Sorry this took a while to update but I had a major exam on Tuesday meaning that I was doing some intensive studying before. I have more exams all of next week so there probably won't be updates until after my exams finish. Maybe.
Thanks to everyone who's been reviewing, you've all been really encouraging and a great help :)
Meanwhile, I hope this chapter isn't too soppy for you guys XD
Stage 3 - Solace in Hell
"They say that Geass isolates people," C.C. allowed herself a faint smile as her eyes drank in the massive expanse of blue sky unfolding over her, "but I guess that's not true, eh Lelouch?"
The man sitting in the driver's seat of the wagon murmured some sound of agreement as C.C. tilted her head backwards slightly, directing her voice towards him. Lelouch was still wearing his straw hat, his face obscured by several pieces of cloth that served to mask most of his face from any who might recognise him as the deceased emperor.
"May I ask why I'm the one driving this infernal wagon whilst you sit up there slacking around?" Lelouch asked testily for the fifth time in two hours, turning his head to gaze up at the top of the pile of hay where he couldn't quite see but was able to hear his immortal accomplice. C.C chose to ignore his grumblings, and instead shifted around in a more comfortable position, her head resting on Cheese-kun's soft belly. After a few minutes of companionable silence, she spoke up again.
"Why did you do it?"
"Why did you come back?"
"Ha," Lelouch scoffed, eyes flickering up to the haystack, "I figured that if I died there would be one very sad, very lonely idiot left in the world." He ducked as C.C. seized a handful of hay and tossed it over the edge of the pile onto his head.
"You must surely be mistaken. Are you certain you are not referring to yourself by 'sad idiot'?"
Despite himself, Lelouch felt his lips curve into a smile.
"No, you're an idiot for thinking that I would fail to keep my promise. I said I'd come back and make you smile, didn't I? I told you I'd grant your wish."
"Of course. It's a shame you're a liar, then, Lelouch. You've completely failed to end my life."
C.C. was prepared to rain another handful of hay down upon that obnoxious man's head but the next words he spoke were enough to make her temporarily forget how to breathe.
"I said once before that I know what your true wish is. And it's not that you want to die. Honestly, you're such a big sad idiot that you don't know it yourself. You're true wish isn't to die..." Lelouch paused, his voice inadvertently softening. "...it's to be loved."
There was the sound of a sharp intake of breath. C.C. bit down on her bottom lip, dimly realising with some surprise that it was trembling.
"You want to be loved. Not like the way your Geass made it before, but to be truly, honestly, freely loved by someone of their own will. To be loved for whom you are, not because of the power of the Geass. And because that true wish could never be granted, because the one and only things you really wanted in this world was something you couldn't obtain, you felt that you no longer had a reason to be in this world." The wagon slowed and trundled to a stop. The wooden boards creaked as Lelouch set down the reins and stood on his seat and turned to look down at C.C. lying there on top of the haystack, her normally expressionless face betraying a look of shock, for once.
"And that's why now I, Lelouch vi Britannia, have returned to grant your wish – your true wish. I'll love you unconditionally, not because of the Geass, but because of you. Simply because you are C.C. So you can discard that false desire to die. You're an immortal witch who has lived for centuries, yet never been able to feel alive. Live on, C.C." Lelouch smiled down at the green-haired witch's face upside down below him – a genuine, heartfelt smile that reached his eyes.
"Live for me. Live with me." He leaned down to press his lips against her forehead in a gesture of tender affection. "Love me."
For possibly the first time in a good several hundred years, C.C. found herself completely and utterly lost for words. As she felt tears threatening to rise up over her eyes, she wondered just how this man, this one-in-a-million man, was able to make her cry more in one day than she has before in decades.
Speechless, she merely nodded, blinking away the wetness on her lashes, the look on her face enough to make him understand without words.
Eyes containing a warmth that even she had never seen before, Lelouch stepped down from his perch and resumed his seat, picking up the reins and gently flicking the wagon into motion once more. A silence enveloped them – the kind of tranquil quietness that comes when the world seems to realise that it should be happy to just be. A muted, subtle contentedness that seemed to permeate the air and settled like a soft blanket of gentle happiness. It was a while before C.C. decided to resume conversation.
"I have never met another man quite like you, Lelouch."
"Indeed. I am an endangered species. Another reason why it would be a massive shame if I died." Although she couldn't see his face, the smirk was evident in his tone.
"Extinction is a horrible thing." C.C. gazed languidly up at the cotton clouds scattered picturesquely across the sky. "Are you sure you're ready? Do you really think you can take it?"
She paused for a moment before answering, an involuntary flush rising to her cheeks.
"Being my lover."
"Huh. Of course." Confident and arrogant-sounding as ever.
"It's a huge responsibility, you know."
"So is dominating the world."
A few seconds more pause.
"You'll grow tired of me. You'll get so sick of being around me."
"You already stress me out so much I'd probably get even sicker if you weren't around. I can't get used to you not being there." It was true: in the time they had spent together, she had become as essential and natural to him as his own breathing. She had become a part of him that he required to be able to feel complete.
"Well, perhaps I should tell you this now, but if immortality ever really does send you insane and you try to attack me with a chainsaw trying to hack me into little pieces to send to Australia, then I'm afraid I'll have to terminate the relationship and leave you."
Lelouch's amused curve of the lips momentarily turned into a sour scowl as he glared back up at the lazing witch, recalling the whole fiasco with C.C.'s former deranged contractee, Mao.
"That reminds me, I need to ask you; are there any other raging, psychotic, chainsaw-wielding ex's of yours that I should know about?" he asked acerbically. If he could see her face, she probably would have been grinning widely.
"Plenty." She rolled over onto her stomach, clutching Cheese-kun to her chest. "That's another thing. Some of the young men before you were really quite dashing – handsome charmers, they were. You'll have some high expectations to live up to."
"Hmph. Have any of my predecessors dragged themselves back from the burning pits of hell just for you, C.C.?"
She smiled into the soft yellow plush, her voice slightly muffled.
"I must confess, no. No man has ever returned from the dead for my sake. Only you, Lelouch."
"Precisely my point. Eternity isn't so bad when you have someone you are going to enjoy spending it with."
The grey witch understood. All they had was each other. As time ploughed on relentlessly, only the two of them would be left unchanged, frozen in place. As everything else – old friends, new friends, acquaintances, possessions, all disappeared into dust with the passing of the years, in the end, the only thing standing, the only one thing they had left was each other. Now, even if she lost all of it as time passed by, Lelouch would always be there. Forever. The only permanence in her endless life. The only thing that she could say truly belonged to her, and to whom she could say she belonged with. Wherever Lelouch was, she had to be too. They would live as one, a single soul sharing two bodies.
This hell of eternal life seemed a lot more like heaven now that Lelouch was there. An angel is devil's clothing.
Suddenly feeling much more light-hearted, C.C. sat up, still tightly hugging Cheese-kun. Even in a peasant's dress, which she had worn ever since coming to the countryside and trying to blend in with the locals without attracting too much unwanted attention to herself, C.C. still managed to jump nimbly down from the top of the moving wagon down onto the seat next to Lelouch. He gave her a sidelong glance, one eyebrow raised beneath the brim of his straw hat.
"I marvel at how you managed to keep Cheese-kun with you after all that chaos."
"It's like in a house fire how you grab the most important things you want to keep first."
"I see. So, Cheese-kun is the most important to you?"
"More so than I am?"
C.C. hesitated, studying the side of Lelouch's face half-hidden under his hat, a sly smile suddenly creeping across her lips.
"Lelouch, are you jealous?"
"O-of course not! Why on earth would I be jealous of a soft toy? He's not even real!" Lelouch raised his chin to glare indignantly at his witch, eyes flashing.
"That's what makes it so sad. That the great Demon Emperor Lelouch would get jealous of a harmless little Cheese-kun..."
"Don't worry, Lelouch, I find that quite cute of you. Besides, if a burning house with you and Cheese-kun were in it, I'd grab you first..."
"...to act as a shield for Cheese-kun, of course."
And despite his loud protestations and indignant outbursts, he found it was all worth it to her laugh and smile like that, as if she was really, whole-heartedly enjoying it. Because her laughter this time was real and from the heart, a true and deep happiness that came from within.
One day, he will make her laugh out loud purely with the joy of being alive.
One day, he will make her smile at him and say, "I'm glad I was given this life."
He'll love her as she'll love him.
Because they are accomplices, friends, lovers.
They are each other's solace in hell.
Thanks for reading~!
I'm so oblivious I only just realised now but C.C. is also the initials to my real name. :3
I feel so connected to Code Geass now XD