“And this is something you’ve talked about with him?”
Milly looked at her friend over the smooth oak of the desk as she crossed her legs. C.C., inspecting her nails, nodded. She sat back in her seat; huh. She’d heard from Suzaku how Lelouch had been thinking of relinquishing his share of Ambrosia – news that alarmed her; there was very little that he cared more for, and the fact that he’d been thinking of leaving could only hint towards the pain and regret of his separation from his wife – but she hadn’t really… She could never have thought that he would actually do it, albeit in a somewhat different manner than he’d suggested.
“Why do you think I went to Japan?”
She shrugged but wisely chose not to say that she – as well as everyone else – had thought she had gone away to escape from the wreck that had been her marriage. Instead, she set her cup down and asked her if she was the first to know.
“With the exception of Marianne, yes. Not even Euphemia knows.”
“So it’s that top-secret, huh?” She thoughtfully tapped her chin. “What about Alexei? Does he know?”
There was a strange pause.
“No. But he will soon.”
“He will sooner than everyone else or he will as soon as the rest of the staff knows?”
“…That’s been undecided as of now.”
Milly studied her friend for some time before slowly saying, “He’s a lot different from Lelouch.”
“And so? Do you really think I chose him for the sole purpose of being so different from him?”
“I’m just saying… What does Leopold think of him?”
“He likes him just fine,” she said stiffly. “Leopold’s sweet. I’ve never seen him hate anyone.”
“Well, as long as he’s happy, I have nothing more to say.”
The two women sat quietly for a long, long time. As C.C. thought of the discussion she had just had with her…ex-husband, Milly thought of Alexei Aleksandrovich.
He seemed nice. A tad younger than C.C. – and C.C. was pretty young in her own right – but polite and good-looking with a sense of humor. Not to mention how he’d easily surpassed even Lelouch’s impossible standards, as well as how he’d curried Leopold’s favor. Of course, the boy would never give his blessing to the union. But she supposed in his head Alexei was just one of his mother’s friends kind of like the way Uncle Suzaku was a friend, so maybe that was why he hadn’t yet shaken his tiny fist at the man.
Plus it didn’t hurt that his mother had told him that he was just a friend.
Though… Maybe in a way she hadn’t really lied to him. Milly didn’t know that they had slept together that one rainy night when Leopold had fallen asleep and they had had one too many drinks, but she knew what C.C. was like when she was in love. It was subtle, and the clues were barely there if at all, but she could still recall the look in her eyes when she had loved Lelouch, or the way she had held herself when she had stood next to him. Of course, her words and tone were biting, but her coarse attitude served only to hide her affection, and as Lelouch had once let slip, unbeknownst to the rest of the world, C.C. had an adorable, sweet side to her. You just had to make her fall in love with you to see it.
And though C.C.’s voice was soft when she spoke of Alexei, Milly seriously doubted that she actually loved him or ever would. Even in the beginning when they had barely known one another, the way C.C. had spoken of Lelouch as she described his flaws and annoying habits sounded so much warmer than when she finally caved in and told her about some romantic gesture Alexei had made.
Not that it was really any of her business, but to her, it seemed as if C.C. had lied to everyone over no longer loving Lelouch – herself included. Though she had only cried once in front of another from start to finish of the entire war waged between the two, one time had been more than enough for Milly to realize the depth of the bond between them and how deeply the cut had to be made in order to remove that part of her life and person.
Feeling the weight of her revelation, Milly dimmed. She as well as the rest of their friend group had done their best to move on with their lives so as to help them move on, but now she started to wonder if that was really for the best, or if all of them had just gotten lazy or scared or a combination of both and had all agreed to ignore the real issue at hand.
“Hey, C.C., I… I just want to say that-”
The door opened and a smile dashed up to her. “You’re here!”
“Hi, Leopold!” Reaching into her purse, she handed him a small pouch with a wink. Raising a finger to her lips, she smiled at him. “Don’t tell your mommy.”
“I’m sitting right here.”
The child ran around the desk to clamber up into his mother’s lap. She helped him take his backpack off as he leaned back. Unwrapping a piece of candy, he brightly said, “Guess what I did today?”
“What did you do today?”
“I drew a picture! And Ms. Croomy said it was the best picture ever!”
He proudly brandished a sheet of cream construction paper, and the two adults gaped in awe.
“Wow, it is the best picture ever! You could just hang it up in the Louvre, it’s so pretty.”
“Oh. But I just wanted to put it on the refriggerer.”
“Or we could do that too. We could hang it up on the refrigerator so that everyone can see your nice drawing.”
Milly stared at the three figures on the sheet who couldn’t be anyone else than the artist and his two parents. He had apparently drawn inspiration from his recent birthday party because there was a cake five times the size of a man off to the far left as well as a mountain of presents that miniaturized the cake.
“We can send a picture to Papa if you’d like.”
“Can we go and show it to him?”
“I think that’ll be a little hard. Papa’s working right now, and it’s not nice to distract him.”
“But it’ll be really quick, I promise.”
“Sweetheart, I’m sorry, but I really don’t think visiting Papa is a good idea. You can show him tomorrow though. Do you think you can wait until tomorrow?”
“Is it that you can’t or you won’t?”
“I don’t care, I want to show him now.”
C.C. sighed. “Then you have to give Maman all of your caramels.”
He sat for a moment, his eyes screwed up and his brows scrunched as he tried to calculate whether his caramels were worth it. Apparently it was because he nodded and reached into his backpack.
“Here you go.”
Milly couldn’t help but smile, amused by the boy’s love for his father. It was just nice to see someone so open and accepting of their love for another. Not to mention how being so close to someone such as Leopold would do some good for his mother who seemed determined to ignore her feelings. Her real ones, that was.
“Okay, but I have to call Papa first to see if he’s not busy. If he is, then you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow, okay?”
“Ooh, let me call him! I want to call him!”
“Do you know his phone number?”
He laughed. “It’s already in your phone, silly. See? Right here: Lelouch. That’s Papa’s name. Do you see it?”
He turned the phone around to show his honorary aunt, who glanced down the list of recent calls and saw that C.C. had, for some strange, unknown reason, called Lelouch at 2 in the morning when there really shouldn’t have been anything to call about. She raised a brow but she was too busy with her son to notice.
“Hello? Hellooooo?” His voice pitching up to that of a yell, he half-shouted, “Hello? Papa? Can you hear me? Are you there?”
“Leopold, Papa hasn’t picked up the phone yet. The ringing has to stop before he can hear you.”
“Oh.” He frowned. “Well when is the ringing going to stop?”
“He might be too busy to answer.”
“But he has to see it today!”
“Because I said so! I–Papa!”
When the boy finally hung up and proudly told them that yes, they could go show Papa because he said that he was interested in seeing the picture, plus he was also hungry so he wanted something to eat right this second please so vite, vite, allons-y!
As she watched them leave through the window of the office, with Leopold dragging his mother away from his daycare and to the car, Milly sat for some time before deciding to snoop around for the other half of the story. Clearly if C.C. wasn’t going to, then she’d have to. Someone had to do it, or else both of those fools would ruin their own lives with their pride and stubbornness. If she had to get her hands dirty, then so be it. She’d just roll up her sleeves.
She only hoped they wouldn’t kill her too much when they finally caught on.