Author's Notes- Because I've always, always wanted to write this kind of Lelouch. And I will be returning to IHTW soon, promise, once life finishes kicking me in the ass.
I remember little before… Mother's-
[Blood and bullets and screams]
[My mother's eyes empty and dark]
-but I do remember what happens after.
Not the screaming and the shattered glass and all my clothes which had to be taken away because they were soaked in my mother's blood.
Not the hospital, where Nunnally laid like a broken doll and no words I spoke could bring her back to me, and the doctors told me there was nothing to be done when the heart monitor flatlined.
Not the funeral for two, which is a haze of rain and empty words.
No, the silence has claimed all of that.
This is what I remember.
I remember staring down at the husk of what was once the goddess of love and war, dark raven locks soaked through with red, and thinking only this.
ii. tumbling down
I cannot rid myself of that single perfect moment of beauty.
I can't help myself, and I find myself in sister Guinevere's chambers a week later. Euphie is too young to emulate the beauty I saw in my mother's death, and I've never liked Guinevere much anyway of all my sisters.
Neither she or the man who is most certainly not her husband in the bed hear me as I enter the room with my mother's jeweled dagger in hand.
Nothing but disappointment awaits me though, for there is no beauty in this death.
iii. the exile
It was a mistake, of course, to be so impulsive. While murder has always been a part of the succession game, generally speaking it is done via proxies and politics, not stabbing your sister while she sleeps.
So when I'm dragged before the Emperor by the Royal Guard with hysterical maids chattering away about how they found me standing over their princess, knife in hand as her guts spilled out onto the nice white sheets, it's not really a surprise to me.
What is a surprise, however, is what the Emperor- my father- says.
"The whims of a child are no concern of mine. We hereby banish you to Japan, as a ward of the Japanese government. Even a murderer for a prince is a hostage of passable value."
Amidst the protests and mindless noise that equates to dead silence, I find the lesson and the reason why I'm being punished, why I could not find the beauty I saw in my mother's blank eyes and the empty silence.
It's not about death.
It's about blood and empty eyes and the breaking.
It's about control.
iv. winning the phoenix
Suzaku is the first person I've met since Mother who came close to being real. He and I are as diametrically opposed as possible, so I thought to test my control by becoming his friend.
He nearly broke my jaw and I pushed him down a hill, and somehow after we became friends. The logic to the process is absent, but I held my control when he hit me.
It's more than that. When Suzaku is around, I don't feel the need for control, to see something beautiful with my own eyes and create it with my own hands.
He's so loud it drowns out the silence.
I like it.
v. house of wolves
I sometimes question Milly's decision to allow me on the Student Council. Seven years after the invasion of Japan and I have utterly perfected my control, but Milly has known me since the beginning.
I see it in her eyes, after all, that shadow of suspicion that darkens those lovely sapphires for but an instant, that lingering knowledge of how things really are.
She really is quite a clever girl, but she lets her heart rule her head and I have held her love in my hands since she was thirteen. In another life her teasing might have embarrassed me, but instead when she leans in too close at night I press her against the wall and leave her gasping, silencing her moans with my mouth as I run my hands down her body.
Milly knows, I think, but she can't bring herself to admit it for fear of realizing the depths of her own depravity for letting me use her as I have.
Fear of knowing oneself too well can be a powerful motivator.
Rivalz, I bound to me the minute we met. A few clever words, a hint of praise with just a dash of a smile and he was convinced of our friendship. And I do thank him for introducing me to the wonders of gambling- the cheap thrill of risking money helps take the edge off, and making money itself helps fund other distractions.
I could ask him to put his hands through fire and he'd do it without question, and that kind of loyalty is so utterly amusing.
Nina has an intellect that I admire, and for that I have refrained from touching her. For her it is the intercourse of the mind- I have no head for Nina's babble of equations and energy and scientific breakthroughs, but I do know that it is important to note, and more importantly, to listen. I put her in touch with a few of the Ashford's old contacts and spend a significant amount of my gambling money to front her research.
After that her gratitude makes it easy to bind her to me, and make her mine like all the others.
And the last member of our council is my favorite of all.
Shirley. Shirley. Shirley.
I like playing with her name on my lips, whispering it against the soft, warm flesh of her neck or her wrist as I take her.
Shirley is in love with me, and it has been the most amusing of all the distractions offered to me by Ashford Academy.
I press a kiss to her wrist when she passes me a pen in class and her neck flushes. I let my hands brush against her waist when I pass her in the halls, marking her as mine, and her pulse quickens. I twine her hair in my hands and she sighs and shudders.
I have never played an instrument but I imagine I could never gain as much mastery over one as I have over this girl.
All that I need do is smile, and I can break her to my will.
That kind of control is so beautiful it is blinding.
vi. the anointed king
Meeting Suzaku again was disappointing. He's lost his fire, and he's quieter, less able to drive away the emptiness.
The silence is nearly swallowing him now, and it takes the last seven years of practice before I can calm myself when I see him.
Otherwise, I would have killed him then and there just so he wouldn't ruin my memories.
The girl, however, the strange girl locked in a capsule, is so much more.
She offers me control over everything.
Whatever price she wants is nothing.
vii. the subtle hand
Making my way into Clovis's command center is so laughably easy that it's practically cheating.
It's a level of control that I have never had before, and it's all I can do not to laugh.
I stop feeling that way when I break my gaze with Clovis and I can no longer regain control over him.
For the first time in seven years my control slips.
The media claim that it was forty, but I was counting each stab of the knife and the count is most certainly thirty seven.
viii. control limit
The loss of control was unacceptable.
So I test my control, this Geass. I relay instructions to five different people, and wait.
A female student, a male student, a teacher, a cab driver, and a policeman.
The female student is success. The Geass is absolute in the realm of the conscience, and no petty morality chains her. I chose her carefully. A quiet, pious young woman who attended mass every Sunday without fail, even during exams, and who spent nights working with charity. Absolutely perfect.
When the girl comes to, blood on the floor lapping gently at her bare feet like waves at the shore and the police charge her with the murder of the Bentley's (husband, wife, newborn son), I smile.
The male was disappointing. The Geass is not absolute over death, and his attempt to rob a bank is met with police gunfire. When his bullet ridden corpse fails to rise, my control flickers with annoyance.
The teacher tests this power over time and execution. So far, Rivalz has passed two assignments with grades nearly as good as mine, and each time never realizes that the teacher has been subtly giving him the answers all the while.
The cab driver is also about time, but even more so about precision of instruction. The driver only takes fare from the Japanese, each time turning down Brittanians with a blank, red-eyed stare.
The policeman was the riskiest, but the adage regarding risk and reward holds true. If my control would break once I could no longer hold their gaze, I had to know if the command would stay. I gave him three pass-phrases and three different sets of tasks to do should I speak the phrases.
A day later and Rivalz was still talking about how amazing it was that all I had to do was whisper to that cop and he let us go.
I smile, and think of the policeman's gun I now have stashed in the third drawer.
ix. a canary and a coal mine
By the time I see the redhead from that day in class, I'm ready.
She's suspicious of me, but all I need is a smile and a meeting of our gazes and she's all mine.
I know my limits now, and after an hour I have finished establishing a Geass over this Kallen Stadtfeld- no, I correct, Kouzuki Kallen, the girl with conflict in her heritage and the ghost of a dead brother as her future.
As she walks away from me, dazed, I hide a smile.
x. we can fake it for the airwaves
I like the name I've chosen.
Zero. The embodiment of the Numbers come to take collective vengeance on the imperialists.
It's a drama so perfectly cliché that there's not a soul that doesn't believe in it.
The reality is far simpler, far more beautiful.
The breathless joy of breaking a person is one thing.
What could possibly be more sublime than destroying the beliefs of an entire empire and watching a thousand years of history burn.
xi. all war is deception
Saving Suzaku from the execution block is a simple affair.
Kouzuki drives us up in Clovis's personal automobile, and this blowhard Jeremiah Gottwald is fool enough to let us get close.
With all eyes on us, it's laughably easy.
It's only when the bombs go off underneath the bridge that Gottwald notices anything is wrong at all.
xii. make it bend and break
Suzaku said no.
He refused my offer.
How can he-
I should use the Geass.
[Blood and silence]
Not for him.
This is fine. This is how I gain mastery.
This is my ultimate test.
I will make Suzaku my greatest friend again. I will make him mine of his own will, and I will raise him up to see his ideals shattered before his eyes.
And then when I kill him, no one will ever be able to hurt me again.
Odd, how things work out.
Suzaku joining Ashford is providence. Joining the student council is merely a devil's smile and a whisper in Milly's ear that very night.
The girl, C.C., appearing in my bedroom yesterday, was not as easy to adjust to.
"You agreed to the contract," she says tonelessly. "I am here till you honor it."
"You can't die," I realize, and there's a thrill in my veins at the thought.
"That pertains to the terms of our agreement," she replies, her face a mask, and said no more.
It only takes me a moment to understand, and I smile and bow at the waist because without even using this power she has given me, I already know what she wants.
If she so wishes to die, I will oblige her.
A cat. Really.
Fate itself conspires, apparently, and Milly setting the entire student body on a quest to find the cat which stole my mask was simply the final twist of the knife.
Animals have ever been wary of me, but the damn thing is injured and I corner it in the gardens with help from a few Geass-compelled allies.
Shirley and Kouzuki round the corner a minute later, and I take a moment to greet them with a smile.
Shirley flushes, but Kouzuki ignores me entirely, her eyes searching the open area of the Ashford gardens.
"Where's the cat?"
It takes me a moment to realize Kouzuki's interest, and for that I smile inwardly. A virgin, then, to be so skittish about Milly's little promise of a kiss as reward for the finder.
I sigh, and gesture.
"Some student must have trampled this creature in all the commotion," I lie, absently wiping a bit of blood from the heel of my shoe. "The poor thing's neck is broken."
xv. to have and to hold
The JLF are practically hand delivering Japan to me with actions like this.
The hostage situation at Kawaguchi is pathetically easy to defuse. Cornelia's weakness has always been Euphemia and the JLF is far too curious about Zero for their own good.
It's the perfect place for the birth of my Black Knights.
Their leader, this Kusakabe, manages to speak even with the length of his own katana buried in his stomach, as his men fall dead around him from their self-inflicted wounds.
I think of the fresh bruises that will stand out on Milly's skin tomorrow, or the hesitation and fear that will linger in Nina and Shirley's eyes for weeks to come.
I lean in to answer.
"Because you tried to hurt what's mine to break."
xvi. the innocents
Euphie is as I remember, a remnant of summer days and starry nights.
Sweetness and light with naivety as her greatest weapon, laughing freely, skirts hiked up and bare feet dancing in the rain and mud.
It's too easy to control Euphie, too boring, and so I leave her in that hotel room without a Geass.
Besides, it is apparent she is Suzaku's as I observe her run to him in the aftermath, and I will leave him his little pleasures for now, to make his desolation all the sweeter.
xvii. drawing the circle
Kouzuki is getting reckless, and a slip of the tongue from Milly in the afterglow one night is all it takes for me to know why.
"A house with the bastard daughter, the mistress, and the wife all together," Milly chuckles throatily, legs still intertwined with mine, and she pretends not to see me smile.
All it takes is to follow Kouzuki's mother to where she gets her fix and arrange everything else as Zero.
As Kouzuki stands horrified above her mother's corpse, crushed by the rubble of the warehouse she just destroyed, I reach over and squeeze her shoulder.
"If she was here, she's betrayed Japan," I whisper, fingers tightening against her trembling flesh. "Now what would your brother say about that?"
xviii. light the fire
Before, Kouzuki watched me with wary admiration. Now, so desperate from the murder of her own mother, her eyes are filled with a sobbing, begging plea for absolution that might as well be a second Geass.
It's almost too easy now.
When Ougi counsels restraint, I whisper justification for reckless abandon. When they wash the blood off her Knightmare, I touch her arm wordlessly. When Kouzuki thinks I can't see her, I comment how I wish more of our Knightmare pilots could be more like certain others.
By the end of it she is near mad with the desire to please me.
Mere hours after I give her the keys to the Guren, I find it hanging around her neck as her clothes pool at her feet and she kneels willingly.
And I smile beneath the mask.
xvix. the unbelievers
As I thought it would be, it is Tamaki, the brash, outspoken buffoon, who challenges me on the Narita mountain range as I declare our attack on Cornelia.
I raise my gun, point, and smile.
"Those who do not believe," I say quietly, fingers pushing the trigger down, "Cannot be saved."
The look of surprise on his face just before his skull shatters brings a laugh to my lips for a month after.
xx. queen in the mountain
But I underestimated Cornelia's tenacity and the power of this white Knightmare Frame.
C.C. intervenes and is trampled by the white Knightmare, whose pilot goes on a mad rampage in the wake of whatever it is the strange girl has done.
I take her body to a dark, damp cave, and watch as her tattered, ragged flesh knits itself back together into a tender pink and then back to its usual pale ivory. It is death in reverse, and I am breathless.
She whimpers a name in her sleep, and when her mask shatters as I repeat it I finally understand her.
She wants to die, but only because she doesn't know how to live. The mask of impassivity and agelessness hides the world's loneliest child.
The tragedy is so beautiful that I lose my breath all over again.
"I know what you're trying to do to me," she states quietly, as I savor the taste of her name (her weakness) on my lips.
"But you can't stop me," I answer, and the truth of it is final.
xxi. two hands between us
Of course. I should have known C.C. had already spread her power to others, the bitch.
His talents are quite good, I admit, this silver-haired Chinaman named Mao.
He plays Shirley well in the wake of her father's death, weaving a low tempo of suspicion to build for the crescendo. I can see it all playing out in my head.
"Follow him to see the truth," Mao says.
Shirley, wide-eyed, as she catches me ducking into the warehouse and the Black Knights coming forth.
And Mao, standing behind her, leering, as he whispers the final words.
But he's sloppy, too confident in his capacity to read a mind, forgetting that it is far more important to understand.
He leaves her room for hesitation by only twisting her love and not shattering it, and so as Shirley stares at me, trembling hands clutching at the gun, it's all too simple for me to draw on her first and shoot.
As her eyes widen and she falls effortlessly to the ground, dark crimson blood staining orange locks, I think of my mother, and of how this is all so beautifully familiar.
xxii. the wheel turns
I take back what I said about Mao's talents. He's a poor shadow, obsessed with the ghost of a woman too weak to accept herself.
No wonder C.C. left him for me.
With his failure with Shirley, he's turned to Ougi, of all people, who has been nursing resentment and suspicion since he saw me place my hand on Kouzuki's shoulder after the girl murdered her own mother, and cemented when I put a bullet in Tamaki's skull. Ougi needs more than circumstance to turn against Zero, however, so I can act first the moment I see the motions of betrayal.
I turn up at his apartment with a smile and a gun in hand, and there's a silver haired Brittanian woman who answers the door, dark beauty marred by barely healed burns.
Ah. It's not just Mao's suspicions that have turned him against me then, but Gottwald's leavings.
I wonder if what the others would think, knowing their one-time leader was fucking a Brittanian officer.
Ougi, at his desk, stands horrified as she falls, but he is too much of a coward to move once I train my gun on him.
"You murdered Kouzuki-baa-san," he manages, a tremor in his voice, "Why? The others, maybe... but why her?"
It's not worth answering if he doesn't understand the game, I think, and besides the confusion in his face is almost beautiful to break.
xxiii. madness in the dark
No more cat's paws. Mao is utterly mad and a child in a psychopath's body, and tracking him down is laughably easy.
I think only of his breaking and his death, fixing the image of tearing out his eyes and cutting out his tongue into my mind's eye, and by the time I've come within hearing distance of him, he is witless with terror, and I imagine him training his gun on the door, waiting to feel my presence just outside.
His thoughts are so deeply meshed with my thoughts that he fails to notice the building is on fire.
xxiv. the monstrous ideal
"Why not just make them all your slaves?" C.C. asks, eyes hooded, knees drawn up around her chest as the bloody dawn rises. It's the first thing she's said to me since Mao burned.
Her golden eyes fix upon mine, and she presses.
"Mao could have been bent to your will, and you never used a Geass on your girl Shirley…"
I shake my head, and think of blood and silence and my mother's blank eyes staring up at me.
It's never been about dominating their will.
True control isn't brute force. It's the art of making them want what you want them to want, and making them believe it's always been their idea.
It's about poetry in betrayal, and the beauty in shattered things.
xxv. king takes queen
Ougi was cleverer than I thought. If only he had shown such intelligence before as Zero's second, things might have been different.
Kouzuki corners me on the rooftop of Ashford Academy, tears streaming down her face, eyes rimmed with red, white knuckled fists dusted with blood. She holds the note in her hands, and though she does not show it to me, I can already guess what words were written on it.
Kallen, if you're reading this…Do not trust Zero... Murderer… Brittanian Prince…
It's a monument and manifesto of what I've accomplished, and I should thank Ougi for writing it down for me.
"Is it true?" she asks in a half-sob. "Are you… did you…my mother?"
She leaves the names unspoken, the names of the murders she cannot forgive me for because she is implicit in all of them.
I manage a sigh. After all, no one enjoys discarding a favored plaything, and I've already lost Shirley.
"I had hoped he would keep you out of it."
She tries to react, to grab the knife in her hand, but my words are faster.
"Icarus," I intone like preaching from a gospel, and the latent instructions hardwired into her brain from my Geass activate.
"You could never have saved Kallen before she fell," Suzaku manages at her funeral, while Milly watches me with the eyes of one who has already accepted the horror that others fail to see.
xxvi. the unmasked knight
It's not so much of a shock to discover Suzaku is the pilot of the Lancelot so much as it is vindication.
It makes so much sense for him to be the pilot who has interfered with Zero time and again that I'd have to be blinded by emotion to fail to realize it beforehand, and as the shredded remains of his cockpit come away, I smile.
He has followed his ideals well, but the true triumph comes over the news alter that night.
Hearing Euphie claim him as her knight, I laugh, as the circle is complete.
The hero has risen to the greatest heights, honored by the beautiful foreign princess and given the mightiest sword in the land.
Now comes the fall.
xxvii. the lovers
To break the knight, of course, you must first take the princess.
It is time to deprive Suzaku of his last hope.
I come to Euphie in the guise of her long thought dead, disappeared brother, my favorite mask of all. She welcomes me with a smile that I match, my eyes glowing bloody red with Geass.
The best part is that Euphie's already thought of the first part of the plan, I discover, as I rummage through her notes and see mentions of a Special Administrative Zone.
All that's left is the tragedy.
The military discipline of Brittania is truly a marvel. All it takes is the right blood running through your veins when you give them an order and they will gun down thousands of unarmed, defenseless civilians without so much as a question.
As I watch Euphemia gleefully pick up another rifle, I see the Lancelot plunging from the sky, its pilot given the ultimatum between lives of his countrymen and the life of his princess, and smile.
xxix. ten of swords
I meet Suzaku at Ashford on a sunny afternoon. With the riots and anarchy in the wake of Euphemia's massacre, the grounds are enveloped with a serene emptiness.
I've prepared all manner of speeches, rehearsed them a thousand times.
'Euphie was never to be trusted.'
'I'm your only true friend.'
'Let us destroy Brittania together.'
As Suzaku steps out into the sun, however, it is not the face of the man who was forced to kill the only woman he loved.
It is the face of the betrayed.
I see a strange blonde boy behind Suzaku, his forehead blazing in the exact same symbol as C.C.'s, and suddenly everything makes sense.
xxx. here laid to rest is our love, ever longed
Suzaku's face has grown callow and steely since those endless summer days, his green eyes fixed upon my own as tears run freely down his face.
There a million answers, and only one that matters.
Because I see the beautiful broken shards of a false friendship betrayed utterly and irrevocably crucifying the ruin of what was once a good man with hope for redemption and wonder at the poetry of the scene playing out before me.
Because that hatred on his lips and that heartbreak in his eyes remind me of blood in raven locks and broken goddesses.
Because in shattering everything he knows and sullying his every belief, I have made Suzaku my masterpiece.
My mouth opens to say a final command, Geass at the ready-
Suzaku doesn't meet my eyes, and his gun speaks three times before I can draw breath.
As I fall, that agony on his face is all I can see.
And it is breathlessly beautiful.