Request: Zero/Suzaku, by daemonicangel; prompt: quid pro quo
Warning: Lots of talk, weirdness
Word Count: 1893
Notes: This 'drabble' is a sort of prequel to my other drabble, Heartstrings, on which I intend to write a multi-chaptered fic full of soap-opera-ish goodness later. For now, I hope you’ll enjoy this little prologue ^^
His footfalls were measured, deliberate, a confident echo in the long, majestic hall. Kallen stopped at the door, her eyes never leaving the straight, almost rigid back of her leader, right hand hovering close to the holster of her gun in case the flimsy thread holding their ceasefire treaty together snapped and all hell broke loose. C.C. was standing next to her, leaning indifferently to the doorframe, arms crossed in front of her chest and face carefully inscrutable.
Suzaku felt his stomach tighten when Zero finally stopped a few paces from the throne. A very foolish display of bravery, he thought, swallowing the bitter taste at the back of his mouth. The Emperor seemed vaguely amused, but other than that showed no reaction to the terrorist’s flagrant impudence. The air was thick with tension and neither leader had opened his mouth yet – it was a battlefield here, between the two of them, like it had always been outside, amidst artilleries and roads strewn with flames and fallen soldiers.
“You said you had a proposal to make.” The Emperor opted to make the first move, wasting no time with pleasantries.
The expected response was immediate. “To come directly to the point, yes, in fact I do,” Zero spoke evenly. His voice sounded deeper, duller than Suzaku remembered – but of course, what did he expect after two years?
“As we both know, Your Imperial Majesty,” he continued, “the Holy Empire of Britannia is now fighting in three fronts of war. With the Order of the Black Knight, the European Union, and the new Chinese Federation. Considering the number of months this condition has managed to last, I believe it will greatly reduce the strain to Your Majesty’s peace of mind if one, shall we say, opponent is to withdraw from the board.”
The vague amusement became more pronounced at the delicate twist of words, settling quietly on a face lined with age. “If the Black Knight Order intends to surrender, it certainly can help, although such action is by no means consequential.”
“A temporary truce.”
There was a stunned moment of silence, lapsing across the hall and beyond and even the small hands of time seemed to have stopped their motion. Suzaku listened to it without a word. Britannia had been losing, this knowledge he had made acquaintance with firsthand during many hurried, frantic strategy meetings he had attended – and not even His Majesty’s overwhelming presence could obscure the haggard look on the military officials’s faces. Britannia might be a superpower, but when the mighty empire had been spread too thin, made too many enemies, fought too many wars, even its haughty walls must eventually give way.
And now Zero was offering a truce. Suzaku was forced to wonder if the walls, in fact, had given way.
“And why would I agree to something as cowardly and purposeless as a temporary truce?” The Emperor seemed to share his sudden surge of distrust, even though there was nothing in his voice to indicate such.
“Because there is nothing cowardly about it,” the masked terrorist replied, a faint trace of resentment in his voice. “And it certainly isn’t purposeless. If we are able to reach an agreement, Your Majesty will have the other half of Japan as well as Eastern China.”
It should have been surprise, but the new information was only met with condescending poise and composure. “So you do intend to surrender.”
“A temporary truce,” Zero corrected sharply, a jarring echo in the cold, otherwise silent hall.
The Emperor smiled – a smile that spoke very little about smiling, aloof and far from pleasant. “Let us speak about the terms,” he said mildly, indicating the terrorist to speak.
“A joint government,” Zero’s tone remained unchanged. “Britannia and the Order of the Black Knight, over the areas that I have named earlier.”
“What is in it for you?”
“A military base in the east coast, facing the Atlantic Ocean.” A pause and the masked man nodded his head slightly. “And Lord Kururugi.”
Suzaku tensed, but kept his eyes on the black, impenetrable mask. It wasn’t shock as much as a cold, plunging sensation in his stomach. A bitter feeling of irony – because perhaps, at some subconscious level, he had been expecting this to happen all these years. The root was surprisingly easy to trace – her death. There simply could be no other reason.
“Indeed?” His Majesty only sounded amused. “Then what is the price of handing over my precious Knight of Seven to you?”
Zero returned his attention to the Emperor, his posture now slightly less strained. “The joint government,” he replied evenly, “which, if I may add, encompasses areas under the rule of my Black Knight Order and none under Britannia.”
Suzaku kept his silence, listening to anger seething quietly in his blood as his fate continued to be openly discussed. It was a strange feeling, and stranger still that he almost couldn't feel it, like there was a fine silk curtaining his mind away from his senses.
“I’m afraid I cannot let him go for so low of a price,” the Emperor said placidly.
“Naturally,” Zero agreed, nothing but icy politeness in his voice. “In that case, besides everything I have mentioned, my offer will also include a new military base in China for the Holy Empire to use as she sees fit – under certain terms and conditions, of course, but this subject is open to further discussion and I am fairly convinced that we will be able to reach certain agreement in little to no time.”
The Emperor seemed to consider the point for a few tense seconds. “What kind of joint government are we talking about?”
Zero straightened up. “One person from Britannia who will share the same authority as I do, as the leader of these areas.”
A pair of thick, eloquent eyebrows was arched. “Two kings for one kingdom?”
“Division of power is unavoidable,” the masked man intoned dryly, “but with proper arrangement, it should work out just fine.”
It seemed that for one moment the tension had snapped when His Majesty leant back to the throne and laughed. It was an unpleasant sound, the kind that cut and tore and destroyed. Suzaku found himself suppressing a shiver, and bit his lips to prevent himself from saying anything. It had been decided, he just knew it.
“And where does Kururugi come in in this arrangement?” the Emperor spoke again.
“Why, he is that person of course,” Zero said, his voice riddled with barely suppressed amusement.
“It can hardly be called a joint government if Kururugi is, hypothetically speaking, already yours.”
There was a pause, a deliberate one, and then Zero tilted his head slightly. “Through marriage,” he stated.
Suzaku felt his eyes widen, as the Emperor repeated tonelessly, “Marriage.”
“Yes,” the masked man responded calmly. “He is mine, but he certainly is not under me, as is dictated by the law ruling our countries – that in a holy matrimony, neither is a subject to the other.”
The sound of sharp chuckling filled the audience chamber. “You do come with a very interesting offer.”
Suzaku found that he almost couldn’t breathe. “Your Majesty–“
“And of course, as a Round he has a duty to follow my order.” His Majesty’s tone of voice silenced him. Suzaku stood back, fists clenched as a feeling of helplessness swept over him, and tried not to think about…
He drew in a sharp, shuddering breath. Don’t go there. Don’t even think of going there.
“Splendid,” Zero replied calmly, but with a triumphant note in his voice. “But if I may, I would like to try and persuade Lord Kururugi myself.”
“Nothing is set in stone yet,” the Emperor reminded him.
“Of course.” The slightly mocking hint was back, lending a cutting edge to his words. “We still have a lot to discuss, terms and technicalities and the likes which will suit both parties amicably.”
There was a slight smile on His Majesty’s face. “You may use the waiting room.”
“You didn’t find it satisfactory?” Zero asked once they had been left alone in the luxurious waiting room. Suzaku glanced sharply at him, struggling to keep his hands steady on his sides – and it wasn’t because he knew Kallen was standing just outside the door.
“To be traded away like a piece of land?” he said sarcastically, not even trying to keep the hurt and cold anger off his voice. Sitting with one leg casually crossed over the other, Zero was silent for a long moment, as if mulling over the point.
“I was hoping you were smart enough to see past the ugly exterior,” he then murmured in his usual haughty, matter-of-fact tone. “Basically I am giving you Japan. There will be no war, no more dissension to ravage your beloved homeland. How was it possible that you found such prospect unsatisfactory?”
“If you hadn’t existed, there would have been no need for all these wars in the first place,” Suzaku snapped at him.
“The undeniably true but moot point,” Zero intoned dryly.
The knight unclenched his fists. “Why marriage?”
“Because that is the only way to bind you to me forever,” the answer came swiftly, blunt and ruthless and utterly without remorse. There might even be a smile in it, or a sort of laughter that touched the insane side of humanity because the answer was nothing short of insane.
Suzaku felt his lips twist into a bitter line. Strange how insanity made perfect sense to him.
“Because of Nunnally?” His voice shook slightly.
Zero did not answer, or better yet, pretended that he had not heard a word. “I will give you Japan,” he said dispassionately. “It’s all yours to nurture or destroy, whatever you like. I can’t care less about that country and I’m fairly sure you don't want to see it in the hand of someone like me.” He paused and Suzaku could feel his eyes on him. “But of course, there is one condition.”
“That I must obey you and everything you say?” he offered sarcastically.
“Tempting, but no,” Zero replied coldly. “In fact, mine is considerably easier now that I think of it.” A dramatic pause, as he slowly leant into his seat and interlaced his fingers together, obviously enjoying every tick of painful second. “That is if and only if you give yourself to me.”
“Give myself to you,” Suzaku echoed, trying to make sense of the words. It was all too quickly, far too easy, and the rest of the stunned silence was spent on staring at the masked man and his ridiculous term.
“On our wedding night,” the terrorist added, all poise and savoir-faire flaunted like a grotesque kind of parade.
I love you.
The same words, he to Lelouch, and Gino to him. Lost in the ocean of time and wars and distance, but somewhere between his half-dead self and the fate of his motherland, this terrorist suddenly came and asked for his…
“It is actually simple, really.” Zero rose to his feet and walked past him. “You only have to ask yourself the price of your pride, Kururugi, and then an easy evaluation. Is it higher than your love for your homeland?”
It was revenge, Suzaku decided as the other man left the room. Zero bought his dream, so he could sell his soul.
The last line was totally taken from the song ‘Northern Star’. I stole so many things lately…
List of requests for Round #2