Dedication: For georgiamagnolia. I was happy writing this series for myself, but her feedback and enjoyment made it 1000x's better. Love ya!


Phil stared at the flickering light of the three unity candles for Jack and Emily's wedding burning on Jack's dining room table. They needed to burn for exactly five minutes the night before, so that they would light easily and quickly for the ceremony. Phil couldn't seem to look away as they burned.

Ella has especially designed them and a friend of hers from art school had created them. Unlike most unity candles these were not pure white, nor were the individual candles single candles. Instead the candles that were to represent Emily and Jack were three separate candles braided together to create one. On each there were two white sections and one brightly colored section and each part held great symbolism. Ella explained that she had designed them to represent the family and people that Emily and Jack had come from. Each of the pure white sections stood for the parents that they had lost. For Emily they were for her mother who had died of breast cancer when she was barely five and the stepfather who had helped raised her and had been shot in an attempt on his friend's life. For Jack they were for his mothers; the one that had died trying to protect him from his father and the one that had died during a cowardly terrorist attack on Washington DC. On each the third, center brightly colored piece of wax represented the unique mixture of people that had been a part of their lives and formed their biological and spiritual families. The larger unity candle, which would be light from the smaller individual candles, was colored the same way with swirls of reds and greens and purples and blues and blacks and just about every shade in between. On the side of the unity candle "Emily and Jack" was molded in pure white.

They were beautifully and perfect for them.

Ella interrupted his study of the flickering candles as she breezed in the area and blew out the candles. Smiling up at him she signed, You sure you like them, Daddy?

I love them, El. They are beautiful, but more importantly, they came from your heart. Mommy would love them.

She'd be so happy to know that Jack and Em were getting married, Ella's eyes held the familiar sadness that she showed whenever she talked about her mother.

Phil pulled his daughter into a hug for several sections before her released her to sign, I'm sure she knows and I'm sure she is very happy. Ella nodded and brushed a tear from her eye as Phil kissed her forehead, Where's your brother?

Ella just pointed up and Phil nodded before taking her hand and leading her topside.

When Jack Mannion had passed away a few years before, he had surprised everyone by leaving his houseboat to Jack Brander. One of the many things that the Jacks had shared was a love of the sea and boats, and Jack wasted no time moving into the houseboat. Fortunately, the girl he was marrying had been raised by a man with a similar love of the sea and Emily was eager to live on the water. The last few months leading up to the wedding Phil had been teasing her about marrying Jack for his boat, which he knew was far from the truth.

Jack was standing in the pale light of the marina watching the rippling waves slap against the hull of the boat, lost completely in thought.

"Whatcha thinking about," Phil asked quietly to get his son's attention.

Turning, Jack signed as he spoke, "Tomorrow. I'm trying to remember everything from the rehearsal. I've got a funny feeling I'm going to mess it up."

"It won't matter," Phil also signed as he spoke. "When I married Mommy I called her Nancy Amanda in our vows."

Wasn't Mommy's name Nancy Elizabeth, Ella asked.

"Yes," Phil laughed slightly. "It didn't matter though; we were still married and very happy and Mommy teased me about it for years."

"Do you think Emily and I will be as happy and you and Ma were, Pop?"

Phil moved closer to his son, "I think you will be happier."

"Thanks, Pop," Jack bent slightly to hug his father and lay his head on his father's shoulder.

Phil reached an arm out to invite Ella into the hug as well. When she snuggled against him and under her brother's arm, he gently lifted her face so that she could read his lips, "We've had a lot of changes over the years; you two coming into our lives, divided families, new friends that have become like family, losing Grandpa and Grandma, losing Uncle Temple and Grappy Jack, losing Mommy," Phil paused to swallow the lump in his throat, "now gaining Emily and her family, but one thing has remained. Us and our love. No matter what, no matter where and no matter who, we will always be family. You will both always be my kids. I will always love. Understood?"

Jack's head nodded against his shoulder and Ella buried her head into his chest as she nodded as well. Standing there holding his children, Phil Brander could have sworn the lights glowed a little brighter and the sounds grew a little dimmer. The scent of Nancy's perfume filled his senses and a sensation of two warm arms wrapped around his shoulder.

Yes, they would be family. Forever.