.-: Chapter Ten :-.

The Closer Beginning

Rinoa couldn't arrange the bachelorette party for that weekend, but she was able to get everything worked out for the following, two weeks before the wedding. Then there would be the first rehearsal on Sunday and the final rehearsal the following Saturday with dinner directly after. Then it would be only a week before the wedding. I didn't mind the postponement of the party. It gave Zell and me a weekend to ourselves so that we could work on moving more of the major stuff to our new room at Balamb Garden. The bedroom set and dining room set were arriving today and we wanted to have a general idea of where everything was going before they got there.

"Do you need any help with that?" Zell asked.

I smiled over my shoulder at him as he easily hauled the cardboard 'stor-all' box of books to his shoulder. "I'm okay, sweetie. It's my 'I wish I were a civilian' wardrobe, so it's light."

"Okay." He nudged me out the door to my boxed up room. "You said the delivery guys'll be here at 13:00 hours?"

I nodded. Talking in military time was Zell's newest infatuation. He said it sounded cool. Like he was a spy. To me it just sounded adorable.

"And they're delivering the bed and the dining room sets?"

I nodded again, watching Zell's serious expression with a smile.

He gave a curt nod. "Good. I'm tired of sleeping on the floor."

Zell had boxed up, moved, and somewhat organized his stuff in the apartment the week before. Apparently he'd promised his room to one of his senior candidates when they graduated. They'd aced their Field Exam and graduated at rank 9. So, for the past week, Zell had been sleeping on the floor in our new home "getting it warmed up for us," as he said.

"I would have asked Janine to borrow her roll away cot," I reminded.

"And not have a reason for your backrubs?" Zell's face twisted. "Tch! Yeah, right!"

I wrinkled my nose at him and gave his arm a nudge with my elbow. Three weeks, Sally. Three very long weeks. I wasn't sure I could make it, but I knew I had to do my best. Even Zell was looking forward to "this shnazzy shindig" as he'd said once. The reason being we were putting so much hard work into it. I was looking forward to it, too, it's just that every day closer to our wedding made me wish even more that it had already come and gone.

You know?

Zell nudged me back, his usual boyish smile making him look so adorable and 'hot' that I would have gladly dropped my box of 'civvies' for a nice long--

"I heard the guys are putting together a bachelor party for me next weekend," he told me.

I blinked, smile vanishing as memories of walking in on my brother's second bachelor party flamed my cheeks red. I looked ahead. "That's nice," I said softly. Now, tell me again why that tradition started?

"I told them that if they get me a stripper," Zell said in my ear, causing a squeak as I startled and looked over at him and into his twinkling dark blue eyes... "I'll club 'em with their own limbs."

A smile couldn't help but come. I mean, he was so... so... so Zell. And it was really amazing how he knew exactly what to say to make me feel better. Well, of course there were times when he was a little clueless and said something that I took the wrong way. But I didn't remember those times. I mean, he would apologize when he found out that it hadn't come across the way he'd wanted. That is, when I would actually confess to having my feelings hurt rather than keeping it inside. Then he would try again, all the while making sure I wasn't mad or hurt or anything like that.

Being married to Zell would be as wonderful as being his friend and girlfriend and fiancee.

Zell adjusted his hold on the box on his right shoulder and reached up to tenderly pinch my chin, just like his mother always did, still smiling that wonderfully soft smile that made me shiver and swoon. Just like in the movies. I wrinkled my nose at him, my eyes crinkling at the corners the same as they twinkled.

"I love you," I told him.

His ears reddened, but he said "I love you, too, kitten," before his smile grew boyish and drop-dead cute. "Can we make out a little before the delivery guys get there?"

Okay! was what my heart and mind screamed as my face flamed and I looked ahead. And don't think saying 'no' was easy! Being around Zell and not making out was the hard part. I was always afraid that once I started kissing him things would get out of control, like they had at Winhill. And almost at the apartment before. I didn't want to ruin everything. I wanted to show him how much I cared by sticking to our agreement to wait.

"I don't know if that would be such a good idea, Zell," I admitted softly. Even though I so wanted to.

Zell stepped close - oh so close... - and wrapped his arm around me to pull me in beside him. He kissed my temple. "Yeah. I know. We're both kinda hot and heavy for the wedding, huh?"

And I could just die admitting how true it was, but I nodded. Confessing something like that was important. So he could know. So I could know that he knew. So that we both knew that we were both eager. Oh man... But it was okay. Mom said so. I cleared my throat and confessed, "You don't know how many times I've wanted to sneak to your room with my bags packed and elope." And that made me feel as if I would melt then and there.

Zell chuckled. "Ditto." He kissed my temple again just as we arrived outside our new room - well, in three weeks it would be 'ours'. Then he pulled his key card out and unlocked the door to usher me inside.

There were labeled boxes in almost every room, although the kitchen supplies that Zell had been able to bring from his room were put away. He hadn't brought any of his furnishings, waiting instead for our new stuff from Deling City. So there were books in boxes, posters rolled up and set on top of boxes, videos in boxes waiting for the living room set we hadn't decided on, and his computer and computer desk - which was the only piece of furniture in the room.

"Are these duty books or leisure books?" he asked as he stepped further into the apartment.

I looked around the cluttered rooms with a silly smile. It still looked as wonderful as ever, clutter or no clutter, and I could still see scenes of our up-and-coming life together. I sighed. It's happening. It's really happening. My eyes focused on Zell as he straightened after setting the box of books on top of one of his boxes. Our gazes met, and he sent me a cute little smirk before coming over to get the box of clothes from me.

"I'll go put this in our room," he said, and the 'our' felt better than anything.

I giggled but didn't trust myself to say anything but nonsense. Zell chuckled and turned away, moving through the dining room to disappear into the bedroom. I looked around the apartment again, rotating in a circle as I dreamed of where to put what. Then I had to tell myself it wasn't a dream. It was a plan because it was really happening.

"We better move these boxes in the dining room out of the way," Zell said as he returned from the bedroom.

I faced him, still with the dreamy smile, and sighed. "Hmm?"

Zell chuckled, shaking his head as he came up to me... Wow he smells good. "I said we better move these boxes out of the way. They won't be able to put the dining set in if there's a bunch of crap there."

I couldn't answer. I could only smile up at him and occasionally wrinkle my nose or crinkle my eyes.

Zell laughed and gently pinched my nose. "Stop that, Meg, or we're not going to get any work done." He took a hand and gave it a squeeze, still smiling that boyish quirk as he pulled me over toward the dining room. "Come on. Let's move these boxes to one side, so they'll have a place to put the table. Then we can make goo-goo eyes at each other."

I giggled. "I'm sorry, sweetie. I just can't believe this is happening. I get caught up in dreamland more often now." I heaved a box of books with an "oomph" and carefully moved over to the far left side of the dining area.

Zell followed a little after with another one, setting it on top of mine. "I know what you mean." Then he faced me and nudged me toward another set of boxes. "Meg, come on," he laughed. "You keep staring at me like that and I'm gonna take steps."

I flushed. "Sorry. I haven't seen you much lately, so I find myself watching you more." And I turned to give him a hug, resting my cheek against his dark blue t-shirt with a sigh. "At least one of your candidates has graduated now," I whispered.

His arms surrounded me as he said, "Yeah. Tell me about it. It's like a mini-vacation." Then he momentarily tightened his hold before gently pushing back. He kissed my nose. "Now come on. Let's get these things moved, so we can finish bringing more of your boxes over, so we can have some make-out time before the delivery guys get here."

I flushed and giggled and nodded, my head swimming in happy euphoria that would have made even the heartiest of romantics overdose.

Unfortunately, the delivery guys were on time and it took Zell and I a little longer than we thought it would to get things ready for them. So, we didn't get to make-out at all.

Which was probably safer anyway.

Then, we were so excited with the new furniture that we started rearranging things before going into town to buy bookcases and end tables and lamps and... well, you get the picture. We spent most of the night that Saturday putting together those same bookcases and end tables and then arranging reading books and textbooks into just the right place. Zell didn't walk me to my room until about two o'clock in the morning, and then we were too tired to do much more than kiss - nothing earth shattering - before both of us stumbled off to bed to dream of married life.

That next day we were organizing RSVPs from the invitations, finalizing seating plans for the dinner at Balamb Garden's Reception, making sure Francine had enough food and drink, and then picking final designs for the fern and flower decorations for the ceremony. We only got to sneak away to the Training Center once that Sunday on the pretense of making sure seating arrangements were going to work out right. Then we hurried over to the Forbidden Area and got some alone time for holding and kissing.

It was just what both of us needed in the midst of a hectic weekend and a coming hectic couple of weeks.

Then it was back to work as usual for both of us, with the understanding that we would cut out our work-outs until after the wedding and the honeymoon. Of course, I only gave up the time when Zell suggested we get together in the evenings instead for dinner and talk. Believe me, I couldn't agree fast enough.

The week before the bachelorette/bachelor parties sped by in a whirlwind of work, wedding plans, reception plans, honeymoon 'okays', and dreams of what being a 'wife' actually meant. My mom and I spent a lot of time talking on the phone, in fact. We didn't talk much about Zack's elopement with Quistis, as we'd both given up talking sense into him, but she gave me wonderful advice on what to expect and what not to expect.

I'd rather not talk about it. ...ahem.

Next thing I knew it was Friday evening and Zell kissed me good-bye moments before I was practically stuffed into the car with Selphie, Janine, and - shock of all amazing shocks - Ahndra while Rinoa giggled and took off down the road. I could barely fully close the door.

The bachelorette party itself passed in a blur of laughter - smirks from Ahndra - horribly dirty jokes, stories about guys I'd rather not have heard, and then sappy movies where the hero always got the girl. I don't think we unrolled our sleeping bags until three or four in the morning. And even then Rinoa, Selphie, and me continued to talk about 'girl stuff' - occasionally colored by a scoff or slight chuckle from Janine. Ahndra didn't do much but watch and listen, although I really appreciated her being there.

The next morning after breakfast - brunch, really - we laughed over coffee and bad cookies we'd made the night before while talking about the wedding and the reception and the dresses and then the honeymoon Zell had finalized the previous Thursday. Ahndra offered some surprising do's and don'ts as to places to see and places not to see because of security risks, but mostly she was still quiet and observing more than anything. Janine confessed that she tried to hire a stripper but that both Rinoa and Ahndra had nipped it in the bud. Selphie protested that she hadn't even heard about it, and then we all laughed - I could have sworn I heard a soft chuckle from Ahndra, too - and went on talking about nonsense.

Zell called some time during the laughter to say "Hello" and let me know that anything stupid had been cut to the quick. They'd mostly hung out at the half a dozen or so bars in Deling City before crashing at the hotel. Zell confessed that he might have kissed a girl that looked like me, but then Marshal had shouted from the background that it had actually been a street lamp. I told the girls and they all howled anew, even Ahndra. Well, she smiled wider anyway.

Jaxon hadn't been able to make it to the bachelor party, something about a security issue, but Zell said he, Squall, Irvine, Marshal, and Seifer - yes! Seifer! - had found enough trouble to get into to make the night out fun enough. "I'll tell you all about it when I see you tomorrow at the rehearsal," he'd promised, and then voiced he loved me and said that he and the guys were going to go to either Timber or Deling Garden to cause more trouble.

I felt as if I were already married and the 'mister' had just checked in with the 'missus' before hanging out with the guys.

The phone call and the resulting expression on my face of course led to more sappy discussions that had Janine protesting throughout. I noticed she had a twinkle in her eye, though, hinting that she more than likely thought about her own 'lover-boy'. Ahndra never once protested the romantic nonsense discussed. She only quietly sat on the couch or at the table - depending upon where the discussion was happening - and listened without comment while sipping her coffee.

It didn't seem as if she wasn't enjoying herself.

Then the evening had come and Selphie was helping Rinoa set up the piano for my performance that evening while Janine and Ahndra set up the chairs in Rinoa's large living room. Believe it or not, nervousness couldn't make it through the heavy fog of happiness and expectation to being married and seeing Zell the following day. To be honest, I think the fact that I thought about him and what we were getting ready to experience together is what helped me perform the song "better than the original artist!", as Selphie and Rinoa had agreed after the fact.

And I don't remember singing.

That evening, though perhaps I should say 'early the next morning', I snuck out of Rinoa's bedroom and took up the phone to call Zell's mobile. He answered with a softly spoken, "Hey, kitten," which had me aglow.

I lowered myself into the corner of the couch and brought my feet up as I smiled and whispered, "Hey, handsome. Did you have fun today?"

"Yeah. It was great to hang out and cause trouble. Felt like old times."

"Did you and Seifer get along okay?"

"He was the designated driver, and you know what? He's a lot funnier when I'm buzzed off my ass."

I softly giggled. "I'm glad you had fun."

Zell chuckled. "How was life with the Trouble Brigade?"

"A lot of laughing. A lot of bad jokes and horrible stories. And a lot of fun." I traced a pattern on the back of the couch, watching the action of my finger with a wistful gaze. "It's been so much fun, Zell. I never thought being in a group could be like this."

"I'm glad, kitten. It's no fun to hide in the corner all your life, huh?"

I shook my head. "But thanks to you, I'm out of the corner."

Zell chuckled. "No, Meg. You did it yourself. I'll take a little credit, but not all of it. Remember, you had to get the ball rolling."

I smiled. "Uh-huh." I released a deep breath and closed my eyes. "I really, really love you, Zell."

I heard him release a deep breath before he said, "And I really, really love you, Sally. Now go get some sleep. I'll see you tomorrow for the rehearsal."

"Alright. Good night, sweetie."

"G'night, kitten."

I clicked off the phone and then stared down at it, softly smiling before hugging it to my chest and squeezing my eyes shut tight. I'm getting married to Zell Dincht!

It was the ultimate Happily Ever After.

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