EPILOGUE

AFTER THE WEDDING

Mercedes

Mercedes McQueen spent the next three years scouring the country dating some of Britain's finest, most eligible bachelors before deciding that she didn't actually need a man to make her feel satisfied, she just needed to find some other outlet for her womanly charms.

That's why she decided to start up her own wedding planner business. She found that seeing all of the nauseatingly happy couples was enough to put her off getting married for life...until she met the love of her life. Not a wealthy bachelor or a sugar daddy with enough cash to make it worth her while marrying for anything other than love.

No, the love of her life was a fun loving Irish builder who whistled at her one day and ended up with more than just an eyeful when she went right over and gave him a right hook to the eye and a great big smacker to the lips. She found that this man managed to do something that no other man had ever been able to....he turned her pouting frown into a smile....every single time.

Jacqui

Jacqui Hutchinson McQueen found that Craig never gave her an excuse to dislike him, so he was able to keep his balls very firmly intact, something John Paul was eternally grateful for. On the contrary, whenever she came to stay at his South London home she was treated like royalty. What made it better was that he was a sucker for a pair of baby blues and no one....except maybe her little brother, worked them better than baby Max, so she found that not only did she and Tony have regular lodgings but they also had a very eager babysitter who was more than happy to stay in and make babytalk while she went out and let her hair down.

Ben

Ben never came back to Hollyoaks, though he did send his brother a text apologising for trying to steal his fiancee. He also sent Michaela a text saying if she ever changed her mind, she had his number. She deleted the number and told James all about it. He also tried to contact John Paul on numerous occasions, once even turning up on the doorstep to his London home. However, on peering through the letter box and hearing the moans of pleasure coming from inside he realised he didn't stand a chance of getting his ex back from the likes of Craig Dean so went to drown his sorrows at one of London's notorious strip clubs.

He met Sarah Barnes that night when she was working the pole during the eleven to two spot and it was lust at first sight. Theirs was a whirlwind romance that lasted a whole week until she cleaned out his bank account and broke up with him for Luscious Lydia the Lap dancing Lesbian, telling Ben that he just wasn't man enough for her. Unfortunately for Ben, the restaurant it happened in had CCTV and the whole thing was captured on camera and broadcast on youtube, finally making Ben a household name...for all the wrong reasons.

James & Michaela

James' friendship with Craig went from strength to strength, the pair of them getting together most Thursday nights to go running or out for a pint, leaving Michaela and John Paul to sort out their differences once and for all. James continued to adore Michaela and soon became a father to two little gems, both conceived during their fortnight of make-up sex after the wedding. He even took on a manager to oversee his company while he took the first three years off to look after their twins and everyday he felt like the luckiest man on Earth.

Michaela Reynolds-McQueen went on to become a successful feature writer for Alright magazine, one of the country's top Celebrity Entertainment magazines. Her first big break was to cover the Civil Partnership between two of Britain's youngest, brightest, most successful night club owners.

She spend Thursday nights with her brother, watching him dote on his Godchildren, his eyes filled with a warmth and happiness she'd never seen matched, except maybe in his partners brown eyes. It took them a while to get back on track but with a little push in the right direction from both Craig and James, they were able to let bygones be bygones.

Spike & Darren

Spike became London's next big thing, DJing in Soho's hottest, trendiest, sexiest club run by one of Britain's Top Ten young business men of the year. He spent his Friday and Saturday nights working the decks and lifting the crowds into a frenzy before going back to his plush London flat that his partner had decorated, him being one of the interior designers of a day time TV show. He and Darren had hit it off that first night and it was duly noted by both Craig and John Paul that they were both more than four hours late to the reception. Spike was right, Darren's shirt did look better on his floor, as did his boots and his jeans and his underwear. Something that had happened regularly during their three years together.

Spike got over his crush for Craig, quickly realising that perfection comes in all kinds of guises, including ones with a sarcastic wit that matched his own and packaged with a garish dress sense and unique style all of his own. Craig Dean and Darren Osbourn may only have been step brothers and cousins twice removed but Spike found they did both have one major thing in common, they both had a firm arse that could crack nuts.

As well as becoming well respected and revered in their chosen fields, they also became something of a gay iconic couple, invited to launch parties for style magazines and music magazines alike and were often pictured out and about around London's party scene, when not spending the nights curled up by the fire with their dog Bitsy and a nice cup of tea.

Craig Dean

Craig Dean quit the business but didn't quit business. He put his degree to good use, investing his and John Paul's savings into a run down night club on the outskirts of Soho. Within three months of buying it, the doors were open to the general public and it fast became the most talked about club in the area.

Craig found he had a knack for finding people their perfect partners and with his connections and background he ran a sideline business from their club Destiny. Tuesday nights were reserved for speed dating, singles nights and fun nights, all organised with the sole intention of finding lonely singles their perfect match. It was a huge success.

Two years later Craig was sixth on the Times list of Britain's Top young business men of the year and was crowned hottest young business man by one of the UKs leading womens magazines. He employed Spike to DJ on Fridays and Saturdays giving him and John Paul plenty of opportunities to 'get to know each other better' and Sundays were reserved just for them. Picnics in the park or peaceful days in front of the TV became the highlights of his week. Because he was with John Paul.

John Paul McQueen

John Paul McQueen spent those remaining two days after the wedding convincing Craig that he was the best man for him, the only man for him and though Craig said it didn't matter and that they could start over, John Paul continued to show him just how much he really meant to him. If he hadn't been convinced before then he certainly was by the time they arrived back in London.

Within the week he'd given notice on his flat, choosing instead to move closer to the love of his life, his own personal 'man for hire'. He'd thought about asking to move in with Craig but he found that he didn't need to, he spent most of his time at Craig's flat or the private rooms at Destiny anyway. He bought gifts and wined and dined him, giving in to Craig's demands and splitting the bill in half, taking great pleasure in treating Craig as his lover and making sure never....ever to give him money, for anything. Craig found it funny, until the day he needed to get some milk and found he'd used the last of his change, asking John Paul if he had any. His boyfriend had taken a note out and was handing it to him when he realised what he was doing. In the end Craig had talked him around and assured him that there were times that he could hand over money and that smashing the coppers jar really wasn't the only option. After that, money really was no longer an issue.

John Paul kept his high profile job at Beatz magazine though he chose to go freelance, meaning that he could pick and choose which gigs to cover, making sure always to leave Sundays free. If he was working either a Friday or Saturday, Craig often joined him, finding he had more of a thirst for music than he first thought. He quit his job at Infusion though, as it didn't really look good to be working for the competition, especially when you run your own nightclub and you've taken most of their customers with you.

Instead he occasionally covered for Spike or joined him in the booth, making the crowd go wild that both of London's hottest DJs were playing in the club together.

Craig, John Paul, Spike and Darren regularly joined up to have a drink or go to gigs, the four of them fast becoming the most talked about 'celebrity' group in Britain. They didn't let it go to their heads though, the McQueens saw to that.

As for John Paul and Craig....

Two years to the day that they met, Craig found himself waking up on a Friday morning to a cold bed and a knock at the door. On opening it he was handed a package from a bike courier...an envelope and an ear piece. Smiling to himself he carried out the instructions in the envelope, getting himself ready before making his way downstairs. On exiting their building he met Martin, thanking him as he settled himself into the plush leather seat of their town car. Settling back he pushed the little buds into his ears, smiling when he heard the soft, velvety baritone of his lovers voice in his ears.

'Hey Craig, it's me....I know you're probably nervous and wondering what I'm doing but it's fine....nothing to be worried about, I just thought it might be nice to have some time away, just the two of us. Sorry I couldn't pick you up but I thought we could meet there....Martin has his instructions. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I can't wait to see you. Bye.

The message said not to get nervous but he couldn't help it. John Paul usually finished his message with an 'I love you' but he hadn't this time and that didn't sit well with Craig. He replayed the message over, listening intently to his lovers voice, closing his eyes as he let it wash over him. Before long they arrived at the airport, a private one on the outskirts of London. Martin drove the town car across the airfield to a small private plane that was set up for taking off, it's engines running, the steps leading into it's luxurious interior down. Warily but with a fission of excitement coursing through him, Craig made his way up the into the main body of the plane, settling himself into the seat, remembering how nervous he'd actually been the first time he'd met those blue eyes, almost like he knew that his life was changed....hopelessly, unconditionally, irrevocably changer forever.

"Champagne Sir?" Craig turned around with a grin, his eyes lighting up when they settled on John Paul holding two glasses of amber liquid in his hands, his blond hair disheveled and his blue eyes sparkling, a mixture of love and uncertainty shining in them. Craig took one and opened his mouth to speak but John Paul silenced him, resting his finger against the only pair of lips he'd had contact with in years.

"Craig....I love you" Craig nodded opening his mouth once more to return the sentiment. "I've loved you since the first time I laid eyes on you on that plane and I've never looked back since" he cleared his throat and took a gulp of the champagne that he held in his own hand. Craig couldn't resist reaching out and cupping the younger mans face, his thumb brushing over the surface of his lips, wiping away the moisture that the bubbly had left behind. Even when he crouched down next to Craig's seat and took the brunettes hand in his, Craig still didn't know where this was going. John Paul cleared his throat and licked his lips.

"Craig....I wanna be the one you're laughing with and going home with" he said sincerely, his hand squeezing Craig's fingers tightly as he fought to keep his emotions in check. "When I'm not with you I think about you all the time and then when I am with you, I feel like my heart is gonna burst" his voice cracked as he voiced the sentiments that he'd had in him since meeting Craig.

"I'm in love with you Craig....I'm in love with you...." he whispered looking at Craig, his eyes locking onto those brown pools, the ones that he'd wanted to dive into when he first met him.

"....Will you marry me?" he blurted out. Craig blinked and opened his mouth and then closed it again. Had he heard right? Marry him?...he thought John Paul was going to officially ask if he could move in with him.

"Yes....Yes!" he threw his arms around John Paul and was out of his seat in seconds, pulling the younger man to him, burying his face in his collar. Honestly, if anyone had said to Craig two years ago that he'd fall in love with a man, let alone want to spend the rest of his life with one, he'd have said they were nuts, now though, he couldn't imagine anything better.

1 YEAR LATER....

The week leading up to the 'McDean' civil partnership was a flurry of activity. Destiny had been closed for a refurbishment carried out by Darren and Spike meaning that Craig and John Paul didn't have to worry about the club, knowing it was left in safe hands. He did worry that the still loved up pair might Christen the office and DJ booth before he and John Paul got the chance though.

They opted for a low key, unconventional joint stag weekend in Blackpool, the McQueen ladies being invited too. To say it was a weekend to remember was an understatement, especially as they had the whole thing recorded.

The day of the wedding dawned, the sky filled with clouds, the sun fighting to make it's presence known. A small crew from 'Alright' magazine arrived but were ushered away from the main goings on by Michaela who kept her colleagues firmly in hand. Mercedes on the other hand was like a Sergeant Major as she issued her minions with various tasks, her sole aim for the day to keep her brother and his fiance as stress free as possible. In the spirit of tradition she'd seperated them last night and made them promise, against their better judgment not to see each other until the actual ceremony. John Paul was at his mums house with the rest of his family and Spike, having drawn the short straw whilst Craig was at the nearby hotel where the ceremony was to be held, getting ready with Darren and James, the pair of them still squabbling over who was officially Craig's best man, seeing as Spike was well in there with John Paul.

At the McQueen residence John Paul had already changed his shirt twice because he'd been perspiring so much in the first one and he'd spilt tea down the second one he was shaking so badly. Spike was getting a little nervous.

"Is everything okay? You aren't having last minute doubts are you?" John Paul snorted, his eyes wide as he looked at his long time friend.

"Doubts? No, at least I'm not...shit, what if he changes his mind?" Spike rolled his eyes as he attempted to fasten John Paul's tie.

"Please, he's as bad as you....you've been like a married couple since you met...no, scratch that, you've been like a married couple on honeymoon since you met. Craig's as besotted by you as you are by him, trust me."

John Paul did the whole limbering up thing before tugging at the lapels of his suit and letting the breath he'd been holding out. He went over to his drawer and took out the mahogany box containing the two mens platinum and wood partnership rings he'd chosen for himself and Craig. They were identical, with the same 2000 year old Thames wood inlaid in the centre, the only thing setting them apart being the inscriptions in the middle. He took them carefully from the box, holding them up to the light, passing the one that said ''Forever' to Spike for safe keeping whilst putting the 'Always' inscribed ring back in it's box to pass on to Darren or James.

He'd had a bit of a fight on his hands when he'd first told Craig that he wanted to get the rings because Craig wanted to have a say too but he'd eventually managed to persuade his lover that he'd already seen the perfect ones and that it would really make him happy if he could please get them. In the end they'd compromised, deciding that if John Paul chose the rings then Craig could pick their honeymoon destination. Not surprisingly he'd opted for Mauritius, telling John Paul all about the coral reefs, explaining wistfully how he'd thought about the sea there when he'd first set eyes on his 'date'.

"You ready then?" Spike asked, holding the door to their wedding car open. John Paul looked around and grinned.

"Hell yeah".

In the ceremony room Craig pulled at the cuffs of his jacket, straightening his tie for about the twentieth time.

"You don't have to do this if you're having second thoughts you know" Darren said leaning in. James shook his head, glaring at him. Darren held his hands out like feeling thoroughly chastised. "What? I'm just saying".

"Well don't" James berated, looking at Craig, his brows furrowed.

"Are you alright?" Craig turned his head and met the two pairs of concerned eyes, grinning.

"Never better...you two look a bit flustered though, you sure you're okay?" Craig closed his eyes, willing the minutes to go by faster. The only thing making him nervous was the waiting, he just wanted to see John Paul and take his hand and make everything legal. It was a dream come true. Hearing a commotion outside he turned, his gaze settling on Myra and Jacqui holding Max's hand as they entered the room, taking the seats directly behind where John Paul would stand. He raised his hand in a wave and they gave him a thumbs up, Jacqui in particular already sat with a hankie at the ready.

Mercedes came in next, armed with a clip board and pen, chewing the tip between her bright red lips. She gave Craig a wink as she ushered in Michaela and the magazine crew, telling them in no uncertain terms that the actual wedding was a family affair and that they had five minutes to take the before shots before they had to 'get lost', her exact words.

Craig straightened his tie again, licking his lips as he watched their various family and friends filter in. He could hear Darren and James chatting, trying to decide which of them would go first with their best man speeches and he didn't have the heart to tell them that it'd already been decided that Spike would have that honour. Mercedes heels clicked across the polished flooring as she got the last of the journos and cameramen out, just in time as the Minister stepped forward. Father Kieron hadn't been able to carry out the actual duties but he was there to watch them on their big day, sitting between Michaela and Dominic.

Suddenly a hush descended on the room and Craig's heart leapt into his mouth, the butterflies in his tummy flying into an absolute frenzy as he faced forwards, the hairs standing up on the back of his neck, waiting until John Paul was next to him before looking up. He found himself smiling as John Paul took his position, giving him a little nudge with his elbow as he took his position.

Craig turned his head to see John Paul's cobalt eyes already fixed on him and he licked his lips, his eyes widening when he saw his lovers gaze rest there. Dropping his hands to his sides Craig took hold of John Paul's, smoothing his thumb across the surface of his knuckles before bringing them to his lips, his smile brushing across his lovers fingers. The Minister cleared her throat and smiled at the two of them before looking out at their friends and loved ones behind them.

"Thank you all for joining us in celebration of the love and pledge of partnership between John Paul and Craig...."

....... "John Paul and Craig, you have exchanged vows and rings as symbols of your lifelong commitment to each other, it gives me great pleasure to tell you that you are now, officially, partners in life..... you may...."

Before the Minister had chance to finish what she was saying John Paul swept Craig into his arms, dipping his head and taking his partners lips with his own in a relatively chaste kiss, one that held lots of promise of things to come. As he settled him back down amidst claps and cheers from his family he bent down, whispering close to Craig's ear.

"I love you Craig Dean" John Paul gushed, stepping out of the embrace, his heart swelling with the love he felt for the man by his side. Craig grinned.

"Why wouldn't you" he returned, pulling his lover towards him and kissing him again.

The End x

Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it

Nicky xx