Warnings: Large doses of lovey-dovey-ness ahead. What did you expect? This is their wedding day!
Ezra wasn't quite certain how Vin had persuaded him to have their wedding on the beach at dawn, but it had been important to Vin. So, here they were, on the east beach, awaiting the sunrise to begin the ceremony.
They had arrived in the dark, following a path down to the beach, a path lined with native villagers holding torches to light their way.
Kojay, Chanu and Jon preceded them down the path, the two younger Indians playing Native American flutes while Kojay struck a drum softly, keeping a slow steady pace. Kojay ceased his drumming when they arrived on the beach but Chanu and Jon continued to play the flutes. The soft haunting melody mingled with the muted roll of the surf, fitting the occasion perfectly.
He and Vin faced the sunrise, both of them dressed in snowy white tuxedoes. The guests, who were standing in the sand behind them for the ceremony, also faced the rising sun.
In front of them Kirk, Maude and Josiah stood facing them. Kirk and Josiah wore simple black suits. Maude had on a lovely gown of pale pink chiffon.
JD was somewhere with a video camera and the photographer that Mary had brought along was wondering around with his camera.
Ezra couldn't help but wonder how the pictures would turn out.
The photographer was using a professional thirty-five mm camera but he would have to have very sensitive film in it to get anything until after the sun began to rise.
JD's digital video camera might get better shots of the beginning of the ceremony and the young computer wiz could make prints off of it.
Kirk and Maude as the owners of the Island were there to officially sanction the marriage.
Josiah had come to he and Vin, asking to be allowed to participate in the ceremony. They had agreed but made it clear that he would follow their instructions as to what he was to say.
As the first rays of dawn began to spread across the sky Vin nodded to Josiah. "Ya can start now."
Josiah held up his hands for silence and spoke, "We are gathered on this beach today to see these two men joined in a lifelong union, to witness the promises of love, support and fidelity that they make to each other. Vin and Ezra have written their own ceremony."
He stepped back.
Vin stepped forwards taking Ezra's hands in his, looking into Ezra face as he said, "Everyone tells me that you and I are as different as night and day. Perhaps we are. But the thing about night and day is that you can't have one without the other, not here on Earth. They are joined for all eternity and the point where they join creates the sunrise and the sunset, the most glorious, beautiful part of the night and the day. If we are night and day, our joining is the sunrise, beautiful, glorious, eternal."
He released Ezra's right hand to reach in his pocket for the ring. Slipping it on Ezra's left ring finger he said, "I love you, Ezra Standish, I give myself to you, heart and soul. We are one. Now and forever."
Ezra stared up at him, tears shining in his eyes. He hadn't known what Vin had planned to say and was so moved that he couldn't speak for a long moment.
Finally he wiped his eyes and said, "I have forgotten what I had planned to say and nothing that I could say could match what you have said to me, so, let me speak plainly and simply. I love you, Vin Tanner. I give myself to you, heart and soul. We are one. Now and forever."
He drew Vin's left hand to his lips, kissing it, before he slipped the ring onto Vin's left ring finger.
Kirk stepped forwards and said, "As owner of this island I pronounce you to be married. May you have many years of happiness together."
As Vin and Ezra stared into each other's eyes grinning happily, Josiah said, "You may kiss."
They leaned into each other, lips touching, in a sweet, tender kiss, so light as to almost be chaste.
As they turned to follow the path back up to the beach cottage where they were staying, the assembled guest parted before them. Each guest held a small basket filled with the petals of wildflowers and they scattered them on the sand in front of the new couple as they walked past.
The reception was a loud and happy affair.
Vin and Ezra cut the cake, and fed each other pieces amid much merriment. There had been a lot of teasing when the rest of team seven and team eight saw the huge, triple-layer double-Dutch chocolate cake with coconut-caramel-pecan frosting.
Then they danced the first dance together. It was the first time that they had danced with each other and both had tried to lead at first. Laughing, they had called out to the band to play through the wedding waltz twice.
Vin led the first time it was played and Ezra led the second time.
There was more laughter and teasing when Kirk insisted on having the second dance with Ezra, as that was traditionally when the father of the bride danced with the bride and the mother of the bride danced with the groom.
Maude happily danced with Vin for the second dance then swapped and danced with Ezra for the third dance, while Kirk danced with Vin.
After that, it was everyone who wanted joining in on the dance floor.
Vin and Ezra smiled to see Chris pull Buck out onto the floor.
When the other two men had learned that Vin and Ezra were getting married at dawn they had decided to wait until after lunch for their ceremony.
The second ceremony would take place at two o'clock that afternoon, in the garden of the villa beneath the same shady arbor that Maude and Kirk had been married beneath, six years before.
The reception broke up about mid-morning so that everyone would have time to get ready for Chris and Buck's ceremony that afternoon. The guests all headed back up to the main house. Chris and Buck went to the small cottage they were sharing in the back garden to prepare for their ceremony.
Vin and Ezra headed back to their private beach cottage.
As they approached the beach they saw Chanu standing beside the path waiting for them dressed in full Native American ceremonial regalia.
Chanu stepped out in front of them, "Father respectfully requests that you join him."
Looking beyond him they could see his father, Kojay, and his brother, Jon sitting on blankets underneath the canopy that Ezra usually lay under when they spent the day on the beach.
They were also dressed in ceremonial robes.
A firepit had been dug and a small fire burned in it. Kojay had the tools of his shaman trade arrayed around him.
Ezra raised an eyebrow and exchanged a look with Vin. They had planned to spend the time before they had to get ready for Chris and Buck's ceremony celebrating their own joining.
"Please," Chanu said, "it is important."
After a moment Vin nodded.
Ezra sighed and inclined his head in assent as well.
They followed Chanu over to where Kojay and Jon awaited them.
"Please," Kojay said, gesturing to a blanket spread before the firepit opposite where he sat, "sit."
As they sat down, Chanu took his place on another blanket behind them and to their right. Jon sat on a blanket behind them and to their left so that the three of them formed a triangle facing Kojay across the firepit from him.
Kojay nodded to his sons before he began to speak and the soft sounds of Native American flutes rose behind them, just loud enough to be heard over the quiet roll of the surf.
"My congratulations upon your joining. You chose well. The time chosen was most auspicious and this place, a place of power. Still there is much you need to know before you return to face the evil that awaits you in your territory."
Ezra opened his mouth to speak but Kojay held up his hand, silencing him. "Listen and learn young shaman. It is time for you and your warrior to know of your destiny. While you are joined you are not bound and bound you must be to defeat the evil that awaits."
As the music of the flute wove a spell around them Kojay began to tell them the legend of the Guardian and his Guide.
"Since time before memory there has been the Pair, the Guardian and the Guide. A warrior and a shaman bound to each other and sworn to protect their clan and their tribe.
"The Warrior has senses that are stronger, more powerful than those of most men. His sight and hearing are more sensitive than other men's, as are his sense of taste, smell and touch. From birth they are better but when he finds his Guide, his bondmate, he can learn to control them and extend them far beyond what other men can do.
"The Shaman is connected to the spirit world, he sees the spirits of men, knows them for good or evil. He can sense their intentions and knows what they are capable of and what they will do. He was also born with this ability but like the Warrior his abilities grow and his control increases when he finds his bondmate.
"You, Vin, are a Guardian and you, Ezra are his Guide, but before you can truly become a Pair, you must knowingly accept your destiny and your duty. You must accept and agree to be bound to each other.
"That acceptance and agreement can only be made in the spirit world. Are you ready to walk the spirit path?"
Vin and Ezra looked at each other, their gaze meeting and holding. Soft smiles curved their lips. Their hands met and clasp. So, this was where everything that had happened between them was leading.
In unison they replied, "We are ready."
Kojay picked up a small bowl dipping his hand in to scoop up a handful of the powder within it. He tossed it into the fire and a cloud of smoke arose. He picked up a fan made of feathers and fanned the smoke, gently blowing it towards Vin and Ezra.
"Breathe deeply Guardian. Breathe deeply Guide. Close your eyes and when you open them you will be upon the Spirit Path."
Vin and Ezra obeyed, breathing in the sweet smelling smoke. After several deep breaths they opened their eyes.
They were standing in a high mountain meadow, which looked remarkably like the one where they had first made love. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun shining brightly high above, while the moon hung full and pale low in the sky.
Slowly they turned in a full circle. For as far as the eye could see there was nothing but high, wild, beautiful mountains.
When they finished their turn around, and faced back where they had started, they saw an old Indian leaning against a rock formation. He looked a lot like Kojay, except much older.
"Greetings, young warrior, young shaman. The path of the Guardian and the Guide is not an easy one and once you accept it you must walk it for all the days of your life. To guard and protect the weak and the helpless can be a hard duty and a thankless one."
"We already know that," Vin said.
"Indeed. We chose to guard and protect when we chose law enforcement as a career."
"A career can be put aside. Have you not already thought to do so? Have you not already resigned from your posts in law enforcement?"
"Well, yes, but we are already planning a new career, one that will also involve guarding and protecting. Search and rescue is very much about guarding and protecting the weak and the helpless, is it not?" Ezra said.
The old Indian inclined his head and smiled. "Your spirit guide is the fox. A clever spirit guide for a clever Guide."
He waved his hand and a small red fox appeared. It had a snowy white bib and four equally snowy white stockings. The tip of its fluffy tail was also glowingly white. It tilted its head and regarded Ezra with green eyes that seemed to hold a glint of amusement. It appeared to be smiling.
"Your spirit guide is the Phoenix," he told Vin.
He waved his hand and a beautiful bird about the size of a large eagle but with tail feathers made of fire swooped down to sit next to the fox in the snow. While the snow melted beneath the Phoenix's fiery tail, the fox seemed unafraid of the bird's blazing feathers and turned its head to nuzzle the Phoenix's neck. The Phoenix returned the affection, rubbing its head against the fox's muzzle.
The Phoenix rose and flew towards Vin.
Vin instinctively put up an arm and the Phoenix landed on it. Cautiously Vin reached out and stroked the bird's head. It made a happy trilling sound.
Vin turned to grin at Ezra and saw that the fox had come over and was rubbing against Ezra's legs. Ezra squatted down to scratch the delicate ears.
The old Indian spoke again, "Do you accept the duties and responsibilities of the Guardian and the Guide? Will you guard and protect the weak, the innocent and the helpless? Will you stand up for justice? Will you stand against evil in all its forms whenever and wherever it may appear?"
Vin looked at Ezra, hesitating.
Ezra cocked an eyebrow at him. "He did not ask if we would uphold the law. He asked if we would stand up for justice. Simon Trevor needs killing. His death is justice, legal or not."
Vin nodded. Speaking clearly he said, "I accept the duties and responsibilities of the Guardian. I will stand with my Guide to serve justice, protect the weak, the innocent and the helpless. I will stand against evil in all its forms whenever and wherever it may appear."
He looked hopefully at Ezra.
Ezra smiled and took his hand but spoke to the old Indian, "I accept the duties and responsibilities of the Guide. I will stand with my Guardian to serve justice, protect the weak, the innocent and the helpless. I will stand against evil in all its forms whenever and wherever it may appear."
"It is time for the Guardian and the Guide to become one, to share your memories, your thoughts, hopes and dreams!"
The Phoenix rose from Vin's arm, taking flight. The fox trotted away from Ezra then turned and began to run towards where the two men stood side my side. The Phoenix turned in the sky, and dove towards the fox.
Just as the fox leapt through Ezra, the Phoenix dove through Vin and into the fox. The spirit animals merged.
The mountain meadow vanished and the two men felt themselves falling, spinning away into an endless freefall, wrapped in darkness. They clutched at each other and held tightly.
Memories flew past them.
Vin's vague memories of his mother. One clear memory of her brushing his hair. Her death. His grandfather's house on the reservation. The feeling of belonging there. The orphanage after his grandfather's death. Foster homes, good, bad and indifferent or abusive. The years on the streets. Hunger, pain and fear. The army and learning to shoot. The US Marshals then bounty hunting. Vin's long years of loneliness, with few friends and little love. Finally the ATF. His brief time with Chris before finally finding Ezra and learning what real love was.
Patrick Standish with laughing green eyes, teaching a giggling Ezra to shuffle cards, using a miniature deck made for a child's hands . Maude happy and smiling. Then Patrick's death. Maude's many boyfriends and husbands. Some good, some bad, some indifferent. Boarding schools, relative's homes and the streets when there was no one to take him. The Marines. Learning to fly. The FBI. The horror of being kidnapped, raped and tortured by Simon Trevor. Escaping, testifying. Trevor's escape. Finding his fiancée murdered. Having Trevor stalk him. Adrian LeBeau's murder. Ezra's guilt and anger over both murders, knowing that two people that he loved had died because of Trevor's obsession with him. The mess in Atlanta. Then the ATF and finding friends in the other six men. Finally finding Vin and learning what real love was.
Now this. Merging into one.
The fall slowed, they were drifting now, landing softly.
They blinked then slowly opened their eyes.
They were sitting on the blanket on the beach, the firepit between them and Kojay. The soft flute music still echoed around them, although Chanu and Jon were helping them to their feet.
The two men guided them towards the cottage, led them through it to the bedroom and tucked them into the bed.
They never heard the other two men leave, too enthralled by each other to notice.
They wrapped themselves around each other, kissing, licking, tasting and breathing in each other's scent. Mapping each other's body with touch, drinking in the sight and sound and feel of each other.
Chanu carefully closed the door of the cottage behind them, making sure that it was locked. As he and Jon helped Kojay put out the fire in the firepit and gather up his things he raised an eyebrow at his father's smile.
Kojay grinned at him. "They are doubly blessed and doubly bound. Both have attributes of the Guardian and the Guide. Ezra is not a Guardian but he has enhanced senses of touch, taste and scent. Vin is no Guide but he has some empathic ability, he can sense good and evil as well as very strong emotions. I will remain here with them until they are ready to return to Denver. I will help them learn to use their gifts and control them. It is good that they do not intend to return immediately. They will need their gifts to face the evil that stalks the Guide."
Several hours later, Vin blinked slowly awake. He smiled at the weight of Ezra's head on his shoulder and turned his head to breathe in the scent of his Guide.
His Guide bound to him, body, heart, mind and spirit. All doubts about Ezra's love for him and devotion to him were gone now. He could feel Ezra's love, wrapped around him like a warm blanket.
He felt Ezra awaken although the other man give no outward indication. His sense of his Guide seemed to brighten, as Ezra moved from sleep to consciousness.
Ezra chuckled, "I, too, feel wrapped in a warm blanket of love. All my life I've had difficulty getting warm. Until now I never realized that the feeling of being cold came from feeling unloved."
"You know what I was thinking," Vin said wonderingly.
"We are bond and you were thinking quite loudly. I suspect that we can block each other's thought if we wish, but I feel no compulsion to do so. It surprises me. I've always been very private and would have thought that I would find it disconcerting to know that someone could read my thoughts yet, I find myself quite pleased that you will always know that I am truthful with you."
"Ain't that much changed then. I always did know when you were lying. Might not have known the truth of what you were lying about back then, but I knew that what you said weren't true."
*We are good.*
Happiness and contentment flowed through them, fed off the other's happiness and contentment growing exponentially. They laughed aloud at the pure joy of it, of being bound, of knowing that they were loved and wanted and always would be.
"It's time we got up."
"Indeed, we wouldn't want to be late for Chris and Buck's wedding."
Chris and Buck had opted for a much more traditional wedding than had Vin and Ezra. They both wore the traditional black tuxedoes with white rose buds in their buttonholes.
They walked down the aisle between the seated guests to take their places beneath the arbor, as Mary Travis played the Wedding March for them on the piano. They had been surprised when she had offered, expecting her to be upset by the ceremony rather than accepting of it but she had simply congratulated them and explained that she was now dating the photographer that she had brought with her. She hadn't introduced him to Chris before because she was uncertain how he would take it.
Chris and Buck faced Kirk, Josiah and Maude as Vin and Ezra had done, only they had best men at their sides. Vin stood beside Chris and Ezra beside Buck.
Kirk and Josiah each wore the same suits that they had used for Vin and Ezra's wedding that morning.
Maude had changed into a pale blue linen suit with a large ornate hat.
Chris had eyed the hat warily on first sight. It looked rather like a Bird of Paradise had landed on her head, its tail feathers streaming down her back.
Distracted by the hat he almost missed Josiah beginning the ceremony.
Josiah stepped up in front of them, raising his voice to be heard, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to see these two men joined together, to share their lives, their hopes and their dreams."
Turning to Chris he said, "Repeat after me: I, Christopher Adam Larabee, take this man, Andrew Buckingham Wilmington to be my life mate."
"I, Christopher Adam Larabee, take this man, Andrew Buckingham Wilmington to be my Life mate."
"To have and to hold, come what may and forsaking all others cleave only unto him for as long as we both shall live."
Chris happily repeated his vows, then it was Buck's turn.
When Buck had said his vows, Josiah asked, "Do you have the rings?"
Chris and Buck nodded each turning to their best man. Vin handed Chris the ring he had been keeping for him and Ezra gave Buck the one that he held.
"You may present the rings." Josiah intoned.
Chris reached for Buck's left hand, taking it in his. "I give you this ring as a token of my love and devotion. Wear it as a symbol of our union and our fidelity to each other."
Buck was smiling happily as he slipped his ring onto Chris' finger. "I give you this ring as a token of my love and devotion. Wear it as a symbol of our union and our fidelity to each other."
Kirk stepped forwards. "As owner of this island, I declare you to be married. May you have many years of happiness."
Josiah grinned. "You may kiss."
Buck laughed and pulled Chris to him, kissing him deeply before turning and raising their joined hands like a boxer lifting his hand in victory.
They jogged back down the aisle, Buck enthusiastically calling out for everyone to follow them to the reception in the main hall of the big house.
Vin and Ezra laughed, watching them. It had been too much to hope for that Buck might be restrained at his own wedding.
The reception was, if possible, even more boisterous than Vin and Ezra's had been.
Like the wedding itself, Chris and Buck's cake was more traditional than Vin's and Ezra's had been. It was a plain white cake, three tiers high, with pale blue frosting decorated with darker blue.
The couple danced the first dance together, Chris leading although Buck was taller. Since neither had anyone representing their parents there, they skipped the traditional father-of-the-bride dance and urged everyone out on the dance floor after the first dance.
Both couples slipped away back to their private cottages after only an hour or so, but that didn't end the party. The music and dancing went on until late into the night.
It would be a groggy bunch that flew back into Denver the next morning.
(TBC in Facing Evil.)