By the hands of the Gods, you have been plucked from your time and from your world, dropped into the box.
Only the box is a world of its own.
We are a mass crossover based on the concept of Pandora's Box. Characters from nearly any fandom can be played here. Because of the endless character possibilities, we are canon only here at Pandora. Take a peek at our rules and plot information before starting your new life in Pandora.
In the hours since waking up in the middle of nowhere with nothing but memories of the events since transpired, Suzaku understands only two truths as absolute: one, that the killing game's reality exists outside of the realm of the world he's always known, and that he, in all the years since Zero Requiem was completed in its entirety, hasn't changed at all. The kind of vulnerability that led to his ultimate demise could only have come from Suzaku and no one else, after all, not Zero and not the ghost that exists for only the purpose of carrying on his legacy. Try as he might to erase himself from existence, at the end of the day it is still Suzaku that played the game and lost. Still Suzaku that failed to deliver on a promise to keep the ones closest to him safe from harm.
The world turns. Continues, regardless of all those living in it. After all, what's one less existence in the context of an infinitely greater whole? Who's to say that he'll be remembered after he's gone?
(If a tree falls in a forest and there's nobody around, did it make a sound?)
He walks as if on autopilot after speaking with Euphy. There's no point in pretending that it's anyone other than the most important person in his life that has always held a place right alongside her that he's heading towards, and less when it comes to the thoughts running in his head of what to say now that everything has come to light. Avoiding the issue at hand can only last for so long, but even he never expected it all to spill over in the manner that it did. Force the thread of fate that connects them all together at the risk of it snapping into several pieces. And like a shattered mirror put back together, it - once broken - will never, ever be the same as before.
"...Lelouch?" Suzaku lets silence hang in the air for a second before he breaks it. No doubt Lelouch will notice him before long (if not before) anyways, and better to start off the conversation than have the ball fall to him in order to continue. "I'm - back." Feels like it's been forever since he was just Suzaku and nothing more, in a plain t-shirt and jeans and speaking as himself with both hands stuffed in his pockets. Foreign in the worst possible way, but no choice but to face things head on now that they've both been backed into a metaphorical corner.
(If a tree falls in a forest and no one cares, does it even matter?)
@Lelouch vi Britannia i'm so sorry this took such a horrendously long time to set up, but i'm stoked for this thread! let me know if i need to fix anything and i'd be happy to do so. <3
Memory is the natural enemy of sleep, and so it follows that sleep is something that Lelouch has been doing little of as of late. With the image of Suzaku’s corpse painted on the back of his eyelids, it’s expected. Insomnia is a logical sequela, he thinks. And without the waste inherent to sleep, he’s able to dedicate himself fully to his task: to end the Game, to enact some hollow semblance of justice on the one who took Suzaku from them.
The moment it all ends is sobering. There’s no justice in it, no catharsis. The weight of the world falls back onto Lelouch’s shoulders, and he breathes for what feels like the first time in a long while.
It takes time for the news to reach him but reach him it does eventually: the participants are alive. Battered and bruised and bearing scars, but alive.
Their merry band of outsiders scatters after this – back to their respective homes to welcome loved ones, to sleep, to bask in a moment that should probably feel victorious (it doesn’t). Lelouch remains, in a building that he’s maintained under a false name and used as a safe place for him and Euphemia to call home, if only for a short while. The other outsiders have been here too, and their presence is marked by whiteboards full of conjecture and code, in pinned up photographs keeping track of participants and potential outside targets.
One-by-one, Lelouch takes down the tacks. He erases the whiteboards. He stuffs trashbags full of coffee filters and empty takeout containers. He neatly gathers belongings and piles them according to their respective owners, to be picked up eventually, someday.
The sound of the door is not unwelcome – Lelouch knows who the visitor is even without turning around. Euphemia must have given him the address, Lelouch thinks. And then, his name. Lelouch’s grip tightens on the broom he’s holding, and even that does not suppress the shudder that passes through him. He breathes: in, out. And then he turns.
Lelouch wants to say something reassuring or something damning – he can’t quite decide, and so he settles on the name that was never supposed to be spoken again: “Suzaku.” It is Suzaku standing in the doorway after all, so casual and plain and him. Selfishly, Lelouch is relieved. He was never supposed to live to meet Zero beyond the briefest of moments, never supposed to have to wrestle with the consequences of unwriting Suzaku Kururugi and replacing him with a mask.
“I should have it realized sooner, that you were never dead. I should have found you sooner,” Lelouch tries to keep the breadth of that guilt out of his voice, but he’s tired and the hollowness of it washes over him like a tide. As he stands there with a death grip on the broom, he wrestles with emotion that threatens to overwhelm.
There’s a pause, and then: “But you’re back now. For how long?” They both know what he means: for how long are you you?
The moment it takes for Lelouch to turn around feels like a lifetime. A Sword of Damocles as it hangs in the air with all the certainty of walking a fine tightrope, though it isn't until the second instance (when he speaks) that Suzaku lets out the breath he never knew he was holding to begin with. A name that should mean nothing to either of them now takes on new light with everything since happened in the altogether brief time he's been away in the grand scheme of things. Though given the circumstances when he first set foot in Pandora, perhaps this - the confrontation, a silent but calming clash - was inevitable from the start.
"What would you have done if you did?" Suzaku curls the fingers of one hand into a loose fist at his side. The rest, he drags along the fabric of his jeans with enough pressure that it can be felt by the skin underneath. "Tried to save me? Put yourself in danger and possibly risk your life again?" For Lelouch, it hasn't been very long since Zero Requiem. Same as he always was (still is) in all aspects, the sideways curl of Suzaku's expression despite not being allowed to feel anything at all.
"Think of the people you'd be leaving behind." Any effort to keep his voice steady proves ultimately futile. It trembles, rises and falls to an unsteady beat that never quite crescendos past a certain volume, subdued in contrast to the way each word echoes like a clap of thunder in his head. "Euphy. Nunnally, if she were to ever end up here as well." So much more that he should be saying, but in the moment all meaningful words vanish into thin air.
I can't lose you again, Suzaku wants to say.
"It wasn't your fault." And in the end, any chance at the truth is once again lost.
"I was careless and let my guard down." He turns his head to one side and looks at the ground. Too human in every movement that comes into focus through hyperawareness, but no way to stop the dam from bursting now that it's overflowed. "Zero would never have made such a gross miscalculation. I'm still - me, even though I can't be." At this, Suzaku snaps his head up and grits his teeth until they're just short of breaking. "So tell me - what should I do now, Lelouch?" What else is there going forward, if not to fall apart all over again?
‘I would have performed miracles,’ Lelouch wants to say.
He doesn’t. Instead, he listens to Suzaku’s sound reasoning, reasoning that covers all of the risk and none of the reward. There is very little that Lelouch will not do for Suzaku’s sake – and he knows that, frighteningly, Euphemia is of a similar mind. What would they not do for Suzaku’s sake? For Suzaku, Euphemia had donned the mask that had killed her. For Suzaku, Lelouch had danced with the devil herself. All meaningless gestures, in the end, but no more meaningless than whatever imaginary wall exists here between them.
Ultimately, Suzaku’s words are platitudes. Appeasements. Excuses. And they’re supposed to be beyond that.
He holds Suzaku’s gaze – he can’t pretend that the names listed off mean nothing to him, but the omission of Suzaku’s own name is something that Lelouch latches onto pettily. “If you’re Zero, then I’m already dead,” he counters after a moment, not moving from his spot where he clutches the broom so tightly. The Zero Requiem is a penance. A promise. A wish. And of the two of them, Lelouch is the one who has not held up his end. He lives and breathes and continues on as Suzaku molders behind the mask.
It was never supposed to be that way.
Perhaps there’s something poetic in Suzaku speaking as though Lelouch was not meant to die. Lelouch himself is not quite sure what to make of it.
He sets the broom down to lean against the wall, his knuckles still white as he wrings his hands together. There’s something strange in their meeting here, in such a lonely, dingy space, a far cry from the grand halls and cathedrals of Pendragon.
The final question hangs between them. Lelouch, for whom commanding is nearly second nature at this point, finds himself oddly at a loss. Suzaku is seeking… something. Reaffirmation, maybe. Reaching for confirmation that the Requiem is as they left it. That they are as they were: allies, knight and emperor, likeminded fools. Whatever description skirts around the question of whether or not they can still even use the word friend.
Lelouch is tired. Whatever had been driving his sleepless nights during the Game has left him now with only dark circles under his eyes and an exhaustion deep in his marrow. He opens his mouth to speak, closes it, then opens it again. “You should live, Suzaku,” he says, quiet. “The price has been paid, and this world is not the one we bargained to save.” The words come tumbling out, blasphemous and yet somehow entirely true. Lelouch half expects Suzaku to be lost forever here, for his eyes to turn back to that same cold steel he’d wielded during the war.
“Perhaps it’s a selfish request,” he acquiesces, “but that’s one thing that hasn’t changed.”