Chapter 24

John snuck another look into the ring boxes he'd been handed and grinned to himself. If anyone had needed proof that Liv and Fin were perfect for each other it was in these ring boxes. He'd been at dinner with the two of them when Olivia and Fin had decided on what they'd do about their wedding rings. Fin had been fine with Liv's engagement ring being her grandmothers, though John thought he knew his partner well enough to understand that if it wasn't for the sentimental value of the ring, Fin would happily have shelled out at least a few grand to put a fancy rock on Liv's finger. Knowing Benson though, it wouldn't have been necessary. She wore minimal jewelry on a day to day basis.

It had been funny though, sitting in the diner and listening to his favorite cops argue about rings, Liv teasing Fin that she'd have to make sure his had diamonds so it had enough bling that he could 'represent' with his guys in narcotics. Fin had retorted that he ought to get her something that could substitute for brass knuckles since she was so good at kicking ass.

John had spent most of dinner laughing at them and their antics, and suggested that they simply go to the same place to purchase the rings, then the jeweler could steer them in the right direction. Fin had chuckled and Liv had agreed and both had looked at him expectantly. "Gee, suddenly I feel all on the spot," He'd quipped and told Fin he'd take him down to his guy on the weekend. "Tony'll love you." Liv had just grinned and said she'd go see the jeweler with some lost time on Monday.

And now he was sneaking looks at the rings they'd bought, the one for Fin was a simple platinum band, his badge number and the date of his transfer to SVU engraved on the inside along with the date of the wedding. Fin had obviously had a similar idea, because Liv's had their wedding date on the inside and in tiny script, words that Fin said Liv would know 'Ore mi, Ifemi, Ayanmo mii'. He'd barely had room to squeeze in her badge number. Liv's ring was a little more elaborate than Fin's but John theorized that was due to Fin wanting to buy a diamond for his woman. The compromise was an eternity band that would match Olivia's engagement ring, simple channel set stones in a slender band that suited Liv's fingers.

"Man if you keep grinning like that the judge is gonna think it's you gettin' married," Fin muttered next to him.

"Can't help it," John chuckled. "Keep thinking about your rings and how happy I am for the two of you. You're so happy you're almost amiable at work these days. And Liv doesn't even mind that she's stuck on desk duty."

"Guess findin' the one'll do that to you," Fin chuckled and a bit nervously shot his cuffs and checked his tie again.

"So are you ever going to tell me what the inscription means?" John grinned at George Huang, waiting on the bride's side of the Judge's podium. George was well aware of his insatiable curiosity, and the profiler was pretty interested in the answer himself.

"If I tell you will you calm down?" Fin shook his head, "I swear, Ken you weren't this much trouble when you were a kid." He told his son who was sitting quietly with Alejandro in one of the gallery seats.

"You were undercover a lot," Kenneth was quietly laughing. "I think you might have let the memory fade just a touch."

"All right," John watched his partner shake his head and visibly capitulate. "The words mean, my friend, my love, my destiny, in that order. All right?"

"And Liv knows what they mean," John blinked down at the rings. "I don't even recognize the language."

"It's Yoruba," Fin explained easily. "Same language as my name. Odafin means lawgiver."

"I looked mine up, meant Sunday born or born on a Sunday," Ken offered quietly.

"Yeah," Fin nodded. "Since you were and it was supposed to be a good thing for a baby. Sunday's child is full of virtue or something like that."

John grinned because his partner was right and wrong, "Actually the last lines of the poem are 'But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe and good and gay'." He chuckled, "So that's pretty accurate considering."

Ken started chuckling and even George began to laugh, "Well done Fin." The little psychiatrist shook his head.

"Hey it worked," Fin shrugged but he was smiling when the judge came in.

"Gentlemen," Judge Harrison had taken off his robes but the suit he wore under them was nice enough for the occasion. "If we're all ready, we can just let the bride know."

Before Ken could get up and go to the back of the courtroom the door opened. Stabler, Kathy and Alex hurried in and took seats across from Kenneth and Alejandro. When John looked at Elliot the ex-marine shrugged, "I'm not going to miss my partner getting married just because I've been an idiot."

Alex grinned, "I just made sure I was in the courthouse today so I could crash." She smiled at the judge, "It's good to see you again sir."

"Alex," The judge had very nice green eyes that were both affectionate and amused as they looked at former ADA. "Always a pleasure, but since you're the last in you get to tell the bride that we're all ready in here."

"With pleasure sir," Alex was sporting a huge grin and John smiled. It was really too bad he was too old for her, she was gorgeous, smart and they actually had things in common besides the job.

"Keep starin' at Alex and someone's gonna figure out you've got a crush John," Fin's murmur jerked him out of his thoughts and John shook his head.

"Keep your mind on your own romance," He admonished his partner. "I'm pretty sure Liv wants you to remember your vows."

Fin began to speak but the doors at the back of the courtroom opened and Alex braced them open before taking her seat hurriedly. In another minute Cragen was standing there with Olivia on his arm, and John blinked in surprise. He'd seen Olivia dressed up, he'd seen her actually go undercover with furs and stiletto heels but he'd never seen her like this. She was glowing, beautiful in a dress that reminded him of moonlight on the Hudson, falling in long slender layers to her feet from a lacy bodice. Her hair had tiny little pearls in it and the pearls he'd seen at the jewelers that day looped around her neck, the diamond clasp sparkling.

John heard his partner take a breath and then seemed to hold it for forever until John turned to look at Fin. The dark skinned man couldn't take his eyes off his bride but he didn't seem to be breathing either. A nudge to the ribs took care of that before the man could pass out and then Liv was standing in front of them.

"Who gives this woman to this man," The judge asked the traditional question with a smile.

"Her partner and I do," Cragen's answer was surprising and John shot a look at Elliot who had an arm around his wife and a huge grin on his face.

George couldn't stop smiling and John knew he had a similar look on his face, dopey with happiness. Fin and Liv were dead serious though, obviously taking their vows of love and honor and fidelity seriously. The exchange of the rings was done with smiles lurking around their mouths, Fin kissing Olivia's hand before he slid the ring onto her finger.

John had never seen his partner so serious and so happy at the same time, when the judge pronounced them husband and wife and said Fin could kiss the bride, he half expected Fin to just grab Olivia and lay one on her. Instead, Fin's hands cupped Liv's face, his expression so tender John felt like he was intruding just by being there. A line from an old movie flew through his mind, 'Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.' And it was true, Fin's lips touching Olivia's gently and then more firmly until the two of them were pressed together, her hands on Fin's dark neck, and one of his sliding down to her back as if they truly wanted to be one person.

Finally they parted, as if by mutual decision and John saw Liv's face, joy was like a glow in her eyes and she couldn't stop smiling. "Hey husband," She whispered.

"Hey wife," Fin rested his forehead on hers for a moment. "Love you."

"Love you too."

John hadn't even noticed the photographer or the video guy they'd been so unobtrusive at the courthouse. But the photographer had managed a few candids of the guys in the courtroom, and Olivia with Cragen in the hallway. The car service managed to get the bride and groom to the restaurant pretty quickly and everybody else who'd been at the wedding simply followed them over and got to watch the photographer pose the duo and get some pictures John was pretty sure would end up on the desks at the precinct.

Knowing they'd all been at the actual wedding the photographer used a combination of coaxing and bullying to get everyone in several group shots, Cragen with Olivia was a personal favorite of John's. His own ugly mug was stuck in a group photo with George and Fin and since he had to do that he insisted he wanted one of his own with the bride.

"I gotta have something to put on my desk at work if I'm gonna be 'Uncle John'," He told Liv with a smile. She'd gotten almost teary eyed again and he'd held up his hands, "Oh no, no waterworks today. You just got married, you're happy Liv." That had gotten her laughing and she'd hugged him so tightly he could have sworn he felt the kids kicking.

Everyone else had begun to arrive then, the folks from the precinct and Judge Harrison among them as well as Warner and her family. Elliot and Kathy's kids arrived and the girls especially were swarming Liv, looking at the dress and surreptitiously touching the belly beneath it.

As weddings went it was a nice one, more of a party than a reception, though one waiter had been elected the Master of Ceremonies by dint of his having been the server when Fin had proposed. There was a table piled with gifts, most of them very nicely wrapped which proved that the guys had paid for gift wrapping or enlisted a handy female since every guy John knew couldn't make a bow look like something other than a shoelace even if they were paid double time. A few had obviously been wrapped by the kids and John had seen Olivia grinning over the cartoon paper on one package.

There was one moment that had surprised John, the bride and groom's first dance. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting as far as music went, but he had thought it would be something old school, like Etta James 'At Last' or a song he knew Olivia loved, 'If I Didn't Care', but it wasn't either of those. Instead the music that played was deceptively simple, a man's voice with a slight western twang and Fin took Olivia into his arms. John didn't recognize the song or the singer but he could see how the lyrics would resound with his friends.

'When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love...

Fin was looking at Olivia as if she was the entire world and her expression was so tender, so in love there was no mistaking it. They swayed slowly to the music, every now and then Fin's hand would drop to her belly, or Liv's fingers would trace his jaw line. John looked at Alex and George, "You ever see anything like it?"

"There are times when I feel...privileged to be present for events," Huang smiled as he watched their friends. "I'm so happy for them. A bit envious but very happy."

"Our line of work doesn't make it easy," Alex admitted and John nodded his agreement.

"But we can enjoy the moment," Munch reminded them. "Liv's gonna dance with Cragen. Makes me wonder if Fin'll dance with Elliot since Stabler was part of giving her away."

That got a laugh from Huang, "I'd pay to see that." But Fin was asking Kathy to dance so that particularly humorous scenario didn't play out.

John got to dance with Kathy, Melinda, Alex a few times and a lot of the female uniforms, most of whom had been at the bridal shower. Alex had decided she would hang out with he and George, to keep single guys from hitting on her, and currently she was debating very spiritedly with the profiler over the merits of Brad Pitt versus George Clooney in the Oceans movies.

He'd seen Olivia dancing with Fin and then sitting down with him, Fin pulling her onto his lap as they talked and then both of them taking off their wedding rings to look on the inside. Fin couldn't stop grinning and Liv was misty eyed again but they both looked incredibly happy.

Belluchios was always stellar for food but they'd really outdone themselves for the reception, a buffet that managed to look delicious and elegant at the same time, but the set up was casual enough that everyone felt comfortable milling around and talking with plates of food in their hands or sitting down for those like John who hated to eat standing up if he wasn't working. It was nice to sit and eat with his friends, talk about what they were planning for their honeymoon, when they'd be back at work. They'd only be gone for a week, Fin explained they were saving up their time for after the twins were born, "I don't want leave Liv alone with two babies." He'd shaken his head. "I don't wanna screw this up."

Kenneth had been surprisingly kind, "Mom could have told you there were problems before she decided to divorce you." He said quietly, "Alejandro and I have figured out that it takes two people to screw up a relationship. It's never all on just one person."

"Well let's just say I figure Liv is my last chance and I don't want to lose her," Fin's face was solemn, worried almost, until Olivia put her hand in his.

"Don't worry," She chided him. "If you screw up, you know I'll tell you." Her smile was teasing as she squeezed his fingers and John couldn't help but chuckle.

"She's right Fin," He reminded his partner. "Olivia has never, ever, failed to tell you when she's pissed off."

Alex had laughed along with George and Cragen, "She's never been shy about that." The attorney agreed.

"Well I'm not shy now either," Olivia had chuckled. "Because we're gonna have cake and then, it's your turn in the spotlight Alex. As a single woman you're duty bound to attempt to catch the bouquet."

John had grinned at Alex, "Hope springs eternal right?"

"Hope?" Alex had groaned, "You know if I go up there and actually catch the thing that I'll have guys hitting on me the whole night afterwards?"

"So stick with us," John gestured to himself, George, Alejandro and Kenneth. "We're safe."

"John Munch, the one thing you are not, is safe," Alex had chuckled.

He'd been happy to be put in that category but then the cake cutting was supposed to begin and the photographer was getting pictures. It was oddly intrusive to watch Fin and Liv feed each other bits of cake, especially knowing how Fin's unorthodox and lengthy courtship of Olivia had begun. In a nod to that first day of flirting one layer of the cake had chocolate mousse filling. It was decadent and delicious and Alex was happily on her second piece and groaning about the extra laps on the treadmill she'd have to put in.

"Worth it though?" He'd had to ask her when she closed her eyes in ecstasy of chocolate overload.

"Hmm…soooo good," She nearly moaned her delight and John had to grin.

"All right you talked me into it," He'd been planning to abstain from the cake, an active lifestyle wouldn't help him if he'd starting putting on a middle aged spread but she was so pleased with that cake. Unfortunately he'd been given a large slice than he'd hoped, "Someone is going to help me with this right?" He looked around the table hopefully.

"If I eat off your plate it doesn't count," Alex grinned at him and he'd happily shared the cake with her. She'd been right, it was good.

"Well, I'd estimate that my sugar coma will begin in about three hours," He laughed as they split the last bite.

She didn't get up to dance again, sitting with the guys from the one six and watching as Fin and Olivia danced together, "You know she was convinced she'd end up getting married in jeans." Alex remarked with a smile

"Yeah?" John chuckled, "Obviously before she found the dress."

"We were on our third store after three department store and Liv was exhausted, ready to spit nails and convinced she'd never find anything," Alex recalled with a chuckle. "But the sales woman was wonderful, practically put Liv under interrogation and figured out what would suit her, what she'd be comfortable in and what would work with the venue and nature of the wedding. After that, easy peasy, it was the first dress she tried."

"Funny how things just fall into place after you think you're done," John mused. "I mean look at those two." He waved a hand at the bride and groom. "They're ecstatic and anybody who didn't know them would think they'd just met they're so in love, and so…absorbed in each other. But this has been…nearly ten years in the making."

"If they'd started to date right away though, it wouldn't have worked," Alex's eyes were focused and intent as she framed her argument. "With Liv's upbringing and Fin's history they would have broken up in six months. They needed that time to trust each other as cops, then friends and finally as lovers. They'd never have gotten to this point if they hadn't taken the long route."

"Well I'd argue with you and from my standpoint it was frustrating as hell but I know you're right," John shrugged. "I was just grateful that they'd finally gotten together. I thought the precinct was going to implode from all the UST."

Alex's laugh was one of the best sounds, John decided. He didn't get to hear it enough. "It was a little tense wasn't it," She agreed.

"Yep," John grinned, "And speaking of tense. You're up sport."

"Oh lord," She sighed and resignedly rose to her feet when the MC began calling for the single ladies in the crowd. "If I catch that damn thing I'm spending the rest of the night right next to you John. I can count on you right?"

"Until they close the place down," John grinned and watched her walk towards the little crowd of women on the dance floor.

Liv hadn't carried a bouquet but apparently she'd arranged for a little nosegay of flowers for the bridal bouquet toss. Some of the guys at the precinct had tried to talk Fin into the garter toss but he'd taken one look at Liv at her desk and told them flat out that if they thought he was giving them anything that had adorned his fiancée's thigh they were seriously out of their minds. John had known Fin was fairly traditional but he hadn't realized his partner was that reserved.

Olivia had laughed and told Fin he just wanted to keep the garter for himself, to which the man had just shrugged and smirked. "Least I ain't plannin' on hanging it from the rear view mirror," He'd teased. "Like to think I got more class than that."

"Always thought the garter thing was in slightly bad taste," John admitted, "I mean, it isn't like flowers being thrown. You're reaching under your now wife's dress and taking it off her in full view of your entire reception… how did this get started? By exhibitionists who were feeling tame?" That debate had lasted half the day and Cragen had settled it by coming out to tell them about another case.

John grinned as Olivia stood with her back to all the girls, Elliot's and Melinda's daughters among them, and merrily threw the flowers over her shoulder. She had a good arm, they went sailing through the air to the very back of the crowd where Alex was trying to hide, none too successfully, and smacked the blonde attorney right in the face. Pure reflex had Alex catching the pretty bunch of violets, lace and ribbons and she shook her head. John could almost hear her sighing in resignation from where he sat.

The photographer grabbed Alex and Liv and posed them together and then for some reason sat Alex next to John with the bouquet on the table in front of her. When the camera finally stopped clicking at them Alex looked at him, "Don't say I didn't warn you John. You are my personal bodyguard for the rest of the night."

"If you don't want to get hit on why didn't you bring a date," John found himself asking idly. He was watching Fin and Liv dance together again. They'd made the rounds earlier in the evening, making sure everyone was having a good time, thanking them for coming, for the gifts. He was willing to bet from the look on Fin's face that the newlyweds would sneak away in the next half an hour.

"I'm not dating anyone and I didn't want to ask someone I'd dated casually in the past to be my date to a wedding because it leads to expectations," Alex shrugged. "Besides, you didn't bring a date either. Neither did George."

"I plan on dancing with Don," Huang deadpanned and Cragen nearly choked on his soda for laughing.

John was chuckling as he answered, "I'm not dating anybody either. And you're right; a wedding isn't the sort of thing you take a casual date to."

"So, no date, and thus my dependence upon the kindness of my friends to fend off any would be Romeos," Alex grinned at him.

"What if I'm a would be Romeo?" John couldn't help teasing her.

"I'd be surprised," Alex really did sound a bit shocked.

"Why?" He'd kept the edge out of his voice barely, "Too old?" He'd managed to drop a wink and smile afterwards so she wouldn't be offended.

"Hardly," Her voice was dry, "Didn't think I was your type."

That had been something to think about, "Liv and Fin are going to sneak out of here any minute now." He'd said quietly. "Why don't I buy you a drink and you can tell me why you think you're not my type."

John had been right, he'd watched as Fin and Liv looked around furtively and spoke with their Master of Ceremonies. He'd had a hunch that neither of them would want a fuss over their leaving. Fin had looked straight at their table and winked at all of them, the official wedding party and witnesses before he and Olivia had slipped away. John looked over at Ken and grinned, "So how's it feel to have a step mom Ken?"

That had started a whole round of teasing and laughter and by the time the rest of the guests noticed the bride and groom weren't around, it had been half an hour since the newlyweds had disappeared.

Author's Note: Wow…I totally did not intend to have Alex and John start flirting… this is what happens when I let John take over a big chapter. Munch always was insidious that way. Love him to death.

So what do we think? It'll be a little bit after the wedding but Liv will eventually talk to Elliot. He's been pretty good lately so he's due to stick his foot in his mouth again. I really don't think he can help it sometimes.

Did this chapter go on too long? Too fluffy?