"Well, this was great, guys; thank you all so much." Kate's eyes grazed across the table as she looked at each of her children—well, the three of her children who had made their anniversary meal celebration. Six months had passed since Alexis and her husband relocated to Chicago because of his job. Though she Skype'd in to say hello at the beginning of their meal, Kate knew her husband still sad over the departure of his eldest—and they both missed little Kayla. Seeing the two-year-old blow them a kiss over a video screen just wasn't the same as snuggling her close.
"Well, we actually have a little something else," Caroline, the youngest of the bunch, said as she slid an envelope across the table to her parents. Rick picked it up, flipped the back flap open, and showed Kate its contents: a gift card to one of their favorite restaurants in the city. "We needed a backup plan just in case this meal we made poisoned all of you."
"No." Emily interjected, shooting her younger sister a look. "We just wanted you to have a nice meal to yourself as well."
"Well thank you," Rick said, smiling at each of them. "We honestly weren't expecting any big gifts until next year. That's your warning—start planning now."
Kate rolled her eyes. Yes, the following year would be their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, but that didn't mean the kids had to do something big for them; they needed to do something big for each other. Considering that her husband was the king of all gift givers, Kate was already anxious about what she'd give him, even if she did have three hundred and sixty-four days to figure it out.
"Well, don't worry about the dishes; we've got them."
"Thanks!" The lone boy who now preferred James to Jimmy proclaimed, leaning back in his seat.
Caroline smacked his stomach. "Don't let Mom do all the dishes; what's the matter with you!"
"Hey! Don't hit me!"
Kate gazed over at her husband who wore a knowing smile. "Things never change," she commented to him quietly.
"Nope." He echoed.
For the most part, the kids got along well and didn't bicker too much. Being the closest in age, Caroline and James were the most prone to spats, but even those rarely escalated above general sibling bickering. However, since they both still lived at home, Kate and Rick still needed to referee at times, even if they were both legally adults.
Kate stood from the table and moved to clear her and her husband's plates when Emily stopped her. "Actually, I did have one more thing for you guys." She stood from her seat and walked around the table to stand beside the woman she strongly resembled.
"Wait," James said with a small amount of panic, "we were supposed to get them something individually too?!"
Emily shook off her brother's concern. "No, no this is just me. I got you both something…but it's too big to wrap."
Rick rubbed his hands together gleefully. "Awesome—that means it's a really good gift!"
Emily let out a breathy laugh. "It's, um, actually not here yet."
Rick's shoulders slumped and Kate laughed. Looking over at her daughter she warned, "Oh Emily don't tease your father that way."
Emily wrung her hands together, gazed over at her husband, Craig, who smiled at her, and then looked back to her mother. "It won't be here for twenty seven more weeks…"
Kate caught her implication immediately and brought both hands to cover her mouth as she gasped. "O-oh! Oh Emily! Are you…oh but oh I thought you were waiting?" she asked, referring to the fact that the couple had not yet been married a year and had previously informed them of their intent to further their legal careers before starting a family.
Emily merely laughed and shrugged. "So did we."
"Oh! Oh my goodness!" Kate proclaimed, glancing back behind her to see Rick looking teary, yet proud, Caroline clapping her hands happily, and James appearing as nonplused as ever. Emotion overwhelming her, Kate pulled the pregnant woman into a bone crushing hug.
Though Kate would never choose a favorite from her quartet of children, Emily was by far the one she was closest to if for no other reason than they were the most alike. As the youngest, Caroline was the most free-spirited and wished to pursue a career in theatre like her grandmother. Though James looked like a carbon copy of his father, he was the least like him, perhaps only sharing a taste for literature; James was always quiet and preferred reading, so the fact that he was pursuing his doctorate degree in order to become a professor was not shocking to either parent.
Emily grew up displaying her mother's passion, fire and bravery. When sprinkled with a little of her father's sense of humor she had always been a popular, well liked child. After her near abduction as a child, Rick and Kate wished to shield her from everything else negative in the world, but of course that was not realistic, and the older she got it seemed Emily's life would mirror Kate's in both the good ways and bad.
An unfortunate incident during her senior year of high school had clipped the wings of their social butterfly and also broken their hearts. Ever strong, Emily came through the ordeal with new determination and a focus for her future: she wanted to become a district attorney and so she set off down a career path similar to that of the grandmother she never knew.
The one thing Kate and Rick wanted the most for their children was for them to find happiness. As she saw Emily taking the same, closed-heart path she had during college, Kate worried for her but then, during her first month of law school, Emily started talking about her study partner Craig and Kate had a gut instinct about the boy who was bookish and quiet when they first met him, but looked at Emily as though she were the sun itself. Of course, it took them almost another year to get together romantically, but when they did Kate was thrilled to see the same bright light in her daughter that she had once she and Rick were together officially.
Emily made the rounds, hugging each of her siblings, her father, and then her mother again before sniffing back some tears and saying, "I'm glad we were able to surprise you."
"We're stunned!" Rick insisted. "And thrilled, of course. Unless you're planning to move to Chicago, too."
"Definitely not." Craig assured him.
"Speaking of—I'm sure Alexis will be thrilled too."
"Oh, she already knows." Emily confessed.
"What?!" Rick squeaked, clearly offended.
Emily shrugged. "I had to tell someone. Besides, I asked her some pregnancy questions."
"Wha-" Kate stammered, taking over the position as 'offended' from her husband. "You can ask me pregnancy questions!"
"Now I can, but I wanted to keep things quiet and you can't keep anything from Dad and he can't keep anything to himself."
"Hey!" the writer protested.
"It's true," Caroline said as everyone laughed.
"Well, still, we're very, very happy for you, Emily." Kate promised. "We love you so much."
Emily pulled her mother in for a hug. "We love you, too."
A/N: Thank you all so much for making this my most reviewed story! I really appreciate all the time you took to read & review.
As for what's next, I have a bunch of 2- and 3- part stories I'm going to post: Metamorphosis, Venus, A Different Kind of Magic
And then I'll have my next multi-chap: What Makes You Stronger
and after that The Other Side of Broken also a multi chap
And my episode of Castle Season 9 is coming in March!