Hey everyone, because I have been so busy the last few weeks and didn't have time to get Chapter 24 done until today I decided to just go ahead and post that and the Epilogue to Bring Him Home today so you guys won't have to wait anymore. As I said I've got a holiday story that I will be posting in a couple of months for Christmas and I will be working on the next story in the series and will hopefully will start posting it before spring of next year. I'm hoping that if I give myself enough time I will be able to get a lot written and you guys won't have to wait so long for updates. I really appreciate everyone's patience with me and want to again thank all of you who've taken the time to review this story. I've really enjoyed writing it and while it's given me some trouble at times - it was a lot of fun in the end. Thank you so much again. See you next time.
Epilogue - White Wedding
The morning was quiet, peaceful, with only the soft shuffling of hooves as horses shifted in their stalls and the occasional snort breaking the silence of the peaceful morning.
Raphael shifted on the porch, leaning against the railing, watching as the sun peaked up over the horizon. Sunlight touched the snow, making it come alive and sparkle, adding a mix of colors to the otherwise white landscape.
It was such a perfect morning, on a morning like this it made him feel right with the world. With everything.
The tired creak of the old screen door had his head snapping around to see who would be up this early, and found he was unsurprised to see Leonardo.
"Couldn't sleep, Raph?" Leonardo asked as he walked across the deck to where Raphael stood.
"I did - a little," Raph's eyes shifted back to the rising sun.
He heard the boards groan a little as Leo shifted his weight, staring out to the white pastures with him. They didn't speak. But there wasn't much to say. They didn't need to speak. Just having Leo there with him spoke volumes. His brother was there - supporting him just like he always had. Like he always would. Leonardo would always be there for him - would always be his big brother. Looking out for him. And it made Raph feel good knowing that Leonardo was supporting his and Elizabeth's decision to get married. Not that any of his other brothers had ever shown him any sign that they hadn't.
The door opened once again, Raphael felt Leonardo tense for an instant beside him before his brother once again relaxed.
"Morning, boys." John greeted as he stepped out onto the porch. He blew out a deep breath, the condensation swirled for just a second before disappearing. "Emily is making breakfast. You boys should head in. Got a big day ahead of you." He zipped up his heavy winter coat and headed for the barn to feed the horses.
"He's right, Raph. Come on." Leo grabbed Raph's arm, Raph resisted the urge to shake his brother off but instead headed inside with him. He knew that John was right - and he didn't want to fight with his brother. Not today.
Melinda ran a brush through Elizabeth's long dark hair. Ridding it of the snarls it had acquired.
Elizabeth met Melinda's eyes in the mirror and smiled. "No. I've been with Raphael for a long time. I know I'll never be happier with anyone else. I have nothing to be nervous about."
"Raphael is a very lucky guy," Melinda said with a warm smile as she turned on the curling iron and then sprayed the heat protectant spray onto Elizabeth's hair.
"So is Michelangelo. I'm so glad he met you, Melinda."
"You say that like he's the lucky one," Melinda said as she ran her fingers through Elizabeth's hair, clipping off sections. "I think I'm the lucky one. Michelangelo is incredible. They all are."
"Well, it goes both ways. I don't think the boys ever expected to have what they have. Let alone have a day like today."
"Well," Melinda said thoughtfully as she took the moose and applied it to Elizabeth's hair then picked up the curling iron and tested it gingerly to see how hot it was. Satisfied she took the end of the section of hair she'd selected and wound it around the hot curling iron. "Raphael and Michelangelo certainly have, there's always hope that there's someone for Donatello and Leonardo as well."
"There will be," Elizabeth said firmly as she reached for her makeup bag. "They'll just have to be patient. And whoever is lucky enough to get them will be more than worth the wait. I know Mikey feels that way about you."
"You do?" Melinda asked surprised, meeting Elizabeth's eyes in the mirror again.
"He told me so," Elizabeth said with a smile.
Melinda smiled back releasing the lock of hair, the perfectly formed ringlet gently spiraled down past Elizabeth's shoulder. Elizabeth was right, Melinda thought, she was lucky - it hadn't been an accident that day she'd found Michelangelo in the alley by the dumpsters. It had been destiny bringing them together.
The satin dress quivered only slightly as Elizabeth smoothed her hands down the beading on the bodice. Behind her, now wearing her red bridesmaid's dress and with her hair carefully pinned back into a simple French twist, Melinda finished adjusting the veil so it lay elegantly down the back of her dress.
Elizabeth gazed at herself in the full length mirror. The gown was sleeveless, with a simple sweetheart neckline, it clung to her trim petite figure, and then spread out into a full skirt once it hit the waistline. The bodice was elegant and classy with beading, while the skirt had some beading just around the hemline. The veil had the same beading along the edges, and flowed elegantly all the way to the floor.
Curls delicately framed her face, falling down around her shoulders and down her back. Carefully pinned into place.
Melinda handed her the bouquet of red rosebuds. "You look beautiful."
Elizabeth smiled looking at the other woman and gave her a gentle hug.
A knock at the door had the two women pulling apart just as Emily pushed open the door. "You girls ready yet it's just about… oh, Elizabeth… " Emily stopped beaming at her daughter taking her in with the look that beamed pride and joy. "You look so beautiful, sweetheart."
"Thanks, mom," Elizabeth said as she fretfully ran her hands over the satin dress again, as if trying to iron out invisible wrinkles with her fingers.
Emily shook her head and walked over to her daughter, catching her hand and stopping her fretting. "You look perfect, stop fussing." She gently lifted Elizabeth's chin forcing her daughter to stare into her own soft hazel eyes. "Just hold your head up high. This is your day, you look down to no one. Make Raphael proud to have you as his bride."
Elizabeth gave her mom a watery smile. Emily wiped the tears away before they could fall and smear Elizabeth's make up.
"Emily, Elizabeth," John said with a slight frown as he too stopped by the girl's room. "Come on, they'll be waiting."
"Just one last thing… " Emily insisted she turned to John who smirked.
"Thought I forgot?"
"If you did you'd be sleeping in the barn with the horses tonight."
She took a small white box from him. "Something old." She opened the box to reveal a silver chain with a ruby pendant with white diamonds encircling it sitting on the end. "It was mine… and now it's yours. Perhaps one day you will pass it on to your daughter."
"Oh mom… dad… it's beautiful."
Melinda took the necklace from Emily and carefully slipped the chain under the curls and fastened it in place.
"And here – this is mine. Something borrowed," Melinda said as she grabbed Elizabeth's wrist and put on a thick diamond bracelet.
"And the dress is new… which leaves something blue."
"Already covered… " Elizabeth lifted the skirt a little to reveal her blue toenails.
Her parents both chuckled. "Well, come on then. It's time. Your chariot awaits." And the four headed downstairs.
Raphael fidgeted, not at all sure if it had been a good idea to have the wedding in the barn after all. He remembered all too well what had happened at April and Casey's wedding.
But if the same thing happened this time at least there wouldn't be as many people they'd have to get out of the barn before it came down. But there were live horses this time too – which made the barn smell a little funny.
But it was a cozy gathering. Mainly because Elizabeth had requested it just be small. Family and very close friends only. Which in the end had meant a very small guest list.
Raphael tugged at his tie again. At his side Leonardo smirked, knowing all too well that Raphael's tux wouldn't last long after the ceremony was over.
Music began to play and Raphael stopped fussing, realizing that it was starting.
April and Casey, Splinter, Samuel, Emily, Raphael and his brothers all watched as Akemi, dressed in a satin red dress entered the barn, with her wide toothy grin and started throwing rose petals high into the air over her head, rather than just onto the "aisle" that Elizabeth would soon be walking down. As a result several flower petals got stuck in her hair and the basket was empty before she reached the end of the aisle where Raphael was standing. But she kept grinning obviously enjoying the attention and the fun of throwing things without getting in trouble for it.
Emily smiled as she scooped up her granddaughter, gave her a kiss and took her seat once again with Akemi sitting on her lap.
Raphael heard Michelangelo's indrawn breath, and felt Leo nudge him hard, as Melinda made her way down the aisle. Her long blond hair had been swept back into an elegant French twist, with only a couple of strands hanging loose, framing her delicate face. Her satin dress rippled with long drawn out walk, the material showing off her perfectly trim figure beautifully. She smiled pink touching her cheeks, her bright blue eyes wandered to Michelangelo and the pink deepened to a dark red, which only made her more attractive. She looked down at the small bouquet of flowers she was holding. She stepped to the opposite side of the brothers and turned as the soft crunching of snow underneath something heavy got closer.
Raphael drew a deep breath and held it as Canon in D started and the few guests they had rose from their seats as John appeared leading an elegant flea bitten gray mare with Elizabeth riding aside her. The horse snorted and tossed her head as John stopped, securing the mare and walked over to Elizabeth reaching up and gently helped her off the horse.
Elizabeth smiled at her father and then turned to look down the aisle to him. Raphael's breath caught, he couldn't remember how to draw a breath. He'd never seen Elizabeth look so beautiful. Suddenly the itchy tux didn't seem that itchy… the tie didn't feel so tight. His heart was pounding in his chest, so loud he was surprised it couldn't be heard over the music.
John offered Elizabeth his arm, she slid her hand up through the crook in his elbow, and let him lead her down the aisle. She moved as if she were floating on a cloud rather than walking towards him. Her elegant dress trailing out behind her
"Princess!" Akemi said gleefully as Elizabeth and John got closer. Emily smiled, bouncing the three year old gently.
Elizabeth smiled at her daughter before her eyes again focused forward. But Raphael knew that Akemi was right. Today Elizabeth was far prettier than any princess could ever dream to be. He could feel his hands shaking, and desperately tried to get them under control as Elizabeth and John stopped. John turned towards his daughter and kissed her cheek before allowing Raphael to take her arm.
Raphael felt the tilting world righted itself as Elizabeth's hand touched his. They turned and took the few steps until they were standing under the alter that had been decoratively and carefully draped with flowers. Raphael couldn't take his eyes off of her, getting lost into her green orbs, and wondering how the shell he'd gotten so lucky to find her, and to have her. And to be here with her right now. Knowing that soon she would be his wife. That they would truly be a family.
He didn't hear what John was saying, though the deep rumbling of his voice couldn't be completely drowned out. Elizabeth's fingers squeezed his and he squeezed back. Suddenly becoming aware of the silence, he turned and looked at John who was looking at him expectantly, as was everyone else.
John cleared his throat, trying to keep a straight face without much success. "I asked you if you took this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?"
Raphael looked back at Elizabeth. "I do."
"And do you Elizabeth take Raphael… "
Raphael's heart was pounding again, thudding painfully in his chest. What if she changed her mind? What if she said…
"I do." Elizabeth said as a tear splashed down her cheek.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the… "
Raphael didn't need any more instruction, he leaned forward and Elizabeth pressed her mouth eagerly to his, her arms wrapping around his neck, pulling him closer, making the kiss deeper. He never heard the clapping, the cheering, or the wedding march start playing. His hand came up and cupped Elizabeth's cheek, holding her face to his. The celebrating could come later, the party, the cake, the presents… all of them could wait. Right now, right here with Elizabeth, in this moment, it was enough. It was perfect.