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The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

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[CG] "Orchid and Rose" (Clovis, PG) [Sep. 16th, 2008|09:33 pm]
The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword


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Title: Orchid and Rose
Author: hopechan
Fandom: Code Geass
Rating: PG
Warnings: None
Word count: 6,000. What the shiiiiit.
Music: "Sweet Esme" by Joanna Newsom.
For: vicks111 on cg_flashfic, who wanted Clovis so bad she did a little heart. So I tried to respond.
Comments: God, am I PMS'n or what? Because for some reason this fic gets me really emotional. DDDD= I dunno what it is, if it's that I'm listening to that song on repeat and it's so incredibly sweet, or if it's PMS, or if there's too much of my own relationships and fears and history in here or what, but somehow this story became deeply, deeply personal and UM YEAH. Jesus. Whatever. It's a story.
This fic could be improved some - the build is wrong, and the ending could be strengthened, and I should really go through and tighten up the thematic elements to make them more consistent. But I really need to post this shit up so as to not be working on it at all times when I need to be doing phonetic analysis of early 20th century Russian poetry, and calculus. FUCK TEST TOMORROW, FUCK IT.

Summary: Being caught between greatness and goodness will tear you apart.

His mother was beautiful, with golden ringlets to her waist and tiny birdlike hands. She’d been stick thin before she’d given birth, and also after it. He had a picture of her from when she was still pregnant with him. She looked strange then, a startled expression on her face, her hair gathered at the nape of her neck, her limbs at odd angles like twigs sticking off a gall.

"That isn’t hardly me," she’d murmured unblinking when she’d found that picture, then had laughed and set it aside. Clovis had salvaged it that afternoon from the garbage.

She had pink lips and pink cheeks and hands that felt soft and fragile like flower petals. Her eyelashes were long and her eyes were blue and always open wide. Clovis knew a lot about her but very little of her, and he wondered if that should make him sad.

"Your mom's so pretty," said Euphemia, age five, dressed in violet and slippers, walking in circles on the balls of her feet with arms stretched outwards.

Clovis looked up from his the chessboard to smile at his little sister. "She used to be a ballerina."

Euphemia dropped back down onto the flats of her feet to turn to look at Clovis with wide eyes. "I'm a ballerina," she whispered solemnly.

"Yes, you are," Clovis laughed, glancing over at serious Lelouch who wasn't looking up from his pieces. "It's easy to tell. You're naturally graceful."

"Am I?" Euphie asked, her face brightening as she went back on her toes.

"Oh yes," said Clovis.

"Check," said Lelouch.

Clovis looked back to the pieces, startled. He hadn't seen a check coming for another few moves yet - but there it was, a knight sitting one move from his king, languid in the sunlight and soft birdsong. Clovis frowned, looked up at his tiny strange brother, then looked back down and bit his thumb.

"Can I meet your mom, Clovis?" Euphie asked.

"Um," Clovis said, trying to push her question off to the side in favor of the possible paths of his bishop.

"I can't get this right - " In his periphery, Euphemia made some jump - "And I want to ask her how to do it. Can I talk to her?"

"She doesn't really like to..."

"It's really hard, this." Again that jump. "And I - "

"Can I focus on this?" Clovis snapped, and then immediately looked up in horror to see her face - hurt, surprised, worst of all sad. He looked back down and swallowed and made his move.

"Sorry, Euphie," came Lelouch's high soft voice. "I'm sort of distracting Clovis. Sorry to you, too, Clovis," he said, and in that moment, like in all other moments, Clovis hated Lelouch a little bit. Just a little bit. A little bit more when he nudged his queen and said, "Checkmate."

The very first time Clovis saw Lelouch, Lelouch was one, silent, and alert in his mother's arms. Clovis watched the way that Empress Marianne held the boy. He watched the kindness on her face.

The third time was four years later, when Lelouch sat alone in the gardens of the Imperial palace, balancing rocks one atop another and mortaring them with mud to make a fortress by the side of the lily pond. Clovis slowed to watch the boy, the smile fading from his face.

"What are you doing there?" Clovis called out to him. Lelouch had looked up, his brow furrowed, clutching a rock to his chest. Clovis stepped forward, his head cocked to the side, hesitant. He'd wondered if the boy was simple.

"Are you building something?" Clovis had asked.

"A rather poor something," Lelouch had answered softly, his diction precise. Clovis blinked, startled by this sudden turnaround. That moment stayed with him a long while - the small boy, hunched alone in the sweet-scented shade by the quiet water, his face compressed and lonely, building a castle that Clovis certainly wouldn't have been able to build at age five.

"Um, well..." Clovis had cleared his throat. "We're, um, playing hide-and-seek - " He winced, then, suddenly painfully aware of how childish a game it was. No matter. "If you want to join."

Maybe Lelouch's face had been contemptuous, or maybe it had been wary, or maybe it had been desperate. Clovis couldn't remember, as much as he tried to remember, thinking maybe it would give some insight into the boy, but that moment had been brief. And then Oscar had come running up behind him, out of breath and laughing.

"I say, Clovis, you really are quite bad at this game..." He slowed to a trot as he reached Clovis' shoulder. "Now what's this?"

"Um," said Clovis.

Oscar was the Fifth Prince, a few months younger than Clovis. He was the best friend Clovis had - jolly, good-natured, a little judgmental and a little snobby but usually quite nice. Which was why it was so strange to see him lean forward, his hands braced against his knees, a grin twisting his face as he said, "My word. You're the commoner's boy, aren't you?"

Lelouch's sad? wary? face turned hard and contemptuous. He looked as disaffected and as cold as any five-year-old had ever looked, or would ever look. "What of it?" he asked haughtily.

"I thought I'd smelled something," Oscar laughed, straightening up to cross his arms with a hard-edged laugh. "A certain...stink on the air..."

Lelouch's hand tightened on the rock he held. His narrow jaw tensed.

"It's quite unmistakable, don't you think?" Oscar continued, turning a glance towards Clovis. It was strangely needy, almost puppyish, and Clovis didn't know how to react, so he didn't say anything. Oscar looked back towards Lelouch. "Smells like the stables, a little like garbage - mostly just like a fish-market - "

That first rock went flying through the air but missed Oscar by a good meter, dropping harmlessly into the bushes. The second hit Clovis in the thigh.

"Ow, fuck!"

"You little shit!" snarled Oscar joyously, skirting around a bench to lunge at Lelouch. Lelouch flinched, but he didn't run, just using the rock in his free hand to hammer at Oscar's wrist until Oscar grabbed that hand and twisted it till it dropped its pitiful weapon. Even then Lelouch - weak and so much smaller than the twelve-year-old - continued to fight, kicking over his own rock-fortress in an attempt to land one of the few, pitiful, glancing blows that he got in.

But Oscar dragged him back to where Clovis stood and yanked on the boy's hair until he was meeting Clovis' eyes.

"Apologize," Oscar demanded.

Lelouch was breathing hard, but he said nothing. Clovis, for his part, was deeply embarrassed. The rock had hurt something awful, and still hurt something awful. Still, this just seemed...

"It's fine." Clovis laughed uncomfortably, rubbing the spot which would later sport nothing worse than a slight bruise. "Just leave him be, it's fine."

"If you say so. You're the injured party." Oscar, grinning, pushed Lelouch away from him so that the boy stumbled and almost fell. "Go on, get out of here."

But Lelouch, even as he rubbed at his wrist, just stood there and stared at them, his jaw set stubbornly. Clovis sort of had to laugh at that, the tiny boy holding his ground for no reason at all, staring at them defiantly. Oscar joined in.

"Hail hail the future emperor," he snickered.

"We should go," said Clovis.

"The others'll be getting arrogant," Oscar agreed, then turned to deliver an elaborate bow to Lelouch. At that moment there was a high woman's voice.


Oscar froze a moment, then jerked as if trying to work up the momentum to flee. Clovis felt a moment of panic. It was one thing that Lelouch was going to tell on them later. It was another altogether, that Marianne - Marianne, the commoner, the former Knight, who could outfight them both together - was going to find out with them standing right there. But they stood, frozen with indecision, as she came up the path with her long blue skirts and lily-pale skin and smile that faded as she saw her dirt-smudged son.

"What happened?" she asked, and then looked up at Clovis and Oscar. In her dark cool eyes there was a perfect understanding of what had happened. Clovis felt afraid, and then he felt miserable.

But Lelouch looked at his mother, and he said, "I fell."

That frown only deepened, but she nodded. "Well, we should get you cleaned up," she said, holding her hand out to her son.

Lelouch nodded, serious, and reached out, and his hand was so small in hers that Clovis felt a deep flush of shame and, only half-conscious of what he was saying, begged, "It was Oscar."

Beside him, Oscar jerked again, and slowly Marianne turned to look at Clovis, her lips turned upwards in a smile, her eyebrows arched in cold contempt. "What a good boy," she said, and then with a quick step led her son away.

Lelouch looked back just before they disappeared around a bend in the path, something cold and studious in his face, and Clovis found himself thinking that Lelouch was a boy who would never forget a thing. Maybe he'd been right.

The second time Clovis had seen Lelouch, it had been at a Founding Day celebration. Clovis had been eleven. He'd seen the three of them - Marianne, Lelouch, and Nunnally - from across the room. Marianne, still holding Nunnally in her arms, had bent down to press her nose against Lelouch's and made this shaking motion of her head that made her solemn son break out into giggles.

Clovis had watched them until they'd stopped and then he'd reached up for his mother's warm hand. She'd pulled it away from him. He'd craned around to look at her.

"Mom, do you love me?" he'd said.

And his mother with her wide bright unblinking blue eyes had looked at him, her lips parted dewily. "Oh, I do," without hesitation she'd said. "I do. I do."

Gabriella la Britannia had been born July 9th, 1973, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess Rumsford. She'd attended the Emile Westing School for Girls until the age of fourteen, when she had left to attend the New Haven School of Dance. Age sixteen when she'd had her stage debut, performing the Nutcracker to mixed reviews.

"Miss Rumsford, though lovely, seemed nervous and awkward on stage," Reggie Saunders, art critic for the Pendragon Herald, had written. "We might give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was an unusual character choice. If this is true, though, then it was a choice Miss Rumsford no doubt regrets: she spent the whole night being out-danced by her Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy - even the odd chorus girl."

"Miss Rumsford brings a veracity and a childlike vulnerability to the role of Clara that a more experienced dancer would be quite unable to replicate," said Annabeth Lincoln of the Weekend Magazine.

"I have no doubt that Miss Rumsford's starring role has much to do with her surname," Kristoph deSimone of Britannia Today had sneered. "No self-respecting producer would hire her and no self-respecting director would keep her without the prospect of - say - a new theater serving as encouragement."

She'd continued on, though, taking on starring roles in six ballets before retiring. After that, she'd become the fifth Empress, and a bit less than a year later she'd given birth to Clovis.

And that was what he knew.

He also knew a video. It was of good quality, professionally done. He'd found it on the internet, half by accident, while simply looking for a video of Swan Lake from around that time, and had half-expected her name and therefore been all the more startled when it actually came up in the credits during the Overture.

It was so strange to watch her. He wasn't sure if he'd have recognized her if he hadn't known. Her hair had been pulled back severely and twisted into a bun, her usual pink crinoline traded out for a simple white leotard and tutu. Lit by the cold blues of the lake, she hardly looked herself. But still so small, so thin, so ephemeral - maybe he would have known her after all.

"Mom, look at this." He'd thought, briefly, of keeping it to himself, but he was no good at keeping secrets, and besides, that wasn't the point. The point was to watch her face as she leaned over his shoulder, holding her hair back with one fragile hand. But even though he watched, her face remained expressionless. It was completely blank. The smile faded from Clovis' face as he looked at her, and then he looked down.

But then she spoke. "Did you see that?" she asked in her breathy voice.

Clovis looked up with a jerk. "What?"

His mother just shrugged, graceful, rolling her head to the side, saying nothing. Clovis quickly rewound the video, and she responded appropriately, nodding shyly and pointing.

"Right there," she said, pointing as a young Gabriella completed a leap graceful as an arch. She raised her fingers then to her full lips. "I just thought that was the most beautiful thing I had ever done. I remember the moment I landed, it just felt so right."

Clovis moved the video back once again. There was a brief, fleeting moment where his mother's face was turned to the camera, and he paused. The look on her face was incredible. It was taut, triumphant, fiercely joyous. It was so odd to see that expression coming from his blankly lovely mother.

"You look so happy."

"I do, don't I," she murmured, lightly touching the screen and then moving her hand back to her mouth. "That was a long time ago. I was a little girl." She was quiet a moment, watching a series of leaps that flew her across the stage with birdlike strength. "I was pretty then."

"You're pretty now," Clovis said, turning to look at her.

Her rose-petal lips quirked up in rare melancholy. "No one looks at me anymore."

Every day we live, our parents become a little less powerful. They become a little more human. It's a terrifying and a tragic process. Usually, this decay takes the form of small moments - an admission of ignorance, evidence of helplessness before an intractable force. For Clovis from that day onward, its trajectory was strangely specific: every day, he understood the terrible sadness in those six words a little better, and a little better.

Sometimes he wondered what it would have been like for Lelouch, with Marianne struck down at the height of her powers.

"Well, that's, um," was what Clovis said, then, age fourteen and uncomprehending still. "Did you like Swan Lake?"

"It was always my favorite to dance," his mother said, her eyes once again wide, her lips once again parted. "The music's so beautiful. I didn't like the part of Odette, though."


"The white swan," his mother explained, then reached down with her rose-petal hands to take the mouse from him. She clicked the progress bar over to a scene at a ball. His mother was there again, dressed in black, heavily made up, dancing a provocative duet with her prince. "I liked Odile better. I liked the black swan better."


"Oh yes," she said, straightening up and bobbing her head in a nod. "None of that silly little...flapping about, pretending to be a bird. I could be a person, dance like a person."

"I get it." But it was strange: as the dark, cruel sorcerer's daughter, she seemed gawky, uncertain, unnatural, out of place. She danced poorly. It was when she was the white swan, that bird with its heavy wings and short legs and odd waddle and magnificent flight, that she was something really special, just absolutely wonderful.

He was eighteen when he talked her into posing for a portrait. He'd taken up art when he was thirteen and a little lonely, with only Oscar around and Oscar now unwilling company to the boy he called "tattle-tale" (though when they were both twenty, Oscar, drunk and in tears would confess that he didn't remember what had made him start saying that, and that he was lonely, and that he wanted to be friends again). Art had been nice, and it had been peaceful. It had been a way to fill the hours as his mother slept or did whatever it was she did in her closed-off room.

"I feel silly," she said that day in her leotard and ballet slippers, self-consciously adjusting her crown-topped headdress. Clovis reached out and smiled and moved it back.

"Well, you look beautiful," he said, and she flushed and looked down. He took advantage of the moment to place her hand in the hand of the handsome servant who would be standing in for her prince. "Now," he said, sitting behind his easel, "look into his eyes - "

Slowly her eyes rose towards the servant's, but the servant's were still fixed on the ground. Clovis frowned.

"And you look back at her."

It had been the wrong thing to say. It had been a terrible thing to say. There were so many better ways he could have said it, he knew, as the fragile smile on her face fell away to a look of shame and horror. But a moment passed, and then another, and that servant looked up and there was the most extraordinary heat in his gaze. Under it, his mother reddened but she blossomed.

The painting took a few days - a few more for the swan than the prince, determined as Clovis was to get her just right. The last day was the day he painted her face as she sat there alone, her arm extended and resting upon a table, her face half turned away. And he didn't realize the expression he was painting until it had crystallized on his canvas.

Somehow in that warm spring afternoon, with sun and breeze pushing at the white cloth draping the windows, the light pulsing like a slow heartbeat, with the birds singing and the scent of new-cut grass on the air, with the distant breathy sound of Euphie playing scales on her flute - somehow, something within his mother had broken, and she'd sat there for the last hour weeping silent and still.

"Mom," Clovis said, uncertain, scared.

She'd turned her red-rimmed gaze towards him in that moment, and said in a thick, strangled voice, "How did it turn out?"

"I, uh..."

Clovis' hesitation made her face crumple, made her collapse into sobs. "It's all right, it's all right," she whimpered. "It's better not to start. It's better not to try. It won't end up a thing at all."

The painting had turned out breathtaking. It was her expression that had done it. He tried repainting the picture several times as his skill improved, but it never turned out like it did that first time. He never got her expression right. That first painting was the best one he would ever do.

In that moment, he just sat there and watched her cry and wondered what he could say.

Euphemia was his favorite among all his siblings, but that wasn't saying much. Euphie was everyone's favorite. She was simply too blindly, naively sweet not to love.

He remembered one incident - Euphie was probably twelve at the time. It was the afternoon before the banquet celebrating Schneizel's new position as Prime Minister. That night there would be a banquet, and as they'd sat, Euphie posing, him painting, servants had been walking by with tables, chairs, food, and the like.

Several times he'd seen her twitch and had looked up and almost asked why - but she hadn't messed up her pose, so he'd just returned to painting. It was maybe the fourth time, though, that one servant went by when she jumped to her feet altogether, dropping the needlepoint that had been in her lap.

"This won't do!" she cried, and Clovis had a moment of uncertainty that bordered on fear. He wondered if she was angry for his sake, or for the sake of the background of the painting.

He should have known better: she went right over and plucked a tray of pastries out of the hands of the small servant-girl who was carrying them. The girl, not a day over ten, stared at Euphemia with wide eyes.

"You are too small to be carrying this," Euphemia, not that much larger, declared. "We're going to drop this off and then I'm going to come back with you and tell them that, all right?"

"Your Highness - " the girl whispered.

"You need to be carrying flowers, small things. You are absolutely going to crush your back like this," Euphemia scolded. "Come with me. I'm going to tell them that."

Clovis had watched in bemusement as they went. Only once they were too far away did he realize that the good thing for him to do would have been to carry the tray for them both. But they were too far away.

Schneizel had just turned twenty-four two weeks before that banquet.

"He's quite remarkable, our brother," said Odysseus in one of the few times he deigned to speak to Clovis. The Third Prince had always been beneath the First Prince's lofty gaze, until the Third Prince was named viceroy of Area Eleven, and even then it was only enough to get the Third Prince well wishes on major holidays. Odysseus, ambitionless though he himself was, gravitated towards greatness. Clovis never had a pull on him.

"Youngest PM in a century," Odysseus continued, and even said it like that - "Pee Em." "Just try to tell me that isn't remarkable."

"It isn't remarkable," was the only response Clovis had wanted to give, so he gave it.

And Odysseus reacted predictably, fixing him and his slightly embarrassed grin with a weary gaze. "Don't be dense," he sighed, and turned to the man to his left.

Mom was sitting off on her own, ankles crossed, looking as beautiful as ever and also rather sad. Clovis moved to her side, and she welcomed him with a smile.

"This is just a lovely little party, isn't it?" she said. She looked more solid than he had ever seen her, there in the flickering yellow lantern light with the grass beneath her feet. She looked real. Clovis wondered if this was what Siegfried had felt upon seeing his Odette become Odile.

"It is." In the half-light, they'd all been robbed of their ugliness. It was quiet. A small chamber quartet played a soft minuet that was simply a background to the soft chatter and cricket song, no one dancing. Usually, Euphie would take any opportunity to do so, but she was occupied with the servant girl she'd adopted for that night, bringing the girl (now clean and dressed in a pretty child's gown) food and drink and decorating her with flowers as, beside them, Cornelia looked indulgently on. Nasty, foul-tempered little Carine seemed almost sweet as she ran about after fireflies, even though she was doubtless pulling the wings off the ones she caught.

Even that blowhard Odysseus had been joined by his wife and was looking upon her with a smile. Odysseus had married a commoner when he was seventeen. The whole court had regretted it ever since, but Odysseus hadn't - the only time Clovis ever saw him happy was when he was with Sasha. There was much discussion, and there had been for years, of convincing him somehow to divorce her so that he could make a more strategic arrangement, but Clovis honestly hoped it never happened: he didn't much care for Odysseus, and Odysseus didn't much care for him, but still, a man deserved the chance to chase happiness even at the cost of greatness.

It was Schneizel who looked out of place. While the rest of the family and all their attendants were softened, he stood apart from all the others. He was the only one pushing against those gently slanted rays of light, while everyone else leaned into the curves and angles. The expression on his face was pinched - not unhappy, but certainly not happy, either. It was strange.

"Hail hail the future emperor," Clovis found himself muttering.

"What's that?"

He smiled down at his mother and shook his head and laughed. "That is - nothing. Sorry." He leaned down and kissed her atop her rose-scented hair. "Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Oh yes," she said, and looked up and smiled. "Oh yes."

It was strange. All his life, he would think of Schneizel, and he would think of Euphemia - think of the great and the good. That his brother lacked goodness - he wouldn't learn that for two years, until the day when he came across the full expanse of the research Schneizel had been doing. The discovery was shattering. That Euphemia lacked greatness was evident the very next day when that servant girl had to return to her life of servitude.

But he was so great, and she so good, that Clovis sometimes ached to think of the way he could never match up to them.

But it was strange. For all that he was trapped between Schneizel and Euphemia, it was Lelouch, small quiet Lelouch, who was in the same position but just a little bit greater and a little bit better - it was him Clovis hated.

It was him, and it was his mother, and the way that they looked across the room, that Clovis hated.

Marianne vi Britannia, nee Lamperouge, had become a Knight at the age of nineteen and had married the emperor seven years later. That was all Clovis was able to find out. He knew so little about her, but he'd watched her, and he thought that maybe he knew quite a lot of her.

He knew, for example, the way she'd show her children affection without a hint of self-consciousness. He knew the way she smelled (vanilla) and the way she laughed (freely, cheerfully, her voice a high giggle). He knew the look of loathing she wore for the two stupid boys who had hurt her son. He knew how she had died, and he knew the way that had destroyed her children.

He knew the way she had always seemed so happy. He knew the way she had continued to fight for the Empire even after becoming consort.

"Do you think you'd ever dance again?" Clovis asked his mother once.

"Oh," she said breathily. "Oh, no. That sort of thing isn't seemly."

He knew Marianne as the Black Swan. He knew her as the Black Swan, just as the rest of the court knew his Black Swan mother, knew her as the most beautiful of all the Emperor's wives who held herself aloof from the petty power struggles and affairs and entanglements. Perhaps she too had a side as the White Swan. Perhaps sometimes Lelouch would press his ear to that closed door and hear his mother weeping. Perhaps Lelouch, too, had to take her hand at times to stop it from shaking. Perhaps Marianne was petty and cruel. Perhaps she got angry for no reason at all, or perhaps she paid him no mind at all in private.

Perhaps that was what explained Lelouch.

Because Lelouch needed an explanation.

Two days after the incident by the pond, Clovis found Lelouch playing chess against himself. He was still feeling guilty and miserable and sick with the memory of how Marianne had looked at him, and a little lonely now that the outraged Oscar had abandoned him, and so he'd swallowed his pride and walked over to the boy.

"Hello," Clovis said.

"Hello," Lelouch had replied calmly without looking up.

"Uh, chess?"

Then Lelouch had looked up, with an expression on his face so withering that Clovis had had to laugh so that he didn't do something more drastic. Lelouch had looked back down and moved his white queen.

"Can I, uh, play?"

Lelouch said nothing, but after a very long moment he started moving all the pieces into their initial positions. Clovis grinned solicitously and sat down and started helping him.

"Who taught you how to play?" Clovis asked the uncomfortable silence.

"My mother."

"Oh." Somehow, he kept himself from making an asinine comment about meeting Lelouch's mother those few days previous. "She's really pretty, your mom."

"She's more than just pretty," Lelouch replied.

Clovis hesitated. He didn't know what that was supposed to mean. Was it a comment on his own...? "Sure," he agreed uncomfortably, then cleared his throat. "White or black?"

Lelouch, already seated behind black, didn't move.


Clovis had had every intention of letting Lelouch win. He'd draw it out a little, he thought, so that it wasn't clear that he was letting Lelouch win, because Lelouch seemed the type to despise being indulged. What he hadn't anticipated, however, was being driven into a corner within twenty-five moves.

"Check," Lelouch announced levelly.

Clovis blinked and frowned and, after a long moment moved his knight into the rook's advancing path. Lelouch took it without hesitation. When Clovis used his queen to take the rook, Lelouch's bishop took the queen.


Clovis moved his king one square out. Lelouch instantly moved his queen.


"Wow," Clovis said a little shakily, and moved his king again. Lelouch moved his queen one last time.

"Checkmate," Lelouch said.

Clovis blinked down at the board, then shook his head. "Wow," he said again, trying very hard to smile. "You're quite good, aren't you."

"That's one possibility," said Lelouch, serenely resetting the pieces. Clovis had to laugh again. Hearing things like that out of the mouth of a little kid - it really was quite absurd. And Lelouch looked up, a slight question crossing his face and then fading away again.

From that day forth, Clovis never once knew where they stood. Two days later, several of Clovis' Rumsford cousins joined him at the palace, and he ran and shouted and played and pointedly ignored Lelouch, because those little cruelties were just what you inflicted upon others when you were twelve years old - but the whole time, Lelouch just watched them all, completely stony-faced. And there was the stony-faced silence with which he accepted Clovis back on the other side of the chessboard.

But there was also the broad smile and uncontrollable laughter during the fight that ensued after Nunnally came over and stole both kings so that Clovis and Lelouch would pay attention to her. There was the warmth with which he let Euphemia observe their games. There were the triumphant, smiling victories which might or might not be followed by monotone victories or impatient victories.

There was a moment when you didn't recognize the black-clad ballerina as the one who danced before. You wondered about the significance of the Prince's reaction.

And there was the neutrality with which Lelouch accepted Clovis' birthday gift, a gilt clockwork timer. And then there was the short, shy smile with which he'd given Clovis his gift: a set of fine, lovely brushes, several of them with no more than five or ten bristles.

"They were the sort of brushes used in Northern Renaissance paintings," Lelouch explained. "They're capable of extremely fine detail. Said the saleswoman," he added self-consciously.

Clovis marveled over that, that Lelouch had bought them himself, rather than relying on a servant to do so.

And then there was the cruelty with which eight-year-old Lelouch settled himself behind black and sneered, "We could save ourselves time and simply predict the outcome right now."

Black swan.

And there was the day Lelouch, clad in his best clothes but shielded by nothing but his arrogance, approached the Emperor.

Black swan.

And that day, Clovis sat and watched his mother cry.

"That poor little boy," she sobbed. "That poor little boy."

In revenge, Clovis sat and stared at the place where Marianne had died, forlornly trying to sketch something appropriate. He tried to give the shattered windows a sheen of that magic that was made of her strength and wisdom and the love that would never fade, and the hearts of those children who would never watch their mother decay before their eyes.

It came out terrible.

Four years later he became governor of Area 11, and two years after that his mother completed her descent from godhead.

It was when he returned to the mainland for Christmas. It was a warm winter, dry, even for Pendragon, and his mother was compulsively rubbing cream into her soft hands. The motion was distracting, and eventually Clovis laughed and said, "Mama, honestly, your skin is lovely."

"It's not enough," she murmured.

"It's more than enough." He watched her, the smile fading from his face. "You should take a lover."

Her head jerked up, and she spat, "Who taught you to talk like that?"

Clovis shrugged languidly, leaned back, and said, "I guess I learned it."

"I took an oath," she said, and reached up with a taut-tendoned fist to readjust her hair. "I took an oath when I married your father."

"I know."

"And I honor it," she snarled. "Every day."

Clovis shrugged again. "Then you should start dancing again. Something," he said when she opened her mouth. "You're going to go mad."

"No madder than I already have," she said with a sad sneer of self-awareness. Clovis, for the first time, really looked at her, and he swallowed. His mother's expression slowly faded, and she looked down.

"It's hard," she said with difficulty.

"I know," Clovis said quietly, even though he didn't, yet.

"I wasn't the best, you know. But I loved it. But then Mother and Father told me to...Then I married the Emperor."

Clovis watched the little girl, fragile and hurt and lonely, who was his mother.

"And that could have been my life, but...he doesn't love me. No one looks at me...This can't be my life. God, this can't be my life!" she cried.

The silence afterwards was awful. Clovis breathed, and then he begged, "That's why you need something."

"I don't need anything." Her expression slowly smoothed towards something very much like love. "I have you," she said. "You've always been what I've had."

The sudden revelation was almost shattering. "Do you love me?" he asked, a tinny echo of that question so many years ago.

And his mother with her wide bright shining blue eyes had looked at him, her lips parted. "God, I do," without hesitation she'd whispered. "I do. I do."

Lelouch never got to feel the need and the love and the trust as two people embraced one another. All he had was the distant love of God for her creations.

And that was sad.

And Euphemia, who was so good, so very good, would never have the greatness she needed to change the world.

And that was sad.

And Schneizel, who could change the world, would never do so for the better.

And that was sad.

And Odysseus would leave his wife for a political marriage, and that was sad.

And Cornelia would watch her world crumble away, and that was sad.

And Marianne would never see her children grown up.

And Gabriella would come to be alone.

In those few moments before Lelouch, who never forgot, pulled the trigger, before Clovis died, he didn't have time to remember all these things. He only had time for the vaguest impressions: the scent of rue and straw and orchids, the scent of roses in the garden, the sound of crickets. The sight of his tiny mother, enormously pregnant, belly like a rosehip perched precariously above a thorny stem. He heard Euphie's breathy flute, and saw the expression on that servant girl's face as she tasted delicacy after delicacy, and the way Schneizel had smiled, distant, black swan. An orchid torn up by the stem. Bird's foot trefoil. White roses.

He had time for pity. He had time to pity the boy before him, who had been so small and sad and lonely and strange and loving and proud. He pitied that poor boy who'd been brought to this place and was now so cold, so hurt. He pitied the boy who wasn't good and wasn't great and would be torn apart. And he pitied the mother who had loved him, and the mothers who had loved them all, and the children who had loved them back, and the way we all love and love endlessly without depths but are hemmed in by the words that get in the way.

Mostly he had time for fear. He was shaking uncontrollably at the implacable expression on his brother's face. There was the click as Lelouch cocked the gun, and Clovis imagined the bullet. He was so alone in that moment. He was so scared, so scared, he just wanted to go home. He just wanted his mother. He'd just wanted to do good. He just wanted his mother. He wanted his mothe

[User Picture]From: short_hemline
2008-09-17 03:14 am (UTC)
Oh my...your writing has this way of making me completely incoherent. Especially those last three paragraphs. I'm not sure what to say in the face of lines like "He pitied that poor boy who'd been brought to this place and was now so cold, so hurt. He pitied the boy who wasn't good and wasn't great and would be torn apart." A really unique and heart-breaking perspective on Lelouch.

You do an excellent job portraying the royal family. I can't help but love all of them, no matter how awful they are to each other. Clovis' mom was especially enjoyable to read.

And also this line made me laugh out loud: "Euphemia dropped back down onto the flats of her feet to turn to look at Clovis with wide eyes. "I'm a ballerina," she whispered solemnly."

So cute!

Thanks for writing this!
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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-17 12:47 pm (UTC)
I'm really glad you pointed that bit with Euphie out, because that is my SINGLE FAVORITE PART OF THIS FIC. B'aww. (That particular line is stolen, by the way, from my younger cousin, who when she was five would treat everything so seriously. Completely unsmiling, she would look up at us and say that today, her name wasn't Lannie, it was Sarah, and she came from the stars. B'aww, Younger Relatives.)

It was interesting writing the royal family, actually, just because so few of them got any real development. Odysseus is just kind of there and useless and pedo, Carine has one line...It was interesting trying to flesh out these really one-note characters. I'm glad you approved of them. =D
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[User Picture]From: short_hemline
2008-09-17 02:25 pm (UTC)
I guess it was mostly the royal family's dynamics as a group that I liked. And, I mean, on an individual level Euphie and Lelouch and Marianne and Gabriella and Clovis all got real development...

And that story about your cousin...lol...
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[User Picture]From: fujiappletan
2008-09-17 04:04 am (UTC)
This is beautiful.

Those last paragraphs. I cried. (Clovis's mother was so beautiful, that she loves him despite her life. It is very touching.)
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[User Picture]From: cal_reflector
2008-09-17 06:27 am (UTC)
We need to fan over this fic some more somewhere appropriate.

Gosh, now that we begin to realize how Lelouch's mom really was only superficially loving towards her children (and really, was kind of a douche), Lelouch's whole character outlook changes, and that affects how we write him.

This fic does a great job Explaining Clovis.

I want a similar kind of fic for Schneizel, how HE came to be. My original idea of linking him to Marianne is trashed now though, so its back to square one.
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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-17 12:52 pm (UTC)
Heh, yeah. Actually, in the first stages of this fic, there really was a strong delineation between Gabriella and Marianne, with Gabriella bad/crazy/distant and Marianne warm/loving, but then I figured, ehh, it's a bit messier but more interesting to have some of Marianne's Bad Parenting leak over into the perceptions of her.

GOD ONLY KNOWS how Schneizel came to be. I mean, that's a hard fic to write because even now, two episodes before the end of the series, we don't know who he is. DDDD=
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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-17 12:49 pm (UTC)
Even your icon looks sad. ;~; ♥
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[User Picture]From: fainn
2008-09-17 04:12 am (UTC)
It's been so, so, so, so long since I read a fic this good. And trust me, I've read a lot of fics.

I love especially the depth with which you went into all the characters, and how achingly well and just accurate you summed up how the world and Clovis views each and every one of them, and their respective places in this huge screwed up family. There is so much potential in Geass for this kind of reflection upon what made each of these characters who they are, and though Clovis was killed so early he's really the one perfect for this kind of reflective fic. And, I must say, your style of writing and the stories you chose to focus on are just perfect for this reflection upon the past as well.

The ending lines really struck me, and the theme of Swan Lake and how delicately you blended all the threads together of who is who and who they affect and what it was like, just living day to day in the face of all this royalty.....wow.

Anyways, as you can tell, your fic blew me away, and you'll just have to forgive me if I start stalking you from now on.
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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-17 12:58 pm (UTC)
You're right - Clovis was a good character for this sort of observation, just because he's...ordinary? Pretty much all the characters are odd, or crazy, or genius, or something, so having Clovis - who's not especially bright, who's selfish and corruptible and narcissistic but also quite loving and generous and devoted - having him as the narrator, looking at the extraordinary people around him, is interesting. It's hardly a worm's eye view, him being worth like NINETY KAJILLION DOLLARS and having the bluest blood outside of a...um...blue blood...alien convention(?), but it's as close as you can get, and I was really, really lucky that someone requested a fic with him as the central character. =D

I will welcome your stalkery with great joy. ♥
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[User Picture]From: cal_reflector
2008-09-17 05:46 am (UTC)
Sublime, this. A great portrait of Clovis and the other important siblings through his unique world view. Fantastic! Fantastic!
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From: clones
2008-09-17 05:48 am (UTC)
I sat in front of the reply box for awhile, not really knowing what to say to you. I'm still not really sure, actually. Excuse me if this is incoherent, and I start to ramble.

I find Clovis to be interesting, but in the way that he is so normal when compared to the other members of the royal family - and that could be a little sad, but it's mostly just real to me.

So I'm really happy that you wrote a story about him; I'm not saying I'm a Clovis fan, but your stories have a way of making me feel something every time I read them, regardless of which character you choose to explore (even the porn stories, but that's for a different review, and provokes an entirely different feeling).

Clovis had watched in bemusement as they went. Only once they were too far away did he realize that the good thing for him to do would have been to carry the tray for them both. But they were too far away.

After I read this line I actually had to reread it, and then reread it a few more times before I was satisfied with what I got from it. This is what I imagine Clovis to be like, and it's all compacted into three sentences. This is his characterization - it's him. I was stunned by this line; the way you write is the way that I wish I could write, where everything seems to have a meaning.

This story makes me very sad (almost as sad as The Fool Ascendant did). I think that most people would be able to identify with this Clovis. Especially when you described how a parent changes as their children become older.

Also, the Lelouch parts were simply amazing, and as always, perfectly in-character. I loved how you tied in how Lelouch never forgets at the very end. Just the thoughts that Clovis had at the end was enough to make me cry (it seems you have a way with making readers cry at the end of your stories).

Going to say that these are more of my favorite lines:

He pitied that poor boy who'd been brought to this place and was now so cold, so hurt. He pitied the boy who wasn't good and wasn't great and would be torn apart.

The single lines in your story are also so strong. Honestly, I'll probably reread this story a few times and then add it to my favorites. And then go back and reread The Fool Ascendant, which I seem to do once every month. :\

This was brilliant, and I do believe I rambled.

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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-17 11:04 pm (UTC)
(even the porn stories, but that's for a different review, and provokes an entirely different feeling).

BOW CHICKA CHICKA WOW WOW CHICKA CHICKA WOW WOW CHICKA...Actually, n/m, that sounds like the opening riff to that one shouty song in Guitar Hero after you play that annoying duel. God, fuck you, GH. DDDD=

I feel a little bad, actually, 'cause the requester requested a Clovis fic and there's very little of Clovis in here. He's really a blank slate - as close to a humble narrator as you can find in this series, not stupid but seeming stupid in comparison, not good but sometimes seeming good in comparison to his (exaggerated, eccentric) siblings. He's ordinary. So what characterization there is of him only really comes across in places where his reflections upon other people bounce back to shine a little light upon him - that line you mentioned, for example (which I was totally proud of) or a later one:

"Clovis shrugged languidly, leaned back, and said, 'I guess I learned it.'"

(I was really proud of that line, actually, because the Clovis in this fic really isn't the one we see in the series at all, and that one really brings him into line - shows that he was this ordinary, nice, lazy guy and got corrupted by what he learned, twisted into the, um, MURDEROUS SON-OF-A-BITCH we see in the series. Really pulled that one out, there. HA, oh, blind luck.)

I guess in terms of a requested fic, this is fairly weak, just because (a.) it doesn't say much about Clovis and (b.) its focus is actually an OC (I'm sort of the closest thing this fandom has to a Mary-Sue writer, LOL). Still, by its own virtues, I'm quite fond of it. I'm fond of Lelouch in this story, too. Clovis isn't exactly Lelouch's foil, but Lelouch is Clovis' - Clovis was obsessed with him in a lot of ways, as we see throughout the series, and would sort of need to make sense of his murderer in some small way.

Hahaha, you're not the only one rambling here, by the way.

AND I'M REALLY GLAD YOU WANT TO RE-READ THE FOOL ASCENDANT, a.k.a. "the one effing thing I'll never be able to top, ever, in my life, jesus."
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[User Picture]From: dr_wats0n
2008-09-17 05:57 am (UTC)
This story is just... wow. Your portrayal of Clovis and his not-quite-loving and not-quite-hating relationship with Lelouch is stunning. It's actually just the way I imagined it after reading that drama where Clovis reveals that he wants to become governor of Area 11 for Lelouch's sake, but at the same time doesn't seem to be doing it out of love or grief, but something completely different. I think you captured that something perfectly. Also, the characterization of his mother is very appropriate, based on what is known of her from the extras.

I could go on and on about all the things I liked about this, but I'm afraid I'm too stunned by the sheer awesomeness to write a review with any real substance to it. So, let me at least say thank you for writing this. I'm very very picky when it comes to fanfiction, so you can imagine how accidentally stumbling upon stuff like this can totally make my day :-]
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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-17 11:08 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, actually, a lot of this fic is based off that particular drama (and GOD, so many thanks to rainbow_cnxn for providing the translation to that). The juxtaposition there, as well as the elements of juxtaposition we see in the series (him ordering the massacre of innocent people versus his siblings' memories of him as a kind, gentle person) is really what motivated this - what happens when an ordinary, good man decides to devote himself instead to chasing greatness? This started out, at least, as the saying "Power corrupts" with bonus flower imagery. That sort of changed, though. I guess ambition corrupts, too. *Laughs*

Anyway, thank you for the review! And thank you for taking the time to read it. ♥
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[User Picture]From: chaos_harmony
2008-09-17 05:59 am (UTC)
God damn it, I was about to go to bed, and then I saw that you'd posted fic, and god damn it. Now I'm all heartbroken. And motivated to catch up on Code Geass. And God knows I don't need another show to watch, but laksjdfljsdfkj the fucked up royals of Britannia, this reminds me of how I loved them so.
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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-17 11:10 pm (UTC)
Dooooon't doooo iiiiiiit. The second season is TOTALLY NOT WORTH IT. And besides, you have your shining academic career ahead of you! Don't let that slip away! Life is so short etc.!

(But God, LOVE the royals. So crazy and in-bred.)
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[User Picture]From: cal_reflector
2008-09-17 06:16 am (UTC)
*Reread, sigh with satisfaction* AHHHHHHHH~~~~ You have raised the bar! You have definitely raised the BAR!! I love it. I love it!

So much meat in this story. How Lelouch needed an explanation because Marianne really wasn't the perfect mother she appeared to be. The assessments of Schneizel and Euphie seem spot on, as is Odysseus the simpleton. I don't know if I can write my story now without doing justice to Clovis and how he came to be.

I liked best how you slipped in how Clovis suspected/speculated Marianne's true character may have negatively affected Lelouch's development. Ominous! Delicious! I wonder if given enough time, Lelouch would have ever realized on his own that to Marianne, he and Nunally were secondary... *rubs paws*
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[User Picture]From: robotlove
2008-09-17 08:10 am (UTC)
Skies above.

I am speechless. Never have I thought that I would be able to find such MINDBLOWINGLY POWERFUL pieces in fanfiction. You have pwned us all and pwned us all again.

I admittedly never gave much thought to Clovis, and it has been so long since I cried for words on the screen or on paper, but you have made me do both, and given so much more to Clovis which he does appear to deserve since we never got to see much development on his paintings, and the background behind them.

This is perfect and beautiful, in every little detail it sketches and paints, in the way the whole thing flows, the way Lelouch comes across and the suddenness of the end.

I am still breathless. I have to keep reminding myself to breathe.
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[User Picture]From: robotlove
2008-09-17 08:34 am (UTC)
I've just seen the lj cut text for this and let me reassure you that the end is already very powerful. My head's still reeling x)
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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-17 11:19 pm (UTC)
I'm not wholly satisfied with the ending still. It's too sudden, I think, and unearned, and it should have more call-backs to the established themes for a more satisfying end. But that's more of a nitpicky, technical thing, because what matters is that the emotion is there.

And God, it's there. Writing this fic drained me. It didn't depress me, per se, but...There's a lot in there that's really personal, that's very true, and I'm glad that came across. I'm glad it made others feel something, too. And thank you for sharing that, I guess?

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[User Picture]From: ladyassassin27
2008-09-17 10:17 am (UTC)
This fic was just so amazing ... your writing is so powerful it is as if you can really see the things happing and feeling everything as if it were happening right before your eyes ...

Brillant just brillant ... I applaude you!!
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[User Picture]From: jusrecht
2008-09-17 01:48 pm (UTC)
I'm...incoherent. Awesome, truly awesome fic.
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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-17 11:19 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: etrangere
2008-09-17 02:41 pm (UTC)
God, this is breathtaking. The dying of things, the irrevocable corruption, falling apart of beauty. Love the way you use the Swan Lake to call back Code Geass' black & white theme. The wonderful characterisation of children, the awkwardness, pettiness and love and cruelty, great details. And that family, and the way it crushes them all.
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[User Picture]From: orchid_falls
2008-09-17 04:47 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty much following along everybody else's lines and saying wow. :D That being said, it's really not a good enough word to describe your writing, and so I apologise.
I'm not really a fan of Clovis, not that I hate him, but to me, he's just there. Just the way that you write (it seems so effortless and real and beautiful). I wanted to read this fic from the brief summary alone, and it doesn't matter that it's about a character I don't really care for - from the moment that I start to read I'm just involved.

Your descriptions are truly beautiful and I have never read any other Geass work that's even half way as good as yours. Some moments with Euphie being my favourite as well as the way you described his Mother being pregnant with the belly of a rosehip. That imagery is just perfect and simple and have I mentioned I love the way you write? Just reading your own writing makes me want to write, it wouldn't come out nearly a quarter as good as yours, but that's the feeling it gives me.

I've not even been a big fan of this season of geass, but I would continue to read your writing even if I had given up altogether. Beautiful.
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[User Picture]From: boopkit
2008-09-17 09:01 pm (UTC)
asdf, Your gens make people cry.

Excellent, just excellent.
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[User Picture]From: hopechan
2008-09-18 12:57 am (UTC)
GOD, I KNOW, RIGHT?? I honestly can't figure it out myself. It's a gift from on high, or something, like Martin Luther's fecally-fixated dreams. Honestly it mostly seems to be by accident, 'cause when a fic starts, I have no idea if it's gonna be AWESOME or AWESOMELY BAD and the amount of effort I put in? Has no effect.


.........uh, hey there self-pity. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENT. ♥
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[User Picture]From: fluffyfledgling
2008-09-18 03:27 am (UTC)
Ugh, I hate you. Fucking genius writer.

Negative comments aside, this was brilliant (AS YOU KNOW, AS ALL THE OTHER REVIEWERS HAVE UNDOUBTEDLY MENTIONED). What compelled me to read this fic was the fact that it was Clovis-centric and yet 6,000 words-- I was not disappointed I chose to read this, because this is a deep, powerful, insightful, heartbreaking, amazing, beautiful story.

Obviously, with Clovis, you had a lot to work with, but I think your characterization of him with respect to the fact that he's an artist was really sensitive and touching. Even before you mention that Clovis took up painting, I could already feel it coming, characterized through Clovis' affinity for beauty.

Seeing the rest of the royal family through young Clovis' eyes was powerful and chilling. lasdjf;asljdUgh I don't even know where to start or how to voice my adoration for what you've created here. ♥♥♥x1000

*adds to memorieeees and reminds self to rec! this fic in a future post*
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[User Picture]From: vicks111
2008-09-19 02:00 am (UTC)
you know, I wasn't actually expecting to have the Clovis one responded? XD
I read this yesterday, and then reread it twice today alone. I needed to get my thoughts coherent to reply to such an awesome story.

First off, asjdhasjdhaksjd!!
Ok, now that I'm done with that, let me tell you that this was the most beautiful bittersweet thing I have read all year. I was teary-eyed by half-way, and in the end I was smiling to myself of how happy I was of reading it. I'm a sucker for bittersweet stories and everything was so beautiful.

I'm not a deluded fan, I know quite well that Clovis is a rather bland character in comparison to the Code Geass cast. But I got interested in him when everyone kept remembering as good after what we saw in the first two episodes. I guess I also have a soft spot for minor characters, because I squealed when I read Odysseus was in there (not a fan, per se, but he is nice, like a teddy bear).

Worried of how much of the story revolved around the imperial family? You better not, because I love the imperial family (except those two princesses in R2) and I crave for stories of them. Oh, they are all so fucked-up XP
The flow of the narrative was very interesting, jumping from the more distant past to the more recent past. My favorite parts where the third-to-last paragraph, and every time someone was compared to the black swan.

This was a very strong fic, and I am oh so glad that you wrote it. If anything, I would have liked Oscar to say "You little shite" instead of "shit" XD
Every time I need a Clovis muse, this story will come to mind. Thank you!
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From: angelluvz
2008-09-27 09:18 am (UTC)
wow, this is absloutly amazing ..
i love the imperial family (my favourite characters)i love thier interactions and the Euphie parts are just adorable , so this is such a treat.. thanx
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[User Picture]From: rainbow_cnxn
2008-10-27 06:52 pm (UTC)
Why do I save commenting for 1.5 months after I read a story? Lol I dunno.

Anyways. Excellent fic, as per usual. Clovis is almost-a-blank-slate-but-not-quite canonically, and there's juuuust enough details in the canon to tease us (damn you, PD) and allow talented writers such as yourself to worm out a more complete characterization. Clovis' laughter at the absurdity of being pwned by Lelouch in chess, his not knowing what to do, his resigned, blunt suggestion to take a lover, the moments of honesty, the throwaway thoughts--all wonderful.

In a previous comment, you mentioned that Lelouch is Clovis' foil, and I think you're right. I always had the impression that he was very much alone (though he'd have many friends and acquaintances). Of the people we see him with, Lelouch and Nunnally had each other, Euphie had everyone, Cornelia had Euphie, and Schneizel...well, Schneizel is Schneizel. But I never got the impression that he truly penetrated anyone's world. It seemed like Lelouch was immensely important to him (and was perhaps even formative to Clovis' character, as you've suggested), and Clovis at least tried to penetrate Lelouch's world. And like the rest of Geass, some of the most moving tragedies are the tiniest misunderstandings and unfulfilled wishes.

Btw, "I'm a ballerina" is one of the cutest sentences I've read. In my head, it's not "I'm a ballerina" or "I'm a ballerina" but "I'm a ballerina". It's one of those statements only pulled off by tiny, rosy-cheeked kids in absurd pink tutus spinning about with all the grace of a newborn duckling.

P.S. I thought this was one of your better endings. Beginning from "Lelouch never got to feel...", it felt like the rest of the fic was tumbling down and down faster and faster until it hit an abrupt stop. It was a nice effect.
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