“So…end result, we’re having a wedding.” Tossing the salad, she capped the small dressing container as she listened to her friend laugh.
“Oh, it’s about time. Do you know how much I’ve been badgering Lelouch about having a wedding? For 6 years I’ve toiled, and now finally! He’s seen the light.”
“Why would you be so invested in whether we have a traditional wedding or not?”
“Because I know you want one, and that you would never tell Lelouch that you want one because you love him too much and don’t want to make him feel bad or whatever, even though it doesn’t make any sense to me why you telling him would hurt his feelings. You really mustn’t be afraid to be honest with him. He’s not a baby, you know. Quite the opposite, in fact. Though I’m sure he’s made that very clear to you.”
“That’s very funny.” Stabbing the salad, she twirled her fork around with her lithe fingers. In the bright light of her office, her ring flashed at her, and she couldn’t help but smile. She loved her wedding ring; though she wasn’t one to usually show off, the looks of awe she got whenever others did see her ring always pleased her immensely. Her husband had chosen well; it seemed like the ring only grew more beautiful with age.
“So do you want any help with the planning?”
“Don’t you have some planning of your own to do? What with the baby?” C.C. was glad to have gotten over her initial pettiness over the felicitous news, or else she’d have never been able to speak so lightly of the child.
“Oh, can’t I? You know I love to plan these things. Besides, I’d kill for a distraction. You will not believe the amount of pestering that Rivalz, his mother, and my own mother do. You would think they would have lives of their own to live, but no, apparently, they don’t.”
“Well, you have become a sacred vessel, haven’t you?”
“I suppose… So then shall I come next week? I have to go there anyway to take care of some real estate. Might as well do all that before the baby.”
“What about Rivalz?”
“Oh,” she replied airily. “He’ll have to hold the fort down by himself, but I’m sure he can do it. He’s capable of caring for himself. He had to until I finally said yes to him.”
“You shouldn’t treat him like that,” she scolded. “Think of all the torment you put him through, and all the torment he’s going to go through. Go easy on him.”
“Not everyone can be as perfect a wife as you,” she teased.
When there was no reply, Milly listened to the oddity of the silence. Shifting onto her side, she gently asked if she was alright. She of course already knew the answer, but sometimes for people like C.C., you sometimes had to be basic and obvious with your questioning, lest you never coax the truth out from behind such tightly sealed lips.
“…His mother’s health hasn’t improved any. If anything, it’s gotten worse.”
“And he’s not really the type to talk about it, is he? Even if it worries him.”
No, of course he wasn’t. Since they had been children, Milly could remember how excellent Lelouch had been at internalizing all his grief. He had been trained as a boy by his mother to behave so and hide all that was unsavory, hadn’t he? By both her neglect and the necessity of keeping one’s head high before the scrutiny of a country.
“You ought to ask Alexei if he’s said anything. Maybe they’ve discussed it at some length. They were close, you know, than I was with him. I was more like his older sister whereas Alexei was more like his twin brother. They went everywhere together and did everything together.”
“Whatever happens though, C.C., it won’t change his love for you.”
“I’m not worried about whether he loves me or not. I just…”
There was that odd silence again.
“I… Do you know what he said to me the other night?”
She patiently waited as her friend drew in a deep breath.
“He told me that he didn’t marry me to make me fine, he married me to make me happy and that his one and only wish in the world was for me to smile because there’s nothing more that he loves than my smile, and yet… I can’t even help him when he has this…this problem weighing down on him. I claim to love him, and yet, I can’t even do anything. I know he’s had this bothering him all his life, but that doesn’t mean he has to continue with this burden.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
C.C. quietly lay the lid of her lunch on the container. Though it was half-eaten, she could no longer feel her appetite – an absence that carried through until the evening when she returned home. Setting her bag down, she unwrapped the silk scarf he’d given her years ago on their first anniversary, and, wrapping it tightly around her hand, she softly tread into the kitchen where she saw her husband with his back to her, his head bowed as he prepared their dinner like he always had for the past 8 years. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she leaned against him.
“And how was your day today, my pearl?”
She chose not to speak. Holding him in itself was just so overwhelming. She was afraid that, should she speak now, there would be security in knowing what she would do. Most likely cry, but one could never be sure when one was so swept away by emotion, and so, she chose not to speak.
“Excellent, I hope? How was your lunch?”
Laying the lid on the simmering pot, he twisted around. Wiping his hands on the nearby towel, he returned her embrace.
“Whatever is the matter, my sweet?”
“…Have I ever told you how much I love you?” Her timid voice was muffled by his apron. “Because I do very much.”
“And I you.”
She nestled her head against his chest. He smelled nice, like spices, and was warm and strong, yet gentle all at the same time. He smiled not unkindly at her.
“Mon bonheur est d’être près de toi. Je croyais t’aimer il y a quelques jours; mais, depuis que je t’ai vue, je sens que je t’aime mille fois plus encore. Depuis que je te connais, je t’adore tous les jours davantage,” he murmured.
“Napoléon I’s letter to Joséphine,” she said quietly.
He held her for as long as she wanted him to, and when she raised her head, caressed her pretty face with such affection, she felt her heart expand and was soothed by his touch.
“What worries you so, Cera? Tell me what’s wrong, sweet pea, so I can help you feel better.”
“Are you sure?”
She nodded. “I want to hear about your day first.”
“Nothing much happened. I can’t promise you it’ll be a very exciting recounting.”
“I don’t care. I want to know anyway.”
“As my lady wishes.”
And so, she heard all about his day over dinner. She listened to him describe Liesl’s antics and nodded sympathetically as he grumbled about this problem and that. Seated across from him at the table, the lamps and candles softening all the harsh lines, she ate every bit of the dinner he had prepared for her, whether or not she had regained her appetite from earlier. It wasn’t until they had finished the dishes and were on the sofa together with a glass of wine that she finally told him what was bothering her.
He sat quietly for some time, his eyes trained on his lap as he mulled over her confession. Timidly, she directed him to face her.
“You always say to me that a burden shared is a burden halved. Won’t you talk to me, Lelouch? Won’t you let me help you?”
And for the first time, he saw the sorrow in her eyes and the pallor of her face. Shoulders wilting, he took hold of her hands. Of course he would. Of course he would talk to her. He had only kept quiet about it all because he hadn’t wanted to add more stress on her thin shoulders, but he could see now how his secrecy was even worse. And so he talked to her and told her everything like she wanted. As his lady wished.