More than anything in the world, Suzaku was surprised to see Lelouch vi Britannia standing in the doorway. He had just seen the man answer questions in his homeland for a live interview, and the fact that he was here now amazed him. Did this man not know of exhaustion? But as he stood there, he could see the dark shadows under his eyes and the deliberation of the way he moved as if he were forcing each and every muscle to respond to every one of his commands.
He pitied him all the while commending C.C. for finding such a dedicated partner. Given, they were technically newlyweds, but he seriously doubted that anyone, honeymoon stage or not, would be willing to expend the time, energy, and money to fly across the Atlantic constantly.
Well, he supposed he had been proven wrong.
“Ah, yes, we’ve been expecting you.”
“Of course. You have all of Ceci’s possessions, do you not? Which we’re tremendously grateful for, by the way. You’ve saved her a great deal of embarrassment.”
“It’s the least I could do,” he mumbled. Face burning, he hitched up the two boxes. “So where should I set these down?”
“I’ll take the top one.”
He made no contest and soon enough, he felt the strain on his arms lessen. Relieved, his expression became much less burdened as they walked through the hall. Looking all around, he secretly wondered if this would be the last time he would be walking these halls, when he heard a: “You can set it down right there.”
Right. Obediently putting the box down by the coffee table, Suzaku straightened up to see several other boxes scattered here and there before getting distracted by the white-booted kitten who had leapt up onto the arm of the nearby sofa.
“Oh, hullo.” He reached out to pet her, and she swatted his hand away. Embarrassed, he tried to smile away the hurt, when he realized why the kitten had run away so suddenly.
Even more surprising than being greeted by his Grace, the Duke, was seeing how dressed up his wife was. She stood in pair of black stilettos to match her chic, knee-length dress – nothing at all like what Suzaku had expected, which had been leaning more towards that one time she had been sick: dressed in a silk robe surrounded with tissues. As his Grace had said, Femme had been C.C.’s baby, and to be so unceremoniously booted off had to be hard on her. And yet, she acted as if she hadn’t been fired the day before.
“There are a few things we need to discuss.”
He followed her to the table where her husband was sitting. He glanced up from the newspaper he’d been reading to wrap his arm around her waist. Her eyes never once leaving him, C.C. nonchalantly took a seat on her husband’s knee, all the while maintaining a level of professionalism that most could only dream of achieving.
“Who sat in my office today?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“What does that mean?”
“I genuinely don’t know,” he stammered. “I quit yesterday.”
She cocked a brow. He flushed as two pairs of eyes drilled into him.
“There was a rumor that they were going to fire us. You know, the group who…who was upset over you leaving. They called it “infrastructure restructuring” but we all knew what it actually meant. So most of us quit yesterday at the end of the day because we didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. After we made sure we had other jobs waiting for us, of course.”
He couldn’t really tell whether she was pleased or amused by the news, but whichever it was, she did a good job of confusing him. She turned to her husband and seemed to say something quietly to him before kissing his temple and standing up. Motioning for him to follow, they left the kitchen, passing boxes here and suitcases there, before walking into a barren office. Perching herself on the edge of the desk, she crossed her arms and scrutinized him.
“And you, Suzaku? You have another employer now, I presume, since you so graciously made a fool out of yourself?”
She let out a weird huff that could have passed for a snort of laughter if it weren’t for the serious light in her eyes. Suzaku decided to pay no mind to it; let her laugh if she wanted. It was too late now to take back what he had done.
“I won’t ask you why you feel so much loyalty towards me,” she drawled, “since I probably won’t care enough to remember beyond the next five minutes. But my husband-”
“Are you moving?” he blurted. Ears bright red, Suzaku stared at her with wide eyes. “Because of the boxes and everything, I… It looks like you’re moving and-”
“-has been taking my termination much harder than I have. He blames himself, even though I keep telling him that I knew of the risk I’d be taking when I accepted his proposal and that I planned ahead for this specific scenario that we find ourselves in. Sometimes, for all his intelligence and wit, he can’t get some things through that dense skull of his. It’s going to be an interesting 60 years.”
This time Suzaku knew it was a snort. She gently sighed.
“How stupid do you think I am?”
“I just didn’t- I’m not saying that you’re stupid, just, I didn’t think that-”
They stood in silence as she closed her eyes and meditated. Once she had counted past 100, she opened her eyes again and leaned back.
“I won’t repeat myself, so listen carefully. I’m currently working out the details, but Clovis la Britannia – ah, so there’s a name you actually recognize; bravo, Suzaku. It only took you a year – has agreed to invest in a little business venture of mine I’ve been keeping close for some time. It won’t be as lucrative as working for Femme was, but we’re in need of a lackey, and quite frankly, I’d prefer to have one that I’ve already broken in and trained. Would you like the job? Even without knowing all the concrete details, such as pay, benefits, location, requirements, etc.?”
She nodded once. “Then I suggest you speak to your landlady this afternoon if you’re to be liberated from your indentured servitude. I need you in Gloucestershire by next week.”
“It’s Your Grace now.”
“Yes, your Grace.”
As he left the house, Suzaku couldn’t help but whistle. Hands in his pockets, he nearly skipped down the sidewalk to the metro station. Of course C.C. had known. Of course. Who else but the Ice Queen would be capable of bouncing right back up on her two feet?
He really should have known better by now. Honestly, Suzaku. Get on with the program.