(advent) A winter wedding!

If I had to get married again, I think maybe I’d like a wedding like this.

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It was, Molly thought, the perfect winter’s day for a wedding. Overnight, snow had fallen in a soft white blanket that covered Carter’s Cove in pristine white, like a bridal veil. She and Schrodinger stood with the Trio and the rest of the wedding guests outside the small woodland chapel that her friends Mark and Charlotte had chosen to say their vows to each other. Located on the outskirts of Carter’s Cove, the Chapel of the Pines was currently decked with holly, ivy and pine boughs and silver bells. Inside, Mrs. Asher was playing “White Christmas” on the pipe organ while they waited for the bride to arrive.

Molly stole a look at Mark, looking nervously handsome in his black tuxedo, white shirt and dark green vest and bow tie. His groomsmen and the ring bearer flanked him, all dressed the same except for the fact that Mark’s vest and tie were shot through with silver snowflakes. White corsages tied with silver ribbons adorned their coats.

“Don’t they look handsome?” she murmured to Sue, who nodded.

Then, through the last notes of the pipe organ, she heard bells. Jingle bells, attached to horses’ collars. She and the rest of the crowd turned towards the field next to the chapel, where four white horses pulled a gaily-bedecked sleigh over the fresh snow. Inside the sleigh, the bride and her four bridesmaids snuggled under white fleece blankets, but Molly had to laugh at Charlotte’s little niece, the flower girl, who was seated up next to the driver, waving enthusiastically to the crowd, the white ribbons woven into her dark hair flying in the wind.

The sleigh drew up to the chapel door, and the driver stopped the horses. The groomsmen stepped up one at a time to offer their arms to their chosen bridesmaid, who stepped out of the sleigh dressed in beautiful dark green and silver cloaks. Mark lifted down the flower girl, who made everyone laugh by taking the reluctant ring bearer by the arm.

Then he turned to Charlotte, who was waiting in the sleigh, her wedding dress covered by a white and silver cloak, and lifted her into his arms. He set her down on the pathway to the chapel, took her chin in his hand and tilted her head up for one last sweet kiss before they entered the chapel arm in arm. Molly sniffled a little, tearing up already.

The guests followed the couple in, taking seats on either side of the small church as Charlotte and Mark made their way up the aisle to where Father Christopher stood waiting for them behind an altar decked with more holly, ivy and evergreen. All the bridesmaids and the flower girl carried white fur muffs instead of flowers, and all of them looked radiantly happy.

Father Christopher smiled down at Charlotte and Mark as they stepped up to the altar, and raised his arms out to welcome them. Mrs. Asher finished playing “Here Comes the Bride” just as Charlotte turned and handed her muff to her maid of honor.

“Dearly beloved…”

Charlotte and Mark had chosen a short, sweet ceremony, in no small part because the Chapel in the Woods was picturesque but not heated, and they didn’t want to keep their guests in the cold for too long. Father Christopher took their vows, they exchanged rings and a kiss, and then it was over. They walked down the aisle to Mrs. Asher’s rendition of “All I want for Christmas is You” on the pipe organ, and out into the sleigh.

“Come on,” Sue said, tugging Molly’s sleeve. “I’m cold and need to get into the warmth of the hall.”

Molly was only too happy to follow her and everyone else out of the chapel. The hall was only a few hundred yards down the street, so rather than try and drive, they linked arms and strolled down, Schrodinger sticking close beside them.

“Wasn’t that beautiful?” Sue said, sighing. “So romantic.”

“Oh yes,” Molly said. “It was perfect.” Except for the fact that Drew isn’t here, she added privately.

Schrodinger glanced up at her, but didn’t say anything, and she gave him a smile. “Don’t worry,” she said out loud. “I’m okay.”

Sue started to say something else, but then they were at the steps of the reception hall, along with all the other guests, and there wasn’t time. They checked their coats at the coat check and then entered into the warm hall, where they were met with cups of steaming hot cider.

“Oh, what a nice touch!” Molly said, taking two and leading Schrodinger and Sue over to their table. The cider was served in wide latte mugs, and she set one down for the CrossCat, who huffed across it to cool it before sticking his tongue in. Charlotte had put Molly, Sue and Schrodinger with the rest of the Trio, Steve and Luke from the Station. And there was one open seat, one that Molly tried very hard not to look at throughout the meal.

Drew’s seat.

She cradled another cup of cider in her hands, trying very hard to ignore the empty chair beside her as she looked around the hall at the people dancing. It was full of people, not only from the Cove but from several of the towns connected to the Cove by the Gate, and not all of them were human. Mark was a lawyer that specialized in inter-Realm transactions, and many of his clients were there. Charlotte was a traveling nurse practitioner for Carter Cove’s clinic, and she too had many friends who were from the Realms around the Cove. It’s too bad Old Man Winter can’t see this, she thought, sipping her cider. If this isn’t a sign of the Cove bringing people together, I don’t know what is.

“You look like you’re thinking too hard for a party,” a voice said in her ear, and Molly turned as Pavel slid into Drew’s empty seat, looking very smug.

“It’s not much of a party for me,” she admitted.

He grinned and leaned over to whisper in her ear, “Take a walk outside, around to the back of the hall. It might get better.”

Molly looked suspiciously at him, and he winked at her before turning to Lai, who had just slid into her seat and raised an eyebrow to him. “Who’s this?” Lai asked Molly.

“Captain Pavel Chekov, of the Heart’s Desire,” Molly said, getting up. “Pavel, this is my friend Lai Zhao.”

“Really? A captain?” Lai turned her full attention to Pavel, who got up and bowed extravagantly to her. Molly looked around, saw Schrodinger dancing with the flower girl, and took advantage of the fact that no one was watching her to slip out the side door.

It was cold outside, but she hadn’t wanted to waste time getting her jacket. Molly wrapped her arms around herself and walked carefully around to the back of the hall. There was a small path that led out into the woods. Looking down the path, she thought she saw movement.

Intrigued, she started down the path. Music from the hall behind her wafted on the still air, broken only by the crunching of her feet in the new snow. About fifty yards from the hall, the path widened into a small clearing. And there, in the middle of the clearing, stood…

“Drew!”

Molly flung herself into his arms, unable to believe he was really there. But his arms tightened around her, warm and real, and his lips met hers in the sweetest kiss she’d ever tasted. It was him. He was really there.

“I’ve missed you,” he murmured when the kiss broke. “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Me too,” Molly said, snuggling into his embrace. Then another thought hit her, and she drew back slightly, alarmed. “What are you doing here? What if Old Man Winter finds out?”

“He’s not going to,” Drew assured her, pulling her close again. Not that she fought him that hard; his coat covered her arms as she hugged him, shivering slightly. “Where is your coat?”

“I didn’t want to answer questions about getting it,” Molly said, laying her cheek against his chest. “So I didn’t get it.”

The music coming out of the hall changed from a fast dance tune to a slow dance, and Molly didn’t resist as Drew began to dance with her. Out in the clearing, under a dark sky that began to drop gentle snowflakes around them in a lace curtain, they danced, enjoying each other’s company in silence.

One slow song segued into another, then another. Then Drew sighed regretfully. “I’ve got to go, love.”

“I know.” Molly stepped back from him, trying not to cry or beg him to stay. “I’m glad you came.”

“Give Schrodinger my love, and tell Mark and Charlotte congratulations for me.” Drew leaned in and gave her one more hard kiss. “Stay strong. We’ll convince him.”

“And you’ll be home for Christmas?” Molly asked, catching hold of his shirt. “Promise?”

“If I have to have Pavel kidnap you from your house, we’ll be together for Christmas,” Drew said, grinning. “I promise.”

“I’m going to hold you to that.”

She watched as he strode off through the woods, heading back to the Snow Queen’s cottage and Old Man Winter. She watched, until she couldn’t see him anymore, and then she slowly retraced her steps back to the hall.

Pavel was gone by the time she got there, and so was Lai, to her intense amusement. But there was a small box in front of her seat, and Schrodinger was sitting in his seat, radiating concern.

You went for a walk without your coat? He looked over at her. Why?

“I needed some air,” Molly replied, scrubbing at the goosebumps on her arms. “That was all.” She picked up the box and opened the top.

Schrodinger leaned over, sniffed her and then looked up, his eyes wide.

“Not a word,” she warned him, taking the little silver and white ball from the box. “I mean it, Schrodinger. I went for a walk. That was it.”

There was no note with this ball. There didn’t need to be.

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