SEQ CHAPTER h r 1Author's Notes: This fic was written for Mamono's Einet or Kiss From a Rose Challenge.  Though the actual song lyrics are not to be found herein, I would like to take the opportunity to say that Seal owns the rights to the aforementioned song.  It was just the inspiration for this little bit of fluff

Grey Rainbow

By Kysra

Trembling fingers fiddle at his throat once more, loosening the constricting pressure of a pristine tie only to allow its tightening moments later by his younger brother - again.  It was a ritual begun with his exit from his-bedroom-that-would-now-be-theirs for though he is certain of today, though there is a barely contained excitement coiling in his gut, he cannot mask the nervousness careening through his body and out the pores of his skin.

Their photographer stands to the side, camera at the ready.  One roll of film has already been used and stored, three - perhaps four - more will be used before the evening is over.  She wants the pictures to look vintage, black and white with tones of grey.  He has made no secret of his lack of understanding on this issue.  She exudes color and life.  Why would she not want the same in souvenirs of today?

He has a few ideas, though none come close to the standard of rationale he is accustomed to; but he is honest enough with himself to admit that he will never understand her, her decisions or motives.  The mystery she provides is only a small part of what makes her so attractive to him. 

There is so much to love about her.  She is one to take in strays with the intent of finding them a warm home but becomes the warm home herself.  He realizes that, in a very real sense, he was one of those strays as was Motou, Taylor, and the Yellow Dog.  She is faithful and kind but possesses the strength to say what needs to be said.  She is patient and calm but forceful and passionate.  She is truthful and opinionated but exercises the tactfulness he sometimes lacks.  She amazes him daily with her capacity for care and compassion.  She shares everything with every breath, spreads her light with every step, and gives her love with every smile.

The realization that it has taken this long for him to notice all of these all-too-clear nuances carves his soul in sharp relief.  But he was frozen cold in those blind times past, his eyes clouded over with a protective frost - another distancing mechanism, shielding him from seeing how much he truly needed others, reinforcing his miles-wide independent streak. 

Back then, the suppression of self (and chaotic teenage hormones) seemed necessary.  His heart was a strange void of swirling snow and forming hail, a vacuum windstorm stealing away perception and perspective and replacing it with a stony mask of indifference, arrogance, or (at times) malevolence.

But there was always fear boiling just beneath the surface, spurring the cold to work faster, form deeper trails, anchor itself more firmly, and cover the pain with numbness.  Fear that he wasn't good enough.  Fear that the darkness would overtake him.  Fear that he was wrong, that his love for Mokuba would not, could not buy him redemption.  Indeed, was there even anything left to redeem?

And finally, an answer in the form of an accident, a chance meeting, the occasional kind word, tentative smiles, and stray glances.  She became all the possibilities, brilliant color - bright blues, vibrant reds, cheerful yellows, and subtle greens - where his world was neutral and colorless, refracting and reflecting everything that he was and could become if he would only allow the cold to thaw, if he would accept and face his fears.  Harsh, bold, gentle, soft.  In short order, she became his redemption.

In retrospect, he should not have been surprised to see the imposing - if stark - grey walls of the building he now stood in, nor shocked at the Spartan - almost drab - interior.  Her penchant for finding metaphors in the mundane and writing poetry with action rather than words was something he at once loved and loathed about her.  In choosing such a place, she effectively reveals their history.

He is unaware of the rare, heartfelt smile that frames his lips and does not recognize the startled gasps and surprised looks of their audience.  He knows he is still learning, that he will probably never truly understand or appreciate the changes she has wrought, why it was necessary, why he needs her so very much.  However, he also knows that he loves the unfamiliar pain of her presence in his heart as it adjusts to the new weight, the new risk, the new hope.  There is something charming about the unknown future, an appealing infinite question that - somehow - inspires neither terror nor denial. 

And she has accepted him - demolishing through the hard, grey walls protecting his soul and embracing him fully, completely, loving him enough to at once instruct and guide him while granting him the strength to accept himself, his light and his shadows.

But he can never express these emotions in worthless verbage.  Words are weak, meaningless, and the tools of liars.  His actions today - he hopes - will speak what his mouth cannot.

The string quartet raises their instruments as a soft melody is played, weaving in and out, swirling around, and teasing the ear.  The brown-gold carpet is overlaid with the clear white cloth of her path she will take to reach him, and he cannot but stare at that little trail.  In those lost white moments, he is only vaguely aware of the slow procession, only barely able to give an answering nod to her cousin's concerned look as she takes her place at his far left. 

And then . . .

She appears in a flowing gown of layered white lamé that embraces her body in a way he wishes to but knows is humanly impossible.  The bodice is cut high but manages to display the barest swell of her breasts, the bell-like, sheer sleeves falling around her wrists like resting angel's wings even as the material glides from the empire waist to tease the on-looker with the defined curve of her hips before flaring out in voluminous billows around her feet. 

The sight of her pulls at places deep within where all his secrets are kept and sheltered close to his heart and inside his soul.  There is warmth and the insubstantial but very real essence of his love for her.  It is a feeling of completion, of wholeness so pure he feels the need to squint his eyes for he cannot bear the brilliance of it.  The emotion only intensifies as he catches the answering smile she sends to him with glittering eyes and slightly raised chin.

Then, her hand resting in his, they face each other as the venerable priest performs this rite of ownership, partnership, companionship, and love.  She speaks her vows in low tones and with tears in her eyes though her posture is steadfast and sure.  He knows by the purse of her lips that she wishes to kiss him, to be held and close.  It is a look she entertains often; and though he would like nothing more than to give in to that desire at once so strange and welcomed, there are customs to observe first.

As he repeats the vows according to church mandate, he mentally prepares to recite his own.  His hands, now steady and strong - the nervousness had left him the moment his ring was safely binding her finger, came up to frame her beautiful, beaming face as the words seemed to jump from his throat. 

She gives him power - confidence to overcome his own buried insecurities and fight to be worthy of himself. 

She gifts him with the most honest of pleasures by just being present in his life, by performing the simplest of affectionate gestures like slipping a 'Have a good day' note in his briefcase or making him lunch, by calling when it rains, or distracting him when he works too hard. 

She presents a risk he is ready and willing to take.  He is vulnerable where she is concerned, and though he realizes that by placing his heart in her hands he grants her the power to crush it, he trusts her to take care as he will take care of her.  There is more risk in letting her go for everything is faded, and he can only see the truth through her eyes, feel the world only with her heart beating against his, know heaven only with her soul surrounding him.

As he quiets, watching the tears shine upon her pale skin like stray raindrops, he silently continues with a confession - he had been afraid, so afraid, to take the plummet off the precipice of Security into the unknown well of Love.  He had not wanted to trust another so thoroughly with his darkness, but as he looks into the open book of her face, he understands that he never had a chance.  There was really no choice.  It had been made for him a long time ago - perhaps in the bleached hush of an attentive classroom, perhaps atop the cement roof of a faux castle when the situation had become all or nothing.

His world narrows to her and only her when she is near.  He lives to exist in her eyes where he can revel in her lightand the knowledge that she makes him whole just as he fills her empty spaces.

He barely hears the pronouncement of their new titles, "Husband and Wife," can hardly articulate to her the blinding joy rising behind his eyes, twisting his insides, and exploding in his heart.  But he knows she understands as she leans up on tip-toe to press her lips to his - a sweet little tease, a short but poignant testament.

There is applause behind them for those wondrous swift seconds, and he fumbles for the fully bloomed red rose he had forgotten to give her during his vows.  She smiles and kisses him again before taking his arm as they parade down that endlessly short white cloth path, and when he finally recognizes what has just transpired, he cannot help the grin that wreathes his lips even when the flash bulbs of a hundred cameras and the ruckus of a thousand shouted questions intercept the cocoon of peace they had found within the old grey walls of the chapel.

Bound to him for life, she is the light shining upon his darkness, the rainbow breaking through the grey clouds, the lone flower of his fallow garden, the love of his life, and - finally - his wife.

"Ladies and Gentlemen!  May I present to you - Mr. Seto and Mrs. Téa Kaiba."