A/N: Well guys, we've come to the end of the road. I just want to thank everyone for sticking with me on this story – I know that it's got to be a little annoying after 133 chapters. The Yahoo! Group girls (and guy), especially Rosa, Niff, Peggie, and Geena, have been my biggest supporters so I just want to thank them for being around to smack me every now and then when I had a brain blockage or needed help at a crossroads in the story. A big fat kiss to you all – MWAH!
A/N #2: I have never been in a wedding (or gotten married!), so the ceremony I'm describing is sort of a composite of what I've seen in the few weddings I've attended, the bits of information I've been able to gather from websites, and my own fertile imagination. I'm sure things will be in the wrong order, or someone will say the wrong thing, or they'll do something completely uncommon, so let's just pretend that the world in my mind is the real world for the duration of this chapter ;)
Sara checked the watch she'd stuffed into a hidden dress pocket: 3:45 P.M. T-minus 15 minutes, and the men still weren't here – just like them, she thought wryly. She'd have bet anything that the four groomsmen had Grissom cornered and were trying to explain to him that real men didn't get excited about things like this.
Grissom was excited, she knew that much. Neither of them had slept much last night. Instead, they'd tossed, turned, and chattered to each other. She told him about her difficulties in getting the streamers on the back of the gown to lay correctly and not tangle under her feet; he countered by asking her if she'd ever tried to tie a bowtie.
Frankly, she was pretty sure that they'd both be relieved when this day was over and life returned to normal.
"Hey, Sara," Michaela said quietly from behind her.
"They're here; you can start breathing again."
Sara drew in a deep breath and exhaled comically. She turned to her friend, smiling. "Thanks, hon. Hey, you know what I just remembered, too?"
"No," the other woman said quizzically, "what?"
Sara grinned. "You owe me twenty bucks. Remember the bet?"
Michaela was quiet for a second, thinking, then she exclaimed, "Sara! I can't believe you remembered that thing. It's a ten-year-old bet; the statute of limitations is so up!"
"Uh-uh, kiddo." Sara held out her hand, palm up. "I'm getting married first, so I win – pay up, Mich!"
Another voice suddenly spoke up from behind them. "Man, Sara, this is your wedding day, stop gouging the bridesmaids!"
Sara turned. "Nick, you of all people should know that it's never the wrong time to win a bet." Even though she was trying to sound chastising, she couldn't hide the smile that worked its way across her face. "So?" she asked, holding out her arms and twirling around in front of him. "How do I look?"
Nick took her hand and spun her around one more time, then pulled her into a hug. "You, my dear, look absolutely beautiful. You sure clean up nice!"
"Jerk," Sara said lightly. "I'd hit you, but I wouldn't want to muss your penguin suit." She dusted some imaginary fuzz off of his lapel, then stepped back. "So, where's Grissom?"
"Last I saw, he was hiding in my kitchen, trying to stop panicking about everything turning out right."
"How cute!" Michaela chimed in. "See Sara, now that's how you know you caught a good one – he's more worried about your wedding day turning out perfectly than you are!"
She was about to add something more to her statement when Nick checked his watch, which somehow didn't look déclassé next to his tuxedo cuff, and raised his eyebrows. "Five of, kid – time for you to go hide out wherever it is that you're supposed to hide out until the music starts. And you," he said, turning to Michaela, "need to come with me so we can all get set up at the front."
"Sure," both women chorused, and the group split so that everyone could take their places.
Grissom tugged once more at his bowtie, though he knew from frustrating experience that the fabric had no give and tugging wouldn't make it any easier for him to breathe. He scanned the yard, doing a silent last minute check, and nodded. The flowers were in place, there were no small children eating the flowers, and there was no Great Dane eating the small children. All was well.
He sighed. "All" wouldn't be "well" until this whole thing was over and he was married to Sara. He was no good at emotional scenes like wedding, and as the hands of his watch crept closer to 4:00, his anxiety level rose.
"Gris," Nick whispered from Grissom's left side, "it'll be fine. I saw Sara a few minutes ago and she looks great. She was demanding that Michaela pay up on an old college bet when I last checked." With that, he quickly turned and jogged back to the house, where he needed to be when the wedding began.
Nick's statement fulfilled its purpose, and Grissom cracked a smile. "That's my Sara," he whispered to himself as he relaxed his stance an iota. "She's . . ." He was cut off by the sound of the Trumpet Voluntary as it blared from the sound system Nick and Warrick had set up at the back door of Nick's house.
This was it. The wedding was starting. Grissom straightened up from his relaxed position, gaze fixed on the door the wedding procession would be coming through at any moment.
The door opened to reveal Michaela, the maid of honor, and Nick, and best man. They began their slow walk down the aisle and were soon followed by Jeff and Kate, then by Catherine and Warrick, and finally by Susan and a beaming Greg.
A few seconds after Susan and Greg reached the middle of the aisle, the door opened again to reveal Lindsey, who had a small ring of flowers on her head and a basket of petals in her hand. The audience released an "Awww" as Lindsey walked down the aisle, strewing the petals with a big grin on her face. When she reached the front of the yard, she stepped into line next to Michaela, and everyone's heads turned back toward Nick's house.
There was silence for a few seconds, then a collective sigh as Pachelbel's Canon in D began to play. The door opened again, more slowly this time, and Sara and her father were revealed. Sara's face was tight, and she looked as though she was concentrating on not tripping over her own feet.
Steve Sidle was bursting with pride as he helped his daughter down the aisle. His little girl, getting married, he thought . . . and to a man he actually approved of! He couldn't help but look down at his wife as they passed the front row of seats, and wasn't surprised to see that she was already crying, holding the baby with one arm and a tissue with the other.
"Doin' ok?" he asked Sara in a whisper as they reached the table that was serving as an altar. She nodded slightly, and he gave her arm one last squeeze. Sara's eyes sparkled as he leaned down to kiss her cheek, whispering, "I love you, sweetie."
"I know Daddy," Sara replied quietly, and watched, as though from a distance, as her father stood her between himself and Grissom. Raising her eyes to meet Grissom's, she just couldn't help it – her face split into the wide grin that was so well-loved by her friends and family.
"Hi," he said almost inaudibly.
As if on an unspoken command, they pulled their eyes from each others' and turned to face the officiant of the ceremony, a Humanist Celebrant, as he began to speak:
"To marry is to form an equal partnership, tied together by the tenuous bonds of emotion and love. It is at once the most fragile of relationships and the strongest. Fragile because it requires exactly the right mix of freedom and inter-dependence, of caring and of sharing, of being together and of being alone.
"But it is strong because it involves the unseen forces of something we usually call love— mutual devotion, concern for the happiness of the other, joy in each other's company. For there is no stronger force involving human relationships than this silent bond of love.
"Remember that this wedding is only a symbol, a celebration, a public recognition of what already exists in the silent places of your hearts. It is your marriage and not something created by the state or the church—it is yours to define, yours to make real, yours to live. Nothing I can say can make it anything more than what already exists in your hearts.
"Remember also that marriage is a shared relationship, not a matter of possession. It is a means of showing your commitment to one another, not a blind surrendering of personality. It is not an excuse to become limited in your outlook; it is an opportunity for mutual growth.
"Others would ask, at this time, who gives the bride in marriage, but, as a woman is not property to be bought and sold, given and taken, I ask simply if she comes of her own will and if she has her family's blessing.
"Sara, is it true that you come of your own free will and accord?"
"Yes," Sara replied firmly, "it is."
"Who has come with you to this moment, and who gives you their blessing?"
Her father stepped slightly forward. "I've come with her, and her mother and I give our blessing."
The Celebrant smiled and turned to Sara and Grissom. "Sara and Gil, you have invited this group to witness the happiness that you have found in each other. Are you ready to make the pledges with which you commit yourselves to each other in love?"
Grissom reached for Sara's hand and took it gently. "We are," he said with a nod.
"We are gathered here to join this man and this woman in marriage, and in so doing join them and their child into a new family. Marriage is an act as ancient as the history of the human race and as new as each new morning; for it speaks of the past and of the future, of the life of the individual and the existence of the community. It is a commitment, the essence of which is the taking of another person in his or her entirety, as lover, companion, and friend.
"Because marriage and parenthood are concerned with the most fundamental of human relationships, they must not be regarded lightly. Those who enter into this relationship shall cherish for each other a mutual esteem and love, bear each other's infirmities and weaknesses, comfort each other in sickness, trouble and sorrow, encourage each other and live together as the heirs of life. Marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly, but with devotion and discretion. Love and loyalty will avail as the foundation of a happy and enduring home; and if the solemn vows you are about to make be kept with honor and integrity, your life will be full of peace and joy, and the home you are establishing will be one of warmth and understanding.
"Sara and Gil, you have come to this celebration with an awareness that your marriage will have its rewards and its joys, as well as sorrows. Your lives will be intertwined with your child, Galina, and it would be unrealistic to assume that you will always live in harmony. However, as you have already established a strong foundation for a family life, you will be able to meet future challenges with humor, understanding and compassion. May you, by example, help your children to grow into self-reliant adults, and in turn, may you learn from them, fully appreciating their youthfulness."
The Celebrant paused, giving everyone a moment to absorb what he'd just said, then nodded. "Sara and Gil will be speaking their own vows from memory today," he announced to the audience, then smiled at the couple in front of him. "You can begin whenever you're ready."
Grissom began, enunciating his words slowly and gravely. "I, Gil, take you, Sara, to be none other than yourself. I promise that I will be at your side; I will encourage you and be open and honest with you; to laugh and cry with you, and always love and honor you. I will always be free, yet bound by our love, for as long as we live."
He paused, listening to the sound of sniffles and scattered "Aww" sounds coming from the people behind them. After a moment, he continued speaking, this time with a gentle smile and a lighter tone. "I promise that I will always be there to pull you away from work and force you to sleep when you need it. I will take care of our dog, even though she doesn't listen to me, and I will trust you with my tarantula. I will always love both you and our daughter, no matter what may happen in our lives."
Sara, who had just heard this second part of Grissom's vows for the first time, couldn't help but laugh. She wrapped her fingers more tightly around Grissom's and met his eyes, then began to speak her own vows.
"I, Sara, take you, Gil, to be none other than yourself. I promise that I will be at your side; I will encourage you and be open and honest with you; to laugh and cry with you, and always love and honor you. I will always be free, yet bound by our love, for as long as we live.
"I vow that I'll always be here for you, to force you to be social when you need to be. I'll take care of Fluffy as much as you might need, and she and I will have enlightening conversations about you. For you, I promise that I'll train the dog to behave herself better around you and to give you your couch back. There is nothing in the world that I would allow to separate me from you and Galina, and I promise that there never will be."
Light applause greeted the conclusion of the vows, accompanied by some well-mannered chuckles. The Celebrant smiled at his charges, glad that the pair had decided to make the small departure from the solemnity of the occasion. "You can now exchange your rings."
Michaela and Nick each stepped forward and handed their friend a wedding ring, then stepped back and smiled, waiting for the Celebrant to continue.
"The ring is a symbol of unity in which your lives are now joined in one unbroken circle. Your wedding rings declare that even in your uniqueness you have chosen to be together, to allow the presence of another human being to enhance who you are and who you will become. May those rings always remind each of you of the love you share and the promises you have made to each other."
After allowing a few seconds for Grissom and Sara to make sure they had the correct rings, he added, "Please repeat this in unison after me: 'This ring is round and hath no end; so is my love unto my friend'."
They repeated the verse after him as they exchanged rings, both practically glowing from excitement and joy.
"Marriage is the joining of two people- the union of two hearts," the Celebrant intoned. "It lives on the love you give each other and never grows old, but thrives on the joy of each new day. May you always have in your hearts the memory of this special day. May you always be able to talk things over, to confide in each other, to laugh with each other, to enjoy life together, and to share moments of quiet and peace, when the day is done. May you enjoy a lifetime of happiness."
Turning his gaze to the audience, he continued, "Because Gil and Sara have agreed in their desire to go forward in life together, seeking an even richer, deepening relationship, and because they have pledged to meet sorrow and joy as one family, we rejoice to recognize them as husband and wife." He smiled at the couple. "You may now kiss."
The sniffles and exclamations grew louder as they drew closer to each other, eyes locked. Grissom set his hands on Sara's upper arms, holding her gently, and leaned toward her with his eyes still staring into hers. Just before their lips touched, he saw the corners of Sara's eyes crinkle as she fought the grin that was fighting to appear on her lips.
Their lips met in a gentle kiss, but Sara's smile continued to grow despite the contact, and it was contagious. After a few seconds, neither could hold it in anymore. The pull of their relief and satisfaction was too strong to be avoided.
Grissom and Sara both burst out laughing.
Well…it's over. 134 chapters of fluff had to come to an end sometime, and I hope you guys enjoyed how I engineered the ending. Duckfeat, I tried really hard to incorporate that Barney record, but there was just nowhere to slip it in . . .