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Let Man Not Put Asunder

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The church was full to the bursting with well-wishers, and Eléna carried a bouquet of Romneya.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today..."

Earlier that morning, Alejandro had laughed when he first saw the flowers and said they looked like fried eggs, but then he had instantly soothed her wrath by stealing a kiss and adding that even fried eggs could be made beautiful when bathed in the glow of her radiance. All forgiven, Eléna held her bouquet higher to block the view of any casual passersby, leaned in close, and whispered that he was lucky she had fallen in love with him for his cheeky roguishness instead of his falsified connections to the Spanish court. Then she stole a kiss of her own and, still hidden by the wide-petaled flowers, suggested he should be more worried about what sort of impression his own huevos would make later that night.

Alejandro laughed again, and Eléna took the opportunity to steal another kiss.

Then Fray Felipe had appeared out of nowhere (or so it had seemed; that kiss may have gone on a bit longer than they had intended), produced a roll of suspiciously official looking papers from out of his sleeve, and gave them to Alejandro. And then it had been Eléna's turn to laugh, because the look of surprise on Alejandro's face as he read those papers had been priceless. They were a last will and testament and, more surprisingly, adoption papers. Eléna would not be the only one changing her name today.

The wanted bandit Alejandro Murrieta was no more (or at least the argument could be made that he was not here), and the allegedly long absent Alejandro de la Vega, newly returned from Spain, was about to come into his inheritance. Either Fray Felipe had previously unknown skills as a master forger, or Don Diego had pre-planned one last grand deception to play from beyond the grave. Or, knowing those two old co-conspirators, perhaps it was both and they had enacted one last scheme together, stealing Alejandro out of the grasp of the law in the same act that would end Eléna's time as a Montero and return her to the family name of her birth. Eléna would not have put it past them.

Then organ music began to rumble out from deep within the church, and it was time for Eléna and Alejandro to be married.

"Do you, Eléna Montero, take this man to be your husband?" Frey Felipe finally asked, after what felt like both an eternity to get through the wedding mass and only an instant.

"I do."

It was not the kind of wedding Eléna had ever imagined for herself, though the church was grand by the standards of California and the bridegroom was handsome by the standards of anyone with eyes. It was a simple ceremony, neither too much nor too little fuss, performed before the townsfolk who Eléna had come to know and love over the past few months, and to that extent it was just as she might have hoped for, though she would not have been able to guess at the details even half a year ago.

No, the event did not lack for love, or for beauty, or for grandeur, but Eléna never would have thought to imagine that her wedding might happen without her father. Either of them. Both of them. To have discovered a father she had barely met and so at odds with the father she had known all her life, only for them to die at each other's hands before she could get any proper answers was a concept she was still struggling to wrap her mind around. She suspected it would be quite a while before she made her peace with either of them, but she had the time to try.

In the meantime, Eléna had no father to give her away at her wedding. Several of the other Dons had offered to act in Don Rafael's stead, and one shamefaced man, Don Fernando, had shuffled up to her in private and quietly offered to act in Don Diego's stead, but she had refused them all. Instead, she walked herself down the aisle unaccompanied. As she did so, she could all too easily imagine the ghost of her father-- no, her fathers, both of them-- watching her and whispering fondly, "She always was a headstrong girl and an even more headstrong woman. Of course she would do something like this," and that made her smile even more than she already was.

"And do you, Alejandro de la Vega, take this woman to be your wife?"

"I most certainly do." Alejandro said the words with a gleam in his eye and an extra hint of smoldering passion in his voice, just because he could.

"Then I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride."

Alejandro stepped forward to close the distance between them but did not get the chance to kiss his bride, because his bride took the initiative to grab him and kiss him first. This time there was no need to hide behind flowers or anything else, and it was a very long time before either of them came up for air.

Later that night, after a celebratory feast shared with the whole village and hours of dancing, Alejandro and Eléna were finally alone together. Alejandro scooped Eléna into his arms and carried her over the threshold of their new home together, up the stairs, and into the bedroom, where he gently lowered her back onto her feet. He kissed her on the lips again, long and deep. Then he backed away towards the bed, kicking his shoes off and beckoning as he went.

"Care to come to bed, Señora de la Vega?" he asked with that smolder back in his voice.

"I'll be there in just a moment, Señor de la Vega," she said with a wicked grin.

Alejandro gave Eléna a matching grin. Then he made the mistake of turning his back on her so that he could pull aside the gauzy curtains draped around the bed. When he turned back again a moment later, she was holding the sword which she had hidden in the room with this very moment in mind.

"What are you doing, Eléna?" Alejandro said cautiously.

"I am addressing a minor grievance so that we can begin our new life together on an even footing," she said and raised the sword to give it a practice swing. She was still grinning.

"And you intend to do so with... that?"

"Yes, so take off your jacket, because it looks too good on you to ruin." She stepped forward and, in a movement that would have been called delicate if it had not involved wielding three feet of razor sharp steel, sliced through the knot of his cravat with an expert flick of her wrist. The blade came within a hairsbreadth of his skin but did not touch it, while the severed tips of the cloth dropped to the floor.

Understanding dawned across Alejandro's face, and his own grin quickly returned. He shucked off his jacket with all speed and threw it into a corner. He spread his arms wide with a courtly flourish.

"Now," Eléna said, "don't move," and set to work. Her blade flashed as she quickly but carefully removed Alejandro's clothes, one shredded bit at a time. She stopped once he was in nothing but his drawers and a pile of shredded fabric heaped around his feet. "I told you not to move," she said, raising an eyebrow and gesturing at the now tented fabric.

Alejandro shrugged elegantly. "I have never been very good at following instructions," he said.

"Do you surrender?"

"Not until you scream," he said, his grin widening.

"I am going to hold you to that, husband," Eléna said. She gave one final, extremely precise flick of her blade, and the knot in the drawstring of Alejandro's drawers parted like everything before it had, and the underwear dropped to the floor, giving Eléna her first full view of the man she had married. She let out an appreciative whistle as she set aside her sword.

Alejandro's huevos did not disappoint, and neither did any other part of him.

Then the real fun began, and neither of them got any sleep until well into the next morning.

The End