I do not own Band of Brothers. This story is based on the characters in the mini-series, not the real men of Easy Company.

Slightly rated M at the beginning for some implied SMUT.

There are only TWO chapters of Permanent left guys … The wedding chapter (this one may end up being split into two chapters depending on how long it is once I have written it) and an Epilogue. :(

However, I am planning on writing a sequel story consisting of one-shots that detail Liz and Joe's lives before, during, and after the war. The one-shots will be "scenes" that didn't make the cut for the story (and you'll definitely be getting some of one shots of Liebgott with their kids). Please send me any suggestions for what you would like to see included in the sequel. :)

Happy Reading!


December 21st 1945- Rhode Island – 1300hrs

Hips rocking. Skin against skin. Joe's breathless 'I love you's hot against my ear. Pure ecstasy in my heart.

This is how we had spent the better part of the day.

"Fuck… Oh God Liebling…"

"Joe…" I breathed, feeling the increasingly familiar heat beginning to pool in my core. "I… I…"

"I know, just let it go." he shivered against me, sending me over the edge as I called out his name.

He followed not long after me, collapsing on top of me with a moan. We stayed like this for a few minutes, our ragged breathing filling the room.

"Jesus Christ Liz…" he panted finally, rolling off of me sluggishly and pulling me into his shaking arms.

"That was the fuckin best yet."

"Good thing you got us all of those condoms…" I exhaled, feeling my heart rate beginning to return to normal as I watched him get rid of the condom that we had just used.

"Yeah… just didn't think we'd go through the whole box in a weekend."

Joe and I had gotten the house to ourselves for the weekend. My parents were in New York doing some last minute Christmas shopping and George had taken my younger siblings with him to visit my sister, Dorothy, in Boston. We had stayed behind on the pretense that I was coming down with a cold… a lie.

I craved these moments with Joe. The sex. It was like I couldn't get enough of him. It was a welcome escape for both of us… A way to get lost in one another and forget about everything else.

"How about I make us some lunch? I'm starving."

"I don't want to move…" I grinned, sinking down further into the mattress. "I'm too sleepy."

"I need to refuel myself." He laughed, tucking some hair behind my ear. "We still got one condom…"

I laughed quietly in response, stretching my arms out in front of me.

"Ah come on, I'll make bacon and eggs." He got up and slipped on his boxer shorts. "What do you say?"

"Fine." I rolled my eyes playfully. "You're going to be great husband material you know that Liebgott?"

"Great sex…" he cocked an eyebrow at me teasingly. "Bacon and eggs… I'm the whole package."

"You're an idiot…" I laughed, slipping into my robe and combing my fingers through my messy hair.

"Yeah, well, you're the one marrying me…" he shot me a lopsided smile with a wink. "Come on… it's the second most important meal of the day."

To say that the past three months had been extremely eventful would be an understatement. Between the wedding planning, invitation send outs, dress shopping, and moving into our new apartment in San Francisco, we had barely had a spare moment to relax since we had shipped back home. It was odd to be enveloped in such run-of-the-mill worries.

This was both a blessing - because it kept our minds busy – and a curse – because it made everything all the more difficult to adjust to.

Joe and I had returned to Rhode Island from our trip to San Francisco a week prior – exactly three weeks before our wedding, which would be taking place at the local country club on December 31st. We wanted to start the New Year out on the right foot… to start a new chapter together. Our first "normal" year together.

I had met the Liebgott family during our trip across the country. They had all been extremely welcoming, showing me around the busy streets of San Francisco as if I was already a part of the family. Joe's mother, Mary, had helped me pick out my wedding dress and shoes, and Joe's dad had helped us with the daunting task of table organization for the reception. We had received hasty RSVPs in the mail from the Easy Company men and we were thankful and excited that the majority of them would be there to celebrate with us.

I missed the men more and more every day and I prayed every night that they were finding some semblance of peace back home on American soil. I could only imagine that they were suffering to much the same extent as us. Joe and I often woke each other up with our cries throughout the night – it was a rarity for either of us to get a full night sleep. However, Joe never wanted to talk about what he saw in his nightmares when he woke up, which worried me.

Truth be told, it was difficult to see or do anything anymore without some unpleasant memory coming to mind. The triggers were countless – a car had backfired on the street in San Francisco one day and Joe and I had hit the ground in the middle of the sidewalk. Needless to say, it was a disconcerting moment for both of us.

We had also (with the help of Joe's family) moved into our tiny one bedroom apartment overlooking the ocean which we would officially be calling home in a few weeks' time. It was agonizing, to say the least, to think that I would be moving so far away from my family so soon. However, I knew that Joe and I could have a productive life in San Francisco… a life that Rhode Island may not be able to offer us. Joe had aspirations of opening his own Barber Shop and apprenticing under his father. Truth be told, I still found it difficult to picture him as anything other than a soldier. It was still odd to see him wearing "civilian" clothes. As for me, I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I knew that I would need to find work shortly after we were wed to help pay the rent.

We had also taken a detour through Tonawanda on our way to San Francisco, to visit Muck's family, and to give Faye Tanner what was left of his rosary and photograph. The whole experience had been somber and heart breaking - watching Faye break down clutching what little was left of Muck's belongings had to have been one of the saddest things I had ever experienced… it had taken everything in me not to scream.

Muck had been such a good person. He was one of my best friends. His family were the nicest people. Why him…? Why did Joe and I get to be married when Muck and Faye would never even lay eyes on each other again?

I had instantly thrown up when we had made it back to the car that afternoon.

"Liz?" Joe cleared his throat, breaking me out of my trance. "Where'd you go? I've been trying to tell you that lunch is ready for the past five minutes…"

"I'm sorry." I breathed, rubbing my eyes. "It's just…"

"It's the trip to Tonawanda again isn't it?"

I merely nodded in response, feeling hot tears begin to gather in my eyes.

"It ain't fair." He shook his head, taking my clammy hand in his across the kitchen island. "But we're here… and Muck wouldn't want this. He'd be happy for us Liebling, you gotta know that."

I nodded again in response as he placed a soft kiss to my temple. "Now, how bout some lunch huh?"

"Did you burn the eggs this time?" I sniffled, shooting him a small grin.

He was right. Muck hated gloom and doom. And as difficult as it was for me to swallow, I knew that no amount of moping was ever going to bring him back.

"Hey! I thought you said I was a good cook!? What else have you been lying to me about?"

"Just the eggs." I confirmed, hearing him laugh in response as he divvied our lunch up.

"Hurry up and eat Liebling… I've got some afternoon plans for us before your parents get home. "

"Hmmm." I smiled through a mouthful of eggs. "Those wouldn't involve that last condom would they?"

"Possibly…" he shot me a lopsided smile. "Don't worry, there's plenty more where those came from."

"Were you really serious when you said that you want to have eight kids?" I narrowed my eyes at him, plopping a piece of bacon into my mouth.

"Yup." He smiled. "I told ya, I want a big family."

"You DO know that a woman's body never really bounces back after pregnancy right? I mean, yeah, it does in some ways… but I'll never really be the same."

"Yeah, I know." He winked. "That's why we are getting in as much sex as we can now."

"Jerk." I smacked him lightly, feeling my face turn red. "Well, I bet you won't want me when I am all flabby… and grouchy from lack of sleep when our kids are up bawling their eyes out all night."

"You'll always be beautiful to me no matter what Liebling. And so will our kids."

"Yeah?" I smiled at the thought of our future family, laying my head on his shoulder. A wave of giddiness washed over me at the thought of becoming Elizabeth Lana Liebgott in less than two weeks.

"Yup… All EIGHT of em." I felt him chuckle beneath my cheek. "Now eat up…"


December 25th 1945 - Rhode Island – 1800hrs

I am dreamin' tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know it's a long road back
I promise you

I gazed lovingly around the room at my large family, tears filling my eyes as everyone sung together. "I'll be home for Christmas," one of Easy Company's favorite Christmas songs. We had all sung this one together in Bastogne last Christmas. I caught Mary Liebgott's eye and she sent me a warm smile, laying her head on Joe's father's shoulder. My parents had surprised us with an early visit from Joe's family. They had originally planned to arrive a few days before the wedding; however, my parents had convinced them that they were more than welcome to spend Christmas with us as well, seeing as they had not spent a Christmas with Joe in three years. My heart had swelled seeing the look on Joe's face when we had opened the door on Christmas Eve and seen his parents, siblings, and nieces & nephews standing on the doorstep. He had truly looked like a kid on Christmas morning.

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

I felt a shiver run up my spine as memories of last Christmas flooded my mind. Our last Christmas had been spent buried in our cold foxholes, praying that the Germans would spare us an artillery barrage in light of the holidays. I sucked in a deep breath, the smell of cooking turkey, potatoes, and pies filling my nostrils… a complete 360 to the questionable bean mixture we were eating at this time last year. I dug my fingers into my palms as memories of spending Christmas night wrapped up in an blanket with Muck, Penkala, and Hoobler flashed through my mind… their last Christmas. My brother and Joe had been moved to the front of the line for the night and they had taken pity on me, inviting me to join them for "Christmas dinner." Muck had made some lame joke about being a great cook as we passed around the lukewarm gooey beans.

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
If only in my dreams

George sang the last verse loudly, as he always did, waggling his eyebrows at me. I smirked back at him and laced my fingers through Joe's, blinking back my tears. We were lucky to be here, that much I was sure of.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE." George shouted, making me smirk again. "Now… can we eat for God sakes!?"

"GEORGE LUZ!" our mother exclaimed, scolding him like a child. "Don't be so rude! We have company!"

"What Ma?!" George threw his hands up defensively. "You know I get pissy when I'm hungry."

"GEORGE!"

"It's alright… we have boys." Mary laughed, glancing over lovingly at Joe. "We're used to it."

Laughter rumbled throughout the room as everyone started to make their way to the dining room, all of the children bouncing up and down excitedly as they crowded around the "kids' table." My dad turned down the record player, which was now playing White Christmas. I stole a glance at Joe who looked just about as overwhelmed as I felt. It was insane to think about how much had changed in a year.

"I can't believe your parents got them here … means so much." He squeezed my hand. "I dunno how to ever re-pay them."

"They love you Joe… you're already family."

"Officially though in less than a week huh?"

"You nervous?" I chewed at my lip, feeling my heart flutter as my own nerves washed over me.

"Fuckin terrified." He replied, making me smile. "Never really thought I'd get married… till I met you."

"Well, don't I feel special?" I teased, holding back a grin.

"You are… Merry Christmas, Liebling." he pecked me on the cheek, making me blush as we stood up to head to the table. I heard the commotion of people starting to dish out food and knew that we had to get in there fast… my brothers all had lively appetites.

"Merry Christmas Joe."

It was truly a Merry Christmas indeed… the first 'Merry' Christmas in years.


1900hrs-

"Lizzie?" my little brother Phillip suddenly piped up from across the table as my mother cleared away the plates following dinner. "Do you have any scars? From the war?"

I nearly spit out the red wine that I had been sipping on at the unexpectedness of the question. Nobody in my family had asked me that question yet, and I had been careful to keep my scarred wrist and arm hidden.

"Why the sudden curiosity Phil?" I grimaced, wiping away some stray droplets of wine that had landed on my blouse. "We've been home for a few months now... you never asked before."

"Ma and Dad said you needed time before we asked you questions… figured it has been plenty of time. And I saw the two purple hearts in your room, on your uniform."

Oh, to be thirteen years old and innocent again…

"I have a few scars." I breathed, feeling my heart pound as several of my siblings and Joe's siblings shifted their attention over to us, their curiosity evidently getting the best of them as well.

I caught George's apprehensive eyes from down the table. We had all known that these questions were going to come up; it was just a matter of when. I just prayed that my family didn't start digging too deep.

"Can I see em?" Philip demanded, with a cock of his brow.

I felt Joe stiffen beside me and heard him sniff anxiously. He had remained silent for most of dinner and that was the first real noise I had heard from him in nearly an hour. I knew that the normality of today had ignited a mixture of emotions in him, so I hadn't really pressed him to talk during dinner. I knew that he was trapped in his own head.

"Uh… sure." I replied apprehensively, rolling up my sleeve and holding my wrist out for the entire table to see. I heard a few collective gasps from my sisters as everyone gawked at the silvery scar that ran along both sides of my wrist and arm, a result of my run in with a large piece of shrapnel in Holland.

"What happened?" my brother James inquired further, his eyebrows scrunched together in concern.

"I got hit with a piece of shrapnel in Holland... last October." I gulped, trying to push the memory down. I could still feel the searing pain if I thought about it hard enough. "It happened during one of our assaults... on one of the German lines."

"Did it hurt?" Victoria asked eagerly. "Did you see the guy who hit you?"

Another sideways glance from George from down the table. It was easy to forget that the majority of people back home, including our families, knew very little about combat.

"Yeah, it didn't exactly feel nice. I needed thirty five stiches." I nodded. "And no… it was a shell that when off close to me. Shrapnel is a term for a piece of a bomb or shell."

"Ah…"

"What about you George… were you ever hit?" Marion asked excitedly.

I glanced down and noticed that Joe's fist was clenched, his knuckles turning white. This was the only indication that he was even listening to the conversation.

"I was never hit actually." George shook his head, trailing off. "Lucky me I guess, huh?"

"Were you hit again after Holland, Liz? Were you ever shot?" my siblings continued to fire questions my way.

"I had a bullet graze my forearm in Foy… Belgium." I bit the inside of my cheek. "I was pulling one of my friends, Frank Perconte, to cover after he'd been shot and there was a sniper firing down on us."

I decided to leave out the part about Frank being shot in the ass. That was a story for another time.

"That must have been terrifying Liz, I'm sorry." Dorothy sniffled. "I can't even imagine."

"Did he die? James asked, pulling his fiancé, Claire, closer to him. "The sniper, I mean."

"Yes." I nodded, a clear image of the day coming to mind. "OUR sniper, Shifty, killed him with one shot."

"Good riddance!" Philip shouted animatedly, making me jump slightly. "God damn Krauts!"

"PHILIP! Our father appeared from the kitchen promptly, alongside Joe's parents who were carrying trays full of desserts. "What did I tell you about using that word!?"

I loved my little brother, he meant well. He was only repeating what he had undoubtedly been hearing in school for the past six years. However, EXPERIENCING the war and hearing about it back home were "somewhat" different. It was easy for people to use the word 'Kraut' and not comprehend what it was like to come face to face with the German soldiers who had killed our friends. It was also easy to overlook the fact that they were people too, soldiers who were just doing a job… the same as us.

"Hey! What about you?" Joe's brother Mark spoke up eagerly, nudging his arm. "Any scars? Other than the one on your neck? How did you get that by the way? You couldn't have been shot in the neck and survived."

I don't really wanna…" Joe shrugged, crossing his arms. I could practically hear the rumbling in his chest as he turned to face his brother, his calm demeanor acting as a buffer for what he was really feeling inside. "I don't wanna talk about it."

"Come on!" Mark pressed on. "We all want to hear all your war stories. What about the work camps? You guys liberated one right? What was that like? Was it as awful as the papers said?"

"You wanna hear my "war" stories?" Joe scoffed, glaring at his younger brother. "You wanna hear my fuckin war stories Mark? Don't ask me about the fuckin camps you got it!?"

I caught my Mother's concerned eyes from across the room as she started to dish out the pies and I shot her an apologetic look for the language. I gently placed my hand on Joe's arm in an attempt to calm him. It was easy for people to judge us when they didn't understand what we were going through. They didn't comprehend why we were so "messed up," so to speak.

"You have NO CLUE what we've been through!" Joe spat, the vein in his forehead starting to bulge. "You have no right to ask us about our 'war stories' for fuck sakes."

"I didn't mean to offend you." Mark snapped defensively. "We're all just curious… we feel like we don't even know you anymore. You're different, that's all."

"Fuckin different…" Joe grumbled angrily. "Yeah, I guess that's what happens eh?"

"Take it easy Joe." I whispered, knowing that Mark's last comment about being 'different' had really set him off. "We don't have to talk about it anymore alright?" I looked around the room hopefully for support.

"Yeah guys." George cleared his throat, addressing the room. "Let's just talk about something else… it's Christmas, alright?"

I sent him a grateful smile as general, albeit tense, chatter began to fill the room again… finally taking the heat off of our end of the table.

"You okay?" I whispered to Joe, lacing my fingers through his under the table. "Do you need a minute?"

I stole a glance at Mark who looked pretty peeved about the way that Joe had just spoken to him. He was staring down at his plate wordlessly, his jaw clenched in anger. I nearly smirked at how much Mark resembled Joe when he was angry, his eyebrows creasing together in the same way and his lip curled into a small snarl.

If looks could kill…

"I'm good." Joe nodded, forcing a grimace in an attempt to reassure me. "Let's just try to enjoy the night."


2000hrs-

"Looks good on ya Liz." George bumped me, breaking me out of my food induced daze.

We had all moved back to the sitting room following dessert and I was now sitting in front of our large fireplace, rocking my niece to sleep while my sister Dorothy helped our mother with the dishes.

"Yeah?" I smirked. "Well, I'd better get in the practice while I can. Did I tell you that Joe wants eight?"

"Jesus Christ!" George exclaimed, making the baby squeak slightly in alarm. "EIGHT Lieb?"

"Yup." Joe smiled over at me, his mood seemingly improved since the whole 'war stories' escapade at dinner. "I want a big family."

"The jury is still out on eight children." I countered with an eye roll. "But this little one sure is cute."

Baby Elizabeth (my namesake) who turned one year old on December 23rd was sucking away on her thumb peacefully in my arms, her eyelids fluttering slightly.

"All those kids are going to absolutely DESTROY your body Lizzie." George teased, crossing his arms.

"Thanks for that, Captain obvious." I laughed, feeling baby Elizabeth shift in my arms as she woke up, her eyes flying open as she started to fuss.

"Someone's hungry huh? You and your uncle George have that in common."

"There's no way you're still hungry Georgie!" I laughed. "We just ate for God sakes."

"Can I… uhhh..." Joe scratched his head before my brother could make a clever comeback. I reached for Elizabeth's bowl of squashed peas with my free hand. "Can I feed her this time?"

My heart leapt at his nerves. He is adorable when he is nervous.

"Of course." I grinned, carefully sliding her over into his arms and giggling as she let out another annoyed shriek at being passed around. "Just go slow, she gets gassy if she eats too quickly."

"Got it." He shifted her to face him, smiling as she gazed into his eyes in fascination. "Hi sweetie. What's on the menu tonight huh? Mmmm peas, my favorite…"

My heart swelled as I silently watched Joe feed baby Elizabeth, making small cooing noises at her as she chomped away on her little plastic spoon. I couldn't help but imagine him feeding our own kids one day.

"What?" he chuckled suddenly, glancing up at me. "Why are you lookin at me like that?"

"You're just an expert at that is all." I smiled. "I was just thinking that you'll be a great father."

"I've always gotten along with kids." He smiled, wiping some food off of baby Elizabeth's cheek as she reached up to offer him some peas off of her gooey hands. "No thanks hunny."

"That's cause you have the same brain size as them…" George snorted, receiving a glare from Joe.

George had always had a knack for making inappropriate jokes at the most untimely moments and it was one of the many things that I loved so much about him. I would miss hearing his quick witted comments every day once I moved. George and I had always been the closest of the Luz siblings and our time overseas had brought us even closer together, if that was even possible. Truth be told, he is going to be the most difficult person to leave behind. I can't even bear the thought of not seeing his goofy face every day. Easy Company had bonded us in a way that none of our other siblings could comprehend- we had quite literally kept each other alive for years. I don't know how we are going to deal with only seeing each other a handful of times every year. He had already promised that we would make a point of getting together once a month somehow, but we both knew that life would eventually get in the way of that plan. We were going to have to stick to it somehow. We had survived France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany together, I wasn't about to lose my brother just because I was moving across the country.

"Yeah, Yeah! Cause you're so mature." Joe snapped back light-heartedly, receiving a snicker in response from my brother.

"I'll have you know that I was a straight A student in school Lieb."

"Sure… sure."

Some things never change.


2345hrs-

I smiled, watching the snow fall through the window from where Joe and I lay comfortably on the couch.

Thank God we weren't in Bastogne tonight.

Everyone had either headed home or gone to bed at this point and it was just George, Joe, and I left downstairs in the large sitting room. George had long since passed out in the large lazy boy chair beside us and was now snoring softly as the fire crackled away, casting a faint light on his peaceful face.

"Liebling?" Joe kissed the top of my head, breaking me out of my trance. "You still awake?"

"I am." I shifted to face him, seeing him grin in the colorful light cast on us by the Christmas tree.

"Guess we should do our Christmas gifts now huh?" he laughed, glancing down at his watch. "Seeing as we're only fifteen minutes away from me saying 'Happy Birthday' now."

I shifted to grab his gift from underneath the table as he did the same, passing me a small wrapped package. My heart leapt in my chest as I began to have second thoughts about his gift – would he like it? Would it be too much? Not enough?

"You go first." He grinned as I reluctantly started to tear open the paper around the little box. This must have taken him forever to wrap so perfectly. "Merry Christmas."

"Joe…" I breathed, tears instantly filling my eyes at the sight of the contents of the box. He had had a screaming eagle necklace fashioned for me, engraved with Easy Company – 101st Airborne Division 1942-1945 on the back.

"You like it?"

"I love it!" I cried, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him into a tight hug. "It's beautiful!"

"It isn't much." He shrugged modestly. "Just thought you'd like something to remember Easy by… something you can wear every day."

"It's absolutely perfect." I smiled, fastening the necklace around my neck and admiring the polished eagle pendant. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." He kissed me deeply, weaving his fingers through my hair momentarily before breaking away. He hazarded a glance over at George who was somehow still sleeping soundly despite all of my crying. "Looks good on ya."

"Now do yours." I smiled, handing his gift to him with shaky hands. "Merry Christmas love."

I gulped as he removed the lid from the box, gazing into it with a look of pure astonishment on his face. I had tracked down the small shop in Austria where Joe had traded in some of his most prized possessions for my engagement ring. Luckily the shop keep had not sold his gold Star of David pendant yet and I had been able to trade in some of my loot to buy it back.

"Oh, Liebling…" he whimpered, his eyebrows knitting together in surprise. "How did you…?"

"George told me where the store was and I went there in August after I found out that we would be shipping home." I sniffled as my own eyes started to fill with tears. "I knew how much it meant to you… it was your grandfather's… so I traded a bunch of my findings to get it back. I felt horrible that you had even sold it for me in the first place."

I glanced down at my engagement ring longingly, seeing the red and green lights from the Christmas tree dancing off of the diamonds. It truly is a striking ring. I was too blessed.

"Liz…" he breathed, taking my hands in his. "You have no idea how much this means to me."

"I do." I hummed, wiping some stray tears off of his face and pressing my forehead to his. "That's why I knew that I had to get it back for you… I felt horrible that you gave it away…"

"I would 'a traded the world to get you a ring Liebling. I wasn't about to propose to you with a string."

"But, it was always so important to you… especially after…" I trailed off, not wanting to explicitly mention the camps.

"You're more important to me than anything." He shook his head, taking my face in his hands gently as he visibly fought back his tears. "More important than my family… they don't fuckin get it… I'd be better off if it were just you and I…"

"I'm worried about you Joe. So are they." I whimpered, feeling him tremble beneath my hands as I cut him off. He didn't mean what he was saying about his family. "What happened at dinner…You need to talk about things. I can see it eating you up and it kills me."

"I'm just fucked up right now Liz. I can't help it. I can't just pretend that I'm okay." He shook his head. "Nobody has any right to ask us about the war. They don't get it. It wasn't some fuckin vacation that we wanna sit around and chit-chat about for Christ sakes."

"I know it's frustrating." I nodded in agreement, lacing my fingers through his. "But we have to look at it from their perspective too right? They have been absent for a major part of our lives. We're not the same kids that we were when we left home – we've changed and they are just trying to fill in the blanks."

"Yeah… I guess you're right." he sighed, squeezing his eyes shut in pain. "I'm just waiting for the day someone asks about the camps…"

"You don't have to tell anyone anything." I bit my lip in thought. "Just tell them that it is too painful to talk about… your family isn't going to think any less of you for it."

"I want to be happy. I want things to go back to the way they were before I shipped out. I do. I just can't get it out of my mind. I've killed so many people. Seen so many people killed. Why do I deserve to come home to MY family?"

"I know what you mean. You know I do." I rubbed away some tears that had escaped my eyes. "I've felt like complete shit planning the wedding. I mean, I was actually STRESSED about buying a damn wedding dress for God sakes… after everything…" I trailed off embarrassingly. "It's so petty and ridiculous."

"Hey... don't shit on yourself for wanting to have a nice wedding."

"It's just so selfish of me though Joe. Especially with women like Faye out there having to…"

"Don't do that." He whispered, cutting me off. "We didn't have any control over who lived and died and you know that."

"I miss him." I inhaled sharply, referring to Muck. "I miss them all. They should be there with us next week."

"Remember when Muck vowed that he was going to be your maid of honor?" he replied, making me smile slightly at the memory.

**FLASHBACK**

Bois Jacques Woods - December 27th 1944

"I'm serious guys!" he exclaimed seriously, making me giggle even harder.

"You're a guy Muck!" I laughed. "You can't be a maid of honor."

"Says who!?"

"Says society." I smirked, as George and Joe tried to conceal their laughter with their jacket sleeves.

"Ah, who cares?" Muck countered. "I'd make a better sidekick than anyone else!"

"You gonna wear a dress Muck?" George tittered, earning an eye roll.

"I'll wear whatever my 'best friend' wants me to wear." Muck replied, slinging his arm around me. "Ain't that right Liz?"

"Well, I really don't want to see you in a dress…" I snuggled in closer to him as a cold gust swept through our damp foxhole. "Come to think of it though… I have lost touch with a lot of my girlfriends back home… I have no idea who I would ask to be my maid of honor one day… it would be difficult to choose between my sisters."

"I'm tellin ya! I'm on it!" Muck squeezed my shoulder. "I swear on my grave that I'm going to throw you guys the most kick ass party ever when we get home…"

Of course I didn't know at the time that he wouldn't be alive to keep that promise.

"He was so serious about it too." I couldn't help but grin through my tears. "Victoria has huge shoes to fill as my maid of honor now."

"You've got that right."

"It will be nice to have the guys back together next week. It'll be good to be around people who 'get it' again. It's been difficult trying to keep up this whole 'normal' façade." I sighed. "I feel so… fake."

I was truly looking forward to seeing the company again – even Bill Guarnere, Joe Toye, and Tipper would be in attendance now that they had healed. I had felt as if a piece of me was missing ever since the remainder of the group had disbanded at the docks in New York. We had all departed so abruptly and none of us had really had a chance let it sink in that we wouldn't be seeing each other every day. None of us had said as much as a quick 'goodbye' to one another. I missed Gene the most. I could have really used one of his comforting speeches today.

Gene had agreed to be one of Joe's groomsmen, alongside George (as the best man), Chuck Grant, Ron (after a lot of light-hearted harassment on his part), Alley, Talb, Skinny, and Joe's brother Mark.

I had chosen - after much deliberation - my sister Victoria as my maid of honor. My bridesmaids would consist of my other sisters; Mary, Dorothy, Louise, and Marion, along with Gene's girlfriend Vera (who I had still not met in person), and Joe's sisters – Lena and Wanda.

"I dunno if it's gonna help or make it worse… seein them."

"We will get through this together, Joe. We will. You just need to talk to me okay? Or call up one of the guys to talk. Promise me? Don't keep it all inside. You're not alone. We all know what you're going through. It's fucked up being home all of a sudden. I'm sure the guys feel the same way."

"Okay… I promise." He breathed, pulling me in for another long sloppy kiss. "Thank you for giving a shit."

"That's what Liebling's are for." I dabbed the remainder of his tears off of his face with a small laugh.

He laugh quietly in response, perking up slightly as the large grandfather clock in the sitting room chimed, indicating that it was midnight.

"Happy Bir-"he started.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIZZIE!" George bellowed suddenly, clearly having been roused by the clock chime.

"Jesus George!" Joe exclaimed as we both flinched at the unexpected outburst. "What the fuck?"

"I've been the first person to say 'Happy Birthday' to Liz for the past 23 years Lieb." George retorted, getting up to place a wet kiss against my forehead. "You're not ruinin that tradition."

"Yes - 23 years of early morning near-heart attacks." I confirmed with a chuckle, earning an eye roll from my brother.

"Well, now that that's been dealt with." he stretched with a yawn, choosing to overlook our tear streaked faces. He likely knew the reason and didn't want to bother us about it. He understood like nobody else.

"I'm going to bed. Nighty night lovebirds. Don't do anything to my little sister that you wouldn't do to me tomorrow morning Lieb." He continued, shuffling towards the stairs.

"Gross." I groaned, hearing Joe vibrate with laughter beside me.

"ONLY HALF JOKING!" George called back down the stairs at us. "Don't even think about it Liebgott!"

"Too late." Joe whispered, making me blush as he pressed his lips against mine. "Happy Birthday Liz."

He deepened the kiss swiftly, pulling me against him by the waist as I ran my hands up under his shirt. I had been waiting all day for this moment, to have him close to me like this – especially after dinner. I just wanted to hold him close. I wanted to take all of his pain away.

"Mmm." He broke the kiss suddenly, grinning as I shot him a pout. "Ready for your birthday gift?"

"Yes." I exhaled almost too eagerly, making him laugh again. "Yes…"

"It's not THAT … But I think it will make you just as happy."

What else could possibly make me that happy?

"What is it?" I cocked an eyebrow curiously as a lopsided grin appeared on his face. "What?"

"I'm quitting."

"Quitting what?"

"Smoking. I was thinking about what you said – about it causing cancer – and I figured that I should probably stop sooner than later huh? Especially with us having kids soon and everything."

"Joe!" I exclaimed, pulling him into my arms again as I started to sob. I had witnessed him smoke like a chimney for the past four years and the thought of him without a cigarette regularly hanging out of his mouth was truly odd. "This means so much to me. You've been smoking for so long; it's not going to be easy you know?"

"You're worth it." He pressed a soft kiss to my neck, making my skin tingle. "And besides, it's become more of a 'bad habit' than anything since we got home. It was more a distraction before… like nothing could touch ya as long as you had a smoke in your hand ya know?"

"I'll help you every step of the way. We'll make a game plan for the New Year." I smiled as I felt him start to play with my ring on my finger. "God, you have no idea how happy this makes me."

"Happier than…?" he arched his eyebrow smugly.

"Not quite." I cut him off with a shy smirk. "Let's go to bed. It's getting late."