Disclaimer: I do not own the G-Boys they belong to some other very lucky people, I do however like to play with them and I do promise to put them back when I am done. Not for profit, just for fun.
Title: The Holiday Arc part 5 – Independence Day
Note: You may need to read the Christmas story (part 1) to understand some of what is going on in this story.
Warnings for the entire Arc: Yaoi, OOC-nes, sap, humor, swearing, a smidge of angst and mention of citrus
Beta: Shenlong (Deb) [thank you!]
Pairing: 1+2x1 (or however you want to put it)
A/N There are several notes and links at the end for the resources I used in my research.
For Shenlong (Deb)
Duo and Heero get married on the 4th of July.
Getting married sucks.
Well let me rephrase that. Getting married does not suck but planning a wedding sure does, why isn’t there a ‘Planning a Gay Wedding in Six Weeks for Dummies’ book?
All he had done was make one little phone call at the end of May. He should have known that mentioning to Quatre that they were thinking of a date was going to blow up in his face. ‘Maybe on the 4th of July,’ was all he said and the next thing he knew Quatre was squealing like a kid on Christmas and had hung up on him accidentally, or so he had thought at the time.
Duo had tried for three hours to call him back only to get an ‘engaged’ screen or busy signal every time. By the time he settled for leaving an email, his own mailbox was filled to the brim with messages of congratulations.
As he stared at the computer in complete horror his own phone rang with Hilde on the end yelling at him in a hurt tone for not telling her about the wedding and her finding out just six weeks to the date, and from one of the contract laborers no less, who had received an email from someone else. It had taken nearly a half an hour for her to calm down enough to listen to, and accept his explanation.
When Heero had arrived home that evening he had looked rather frazzled, having suffered through a similar experience with Lindy and a few other friends from work when Relena herself called the office’s main line and left a message with Travis.
By the time they made it to bed that night, a bunch of their friends had left messages asking for more information so they could send gifts, arrange their schedules, book their trips or reserve their hotel rooms.
They were lucky that their area only required a 48 hour waiting period for a marriage license, but after that part was done, Duo was lost as to what they needed to do next.
It was Heero, who secured the Officiant for their ceremony. One of his friends and coworkers name Drake Carter* had a cousin named Clifford who was a Wedding Officiant and after one phone call the man agreed to do it, even on such short notice.
Heero had also managed to finagle his way into renting the largest of the three pavilions at the park where the tree lighting had been, and the adjoining recessed rose garden. It was tricky as they couldn’t use them until after 2pm because of the town’s annual 4th of July picnic, but at least they weren’t stuck using their large back yard aka, Bear’s toilet, which had been their first choice.
And now, here they were almost four weeks later with the 4th rapidly approaching and they were nowhere near ready for a wedding.
Duo’s head thumped onto the kitchen table causing several of the wedding magazines to fall to the floor. “Why can’t we just go to Vegas?” he mumbled.
“Because everyone is already coming here,” Heero reminded him again gently, “There’s no way they would be able to reschedule so soon, especially with wedding on a holiday.”
“It’s only a U.S. Holiday.” Duo said raising his head, a page from one of the magazines bearing a photo of a woman in an obscenely inappropriate wedding gown was stuck to his cheek. “What about L2?”
“Duo, we’re getting married here, in the park, we agreed on it seeing as that was where we technically had our first date, and it’s already paid for.” Heero said, peeling the page from Duo’s cheek and crumpling it up in his hand. “Bedsides, Lindy and the others from work are coming, and because it’s a holiday they have the day off. They can’t all take the time off they would need to go to L2 or even Las Vegas.”
“You’re right,” Duo agreed smiling at Heero, “I think it’s just nerves.”
Heero smiled and moved from the kitchen table to throw the paper away and refill Duo’s coffee cup. “What’s on your list?” he asked as he plopped down on his fiancé’s lap setting the coffee cup on the table.
Duo flipped open his note book to his main check list and looked through the things left to be done. “We still need food, flowers, chairs and tables for reception, pick out a cake, and you still need a suit.”
“I could always wear my uniform.” Heero said as he slid from Duo’s lap and started gathering up their dirty breakfast dishes.
“I really hope you’re joking,” Duo said as he eyed Heero’s brown and tan animal control uniform with distaste.
“Not this one,” Heero said when he saw the way Duo was looking at him, “I meant the blue one.”
“Still not happening, babe,” Duo replied with a smile and Heero just shook his head turning back to the sink to rinse out the bowls.
“How about we go into the city on Saturday?” Heero suggested as he placed a bowl in the drain rack, “I have the day off so we’ll have the time to check out several places if we need to.”
“Okay,” Duo agreed. “I’ll get online today and get the names and addresses of a few florists and clothing shops. With luck we’ll get everything done in one day.”
“What about the furniture for the reception?” Heero asked.
Duo hummed under his breath, “I’ll ask a caterer when I call them, I’m sure they’ll know of someone.”
“Good idea,” Heero replied as he came around the table. “I’m on car pool today, so I’m off.” He kissed Duo soundly then went to gather the last of his things for work.
Duo got up and followed him to the door, “Be safe, he said then kissed him again.
“I will,” Heero replied then he was out the door on his way to another day at work. Bear watching him from her place under the curtain.
Duo scratched Bear’s head and chin before heading back to the kitchen and gathering up his notes, then he went to his office, which had once been the guest room but after Quatre and Trowa’s visit, they had both decided they would not encourage guests to stay over so they replaced the bed with Duo’s work desk.
He had been in negotiations over a salvage contract with another, much smaller salvage company, it was a big job but they wanted far too much money to relinquish their salvage rights. If they paid what was being asked there would be no profit on Hilde’s end. The job had been sitting, undone for almost a year as the company that currently had the rights to it was far under qualified to complete it. Duo had been trying to get them to come down on their price for the past week but they had been standing firm.
With a sigh Duo turned on his radio then logged into his computer and put on his wireless headset. Akuma climbed into his lap, kneading his leg with her paws for a moment before settling down for a nap. The cat purred contently away while he worked on several other projects and did a little more research for the wedding before he was ready to tackle the issue with the salvage contract.
He called the company again and an hour later he wanted to hit his head against a wall, or hit the other salvage company owner’s face against a wall. The man was a rude, stubborn asshole who was screwing his company into the ground. Just since Duo had called the day before the man had fired a half dozen employees, in a vain effort to save money. Now he absolutely had no way in hell to take on that salvage job. If he didn’t sell his rights he was certain to go bankrupt. But when Duo called, the man not only refused the generous price Hilde had approved, he had raised his own price by nearly a third of what it had been the day before.
Duo sent off a message to Hilde telling her he was going to drop it. The only way they could get it now was when the other company finally went belly up and then they could either buy it from the bank or try to get it through an auction.
Mentally crossing that job off the list Duo moved onto another and worked for several more hours, securing two very profitable salvage jobs for Hilde. He carefully set his lap warmer on the floor then stood up and stretched before going to the kitchen for lunch.
Akuma followed him so he topped off her dry food and put Bear out for a potty break. Animals tended to and sandwich in hand, he went back to his office, pulling up the list of florists, fine clothing stores and bakeries he had compiled earlier that morning. He cross checked them using a map and relisted them in order by location and proximity to each other.
A little over two hours of the day would be spent just driving to the city and back, so Duo wanted to be sure to make the most of their time and not waste one of Heero’s days off by driving around in circles all day.
He printed out his map and list, tucking them safely in his note book then went to shut his computer off for the day. Just as he moved to click ‘shutdown’ his work phone rang.
“Schbeiker Salvage, this is Duo speaking,” he said and paused to hear the reply. His eyes grew large as he listened to the voice on his headset as his fingers moved to turn the volume down on the radio.
“Yes, yes, of course the offer still stands Mr. Jessop,” Duo said eagerly as he pulled up his account files. “No, I’m certain she’ll agree sir, if you could hold for just a moment I’ll ask her.”
Jabbing the hold button Duo ran from the office to the kitchen where he had left his cell and dialed Hilde’s personal number. He hoped the woman would forgive him waking her up as it was the middle of the night on L2. The line rang several times before it was picked up.
“Hello?” a gruff voice answered.
Fuck, it was Eric. “This is Duo, I need to talk to Hilde about the Jessop contract, it’s incredibly important.”
Eric didn’t reply but a moment later Hilde was there, “Duo, are you okay, Eric said it was important?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Duo assured her. “It’s the Jessop contract, he caved!”
“Yes!” Hilde shouted in his ear and he pulled the phone away for a moment.
“There’s more, he’s liquidating his entire company and has offered us all of his current contracts and salvage rights.”
“Are you shitting me?”
“I shit you not, Sis, 43 contracts in total for the amount we were offering him for that single contract we wanted.”
Hilde dropped the phone; Duo could hear rustling and muffled voices as the couple dug through the bedding to get it. “When does he want to sign?” she asked after retrieving the phone.
“As soon as possible, apparently he’s so deep in the hole that if he doesn’t sell he’ll lose his house. I feel kind of bad for him but he had absolutely no idea what he was doing.”
“Tell him we accept and I’ll call him personally within the hour after I have spoken to my attorney.”
“Will do, Sis,” Duo replied as he wandered back to his office. “He’s still on hold so I’ll talk to you later, and ignore the mail I sent you this morning; I really thought we were going to have to drop him.”
“Okay, I’ll talk to you later. Love you.”
“Love you too, Sis,” he replied then disconnected the call and took Jessop off hold. “Mr. Jessop are you still there?” he listened to the man complain for a moment before politely interrupting, “Mrs. Ross has agreed to your terms and is currently in contact with her business attorney. She assures me that she will personally call you back within the hour. Yes, I understand. Yes you are welcome to call me back tomorrow. Okay, you have a good afternoon too, good bye.” He hung up before the man could say anymore.
With a wide grin, he jumped up and tossed his headset set on the desk startling Akuma who was grooming herself on his desk, a habit Duo disliked but at this moment he didn’t care. Leaving the office he happy danced his way through the house and back to the kitchen so he could start dinner.
“You look like you’re in a good mood,” Heero said and Duo nearly jumped out of his skin.
“Where the hell did you come from?” Duo exclaimed, his heart racing a mile a minute.
“The door,” Heero replied dryly and Duo threw an oven mitt at him.
“I mean, why are you home so early?”
“I’m not,” Heero replied, tossing the mitt back, “It’s a quarter after six, you must have lost track of the time.”
Duo spun to look at the wall clock by the fridge and sure enough of was about twelve minutes past six.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t even started dinner yet,” Duo said as he turned back to the kitchen, he always cooked dinner as he worked from home and could do it while working. “I had a really busy day.”
“Was it good busy or bad busy?” Heero asked as he joined him, kissing him gently.
“A little bad but mostly good,” Duo replied after they broke the kiss, then he rummaged around in the cupboards in search of something fast.
“You know that contact I’ve been trying to secure?” he asked as he pulled out a few cans of ravioli.
“The one that was overpriced?” Heero asked as he took out a pot for the pasta.
“That’s the one,” Duo confirmed as he opened the cans, “the shit-head actually fired employees today, trying to save some money, and then raised the price of the contract again so I dropped him. There was no way Hilde would approve of paying so much.”
“I take it that was the bad news,” Heero said as he watched Duo pour contents of the now open cans out in the pot and set it over the heat.
“Yup,” Duo replied as he popped a spoon in the pot and stirred the food gently, then went to fetch the bread and butter.
“So what was the good news?” Heero asked as he set the table with bowls and spoons.
“Just as I was logging out for the day he called back,” Duo said as he carefully stirred their dinner again. “He’s liquidating his entire business and offered all his contracts to Hilde for the price she was offering for just the one. Those contracts are worth millions of credits,” he finished with a grin.
“Congratulations,” Heero said happily, pulling Duo away from the stove for a quick celebratory dance around the living room, Bear barked and danced around them her tail a blur, “I bet Hilde was happy.”
“Shocked, is more like it,” Duo said as he stepped from Heero’s arms and pulled the pot from the heat before their dinner scorched, “She dropped the phone.”
Heero laughed and took a seat at the table while Duo divided the pasta between their two bowls.
“When will you know if everything works out?” Heero asked.
“It probably won’t be for a day or two, Hilde needs to consult with her attorney before jumping in. However I do get the feeling that when all is said and done, Mr. Jessop is going to come away with more money than he expected.”
Heero nodded in agreement as he ate his meal, he knew Hilde well enough to know that she would offer this other company fair market value for each, individual contract. If she had just paid Jessop’s asking price, other companies would see her as ripping off a desperate man, it was just good business to be fair.
“I made a list of the best possible florists, bakeries and clothing shops to visit when we go into the city tomorrow,” Duo said after they had finished their meal and retired to the bedroom for the evening. He passed Heero the list and the map to look over.
Slipping his reading glasses on, Heero studied the list and the corresponding map with interest for several long moments, figuring out the method to Duo’s madness fairly quickly.
“I take it well be visiting each location in groups?” Heero asked looking up from the circles on the map.
Duo nodded and pointed to the first grouping that consisted of two bakeries, three florists and a men’s fine clothing shop all within four blocks of each other.
“I figured if we went to all the places that were located near one another rather than going to, say all the bakeries first, and then the florists, we wouldn’t spend all day driving around in circles.”
“Good plan,” Heero agreed as he studied the map a while longer, “Maybe we’ll have luck with the first few places and won’t have to visit every single one on the list.”
“That’s my hope,” Duo said, taking the map when Heero handed it back, “There’s over thirty places on the list,” he said as he tucked it safely away. “I’m going to end up screaming and running for the hills if we have to go to them all.”
“Well, just in case we are stuck there all day I suggest we get some sleep,” Heero said as he took off his glasses, setting them on the table next to his reading chair and then walked over to his side of the bed. “We’re going to need our rest for the long, torturous day we face,” he teased and Duo bopped him on the head playfully.
“You are such a dork,” Duo stated and Heero laughed.
“I learned from you,” he replied then leaned across the bed to kiss him before turning back the blankets and climbing in.
Duo grinned and climbed in as well, “Good night, love.”
“Good night, my dearest,” Heero replied and clicked off the light.
Duo woke alone, which wasn’t a surprise as Heero was almost always up before he was. The surprising thing was the clinking sounds and delicious smells coming from open doorway. Microwaving something frozen or getting Duo a pan was one thing but other than that Heero couldn’t cook to save his life; he once nearly set the water on fire while trying to make instant ramen, only a person with the skills of a former Gundam Pilot could manage that feat.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Duo slipped from the bed and wandered to the kitchen finding Heero seated at the table, fully dressed and sipping at a mug of coffee. Duo smiled at him then froze at the sight of Heero’s partner Lindy standing at the stove cooking breakfast, looking for all the world as if she owned the place. Duo suspected that she had used the kitchen before.
“Morning Duo,” she grinned, her green eyes raking over his form to his examine his state of dress, or undress as Duo realized with a start that he was wearing nothing but a pair of boxers.
“Um, excuse me,” he said quickly his face aflame, then hurried back to the bedroom to throw on some clothes. He was just stepping into a pair of jeans when Heero joined him.
“I’m sorry,” he said sincerely fetching a shirt for Duo. “I didn’t have the chance to warn you we had company.”
“It’s okay,” Duo replied, stealing a kiss before taking the shirt Heero had pulled out for him and putting it on. “What is she doing here anyway?”
“She has a friend from high school that is former caterer turned Event Planner,” Heero replied while Duo sat on the edge of their bed to put on his socks. “She sent her a message a few days ago on our behalf and got a reply last night. The woman is willing to at least give us some advice, even if we don’t hire her.”
“That’s great,” Duo replied enthusiastically. He had called several planners when they first started making plans but, with such a small time frame they had all told him there was nothing they could do.
“You two better not be having sex in there,” Lindy called out. “The eggs will get cold.”
Duo burst out laughing.
Turns out Lindy was a pretty good cook and Duo’s suspicions about her familiarity with Heero’s kitchen were proven right when he learned that she had stayed in Heero’s guest room for a week over a year earlier while she had her apartment painted. Heero had refused cash payment so she fed him instead.
They sat around the small dining table enjoying the unexpected but divine breakfast as they talked about Lindy’s friend and what she might be able to do for them.
An hour later Lindy was gone and the pair were on their way to city for an 11am appointment with Sheryl Franklyn. They had a few hours to kill when they got to the city so they poked around a few of the flower shops and bakeries just to see what they had.
By the time they were ready to go to their appointment they had a few ideas of what they liked and what they didn’t.
“Is this the place?” Heero asked as he stopped the car in a few doors down from a rather plain, grey building with a tiny sign above the door.
“I think so,” Duo said looking down at the paper Lindy had given them, “It says Entertaining Events on the sign.” Heero leaned into Duo’s side of the car to squint at the sign and for a moment Duo wondered if Heero should start wearing his glasses for more than just reading his books and paperwork.
“Well, let’s go in,” Heero said as he settled back into the driver’s seat and unbuckled his seat belt.
Duo undid his belt as well and the pair climbed out of the car, locking their doors behind them. Notebook in hand they walked up the block, surprised when the door opened just as they reached it revealing a black haired woman in a smart red skirt suit. She looked surprised too but shook it off quickly, smiling at the pair.
“You must be Heero and Duo,” she said as she backed into the shop and held the door open for them. “I’m Lindy’s friend Sheryl.”
“Thank you so much for agreeing to see us,” Duo said as they followed her in. “We were turned down so many times that after the first six planners we called we gave up.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Sheryl said genuinely, offering them seats at a large conference table. “Some people in this business can be very unfair.”
They thanked her again and she waved them off and offered them drinks before sitting to join them, tablet in hand.
“Lindy didn’t give me much information about your plans,” she began, “So I’m going to need some information, you know, date, location, number of guests, budget…”
Duo pulled out his notebook, “We’re getting married on the 4th of July,” Duo began and Sheryl nearly spit out the water she had just taken a sip of.
“That’s less than two weeks away, and a holiday,” she nearly shouted in surprise. “You sure are cutting it close.”
“Actually we just called a friend of ours and told him we were thinking of getting married on the 4th,” Duo said. “The next thing we knew we were getting messages from all our friends congratulating us and asking us what time they needed to be there and if we were registered anywhere. To be honest, it’s been a bit overwhelming.”
“Also, it’s the only date, this year, where all our friends and family could come,” Heero added, “we really wanted everyone to be there.”
“This could be a little tricky. Most of the people I could refer you to require at least 6o days.” She frowned then asked, “How many guests are you expecting?”
“We’re not entirely sure,” Duo said sounding disappointed when he realized she may not be able to help them after all. “Probably around twenty at the most, eleven have confirmed, three are still trying to arrange their schedules and the other two we actually invited ourselves, but we haven’t heard from them at all.”
“And some will bring guests,” Heero added, “Because if Relena if coming then an escort will be provided for her.”
“And you know Rashid is coming with Kat and Tro,” Duo said then turned to Sheryl, “He’ll probably be available to help out if an extra set of hands is needed.”
“That’s good to know.”
Heero nodded, “But Rashid is practically family, so I want him treated that way.”
Sheryl seemed to sigh in relief, “Two weeks is cutting is close but I’m sure since there’s less than twenty five guests I can pull together something very nice, If you’re willing to hire me to help you, and as long as you’re not too picky when it comes to ‘right off the shelf’.”
“Right off the shelf?” Duo asked.
“Yes,” Sheryl replied as she pulled out a very large portfolio and flipped past a few pages. “If you’re not opposed to say, getting an everyday bakery cake and doing it up yourself, or foregoing custom place settings and just picking some up from the wedding department at the culinary supply store then you’ll save a lot of time. It can often take months to get a specially ordered wedding cake.”
Duo shot Heero a worried look.
“But don’t worry,” Sheryl forged on, “I have a lot of connections and with just a little more information from you, I’m sure I can arrange something really special by Friday the 1st.”
They looked at the woman in shock.
“Are you sure?” Heero asked, “That’s a lot of work in such a short amount of time.”
“I’m positive,” she replied. “I’ve managed similar events in the past, some with less time or more guests. Besides, you’re Lindy’s friends. I’d love to help you out.”
“Thank you,” Duo said for the both of them, “but how much is a rush job going to cost us?”
Sheryl smiled, “not as much as you fear,” She assured them. “It’s just a matter of making a few calls, pulling a few strings, knowing who to sleep with - that sort of thing.” Heero choked on his water and the woman blushed when she realized what she had said. “Inside joke, trust me. But before I can fully answer your question I’m going to need a little more information so I can calculate the costs and give you a proper quote.”
“Okay, so what kind of information do you need?” Duo asked once he was sure the woman was being honest and not biting off more than she could chew.
Pulling up her own check list she asked, “What sort of venue are we looking at, justice of the peace, full church?”
“We’ve already paid for the rose garden for the ceremony and the pavilion in the park near our home on Kallamarras; we’ll have access for both for twelve hours between 2pm on the 4th and until 2 am on the 5th.” Duo said, showing her the receipt that had been safely tucked away in his notebook.
“Excellent,” Sheryl said as she tapped away on the touchpad of her tablet. “Is there anything else you have already secured?”
“Just the Officiant,” Heero added “He’s a relative of a friend from work and was happy to perform the ceremony.”
“Good, good,” she replied still tapping away. She worked silently for several minutes then looked up from the device, “For the reception are you thinking of a buffet style meal or would you rather it be more formal and served by wait staff?”
“We don’t know,” Heero replied. “We haven’t discussed it.”
“But the wedding is pretty informal so I think either would be fine,” Duo added, receiving a nod from Heero after sending a questioning look his way.
“A buffet would cost less and be easier to arrange,” Sheryl told them.
“The cost isn’t as much of an issue as the time frame is, but if the buffet would quicker, then the buffet it is.” Heero said and Duo smiled.
“What sort of menu are we looking at?” she asked. “Most standard catered meals usually include beef, chicken or fish and/or a vegetarian entrée along with vegetables, salad starter and a desert. Additional items or specialty items cost more.”
The couple mulled over that for a few moments then Duo said, “The standard should probably be fine, but Heero is lactose intolerant,” Duo added. “He’s usually okay with cheese or if the milk is cooked but fresh dairy and ice cream will cause problems.”
She looked thoughtful for a moment, “The meat usually comes with a side of mashed potatoes that has milk or cream and butter in it, but I’m sure we can work around that without sacrificing anything.” She added the information to the tablet then asked, “open bar?”
“No, none of our friends drink much.” Duo said, he and Heero having already talked about it and agreeing that Quatre and beer didn’t mix well. “But we wouldn’t be opposed to champagne or maybe a little wine, just for toasting.”
“Sparkling cider or alcohol free wine can be used, would you prefer to go that route?”
“Sounds great,” Duo beamed.
“No,” Heero answered, “We couldn’t choose between our friends, or who would do what so, seeing how there was no bride being given away we just decided to go up together. Though I’m sure most of them will be fussing over us all day.”
“And probably the day before,” Duo added.
“Great to have friends like that,” she smiled then said. “Okay, what color scheme are you thinking about?”
“Black and white,” Heero replied, “With just a little red.”
She nodded as she worked on her tablet. That was a very common and classic color scheme and, much to her relief also very easy to work with. It was when couples wanted Cerulean or chartreuse, or purple with orange polka dots that it started getting complicated.
“Okay, just a few more things and I should be able to give you a quote,” she said and the pair nodded, “How do you want your music? Live or a DJ?”
“We never even thought of that. Duo confessed, giving Heero an alarmed look. “What would you suggest?”
“In the time we have to work with I think a DJ would be best.”
“Are you sure?” Heero asked, he didn’t want to doubt the woman as it was her job to arrange parties and celebrations, but he wanted their wedding to be special and not too ‘cookie cutter’.
“Don’t worry,” Sheryl said having an idea of what he was thinking, “just give me an idea of what kind of music you like and I’ll call around. If I can find a live performer in the time allowed I’ll let you know and you can see if you like them.”
“Thank you,” Heero replied sounding relieved while Duo wrote down several artists on a sheet of paper. He showed it to Heero and received a nod before passing it to Ms. Franklyn.
She set it aside then asked, “What about suits are you both set or are you still looking?”
“I’m all set,” Duo replied, “but Heero doesn’t have anything suitable.”
She hummed and looked thoughtful again. This could be problematic, men needed to have their wedding attire altered so it fit properly. “That, I’m going to have to look into,” she told them, “but I don’t see it as being a huge problem. Why don’t you two look through this and see if there is anything in here you really like or absolutely hate while I go make a few phone calls.”
She slid the book over to the couple and left the conference room to make her calls and give the men and few moments of to look through the photos of some of her past events and get more of an idea of what she was capable of.
She returned almost a half an hour later with a smile on her face, “I have a quote for you.” She said setting a document on the table. “This includes everything, my fee, deposits, gratuity, usual payments for music and food. And a small amount for various incidentals. All receipts will be included and if there’s anything left over, and there sometimes is, you’ll get that refunded after all the payments have cleared any other fees are paid.”
It was nowhere near as much as either man had expected, barely half actually. She assured them that she wasn’t cutting corners and that the amount was so low because they were using what was readily available. Also the cost of the venue, wedding cake, and their clothing wasn’t included in the quote.
The two men read over the contract again, then a third time, making sure to read all the fine print thoroughly. All the intended purchases and payments clearly itemized along with their fees listed with high estimates, and then they spoke in quite tones for a few moments before agreeing and signing.
“Are you guys willing to go on a little field trip?” she asked, looking rather pleased with herself.
The men looked at her in surprise and Duo said, “Sure,” though he sounded a bit unsure.
A few minutes later the trio was walking down the street to a shop that Duo had completely disregarded in his research. The name was ‘Katie’s Bridal’; the shop had seemed to be primarily for women and had featured lingerie and negligees rather prominently on their website’s home page.
“Are you sure?” Duo balked at the entrance when he spotted the pale pink, see-thru nighty on the mannequin in the front window.
“Yes,” Sheryl replied sounding a bit exasperated. “This shop is a gem and has some of the finest men’s wedding attire in the city.”
Both men sort of braced themselves and followed the black, bobbing ponytail as the woman walked inside. To their relief the front area of the tiny shop was rather tasteful; the few mannequins visible were fully dressed in gowns and suits. Many more items, covered in protective plastic garment bags hung from racks and hooks, sharing space on the peach, sage and cream, striped walls with various accessories like veils, hats, gloves, and men’s ties.
“Hello Sheryl,” one of the two women behind the counter called out. “Are these the boys you told me about?” Her voice had a hint of a Russian accent.
“Yes,” she replied and introduced the pair to Katie, the 50 something year old owner of the shop.
“You already have your suit, correct?” she asked Heero.
“No, I do,” Duo said quickly, then nodded towards Heero. “He still needs one.”
“Why don’t we go in the other room and you can show me what you have?” she suggested to Duo as she guided them through to a room filled with men’s wear. It looked a little overwhelming as there seemed to be hundreds of suits on racks but after a few questions from Katie they narrowed the selection down to something that looked almost exactly like the suit Duo had.
It was a two piece suit in black wool with double buttons and a notched lapel. Though Duo’s actual suit was in a dark, gunmetal gray with just the barest hint of sheen, this was close enough to work with. He had intended to wear his with a white shirt, as he had done for Hilde’s wedding but Katie gave him a disapproving look and said, “We’ll see,” then hung the garment up on an empty hook near a floor to ceiling mirror before going back to the racks and pulling down an armful of items. She then motioned for Heero to follow her to the dressing area after instructing Duo and Sheryl to sit in the comfortable looking chairs in the corner.
Heero dutifully tried on suit after suit but liked none of them well enough to even want to go and show Duo.
“What is the matter with this one?” Katie asked, sounding annoyed. “You look charming in blue.”
The suit wasn’t just blue; it was very blue, like the color ‘Blue’ of Crayola crayon and looked too much like an everyday business suit.
“It looks like I’m going to the office, not my wedding,” Heero said with a slight frown. “Plus we’re getting married on the 4th of July and this one with the white shirt and a red rose in the lapel would be too, I don’t know…”
“Patriotic?” she guessed and Heero nodded, “and not special enough,” she concluded. “Take it off and try this one,” she handed him another in dark gray but it looked too much like Duo’s and went back on the rack. It had been the last of the suits she had picked out and, with a bit of disappointment Heero started to slip back into his jeans.
“Wait a minute,” Katie suddenly called through the door sounding excited, “I have one more idea.” The woman vanished down the hall, bypassing the room where Duo was waiting and went into the back storage area. She returned a few moments later with a black garment bag in her hands. “Try this one.” She instructed as she passed the bag over the top of the door.
Heero wasn’t too sure when he first opened the bag, it was a color he absolutely would not have chosen for himself but it was just one more suit to try on, so he did. There was no mirror in the dressing room so he couldn’t see how he looked until he stepped out, but if the expression on the older woman’s face was anything to go on…
“It looks like it was made for you,” Katie said reverently with a suspicious twinkle in her eye as she helped straighten the jacket so it fit properly on his shoulders then brushed away a few tiny wrinkles before guiding him to a mirror. The pant legs were a tad too long but it fit beautifully everywhere else and, as Katie had said, looked like it had been tailored specially for him.
He stared at himself in surprise. This was it, the three piece suite had everything he had wanted, it wasn’t blue, it didn’t look like Duo’s and it absolutely didn’t look like anything a business man wore to work every day, it was special, memorable.
“I’ll take it,” he said not caring about the cost then he turned, fully intending to go to the waiting area and show Duo but paused in mid step and turned back around, “Miss?” he asked, addressing Katie, she acknowledge him with a nod, “I’d like to surprise him.”
“Then surprise him you shall,” she promised and helped him remove the jacket. He went back into the dressing room, passing her each piece so she could place them back in the garment bag. After Heero had redressed in his jeans and t-shirt they went to another part of the shop where matching dress shoes and a contrasting tie were chosen and while Heero stayed with the tailor to have his measurements taken, Katie rejoined Duo and Sheryl, the shoes and tie left at the front counter to be paid for when the deposit for the alterations was made.
“Success,” Katie announced as she hung the black garment bag on another vacant hook. “The tailor just needs to measure Heero’s legs and so he can alter the trousers. The suit should be done and ready for pickup by Wednesday.”
“Wonderful,” Sheryl replied happily.
“Now young man,” Katie said, rounding on Duo, “You wore your suit to another wedding, yes?” Duo nodded, “And will this couple be at your wedding?” Duo nodded again causing the woman tisk. “A white shirt will not do,” she stated firmly and leaned in, studying Duo’s face intently before turning to the racks and selecting a single shirt. “You will try this.” It was not a question.
Duo took the shirt and pulled it on over the pale blue t-shirt he was wearing while Katie pulled down the suit that had matched Duo’s. Once the shirt was on and buttoned she had him put on the jacket then studied him again. “All most there,” she muttered before vanishing from the room only to return a moment later, she dithered over the two neckties she held, holding each up to his chest before deciding on one. She put it around his neck and tied the knot with an ease born from years of practice then guided him to the mirror, holding the black suit pants up to his waist to cover his jeans.
The shop owner had chosen a purple button down shirt with a neck tie in a silvery violet; it was slightly lighter in color and of a glossy finish so that contrasted well with the matte of the shirt. The old white shirt had made his suit look a bit like a tuxedo, especially as he and all the other men in Hilde’s wedding party had worn bow-ties, but now it looked completely different than it had before.
“You will take it, yes?” Katie asked as she hung the pants back up.
“Yes,” Duo agreed
“Perfect,” Sheryl said, and she tapped on her tablet. “That’s one big thing down, five equally big things and a bunch of tiny things to go.”
“You’re a lucky charm,” Duo said to Sheryl as they followed Katie to the front counter so Duo’s new shirt and tie could be added to the rest of their order, “Just yesterday I was trying to talk Heero into eloping in Vegas.”
She chuckled; it wasn’t the first time one of her couples had wanted to run away when everything started to overwhelm them. It wouldn’t be the last time either.
“Thank you for the lovely compliment,” she replied sincerely. “Now, let’s go pick up your fiancé and pay for this. Just one more stop and you can go home and enjoy the rest of your day.”
They only waited at the front counter for a minute before Heero joined them, looking rather pleased.
“Care to tell me about it?” Duo asked his curiosity about Heero’s suit eating at him.
“It’s grey, but I want the rest to be a surprise so that’s all I’m going to tell you about it.”
“Heero,” Duo whined and Heero just shook his head and pulled out his credit card to pay for their purchases.
“You’ll need to come back in a few days to try the pants again. If everything is perfect you can pay the remaining balance and pick it up.” Katie said as she passed Heero the proof of deposit.
“I can hold it for you after purchase, if you wish,” Sheryl added with a knowing wink, “So Duo here can’t sneak a peek.”
Duo opened his mouth to deny it but knew that would be a lie so he just settled on giving her a ‘look’.
She simply smiled sweetly and thanked Katie before ushering the men back onto the street.
“Next stop, cake,” she announced, guiding the pair to a nearby bakery. “This shouldn’t take as long as the last stop, as long as you can agree on a flavor and a shape, and don’t worry about it looking plain or being the wrong color; I plan on stopping at the culinary shop to pick up some things to make it match your colors,” She opened the door and stepped aside so they could enter first.
“Welcome,” the man behind counter greeted with a smile. “How can I help you today?”
“My name is Sheryl Franklyn, I called earlier. We’re here to sample cake.”
“Oh, yes,” the man confirmed with a nod. “Everything is all ready to go, just give me a moment and I’ll pull them from the fridge.”
“Thank you,” Sheryl replied and a moment later the man returned with a large platter covered with a sheet of cling film in one hand and a pitcher of water in the other.
“Feel free to have a seat,” he said motioning to one of the small round tables situated near the large front window. After the trio was seated he placed the platter and the water on the table.
The platter held about a dozen small slices of cake, most of them were the same flavors but had different fillings or frostings, each labeled carefully with little flags on toothpicks. There were also forks and glasses provided for the water.
“Thank you, I’ll take it from here,” Sheryl said and the man left with a smile going back to his place behind the counter. “Take a bite of cake, rinse your mouth with the water, repeat. Once you’ve tried them all you decide what you like the best.” She peeled the plastic off and the men dug in.
They tasted each slice one at a time setting the flags in a ‘maybe’ pile or a ‘no’ pile. Once they at tasted each one they went back and took another bite from each in the maybe pile and narrowed it down from seven to four, then tried the four again while Sheryl nibbled those in the discard pile.
“I don’t know,” Duo said at length as he rolled a toothpick between his fingers, “I like all of them.”
“I think I like this one the best,” Heero replied tapping the flag for the Red velvet with the cream cheese frosting.
“I like that one too,” Duo said taking the flag from the tray and laying it on the table, “But I also really like the lemon with the fudge filling.”
“You can get both,” Sheryl interjected. “You can order two cakes and assemble them like a traditional wedding cake, one tier lemon the other red velvet.”
“I thought you said we didn’t have time to order one like that,” Heero said.
“You don’t,” She said in a hushed tone, leaning in close so the patron at the counter couldn’t hear her. “At least not from a bakery but they have everything we need at the culinary store. I can stop in on Monday and pick up the supports and decorations and put the cake together myself before your reception.” Duo looked surprised and she added, “I’ve done it before, it’s not as hard as it looks. It’s when it gets into those ones for a hundred guests and five or six tiers that it gets complicated.”
Duo grinned and looked at Heero who smiled at him indulgently.
“Two cakes it is,” she said, reading the pair right, then stood up.
“Just leave the tray there,” the man said when he saw Sheryl stand. “I’ll clean it up in a few minutes.” He finished with the patron in the line before them then asked, “Decide on something?”
“Yes, we would like an eight inch, round in lemon with fudge filling and a ten inch round in red velvet with the cream cheese frosting, undecorated.” Sheryl said for them as them, Heero and Duo having decided on round cakes with the lemon being the smaller tier.
They waited for a few moments as the man typed in the request.
“The earliest we can have them is noon tomorrow,” he said looking up from his computer.
“Can we have them made on Sunday July third?” Sheryl asked, “And In the evening if at all possible.”
“We would make them fresh that morning, but the latest you could pick them up is 6:30 pm because we close at 7 on Sunday.”
“That’s perfect, we’ll do it.” She confirmed and a moment later Heero was handing over his credit card again.
Several minutes later and receipt in hand they left the shop.
“I’m going to get in contact with a few caterers I have worked with in the past and arrange for you to sample their food in a few days, probably on Wednesday so Heero can pick up his suit at the same time and save you a trip,” she said. “As for the florists, I’ll pop into a few shops over the next few days and take pictures of what they have with my phone then text them to you, if that’s alright?”
Duo nodded absently and the couple looked a little dazed as they made the short walk back to Sheryl’s workplace. She stopped and looked at them squarely, “Breathe,” she encouraged, “everything is going beautifully.”
“After struggling for the past month, to get so much done in one day…” he trailed off.
“It’s my job to get things done and done right,” she said giving Duo a friendly pat on the back. “Now, we’re all done for the day so you can go home now and I’ll take care of everything for the next few days. I’ll call you on Monday or Tuesday and let you know what time you need to be here to sample the reception meal. And I know that you work until five in the evening so I’ll arrange the sampling for seven or eight, if that works for you.”
“Yes, that’s fine; I have time off from work starting Thursday the 30th, so we’ll be readily available from then until the wedding.” Heero said as they reentered Sheryl’s shop, the shock easing off enough to allow him to speak again.
The two men went home and as promised by Monday afternoon they had received over a dozen texted photos of floral center pieces and arrangements and had an appointment on Wednesday evening to pick up Heero’s suit and to sample the catering menus.
The suit was perfect so it was paid for and picked up immediately, then they were off to Sheryl’s shop, but an hour later the woman was beginning to suspect that neither man liked what the caterers had to offer and she was inclined to agree with them as the few bites she had tried had been well below the standards one would expect, especially at the prices they were charging.
“I just don’t know,” Duo said as he poked at the small amount of potatoes left in the sample container. “They just taste funny.”
“I’ll have to take your word on it,” Heero replied as no milk-free potatoes had been provided for him to sample even though Sheryl had specifically requested it and it was clear they used a lot of heavy cream in their potatoes.
Duo put another tiny bit in his mouth and worked it around, “They’re kind of, I dunno…”
“Musty?” Sheryl offered after a quick taste and Duo nodded.
“Let’s see if the desserts are any better,” Heero suggested and Sheryl passed them the first box. It held a few assorted pastries and a tiny sample of their only non-dairy dessert option other than Jell-O.
“They look okay,” Duo remarked as he picked up a cookie and nibbled it. “It’s okay.”
“Just okay?” Heero asked.
“Well it tastes like a cookie,” Duo replied with a shrug before setting it down to try another.
Picking up the coconut milk ice cream alternative, Heero pulled off the lid and gave it a cautionary sniff, “It smells really sweet,” he stated before dipping out a spoonful and putting it in his mouth, it took all his willpower not to spit it right back out again. Duo could tell by the look on Heero’s face that there was no way in hell he was going to eat another bite of the stuff and with Heero’s massive sweet tooth it had to be something awful.
“What’s wrong with it?” he asked taking a sniff as Heero had, it did smell very sweet and faintly coconut-y.
“It tastes the way sunblock smells,” he replied after rinsing the odd chemical taste out his mouth with a few swallows of cold water. “I’d rather eat real ice cream and have diarrhea then eat this stuff again.”
Out of morbid curiosity Duo took a bite too, “Yep,” he confirmed with a pinched expression, “it certainly tastes like a day at the beach, only less fun.”
Order number one went in the trash and order two, who had forgotten the dairy free dessert just as they had the potatoes, soon followed.
“So that’s a definite no for the Smith Sister’s?” Sheryl asked and the couple nodded in unison. “Well, I hate to say this but you have just decided against your last option,” She told them. “You either have to choose The Smith Sister’s or Decadent Art’s as they’re the only ones that can cater your wedding on such short notice.”
“We can’t pick either,” Heero said. “The food from the first place was so over seasoned that we couldn’t even tell what we were eating.”
“And everything from the other place tasted like it was someone else’s leftovers,” Duo added. “And they forgot both of the dairy free items we requested.”
Sheryl was quiet, her fingers drumming rapidly on the table. She knew they weren’t being difficult on purpose but if they were going to have a reception meal, they really needed food and they were running out of time. Then Duo said something to Heero that nearly made her jump up and kiss him.
“Too bad we can’t just order two dozen meals from KFC.”
“You can!” Sheryl exclaimed excitedly as she whipped out her tablet and tapped away the smile on her face growing larger by the second. “Well, maybe not two dozen separate meals but they do cater, and an order from the KFC in Kallamarras with enough food for everyone at your wedding would be less than a third of the cost of this shit,” she said waving her hand at the catering samples. “Plus according to this we only need to give them a minimum 6 hour notice.”
“We’ll, that’s what we want,” Duo said, knowing that Heero agreed with him.
Feeling a weight lift from her, the wedding planner made the order and scheduled the pickup for the afternoon of the 4th.
“All we need to do is make a grocery run and pick up a few things to go with it and we’re all set for food.”
“Like what things?” Duo asked as he pulled out his own note book.
“We’ll still need a non-dairy frozen dessert for Heero, right?” she asked and Duo nodded. “We’ll also need regular ice cream and I have to pick up the sparkling cider and something else to drink for the guests. All this can be picked up without us needing to pre-order any of it.” She added the items to her list then said, “I’ll pick up everything on Friday and Saturday and store it here,” she explained. “We have fridges and freezers here to keep the food and flowers fresh. On Sunday I’ll be staying at the hotel in Kallamarras so I’ll be nearby to oversee everything for the rehearsal and the set up. Two of my staff will drive up Monday morning with the desserts and flowers; I’ve already made arrangements with the hotel to store the non-catered food and flowers until we need them.”
“What about the chicken?” Duo asked.
“I chose a 60 piece order with 100 ounces each of mashed potato and gravy, coleslaw, and green beans. That’s 2 pieces of chicken and at least 3 ounces of each side per guest with some left over. I also ordered potato wedges and biscuits, it will be ready for pickup at 1 pm on Monday,” she replied. “I know that sounds like a lot but you’ll want a little extra so the Dj and the Officiant can have a bite or in the case that a guest wants seconds.” She tapped a few moments longer then said, “I ordered a 60 piece cookie and pastry platter and a large, vegan lasagna that serves 10 from the grocery bakery because even your most chicken-eatin’est friend may not have the stomach for chicken that day.”
“Excellent,” Duo beamed. “What about service and keeping it warm?”
“We have our own professional electric warming trays here,” Sheryl explained. “I used to be a caterer and I keep my license up to date so most of the food handling and set up will be done by me, I already picked up some nice dishes, napkins and drink ware from the culinary store when I got the items needed to finish your cake.”
“Everything is coming together so well,” Duo said in wonderment.
Sheryl smiled at the couple, she had only known them for a few days but she had already grown quite fond of them and it pleased her greatly that they were happy with what she was doing.
“Okay, we haven’t discussed the rehearsal dinner yet, any thoughts?” she asked.
“Because we aren’t having any attendants we weren’t really planning on a formal rehearsal,” Heero explained. “We’re just meeting with the Officiant to go over the vows so we don’t really see the need for a rehearsal dinner.”
Sheryl nodded as she tapped on her tablet.
“We had thought to go out and just have a nice dinner with everyone before the wedding but some of our guests haven’t R.S.V.P.’d yet and others aren’t arriving until the morning of the wedding,” Duo added.
“Well I guess that’s everything for now,” Sheryl said as she set her tablet aside. “And you have a long drive back home. Oh, and don’t forget the boxes of stuff for your favors on your way out.”
It was already half past nine so the pair said their goodnights to Sheryl and left for home. Traffic was unusually heavy and it was well past midnight by the time the couple arrived home and Heero fell into bed having been awake for almost 20 hours with another full day’s work to look forward to.
By 6 the next evening the exhaustion was clear on Heero’s face and truly for the first time in the past few weeks he didn’t want anything to do with planning the wedding. Though not a crier by nature Duo thought his fiancé was going to burst into tears when he tried to show Heero the newest batch of flower photos Sheryl had sent to his phone that day.
As Friday was Heero’s day off Duo ushered the weary man to an early bed while he went over some of the preparations alone.
Friday morning found Heero well rested and fully willing to tackle the wedding plans with Duo again, going over and finally deciding on their flowers as they both liked one of the arrangements Sheryl had photographed for them. They spent some of the day double checking schedules and flight arrivals; as most of their guests were due to arrive on Saturday. They wanted to meet as many of their guests as they could at the airport because it was in town and they didn’t want to spend the day driving back and forth.
Then they started on their wedding favors. They had wanted to give their guests something unusual, memorable that would also have some use and once again their wedding planner came through for them.
Sheryl had managed to find white cups, similar to sake cups, only a little larger with a silver edge on the discount shelf at the culinary supply store, she then bought bags of the glass ‘rocks’ that looked like flattened marbles, in black, red and silver at a pet store and 5 big ‘lucky’ bamboo plants from the garden department at the store when she picked up the rest of the food.
The bamboo plants had been in groups of ten stalks with pink, silk orchids in wire stems, bundled together in three places with gold, plastic covered wire. They were set in large bowls, the roots covered in bright, multicolored gravel.
Heero and Duo had dumped out the gravel and water, threw away the orchids, then separated the large groups of bamboo, being careful not to break the roots, and then lay the stalks in pairs.
Each new bundle was bound with one piece of new; silver colored wire with a small tag attached, then set into a cup, one man holding it still while the other re-covered the roots with the new rocks and gave the plant a drink before moving onto the next one.
“These look great,” Duo said as he held up a small white ceramic cup studying the tag that bore their names and the date of their wedding, on their kitchen table sat about two dozen more of these little cups edged in silver, each filled with a tiny bamboo plant, the roots covered with glass ‘rocks’ most of them black with the occasional red or silver ‘rock’.
One plant sat aside from the others, the two stalks left over from the 50 stalks they started with. Sheryl was only able to get 24 cups for their favors so the couple decided to keep these last two stalks for themselves and now they had a new home in a slightly larger black coffee mug.
“Where are the care instructions?” Heero asked as he stood to gather up the bits of trash and empty bowls their craft making had left behind.
“Still in the office I think,” Duo replied after he didn’t spot them with a quick glance around the room.
“I’ll get them,” Heero said as he was closer to the office. He returned a few minutes later with a few sheets of heavy, white, card stock. Each man took a sheet and began to cut them into quarters, stacking them carefully on the table.
One side of the sheet had the care instructions for the bamboo printed 4 times, the other side printed with 4 thin, scrolling, black frames and the name of a guest. After they were all cut and trimmed neatly, Duo, using a marker, added a touch of red to each corner of the frames and Heero followed after using a paint pen and edged each in silver.
When they were done the place cards looked like they had been printed by a specialty shop and cost a small fortune.
Propping Quatre’s card against one of the bamboo plants Duo smiled. They were perfect.
The next morning dawned bright and hot as Duo drove them to the spaceport to meet several of their guests that were arriving that day. Heero had insisted that Duo drive as the other man was so fidgety with excitement that just watching him was making Heero antsy too.
Since they were only allowed to go as far as bag check and there wasn’t any place decent to sit and wait, they commandeered a group of picnic tables outside of a restaurant down the street from the spaceport.
At 9:45 am Duo paced baggage claim waiting for their first guest.
“I see you,” a voice called out and Duo spun in place so fast that his braid nearly hit someone standing behind him.
“Sis,” he grinned and Hilde rushed to hug him and Duo gasped as he felt something he hadn’t expected. She was expecting. His eyes lowered to her belly and she grinned at him.
“I’m going to be an uncle, wow!”
“In about 4 months,” Eric said proudly and Duo smiled at him. It was the first time Eric had ever spoken to him where he didn’t have the sound of underlying hostility. Maybe Duo marrying a man had finally convinced him that Duo had no romantic designs towards his wife.
He hugged his sister again then moved to help Eric carry the luggage. “Heero’s down the street guarding some tables where we can sit comfortably while we wait for the others to arrive.”
“Who else is coming?” Hilde asked as she linked her arm with Duo and stepped out into the bright sunlight.
“Relena is due in about an hour; Heero is going to meet her while we wait at the table.” Duo replied. “Sally is arriving with Quatre and Trowa about forty-five minutes later, they are going to rent a car and meet us at the restaurant. You two, Relena and whomever she brings as a guest are going to ride with us. Kat is going to follow us in their car.”
They walked the short distance to the restaurant in silence. Heero spotted them as they approached and moved to unlock the trunk of the car so they could put their luggage in as soon as they got there.
Hilde greeted him like a long lost brother with a huge hug and kisses on each cheek while Eric stiffly shook his hand, his palm sweaty with nerves.
Congratulations were given for the wedding and the new baby then the newly arrived couple went to order some lunch while Heero trudged off to the spaceport to meet Relena.
Like Quatre, she was arriving on a private shuttle and her luggage wouldn’t come through baggage claim so he moved to wait as close to where he knew she would enter and tried not to pace. She and her attendant, a tall, pale, woman with a mass of curly brown hair, arrived exactly on time looking fresh and well rested, hauling enough luggage for a month, and a spaceport TSA, not so discreetly following them.
Heero shook his head in amusement and wondered how on earth they were going to transport it all.
“Heero!” she called out happily, dropping her hand luggage so she could hug him. “Where’s Duo?” she asked, looking past him and not seeing the other man.
“Hilde and her husband got her about an hour ago; Duo is waiting with them at a restaurant a few blocks away.”
Nodding in understanding Relena introduced, “This is my secretary, Matilda Niol, and Tilly this is one of my dearest friends, Heero Yuy.”
“A pleasure,” Tilly greeted, as she moved forward to shake his hand.
They were escorted by security to the door and left the spaceport, less than a block later Heero was wishing he had brought the car just to haul all the suitcases. Why Relena insisted on the retro, hard sided, wheel-less style, Heero would never know.
Duo and Eric hurried to them when they spotted the group and helped them carry the suitcases the last block to the car.
“Whew,” Relena gasped and plopped very unladylike onto a bench next to Hilde. “I think I’ll take your advice Heero and buy rolling luggage.” Duo grinned and hugged her from behind. “I’m all sweaty,” she squealed and tried to bat him away but he just held on and kissed her cheek.
Tilly smiled affectionately as she sat at the table, pleased that these people treated Relena like a person they truly cared for and didn’t dance around her like most everyone else did.
“Did Wufei arrive alright?” Relena asked after Duo let go to order her something to drink.
“I believe so,” Heero replied as he sat next to her. “He and Dorothy arrived on a Preventer shuttle so late last night that they didn’t call and neither answered when we called around 6:30 this morning so we figured they were both still asleep.”
“When is your brother getting here?” Duo asked as he gave her the iced tea she had requested.
“Tomorrow morning,” she replied after taking a long sip of her drink. “He and Lucrezia are arriving on a commercial flight about 7 in the morning; they will be renting a car and driving themselves. Have you heard from Une yet?”
“She’s hoping to hop a Preventer shuttle that will get her here late tomorrow evening. If she doesn’t manage that then she’ll be here on Monday afternoon, just in time for the reception.”
“And Howard?” Hilde asked and Duo shook his head ‘no’.
“We haven’t heard from him at all.” Heero said and Hilde gave her brother a sad smile. She knew how important it was for Duo to have Howard there.
Relena and Matilda ordered a small bite to eat and the group chatted for a while, killing time. The two ladies were just finishing up when a black, four-door car pulled in next to Heero’s and the driver honked just before a back door opened.
“Duo, Heero!” Quatre called out as he climbed from the car, followed quickly by Trowa and Sally.
Hugs and greetings were shared all around and a half an hour later the two cars were on the road heading to Kallamarras, much of Relena’s luggage went into Quatre’s rental as their luggage was still on the shuttle and would be taken to the hotel by Rashid and Abdul after the shuttle was secured and a second car rented.
They stopped at the hotel to drop off the luggage and Tilly who wanted to take a nap. Then they picked up Wufei and Dorothy and headed back to Heero and Duo’s house for a pre-planned bar-b-q and general gathering of friends.
Some of Heero’s friends from work had been invited but they weren’t sure how many would actually come.
“Here we are,” Duo announced as they pulled into the driveway, Quatre pulling in beside him. As they all climbed out of the cars they could hear Bear barking and scratching inside.
“I think someone missed us,” Heero said as he unlocked the door then gently ordered the excited dog to sit. “Everyone, please make yourselves at home while I look for the cat and put her in the bedroom.”
Duo led the group to the backyard where a table and the grill had already been set up for the occasion.
Heero found Akuma and put her in the bedroom while Duo started up the grill, Lindy arrived while Duo was in the kitchen gathering up the food so he told her to just go on through to the yard and make herself at home.
Lindy wandered into the backyard hoping that her nervousness didn’t show. The group was larger than she expected and she knew none of them, save for Duo who was now busy at the grill.
On the far side of the yard a few of them were lawn bowling and chatting loudly amongst themselves. There were only three people seated at the picnic table, a petite woman who seemed familiar for some reason, a tall, slender man with light brown hair and a slightly older woman with dishwater blond hair.
Taking a deep breath she stalked across the lawn and sat across from them.
Hilde turned to the young woman who shared the table with them and held out her hand, “Hilde Schbeiker-Ross, this is my husband, Eric,” the brown eyed man nodded in greeting, “And this is Doctor Sally Po.”
“Madelinda Garcia,” the girl replied shaking each person’s hand firmly, “But everyone calls me Lindy.”
“I’ve heard of you,” Hilde confessed, “You’re Heero’s friend and partner at work right? Duo speaks of you often.”
“I’ve heard so much about you too, I feel like we’re practically in-laws,” Lindy replied and the two women laughed.
“Back!” Duo shouted suddenly and most everyone turned to where he stood near the grill where the meat for the meal was sizzling away. Heero and his dog were very close to him and the dog was now slinking way. “Not you, sweetie” Duo clarified, moving to pat the dog. “I meant Heero, all he needs to do is look at the food wrong and it will burst into flames.”
Something sounding an awful lot like a snicker came from Trowa’s direction, where he, Quatre, Dorothy and Relena had resumed their lawn bowling game. They had originally started playing disk golf but the disks were dangerous when the grill was fired up.
Heero shot him a glare, “I’m not that bad of a cook,” he protested taking a step closer to Duo, but the grill suddenly flared up, momentarily engulfing all the food in fire. “Okay, I’ll go sit down.”
Duo closed the distance between them and kissed his cheek, hoping to soothe his fiancé’s rumpled pride. “I love you,” he whispered in his ear then hurried back to the grill and started pulling off the burgers before they shriveled away to nothing.
As Heero joined the small group at the table he came in to the tail end of Lindy telling Sally, Hilde and Eric about the day the snow slid off the roof and fell on him.
“I have it on good authority that the bruising was quite impressive,” she finished and smiled at Heero as he sat beside her.
“It wasn’t the snow that did the actual damage; it was the fallen rain gutter full of ice,” Heero elaborated. “You could see the rectangular shape show up in the bruising about two days later.”
The group winced in sympathy, “Was there any permanent damage?” Sally asked with concern.
“No,” Heero replied. “I was pretty sore for about a month, especially whenever I raised that arm above my head, but it’s fully healed now.”
“She is so lovely,” Hilde said suddenly as Bear placed her head on the woman’s lap begging for attention. “Why on Earth did you name her Bear?”
Heero smiled and told them the story of how he came to be her owner, then told them about Akuma and why she was currently locked up in his and Duo’s bedroom.
By the time the story was told, Duo, with help from Wufei was placing the food on the table and everyone was now squeezing in beside them.
“I think we should bring out the dining table,” Heero said when it was clear they all were not going to fit.
“We’ll do it,” Quatre said as he grabbed Trowa’s arm and dragged him towards the kitchen.
“I’ll help with the chairs,” Heero said, rising to follow only to have their guests beat him too it.
“Don’t look at us like that,” Sally said as she placed a chair in the grass, “We may be your guests but it’s your special day. The only reason Duo managed to do the grilling was because he threatened to asphyxiate Wufei with a fire extinguisher if he touched the grill.”
“That’s because I have it seasoned perfectly and I’ll kill anyone who fucks it up,” he dimpled unrepentantly and Sally couldn’t decide if he was in jest or in earnest. She was inclined to believe the latter.
“How about after dinner we order a movie or 5 on the vid and spend the evening making fun of bad movies and eating popcorn?” Duo suggested and most everyone started chattering excitedly. “Though we should probably make a snack run first, I don’t think we have enough popcorn for everyone.”
“That’s a great idea!” Relena exclaimed turning so address Heero and Duo, “I want to make the snack run, may I borrow your car?”
“Of course,” Heero replied. “The keys are on a hook by the front door.”
“Thank you,” she smiled then sidled up to Wufei, linking his arm with hers. “Come with me,” she asked him sweetly and his back went ridged, his body stiffening uncomfortably at the sudden, unexpected contact. She laid her head on his shoulder and peered at him through her thick eyelashes, batting them flirtatiously, “please?”
Duo made a strange squeaking sound as he tried to smother his laughter behind his hands. Wufei’s eyes darted to Duo, pinning them with an icy onyx glare, but the look only made Duo laugh harder and he started to snort through his nose.
The Chinese man sighed and looked down into Relena’s upturned face, “It would be my honor to escort you to the market,” he said formally. Relena giggled sweetly and gave him a peck on the cheek before dashing into the house to find her purse.
“Wait, I’m coming too,” Hilde called out as she jumped up and hurried after her leaving her meal untouched. Then as if responding to some secret message, Lindy, Dorothy and Sally rose, following the dark-haired woman into the house.
It wasn’t until Wufei had risen and stoically followed the women inside that Duo finally lost it and fell to the grass, laughing uncontrollably. “That poor, poor man,” he gasped with tears of mirth in his eyes.
“He and Relena like each other,” Heero said as he hauled his fiancé out of the grass. “According to Sally they have been courting, in their own way for well over and year now. What’s so funny about her wanting him to go to the store with her?”
“It’s not that,” Duo explained as he caught his breath, “He just went shopping, alone, with five women.”
Quatre’s mouth dropped into an ‘O’ of understanding then his face contorted as he doubled over in amusement, the other men soon joining him in the hilarity of the situation.
Wufei could hear their laughter drifting from the backyard as he climbed into the silver car. What had he gotten himself into?
The group in the back yard settled a few moments later when Eric’s cell phone rang.
“Sorry, work.” he explained quickly.
“You can use my office,” Duo offered. “It’s down the hall, first door to the left next to the bathroom.”
“Thanks,” he replied then vanished into the house.
“I’m gonna take a pit stop,” Duo said as he started for the house. “You guys need anything.”
“Not from the bathroom,” Quatre wisecracked and Duo stuck his tongue out at him making the blond man chuckle.
Call of nature managed, Duo returned to the yard to find that only Heero and Quatre were left at the table.
“We’re losing people left and right,” Duo said as he sat down beside Heero, “it’s like being in a bad horror movie.”
“Does that mean we’re going to find Relena in our driveway with an ax in her back?” Heero asked with a grin.
“Naw, Kat will be first,” Duo countered not missing the ‘look’ his friend gave him. “The smart, pretty girl is almost always one of the last to go,” he explained, “The cute blond goes first.”
“Well, thanks a lot,” Quatre responded sarcastically as he stole a chip from Duo’s plate.
“The cute blond usually gets a steamy sex scene too,” Duo added with a smirk and Quatre blushed.
“Well, at least I have something to look forward to before you guys find my mangled corpse hanging from a ceiling fan.”
Heero laughed, snorting his Pepsi and Trowa, who had just returned from refilling his own cup in the kitchen, thumped the choking man’s back before rejoining them at the large table.
“The Asian character comes after the cute blond, so it will either be you or Wufei next,” The taller man addressed Heero dryly, “And he hardly ever gets a sex scene,” he added making Duo and Quatre dissolve in a fit of laughter.
“We’ll see my friend,” Duo said around his laughter, “We’ll see.”
The game of who comes next, how they die, and who survives went on for nearly a half an hour as the rest of their group returned to their meals and joined in. Dorothy won as the sole survivor, with Trowa as a close second as the last to die.
“How did Dorothy win again?” Eric asked, not happy that he had been used as a human shield to protect his wife from a chainsaw only to have Hilde slaughtered right after him.
“I have no clue?” Duo the expert replied as he scratched his head in confusion and studied the chart he had scribbled on a napkin. As a sexy blond woman, she should have been one of the first five to go, right up there with Sally and Lindy.
“Let me see that,” Lindy demanded as she plucked the napkin out of Duo’s grasp. “Why did I end up the bikini girl found floating in the lake with a machete in my head? Why couldn’t I have been the disemboweled body in the deep freezer?”
“Because,” Heero replied in amusement, “Wufei would have looked silly if he was the one found in the bikini.”
The Chinese man snorted indignantly.
“At least you went fast,” Relena pointed out to Lindy, “I got zipped up in a sleeping bag and smashed against a tree.” *
“Heero and Duo got the best one, being stabbed through with a spear and pinned to the bed while getting all hot and heavy,” Hilde teased and Duo flashed Trowa a satisfied grin.
“I know how Dorothy won,” Relena said suddenly as she stood to take her plate in the kitchen, instantly she had everyone’s attention. “She was the murderer,” she told them in all seriousness and everyone looked surprised for a moment while Dorothy smirked, then they all started laughing again.
Late that night the couple fell asleep in their bed, exhausted, happy. The house was empty now that all their friends had gone back to their hotel rooms and Lindy to her home. Though Quatre had tried to talk them into letting them stay over again, they were eternally grateful that they didn’t have a guest bed and that their couch smelled like dog.
They rose early the next morning as Relena and two new visitors arrived with hugs and breakfast. As they dined they told Zechs and Lu all about what had happened the day before, including Wufei surviving his trip to the store without killing anyone and returned safely with his dignity intact, and the game they played while waiting for everyone to come back.
“What about us?” Zechs asked amused by the whole idea of the rather morbid game. “Where do we place in your game?”
“That’s easy,” Duo replied matter-of-factly around a bite of breakfast burrito. “Lu gets a car door slammed on her head while trying to get away and you get your face smashed into fuse box while trying to get the lights back on.”
“Well, at least I was doing something productive,” he said seriously “and not out having sex somewhere.”
“And that’s why you die before Lu,” Duo said with a smirk. “You go down to the basement where the killer is already hiding while Lu was smart enough to get out of the house, though she does stop for a car instead of running when she had the chance. Trowa made the same mistake, by the way.”
Relena laughed modestly at the shocked look on her brother’s face while Heero excused himself so he could answer the vid-phone.
“Duo, its Sheryl,” Heero called out after putting the call on hold, “She wants to meet with us today if we can, she says it’s urgent.”
“Any idea what it could be?” he asked and Heero shook his head no, looking faintly worried.
“Sorry guys,” Duo said as he addressed their guests, “It’s our wedding planner, if she needs to see us in person then it must be really important.”
“No worries,” Zechs remarked as he rose elegantly, “We still have a few things to tend to ourselves.”
After seeing their guests to their rental car, the couple drove to the city they wondered what it was that had Sheryl so rattled.
“Sorry if I worried you,” she said as she ushered them into the same conference room where they had met before. “I was finally able to get in
contact with the city of Kallamarras in regards to your use of the pavilion and I learned that they have tables, chairs, curtains and a dance floor that can be included in your rental for a very reasonable fee.”
“That’s great!” Duo said excitedly, “and we can absolutely get these things in time?”
“Yes, but there is a small catch,” she replied hesitantly. “Due to the annual holiday celebration in the park we will likely need to push back the actual ceremony until about eight in the evening.”
“That’s…” Heero didn’t know what to say. He had known that they had use of both the garden and pavilion starting at 2pm; they had planned of having the ceremony shortly after 3pm, not some five hours later.
“Did they say why?” Duo asked softly, “We paid for 12 hours between 2 and 2.”
“The garden is not being used, however they’re using the pavilion for both the hot dog eating contest and the pie eating contest. I’ve been assured that the area will be scrubbed and ready for us by two-” she hesitated again.
“But?” Duo prompted.
“They’re closing the areas around them after the contest so they can go through and recheck everything for the evening festivities and they don’t want anyone in the area until after five.”
“Why didn’t they tell me that when I booked it?” Heero growled and Duo laid his hand on the other man’s shoulder.
“I think they just forgot,” Sheryl soothed, “But they were very apologetic and offered a refund of the three hours in either cash or free use of the furniture already set up for the reception.”
“Well that’s something,” Duo conceded but added, “We can definitely get in after five, right?” Sheryl nodded, so he asked “Then why wait until eight?”
“I can’t even go in to start setting things up and arranging things until they let us in,” she explained patiently. “It’s going to take my guys two hours or so to set up both areas, even with the help of your friends, then at least another half an hour for the guests to be seated and the final preparations made.”
“I don’t want to, but I can wait five more hours to marry you,” Heero sighed then said. “We’re going to have to call everyone and let them know.”
“Good thing we only need to mail Une,” Duo said. “She’s the only one who has RSVP’d that hasn’t arrived yet.”
“All we need to do is call Quatre and sit back while he does all the work,” Heero joked and Duo laughed. There was still so much to do so they said their goodbyes and the couple headed home to take care of some last minute things.
“What time are you leaving again?” Heero asked as he carefully placed the tiny potted bamboo plant into a box that held several others.
“Just about 7pm,” Duo replied as he checked that he had everything he needed in his overnight bag, he was staying the night at the hotel with Hilde and Eric so they could keep the tradition of not seeing each other before the ceremony. “When are the girls getting here?”
“I’m surprised they’re not here yet,” Heero called back from the kitchen as he finished packing the bamboo in the box so Duo could take them with him to the hotel and give them to Sheryl when she arrived around 8pm. “They said they would get here between 6 and 7.”
Just as he finished speaking the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it,” Duo said, abandoning his bag on the sofa so he could let their guests in.
“Hello Duo,” Relena greeted with a kiss on his cheek.
“Hey Lena, Dorothy,” Duo smiled and stepped aside so the two women could come in. He took the ladies bags and set them aside while Heero came through with the box of favors.
“Here are the keys,” Dorothy said as she passed Duo the keys so he could use her car to get back to the hotel.
“Thanks,” he pocketed them then picked his duffel and garment bag and carried them out to the car, Heero following with the favors while Relena picked up another box of items Sheryl needed.
After everything was packed safely in the car, Duo and Heero moved the sofa aside and set up two camp cots and mattresses they they borrowed from Mr. Burgess so Relena and Dorothy wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor.
The girls busied themselves with making up the beds so the couple could have a few private moments before Duo left for the night, then not long after his fiancé had left, Heero was in bed, trying to get as much rest as possible as tomorrow promised to be a long day.
After sharing a bed with Duo for the better part of the last 8 months, Heero had a hard time falling asleep but finally drifted off when Bear jumped on the bed and spooned up behind him.
He woke with a start around 7 in the morning when Dorothy’s loud screech of “Mother fucker!” sounded through the house.
He was up and out of bed before he realized it and stood just inside the hallway, peering into the dim living room as Akuma rocketed past him and Dorothy continued to swear like a drunken sailor. Red spots already seeping through the back of the t-shirt she had slept in.
Relena was still sitting on her cot and though her eyes were open she looked like she was still asleep and Heero remembered that Relena wasn’t really capable of functioning without a cup of coffee.
“Here, let me see,” Heero said and Dorothy stood still while he lifted up the back of her shirt to see the damage his cat had inflicted. There were four separate places where her claws had broken the skin and the tiny wounds were bleeding sluggishly.
“They don’t look too bad but it would probably be best if I put some ointment and Band-Aids over them.”
“Lovely,” she replied sarcastically as she followed him to the bathroom. “I’m wearing an open back dress today.”
Heero smiled at her sympathetically and left her alone so she could shower before he bandaged up her back.
While Dorothy was bathing, Heero made a large pot of coffee and took out something for breakfast. By the time Dorothy was done Relena was caffeinated and starting feel human so she shuffled off for her own shower while Heero bandaged Dorothy’s back then went to his room to get his suit for the wedding.
After Relena was showered, they had breakfast then Heero went to take his shower while the girls tidied up the living room and watched the news.
The wedding wasn’t set to start for another 11 hours and there wasn’t much for them to do so they killed time playing card games until it was time to start getting dressed. It was a little after four when the trio climbed into Heero’s car to join everyone else at the hotel which was conveniently located just a half a block from the park.
All the food and decorations were carefully packed and ready to be taken over; all the guests were dressed and fed. All that was left to do was wait for the county to give them the go ahead to start setting up.
At fifteen minutes to five Sheryl got the call and she and her helpers started taking everything over to the park, most of the guests helping while Heero and Duo stayed behind in separate hotel rooms, Duo in Hilde’s room and Heero in Wufei’s.
As predicated it took Sheryl’s crew about 2 and a half hours to set everything up just the way she wanted it. Then, after all the guests were seated she and one of her staff went to fetch the couple, bringing them in on different paths so they wouldn’t see each other until it was time for the ceremony to start, and though they were placed in separate tents they were close enough to talk through the curtains.
It was nearly time to start and the couple just finished speaking with the celebrant, each man taking a few moments going over some last minute details before the ceremony started.
After taking a sip of water, Heero eased the curtain to the side and smiled at the small gathering of family and friends seated amongst the fragrant roses. As his eyes scanned the group they came to rest on Sheryl who was standing at the gate speaking to two people who had just approached her. His eyes widened as the black-haired woman opened the gate to the garden and ushered the pair inside and he was able to see who they were.
“Duo!” he called out, scratching at the curtain the separated them. “Look outside.”
Heero could hear the rustle of the curtain on Duo’s side of the tent and the excited cry.
Howard wore a bright lime green Hawaiian shirt with an vivid, orange pineapple pattern, tan cargo shorts and flip flops while Une was a complete opposite, having come straight from a meeting for Preventer, she wore her dress uniform, a smart knee length skirt in a dark blue and a matching jacket with a Preventer patch on the shoulder over a cream colored silk blouse, her hair in a tasteful up-do, looking rather elegant on the arm of the aging old spacer in the Hawaiian shirt.
The pair smiled at Duo’s grinning face, poking out through the gauzy white curtain as they took their seats where Sheryl directed them and shook hands with all the familiar people seated around them.
The sun was just setting, painting the park in shades of gold, pink and orange as the Officiant made his way to the front, stepping up onto the low platform that was dressed in white fabric where he carefully arranged a few items on the small black table that was set there for his use.
Behind him, a temporary wall draped in the same fabric had been erected to ensure no passerby’s would stop behind the rose garden to watch the ceremony. Warm, white fairy lights glowed softly from under the gauzy fabric, giving the platform some light after the sun went down. A few handfuls of red rose petals had been scattered around adding just a touch of color to the otherwise blank canvas.
Checking his pocket watch Clifford spared Sheryl a glace and she gave him a slight nod from where she stood at the back of the garden.
Picking up his book he cleared his throat and began, “Good evening everybody. Welcome to the wedding of Heero Yuy and Duo Maxwell, please rise to meet our happy couple.”
The small gathering of family and friends stood as the gentle music that had been chosen to play through the entire ceremony began playing unobtrusively from the speakers hidden around the garden.
From opposite sides of the platform, hidden from each other and the guests by the same white fabric that made up the privacy screen Heero and Duo appeared.
Duo’s wool gunmetal grey suit looked almost black in the slowly fading sun. The jacket was buttoned over his plum colored, silk dress shirt with the gloss of his neck tie picking up the last few rays of sun, making the fabric shine. The single red rose bud he wore in his lapel was the only thing that both he and Heero wore that matched as his soon to be husband’s suit was the so different from his own.
Heero’s suit was raw silk in a pale, silvery grey with a vest matching the jacket and trousers. His jacket was unbuttoned over the vest and white button down shirt, but unlike Duo, he wore a bow-tie in a maroon and scarlet paisley pattern, which matched the roses they had chosen.
They walked the length of the platform in time and met in the center, directly in front of the officiant. Duo’s eyes shone brightly in the fading light and he longed to reach for Heero, his hands shaking with emotion. He had never really thought of a man looking beautiful before, but in this moment, awash in the orange and pink of sunset, Heero, in his eyes, was truly beautiful.
“You’re breathtaking,” Duo breathed. Heero smiled for him, his throat too tight to speak, he hoped his face and eyes conveyed what he felt, and after studying his face for a moment Duo smiled back, his own face lit up like a sunbeam.
Clifford Carson continued to address the family and friends “You may be seated. Heero and Duo are very happy to have the privilege of being legally married after more than 10 years of friendship and love, if there is anyone here who believes these two should not be wed, speak now or forever hold your peace.” The only sound they heard was the distant rumble of the other people in the park and the click of the camera.
Smiling warmly he addressed the pair facing each other standing before him. “Please take each other’s hands so that you may see the gift that they are to you. These are the hands of your best friend. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch will comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it, support and encouragement to pursue your dreams, and comfort in difficult times. And lastly, these are the hands that even years from now will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just one touch.”
Reaching for the two gold rings that lay on the table beside him the Celebrant picked up one in each hand and held them up for all to see, “Rings are a symbol of commitment and love. These rings are circular, like their love, with no beginning and no end. They represent what has been and what will always be. They are made of solid, sturdy material which is meant to survive years, years of hand-holding and years of tender caresses. These rings will show the world, every day the symbol of their love.”
Addressing the couple again he said, “Duo, you will go first. Please place Heero’s ring on the tip of his ring finger and repeat after me.” The celebrant spoke the vows softly and Duo repeated them, his eyes never leaving Heero’s. “This ring is a symbol of my love for you, I promise to be your faithful husband, to love you through the best and the worst, through the difficult and the easy. And I promise to you my unconditional love and I give you my unwavering trust. When you look at this ring remember that I love you always.”
“You may slide the ring all the way onto his finger,” he said then turned to Heero. “Heero, it’s your turn.”
Duo smiled at Heero lovingly as the Celebrant guided him through the vows, Heero’s heart and passion could be heard in every word as he repeated them before slipping Duo’s ring on his finger, nestling the gold band into the groove in Duo’s platinum engagement ring. When they had purchased their gold bands they had had their platinum rings altered so the two rings locked tightly together like two pieces of a puzzle, creating one solid, two-tone ring.
Clifford addressed the guests again, “I asked both Heero and Duo to sum up their relationship in one word, and honestly I can say that they both used the same word: love. Tonight is all about love.”
He set his book down and looked at the couple, “It has been my honor to officiate your ceremony this evening,” he said honestly, “By the powers vested in me by the United Earth Sphere Alliance, I now pronounce you married. You may kiss your husband.”
Heero reached out suddenly and grabbed Duo’s tie, yanking his husband to him, and just as their lips touched the city of Kallamarras’s, 4th of July celebration began, washing the couple in the splendid glow of their annual fireworks display. As the rockets filled the sky with brilliant light, the newly married couple’s guests stood and applauded while Sheryl gave a sigh of relief that her timing had gone perfectly.
As they pulled out of the kiss they turned to their family and friends and were shocked to see thirty or more people who had come to the park for the fireworks, standing just outside of the wrought iron fencing that surrounded the rose garden, applauding the newlyweds, many of the faces belonging to their neighbors and casual acquaintances. They waved an acknowledging thank you and Duo blew a kiss when they noticed their favorite girl from the coffee shop, grinning widely and giving them a double ‘thumbs up’.
Then Howard was there, pulling the couple into a bone crushing bear hug, Une managing a quick ‘congratulations’ just before the photographer arrived, snapping away, doing his best to get some shots of the couple while the fireworks still shined around them, pulling their family and friends up, in effort to get group shots with the fireworks in the background knowing that he only had a limited time to do so.
Less than fifteen minutes and about a hundred pictures later the fireworks were over and the couple was whisked away along with Hilde and Eric to the privacy of the small tent behind the platform and white privacy screening where the couple signed their marriage certificate with Hilde and Eric standing as witnesses. While they signed, the photographer took a few more photos.
After all the legalities were seen too they left the garden and walked the short distance to the pavilion where their family was waiting, Hilde and Eric hurrying ahead of them. On the way they were stopped by many well-wishers who offered their congratulations with hugs, friendly pats on the back, and handshakes.
With a big smile Sheryl stopped them a few feet from the side entrance and gave one of her assistants a signal that was relayed to someone inside and the music quieted.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” The DJ’s voice sounded clear, “It is my pleasure to present, Heero and Duo Maxwell-Yuy.”
Hand in hand, the couple climbed the few steps up to the entrance as the white curtain parted and they entered the pavilion to the applause of their family and friends.
“Okay everyone; don’t get too comfortable now because we have a treat in store for you.” The DJ announced, “The County has graciously provided a picnic area for us so we can enjoy their 4th of July concert while we have our dinner. So everyone make up a plate and follow Sheryl to our dining area. After the show we’ll come back here for the toasts, desert and dancing.”
Heero and Duo were first to make up their plates and after grabbing couple of cold soda bottles, the pair followed Sheryl out to the picnic area while their guests made up their own plates.
The county had roped off a small section of tables in the outdoor amphitheater picnic area where a large number of people were already gathered as they waited for the concert. Several people offered more congratulations and well wishes as the couple made their way to their seats. About twenty minutes after everyone was seated the music started, a large brass band playing a score of stirring patriotic melodies, accompanied by the high school choir and a well-known female vocalist who had grown up in Kallamarras. The show lasted roughly forty-five minutes then the crowd began to disperse and the wedding party trekked the short distance back to the pavilion.
The buffet had been tidied while they were away and the guests were encouraged to get seconds if they were still hungry. A few did but most went to their tables to hear the announcements and speeches. Soon, after the couple was appropriately embarrassed and had thanked all their guests, they cut the cake, taking the obligatory ‘cake cutting’ photos, complete with a messy cake kiss, and then the cake and other desserts were served before the couple was called out to the dance floor.
The lights dimmed as the DJ queued up the music, then to everyone’s surprise a rather fast and upbeat version of “Happy Together” came pouring from the speakers as Duo grabbed Heero, wrapping an arm around his waist and spinning him across the tiny dance floor to the whistles and applause of their family and friends.
“I swear he’s as dense as fence-post,” Duo commented as he watched Wufei, very formally ask Relena to dance again while stoically ignoring the giggles and knowing grins from the other females at the table she was sitting at.
Heero nodded, “If Relena gets any more blatant with the hints she’s been dropping she’ll be the one on one knee with the ring, proposing to him.”
Duo snickered then whispered, “Watch this,” in his husband’s ear and Heero had a sudden sense of unease.
“Duo, behave,” he tried, but the man was already striding up to Relena and Wufei who were dancing together near the far edge of the small dance floor.
“May I cut in?” Duo asked as he approached the pair, nodding, Wufei took a step away from Relena but rather than take the woman’s hand Duo took Wufei into his arms and swept him away.
“Maxwell!” the Chinese man squawked as Duo spun his dancing partner all the way across the tiny dance floor and back.
“That’s Maxwell-Yuy now,” he reminded gently then said, “The next time I dance with you it better be at your wedding Fei Fei.” With a twirl he spun his partner back into the waiting arms of his amused date and Relena gave him a dazzling smile as Duo kissed her cheek before wandering off to find his husband.
“How was that?” Duo asked as Heero pulled him into his arms again. “I bet I opened his eyes and now he’ll realize all those hints Lena has been dropping.”
Heero rolled his eyes, “Yes my dearest, I think he finally got the hint.”
They danced until the end of the song then joined some of their friends at a table in the corner.
“Howie, I wanted to ask you, how on Earth did you and Une manage to arrive together?” Duo asked as he watched his old boss sitting across the room having a conversation with Zechs and Noin.
The older man chuckled, “Right place at the right time my boy,” Howard replied. “We both arrived at the space port around the same time. She already had a car arranged and I was waiting in line to rent one. She recognized me and knew why I was here and offered me a ride.”
“When do you leave for your honeymoon?” Relena asked.
“Not until tomorrow morning,” Duo replied. “We were supposed to go tonight but with the ceremony being pushed back so much we changed our reservation. When they learned why they were really cool about it and didn’t charge us.”
“Where are you going?” Quatre asked after taking a few swallows of cold water.
“We’re going camping,” Duo replied and Hilde made a face.
“Camping?” she questioned disbelievingly. “You’re going camping when you could be lounging in some lavish resort, or going on a cruise, being waited on hand and foot?”
“Well not ‘camping’, camping, Heero clarified. “There are no tents and sleeping bags or poison ivy. No going to the bathroom behind trees, or hunting for our food. We’re renting a nice, private cabin with a proper kitchen, indoor plumbing and hot running water, and we can have Bear with us. No work, no busy city, no noise, and no neighbors.”
Relena sighed dreamily and Wufei shot her a look, “Does that sound like a place you would like to go for our honeymoon?” he asked.
“Oh yes, it sounds so romantic, I…” She froze then turned slowly to look at him. “Did you say, ‘our’?”
“Yes, if you will have me,” he replied and everyone at the table seemed to hold their breath.
She squeaked, slapping her hands over her mouth as tears filled her eyes. She swallowed a few times then lowered her hands, “Oh, yes Wufei,” she breathed. “Yes.”
In a rare display of public affection Wufei pulled the crying woman into his arm and kissed her temple gently.
“Congratulations, may you always be happy,” Duo said before taking a sip of his sparkling cider. Everyone else at the table soon followed, raising their glasses to the couple.
“Thank you, Duo, everyone,” Relena sniffled then giggled pulling out of Wufei’s hold and dragging him out on the dance floor so they could dance to a song that very aptly had lyrics that said “shut up and dance with me”.
“Dance with me, love?” Duo asked holding his hand out to Heero.
“Always,” he replied simply.
Sorry to the folks hoping to read a lemony honeymoon, I don’t write lemons. If you want lemony camping fun read Jana’s ‘Over the River and Through the Woods.’ At 1x2x1 dot org
*Drake Carter was originally named Drake Bennet, after my favorite character Det. Insp. Bennet Drake, in the British drama ‘Ripper Street’; I changed Bennet to Carter because of the Bennett family (of which Drake is not a member) in another of my stories ‘Afterthoughts of Discourse.’
* Jason Vorhees is my favorite horror movie character, appearing in 12 films in the Friday the 13th franchise. The sleeping bag scene from Friday the 13th part VII: The New Blood is my favorite of his over 150 kills.
Duo’s wedding outfit was inspired by this one in dark grey not black. http://www.shopweddingdress.co.uk/Bridal-Party/Groom-Suits/6512.html
Heero’s was inspired by this one, though I envision not quite so shiny. http://www.shopweddingdress.co.uk/Bridal-Party/Groom-Suits/5884.html
If the links do not work go to ShopWeddingDress (dot) co (dot) uk
Add dots and remove () as needed and search for…
Duo: Double Buttons Notch Lapel Black (the one with the purple shirt)
Heero: Peak Lapel Silver with Gray
If the link doesn’t work, I’m sorry, it was buried on a site and there’s no quick way to direct you.
I googled ‘gay wedding cakes’ and it was in the top 5 results. It has round tiers in white, with black bands around the base of each tier. The bands have white scroll work and the cake topper is two men facing each other, holding hands and looking as if they are about to kiss.
I must admit, I swiped the Vows/ceremony from an online search. I cut out what I didn’t need and added what I did. I would like to give credit where it’s due. The original ceremony By Christopher Shelley, New York State Wedding Officiant and Life-Cycle Celebrant, IlluminatingCeremonies(dot)com
Information about what wedding planners can and will do.
If the link doesn’t show do a search engine search for “101 things a wedding planner will do that you never know about” it should be at TheEveryLastDetail(dot)com.
The first dance is ‘Happy Together’ by Simple Plan from the ‘Freaky Friday’ soundtrack.
Relena drags Wufei out on the floor to dance to ‘Shut up and Dance’ by Walk the Moon, on the ‘Talking is Hard’ album.