When she came back home on Wednesday, she found none other than Alexei Aleksandrovich sitting on her sofa. Standing up with a wide grin, he took her by the shoulders and warmly greeted her.
“And so his Queen returns.” Stooping down, he lightly kissed each of her cheeks. “How have you been, darling?”
“Well, thank you. What brings you to the States?”
“I thought a change of scenery would be nice. Ol’ Blighty just isn’t the same nowadays. Not that the Colonies are much better from what I’ve seen on the news.”
Scooping up the whining puppy, she followed the voice into the den. Her husband was sitting in the living room armchair, an empty wineglass in his hand. Setting it down on the coffee table, he leaned over to kiss her.
“Hello, my love. How was your day?”
“It was okay. Where’s dinner?”
“Ah, well, Alexei insisted that he treat us to a nice, wonderful dinner this evening at Spiaggia. I would have called you, but he wanted to surprise you. Does Spiaggia sound agreeable to you?”
They’d gone to Spiaggia once. A couple years back, for Valentine’s Day, instead of staying in like they usually did, for once they had done the regular hum-drum Valentine’s Day routine, partially just to see what it was like and partially just to say that they had. At the end of the meal, he’d set a small velvet box on the table and watched her quietly as she opened it to reveal the glittering pearl-and-diamond earrings inside. It had been way before his career had gained any real momentum, and when she had still been studying, so the fact that he had somehow saved enough to gift them to her had been… Well, long story short, Spiaggia was remembered by her fondly. And Alexei was picking up the tab; how could she say otherwise?
“Can I change before we go?” she asked. “I don’t think what I’m wearing is exactly appropriate.”
“I think you look lovely,” interjected their guest. Lelouch glanced over her shoulder, his eyes narrowed. Alexei cheekily winked at him. “But of course. Right, Lelouch?”
“Right,” he muttered. Focusing his attention on his wife, he tucked her hair behind her ear. “Of course you can, sweetheart. Alexei and I have some things to discuss anyway. Right, Alexei?”
Giving her a peck, he nudged her into the direction of their bedroom. “We’ll be waiting right here for you.”
. . .
“So you’re planning on having a wedding, I see.” Alexei set his fork down before daintily wiping his mouth with the cloth napkin. “I sense the meddling of a certain Ashford in this decision…?”
“Milly was rather dedicated with her suggestion, though it would be difficult to say that she was the catalyst.”
“Then what, pray tell, was the catalyst?”
Lelouch sighed. “Can’t a man want to make his wife happy without having to be interrogated over it?”
“Hey, I’m just here to help bring out whatever you sweep under the rug. Do you know how detrimental it is to a relationship if you don’t express your feelings towards your partner on a regular basis?”
“Oh, what would you know? When was the last time you were in a relationship? Year Eight?”
“Not everyone is so fortunate as you, Mr. Corabelle.”
Lelouch only rolled his eyes, choosing not to answer and opting for his wine glass instead. His wife’s eyes twinkled as she silently spectated; it was nice seeing this side of her husband. He was normally such a mild-mannered person… He seemed younger with Alexei, and in spite of their constant bickering, she could see why they were such good friends and had remained as such for so many years.
“Now, would the lovely lady like some dessert? Cannoli? Tiramisu? Or perhaps an affogato?”
“You sound like a waiter.”
“Oh, hardly,” said her husband scathingly. “He’s hardly had to lift a finger in his entire 34 years.”
“Don’t listen to him, dearie.” He reached to pat her hand, when his best friend slapped his hand away. Rubbing the pink back with a hurt look on his face, he pouted.
“Now that was a bit much. Don’t you know not to bite the hand that feeds you, Lelou?”
“If you thought that hurt, just wait until the next cheeky comment you make, you smarmy bastard.”
“I hate to interrupt this sexual tension you have going on between you two,” she teased, “but some affogato does sound nice at the moment.”
“Then some affogato you shall have. Mi scusi, signore.”
And with a wink, Alexei sent their waiter off to procure three of your finest affogato’s.
. . .
“Now then, C.C., since I treated you to dinner this evening, would you mind terribly if I borrowed your precious Lelou for some time? There are some things I want to discuss with him about good ol’ Blighty.”
But before she could answer, “Lelou” stepped away and said, “Whatever you have to say to me, you can say to her.”
The couple stared at his unusually serious tone. A hardness settled on his face, making the shadows of his face sinister. Pursing his lips tightly together, he knit his brows together as he shook his head.
“No. Trust me, Lelouch. You want to hear this privately. If you want to tell your wife afterwards, then by all means, please go ahead. But you need to hear this first and digest. Remember our little antipasto at your home?”
He apparently did remember because his eyes flickered and he frowned. The two men stared at one another, silently speaking to each other, before he finally sighed and said, “I think you should take a taxi. It’s late, and I don’t want you walking about by yourself.”
“I can handle myself.”
“I know, but there are some others who can’t, and I’d rather be safe than sorry. I don’t know what I would do if I lost you.”
“But that’s why you’re not going to. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I hate to ruin this moment you two are having,” said Alexei. “It’s very sweet and beautiful, but the driver’s already started the meter, so it might be prudent of you to hop in.”
Man and wife gave one another a quick kiss before she pulled away to ask for 52nd Ave and 71st Street. Lelouch watched the tail lights until they turned a corner, after which his friend so kindly ruffled his hair. Hissing, he shoved him away.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” he snapped.
“Come on then. The whiskey isn’t going to drink itself.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the bar at my hotel. I scoped it out earlier; some very nice ladies there. Managed to get a number there, which is what I plan on doing tomorrow to answer your earlier question.”
Lelouch only shook his head disgustedly. Though he openly disapproved of his friend’s lifestyle, there was little he could say; even if he himself was happily married, there was no guarantee Alexei would also be. And, quite frankly, in the case he did marry, whoever the foolish girl was, Lelouch could only feel a deep sense of pity for.
Alexei Aleksandrovich was a notorious flirt. That enough was evident with his smug grin as he flaunted the phone number of the cougar from the bar.
Track 41: Spirit | YDG