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and until my last breath.

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and until my last breath.

 

prague, 1918

 

 

In the streets of the city, the church bells rang loudly as he leaned forward, looking down on the congregation flooding into the place of worship, speaking in a tongue he was at least familiar enough with to make out what pieces of casual conversation he was able to hear.

“One might ask why you, a representative to the Slovaks, finds himself in a city that belongs to me.”

He blinks and she steps forwards, her long hair let down as she stands next to him. He notes her elegant gown, making him in his overcoat and dirty slacks look like a peasant from a farm. In her opinion, that is what he was, in spite of being the most industrialized part of the Hungarian Kingdom he once upon a time was part of.

“You know this is a wedding, correct?” she asks him, leaning forward as she slowly removes her gloves, adjusting her hat as he shrugs his shoulders.

“I like them.”

“You like weddings?”

“I like them a lot.”

She sighs and he turns toward her, watching as she adjusts the green hat on her head as she neatly folds the gloves in her hands. The organ begins to play and she straightens up. “Why are you here? You do not seem like the wedding type.”

“Not if they are anything like Erzsébet and Roderich’s wedding,” she replies quietly, nudging him to stay silent as the bride slowly makes her way down the aisle, to the alter. He watches as the crowd looks on in awe.

“You mean a political wedding,” he clarifies. “Their wedding was cute.”

“It was insulting.”

“Is that why you refuse to wed me?” he asks. “Because you do not want a political wedding? Even though I tell you that we are more than… well…”

“We were thrust together for convenience. Do not get that mixed up with true feelings.”

“Suppose I were to court you,” he suggests. “Properly, like the way this man has courted his wife. Of course, without asking a father for your hand. But suppose I went about it correctly, with no political ties.”

She turns to him and smirks, as if to challenge him. “Does a simple-minded man such as yourself know how to court a lady? I feel that in your country, they just sold girls off for goats.”

“Now you are just mean.” He snorts, but cannot help but feel hurt. He knows that he was not as industrially advanced as she was, but she has to know that he is more or less her equal, intellectually. They represent a nation together, and while they may only seem to share a similar language, they have a common goal.

“Perhaps I am, but I am no fool.”

“Perhaps, but does not mean I am. I think we should wed.”

“Of course. The romantic.” She sighs. “You cannot shake this idea we should be wed, can you?”

“I am asking if you, Tereza the Czech, will want to wed me, Ondrej the Slovak? Not just in a union for Czechoslovakia, but for me to prove that I love the woman behind the nation.”

“You mean that?”

“I do mean that I would love you every day and until my last breath, if that is what you are asking of me.”

Tereza’s eyes flashed toward Ondrej and she looked a bit stunned at his declaration. He smiled and took his hand in her as the ceremony continued on below them, watching in awe until she finally cleared her throat.

“Should you court me properly, I would… entertain… the idea of marrying you. Ask me again in three months.”

“Normally, the first time you ask someone is the only time.”

“Am I not worth it?”

Ondrej smirked. “You are, my darling. You very much are.”