"Are you quite sure you're feeling up to this today, dear?" Vanilla asked Cosmo worriedly, glancing at her in the rear view mirror of her minivan as she, Amy and the Seedrian cruised slowly into downtown Mobotropolis, "No one's going to blame you if you want to push the wedding back a few months..."
"I know," acknowledged the Seedrian, smiling back at her surrogate mother warmly, "I'd rather not waste any more time, though. I've spent too much time cooped up in the house. I still want this more than anything. I'm just sorry I let what happened put my life on hold for so long..."
"If that's really what you want..." Relented the doe, a heavy sigh falling from her lips, "Just remember, you don't have to prove anything to anyone. Don't push yourself any more than you're capable of."
"For real though, Cos, how are you feeling?" Amy inquired, "You haven't said much about what happened. Are you sure you're really okay?"
"I'm... coping," Cosmo replied slowly, folding her hands across her chest, "I've still got some things I need to work out on my own, but things are getting better. Right now I just have to remember that Tails loves me, and what happened was out of my hands. I'm not going to turn into a shut-in just because one bad man tried to hurt me. He's just one person out of--well, a lot, and they're not all like that..."
"That's... very mature of you," Vanilla remarked, "a little too mature for someone your age. I can't help but worry that you're growing up too fast--all of you. In my day, children were children. We didn't worry about people like Eggman, Dark Oak and Xemus..."
"I don't regret anything," replied Cosmo, "If it hadn't been for our adventures, I would have never met Tails..."
"That's so cute!" Amy squeezed, startling Vanilla and causing her to swerve her van slightly, "I'm glad you didn't let ol' Xemus ruin things for you. How are you and Tails, by the way? Has anything changed between you two?"
"Not a thing!" The Petali beamed, "He's just as kind and caring as always. I honestly don't think I would have made it without him..."
"How do you mean, dear?" Vanilla asked, raising an eyebrow curiously.
"When I was on board the Darkship, when Xemus--assaulted me, one thing that he kept trying to convince me of was how unlovable I was. He made me feel dirty, unclean. I honestly wanted him to kill me. Anything seemed better than facing Tails after what he did..."
Vanilla winced, recalling a similar statement from Tails regarding his own attempt to end his life more than a year prior. Hearing Cosmo express a similar desire, past or present, was unsettling. The thought that Xemus could twist a person's mind to create that kind of self loathing was appalling, to say the very least.
"What happened?" Asked Amy, turning more to face Cosmo in the passenger seat, "What changed your mind?"
"I was ready to give up..." Cosmo continued, "but then he said something that I simply couldn't bring myself to believe. He tried to tell me that not only would Tails never love again, but he never loved me at all! As strong as his power is, I just couldn't believe that the boy I know so well had lied about his feelings for me. Xemus' illusion seemed to lose its hold on me after that..."
"Sounds like he screwed up, then!" Amy said with a grin, "Anyone with a brain can tell that Tails loves you!"
"I don't remember much from the time I was catatonic, but what little I do remember was Tails holding my hand, telling me he still cared. Every time he did that, things became a little bit clearer. Even when he wasn't around, it was like I could hear his voice, leading me home..."
"And we're certainly glad for that," Vanilla replied, smiling as her vehicle rounded a corner.
"What about your link-thingy?" Asked Amy inquisitively, "Jaran told us it snapped--or something like that. Do you think it'll ever come back?"
"It's already started to!" Cosmo answered, smirking slightly, "It's taking its time, but I've started hearing Tails' thoughts again when I'm sitting quietly. Jaran has been helping me with some mental exercises as well. He says with time, I'll sense Tails just as strongly as before. Maybe more so."
"Maybe it was never really gone," Vanilla remarked.
"That's good then, I guess?" Amy replied, laughing uncomfortably, "Still super weird, though."
"Well, I like it," giggled the Seedrian, "I'm never lonely when part of Tails is always with me."
"Speaking of Tails, what is your fiancé up to today?" Asked Vanilla, "He seemed to be in a hurry when we came to pick you up."
"He's supposed to be meeting Sonic and Knuckles this afternoon to look at tuxedos," answered Cosmo, "He seems very excited about all of this."
"Well I should hope so," Vanilla giggled, "you are getting married, after all. Though I still wish we had more time. With you bedridden, we have a lot to do and not very long to do it."
"We'll make it!" Amy spoke optimistically, "We just have to put our heads together! At least we have the place booked already. I still think it was a cute idea to have it at your secret spot near the park!"
"That was one hurdle I don't care to repeat..." murmured the mother doe, "I waited on hold for nearly an hour to speak to city officials. Before long, I was on the phone with NICOLE herself! At least she was accommodating. A shame that the city is going to incorporate it into the park later this year..."
"It couldn't stay our secret forever..." Acknowledged Cosmo, "I'm just glad that we'll be having our wedding there. I have some lovely memories of that place."
"Maybe, but I'm betting this one tops the others!" Laughed Amy.
Turning a corner, Vanilla's vehicle entered the parking lot of Robert the Hare's celebrations shop, coming to a gentle stop. Applying the break, the rabbit removed the key from the ignition, turning to face Cosmo in the back. "We're here! Let's not waste any time!"
Quickly the three ladies exited the vehicle, stepping onto the warm gravel of the parking lot, heated by the mild rays of the late summer sun. The air had become cooler in the past few weeks, heralding the onset of the fall season. The time could not be more perfect for a wedding. However, with Cosmo's two month long sleep, they would have to act fast to pull it off. As the group stepped out of the car, a familiar male hare exited his shop, walking casually over to the three with a smile on his face.
"I was about to call you!" Robert chided Vanilla jokingly, "You're late!"
"No, your early," the doe shot back, smirking coyly, "I am always exactly on time."
"Of course, how silly of me!" The hare laughed, planting a gentle kiss on Vanilla's cheek before turning to face the other two girls, "Glad to see the two of you again--especially you, Cosmo! We were all worried about you there for a bit! How are you feeling?"
"Better," replied the Seedrian, "I'm just trying to take it one day at a time..."
"And you're quite sure that you don't want to push the big day back a bit? Perhaps take a bit more time to recover?"
"Mr. Robert," Cosmo spoke sternly, voice filled with determination as she addressed the brown hare, "if I hesitate every time something unfortunate happens in my life, then nothing will ever get done. I'm not going to let one bad experience ruin mine and Tails' dreams. I'm going to marry him, and that's that..."
"I... suppose I can't argue with that logic!" Robert chuckled, impressed with the Seedrian's resolve, "Well, I suppose we should get going. We don't want to get there after they close, now do we?"
"But... your shop's right there," Cosmo noted, confused as to how they could miss their deadline when their destination was mere feet away, "is that not where we're going?"
Robert and Vanilla faced each other, exchanging knowing smirks before returning there gazes to the curious plant girl. "I suppose now is a good time to tell you," Vanilla spoke, "given how little time we actually have to finish the preparations, Rob and I were forced to take certain creative liberties to meet the deadline. It's mostly trivialities. The decor, the catering, the cake. All with your and Tails' floral theme in mind, of course. We went ahead and took care of that. I hope you don't mind."
"I—no! Not at all!" Exclaimed Cosmo, her eyes lighting up, "I never expected this! I suppose now it will be a surprise for me, too! Thank you! Thank you so much!"
"Thank Amy as well!" The doe said, gesturing toward Cosmo's maid of honor, "She was actually the one who planned everything out!"
"Yes, we just threw money at it," murmured Robert wryly, "give all the credit to Amy."
Cosmo shifted her gaze to Amy, who smiled widely at the young Petali, patting her gently on the top of her head. "What can I say? I got bored one night. Besides, I knew you and Tails weren't going to just drop the wedding because of what happened. I had to make sure everything was ready when you woke up!"
"I honestly don't know what to say," Cosmo spoke humbly, clasping her hands in front of her chin, "thank you all, so much. Wait, if everything's been taken care of, then what are we doing today?"
Once again, a smirk found it's way onto Vanilla's lips, mirrored by both Rob and Amy. Clearing his throat, Robert began to lead them down the sidewalk, passing several shops as he spoke. "We're going to visit a friend of mine," the hare began to explain, "she owns a seamstress shop here in downtown. She has quite a talent for dressmaking..."
"Dressmaking?" Inquired Cosmo, her eyes widening, "You mean—"
"Yup!" Amy interjected, grinning widely, "Today is dress day, girl!"
The Seedrian hopped up and down, releasing an uncharacteristic squeal of glee as she smiled at the trio, invoking amused laughter from the pair of adult rabbits and the teenaged hedgehog. After catching her breath, Cosmo cleared her throat, resuming her composure once more. "Sorry," she apologized with a blush, "I'm just very excited..."
Vanilla's quaint giggle quickly became a hearty laugh, amused by Cosmo's perpetual modesty in spite of her quite rational and very much warranted excitement. "No need to apologize, dear! It's only natural for you to be excited! This is one of the most important moments of your life, and the dress is a monumental part of the wedding! I'd be a little concerned if you weren't at least somewhat excited!"
"I gotta say, Cos, I'm super jealous of you right now," Amy said as they continued to walk, "I've dreamed about picking my dress out since I was a little girl! Never really thought my little sister would beat me to it!"
"Oh, Amy, you will someday!" Cosmo attempted to reassure her, "Don't give up hope! There's still time!"
"Yeah, if I can ever get Sonic to slow down..." Replied the pink hedgehog with a smirk, "I know we're a couple now and all, but just hugging him is like pulling teeth!"
"That always surprised me," Robert commented, leading them around a bend in the sidewalk, "as popular as Sonic is, you think he's welcome feminine attention with open arms!"
"I think Sonic is scared," Vanilla responded to her male partner's remark, "the idea of having to settle down makes him anxious, which I can sympathize with. He'll grow out of it, eventually."
"At least, we hope so," said Robert with a nod, "or he may have many lonely years ahead of him."
After a short walk, the group approached a small building, who's large street facing windows were filled with various dresses on display. Some dresses were casual, others formal. All were expertly crafted by apparently skilled hands. Cosmo smiled brightly as Robert opened the door, holding it aside for the three ladies as they proceeded to enter the shop.
Following behind them, the male hare shut the door, smiling pleasantly as he glanced down the aisles of the apparently empty shop. "I send all of my customers to Janet," he remarked, "it might not look like much, but she's the most talented seamstress I've ever known!"
"She?" Vanilla inquired, raising an eyebrow at her boyfriend, "You didn't tell me this friend was a woman, Robert..."
"Robby!" A pleasant voice suddenly cried, startling the group, who turned to see a female bobcat pacing quickly down the center aisle toward them. The feline in question was of short stature, even for a Mobian. Her hair was a lovely shade of platinum blond, and her face bore a smile so pleasant as to be unnerving. Robert smiled back, approaching the cute cat and giving her a friendly hug.
"Jan!" Robert chuckled, patting her on the back, "Always good to see you! Thanks for taking the time to see us, especially on such short notice!"
"Aw, you know it's no trouble, Robby!" She replied with a sweet giggle, earning her a jealous stare from Vanilla, though the cat seemed quite oblivious to it. Turning on her heel, she looked down at a very confused looking Cosmo, her already broad grin stretching even wider. "Is this her, Robby!? Tell me it is! She's so cute!"
"Yes, of course, introductions," Robert spoke formally, clearing his throat, "Janet, this is my girlfriend, Vanilla Usagi, her friend Amy Rose and her adoptive daughter, Cosmo. Soon to be Cosmo Prower."
The cat let out a squeal, kneeling down and taking Cosmo's hand, shaking it firmly, "Robby's told me all about you! I gotta say, I'm super excited to be working with you, Cos! Can I call you Cos?"
"Ah--y-yes," replied the Seedrian, nodding her head, "you know me?"
"I sure do!" Replied the bobcat, known as Janet, who rose to her feet after releasing her grip on the Seedrian's hand, "I mean, not in person or anything like that, but I was at the public ceremony for the heroes of Mobius at Castle Acorn after the Metarex were beaten! That, and Robby told me about your situation!"
"He did!?" Cosmo exclaimed, becoming quite nervous. She recalled vividly the reaction Robert initially had upon learning of her premature engagement to Tails, fearing the same or worse from a Mobian whom she knew nothing of. However, the feline's continually pleasant smile quickly abolished her anxiety.
"I couldn't exactly avoid that," commented Robert, "When you call up a friend and tell them that you want them to help in a wedding between two minors, they're going to want to know why!"
"I just gotta say, I think it's super cute, you and Mister Tails!" Exclaimed Janet eagerly, "When Robby called and asked me to help with your wedding dress, I couldn't say no!"
"Oh, well, thank you!" Beamed the Seedrian at the enthusiastic feline, "I appreciate that. Ah, what do I need to do?"
"Huh? Oh! Sorry! Sometimes I get so caught up in talking that I forget there's work to do! C'mon, walk with me! Let's get your measurements!"
Quickly, the bobcat skipped into the back of the store, dragging behind her a bewildered Cosmo. Shrugging her shoulders, Amy slowly followed behind, leaving Vanilla and Robert alone in the shop proper. Slowly, the female doe turned to face her boyfriend, glaring at him spitefully.
"Robby?" The doe murmured spitefully.
"It's just a name, Vanilla," Rob replied with a smirk, "don't read into it."
"She's cute..." Vanilla spoke, making no attempt to hide her jealousy, "Not very bright, but cute..."
"Be nice," Robert urged, "she's being very helpful!"
"I can only assume the two of you were close if you'd readily come to her for a favor..." Vanilla continued to press, clearly finding the situation much less amusing than her partner.
"You're not the only one with a history, 'Nilla," remarked the hare with a smirk, passing into the back of the store, followed shortly thereafter by a begrudging Vanilla...