"We miss you inside." Marie- Louise said softly in French, stepping onto a balcony.
George turned to look at her. "How are you feeling, Miss Marie- Louise?"
"I'm fine." she replied, looking over the edge and fighting a sudden urge to cry. I'm such a fool. Last night I thought… but now we're back to this. She couldn't help it; a tear rolled down her cheek, silvery in the moonlight.
George wiped it away with a finger. "What's wrong? Are you all right?"
"Fine." she murmured, turning away.
He came up behind her and uncertainly placed his hands on her shoulders. "Please, if there is anything I can do…"
She put her head on his chest and cried.
George stared down at her in shock.
"I- I was so worried about you." she sniffled. "You had all that blood on you…"
George's shocked expression softened into a somewhat sad one, and he rubbed her back soothingly. "I am fine. Those wounds looked worse than they were; and as a Gundam fighter, I am accustomed to injury."
She didn't say anything for a minute; then, "I can hear your heart beat."
"See?" he asked, a thread of humor apparent in his tone. "I am fine. You have no reason to worry." He moved away from her, and she watched him go with large, still- watery eyes.
"George. Why do you always come for me?" she burst out suddenly.
"Why do you always come for me?" Harder this time, and steel shimmered in her gaze.
"You are the Princess. I am sworn to fight for you." he floundered.
"And that's the only reason."
She started walking toward him, and George battled an urge to run he hadn't felt even when he'd thought he was facing down death in Lantil Island.
She stopped a foot away from him. "I watched you fight the Dark Gundam. I remember thinking you'd died, being afraid that you were going to die every second… and I can't describe the joy I felt every time it didn't happen.
"I'm not a child anymore, George. I'm not the little girl I was last year.
"I think it was the Gundam fight that did it to me. Seeing the reality of a fight in a way I hadn't before… being old enough to realize what was going on, and realize exactly what the Tournament was… and then the Dark Gundam." Her eyes darkened, acquired something he'd never seen in them before. He'd never seen her this way; and he couldn't take his eyes off her.
"I saw you fight that thing. I saw you stand with your friends, ready to sacrifice your life for something larger than you, or me. I saw the Gundams of the world come together to defend it; I'd never seen the like. Never imagined anything like it.
"It made me reexamine my priorities, rethink who I was and who I wanted to be. And no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of this feeling I have for you."
"Miss Marie- Louise-" he began, without knowing what to say.
"You're going to say it can't work." she preempted quietly.
He bowed his head.
"Why not?" she cried.
"Why not. Tell me why not." she demanded, wounded eyes trained on him.
George felt trapped. "You're- you're so young…"
"I'm old enough to be kidnapped." she retorted heatedly. "And I'm old enough to realize that you care about me, you just won't let yourself admit it because you think I'm too young. Seven years isn't that much of a difference, George; my parents were further apart. You're going to have to do better than that."
"Oh, so it's because my father's the King, is it? He wouldn't be happy at first, I'll give you that, but he'd come around. Even Jones noticed how much he likes you. Give me another reason."
George's violet eyes were as sad as she had ever seen them. "You will be an extraordinary woman someday, Miss Marie- Louise… but today, you are only a girl."
She took a long breath. "Only a girl." she repeated dully.
"I am sorry." George offered, knowing how inadequate it was.
"Only a girl." she repeated to herself, again, moving forward and cornering him against the railing.
George opened his mouth to speak, but she put a gentle hand under his chin and closed it, then pressed her lips to his for a long moment before breaking away. "I've tried- oh, how I've tried- to stop feeling this way." she informed him quietly. "But I can't. Just as you will always come for me, I will always wait for you, as a girl or as a woman. There is no one else. There never will be. There never can be.
"You may think of me as a silly little girl, and I was once. But I've seen… I've grown up, in this past year. I've realized some things that I'd never thought of before.
"You can't tell me that that meant nothing to you, that you felt nothing. You would be lying if you did, and I know it. You do have feelings for me, George; you are just afraid, and you run from them."
His voice was lower and rougher than usual. "Are you calling me a coward?"
She met his gaze calmly. "I suppose so."
Marie- Louise turned and went inside without another word, leaving behind a very confused, frustrated George de Sand.
A week had passed, and Marie- Louise sat alone in the rose garden, turning one of the flowers over and over in her hands. Perhaps I was too forward. Perhaps I chased him away. Before, if nothing else, he was there.
But I did the only thing I could do. I had to; it was time. And I meant every word. Lost in thought, she'd stopped paying attention to the flower in her hands, and a thorn pricked her finger. She raised the digit to her face and stared at the bright drop of blood.
"Does it hurt?"
She jumped, dropping the rose; George bent, retrieved it, and offered it to her. Marie- Louise took it gently, sucking on her finger.
He seated himself beside her. "I thought about what you said."
She looked at him, but didn't say anything. She couldn't have if she'd wanted to.
"You were right." he admitted quietly.
"I talked to your father."
"What did he say?"
George smiled. "He reacted exactly as you said he would- he wasn't happy, but we came to an understanding."
"I am yours… if you still want me."
She threw her arms around him; laughing, George tipped her face up and kissed her.
A/N: I think that once she grew up a little, Marie- Louise would make a good partner for George; she understands him (at least a little), she's in love with him, he cares for her (and I think he could fall in love with her, given a chance), and I think that her personality is a good balance for his- she's comfortable letting him come to her rescue and basically be in charge, but she's not helpless on her own, either. Thanks for reading, and cookies to readers and cakes to reviewers!
This story was written for the wonderful LivEvil- check out her stuff!