Nunnally's hand pauses on the smooth china handle of her teacup. The dining room is the best-heated in the house, and the chamomile tea Sayako made her is warm. She is at no risk of freezing or shivering, but she is cold.
Sometimes she wonders if the cold from that winter seven years ago burrowed itself into deep into her bones to escape itself and never left. Sometimes she wonders if it really was as cold as she remembers that winter. Winters have always been cold in Japan, but Nunnally thinks she remembers them colder still: a fairytale land of ice and snow, gleaming white so bright that if she turns her head just right, she can see the sun reflecting off the snow and a biting cold and wind that rocks every building on the island all at once, making it sway. The wind, then, is the monster of winter, merciless and huge with shattering footsteps and breath that flattens all in its path. The hero is broken and small and has no allies, not ones who are not dangerous.
She doesn't properly remember the summers at all, but she hates them all the same. This is a rememberance deeper than memory.
There is no-one else there who isn’t Sayako to move her things around without telling her (even Lelouch forgets), so she knows that if she were to move her left hand two inches to the right, it would touch the smooth origami paper of the half-folded crane. Pink, Sayako assured her, and said nothing more because she knew that Nunnally knows what pink means even though she doesn't really remember what it looks like. Nunnally imagines pink like perfume, but the cheap type you can buy in some street stalls with overdone scents, or like the flowers in the garder, cloying and sickly. Pink is useful, because it’s what people expect from her.
They both like to shake the colours up every time they fold, but they always use different colours from each other because otherwise it's easy for them to mix them up, sitting side by side like they do. Most days Nunnally rotates through the pastels: pink, blue, yellow, green, and is done with it, but Sayako likes to use tens of different colours that, she tells Nunnally, are as different from each other as colours can be, because she hopes her wish will reflect the full spectrum of life. They still sometimes mix them up, but Nunnally doesn't think some paper cranes are worth not sitting next to Sayako when the only thing she will wish for is their family.
Sayako's clothes rustle as she leans closer in, her warm hand enclosing Nunnally's. This crane in the nine-hundred and ninety-ninth, and she does not want to begin fold it, and she does.
This, of all the times, is when it happens. Her heart spasms, her chest locks tight, her eyes fix in place although they are shut and she is so, so afraid.
They do not appear standing in front of her, like a friend arriving home from a trip, and kneel down to take Nunnally's hand, but they are there nonetheless, an army only an arm's reach away. And Sayoko isn't speaking, but Nunnally doesn't know why, only that there is something being kept at bay outside that she must not let in. She grips Sayoko's hand and tries not to be afraid. She remembers the bomb shelter, remembers winter.
"Nanna!" Milly says.
"You don't have to be alone." Shirley says.
"You're so smart." Rivalz says.
"I care about you." Suzaku says.
"I-" Lelouch begins to say, and he definitely finishes only Nunnally can't hear because her hands reach up to clutch her head and block her ears and she screams.
They are closer. She doesn't know how. She does know why. Nunnally only realises that she has reached for Sayoko's hand once more when she feels that it is gone and that her hand is covered instead in something thick and viscous. She can't open her eyes.
She is alone.
"Nunnally." Mother says. For a moment she can see and sense in a thousandfold detail, is on an unstoppable journey to the past. Mother's dress-- not her face, just her dress. A garden. Flowers. Stairs. The smell of blood, bodies, the sound of water rushing from a broken dam a mile away. Summer. She cannot scream.
She is alone. And then she is not.