This'll be the first in a series of.. eh, who knows. Short stories.
Disclaimer: Code Geass isn't mine. Dur.
001 – Coffee Break (2007 a.t.b.)
When she found him, he wasn't moving.
At a passing glance, he appeared to be focused on his reading. But upon closer inspection, which none really dared to, his forehead was resting against the back of his left hand. His glasses - new frames, she noted - dangled from his fingertips. The pen in his other hand stopped dancing between his long fingers just a little over five minutes ago.
His eyes were closed.
Cornelia grinned at the sight: Lord Gilbert G.P. Guilford was sleeping in the library.
She shot a withering glare at the library assistant who moved to stop her from carrying a harmless paper cup into the palace archives. She found it ironic that a harmless beverage was forbidden within the premises while there was a rather ostentatious pistol-sword hybrid strapped to her hips. Needless to say, the assistant backed off with a string of apologies to the Second Princess of the Holy Britannian Empire.
"Do not bother us," Cornelia snarled in a low tone and dismissed the interruption before coming to a halt next to him. She neither sat nor woke him up. All she did was stare at her friend (and occasional rival), coffee in hand.
Her eyes scanned the page he was reading before snorting softly. She would rather dismantle a Knightmare than spend time reading books on physics, of all things. Vaguely, she wondered if he had been talking to her brother in her absence. Cornelia frowned. As fond as she was of him, the Second Prince Schneizel, she couldn't help but be a little suspicious of her brother and a little protective of her friend. A soft sigh from his direction brought her back, she continued to observe him. He had always been a dedicated student, she mulled. She couldn't say that he was all books either. Inside a Knightmare, his performance was up to par with hers; but she was better, of course, if only because she had "The Flash" herself as a mentor.
Cornelia shook her head at the sight of young Guilford's lips, with its corners currently down turned and pursed into a tight line, even in sleep.
She noticed that the glasses were slipping from his grip. Without much thought, Cornelia reached over with the intent of saving the new frames from clattering on to the table. She cocked an eyebrow when his fingers wrapped around her wrist. Definitely not all books, she thought wryly.
"Good afternoon, Lord Guilford." Cornelia smiled at him.
It would've been a lovely smile if there wasn't a hint of smugness behind it, due to the fact that she caught him sleeping in the library. Royalty, he scoffed with a mental eye roll. Slowly, he released her hand.
"Good afternoon, Princess. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?" He responded smoothly, straightening his crisp attire. Guilford started to rise but Cornelia placed a gloved hand on his shoulder and gave a gentle push, mumbling a faint "at ease, soldier", indicating that she didn't want to make a scene. Guilford shot her a questioning look and understood quickly enough. She came to talk to her childhood friend, not a subordinate.
He complied (as he usually does) and settled in his seat, crossing his long legs under the table. Even without the glasses, he studied her attire with a small smile that turned into a grin at the sight of her delicately curved eyebrow.
"Would you want me to turn around for you?" She offered in a tone smothered in sarcasm. He chuckled. They had been friends for a long time; long enough to know that it was her attempt at humor.
He gave a small shrug and reached over for his glasses, "So this is the uniform of the newly appointed captain of the royal guard. You look good, Your Highness." Guilford was rather proud of himself for keeping a straight face when Cornelia flushed ever so slightly (he almost missed it) at his compliment. But the truth was, he found it endearing and it tugged at his heartstrings painfully.
Gilbert G.P. Guilford was one hopeless case.
A comfortable sort of silence took over as he wiped his glasses and she shuffled her weight from one foot to another, leaning slightly against the table for support. She looked past him and stared blankly at the garden on the other side of the glass.
Guilford finally spoke, "What is it like, serving 'The Flash'?"
Cornelia blinked in surprise at the innocent question. He smiled inwardly as he watched her struggle with her answer. As one of the few people in her inner circle, he knew that she had been bursting to tell somebody of what she really felt, being chosen (and without bias, as the Empress had pointed out as she addressed them) from a band of elites to lead Empress Marianne vi Britannia's Royal Guard. It was, simply put, a dream come true. On the other hand, there is Cornelia li Britannia, the proud Second Princess of the Holy Britannian Empire. Fresh out of military school and already they're calling her 'The Goddess of Victory'. Both of them are aware of how important it is for her to excel; she needed to show the world that her appointment was just another milestone, another accomplishment to add to the growing list. She was required to prove her worth.
Guilford waited for her to speak. In one way or another, he had always waited for her, despite knowing that she was more than glad to rush ahead and chase after her goals without a second look back. No, she wasn't selfish; it was a product of their breeding.
His eyes darted quickly to the side, checking if anybody was around. They were alone, for most part and he had chosen this particular spot because he wanted privacy. His steely blue gaze softened considerably as his eyes met hers. His lips curved into a gentle smile and he raised a tentative hand. His fingertips barely brushed against the back of her hand. "It suits you," He murmured before withdrawing his hand quickly, as if he just realized. It wasn't as if he had never held her hand before. He had, back when they were children or when he leads her to the dance floor.
But it's different now. For him, at least. He wasn't presumptuous enough to think that maybe it was different for her too.
For a moment, Cornelia just stared at him. It worried him. Had he said too much? Despite being a confidante, he was still just another soldier compared to her. Although his family was nobility, she was royalty. But in the end, a little voice spoke in his head, she's the girl and you're the awkward boy who's hopelessly in love with her.
Guilford mentally slapped himself.
What he wasn't expecting was her reaction.
Excitement got the better of her. She pulled out the chair next to him and sat down. He smiled as she began talking animatedly. He had to admit that he missed this. Seeing her. Talking to her. Even the occasional scheming and the friendly competition. She had been gone a month due to her new responsibilities. He had been pretty bored as of late, aside from the Knightmare training he busied himself with thrice a week, while waiting for orders as to where he will be sent. If truth be told, he was preparing to distance himself from her. He knew that she was destined for something else, in fact, he knew that ultimately, Cornelia is gunning for the position of Chief General of the Britannian army. He never doubted her. His bias aside, he knew that she would get there. And he'll be just another sheep in the army.
He smiled wryly as she asked about him. Out of politeness, maybe, so she wouldn't feel bad with her success being the dominant topic.
At her turn to listen, Cornelia frowned lightly. It wasn't because he took over the spotlight, but rather, at the way that he seemed content with the mediocrity of his situation. Her frown deepened and wondered what happened to him. They shared the same dream: to expand the empire with the two of them taking the lead. Well, mainly her, but he wouldn't be far behind.
"- hopefully within a month I'll start receiving orders. I'd rather be personally informed where my death will be than be told in a letter."
Cornelia scowled at him openly.
"What?" Guilford asked blankly.
She hit his arm with a free hand.
"Why didn't you tell me you're being deployed soon?" Her voice was low and icy.
Because you weren't around. He shook his head, "Isn't that standard procedure?"
"It is. But-"
"Then what's the issue?"
Cornelia opened her mouth but closed it. She had something planned for him. Granted, she knew he wouldn't be too pleased to know of her subtle assistance that will undoubtedly launch his military career and she'd rather be shot than admit that she was helping him and that she actually needed him around.
He watched her lips form a dangerously thin line. "Nevermind," She snapped at him and turned away, tapping her foot impatiently, dismissing him as if he was a child who couldn't understand adult thinking. Guilford shrugged it off, being all too familiar with her little outbursts. This time, he did something that frustrated her and she wasn't going to tell him what that is. A long time ago, he learned not to take it too personally or he'll just lose sleep over it. He chuckled when she rounded on the unfortunate assistant who approached them then and there. He commended the man's courage. She was about to take it out on him when a flash of bright pink suddenly wrapped itself around her waist, talking excitedly.
Even Guilford had to blink.
"I apologize, Your Highness. The Princess suddenly came bursting in and asked where you were." The assistant apologized lamely, looking at Guilford for help. Before he could dismiss the man, Cornelia impatiently waved him away and placed her hand on her younger sister and smoothened her hair as she listened to very word. She even adjusted the flower in the girl's hair. For a moment, their argument had been forgotten. It had always fascinated Guilford how the mere presence of this little girl with her pink hair and big blue eyes can change Cornelia's mood instantly. Then again, who could resist that smile? Already, the six year old Princess Euphemia has the makings of a charmer.
No wonder her older sister is very protective of her.
"Shouldn't you be with Lelouch?"
Euphemia shook her head at her sister and shuffled her feet, "He's playing chess with Clovis. It's not exciting anymore. Clovis would always lose." She shook her head.
Cornelia quirked an amused eyebrow, "Then why don't you save Clovis by asking him to teach you how to draw?"
Again, the girl shook her head.
"What do you want to do?" Cornelia asked her gently.
Guilford was enjoying the exchange, even if he did feel like he was intruding on something private between the two sisters. His eyes were on Cornelia's face most of the time. He smiled wistfully, silently wishing that one day she'd look at him like that too.
Euphemia broke into a giggle. "I just want to give you something," Both teenagers blinked when the little girl started brandishing a short stemmed rose under her sister's nose. "Nunnally's wearing one, I'm wearing one, you should too!"
It took all of Guilford's self control to not laugh at the sight of Cornelia's face, torn between amusement and disbelief. Slowly, she frowned. She couldn't refuse little Euphie's wishes, but neither would she start walking around with a flower in her hair. Never. Especially when wearing the full regalia of her new uniform!
The Second Princess was about to protest and reason with her younger sister when Euphemia turned away from her, most likely sensing refusal. She tried to reach over and place it in her sister's hair but her arm came up short. She even tried standing on tiptoes but Cornelia leaned back, making it impossible. Guilford leaned over and smiled at the younger girl, peering into her eyes. Euphie stared back at him, tilting her head curiously. He held out a hand to her, "Princess, would you like me to help you?"
Cornelia threw him a dirty look, "Gil..." She growled.
He ignored her.
Delicately, Guilford plucked the flower from the little girl's hand and shot a brief, sinister grin at the older girl who sat frozen in her seat. He removed the excess leaves and snapped the stem. Carefully, he moved stray hair from the side of her face and behind her ear before tucking the flower in place. He fought to keep a straight face. Blood flooded Cornelia's cheeks.
Euphemia watched them, mouth curved into a tiny "o".
Guilford tilted his head and addressed the little one, "Pretty, yes?" Euphemia nodded excitedly and remembered her manners; she thanked him for his help. It was the most adorable thing he'd ever seen, aside from the little girl's blushing older sister, of course. Humoring the girl, Guilford stood and bowed to her gallantly.
"My pleasure, Princess."
Euphemia shook her head, pink curls bouncing slightly at her energy. "Don't do that," He looked at her questioningly, "My brothers don't bow to me. If you're going to be my brother soon-"
"Euphie!" Cornelia paled at her sister's comment. She needed to get out of there and save herself from further embarrassment. And vaguely, she had to wonder who planted that idea in Euphie's head; she wouldn't put it past Schneizel, Clovis and Lady Marianne. Or hell, even Nonnette. She stood up and tugged at her sister's hand. Remembering the flower, she removed it from her hair and tossed it on the table. She muttered about taking her sister home. Also, she gestured at the forgotten beverage, "Gil, that's for you."
He stared blankly at the paper coffee cup, still slightly baffled by what Euphemia said. Absently, he reached out for the drink and it weighed surprisingly lighter than he expected. Raising an eyebrow, he shook it slightly and noticed there was a subtle mark of color on the lid; a color that he's very much familiar with. Then he realized what her true intentions were, by visiting him.
"Thanks a lot!" He grumbled. In annoyance, he threw a crumpled bit of paper at her retreating form, noticing that she shaking with silent laughter. His cheeks felt hot. It had nothing to do with the way her hips swayed as she struts, he told himself, but in frustration that she, once again, scored one on him.
Guilford tried to get back to his reading but was distracted by the lonely flower on the cold table. As he inhaled its scent, he smiled faintly: he knew nothing about flowers, but he was all too aware of the lingering perfume that did not belong to it.
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