Disclaimer: I own none of the characters from Strangers in Paradise, they all belong to Terry Moore. This story contains spoilers for the last issues of SiP, as well as simplified summaries of certain plot lines.

Happily Ever After

Mary Beth Baker, more commonly known as Tambi, had never really expected a happy ending for herself. People in her line of work lived fast and died young, rarely leaving a identifiable corpse. Especially with everything that had happened in her life.

Working for someone like Darcy Parker had shown her the worst of people, and gave her a very good idea how low one could sink. Even after she finally broke free, shooting Darcy and helping her half-sister take over then disassemble the crime lord's empire, she had jumped into a kind of government service, throwing herself and a hand picked team of operatives into death defying situations.

What changed all of that was one man, really. David Qin, who had been Darcy's younger brother, had become deathly ill. At first Tambi was only interested in carrying on the connection between her family and the Parkers, and had paid for his treatment out of a kind of family obligation. But in the end she grew to care for him, and his dying brought her back into the lives of her sister, her sister's lover and one other person...

"You nervous?" Katchoo Choovanski asked, the blonde artist reaching out to remove Tambi's sunglasses from the top of her head. Katchoo and Tambi were different in many ways, but the blonde hair and the shape of her face marked her as kin.

"Of course I'm nervous," Tambi growled back, taking the sunglasses back and sliding them back into place, "I can't believe I agreed to this."

"Sorry," Francine Peters-Choovanski said sheepishly, the slightly taller black haired woman standing nearby, "I think it was Katchoo and I getting married in Hawaii that sparked this whole thing off."

"Sure, I'll just blame you too," Tambi muttered, but her heart wasn't really in it.

Katchoo and Francine had been through their own kinds of hell, so she could relate. While Tambi had been a bodyguard and enforcer, Katchoo had at first been a prostitute, then a lover of the despicable Darcy. Breaking free after a time, she eventually found her way back to a old friend of hers, Francine, unknowingly dragging unfinished business into her friend's life.

Tambi threw a look at Francine, taking in the busy, good natured woman who seemed to fit so well at Katchoo's side. Francine had survived a near miss shooting, an abduction by Tambi herself, and all the strains a secretive, almost paranoid Katchoo could put on their relationship, but they seemed to come together again and again. While Tambi wouldn't say something so hokey as they were made for each other, they DID seem to give the other what they most needed.

"Do I look all right?" Tambi found herself asking, faintly surprised at the sudden nervousness she was feeling. She had killed in cold blood, survived fire fights and face down the head of Internal Revenue, yet she was almost frightened now.

Francine smiled as she reached out to straighten Tambi's collar, "You look fine." She looked over at Katchoo, "I'd better check on our other friend. Keep her from bolting, 'kay?"

"Will do," Katchoo threw a joking salute.

"Very funny," Tambi growled.

Katchoo just smirked, "You know, she's right. You DO sound just like a teddy bear."

Tambi rolled her eyes, "Don't you start."

Dropping her voice a bit Katchoo asked, "You really all right with all this?"

"Damned if I know," Tambi admitted, "I never planned any of this."

"Falling in love is never planned," Katchoo smiled at her wryly as she continued, "believe me, I know."

"Heh," Tambi smiled slightly in acknowledgment. "After David dropped all those bombshells in his will I went looking for her because I needed her for something, but as we worked together..." she trailed off.

"Something happened between you," Katchoo acknowledged, "Francine and I saw it when we met after your fight with the IRS."

Tambi gave a smile that could almost be called goofy, "Yeah, and after that we just found ourselves staying together."

Katchoo gave Tambi a thoughtful gaze, "So, do you love her? Because once you go through with this, it's gonna hurt."

Tambi sighed, running a hand through her long blonde hair. "Yeah, I do," she admitted, "though I still don't see what she sees in me."

"You and Francine, you both have that problem," Katchoo sighed. She gave Tambi a gentle punch on the shoulder, "You're strong, capable and smart. Not to mention good looking. What's not to like?"

"She's different," Tambi insisted.

"And you and I both know how many surgeries went into that."

Tambi glared at Katchoo, her expression honestly angry as she said, "That's not what I meant!" Getting her temper reigned in she continued, "She's so kind and warm. Even with all the shit in her life, she still loves and cares for people so deeply."

Katchoo nodded slightly, "Sorry." After a moment she continued, "You and I, we're both wounded and scarred..."

"Yeah," Tambi agreed softly.

"She knows what she's getting into," Katchoo reassured her, "she's like Francine in that way. Some part of her needs you, scars and all."

Tambi thought about it, nodding to herself just slightly.

"Now," Katchoo reached up to straighten her sister's outfit carefully, "you need to get your jacket on."

"It's time?" Tambi's eyes widened slightly.

"Just about," Katchoo held out the black cloth with a slight smile.

Tambi shrugged into the black coat, matching the pants and tie she wore. Settling it into place she looked quite handsome, not manly but more gently butch. "All right," she wiped slightly sweaty palms with a napkin Katchoo provided, "I'm ready."

"Then let's go," Katchoo said as they headed out of the room in the back of the church.

The center area was bustling with people, friends of the past few years all gathered in one place. Men and women whispered quietly as they walked by, offering smiles of encouragement and gestures of support. Up by the altar a older priest smiled in greeting as they took their positions, Katchoo slightly behind Tambi as the best man.

"You can do it," Cherry mouthed silently from her seat, giving Tambi a thumbs up.

"How are you holding up?" the fatherly man asked kindly, his eyes twinkling in a old fashioned way.

"I'm fine," Tambi responded, smiling back a bit reluctantly.

The music started up, and Tambi stiffened visibly. "No running," Katchoo murmured, taking her arm and squeezing gently.

Tambi gave her a scowl, "I was not going to run."

"Sure..." Katchoo smiled.

The two of them emerged from another part of the church, Francine following slightly behind the bride as they advanced up the center aisle. She was a vision in white, despite her protests that she couldn't wear that color, the wedding dress carefully cut to be just a bit more sexy than usual. Tambi gulped as she felt herself start to sweat for a reason other than nervousness, a smile tugging at her lips as her future bride reached her side.

"Hi," Casey Femur smiled up at Tambi, her eyes practically glowing with joy.

"About time you got here," Tambi murmured.

Casey winked, "I've always liked to be fashionably late."

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to witness the joining of Casey Femur and Mary Beth Baker in holy matrimony..." the priest began.

"I OBJECT!" a voice rang out as a balding man burst in to the church, looking around him wildly.

"Freddie?!" all four women up front burst out.

Freddie Femur strode down the aisle, a brown trench coat flapping around him as he advanced on the wedding group. "I'm gonna kill him," Katchoo hissed.

"Get in line," Tambi scowled.

"What do you want?" Francine asked, looking at Freddie with annoyance.

"Nice to see you too," Freddie said wryly. He looked at Casey, "Not even sending me a invitation? I'm hurt."

"It got lost in the mail," Casey said with a pained look.

"Get out of this church before I fold you in half," Tambi said to him flatly.

"Actually, I came to deliver a gift," Freddie said a bit nervously. He handed a set of papers to Casey, "Never got the chance to, earlier."

"Eh?" Casey read them, "The divorce decree?"

"You're free and clear." Freddie smirked, "Can't have a past marriage get in the way of your relationship."

"I've been sleeping with a married woman?" Tambi blinked.

"I though we got that handled years ago..." Casey stammered.

Somewhat more seriously Freddie met their eyes, "I wish you two the best, okay?"

"Thanks," Tambi smiled wryly.

"Why don't you sit by my friends over there," Casey waved him over to a seat.

"Sure it's a good idea to put him by Rusty the showgirl?" Katchoo whispered.

"At least she'll keep Freddie distracted."

The rest of the ceremony was mostly a blur, and it took a poke in the side for Tambi to register that the priest had said, "You may now kiss the bride."

Flipping her own veil back Casey threw her arms around Tambi and kissed her, nearly tackling her to the ground with the force of her presence.

"Enthusiastic, isn't she?" Rusty murmured.

Freddie shook his head, "You have no idea."

With that Tambi and Casey ran laughing down the aisle, stopping outside only to give Casey a moment to toss her bouquet of flowers. "Try to bean Freddie with it," Tambi whispered.

"Heh," Casey chuckled and toss the flowers over her shoulder. "So where to now?" she asked as they climbed into Tambi's jeep.

"Honeymoon in Vegas," Tambi grinned as she pulled her sunglasses out of a pocket, "then wherever you want."

"I think I'm going to enjoy this," Casey sighed as she cuddled close to Tambi.

"Me too," Tambi hugged her as they sped off. 'Sometimes,' she mused, 'people like me do get happy endings.'

End

Notes: Inspired by sequences from the final SIP issue. My apologies for all the back story summaries in the fic, but I wanted to make sure non-fans wouldn't be totally lost. As I wrote most of this from memory there may be some errors here and there, sorry!