It's A Long Road to Happily Ever After, One



Hector allowed himself a little amused grin as he leafed through Eliwood's mile length letter sent along with the wedding invitation. The first one-third of it was some little details about the succession process and the current going-ons within Pherae, nothing that he didn't already know from Ostia's spynet, even though Eliwood's commentary on things could be amusing. Hector still wondered on many occasions how the late lord Elbert could've raised his son to be capable and utterly naïve at the same time. The other two-third...was simply a long list of complaints and frustrated ventings from the groom-to-be concerning all the ruckus happening at his declaration of marriage. Hector snorted. It was quite apparent a long time ago that there could be no worse political trouble his best friend could manage to cook up than falling in love with and marrying a girl from the grasslands, and the only one who didn't see it coming was, apparently again, Eliwood himself. Racism didn't occur to Hector when he talked to Lyn either, but apparently the new lord of Pherae had gotten good-natured denseness down to an art form.

Tossing the letter into his special document drawer for a later read, Hector turned his attention to the guest list included in the invitations. There's the obvious Kent-Fiora pair, the equally obvious Hagen and Isadora, and the not-so-obvious amusing trio of Rebecca, Will and Rowen. Marinus couldn't be pried away from the occasion, and he rather doubted old Marcus would let his eyes off his young master for a second. Lord Panto and Lady Louise were also invited, even though the distance from Etruria to Pherae was somewhat...daunting. Sain, Leivan, Priscilla and many other people couldn't be located, but Rath and Fargus were included in the list, and this was what Hector suspected cause part of the great uproar that so distressed Eliwood. It's not everyday that one would marry a part Sacaeian and invite another Sacaeian, who also seemed to have some sort of relationship with the bride, into a grand wedding of a Lycian League noble. Hector himself and Florina were also in there, of bloody course, and the rest of it was basically a long and tiresome list of League nobility tucked here and there in the countryside.

There was also a private letter addressed from Lyn to Florina. Hector considered hazarding a guess for a moment, then thought better of it and decided not to. What Lyn had to say to Florina could be quite innocent friend talk, but if it was 'girl talk'...it could be dangerous to a poor man's mental health.

"Have you finished reading, Lord Hector? What did Lord Eliwood say?" a soft, quiet voice came from the chair beside him, almost inaudible. In fact, if his ears hadn't attuned themselves to catching Florina's particular pitch by then, he probably wouldn't have noticed. He knew he didn't early on in their relationship.

"Wedding Blues," Hector answered, giving her his best mock-exasperated smile. "I've asked you a few times already, Florina. When are you going to quit sticking that 'Lord' in front of my name?"

Like she did half a hundred times before every time the subject came up, Florina looked absolutely bewildered. "B, but...it was your rank, and..."

The lord in question wagged an index finger in front of her face. "And your rank happens to be the betrothed consort of said person. I know perfectly well who I am, Florina. It's time you start knowing who you are."

"But I am---" Florina started.

Hector slapped his forehead theatrically. "I already told you who you are dozens of times before. It doesn't matter if you were a mercenary or a librarian. Right now, you're going to be the Lady Florina of Ostia, and with my brother dead, you're going to be the mother of the next 'lord'. You've got to start practicing your part right about now, or both my father and my brother will be turning in their graves."

The Pegasus knight looked even more bewildered. "But, I don't know how to---"

He didn't have to think much about that. One half of his brain had decided sometime before that if lecturing doesn't work, the best way to do things was to play with it. "If you're going to insist putting a title in front of my name, I suggest 'Dearest' or 'Sweetheart'. It might help put things into perspective."

"Lord Hector!" Florina exclaimed, turning different shades of red simultaneously.

Hector only laughed. Picking Lyn's letter out of the whole package, he handed it to Florina without a word, still grinning. Saying anything more now would result in her getting even more embarrassed, and when Florina got really embarrassed, it'd be extremely hard to pry two words out of her without a stutter.

Florina took it with a slight questioning look, then brightened up noticeably as she noticed the familiar handwriting. "From Lady Lyndis?"

He nodded, then watched with interested as his betrothed went through the document with lightning-fast speed. Lyn's handwriting was a bit difficult to read for him, but apparently it was nothing between best friends. Not that he'd find a comparative case. Eliwood's handwriting was usually too neat for comfort, especially when graded together in the Ostia Military Academy by the annoying headmaster.

Around halfway through the letter, the Pegasus knight's face lit up with what he identified as sheer delight. She even giggled slightly, which was a bit out of character for his usually shy consort.

"Lord Hector, look at this! Lady Lyndis said she and Lord Eliwood'd asked Lord Marc to name their first child! Isn't that so wonderful?" she said, almost squealing out of excitement as she handed the letter to him. She also conveniently pointed out where the particular paragraph was, thankfully for Hector's mind, since the first parts did indeed seem to be 'girl talk' from the little time his eyes swept through them.

"Rather like Eliwood to do something like that," Hector commented, a sly grin creeping into his face. Chances are it was indeed his best friend who came up with the idea. He knew for a long time that Eliwood's not the person to ask when it comes to naming somebody, and it was a way to show his gratitude to Marc and look romantic. Three birds with one stone. Of course, once again, chances are that Eliwood had no idea about said birds in the first place.

Hector was turning to Florina and was in the process of forming his commentaries when he noticed the faraway, dreamy look on her face. It wasn't something he'd seen too much ever since the day he caught her talking to her Pegasus about a...certain slightly embarrassing yet warm-and-fuzzy topic.

"Florina?" He called, quietly and softly.

"Lord Hector?" The odd expression was still plastered onto her face.

He decided to let the use of 'lord' slip for the moment. "How about we ask Marc the same thing, if he happens to come by?"

Florina turned sharply toward him, her eyes wide and her cheeks a glowing pink. "Really!?"

"Really. But if our first child turns out to be a boy, I'd like to name him after good ol' Uther. If she's a girl...then we'll go with whatever Marc thinks up. What do you say?"

The young lord of Ostia usually didn't like romantic poetry and thought them to be utterly nonsensical pieces of gibberish that writers with too much time on their hands cooked up for the enjoyment of the gutter folk. Yet for that one moment, he'd have to agree with whoever came up with the phrase comparing a woman's eyes to stars that it was a truly apt description indeed.

"Thank you, my lord..." Florina whispered, her voice soft. And with plenty of subtext.

"Florina..." he whispered back, taking her hands and drawing her closer. She wasn't even flustered.

And then, right on cue, the door flew opened, and Matthew strode into the room. Florina squeaked and quickly let go of his hands, while Hector cursed. The moment was just right. And of all the staffers inside Ostia Castle, it just had to be Matthew, the only person that always managed to get Hector into a state of wording loss.

The spy looked back and forth between the two of them, then grinned. "Did I come in the middle of something, Lord Hector?"

"Just shut up and tell me what the goddamned business is this time already".

Matthew's grin grew even wider. "It's good news, young mas—I mean, sire. There's a traveler at the castle gates to see you, and I've already let him in on what little authority I do have."

"Little indeed, and it'll be even less if you can't give me a good reason why you've done that without informing me first. We're not in a state of war, but still."

"Spying is our business, m'lord. The man's clean," the auburn-haired thief said, chuckling. "In fact, I think you'd be happy to see him."

"And the reason being?"

"Remember Lord Marc, sire?"

Speak of the devil.

------------------------


There were times when Eliwood regretted being raised in a sheltered environment. It had its perks, but one of its pitfalls was that he ended up having a perpetual lack of swear words to use when one's mind just needed to swear out its frustrations every once in a while. Not many such extreme occasions had come up, but this was one of them.

He was just out of a meeting with the lord of Araphen, whom Lyndis had adamantly refused to speak to, and after talking for a while he thought he knew the reason. If all the nobles in the Lycian League ended up this way, this wedding might even get messier than he'd ever imagined it would be. Not that he would regret making his proposal because of something as silly as this. The Sacaeians were just different, and they were even wise in their own way, and calling them barbaric was simply uncalled for. Eliwood remembered Lyndis being quite distressed over as simple a thing as table manners and the whole matter of disgracing her uncle, but this was the first time he really saw why.

Father was always sensible and accepting, and while Eliwood'd always known that racism existed in Lycia, he was never able to imagine it in a working form. Until now. He'd never even thought such close-minded people could actually exist, let alone rule. No wonder why Lyndis was so apprehensive of him the first time they met. To her, then, every Lycian noble was probably the same. Sir Kent pretty much told him that she'd refused to speak to him and his companion at first when she learned that they were from Ciaran.

Eliwood was glad that they managed to work their way out of it, even though he wasn't quite sure where exactly did their friendship begin to turn into something else. He himself had no clue about it until Lyndis dropped the confession on his head, and things had been so hectic then that he didn't get the time to sort things out, and to this day he still hadn't come up with the nerves to really talk to her about it. They'd gotten so used to the situation in the past year that imagining home without Lyndis had turned out to be quite difficult, but sometimes Eliwood wondered if it was more of a friend who's always there rather than love.

The young lord of Pherae shook his head. Nonsense. It was the most counter-productive thing for a groom to be thinking about, especially since he should be busy trying to make all the arrangements that were usually thrown to the master of ceremonies. It was Lyndis's fault, mostly. Sacaeian customs seem to indicate that the couple being married arranges their own marriage, and he had no idea what specific grasslands ceremonies she was going to incorporate into it yet, either.

But then again, there was no point in thinking about it.

Finally reaching the door to his private study, the redhead crash-landed into a chair, closed his eyes, and let out a long sigh. Peace and quiet at last.

"What would Hector say if he's around...?" Eliwood said aloud, too tired to even see if a stray squire or page was around in the room. " 'Enjoy your last days of peace and quiet, because you're sure as hell losing them once you shed your bachelorhood'? "

And that brought him to yet one more groaning detail. He had to organize at least a small farewell party to singlehood, or Hector would give him no end to it.

Happy wedding indeed.

"Did Hector really say that, Eliwood?"

Eliwood's eyes flew open. "Lyndis?"

She was standing before the chair, leaning on one of the many bookcases in the room, an expression somewhere between amused and curious. Dressed in her usual swordfighting getup, his bride-to-be appeared no different than she was two years ago when they met in Katore, or that day when they defeated Nergal. It was actually somewhat interesting to think of it that way, something that happened a whole year ago. It still seemed so much like yesterday, no matter how hectic life had been since he came back home.

"Who else are you expecting? Not many people are allowed into this room, after all," she said, a light smile on her face.

Eliwood smiled back, though his was rather weaker than hers. Seeing her reminded him of the unpleasant morning with the lord of Araphen, and of the ugly truth that he had many more of those meetings in the not-so-far future. "I must admit that after seeing his Esteemed Grace of Araphen, my reasoning hasn't been working as good as it did," he replied, a touch of rare sarcasm creeping into his voice.

Lyndis raised an eyebrow. "Oh, him? I suppose he's been trying to tell you how much of a mistake our decision is?"

"You're partially right," he said, sighing. "He's been trying to say that, and to convince me that letting Ostia have Ciaran's lands is a grave error on my part. He also said something else, but I don't think you'd like to hear that."

"I won't," she said, her expression darkening a little. "But Eliwood?"

"What is it, Lyndis?"

"You haven't answered my question yet. Did Hector really say that?"

Eliwood rolled his eyes toward the heavens. It's always Hector's mouth that got them into all sorts of troubles, and this time looked to be no exception. "You know Hector. He's got a mouth that would make a dragon proud---no offense to Nilus and Ninian," he quickly amended once he saw Lyndis giving him a queer look.

"So he did say it."

"You know he didn't mean anything. He's engaged to Florina, after all. Their marriage is supposed to come sometime after ours, and it looks like they're going to meet far less resistance."

She snorted. "That's precisely what I meant. Now I really regret not giving Florina a few tips in that letter, seeing that Hector seems to cling quite dearly to his bachelorhood. He's even waiting for us to abandon ours first."

"You know it's not really like that," Eliwood said, blinking. "It's just a common joke in the Ostian Military Academy, and it's carried over from our years there. He doesn't mean anything. At all."

"Eliwood?"

"What is it?" he asked, dreading what she might say next.

"I think I really do love you, you know," Lyn said, smiling.

Eliwood blinked, not even noticing his face turning slightly red even after an entire year spent with her. Now THAT was unexpected. "What brought that on?"

Lyn tilted her head. "It's a concurrent thing anyway. Can't I just say it out loud in a random moment somewhere?"

"It's well....you know...we're not all too used to...err...sudden outward expressions..." he answered, knowing he'd probably look like a tomato right now if he'd look into a mirror.

"Mother used to say spontaneity is the sugar of married life," Lyndis replied, shrugging, then turned on her heels and walked to the door. "I'll be in the training grounds if you need me," she called, shutting the door behind her.

Eliwood found himself slumping into his chair as his betrothed made her dramatic exit.

"Women," was the only word his brain managed to creak out.

-------------------------

Author's note : As you can see, all the names in here (except for Lyn) still follows the Japanese spellings. This won't be changed until I get back home and see what's the official English spellings are like. *grumbles*