Pushing her sunglasses up, Shirley pocketed her keys as she walked into the restaurant. She was a little early for her shift, but honestly, she’d rather be early than late. Lelouch had been incredibly touchy lately; the other day, he’d given an hour-long lecture after work on the importance of a spotless and pristine appearance all because Rivalz had shown up to work with a slightly wrinkled shirt that would have been covered by his vest and gone completely unnoticed until their employer had seen him out of the corner of his eye and lost it, which had been extreme even for him. He could be a stickler for organization and appearance, but an hour-long lecture was just…
She only hoped he’d be in a better mood. He hadn’t come to work yesterday – apparently he and C.C. were going to rotate – so maybe he’d taken the day off to relax…? He seemed more high-strung than he usually was, and while she had no idea what was putting him on edge, it was affecting not only her but everyone else on the staff. Er… At least everyone except for C.C. She seemed unfazed by it all even though she had been the one to suffer through the brunt of his moodiness.
She started, surprised. The restaurant had been closed to prepare for tonight’s banquet, so there shouldn’t have been any customers, much less a child. Though she could hardly feel annoyed. The boy was just so adorable in his overalls! And that smile! So precious!
“Do you have any caramels?”
“Caramels! Like the most delicious food in the entire world! Besides Papa’s pizza.” The mere thought of his father’s pizza seemed to fill him with indescribable joy as his face flushed and his eyes sparkled. “Yum!”
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I…”
She glanced past his head to see a face that was, now that she thought about it, somewhat reminiscent of the one that dancing around her knee-height.
“Ah!” Immediately, he ran towards the man who half stood in the kitchen and half in the front. Wrapping his arms around his legs, he hugged him tight before releasing the man from his affectionate hold. She was all too surprised to see him smile widely.
“Shirley, we could use another pair of hands inside.”
Nodding, she hurried to him. He stepped aside to let her slide by. As she squeezed by, she heard him say, “You want some lunch?” in a sort of voice she hadn’t really thought him capable of. She heard the excited affirmation of the child and a soft chuckle from her boss. At his quiet laugh, Shirley partly flushed (his laugh was just so…so sexy) but was also partly surprised. What exactly was their relation? Nephew…? Oh, that had to be it. She vaguely remembered Milly – a close family friend of Lelouch (or so she claimed) – mentioning his sisters. How many did he have again? Wasn’t it two? Well, either way, no wonder they looked similar. Shirley breathed a sigh of relief as she washed her hands.
Man. If it had been his son… She didn’t think she’d know what to say. But she sure glad that it was just his nephew. His cute nephew.
She beamed at her hands. So adorable! Maybe she shouldn’t be so surprised that Lelouch had spoken like that. You’d have to be a monster not to.
. . .
Though large reservations like the one today were always a hassle and chaotic, they were good at least for two things: hefty tips and a ceasefire between the two Big Bad’s. They stood side-by-side as they worked quietly and efficiently without so much as an angry peep towards the other. Shirley watched them from where she sat folding napkins; maybe this was the start of a new period of peace…? Please? She wasn’t quite sure if she could stand the tension between them. Even Rivalz, who could be quite distracted at times, found it nearly unbearable.
A face she had never seen before popped into the warm kitchen. The visitor seemed to glow with goodwill, and radiated as she stepped inside with a wide smile. Her pretty pink hair floating behind her, she interrupted the two busy cooks with open arms. Both of them momentarily stopped paying attention to their respective pots and pans to return the hug. She couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy. Who exactly was she to be received so kindly? Especially when so busy?
“I thought I’d come to help with the delivery.”
“I was wondering when they were going to arrive,” muttered Lelouch. “Gino, Akito, and Rivalz will help your employee. They should be in the back somewhere. I’ll come out front in a little while to tell you where to put each arrangement.”
“There’s no rush.” She watched the flames leap high before vanishing. “The flowers won’t die of thirst.”
“I can take yours, Lelouch.” C.C. returned the lid to the pot in front of her. “I’m nearly done with mine.”
She would have thought that he’d protest – say something about not trusting her taste; he’d said something of a similar nature just last week – but he nodded and untied his apron. Slipping it off, he ran a hand through his hair before ushering the visitor out. Curious, Shirley timidly wandered outside while carefully carrying a tray of napkins in disguise. Distractedly placing 4 to 8 napkins at each table, she watched as a procession of beautiful bouquets floated into the restaurant and were placed on the bar, when she felt a tap on her knee.
“I want Maman.”
“Oh, is that her? She’s right there.” Pointing to the woman with pink hair, she knelt down so that she was eye-level to him. “See?”
“Oh, no, silly” he giggled. “That’s Aunt Euphie. I want Maman.”
“I’m sorry.” She shrugged. “I don’t really know where your mother is.”
“What about Papa?”
“Well, he’s probably working right now, but I’m sure you’ll see him soon.”
“Oh, but I want to see him now. Where’s Papa?” Wandering away, he wove between the men parading past as he started to yell for his father. Pulling a chair out, he struggled to climb up, when suddenly, two hands lifted him up.
“Leopold, what have I told you about yelling?”
The child mumbled an apology as her boss sighed. Wiping a trace of marinara sauce from the corner of his lips, he put his free hand on his hip and sternly said:
“Maman and Papa are very busy today, Leopold. It’s very important that you’re on your best behavior until Grand-mama comes for you.”
“Oh, but I want to stay,” he whined. “I like the food here better than Grand-mama’s.”
“I’m sorry.” He said it so sadly, Shirley believed that he really was sincerely sorry. “I know how terrible Grand-mama’s cooking is. But I promise it’s only for tonight.”
“How do you know?” he asked crossly. “You don’t know!”
“Of course I know. That’s why I try my best to give you so much yummy food. Because Papa had to grow up with that food.”
The boy’s mouth fell open, horrified by the mere thought. Pity spreading on his face, the child sympathetically patted him on the head. He said something or other, but Shirley never caught it. She was too busy trying to recover from her shock.
So… So then Leopold was his son and not his nephew…? Really? Was that true? Had she heard correctly? She…she hadn’t just misunderstood, had she? Was he the father? But…but…
But then who was the mother?
Who was the mother?