Magda smiled as she looked over at the table by the pool. Coraline was showing off pictures of her horse to an envious Anna and Felipa. Daniel and Laura were doing slightly better jobs of hiding their jealousy as the girl waxed rhapsodic about the palomino. Not far away, Lidia was showing little Jehanne how to hold a paintbrush. She glanced at the man sitting next to her. “Stop looking nervous. You have permission to be here.”
Matthias rolled his eyes. “That’s not why I’m nervous.” He shook his head. “You do realize Anna’s going to want one of her own now?” He sighed. “Erilon, you’ll keep her from mind controlling me into getting her a dozen, right?”
She smiled, and then her eyes went back to Jehanne. The Cabal had created the child. They’d given up on her after Gabriel had come to her defense, but after recent events… She sighed.
“A support group?” Sean sat down next to his son. He put a hand atop Adam’s before looking over at Michaels.
“For veterans.” Michaels nodded.
“Father Williams has…” Adam took a deep breath, then squeezed his hand. “I’ve been talking to him, too. He’s been there. Ash suggested it, said Father Williams helped him a lot.”
“As much as I want you home, I think you might be safer there.” He sighed, then made himself smile. “At least we’ll know where you are, and…” He glanced at Michaels.
“And Khait is willing to teleport folks around now and then.” Michaels smiled. “Professor Kravitz is good people.”
“Lidia agrees.” Sean nodded. He’d spoken to the professor a couple times already, over the phone. The professor hadn’t hidden his disappointment over Adam wanting to go into the oceanography program instead of studying history but had still written letters of recommendation and insisted on functioning as Adam’s academic adviser. “Coraline is making noise about wanting to study abroad and continue working with…” He tilted his head. “Okay, you know more about this mythos stuff than I do. Is Jormun really Santa Claus?”
“He does control the North Pole.” Adam twitched a shoulder, trying to hide a smile.
“And has ties to elves.” Michaels smirked.
“It’s his willingness to squish anyone that looks sideways at my daughter that I really care about.” Sean shrugged. “He’s been working with you?” He raised an eyebrow at Adam.
“Training me, helping me get a handle on the extent of what I can do. He’s uh…” Adam rubbed the back of his neck. “He and Khait have been trying to teach me the teleporting —”
“Learn it from Khait.” Michaels’s eyes widened a little. “Especially if you are going to transport others.”
“What, you don’t like being dragged across the planet at four times the speed of sound?” Adam grinned. It faded a moment later, and he started fiddling with his watch before speaking again. “I talked with Ryuu.”
“Your mother has started talking to him again as well.” Sean slowly nodded. “Things have apparently changed in the dragon ranks, because when the topic of the ring was broached again Ryuu shut Merlin down.” He smiled. “Hard. He laid some sort of hex on the ring, I guess, in case anyone tries to take it away from Stephan.”
“Yeah. Stephan was not thrilled about being teleported into the Council of Wyrms with only five seconds of warning.” Michaels stood to refill his coffee mug.
“At least he was wearing pants.” Adam snickered.
Ash smiled as he watched Lykos working the silver. He shaped it with little more than his bare hands, as though it were made of clay. It was fascinating. “Does your ability to breakdown the organometallic structure have anything to do with the electrical conductivity of silver?”
Lykos frowned as he looked down at the item in his hands. “Not think so.”
“But that must be why silver can take the enchantment. It’s more conductive than copper, but more durable than gold, making a better balance of the physical and chemical properties.” He drew his knees up. “Gold is weakened by purity, you have to debase it for it to really be useful for more than decorative purposes. Are you re-synthesizing the nanoclusters?”
The other man stopped what he was doing and stared down at the half finished ring. He frowned. He started to touch the metal again, then shook his head. “I…” He tilted his head the other way, then set the metal down and stared at it.
“What’s wrong?” Ash leaned forward to peer at the metal.
“Ash…” Christophe smiled, and put a hand on Ash’s shoulder. “Ever asked someone if they start off on the right foot or the left?”
“Uh…” Ash shook his head. “No?”
Christophe’s grin widened. “When you make someone think about how they walk, they forget how.”
“I…” He looked back at Lykos, who was starting to glare at Christophe. “Oh.”
“There you go…” Lykos took a deep breath as both Christophe and Ash started laughing. “Thinking you are funny.”
“Mr. Cross.” Stephan tried not to sigh as the man sat down at the table. Stasya rolled her eyes, and Professor Kravitz looked like he wanted to be anywhere else. They had been having a nice conversation. “What can —”
“How long has Khait been one of your students?” Abigail’s father narrowed his eyes at Professor Kravitz.
“A couple years now.” Professor Kravitz nodded. “He’s a fine young man.”
“Hmph.” Mr. Cross shook his head. “I tried asking him what he does for a living, and all I got was a flippant remark. What’s his major?”
“History.” Professor Kravitz sat up. “He’s pursu—”
“History?” Mr. Cross wrinkled his nose. “What kind of idiot majors in something like that?”
Professor Kravitz blinked. “I did.”
“Me too.” Stasya sat up.
“I…” Mr. Cross blinked, then turned to Stasya. “Well, Khait’s no teacher. What do you do for a living?”
“I am assassin.” Stasya shrugged.
Mr. Cross let out a long and frustrated sigh. “You know, you’re the third person today to make that joke.” He shook his head. “Seriously, how does this young man intend to support my daughter?”
Stephan opened his mouth, then shut it again. The fact that Khait was apparently able to magic up unlimited credit lines at will was probably not the answer Abigail’s father wanted. “He works for me.”
“For you?” Mr. Cross blinked. “And you…?”
“I run a private security and investigation firm.” Stephan smiled, hoping he’d get the chance to let Khait know this story before Mr. Cross ran into him again.
“Half the wedding guests work for him.” Professor Kravitz nodded. “They’ve provided security at some of my digs. Even recently helped restore stolen Nazi treasure to its proper owners. France was very grateful for their assistance.”
“I…” Mr. Cross’s frown started to fade. “Really?”
“Abigail is amazing at provenance.” Stephan leaned back a little. “I was just talking to Professor Kravitz about hiring her when she graduates.”
“Frankly, I do not know what I’m going to do without her and Bridget when that happens.” Professor Kravitz sighed.
“Cheer up.” Stasya patted his hand. “You’ll soon have Laura.”
He couldn’t quite stop himself from chuckling when Professor Kravitz visibly paled.
“Magda?” Adam felt a little nervous as he knocked on the door of her room. It was open, and he could see her inside, but… He glanced at Anna, who nodded to him. “Can we come in?”
“Of course.” Magda set her book down and waved them into the suite she was sharing with Ash. Ash turned off the television but stayed on the couch. Magda raised an eyebrow. “Is everything alright?”
“I, uh…” He glanced at Anna again.
Anna smiled. “I asked Adam to help me make you a present.” She pointed at the package he was carrying. “I hope you like it.”
“I’m sure I’ll love it.” Magda smiled warmly at Anna. “Adam, would you like some coffee?”
“Please.” He nodded to her as he set the item on the table. He caught Ash’s eye when Magda’s back was turned and jerked his head at her. Ash gave him a small frown but nodded and stood up to come closer. “Thank you.” He took the coffee Magda offered.
She sat down, giving Anna a small hug before going to open the item. Halfway through the unwrapping, her hands started to shake. The item slipped out of her hands, and Ash caught it before it could go anywhere. “Oh…” She put her hands over her mouth as tears started to come from her eyes.
“Magda…” Ash gave her a worried look, then stepped to the side to get a better look at the item. His eyes widened, then he looked up at Adam.
Adam swallowed, then nodded to Ash. Anna put her hand on Magda’s shoulder. “Did I show them to him right?” Anna gave her a worried look. “Did…”
With trembling hands, Magda reached forward to finish pulling the wrapping paper off the painting. She touched the first of the three faces. “Benjamin…” Her voice broke as she went to the next. “Anna…” A sob escaped her at the third. “Elias.”
“I…” Adam blinked when Magda launched herself up from the chair to throw her arms around him. She lifted him off his feet in a hug that nearly broke ribs.
“Thank you…” She barely managed to get the words out. “Thank you.”
“If you want me to wear a suit…” Gabriel glanced up at him. “You’re going to have to remove the handcuffs.” He pulled a little at where his wrists were secured to the headboard.
“Eventually.” Ted smiled down at him. “I think for our wedding, I’m going to make you wear your dress uniform.”
“Please no.” Gabriel’s eyes widened, and he began pulling harder on the restraints. “Not that.”
“Yes…” He leaned over his lover, smiling wickedly. “That.”
“I’m sorry.” Khait shifted from foot to foot as her eyes turned back to him.
“Why do you apologize every time I glance in your direction?” Patricia raised an eyebrow at him.
“I’m not sure.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “It just seems like the thing to do.”
She sighed, then picked up the tie and put it around his neck. She fastened the knot, then positioned it appropriately before smoothing the front of his shirt. Then she stepped back and gave him a look. “Let me find a comb for your hair.
“I’m sorry.” He nodded.
“You don’t need to keep apologizing.” The corner of her mouth twitched a little.
“I’m sor…” He winced.
“You really didn’t know it requires a license to get married?” She raised an eyebrow at him as she began fixing his hair
“I sort of…” He shrugged. When had marriage gotten so complicated? The sovereign of 80% of the planet had pronounced him and Abigail wed. That should have been more than good enough. Thankfully, Ryuu had helped out with getting all the false identity paperwork he needed to just get the license in the first place. “Spent the last five hundred years under a rock.”
Patricia smiled, then pulled him down to plant a kiss on his forehead. “There.” She held up the comb as though it were a sword. “I’m going to go find my son. Hopefully someone managed to get it through his skull that the best man must also be appropriately attired.”
Considering he’d seen Ted picking up the suit last night, he was pretty sure that wouldn’t be a problem. “Thank you.” He turned to look at his reflection as she left and had to admit she’d improved things a bit. His eyes widened a bit when the door opened again.
Abigail’s father leaned in. “Khait?”
“Mr. Cross.” He nodded before turning around. “I…”
“Ah, good.” The man entered and walked toward him. He held up a blue handkerchief, then began folding it into the pocket on the front of Khait’s suit jacket. “Was worried I wouldn’t catch you in time.” He patted the pocket before taking his hand away. When Khait gave him a confused look, he shrugged before giving Khait an awkward smile. “I wore it when I married her mother, and uh…” He nodded. “My father wore it when he married my mother and…”
Khait looked down at the blue handkerchief, then nodded. “Thank you, sir.”
“Hmph.” Mr. Cross nodded. “Get a move on.” He turned to leave. “Be damned irresponsible of you to be late to your own wedding.”
“Yes.” He smiled. “Yes, it would.”
“So not only does he know exactly what you want in bed…” Diana stared at Abigail. “He also knows what foods you are craving and what movie you want to watch?”
“He does the food and movie thing with Bridget too, which considering none of his other powers work on her I’ve often found sort of odd.” She raised her arm, so Bridget could help her with the clasp on the dress. “He’s also drawn her a bubble bath a couple times.”
“Wow.” Diana grinned. “I thought I’d hit the jackpot when Michaels cleaned the kitchen after I made dinner.” She shrugged. “He does laundry, too.”
“Yeah, we don’t let Khait do that anymore.” Bridget looked up at Abigail. “Did we ever figure out who that corset belonged to?”
“Does your Dad know about Khait?” Diana moved to help Bridget fasten the veil.
“He thinks Khait is an Egyptian archeology student I met on a dig. Which is…” Abigail shrugged. “Close enough to true. He’s sort of Egyptian, his new ID says he’s a grad student, and I did meet him on a dig.”
“Does he approve?” Diana raised an eyebrow.
Abigail and Bridget both snorted. “Khait is male and within fifty feet of his daughter.” Bridget shook her head. “Of course he doesn’t.”
“Does he…” Diana tilted her head and glanced at Bridget. “Does he know you’re a lesbian within fifty feet of his daughter?”
“Despite the fact he’s seen me make out with at least three different girls…” Bridget shook her head.
“He still manages to not know she’s a lesbian.” Abigail grinned before turning to look at herself in the mirror. “Alright.” She nodded. “I’m getting married.” She took a deep breath. “Again.”
“Can’t believe you forgot about needing a marriage license.” Bridget snickered.
“Bite me.” Abigail glared at Bridget’s reflection.
Lidia looked over the decorations, then sighed and started to reach forward to change the drape again. “It starts in five minutes.” Father Williams shook his head.
She glared at him, then sighed. “Why are you so relaxed?”
“This is the first wedding in forty years that I’m merely attending…” He smiled. “Instead of officiating.” He chuckled. “It looks beautiful, Mrs. Wu.”
“You don’t think I was too heavy on the roses?” She looked up at the archway.
He reached up and gave the arch a slight push, then shrugged. “Since the arch doesn’t appear in imminent danger of collapse, I would say no.”
“Smart ass.” She rolled her eyes at him. “I thought you were supposed to be an usher. Shouldn’t you be ushering?”
Father Williams laughed. “You’re taking this wedding very seriously for someone who has exchanged only about twenty words with the bride.”
“I…” Lidia made another small adjustment to one of the ribbons. “Adam told me about Wren breaking the talisman, and what Khait did for…” She took a ragged breath, and felt his hand touch her shoulder. “Making sure his wedding is perfect seems like the least I could…” She wiped at her eyes.
“As long as Abigail is here…” Father Williams offered her a tissue. “Khait will be happy.” He gave her a comforting smile. “Bridget took care of all the paperwork this morning.”
“I can’t believe they went through the effort of arranging an underwater wedding and completely forgot they needed a marriage license.” Lidia found herself smiling. “How did nobody catch that?”
“I’m going to go grab the rest of my ushers…” He nodded at where Iggy stood at the back of the building, fidgeting with the collar of his suit again. “And start making sure everyone takes their places.”
“Can’t believe you talked me into this.” Jormun glared at her.
“Smile.” Adele fixed his tie before giving him a shove toward the door. “It’s a happy day.”
“If anyone, and I mean anyone…” Jormun shook his head as he started for the officiant’s podium. “So much as considers speaking up during the ‘or forever hold your piece’ part, I’m eating them.”
Adele rolled her eyes as she sat down next to Ted. “I checked. Bridget did the paperwork correctly.”
“I admit…” Ted laughed softly. “I’m a little relieved to hear that.” He glanced at her, then down at her belly, then met her eyes and raised an eyebrow.
She grinned and nodded. Then she shrugged. “We decided on a small, private ceremony at an undisclosed location rather than tempt any of his enemies.” She gave him a reassuring smile when he started to give her a sympathetic look. “And I think I prefer it that way. Not saying this isn’t lovely…” She smiled as she heard music start playing. “But I could use a little peace and quiet.”
Laura looked around at the wrecked remains of the reception hall. The buffet table was still smoldering, but amazingly enough the table with the wedding presents appeared to have escaped mostly unscathed, aside from the drenching of the fire sprinklers. She could hear sirens in the distance. Next to her, Michaels was brushing broken glass out of his hair. Ted had managed to hang onto the bouquet Abigail had tossed him. Across the room, Jormun and Matthias were lifting a section of wall off Iggy and Javier. Gabriel’s eyes were still glowing faintly as he and Adam stood over where Daniel was healing the bumps and scrapes caused by the dance floor exploding. “So…” She walked over to help Bridget back to her feet. “That went well.”
Bridget turned to look at where Khait was feeding a smiling Abigail a slice of wedding cake he’d somehow manage to save from the destruction. She grinned. “Yeah. It did.”
“I think…” Lidia sighed. “The damage deposit is probably going to a write-off.”
“Eh…” Ryuu shook his head. “This building was scheduled for demolition anyway.”