Rolo doesn't know what to do.
He's standing in the doorway, hands at his sides, staring at him: Lelouch Lamperouge, also known as Zero, the terrorist and mass murderer. Leader of the Black Knights. Enemy of Britannia.
But right now, he's only Rolo's fake big brother.
The night is dark. Only the faint yellow glow of street lights make it through the translucent curtains covering the window. The bedroom is unbearably cold; Rolo shivers, but doesn't make a move to tug his pajamas tighter around him. Lelouch murmurs in his sleep, turns over, and settles again.
The atmosphere has Rolo on edge. He's not sure what it is; maybe the room is too quiet, the low hum of the air conditioning not enough to breach the blanket of silence. Or it's the lack of light, giving potential adversaries the chance to hide in the dark and sneak up on him. Or it could be that Rolo, sixteen years old, has never once slept in a real bed in a school dorm, where he can expect to be perfectly safe while he dreams.
It's downright unsettling.
That’s why he’d slid out of bed and come to his brother’s room. The carpet is soft under his feet as he walks the short distance to Lelouch’s bedside. His brother is shivering, too; he’d kindly insisted that Rolo use the heavier comforter, now that summer is in full bloom and the air is being run 24/7. He's also made Rolo lunch every day for the past two months, given him hugs freely whenever asked, and tutored him in the many, many school subjects Rolo has never studied before. He’s been nothing but kind and caring. Perhaps too caring. As if Rolo was younger, and less able.
Rolo kneels on the ground next to the bed. His breath is near silent from years of existing in the background, outside of anyone's notice until he was needed for a mission.
It could be that Lelouch’s body remembers something of his dangerous past life, because he stirs anyway, alerted by the subtle shift in the air. Rolo stays perfectly still as Lelouch’s eyes focus on him.
"Rolo? What is it?" he asks, voice groggy with sleep. He rubs at his eyes. Rolo opens his mouth, then closes it. He doesn't know what to say. None of his previous missions prepared him for a situation like this. He fists his hands in his pajama pants.
Whatever his expression is, it must look like fear, because Lelouch softens and asks, "you have a nightmare again?"
Rolo wonders if Nunnally had nightmares. "Yes. It was scary, so I came here."
"Wanna sleep in my bed for the night?"
The question takes Rolo off guard. He doesn't know if families usually sleep in each other's beds when scared. His throat feels tight, and his palms are starting to sweat. The vague sense of wrong explodes into a cacophony of noise in the back of his mind, screaming danger without specifying what, exactly, the danger is. Maybe Lelouch has remembered who he really is, and is planning on killing him.
Or it's just that Rolo doesn't know how to handle Lelouch tugging on his wrist and pulling him close.
"I've got you. You're safe," Lelouch says, wrapping his arms around Rolo. He holds his breath, trying not to move at all, lest he shatter the moment. "I won't let anything happen to you, little brother."
Rolo's eyes burn. He thinks about the pod he's used to sleeping in, in a locked room far away from any other living thing. It's an insurance policy meant to keep him from going rogue and killing his employers. It's cold and metallic and not at all comfortable like the soft mattress beneath him and warmth of Lelouch's hands.
"Wanna talk about it?" Lelouch asks softly, and it takes Rolo a moment to realize he's asking about his supposed nightmare.
"I dreamt we weren't brothers," Rolo whispers. "It was…"
"It was just a silly dream. I'm right here." Lelouch kisses the top of his head. The gesture makes Rolo freeze. "Go to sleep."
He doesn't. Rolo stays up the entire night, listening to the clock ticking, the sound of Lelouch's breathing. He thinks and thinks until he can't think at all, and then the only thing left in his head is the realization that this is how normal people live. Normal people, who don't have a geass. Normal people, who don't kill.
Normal people with mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, and homes to return to.
This isn't his reality. Rolo will have to return to his "nightmare" one day, where he doesn't have any of those things. No soft bed, no mundane days at school, no homemade lunches. No big brother to soothe him when he has bad dreams.
He clamps his hands over his mouth to keep the oncoming vomit down. His entire body is shaking. The only thing that matters is the mission, Rolo thinks. Only the mission.
It's a cold reality, but it's also the only thing that will never abandon him.