Well, dear readers, here we are at the end! I want to thank all of you who have been such wonderful supporters of this story. Your comments have been such a joy for me and I've looked forward to your theories and your responses. I know that I have the best and most loyal readers in the fandom! I especially appreciate the love and support during the Troll Times.
To those trolls, I want to say, for God's sake, grow up. Trashing someone else's creativity because you have none or have nothing better to do with your time is the ultimate sign of immaturity and, in all honesty, I pity you. Get therapy, find some joy in your life and stay out of my stories.
To the amazing friends I've found through this fandom, an extra special thanks to you. Your texts and emails are always so welcome and so so much fun. I hope we'll be friends for years and will always find a new story, a new movie or just anything to stay in touch.
To the most amazing partner anyone could ask for, Eunice339, I don't know if I can ever thank you for the advice and friendship you've given me over the years. I love our collaborations so much and pray we'll have many more projects together. Even if we don't we'll be friends forever; of that, I'm sure.
I hope you all enjoy this final chapter and you haven't heard the last of me! Hugs, kisses and all my love!
"Mm, now this is how to prepare for a wedding," Christina purred as she stretched and settled back into the wicker lounge chair. Next to her, Tris grinned.
"So, does this mean I'm forgiven for springing the wedding on you?" Tris teased.
Christina tipped her sunglasses down her nose and shot her best friend a mock annoyed glance over them. "I suppose so," she drawled. Pushing the glasses back up her nose, Christina settled back in the chair again, her face uplifted to the sun. "I still can't believe you just ditched your parents' plans."
Tris sipped her iced tea. "It wasn't our wedding they were planning. Nothing they wanted fit with what we wanted." She shrugged. "With that in mind, it made the decision easy."
"And they went along with it?" Christina shook her head incredulously.
"Not at first," Tris admitted. "We gave them a choice, they could come with us or not, but we were going to get married the way we wanted, where we wanted. Mom, Dad and Marcus chose to come. Evelyn didn't." Tris shrugged. "Her choice."
Smiling at her, Christina said softly, "I'm so thrilled to see you deciding to live life on your own terms now." Reaching over, she squeezed Tris' hand. "You're happier than I've ever seen you and I love it."
Squeezing back, Tris returned her smile. "I am happier than I've ever been." She grew somber for a moment as she looked at her best friend. "I just wish you were, too."
Shifting in her chair, Christina avoided Tris' gaze. "What are you talking about? I'm fine. My feature in Vogue on innovative, new designers got an amazing response; so much so, my editor wants a follow-up. I've got an awesome, new condo in LA that I love as much as the one in New York. I've got amazing friends who invite me to Hawaii for the wedding of the century." She shot Tris a grin that came across as artificially bright. "What more could I need?"
"Have you heard from Will?"
"No," Christina said briskly, adjusting the towel beneath her, "and I don't expect to. He and Elin are having a baby. His focus needs to be on that. My focus is on me. Whatever we had is over and that's that."
Tris' heart clenched at Christina's words. She'd been putting on an air of nonchalance but Tris knew better. Will's announcement that his fling with a Swedish model had resulted in pregnancy had shaken Christina to her core and no matter how brave a face she put on, Tris knew Christina's heart was broken. "Chris…"
"It's fine, Tris," Christina said firmly, her tone clearly indicating that as far as she was concerned, the topic was closed. "It would be good for me to spend some time alone. I need to focus on work and men are a distraction. Besides," she added, "we're here to concentrate on you and Tobias. All I want right now is to see two of my best friends have the wedding of their dreams."
"Okay then." Tris nodded, letting Christina off the hook. She'd tried several times in the last couple of months to get Christina to open up about Will and his upcoming baby but she'd refused. Tris looked up as she heard someone dive into the deep end of the pool and smiled when she saw that it was Uriah. Tris had always thought he and Christina would be a terrific couple and now that Will was out of the way, maybe they would finally stop playing games. "Just remember, there're way better guys out there for you than Will; take Uriah for example."
Christina looked over at Uriah swimming laps. She felt the heat rise in her face as she watched his smooth strokes, knowing just how those strong arms felt around her, how the muscles in his back could bunch and flex beneath her fingers. She shook her head a little to dislodge the memories. "Uri and I are just friends."
"Well, maybe it's time for that to change."
Christina was silent as she watched Uriah swim to the end of the pool. He pulled himself out and was walking over towards them, his eyes unabashedly sweeping over Christina in her black bikini, the white piping popping against her warm, brown skin. As he approached, Tris murmured loud enough for only Christina to hear, "'Just friends,' huh?" Once Uriah got within earshot, Tris shouted brightly, "Hi, Uri!"
"Ladies," he greeted.
Tris started to offer an excuse to leave when Aurora, the event planner and friend of Shauna's who'd helped Tris and Tobias plan the entire wedding in record time, appeared on the balcony above the pool and offered her an easy out. "Tris! The florist is here!"
Tris grinned conspiratorially. "Well, I guess that means I gotta run. Here, Uri, why don't you take my seat?" Tris slid off the lounger just a bit too eagerly and hurried into the house.
Christina shook her head and wondered if Tris had suddenly developed psychic powers, summoning Aurora so she'd be able to leave Christina alone with Uriah. Not that she minded spending time alone with Uriah—they were friends, after all—but now that both of them were unattached, Christina's mind had been wandering uncontrollably to the possibilities. Uriah settled into the lounge chair Tris had just abandoned and closed his eyes with a contented sigh. Christina admired his muscled chest, her eyes traveling over his toned body. With a shake of her head, she pushed the impure thoughts from her mind.
"This is a wonderful place for a wedding," Christina said finally, for lack of anything else to say.
"Yeah. As soon as Shauna saw the cliff house and the huge property, she fell in love with it. Zeke thought it would be a great place for the family to get away. Since Mom all but adopted Shauna, Lynn and Hector when their mom got arrested, we needed lots of space and there's plenty of room for everyone."
Christina chuckled. "Hana is the most maternal person I know. Really, she's all but adopted all of us."
Uriah grinned, his dimples flashing and Christina felt her stomach flutter. Uriah had a way of making her feel like butterflies were having a convention in her stomach. "That's mom. She's so thrilled about this wedding, it'll more than make up for Evelyn not coming."
"To be honest, I think both Tris and Tobias are relieved she's boycotting the wedding."
"Hell, we all are!" Uriah laughed, but it faded as he studied her face for a long moment. "You doing okay?"
Christina took a deep breath. She could pretend not to understand him but other than Tris, no one knew her better. "Yeah, I am."
"I just thought, with the wedding…" he trailed off. If pressed, Uriah would be more than happy to admit he was pleased Will was no longer in the picture. He never thought Will was good enough for her.
"No, I'm totally fine. All I want to do is celebrate. Tris and Tobias are perfect together."
"Yeah, they are." Uriah agreed. He might've been a little melancholy initially, but over the weeks since they'd announced their engagement, Uriah had finally let go of his half-crush on Tris. "I'm just glad we could all be here for this."
Christina smiled genuinely. "Me, too." She glanced down at the watch she'd laid out on the table next to her. "Oh, we should get ready. The rehearsal is in a little over an hour."
"Okay." Uriah and Christina stood and before she could walk away, Uriah put his hand on her arm, stopping her. "Chris, you deserve what Tris and Tobias have. You weren't going to get that with Will." Before she could say a word, he flashed her a smile and strode into the house.
"Stay still, Tris," Shauna said, amused, "or I'm going to poke you in the eye."
Tris grinned a little and forced herself to stop fidgeting. "Sorry," she said, looking up while Shauna carefully lined her eye with eyeliner.
Shauna chuckled. "I know you're excited."
"Excited, terrified, thrilled, elated, you name it!" Tris laughed, making sure to stay still as Shauna lined her other eye. "I can't believe I'm actually getting married!"
"Neither can I," Lynn piped in from her perch on the couch across the room. To soften her words, Lynn grinned. "At least you picked someone hot."
"Lynn!" Marlene chided from the corner of the room as she adjusted her long, black dress.
"What? I'm gay, not blind," Lynn teased.
As they all snickered, Shauna switched to using a smaller brush to sweep a faint amount of eye shadow beneath Tris' lower eye line. Behind her, Christina glanced over. "God, I love that color palette, Shauna" she remarked. "Going with those mauves and pinks is a perfect choice. They really make her gray eyes pop."
Shauna paused to shoot a smile over her shoulder at Christina. Growing up in the fashion world gave Christina a sharp eye for make-up as well as fashion and it was one of the first things she and Christina had bonded over. "Thanks! I thought a cool, neutral look would be best, especially since that dress is so dramatic."
"Stephanie certainly did an incredibly, amazing job," Marlene agreed, fingering the matte, satin gown that was hanging on the door of the bathroom.
"I got lucky," Tris said as Shauna switched to adding blush to her cheeks. "Thanks to Chris, I knew the sample dress was ready. It didn't take much to convince Stephanie to let me wear it before it hit the runway!"
"Mom is thrilled you're wearing it, she's only sad she can't be here." With a nod, Christina approved of her own make-up and moved to put on her deep blue, off the shoulder, maid of honor gown. "But, the show in Singapore had already been planned for months."
Tris couldn't respond as Shauna was lining her lips but she nodded in agreement. With a final dab of lip-gloss, Shauna straightened, satisfaction stamped all over her face. "There!" she announced, stepping back so Tris could see herself in the mirror. "What do you think?"
"Oh, Shauna, it's beautiful!" Tris smiled. "It's exactly what I wanted!" She looked like herself, her skin luminous, the mauve and pink colors of her shimmery eye shadow and glossy lips not too overpowering. The look was deceptively simple and completely elegant. Tris hugged Shauna tightly. "Thank you."
Shauna hugged her back. "Welcome to the family," she whispered. As they pulled apart, Shauna's eyes were bright with unshed tears. "I'm so glad I'll get to call you sister."
"Me, too," Tris said, feeling the tears begin to rise.
"No crying!" Christina admonished Tris as Marlene zipped her up. "It's time for you to get dressed!"
Lynn unfolded herself from the couch. Like Marlene, she was also wearing black, but instead of a dress it was skintight, black pants and a flowing blouse with sheer arms. "I'll go get your mom."
Tris walked over to the gown and fingered it. "I remember seeing this on the drawing board and loving it," she murmured. "I can't believe I actually get to wear it."
"Well, let's get you in it!" Christina said cheerfully.
Tris slipped off the short robe and with Christina's help, stepped into the gown, just as her mother entered the room. Natalie smiled as Tris pulled the dress up onto her shoulders and her eyes welled with tears as Christina zipped the dress. "Oh, Tris," she breathed.
This time Tris couldn't stop the tears that welled in her eyes as she turned to finally look at herself in the mirror. "Oh, my," she breathed. The sleeveless dress had a deep v-neck with sparkling, floral scrolls embroidered on the translucent bodice. The lattice-laced waist flowed over the satiny, crepe, mermaid skirt, which hugged Tris' body and trailed off into a short train. Turning, Tris looked at the back of the dress where the pearl buttons hid the zipper and followed the line of her back from the waist to just beneath her bottom. The dress managed to be both sexy and romantic and absolutely perfect for the cliff front wedding overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
Natalie walked over to Tris, tears falling from her eyes. "Oh, my baby, you look incredible." Where she'd been obviously emotional for Caleb's wedding, Natalie found that for Tris' she was simply too overcome for words. Sniffling, she handed Tris the small, velvet box in her hand. "Something borrowed and blue," she murmured.
Tris opened the box and gasped at the diamond and sapphire cluster earrings that had belonged to her grandmother. "Mom, thank you."
"Oh, baby, of course." Natalie hugged Tris close, reluctantly pulling away to allow Tris to fasten the earrings in her ears. "One last thing." Christina handed Natalie the box containing the fresh, floral halo Tris decided to wear in lieu of a veil. She lifted it carefully and, with Shauna's help, fastened the halo to Tris' hair, which had been styled into soft waves. Natalie fussed with Tris' hair for a moment, running her fingers across her daughter's soft tresses in front and murmured, "Perfect." As Tris smiled at her again, Natalie sniffled. "Your dad would like a moment alone with you."
Tris' stomach flipped for just a moment, even though she had to admit, her father had been on his very best behavior since their arrival in Hawaii. "Okay," she said hesitantly.
Natalie gave her a bolstering smile. "It'll be fine."
"Okay, let's head out everyone," Christina announced crisply. "Tris, I'll have your bouquet waiting."
"Thanks," Tris said, watching her friends leave the room, her mother the last one to leave, waiting until Andrew was inside before closing the door behind him. Andrew stood, staring at his daughter in awe.
"You look…angelic," Andrew said sincerely. A smile blossomed across Tris' face and Andrew felt his heart clench.
He cleared his throat, unsure where to begin. With Natalie's encouragement, Andrew had taken a long, hard look at himself since Tris announced her engagement and he had to admit, he didn't like what he saw when it came to their relationship. "I - I just wanted to say…" he trailed off, unsure of himself and cleared his throat again before simply finishing with, "I'm sorry." Tris blinked, surprised, and Andrew wanted to kick himself again for their distance. "I'm sorry for how I've handled everything. I have been taking my issues with what happened to my brother out on you and…" He sighed, gathering his thoughts. Taking a deep breath, he met her eyes and not for the first time, was struck that he could see his own gray eyes staring back at him. "You're my little girl," he said softly, his voice cracking, "and I realized I've been trying to keep you like that."
Tris sighed. "Thank you, Dad, for admitting it."
After a moment of silence, Andrew asked quietly, "Where do we go from here?"
Shrugging, Tris said, "Day by day. You're here even though this wedding isn't what you and Mom wanted for me."
Andrew flashed a grin and looked years younger. "You mean, what your mom wanted for you. I'm thrilled not to have to endure another five-hundred-person gala!"
Tris laughed. "Okay, fair enough!"
"Beatrice—Tris," he said firmly and Tris' heart melted. It was the first time he'd ever addressed her by her chosen nickname. "I'm so proud of you."
Now, tears filled her eyes. "Thank you, Daddy."
Andrew walked to her and pressed his lips to her forehead. "I know I don't always show it, but I love you, baby girl."
Throwing her arms around him, Tris hugged him tightly, "I love you, too."
He gave her another squeeze and pulled back. "Ok, no more crying," he said gently. "I suspect you spent way more time than I can comprehend on your make-up."
Tris gave a watery laugh and blinked back tears rapidly. "You're right."
Nodding, Andrew held out his arm to her. "Let's go get you married."
Opening the door, Christina and Natalie stood waiting, expectant looks on both of their faces. The contentment they saw in both Tris and Andrew's faces had them smiling in relief and Christina held out Tris' bouquet. "Everyone's in place," she stated.
"Then let's do this!" Tris grinned. Christina led the way, Tris and her parents walking through the house towards the open lanai where Tris and Tobias planned to exchange their vows. Tris faintly heard Lynn and Marlene already playing an acoustic guitar version of Pachebel and she caught a glimpse of Tobias standing at the edge of the lanai with the beautiful, blue waters of the Pacific stretched out behind him. He and Zeke were side-by-side, each in their custom, dark blue suits, the same color as Christina's maid of honor gown. In a concession to the tropical weather, they weren't wearing ties, simply white, dress shirts opened at the neck. Tris bit her bottom lip lightly; sheer joy was written all over Tobias' face, making him even more handsome than he usually was.
Christina smiled at her. "You ready for this?"
"Yes!" Tris exclaimed, "I'm so ready."
"Ok, then. Love you," Christina said, squeezing Tris' hand.
"Love you, too," Tris returned.
With a final wink, Christina began walking down the short aisle, smiling at their friends and took her spot across from Tobias. Marlene and Lynn paused their playing, allowing a moment of silence and then began playing Bach's Air on a G String, Tris' favorite classical piece. Andrew gave Tris a final smile before he and Natalie each took an arm and the three of them walked down the aisle. Tris couldn't see anything but Tobias, his broad smile crinkling his dark blue eyes, the bright sunshine highlighting the gold in his hair. Tris' heart fluttered as Tobias looked at her as though she were the only woman in the world. It took all of Tris' willpower not to run up to him.
As the trio approached him, his smile grew wider and wider until Tris was standing before him. Andrew and Natalie each kissed her cheek and took their seats while Tris handed her bouquet to Christina and happily took Tobias' hands. "You look incredibly handsome," she said softly.
"There are no words, Tris," he whispered back. "No words."
The minister cleared her throat and smiled broadly. "Dearly beloved," she began. "We are gathered here today to witness the joining together of two people in love, Tris Prior and Tobias Eaton."
The minister's words faded into the background as Tris stared into Tobias' eyes. Everything around them fell away until there was only the feeling of his hands, strong and sure in hers, and the light in his eyes warming her until even the gentle sea breeze faded into nothingness. This man, this intelligent, strong, brave, loyal man was hers and would always be hers. She had found her other half and Tris didn't think she could ever live without him again.
"Tris and Tobias have written their own vows to each other." The minister's voice finally broke through the spell Tris and Tobias had woven between them. "Tobias?"
Tobias cleared his throat. "Tris, when you walked into to my life almost a year ago, I think I fell in love with you the moment I saw you. In you, I've found my partner in crime, my best friend. Knowing you were there, waiting for me, is what got me through those long days in Turkey when the world seemed so hopeless. I would go back to my room, read your emails, and know there was still beauty and joy in the world. Knowing I will always have you as my guiding light is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I know my life, my everything, will be fine because you're in it. And I promise you, as long as I'm alive, I swear you'll feel that joy, that happiness, with me."
Tris sniffled back the tears that had sprung into her eyes the moment Tobias began speaking. She took a deep breath to calm herself and said, "Tobias, I didn't think I'd actually ever get married. I thought that I'd want to be alone for the rest of my life because I didn't think I could commit myself to anyone without losing myself. And then I met you. And I told myself I didn't want you as anything more than a friend. I told myself I didn't need you as anything more than a friend. And then one day, I realized, I couldn't breathe without you. You've made me see myself in a whole new way. You've made me want to be the woman you see in me. And for that alone, I'll love you for the rest of my life."
Tobias squeezed her hands, swallowing hard past the lump in his throat. The minister smiled indulgently and said, "Now, Tobias, do you take Tris to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to love and honor her, forsaking all others and keep her, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?"
"I do," Tobias said confidently.
"And Tris, do you take Tobias to be your lawfully wedded husband? Do you promise to love and honor him, forsaking all others and keep him, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?"
"I do," Tris said, her voice strong and sure.
"The rings, please."
Tobias turned to Zeke who handed him a diamond-encrusted, wedding band. The minister said, "Now, repeat after me; with this ring, I thee wed."
Tobias slid the glittering diamond band onto Tris' ring finger. "With this ring, I thee wed."
Tris retrieved Tobias' ring from Christina and repeated the vow. "With this ring, I thee wed."
With a broad smile, the minister said, "By the power vested in me by the state of Hawaii, I now pronounce you, husband and wife. You may kiss the bride," she laughed as Tobias swept Tris into his arms and kissed her before she'd even finished speaking.
Their friends and family laughed and cheered, but once again, Tris and Tobias heard nothing, as they got lost in their kiss. After a long moment, Tobias finally released her and they turned to their audience, happily accepting the tearful hugs and kisses. Tris held onto Tobias' hand throughout, and when she glanced at him, she saw all the joy, hope and laughter she felt reflected in his eyes. I'm going to have this man beside me for the rest of my life, she thought giddily. And no matter what happened, no matter what the world threw at them, she knew from everything they had already gone through that they would face it together.
As the sun was sinking into the Pacific Ocean, a couple swayed gently together on the empty lanai. Behind them, laugher and music spilled out of the house where revelers talked and ate and danced, but for Tris and Tobias, the world was confined to this one perfect moment. Tobias held his new wife closely, one arm tightly around her waist, the other holding their entwined hands close to his heart. Tris' head was nestled against his chest, her eyes closed. The fragrant scent of the white, tuberose flowers that had been in her hair lingered and Tobias rubbed his cheek gently against the top of her head.
Tris opened her eyes and smiled up at him. "Happy?" she whispered.
"More than I've ever been in my entire life," he murmured, brushing his lips lightly against hers. "You?"
"I can't believe how much. Today was perfect." She lifted their entwined hands and pressed them to her lips. "I promise to keep you this happy."
"And I promise to try and make every day this perfect." He bent his head to kiss her again. His fingers toyed gently with the decorative buttons at the small of her back. "You think anyone would notice if we snuck up to our room?"
Tris grinned. "Considering we started this whole thing with sneaking off at parties, I think that would be perfectly appropriate for us."
"Then shall we, Mrs. Eaton?"
Tris laughed. "Oh, we shall, Mr. Eaton."
With a shared smile, they slipped past their celebrating friends and family, using the shadows to melt into the velvety night, more than ready to begin their new life together.