~ Hi again!  This story is somewhat of a continuation of my previous story, "Better Than Ever Imagined" which you can find at fanfiction.net as well.  However, you don't have to read that story in order to understand this chapter of the lives of those at Plumfield.  But before you proceed, I should caution everyone about the sensitive nature of Chapter 12.  I would probably rate it PG-13 and so if you feel it necessary, please feel free to skip that section.  So, please read on and enjoy! ~       

"Oh, Meg!  It's absolutely stunning!" Josephine Bhaer exclaimed as she held up the wedding gown her older sister had made for her.

            "It's not quite finished yet," Meg replied, smoothing out the creases in the skirt.  "I still have some of the lace trim to fix.  And I must be sure the bustle fits correctly."

            "The colour will look wonderful on you, Jo."  The youngest, Amy Laurence sat across from her sisters smiling at the reactions to the dress.  "I've always loved ivory."

            The three women were in the parlour at Plumfield School, milling over last minutes details of Jo's upcoming nuptials.  Most everything was settled, the food and decorations planned well in advance by many of the students.  Although originally meant to be a small affair, there always seemed to be just one more thing that had been forgotten about and the wedding dress was an added piece to the situation.

            "You don't think the shade is too close to white, do you?  I mean it would be a little improper."

            "Tsk.  It is much too dark to be considered white," Meg reassured Jo.  "Besides everyone will understand.  They all know about Fritz."

            "I suppose you're right," Jo concluded, fingering the silk ruffles that would sit along her shoulders.  "What does it really matter anyways?  It's just a colour."

            "So," Amy cut into her sister's thoughts.  "What are you getting Nick for a wedding gift?"

            Jo sat up a little straighter.  "Well, I really haven't gotten him anything, as of yet…"

            "JO!" Amy cried.  "You are to be married in less than two weeks and you know how long it takes to order anything in.  What if it's too late?  Then where will you be?"  She gave Jo a chastising glance.

            "Well, it's just that nothing seems to be right.  I've looked through catalogues and the entire general store.  I haven't found anything that is near perfect enough."

            "Jo, Nick will be happy with whatever you choose," Meg stated quietly.

            "I know but I want everything to be special.  So, I was thinking… perhaps I could try to make him something."  She looked hopefully at her sisters in a plea for encouragement.

            "And just what are you going to make?"  Amy shook her head.

            ""Well, I did build that ark for Rob…"

            "With Nick's help, mind you," Amy interrupted.

            "But I could make it simple.  A box or maybe a chair…" She trailed off at the suggestion.

            "A chair?"  Even Meg looked at her with doubt.  "Be serious, Jo.  There is still so much to do and not a lot of time."

            "I'm sure I could do it.  There is some old wood in the barn and I'll ask the boys to help…"

            "Help with what?" A deep voice came from the foyer.

            "Nick!" Jo cried, leaping from her seat.  "You can't come in!"  She gathered up the dress and with a horrified look dashed from the parlour, into the dining room.

            "Huh?" was Nick's reply, completely confused.  Meg and Amy now blocked his entrance through the door.  He stared at them, somewhat stunned before coming to his senses.  "Afternoon, Ladies."

            "Oh, hello Nick," Meg smiled, ensuring an obstructed view.

            "Nice day, isn't it?" Amy added.

            "Yeah, I guess it is."

            Jo returned, completely out of breath, giggling as she approached her sisters.  "Hello Nick," she said sweetly.

            He gave the women a suspicious glance.  "Alright, what's goin' on?"

            "Nothing," all three replied innocently.

            "We were just doing some planning," Jo included, stepping towards her future husband.

            "I see," he said doubtfully.  Knowing he would get nothing from them, Nick turned to Jo.  "So, ah, what did ya need the boys' help with?  Maybe I could do it."

            "Oh no, it's all right.  We can handle it." Jo patted him on the arm, hoping he would give up the curiosity.

            Her bright smile got the best of him and he complied with her wish.  "Fine.  Keep your secrets.  I don't think I wanna know."


            Jo stared out the parlour window, watching the yard blanketed in darkness as the hall clock struck eleven.  Her thoughts should have been on the lessons she was attempting to prepare, however, she could not concentrate knowing there were looming wedding plans yet to be finished.  She normally would not have bothered with such extravagant details as had arisen since the engagement. However, Amy insisted on a grand affair with new clothing for most everyone, an altar shipped in from New York and seating for over a hundred people.  Jo had to plead to make certain that the wedding took place at Plumfield and was relieved to find out that Asia was still going to cater the reception.  She could hardly stand all of the fuss and Jo knew things were going overboard.  But she wanted everything to be perfect.  Not only for herself but most especially for Nick.  She had been through all of the excitement before; her wedding with Fritz had been entirely for her.  Nick needed something special for everything he had given to her; hope, renewed strength and true love.  She wanted to give back, to show him how much she cared for him.  And this wedding was the best way she knew how.

            Jo shook her head clear and returned to her tasks, desperately trying to finish.  The school's day plans had to be completed for at least the next month, as Nat was to take over while the couple was away.  There was so much to remember and too much to deal with.

            Jo had set the History lessons aside to begin work on Mathematics when she felt two strong sturdy hands wrap around her shoulders.  "What are you still doin' up?"  Nick whispered in her ear.

            She smiled tiredly as his fingers began kneading out the knots in her muscles.  "I need to finish this and then I'll go to bed."

            "You've been up late every night this week." He kissed the top of her head.

            "Yes, I know.  I'll go in a few minutes."  She suspiciously turned around in her seat to face him.  "What are you doing up at this hour?"

            He grinned.  "I got hungry."  He looked towards the kitchen.  "You wanna join me for some milk and cookies?"

            Jo's face lit up, her exhaustion disappearing at the mention of her favourite snack.  "That's an offer I can't refuse."

            After racing one another to the kitchen, Nick grabbed the cookie jar as Jo picked up the milk pitcher and poured each of them a glass.  Sitting down at the kitchen table, they eagerly dug through the jar, searching for the last of Asia's delicious chocolate chip cookies.

            "Ah ha!" Jo cried triumphantly.  "I found one!"  She held the biscuit up in victory, somewhat mockingly.

            Nick fought back with a sad puppy dog look, his blue eyes sparkling.  He knew the power he had over Jo and eventually she broke down, giving in.  "Fine.  We'll split it."

            Pleased with his own victory, Nick grabbed the cookie and splitting it, slowly fed Jo her piece.

            "Dese are doe good," she mumbled with a full mouth.

            "Uh huh," Nick agreed, shoving his half into his mouth.

            Jo swallowed, sipping her milk and sighed.  "So, have you heard from Ben?" she asked gently.

            Nick looked up, his eyes glazed with disappointment.  "Nah, not yet.  I sent the telegram about the weddin' over two months ago.  I would've thought the ship company could've contacted him by now."

            "Maybe he is having problems getting back.  Where did you say he was?"

            "Scotland.  Fairly close considerin' the places he's been before."

            Jo reached across the table, taking his hand.  "There's still time.  You never know."

            A silence fell upon them as they finished their snack.  Nick picked up their glasses to place in the sink and shook his head as he heard Jo yawn.  "Alright.  Time for bed.  And I mean it, Jo.  You can finish your plans tomorrow."

            She gave him an annoyed look, knowing full well that he wasn't taking no for an answer.  "Yes, Father," she teased.

            Nick rolled his eyes and grabbed her hands, pulling her from her chair and into a gentle embrace.  "I just worry about ya."

            Jo tiredly rubbed her eyes.  "You're right anyways.  I need to get some sleep.  A lot to do tomorrow."  She held onto him a few moments longer before pulling away.  "I'll see you in the morning." She kissed him on the lips and moved away.

            Nick smiled.  "Sweet dreams."

            "Of course.  You'll be in them."