A proper knight was supposed to be calm, in control, and dignified at all times. A proper knight was not supposed to be more worried than his own bride over their wedding. But when your wedding party included an overexcitable martial artist, a hulking, intimidating (but thankfully silent) former space pirate, and two brash, hotheaded idiots, Neo-French society would more than likely permit you your worry. Especially when your best man was the worst of said idiots.
Since meeting the other Shuffle Alliance members, George had found himself to be more tolerant of others' faults. He didn't have a choice; his new friends were about as far removed as he could imagine from the high society members he was accustomed to. It was testament to how much he had changed since then that he now preferred their company to the aristocrats who had surrounded him since birth.
Traditionalists had nearly worked themselves into fits when George and Maria Louise had announced their respective wedding parties without a single member of royalty or high society among them. (Or anyone who was even Neo-French, for that matter.) George wasn't sure who they were more appalled by: Chibodee, who had grown up dirt poor and orphaned in the streets of New York City; or Argo, who been forced to fight in the 13th Gundam Fight with a bomb strapped to his chest to prevent his escape from the Neo-Russian authorities. (Not to mention his history as a space pirate, and hadn't that gone over well.)
Fortunately, the majority of Neo-France could care less. They valued the fact that these men had fought alongside their revered knight in his effort to save the entire planet over where they had been born or what skeletons hid in their closets. The outpouring of public support should have put George's mind at ease, but it hadn't.
The ceremony had to be perfect. It had to. This was the only royal wedding that Neo-France would see for quite some time, as Maria Louise had no siblings. All eyes would be on him as took his place as the future king. As a knight, it was his duty to ensure that everything went perfectly. Maria Louise wasn't showing any worry, only girlish excitement. He was glad for this; he didn't want to cause her any extra stress over the celebration of their union.
No matter how many times Raymond told him he was overreacting, George was unable to put his fears aside. This was more than a mere wedding; it was his debut as a member of the royal family. He was too ingrained with years of etiquette and chivalry to relax until everything had gone off without a hitch.
Which was why he had instructed Domon – in no uncertain terms – to keep Chibodee from doing anything stupid.
Keeping the Neo-American out of trouble was no small feat. He was naturally outgoing and boisterous, his larger than life personality usually outshining everyone else. He also had a heart of gold, but that was easy to forget when he did something as irresponsible and ridiculous as giving George a fake draft of his best man toast. Normally George would have been thrilled that the other man had remembered something so mundane; he had an annoying tendency to forget details that weren't related to boxing, the Gundam Fight, and women. This draft, however, had been filled with lewd anecdotes that made George blanch upon reading them. He'd nearly given himself an aneurysm before realizing that it was obviously a joke. Even Chibodee wouldn't be uncouth enough as to actually read something so tasteless in public.
But only the thought that he didn't want his best man to have a black eye for the ceremony prevented George from punching him when Chibodee remarked with a smirk, "So, what did you think of the toast?"
When he'd been officially engaged to Maria Louise a year earlier, George had already selected Chibodee to be his best man. The Neo-American had been dating Shirley at the time, and George reassured himself with the thought that she would be able to keep her boyfriend out of trouble. That particular plan had quickly gone to hell, as Shirley had broken up with Chibodee and moved out of their shared mansion not long after. Despite the boxer's pleas for her to reconsider, she bought a place of her own and refused to show any interest in him that wasn't platonic.
While they weren't nearly as close as they used to be, Shirley and Chibodee wereat least on good terms again. George had been in the room when they'd first run into each other at the palace, and they had greeted each other amiably enough. It was a huge load off his mind, since the last thing he wanted was for the two of them to begin arguing in front of everyone. It seemed like Chibodee had finally gotten over her. He'd felt a flash of worry when Shirley announced she was now involved with someone else – Allenby, of all people – but his worries were for naught. The boxer already knew about his ex-girlfriend and the Neo-Swede, which would explain why he hadn't so much as batted an eye at the announcement that had everyone else picking their jaws up off the floor. (So that was why Shirley had been spending so much time in Neo-Sweden in recent months. There went George's assumption that Allenby had merely been a shoulder for her to cry on.)
With Shirley and Allenby now involved with each other, the responsibility of keeping an eye on Chibodee had fallen to the unfortunate Domon. The Neo-Japanese fighter, with his wife nearly eighteen months in her grave, was the only other single member of their group of friends. George felt a pang of sadness at the memory of the last time he had seen Rain alive. Even though the rapidly advancing brain tumor had sapped enough of her strength to relegate her to a hospital bed, she had been as cordial and pleasant as ever. The knight held back his tears for her sake (and for the sake of Domon, who sat pale and silent next to her bed), but once he stepped out of that sterile environment and back into the fresh air they had flown freely. Her illness was hideously unfair to both her and Domon, who had gone through so much tragedy before finally finding happiness together.
At least Rain hadn't had to suffer for long; the time from her diagnosis to her death had been less than four months. Domon was a different story; with his marriage lasting less than a year, he found himself alone again. The loss of his beloved Rain sent him into a deep depression that George feared would never lift.
It probably never would have had it not been for Chibodee. Just as worried as the rest of them, he all but dragged Domon from his home on the Neo-Japanese colony. With the insistence that some time away from painful memories of his deceased wife would do him good, the boxer temporarily brought the other man to stay with him on the Neo-American colony. George hadn't been sure whether the plan would work or not, since most people who stayed with Chibodee Crocket felt the urge to strangle him after several days.
However, some male bonding had proved to be exactly what the widower needed. It wasn't long before flashes of the old Domon resurfaced, and he sounded more and more like himself each time George spoke to him. The distraction of living with the boisterous Chibodee was allowing him to finally take his mind off the specter of the woman he loved. He had returned to his own home several weeks ago, but didn't sink back into depression as many of his friends had feared. It had taken some time, but Domon was finally letting Rain go.
With Domon much improved, George was free to devote his time to his wedding. His only Domon-related worry now was whether or not the Neo-Japanese man would be able to keep Chibodee in line. "I think I can handle it, George. I did live with him, after all." Still, this was Chibodee they were talking about. And when Chibodee was involved, things had a tendency to go horribly awry. (He was not going to think about his bachelor party, he was not going to think about his bachelor party…)
He turned to see Raymond standing next to him, just as he had stood for George's entire life. "It's time."
George nodded, stifling the urge to sigh. Just as with anything that involved Chibodee, all he could do was cross his fingers and hope for the best.
Domon Kasshu had been to a number of unexpected places as a result of participating in the 13th Gundam Fight. Not the least of which was an extravagant guest room in the even more extravagant Neo-French palace. Personally, he would rather have just paid for a hotel room; but when you were an honored guest at the wedding of a nation's only princess, there were certain things you couldn't get out of.
Like taking care of the best man, for example. George had threatened him with nothing short of bodily harm if Chibodee gave even the slightest hint that he was up to his usual mischief. Fortunately, Chibodee had been relatively well behaved. For him, anyway. The ceremony and reception had gone smoothly; nobody tripped walking down the aisle, Chibodee and Allenby didn't drop the rings, and the man who was George's biggest worry delivered a heartfelt toast that had even Argo fighting back tears.
The reception had taken on a more festive atmosphere once the official toasts and dinner were finished, and by that time Chibodee had maintained his air of formality as long as he possibly could. The inappropriate (yet hilarious, Domon was forced to admit) jokes and suggestive remarks had come out in spades, but by then even George was too happy to care.
"Hey, Frenchy!" In typical Chibodee fashion, the boxer cheerfully interrupted the conversation and slung an arm over the newly married man's shoulder. His bow tie was long gone, having been discarded the minute dinner was over. "You should be out on the dance floor; it's your wedding!"
"I have danced, Chibodee," George replied, his cheeks faintly flushed from copious amounts of very expensive champagne. "Repeatedly. I think I've danced with every woman in this room several times over."
"That's our George. Even on your wedding night, you're always popular with the ladies."
"Chibodee, I'm not –"
"So, George, where are you and Maria Louise going on your honeymoon?" Domon asked, ending the argument before it could begin. A slightly drunk George attempting to argue with Chibodee could only lead to disaster, as they had all learned from experience.
"Well," George began, unable to keep a grin off his face at the mention of his new wife, "we thought we'd visit several of the Neo-European colonies. Our first stop will more than likely be Neo-England; I hear they've finally finished the memorial to Gentle Chapman."
"You should go." Domon's voice quieted at the mention of the once noble fighter. "It suits him."
"You've seen it?"
"You gotta check it out. Domon and I stopped and saw it on our way here," Chibodee said.
George turned to him. "I didn't know you had met up earlier."
"Oh, he was visiting me in Neo-America before we left."
George turned to him. "Again?"
"Is there a law against hanging out with your friends?"
"Of – of course not!" the Neo-Frenchman stammered. "It's just that the two of you have been spending quite a bit of time together lately. I think the lack of a female influence is wearing on both of you."
"Tch! George, my man, I don't need a woman. I've got something way better than that."
"You do?" George eyed him warily.
Domon was unable to quell the surge of panic that raced through him. He and Chibodee had agreed that they would wait before telling anyone that they had recently begun seeing each other. Their relationship was still so new; they didn't even know if it was going to last, so why was Chibodee about to blab everything to George –
"Yeah," Chibodee cut off Domon's internal babbling. He pulled George close and said with a wink, "Why would I need a woman when I've got my right hand?"
Domon wasn't sure if he was more relieved or dismayed. He should have known that Chibodee would die before he broke a promise to a friend, so it really wasn't a surprise that he'd kept his mouth shut in regard to the real reason they were spending so much time together. On the other hand, why did he always feel the need to say things like that?
George stared at Chibodee in stunned silence. Then his face reddened, and Domon was sure he was going to hurl his champagne flute at the Neo-American. "Chibodee Crocket! You – you - !"
"Oh, lighten up, George. You've been way too uptight lately, even for you." Chibodee leaned in so his face was inches away from the enraged redhead. "Maybe a woman isn't what you need either, if you know what I mean."
George couldn't even speak; all that escaped his throat were a series of furious choking noises. Domon took this as his opportunity to grab Chibodee's arm and hightail it away. He didn't know if George was going to kill Chibodee first for making such a remark, or Domon for failing to keep the Neo-American in line.
He could only hope that George's honor as a knight would keep him from committing double homicide on his own wedding day.
"Ah!" The mattress dipped as a shirtless Chibodee flopped down next to him. "Does it feel good to get that damn tux off!"
"You're telling me."
Chibodee leaned over Domon's shoulder, watching him intently as the Neo-Japanese man fumbled with his cuffs. "You're taking way too long," he said, reaching for the other's wrists and yanking the buttons free with two quick pulls.
"Chibodee!" Domon cried, jerking away from his lover. "What are you doing? Do you have any idea how much this shirt cost?"
"Relax, I only got the cuffs. And when are you actually going to wear this again?"
"I'm not. But still…"
Chibodee sighed. "Look, if you're that worried about it we get somebody to sew the buttons back on tomorrow. There's servants everywhere in this place."
"All of whom have nothing better to do than sew buttons."
"Well, somebody around here has to know how to do it. Anyway," the boxer continued, a familiar leer appearing on his face, "don't you think we should get about with honoring tradition? It is a wedding, after all."
"Tradition?…Oh." Domon blushed. "That has to be your worst approach to sex yet, you know."
"But it worked, didn't it?"
"Does it look like it worked? Do you see me taking off my clothes?"
"Come on, Neo-Japan, don't get so snippy! It's not we haven't done it before; and we can't let the future king of Neo-France have all the fun tonight!"
Domon was about to reprimand him for yet another jab at George's sex life, but paused. Something his lover had said was giving him an idea. "King, hm?"
"Yeah. Now that George and the princess – well, she'll be the queen soon enough - are married, everyone'll be all over them to start producing some heirs to the throne. If I were George, I'd get started on that with his pretty queen right aw – hey! Hey, what are you doing?"
Domon had pinned Chibodee to the bed, sporting the same type of grin that was usually found on the Neo-American's face. 'You said it yourself; we can't let the king and queen have all the fun."
Chibodee smirked at him. "Heh. Now you're talking." He tugged on Domon's arm. "Let me up."
The Neo-American's brows furrowed. "But –"
"Who's the King of Hearts here, Chibodee?" Domon settled more of his weight on top of the other man. "…and who's his Queen?"
"Why, you – mmph!"
Domon silenced the indignant retort that he knew was coming with his mouth. For a few seconds Chibodee struggled underneath him, but it wasn't long before he was responding with his usual eagerness. They were both out of breath when they separated, Chibodee grinning up at his lover. "I don't know what's gotten into you, Neo-Japan. But I like it." He gripped Domon's upper arms and yanked him close. "Still, give me a few minutes and we'll see who the Queen is."
It was a well known fact that Chibodee hated his Shuffle Alliance title. His pride at being a member of such a revered group didn't change his displeasure at being labeled the Queen of Spades. When George asked his guests the next morning if they had slept well, he thought was Domon was only fueling the friendly rivalry between himself and the Neo-American when he had responded with a grin, "Yes, Queen Chibodee, how did you sleep last night?" The future king wasn't paying attention as Chibodee hissed something unintelligible in reply; he was too busy smiling at everyone around him. All his fears had been for naught; everything had gone smoothly, just as Raymond had said.
He merely chuckled as Chibodee had to be restrained from dumping his glass of orange juice onto the King of Hearts. Well, almost everything.