A/N: Wow. Um…better late than never? Eheheheh. ^^"

"I'm sorry, paloma; it's just no use."

Even if Father hadn't looked so pitiful, with his injured leg propped on a stool and an expression like a kicked puppy, I'd have believed him. The ankle was bent at an angle beyond anything humans were able to achieve- and I would know, having done things to Pugsley that resulted in similar breaks.

"It's fine," I said, starting to pinch the bridge of my nose in exasperation. Mother leaned down and gently pushed my hand away.

"Your makeup, darling," she reminded me.

Of course. At a moment like this, when Father's dream of walking me down the aisle had come crashing down, she would be thinking of makeup. The past two hours had been hellish; preparing for my wedding had been something that happened to me rather than something I did on my own. But the crowd of relatives, friends, and what I suspected to be random street lunatics had disappeared at last. Sitting in the chair before my dressing-table, I still felt a bit like I'd been through a hurricane.

Admittedly, though, they had done a good job. I glanced towards the mirror again- only to be brought back to reality by an unearthly scream.

The overstuffed chair by the fireplace was empty. Halfway across the floor stood Father, with a look of intense pain on his face.

He caught my eye and managed a shaky smile. "See? All better. A miraculous healing, just so I can-" A sickening crack from his ankle resulted in another ear-shattering shriek.

"Mon cher!" Mother chided. She bustled- or would have if she was capable of bustling, which I doubted- over to him and began guiding him back to the chair.

"No!" he protested. "I am perfectly fine, do you hear? Fine! See, I can walk as well as-" Crack. Scream.

"Father." I stood and walked over to him, the silk of my gown rustling. "That's an impressive break and I'm sure it hurts wonderfully, but you can't be screaming during the processional."

Both parents gave me bewildered looks. I sighed. Just once, can't they figure these things out for themselves?

"Look, I'd understand. Mother and Pugsley and Uncle Fester and the rest of our family would understand. The Beinekes, not so much. And this is Lucas' wedding, too, not just mine."

He touched my arm, mouth open to protest, but I could see I was getting to him. "And…" There had to be a more convincing argument, but my mind seemed to have reached its limit. I stood there for a few seconds, casting around for something. Finally, Mother interjected.

"Think of how upset Lurch will be, after he worked all week on learning that organ piece. It would break his heart."

A moment passed, tense and feeling like one of the longest of my life. At last, though, Father heaved a sigh and resumed his slow progress towards the chair.

"You're right, as usual," he said dejectedly. "I'd only ruin the flow of things." Collapsing onto the cushions in a cloud of dust, he buried his head in his hands.

Perfect; one parent was micro-managing everything and the other was having a meltdown. I wandered over to the window and leaned against the sill, glancing out at the night sky.

"Could this get any worse?" I muttered- and immediately regretted it. The last thing anyone needed was for something else to go wrong. True, the rain of fire and/or apocalyptic nuclear war Pugsley had joked about had failed to materialize, but still…

Remembering that conversation, I rolled my eyes. The brat's comments might have been annoying, but they touched a nerve all the same. He was right; neither of us ever thought this day would come. To me, weddings happened only to the perky blonde girls I'd come to loathe at school. They cooed over dress designs and scribbled "Mrs. [Crush's Name]" on their notebooks, every i dotted with a heart. And every weekend, they went to the movies with various boyfriends while I stayed home and committed acts of violence against my brother.

It might have continued that way forever, if fate hadn't intervened.

As if on cue, the black iPhone sitting on the windowsill vibrated. I picked it up, sliding my thumb across the lock, and read the waiting text message.

We're here. –Lucas

"Mother, the Beinekes are here," I said without looking up from the screen.

No reply.

"Mother?"

"She's out in the hall with your brother," Father replied.

"Pugsley? What's-"

It was then I heard the sound of what can only be described as an atomic sneeze. A bout of truly impressive coughing followed it, almost drowning out Mother's voice.

"…alright, dear, just go and ask him for the antidote."

Bracing myself for the worst, I crossed to the door and looked out, only to have Mother push me back inside. But not before I caught a glimpse of Pugsley.

His face was bright red and his head swollen to twice its normal size. His nose wasn't just running, but dripping enough to have made a puddle on the floor. And the hacking cough now coming from his throat sounded like that of someone in the late stages of tuberculosis.

I slipped under Mother's arm and approached my transformed ringbearer. "Pugsley, what happened to you?"

"Pubert," he said between sniffs. "He was messing with my chemistry set. When I told him to get out of my room, he threw some powder in my face and ran off. And then…" He trailed off, but the rest was obvious.

Mother grabbed me again. "We still don't know if it's contagious, so stay in your room until I get him out of here."

And then she was gone, hurrying Pugsley down the hall, presumably to get him out of the sodden tuxedo and into bed. I walked back to the window, trying to take deep breaths.

First Father's ankle and now we have no ringbearer. It seemed the universe was answering my rhetorical question.

Pubert somehow gave Pugsley some kind of Death Cold. Aunt Ophelia broke Father's ankle. That's two members of the wedding party out of commission; care to tell me how we're going to make this work? –W

I hit send; once the whooshing noise let me know the text was on its way, I put the phone down and collapsed into my chair once again. Father glanced at me over his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, my dear," he said quietly.

"It's…it'll be fine," I replied.

After a moment, I continued, "After all, I never even thought I'd get married." To my surprise, this elicited a chuckle from the easy chair.

"And I never doubted it. I knew there had to be a very lucky man somewhere who would be good enough for you."

It was my turn to give a wry laugh. "Or insane enough."

"The best people often are," Father conceded, "but you mustn't speak of yourself so, pigeon." With a little sigh, he settled his girth more comfortably into the chair.

"Come," he said suddenly. "Let me look at you."

My phone vibrated, and I ignored it- an event without precedent when I was texting Lucas. But Father had been the first man in my life; my fiancé could wait for a minute. I stood and went to stand beside his chair.

He stared at me for a few seconds, and his eyes began to glisten strangely. "My paloma. Where did the years go?"

Oh no. Not this again. For some reason, it was a twice as bad from him as from Mother.

Father took my hand in his; I tried to ignore the slight prickling at the corners of my own eyes. If before it had been embarrassing, now it would have been suicide to ruin my makeup. Mother would have my head on a pike.

And what he said next, in a strangely thick voice, just made it worse. "Next to your mother, you are the loveliest bride I've ever seen."

Don't blink, I told myself. Blink and you're dead. Because if I blinked, the tears would fall. "Thank you."

"Te amo, Miercolecita" he said, leaning up to press a kiss to my cheek. Not blinking suddenly became even more difficult.

"Te amo, Papá."

Another loud buzzing noise from the windowsill broke the moment. Squeezing his hand one more time, I hurried over to the phone and unlocked it.

Calm down. I just got my cousin Josh to do it. He was the ringbearer at his older brother's wedding a month ago, so he knows what to do. –Lucas

My sigh of relief was cut off by another incoming text.

But I kind of had to give him $5 and promise he could try out your trebuchet. Sorry, it was the only way. –Lucas

Taking a deep breath, I counted to ten and tried to stop myself from slamming the blasted thing into the floor. Did he have any idea how long it had taken me to get that trebuchet to work properly? Did he know that I'd spent an entire summer building it using only centuries-old plans drawn by a French warlord ancestor?

Yes, an inconvenient voice in my mind reminded me. You spent four hours ranting at him about it last week. Still, he had just solved the ringbearer problem.

Fine. Thanks. –W

Maybe everything would be alright after all.

- -ONE HOUR LATER-

That's it. We're going to just run off to New Orleans or something. –W

Wednesday, please. We can't. You have no idea how many people are out here. –Lucas

I don't care! This is ridiculous! –W

Besides, name ONE thing that's gone according to plan. –W

With a growl of frustration, I tossed the phone onto my bed. He was being a hidebound idiot and I didn't have the patience for it right now. Not with the entire wedding blowing up in my face.

Upon learning that Pugsley would not be participating, the flower girl had promptly dropped out as well. A few years younger than my brother, the little girl had proven to be as self-centered as she was pretty. The only reason she'd even agreed in the first place had been a burning crush on him; I learned this after several minutes of threatening her favorite Barbie with an acetylene torch.

If kids these days couldn't even withstand toy torture, woe betide future generations.

A cousin I'd never previously met had stepped in, but by then I'd had it. This entire wedding business could go to hell.

The irritating buzzing noise sounded once again. Grumbling, I picked up the phone.

We're here, we're together, and we're about to get married. That's the only plan I care about. –Lucas

My fingers flew across the touch-screen, formulating a reply…and then stopped as I noticed a tall, slender black figure in the doorway.

"Are you ready, my pet?" Mother asked.

One look at her, and I knew I had to go through with it. Even after the past few years of rebelling, of being driven crazy by every little annoying habit, the greatest lesson of my childhood still held true. Family first and family last.

And right now, my family was expecting a wedding.

Things could be worse, I thought grudgingly as I slowly typed a response to Lucas.

Be there soon. –W

Mother led me over to the full-length mirror; for perhaps the first time today, her enthusiasm didn't irritate me. I was, after all, her only daughter. She might as well have her fun the only chance she'd ever get.

She hovered around me as I looked at myself in the cracked and slightly dirty glass, making tiny adjustments here and there. Once again, I had to give her some credit. The dress had been entirely my decision- a floor-sweeping gown of black silk, with black lace sleeves- but she'd selected the jewelry. The old locket that had been her engagement gift and matching earrings. And of course, my much-fussed-over makeup was perfect.

Finally, Mother checked the ruby-studded comb holding my veil in place and handed me the bouquet of thorns that had been sitting on my nightstand. "Well, love, it's time."

I took a deep breath and followed her out the door.

A/N: Hopefully the length of this chapter will make up for its lateness. If any of the Spanish is mistranslated, please let me know ("Miercolecita" was what I figured the diminutive form of "Miercoles" would be; if it has some other meaning, I'll change it). And I suppose that's it for now. I'll try to start updating more often.