Disclaimer: The situation and some of the incidental characters are actually mine. Most of the major players aren't however -- they're borrowed from BVE without permission, but no harm, no foul and no money made. The title, and beginning and end quotes are also not mine, they're borrowed from Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Andreas Carlsson, again without permission but no harm no foul and no money made.
With grateful thanks to Gamine for beta'ing -- once more unto the breach. You truly are a wonderful, amazing person. Thank you also to Ree for beta'ing -- you too are a wonderful person. I truly am not worthy.
Please offer feedback, it tells me how I've done...
You Had Me From Hello
Thinking back, it took one breath
One word to change my life
It was a Saturday. Not just any Saturday, but the Saturday.
Jen was out of bed at the crack of dawn, too nervous and too excited to sleep. This was the day she had been waiting for. This was the day that she finally, truly got herself back after all the machinations of both Biocon and Alex.
She paused at the thought of Alex. Lumping him in with Biocon wasn't fair. Alex, at least, had meant well. And for all that he'd done, she had wanted him here -- to see this day of all days. She sighed. That wasn't to be. A grimace crossed her face. That he wasn't here now could only be blamed on one person: Biocon.
Unconsciously gesturing with her hand as if to wave away the bad memories from the recent past, Jen wandered across to the window and looked out.
The Collins estate. It felt strange to be seeing that view from the window rather than the one she'd grown accustomed to in her own apartment -- that being a view of downtown Silverhills -- but it had only been a practical measure. The wedding was taking place out on the terrace here so it made sense for all the principle participants -- that was Bride, Groom, Best Man and Maid of Honour -- to stay here over night.
Jen found herself grinning as she recalled the plan she and Wes had hatched.
Any minute now her Maid of Honour would be knocking on the bedroom door to make sure that she was up.
"I'm awake, Kim -- c'mon in."
Kimberly padded quietly along the hallway, heading towards Jen's temporary bedroom, anticipation and jealousy warring in the back of her mind. Today was the day Wes and Jen were to get married and while she was happy for them both, particularly after what they'd been through, she couldn't help but envy them.
She and Eric were engaged, but they hadn't set a date yet, and even when they did Kimberly was well aware that whatever ceremony they had, it wouldn't be like this one. It couldn't be. Neither of them had much in the way of family -- most of hers had disowned her over the Dirk fiasco -- and neither of them had much money. It would probably be a small ceremony at City Hall and then a quiet meal, maybe a weekend away for a honeymoon.
And there was no problem with that. Kimberly knew that whatever happened, as long as Eric was there, she would be happy. Very happy, in fact. But she couldn't help but feel a little pang of jealousy.
She reached Jen's door, banishing that little green devil as best she could, and knocked on the door.
"Jen?" she called.
"I'm awake, Kim -- c'mon in."
Wes hummed abstractly as he finished in the bathroom. He had been too excited to sleep and had been up for hours.
This was it. This was the day. He smiled. Most people would have figured he was purely excited on his own behalf but today was going to be something more than just him marrying the woman of his dreams.
I can't believe I just thought that cliché!
Wes chuckled. It was a cliché -- but it had the merit of being true. From the first time he saw her he had known, subconsciously at least, that Jen was the woman he would spend the rest of his life with.
But that wasn't the only reason to be happy today. There was the plan that he and Jen had hatched.
The reminder of that brought forth another chuckle as he exited the bathroom.
"What," groused Eric, who entered the room in time to hear Wes' laughter, "is so funny?"
Wes just grinned. "Nothing -- just...happy."
Eric headed towards Wes' bedroom feeling a little uncomfortable. Not because he was unused to this sort of luxury accommodation, not because it was barely seven o'clock in the morning and he was both up and fully dressed, not even because he was dressed in a tux and all that get up -- although that last was definitely not his style. No, the discomfort stemmed from the niggling feeling of jealousy in the back of his mind.
This was his best friends' wedding. And he was jealous.
Six months ago, the jealousy would have come from the pure fact that Wes had someone and he didn't. Eric smiled a little bitterly. Now it came from the fact that while he had someone he loved and would do anything for, he couldn't give her something like this for their wedding day.
It's not the day that counts,he tried to remind himself, but the person you're marrying -- and you know Kim will love you regardless. It didn't make him feel any better. Or any less guilty, for that matter.
He shook his head and did his best to swallow back the ill feeling -- it wasn't as if it was Wes' fault, after all -- before entering Wes' bedroom in time to hear Wes laugh as he exited his bathroom.
"What's so funny?" he asked, trying not to sound petulant -- and not really succeeding.
Wes just smiled. "Nothing -- just happy."
Aisha glanced between Alice and Rocky and snickered to herself. She really couldn't tell who was the more excited of the pair. She decided, on reflection, that Rocky shaded it. After all, he was the one bouncing, ever so slightly, on the balls of his feet in anticipation. Alice was at least sitting down.
"Anyone would think," observed Wes' father, "that it was their surprise to spring."
Aisha chuckled. "Oh, Rocky's always been like this over surprises."
"Are you sure Mommy and Eric are going to like this?" Alice asked.
"Honey," Aisha answered, "Eric and Mommy are gonna love this."
At that moment, the drawing room door opened to admit the final members of the waiting party, Frank Peterson and John Cawdron.
"You made it!" exclaimed Rocky as his eyes fell on the latter.
Aisha grinned. There had been some doubt as to whether Cawdron would be able to make it for this -- in fact, until very late last night, they hadn't known if he would be present or not.
Cawdron smiled. "Wouldn't have missed this for the world."
"So what's the plan?" Peterson enquired.
"Wes and Jen are going to somehow get them down here," Aisha replied. "How they're planning on doing that without arousing their suspicions is beyond me -- but they both seemed to think they could do it."
"Or maybe they won't," put in Rocky as the sound of Wes and Eric's voices raised slightly in argument reached the occupants of the drawing room.
Cawdron rolled his eyes. "I could have told him that wasn't a possibility."
The drawing room door opened to admit Wes, followed by Eric.
"And you need exactly what from in here?" Eric was asking.
"Something," Wes hedged, smiling at the people Eric had so far failed to notice.
"Some... What on earth is going on?" Eric stopped dead, looking around the room. Aisha watched as surprise and suspicion washed across his face as his gaze fell on her, then Rocky, Alice, Cawdron and Peterson.
Wes grinned. "You'll see."
Eric opened his mouth to say something but was prevented from speaking by the arrival of Jen with Kimberly in tow. Aisha chuckled as the same slew of emotions crossed Kimberly's face, as had crossed Eric's only moments before.
"OK, what the heck is going on?" Kimberly demanded.
"Well," said Jen, "I want to give Wes his wedding present right now."
Aisha bit her lip in an effort not to laugh at the looks on Kimberly and Eric's faces -- somewhere well beyond confused, she decided. As though they couldn't work out why they, and everyone else in the room, needed to be present for this.
"Funny you should say that," said Wes. "I wanted to give Jen her wedding present too." Then before either Eric or Kimberly could say a word, Wes had grabbed Eric by the arm and bodily dragged him towards both Kimberly and Jen. "Jen -- I'd like to give you Eric and Kim's wedding."
Eric's jaw dropped open. Kimberly's eyes widened. Clearly neither of them could entirely believe their ears.
"Oh!" Jen exclaimed. "But that's what I got you!"
Aisha couldn't help but laugh. Eric's mouth opened and closed but nothing beyond incoherent 'eeps' came out. Kimberly couldn't even manage that much. She just looked completely and utterly floored.
"You..." Eric began.
"But..." Kimberly contributed.
"Congratulations," said Cawdron, smiling at the conspirators. "You've managed something that eight years in the Marines never managed: Eric Myers lost for an answer."
"But...it's not...there's no...it's your..." Kimberly stammered.
"It is," said Rocky.
"There are," offered Aisha.
"It's our idea," added Wes.
"We wouldn't have it any other way," put in Jen.
"Mommy please say yes!" Alice begged.
"This is for real?" Kimberly asked.
"One hundred percent real," contributed Wes' father.
"I don't know what to say," Eric murmured, a completely dazed expression on his face.
"Say yes," advised Peterson.
Aisha watched as Eric and Kimberly exchanged glances.
"Kim?" Eric asked softly.
"Say yes!" Alice begged.
Kimberly dashed a hand across her eyes, wiping away a few tears, and smiled. "Yes."
"Yay!" Alice and Rocky exclaimed together.
"Are you guys..." Eric began.
Wes grinned. "Yes," he replied firmly.
"But..." said Kimberly.
"It's all organised," Jen promised.
Aisha got to her feet; collecting the dress bag she'd been minding. "Everything," she added.
"Because," said Wes, "you're our friends."
"And because we can," said Jen.
"And because we want to see you guys happy," added Rocky, still bouncing.
"And because you deserve it," put in Aisha smiling.
"And cos I wanna be a proper flower girl," contributed Alice, earning a laugh from everyone.
Eric blinked a couple of times. "I..." He shook his head. "Thank you doesn't seem enough."
"Well," said Wes' father, "if we're going to have a double wedding this morning, some people need to go and get ready."
Kimberly's hand flew to her mouth, suddenly panicking. "Oh my god! I...Jen...you..."
Aisha laughed. "That's why I'm here. C'mon you two -- time to get you dressed."
"And me!" piped Alice.
"And you," agreed Aisha.
"Oh, one more thing," Peterson said, as Aisha started to lead Kimberly, Jen and Alice out of the drawing room. "Before you all go... Eric, I have something for you. It's not exactly a wedding present -- but...now seems like a good time to give it."
Aisha watched in puzzlement as Peterson produced a plain white envelope and handed it over to Eric. This was not part of the plan! She wasn't the only one confused, judging by the expressions on everyone else's faces. Only Cawdron looked as if he knew what was going on.
Eric tore open the envelope and took out a letter.
"What is it?" Kimberly asked.
"It's from the..." Eric stopped and looked up at Peterson. "From the Department of Defence?" Peterson nodded. "Did you do this?"
Peterson smiled a little. "Not exactly."
"But what is it?" Kimberly wanted to know.
Eric looked back at the letter and read out, "'Owing to recent events, certain errors have come to our attention. In light of this new information, we would like to correct matters.'" Eric stopped and looked back at Peterson. "Is this what I think it is?"
"Keep reading," Cawdron advised. "You'll like it."
"'On the matter raised on November twelfth 1999 regarding removal of scar-tissue and the subsequent, illegal countermanding of funds by General Aaron Lemont on June ninth 2000, we would like to...'" Eric's voice trailed off.
"Lemont had no right to deny that request," said Cawdron.
"They're really going to do this?" Kimberly asked.
Peterson nodded. "Yep. And," he added, seeing Eric wasn't in a fit state to read the rest of the letter, "the issue of back pay of benefits -- and future pay of benefits -- has been resolved too."
"What does that mean?" Kimberly asked.
"It means," Cawdron clarified, "that at the end of this month, every cent that Lemont's fraud denied Eric will be paid to him and as from July first, all benefits and entitlements will be paid -- as they should have been."
"That," said Wes' father, "is excellent news."
Aisha looked at Eric's face. He looked about ready to faint -- an action that she had a hard time associating with Eric. Guess the last fifteen minutes have been kinda a shock. "How 'bout," she said, "you guys get yourselves sorted out and we ladies will go and get ourselves all fancied up."
Two hours, three panic attacks and one bout of cold feet later, Rocky felt deeply relieved to be herding both Wes and Eric into position on the terrace, where the ceremonies would be held. Part of him wondered which particular God he'd offended to land Best Man's duties for the pair of them -- certainly Ben's reaction on arrival had been 'rather you than me' -- but mostly, he was just happy for them both.
Even if dealing with them required more patience than dealing with the shyest of his junior martial artists! Rocky shook his head. How do two guys get to be twenty-seven or eight and still be like first graders on their wedding day? he wondered. He supposed Eric, at least, had some excuse. After all, when he'd got up first thing this morning, he hadn't been expecting to get married, but still...!
Now that they were in their places, though, Rocky felt safe in relaxing a little and having a look around at the guests.
It was, he decided, a very strange assortment of people. Lucas, Trip, Nadira and Marissa -- who Rocky hadn't met before but who clearly knew Jen, Wes and Eric -- had all made the journey back from the future for this. Katie was absent -- the powers that be in that time period had decreed that a woman who was six weeks pregnant was not advised to time travel -- although she had sent both couples her best wishes via a holograph message. The quartet was dressed in twenty-first century clothing, Trip having covered his hair and gem with a hat, but nothing could make a woman with neon pink hair exactly blend in! Then there were Danielle Hines, Ian Foster, John Cawdron and Frank Peterson. None of them were in uniform -- point of fact, Rocky knew that Cawdron had received a dishonourable discharge over the bel Abis fiasco -- but they might as well have been, as all four visibly looked like members of the military.
To continue the military theme, there were also six or eight Silver Guardians (in uniform), including Ben -- who had brought a blonde woman Rocky had never met before but gathered that not only was she another ex-military, she was also a current ranger. Rounding out that side of the gathering was the Silver Guardian's secretary, Gina, and her partner -- yet another Silver Guardian. Rocky thought he might have been introduced as Paul Miller but he couldn't be sure.
On the other side of the gathering were more ex-rangers in the shape of Adam, Tanya, Jason and Trini -- who had brought Zack's best wishes, given that gentleman's dance schedule hadn't permitted him to be present himself, and boy was Zack pissed about that! Billy had been unable to be there too -- and had, like Katie, sent a holograph offering his best wishes. Kat was likewise unable to attend -- although she'd offered her congratulations -- and had been a little uncomfortable with the invite. As for Tommy, Rocky had been unable to get in touch with him at all -- which, from the point of view of marital harmony, was probably just as well.
Finishing off the guest list were sundry members of Wes' family -- and Rocky had to wonder just how Nadira's hair had been explained to them, or even if it had been, given the looks being cast in that direction -- which included Wes' father and Phillips, whose great-niece, Ellie, was also in attendance.
Definitely not a traditional wedding crowd. Rocky smiled. This was definitely not a traditional wedding.
And almost as if to make a mockery of that thought, the Wedding March was struck up by the string quartet. Rocky just grinned to himself and gently shepherded Wes and Eric into position before getting his chance to look down the aisle to see the bridal procession. First came Alice -- and he had to smile again, this time at the deeply serious expression on her face and the way her knuckles were rapidly turning white thanks to the death grip with which she was holding her posy. Behind her came Aisha. Both of them were in dresses of creamy coloured satin. Alice's bouquet was of white flowers -- baby's breath, if he recalled Aisha's explanations -- while Aisha carried yellow flowers. Behind them both came Kimberly and Jen, walking arm in arm.
Rocky didn't think he'd seen either of them looking more beautiful -- or radiant. Both wore dresses that were of the same creamy satin -- although colour was about the only thing the dresses had in common. Kimberly's was a slim cut that flattered her petite size with a lacy top to the bodice, while Jen's was fuller, reflecting her additional height, with a plunging v-neckline. And Aisha thought I'd not been paying attention to what she'd been telling me about the dresses! Even their bouquets were similar but different. Both bore roses but while Jen's were a pale pink, Kimberly's were a deeper shade, tending almost to red.
Rocky turned his attention to Wes and Eric to see their reactions and was not terribly surprised to find that both of them were now staring at their respective intendeds. Neither looked nervous now which, Rocky mused, he could have told them.
As the procession reached the altar, it took a little sorting out before everyone was in the correct position -- it wasn't as if this part had been rehearsed, after all -- then the ceremony could begin.
The minister began, "We are gathered here today to witness the joining in matrimony of Wes and Jen and of Eric and Kimberly. Before I go any further does any man know of a reason why these two couples should not be joined? Let him speak now or forever hold his peace."
Rocky held his breath as the minister duly waited a beat. No one so much as sneezed.
The minister turned first to Wes and Jen. "Do you, Jennifer Scotts Lithgow, take Wes to be your lawfully wedded husband?"
Jen could barely wait for the minister to finish speaking. "I do."
"Do you, Wesley Alexander Collins, take Jen to be your lawfully wedded wife?"
"Yes, I do." Wes was as eager as Jen.
"May I have the rings?" the minister asked.
Rocky and Aisha stepped forward and handed over the rings for Wes and Jen, and with a smile, the minister heard their vows and over-saw the exchange of rings. Then he turned to Eric and Kimberly. "Do you, Kimberly Anne Hart-Cunningham, take Eric to be your lawfully wedded husband?"
She was smiling as she replied, "I do."
"Do you, Eric Franklin Myers, take Kimberly to be your lawfully wedded wife?"
For all his earlier nerves, Eric's voice was certain now as he answered, "I do."
"May I have the rings?"
Again, Rocky and Aisha stepped forward and gave the minister the two rings and again, smiling, the minister heard Eric and Kimberly make their vows. For all that it was unrehearsed, both were sure and certain in what they were saying. Rings were exchanged, and then the minister turned to speak to both couples.
"By the power vested in me by God and by the state of California, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride."
From the first time I saw you
It felt like coming home
If I never told you -- I just want you to know
You had me from hello...
This is the final, last word on the first Identiverse saga. I'm not done with the universe -- or the characters -- but this series is now complete. It's come a long way from the flashing, neon pink plot bunny that started this all a little over a year ago -- it's gone places I didn't expect to go, I've written things I didn't expect to write, I've come to like characters I wasn't expecting to like! In short, in as much as a universe you've created can surprise you, this has surprised me. A lot.
I'm not going to do a list-o-mania at this point and try and name everyone who's helped me during the last year because I will surely miss someone out -- and I don't want to do that. So if you've beta'd for me, plotted with me, listened to me whine when things weren't going write, put up with me when I'm in dark places in my head, spotted mistakes, offered me feedback, or even if you've told me to 'get a life, you're too old to be writing this ****' -- thank you. This story -- this series -- would have been very, very much harder without you.
One year, five lives, 250000 words -- the Identiverse series is now complete.