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The House of Mirrors: Epilogue - The Palace of Silence
author: G.

pairings: Suzalulu, a little C.C./Lulu
rate: T
Spoilers: Yes (24-25)
Disclaimer: Code Geass is not mine.
A/N: The end, really. Read the whole arc before you get here, otherwise you will be confused.
PS: reposted five hours later to edit major plot issue. :D *is a compulsive freak*



"A tsar will be born among you:
Two teeth will he have,
With one he will devour us,
With the other he will devour you."


----
I

The world shifts, the world moves, the world changes to remain the same. The world is a green haired woman dancing in the sand. The world is ghosts remembered by the living. The world is madness with a little girl's name.

Lelouch rarely smiles and Lelouch never laughs. He moves about Kururugi Shrine with the careful steps of a patient who knows he is ill, but is too proud and embarrassed to give in to his illness. He feeds the seven enormous cats religiously and watches over Suzaku like a mother, like a ruler. Recently, he has taken up the habit of reading ancient plays about demented princes and doomed kings, and witches who meddle even when they pretend they don't. He spends most of his time writing words that everybody thinks are gibberish, but Suzaku is certain that they are, in fact, a highly elaborated code. Just one he will never manage to break and maybe should never try. The cell phone never rings and Suzaku makes sure he always takes his medicines, because Lelouch, always so careful, fails completely at being his own nurse. He has never gone missing again and looks, most of the time, completely peaceful. Suzaku doodles him now and then, because he knows it gives him pleasure and, sometimes, makes him smile. Respected , discreet doctors come to see him three times a week. And Suzaku can't help but grin with affection as Lelouch runs circles around their puzzled grey heads.

Except that once in a while they catch him from his blindside, and sometimes they hit a raw nerve. And then Lelouch is a shuddering, hallucinating mess for weeks, his medicines carefully dosed to bring him back for more. They actually suggest he should be committed to a respected, discreet institution but Suzaku, no longer afraid of being selfish, tells them he will never be able to manage through his third term without his Lelouch. And the respected, discreet doctors bow quietly, and do their work even more quietly than before.

But Lelouch, being Lelouch, won't settle down if he can't find some measure of control. Since that night on the porch, he has carried a tiny notebook with him, pages geometrically divided in tiny squares where he strokes each hour with a sharp, certain pencil. Whenever he finds a long empty row of squares he goes directly to Suzaku, confronts him with the tiny notebook and does the most cruel thing he could ever do.

He forces Suzaku to tell the truth.

-----

II

Sometimes Lelouch enters his office and gives him a page or two of reports, which always have some suggestion at the end with a bite of criticism at Suzaku's latest "soft-hearted" policies. Then he strokes the back of Suzaku's hand and leaves to do whatever he does to fill his boring days. Those reports are the last surviving samples of Lelouch vie Britannia's elegant Japanese, which he seems to have completely forgotten and doesn't use in any other occasion. The truth is, he rarely speaks at all, although he seems to be listening more than he used to. But Suzaku is not surprised by the fact that they still fight a lot, and he can't help but wish hair pulling was still an option at this point.

One day, Suzaku asks him angrily how he can handle peace, since he seems so eager to find fault in it. Lelouch raises his head from his writings and gives him a pitying smile. And that's the day Suzaku finds out war is just a matter of time.

Back in Britannia, Shneizel has been assassinated, Cornelia is missing and India has installed a phony Emperor to the throne, sending the whole world into a new state of unrest. Odysseus, who has survived all this by being completely oblivious and terrified of politics, constantly writes letters, in increasing levels of despair, begging Lelouch to come back and wear once again the rightful crown of their ancestors.

Suzaku calmly burns those letters with Kallen's lighter, and she disdainfully takes the ashes away. When India issues an ultimatum to the Chinese Federation, the wise old men - as Lelouch calls them - come to visit Suzaku. Curbing under his wooden cane and the weigh of time, Kihirara enquires about Zero and makes a few suggestions. After listening to the old man politely, Suzaku rises calmly from his chair and sends him packing back to his mines. Also politely. After the old man is gone, Suzaku glimpses an approving smile on Toudou's lips. His former master nods quietly and leaves without a single word, having no further advice to give.

Maybe, Suzaku ponders amusedly, being a grown-up is not so bad.

There is, of course, the terrifying night when Cecile phones him from Scotland and informs the files on the Geass users have been hacked. He can hear Lloyd laughing happily in the background, singing he did it, he did it as Milly tells him to go play somewhere else, pretty please . And then one week later Kallen reports female footprints on the beach, but the sea washes them away. Those are the days when he never lets Lelouch wander too far, and makes sex with him even when he is not aware of his surrounding. But winter comes and goes and Lelouch stays, resting his head on his shoulder as he hums some silly waltz in his sleep. Now he has developed the new quirk of sustaining long conversations with the empty air and shutting up quickly when Suzaku approaches. But that is the only change and, after a piece of eternity, Suzaku finds himself able to breathe again.

---

III

Night advances over the tall mountains of Kururugi Shrine and Sayoko-san has a stroke during sleep, thus dying in the same way she has always lived. Inconspicuously.

With careful respect, Lelouch and Suzaku go through her things after they take the body out, looking for relatives or friends' addresses, or maybe a simple will. Instead, they find old electronic files with state secrets from ten different nations, including their own. They can't resent Sayoko-san for outsmarting them and agree to give her a proper Buddhist funeral.

When they are about to leave her room, Lelouch pauses before Sayoko-san's vanity dresser.

Suzaku watches his friend lean before the vanity dresser's mirror. Two Lelouchs, pale faced and tentative, reach towards each other, black and grey strands touching, delicate eyebrows rising and meeting. And Suzaku realizes with horror what has caught their attention: an origami paper crane.

It's old, so old the once bright violet paper is already yellow at the corners. It no longer holds the warmth of the delicate hands that once folded it, comforting movements executed for the last time, to never be repeated again. For Suzaku knows, deep in his heart, that this must be the thousandth - the blind girl would have saved her brother's eyes for the very last. He watches Lelouch cup the paper crane with his own gentle hands, carefully, very carefully, as if it could turn out to be alive and fly away from him. He watches Lelouch sit down on Sayoko-san's bed as if he could no longer stand on his legs, the weigh of the little origami beast simply too unbearable for him.

Always a soldier, always expecting danger, Suzaku runs, his heart in his throat, and falls on his knees, his hands stroking Lelouch's arms desperately, trying to take Lelouch's attention away from the violet paper. Lelouch looks up, finally, with matching violet eyes, and there is so much pain there Suzaku has to hold still so he won't flinch. When Lelouch speaks his voice is barely a hoarse whisper.

"You are not leaving, are you? You could have years ago, but you didn't."

Suzaku grasps his wrists, but that only makes Lelouch hold the paper crane even tighter.

"Of course not." He says fast, perhaps a little too fast. "Of course not."

And Lelouch looks so relieved Suzaku hates himself for not telling him that more often, as often as he could, no matter if Lelouch could remember or not.

"I'm glad." Lelouch whispers with a forced smile, holding Nunally’s wish to his chest. "I'm glad, Suzaku. I'm really glad, but I miss them so much."

Lelouch's voice breaks a little and he goes back to his silent frowning. The greatest of ironies is that all his life Suzaku has promised himself he would never forgive Lelouch for Euphie, would never love Lelouch more than Euphie. But now here he is, feeling a pang of jealousy at finally realizing that he can't replace Lelouch's lost ones either. And how could he ever begrudge him for that? How could he begrudge Lelouch for being so much different from him, and yet so alike?

Suzaku is a liar, will always be a liar, but there are things he now fails to pretend.

He soothes and he cares, but it takes him forever to realize what is going on before his eyes, for the mind is just too slow to register the impossible. Still holding the paper crane, his head lowered, Lelouch is crying silently, nobody knows for how long, his chest heaving slowly with the strength of his pain, the heavy tears staining his face, his bloated eyes, one real, the other not, telling the very same story for once. Baffled beyond his wits, Suzaku seizes him tightly, as Lelouch cries without any theatricality or fuss, cries as if that was the most natural thing in the world, his lips pressed to Suzaku's neck as he mumbles, sorrow and terror in his half-words, childish, unadulterated, uncanny. And Suzaku can picture them in his mind's eye, brother and sister, tiny and frail and yet so strong, powerful like the children of kings and warriors they were, holding each other through the night, through their nightmares, through everything that wanted to swallow them alive and tear them apart, until the very end - even now, they still stand side by side, on the threshold of dream and life, life and death. And Suzaku doesn't shy away when he hears that little boy, always so proud, always so brave, say the bravest, most grown-up words he can say for himself and for she whose lips are now cealed:

"Help me?"

Help me.Lelouch and Suzaku are both very familiar to this song, yet the melody is never the same. And Suzaku, sheltering the frail paper crane trusted to his hands, supporting Lelouch through that devastating tide of mourning that seems to never end, will never end, feels that he can, at last, be brave too.

-----

My Dear Nunally,

Last night I got this amusing letter from Odysseus. And I thought that it has been a long time since I last brought you flowers.


------

IV

Black is the color of his flags and robes. Black is the color of his armies. Black is his peace over the world, as he walks the checkered floors of his many mirrored chambers, one move after the other after other. Despised by fortune, virtue's favorite, emperor and warlock, madman and genius, cursed and holy, only human - he prefer to think of himself as alive. In the palace named after war itself, East and West entwine and crawl up the stained glass around him like beautiful lovers. He stares down his favorite balcony and heaves a deep sigh over the endless sunflower fields of his dominions, over the impassive lake that took his heart and the royal tombs that took his soul. By his side, a man in white gazes serenely above the very same landscape, at the gentle stars in the sky that belong to no one. Then, exchanging a mysterious, unavoidable look, they wait the sanguinary pendulum of history to swing once more.

It's a long wait. And they have learned to wait in silence.



Owari


---


The useless and not so useless A/Ns:

The epigraph comes from Ivan, the Terrible, by Prokofiev, libretto by Vladimir Lugovsky.

The blind girl would have saved her brother's eyes for last - Of course, she couldn't have known the paper's color, so she either asked Sayoko-san to select the paper or she peeked herself, since we all know she is pretending to be blind to make Lelouch’s life more miserable. (j/k).


And that, my friends, is the end. Thanks a lot for reading this far. You're very patient indeed. I really enjoyed writing this. And I thank Lelouch and Suzaku for being such nice boys and letting me play with them.
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