So, it's finally happening — McCall's wedding day. Ahem, I guess I have to stop calling her that. Soon. She will cease to be McCall in about 20 minutes. Dee Dee. What's Alex's last name? Turnan? I'm not calling her Turnan. Dee Dee. Dee Dee. There have been times "Dee Dee" just rolled off my tongue, times that I've tried not to think about because they always bring pain. Like when she called me that Saturday afternoon and the only words she could say were "help me." Or when I found her nearly dead in a pool of blood on her living room floor. Or that one night in her bed with my fingers entwined in her hair and her leg wrapped around my hip. Otherwise, she has always been McCall.

This really is a beautiful church. It's hard to imagine Dee Dee growing up in this church, sitting in the pews like the dutiful daughter. She was probably flirting with the teenage boys instead of listening to the sermons, that is, when she wasn't bringing the congregation to tears with her heartfelt version of "Amazing Grace."

I feel a little weird standing up here. Dee Dee's best friend since childhood, Linda, is her maid of honor and Alex's brother is the best man. And then there's me, standing off to the side, two steps down from where Linda is standing. We always joked about me being a bridesmaid whenever she tied the knot. I never thought she'd really ask me to stand up with her. But here I am. I guess it does fit — always a bridesmaid never a groom.

I don't know how she pulled this off — the wedding and the move to Oxford all within just a couple of weeks. I've helped where I could. I tied the white bows onto the end of the pews this morning, but I don't know when she had time to make the bows in the first place. I don't think she has slept in days. With all of her nervous energy I doubt she would have been able to sleep, anyway.

Alex looks nervous over there. I guess I would be, too, if I were about to get married. His smile has a nervous twitch to it, and if he adjusts the knot in his tie one more time I might just reach over there and use it as a noose. I really hope this son of a bitch knows how lucky he is. I don't really think he does. He's taking away the only woman I have ever truly loved as if she is just a toy that can be easily replaced.

~xxx~

"What's his name?" I asked her as I picked up a stuffed animal off her bed. We had only known each other a matter of days. Working our first case together, we had set up a trap for our suspect at her condo. We somehow ended up chatting in her bedroom.

"Do you mind?!" she screeched and pulled the teddy bear out of my hands.

"I don't believe it McCall, you're a fraud."

"What? That under all this grit and gristle I'm still a woman? That I like bubble baths and soft clothing and frilly things on my mattress? The real Brass Cupcake."

"Bullets and teddy bears — interesting combination — but it works." There was a framed photograph of a police officer on her nightstand. I picked it up, studied it. "Your husband? I heard he was killed in the line of duty."

"Yeah. He pulled a couple of kids over one night to tell them their taillight was out. They were out joy riding - they thought he'd nail them. So they shot him."

"I heard he was a hell of a man."

"Yeah, he was. So what about you, Hunter? Where's your other side? What is it you go home to when you hang up your gun at night?"

"This is it."

"Bull. Couldn't be, you wouldn't still be making it. The only way to stay tough out there is to have some place where you can drop your guard, take a load off."

"Well, I've never had a chance to find that place. To everyone on the Force I'm a cop who's a mobster's son. And to everyone in the underworld I'm a mobster's son who's a cop. This is all I know."

"You know, Steve used to say, 'You can't keep this up for too long.' Being a policeman is one of the highest stress jobs there is."

"Race drivers used to say, 'When you see the road move it was time to quit.'"

"Yeah, I'm afraid of that day."

"Don't be. People like you and I never see it until it's too late, Dee Dee. And then they just hit the wall."

"Dulley. His name is Tom Dulley. Say hi to Hunter, Dulley. 'Hi Hunter how are you?'"

~xxx~

Canon in D — this is the song she said she chose for her walk down the aisle, isn't it? Yep, the doors are opening now. She loves this song.

Wow, she's beautiful. Dee Dee is always beautiful, but right now, with the sun shining behind her she looks exceptionally so. Angelic, that's how she looks.

Someone once told me, when everyone stands up and turns to see the bride for the first time, you should look at the groom instead. The look on their faces is priceless as they see their bride-to-be all dolled up just for them. I want to look over at Alex. I want to see if he sees what I do. I want to see that love-sick, puppy-dog expression on his face, but I cannot look away from her.

She's happy. She's smiling from ear to ear. Dee Dee finally found her man.

~xxx~

"What are you doing?" I had asked her when she suddenly became quiet and distant. It was our fourth night babysitting a witness in the Hotel St. Clair.

"Nothin'," she answered quietly.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah."

"Hey, listen, you know, I've been wantin' to talk to you about, uh, you're state of mind ever since the rape, but I haven't had the opportunity. Is everything okay with ya?"

"Yeah, I'm okay. It's not that. I'm just going to miss this lousy job. Can you believe that?"

"No. I mean, you're gonna miss this? Four days in a motel babysitting some maniac. Come on. You kiddin' me?"

"Yeah, I'm going to miss this. I'm gonna miss all of it. Can't be a cop forever. I mean, my, uh, biological clock is ticking. You know, one of these days I'm gonna have to stop being a cop so that I can start having children. Just makes me kinda sad — to have to leave something that I like so much. I'm gonna miss it. I'm gonna miss you, too. What are you going to do without me, huh?"

"I don't know, but you don't have to give anything up."

"Yeah, I do. Being a cop is hardly conducive to having children and a husband. You know that. I do want a family. It is something I have to have one day. But he won't be a cop. Boy, I tried that once. His death was so senseless. That's just something I…I couldn't handle again. What Steve and I had was…oh…it was so good. It was so special."

~xxx~

Her dad is smiling, too, as he walks her down the aisle. Her parents don't know whether to be happy that she's leaving the Force, or sad that she's leaving the country. But no matter, we are all happy that she's happy. That is all I've ever wanted — for her to be happy. I've given her crap about all of her dates and boyfriends, none of them were ever good enough for her, but if they made her happy then I was happy. I'm not good enough for her, either, not any more than the rest of them. That has stopped me from ever really considering the possibility. But, oh, it would have made me happy.

I'm gonna miss it. I'm gonna miss you, too. What are you going to do without me, huh?

Everyone is watching her. Everyone always watches her. When she enters a room, men and women alike turn and stare. The men want her; the women want to be her. She is the whole package: beauty and brains, confidence and unpretentiousness, strength and empathy. From the moment I met her, I've marveled at her ability to bring down men twice her size and then turn around and console a grieving widow as if this was a practiced maneuver. Have I told her what a great cop she is? I'm sure I have, but probably not often enough. I hope she never felt like I took her for granted, because I didn't. Ever.

~xxx~

"It just seems so funny. Most women have nine months to prepare themselves for this." I told her as she was telling me her plan to adopt the unborn baby of a homicide victim being held on life support. "I mean, it's virtually happened to you overnight. You know, what if…what if the baby comes into this world with a…"

"A birth defect."

"A birth defect. Yeah."

"I know the odds. I know the circumstances. I know that it could happen, but to tell you the truth I feel inside that it won't. I really do. And even if it does that is all the more reason that I will need to be there for that baby."

"Well, yeah, I mean, I understand that. What I need to know is…is that your decision about this is based on fact and reality, not on emotion and circumstance."

"Well, emotion and circumstance obviously do enter into this, but here are the facts: that baby needs a parent desperately. Now I can fill that need. What's more is, I want to. Now I am moving carefully. I am moving deliberately. I've thought about this for a long time. Rick, you know I want kids."

"Yeah."

"That's something that's very important to me. And I feel ready, I really do."

"Let me play devil's advocate with you here on one subject. What if somebody steps forward and puts a claim on that child?"

"Well, then I will have to do deal with that if and when it does. But until it does I'm all that that baby has and I know it. I can't turn my back on that. Could you?"

I shook my head no. "You're pretty clear about all this, aren't ya?"

"Yeah. Yeah!"

"I like you," I said as I hugged her and kissed her forehead.

~xxx~

She chose the not white dress. She deliberated on that for days — to wear white or not. This light pink one (or is it peach?) looks really good on her, making her cheeks look blushed. BLUSH! That's the color she called this dress. The soft shade against her porcelain skin makes her big brown eyes shine. I always swore I could see her soul if I looked into her eyes long enough. So many people thought she was cold and harsh, a common misconception about homicide detectives, but she carried her emotions in her eyes. So much could be said between us without a sound, just looking into her eyes I knew what she was thinking, what she was feeling.

Now that she's almost reached us I can see her eyelashes shining with tears. She looks over at me, and her smile widens. I've never seen her so joyous. Would she be this emotional, this sentimental, if it was me she was meeting at the altar instead of Alex?

I'm gonna miss it. I'm gonna miss you, too. What are you going to do without me, huh?

It's hard not to make the comparison. Standing up here waiting on her to walk to me, I can almost place myself as her groom. The few times in my life that I have thought about marriage, I imagined myself hyperventilating during the ceremony — feeling trapped liked a caged animal. But being in this moment, in this situation, with McCall being the bride, I have no fear at all. If she was the one I was vowing to love 'til death do us part…ahem, but I'm not. I'm not the one she's marrying. I'm not the one who had the balls to ask her.

~xxx~

"I thought about seeing an attorney, but I don't think Kathy Navaro is serious about this lawsuit." McCall and I were staking out a rape suspect, on the three to seven a.m. shift, and she was worried about the summons she had received in a divorce case of one of our colleagues.

"Yeah? I think it's an interesting case."

"You kidding?"

"No, I'm not kidding. I mean, c'mon, it's a well-known fact that police officers spend more time with one another than they do with their families. I mean, thank about the wedding vows. I mean, they're a distant second to the unspoken bond between two partnered police officers. I mean, you and I are supposed to die for one another, right?"

~xxx~

"Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord—," the preacher begins the ceremony.

She's leaving for England tomorrow. Tomorrow. Today Dee Dee is getting married and tomorrow she moves to the other side of the world. It might be weeks, months, until I talk to her again. Six years and I don't think I have gone an entire week without hearing her voice. I mean, it's usually work related, but still. We will no longer have our jobs to link us together. I can't even be the first one to call. It will have to be her. What if I never see her again? It's possible. No, we are too close of friends to never see each other again. Her family is here; she will be back to visit. Right? God, I hope I'm right. Has she really thought about this? She will have Alex. She won't need me anymore. But, what am I supposed to do when she's gone?

~xxx~

"Great. I felt great. Didn't even bother me that I was leaving town the next morning." Just a few months ago we were sitting in the department psychologist's office, discussing the night we had spent together three years earlier. McCall was revealing, for the first time, her thoughts on the subject. "It was really nice having hi— having you there in the morning, you know, waking up together. I knew that this wasn't going to be a pattern or anything. That was probably the only time that that would happen, but still…it was…it was very…special."

"So then what happened?" the department psychologist asked.

"Well, then he made me breakfast," she said with a smile and a laugh.

"It was a fabulous breakfast," I said.

"Except for the eggs," she teased.

"Did you two talk about it?" asked the psychologist.

"No."

"What about later?"

"No."

"You never talked about it?"

"No, and I wish we had. At the time I guess…I felt that nothing needed to be said. Maybe we were both just too afraid to say anything. I was busy packing for the airport. Probably conveniently busy, you know what I mean? And he helped me pack; and we drove to the airport; we kissed goodbye; and I left. And six weeks later I walk in and I see you with Megan, who's sitting at my desk, and I felt like I was looking at my replacement. And you didn't even seem to care that I was back or that I was even there."

"Oh, that's not true," I quickly replied.

"But that's the way I felt."

"Oh, but you knew I never meant that."

"And after Megan left?" probed the psychologist.

"Well, after she left it was just like we turned the clock back, as if it never happened at all," McCall answered.

"Except it did happen. What about you, Rick? How did you feel?"

"I thought about it a lot," I replied.

"No, no, I asked you how you felt."

"I felt great. I thought it was terrific. I'm glad it happened. But as time went on I just pushed it aside. Look, what happened between us evolved. I just didn't think it needed to be explained at the time. And the more time that went by the more I pushed it away the more…the more I got afraid to look at it. I didn't want to risk losing my friendship with her. I didn't want to lose my partner."

Later that night, I tried to apologize as I was dropping her off at home. "Look, I want to apologize to you again. This should have never happened. I uh..this was a monumental blunder on my part. I should have confirmed the issue from the outset."

"I had my part in it, too, you know. I apologize. I'm sorry."

"Look, we have to make a pact. Anything like this ever happens again we speak up immediately."

"Absolutely. No matter what it is, no matter what comes up, confront it and talk about it right then."

"Absolutely. It's a deal." We shook hands on the deal, but ended up holding hands instead.

"Want to come in for coffee?"

~xxx~

She's wearing her hair up, just like she had that night. I've always loved her hair that way. It's sexy. Dee Dee isn't the kind of woman that oozes sexy. She's beautiful and feminine, but not overtly sexy and somehow that makes her sexier. I don't think I have ever told her that I like her hair up, but somehow I think she knows. Does Alex like it this way? If he does I'm sure he has told her. That's what men do when they're trying to win a woman's affections. I've spent so much time trying to not woo Dee Dee I wouldn't know where to begin. Years of short skirts and fitted sweaters and soft perfumes and sexy laughs and sweet smiles — I've had to pretend to not notice them all. Oh, I've made jokes and innuendos, but that's the deal. I've hidden behind the jest and she's played along. It's all fun and games until you go home alone at night fantasizing about the innuendo.

Great. I felt great….having you there in the morning…waking up together…

"The union of husband and wife is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given each other in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God."

I'm gonna miss it. I'm gonna miss you, too. What are you going to do without me, huh?

Why am I the one who never had the balls to ask her? I could have told her three years ago that I love her. I could have told her three months ago. She could have run away and never looked back — that's what I've always been scared of, right? And how is this any different? I'm still losing her in the end.

Do you want to come in for coffee?

Yes, yes, I want to come in for coffee. I want to have "coffee" and actual coffee with you forever.

~xxx~

Just a few weeks ago, after Alex had proposed, McCall broke down and I had no idea why.

"You should be at home resting," I told her when she returned to a crime scene after getting injured.

"Why don't you stop mothering me? I'm fine, alright?"

"Uh, what's going on?"

"There's nothing going on."

"Wait a minute. What are you doing?" She turned and walked away from me. "McCall? McCall? Hey? Hey…wait…wha…what are you doing?"

"I used to know exactly what I wanted! Now I just don't even know anymore!"

~xxx~

Some lady is singing "Ave Maria." I recognize her. One of Dee Dee's college friends?

Great. I felt great….having you there in the morning…waking up together…

I will never see her sitting across the desk from me again. I will never ride in a car with her again. I will never share a pizza with her again.

I used to know exactly what I wanted! Now I just don't even know anymore!

Dee Dee is getting married. MARRIED. She is moving to England.

Do you want to come in for coffee?

"Into this union Dee Dee McCall and Alexander Turnan now come to be joined. If any of you can show just cause why they may not be lawfully wed, speak now, or else forever hold your peace," the preacher asks the guests.

Great. I felt great….having you there in the morning…waking up together…

"I object."

I've never heard this many people be so completely silent. Did someone really object? I swear I heard someone say "I object." McCall is looking at me. She has turned around and is looking at me. Why is she—? Jesus Christ. It was me. What the hell have I done?

The look in her eyes is killing me. She's confused. Shit, I'm confused, too. What the hell am I supposed to do now? This is it. I've done it. Even if I recant it — give it a giant NEVER MIND — the damage is done. I've ruined her wedding. I'm in it now, what the hell, go big or go home. I mean, she's never going to speak to me again, anyway, right?

"Rick?! What are you doing?" she's asking me, sounding annoyed.

"Maybe…uh….can we go talk for a minute?"

"What? I…this…this is my WEDDING!"

"Just…just…give me a minute."

"What the hell is happening here, Rick?" Alex bellows. He's mad. Of course he's mad.

I turn my focus back to McCall. Her eyes are shooting daggers straight at me. I'm glad she isn't carrying a gun right at this moment. "Lookit, I'm sorry, but I need to talk to you."

"This is ridiculous! Dee Dee, tell him—"

Dee Dee turns to Alex and places a hand on his arm to calm him. "It's okay. I'll be right back," she says to him quietly, so quiet I can barely hear her. She takes off past me toward a door in the back of sanctuary. I follow her.

She leads me down a hallway and into the room where she had changed into her gown just a few minutes ago. Her anger is evident in the swiftness of her pace, and the tight posture of her shoulders, barely moving as she practically stomps into the dressing room. It is clear that she wants this over as quickly as possible so that she can return to Alex's side.

"What the hell are you doing? You object? You object? Wha…wha…you've got to be kidding! Why? This is my wedding, Hunter! My WEDDING! Do you…do you know how…how…embarrassing this is?!"

I grab hold of her shoulders to get her attention. She tries to pull away, but I just hold on tighter. Her face is red from her outburst and her eyes are darting back and forth refusing to focus on me. "Stop! Shut up! Just answer this one question for me, and I'll let you go."

"What?" Her impatience is palpable.

"Do you love Alex more than you love me?"

Her breath hitches as she looks up at me in wonder. I release my hands from her shoulders. She stands up a little straighter, ready to take her stand and fight.

"It doesn't matter."

"Of course it matters."

"No, it doesn't."

"But you admit that you love me? That you love me more than Alex?"

"You know I love you. Why are you doing this?"

"Because I love you and I can't watch you marry Alex."

"Why now, Rick? Why are you doing this now? It's too late."

"I don't want to lose you. I've been so scared of losing my partner that I was blinded to the fact that some day I was going to lose you entirely."

"I'm…um…I'm going back in there. I'm marrying Alex. You can…you can support me or not," she says and turns to leave.

"I should have told you before. I should have. But I'm telling you now — I want you. I can't promise you everything that Alex is promising you, but I can promise you that he can never love you as much I do. It's not possible."

"Why didn't you say this three months ago? Last week? Yesterday even? Why did you tell me you were happy for me?"

"Because I never imagined a day that you would be swept off your feet overnight and run off to another country. Alex just showed up one day and said all the right things and made all the right promises. And now he's making you leave your job, your family, your entire life."

"He's not making me do anything."

"No, but you're letting him make your decisions for you. For what? He can't guarantee that any of those promises will come true, beyond placing a ring on your finger, no more than I can promise you that I won't die in the line of duty. Or that I can be the husband you want or give you the family that you desire."

"But at least he's willing to try. At least he wants the same things I do."

"I've never made promises I can't keep, that's true. But you don't trust that I want you to be happy? That I'd move heaven and earth to give you what you want?"

"Rick…"

"You're making a mistake. At least trust me to be your voice of reason. Marrying Alex today is a mistake."

"What is it you want me to do?" she asks, a mixture and exasperation and fatigue in her voice.

"If you truly love Alex and want to be with him so much that you are willing to throw your whole life away and move to England, then go. Marry him. I won't be there to watch, but I won't stop you." I can see her taking a deep breath, thinking about it and all the implications. "But if you trust me — trust that we can build something together, that we can be happy together — then stay here with me. I have laid down my life for you, and you have for me. Doesn't that say something?"

I hold out my hand, waiting for her take it. "Do you trust me?"

She looks back and forth, from my outstretched hand to my face to the door leading back to Alex. Finally, she slowly places her hand in mine.

"I do."