AN: Hi everyone. So this is the final part of my story. I really hope you've enjoyed reading. I'll be back later in the year with something new (if I can stay away from writing for that long!)
"There are people who say that you don't know what you've got until it's gone. I don't know about you, but I agree with them wholeheartedly. When something happens to someone you love, something terrible, your mind starts feeding you memories of your time with them. Perfect memories of moments you know you'll never, ever be able to repeat. And it's hard, because you know you have to try and be strong, but when you think about your life without the person you love, all you want to do is cry. And there are times when it gets so hard to imagine living a day without them that you wonder whether the world would even be a place you'd want to live any more.
And then there are the people who say that life is a journey, and that things are always changing. So, when something happens, you're supposed to go with it. You're supposed to accept that everything happens for a reason, and that things will get better with time. I have always tried to be positive in the face of tragedy, and I have tried my best to think about what these things mean for us. But sometimes, staying positive is really, really hard to do. I know that Naya…"
Heather stopped, stumbling at her name. Taking a deep breath, she wiped her eyes. Then, twisting the ring on her finger around and around, she somehow found the strength to speak again.
"Sorry. Naya wanted me to say happy things today. She wanted me to talk about the fun we'd had, the amazing adventures we've been on. But I don't think I could tell you about that. Not today. You see, life has a funny way of teaching us lessons. That's what I believe. Life puts us in situations to teach us. And I learnt three things through everything we've been through. "
Putting down her notecards, she picked up a glass of water and took a drink. Everyone sat before her, listening to her, stayed silent and patient.
"The first thing I learnt is that the people who love you the most will always be there for you. Even when the circumstances are bad, or inconvenient, they will be there. And they will show you love and kindness and comfort when you need it most, without question and without reason. So I feel that now would be a very appropriate time to say thank you to everyone who was there for me. For us. You are the most amazing people and I am so grateful that each and every one of you is a part of our lives.
The second thing I learnt is that life is precious. And life is… life is delicate. Living is the one thing we all take for granted, but there are things, events, even people in this world who threaten to take it from you in a split second. Life often isn't fair, and sometimes we question whether it's even worth living at all, but when you share your life with one other person and you become a part of theirs, you realise what it's all about. And life becomes precious all over again.
And that leads me on to my third lesson. Love. Love is the most important and special thing any of us can ever find. It comes in different forms, but at the root of it all it's a pretty simple thing. There is a person out there who is the other half of you. I found her a long time ago, but I didn't realise then that what I was feeling was so" Heather wiped her eyes, "so important. Naya is my one person. She is the other half of me, and she will always, always be the one I love. And that is a promise."
Picking up a glass of champagne, she looked up at her audience. "So, if you will stand and raise your glasses with me, I would like to propose a toast to the woman who made me who I am. To the woman who showed me what it really means to love. Naya."
Everyone rose out of their seats, glasses in hand. "Naya".
Jeannie pulled a tissue out of her purse and wiped her eyes dry. Taking out the packet, she offered it to Yolanda and Nickayla, who took a tissue each. "Beautiful" she mouthed up to her daughter, who smiled before sitting down and attending to her own tears.
Naya raised her own glass of non-alcoholic champagne, looking deep into Heather's eyes and smiling as she took a drink. Reaching out, she squeezed her hand. "Is it my turn now?" Heather nodded, gesturing for her to stand.
Naya stood tentatively, grateful for Heather's hand supporting her as she wobbled on unsteady feet. "Hi" she said with a smile, "One second please." Everyone laughed as they watched Naya sit back down and remove her shoes. Standing more confidently, she brushed down her ivory lace dress and smiled. "Sorry about that. Anyway, I guess it's my turn to say something to you all.
And what I want to tell you is how amazing Heather is. Heather, my new wife, is my guardian angel. She has been through some of the most trying times because of what happened to me. But she put on a brave face and she held my hand and she tried her best to make it seem as if everything was going to be okay. And I don't think anything will ever show you how grateful I am that you stuck by me. In sickness and in health."
Their guests laughed at her reference, as Heather beamed. "I don't really have a lot more to say other than the fact that I love you. You saved my life, twice upon a time" Heather wiped her eyes. Naya didn't bother, and just let the tears roll. "You saved my life and I love you."
Heather couldn't stop herself as she stood up next to her wife. Wrapping an arm around her waist, she used her free hand to wipe away Naya's tears before leaning in and capturing her lips in a soft kiss. "I love you too" she said, just loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.
Blood pooled around Naya's head as Heather approached her, running as fast as she could in her heels. 'Naya!' she whispered, crouching down and moving her fiancée onto her side to allow her to breathe better as she fitted. Shrugging off her blazer, she tried her best to fit it under Naya's head.
Crowds of paparazzi, other guests and staff began to close in on them, but Heather knew what was best. 'Move back!' she shouted with a strength she didn't know she possessed, 'move back and give her space! And someone call an ambulance!' One of the photographers moved tentatively forward, phone in hand. 'They have a team of paramedics backstage. They're on their way over, but they want to speak to you.'
Heather took the phone, answering the woman's questions. 'Yes, she has epilepsy but she's never reacted to light like that before. She is bleeding, she's hit her head. Just… please hurry.' Heather handed the phone back, stroking Naya's hair gently off her face now that she had stopped moving. Leaning in to slip her ring off her finger to stop it getting blood on it, she listened for breath sounds. There were none.
A paramedic placed a hand on her shoulder. Turning around, she whispered 'she's not breathing.' The paramedic nodded, understanding that she didn't want to alert the crowd to how bad Naya's situation was. Looking up at his colleague, he checked for a pulse. 'We have a pulse. Check her airway.'
Naya was rolled onto her back as one of the paramedics tilted her head gently and opened her mouth. 'There's no obstruction. Check her pulse again.' The same man checked at her wrist, and shook his head. Without saying a word, the two paramedics jumped into action. One pressed rhythmically onto her chest, while the other listened for breathing sounds. When he stopped, they picked up a mask and pumped the balloon it was attached to. Removing it, he listened next to her mouth. 'Again.'
Once more, the paramedic pressed down on her chest. Stopping after thirty seconds, everyone listened as Naya struggled to take a breath. Rolling her onto her side, she vomited and spluttered before taking another shaky breath. Heather wiped her face with a tissue, and then let the paramedic fit an oxygen mask to her face.
'Stretcher!' he shouted. A woman in a green jacket ran towards them with a stretcher. Strapping Naya in to protect her head, she turned to Heather. 'We need to get her to a hospital. Are you coming?' Heather nodded, 'of course.'
'Heather?' she recognised Dr Ross' voice straight away, standing up and brushing herself off as he addressed her. 'How is she?' she asked, wincing at just how weak she sounded. The doctor nodded, 'she's alright. She is still recovering from the seizure, and obviously we'll want to do some tests to find out what happened and whether it's caused any internal damage. But she does have a compound fracture on the back of her skull. We've given her antibiotics to stop any infection getting in, but she will have to have surgery to repair the damage once she's recovered a little more from the seizure. Anyway, she's awake and she's been asking for you.'
Heather slowly walked through the ward. Naya was in the bed at the far end, the curtain partially closed for some privacy. 'Hi' she croaked as Heather rushed forwards, placing the most gentle of kisses to her forehead and then to her lips. 'Hi' she whispered back, trying her best to keep her emotions in check. 'How are you feeling?' Naya blinked. 'I don't know. I… my head'. She reached a hand up to touch her bandaged head, but Heather caught her. 'Don't touch it, baby. You broke your skull, and they're going to have to fix it with surgery.'
'Surgery? No.' Naya sounded like a child when she spoke. Heather smiled, taking her hand and stroking it softly, trying to avoid the place where they had put the needle for her drip and trying not to look at where her engagement ring should be. 'Yes, they have to fix it.' Naya blinked again. Looking Heather in the eye, she said something that panicked her to her very core.
'I can't feel my legs.'
"And so she carried Nick from her crib all the way down the hall to her bedroom and sat her down with all her dolls. And by the time I got up there to check on her, Naya had somehow managed to get her into a completely different outfit. And her poor little face was plastered in makeup." Everyone laughed as George regaled stories of his daughter's childhood.
Naya dropped her head in her hands, her shoulders moving as she laughed. Looking up, and straight out to her sister, she mouthed 'sorry' and smiled apologetically. Heather just shook her head. "Babe, you were mean." Naya smiled, leaning in so that only Heather could hear her. "I wasn't mean, it was fun. I'll be nicer to our kids, I promise." Naya sat back with a satisfied smile as she tried her best to read the expression crossing her wife's face. Reaching across, Heather simply took her hand and squeezed it tight.
'Doctor Ross?' Heather rose from her seat next to Naya's bed and moved quickly through the ward. 'Doctor Ross, you need to come and check on Naya again. She says she can't feel her legs.' The doctor dropped the notes he was working on into the waiting arms of a nurse, and ran to her bedside. Pulling back the blanket, he began pressing and prodding at different parts of her leg. Each time he asked if she could feel anything, and she shook her head, Heather's heart pounded a little bit faster.
'I'm sorry. We did all of the standard tests when you came in, and you passed, but it appears we've missed something. We're going to take you for an MRI scan, just to see what's going on. You haven't broken your back or your neck, so the next step is to check for spinal cord injury.' Naya nodded nervously, reaching out for Heather's hand. 'Stay with me' she begged, tears pooling in her eyes, 'please stay with me. I'm scared.' Heather nodded, gulping. 'I'm here, baby' she whispered.
Once the speeches were over, Naya got up with Heather's help and made her way to the table to the left of theirs where their friends were sat. 'Naya, you look amazing' Vanessa said with a smile, reaching out a hand to help her sit. Naya smiled back, 'thank you. So do you. You all look great. Are you having a good time?' Everyone nodded.
'Guys, the food is amazing' Kevin gestured to his empty plate. 'This is probably the best wedding I've ever been to.' Everyone else seemed to nod in agreement. Lea smiled across at the pair of them as they sat on one chair with Naya in Heather's lap. 'I think it's just really special. After everything.' She gestured down to Naya's legs.
'I know. I'm so glad I did it, though.'
'Heather! I can't do it.' Heather massaged her temples, tapping her foot impatiently. This argument had been going on for weeks, and Naya was refusing to even try to stand up and walk.
'Naya, I'm telling you that you can do it. I'm here, Alex is here. We'll catch you if you fall.' Naya shook her head, crossing her arms stubbornly as she sat in the wheelchair she was having to use to get about the hospital. 'You're not listening to me' Naya began, her voice raising, 'I CAN'T DO IT.'
'Prove it.' Heather said, her arms folded also. 'What?' Naya asked, surprised she wasn't backing down. 'I said, prove it. I'll stop badgering you if you try to get up and you can't. So try. Try or I'm going home, because I've had enough of your bullshit for today.'
Naya shook her head, her chin quivering in shock at Heather's outburst. 'But what if it hurts?' she asked, sounding small. Heather moved over to her and took her hand. 'Baby, it might hurt a little. But you have to get used to it. You heard what the doctor said, now that the swelling has gone down in your spine and you've regained feeling, you need to use it. You need to use your legs or they'll stop working.'
Naya wiped her eyes, holding on tighter to Heather's hand. 'Okay. Help me up, then.' Alex, the physiotherapist, ran to her other side to support her, careful not to put too much pressure on her still-sensitive back. Slowly, she placed both feet on the floor and allowed herself to be pulled upright. Bending her knee slightly, she tried to balance herself before taking a step forwards. Then another.
Turning to Alex with an expression somewhere between a smile and a grimace, she gestured to his hand. 'Let go' she said confidently. Wobbling as he moved his hand, Heather moved to support her as she took another step. 'Okay, that's enough' she whispered, clearly exhausted. As Alex wheeled the chair towards her, she leaned on Heather for support. 'Were you really going to leave me?' she asked. Heather shook her head, 'no. I'm sorry; I was just upset because I knew you could do it. Your legs have started twitching when you sleep, so I thought you might be able to move them.'
Naya smiled, taking Heather's hand once more as she settled back into her wheelchair. 'Just give me a little more time and I'll be able to walk down the aisle.'
"The lace was definitely a good choice." Naya stood and turned around at the sound of Dianna's voice, pulling her quickly into a tight hug and kissing her cheek. "You both look stunning." Heather smiled, accepting a long embrace from her friend.
"Did Naya tell you how many dresses she had to try on until she found that?" Heather shook her head. The two of them had been quite secretive about Paris, since it was kind of their thing, but she could guess from her own experience just how picky Naya had been.
'Look. Let's just try on this last one and then go and get a coffee or something. If it's not right, we'll go back to square one.' Dianna sank back in her seat as Naya moved behind the curtain and took off dress number forty-six.
'Di?' Dianna got up from her chair and moved across the room to where Naya's voice had come from. Pulling back the curtain and stepping into the dressing room, she simply stopped breathing. Naya's eyes met hers in the mirror, and she couldn't help herself. She teared up. 'Naya' she whispered, looking her beaming friend up and down, 'you look incredible. Breathtaking.' Naya nodded, herself now battling tears. 'Do you think she'll like it?' Dianna rolled her eyes, reaching for her best friend's hand. 'Naya, you know how much Heather loves you. She would still marry you if you turned up in your jammies.' Naya smiled mischievously. 'I sleep naked, so I'm sure she'd definitely marry me then.'
'Naya! I don't need to know!' Dianna scolded her, 'I told you before. Unless it's of pressing importance, I don't need to know the ins and outs of your sex life.'
'Wanky' Naya whispered under her breath.
'Anyway, I was having a serious moment. The girl adores you, and you look amazing. It's going to be perfect.'
'Promise?' Naya asked, wringing her hands nervously.
"You look like angels!" Heather's niece shouted as she stood up in her chair, holding out her arms so that her aunt could hug her. Everyone around them laughed. "I know we do. Do you like your dress?" The young girl looked down at her flower girl dress and smiled. "Mommy said I look like a princess." Naya smiled, adjusting the tiny tiara she had picked out for both Heather's nieces to wear. "You are a princess today, honey. Where's your sister?" She asked, noting the absence of the younger of Crystal's daughters. Alyssa pointed over to another table, where Emily was enthusiastically sharing the toys the girls had given them for entertainment with an entire table of adults.
"I thought you said she was shy" Naya whispered to Crystal as they observed her. Crystal looked up and smiled, "she was before she met you."
"Em?" Heather approached the table, picking up her niece and sitting back down with her on her lap, "who are all your new friends?" Emily shrugged, picking up the bear she still carried everywhere (including down the aisle) and handing it to her aunt. "They gave me candy" she said with a smile, showing Heather the wrapping of one of the many chocolates she had eaten. "They did?" Naya questioned with a loud gasp, putting her arms around Heather and Emily and sticking her head between them. Glancing up at her friends, she looked them up and down, "and did your new friends know that some of the candy on the tables contained liquor?" She smiled mischievously as Telly, Meg and Ashley all visibly gulped, their eyes wide.
"Naya, don't mess with their heads" Heather scolded, wiping Emily's hands with the nearest napkin before cleaning her face a little, "we said no alcoholic chocolates so you could stuff your face without checking." Naya looked down, shrugging, "I was only kidding". Leaning in, Heather pecked her cheek and whispered "play nice" before handing her Emily and moving to speak to some of their other friends.
"You look so natural with her" Telly said as she played with Emily's hair and fixed her tiny white bows. "Yeah, Nay. Any baby plans?" Naya rolled her eyes, "You guys, we've been married for hours. Soon, maybe, but not right now."
"You're gonna have a baby?" Emily asked loudly, clearly enthralled by the idea. Naya shook her head, "maybe. Not right now though, Em. But soon."
'Nay?' Heather shook her fiancée, her voice a little panicked, 'Nay? Wake up, honey.' Naya rolled over, groaning. Rolling her eyes, Heather tried again. 'Naya. You need to wake up. Britt just called; the baby's coming.'
Without any support from Heather, Naya sat up bolt upright in bed, swung her legs over the edge, stood up and walked into the bathroom. Turning around and speaking with her head around the door, she simply said "Tell her we'll be there as soon as we can. I just need to put some clothes on." It took all of Heather's strength not to sit back down and stop everything, just so that she could take a moment to dwell on what she had witnessed. But her friend needed her, so she too grabbed clothes from the closet and threw them on.
"Britt?" Heather pushed open the door to her friend's apartment, glad that she had given her a key. She had only moved in just over two months ago, and the whole process of nesting had begun straight away. 'Britt?' she called again, holding Naya's hand and helping her move through the room.
Following the sound, they found Brittany leaning on the side of her bed, arms outstretched and clutching onto the fabric of the comforter as she breathed deeply. 'Heather, it's coming.' Brittany looked at them with panicked eyes. 'I'm scared 'she admitted.
Heather patted Naya on the arm, telling her she was going outside to call the hospital and find out what to do next. Knowing how much Brittany needed her, Naya stepped forward and ran her hand comfortingly over her sweat-covered brow. 'We'll get you to the hospital soon, sweetie' she said, keeping her tone calm, 'everything's going to be alright. I promise, okay?' Brittany nodded, looking into her eyes. 'Naya, it really fucking hurts.' Both of them couldn't help but laugh.
'Okay, they said that from what you said about your contractions we should be okay to bring you in now'. Brittany nodded at Heather, gesturing to the bag she had already packed and left on the side of her bed. 'I need that. I got everything ready weeks ago, you know, just in case.' Heather nodded in understanding , moving across the room and picking up the patterned bag before leading the three of them out to her car.
Both Heather and Naya smiled as they spotted Brittany walking towards them, cradling a sleeping baby in her arms.
'Here he is!' Naya exclaimed, reaching her arms out expectantly and taking the baby from Brittany so that she could hug Heather. Leaning into kiss her on the cheek, Naya smiled. 'I'm so glad you made it, Britt. How are you feeling?' Brittany shrugged, 'tired! He's hard work.' Heather smiled at her, 'yeah, but he's perfect.' Brittany smiled proudly, looking down at her little boy in Naya's arms. 'He certainly is.'
Naya smiled as she observed his little sleeping face. 'Even though he's asleep now, I'm so glad we waited until he could walk. Seeing him wobble down the aisle was just perfect. Wasn't it, Daniel? You were perfect.'
Heather blushed as she watched Naya interact with her godson. Their godson. One day, she thought, they would be able to say that about their own perfect children.
'Would the brides please take to the dance floor for their first dance?'
Naya handed Daniel back to Brittany, who cradled him into her body as she swayed gently to the music. Heather reached out a hand and walked with her still barefooted wife to the dance floor. 'Ready?' she asked with a smile. Naya simply nodded, wrapping her arm around Heather's waist and leaning in.
As the music swelled, Heather twirled Naya around on her toes, before dipping her back and catching her. Giving her a sweet kiss, she smiled as the audience around them clapped. Leaning in once they were upright, she brushed her nose against Naya's neck and breathed in. 'I love you' she whispered, 'so much.' Naya nodded, running her hand up and down Heather's back. 'I love you too.'
Once the drinks began to flow, and the dance floor became livelier, Naya took advantage of the opportunity to sneak her wife away. Pulling her out of the ballroom, she took a left and led her out into the night. The stars lit the summer sky and small lights twinkled in the bushes as they slowly walked to the nearest wall and sat down, admiring the view of the gardens in the mansion they had hired for their big day.
'I just wanted to get you alone for a minute' Naya explained, pulling Heather into her body by wrapping her arm around her shoulder. 'I just wanted a few moments where I didn't have to share you with anyone else.' Heather nodded in understanding, but knew better than to speak.
'Heather, I want to tell you something.' Stiffening, Heather turned to face her new wife. Naya shook her head, her smile relaxing Heather automatically. 'I was going to put it in my speech, but I wanted to save this just for you.' Heather took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly. 'Part of me really thought I was going to die that night. Before, when I knew something wasn't right, all I kept thinking was that because you were there and you were with me and you loved me I could die happy. I know it's morbid, and it's our wedding day,' Naya stopped to press a kiss to Heather's lips, only moving back slightly as she spoke, 'but I need you to know that the way you make me feel is unlike anything else. You're my soul mate.' Heather nodded, tears pricking at her eyes. 'I know. You're mine, too.'
'I'm sorry that things haven't been easy' Naya apologised quietly. Heather shook her head, taking both of Naya's hands and holding them in her lap. 'Naya, I don't care. We got through it all. And we're here. Together.' Naya smiled, looking straight into deep blue eyes.
Pulling Heather close, she slowly leaned in and closed her eyes. As their lips made contact and moved against one another, Naya let herself relax. Losing herself in Heather, she let her mind stop whirring and working. She let everything shut off aside from her basic senses. She didn't need anything else right now.
Blinking as they pulled apart, Naya gave Heather an apologetic look. 'We should go back in. They're probably all wondering where we went.' Heather nodded, following Naya back through the gardens and up to the door they left through. Grabbing her hand, she caused Naya to turn back and look at her. 'Naya' she began. 'Can I say something too?' Naya nodded, gesturing for her to speak.
'What I agreed to today, in front of all our friends, I mean it. I'm always going to be here, even when things get hard. I never want you to feel as if you're on your own.' Naya looked down, a single tear making its way down her cheek. 'I promised I would care for you through everything, and I meant it. I am so proud of you for being who you are. You're inspiring, baby, and I love you for it. I always will.'
Naya shook her head, trying to fight away the tears. 'You know, if you ever needed me to, I'd save your life too.' Heather smiled, looking up into dark chocolate irises.
AN: Thank you for reading. Please leave a review.