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Fanfic: Hour of the Witch (Schneizel/Suzaku)

Title: Hour of the Witch (Infinity Part 13)
Fandom: Code GEASS
Characters/Pairing: Schneizel el Britannia x Kururugi Suzaku
Rating: PG-13
Warning: Angst, blood, torture, dark allover…
Word Count: 4978
Challenge: 30_nights #16. You don’t know what you have done to me
Summary: There is only one king in Suzaku’s world and it isn’t Japan.

Previous installation: Haunted
See the complete list of stories
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His job, Jacques decided, had been considerably more hazardous ever since Suzaku Kururugi had become a part of it.

It was not that he had a suicidal streak or liked to drag his soldiers through impossible fights – although Jacques certainly wouldn’t put both past him – but more due to the kind of situation he had repeatedly found himself in while dealing with the newly promoted brigadier general. Painfully uncomfortable situations. Which he would rather have nothing to do with since they posed him to all sorts of mortification and mental scars he could really live without.

On second thought, he would have enjoyed these situations – particularly the aftermath, in which he could spend days and days making Suzaku furiously blush at the merest hint of what he had witnessed – if only they didn’t have to involve the Second Prince. Here, a sensible part of his mind scoffed and told him that he was not giving the prince enough credit. Surely His Highness understood that he was only carrying out orders and had absolutely no intention of interrupting the two times he had discovered them engaged in this activity which required the full employment of mouth and tongue but curiously had only the most negligible, if any at all, relationship with the customary art of speaking.

But one never knew. A prince was a prince and he had all the power in the world to haul your ass to god-knows-where – Siberia was definitely not outside the realm of possibility, or perhaps even the moon, if His Highness was so inclined. Jacques enjoyed befriending risks every now and then, even sought after them from time to time to satiate his thirst for adventures and excitement of a more straightforward kind. This was also the basis of his current career choice, but the sort of risk he was facing now was not about dying in a battlefield full of glory and honour and other wonderful things. It mainly made him want to hide in a very dark, very remote corner and become perfectly invisible from the eye of the world for weeks, or maybe even months if the embarrassment took that long to wear off. Jacques, being a sensible man who knew the difference between courage and utter stupidity, preferred not to put himself through any mortal torment of that kind.

He would have chosen to stay at the safe perimeter this time too, except that his position didn’t exactly allow him to do that. In an institution like the Britannian military, unless there was a very good reason – which sadly was not in his possession at the moment – going against any order from the higher-ups meant hello discharge, it’s so nice to meet you.

The prince’s secretary, he decided, was entirely to blame for his predicament. She had contacted him earlier this evening and asked, in a voice which left no room for argument, let alone escape, if he would be so kind to deliver several important documents to Lord Kururugi. They needed his signature and this was terribly urgent, so thank you so much for your help.

And so the glorified courier was sent on his merry way to the Governor-General’s villa where Suzaku was presumably having dinner with the prince – and hopefully, very hopefully, not much more than that. Interrupting a meal might still be pardonable, all things considered. Interrupting other things, he was less sure.

The guards at the gate had informed him, once he had stated the purpose of his visit, that Lord Kururugi was still in the music chamber with the prince. One of them had promptly offered to show him the way and Jacques was now following him with no little trepidation through a maze of halls, and then down to the garden which was now encased in the falling darkness. The music chamber sounded like a place where many things could happen, including those which had no relation at all to the first part of its respectable title. Kissing was bad enough as it was. He really didn’t need too see anything involving a grand piano and one body on top of it and clothes littered on the leather-covered seat…

It was during this line of thinking, that he heard the gunshot.

Once. Twice. And then several quick consecutive shots which sent him running toward the direction of the commotion, behind the guard who had rushed ahead in alarm. His ears registered shouting, and many running footsteps as more guards abandoned their post in the face of a potential threat. But Jacques didn’t hear them. The shooting had stopped, and the only reason he could think about was the shooters had achieved whatever objective they came for.

When they arrived on the scene, it was to the sight of three bodies lying motionless on the tiled floor and Suzaku standing in the middle of it all, tight-lipped but unscathed except for a trickle of blood from the small tear on his right cheek. Jacques sighed in relief and the younger man looked up, eyes strange, almost dead in the pale, muted light as if he was looking at no one but an empty corridor. It splashed some cold uneasiness in the flood of his relief and Jacques looked away, finding his excuse in examining the bodies.

The first thing he noticed was the splatters of blood on their clothes, a poor travesty of the Imperial Guard’s formal uniform.

The second thing he noticed, only a split of a second later, was the colour of their skin.

-----

The opaque glass door slid open and Claire hissed at a pair of soldiers who bumped into her as the force of the collision made her reel back a few paces. One of them had started cursing loudly, drawing attention from everyone around them with his interesting choice of language, before he remembered to look up and see who he had just bumped into. His face went pale as recognition quickly clamped his mouth shut. Claire returned it with a withering glare. She would love to give the soldier a severe tongue-lashing if her mind wasn’t already too occupied with something else.

Inside the building was pandemonium. There were only a few reasons why a military headquarter would fall into such state of disorder. War was at the topmost of the very short list, and while she was reasonably grateful that there wasn’t any active confrontation in this part of the empire at the moment, an attempt on the life of a prince was no less appalling. A very close attempt too, if the account she had heard so far was right.

“Claire!”

She stopped and looked around for the source of the voice. Jacques had just appeared from the elevator and now was shouldering his way through the crowd, tension evident in his stormy face. She didn’t bother to wait until he was close enough before bombarding him with questions.

“This is true? An assassination attempt?”

“You better believe it,” his response was only a little more than a growl. Some of the other soldiers had slowed down their pace, intent on listening in, and Claire had to fix them another of her infamous glares to get them moving again.

“But how could anyone possibly sneak into the villa and–” she couldn’t finish her sentence and only waved her hands in disbelief.

“I was there,” Jacques told her flatly. “Heard the gunshots and everything, but when I arrived it was already over.”

“And His Highness?”

“Is unharmed,” he answered without a moment’s pause. “And so is Suzaku in that matter. Just a little scratch on his cheek. You’d think he’d end up much worse, considering the circumstances.”

“I’ve stopped being surprised at anything concerning him a long time ago,” she said dryly. “Where is he?”

Jacques’s face darkened and instead of answering, he caught her by the elbow and dragged her toward the east wing of the building. “Come with me. There’s something... you’ll see.”

Claire followed him without protest – her friend was using that tone of voice which told her that he was dead serious. She fell into step next to him, only having the slightest difficulty to keep up with his bigger and longer strides.

“I heard there were three shooters,” she said again, still trying to get more information from the other officer.

“Yes,” he replied without looking at her. “Two committed suicide, but Suzaku knocked out the last one before he could do the same.” Jacques paused, and then added in a lower voice, “They’re all Elevens.”

Claire couldn’t say that she was surprised, no matter how disconcerting the news was. “It was to be expected, wasn’t it?” she said wryly. “We’re in Japan after all.”

Jacques frowned. “I don’t think it’s really as simple as that,” he muttered.

No, she silently agreed. An independent terrorist group would never have been able to gain access into the Governor-General’s villa without any inside help, or hatch a plan which required details and classified knowledge of this level. There were still too many unknown factors in this case, and she knew it was just the tip of the iceberg.

“What about the man who didn’t get to kill himself?” she asked again. “Is he being interrogated?”

“The person in charge of the security, a Major Hershkin, is taking care of it,” Jacques told her. “No luck so far, but I was talking to Suzaku earlier and he said he was going down there himself.”

It made Claire completely stop in her tracks. “He’s going to take over the interrogation?” she said in surprise.

Jacques’s mouth was a thin, grim line when he turned around and looked at her. “He outranks Hershkin, that’s one thing for sure,” he said point-blank. “Come on, we need to get there before he does.”

She quickly caught up with him once more as they made a turn into a deserted corridor. “You didn’t try to talk some sense into him?”

“He had killed the line before I could say ‘but’,” her friend answered dryly. The wrinkles of frown on his forehead were now more pronounced. “I really don’t like the tone of his voice. We all know Mr. Shooter won’t talk that easily. He was ready to commit suicide when their attempt failed. This is something else.”

Claire didn’t answer and they fell silent as they went down a flight of stairs, and then into another long, empty corridor. She didn’t like it down here; everything was as dead as silence except for the sinister echo of their footsteps. The walls were painted in the sort of unnatural, spotless white that choked the breath out of her, which she knew was exactly the effect they were trying to aim while dealing with their interrogees.

At the end of the corridor were two doors, situated at opposing walls. They went through the one on their left, into a murky passage which led them to another door. Standing in front of it were four soldiers, two guarding on full alert at each side of the door. One of the remaining two was a flaxen-haired man – square-faced, shorter than Jacques but with a heavier built – who had been pacing restlessly about the room. He abruptly stopped at their entrance and straightened his posture.

Jacques approached him right away. “Major Hershkin?”

“Yes,” he answered, wariness shading his firm but tired voice. Claire felt a flash of sympathy toward the man. She doubted there was anyone in this building – or in the whole empire, for that matter – who had a shittier day than he did, after the assassination attempt.

“Lieutenant Colonel Sedgwick,” Jacques introduced himself. “Is Lord Kururugi inside?”

“Yes, but you can’t go in, Sir,” the major said quickly. “Nobody is allowed entry. Lord Kururugi has specifically prohibited anyone to come inside until he is finished with the interrogation.”

Claire felt a sudden increase of panic inside her and knew that her friend experienced something similar. “This is very important,” Jacques said again, this time accompanied with a little frown to emphasise his point.

The major was adamant. “I’m sorry but I really can’t allow you, Sir. It is a direct order from a superior officer.”

For a moment, Jacques looked like he was about to beat his way in, and Claire, her own patience rapidly shrinking, suddenly heard herself saying, “We bring a message from His Highness the prince.”

Hershkin looked doubtfully at her. “From His Highness?”

“Yes,” she answered firmly, ignoring the astonished look Jacques was giving her. “A message from the prince to his personal knight is of a higher priority, isn’t it?”

The major still looked doubtful, but finally moved aside despite his obvious reluctance. “If that is the case, I’m sure Lord Kururugi will understand,” he murmured in an abject tone. Claire felt that flash of pity again; the man was just afraid of making more mistakes than he already had. She really couldn’t blame him.

“You bring a message from the prince?” Jacques asked her in a low voice once they were already inside and the door had been shut behind them, eyebrows arched high.

“Obviously I lied, idiot,” she muttered and ignored his soft chuckle, choosing to focus on the pale semi-darkness around them. There was a glass window giving a clear view into the interrogation room, encased in bright, almost blinding white light. Her mouth went dry when she saw what was happening inside.

She had expected to see Suzaku interrogating the prisoner. She had not, however, expected to see him using this manner of interrogation at all. Other people perhaps, but not Suzaku, and yet the proof was only too clear there in front of her eyes. The man was on the floor, tied to a toppled chair, blood trickling from his nose and one corner of his lips. His chest was heaving violently, but his eyes, sharp and narrowed on his bruised face, were fixed on his interrogator.

Suzaku’s face was frozen in stony indifference and his white gloves had smudges of blood on them. Claire discovered that she couldn’t breathe, and for some reasons, she and Jacques just stood there and watched as Suzaku stooped to pick the chair back up to its correct position. The prisoner laughed unpleasantly, the sound rough, heavy with clotted blood, and started speaking in Japanese. Suzaku cut him off and Claire could only listen, in a sort of horrified trance as they went back and forth, the man’s harsh, contemptuous snarls and Suzaku’s stilted, hissing voice.

He was laughing again, but this time the sound was cut short with a straight punch to his stomach. Jacques flinched next to her and she knew exactly how he felt. This was not the Suzaku they knew, this soldier who was now grasping the stained collar of their prisoner and spoke in a low, threatening voice. The man grinned – and the effect of this action to his distorted face was hideous – and spat on his face. There was a strained pause. The prisoner was still sneering and Suzaku delivered another blow to his gut, leaving him to scream and curse and cough up more blood.

It was then when Claire felt her friend abruptly left her side and scurried toward the door into the interrogation room. He flung it open violently, causing the two inside to freeze and look at the intruder.

“Sir,” Jacques addressed their superior officer, his face wooden and expressionless. Frozen outside, all Claire could think of was how calm his voice sounded still, despite everything. “Prince Schneizel asks for your presence immediately.”

The words – or perhaps the name – seemed to trickle something into Suzaku and shake him out of his livid state. He let the prisoner go, but when he turned around and looked at Jacques, there was something in his expression which made Claire certain that it would plunge from bad to worse. She moved away from the glass, ready to intervene, but the moment had passed quickly before it could manifest itself. Suzaku gave Jacques a small nod and accepted the handkerchief offered to him.

“You’re just a traitor! A whore!”

He stiffened at the insult – there was no doubt as to the reason of this sudden change of language. Face darkening, Jacques approached the bound man and backhanded him on the face, and then steered Suzaku out of the room before he could say anything.

“His Highness is waiting for you,” he said above the prisoner’s incessant moaning and cursing. Claire had enough presence of mind to turn off the audio feed before Jacques opened the door and allowed everyone outside to hear what they didn’t want anyone else to hear. She stood close to the glass window, blocking anybody’s way or line of vision into the interrogation chamber, sometimes glancing at their captive who was now lying quite still on the white tiled floor.

When Suzaku had left with Major Hershkin, Jacques slipped back in and carefully closed the door behind him. “Well, that’s taken care of,” he said with a loud sigh.

“You were lying, weren’t you?” she asked him point-blank.

“Anything to get him out of the room,” he muttered. His gaze strayed toward their battered and bloodied prisoner and a settled over his face. “I’ll take care of this but–”

“Go,” she told him and nodded toward the door. “Make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid. I’ll deal with everything here.”

There was a moment of silence in which Jacques gave her a silent, doubtful look. It didn’t take Claire long to decipher what it meant. “If you’re going to say anything about my being a woman, I’m beating the crap out of you,” she threatened in a low voice.

Despite their tense situation, he grinned. “What I was about to say is don’t kill him. You’re prone to giving in to fits of temper.”

“Get out,” she growled.

“Make sure there’s no irreparable damage or we’ll be held responsible–”

Claire pushed him out and slammed the door on his face.

-----

“But Your Highness, with what just happened, it may not be wise to–”

“It doesn’t matter,” the prince interrupted the flow of words from his secretary’s mouth, but didn’t spare her a glance from the document he was signing. “The ceremony will proceed as scheduled tomorrow. There is no reason why it should not.”

Miss Romeyer pursed her lips in evident dissatisfaction. “With all due respect, Your Highness,” she spoke again, more firmly this time, “it was an assassination attempt. It was foiled, yes, but without doubt they will try again and such a major event like tomorrow’s ceremony provides a convenient chance, particularly if today’s attempt is meant as a red herring. And since the state of our current security is quite lamentable,” she threw a disdainful look at Major Hershkin who was standing stiffly next to her, white-faced and quite obviously petrified with fear, “I very strongly advise reconsideration before it is too late.”

“We have just arrived, it is understandable if a few things are not quite in order yet,” the prince replied evenly. When he looked up, however, Suzaku caught the slight trace of impatience on his countenance. “And a foiled attempt is a foiled attempt, Miss Romeyer. That I am now still alive is the difference.”

“But, Your Highness, we have yet to discover who is responsible for the attempt and what their motives are,” she persisted. “And without this particular knowledge in our hand, it is exceedingly dangerous to proceed with anything so recklessly.”

Standing correctly at his lord’s side but with a steadily crumbling resolve, Suzaku quenched an urge to bury his head in the fold of his arms. He just wished for this meeting to be over. An hour ago, he had been sure that Jacques had only tried to lure him out of the interrogation room and yet, despite his suspicion, the prince had beckoned him to come in and join the meeting when he and Major Hershkin had arrived.

The hour had since then progressed as the most gruelling discussion he had ever taken part in, especially with the invaluable help of Miss Romeyer’s relentless harping. Lord Vandewalle had scarcely said a word since his arrival and Hershkin was clearly much too terrified to contribute anything into the conversation, limiting himself to the shortest answers possible whenever addressed. The only comfort Suzaku could take during the agonizing hour was in his master’s smooth, undulating tenor, and how it always calmed him down a little, with every subtle change of inflection, every spoken syllable.

His prince was alive – and the thought made him shiver at every intake of breath.

“Your concern is duly noted, Miss Romeyer,” Schneizel replied, still a picture of calmness save for a hint of sharpness in his voice. “An investigation will of course be conducted. You can rest assured that my knight will look into this matter as thoroughly as possible.”

Her cheeks coloured slightly at this rebuke and for a moment, it seemed like she would argue further if only to defend her pride. Thankfully, a particular look from the prince quickly discouraged any real execution of such scheme.

“In any case, we should get the ceremony done and over with, especially if their objective is to prevent it,” he spoke again and there was certain finality in his voice which rendered the subject closed. Miss Romeyer pursed her lips again but said nothing as the prince shifted his gaze toward Lord Vandewalle. “Alaric, I will have some of the Camulos Knight to stand on guard in their Knightmare tomorrow. We will not risk any chance. And as for the representative of the knight in the ceremony, you alone will suffice.”

A stony nod and a quiet bow. “Yes, my lord.”

“That is all for now. You are all dismissed.”

Suzaku hesitated for a moment, something very close to possessiveness, only far more vulnerable, weighing down his feet and heart at the thought of leaving, but he quickly realised that he had no reason to stay. Besides, there was still the interrogation to take care of.

And he didn’t know what he would do – what he wouldn’t be able to stop himself do – if…

“Suzaku.”

He turned around, so quickly that he almost lost his balance. Schneizel had risen to his feet, but he waited until Major Hershkin had closed the door and left them alone in the office before beginning to speak again.

“I have yet to thank you.”

“It was my duty, Your Highness.” Even to his ears his voice sounded strange. Suzaku swallowed, thoughts rippling dangerously on the surface of his mind as the older man approached him. This was dangerous, a panicked voice told him urgently, and he knew it was right and he wanted to run away – must run away – before everything was too late.

But it was too late. He almost flinched away when his left hand was taken, now cradled between gloved, longer fingers, pristine white in contrast with his bloodied ones.

“Are you injured?” the prince asked, a note of concern in his voice.

“No, Your Highness,” Suzaku answered quickly, the words tumbling out of his mouth in a rush. “This isn’t my blood. I was–”

…beating their prisoner until he bruised and bled. Suzaku blinked, words vanishing just as quickly, but the blood didn’t disappear and he was still the person who abused a bound, helpless man and didn’t care about it. The memory made him feel sick; the things he had just done, to a man who shared his motherland – and yet threatened his prince’s life – who perhaps only wanted to see Japan liberated like he did – and yet threatened his prince’s life – who fought bravely, ready to throw his life away if needs be – and yet threatened his prince’s life, his prince, his prince, his prince.

His prince.


It seemed to be the only justification he could find for his actions – and it seemed to be the only justification he needed.

“It may be your duty, but it is no small matter for me,” Schneizel said again, fingers now a gentle touch on his left cheek. Suzaku stared at him, and wanted to cry if the desire to laugh wasn’t just as overwhelming. There was no question of small or big for him. Not in this. The only thing he had known back then in the interrogation chamber, the only thing he knew now, was that he had to protect this man who had come to matter so much to him that Suzaku knew he would die if he failed.

“What I meant is Your Highness does not need to thank me,” he managed the reply, but couldn’t do anything about the little tremors that came with it. He was barely able to think, let alone bother with things like modulating the tone of his voice.

But then his master smiled and that was it. His eyes snapped shut, quietly, almost involuntarily, when Schneizel kissed him, slow, long swipes that made him moan just at the feel of it. He fisted his hands into rigid balls at his side, everything he could do not to throw his arms around the older man’s body – only to feel, to convince himself that this was the one thing he hadn’t done wrong and he hadn’t failed to protect this time. But he must not, or he would risk Schneizel finding out what a mess he actually was right now.

And he couldn’t have that. He was a knight first and foremost, not a lover.

“I shall see you tomorrow at the ceremony,” the prince said once he had ended the kiss and Suzaku immediately recognised it as dismissal. He bowed and excused himself from the room without a word, only too aware that he was still breathing heavily. It was not until he had put a reasonable distance between him and the office that he allowed himself to feel the tremor in his hands, coursing through the rest of his body like poison. There was no one around and it was in this luxury that he wrapped an arm around himself, one hand covering his mouth because the tingles on his lips were still too much of a reminder. The scent of blood was to strong, on his fingers, hand, everywhere.

This was exactly why falling in love with the prince he was supposed to protect was an incredibly stupid thing to do – and not to mention, dangerous. Putting his life on the line was one thing, but this was different; this was death, brushing too close to a person he would go and freeze hell for and Suzaku didn’t know what, why, how he should deal with it, the realisation of the actual extent he would go for his master. The things he could bring himself to do.

“Suzaku.”

He whipped his head up at the familiar voice and, through eyes that misted and burned, saw Jacques walking toward him. Breathing shakily, he looked away but knew that there was nothing he could do about the tears in his eyes – and his friend had seen them anyway.

“What’s wrong?” Jacques asked tentatively but kept himself at an arm’s length, clearly unsure of his footing in this situation he had stumbled into.

“Nothing,” Suzaku answered quietly, shoving everything but the lie back in. His gaze slid past the other man’s shoulder, mainly because he didn't want to know what kind of expression his friend was wearing. “You were looking for me?”

Jacques hesitated. “I really don’t want to be the one who says this to you,” he muttered.

There was a moment of stiff silence, spanning across the distance between them like a rope drawn too taut. Suzaku returned his gaze to the other man, fixing him a blank look. “Is this about earlier?”

The uneasiness became more palpable on his face as Jacques seemed to struggle with words and silence. “You really shouldn’t do that,” he said at last, his voice heavy with reluctance.

Suzaku fought against an urge to roll his eyes. “Back then in the academy,” he said flatly, “we were taught how to interrogate and how to endure interrogation. It is a method to gain information, and it is something that we do.” He paused, swallowing the bile which was rising in his throat, the memory of pounding head and stomach aching from one too many kick the Britannians had seen fit to give him. “He must tell me the truth. I need to know.”

“What I meant is you shouldn’t do that,” Jacques replied, his eyes sharp on him. “Of course we’ll interrogate him. Of course we’ll beat him up if he doesn’t give us the information we need. But he’s Japanese and so are you, honorary Britannian or not. This can get ugly if we don’t proceed carefully.”

Suzaku let his gaze harden, even though he knew that the other man was right. “He isn’t telling us anything.”

“He hasn’t,” Jacques corrected. “I guarantee you that he will, but you’re the wrong person for the job. He hates you, he thinks you’re a traitor, and anger fuels him. There is nothing worse than that kind of stubbornness. And in case you've forgotten, there’s also the precariousness of your position to consider.”

The hand which rested on his shoulder was meant to be comforting, but it took him everything not to flinch away. “Leave it to us,” Jacques told him. “He’ll crack down in due time, but you stay away from this.”

Suzaku nodded numbly, avoiding his friend’s eyes. He knew what his obligations were, what he must do, but he couldn’t shake off the thought that he had become one of those he hated the most. It was all wrong. Love, loyalty shouldn’t turn one into a monster.

And yet it had.

End

-----

Kekekekekeke....

Next Installation: The Right to Bleed
Tags: !series: infinity, fandom: code geass, pairing: schneizel/suzaku
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