Fandom: Code GEASS
Characters/Pairing: Schneizel el Britannia x Kururugi Suzaku
Rating: PG-13, for references to past non-consensual situation
Warning: Angst, but this is really should go without saying, seeing that it’s Suzaku..
Word Count: 8583 (4332 + 4251)
Challenge: 30_romances #27. Emotions
Summary: In which it is their last day before going back to Japan and they still have unfinished business, with each other in particular.
A/N: This series is obviously an AU since the ending of season one, but the airing of R2 has revealed some much-needed facts as well as plot-destroying ones. To avoid further confusion, I’ll line up a few which matter to this series.
- Britannia is America. As much as I love to keep it where it should have been
- The capital city of Britannia is Pendragon. No idea where it is though geographically, so if anyone has any info on this, I'll be very grateful if you can share it.
- Despite being a sucker for Arthurian legend, I've decided to ignore the Knight of Round system for this series. The ruler of the empire has one knight, the First Knight, that's all.
- No R2 character will make an appearance here (except maybe Miss Romeyer, but nobody cares about her, right?)
Okay, with that bit cleared up, enjoy the read!
To trifota: This is your birthday present XD Actually I wanted to post it on time, but got the most annoying bout of flu last week before I could finish editing the story. Please forgive the lateness and hopefully you’ll like it!
Previous installation: Between the Lines
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In the end, it wasn’t that hard to figure out.
Walls had ears, even eyes in this place. A secret could not be kept for long and those who kept it would eventually – and inevitably – leave enough crumbs to bring it to light. Suzaku knew this. It was only a matter of time. Nowadays, he saw a pair of maids giggling and whispering behind one of the many towering pillars, and immediately thought of the worst. The guards and soldiers too, their hidden smirk, their stifled laugh a touch too derisive in his ears. And the nobles, always wrinkling their nose whenever he passed by or just as much as walked into their line of sight, pointedly turning their face away. Suzaku would tell himself that this was nothing new, but then he would remember what had happened that day in His Majesty’s private study – every single detail of it – and his feeble assurance would fall apart as easily as a bastion made of dust.
It was something else, a new depth, and he fell deeper inside, alone. Apparently there was no limit to how low one could sink. Refusal was not an option, sharing even less because even he was disgusted with himself. And somehow, who knows, if he bore it all silently, perhaps it would seem less pitiful – perhaps it would feel more bearable.
But secrets could never be buried for long, the gravity of truth was much too powerful. He walked the halls like everyone already knew what he was – a whore, first his instructors in the academy, then the Second Prince, and finally the emperor. One could say that it was paranoia, that nobody was actually talking about him, there was no proof of it, but when the prince himself had personally handed him the evidence, he simply ran out of excuses.
A part of him didn’t want to believe it. It was easier to live in the illusion, and then perhaps he could still keep that semblance of affection his lord had seemed fit to give him. There wasn’t a question of forgiveness if Schneizel found out and he had been naïve enough to think, hope that he could fool the prince.
He should have known better. That night, he had been too distraught to hold his pretence for long, and his body, complete with its weaknesses and flaws, had betrayed more than it should – the flinch, stutters, quivers, and to top them all, tears. To this fool’s parade he then had had to add a spectacular finishing touch, one which would have stunned even the most gullible, and Schneizel was probably the last person on earth he could pair with such description. But the recognition had dawned too slowly. A split of a second after he had asked his lord not to bed him that night, Suzaku realised that he had practically left his sordid tale open for anyone to read.
The evidence did not take long to manifest itself. The prince had of course complied with his request and never pursued the subject, something which Suzaku had been immensely grateful for at the beginning. It was fast to develop into blistering unease only a few minutes later. It was difficult not to, when he realised that there was suddenly a gulf between them, rising out of nowhere. He knew then, on some unspoken levels, that his lord had found out. Perhaps it was the sudden lack of affection, the absence of lingering touches and eloquent smiles which he had pathetically grown addicted to. Nowadays, the most he would get was a brief pat to his shoulder, affable but thoroughly impersonal. He did not flinch anymore, but the prince made no follow through either. He called him his knight, talked to him about his duties, allowed him to stand at his side, and yet…
Suzaku couldn’t even tell what he was missing. Days drifted past, one blending with the next and he felt himself growing numb with fear. It was how he lived then, every minute dreading another summon from the emperor, every second yearning for someone else’s touch, and that someone never came, never even looked at him anymore outside official meetings and audiences. He told himself that it was only to be expected. He must not ask for more than he deserved, and this was already more than what he deserved, after what he had done.
But it mattered but little when he lay in his cold bed at night, wishing that he had not fallen in love. Everything would have been easier. Less complicated. Less painful.
There was an insistent note in Jacques’s voice and it yanked him out of his thought. His awareness came in bits, small disjointed parts that rolled in his mind like rounded pebbles. He was in the hangar. In his hand was a bundle of paper with details and instructions. Tomorrow he would return to Japan. His task was to oversee the preparation. Jacques was standing next to him and still whispering in an urgent tone, “His Highness, five o’clock.”
Suzaku whirled around hastily and had to keep a tight leash on his emotions when he caught the sight of his lord watching all the activities from the second floor, General Bartley at his side. He swallowed thickly when those eyes found him, and quickly reminded himself to bow. When he straightened up, there was a flash of a smile, fleeting and vague behind the thick glass window, but it left his heart beating violently against his chest. It disappeared as smoothly as it had appeared, and then the prince turned around to leave, his back once more toward him.
Suzaku pressed his lips together but returned to his task without a word.
“And here are the files of the current members.”
A stack of documents were pushed toward him, scraping a soundless sigh across the surface of the desk. General Bartley was eyeing him from his seat behind the massive table as he opened the topmost file and found the photograph of a dark-haired man in uniform, his face hard and firm with a trace of inborn ruthlessness in the shape of his mouth.
“There aren’t many of them,” the general said again, his voice as rigid and unsympathetic as his office. “Only sixteen, but to be given the chance to lead them is no small matter.”
“I understand, Sir,” Suzaku answered promptly and returned his hands to his side.
A frown appeared on that stern face, only a little less than a scorn. “Do you really?” The older man’s voice was heavy with disbelief. “You’ve won the Spring Tournament, I’ll give you that, but we are talking about a group of elite knights with pride higher than anyone else in the entire land. And they have a reason to be proud, I assure you.”
Suzaku resisted an urge to sigh. “I have no intention to look down on anyone, General, and certainly not on the Camulos Knight,” he said, as careful as possible with his wording so as not to offend the superior officer further.
It seemed to work, as the frown lessened slightly in intensity. “That is only wise,” Bartley stated firmly. “They are possibly the best company in Britannian military, personally handpicked by His Highness himself. Each member has remarkable individual skill and can easily withstand the attack from an enemy ten times their number. For the last few months, they were ordered by His Majesty to deal with a situation in Finland, but now that it has been resolved, they will return under the command of His Highness the Second Prince.”
“And without a doubt they won’t be thrilled to have a Number as their new commander,” Suzaku murmured. He was quickly rewarded with a second, much deeper frown for his troubles.
“Was that wit?”
Suzaku silently cursed himself for his inability to keep errant thoughts to himself. “Merely an observation, Sir,” he said meekly.
An uncomfortable silence stretched between them while the general put him under intent scrutiny, as if he couldn’t decide whether the younger man was sincere or not. In the end, he dropped the issue and carried on with the briefing, taking refuge in the familiarity of facts and plain information. “The ceremony will take place back in Area 11, as well as the formalization of your promotion to the rank of Brigadier General. On the fifteenth, as it is said here, two days after our arrival. There will be the usual party as a celebration, and then you can officially start your duty.” The general looked up, training a solemn gaze on him. “Perhaps you have known that as the Commander of the Camulos Knight, you will have the right to elect new members, but I suggest waiting until you’ve had the chance know your men – and women – better.”
“Until they have fully accepted me.”
“A man who deserves respect must earn it by his own hand,” Bartley said sternly, apparently finding something offensive in his tone. Suzaku arranged his face to look as civil and unassuming as possible and maintained a respectful silence.
There was an irritated huff – a grudging acceptance – and then the general said again, “But yes, the right is yours since you clearly are going to be their leader. Remember though, that this is a distinguished company which has a certain level of quality to be maintained. And of course, each candidate must be approved by His Highness Prince Schneizel first.”
“I shall keep it in mind, Sir,” Suzaku politely gave his reply, only after it was made certain that one was truly expected. The older man nodded in approval but still regarded him with narrowed eyes. His hands had moved from the desk to rest on strained dark-blue uniform above an over-sized belly. General Bartley Asprius had never shown much cordiality toward him, but he was a fair man and treated him fairly if not warmly, despite having been initially prejudiced against his honorary status like most Britannians were. Not exactly an ally, but at least not an enemy either.
“I’ll say an exhibition match is as good a place as any to start,” the general suddenly murmured, a strangled note in his dry voice.
The ensuing silence was deafening. Suzaku stared, unsure what to make of the – suggestion? – speech. It almost sounded like the general was trying to help.
Bartley cleared his throat uncomfortably and repositioned his monocle before saying hastily, “Anyway, that is about the Camulos Knight. As for the rest, I will still command the Seventh Imperial Fleet in His Highness’s name for now, but I believe the responsibility will fall into your hand in due time.” The narrowed eyes flicked up briefly, not entirely catching Suzaku’s gaze. “I think that’s all for now, Lord Kururugi.”
There was an air of finality in that sentence, a certain dismissal, but it was almost overwhelmed by its hasty execution. Suzaku bit his lips and wondered if perhaps, he wasn’t the only one uncertain about his footing here. From what he could tell, the general seemed to have some difficulty in deciding whether he liked the younger man or not, and for some reasons the idea made him want to smile.
And so he did, earned himself another scowl – although it was clearly accompanied with a great deal of fuming embarrassment – and quickly excused himself from the office.
“Not even for a late drink?”
Suzaku groaned softly when his back hit the soft cushioning – the first sofa he had seen in hours. After running around for the best part of the day and making sure that everything was in perfect order, to sit down and just let his muscles rest for a few minutes felt like heaven itself. He closed his eyes, resting his head against the top of the couch, and brought his cell phone closer to his right ear. “I’m not sure, Kai– Milly. It’s almost six and the preparation isn’t done yet. Maybe if it’s all finished before six, but…” he paused and filled the rest with silence, letting doubt speak for itself.
“I understand,” her voice was subdued but there was enough disappointment in it for him to notice. “I knew you would be busy. It’s just… oh, never mind.”
“It’s just?” he encouraged quietly, picking up the soft sigh she had left at the end of her sentence.
Suzaku pinched the bridge of his nose to abate some of the throbbing headache he had been feeling all day. It helped but a little. “Milly.”
“It’s just you don’t look too well,” she finally explained, hurriedly but reluctantly. “I mean, these past few days, after the tournament particularly. Who knows if a dinner with a friend…” She paused, her voice dropping to an uncertain murmur, “I have a feeling that I’m meddling too much.”
Her laughter sounded less vivacious through the line, but it still brought a smile to his lips. “Oho, a lie. You’re always much too polite even when it’s a lie. Sometimes I really hate that about you.”
Suzaku couldn’t help a chuckle. “I know,” he said softly. “But I’m all right, so please don’t worry yourself unnecessarily over me.”
“Well, then do it for me,” Milly said firmly. “We won’t meet each other for quite a long time, you know, maybe until the next time you visit the capital again and who knows when that will happen. By the way, my father has been hinting that he wants to buy a house here.”
“Isn’t that good? You can live close to your parents even if you’re already married.”
He could almost see the wince on her face, as it echoed through her voice. “And let them harass me about giving them grandchildren soon? No, thank you.” There was a mock sigh and then she added, almost ruefully, “I love Japan, you know.”
Suzaku felt a stab of pain in his chest but Milly chased it away just as quickly with another of her dramatic sigh, her tone of voice long-suffering as she added, “And you have no idea how dreary it is to be a countess. Nothing but balls and tea parties. And I’m not even one yet.”
He tried a laugh and was surprised when it flowed out of his mouth easily, perhaps also genuinely. “I think you just miss your crazy escapades in Ashford,” he suggested with an innocent tone.
“Wit, Suzaku-kun?” she teased him. “I thought you were depressed.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with being depressed.”
“So you’re admitting that you are depressed.” There was a triumphant note in her voice.
Suzaku felt a smile on his lips. “Through extreme coercion.”
“Details,” Milly carelessly waved it aside with a tittering laugh. He tried to picture her, dressed in a beautiful gown, sitting next to a window which glowed bright crimson in the setting sun, smiling to the receiver clasped in one hand. When she spoke again, her tone was a little more subdued. “We can’t discuss the cause of your depression over the phone, can we?”
Silence filled his ears, an awkward harmony with the air-conditioner humming stiffly in the background. Suzaku clenched and unclenched his fist, tasting how it felt like – while all the way aware that it was only an excuse for him not to think for a moment.
“It’s a little… sensitive,” he finally answered.
“I had a hunch,” she said gently. “Are you going to be okay?”
“Yeah, I guess.” He looked up at the sound of door opening and there was Jacques, looking into the room, relief flooding his face when he noticed Suzaku sitting on the couch. “Can I call you again later?”
Milly ended the call with a soft chuckle. Jacques closed the door behind him and walked toward the couch, handing him a folder, black with gold tiny inscriptions at each corner. “So that’s why I couldn’t contact you,” he accused.
Suzaku only smiled and took the offered file. “Is it done?”
“Yes.” Jacques seated himself next to him. “An escort of two ships and twenty-eight Knightmares in total. Lancelot, as usual, will stand by on Avalon along with four other Knightmares. Halfway there, we will meet the Camulos Knight under the command of Lord Alaric Vandewalle, and they will join the escort until we all arrive in Area 11.” He shifted quietly, a slight frown evident on his handsome face. “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. This is overwhelming.”
“We cannot be too careful,” Suzaku murmured, his eyes quickly skimming down the document. “I don’t want anything to catch us unprepared.”
The other man watched him in silence for a few seconds before relenting with a shrug. “You’re the commander, so it’s your call. But I’m still convinced that if something does happen, all we need is for you to ride out with Lancelot and follow Prince Schneizel’s instructions.” He suddenly grinned. “Do you know that this combination has become somewhat a legend among the soldiers? Unbeatable, they say. The sword and the mind that controls it.”
Suzaku said nothing and only added his signature at the end of the document, determinedly keeping his eyes down. He could feel Jacques’s eyes studying him closely, and knew that something must have leaked into his face.
“Maybe you should take her advice and go to that dinner,” Jacques suddenly spoke again, a little too carefully. “I can handle everything from here.”
It made Suzaku look up and raise his eyebrows. “You’re in this with her?”
“Lady Ashford talked to me yesterday and I must say that I agreed, wholeheartedly,” the admission came unabashed. “Why don’t you just take the night off? God knows you need it.”
“I have to be here.”
“No, you don’t.”
“The escort guard–“
“It’s done,” Jacques said decisively. “You’ve done everything you can but fretting over it. And if you do want to fret over it, you certainly can do so over dinner. I’m sure the good lady will be happy to give you a good smack over the head for it.”
Suzaku pressed his lips together and closed the folder, handing it back to Jacques. “I want to be here in case something happens,” he said, and there was this stubborn finality in his voice which made the other man look at him, recognition dawning on his face.
“It’s His Highness, isn’t it?”
“No.” The word slipped out unbidden, the closest he ever got to plain honesty. Suzaku took a deep, shaky breath as his fingers tried to crush each other on his lap, but found no relief from the action. “No, it’s me. I shouldn’t have…” The excuse deserted him and he looked down again, mumbling, “This is really stupid.”
“Nothing complicates one’s life like love,” the other commented sympathetically and earned himself a glare.
“You are not helping.”
Jacques smirked. “I wasn’t trying to,” he admitted freely. Suzaku threw him a scathing look, but the effect was ruined by the ringing of the other man’s cell phone.
“Sedgwick,” Jacques promptly answered to the line. “Yes, I’ve found him. I think there’s one more… oh.” A momentary pause, as his eyes flickered toward him. “Yes. All right, I’ll let him know at once. The Royal Study, you said?”
It had never been pleasant, the feeling of his heart violently plummeting into the pit of his stomach – and even less pleasant when Suzaku vaguely noticed that it was not all that unfamiliar for him. Numb with dread, he only half-listened as his fear lurched into reality and Jacques told him that he was expected by the emperor.
“You don’t look too pleased,” he added after a moment of observation. “I thought it was an honour to have a personal audience with His Majesty.”
“It is,” Suzaku said quickly and rose to his feet before the other man could get a better look on his face. “Jacques, you may have to take care of things here. I’m afraid…” He swallowed, the words constricting his throat. “I mean, if the meeting turns out to be long–“
“Don’t worry about it,” Jacques interrupted him and followed him to leave the room. “Just make sure you don’t screw yourself in front of His Majesty.”
Somehow, he managed to choke back the grimace and find a smile.
It was that music again.
A symphony of some sort, rich in tones and colours gloriously intertwined, but also menacing as each note struck a deep fear within him. It was the same symphony he had heard that evening, but the emperor had said nothing and Suzaku continued to stand there mutely, forced to listen. And remember.
Everything inside the study spoke to him about luxury and regality – of the cold and haughty sort. It was the second time he had been there, and the size, the details were just as overwhelming. He couldn’t say for sure if the impression wasn’t at all influenced by his underlying dread, but the wood-panelled walls and intricately carved friezes; and then the paintings of wars lost and won adorning them; the tall, sturdy bookcases at one side, filled by rows of thick, immense books with gilded cover; the floor-to-ceiling windows at another with heavy drapes in deep blue colour, overlooking a sky in decline, a mess of purple, yellow, grey, and rust; and finally the massive writing desk made of dark wood. He still remembered how his face had pressed against its hard but smooth surface as he had tried to block out the pain – and the humiliation – and the taste of blood on his tongue because he had bitten his lips so hard that they had bled and he couldn’t afford the risk of spoiling anything in this room.
Brown was supposed to be a warm colour. It was a pale, yellow light which permeated the room, but Suzaku could feel a chill running up his spine. Not even his standard military room aboard Avalon, chiefly furnished in starched white, had ever felt this cold. The fact that His Majesty had barely said a word to him but for a curt order to just stand there when he had arrived, and since then had completely ignored his presence in favour for a book did not help.
The emperor was the most powerful man in the Holy Empire of Britannia and, one could argue, in the entire world. If he was told to stay silent, then he would stay silent – and considering the kind of order he had obeyed just a few days ago, this was overwhelmingly petty in comparison. And it was not as if he hadn’t been trained to stand still for a certain duration of time during his military training.
But minutes passed and the Fourth Movement was rising to its finale and every movement, every turn of page still made him draw a sharp intake of breath. At least he could suppress the flinch now, although the small encouragement fell flat against the whirlwind that was his tangled emotions. If he could detach himself from them just a little, if he could pretend, like he had once in this same room not too long ago, that it wasn’t him who went through all these but his station, his role of a knight…
And then the music ended and there was silence, the kind that peeled off one’s skin because it was so sharp. It was more difficult to stay still then, but he couldn’t look up; it would be a breach of courtesy to do so in the presence of an emperor.
“Tomorrow you will return to Area 11.”
Suzaku started as the rumbling voice lanced through the stupefied silence shrouding the room. He struggled to hide his agitation and raised a pair of polite, inquiring eyes, although he could feel that they came off more frightened than anything. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Your homeland.” The emperor had not looked up from his reading material, and neither had the tone of his voice shifted from its flat drawling quality. “But it’s little more than a wasteland now.”
Suzaku remained silent, tight-lipped with barely contained anger – and yet some of it must have leaked into his expression since His Majesty was now looking at him. “Anger, is it your driving force?” he said and the words trembled, mocked, but his unfluctuating tone indicated that the emperor was not particularly interested in the question itself. Suzaku was not sure which he should take offence more.
Before he could decide, a respectful train of knocks reached his ears and almost made him cringe. He glanced at the door, hope suddenly swelling inside him for some heaven-sent interruption, and then His Majesty spoke again.
“You may leave.”
It was almost impossible to be true. Suzaku was stunned still for two seconds before quickly excusing himself with a hurried bow and making a beeline toward his escape. A part of his mind which could still function properly in the flood of relief wondered what the purpose of the emperor calling for him in the first place was, but the rest was simply too relieved to care.
Until he came face-to-face with the Second Prince, right outside the Royal Study.
Suzaku froze, his guard torn down completely by brutal waves of shock. Not only that this was the first time they had been in a fairly close proximity in the last few days, the fact that it occurred when he had just left His Majesty’s study seemed to erase all doubts on what he had been doing there. But there was only stony calmness on Schneizel’s face, and Suzaku bit his lips, reminding himself to make way and bow deeply.
He gasped when strong fingers seized his arm and clasped it in an iron grip. “Wait in my chamber,” the prince said, his voice low but tight – only a little more than a whisper but Suzaku could tell that his master was livid.
And then his arm was let go just as abruptly, leaving the skin tingling unpleasantly.
Notes: No, it isn’t finished yet :D Here is the link to the final part but please bear in mind that it has an R-NC17 rating. Which means that it has