Misguided Ghost, by V0ID

"It's okay, Mao."

"Mao are you awake?"

"I love you Mao"

Those are the words C.C wished she'd never spoken, only fueling the flames of instability. Sheets of rain obscured her view, bare feet steadily making footprints in the mushy ground as it squelched between her toes. The witch didn't care how her long green hair clung to her neck and just wanted to get out of the rain, tired from running so long. Sprays of water trailed up her straitjacket, a small price to pay for the speed that was necessary. She had left Mao when he had become too fond of her, but C.C couldn't help but feel responsible for the abandoned little boy that had become this ill-adjusted monster. Once losing control of his Geass, that was the beginning of the end. Being in love with the eternally young woman who'd raised him as her own, Mao couldn't complete his contract to end this cursed existence. That hard-won love was the very same addiction that drove him to these crazy extremes, or maybe it was just loneliness.

I'll never come backā€¦can't you see I was using you?

More lightning split the soot-colored sky, and C.C kept close to the trees so nobody would see her. If they did, then he could easily read their minds and track her down. This torturous chase had been going on for too long, but the stringy teen had never given up before. Along a deserted road she finally found refuge in the form of a few stone steps, and thinking they at least wouldn't collect the rain, the bone-weary witch settled down for a the night.

Something poked into C.C's shoulder, and a little boy's voice roused her from an almost comatose sleep. The dreary weather still hadn't subsided, rainwater still dripping onto her face from the trees above and making a gentle patter.

"Hey you! What are you doing here? This is private property."
A flashlight shone right into her face, fat raindrops passing across the unbearable light.

Just a few more minutes...

Another, less distrustful voice chimed from behind him. "Lelouch, get the light out of her face! She might be hurt or something."
C.C squinted through the searing light and could make out two young boys. The one who had just spoken had dark, trusting green eyes and wavy brown hair. He held out his hand, looking concerned. "Are you alright?"

When the second boy dropped the flashlight, that's when she got a good look at him. He had raven hair and guarded eyes, C.C was surprised when the flashlight-wielder looked at her, his expression heavy with contempt and mistrust.

Smart boy.

When she took the green-eyed boy's hand, C.C noticed how they weren't brothers as she had originally thought, for the helpful one was tan with a more solid build, while the other was delicate with a different way he moved; with a forced kind of pride that showed in how his shoulders were set. After a silent walk to a shabby house Suzaku led her to a threadbare couch in the front room, a space shared by dingy kitchen appliances. Tentatively siting down, she accepted a blanket from him and fanned out her hair so it would dry.

Lelouch headed straight to a what was revealed to be a wheelchair, and in it sat a wispy little girl with flowing chesnut hair. Her legs were thin and brittle-looking, but down to the soft pink bow on her head and wrinkle-free clothes she looked well taken care of.

"We're back, Nunnally." Lelouch said, taking her tiny hand and squeezing it affectionately. The loving tenderness in that interaction was way past his years; a parent to his child. Aafter pushing her over to the table he began preparing some food. This seemed like a regular thing to them, and as he struggled to reach the pots on the top shelf C.C couldn't help but ask the friendly one.

"Where are your parents?"

She didnt understand Suzaku's emotion when he replied. "This is my family's house...Lelouch and Nunnally, his sister, are staying here until they can go go home." his face broke into a grin. "Dad lets me spend time with them a lot and Sensei says that I can practice my martial arts with Lelouch. Now it's my turn to ask questions!" Lelouch called over from the stove, where he was boiling a large pot of water.

"No he didn't say that! You just are looking for an excuse to fight me." The smile reached his violesceas eyes. "Help me do this first, because I don't want Nunnally to get hungry."

"Fiiiine, Lelouch. I'll get the vegetables." Standing beside the other boy he expertly chopped the carrots, sliding ther orange slivers into a now simmering pot. C.C found it strange that two boys would so eagerly do what she thought was women's work, but they both seemed to be enjoying themselves. Suzaku asked another question, something not nearly as intrusive as she had expected.

"What's your name?" Before his chubby hands could close over the mushrooms Lelouch caught him, obviously the one in charge of the kitchen.

"Suzaku, did you wash your hands? Im always having to tell you to-"

"Don't interrupt her! She was going to say something."

"You just interrupted there, now get you dirty hands out of the food...she probably won't want to eat it now."

Amused by their bickering C.C answered, not wanting to leave any clues for Mao. "Names aren't important."

Just then Nunnally spoke up, but her eyes still didn't open. "Can I hold your hand?"

Thinking that these kids were getting even weirder C.C acceded, letting her fire-warmed hands be held by small girlish ones. The girl didn't respond at first, and C.C could see Lelouch watching them from behind a curtain of steam. Outside, the clouds split with a fork of lightning that backlit the majestic Mt. Fuji and the peaceful pre-war Japan; the earth not yet scarred and soaked with blood. The accompanying blast of thunder scared everyone, Lelouch knocking the heavy brass pot over when he jumped. Tears welled up in his eyes when he saw their dinner running between the cracks in the bumpy tile, and it took him a few seconds to register the scalding water that had splashed over one of his feet. Later he would deny how hard he cried, mostly scared by the intensity of the burning.

Those dangerous maternal feelings that had made such a mess out of Mao was what made her carry him over to the sink and put his blistering foot under the cool water, Suzaku assuring Nunnally that everything was fine. Lelouch kicked out the pillow C.C had placed under his foot in order to elevate it, anger contorting his red face."You're not my mom so stop acting like it!" And when he limped away they all heard his labored climb up the rickety stairs, a hard process with only one foot.

"Don't bother going after him." Suzaku said, grabbing a blanket for Nunnally and beginnig to sop up the spilled meal with a rag. The steady trickle of rouge raindrops to be captured in a waiting bucket had stopped, and after putting the rag away Suzaku followed her gaze.

"Can we go outside ? I like the smell after it rains."

Such a nice kid.

She moved the sleeping boy out of her arms, as all that traipsing around in the rain had worn him out. He had even invited her to stay and meet his family, something C.C knew she couldn't do. Lelouch was still nowhere to be found and didn't even show when it was Nunnally's bedtime; so at Suzaku's direction she had put her on the same scratchy couch from earlier. It was something she both missed and feared; a child that needed her, need that would turn to dependence, love, then obsession... Taking care not to wake either of them, C.C put the sleeping boy on the opposite end, and gathering a few scraps from the kitchen was careful not to slam the front door as she closed it behind her. Wandering endlessly, the road to the future undefined.

Thanks for reading! What I have scheduled next for short stories is Forced Obedience, but it's on the back-burner because of In the End. (shameless self-promotion :)