Finally reaching the top of the staircase, Nikki swept back an errant lock of hair and yawned. It was way past 4am and smoulderingly hot for a May night. Cursing her mauve silk heels, she kicked off the irritating shoes and put her feet down on the cool tiled floor. It was heaven. She had been at dinner with Morgana when she had gotten the call to come into work at just past 7.30pm on her evening off. They hadn’t even gotten through their starters and both of them had been dressed up to the nines. She hadn’t even been on call and they had been celebrating another of Morgana’s newly published articles – her first review. That Nikki had left had irritated her but she hidden it well. Only Nikki and perhaps their maître d' had noticed the slight tension in her pale, proud jaw. To anyone else who might have been watching, she had been disappointed but nothing more. She had even rose from her chair to take Nikki’s coat from the waiter and help her slip it on, pressing a kiss to her cheek and trying her very best to sound sincere when she assured Nikki that it was okay. They both knew it wasn’t. Nikki’s often inconvenient working hours had started to become a point of tension in their relationship. That was why Nikki had spent the best part of a month convincing Leo to take on a freelance pathologist to pick up some of their out of hours work. At about 2am that morning he had finally agreed.
Stopping in front of her door, Nikki fumbled in her elegant evening bag – Chanel, a ‘just because’ present from Morgana – for her keys, before remembering the chain that had been fitted to spec. Finding a slim silver rope near her bag’s handle, she swept her fingers downwards into the darkness within until she made contact with her keys. Being with someone as organised as Morgana had its perks, even if the crisp tidiness of her apartment often felt odd after so many years of comfortable clutter. Bringing the correct key to the lock, she twisted and pushed open the door as silently as she could.
A candle-like glow from Morgana’s energy saving lamps – the kind that never really get bright – lit their living room. Nikki had loved them instantly. With their distressed golden wood, they made a perfect reading companion that had gotten her through new health and safety directives and A Game of Thrones both. One she had read to please Leo, the other Morgana. It wasn’t hard to figure out which was which.
Sliding the door closed quietly behind her, Nikki moved into the living room, dropping her bag on the sofa without breaking her easy pace towards the kitchen. It was funny how being awake at unreasonable hours made you insane with hunger when usually you would sleep right through, content with a piece of toast come morning. Taking a cup from one of the glass-fronted cupboards, she headed for the fridge in search of milk and something sweet. Or was it something salty? Maybe both. When she opened the fridge, though, she found that the usual collection of fresh ingredients and chocolate was hidden behind a trio of stacked plastic containers labelled ‘entrée’, ‘main’ and ‘dessert’. Unable to suppress a stupidly soppy smile, she took out ‘entrée’ and lifted the lid. It was the asparagus and parmigiano reggiano gnocchi starter she had ordered but never gotten to finish. Intrigued, she put it aside and reached for ‘main’ and ‘dessert’. The former was venison and chestnuts, the main she had been eyeing on the menu. They had been ordering course by course as was the restaurant’s custom and she didn’t think she had voiced her intentions towards the dish. It was very Morgana to get it that right. Food was her thing and she could map Nikki’s tastes effortlessly. The dessert turned out to be an individually potted rhubarb crumble and vanilla custard, one of Nikki’s all time favourites. That and the melt in the middle chocolate puddings that had made their way into the bedroom more than once.
Putting the last two tubs back in the fridge, she took the gnocchi over the microwave and loosened the lid, debating how long she should heat it for. She was spared from guessing when Morgana’s arms went around her waist, her opaque dark-purple silk negligee-concealed curves pressing into Nikki’s back.
“Two minutes. Make sure you use the oven feature. The microwaves would spoil it,” Morgana whispered, her voice husky from sleep.
Nikki did as she was told before turning around in Morgana’s arms and kissing her hello, the taste of expensive red wine blooming on her tongue.
“Mmmmm...” Nikki murmured, pulling back just enough to make Morgana’s tongue chase after her, pulling her back in to a heady kiss that lasted until the microwave pinged. “I definitely don’t deserve that after abandoning you earlier.”
“I saw the shooting on the news,” Morgana said by way of explanation, her eyes dark with concern. She didn’t ask if Nikki was okay. She knew better than that. Nikki was very rarely shaken by what she saw and when she was, she preferred to be the one who came to Morgana, not the other way around.
“We just had to catalogue and report initial findings to the police. Harry and Leo will finish the job tomorrow,” Nikki whispered, reluctantly stepping out of Morgana’s embrace. She could have stayed there all night if not for the gorgeous smell coming from the microwave. “Half each?” she offered.
“No. You have it,” Morgana said, her voice still rasping enough to send shivers down Nikki’s spine. “I ate at the restaurant. That table was far too good to give up.”
Nikki wasn’t surprised. Morgana was more comfortable in her own company then anyone else she knew. It was a confidence that Nikki lacked in public. She couldn’t even sit in Costa on her own.
The sound of Morgana perching on the table-for-two drifted from behind her as Nikki took the warm plastic tub from the microwave and retrieved a fork from the drawer. It was approaching 5am and she wasn’t going to use a plate. She was going to eat of the tub like a student and enjoy every minute of it.
“Thanks for the food,” she said, pulling on a chair to move it in front of Morgana before sitting down and using Morgana’s thighs as a table.
“My pleasure,” Morgana drawled, her accent thickening as she leant back on her arms to watch Nikki eat. “How did I do?”
“Exquisitely,” Nikki commended. “Though with the dinner being tomorrow, I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to eat it.”
The formation of a plan clouded Morgana’s face for a moment. “I could warm everything up for you if you wanted. The venison will only take a few minutes in a pan and I can heat the sauce and chestnuts on the stove as well. I’m not sure how well the veggies would hold up but I could make you some more,” Morgana offered, yawning.
There was no way that Nikki’s conscience would let her have her fiancée cook for her at 5am after she had stood her up at dinner. “How about we split it for breakfast? I would rather be in bed.”
Though Morgana’s eyes were closed and her head tilted back with weariness, her smile still managed to be devilish. “Well I won’t argue with that.”
Nikki took advantage of Morgana’s closed eyes to take her in, her heart swelling. “I’m sorry about tonight. I really am so proud of you, you have no idea. It gave me tingles when I saw the article.” A smile rose unbidden to her lips. “I may have left a few copies scattered strategically around the university. I even got a phone call from an old colleague in South Africa. His wife’s a microbiologist and he’s insisting we go over in the summer.”
Morgana laughed, the sound rich like high-coco chocolate. There was a flush rising to her cheeks as she opened her eyes and brought her head forward, her silken hair falling in glossy obsidian waves. The look she gave Nikki was enough to stop her heart. She was entirely uncomfortable with her own burgeoning success and unused to having someone to be proud of her. It made Nikki impossibly impatient for their big day, the day Morgana promised to be with her for the rest of her life and beyond it.
“What will I do with you?” Morgana said teasingly, reaching down to brush back the loose lock of golden hair that had once more fallen into Nikki’s eyes.
“Just you try and stop me.”
Abandoning the tub on the actual table, Nikki brought her head forward to rest where it had sat on Morgana’s thighs, finding the spot warm, almost hot. She breathed in, Morgana’s scent slipping down into her lungs and making her lightheaded.
“Fuck,” she breathed, ridiculously tired and suddenly wide awake. “Why do you always have to smell so good?”
“To drive you insane,” Morgana purred, unclipping Nikki’s hair and running her hands through it. She liked Nikki’s hair loose and falling over her shoulders. It reminded her of the Nikki whom she woke up next to on early Sunday mornings.
Reluctantly, Nikki lifted her head, her cheeks flushed and her pupils dilating to make her chocolate eyes darken. “You look far too good to be sleeping alone,” she observed breathily.
“I was waiting, for you,” Morgana all but whispered, leaning forward to let her silk slip just enough to give Nikki a glimpse of what lay beneath. A smile curled at the corners of her lips, the mischief of it sparkling in her eyes as she continued down, catching Nikki’s chin with her long, pale fingers – stark against the flush of Nikki’s skin – and tilting it up. She felt more than heard Nikki’s breath catch as her hand had slipped to her jaw and drew her up, her other arm curling about her waist and guiding her forward to rest between her parted legs.
There is a moment a kiss becomes inevitable, unavoidable. With Morgana, Nikki found that point to be dangerously shifted so that far less lead her to that point at which she was unable to do anything but lose herself in a kiss. And kisses, she found, were almost more intimate than anything else. A brush of the lips she could weather with her sense intact, but the moment Morgana parted her lips, she was gone. And Morgana knew that, for before even their lips had touched, her tongue was there, opening her up and sending shivers down her spine, rendering resistance utterly futile.
With her senses clouded by want, Nikki trailed the tips of her fingers up Morgana’s thighs, bunching up her negligee until the palms of her hands curved on hips that moved beneath her touch.
“I will make it up to you,” Nikki breathed, digging in her short nails to make Morgana gasp her acceptance of the apology.
“You most definitely will,” Morgana said a little wickedly, finding the zip at the back of Nikki’s dress and pulling it down to the arch of her lower back. When she was done, she smoothed her hands over Nikki’s hips then upwards, skirting teasingly close to her breasts before reaching her shoulders and brushing off the broad straps to set the deep indigo dress tumbling down to pool at her feet. Beneath it, she had been wearing barely anything, just the expensive lingerie she had been planning on letting Morgana find after their meal.
With an appreciative smile, Morgana leant back once more, using her arms for support, her gaze roving hungrily over her fiancée. It was most fortunate that they both had the coming day off. She already had plans for half of it. Plans for the ways in which Nikki could make it up to her without ever leaving the bedroom.
The late morning sun found them dozing under the thin burgundy sheet which had moved in with Morgana. With her pale skin and poor ability to withstand the heat, Morgana could sleep no other way on warm nights than beneath the cool, smooth cotton. They slept, as always, on their sides. Morgana lay curled close behind Nikki. Her arm was at her waist, cradling her in that close protective way that she had been unable to break herself from holding her since Emrys had snatched her in Leo’s garden. As they slept, her breath shifted the fine hairs at the back of Nikki’s neck, so close were they entwined, one leg laid slipped between her two. If it had been with anyone else, it would have felt possessive to Nikki but after all they had been through together, it felt as natural as breathing.
It was in that perfect hold that Nikki slowly woke with the delicious certainty that she was in Morgana’s arms. Her first deep breath in arched her body to feel the swell of Morgana’s breasts against her back and the splayed hand on her stomach. A contented sigh slipped from her lips and she kept her eyes closed, content to exist in the moment. It was not long before Morgana stirred, a sleepy stretch driving her leg up, pressing hard enough to make Nikki moan and cant her hips back, though she was sleepy enough not to truly be taken with sensation. Her eyes fluttered open as the pressure lessened and she saw the clock proclaim it to be 11:59. They had slept less than four hours.
“What time is it?” Morgana breathed against the back of her neck, her voice as husky with sleep as it had been when she had awoken to join Nikki in the kitchen the night before.
“Twelve,” Nikki yawned sleepily, rounding it up.
“Too early,” Morgana murmured, nuzzling against her, shifting impossibly closer until it felt to Nikki that she was surrounded by her. Her smile bloomed and a feeling of contentment and safety settled into her as surely as Morgana’s warmth.
“Mmm,” Nikki agreed absently, letting her eyes close again. “Fancy heating up last night’s meal for me? I’m starving.”
A throaty laugh tickled the back of her neck. “Ordering me around already? We aren’t even out of bed and there’s no ring on my finger yet.”
“Just taking you up on last night’s offer, albeit a little belatedly,” Nikki countered, turning over with great effort, Morgana’s leg making the exertion all the harder. Brushing the back of her hand lightly across Morgana’s cheek earned her the day’s first glimpse at her fiancée’s eyes, meadow green. They were like the sea – sometimes grey or green and every now and again, just before sleep conquered her, a calm tropical blue.
“Good morning,” she whispered, taking her first kiss of the day – one soft and full of leisurely love.
“Morning Miss Alexander,” Morgana murmured with a smile, biting down lightly on Nikki’s lower lip.
“That’s Dr Alexander to you, thank you very much,” Nikki berated playfully, swatting at Morgana’s hip. “And in two days time it will Dr Lafferty.”
Morgana couldn’t hide her smile. Every time Nikki’s name change was eluded to she got butterflies in her stomach, a rush of excitement and embarrassment. “Are you sure? About the Lafferty bit I mean.”
“Perfectly, as I have told you before,” Nikki smiled, brushing her thumb over the blush on Morgana’s cheek. “It’s what I want. And this way no one can ignore it.”
“You still haven’t heard back from your father then?” Morgana asked, though she knew that Nikki hadn’t. “Are you sure you sent the invitation to his current address?”
Nikki nodded, paling. She hadn’t wanted to send him the invitation in the first place. He only ever disappointed her. The last thing she wanted was him spoiling her wedding day. She had waited too long and fought too hard for it to let that happen.
The dinner had been Janet’s idea: the two ‘families’ joining for a meal the night before the wedding. They were seated at the long oaken kitchen table, feasting on ordered-in tapas that even Morgana had to admit was at least edible. Leo and Janet sat at opposite ends, holding court, whilst Nikki, Morgana, Harry, Arthur and Gwen filled up the space in between. Janet and Gwen, who had formed a surprisingly close friendship that Nikki and Morgana agreed must have come from that fact that both of them were far too sensible, had declared a drinking limit of three glasses of wine each in order to insure that no one woke up with a dodgy head the next morning. Arthur and Harry had put up the biggest fight, both insisting that they could drink far more than that before feeling the effects. Gwen had sternly reminded both of them that they would be driving the next morning and would be held personally responsible should either Nikki or Morgana turn up late. They had hastily agreed after that and Arthur had decided to forgo alcohol all together... at least until he had started to feel left out and Morgana had begun teasing him.
“Well that’s gratitude for you,” he grumbled, stealing Morgana’s own glass and downing the wine in one go. “Better?”
Morgana bit her lip in a failed attempt to suppress her smile and nodded. “Much.”
“Now, now children,” Nikki scolded playfully before Gwen got the chance. She took Morgana’s arm to get her attention. “Play nice.”
“Yes Miss,” Morgana smirked, leaning close to give her a slow deliberate kiss that lasted until Arthur kicked her under the table. “Ouch! You little brat!” she hissed, kicking him back hard enough to win the argument and assert her authority as the eldest sibling. “Just because you aren’t sitting next to you wife doesn’t mean that I have to keep my hands off my fiancée all night.”
Arthur reached down to rub his leg, his wounded expression pitiful enough to make Morgana feel a little guilty. She rolled her eyes to hide her moment of weakness. “Oh stop looking for pity, I barely touched you and the whole point is that you aren’t supposed to see her.”
“Tomorrow!” Morgana exclaimed. “I have four hours of tonight before I am to banished to your box room.”
“It isn’t a box room,” Arthur said shortly. “It just isn’t as large as the room you used to sleep in.”
“It is a box room,” Morgana defended in what was very nearly a whine. “It used to have all the baby stuff in it until you bought Morgan too much stuff and it had to be moved to my room. The place barely fits a single bed!”
Arthur scoffed. “Until we bought Morgan too much stuff? Morgana, do you really think that we wouldn’t work out who left a giant sack of presents labelled ‘From Father Christmas’ under the tree?”
“Arthur,” Gwen said softly, reaching out to turn his attention towards her before whispering something in his ear that made him pale and concede defeat.
“We were very grateful for the gifts, Morgana. But you can’t buy him that many again this year,” Gwen continued, turning her attention to the woman who was almost her fiancée all those years ago. She looked between Morgana and Nikki and smiled. “Besides, Arthur wants to know when he can expect a little niece or nephew to dote on himself.”
Morgana flushed and bit her lip. She almost jumped when Nikki’s hand slipped under the table to squeeze her thigh in a gesture that she was sure was meant to be reassuring but on the one night they couldn’t spend together in months, it felt like more of a tease than a help.
“One day, I hope,” Nikki said noncommittally.
Morgana turned to her and smiled, sliding her hand down Nikki’s spine and into the back pocket of her jeans. Two could play at that game. “Is that so?”
Nikki couldn’t help but laugh at how utterly adorable Morgana looked putting on that terribly fake looking oblivious expression. She couldn’t help leaning in to kiss her either. She was utterly spellbound.
“Well I for one will definitely not be babysitting when it does happen. Not after the last time,” Harry put in, downing the last of his glass of white and reaching for the bottle.
“What happened last time?” Gwen asked with mild interest, folding her napkin into a triangle to presumably signify that she had eaten enough and was done.
“The father didn’t come back for over a week. He was only supposed to be out for a few hours,” Harry replied. That had been about a year before Nikki had met Morgana. He had come so close to kissing Nikki that week. He wondered if anything would be different now if he had. “Nikki had to cook.”
Morgana laughed fondly. “How did that turn out?”
Harry looked up to see her gaze at Nikki with utter adoration. No, he didn’t think anything would be different. Nikki had never been happier than she was now and Morgana loved her just as much as he did. Probably even more. “I didn’t die. Came pretty close though.”
“Oh shut up the pair of you!” Nikki exclaimed, picking up the napkin that Morgana had just lain folded on the table and throwing it in Harry’s direction. It just missed the flame of the candle.
“Let’s not use flammable things as missiles around the candles,” Janet interjected, taking the napkin from Harry’s hands before he could throw it back.
“Which goes for you too,” Gwen said sternly, confiscating Arthur’s own napkin plane.
Before Arthur could grumble a reply, Leo got to his feet, wine glass in hand. “Since Harry gleefully reminded me this afternoon that I am the oldest of the people gathered here, I thought I would get up and say a few words.”
Janet sighed in what seemed to be half affection and half exasperation. “What a surprise, Dear.”
Leo, looking momentarily down at Janet and frowning, continued, “Nikki, It doesn’t seem like 5 minutes since you walked into my lab and proceeded to steal my equipment.”
Morgana snorted. “Why don’t I find that hard to imagine?”
“I did not steal your equipment! I borrowed it to help to give some sort of identity back to remains that had lain anonymous for countless lifetimes!” Nikki protested, her voice rising up an octave. “It’s not like Imoved anything. I just... occupied it for a while.”
“Well, whatever you were doing, you did it in a charming enough way that Harry begged me to hire you on as the third pathologist we had been debating advertising for. I’ll admit, for a long while I expected the two of you to end up together. You always seemed... perfect for each other.” He took a deep breath in and out. “But after more than 8 years of ample opportunities, you were no nearer to being together then you had been after that first week. Then you met Morgana and, though every rule in the book forbade you from letting anything happen with her, you couldn’t resist. I may not have approved at first, but only because I was concerned about your professional reputation and your career. But then I saw the two of you together and I had to admit that there was something special between you. I knew in that moment that one day I would be standing here making this absolutely atrocious speech.”
A peel of laughter rippled around the table.
“And since I haven’t been invited to give a speech tomorrow...”
“For which we are all very glad,” Janet interrupted.
Ignoring her, Leo continued, “I would like to take this opportunity raise a glass to the two of you. It hasn’t been easy. There have been more obstacles in your path in three years than most couples face in a lifetime. It is a testament to the two of you that you haven’t just made it through everything life has thrown at you, but have arrived at the other side as one of the strongest couples I have ever met. You really are perfect for one another and it’s about time it became official.” He lifted his glass and nodded to them. “To Nikki and Morgana.
“Nikki and Morgana,” the rest of the table chorused, lifting their glasses to salute the happy couple. Arthur alone looked a little disgruntled. His speech for the reception was sounding more and more pathetic by the second.
“I wish you all the happiness the world,” Leo finished, his empty hand resting on Janet’s shoulder. “You most definitely deserve it.”
“23:49,” Morgana murmured, drawing Nikki closer and kissing her soundly. “Time for me to go.”
“There’s no such thing as bad luck,” Nikki whispered, shaking her head.
“I want my first glimpse of you tomorrow to be you walking down the aisle towards me.”
Nikki laughed, her heart soaring. “You old romantic.”
Morgana’s hair was loose, done in large natural waves that fell down over her deep purple dress that was a so dark that it was almost black. It was simple and elegant enough, she supposed, but now she feared it was plain in comparison to Nikki’s. It fell down the floor in a clean line and had a strapless sweetheart neck that she had hated on the rack and loved the moment she saw it on. The purple lilacs in Nikki’s clasped hands matched it perfectly.
“You look so beautiful,” Gwen whispered.
Morgana tore her attention away from her reflection and met Gwen’s eyes in the mirror. For a moment she was back in South Africa, twiddling the engagement ring in the pocket of her denim shorts – too damn terrified to ‘pop the question’.
“It could have been us,” Morgana murmured, her voice barely making a sound. “I’m glad it wasn’t.”
Gwen smiled sadly. Morgan was on her hip, reaching out for Morgana with sticky hands, his rusk discarded on the floor. “Me too.”
Morgana turned around and stuck out her tongue at the one year old. She didn’t see the longing look Gwen gave her, or the way her smile fell the moment Morgana looked away.
Taking a deep breath, Morgana opened her eyes. The quartet was starting to play. She was coming.
A fusion of pale yellow calla lilies and vivid green ivy wove about her on trellises and up walls. The delicate flowers glimmered bright in the sun from the high windows to her left, almost as if the room around her had come to life from some fairytale painting in a children’s storybook. Morgana hadn’t truly believed it could be so transformed when she first saw the cold, bare room a few months previous. It had been Nikki’s dream, to get married in the castle. She had loved it from the moment they passed it one Sunday afternoon on a drive out to a country pub. The place had never served as a wedding venue before and it hardly earned its title as a castle, but Nikki had cooed over it all the same. It had been abandoned for over 200 years, they found out from a couple walking their dog, and was never visited except to escape the rain. It had taken 2 days on the phone to the National Trust to find out that yes, they owned the building and that yes, they were willing for a small fee to hire it out for the day – providing Morgana contributed to the restoration of the place. Within two months, the castle had been transformed. And it had only made a modest dent in her liquid assets. Not that Nikki would ever find out how much money had been put into it. That was one conversation that Morgana would never be brave enough to have.
A collective gasp and the creak of a room full of people getting to their feet and turning to look behind them told her that Nikki had stepped into the hall.
“Fuck,” she swore under her breath, the shaking of her hands magnified by the single flower she held. She had never been more nervous in her life. Ice cold waves crashed over her and she shivered. What if she messed up her vows? What if she stuttered or faltered or said the wrong thing?
“Turn around!” Arthur hissed beside her. “She’s looking right at you!”
Startled by his voice, Morgana swung around, her hair floating up into the air and coming back down slowly with a gentle bounce as her eyes widened and she swore once more under her breath.
There she was, less than twenty feet away and walking slowly towards her. Her Nikki. And she was beautiful. All Morgana had known of her dress was that it would be ivory. With that knowledge she had picked her a lone flower, a rose just off white, the only one in a bouquet of 20 that had passed her inspection. She had hoped to echo Nikki’s outfit, to do it justice. In that she was certain she had failed. Nikki’s dress was far more elegant than a simple rose could ever be. It was done in fine lace to her knees, an elegant bateau neckline giving it a regal air and its long sleeves coming down to her elbows to a wide, smart cuff. Her golden hair was done up in neat bun, several artfully loose strands framing her face. She looked more gracefully beautiful than Morgana had ever seen her. So beautiful, in fact, that Morgana found her breath stolen from her lungs and her eyes quite unable to look away.
When Nikki reached her, taking her outstretched hand and stepping up onto the platform, it took every ounce of Morgana’s will not to lean in and kiss her. She settled instead on paying her a breathy whispered compliment.
“You look... Oh Nikki, there really aren’t any words for how beautiful you are.”
An ‘aww’ reverberated around the hall, reminding Morgana of the tiny microphone clipped to her dress. That meant they heard her swearing too. Shit. Gwen was going to kill her. She blushed crimson and dropped her eyes. Nikki squeezed her hand and smiled when their eyes met again.
“Charmer,” she whispered, knowing everyone could hear.
The ceremony began with a nod from the officiant for those gathered to take their seats, followed by a brief welcome and introduction to the ceremony that neither bride listened to. They were too busy looking into each other’s eyes, having a whole conversation that no one else could hear. It was only when they were called upon to participate that their attention was drawn, however briefly, to making their vows.
“Who bears the rings?” the officiant asked.
Morgana had to bite her lip to stop herself from laughing. Nikki rolled her eyes. She wasn’t at all surprised. Morgana was the world’s biggest geek, after all.
“I do,” Arthur said in a rather strangled squeak as he stepped forward with the white cushion on which the twin gold bands sat. “I do,” he repeated, louder and clearer, his cheeks pinking.
At the officiant’s pointed look, Morgana took the smaller of the two rings and reached for Nikki’s hand, cradling it gently. She looked into her eyes and took a deep breath. This was it. This was the moment she pledged to be with Nikki forever. And God, she was nervous. Not because of the commitment but because her vows. She had worked on them all week and had been musing on them for months before that, but still she wasn’t happy. Nothing she could say could justice to Nikki or the way she felt about it, nothing. Before sliding the ring onto Nikki’s finger to sit above the engagement ring she had given her six months before, Morgana brought her hand up to her lips and kissed it.
There was another collective ‘aww’ from the guests.
“I promise,” Morgana began, her voice clear and strong as she slid the ring into place, “to love and protect you. To be with you always and follow you wherever you go. To never doubt you nor mistrust you. To always heed what your heart begs me to hear. To spend my whole life honouring you and making you happy, no matter what. You are my life and my heart. Without you there is nothing. With you, I am all I ever wanted to be. From this day forth, I am bound to you, never to part. Put simply: I am yours.”
Nikki took a shaky breath, her heart pounding in her chest. Twin tears ran down her cheek, brushed gently away by Morgana’s thumb as beautifully and tenderly as her vows had been. It suddenly made Nikki feel wholly inadequate. From all of her hours spent starring at her notepad, she had only come up with one solitary line. Taking the ring from the cushion and setting it in place on Morgana’s finger, Nikki began, “I promise to make a home for you in my heart, my perfect, beautiful love, and there I will keep our love unbroken and never ending, untouched by time and whatever else might seek to challenge it.” With the simple beauty of Morgana’s last line echoing in her mind, she finished with a heartfelt, “I am yours.”
The officiant’s voice echoed in their ears, the words indistinct, far off. Nothing existed beyond their unbreakable gaze, holding them captivated in a perfect moment that seemed never to end. Only when the crowd began to clap did they know that it was over and that they could finally close the unbearable distance between them and share their first kiss of the day – the first kiss of the rest of their lives.
Dropping her bouquet on the floor, Nikki stepped forward onto her tip toes and draped her arms around Morgana’s neck. She smiled brightly, whispering, “I love you,” before kissing her to a deafening applause. The moment their lips touched her left foot lifted off the floor in a reflex that took her completely by surprise. It seemed that it wasn’t such a cliché after all. When Morgana’s arms went around her waist, pulling her closer, it took her a moment to realise that she was no longer Morgana’s fiancée, but her wife. No realisation had ever made her happier. Except, perhaps, the moment she had realised that she was in love.