.-: Chapter Twelve :-.

Happily Ever After

I wasn't supposed to see the bride the day of the wedding. 'It's bad luck!' Selphie had screeched through the door, me on the other side trying to push it open. 'Come on! I want to give Meg a good-bye kiss before going to get Jax from Deling! Lemme in!' 'No! You'll kiss plenty after you're married, now git!'

I chuckled and gave a shake of my head as I stepped forward into Deling Garden. The last class for the day was in-session, so most of the 'attitude' was gone. There were the occasional SeeDs along the way - very few of those - but we barely exchanged salutes and nods as they went about the final duties of preparation for the Reception there later in the evening. Sometimes I wondered if the Instructors felt as if they'd been written off from the rest of the Network, but I knew Squall did his damndest to make up for their shitty placement. Benefits at Deling Garden rocked.

The security office bustled more than usual, and occasionally I thought I heard the name 'Regal' when one Security Officer passed off an assignment to another. That made me smile. I mean, come on. My timid little Sally Regal had people hoppin' all the way over here. It was great, especially when I knew she was clueless as to how much power she held.

It meant she wouldn't abuse it.

I knocked on Jaxon's door and then entered-- and immediately stopped. "...the hell?"

Weapons of all description and style hung from the walls, rested on the chairs, or in the shelves of the bookcases. And I mean every kind. There were crossbows, polearms, hammers, axes... you name it and they were there.

Jaxon looked up from his desk. "Dincht." He checked his watch. "Hm. Time flies when you're having a hellish day." He motioned me in. "I'll need another moment, and then we can go."

"No prob." I closed the door after me and stepped up to his desk, picking up an ugly misshapen lump of metal with a wooden handle sticking out of it. It had been resting on a stack of papers to the right, probably as a paperweight, and barely resembled anything. "What the hell is this?"

Jaxon lifted his gaze from the reports on his desk and focused on the glob of metal with an immediate smirk. "Think of it as where my life was before. Two years of that."

I turned it over in my hands as Jaxon stood and made his way to a rack above his door. I faced him in time to watch him bring down a beautifully crafted halberd. "Dude. That's awesome." I set down the hunk of twisted metal and moved to stand beside him.

"This is where I'm headed." Jaxon closely, and almost fondly, examined the weapon before focusing on me. "You and Sally were so right, Zell. About Elle and not letting myself forget her. She's a part of me I don't want to lose. It hurts like hell, but I'm going to remember her. She deserves that much." Jaxon focused again on the double-bladed weapon in his hands. "So, I'm putting my time to good use. I'm making things rather than destroying them. And, believe it or not, the immersion in the craft seems to help."

He put the halberd back up and continued to stare at it as I watched him. Then I chucked him on the arm, drawing his focus. "Just remember no one's expecting you to do this cold."

One side of Jaxon's lips twitched. "Thanks, Zell."

"Sure." I gestured over my shoulder to his desk. "You done?"

"Basically." He moved to his desk and retrieved a pair of file folders as well as his jacket. Then we stepped from his office. He turned the folders in to the Head of Deling security and then shrugged into his jacket as we made our way out toward the main corridor.

"I heard from Sally yesterday that you got in at Balamb for sure. Squall gave his okay."

Jaxon lightly smirked. "Yep. It only took a year."

"Tch! It wouldn've taken less than that if Seifer'd ever gotten those other transfer requests. Sally told me there's no file for them ever being submitted. Not even the Base Commander here got them."

"It seems as if someone wanted me to stay."

"Yeah, and that's got Seifer pissed. He's had Sally drop everything but tracking down the travel history on those transfer requests."

"Man. I didn't mean to give her more work," Jaxon said, voice and expression both regretful.

I grinned. "Don't sweat it, Jax. Meg loves it. You should hear her tell stories of some of the things she does." I laughed. "She doesn't think they're 'stories'. She thinks she's just telling me about her day, but damn. You get her talking about something that happened at work and her eyes light up and her face gets all bright and pretty - not that she isn't damn hot already - and I'm on the edge of my seat until she's done. One of these days I'm gonna get those stories down on paper and put them in a magazine somewhere. We'll be rich."

Jaxon's easy smirk returned. "You'll have to okay it through Almasy first."

"Tch! She's got him wrapped around her little finger."

Jaxon chuckled while shaking his head. "I don't know about that..."

"I do. You should've seen Seifer before Sally started working there."

"Yeah. I've heard stories from Selphie."

"Well, there ya go."

Jaxon watched me with mild seriousness before motioning toward me as we headed to the front gates of Deling Garden. "That's some girl you're getting, Dincht. You make the most of life with her." He looked away. "It's always too short."

My only response was an absent nod. I mean, the memory of that day when the bookcase toppled onto her was still burned into my brain. And now that I cared for her as more than just a candidate needing help, the thought of not having her around... well, it freaked me out a little. Sort of like when she went on her Field Exam, but a helluva lot worse.

Jaxon focused on me again and forced a small smile. "I'll try to keep the dark air of philosophy to a minimum."

My grin returned and I punched him on the arm. "Thanks. Don't want her thinking you're deeper than me."

Jaxon chuckled. "I don't think you need to worry about that. It's all you where she's concerned."

I could feel my ears burn, but I ignored it. "Yeah, but where'd that come from? You know my rep."

His lips twitched. "There's no accounting for taste where women are concerned."

I laughed and gave him another firm shove as we exited Deling Garden and headed for the Air Tranz that would take us to Balamb. We settled inside and then signaled the pilot. The tranz lifted and then headed toward Balamb Garden.

I chucked Jaxon's 'wedding bag' at him and then heaved mine up onto my lap. "Sally's been asking about you this week," I told him as I shrugged out of my SeeD Jacket and shirt. Then I pulled my tuxedo out of the garment bag and hung the hanger on a nearby hook. "She's a little worried the wedding will be too much for you." I sent him a sidelong glance as he also began changing into his white tuxedo. "You doing okay?"

Jaxon nodded, frowning a bit as he concentrated on undoing a particularly stubborn hook on his SeeD jacket. "I'll be sure to tell her I'm alright," he said absently.

I smirked and shrugged into my t-shirt and dress-shirt before undoing my slacks. "Just remember she won't believe you if you're lying, dude. She's good like that. Besides." I slipped out of my slacks, sitting down before I fell down, and pulled on the rest of my tuxedo. "Besides, you make lame excuses when you want someone to ask."

He smirked and briefly looked up as he finally set aside his SeeD jacket. "Bad habit."

"No. It's a damn good habit. Makes me pay attention." I tucked my shirt into my slacks and then strapped on the cummerbund before slipping into the white tuxedo jacket. Then I motioned toward him with a lift of my chin. "You wanna talk about anything right now? If you don't 'fess, Sally'll just ask later."

Jaxon chuckled. "I'll be okay, Zell, and I don't need to talk about anything. I'm fine." He slipped into his dress-shirt. "And you'll be too busy with the receptions and then your three-week honeymoon to worry about whether or not I'm doing alright with my own sad sick little life."

I grinned. "Duuuuude. Honeymoon with Sally for three weeks. I swear I'm gonna die of... of..."

"Over sex?"

I howled out a laugh as I carefully sat back down in one of the seats lining the sides of the Air Tranz. "Jax, dude. Please."

Jaxon finished dressing in his tuxedo and sat. "Sorry."

I smirked and then motioned toward him. "Just know that Sally's gone into 'mother-mode' with you."

Jaxon smirked. "'Mother-mode'. That's a good one. I haven't been mothered in years." He met my gaze. "She 'mother' you a lot, does she?"

"Sally? Nah. Rinoa's the one that mothers me."

Jaxon's eyebrows lifted. "Really? I never would have pictured that one."

I nodded and tried to keep myself from crossing my arms. I didn't want to wrinkle the tux. "Yeah. I don't think she does it on purpose. I just think she sees me as kinda helpless or something." I shrugged. "Who knows. I never see her do it to Squall, so it doesn't matter. Or maybe she does but he doesn't care. You know he never knew his parents?"

Jaxon hissed through his teeth. "No. I didn't."

I shook my head as I turned my focus to the window. "So maybe he likes the attention? Some guys go for that. Me? I think it would get old after a while. I mean, geez, I'm not 9 years old. I can make decisions for myself. That's the cool thing about Sally, too. She puts all these decisions on the table, talking them out and letting me have a say in this thing or that thing. I never really had anyone do that before. Except Squall on some missions here and there during the whole thing with the Sorceress. It makes me feel really important when she does that, too. Like she trusts me to make the right choices. Where to work. Where to live. What job to take. What clothes she should wear--" I grinned and looked over at Jaxon. "She looks hot in tight black leather."

Jaxon blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Leather. She and I go shopping with Selphie, and Sally tries on things for me if I try on things for her. It's a blast!"

"But... Leather? Sally?" Jaxon shook his head. "I can't imagine dear little Sally in black leather."

I wiggled my eyebrows. "And I got her the outfit. It's going to be a surprise I give her on the honeymoon."

Jaxon held out his hands. "Stop. That's enough. I don't need anything more."

I laughed. "Okay, okay. I guess Sally'd cuff me upside the back of the head if she knew I was telling you about it."

"Balamb. Coming up," the pilot announced.

"Awesome!" I stood, my insides twisting and rolling all over the place as I grinned and grabbed one of the safety straps.

"You're just a little exited, aren't you?" Jaxon observed as he also stood.

"Are you kidding me? Jax, I'm getting married!"

Jaxon smirked. "I had noticed something about that." He sent me a glance and then a normal smile. "Congratulations, Zell. I wish you all the happiness in the world."

I grinned. "With Sally? Damn straight!"

I stared at myself in the mirror within the tent in the Training Center and could hardly believe what I saw.

A bride.

The gown was white and soft, shimmering in the dim candlelight while whispering of all the historical weddings and romances that had come before mine. The line was simple, with no flare of skirt. There was only the flow from sleeveless top that rose to my neck to the hem that fell below my ankles, completely covering my white-slippered feet, with the majority of the gown trailing along behind to enhance height and my naturally slender line.

The veil that separated me from the man I would marry was fairy fine, falling like mist over my face and down my back as the small gems stitched within it sparkled and winked in the light. My dazed gaze lowered to the bouquet of flowers in my hand. Whites and pinks and yellows nestled within the brilliant green and whispering of an aroma of romance and love. I brought it up to my nose, closing my eyes as I breathed in deep. ...I'm getting married... tickled my thoughts and then drifted away again.

Selphie, who had been standing by the entry/exit and peeking outside, voiced a muffled squeal. "Oooo. Everyone looks so handsome!" She motioned behind her to Janine, who leaned lightly against the central support beam for the tent while filing her nails. Her and Selphie's bridesmaids dresses were nearly identical to my wedding gown, but were a soft pink and had no train.

"Janine, Janine! There's Seifer and Jaxie! Wow! They look wonderful!"

But I couldn't focus on what she said or what she meant. I could only stare at the bride in the mirror and wonder where she had come from. In fact, it was as if I watched from a great distance, happily content to follow this bride where she went as long as I would always feel like this--

"Oo! Oo! There's the signal," Selphie squealed, and then the curtain was drawn back and Irvine Kinneas was presenting his arm to her as the first row in the processional began.

That was when reality hit me like a ton of rubble.

Selphie exited the tent, the flap lowering with a rustle as I blinked and swallowed hard, staring wide-eyed at the petite bride staring back at me. I suddenly didn't feel very well.

"There she is."

I twitched and looked in the mirror to Janine's reflection where she stood behind me. "What?"

Janine smirked and gave my arms a squeeze. "Little Miss Daydream finally let you get back to business. Good thing, too. Your man is waiting for you."

I focused back on the very pale girl in the reflection. "Janie... I'm scared."

Janine curtly nodded. "Good." My eyes met hers in surprise. "It means you give a damn about the man you're saying your 'I do's to. It means you'll work hard to make it the best damn marriage it could be." She gave my shoulders another squeeze when Jaxon lifted the curtain. "You'll be fine, Sal gal. Just be yourself and take one step at a time."

I wordlessly nodded, looking again to my reflection as Janine turned and exited the tent, accepting Jaxon's arm with a smirk and a smart-ass quip I didn't pay attention to. I was too busy gathering my scattered courage so I could finish something I'd dreamed my entire life of doing: marry Zell Dincht.

"Sally Elizabeth Dincht," I whispered.

I swallowed hard and adjusted my hold on my bouquet. "Sally Elizabeth Dincht." I turned and moved to wait by the curtain entry/exit. "Sally Elizabeth--" and my dad opened the tent flap to reveal my future husband, bedecked in white tuxedo jacket, pink cummerbund, and black slacks as he smiled and grinned and looked as handsome and completely adorable as when I had first seen him... "Dincht," I breathed.

"You ready, hon?" Dad asked softly.

I looked over at him and smiled as I nodded, resting my hand on his arm and voicing a quiet, "Yes."

He covered my hand with his and gave it a gentle squeeze as he quietly said, "I love you, Sally, and we're very proud of you."

I could feel the tears begin. "I love you, too, Dad."

He touched me under the chin and then guided me out of the tent. Everyone - the crowd only consisting of 50 people, 25 on each side of the aisle - stood to their feet as I stepped forward, but anything they might have whispered or said aloud was lost as my eyes focused on Zell and his expression. He smiled, and it was nothing like any I'd seen before. And it even looked like he may have brushed a tear from his cheek as I approached. The thought overwhelmed me and had me crying as I stepped along beside my father to the man who would now be taking care of me. My hero. My sweetie. My Zell.

Dad stopped just a step or two back from the place where Zell waited, giving my hand one last gentle pressure before solemnly transferring my hand to Zell's. I moved closer, giving Dad one last smile before focusing on Zell and tearing up when I saw tell-tale wetness on one cheek.

Zell reached out and gently lifted the veil to drape it behind me. "Hey, kitten," he said in a low tone, giving my hand a collection of squeezes as his thumb caressed the knuckles.

I swallowed the tears and choked out, "Hey, handsome."

We exchanged smiles and then faced Squall, who looked dashing in his 'dressed blues'. Squall actually gave me a small smile before opening the book with the wedding vows inside, clearing his throat, and beginning the ceremony.

I could barely hear the words for the rising excitement and expectation at being able to sing to my sweetie. To see the look on his face when Rinoa handed me the microphone. To be able to give him this one thing in front of everyone.

We repeated the vows and exchanged rings, my hands trembling in his warm and gentle grip as the time so very slowly approached... Then we turned to our right and began the lighting of the candles, a soft and melodic piano piece playing as background instead of Rinoa's lovely singing voice. Zell sent me a glance, his hand pausing the duty of lighting the first candle as he sent a stealthy glance toward the place Rinoa was supposed to be and then to my face. I didn't look away from what I was doing, so Zell gave a small shrug and continued.

I breathed in deep and released it slow, preparing myself for the moment of a lifetime... and then the final candle was lit - a symbol of unity being a single large candle being lit together - and Zell was taking my hand to lead me back to Squall. His step hesitated a fraction of a moment when he saw Rinoa standing there holding a microphone. But as Zell always did, he took it as it came and continued forward. I accepted the microphone from Rinoa and faced Zell, giving his hand holding mine a series of squeezes as Rinoa made her way back to the piano and began playing the introduction.

"This is for you, Zell," I whispered, "because I love you. Because you always know and believe I can do the hardest things..."

Zell gave a surprised blink, even sending Squall a 'Did you know about this?' glance before again focusing on me as I began to sing.

You were standing there,
And I was not aware
Of the sunlight in your stare
Melting me,
Changing me from gray to clear
Never before have I been seen like this.

Sunshine yellow eyes;
Deep blue ocean smile.
Look into this ice,
Melt me.

As you turn around
This time
You wash the world in white
You burn the sunlight with your eyes
Looking into me
And my heart anchored down in the sea of your smile.

Sunshine yellow eyes;
Deep blue ocean smile.
Look into this ice,
Melt me.
Melt me.

And my heart anchored down in the sea of your smile...

Sunshine yellow eyes;
Deep blue ocean smile.
Look into this ice,
Melt me.
Melt me.
Melt me...

Rinoa ended the song and I handed the microphone off to Selphie as the crowd whistled and applauded, several of them standing to their feet. Then I took in a slow breath and returned my focus to Zell. Throughout the song his expression had been unreadable, especially to me as I focused so hard on the music and the words and trying to get through it without breaking down into a fit of tears. Now, I timidly smiled up at him and gave his hand a squeeze as I whispered, "surprise."

Zell's mouth worked soundlessly a moment before he grinned and took a step forward, any progress halted by Jaxon and a hand on Zell's arm.

"Hey. What gives?" Zell protested.

Jaxon chuckled. "Save it for later, Zell."

Zell's ears tinged pink as he winked. "Right." Then he looked back to me. "Thanks, kitten. It was awesome. I knew you could do it."

I nodded and softly said, "I know."

Squall cleared his throat, drawing Zell and my attention as the applause waned and those standing returned to their seats. "In the presence of these witnesses, and with the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife," Squall decreed, intercepting Zell's grin with a slight quirk of lip.

"Say it," Zell hissed. "Say it, say it."

Squall chuckled. "You may kiss the bride."

"Booya," Zell said under his breath as he faced me.

I smiled and softly giggled as he stepped close, holding my face in his hands as the crowd began to chant "Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss." I rested my hands gently on his wrists, closing my eyes as his breath feathered my face and then his lips ever so slowly and tenderly touched mine... I sighed and the crowd roared again, rising to their feet for the second time as Zell and I drew back to smile at each other before facing out.

Then Rinoa began the recessional and Selphie and Irvine led us out. I tightened my arm around Zell's. He met my happy gaze to give me a smile and touch me gently under the chin. I softly giggled, welcoming back the happy euphoria with open arms.

The reception at Deling Garden had been strained, at best. Jaxon had warned us that most of those who attended either had social problems earning them assigned attendence as a 'workshop', or that they hoped to speak to Cmdr. Squall about a transfer. Needless to say, Zell and I had agreed to leave as soon as we could so that the torture for everyone would be as little as possible.

For us and for them.

When we had arrived, the applause had barely been polite, but I hadn't cared. I was married to Zell Dincht. What else mattered? So, we had cake and chit-chatted, doing our best to make a circle on our way back to the door. During that circle I could have sworn I saw a woman who looked so much like Quistis as to be her twin, but Zell had chalked it up to me wanting her and my brother there so bad that I imagined them. Again, I didn't think about it for very long. Not with Zell beside me, his arm around me, and an occasional kiss being placed on my temple.

Euphoria was my favorite place.

Not even an hour into the reception, Zell had taken me by the hand and hurried me out with a whispered, "Shh. Let's go while no one's looking." and had rushed me all the way from Deling Garden to the train station in Deling City, giggling and chuckling like a couple of newlyweds all the way. The adventure of escaping the reception had been very exciting, and it had given me the romantic impression of elopement. It had also made the evening even more perfect.

Now Zell and I quietly walked toward the Balamb Hotel, hands held and the sound of the water the only whisper between us as the evening sky twinkled with stars that seemed to smile down at us and offer shushed 'congratulations'. This had been the day I had waited for my entire life, and now it was coming to a close.

I was a little afraid for what was at the end of this adventure. After all, we'd spent our entire relationship keeping carefully back from the emotional edge of that kind of intimacy. Now I had to get my heart and mind to realize it was okay. That I didn't have to pull away, or keep myself in check, or anything like that.

Zell and I had talked about this a lot over the past three months. Talking about that time when we would finally be able to let loose the feelings we'd been holding back for what seemed forever. My greatest fear was that I would pull back from him when he touched me, hurting his feelings with an instinctual reaction that had been serving as a protection my entire life. And I'd confessed that to him, too...

"Zell..." I lowered my gaze to where my fingers absently brushed and tapped at the cement wall of the Forbidden Area. "I... I've never been touched before. For years I've had to keep that part of myself reserved for the moment when I would finally be married..." I looked up again to find him watching me with a soft smile, standing so close that I could feel his warmth and smell his welcome aroma of musk. "Zell, I don't want to hurt you by pulling back."

"I know, kitten." He reached out and tenderly rubbed my back. "We've been telling ourselves 'no sex' for months. It'll just take a little bit to relax and get used to the idea."

"Relax?" I bit my lip and looked out toward the view of Balamb Garden. "Relax, Zell? Remember how long it took me to 'relax' when we were dating?" I reminded softly.

"Sure I do, but you were a different person then. So was I."

I sighed and lowered my gaze.

"Now, kitten..." Zell drew me close, resting his chin on my head as I wrapped my arms around him.

I sighed again and closed my eyes. "Mom said it's natural for me to feel shy," I admitted.

"Of course it is. You're a modest person, Sally, and here you're going to have to strip down to the skin."

I reluctantly giggled and pushed back, my cheeks flamed red as I hissed, "Zell..." in complaint.

His smile was only partially mischievous. "What? It's the truth. Same with me for you. I'm willing to bet you've never seen a guy stripped down to his nothings." I shook my head and lowered my focus to the center of his shirt. "Well there ya go. We're both gonna be a little nervous of what the other thinks. Maybe even embarrassed. I know you were about your birthmark. Remember?" I nodded, still not looking up. "But you were finally able to not need to wear your t-shirt over your swimsuit. It'll be the same kinda thing with everything else."


Zell waited and then tipped my chin up. "'But'?" he prompted.

"But I don't know what to do, not really. Sure my mom and I have talked, but it's not the same as in person."

One side of Zell's lips twitched upward. "Sally, we don't have to have sex the first night. We can just cuddle. I told you; we've got three weeks alone together. We'll work up to it."

I pushed back and turned away. "But I feel so stupid," I confessed tearfully.

"Oh man, Sally." He draped his arm around my shoulders. "Don't feel stupid. I'm kinda spooked about it myself."

I blinked tears from eyes as I looked up at him. "You... You are?"

"Sure. What if I'm no good?"

My eyes widened. "...you really think that?" I asked in a hushed voice.

"Of course I think that. Sex isn't exactly on the course list here. I'm kinda goin' on instinct and what seems to work."

"So... So we're going to be learning... together?"

He chuckled and pulled me close. "And probably having a lot of fun doing it."

I giggled, "Zell," and snuggled closer...

And that conversation continued to run through my mind as we drew closer and closer to the hotel. I mean, what a relief to know he was just as uncertain and hesitant and... and scared as I was. That simple fact helped me relax a little more. And when in conjunction to the kissing and cuddling we'd done on the train? The terror of this first night wasn't as bad as it had been.

"You okay?" Zell asked softly, giving my hand a gentle pressure.

I looked over to meet his gaze and smiled as I nodded. Of course I was okay. I was married to Zell Dincht. I was in love with Zell Dincht. I was on a honeymoon with Zell Dincht. I couldn't be more okay.

"Just checkin'. You've been kinda quiet."

I looked ahead. The hotel was only a few moments down the cobbled walk. "I've been thinking about what you said."

"About our first night?"

I nodded.

"There's no pressure, Sally. Okay?"

I nodded again as I faced him, my smile brightening. "I know. That's why I'm not as terrified as I was that day we talked about it. I'm still a little scared and nervous, but I'm okay."

One side of Zell's lips twitched as his face and ears seemed to get a little pink. "You're doing better than me. I'm scared as hell."

That confession had me blinking and my mouth dropping open as I halted. "Really?"

He nodded. "Yeah. I'm a performance freak, Sally. If it's something physical, I gotta be perfect at it the first time." I was about to say something when he said, "I know what I said before, and that's totally true, but I've still got to admit that I'm scared shitless. I mean, dude, you look at me with stars in your eyes now. After our first time together, you might look at me with a 'what the hell was I thinking?'"

I gasped again, my hand shielding my mouth moments before I leaned toward him and took hold of his arm. "Zell, oh my gosh, I wouldn't ever think that."

"Oh I know," Zell said, nodding as his expression showed seriousness. "It's what I tell me you could think. And I know it's just a mind job I'm doing on myself. I just haven't had the chance to work it out yet."

"Is there... Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Help? I don't think so. Like I said, I just need to work it out." He grinned and draped an arm around my shoulders to draw me toward the hotel again. "You never knew I was a freak about physical stuff, Sally? Come on. I've been pushing you hard for months. Ever since we started working out."

"But no harder than I would have pushed myself," I reminded. "Being SeeD demands perfection."

"But being married doesn't. Only I never learned to cut myself or anyone else any slack."

I smiled at him. "Uh-huh. You're so easy on me it's funny."

His expression softened. "Yeah. Okay. So I am."

I rested my cheek against him as I wrapped my arms around his waist. "It won't be any different tonight, and I'm determined to believe that."

He kissed the top of my head. "You rock on so many different levels."

I gave him a squeeze. "You're not so bad yourself, Mr. Man."

We giggled and/or chuckled at the same time, Zell pulling me closer against him as we entered the hotel and made our way up to the front desk.

"Zell," the man at the desk greeted. "Congratulations."

"Thanks, Derik. Is our room ready?"

"Of course. Right this wa--"

"That's okay. I know the way."

"Of course. Have a good evening," 'Derik' said as Zell guided me to the stairs and up.

Zell chuckled. "He has no idea."

I softly giggled. "That sounds like the Zell I know and love."

We crested the stairs and Zell scooped me up into his arms. "Hey. I told you I just need to work it out."

I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed his cheek before nuzzling mine against it. "You take all the time you need, sweetie. I'm not going anywhere."

Zell adjusted his hold to open the door of our room. "That's good to know. It would be a bummer if you had plans. I mean, dude, the boat leaves tomorrow."

I giggled and pulled back, wrinkling my nose at him before kissing him lightly on the lips. "You silly boy."

He closed the door with his foot, submerging the room into darkness save the soft glow of the moon from the sliding glass doors leading out onto the balcony. Then Zell slowly lowered my feet to the ground, his hands moving to my waist as my arms still gently looped his neck. He softly smiled down at me. I fell in love with him all over again when he looked at me like that.

"Hi, Mrs. Dincht," he said in a low voice.

My eyes teared and I sighed before I whispered, "Hi, Mr. Dincht."

Zell caressed a lock of hair behind my ear as his eyes... Man. I loved his eyes. They twinkled and glowed such a beautiful shade of blue that it had me convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that our honeymoon would be more than 'okay'. Once we got past the hesitancy and the shyness, we'd be alright. And when Zell released a deep breath and drew me close... I closed my eyes and brought my arms down from his neck to go behind him, under the jacket of his tuxedo to the warmth that had always made me feel safe and more. And his arms held me close in a way I hadn't ever been held before. Tight but gentle. Completely and utterly against him; as if he was as dazed about the reality of this moment as I was.

It was the best moment of my life, and I knew there were so many more waiting for us.

"Hey, Sally?" he asked softly, his breath tickling my neck.

I sighed. "Hmm?"

"Could you sing me that song again?"

My lips lilted upward as I whispered, "Okay," and began singing. Humming when the emotion wouldn't let me sing. Singing when the words were too wonderful to keep silent. And Zell just held me close, rocking back and forth as we danced in the moonlight to usher in our 'happily ever after' with a song and a smile.

The End

1) Melt me - mp3 format
2) Melt me - RealOne Player

chapter index

...NOT. My Happy After

Installment 5 / Index