“Hey, babe, when did you want to go get a marriage license?”
Amanita was idly clicking around the San Francisco County Clerk website, trying to figure out how best to actually get married. So you need to get a license, and you need an appointment for that, but if you want a civil ceremony, you also need a separate appointment for that, and both appointments might not be available on the same day….Ugh, bureaucracy. She supposed, though, that she ought to be grateful for it. It wasn’t that long ago that she and Nomi wouldn’t have been able to get married at all, not without misgendering and deadnaming Nomi anyway.
She looked at her engagement ring, smiled. She’d kept it on through all the craziness of the past few months, not just as a reminder of what she and Nomi had, but as a promise too: some day, the danger and fear would pass. Some day, their rings would be more than a hope and a wish, they’d be the start of a new life.
Knock on wood, but it felt like that start now. It had been a couple months now since they’d won the war against BPO, and they had definitely, decisively won. Every member of the cluster was safe and sound, and so was every assorted friend or family member of the cluster, and BPO was razed to the ground. Well, metaphorically razed to the ground. Destroying a shady multinational corporation with extensive government ties turned out to be difficult, but the tops of corporate structures were more delicate things, and given judicious use of violence, espionage, theft, blackmail, whistleblowing, and leaking, those corporate structures could and would fold like a cheap deck of cards. The rest followed once the money spigot was cut off, and after sufficient numbers of people did perp walks into federal courthouses.
With all that going on, and what with having to go rescue Wolfgang immediately post-mutual proposal, Amanita had admittedly shuffled “get married” towards the bottom of her life priorities list. First they had to be safe, and proposing to each other, being engaged—that had been enough, enough of a statement of intent and commitment. The rest was just paperwork. Paperwork they could do now, and then ta da! Married. Mrs. and Mrs. Caplan-Marks. Or Marks-Caplan. She’d have to ask Nomi.
Speaking of... Amanita frowned. “Nomi, you there?” she called out.
“I’m here!” Nomi came into the kitchen, looking a little flustered. “Marriage license?”
“Uh huh. You have to book an appointment, then we both have to go down to the Clerk’s office for the license. And you have to make a separate appointment for the ceremony, and figure out yourself if you can manage to get them on the same day, which, seriously? Is there no more elegant solution to that problem?”
Nomi stood there, blinking. “Right. Getting married. We have to get married, because we’re engaged.”
“Uh, yeah.” Amanita’s stomach dropped. “Unless you...don’t want to anymore? I know it’s been a crazy engagement, and a crazy year, and you know, maybe we should take some time to get settled back into what passes for a normal life, make sure we’re not about to be enemies of the state or anything—”
“No! I mean, yes! I mean—I definitely still want to get married.” Nomi came over to wrap Amanita up in a kiss, and Amanita held her close to turn the kiss long and deep, until Nomi pulled away when they were both pleasantly breathless. “Just—you want to just go to City Hall? No wedding?”
“Sure, it’s only paperwork, right? I feel like we did the important part already, with the rings, and the living together...” Nomi bit her lip. Oh, maybe this was one of those WASPy things Amanita’s “unique” upbringing hadn’t really prepared her for. “I thought you didn’t want a wedding like Tegan’s?”
“I don’t! I definitely don’t. I mean, it was nice and everything, but come on, the fancy hotel, and the church, and all those people...no thank you. I don’t want some wedding-industrial complex wedding. But, y’know, a short ceremony, a fun party, our friends and non-awful family members there….I’d like that. Would, uh, would you?” Nomi was making big pleading eyes at her, and then she winced. “For the record, Lito is very much pro-wedding.”
“Hmm. How about everyone else?” asked Amanita with a smile. Amanita had met the whole cluster in person by now, and counted them friends even apart from how her fiancee shared a brain with them. It made her wish sometimes that she had a more direct connection to them too, instead of just their echoes and reflections through Nomi. If only there was a damn psychic conference call feature between Homo sensorium and Homo sapiens.
Nomi tilted her head and smiled at what looked like empty air around Amanita. “Capheus and Kala and Riley say yes to a wedding, Wolfgang says ‘do whatever’ and Will and Sun say a party would be nice but no pressure.”
“A party would be nice…” Amanita considered. She’d been to small commitment ceremonies, and big weddings, and weddings that were just a trip to City Hall and then a barbecue or a picnic at the park. She’d been to renewal of vows weddings, courthouse steps weddings, and one memorable Vegas wedding where an Elvis impersonator officiated. She’d never put all that much thought into a wedding of her own. Even as she’d bought the ring for Nomi, she’d been thinking more of proposing and the vague reality of actually being married than the wedding itself.
“What do you want for your wedding?” asked Nomi, quiet now—or no, Amanita peered into her eyes and decided no, that was Riley. “When you think wedding, what’s the first thing you think of?”
“Nomi,” said Amanita without hesitation. “You,” she said, once she thought Nomi was back behind her eyes. Nomi leaned down to kiss her, sweet and perfect.
“Okay, but what else?” asked Nomi once she pulled away with a smile.
Amanita thought about it, all the wedding cliches and all the weddings she’d been to. She thought about all the pieces of them that she wanted, and all the ones she didn’t. When she thought about it like that, it was easy.
“My parents. Our friends. Your cluster. Your parents and family, if you want them there. Cake, like really good cake. Not cake that’s just there to look pretty in pictures. And, and, a ludicrous over the top dress that I can only get away with wearing at my wedding!”
Nomi laughed. “Alright. So let’s do that. Let’s make it happen.”
It took a Google calendar shared with about twenty people blocking out their available dates to schedule a mutually acceptable wedding date, because the one non-negotiable part of the wedding was that the entire cluster be there, in person, along with all of Amanita’s parents. That had taken some heroic schedule wrangling and flight-scheduling, and Amanita was honestly pretty proud of herself for managing it. From there though, Amanita had to admit she was a little lost.
They were both on their laptops at the kitchen table, tea and pastries at hand, ready to plan the fuck out of their wedding. They were going to be efficient and frugal and reasonable, having watched a few episodes of Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress as examples of How Not to Wedding. Their decorations would be tasteful, the cake would be amazing, and the food would be unpretentious while still meeting everyone’s dietary requirements.
That was all totally doable! Amanita had managed all of those things with other parties she’d thrown or helped with! And yet she was still googling “wedding san francisco not hipster” like that would magically help their wedding planning.
“It’s just a party, right? We can throw a party,” said Nomi, a little too uncertainly to be reassuring.
Amanita scrolled down the decidedly discouraging list of search results. “This isn’t a birthday party or a Halloween party or a Christmas party though, and we can’t have it here. We’d never fit everyone. And it just wouldn’t feel right, you know? So we have to get a venue, and then we have to get food, because we can’t just ask everyone to bring something, not when so many people are flying in, and—oh, booze! We need booze too, and music, and decorations, and oh my god this is why the wedding-industrial complex exists.”
Amanita and Nomi stared at each other in dismay. “We brought down an entire evil conspiracy. We can plan a wedding,” insisted Nomi. She turned, looked behind her. One of the cluster was visiting. “Lito says to FaceTime him, he and Dani have some ideas.”
Amanita tried not to wince. Lito was…a lot. His wedding ideas would probably be fairly over the top. Still, some help was better than none. Nomi accepted the FaceTime call on her laptop, and they were greeted with Lito, Hernando, and Dani’s excited faces. Amanita might not be a psychic sensate, but modern technology was pretty great, and video calls could help approximate a cluster-style connection with Nomi’s cluster.
Once the greetings and small talk were dispensed with, Lito got to business.
“Nomi, Amanita, you know you are the sisters of my heart, and I love you, but you are not good at this wedding planning.”
“We’ve barely even started!” protested Nomi.
“The date you picked is three months from now and you’ve spent the last week watching Say Yes to the Dress,” retorted Lito. Okay, that was fair.
“Hey now, I didn’t hear any complaints about that while you were watching with us,” said Nomi.
“And how long does it take to plan a wedding, really,” said Amanita with what she thought was really quite convincing breeziness, even though she had that top-of-a-rollercoaster feeling that preceded every time she’d gotten in over her head. Whatever, Amanita was great at improvising. She could totally improvise up a last-minute wedding.
Dani got a distinctly pitying look on her face while Hernando looked concerned. “Oh, Neets,” she said.
“We don’t want some big, fancy, expensive wedding—”
“Even small, intimate weddings take careful planning,” Dani chided. Then she clasped her hands under her chin and made pleading eyes. “Let me help! I can take care of everything, I promise.”
Nomi and Amanita exchanged a long look. Is this a good idea? There was no doubt that Dani had the skills. Dani was one of the world’s natural fixers and planners, as they had all learned in the fight against BPO, and she could work fast. The only question was, was Dani capable of not going over the top? Dani and Lito were both the “go big or go home” type.
“You’re not too busy?” asked Amanita.
“Lito’s booked for the next year and then some, which doesn’t leave me with a lot to do here in LA other than go on auditions myself.” Dani made a sour face at the prospect. “Honestly, I’m a little bored. Please? You can consider it my wedding present to you!”
“Dani is actually very good with events,” said Hernando while Lito nodded along enthusiastically. “She helped me so much with my department’s fundraiser, even on a tiny academic budget.”
Dani, Hernando, and Lito all looked at them with identical puppy dog eyes, which, wow, not an onslaught anyone could resist. Amanita could see Nomi caving, and she herself felt relieved at the prospect of being able to hand some of this off to someone else.
“I’m okay with it if you are,” she said to Nomi.
“Alright. If you’re sure you want to do this, we’d love the help,” said Nomi.
Dani squealed and clapped her hands. “I’m sure, I’m very sure! Now, tell me what you want, I will make it happen.”
With Dani handling the planning, that meant Amanita and Nomi had to deal with the invites. Dani said she’d get back to them in a couple days with some tentative plans, and told them to come up with a guest list in the meantime. So one night after work, Amanita and Nomi cuddled together on the couch with two notebooks, and got started on their respective lists.
Amanita’s side of the list was easy: her parents, her aunties and uncles, friends, Bug, of course, her favorite coworkers from the bookstore. She had to cut some people to keep the number of guests at “small, intimate wedding,” and she put parentheses around the people she didn’t think could make it. That left her with 25 people, which was totally doable, right? Right.
Nomi’s side of the list ran into some pretty immediate snags. The cluster and their assorted plus ones—that was easy. Then there was Tegan and her husband, and some friends that didn’t overlap with Amanita’s list. After that, Nomi’s pen went still.
“So, what’s the likelihood of disaster if we invite my parents?” asked Nomi with a wince.
What Amanita wanted to say was, fuck that, we’re not inviting your awful mom. But Nomi’s dad…he’d been pretty decent since Tegan’s wedding. He was trying, which was more than could be said of Nomi’s mom. You probably couldn’t invite just one parent to your wedding though, not when said parents were still married at any rate.
“It’s your call, babe,” said Amanita, taking Nomi’s hands. Nomi held on tight, brought Amanita’s hands up to her lips for a kiss.
“It’s our wedding.”
“I don’t want your mom there,” spilled out Amanita in a rush. “She signed off on some nut job psycho doctor giving you a lobotomy! She gets that awful, pinched, I-ate-a-lemon face every time she looks at you! She always deadnames you and misgenders you and I hate seeing what that does to you. And you know, she pretty obviously likes to pretend I don’t even exist.”
“When you put it like that,” joked Nomi weakly.
Amanita squeezed Nomi’s hands. “Be serious! I know it’s awful, I know she’s your mom. But I don’t want her there, ruining our day. And I don’t even mean that in a bridezilla way, she’d ruin a perfectly normal, boring day too.”
Nomi laughed a little. “I don’t want her to ruin our day either, any of our days,” admitted Nomi. “I think of standing up to make our vows, and her sitting there looking so hateful, and god, we definitely couldn’t have the officiant say anything like ‘speak now or forever hold your peace,’ could you imagine, she’d definitely say something—”
“She would absolutely say something!” interrupted Amanita, indignant and furious at the very thought.
“—And just, the whole time, I’d be waiting for her to ruin it.” Nomi laughed, a little tearfully, probably at something one of the cluster said.
“What is it?”
“Wolfgang and Sun say they’re sure they can convince her to behave if they get a few minutes alone with her.”
Amanita laughed too now. “I mean, they definitely could.” Amanita had seen Wolfgang’s crazy eyes make powerful men flinch and cower, and Sun was full-stop terrifyingly intimidating with, honestly, very little effort, it was super impressive. And hot. So if anyone could keep Nomi’s mom from ruining their wedding, it was them.
Nomi still had her listening face on, head turned as if someone else was sitting next to her. “Kala says I should talk to my dad,” said Nomi. “Tell him I’m getting married and I want him there, but not with the way things are with my mom.”
“Maybe he can come alone?” suggested Amanita.
“Yeah, maybe.” Nomi bit her lip, then smirked. “Imagine my dad meeting your dads.”
“Oh my god,” groaned Amanita, then froze, her eyes widening as she realized— “Oh my god, our families haven’t even really met yet!”
Nomi thunked her head down onto the table. “This is gonna be a disaster,” she moaned.
“This is not gonna be a disaster,” said Tegan when they called her to panic at her. “Let me handle Mom and Dad, okay?”
Meanwhile Dani was sending them daily wedding planning updates via email, Amanita’s mom congratulated them and said, “let me see what I can do about finding you two a venue, dears,” and Amanita had more dress shopping buddy offers than she knew what to do with. She and Nomi had agreed to keep their dresses a surprise for each other, and the not-seeing-the-bride before the wedding custom was basically the one unchanged classic wedding tradition they were keeping. That, and cake. And, okay, probably a couple Jewish traditions too, even if Amanita hadn’t exactly had much in the way of a standard Jewish upbringing.
“Who are you going to go dress shopping with?” Amanita asked Nomi.
“The cluster, of course,” answered Nomi.
Amanita raised an eyebrow. With a bluetooth earpiece or headphones in, no one batted an eye if Nomi talked to seemingly thin air, but that’d be a hard sell in a fancy bridal shop where the whole point was for your friends to see the dresses you were trying on.
“How are you going to manage that?”
Nomi grinned and shrugged. “We’ll figure something out. Actually, Lito’s been insisting he should fly up to help me in person.”
Nomi shrugged. “He has good taste when it comes to clothes.”
“So does Kala,” said Amanita, and then about thirty seconds later, her phone blew up with notifications.
I can help you find a dress!!!! Did you want a white dress? Long or short? Fairy tale princess or elegant and sophisticated??
“Kala is very excited,” said Nomi dryly. “And she says she promises not to spill the beans to me about your dress, if you do want her to help.”
“Oh, I definitely do,” said Amanita, and tapped out a response to Kala’s text. I want something I can twirl dramatically in. Also it should be sparkly.
Kala responded immediately: we can do that. We can definitely do that!
Amanita had booked them an appointment at City Hall to get their marriage license, so on a normal Wednesday afternoon, she ducked out of her shift at the bookstore a few minutes early, and met Nomi and Bug at City Hall. Bug had volunteered to be their witness so enthusiastically that Amanita hadn’t had the heart to say no or to even consider another witness. For all that he tried her patience sometimes, he really had been a good friend to them through a whole hell of a lot of craziness. If he wanted to endure some bureaucracy and sign a piece of paper for them, Amanita wasn’t about to stop him.
When she’d booked the appointment, Amanita had thought this would just be a bit of bureaucracy: fill out some forms, sign some paperwork, hand it over to a disinterested county employee. It wasn’t the important part, not really, and it didn’t even count as being officially married. That would come after their officiant returned the license to the county clerk. And yet, as she filled out the form with Nomi at her side, she was overcome with some enormous feeling she couldn’t quite name, a hugeness that pressed against her skin from the inside out, equal parts love and excitement and joy, and even fear, because this was a new life they were starting, and a new family they were making, and if she lost this—
God, she had almost lost this. The world had almost taken this from her so many times, with laws and lobotomies and wars and creepy mad scientists who turned people into mindless zombies. Well fuck that. Amanita was grabbing hold of it, she was going to take it and keep it, she was going to cherish the fuck out of it. This piece of paper was going to be concrete evidence.
She gripped Nomi’s hand tight as she filled out the form, and Nomi squeezed back just as hard, and when they were done, Amanita pulled Nomi into a kiss. She poured all the ferocity of her love into the kiss, all her I dare anyone to take this from me and I love you and I want to keep you. Nomi’s kiss back answered yes and yes and yes, and with a bubble of growing delight, Amanita thought she could sense fast flickers of the rest of the cluster in their kiss: Wolfgang’s wildness, Kala and Riley’s sweetness, Capheus’s joy, Lito’s passion, Sun’s fight and Will’s devotion.
The clerk gave them a brief, warm smile as she processed their license, and then that was it, they were almost officially married. They kept it together until they walked out to the hallway, and then Amanita just had to throw herself into Nomi’s arms for another kiss.
Bug insisted on taking them out for a drink after they were done, which was nice of him, but Amanita just wanted to go home so she could ravage her almost-wife. Bug, bless him, had some mercy and shooed them out of the bar after one drink with a twinkle in his eye and huge grin.
“Now I know you’d rather be doing something else right now,” he said, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. “So go make sweet, sweet love, my angels!”
They went home and did just that.
“Let me,” said Nomi, her voice deliciously breathy and low, as she backed Amanita up to their bed, kissing all the way.
“Fine with me,” said Amanita.
Nomi undressed her with exquisite care, kissing and touching every part of her that she uncovered with gentle and reverent hands and lips. She brought Amanita’s ringed hand up to her lips and pressed a kiss to her palm, to the ring on her finger, and Amanita felt tears prick her eyes.
“Hey,” said Nomi, and kissed them away. “Just the two of us right now, okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” she said, and reached up to pull Nomi’s shirt off.
It felt decadent, sacred, being naked in the full light of day on the bed they shared, in the home they’d made together, while Nomi ate her out with languorous, devoted attention. They didn’t often do this so slow, but every time they did, Amanita felt carried and cradled on waves of feeling, orgasms rising and falling as inexorably as the tide until she was shaking and spent. After a break to drowse and cuddle, Amanita returned the favor. Nomi had spent too long uncherished and unknown, and it was Amanita’s happy duty to ease the pain of those years of unhappiness with the bubble of joy and pleasure they could create in their bedroom.
“We’ve got this for the rest of our lives, Nomi,” she whispered into the soft and sensitive skin just below Nomi’s navel, knowing it would make Nomi shiver and giggle. “Isn’t that the best damn thing you’ve ever heard?”
“Yeah. Yeah, it really, really is.”
As the weeks passed, their wedding fell slowly but perfectly into place.
Amanita’s mom had called one morning with good news. “How would you feel about having the wedding up at Dancing Water, you know, in that outdoor garden picnic area by the creek?”
“I thought Jen didn’t let anyone rent out the commune?” Amanita recalled more than a few contentious co-op board meetings about that when she was a teenager.
“She doesn’t, but I mentioned to her that you were getting married and looking for a venue, and she offered! I told her it wouldn’t be a big wedding and we’d clean up after ourselves, take care of all the set up and everything, and she said yes. You know people have gotten married there before.”
“Yeah, while they were living there though. You’re sure? She and the rest of the board are really okay with it?”
“They said you’re family, dear. They’re more than okay with it.”
Amanita was starry-eyed just thinking about it. To have their wedding someplace she considered home instead of some pricey venue or fancy restaurant— “That would be amazing. I’d love to, but—let me check with Nomi.”
Nomi came bounding in from the bedroom. “Did I hear that right? Your mom says we can get married at Dancing Water?”
“Yes! Is that okay? Do you want to? I know it’s kind of a drive to get up there, and it’s nothing fancy, just a pretty spot outdoors—”
“Of course I want to! Oh my god, we have to tell Dani, Lito says she’s been the terror of Bay Area venues trying to find a decent, affordable place.”
With a venue settled on, Dani got to work like a general drawing up battle plans, and Amanita and Nomi were just her troops executing orders. Given the orders were things like cake taste-testing at bakeries, menu planning and taste-testing for the catering, and voting on florists and floral arrangements, Amanita didn’t mind.
“I don’t know if it’s just that anything seems easy compared to all-out war against BPO, but this wedding planning business is suspiciously easy,” said Amanita during an almost too-breezy to be true phone update with Dani.
Dani laughed. “Honey, trust me, a nice small wedding with less than fifty people and the venue taken care of is party planning in easy mode. I could do this in my sleep. And you said you didn’t want anything too fancy! So don’t worry about a thing, you just write your vows and show up, okay?”
“Party planning, guerrilla war against creepy mad scientist organizations, what’s the difference, right?” said Nomi with a grin. Then with a shift in her smile and a deeper timbre to her voice that suggested Will was talking now, “We have a very particular set of skills. Skills we have acquired over a long—” said Will in Nomi’s voice with an awful attempt at Liam Neeson’s accent.
Amanita smacked them on the arm with a laugh before Will could finish. “There’s a new career option for all of you, the most hardcore event planners imaginable.”
Nomi/Will put their arms around Amanita. “Hey, let us do this and don’t worry, alright? You did so much for all of us the last couple years, and you made all that look easy too. Let us take over helping with this totally fun, totally not-hard wedding.”
She wanted to protest, because of course she’d helped the cluster against BPO, she couldn’t not. There was no debt between any of them for that, not in Amanita’s mind, or if there was, it was more than paid by having Nomi with her, alive and happy and totally not lobotomized.
“Alright. No complaints from me,” conceded Amanita. “Thank you.” There was a lot of weird shit to deal with when it came to having a sensate fiancee, some of it scary and dangerous weird shit. But this easy generosity of skill and time, and love too, more than made up for any of the weird shit. And hey, the sex wasn’t so bad either.
Through the wonders of the internet, Kala helped her find a wedding dress from all the way across the world in India. She sent Amanita to the perfect boutique, and Amanita set up her phone like one of those ridiculous telepresence robots so Kala could be there with Amanita’s mom and friends as she tried on dresses.
When she tried on the fifth dress, Kala gasped and flapped her hands. “That’s it. That’s the one,” she insisted.
Amanita twirled in it, and yep, definitely a satisfyingly dramatic billow of full skirts. The bodice sparkled with beading under the fitting room lights, so it hit the sparkly criteria too. Also, it was sleeveless, and her arms looked fucking ripped. Yeah. Kala was right. This was it.
Her mom burst into tears. “Oh no, Mom, what is it?” Her mom flapped her hands, waved her away. Amanita wrapped her up in a hug anyway.
“Oh, nothing, really! Nothing! Just—you look so beautiful, dear, and so happy. You know I don’t particularly believe in the institution of marriage, but I’m so glad you and Nomi are making this commitment to each other.”
“Thanks, Mom. I love you,”
“Love you too, honey.”
The week of the wedding was a hectic, amazing rush. Nomi spent it picking up wedding stuff and assorted members of the cluster and their plus ones from the airport, while Amanita worked on the last bits of wedding prep in between being whisked away by said assorted members of the cluster and their plus ones for sightseeing around the city.
“You don’t want to go with Nomi?” she asked each of them. Amanita adored each member of the cluster, but it was a strange intimacy they shared via Nomi, and she was wary, sometimes, of overstepping, or presuming.
“I want to know how you see the city,” said Capheus, so she told him to hop behind her on her bike, and rode up and down San Francisco’s hills with him, his laugh bright in her ear.
“Show us where you go dancing!” said Wolfgang and Felix and Lito, so she took them to her favorite clubs in the Castro, jumping from theme night to theme night, until they were too tired to keep dancing.
“The best museum,” requested Hernando and Riley, so she took them to the De Young, tucked away in Golden Gate Park, with a detour through the Japanese Tea Garden.
“We wanna eat our weight in delicious food,” said Will and Sun and Detective Mun, which was a thing the city of San Francisco was happy to aid and abet, with no shortage of mouth-watering street food and obnoxiously delicious hipster food trends.
“Show me where you get your clothes,” said Kala and Zakia, so she took them to her favorite boutiques and shops in the Haight, and Amanita thought she understood a little better what it was like to have a sister.
All that kept her too occupied to worry or fuss much over the wedding, and before she knew it, they were all roadtripping up to Dancing Water, three vans’ worth of ebullient joy and singalongs, a welcome change from last year’s getaway driving and heist driving and literal actual car chases. She found herself looking over at Nomi again and again in delighted disbelief: how is this our life? Nomi’s sparkling eyes answered I don’t know but we are the luckiest people on the planet.
There was some chaos when they got to Dancing Water as everyone piled out of cars and wandered around, but before Amanita could worry that everything would descend into chaos, her dads came out to hug and corral everyone, and direct everyone to where they needed to be. They had set up the chairs and decorations for the wedding already, and the catering people were loading the the picnic tables with food, while Dani immediately began bustling around making sure everything was in order.
“I told you, don’t worry about a thing,” insisted Dani. “I’ve got this. You just go make yourself even more beautiful for your wife-to-be,” she said.
Amanita and Nomi were hustled away into their respective rooms to get ready, Amanita with her dads and mom, Nomi with her sister and cluster. Nomi’s dad would arrive later for the ceremony, without Mrs. Marks, which was a load off Amanita’s mind. She scarcely remembered getting ready, except that her hands were trembling too much to do her eye makeup, so her dads did it for her. Her mom helped her into her perfect dress, and then there was a lot of crying from her dads, and some picture taking from a discreet photographer.
“That mascara was waterproof, right?” said Amanita as she sniffled and fanned at her eyes. “Because I am definitely going to cry during our vows, and I do not want to rock the raccoon look.”
“It is, but don’t worry honey, you’d be the most gorgeous raccoon,” said her mom.
When it was time for the ceremony to start, Will came in to get her. He beamed so brightly when he saw her that she blushed.
“Neets, there are no words for how beautiful you look right now,” he said, still smiling so hard that Amanita almost wanted to shade her face from the glow of his happiness. Instead, she basked in it, because it was so lovely to see from their too-often serious Will, who protected all of them so fiercely.
“Thanks, cop,” she said, smiling back. “Don’t let Nomi share right now!”
Will laughed. “Of course not, promise! C’mon, she’s waiting for you.”
The ceremony they had planned was a simple thing, no bells or whistles: just her and Nomi walking down the aisle together to stand before the officiant, who would say a few words, and then they’d say their vows and kiss the bride. Short and sweet, and then it’d be party and food time. Now that it was actually happening, the magnitude of it all crystallized into a sharp and timeless moment that felt too huge to fully hold. She supposed that was what photos were for, because as much as she loved their friends and family, she only had eyes for Nomi right now.
She’d always thought it was a little ridiculous that Bug called the both of them angels, but looking at Nomi right now, angel felt like the right word. She glowed in her elegant white dress, and her hair was loose around her face, with flowers woven through it, a touch that felt very Riley. It didn’t matter what Nomi was wearing though, she could have been naked for all Amanita cared, because it was the look on Nomi’s face that had her breathless and so happy she almost couldn’t stand it. Wonder and love were writ indelibly on Nomi’s face and in her blue eyes. This moment, thought Amanita, was worth all the terror and strangeness of the past couple of years.
They met at the aisle, took each other’s hands, and walked down it together to stand before the officiant. The officiant said some probably touching things about love being why they were gathered here today, but Amanita wasn’t paying attention. Her every sense was trained on Nomi, on Nomi’s clammy hand holding hers so tightly (Nomi always got clammy hands when she was nervous), on the tremble of her lips and the brightness of her eyes.
Amanita startled a little when it was time to say their vows, like she’d been caught not paying attention in class because she’d been staring at her crush, and Nomi grinned a little, squeezing her hands.
“Amanita Caplan, if I told you all the reasons I want to marry you, we’d be here all day and all night, probably. We’ve had a wild, terrifying, crazy, amazing time of it these past couple of years, and you stayed with me for all of it. Before you ever recited any vows to me, before you made me any promises with a ring or a marriage license, you were there in sickness and in health, for better or worst, on the run from the law and not. When my life changed in ways I could never have imagined, you accepted those changes with an open mind and open arms. You’ve accepted and loved every part of me.” Nomi glanced at the cluster sitting in the front rows. “It is the greatest honor and joy of my life to be your wife. I promise to do everything I can to be worthy of it. I love you, Neets.”
Tears were definitely flowing down her face, so that mascara had better be waterproof. She couldn’t wait to kiss her bride, so she jumped the gun and peppered Nomi’s face with quick kisses while she got a hold of herself.
“Oh wow, how does anyone ever go second with this saying your vows thing without being a blubbering mess,” she said, sniffing, and distantly heard the audience’s gentle laughter. “Nomi, you are amazing in so many ways. You are kind and brave and strong and so smart. I used to think you were way out of my league, but ever since the moment we met, I’ve wanted to know more about you, and I’ve wanted to hang onto you. Well now I am hanging onto you for life, officially. You’re it for me, Nomi Marks. I love you, and I love this life we’ve built together, even when it’s gotten way weirder and scarier than I could have ever imagined. You,” Amanita stopped, looked out at the cluster, “all of you, are worth it.”
“Well said, both of you. Now, do you, Nomi Marks, take Amanita Caplan to be your wife?”
“I do,” said Nomi, her voice clear and strong as she slid the ring on Amanita’s finger.
“And do you, Amanita Caplan, take Nomi Marks to be your wife?”
“I do!” said Amanita.
“Then I now pronounced you wed. You may kiss the bride.”
Wild cheers and applause erupted from the audience, but Amanita scarcely noticed them, too caught up in the perfect sweetness of her and Nomi’s first kiss as wife and wife. When they pulled apart, they rested their foreheads against each other for a long moment, and Amanita could have sworn that just then, they were the still point around which the whole universe moved.
Then Lito shouted, “Time for the party!” and she and Nomi grinned at each other, picked up their skirts, and ran into the waiting arms of their cluster and family.
After the absolute clarity of exchanging her vows with Nomi, Amanita remembered most of the rest of their wedding as bright flashes of joy, all of it blurring together in a happy haze when she thought of it. Some of that happy haze was thanks to Lito, who had volunteered himself to be bartender. He had kind of a heavy hand with the liquor. But tipsy or not, there were moments that Amanita was sure she would hold precious until her dying day, clear and sharp and warm. If she could have recorded moments to relive with all of her senses, she’d have recorded these, her messy and wild and perfect dances with this crazy family she’d married into:
Her first dance with Nomi, which they laughed and cried their way through, sometimes making a serious attempt at it, but mostly just spinning and dipping each other clumsily before spending the last minute of the song just making out in the middle of the dancefloor.
Will holding her and swaying with her through a slow dance, one hand at her hip, the other holding her ringed hand. She fit under his chin perfectly, and his chest was broad and warm. He kissed her forehead, gentle and lingering, and whispered, “love you, Neets,” and she hadn’t even had to think twice before responding with, “love you too, Will.”
Dancing with wild abandon with Kala and Sun and Dani, nothing coordinated or sexy about it, just jumping and twirling and laughing together.
Lito putting on his best sultry look and tugging her into a tango she fumbled her way through until Lito threw his head back and laughed and directed her through a simple salsa, before they descended into the world’s most inept attempt at flamenco.
Making a game attempt at a hora started by Wolfgang and Felix, which Capheus proved very skilled at, while most everyone else tripped over their feet.
Tugging Riley out from behind her spot at the DJ booth to join her and Nomi for a dance, Riley’s warm brown eyes shining with uncomplicated, unshadowed mirth.
Finding out Detective Mun, who was, the cluster generally agreed, Perfect, was in fact an awful dancer. Somehow, this made him even more perfect, and Amanita busted out all her cheesiest dance moves just to keep him company on the dance floor.
Getting down and dirty with Zakia, who it turned out, could really move those hips of hers in ways her prim and careful manner of speaking and her Mona Lisa smile didn’t suggest at all.
And then, at the end of the night, when the music was softer, and everyone was starting to clean up, a dance with Hernando that was as sweet and slow as honey, Hernando’s beard soft against her cheek. She sighed happily and burrowed into his arms, tired and a little tipsy still.
“What a beautiful night, Amanita, what a lovely wedding,” he said, and Amanita answered, “Yeah. I’m so glad you came. I know we met under what can charitably be called weird circumstances. I know we’re still strangers, in some ways.”
Hernando smiled at her, hazel eyes crinkling behind his glasses. “Hmm, not so strange. We are all making a family, I think. It’s bigger and stranger than I ever expected, but…it’s a family. I think I would like to be family.”
Amanita held onto him tightly then, and whispered, “Me too,” into his ear, because that was what marriage was about, wasn’t it? She and Nomi were just making a bigger family than most, but Amanita was used to that. She had three dads and a mom, and now she was sort of married to eight people. Ha. No one could say she wasn’t her parents’ daughter.
That night, Amanita and Nomi were too tired to do much other than cuddle and exchange drowsy kisses in the “honeymoon” suite Amanita’s dads had prepared for them.
“We are really getting things started with a bang here,” murmured Amanita.
Nomi chuckled, and ordinarily that sexy almost-rumble would have her slipping her hand into Nomi’s underwear. “Hey, I promise you all kinds of wild honeymoon sex, just—not at 3 a.m. after all that booze.”
“Hmm, yeah. Hey, Mrs. Caplan-Marks?” Amanita whispered.
“Yes, Mrs. Marks-Kaplan?”
“Thanks for making this awesome family with me.”
“Thanks for having us,” whispered Nomi back, the harmony of the cluster behind her words. Amanita cuddled close and fell asleep with a smile.