". . . And do you, Celestial Delight Veritas, newly ordained Queen of All Things, Ruler of the Lux Empire, Savior of the Shadows, Knight of the Order of St. George, Mistress of--"
"People are growing old here, Your Grace. Skip to the good stuff, will you?"
Sighs of relief filled the vaulted space of the Empirical Cathedral. If the pious man insisted in reading every one of the bride's titles, she'd deliver the heir before she was married.
The man actually opened his mouth to continue, but Celeste crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. Beside her, Logan suppressed a smile.
"Ah, well. Do you. . .take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love, honor, and obey, 'till death do you part?"
Callie yawned. "Guess so."
The man drummed his fingers on the thick bindings of the Bible in his hands. Clearing his throat delicately, he leaned forward and addressed her in a stage whisper, "Majesty, you must repeat the vows."
"Oh. Sure, whatever," she cleared her throat and smiled brilliantly, as if she were about to deliver a political speech. "I, Celestial Delight Veritas, take this man to be my lawfully wedded husband; to love, honor, and. . . .ummmmmmm. . ."
"Obey?" Logan supplied helpfully.
Callie started to laugh, but sobered quickly when she caught the look on the Bishop's face. He actually seemed to expect her to say it.
"Are you off your medication?!"
Out in the gilded pews that lined the red velvet of the aisle, there was a short screech and a crash as someone fainted. "Damned if she isn't going to change the whole ceremony," a weak voice predicted.
Callie smiled. "Love, honor, and obey, 'till death do us part," she finished.
In the front pew, Gambit burst into laughter and was helped to a quick recovery when Rogue's elbow slammed into his ribs.
The Bishop seemed to do a bit of Lamaze breathing before continuing with the ceremony. Celeste watched disinterestedly as he hyperventilated. The coronation, just the night before, hadn't been the height of decorum and decency either, so she could hardly blame the poor man. She had allowed him to ramble on about the duties and responsibilities of the Queen for exactly fifteen minutes before telling him to cut to the chase. She had sworn to uphold the dictates of the Elements, protect the people of the land, and produce an heir to pass on the secrets of the Empire.
Since she already had one taken care of, Celeste thought she was doing pretty well.
The Queen had been presented to the royal court, and Callie had promptly commanded everyone to stop groveling and start celebrating. That had been one helluva party; everyone had said so. The wine cellars beneath the castle had been opened for the first time in twenty years, and three women had fainted from lack of air. Evie, one of Callie's half-sisters, got caught putting some kind of aphrodisiac in Gambit's champagne. A couple of lecherous satyrs had goosed Storm and gotten electrocuted for their effort. Beast and Charles had gone off to discuss odds and ends with a group of intellectual griffins. Rogue managed to get herself kidnapped by an elf prince, but she'd talked him out of it with a particularly persuasive right hook. Callie had caught up with Cyclops, drinking with Chiron, leader of the centaurs. Of course, Celeste had almost swallowed her champagne flute when she saw what they were drinking--elderberry wine, the most potent of liquors. She had to admit, however, that Cyke was doing well enough. Most mortals passed out after the first swallow. She had prayed for perseverance and gone to find Jean, fully expecting to find Scott table dancing with a few dollar bills sticking out of his belt by the time she returned.
Yeah, Callie grinned at the memory. One helluva party. Everyone had regained consciousness just in time to prepare for the wedding.
Which would explain why half the guests were snoring, and the other half were rather haphazardly dressed. Celeste herself was wearing her grandmother's wedding gown, a deep cream confection with a burgundy underskirt and trim. Logan stood beside her, dressed in jeans and a snowy white shirt, emblazoned on the back with a golden crest, the insignia of the House of Veritas.
". . . I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kis-"
He cut himself off with an irritable huff because Logan had wrapped his big hands around her hips and pulled her closer for an open-mouthed, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar kind of kiss that sent the dowager ladies in the viewing audience into outraged fits.
Thundering applause and raucous cheers echoed through the marble corridors and rattled the stained-glass windows. The loudest noise seemed to be coming from the seven guests of honor in the front row. . . .
"Nope. Sound asleep." Celeste pulled herself from the cool confines of her memory, back into a warm bed with her husband. Two months. It had been eight weeks since her wedding. Every day was pure bliss, as was often the case with newlyweds.
Callie just couldn't get over the feeling that the guillotine blade was about to drop.
She stifled a small gasp as Logan's hands closed over her hips, his warm skin reacting to her cool flesh. He pulled her closer, resting his head on her abdomen.
"How're th' kids?"
"I think they're doing fine this morning, my lord." He got a kick out of that, being called 'my lord'. "Still draining my energy, but fine."
Beast had hustled her into the Med Lab yesterday after he had overheard her mumbling about how tired she had been the last few days. He had described her condition as an "advanced metabolic rate of digestion due to the highly decreased period of gestation for the offspring." What he meant, of course, was that the children were sloughing off her surplus energy in order to grow all the more quickly.
"Come on, Callie. It's late. I got t' get to th' Danger Room in half an hour fer a training session." Logan announced, rolling from the bed in one smooth motion. He stood over her, with his hand on his hips, like he expected her to follow. She glanced up at him doubtfully and yawned.
"Maybe *you* have to be somewhere, but I don't. I'll be fine right here," She rolled over and closed her eyes, effectively dismissing him.
Not effectively enough. "Come on, lady," he muttered, shoving his hands under her to pull her into his arms, "You gotta get up and get some exercise. Hank doesn't want ya ta get *too* fat, now that he's suggested tripling your diet."
"Hey!" her shriek was muffled against his chest. "Forget exercise! I'll be just fine with a nap," the rest of what he'd said filtered through her grogginess, "And who you callin' fat, bub?"
She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him.
He started laughing so hard he almost dropped her.
"Oh, yeah. You think you're funny, don't you? You'll get yours, babe. Just wait." She jumped from his arms and disappeared into the shower.
"Hey, no complaints. I 'got mine' last night, remember?"
Callie was more than a little shocked that he could be so. . .himself this early in the morning, and she burst out laughing. She poked her soapy head out of the shower long enough to look at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and announce, "Y'know, I never would have guessed, but you are one dirty old man."
"That's me," he said proudly, "And speaking of dirty. . . ."
"Oh, no you don't. Stay the hell out of my shower." Her lips compressed eloquently as he ignored her and barged right in. "Of course, I meant just walk right in and help yourself."
"I thought ya did. Don't mind if I do."
"Whoa-I didn't mean help yourself to *me*, moron--mmph," Celeste surrendered completely as his lips descended on hers. Water cascaded down their bodies in cold rivulets as Logan opened his mouth over hers, and was rewarded when his wife pulled his tongue deep into her mouth.
Wolverine's hands slid down her body and over her backside, pulling her roughly against him. Callie reluctantly pulled her mouth from his, gasping out words like someone Hooked on Phonics, "I thought. . .you. . .had a training. . .thing. . ." Completely undeterred by her attempt to stop , he continued on to press his hot mouth to the curve of her shoulder.
Just as Celeste was about to melt into a puddle of hot female juices at his feet and be washed down the drain, he lifted his head from her neck and declared, "Well, it must be pretty late. Gotta go!" He finished cheerfully and disappeared from the bathroom altogether.
Cold air rushed in to take Logan's place and Callie's eyes snapped open, his parting words having just parted the fog of sensual pleasure around her. She took a moment to consider chasing after Logan au naturel, ultimately deciding that she didn't want to chance running into Xavier on the way. Celeste gave up on her shower, twisting the handles viciously and mumbling to herself while she stumbled around the room, pulling on clothing, "Damn the man. . .getting a femme all hot an' bothered. . .leavin' her en haute and dry!. . .Get him back fer this, bien sur!" She stopped for a moment, pulling her shirt over her head and listening to her own words. She was so agitated, she had slipped back into Frenglish, an odd combination of the two languages she used most.
She turned and regarded herself ruefully in the mirror. "A man ain't nothin' but trouble, girl," she told herself, "How many times has Tante Leveau told y'that?" She rolled her eyes. "Too late, I guess. Done gone and married l'homme." The early morning light flashed on her fingers like pale moonlight. Callie glanced down at the silver band on her third finger and was powerless to stop the grin that spread across her face.
"Mornin', all," Celeste breezed into the kitchen, greeted by Rogue, Gambit, and Beast.
"Bon matin, pichouette."
"Good morning, Callie. Did you want your protein shake now?" Beast had prescribed a high-caloric breakfast beverage to supplement her metabolism. It tasted like seaweed, if one were going to be charitable about it.
Callie groaned and made a face. "It tastes like sh-"
"Now, Celeste," Beast chided her, "It doesn't taste *that* bad. You can add chocolate syrup to it if you want."
"Nah. It's a waste of perfectly good chocolate. If you don't think it's that bad, why don't *you* drink it?"
Beast sighed and reminded her patiently, "Because I'm not the one who's pregnant."
"Now dere's sometin' I'd pay t'see, hein?" Celeste turned around to find Rogue and Gambit snickering behind their hands.
Celeste grumbled and raised the glass to her lips, sucking the thick stuff from the cup and into her mouth, forcibly swallowing.
"Oh, my. . .I just realized--" His serious tone alerted Celeste so that she gulped the hideous stuff down and slammed the cup on the counter top. He was staring at her face rather intently.
"What? What is it?" Celeste raised a hand to her face. "Is my nose on backwards or something?"
"No," Beast cupped her chin and turned her toward Rogue and the Cajun so they could see. He winked at them and announced, "You seem to have developed a rather alarming case of. . .whisker burn!"
"Oooooh!" she breathed and slammed a fist into Beast's shoulder. Gambit and Rogue exploded into laughter. "I'm going to take my walk in the peaceful, quiet outdoors, Doctor. Thank you so *very* much." she said with a sarcastic smile and disappeared through the back door. Their laughter followed her across the veranda, and she smiled again, in spite of herself.
She hadn't made it twenty feet across the yard before Gregor appeared before her with an iridescent flash. "Your Majesty, there is trouble." He said, after getting the obligatory bow out of the way. His grey-streaked hair and rugged face spoke of many years in battle and service to the queen. Right now, his expression was strained.
Callie gritted her teeth. "Can't the Regent handle it?"
"No. This 'problem' is specifically requesting that you handle the matter. He says that no one but you would know how to handle it properly."
"Oh, 'he' does, does 'he'?"
"Your Majesty, you told us quite clearly that you were leaving the doorways open in case we needed you. Well, we need you. Now."
"Oh, relax," she snapped, "Just relax. I'm coming." Her teeth clenched. She had to go; she couldn't very well tell her own people to leave her the hell alone. It was bound to happen sometime. She took Gregor's hand and led him back down the pathway.
"You see, Your Majesty, there has already been a riot. No one was hurt, but everyone is in an uproar. The Marquis of Chanaux's daughter was found to be. . .a very special child. . . ."
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