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12. Vows

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An odd, outdoorsy scent woke Mora from a sound slumber. Frost framed his window and the wind howled outside, indicating a miserably cold day. The last weeks before spring tended to be the coldest.

Mora pulled up the leg of his silky pajama pants. The bruise marring his left kneecap looked like an angry purple splotch, but it didn't hinder his range of motion much. He groggily limped into the bathroom to shave, shower and change into fresh clothing. A few minutes and a metorapan patch replacement later, he considered himself more awake.

"Father?" Kejal manually pushed the door aside enough to speak through it. "Are you up?"

"Yes."

Kejal slipped in bearing an impish 'I-am-up-to-something' smirk. "Oh, you're wearing the green pants?"

"They go best with this." Mora fastened the clasps of his wooly white shirt.

"Make sure you add the red vest."

"Why red?" Mora reached for it.

"You'll see."

Definitely up to something.

After Mora finished dressing, Kejal shape shifted his left hand into a blindfold and guided him into the living room, where the outdoorsy smell grew suddenly stronger. Mora felt himself being lowered into his favorite chair.

"All right, ready?" Kejal asked.

"Yes." Mora replied.

The blindfold disappeared, and Mora found his living room transformed. A pine tree decorated with LED lights and colored baubles stood in the corner across from the eastern windows. Wrapped gifts glistened underneath it. Festoons of greenery framed the doorways.

And Kejal wore an odd, floppy red and white hat.

"Merry Christmas and happy birthday!" he said emphatically.

"What in the...?" Mora sagged back into his chair, laughing. "Kejal, you rascal! What's gotten into you?"

"He insisted." Odo appeared by the kitchen counter.

"And I helped," Aleexa said, stepping out from behind him.

"Me, too." Kira exited the guest bedroom, grinning.

They went to all this trouble for him? It meant more than Mora could find words to say.

"You are all insane. All of you...but I appreciate it." He gazed longingly at the glittering tree.

Odo brought him his mug. Mora relished the first sip of hot deka tea.

Aleexa nudged Kejal with her elbow. "Kejal? The gifts?"

"Right!"

Mora soon found himself holding a rectangular box wrapped in shiny green paper and gold twine.

"Mom, mother, this one is for both of you." Kejal handed them a silver cube shaped package.

"Kejal!" Aleexa exclaimed upon receiving an oval box covered in red paper. "Well, guess what? I got you one."

She passed him something triangular cocooned in gold paper.

"Aw, Aleexa!" He beamed. "Okay, everyone, let's open at the same time. Ready...go!"

Kejal tore into his gift. The sound of shredding paper filled the room.

"Oh! Kejal!" Kira cried. She and Odo lifted their chosen wedding bowl out of the box. The jewels encrusting it sparkled in the morning light pouring into the windows.

"These are cute!" Aleexa peered at her new assortment of hair ties and barrettes. "Just in time. My last one broke yesterday."

Mora examined the black socks nestled within his package. They appeared to have treads on the bottom. Kejal noticed his baffled expression.

"They're grips for the floor." He indicated Mora's bare feet. "You can wear these and you won't slip. Now you can be almost barefoot in winter and not deal with cold feet. Try them on?"

Behind him, Kira and Odo turned their wedding bowl over in their hands. They smiled at each other, leaned forward and shared a chaste kiss.

Mora chuckled and slipped the socks onto his feet. They were soft and long, reaching almost up to his knees. He pulled himself upright. His feet didn't slip an inch.

"Well, how about that?" Mora wiggled his toes. "Kejal, what did Aleexa get you?"

Kejal reached into his package and lift out a crystalline pyramid. He clearly didn't know what it was. "It's pretty."

"It's an imaging crystal." Aleexa said. "I noticed the holo-imager getting full, so I transferred everything on it. This can hold ten times more than a standard imager. Plus, it looks nice when it's turned off."

He switched it on and images he'd taken over the past week popped up with realistic clarity.

"Oh, wow! Thanks, Aleexa!" Kejal hopped over the paper to hug her.

"Pfff, you can't do this Christmas thing without getting a present yourself. Thank you for these!" Aleexa shook her package, smiling.

"Hold it." Odo gripped Kejal's arm. He pulled him onto the couch where he and Kira both caught him in a tight embrace. "This means a lot to us."

"Thank you," Kira murmured. "That bowl is really special, Kejal."

"I agree." Mora padded over to the couch and wrapped his arm around Kejal. "Now, what I'm wondering is how you got that tree into this house without waking me up."

Everyone chuckled.

"It's not a real tree. It came in a box and I put it together." Kejal pointed out. "I think the green ornaments on the bottom have the pine smell, but I need someone with an actual working nose to confirm."

Kira sniffed one. "Mmhmm, it's the green ones. They smell so real."

Mora caught another scent coming from the kitchen. "Is that cinnamon?"

"Oh!" Aleexa bolted around the counter and removed something from the heating container sitting on the countertop. It looked like a toasted loaf of bread sprinkled in cinnamon. "I baked us some Talaxian toast. It's pretty rich, so I'll give anyone who wants it small pieces at first."

She cut it lengthwise before slicing it into several wedge-shaped pieces. The creamy filling inside added another layer of sweetness to the warm scents wafting through the living room.

Mora joined her and retrieved plates onto which she dished up two small slices of toast.

"Butter or honey?" she asked.

"Butter, please."

"Nerys?"

"The same," Kira answered.

Mora happened to glance up at the green sprig hanging above Odo and Kira. Tiny white berries grew between the round leaves. "What is that?"

"Ah!" Kejal followed Mora's gaze. "It's mistletoe. If you're under it and you kiss, it's good luck."

Odo met Kira's eyes and smiled. "We make our own luck."

"Oh, you're such a grump. Come here." Kira grabbed his shoulders, pulling him close for a long kiss.

Mora could remember kissing Leruu that way on the very same couch.

"Bajor to Pol...here's your toast."

"Ah! Thank you." Mora accepted the offered plate and took a generous bite. Crisp, crunchy sweetness mixed into the butter and cream became a symphony for his taste buds. "Mm!" He swallowed. "This is delicious. Nerys, try a piece."

Kira joined him in the kitchen. Her eyes lit up as she tried a bite from her own plate. "This would be a great treat for the wedding."

"Really?" Aleexa blushed. "I'll make it...it's really easy. Are you sure you don't want something fancier?"

"It's not going to be a high religious ceremony, so no. Just a simple garden wedding. Which reminds me, Pol-- " Kira gave Mora's shoulder a squeeze, "I'll need your measurements."

Mora finished his toast. Aleexa wasn't kidding about its richness. He felt full from that tiny piece. "Let's do it right now, while I can stand up straight. Is that all right with you?"

She ate the last bite of her toast. "Sure! Let's go in your bedroom where it's quieter."

He swiped the measuring laser out of a drawer and led her into the other room. "I'm sorry about my bed."

"Don't apologize...you have reasons." Kira gently lifted the measuring device from his grasp.

Mora squared his shoulders. "Odo mentioned visiting my lab."

The statement tumbled out of his mouth when he only meant to think it.

Kira paused. When she spoke, her voice had a new edge. "Yeah...he showed it to me."

Suddenly, standing up straight became much more difficult. "Odo tries to act fine about it, but I know him too well-- he still resents it."

"It wasn't right." Kira measured his shoulders.

"I know-- I know now, but I had no idea at the time. There was no indication he was a life form. I can't change the past, Nerys, but if I knew he was a life form going in, my approach would have been vastly different." Mora said simply. "Everyone told me not to grow attached to him, and I tried not to. He was so innocent. He needed someone. I did care about him, Nerys...he became my life. I never wanted to hurt him."

"Hey, I'm not judging you. I won't lie-- if it was me who went through that, I'd never want to see your face again. The only reason I gave you a chance is because I know you're not the man you were back then."

Her words made Mora's heart drop into his stomach. Before he pulled back, she went on, "I don't like it, but it's the past and it's long gone. Holding a grudge over your head won't solve anything. Like you said, it can't be changed. Odo walked into that lab looking terrified as hell, like a child afraid of the dark."

"And I was the monster."

"No, Pol, you aren't. Monsters don't regret their mistakes. They make excuses to justify them, and Odo knows that." To his shock, she embraced him. "He wasn't afraid of the lab anymore when we left it. I think he wants to see you like Kejal does, but he doesn't know how yet."

Her kind words were soothing balm on his soul, yet they didn't erase his guilt. "All I want is to tell him I'm sorry...but 'sorry' isn't enough. Nothing will make up for-- "

"Let Odo decide that." Kira smiled, though it seemed forced. She knelt to measure his inseam and waist. "He trusted you with Kejal, and it wasn't an easy decision. I think that says a lot in itself."

Mora's eyes were faraway. The bitter-sweetness left a lump in his throat. "Kejal made my life worth living again. I owe Odo everything for such a gift. But what happened to Odo after I left with Kejal?"

"Odo never got over giving up Kejal. Kejal's birthday was the hardest for him. We sat together in the Replimat every year and talked about it. I think it helped." Kira traced Mora's feet with the measuring device. "There. That's it."

"Ah, finished?"

"Yup." Kira jotted everything down on a PADD. "Back to what we were talking about before-- the lab was the worst part for Odo, but he did it. All that's left now is for him to talk it over with you."

"I'll make sure I'm receptive." Mora squinted at the measurements Kira took. He'd lost eight inches off his waist in the past month because of the damn Delfeya syndrome. Putting it out of his mind, he managed a small, sad smile. "Thank you. Make sure you get a belt. I have no idea if my waist will be the same size by the time the tuxedo arrives."

"You got it." She squeezed his hand. "Odo will come around...he just needs time."

"I'll wait as long as I can...and I am truly sorry."

"I know," Kira touched his shoulder. "I'll let you rest if you need to."

And the days began to pass. Odo returned Kira to the space port for her trip back to Deep Space Nine, and they exchanged several communications related to the wedding in the meantime. Kejal cleaned up the Christmas decorations. Aleexa visited twice a day-- and sometimes stayed the entire afternoon. Mora swung between coughing up mucus and working diligently on his nearly completed treatise.

The cloth coffin arrived on a rainy morning. Mora told no one for fear of spoiling the festive atmosphere. When everybody else became busy planning the wedding, he unfurled the oval-shaped coffin on his bed and laid himself down inside.

It did feel like a sleeping bag, and it rolled up like one, too. He stashed it in the closet.

That night, he dreamed of the star within Kejal's nebula. He couldn't be entirely sure, but he swore he saw a newborn planet and moon spinning through the remaining stellar dust.

.o

Odo spent a long, peaceful night regenerating in the vase by the wall. In the morning, Kejal dumped him onto the floor.

"Mother! Father's tuxedo arrived! Come on!" He poked his fingers into Odo's substance. When that didn't get enough of a response, he huffed. "Okay, fine."

Suddenly, Odo felt a rectangular weight settle on top of him. He grudgingly oozed out from underneath it and assumed his humanoid form.

Kejal grinned. "Good morning."

"You're the worst morning person I know," Odo groused without any true malice. He peered at the long, glossy black delivery crate. "Is Doctor Mora awake?"

"Mmhmm."

"Fine." Odo carried the container into the bedroom. "Doctor Mora, your tuxedo arrived. Would you like to try it on?"

Doctor Mora didn't look well at all. He kept rubbing the left side of his abdomen. Yet, when he saw Odo holding the crate, he brightened.

"Let's see how it fits." He got out of bed and took the transport container into the bathroom. "I may need assistance with the smaller details...I've never worn a tuxedo before."

"Do what you can and I'll help with the rest." Odo replied.

The sink gurgled for a few moments. Fabric hissed across skin. Shoes plopped onto the floor and paper crackled. Several minutes later, Doctor Mora called through the door. "All right, I'm coming out."

Odo noticed Doctor Mora had combed his hair and shaved before trying on his new outfit. He did a decent job for someone who had no clue how to wear unfamiliar formal attire. His coat was unbuttoned and the bowtie hung loose around his neck.

Amused, Odo popped Doctor Mora's shirt collar up and tied the bow tie. Their eyes met as he helped him smooth the collar back down.

"Hm," Odo couldn't hide a smile. "It fits perfectly. Although to wear it properly, you need to button the jacket." He briefly fashioned his outer clothing into an identical tuxedo to show him. "See?"

Doctor Mora buttoned the jacket as he turned to examine himself in the full length mirror by the door. "Well, look at that. Kejal, I should have a black cane in the closet. Get it for me?"

"Got it." Kejal reached into the closet.

Doctor Mora traded his lighter colored cane for the black one, which had a decorative gold handle, and it added the perfect detail to his wedding attire.

"Hey, what's this?" Kejal tugged something and the cloth coffin popped out of the closet. "Oh..." He touched the beautiful custom embroidery. "Do you want to be buried wearing your tuxedo, father?"

"No," Doctor Mora shook his head, "My old Science Institute garb will do. It's how most people remember me."

Kejal nodded, his expression unreadable, and carefully tucked the cloth coffin back into the closet.

Four days and a space port pickup later, Odo was kissed awake on his wedding day by a disheveled, yet beautiful Kira Nerys.

"Mm..." Odo nipped her bottom lip. "Good morning."

"You, too." Kira smirked and twirled her finger around his shoulder. "So, how will you justify kissing a married woman?"

He chuckled. "By not informing her husband. What about you? People talk when they see a woman fooling around with a married man."

"I'll court marshal anyone who tells his wife."

They grinned at each other, their eyes gleaming.

"And if I never have to see another bowl of koganka pudding for the rest of my life, it'll be too soon."

"You don't like the taste?"

"Oh, I do, but not every day!"

Odo snorted at that. He sat up to look out the guest bedroom window, which faced northeast. Thick clouds darkened the sky-- the weather forecast said a chance of thunderstorms-- but his mood soared at seeing red and gold ribbons wrapped around the deka tree's trunk. Several more tied its drooping branches together, creating a pathway. Doctor Mora's prayer mandala stood on a small altar set upon the very spot where Odo and Kira would say their vows. A wide, flat container and four small jars of colored sand gleamed in front of the mandala. The setup was all Kejal's idea, and it looked fantastic.

The sand ceremony was something Odo never saw done before, but he'd heard of it. Kira wanted Kejal and Doctor Mora to be part of the wedding, and the sand ceremony symbolized unity as a family.

Everyone chose a specific sand color. Doctor Mora preferred white, Kejal picked green, Kira wanted red and Odo decided on orange. Two days ago, they all practiced their part using ground up deka seed pods. Everyone knew where, when and how to pour. There would be no hiccups or errors.

At least, Odo hoped not.

He smiled again and traced Kira's delicate collarbone. "What I want to know is how you got someone as busy as Shakaar to officiate the ceremony."

"I'm just that good, and I figured you'll be more comfortable with him rather than a vedek." She crinkled her nose in the cute way that made Odo ripple inside. "I love you."

His eyes softened. "I love you, too."

Together, they tacitly disentangled themselves. Odo kissed Kira one more time and left her alone to handle her personal preparations.

Aleexa arrived wearing a gold corset-style dress. Its off the shoulder cowl neckline and wrap skirt flattered her plump figure well, and the color made her brown eyes stand out. Odo never realized how well endowed she was-- he'd only ever seen her wearing vests and loose fitting jackets. She topped the whole outfit off with one of the sparkly gold hair clasps Kejal gave her.

"Wow, Aleexa," Kejal stopped in his tracks to stare. "You look beautiful."

She beamed at him and set down the container of Talaxian toast she brought along. "Thank you! I managed to squeeze myself into this silly old thing. I hope it's not too much."

"Not at all. It's very becoming." Odo nodded approvingly and nudged Kejal to stop him from staring.

Her cheeks gained more color. "Thanks, Odo!"

"Aleexa, you look lovely." Doctor Mora poked his head out of his bedroom door. His hair was wet and messy from a shower.

"Thank you! Whew, compliments everywhere." Aleexa looked over her shoulder. "Do you need help, sweetie?"

"I just have a question." Doctor Mora glanced at Odo and Kejal. "It's pretty rough today. Would it harm anything if I took the triptacederine with the metorapan patch? I don't want my aches and pains interrupting the wedding."

"It's fine. Just don't use any metorapan hyposprays for at least six hours after you've used triptacederine, or you'll end up in liver failure. I don't think you want that just yet."

"Definitely not! Thank you, that's all I needed to know. Kejal, a hand, please?"

Odo nudged Kejal. "Go help him."

"Sure, mother." Kejal scrambled into Doctor Mora's bedroom.

Aleexa peered at Odo's state of undress. He'd only bothered to shape shift loose brown pants to avoid appearing naked. She giggled good-naturedly. "Nerys is one lucky lady." She set the container holding her toast on the hotplate to warm it. "Shouldn't you be getting dressed?"

Looking down, Odo gave an amused sniff. "The clothing I wear is part of me."

He politely turned his back to the guest bedroom when Kira slipped out and padded through the kitchen carrying everything she needed to prepare for the ceremony. When the bathroom door closed, he faced Aleexa again.

"As I was saying..." Odo let his arms fall to his sides. His surface shimmered and became a formal black tuxedo with coattails, red lapels and a shiny red bowtie. A gold waistcoat and cufflinks complimented the wedding colors. As a finishing touch, he wiped both hands over his hair and its waves disappeared, making it appear like he used gel.

Aleexa's mouth dropped open. "That's handy!"

"Do I look enough like a groom?" Odo asked with a wry smile.

Aleexa started to reply, but the door opened and Doctor Mora stepped out looking absolutely impeccable. Aside from the cane, Odo noticed he didn't look ill at all.

"Well, well, well!" She eyed Doctor Mora, grinning. "You clean up nice, young man!"

Doctor Mora winked at her. "It's been a long time since I felt this fancy. Kejal? What are you doing in there?"

"On my way!" Kejal clambered out. He spun around once and his green jumpsuit transformed into a tuxedo identical to Doctor Mora's, save for the red stripe running down the length of his slacks. His slicked back auburn hair gained a noticeable sheen. "How do I look?"

"Quite charming!" Aleexa circled Kejal and Doctor Mora. "Earth attire suits you boys nicely. Get together, you three, I'm taking a holo of this."

Kejal slid over to Doctor Mora's left side. Odo stood on the right. Doctor Mora threw an arm around both their shoulders. Aleexa gave them a three count and captured the image.

"Doctor Mora, you look nice."

"So do you, Odo." Doctor Mora squeezed Odo's shoulders and held his gaze for a moment. "I feel like I'm seeing my oldest son get married today. You've come so far from where you started. I'm proud of you. Never forget that."

Something within Odo's substance tightened, and his eyes felt prickly. The feeling went away as soon as he blinked.

"I won't," Odo replied. He straightened Doctor Mora's bow tie, smiling. "I've dreamed of this day for a long time. It's all happening so fast, but I wouldn't change it for anything."

Then he turned to Kejal and smirked. "I like the stripe."

Kejal eyed his legs. "It's not too much?"

Odo shook his head. "No, it suits you."

The door chime rang. Doctor Mora answered it. "Ah, First Minister! Welcome to my home!"

"Thank you." Shakaar ducked through the doorway. He wore a long, formal gold Bajoran jacket and brown slacks. "I'm glad I chose the right color. I'll fit right in with the ribbons. Oh, thank you." He let Doctor Mora take the ceremonial flask of wine off his hands.

Kejal disappeared to knock on the bathroom door. "Mom, the First Minister is here."

The reply was too faint to hear.

"Odo, you look...well. Very well." Shakaar shook Odo's hand.

Odo shrugged, smiling slightly. He noticed streaks of gray peppering Shakaar's hair. "It has been awhile, hasn't it?"

Shakaar chuckled and patted Odo's shoulder. "I suppose we all look a little older."

"Ah, First Minister. I'm Kejal, nice to meet you." Kejal gave Shakaar a vigorous handshake.

"You look just like-- hm, it's great to make your acquaintance, Kejal."

Kejal grinned and put his arm around Odo. "He's my mother." With that, he walked off laughing, leaving Shakaar looking baffled.

"It's...a long story," said Odo. "So, are we starting?"

Shakaar nodded, his Bajoran earring bouncing. "I'm ready if everyone else is. Please don't mind my security team stationing a perimeter."

"Hah! I'd be worried if I didn't see them." Odo noted the eight officers taking up positions around the yard.

Doctor Mora knocked quietly on the bathroom door. "Nerys, it's time. Are you ready?"

Kira cracked the door. "Anytime you are. Just say when."

Kejal scooped up the ceremonial bowl and beckoned for Shakaar to step out first. Aleexa followed the First Minister.

Everyone jumped when thunder rumbled. Odo groaned mentally at the threat of rain ruining everything.

"Let's just do it. If it rains, it rains." Kejal said.

"It won't rain. It never rains on weddings." Odo said sarcastically. "Go on, dais bearer."

Kejal poured a tiny portion of ceremonial wine into the wedding bowl and stepped out the door. Holding it high, he began a beautiful chant asking for blessings upon the bride and groom as he carried the bowl towards Shakaar.

Odo followed several feet behind his son. He joined Shakaar beside the altar. While he couldn't smell, he felt the cool wetness of the air in his nose. He hoped the rain waited for the ceremony to conclude.

Kejal bowed towards the door. "The bride arrives!"

He completed the ritual with a Janalan Order chant welcoming a bride into the sun-- and the irony brought a few chuckles.

Time and space funneled into a single point in the middle of the doorway. Odo watched it intently, waiting to set eyes upon the woman he loved long before he knew the meaning of the word.

Doctor Mora stepped outside. Kira joined him, gently taking his arm.

And suddenly, the sun came out and shone down on her like a spotlight.

She chose the wedding dress Odo saw in Garak's shop. A simple red gown beneath a golden floor length lace jacket. There was no jewelry other than her betrothal bracelet and her Bajoran earring.

Time had added lines to her features that weren't there thirty years ago. Gray streaks began at her temples and disappeared into the loose auburn braid dangling behind her. In another hundred years, her hair would be all white and her face deeply wrinkled...and he realized he didn't care.

Odo met Kira's gaze. Her eyes were brown like stained glass windows hiding an inferno, such a contrast to his icy blue.

"Odo, I offer you your bride's hand," said Doctor Mora.

Odo forgot about accepting Kira's hand until Kejal nudged him back into reality. A part of him feared waking to find all of this a fanciful vision created within the Great Link.

Kira arched an eyebrow. Odo cast out his worries and interlocked their fingers. Her touch sent a thrum throughout his fluid interior. He let his palm liquefy, hidden and secret against hers. The only way he could say the things that always stuck somewhere between his mind and voice was through touch.

You look beautiful beyond imagining, Nerys. I want to live in this moment forever.

Kira's expression softened. He felt the quickening of her heartbeat through the pulses her fingertips. A small vibration capable of driving him towards ecstasy if he let it.

"You look amazing, too," she whispered in his ear. Softer, she added, "And yes, so could I."

Doctor Mora joined Kejal and Aleexa near the altar. Odo hardly noticed, his attention focused solely on his soon-to-be wife.

"Ready?" Shakaar cleared his throat. "To all who hear me, we gather to honor the unity of not just Kira Nerys and Odo, but of a family." He accepted the bowl when Kejal handed it to him. "We begin with the pouring of the sand. I ask that the Prophets send down their blessings. May the pattern we see unfold be a symbol of today's union."

Doctor Mora leaned against the altar, picked up his jar and poured a small portion of white sand in the very center. Kejal went next, sprinkling his sand around Doctor Mora's. Kira followed him, and Odo did it last.

Then, together, they all dumped the last of their sand into the flat container, screwed on the lid and shook it once. The pattern inside stayed white in the center, but the green, red and orange surrounded it in graceful swirls.

Doctor Mora dabbed his eyes with the back of his hand. "Over this new mandala, we unite as one." He smiled shakily at Odo and Kira.

"May this circle never break," Kejal added quietly.

"And with love, we will stand together." Odo squeezed Kira's hands.

"In life, in death, and in marriage, we are bound now and forever." Kira finished.

The new family grasped the mandala and lifted it up for the gathering to see.

Aleexa gave a huge sob and blew her nose. Odo stepped on Kejal's foot to stop him from laughing. They propped the sand mandala against the deka tree.

"Congratulations on becoming a family." Shakaar bowed and handed Kejal the wedding bowl. Kejal swirled it once before passing it to Kira.

Shakaar began the marriage blessing, and Odo felt his substance tingle. In moments, he would be Kira's husband...he was about to belong to her forever.

Odo accepted the bowl. He sipped from it and offered it to Kira. She also drank. Their hands interlocked as they held the bowl between them.

Shakaar unrolled a small scroll and recited the ceremonial scripture.

"Boray pree hadokee. Tolata impara boresh. Preeya Odo, Preeya Kira Nerys, abrem varo atel." He closed the scroll and held his hand out for the bowl. Joy radiated from his eyes when he said, "In the sight of all present, I now pronounce you husband and wife. May the Prophets bless you always. Odo, it's time to kiss your bride."

Odo flashed the most radiant smile of his life. Kira's expression mirrored his. They leaned in simultaneously and kissed like it was the first time they ever touched lips.

Everyone present applauded. Aleexa burst into sobs and Doctor Mora wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

"Wife," Odo whispered.

"Husband," Kira whispered back. "Now I'm yours."

"Forever."

They kissed again.

"Oh! A rainbow!" Kejal pointed south. "The Prophets approve!"

And then the rain came blasting down.

"Ack!" Aleexa helped Doctor Mora back into the house. Kejal rescued the sand mandala. Shakaar and his guards took the altar and prayer mandala inside.

Odo and Kira stood under the only part of the tree that blocked the rain. They hardly noticed the downpour-- their eyes remained riveted on each other.

.o

Kejal finally had his long-coveted hologram of Odo smiling. He captured the exact moment Odo and Kira became husband and wife. The rainbow he'd spotted glowed in the background, barely visible between the deka tree's branches. It shone brighter in the next picture, which caught the official smooch.

Aleexa and Mora were also in the background, both crying into the same handkerchief as though someone died. Kejal found it too funny for words.

"This toast is delicious!" Shakaar said from the kitchen. "Do you have the recipe?"

Aleexa passed him a gold napkin. "I can write it down for you. But to make it work, you have to mix it with a little love. And make sure your handsome security guards get a piece. They're included in this party!"

"I'll make sure of it...on both accounts." Shakaar chuckled softly. "It's been a long time since I tasted a Talaxian dish."

Kejal noticed Mora sitting in his favorite chair by the oval window. He was looking at the hologram of his own wedding. Shakaar saw him sitting by himself and joined him. They talked quietly to each other for quite awhile.

Outside, the rain slowed to a light drizzle. Kira seated herself on the swing, looking up at Odo. Odo held onto the ropes to keep the swing from moving. They talked quietly, kissed and exchanged gentle looks while surrounded by greenery and ribbons.

Kejal grinned and snapped the images for posterity.

"We better head inside," remarked Odo.

"But it's all muddy now!" Kira laughed.

"I'll fix that."

Odo, ever the gentleman, scooped Kira up into his arms and carried her to the door. Kejal, of course, recorded the whole thing. Odo wiped his feet before setting Kira down inside.

"That was some wedding." Kira eyed the holo-imager in Kejal's hands.

Kejal laughed. "I think Aleexa cried through the whole thing."

"And then some!" Aleexa tittered. She went right back to telling one of Shakaar's security guards about meat pies and sauce.

Anyone not engaged in conversation came forward to congratulate the newly wed couple. Shakaar's security detail proved itself quite friendly.

"I'll get you some toast." Odo said.

"No, we will." Kira grabbed his coattails.

Kejal took a great holo-image right when Odo looked back at her. It was the second picture showing his mother's most genuine smile.

A little while later, just after Shakaar and his security team left, Kejal saw Mora hobbling into his bedroom.

"Father?"

Mora made a face. He laid back on his bed, sighing. "I'm all right. I just need a little rest."

Kejal noticed Mora holding the left side of his stomach. His lips were tense and he looked pale.

"At least it waited until after the ceremony," Mora turned his grunt into a chuckle. "The triptacederine works well. I don't have any back pain at all."

"But you still hurt." Kejal laid his hand over his father's.

"It'll pass."

"Should I bring Alee-- "

"No. Kejal, please. I don't want anyone focusing on me. This is about Odo and Nerys. Please, Kejal, don't make them worry. When you're just married, you fall under a spell of utter happiness. Don't spoil it for them." He picked his head up. "Do you understand?"

Nodding, Kejal glanced across the bed where Mora's prayer mandala had been returned to its proper place under the window.

"Hey," Mora whispered.

"What?"

He patted the PADD on the bedside table. "I finished it."

"Oh! Is it published yet?"

"I sent it off when I woke up this morning. Today is a celebration of life-- why not have today be the reception date? Even if it takes three or four months to go public, you will remember me finishing it today."

Kejal leaned over and hugged him. "And you call me a scoundrel!"

"You are one." Mora kissed the top of his head.

Something rustled towards the doorway. There stood Kira, sparkling in her wedding finery. Snacking on Aleexa's toast caused some of her ruby red lipstick to rub off. She didn't appear to mind.

"There you are, Pol." She approached the foot of the bed. "Is everything okay?"

"I'm taking a little rest." Mora smiled at her. He sat up and swung his legs off the side of the mattress. The gel he used in his hair didn't let a strand move out of place. "You look beautiful, Nerys. Odo is such a lucky person to have you."

Kira hung her head and smiled a little. "I like to say I'm the lucky one. He's wonderful under that grouchy exterior."

Mora clasped her hand between both of his. "But you opened him, Nerys. That was something I've never been able to do."

She rubbed his knuckles with her thumb. "We both had the right keys to each other."

"Where has my wife disappeared to?" Odo's words carried through the living room. His gruff voice had a note of merriment, and from him it sounded genuinely odd.

"We're in here!" Kejal answered.

"I better go see what he's up to." Kira squeezed Mora's hand. "Are you sure you're okay?"

Mora shrugged. "I'm feeling my age, that is all."

It was more than that, however Kejal kept his mouth shut. Kira let go of Mora and nudged Kejal with her shoulder, whispering, "Take care of him."

He nodded once, meeting her eyes. Her dress rustled as she left the room.

"It went so fast. Three weeks of planning and it's done." Kejal sighed to himself. "Was your wedding that quick?"

Mora reached for his shiny black shoes. "Leruu and I got married in secret between Cardassian inspections. We took the wedding hologram outside the Bajoran Institute for Science. The Ital wasn't a thought in anyone's mind yet, so we had a lovely meadow behind us. There was no party after the vows. We changed and went right to work. So, yes, it happened quickly."

Mora made another attempt at untying his shoes before Kejal knelt and did it for him. "The best thing about a special moment is your memory's ability to relive it over and over again."

"A lot of mine include you," said Kejal.

"I'm glad." Mora blinked. "Ah, go run along. I can handle this tuxedo myself."

"Sure." Kejal set Mora's shoes on the mattress and dashed into the living room.

Kira and Odo sat together on the couch, holding hands and whispering amongst themselves.

Rain began falling within seconds of Kejal stepping outside to remove the ribbons from the deka tree. By the time he had the decorations taken down, the rain morphed into a downpour. Soaked, he scrambled back inside just in time to avoid a hailstorm.

Loud thunder shook the house. Hail knocked down leaves and seed pods. The noise outside was comparable to a war zone. Up above, the ragged gray clouds swirled.

"Whoa!" Kejal slammed the door shut and stood there, his "tuxedo" dripping. "Talk about a storm giving birth on your head, haha! Mother, mom, I think you timed that wedding perfectly. Any later and you'd be getting married in that!"

"The Prophets waited for us." Kira said cheekily.

"I can always shape shift into an umbrella." Odo added.

Kira slapped his arm. "I can't kiss an umbrella."

Hail beat against the roof like hoofed beasts. Strong winds sent the deka tree's drooping branches whipping past the oval window. Kejal prayed his garden wouldn't be torn apart by the jagged ice.

"Is it hailing outside? Oh, yup." Aleexa emerged from the guest bathroom. She'd changed out of her gold dress and into her usual nursing jumpsuit and vest. "Quite a storm. I hope Shakaar and his security team aren't caught in it."

Kejal shook his head. "Hover trams can take a beating. They'll be fine."

He liquefied and reformed looking perfectly dry with puddle of water on the ground by his feet.

Thunder roared overhead, shaking the windows. Kejal grabbed an unused wineglass and opened the door far enough to collect several large hailstones. One was almost half the size of his palm!

Aleexa reached past him and moved the takeo plant closer to the door. Over the past few weeks it grew six inches taller. She picked off its largest leaves and hummed to herself while grinding them up in the blender.

Odo and Kira still hadn't left their freshly wedded bubble of happiness.

Kejal chuckled at them. He peeked in the bedroom. Mora sat on his bed, quietly praying before his prayer mandala. He wore a his warmest robe over a striped flannel nightshirt. His tuxedo lay neatly folded inside its box by the closet.

When he finished his prayer, Mora scooted backwards and laid himself down. He groaned with every movement, briefly revealing the pain he hid during the wedding.

"I'll get this put away." Kejal hurried to shove the box into the back corner of the closet near the rolled up cloth coffin.

"Kejal."

"Yes?"

Mora exhaled noisily. "I think I've reached the 'dying' part of this damn disease. The pain is constant unless I medicate myself. Every morning, I wake up and wonder what I won't be able to do anymore that day. I'm afraid I may not be a pleasant person to be around much longer."

Kejal felt a stabbing sensation somewhere in his chest.

"Don't worry, father." He placed his hand on top of Mora's. "I don't care how unpleasant it gets in here. I'll take care of you."

Mora sniffed. Then he smiled, his eyes watering. "Wasn't that a beautiful wedding?"

"The best wedding ever." Kejal replied. "We're all glad you were part of it." He showed his father the glass of hailstones. "Quite an angry storm, eh?"

"Oh, but storms on a wedding are lucky. By weathering that storm, they showed they'll weather any storm that comes their way."

Yes... Kejal thought, and I think I know what the next storm will bring.

Chapter End Notes:
**Chapter soundtrack**

A Merry Bajoran Christmas: https://app.box.com/s/oj2wh8r8mckav60tz0hs

Measurements of Forgiveness: https://app.box.com/s/t945z1q4djmtlzeat23c

The Wedding Ceremony: https://app.box.com/s/qrj5623e21himyif445a

Heck of a Storm!: https://app.box.com/s/7flxosfgml33n3hvdneq

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