DISCLAIMER: Imagine Me & You and its characters are the property of Ol Parker etc. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to ralst for the prompt. A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A small group of people stood just inside the entrance of a quaint English church and gazed around its interior curiously. One woman in particular passed a critical eye over the spacious walls, somewhat narrow aisle, long wooden pews, and finally, the simple, but ornate, altar. She smiled. It was absolutely perfect.
"I know exactly what needs to be done here," said Tessa, her eyes flitting from area to area as she planned for strategic placements of various floral arrangements, "You lot can go; I'll meet with the florist."
"Very well then." Ned quickly turned to leave, fearing he'd not make it to the door before his wife changed her mind. "I believe I spied a pub just a few streets over. We'll leave you to it."
Heck smiled in relief and took hold of his fiancée's hand. "Good job then; let's go, Rach. Let your mum sort out the details."
"Can I go too, Heck?" asked H, the young girl dreading the prospect of staying behind with her mother. Besides, she'd never been in a pub before.
Kneeling down on one knee, he winked at Rachel's sister and asked teasingly, "I don't know can you?"
She rolled her eyes, but played along anyway. Anything to escape the hours and hours it would take her mother to map out all the floral details, and that was just the flowers for the church. The reception would no doubt take even longer. "May I go with?"
"Why certainly, you only had to ask." Standing, he offered a boyish grin and then his hand. H grabbed hold and eased by his side. She'd been saved.
In the doorway, Ned had one foot poised outside the door as he readied to make a clean getaway. "Yes, well, c'mon then."
Heck, Rachel, and H started forward, their arms swinging to and fro as they walked, but they suddenly came to an abrupt halt when Rachel hesitated. "Perhaps I should stay. It is my wedding after all."
"Don't be silly, Dear. You needn't worry yourself about such trivial details. Go along with the others." Tessa offered a forced half-smile. The florist would be there any minute, and she didn't need outside distractions, especially from her daughter. She glared at her husband, "This is all your fault."
Ned sighed tiredly and made nice, "Listen to your mother, Poppet." Knowing he'd done all he could, he walked outside and started down the pavement, not bothering to look back to see if the others had followed. It was every man for himself now.
Rachel looked from her nervous fiancé to her overbearing mother. Already wearing an expression that bordered on regret, she released Heck's hand and chose her fate a morning of certain hell. "You two go on ahead, I'll be along soon."
"You sure?" Guiding Rachel toward the door, Heck spared a glance at his soon-to-be mother-in-law. He couldn't believe his fiancée was going to voluntarily subject herself to her mother's meeting with the florist. It wouldn't matter what she said or did, the older woman's decisions would prevail in the end anyway they always did.
"Yes," answered Rachel in a tone that was full of uncertainty. She gamely pasted on a smile and explained, "I'd like to at least meet the person responsible for one of the most important aspects of my wedding, even if I won't have a say."
"If you're sure then," said Heck, leaning forward to kiss her check. "Perhaps after the introductions are made, you'll come join us." With a quick peck on her lips, he turned and walked away, a willing H blanketing his side. The pair had barely stepped through the door when Tessa started down the aisle, gesturing at the ends of the pews.
"I think we'll go with alternating colors along the aisle and then . . ."
Sinking down in the pew nearest the door, Rachel tuned her mother out as she leaned back and looked up at the ceiling, her ever present thoughts inching their way to the forefront. She loved Heck, truly she did. He was her best friend; witty, smart, kind and loving - the perfect catch. So, why did she have these lingering doubts? Was it just cold feet? Did everyone have these thoughts before their wedding? Had the piece of her heart that was always searching for her soul mate recognized Heck as her one and only, or, as she was beginning to fear, had she settled for contentment and that certain piece would now just shrivel and die?
A noise from behind caught her attention, and she turned just in time to see the door of the church push open, the bright morning light forcing its way past the person who'd allowed it to enter. Rachel squinted and focused on the doorway itself, her breath almost leaving her body as a shimmering figure stood at the threshold, a warm, soft glow surrounding the individual and giving an almost celestial appearance. She watched mesmerized as the shape solidified into that of a woman, her hair appearing so red it looked as if it was on fire. Rachel swallowed hard as the woman stepped out of the light and smiled. She truly did look like an angel.
"Hello, I'm Luce, the florist." She walked forward and extended her hand. "You must be the bride."
Rachel clumsily pushed to her feet and shook the offered hand. "Yes, I'm Rachel."
The two women stood, wordlessly, staring at each other, their linked hands completing the connection each felt deep in her soul. Neither understood the feeling of immediate familiarity, choosing instead to just enjoy the incredible sensation until their comfortable bond was severed by a very impatient Tess.
"Are you the florist?" She didn't wait for a reply, figuring the woman must be the one she'd spoken to on the phone. "I'd like to start with the altar and work from there. Have you got something to write this all down?"
Luce released Rachel's hand, instantly feeling a sense of indescribable loss as she turned to address the older woman. "I've got a very good memory."
"Well, you'd better. I only want to go over this once," said Tessa, starting down the aisle. Luce grinned as Rachel mouthed an apology for her mother's rudeness, and with a wink at the bride, she followed the older woman to the altar. As usual, it was all about the mother.
Rachel sunk back into the pew and watched the florist walk away. She knew she was no longer needed and was free to make her getaway to the pub, but she found herself wanting to stay. She kept her eye on Luce and watched in amazement as the other woman was able to change her mother's mind on a couple of arrangements, the suggestions closely mirroring her own tastes. She smiled brightly; with Luce looking out for her interests, her flowers were going to be perfect.
"Ready, Poppet?" asked Ned, gently patting his daughter's hand that was crooked around his elbow. With a deep sigh, Rachel nodded. She was as ready as she'd ever be.
The music signaled their cue, and the pair slowly inched forward as the guests stood as one, all eyes centered on the bride. Nervously, Rachel kept her gaze forward, focused on Heck, but halfway down the aisle, her skin suddenly began to tingle and a shiver ran up her spine. Instinctively, she turned to her left and looked past a row of guests to spy Luce standing on the other end of the pew, her reddish-tinted hair highlighted by the candlelight, creating a warm glow around the other woman. Time seemed to stand still as a sense of déjà vu encompassed her, her confusion causing her to look away for just a moment, only to look back to find Luce gone. She didn't fully understand the feeling of emptiness she felt when she next gazed upon her fiancé, figuring whatever it was would pass once they were wed. Little did she know, her confusion had only just begun.
That piece of her heart hadn't withered and died as she'd feared; it had finally found her soul mate, and it wasn't Heck.
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