Chapter 172: Shahin
You know our love was meant to be
The kind of love that lasts forever
And I need you here with me
From tonight until the end of time
"Are you nervous?" Kai asked, for what had to be the seventeenth time. It was clear that she, at least, had the jitters. Of course, Shahin wasn't faring all that much better.
"Rather," she admitted, triggering another burst of glowing light from Aelgifu. She smiled at both of them. "But as long as Ayla keeps doing that, I'm not going to flip out. Much." She straightened her gloves again, checked her nails, and tried to hold still while Xaviera finished the buttons on the back of her dress. "I've never done this before." It was a supremely banal thing to say, but, then again, it seemed to sum up the terror in her stomach pretty well, or at least the half of it she was willing to admit.
Xaviera shook her head, smiling as Shahin turned back around. "You know, none of the rest of us have either. It's not as if we have a wealth of experience to draw on, here."
"Addergoole," Ayla murmured dryly, "hundreds of babies and only one marriage."
"Two," Kai corrected; "Mabina and Cassidy are married."
"Three, I think?" Xaviera put in. "Aella and Donegal got married, too."
Shahin sighed, consciously over-dramatic. "So I'm not even being ground-breaking."
"Maybe? I think those were all Belonging ceremonies, too. You've already got that."
"I do," she smiled, with a warm feeling suffusing her at the thought. "This is just a formality." A wonderful, wonderful formality. "Do I look…." Okay? Pregnant? Sufficiently bridal? Something?
"Glowing," Ayla smiled, illustrating the point with her own more literal glow.
Shahin relaxed into the glow. "You are the best friend a girl could have," she whispered, squeezing Ayla's hand. "Thank you. Wow." She shook her head. "We're really doing this." And never mind that their son was only going to have one grandfather.
"You are," Kailani agreed, a little wistfully.
"Not the time to be jealous," Xaviera murmured softly to her, but not quite softly enough in the small chamber. Kai reddened a little, but the color Shahin was seeing was Xaviera's black - as in pot and kettle.
"It's all right," she assured both of them, and squished them into a double hug. "My turn to fuss. Kai, let me fix the belt on your dress, all right?"
"My belt?" she squeaked, looking down at herself quickly. "Um, okay, yes. They'll see us too I guess, huh?"
"Yes," Shahin smiled, and spent a relaxing few moments fussing with her attendants' clothing. "And you all look perfect."
No corsets for this party, not with two of them pregnant (and there was no hiding Kai's twins); Shahin had decided on a Regency theme, the high waists perfect for their growing bellies; she was in a rich pinkish crème brocade (there was no use bothering with straight white, and the crème looked better with her complexion), her attendants in wine velvet. Picking a color that worked with all three complexions had taken two very pleasant hours of fussing. She tugged a final ringlet of Xaviera's hair into place and kissed her Kept's cheek. "Beautiful."
"And you," Xaviera murmured. "Are we all ready, then? Is it time?"
"We're ready. It's time," she agreed, as Maureen poked her head in, the matron looking, as always, perfectly beautiful. "Chin up, Xav. Smile." The coaxing was as much for herself as the girl; she was inexplicably nervous, her hands shaking.
A broad, sunny smile crossed the blonde's features immediately. "Let's go, then." They allowed Maureen to guide them out of the small antechamber into a hallway, listening for the moment the music started. Shahin's heart was in her throat, her pulse thudding, but Aelgifu's quiet glow kept her steady.
"I'll have to turn this off when we start moving, of course," her friend noted. "You'll be fine. You'll be great."
"Okay," she smiled, and took another deep breath. This was what she'd been waiting for. This was what she wanted.
The march started, and, one by one, her friends walked down the aisle. She could barely see them, once they got halfway down, for all the lights at the far end; it was like staring into the sun, and Emrys and his party weren't yet visible to her.
She focused on her breathing, on the flowers in her hands - lilies and orchids in improbable and beautiful colors - on the feeling of Emrys deep in her chest. She would be with him forever.
"Forever." He squeezed her hand one more time and walked away. "I promised you forever, Shahin. You know I'll be back."
Watching his back move further and futher away from her, she wished she was certain of that. "Forever," she told him, balancing a great-grand-daughter on her hip. "You know I'll be here."
"Shahin," Maureen whispered. She blinked twice against the glare, the vision fading, to be replaced by the aisle, the chairs, the guests, the waiting light.
Her waiting Emrys. Slowly, in perfect step, she walked forward to him.
His silhouette was revealed first against the backlighting, and she saw how he waited patiently, standing tall (insomuch as he could) and proud, his groomsmen beside him like monolithic statues. As she drew near, the colors filled in; the deep well of blackness that was his tuxedo was offset by the crimson splash of his vest, highlighting his darker skin and almost seeming to make his tattoos glow.
"I love you," she mouthed, knowing he could feel the surge of emotion through the bond.
A moment before, his features could have been chiselled in stone; now a wide smile shattered them, and he took a deep breath as he beheld his bride. Her. The thought nearly rocked her back on her heels, but then she was beside him, and all eyes were on the two of them.
She handed her bouquet to Ayla, barely seeing her friend, and took Emrys' hands in her own. The touch of his skin was still electric. The spark was still there.
"We are gathered here today," Professor Drake began, in a deep, rich voice unlike his normal speaking tone, "to witness the marriage of Merlin cy'Pelletier, called Shahin, to Emrys cy'Drake. I have had the honor of being Emrys' Mentor since he started here at Addergoole..."
Shahin unconsciously tuned out Drake's preamble; they all knew, she hoped, who they were and why they were here. At least, they all knew the immediate why. Looking at Emrys, holding his hands tightly, Shahin thought about the short months that had brought them here, the mysterious conspiracy, the things nobody would tell them, the boarding school that had turned out to be a breeding school.
And he had been with her every step of the way, from almost the first day. She smiled at him, and smiled for Yngvi and Ayla, somewhere behind her, who had been with her even longer. She'd been so lonely when she came here. She didn't ever have to be lonely again.
Her son kicked inside her, and her smile turned just a little wry. No, no, she wasn't going to be lonely at all for a while, was she? Not for the next sixteen years, at least.
As if he was reading her mind - and the bond between them was almost close enough for that, with or without this ceremony - Emrys squeezed her hand, and the moment of melancholy passed. She would not be alone. She would be with him forever.
"Forever," she mouthed, just for him, as Dysmas took the podium for the first reading. He smiled softly, but then Dysmas began to speak.
"I think Shakespeare, in his prescience, said it best, in Sonnet 116:
admit impediments. Love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds,
or bends with the remover to remove:
Oh, no! It is an ever-fixed mark.
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
it is the star to every wandering bark,
whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
within his bending sickle's compass come;
love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
but bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.'"
Dysmas offered them a warm smile as the rhythmic cadence of his voice fell, and he stepped back from the podium.
Shahin smiled back at him, feeling the unfamiliar expression stretch the edge of her mouth. An ever-fixed mark, indeed. They were certainly stubborn enough for that, the two of them.
Drake cleared his throat. "Thank you, Dysmas. As we know, in this constantly changing world, in this day and age, there is very little that one can rely on as certain. It is pleasant, indeed, it brings joy to my heart, to find such a strength and certainty in love as we find in Shahin and Emrys." He smiled faintly, perhaps suggesting the joy he'd mentioned; Shahin found herself smiling even wider. She squeezed Emrys' hands again and turned to smile at him. His eyes were dancing with flames.
Yngvi ascended to the podium, now, for the next reading, bowing to Drake, and to Shahin, and to Emrys; deep, sweeping gestures punctuated with a smile. "And now, George Eliot speaks on what it truly means 'To Be One With Each Other:'
than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen
each other in all labor, to minister to each other in all sorrow,
to share with each other in all gladness,
to be one with each other in the
silent unspoken memories?'"
Shahin met her friend's eyes, smiling at him. Thank you, Vi. Never had she felt so loved; never had she felt so supported. This was, truly, their perfect moment.
Copyright © 2009-2012 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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