"Remind me again why I'm doing this?"
My knowing smirk should be answer enough, but I answer her anyway. "Because you love me, and I asked you to." Beverly snorts softly and continues toweling her hair dry. "You don't have to if it really bothers you, Imzadi. No one will be offended if you choose not to. I certainly won't be offended."
"Your mother will."
"Yes, she will, but she'll get over it." Setting my own towels aside, I turn and lean against Beverly's lithe, warm body. Arms automatically wrapping around her waist, I rest my cheek over her heart and sigh contentedly at its steady beat. "It's enough for me that you'll be there, sitting next to Mother, where I can see you whenever I want."
Beverly's chuckle rumbles beneath my ear, and she squeezes me closer. "You're the maid of honor in your best friend's vows renewal, Deanna. You're going to be far too busy to look around."
~ I won't see anything but you. ~
Her thought is loud enough in my mind that she might as well have spoken it, and I can't help echoing her earlier chuckle. The flush creeping up her chest proves too great a temptation; I shift my head to press a series of small kisses across the décolletage escaping the towel wrapped about her body. Her soft moan spurs my desire into action, fingers slipping into the towel to dance across the tensing muscles of her belly.
"Deanna, we don't have time for this."
Her breathless tone doesn't match her intention at all, so I ignore her words completely. We have plenty of time before the ceremony begins.
* * *
~ You should be ashamed of yourself, Deanna! That was a mean thing to do! ~
My delighted laughter sounds odd in the otherwise silent room, and I'm reminded once again that I'm among telepaths. Chandra shakes her head and returns to applying liner to her eyes. The sensation of curiosity fluttering against my shields like a butterfly has me turn away from the ribbons and flowers I've been separating in preparation of weaving them into Chandra's hair. Her eight-year-old daughter, Saria, is staring at me from across the room, where she has been coloring quietly with her six-year-old brother, Christopher.
~ Why are you not married, Auntie Deanna? ~
Although I'm not surprised by the question, it still pierces my heart. Chandra turns to scold her daughter, but stops when I squeeze her shoulder. "I don't need to be married, Saria. I am quite happy with my life. I have a wonderful job aboard the Enterprise, friends who have become family to me, and my imzadi who loves me dearly. Everything I could want is already in my life." I squelch down the memory of my mother's desire for grandchildren.
"Oh." Her face scrunches up for a moment as she ponders that before smoothing out into a smile. "Okay. Grandmother says that marriage and babies are important things to keep our heritage strong."
Chandra laughs before I can answer, patting the rounded bulge of her stomach. "Saria, my sweet, your grandmother has forgotten what it's like to be pregnant and raising children. And when you are old enough for your bonding ceremony and children, I will have forgotten, too. That is why our heritage is so strong. We forget the pains and want only the pleasure of grandbabies we can spoil rotten. Remember that when I start to nag you."
"Like you do with Kendra?"
As if summoned by just the mention of her name, Chandra's recently married, eldest daughter pokes her head into the room. "Mother, are you and Auntie Deanna ready yet? Papa's getting nervous." She pauses for a moment, chewing at her lower lip. "Was he like this for your first bonding ceremony?"
"Is he pacing the room and causing things to levitate?"
Kendra's eyes widen. "No!"
"Then no, he's not like he was at our first bonding ceremony. When things start to float off toward the lake, you can start to worry."
Chandra's amusement would be obvious to a non-telepath, and my eldest godchild rolls her eyes in disgust. "You're incorrigible, Mother. How Papa has put up with you all these years is beyond me." With that, she stalks away again, which allows Chandra and I to dissolve into girlish giggles.
"Yes, I am incorrigible," Chandra says with a nod, before continuing telepathically, ~ And you are insatiable. Have you gone into Phase already? ~
~ I have not! It's not my fault that Beverly and I have a fantastic sex life! You're starting to sound like my mother. ~
Chandra giggles again as she puts the finishing touches on her makeup. "All right, all right! I'll stop."
"For now," I reply with a roll of my eyes, and grab the flowers and ribbons to begin working on her hair.
* * *
When it is announced that we have a few spare minutes before the ceremony is to begin, I take the opportunity to find my imzadi nursing a drink as she talks with Mother and Kendra. What amuses me the most is that Beverly is the first to acknowledge my presence, even before my mother. Her face lights up the minute her eyes land on me, and I can feel the caress of her love surrounding me. Not even paying attention to my mother or goddaughter, I settle myself on Beverly's lap and lean in for a quick kiss. This allows me the opportunity to lick off the tiny spot of chocolate at the corner of her mouth.
"To what do I owe this lovely surprise?" she asks, unconsciously licking her own lips.
"Kendra told you there was a delay, Beverly," Mother says before I can even take a breath to do so. "Weren't you listening?"
"Auntie Lwaxana, I think they're more interested in paying attention to each other," Kendra says with a knowing laugh. "They're more lovey-dovey than Mother and Papa. And that's saying something."
Once again, Beverly flushes in a lovely blend of embarrassment and desire. Clearing her throat, she reaches down to pick up a piece of osgoid and holds it up to my lips. Without hesitation, I accept the morsel, sucking lightly on her fingertips to get at the extra chocolate. Her eyes don't waver from mine as I slowly chew and swallow the delicacy.
"Mother," I ask, still not looking away from those bright blue eyes, "is this Mr. Homn's recipe for osgoid? Or am I imagining things?"
She pats my thigh and laughs. "Oh, Little One, Mr. Homn is good, but he's not good enough to make this much osgoid in less than a week. Well, not by himself. Kendra and the rest of the children helped while you two were busy sightseeing and entertaining Chandra for her pre-ceremony festivities."
Mother continues to talk, but memories of our sightseeing adventures have me squirming slightly in Beverly's lap, the silk of her dress not helping in the slightest bit. Beverly tightens her grip on my hips, and I can see the concentration on her face as she sends a quick ~ Behave! ~ to me. Pinning her with a saucy grin, I steal her wine glass and finish it off. As if by magic, a waiter appears and refills the glass without a word. She smiles at the waiter and takes the glass back from me. As she swallows, eyes closing for the briefest of moments, I get the faintest flash of conflict across our emotional connection. It's gone before I can fully register that it's there, and I have to wonder if I'm not projecting some of my own issues from my earlier conversation with Chandra and Saria.
"So is Chandra getting excited for the ceremony?" she asks, fingering the blossoms in my hair.
"Definitely. The baby's been kicking like crazy today, probably from her nervousness."
Kendra snorts and shakes her head. "According to Mother, this baby's been kicking more than all the rest of us combined. This is what she gets for getting pregnant again eight months before her twentieth anniversary."
"Just wait until you've been married as long as your mother has, Kendra, my darling," Mother says with a bittersweet smile. "Being with someone you love is the most wonderful thing in the world. And when it's gone, a part of you goes with it."
That sensation of conflict rolls across my sensitivities again. Beverly leans in to press a kiss to my cheek, and I actually feel the sensation of her making a decision just before she sets her wine glass on the table. She's probably remembering her marriage to Jack. I want to ask her about it, but this isn't the time or place for that sort of discussion.
"Can I ask you something?"
Shifting in her lap to face her more easily, I nod. "You can always ask me anything, Imzadi, you know that."
"I know." She smiles and lightly grips my chin in one hand to bestow another kiss on my lips, the other fumbling in her lap. Leaning back, she stares into my eyes for a long moment. "Tha mo cridhe buin do Thu," she finally murmurs, love flooding across our bond, and presses something into my palm. Her hand tightens around mine, while her grip on my chin stops me from looking down to see what it is.
"Deanna, right now, right here, in front of your mother and your goddaughter, will you answer this one question for me?" I nod slowly, heart beginning to race as I try to figure out what she's doing. "Will you marry me?"
Did she just--? Clearly, I have misheard her, but what if I haven't? And the waves of love and affection continue to buffet my shields and get tossed back to my imzadi until I'm caught up in a loop of sensations that nearly makes me black out. All sensations, all sounds, around me meld into a haze of white noise until the only things I can focus on are the love cascading off of her and those blue eyes I adore, bright with tears. It's only when I recognize what that shape is that's biting into my palm that I fully comprehend what Beverly's just done.
I can't formulate my answer telepathically, let alone verbally, and I just sit there, staring into her eyes, for what seems like an eternity.
~ Deanna? ~ Her tentative thought slips through my shields like they don't even exist.
~ Yes. ~
"Yes, I'll marry you."
Tears begin to fill my eyes, but I force myself not to shed them. Chandra will kill me if I ruin my makeup -- or her renewal ceremony. And then I realize that I don't feel anything else: no other people, no other "public" telepathic conversations, no emotions. Nothing. Just Beverly and our shared love.
~ Have your moment, Little One. ~ Mother's voice comes across loud and clear over our connection. Beverly's startled blink is indication enough that she's not just talking to me. ~ But know that I won't be able to dampen this for much longer without raising too many suspicions. ~
Beverly's eyes flick over toward Mother's, and she mouths her thanks, before she captures my lips in a soul-searing kiss that threatens to overwhelm my senses again.
~ Auntie Deanna, you're running out of time. ~
That warning is enough to douse my ardor for the time being. Today is not about me, it's about Chandra and Davan. But tonight? Once this ceremony is over? Tonight will be about me and my imzadi. Leaning back from the kiss, I blink and take several deep breaths in an attempt to calm my heightened senses. Opening my palm, I see the small square of tartan surrounding a small golden ring that is warm from contact with both of our bodies. It's mostly solid with just a simple bit of knot work at the top and bears a small diamond nestled in the center.
"Beverly, it's beautiful," I finally say, wincing as my voice cracks on her name.
"It was my mother's, and my nana's before her," she explains, stroking the ring with a fingertip. "I found it among Nana Felisa's things when I was cleaning out her cottage. I'd planned to give it to Wesley initially, for when he got married. I think this ended up being a better option, don't you?"
"Put it on my finger?"
She glances up at me, studying my face for a moment. "Are you sure? Chandra--"
"Will be otherwise occupied," I say, finishing the sentence for her. "I don't want to wait to wear it."
Smiling, she picks up the ring and slips it onto my finger. It's the perfect size, and feels as if it was always meant to be there. I kiss her again, then turn to show the ring to my mother.
"It's beautiful, Little One," she says, tears evident in her voice. "Congratulations." And then she stares at Beverly, waggling a finger at her. "You did this on purpose, didn't you? Knowing that I can't say a single word to anyone about this until after the ceremony."
Beverly simply smiles, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
"Auntie Deanna, we should be heading back now. We're almost out of time."
Kendra's words remind me of where we are and what we still have to do today. I press one last kiss to Beverly's lips before following my goddaughter to meet up with my closest friend again.
"I will never forgive you for this, Beverly Crusher," my mother says as I walk away, but I know there's absolutely no malice in her words at all.
* * *
I can't say that I'm surprised that the ceremony went by without me really remembering a single detail of it. All I can remember is looking over at Beverly, sitting there next to Mother, a secret smile on her face meant only for me.
The reception isn't going any better as far as me being able to remember anything. Davan's best friend, who stood with him, is finally finishing his speech. I remember him being this long-winded the first time, too. I've been so careful to keep my left hand hidden from sight, but reaching for my wine glass ruins that as Chandra's hand shoots across my plate to grab my hand.
"What is this?" she asks, staring at the diamond and gold sparkling on my finger.
Chandra stares at me, and I can feel the push to get past my shields for more information. With only the slightest bit of hesitation at marring her anniversary, I drop my shields and let her in on the secret. She telepathically squeals, pulling me into a tight hug.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
I shrug sheepishly. "I didn't want to take away from your day, Chandra. I still don't."
"I'd better be your matron of honor."
"Of course, you will be."
"Did you know she was going to ask you? Of course, you didn't know, or you'd have told me ahead of time."
Thankfully, the rest of the meal goes by in relative silence. Well, except for Chandra chattering excitedly at me in my head as she begins to plan what she'll do as my matron of honor. By the time all of the speeches are over, and the dessert has been picked at, I move to escape from the main table to join my imzadi. Chandra stops that, too.
"Everyone, I know you all want to go dance off all of that decadent cake we just had, which was richer than what Davan and I had twenty years ago, but I have one more announcement that I'd like to make."
A sense of dread builds in the pit of my stomach. ~ Chandra, don't do this! This is your day. ~
~ Oh, hush! This is my day and I'll do what I want. ~
Chandra always was a stubborn girl, and she certainly hasn't outgrown that streak of hers.
"I just found out that my dearest friend in the entire universe--"
~ Mother's going to kill you! ~
"I'm sorry, the mother of my dearest friend in the entire universe has an announcement to make. Lwaxana?"
~ Smart girl. ~
~ Very smart, ~ Mother's voice chimes in our heads as she makes her way to the dais, dragging Beverly behind her.
Oh, my poor imzadi looks like she's going to either faint or throw up, or both. I'm on my feet instantly, moving to rescue Beverly from Mother.
"Everyone, it has finally happened. My daughter is engaged to be married to this lovely woman standing before you. And it's about damned time, too!" And then she turns to stare at us. "And I'd better not have to wait this long for grandchildren."
"Don't worry, Lwaxana," Beverly says, startling me with her steady voice. "I don't intend to make you wait for that."
The entire room erupts into knowing laughter, which is my cue to escape with Beverly. Stopping off to grab the dress I wore to the ceremony, we head outside to walk along the shore of Lake Cataria. The sun is just beginning to set, and the lake is surprisingly void of people. I revel in the silence, just the two of us and the natural world I grew up in.
"Beverly," I finally ask when curiosity overcomes me. "What was it that you said to me before you asked me to marry you?"
"Tha mo cridhe buin do Thu?" she asks and grins when I nod. "It means 'my heart belongs to you,' and it's the truth."
I stop and pull her into my arms, pouring everything I feel for her into our kiss.
~ And mine to you. ~