back to welcome the water, and Suzaku watches for a few seconds how the droplets lull to streams along her body.

He looks away, hand returning to his tooth brush.

The crash of the water dulls her voice, but he can hear all right when she says, "Heard you were going to a masquerade ball today."

He switches his tooth brush from one hand to the other, and speaks around it, voice coming out muffled. "Nunnally said that?"

"Excellently surmised."

He bends down toward the sink to spit. "What of it?"

She turns her head to look at him over her shoulder, wet hair clinging to her back in rivulets. "I want to go," she says, as if that explains everything and is all the information Suzaku needs.

"That may cause problems," he says, keeping his voice even. "Someone could recognize you."

She smirks, and tilts her head back in an almost sensual way. Suzaku watches as the spray of the water hits her neck, then snakes down along her collar bones. "Then I suppose it's a good thing it's a masquerade ball, then, right?"

- xxx -

Author's Notes: To be continued. Well, I hope so - my track record with multi-chaps is, um - well, let's not talk about that - and I get easily discouraged, but I have 14,000 more words of this written, so I guess my chances of getting over my lazy butt and updating are better than usual. Meep. :/ If you find this a long time after I've posted this and I still haven't updated, pester me - it works wonders. 8D /n-never gets anything done alone orz I'm sure there's typos in this, but I'll hope you forgive. I don't want to re-read this yet another time.

Also, I can't believe how much I still love Code Geass - and Suzaku, meep - after like 2 years. It must be dearer to me than any other fandom. Is it that damn flight suit?

Next chapter: Suzaku and C.C. going to a masquerade ball, C.C. getting drunk, and S-Suzaku, you like WHAT during sex? O.o S-sadly no flight suits, though.

Also, please check the poll in my profile. Actually an important question for once, to me.