The shortest night of the year (Ban and Elaine) – Part II

After the morning’s incident, the day went smoothly for Elaine and Ban, including the wedding and coronation of their two friends. In addition, the quality of the merchandise the mixed-breed couple had managed to book that morning at the market had earned several whistles of approval and high praise from the palace cooks. Everything was going swimmingly for everyone, including the almost unexpected arrival of Hawk and his brother Wild at the ceremony. And now, as what was to be the shortest night of the year began to fall, the celebrations in Liones’s square and on the parade ground of the Holy Knights were in full swing.                     

“For the kings! “some shouted.

“For the bride and groom! “howled many others.

The alluded to, with restraint, returned the greetings from their raised dais while commenting with their nearest and dearest–The Seven Deadly Sins. At least until Elisabeth said she wanted to go and change into more comfortable clothes, and Elaine offered to accompany her. Diane, of course, dismissed them with a small little pout as she couldn’t bring herself to go with them, though a smile from her brand new husband of a day took away any misgivings she might have had. However, Elaine’s disappearance into the castle provoked something that few of the present could have foreseen in time. 

Indeed, not five minutes had passed since the two girls had reached the castle gates when a shrill voice shouted a few feet from the base of the dais:

“That’s him! He’s there! I told you!”

And, out of the blue, Ban was assaulted by a group of four girls who clung to him with intention.

“Hey,” he protested, trying to shake them off as gently as possible. “This, well–Ladies, please–” 

“Why, Ban!” The former bandit then heard Meliodas say, with a mocking tone that put him on notice. “So you’re the lucky one tonight, are you?”

Ban gritted his teeth, connecting the dots as fast as the ingested alcohol would allow him.

“What the hell are you talking about, Cap’n?” he gasped as the leader of the group, a girl with brown curls tied in two familiar high buns and a face painted white and red, tried her best to climb into his lap. “What’s this about?”

Before the king could respond, however, Gowther did it for him in his usual dispassionate tone:

“Ah, it’s the tradition of the ‘Queen of Hearts’! Every Lioness wedding has one, I remember–A girl who chooses one of the men in the audience to make him her ‘king’ for the night–

“The Queen of–” whispered Ban, before he shot a furious glare at Meliodas and all the annoying pieces of the mystery finally clicked into place in his head. “Cap’n, dammit! I don’t know what’s this about, but I swear you’re paying for it. Damn it,” he repeated, as he had just pushed two of the Queen’s minions out of the way with his fingers, “tell them to back off. I’m not in the mood for a good time–“

But Meliodas just laughed, not lifting a finger and chanted by the rest of the Holy Knights, while the four girls seemed to be able to subdue Ban. However, by the time they had managed to throw him to the ground in sheer surrender and the leader finally managed to straddle his waist, a voice rose above the shouting:

“But–What the hell is going on here?!”

As if those seven words had magical powers, all activity stopped in a flash as soon as they were uttered. As one, everyone present turned their heads towards their source, and Ban’s heart was the first to shrink for a thousand different reasons as he saw the two figures standing in front of the entrance to the parade ground. The one whose feet were still on the ground had glowing orange eyes, bearing the symbol of the race that inhabited that body in its latest life. The Queen of Lioness, the daughter of the Supreme Deity, looked at those present with a coldness that might have chilled more than one. But it was not her that worried Ban nor her eyes nor her pose. 

What wanted to break the former bandit’s soul at that moment were the hands of the figure hovering a couple of metres above Elisabeth, suspended in mid-air. Her fingers barely covered her small beautiful mouth, half-open in a gesture of utter stupor. Her eyes were on the verge of tears, and her gesture twisted in disbelief. Ban cursed loudly to himself as he tried to pull himself and the Queen’s friends away again but stopped short when he heard Meliodas’ jovial and stupid reply:

“Ah, Elisabeth! You’re just in time to see the election of the ‘Queen of Hearts’ for our banquet,” she joked, pointing to Ban and making him want to be swallowed up by the earth like never before in his life. “Don’t you think it’s great?”

However, Elisabeth’s answer did not come first. Instead, what followed Meliodas’ question was an intense sobbing and a flutter of golden wings shooting out into the darkness of the night. Only then, amidst a silence that a knife could cut, did the newly crowned Queen of Lioness reply:

“Meliodas, you are truly the most socially inept man I have ever met.”

***

A few seconds later, Elaine landed on the farthest battlements from the square she could, even considering that Liones was a round city with the royal palace at its centre. However, she only dared to fully unleash her tears when she felt safe on the roof of one of the watchtowers, which fortunately was empty that night. Without meaning to, she cursed herself for being so stupid, so gullible, and above all–so not ‘human’. In her worst moments she had always regretted falling in love with a human because of what that might mean. They weren’t the same race, they didn’t belong to the same world–How could she fit into Ban’s life if maybe she couldn’t even–?

“Is there room for another spectator?”

From the surprise, Elaine almost jumped on the spot, immediately looking up at the newcomer as if she didn’t believe he could be there too. Ban was watching her from the soft gloom, though silhouetted against the night sky from the side opposite her.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, looking away and wiping her tears as best she could with her fingers-all in one.

Ban, for his part, did not allude to the latter before responding with what seemed like genuine sincerity:

“Well, I felt like spending some time with my girl on this special date, and the night is great, doncha think?”

Elaine swallowed and hugged her knees, still not looking at him.

“You looked amused down there,” she muttered. “You didn’t need to come looking for me.”

“Yeah, well–“Ban then replied, in a slightly more bittersweet tone that made Elaine look at him sideways. “The captain has already taken his toll for that stupidity and the trap he set for me today–Don’t worry about it.”

Elaine raised her head a little higher, interested almost unintentionally.

“What do you mean?” she asked, without raising his voice.

Ban was now wearing a smile that looked somewhere between embarrassed and amused.

“Well–Let’s just say he wanted to pay me back for an evil deed I did to him in Vaizel about a year and a half ago to piss Diane off and make him lose a fight–But,” he added, getting more serious. “I think it was only funny to him, really. So the punch for pissing me off and hurting you by association, he’s already taken it, so don’t worry,” he reiterated.

Elaine narrowed her eyes, not knowing what to say to that statement and never parting her lips an inch. 

“I hope Elisabeth wasn’t angry about that,” the fairy commented then, to Ban’s sudden silence. “Have the Holy Knights said anything to you?” 

For better or worse, Ban shook his head in a denying gesture before facing her with a strange half-smile. 

“I don’t think anyone cared more than the Cap’n did,” he said, not without some veiled sarcasm. “Besides, something tells me Meliodas is going to be sleeping on the couch today because the princess had a pretty interesting rage, too, after she found out what her recent hubby had planned against me, including the stupidity of faking the mugging of the babe in question this morning.” He shrugged. “So–“

Ban fell silent without finishing the sentence, looking only half-sideways at her, as if he was just thinking out loud and not explaining it to his beloved. After a couple of seconds, the fairy sighed and looked away again into the night. Her head was in a mess, but her heart pounded loudly enough even for him to hear it. 

“The truth is–I know I’m not part of your world though, Ban. Although I’d like to be–And seeing you with those women, I–I felt I shouldn’t be there–“

Deep down, even though she knew Ban would never cheat or hurt her, there was a small corner of the fairy’s heart that cringed with doubt at the thought of even a minute away from him–and that anxiety was playing more tricks on her than she would like.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Ban reprimanded her then while striding over before she could even react. He didn’t get more than a metre away, however, respecting her space since he sensed she was still annoyed with him even if it wasn’t fair. “Elaine, come on. Don’t ever say that stupid thing again, okay?” After that little scolding, the man moistened his lips and shook his head as if he couldn’t conceive of her saying such things. “You– are ‘my whole world’ and I don’t want anyone else in it. Not King or Diane, for that matter,” he said, “You’re all I’ve had to live for since I met you twenty years ago, and no one can change that, okay? Not ever.”

Elaine felt something very warm fluttering inside her as her vision verified that what Ban was saying was one hundred per cent true.

“Are you serious?” she asked anyway, cautiously.

The former bandit nodded.

“As much as I’m willing to put up with King for as long as it takes to stay by your side forever,” he half-joked, before holding-out a hand in a conciliatory gesture. “Come on. Shall we go back to being friends?”

Elaine swallowed eagerly before nodding, and instead of taking his fingers, she threw her arms around him tightly. He embraced her with his usual affection and caressed her back tenderly. At least before his full lips found her small fairy mouth and began to cover her with tender kisses for a minute that would have lasted forever as they stood alone on the battlements of the watchtower.

“I’ll be damned–” whispered Ban as they parted, panting but both smiling as ever, “I’ve got myself a jealous wife, haven’t I?”

Elaine reddened helplessly and looked away.

“You know I don’t like you to see that side of me–” she said, barely keeping up with his humour. “But I can’t help it–“

“Well, and–Do you mind so much if I show you this, then?”

Stunned, Elaine then saw the two bottles of Aberdeen Ale that Ban was holding in one of his hands. Of course, in her haze of sadness, she hadn’t even noticed them-and Ban was an expert at sleight of hand when it came to hiding things when it suited him.

“Aberdeen beer! “she exclaimed, delighted before she held out her fingers and Ban placed one of the bottles between them. “Where did you get it?”

Ban showed a smile that feigned innocence.

“Well… Let’s just say I found them in King Meliodas’s private reserve–A little payback for trying to piss off my wife,” I chuckled. “Doesn’t that seem fair enough to you?”

Elaine shook her head, wanting to get angry but not quite succeeding.

“What a little thief my husband is, then,” she remarked, as if it was nothing, but without taking her eyes off him. However, when Ban raised an interested eyebrow, she asked candidly, “What? What did I say?”

The big man seemed to meditate for a couple of seconds, only before shaking his head and hugging her with some emotion against his side.

“Nothing, little one. It’s just that–After we talked about it yesterday, I guess I didn’t expect you to call me out of the blue like that,” he admitted, to Elaine’s mild surprise. “I dunno, I guess I was more excited about it than I hoped to be, though–“

Elaine shrugged her shoulders naturally, much to his interest.

“Well, it seems natural to me at this point, even if we’re not married as such,” she said, convinced, before adding in a more teasing tone. “And I don’t need Dreyfus to come and tell me that I’m attached to you to feel that you’re the other part of my life, do I?”

At that tender statement, Ban surrendered to the evidence and laughed softly. Of course, what did he expect, he already called her his ‘wife’ both inwardly and aloud. Still, he admitted that even if he didn’t want to walk down the aisle, he was thrilled that Elaine already considered him more than just a boyfriend or lover. He didn’t know why, but he felt it was a more personal way to strengthen the bond between them without needing, as Elaine said, Dreyfus or anyone else to tell them it was so. They already felt it. That was more than enough.

“To us, then,” the human toasted. As she seconded him, the nightly fireworks on the other side of the city began, celebrating the kings’ nuptials and catching both of their attention. “Hey, look–Remember what I told you all those years ago at the Sacred Tree?” he asked, remembering the time when he had first told her about drinking Aberdeen Ale while watching fireworks.

To his delight, Elaine smiled and snuggled closer against him, though her immediate response caught him off guard:

“Which of all the wonderful things that have come true lately?” 

After recovering from his stupor, and even though Ban knew it was a tender little mockery, he couldn’t help but chuckle as he brought the bottle closer to clink with hers. And after their first swig, Fox’s Sin leaned over to kiss his beloved briefly and whispered:

“And the ones we still have left, my love. And the ones we still have left”.

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