Summary: After a serene morning spent with the wedding party, the afternoon devolves into chaos.
Notes: I used some of PB’s original dialogue and bedazzled it a bit.
CW: terrorist attack, pregnancy
New to the series? Catch up here: Part 1,Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8,Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13,Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36, Part 37, Part 38, Part 39, Part 40, Part 41, Part 42, Part 43, Part 44, Part 45, Part 46, Part 47, Part 48, Part 49, Part 50, Part 51, Part 52, Part 53, Part 54, Part 55
On the morning of the wedding, Alice awoke to the sound of a familiar, rapid-fire knock on the door and found Bastien curled around her protectively, his brow furrowed in concern even while he slept. She kissed the worried crease in his forehead and he stirred, pulling her closer.
“How does Maxwell have that much energy first thing in the morning?” he mumbled.
“Witchcraft,” Alice said. “I’ll go find out what he wants. You stay here and I’ll start the coffee pot.”
“You’re my favorite person,” he said as he pulled a pillow over his head to drown out Maxwell’s next barrage of knocks.
Alice climbed out of bed and threw on one of Bastien’s t-shirt and a pair of sweats before answering the door. “Maxwell, what are you doing here?”
“Good morning!” Maxwell exclaimed. “I’ve been sent to collect you for breakfast and the spa day. Hana arranged it all for the wedding party.”
“Oh, right, I forgot about that,” Alice said, vaguely remembering the itinerary Hana had emailed her the night before. “Yeah, just give me a minute to get dressed and I’ll meet you downstairs.”
“Olivia said you should hurry up—I don’t really want to repeat exactly what she said, but there were threats.”
“Okay, okay,” Alice said. She promised Maxwell she’d be downstairs in fifteen minutes and shut the door. When she made her way back into the small kitchen to start the coffee pot, she was surprised to see Bastien sitting up in bed, blearily rubbing his eyes.
“Thought you would’ve fallen back asleep,” Alice said.
“Maxwell has exactly one volume and it’s not quiet,” Bastien said. “I’m telling myself this is just practice for when our baby arrives and she wakes us up at all hours.”
“I appreciate your optimism,” Alice said as she hit the start button on the coffee pot and reached into a cabinet for a granola bar.
“Aren’t you about to go have breakfast?” Bastien asked.
“Yes, but the baby thinks waiting for food is stupid,” Alice said around a mouthful of food. “Plus, if I don’t eat right when I wake up, that sets up nausea issues for the rest of the day and Olivia is going to be pissed if I throw up on her today.”
Bastien hauled himself up out of bed and retrieved his boxer briefs from the floor, pulling them on before he walked over to join her in the kitchen.
“Do you have to work all day today?” Alice asked as she leaned against the counter.
“Hopefully not. I’m going to be busy up until the ceremony starts but, as long as there aren’t any immediate concerns on the radar, I should be able to just be a guest.”
“Good, but I know you—are you actually going to be able to stop working or are you going to spend half of the night asking Ian for updates?”
“I’m going to try,” Bastien promised. “After all, someone is going to have to dance with you at the reception,” he said as he leaned in to kiss her cheek. “I hate to say this, but you should hurry and get dressed so you can get downstairs.”
“I know, I know, I’m going,” Alice said as she crossed the room to the closet. She pulled off the t-shirt and sweatpants, dropping them to the floor.
“I’ll pick them up in a second!”
“That’s not what I meant,” Bastien said. Alice looked back at him to see Bastien rake his eyes over her naked body. “It’s taking all of my restraint to not make you late this morning.”
Alice grinned cheekily at him before she started to dress herself. “I expect you to make good on that later.”
“Oh, I definitely will.”
Alice finished dressing and grabbed her phone and her bag, stopping to kiss Bastien goodbye.
“Hey,” Bastien said. “Today is going to be busy and there’s a lot of tension after what happened last night. Please stay with the security time at all times, it’s killing me that I can’t be there with you. And if you get separated from them for whatever reason, call me immediately and stay close to Olivia.”
“I will, I promise,” Alice said. Bastien smiled and put his hand on her stomach before he leaned in and kissed her again.
Alice left their quarters and had nearly reached the main staircase when her phone buzzed with a quote from Zelda Fitzgerald.
Nobody has ever measured, even poets, how much a heart can hold
Alice smiled and texted back a line from Doctor Zhivago.
You and I, it’s as though we have been taught to kiss in heaven and sent down to earth together, to see if we know what we were taught
At the bottom of the stairs, Alice met up with Maxwell and together they made their way through the palace, teeming with activity, until they reached a small, secluded dining room where the rest of the wedding party, save for Hana, was waiting.
“Hey, I’m not the last one!” Alice said as she and Maxwell took their seats at the table.
“Nice try, she’s already been through here,” Drake said. “She ran off to check on something for the wedding, but she should be—“
“Sorry! I’m back!” Hana said as she hurried through the door and sat down at the table.
“Technically, you’re on time for once—I sent Maxwell up early to get you,” Olivia said.
Liam cleared his throat, drawing the attention to him. “Everyone, thank you for joining us this morning. Liv and I are really grateful to have this time to spend with all of you before our wedding today.”
Olivia took his hand and smiled at him before addressing the group. “Yes, thank you for being here. I’m not really good at the whole…feelings thing…but it means a lot that you’re here.”
“To Liam and Olivia!” Maxwell said as he raised his water glass.
The rest of the group echoed the toast, glasses were clinked, and everyone started to pass around the plates heaping with food.
“Oh my god, this is so good,” Maxwell said as he took a bite of the thick cut bacon over buttery potatoes.
“Glad you like it,” Liam said. “I wanted to make sure we had ‘real food’ today so there wouldn’t be any complaints,” he added with exaggerated air quotes.
“I wouldn’t have complained!” Drake protested.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at him.
“Okay, I only would have complained quietly,” Drake said. “I’m not so much of a dick that I can’t suck it up for my best friend’s wedding.”
“I know, I’m just giving you a hard time,” Liam said. “And anyway, this is a traditional Cordonian wedding day meal.”
“Because you want to front load all of your calories to be able to make it through the day?” Alice asked.
“Something like that,” Olivia said. “Also, cured meats represent bounty and fortune, and consuming it on your wedding day is meant to bless the union.”
“Who knew bacon could be so romantic?” Hana asked.
“I did,” Maxwell said.
“So, Olivia, what is the one thing you’re most excited for today?” Hana asked.
“I’m most excited to marry Liam,” Olivia said as if it should be obvious. “If it wouldn’t have caused a scandal, I would’ve married him the night he proposed.”
“That’s really sweet, Liv,” Alice said.
“Do you have to insult me on my wedding day?”
“I would’ve thought you’d say something like you’re most excited to rain justice and hellfire down on your enemies today,” Drake said.
“Hana asked for what I’m most excited for, not what I’m second most excited for.”
“Liam? Same question,” Alice said.
He grinned. “Obviously my answer is the same as Liv’s. I can’t imagine having anyone else by my side.”
“Okay, fine, I should’ve seen that coming. What’s the things you’re second most excited for today?” Alice asked.
“The cake,” Liam said.
“Oh man, I don’t know if I’ve adequately recovered from the last time,” Maxwell said as he put his hand on his stomach.
“You say that now…” Alice said.
“I know, I’ll be psyched for it later,” Maxwell admitted. “You know, in Ramsford, we have a tradition of giving marriage advice on the morning of a wedding.”
“Wouldn’t that mean that Ayers is the only person qualified to give marriage advice since she’s the only one who is currently married?” Drake asked.
“I’ve been married for two weeks, I’m hardly an expert,” Alice said.
“Doesn’t matter, we’ll all give some unsolicited advice,” Maxwell said. “I’ll start—even when things get busy and you’re ruling a country and kicking ass, remember to always take time to have fun together and dance when you can.”
“I like that,” Liam said.
“I’ll go next,” Hana said. “Remember that the two of you are a team and always be in each other’s corner. My parents might have been crappy parents, but they’ve always been a tight, unbreakable unit, for better or worse.”
“Thanks, Hana,” Olivia said. Alice watched as Olivia squeezed Liam’s hand and smiled briefly at him.
“Drake? What about you?” Liam asked.
“Oh, um…” Drake paused, thinking. “Something my parents always did was they tried to have at least one meal together every day. It wouldn’t always be the same meal since sometimes my dad would have to work late or leave early, but they always found time to eat together. Sometimes my dad would get back as the sun was coming up and my mom would wake up early so they could have breakfast together before he went to sleep. It was harder when he traveled, but I guess you guys could make it work with FaceTime or something.”
“Drake, I love that,” Alice said.
“Me, too,” Liam said.
“Alright, married lady, what do you have?” Olivia asked.
Alice thought for a moment. “The first thing that comes to mind is a quote from Maya Angelou: ‘Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.’ I’ve seen how much the two of you love each other and I hope neither of you ever loses the trust you have in that love.
“Thanks, Alice,” Liam said. “I hope you and Bastien have that, too.”
They continued eating and once they’d finished, servers began to clearly away empty plates as everyone sat back in their chairs, full. Alice was pleased to discover she didn’t feel nauseated after the rich food, although she remembered the new pack of ginger chews in her bag, just in case. The group then got up and made their way through the palace to the spa.
“How did I not know this was here?” Alice asked as Hana conferred with the receptionist.
“Because you know nothing, Jon Snow,” Olivia said with a smirk.
“I walked right into that one,” Alice said, rolling her eyes as an attendant led everyone to sit in large, comfortable massage chairs.
“So…we’re all getting manicures and pedicures?” Drake asked hesitantly.
“Dude, it’s worth it,” Maxwell said as he pressed a few buttons on his chair’s remote and relaxed as it began to roll along the muscles of his back. “Relax and prepare to be transported into bliss.
“I don’t need to be transported anywhere,” Drake said. “I’m fine here, really.”
“Drake, your masculinity is not this fragile,” Alice said. “A nail file and some moisturizer isn’t going to make your dick fall off.”
“That’s not what I…I mean, I’m not…you know what, just forget it,” Drake said as he settled into the chair beside Liam.”
“Liv, do you want Hana and me to get any color in particular?” Alice asked.
“I was thinking just a French manicure,” Olivia said. “I thought about having you get red to match the bridesmaid dresses, but trying to color match turned into a whole thing that I can’t bring myself to get upset over.”
“I like French manicures, I think they’re very classic and chic,” Hana said.
The attendants turned on the foot baths and eased each of their feet into the warm, bubbling water.
“This feels so good after wearing heels so much during three back to back tours,” Alice said.
“My feet are going to be so ready for dancing later,” Maxwell said. He reached over and put his hand on Alice’s arm. “You’re going to dance with me later, right?”
“You know, it’s kind of hard to believe today is actually here,” Liam said as he reached over for Olivia’s hand.
“I know what you mean—I’ve literally been celebrating your impending marriage since the night I met you,” Alice said.
“Oh god, that’s right,” Liam said. “It feels like you and Hana have been around with us for a lot longer than just the social season.”
“I agree,” Olivia said. “Alice, it feels like you’ve always been a part of House Beaumont.”
Alice and Maxwell fist bumped.
“And, Hana…I honestly have no idea how court functioned without you,” Liam said.
“I’ve already decided to clone her for when she inevitably quits being my press secretary to becoming a headlining fashion designer,” Alice said.
“Oh, stop, I’ll help you find someone else before I go, which probably won’t be anytime soon,” Hana said.
“You’re already getting so many custom orders, Hana. Plus, Ana de Luca said you were a designer to watch after seeing the photos of my wedding dress. I know you’re massively organized and just a superior human being, but sooner or later you’re going to have to quit and I am completely in support of that.”
“Hey, that reminds me,” Maxwell said, leaning forward in his seat. “For next year’s costume gala, I want to talk to you about designing something squid-themed for me.”
“Sure, I’ll pencil you in,” Hana said, smiling.
The attendants scrubbed and moisturized their feet before painting Olivia, Alice, and Hana’s nails. Afterwards, they moved on to the manicure stations and by the time they were done, Alice felt gloriously pampered and relaxed.
“Drake, you’ve been quiet—you okay?” Liam asked as they got ready to leave the spa.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Drake said.
“I think someone liked the mani-pedi more than they thought they would,” Alice said, bumping his shoulder with hers.
“Well, someone should have mentioned that it’s basically a foot and hand massage,” Drake said.
“I knew it! See, I told you,” Maxwell said.
“I already talked to the front desk about setting up a standing appointment for you,” Hana said.
Hana laughed. “Drake, I’m kidding.”
“Alright, as much as I enjoy watching Drake squirm, I think we should get going,” Olivia said. Liam leaned over and gave her a kiss.
“See you at the altar?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t miss it.”
After getting their hair and make up done in a room designated as Olivia’s bridal suite, the three of them made their way downstairs with the security staff to the front of the palace, where a horse drawn carriage waited to take them to Ana de Luca’s boutique where, for security reasons, they would dress for the wedding. They climbed inside and, flanked in the front and the back by heavily armored security vehicles, their procession began. Alice pulled out her phone and saw a text from Bastien.
How’s it going?
We’re in the carriage and on our way to the boutique to get dressed. How are things on your end?
So far, so good. I can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong though, things feel too quiet
If there’s anything, I know you’ll catch it. But maybe we’re going to get lucky today?
Oh, you’re definitely going to get lucky
I know this might not be possible, but try not to stress too much. There’s no one more capable than you and today is infinitely safer because of you.
Thanks, Gray, that means a lot. Save me a dance?
When they arrived at the boutique, another security team was waiting for them, along with Ana de Luca herself.
“How are things going at the cathedral?” Olivia asked Mara.
“I’m happy to report that security at the cathedral is as tight as can be, Your Grace,” Mara said.
“Good,” Olivia said.
They headed into the back room and Hana retrieved the bridesmaid dresses that had been couriered over from the palace and she and Alice dressed in the elegant floor length dresses Olivia selected for them. Dark red with a keyhole cutout in the front and side cutouts that contrasted beautifully with modest, covered shoulders and intricate black beadwork at the waist. Alice was glad the dress zipped easily—she’d noticed her body start to shift and change a little with fuller curves, but so far she was pretty sure only she and Bastien had noticed.
“Alice, you look great!” Hana said.
“Thanks, Han, so do you.”
“Yeah, you filled out a little, Alice. Which I mean in a good way—you got a little too thin during the tour,” Olivia said.
“Is there a compliment in there?” Alice asked, amused.
“I’m trying to say you look good, obviously,” Olivia said, rolling her eyes. “You both do.”
Maybe the changes hadn’t been as subtle as Alice had thought.
Finally, it was time for Olivia. Ana de Luca started to lead Olivia into a large dressing room when suddenly, smoke shrouded the grounds outside and a small explosion shook the side of the building. Alice stumbled, catching herself on a rack of dresses as Mara spoke into her earpiece, her voice firm and level.
“What’s going on?” Hana asked.
He knew. Bastien knew it was too quiet, Alice thought.
“Perimeter breach,” Mara said. “Anton’s found us. Everyone, stay in here and barricade the door.”
Alice looked over at Olivia who straightened up, brushing an errant strand of hair back from her face as the security team sprang into action. Ana de Luca leaned against the wall and looked like she was about to be sick. Mara took off down the hallway towards the front of the store and one of the two remaining members of the security team shut the door behind her.
“Use the couch to barricade the door,” Olivia instructed the guards. “It’s not much, but it’s what we have, and in a situation like this, even a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Move some of these chairs in front of the door to the stock room.”
Alice pulled out her phone and texted Bastien as the guards sprang into action. Attack at the boutique, we’re in the back.
A few seconds later, her phone rang.
“Can you barricade yourselves in?”
“Olivia had the team stack some of the furniture in front of the doors. It’s not much, but it’s what we have.”
“Stay back from the doors.”
Gunfire echoed through the building. Ana screamed, causing Alice to jump and drop her phone, which bounced on the plush carpet. She dropped to her knees, grabbing her phone.
“Alice? Are you there?”
“I’m here, I dropped my phone.”
“Is anyone hurt?”
“I don’t know. We’re okay in here, but I think they’re coming,” Alice said, trying to keep the panic out of her voice.
“Alice, listen to me. I know this is scary but you can’t panic right now. I need you to take a deep breath.”
“Here,” Olivia said, handing Hana and Alice each a knife as another burst of gunfire sounded in the hallway. “Because neither of you are trained, you need to use these as a last resort. There’s a lot of stuff in here—whatever can be thrown, you need to throw. Delay having them get close to you for as long as possible, it’ll buy time for the guards and I to take them out.”
“I can hear her, and Olivia’s right,” Bastien said over the phone. “You’re going to have to put down the phone so you can use both of your hands.”
“Bas, I—“ Alice started to say, her throat closing with tears.
“It’s going to be okay,” Bastien said.
“Alice,” Olivia said. “You need to put the phone down.”
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you, too. I’m on my way.”
Alice set the phone down.
“Hana? You okay?” Olivia asked. Hana nodded, adjusting her grip on a vase she’d picked up, her eyes steeled with determination.
“Alice, remember what I told you the night of the Homecoming Ball,” Olivia said. “You may not fall apart right now.”
Alice nodded. “I know, I’m sorry, I—“
“Don’t apologize,” Olivia said. “We’re in this together.” She gave Alice a small smile. “Think about Game of Thrones: what do we say to the god of death?”
“Not today,” Alice quoted automatically.
“Exactly,” Olivia said. “Not today.” She glanced towards the door and readjusted her grip on her knife. “God, I hope that little fucker Anton is the first one through the door.”
Bastien managed to hold it together until Alice put down her phone as he jogged towards a car. He climbed inside and muted his side of the call so she couldn’t hear him.
“FUCK!” he screamed in the silence of the car. He’d known. He’d known something was wrong and now Alice was pinned down in a fucking boutique. He took a breath, unmuted the call, put his phone on speaker, and turned on the car.