Author's note: Well, this is the end. Thank you for all the kind words I've received about this story. I am truly in your debt. I really, really hope you love the epilogue and feel it has rounded off the story for you all. The inspiration and words for the service were taken from several sources including genuine same sex ceremonies and indeed, my own wedding. I hope I've given the guys a day to remember. N.B There are some revisions at the end of this chapter. The uncut scene can be found at other fanfiction sites.
My gratitude goes out to Peacewish, who has picked up my errors time and time again and people like Dyna and Shuichi-san who keep me sane when I've tied myself in knots.
Next to be posted is 'Crash and Burn: So Far Away' the side story of Dee's trip to England and then 'Somewhere in Between'; the sequel to 'Crash' that, from what I've written already, looks set to give our boys another healthy dose of angst!
Well, I think that's all, so all that's left for me to say is, enjoy the wedding!
Crash and Burn
The morning of Saturday the fourteenth of September dawned clear and bright, a good omen for the events that were about to follow. The onset of fall had heralded the usual changes; the leaves had started to brown, some already detached from their branches thanks to the persistent wind, but today the air was still, bringing with it a sense of calm that was at odds with the atmosphere inside one particular dwelling in New York city.
In the apartment rented by Detective Drake Parker, the serenity of the weather had clearly stopped at the front door. As he stood in the mirror, trying to tie his tie, the man in question frowned at the reflection in the glass, past his own image to the man wearing a hole in the carpet behind him.
"For God's sake, Dee, stop pacing will you? You're creating a draught."
Bright green eyes shot up to meet him before a mumbled apology followed. He didn't stop pacing however.
Rolling his eyes, Drake turned from the mirror to look at the man in the armchair. "JJ, go and get him a drink or something," he said, pulling his tie into position after completing the last twist. "There's some whiskey in the cupboard near the sink."
A somewhat morose expression greeted him before the younger man stood and headed to the kitchen.
"Jesus," Drake muttered to himself, wondering if Ted was having a similar time where he was. "Give me strength!"
He watched as JJ returned and handed Dee the glass; the taller man downing the potent liquid, barely acknowledging the taste.
"You don't have to go through with this you know," JJ said sulkily, his bright blue eyes searching Dee's blank expression for any sign that he might be pleased by this news. Seeing none, JJ pouted as he took in Dee's handsome form. He had good reason to gape. Dressed in a sharp dark grey suit with a black shirt and tie as opposed to his usual hurried and uncoordinated fashions, Dee was about the finest specimen of a man that JJ had ever seen. His ebony hair hung rakishly over intense green eyes and, standing close enough, JJ could just catch the scent of the other man's aftershave, an intoxicating aroma that was both masculine and sensual.
In fact, about the only thing wrong with Detective Dee Latener in JJ's ever adoring eyes was the fact that he was about to go and marry someone else.
As JJ's voice registered in his consciousness, Dee turned to look at him with a frown. "Huh? What?"
"Oh, never mind," JJ huffed as he returned to the armchair and went back to staring out of the window.
Shaking his head in disbelief at his colleague's last-ditch attempts to hang onto his crush, Drake glanced at his watch. "Okay, are we done here because we really should get going?"
"Where are the rings?" Dee said, suddenly looking worried.
"Relax," Drake replied, patting his jacket pocket. "I've got them. Now have you done your insulin? I doubt Ryo would be impressed if you keel over in the middle of your vows."
"Done," Dee replied. "Just need to remember my stuff for later."
"By the door," Drake said, nodding his head towards the small black bag next to his car keys. "Well, should we go?"
He was vaguely amused to see the look of nervousness on his colleague's face at the suggestion, especially considering he had been eagerly awaiting this day for over four months.
"No second thoughts?" Drake said with a smile, aware of JJ now watching with interest.
Dee seemed to shake himself from his stupor at the question, grinning at last. "Hell no! I'm marrying the most gorgeous man alive!"
"Want me to tell you you're crazy?" JJ said hopefully, shrugging into his suit jacket and buttoning it up.
Dee shot him a glare. "Would you still think I was crazy if I was about to marry you?"
JJ contemplated the question for a moment. "No, I guess not."
"Well then, shut up and find me a goddamned cigarette!" Dee snapped as he checked his reflection in the mirror for possibly the twentieth time in the last ten minutes.
Drake chuckled as he grabbed his car keys and let the two men out of his apartment, wondering if Ryo was similarly nervous at the thought of the day ahead.
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"Ryoooooooo, it's too tight!" Bicky complained, pulling at his tie as if it was a noose. "Do I have to wear it?"
"Yes," Ryo replied firmly as he helped Cal pin the small corsage to the front of her dress. "And for God's sake, take that hat off!"
Bicky grumbled as he tossed the baseball cap onto the table. He looked up from the smart shoes Ryo had bought him to see Cal smiling at him.
"What?" he said, unsure what her expression meant.
"I think you look sexy in that suit," she said, a light blush staining her cheeks with Ryo still in the room. "Like a man."
Bicky's face broke into a full blown grin as he turned to look at himself in the mirror. "I guess I do look okay…" he said, amusing Ryo and Cal by the way he nodded his head appreciatively at his reflection.
Ryo chuckled as Cal turned and winked at him, successful as usual in making Bicky behave without him even realising. The blond watched them head out onto the balcony together, hoping beyond hope that they would never grow apart, since despite her own misdemeanours, all thankfully in the past, Cal seemed a good influence on the former street kid as they both started to mature into young adults.
Over the last few months, Bicky seemed to have calmed somewhat; he was fighting less and showing a slight improvement in his grades, much to Ryo's relief. Also over that time, the adoption proceedings had been finalised, making Ryo Bicky's adoptive parent as opposed to his legal guardian. When the final letter of confirmation had come through, Bicky had been quiet despite protesting that he was happy about it and for a while, Ryo had been truly concerned that he had upset the boy he already thought of as a son. Once again, it had been Cal's influence that was crucial and she succeeded in persuading Bicky to tell Ryo what the matter was.
It turned out that Bicky had been worried that Ryo would expect him to call him 'dad' now he was officially adopted, a name Bicky didn't feel comfortable using. 'Dad' he explained, merely brought back memories of Dick Goldman, his natural father who had abandoned him time and time again to fend for himself as he went obtaining and dealing drugs. In Bicky's eyes, giving Ryo that same title seemed almost disrespectful to the detective who had only ever shown him love and concern and so he had tentatively asked if he didn't mind if he still called him Ryo.
The blond had simply smiled, relieved that it wasn't something worse as he reassured Bicky that he was happy with his decision. He wasn't too disappointed and Bicky's next request ensured that he felt suitably important in the boy's life.
I'd like to change my name. Would it be okay for me to be Bicky McLain?
Ryo's eyes had welled up with tears as he hugged the boy fiercely, absolutely thrilled that Bicky had wanted something that meant so much to him. That had been almost three months ago when Bicky Goldman officially became Bicky McLain. Ryo loved the fact that he had a son, infinitely proud of everything the boy had overcome in his short life and everything he was now striving to be.
With an enormous sense of happiness, he watched Bicky and Cal looking out onto the city and felt certain that one day he would have a daughter in law too. However that was for the future; today was his day. After everything that they'd been through over the last few months, Ryo knew that he and Dee deserved the happiness of a new life together.
Dee had finally gone back to work, showing no sign of the previous stress he'd been under, and Ryo had gained the promotion to the coordinator of the precinct's armed response unit. He maintained his position in homicide as Dee's partner but was on call almost permanently should the need arise for his team of highly trained sharp shooters.
Things at work had also settled with the news that their commissioner had awoken from his coma after almost two months unconscious. He still hadn't returned to work as he recovered from his injuries but he had sent word, wishing his detectives well via Diana, who had taken a permanent transfer to New York to care for him. Their own relationship seemed to be progressing well and there were rumours around the station that an engagement might well be on the cards, with someone jokingly pointing out that the beating seemed to have knocked a little sense into the commissioner when it came to his love life.
Ryo's musings were interrupted as Ted emerged from the bathroom, his hands smoothing over his freshly washed hair.
"Hey," Ted said, grinning at the seated man. "I have to say you're looking pretty calm."
"I am?" Ryo replied as Ted sat down beside him and gratefully accepted the mug of tea. "I don't feel it."
"Hmmmm," Ted said, pondering as he sipped his tea. "I wonder what Dee's doing right about now."
Ryo glanced at his watch. "Hopefully he's on his way to the church since he has to get across town."
"Yeah," Ted replied before he chuckled. "I bet JJ's trying to talk him out of it."
"Oh undoubtedly. He's been trying for the last four months, why would he stop now?"
Ted laughed. "Poor JJ. He says it's against his principles to chase married men so what's he gonna do now?"
"Oh I don't know. There's always you."
Ted's eyes widened as he almost choked on his tea. "Do NOT even go there!"
"Well, I've seen the way he looks at you…" Ryo said teasingly.
"What? Very funny," Ted replied before checking Ryo's expression. "You were kidding right?"
"Yeah. Anyway, I think Drake's more his type."
Ted looked relieved before he frowned. "So what's wrong with me then?" he huffed.
Ryo laughed and rolled his eyes. "Make your mind up!"
They both sat in silence for a moment, drinking their tea before Ryo spoke again. "So how are things with… Rachel?"
"Yeah, Rachel," Ted confirmed as a smile broke onto his face at the thought of the new lady in his life. "Things are good. Really good."
"That's great," Ryo replied, genuinely pleased to see his colleague so happy. "So when do we get to meet her? You know she was invited, right?"
"Oh yeah, but she had to work today, but she's coming tonight though."
Ryo chuckled again. "Bet that was an interesting conversation. 'Hey I'm going to a gay wedding this Saturday, wanna come?'"
Ted laughed too. "Yeah, she did look a bit surprised when I told her but she's cool with it. I think you'll like her."
"I'm sure we will," Ryo replied with a nod before he glanced at his watch. "We really should get going."
Ted did the same, glancing at the time piece on the wall as he drained the last of his tea. "Sure, let's get this show on the road."
With Cal and Bicky, the two detectives left in Ted's car, heading for the church that almost six months ago, Ryo had read about on the internet. Since then, he and Dee had met the priest on several occasions, talking through everything from why they wanted to be married to the order of the service when the big day happened. They'd told Father Williams much of what they had been through, allowing him to become more familiar with them and understand how much the forthcoming union meant to them. His sanctuary, the First Presbyterian Church, was in a district not far from their apartment. It was a large, attractive building set back off the street, its white walls disappearing beneath climbing plants that had flowered into beautiful red blooms. The interior was polished mahogany and able to seat a congregation of at least two hundred.
At first, the detectives had been worried that the church would look empty; convinced that many would choose not to be part of what was still a highly controversial event, but the number of replies they'd received put paid to their fears; people cared about them and just wanted to see them happy.
As they arrived at the church, most people already seemed to be there, standing around on the front lawn and chatting amicably in the bright sunshine. As Ted's car pulled up at the kerb, attention turned to the arrivals and there was an impromptu cheer as Ryo stepped out onto the sidewalk and grinned at the large collection of friends and family. He gave a quick wave to his Aunt Elena, standing with her husband Rick and daughter Carrie. Carrie's new husband Brad was also in attendance, watching lovingly over his wife and the slight bump in the front of her dress.
Penguin was also there, standing with a couple of other women dressed in nun's habits that Ryo didn't recognise but presumed were from the orphanage. He was still scanning the crowd, his eyes shaded from the sun when Ted approached with his cell phone in his hand.
"That was Drake. They're just a couple of blocks away," he announced with a smile.
Ryo replied with a nod as Father Williams came over and shook his hand.
"How're you feeling?" the priest asked with a smile.
"A little nervous," Ryo replied honestly. "I never thought there would be so many people here."
"You shouldn't underestimate how much you and Dee mean to people," the older man responded, a genuine twinkle in his eye.
"Speaking of which," Ted said, nodding his head in the direction of the street as Drake's blue Celica rounded the corner. Ryo smiled as the vehicle approached, seeing Dee in the passenger seat with JJ in the back, looking wide eyed at the number of people present.
A second cheer went up as the men got out of the car before someone shouted, "Hey, someone call the Chief! Latener can get to places on time, after all!"
They all laughed as Dee made a face before his eyes lit on Ryo and he smiled.
"Well, shall we go in?" Father Williams asked, seeing everyone assembled.
The two detectives looked at each other and nodded as people began to file into the church.
"You look great," Dee whispered in Ryo's ear as they headed up the steps, studying his lover in his grey suit, a shade paler than his own, and the ocean blue shirt and tie that he had chosen for the occasion.
"You too," Ryo replied, giving Dee's hand a quick squeeze as they followed Father Williams towards the altar.
When everyone had taken their seats, the priest turned to face the two men stood shoulder to shoulder and gave them a reassuring smile and nod of encouragement, before he looked past them to the congregation.
"Let me extend my warmest welcome into God's house. We are here today to witness the holy union of Randy Ryo McLain and Dee Latener; two very special people who have made the decision to make a commitment to each other for the rest of their lives and wish to have it blessed by God.
"God calls all human beings to intimacy, to fruitfulness, and to mutual love. We respond to God's calling in many kinds of life-giving relationships, and the Holy Spirit sustains and strengthens us in our responses. In Ryo and Dee, the community of faith discerns a relationship that is both Spirit-gifted, and life-giving.
"This is a timeless moment, a moment of hope and expectation, when standing before God and among you, their friends and family, Ryo and Dee pledge themselves to each other in the covenant of Holy Union."
Father Williams paused as he prepared to read the declaration of intention. He turned first to Ryo, who glanced nervously at Dee and smiled.
"Ryo, have you made a free decision, and do you have the firm intention to enter into this commitment with Dee, who stands here before you, having promised yourself to no other?"
"I have and I do," Ryo replied in a strong, clear voice, looking directly at his beloved partner as he spoke.
The same was asked of Dee and he too responded just as Ryo had done, holding his lover's gaze as he made his pledge. Sitting next to him, Drake heard an almost inaudible whimper from JJ as Dee spoke.
"Ryo and Dee, you are about to make a solemn promise. Do you believe that God has called you to live together in love?"
"Do you both promise to be loyal to each other, supporting each other in your joys and your sorrows, your health and your sickness, your riches and your poverty, your success and your failure, never allowing any other relationship to come before the one you are now to affirm?"
Finally the priest turned to address the congregation.
"Will all of you, by God's grace, do everything in your power to support and honour Ryo and Dee in their relationship?"
"We will," came the response from many voices.
After the hymn 'Lord of all Hopefulness' the congregation sat down and Carrie stepped forward to give the reading. Her own happiness at her recent marriage and pregnancy were clear on her face as she read from the Bible, glancing across at the man she considered a brother, smiling as he stood side by side with his partner. She had chosen the reading herself; it was simple, but powerfully spoken and there was silence in the church as all took in the potency of the words.
"This is a reading taken from Paul's Letter to the Corinthians." She paused before she started again, her voice ringing proud and clear to the very back of the church. "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
"For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
She closed the book and stepped down from the lectern, smiling at the two men as she passed them on the way back to her seat. Their attention then turned back to Father Williams, knowing they were about to make the vows that would seal their relationship for life.
"The vows through which you accept each other as partners have no hidden power within themselves," the older man spoke gently, gazing at each of them in turn. "Only to the extent that they express in words your continuing intention and commitment, do they have meaning. Your commitment to each other will need to be re-expressed in many different ways in the coming days and years. The expression in today's vows is simply a visible milestone in your journey together. Do you understand?"
"We do," the two men spoke simultaneously.
"Then turn and face each other as you make your vows."
Ryo was first to speak, following the priest's words line by line as he gazed into the deep green eyes looking back at him lovingly. When he had finished, it was Dee's turn. Even those who had known Dee for years could never have anticipated the emotion and solemnity with which he spoke the words of love and devotion.
"Ryo, I promise to love and care for you, through times of joy and times of sorrow, to rejoice when you are happy, and grieve when you suffer, to share your interests, and hopes for the future, to try to understand you even when I do not agree, to do all in my power to help you be your true self, the person God calls you to be. In all this, I ask for God's help, now and in the days to come."
As he finished, Penguin brushed a tear aside, smiling as one of the other nuns clasped her hand supportively. Elsewhere around the room, others were smiling broadly or wiping away traces of emotion brought on by the tenderness of the occasion. Another prayer was said before Father Williams requested the rings. Drake came forward, grinning at his friends as he handed them to the priest before he returned to sit next to JJ, who was still looking somewhat glassy eyed as his long time crush slipped completely from his grasp.
With the matching white gold wedding bands resting on his open Bible, Father Williams lowered his hand over them. "The ring is a symbol of unity into which your two lives are now joined in an unbroken circle, in which, wherever you go, you will return to one another. May the Lord bless these rings as a sign of your commitment to each other."
He smiled and nodded at Ryo, who took one of the bands, fortunately both the same size and placed it on Dee's ring finger. The blond man smiled at his lover, ready to say the words that they had memorised for the occasion.
"Dee, I give you this ring as a symbol of my eternal love. May it remind you, no matter where you are, that my love for you is unconditional."
The priest smiled. "And now you, Dee."
Dee took the remaining ring and slipped it onto Ryo's finger, their eyes meeting again, communicating their joy.
"Ryo, I give you this ring as a symbol of my eternal love. May it remind you, no matter where you are, that my love for you is unconditional."
After the exchange of the rings and the blessing a final hymn was sung, the vibrant tones of 'O Lord and Father of Mankind' ringing out through the white painted walls. At the end, Father Williams addressed the two men in front of him.
"Ryo and Dee, before God and these witnesses, you have promised to love each other, and have exchanged solemn vows and symbols of your love and commitment. I declare that you are Life Partners. You may express your love and union with a kiss."
There was a heartfelt round of applause as the two men kissed briefly; a modest meeting of the lips so as not to make any of their guests feel awkward. With the service now at an end, the congregation were anticipating the dismissal when the priest spoke again, addressing them this time.
"And now, Ryo and Dee have asked me to make one final announcement." He glanced away from the curious faces to the two men, smiling at each other happily. "Prior to today, Dee has been filling in some paperwork." The priest smiled, his blue eyes twinkling with merriment. "Of the non-police variety, I'm told. Anyway, the forms that Dee has completed have a legal significance which comes into effect today and so, it is my great pleasure to present to you… Ryo and Dee McLain."
The two men turned to see the look of surprise registering on their guests' faces, knowing they had successfully hidden the fact that Dee intended to change his name from even their closest friends and family.
They had discussed it long and hard prior to their wedding day, with Dee first raising the suggestion almost as soon as they had begun to plan the union itself. Ryo had been surprised but Dee remained insistent that he wanted it; after all he had argued, 'Latener' wasn't exactly his genuine family name. When, out of the blue, Bicky had made a similar suggestion, it seemed logical for Dee to do the same, in order to complete their family. Ryo had relented although he had convinced his lover to keep 'Latener' as a middle name, since he'd never had one of those either, as a tribute to the man who had found him and always kept a watchful eye over him growing up.
He'd gone with Dee as he'd signed the forms to legally change his name, using some connections they had at the county court to ensure that they only came into effect on the day of their wedding. The two men had left the court house smiling broadly, determined to keep their news a secret until the big day.
As they headed out of the church and into the glorious sunshine, they were both overwhelmed with congratulations and affectionate well-wishes from their friends and family.
"Dee McLain, huh?" Drake said with a grin as he caught up with his closest friend. "Kept that quiet."
"Yeah," Dee replied with a smile, turning the white gold wedding ring around on his finger. "So what d'you think?"
"It's great," Drake answered, slapping him heartily on the back. "It's gonna be confusing at work though."
"McLain and McLain?" Ted said with a chuckle, drawing close and catching the end of the conversation. "Sounds like a detective agency!"
Those around laughed as Dee nodded his head. "I guess it does," he admitted, smiling as he caught Ryo's eye. He excused himself to go and talk to Penguin, who was standing with the other nuns, talking fondly of the service they had just witnessed. He had to bend for her to embrace him, wincing slightly as she pinched his cheek; a habit she'd never gotten out of even though her favourite charge had long since reached adulthood.
"You look very smart, Dee," she announced as the other nuns nodded their agreement.
"Thanks, Pen… er, Mother." He managed to correct himself before she could remonstrate with him as she usually did. Instead the elderly nun chuckled at his near miss, too proud of the boy she had moulded into a man to be annoyed with him.
"I'm sure you'll be very happy," she said warmly, glancing over at Ryo who was chatting amicably with his cousin Carrie and her husband. "He's a good man."
"He is," Dee agreed, happy and proud that Ryo was now officially his. "I'm glad you could get away from the orphanage to come."
"Miss my favourite son's wedding? Never!"
He embraced her again before heading over to where Ryo now stood talking to some of his late mother's relatives.
"Sorry to interrupt," Dee said apologetically after he had been formally introduced, "but we should be getting over to the hotel. The meal's at one, right?"
"Yeah," Ryo replied as he checked his watch.
They each set off in different directions, instructing their guests to start making their way over to the hotel where the afternoon and evening receptions were being held. Once they were certain everyone knew where they were going, they were about to climb into Drake's car, which the other detective had loaned them while he got a ride with Ted, when a silver limousine rounded the corner.
"Check that out," Dee said with a low whistle of appreciation.
"It's probably the next wedding," Ryo surmised as the sleek vehicle pulled up at the kerb. Once the car had come to a stop, the driver got out and went to open the passenger door but no one exited. Instead he turned to the two men, standing with several of the guests that hadn't yet departed.
"Mr McLain? Mr Latener?"
The two men exchanged glances before they answered. "Pretty much," Dee replied, pushing his ebony hair away from his eyes.
"Then would you care to get in?" the driver said, gesturing to the open door, allowing a glimpse of the invitingly comfortable interior. "I'm instructed to take you to the Cornelia. Is that correct?"
More puzzled glances. "That's where our reception is being held at, yes," Ryo replied, searching for an expression on the remaining guests' faces that said they knew what was going on.
"I believe this might explain," the driver said, handing Ryo an envelope from his pocket. The blond detective took it from him and opened it, pulling out a note which he looked over and smiled. When he'd finished, he handed it to Dee, who quickly scanned the words.
Dee and Ryo,
Enjoy your day. I hope the limousine makes it even more memorable for you both.
Berkley and Diana.
The note was handwritten in an unfamiliar style that they both presumed was Diana's handwriting. They knew from visiting the commissioner in hospital that he had sustained some brain damage after the attack and was having to relearn even simple tasks such as reading and writing. The fact that he had thought to arrange something like this whilst contending with his own arduous recovery further showed how he seemed to have become less self-absorbed in the wake of the attack.
"Who'd have thought?" Drake said, smiling as he craned over Dee's arm to read the note.
"Yeah," Dee replied, his attention drawn back to the beautiful vehicle. "Well, guess we don't need these then." He grinned, tossing Drake's car keys towards him. "Later, guys!"
The two men climbed into the car, accompanied by cheers and applause. Their driver ensured that they both had champagne before they set off, taking a more scenic route to the hotel where their guests would be waiting.
"Wait 'til Bicky sees this," Ryo chuckled as he eyed the immaculate interior of the car as it cruised smoothly through the streets.
"Heh, yeah," Dee said in response as he twisted the champagne flute between his fingers. "I could get used to this!"
"Well don't," Ryo said with a smile. "You're a cop; cops don't do limousines."
Dee frowned comically, his dark eyebrows knitting together. "Spoilsport."
The Cornelia wasn't the largest or grandest establishment in the area but the atmosphere of the place and the attitudes of the staff had felt right, particularly when they'd explained why they'd wanted to book the function room. A couple of the other places they'd tried had looked dubious; some had flat out refused, leaving the two men saddened and disappointed that they were still faced with such prejudice in this day and age.
The Cornelia however had welcomed them and they were more than happy with their choice of location as they pulled up to be greeted by the staff handing out champagne to their guests. In the lobby, the sign at the main doors proclaimed 'Latener/McLain Union'; confirming that they were by no means embarrassed to be hosting such an occasion.
The day was still pleasantly warm and the guests had been directed through to the hotel gardens to await the start of the luncheon. A photographer moved around as the grooms mingled with their guests, eventually taking a shot of the entire party with their glasses raised, set against the backdrop of the attractive red brick building.
As one o'clock approached, the head waiter came out and asked everyone to move through to the function room. The large group took their seats around the circular tables, overseen by an anxious Ryo who had drawn up the seating plans.
Ryo turned to see his husband smiling at him, knowing full well he would still be stressing over the arrangements, wanting to make sure that everything ran smoothly.
"Sorry," Ryo replied, sinking into his chair and running his hands through his wavy blond locks. "I just want everyone to have a good time."
He'd barely finished the sentence when the table comprising of their work colleagues burst into a fit of raucous laughter.
"See?" Dee said triumphantly, "They are having a good time. Now quit worrying and start enjoying yourself."
"Okay," Ryo agreed, his features relaxing momentarily before the look of anxiety returned. "Dee, your insulin!"
"Done," the ebony haired man replied, shaking his head in disbelief. "Stop panicking for God's sake!"
"Marital discord already, boys?" Drake said, winking at them as he passed their table on the way back from the restroom. The two detectives looked at each other and laughed as a waitress stopped to set down their starters in front of them.
The meal was wonderful, comprising of three courses carefully chosen by Ryo. He had ensured that all three dishes were suitable for Dee and his dietary requirements, feeling strongly that his lover should not be singled out on his wedding day by having to eat differently than his guests.
Talk and laughter filled the air as the wedding party ate their meals, the waiters and waitresses constantly moving around the room to ensure that wine glasses remained filled. As the plates were cleared away, fresh bottles of champagne were brought out in preparation for the speeches. Both Ryo and Dee had chosen to say a few words as well as asking Drake to speak, carrying out something close to a best man's duties.
There was a small stage at one end of the function room and all eyes and chairs were turned that way as Ryo headed up there to stand in front of the microphone, several cue cards clutched between his fingers. He looked nervous, but as he turned to face his audience he managed a small smile. Tapping the microphone to check it was on, he started on the speech that he had spent the last few nights writing and rewriting.
"Uh… hi," he said, not knowing how else to start. He had a brief flash of the last time he had had to stand up in front of a large group of people, the morning after Dee had been abducted and he had addressed his colleagues, asking them for their support. As quickly as it had emerged, he pushed the memory aside, concentrating on this much happier occasion.
"I hope everyone is enjoying themselves and on behalf of my new husband and me…" He paused to allow the cheer at the word 'husband' to die down. He smiled, still finding it hard to believe that he had a husband as well as being one himself.
"I'd like to thank you all for coming and sharing this day with us. Today is a very special day for Dee and myself; a day that several months ago we doubted we'd ever see." He swallowed hard as he stopped again. "I know you're all well aware of the events of earlier this year and I have no intention of dwelling on them because today is about celebration and looking forward. We have come out the other side with our partnership not only intact but even stronger than before, and I know we have the courage to face anything so long as we're together."
He looked across at his lover and smiled. "Dee is an extraordinary man, whose courage and lust for life never cease to amaze me. He has shown me that I don't have to be ashamed of who I am and who I love and so I am both humbled and proud to offer, and have been offered, this lifetime commitment with such a wonderful man."
Emotion forced him to stop as he was drawn back to the handsome man watching him devotedly. "I pray we have a long and happy life together surrounded by our friends and family, whom I wish the same for. You're all very special to us and I'm proud to say I've known you all. Thank you."
He stepped away from the microphone, smiling in relief that he'd finished as Dee stood from his chair and headed for the stage to take his place. As they passed, Dee pulled him in for a quick kiss, whispering something that made Ryo smile as he went back to sit down. Out of his jacket pocket, Dee pulled a folded up sheet of paper, which he quickly scanned before he moved closer to the mic.
"Like Ryo said, thank you all for being here. It's good to see everyone dressed up, in particular you fellas from the precinct." He grinned at the assembled men in question. "I'd call you gentlemen, but I know better."
The room laughed as the table of police officers made cat calls and heckles. When the laughter and shouting had died down, Dee continued although his expression was more solemn.
"It's hard to know what to say, that Ryo hasn't said already, but I do want to repeat his message of thanks to everyone that has stood by us over the last few months." He looked down suddenly and swallowed hard. "It was an unexpected and long, hard road, not just for me, but for Ryo and you, our friends and family. There were moments when I honestly thought we'd never be happy again but I'm pleased to say that being here now has totally proved me wrong. If there's anything to be learned from what's happened, it's that every moment is sacred and nothing should be taken for granted. I intend to make the most of every moment I have and leave nothing until the last minute."
He stopped as a wry smile crossed his handsome features. "But if there's a police stenographer anywhere in the room, I'd just like to clarify that my last statement doesn't apply to completing paperwork."
He said his thanks to a rousing round to applause before making his way off the stage, eager to get back to his lover's side. Rejoining Ryo, they smiled at each other lovingly as Drake made his way up to the dais. As he stood in front of the microphone, he gave the two men a broad grin before he looked down to study his notes. Dee cast a glance at Ryo, wondering why Drake looked so smug.
"D'you have any idea what he's about to say?" Dee whispered.
"No," Ryo said, suddenly looking worried. "I thought you did."
"Ladies and Gentlemen," Drake began, his voice clear and confident, "in the interests of being politically correct, I've removed any controversial material from this speech…" He stopped, cleared his throat and scratched his head during the silence. "Thank you and good afternoon." He made to leave the stage as the room erupted into laughter before he returned to his position behind the mic.
"For those of you that don't know me, my name is Detective Drake Parker and I am a colleague of the two fine men whom you have come here today to celebrate with. I'm sure most of you know one or both of them fairly well but if not, I have compiled a short list, with the assistance of their friends and family, that I think will help you get to know them a little better."
He paused and smiled. "First, let's start with Dee. I've known Dee for almost ten years and could talk about him with very little help but instead, I decided to ask as many people as I could to describe Dee in a nutshell in just one sentence. Here's what I got."
Drake could feel a set of green eyes trained upon him and he inwardly chuckled as he started on the list, saying each word slowly and carefully.
"Impossible. Stubborn. Impulsive. Likes a laugh. Always late. Prone to whining. Generous. Loud. Honest. Owns a lot of CDs." He paused momentarily as people laughed. "Tenacious. Infuriating. Perseverant. Highly strung. Talks a lot. Hugely likeable. Strong minded. Has a cute ass."
Again more laughter; with most on the precinct's table turning to look at JJ, who simply grinned from behind his glass of champagne.
"But seriously," Drake continued. "Dee is truly a great guy and possibly the only man I know who can cause our chief to beat his own personal record of seventy-nine expletives in a minute. When he first set his sights on Ryo, there was just something that said this was more than a spur of the moment crush. I think it's fair to say that we were right and I'm sure you'll agree that that can only be a good thing. And now on to Ryo."
He grinned at the blond. "Better known to some as Detective Randy McLain, here's what people said about him. Thoughtful. Conscientious. Quiet. Thorough. Very tidy. Partnered with that idiot, Latener."
Ryo laughed with the audience as Dee pulled a face in mock indignation.
Drake continued. "Likeable. Honest. Easy going. Kind. Strong minded. Generous. I think from those two lists that it's easy to see that Dee and Ryo have a lot of differences but also a lot of things in common which, so I'm told, is a tried and tested formula for a healthy marriage, so it's with great pleasure that I ask you all to stand as I propose a toast."
There was the rumbling of just over one hundred sets of feet hitting the wooden floor as everyone left their seats, their freshly poured champagne in hand.
"To Ryo and Dee McLain; may you have a long and healthy life together!"
"Ryo and Dee!" the wedding party chorused before they sipped from the crystal champagne flutes.
With Drake's speech at an end, there followed a rapturous applause as he left the stage, still grinning broadly.
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Later on, with the evening reception underway, Dee was sitting with his fellow officers as they all got steadily more drunk. Dee himself had a clear head; his alcohol intake was limited for health reasons although he wasn't disappointed. When he finally took his new husband to bed, he wanted to be in complete control of his faculties.
"So was that a good speech?" Drake asked his friend and colleague, one arm slung around Dee's shoulder. His words were starting to slur and his eyes were somewhat glazed. On the other side of him, Ted was engaged in whispered conversation with Rachel, his new girlfriend who was as lovely as he'd promised Ryo earlier that day.
"The best," Dee replied, with a firm nod. "Who said I was impossible?"
"The chief," Drake chuckled.
"Good job you didn't ask Rose," Dee laughed as he lit a cigarette and blew a long stream of smoke up towards the ceiling. "I'm sure 'bastard' would have been top of his list."
"Actually I did. He said you were 'strong minded'."
Dee weighed this up for a moment, trying to determine whether this was a compliment or a well-veiled dig. "I suppose it's better than 'bastard'," he mused.
Ryo left the men's room and headed to where he could see Bicky and Cal sitting outside.
"Hey guys," he said, sticking his head around the doorframe. "Having a good time?"
"Yeah," Cal replied for both of them, shuffling towards Bicky and patting the newly vacated space on the bench. Ryo sat down next to them, gazing outwards to the twinkling lights of the city.
"So how does it feel to be a married man?" Cal asked, linking her arm with Ryo's affectionately.
Ryo smiled as he contemplated the question. "It feels good. Really good."
"I know you'll be really happy," Cal gushed, loving the romance of a wedding.
Ryo gazed down at the white gold wedding ring on his finger and smiled again.
"I'm certain we will. I feel so lucky to have Dee and Bicky and you, Cal. It feels like we're a family." He paused, deliberating his next question. "Speaking of which, Bicky, how would you feel about Dee applying for legal guardianship of you?"
Bicky's eyes widened. "Like adoption?"
"Not quite. He would be your guardian if anything happened to me. I'm still your adoptive parent though."
"Nothing will happen to you," Bicky said fiercely.
"I know," Ryo replied gently. "But I'd rather know you had someone there for you if it did. Have a think about it, won't you?"
Bicky met Ryo's gaze before he nodded. The blond detective then stood and made his way back inside.
"What d'you think?" the boy asked his girlfriend when they were alone again.
"I think you should do it."
"But it's Dee!" Bicky protested. "Sure, he's okay and everything, but if he's my guardian then he'll think he can go round telling me what to do."
"He does that already and you don't take any notice," Cal replied, rolling her eyes. "But wouldn't you prefer to stay with Dee if something happened…?"
"Fine," she snapped, folding her arms across her chest. "But I know what I'd do. Faced with living with Dee or being sent to a children's home; it's not a hard choice."
"But why's Ryo talking like that?"
Cal smiled gently. "I guess after everything that happened to Dee, Ryo just wants to make sure you'd be looked after. You know Ryo, he likes to be organised. He's only looking out for you."
Her comments seemed to hit home and for a moment, Bicky was forced to consider the reality of what would happen to him if Ryo died. He knew from hard experience that life was far from fair.
After several moments of sulky silence, he muttered, "I guess it would be okay if Dee looked after me."
Cal smiled and took his hand, using the hold on him to pull him in for a quick kiss.
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Just after midnight, the music and dancing stopped and people started to make their way home. When the last of their guests had gone, the two weary but happy men made their way up to their room. They had booked the honeymoon suit, intending to make the most of the luxurious facilities since Bicky had gone home with Cal and her aunt.
As Ryo put the key in lock, he shuddered as Dee began to kiss his neck, his lips grazing the sensitive flesh with well-practised skill.
"Behave yourself, Mr McLain," Ryo admonished, smiling as he used Dee's new name. His lover picked up on it too and stopped what he was doing momentarily.
"That sounded sexy," he purred, green eyes narrowing seductively. "Say it again."
"I said," Ryo replied, turning so his back was to the door. "Behave yourself, Mr McLain."
He punctuated the last two words with a pointed finger, which he trailed down the front of his husband's suit, deftly undoing the buttons on his jacket before his hand came to rest on the growing hardness in Dee's pants.
The dark haired man groaned before he leaned forward, wanting to taste the blond's lips. Ryo however was quicker. As Dee moved in, he leaned back, pushing on the door that he had quietly unlocked. Dee's closed eyes flew open as he was greeted by thin air to see Ryo smiling at him sexily from within the room. The dark haired detective grinned, making after his lover, but not before he had made sure the 'do not disturb' sign was clearly displayed on their door.
The moonlight beamed in through the unshaded windows, bathing the room in an ethereal white glow. The bed was enormous, dressed in inviting white linen and scattered with red rose petals, although Dee's eyes barely noticed as his lover and husband stood before him, returning his loving gaze. His heart pounded, filling the silence as they continued to stand inches apart, taking in each other's beauty. Gently, and still in silence, they began to undress each other. After several long moments of passionate kissing and touching, Dee broke the embrace and moved over to one of the bedside drawers. "I hope you don't think this is a little presumptuous," he said, smiling as he fetched the lube from where he had placed it.
Ryo laughed in response.
"What?" Dee asked; his dark eyebrows knitted together, not sure what was so amusing.
He watched as Ryo stood and walked around to the bedside cabinet on the opposite side of the large bed. When he opened the drawer and pulled out an identical tube of the preparation that he had placed there earlier that day, his expression was a sheepish grin.
"Ditto," the blond replied, his dark eyes twinkling with amusement.
Dee laughed. "I think I like you being presumptuous, baby."
The moment of humour quickly passed as they fell into bed together, in amongst the sumptuous sheets and rose petals, moving tenderly in the moonlight. Ryo found himself unable to take his eyes off the other man. Dee was everything to him; his heart and his home.
"Stay with me, Ryo," Dee whispered, as if he had read his lover's thoughts and agreed with the sentiments. "You're the only one I'll ever need."
Their long but wonderful day ended in the hugely comfortable bed as they lay together in each other's arms.
"I love you, Ryo," Dee whispered just before he fell asleep. "Forever."
Ryo smiled down at the ebony-haired man drifting off into contented slumber.
"I love you too," he replied tenderly, thinking 'forever' was a timescale that he could definitely manage.