In response to the following yurichallenge prompt: "Have a wedding take place in your story. It can be a part of the plot---your characters' wedding---or someone else's wedding that your characters are attending, or it can simply be referred to in the background."

Disclaimer: Maria-sama ga Miteru and all characters therein belong to Konno Oyuki, Nagasawa Satoru, Shuueisha, and Geneon Entertainment. I'm just borrowing them for nefarious (but nonprofit!) purposes.

The Morning After

When Sachiko awoke the next morning, the first thing she noticed was that Yumi was asleep in her arms. Yumi's body was pressed up against her side, an arm and a leg flung over her, her head resting on Sachiko's chest just below her shoulder. The light, almost ticklish feel of Yumi's breath against her skin made her want to squirm away, but she suppressed the urge as she had learned so many years ago. Ogasawara children did not squirm. They were quiet, well-behaved, and perfect in everything. The girls were doubly so, having been taught since before they could understand the concept that they needed to behave properly as girls from a certain class of society and to obey the men of the family.

Obedience to her family was why Sachiko was now a married woman. But against all her previous expectations, she had some measure of happiness in her marriage. All Suguru would expect from her would be for her to play the part of his wife when they were around others, perhaps bear an heir for them in the future. She could take any outside lovers she wished, though she was still uncomfortable with the idea. It was a better life than some other women in her position were able to have, though not the one she would have chosen for herself had she had the freedom to do so.

Yumi had seen things differently. She'd felt so passionately about it that she'd even argued with Sachiko about it, telling her that things didn't have to be that way and that her family wasn't being fair to her, asking her to sacrifice her happiness when they surely could find another way to work things out. Sachiko had simply smiled sadly at her, and Yumi had dropped it. The pleading that followed shortly after had been similarly ineffective.

But Yumi had still found a way to save her, albeit a somewhat morally distasteful one, she realized. Had found a way to make her happy, if she could come to accept the situation. She was a true friend. Well, perhaps a bit more than that now.

Yumi shifted a bit, and opened her eyes.

"Good morning, Yumi," Sachiko said, smiling. She couldn't really be angry with Yumi over this. She wanted to be. What they'd done was wrong, and Yumi had deliberately acted when she was most vulnerable so that she wouldn't have to deal with her indignant protests. And yet, Yumi had given her what she needed most. Love, acceptance, caring. Happiness. She would not get angry with Yumi for acting in what she truly believed was Sachiko's best interest.

"Good morning, Sachiko," Yumi replied, smiling back. She looked very relieved, and very content. Sachiko privately admitted that she was fairly content at the moment as well, and wouldn't have minded cuddling Yumi all day if it wouldn't have been so completely slothful and improper.

They stared at each other for a few seconds, goofy looks on both their faces, until the whoosh-thunk of a door sliding open broke the moment and sent them guiltily jumping away from each other while scrambling to cover their nudity under the futon. Too late, Sachiko realized the indignity of her actions, but considering the utter indignity of her current situation, she had rather more to be concerned about on the whole.

Thankfully, it was only Suguru, who smirked at them from his position in the doorway.

"Good morning, Yumi-chan," he greeted her in polite gentlemanly fashion. "And you too, Sacchan... looks like you enjoyed your wedding night." He winked at her. "I hate to interrupt your... fun," his smirk grew even wider, "but I'm sure you can imagine the reaction if the maid came in with our breakfast and found you like this. Can you imagine, an affair not twenty-four hours after the wedding? What would our parents say?"

Sachiko's eyes narrowed. "If you are so concerned with appearances, perhaps you could leave us so that we might dress."

"Oh, no modesty is necessary on my account. Please, go ahead." He waved a hand lazily. "You already know I'm not interested in anything you have."

Sachiko was unable to determine which held more sway over her in that moment, anger or embarrassment. Her face heating up, she fisted her hands in the futon, clenching it tightly. How dare he. She'd thought even Suguru had his limits.

A comforting hand gripped her shoulder, applying a gentle, reassuring pressure. Sachiko kept her gaze fixed on an area of the wall a meter or so to the left of Suguru's head, unable to look at either of them in that moment.

"Please, Kashiwagi-san," Yumi said quietly.

"There's no need to be so formal," Suguru protested. "Call me Suguru, please, Yumi-chan. And," he continued, drowning out Yumi's objections, "I'll just be waiting in the next room here. Come and get me when you're ready."

He slid the door shut again; Sachiko caught the movement out of the corner of her eye, and the resulting thud was magnified in the sudden tense silence of the room.

For a few moments, neither of them moved; they simply sat there, frozen, Yumi's hand on Sachiko's shoulder as Sachiko stared mutely at that patch of wall, trying to calm the rush of anger and humiliation. Tears were forming in her eyes, but she stubbornly refused to let them fall. Her pride had already been damaged enough today.

"Sachiko?" Yumi ventured after Sachiko had been silent for a bit too long.

Sachiko didn't answer. There were things she wanted to say, of course. She wanted to shake Yumi by the shoulders, ask her if she could possibly understand how very humiliating and distasteful this situation was for Sachiko, if she'd really considered all the consequences when she'd acted last night. But that would not be appropriate, and it would hurt Yumi needlessly. Sachiko would bear the burden of guilt and embarrassment for both of them.

"It's all right," she said, finally breaking her silence. "I'm all right, Yumi, really."

She turned to face Yumi, who looked doubtful.

"Really?" Yumi asked.

"Really," Sachiko confirmed, smiling faintly. "But we really must get dressed before breakfast arrives." She stood gracefully and made her way over to the dresser; her belongings had been moved to Suguru and her wing of the residence the day before.

Turning back after selecting garments for both of them, she realized Yumi's eyes were on her and blushed, suddenly shy in her nudity. Things were so much different in the light of day.

Seeming to sense her discomfort, Yumi rose and took her share of the clothes from Sachiko's hands, then moved a step over, placed them on the dresser, and began to dress.

Guiltily moving her eyes away from Yumi and onto the items in her own hands, Sachiko set about following Yumi's example, pulling on her underclothing and then the slacks and short-sleeved cashmere sweater she'd selected for herself. Because of the difference in their heights, she'd given Yumi a skirt, one she'd thought would suit her well.

Moving to the other bureau, one with a mounted mirror, Sachiko picked up a brush and began to run it through her hair. Coming up behind her, Yumi plucked the brush from her hand.

"Let me do that?" she asked.

Sachiko nodded.

Yumi began to brush Sachiko's hair, placing a gentle hand on her head to hold it in place. The quiet whish of the brush was the only sound in the room for a while, as Yumi and Sachiko lost themselves in the familiar act.

A knock came at the door to the adjoining room; Suguru was being courteous this time, no doubt hoping to make up for his rude behavior earlier.

Yumi set the brush down and went to let him in.

"Hello again, Yumi-san," he said, smiling. "You're looking lovely in that sweater and skirt."

"Thank you." Yumi blushed.

"Could I speak with my lovely wife for a moment?" He glanced at Sachiko, sending her a charming smile. Sachiko wondered if he really still expected that to work on her.

Yumi turned to Sachiko, silently asking permission. Sachiko granted it with a slight inclination of her head.

"I'll go wash my face," Yumi said, ducking out gracefully.

After she left, Suguru walked over to the bureau and picked up the discarded brush.

"Shall I?" He asked, meeting Sachiko's eyes in the mirror.

"Please don't." She turned away. He put the brush back down.

"Can we sit and talk?" There was an almost pleading note in his voice.

She nodded, and they sat themselves opposite one another on the floor.

"I would like to apologize if I offended you before," Suguru said.

The respectful, formal speech sounded strange coming from him, and Sachiko found it made her a bit uncomfortable. She realized that a part of her missed the teasing-- the familiarity of it, at least, if not the subtle cruelty-- preferred it to this cold formality. It was not a pleasant realization. Things would be easier for her if she were indifferent to Kashiwagi, rather than feeling this complicated mix of resentment, anger, and longing. She didn't want to want to spend time with him, didn't want to want to be close to him. But she did, and it disturbed her.

"Sacchan?" He prompted when she failed to answer. "Forgive me? Please?"

"You shouldn't have said those things in front of Yumi," she said at last. "It's not proper."

"Proper?" He asked, raising an eyebrow. Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black? His gaze seemed to say.

She flushed and turned away.

"But really, Sacchan," he continued, "I'd like for us to get along. I think it would make things more... pleasant... all around. You do too, don't you?"

Sachiko nodded mutely.

"I know you're not happy with the marriage, and with me, but I've thought of us as friends, as family, for a long time now, and I don't want that to change. Nothing has changed, Sacchan, don't you see?"

Sachiko found her voice. "I'm afraid that's where we disagree."

Suguru's shoulders sagged a bit, but he soldiered on. "Just give things a chance. That's all I'm asking."

She turned away. She knew she was being petulant, and a bit unreasonable, but...

"Please, Sacchan?"

She sighed and gave in, nodding her head slightly.

"Thanks."

Neither said anything after that, though Sachiko could hear Suguru's fingers tapping against his thigh in an erratic rhythm.

Yumi's return a few moments later broke the awkward silence that had formed between them.

"May I come in?" She asked politely.

"Of course, Yumi-chan. I was just telling Sacchan here that she's got me beat-- I always thought I'd be the first one to get my Fukuzawa."

At a glare from Sachiko, he quickly switched topics. "How is Yukichi these days? I know he came to the wedding yesterday, but I didn't manage to catch him during the reception."

"You must have just missed each other," Yumi said, exchanging a quick glance with Sachiko.

Sachiko smiled internally. Yumi knew full well that there had been nothing accidental in Yuuki's avoidance of Kashiwagi. It would have almost been humorous, if the matter hadn't been so serious. There'd even been one dicey moment when Yumi had had to duck into the men's bathroom for a few moments to sneak Yuuki out just after Suguru had gone in. Sachiko had been appropriately scandalized, and privately a bit awed at Yumi's audacity.

"Perhaps you could bring him with you next time you visit," Suguru suggested smoothly. "I'd like to catch up with him, see how he's been doing."

"I'll be sure to invite him," Yumi said politely. "But speaking of visiting, I really should be going soon. I've imposed on you enough already."

Panic rose up in Sachiko. She'd known, on an intellectual level, that Yumi would have to leave soon, preferably before most of the household was up and about, but had yet to come to terms with it on an emotional level. She looked at Yumi, a hint of pleading in her eyes.

Suguru stood. "I'll find a way to sneak you out. I should be back in a few minutes."

"Thank you," Yumi said, gratitude in her eyes.

He left, and they were alone once more. Yumi went to Sachiko, and knelt beside her.

"Will you be all right?" She asked, putting an arm around Sachiko. "I won't be able to see you again until after the honeymoon. Unless," she amended, "you want me to stow away on the plane and come along. I could hide in your luggage."

Sachiko cracked a smile at that. "I don't know," she teased, "you might not fit. You ate quite a few sweets at the reception yesterday."

"Geez!" Yumi cried, frowning good-naturedly. But her face quickly lost its mirth, and took on a more serious cast. "If you want me to, I'll find a way to go with you. You don't have to go through this alone. I'll always be there for you, Sachiko."

"I know," Sachiko said, smoothing a strand of hair away from Yumi's face. "But I need to do this on my own."

"All right." Yumi was the picture of understanding. "But you could call, at least. Tell me how much fun you're having in Europe."

"I will," Sachiko promised.

The door opened again, and Suguru poked his head in. "Ready to go?" He asked.

"Yes."

Yumi hugged Sachiko, and the two of them shared a long glance before Yumi released Sachiko completely and stood to leave.

"Good day," Sachiko said firmly, seeing Yumi's hesitation.

"Good day," Yumi returned, and followed Kashiwagi out the door with one last look back over her shoulder.

As the sound of footsteps faded, Sachiko sat alone in the room, head bowed. Her hands, clenched into fists, lay on her thighs.

She would not cry, she vowed. She would not despair.

It was time now to be strong.