For Alexis and Olga, who have been very, very patient.


By Tenshi no Korin

General J.K. Caraway (ret.) and Balamb Garden

Cordially request the honor of your presence at the wedding of

Rinoa Isabella Maria Tortellini Heartilly


Squall Leonheart

In the Balamb Garden Quadrangle

Saturday, May the Fifteenth


2 o'clock in the evening

Reception to follow in the Main Ballroom


8:42 a.m.

Squall woke up in the training center's secret area, and yawned. Not quite noticing his surroundings, he quickly became aware of two very interesting facts when he tried to perform his usual morning scratch. One, he was handcuffed to the railing and two, he was conspicuously lacking his pants. Then the third big revelation of the morning crashed into him with all the grace and subtlety of a hot pink runaway locomotive: he was fantastically hung over. With a blurry mental note to never let Kinneas run a party for him again, he slumped once more into unconsciousness, champagne-stiff hair dangling in his face.

9:15 a.m.

Selphie was yelling. This wasn't anything new, since she'd been yelling steadily since about seven that morning. Irvine had learned quickly what most males who survive weddings learn: stay quiet, stay out of the way, and Do As You Are Told. Which at this point was about all he could manage.

"Selphie, honey, don't you think you should just calm down and-"

"WHERE ARE THOSE PLACECARDS?" Selphie shrieked into her cell phone, and the rental china and Irvine's eardrums both threatened to shatter. "You were SUPPOSED to be here an hour ago, and NOW you tell me that sixty pounds of Balamb fish are not out of the marinade yet? Why did we HIRE you people?"

"Because they're the Garden's catering service and they do it for cost?"

Selphie shot Irvine a dangerous green glare and Irvine wisely decided to meditate upon the glory of origami napkins.

"I'm giving you twenty minutes to be up here with those placecards AND the crab rangoon, or it's THE END for you, pal!" Selphie shut off her cel-phone with a snap.

Irvine, when he wasn't wishing desperately for escape, managed to be awed. You could blow up her home Garden, cancel her garden festival, and suck her friends through time and she'd bounce right back. But put her in charge of one wedding and POOF! Selphie the Amazing Special Events Psycho-Bitch.


He started guiltily, wondering if he'd ever live through the day and while he was dreaming, that he hadn't drunk quite so much at last night's party. "Yeah?"

Selphie scanned the assorted people who were simultaneously trying to avoid her and do their jobs. "Have you seen Zell? He was supposed to pick up the dress uniforms from the cleaners."

"I dunno." Irvine shrugged. "I guess he's still in bed."

Selphie tapped her foot and Irvine began scanning for the nearest exits. "Well would you be a love and find the best man and have him report in, hmmmm?"

Irvine, knowing that sugary tone of voice and scenting a chance to escape, nodded readily. "Yes, ma'am." He was out the door, coat tails flying, before she could order him to do anything else.

10:02 a.m.

Irvine was swearing, and swearing passionately. He really should have left town before this whole thing. Not only was the best man perched on a railing and considering the 30-foot plummet to ocean below him, but the groom was nowhere to be found. Granted, he really could empathize with Zell's predicament, but he couldn't very well report back to Selphie that the best man is contemplating suicide because he's desperately in love with... the groom.

Who is temporarily misplaced.

Quistis had not been too pleased at being drug from her quiet retreat on the bridge to try and talk Zell down, but Irvine could only be so many places at once, and he was afraid that if he stayed out there much longer Zell might convince him to jump with him. It seemed more appealing than trying to find Squall.

With a resigned sigh he straightened the lapels of his jacket and rang the call button on Rinoa's door. "Rinoa? Are you awake? It's Irvine."


Irvine tried the bell again. "Hey, Rinoa, if Squall's in there I don't care, just tell him to put his pants on. We gotta get you two married, you know!

The door whooshed open and Rinoa, bleary-eyed, sniffly, and still in baggy flannel pj's, flung her arms around Irvine and bawled into his vest, "I CAN'T DO IT!"

Irvine tilted his hat back, and let out a low whistle. He wondered if he'd be dead before he hit water, or if he'd have to drown instead. Maybe Zell had some rocks for his pockets...

10:34 a.m.

"For Hyne's sake, Zell, will you come down?" Quistis put her hands on her hips and glared at the Garden's yardarm, where Zell was perched like some bizarre figurehead. "I've already gotten the uniforms, all you have to do is put yours on and hand Squall the damn ring, is that too much to ask?"

"I'm NOT coming down until I can talk to Squall!" Zell folded his arms and stared resolutely at the horizon.

"Squall's BUSY, Zell! This is his wedding day, remember?"

"Of course I remember!" Zell snapped, loosing his patience and nearly his balance. "Why d'you think I'm up here, the view?"

"Because you're INSANE!" Quistis yelled back, secretly envying him the quiet spot. "you decide TODAY that you can't stand to let Squall go?"

"It was last night, actually... after the whipped cream and the-" Zell caught himself before he toppled off the yardarm. Quistis looked a bit green. "He's not doing this cos he loves her or anything, you know? He just doesn't know any better! He thinks it's what he SHOULD be doing!"

"Fine!" Quistis gave up. "If you find him then YOU tell him that. Nobody knows where he is."

"What?" Zell furrowed his brows, thinking hard.


"Nevermind that." Zell swung down from the yardarm with alarming speed. "We gotta find him, c'mon!" He grabbed Quistis by the arm and hauled her after him, back into the Garden.

11:03 a.m.

"Now slow down, Rinoa. Breathe. Here." Irvine produced a clean handkerchief from his vest pocket and gave it to the blubbering sorceress. "You're just nervous, now. It's only cold feet, it won't-"

"It's not cold feet!" Rinoa insisted, rather wetly. She blew her nose loudly and offered Irvine back his hankie. The sharpshooter graciously told her to keep it.

"I really really really LIKE Squall," Rinoa explained. "I mean, who wouldn't? He's a complete babe. And can he kiss? Ohmigod. But he never TALKS to me. And there's that-that THING with him and Seifer way back and now Zell and-" Rinoa paused and looked at Irvine earnestly. "You don't think he's GAY, do you?"

Irvine fidgeted with his ponytail. Apparently he hadn't been so drunk as to forget EVERYthing that happened at the bachelor party. "Well..." Did letting Irvine dump chocolate syrup all over Squall and lick it off again really DEFINE Squall as homosexual? As such? "Umm..."

"Because he's not like, shown much interest in me, really. I mean even when I'm wearing ridiculously slutty clothes, he's always looking off into space or something. I just think it's all because of my mom? Like Squall feels some kind of OBLIGATION to me or something and that's really not a healthy basis for a relationship, right?"

"Actually, I-"

"Of course it's not. And even if it was, I'm not sure I'm ready to commit right now." Rinoa sat down on her rumpled toss-n-turn all night bed. "See, I really young, right? And I've always wanted to make it as a singer, like mom? It really all started when I was five and..."

Irvine pulled his hat over his eyes. He was never, ever getting married.

11:22 a.m.

"Squall." Zell slapped him, hard. "C'mon, Squall. How many fingers am I holding up?"

Squall's grey eyes tried valiantly to focus on Zell's hand, but one iris seemed determined to wander off on its own and look the other way. "24." He tried, then, "The capital of Galbadia," then "I'm sorry instructor, I seem to have left my cat in the suite refrigerator..." His head fell forward again, eyes rolling back.

"Fuck." Zell looked at Quistis for help. "He's totally out of it! What'll we do?"

Quistis was frowning thoughtfully at the mess left in the secret area. "Tell me that that's whipped cream."

"Quisty! I need your help, here!" Zell tried to lift Squall a few times before discovering he was still cuffed to the railing. He reached over to uncuff him and Squall slithered out of his grasp, landing in a dazed pile on the floor.

"Zenogais," he muttered, and slumped face first into Zell's lap.

"We can't take him out of here like that, Zell."

"Well, we can't wash the champagne out of his hair HERE and-"

"I meant," Quistis bent down to sling one of Squall's arms around her neck. "Where are his CLOTHES?"

Zell looked down at Squall's white Balamb-G issue boxers, all he was wearing besides his necklace, gloves, and a pair of striped purple socks. "Ummm...."

"We can't parade him through the halls like this! Everyone will see him!"

"Maybe we could just call the wedding off?"


"Geez, it was just a thought." Zell chewed his lip. "If we can't make it to the dorms, can we make a break for somewhere else? Who's room is closest?"

Quistis and Zell blinked at each other over Squall's inert mass.


11:41 a.m.

"... So then, in eighth grade, I tried to play the oboe, but the talent show was only-Irvine! Are you listening?"

Irvine jumped. "Yeah, yeah, every word. I hear ya." Irvine tried to cover his yawn by scratching his nose.

Rinoa smiled weepily. "So then you underSTAND!" She leaped up and hugged him, around his neck, unfortunately, making Irvine bend almost in half. "It all makes sense, right? You think I'm right?"

Irvine desperately tried to disentangle himself. Rinoa may have been a babe, but sorceresses were definitely OFF his 'to do' list. Especially when they had issues. "Um, yeah, sure. Makes perfect sense. Now can we-"

Rinoa clapped her hands happily. "Fantastic! Well, I guess I better get packed and I can call Zone and Watts about playing guitar and-oh, thank you SO much Irvine!"

"Packed?" Irvine's stomach began to sink. He really should have left town.

"Of course, silly!" Rinoa pulled her massive suitcase out from under the bed and began flinging garments into it. "Like I could start a band HERE. I mean, honestly, you guys, well... anyway. I'm going STRAIGHT to Deling City and getting into daddy's bank account and-Oh! I suppose I should tell Squall about it?"

"You think?" Irvine squeaked. Selphie was going to DETONATE. "Rinoa-"


"Rinoa? You awake? It's Zell!"

Irvine practically fled to the door. The reinforcements had arrived, Zell was off the railing and things were going to turn out just great. "Zell! Thank Hyne, man." He punched the open button, glancing back at Rinoa who was humming the Jazz Remix of "Eyes on me" and trying to shut her suitcase. Several Balamb Garden embroidered towels trailed out the side. "We've got serious prob-" He stopped short as he turned around, looking at Squall, propped between Zell and Quistis. "Aw, Shit. "

"Heh heh, Could we borrow you, for just a moment?" Zell asked.

"We'll bring him right back," Quistis sang out cheerily to Rinoa, who waved back vacantly. Quistis's hand shot out, dragging Irvine out the door.

12:01 p.m.

Cid Kramer was in a fantastic mood. His Garden was full of bustling, happy people, his wife was not possessed by any evil minions of darkness, and he was wearing his very favorite special occasion sweater vest. Life was good. What a wonderful day for a wedding! And even better, he got to perform the ceremony.

Cid loved ceremonies.

"Hello, Children!" He called, and Irvine, Zell, and Quistis screeched to a halt, thwarted in their attempt to sneak by. "Isn't this the most fantastic day? How are all of you?"

"Fine." Quistis said.

"Great," Zell said.

"Good," Irvine said.

"Mrummph," said Irvine's coat and hat, which the three SeeDs seemed to be carrying between them, and wiggled purple striped toes.

Cid chuckled to himself. These young kids and their pranks. As long as it wasn't another Chocobo in the elevator he was quite happy to let them have their fun. "Well, are you all ready for the wedding?"

"Busy!" Quistis trilled, looking glassy.

"Busy!" Irvine and Zell echoed, in unison.

"Wedding?" said the coat. Irvine kicked it, and grinned sheepishly.

"Heh heh.. My coat had a bit too much to drink last night, sir."

"Of course." Cid smiled indulgently. "Well, run along then, my pets, I'm sure you have much to do!"

The three SeeDs and Irvine's coat sleeve saluted, and the strange party shuffled in the direction of the single dorms. Cid watched them go, wistfully. He wished they'd let him in on the fun sometimes.

12:16 p.m.

"Okay, so what's going on?" Safely in Squall's room, Quistis had her back turned, politely talking to the wall as Irvine and Zell stripped Squall down the rest of the way.

"You don't want to know." Irvine shook Squall's shoulders, but he was beyond reach. "Dammit, can't you hold your liquor?"

Zell eyed the taller boy. "You're the one that drug in the keg of that Galbadian stuff. AND the chocolate syrup-"

"That was YOUR idea, Dincht. And you had more than your turn at him so I don't want to hear about it."

"Neither do I," Quistis grumped, secretly taking notes.

Irvine frowned at Squall, and at his dress uniform, still in plastic and hanging on the wall hook. "C'mon, Zell. Let's get him to the shower."

Zell did not appear to hear him, standing and staring with a look of nauseating affection at a buck-naked, mouth-open, passed out Squall Leonheart.

"Zell!" Irvine snapped his fingers in front of Zell's face. "Squall! Shower! STAT!"

"Oh," Zell shook himself. "Oh, yeah. Right." He snatched a towel from the chair and flung it around Squall's hips. There was a GIRL in the room, after all.

"Hey! What am I supposed to do?" Quistis gave up on propriety, getting a nice view of Squall's backside as he was carried out the door.

"Uuff-Go tell Selphie-" Irvine shifted his half of Squall. "What's going on. Tell her to stall. Let them at the refreshments, do a musical interlude, whatever."

"STALL?" Quistis repeated in disbelief. "Over a thousand people are coming to this wedding and you want her to STALL? She'll go ballistic! How long before Squall is conscious?"

"Not Squall I'm worried about." Irvine grinned, looking sickly. "Heh. Go see if you can do something about Rinoa while you're at it."

"Rinoa?" Quistis followed the odd trio to the door of the men's showers, yelling after them. "What about Rinoa?"

"She's leaving to start a music career!" Irvine hollered back over the hiss of the shower. "You better catch her before the next train leaves for Deling City!"

"I'm never getting married," Quistis muttered, stomping towards the ballroom.

12:38 p.m.

"Well," Zell said, optimistically. "He's dressed?"

"He's getting married in an hour, and he's still out cold." Irvine tugged on his ponytail in frustration. "Fuck fuck fuck..."

"We could call off the-"

"Shuttup, Zell. I'm trying to think."

Zell frowned, absently fondling some of Squall's still damp hair. At this rate he was never going to get to tell Squall how he felt. He'd tried, last night, but all three of them had been VERY drunk and Squall probably wouldn't have remembered even if he had been able to tell him. And Zell had such a nice speech laid out, too. He'd composed it on the yardarm sometime before sunrise, thinking how nice it would be to tell Squall everything as the sun was coming up over the ocean. Only Squall hadn't shown up, and even though Zell's speech wasn't high poetry or anything, and he knew it, he was still a bit miffed about not getting to say it as planned. He wondered if Irvine would listen to it for him. Irvine always knew what to say.

(At this moment, Irvine was pacing in a small circle and trying to mentally teleport himself somewhere far, far away, like a tropical island with lots of pineapple flavored drinks and women who wore only grass skirts and suntan lotion.)

But then, Irvine was awfully busy at the moment. Zell looked down at Squall and sighed. It wasn't fair. Squall was just so... so... AWESOME. And BIIIIIG deal if he'd saved Rinoa's life. He'd saved Zell's life too but did he turn around and propose on the balcony while he still had a head full of vintage Winhill bubbly? NOOOOOOO of COURSE not. And Rinoa was just going to throw him away, after everything he'd done, and after he was giving up his life for her (something Zell would never ask) and wanting kids and all that girly stuff (Zell was pretty sure he couldn't cause any problems of that sort in Squall's life) and it wasn't even as if Zell wanted Squall to marry him instead-okay, well maybe a little, but he just didn't want to see Squall give up everything just because the public and Rinoa thought it was a nifty idea. Squall deserved better, with his insecurities and nightmares and angst that Zell understood, not to mention the fact that he had the most fabulous pair of lips on the planet...

Irvine turned around, a question on the tip of his tongue, but he stopped mid-breath. Zell had Squall cradled up in his arms, eyes shut tight as he kissed the unconscious SeeD, fingers combing through fine soft hair. Actions always came easier to Zell than words.

Irvine scuffed his boots on the floor, sighing. Ah, well. It was better than any of HIS ideas.

12:48 p.m.

Nida, looking sharp in his dress uniform, was proudly serving his Garden and his commander when he was presented with a unique challenge. Not one to shirk his assigned duty, he cleared his throat, looked them in the eye, and inquired, "Bride or Groom?"

"Groom," Seifer Almasy growled. "Just get us a good seat, worm. I want to have a good heckling view."

"Are you sure it's not 'bride' Seifer? I mean, I know you used to date her, but then ya kinda sorta used to date Squall too ya know, so-"

"Raijin. Silence!" Fuujin shot him a frosty glare as she accepted Nida's slightly uncomfortable offer of his arm. "Seifer, Mine!"

Raijin hunched down, trailing behind Seifer.

"Geez, ya know? Women get so emotional at weddings."

1:00 p.m.

Quistis spiked the punch bowl with several bottles of Galbadia's finest, found stashed under Irvine's bed. Regulation 4456b: a SeeD is resourceful if not downright devious. At least it might deaden the blow if all the guests were in an alcoholic haze. She wished she could lace the cake with vodka icing, but that would have to wait until after the ceremony.

If there was one...

1:01 p.m.

Laguna Loire and General Caraway decided to have a cup or two of the punch and talk things over, as a parents of the happy couple sort of way, while they waited for the bride and groom to show up.

1:08 p.m.

"So what are you saying, exactly?" Rinoa frowned. "That I can't be one of your group because I have none of the same experiences, I'm half as mature as the rest of you, completely co-dependent, totally useless even when I'm level 99 with all my limit breaks, and all just because I didn't grow up with you in your smelly little orphanage?"

"Basically," Quistis sighed, "Er, yes."

"Oh." Rinoa said. "Okay, I just wanted to be clear on that."

"It's nothing PERSONAL."

"No, really." Rinoa smiled. "It's a big relief, actually. I was getting tired of pretending to be interested in guns and guardian forces and all that sort of thing. I only got into the revolution gig because it would piss off my dad-that and the boys thought it was sexy. Have I ever told you about the first time Seifer-"

"Yes." Quistis looked ill. "Repeatedly."

"Oh, well, anyway. I should thank you, Quistis. You've just made me feel better about my decision." Rinoa tossed her hair. "I really SHOULDN'T be marrying Squall. I mean, I don't even know anything about him." Rinoa put her head to the side. "Hey-maybe YOU should-"

"No." Quistis retorted. "I don't want to get on THAT train again. Look." She eyed her watch, tapping a foot thoughtfully. "We've got 45 minutes to come up with SOMETHING. Let's get everyone all rounded up and see what we can do."

"Right. Oh, and Quistis?"


"Thanks. Everybody was really sweet to let me tag along... and come rescue me, and put up with Squall's hormones." Rinoa grinned. "But you're the only one that's ever sat me down and told me the truth."

1:27 p.m.

Eight cups later, there was still no sign of Squall and Rinoa, and things were beginning to get a little ugly by the punch bowl.

"All things considered you've done rather well for yourself," Caraway harrumphed, his nose bright pink as he took a healthy swig of his punch. "As it were?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Laguna demanded. He was a laid back guy, but the General's snide comments were starting to irritate him. Officers like Caraway were why Laguna was glad to be out of the army. "As it were?"

"Well, you know." Caraway smiled, not very nicely. "For, well, a blundering upstart."

"Upstart!?" Laguna set his cup down with a clank. "I'm the president of the single most powerful nation on the planet, you overgrown spice rack!"

"Ha! Powerful?" Caraway waved a hand in dismissal. "Galbadia, now THAT's Powerful, but YOU guys? Drop one itty bitty lunar cry on your capital city and the whole nation goes berserk! You couldn't defend yourselves if your lives depended on it! Some president YOU are."

Laguna seethed. "Well at least I AM President, GENERAL."

"Only because you're an army deserter! You go AWOL on everything, don't you? Your country, your girlfriend, your kid-"

"It's just lucky for you I DID pal, cos you wouldn't have gotten laid if I hadn't! Ha! Whadda do? Order your men to the back of beyond just when they get cozy with the lounge singer they love? And THEN you come wriggling in and STEAL her and-"

"You LEFT, you worthless, irresponsible-"

"Better that than a stuffed-shirt, pinheaded anal-retentive-"

"You're one to talk about ANAL, Mr. President! Don't get me started on the topic of your spandex-loving 'secretary.' You think I want my child married to your queer-boy gene pool?"


"Ward, have you seen Laguna?" Kiros scanned the crowds of people waiting to be seated for the event.


"Ahh.. by the refreshment table. Well, he can't get into too much trouble over there."


"Ha! How right you are! I too find Laguna's endless social faux paus to be a source of great amusement! You are especially right about his boyish charm and winsome appeal that makes him endearing even at his most foot-in-mouth moments."


Yes, I think so too. But Zell is much more hyper whereas Laguna is a very relaxed fellow. For instance, I never have to worry about Laguna getting into a fist-"

"FIGHT! FIGHT!!" A group of students yelled, rushing over to the sounds of combat and the tight knot of SeeD cadets and classmen gathered around the punch table. They jumped quickly out of the way as one Galbadian general flew out of the impromptu ring, smacking into a column and sliding to the floor.

"Ah-HA!" Laguna hopped out, brandishing his fist. "I may be a fruit but I can still kick your wussy right-wing ASS!! Take THAT you pompous-OWW.. OW ow OW that hurts." He sucked his knuckles, hopping a little and wincing. "You got a HEAD like a BRICK!"

General Caraway, flat on the parquet floor, was in no condition to retort.


"You've got that right, my friend. A VERY long wedding."


1:30 p.m.


"Okay, I'm calm, I can handle this." Selphie was pacing back and forth in the library, where Quistis and Rinoa had struggled to get everybody involved together to come up with a quick plan of action. "Basically, what you're telling me is the groom," she pointed to Squall, looking magnificent in his dress uniform save for the small detail of him being out cold and drooling on Zell's shoulder, "Is unconscious and the bride," she pointed at Rinoa, perched on a library table "Is going to run away and start a rock band and the best man," she frowned at Zell, "Is madly in love with the GROOM who as previously stated is out like a light. The Father of the groom just got into a fist-fight with the father of the bride who is in the infirmary with an ice pack and everyone else," she waved a hand, "expects ME to come up with something in ten minutes even though I've been planning this event for months and right now I AM ON MY VERY LAST NERVE AND DO NOT NEED THIS KIND OF PRESSURE. Am I right on all of that?"

"Yeeeessss..." Irvine answered warily, hoping he was out of range. "Honey... now, don't get upset, Seifie? It's all gonna work out, okay? Princess?"

"I'm fine." Selphie said, very calmly. "I am perfectly fucking fine. Really. Now then, could someone inform me as to what I should tell the ONE THOUSAND FIFTY SEVEN PEOPLE OUT THERE THAT HAVE ORDERED EITHER THE BALAMB FISH OR THE BBQ CHOCOBO?!"

"Heh, Really, sweets," Irvine grinned from behind his chair. "You're taking this better than I thought.

"Irvine," Quistis murmured, "You're sniveling."

"Right." Irvine cleared his throat and carefully sat back down. "Sorry. Okay, does ANYBODY have any ideas? Zell?"

Zell was staring dreamily at Squall, nestled on his shoulder. "Hmmmm?"

"Nevermind. Laguna?"

"Well," Laguna scratched his head with his unbandaged hand. "I wish we could talk to Squall about this one. I mean, it IS his life, you know? But the crowd out there isn't going to take just any excuse. It's gotta be something good. Something scandalous, even. So the press'll be happy."

Everyone was quiet for a long moment, thinking hard.

"What if we tell them she's my sister?"

Zell shook his head. "I dunno, Squall... it might be hard to-SQUALL!!"

"Ow." Squall put a finger to his ear. "Not so LOUD. I have chocobos galloping through my brain."

Rinoa hopped off the desk to enthusiastically hug her erstwhile fiancée. "Squall! Oh, I'm so glad you're alright. I was worried sick and Squall, I can't marry you. It's not you, it's me. Okay, yeah it's really you. But then there's Zell and the gay thing, and Quistis said something about chocolate syrup, and I really don't know if I'm ready for that yet, and-"

"You want to start a band, I know, I know." Squall rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I was awake for the summing-up." He blinked up at Laguna. "Did you really deck Caraway?"

Laguna grinned and brandished his bandaged hand.

"Way to go Laguna." Squall smirked.

"You can congratulate him later." Quistis was looking at the clock and trying not to twitch. She hated last minute anything. "right now we need a plan, yesterday. What was that about sisters?"

Rinoa brightened. "Of course! That's perfect! We'll tell them that when dad married mom she was already pregnant, and they just lied about my birthday so it wouldn't be a scandal, and so really me and Squall are half-brother and sister! No way we can get married now!"

Laguna frowned puzzlement. "Wait a minute. I never slept-"

Zell leapt up, clamping a hand over Laguna's mouth and nodding enthusiastically. "Yes! That's right! Absolutely! I-I was there!"

Laguna looked at Zell and looked a Squall and then thought that for once, he really knew what was going on. "Oh," he said when Zell let him have his mouth back. "Oh, YEAH! Right! It... it was all very TRAGIC, actually..."

Irvine elbowed him. "Don't overdo it, Laguna."

"Right. Sorry."

"Okay!" Rinoa hopped up. "Great! So the wedding's off, and we've got a good reason, and we'll just have to apologize to the guests that we only found out about this today, and Dad's out COLD so he won't argue; he didn't want me to marry Squall anyway." Rinoa blinked. "Hey... I guess that's why I was doing it." She giggled. "But he wants me to be a rock star even LESS so-"

"Just. One. Minute."

Everyone turned to look at Selphie, and then recoiled just a bit. The perky SeeD was standing very still, and seemed to be glowing faintly. "Do you realize what I have been going through to organize this event? Do you have any IDEA how hard it is to get two thousand identically pressed NAPKINS? DO you?" She looked up, green eyes baleful. "Now get this. I don't care WHO it is, but SOMEBODY is getting MARRIED today or SO HELP ME I will NOT be responsible for my ACTIONS!!"

Zell was the first to recover, since Squall was still hungover and everyone else was too busy wondering if Selphie's head was going to spin around. He stumbled to his knees so fast he got carpet-burn, reaching out and taking Squall's hand.

"Squall. Marry me."

"What?" Squall wished he hadn't swiveled around so fast; the rest of the room was slow to follow.

Zell tried again.

"Okay.IknowI'macompleteloserbutIthinkyou'refuckingawesomeandI'vebeeninlovewithyousincedayoneandIknowhowyoufeelandjustthinkofallthereallygood*ahem*wecouldhaveandifyoudon'twannathat'sfineIunderstandbutatleastItriedsodon'tkillmeplease." Breath. Squall hadn't punched him yet. "I love you. Marry me." There. It wasn't the speech he had planned...but at least it was something. And this way Squall could tell him No, you freak! and Zell could go jump off the yardarm with a clear conscience.


Zell blinked. "You... you will? You mean it?"

Squall smiled. "Sure. Why not?" He narrowed his eyes, trying to recall. "that... that was YOU last night, right? With the syrup?"

Irvine stepped forward. "Actually-OW!"

Quistis finished grinding her boot into Irvine's toes. "Shut up and let the boy propose, Irvine."

Irvine scowled. "Damn but you're bitchy. Are all women like this at weddings?"


"Fine then, I'm never getting married."

"Good, me either."


"Never." Quistis rocked back on her heels and Irvine adjusted his ponytail.

"So Quisty," Irvine began.


"After this is all over-"


"How would you feel about having some really kinky sex?"

"You're on."

Rinoa and Laguna, standing close together, looked wistfully at Zell and Squall in a lip lock and then beamed teary at each other.

"I just love weddings!" Laguna sniffled.

"Me too," Rinoa said, and gave Laguna Irvine's hankie. "Here."

"Thanks. What kind of a band are you starting?"

Rinoa rubbed her eyes on her silly blue sleeve-thingie. "I dunno. Something fun. Maybe swing."

Laguna shnucked thoughtfully. "You need a bassist?"

"Okay! Okay, break it up!" Selphie waved her arms, trying to disentangle Squall and Zell. "Fine. You two are our new couple. I'm gonna go tell Cid so he can fix the vows. Meantime, Zell, get in your uniform. It should be in your room." She stared at the others. "That goes for the rest of you, too! C'mon! Move it! It's ten minutes to magic-time!"

1:42 p.m.

Cid didn't like this turn of events one little bit. He only liked to give speeches if there was nobody really listening, and this one really didn't qualify. Edea was much better at such things, but she felt it best to keep a low profile and was sitting quietly in the third row. No way to ask her for help, not now. "Ladies and Gentlemen?"

More pairs of eyes than he cared to count all turned to face him, a hush fell over the bright spring afternoon in the Quad. "Um, We have a teensy weensy change to make in today's schedule..."

1:53 p.m.

"Selphie, Selphie, What do I do?" Zell was bordering on frantic, bouncing at the door to the Quad. "I wasn't paying attention to Rinoa at the rehearsal! Right foot or left? Where do I stand what do I do when do I-"

"Zell, RELAX." Selphie smiled sweetly and squeezed his shoulders. All the food was in place, with namecards, and it had done much to improve her disposition. "All you do is walk in with me and Quistis and Squall and Laguna and Irvine will come in from the other side, at the same time. You're not a bride so you don't have to march in or anything." She paused, thoughtful. "Although if you wanted to wear Rinoa's dress-"

"Hell no." Zell retorted. "It'd clash with my tattoo."

"I was only kidding, Zell, Gee!"

Zell got the distinct impression she wasn't.

"Look just put the ring on him, say I do, and kiss him. It's that simple. You want to do this, Right?"

Zell looked over at Squall, in a tight knot with Irvine and Quistis, apparently getting a pep-talk of his own. He glanced over Quistis's head and smiled encouragingly at Zell, who felt his knees go watery.

"Yeah, yeah, I wanna." He glanced at the guests, buzzing with gossip over Cid's announcement. "are ah, are they all gonna watch?"

Selphie grinned. "Don't worry. You'll be great."

1:59 p.m.

"Hi." Rinoa said, a little breathlessly as she scooted in the seat next to Fuujin. "You guys mind if I sit here?"

Seifer was still laughing his ass off, courtesy of Cid's announcement, and wouldn't have noticed if Ultimecia herself had plunked down next to him. He had also drunk a lot of punch.

Raijin, who had always kinda liked Rinoa, scooted over cheerfully. "Here, you can sit next to me, ya know? Gosh, you're brave to be sticking around. Good sport, ya know? Too bad about you and Squall bein' related."

"Yeah," Seifer shnarked into his sleeve. "Too bad."

"Behave." Fuujin admonished. "Wedding, starting."

2:00 p.m.

The Balamb Garden Bells began playing and Quistis gave Zell a little swat to get him going. The Six of them made a fine set as they divided and marched down either side of the rows of seating, Laguna in an honorary uniform to match the rest of the wedding party. They filed neatly into place and Zell and Squall took their positions and Cid beamed at them, and began his introductory speech. "Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together, today..."

2:47 p.m.

"...blah blah blah and remember to leaveglowingfeedbackfortheauthor."

"Zell, wake up, he's done." Quistis gave him a poke, Zell seemed to be listing distinctly. Oh well, poor kid hadn't had any sleep last night.

The audience collectively shook itself, and Raijin tapped Rinoa, who had dozed off on his arm. "Psst? Rinoa? He's done talking, ya know?"

Rinoa blinked sleepily at Raijin, and smiled.

Raijin blushed.

"ahem, now then, Do you, Squall, take Zell as your lawfully, lawfully wedded type person, to have hold and blah blah blah nobody listens to Cid anyway for as long as you both shall live?"

Squall shrugged. "Whatever."

Irvine gave him a subtle kick.

"I mean, I do."

"Zell, do you take Squall as your life and death, honor and glory, SeeD! The pride of Balamb Garden yakety schmackety don't I look like Robin Williams for as long as you both shall live or until this save file is erased?"

Zell nodded so hard that Squall was tempted to adjust the vertical hold. "yeahIdothat'srightIdoyes."

"Now, by exchanging of vows and rings, I-"

"What rings?" Zell hissed, to Squall. "We didn't do the rings."

"You forgot the rings, Cid."

Cid shuffled his notes. "Did I? Oh, dear, so I did. Alright then, Zell, give Squall his ring and say the vows you prepared."

"Prepared?" Zell couldn't hide the note of panic. "No repeat after you? Nobody told me I had to have vows? When was this assigned? I was sick that day! My moomba ate it! I-"

"Zell." Quistis tapped him, handing him the gold band for Squall. "Just say what you feel, okay?"

Zell swallowed hard. "um, here's your ring, Squall. I uh, I know I just proposed to you today and stuff but um, I just want to make sure you're always happy. Okay, um, and I love you. That's it." He wiped one clammy hand on his uniform leg (to the charmed delight of the audience, who had never seen such a spectacle) and slid Squall's ring on his finger.

From the Disciplinary Committee row there was a distinct sniffle. Fuujin, Raijin, and Rinoa all turned to gape at its source.

"What?" Seifer demanded, indignant. "Can't I be a sensitive guy?"

Rinoa handed him a rather crunchy handkerchief. "here."

"Okay, vows." Squall looked at Zell's hand in his own.

(Okay, Squall, you can do this. Just look him in the eye and say what you're feeling. But what is this I'm feeling? Is it love? Or just lust? I mean, is marrying for lust wrong? Even if the sex'll be fantastic? But I don't think it's lust. If it's lust then I would be over it by now, right? And I'd think the tattoo was weird and not graceful like smooth black sensuous lines of ink, spilled on my lovers skin in slow curls like shadows on snow and... Does everyone think I'm gay now? Am I? Is that bad? Is it cool? Could I write a best selling book about it? Will it explain my psychoses? I mean, I have a lot of them, and maybe it's just because I come from the world's most dysfunctional family. But can I BLAME my problems on Laguna? Would people think worse of me if I DID? What do people think of me now? Probably that I should be saying my vows... VOWS! ZELL! MARRIAGE!)


Zell blushed. He knew what Squall meant.

Irvine passed Squall Zell's ring and Squall hesitated, eyeing the band and Zell's fingers. The ring he had was made for Rinoa, no way was it going to fit Zell. "Um..."

"Don't worry about it," Zell muttered. "Just fake it, you can get me one later."

Squall lowered his brows, making his scar ripple. "I want you to have one now. You SHOULD have one now."

"Psst. Kiddo. Here." Squall turned to his escort, and Laguna dropped something into his hand. "It'll do."

Squall turned the warm gold band over in his palm, and smiled faintly. Laguna's left ring finger was blatantly lacking its usual decoration. "Thanks, Dad."

Laguna tried to pretend he wasn't teary-eyed. "Yeah, well. Just take care of it."

Squall carefully placed the ring on Zell's finger, and winked. "Almost done, Zell."

"Can we sleep through our honeymoon?"

"God, I hope so."

"Right." Cid nodded, eager to get on with it now that the long bits were over. "Now by the power vested-"

The wedding party, as one, looked at Cid's vest and stifled a snigger.

"-In me, I now pronounce you man and-um, pronounce you married."

Zell, glad that this was all over, turned expectantly to Squall so he could get his token peck on the cheek and they could get the hell out of here. Squall caught his new partner's glance and raised an eyebrow, trouble in his eyes.

Zell swallowed hard. "Squall, you wouldn't... not in front of all these peop-MMMMFFFTHHT- mmmmmmm...."

3:43 p.m.

"You're kidding." Zell stared at the bouquet in his hand. "Do I gotta?"

"It's TRADITION," Selphie insisted, and in a lower voice added, "or else."

Zell gulped. "Right."

"C'mon, Chicken-wuss!" Seifer yelled, from the audience. "Throw your pansy-ass flowers!!"

Zell narrowed his eyes, and grinned. "Sure."

The bundle of peach roses and orange blossoms bypassed the hopeful females, and smacked Seifer Almasy right between the eyes.

Fuujin, twirling Zell's garter on one fingertip, looked at the former knight and smiled. Seifer turned a distinct shade of crimson. ", it's just superstition, Fuu. Fuu?"

10:48 p.m.

Zell rested his cheek on the cool marble railing of the ballroom balcony, letting the cool night breeze rumple his hair. He'd never been so tired. Not even after the battle with Ultimecia. He held his hand up to the moonlight, dreamily. The thick gold band winked back at him, next to Squall's Griever ring on his middle finger. Rinoa had passed that along to him right before she took off to Timber with Balamb's former Disciplinary Committee.

"Not tired, are you?"

Zell turned around to see Squall leaning in the doorway, the collar of his dress uniform jacket undone and glass of champagne undrunk in one hand. The party went on behind him, not noticing that both the guests of honor had slipped away.

"Who me? Nah. What did I do today to get tired?" Zell had to cover a yawn halfway through the statement.

Squall smiled faintly, and walked over to lean on the ledge next to Zell. Zell watched him carefully for a long moment, then looked up at the sky full of stars. "What do you see?"

Squall said nothing, but lifted one hand to the heavens as a meteorite descended, streaking silver fire behind it. Zell watched it fall, and was just turning to ask Squall if he'd made a wish when Squall reached out and pulled Zell against him, leaning down for a kiss.

The Garden caught an updraft and was buoyed up above the ocean, framed against the moon like an opal set in silver.

"...And that's a cut!" the director waved his arm and the cast cheered, hopping down from the Garden-set in the bluescreen soundstage. Irvine tossed his hat in the air, and kissed any females in easy reach. Seifer and Fuujin walked on from the back of the set to chat it up with the rest of the cast. Raijin, arm around Rinoa's shoulders, suggested going out to celebrate and before long the set was empty, dark and quiet.

"They all gone?" Zell poked his head around the fake plaster balcony wall.

Squall nodded. "Think so."

They blinked at each other. "So," Zell said.

"You wanna...?" Squall asked.

Zell blushed.

Squall grinned and, scooping Zell up in his arms, carried him off the set.


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