Fifty Years Later
Suzaku sighed, leaning his head on one hand as he reviewed the papers in front of him. Behind him, Nunnally sat comfortably in an armchair, reading a book. A fire roared in the fireplace of the little cottage.
Tomorrow was the anniversary of Lelouch's death. There were no longer riots or parties on its date every year, though some people still celebrated the passing of the Demon Emperor. However, he and Nunnally still had to be careful with what they were going to do. It wasn't like flowers appeared on the grave of a tyrant that often.
They'd actually made it into a ritual, and a bit of a game. Paid their respects to the gravestone, even though they knew in their hearts that he was still out there somewhere. They left flowers, as a sign to a certain ghost that, should he stop by, there were people who still missed him. Together, they spent one day mourning, not just for the passing of a great man but also for the loss of a great friend and the disappearance of a fragile soul.
The game was that they weren't allowed to mourn more than one day. The next day, Zero and the Empress would be up and traveling, moving around the world under the guise of suppressing any lingering parties. Meanwhile, Suzaku and Nunnally searched for their lost friend. They allowed themselves one week, and after that, forced themselves to wait until the next year. Sayoko and Kallen had joined them in the past, until their deaths ten years and two years before, respectively. In retrospect, Suzaku had been surprised that Kallen had gone to the afterlife before him. He decided the 'live' Geass was what had kept him healthy into his old age.
That being said, Suzaku had long since 'officially' given up the helm of Zero. Empress Nunnally had also chosen a successor, one of Cornelia's grandchildren that had been raised by the cunning pink-haired princess and the intelligent Prince Schneizel and would make a fine emperor. It was just known that the Empress and the old Zero traveled together for old time's sake anyway, both having been prepared for death for a few years.
Their game was special to them, and carefully thought out. It allowed them time to hope but kept them from wasting away their lives as they wound down. Nunnally had aged gracefully, lines in her face only serving to make her more beautiful and hair just as soft. Suzaku knew that he'd probably be dead, or close to death without the 'live' Geass; the extreme activity of his youth had shortened his natural lifespan, as it had Kallen's and several other top Knightmare pilots. As it was, he already felt slower, though his eyes never lost their youthful mirth.
After their one week of searching, they went back to their cottage, a nice cozy building far away from politics. The Empress and Nunnally directed the government from there when they needed to, but both had given up almost all of their power in favor of the new Zero and up-and-coming Emperor. When they weren't needed, they spend the rest of their days living peacefully and companionably, wishing for their lost ghost.
Traveling was becoming harder for the pair. By the time they returned (very early in the morning) from their week, Nunnally was worn out, and Suzaku carried her straight to bed. He closed the door to a room already filled with the heavy breathing of sleep, and went to the kitchen to make some tea (decaffeinated) and try and sort out his thoughts.
The way he'd been feeling lately, he knew that he didn't have much time left. Some of his joints had been creaking more than usual, and he knew, Geass or no, that Death would come and claim him soon. He'd already made arrangements for Nunnally to stay with the new Emperor until her death, and knew that she would be well taken care of; the man adored his great aunt and would be sad to see her go.
Zero was taken care of, and Lelouch's perfect world was still intact. That just left one loose end for Suzaku, and he was beginning to get the niggling feeling that it would never be tied up.
He sighed, swirling his tea. "I wish you'd come back, send a sign, anything. Just let us see you one more time."
The last thing he expected was a movement at the door. Suzaku dropped his mug, flinching as it shattered on the tile floor and reached for a gun that wasn't there. Whirling, he came face-to-face with—
Purple. Black hair. Sad smirk. Transparency (much more that before).
Tears pricked his eyes. "Lelouch. You came back."
The familiar (and so, so missed) teenage face contorted into a grin. "Yeah. I came back."
It took a lot of convincing to get Lelouch to stay. He was clearly tired, but had told Suzaku that he'd only intended to peek in on them, hopefully without them knowing, in order to get a last glimpse before the last of his friends (family) left the Earth forever.
Of course, Suzaku couldn't have that. He'd made Lelouch promise to at least stay the rest of the night, and then they'd sat down to catch up.
It had turned out that Lelouch had taken his final abandonment as a subtle 'go away' from those who could see him, and, always the one to sacrifice his own happiness, had complied. He'd thought they didn't want a reminder of their tragic past hanging around, and Suzaku had tried not to cry as he'd remembered that Lelouch had always been bad at judging what people had really wanted. Nunnally had been the perfect example.
He said he'd spent the next half-decade traveling. He'd dropped in on C.C. (who was well on her way to conning another poor Geass holder the last he'd seen her), and admitted to finding Nunnally and Suzaku at least once a year, even if from a distance, to make sure that they were alright.
"Did you ever find what you needed to move on?" Suzaku asked, casually bringing up the subject as he stared out the window at the moon. The look on the ghost's face had been answer enough, and Suzaku felt his heart break. This wasn't fair to the ghost of a man that had been through so much already. It was worse, even, than being a Code holder.
Silence filled the space between them for a time after until Lelouch broke it with a simple statement.
"I'll miss you."
Ah. Suzaku thought. Here's the part I wanted to avoid.
Lelouch had paused, before a determined look came over his face. "I know you don't have much longer. Nunnally too—Euphie's been doing her best to insist I won't be alone, but you and I both know that the two of you are getting on in years, and Nunnally's…accident as a child has probably shortened her lifespan enough that she won't have much longer either…"
He paused, shoulders shaking, and Suzaku wished, more than anything at that very moment, that he could hug the ghost.
"You don't have to—"
Lelouch held up a hand, cutting Suzaku off. His voice trembled as he said "Just let me finish, please. I need to say this." He waited for a second, let the shaking in his shoulders stop and regained control of his voice. "I just need to say…I'm glad I met you. You were always my best friend, even when you…weren't. Thank you for carrying out my Requiem and looking after Nunnally all of these years. Even if I'm stuck on this planet for the next thousand years, I won't forget you."
With that, the ghost gave Suzaku one last sad smile, and, as light started filtering into the windows, turned as if to leave. Suzaku automatically reached out as if to grab his wrist, but his hand passed through Lelouch's arm. It still made the ghost pause and look expectantly at Suzaku though.
The ex-soldier took a deep breath. "Please. Don't leave again. Just stay. Even if you hate me for making you, just stay."
And the ghost agreed.
When Nunnally woke late the next day, she heard voices echoing from the kitchen down the hall. Curious and a bit unnerved as to who could possibly be visiting (since everyone else who knew who Zero was had died), she lifted herself into her wheelchair and rolled quietly down the hall.
She guessed by the smell that Suzaku was attempting to make pancakes while a…familiar voice scolded him. She entered the kitchen, putting one hand to her mouth and gasping at the sight.
Her spectral brother looked up from where he'd perched on the counter to lecture Suzaku about the right way to cook. A beatific smile came over his face.
Despite not being able to feel Lelouch's embrace, Nunnally decided it was one of the warmest she'd ever had.
The little trio spent their time blissfully together for the next five years. Nunnally was thrilled to have her brother, especially after such a long time, and Suzaku was doing his best to make sure that the three of them spent as much of their waning time together as possible.
Lelouch knew that this time would not last for long. When he thought neither of his companions was looking, he would sink into a deep depression, eyes misting over as he dreaded the days when he would be truly alone, in a fate worse than C.C's. Sometimes when this happened, Euphie would speak up and try to convince him that there was hope, that he could still find what would bring him to the afterlife. She eventually learned that ever her optimism was unable to break through her brother's depression, and stopped trying, despite the undying feeling that her brother, for all his faults, had sacrificed himself and deserved better than this.
But fate is a tricky thing. By the time the sixth year came with Lelouch back in Nunnally and Suzaku's companionship, it became clear that, surprisingly, Nunnally would be the first of the trio to leave them. Never one of the strongest in body, despite her mind rivaling Lelouch's own in determination, she began to show signs of tiredness, weakness, and slipping away. One night, while both Suzaku and Lelouch sat by her bedside and each held a hand, she took her last breath and passed on.
Lelouch was numb for the next month. He knew he should have found some way to help Suzaku with the funeral preparations, but he simply couldn't. He didn't feel, and barely talked at all until the day Suzaku finally yelled at him that he was still alive and yes it was true she had gone but Lelouch would undoubtedly see her again in the afterlife. And he'd made Lelouch promise to spend all of his energy looking for his reason to move on as soon as Suzaku had passed.
This had gone over like a ton of bricks, but it allowed Lelouch the strength to focus more and kept him from drifting. While this was happening, Suzaku made morbid preparations for someone to check on him at the cottage once a week to be sure that he was still living and to take his body for burial once he died. Lelouch insisted that he reveal himself to the new Emperor under strict orders to keep the affair quiet in order to be buried in the site where 'Suzaku Kururugi, Knight of Zero' had originally been buried, so that his body would be mere feet away from his beloved Emperor's.
Eventually, as all things must, the time came. Lelouch refused to let Suzaku wear his Zero uniform and mask anymore because, even though he didn't say it directly to his friend, he wanted Suzaku to be able to die as his own person. He didn't care about the consequences, though he doubted that the Suzaku's identity would get out.
"But if it does…" Lelouch had told an ailing Suzaku. "I'll probably haunt whoever knows so that they know not to continue telling other people. It'll be fun, don't worry."
Suzaku had laughed and told him he was sure it would be.
Finally, though, there came one night with Lelouch sitting vigil by Suzaku's bed where Suzaku had suddenly jerked awake, eyes flying open to find Lelouch's. There was a pause, and Suzaku lifted one hand towards Lelouch, who grabbed it and held on using pure willpower.
"I'll wait for you…with Nunnally…" Suzaku whispered. Lelouch nodded, and pressed his forehead to Suzaku's hand as his bright green eyes went dark. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and he was suddenly, truly alone.
The next day, the Emperor himself showed up at the front door. Lelouch, who had been keeping a solemn watch over Suzaku's body, went to greet the intruders. After knocking several times on the door, a guard had unlocked it and the Emperor stepped across the threshold. Lelouch stood in the middle of the tiny greeting room and watched as the man paused, seeming to sense something, before turning to his guard and the Zero following him and ordering them to go back outside.
The guards and Zero protested, of course, but the Emperor was steady in his demand, and they soon slunk away, leaving the man to shut the front door behind them.
The man stood in silence, glancing curiously around the room, his body held with poise and his casual yet elegant clothes stating clearly who he was. He looked remarkably like his grandmother, with purple-pink hair and violet eyes that glittered with sharp intelligence.
After a moment he turned to face Lelouch, eyes focusing on the ghost easily. "It's nice to get the chance to meet my great uncle Lelouch." He said calmly.
Lelouch froze, instantly calculating all of the ways he could disappear in the next ten seconds. He'd started to move when the Emperor said "Wait, please. Sir Kururugi told me everything."
Possibly noticing the murderous look on Lelouch's face, he said "I swore to him, and I will to you, that your secrets are safe with me. I do have one thing that I wish to ask, if alright with you?" A pause. "Can you speak?"
Lelouch chuckled despite himself. The new emperor was young, but from the times he'd visited before, Lelouch knew that he would be both smart and compassionate enough to hold his position well. "Of course I can. I'll listen."
"May I share your story with my Zero? He's become one of my greatest friends, and I know that he is trustworthy."
Lelouch nodded, before remembering the reason why he'd gotten to know this man so well. He'd been visiting once a month, joining the weekly visit because…
"Actually, I need you to help with something." Lelouch said, his tone sobering. The Emperor recognized the tone at once, and followed Lelouch into Suzaku's bedroom.
"I can't shut his eyes." Lelouch said softly.
The Emperor complied with Lelouch's hidden request, then turned to the ghost. "I'm not trying to be rude, but why are you still here?"
"Why are you still on Earth? Surely there is no one left for you to look after."
Lelouch looked out the window at the steadily rising sun. "It's not really my choice."
Thankfully the Emperor left it at that, moving to call his guards. "We'll take good care of Sir Kururugi. He's asked to be buried next to you in his original plot. I'll make sure that everyone is sworn to secrecy. There are some in the palace that already know just a bit because of Sir Kururugi's involvement, especially those related to my grandmother and great uncle Schneizel."
For the first time in a while, Lelouch felt a heavy pressure suddenly inside of his head. Pushing it away, he exclaimed "Wait!"
The Emperor paused. Lelouch pointed to the ground beside Suzaku. "The…mask. If you're going to hide his identity for now, you'll need it."
The man did as he was told, carefully covering Suzaku's face with that mask before leaving the room. Lelouch hated it; hated that he couldn't protect his friend's body, hated that he had to cover his face after his death. However…
He turned to Suzaku, bowed, and said farewell. There would be nothing for him to gain by staying by his side, and if he ever truly wanted to see friends and family again, he had to find what would allow him to. Suzaku's body was in good hands.
He left the cottage by the back door, pausing in the backyard. The pressure in his head had increased. Lelouch tried not to worry about it and hoped that it didn't mean that his connection to Earth had become stronger than the one to the afterlife.
Euphie? He thought tentatively. She didn't respond, and Lelouch worried. He walked down the path to the little garden, suddenly stopping when he walked into a shaft of light and the pressure became a blinding pain.
Euphie?! What's happening? He fell to his knees, hands gripping his head and wondering if there was any way that he could get help from someone, anyone, but the cottage was out of view and he couldn't move.
There was a sudden rushing sound in his ears, and Lelouch felt something tug on him. He raised one hand and watched with fascination and horror as it began to dissolve, leaving particles that glowed in the light.
Lelouch, let go. Calm down. Euphie's lulling voice echoed through his head, soothing the pain.
What is this?
Come back to us. You've served your purpose. Euphie's voice suddenly became the echoing of many voices. Lelouch recognized them.
Big brother, come home. Nunnally.
You were a good leader. It's time to rest. Kallen.
We've been waiting. Sayako.
You've done the right thing. Suzaku.
Relax. Let it happen. Return to us. Euphie finished, and Lelouch, calmed by the voices of those who had remembered and seen him, closed his eyes and let go.
When he opened his eyes, Lelouch found himself surrounded by those he'd known during his life. All were smiling at him, and none seemed angry anymore that he'd been such a horrible person. Lelouch guessed that dying meant you got to learn the truth.
"Why am I here?" He asked quietly, turning to his beautiful, amazing guardian angel, Euphie.
"You've done what was required of you." She smiled serenely, sweeping an arm gracefully out at the people surrounding Lelouch. "Because you abandoned everyone so early, and for such a reason, you were required to keep them company until their ends."
A bright eyed Nunnally walked forward to kneel beside him. "You remember that all I really wanted was to stay with you." She stated firmly. "I didn't want a perfect world without you there to enjoy it with me. This was my wish as well as the wish of all your friends. Even towards the end, many of us could not truly hate you, and because of that, you were forced back as a ghost to celebrate the new world with us."
"But the world wasn't perfect." Lelouch said, remembering the attack against his sister.
"Yes, but the world needed you in it to be perfect, and because you were there we were able to make it so." Suzaku had come to sit cross-legged next to Lelouch, his face and body as young as they had been when Lelouch died. "We needed you."
Lelouch smiled tentatively, the first real one since Nunnally had died. He looked up at Euphie, who'd been watching and had tears in her eyes. "So…what now?"
Euphie grinned. "Now, we enjoy each other's company. This is heaven, the afterlife, what-have-you. It's a reward, and more. You've done good in your life, and we love you."
The former Demon Emperor and ghost let out a deep breath. For the first time since his mother had died, he felt that everything would be alright.
On Earth, the Emperor pondered why he'd never seen the rather unhappy-looking ghost again. He'd wanted to speak with the ghost, learn about his life and how he'd come to be so misunderstood.
Well. The Emperor smiled faintly, watching the light from his study window show the playing of dust and the glittering of a rainbow after a short spring storm.
He was probably in a better place.
Done and done!
Thank you for reading this far! I hope you enjoyed. I probably won't be editing it again, at least not for a while. In the meantime, feel free to check out some of the other things I've written. :D
I hope this was a good ending for all of you. Were you expecting it to finish like this?