Overall, this is a fairly light-hearted fic. But because it involves Zechs marrying someone other than Noin, you can expect some angst. Anyway, so yeah…enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own My Best Friends Wedding or the Backstreet Boys song, "I Want It That Way". I would like to own Gundam Wing. But I don't. I would really like to own Zechs Merquise…I'm gonna have to work on that one…
My Best Friends Wedding: GW Style!
"Good morning, Lucrezia, looking as beautiful as always!" My partner, Orson Caldwell, greeted me loudly as I entered our office in Preventers headquarters. "You're looking especially ravishing today," he added wryly.
"Shut up, Orson," I growled. I looked like a wreck and he knew it. I tried to cover up the dark circles under my eyes with little success. My eyes were still bloodshot and my body felt like it'd run a marathon. I had spent the whole weekend alone at home, moping. Sunday evening, I had gone to Relena's place for Zechs and Sabra's welcome/late engagement party. Zechs had gotten over his little funk and appeared quite happy at the party. Everyone loved Sabra. But Duo was the only one with the balls (or the gall) to actually ask me why the hell it wasn't me hanging off Zechs' arm. He confessed that everyone was shocked when Zechs announced his engagement to Sabra. They all thought it would be me. None of them knew why it wasn't me…and it wasn't like I had a clue. Either Zechs didn't love me the way I (and everyone else, or so Duo told me) thought he did but couldn't admit, or this girl had something about her that had knocked Zechs off his feet. But it appeared that though we'd never find out which one it was. No one, not even Relena, could get him to open up. If only there were someone that were close enough to him and could get him to talk…oh wait, that was supposed to be me. So far, Zechs hadn't told me anything. I was starting to worry. He had said that he wanted to catch up and talk…
Duo was a little perturbed that Hilde and Sabra hit it off right away. Hilde by herself was a spunky, talkative girl. Throw in Sabra and…I shuddered. They had spent the whole party gossiping and teasing Wufei, who was only there because Sally had managed to beat him at rock, paper, scissors. Sometimes I wondered about those two. They had the oddest relationship…but at least they had one.
"Hey, Lu, what's with the mood, eh?" Orson threw an arm around my shoulders, shaking me a bit before letting go, his beep brown eyes studying me critically. "What is it, a hangover?"
I scowled. "No, Orson, it's not a hangover. I just had a bad night." I mumbled the last bit, trying not to let his infectious good mood get to me. I was quite fine being miserable, and justifiably so.
"What, did something happen at that party yesterday? I heard Zechs Merquise is coming back. And getting married. And…oh, my God…" he trailed off at the wretched look I gave him. Sighing, he crossed his arms thoughtfully. "That's always what everyone said. I never met him, but everyone in OZ knew about you two and your record-breaking academy scores." Orson shook his head, giving me a sympathetic smile. "I'm sorry, Lu."
Shrugging, I went to my desk. There was paperwork stacked a mile high. "It doesn't matter. If he's happy, then…" I couldn't say the rest. I sighed heavily and grabbed the first stack of papers. I needed to stop thinking about him; it would only upset me more. I settled down to review case after case of all the nonsense people did that kept the Preventers in business.
I growled after the third case study. "What is all this? Don't people have morals? Guilt? Lives?" Day after day of reading through people doing stupid things, or attempting to, just wore away at my nerves. The attempts were the more aggravating ones. Always.
Across the room, Orson chuckled. "Lu, I suggest you go home and go to sleep. Take sleeping pills."
"I'm going to break them up, Orson," I said suddenly, staring at the words on the papers in front of me, but seeing none of it.
He coughed politely. "Excuse me?" he inquired, making like he hadn't heard me correctly.
"I have to. Or at least I have to try. I mean, what if she's a witch and has him under some kind of weird spell and…" I stopped; Orson was laughing wildly, doubled over at his desk. "Oh, you know what I mean!" I said angrily. "But I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least try," I finished quietly.
The laughter ceased abruptly and Orson regarded me seriously. "You're right, Lu."
* * *
That night, I sat on my couch with a glass of wine and a plan to figure out. A few minutes into it, my thoughts had wandered so far, I had spaced out completely. I was not expecting the vidphone to ring. When it did, I jumped in surprise, the wine sloshing onto my shirt. I fumbled for the receive button as I tried to find a towel to clean up the mess.
"Hello," I mumbled before the video display had a chance to load.
"Hi Lucrezia!" Oh, God. There was Sabra, looking characteristically cheerful. Cheerful was an understatement. I didn't even bother to try and reciprocate the feeling.
"I hope you weren't sleeping or anything. Were you? Anyway, I wanted to invite you to come with us to the church on Thursday. Duo and Hilde are coming, too. Duo's going to be the best man. You know, Milli and Heero don't exactly get along. But I wanted you there because I have a huge favor to ask of you," she gushed before she paused dramatically, a wide grin splitting her face.
I tried to sound nice. "What would that be?"
"Will you be my bridesmaid? I mean, you're Milli's best friend and if you were a guy, I'm sure he'd ask you to be the best man. But you're not, so I figured you just had to be the bridesmaid. Will you? " I froze. Bridesmaid? Now not only would I have to be at this wedding, but I would have to be part of it, too. I couldn't very well say no to her… This was important to Zechs. "Hello, Lucrezia? Are you okay?" Sabra asked after a few moments.
I gathered my wits and spoke, "Of course I'll be the bridesmaid, Sabra. What time do I have to be at the church?"
Sabra delightedly filled me in on the rest of the details while I listened halfheartedly, keeping a fake smile on my face. I hung up the phone and forgot all about the ruined shirt. I was suddenly very tempted to kill off the bottle of wine I had opened. Instead, I fell onto my couch, burying my face in the cushions. I had to do something, but what? The girl was so damned nice…is that why Zechs fell for her? I needed to talk to him; I had to find out what happened on Mars. He never mentioned anything to anyone while he was up there. What made him decided to get engaged and not tell anyone? Worse, he didn't tell me. As long as I've known him, Zechs told me everything. He trusted me with his secrets, his fears, and his even the protection of his sister. Why didn't he trust me now?
I didn't think that I could go to that church and face the two of them on my own. I reached lazily for the vidphone and dialed up Orson. He had become my closest friend since Zechs had left and had always been supportive. Not only that, but he was an absolute riot. He never failed to make me laugh, no matter how firm my resolve to develop an immunity to his sparkling brown eyes and tousled, dirty blonde hair. I was sure that I'd need him there to cheer me up. I could just feel the migraine coming…
"Hi there, babe," he greeted. "What's wrong? You've been crying." The happy-go-lucky expression died instantly and was replaced with worry.
Had I? Yes, I realized, as I felt my cheeks wet with tears. I sniffled. "So I have. I didn't even notice. Orson, will you come to the church with me Thursday?" I felt ready to cry again. "They want me to be the bridesmaid," I managed to spit out, trying to hold back bitter tears.
"Hey now," he soothed comfortingly. "Of course I'll come with you. I've always been there for you, right?"
I smiled weakly in spite of all the turmoil I was feeling inside. "Thank you, Orson."
* * *
It was a beautiful church. It was huge inside, with a vaulted ceiling, and lots of stained glass windows. Perfect for a wedding. At the front of the church were Zechs and Sabra, talking with Duo and Hilde, who were sitting in the front pew. Orson and I started down the aisle, a faint smile crossing my face. It was almost as if we were the ones getting married.
I took a shaky breath. Orson took my hand in his and smiled encouragingly. Suddenly, I got the perfect idea.
"You said you'd always be there, right?" I whispered.
He looked at me curiously. "Yes…are you actually going to take me up on that?" he joked.
"Yeah," I grinned. "I need you to be my fiancé." I waved as Zechs turned and saw us. Sabra came running up to meet us.
"What?" Orson hissed under his breath.
"Shh, just do it," I shushed as Sabra reached us, beaming.
"I'm so glad you came!" she squealed. "I told Milli about you being the bridesmaid and he thought it was absolutely brilliant!" Zechs came up behind her and put his arm around her waist. I had to make a very conscious effort not to clench my fists.
"Thank you, Noin, you don't know how much it means to us," he said quietly.
"It's nothing, really," I said, meeting his eyes. When had he gotten so good at hiding his emotions from me? I used to be able to read his eyes like a book, but now they told me nothing. Their clear blue depths were closed and guarded; it hurt that he would block me out like that. I lowered my gaze to the floor, feeling my throat close with emotion.
"This is a magnificent church, you know," Orson spoke up suddenly. "Actually, Lu and I were thinking about this place. Right, babe?" My head shot up.
The look on Zechs' face was priceless. I had to resist the urge to laugh hysterically at Orson's timing. While Zechs' jaw dropped in shock, Sabra began jumping up and down happily.
"You're getting married?!" she screeched loudly, the echoes bouncing off the walls of the otherwise quiet church only to ring in my ears rather painfully.
"What!" Hilde cried from the front. She stormed to where we stood, dragging a wide-eyed Duo with her. "You're marrying Orson?" she asked, openly astonished. To that implied insult, Orson frowned.
"Hey, that was not cool," he said. Hilde only shot him a patronizing glare.
Duo suddenly piped up from behind her. "And when where you going to tell us?" Uh, oh. I had to think of something…my plan was falling apart before it had even started.
Luckily, Orson saved me once again. "Oh, damn…I forgot, you wanted to keep it on the DL." The 'DL'? He was making it really hard for me to keep a straight face. He turned to me and took me face in his hands. "I'm so sorry, baby," he said, sounding sufficiently repentant. He took my hands in his and looked into my eyes. For a moment, I almost believed him; he was a damn good actor. "Do you forgive me, Lu?"
It took all my willpower to play along as Zechs' face grew paler and Sabra gabbed on with Hilde about how spectacular this all was. Duo just stared. "I was planning on telling everyone soon, love. I just didn't want news of our engagement to get in the way of Zechs and Sabra's wedding plans. But I do forgive you," I said warmly. I gave him a quick peck on the lips and turned to our audience. "Sorry for not telling you guys about us…I was waiting for the right time, I guess," I said sheepishly.
This time it was Zechs congratulating us. "I'm so happy for you," he said, leaning down to kiss my cheek. He smiled benignly at me before turning to Sabra. They disappeared into the rectory to meet with the priest, leaving the four of us alone. We'd join them later to discuss…whatever best men and bridesmaids discussed with the priest. I really didn't see any point in my being there and wondered if this was all some ploy to make my life even more miserable.
"Thanks, Orson." I said quietly, lest Duo and Hilde hear the truth. They had gone up to the altar, arguing about something or other.
He only smirked. "No problem, babe. This is gonna be fun," he grinned, rubbing his hands together. "I just loved the shock on Zechs' face. Oh, man." He was laughing uncontrollably, collapsing onto a pew. I only ignored him, seating myself next to him with my arms crossed stiffly. Abruptly, he became serious. "You know, it almost looked as if he was jealous," he mused.
I closed my eyes. "Don't say that, Orson," I whispered sadly. I took in every little aspect of the church as we waited. After a while, Orson lied down across the pew, putting his head in my lap, and fell asleep. I didn't even bother mentioning how disrespectful that was. Thinking back for a moment, the look on Zechs' face could have been jealousy. It did take him a few seconds to compose himself enough to congratulate us. I let my thoughts wander down that path for a while, hoping that Orson's observation was right. If Zechs was resentful that I was engaged too, then…could that mean that he did love me?
I jumped suddenly when I heard a door slam. A moment later, Zechs was storming down the aisle, Sabra following after him. She was pleading with him to stop, but the anger in his eyes was clear. He shoved open the front doors and left. Sabra slowed to a halt beside me, bawling. The priest stood at the door to the rectory, concern on his face.
After a minute, she turned to me, her green eyes pleading. "Lucrezia, you have to talk to him, please," she sobbed, shakily taking a seat in the pew opposite mine. "I know he'll listen to you." The girl buried her head in her hands, unable to stop crying.
I knelt in front of her, placing a comforting hand on her knee. Duo, Hilde, and Orson had crowded around us, only making Sabra edgier. "Hey, guys," I started. "Buzz off, huh?" Some groans, protests, and a firm glare later, they were gone.
"Now, what happened?" I asked gently.
She removed her hands, wiping her face on her sleeves. She looked like a lost five-year-old child; I almost felt sorry for her. Almost. "Well," she managed, forcing herself to calm down. "We were discussing the ceremony with the priest and I know Milliardo was upset about it. He doesn't really want to get married in a church, but I want to so badly, and so he agreed to do it for me. I don't know…he's never been so mad like that." She sighed. "It's all my fault. I begged him to say yes. I grew up here and have gone to this church all my life. It's what my parents always wanted, and they're dead now…" she whimpered, looking at me with sorrowful eyes. "You've known him so much longer and he trusts you, Lucrezia. Will you talk to him?"
Yikes. She'd just unknowingly put me in a painfully compromising position. I'd have to talk him into getting making up with her. That was about the last thing I wanted to do. "I'll talk to him, Sabra," I told her. Could I tell her no? It wasn't in my plan to be malicious. I was thinking that I should rethink my plan after this.
"Thank you," she said tearfully. "I'm sure he's gone back to his place, leaving me here stranded."
I arranged for Orson to take her home, while I drove to Zechs' apartment. I wasn't so sure that I would be able to talk to him like I had ever since I'd met him. True, I had known him far longer than Sabra and at one time he trusted me above anyone else. But something had changed him since we had last seen each other and now he refused to see me the same way. Sighing, I just hoped fervently that he would at tell me something, anything. I needed to know that I was still the friend that had seen him through everything. If not, then that would just be one more dizzying loop on the roller coaster that had been my life since this whole mess started.
I had been to Zechs' apartment several times when he and I had first returned from Mars, back when he was still being honest with me. I wondered if he'd let me in. I pressed the intercom button, deciding I really hated the thing. It was so easy to look like an idiot standing out there arguing with someone to let you inside. "Zechs, let me in," I said impatiently. Surprisingly, I didn't have to argue. He buzzed me in and I wearily made my way to the fifth floor. The elevator was out of order more often than not, so I figured everyone here got their share of daily exercise on the way home. I felt sorry for the people on the ninth floor.
The front door was ajar when I got there, so I opened it slowly and stepped in, shutting it behind me. Zechs was in front of the television, his feet propped up on his coffee table. Zechs never watched TV. Without a word, I sat beside him and turned my eyes to the small TV screen. I immediately discerned that he wasn't really watching it. It was turned to a home shopping network. I assumed it was there just for show, for he was staring blankly at the ladies busy wowing about the amazing cardigans on sale. We sat in silence for almost ten minutes before I decided to speak. Then I concluded that the television was on only to annoy the hell out of me. Apparently he could put up with it. I was about ready to scream if I heard the words "absolutely gorgeous" again. If he was going to be difficult, fine.
"I hear you don't want to get married in a church," I started. I knew perfectly well why he wasn't so keen on the idea. He had a big problem with God. No doubt, seeing as his whole life was nothing but was war, destruction, and loss. It was perfectly understandable…to me. I could see how an innocent civilian like Sabra wouldn't understand.
He sighed. "You heard correct." Hmm, so he was going to be really difficult.
"Why did you walk out on her?"
I saw his fists clench out of the corner of my eye. This was not good. "She doesn't want to understand," he said through gritted teeth.
I braced myself. "Did you try to understand her side?" I was rewarded with a cold glare. Then he turned away, rubbing at his eyes tiredly. At once, I felt some of the walls fall between us.
"I try. And I will try to do what she wants. But she pushes too hard sometimes. I wish she'd realize that." Zechs looked down at me fondly. "Thank you for coming, though, Noin. I don't know if I could do this without you." He held his hand out, palm up, in a sign of thanks. I took it gratefully and rested my head on his shoulder. Closing my eyes, I tried to capture everything about that moment in my mind. The peacefully comfortable way we sat together…the warmth of his hand in mine…
I hadn't meant to fall asleep. When I woke up, I was immediately startled by the glow of the moon shining through the window. I was even more surprised when I realized Zechs was sleeping too. The television was off, and the apartment was completely silent. Sabra must've been going crazy at not hearing from us. I snuck a glance at the clock. It was well past midnight. She hadn't called. She probably thought Zechs was still mad at her and hadn't the courage to call him. Hmph.
I sat up, my movement waking Zechs. He opened his eyes and stretched, yawning. I watched as he extended his arms over his head, flexing his biceps. I guess I was staring. He looked down at me, smiled, and yawned again.
"Hi," he murmured.
He looked at his watch and cursed. "I should call Sabra," he said, mostly to himself.
"I guess I should go, then." I stood and retrieved my car keys.
"Noin, I'd really rather have you stay. You could sleep in my room and I'll stay on the couch. I don't want you driving around here in the middle of the night, it's really not safe," he offered as he went to his vidphone. I didn't say anything, I wasn't quite sure I had heard him right. Stay over? Was he crazy?
"Sabra? I'm sorry, love," I heard Zechs say from the kitchen. A potted plant obscured most of his face, but I saw him look up once, only to see me walk out the door.
* * *
I walked into Preventers Headquarters the next morning to receive the oddest looks from everyone there. Some people offered me their congratulations; while others took offense that I hadn't told them. I had to think a moment before remembering that I was supposed to be engaged. Duo had no doubt told the whole organization. He informed me later on that day that he and Orson had organized a little dinner to celebrate. With the two of them being the tightwads and idiots that they were, it was going to be held at some quirky diner that served alcohol. I cringed inwardly, Duo and Orson together anywhere near liquor was frightening.
Orson and I had a hell of a time explaining ourselves to Lady Une, who demanded to see us in her office right away. Her eyes practically bugged out of her head when we told her we were engaged. I debated on whether we should tell her the truth and then decided we should. As it was, she wasn't really buying our story.
"Look, I will kindly turn a blind eye to your… façade. I personally think, Lucrezia, that you should tell the man the truth. I think his quick engagement and everything is a bit weird. But…" Une shook her head, regarding us with something between amusement and pity.
"I think this is one of those things that's gonna blow up in our faces later," Orson remarked as we walked back to our office. He was probably right, but it had succeeded in shocking everyone, including Zechs. It hadn't however, broken the two of them up. Not that I had expected it to, but the way he spoke to her the night before; I knew I had to do more. I just wasn't sure what. Lady Une's last comment was a trifle unsettling. She thought his engagement was odd in that it was so sudden and without any sort of preamble. I had thought the same myself, but I had seen Zechs and Sabra for myself, she hadn't. What was she getting at, that they were faking, too? No, they were for real.
* * *
The staff at Joey's had set us up on a long table in the middle of the restaurant. After they saw how many people there were, I think they regretted it. Duo, Hilde, Orson, and I were the first to show up. Duo and Orson by themselves, minus the booze, were enough to make the waitresses go pale. Then Relena and Heero showed up with Zechs and Sabra, who were as cuddly as ever. Or rather, Sabra was cuddly enough for the both of them. It made me sick. Trowa, Quatre, Wufei, and Sally all came in together, which surprised me. Wufei usually couldn't tolerate to be in the company of such weak people. As for Trowa and Quatre, it had been a while since I had seen them, and they congratulated Orson and me happily. A couple of Orson's buddies came along, though he told me that he had let them in on our ruse to liven things up. Last to arrive was Lady Une, though I strongly suspected she came only to see Zechs' reaction to all this, as well as to meet his fiancée for herself.
The first round of drinks came and the party was underway. Orson cranked up the jukebox and he and his friends were already singing along drunkenly, though they'd only had one round apiece. I was sitting in between Orson and Duo, which was frightening me with each minute that passed. Orson was making a big show of our 'engagement' and how much he loved me. When he had stopped by my apartment to pick me up, he presented me with a ring. It was fake, but only noticeably so upon actual inspection. He laughed when I told him not to get too into the act. When his words started slurring together later into the evening, I only prayed that in his inebriated state, he didn't accidentally blurt out that none of it was true. After the appetizers and third round, I switched places so that the two of them were next to each other. That left me sitting between Orson and Lady Une, and across from Zechs.
"I never met Orson before," Zechs commented idly. "He must have joined the Preventers after I went back to Mars. Did you ever mention him to me?"
I was taken aback for a moment, and then I smiled pleasantly though inside I started seething. I had mentioned Orson all the time to Zechs while he was on Mars. It was only a good thing that he was too drunk to hear that comment. Orson was a great guy, and if he thought that I had never mentioned him to my best friend, he'd be crushed. He was one of those guys you just couldn't help but love. "Of course I've mentioned him, Zechs. He's the engineer I told you about that helped develop mobile suits during the war. Surely you haven't forgotten," I added icily. He was being a jerk, but I didn't know why. I hadn't done anything to him, and certainly neither had Orson.
"You're right, Noin, I remember now." He said and then turned to smile at Sabra, who was having a one-sided conversation with Wufei. She paused her monologue for a moment to brush a quick kiss across Zechs' lips. I fought the urge to clench my fists around my utensils and instead took my knife to the steak sitting in front of me. It was mutilated beyond recognition before I felt a little better. Why was he doing this? It didn't make any sense. I doubted it was because I walked out of his apartment in the middle of the night to go home. He hadn't said anything when he arrived, instead greeting me with an uncharacteristic hug.
"Hopefully, once you're married, he'll try to stay away from the liquor." Zechs looked over at Orson disdainfully. I fixed him with an infuriated look.
"Orson isn't one to drink often, Zechs. And I don't think I have to remind you that, on more than one occasion, I had to drag your drunken ass back to your room when we were at Lake Victoria. Or is your memory suddenly failing you tonight?" He narrowed his eyes, a smart retort on the tip of his tongue when, beside me, Lady Une coughed politely. That was Zechs' cue to shut up. He took the hint and returned his attention to Sabra.
I was wracking my brains trying to think of why exactly he was acting like such an ass, when Orson stumbled over to the jukebox, turning the volume full blast. I recognized the tune right away, but the name eluded me. It was a very old song that had been remade and rearranged dozens of times since the first time it became a hit. I had to groan at the drunken way Orson, Duo, and their friends were swaying and singing along. I laughed outright when I saw they had managed to get Hilde and Relena a little more than tipsy. They were belting the words loud enough for the whole block to hear. Orson bumped clumsily into me, clutching my hand as he attempted to serenade me,
"You are my fire
The one desire
Believe when I say
I want it that way,"
I was laughing so hard I barely noticed Zechs fuming across the table from me.
"But we are two worlds apart
Can't reach to your heart
When you say
That I want it that way"
Tell me why,"
And on the last note, Orson's voice cracked terribly and he broke off into a fit of giggles. I tried straightening him out while trying not to double over laughing myself, but only managed to slump him over into Duo.
"Don't you think he should have a little more self-control?" Zechs' voice drifted patronizingly over the music. "He's a grown man, is he not?"
My laughter stopped immediately and I slammed my napkin down onto my plate so hard the dishes and silverware on the table clattered loudly. I shot up and marched out of the restaurant without a glance back. The ruckus died down for a moment before resuming louder than ever. Lady Une later informed me that both Zechs and Orson had stood at the same time to go after me, but that Orson had fallen back into his chair, muttering about the room spinning. That definitely hadn't helped his case, but either way, it was Zechs who followed me outside as I tried to find my car. I swore under my breath when I remembered that I had come with Orson. My car was at home, about fifteen miles away. I stood on the front porch, just dying to scream as loud as I could. I resigned myself to pacing the small width of the porch until I could figure out what I was going to do. I definitely wasn't going back into the restaurant, even though I smiled slightly when I heard Duo and Relena belting an off-key version of "Someday My Prince Will Come". I door creaked open and I wiped the tiny smile off my face, I wasn't the least bit suspicious of who it was.
"Need a ride?" The remorse in his voice told me right then that he was sorry. It wasn't enough though; he had gone too far.
"Leave me alone, Zechs," I mumbled. I turned my back to him, facing the street.
Being Zechs Merquise, he came closer rather than farther, until he was just behind me. "I'm so sorry, Noin," he whispered, so close that his breath tickled my ear. "I don't know what came over me," he finished quietly. I spun around to face him.
"Well, I think you'd better starting thinking about it. And you'd better be glad that Orson was drunk enough to not hear a word you said. How dare you come here and act so damn righteous when you don't even know him!"
That stopped him cold. I don't think I had ever yelled at him like that until that night. There was a flicker of guilt and shock in his eyes and then, that impenetrable cold blue again. "You really love him," he said, as if he was just realizing the fact.
I stared at him blankly. "I'm only marrying him, Zechs. That should tell you a couple of things." Yeah, like the fact that I'm only doing this to try to win you back from that goody two shoes inside. I also had no clue that I had sounded so convincing. My conscience was starting to get to me. Especially when I saw the oddest look on his face. It was almost like defeat. Almost. Then he shot me a rueful smile.
"God, Noin. When I saw you with him…something weird inside me just went crazy. I couldn't stand the thought of you marrying him. I guess I was jealous." Excuse me? Jealous? "And when I saw him getting drunk, I was swearing that you could never be happy with him. I know that was no excuse to say the things I said. I can't apologize enough for that. I just…this is all new, you know? I've never done this before," he trailed off quietly.
"Did you just say you were jealous?"
He looked at me with what I could swear was a blush gracing his pale skin. "Yeah," he said shyly. "I guess I just always that thought that no one was good enough for you, especially someone I'd never met."
"Are you saying that I need your approval?" I asked, a little harsher than I'd intended. He winced a little, but stepped closer in spite of the fact that I was still quite angry with him.
"I'm not saying that, Noin," he said firmly. "Look, I don't know this guy. I don't know if…if he'll treat you right."
My heart stopped for a spilt second before resuming at twice the speed, pounding in my chest. I had to force myself to keep my face impassive. This wasn't going quite the way I had hoped. He was admitting to jealousy, but not love. All he was doing now was confusing the hell out of me. Why hadn't I gone back to Mars with him? No, I had decided to stay on Earth after returning from our first trip. So I was a big wimp, afraid of the red, dusty planet. But I still should have gone, if only to prevent him from doing something so stupid as meeting and proposing to someone like Sabra.
"Zechs, why do you love Sabra?"
For the second time that night, I had succeeded in throwing Zechs completely off. The look on his face alone was reason enough to do it more often.
"She's a wonderful person. She has a very kind heart." And I didn't?
"But, I mean, why did you ask her to marry you?" I put my every effort into making that question sound as innocently curious as I could. For my efforts, I received a blank stare from Zechs, and then he took a couple of steps back. I had obviously hit a soft spot…He turned away, heading down the steps of the porch, mumbling what sounded like, 'I don't know.' I followed him, running in front of him to block his path. Now he had no choice but to answer. Or he could just stand there and we could have a match of wills and, knowing Zechs, it was perfectly possible. " 'I don't know'? Is that what you said?" I asked. This was too important to let him get away with. How could he not know?
He sighed exasperatedly. "I said I'm not sure, okay?" I looked him straight in the eye, but his guard was up again. Way up.
"How can you say you're not sure? You're going to marry this girl in just over a week and you're not sure why you love her?" I stopped short. The wounded look in his eyes was enough.
"We're happy," he said simply. His voice was strained and he looked nothing but tired. Then he sighed and made like that whole conversation had never happened. "Come on, Noin, I'll take you home. Heero, Trowa, and Sally have volunteered to be the designated drivers to take the rest of them. I would have left early anyway, it was getting a bit crazy in there," he stated. I sighed. What else could I do? My head was running circles, trying to make sense of everything and I sure wasn't in the mood to drive a bunch of drunken men home.
"Alright, then. Lead on," I said. He drove in silence, as I expected. I made like a fringed thread on my shirt was of utter importance and remained quiet. He had withdrawn again. I didn't even have to wonder why this time. I had been prodding him and he wasn't comfortable answering me. Not that he always was, but I always managed to get answers out of him somehow. They just weren't always the ones that I wanted. By the time we pulled up at my apartment, I was quite sure that Zechs was angry with me but being Zechs, he didn't say anything.
"Do you want to come in for some coffee or something?" I asked. I was still kind of ticked off at him, but it was general courtesy to ask, so I did.
"Thanks, but...I really need to get some sleep," he said quietly.
He'd been going insomniac again. That happened rarely and only when he was in real emotional turmoil. If he was having trouble sleeping, it was a very bad sign. Of course, he probably wouldn't have told me anything had I asked. I thought I'd already gone far enough with him that night and wisely left the matter alone. I thanked him for the ride and quickly made my way home. Only when I'd settled myself into bed did I fully realize that the huge distance his engagement had put between up was really hurting me. I cried a small river of tears before coming to this conclusion and for the life of me, I couldn't think of what to do. I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep going the way things were. I had to do something. My farce with Orson wasn't working out too well. Zechs was still going to marry Sabra. I was still in love with him. My situation was utterly hopeless. I figured I could run away like a coward, request a transfer from Lady Une and disappear to the far reaches of Siberia or something. But that would go against everything that I was; I wasn't about to go running away from my problems, no matter how utterly impossible they might be.
I buried my head in my pillows and sighed, hoping that I'd fall asleep soon. I was just dying to dissect everything Zechs had said that night and all the uncertainty he had shown over his upcoming marriage. But really, I just wanted to sleep, afraid of what I might find out if I thought about it.
* * *
Five days before the wedding, I found myself wishing despondently that I had never agreed to be the bridesmaid. Or that I had been a guy and therefore gotten to wear a tuxedo.
Sabra liked pink. No, like was an understatement. Sabra worshipped pink. I found it disturbingly odd that she never wore the color herself. I was about to ask, but then realized I really didn't want to know the answer. She didn't agree when I told her it clashed with me. My pale complexion and dark eye and hair color just didn't mesh with pink, especially the sickly salmon pinks she was picking out. I was counting on the nice saleslady to be my ally, but Sabra promptly shooed her off the moment the lady suggested a nice, silvery dress. She already had her mother's dress to wear, so I was stuck being her oversized dress-up doll.
And so it came to be that I stood alone on a small square platform in a large bridal store, in the most horrific bundle of lace and bows I'd ever seen in my life. Even Zechs grimaced. He had had to play chauffer while Sabra and I had gone to the florist, the caterer, and then to the bridal store; apparently, Sabra didn't drive. He looked uncomfortable from the start, and when Sabra began forcing me into the frilly things that she adored so, Zechs was just itching to leave. I was slightly relieved when Sabra begged him to stay. It wasn't fair that I should have had to suffer alone.
Sabra spent a good fifteen minutes inspecting every dress, which really did her no good because I rejected it the moment she asked what I thought of it. Meanwhile, I watched Zechs from my pedestal as he alternated between wandering through the racks and surveying the next dress I had to try on. After two hours, the sales racks were completely void of pink dresses. Zechs fell into one of the chairs in the mirrored fitting room that I was stuck in the middle of, making a big show of being exhausted. Like he'd been the one to go through this inhumane torture.
"I feel for you, Noin," he said, his lips creeping into an amused smile.
"I'm sure you're enjoying watching me endure this."
He only smirked and then turned to face a corner of the room where a half full dress rack stood. There were a few dresses there left behind from other patrons, but the majority of them were the ones I had stubbornly refused to even consider. Apparently, something caught his eye, for he stood and began rifling through until he pulled one dress out. He brought it back and held it up to me.
"Like it?" he asked.
It was gorgeous, pale lavender, with just a touch of sky blue, made of satin. "I love it," I said, taking it from him and flouncing off to the dressing room to try it on. I smiled when I smoothed it out over my body. It was off the shoulder and floor length, simple, and totally me. And it fit perfectly. The color complemented my deep violet eyes nicely. It was snug, but not too clingy, hugging my body and then fanning out at the bottom in rich, satiny folds. I opened the door and took a cautious step out. What if Sabra hated it? She couldn't possibly think to force me into one of those pink things, could she? No way, not when I'd found the perfect dress. I walked out of the room and got back on the platform and turned to Zechs, who had gone back to his chair.
He looked up for a minute and then…I never thought I'd see the day Zechs Merquise would do a double take. But that's exactly what he did. His eyes ran up and down the length of the dress about a dozen times before he nodded appreciatively. "You look…you look stunning, Noin," he breathed. We locked eyes for a moment, the look in his eyes making me flush slightly. And at that moment, as my poor luck would have it, Sabra came in with an armload of pink ruffles. Zechs stood uneasily and relieved the girl of her load. Then she caught sight of me and frowned.
"Where did you find that dress?" She crinkled her nose in distaste.
"Zechs found it on that rack over there," I told her, pointing. I watched her worriedly. She didn't like the dress, and if I got stuck wearing something pink…
Sabra circled me a couple of times, eyeing the dress critically before sighing. She looked from me to Zechs and then back to me. "You like it?" she asked.
"Yes," Zechs and I both said together. Shrugging noncommittally, she gave her okay and then disappeared to go look for accessories.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I stepped off the platform. "Oh, thank God," I muttered as I stepped back into the dressing room to change. As I reached to pull down the zipper, I suddenly realized why the dress had been sitting on the rack. I cursed under my breath as I tried unsuccessfully to yank the zipper down. It was halfway down my back, but not far enough down to slip out of it. Timidly, I peeked out, hoping that, against her better judgment, the saleslady had come back. No, the only one there was Zechs, who was sitting with his head against the wall, evidently sleeping. I couldn't blame him; he hadn't been getting enough sleep to begin with and Sabra was enough to leave even someone as energetic as Duo drained.
"Zechs?" I whispered, loath to wake him. But I sure wasn't going to go out half undressed only to have Sabra decide the dress was no good. A stuck zipper was easy enough to fix. I just needed to get out of the dress. Zechs cracked an eye open and grumbled when I motioned for him to come and help me. "Help me out of this, the zipper's stuck."
He obliged, joining me in the little room. He was complaining sleepily about there not being enough light to see what he was doing, but he did manage to pull the zipper the rest of the way down. I shivered as I felt his fingers lingering on my back a moment longer. My breath caught in my throat as his fingers trailed up to my neck caressingly. I looked into the mirror that reflected us; his bangs were covering his face, but I could see his breathing labored as he traced the hem of the dress along my shoulders.
"You're beautiful, Noin," he murmured almost inaudibly. I stopped breathing for a moment before panicking. What was he doing? I was standing there in a bridesmaid gown five days before his wedding to someone else and he was nuzzling away at my neck. I turned, planting my hands on his chest and pushing him away.
"Wake up, Zechs," I said resolutely. He looked surprised for a moment and then backed out of the room.
"Sorry," he muttered as I closed the door to the room. I leaned against the wall, clutching at the dress as it slipped off my shoulders. I heard Sabra come back, babbling to Zechs about going to lunch. I sank to the floor, pressing my hand to my mouth tightly, holding back sobs of frustration. Why was he doing this to me?
* * *
I didn't see Zechs again until the rehearsal the day before the wedding. It went fairly smooth; we went through everything except for the vows and the kiss, much to my relief. I was still feeling miserable about what had happened at the bridal shop, though Zechs acted as if nothing had happened. Maybe he had really still been asleep…
After the rehearsal, we had dinner at a fancy restaurant on the riverfront, courtesy of Relena, who also graciously offered to play the part of the bride and groom's mothers who wouldn't be there. Duo jokingly added that the part also included bawling hysterically during the ceremony. Relena smacked him. I tried sitting as far away from Zechs and Sabra as I could possibly manage. It wasn't very far. The only people there were Zechs, Sabra, Duo, Hilde, Relena, and myself. I hadn't asked Orson to come out of some weird need to go through this on my own. Halfway through the rehearsal, I found myself wishing desperately that I had him there. The whole situation was growing more unbearable by the second. I was convinced that I had failed and was doomed to either die an old maid or actually marry Orson. The latter was beginning to sound appealing. I glumly poked at my food, blocking out all the wedding talk going on at the table.
"Hey, Noin, what's wrong?" Duo whispered next to me, mock conspiratorially.
I shook my head lackadaisically. "Nothing, Duo,"
"Right." He didn't look convinced in the least. "Um," he lowered his voice so that I had to strain to hear him. "That's not real, is it?" He pointed at the ring on my finger. What? Duo knew? Orson must have said something that night at the diner. This was not good. I excused Duo and myself and hauled him to the narrow hallway next to the bathrooms, despite the odd looks from everyone at the table.
"How the hell did you find out? Did Orson tell you? Was it when he was drunk? Answer me!" In my dread, one questions came out on top of the other. Duo just sputtered over his words as I bombarded him with more desperate questions.
"Damn him. Well, fine, so you know. Look, Duo, you can't tell anyone we're not really engaged. Got it?"
Duo blinked. "You're not really engaged?"
Now it was my turn to be surprised. "Didn't you just say that it wasn't real?" I asked slowly, struggling to keep my voice low and even.
"I was…talking about the ring…that's not a real diamond."
Oh my God. Holding back many shrieks of rage that were threatening to surface, I yanked at my hair for a few minutes before calming down. "You were talking about the damned ring. Okay, fine. So now you know that our engagement is a fake. You tell anyone, even Hilde, and I will hunt you down, chop your braid off and strangle you with it. Deal?"
Duo's eyes were wide with shock and a tinge of fear. I don't think he'd ever seen me threaten in such a way. "Jeez, and I thought you had adapted some pacifist ideals. But, nooo…"
"Duo, really. You can't tell."
He rolled his eyes. "Come on, Lu. I'm not gonna tell. Though I'm dying to find out why exactly you and Orson are running around pretending to be engaged." He crossed his arms expectantly. Oh great, he wanted an answer. Talk about blackmail… So I told him everything. Why? I hadn't the slightest clue; trusting Duo with information was like giving a little kid a huge piece of chocolate cake and a glass of milk, telling him not to eat it, and then walking away. But it wasn't like I could do anything about it, so I spilled my guts to him. He was surprisingly sympathetic. That only frightened me more.
I groaned. "Come on." I dragged him back to the table where I made my best attempt to have a good time. Toward the end of the meal, Zechs decided he wanted a turn at being depressed and suddenly shut up. Sabra's attempts to get him to talk were only met with a vague mumble, nod of the head, or shake of the head. I rolled my eyes.
Zechs' self-imposed isolation didn't, however, stop her from talking. "Lucrezia, I'm so nervous! What if I trip walking down the aisle?" she squeaked as she strangled her napkin.
I wanted to tell her that I'd laugh until I passed out, but somehow, I didn't think that'd fly very well with everyone else. "You won't trip, Sabra. I promise. And if, by chance, you do, then Zechs'll catch you." Oops, I hadn't meant to say that aloud.
Sabra shot me a curious look before continuing. "Well, if you say I won't trip, then I trust you." I almost rolled my eyes again.
The conversation continued in the same mundane manner until the dishes had been cleared and coffee was served. I politely refused the caffeine, not wanting to be a live wire all night only to wake up a mess the next morning. The damn wedding was the next day and I was as close to breaking them up as I had been two weeks ago.
* * *
After trying chamomile tea, a warm bath, and relaxing music, I realized that sleep was just not going to come. I glanced wearily at the clock. It was only ten at night, but I felt as if it was three in the morning. The wedding was scheduled for one in the afternoon and I had to be at the church by twelve. I was about ready to pour myself a glass of the rum I kept in the pantry for special occasions/emergencies when there was a knock at my door. It had to be Orson, wanting to know either what he was supposed to do tomorrow or when he could go back to being single. He'd been bugging me about that for the last three days. He couldn't very well hit on anyone at work when he was supposedly going to be a married man.
I swung open the door to find Zechs standing there, looking lost. He had his hands in his pockets and was staring down at the floor. He peered at me through his bangs apologetically. "Were you sleeping?"
I shook my head. "Not really. Come in," I said, stepping to the side so he could pass. He did so hesitantly. There was a nervousness about him that was starting to make me a little crazy. Well, it was the night before his wedding; he had every right to be edgy. "What's up?" I asked casually though inside, I was dying of curiosity. He joined me on the couch, where I sat sideways, my elbow propped on the backrest.
"Actually, I wanted to entrust you with something." He dug into his pocket and produced a little velvet box. Oh, no. "Duo's the best man, but odds are he'll forget it. I'm sure I would too. You're practically the best man anyway, so…will you keep it until tomorrow?" His hands were trembling as he handed me the box. I held it, opening the lids slowly. The ring was breathtaking. It was a simple band of white gold that met and circled around a square cut sparkling diamond. Only by sheer force of will did I keep my hands from shaking and my eyes from tearing. This was really happening. My Zechs was really going to marry someone else.
"It's beautiful, Zechs," I whispered brokenly. I sighed as I gazed at the fake ring on my left ring finger. "Zechs, I have a confession." I pulled the ring off and tossed it on the coffee table, frowning; my finger was slightly greenish. "Remember when you said you were jealous?"
"Yes," he answered cautiously after a slight pause.
"Well, I guess I was too. I made the whole engagement to Orson thing up."
He chuckled lightly. "I kind of figured that out."
"Was our acting that bad?"
This time he laughed outright. "Yeah, but actually, Une confirmed it."
I could feel a slight blush on my cheeks. "She said she would keep that secret!" I buried my face in my hands. "I'm sorry Zechs, I didn't mean to lie to you."
He reached up and moved my hands away. "Hey," he said gently. "That's okay. Besides, I had to drag it out of the woman; I told you I was jealous. You know, government agencies are supposed to oppose fraternization between officers."
He took a deep breath. "Another thing, Noin," he began. "Listen, I want to apologize for not telling you about…me and Sabra sooner. It was very…sudden. And I…" he broke off. If he was having that much trouble getting this out, it had to be damn important. I kept silent, he wanted me to listen to what he had to say, and so I was going to let him say it. "I told you before that I wasn't sure why I was marrying her. I know that you deserve a better answer than that." Darn right I did.
"When you decided to not come back to Mars with me, I thought that you wanted to stay behind to finally live a normal life. I could certainly understand how you felt. You wanted to go to work everyday, come home, watch TV, go out… so I went back to Mars thinking that I could never stand to live that way. I never have before and I thought I would never be able to get used to it. When you told Lady Une that you wanted to stay, she offered to send someone else so that I could stay, too. But I declined her offer and left. That's where I met Sabra. She was so alive and spirited… on Mars I was able to start my life all over again. I had a clean slate, and I could finally wash all the blood from my hands. Sabra helped me realize that. In fact, I'm quite sure that she's only marrying me because she thinks she can change me. But…"
Here was the moment I had been waiting for. Zechs finally admitting that he didn't really love her… but he had also implied that he was doing all of this to get away from his life before and during the war, the life that included me. "Noin, I wanted you to go back with me so badly. But I didn't say anything. That was stupid of me, so I left and tried to forget my past. To forget you…"
Throughout this whole gigantic confession of his, I kept my eyes locked on the ring in my hands. I couldn't look up at him. If I did, my whole life would fall apart and I wouldn't be able to make sense of anything. "Zechs, I…" Oh God, how could I tell him that I would have gone with him the ends of the universe had he only said the word. As long as I'd known him, I had been with him whether he had asked me to be or not. The first time I choose to stay behind, he goes and pulls something like this.
"So…" I started. "Are you saying that…you…"
I didn't get to finish. His lips were on mine before I could. I was stunned motionless for a few moments before I impulsively reached out and touched the sides of his face with my hands. The instant he began to deepen the kiss, I shoved him away roughly.
"You're getting married in less than twenty four hours, what are you doing?" I raged.
He shook his head sadly. "No, it's not...damn, please Noin," he pleaded.
"Please what, Zechs?" I cried, jumping off my couch to stand before him, my arms extended in supplication. "You came here to tell me everything you needed to. But what can I do about it? What can anyone do about it?" I dropped my arms to my sides and regarded him gravely. "Please don't tell me that you'd do this to me and to yourself."
The minute I said those words, he was off the couch and grabbing my shoulders firmly, pulling my face within inches of his. "I ran away, alright?" he said, so intensely it was almost scary. "I left you because I don't deserve you. I came back thinking I had finally accepted it. But I'm still in love with you. Please, just say the word and I'll call everything off." He stood there, his passionate blue eyes piercing straight through my heart.
Tears filled my eyes as I shook my head no. I couldn't do it. As much as I wanted him, needed him, loved him, I couldn't do it. "No, Zechs," I whispered. I wanted to say more. I wanted to yell at him for doing this, I wanted to run into his arms and believe that everything would be alright regardless, but more than anything I wanted to tell him to forget about ever marrying what's-her-name and to never leave me again. But it was too late. How could he think that he could just abandon all the time and money spent already, everyone's efforts, and worse of all, Sabra? She was a part of this, too. My head was spinning, but I couldn't say another word for fear I might just tell him what we both wanted to hear.
He backed away, holding me at arms length before removing his arms. I covered my mouth with my hands, not bothering to stop the tears from spilling over. I could only stand there and watch him. The expression on his face was heartbreaking. There was sadness and loss in his eyes before they narrowed and all trace of emotion was gone.
"I'm sorry to have bothered you, then. Good night." And he was gone.
I sank to the floor, sobbing freely. What had I just done? I had been dreaming of this moment since I realized that I loved him…but never had I dreamed of it under these circumstances. I sat there for who cared how long, until my leg started to cramp and I went to bed. I flung the ring box onto the coffee table along with my fake one. I was tempted to call Orson and tell him that our little ruse was over, and cry my eyes out to him while I was at it. I didn't, only because I was suddenly so tired. I curled up in my bed, wrapping my blankets tightly around my chin, drifting off to dream fitfully about Zechs.
* * *
The next morning, needless to say, I felt as if I'd been run over by a truck. My head ached and I looked awful. After a long, hot shower, I looked and felt a lot better. It had never taken me so long to get dressed before and by the time I was done, I had a half hour before I had to be at the church. I turned and studied myself in the mirror about a dozen times, my dress swirled around my ankles deliciously; I didn't often wear dresses. The satin felt delightfully cool against my skin and I couldn't stop myself from shivering a bit in anticipation. Then I remembered who's wedding this was.
The vidphone rang as I finished retouching my hair for the millionth time. It was Sabra, who was looking like an angel in her white dress. Whatever good spirits I had left died right then.
"Oh, you're looking so beautiful!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands together happily. I managed a weak smile; I wasn't exactly feeling too beautiful. "We'll be there to pick you up in about a half hour, alright?"
"Sure," I replied glumly.
"And Lucrezia," she added.
"Put some blush on or something. You look pale as death. Bye!"
Ten minutes later, I was waiting outside my apartment, clutching my purse and feeling rather conspicuous. Then the pink limo pulled up. Talk about conspicuous. I crowded inside with Sabra, Hilde, and Relena, who were giggling like it was going out of style.
"What's so funny?" I asked warily, afraid I had lipstick on my teeth or something.
Relena waved her hand dismissively. "It's not you. Its just…Duo finally proposed to Hilde yesterday and when he got down on one knee, he tripped over himself and fell." She barely managed to keep a straight face. Hilde forced herself serious and proudly showed off the huge diamond on her finger. Relena and Sabra sighed dreamily. I nodded appreciatively; it was beautiful.
"If I could have someone love me like that…" Sabra said sadly. We all eyed her strangely. What?
Relena composed herself quickly. "What do you mean by that, Sabra?"
The girl blushed slightly. "Well, I guess you all should know that…I don't really love Milliardo."
"Excuse me?" blurted Hilde just a millisecond before I could.
"Well," Sabra began nervously. "We knew each other for about two months before he asked me to marry him. I was one of the nurses stationed on Mars. I thought he was a wonderful man, when he wanted to be. Otherwise, he was so withdrawn and silent. There were a couple of times I could get him to smile and those times, I was so happy. I didn't realize until we were back here and he kept reverting to his old ways that I want to change him so badly. I mean, isn't that what all women try to do to the men they marry?" She was looking more unsure of her Grand Plan by the second. Her claim had some truth to it, but…I wanted to scream at her to look at the man she had now. Why change him? He was wonderful the way he was…Well, he did have that irritating tendency to sulk, but that was what made him Zechs. Now these two were about to go and ruin both their lives. Jeez, this was ridiculous. Why, oh why hadn't I gone to Mars?
Hilde and Relena glanced at me apprehensively; this was technically my turf. I knew that they were expecting me to do something, but I couldn't. Not after what happened the night before. Zechs was going to go through with this, I had had my chance and it was too late. I turned away and stared out the window, biting my lip to keep from crying. It wouldn't do to have a bridesmaid with mascara streaks running down her face.
* * *
The church was eerily quiet when I entered. Sabra and Relena had rushed into the back to touch the bride up before the ceremony and Hilde had run off to find Duo, leaving me alone. The clicking of my heels echoed through the building as I wandered up the aisle. I wanted to curse fate when I saw the tall figure come through the office door to the left of the front of the church. My eyes met his as I neared the end of my walk; his expression was completely unreadable. He stepped in front of the altar almost as if to meet me there. If I closed my eyes and just pretended…
Zechs slowed just a moment before briskly walking past me and to the back of the church. I heard the doors open and then click shut. I was alone again. I hugged myself tightly as I felt my heart pounding in my chest. Now he hated me. He had told me that Sabra only wanted him for what he could be, but I hadn't listened. And he had been right. Now my chance had disappeared the moment the church doors closed. The chance for whatever last minute talking I could've and probably should've done was over. Now the man I loved was really going to get married to someone else. I stood there for a while, letting that fact sink in. It was sinking into my stomach nauseatingly when the doors opened. I remained where I was, hoping for a last ditch miracle.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and whirled around, ready to grab Zechs and never let go. It was Duo. It was one of the few times I had seen him completely somber. He gave me a compassionate smile.
"I need the ring, Noin."
The ring. Of course. I handed it over; my hand was visibly shaking as I dropped the ring into his.
"You know what I just found out? I probably should have figured it out a while ago. He still loves you. He never stopped."
My chin began trembling and my eyes welled with tears. "I know," I whispered. Duo looked as if his own heart was breaking along with mine, but his eyes told me that he knew that something had happened between Zechs and me. He lowered his head and left.
I spent the next ten minutes sitting dejectedly in the front of the church, gazing at the altar for a sign. There was none there.
"Lu?" I sighed, recognizing the voice immediately. It's usual bright timbre gone, only to be replaced with a strained sadness.
"Hi, Orson." My voice cracked with emotion, but I sounded more like I had a cold.
He took a seat next to me and reached for my hand. He noticed the greenish residue on my finger and began absently rubbing at it with his thumb. The gesture was so gentle, I almost threw myself into his arms, wanting to release all the pent up emotions inside of me. It took all my willpower to keep them inside, where they belonged.
"Duo told me there was something wrong. I…I'm not going to pry," he said. "But I want you to know that I'll always be here for you. No matter what, Lu. Even if you decide you really do want to marry me," he added, nudging me a little. I smiled and laughed softly, choking when the laugh threatened to turn to a sob. Orson brought his arm around my shoulders and held me tight, cradling me soothingly. I clutched his jacket, squeezing my eyes shut to try and make all the pain go away.
I heard the doors open again and the sound of voices chattering filled the church. Orson whispered in my ear, "It's time."
I slowly made my way to the back of the church where the ceremony participants were assembling. Relena hurriedly gathered Sabra, Hilde, and me into a small room used for, I don't know, churchy functions. It didn't matter; it was now a makeshift dressing room. There was make-up everywhere and tons, and I mean tons, of discarded tissues. If Sabra didn't stop crying, her eyes would puff shut. As Hilde desperately tried to calm the bawling Sabra down, Relena took me aside. I eased myself into a chair; the damn heels were killing me. I would have gladly tossed them out the window in exchange for a pair of standard issue military boots.
"If you don't want to do this, you don't have to. God knows I tried to talk Milliardo out of this. I called late last night to make sure he wasn't forgetting anything or whatever. He was so…you know how when Milliardo gets mad, he's really cold?" I nodded numbly. "Well," she continued. "It was scary how ticked he was. I thought maybe he was just annoyed that I had called so late. But…"
"Relena," I interrupted, silently pleading with her to understand. I didn't need any more sympathy.
She looked at me sadly, nodding her comprehension. "Okay."
The final few minutes before the actual ceremony were maddening. Sabra began sobbing uncontrollably five minutes before she was supposed to walk down the aisle. In fact, the wedding music had begun to play and she was hurriedly wiping her tears away. As I hobbled to my place in the procession line, I could hear Sabra wailing again. I growled under my breath as someone gave me a shove to begin walking. It was a rather small wedding, small compared to how huge it could have been. There were no more than fifty people, most of them Preventers and Zechs and Sabra's Mars colleagues. I took a deep breath and began walking. It was so surreal, walking down that long aisle. The kind faces of the guests, the flowers everywhere, Zechs at the end of the aisle. He looked amazing. The black and white of his suit left his eyes a vividly bright blue. It was like a dream. Just not my dream.
I stepped up to the altar and to the side, watching as Sabra slowly made her journey up. Hilde must have performed a couple of quick miracles with concealer and chocolate, for Sabra looked as happy as a bride should look marching up the aisle. My eyes followed her up the steps and to Zechs. Then my gaze went to Zechs. I'd have to face him the whole time. I didn't even realize until the priest began talking, that he wasn't looking as Sabra at all. He was staring right back at me. For the first time, I was able to meet his eyes impassively. Under any other circumstances, I would have been proud of myself. Meanwhile, the priest was rattling on about something I'm quite sure Zechs was supposed to be paying attention to. Shaking my head slightly at his lack of attentiveness, I closed my eyes and broke the stare. My strength and resolve was wearing away with every word the priest said, with every sigh, whisper or sob from the pews, and with each passing minute. I looked past Zechs, at the sun shining through the huge stained glass window to turn his hair a shining halo around his head. I groaned inwardly, sure I would just die the minute he said 'I do'.
"…and keep only unto her so long as you both shall live?"
My heart was pounding as I put my bouquet in a death grip, waiting…waiting…
"I…" Zechs' voice wavered as he started. "I…"
Oh, God I was going to pass out.
"Zechs," the whispered word passed through my lips before I could stop it, loud enough for only those on the altar to hear. I saw Sabra visibly tense while I felt Zechs' gaze burn through me. He could see it in my eyes; it was my final farewell to him. Farewell to the young cadet I had fallen in love with so long ago. Farewell to the Lightning Count I had admired and followed loyally into battle. Farewell to the Prince I always thought I'd share my happily ever after with. Farewell, Zechs.
"I…I can't do this."
There was stunned, frozen silence for almost a minute. Then, sighing, Sabra turned around to face me. I almost thought she was going to get mad and fight me or something. But I swear it was relief that passed through her face for a moment before tired resignation settled in, which was great because I didn't really want to have to duke it out with her in those heels. She glanced at Zechs and apparently registered the tortured emotions in his eyes, eyes that were, for the first time in a long time, clearly readable. Bowing her head, she stepped aside purposefully, leaving a clear path between Zechs and me. Seconds passed like hours and suddenly, finally, he had me in his arms.
"I'm so sorry, Noin. I love you so much." His voice was hoarse as he held me, kissing me fervently.
I vaguely heard Duo's triumphant yelp from the other side of the altar and then his applause. A few others joined in, most likely the other Preventers, but about half of the guests were looking around and murmuring confusedly. I wrapped my arms around Zechs' neck, holding on for dear life. Never, never would I let him go again. Tears were running down my cheeks, but for the first time in a very long time, they were tears of happiness.
"Excuse me, could someone please explain this to me?" the priest asked over the noise. Zechs and I parted, realizing a lot of the people there had no clue what the hell just happened. To everyone's surprise, Sabra stepped in and spoke.
"I should have realized it long ago, Father. I just didn't want to see it, hoping I could fix it. Milliardo's heart was already spoken for." She smiled and removed the veil from her head. "I heal people's wounds all the time, but I think Lucrezia is the only one who can heal his," she said. She leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on Zechs' cheek and stepped off to the side, standing next to Duo, who swung an arm around her shoulders amiably.
In spite of how weird this all was, the priest clapped loudly a couple of times, asking for everyone's attention. "Look, everyone. I've been doing weddings for a long time and I have to say that I have never seen anything like this. This comes as a shock to all of us, I'm sure." Then, lowering his voice, he turned to Zechs. "Pardon if this sounds peculiar and may the Lord forgive me if this is a sin, but would you prefer to start all over?" I had to laugh at the shock on Zechs' face. "With everyone's permission, that is," he said, gesturing to Sabra, who was grinning at the look on Zechs' face.
"Are you serious?" he asked disbelievingly.
The priest chuckled. "Is there anyone here who thinks these two should not wed? Speak now, or forever hold your peace," he called out. The crowd hushed at once. No one objected. Zechs smiled at me.
"Let's do it," he whispered.
I laughed again, caressing the side of his face with my fingertips. "Okay."
The priest sighed, "I'm just going to get to the important stuff, okay? I got a funeral in an hour." Zechs nodded an okay, a smile still playing on his lips.
"Okay, do you, Milliardo Peacecraft, take…" he paused embarrassedly. "I'm sorry, what's your name, child?" Zechs groaned at the ruined moment and hastily supplied my name. "Now…do you, Milliardo Peacecraft, take Lucrezia Noin, to be your lawfully wedded wife…"
* * *
In the end, everyone got what they wanted. Even Sabra was glad. She later confessed to having second thoughts, and third and fourth thoughts about the wedding, but didn't have the heart (or the guts) to call it off. Everyone else was, as Wufei so kindly put it, "glad you got it the hell over with". He later received a punch in the arm from Sally for his thoughtfulness. Relena had tears in her eyes, as she promised to, but not because the ceremony was beautiful or even because it ended happily ever after (and justifiably so, I might add). No, she cried actual tears over the fact that I got married in a bridesmaids dress. For that, Zechs had grabbed her in a tight hug, thanking her and laughing at her at the same time. The former Queen of the World then cried some more.
As Zechs and I kissed at the end of the ceremony, the guests broke into loud cheers. I could distinctly hear Duo and Orson shouting their congratulations in their typical raucous fashion. We parted and he looked down at me, his eyes shining. He smiled that smile that I adored so much and kissed me again.
"I love you," he murmured against my mouth.
"Really," I answered conversationally. He smiled again and kissed the top of my forehead. I could definitely get used to that smile. I reached up and kissed him, only to have Duo shove us none too gracefully down the aisle.
"Come on, man. That stuff's for later. Go celebrate!"
So we did.
~* End *~
Author's Notes/Comments/Rants: Dude! Did anyone here think I was going to actually let Zechs marry someone else? Hell no. That came out a lot more angsty than I originally intended. But oh well…it had a happy ending! That's what counts, right? Yay! I just didn't couldn't make it end like the movie. Then it wouldn't be a 6x9 fic! Though if I had made it end like the movie, Noin would have definitely ended up with Orson. But yeah…
Anyway, just a few odd little facts I'm throwing in for your information. Sabra means "thorny cactus". I was looking through babynames.com for a name for another one of my stories and stumbled across Sabra. As soon as I saw it, I just had to use it.
In my outline for this, I didn't have a name for Orson, so I just put OC for Original Character. In the end, I decided to give him those initials, hence Orson Caldwell. I really love the way he came out, by the way. Except he's not gay like his counterpart, the guy (wasn't it George?) played by Rupert Everett, in My Best Friends Wedding. Nothing against gay guys (they are so much fun to be around), but since everyone at Preventers knows him, it wouldn't make much sense if he was gay and then got 'engaged' to Noin, right?
I hope you had fun reading it. I certainly had fun writing it. Comments and constructive criticism always welcome and appreciated!