You know what? I suck. Took me forever to get around that "Error Type 2" thingo, and I've had this lying around for awhile.


To The Stars

Chapter 12: Elizaveta II


"So," said Rahela Albescu, "What do you think, Elizaveta?" She held up two rolls of cloth. "Which color would you like for the drapery?"

Elizaveta stared at the girl she had known and hated her whole life and fought the urge to glare at her. "They both look the same to me, Rahela dear."

Rahela's dark eyes flashed against her pale skin. "What are you talking about? There's a big difference between cream and off-white. And–"

The other girl closed her eyes and wondered why she had chosen this girl to be a bridesmaid – ah, that was right. She was severely lacking in friends that lacked a Y chromosome, and all things considered, she had known Rahela for years. "Whichever one you think is fine, Rahela."

Her companion gave an exasperated groan. "Honestly, Elizaveta. If you want my honest opinion, then the white would provide a nicer contrast to that old church's dark walls. But the cream would look better if you take the floor into account. But if we consider your dress, then that's a whole other story…"

"Just go with hot pink, then!" Feliks half-snapped, half-chirped.

Elizaveta fought back the urge to laugh as Rahela fought to contain her obvious annoyance. "Feliks," said Rahela, pronouncing every syllable slowly, "If you aren't going to help in planning Elizaveta's wedding, then you might as well leave."

Feliks glanced meaningfully at Elizaveta, who opened her mouth to giggle, wisely decided to shut it, and then opened it again. "Feliks can stay," she said.

Rahela put a hand to her forehead. "Elizaveta, please. You still have to meet with Francis' parents to discuss the menu in like twelve minutes, and the drapery! Remember, dear, this has to be perfect. It's the wedding of the century, it's–"

"Keep the cream; it's nicer than the off-white and I like it," said Elizaveta hurriedly, thinking that Rahela should have become a wedding planner or something. Then again, she would have been a horribly stressful wedding planner.

She decided to pity Rahela's future daughter.

"But…" Rahela began.

"It's fine, Rahela," Feliks interjected. "It's like, Lizzie's wedding, remember?"

Rahela sighed dramatically. "Oh, all right. Now, the matter of the placemats…"

"Make them the same color as the curtains. Cream. Not too yellow, okay, honey?" Feliks inspected the nail on his index finger. "Ooh, you should totally put gold trimming. Lizzie likes gold trimming."

Elizaveta laughed. "You know me too well."

When Rahela left a few minutes later, muttering about how this wedding was going to be a disaster based on the apathetic stance Elizaveta and Feliks seemed to take to it, Feliks laughed. "You're totally not going to make this easy for her, are you?"

"Are you kidding?" Elizaveta eyed him curiously. "She was a bitch to me for the past sixteen years. And now that I'm marrying some rich guy – bada-boom, instant niceness. Or as nice as Rahela can get, anyway."

Feliks raised an eyebrow, looked around, and lowered his voice. "But, really, Elizaveta, have you decided on what to do about Roderich?"

"I don't know." Elizaveta bit her lip. "But trust me, Feliks, I'll figure something out."

Feliks laughed, the seriousness leaving his green eyes for a second. "'Course you will, Lizzie. In the, like, seventeen years I've known you, you were totally never one to let guys get you down."

Elizaveta chuckled politely, gathering her things to leave for the Bonnefoy manor. If only that were true.


The night was cool as Elizaveta slipped out of the Héderváry manor. She shivered and hugged the shawl close to her body. The shawl was warm and smelled of motherhood – Ada said it was her mother's, and that somehow after at least a decade and a half of washing, it still smelled like her. Elizaveta decided that her mother must have smelled nice – the shawl, in all its pink softness, smelled like roses.

Elizaveta's mother had been a genius. That much, anyone could agree on. She'd taken the position of Captain of the Guard at the age of twenty-two, a little over half the age people normally were when they took the job. She had been ruthless, extraordinarily talented with the sword in comparison to her soft-hearted, book-loving husband, and had always been a favorite of the Queen. Her stint as Captain of the Guard had ended, though, at the age of thirty-seven, when she had died of an accident in the military. Elizaveta was in her early teens then. She didn't know the details of the accident, only that her mother had once been Captain of the Guard – a position now held by the tall, fair-haired, Northerner Berwald Oxensternia. Despite that, though, she'd never been able to spend a lot of time with her mother – she was always busy managing the Fantasian army. But Elizaveta did remember bright eyes and the voice of an angel.

Ada had shown her pictures, of course – Elizaveta had asked, demanding that as her mother's daughter she at least deserved to remember what her mother looked like. Ada had sighed. "Look in the mirror, dear, that's really all you need." It was true – the paintings of her mother were very true to life and done by very realistic, talented artists, and she did look remarkably like Elizaveta – save for her nose, which Elizaveta had inherited from her father, and the eyes of sapphire blue. Her mother had been a great beauty, everyone said. Her father got terribly upset at any mention of Elizaveta's mother – her death, in turn, had nearly killed him if Ada was to be believed.

"One of the reasons the master loves you so much, dear," Ada had said one day, in her portly, kindly manner, "Is that you look so much like the mistress did. That's the reason he doesn't want you to join the military."

Is that it? Elizaveta would think softly to herself. He only loves me because I look so much like Mother did? Is that why he's just willing to marry me off?

Elizaveta had seen a black and white photograph of her mother. It had been on the day of her wedding day, the sole day on which her mother was not averse to having her photograph taken. Her mother was wearing a simple yet elegant cream gown; her long hair was piled up on top of her head, and nothing but a jeweled necklace adorning her long neck. In the photograph she was holding the sword that had been passed down her family's line for generations, and with it, she looked like a beautiful, rebellious princess.

Sometimes Elizaveta would clutch a candid photograph of her mother, one when she was laughing: it was said that Elizaveta's mother was a serious woman who rarely smiled, but when she laughed, truly laughed, it was utterly gorgeous. She would clutch a photograph of her mother and stare at the mirror, her fingers lightly touching her cheek and wishing she'd gotten to know more about her mother when she was younger.

"Are you thinking of your mother again?"

She whirled around. He was there, he was there. He was never there anymore, not since the engagement party, and yet there he was, his dark hair and handsome face half-hidden by the shadows, that familiar dark blue coat nearly synonymous with the darkness around her. "Roderich!" she gasped softly.

Roderich gave her a half-smile and motioned for her to sit down next to him. "I haven't seen you in a while," he said.

"You were never there," she whispered.

"No," he said, and he hugged her then. She stiffened. "Whatever's the matter?"

"Nothing."

He eyed her. "Elizaveta, please. You're clearly unhappy, and it would help you if you'd just tell me everything."

"Roderich," she began. She put her hands on his arms and pulled them downwards. "First and foremost, Vash isn't speaking to me. At all."

He said nothing.

"Would you care to elaborate?" She turned her eyes on him. "Please?"

"Well." He leaned back against the bench. "Vash and I have certain history," he said cautiously, peering at her from under his glasses. "But I assumed you knew that much. We were very close back then – but not as close as I know you're assuming, Elizaveta." He looked at her teasingly. "In any case, we had a…falling-out over something I liked and something he didn't like. He didn't see what I wanted my way. I suppose you could put it that way."

She frowned. "And you're not going to tell me anything more?"

"No." A ghost of a smile danced on his lips. "Any other problems?"

Elizaveta sighed heavily. "The wedding is in a week, and you know perfectly well that Francis and I don't love each other." She cringed inwardly, remembering the smiling face she had to put up for her father, Francis, and their friends. Of course, they weren't stupid. It was probably really obvious that she hated the thought of getting married. Still, their enthusiasm on choosing theme colors and food choices and wedding dress designs scared her.

"Is it wrong to marry without love?" Roderich said distantly.

"No," Elizaveta replied. "But it isn't quite right either, is it?"

"Perhaps not."

They watched the stars for a moment. "I can't do anything about that, can I?"

Suddenly Elizaveta sat bolt upright. "Perhaps alone, you can't," she whispered, her eyes gleaming. She took Roderich's hand in hers. "And it's going to be foolish of me to break off the marriage, as well as offending towards father. But together, we could. Suppose I just disappear one day…"

"When in reality, the two of us are off somewhere wandering the country? Or fleeing the authorities?"

"Preferably the former, although the latter is more likely to happen. You know me too well." Elizaveta almost laughed. "And you know the cherry on top? Liesel."

"You mean your intention is to really get Vash's goat by having you disappear a week after his sister does? And they're all going to think you've been kidnapped? Elizaveta, that's a horrible thing to do."

She looked pointedly at him.

He sighed. "How do you plan to arrange this?"

Elizaveta gave him a sidelong glance. "Trust me."


Liz?

Yes, Feliks?

This is like, a really bad idea, y'know.

I know.

And you know that you're dad's totally gonna flip absolute shit when he realizes what you did?

I know.

A pause.

I've contacted the train people already. They've agreed to let you on. And keep it a secret. You'll be in the West in three days. From there you can go on to the other kingdoms if you wish.

How'd you ever – Thank you. Feliks, why'd you agree to help me?

But Lizzie, you're my friend. Think of this like a repayment for what you've always been doing, okay? Supporting, I mean. And don't forget to write letters!

Oh, Feliks. It's not like I'm going to be gone forever. Roderich and I'll be back – one or two years, maybe? Or at least until Francis finds a way to get married to Arthur without anyone screaming 'scandal.'

Didn't you promise I'd be there for your wedding? Me and Gil and Vash and Liesel?

You will. I promise. No weddings on the run for me!

Another pause.

Lizzie?

Hmm?

Thanks. For everything. I mean, it's not easy being –

No, Feliks, it's not. But we're all equal. All human beings, and if they can't recognize that, can't treat you right, that's their problem. You're an amazing person, Feliks. I don't know how I could organize this without you. Thank you.


Francis looked up from his tea to see his younger sister staring at him. "Charlotte. Good afternoon."

She ignored him, pushing her glasses up her nose. "Shouldn't you be managing your restaurant?"

He laughed. "Darling, just because I own it does not mean I should be there twenty-four-seven. Besides, there are plenty of perfectly capable people there managing it and I want to spend time at home." He raised a perfect blond eyebrow. "But that is not why you came to talk to me, Lottie, because you never talk to your big brother willingly, especially not over something as trivial as that. What is it?"

Charlotte frowned at him. "Do not call me Lottie. And Francis, I've been thinking."

"Yes, dear?"

Charlotte stepped back as if she'd been slapped. "Do not call me dear, either," she hissed. "But anyway, it's about the wedding."

He cracked a half-smile. "What about it? If you're talking about the apparel, darling, I've been designing my outfit since I was three years old. It's the finest tuxedo-and-dress combo you will find anywhere in the country."

She frowned again. "Francis, I am under the impression that this is a loveless marriage."

Francis' expression did not change one bit. "Whatever are you talking about? Of course I love Elizaveta, I've known her four years and she's an utter dear-"

"Not that kind of love." Charlotte glanced exasperatedly at him. "Being who she is, I am sure Lady Elizaveta has already had several suitors, and it's very probable that she has loved at least one of them. And she has grown up with the Beilschmidts and Zwinglis. But she is not the point. I'm talking about you."

His eyebrow twitched. "Charlotte, dear - I mean, what do you mean?"si

"You don't love her, Francis. Not in the way you wish you could. Right?"

Francis bowed his head, his mane of golden hair obscuring his face. "Right."

Charlotte smiled sympathetically. "Then why go through with the wedding?"

Francis looked up and gazed at her. "Charlotte, I am sure you are well aware of the treatment a man of my..."

"A beard. That's your intention for Miss Elizaveta, isn't it?" she cut in, the laughter obvious in her blue eyes.

He sighed heavily. "No need to be so frank about it, sister..."

"But what of Jeanne?"

Francis' head dropped again, agonizingly slowly. He went over to the glass case on the other side of the room. Sighing, he ran his finger along the edge of the clear prism.

Charlotte eyed him silently.

Francis lifted the glass from its cherry wood basing, the latter looking as fresh and beautiful as the day he'd had it made. He set the glass down on the floor and turned to look at the object underneath it - a sword, of exquisitely sharp metal. Slowly, he ran his finger along the edges of the blade, all the way down to the handle, and he winced on seeing the name beautifully engraved around the sapphires.

Jeanne.

"She died and I did nothing," said Francis.

Charlotte's hand went to her mouth. "It wasn't your fault, Francis," she said softly. "You did what you could..."

"I didn't," he cried out. "I did nothing..."

"There wasn't anything you could do!" Charlotte cried. "If it wasn't for her..."

"I would be dead," said Francis, turning away. "That's what."


A/N: Let's play Catch the Reference to The Princess Bride! Go on, you can do it. Also damn you Gunnerkrigg Court.

And I hate how Austria's character is so stretched. Although you could consider it a really far-fetched alternate character interpretation.

Rahela ("Rachel") Albescu ("son of white") = Romania. Just because. And her last name is that because vampires. Himaruya says that Romania's relationship with Hungary is frankly not that great, and I heard that a majority of Poles are either apathetic or negative towards Romanians so yeah. And there's the classic "Pole, Hungarian, two good friends" line.

It's canon that Poland can in fact drop his valley girl accent, which is great because I suck at valley girl accents.

You know, I was actually thinking of renaming Liechtenstein, because with my utter failness I realized too late that "Elizaveta" and "Liesel" are Russian and German cognates of the name "Elizabeth." But the only thing I could think of that fit her was "Elise" because I think that I have enough flower names in this (Meilan [plum-orchid] and Lien [lotus]) so Lily was out, and I don't like the names "Erika," "Sisia," or "Eva" (these three + Elise were the human names Himaruya suggested) for her. And the reason I think it's unlikely she'll end up being named Elise in canon is the same reason I decided to stick with Liesel in the end, because "Elise" is even more like "Elizabeth" than "Liesel." Besides, they share the first three letters! :3

/fail

R&R.