Maren’s church wasn’t large enough for her family, her hometown friends, their mutual Starfleet friends, and Icheb’s “family” from Voyager, but they were packed into the small chapel anyway. Icheb stood alongside his half of the wedding party, feeling impatient.
Beside him, his best man John Quigley nudged his arm. “What’s wrong?”
“The ceremony was supposed to begin 43 seconds ago.”
John snickered. “Haven’t been to many Earth weddings, eh?”
Icheb shook his head. “No.”
John leaned over as if to whisper something more, but before he could open his mouth, the music started and someone opened the rear doors to the church. A hush fell over the crowd. Many people turned in their seats or craned their necks in search of a better viewing angle of the doorway. For Icheb, it was a straight shot from his position at the front of the church to the rear entrance. He tried to catch a glimpse of Maren, but even with his enhanced vision, it was impossible – there were far too many people between them.
Maren’s bridesmaids were first to enter. They filed in one-by-one, wearing dresses the color of the midnight sky and dotted with bioluminescent pearls. He could make out constellations in the patterns of the “stars” on each dress – a thoughtful touch by Maren’s sisters, who had designed the gowns together.
Despite the bridesmaids’ beauty, he had to fight his impatience as they processed in – first Rachel Quinteros, Maren’s academy roommate; then B’Elanna Torres; then Maren’s elder sister, Rory; then their eldest sister, Caye. Rachel, B’Elanna and Caye took up their places at the front of the church opposite Icheb and his groomsmen – John, Tom Paris, Harry Kim, and Maren’s younger brother Seth – but Rory split off and waited behind the microphone, where she would be singing when Maren walked in.
Next was Tom and B’Elanna’s daughter Miral, carrying the rings. Then Caye’s two toddler sons, Tate and Riley, entered the church. Their assignment was to throw flower petals on the ground – a task for which they were exceptionally well qualified, based on past observations.
John nudged him again. “Almost time,” he whispered. Icheb didn’t acknowledge the statement. He was perfectly aware already. Only his cardiopulmonary regulators kept him from holding his breath as the first processional hymn ended, the rear doors closed, and silence fell over the church.
6.13 seconds passed that felt like an eternity. Then, finally, Rory began to sing, in the beautiful Irish lilt for which she was famous throughout the Terran worlds. The song had been her wedding gift to the couple – a surprise that had brought Maren to tears last night at the rehearsal.
As the doors reopened, everyone in the pews stood up to greet the bride. Then suddenly, there she was, on her father’s arm, looking more beautiful than Icheb had ever seen her.
For 1.7 seconds, she froze, her eyes searching the crowd. When her gaze settled on him, she smiled and took her first step down the aisle.