I really like Elizaveta. Kind of too much maybe, but I don't ship her with Gil or Lutz so I rarely have occasion to write her. UNTIL NOW.
This is a short wedding piece that I cranked out when working on book got to be too much. It's not super polished but whatever. Enjoy it anyway!
"Stop touching it," Eliza snapped, hitting Gilbert's hand away from his face.
Gilbert growled quietly, but his expression was that of an injured animal's.
"It's a fuckin' monstrosity of a zit, Eliza, how the fuck am I supposed to leave it alone?"
Elizaveta rolled her eyes and fished around in her suit pocket for a moment.
"Hold still," she ordered, advancing on Gilbert. He held up his hands, backing away slowly.
"Liza – Liza, what is that?!" he said accusingly, his voice rising in pitch with every word. "What is that shit?!"
Eliza glanced at the concealer in her hand and then back at Gilbert.
"Are you serious?" she deadpanned. "God, just – hold still."
She rushed forward and before Gilbert could do more than let out a nervous squawk she'd pinned him against the wall. She stood up on tiptoe to press her forearm against his throat to keep him from moving and carefully dabbed a bit of concealer on the miniscule blemish.
Satisfied that it was blended in, she took a step back and tucked the concealer into her suit pocket once more. She glanced up at Gilbert through her bangs, the look of shock on his face making her roll her eyes.
"Stop that, you baby," she drawled, clapping him on the shoulder. "You look beautiful. Nothing to be embarrassed about."
Gilbert scowled, his long fingers twitching. Elizaveta caught the movement and warned, "Don't. Not even a thought."
He shot her a little glare but wilted almost immediately after.
"…Sorry," he muttered, hooking his finger in his tie and tugging slightly. "Stupid thing makes me feel like I'm bein' strangled. Makes me edgy. 'Course your goddamn arm on my throat didn't help."
"I know you too well. You'd bolt," Elizaveta deadpanned, twirling a lock of hair around her finger. Gilbert merely grunted in response, not even bothering to try and argue in his defense.
A tense silence stifled further conversation, a few bird calls filtering in from outside the only reprieve. Elizaveta let her eyes drift around the room, taking in the ornate furniture and almost gaudy embellishments.
"Not the honeymoon suite," she noted absently. "And isn't this a little frou-frou for your tastes? I always pictured you renting a dilapidated castle or something instead of this Rococo eyesore."
"Which just shows how little you know me now. I picked the venue," Gilbert muttered, sinking into the bed. He fell backwards, eyes trained on the ceiling. "Tradition, blah blah. And he's got the honeymoon suite. I'm movin' up there tonight. We're doin' the whole 'bad luck to see the other person' thing."
"Which is why you're so crabby?" Elizaveta guessed, propping her chin on her knees.
"I'm not crabby," Gilbert grumbled, grabbing a pillow and pressing it against his face. "'m nervous."
"That's so clichéd I might vomit."
"Bathroom's right over there, b-word. Take advantage of it if need be and stop makin' fun of me or I'll aim for you."
Elizaveta flicked a little dust ball off her suit and glanced at Gilbert. She could see his leg twitching, his slender fingers digging into the pillow over his face. A sad pity welled up in her, and she bit her tongue.
"At least I've trained you to not say that word in front of me anymore."
Gilbert chuckled darkly, his already off-kilter laugh sounding even more unhinged thanks to the muffling effect of the pillow.
"One kick to the groin was all it took. Pavlov's dog I ain't."
Elizaveta snorted and stood to move to the bed. She sat down and lightly patted Gilbert's knee, ignoring his warning growl.
"It takes a brave man to admit that he's easier to train than a salivating dog."
"It takes a brave woman to hound a groom to death on his weddin' day, pun most definitely intended." Gilbert raised his hand and drew a little tally mark in the air with his finger.
Elizaveta lightly flicked the pillow.
"Big talk from a man who's hiding behind upholstery."
Gilbert just grunted and swatted blindly at Elizaveta's hand. He fell silent after that, and Elizaveta watched as his limbs stilled one by one. She fiddled with her tie for a moment and then cleared her throat.
"So I guess this is the part where the best man is supposed to bolster your morale."
Gilbert stirred, and a moment later he sat up, the pillow falling in his lap. He gave Elizaveta a bland look.
"Don't strain yourself."
She held up her hands almost immediately.
"Jeez, okay. Touchy," she muttered, her fingers fiddling with her side braid. "I've never done this before so forgive me if I'm a bit lost."
Gilbert winced and lightly nudged his foot against Eliza's thigh.
"I know. Sorry," he said quietly, his lips quirking up in an apologetic grin that fit him far more than the terrified, nervous one he'd worn greeting the guests. "I guess it's pretty damn obvious that I'm. So. So far out of my element here." He stuck out his tongue. "Took me goddamn forever to get him to agree, so the fact that I'm terrified now is just all kinds of pathetic."
"And more than a little baffling," Elizaveta said, crossing her legs and turning to face Gilbert. "What exactly's got you so riled up? You were never like this before. And that is in noooo way a compliment. Dating you was a nightmare."
"Datin—good God, woman, we never dated," Gilbert said in horror. "You stole my first kiss and bragged about it to everyone in the fourth grade that does not mean we dated."
Elizaveta snickered and elbowed Gilbert's leg.
"You're such a little prude. You were so livid I thought you were either going to burst into tears or strangle me. Never expected a half-assed attempt at both."
"I'm a very emotion-driven person, so sue me," Gilbert snapped, his cheeks flushing. "And he was pretty pissed about that story too, if you recall."
Elizaveta snorted and rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, he grilled me during the bachelor party. Classy affair, by the way. Super glad I went to his and not yours."
"Mine was classy," Gilbert sulked, crossing his arms over his chest.
"A twelve hour Skyrim session is not 'classy,' Gilbert, it's basement dwelling level pathetic. And all you had was Pabst Blue Ribbon beer?!"
"…Dammit, Toni promised he wouldn't blab," Gilbert muttered, running his hand over his face. "And who the fuck calls it 'Pabst Blue Ribbon,' you sound like a deranged flight attendant trying to peddle cheap swill."
Elizaveta stared at Gilbert until he flinched and muttered an apology before continuing in a normal voice.
"Anyway, everyone there had a good time. It was a bondin' experience, and you should be lucky I let you pick which one you wanted to go to."
"Well when only three RSVP'd to his, I felt… obligated, if I have to be honest," Elizaveta confessed, resting her elbows on the bed. She laughed and clicked her tongue. "This feels like one of our gossip sessions. We're thirty five or some shit, I thought we were supposed to grow out of these nasty high school habits."
Gilbert shook his head and copied Elizaveta's position, reaching out to lightly poke her nose.
"You should know, adult life's even cattier than high school," he said solemnly. "Just with bills and drinkin'. The drinkin' is what fools everyone into thinkin' it's somehow more fun and fairer. Joke's on them." He snickered. "Favorite activity's seein' my students get all excited to be graduatin' and then when they return to visit a few years later all of them scrape the ground and start whinin', 'Oh Professor Weillschmidt you were right if only we'd listened to your wisdom in your lectures instead of fallin' asleep and droolin' all over your handsome mug'."
"I still cannot believe an actual university hired you," Elizaveta said dryly. "If ever there was a miracle…"
Gilbert laughed, wrinkling his nose. "I know, right. Sometimes when I'm headin' into my office I stop and take a look at the name plaque on the door. I do a double take nearly every damn time."
His expression softened and he glanced out the window.
"Thanks to that, though – well. Y'know."
Elizaveta gagged and shoved at Gilbert's shoulder.
"God. No. Stop that right now," she commanded. "I'm going to have to listen to the story of how you guys met about fifty times today, I don't need to hear it during pep talk time."
Gilbert rolled with the shove, bouncing back and grinning at Eliza.
"Right, I forgot. Saccharine things make you complain to try and save face. You're a stolid mountain, Elizaveta. No Titanic, no The Notebook can move you."
"You don't have to quote your entire Netflix queue at me just to make a point," Elizaveta muttered, rolling her eyes. "There's a time and a place for that sort of thing, and that time and place is an hour from now down in your impeccably decorated reception hall."
Gilbert raised an eyebrow and leaned forward a bit, his eyes shining with curiosity.
"Elizaveta, do you have a speech planned?"
"Stop using my full name. It makes you sound unhinged," Eliza muttered, her cheeks coloring slightly. "And of course I have a speech! Every best man gives one; I know you two are freakishly obsessed with tradition. I'm not about to break that."
Gilbert laughed and sat up, rubbing at his nose in embarrassment, and in that moment Eliza saw the kid she'd grown up with who was always scraping his knees and bloodying his face somehow and yet only cried over the small things. Paper cuts. His first kiss being stolen by a grody girl. His decades old save file on Zelda getting corrupted. He threw fits and childish temper tantrums over the dumbest things even into his thirties but somehow Eliza knew she'd never really seen him cry. He faked too much, she couldn't trust him. He'd faked his first girlfriend, created a whole back story for himself where he was a star soccer player instead of just a loser nerd when they'd gone off to college. He lied pathologically and when he was caught he'd just grin and laugh sheepishly and quickly change the topic.
She stared when fingers were snapped in her face. She immediately scowled and pushed Gilbert's hand away.
She lifted her head to meet Gilbert's face, her own still twisted in a scowl. His expression took her aback, and the anger lines around her eyes softened. Gilbert's eyes were lowered slightly, his hands folded in his lap, soft wisps of hair casting parts of his face into penumbra. Red eyes flicked up to glance at her through pale lashes before Gilbert looked away again.
"…Yes, I can see that," Eliza said as patiently as she could, folding her legs under her. "Are you going to elaborate or will I be required to entertain a twenty questions scenario."
Elizaveta let out a little sigh, but remained dutifully quiet while Gilbert gathered his thoughts. Finally he lifted his head.
"What if he falls out of love with me?"
"I don't know. Get a prenup done."
"One of his dogs already isn't a fan."
"Wear one of his sweaters to trick it. Or invest in one of those K-9 unit training suits. Next."
"What if he hates bein' married?"
"He gets to take a deduction on his taxes. He literally squirms away in disgust if too many people touch him. He could not flirt his way out of a paper bag, you are the best he can possibly do. He won't hate it. Next."
Gilbert made a frustrated noise, fixing Elizaveta with a little glare.
"How can you know all of this?" he snapped.
"I don't," Eliza said calmly, reaching out to slowly pinch Gilbert's nose shut. "But I've been cleaning up after your anxiety fits for years now. All my training has prepared me for this moment. Your grandest anxiety hour."
Gilbert honked loudly (it was probably supposed to be something more of a derisive snort) and turned his head away, falling moodily silent once more. He fiddled with his vest, the dark red brocade making his skin even paler. It wasn't a good look outside of Anne Rice.
"…Thank you for bein' here," he finally mumbled.
"You're welcome," Eliza said simply. "I don't particularly want to be anywhere else."
She raised an eyebrow and lightly nudged Gilbert's knee.
"But you need to start having more of these fits in front of him."
Gilbert's expression went from carefully blank to utterly terrified in a split second.
"N-No," he stammered, tugging neurotically on his tie. "God, I've had a couple and he's been… okay at it but it just makes him anxious too 'cause he doesn't really know how to fix things and usually just gets me pissed off. And then we're both incapacitated and all he does is bake to try and distract himself and I like cake all right it's a-fuckin'-plus as far as desserts go but every day up until this weddin' has been one anxiety attack after another and I've been eatin' so much goddamn cake I think the moment I see the gargantuan thing waitin' downstairs in reception I'm goin' to lose my shit and beat the hell out of it and we paid somethin' utterly ridiculous like two hundred dollars for a fuckin' cake this isn't a joke, Liza, I don't know what to do I can't fall apart like this in front of him!"
"Jesus Christ, take a breath!" Eliza said in alarm, clamping a hand over Gilbert's mouth. He stared wide-eyed at her and then mumbled a little apology. She made a face.
"That feels disgusting. Don't do it again."
Gilbert scowled and Elizaveta moved her hand away just in time before Gilbert's tongue made contact with her palm.
"Predictable as ever," she muttered, wiping her hand on the bed out of habit. She quickly held up a finger when Gilbert opened his mouth to talk again.
"Nu-uh. Stop it. Right fuckin' now, or I'm leavin' until you calm yourself down," she said, no trace of humor in her voice. A furious look of rebellion flashed in Gilbert's eyes before he sat back, obviously in a sulk. Eliza waited a moment longer to make sure he wasn't about to start freaking out again and then lowered her hand.
She gave the air a few seconds to settle before she began to speak, her voice calm.
"Have you ever gone on one of those little tirades in front of him before?"
Gilbert pursed his lips in thought and then shook his head.
"You should," Eliza said simply, glancing out the window. "You can be pretty self-involved, so I'm sure you haven't noticed but when you speak he hangs on to every last word. Even when you're arguing or being snippy with one another he almost never interrupts."
"How does me not noticin' I'm gettin' attention equal 'self-involved'," Gilbert muttered. "You speak in riddles, woman."
"You're so in love with the sound of your own screechy voice you tune everything out. Perfectly logical," Eliza said, smoothing her hands over her thighs. "But he loves you. And he deserves to love all of you. Not whatever lie you've crafted to live behind, no matter how innocuous you deem it. Otherwise he's going to wake up ten years from now in bed with a stranger and be completely freaked out."
"Why are you tellin' me this?" Gilbert asked, trying to sound disinterested despite his shaking voice. "If your goal was to perfectly recreate the nightmares that have plagued me this past month then bravo."
"I'm telling you because one floor above us is a man who is equally as neurotic as you and will love you for it if you would just let him know instead of hiding it!" Eliza snapped. "I'm – god, I'm not your girlfriend, Gilbert. I can't be your emotional crutch anymore, I shouldn't be the person you call in the middle of the night that shouldn't be me anymore! And it sucks, God it fucking hurts I don't –…"
She let out a little breath and ducked her head.
"I don't want to have to say this," she said quietly. "I want to keep being special to you because you're… you're just the kind of person people want to impress. And I thought – I was so vain. I thought me being special to you was the most important thing. It was never about romance, God I would rather die than get my lips anywhere near yours again but being your friend, your only friend at times, made my ego so fucking big." Her lips quirked upwards in an empty smile. "But as my attire suggests, I'm clearly not. I lost the best friend forever contest and you need to stop treating me like the winner."
"It isn't a fuckin' contest, Eliza," Gilbert said a bit sharply, making her raise her head and glance at him. His face was pale, even for him. "He didn't 'win,' anythin'. In fact I'm pretty sure I heard his best man tell him he 'lost big time.' There were also mentions of this bein' the 'biggest mistake of his life' and 'eternal regret.' I'm not – I'm not even a good friend. You're worth more than my attention an' I'm not goin' to abandon you just 'cause I'm gettin' – m. Worded."
"I didn't say abandon me," Eliza said quietly, too tired to keep arguing. "But next time you call because you're trying to hide something from him and need me to fix it, I'm just going to let it ring." She met Gilbert's eyes. "I didn't leave you. He won't either. Get that through your thick skull before we go down there."
Gilbert opened his mouth to protest, but a little glare from Eliza made him snap it shut again. He fiddled with his tie, a thoughtful look crossing his face.
"You're jealous of hi—"
"Nope," Eliza smoothly interrupted. "Try again."
"Just admit it. Admit it and I'll let it go. You're jealous of—"
"Marrying you would be the single biggest mistake of my life," Eliza said flatly. "You don't marry best friends who are gay in ways unicorns could only dream of achieving. And anyway I ran a simulation on Sims. I murdered you and ignored your ghost until it took away the ladder and drowned me in the pool. We're amazing friends, Gilbert. And that's all I'll ever want from you."
"And it's all you ever wanted, right?" Gilbert said, his voice slightly accusatory. "'Cause it'd take more than a hand to count the number of times you've made wistful remarks today. You're not actin' like yourself and it's freakin' me out."
"Yes, Gilbert, all I've ever wanted from you was your friendship and the only thing I'm regretting right now is being used as a crutch during your entire fucking courtship!" Eliza snapped, standing up just so she could glare down at Gilbert from her loftier height. "That is it and I can't b-believe you're making me go into hysterics on your wedding day I hate you!"
With a loud wail of frustration she pressed her hands against her face, her fingernails digging into her forehead. She heard Gilbert whisper a stunned, "What the shit…" but other than that he didn't move.
Elizaveta took a few deep breaths, trying to push out the stress. Gilbert was a pushy asshole who liked to ascribe his own insecurities onto others. If he felt trapped, he'd lash out. If he felt hurt, he'd hurt someone else worse. If he was insecure, he'd tear someone else down with him, and she knew it.
Problem was, she wasn't sure the guy upstairs knew how to deal with that yet. Poor guy was going in half cocked.
She let out an unsteady laugh.
Cocked. God. No. That train of thought needed to be quickly derailed.
She started a bit when she felt an unsure hand touch her shoulder, and she lifted her head to stare up at Gilbert. He was biting his lip, his eyes focusing on anything but her.
"I – uh." He cleared his throat. "I'm. Sorry?"
Eliza gave him a deadpan look.
"Try it again," she said patiently. "Without the unnecessary inflection."
Gilbert pursed his lips but then said quietly, "I'm sorry, Eliza." His face fell. "I really – you're right. I've just been using you and… and it isn't fair. You've had to watch me fall in love while you remain an angry spinster— FUCK YOU CAN'T JUST GRAB ME THERE!"
Gilbert jerked away, nursing his bruised thigh. Eliza glowered at him and flexed her fingers.
"I was aiming for two inches to the left. Don't test me today."
"Jesus, all right I'll make this speech as depressin' and mawkish as possible, will that help?" Gilbert snapped, sulking again. "You know I'm bad at this shit, I don't know what I'm doin' an' you makin' jokes about how he's gonna leave me isn't helpin'. At fuckin' all."
He lightly shook Eliza's shoulders until she snapped, "What?!"
"You're my best friend, asshole!" he yelled, a stricken expression on his face. "And I'm fuckin' scared to try makin' another one 'cause I know I won't get this lucky again! The universe doesn't love me that much, it just doesn't! I'm pushin' my luck as it is."
Elizaveta blinked slowly and stared into Gilbert's eyes, searching for some sign that he was joking.
"W-Wait," she stammered. "He's – you don't consider him your best friend?"
Gilbert shook his head, his hair flopping all over the place and somehow serving only to make him look more sympathetic. Jerk.
"It's – I mean, a best friend… they know everythin' about you. Right?" he said, visibly wilting. "You're right. You're totally right, I'm not… honest with him." He chewed on his lip and let his hands fall back to his sides. "Even though he's Mr. Neurosis, he's… he's got his whole life figured out. His students and colleagues love him, he's so dependable and put together, and I'm… I'm kind of a disaster. He doesn't like chaos, he tells me all the time he hates it. But the first time, we… we were watchin' TV and some guy had a little breakdown on Project Runway or somethin' and I was about to laugh 'cause it was exactly somethin' I would've done and he just got this look on his face and said – I remember this exactly – he said, 'Who the hell could stand to be around them.' An' ever since then, any time I feel myself start to get like that I remember how disgusted he looked and how cold his voice was and… and that's when I call you instead. 'Cause I'm a coward and I know that you… you would've laughed. You would've teased me about it until I yelled at you to shut up and I don't have that with him."
Gilbert blinked, a look of horrible clarity on his face. He sat down on the bed, staring blankly at the wall.
"I don't… have that with him," he repeated slowly, his shoulders starting to shake. "I'm scared t' laugh like that in front of him or act like a crazy person and I can't keep it in for the rest of my life. He's goin' to learn who I am and it won't be the first thing but somethin' will break him. He already doesn't like it when I'm too loud, he gets all uncomfortable and quiet. What's he goin' to do when I panic for real or act like that guy…"
Eliza stared down at Gilbert, completely dumbfounded.
"You. You fucking. Idiot."
Gilbert glanced up at her, his eyebrows knitted.
"…Nice. What did I do—"
"You're expecting him to act completely normal when you finally laugh in front of him after months of holding it in?! Damn right he doesn't know you, you haven't even given him a chance from the sound of it!" Eliza exploded, pacing back and forth. "He's probably just wondering if you've been lying to him this whole time or if you really don't have a subscription to Architecture Weekly like you claim and if it really was you and not your weird cousin that visited that one time that watched Hoarders and actually really liked it."
She made a frustrated noise and glanced at her watch. Fuck.
"I'm going to yell at you so fucking much when this is done," she muttered, kneeling in front of Gilbert to tighten his tie, effectively cutting off his weak protest of, "Eliza, wa—ggk."
She grabbed his wrist and hauled him to his feet, yanking him out into the hall. As she marched him down towards the ceremony room, she hissed, "You are going to tell him. I don't care if you're talking through the entire ceremony you are going to tell him you've been hiding your weirdness from him so help me god."
"What – in front of everyone?!" Gilbert protested, stumbling as he tried to keep up with Elizaveta.
"You can fucking whisper as long as he hears it. You can't marry him like this – you can't marry someone you're afraid to laugh in front of let alone look crazy in front of!" she snapped, falling silent as the steady murmur of voices reached their ears. When she glanced over her shoulder at Gilbert, his face was ashen and his eyes too wide. They kept darting to fix on every door they passed, and Eliza tightened her grip around his wrist.
"Don't you fucking dare."
He immediately stood up straight again, shooting her a rather mean, calculating look before saying sulkily, "I won't."
She parked him in front of the ceremony room doors and then peered inside. The string quartet was already playing the music, and he was making his way down the aisle. God, they'd barely made it. She quickly straightened Gilbert's lapels and linked her arm through his.
"If I say no, would that matter."
The doors opened and Eliza plastered a smile on her face as she walked down the aisle, Gilbert's side pressing against hers. She could feel him shaking as the hundreds of eyes in the stupidly ornate room followed them. She kicked aside several petals on her way up the dais, ignoring the other groom for the time being. Gilbert reached his little marker and then turned to face her under pretense of kissing her cheek.
"I can't do this, Eliza."
His voice was shaking, barely above a whisper.
"He's goin' to run, I'm goin' to lose him."
"Then he's even stupider than you are," she murmured back, kissing his cheek. "And his family is footing the liquor tab tonight. They signed a non-refundable contract. We can still make use of it."
"There's not enough in the world," Gilbert muttered, and Eliza laughed, lightly flicking his nose. The assembled chuckled, not sure of the joke, but she gave his hand one last squeeze, her eyes narrowing.
"Tell him. You're not a coward. This is coming from the one person who would love to call you nothing but."
Gilbert gave a slow nod, his eyes darting to fix on him for a moment before meeting Eliza's again. He squeezed her hands and then said softly, "Thanks, Lizzy."
He let go and turned to face the priest, leaving Eliza to edge off to the side to stand with the rest of the groomsmen. The priest began his speech and instructed the couple to face one another. Gilbert's back was to her, but Eliza could see his throat moving and his shoulders shaking very slightly as he spoke, the priest's words obscuring his own from everyone but the man in front of him. Eliza watched as blue eyes narrowed, an unsure look crossing over his handsome face. His gaze never left Gilbert's, even when a few pieces of blonde hair escaped his severe hairstyle and fell across his forehead.
Suddenly Gilbert's shoulders began to shake in earnest, and a muffled noise made the priest pause and glance down at the two.
"…Should I go on?" he asked slowly.
"Y-Yes," Gilbert stammered. "Sorry – just. Oh the emotions. And so on."
The crowd laughed again, but Eliza's chest grew tight with worry. He hadn't said anything yet, just listening to Gilbert, his eyes continuing to narrow and his lips pressing in a thin line. He looked terrifying when he was concentrating. If that's what it was. Anger and every other emotion looked the same on him, and Eliza felt a protective fury take hold of her the longer she stared at his stolid face. He didn't deserve Gilbert. He didn't deserve him, he made him feel so scared, so terrified to show anything real, to be anything but the perfect professor he acted at school, to be anything but exactly how he was when they'd met. It wasn't fair, it was so damn unfair Gilbert was going to be buried by him, by his stupid smothering personality and their home would be a sterile, lifeless environment Eliza knew she would never truly feel welcome in. Conversation would dwindle to daily niceties, to work, to Christmas cards and she would have to watch her friend slowly suffocate, insisting the whole time that he was fine, he was happy.
Eliza gritted her teeth, her hands clenching into fists at her sides, her gaze boring a hole into his stupidly large forehead. Any moment now. Any moment now would come those stupid clichéd words of holding peace and she wasn't sure she was going to be able to restrain herself.
Suddenly something changed.
He blinked his blue eyes and stood up straighter, a look of surprise crossing his face that made him look years younger. Gilbert's uncharacteristically meek voice trailed off, and in the priest's pause for breath, another noise took over.
Ludwig burst out laughing, the noise rich and deep.
Gilbert jumped, as did several groomsmen and most of the people in their seats. The priest gave them a startled look and then stared at Ludwig, slightly dumbfounded.
Ludwig held up a hand to silence the priest, his eyes still focused on Gilbert. His laughter died down, but a small grin remained on his face. He reached down to gently press his hands on either side of Gilbert's head, and then said firmly,
"You're being stupid. Which is a perfectly you thing to be."
Eliza could see Gilbert's throat bobbing as he swallowed, and heard the weak, "So you… knew."
"You make puns in your sleep," Ludwig said, letting go of Gilbert's face to take his hands again. "And you snort when you're trying not to laugh. You call Eliza when you start biting your nails and get that harried rodent expression. You are the worst sort of double agent, and I've always known."
His blue eyes softened and he glanced at the crowd before leaning down to whisper something in Gilbert's ear that made him shudder. Gilbert's hands moved to rest on Ludwig's forearms, his grip tightening for just a moment before letting go. Eliza heard him laugh weakly, and saw his whole body relax. And felt, very keenly, the moment when her specialness was taken from her.
Gilbert tilted his head back, his normal maniac grin on his face as he said quietly, "This is what you're marrying into, Schmidt. Last chance to back out."
Ludwig rolled his eyes and silently gestured for the priest to continue by way of answer. Gilbert laughed and took Ludwig's hands in his, lightly swinging them back and forth for the few, brief sentences left. The syllables fell on Eliza's deaf ears, the thunderous applause at the kiss a simple vibration in her chest. Gilbert's loud yelp when Ludwig picked him up, the flash of a smile in her direction and a gentle brush against his wrist before he was gone down the aisle.
They had almost reached the end, when Ludwig suddenly paused and glanced over his shoulder, a frown on his face. His eyes lit up when they caught hers, and his scowl deepened. He mouthed, Eliza, what are you doing, and she could practically hear exasperation in his silence.
The gesture was enough to loosen the fog around her head, enough that she could tell her feet to walk back down the aisle, hurrying after the other groomsmen. The two were still holding hands, Gilbert staring up at Ludwig as though he were his own personal sun and he a photosynthesis fiend.
"Sorry," Eliza muttered as she drew even with them. "Womanly emotions or. Whatever."
"Yeah, okay," Gilbert said absently, a small smile on his face as he continued to stare at Ludwig. Ludwig returned Gilbert's smile with one of his own before glancing down at Eliza, his frown back in place. Eliza met his eyes with a scowl, and when his hand moved towards her she took a little step back, snapping, "What?!"
A large, rough finger brushed against her cheek, and she blinked in surprise, a cold wetness running down her face. She lifted her head to meet Ludwig's eyes again, her vision slightly blurry. His brows were knitted in silent apology, and his voice when he spoke was quiet, just for her.
"Thank you, Eliza. I never would have really met him if not for you."
She swallowed heavily, forcing a smile on her face.
"I hope you're prepared. Once the floodgates are open, they c-can't—"
She had to stop, her voice a lump in her throat.
Ludwig chuckled quietly, his eyes to the side to glance at Gilbert who was being accosted by several of the groomsmen.
His expression softened.
"I wouldn't want him any other way."
He gave Eliza another polite smile and then moved to stand behind Gilbert, wrapping his arms around his waist and lifting him off the ground to make him yell again. Gilbert's loud laughter echoed around the small room, enough to make several of the guests from Ludwig's side of the family wince and stare disapprovingly at him. The two were oblivious, teasing each other mercilessly to the point where the groomsmen couldn't get a word in edgewise as they started towards the reception hall. Elizaveta hung back again, stepping off to the side so the friends and family could pass. She tugged her tie out of her vest, dabbing at her eyes and cursing softly. This was why she hadn't wanted to come. Tears could be passed off as sentimentality, but she didn't want anyone to think of her as sentimental.
She risked a glance up, watching Gilbert and Ludwig as they continued to walk down the garish hall, the gold and white walls and ceilings the kind of opulence that would have made the Gilbert of her childhood feign constant puking. Now he fit. Perfectly. His suit tailored, his hands elegant as they swept through the air, emphasizing his speech with well-placed gestures. The man on his arm was sophisticated, would never have dreamed of daring him to jump out of a moving car, to try giving each other prison tattoos at three in the morning, to eat cereal with ice cream or break onto the library roof just to throw gummy bears at sorority girls.
The looks they shared were different. Their kisses lingered from sheer disbelief and joy. The white and gold walls welcomed them, and Elizaveta kept her feet stubbornly planted in the grass.
She sniffed quietly and glanced at her watch, calculating the amount of time she could afford to spend alone before she'd have to go give the speech she'd spent hours rehearsing. Twenty minutes. Twenty five at the most .Enough to run upstairs and redo her makeup.
Her head jerked back at the sound of her name, and she winced and cursed softly when it twinged.
Gilbert was standing in the door of the reception hall, one eyebrow raised and an exasperated look on his face.
"I'm pretty sure the people can find their way twenty feet down a hall. You don't need to guide them."
Eliza bit her lip to keep from smiling or crying or screaming, and tossed her hair.
"Your other groomsmen are so fucking useless I had to make sure they wouldn't get lost. It's not my fault you have such shitty taste in friends. I'm pretty sure Francis was sneaking drinks from a flask during the entire ceremony."
"You know you just insulted yourself with that, right?" Gilbert said dryly, hopping down the hall and landing in front of her. He frowned when he caught sight of her face and bent down to catch her eyes.
"Were you –… No. No, you weren't cry—"
Eliza rolled her eyes and pushed her way past Gilbert.
"Silk stains when you get it wet. I'll keep my comments about your tie's sudden polka dots to myself."
Quick footsteps followed her and a moment later long fingers tugged at her sleeves.
"Help me," Gilbert whimpered, his expression panicked. "Ludwig's Oma is fucking terrifying. If she sees that I've been crying she'll be calling me pansy boy all night."
"Lovely family you've married into," Eliza muttered, quickly tugging off her own tie and wrapping it around Gilbert's neck. She undid his and began the switch, her deft fingers quickly forming a knot in the tie.
Gilbert remained silent, but she could feel his eyes boring a hole into the top of her head. She finally indulged him.
Gilbert hummed and tilted his head back.
"…It must be exhaustin' for you. Bein' right all the time."
Eliza's fingers faltered for a moment before she got herself back on track.
"I'm a veritable Atlas of veracity."
"…Sure," Gilbert said slowly. "But – no, seriously."
He tugged her hands away from his tie. She glanced up, forcing an irked expression on her face. It fell away when she caught Gilbert's eyes, his earnest gaze taking her aback.
He smiled, boyish and trusting and so in love with the new ring around his finger.
"I love you, Eliza."
Her eyes widened as she was suddenly hugged, the force of the gesture catching her by surprise. She remained stunned for a moment before she carefully wrapped her arms around Gilbert's shoulders, pressing her face against the crook of his neck.
"I love you too," she said quietly. She sighed and closed her eyes.
"You're my best friend."
She felt him laugh, a brush of lips against her forehead.
"Still got that necklace you gave me in the second grade." He solemnly tapped his breast pocket, and Eliza laughed, the noise strained.
"Asshole. You said you threw it away when I broke your Playstation."
"Yeah, and I rifled through the garbage so I could throw it away again when you break my new one," Gilbert threatened, taking her hand and leading her into the reception hall. He flashed her a grin and gave her hand one last squeeze when they reached their seats, and then sat down.
Eliza took her seat and placed her napkin in her lap, watching as Gilbert slowly fell away from her. His shoulders twisted, his fingers tapped against another's arm, the three words he whispered felt so much heavier than when he'd said the to her, the air around them turned to quicksilver.
She let out a slow breath and took a sip of wine before glancing at her watch.
She clinked her knife against her glass and then stood. The reception hall fell silent, the guest's faces wreathed in warm candlelight looking ghostly, suspended above their bodies as they turned to face her. She cleared her throat and picked up her glass, sparing one last look at Gilbert. He grinned up at her and flashed her a thumbs up with his free hand, his other entwined with Ludwig's.
"Knock 'em dead," he mouthed, winking. Ludwig rolled his eyes, and Eliza heard him mutter, "Nerd," under his breath. The smile on his face never wavered, and when he rested his hand atop the table Eliza could see that all his nails had been bitten down to the quick. That his ring was the one Gilbert had picked out, black with a silver band that ran down the middle because he insisted it represented him. And Ludwig was staring at that ring as though it were the Grail itself, a look of disbelief and utter joy on his face.
Eliza turned back to the crowd, feeling the vice around her heart loosen.
Maybe he was worthy after all.
She cleared her throat.
"Hello everyone. For those of you who don't know me, I'm Eliza, Gilbert's best man. Woman. Whatever. He made me wear a suit to match. Clearly symmetry takes priority over all." She paused for the quick chuckles to subside and then pressed on. "I met Gilbert when he got lost chasing a dog. He wandered into my parent's yard, sat on the steps, and demanded a snack. My mother had no idea what to do with him, a trend that would continue for the remainder of our childhood and into adult hood. "
The audience laughed, and the vice loosened more still when she registered Ludwig's deep timbre among the voices, Gilbert's ugly little snickering noise nearly drowning it out. Her hand trembled for just a moment before she cleared her throat once more and smiled.
"I'm here today because I love Gilbert. Almost as much as he loves himself, and almost as much as Ludwig – as L-Ludwig loves him."
She had to stop as her throat began to close. She quickly threw the rest of her note cards out the proverbial window and raised her glass higher.
"To my best friend and his husband. And if that word didn't make the two of you jump then you're both god awful liars."
The room laughed and raised their glasses, echoing the sentiment. Eliza tipped hers back, draining her wine in a few gulps. She quickly sat down, laughing in surprise when Gilbert tackled her. She patted his back and caught Ludwig nodding at her, a small smile on his face. She returned the gesture and then carefully untangled herself from Gilbert, pushing him upright.
He grinned at her and winked.
"Short and sweet."
"Don't parade around your genital's nickname in public. It's obscene," she murmured under her breath, a bit of happiness seeping under her skin when Gilbert burst out laughing and refused to answer Ludwig when he asked him what was so funny. She poured herself another glass of wine and sipped at it during the rest of the toasts, her long nails scratching at the surface of the crystal, a small smile playing around her lips.
There were still some things for them.
A few inside jokes, movie quotes. References to drunken and sleep deprived nights. Childhood forts. Secret spots in the woodwork no one would bother moving the furniture to find.
Some things were left for them.
Eliza scrubbed at her eyes, tucking Gilbert's tie into her pocket.
Some things not even he would learn.
And that was more than enough.