~*The Magical Helpers*~
Don't give me love, don't give me faith
Wisdom nor pride, give innocence instead
Don't give me love, I've had my share
Beauty nor rest, give me truth instead
In the aftermath of Lelouch the Devil Emperor's public elimination, everyone rejoices. A great celebration is thrown where the former criminals, turned heroes in the spur of the moment, have fun, happy over the fact that they are going to continue living.
Everyone is the witness of the sweet (overly sugary) reunion of Ougi and Viletta, two lovers separated and brought together by the war. The feelings in their eyes sum up all emotion on Earth at that exact moment.
A week later, the media would take the story and milk it so vigorously that it would lose its value and instead become a well-known cliché that everyone hates.
Tamaki, the clown, has gone to the extreme with sake and is now recounting various adventures with him and his best bud, Zero, whom he has never once doubted and has always trusted. The hiccups and the sway in his posture are a telltale sign that he was drunk. Piss drunk. However, there are still girls who listen to him, following every move of that tipsy mouth with big teary eyes and the occasional 'ah' and 'oh'.
Tohdoh-san and Chiba-san are absent from the party and she guesses that woman has finally confessed and they are off, doing what should have been done long ago.
The new Empress, the Hundredth Empress of Britannia, the Gentle Princess is finally on the throne, ready to lead the people to a new era, an era of peace. She will make them forget the reign of the Demon Emperor.
The quiet, handicapped girl she remembers from her carefree days of high school is sitting on the throne of Britannia, beaming like there's no tomorrow, with enormous baby lilac eyes, the eerie Zero ever so present by her side.
And it's not like Kallen doesn't like the turn of events.
However, everyone has forgotten about those who sacrificed: Lelouch, C.C., Suzaku.
(she doesn't like that new Zero: way too broad shoulders, way too fast and definitely way too blunt)
Life turns into something of a fairytale ever after.
She continues her studies and lives in a small but cozy apartment out of town with her mother. She still sees her friends, gathers with her battle mates and watches Milly make a fool out of herself on the morning news.
(the only problem is owls – they screech at night, as though scolding her, disrupting her sleep)
She eats homemade pie every Wednesday, cupcakes on Sunday. Trains twice a day.
Longs for the lost days every second.
wonders what it's like to serve under him again—
Once she visits Suzaku's grave with Gino.
Having cast aside his annoying persona, the blond watches his friend's grave and quietly tells her of the former Knight of Zero's little habits. She is surprised that he hadn't changed much between him attending the Ashford Academy and becoming one of the Knights of Rounds.
Gently she weaves an arm around his shoulders and wonders who had done that for Lelouch (the answer is easy – that sleazy green-haired accomplice of his, of course). Gino laughs awkwardly and tries a new pick up line on her. She laughs half-heartedly and smacks him on his arm.
A flock of birds takes off, startled and only after the distinctive sound of crowing she realizes that those are ravens.
A black feather descends to rest onto Suzaku's tombstone.
She looks around the barracks and wonders why it had all changed.
Tamaki shows her around, happy to have her back. On the way, he explains to her about all the changes and she learns all the new gossip.
She passes random, new faces she doesn't know and shudders. What has happened here? Didn't this place use to be her home? Why did it all change?
No Knightmares, no Ougi overthinking, no Tohdoh making strategic decisions that didn't make sense to anybody, no weird green-haired women eating pizzas, no office of Zero's smelling of pizza…
Everything is so alien now.
And when she meets Zero, she knows.
Who he truly is.
She knows the aura around this new Zero.
They show her around. As though she hasn't spent two or three years here (she can't remember anymore), as though she hasn't contributed to the making of this place, as though she didn't use to be Zero's ace, as though she is nobody.
Zero doesn't even spare her a glance and instead gives commands as they go. She watches this alien (not alien; she knows him quite well, she even thought she was his murderer; but apparently she is wrong) and wonders when she'd be able to ask him of his true self and gloat as he is surprised.
She quite likes this new place.
They are finally alone.
Kallen smiles bitterly.
"Long time no see."
(They offer her medals, titles, prizes, money, everything.
She refuses it all.)
He climbs in her room one breezy night.
A dark mask is tied comfortably around his face, but she knows.
"Why did you come?"
The black fabric falls down to reveal emerald eyes she once hated but now understands.
It's his turn to laugh bitterly.
"It's nice to have somebody who doesn't think you are dead."
The screech of an owl echoes in the distance.
That night they catch up to each other.
They tell each other their side of the story. And for the first time she is sure she understands him.
In the night, sometime around 3 o'clock they hear the owls again. She whines about them and he laughs: a small, forced laugh, but it warms her insides. At least, let one of them unfortunate souls be happy even for a second.
(Loves the fact that they are so honest to each other)
She visits the grave, this time alone.
There are ravens everywhere, on trees, on other graves, but they kept their distance from her and Suzaku's grave.
She watches them carefully, studies their proud posture, the way they move, not quite like the constant moving of pigeons' heads, not quite like the shy, scared hops of sparrows, not quite as powerful as eagles.
Such prideful creatures.
One day, the sun shines in Zero's office (she finds she misses the aroma of pizza) and she asks him not to give her a rank or any kind of prize.
Suzaku would understand.
And he does.
They go out one day; she, Suzaku and Nunnally.
She is amazed by how little it's needed as camouflage for the supposedly deceased knight and the Empress to appear as normal people enjoying a Sunday walk in the park.
(Wonders if it was really that easy for Lelouch to fool them all)
They laugh and joke, voices tangled, and it feels so strange. Nunnally buys pigeon food and gives it to the not-so-hungry grayish birds (giggling merrily as she did).
It's hard to believe the person who gave back faith to all the people in the world is feeding birds in an often-visited park in newly-rebuilt Tokyo.
Suzaku and Kallen glanced at each other, and then looked away, uncomfortable with feeling the same way.
They didn't want faith.
And amidst the gray pigeons and the occasional sparrow, Kallen notices a dove, pure white, untouched by the city pollution.
She visits Suzaku's grave the third time, this time with the dead himself.
They stand in silence, surrounded by ravens.
Crowing's so ugly, she realizes.
Arthur comes back and makes a show of sudden care as he rubs against Suzaku's leg, clad in Zero armor. He picks it up and absent-mindedly strokes its fur. The feline starts purring lightly, but hisses after noticing all the birds.
In a fit of abrupt rage, she shoos them away.
"Thank you," he murmurs.
She guesses it's a good time to hold his hand, but she doesn't.
They have enough pride as it goes.
One day, Zero returns to an office smelling of pizza.
Through his visor he sees her with her 'I wanna do stupid things' face on and a few boxes of pizza in her hands. She lifts her shoulders and taps the pizza boxes questioningly.
He doesn't smile.
"She loved those, didn't she?"
They spend the day watching trashy movies, criticizing them, eating pizza all the while.
It's a Wednesday and she doesn't remember if she'd ever had more fun than now.
Tamaki rages that she has stolen his best bud (that has never actually been his friend), but she ignores him for the most part.
Seriously, the guy's great and all, but he can and will be annoyance from time to time.
Over the years she is reprimanded about her actions in the war more often than she's praised. Every time something like this happens, she lashes out and gets even angrier. In the end, she is always the wrong one and she is asked to be calmed and to be a little wiser than her years.
Fools, she thinks.
(As if they could understand her wisdom that went way beyond her youth)
He takes her to a fair one day.
She finally realizes that when he casts aside his Zero mask and puts on those sunglasses, Suzaku can be a pretty cool guy.
They laugh at the scariest rides (this kind of adrenaline they receive is so fake), win prizes easily (piece of cake for their abilities) and eat candies. She has the opportunity to hold his hand but she doesn't.
They go to the park again. The three of them: she, Suzaku and Nunnally.
Nunnally buys bird food again and feeds the little fat creatures as she muses if she can get pet pigeons in her castle. Suzaku quickly laughs it off, before she decides to actually do it.
The pale dove returns and this time it comes near the two young adults who want nothing of it. It even rests on Suzaku's hands (damn creatures becoming way too tame) and reminds him of Princess Euphemia's way with animals but he doesn't feel the ghost of the usual pang of self-wrenching guilt that once consumed him whole.
Kallen slowly lifts a battle-worn finger and caresses its head. The bird lets her do that and remains awfully calm; both of them know the other hates that feeling.
It flies away to Nunnally again, where its rightful place is, and the two exhale a sigh of relief.
She wishes she could be as calm as that bird.
But Kouziki Kallen is never calm.
—doesn't need to be —
Once he comes in her apartment as silent as the night that shrouded his escape from the Zero duties.
"The owl's gone," he grins after noticing her quizzical expression, "Now you can sleep."
She beams at him and then tells him about a book she'd just read.
In it, they said that there had always been two types of soldiers:
The ones who get over war.
And those who don't.
She doesn't know which one she is. She didn't know which one Suzaku is either.
For once, she decides where they should go on Wednesdays.
They visit the zoo.
He quite likes the swans.
They are white, pure and innocent.
There are certain things that are taboo to them.
But if she is something, Kallen is a taboo-breaker.
"Tell me about Princess Euphemia," she whispers to him once, after training, when they are exhausted and lay next to each other, gasping for breath.
He chokes, for another different reason, but once he gains his breath, they spend two hours talking about Suzaku's first love. She realizes why he liked those swans back at the zoo.
Then he asks her to tell him about Lelouch.
It's her turn to choke.
She admits it. They could have had an amazing romance.
Both equals, both fighters who believed in what they fought for, both loyal to death.
Former enemies, met on the battlefields, but now that the war was over, they could finally let their feelings show.
Both have lost loves and now, they could finally heal from the wounds.
But they didn't.
Tamaki once asks her if she has a mask fetish or something.
She smacks him across the face.
She takes Suzaku to the zoo again. Specifically – to the pond of swans.
With a smile on her face, she shows him the grace of those birds and jokes that Euphemia can't be like them, because she's always been so clumsy.
He laughs and adds that he's always thought Lelouch resembled a penguin when he moved.
They both conclude the royal family wasn't really known for its grace and laugh to their hearts' content.
Both of them know how fragile love is.
How fragile life is.
How easily hearts break.
(As easily as a swan's graceful neck)
She couldn't love Suzaku. Not like that. She couldn't fall in love with him. He was far too precious to her to lose him this easily.
Sometimes Kallen wonders if she hates Lelouch (not Zero; never Zero). Because of him, she is afraid to fall in love again.
(She doesn't, really. Kallen Kouzuki isn't afraid of anything.)
From time to time, Suzaku wonders what would have been if he had fallen in love with Kallen. Then, he realizes it wouldn't have been a good way for a fairytale to wrap up.
The bond of intimate love was far too fragile for fighters like them.
So in the end, they chose the stronger bond.
The bond of friendship.
(She doesn't have any problem with birds anymore.)
Suzaku smiles at Gino and Kallen through the mask of Zero as he watches them bicker playfully. They are truly endearing to watch and he loves teasing them, seeing their faces get scarlet.
Then his regard moves over to Nunnally, who's sitting in her chair and calmly drinking her tea. She looks up, all enormous lilac eyes he never got used to and gentle smile. The knowledge that she is aware of his true self seeps into his body and he feels his stomach tighten.
At that precise moment, he remembers one of Lelouch's wishes: marrying Nunnally. He finds the idea pleasing.
The soldiers returned from war.