We were finally figuring everything out, right?
Derek was back - huzzah! - and we got him up to speed, with the help of liberal doses of alcohol.
He was surprisingly accepting of the entire situation, I have to say.
I'd bought it, but I'd known Aiyana for my entire life, almost thirty-three years at that point. Like me, she didn't lie, so when she said she saw a gun? She saw a gun.
And at this point, I'd seen enough in my life that my weird-shit-o-meter was broken.
But now we did something totally crazy.
And like most totally crazy things?
It changed our lives.
Chapter 21: It’s Not You
“You’re shitting me,” said Derek, forty minutes and two full tumblers of whiskey later.
“Nope,” said Cass. She was still holding his hand and standing close, nursing a much weaker drink. “Not a word of it.”
“That’s the wildest story I’ve ever heard.”
“Right?” agreed Kendra. She stood nearby. “I can’t believe half of it and I’ve lived it.”
Derek took another drink. “And this crew that’s following you, they’re, what, all volunteers?”
“Amazing, eh?” said Cass. “Mac and Montana recruited them all, well, except the Chief. She’s a friend of Lisa’s.”
Derek shook his head. “I never would have believed it possible.” His voice changed from wondering to a more challenging tone. “Cass, is this the same project we talked about that once? Why didn’t you tell me it was so important? Were you going to say anything else about it?”
“Sooner or later,” she confessed. “It was something I was playing with. I didn’t really think much of it until, well, until all this happened.”
“What’s next?” asked Derek, setting the glass down.
Kendra and Cass looked at each other. Aiyana raised one eyebrow in silent question, and Kendra nodded, smiling slightly. I love you, Kendra mouthed.
I know, Cass mouthed back. “We get married,” announced Aiyana.
“What?” said Derek.
She turned him to face her. “Married. That’s what we were going to do, right? When all this started?”
“Well, yes, but things have changed,” said Derek, flustered. “Haven’t they?”
“Have they?” countered Cass.
“Of course they have!” he said. “You left me behind, you got married, and then there’s all this death and running and, holy shit, Aiyana. Nothing is the same!”
Aiyana shook her head. “Yes, we got married. So what? We can marry you as easily as marrying at the same time,” she continued.
“And don’t blame Aiyana for the terminal,” Kendra added, walking up and taking Cass’s hand. “That was my call. She wanted to wait, to try to drag you along. I wouldn’t allow it because all of my instincts were screaming, Get out!. Be pissed at me, not her,” she finished.
“Derek, we didn’t know when, or if, we’d be able to get back to get you. I married Kendra because she was the only rock I could cling to when my world fell apart. Now we have you back. We’re not going to lose you again.”
“You want to get married,” repeated Derek, stunned.
“Yes,” insisted Kendra.
Still trying to catch up, Derek said, “Look, it’s not that I don’t want to, but how? This place is an armed camp. You say we can’t go anywhere on our real ID because both of your companies are out to get you, and, oh yeah, Kendra, when were you planning to tell me you were some sort of killer for hire?”
“I’m not, that is, look, can we talk about this later? The point is, we still want to marry you, to be a family. Once we get everything figured out? Once all this is settled? Then we can do a big celebration with all our friends. But it’s important, Derek. It’s important to Aiyana.”
“And you, Kendra?”
She nodded. “And me. You’re good for us both. And, if you’re with us, then we can keep you safe. I can keep you both safe.”
Derek smiled at that. “That’s a switch from the stereotype, isn’t it? I thought it was my job to keep you safe.”
“Is that a yes?” prompted Cass.
He looked at her. “Is this what you want?”
“More than ever,” she said, reaching with her free hand for his.
Kendra took his other hand. “I want us all together.”
“Then I’m in,” said Derek. They came together for another hug.
“Oh, this is so beautiful,” chimed in SARAH.
“Not now, SARAH,” chorused all three. That broke the mood, though, and the hug dissolved.
“Okay. I repeat, how?”
“I don’t know,” said Cass. “But I know who can find out,” she continued.
“Mac!” exclaimed Kendra.
“Exactly,” said Cass. “She can dig out anything from anywhere, I’m convinced of it. She’ll figure it out.”
Aiyana led their way back to the center of the house, where they found Mac, the phone still pressed to one ear.
“Mac?” Cass whispered, not wanting to interrupt. Mac spun around.
“Can you believe it, it’s been almost an hour and they haven’t connected me yet, I don’t know how much longer I can wait, my ear is getting sore.”
“Is this still necessary?” Cass asked Stone. The Chief looked thoughtfully at Derek.
“Master Chief?” prompted Kendra.
“His story checked out in the records,” added Mac. She was clearly in the “let me hang up” camp.
“I suppose we can cut him some slack,” relented Stone.
“Thank you!” exclaimed Mac, disconnecting and immediately rubbing her ear.
“Mac, how can we get married?” asked Cass.
Mac blushed. “Married, you barely know me, I mean I’m flattered, but it’s really too soon, and you can’t be bored with Kendra yet, you just got married, what, two weeks ago, and isn’t it a bit, you know, awkward to ask in front of Derek?”
“No,” laughed Cass. “How can we –”
She gestured to herself and Kendra.
“Marry him?” She pointed to Derek.
“Without going to a clerk,” added Kendra. “Or a minister.”
“Oh,” said Mac, turning red again.
“Gee, I totally got that wrong, didn’t I, but okay, you want to marry Derek but you want to do it here, or at least without any fuss, let me check it out and see what I can figure out, it’ll take me a minute,” and she retreated to her computer.
It didn’t take her long to find an answer.
“Okay, according to the local laws, all you really have to do to get married is to post it to the city clerk via a video email, with all three of you attesting to it, and you name each other beneficiaries, so there’s something on record, you can always file an amended will later, did you know Sonora’s the only place that requires a designation of a beneficiary when you marry, it was because there were too many people back in the twenty-first who got into huge court battles about wills and estates and stuff like that when multiple marriages were legalized, so Sonora made it a part of the marriage legalities, anyway, you didn’t need to know that, but I thought it was interesting and I pulled up the link for you, it’s a little different for a plural marriage, and you just have to click the button at the bottom of the screen and read what it prompts you.”
She stepped away from the computer. Aiyana, Kendra, and Derek crowded into view of the camera.
“Ready?” said Cass from Derek’s right.
“Ready,” agreed Derek.
“Let’s!” enthused Kendra.
With a deep inhalation, Aiyana clicked the button that said START. She read the dialog that scrolled across the monitor.
“I, Aiyana Cassidy Foster-Briggs, married to Kendra Marissa Cassidy, take Derek Delos James to be my mutual spouse on this date, and name him joint heir to my estate with Kendra Marissa Cassidy.”
Kendra then said, “I, Kendra Marissa Cassidy, married to Aiyana Cassidy Foster-Briggs, take Derek Delos James to be my mutual spouse on this date, and name him joint heir to my estate with Aiyana Cassidy Foster-Briggs.”
“I, Derek Delos James, take Aiyana Cassidy Foster-Briggs and Kendra Marissa Cassidy to be my mutual spouses on this date, and,” he stumbled, then regained his place. “And name them my joint heirs to my estate.” He grinned abashedly at them both.
“Ooh, this is my bit,” said Mac. “I, Amanda Harriet McAllister, swear as a witness to this marriage that to the best of my knowledge there are no legal impediments in the Sonoran Republic to the marriage of these parties and that they enter this contract in full knowledge of their actions and of their own free will.”
She hit the button, which now said STOP, and faced them. “Now all you have to do is enter your names and birthdays and Republic ID Numbers, then I enter mine and we send it in and it’s officially official, at least it will be once it’s processed, which only takes, like, seconds, because it’s all automated, and they’ll send the paperwork over eventually, I don’t know how long, and oh, look, you’ve already got it all typed in Kendra, I guess it’s me now.”
She bent to the keyboard, fingers flying, and paused for just a moment.
“Last chance to back out,” she said, hovering over the SEND.
Derek looked at his wives. “Last chance,” he said.
In response, Kendra kissed one cheek, Aiyana the other.
“We almost lost you,” Aiyana repeated. “Not again.”
“Do it,” he said.
Mac hit the button.