Lelouch could tell something was wrong the moment Suzaku walked through the door of their apartment.
It wasn't just that he was hours late and hadn't called, it wasn't just the way he moved, as if everything non-physical hurt, it wasn't even the haunted look on his face as he closed the door behind himself.
It was how he avoided Lelouch's gaze, just like he had the time Lelouch found out the truth of his father's (murder) death.
Lelouch hadn't let him off easily that time, and he wouldn't this time either.
"Suzaku, what happened?"
"I can't talk about it." Suzaku's voice was dull and flat. It wasn't an uncommon answer, there was a lot Suzaku couldn't discuss as an FBI agent, but he didn't normally sound so dejected. Lelouch usually let it pass and found out by asking his co-workers behind his back. They were generally more than willing to share information with the Forensic PhD student who would probably one day soon be their boss.
Not this time, though. "Suzaku, I have some sodium thiopental in the kitchen. The chem majors were more than happy to cook me up some. There's probably not too many toxic by-products still left…"
That didn't even provoke a smile. "Lelouch, drop it."
"No." Lelouch took Suzaku's face in his hands and forced him to look at him. "You can't seriously expect me to not care about you when you look like this. What. Happened?"
Suzaku's stony expression wilted. "A-anya… he got Anya."
"Who?" Lelouch asked, only vaguely acquainted with Suzaku's younger co-worker. "Who got her?"
And just like that, Suzaku collapsed into Lelouch's arms. "Zero."
Ah. That explained things. Lelouch held Suzaku as he didn't cry. He never cried over Zero's victims, despite this being the first major serial killer case he'd been assigned to work on. The more Zero killed, the more Suzaku was determined to catch him. But it had never been such a personal murder.
Lelouch led Suzaku to the couch, kissing his forehead before pulling away. "I'll get you something to drink. No sodium thiopental, promise." Suzaku just nodded. "Have you eaten?"
Suzaku shook his head. "Not hungry."
"Okay," Lelouch said. "I'll be back."
When he returned with a hot cup of tea, Suzaku was more willing to talk. He didn't talk about the case at all, just about Anya. Her quiet professionalism, the way Gino had taken her under his wing, how she never seemed to put in much effort, but was always there before her shift and stayed late, working tirelessly. The rumours that she was a prodigy, not unlike Lelouch. "I think you would have liked her."
"Just from hearing you talk about her, I like her," Lelouch responded, taking away Suzaku's cold tea and kissing him. "Come to bed."
Suzaku hesitated. "It's not even ten yet."
"You're exhausted," Lelouch pointed out. "And the way you're going, there's only one way to make sure you get to sleep tonight." He held out his hand. "Come on, Suzaku. Let me take care of you for once."
Suzaku finally smiled and brought Lelouch's hand to his mouth, pressing a light kiss to his knuckles. "You're always taking care of me, Lelouch."
Lelouch smiled back. "Whenever you let me, at least." He led Suzaku to their bedroom, gently removing his clothes with both care and consideration, kissing and stroking the skin as it was revealed. By the time he pushed Suzaku down to the bed, Suzaku was as eager for him as Lelouch was to comfort him.
When Lelouch finally curled up to Suzaku, still breathing hard and already shivering as the sweat cooled on his skin, he was rewarded with the sound of Suzaku's steady breathing as he fell asleep. Lelouch smiled and pressed a kiss to Suzaku's cheek as he pulled the covers over them.
"Just let me take care of you, Suzaku. And everything will be fine."
"He's hunted one of our own. This is no time for posturing or office politics. We need to band together and catch this monster before he strikes again," Milly said, her blue eyes cold and piercing as she surveyed her teams. "Weinberg, you're the new point. Sorry, Kururugi, but we need experience on this. You'll get the next one."
"That's fine, ma'am." Suzaku knew she was right; office politics and personal careers took second place to catching Zero now that he'd attacked the agency itself.
"Kallen should be back in a few days," Gino said, his usual cheerful nature subdued and bags visible under his eyes. "Until then, can I have Suzaku as my partner?"
"Of course," Milly readily agreed. "Speed is of the essence on this one. Right then. Go to!"
Suzaku made his way to Gino's side. "Thanks, but you don't need to…"
"I need you right now," Gino interrupted. "I'm kinda… Anya was… I need you to keep me level, Suzaku. Kay?"
Suzaku knew exactly what he was talking about. If it hadn't been for Lelouch… "Can do, boss."
It made Gino smile, which was what Suzaku had been going for. "Quit that."
"Hey, Suzaku." Rivalz poked his head around the corner. "Your squeeze is here. Can I let him in?"
Suzaku winced. If Lelouch heard that… "Sure, let him in." Rivalz was a good security guard, but the very opposite of politic.
Fortunately, it seemed that Lelouch had missed it. "I brought food…"
"Yay!" Gino cheered. "Lamperouge cooking!" Indeed, Lelouch was carrying two large bags, enough for all of Milly's agents. Gino took them from him gleefully, and spread it out on a table, leaving Lelouch and Suzaku alone. There was already a line forming as two agents went to get plastic plates and cutlery.
Lelouch raised an eyebrow. "He's looking less upset that I expected.
"It's a front," Suzaku assured him, taking Lelouch into his arms and just holding him. "Hmm… you smell good." Lelouch chuckled. "You seriously came all the way here to drop off lunch?"
"You didn't have supper and coffee doesn't count as breakfast," Lelouch chided. "I wanted to make sure you had at least once decent meal." He smiled as Suzaku nuzzled at his neck before frowning lightly. "You were talking with Gino when I came in…"
Suzaku groaned. "Not that again. We work together, Lelouch, that's all. It's against regulations for agents to date, and anyway he and Kallen are…"
"You realize you're contradicting yourself," Lelouch pointed out, but he relaxed in Suzaku's arms.
"I love you," Suzaku argued, as if that was a valid point at all, and kissed him. Lelouch froze, fully aware of his surroundings, before giving it up as a lost cause and closing his eyes and kissing back.
When he opened his eyes again he saw Gino, smiling at them almost enviously before it brightened to his usual grin. He winked outrageously at Lelouch before jerking his head over at Milly, as if warning Lelouch not to make out in front of the boss. Lelouch made a mental note of the strange smile as he nodded gratefully to Gino, then untangled himself from Suzaku.
"We shouldn't do that here," Lelouch whispered, blushing lightly. "You could get in trouble."
"Worth it," Suzaku whispered back. "I never thanked you for last night."
Lelouch's blush deepened, but he looked pleased. "It was my pleasure, I assure you." He pecked Suzaku lightly on the lips before pulling away. "I need to go."
"Alright," Suzaku said easily. "To the library?"
"Mmm…" Lelouch nodded absently. "So it wasn't that far out of the way."
"Still." Suzaku smiled. "Thanks."
Lelouch felt himself melt inside. "You're… it was… just come home on time tonight."
Suzaku laughed. "I'll do my best."
When Suzaku got home that night, Lelouch wasn't waiting for him. Instead there was a note.
Sorry if you actually did what I said for once and came home on time. My preceptor called me in for an emergency meeting and I probably won't be home before eight.
Yesterday's supper is still in the fridge, and I'll call before I leave if you'd rather get take-out.
(Yes, the role reversal is hilarious, stop laughing idiot)
I'm sorry for leaving you alone after everything. Just know that I love you and I'll be there soon.
PS; if you invite Gino over, I'll understand. He must be going through a lot too.
Suzaku smiled fondly at the paper, imagining the words spoken in Lelouch's irritated voice. He briefly considered following Lelouch's carefully worded suggestion and inviting Gino over, but decided that at this point calling him would just undermine his confidence. Suzaku planned to be there for Gino when needed, but wasn't about to nag him when it wasn't.
He opened the fridge and stared uninterestedly at the food. He wasn't so hungry that he wanted to eat without Lelouch, so, he sat down with some of the older Zero case files instead and started reviewing them.
He must have lost track of time, because when he looked up at the ringing phone, it was nearly eight.
"You should always answer the phone like that," Lelouch said, sounding a little distracted. "It's good for my ego."
"Your ego doesn't need any help." Suzaku grinned. "On your way home?"
"Yup, just finished up here," Lelouch said. "So, am I picking something up on the way?"
"Please," Suzaku said, just now realizing how hungry he was. "Something quick."
Lelouch laughed. "Eager for food, or eager for my company?"
"Can't it be both?" Suzaku asked before immediately correcting himself. "Your company. Definitely your company."
"Nice save. I'll be home soon."
The moment Lelouch walked through the door, smiling and carrying a bag of Chinese, Suzaku pressed him against the wall and kissed him breathless.
"…I thought you were hungry."
"Perfect opening for an innuendo, but I actually am. I just wanted you to know how much I missed you."
Lelouch smirked and patted the front of Suzaku's pants. "I get how much you missed me. Let's eat and then see what we can do about that."
Suzaku had never eaten a meal as quickly in his life.
If there was one thing that hadn't changed in all the time they'd been together, Suzaku thought, it was that Lelouch was surprisingly beautiful after sex.
Most people would be sweaty and sticky and a mess. Lelouch glowed and looked tastefully ruffled and always incredibly sated.
Which was hilarious in a way, because Lelouch after any other physical activity looked like a panting tomato.
"Hmm… we should get Chinese more often," Lelouch purred, stroking Suzaku's chest.
"All that MSG… will you still want to give me blowjobs?" Suzaku teased.
Lelouch laughed. "Nothing could stop me, Suzaku." He kissed Suzaku and snuggled closer to him. "D'you have an early morning tomorrow?"
"Not really," Suzaku said. "They took me off point for the Zero investigation. It's Gino's now."
"Oh." Lelouch looked up. "I'm sorry, love."
It was kind of wonderful having a partner who just understood things like that.
"It's for the best," Suzaku said, genuinely meaning it. "Gino has more connections and experience than I do."
"Still…" Lelouch kissed Suzaku again. "It's fine. You'll get it next time."
Suzaku chuckled and drew him in closer. "Your confidence sustains me."
"My well-trained gag reflex sustains you," Lelouch corrected playfully, rubbing his leg against Suzaku's for a moment before sighing. "I'm beat. I really want another round, but I'm so sleepy."
"We'll set the alarm early," Suzaku promised. "It's been a while since we've had morning sex."
"Mmm… promise?" Lelouch asked.
Suzaku reached over and set the clock. "Done. Thirty minutes all to ourselves."
Lelouch grinned and pulled the covers over them. "Then get to sleep, Agent Kururugi. I want you well rested for the morning."
It wasn't to be. More than an hour before their alarm was set to go off, the phone rang.
"Whazzit?" Suzaku asked, waking fully at the answer. "I… yes, of course. I'll be right there."
Lelouch looked at him, sleepy but curious. "What happened?"
Suzaku stared at Lelouch as if even he couldn't believe what he was saying. "He got Rivalz."
The idea behind dumping a body in a waste receptacle is to mask or destroy any evidence. This never worked, but it didn't seem to stop killers from favouring it. But Zero…
"He meant for us to find Riva- the body here. It's not a coincidence, it's a message."
"Not just here." Gino agreed. "Now. Before our shift, when the garbage was picked up. Maybe he wanted someone else on the job."
"Maybe he wanted us to know that he killed Rivalz yesterday. One day after he killed Anya."
"We would have found that out eventually." Gino pointed out.
"Yeah, but if he's trying to set a pattern, it means that he needs to kill someone else today. And I think he wants us to know that."
Gino considered this before shaking his head with a rueful grin. "Or we could be over-thinking it. He's never done anything like this before, back-to-back kills, targeting agents… what changed?"
"I don't know," Suzaku whispered. "I was hunting him for weeks, and I didn't see anything like this coming…"
"Hey." Gino came up behind Suzaku. "It's not your fault."
"If not mine…" Suzaku said softly before shaking himself. "I know. It's Zero's."
"Exactly. And now we have even more incentive to catch him, as if we didn't have enough before."
"Oi!" Someone Suzaku didn't recognize called over to them. "Coroner's done. Can we take the body?"
It felt wrong, treating Rivalz like any other victim, but what else was he? From Gino's expression, he was thinking the same thing.
"Go ahead." He sounded almost resigned. Suzaku shot him a concerned look, but Gino waved it down with his typical good humour. "Don't worry, Suzaku. He'll be fine."
"Alright," Suzaku agreed, deciding to keep a slightly closer watch on Gino until Kallen came back.
It wasn't until they were almost back at HQ that Gino perked up again. "Rivalz isn't an agent!"
"Wasn't. Whatever. He was security."
"Yeah, so?" Suzaku asked, hoping Gino wasn't implying that that made Rivalz less important.
"So Zero clearly killed him, right? The signs, the signature, they were all there. But why? If he's trying to set a pattern of agents, then why Rivalz?"
Suzaku frowned, following the logic, but not sure he agreed. "Let's bring that up with the team."
"Right!" Gino said, brightly determined again. "And get Shirley, we need a good profiler."
Shirley had profiled Zero before, and done it well, but it hadn't helped. But that was before he'd changed. "If anyone can figure this new Zero, it's her," Suzaku agreed.
Shirley was still no help. "He shouldn't be doing this. It's not in his profile at all."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, he respects the Bureau, truly respects it. He's playing with us, but as worthy adversaries, not the way most serial killers see us, as glorified street cops."
"There's nothing wrong with street cops." Suzaku said defensively. Most of his friends were street cops by now.
Shirley looked at him like he'd missed her point. "He thinks we're smart. Not as smart as him, perhaps, but he's willing to take luck into consideration. He considers us his equal."
"The entire FBI, equal to one man. And that's supposed to be a compliment?"
"From him? Yes," Shirley said. "What I'm getting at, though, is that he plays with us, but he doesn't taunt us, because he's naturally wary. His kills all have a purpose, and they're done carefully, so that we know it's him, but can't follow up on that. These kills… even if they're part of his purpose, they're too personal, too likely to make us angry and lash out at him. He takes our relationship seriously, and wouldn't risk it without a good reason."
"What kind of reason?"
"For a man like Zero? Only two possibilities." Shirley said. "Power and love. Either of which would make him wholly unpredictable."
"Calling to check up on me?" Lelouch said cheekily before remembering that morning's news. "Sorry. How are you doing?"
"It's… fine. Everyone's still a little shook up, but we're getting focused. I guess that's better."
"Rivalz's family… have they been informed yet?"
Suzaku sighed. "Milly called them this morning. They were… Lelouch, I love you."
"I love you too," Lelouch said. "Just assure me you're not calling to tell me this because you think you're next."
"I'm not…" Suzaku trailed off. "I was never any good at lying to you."
There was a pause. "Come home as soon as you can. I want you here with me, where I know you're safe."
"Lelouch…" Suzaku smiled and closed his eyes. "I love you."
"Then live for me, Suzaku," Lelouch ordered.
"Yes, Your Highness."