L-chan's notes: Ask me to write about a wedding, and somehow, this is what I come up with. Setting is post-manga, for a change. All feedback will be appreciated.
Disclaimer: The story is mine. The characters are CLAMP's.
It took every drop of resolve in his body not to leap out of his chair and flee the maddeningly idyllic scene before him. It was a perfect English garden on a perfect English day. The sky was a cloudless expanse of blue, and the air was comfortably cool without being cold. Neat rows of chairs were lined up in two distinct sections, separated by an aisle with a carpet of white tulle gently spread atop the green grass. A string quartet softly played a special arrangement for the enjoyment of the waiting guests, and each stroke of bow against stings was like a laceration across his heart.
He shouldn't have come. There was nowhere he wanted to be less. But the young man sitting next to him had obliviously shared his excitement, not realizing that he couldn't share something the other did not feel. Then there were his father and sister, both of whom had been asked to participate in the ceremony. How could they have said no? And how could he have explained not witnessing their part in all of this? He couldn't be the sole member of the family not in attendance. His presence was expected.
"Bride's side, or groom's?" he'd been asked, and it was a question without an answer. He didn't know the groom well enough to claim a supportive seat on the right, but sitting on the left indicated an endorsement of her joining in this union. By sitting here, not only was he letting it happen, but he was encouraging and accepting it.
Irony didn't begin to describe the situation.
He wanted to go home, thousands of miles across the globe, to a place where he could pretend that none of this was happening.
"It's beautiful here, isn't it?" his companion whispered, hazel eyes merry behind round glasses.
He nodded absently and did his best not to crumple the piece of paper in his hands. The ceremony program was written in both English and Japanese, her name changed from delicate characters into a series of ugly letters, taking away the intricacies of meaning and replacing them with empty phonetics. Those characters represented her like the letters never could. The romanized words looked wrong. They were wrong, because they weren't her. They didn't belong to her, and she didn't belong here.
A month ago, it had started again. She'd come back to Japan to visit family and friends, and he'd met her by pure chance. They'd spoken to each other like strangers at first, casually relating the mundanities of their lives back and forth, listening intently to the stories being told. Each piece of information, no matter how basic, was gathered and horded like treasure, piecing together missing years into a patchwork quilt they'd hoped would give them warmth when they were parted again.
But then it happened. They'd prepared to go their separate ways, back to the ones they loved but deliberately refrained from mentioning. Before turning away, their lips met in a brief kiss. Not even a kiss. A peck. A peck between friends. Friends who had once been lovers. Then that peck led to another. Then another, the ones they loved forgotten in the moment, until the word "peck" became a gross misrepresentation of what they were doing. More accurate words were lick and sigh. Stroke and gasp. Thrust and moan.
The curve of her hip was familiar beneath his hand. The scent of her hair tickled his nose as she had curled up against him, unlocking memories from a time long past. Somehow everything had felt right in a way that he couldn't remember feeling before, until she'd spoken.
"I'm getting married."
The month since then had been a blur, and now he found himself here as her guest. He almost could have laughed, if it weren't for the sharp pain in his chest that barely allowed him to breathe.
There was a hand on his knee as his companion leaned over to whisper something, and he tried not to flinch at the contact. "I think they're about to start." The hand's comforting strength would have been welcomed a month ago. Now it felt like a shackle.
The quartet's tune changed from the soft melody to an elegant march as the members of the wedding party began to file in from either side. His father and his sister's boyfriend joined the groom beneath a graceful arch decorated with spring flowers. His sister and a young woman with long brown hair stood opposite them, and he saw his sister wink at the groom to alleviate the nervousness that showed so visibly in his blue eyes.
The music served as a subtle cue, and the guests rose from their chairs as she appeared. He didn't want to look, but he couldn't tear his eyes away. She was a vision draped in white silk and lace, and she clasped a bouquet of white lilies near her heart. Her pale skin glowed like moonbeams, and twisted atop her head was her glorious flame-red hair. He'd never seen her look more beautiful.
She stared straight ahead at the young man waiting for her, giving no indication that she'd seen him.
The guests returned to their seats as the ceremony began, but he didn't hear a word. Everything sounded hollow, tinny, and far away. He was aware of his heart beating wildly, his blood pounding in his ears, and a desperate throbbing behind his eyes. The hand was again on his knee, holding him there. There was no escape.
He saw their lips move as words were exchanged, even though he couldn't make out what was being said. With a deep breath, he closed his eyes and prayed for it to all go away.
Suddenly the fog around him was penetrated, and the next words came to him as clear as a bell. "If there is anyone here who can give just cause why these two should not be joined, let him speak now—"
"Kaho!" The hand had flown from his knee as an unknown force brought him to his feet.
There was stunned silence, and he felt everyone's gaze on him. His father and sister were staring at him with concern, and the groom's eyes were the color of angry storm clouds. He knew his companion was also looking at him, but he was only looking at her, the only one who wasn't looking at him. She was frozen, all in white, a statue of ice and beauty.
The silence gave way to a steady murmur as speculation began traveling along the rows of seated guests. It was too late to run.
Slowly, she turned to face him, and he saw tears pooling in her eyes. They spilled hotly down her cheeks, trailing through her makeup and staining the bodice of her gown. She trembled as he held her gaze and silently begged her to say something, even if it was to scream at him to go.
When she didn't, it gave him hope.
He'd never stopped loving her, even when he was supposed to love someone else. For all her talk about how finding someone new was the right thing for both of them, he knew she couldn't really believe it, or else she never would have been with him that night. She'd insisted that all of this was inevitable, but if that was true, then why was he standing?
He had to know for certain.
Maybe it was stupid and reckless and pointless, but he stepped into the aisle. "Kaho." Everyone else disappeared, and he waited, the fate of his entire world resting on this one moment.
And then she smiled.