“What did I do wrong?”
“You very well know what you did wrong.” Turning towards the enormous, hand-drawn map sprawled on the table, she glanced at the blue rivers and grey mountains of the surrounding area. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him duck properly into the spacious tent.

“You can’t still be upset over that.”
“What you did wasn’t some trivial matter, Lelouch! What if you’d gotten our men injured? What if you’d been hurt?”

He was taken aback by her outburst. She rarely ever spoke with such anger in her voice, even to him, so the fact that the guards posted outside had probably heard her fury and were quietly listening as such.

“I’m sor-”
“That’s unacceptable,” she hissed. “You won’t be forgiven so easily for endangering not only your life, but those of others as well. You’re not a child, Lelouch. You should have known better.”

He stood in silence and shame. Of course. He hadn’t expected as much from her; her fairness as a ruler extended to even the most private corners of her life, and as he reflected over his errs and wrongdoings, he studied the fatigue marring her face. Expeditions such as these were always difficult on the body, but how she of all people was able to stand there on her own two feet was honestly somewhat astonishing, what with her sleeplessness.

“I really do apologize, C.C. I give you my word to place the well-being of our men first and foremost.”
“See that you do,” she replied tightly. Unfurling her whitened hands, she turned her back on him and let them fall to her sides. Shoulders falling, she was so still, the only sign of life was the slightest fluttering of her robes as her chest rose and fell in rhythm with her exhaustion.

Softly, he crossed the expanse separating them to wrap his arms gently around her. Leaning down, he closed his eyes. Moments passed before she hesitantly touched his arm.

“…I don’t know what I would do if I lost you too after…” Her voice broke as his queen stumbled over memories of a bright smile and warm eyes. “I don’t know what I would do.”

His own self recalling that blissful time, his eyes glistened in the soft light of the lantern. A lump appearing in his throat, he pursed his lips together. What he wouldn’t give to return to those days of unimaginable happiness. The last he’d seen her smile – truly smile, not the simple upturn of her lips – was the day before their lives ended. She had laughed so fully then; would she ever again?

“I wouldn’t have thought you felt that way about me after yesterday.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you not see me falling out of my saddle? Apparently I’d forgotten to tighten it properly, and it betrayed me once I tried to mount. Landed inches away from a pile of shit. Alexei refused to let it go the entire rest of the day.”

She smiled, making the grief in her eyes briefly subside. Resting his cheek on her head, he reached for her hand. Interlocking their fingers together, he said, “An interesting choice of prince you’ve selected for your people, you have.”

“I still stand by my decision.”
“Even after all these years?”
“Don’t misunderstand. It surprises me too.”

Comforted by the teasing in her voice, he kissed her temple. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too.” And she replied to his kiss with as much love as she could muster.


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