"Hey guys," Jason said softly. He and Ronan were sitting on the couch, with Lara, Paul, and Mary sitting in the other chairs scattered through the living room. "We needed to have a little talk."
"A talk?" Lara asked, eyes glancing over to Mary.
"Yes, a talk," Jason smiled. "Some things have happened, and we thought we'd share them with you. You see," Jason looked at Paul, "I have a job for you, if you're willing to do it."
"Anything," Paul smiled back. "What do you need?"
"I believe the official title is 'Best Man'," Jason grinned. "I know it's a big job, and this is awfully short notice, but are you open a week from Monday?"
"A week from Monday?!" Lara screeched.
"That soon!" Paul bellowed in stereo.
"Are you out of your fucking minds?!" Mary added.
"A week from Monday," Jason repeated, smiling at Ronan.
"As soon as we thought practical," Ronan answered Paul.
"And we just might be," Jason told Mary after a moment. "Crazy, that is."
"That gives us a little over a week to make arrangements," Lara complained. "You don't think we're going to let you get away with a 'small' ceremony, do you?"
"I suppose quiet and intimate are out of the question as well?" Jason groused.
"I'll let you get away with 'dignified'," Lara said firmly. "In the sense of there being pomp and circumstance and you can't have that without dignity."
"Lara, it's our wedding and we'll have it-" Ronan began.
"No," Lara cut him off. "Not going to happen. Deal with it."
"You're too important," Paul leaned forward. "To us, to the Guardians, to all the people you've helped. They aren't going to let you get away with 'small', and neither are we."
"We love you two, and this is a Big Deal. So yes, we are going to make a Big Deal out of it," Mary said firmly, glancing at Paul who suddenly got a very thoughtful look on his face.
Jason almost groaned. "Mary, this conversation-"
"Do you really think I don't know about your little group by now?" Mary laughed. "How long have you been protecting me?"
"She has a point," Ronan sighed. "Hell, it's not like we're even that big of a secret in general anymore."
"Great, you want to start taking out advertisements?" Jason complained. "Dammit, don't I get a say in this?"
"Yes," Lara smiled. "Just not the decisive say."
"Great," Jason groaned. "I suppose the fact that I had a few ideas on how I wanted the ceremony to go-"
"Oh, I'd love to hear them!" Lara smiled. "So long as they involve the word 'big'. I know a few people, I can probably get the downtown event center on short notice if I really need to..."
"Help," Jason squeaked rather helplessly. "That place is huge!"
"Nothing less will do for you two!" Lara snapped. "Now, let's start planning!"
Ronan looked over at Jason and laughed. "I told you, I told you!"
"I know," Jason agreed. "Next time we will just go elope."
"You wouldn't!" Lara screeched. It was rather impressive, Jason had to admit. She didn't just reach for the top, she started at an almost normal tone and then built to a god-awful shrieking sound that made him feel like his eardrums should be bleeding.
"If I thought we could get away with it I probably would have suggested it as more than a joke," Ronan quipped. "I knew you'd try and take over and start planning the second we told you."
If looks could kill, Lara's gaze would have leveled entire cities. "Whose your best man," she growled. "Lets get him involved in this."
"Actually, I wasn't planning on having a best man," Ronan said firmly.
"Oh no," Lara shook her head. "You have to have a good friend there to support you!"
"Oh, I was planning on that!" Ronan grinned. "You don't have a clue, do you?"
"How about your brother? He'd make a great best man," Lara suggested. "Or-"
"Lara," Jason cut her off. "Let the man talk."
"I wasn't planning on having a best man," Ronan grinned. "If only because Murphy would probably object to you having a sex change operation."
Lara blinked in confusion. "Huh?"
"I suppose the title would be 'best lady'," Ronan mused, "or maybe best woman. I sure don't want a bridesmaid, though Jason-"
"Hey!" Jason applied his elbow to Ronan's side, laughing. "Enough of that!"
Ronan pulled Jason into his lap, laughing. "No, I think that's a wonderful idea. I'm sure we could find a great bridesmaid dress for Mary!"
Everyone was laughing by this point as Jason squirmed around and started 'hitting' Ronan in the chest in a very... stereotypically 'female' way. "I am not your woman!" Jason said, pitching his voice up to sound a bit female. "Not now, not ever! I am a very modern gentleman, thank you very much!"
Mary just about fell out of her seat laughing, and Lara wasn't very far behind. As Ronan 'caught' Jason's wrists and started threatening to have his way with 'her', even Paul succumbed to helpless laughter.
Jason rolled over, trying to get comfortable. Ronan curled up behind him, trying to hold on, and eventually Jason just slipped out of bed. Grabbing his clothes, he dressed quietly and pulled his shoes on before going for a small walk. Talk of the wedding and all it's preparations had driven the events of the last few days out of his mind for a while, but he still had a lot of thinking to do.
He wasn't sure where he was going, or even what he passed by. He just walked under the night sky, thinking.
Eventually, he stopped and found a quiet place in deep shadows where no-one else out on this night would see him. "You there?" he asked quietly, his voice no more than a whisper of wind in the trees.
Silence. A silence so deep that it seemed to swallow all sound from the city.
Jason sighed. Maybe it was too much to ask for God to speak to him again as he had done when he escaped his captors. God rarely talks with man, after all, Jason thought. Still, man can speak to God, he decided. He started whispering again, "Sorry for not praying much these last few days, Father, but... I've been confused and hurting…"
Slowly, word by word, Jason poured out his frustrations, his pains, worries, concerns, joys, sadness; everything. In that lasting deep silence, where no sound of car, man or beast could be heard, Jason communed once again with his God – his Savior.
I always talk to My children, My child.
Jason's head jerked up and he looked around quickly. Nothing. No-one there. Then his eyes widened, "Father?"
I Am. I am glad you are speaking to Me again, My child. I have missed you.
"Missed? Missed me? But you're God… how can you miss anyone?"
If the one you loved, Ronan, did not speak to you and ignored you for a few days, would you not miss him?
What was implicit in that sentence broke over Jason as a hot wave. He started to weep; great tearing sobs from deep inside. "Forgive me…"
It is forgiven, and I have forgotten.
"It can't be that easy! You saved me from those… those… and I sinned and ignored you… and you've forgotten?"
I do not know of what sin you are referring, child. If I have forgotten someone's sin, then it is gone. It is not that I have a failing memory, but it is that I choose to remember it no more. I will never call what is under the Blood of My Son, Jesus, back into my sight. It is forgotten.
Jason could only say one thing. "Thank you," he whispered as he wiped his eyes.
It is My joy to lavish you with My gifts, My child. I have so much more to show you, to bring you too. But now, I will answer those questions that burn brightest in you. Voice them, and I shall answer, as I may.
Jason's mind suddenly whirled with myriad images and thoughts, and he had to catch himself from asking what he knew would be the usual nonsense that most men would ask in such a situation. Instead he gathered himself with the training Ronan had given him and, in his mind, reached out as if to hold his Father's hand. "Why did I not know that you would do what you did back in that place?"
You were on the verge of idolatry. You took what you liked about Me from My Word and refused to accept the rest of Me. You were forming a 'god' that suited your needs and wants, believing it to be Me. Now, you understand that you do not truly understand Me. No man can, save My Son. I am as far above you as the heavens are above the earth. But now, even though you understand your lack of knowledge, you have accepted all of Me from My Word. I have pulled you back to Me, and I will not let you go again.
Jason swallowed hard. "Thank you… but wasn't there an easier way? That was a hard lesson… and a painful one, in here," he whispered with feeling, tapping his chest.
All lessons worth learning are, my child; and you only hurt so much inside because of the heart of flesh I gave you when I removed your heart of stone, of sin. You hurt just like I hurt. You sent those men to their deaths, yes – but I will have to send them to hell in the End. Do you want to know My greatest fear, and My greatest pain?
Jason suddenly felt strangely humbled. "If you want to tell me, then I will gladly listen, Father."
You are My friend, and I will not hide Myself from My friend.
Jason started to weep again, but silently this time as he heard his Lord continue:
My greatest fear is the Day of Judgment. It is My greatest pain. Right now, all of the Earth is in sin, but I can save them if they will let Me. Once that Great Day comes, however, and once all those who have died still rejecting Me and My love are standing before Me, I cannot save them. There can be no other answer for them other than forever outside of My Presence. I will lose those that I have created; those that I love… forever. You have heard it said that I will wipe all tears from your eyes in My Kingdom – but there is no-one able to wipe the tears that will come from My eyes…
Jason was sobbing all the harder now as his heart was breaking with God's love, and he managed to say, "I will! I will, Father. I won't let you cry alone… I will!"
If it were possible, I know you would. Thank you, Friend. Now, you need your rest. You have a busy week in front of you… and I will supply the words…
Jason blinked, "Words? What words?"
"Thank you, Father. I love you," he whispered again…
…then he opened his eyes and found himself in bed with Ronan, who was still sleeping. He looked at the clock and saw that no time had passed. It was as if he had never even gotten dressed and gone for his walk.
He stood up and walked to the window to look outside.
I love you too – with an endless love…
Jason stared out a window for a few moments more as a smile played over his lips. After a moment or two more, he turned to go to bed – and then a thought hit him. Finding a pen and some paper, he started writing. Half an hour later, he had a rough draft for wedding vows. It was, to put it simply, perfect - but then, he knew he'd had 'help' from a Master at writing meaningful words. Jason's eyes slipped to the side of the desk where his Bible rested, and he smiled happily again.
Feeling lighter than air, he found his way back to bed. Getting in, he pulled Ronan tight against him and closed his eyes. What suddenly made his night all the more precious was the sense and feel of another pair of arms circling them both protectively…
"Lara, I am not inviting a thousand people to my wedding!" Jason laughed. "No way! I don't even know that many!"
"Jason," Lara insisted, "you've already got a list of a hundred and fifty 'family and friends' here."
"Yeah, a list I intended to trim down," Jason insisted. "I wrote down every name I could think of just to try and make sure I didn't miss anyone."
"Well, you thought of them, they're invited," Lara told him.
"What's next, taking out a newspaper ad?" Jason laughed.
Lara slowly smiled. "That's brilliant!" she snapped her fingers in glee. "Perfect! Thank you for the idea Jason!"
"No!" Jason's face fell. "No way! You are not!" he started laughing. "Lord help us," he moaned theatrically
"Hey, just remember," Lara reminded him as she copied names down from his list, "so long as you let me make it big, I'm letting you plan the rest of-" she stopped abruptly, pen freezing halfway through a name. "Jason," she said a bit angrily. "Is this who I think it is?"
Jason glanced over. "I told you, it was a list of everyone I could think of. I planned to trim it afterwords, and his name was probably going to get the cut."
"Probably?!" she screeched. "Only probably?!"
"Only probably," Jason agreed. "Dammit, he deserves to know. He's my father. I owe him that much."
"You disowned him," Lara told him, voice bitter. "He has no say in your life and no 'right' at all. You 'owe' him the backside of your hand, at best."
"He loved me in his own way," Jason told her. "That way may have been intolerable, but he and my mother both deserve to be given at least an invitation. A chance."
"He took his chance and shat on it when he had you kidnapped," Lara told him. "No."
"As I said, I was probably going to cut his name anyway," Jason snarled. "I simply wanted to think on it and make sure I wasn't acting out of pure spite, or hurt."
"Good," Lara snapped. "I can't think. I'm too angry. I'll be back in a bit."
"You're too angry?" Jason snorted. "I'm the one he tried to 'cure'!"
"Yeah, well, you're more of a saint than I am!" Lara shook her head. "For now, I'm going to go contact every newspaper in town and put out an ad. I wonder how expensive a full page ad would be..." Jason moaned and let his head fall into his hands. He just had to give her the idea!
"I can't believe it," Jason said softly. "Today."
"Today," Ronan said equally softly. "I never imagined..." Ronan broke off. "You never asked me what happened."
"I know most of it," Jason said, not turning around. "As I told you, I'll wait. I'll wait until you're ready to tell me all of it."
Roland sighed. "I should... I need..." His voice broke. "It was an argument. The same damned argument."
Jason sat back down on the bed and pulled Ronan against his chest. "Take your time," he whispered.
"He saved my life, you know," Ronan said. "He found me with the knife the day I was going to... I never actually told my parents, I knew all I needed to about their reaction if they ever found out I was gay."
"I owe him a lot, it sounds like," Jason said softly.
"Yeah," Ronan said softly. "He convinced me that... that I was a good person. He showed me he loved me, refused to let me go."
"I'm glad he helped out," Jason said.
"So am I. And a year later, the first time we... well, nothing could have seemed more glorious, more wonderful. I was so glad he'd convinced me to wait before our first time," Ronan said softly, lost in memory. "Once we were going, we didn't really quit," he laughed softly. "Both of us were horndogs. Couldn't get enough."
"Sounds like any teenager," Jason said softly. "What happened?"
Ronan closed his eyes. "It was the same old argument, we'd had it a hundred times. He wanted to come out, I refused." Ronan started crying. "I'd finished dressing while he was busy trying to argue with me. He grabbed my arm when I started to walk away, I needed to get home before my parents did. I remember the time, 4:34 PM. I was looking at my watch just before I hit him."
Jason held Ronan tighter, sensing how painful this was. Something about that time seemed familiar, but he filed it away for future consideration. "God, I still can't believe it. I'd hit him before. Often. We were boys, for crying out loud. Fourteen year old boys. We'd fought, we'd wrestled, we'd given each other more than our fair share of split lips and black eyes. It shouldn't have... it shouldn't have been any different. I snapped, but he should have been fine." Ronan started sobbing. "He tripped. Of all the fucking shit that could have happened, he tripped over a damned branch. We'd cleared our clearing of most of that, but... somehow we'd missed this one. He tripped. He started falling, tried to catch himself. He almost managed it. Almost."
"He died in a fall?" Jason asked softly.
"Yes," Ronan sobbed. "He almost caught himself. That's what killed him. If he'd fallen straight backwards he probably would have survived the second branch. He fell into a tree. He'd partway caught himself, was trying to stop his fall and twisted around. It was pure chance, but there was the stump of this branch at just the right angle to..." Ronan swallowed. "It broke. The impact broke it off of the tree. It just sat there like a damned flag pole sticking out of his eyes. His beautiful, wonderful blue eyes that mirrored the sky. Gone. Gone..." Ronan started shaking. "All my fault... all my fault..."
Jason rocked Ronan back and forth. Of all the days for this to happen, today was not a good one. Looking up at the mirror, Jason wished for a moment that he could...
Jason gently set Ronan down on the bed and got up. Touching the cool glass of the mirror, he sent his will forth. Mirrors were wonderful windows to view things through, and maybe... just maybe... Power flowed through him as he sent his will out, seeking, searching...
This wasn't something he was meant to do. He felt that instantly. But he refused to take 'no' for an answer. Ronan needed this. Ronan needed this, and it was in his power to do it. It had to be.
Something snapped, and the power stretched outward, reaching infinitely far away. The surface of the mirror rippled, and then shifted. The background was indistinct, unclear, but it wasn't Jason's image. "You idiot," Eric scolded him. "This isn't something you're supposed to try. Thankfully the crack was just large enough to let me slip through and tell you to fucking stop!"
"I have to... Ronan needs closure..." Jason forced out, feeling faint.
Eric sighed. "Ronan! Ronan!" he shouted. Ronan rolled over and looked.
"Er... Eric?" he managed after a moment.
"Get your fat ass over here now," Eric growled. Ronan was there in an instant. "This idiot isn't going to give up, but trying could very well kill him. Grab hold of him, and carry him to bed. Them come right back to the mirror, understand me? Right back!"
Jason felt himself being lowered to the bed, but his vision was still filled with Eric's face, his ears with Eric's voice. "Jason shouldn't have been able to manage this, it's just about impossible. The energy required to open a door, even just a crack that allows communication, between the afterlife and the physical realm is unimaginable. I don't know how he did it, but the longer he tries to hold it open, the more likely he is to kill himself. So make this quick. I'm going to go... get the person he was trying to call."
Eric was gone, and Jason couldn't see anything, couldn't hear anything. Everything around him seemed hazy, indistinct, unimportant. Even as someone appeared in the mirror, it wasn't important. Jason was an observer in his own body, without the will to actually try anything. "Hello, Justin."
"Ronan," Ronan whispered.
"We don't have a lot of time to talk," the dead Ronan said. "Listen, you great big idiot, I love you. I loved you then and I love you now. I forgive you. You hear me? I forgive you! Either forgive yourself, or I give that man over there permission to kick your but from here to infinity!" The dead man smiled, and his voice softened. "You have my blessings, too. May the two of you be very happy together. You're meant to be."
"I miss you," Ronan sobbed. "I'm so sorry."
"I miss you too," the reply was firm. "I forgive you. And for God's sake, forgive yourself. Go talk to your brother sometime, and maybe give my parent's a phone call once in a while. I got to go. I love you. And I forgive you. And I free you. Goodbye, Justin."
"Goodbye, Ronan..." Ronan said softly as the mirror faded back to normal. Jason groaned as a massive headache started to mount in his skull. With every beat of his heart the pain grew worse until it was literally blinding. It almost knocked him under before he managed to bring it under control.
Ronan, seeing him in pain, pulled Jason's head into his lap and started to massage his temples. It helped relax the clenched muscles, and the energies he sent coursing through Jason's skull helped heal his mind. The strain of channeling that much power shouldn't have produced that kind of damage, but Jason just enjoyed the pleasurable ministrations. Figuring out the 'whys' could wait until later. Much later.
"If we don't get up soon, Lara is going to come looking for us," Jason said.
"Thank you," Ronan said.
"You're welcome," Jason answered, smiling. "I'm glad I could help." Halfway through the word 'help' Jason's voice started to trail off. "Four thirty-four PM. That's it. That's it!"
"What's it?" Ronan asked, as Jason sat up. "What's going on?"
"I always thought it was a weird ass coincidence, but... this is pushing it," Jason shook his head. "How the hell... it can't be coincidence."
"You're not making sense," Ronan growled. "What can't be coincidence?"
Jason took a deep breath. "When I was six years old, I was in an accident. I was riding my bike and managed to swerve into traffic. The driver didn't have enough time to hit his breaks, he hit me pretty hard. I was in a coma for a week before I woke up. The doctor's were getting ready to pull the plug; they'd finally convinced my parent's there wasn't a chance I could wake up."
"What?" Ronan asked, concerned. "I didn't know about that!"
"I don't... talk about it much," Jason said. "The odd thing is when I woke up. Care to take a guess?"
"I don't have a clue! I mean, we were talking about- About my past, not yours!" Ronan protested. "What does any of this have to do with anything?"
"I was hit on November eleventh, and was in a coma for a week before I woke up on November eighteenth. At precisely four thirty four PM," Jason told Ronan. "That can't be a coincidence. It can't be."
Ronan blinked, then looked at the mirror. "'Meant to be'," he whispered. "Did you listen to what... what he said?"
"I caught most of it," Jason nodded. "I guess... chance took him away. God must have decided to give me in his place."
"Or he took him so that I'd be free for you," Ronan growled.
"No," Jason shook his head. Closing his eyes he looked deep inside. "No. I was the back up plan, as it were. The bench hitter. The substitute."
Ronan looked at him. "Making the best of a bad situation?" he smiled.
"Yeah," Jason pulled Ronan into an embrace. "Come on, we need to get ready."
"I need a few minutes to myself," Ronan said after a minute. "Can you try and hold things up for me?"
Jason smiled. "Yeah, I think I can manage that. Just... if you need anything..."
"I'll call," Ronan reassured him. "Now get."
Jason stood at the door and looked at Ronan for a long moment before he swung the door shut. Taking a deep breath, he wandered off to the kitchen where Mary was preparing breakfast. "Hey Mary."
"Hey Jason," Mary smiled back at him. "Just about done here. Is Ronan going to be much longer?"
"We... just had a bit of an emotional scene," Jason said slowly. "He needs a bit."
"Lara is not going to be happy with that," Mary laughed. "Honestly, you'd think this was her wedding instead of yours."
Jason shrugged. "Sometimes when you have friends you have to put up with shit."
"Sure, but this is rather a bit more than normal," Mary shook her head. "Here," she slid a plate piled high with scrambled eggs, hash browns, and a large slice of ham. "Eat up, you'll need your strength."
"Thanks," Jason nodded, and dug in. It was delicious.
Jason took a deep, cleansing breath. This was the day, the hour, the minute he'd waited for all his life. "How you doin', bro?" Paul asked from the door.
"Nervous as hell," Jason admitted with a little laugh. "What is taking so long? Shouldn't they have started by now?"
Paul shrugged. "They'll start any second now. Get ready." Jason straightened the tie on his tuxedo, glad that he'd managed to have some say in things. He might not have gotten the small, quiet wedding he was looking for, but other than that Lara had let him dictate a lot of it. Suddenly the room began to fill with the opening chords of Mendelssohn's wedding march. Jason and Paul stood in front of the door and waited for a moment. The doors were opened for them, and they marched through. It was a slow walk, stately and even. Jason took a deep breath and tried to capture the moment in his mind as he walked.
It didn't help much as he took in the sheer size of the crowd. He'd expect fifty or sixty people. Not a couple of hundred. It was all he could do to keep from turning left and glaring daggers at Lara. This was her doing, he knew it.
But slowly the sense of the room began to pound into his heart and mind, and he couldn't really blame her. There wasn't one person here who was here because they felt they 'had' to be. They were here, all of them were here, to wish him and Ronan well. And the sheer force of that many people created an emotional aura that poured into his senses. He felt his throat clench up as tears began to form in his eyes. This was right, whatever he'd thought.
Paul and Lara peeled off as they reached the stage where the priest waited. They stood at the back of the stage as Jason and Ronan turned to face each other. Jason smiled at Ronan, who smiled back.
"Dearly beloved," the priest said firmly, his voice carrying effortlessly through the nearly silent room. The mic was just about invisible, but clearly was of very high quality, as were the hidden speakers that helped his voice project across the room. With hundreds of people sitting there, no merely human voice could hope to be heard so clearly unaided. "We are gathered here today to join these two in holy matrimony, which is honorable amongst all men. Therefore it is not to be entered into lightly, or unadvisedly, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, and solemnly. Into this holy state these two persons present now come to be joined. If any person whatsoever can show just cause why they may not be joined together, let them speak now or forever-"
A sudden commotion at the back of the room interrupted the minister. Jason couldn't quite see what was going on, but his brother growled behind him and then ran over to intervene. Jason couldn't quite make out the words, but the tone left no doubt that it was a heated argument. He almost recognized the second voice, but couldn't quite place it. Not because it wasn't familiar, but because it was just so hard to hear. He almost had to wonder who it was. Paul came back and nodded to the priest. "The situation is dealt with."
"Might I ask what happened," the priest asked politely. Paul looked rather uncomfortable.
"An uninvited guest, who wanted to disrupt the ceremony," he said after a moment.
"Did he have just cause that these two may not be wed?" the priest asked, looking at Paul sternly. Paul refused to answer for a few moments, then gave in to the firm gaze.
"No. He did not have just cause, simply uninformed prejudice," Paul said angrily.
"Then you should have let them speak, so that I might have chastised them, in God's name, for interrupting a holy ceremony," the priest told him. "Nonetheless..." and the priest looked out and addressed the entire group, "let us resume the ceremony. Let us bind these two into holy matrimony. And if any person whatsoever can show just cause why they may not be joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace."
The priest waited for a minute, but no one answered his call. "Marriage is the union of two people in heart, body, and mind. It is intended for their mutual joy, for the help and comfort given to another in prosperity and adversity. But more importantly it is a means through which a stable and loving environment may be attained. Through marriage, Ronan and Jason make a commitment together to face their disappointments, embrace their dreams, realize their hopes, and accept each others failures. Jason and Ronan will promise to one another to aspire to these ideals throughout their lives together, through mutual understanding, openness, and sensitivity to each other. We are here today before God because marriage is one of His most sacred wishes, to witness the joining in marriage of Ronan and Jason. This occasion marks the celebration of their love and commitment with which these men begin their lives together. And now, through me, He joins you together in one of the holiest bonds."
The priests voice was strong, and rich, and filled the room as he continued, "This is a beginning and a continuation of their growth as individuals. With mutual care, respect, responsibility and knowledge comes the affirmation of each one's own life happiness, growth and freedom. With respect for individual boundaries comes the freedom to love unconditionally. Within the emotional safety of a loving relationship – the knowledge self-offered one another becomes the fertile soil for continued growth. With care and responsibility towards self and one another comes the potential for full and happy lives. By gathering together all the wishes of happiness and our fondest hopes for Jason and Ronan from all present here, we assure them that our hearts are in tune with theirs."
The priest pulled out the Bible he'd been holding, and opened it to a marked passage.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
"Love never fails. But when there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
"And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." The priest closed the bible, and tucked it back under his arm.
"Marriage is an act of faith and a personal commitment as well as a moral and physical union between two people. Marriage has been described as the best and most important relationship that can exist between them. It is the construction of their love and trust into a single growing energy of spiritual life. It is a moral commitment that requires and deserves daily attention. Marriage should be a life long consecration of the ideal of loving kindness – backed with the will to make it last. I understand the two of you have your own vows to say?" At Jason and Ronan's nod, the priest took a step back. "Then say them, and let love guide your voices."
Jason turned to face Ronan, glad that he wasn't first. He wasn't sure he'd be able to talk right now. "Jason, I love you," Ronan said softly. His words echoed outward without mechanical aid. Magic stirred through the room, called by the priest and now focusing inward on them. Jason shivered as he felt it. He hadn't expected it, hadn't anticipated this. He would have warned Ronan, but he could see in Ronan's eyes that Ronan felt it, and knew what was happening. "I want to spend the rest of my days with you, however many they may be."
"Ronan, I love you too, and would spend all my days with you," Jason continued. "You are the light of my life."
"You are the rock beneath my feet," Ronan picked the thread back up. "The sun in my sky."
"You catch me, when I fall," Jason said, "you hold me up when I am weak."
"You are the wind beneath my wings," Ronan told him, "the strength I cling to when all else is lost."
"I pledge to you my heart," Jason told him.
"I pledge to you all that I am," Ronan replied.
By now the energies were flowing around them in a gentle cloud, leaping from one to the next in time with the words they spoke. They raised their hands and pressed them against each other, then interlaced their fingers and clasped each others hands. "I take you as my husband from this day forth," they said together. "To have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish. Let us be one in heart, in power, and in soul."
"Bring forth the rings," the priest intoned, and Paul and Lara walked forward, rings ready. Jason and Ronan picked them up. Jason went first and raised his hand.
"With this ring, I thee wed," Ronan said, looking into Jason's eyes as he slipped the ring on. "Let our love stand forever."
"With this ring, I thee wed," Jason repeated as he slipped the second ring onto Ronan's finger. "Let our love stand forever."
The energies around them were no longer gentle, but a vortex of power that flowed with unstoppable force. Both Paul and Lara were clearly discomforted by it until they took a step back, just outside the actual maelstrom that surged around Jason and Ronan, pulling in ever tighter. "By the power vested in me by this state and Almighty God, I pronounce you married. You may kiss."
Jason leaned forward and met Ronan halfway. The instant their lips touched everyone in the room stormed to their feet, clapping and cheering. The instant their lips touched the vortex of energy suddenly collapsed, pouring into them through the point of contact. The energy surged into every recess of their beings, and Jason felt the truth of their oaths resounding. They were bound. Bound to each other in love. Bound for all time.
"I love you," Ronan whispered as they straightened.
"I love you to," Jason smiled. Turning, they walked hand in hand down the center of the three aisles, stopping often to accept well-wishes from the audience. Jason glanced behind him and frowned at the fact that Paul and Lara had vanished. "I wonder what they're up to," he commented to Ronan.
"We'll find out soon enough," Ronan sighed. "And probably won't be happy."
Eventually they made their way to the front door and managed to slip out. What they found on the front steps of the building froze them in their tracks. "Lara, Paul," Ronan said courteously. They remained silent, as did the rest of the Guardians.
"Not quite an arch of swords, but as close as they could manage I suppose," Jason said gingerly. The sum of the entire order, nearly every single one of them, stood arrayed in two rows, resplendent in their black leather suits, with every surface polished until it gleamed.
"I see you've managed to get your blacks, Paul," Ronan said dryly. Looking over at Jason, he raised an eyebrow. "Strange that you don't have yours yet."
Jason smiled. "They were delivered the other day."
"Well, we'll talk about this in the limousine," Ronan said after a moment. Taking Jason by the elbow again, he took a step forward.
In a single, practiced motion every single Guardian drew a weapon and held it up in the air. From swords, to daggers, to staffs, to chains, a dozen types of weapons were held up, forming an arch. "Nice ax," Ronan told Paul as they walked by. Paul didn't respond, simply held his position as Jason and Ronan walked down the corridor formed by the two lines.
"Well, so much for secrecy," Ronan sighed as he opened the door to the limousine. "You first," he guided Jason through the door before following. "What the..."
"Well," Jason said, "looks like Lara knew all about my little surprise."
Laying across the seat in front of them was a pair of black leather suits. Jason leaned over and picked one up. The tag hanging from the neckline read simply 'Wear them!', in Lara's handwriting. Jason flipped it over and laughed. "Or else," he giggled. "I guess we have our marching orders."
Ronan wrapped on the window to the driver. The black glass rolled down promptly. "Driver, how long do we have before we get to the reception hall?"
"I was told to take at least an hour," the driver told him. "The lady said to tell you to 'use it well'. And that if you didn't show up 'appropriately attired' afterward, she'd be most upset."
"Use it well, huh," Ronan laughed.
"You'd be surprised how many people use their time 'well' back there," the driver laughed back. "Don't worry, it's very well sound proofed, and the glass is reflective, no one looks in."
"Oh really," Ronan arched an eyebrow at Jason.
"Driver, go ahead and roll that window up, would you?" Jason laughed.
Ronan was very careful not to damage the tux helping Jason out of it, and Jason deeply enjoyed returning the favor. Moving in the confines of the limousine -- cramped, if only compared to the bed they'd usually use -- required a certain degree of ingenuity that actually made everything more pleasurable.
"That," Ronan panted, "was unusually fun. I'll have to arrange limo transport more often."
Jason laughed. "Come on, we need to get dressed. Here, this one is yours," Jason tossed one of the suits at Ronan.
"How can you-" Ronan began. "Oh my..." he ran his finger over the golden stitching. As he touched it, it almost glowed in the dim interior of the limousine. "RJ?" he asked.
"The big R is for Ronan," Jason smiled. "But we're linked, and the smaller J is to remind you I'm never far from your heart. You'll see the reverse is true on mine."
"Because I'm never far from your heart," Ronan said softly, dashing a few tears away. "I love you Jason."
"Come on, time to dress," Jason smiled.
"How could you get them fitted? Making these fit right is a time consuming process, and..." Ronan laughed. "Those suits she's been working on! New designs and techniques my ass!"
"Yup," Jason smiled, taking hold of Ronan's suit and holding it open.
"Ah ah ah!" Ronan chided, pulling out a washcloth from under one of the chairs. Jason set the suit aside as Ronan pulled him over. Wetting the rag with a bottle of water, Ronan began wiping away the sweat they had made. Jason shivered as the washcloth left a trail of delicious warmth over his body.
"You have got to teach me that trick," Jason groaned.
"Only works on others," Ronan whispered in his ear.
"As I said," Jason murmured, "you have got to teach me that trick."
"Like this," Ronan whispered as he placed the washcloth in Jason's hand. Jason felt the flow of energy. It was very subtle, but simple. Easy to learn. Probably some of Lara's work.
"You're turn," Jason whispered as he wet the rag down some more. Ronan clearly enjoyed it just as much as Jason had. "Too bad we don't have time for round two," Jason said softly as he finished. "We're clearly ready."
"Lara gave us an hour. She'll kill us if we take two," Ronan said with a smile. "Come on." Ronan grabbed the underwear from the package inside his suit and pulled it on. Then the socks, and the gloves. Jason held the body piece of the suit open so he could step into it, and he turned around and let Jason do the laces up the back. It was a slow, almost torturous process involving a lot of contact between the two of them, especially given the relatively small space they had to work in. "I love the feel of leather," Jason said as he continued lacing it up.
"You'll be in your own suit soon enough," Ronan said as he did the laces on the arms. After he and Jason finished lacing the legs he was covered from ankle to neck in well-polished black leather that gleamed with subtle power. "This feels almost like I've worn it for years," Ronan commented. "How..." he looked at Jason.
Jason nodded. "I called in a favor," he said, pointing upward. "I provided the power, but He helped me shape and direct it. I didn't think it was going to work, I thought I'd wasted my time and effort. But when we said our vows... you felt it, didn't you?"
Ronan nodded. "I knew there was magic, and power, in ordinary things. A child's laughter, a mother's love for her child. That a wedding vow was one of them I didn't expect. That wasn't you, was it?"
Jason shook his head. "My presence made it stronger. And I think we both fed our power into it, that's why it was so strong. But the actual energies, the force that formed them... completely natural."
"Makes you wonder why divorce rates are so high," Ronan said. "I can feel the bond. Breaking it would be... unimaginably painful."
Jason looked at Ronan and smiled. "And what newlyweds would find breaking their marriage anything but excruciating? In time the bond will weaken, unless we feed it every day. Just like love."
Ronan nodded. "Come on, into your suit."
It was strange. Fun, with Ronan running his hands all over Jason's body, but strange. He hadn't worn it in a week, ever since he'd begun running his magic into the two suits. In less than a week he'd completed a process that took months, turning simple leather, whose only exposure to magic had been to help trip and shape it to a perfect fit, into something magical, powerful. As he pulled the leather on he could feel the bond he'd forged, and Ronan gasped. "This isn't a normal suit," he said, looking at it again. "I can feel you."
"Two hearts, made one. Two lives, made one. I applied a similar principal to the leather. It's one suit, not two, however distantly separated," Jason whispered.
"Jason, this link... what happens if we split up?" Ronan asked. "Because this feels... it feels like I'm wearing the same suit you are. Like there is no distance between us."
"There isn't," Jason said as he did the laces on the arms up. The sleeves had to be wide enough to let his hands through but still be skin tight, hence the laces leading up them. It felt... right to be wearing this. Good. The leather felt like a second skin, exactly like it should. And the spell he'd woven into it, the power he'd poured into it... it felt like he was in Ronan's arms, just like he'd hoped. Like Ronan was touching every inch of him.
"I love you," Ronan whispered. "It feels... it feels like you're touching every inch of me."
"In a sense, I suppose I am," Jason whispered back. "And you're touching every inch of me."
Ronan finished the laces on the back in half the time it had taken Jason to finish his, and moved onto the legs. Soon Jason was dressed in leather from head to toe. The boots felt weird, but he'd adjust to them eventually. "How do I look?" Jason asked, spreading his arms.
"Wonderful," Ronan smiled. "Now, what's this second package contain?" he asked, pulling it out from under another seat. "Oh, our swords! And... what is this?" he held up the long leather piece.
Jason took it from him and checked the double thick stretch of material at the top. "Turn around."
"What?" Ronan asked, confused.
"Turn around," Jason repeated. Ronan did so, confused.
"What is it?" Ronan asked as Jason started pulling on his shoulders. Craning his neck, Ronan watched as Jason tied neat, quick knots to small loops of material on both shoulders. "Oh you have got to be kidding me," he said, looking back and forth. "A cloak?"
"Technically it's more of a cape," Jason smiled. "Lean your head forward, there's a third tie at the collar. Not quite traditional, but we think it worked a bit better."
"I suppose the second cloak is for you?" Ronan laughed as Jason pulled another piece of material around his torso. "What's that," he asked as Jason adjusted it.
Jason smiled as he picked up Ronan's sword and attached it to the belt he'd just slung over one of Ronan's shoulders. "Guess," he said as he carefully poked the hilt up under the cloak. Ronan reached up and touched the hilt.
"Nice design, worked on it long?" Ronan laughed. "I suppose yours is the same?"
"Not quite," Jason grinned. "You'll see."
Jason turned and let Ronan attach his cape. "This darned thing just doesn't seem to fit... oooh," Ronan commented. "I see now. It's a mirror of mine."
"I am left handed," Jason commented. "Have been for years." Jason laughed. "Drove my parent's nuts when I woke up from my coma."
Ronan froze. "Drove them nuts?"
"Yeah, apparently I used to be right handed," Jason said. "Something wrong?"
"Nothing," Ronan said. "It's just... Ronan, my Ronan, was left handed. It always struck me as an odd coincidence that you were too."
"Hurry up and finish, would you?" Jason said. "We're almost there."
"Of course," Ronan laughed. "Sorry to get lost in the past."
"It's ok," Jason said as Ronan turned him around. "I think it means you're getting ready to heal."
"What you did this morning..." Ronan shook his head. "Thank you."
Jason touched his face. "I love you," he smiled. "It was totally-" Jason snapped his head left. "What was that?"
"I'm not sure," Ronan backed up a bit, and reached over and pressed the control to roll the window down. The mirrored glass rolled down and they poked their heads out just in time to see several people pick up a variety of heavy weapons and target the limousine with them. RPGs, bazookas, and rocket launchers of various sorts dating as far back as World War II and as far forward as modern military make were aimed squarely at the limousine. Jason only had view of a small slice of the street, but for as far as he could see there were men forming a ring around the vehicle. He couldn't see, but he knew darned well the ring continued around the entire limousine.
"Oh fuck," Jason had time to swear before the men pulled their triggers. Frozen for a moment in shock, he would have died on the spot if Ronan hadn't grabbed him and pulled him to the floor of the limousine, forming a shield around them in the instant before a flash of light and sound announced the impact of the first weapons.
Jason groaned as Ronan rolled off him a moment later. The section of limousine they had been lying on was all that was left of the vehicle, and the men who had used the heavy weapons were closing in, some of them already aiming modern looking assault rifles while others prepared swords, maces, and other medieval weapons. "I think we've got a problem," Ronan groaned as he levered himself to his knees.
"You think?" Jason complained as he let Ronan help him up.
Before they could talk any further, men stood up on the roofs of the surrounding buildings and pointed a large number of very modern RPGs at them and pulled the triggers almost before they'd aimed.