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Denton Hall: Yorkshire, United Kingdom, Earth

The Lexington clan pulled out all the stops for the rehearsal dinner. Using Sir Arthur's connections, they had secured a 13th century English country estate for the final gathering before the wedding. In the foyer of the grand house, almost a hundred guests, friends, and relatives were dressed in tweed and plaid and enjoying a full buffet of traditional English fare.

Tigranian and Laria hovered near the crackling fireplace with Annabeth and Alex. Max dozed in a carrier strapped across Alex's chest. The four of them marveled at the surrounding architecture while also sneaking glances at the interactions occurring in every corner of the room. The four of them watched with a chuckle as Crestia flirted with no less than three of Katie's cousins across the room.

"Glad to see her confidence is increasing," Tigranian said taking a sip of pale ale.

"I think it was always there," Laria said grinning. "She just needed to find the right place to let it out."

"And apparently that was Earth," Alex added.

"It tends to have that effect on people," Laria said grabbing Tigranian's arm. He turned to her.

"How would you know?" he asked his Bajoran wife skeptically.

"I wasn't talking about me," she replied. "Take a look around the room. Have you ever seen our crew so socially functional before? Usually, they can barely introduce themselves before they stand and gawk at each other awkwardly."

Tigranian gazed around the room again and had to admit, she had a point.

"Zhenia!" Annabeth exclaimed as Scharr's daughter approached with Marine lieutenant Brett Hawkins hanging off her arm. "So happy you made it!" The young Andorian curled her antennae with delight.

"When I got the news that the two pink skins were finally going through with the wedding, I couldn't resist," she replied leaning her head on Hawkins' shoulder. "Little Stoney was the best fight I've had in a while. That makes us family. Plus, I've barely seen Brett in the last year."

Tigranian noticed that despite the obvious excitement on his Marine detachment commander's face, his eyes were darting back and forth like he was expecting enemy phaser fire at any moment.

"Something wrong, Brett?" Tigranian asked.

"Oh no, Sir," he replied trying to appear cool. "It's just you always have to be ready."

"Ready for what?" Annabeth asked laughing.

"A fist from an angry Andorian father," Zhenia said rolling her eyes. "He's been glaring at us all night."

"Yes, he has…" Hawkins said too nervous to look over in the engineer's direction.

"He just jealous that I got me a marine," Zhenia said as her antennae straightened with happiness. She turned and waved at Scharr standing as motionless as a statue across the room and doing his best not to crush the glass of scotch in his hand. "Hi Daddy!" she said smiling from ear to ear. Her happiness did nothing to alleviate the steel rod inserted up her father's backside. His antennae dropped to point straight at them. "He really is happy for his little girl," Zhenia said feigning a simper.

"Could have fooled me," Hawkins said nervously.

"C'mon Babe," she said grabbing his arm again. "Let's go get another drink."

As they walked off, Annabeth turned to Tigranian.

"Scharr is definitely going to kill him tonight," she said plainly.

"Shame too," Tigranian replied shaking his head and finishing his beer, "Hawkins was actually pretty good at his job."

A few moments later, Katie and Phil walked over with both sets of parents.

"Are you all enjoying yourselves?" Phil asked.

"Of course," Tigranian said. "This is wonderful, Phil."

"Well," Katie said smiling. "I know the girls have already met my mother, but Sir, these are my parents: Ashley and Command Master Chief Petty Officer Retired Neil Stone," she said gesturing to the pair at her side.

"Wonderful to meet you, Ma'am," Tigranian said shaking Ashley Stone's hand. He turned to the man next to her. "And you as well, Chief," the captain said shaking his hand next.

"Oh Sir," the greying but still muscular man wrapped in a leather bomber jacket said as he gripped Tigranian's hand like a vise. "I've been retired for ten years. You can call me 'Neil.'"

"Nonsense," Tigranian said with a smile. "Once part of the Starfleet backbone, always part of the Starfleet backbone."

Chief Stone turned to his wife and raised his eyebrows.

"Wow," he said with seemingly genuine surprise. "A senior Starfleet officer who might actually get how things are. I'm shocked."

"Dad…" Katie muttered uncomfortably.

"I take it as a compliment," Tigranian said nodding his head respectfully. "I had a sergeant major when I was with the marines that beat it into me. What division were you?"

"Spent a lot of my career in security operations on starships: Trieste, Musashi, and Kongo mostly," Chief Stone replied proudly. "Went on more away missions than I care to admit in 28 years of service. However, I knew it was time to retire when I got stuck as a CDCMC on Jupiter Station."

"How did you feel when your daughter decided to join the Dark Side?" Alex asked referring to enlisted member's slang for the Starfleet Officer Corps.

"Giving her first salute after commissioning was one of the proudest moments of my life," he said tussling Katie's hair. "Especially when she decided to go Security."

"Dad!" Katie said as her cheeks grew red with embarrassment.

"Well, she's certainly makes us proud every day," Tigranian said with complete seriousness. It actually got a small smile from Katie as well. It was then that Laria noticed Phil standing uncomfortably with his parents. Both were older, silver-haired, and dressed like they had just stumbled out of a philosophy lecture. Phil's father was actually wearing a bowtie. They certainly provided a contrast to Katie's relaxed California kin.

"Wonderful to meet you as well Mr. and Mrs. Lexington," Laria said holding out her hand.

"Doctor and Doctor Lexington actually," Phil said making introductions. "Ladies and Gentleman, May I introduce my parents: Albert and Virginia Lexington, PhDs."

"My apologies and very nice to meet you," Laria said politely. "Phil is the best pilot in Starfleet."

"Seriously?" Daredevil screamed from the bar a few meters away. "You guys know I'm still here, right?"

"Yes," Phil's father said in a cultured British accent while giving a polite smile. "We are quite proud of him, even if we were quite surprised by his career choice," he said chuckling. "Both of us actually hate to fly."

"Really?" Laria said in shock as it was Phil's turn to turn red.

"Oh yes," Phil's father replied. "I would never go more than ten meters off the ground if the university library wasn't three stories tall," he chortled. "If it wasn't for the toy models Phil kept putting together when he was a lad, I don't think he'd even know what a spacecraft looks like."

Katie chuckled. Phil looked like he was about to keel over.

"It's also wonderful to finally meet Philip's friends from the service," Phil's mother added. "That Asha Neman is certainly full of surprises."

"Yes she is," Alex said holding back a chuckle.

"So, are you both professors?" Annabeth asked trying to cut through the awkwardness.

"Yes," Phil's father said perking up. "It's quite funny actually," he said leaning forward. "You see, I'm a senior professor of Medieval European History at King's College, Cambridge and my wife is a senior professor of Early Modern Japanese History at New College, Oxford!"

Everyone stared back at him with a confused look on their faces. Phil rubbed his eyes.

"Funny," he said looking back to his wife. "That joke usually kills in our circles."

"That was a joke?" Chief Stone asked before Ashley Stone elbowed him hard in the ribs. Katie joined her fiancée in rubbing her eyes as Laria, Annabeth, and Alex all uncomfortably looked down into their drinks.

"It's moments like this I'm actually glad both my parents are dead," Annabeth whispered to Alex.

"Beth!" Alex screeched back under her breath as she held both her hands over Max's ears.

All of a sudden, an epiphany crossed Tigranian's face and he almost dropped his pint of beer.

"Wait?" he said as his eyes grew wide. "Phil, your mother is Dr. Virginia Lexington from Oxford University!?" he said with more shrillness in his voice than he intended.

"Yes," she replied with a curious grin. "Do you know my work?"

"Know your work?" Tigranian asked like it was obvious. "Shoguns and Samurai: An Overview of Tokugawa Japan was like 'THE' book to read on Earth history's striated feudal warrior cultures. I cited it about fifty times in my senior thesis at the Academy!"

Virginia Lexington grinned at the chance to discuss her job.

"We don't really like to use the word 'feudal.' It doesn't quite capture the appropriate dynamics of the Japanese bakufu period…"

"Mother!" Phil said gritting his teeth.

"Well, I wrote that book almost twenty years ago," she said realizing that she was getting a bit technical for the audience. "Glad to see it's still useful for someone."

"Oh, it was amazing!" Tigranian said still fawning with academic worship as Laria giggled. "It was exactly what I needed for my comparative study."

"Were you a student of Japanese history at Starfleet Academy?" Virginia Lexington said with newly found interest.

"No, Klingon history actually," Tigranian said.

"17th and 18th century Japan is applicable to Klingon history?" she said genuinely surprised. "I had no idea."

"Oh, you'd be really surprised. The House System and dynamics of the warrior caste are very similar. My thesis was on the comparative development of Earth and Qo'noS societies. I actually translated a lot of passages from your book into Klingon. Part of the requirement for my degree is that the paper be completely in tlhIngan Hol."

"That is fascinating!" she said. "Do you still have it? I don't speak Klingon, but I would love to read your analysis in translation."

"Absolutely," Tigranian said with even more excitement. "I'm sure it's still on my personal database. I can download it onto a PADD for you. I can't believe Dr. Virginia Lexington wants to read my work!"

Phil still looked mortified. Laria stepped in.

"Honey," she said grabbing her husband's arm. "Katie and Phil still have a lot of people to meet. It is a rehearsal dinner after all."

"Of course," Tigranian said reigning in his enthusiasm. "I'll get it to you tomorrow at the wedding."

"I look forward to it," Doctor Lexington replied as Katie and Phil led their parents back towards the crowd.

"It was wonderful to meet you all!" Tigranian called after them.

"You as well!" Phil's father replied over his shoulder as his son dragged him away.

Annabeth and Alex chuckled.

"What?" Tigranian said. "I've wanted to meet her for years. I had no idea she was the mother of my helmsman!"

"You never cease to amaze me, Dan," Annabeth said shaking her head.

"What?" he asked.

"For a moment, I thought the Lexingtons were the biggest geeks I had ever seen. However, you once again proved me wrong."

Laria burst out laughing as Tigranian grumbled under his breath.

****

Ashley Stone and Virginia Lexington soon bonded over their mutual ability to speak Japanese. They both sat at the head table and spoke on and on about their trips to Tokyo, favorite restaurants to catch a late night bite to eat, and their various excursions around the islands. After an hour, Virginia excitedly accepted Ashley's invitation to take her to a soba noodle restaurant outside of Sapporo followed by an afternoon insider's shopping expedition to Ginza. In return, Virginia promised to take Ashley on a tour of Kyoto's Gion neighborhood, traditional home of the Geisha, followed by a visit to a traditional ryokan to soak in the natural hot springs.

Chief Stone and Albert Lexington were finding it a little harder to find common ground, but to their credit, they were at least trying. Finally, it seemed they were having some luck with Albert telling the chief about fun castles to visit in Europe.

After dessert, the time came for the speeches dedicated to the couple. Both sets of parents stood up and told a series of affectionate stories about their children growing up and finding love. It was all from the heart, but rather unremarkable for the occasion. Then, it was Phil and Katie's turn to address the guests.

They stood up hand and hand and walked to the front of the gathering. Phil spoke first.

"First off," he began looking around the room, "Katie and I just want to thank everyone for being here tonight. We know many of you travelled hundreds of lightyears to be here, and for that we are grateful to share our special day with you."

He then turned to look Katie in the eyes.

"The very first time I had a conversation with Ms. Katie Stone, we were in the gym on the Pershing…"

She immediately started laughing as she remembered.

"She was hogging the squat rack and I asked if I could get a set in. She graciously stepped aside and asked me to show her how it was done…"

"That's not quite how I remember it," Katie said still chuckling. Phil was laughing too, but he continued.

"Well, I suppose we'll agree to disagree about the details," he said shrugging his shoulders. She held up a hand to her mouth and said to the audience:

"He was hopeless! Hopeless!" she said with a grin.

"Ok, maybe I was," Phil said shaking his head. "The point is that from that first moment, I knew she was extraordinarily special: someone who doesn't come along very often in a person's life…"

The audience all held back emotions as they watched the two still gazing into each other's eyes.

"Over the next few months, I got to share so much of my life with Katie. My love of old movies, my love of replicated junk food…"

"We both already loved that," she interjected. Phil chuckled.

"I got to share with you the things that make me who I am. Most of all, I treasured the ability to share with you my love of space, of the stars, and what it's like to fly through them. That day I got to fly with you off the Pike is a day I'll never forget…" he then turned to glare at Daredevil in the crowd, "even if somebody almost ruined it!" he added. Dee just held up her hands innocently. "And then, I got to share the things you love: your love of the outdoors, your humor, your amazing Tongo skills, but most of all your endless strength. That was when I really fell in love with you…"

He gently took Katie's hands in his.

"And that is what makes me the luckiest man in the universe," he said softly. "I got to discover what makes you special, and every day I get to share with you makes me special. I think that's what love truly is: finding someone to share your adventures and someone who lets you be the real you.

Katie, in the past three years, you've become my shipmate, my gambling partner, my companion, and my best friend…and tomorrow, you'll become my wife. For that, I will always be the luckiest man alive, and I will always love you."

He leaned forward and kissed her as the room burst into applause.

"Wow," Katie finally managed to say while wiping the corners of her eyes. "I'm not sure how I'm going to follow that." Inside, her heart was pounding as she realized that maybe her fears about the future were wrong.

"But I'm still going to try," she continued. "For the record, Babe," she said grinning. "You really were atrocious that day in the gym." The room laughed again. "But seriously, I just wanna echo Phil's gratitude at all of you being here for our wedding. There's just so many wonderful faces in the room. Some of them are people we've known since we were born. Some are people we've just met. In either case, all of you have become essential parts of lives…"

She paused as she chose her next words carefully.

"When I first joined the crew of the Pershing, I was absolutely positive that it was just another assignment. I didn't want to get close to anybody and I didn't want to make any friendships. All I wanted was to do my job and then crawl back into a dark hole at night…"

The room grew quiet.

"But despite my best efforts, this crew wouldn't let me. Captain Tigranian, you let me know that I was important to everything that happened on the ship. Commander Scharr, you were always there to challenge and mentor. Annabeth, Alex, Laria, and even you, T'les, you helped me to grow and feel like I belonged to something again." She then turned to look at Phil. "And then there was this one. I made things so hard for you, but no matter what, you refused to be pushed away. No matter what, you always reminded me that there was always something to be thankful for and always a reason to find the joy in life…even if it was just mushroom pizza and cheap beer." She couldn't fight back the tears anymore. "You were always the light in the darkness, and you helped me find my way back. That is why I fell in love with you."

Phil's own lip started quivering.

"With all the planning for the wedding," she continued, "I've been thinking a lot about families. Normally when people get married, it's just two families coming together. However, Phil and I are lucky enough to have four here tonight.

We have both the Stones and Lexingtons, obviously. Over the past year, I've gotten to know Phil's family and I can't tell you how proud I am to become a part of it. I know Phil is proud to become a part of mine as well. However, there is another family here that Phil and I are already a part of: the Pershing family.

Tomorrow, we will have the privilege of uniting our newest family members together with our oldest ones. I cannot think of something more amazing than bringing everyone we care about under one roof."

She turned to look at the main tables.

"Tonight, I've already seen new relationships being formed hand in hand with old ones. People who were strangers two years ago, mixing perfectly with those I've known for decades. It's just fantastic, and the fact that I get to share it with the man I love makes it all the sweeter."

Another round of applause echoed through the hall.

"Before we say goodnight, I do have to acknowledge the fourth family of ours here represented by that woman over there," Katie pointed to the head table where a grey-haired woman sat next to her parents. It was Pam Montgomery, mother of Paul Montgomery, her fallen fiancée from the Trinity. Though she found herself completely alone after her son's death, she was always there for Katie through the harsh periods of grief and mourning.

"As I'm sure most of you know," Katie said in an amazing moment of public honesty, "I went through one the hardest periods of my life three years ago and there were many times when I just wanted to give up. However, I was too young and stupid to realize that someone else was going through it too. I was so selfish and so blinded by guilt and rage, I couldn't see the amazing person who was always there and always telling me that I would find happiness again. Well, Pam, tonight I can say that you were right all along and I'm so happy that you're here to share it with me."

Pam touched her fingers to her lips and blew a kiss in Katie's direction. Katie smiled as she continued:

"Sometimes you were another mother, sometimes you were a sister, sometimes a best friend, but you were always the person I needed. You will always have a cherished place in our lives." Phil nodded his agreement. "I love you, Pam."

The room gave a final round of applause for Pam who was so overwhelmed with gratitude, she looked down at the carpet as Ashley Stone placed an arm around her. Phil pulled Katie close and gave her another supportive kiss on the cheek.

"Alright then," Katie said wiping her eyes with the back of her palm. "Thank you all again for coming, but it's getting kind of late and we have a bit of a big day tomorrow. Please, stay and enjoy yourselves for as long as you like, but we've got to go. We're getting married tomorrow!"

Tigranian rose to his feet and started clapping as Katie and Phil pulled even closer. Laria joined her husband before the rest of the room followed suit.

Soon, the hall began to empty as Phil and Katie said their goodbyes to the guests. Finally, even the two sets of parents departed with Ashley and Virginia still conversing in Japanese as their husbands awkwardly walked out beside them. At last, it was just the Starfleet officers alone with a tense looking Phil and Katie.

"I guess this is it," Phil said with a last deep breath. "We won't see each other till the big moment tomorrow."

"Nope," Katie said shaking her head. "It would be bad luck otherwise," she said leaning forward to give him a final kiss.

"Don't worry, Lexington," Annabeth said prying Katie away from him. "She's coming back to Germany with us tonight and we'll take good care of her."

"And we'll be sure to get her to the church on time," Alex added with a smirk.

Tigranian gave another hug to Laria.

"Are you sure you don't want to come back to the hotel in Frisco with me?" he asked.

"And miss this slumber party?" she said batting her eyelashes sarcastically. "No," she continued shaking her head. "After hunting down traitors in the Klingon Empire for ten days, I'm actually looking forward to a night of bridesmaid dresses and cocktails."

"Alright," he said. "You girls have fun. Scharr, Dee, and I will take Phil back and see you tomorrow."

"All the better!" Scharr shouted. "It's only 1500 hours back in San Fran. We still got a whole night of drinking ahead of us."

He raised a palm which Daredevil immediately slapped with a high five.

"Mr. Scharr," Katie said glaring at him. "If you bring my fiancée to the wedding tomorrow hungover and sleep deprived, I swear I will rip those things off your head and shove them where the Andorian sun don't shine."

Scharr laughed.

"That's what I love about you, Stone," he said shaking his head. "That fire. Don't ever let it go out."

The group began heading for their shuttles back across the planet. Just before Phil and the rest of his groomsman disappeared into a taxi, he turned to look back at Katie and her bridesmaids.

"Katherine Stone!" he shouted out across Denton Hall's immense gravel drive. She turned to look at him. "I love you!" he said with genuine elation. She laughed as Scharr shoved him unceremoniously into the backseat.

"Still having second thoughts?" Annabeth whispered into Katie's ear as their own hovertaxi pulled up.

"Of course," she replied back to Annabeth. "But I think Philip Lexington might be just the one to help me get over them…"


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