The room was noisy and warm. The air conditioning had failed the beautiful building in the outer part of the city as the cold rain kept on plastering against the huge windows from the outside. It was a cold and stormy September evening in Chicago, but the number of people present, the breathing of each one of them lingering in the air and thickening it as impossibly as it did, hindered the room from being even the tiniest amount of chilly as nobody dared to open a window.
Not that she usually would have minded it all that much. She always got cold very easily.
But right now, as the muggy air kept on entering and leaving her lungs, her palms sweaty in the most uncomfortable way, tiny beads of moisture forming on her back beneath the fabric of her beige dress and her head heavy from the impact that her surroundings had on her breathing, she wished for a small breeze that would maybe, just maybe, give her the courage to proceed in what was known to be her duty tonight.
She exhaled heavily through parted, crimson red lips before she ran her tongue over the lower one and reached for the crystal flute of champagne that was standing in front of her on the table. But the man beside her kept her fingers from colliding with the cool glass as he captured them with his own and let them come to rest on the silky, white tablecloth.
Her eyes fell on the ring on his hand; a golden band, reflecting the warm light in the room beautifully and almost blinding her with all its perfection, broader than it but matching the one on her own slim ring finger, as he leaned over to her and whispered into her ear. His voice was rough in the softest way, the stubbles of his beard scratchy against her earlobe as they brushed against her golden earring, scratchy in the most gentle way of ways.
God, she should not have been drinking all that champagne.
"I think it's time.", he whispered, causing a shiver to run through her body as the words met her from the close distance, his breathing both calming and so incredibly arousing as it spilled against her skin, it left her heart pounding violently against the delicate fabric of her dress that was hugging her chest.
She turned her head towards him, blue eyes locking with green, and she scraped her front teeth over her bottom lip. "I know."
His fingers gave hers a gentle squeeze while the corner of his lips twitched up and formed a lopsided smirk.
He looked so handsome today. He always did, but seeing him in a suit, as rarely as she got to do it due to his own preferences in clothing, it never failed to take her breath away.
She had been lucky all those years ago. So lucky to have found him. So very lucky that they had followed the path of their love hand in hand to find happiness together.
"You don't have to be nervous.", he whispered into the noisy air. Nobody would hear him at this volume but her, no one had to know just how nervous she was, other than him who had gained the power of looking right through her over the years, especially in moments like these.
She shrugged and cast him a helpless excuse of a smile. "I know.", she repeated and the colour of green that was smiling at her from her view of his eyes warmed before a small chuckle escaped him. "What's so funny?", she asked, arching an eyebrow at him and suppressing the urge of grinning blissfully at the sound of his amusement.
"Nothing.", he said, still chuckling and he shook his head apologetically. "It's just... you're normally the talker."
Her brow fell back down and she breathed in deeply again, biting her tongue to suppress the urge of repeating herself once more in saying 'I know'. For a small moment, she broke the lock of their eyes to look back at their entwined fingers. He had always had the most beautiful hands. Big and strong and warm, securing hers in his, like nothing could ever happen, like nothing could ever go wrong, as long as he was there with her to hold her.
Her eyes wandered back to his. "This is different.", she said under her breath, but just as she had only seconds prior, he understood her, even through the rough noise that originated from the numerous crowds of people, divided by the countless number of tables in the room. The corner of her lips twitched as she nodded into the direction of one of them. "I mean, look at him."
His gaze followed her direction and his eyes voiced a dreamy absent-mindedness to her that only increased as he kept on watching what she had meant for him to see. She had always loved watching him. "He looks happy."
"Yes, exactly. And I don't..." She sighed deeply and it caused him to turn his eyes back to her. "I just don't want to fuck this up. It's too important."
One of his brows twitched and his hand gave hers another sweet squeeze before he shrugged, looking at her intently. "Then don't.", he said, as though it were that simple, and she could not bite back her smile for any longer.
"Wow, good pep talk. Thank you.", she said as the blue of her eyes lightened up in amusement, replacing or maybe at least competing with the nervousness that lay in them. "You were always good with those."
The fingers of his free hand found the sheer-nylon-covered skin of her thigh, the better part of her crossed legs exposed beneath the long table in her seating position that had naturally hiked up the skirt of her dress by a few inches. "You will do great, Di.", he insisted and the smile on her lips faded again.
"Are you sure?" Her teeth slid over her bottom lip once again in a more than distracting movement.
"Yes.", he assured her and brushed his fingertips over her thigh. The shiver that ran through her body felt like little flames were spreading on her insides and it was the most beautiful feeling of warmth that she could have imagined. "What could go wrong?"
Her eyes remained locked with his for a small moment of silence between them in the noise of the other guests. But she did not even register it anymore, his voice too precious of a sound to risk missing a glimpse of it in case he would continue to speak, the touch of his fingers on her skin too distracting to keep on sensing anything but it, his eyes too deep and beautiful, too inviting to not get lost in them.
It was the same for him. It was the familiar intimacy between them in innocent moments like this one that would always have the power to throw them off-guard in that it was, in all its familiarity, nothing one could ever really get used to. It could create a bubble around them that parted them from the rest of the world, only them, everything that really mattered at the end of the day kept safe inside.
She breathed in deeply, exhaled slowly and the small twinkle in her eyes showed him a glimpse of her insecurity. Something of which he knew that she would not allow anyone to see it but him.
"Do I look okay?"
There was so much doubt in her voice, he almost could not believe it, coming from this stunningly beautiful woman. The most gorgeous human being, the last person on earth that would ever need to worry about her looks.
It was almost grotesque that she did not realize just how beautiful she was. It was sweet in a way, but yet something he would never be able to wrap his head around.
And still, he had learned over the years what she needed to hear in those moments in which she was not even fishing for compliments, only trusting him enough to allow him to see this side of her and to take his own turn at trying and reassuring her when she could not do it for herself. He had learned how to comfort her, just as she knew how to do the same for him.
"No, you look perfect."
Her face lightened up at his words and above her coy, lopsided smile, she let her lashes flutter at him in an almost sheepish manner. "You're not just saying that?"
"Do I look like I'm lying to you?"
The smirk beneath his moustache, the light that glimmered in his eyes like embers in the ashy remainders of a fire, the way he was looking at her; his honesty would have been evident to a blind person.
He leaned forward and pressed his soft lips against her cheek, his scratchy beard teasing her skin as he whispered, "I love you. Good luck.".
And before she knew it, his hands had left her and he had reached forward to clink his polished, silver knife against his almost untouched glass of champagne. He had never liked this 'sparkly stuff'.
"What-", she began before the room went silent and his eyes, a mischievous glint in between the look of love in them, found hers.
"Break a leg, honey." He winked at her.
"Oh, if I do, it's gonna be yours.", she muttered dryly under her breath, took her half-full flute of champagne and pushed herself up so that she came to stand on wobbly legs.
All eyes in the heated room lay on her and she was wondering once again why she had ever thought that doing this would be a good idea.
And suddenly it was silent in anticipation, the only sound she could hear anymore was that of her own blood rushing through her ears.
"I...", she began and cleared her throat quietly as she heard the scratchy sound of her voice. "Hi. I would like to have your attention for a small moment to say something."
She turned her head to her right and found his eyes as he cast her an assuring smile, nodding his head. Then she looked over to the opposite direction to find Will's hazel eyes that were laying on her, as all the others in the room did, too.
"Will and I have known each other now for fifteen years. And if someone would have told me in the beginning that one day, I would stand here as his maid of honour, I probably would have had them sent to the next asylum."
Will shot her a knowing grin and the brunette in white next to him took his hand as she chuckled delightedly.
"Partly, that is because we didn't really like each other all that much in the beginning. And that is why it makes me even happier now to have found a friend like him in the young man that stepped into my life all those years ago. The man who had not had many interests outside of winning in court and watching baseball games. The man whose ego was taller than his height. Pardon me, but I really thought you were a nightmare back then, Gardner."
For a small moment the room filled with laughter, but Diane's eyes were locked with the groom's, who was still simply smiling at her in happiness of that she knew how it felt.
"And so I'm even more thrilled", she continued as the room had turned silent again. "to stand here today and watch this man, who has grown to become my friend, my best friend, over those years, finally finding his happiness.
Will, I don't think either of us has thought that we would ever be the type of people that we are today. We both made our work to our purpose in life, that was the thing that bound us back then, next to our equally good taste in scotch to which I would like to say that this is about the only area in that you are fit to hold a candle to me, but I don't want to be rudely honest with you on your wedding day."
People chuckled again and the sound only increased when she added, "After all, we wouldn't want to scare off your wife this soon in. God knows it has taken you long enough to even find her in the first place.".
A feeling of calm washed over her when she saw her partner grinning and her voice softened. "I remember that we've talked about this once, back in the days when our old partner died. I told you that I didn't want to die alone like he did and you said to me that I shouldn't do it then. That was a great and helpful piece of advice, William, but, let's be honest, that was always the outlook for both of us. We hadn't seized our time to get married and build a family when we were younger and so we both naturally assumed that maybe it just wasn't meant for us to have."
She swallowed and straightened an invisible crease in her dress with her free hand.
"Ten years ago, we talked about the mysterious institution of marriage, and now we are here, both married and in it for the long run. And I like to think that this is what real love does to people, even people like those that we have once been. And when I look at you two, I know that your love will last forever and that this is the thing that was always meant for you to have. Real love. And I know that because..."
She turned her head momentarily to look at her husband, smiling at him, before she looked back at the bridal pair.
"I have that, too. Great, unconditional love and when I watch you while you're looking at your beautiful wife, I know that you feel the same way as I do when I'm looking at my husband. And loving and being loved by someone who has the power of just changing all of that, your views on what holds importance in life, your opinions on what you want to have from it, everything in a matter of seconds, that is the most incredible feeling of all. And I am so happy for the two of you that you've found each other to be able to feel it together. Because two wonderful people like you deserve to have it in their lives.
To Alicia and Will."
"To Alicia and Will.", the wedding reception agreed and glasses began to clink against others as Diane held her eye-contact with the groom.
I love you, he mouthed to her and she cast him a smile, raised her glass towards him and his wife before she came to sit again on the chair next to her husband's.
Letting out a deep breath of relief, her eyes found his and one of her brows arched up interrogatively. "Was that okay?", she asked low and cautiously as the rest of the reception picked up the noise again.
Will and Alicia rose up from their seats and announced celebratory that the buffet was opened, but neither of the two of them even registered the information, nor the fact that everyone around them in the warm ballroom got to their feet to help themselves to something to eat. Too lost in the look of the other, too trapped in their little bubble to be able to take note of anything other than them.
Kurt's smile widened at her question, at her look of insecurity, her need to do everything perfectly. She was always pressuring herself to do right, to do the things that were important to her flawlessly, was sometimes so trapped in her need of doing good that she did not even realize how perfect she was doing.
As an answer of a different kind than she had expected, he let the fingers of his free hand curve into the strands of her perfect blonde hair on the back of her head and pulled her close to let his lips collide with hers.
A little taken aback by the sudden display of affection, she almost spilled the champagne in her flute over the fabric of her dress in her lap, but she did not. Their lips brushed against each other, soft skin with a tint of red lipstick and the scratchy feeling of his beard. Slowly, almost cautiously, as though they were kissing each other for the first time, the timeless pace they set together feeling as though hours, minutes, seconds had stopped passing by at the first contact of their lips, as though time was standing still, waiting for them to linger in every movement, every little motion. The sweet verge between giving and receiving love, of feeling and letting feel, of being together in the way they had always been.
So perfectly fitting. So lovingly perfect.
The tips of their tongues touched for just a moment, as though they were daring each other to make a move to intensify the innocent liplock in front of the eyes of over a hundred other members of the reception, still not realizing that only very few of them would notice right now because they were all too busy pushing forward to the buffet. And still, they parted before either of them dared to go further, the kiss ending with him pressing a last small peck on her lips before they could look at each other, his hand shifting from her hair to her thigh again.
She blinked a few times at him, smiling in a loving, almost goofy looking way. "Wow, you really liked that speech, didn't you?"
She had expected him to laugh or snicker, to at least scoff to try and hide his amusement from her, but she did not find any trace of humour in the way in which the corners of his lips shot up in a smile that was nothing but...
"I love you."
Her eyes left his and fixated on a spot on the white tablecloth as her lips stretched in a wide smile. The sudden declaration would have caused her to blush if her cheeks had not already taken on a light shade of pink from the warmth, her previous nervousness, the feeling of tiny buzzes running through her lips from their contact with his and her repeatedly refilled flute of champagne, the red, almost pinkish stains on the rim of the glass proving the latter.
Tilting her head to the side, she looked at him again. His eyes had not left her and the simple way in which she was eyeing the love and affection towards her that was written all over his face made her heart beat even faster, caused her pulse rush through her veins even more furiously than it had only moments before when she had been just about to hold her speech. Faster than anything, any drug, any challenge, any other feeling ever could.
He did that to her, just by loving her like he did. Just by being with her as he was.
She was surprised that her hand was not shaking when she raised her glass to him. "To love?", she asked him in a faint whisper and the traces of a smirk wandered over his lips as he realized what he was doing to her.
Raising his glass, he answered, "To love." and clinked his crystal flute against hers, their eyes never leaving each other.
It wraps your arms around me.
They're like wings, big, strong and
And I'm flying off
As I'm inhaling your scent.
The oxygen I never thought I'd need.
It looks at me through your eyes,
And I feel like I'm seeing
For the very first time.