Fandom: Code GEASS: Lelouch of The Rebellion
Pairing: Schneizel el Britannia x Kururugi Suzaku
Disclaimer: Code GEASS belongs to Sunrise.
Challenge: 30_nights #24. My heart is bleeding for you…
Word Count: 2851
Summary: A small mistake and the length of the price he has to pay. And it’s only the beginning.
A/N: These ficlets feel more and more like chapters of one gigantic story. But I can’t stop.
Previous installation: Knightly Duties
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“He fell asleep.”
“In the middle of the Second Act. Can you believe it?”
Another voice, accentuated by a malicious laugh, responded, “Yes, actually. After all, if you spend the entire night trying to pleasure His Highness with your body…”
Jacques froze. And then he whipped around so fast that the three nobles ceased their gossiping at once. He couldn’t see the expression on his face – must be somewhere between cold displeasure and contempt – but it quickly served its purpose and drove them to escape from the area, retreating into the safety of the crowd. He followed their hurried movement with his eyes, still frowning while his mind processed everything he had just heard.
So that was what had happened.
Jacques swept his gaze across the congregate crowd. The hall of the opera house, decked chiefly in red and gold, was abuzz with murmurs of excited conversations as patrician members of the society indulged themselves in the newest gossip in town. The young man he was looking for was nowhere in sight, and neither was the Second Prince.
Then it must be true, what they were talking about. Jacques felt his hands curling into tight fists. Damn it. This was what they had been waiting, this huge gaffe which would allow them to openly spite and ridicule the new imperial knight. With the Spring Tournament just around the corner, Jacques could hardly think of a more unfortunate time for the blunder to occur.
And what in the name of the Emperor was Suzaku thinking, falling asleep during something as important as this?
He sighed and made his way to the door, ignoring the crowd and their despicable choice of topic – one would think that holding such high station in society, their taste would be considerably better. In truth, that kind of rumour had significantly decreased in the past few weeks, at least in public, and he had been hoping that it would disappear eventually. Now it only burned more furiously than ever.
Unbefitting of an imperial knight, they said. Very impolite. A proof to his inferior breeding. Undoubtedly would be a disgrace to the empire in the future.
Jacques seriously wanted to massacre them all. He had seen Suzaku, just before the Overture, looking thinner and more tired than he remembered ever seeing. His crush – or whatever it was – might have abated somewhat over the passing months, but it didn’t mean that he had stopped looking at the younger man or wanting to protect him in a somewhat more older-brotherly fashion now. But he knew that weariness couldn’t be an excuse. It indicated physical unfitness, which was thoroughly unacceptable if you were a knight to the member of the Imperial Family.
And no matter how unbearably tired one was, manners always came first. Incivility was a sin.
Standing in the cool night air with his coat clasped in one hand, he contemplated calling the younger man, but then quickly rejected the thought after a few deliberations. Later perhaps. Suzaku had his master to deal with first.
Jacques couldn’t help a grimace. It wouldn’t be a pretty conversation.
The car was encased in silence, the kind which shook and rumbled in the depth of ice. Words had the power to hurt, but even then, there were times when expressions confined in letters and speech were not enough. And then silence became punishment.
And it never failed.
His knight was a very straightforward person. He took comfort in voices and spoken words and other physical manifestations, either too naïve to read between the lines or incapable of doing so. But he could not stand silence. Not when it was wrought of so much guilt and perhaps, blame. He could never tell – he couldn’t read between the lines – and this lack of knowledge was driving him mad. It was evident in the way he sat, stiff, muscles tense beneath the white-and-gold ensemble he was lavishly dressed in. He was repeatedly biting his lips, words hovering at the edge of his tongue and yet failing to awaken his voice. He waited – for reproach, for expression of displeasure, for a more tangible kind of punishment.
But the prince was content to let the silence linger while he dealt with his own private turmoil. The blunder was certainly not impossible, but it was unexpected. The Duke of York was the nephew of the late 87th Emperor, and for his knight to fall asleep during an opera which the duke had so generously invited them to was a mistake so grave and as far as he knew, unprecedented.
The prince was disappointed, immensely so, but it was not the extent of his disappointment which disturbed him. It was the fact that he was angry.
Toward what he was less certain. After all, anger was an emotion he had not tasted firsthand for a very long time, this kind of sweltering anger which made his blood rush in his veins and compelled him to exercise more self-control than usually considered necessary. He was a ruler, powerful, steady on his emotional throne, but this anger was unfamiliar. He would have compared it to the sense of helplessness pooling in the pit of his stomach at seeing his mother in the evening before her death, eyes dull and flat as her husband left the room without so much as a glance at her, if he had not purged the memory from his mind.
They continued their wordless company, joined merely by silence and the quiet hum of the machine. It might be impatience, or the wish to escape from the obligation to dissect and analyze this arcane form of emotion, even for a moment, which made him reclaim his verbal sword at last.
“I must admit that I’m very disappointed,” he intoned and watched his knight flinch in his seat. Wide green eyes flicked toward his direction, the closest to fear he had ever seen from this young man, but obviously he was still brave enough to open his mouth and reply.
“I truly apologise, Your Highness,” his voice echoed in the empty expanse, small, like a whimper of a frightened animal. The prince suspected that Suzaku might not be much more than that at the moment.
Apologise. He smiled, but it was slight, cold. Apologies changed nothing, and certainly not the state of his anger.
“I have no need for excuses,” he said and left the words to hang between them like a broken cord as he turned his eyes once more to the car window, watching light and shadow flash by, both victims to velocity.
He sat on his throne, powerful, untouchable, and yet he was angry.
If regret had claws to kill, he would have died thousands times over. Or more.
Suzaku sat on his bed, eyes staring at the white coat draped on back of his chair, mind a few worlds away. It was almost repetitious to a point. Regret was something he had grown up with, something he had took to bed and breathed in tandem with for the best part of his life. This thought that he had failed in some way or another – to be a son, a friend, a knight – the serpent that coiled at his feet and brought his entire world to a standstill. All which was left was this silence that mocked him and his failure.
He never took failures well. Euphie, Lelouch, and then Nunnally. Each one locked him in the death grip of a new pair of shackles and they didn’t let go – he only forgot, but even those moments of blissful oblivion were ephemeral. These debts remained unpaid.
And yet, he was still stupid enough to fall asleep while trying to court the Duke of York’s favor.
Suzaku ran a hand through his hair, the fingers still trembling slightly under the onslaught of emotions. Moments like this were when he wished there was a shooting ground within walking distance where he could vent his frustration and anger and who knows what else boiling poisonously under his skin. To run away from that memory of cold disappointment in his lord’s eyes, etched deep in his mind, and that toneless voice haunting the rest.
He didn’t quite remember since when this obsession had begun. Wanting to please, wanting to do things right for the sake of a smile, a hint of approval on that regally handsome face. He couldn’t tell the difference anymore: fixation, love, loyalty, or perhaps a mixture of those three. And maybe a touch of madness to tie them all up into this slow, choking feeling that burned him alive.
It shouldn’t be this complicated. Loyalty only had one face – it was the rest that destroyed reason and common sense. There was no helping it, they said. It was a disease.
And how was he going to stay by the prince’s side until the end if he couldn’t even handle something like this?
Rising from the bed with a hurried rather than determined air, Suzaku reached for the white coat and slipped it on, his eyes looking for a numerical translation of the hour from the alarm clock sitting on the nightstand. A quarter past one. There was a slight chance that the prince was still awake, and if he wasn’t, he could just return to his room and wallow in his misery some more. Neither was the lesser evil.
The palace stood silent in the deepening night, cold, majestic, impervious – everything an imperial palace ought to be. His footfalls made an ominous echo against gilded walls and empty corridors braided together into an extravagant imitation of a labyrinth. Suzaku had no idea what he was going to do. To explain perhaps, even if there was nothing to explain. The last few days had been hectic and he had been too tired to focus on the performance. It was his fault through and through – there was no use looking for another explanation.
Both dread and relief flooded his chest at the sight of two guards standing on duty in front of the prince’s study. Neither smiled at his arrival, but one of them nodded slightly, an indication that he was free to enter.
He would have turned back and run, if the idea of such cowardice didn’t make him cringe.
The study was illuminated softly in a pale golden glow, a solitary lamp perching on the desk the only source of light in the medium-sized room. The prince sat on a high-backed chair behind the desk, his pen moving languorously across a piece of paper in a flourish of signature. He did not look up when his knight entered, although Suzaku imagined that he briefly saw the eyes flickering to his direction as he bowed and made his greeting.
“Good evening, Your Highness.”
“What do you need?” The question was curt and the speaker did not remove his attention from the document he was either approving or disapproving. Suzaku clenched his fists at the sight.
“I come to apologise, Sir.”
“You already have.” Another flourish, the tip of the pen scratching dryly against paper, but not a hint of acknowledgment to his presence other than a voice entirely devoid of nuance.
Suzaku struggled to keep his emotions in check and his voice level. “I…feel like I haven’t properly expressed my…“ He swallowed, sentences tumbling against each other, spluttering to death, and disappearing from the tip of his tongue faster than a blink of an eye. Months of training himself into a worthy knight, a worthy member of the Britannian Empire went out of the window, and he was left with nothing in the grip of desperation, only the blunt, painful truth.
A deep, shaky breath, and he slowly gathered the remnants of his wits. “I really apologise, Your Highness, it’s… the mistake will never happen again.”
“But the damage is done.” Violet eyes finally looked up and pinned him with a hard gaze. “What do you intend to do about it?”
Offering his head on a silver platter would hardly help in this case, so Suzaku chose the only other option he could think of. “I shall apologise to Lord Mirthyne tomorrow.”
A humorless smirk, almost disparaging despite the smoothness of its appearance, quirked the corners of the prince’s lips. “Do you think he will simply accept and let the matter slide?”
“I…” He breathed in sharply, caught in the pain that somehow, he had failed once more. “No, Sir.”
There was a moment of silence, so taut that it could snap under the slightest touch. Suzaku waited, for the next blow, for the next batch of chastisement. The prince returned his writing pen to its crystal holder and leant back against his chair.
“You will go tomorrow and deliver your apology, along with an invitation for the duke to sit with the Imperial Family at the tournament,” he finally said. “I believe we still have several seats open.”
“Why haven’t you slept yet?”
It stung, the way the question inquired for his condition and yet still falling so flat on his ears. “I…couldn’t sleep,” Suzaku answered slowly and tried not to wince at how pathetic it sounded in the desperate clutch of his feeble voice. The prince studied him, the expression on his face inscrutable.
The order made his muscles tense almost immediately. He tentatively approached but stopped a reasonable distance away from the chair. It was his lord who pulled him closer, the grip on his arm firm, almost to the point of hurting.
“Never disappoint me again, Suzaku.” His voice was low but sharp. “Never.”
This close, Suzaku could see hints of fatigue on the prince’s face, and if they didn’t pile more guilt onto the towering heap inside him, then they must have tumbled it over.
“Yes, my lord,” he answered, as firm as his unsteady voice allowed.
The hand on his arm snaked up and pulled him down, and the feel of the prince’s lips on his almost made him moan low in his throat. He managed to tone it down into a soft gasp, but the way his fingers curled on fine, silky fabric betrayed everything. The surprise, or relief, or something else entirely, almost sank him to his knees if it wasn’t for the fact that an arm had wound itself tightly around his waist. It felt like drowning, he vaguely reflected, and felt himself letting go, tension slowly melting from his body.
When they pulled apart, he already had one knee supporting his entire weight on the chair – right between the other man’s legs, he couldn’t help but notice and flush slightly at. His other foot barely touched the floor and one of his hands rested against the cushioned back of the chair, but this was as far as his observation went because at the next moment, the prince already spoke again.
“Stay with me tonight.”
His mind flew to a plethora of indecent thoughts rather quickly and Suzaku would have been ashamed if he wasn’t so immersed in his attempt to pull away. “Your Highness, I’m not sure if it would be wise–“
“Stay with me tonight and I may consider forgiving you,” his lord interrupted and for the first time in what seemed to be the longest night in his life, it carried the old trace of amusement he had been so used to hear.
And then, of course, he had to obey. “If that is what my lord wishes,” he murmured in resignation.
There was a hint of a smile, although it didn’t quite reach those beautiful violet eyes. The prince rested a hand on the side of his neck, the thumb caressing his jaw in languid strokes, and then said, almost plaintively, “You look tired.”
“As does Your Highness.” The reply left his mouth before he could help it and it earned him a flash of a more pronounced smile.
“This will not be the last,” he spoke softly – and for once, his cultured tone was riddled with splinters of emotions instead of imperturbable calmness. “From now on there will be more pressure, more jealousy, more hate. It will not be easy to lead the charge and if you wish to be the commander of my entire army, these are only a fraction of what you have to face.”
“I understand,” Suzaku felt himself nodding, giving in. “But I have no intention to back down. Put me up front and I will be Your Highness’s sword and shield.” He paused, hand slipping from the older man’s shoulder, and then added in a more solemn voice, “I will not disappoint again.”
“All for your country?”
The question was spoken softly, but it shook him to the core. For his country. Yes, of course. There was no other reason why he would fight, was there?
But the prince saw through his moment of indecision and only smiled before then rising to his feet, pushing him away in process.
“When the time comes, I shall grant your wish,” he said and it explained nothing, but Suzaku was too afraid to ask for one.
Notes: I really enjoy trying to make Schneizel a heartless bastard and then failing completely.
And why do all my fics always end with him molesting Suzaku in some way?
Next Installation: Of Falling and Rising