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Interceptors - They're Finally Getting Married! (IC)

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The Brownstone. May 22nd, 2011, 2:05 am

In the bedroom shared by the laconic cowboy and his changeling bride-to-be, Lynn Epstein laid in bed next to her fiancee, who somehow managed to be a sleep, on this of all nights. For her part, Lynn had polished off nearly half a bottle of Segal's Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve and still couldn't sleep. Tomorrow (hell, today!) her two families would meet for the first time, and the possibilities for disaster seemed endless. What if people stared at Mona due to her...Mona-ness? What if Jack's new dryad girlfriend got bored of her dress and went au natural? What if her own head exploded from excessive worrying?

Lynn looked down at the man she loved and decided it was wrong for her to be awake all by herself; she leaned over, gently shook his shoulder and murmured in his ear.

"Honey? I'm sorry, I can't sleep. C'mon, wake up; talk to me or I'll go insane."

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Colt stirred, though the cowboy had the uncanny ability to sleep in just about any situation (the half bottle of Jack Daniels Green Label he'd drank earlier certainly may have helped this), he was always able to be woken when he was needed. Grim barely had to shake him very much at all for him to be roused.

"Hmm?" Colt rolled over, and reached up to stroke her face. His head was still a little swimmy from the liquor, but it wasn't anything he couldn't put aside for his fiancee's sanity, "Reckon it'sa bit too late fer that, Honey, don't'cha think?" Or lack thereof. Colt gave her the smile that let her know he was only pulling her leg.

Reaching out with his other hand as well, he welcomed her into a hug. She laid with her back to him, and he wrapped his arms around her. Colt spoke quietly into her ear, "S'a big day t'marrah, Grim. Biggest day'a're lives. But I reckon it's gon' be perfect," He squeezed her, comfortingly, "Cuz yer perfect."

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"S'a big day t'marrah, Grim. Biggest day'a're lives. But I reckon it's gon' be perfect," He squeezed her, comfortingly, "Cuz yer perfect."

Lynn snorted and rolled her eyes. "Yeah, right. And technically-" She lifted herself up to see the clock. "It's our big day today; six hours and counting." She flopped back on the bed, kissed both of Billy's hands and then wrapped his arms more tightly around her, like a suit of armor. "And I think you better get used to calling me 'Lynn', William Reynolds, because that's who I'm gonna be for the rest of our lives: Lynn Epstein-Reynolds, Esquire."

She'd gone back and forth about taking his name full-on and becoming 'Mrs. Lynn Reynolds', which did have a certain ring to it, but she was reluctant to give up her past entirely. Their kids, assuming they were lucky enough to have any, could go by 'Reynolds', she didn't have a problem with that; she didn't want to saddle them with a hyphenate just because their mom couldn't let her last name go.

"It's all gonna be fine, right? Our weird friends and my weird family are gonna hit if off, and the ceremony will be perfect, and then we'll all get drunk and sing 'Hava Nagila'. It'll all be fine...right? Just tell me it will all be fine, and I'll try my damnedest to believe you." The poor thing was shaking all over.

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"It'll be fine, Lynn," Colt assured her without a moment's hesitation, though there was some doubt in his voice. "Ev'rythin'll be fine. 'Cept fer yer hand after ya gotta fill out'n sign e'ry form fer the rest'a yer life wit'a long last name like that'n," He added, explaining the doubting tone of voice. Colt wasn't very keen on the idea of the Hyphenate last name. Though he could understand her reasons. Just like everything else in their relationship, Colt respected her individuality on this issue. It was one of reasons he loved her so much. Because she was such a different person than he was. If'n she wants'a long name like that'n she c'n have't. Ain't gon' be no whinnin' from me. Some things just ain't worth fussin' over.

"But th' cer'mony, 'an th'party'll all be peachy. Assumin' I don't fall off'a that there chair y'all hoist me up'n." Colt smiled, part of his method of relaxing her was to point out all the little meaningless problems that could crop up. It made her realize exactly how much they didn't matter.

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"Ev'rythin'll be fine. 'Cept fer yer hand after ya gotta fill out'n sign e'ry form fer the rest'a yer life wit'a long last name like that'n,"

Lynn wrinkled her nose a bit over that. "Oh didn't I tell you? It's pronounced 'Lynn Esptein-Reynolds', but it's spelled more like a Nike 'swoosh'. Plus I only sign it in bright purple ink that smells like gumdrops." She lightly jabbed an elbow into his ribs.

"But th' cer'mony, 'an th'party'll all be peachy. Assumin' I don't fall off'a that there chair y'all hoist me up'n."

She shook her head. "Oh, you'll fall alright, but I'm gonna catch you...right before you hit the ground." She wriggled around a bit so she could face Billy, and kiss him on the nose. "That's the deal, right? We always catch each other, right when it looks like all hope is lost."

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Despite Lynn's many and largely baseless fears, the ceremony held at Silbermann's Books went off without a hitch. There was an excellent turnout, though there were a few notable no-shows, all of whom had good reasons. Stesha had responded to her invite with a lovely letter, explaining she was rather late in her pregnancy (When did that happen? Lynn felt so out of touch!), but would be delighted to provide some wonderful floral arrangements for both the ceremony and reception, and true to her word, the arrangements were spectacular, drawing many ooh's and ahh's from Lynn's relatives. Jack and Taylor also begged off, due to Jack's discomfort at religious rituals and the increasing challenges of Jack Jr's toddlerhood, but they promised to send something nice (and absolutely no heads).

Sadly Aunt Deb had sent a note that since Billy was not converting, she and Uncle Jerry didn't feel it was right for their family to attend the service, though she hoped they would be happy together; that stung quite a bit, and Lynn's mom had some very harsh words for her sister, but the bride-to-be merely waved a hand to quiet her. Perhaps it was for the best; as the only Orthodox members of the extended Epstein-Silbermann clan, they were the most likely to take issue with some of the guests, namely the Interceptors crowd, and Lynn would rather have a harmonious day than have the Plotkins in attendance.

With Uncle Abe's standard 'sorry-too-busy' response (did he have that saved as a Word document?), there were still plenty of people to cram into the funky little bookstore: Grampa Bernie and Grandma Maria, Uncle Sid and Aunt Clara, Uncle Joe and Aunt Lucille, plus a whole lotta nieces, nephews and cousins, some grown with kids of their own and others darting through the chairs and playing hide-and-seek. Lynn was particularly happy to see Uncle Karl in attendance, with his date, a lovely and extremely fit young woman from the US Marshals Service.

The wedding party looked very smart in their tuxes and sky-blue dresses, the rabbi recited the Hebrew in a rich sonorous voice and the Seven Blessings were tackled in style by the gentiles (yes, she'd given Erik the longest one, and no, there was special reason for that). Billy, in his black vest and Stetson, was devilishly handsome, and Lynn, in a lovely lacy dress that was entirely glamour free, took the blessed cup of wine from him and drained it in a gulp, leading to much laughter and applause. Then Billy brought his boot down on the glass, and with a hearty 'Mozel Tov!' from everyone in the bookstore, they were man and wife at last. Then the newly married couple was allowed a little alone time during the yechud, to catch their breath and allow Lynn to feed Billy some cheese and fruit (the poor guy had been fasting all day, which was no problem for the changeling!), and then everyone piled into cars, limos and taxis on their way to the reception.

The night of dining, dancing and general mischief was to be held at the West End Hebrew Cultural Center, and if Lynn's relatives were impressed by the floral arrangements at the bookstore, they were stunned speechless by Stesha's designs for the reception! Centerpieces of exquisite beauty that 'floated like clouds', someone said. Lynn made sure that anyone who asked got one of Stesha's business cards; in fact, she gave away so many she had to conjure up more!

Sitting at the big table, with all her friends nearby, the changeling, her pointed ears very much in evidence, finally allowed herself a chance to breath.

"My God, we really did it, didn't we? We're frickin' hitched!"

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"You betch'er buttons we are! An' I usually make'a point'a not sayin' this, but'a Reckon if'n there'll ever be'a time, this's it." Billy leaned in, kissed his wife (his wife!) as a few choice thoughts ran through his head.

Billy had been ravenous, he'd barely eaten anything but a bite of cheese that day. But unfortunately there were so many people to say hi to, to thank, and to talk with, that he barely got a chance to sit and eat a thing! Luckily enough for him glassware was portable, meaning he could take his whiskey with him on his rounds.

The entire day had been like a blur for Billy. But just as Lynn had said, they'd finally done it. The day wasn't even over, the party was just getting started, and already it had been worth the wait.

After the kiss, he leaned back and shouted, "Yee-Haw!!!" A big goofy grin spread across his face.

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The Big Table

Lynn couldn't help but laugh at her husband's (her husband!) enthusiasm; she was pretty sure she'd never seen him this boisterous, and the night was still young. Her sister Eddi had been pretty much staring at her little sister all day, displaying the endearing lack of tact she was known for in the family. Finally the bride turned to face her big sis.

"What? It's the ears, right?"

"It's the everything, hon; I can't get over how great you look."

"Well thanks; I mean, the whole pixie thing means I'm cheating like a thousand different ways." She ran her fingers through her hair, which she had made extra long and impossibly curly for the day. "I could have looked way hotter if I wanted to, but that would've been just plain mean and selfish."

"Believe me, Sher, you look dangerously fantastic now; doesn't she, Ben?"

"Hmm?" For his part, Lynn's older brother, who was far more tactful and reserved than either of his sisters, was trying not to stare at Mona. "Oh yeah, she looks great, amazing, all that." Desperate to find something else to focus his attention on, he turned to the best man. "So, ah, Jack, is it? You're the swordfighter Sheri was talking about. That's pretty cool." He mimed holding a foil, rather awkwardly. "I did a little fencing myself, back in college. Not that I was any good at it."

Table 1

Butch Epstein was eating bread like it was going out of style; there was a mild hint of a certain...herbal quality drifting off of him. Elaine Epstein was eyeing him with cold disgust, barely picking at her salad; not taking her eyes of her spouse, she cleared her throat.

"So, Doctor Viktor Archeville." She finally faced the good doctor, a tight smile on her face. "This is an honor. I've been following your research for several years; having all that money must open a lot of avenues of exploration that would otherwise remain closed." The was no malice in her voice, in fact very little inflection at all; her body language was also rather stiff and hard to read.

"Oh man, Lainey, you should try this bread, it's fantastic!"

Table 2

Karl Epstein, a short, affable fellow with flecks of gray in his dark hair, was bouncing up and down in his seat like a ten-year old; his suit didn't quite fit him, and he periodically reached down to scratch his ankle where the monitor cuff chaffed a bit. Deputy US Marshal Annabel Steele drank her water and surveyed the room; her red dress was lovely, even though it was cut to conceal a discrete bulletproff vest. Karl took turns looking at the two nigh-immortal women seated across from him, drumming his fingers on the table. Finally he cleared his throat.

"Sorry, ladies, but I hate awkward silences. My name's Karl Epstein; I'm one of Sheri's uncles." He shrugged. "Though I guess, from the looks of you, you might know her by her nom de plume or whatever, Grim...Grimmelkin?" He peered inquisitively at his 'date'.

"Grimalkin, she stated in a bored voice. "She's one of the Interceptors."

"Right, right. How crazy is that?"

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Fulcrum couldn't be more delighted for her pixie friend. The furnishings (particularly the flowers!) and location were picture perfect. The shapeshifter practically beamed before, during and after the ceremony. The ceremony itself came off with a hitch, for which Mona was very, very thankful. She'd heard of the fiasco at another superhero wedding. Those thoughts were pushed aside when Billy shouted his enthusiasm. Yes, nearly the perfect wedding.

An any event, Fulcrum relaxed at the main table, nibbling at her salad and listening to the conversation. More specifically, she hovered at chair level and stretched her legs under the table. Thankfully, the setting did have space for comfort. Didn't even have to change out of her bridesmaid dress.

Out of habit, she glanced at Viktor occasionally and hoped his mingling with the Epsteins went smoothly. Part of her assumed they'd be seated together, and she could run interference in the event of unpleasantries. Not that Viktor would have any trouble, she surmised. He could sell iceboxes to Eskimos or however that cliche went.

If she noticed Ben Epstein watching her, she didn't make the information known. If anything being watched closely was a fact of life, and she didn't really pay much heed to gawkers anymore. Still she knew she stuck out even more than usual in this company.

Sipping her whiskey, she addressed Lynn and Eddi, "You look radiant, Lynn." Turning to her sister, she continued, "You should see the styles and clothing she can conjure for just a movie and popcorn at the house. Let alone a major occasion, like a wedding!" She smiled to Lynn.

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This was Willow's first wedding. A curious bit of trivia that would surprise the average person if they were cognizant of the immortal guardian's time on the Earth, but the select few that were aware of the countless millennia of her vigil wouldn't bat an eye; Willow simply did not get in much.

For a creature who called the forests home, Willow certainly cleaned up well though there was still a faint 'feral' aura around the plant controller. The columnar gown she wore was corseted in a flat-fronted style and made of smoky sapphire silk damask. Her mane of long white hair was tamed and tied back into a flowing ponytail by a ribbon of pewter-hued silk, leaving her slender pointed ears exposed.

To Willow's eyes the ceremony was lovely, even if the custom was strange and seemed a little superfluous. If you cared for someone as much as these two clearly did, Willow reasoned her golden eyes turned toward the large table, what need is there for ceremony? The dryad found her reverie broken by the little man at her table.

"Actually," she said after a moment, "I have only just met them. I am Willow, a... plus one?"

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"Hmm?" Jack realized he was glancing over at the second of the other tables and drumming the fingers of one hand absently in front of him and turned his attention to Lynn's brother with a reflexively charming smile. Clad in a rented tuxedo that still fit better than most of the suits he'd borrowed over the years and a matching black bandana mask, the swashbuckler would have felt considerably more conspicuous if not for his considerably more striking teammates. He'd stood throughout the ceremony without complaint, but the athletic young man's attention span was beginning to wane. "Oh yeah? Well, hey, that's neat. Should try picking it up again if you find time; exercise, amirite?"

While her brother made a game effort at small talk, Jill fidgeted with the skirt of the bridesmaid dress she hadn't been able to get comfortable in since putting it on. It was a nice enough outfit, avoiding the unfortunate stereotypes for the most part and combining with her own bandana mask surprisingly well The slender girl suspected she was simply overthinking it, but it was certainly distracting her from the conversation around the table, enough that she only barely managed to avoid mentioning that a strong case could be made for the bride's glamour-based clothing qualifying as technical nudity. Looking up as her jaw clicked tightly shut, she managed a wan smile instead.

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Dragonfly was trying very hard - very, very, very hard - not to tap her finger on the table. She knew the noise annoyed some people, and while she typically didn't care too much she had to assume it wasn't good wedding manners to annoy your table mates. So she sat in her slim dark grey dress, wearing sleeker and somehow more elegant versions of her old gauntlets and visor, bending as much willpower as she could to the task of not tapping on the table despite being surrounded by people she didn't know in a situation she wasn't familiar with. No tapping on her leg, either. And she probably shouldn't fidget. Or reach back and let her hair fall free of the little clip that was keeping it pulled back.... don't think I'm fond of formal parties

"Ah. Yes," she belated - and distractedly - replied to the man doing his best to pay for several bakers' children's college educations. "Very good...word...'catering'. Should try a small bakery by the river, if you like it. Don't think it's the same place as the caterer's, but very good bagels, bread loaves...."

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"You look radiant, Lynn." Turning to her sister, she continued, "You should see the styles and clothing she can conjure for just a movie and popcorn at the house. Let alone a major occasion, like a wedding!"

Lynn frowned slightly, then looked rather alarmed as she grabbed a handful of her own dress. "Wait, you guys think I glamored this up? No way, this is the real deal!" She leaned forward so only the bridesmaids could hear her next words. "Yes, I am wearing actual real human clothing on my wedding day, and believe me, after not wearing anything for four years, you better believe it feels weird." Then the full implications of what she just said slowly sunk in, and she hurriedly poured herself another glass of champagne.

It took a few seconds for her big sis to catch on, but when she did, her eyes got simply huge. "So you've been naked-?" In an instant, Lynn's tiny hand was over her mouth; looking from bridesmaid to bridemaid, she muttered, "We take this to the grave."

- - - -

"Actually," she said after a moment, "I have only just met them. I am Willow, a... plus one?"

Karl nodded sagely. "Oh, I get it. Lucky guy! Or, y'know, girl, don't wanna assume..." He pointed at the top of his ear. "So I see you got the pointy ears, too, just like Sheri's got now. What's with that? Is that like some new kinda thing for all the superheroes?"

- - - -

"Oh yeah? Well, hey, that's neat. Should try picking it up again if you find time; exercise, amirite?"

Ben nodded half-heartedly. "Yeah, absolutely, right on it." Carefully examining some of the odder-looking guests, the young lawyer's tone became more serious. "So let me ask you something, Jack. All this superhero stuff: just how dangerous is it?" His voice cracked just a bit as a strained smile spread across his face. "I mean, this is my baby sister we're talking about here."

- - - -

"Ah. Yes," she belated - and distractedly - replied to the man doing his best to pay for several bakers' children's college educations. "Very good...word...'catering'. Should try a small bakery by the river, if you like it. Don't think it's the same place as the caterer's, but very good bagels, bread loaves...."

"Yeah, they're real good." Butch seemed to have a bit of trouble focusing, his somewhat bloodshot eyes darting between Dragonfly, his wife having a stilted conversation with Dr Archeville and the bread basket; putting down his butter knife, he unlocked the wheels on his wheelchair and expertly maneuvered it closer to the brilliant young technician.

"I don't think we've met, I'm Sheri's father...the bride, my daughter." He carefully wiped his hand on a napkin and extended it. "Butch Epstein." His handshake was firm, if very slightly sweaty. "It's a hell of a thing, to see your daughter on a day like this; my God, she's so beautiful. Isn't she?" His proud eyes linger on Lynn at the big table, and they go all moist. "My little girl and her cowboy; she married a god***n cowboy, and I love it." He turned to Dragonfly, a sentimental smile on his face. "You gotta guy, kid? Someone special?"

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"Hey, Benjy, do you think I'd let my sister run around in a mask if I was worried?" Jack asserted with a reassuring wave of his hand, brushing of the groomsman's concerns.

"Pfft," Jill pursed her lips in flat retort, raising her fingers in air quotes. "'Let me,' he says."

Jack shrugged affably. "Yeah, yeah. Point is, our gal Grim here's a shapeshifter. They're notoriously hard to keep down," he explained frankly. "Seriously, even repeated stabbing doesn't do the trick, and stabbing works on just about everything. I mean, naturally it depends what you're stabbing with, you're not going to fight a extradimensional graviton-based villain with a sword made out of thermal radiation, obviously--"

"What mi hermano is trying to say," Jill interrupted, "is that Lynn can take care of herself just fine."

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"Jack'n Jill're right, Ben." Colt offered his two cents, "It ain't no cakewalk out there. But y'all c'n b'sure't Grim cut from some sturdy stock." Colt leaned back in his chair a little, crossing one leg over the other and taking a sip of his drink, "Reckon I c'n remember that time't I saw'er take'a bullet'n th'neck. Gal was up'n walkin' 'gain in what, twenty seconds? Ten? Got up'n was immediately lookin' fer who done it. Course, I'd already gotten to'em. Fella wasn' too happy 'bout that, neither." He drained the last of what was in his cup. He took a look at the glass of whiskey and pushed it to the center of the table. It was his wedding night, and he decided that if he was going to keep drinking, he should at least cut back on the harder stuff. "'Scuse me'a sec." He reached over to where Grim was pouring some champagne from the bottle and slid a flute up next to hers,

It took a few seconds for her big sis to catch on, but when she did, her eyes got simply huge. "So you've been naked-?" In an instant, Lynn's tiny hand was over her mouth; looking from bridesmaid to bridemaid, she muttered, "We take this to the grave."

"Hmm?" Colt hummed an inquiry as he leaned toward Grim, "What's that y'all talkin' 'bout over'ere?" he asked, planting a kiss on her head.

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He turned to Dragonfly, a sentimental smile on his face. "You gotta guy, kid? Someone special?"

Dragonfly raised her eyebrows, her discomfort relieved somewhat by having a smaller conversation to focus on, even if she perceptibly tensed up a little as he moved further into her personal space. She was pleased to note, at least, that the urge to slide her chair away wasn't hard to fight down and shook the man's hand. sweaty - red-eyed - emotional? - other options less appealing - addiction - illness - mental disorder - assume emotional "Yes," she answered, gesturing toward the main table. She kept her voice dry but even with the visor obscuring much of her upper face she couldn't quite keep some wry amusement and a hint of pride off her features. "In the bandanna. ...and the bridesmaid dress."

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Willow shook her head with a chuckle and insisted, "It is I who am lucky, Karl Epstein." The dryads voice, while still laced with a sense of mirth, was almost grave as she made that statement. The set of her features, the way she kept glancing at the main table, all of these served to reinforce the impression that she wholeheartedly felt that she was the lucky one.

Her focus drifted as she contemplated where she would be, mentally, emotionally and even physically if she decided to not sleep in the backyard of the Brownstone that night. And even though that night wasn't that far into the past, she liked where she was now and where she was going, even though there was sorrow in the future. I should do something about that, Willow mused.

As she played with the food on her plate, moving it back and forth she added, "I do not know if tapered ears are a new thing among Guardians; I have been sleeping for nearly two decades and have only recently awoken, you see."

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"The honor is mine, madame," Archeville replied to Elaine, smiling warmly and bowing slightly. He wore another Wolfgang Joop original tuxedo, similar to the one he wore at Derrick & Stesha's wedding, but in the colors Grim had chosen. "The good works your daughter and her companions have done for the city have become the stuff of legends, and I am always delighted to meet the people who managed to raise such upstanding and outstanding individuals."

So these are Lynn's parents! Not really what I expected... but surprises can be good!

"As for money," he continued, pausing to take a sip of water and glance over at Mona, "it has opened avenues, yes, but one of the overarching goals of ArcheTech is to make science more affordable and accessible to others. To insure that future generations are not denied the chance to make new discoveries, or the ability to access the research and wisdom of the past."

In his jacket pocket, the contents of a small box pulsed.

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Mona, so relaxed in her own skin, face palmed at Lynn's reaction.

Sweet, sweet Lynn!

"Lynn, I was meaning you have great taste in...," by which time the pixie was on a roll and cutting in edgewise was impossible. Fulcrum chuckled quietly and sipped her whiskey while listening to the two sisters. If anything a look of nostalgia crept over her face at their antics.

Trying not to full belly laugh, Fulcrum poured herself a champagne from another bottle. A mock toast followed on both Lynn's and Billy's glasses. "Why nothing at all, Mr. Reynolds. Just chatting about the beauty of Lynn's dress and her amazing ability with glamor."

When Billy looked away, Mona winked to Lynn and sipped her champagne. Hopefully, the reception had a fully stocked bar. A 750 lb woman could put away a lot of liquor.

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"Hmm?" Colt hummed an inquiry as he leaned toward Grim, "What's that y'all talkin' 'bout over'ere?" he asked, planting a kiss on her head.

Lynn's face flickered through a rapid series of expressions before settling on deeply embarrassed. "Hmm? Oh God, just...girly stuff." She waved a dismissive hand. "It's like, just because the four of us, y'know, the 'hardcore bridal party', were in this together, there's supposed to be like a special bond now? Forever? I was just being silly." Then she looked back at the three amazing young women at her side, and her eyes went a little misty. "But I dunno, maybe there is..." She squeezed her big sister's hand. "I'm so glad you guys are here. All of you, you made this special. Special-er."

Eddi just smiled and squeezed back. "You'll always be my baby sis, Sher, no matter what shape your ears are." She raised a glass to the happy cowboy. "You're a very lucky guy, Bill."

Lynn positively beamed as she looked at her husband. "Ain't he just". But then she looked past him to her brother Ben, who looked like he was a little light-headed. "What's up, Benj, you okay?"

He finally managed to sputter a few words out. "You were shot...in the neck?"

The shapeshifter's eyes went wide. "Oh my God, what did you guys say to him? We talked about this, remember? About how there were some things my family doesn't have to know, as in ever?" She got out of her seat and crouched at her big brother's side, taking his hand in both of her's. "It was nothing, Benj; it was a tiny bullet, just a graze." She held up her fingers with maybe a quarter inch gap between them. "It was little, practically a BB." She reached under the table and produced a glass of scotch. "Here, drink this, it's the good stuff." Ben feebly accepted the glass and drank, as his little sister rubbed his back and gave her male teammates an exasperated look.

- - - -

"Yes," she answered, gesturing toward the main table. She kept her voice dry but even with the visor obscuring much of her upper face she couldn't quite keep some wry amusement and a hint of pride off her features. "In the bandanna. ...and the bridesmaid dress."

Butch squinted up at the big table, then cocked his head slightly to one side. "Oh, well...wow, she's very pretty. Congratz, you know, to both of you..."

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The shapeshifter's eyes went wide. "Oh my God, what did you guys say to him? We talked about this, remember? About how there were some things my family doesn't have to know, as in ever?" She got out of her seat and crouched at her big brother's side, taking his hand in both of her's. "It was nothing, Benj; it was a tiny bullet, just a graze." She held up her fingers with maybe a quarter inch gap between them. "It was little, practically a BB." She reached under the table and produced a glass of scotch. "Here, drink this, it's the good stuff." Ben feebly accepted the glass and drank, as his little sister rubbed his back and gave her male teammates an exasperated look.

"What?" Billy playfully smiled an objection at her expression, "I reckon the guy was'askin' 'bout th'day job. Well, th'old day job. Seein's how're crime fight'n days're b'hind us now."

Eddi just smiled and squeezed back. "You'll always be my baby sis, Sher, no matter what shape your ears are." She raised a glass to the happy cowboy. "You're a very lucky guy, Bill."

Billy turned and eyed Lynn's sister, "Well, y'got that right," He gave her a nod, "Guess that'd mean, m'card playin' day's're b'hind me. Well, th'lucky ones't least. If'n ya believe that old sayin'."

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Thrude had spent the ceremony in a trance. The declarations of love and commitment were as oil beneath her feet, and her mind kept slipping into memories of a time long past, a day when the humans were still struggling with the building of a simple campfire. Her gaze kept losing focus. Several times, the sky outside began to grow dark as the clouds moved to block the sun, and the goddess barely snapped out of her reverie in time to mentally command them to retreat before they started dumping rain and lightning upon the city. Her mind kept wandering back to that day. That warm spring morning when she'd emerged from the Valhall just in time to see the statue which had, only moments ago, been her bethrothed, and secretly, her lover. Just in time to see the bolt of lightning match the swing of her father's hammer, smashing into the dwarf who'd taught her how to harness the runes (against the laws of his own people) and stolen her heart in the process. Just in time to watch her father, the man who'd tricked her love into the path of Sol's rays, pulverize the frozen corpse.

Thor was not completely heartless. He allowed his daughter to strike him once in her grief and rage. But only once, before proving that his power still vastly overshadowed her own. And he stood by his declaration that no daughter of his would be wed to a tunnel-dwelling troll of a man, nor pollute their bloodline with his seed, the All-Father be damned.

Thrude's wedding was to have been the penultimate component of a permanent alliance between the Aesir and the Dvergr, as Odr's marriage to Freyja had cemented the alliance between Aesir and Vanir. The arms crafted by the dwarven runesmiths were without equal, and Odin worked long and hard to broker a treaty which would keep them flowing into the hands of his people.

The All-Father had banished Thor to Midgard that day, stripped Mjolnir from his grasp and cast him down with the mortals. It was not the first time Odin had punished his wayward son's foolhardy arrogance in this manner, nor would it be the last. Sooner or later, Thor would always prove himself in an act of sacrifice and heroism most noble, earning back his claim to his power and his crown. And sooner or later, the lessons of the past would be forgot and the cycle would repeat anew. Thrude, meanwhile, had joined Freyja's Valkyries, wishing to bury her pain in the blood of monsters and tyrants, and secretly dreaming of the day when her father's punishment would be hers to inflict.

Thrude grasped the simple shard of granite set into the simple silver chain around her neck. Her fingers gently caressed the largest piece of her beloved she'd been able to salvage from the pile. Mjolnir's strike had reduced most of the dwarf's body to powder. This piece was smaller than the last finger on Thrude's hand. Her other hand had clenched into a fist so hard her fingernails had cut into the skin on her palm. Several minutes later, she noticed the tiny droplets of blood leaking out from between her knuckles. She glanced to her sides. A woman two seats away was dabbing tears from the corners of her eyes. Thrude's arm shot out and snatched the hankerchief from the woman's hand. She wiped the blood from her own palm as quickly and discreetly as she was able, then dropped the cloth back into the woman's lap. She whispered a gruff "Thank you." The woman just gaped at her.

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Karl took turns looking at the two nigh-immortal women seated across from him, drumming his fingers on the table. Finally he cleared his throat.

"Sorry, ladies, but I hate awkward silences. My name's Karl Epstein; I'm one of Sheri's uncles."

The Nordic goddess brushed her impossibly radiant sun-colored hair away from her single sky-blue eye. It spent most days twisted into tight braids, lest it prove her undoing in battle, but today, the bulk of it hung free, down to her waist. A few locks had been braided, but more for decoration than pragmatism, mainly to provide support for the blue flowers adorning her tresses. The tattered remains of her other eye were covered with an eyepatch of blue silk as usual, but this one had no string, instead affixing directly to her flesh.

"Well met, Karl Epstein of Midgard. I am Thrude, child of Thor Storm-King and Sif Harvest-Queen, grandchild of Odin All-Father and Gaea, the very Earth upon which you now sit, Daughter of Storms, Chooser of The Slain, Princess of Asgard, and sworn defender of this realm and its peoples."

He shrugged. "Though I guess, from the looks of you, you might know her by her nom de plume or whatever, Grim...Grimmelkin?" He peered inquisitively at his 'date'.

"Grimalkin, she stated in a bored voice. "She's one of the Interceptors."

"Right, right. How crazy is that?"

Thrude reached down for another bottle of champagne. Having prior warning, the caterers had not bothered to set a glass at her seat, instead placing an entire case in a tub of ice on the floor. "In truth, 'Grimalkin' is the only name by which I knew our Seelie friend until this day. But I have not known her long, and mostly by reputation. I was recruited in part to make up for the loss of her sword-arm, which from the tales I've seen, was a formidable one. But she has welcomed me with open arms, so it is the least I can do to help send her off with all the pomp I can muster." She popped the cork and gulped down half the bottle in a single swig.

Karl pursed his lips. "Wow. Well I gotta say, all that beauty sleep really paid off, because you are a knockout, sister."

"Forsooth, Comrade Willow, the mortal is correct. Your beauty is likely to surpass anything he will see in his short life. Were you not still smitten with the swordsman, surely you would have your pick of the men assembled here today. Though I cannot fault your choice of companion, for he is a mighty warrior, and sometimes I confess I would sooner mistake him for one of the Vanir than a human."

Then he got a thoughtful look and his face and chuckled. "Y'know you and me, we're kinda in the same boat? I've spent half my life inside, first in juvie, then in the joint; half the time I don't know what anyone's talkin' about." He indicated Lynn and the rest of his family with a wave of his hand. "You know how many weddings I've missed? How many birthdays? Graduations, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, funerals..." He sighed and rested his head in his hand. "It's like I know I love 'em, but I barely know 'em; well, I know Benji is a putz, but he was always a putz..."

Suddenly he turned to Willow and slapped his hand on the table again. "You know what, to hell with that! I didn't come to my niece's wedding to feel sorry for myself." He raised his glass in salute. "To life outside of the loop!"

Thrude raised her bottle to meet Karl's glass. "Aye, I'll drink to that. I'm told that over a dozen centuries passed since my imprisonment at the hands of The Traitor, since the last time I walked the lands of Midgard. If you'd told me then that the Saxons of all people would take over the world, I would have laughed in your face. Or cut you down where you stood."

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"There is," Mona said in reassurance. "I'm honored to be here, Lynn. To be here and share in this wonderful new experience with you. Thank you for this opportunity." Sounded a bit more formal than she envisioned, but it worked well enough.

After watching Grim's brother have a meltdown, Mona stood and headed over his way. She patted Billy on shoulder as she passed and said, "Congratulations, cowboy. Take good care of her."

She then knelt down next to Ben Epstein. The heroine still reached eye level. Quietly but firmly she began, "Mr. Epstein, per capita superheroes have a lower risk of death on-the-job than police officers. I know that comes as precious little consolation. She is your sister after all, and she is my friend. Let me put it to you this way. Your sister, as a great public service to this city, has risked her life and bravely faced some of the most dangerous people this world has to offer. She has proved superbly capable and helped restore peace and justice to a world that could easily be overrun with petty tyrants and super villains. That...is something of which to be proud. Even if the details are a little shocking." She smiled to the man.

"I know I am proud to call her my team mate."

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It seemed like Dynamo was always running a little bit late these days. Time was harder to manage now that he was a bit slower. But this time he had an excuse; he had stayed behind at the ceremony to make sure everyone got to where they were going safely and that they weren't being tailed by anyone with a nefarious purpose. He also helped clean up the bookshop a little after the wedding. Plus running around in a tux felt really weird.

He came in in time to hear Karl's toast. "Don't sell yourself short." he said with a tap on his arm. "People like you are the ones that gives people like us the drive to keep doing what we're doing." he said sincerely. "Think about it. How many of us do you think would be doing this for years on end if we didn't think we were making a difference. You've made your mistakes and now you're going to make amends. People like you remind us that we never lose the ability to get up off the ground, dust ourselves off and try again. And I can't give any higher praise than that." concluded Dynamo smartly as he raised his beer to toast good old Karl.

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