Disclaimer: Code Geass is created by Sunrise, directed by Gorō Taniguchi, and written by Ichirō Ōkouchi. This fanfiction had been written for entertainment purposes only and without intention of infringing upon any copyright.
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A Noble Act by elle6778 - Act 7
Kallen was on top of him.
Kallen was straddling him, and as inappropriate as it was he could not help his mind from wandering into forbidden territory. It was the same the last time she'd done this to him years ago. He'd reacted fairly much in the same manner then as well. At least this time she was fully dressed and wasn't flashing him tantalizing parts of her assets. She seemed to be fond of doing this to him; the shower, the bunny outfit and just generally appearing in front of him half-dressed or not dressed at all. If only she was as flat as a board and built like a brick, but of course not. She had to have such notable…
He interrupted himself with a mental groan. Hell, if he didn't dislodge her, she would soon discover the physical evidence that his mind had sunk into the gutter.
"Get off," Lelouch choked out.
What had gotten into Kallen anyway? She was unusually clumsy. Was this yet another hare-brained plot of hers to unmask him? It had to be. He couldn't think of any other reason for her odd behavior today.
Her fingers feathered over his chest, seemingly seeking something. It only confirmed his suspicions. He turned his face away, barely missing her seeking fingers. Of course she wouldn't be able to discern anything if she touched his cheek but if she found the seam where the mask met his hairline, she would know that there was something wrong. That woman, he thought with increasing ire. Why couldn't she just leave things alone?
"Let me help you," she offered.
"I can get up without your help."
"It's my fault after all."
"So it is," he muttered drily.
"What are you trying to say?" she retorted.
Alright, he really didn't want to resort to what he was thinking of doing. Or maybe he did, but that didn't make it right. Still, from past experiences, it was the only sort of thing that would get her ruffled enough to back off.
Feigning a light tone, he said, "I'm saying it's your fault that we're in a dark place with you on top of me. Should I be worried that you might take advantage and molest me?"
As he'd predicted, she immediately tensed above him. Any time now, she would jump off and snap at him in outrage. And then she would stomp off, completely embarrassed and offended by his remarks. It was practically guaranteed, he thought smugly.
Any time now…
Her voice was quiet when it reached him. "That depends on whether or not you want to be molested, doesn't it?"
His eyes widened at her words. What?
"Zero?" she queried huskily, if not a little shakily.
His brain stalled for a moment as he struggled to come to grips with what was happening. Something told him that it was possible Kallen had seen through his move and this was her counterattack. He could back off now by pushing her away and thus offending her pride or he could retaliate another way.
"So what do you say, Zero?" she prompted.
She was clearly issuing him a challenge, not believing that he would do anything. He wanted to drag her down to him and show her just how stupid this move of hers was. Except that it wasn't stupid at all. If it was a stupid move, he wouldn't be here deliberating and not reaching a suitable solution.
Oh, what the hell!
Irritation and frustration coursed through him and before he could change his mind, he reached up and slid his fingers around her neck while the other hand circled around her waist. A gasp of surprise escaped her as he forcefully yanked her down until he could feel the erratic puffs of her breath on his face.
"What do you say to this, hm?" he murmured against her lips. "I'm up for more if you are. You just have to say the word."
Under his hands, her body went completely rigid. Lelouch didn't know how he wanted her to respond but it was clear that they were both heading down a slippery slope neither of them could afford to approach. One of them had to back off soon and if she didn't in the next move, he would have to. He really shouldn't be concerned. Taking into account what she'd said to him before Zero Requiem, she wouldn't go so far just to manipulate a situation. Not again, anyway.
"I'm waiting," he said quietly.
There was a pressure against his hold, a sign that she was pushing away from him. She'd chosen to back down. Relief coursed through him but there was also an unmistakable twinge of hurt. So she'd truly meant what she'd said then.
Finally, she announced stiffly, "I don't go around kissing just anyone."
His chest constricted at her blunt confirmation. Forcing out a chuckle, he said, "That's probably wise."
Neither of them said anything for a long while, and then she broke the silence.
"So what now?"
They were back to normal then? Very well. He glanced blindly around the dark space and patted the cold floor. Pieces of what remained of his handheld met his palm and he grimaced. It had contained the map of this tunnel and since it had just been destroyed, it wouldn't be a good idea to go forward as he wasn't familiar with that area just yet. The network of tunnels had been designed to confound any trespassers, after all. It would be best if they went back.
"Do you have your phone?" he asked.
There was a shuffling sound and then a subtle glow lit the tunnel. "Here."
Lelouch found her phone thrust under his nose. He glanced up to find her wearing a dark expression, with her face averted from him. He sighed inwardly, knowing that their earlier interaction had unsettled her. She'd asked for it, though. This really wasn't the time to rehash the topic of his identity but he couldn't help but wonder what he had to do to discourage her from taking further action. Her current plan clearly involved touching him in some way, so perhaps if he allowed it and kept the situation controlled and impersonal, she would be satisfied and cease this madness. He would have to be casual about it, so that she wouldn't suspect that he was only putting on an act. But not right now.
Getting to his feet, he eyed the small screen on the phone. To his dismay, he noted that there was no reception. Her phone wasn't geared for tunnels so far down below the ground, unlike his. Speaking of which, he would have to get a new one the moment he left this damned place.
"No reception," he said as he held it out to her.
She rolled her eyes. "I could've told you that."
"Perhaps you would be more careful in the future," he could not help but say.
Glaring at him, she crossed her arms over her chest. "It was an accident, alright!"
In the glow of the phone, he could see her mutinous expression. He wanted to tell her to quit trying to find out who he was for it would serve no purpose, but that would only fuel her curiosity.
With a sigh, he thrust the phone back to her. "Here."
She took it. "What now?"
"Now we find our way back."
It was unbelievable.
She was that close to touching his face but she had chickened out. Maybe the next time, she should just grab him and kiss him. The problem was when it came down to it, it just didn't feel right. She had meant it when she'd told him that she didn't go around kissing just anyone. What if there wasn't a mask? What if despite her suspicions, Zero was really a stranger?
Irritated, she glared at the figure moving cautiously in front of her.
Suddenly, the sound of an explosion rocked the air and the ground shook underneath her feet. Alarmed by the rumbling sound from above, she reached out with her arms and braced herself against the wall.
"What's that?" she exclaimed incredulously.
Before he could answer, another louder bang sounded and she stumbled. When the rumbling stopped, she straightened warily.
"Shine your phone around," he ordered.
She obeyed immediately and gasped when she saw a network of cracks on the tunnel walls. "Are we under attack?"
Zero nodded and then glanced up and down the tunnel. "We need to backtrack now."
Kallen nodded and began to run alongside, holding her phone out to provide them with some illumination. He turned when they reached a junction and then another without a single word. She wondered what he was thinking.
"Do you know where we're going?" she asked.
"Yes," he snapped back,
His tone annoyed her. "You don't need so shout," she retorted.
Silence met her, broken only by the sound of their boots hitting the hard floor as they sped forward. And then he hissed loudly. "This is unexpected. I had not planned for this."
She frowned as she continued to run. He sounded stressed for the first time since she'd known him. He was usually so confident that it was weird to see this. It struck her that Lelouch had been the same as well; calm until his plans went awry, and then he would lose his composure. It was yet another similarity between them that made her suspect that it was really Lelouch under there.
"Look, whatever it is, I know you'll take care of things," she finally said in an awkward attempt to reassure him. "You're that type of person."
Breathing a little heavier now, he muttered under his breath, "We'll see."
She darted a sideways look at him. "You're Zero, right? You achieve miracles."
"You think so?" he responded drily. A thoughtful pause followed before he muttered, "What am I missing? The explosion happened roughly underneath the Administration Complex's main driveway."
Her eyes widened in alarm. "The driveway is being attacked?"
"The UFN envoy should be on their way out now," he answered, panting harder now as they continued to run. "That's probably their target."
She glanced to the side to find him falling behind and frowned. This lack of stamina was yet another similarity to Lelouch. But to be fair, Lelouch wouldn't even make it this far. Still, people could grow stronger, right? Or perhaps she was just grasping at straws.
They turned yet another corner. When they reached the access opening leading up to Zero's room, he went past it. The tunnel was sloping upwards now, implying that they were getting closer to the surface. She frowned, wondering where he was taking them.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
Breathlessly, he replied, "We need to get to the hangar." After a beat, he asked, "Is there any reception on your phone?"
"No... Wait! It's blinking," she gasped. "Let's move faster."
She shot forward ahead of him and the reception indicator on the phone grew stronger. "There!"
Catching up with her, he gasped as he asked, "Give me the phone." Taking it from her, he dialed. A moment later, he spoke, "No it's not Kallen. It's me. Are the shields up?" Still tense, he listened for a while and then responded, "First Squadron will maintain their defense formation. And get Zero Squadron to wait for us in Hangar One. Is the Gawain ready to go?" He frowned. "No. You stay and monitor the situation from the room and stop communications with everyone except me. I'm taking the Gawain out."
Kallen guessed that Zero-Suzaku must be protesting because Zero finally snapped, "It's not time for that yet! And unless you want to pilot the Gawain in a battle, you'll stay put. I'm going now. We'll talk about this later."
And he hung up. Without a glance at her, he ordered, "Let's go."
The anticipation of the forthcoming battle rushed through her as she ran alongside Zero, heading for the hangar.
There were explosions all around her.
Nunnaly yelped as the blond man picked her up from the wheelchair and dashed across the driveway with Sayoko running alongside. Two towering Knightmare Frames flanked them, protecting them against the massive things with yellow torsos and malicious red eyes. An involuntary scream left her as one of the Knightmares intercepted the grey arm which swung her way.
"Nunnaly-sama, are you alright?" Gino asked, directing a worried glance at her.
She nodded quickly, chastising herself for screaming like a coward and disturbing his concentration. It was hard enough to run and dodge attacks, but he had an even harder job because he had her in his arms. Small craters had formed where the plasma beams hit the ground and he had to zigzag to avoid them. It looked like he was trying to get her back to the main building. Most of the UFN representatives had left the compound before the attack began but she had stayed outside to talk to the Britannian and Russian envoy. Gino happened to be there because he offered to escort her back before picking up his Knightmare frame.
The first plasma beam had landed just as she was making her way back with him and Sayoko.
She looked up at the blond man's grim profile. "Gino, should we just head for the hangars?" she asked. "They're closer."
He glanced at the hangars and then down at her worriedly. "You'll be safer in the building."
She shook her head. "The building is twice as far away. It's too risky."
After a moment of hesitation, he nodded. "Very well."
He changed course immediately. As they neared the hangar, she could see a dense border of Knightmare Frames surrounding it. Knightmares after Knightmares were deployed into the air from the large opening at the end of the hangar as she watched. Rapidly, Gino made for the side entrance and the next thing she knew, she was within the large, cool space. The scent of machinery and oil reached her as he lowered her onto a nearby bench.
While Sayoko went to the nearby window to look out, the blond man remained close by. Gino was unmistakably anxious and his jaw was clenched in a tight line as he surveyed the activity around them. Most of the Knightmare Frames were gone from this hangar but she could see that the specialized ones were still there. The Guren's presence told her that Kallen had yet to join the battle.
Glancing down at her, Gino said, "I'm going to the next hangar. My Knightmare Frame, the Tristan, is there."
"You're joining the fight?"
She nodded. "Be careful out there, Gino. And thanks for bringing me here."
He smiled reassuringly. "You stay here and stay out of trouble, alright? Sayoko will look after you."
And then he was gone.
Sayoko came back and sat down beside her. "Are you alright?" she asked.
Nunnaly nodded. "I hope the rest of the UFN got away safely. How are things out there?"
The kunoichi's expression turned dark. "The enemy crafts are attacking all the ancillary buildings. But the main buildings and the hangars are shielded, so we will be fine. Our Knightmare Frames are shooting down the smaller crafts but they seem to be having problems with the larger ones."
"That's not good," Nunnaly murmured worriedly.
"I know." Sayoko stood up. "You rest here. I'll go fetch something for you to drink."
Nunnaly nodded, knowing that the kunoichi needed to physically do something instead of just waiting around. So she stayed there as she waited for the battle to finish. Anyway, until Sayoko or someone else came to get her she couldn't make her way out of here, at least not without her wheelchair. She had lived with her disability for so long that one might think she was used to it by now. She was, but she couldn't help but wish to be less of a burden to others.
The sound of rapid footsteps reached her and she turned around to look. It was then that she saw a familiar form appearing from the locker rooms with Kallen right behind him. She was about to make her presence known when he called out across the hanger to someone she couldn't see.
"You, there!" Zero shouted.
While Nunnaly frowned at his uncharacteristically terse tone, a mechanic jumped to attention. "Zero-sama."
"Are the Gawain and the Guren prepared? Are their initial checks completed?" Zero asked as he strode closer.
Nunnaly watched him move and noticed that his gait was almost lazy despite the urgency of the situation.
"All done as per orders, Zero-sama."
"Good. We're heading out now."
Nunnaly's frown deepened as both Zero and Kallen mounted their respective Knightmare frames. His tone was so unlike Suzaku's that she was finding it difficult to reconcile what she was seeing and what she was hearing. The years without the use of her eyes had made her ears more sensitive than the average girls' and she could swear that the person under the outfit wasn't Suzaku. But then again, it couldn't possibly be the person she was thinking of.
Perhaps the stress of the situation was getting to her. It wouldn't be unreasonable for Suzaku to speak harshly considering their immediate crisis, after all. Still, she would have to keep her eyes open for any irregularities in the future.
Just in case…
Kallen spotted her Guren ahead and made a beeline for it. Before she could move away from Zero however, he gripped her arm.
"You have the trackers with you?" Zero asked.
She patted the pack slung over her shoulder. "They're both here."
"Make you get it on at least one of the integrated drones. We don't know when we'll get a chance to do this again."
She gave him a resolute nod. "I would not disappoint you, Zero-sama."
He was silent for a while, and then he said quietly, "You never do."
As she gaped at him, he turned to make his way to the new generation Gawain. His Knightmare Frame towered over the rest of the other frames. If it was anything like its predecessor, it would be a formidable opponent. Still, she would probably be too preoccupied later to watch it in battle.
Recalling her task, she went up to Guren to make sure that the tracker was safely secured.
In minutes they were both out in the air and in the thick of the battle. Plasma beams from the numerous grey drones crisscrossed through the air forcing her Guren to duck and dive to avoid being hit. In retaliation, she fired off one nitrogen blast after another. She could see one of those yellow and grey humanoid-shaped drones but the air between them were dense with the smaller grey drones.
Undaunted, she continued to fire and push her way through.
Almost there, Kallen thought as she swung closer to the integrated drone closest. It was the one furthest away from the main compound and therefore, out of the range of the First Squadron defense line. Her own squadron had been given orders to incapacitate and not destroy, and to leave this one particular drone to her. All she had to do was to get close enough to attach the tracker device.
A drone swooped close by and she immediately fired off another shot of nitrogen slush. It stalled midair and then spun downwards rapidly, allowing Kallen to refocus her attention on her target. Just as she was about the reach it, other drones interrupted her. She continued to battle the numerous drones in the attempt to get closer to her target. Unfortunately, it seemed to realize that she was a threat and was retreating as she advanced.
Suddenly, blasts of nitrogen sped past her, taking out several of those grey drones. Out of the corner of her eyes, she could see Gawain approaching steadily. It occurred to her that this was the first time this new Zero had joined them in battle. From what she could tell, he was creating a path for her.
"Q-1, move in now."
The grey drones kept coming but Zero's Gawain attacked them relentlessly. One by one, they fell out of the air and she took advantage of the opening to move straight at the integrated drone. It sensed her approach and backed away, but her greater speed allowed her to catch up with it.
She slashed the amalgamated drone with her energy wing and as it ducked, she swiped out with her Slash Harkens. The claws at the end of the cable held a single tracking device and it snapped forward until it made contact with the enemy drone. By the time she retracted the Slash Harkens, the device was successfully attached to her target.
"It's on, Zero!"
"Good job, Q-1. Now take a hit and move away."
Take a hit? What the hell? "A hit, you say?" she echoed disbelievingly.
She gritted her teeth. Whatever Zero was thinking had better be good enough to risk her neck. She pushed her Guren forward and slashed out with her energy wing and as expected, the enemy frame retaliated with a swing of its laser blade. It connected with the Guren's left side and the frame shook at the impact. The enemy went on to swing a kick which connected with her armored torso but the force sent her reeling back.
She allowed herself to fall.
From her free-falling position looking upwards, she could see a single grey drone was right at the back, hovering higher than the rest. That one was more stuck up than the rest, was it? She smirked. As her Guren continued to drop out of the sky, Kallen's eyes narrowed and she aimed. An icy blast of nitrogen connected with the drone. A second later, smoke was trailing out as it spiraled down.
She flipped herself around just before she hit the ground. She landed with a jarring impact that rattled her teeth and she proceeded to curse Zero in her head. There was no way she would agree to do that again.
When she looked back up in the sky, a gasp left her lips.
One by one, the remaining disc-shaped drones and the combined ones flickered out of sight. No one was actually shooting at them anymore but it looked like they were retreating. She didn't understand what had prompted it.
Suzaku stood behind Lelouch as he watched the surveillance footage from earlier. As the minutes ticked by, he could sense his old friend growing increasingly tense. After ensuring that nothing major was damaged in the two explosions, Lelouch had locked himself in this room and gone through the mountains of research paperwork before digesting the contents of the UFN meeting. It was near midnight now and the man didn't look as if he was planning on stopping any time soon.
Another hour passed before Lelouch finally leaned back and pinched the bridge of his nose with his eyes closed. He certainly looked stressed which suggested that the situation was not to his liking.
Calmly, Suzaku asked, "What do you think?"
A heavy sigh escaped Lelouch. "I think she is trying to smoke Zero out."
"It's clearly not for the greater good, even though she'd so far avoided killing any civilians. The attacks were threats aimed at Japan. No other countries had suffered attacks to the scale ours had, and none of them had their administrative areas targeted."
Suzaku had a bad feeling about this. "Why would she target you then?"
Lelouch shrugged. "Who knows? I've killed so many people. Is it surprising that some people hate me?" he asked in a careless tone.
Knowing that the black-haired man wasn't as unaffected as he let on, Suzaku pointed out, "It was Zero, not Lelouch."
A wry smile crossed his lips. "Aa. It was Zero. And that's why Zero must deal with this now."
Keeping his eyes on Lelouch, Suzaku sat down on the couch. Seeing Lelouch like this disturbed him. The Geass user might have issued some evil orders in his lifetime, but now Suzaku understood that it was all for the greater good. Still, he hoped that this crisis would not require the sort of drastic measures his old friend had implemented in the past.
Deciding to change the topic, he asked, "So what was Kallen doing in here earlier?"
Lelouch frowned. "She still suspects that I'm Lelouch. I think she figured out that I'm wearing prosthetics."
Eyes widening, he exclaimed, "How?"
"I don't know. Could be from Sayoko, since not that many people knows about it."
"Are you worried that she would find out?"
Lelouch shrugged. "Right now, I have other things on my mind."
"You know, I'm not much help with strategizing, but you should send me out to fight."
"You're the ace up my sleeve." Lelouch gave him a wry smile. "I can't show you off so soon."
Almost absently, the thinner man muttered, "The tracking device was moving west before it disappeared."
"Do you think there could be some sort of alternate dimension up there?"
"It's possible. We don't know what technology they possess." Lelouch tapped his fingers upon the edge of the console. "Still, it's too early to tell. I suspect the tracker will show up eventually. Then we'll have a better idea of what to do next."
"You think there's a way around this?"
"Of course. I'll come up with something."
Seated on her bike, Kallen directed the vehicle along the same roads she took every day in her journey to and from work. It was yet another uneventful day and she didn't know if she should be happy or not. Several days had passed without a single incident and she couldn't help but hope that maybe the enemy had been scared off after their most recent battle. Praying that this was the case, she maneuvered her bike into the street leading to her house.
To her surprise, she saw Kanon not far away, walking with a boy and a girl. His two companions were in their early teens and were clearly twins considering the similarities in their features. She waved at Kanon and he waved back, but the teenagers only regarded her warily. Smart kids, she thought as she directed her bike through the gates leading into her short driveway.
The mouthwatering scent of dinner reached her as she entered the house. "Okaa-san! I'm home!" she called out.
Her mother poked her head out from the kitchen. "It's almost ready."
"I'll shower first," she told her mother.
It didn't take long for her to get out of her clothes and freshen herself. The hot shower felt good after an entire day at work. Just as she finished, the sound of her mother's voice reached her through the door, and she switched off the water to peek out of the bathroom.
"Did you say something, 'Kaa-san?" she called out.
"Kallen-chan, your Zero-sama is on the news."
Her Zero-sama? Snagging a towel and wrapping it around herself, she popped out of the bathroom. Curiosity overrode modesty and she ran down the stairs to join her mother in front of the monitor. She was right. Zero stood there in front of a row of Japanese Council members. It was evident that all of them were anxious. What was going on? Since he was clad in his full costume, it meant that she had no idea which Zero it was, at least until he spoke. She bet that it was Zero-Suzaku, though. The other Zero interacted with the staff and the Black Knights but he usually avoided such public settings.
"We're broadcasting live from Administration Complex…" the on-site reporter said, "... where Zero wishes to make an announcement to the people of Japan. Zero?"
Zero nodded at the reporter and faced the camera. Kallen felt her heart thud harder in a mix of anticipation and apprehension as he opened his mouth.
"Citizens of Japan. Over the past two years, we've progressed admirably in the rebuilding our home. A roof over our head and food on our table are now the norm, as it should be. All of you should be proud of your achievement."
Her eyes widened in astonishment as he continued to speak about the development in Japan. This was the new Zero, not Zero-Suzaku. What happened to keeping a low profile? She might be the first one to seek the truth about his identity, but that didn't mean that she thought it was a good idea to let everyone know.
Zero carried on, "... and the recent attacks. These attacks are only focused on the members of United Federation of Nations. Independent countries such as Australia were left unaffected. I have no jurisdiction over other UFN countries and as such, I cannot decide for them. But if being a member of UFN places us at risk, one has to ask, is the risk worth it?"
Kallen gasped aloud when she realized what he intended to do. Was he out of his mind? As she watched with growing trepidation, he slashed down an imperious hand.
His voice was quiet but it carried the impact of a sledgehammer. "No. The risk is unacceptable. Therefore, Zero declares that from this day onwards, Japan is no longer part of the United Federation of Nations."
A/N: Hope you like the progress of this story. Me and my muse would appreciate your reviews, so please drop us a few words!