XXI

He found Donna sitting alone on a bench outside the hotel. "I am this far from hammering to death the next person to talk to me about happy couples," she warned him as he approached.

Josh smiled as he sat down next to her. "Then you won't want to know that I just caught Toby making out with his ex-wife."

Donna squealed in delight. "Oh my God! Oh, we have to tell CJ!"

"So this dislike of happy couples was more of a theoretical thing...?"

"Shut up, Josh."

"Okay." Donna's face had lit up, and she gave him a brief hug.

"I lied, you know," she admitted against his chest.

"Hmm?"

"I love weddings."

"I know."

"They always make me cry."

"You're just one big ball of sap, aren't you?" he grinned.

She sat up and glared at him. "You can talk, Mr. 'I've walked in this world and I've known these people'."

"I think I may have stolen that from somewhere," he covered quickly.

"No you didn't."

"I might have done."

"You're a poet."

"I am not!" he retorted, injured. Donna just laughed, a reassuringly pleasant sound. "Are you okay?" he asked her softly. "I saw you talking to CJ earlier, you both looked a little..." He wasn't sure how they'd looked, but he hadn't liked it. There was something coming, he could feel it in the air. Something big - he snorted mentally at that; wasn't it always 'something big'?

This wedding had been a little slice of calm in the centre of the storm, but it couldn't last long. It never did.

Donna sighed softly. "I'm... okay," she said, staring out into the night.

He nodded in acknowledgement, and they both sat in silence for a while.

"Poet," she whispered after a moment, just on the edge of hearing.

"Crazy woman."

"Positron Man."

Josh smiled, and leaned back against the bench. "Do you want to be my trusty sidekick, Electron Girl? It comes with a spangly costume and everything."

"As I understand it, those names mean you suck, and I do the opposite."

"Well, at least I'm not negative."

"Will you be wearing a spangly costume as well? With tights?"

"You know, I'm beginning to worry about this strange predilection you have for mentally dressing me in women's clothes."

"You were the one who brought up spangly costumes."

"I think you'd look good in one," he shrugged, unapologetic.

Donna eyed him. "You wouldn't."

"Thanks for that," he said dryly.

"Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em."

"See? See? Negative!"

"Shut up, Josh."

He shut up. For a little while, anyway.

Yes, the bad things kept on coming. But so did the little moments. And as long as you could have days in between that went like this... well, the bad things didn't seem quite so big, all of a sudden.


He paced outside on the grass, eyes on the ground, mind a lot further away. Even through his distraction, he was aware of her presence behind him.

"Hey."

"Hey," he acknowledged, without turning.

"I thought I'd find you out here."

That didn't seem to need an answer, so Jed just kept pacing.

"You're smoking," she observed after a few moments. He stopped, and blinked at her, hands still locked together behind his back.

"Without a cigarette?" he asked dryly.

"Yes. Hence the pacing."

He supposed that was a fair cop. At this time, under these frustrations, he would normally have taken to the nearest available exit and lit up. No wonder he had that odd, itchy, agitated feeling that wouldn't let him rest easy.

Abbey moved towards him and took his hand, and led him over to sit down beside her. They sat that way without speaking, joined at the hands, like teenage sweethearts but a thousand times more comfortable.

"I had a long talk with Ellie," she said, after a while.

"So did I."

"Cleared the air a little?"

He shrugged minutely, and she laid her head against his shoulder. "She loves you, Jed," she said softly.

"I love her." The response was both unquestionably automatic and sincerely heartfelt.

"She wants to get on with you," Abbey told him.

"She always runs away." He stared out into the night.

"And she doesn't understand why you don't follow."

"I-" Complexity of emotion broke his voice. But that was okay, because Abbey always knew what he wanted to say better than he did himself.

"I know, baby, I know."

She kissed his cheek, and he slipped his arm around her.

"It was a nice wedding, I thought," she observed reflectively, after a few moments.

"The media attention in particular added that extra sparkle," he said caustically. Abbey lightly shoved his shoulder.

"Honey, ain't nobody out here with us but the birds in the treetops, and they're not gonna believe you're camera shy any more than I do."

He met her eyes. "I didn't want it to spoil it for Zoey," he said softly. "I didn't want- me to spoil it for Zoey."

"Nothing could have spoiled this for Zoey," she said, by which she meant that none of the things either of them dared to think about could have spoiled it. "Besides, you think she saw anything but Charlie the entire day?"

"Hmm."

Jed didn't have to even look up to feel her grin beside him. "'Hmm'? Is that all you have to say on the subject of your brand new son-in-law?"

"At this point in the evening, we're pretending Charlie doesn't exist," he reminded her. Abbey laughed, and leaned in closer.

"I'll bet Zoey isn't."

"Stop it."

"Right about now, the two of them are probably-"

"Leave me alone." He pointedly shifted to face away from her, and stood up. She chuckled again, following him as he paced a few steps away.

"Remember our wedding night?" she asked teasingly.

He glared. "You're not helping." He looked down at the ground, hands clenched tightly as he tried not to think about cigarettes.

"Jed." At her tone, he slowly looked up, and met her sparkling eyes. "Take a hint."

Suddenly, he started to smile. They linked hands again, and headed back inside the hotel where once long ago they'd spent their honeymoon.

Not all long-held memories had to be unwelcome ones.

END