Steve has to say "goodbye" to his not-so-little girl Maddie in this one shot, based on the song of the same title.
"I can't do this," Steve Sanders decided as he soon as he had walked into the church and saw it decorated with white lilies. His eyes moved to the placard on an easel that said "Wedding Today – Mr. Samuel McKay and Miss Madeline Sanders". He started to backtrack out the door of the chapel but his wife was grabbing him by the arm.
"Steve, you're not going anywhere," Clare said, tugging him to a stop.
"No, Clare, you don't understand. I can't do this. I can't give away my little girl today."
"Steve, she's all grown up."
"No, no - she just thinks she is. But she's only twenty-five, Clare. She has a lifetime ahead of her… I'm not ready for this," Steve said as he spotted a picture of his Maddie sitting on the altar.
Clare looped her arm through his and rested her head against his broad shoulder. "But she's ready, Steve."
"She thinks she is," Steve reiterated.
"No, Steve, she is. She knows Samuel is the one for her."
"Samuel," Steve sneered. "When did he become Samuel anyway? I am sure that just yesterday he was this little tow-headed kid everyone called 'Sammy'; who ran around eating his boogers and –"
"He's not good enough for Maddie."
Clare smiled indulgently. "As if any man could be in your eyes. But you know 'Samuel' – yes Samuel now – and he's a really good man. You didn't have a problem with him until-"
"Until he dared to propose to my daughter." Steve sighed. "Clare, she's my little girl. I don't want her to do this."
"I know, okay? But she'll always be your little girl. And you raised her amazingly well. She has a better head on her shoulders than you ever did."
Steve shook his head. "That's the Janet in her."
Clare nodded. She knew of Janet by reputation; knew what a good mother and wife she'd been until the end, when the cancer finally took her after a two-year long battle. Sometimes Clare thought she was living Janet's life and felt guilty for it but other times, she knew that no one else felt that way.
She ran her hands through Steve's always blonde hair. "Janet did a great job, Steve, but so did you. The last ten years it's been all on you. Maddie is amazing and you should be so proud."
"I am… I just … I feel like I'm losing her. I remember when she was so small she could fit in the palm of my hand. Now she's getting married… Where the heck did the time go? I wanted her to be a little girl for another fifteen years at least."
Clare smiled. "I know. But you will regret it if you walk out of here before the ceremony and ruin Maddie's day. You have to walk her down the aisle; she wants that so much."
"Then I have to give her away…"
"Yes, but she's always going to love you as much as you love her. Now go – go and see her and tell her that you love her beyond reason and wish her well."
"Can I threaten Sammy first? If he hurts her –"
"You've done that at least twenty-five times in the last few weeks. Samuel knows. Now go tell Maddie how much you care and how proud of her you are."
Steve squared his shoulders. "Fine," he said, sounding put-out. Clare smiled and kissed his cheek and then watched him walk away.
She spotted Kelly coming in the door with Brandon Walsh and she smiled at them. "Is Steve freaking out?" Kelly asked.
"Me too," Kelly said. "Sam's my first born; I raised him alone until Brandon and I –" She looked at her husband. "Well, until things worked out just the way they were supposed to."
Brandon smiled at Kelly and kissed his wife's cheek. "We'll all get through this together…"
Kelly nodded and snuggled against Brandon. "Yeah, we will."
Steve paused a moment before raising his hand to knock on the door. "Who is it?" A voice called out to him.
"It's your Dad," he called back, his heart in his throat.
The door opened and Maddie stood there in her white, gauzy gown, looking more beautiful than any young woman had a right to. He smiled. "You look beautiful, Maddie."
"Thanks, Dad," she said and she grasped his hand, pulling him into the room and shutting the door. She gave him a hug and he relished it.
When they pulled apart, Steve was more teary-eyed than even she was. "Dad?" Maddie asked.
"Something's … in my eye," Steve said lamely.
"Uh huh," Maddie said. She placed her hands on her father's shoulders. She was very petite like her mother had been so she had to get up on her tiptoes to meet his eyes. "What are you thinking, Dad?"
Steve shrugged. "I don't know for sure … Okay, I do. I feel like – like I'm losing my baby girl. But that's dumb right? They say I'm not losing a daughter but gaining a son and –" He broke off as he felt Maddie place two butterfly-soft kisses on his cheek.
"Dad, I know this is hard. It is for me too. You've been the only man in my life for so long but because of how well you loved me… Now I can be a good wife to Sam and someday, a good parent to our kids."
"Someday … How soon will you be making me a Grandpa?" Steve asked.
"Oh, Dad," Maddie said with a laugh. "It won't be for awhile, I promise."
Steve nodded as a tear slid down his cheek. He never got emotional like this but his heart ached. This was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do – watch his Princess move forward - without him. "Daddy, don't cry," Maddie said, squeezing his shoulders. "I'm going to be alright. And I'll always be your little girl. I swear."
Steve nodded and swallowed over the lump in his throat. "Hey, okay… do you still need your old man to walk you down the aisle?"
"Yes!" Maddie cried and now a tear slipped down her soft olive-skinned cheek. "I love you, Dad."
"I love you too, Maddie – Madeline." He hugged her tightly then. When he finally released her, he offered her his arm. "Let's do this thing."
Steve looked at his daughter, memorizing her in that moment. "Your Mom would be so proud of you, Madeline. Just like I am."
"Thank you, Daddy," Maddie said. "I'm proud to be your daughter."
There was a knock on the door and Clare peeked in. "Are you two ready?"
"Ready," Maddie said with a bright smile.
Steve nodded. "Ready as I'll ever be," he said and offered Maddie a smile, knowing that she needed him to be okay. "Okay, I'm ready," he said and together he and Maddie headed towards the chapel together.