I'd like to dedicate this chapter to the pastor who presided over my childhood church, who introduced me to great works of fiction like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia before they were movie phenomena; and who taught me the truth of the ultimate happy ending.
Thanks and preview notes for the sequel are below, as always.
Epilogue -The Wedding-
The wedding was a small, quiet affair. It was attended by the oddest array of creatures Pastor Gordon Houser had ever seen… Or would have ever seen, if he'd had the ability to see. He'd been blind since birth, but his other senses picked up on the strangeness of the crowd at this particular gathering.
One deep and gravely but very polite voice came from far above the others, as if the speaker were towering over everyone else. Another voice, with a light accent he couldn't quite place, was so soft he wasn't sure whether a male or female was speaking and he was certain he smelled… rabbit fur? Not an unpleasant scent, to be sure, but familiar, like his daughter's pet, Clover. He shook his head. Perhaps the man?… kept a pet rabbit, and its scent had rubbed off on him.
Circus folk, he thought. That's what the young woman said. They're performers, and don't want a lot of fuss. Well, they won't have to worry about me staring. He chuckled a little at his own private joke.
The Good Lord has created so many strange and wonderful beings to take part in His creation, such a variety of people in so many shapes, sizes, colors and shades. It's wonderful that these two have found love. Their exteriors should not matter. They don't matter to an old blind man such as myself. I'm blessed to witness this ceremony. It's the obvious love the young couple share that the Lord will bless today.
It had truly been the strangest pre-marital counseling session he'd ever experienced. The young man had been nervous, yet so sincere. He wouldn't shake the Pastor's hand. The bride-to-be had clasped his fingers gently and explained that her groom was uncomfortable with being touched. The Pastor had said he understood.
He talked to them long enough to be certain they were committed to one another. They had the blessing of the young man's father. Such a nice gentleman, with a soothing voice. He would have made an amazing teacher, thought Pastor Houser.
The young woman's family was never mentioned. He didn't pry. So many families these days were estranged. Perhaps her family disapproved of her choice of husband, not surprising if he was a circus performer. It transpired that the boy's father would give away the bride. A slight deviation from tradition to be sure, but she was adamant. He heard a slight quaver of emotion in the father's voice when he agreed. Pastor Houser was certain the young woman was being welcomed into a family who would cherish her. Yes, this would be one of the strangest; and one of the happiest, ceremonies he'd ever officiated.
Austin drew the veil down over her face, fidgeting nervously with the simple ring of flowers she wore in her hair. Her dress was simple, with a v-cut neckline and a shorter-than usual hem, appropriate to an outdoor ceremony. Elegant beading touched the bodice and dripped down the skirt, sparkling in the sunlight. She'd done some of the bead-work herself, embroidering kanji into the skirt and hem of the dress, symbols for home, family, love and hope in delicate orange and green threads.
April helped her arrange her hair, pulling it back into a braid and leaving tendrils to hang in little wisps around her face. The style felt odd to Austin, but it was worth the time it had taken to put it in when she saw the look on Raphael's face.
He whistled. "Wow, Austin. It's a good t'ing yer marryin' my little bro, or I might hafta steal ya offa him," he said with a cheeky grin.
Austin blushed furiously. "You might try," she teased. "But I like blue eyes."
Raphael's chuckle rumbled in his chest. "Fer you, Doll, I'd change m' eyes ta blue."
Austin smiled shyly and hooked her arm through his elbow. He escorted her out to where he and Casey had set up a long carpet and a few dozen folding chairs for their guests. Austin's breath caught in her chest as she saw the full extent of the boys' handiwork.
Raphael and Casey had built a simple but elegant arbor for the actual ceremony to take place under. Raphael had carved delicate roses into the wood and Donatello and Leonardo had spent hours painting the leaves and flowers so that the entire piece looked like a rose bower. Casey'd finished it off with a coat of varnish that made the painted flowers look as if they were sparkling with dew.
The Pastor waited there, along with a very nervous and pale young turtle. His brothers, wearing their traditional groomsmen clothing, backed him up. Leo was smiling proudly and standing close to Mike, as if to keep him from bolting. April was there, too, in her simple orange satin bridesmaid dress, flanked by Angel and Casey's mother.
At the beginning of the carpet, Splinter stood waiting for her. Raph led her to Splinter's side. He leaned over to give her a quick kiss on the cheek.
"You look great, Sis," he whispered, before hurrying to join Don and Leo at the altar.
Shyly, Austin let the rat take her hand. The ronin Usagi played a haunting melody on a wooden flute as the pair made their way down the aisle.
Michelangelo swallowed hard, his blue eyes going wide as his bride-to-be approached.
"Wow," she heard him whisper.
Austin smiled in spite of herself. He looked so handsome in his traditional Japanese Hakama. Austin knew she'd broken with tradition, opting for a Western-style wedding dress rather than the more traditional Japanese kimono, but Splinter had given his blessing, telling her that her choice represented a blending, a uniting of old and new, and was appropriate to their union.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…" droned the minister.
Michelangelo fidgeted, and Austin took his hand, giving it a squeeze. He smiled into her eyes, his movements stilling.
"You sure about this, Babe?" he whispered.
"What do you think?" she asked with a grin.
The day seemed to go on and on. The vows were exchanged, and the golden bands slipped on to one another's hands. Michelangelo's golden band was thick with rounded edges, made large to fit over his finger. Austin's was a delicate thing sporting three orange amethysts that sparkled and danced in the light, nesting neatly around the heart-shaped emerald of her engagement ring. Orange and green. In some odd way, the colors seemed to belong together.
There was food and music and laughter and games as the friends and family spent a rare day in the sun, just being together and enjoying the happy day. The fireflies were blinking in the yard and trees surrounding the farmhouse when the last of the guests said their goodbyes and left to make their various journeys home. Finally the Hamato clan, including April and Casey, piled into the Battle Shell for their trip back to the city. Despite Mike and Austin's assurances that they should stay the night, the others knew the newlyweds should enjoy their first night together in peace and privacy.
Austin snuggled close to Mikey's plastron, feeling as if life could not be sweeter, and wishing the moments they shared could go on and on. For his part, Michelangelo wrapped his arms around his wife, marveling again at her softness. She sighed deeply, leaning into him, but now that the moment had come, Mikey's trepidation made him shy. He hugged her, nuzzling his face against her shoulder. Austin sat up, staring into his eyes.
He blinked. "What?" he asked.
"You… are gorgeous," she said with a smile. Her fingers moved to the top of his plastron, and she explored the sensitive skin there with gentle, caressing strokes. He wriggled.
"You're tickling me," he complained with a shy grin.
Austin giggled. She leaned forward, nuzzling against his neck, and replaced her fingers with gentle kisses that made him shiver again.
"Good," she said.
His chuckle rumbled in his chest, turning to a gasp when she nipped gently at his shoulder.
"Hey," he whispered. "No biting." He laid his hand over her head, letting her hair brush over his fingers. Another, colder shiver ran through him as a flash of memory ran through his mind. A cage, cold bars, shackles and a man on a stool, watching him.
"Are you ok?" she asked, lifting her head to gaze into his eyes.
Mikey smiled, remembering the times he'd asked her the same question.
"I will be," he said softly. "As long as you're with me."
"Oh, Mike." She reached up and touched his face, understanding bringing tears to her eyes.
"'s ok," he whispered.
Austin wrapped herself around him, drawing him close.
"No, it's not," she said softly. "He was wrong. You are Hamato Michelangelo. I love you. Do you just want to… snuggle?" She rubbed her fingers over the back of his neck, caressing, calming.
"I will understand," she whispered. "If you want to wait. If you just need… a teddy bear."
Warmth surged in Michelangelo's chest, driving out the chill. He wrapped his arms around her, drawing her as close as he could, letting her warmth and the softness of her skin against his as she nuzzled his shoulder chase away the memory.
"No," he said softly. "If you're ready, so am I. If… if you're sure."
Suddenly Austin pulled back, leaving Michelangelo chilled at the loss of contact. She was staring into his eyes with a determined look.
"What?" He whispered, a little bewildered.
She smiled into his eyes. Taking his hand in both of hers, she began kissing the tips of his fingers with delicate, feathery touches of her lips.
"I love you, Hamato Michelangelo. I love you here… and here… and here…" Her gentle exploring caresses lingered across his palm and wrist, making him gasp and sending shivers of pleasure racing down his spine. She slowly kissed her way up his arm to his face. She cradled his jaw in her hands, staring into his eyes.
"I love you. I want to be with you. Let me show you..." Her eyes sparkled with a hint of mischief and her gentle, teasing kisses continued, becoming more intense, more insistent, more intimate.
Michelangelo caught his breath and wrapped her up in his arms.
She really does love me…Oh, Austin, I love you, were the last coherent thoughts to cross his mind for the rest of the night.
~And they lived happily ever after... ~
(at least until the next fic.)
As always, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my beta-readers, raphfreak and 54Viruses. You gals ROCK OUT LOUD. Be sure, dear readers, to check out their many fine works of fiction and pester them unmercifully to update. ;)
And once again, I'd like to thank the readers and reviewers who've been so kind in their comments and so faithful in following these little stories. There's a saying, always be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is struggling with something. You all have been kinder than I can express.
I mean, seriously? I was worried about how this fic, being a romance, would go over, and it's closing out with over 375 reviews. O.O I truly don't know what to say.
So: Thank you!
krueger84 for giving the fic a chance in spite of the love scenes. ;)
DarkRose-Karma for hugging Mikey when he was down
TigerToa for calling Mike a "romantic" :)
ChizuMaehara for loving romance fics
Candlelight for gritting her teeth and jumping over the cliffs :)
Nightwatcher'sUnknownGirl for hysterical turtle dialogue in her reviews
Ramica for her detailed, thoughtful reviews and for making me laugh, calling Leo "baka" and Raph "King of the Bakas" LOL
yaoigirl22 for a nice review
54Viruses for beta-reading, cyber -chocolate, insanity and inspiration.
Polaris'05 for doing a happy dance on Leo's behalf, and for keeping the faith ;)
WoAiNiEdward for being impressed with Austin's honor
sabra jaguar for spawning plot bunnies with puns
Snowiweather for conversation and friendship, and threatening for Karai's life. LOL
Scribe of Turesa for asking for updates in every review. ;)
Kyaserin Marii for sweet reviews and for forgetting to breathe heh
AlyssaFelixa for wanting to take down Karai
mcmario for wanting to whump Leo heheh
AKA for asking for quick updates
recyclablefoxx for enjoying the suspense
stylin-cute for liking the story
MelodyWinters for sharing her AMAZING turtle art with the rest of us! (check her page for commissioned art!)
Lunamione7 for making the work that went into this fic worthwhile by becoming a TMNT fan :-D
Lynzyb for asking for updates
xLannyx for an avalanche of fun and detailed reviews which made my day
YoTicTac13 for coming home from vacation. :)
Diva Danielle for checking out the fic
Casey for being awesome :)
sait4soreyes for enjoying the 'verse
Fantasyfan4ever for liking Mikey and Austin together
Scotia60 for wanting Aducci and Barre to wish they were dead lol And for an awesome fic of her own
Nala162024 for laughing at quotes :)
LuvlyLady for the favorites addition
AJsHellCat for melting into a puddle of goo over Klunk's fluff.
Puldoh for questions
Leivi, for the kindest and most complimentary review I've ever received. Thank you.
And finally, to the creators and owners of TMNT and their respective characters, a huge, heart-felt thank you for the joy they've brought to my ongoing childhood.
I hope you'll all look for the next book in this series Raph & Ann. You can find full summaries of the books in this series on my profile.
Until next time!
Rejoicing in the day,
PS One last time for good measure: Of course I do not own the TMNT and have made no profit of any kind from this work of fan-fiction, except for the joy of sharing the characters I love with others.