Prelude to Armaweddon


nicole_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Prelude to Armaweddon
Synopsis The big day has arrived. Now all that's left is to prepare.
Date April 4, 2020

64 S. 4th Street
8:16 AM

colette4_icon.gif tasha_icon.gif

It’s at her sister’s house that Nicole has chosen to prepare for her wedding day. It’s an old fashioned notion, but she likes the idea of not being seen by the groom before the ceremony. She sits in front of the vanity mirror with a large barrel curling iron, fixing her hair. She could have gone to the salon, paid to have it done, but she’d rather be here, enjoying her last moments of bachelorette-dom with her little sister and her partner.

“I can’t believe this is actually happening,” Nicole admits as she thumbs the release on the iron, dragging it away slowly and leaving a large, bouncing curl behind. “I’m so nervous, my hands are shaking. I’m surprised I haven’t fucking burned myself yet.”

Tasha emerges from the closet with a shoebox from her too-large collection — she’s already wearing shoes, but she’s changed her mind, it seems. She kicks off the peep-toe pumps as she opens the box of strappy Louboutins with their iconic red sole.

“I burned myself so you don’t have to,” she says with a grin, holding up two rosy fingertips. “Was looking at the mirror instead of the flattening iron and grabbed the wrong part like an idiot. But I’ll take one for the team if it means you go unscathed,” she says with a grin, before looking in the mirror.

She sticks her tongue out from behind Nicole. “I look like the Jolly Green Halfling,” she says, fingers smoothing the jade-green silk dress she’s wearing. “Oh, well. No one will be looking at me, anyway, with you lighting up the room. Possibly literally but definitely metaphorically.”

“Okay,” comes from down the hall, Colette’s voice projecting in a trying to start a conversation before coming into the room tone. “So I’ve checked with everyone I know, I just checked in a second time with Tamara, and I’m getting the impression that this is actually happening and not, in fact, a gigantic fucking prank.”

Coming into the doorway, Colette slouches one shoulder against the frame and shakes her head. She hasn’t even started getting ready yet, still cradling her morning coffee in both hands. “I haven’t checked to see if Zachery is really on board for this, admittedly. I still feel like maybe he’s an actor or something, but at this point I just doubt you’d have the commitment to keep it going?”

Colette smirks, leaning away from the door frame and treading on socked feet across the floor. “I have to run uptown in like, fifteen minutes, to drop off something for the Commissioner — who is going to be very cross he wasn’t invited but wishes you the best — so I’m gonna rush right back after and hurry up and get ready.” She takes another sip of her coffee, slowly.

Slowly, purposefully, Colette angles a blind-eyed look over to Tasha, one brow raised and her lips crooked into an appreciative smile with a sly up and down stare.

“Your sacrifice is most appreciated, Tasha.” Nicole tosses a smile over her shoulder to the shorter woman that fades into something sympathetic. “You look beautiful, dear. Green’s my favorite color!” So, therefore, it’s the best and Nicole is thrilled that she’ll be wearing it.

As for all eyes being on her, “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid o—”

Nicole lifts her head and sets down the curling iron finally, unplugging it from the wall so it will begin to cool once that voice from the hallway heralds her sister’s arrival. And her unending sass.

An actor?

“Oh, real mature, Colette. Who raised you?” She is affronted, but then she relents with a huff of self-deprecating laughter. “Okay, I can see why you might think that’s the only way I’d wind up married.” After all, her entire engagement to Bradley Russo had been an act.

There’s precedent, as they say in Tasha’s line of work.

“You tell that dumb asshole Donovan that his invite got lost in the mail.” Nicole rolls her eyes. “Not in those words. Don’t get yourself demoted.” She points a finger at her sister, and for a moment she is the older sister who had to also be a mother. “Can’t you find someone else to do this? I swear to fucking Christ, Colette, if you are late for my wedding…” She will cry and she will never, ever stop.

After all, who’s doing to walk her down the aisle? Who else could give her away?

“Thank you, and also, you’re welcome,” says Tasha cheerfully, fluffing her hair and turning at Colette’s voice. She smirks as Nicole’s sister teases her, rolling her eyes in commiseration at the bride in the mirror.

“Or change now and run over there after,” she suggests, brow lifting as she turns back to Colette.

At that look, she grins and gives the other woman an exaggeratedly saucy wink, before crossing the few steps over. One arm loops around Colette’s waist and she leans in to bump her forehead against her partner’s forehead, then kisses her softly.

Meanwhile, her free hand curls around the coffee mug in a brazen act of theft.

“I’m not sure riding my bike in a dress is the best idea,” Colette says with a crooked smile, walking over to Tasha and wrapping her arms around her waist, leaning in to rest her chin on her shoulder and look over it to Nicole.

“It’ll only be a few minutes,” Colette insists, but things like this rarely ever are. “If I’m going to be late and it’s a bad idea, I’m sure Tamara will throw something at me, and if I’m supposed to be late then I’m sure it’ll work out fine.” Her brows kick up, toothy smile wide. It’s her favorite excuse, and she isn’t omniscient you know is her favorite retort to ignore.

“By the way,” Colette says with a pitch of her voice down, turning to look up at Tasha from her shoulder, “do you, y’know, have a date to this wedding?” She asks with a playful smirk.

Nicole sucks in a sharp breath in that way that she does when what she may as well be saying is Lord, grant me patience. She gives a highly exaggerated roll of her eyes at the assurance that Tamara will intervene, or not. That is not a comfort to her today of all days.

“Colette Elizabeth, you are going to be the death of me.” Nicole hangs her head in defeat, lifting it again only so she can scowl furiously at the rain outside. It’s supposed to stop before the ceremony, but she’s worried anyway. “Did your wife say anything about needing an umbrella?

“Hey now. I’m not the one crazy enough to get married here,” Colette says with a kick of one brow up.

“I don’t know. I think it’s a pretty good idea, but only if you want to stop traffic showing off your gams,” Tasha teases Colette back, angling her own playful look down the length of the other’s body.

Of course, the other’s not dressed for the wedding yet, so it’s appreciative in advance of how she knows her partner will look when she is dressed to the nines.

“Are you asking me out?” Tasha banters back, but looks over at Nicole to give the bride a commiserating look of exasperation. “You better not ghost me, then, Officer Nichols.”

To Nicole, she adds, “I think just lightly here and there. It’s a bit foggy this morning, but it doesn’t look like it’ll hit too hard. I read once it’s lucky to have rain on your wedding day no matter what Alanis Morissette thinks.”

Pressing her nose to the side of Tasha’s head, Colette cracks a lopsided smile. “I’ll try’n make sure I don’t turn invisible until it’s time to pay the check,” she adds with a bubble of laughter in her voice. But Colette’s cheeks flush a little red, and she slips her arms from around Tasha and looks over at Nicole with a shake of her head.

“I ain’t gonna miss my sister’s wedding,” Colette says. “Not for anything in the world.” She walks over to Nicole, leaning over to wrap her arms around her in a hug. “You look way more radiant than you have any fucking right to,” she adds with a smirk, “and that stupid asshole you’re marrying is extremely lucky.”

Slowly, Colette stands up straight and threads an errant lock of hair behind Nicole’s ear. “But my wedding gift offer stands, I can do a full criminal record screening. You know, just make sure he’s not a sex pest or a serial killer or something.” It’s all in jest, though.

“Oh my god, get a room,” Nicole groans, rolling her eyes exaggeratedly. Yes, she is aware she is in their house. “You two are just too cute.” She smirks at Tasha, the assurances about the weather chasing the clouds away from her own demeanor. “You could hyphenate, you know.” As if she doesn’t already have a mouthful of a name. “Renard-Lazzaro-Demsky sounds nice!” But she knows better than to tease too much. After all, Tasha almost always takes her side, and you don’t piss off an ally.

But then her sister finally makes her approach and Nicole wraps her arms securely around Colette’s waist. For all that they needle at each other, there’s no doubt in the mind of anyone who’s met the two of them that Colette is everything to Nicole. “Thanks, Sissy.”

The wedding gift is waved off with a dismissive hand. “Please don’t,” Nicole laughs, leaning a bit into the hand that brushes the hair away from her face. “You’re already giving me the best gift ever.”

Nicole pushes herself up to stand so she can put her hands on her sister’s shoulders and look down into her face. “Everything else can go wrong today — and it better fucking not, because I’ve worked so incredibly hard on this — and as long as you walk me down that aisle to Zachery… I’ll be happy.”

Blue eyes find blind green and Nicole studies her sister’s face, as though something might change after this day is out and she needs to remember how things are now. Which is absurd, but there is some sort of sense of standing on a precipice that comes in the hours before a wedding.

“No man in my life can ever change what we have.” It’s just as important to Nicole to say the words as it is for her sister to hear them. It’s significant.

Tasha rolls her eyes at the talk of going invisible. “I always pay,” she mouths to Nicole. It’s not actually true, but it’s part of the gag. These are the jokes, folks.

“That’s a long-ass name for someone as short as I am,” the petite Italian says, even as she slips into the shoes that bring her up a couple of inches, tall enough to surpass Collete’s height by an inch or so.

She leans back against the doorframe to watch fondly as Colette goes to embrace the bride, crossing her arms. “I’m sure she already did the criminal background check but doesn’t want you to know until you give her approval,” she says with a grin at the women through the looking glass. “So you’re probably in the clear. She’d have told you if there was anything too egregious.”

“Oh totally,” Colette says in a way that is both too fast and not as confident as she’d like it to be. What started as a joke has suddenly become something pinned up on a dusty bulletin board in the back of Colette’s noisy mind.

Leaning against Nicole, Colette smiles and briefly rests her head on her sister’s shoulder. Then leans away and puts her hands on either side of Nicole’s jaw by her ears, then leans up on her toes and kisses her on the forehead. “You know I love your whole stupid face,” she says with a smile and a slight tremble of her chin. This close, Nicole can see Colette fighting back tears, using humor to keep herself from getting too emotionally deep into the significance of the day.

“The three’f us’ll be there for you today,” Colette says softly, moving her hands away from Nicole’s face to rest on her shoulders. “But if he ever so much as disappoints you or Pippa, there won’t be enough left of him to chum the East River.”

Nicole glances over the top of Colette’s head to Tasha, brows lifting. “No doubt.” She’d be slightly disappointed if Colette hadn’t done the research. It’s what Nicole would do. If, you know, she hadn’t met and gotten to know her sister’s partners early on. She may not fully understand how their relationship works — the polycule she gets, it’s some of the other moving parts that furrow her brow — but there’s no question that the devotion is there.

Colette will come to see that in Zachery someday too, Nicole is sure of it.

The bride-to-be’s focus shifts back to her sister’s face now, expression softening. For all their barbs and jabs at one another, they’re both incredibly emotional women. “And I’m not saying I don’t appreciate that,” the threat of actual murder to her future husband, “but you’ll probably have to get in line. Maybe make it a Caesar situation?” And they both use humor to deflect.

Then, a kiss is pressed to Colette’s cheek at the corner of her mouth. “Sissy…” There are no words for how overwhelmed she is now. Nicole just drags her sister in for a tight hug. “I love your whole stupid face, too.” It’s basically just her own, but ten years younger, after all.

Tasha’s eyes widen and she whispers, “You’re scary when you’re protective. Also, be sure to marry me if that happens so I can plead the fifth, okay?” she teases.

Pulling out her phone, she swipes at the screen. “Just a second, pencilling in family murder night for March 15 of next year” before she moves over to the other side of Nicole to plant a quick kiss on her cheek, then heads to the door.

“I’m going to go lay out your outfit so it’s ready for you when you get back from your whole stupid errand,” she tells Colette, giving the two sisters a moment to bond without her.

Colette looks over her shoulder to Tasha, an irrepressible smile spread from ear to ear. “Scheduling my family murder time, layin’ out my dress. What’d I do without you?” She wonders, making a brief smooch face in Tasha’s direction before returning her attention to Nicole.

“Hey,” Colette says, stepping back and resting her hands at Nicole’s shoulders, “if I’m not gonna’ make your wedding late, I’m gonna need t’run down to the office sooner rather’n later.” Her dark brows kick up. “You gonna be able t’put your face on without me?”

Nicole makes sure to drop a kiss in return on Tasha’s cheek before she can flit away entirely. “Thanks for looking after her, sweetie. You complete her!” she calls to the lawyer’s retreating back.

The elder sister is reluctant to relax her hold on the younger, but she does eventually. Nicole never could seem to hold Colette for very long. “Yeah,” she promises in a soft voice, giving her head a short nod. “I can manage.” She grins and lifts her voice again, “Because apparently Donovan can’t. Christ, it’s your day off. What could he possibly need that he can only get from you? That can’t wait until tomorrow?”

If she’s on the edge of a rant, it’s only because she’s nervous. “If he tries to detain you longer than necessary, you ask him if you’re under arrest, then you flip him double birds and you moonwalk the fuck out of there, okay?”

Don’t. actually do that, Colette. Please.

Colette nods with a patronizingly serious expression on her face and

moonwalks backwards

then double-handed flips off Nicole on her way back out of the room.

Then, once she’s out of sight around the corner calls out:

Love you!

Merlot Joe's
Brighton Beach
9:47 AM

damianm_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

On the beachfront out by Merlot Joe's, things are quiet.

Just inside the wine bar and cafe, through the window, staff can be seen making final preparations, checking that this and that is just how it should be for the beginning of the wedding ceremony planned in just under half an hour.

Already, people are gathered outside, eager to stand and talk amongst themselves, acquaintances and friends joined for celebration or, alternatively, the free food and potential disaster. Or all of the above.

Out by the nearby treeline that borders the edge of the property, though, in the open air just removed from all of the hustle and bustle, there stands one man who is alone, dressed in a midnight blue suit with his jacket folded over a bent forearm. His back is turned to the establishment, and he's holding a phone to his ear, taking a deep breath while he listens.

He bears a striking resemblance to the groom, who should, by all accounts, be around by now. But probably not out here.

"Aisha, calm down, you're fine, I promise," he interjects with thinning patience and a thick Surrey accent. There's a wry smile on his face as he turns it up to the sky, "Finish up over there, then come here. There's still lots of time, I'm not sure they're even really expecting you, so just… sneak in here," he chuckles at something said, "Right — and then pop into my arms when you're ready, yeah? Pretend you were here all along."

Of course, Richard is absolutely not patrolling to make sure Zachery Miller doesn’t sneak off at the last minute. Of course not. That would be absolutely silly, he’s just out here enjoying the nice weather and the drink that he’s carrying in one hand.

His suit’s all in grey today, although with the jacket missing and probably hung over the back of a chair somewhere the black shirt’s in view instead; his tie a slash of red down his chest. He’d briefly mistaken the man standing out there for his victim target prey employee.

Which leaves him standing there slightly awkwardly as the man finishes up his phone call. He takes a sip of the drink to cover for it.

The differences are subtle, but they're there — this not-Zachery has slightly shorter hair, holds himself with a little less regard for forced good posture, and looks like he may actually be taking care of himself fairly well.

And… he's got two eyes to glance at Richard with. "Yeah. That's fine," he answers into the receiver, idle habits bringing a polite smile to his face as he looks down and ahead of him while he wraps up his conversation. "See you in a little bit. I love y— wow."

Then, he straightens and abruptly turns the phone to look at the screen, only to find he's been disconnected already. "Wow," he repeats again, and laughs, a little sheepishly. "Utterly destroyed. Who would have thought getting forced on an impromptu journey to the other side of the world would make a person so vicious?" Without a beat's pause, he gestures his phone loosely in Richard's direction, looking the other man over. "Bride side?"

A low chuckle escapes Richard at that disconnection, a smile tugging up a little wider. “Reminds me of my wife’s response when she got shanghai’d to Russia once,” he allows in amicably jovial tones, gesturing with his glass, “She wasn’t exactly pleased either.”

Then, a shrug; “Friend of the bride, employer of the groom. I actually thought you were him at first, which I’m guessing must mean you’re family on his side.”

The drink’s shifted hands, and he offers a shake out along with a smile, “Richard Ray.”

"Oh, of course you did—" The other man's reply comes a little rushed, while he slips his phone away and reaches to accept the handshake with considerably more enthusiasm than Richard is probably used to.

"Damian Miller, good to meet you. Identical twin, actually, so you weren't far off, really, though for all I know he's gained thirty stone and… bleached his hair, and…" he trails off, throwing a glance toward the rest of the crowd before leveling a stare back on Richard again. "Sorry," his smile pulls slightly more to one side, words threatening to become laughter. "Did you say employer? You look too proper to be a booking agent for clowns."

Richard’s wearing gloves at the moment, an odd touch, but his clasp is firm and brief as he gives Damian’s hand a strong shake. An eyebrow lifts upwards over the edge of his sunglasses, seeming surprised, “You haven’t— seen him yet?”

His retrieved hand comes up, rubbing at his jawline for a moment, “I should probably warn you about something so it doesn’t come as a shock— and hah.” A grin flashes across his expression, “No, I’m the CEO of Raytech Industries. Miller works in our biotech division.”

Mention of Raytech Industries certainly seems to help a lightbulb pop on in Damian's head, and he blinks, speechless for a moment. Certainly not that Raytech industries.

Clearly not.

"Is the huge, bulbous tumour of an ego the thing you wanted to warn me about?" He asks instead of addressing that, and mimes grabbing a lump of something by the side of his own head before he folds his arms over his chest and beams at Richard about his own, dumb joke. "Because if it is, I've seen that, I think he must have gotten that as part of finishing med school."

As for the other thing — some of the joy leaves his eyes when he adds, looking off toward the entrance of the venue up ahead. "We haven't seen each other in a while, yeah. Nearly two decades."

“Yeah, in that case…” Richard turns his head to look back to Merlot Joe’s, and then back to the other man with a more serious expression, “Zachary’s had a… hell of a bad time since you saw him last. I’ll spare you the details, those are his to tell, but…”

He grimaces briefly, “Try not to freak out about the missing eye. We’re working on getting him a new one, but we haven’t managed it yet, and he deserves to get through today without being reminded of it too much.”

All at once, any and all mirth slips from Damian's expression. "Oh."

He looks away, down, digs quickly into his memories for answers as he scrubs his hand over his face, but only emerges from his journey looking more confused, brow creased. Throwing his jacket onto one of his shoulders so he can jam his hands in his pockets, he forces himself to stand a little taller. Looking, once more, toward the entrance, and saying somewhat softly with shock, "A new…?" He shakes his head, then simply answers, "I… thank you. That's good… to know." He just barely manages to keep uncertainty from turning that into a question.

Gaze fixed ahead of him, he lifts his face as if it might otherwise fall with the amount of processing he's suddenly doing. "I get the feeling that - between the slight culture shock and jitters about being a walking, talking surprise, I've been incredibly rude to you already. And you probably weren't even lying about the CEO bit."

Apparently, this is just now occurring to him. Whatever he was expecting upon arrival, this was not it.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m not what most people think of when they think ‘CEO’,” Richard chuckles, one shoulder coming up in a ‘what can you do’ shrug in response to the comment about being rude. He motions a bit with the glass of wine, “Nothing at all to apologize for.”

A slow sip from the glass, and he says more seriously, “Your brother’s been through a lot the past ten years. I don’t know how much he’s told you, but— most of it wasn’t good. He’s trying to turn his life around, though, and I’m sure it’ll mean a lot to him that you’re here. They certainly couldn’t go overseas for the wedding.”

Though Damian's next reply comes with some delay, and he carries himself as if somehow with added weight on his bones all of a sudden, his nods during the interim grow increasingly determined. Despite the fact that 'how much', in this case, is 'nothing'.

"Alright," he says finally, willing a smile back on his face that, once jumpstarted by force, blossoms out into something a little more genuinely grateful when he looks Richard in the face again. "I appreciate this, Richard Ray," the echo is as much for committing it to memory while he's still got the matching face nearby, as it is because it's a fun one to say.

All at once, he springs into movement, taking a few re-energised steps toward the venue but turning on a heel to pull out some fingerguns and saying, "You're a good man," before throwing his thumbs over his shoulders while taking another few backwards steps, "and I should probably go introduce myself before there's more confusion. Coming along?"

“Oh, absolutely, he’ll wonder what horrible stories I’ve told you about him if he sees us together. Don’t tell him I only said good things, it’ll ruin our wonderful relationship,” Richard says in such a jovial tone that it’s entirely impossible to tell if he’s kidding.

(Spoiler: he is not.)

He moves to follow in the direction of the venue, gesturing dramatically with his glass, “Lead the way!”

The moment Damian turns back around again and lays his eyes on guests by the door catching wind of him having freed up from his conversation away from the crowd, they wave him over.

"Hello!" He calls out by way of introduction, "Damian Miller! Yes I know," he lifts both hands to gesture wildly at his own face, unable to keep from beaming at the confusion caused. "Big shock. Twin! Who would have thought!"

Fortunately for him, he seems to thrive at the attention.

Some mistaken congratulations later…

It takes some time, but he manages to extricate himself from well-meaning inquiries and touching hands, in the case of one office administrator. At least with the bride arriving soon, most of the guests present are milling about close to the entrance in anticipation, so the fight, once inside, is much more easily won.

All this for Damian to get to the bar, where things are slightly quieter — except for the fact that a voice identical to his own, is being used to berate the bartender.

"Listen, all I'm saying is," Dressed impeccably for the role of groom, thanks to more knowledgeable friends, Zachery stands with both hands on the bar, expression gravely serious. "If you wouldn't give it to a toddler, do NOT - give it - to the bride." The bartender he's speaking to smirks, but has enough experience with weddings to know not to respond except with a patient nod. "You will come to regret it."

Fortunately, that's when Damian provides a distraction, standing a few steps behind his brother to say, calmly, "Cosmas."

The groom does not immediately respond, staring ahead at nothing, now, and only just managing a flat exhalation of— "No."

“I think Nicole knows well enough not to drink right now, Miller,” is Richard’s somewhat dry observation that comes a moment later also from behind the man. Only briefly, though, because then he’s stepping beside him and reaching out to set the glass he’s been drinking out of on the bar.

A half-turn, looking over the stunned groom, and he brushes an imaginary piece of lint off his shoulder. “Looking good. Now turn around.”

"No," Zachery breathes again, as if he's since expired, having played the part of corpse during Richard's approach.

Damian smiles broadly at his newfound friend, apparently all too happy to see him again, and crosses his arms over his chest while his head lifts in anticipatory glee.

"There's only one person who would call me that," Zachery explains, voice as well as face bereft of life as he leans heavily into the bar in front of him without looking at either of the people actually speaking to him. "Barkeep. I need you to know that when I said 'no drinks for me until the very last hour’, I was lying. I was a fool. I take it back."

There is no response. They've got this stipulation in writing. The (soon-to-be) Millers do not, apparently, halfass wedding plans.

Richard turns to face away from the bar itself, leaning back against it beside Zachery and grinning broadly back to Damian and in clear peripheral view of the groom..

“So, I’ve got to know the story behind that one,” he asks his employee’s brother, “I need more dirt on Zachery, come on. Spill the tea as my dear friend Raquelle would put it.”

"You could grow a tree in here for how much dirt you have on me, Richard." Zachery, resigned, straightens to face his employer guest. The smile he forces onto his face is more grimace than anything else, and exasperation lies poorly hidden in an exaggeratedly slow turn around, in a three piece suit of blacks and reds.

Damian freezes, a flicker of concern making itself known in the furrow of his brow when he catches full sight of his brother's face. "… Go on," he manages, after a few seconds, smile widening again, "you spill the tea. It'll be less painful."

"Zachery," the groom sighs out his own name, unblinking death stare aimed ahead of him, and then says what inevitably has to follow: "Cosmas. Miller."

Damian's eyes close as he tilts his head back, doing all he can to keep from laughing as he bathes in this moment.

Cosmas?” Richard’s eyebrows go up to his hairline, and he grins broadly, rolling the name around on his tongue, “Zachery… Cosmas… Miller. Oh, I’m going to have to make sure the priest uses that full name in the ceremony.”

He’s probably kidding. At least he doesn’t head off to immediately request this addition to the wedding.

“Is there a story to that? Is that even a name?”

"You might notice the middle name is not in my records, Richard," Zachery says sharply, unmoving, like he needs some more time to reboot. "Because sometimes we would like to leave names behind, don't we."

"Our parents are funny people," Damian chimes in, taking his spot on the opposite side of Zachery and sliding both elbows fully onto the bar as he props himself against it. "Who named us after some old Arab blokes in a fit of wishful thinking."

Zachery fails to look anywhere but where Damian stood a moment ago, forgetting to blink for the time being. "Maybe I'm hallucinating him," He non-sequiturs faux-calmly, "Maybe I've snapped. That would be fine."

“You are neither hallucinating, nor have I enlisted Seren for some sort of bizarre prank,” Richard quips, even though he’s not sure that Seren can do that or not. “I mean, stranger things have happened around us in the past, but…”

He reaches out to poke Zachery’s shoulder firmly with a gloved fingertip, “Say hello to your brother, Miller.”

"Hello to your brother," Damian replies, out of turn.

"I will strangle you," Zachery replies, out of sorts.

“Oh, I like him.” Richard leans over to look around Zachery to Damian, “I don’t suppose that you’re looking for a job, are you?”

Damian leans right with Richard, beaming with pride and eyebrows high. "Thinking about quitting my job. You've already got one of us, you might as well complete the collection."

Finally breaking his stare at the nothing in front of him, Zachery turns to block his brother's view of Richard with a raised arm and hand, and demands to know in a voice strained with dread he's trying and failing not to show on his face, "Did you put him up to this?"

“I do like full collections,” Richard brings one hand up to rub at his jawline, looking playfully thoughtful about it, “So do you have a resume— “

Then Zachery’s arm is up to block his view, and he grins at the man.

“I swear by my three precocious children, I didn’t even know you had a brother until about ten minutes ago. I found him outside, I thought he was you trying to run away and was preparing to break his leg.”

"R-… run away," Zachery echoes with a rise of his shoulders and his brow knitting, blinking as if the concept itself is so foreign he'll need to get it translated before it might fully register. "No, I'm… I'm here, I'm just supremely confused."

"It was Nicole," Damian pops up over Zachery's unobstructed shoulder, looming and almost but not quite touching. A Sibling Skill he has, apparently, yet to lose. "Hey Richard - do you prefer Rich, or Dick, or…? Did you know we have a type? Fascinating, right."

Zachery's gaze unfocuses as he takes a deep breath, reaching slowly upward to hook a finger behind the crimson tie against his nice, crisp, white dress shirt, loosening it just a smidge.

“Richard or Rich is fine. Not Dick, please,” Richard chuckles, and then he exhales a sigh, reaching out, “Oh no you don’t. Hold still, Mill— Zachery.” He has to use the man’s first name now, at least so long as Damian’s here!

He reaches out, trying to adjust the tie back into place.

He'll blame his lack of resistance on the surprise later, but Zachery only sneers as the tie is fixed, his shoulders squaring as he fixes Richard with a look of utmost seriousness. "Richard," he pauses, for dramatic effect, "how am I supposed to fight him if he has a noose to grab."

Damian sidesteps into clear view again, and shrugs his shoulders with a lopsided smirk. "Well. He's got a point, there, Richard."

“Well, he can’t grab your noose,” is Richard’s very reasoned response as he finishes adjusting it, “That’s the bride’s job, and also, if you got into a fist-fight at her wedding she will electrify you both to the point that a bunch of Texans will show up thinking someone is making brisket.”

“So you should probably save it for the reception.”

Suddenly, in the face of Richard's comments, the only noise is the other guests and noises of preparation.

Until a few quiet seconds later, both of the Miller twins breathe out a chuckle at once — Damian's laugh is a little warmer, still tumbling out of him while Zachery stifles his wry amusement lifts both hands to scrub his palms over his fake and real eye both. "Christ."

"No, no," Damian interjects, taking the time while Zachery's blinded himself to sigh out in relief. A flicker of panic is shaken off, and his grin returns with ease, to be aimed at Richard next. "I liked it. Please tell me you're doing a speech."

"I can't…" Zachery drags his hands down his face, and simply begins to walk away. "This is a nightmare. I'm leaving." With a hearbeat's worth of a pause, he adds, just in case, "To take a piss!"

“Oh, nobody wants that. I think I’m banned from speaking at public occasions,” Richard laughs, waving a hand vaguely through the air in dismissal, “Every time I try there’s some government agent desperately waving me down while drinking heavily to get me to stop.”

He’s not actually kidding, but Damian will assume he is.

He grins after Zachery, then looks back to the man’s twin, “I think that went well. I should go check on the bride, see if she needs an emergency flight out of the country.” Probably kidding.


Merlot Joe's
Brighton Beach
10:42 AM


The ceremony’s due to start in about fifteen minutes. The guests have arrived, most of them seated already. The wedding party — small as it is — are milling about inside the building, waiting to file out and down the aisles. The bride, however, is nowhere to be found.

Well, not nowhere.

The pavement in the back parking lot is still slick from the showers that only stopped about 90 minutes prior. Behind the building, she stands there in her white dress adorned with a cascade of red embroidered flowers that seem to fall from her bodice and gather in a pile at the hem of her organza skirt. Awkwardly, because she can’t lean on anything, lest she risk getting any grime on her pristine garment. And she’s worked so very hard to make sure today is going to be perfect.

That’s just what Nicole Varlane does.

But right now, she looks uncertain. Not quite like she’s ready to bolt — she wouldn’t get far in those strappy red heels anyway — but like she’s actually overwhelmed for once. Given everything that’s happened to her recently, that is probably well overdue.

Reaching into her dress (it has pockets!), Nicole withdraws a compact mirror and looks over her reflection for about the 58th time since she’s stepped outside for air. Her make-up, appropriately dramatic smokey eye and pearlescent nude lipstick, is unsmudged except where it should be.

“If you’re looking to run,” comes Richard’s voice from the back of the building, where he’s very quietly passed through the back door and is leaning against it, arms folded over his chest and that rogue’s smile curving to his lips as he looks at her over the edge of dark sunglasses, “I can have a plane ready to fly to Argentina by the time you get to the airport.”

He’s teasing, of course. Unless she actually is looking to run.

“Although it’d be a shame to waste that dress. You’re lovely right now.”

Nicole startles at first, having not expected the voice from behind her, but it’s all banished with a breath of laughter as she turns around to face the disturbance to her reverie. “Richard.

Her smile is a fond one. With a quick glance down to make sure she isn’t about to tread through a puddle, she makes her way over to where he stands, reaching out with both hands. Not for a hug, but to take his own gloved one in hers and give a quick squeeze.

There will be no hugs in this dress until after the vows have been exchanged.

“Thank you.” Nicole’s smile curls into something a little more sheepish. “Do you think he’ll like it?” One side of her mouth stretches further out, a nervous grimace. “He hasn’t seen it, and… I gave him a swatch?”

Nicole’s eyes get big then. “Have you seen him? Please tell me he’s wearing something red.” She was very clear about that.

“I’m just saying,” Richard says, vis-a-vis the escape route, but he’s already laughing even as he steps forward, reaching out to take her hands in return, giving her a warm squeeze through the gloves.

“I have, and yes, he is,” he allows in wry tones, “Although I ran into his twin first, at the edge of the party. I thought he was trying to escape and I was going to have to chase him down and break his legs, but no— just surprise twin.”

A glance back to the party, then back, “If he wasn’t married I’d say we could swap them out, he seems to have more of his shit together.” He’s probably still kidding.

“Oh, wait, no, that just means he’s your type, doesn’t it?” He grins. Now he is kidding.

Nicole grins at the teasing. It puts her at ease from her earlier fretting about her husband’s attire, which she did not vet. “Swapping one Miller for another? Doesn’t feel like my style. If I’m going to trade up…” The ribbing doesn’t bother at all. Not coming from him, anyway. “I’m going for the deluxe model. You’re still my type,” she reminds him with a wink and a smoothing over of his lapel that’s definitely just a joke between friends. Probably.

“Admit it,” she needles him gently. “You’re a little disappointed I’m coming off the market.” He can see the nervous energy in her, making her jittery. Maybe a little gratification will help. It can’t hurt, right?

“Maybe a little,” Richard teases back, eyebrows raising a little over his shades in a playful fashion, “If only we hadn’t had so much to drink that one night.”

He grins, though, noting, “Still not sure what you see in him, but if he makes you happy? That’s what matters. That said, if he ever hurts you I’m shoving him into a particle accelerator.” Not entirely teasing, there. “Not getting nervous, are you? The last time you were pregnant you attacked a fortified paramilitary compound, c’mon, you can face a wedding.”

“Well, I’m not married yet.” Nicole lifts her brows and bites her lower lip.

An expression that lasts all of 1.5 seconds before she buries her face in one hand, laughing at her own antics. “Oh, that was so bad. I’m sorry,” she apologizes with a wave of that hand. Forget she said anything.

“He does make me happy,” Nicole confirms. Even she isn’t sure how those things that make her happy trump all the reasons she could find to walk away, if she wanted to look for them. She’s here, and it’s precisely where she wants to be.

Still, she looks nervous. Feels nervous. Her unborn children aren’t large enough for her to feel their movements yet, so those are definitely butterflies in her stomach. “Somehow, the possibility of death felt less permanent than this does,” Nicole admits. “It’s stupid, right? I’ve been living with him since the end of January, so that’s not a transition that’s going to happen suddenly after I say I do. Maybe it’s because of the kids?” That’s an eighteen year commitment right there.

Nicole looks to the door Richard walked out of, as if she could see her way through the building and where her husband-to-be stands on the other side with the rest of the wedding party, waiting to walk out. “What if he doesn’t like my dress?”

Of course, it’s not about the dress. Well, it is, but not really. “What if I give him my all, and he decides he doesn’t want it? Or it isn’t good enough?” Marriage, it turns out, is like opening up her chest to expose her heart, handing Zachery a knife, and simply having to trust that he isn’t going to take a stab at it. It’s like exposing the ultimate vulnerability.

“The answer,” for the record, “is not, Then I shove him into a particle accelerator.


At that first comment, then the laugh, Richard grins broadly— shaking his head and noting playfully, “If I’d gotten the conduit reliably under control…” A wink. He can be bad too, at least in commentary.

Then all those worries and butterfly-flutters are coming out of her, and he sighs, stepping forward and bringing a gloved hand up to nudge her chin up so he can meet her gaze.

“Nicole. You look beautiful. He’s actually stuck around with you and not gone running off into self-destruction instead to never be heard of again, and given his history that’s actually pretty impressive. I don’t understand how the two of you fit together, but if you do, and you seem to, that’s not something to be afraid of. For whatever reason, he’s tossed aside all of his horrific coping mechanisms to be with you.”

“Treasure that instead of being afraid of it. Trust him like he trusts you.”

A pause.

“But I can always throw him into a particle accelerator, so keep that one in mind.”

He doesn’t have to trust Zachery, after all.

Nicole looks so helpless, staring up at Richard with his knuckles under her chin while he reassures her that this can’t be entirely the wrong decision, if nothing else. Finally, she starts to smile again.

Reaching up, she rests a hand on either of Richard’s shoulders and leans in close, like she might want to kiss him, but instead she holds where their foreheads nearly touch. Her eyes lid and she stands like that with him for a quiet coupling of moments.

From the other side of the building, music starts to play. Nicole leans back and opens her eyes again, letting out a heavy exhale. “Well. Showtime, I guess. You better go get your seat.” She takes the opportunity before his departure to fuss with his tie, straightening it just the barest bit.

Then her eyes suddenly widened, alarmed. “Something borrowed. Richard, I can’t go out there. I don’t have something borrowed. I meant to get something from—” She stammers on the name. It doesn’t matter. There were multiple chances to secure something, and she forgot to.

It’s a superstition, but Nicole wants all the luck she can get right now, and she doesn’t want to tempt fate by fucking with traditions.

Richard’s gloved hands reach up to rest back on her shoulders in return, and he closes his eyes, drawing in a slow breath and then exhaling it with a smile. When she leans back, he does too, watching her adjusting his tie.

“It’s going to be fine. Trust me, it…” Borrowed? He blinks, blinks again, looks down at himself, pats his pockets a few times as if trying to figure out something he can give her. Then he snaps his fingers, shifting his hand a bit as if pulling on something; shadow twisting into solidity, he offers her a rather small, unusual pistol of Russian make. An OTs-38 Stechkin, to be specific.

“I’ll want it back,” he says with a grin, “But every bride should be armed, right?”

Nicole breathes out an appreciative sound, astonished at the way he makes that pistol appear from the shadowed ether. “And me without my thigh holster,” she laughs quietly, taking the firearm with the appropriate care and reverence it deserves.

She’s a professional, checking to see if it’s loaded first, making sure she’s not going to accidentally shoot herself in the thigh. Because that would put a damper on the day.

Taking a step back, Nicole starts gathering up her skirt in her hands, bunching it up until she can reveal the garter around her right thigh, red ribbon looped through white lace. The pistol is tucked in, shifted a moment. Then she casts a glance up to Richard and flashes a grin. “It’s perfect.

“Just don’t lose it, I don’t think you can get those anymore,” cautions Richard good-naturedly as he hands it over, “It was a gift from… an old friend.”

It is loaded, but the safety’s on, and the first chamber’s clear.
He can’t help but whistle when she brings up that skirt, grinning back to her, “Now, stop trying to turn me on and go marry that man out there before I drag you to Tahiti for some sinful debauchery or something. Shoo.”

He makes the hand motion. Shoo. Shoo. Off with you.

Nicole laughs and resettles her dress into place. “No, you go.” She sets her hands on his shoulders, turning him around and pushing him toward the door. “Tell my sister to poke her head out the door when Zachery’s clear. I didn’t hide from him this long to fuck it up at fourth and inches.” Before he can make some joke about that, she’s shoving Richard through the doorway and slamming it shut behind him.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License