Book 2: Resurgence.

Series: Light, Water and Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.

Rating: PG.

Category: Yet another mirror universe for the SGC. Sorta…

Pairings: Darya/Karen.

Disclaimer: Stargate SG1 and all their characters belong to MGM, Showtime and Gekko Productions.

Disclaimer: “ER”, the characters and situations depicted are the property of Warner Bros. Television, Amblin Entertainment, Constant C Productions, NBC, etc. They are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. This site is in no way affiliated with “ER”, NBC, or any representatives of any cast members. This site contains relationship stories between mature, consenting adult females.

Notes: All words in italics are phonetic foreign words, mostly Greek.

Spoilers: Nope!

Summary: The time has come at last for Karen and Darya.

Chapter 6 Hear the… Song of Spirit

++ Janet ++

Just as we were suddenly at odds with what to do with ourselves, there was a soft knock and we turned as one entity to the door. “May I come in?”

The voice was familiar. “Yes,” Dare squeaked and Fin stepped in, his warm charm washing over us in a calming wave.

“My dear,” he soothed, smiling in that eerily Art-like way of his and held his arms open. “You look radiant.” There was something safe in his stark priest's garments and the stiff little collar, and Dare took the invitation for a hug from this near-stranger. After a moment, Fin stood close, holding her hands and deeply searching her eyes. “My dear Darya, this is your special day. We're all here for you, supporting you. Now, take a deep breath and let some of that tension flow out on the exhale. That's it.” He was oddly hypnotic, and much of the stress in the room drained away as we all obeyed his gentle directions. “Better?”

“Yes,” Dare whispered, still staring intently at him.

“I want you to know that your heart is in good hands. What you are doing is a powerful and loving commitment. Today we remember Emma and celebrate your future with a new woman who has helped complete you.”

“Yes,” Dare whispered again, but this time the affirmation was strong, sharp, bittersweet. Her shoulders straightened and her chin came up. Now, why the hell could Fin bring Emma up and not tweak Dare out? Darn Goldston charm…

I loved it.

++ Hammond ++

I never thought I'd be doing this. Walking a woman down the aisle to commit herself to another woman. It was one thing to know these women were crazy for each other and look the other way, especially considering one is still completely under my command. And yet, I loved both of them like daughters, and I wanted them to be happy. Privately, I sanctioned this. Hell, I encouraged it. Publicly? They both knew full well that I would have to punish Karen to the fullest extent if anyone else found out.

A familiar presence at my right elbow made me grin at my old friend. “Jacob. Good to see that you could make it.”

“Poor Major Davis is just about run ragged. What with having to retrieve Father Goldston from the airstrip and then race up the mountain to retrieve me. How have you been, George?”

We caught up for a few minutes while the rest of the guests filed in and made themselves comfortable. Rather than assigning seats, it was a loose, informal gathering of chairs in a crescent moon shape. There were no bad seats.

Then Karen stepped through the back door and clomped across the deck. On her heels was Art and Sam… wearing some kind of battered leather and chrome jacket. Grinning weakly, the groom shook Jacob's hand. “Good to see you, sir. Glad you could make it.”

“Couldn't resist the notion of a good party. Lookin' good, Sam,” Jacob teased his daughter, who pouted and shoved her hands in her pants pockets.

“I'm doubling as Karen's missing sister today. Hi dad.”

++ Karen ++

Watching Sam hug her father, I was suddenly startled by my cell phone buzzing in my pants pocket and fished it out “Taylor.”

“Bane? How you holding up, stud?”

At the sound of that voice, I relaxed a little. “Dace! This is the most I've heard from you in months, punk. Two days in a row?”

“Comedian,” she chuckled. “Nervous?”

“Terrified,” I told her honestly and turned away from the others for a moment of relative privacy. “the jacket looks great, thanks for sending it.”

“Least I could do. At least part of me needed to be there. My mind's gonna be on you all day, you know that, right?”


“You'll have to come out to San Francisco for a visit soon and I'll make sure you family are well taken care of.”

I chuckled teasingly, “Won't Red be upset that you're offering that?”

“And I should care what Red thinks now? We made our choices years ago. I've moved past that. Not my problem if she hasn't.” There was a short pause, and I could see those pale brows furrowing in thought. “So is the Lady there?”

“Of course, she is. Tessa, too. I need my family here, don't I?” I took a breath, chewing my lower lip. “Any chance you'll be able to come out after your case? Just to meet the wife and daughter? The last time you were here, there wasn't much chance.”

“First chance I get, I promise. Is that creampuff gonna be around?” She asked with a lecherous laugh bubbling under her voice.

“Yeah, she's standing in for you in fact.”

“The creampuff is your long-standing brainy crush? You didn't tell me that!”

“I knew you'd tease. Since you couldn't make it, I guess you'll just have to remember what it was like to have her behind you on your bike, won't you?”

I let the comment trail off, grinning broadly at the look of shocked amusement on Goldston's face. Looks like I was right, she had been eavesdropping. “The-eh mou,” Goldston whispered, recognition dawning on her face. “That's not… Tall…blonde… Sam kissed…” When I nodded at her, she swallowed hard, flushed rosy, and slunk away.

I stifled laughter down to a low chuckle. “Dace, do you remember that cute little Hershey's kiss that was with the creampuff? She just realized who I was talking to and is turning all kinds of fun colors. If you could have seen the look on her face! Next time I see you, I owe you a drink.”

“Sweet. Listen, there's a card in the pocket of the jacket. You tell the creampuff that she has to read it to your witnesses. If she hates public speaking, I'll make it up to her later.”

That was my sis!

++ Kim ++

I'd never seen Darya this nervous and yet serene, not even when she'd had her ceremony with Emma. But I knew this Karen meant the world to her. I could see it in Dare's eyes every time she talked about her. I'd heard it in her voice when she told me Karen had asked her to spend their lives together. It was beautiful. In many ways, it was what I hoped for in my own relationship with Kerry. I felt badly for my new girlfriend. We'd just barely gotten together, and X and I dragged her here for the commitment ceremony of two people she didn't even know. I hoped she'd make friends with them. Dare, Jan, and X were my best friends, hands down, and I wanted her to like them.

We were just waiting for the wedding march to begin now, so that we could get this show on the road.

“So,” I teased, stepping over to triple-check the intricate dress and veil. “I take it you're really not going to move back to San Francisco now, huh?”

Her laughter was authentic and easy. Maybe all of us really would survive this. “You should talk, Miss Chicago-paid-through-the-ass-to-get-me.”

“Can I help it if I'm sought after?” I shot back.

“Oh, and I wasn't? Remember, Legs, you tied for number three in our class with X, after me and Squirt.”

“Need I remind you both who was number one in our class?” Janet piped up.

“Shut up, Shrimp!” I quipped, sticking my tongue out at her. “We're talking about me here, not you.”

++ Darya ++

Once Kim and Janet had primped and prepared me, the General had stopped by to tell me it was time to go. He brought my baby girl with him and I nearly cried when I saw her in her little tuxedo, strutting around like she owned the world. If she looked that good, I could only imagine what Karen looked like. And at the thought of Karen, my stomach burst into a flurry of butterflies that threatened to make me ill. A quick giggle from Janet eased my fears a bit and I realized how I must look.

“You look pretty, Mommy.”

“Thank you, baby. You look very handsome yourself.”

“I'm like Kryn, Mommy. Flower from Gampa.”

“So I see. Did you thank Grampa George for your present?”

“Fank you, Gampa!”

He chuckled. “You're welcome, Miss Emily.” Then he leaned over to press his lips to my cheek. “You look beautiful, Darya. Karen's one damned lucky woman.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“So are you ready to do this?” he asked softly.

“If I said no, would it matter?” I quipped nervously.

“I doubt it,” he chuckled. “But I'd hate to be the one to tell that fiery redhead that. She's very ready to make you her wife.”

“I know,” I whispered and took a deep, cleansing breath. Patting Emily's curly head, I nodded to the general. “I'm ready, sir.”

++ Karen ++

I stood there, nervously tugging at the collar of my dress shirt. Where was Darya? I prayed she hadn't backed out at the last minute. I wanted this so badly, I was going to puke if she didn't show up soon. Glancing behind me at a soft touch on my arm, I saw Sam and Art grinning reassuringly at me. Lucky sat placidly next to Art, looking put out to be wearing the grey shadrack that matched our tuxedos. And clipped to said shadrack was the smaller of the two silver bands Dare and I had picked out. Casting what must have been a worried look at Cassie, the teen grinned and flashed me a thumbs up, her other hand pointing to the matching ring attached to Cooper's grey shadrack.

“You know, if you keep stressing, you're going to pass out,” Sam teased softly, eyes twinkling in amusement.

“Sorry,” I muttered, trying to echo her smile. Reaching past her, I straightened the tux jacket hanging on the coat tree between Sam and Art. It had been a bit of a joke to hang Sam's empty jacket on a hanger while she posed as Dace. Now, I kinda liked it, the humor and warmth of my friends a powerful boost to my anxious heart. That, and a chair had been set in front of it so that Emily could be a part of the ceremony.

As if understanding my nervous energy, Art none-too-lightly punched me in the arm. The dull flash of pain grounded me back into my body and I took a deep, cleansing breath. There was a wealth of understanding in the evening-blue eyes.

All distractions fell away as I heard the beginning strains of Wagner's 'Bridal Chorus' float up from Cassie's boom-box. It was time…

Fin and Davie materialized at the rear of the tent, making the space sharp with anticipation. Regal and calm, they came to the altar at a the measured pace that the ceremony demanded. Fin's sober black clerical robes were tempered by the brilliant Mediterranean blue Davie wore, highlighted by the undulating wave of long hair about her shoulders. She winked as she passed me to take her place at the altar with Fin and I relaxed a little.

I watched X sauntering, albeit subdued, down the aisle, resplendent in his grey tux as if he'd been born in it. He flashed a grin at us and sketched a reverent half-bow at the altar and celebrants before moving into place. Kim came soon after, looking regal in the pale green dress that was so close to the color of my Dare's eyes. Things had come to a respectful distance between us, if only because of our mutual love of Dare and Emily. I hoped to one day be able to sit down and have a long heart-to-heart with this woman, truly attempt to see what my girls loved so much about her. She smiled warmly at me as she moved to stand next to X while Janet made her way down the aisle. The matron of honor looked radiant in a slightly darker green dress, and I could see the tears glittering in her eyes at her happiness for us. She did little to disguise her appreciative glance at her lovers standing next to me. She paused before me, straightening my boutonniere with a mischievous, “Do I need to check your blood pressure, Taylor?”

And then, with a barely contained squeal of delight, my stepdaughter came down the aisle toward me, concentration plain on her face as she clumsily spread out the creamy rose petals just like we'd practiced. She looked utterly adorable in her little tuxedo and boots, and was doing her best not to muss herself too much. As she neared me, her little face broke out in a huge grin and she ran the last couple of feet to wrap herself around my leg. “Great job, Monkey,” I chuckled and stroked her little ponytail lovingly.

There was a lull in the music, more like catching your breath than a real silence, and the soft notes came more powerfully this time, building up like going from a walk to a jog. A mental note to thank Art's sister for mixing the music fled as the crowd stood and we all caught our breath.

“Oh Mommy,” Emily declared in awe.

Oh mommy, indeed!

++ Xavier ++

When Dare had emailed me a few ideas for wedding gowns months ago, I'd girlie-squealed in horror. They were so… so boring. My old pal was such a striking woman! The first wedding had been pretty traditional and I had bit back my internal gay-boy decorator the whole damn time I'd crafted the plain white dress. With a little coaxing, I'd persuaded Dare to get theatrical and personal this time. Her heart really needed to be in this from beginning to end. Knowing that there was some archaic aspects to this wedding, I'd done some research, drafted my old pals from my Renaissance Faire days and gone to work.

Months of work, a million painfully hand-drawn and machine stitches and incalculable hours of missed sleep mixed in with the stress of moving halfway across the U.S. to an even more stressful job than in California, strode down the aisle on the arm of the handsome General Hammond. It was even better than I had expected and worth all the trouble. A glance at Karen made me downright smug at her open-mouthed shock. Was I good, or what?

The outer dress, a heavy, brocade silk that had been a quest in itself, wrapped lovingly around Darya's slender torso, protecting the fragile heart within. It dipped to a shallow point near her navel, where it was still perfectly centered, I crowed internally. The silk had been carefully dyed to fade from a dusky salmon at the hem, to a deep cream at her shoulders. The slit that began at that perfectly centered point revealed the subtle pink undershift beneath. While I was certainly no fan of pink, some research had revealed that Greek brides had always traditionally worn that color. Who was I to argue with tradition? The veil had been even harder to dye, I still owed that cute little Brad a dinner that would knock his socks off, and whatever else he wanted… Shaking that thought off, I concentrated on the man's work, the way the veil slowly graduated from a warm, buttery yellow at Dare's crown, to a bloody sunset red at the trailing edge. How he had made the colors all work together baffled me, and I was good enough with fabric that I could have made a fine living from the skill. That, and the stud had even managed to compliment Dare's unusual eyes. The ensemble was contrasted by the incongruous flash of the motorcycle boots she wore beneath the long skirt. We were all wearing them. Something about Karen's absent sister…

Art had been invaluable in tracking down a florist that could match the swatches I'd sent her, driving all the way to Denver only hours before we Dinkys had arrived to pick up a whole field of flowers. The most glorious of those buds trembled lightly in Darya's hands, a subtle symphony of the palest salmon and warmest cream roses nestled amidst pale leaves that matched the rest of us Dinkys.

She was truly a delicate and rare bloom amidst the loving foliage and gray rain clouds of her friends. And didn't Karen just know it, staring and nearly drooling, like a lovesick puppy.

++ Karen++

The dress was stunning, there were no other words. All I could do was stare like a complete idiot until the General placed Dare's right hand in my left. Enraptured with her, I was dimly aware that Sam scooped Emily up to have the girl stand on the chair, but I only had eyes for my Darya. Squeezing our joined hands, Hammond retreated to his seat next to General Carter. That was my first cue to stop staring at her and focus on the ceremony at hand. It wasn't easy, with those sweet, sexy eyes distracting me, but I gave it my best.

A happily recovered Irish Catholic, I really had no desire to fall into the trappings of religion, but I'd wanted this ceremony to be special for Dare and Emily, so I shrugged off my lack of understanding and went all out for them. The ceremony was a fun blend of traditional Christian dogma, Darya's religious upbringing and the unique and personal spiritual path she'd chosen to follow as an adult, melded into a unique whole that mirrored our relationship and would solidify our commitment to each other.

Fin and Davie came around the altar to stand directly in front of us. Fin smiled at Dare and asked in a gentle, strong voice, “who here has escorted this woman from her solitary life to this joining of hearts and minds?”

“I have,” Davie replied in a warm, ringing voice that carried throughout the assembly, “as her sister in blood.”

Then the General added, “I have, as the representative of the family she has chosen.”

At Fin's nod, Davie dipped the sprig of fresh rosemary into the small bowl of water and shook it three times over Darya. She then picked up a wreath of olive leaves and placed it over the veil as she said, “Darya Morgan Farazell, be welcome in this house.”

Fin's gaze then fell on me as he repeated the question. “Who here has escorted this woman from her solitary life to this joining of hearts and minds?”

From behind me, I could sense the Lady standing. “I have, as her mother in all but blood.” Her smile was rich in her voice as she continued. “And as her chosen family.” I flashed a grateful smile to her over my shoulder and watched the general grin flirtatiously at Anastasia.

Davie also sprinkled me with the water and placed another wreath on my head, saying, “Karen Michelle Taylor, be welcome in this house.”

++ Fin ++

Safe in the circle of friends and family, Davie raised her arms for attention. This was the part no one was expecting. Cory discretely stood and moved close to Kim, facing the small crowd. Art also faced away from me, squaring up her shoulders in preparation. A simple long note from Davie grounded us into the ancient hymns we had so carefully learned. I added my tenor gently beneath her clear second soprano, while Art expertly wove her powerful and intricate alto around our voices. Words came then, echoed in the power of Cory's baritone.

There was shock and delight in response to the offering, as our choir of voices wove thanks to the deities that meant something to these two special women. Cory echoed the words in English as the rest of us chanted and sang in the ancient and enduring language of the Greeks.

To Asklepios, god of the health of the mind, a personal patron of Darya. To Gaia, the Mother Earth Herself. To Hades, a poignant tribute of what had been lost to come to this moment. To Kybele, Earth Mother long before Gaia and protectress of the queer-gendered. To Hera Gamelia, honoring the goddess' special affinity for marriages. To Titania, grand Empress of the Irish fairy folk, Karen's only request to be added to the litany.

I reflected on this unique ceremony as my body went through the unique labor of singing. From what I knew of the brides, it was certainly very indicative of their relationship. And I would be lying if I didn't admit a fascination with these ancient beliefs of my ancestors. In too short a time, the prayers came to an end, and a shocked silence settled over the gathering.

“Sweet,” Karen finally breathed out reverently and began clapping. It was a relief that she started it, and soon the tent was filled with appreciation. Grinning that charming grin, Davie turned to Emily, tapping the girl to get her attention. Once she had Emily's focus, she helped the girl through a simplified prayer to Dionysos Dimeter, He of Two Mothers, to keep their family safe during the ceremony and beyond.

I watched the silently expressive gaze between the lovers as young Emily struggled with some of the Greek words. Beaming proudly, Emily echoed Davie repeating the prayer in English for the non-Greek speaking audience. Swallowing an excited and tired squeal, Emily bounced for a moment while the audience clapped again. Even through the colorful veil, I could see that Darya had not expected any of this, and was pleasantly overwhelmed. Art set a comforting hand on the back of Emily's neck, giving the girl a thumbs-up. So my sister had a hand in that little last endeavor. Didn't really surprise me.

Clearing my throat for attention, I waited for a moment for everyone to focus. “We have been gathered here to bear witness to the love and commitment between Darya and Karen. They have chosen to create a unique ceremony that reflects themselves and their life together. A lasting love is not something that comes easily to us, but true love is blind to the trivialities of gender, economic status, and personal will. Only when we can transcend these obstacles can we truly open ourselves to the kind of love that poets have immortalized since the dawning of time.”

++ Darya ++

I barely managed to follow along as Fin spoke, overwhelmed already by the ceremony. I forced myself to ground my empathy in the powerful emotions emanating from these people I knew and loved. First and foremost of those were the two redheads in my life: my daughter and my partner. I lost myself in the sensations swirling around Karen and blushed when she raised her gaze to grin self-consciously at me. Suddenly, I had no idea why we'd chosen to even have this stupid ceremony. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in her arms in bed and never leave. But I couldn't do that, could I? I'd requested this ceremony when Karen had proposed. I couldn't very well upset everyone that had gathered for this, so I had to suck it up until it was over and I had Karen to myself.

“Darya?” I glanced up at Fin's voice, startled from my thoughts. His warm eyes were indulgent at catching me daydreaming. “You had something to say to Karen?”

By the goddess, where had the time gone? Clearing my throat, I turned my body as Karen echoed the move. She was the most beautiful woman I'd known…well, besides Emma. For an instant, I missed my long-dead partner with a fierce ache. There was a soothing brush of love and understanding across my sensitivities, as though Em herself had touched my neck in silent support. My daughter's eyes were riveted on me, flickering to the spot where that phantom touch made the hairs on my neck stand on end. There was a sobering understanding in the blue, blue gaze.

In that instant, I had never felt so close to my child or her first other mother.

It took a real effort to push past the moment, focusing my attention on the here and now, the future in Karen's gem-green eyes. Clearing my throat painfully around the lump there, I tried to speak, startled when Karen lifted a hand to halt the words. Fear flooded in at the thought that she could be backing out of this.

“It's okay, Dare,” she murmured reassuringly. “I just want to see your face for this.” She glanced at Fin and Davie. “May I?” When they nodded and Davie lifted the wreaths from both of our heads, Karen rearranged the veil to lie nicely against my hair once the wreath was replaced. Davie then switched the wreaths on our heads. That was the first one. Two more to go. C'mon, Darya, buck up, you can do this. “Okay, now I can see your beautiful eyes,” Karen purred in that intimate tone only I got to hear, lightly caressing my cheek with the backs of her fingers.

Thoughts derailed again, I blushed furiously and had to tear my eyes away for a moment. Resolve shored up like a failing seawall, I again met those fantastic eyes. “I can't imagine my life without you, Karen,” came my voice, hoarse and quiet as though it came from far away. “I honestly never thought I'd say that to anyone other than my daughter, not after Emma died. I'd expected to live the rest of my life alone, devoted to my work and Emily, but never to another person. And then you walked my life. From the first moment I laid eyes on you, guarding poor Sam, I couldn't get you out of my head. I tried to deny that you'd gotten to me, but it was useless. And you wouldn't let me even if I'd wanted to. Karen, you mean everything to me. You've become a second mother to Emily, she idolizes you. And you've neatly slipped into my very soul, and I can't imagine living without you. I love you, and I want to tell you that for the rest of our lives. S'ahgahpoh, Karen.”

++ Karen ++

Wow… she blew me away with the sweet, strained words. I knew what we felt went deep, but hearing it spoken so plainly and with such love... I was honestly at a loss for words. So at the not-so-subtle poke in the ribs from Art, I colored self-consciously and fished around for my voice.

“I never expected to find anyone like you, Darya. You and Emily are the best thing that ever happened to me. I didn't have much love when I was growing up, before Anastasia took me in, but you two have changed that.” I paused, clearing my own throat. “Everybody always sees me as the strong Air Force officer, or the tough biker bitch, but that's usually all they see, all I let them see. Even people who have known me for years have never really knew the real me. But you do. You've met the person I've hidden from everyone else in the world to keep her safe. You've seen me cry; you've heard me admit to fears and weaknesses. You've watched me get completely bowled over by the little things Emily does to make me smile. You've met me at the door with a gentle kiss that chased away any crappy mission I'd been on. And you've loved me, unconditionally, even when I pushed you to your limits.” Again, I paused, remembering my earlier conversation with Art. “You know, Art and I were talking and she asked me when I knew that I loved you, and I told her it was the night you told me about Emma. That by the time we ended that first kiss of ours, I was yours completely. I've never regretted falling that deep that fast, and I sincerely pray to any god or goddess you know of that I never, ever will. I love you, Darya. You and Emily make me complete.” I took a deep breath and hoped I could remember the phrase Art had taught me earlier. “Se latrevo ya pahnda (I adore you for always), Darya.”

We had a moment to stare at each other in wonderment before I felt the tug at my pant leg and looked down to see Emily standing there, antsy with energy. Scooping her up, I kissed her cheek. “Yes, Monkey?”

“My turn now, Kryn?”

“Of course, baby,” Dare responded.

She looked between the two of us, a serious expression on her face. “Mommy was sad before Kryn. Now Kryn and Em'ly make Mommy happy. Kryn, are you happy with Mommy and Em'ly?”

“Yes, Monkey, I am, very much,” I replied, blinking back tears that had been threatening since Darya had walked into the room.

“Then we family now?”

“Yes, we are, sweetie.”

“Well, if Emily says so, then we better make this official,” Fin teased and brought grateful laughter as Dare and I tried to recompose ourselves. “I'll finish this up so she won't be a liar.”

Flashing him a grin, I set my stepdaughter down on the chair and tenderly brushed my fingers over her hair. “Just a little bit longer, Em'ly. We'll be done soon.”

She nodded trustingly, and I was instantly reminded of just how much she meant to me. Blinking to clear my eyes again, I turned to face Fin. He watched the two of us for a moment, and then glanced at Sam and Janet. “Do you have the rings?”

++ Davie ++

Art knelt down to unclip the one ring from Lucky's shadrack while Janet called Cooper over to retrieve the other ring. As they offered the rings to Fin, I switched the wreaths on Karen and Darya's heads again. The bands rested in Fin's cupped hands, and he murmured blessings in Greek and English over them. I added my own blessings as I sprinkled the water over them.

“These rings are unbroken circles,” I said, reciting the words Dare had labored over. “Indicating the never-ending continuity of life. In accepting and wearing these rings, Karen and Darya have chosen to keep an outward, physical symbol of their love.” I paused and glanced at my niece. “Emily, honey, are you ready to help me?”

Ne, Dea (Yes, my aunt).

We waited as Sam scooped up Emily and Art moved her chair beside me. The serious look on her face was tempered by the excited twinkle in her eyes. Extending my hand, Emily very solemnly placed her own hands over the rings before speaking.

“Mommy said to use my heart. So Goddess bless Mommy and Kryn and rings. Make Mommy and Kryn always happy family for Em'ly. Mote it be,” she said, then glanced up at Darya. “Is that right, Mommy?”

“Yes, baby, that was very good.”

The little girl beamed and picked up one of the rings and pressed it into Karen's palm. “Kryn give the ring to Mommy.”

She took the ring from Emily and watched Darya hand her bouquet to Janet. This was it. This was really it for them. No turning back now.

“I Karen Michelle, take you Darya Morgan, to be my partner in thought, word, and deed. I promise before all of our witnesses, seen and unseen, to love, honor, cherish, and protect you and your daughter as I would myself. I give you this ring as a symbol of the love I have for you.”

As she said the final words, Karen slid the simple silver claddagh ring onto Dare's finger before bringing that hand to her lips, brushing across Dare's knuckles. Without looking at my sister, I knew she was crying, and would cry harder when I saw Karen mouthed 'I love you,” before meeting my gaze again.

Seeming to know her mother was okay, Emily passed her the other ring, then proceeded to repeat the words with Darya. I sensed the shivering thrill racing down Karen's spine as Dare slid the plain silver band onto her finger.

When Fin started to speak, Karen held up her right hand. “Wait, Fin. There's one more thing I need to do before we can continue.” I knew my confused, intrigued stare was mirrored by Fin and certainly by Darya. Karen smiled reassuringly as she dug into her jacket pocket. Pulling something out, she turned to face Emily. “Em'ly mine, can I have your hand?” My niece gave her hand to Karen easily, curiosity brimming over in her eyes. Placing the ring against the small ring finger on her right hand, Karen looked at her and smiled. “I didn't want you to be left out of this, and you're just as important to this ceremony as your mom and me. So, Em'ly mine, with this ring, I promise to love you, and cherish you, and protect you until my last breath. I love you, Monkey,” she said, slipping the tiny plain silver band on her finger.

“By the Goddess,” I heard Darya murmur. Tears were in her eyes as she realized what Karen had just done.

“We married now, Kryn?”

Sniffling, Karen nodded. “Yeah, Monkey, as soon as Theeos (uncle) Fin and Theea (aunt) Davie say we all are.”

Theeos?Dea? We married now?”

“Oh!” Karen suddenly burst out. “Wait. Sam, there's a card in the jacket pocket. It's from my sister.”

I had to chuckle to myself at Karen's erratic behavior. Behold the bamboozling power of true love.

++ Karen ++

My brain was jell-o today, I swear. With a puzzled expression, Sam shoved her hands in the zippered pockets and smiled, then looked confused. “I feel it, but it's behind fabric.”

“Check the inside,” I coaxed, remembering that Dace often stuck valuables there, close to her heart.

“Yep, here it is.” Quickly yanking open the plain, white envelope, Sam began to read. “From the best man, so to speak.” There was a ripple of low laughter and I grinned helplessly. “I read about this great custom about the happy couple drinking from a glass of wine three times and then smashing the glass. Sounds like our kind of fun, huh, Bane? A lifetime of trials and love between us, it seems, and now this wonderful woman and child to complete you the way no one ever could. I can hear it your voice when you talk about them, can see it in the force of your smile. Darya, you have the Tiger by the tail now, and she will be your greatest challenge and your greatest reward. Emily, you will never find a better teacher or friend than Karen. She has always been one of the rulers that I've measured myself against and will do the same for you. Just listen and learn, kiddo. On this happy day, and forever after, love and peace to you all.” Sam sniffled expressively, as did several others including me, and finished up. “Your sister in heart, Dace.”

While Cory materialized with a goblet in his hands, I hooked a hand around Sam's neck and pulled her close to kiss her wetly, right between the eyes. “Someday, when you meet her again, pass that along, won't you?”

Sam grinned in delight and stepped back to accept the goblet before handing it to me. With my vision swimming with tears, I took a quick sip of the strong red wine before offering it to Dare. Smiling shakily, she rested her hand over mine and also drank.

“To our pasts,” she said wisely and we sipped again. “To our present.” Once more, the think burn of the red, red wine soothed my tight throat and loosened the pressure in my nervous belly. I added my voice to hers. “To our future.”

I wasn't gonna last much longer and I knew it. “Fin,” came my voice, slightly strangled. “You better finish up here. I'm not going to be able to keep my hands to myself much longer.” Warm, understanding laughter rippled through the group again, and Dare smiled luminously.

“Put your hand on top of your mommy and Karen's, Emily, and I'll make sure you're all married,” Fin prompted warmly. When she did, Davie reached up under her hair, removing a ribbon from around her neck and handing it to Fin. Very carefully, he wrapped the ribbon around our three hands, the silk fabric feeling much more substantial than it really was. After knotting it off tight, he cupped our joined hands in his and lowered his head for a moment. My eyes kept flickering between my girls, the swirling emotions almost palatable in the room. Dare looked radiant with the power of them, and I don't think Emily was even touching the chair anymore. There were prayers murmured over us, in familiar English and the warm cadences of Greek. Only Davie's voice pulled at my attention enough to comprehend what was being said.

“And now, by the blessing and authority of the assembly of gods, I pronounce you wife, wife, and daughter, mesa soma, mesa karthia, kai mesa psyche. In body, in heart, and in soul.”

One last time, the wreaths on our heads were switched. I was pretty sure we were almost done, which was a good thing, because there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

“So, kiss already, willya,” Fin suddenly chuckled and some of the choking emotions lifted. That was all the incentive I needed. For the sake of audience and tradition, I cupped Darya's cheek with me free hand and dropped the sweetest kiss on her lips. For us, I wrapped that same arm around her, yanking her into my body as I loved to do, and kissed her like I would never have the chance again.

In an instant, the world faded away, nothing mattered but this precious woman and the bond between us. She tasted of the red wine, and the salt of tears, and the sweetness that was all her own.

“Oh, get a room,” Art finally groused good-naturedly and I reluctantly gave Dare a little space. She looked the same way I felt, and it made me smile like a fool. Grinning to make my jaw ache, I leaned over to plop little kisses on Emily that made her giggle. “I love you, Monkey.”

Davie was easing our hands from the ribbon and I grabbed up the mostly-empty wine glass. “Emily, I know I told you breaking things was bad, but just this once, do it. Breaking the glass is good luck, just this once.”

With enthusiasm, Emily grabbed the delicate crystal and it shattered spectacularly against Sam's wooden floor.

“Oopa!” Art yelled, followed up by her brothers and Davie. Whoops of delight came up from our assembly of friends.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Fin raised his voice into the growing din. “I present to you the truly blessed Farazell-Taylor family. May the gods smile on them today and always.”

And the tent dissolved into happy chaos.

To Be Continued…