Hitching up his pants, (damn, he should have worn his belt) Suzaku cautiously walked into the quiet restaurant. Eyes wildly flitting here and there, he approached the bar where he gave a quick smile and half wave to the sole occupant of the entire building — or so it appeared anyway.
“Suzaku! You’re back from your honeymoon. Been taking care of Euphie well?” she added with a wink. Flushing, Suzaku laughed.
“Ah, uh, yeah, you—I mean I’m trying my best but—who opened the store?” Gingerly sliding into the stool besides her, he turned to catch the faint, telltale glimmer of a yellow keychain that his friend had gestured towards. Suzaku grimaced. C.C. never opened. Never. Not even when her partner had been sick, she had stubbornly refused to violate what she called ‘her principles’ and avoided waking up early enough to open the store. It was that bad, huh?
“Do you, uh…” He cleared his throat and leaned forward to whisper. You never knew; better to be safe than sorry. “Do you know what exactly hap—”
“What’s so interesting this morning for you two to be whispering secretively?”
The hair on his nape stood on end as he felt two gold eyes puncture through him. Deflating slightly, Suzaku straightened up. Rubbing the back of his neck, he smiled nervously. “Hi, C.C.”
“Hi, Suzaku…” Her eyes narrowing, she crossed her arms. “What’s so interesting?”
“I, uh… I was just telling Milly about the honeymoon and how nice it was.”
“I bet it was a lot of fun. In fact, I’d say you had such a great time, you’ve become a gossip.”
Swallowing hard, he barely managed to choke out, “C-can I get a glass of water please?”
“You know where the drinks are served.”
Sliding down, he shuffled past her, careful to dodge her suspicion as best he could. As he scooped ice into a cup, he glanced around the empty kitchen. None of the servers had clocked in yet, it appeared, or the other owner. Which was really strange because he was always a stickler for coming in on time and abiding by all of the rules possible. Suzaku wondered if the restaurant had been relinquished to C.C. But in exchange for what? The house?
“If you wait for all of that ice in your cup to melt, you’re never going to go back to your wife, Suzaku,” she drawled.
Shaking out some of the ice, he thrust the cup under the drink dispenser and watched as the water rushed into the cup, slipping through the cracks between the ice. Drumming his fingers on the metal counter, he waited patiently, not particularly thinking about anything, when he heard the bell signaling a new customer and then a familiar voice.
“Why don’t you go say good morning to Maman, Leopold, and then we’ll get you settled with your coloring book, okay?”
Head popping up, Suzaku froze, wondering if he had heard correctly. That…was Lelouch’s voice…wasn’t it? That had been his voice, right? It had to have been. When he had walked into the restaurant, he hadn’t seen or heard Leopold, who had made a game out of trying to surprise newly arrived customers (or so he remembered from before the wedding and all its chaos), and that was his voice right there saying, “Good morning, Maman” so…
Forgetting his water, Suzaku peeked out from behind the wall of shelves to see his best friend’s back turned to him as he – his best friend, that is – spoke to his ex-wife in what seemed to be an extremely nonchalant tone totally unbecoming of their recently minted status as divorcees.
“I moved the delivery of the fresh produce up to 11AM. Jeremiah was being stubborn, but I called in a favor, so he’s going to bring all our orders in about an hour when we won’t have as many customers.”
“Are you going to supervise that and organize after?”
“Then I’ll take care of the kitchen and the front while that’s being done, but afterwards, you’re back at where you belong.”
Suzaku looked at Milly, who also shrugged. Both, mystified, stared at the strange exhibit before them. They could still very clearly remember the violent arguing, the throwing plates and screaming and accusing and just all-around hell that had engulfed not just those two but all who knew them. The only one who had been lucky to escape the brunt of it had been Leopold, who, at the age of 4, had been spared such a fate. But even he hadn’t been completely unaffected, asking why Papa didn’t come home sometimes and why Maman was so much more tired than she usually was and why, why, why did he have to go to Grandmama’s when he wanted to stay with Maman and Papa? So seeing the two of them standing in the kitchen of the restaurant that they had started together, him with his arms crossed and her leaning against the counter, and just talking in calm voices as if they hadn’t just gotten through a divorce was just…surreal. In fact, Suzaku wondered if this just wasn’t some bad joke. God knew how shitty Lelouch’s sense of humor was, and he didn’t put it past him to orchestrate something of this magnitude, but–
“Hey! It’s Uncle Suzaku! Hi!”
Suzaku looked down to see a bright smile floating at about knee-height. Leopold dug into the pocket of his pants. “Want to hear my whistle? Grandmama gave it to me for solving the puzzle.”
“Oh, uh… Sure.”
He glanced up to see his best friend staring at him. Flashing him an uneasy smile, he ruffled the crown of soft green hair. “I wish I had a whistle like that.”
He laughed. “I know you do, silly. That’s why I showed it to you. Where’s Aunt Euphie?”
“Oh, she’s home right now, but she said she would come visit you soon. She has a present she wants to give you.”
“Wow! A present of what?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“Okay, so a present of wha–”
“Leopold. Maman needs help with kneading the dough for the pizza. Do you think you can help her?”
“Oh, yup! I can do that. Bye, Uncle!”
“Bye, Leopold,” he softly called out. Straightening up, he faced his friend. As if he were looking at an unfamiliar face, Suzaku searched him for something — for an explanation, an excuse, something to help make sense of what he had just seen — when he said, “How’s Euphemia?”
“Oh, she’s doing great. Really great. She had a nice time. She’s been meaning to talk to you too, by the way, about the, uh… Well, I guess I’ve been meaning to talk to you about it too. How’s, um… How’s Leopold? Is he adjusting well…?” Suzaku died a little inside. If only Euphie were here. She’d know the right thing to say.
“He’s…adjusting. C.C. and I are trying our best to help ease him through. He seems to be adjusting well from what I’ve seen and heard.”
“Yeah, he doesn’t seem too bothered…”
The two men looked after the boy who was standing on a chair besides his mother and giggling as he hammered a small mound of dough that had been set aside just for him. Lost in their own thoughts, they stood in silence until they heard a whistle.
“Hey. I’m still here, you know. I could use some company.” Milly waved her hand, as if doing so would draw both of them closer. Lelouch remained anchored to his spot as was always the case.
“I need to speak to Suzaku.”
“You do?” Milly’s brows disappeared behind her bangs.
“You do?” he said.
“Yes, I do, and I would like to do so privately. Do you have the time?”
“Uh, y-yeah.” He glanced down at his watch. “Three minutes, actually.”
“That’s more than enough. Follow me.”
Slightly bewildered — what the hell would Lelouch would to speak to him about privately? The last time had been when he had told him that he and C.C. were going to file for divorce. He rarely ever wanted to speak privately if it wasn’t something big — Suzaku followed him up the stairs to the office. Closing the door behind him, he awkwardly hung there in the early morning light, wondering just what it was that so desperately needed privacy. Even as much as it scared him, he had to admit that there was a part of him that was burning with curiosity, so he stood, conflicted with his eagerness and reluctance, until he finally did find out, at which point, Suzaku almost wished he hadn’t, if only for the sake of his simple, blissful life because byGod, why?
Why did they insist on doing things like this? Suzaku loved C.C. and Lelouch as much as a man can love his closest friends, but honestly, sometimes… Why?