Notes: this vignette was inspired by today's Inktober prompt ("catch") and takes place post-series. One of the things I adore about the series is how Larry and Balki never even so much as glance at other women after they go steady with, and eventually marry, Jennifer and Mary Anne, and this vignette happened as a result.
As head of the cabin crew, Jennifer had been coordinating the details of the meal and beverage services on the flight heading from Portland to Chicago. Things had been running surprisingly smoothly—until it stopped going smoothly.
"Jennifer?" Mary Anne asked, peeking her head in to the attendants' private area, where Jennifer was going over their food inventory. "We've got ourselves a situation up in 15 A."
"Oh, no; what now?" Jennifer asked.
"They're demanding I serve more alcohol, but I think they've had enough already, given the circumstances! I told them that, and they said they wanted to see my manager—that's you."
Jennifer sighed; heading to row 15 with Mary Anne—and stopped as she saw that the passenger in 15 A was a woman. The woman was clearly a little tipsy, and what concerned Jennifer was the one-year-old girl sitting on her lap, clearly upset that she wasn't getting her mother's attentions.
"How many…?" Jennifer silently mouthed.
Mary Anne held up three fingers in response.
Jennifer responded with a nod to assure her that she'd made the right call, and then addressed the woman.
"I'm the head of the flight crew; I understand that you wanted to see me?"
"Yes!" the woman exclaimed. "It says here on the menu that you serve alcoholic drinks for $5 each, but she won't take any more of my money!" She glared pointedly at Mary Anne.
"Well, we reserve the right to withhold the service of alcohol if we think it's necessary," Jennifer explained. "And I have to agree with my colleague; I think you've had enough."
She had expected the woman to get even more belligerent, but, to their surprise, she suddenly burst into tears. Jennifer and Mary Anne exchanged baffled glances, and Mary Anne shyly offered a packet of tissues to the woman. After a moment, the woman accepted them.
"I'm sorry," she sobbed. "I know I probably shouldn't be drinking, but I just… I just want to forget everything!"
"It's okay," Jennifer said. "You're clearly having a very bad day—"
"The worst!" she wailed. "My husband left me for another woman! Threw us both out of the house—me, and his own child! …Not that he ever put the slightest effort into raising her, of course…" She sobbed. "My sister lives in Chicago; she's taking me in, but…" She shook her head.
Jennifer had gone slightly pale, but she was still trying to put on a comforting expression, as was Mary Anne. But Jennifer had a deep-seeded fear of abandonment, born from years of disastrous dating, coupled with being teased for not being able to maintain a relationship. And even after she had found true love with Larry, every so often, that fear reared its ugly head and tore at her from the inside-out, even if she knew she had no reason to fear it.
Mary Anne stepped up now, sensing that Jennifer's mind was going there again.
"I really hope things get better for you," she said, sincerely. "And that you'll find someone else to spend your life with."
"No! I'm not looking for that anymore!" the woman insisted. "You can't trust men! They're all the same—out for a conquest! And when they're bored, they'll move on to the next one!"
Jennifer let out a quiet sigh, trying to suppress her own anxieties.
"Take it from me," she said. "Chicago is a great place to start over."
The woman didn't seem convinced, but she did seem calmer now, once again attending to her child. They had to attend to other passengers, but both Jennifer and Mary Anne made frequent checks on her and her daughter for the remainder of the flight to make sure they were both alright. And once the flight had landed in Chicago, Mary Anne insisted on staying with her until her sister arrived to pick her up; Jennifer stayed, too, and after they had seen her off, they headed for the parking lot, where they had kept Larry's blue LTD—the eventual replacement for the Mustang he had sold years ago for his sister's Julliard tuition. Though it lacked the sentimental value of the Mustang, Larry was still almost as persnickety about the LTD as he had been for the Mustang, and after that incident with Jennifer denting the Mustang's door years ago, she most certainly had asked to borrow the LTD this time, and, without hesitation, he'd handed over the keys.
He loved her. And she knew he loved her. It was foolish to think that Larry would leave her for any reason, let alone the ludicrous idea that he'd stray for another woman.
Even as she sat in the driver's seat, all around her, there was evidence of his devotion—the car cover she'd knitted for him was folded on the back seat beside Tucker's car seat, and stuck on the sun visor clip was a picture of her holding Tucker shortly after his birth, after they'd been rescued from that runaway hot-air-balloon and brought back to terra firma; given the situation they'd been in, Tucker had been swaddled in Larry's jacket—it was a rather ridiculous sight, with Tucker in the jacket and Jennifer looking, in her opinion, like a mess, but Larry never failed to get emotional just thinking about that moment.
"What are you thinking about?" Mary Anne asked from the passenger seat, though she seemed to know the answer already.
"That Larry is quite a catch," she said. She looked over at her best friend and smiled. "You've got quite a catch with Balki, too."
"I sure do," she agreed, with a smile.
"You know, I still can't believe it," Jennifer sighed. "I'd just come off a bad relationship and was convinced that I was done with dating. I take a side job at a health club, selling memberships, I walk into a discount store trying to get the signature of the Mediterranean guy who was so eager that he forgot to sign his form, and then I meet his cousin—my future husband. Who knew?"
"I kinda did—when I saw you trying not to laugh when you saw him falling off of the bench press machine the next day. …I don't think any of your previous boyfriends ever made you smile like that." Mary Anne smiled. "And it was lucky for both of us that you went into the discount store that day—you met your future husband, and I met mine the next day!"
"It took us a few bumps in the road along the way, but the four of us got there eventually," Jennifer agreed. She sobered slightly. "I don't ever want it to end."
"It won't—for a long, long, long time," Mary Anne assured her.
"…I'll take it," Jennifer admitted. With a sigh, she started the car. "Let's go home."
The lights in the house were warm and inviting as they pulled into the driveway. Gathering their things, they entered through the back door through the kitchen. Balki was tending to some things on the stove as Robespierre sat nearby in a high chair, coloring with some crayons.
"Oh, hi, Mary Anne! Cousin Jennifer!"
"Hi, Balki," Jennifer smiled, as Mary Anne kissed him in greeting. "How's it going?"
"Oh, terrific," Balki grinned. "Robespierre is getting good at the whole walking thing; I think I'm going to start teaching him Boochi Tag one of these days." He turned to his son and tickled him on the chin. "Yeah, you want to play Boochi Tag, don' you?" He trailed off into Myposian, and Robespierre giggled at him in response.
Mary Anne picked Robespierre up from the high chair and hugged him.
"Where are Larry and Tucker?" Jennifer asked.
"In the living room; Cousin Larry's been trying to tempt little Tucker into walking, too…" Balki gave an apologetic shrug. "I think Cousin Larry might be a bit concerned that Robespierre has been walking for two weeks already, but Tucker hasn't…"
The words were barely out of his mouth when, suddenly, they heard Larry exclaim from the living room—
"Oh, no; I missed it!?" Jennifer exclaimed, running to the living room, followed by Balki, Mary Anne, and Robespierre.
Larry was just picking up Tucker in a triumphant hug when they walked in; Larry noticed them and gave them a huge grin.
"Mary Anne! Jen! Welcome home!" He kept one arm holding Tucker and drew his free arm around Jennifer, giving her an excited hug. "Jen, guess what happened! No, wait, don't guess—let's see if we can get an encore!" He placed Tucker gently back on the ground. "Okay, Tucker—once more, for Mommy…"
Tucker looked back at him with an amused expression, as though wondering what all the excitement was about. Jennifer knelt down and extended her arms to him, gently calling his name. Tucker turned his attention to her and, slowly, toddled towards her. With a joyful squeal, Jennifer gathered him into a hug, and the warm feeling growing in her heart grew even more intense as Larry knelt beside the both of them, drawing them into a hug, as well. And soon, they were joined on the floor by the three Bartokomouses.
"Cousin, this is so great!" Balki exclaimed. "In a few weeks, they'll be better and better at walking, and, someday, we can teach them the Dance of Joy!"
"You bet, Buddy," Larry grinned, and he turned back to Jennifer. "Well, Jen, you pretty much saw the highlight of our day. How was your day?"
Jennifer exchanged a glance with Mary Anne, and with just a glance, both of their thoughts turned to that unfortunate passenger, as well as to how lucky the two of them were to have such caring and loyal husbands who were heavily invested in the care of their children. It seemed so basic, and yet… was it really that rare?
Mary Anne snuggled up to Balki, still holding Robespierre, and Jennifer leaned in further into Larry's embrace.
"Jen…? Is everything okay?"
"Everything is fine, Larry," she assured him. She glanced up, gently touching the side of his face as she kissed him. "Thank you."
"…For what?" Larry asked, slightly confused.
"For being you."
"That goes for you, too, Balki," Mary Anne said, kissing him again.
The cousins exchanged slightly confused glances, but shrugged, holding their wives and children close, glad to have their families all together again. And Jennifer and Mary Anne held them as well, grateful to be loved—and grateful that Jennifer had walked into Ritz Discount that day years ago.