Peter Thornton gave the baby a final tickle under the chin and handed her back to Penny then he cleared his throat and everyone looked up at him politely.
"I've called this meeting because I have some serious concerns--concerns I know many of you share in regard to our mutual associates," Pete announced to the assembled group casually sitting in his living room. Penny Parker, Jack Dalton, Evelyn Trot, Helen Balfour and Sandra Tate looked at each other and grinned, amused as his formal opening. Jack Dalton rolled his eyes dramatically as he grabbed the bowl of pretzels.
"Mutual associates? We're talking about Mac and
Rose, not some holding company in the
Pete had to grin; despite his clownish sense of humor, Jack was the sort to cut to the chase in almost every situation. The older man nodded wryly.
"Okay Jack, you're right, this is about Mac and Rose. It's now the end of July, and heaven help us they're no closer to setting a date than they were when they first got engaged. I suspect its preoccupation with all the renovations they're doing to that warehouse."
"*And* some foot dragging on Rose's part," Evelyn offered from her seat on the sofa. "She's got a real reluctance to get down to the details of this thing."
Everyone nodded knowingly. Penny pulled out a bottle and gently began to feed Polly, who gurgled. Jack let the tiny baby grab his finger and grinned.
"Yeah well it's not my passion either," Pete admitted, "Normally I'd butt out and let them handle stuff themselves, but it's getting ridiculous. Unless they get on the ball and make some things happen soon, they won't make it before the year is up. I mean, let's face it people, putting a wedding together is tough--By November most folks are out of town, and forget about getting them together over the winter holidays--" he stopped as the four women smiled at him. "What? You think I haven't ever had to plan events before?"
"Oh we know, boss--it's just funny to hear some of our personal gripes coming out of *you*" Helen offered sweetly. "Shows your sensitive side."
"I'm not sensitive, I'm pragmatic," Pete grumbled, turning pink. "Rose made a promise and Mac expects her to keep it. I don't think that's unreasonable. They're obviously in love, and certainly planning on a life together--"
"--They just need a little nudging," Penny pointed out, cuddling her daughter, Polly. "A jumpstart, sort of."
The six people in the room pondered that. Gradually the same idea came to all of them, but no one wanted to be the first to voice it until Sandra spoke up.
"You know . . ." she began slowly, "If *we* got the ball rolling, I don't see how they can refuse, since they won't have to do anything themselves," the younger secretary mused out loud. Evelyn and Penny smiled at each other.
"But it's going to take some subterfuge on our part," she added.
"Sneaky work? You mean like finding out what kind of honeymoon they want or Mac's ring size? I can do *that*!" Jack grinned, "Piece of wedding cake, so to speak."
There was a sense of excitement in the room and Pete mentally congratulated himself on picking the right team. The talk was a little livelier now and a definite sense of co-conspiracy was in the air.
"You've got to be subtle, Jack, and not tip our hand--" Evelyn warned, sipping her drink. "If either of them get wind of this too early we could end up hurting their feelings or making them mad--"
"Good point--but I'm guessing that once the thing's done, they'd be resigned to it," Sandra announced. "Especially if it's done nicely."
"Which we could *totally* do--" Penny pointed out. "If we planned it for the end of October, it would give us enough time to get everything together."
"So we're agreed?" Pete looked from face to face. Everyone nodded. "Excellent. Penny, you and Evelyn get to handle Rose and the bride stuff. Helen, you Sandra and I will get the logistics down--time, place, and invitations. Jack, think you can corral Mac?"
"No problemo, Jefe," Jack saluted Pete. "He's as good as in the bag."
screw it up,
"I won't, Pete--it's not only the ultimate joke to play on the best friend I've ever had--" his voice dropped lower and he admitted, "But also, it may be the only way to pay him back for always being there for me."
*** *** ***
"First sacrifice--" Evelyn muttered as she ground her shoe into the delicate earring. It twisted into a lump of gold wire, and mournfully she held it in her hand as she made the call.
"Rose? I need you to come with me to the Mall--Repair work on one of my earrings--yeah, like an elephant stepped on it--"
Twenty minutes later she and Rose were standing at Paragon's talking to the jeweler. After examining the flattened earring, he made no promises, but took it into the back. While they waited, Evelyn gently nudged her friend and pointed to the display case of wedding bands.
"Oooohhh, check 'em out--which one would you get for Mac?"
"I dunno--he doesn't seem the ring type, you know?" Rose mused. Behind her back, Evelyn rolled her eyes in exasperation, but kept her voice sweet.
"But if he was--the plain gold, or the one with the square edges or--"
Rose laughed suddenly and pointed to one in the back of the display.
"Oh Evelyn! Look at *that* one--it would be perfect!"
The ring was plain, but when Evelyn saw it, she grinned too. It was burnished gold, it's edges softly beveled to suggest the shape of a hexagonal nut.
"Perfect for the man who's always tinkering, huh? I'd probably have to thread it onto his finger though--" Rose joked.
"Hey, all the better, girlfriend--he'd sure have to leave it on after that, huh?" Evelyn made a mental note to call the jeweler later, and quickly steered her friend off towards the bracelets while mentally patting herself on the back.
*** ** ***
"Oh Pete, this is getting crazy! I've called eight churches, and only one of them's got a free Saturday in October--I had no idea this many people had baptisms funerals and weddings--" Sandra muttered helplessly as she sorted through the papers on her desk. Pete took the one she handed him.
"Trinity Del Mar--if it's the only one, then we'd better take it. When's the free Saturday?"
"Halloween! Honestly, do you think that's any sort of day to get married?"
"For MacGyver and Rose--" Pete laughed, "Nearly perfect. Make sure you let the Clowderbocks know so we can get the invitations printed and out. How are they holding up?"
"Well Mrs. Clowderbock's pretty excited. She's going to have lunch with Penny and Evelyn to talk about Rose's dress," Sandra smiled at her boss. "So Saturday October thirty first is the date?"
"Yeah--Call Trinity and get it confirmed. Then I can tackle the reception and catering."
"Here's the money--you know what to do, okay?" Jack slipped the packet of twenties to the clerk and the old lady, who both nodded. A few minutes later, MacGyver sighed and looked at his watch pointedly while Jack studied himself in the mirror.
"I'm telling you, it isn't every day you get an invitation to the opera, huh, Mac? And with a knockout like Pamela Hong too!"
"What are *you* going to do at the opera anyway Jack?" MacGyver demanded skeptically.
"Mostly blow into the lovely Pamela's ear and convince her to sneak off to the lobby with me-- Hmmmmm I dunno--I don't like the way it bags here in the front--"
"Sir, I respectfully submit that it does not bag. The cut should fit across the shoulders like---" Spotting MacGyver, the clerk handed him a jacket and motioned for him to put it on; startled, Mac looked from the clerk to Jack, who scowled.
"Oh no--I don't need a coat, *he* does."
"Sir, if you slip this on I can show the gentleman what I mean about the proper fit--he can see it for himself without straining in the mirror--"
Reluctantly Mac put on the tuxedo jacket. The clerk winked at Jack and turned back to MacGyver. He adroitly tugged and measured behind his back.
"See? The cut should end right here at the cuff--"
"Young man!" came a loud cackle. MacGyver looked up to see an old woman eyeing him speculatively. He gave her a polite nod, but she reached for his lapel, stroking it.
"My goodness that looks rather nice. I wonder--since you're in a helpful mood would you try on the trousers too? I have to get my nephew set up for his Prom and young Vinnie's about your size--"
"Wait a minute!" MacGyver demanded desperately. "Jack--"
"Don't look at *me* Amigo--*you're* the Boy Scout--" Jack ignored his friend's plight and continued to preen in front of the mirror. He grinned to himself.
"Never able to say no to those sweet old ladies, are you, Mac?" he murmured softly as he watched MacGyver eventually give in to pleadings of the white-haired grandmother and put on the rest of the tuxedo. With perfect timing fifteen minutes later, Jack turned and frowned.
"Damn it Mac! Stop showing off! This is supposed to be about *me* and my big night with Pamela!"
"And it still is!" MacGyver snapped back, his arms held out as the clerk and the old lady muttered and measured around him. There were chalk marks on the tux and pins everywhere.
"Then why are you wasting time trying things on? We've got three more errands to run before the Grand Re-Opening of Dalton Air tomorrow!' Jack put enough outrage in his voice to keep Mac's attention on him; the clerk gave discreet thumbs up.
"I didn't *want* to--I just . . ." Mac spluttered helplessly. He waved to the old lady, "I mean she asked--"
Jack managed an expression of wounded dignity.
"Never mind--just get that monkey suit off and let's get going. Fine thing when your best friend won't even let you rent a tux without showing off--"
"Jack!" Quivering with annoyed frustration, Mac disappeared into the dressing booth.
"Operation Fitting completed, P.T.--" Jack announced softly into the cell phone. "When I return mine I'll make sure to order the MacIver tartan cummerbund and vest. Damn this is fun--like espionage work without the bullets!"
"Fine. Just don't call me P.T. ever again, or there will be bullets--" came Thornton's terse reply as Jack laughed.
*** *** ***
"So, have you given any more thought to getting married?" Mac asked as he began to work on the bolts. "I mean, we've only got three months left--" Rose handed him another wrench and sighed. They were hooking up the water pipes to the antique claw-footed tub they were installing in the bathroom at the Grotto.
"I've got that Biologistics conference in Florida next week, and then Trevor wants me to do a walk through with the Seattle group sometime next month--what's on *your* agenda, MacLover?"
"Hmmmm--A trip to Budapest in two weeks, and Pete asked me to put in a stretch with the Canyon Survey team. Man, where does the time go? Between this place and work--" he tugged and the pipe connection came loose. "We've managed to eat up the better part of a year. How does Vegas sound?"
"Elvis? Oh Mac, I don't know if I could handle it without laughing," Rose climbed into the tub and stretched out. "And to be honest, my mom would be really disappointed if we ended up in a chapel in Nevada--" Rose mournfully admitted. He looked over rim at her and grinned.
"I could go as Dexter and you could be Rosie--think of the fabulous wedding photos we could have--two nerds and Elvis--"
"Yes, Mrs. Dexter Fillmore--*that* would be a scream, wouldn't it?" They both chuckled a moment. Mac leaned over and pressed a kiss to her nose before readjusting the monkey wrench on the pipe.
"Never mind--it might end up being very small, at my mom's house or something--"
"I'm good with it--as long as it happens--" he warned, "No breaking a basket promise whether you're a Clowderbock or a MacGyver."
"Oh that's right, I'm gonna be a MacGyver. Maybe I could hyphenate my name--"
"Briar Rose Althea Thais Clowderbock-MacGyver *might* be a bit much to fit on a business card, Brat--" he replied absently as he fitted the wrench onto the next section of pipe.
*** *** ***
"The Vera Wang would look great on her--she's got the small waist and the flared hips already to carry it off--" Penny pointed to the photo. "And the lace heart cutout across the back is just *darling*--" Lara Clowderbock set down the iced tea and studied the picture carefully.
"It *is* a lovely dress--but how on earth are you going to get her fitted without Rose getting suspicious?" Evelyn asked.
"She and MacGyver are getting an invitation to the Black and White New Year's Ball, courtesy of me and Perry!" Penny squealed excitedly. "So I'm going to call tomorrow and tell her that we've *got* to get fitted for gowns *now* since the dressmakers are going to be booked with all the Christmas and New Year's parties coming up, which is totally true anyway. I mean, If *I'm* getting a dress at the same time, she's less likely to be suspicious, right?"
"Right--" Lara admitted. "But it's quite an expensive ruse, isn't it?"
"Oh the money's nothing--" Penny waved a dismissing hand. "Perry and Vera go back a long way, and she's always trying to pay him back for putting her stuff in his videos--Rose knows that--so all we have to do is get her sizes and Vera will do the rest!"
"Bridesmaids dresses too?"
"Totally *not* a problem. What's money for if not to spend?"
A little dazed at this peek into the Jet Set life, Lara smiled gently and looked at the baby sleeping in the playpen nearby. Evelyn picked up the picture again and studied it. Penny sighed.
"Wow, MacGyver getting married! It's such a weird concept, you know? It's like watching your wild and carefree brother tie the knot--"
"Mmmmm, well Rose has one of those too--and frankly, after the three paternity suits Newt's been in, I wouldn't mind having *him* settle down--" Lara replied wearily. Penny giggled.
*** *** ***
"Let's see--the caterers are lined up, the flowers are ordered, what about the ring?" Pete looked up at Jack, who gave a shrug.
"He's already got it--had them done as a set when he had the engagement ring made."
"So where is it?"
"Probably in that old band aid box in his desk drawer--" Jack mused. "He always put his treasures there."
"Oh *that's* a safe spot--" Pete muttered in a worried tone, but Jack shook his head.
"It is, Pete--and I can nab it the night before the wedding when I make a nuisance of myself. Worst comes to worst, we can just use my mom's in the interim, right?"
"Jack, you scare me when you make sense--" Peter muttered. "What about the license and the priest?"
"Done and done--Lara suggested Father Joe from their church up in the foothills--he's known Rose since she was a kid, and Mac met him at Christmas. Man! I'm not the one getting married but I'm getting antsy, Pete . . . It's all going too well--I expect a disaster at any moment, you know?"
"I know--" Pete admitted. "But let's keep our fingers crossed, okay?"
"Are you *sure* MacGyver will be back from Budapest in time?" Helen fretted. She and her boss were looking over the projected guest list on his computer. Pete, who was standing behind her, patted her shoulder.
"No point in worrying about it until the morning of the thirty first, Helen. Looks like quite a crowd RSVP'd for this--"
"Including a few interesting guests on the Bride's side--is it true that Newton Bock, THE Newton Bock is Rose's brother?"
"Yeah, hard to believe, isn't it? He's flying in from the Bahamas and bringing a few guests of his own--hopefully he can dodge any paparazzi following him," Pete grumbled.
"So what's left to do?" she sighed.
"I wanted to consider Honeymoon plans with you."
"Why Pete Thornton, I didn't know you cared--" Helen joked softly. Pete shot her a grin, enough to make her blush as well. He leaned down to whisper in her ear.
"Oh I've had my eye on you for years, Helen Balfour-- but no, not ours yet," he softly teased. "Actually I was thinking of sending Rose and Mac to Brussels."
Helen was so startled by Pete's smoothly flirtatious reply that she stuttered,
He straightened up again and shrugged.
"Sure--Rose has never been out of the country, and Mac would love a chance to show off his continental side."
"Okay--" she agreed, thoughtfully, fingers clicking over the keyboard. "A package deal then, with a bed and breakfast and plane tickets?"
"Yeah--reserve it for the third of November so they don't have to rush--"
"Okay. Anything else?"
"No, that will do it for now-- and I'll let you know when to start booking *our* trip--" he replied, keeping a straight face. Helen shot him a look and couldn't help herself; she winked. Pete pinkened.
"Tough? Realistic?" Rose shrugged her shoulders and stretched. As she did that, the zipper on the tight grey jumpsuit inched down a little and Mac smiled.
"Kinda sexy, actually--"
"I'm not *supposed* to be sexy, I'm supposed to be a Ghostbuster!" Rose wailed. Mac walked around behind her and adjusted the backpack; the lights along it flared up, and she swung the proton rifle up in one practiced move.
"Okay, now you look serious enough to scare the ectoplasm out of any kids coming to the door--" Mac told her, tongue in cheek. "--Very blue collar paranormal, honey."
"Thanks. I like your costume too, Mac--I never knew the U.S. Cavalry hired such attractive men."
"I'm not attractive, I'm rugged!" he muttered, looking down at the blue uniform he wore, running a gloved hand up the yellow stripe down the thigh. "A part of the disciplined corps that brought order and justice to the lawless west--"
"And looked good doing it, too--" Rose replied, giving him a sultry once over. Mac shook his head at her, but couldn't help grinning himself.
"John Wayne's spinning in his grave, Brat, you know that."
Rose was too busy adjusting her belt to look up, but she gave a nod.
"I think old Marion will forgive me--we're ready for Bing's party tomorrow night. Hey! Can we wear these to pass out candy before we go?"
Mac caught her chin in his hand, and gazed at her with a deeply affectionate glance.
"I reckon we can, little Missy," he rumbled. She lightly jabbed his stomach with the proton rod.
"Back off, Captain, I'm a professional--" she warned.
"Oof! A professional what?"
"You're just begging to be blasted into another dimension, aren't you?"
"Now hold on Missy--" he moved closer, "Don't force me to hog-tie you . . . *again*--"
The phone rang; Rose slipped away from Mac's comic glare to answer it.
"Rose? You ready to go?"
"Evelyn! Yeah, I'm packed for the night--Lemme get out of my costume and I'll be on the road in five minutes, okay?"
Mac sighed, and reached down to pat Barnum as he watched Rose hang up and begin to take off the proton accelerator backpack.
"Oh yeah the overnight--What time will you be back tomorrow?"
"I'm not sure--Evelyn was talking about going to the beauty parlor--oh hey, Mac, it's not that big a deal!" she rubbed his chest lightly.
"I know, I know--but between your job and mine, it's hard to find a little downtime with you these days. I'm not complaining," He tried to smile, "just--observing I guess."
"Hey, I'll try to get back early and we'll have all day tomorrow, together, okay? No interruptions, no unexpected guests--just us," she promised. Mac nodded, somewhat mollified.
"Sounds good--" He leaned closer to her and planted a kiss on her temple. "You go have fun playing Truth or Dare and reading teen magazines with Evelyn while Barnum and I put the last bolts in the fish tank stand, okay?"
Rose gave him a suspicious look.
"Crashed many slumber parties, have you?"
"I'll never tell--" he gave a virtuous smile she didn't believe for a moment; she prodded him again with the proton gun and he laughed.
*** *** ***
The door buzzer rang, and Barnum barked, a booming sound that carried across the Grotto. A grungy, dusty annoyed Mac climbed out from under the bedroom platform and set the power drill aside.
It was already after ten in the morning, and Rose still wasn't back. MacGyver grumbled as he brushed sawdust out of his hair and opened the industrial door, Barnum at his side. He was completely unprepared for the sight that greeted him, and actually stared, stunned.
Beaming, a cheerful tuxedoed Jack Dalton stood smiling in the doorway, a dress suit bag over one shoulder.
"Geez, Jack, nice outfit--You getting married?"
"No buddy, *you* are--" Dalton laughed, patting Barnum.
"Wanna run that by me again?" wearily Mac wiped his hands on his dirty sweatshirt and stared at his friend. "It's Halloween, Jack, not April Fool's you know--"
Jack gave an exasperated sigh.
"Listen, you and Rose are getting hitched at Trinity Del Mar in three hours, pal, so you'd better shower and get into this--" Jack pointed to the dress bag, "I'd suggest you go heavy on the antiperspirant today, huh?"
"Jaaaaaack-- " Something in the earnestness of Dalton's expression made Mac pause; he studied his friend carefully.
"I figured you'd be skeptical, so here--" Jack thrust an invitation at him, "And you can call Pete, who's going to be pretty mad if I don't get you outta here in about forty five minutes. "
Mac studied the invitation, and swallowed hard. He turned it over in his hands, getting smudges on the edges.
"Yep--bride, church, rings, I dos, cake, dancing, lots of champagne and backslapping--you know, married--" Jack patiently rattled on. "Come on MacGyver, you're not usually this slow on the uptake, man--"
"But--" MacGyver looked up, brows drawing together. Jack reached over and laid a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"Look, maybe we all overstepped ourselves on this, but me and Pete and Helen and Evelyn and Penny all have our necks out pretty far right now--you *do* want to marry Rose, right?"
"Well *yeah*, of course I do--I just didn't plan for it to happen in about a hundred and eighty minutes from now, Jack!"
Dalton flashed white teeth in a dazzling grin. "Better think again, then--"
*** *** ***
Whoa, whoa, back up a minute, Evelyn--what do you mean today's my wedding day?" Rose looked at her friend the in the beauty parlor mirror as the stylist calmly continued to comb.
"I mean, Briar Rose, that we have a little less than two and a half hours and it's our goal to make you so dazzling that MacGyver will positively crawl on his hands and knees over broken glass to marry you, sweetie," Evelyn smirked. The stylist nodded in agreement, and Rose's eyes widened.
"Here--" She passed her the engraved card.
Rose tried to read the invitation, but her hands had begun to shake.
"Oh my God! TODAY?!"
"Today," her friend beamed." Just calm down, Rose--" Turning to the stylist, she added, "We were thinking sort of a loose curls look and a touch up to the bangs I guess--"
Rose moaned, her face pale.
"Does Mac know about this?" she managed to choke out. Evelyn looked at her watch.
"Well if Dalton's done his part, then, yes, he just found out too--"
"A tux--you know I *swore* I'd never get into one of these again, Jack--"
"Come on Mac--so you wear a monkey suit for a lousy five hours out of your entire life--deal with it," Jack chided him as he helped MacGyver do up the plaid bowtie.
"You look good--not as good as me of course, but not bad. We even got the MacIver tartan right--" He adjusted the cummerbund.
"Swell," Mac grumbled, but in a resigned fashion. He worked the cufflinks into the cuffs as Jack played with Barnum.
"I can't believe you guys *did* this--Geez, Rose must be having *kittens* by now--"
"Hey! I thought you two were using contraception--" Jack waggled his eyebrows. Mac had to grin at that; he shot an affectionate glance at his friend.
"Now now, no need to get sentimental--" With a last pat for Barnum, Jack turned to MacGyver, meeting his eyes with a clear steady gaze.
"I've done a lot of screwing up, Mac, and dragged you into more shit than either one of us wants to admit, but once in a while I can get it right and this is going to be one of those times. You're a good man MacGyver and a friend like no other."
"Aw Jack--" Pulling him into a quick hug, MacGyver sighed. Jack hugged him back, hard, and sniffled with they pulled apart.
"Got something in my eye there for a moment--" he mumbled.
"They're fine--even the left one," Mac chided gently. "How do I look?"
"Like a stud in a tux," Jack admitted. "Let's get the ring and hit the road, Compadre--"
"I can't afford this dress! Evelyn, Penny, this is a five thousand dollar Vera Wang original design wedding dress and I still have two college loans to pay off, oh my God you two are *insane!* " Rose shuddered as both Penny and Evelyn ignored her. Penny finished zipping up the side panel while Evelyn twisted the tiny MacIver plaid ribbons that dangled down the back of the white flowered wreath sitting on Rose's head.
"Chill, Squeaky--" Evelyn muttered. Penny came up behind her and squeezed the bride's shoulders.
"Stop freaking out already! It's all ready to go, Rose, so just relax. Think of it this way--you get to go out there looking like the princess you're named for, and marry your best friend."
Rose's mouth dropped open for a moment; she looked from Evelyn to Penny and back again. Both of them grinned at her.
"I . . ."
"--Do. Better practice that, Rose," Evelyn teased. "I hear it's a big part of the ceremony."
In the side chamber of the church, Pete checked his watch as Matt Clowderbock strolled over and tugged his own tie.
"They're coming--the jeep's in the parking lot," he rumbled. Pete looked up gratefully. A moment later, Jack popped in.
"Ta dah! One groom, dressed and delivered as promised, Pete--"
Behind him, MacGyver ambled in, hands thrust in his tuxedo pockets looking sheepishly handsome.
"Not bad--Dalton, you done good--" Pete admitted, clapping Mac on the shoulder. "Ready for this?"
MacGyver drew in a breath of air so deep his chest expanded three times its normal size, and then exhaled it noisily.
"As I'll ever be--" he admitted, chagrined. Pete laughed.
"From what I hear, Rose is a bit of a basket case herself right now--"
Matt chuckled. "Rose? You should see Lara--I swear that woman hasn't stopped crying since six this morning, lad. Marriage by proxy I suppose."
Any further comment was interrupted when a white robed figure stepped in.
"Ah! Our groom is here--good to see you again, young man," the priest smiled. Father Joe was a short slender man with a shock of white hair and shaggy eyebrows. He pumped MacGyver's hand with both of his own.
"I realize you and Briar Rose haven't had a chance to discuss the particulars of the ceremony, so I'm interested in anything you may be concerned about."
"Well, Rose told me she'd accept 'obey' instead of 'cherish' in the ceremony if I made it a point to say your full name in a loud booming voice--" the priest admitted. Mac grinned and rubbed his nose.
"Good luck with getting her to do that, lad--' Matt rumbled.
"I know," came the reply, "Boy do I know--"
"You look beautiful," Lara murmured, wiping her eyes for the twentieth time. Rose turned from her reflection in the mirror and managed a shaky smile for her mother.
"Mama--" Rose blurted, "I'm so scared!"
"Devochka moya, it's all right, " Lara soothed her. "Mac is here, your friends are here and it's going to be a lovely ceremony--"
"But *what*--you had something better to do today?" her mother teased softly. She gazed at her daughter. The dress was sweetly simple creation of white satin; with a square low cut neckline and a smooth bodice that flared just above the hips. The short sleeves were complemented by white lace fingerless gloves and a single strand of pearls around Rose's delicate neck. Instead of a hat or a traditional veil she wore a fluffy wreath of white satin roses with the thin ribbons of MacIver black and red plaid interwoven in it. Several white and plaid ribbons hung down the back.
"It's all so overwhelming. I'm ready, but I'm still nervous--" she admitted. "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak--"
"The flesh is going to do just fine, my sweet," Lara reminded her, gently stroking her cheek. "Be strong for Mac now--he's the one who's going to need you, right?"
At that moment, Matt Clowderbock came in, followed by Evelyn and Penny. He stepped over to Rose and smiled at her, a father's smile full of love, pride and sorrow.
"It's time, Lass--let's take a walk, shall we?"
At the altar, Mac shifted impatiently, grateful for the solid bulk of Pete on one side of him and Jack on the other. Guests were still trickling in, fighting the impending rain outside, and he was vaguely amused to notice quite number of women on the groom's side. He whispered to Pete.
"You don't think it's going to bother Rose--?"
"Mac, I suspect they're all here to see which one you finally *chose*--" Pete responded testily. "Don't sweat it."
The rising swell of the processional theme began, pulling everyone's attention to the back of the church; Mac puzzled at the trumpet fanfare for a moment, then recognized the tune: the Beatles, "All You Need is Love."
The doors opened. A scowling solemn Tavon who was obviously taking his job seriously, escorted Evelyn down the aisle. As she passed him to stand on the right, Evelyn managed a wink at MacGyver, who nodded. Jack's eyes twinkled.
"Oh baby . . ." came his appreciative murmured as Matt Clowderbock and his daughter appeared in the doorway.
Stunned by the sight of Rose, MacGyver actually took a step forward only to be gently nudged back by both Jack and Pete to the amusement of the guests. Matt slowly escorted a serenely radiant Rose up the aisle, as around them, the guests were softly humming or singing along to the tune.
Upon reaching the altar, Matt gently kissed his daughter's forehead and stepped away to the front pew. He wearily handed his sniffling wife another handkerchief.
MacGyver and Rose locked gazes with each other, shyly smiling.
"Hey," he murmured back. "You know, I think our plans for a quiet Saturday by ourselves just got busted."
"Oh darn--" came her soft giggle as Father Joe cleared his throat and began the service.
By its very nature, the ceremony was gracefully compact and fairly short order, Father Joe reached the vows. He gave MacGyver a whispered prompt.
"Make it loud, son--some folks out there need convincing--"
MacGyver took a deep breath.
"I, Angus Ian take you, Briar Rose Althea Thais to be my wife and these things I promise you: I will be faithful to you and honest with you; I will respect, help and care for you; I will share my life with you, I will forgive you as we have been forgiven; and I will try with you better to understand ourselves, the world and God; through the best and the worst of what is to come as long as we live."
"Nicely done!" Father Joe whispered. Now you, Rose--"
"I, Briar Rose Althea Thais take you, Angus Ian to be my husband and these things I promise you: I will be faithful to you and honest with you; I will respect, help and care for you; I will share my life with you, I will forgive you as we have been forgiven; and I will try with you better to understand ourselves, the world and God; through the best and the worst of what is to come as long as we live . . ." Rose squeaked out, finishing her recitation of the same vows in a wavering voice. The priest beamed.
"May I have the rings, please?"
Jack began to work the small gold circle off his pinkie as Evelyn slipped the heavy band from of her thumb. Rose took it and looked to Mac. Jack gave a sickly grin.
"Mac! It's stuck--!" he hissed in embarrassment.
"Oh my God--" Pete sighed as the guests began to smile and shift in their seats. MacGyver reached over and gave the ring a savage twist, yanking it off of Jack's digit. He held it out to Father Joe, who had already taken the one Rose proffered. The priest chose to ignore Jack's grimace of pain and focused on the couple.
"These rings are a symbol of the unbroken circle of love. Love freely given has no beginning and no end, for each is the giver and each is the receiver. May these rings always remind you of the vows you have taken."
Rose held out her hand, and MacGyver slipped the circlet onto her finger, where it fitted flush against the diamond infinity loop. Before letting go of her hand, Mac swiftly brought it up to his lips and kissed her knuckles. Some of the guests 'Ooohed' making Rose blush; Father Joe smiled.
"No jumping the gun--" he admonished lightly, bringing a chuckle to the group. Rose took the remaining ring. With a deep breath, she grabbed Mac's hand and began to jam it on.
"Rose--" he whispered in amusement, "Try one finger over, Hon--"
She looked down to see, and blushed again, quickly pulling the ring off to slide it up the correct digit.
"The outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace. I pronounce you man and wife," Father Joe finished, "And I'm pretty sure you know what comes next--"
Before he'd even finished this understatement, Mac cupped Rose's face gently in his hands and gave her a deep, sweet kiss. A wave of applause rolled out; when they broke apart and looked out over the assembly both Mac and Rose burst out laughing.
Everyone in the church was holding up a white card marked with a score--mostly 10s with a few 11s scattered about. Rose pointed to her mother's card score of 9.9.
"I'm the Russian judge, sweetie--I have a tradition to uphold!" Lara called. Jack dug in his pocket pulling out a tiny whistle. As Mac and Rose stepped forward, he blew it. Immediately, each person on the aisle end of the pews raised a hockey stick, forming an arch of them for the couple to walk under.
Rose got the giggles, and Mac shot her a lovingly exasperated look as they quickly strode down the aisle to the lobby of the church. Once there, they hugged, tightly.
"Oh my God--" she was bouncing up and down.
"Shhhh--it's okay, Rose--" He replied in a shaky voice of his own. People began to cluster around them, hugging, talking, and kissing. Rose tried to hold conversations with six different people all at once while Mac chatted with Pete. Outside came a muted clap of thunder, and the sound of rain cut through the conversations.
*** *** ***
Pete looked over the main banquet hall of the Shoreline Aquarium with a deep sense of satisfaction. The champagne was flowing; the guests were arriving, the caterers moving in brisk efficiency. He walked over to Helen and gave a sigh that she echoed.
"Very nearly perfect--" he muttered. She agreed, flashing him a smile.
"Sorry about the weather, boss, but you can't have it all, you know."
"Rain, shmain--they're married and that's the main thing. Can I pick a crack Commando wedding team or what?" He bragged. She nodded, bumping her shoulder with his in a familiar fashion. He winked.
Helen cleared her throat. "I like the pumpkins and ghoulies everywhere--gives it a very Halloween feel. Have the newlyweds arrived yet?"
"Still posing for pictures I think. I still can't believe he wore a tux--I might need a photo myself for proof."
"Well let me go see if the cake's been set up, and you can make sure that license gets signed all right?" Helen chided her boss. Pete sighed again.
"Yeah--but I think you and I deserve a dance sometime this afternoon--just to reward ourselves don't you think?"
"Just one?" came her smiling reply. He grinned.
Rose watched her brother flirt outrageously with Sandra across the hall and shook her head. She shifted her gaze further over to see Mac and Pete good-naturedly arguing, and guessed it was about the wedding expenses. The DJ had something soft and sweet playing and she sighed happily. With a discreet murmur, she excused herself and headed up to the second floor balcony where the restrooms were. The gown made a soft whispering sound as she climbed the stairs, and she was grateful for a moment of privacy to breathe and relax as she reached the landing. There was an alcove with a small display of sea urchins behind it; she sank down on the bench and drew in a deep breath.
"And so my darling, the deed is done," came a familiar voice tinged with sadness. Looking up she watched Sebastian Murdoc set down the tray of champagne glasses and gracefully sit next to her. He wore a caterer's uniform of white dress shirt and dark pants with a red cummerbund around his trim waist. His sleeves were rolled up to mid forearm and his bowtie was slightly askew, but his mocking smile was as direct as ever. She gasped. From down below the soft strains of Sade's 'Smooth Operator' came drifting up.
"You came--did they send you--"
"Oh no, like the evil fairy godmother I was left off the invitation list, I'm afraid, but I do have my ways of finding things out, my sweet. Such a pity . . . "
"Not really," she murmured with an affectionate sadness to her words. "I'm *happy*, Sebastian. Isn't that what you said you always wanted me to be?"
He stared deep into her eyes, his mouth tightening in unspoken pain and managed a nod.
"Yes, my angel, it is, of course--"
"Well then good--" Rose smiled bleakly. "Did you see it, the wedding?"
"Oh yes--I think it was the first time MacGyver had any true idea of how lusciously wonderful you are. Not bad for an impromptu sort of thing, really." he admitted archly. Rose gave him an exasperated look and smoothed her dress front.
"You're such a snob, Sebastian--"
"And you're still as desirable as ever," came his swift reply. Leaning forward until his breath stirred her bangs Murdoc added, "I believe it's de rigueur to kiss the bride--"
Without giving her a chance to do more than widen her eyes, he slipped a hand to the back of her neck and pulled Rose forward, his mouth meeting hers full on. She squirmed in protest but her resistance didn't affect him in the slightest; his skilled tongue caressed hers in a dizzy throb of remembered passions. She pounded her small fists on his chest. As he finally broke away from her lips, smiling, he whispered.
"And now darling Briar Rose, slap me. As hard as you can if you please, lest your husband get the wrong impression--"
"What?" woozy and furious, Rose glared at him.
"Show MacGyver you hate me--he's hasn't seen us, but he's coming up the stairs--"
Rose swung a hard forehand, her left palm catching Murdoc's right cheek with the full force of the blow; his sardonic smile never wavered. Bending, he caught her hand, planted a kiss in the palm and stood up.
"As you wish, my sweet--" he told her mockingly, even though his eyes said something far different. Turning to the dark-eyed man now looming before him, Murdoc grinned.
"MacGyver, it seems your bride refused to kiss me--" the red imprint of Rose's had stood out in sharp relief against Murdoc's pale skin.
"The bride's got better taste now," Mac shot back coldly. Murdoc laughed.
"Indeed. Forgive me if I don't wish *you* a long and happy life, MacGyver, but remember, whatever natural calamity befalls you, I'll see to it she isn't a widow long--" with athletic grace he picked up the tray of champagne and carried it down the stairs, disappearing into the crowd below. Uncertainly, Mac watched him for a moment and turned to Rose, scooping her into his arms.
"You okay?" came his tender inquiry. She hugged him close.
"Just kiss me and make me forget about him, okay?"
And he did.
*** *** ***
The cake was a masterpiece of frosting and trim, decadently chocolate under a thick blanket of white. Rose stared at the centerpiece and bit her lip, trying very hard not to laugh. Next to her, MacGyver was doing the same as Tavon earnestly finished his explanation.
"So that's why I stuck a hockey dude and a mermaid on it--I know the dog's a Scooby Doo, but it's really hard to find one like Barnum, and I thought he should be there too since he's kinda like your kid," Tavon rattled on. "Is it okay? The cake lady was pitching a fit about it you know--"
"It's perfect, Tavon. You nailed us exactly--Mac's a hockey dude and I'm a mermaid--"
Relieved, Tavon scampered away, leaving the newlyweds to study their cake and try not to laugh.
"I'm not just a hockey dude--I'm Wayne Gretsky," Mac observed his figure with a grin. Rose shrugged.
"And I'm Ariel--what do you expect from a kid who collects action figures?"
"Hey, at least her clamshells fit--" Mac noted. Rose rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, but little plastic Wayne there isn't going to be able to remove *hers* later tonight," she whispered back.
"You have an excellent point--"
Pete quietly walked up behind the two newlyweds and cleared his throat.
"When you two are done, there are a few folks out here who might like some cake--" he reminded them patiently.
" . . . And after I stopped bleeding, I *knew* I was destined to work with animals--" Daniel Ibarra finished up as he smiled down at Evelyn Trot. She tried not to laugh as they danced to the soft strains of little River Band's 'Reminiscing'. Further over; Tavon and Penny were dancing, along with Pete and Helen, Lara and Matt, and Jack and Sandra. Rose was busy holding baby Polly, showing her the wall-sized tank of tropical fish. She had changed into her favorite lacy pink sundress, and laughed when the five month old grabbed a handful of her hair.
"Ouchie, let go sweetie--"
Mac came to her rescue, disengaging the small chubby hand deftly.
"Hey princess, don't catfight with the bride--" he warned her. Polly turned big brown eyes to him and grinned with toothless pink gums. He wrinkled his nose at her.
"Stop flirting, Mac, you're a married man now--" Rose murmured good-naturedly. He took the baby from her, holding Polly closely. He had changed as well, into one of his nicer collarless dress shirts and a pair of khaki slacks.
"She *started* it--" he murmured in mock defense. Rose shook her head and stroked the baby's smooth chubby cheek. Polly Penn was a gorgeous shade of café au lait, with soft ringlet curls and her mother's sloe-eyed beauty. She began to gum MacGyver's shoulder enthusiastically, wetting his collarless shirt with her baby drool.
"I think she's trying to give you a hickey, Mac--" Rose teased.
"Or a spit bath--" he replied, arching an eyebrow. "Polly, honey, stop eating the shirt--"
"Yeah, leave some for aunt Rose to chew on later--"
For a moment they both focused on the little girl, grinning. When Rose looked up, Mac was watching her, his eyes searching and hopeful.
"What do you think, Brat--maybe . . . someday--?" he asked softly. She studied his face.
"Well *yeah*--I mean with the two of us, it'd be--"
"Messy, loud and--"
"--Damn near perfect," he finished with a grin. She pursed her mouth thoughtfully.
"We'll see," she concluded. Mac burst into a huge smile, and she gave an exasperated sigh.
"We'll see always means yes, later--" he announced. Before they could say anything further a breathless Penny swooped down to collect her child.
"Oh hey, hey sugar cookie, Mama's back--" with practiced ease Penny scooped her daughter up and gave her a light bounce. Polly gurgled happily.
"You've really taken to this motherhood thing, Penny," Mac marveled. She beamed before blowing a kiss on Polly's cheek, making the baby squeal.
"Yeah--It's kinda funny, really--" she chirped. "I didn't think I'd ever have any kids. I was *so* sure I'd be on TV or in the movies forever-- I thought I had everything all planned out, my whole perfect existence. And then when I met Perry. Bloooey! It all changed in an instant."
Penny smiled at them, a smile of piercing sweetness and perfect understanding. "Love can just so totally loopy that way, you know?"
"Yeah--" Mac agreed, wrapping an arm around Rose's shoulders, "I know."