a.n. i've been working on this for aaggeess. i started it about two months ago, and have slowly been adding to it since. it's... an interesting story. i'm not sure if i write convincingly from a guy's point of view yet, so i'm trying to improve that. i'm also not entirely happy with the ending as of yet, but i have no idea what to do to fix that, so i'm leaving it as it is for now. i hope you enjoy reading it. tell me what you think, please. thankyou for your support.

The ring was always there. Always on her left ring finger, blinking at him, teasing him. It sparkled in the light, so that when she moved her hand it looked like she held a star in her grasp. The bands wove around each other, intertwining and twisting together in a delicate dance, one that he dreamt of imitating with her. Oh how he hated that ring. He hated how she wore it everywhere she went, and with so much pride. It symbolized his entire life for the past five and a half years. And he hated what it meant.

It was raining. Oliver sat on the swing at the park, rocking gently back and forth. His trousers were sticking to his calves, and somewhere in the back of his mind he worried that this was a rental tux and he didn't have the money to pay for it if the rain ruined it. His hair was being flattened down onto his forehead and dripping into his eyes, but he didn't really mind. It was better being out here than in there, with them. With her. She always ruined everything.

'She' was his best friend Ryan's girlfriend. Sorry, fiancé. He kept forgetting to call it that. He didn't want to call it anything. If he had his way, 'it' wouldn't even be anything. He never got his way though. Her name was Gwendolen. Ryan was completely in love with her. And why wouldn't he be? She was stunningly beautiful, with hair so blonde it was almost white, that fell to her waist in soft waves, and the biggest, lightest blue eyes you had ever seen. There was no problem with that at all…except for the fact that Oliver was in love with her too. Gwendolen and Ryan had been going out for nearly six years now. Since they were in high school.

Oliver remembered the day Ryan had first introduced them. They were fifteen-nearly-sixteen years old. It had been at this very park. She'd been sitting on the swing he was now.

"Hey Olli!" Ryan had yelled out, waving him over to where he stood beside a hot girl Oliver thought he knew from somewhere. He had made his way over, and while Ryan had grinned at him madly, she had merely offered Oliver a shy smile. "This is Gwen. She's friends with my sister."

"Hey," he'd nodded. She'd looked up at him through long lashes before returning the greeting.

And from that moment on Oliver had known that she was going to cause trouble.

He'd been there with them through all the important milestones of a relationship. Like a permanent third wheel.

He'd been standing beside Ryan when he'd finally got up the courage to ask Gwen out. He'd seen the joy on her face, the flash of surprise. And he'd felt his stomach drop like lead to his feet as they embraced.

Ryan hadn't known what to do on the first date. Oliver had coached him, told him how he should make a few comments throughout the movie, but not talk all the way through – unless Gwendolen wanted to. He'd told him how he should put his hand next to hers on the armrest, and then carefully intertwine their pinkies. And then if she didn't pull her hand away he should hold it. Ryan had listened to his all his advice. It got him to a second date.

On the third date they had kissed. It was all Oliver heard about for days. Until they went on another date and did it again. Then all he heard about was that time and how it wasn't nearly as clumsy and it was much better and boy he really had to try it sometime because it was like nothing else in the world.

On their two month anniversary, Ryan was stressing about what to do to mark the occasion. Oliver told him to shout Gwen dinner and a movie. He did, and he also told her that he loved her. Though the first time he said it, it came out in a big jumble of sounds and she didn't hear him properly, so he had to say it again.

On every month anniversary after that Oliver endured an entire day of Ryan going on about how he was taking Gwen out that night, and how wonderful she was, and how she made him feel so happy.

When they'd been going out for about four and a half months they had their first proper fight. Oliver had been sitting in the room as the argument unfolded. Ryan yelled at Gwen and made her cry. She yelled back through her tears and then she stormed out. They didn't talk for a whole two days. Oliver couldn't stand seeing Ryan so depressed, and so organized to meet both of them at the same time without the other knowing. They were annoyed at first, but both thanked him after they'd kissed and made up.

When they'd been going out for nearly a year, they did it. Ryan had a big, dopey grin permanently glued onto his face the whole next day. He kept telling Oliver how great it was, and how he just had to do it, because, man, it felt gooood.

Pretty much as soon as they left school Gwen and Ryan moved in together. Oliver had helped them choose their apartment. He liked the wallpaper. He had helped them move all their stuff in. He carried boxes full of Gwen's things into the house and pretended that it was his new house too.

A year ago Ryan had first told Oliver of his plans to propose to Gwen. "I wanna marry her. She's the only one for me."

Oliver stared at him in disbelief. "Really? You wanna marry her?"

"I do." Ryan grinned. "God that sounds good. I want to say it to her, Olli. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I want to propose to her."

And so Oliver had helped him plan it, helped him organize what he was going to say and where it was going to be and when he was going to pop the question. Oliver said to do it on their six-year anniversary, but Ryan said he couldn't wait that long. They decided on a barbeque with all their friends and family around. They'd trick everyone into thinking it was just a casual get-together, and then, just when they brought out the desserts, Ryan would get down on one knee and propose to Gwen. Who would of course accept.

The only problem now was finding the perfect ring. It took ages to find it. They must have looked at every ring in the city before they found one. Ryan saw it first, as tended to happen. Oliver agreed with him that it suited Gwen perfectly. It was white-gold, decorative in a simplistic way. Complicatedly beautiful. And so Ryan bought it. And so Oliver began resigning himself to the fact that his worst nightmare was coming true.

The barbeque had been exactly six months ago. Everyone was outside, talking and drinking, a few people dancing to the upbeat music playing. Oliver had been sitting with a group of friends, trying to drink enough so he wouldn't be able to remember anything the next day, when Gwen had wandered over scratching her head.

"I can't find Ryan anywhere," she said. "Would you mind helping me with dessert, Olli?"

Of course Oliver had agreed. He could never say no to Gwendolen. The kitchen was small. They bumped elbows as she got the cake out of the fridge and he got the serving platter out of the cupboard. They said sorry at the same time and then laughed at the same time. Her laugh was light and made him think of bubbles in a bottle of champagne. He carried out the chocolate cake and she carried out the lemon meringue.

As soon as they walked out the back door, everyone went silent. Ryan was standing there, smiling. His hands were shaking in his pockets. Oliver knew he was fiddling with the ring box he had hidden in there. Gwen opened her mouth to say something, but Ryan shook his head once and she stayed quiet. He carefully took the plate she held and passed it to Oliver. Ryan got down on one knee and proposed. Gwen's reaction was nearly identical to when he'd first asked her out. So was Oliver's.

Today was the big day. Today was the Wedding Day. Oliver had been with Ryan for the past 48 hours, reminiscing on the buck's night and discussing the future and trying to calm him down. Now, he stood outside the door to the room in which Gwen was getting ready to walk down the aisle, sent by her beloved. He took a deep breath before rapping on the door, and closed his eyes as her voice floated out to him, "Come in… unless you're Ryan, in which case, we don't want bad luck!"

Oliver pushed the door open a few inches, and gasped as the bride-to-be came into view. She looked stunning in a simple white dress with intertwining straps and detail along the hem. He swallowed the rush of attraction that threatened to expose him, and managed an astonished, "Wow, Gwen, you look… absolutely beautiful."

She smiled at him glowingly. "Thank you! You don't scrub up too bad yourself, Olli."

He felt a blush rising from beneath his undone bowtie, and cleared his throat. "Ryan just wanted me to check you were okay, didn't have cold feet or… or anything…" he trailed off, as both of them knew that the mere possibility of her getting cold feet was ridiculous.

The smile still gracing her features, she turned back to the mirror she stood in front of and continued to speak to Oliver as her mother fiddled with the hem of her dress. "He told you, didn't he? You knew, that he was going to propose at the barbeque?"

He felt his heart melt and break a little more. "He might have mentioned it to me…"

"Oh Olli. You're so wonderful. I don't know where we'd be today, if it hadn't been for you."

She shouldn't have said that. She didn't know, she didn't know anything. All of a sudden, he couldn't stand the sight of her there, looking so beautiful and happy in her wedding gown. He excused himself. Or, he tried to, at least. He left the room, and ran down the corridor, out the entrance hall, onto the street. He dodged all the cars, full of guests arriving at the last minute, and made his way to the next block over. He didn't notice the dark storm clouds brewing overhead, threatening to ruin Gwen and Ryan's perfect day.

The park wasn't far away. It only took Oliver about five minutes to walk there. He collapsed onto the swing, and put his head into his hands. He'd known this was going to happen. For a long time now, he'd known that his best friend Ryan and his beloved Gwendolen were going to get married and have children and live happily ever after. But now she had the ring. Now there was proof. A rain drop landing on the back of his neck and running down his shirt made him sit up. He gripped the chains of the swing and began to kick back and forth, so he was just rocking on his heels.

The rain fell harder, and soon Oliver was soaked through. He didn't mind though. He liked being out in the rain. At least, he did; until he heard footsteps crunching along the damp bark and looked up to see a Gwendolen, still in her bridal gown, standing before him holding an umbrella. He could see the ring on her finger through the curtain of rain separating them. Neither of them said anything. She went to sit on the swing beside him, but thought better of it, and just stood in front of him, her eyes full of questions.

Soon the silence, broken only by the falling rain, got too much for Oliver, and he spoke. "Won't Ryan get worried?"

"We're not allowed any contact before the wedding, remember? He doesn't know I'm gone… he thinks I'm still getting my hair done," Gwen replied, glancing at Oliver and then at the sky and then at her feet. There was more awkward silence, as she stepped forward to crouch down in front of him. "What's wrong?" she asked quietly. He could feel her warm breath on his lips.

"Nothing," he told her.

"Olli," she said sternly, "I've known you for six years now. I know when something's bothering you. Tell me what's up?"

He laughed. It surprised both of them. He liked seeing the shock on her face, so he did it again. He realised that he might be starting to sound slightly crazy, and so he stopped laughing and just shook his head sadly. "No you don't, Gwen. If you knew when something was bothering me we wouldn't be here right now."

She blinked at him. "Where would we be?"

"I don't know. But it wouldn't be here," he informed her.

She tilted her head to the side. He liked how it made her hair fall over her shoulder. "Olli…?"

"I love you." He hadn't meant to say it like that. He'd gone over this moment so many times in his head. In none of them did he say it so quickly, like it was a poison he was trying to spit out. The words brought a flush of colour to her cheeks. She just stared at him. "I always have."

Gwen blinked. She looked confused. "But…but you've always helped Ryan with everything…you've always supported us-"

Oliver found he couldn't look her in the eye. He stared over her shoulder at the slide as he cut her off. "I wanted you both to be happy." It sounded so Goddamn stupid when he said it like that.


"No, Gwen, let me speak. I've bottled this up for six years," he stood up, nearly bowling her over, and started pacing, "and I can't do it anymore. I can't pretend that it doesn't break my heart just that little bit more every time I see you in Ryan's arms, that it doesn't hurt me so much to wish you were wearing that dress and that ring for me, that it doesn't kill me to see the way you look at him… Like… Like he's the only person in the world that matters to you."

She stood up too, and he was dismayed to see the hurt in her eyes. "You matter to me, Oliver, it's just -"

"- Ryan matters more, I know." Gwen couldn't ever recall hearing Oliver's voice so bitter. He shook his head as though he was coming to his senses. "I'm sorry. I – I shouldn't have said anything… I should have… waited… or… kept my mouth shut."

Gwen just stood there, staring. Being this close to her, with no one else around and only a curtain of rain and his loyalty to Ryan stopping him from touching her, Oliver felt his heart shattering in his chest. He watched her lips move, seeing the word instead of hearing it. "Oliver…"

He shook his head again, and she stopped what she'd been saying. "We have to hurry back… you can't be late for your own wedding."

She watched him for a few seconds, and he could see the cogs turning in her pretty little head as she contemplated him and the situation. Then she silently lifted the umbrella so it covered him as well as her, and they walked back to the hall, maintaining their respectful silence the whole way.

Oliver was there beside them as Ryan and Gwendolen exchanged vows, smiling encouragingly and ignoring how his eyes were stinging. He watched as Ryan slid another ring onto Gwen's finger, as her eyes welled up with tears and they shared a kiss before embracing. He witnessed the joining of the two people he loved more than any others in the world.

At the reception they had a slide-show, of all the important milestones of their relationship. Oliver was in almost every photo. No one was surprised. He found himself comparing the slideshow to a car crash in his mind – he desperately wanted to look away, but he could do nothing but stare.

After Oliver had made a crowd-winning speech, Ryan pulled him aside to express his gratitude for everything; for always listening to him and helping him win Gwendolen over. "I don't know where we'd be without you, mate," he said, grinning happily.

Oliver managed a convincing smile and replied, "Me neither."

They shared a manly hug, where they gave each other congratulatory claps on the back. Then they went to rejoin the party, where Gwendolen was dancing and laughing. She looked so gorgeous, both of them had to stop and admire her for a moment.

The newlywed couple hired a limo to drive them to their hotel after the reception. Oliver stood at the side of the road, smiling as they got into the car and Gwen stood up through the sunroof to wave goodbye to their friends and family. A halo of moonlight surrounded her, and the rings on her outstretched hand were catching the light and reflecting it back; it looked as though she'd managed to grasp herself a star.

He watched them drive away, and for the first time since he was 16 years old, Oliver felt like neither a third wheel, nor like he was being left behind. He felt genuinely happy for his friends. He kept staring after them, even when the limo turned the corner and they disappeared from sight.

He stared at the one star that stood out in the sky, the one that reminded him of the sparkle in Gwendolen's eyes and the ring on her finger. Then he closed his eyes, and whispered to himself, "No more. No more." And when he opened his eyes, the star had blended in with all of the others. The ring wasn't there anymore.