Sky was the first to stir the next morning. After a late night session of girl talk, crying, drinking, and laughter, the four of them had slept wherever they had fallen. She was stretched out across the bottom of Cady's bed with her feet dangling over the edge. Her mouth felt as though she had been sucking on cotton balls and her neck was cramped from lying all night in an uncomfortable position.
She pushed herself up on her elbows and looked around. Cady was curled up at the head of the bed, hugging her pillow and an empty wineglass lying beside her. Lynnai was sprawled in what looked like an impossible position in the overstuffed chair by the window and Brina was lying on the floor beside an empty wine bottle.
Sky's eyes shifted to the clock and saw that they had slept in until nine o'clock. The ceremony was set to start at three that afternoon and she knew that if she let Cady sleep in any longer, the Princess would never forgive her.
Stretching across the bed, Sky shook her friend's shoulder. "Cady? Cady, wake up."
"No," Cady mumbled, turning her head away.
"Come on, Cady, it's your wedding day."
Her head flew up as she blinked the sleep from her eyes. "What time is it?"
"It's almost nine."
"We did not."
"We overslept?" Brina asked, awakened by their voices.
"No, we still have plenty of time," Sky assured her. "Cady's just freaking out."
"Oh my goodness!" Cady sat up straight, clutching a pillow to her chest. "I'm getting married today!"
"No, now she's freaking out," Brina said, grabbing the tissue box and throwing it onto the bed.
"It's too early for anyone to be freaking out," Lynnai mumbled.
"It is not early!" Cady gasped. "The wedding is going to start in six hours!"
"Oh no! There's no way you'll get your makeup done in time!" Sky teased.
"You know, Schuyler," Cady declared, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. "I can't wait to see how calm and collected you are on your wedding day."
"I'm eloping," Sky vowed, standing and stretching. "I don't want to have to deal with all this crap."
"Are you kidding? You're marrying a prince, you have to have a big wedding."
"Yeah, well, I don't see a ring on my finger, do you?"
Cady raised her eyebrows in surprise. "But, I thought you guys were getting along well."
"I thought you didn't want to rush anything," Brina added.
"I don't," Sky sighed, looking at her bare hand. "But he hasn't mentioned it, seriously any way, since he came back and, well, it would be nice to know if he was really thinking about it or just kidding around."
"I'm sure he is," Cady said softly.
Sky shook her head and smiled. "Nope, this is Cady's day, not mine. Let's get a move on, I'm starving and I'd like to get something to eat before Cady really starts freaking out."
The Princess fell back on her bed and laid a hand on her stomach. "I can't eat, I'll throw up if I try."
"Better to get it out now rather than all over your dress," Brina advised.
"Good point!" Sky called over her shoulder as she entered the bathroom.
There was a knock at the door.
"Who is it?" Cady cried, grabbing a pillow and clamping it over her head.
"It's me," Allura replied. "Can I come in?"
The Queen slid the door open and smiled. The three young women hadn't bothered to rise when she walked in. Cady was sprawled on the bed, holding a pillow over her face, Brina was sitting on the floor, looking a bit lost, and Lynnai had not yet raised her head from the back of the chair. "Long night?"
"Mom," Cady called out from beneath the pillow.
"I'm getting married."
"I know. Are you hungover?"
"No. I'm scared."
"Oh, honey." Allura sat on the edge of the bed and gently removed the pillow. "It's going to be amazing."
"Are you hungry?"
"Well, I'm having breakfast sent up any way, you'll regret it later if you don't eat something now."
Cady pushed herself up. "Were you this nervous when you got married?"
"Have you thrown up yet?"
"I was more nervous."
"You threw up?" Lynnai asked, surprised to hear that the beautiful, regal Queen of Arus would ever throw up.
Allura smiled at the girl and held up four fingers.
"You did not!" Cady gasped.
"I did. Your grandmother and Aunt Dana thought I was pregnant."
"What?" Sky asked, walking into the room.
"Mom threw up four times when she married my dad."
Sky sat on the bed beside the Queen. "I hope you brushed your teeth before you kissed Uncle Keith."
Allura gently shoved Sky's shoulder. "Of course I did."
"Was Dad nervous?" Cady asked.
"You know your father, it was hard to tell. But later on, Lance confided in me that Keith was so nervous he couldn't sit down, he had to keep moving and pacing. Of course, Lotor tried to stop the ceremony, but he didn't succeed."
There was a knock on the door and Brina rose to her feet, stretching. "I'll get it."
A maid walked in, pushing a small cart in front of her. It was laden with coffee cups and a coffee pot, a stack of small plates, glasses, a pitcher of juice, and three covered plates.
"Thank you, Madina," Allura said, rising gracefully to her feet. "You may leave it there."
The maid nodded and curtsied before leaving.
"I figured you could all do with a bit of nourishment. Come on, Cady, at least have some coffee and toast."
"Is this all for Cady, or did you know we were all here?" Sky asked as she uncovered the platters finding scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and toast.
"Schuyler, dear, you should know by now that nothing escapes my notice within these castle walls," Allura said, pouring coffee into a mug.
"What if I trip and fall on my face when I'm walking down the aisle?" Cady asked.
Allura handed her a cup of coffee. "Then you will pick yourself up, smile and walk the rest of the way down the aisle with your head held high."
"While we all laugh at you," Sky added.
"You're not helping," Cady muttered.
"You won't trip," Allura assured her daughter. "You'll be walking with your father, he won't let you fall."
"What if the twins do something? I mean, there are rumors going around that they're planning something."
"Honey, your brothers give you a hard time because they're your little brothers, but you know that they love you and will never do anything to ruin your special day."
"And if they do," Brina spoke up. "They'll have to answer to Lynnai and I."
"And we're not as understanding as family." Lynnai added.
Brina nodded. "Or as kind."
"Come on, Cady, we got your back, you know that," Sky said, popping a strawberry into her mouth.
"You're waiting for something bad to happen, honey, but it won't. Everything is ready and it will be a beautiful ceremony marking the beginning of your life with Tristan." Allura told her, settling against the headboard, beside her daughter. "And if something does go wrong, it will make for a fun story to tell your kids."
Tristan didn't respond when he heard the knock on his door. His head was pounding with the beating of his heart as it raced with the thought of his impending marriage. He couldn't figure out if it was racing out of nerves or excitement. In just a few hours, Cady was going to be his wife. Officially his, in every way. Then they were getting on a ship and leaving, they would be completely alone for a week. Just the two of them.
It was Erik who was knocking on his door. For a moment, Tristan continued to ignore him, but then thought better of it. He sat up and groaned as the room swam around him and his head throbbed.
"Are you okay?" Erik called through the door.
"Yeah," Tristan called back, his voice thick and hoarse.
"Can I come in?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming." He pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the spinning room and the fungus that seemed to be growing in his mouth.
Erik stood on the other side of the door with a mug full of steaming, dark liquid.
"Is that coffee?" Tristan asked, propping himself against the doorframe.
"Yes it is."
"Is it for me?"
"If it is, you can come in."
Erik handed his friend the mug and followed him into the room. "How're you feeling?"
"Well, you look and sound like crap."
"I didn't realize you were such a lightweight," Erik said, sitting on the desk chair. "I should have cut you off earlier."
"I'm fine, I just haven't had alcohol in several months and I hadn't eaten much for dinner."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'll be watching your champagne intake this evening."
"Have you seen Cady?" Tristan asked, sitting on the edge of his bed.
"No, I think we're all forbidden from that wing of the castle for the day. How're you doing?"
Erik watched the groom as he stared at the steam rising from the mug. "You sure?"
"No. Yes. I mean, I love Cady and I can't wait to marry her, but this ceremony is going to be so huge."
"Yes, but it will be over before you know it and you won't have to worry about a big party again until you announce your first pregnancy."
Tristan slowly raised his eyes to his friend. "It's always going to be like this, isn't it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Our lives will always be right out there for everyone to see. Everything that happens, everything we do will be made into a huge public deal."
Erik leaned forward, resting his arms on his legs. "You knew that, Tristan. You knew what you were getting in to when you proposed to her."
"Yeah, I know, and Cady's worth it, but, geez, this will take a lot to get used to."
"When this day is over, when the two of you are alone together on the ship to Terra, you'll realize just what's important."
A smile slowly spread across Tristan's face. "Yeah, I know. I really do love her, the spoiled brat."
Erik laughed. "I know you do. Good luck with that, man."
"I'm sure it won't be much longer for you."
The Polluxian Prince shrugged and looked at a spot just over Tristan's right shoulder.
"What's wrong? Sky say something?"
Erik shook his head. "No, we, uh, we just haven't discussed it in a while, at least not seriously. I've been dropping hints, but she brushes it off like it's all a joke."
"Maybe you should stop dropping hints and just come right out and ask her."
"I don't want to screw it up again."
Erik stood. "All right, I came to see if you wanted to go for a run and work off some pre-wedding jitters. You want to go?"
"I would love to, I just don't think I could run right now."
"Yeah, you are looking pretty rough."
"I had a pretty rough night."
Erik snorted. "Lightweight."
Tristan sneered. "Jerk."
"Get a shower and get cleaned up, Nanny has been cooking like mad, making a breakfast feast."
"All right. Thanks for the coffee, I'll be down in a few minutes."
Cady sat in the chair in front of her vanity, shaking with nerves and excitement.
"Your Highness, you need to sit still," Mari, her maid, chided as she tried to arrange Cady's golden curls on top of her head.
"I can't," Cady whined.
"I remember my wedding day," Darcy said. She sat on the end of Cady's bed between Allura and Becca. "I couldn't stop shaking and crying."
"I think Becca is the only one of us who was calm and collected on her wedding," Allura said, examining her nails.
Becca shrugged. "I wasn't calm, I was just impatient. I had to wait almost seven years to tie the knot."
"Why did you have to wait so long?" Sky asked, sitting on the floor, poking at the curlers in her hair.
"I didn't want to," Becca told her niece. "But, well, Pidge, God love him, had some issues. I was ready to get married after we had dated a year, and when he traveled all the way Terra just to give me my ring, I was ready to elope with him right then and there. He's very superstitious and, as you know, he's lost some very important people in his life. He had this mental block, he was afraid of something happening, he was afraid to take that final step of marriage and having a family, for fear that he was jinxed, that something would happen to me."
Brina was sitting on the floor beside Sky and Delora. She leaned forward, intrigued. "What happened?"
"I waited, as patiently as I could…"
"Which isn't very patiently," Darcy interrupted.
Becca poked her in the side. "I waited and we pretty much lived like a married couple, but I wanted more. I watched my sister and my friends having families, and I wanted that. So, after six years, I told him he had to step up to the plate or I would find someone who would. He realized he was being silly, all he was doing was denying us both of what we really wanted. So, we picked a date, but it took a while to plan since we were living here, but we were going to marry on Terra. So, by the time it rolled around, I was ready to just be done with it."
"And Mom just wanted to get it over with before I made my appearance," Sky said.
"Schuyler Grace!" Darcy's face burned red. "Really!"
"What? It's true."
"Maybe so, but it's not polite to talk about such things."
Sky leaned toward Brina and whispered, "Yeah, but it's more fun to make her face turn that scary shade of red."
Darcy shook her head. "You are just too much like your father."
Allura rose to answer the knock on the door. "Who is it?"
"It's us, Mom," Tess called through the door.
The Queen slid the door open and stepped aside so Romelle, Tess, Charlotte, and Victoria could enter. Tori skipped over to her mother and twirled in front of her.
"When can I put my dress on, Mommy?" The six-year-old asked.
"Well, if you're careful, you can put it on now," Becca told her.
"I'll be careful. Can I wear lip gloss?"
"You're too young, sweetie."
"Charlotte's wearing it."
"Charlotte's ten, when you reach double digits, you can wear it." Becca swept her daughter up in her arms and flipped her upside down. "Come on, cutie-pie, we'll check on your baby brother and then get you in your dress."
Tori giggled and waved at the others in the room. "Bye-bye!"
"See you later, Tori," Darcy called as everyone waved back.
"Okay, Your Highness, we're done here if you want to start getting in your dress," Mari said, stepping back to examine her handiwork. "I'm ready for you now, Ms. Collier."
Sky stood and took the seat Cady vacated.
"Go to the bathroom first," Allura advised her daughter. "The last thing you want is to get all done up and then have to use the bathroom."
Cady twisted her hands and looked at the clock.
"T minus one hour and thirty minutes," Darcy teased.
"I don't have to go," Cady said. "And it's too early to get in my dress. I don't…I don't want...anything to happen t-to it.
Allura grabbed the nearly empty box of tissues and handed them to her daughter. "Okay, sweetheart, sit down. Don't get yourself worked up, you'll ruin your makeup. Sit down and calm down."
Cady sat on the edge of her bed, dabbing at her eyes. Her hair was piled up on her head in thick curls around the tiara that would eventually have her veil attached to it and her makeup had been applied with a professional hand, but she still wore her old pink robe over her lingerie. She shuffled her feet in the worn old slippers she wore as she twisted the tissue in her hands. "I feel like a wreck."
"But you look fantastic," Darcy assured her. "You look fantastic, you should feel fantastic."
"I know I will, but, geez."
Darcy laughed and threw her arm around the Princess' shoulders. "Yeah, geez. But at least you get to see Sky in a dress."
Cady nodded. "That is a once in a year occurrence."
"You know it's an important day when we actually get a dress and stockings on Sky," Tess added.
"And it's a miracle that puts heels on her," Becca said.
Sky glared at them all in the mirror. "I'm sitting right here, there's no need to talk about me like I'm not in the room."
"We know you're right there, honey," Darcy said sweetly. "That's why we didn't feel the need to raise our voices."
"Delora, we need to set your hair in curlers," Romelle told her daughter.
The young girl tugged at the shoulder length straight, black hair she had inherited from her father and scowled. "Why did I have to be the one in this family to get straight hair?"
"You have beautiful hair," Allura assured her. "It's so thick and a beautiful color."
"And it doesn't frizz out three feet in each direction when it rains," Cady added. "I wonder how Tristan's doing?"
"Probably the same he was doing the last time you asked," Sky responded.
Sighing heavily, Sky unclipped her communicator and tried to dial up Erik without moving her head.
"Hey, how's it going?" Sky asked when his image appeared.
"As well as can be expected," he replied. "How's it going there?"
"As well as can be expected."
"How's Tristan doing?" Cady called out.
"How's Tristan doing?" Sky repeated.
Erik smiled. "He's passed out drunk. How's Cady?"
"Hopped up on drugs and bouncing off the walls."
"I am not!" Cady gasped.
"Tell her Tristan is fine, well, as fine as he can be now that he's about to marry a Princess."
"Where is he?"
"He's in his room with his parents, his grandmother, and Owen. They're getting ready to go down and start greeting guests."
"Where are you?"
"I'm heading to my room to get dressed. What are you doing?"
Sky scowled. "I'm getting my hair done."
He smiled at her. "I'm sure you'll be gorgeous."
She stuck her tongue out at him.
Erik laughed. "Tell Cady Tristan is fine and I will see you later, Sunny."
"Bye, Erik." Sky snapped her communicator shut and sat up straighter when Mari tugged at her hair.
"What did he say?" Cady asked.
"Tristan is fine, he is going to go down soon and start greeting the guests," Sky told her.
Cady turned to her mother. "He shouldn't be alone."
"He isn't," Allura said. "He is with his parents and your father and the twins will be there. I'm going to go change and stop down there too for a bit."
"You'll check on him for me?"
Smiling softly, Allura took her daughter's hand and squeezed gently. "I will. Don't worry, I'll be back in a little while." The Queen reluctantly released her daughter's hand and left her with her friends.
Tristan tugged at the cuffs of his jacket, too nervous to sit, he paced the floor of his bedroom.
"Darling, why don't you sit down," Josie said. "We can have some tea sent up."
"No, thank you, Mother," he muttered.
"Let the boy be," Iona Alexander spoke up for her grandson. "He has a lot on his mind."
"Oh, Tristan, I can't believe you're getting married," his mother sighed. "And to such a beautiful Princess. This is so exciting. Do you have the rings, Owen?"
The best man patted his jacket pocket and nodded. "Yes, Ma'am."
"Should we go downstairs now? Have the guests started to arrive?"
"Keith will come and get us when it's time to go downstairs," Vince told her.
Tristan looked over at Owen and caught his friend's eye. He rolled his eyes and subtlety nodded his head toward his mother. Owen grinned and nodded slightly.
"I wonder if the press has arrived yet," Josie mused, stopping in front of the mirror to check her perfectly coifed hair.
Tristan glanced over at the clock and saw that the ceremony was to start in just over an hour. He was beginning to worry, Keith should have come by now. The guests were arriving, the twins and Owen should be seating them. What were they waiting for? He hated not knowing what was going on. If one more person told him to relax and just enjoy the day, he was going to flip out.
"Knock, knock!" Declan called as he knocked on the door. Not waiting for an answer, the door opened and the twins walked in, followed by Erik.
"Should we be heading down to greet people?" Tristan asked.
Erik shook his head. "Not yet. Keith will come and get us when it's time to."
"Have you seen Cady?"
"No, but I talked to Sky a little while ago, she said Cady's fine."
"Yeah, Dad sent us to see if you needed anything," Gideon said. "He met up with Mom, but he said he'll be here soon."
"So, uh, you need anything?" Declan asked.
The groom shook his head. "I'm just ready to get this show on the road."
Keith had been on his way to meet up with his sons and Tristan to make sure everything was going as planned when he saw his wife. He had just changed into his freshly pressed dress uniform and was feeling proud of the fact that it still fit well, if it was just a little snug around the waist that was because it had shrunk a bit over the years. As he was leaving his room, Allura was arriving. One look at her had him unclipping his communicator and contacting Declan to tell him he would be joining them in a few minutes.
The door slid shut behind him and he watched as his beautiful wife of nearly twenty three years stood in the middle of their room looking hopelessly lost.
"Angel." He spoke gently.
"Our baby is getting married. When did it happen? When did she grow up? When did she become an adult who's about to marry an adult man? She's still so young." The words came out in a rushed gasp.
Keith smiled softly, understanding exactly how she felt because he had been asking himself the same questions. "We knew this day was going to come, but we should be concentrating on the fact that she has found a good man in Tristan and that she's staying nearby. It could be worse, she could be moving to a faraway planet."
Allura dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. "Remind me to apologize to your mother for taking her son so far away."
"Come here." He held out his hand to her and pulled her close when she took it. "Do you remember when Darcy heard Sky was engaged to Erik? She couldn't stop crying, saying Sky was too young and that Erik was nothing more than pushy man trying to take advantage of her little girl."
Allura chuckled quietly, her cheek pressed against his chest.
"This is a big day for Cady," Keith continued. "Our little girl has grown into a beautiful, smart woman."
She tilted her head back and looked up at him. "She really did, didn't she?"
"Yup. She's almost as beautiful as you."
"I wish I could stop them all from getting any older than ten."
"No you don't. If we were seventy years old with six ten year olds running around, it would kill us."
"I know you're right, but I miss my babies."
"Well, before you know it, I'm sure there will be another baby. A grandbaby."
Allura gasped and shoved him away. "I am way too young to be a grandmother."
"You'll definitely be the hottest grandmother ever."
She crossed her arms over her chest, gnawing on her bottom lip as she thought about what he said. "I don't think they're in a hurry to have kids."
Keith shook his head. "No. They'll want to get the house built and settled."
"This is very exciting."
"Yes it is. Are you okay to get dressed?"
"Yes, sweetie, I'm fine. I need to get moving so Mari can do my hair and I can help Cady get in her dress."
Keith pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
He slid the door open and jumped when he found himself face to face with Romelle, her hand raised, ready to knock. Darcy stood behind her.
She laid a hand over her heart. "Keith, you startled me!"
"Is everything all right?"
"Yes, we just thought Allura might need some help getting dressed."
"I can use the company, Romelle, Darcy, thank you." Alura gently pushed Keith toward the door. "Go, honey, meet up with the boys and make sure everything is going well."
An hour later, Keith left the twins and Owen to get all the guests to their seats. Lance, Hunk, Pidge, Erik, and Sven were also helping while Darcy, Paton, Becca, and Romelle were helping to answer questions and guide people to the ushers.
He slipped out of the quickly filling chapel that was on the first floor of the castle and made his way up to the family's personal wing. It was almost time for him to walk down the aisle with his daughter and hand her over to another man. Keith really liked Tristan and he didn't think he could have picked a better husband for Cady, but this was a major step.
Hesitating a moment in front of Cady's door, he could hear the feminine voices murmuring and even a few giggles from inside. Keith raised his hand and rapped on the door.
There were a few shushing noises and the girls fell silent before Allura called through the door. "Who is it?"
"The father of the bride," Keith called back.
The door slide open and Allura stepped aside to let him in. Sky, Tess, Charlotte, and Delora were all dressed in matching strapless, fitted gowns in smoky lavender. They each had wraps that matched the dresses to drape around their shoulders and they would each carry small bouquets of pink and white roses. Allura was a vision in a stunning lavender dress.
But it was to his daughter that Keith's eyes drifted. She was gorgeous in her wedding dress, a fussy, frilly affair with a fitted bodice, long sleeves the ended in points on the back of her hand, a skirt that fell to the ground, and a ridiculously long train. What appeared to be a million tiny pearl beads swirled over the train and onto the hem of the skirt. Her antique lace veil was long and attached to a diamond studded tiara that was settled neatly into the curls arranged on top of her head. Her face was barely touched up with subtle makeup, highlighting her natural beauty.
"All right, sweetheart." Allura took Cady's hand in hers. "We're going to head downstairs. The girls will be waiting for you outside the doors and I'll see you in the chapel."
"Thanks, Mom," Cady whispered.
Allura hugged her tightly and appeared to want to say something else, but instead she flashed her daughter a shaky smile before turning to usher the girls out of the room.
Keith suddenly found himself alone with Cady and at a loss for words. Over and over in his mind, he rehearsed a speech to tell her how he felt and that he was proud of her and all she had done and he hoped she and Tristan would have a wonderful life together. But now, as he stood in front of her, his obviously nervous, all grown up daughter, words failed him.
"Dad?" Her voice trembled a bit.
"You're beautiful, Cady Bear," he whispered
She rolled her eyes out of habit. No one called her that any more.
Keith cleared his throat and held out his arm. "Ready to go?"
"Yup." She slipped her arm through his and picked up the big bouquet of pink and white roses.
Keith stopped at the door and looked down at her. "I just…I want you to know that I'm very proud of you. I love you and, no matter what, this will always be your home."
She smiled softly, a single tear clung to her lash. "Thanks, Daddy."
He pressed a gentle kiss to her brow and slid the door open.
The doors to the chapel were shut, but they did little to block the chatter that rose from the five hundred guests. Cady's heart pounded so hard, she was afraid everyone around her could hear it. In front of her stood Sky, looking calm and waiting for the doors to open. In front of her, Tess, Charlotte, and Delora were fidgeting and giggling nervously. And in front of them were Nicky, who was tugging at his tie, and Tori who was excitedly bouncing from one foot to the other, clutching her basket of rose petals.
Then there was a swell of music and the voices on the other side of the door died down. Cady took three deep breaths and forced herself to put on a calm, serene expression. Her left hand gripped the stems of her bouquet while her right hand clutched Keith's arm.
"Sweetheart," Keith whispered. "Let's try not to draw blood, okay?"
Blushing, Cady loosened her grip on his arm and removed her nails from his arm.
The doors slowly opened and five hundred pairs of eyes turned to the end of the aisle. Becca stood just inside the door and motioned for Tori and Nicky to start down the aisle. They both moved almost robotically, trying to remember all the directions their mothers had coached them with.
"Tori," Becca whispered. "Petals."
"Oh, yeah." The little girl grinned and grabbed handfuls of the soft petals, sprinkling them on the white runner.
A few people chuckled softly at the pretty young girl's enthusiasm.
Delora was the next down the aisle, followed by Charlotte, Tess, and Sky. Finally, Cady and her father stood framed in the open doorway. As one, the entire crowd of guests rose to their feet and turned to face them.
Cady was sure she should have felt scared or nervous. But her eyes sought and found Tristan where he stood at the end of the aisle. Everyone else in the room disappeared and she saw only him as he smiled at her.
Hushed voices murmured as she walked past, but she didn't hear them. Dignitaries and royalty from all over the universe, friends and family from Terra, Arus, and several other planets packed the seat, but she didn't see them. Allura gently touched a handkerchief to her eyes as Josie clutched Vince's arm, but Cady didn't notice. All she saw was him.
After what felt like an eternity, Keith stopped in front of the alter. He turned and kissed Cady's cheek before tenderly placing her hand in Tristan's and stepping back to join Allura in the front row.
Trembling with nerves and excitement, Cady turned with Tristan to face the Arusian spiritual leader who would preside over the ceremony. There were several muted thumps and the sound of fabric shifting as the congregation sat.
Athalia Kedar was a pleasant looking woman who had comfortably reached middle age. She had been the spiritual advisor of the royal family for several years and had become even closer to them after Koran passed away. She was dressed in robes a deep shade of purple and she smiled down at the Princess and her betrothed before addressing the crowd.
"We would like to welcome all of you here, friends and family, to witness young love that will be joined forever in the loving connection of marriage," Athalia began. "We have all watched Princess Cadence grow from an adorable baby to a sweet child to a thoughtful young woman to the beautiful, talented, smart adult we all see before us tonight. Tristan has shown himself to be a dedicated soldier, a talented pilot, and a good man. When I speak with the two of them, I see a deep respect and an even deeper love for each other that is the foundation on which they will build a strong marriage, a long life together.
"I spent a lot of time with this couple over the past few months, getting to know them, advising them. When it came time to talk about the ceremony, Cady shared with me a quote she had found written by a Terran author several years ago. She had written it in a letter to Tristan when they had been separated because of his job assignment. The two of them agreed that this short quote summed up their entire relationship and are the words in which they want to start their lives together with."
Athalia paused for effect before quoting Emily Bronte. "Whatever souls are made of, yours and mine are the same."
Some sniffling could be heard throughout the chapel as a few tears were shed.
"Please, Cady, Tristan, face each other."
Cady handed her bouquet to Sky and turned to Tristan, laying her small hands in his larger, stronger ones.
"Do you, Tristan Vincent Samuel Alexander, take Her Royal Highness Princess Cadence as your wife, through the good and the bad, the well days and sick, richness and poorness, for all the days of your life?"
"I do," he replied loudly, clearly, his eyes locked on Cady's.
"Do you, Your Royal Highness Princess Cadence Arianna Isabelle Whitaker, take Tristan as your husband, through the good and the bad, the well days and the sick, richness and poorness for all the days of your life?"
"I do," Cady replied, shakily.
"Do you have the rings?"
Owen and Nicky stepped forward. Owen plucked the smaller ring from the pillow and handed it to Tristan. The groom looked down at it, a band of gold with a ring of lions engraved around the outside and the words 'My Princess, My Heart' engraved on the inside. He lifted Cady's left hand and held the ring over the tip of her third finger.
"Repeat after me," Athalia said. "With this ring…"
"With this ring…"
"We are signifying the bond in which we are joined. The unbroken circle is our unbroken bond of marriage."
Tristan repeated the words and slid the ring on her trembling finger.
Owen picked up the other ring and handed it to Cady. It was identical to hers with the lions around it, but it was much larger and had the words 'My Knight, My Heart' engraved on the inside. Her fingers shook as she repeated the words Athalia spoke and slid the ring on his finger.
"It is with great pride and joy that I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."
Tristan leaned down and whispered, "I love you." before kissing her gently.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Athalia announced. "Mr. Tristan and Her Royal Highness Princess Cadence Alexander."
The congregation stood as the music started again and applauded. Tristan and Cady walked slowly up the aisle, hand-in-hand, to the back of the chapel with the four bridesmaids and ushers following them. He waved off the guards and hurried past the startled staff members who were preparing to help the guests to the ballroom for the reception.
"Where are we going?" Cady whispered when he continued to pull her away.
"I need a minute with my new wife," he replied.
"Tristan we can't just leave."
"We aren't leaving, we're just sneaking off for a moment. The reception isn't set to start for another hour."
"Yes, but we're supposed to be getting our pictures taken."
"There's plenty of time for that." Tristan pulled her into the rec room and shut the door behind them. "Cady, I wanted a minute with you."
"I can't believe its over," she murmured, holding up her left hand to examine her ring. "We're married, Tristan, we're married."
He looked her up and down, she was absolutely gorgeous. Her face was flushed with excitement and her petite form was swallowed by what appeared to be a mile of white fabric. "It's not over," he whispered. "It's just the beginning. My God, you're beautiful."
She smiled flirtatiously. "Why thank you."
He gently touched her cheek. "My beautiful wife."
"My handsome husband." She stepped closer.
Tristan leaned down and captured her lips in a gentle, drawn out kiss.
They jumped apart at the beeping that came from Tristan's pocket.
"You have your communicator on you?" She asked.
"It's more a force of habit than anything else," he admitted, unclipping it. "Yes?"
"Tristan, you guys can't just run off like that," Keith lectured. "We have to take pictures and get ready for the reception."
"Yes, sir, we'll be right there."
"Yes, sir." He snapped it shut and smiled at his wife. "We're in trouble."
"We could just sneak off and leave for our honeymoon, by the time we get back, they won't be angry any more."
Tristan smiled and lowered his forehead to hers. "I love you so much."
"I love you too."
"Okay, just a few more hours until we can be completely alone." He stole another quick kiss. "I can't believe we're married."
"The ceremony was over too quickly," she agreed, slipping her arms around his neck. "You're stuck with me now."
"I know," he sighed, resting his hands on her hips. "I hope I can learn to deal with that."
Cady opened her mouth to respond, but snapped it shut with a groan when his communicator beeped again.
"I guess we have to go before your father and brothers hunt us down," Tristan said, sliding the door open and taking her hand.
She giggled, flushed with giddiness.
"There you are!" Allura gasped when they appeared in the hall near the chapel. "You can't just walk out of the chapel like that and disappear!"
"Sorry," Tristan spoke up. "It was all me, I just wanted a moment alone with my wife before all the craziness."
The Queen's expression softened. "I understand, dear, but we have a tight schedule we have to keep."
"Mom!" Cady threw her arms around her mother's neck. "I'm married!"
"I know, sweetheart," Allura said, returning the hug. "I'm so happy for you."
"Give me one reason not to kick your butt," Keith said, joining them in the hallway.
Tristan shrugged. "Because I'm family now."
"Which gives me even more right to do it."
"All right, all right, save it for later," Allura said. "We have quite a few pictures to take."
By the time the pictures were all taken, the entire bridal party was feeling antsy and hungry. Allura and Sky helped Cady remove her train so she could navigate her way through the reception easily. They fussed with her hair and the dress so she could be comfortable enough to enjoy the reception.
"Come on, she's fine," Declan said. "I'm starving."
"I can't be fine, I have to be gorgeous," Cady told him as her mother adjusted her hair.
"You are gorgeous," Tristan assured her.
The twins groaned.
"I'm hungry," Nicky whined.
"Me too," Tori added.
"Me too," the twins said in unison.
"Fine, fine, let's go," Cady sighed.
The ballroom had been decorated with thousands of flowers and dramatic lighting. Round tables topped with long silver tablecloths and set with plates marked with the Arusian Royal family seal. Large centerpieces of pink and white roses surrounding a taller clutch of calla lilies sat on each table. The head table was covered in a matching silver tablecloth with a garland of roses draped over the front. A small orchestra was set up in the back near the dance floor and were playing quietly.
The bridal party was going to enter through the main doors and under a tall arbor draped in roses and down a rose petal strewn runner to the head table. First through were Josie and Vince, followed by Keith and Allura, Nicky and Tori, Gideon and Delora, Declan and Charlotte, Erik and Tess, Sky and Owen, and, finally, Tristan and Cady. The gathered guests greeted them on their feet, applauding.
When everyone was settled in their seats, Keith stood and waited for the chatter to settle down.
"We'd like to thank you all for joining us on this joyous occasion," he began.
"Did you start your watch?" Declan whispered to Gideon.
His brother nodded.
"Allura and I are quite proud of Cady and all she has done. She's grown into a beautiful, intelligent woman of grace and class. Who knew that when Captain Klari arrived from the Garrison to help us with a problem that she would bring with her the man who would become our son-in-law. But then I should have known, it was obvious from the moment they met that they were in love. It is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love that hits fast and stays with you forever, I know this because it is what I have had with my beautiful wife from the moment I saw her." Keith smiled down at Allura before continuing. "Tristan is the kind of man any family would be lucky to have join them. He is a good man, smart, kindhearted, and as devoted to Arus as he is to Cady. Our family is richer for having him and out planet is safer.
"It's never easy for a man to give his daughter to another man, but I know that Cady has made the best decision of her young life by choosing to marry Tristan just as I know the two of them will have a long, happy life together. So I ask you all to raise your glasses to toast Cady and Tristan on this, their wedding day, and for all the happy days they have ahead of them."
As soon as everyone lowered their glasses, Gideon checked his watch and whispered to Declan. "Three minutes, twenty-seven seconds."
"Wow, pretty short," Declan murmured as he pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket. "Would it go to the person who guessed three minutes or the one who picked three minutes and thirty?"
Declan ran his finger down the chart. "L.C."
Declan nodded. "L.C."
They both looked up to see Lance sitting at the table in front of them rubbing his thumb against his forefinger and middle finger.
"He knows he won," Declan whispered, slipping the list back in his pocket.
Owen was the next to stand. "For those of you who don't know me, which is pretty much all of you, I'm Owen McIntyre, Tristan's oldest friend. We were all surprised when, years ago, Tristan signed up to join the Garrison and train to become a pilot. Everyone who knew him just assumed he was going to become a lawyer. But we have all quickly learned that becoming a pilot with the Garrison was the best thing that ever happened to him because he met Cady. I have known him for about fifteen years and I have never seen him this happy. He has met and fallen in love with an amazing woman and settled on this incredible planet. While I will miss having my best friend around, I'm so happy to know he has found where he belongs. Cady, Tristan here's to you. Good luck in what I know will be a long, happy life together."
Vince was the next to stand, offering his best wishes to the couple and to announce to the guests that he and Josie were incredibly proud of their son and their new daughter. Assuming this was the last speech, Allura signaled to the staff that they could start serving the meal. But before they got too far, Declan stood, tapping the side of his glass with a spoon. Cady groaned quietly as Gideon stood and joined his brother.
"It's not every day a man watches his older sister get married," Declan began.
"And we could not let this special occasion pass without letting Cady know how much she means to us," Gideon added.
Cady looked at her parents, a look of nervous confusion crossing her face. Allura looked just as perplexed, but Keith smiled and winked at her.
With a flourish, Gideon reached into his pocket and whipped out a folded piece of paper. Slowly, he unfolded it and cleared his throat. "On this, her wedding day, we want to wish our dear Cady the best of luck."
"For in Tristan she has found quite the young buck," Declan said.
A few people gasped at their impertinence, but more people seemed amused.
"She followed our mother's example and married a military man."
"She saw him in his uniform and became a big fan."
"But does Tristan really know what he's in for?"
"Being married to a Princess can be quite a chore."
"She has a lot of responsibilities and work to do."
"Like getting her hair done and nails painted too."
"Classes and meetings will take up her free time."
"While he's piloting and fighting interplanetary crime."
"But despite all that, we know they're the perfect match."
"Because a handsome, young pilot is always a good catch."
"And so we wish them many, many years of love."
"And lots of happiness."
"Declan, that doesn't rhyme."
"Don't blame me, I wanted to get a mime."
Gideon lifted his glass. "Here's to our amazing sister and her patient new guy."
"We'll end this now before our mother starts to cry."
Chuckles and a light applause filled the air as the twins wrapped up their speech.
Cady stood and went to the twins, hugging them both. "You guys are too much."
"Yeah, well, we thought we should try and do something nice," Declan said gruffly.
Cady took the piece of paper out of Gideon's hand and gave it to Tristan to put in his pocket. "I'm keeping that, I just loved it."
"Congratulations, Cady," Gideon said thickly, returning her hug.
Allura nodded to the staff, signaling to them that they could start serving the food.
The party went on for several hours. After the meal was served, eaten, and cleared away, the cake was cut and served, followed by dancing. There was a moment of panic for Allura when Brina caught the bouquet and an even more uncomfortable moment for Gideon when he caught the garter. Smiling, Brina handed the bouquet to Lynnai and pushed her toward her boyfriend.
As the evening turned in to night, more and more people wished the young couple good luck and left. Tori was curl up under a table, sound asleep, Nicky and Sky had sneaked off three times to check on the dogs who had been playing together, but were now asleep. The number of couples on the dance floor were dwindling. Cady and Tristan were still there, their arms wrapped around each other, dancing slowly. Allura and Keith had joined Lance, Darcy, Pidge, Becca, Hunk, Paton, Sven and Romelle at a table where they were all sitting back, sipping champagne and talking.
"I can't believe its over," the Queen sighed, watching her daughter and son-in-law dance.
"It was a beautiful ceremony," Becca said, shifting her sleeping one-year-old son to her other shoulder.
"I wonder who'll be next," Hunk said, tilting his head in the direction of the group gathered near the dance floor.
Lance looked up and saw his daughter talking to the twins and their girlfriends. As he watched, Erik appeared at her side and handed her a glass. She smiled and thanked him, the look that passed between the two of them was unmistakable and blatantly obvious.
"I tink ve all know de answer to dat," Sven murmured.
"They're completely devoted," Darcy whispered to her husband.
Lance lowered his voice so only she could hear him. "I know. Part of me wants to hate him for hurting her, but you can't miss what the two of them have together."
"He's a good man who's made some mistakes he's trying to set right."
"Yeah, mistakes he made with our daughter."
Darcy looked over and watched as Erik slid his arm around Sky's waist and pulled her close. "I think she's forgiven him."
"It isn't polite to whisper at the table," Romelle teased.
Sven nodded. "Especially if your whispering concerns our son."
"It does," Lance admitted.
Romelle sighed and watched as her son laughed and pressed a kiss to Sky's temple. He was a different man, his handsome face marked by unfixable scarring and he was never without a pair of tinted glasses to hide his blind eye. He still wasn't as carefree and outgoing as he had once been, but he was getting better. The more time he spent with Sky, the more his old self came out. "She's good for him."
Darcy smiled at her friend. "They're good for each other."
Cady wrapped her arms around Tristan's neck and laid her head on his shoulders. She was exhausted, but at the same time felt as though she could stay here for hours, gently swaying to the music with her husband.
"We can call it a night if you want," Tristan whispered.
"I don't want this night to end," she sighed.
He chuckled softly. "I know, honey, but we have an early flight in the morning and most of the party has already left."
She tilted her head back and looked up at him. "You just want to get me in bed."
"Yes." He leaned down and kissed her. "I do."
Cady looked around and saw that the remaining guests were family and close friends. If she was going to be honest, she was completely worn out and the idea of crawling in to bed with her new husband was just too tempting. "Okay then, let's start the rounds of good byes."
"Yes." She kissed him. "Really."
Allura and Josie both wiped away a few tears as they kissed their children good bye. With the early flight out to Terra, this would be the last Cady and Tristan would see of their families for quite a while.
Cady dabbed at her eyes with the handkerchief Tristan handed her as they walked down the hall, away from their party. "I can't believe its over," she cried as they approached her door.
Smiling, Tristan leaned down and swept his wife up in his arms, preparing to carry her over the threshold. "It's like I told you before, sweetheart, its not over, its just beginning."
AN: Yeah, I know, this was a super long chapter, but I had said there was only one chapter left and I wanted to stick to that. There will be another short fluffy story about Sky and Erik that will parallel RedLion's story about the twins, but it will be a while before I get that out. For now I have a Harry Potter story to finish.
I hope you had as much fun reading this story as I had writing it. Thanks for all the great reviews and support, you guys rock!