Chapter One: Continuously Crossing Paths
Everyone else had long since left Ashford Academy behind, departing on their various paths to home. Only she remained. Sitting on the roof of the school, both knees drawn up to her chest, Kallen Kozuki stared up at the night sky. She wished she could see the stars high above the Tokyo settlement, but the illumination from the city lights denied her such pleasure. Since the heavens couldn't reach her, Kallen lit up the sky on her own.
Few fireworks remained from the student council's private show that afternoon, and Kallen still had no idea who had launched them in the first place. It seemed that whoever it was, intentionally or not, had left some behind for her. Reaching over, she held the struck match to the fuse until it caught, before leaning back to enjoy the result.
The explosion high above her drowned out the sound of distant construction, as men continued to rebuild the areas within Tokyo that had been destroyed in the war. Kallen hoped that some of them at least stopped to appreciate the blossoming light.
It had required all of her courage to take Milly up on her offer to have a reunion of the Student Council, and Kallen had almost stayed home even after agreeing to show up. She hadn't buried the past, as the pictures tacked up in her room reminded her, but she kept it at arm's length. It was the only way she could deal with the harsh reality of it.
The world was without a doubt a better place. Sick of war and hate, every nation on the planet had been striving to rebuild, to push forward toward a brighter future. Even Kallen had found she was happier than she had been in a long time. Because of that, she hadn't wanted to deal with the reminder that it had come at a great cost, especially to her.
Lowering her gaze, the young woman stared across the grounds, her thoughts drifting. It had been good to see everyone again, and simply speaking with them had brought back memories she couldn't believe she had tucked away; the silver lining to the storm that was the war.
Kallen was so absorbed in her reverie that she did not at first notice she was no longer alone atop the school, her visitor careful not to disturb the relative quiet of the empty campus. It wasn't until she heard the telltale swish of moving cloth, the sound so familiar that she recognized it in an instant. As often as she'd seen the flourish of a starched cape that accompanied it, it had become ingrained in her.
She glanced back as Zero approached her, a dark silhouette against the lights of Tokyo, and closed her eyes. She couldn't keep the small, sad smile from her lips, distantly aware that she had thought of him more today than she had the entire year prior. The ache in her chest remained, even now, and having to see that familiar mask had been the main reason she didn't want to come to this impromptu reunion. It was too late to go back now, however, so she bore the pain as best she could.
"I expected you to leave with the Empress." Kallen said quietly, wrapping both arms round her knees.
Zero said nothing, and came to a halt several paces behind her. A companionable silence fell between them, as Kallen stared off into the distance. She hadn't wanted to see him, and for months she hated even the idea that she might one day have to cross paths with him again. However her anger and sadness had faded over time, carefully reeled in and stowed away to embrace the gift of the future.
"I wasn't going to come back here." She said after several minutes, her voice carried to him by a gentle breeze. "I only did it because… he made me promise. When this was all over he wanted me to come back here with him, to see everyone once more."
The young woman stood slowly, leaning on the railing the lined the roof of the school. After another long moment of silence, Zero moved to join her, standing fully erect, close enough that the edge of his cape brushed against her bare leg. Kallen glanced sideways at him, sighing quietly, before turning her attention back to the grounds ahead of them.
"You don't have his brilliance and flair, but you've done well so far." She noted, smiling softly. "Theatrics and strategy never were your strong suit, were they Suzaku?"
That notorious mask swiveled quickly, and Kallen didn't need to see his face to picture the look of shock and resignation. She could recall it from memory easily enough. Suzaku slipped one hand slowly to the back of the helmet, casually removing his new face and staring into the reflective visor.
"How long?" Suzaku asked, his gaze sliding toward her.
"Since the moment you appeared in front of the procession. I'd say we've fought enough for me to recognize the way you move."
"I suppose you're right." He replied with a small smile, setting the mask of Zero on the ledge in front of him.
"I'll never tell anyone." She added quickly. "Not even Gino. Lelouch left his legacy in your hands... and I won't betray his wishes."
They fell into another comfortable silence, as Kallen debated where to go from here. She'd never expected she would reveal her knowledge to him, especially with the animosity she'd held for him in the past. They were no longer enemies, but were they ever even friends? It seemed that, like tonight, the only time they hadn't been on opposing sides had been at Ashford.
"The future." Kallen said, turning her gaze toward the brown haired knight. "That was his gift to us, to the world, wasn't it?"
Suzaku nodded solemnly, and Kallen bit her lip. She'd done her best not to think of Lelouch since that fateful day when she'd realized what his agenda truly was. She hadn't ever hated him, even when the entire world had despised his existence. He was despicable and manipulative, but it had all been a lie. His careful deception had been designed from the start to push society forward into the next stage, and guarantee the kind of peace he could never have achieved in life. He'd lied to the entire world, friends and strangers alike, sacrificing his happiness to ensure that those who hated him could enjoy their own.
"I would have followed him to the end… if only he had asked me to." She whispered, closing her eyes and sucking in a shallow breath.
"That's why he never did." Suzaku replied casually, leaning forward.
"It was selfish! It didn't matter to him at all how I felt; how anyone else felt!" She snapped, before taking control of her emotions.
Kallen knew she was treading a thin line. The feeling of betrayal and loss had never left her heart, but she had spent the past year stowing it deep inside, refusing to dwell on something she couldn't have changed. It didn't make it hurt any less, but at least it had kept the despair from overcoming her. Speaking so openly about it for the first time was dangerous, as she slowly let down the walls she had built to contain the heartache.
"Before the invasion of Japan, when Lelouch and I were young, he taught me to play chess. I never came close to beating him, but I also learned something about him that nobody else did."
"If the King doesn't lead, how can he expect his subordinates to follow?" Kallen replied with a sharp, sarcastic laugh, recalling from memory the exact phrase Lelouch had used in the past.
"No." Suzaku said seriously, shaking his head. "I learned that, no matter what, Lelouch never sacrifices his Queen."
Kallen's gaze shot over to him, her breath catching in her throat. She stared at Suzaku, feeling those walled in emotions pressing outward, and barely suppressed the tears that fought to be released.
"What… what are you talking about?"
"Isn't that what you were, Q1?" Suzaku asked, calmly picking up his mask and walking away.
His words were a devastating blow, though they weren't intended to cripple her. Kallen felt her carefully constructed barriers, already weakened by a day of reminiscence, crumble and fall away. The torrent that was released, washing over her and sucking the air from her lungs, threatened to bring her to her knees under the pressure.
The tears came then, and Kallen shook her head, denying the tightness in her chest and the burning in her eyes. Anger swelled with the grief, and before she could stop herself she was charging at the departing man. Suzaku turned as he heard her approach, frowning in concern a moment before she crashed into him, the impact forcing him to step back to keep from toppling over.
"Why?" She cried in anguish, pounding her fists against his chest. "Why did he have to die for us to live?"
Suzaku froze with the mask tucked beneath his arm, unsure what he was supposed to do. He hadn't expected her to explode, given how calm and rational she had been moments before. More than that, he would have never thought that she would have turned to him for comfort, even if he was the only one around to direct her grief and pain at. Kallen buried her fact in his chest, the impact of her fists against him feeble and defiant, with no real force behind them.
"I should hate you." She said, her voice twisted in confusion and ache. "I should despise you for what you did. I want to hate you, but I can't… because I know it was what he wanted… what he planned all along."
Something he'd said had brought back pain that had been buried for almost a year, and Suzaku felt a pang of guilt. He'd meant to assure her that she hadn't been cast away, not hurt her.
"Even when everyone else turned on him… I remained by his side. I was willing to take on the entire world for him. I would have died for him…"
"Kallen…" Suzaku said softly, as the girl placed her palms on his chest, sobbing and trembling.
"There had to be another way." She said between gasps. "You… killed him… and the entire world cheered. They cheered, and nobody will ever know what he really did for them."
"That's not true." Suzaku replied, hugging the girl to him to try and console her, the mask falling to clatter onto the roof. "We know, and that's enough."
Kallen collapsed against him, her legs giving out, and slowly Suzaku lowered her. He took a knee, uncertain how to act. In all the time he had known the girl, as both her enemy and friend, he'd never seen her so lost in despair. He silently added it to the list of Lelouch's sins, and was surprised to realize that this particular instance bothered him more than most of them.
The girl continued sobbing quietly against him, as Suzaku propped her up, and it took several minutes before her body finally stopped trembling. The former Knight of Zero waited patiently, expecting Kallen to push him away and regain her composure at any moment. He squeezed her shoulders gently and realized that she'd passed out in her grief and exhaustion, both arms still wrapped tightly around his waist.
Kallen wasn't aware of the strong, gentle hands that scooped her up, her weary slumber a defense against the pain. Even unconscious, however, she clung tightly to the mask that Suzaku had placed on her stomach, like a child with a stuffed toy, as he carried her downstairs and away from Ashford Academy.
Author's Note: My first Code Geass ficlet, and it was done on a whim. I've been playing around with an idea that follows Marianne, sometime before the events of the series, but if I decide to do it I'm going to have to spend a lot of time sorting out the timeline and plot points to make it match up with canon events. I'd really love to do it, but in the meantime I found I needed something to do, and so I sat down and wrote this out in about three hours, since it kept jumping into my head. It's pretty lacking in the polish department, but it was going to drive me nuts if I didn't get this out of my head.
Okay, so I think I might have portrayed Kallen a little out of character, but I can't say quite for sure. She's strong and usually in control of herself, but given how completely devoted she was to Lelouch, I didn't believe it was that far of a stretch for her to have a small breakdown when finally confronting the gravity of Zero Requiem and her love for him. Especially after Suzaku forces her to see that Lelouch did really care for her, enough to keep her from being destroyed in his plan to become a hated martyr. I expect she would have a soft spot for the name Q1. I'll leave that up to anyone who reads this to decide.
I honestly don't know if I'll actually continue this to become a full fledged story or not, and I do have ideas for more of it, but if so it's likely to become a pairing between Suzaku and Kallen, which I never thought would be too far-fetched. They share similar qualities, and I often wished that at least once they could have been on the same side for a bit. The amount of badass that would be demonstrated would put all of the Knights of the Round to shame.
So I'd love any thoughts on it, and R/R is appreciated.