Fandom: Code GEASS
Characters/Pairing: Schneizel el Britannia x Kururugi Suzaku
Warning: Some angst, as usual.
Word Count: 3926
Challenge: 30_romances #02. The subconscious; Bury
Previous installation: As Shadow Stirs
See the complete list of stories
“And this is His Highness’s schedule for the rest of the week.”
Suzaku accepted the blue folder with a small, quiet nod. Miss Romeyer, the prince’s secretary, was a woman of thirty-odds with a stern face and sharp eyes behind a pair of glinting spectacles – and quite frankly, she scared the hell out of him.
Unaffected by his discomfort, obvious or not, she plunged into detailed explanations of each event in the schedule. Suzaku listened in respectful silence, all the while trying to restrain an urge to fidget. He had spent at least two hours sitting in this brightly lit office, behind this neat, pristine, perfectly organised desk which made him want to splotch the polished surface with a few drops of ink. It would make this room seem more human, but then again, he considered the woman sitting across him, she didn’t seem all that human either. More like a machine made for secretarial purposes, stiff, callous, and briskly efficient in a manner that was intimidating rather than comforting.
“As for the prince’s protection detail,” she was still speaking, deviating from a community event she was explaining for a moment, “it is coordinated and managed by a Major Hershkin. He has been in charge for almost three years now. I suggest you to arrange a meeting with him as soon as possible for further facts information on this area, seeing that he is now also working under you. I’m sure you, Lord Kururugi, also agree that there is nothing more important than His Highness’s safety.”
Suzaku suppressed an urge to roll his eyes and only responded with another silent nod. He struggled to keep his fraying attention as Miss Romeyer continued with particulars of a musical exhibition which would take place at the end of the week, but his mind was in a violent whirl. He had read the reports Lord Vandewalle had submitted to the prince, and decided that the real Black Knight or not, the threats were genuine enough and potentially dangerous.
In a way, things would be easier if it wasn’t the real thing, at least for him – but it would also mean that he had really killed Zero. And although he had lived with this conviction for almost a year, an old wound being ripped open for the second time never failed to bleed twice as painful.
Zero. Zero. Lelouch.
Sometimes he wished that everything was easier – and then he would hate himself for daring to even wish for it.
“I think that is all for now,” Miss Romeyer’s clinical voice cut into his swirling thoughts. Suzaku firmly ignored the bitter taste spreading in his mouth at the sickening jolt of hope the name had brought, and met her disheartening gaze squarely. “Are there any questions?”
“Not at the moment, Ma’am,” he answered, quick enough to cover his lapse of attention.
“Then perhaps we can move on to the next issue,” she said curtly and turned her attention to another folder, bearing the same official insignia but much thinner in comparison. “I understand that today we are also to talk about your domestic arrangement, Lord Kururugi.”
Suzaku managed another nod. “Yes. His Highness has mentioned that it would be better to be taken care of as soon as possible,” he replied carefully.
“Naturally,” she quickly said in agreement, but her voice was far from pleased. After a pointed glance at the clock on her desk, she said again, “Well then, let us proceed without delay. The morning is late and I believe you also still have other things to attend to.”
“As far as options go,” she opened the folder but did not remove her gaze from him, “there are several to choose from. Since you are a high-ranked military officer, you are entitled to certain extent of privileges in term of accommodation, including housing and some other facilities in the military compound. There is also, of course, the option of finding your own place, any apartment or house of your choosing to live in, although the expense is also reasonably bigger. As for the third option,” she paused, a more noticeable frown wrinkling her brow as her eyes briefly darted toward the document. Her reluctance was obvious when she continued, “This is somewhat an unusual proposal, considering your status and the fact that you are not directly related to the Imperial Family, but His Highness has mentioned that you may also consider the option of residing in the Governor-General’s Villa.”
Silence stumbled in. Suzaku decided that it was best to let it linger while he was being so intensely scrutinised. The prince had hinted on it a few times, but only in passing and with a casual manner which had always forced him to dismiss the idea from his mind as soon as possible. Now that it was apparently a viable option, he didn’t know what to think. Of course it was ridiculous – anyone would tell him so – and he still couldn’t fathom why the prince had bothered to mention it to Miss Romeyer at all.
In the absence of his response, she had spoken again. “I will not pretend that understand the entire situation, Lord Kururugi, but I must say that such proceeding is inadvisable. It is imprudent, and to be honest, very unconventional if not unheard of.”
Suzaku only looked at her. He was sorely tempted to point out that there had been nothing conventional about his relationship with the prince for quite some time now, but was too intimidated by the way her glasses glinted at him to open his mouth. She was giving him a warning, he realised, and she was right.
“I understand,” he finally said after a long moment of uninterrupted silence.
Her gaze remained unsympathetic. “I was hoping you would,” she said flatly. “This is no trifling matter and every aspect must be carefully considered and taken into account. But as His Highness said, it will be better to be settled as soon as possible.” She scribbled a note and consulted the calendar sitting next to her clock. “Will one week be enough? You will have time to survey many potential places in the neighbourhood during your free time.”
He gave her a small, polite smile, the best he could manage in that situation. It seemed that the decision had been made after all, with or without his consent.
“One week will be enough, thank you,” he replied.
The feeling of the smooth, tight fabric sliding over his skin and basically every inch of his body made him sigh in quiet contentment. The pilot suit was new, now that he had officially become the Second Prince’s knight, and was evidently more elaborate than his old one in term of design and decoration. Suzaku always liked how it felt, the way the cool material clung to his body like a second layer of skin – and to be completely honest, he was relieved to be free of his knight uniform for once.
When he emerged from the changing room, he was greeted by Cecile’s broad smile.
“It looks nice on you,” she complimented. “I was afraid it would be too big, but seems like you have grown quite a lot over the past few months.”
“I hadn’t been gone that long,” he protested, grinning even when he did.
“Oh yes, you had,” she said adamantly. “Ever since Prince Schneizel appointed you to be his knight, you have been too busy to come down here. Not that I don’t understand, with all the lessons and preparations, but…” she paused, her eyes gaining a softer look as they quietly observed him. Suzaku didn’t think that he only imagined the hint of pride in her voice when she spoke again, “Yes, it was definitely that long. I can’t believe how much you’ve grown already.”
“Cecile-san, I think you’re exaggerating,” he stated firmly.
“I didn’t mean only in the physical sense,” she replied, rolling her eyes. “You are now obviously taller than I am, yes, but there are other more impressive growths, Lord Kururugi, whether you realise it or not.”
Suzaku smiled, this one not an engineered face smoothed into perfection, only the brighter side of honesty, and glanced around the hangar, grey-walled with lofty ceilings which seemed to encompass the entire world inside. After a morning with Miss Romeyer and acquainting himself with two members of the Camulos Knight who had clearly tried their best not to extend more than just the most basic courtesy toward him, he was really looking forward to spend a few hours with people he actually knew – and liked – instead of strangers he had constantly surrounded himself with these last few weeks.
“It feels strange to be here again,” he said with a small, appreciative sigh, taking notes of the little changes – and finding himself to be relieved that they weren’t many. It was the same place he had spent so many days in, waiting, worrying, laughing, wanting. Lancelot remained a strong, solid presence towering over them, a guardian armoured in white.
“Reminds you of the old days, doesn’t it?” Cecile voiced his unspoken thoughts, the smile on her face unfaltering. “But of course now you’re all important, being the commander of the Camulos Knight and a Brigadier General.”
“Not yet,” he corrected. “The ceremony is not until tomorrow, Cecile-san.”
“Less than twenty-four hours,” she replied promptly, “which makes it a moot point.”
Suzaku managed another smile, even if it was a little wane. “It still matters for me.”
Hers faltered then, and faded into a completely different expression. “I didn’t mean…” she started, pausing for words and apologies that fluttered above them, out of reach as guilt contorted her face. “Of course you are always welcome here, Suzaku-kun. Nothing changes only because you are promoted.”
“I know,” he murmured quietly, maintaining the half smile but looking away. He knew better than anyone else what it meant, what changes it would bring, inevitably. Sometimes he wondered if it wasn’t at all wrong, to mourn for a loss of companionship when it evidently brought him one step closer to what he wanted – two things which were not even on the same scale. But even now, to have friends was still a luxury for him.
He almost jumped when a hand touched his left cheek. Cecile’s eyes were focused on him, hard and gentle at the same time.
“Will you be all right?”
Suzaku thought of things left unsaid, static words strung between the prince and him, and the smiles and pretences he had worn for the last few days that felt like decades. But of course they had no bearing. They even had nothing to do with his promotion.
“Yes,” he nodded and tried a reassuring grin. “I just need to get away for a while. It gets a little overwhelming after some time.”
“Of course.” Cecile accepted his lie just as smoothly and returned it with a smile as her hand squeezed his upper arm. “Well then, I think we better start now. We have many tests to run since you haven’t piloted Lancelot for months.”
“There was no occasion for it,” he reasoned, following her to the workstation, “and custom Knightmares were not allowed in the Spring Tournament.”
“You could have come and visited us,” she pointed out – although the reproach was softened with a quiet laugh afterward. “I think he must be quite bored too, only having people coming in here and gawking at him.”
Suzaku arched his eyebrows. “Gawking?” This was certainly news to him.
“I suppose they were only curious,” she answered cheerfully, motioning him to sit down on the empty chair next to hers, and started to type down lines of instructions. “With all the news and rumours, everyone wants to see Lancelot, the ‘White Demon’. Lloyd-san was rather annoyed with the lot of them though.”
Suzaku felt his lips thinning and looked down at his empty hands. “It’s a terrible name for anyone to be associated with,” he murmured.
The typing sound faltered, stumbling into a sudden pause, but then picked up again in a leisurely manner. “In a way, perhaps,” Cecile agreed, but there was something in her voice which made him glance up at her. She was still looking at the monitor, a small frown on her face. “But the truth is, Suzaku-kun, he has protected many lives by being the ‘White Demon’, by always putting himself on the frontline and charging out first. Many of the soldiers are grateful for that, terrible name or not.”
“More like awed, I think,” she said mildly and regarded him from the corner of her eyes. “When it comes down to it, no one wants to die. And they are still alive – we all are. Isn’t it what really matters?”
Yes, Suzaku decided, and for the first time since his princess had died, he thought of Lelouch and didn’t let it stray into something uglier.
Because in truth, it was what really mattered.
The garden was beautiful in the fading light, with vines of shadow stealthily threading in between dying colours and smoothing the hard angles of rigid shapes. Suzaku followed the winding trail quietly, revelling in the breath of silence after spending the better part of his afternoon overseeing the hectic preparation for tomorrow’s ceremony. He would have been there still, squabbling with details and particulars if his lord had not invited him down for dinner in the Governor-General Villa.
Which might just be as bad, now that he had the chance to think about it. With the current state of their relationship, Suzaku was not sure if he would enjoy a moment alone with the prince – but of course it was a part of his job and in reality, had nothing to do with his enjoyment at all. It was an order, and his duty was to obey.
The garden path ended in a short flight of stairs which led him up to the entrance of a circular building situated a little apart from the residence. He nodded at the pair of guards standing on guard outside and let himself in. This was yet another part of the villa he had not previously known, not surprising considering the size of the entire compound. Suzaku decided that a meeting with Major Hershkin should take place as soon as possible. He needed to know every nook and cranny of the grounds – this knowledge was essential if he were to carry out his duty to protect the prince.
He passed through a small foyer, dimly lit and sparsely furnished save for the glimmering chandeliers and a pair of marble statues, and then another door which opened up to a vast chamber filled with the sound of music. It was a tune unlike anything he had ever heard before, more tumultuous, more powerful, more chaotic – one could even say angrier. He had never thought that a piano could produce a sound like that.
Suzaku stayed by the door, listening silently as his eyes studied the room, from the circular walls made entirely out of glass with dark wood interlacing in recurrent, meticulous patterns, to the glass ceiling which arched like a dome far above his head. He couldn’t help but imagine how beautiful it had been only half an hour before, bathed in the broken light of a deepening dusk. As it was now, two lamps on opposite sides of the room were the only instruments of lighting available, twin muted, shadowy glows in that giant cage made of glass. The grand piano, polished black wood reflecting the pale light, was the centrepiece.
And behind that centrepiece sat his prince. Suzaku wasn’t sure how he felt as he stood there and watched – the handsome face drawn in concentration, shoulders hunched slightly, fingers flying over the black-and-white keys faster than his eyes could follow. It was certainly easier to pretend, to act like nothing had happened and go about their everyday business as usual. His master clearly preferred it that way, with the briskness, and then the outright dismissal of the matter like someone had only trespassed into his garden and plucked a few flowers without permission. It was the kind of manner expected from him too, Suzaku realised – after all, what else was there to do? – and that part of him who wanted more should just shut up forever.
The piece ended with a trembling, echoing chord, dying slowly as if swallowed by the bleak silence. There was nothing then, just his heartbeat and the static hum that always lingered when everything else fell mute. And then the prince looked up and his eyes found him easily, like he had known all along that his knight was there.
“How do you like it?”
The question took him by surprise. Suzaku looked at his lord but dared not come near, as if an invisible hand was firmly holding him in place. He convinced himself that it was civility.
“It is different from what Your Highness usually plays,” he finally said, silently wishing that he could come up with something smarter to say.
The prince only smiled, in that thoroughly noncommittal way which only served to frustrate him since it conveyed nothing at all. “I was in the mood for something less refined,” he said placidly. Suzaku refrained from pointing out that anything like that was hardly ‘less refined’ by any standard. “You have yet to answer the question.”
“I…” he stumbled, not knowing what kind of opinion to give. He was hardly a connoisseur in music, let alone in the variety that his master relished.
“I only asked if you liked it,” the older man reminded him and reached for a pair of gloves laid on the black cushioned seat to put them on. “There is no right or wrong in a matter of opinion.”
Aware that there really was no escape from the question, Suzaku went with the only option he had – honesty. “I…think I prefer the one Your Highness played the other day, in the Imperial Palace,” he said, hesitantly, because regardless of right or wrong, a prince was still a prince and he was a subject inferior in standing. “It was…happier, I guess.”
“Ah.” Schneizel looked thoughtful but said nothing as he rose to his feet and pulled down the lid over the keyboard. Suzaku waited anxiously – for what he wasn’t entirely sure – but the matter was never addressed again – and he was convinced then, that he had said something wrong. But there was no reproach in his lord’s voice when he enquired about his day as they left the glass-walled building and once again played the perfect part of a prince and his trusted knight.
Suzaku decided that this was better. It was normal and something normal was good, even if it was false. At least, he could live with it.
“You have met Alaric,” Schneizel said when they walked along the open corridor leading back to the residence. “What do you think of him?”
“Lord Vandewalle is a very impressive man,” he replied, carefully choosing his words with the presence of the two guards following them unobtrusively. “He would have made a great leader of the Camulos Knight.”
“He would have,” the prince agreed but did not take his bait to pursue the subject further. Instead, he glanced at his knight and said, “You are aware of his opinions of you.”
Suzaku felt the bitter smile which slipped in along the curve of his lips, and did nothing to chase it away. “They are not difficult to perceive,” he answered wryly.
“Indeed, he does not endeavour to hide them,” his master only sounded, for some reasons, pleased. “They – he and the rest of the knights – seem to think that you should know of their sentiments toward this whole arrangement.”
A part of him wanted to point out that their sentiments couldn’t be any clearer than they were now, but the rest decided that it was just whining. “I’ve been wondering, Your Highness,” he said instead, keeping his voice indifferent, “General Bartley mentioned once that an exhibition match might help.”
“An exhibition match?”
“Yes. The general said that it would be a good place to start, especially with the Camulos Knight.”
“Bartley did?” The prince arched two elegant golden eyebrows, now sounding genuinely amused. “Captivated him, haven’t you?”
“Schneizel-sama–” Suzaku spluttered.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case,” his lord continued calmly, and the smile on his face made Suzaku flush even deeper. “And I agree, it is an excellent suggestion. Men and women of action can only be convinced by action. Let them see what you are capable of, and it is only a matter of time–”
Suzaku felt his body move, even before he realised that he had heard a gunshot. It was near, near enough to be deadly, and the next thing he was already lying on top of the prince and there was a shadow over them. He whipped his head up and swallowed the sudden nausea at the sight before his eyes – the guards, both of them, standing before him and the prince, and the sharp sounds they were making as bullets pierced their flesh and grazed their bones.
And then, from the corner of his eyes, he spotted a door, not three metres away.
His decision was instantaneous. Suzaku pulled out his own shotgun and helped his master up. The next few seconds were a blur to him as they scrambled toward the door – the smell of blood, more gunfire, the choking gasps, the voice shouting in his head.
He slammed the door shut once they were inside. It was a small maintenance room, with panels and colourful wires crowding one side of the wall and a tall metal compartment at another. There was no means of escape, he noticed with a sinking feeling, and then realised that he still had his body pressed against his master.
“Schneizel-sama, are you–”
“I’m fine,” the prince interrupted him and there was something in his voice that made Suzaku breathe again. He swallowed and nodded, gun still cocked and ready in the grip of his stiff fingers. The sounds from outside had ceased, leaving an eerie silence against the staccato of their rapid breathing. His mind worked quickly. The commotion would attract the other guards, which left the shooters with two options only: to flee or to press on. Suzaku had no problem with the first – as long as his lord was safe, he could take just about anything – but if it was the second, they would be sitting ducks once the shooters decided to waltz in.
“I must take them down,” he whispered to Schneizel, his voice tight. There was no response for a long moment, and when he looked up, he almost flinched at the look his lord was giving him.
“How many are they?” the older man finally asked.
“Two,” Suzaku answered after a moment’s deliberation. “But there may be a third who hasn’t fired yet, behind the fourth pillar down the corridor. I’m not sure.”
The prince’s eyes were dark, dangerous when he grasped his knight’s left arm in a firm, almost painful grip. “You will come back to me, is that understood?” he said, his voice low and sharp. A command, not a question.
Suzaku ignored the slight tightening in his chest and nodded. “Yes, Your Highness,” he said, suppressing a shiver when the hand fell away from his arm.
On the next second, he was already rushing outside.
Cliffhangers are your friends. Be nice to them.
Oh, and the piece Schneizel was playing was Chopin’s ‘Revolution’. Just a little tidbit I thought I'd share.
Next Installation: Hour of the Witch