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Fic: House of Mirrors: Stage 1 - The Emperor's Waltz
Rate: T
Pairing: Suzalulu. A little C.C.
Disclaimer: Code Geass is not mine.
Summary:Empires may grow and crumble, but music plays forever. Lelouch and Suzaku. A little C.C. Stage 1 of The House of Mirrors arc. Sequel: Stage 2: The Path of Carnage

Posted on 8-13-07
Spoilers: Oh, yes (probably 24-25)
Author’s Note: I love Lelouch, the incurable Sagittarius. I guess it shows.
Yes, I’m having fun both at Shakespeare and Pet Shop Boy’s expense. Shoot me. :-) And thanks to verityisle I will always associate Code Geass with birds.




-------------------------------

I

His father screamed like a pig the first time the dagger cut through his heart. Yelling like a madman, the Black Prince fell on top of the old man and stabbed and stabbed with frenzy, a king’s blood flowing between them, turning his long white sleeves bright red like the Japanese sun. With shaky hands he sliced and disfigured through tears of despair and hatred. And the feral screams became watery moans, and the grasping fingers became still, and soon there was no more sound, nor there was fury, just the tastes and scents of prolonged patricide engulfed by Prince Lelouch’s single, wild heartbeat.

The old man had been dead for a long time before he stopped. He had to stop, not because of his aching arms or tore lips, not because of his racing heart. He had to stop because his father’s violet eyes, so much like his own, looked too much proud of his strongest, fittest son.

And that was something he couldn’t stand.

He shrank back and crawled away from the corpse, feeling the old man’s blood cool on his own drenched clothes and his own blood pound in his ears. He slid a cold hand down his overheated cheeks, the dagger’s hilt hanging slackly and uselessly from his broken fingernails. Awestruck, he watched as the Gray Witch clapped her hands gravely as she leaned over him, green hair falling on his red-stained face.

“Long live the King.” She said expressionlessly, the solitary sound of her clapping hands echoing hollowly in the throne room. “Long live the King.”

-

II

As years go by, the green-haired woman topples dominos at his throne foot. She complains girlishly about the stench of rotting bodies. She bathes in the colorful rays of Aries Palace’s stained glass. She dances her sorceress dance in the moonlight. She holds him tightly with strong, soothing arms when he tries to shoot himself to follow Nunally’s example, his sister’s inert form sinking in the pale lake, her lifeless, innocent face bejeweled with violet petals, daisies and green leaves.

Onii-sama won’t have to do bad things for me anymore.

The bloody taste of a thousand needles. A witch’s lips on his lips, green hair on his cheeks, tears on his hands, as years go by.

Now she dances before the throne, like a child of many suns. She dances before his very eyes, like a fool too used to have the last laugh. The old gramophone at her ballerina’s naked feet hammers pompous Strauss on and on as she hums the tune under her breath, waving her arms like a green and white butterfly locked between windowpanes, but not for too long.

“But why are you leaving me?” He asks one more time, because he can’t understand.

She waltzes around the throne room, hair falling on her face, the music playing louder and louder, until he can only hear her with his very soul.

“I already have, Lelouch.” She sings with the song. “You’re the one who keeps forgetting about it, over and over again.”

That is probably true, he muses rationally.

By that time, he is pretty insane.

-

III

In the inner courtyard of the Mausoleum, the flapping wings of one hundred royal birds told him he had unexpected visitors. Prince Regent Schneizel and Princess Cornelia came in and knelt before his black shoes, always, always averting their gaze. They were followed by a man in white, who looked the Emperor straight in the eye, unwavering, unerring, unforgiving as he was bound to be.

“Your Majesty, the Prime Minister of Japan.”

Lelouch hid his pale face behind his black tunic and laughed derangedly at the pleasant surprise. The sharp sound echoed through the quiet Mausoleum and reverberated back at them, soulless, infinite, exposed like an open wound.

“Even now, my family tries to turn me into a diplomatic tool.”

“We already have.” Cornelia growled, glaring at her own boots, but Schneizel silenced her with a placating hand.

“Your Majesty will be exchanged by the last three hundred Britannian hostages in Japan. Your Majesty is a hero for the Japanese and will be kindly treated. With that, the peace process will be completed.”

“And my throne will be vacant for you to take.” Lelouch added, a long finger curling around a loose strand of his disheveled hair. “Old brother is always elegant, but never subtle.”

Then he gave his old sister a condescending smile, just in time to catch her glaring up at him.

“But deposing me was not your idea, old sister. Nor was it old brother’s. You would much harder have it the Britannian way. Not that you haven’t tried, and tried, and tried, and tried…” He smiled agreeably at the man in white and explained. “Thanks to my loving siblings the people of Britannia has developed the quaint superstition that Emperor Lelouch is immortal.”

Snarling like a wounded beast, the bereaved princess rose to attack him, but Schneizel’s hand clasped her shoulder like a vice, keeping her at his feet like an unruly mastiff.

“We would never try such thing, your Majesty.” His old brother said soothingly, looking down at his sister’s shaking fists. “You are our little brother, after all.”

Contemplating the faces of his ancestors on the high painted arcs of the Mausoleum, Lelouch rested his shoulder on his father’s ivory tomb, his arms crossed, his mind lost in a distant landscape of hundreds and hundreds of possibilities. After what seemed like a long while, he looked slyly at the quiet Prime Minister.

“It was your idea.” He said with a tiny smile, his violet eyes almost sane. “Wasn’t it?”

Suzaku gave him a short, grave nod.

“Was that because you missed me? Was that because you hated me? Or was that because of the Chinese Federation? A little of each, perhaps? I do my best to free that helpless colony and as soon as I leave it gets itself a new master. You Japanese can’t manage without me, can you?”

It didn’t escape anybody that his mean words veiled the extreme fondness of his tone. Lelouch sighed, gloved fingertips sliding unconsciously along the lines of his father’s engraved name. Some things never changed. And sometimes his father had been right. Lelouch pondered that this was the kind of discernment that only came with age, hard experience and almost a decade being the yoke of his own family and country.

“All things considered, I suppose my work here is done.” He said at last, putting an end to it all.

He wrapped his cape around himself, stepped forward and kissed Cornelia’s cheek almost lovingly. Then he dodged, her claws missing his smiling eyes for a few inches. His old friend slid an arm over his shoulder and guided him firmly out of the Royal Family’s Mausoleum.

Nobody followed them. And that was why Suzaku was the only witness to Lelouch’s trembling when they passed by Nunally’s tomb. When Lelouch’s steps faltered, his eyes wide with raw pain and grief, Suzaku pressed his hand to the deposed Emperor’s back and forced him across the outer gardens, where they watched as one hundred royal birds took flight around them, still fighting for the last remains of Britannia’s aristocracy.

Beyond the field of decomposing bodies sat the Prime Minister’s ship, framed by the destroyed, lopsided buildings of the ancient capital and the devastation of Britannia as far as their eyes could reach.

“You’ve always said you wanted it destroyed.” Suzaku observed bitterly, as if it was his own nation they were talking about, and Lelouch wondered not for the first time why his friend had to take everything so personally.

He took his time to look back over his shoulder, the remains of his sanity quite buried inside his sister’s tomb.

“Yes, I have.” He whispered cautiously, as if he were concerned he might disturb her in her sleep.

Time lapsed indefinitely in the ruins of Britannia’s sumptuousness, the birds swirled around them, the wind caressed their capes, their hearts were emerged in deep silence, the scenery around them too familiar for comfort. When Suzaku pressed his hand to his forehead and cheeks, Lelouch shrank back from him with a shudder.

“Your hands are cold.”

“No, Lelouch.” Suzaku said as they entered the waiting ship, where a dozen bodyguards bowed at the two men, all of them wearing sunglasses, their gazes carefully averted when the Emperor passed. “You are the one who’s got a fever.”

The intercontinental ship was quiet and disciplined like an admiral’s funeral, the Japanese flags the only compass of color between the grey and black corridors. To Lelouch, its pristine starkness was a shock after the long series of Britannia’s derelict chambers and alcoves. Silently, Suzaku guided him to his austere quarters and closed the door. In the darkness, Lelouch felt a firm hand on his shoulder and the anger that emanated from the coarse fingers.

Ah, he thought affectionately. So you’re still upset about Euphemia, after all.

It was mesmerizing, the way Suzaku’s professional demeanor mismatched his angry green eyes, the way the darkness made him look even more dangerous. Lelouch wriggled out of his reach, staring at him in the darkness with his unremitting Geass. Suzaku gritted his teeth with a hero’s resolve and advanced on him.

“I can’t let you hurt anybody else.”

Suzaku wrapped a hand around Lelouch’s neck, pinning him between his own body and the wall, reaching behind the Britannian to hold his arms still. Trapped, Lelouch gasped with something close to dismay when Suzaku withdrew just a little, and then pressed a cold blade to the sensitive skin under his left eye.

“What?” Suzaku demanded with frustrated anger, holding the knife to Lelouch’s eye. It must have been very hard, to earn to fight Lelouch for so many years just to find out his enemy could no longer understand the nature of his revenge. “What did you expect? You must have seen that coming as soon as you agreed to come with me. Wasn’t that why you’ve come? For Euphie? For everybody else? For the good person you once were before you betrayed us all? So you could have a little honor at the end? So there would at least a sane part of you at the end?”

“Idiot. That was not why I’ve come with you.”

Honour, values, small talk when he was about to poke his eye out. As much as all that still annoyed him, Lelouch found some comfort in the fact that Suzaku hadn’t changed.

“I’ve come with you because you’re my friend.”

Suzaku grunted with despair. The hand holding the knife shook and Lelouch seized the opportunity to escape He kicked Suzaku in the stomach, but the other man caught his wrist and twisted his arm hard, knocking his head painfully against the metallic wall as he brought the knife closer to Lelouch’s eye again.

“ENOUGH, Lelouch.” He hissed, and to Lelouch’s ears it sounded much more like a tired plea than an order. “This thing is coming out and if you die you deserve it. It’s simple like that.”

Lelouch Vi Britannia didn’t surrender without a fight and he didn’t beg or shout for help, but he screamed in agony when the blade finally took his left eye out.

He was, after all, only human.

Suzaku stood over him, like a raging, terrified exorcist, his clothes no longer white, his lips no longer righteous. There were no values, no honor, no chivalry, just a childhood friend who had lost his eye. Now Suzaku was crying for him, because of him and in spite of him, because Suzaku had to take everything so personally.

Lelouch, feeling his blood desert his body, the unbearable pain on the left side of his face, thought all that was only history repeating itself - his own infidel’s version of a very bad karma coming to get him. He thought of his father dying by a blade not that different from Suzaku’s, and he didn’t repent. Not at all. Golden boughs be damned.

Sorry for having lost the only thing she ever gave him, he watched Suzaku shout as he slid down and down from his grip, down and down towards the cold floor, thinking, remembering, dreaming of-

-

IV

Suzaku and Lelouch spin a giggling Nunally on her wheelchair, round and round and round between themselves. The boys sing the ancient waltz tunelessly, so she will know feet and eyes are not necessary, so she will know music plays forever.

Suzaku runs after a parasol across the empty beach. Suzaku looks astonished, all wide green eyes, when Nunally touches his cheeks and smiles. Suzaku punches his Buruki face just because he wants so hard to do the right thing, and yet sometimes life is not that simple. In time of war, Suzaku cries like a child because there is nobody else left to cry for the dead. Lelouch by his side, holds back his tears because there is nobody else left to look after the living.

In time of peace, Lelouch teaches Suzaku how to dance like an emperor, and the Prime Minister’s son asks him why the hell a Britannian prince thinks he has to clean, sew and cook, why the hell he carries his sister on his sore back day and night and washes bed sheets, and garments and muddy floorboards until his knuckles are raw. Lelouch answers, again and again, over the bright yellow sunflowers and the deafening drone of cicadas:

”Because I’m alive, because I’m alive, because I’m alive…”

He says that as if he is trying to persuade himself, as if that can make all the difference.

-

V

Sometimes. pondered Lelouch, already plotting the downfall of the Chinese Federation even as Suzaku ran back and forth for the ship’s doctors, the bleeping and beeping of the improvised infirmary sounding like music to his ears. Music powerful enough to stir lonely witches in their dance, wake paralyzed girls from their sorrows, lull caged boys in sunflower fields, send soldiers to their graves, desecrate ancient gods and their forgotten temples, topple whole empires under pounding drums.

“Because I’m alive.” Lelouch murmured as Suzaku leaned over him, his friend’s green eyes uneasy with things to come, his own senses engulfed by a single, wild heartbeat.

“Because I’m alive.”

And sometimes I can make all the difference.

------




Owari
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