A/N: Spoilers for the end of season one/beginning of season two.
Well, this is my maiden Code Geass fic/drabble written in response to the prompt "cat and mouse, spying" by someone on my f-list. This anime ranks on the list of my most beloved shows of all time, and Lelouch on my list of most favorite characters of all time, so the thought of writing anything for it actually intimidated me more than I'd like to admit; I worry I won't have anything particular valuable to contribute to the fandom. That said, I'd love to tackle some longer fic for this pairing (M-rated to boot). At any rate, I hope you enjoy this – it takes place after Lelouch has recovered his memory and reclaimed leadership of the Black Knights, but before Suzaku realizes this is the case.
I don't own CG or any of its characters; I just take them out for writing funtimes.
I like watching you watch me.
Lelouch shifts with deliberate care in his desk, tilts his head so that strands of silky raven hair fall forward into his face. Brushing them away with graceful care, he crosses his legs, uncrosses them, stretches like a cat, and then yawns.
From the desk beside his own, an emerald gaze studies his every move intently.
Lelouch pretends not to notice, fights away the smile that wants to curve his lips, and half-listens to the teacher's lecture as he calculates, analyzes, premeditates. And then after another few moments—just long enough for earnest, honest, principled Suzaku to glance away, back to the board—he drops his pencil from languid fingers and watches it roll to a stop at Suzaku's feet.
"Here, Lelouch," Suzaku whispers as he bends down and picks it up.
Lelouch turns violet eyes to the pencil, small in Suzaku's strong, capable hand. His gaze lingers over the fine lines that map the Japanese boy's palm, the blunt fingernails, callouses and faint scars. This hand has pulled him to safety more times than he cares to count; this hand has forced his Geass-stricken eye open and unblinking in front of the emperor, held him still to receive punishment. "Thanks, Suzaku," he whispers back.
Suzaku's smile, initially hesitant, grows genuine and lingers.
Lelouch doesn't trust it. That smile—that boyish unguarded smile that warms Suzaku's green eyes—isn't meant for Lelouch vi Britannia and it isn't meant for Zero, either. It's meant for an ordinary Lelouch, a passive Lelouch stripped of memory and identity and dignity and in possession of no power that might help him fight for the causes that matter most.
At the thought of Suzaku's betrayal, as always, Lelouch feels suddenly ill.
His stomach twists unhelpfully and he thinks, ruefully, that C.C. will be hysterically amused that Japan's revered savior and Britannia's most notorious terrorist has to grapple with something so mundane as a stomachache, but the dull pain only worsens and he closes his eyes. Bad timing. I have things to do today and—
"Lelouch, are you okay?"
Suzaku looks concerned, and the worry written in the furrow of his brow and the serious set of his green eyes seems so absurd given the circumstances that Lelouch is hard pressed to refrain from hysterical laughter. Which Lelouch are you concerned for, Suzaku? The one you betrayed and wished to destroy, the ideal you believe in now, or both? But he can't afford to give up the charade—not even for a second—and so he schools his expression into indifference and offers a slight shrug in response. "Stomach hurts."
Given his history of faking sick to get out of gym with any number of complaints, he finds himself startled when Suzaku's warm hand closes gently around his arm. "C'mon," his best friend encourages. "I'll walk you to the nurse's office."
Endless, endless loops of deception. Are you concerned because I might be sick, or are you concerned that I might be getting my memory back? Will you send a report about this to your superiors? Lelouch feels his head spinning as Suzaku mumbles something to the teacher, as students snicker at the Eleven as they always do, as that firm grasp guides him out of the classroom and down a blessedly empty hallway. Suzaku's hand presses warmly, protectively against the small of his back; Lelouch strives to ignore it. If you think I'm getting my memory back, do I feign getting better and leave as quickly as possible? If you're concerned because I might be sick, do I—
Suzaku sighs. The nurse's office is empty; the Japanese boy glances around in frustration at the simple cot, locked shelves full of medicine, white walls and bright lights. "I guess she's not here." With a gentle hand, he guides Lelouch to the cot, sits him down. "Maybe just sit here a minute and wait until she comes back?"
The ache in Lelouch's stomach has sharpened to a pain that begets nausea; he closes his eyes against unforgiving fluorescent light and wills the pain away. Stress, probably. But there's no time to be sick. I'm waiting for Oghi's report and I need to get in touch with Kallen. I was wondering if Diethard could—
Suzaku's gentle hand smoothes his hair back. "Sorry it hurts, Lelouch," he murmurs, and his voice is so full of concern, so very tender, that if Rolo wasn't living breathing proof of the deception, of the entire betrayal, Britannia's forgotten prince might almost believe it had never happened.
And what Lelouch wants to do is scream, or maybe cry, or simply spill it all out and ask why Suzaku why did you do it or were your principles more important than your best friend, to simply beg for mercy or even help—because he's tired, he's so damn tired, and Zero is flawless and beyond despair but Lelouch Lamperouge is most certainly not— but he is merciless with himself as with all other things and so he instead parlays the pain in his stomach and the lurking nausea into a weapon. He opens heavy-lidded eyes, turns to face Suzaku, and asks quietly (exposing a weakness that doesn't exist, not really, except that it does): "You always take care of me, huh, Suzaku?"
Checkmate. Suzaku winces visibly, turns his eyes away, and Lelouch would almost regret hurting him if it weren't for the memory of Suzaku's brutal arms holding him down, pressing hard enough to leave bruises, forcing him to confront his father's gaze. His stomach twists again, violently. He inhales the antiseptic scent of the room and almost retches.
Necessary, he tells himself. This is necessary. He can't sacrifice the Black Knights, can't sacrifice Zero, again. And if that means exploiting any small chink in Suzaku's armor, seeking for weak spots, finding him vulnerable and securing his own safety, well, that's just returning the favor, after all. I trusted you to trust me, and you didn't. I believed you would—
Suzaku's hand returns to his hair, strokes raven silk away from Lelouch's face. "Maybe I can help," he offers, and before Lelouch can protest Suzaku gently presses him down against the cot and loosens his school uniform with capable hands.
Lelouch blanches. "Suzaku," he protests nervously, and this is perhaps the first word out of his mouth in days that has been genuine, uncalculated. He glances down the length of his slim body at rumpled clothes. "Suzaku, what—"
"Don't worry," his best friend says cheerfully, and those green eyes are alight with a boyish happiness that steals further resistance from Lelouch's tongue. "This'll at least make it a little more bearable until the nurse gets back." Gently he works Lelouch's shirt free of his pants to loosen it and presses his warm palm against the smooth, vulnerable skin of his best friend's stomach. The heat comforts; Lelouch relaxes infinitesimally as Suzaku rubs his stomach in large, soothing circles.
They share a silence that is not bitter.
And somewhere between Suzaku's warm, gentle touch and the comforting quiet of the room, Lelouch's eyes slide closed and he falls into a rhythm of deep and even breathing. Minutes pass, or seconds, or maybe hours, but when he hears a rustle he stiffens immediately and snaps back to awareness.
He's going through my bag, I think. What's in there? Two disgustingly boring books he chose with great care—wouldn't do to be seen reading The Art of War, now would it?—and his phone (full of pictures of Rolo, that traitorous usurping murderous bastard), school ID, gym clothes… Nothing problematic. Nothing that would indicate I've regained my memories or that Zero still exists.
But when he opens his eyes after a calming breath, he finds that Suzaku isn't going through his bag at all, is instead leaning over the cot, studying him with soft green eyes. That warm, beguiling hand rests gently against Lelouch's bare stomach. "Better?" his best friend asks softly.
Why? Lelouch wants to ask. Why are you the person who takes away my pain and causes it at the same time? But the nausea has faded and his stomach doesn't ache as much as it did and so he replies, simply, truthfully, "Yeah. Thanks, Suzaku."
Suzaku smiles. But he doesn't stir, those green eyes darkening a shade with feeling that Lelouch either can't or won't understand, and he leans in almost close enough for their foreheads to touch. "Lelouch," he begins, and his voice is husky, uncertain, his free hand absently clenching into a fist. "Lelouch, I…"
Lelouch vi Britannia has prepared for a good many disasters and accidents, but this is not one of them. He opens his mouth, shuts it, wonders if he should pull away, and pushes himself up a bit on his elbows only to realize, with the awkward understanding of inexperience, that the movement only serves to bring them closer still, lips almost brushing; the Japanese boy smells like soap and shampoo and the starched fabric of his school uniform.
"You're…so pretty, Lelouch. You've always been so pretty." Suzaku looks touchingly earnest, his brows knit in focused concentration as he strokes a careful thumb over his best friend's cheek. "But it's not just that, it's you—you've always been…really different from everyone else."
And this, too, Lelouch knows: he is nothing like the blunt, solid, unremarkable boys and soldiers that exist in Suzaku's everyday life. He is fine-boned and delicate with all the grace of aristocracy, utterly lovely, charismatic in the extreme, and Suzaku—guilt-ridden, inferiority-consumed Suzaku, whose boldness only kicks in at disconcerting times like these—responds to Lelouch's beauty as he responds to Lelouch's very nature: instinctively, lovingly, with an earnest awe that borders on gratitude.
Lelouch wishes briefly that his Geass could turn back time.
But it can't, and the refrigerated air of the nurse's office makes him shiver in spite of himself. Suzaku wraps a gentle arm around him to keep him warm, or maybe hold him close, and before he can wonder about what would constitute a proper response to this new dilemma—if I push him away, will he suspect I've gained my memory?—Suzaku presses bare almost-kisses, light brushes of warm breath and mouth, against his cheekbone, his closed eyelids, his regal brow.
Lies, Lelouch thinks, bewildered, liar, lying, lies, lies—because he cannot forget the hateful words, the betrayal, and he suspects that Suzaku would not have such tenderness for Zero, or for Lelouch-masquerading-as-Zero—but Lelouch is a liar too, the best liar of them all, and so...
He forgives, and by the time Suzaku reaches his mouth Lelouch's lips are already parted for him, because Suzaku is and has always been his most significant weakness and his greatest strength. The deception they've built independently and together is so multi-layered and complex that undoing it all now would be impossible, anyway; they're both gloriously damned to this, to playing cat-and-mouse, seeking out motives and intentions, wondering if they can share a universe somewhere between the lies they tell themselves and each other.
And then even those thoughts fade into irrelevance.
Suzaku's mouth is soft and the kiss is soft, open-mouthed and lush, and Lelouch tangles his fingers helplessly in the tumble of his best friend's curls, presses himself against a body stronger and more muscular than his, than Zero's, will ever be. He's grateful, suddenly, that he is beautiful—grateful that he possesses something Suzaku can appreciate and admire—and he doesn't want it to end, this moment: the touch of Suzaku's tongue against his own, the weight of Suzaku's body against his, the feel of that warm hand stroking his stomach, sliding up to tentatively caress his chest. And then—
—footsteps in the hall.
Startled, Suzaku pulls away, almost loses his footing, and curses under his breath. He gives Lelouch a rueful glance, tries to smooth curls disheveled by long, elegant fingers, and helps to readjust his best friend's unkempt school uniform. "Sorry," he breathes as his fingers clumsily smooth the fabric, and this, too, is genuine. He lifts honest green eyes warm with raw affection and tender regard, but the set of his mouth is soft and serious. "Lelouch," he says, uncertainly, and his voice cracks on the name; he looks away. Regret makes his words heavy and slow. "Lelouch, I wanted to tell you that—"
Go on, Lelouch pleads silently, because there's honesty in Suzaku's hesitancy, the promise of redemption for both of them. Whatever you want to say, Suzaku, say it, and I'll listen, and then—and then we can—
The nurse steps briskly inside.
Suzaku falls silent. That green gaze dulls; the flush on his cheeks fades slowly as he leans against the wall, head bowed, and folds his arms. Every now and then, he glances up, and Lelouch senses once again that he's being studied. The moment is lost.
Careful, calculating, methodical as always, he answers the nurse's questions—yes, I had a stomachache and no, I didn't eat anything strange and yes, it's gone now, thanks—and is not surprised that he doesn't remember her. She's probably working for Britannia, too, and he wonders if she will have to report this incident to her superiors:
Lelouch vi Britannia, formerly Zero, the leader of the terrorist uprising against the empire, complained of a stomachache today. For lunch he had half a sandwich with the crusts removed and a bag of potato chips. Sire, he appears to remain under the influence of your Geass.
The absurdity of it all makes him want to laugh. Instead, he thanks her for her time, charms her as best he can, and walks back to the classroom in silence, measuring his steps against the tiled floor and deliberately dawdling to miss math class.
Suzaku clears his throat. "Lelouch?"
Lelouch pauses for a beat, pretends to be distracted by the way dust motes float in the sunbeams that pour in through the windows, then asks, absently, "Yeah?"
A pause. Suzaku stills, then lifts his head and bursts out defiantly, with a blush staining his cheeks: "I'm—I'm glad that you're okay, Lelouch. I'm glad…that you're here." His green eyes darken. "And I'm sorry…that you had to hurt."
Lelouch gazes back at him quietly. The sunlight, he knows, is gleaming against his raven hair, illuminating his exotic amethyst eyes and kiss-swollen lips; he looks slim and regal and moody and demanding and his words will matter, they'll mean something.
There's a 94.5% chance that he's referring to my stomachache and a 5.5 % chance he's referring to everything that happened before. Even if he is referring to what happened before, I can't acknowledge it, since he might turn me in anyway and there are others observing me as well. But I…
He reaches out, touches Suzaku's cheek with his hand. "Thanks, Suzaku," he replies. Honestly. "I'm grateful that you try to take care of me. And…" The pause is premeditated; the words are not. "…I'm glad that you're here, too."
Lelouch isn't hurt by the suspicion that flashes, briefly, in the depths of those dark green eyes; he knows Suzaku is running similar figures and percentages, wondering what the odds are that Lelouch has regained his memory, but after a moment the Japanese boy relaxes and his genuine smile returns to brighten his gaze. "Thanks," he says warmly, and drapes a warm, casual around Lelouch's shoulders as they amble together down the deserted hall.
Lelouch smiles faintly. We're such liars, both of us, all the time. We lie about everything to everyone, to ourselves, and to each other, but sometimes—
—the lies are true.