As time passed by and they became more familiar with one another, they gradually began to meet beyond necessity. Even on days she didn’t have to work, he began to take her home, or, as it was more often, went elsewhere after school together until Milly had been completely liberated of taking her not only from school but to as well.
“The decisions come out today.”
He glanced up from the pot of hot chocolate he’d been making. It was unusual for her to be so openly anxious – but then again, she did a lot of things in front of him that would be considered unusual. Not that he minded; on the contrary, he liked it. There was a sense of pride that came with knowing that he was the only person she trusted enough to be so honest. Of course, there was perhaps Milly to contend with, but she and Milly had been going to school together since grade school, and they had only started earlier this year. If she considered him to be on the same level as Milly Ashford, then that had to be some feat, didn’t it?
Covering her face, she sat still on the sofa. Smiling with pity, he unwrapped a candy cane before sticking it into the cloud of whip cream that floated atop creamy chocolatey goodness. Coming to sit beside her, he handed her a mug.
“I suppose you’re in want of a distraction then?” He watched as she licked the whip cream from her upper lip with a quick flick of her tongue. “Though I really don’t see why you’re so worried. Why wouldn’t they want you?”
She dolefully stared into the depths of her cup until he lifted her chin with a finger. Settling back into the corner of the sofa, he softly asked her if there was anything he could do to help her. When she shrugged, he studied her for some time before standing up. Grabbing his jacket, he reached for his keys.
“Where are you going?”
“Come on.” He reached for her hand. “We’re going to go out for a drive.”
“Because it’s fun, and I haven’t done it in a while.”
When she remained in her seat, he sighed. Kneeling down so that they were nearly eye-level with one another, he said quietly, “C.C., I can’t change what the admissions board decided. No one can. The only thing I can do as your friend is make sure that you don’t let this moment – their judgment – define your opinion of yourself. So we’re going to go out for a drive, and then we’re going to have some pizza, and then if at the end of the evening, you still feel like shit, you can… Oh, I don’t know. You can paint my bike hot pink if you want, or take a bat to it.”
Was he really that confident? There was probably little he prized more than that motorcycle, and the fact that he was offering its complete mutilation was… For the first time, she realized the sincerity in his eyes, not only for the promise he had just made, but for everything else he had said and done before that moment – everything, she realized, including that kiss they had never discussed.
But why? Why was he so sincere? What had he to gain from being so generous? Not only now, but during the weeks leading up to this point, why had he been so gracious with his time and attention? Before this year, they hadn’t really known each other well. She’d been vaguely aware of his existence, though only as the faceless boyfriend of Kallen Stadtfeld, and he probably hadn’t even known of her until this year when they were put together in the same class by pure coincidence. So if that was true, why was he going so far as to offer his most prized possession as a sacrifice to her misery?
“Because I like you.”
Wasn’t that what he had said that morning, when she and Milly were sitting in the latter’s car and he’d told her he’d be more than happy to serve as her chauffeur as if he had no life of his own?
But because he liked her? Liked her? What did that mean? That he liked her?
“…Are we friends?”
He seemed taken aback by her uncertainty. Blinking at her, he seemed to search himself for the right words to describe his confusion – weren’t they friends? Hadn’t it been agreed upon, what with the endless hours they’d spent together? Never mind the feelings he’d long been harboring – when she told him how she’d heard of his break-up with Kallen Stadtfeld, who’d immediately hunted her down to snap and snarl at her for stealing what had been hers.
“Why don’t you think we’re friends?”
“I don’t…” She briefly paused as if her own thoughts scared her – a feeling he was all too familiar with after realizing that morning just last week why he’d had the dream he’d had. Eyes fluttering, she struggled to meet his steady gaze. Bending over to hide her face, she closed her eyes as she drew in a shaky breath.
“What don’t you, C.C.?” he said gently.
She was quiet for a long, long time. Lelouch’s knees began to ache under the weight of his body, but it was a pain that went unfelt as he waited with bated breath. What didn’t she?
“…I don’t…” She stared at the way he was holding her hand. When had he done that? But more importantly, since when had it felt so natural for him to touch her like that?
“I don’t think the way I feel is the way someone is supposed to feel about their friend. I think the way I feel is the way someone is supposed to feel about someone…more than that.”
Oh, God. Oh, God, oh, God, she’d finally said it. She’d been thinking it to herself for so long, had been hiding those words for so long, saying them aloud made it seem as if someone else was speaking in her place. Closing her eyes, she tightly squeezed his hand.
“Lelouch, why did you break up with Kallen?”
He knelt quietly before her, making her look up with furrowed brows and damp eyes begging for some clarity in the emotional mess she had helped create unwittingly.
“I’m not sure you really want to know why.”
“I want to know why.”
“C.C., once I tell you, we can’t ever go back to-”
“Why did you kiss me that day, Lelouch?”
He had kissed her that day because he had been in love with her, and because he had kissed her that day, he had begun to realize the real reason behind why he always wanted to spend so much time with her, why he was always texting and calling her and walking her to her classes and sitting down together at lunch; why his favorite part of the day had very easily and very quickly become those fifteen, twenty minutes after school when she had her arms wrapped around him and her head against his back. But how could he tell her that when he himself was unsure of what his feelings would mean in the context of their relationship?No, he’d had rather silence at his own expense than lose what little he had had, but as he knelt in front of her, after having already kissed her once, after having recognizing his feelings as love of the romantic – not the platonic – kind, after having finally detached himself from Kallen… How could he keep silent for any longer? Especially when she so obviously wanted – needed – the honest answer from him?
“I kissed you that day,” he said quietly, “because I’m in love with you. I’ve been in love with you. I just hadn’t said anything because-”
Later that evening as he reflected on the events of the day, he found himself wondering what he would be doing if they hadn’t gone home together after-school or if he had had said something different or if she had made another choice than the one she had. But as she came out of the bathroom, taking out first her right earring and then her left, before turning the lights off and sliding into bed beside him, he decided he didn’t particularly care about the what if’s. Not anymore anyway; what use did he have for them when the what-if had become reality?
What use did he have for them when he had had the kiss, had had the drive and dinner and now had the perfect ending to a rather perfect day, with her next to him in bed?
“I got in, by the way,” she said softly. Brushing her hair away from her eyes, he smiled at her.
“See? Why wouldn’t they want you?”
“I don’t know. But I’m glad they did in the end.”
And that was an admission he could readily make without so much as a second thought.