Chapter 10: Dream
Author's notes will be at the end of this chapter.
"Mother, no matter how you look at this, from every possible angle there's really nothing that I could have done or can do about it."
Shiho yanked at her hairbrush, which was stuck in her tangled hair. She winced at the pain in her scalp but at the moment nothing was as frustrating as having a large hairbrush permanently attached to her. Keiko watched her struggle, rolled her eyes and stepped forward to help her. She quickly untangled the hairbrush like it and within a matter of seconds she had taken to brush Shiho's hair.
"I'm sure you could have done something," Keiko insisted. "Or at least find a way to fix things now. Everything is in chaos, Yzak is mad at his mother, his mother is seeing that gardener..."
"Bodyguard," Shiho corrected dully. "Not to mention that he's mad at me too."
"Nonsense!" Keiko exclaimed, staring wide eyed at her daughter through the mirror. "Why on earth would he be mad at you?"
Shiho didn't answer, all she did was prop her elbows up on the vanity table and look at herself through the mirror. Her mind was far off though, to be exact it was going back to the night before. The way Yzak had shoved her off and how coldly he had spoken to her before going into the parlor had bothered her all night. Had he merely yelled about his mother or Kevin she would never have dwelled on it and just passed it off as his normal behaviour. But last night she had tried to talk to him after the whole ordeal and he had just stormed past her before going back upstairs and into his room.
Sighing, Shiho's entire being sank down and she rested her head against the cool, wooden surface of the vanity table. She was so not in the mood for going down and facing everyone at breakfast. The hours she should have spent sleeping were spent tossing and turning in her bed instead, unable to stop her train of thoughts.
Keiko sighed and finished brushing Shiho's hair. Pulling Shiho up so that she was sitting upright again, Keiko proceeded to gather Shiho's hair in her hands and tied the end together with a short black ribbon.
"I'm sure that you two will make up soon. After all you have to, the wedding is tomorrow."
Upon hearing her mother mention the wedding, Shiho sank down again, her forehead colliding somewhat painfully against the vanity table. Keiko, mistaking it for something else, put her hands on Shiho's shoulders.
"Every bride and groom has these moments," she said. "God knows your father and I didn't always agree when we were young. But you'll get past that and learn to stay with each other through ups and downs."
Shiho raised her head a little, looking at her mother through the mirror. It sounded like her mother had just tried to comfort her, something that probably hadn't happened since that time when she was seven and thought that Santa was really the local drunk in disguise. She felt unsure about what do say and hoped that her mother's next move wouldn't be to give her a hug.
"Let's go downstairs and get some breakfast, your father is waiting for us," Keiko said suddenly, sparing Shiho from what could have been an awkward "thank you" moment.
In return Shiho just nodded and followed her mother out of the room and downstairs. They entered the dining room together, while Yzak, Ezaria and Friedrich were already seated at the table. Kevin was standing in a corner behind Ezaria as usual. Not a single word was said and all that could be heard was the sound of knives and forks against porcelain. Shiho tried to ignore the nervous feeling in her stomach as she sat down on her seat next to Yzak, not really knowing what to expect.
However, everyone ate in silence and not even Shiho and her mother's arrival had changed anything. Ezaria occasionally made small attempts to start a conversation with Yzak but in return she only got short answers or none at all. Friedrich was reading the newspaper quietly, but considering that's how he had spent most breakfasts for as long as Shiho could remember, it seemed like the tense atmosphere in the room didn't seem to bother him much. Shiho and Keiko were the only ones upholding some sort of communication, although it was mostly by exchanging looks.
The entire meal passed without anyone saying anything substantial and just as Shiho had finished her plate she started to think about what the best way to get out of there as soon as possible. It was then that Friedrich finished reading his newspaper, his coffee and to everyone else's' surprised, started talking.
"So Yzak…" he began and the latter looked up upon hearing his name. "Keiko and I arrived a bit late yesterday, have to say I blame my work for delaying us. But today is a nice day, perhaps we should take that golf game, unless you have something to do?"
Shiho had to blink a few times and look again to make sure that the man sitting on the other side of her table was really her father. When she had established that and gotten over the surprise of him suggesting a golf game after all that had happened, she turned her eyes to Yzak. He was probably just as surprised as she was, but did a good job hiding it.
"No, not at all," he answered. "Sounds like a good idea, sir."
"Then it's set!" Friedrich turned to Keiko next. "Would you like to come as well? It's been a while since we've found the time to play a round together."
"I would love to," Keiko smiled and looked at Shiho in a way that made Shiho think that she was up to something.
For that same reason, she also started to feel very afraid.
"That will be all for now, thank you."
In the corner of her eye Shiho saw the maid being dismissed and quietly leave the parlor. The doors creaked as the maid closed them and Shiho returned to looking out the window. Preparations were still going on outside, in a more effective manner than yesterday. Now it actually looked like everything was almost finished.
"Shiho? Come here and have a cup of tea."
Shiho turned around, Ezaria was sitting on the couch and pouring the tea that the maid had brought. She accepted the cup that Ezaria handed to her and sat down next to her. The tea was steaming hot and she set it down on the table for the time being.
"You're not busy with the preparations today?" Shiho asked, just to start a conversation. Ezaria offered her a biscuit and she took the smallest one, not particularly hungry since they had just had breakfast.
"No, I delegated away most of the assignments," Ezaria answered, looking extremely tired as she sat down and sipped her tea. "With the way things are with Yzak… well, you know. I'm not feeling particularly well today."
Despite the irritation Shiho had felt for Ezaria yesterday, it all disappeared to make place for sympathy. One could say what they wanted about Ezaria as a person, but as a mother there was no way to doubt her love for her son.
"I'm sure things will work out," Shiho reassured and felt like she sounded exactly like her mother.
Ezaria smiled weakly at her.
"I hope so. But this is the first and only time he has been this angry with me… and I guess it's the first time that I've disappointed him."
Not knowing what to say in response, Shiho picked up her tea cup and carefully took a sip. Meanwhile, Ezaria reached for something lying next to the tray on the table. The maid had brought it with her and as Ezaria sat back in the couch again, she saw that it was a leather-bound book. Ezaria stared at the book in silence for a while, lost in thought. After a while she opened the book and on the first page were several photos, corners tucked into the pages.
"Can you tell who this is?" Ezaria asked, showing Shiho the first page.
Leaning closer to get a better look, Shiho saw how all the pictures on the first page were of the same man. He was young, perhaps in his early twenties, with pale blond hair and dark blue eyes. His face was somewhat angular and his smile was border lining a confident smirk. Although there wasn't much of a physical resemblance, it was the smile that gave Shiho an idea of who this young man was.
"Yzak's father?" she guessed.
"Yes… Abraham." She smiled, as if remembering something funny. "He hated that name."
She flipped to the second page and the young man was no longer alone on the pictures. He was among countless friends and there was a girl with long silvery hair and striking blue eyes who was by his side in every picture.
"These were taken in Cambridge, where we met," Ezaria went on. "I would be lying, if I didn't say it was the happiest time of my life."
There were several pages with the two of them. Scenery, hair cuts and clothes changed but the affection of the young couple didn't. Then Ezaria flipped the pages again and everything changed. There was no longer a happy young couple smiling and laughing at each other. Instead, all the photos were of a baby, sometimes sleeping, sometimes awake but most of the time just screaming. A few of the pictures were of Ezaria holding the baby, but there was never a father in any of the pictures.
"Yes… Yzak never had the chance to meet him," Ezaria told, confirming Shiho's guess.
"How did he…" Shiho started, but stopped right away when she realized what she was about to ask.
She looked at Ezaria to see her reaction, but the latter was staring at the pictures and seemed to have taken no offense.
"Blue Cosmos," she answered simply and shook her head. "It was a different time back then. We had heard of how other coordinators were threatened, beaten or even killed. But it never occurred to us that it would happen to us, in the safety of our home, our town. I was already pregnant with Yzak and I used to have this craving for a certain kind of ice cream. Abraham got up in the middle of the night and drove to the store just to get that ice cream for me. He never came back."
A strange knot forming in Shiho's stomach, she struggled to say something to the older woman.
"I'm sorry," she finally whispered.
"No, it's alright," Ezaria assured, but Shiho could see that her eyes were glistening. "Anyway, after that I left for PLANT right away and Yzak was born."
She flipped the pages of the photo album again and what Shiho saw was more shocking than anything else that had happened the past week.
"Oh my God," she gasped.
There was a picture of a round faced toddler, dressed in a baby blue pyjamas but completely smudged in dirt, clutching a teddy bear as if it was life itself and pouting at the camera. At first her mind didn't want to register it but after a while it sunk in that this sulking toddler was now her fiancé and commander, the one who could make rookies cower in fear by just looking at them.
"Yes, he was quite attached to that teddy," Ezaria chuckled. "He was all dirty because he had managed to get outside somehow and the nanny wanted to give him a bath and wash the teddy for him but he refused. I couldn't help but to take a picture."
"But… he looks so…" Shiho struggled to find the right word. "…cute."
"Not exactly the way you are used to seeing him, I imagine?" Ezaria asked and continued when Shiho shook her head. "He takes after me, he's used to getting what he wants. That's why you will be good for him."
Shiho blinked, surprised by the unexpected turn in the conversation.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
Ezaria smiled again and put her hand over Shiho's. Shiho didn't know what it was, perhaps it was how honest and open Ezaria had been during this conversation but for the first time she didn't even think about wanting to pull her hand away.
"Yzak can be brash and headstrong… and he doesn't always know what to do. As a mother, naturally I'll want to help him as much as I can. But we can't always be around each other and perhaps I'll have my own life with Kevin now. You're a sensible girl, Shiho. I have a feeling you'll be able to keep him grounded and be a good judgement to him."
The ball slowly rolled forward and then abruptly disappeared down into the hole.
"Victory at last!" Friedrich exclaimed happily and picked up the ball.
"I would hardly say at last, you played so well that Yzak and I were ready to admit defeat after the first three holes," Keiko said with a smile when Friedrich returned to her and Yzak.
"Well, you two are probably up for a rematch!" Friedrich challenged joyfully.
His wife laughed and took away both the ball and the golf club.
"I believe it's enough for today. Let's head back to the club and have lunch there before we go back."
After the golf clubs had been handed to the caddies, the three of them set off towards the club, Friedrich and Keiko chatting lively with each other and Yzak adding to the conversation now and then. At first Yzak had found it difficult to converse with the couple, seeing as he had been in a less than happy mood since the day before. But once on the golf course he found himself more at ease. Friedrich obviously enjoyed playing golf and naturally started more conversations with Yzak, Friedrich's military background making it easier for them to find things to talk about.
Once they reached the club, Keiko excused herself to go to the ladies room and left Friedrich and Yzak to find a table at the restaurant. That task was done within moments, the hostess only had to take a look at Friedrich and Yzak to know that they were important and showed them the best table in the restaurant. It was located in a private lounge on the second floor of the restaurant, a lounge that was more like an outdoor patio. With nothing else to do, Yzak and Friedrich simply sat down and waited for Keiko.
"I'll take you up on the rematch next time we are both here in Martius Two," Yzak said. "Currently my work schedule hasn't allowed me much time to practise."
"Ah, I was like that too when I was in ZAFT," Friedrich told. "I guess it's my change of profession that has allowed me the time to play. After all, military disputes are settled in battles or boardrooms, business deals are settled on golf courses."
Yzak chuckled lightly.
Friedrich leaned back in the chair to sit more comfortably.
"May I ask you a question, Yzak?"
While Friedrich's light hearted tone never changed, the question itself was so sudden that Yzak felt caught off guard.
"Of course," he answered automatically.
"How do you feel about my daughter?"
Feeling as if someone had just emptied a bucket of ice cold water over him, Yzak just sat there with his mouth half open but unable to utter a single word. Friedrich watched him for a while but after a few minutes when Yzak still had not said anything, he chuckled.
"I take it from your reaction that you don't have a straight answer for me," he concluded.
"No, sir, it's just that…" Yzak started.
"You don't have to say anything," Friedrich cut off. "I am merely curious that's all. After all, considering how you two have conspired together all this time I am surprised that one of your plans haven't worked yet."
Once again, Yzak felt shock upon hearing Friedrich's words.
"Shiho is my daughter after all, how wouldn't I know?" Friedrich scoffed. "My wife may be too happy about this match to see it, but Shiho has tried to find ways of getting out of things we want her to do since she was little. When her mother wanted her to take ballet lessons, she could sabotage her own clothes in secret so that when she got to the lesson she'd have nothing to wear!"
The way Friedrich spoke about Shiho was light hearted and Yzak could not help but to feel more surprised. Friedrich had known from the start that he and Shiho would try to get out of their marriage but had not said anything about it until now. No matter how much Yzak thought about it, he couldn't understand why.
"If you don't mind me asking, if you knew then why haven't you said anything to us?" Yzak asked, looking right into the older man's eyes. "Or try to stop us?"
Friedrich smiled softly.
"Are any of your friends married, Yzak?" The latter shook his head and Friedrich went on. "None of my friends were married either when I married Keiko. I loved her and wanted to be with her, but all I heard from my friends was how I would be giving up my freedom and how I would be forced into a routine for the rest of my life. My bachelor party was all about enjoying my last night of freedom, so you can imagine that I entered my marriage with a handful of doubts."
Friedrich shifted in his chair and continued to tell his story while looking out at the view of the entire golf course.
"And they were right, to some extent. Getting married means that you can no longer do some of the things you can when you are not. But in the whole grand design, does it matter? I found that what I gained in return was worth much more, it felt like I was only partially awake to the world before. A family, someone to depend on, loving someone unconditionally and being loved unconditionally in return. Am I wrong to wish that for my daughter, who hates conditions above all?"
Friedrich turned to look at Yzak again and Yzak stared back at him.
"No," he replied truthfully.
Friedrich looked pleased to hear it, but Yzak got the feeling that it was because Yzak had truly understood all the things he had said. Seconds and minutes passed in silence after that, but it was a comfortable silence with both men deep in their own thoughts. After a while, Friedrich stood up as Keiko came out to the patio.
"My, I have to say that the view here is lovely," she complimented as she approached their table. "We should definitely come here more often. Have you two ordered yet?"
"Not yet, dear," Friedrich answered and pulled out the chair for his wife.
Yzak watched them silently, noticing how that simple gesture and simply endearment still brought a smile to Keiko's lips even after twenty five years of marriage.
The sun had set and darkness had fallen over Martius Two, bringing a strange peace with it that could not be felt during the day. It was only in the evening that one could truly enjoy the cool breeze and the comfortable silence. Because of the sunny and clear day, the stars became fully visible in the dark. It was something Yzak and Shiho noticed as they were standing in the gazebo and looking up at the sky. They were both lost in their own thoughts and had not spoken since they had excused themselves after dinner with the intention of going out on a walk. But their walk had been short and somehow they had ended up in the gazebo just as they had last time.
Without turning her head, Shiho turned her eyes to Yzak. He was leaning against the railing, arms crossed and looking up. She thought back to earlier that afternoon and the pictures of Ezaria's husband. Although Yzak physically resembled his mother more than his father, there was something in the way he carried himself that resembled his father.
"Why are you staring at me?" Yzak asked suddenly.
Shiho turned away, grateful that the darkness hid the flush on her cheeks.
"Are you still mad at me?" she asked, taking a deep breath afterwards.
When he did not answer her, she bit her lip and scolded herself for asking that question. Why did she have to ask that? In the short time for her to start feeling mental agony, Yzak thought about her question and then provided her with an answer.
"I was mad at my mother," Yzak told, not looking at her as he answered.
It was as simple as that and with her one word answer they had finished their discussion on that topic. She almost felt silly thinking about how much time she had spent agonizing about this. But he was no upset with her and that was all that mattered.
...where did that last part come from?
"So what are we going to do?" Shiho asked, just to start a conversation. She turned around and leaned her back against the railing. Before her and Yzak were lines of chairs with a cleared passage in the middle. A little further away stood several tables and a large white tent in the case of bad weather. "It's all going to happen tomorrow."
"Is there anything we can do?"
Shiho looked at Yzak, surprised at the words he had said. He was still looking up at the sky and there was something unreadable in his expression that she could not figure out.
"Of course there is." Shiho frowned. "There's always something we can do, we just have to figure it out."
"Is there?" Yzak questioned. "You've been saying stuff like this since day one, yet we've accomplished nothing."
He finally turned to look at her right into her eyes. She turned away her gaze automatically so that their eyes wouldn't meet but he kept staring at her as if he wanted something out of her. Shiho suddenly felt as if she wanted to take a step back away from him.
"What's wrong with you? You're acting weird."
"Your father knows, Shiho. He told me he's known since the beginning that we've tried to get out of this... but he's still not changing his mind about it."
Feeling as if the warm summer evening had changed to be cold and hard, Shiho wrapped her arms around herself and shook her head. At first it was in disbelief, how could her father had known and not said anything? It was improbable, after all her father had hardly voiced his opinion on this marriage, it was her mother who had done all the talking for them. But then it slowly came to her, memories of her father sitting in silence while everyone else were too busy talking to notice anything else. Perhaps in all those silent moments hidden behind a newspaper or a glass of wine, he had done more watching and listening than Shiho had imagined.
Forcing those thoughts away, Shiho shook her head. She had to stay level-headed, think of another solution...
"Then we'll try working on your mother," she suggested. "Try to get her to break things off, if we just..."
She stopped in the middle of the sentence, unable to finish it. Her mind started to wander back to the conversation she had had with Ezaria earlier. She remembered how Ezaria had talked about her husband and finally how she wanted someone for Yzak. Shiho felt an odd lump forming in her throat at the thought how it. How could she possibly do or say anything to make Ezaria change her mind after how Ezaria had confided in her?
Shiho looked up at Yzak. She recognized the conflicted look in his eyes simply because she felt the exact same thing.
"We have to face it, we're the only ones now who can break this off," Yzak went on.
He spoke so decisively, as if he had already resigned himself to that fact. Shaking her head again, Shiho turned away from Yzak and started to pace around the gazebo. She had to do something, anything. Yzak watched her walk back and forth, following her with his eyes.
"No, I will not," she said in a trembling voice. "I will not do this again, they... they are my parents. I'm not throwing away my last chance with them. But I refuse to be forced into this marriage for their sake! I can't..."
In the blink of an eye, Yzak was standing in front of her and grabbed her arms with both hands. Shiho jumped, startled by his sudden movement but Yzak paid no mind to that. His tight grip on her arms prevented her from pulling away and his face was merely inches from her as if he wanted to force her to look at him. But Shiho turned her head to the side, silently refusing.
"It's over, we've lost," Yzak spoke, the tone of his voice convincing them both that it was unquestionable.
They stood there for a long time, neither of them moving. Shiho closed her eyes in a final attempt to refuse to accept what he had just said. But she found it impossible to do and when she met his gaze, she had the same defeated look in her eyes that was in his.
"...what are we going to do?" she whispered.
Yzak's grip on her arms tightened a little more.
"We're going to end all these games, plans... and we're going to make a choice for ourselves."
The chairs that had stood empty for days and night were each taken by the time the sun rose to midday. The garden seemed to buzz with excitement, there was no a single guest who was not involved with in conversation and each of them eagerly waited for the ceremony to start. It did not matter that everyone had been invited on a relatively short notice. This was definitely the most anticipated wedding of the year and the moment the guests had arrived and seen the lavishly decorated garden it was clear that everything would like up to their expectations.
That was, when the groom would arrive.
When the discussion and admiration about the flowers and the music were done, the guests started to pay attention to the fact that neither the groom nor his mother was in sight. The bride and her family were no where to be seen either, but that was expected since she wasn't supposed to appear until the ceremony started. But no one had seen the groom and although his mother had greeted the first guests upon their arrival, she was no where to be seen either. The minister stood alone in the gazebo, looking a little awkward.
Talks about the bride or the groom running away began to surface although neither could understand why. They were both from respectable families, in the military and a good match in every way. Some tried talking to the best man, a charming young man serving on the same ship as the groom and the bride. Although they asked him every possible question on the couple and his opinion on whether something was amiss, the young man just smiled and shrugged in return.
Just as the gossip and the speculation reached its peak, the mothers of the bride and groom suddenly appeared. They ignored whispered questions from the guests and took their places in the gazebo. After talking to the minister, the mother of the groom gestured at the band and everyone fell silent. The singer was a petite looking girl, who started to sing a slow ballad without being accompanied by any music or the traditional wedding march.
"If you stray too far, my love will take you home..."
The groom soon appeared as well, stepping up into the gazebo and receiving a long hug from his mother. He exchanged a few words with his best man, the latter had a mixture of amusement and pride on his face, before taking his place and looking straight forward to the end of the garden.
And there she was.
"If you feel doubt, my love will take you home..."
Her face was covered with a veil, yet he could see right into her eyes. They remained standing like that for a few seconds, before the bride turned to look at her father. The father smiled at his daughter, then started to lead her down the aisle.
The guest rose to their feet and turned their heads to follow the bride as she walked past them. She did not turn to look back at them even once, instead she followed the straight path to the gazebo.
"If you fall, I'll be there to catch you, my love will take you home..."
The short song came to an end just as the bride stepped up on the gazebo. She received a light kiss on her cheek by her father before he walked off to stand by her mother's side. The flower bouquet was passed to her mother as well and the latter smiled proudly and affectionately.
In a moment all the guests had been waiting for, the bride and the groom turned to each other and grasped each other's hands.
The minister began the ceremony, starting with a speech that everyone but the couple listened to. Vows were taken, words being said and rings exchanged. The last declaration was said by the smiling minister, finalizing the ceremony. The groom, who had practically not broken off eye contact with the bride since she had appeared, gently grasped the ends of her veil and lifted it over her head.
There was a moment of hesitation, a moment of doubt in their eyes that no one else but them could see.
But then it happened and everyone applauded as Yzak Jule kissed Shiho Hahnenfuss for the very first time.
Awkward was a severe understatement for the atmosphere in the room. After all, it wasn't any day that people found themselves newly married and alone in the honeymoon suite of the most luxurious hotel at Martius Two.
Still dressed in their wedding clothes, Yzak and Shiho sat on the bed and stared blankly at the wall before them. They had sat there for quite a while, having left the wedding reception almost two hours ago. The party had gone on without them though and while the guests were having fun they were stuck together in a room without knowing what to do or say.
"The room is nice..." Shiho commented after a while. "Very... red."
Yzak looked up and noticed the same thing. Thick, red carpets on the floor, red roses here and there, red bed sheets... there was no doubt that this was a typical honeymoon suite for typical newlyweds. The thing was, he and Shiho were hardly typical in that department.
He heard the rustle of Shiho's dress and saw her getting up. She walked over to the full length mirror on the other side of the room and reached up to do something with her veil. It took a while for Yzak to realize that she was trying to take it off, because the veil was attached to the tiara that had been laced into her hairdo and Shiho was not having much luck in taking it off. Yzak rose to his feet.
"Need any help with that?" he asked, coming up behind her and catching her eyes through the mirror.
When Shiho nodded and let her arms drop, Yzak reached up and started to work on the tiara. He detached the veil first, and then gently tried to pry the tiara out of Shiho's hair. It was a task easier said than done, Yzak frowned once he saw how neatly it had been tucked in to Shiho's hair along with at least a dozen of hair pins.
"What the hell..." he whispered to himself, trying to look for a way to get the tiara out.
"You can pull them out if you want to."
Deducting that it was the only way he could get the tiara off, Yzak started to pull off the hair pins one by one. The hair pins lay in a small pile on the table next to them along with the tiara when he was done. Shiho's hair had been completely let down and it was only then that he noticed that her hair had been curled for the wedding. In an impulsive moment he could not resist taking a lock of hair and feel its softness between his fingers.
All his energy seemed to escape from him at that moment and he reached forward to put his hands on Shiho's shoulder as he leaned his head against hers. Although he was not physically tired, the past few days had been draining and the exhaustion seemed to come all at once. He closed his eyes. The feeling of Shiho's hair against his face was oddly soothing, though.
"Yzak...?" Shiho whispered breathlessly.
"Mm...?" he drawled lazily.
"I... um... we should..." Shiho stammered.
Just as Yzak was about to ask her to just say it out loud, there was loud knocking on the door. He felt Shiho jump slightly beneath his hands and they both stared into the direction of the door. None of them moved and when they heard a second knock, Yzak let his hands slide off Shiho's shoulders as she turned to him.
"Who could that be?"
Shrugging, Yzak left her and headed towards the door. He frowned, trying to think of what sort of idiot would knock on the door and disturb the wedding night of two newlyweds. After he unlocked the door and pulled it open, his only thought was that he should have known.
Standing on the other side of the door was his best friend, with one hand raised as if he was about to knock on the door again and the other hand grasping a large bottle. His tie and shirt were loose and it looked like his jacket had just been draped on him. As if his overall appearance wasn't enough, the distinct smell of alcohol told Yzak the obvious that Dearka was drunk.
"Heeeeyyy!" Dearka greeted so loudly that Yzak was forced to take a step back. "How is going!"
"What the hell are you doing here?" Yzak hissed.
"Just thought that I'd go see my two best friends!" Dearka answered, still in that loud tone.
He stepped right past Yzak and into the suite. Yzak watched him, pondering what could possibly bring Dearka to want to see him and Shiho on their wedding night. Then again, alcohol always had a funny effect on Dearka. Scowling, Yzak found no other choice than to close the door and drag his feet as he followed Dearka further inside the suite. He caught up with the latter who had just caught sight on Shiho.
"Yzak, look! It's Shiho! And she's wearing a dress!"
As Dearka started to laugh hysterically for no reason, Shiho exchanged a confused look with Yzak. Groaning, Yzak grabbed Dearka by his arm and led him away from Shiho. Just as Dearka was about to finish what was left of the liquid in his bottle, Yzak snatched it away from him. He smelled at it, then took a look on the label.
"What the hell is with you?" Yzak asked and pushed at Dearka so that he wouldn't walk into the wall on his way to the couch. "This stuff is strong."
"That'ssss... the meaning..." Dearka slurred, stumbling over the coffee table but luckily he was too drunk to be in pain. He fell over and luckily landed on the couch.
Yzak took a deep breath and convinced himself to not finish the bottle himself in order to get the strength to deal with this. Perhaps smashing the bottle against something would make him feel better.
"You guys... lucky..." Dearka said, his voice muffled since his face was buried in a cushion and he had seen no purpose on turning around to lie on his back. Yzak raised an eyebrow and Dearka went on. "You haff each oder... and Ah'm 'lone."
Yzak looked over his shoulder and met Shiho's eyes.
This was going to be a long night.
It was 1 a.m. when Yzak decided that he had had enough of Dearka's babbling that made no sense. Normally he would at least attempt to be a good friend and listen, but when Dearka had talked for two hours about everything from quality of picnic baskets to Socrates he concluded that the latter was clearly avoiding the real subject. As the topic switched from canned peaches to synchronized swimming, Yzak got up and walked into the bedroom section of the suite.
There he found Shiho, changed out of her wedding dress and into a bathrobe. But her change of attire wasn't what he noticed first, it was the fact that she was sitting comfortably on the bed with a plate of chocolate cake.
"Where did you get that?" he questioned, with narrowed eyes.
"Roomservice," Shiho answered and shrugged but he could tell that there was a hint of a smirk on her lips.
"I've been listening to Dearka's thoughts on stuff like cell phone straps for two hours and you're eating cake!" Yzak exclaimed, almost in disbelief.
When Shiho just stared at him blankly, the only explanation he could come up with for his outburst was:
"It's not fair!"
Sighing, Shiho set aside the cake and got up from the bed. She walked over to Yzak and after taking a closer look at him, she smiled.
"I'll try talking to him," she suggested. "Why don't you take a shower or something? You look exhausted."
Leaving the bedroom, Shiho walked over to the couch where Dearka was lying. He was still talking about synchronized swimming and had obviously been oblivious to the fact that Yzak was no longer there. Shiho pulled over a chair and sat down on it.
"Dearka," she started calmly.
Dearka turned his head just enough for him to look at Shiho. He muffled something that sounded like a greeting but also like he was asking for potato chips. Ignoring that, Shiho crossed her legs and sat up straight.
"So why did you drink so much at the reception?" she asked, going straight to the point.
"I dunno," Dearka murmured.
"Is it because you felt alone?" Shiho went on, remembering what Dearka had said before. When he didn't answer her, she bit her lip and thought of the next question. "Who do you think of when you're alone?"
A girl. Who would have thought that someone who was so charming around ladies, and had the female crew of Voltaire following him, was actually hung up on one girl? Shiho thought for a while, but the name Milly didn't sound familiar to her. It couldn't be anyone she knew.
"And who is Milly?"
"Milly was on Archangel," Dearka replied gloomily.
Of course... Shiho thought.
The Archangel, she recognized. It was one of the ships in the Three Ships Alliance and the ship Yzak had been on after the battle of Jachin Due. Though Shiho had participated in the battle herself, she still wasn't exactly sure of what had happened. One minute Yzak was leading the defense, the other he was gone and the next thing Shiho heard regarding him was after the battle and that she was supposed to escort her commander back to ZAFT from the Archangel because apparently he had defected. It was also there she had met Dearka for the first time, when Yzak was getting into the shuttle with her and asked Dearka to come with him. She had not even been introduced to Dearka back then and therefore didn't understand why the pilot of Buster would refuse to go back to ZAFT and instead stay on what used to be an enemy ship.
She had not known back then, but she knew now. If anything, Dearka's current pathetic state was another affirmation on how deeply he felt for this girl. If he had been prepared to not return to ZAFT for her sake, then crashing his friends' wedding night probably didn't seem that difficult.
"What happened between you and Milly?" Shiho asked, feeling as if she was talking to a small child by asking all those questions and receiving short answers.
"She dumped me," Dearka said in a tone that reminded Shiho of a sad puppy. "She said that I... asked too much of her..."
Sighing quietly, Shiho rose from her chair. She grabbed Dearka by his shoulder and pulled him up so that he was sitting instead. Dearka made no resistance, too busy being drunk and depressed.
"Listen to me," Shiho started, grabbing Dearka's chin and forcing him to look at her. She did her best to try and sound encouraging as she spoke. "If she dumped you, then that's her loss. You are a good person! You're smart, you're handsome, you're funny and you deserve someone who can appreciate you!"
Dearka stared at her, eyes wide in the aftermath of what she had said. He didn't say a word but just stared at her as if he was seeing something completely new. Shiho looked at him hopefully, perhaps all he really needed to get over this girl was a little bit of encouragement?
But suddenly his expression changed, going from blank to downright sad. And, God help her, Shiho could swear that she saw tears forming.
"But I don't want anyone else..." he sobbed, reaching for the bottle that Yzak had taken before and emptying its content in one gulp.
As he went off to the mini bar in search for more, Shiho sighed again. Admitting defeat, she ran her hand through her hair and returned to the bedroom. Just as she was about to collapse on the bed, she noticed how half of it was already being occupied. Her eyes trailed the path of legs in a pair of black pants, up to a white shirt and then up to Yzak's smirking face. In his hand was a plate and crumbs were the only thing that was left of her precious chocolate cake.
"So how does it feel now?" Yzak asked, still smirking and waving the spoon almost sadistically in Shiho's face.
Shiho stared at him in disbelief.
"I hate you," she muttered and sat down on the other side of the bed, completely cakeless.
It was 3 a.m. when Yzak finally tired of Dearka's pathetic sobbing and dragged him into the bathroom. Turning on the shower and adjusting it so that it was as cold as possible, he pushed Dearka into the shower booth and refused to open the shower door until a good five minutes had passed. Least to say, the Dearka who emerged after five minutes of being showered with ice cold water was anything but a sobbing, pathetic person.
"What the hell was that for!" Dearka yelled, shivered in his wet clothes.
Yzak was unfazed by his yelling, although he found it oddly strange that Dearka was the one yelling and he was not for once. Pulling a large, thick towel from the shelf, Yzak tossed it at Dearka who quickly wrapped it around himself.
"That's more like it, I was starting to think that I had a girl for a friend," Yzak muttered, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall. "You're one pathetic idiot when you're drunk, you know that right?"
"Well, you're a lousy friend," Dearka retorted, clearly upset.
Those words stung a little, but even Yzak could tell that this was not how Dearka would normally act. After all, how often did Dearka really want to talk about Miriallia?
"You're all messed up," Yzak went on. "You stand there and pretend like everything's fine with you when you know it's not. Then you get wasted and go on and on about how much you like her and how she dumped you. Well, that's life and when it throws you crap situations you either do something about it or accept it. You make a choice, then whether it turns out to be wrong or not then at least you've tried. Or you could just go on as you do now, which is nothing and yeah, we've all seen how well that has worked."
Dearka didn't answer him and Yzak said nothing more. He just stood there and watched Dearka in silence, knowing that his words rang true and that deep inside Dearka knew it as well. They had known each for a long time, long enough to understand each other. Perhaps that was why Dearka was silent now, because what Yzak had said was not just his observation but something Dearka had failed to notice himself.
Just when Yzak felt one of his leg starting to cramp up after standing still for so long, Dearka suddenly took a step forwards. He didn't stop there and soon he had pushed Yzak out of the way to get out of the bathroom.
"Where the hell are you going!" Yzak shouted, following Dearka out of the suite and out in the corridor.
The response he got as a wet towel that Dearka threw back at him.
"I'm going to Orb!" Dearka shouted over his shoulder. "And I'm taking two months off!"
Scrambling to get the towel off him, Yzak fought the urge to roll it into a ball and throw it right back at Dearka.
"You can't do that!" he hollered. "Dearka, come back! I swear I'm gonna kill you!"
But his threats were of no use. Dearka disappeared around the corner, either he had not heard Yzak or he just chose to ignore it. Yzak frowned, but somehow he found it difficult to stay mad at Dearka for what he was doing. Instead he just returned to the suite, closing the door behind him and throwing the wet towel over the back of a chair. When he entered the bedroom, he saw that Shiho was lying on the bed underneath the covers. She was still awake though and had been long enough to hear everything, seeing as she mocked Yzak by doing a thumbs up.
"Shut up," Yzak mumbled, even though she technically hadn't said anything.
He kicked off his shoes and lay down on the bed next to her.
"He's off to Orb then..." Shiho started. "Do you think he'll be back?"
Yzak folded his hands underneath his head and shrugged. Shiho said nothing else and they lay there quietly as Yzak stared up at the ceiling. His entire body seemed to sink further into the bed as he did and once again it occurred to him that it had been a long day. Turning his head, he saw that Shiho was lying on her back as well, staring up at the ceiling in the same way.
"I can't believe we're married," she said suddenly.
"I can't believe we spent our wedding night with Dearka," Yzak scoffed.
Shiho laughed softly at his words and hearing her laugh somehow took away the frown on his face. But her laughter eventually faded and she turned her eyes away from the ceiling to face him instead.
"Do you think it's okay?" she asked quietly. "To do what we did?"
Yzak shrugged again.
"People have married for lesser reasons," he answered. "At least we were sober."
The room fell into silence again and the watch on Yzak's wrist told him that it was 3:24 a.m. It was almost morning. He took off his watch, not wanting another reminder of how many hours it had been since he woke up. Meanwhile, Shiho found a remote control lying on the nightstand on her side of the bed. She pressed the red "On" button and the TV standing across the bed came to life. Yzak turned off the lights at his side of the bed, leaving the room with dimmed lights.
Shiho flipped through the channels, making a face each time she ended up with an animal documentary or a bad music video. Finally, she flipped to the only channel that was left. There was nothing about animals or bad music there, instead she found herself looking at the same movie she and Yzak had seen that night at her apartment. The middle-aged man and the young woman were still running around the streets of Tokyo and taking every chance they had to hug and kiss.
"I can't believe this..." Shiho whispered. "Of all the movies they have to show..."
She stopped speaking, inhaling deeply as she suddenly felt a pair of hands slip around her waist and a warm body pressing against her back. A tingling sensation went through her entire body and she did not dare to say anything or move. Whether it was because of the shock or fear of ruining the moment, she did not know. Breathing normally suddenly became very difficult as she felt Yzak burying his face in the back of her neck.
"Shiho... do you really want to watch this movie?" he murmured, his voice laced with want of sleep.
Shiho swallowed and forced herself to speak.
"N-not really." She took another deep breath. "What did you have in mind?"
She felt Yzak shift behind her and he propped himself up on one elbow so that she could look at him. Their eyes met and though it was far from the first time that it had happened, Shiho felt something strangely new rising within her. It was a strange feeling and she wasn't sure what it was, but she could hear the sound of her own heartbeat louder than ever and then there was that urge to reach up to Yzak and...
Somewhere on the line between her two last thoughts, Yzak reached over and turned off the rest of the lights.
Author's notes: ...and that concludes Partially Awake. ) It's strange that this story is done, I've had a bad history with finishing multichaptered fanfics so I'm mostly amazed that I managed to finish this. Originally this fanfic started out as an angst/drama since that's what I'm used to writing. However, least to say I changed my mind after writing the first scene of chapter 1 and discovering that there was no way this fanfic could be angsty after starting out that way. The ending was a bit problematic as well, but in the end I decided to go with my original idea. The other one was (as someone almost guessed) to have Ezaria and Kevin marry in the end in a very "Princess Diaries 2" ending.
I'd like to thank everyone who has read this, reviewed, given me tips... the support for this fanfic is what motivated me most to finish it. Before I had no idea that so many people liked the Yzak/Shiho ship and I'm happy to discover that I wasn't the only shipper. Another big thanks goes to the one who wrote the opening theme for the Hong Kong drama "War and Beauty". It's practically the only song that I've listened to while writing this and its given me a lot of inspiration when I've needed it.
As for the next Yzak/Shiho fic... it might take a while before I get started on it, but the basic premise is finished as well as the summary:
A week to remember: Shiho Hahnenfuss is having the worst week ever. She's the only girl in the new squad, the chef on the ship hates her and her captain can't seem to remember her name.
Again, thanks to all of you for reading and hope to see you read the next one!