Title: Unexpected Discoveries, Epilogue
Disclaimers and other info in prologue.
AJ pulled at his sleeve again. Mac reached over and stilled his movements. "AJ. Everything will be fine," she said soothingly.
"I know that," he snapped. Mac didn't take it personally. She knew he was nervous. Hell, she was nervous.
"Then why do you keep fidgeting? I've never seen you so restless." She ran a brush through her hair.
AJ sighed. "I'm sorry, Mac," he said contritely. "I shouldn't take it out on you."
"No, you shouldn't," she replied in a mild tone. "But I do understand."
"It's just that..." AJ struggled. "It's been nearly forty years! What if...?"
At any other time, Mac would have smiled at AJ's obvious insecurity. However, this was not a good time to laugh or seem anything but serious. "AJ, your parents love you. They would welcome you home even if you waited another forty years. Stop worrying."
"You're right." AJ straightened up and cleared his throat. "You ready?"
Her stomach fluttered in a mixture of nerves and excitement. "Yes. Are you?"
"As ready as I'll ever be," AJ muttered.
"Good." Mac wrapped her arms around him. "You'll have to guide me, you know," she smiled cheekily as he looked at her in amusement.
"Of course," he replied. He shook his head and pulled her into his embrace. "Get ready. I haven't done this in a while." Mac closed her eyes and felt the world jerk.
When she opened them again, they stood at the edge of a long driveway. A large house was loomed over them--the quintessential house on the hill. Her eyes widened, and she clutched AJ's hand as they began the long walk up the driveway.
"Relax, Sarah," he murmured. "You'll be fine. They'll love you." They reached the top of the driveway. Mac swallowed. She took a deep breath.
AJ stopped her before they walked up the steps to the porch. "Just one thing," he said, reaching into his pocket. "I think they'll love you more..." He pulled out a small black box. "...If you're wearing this."
Mac's heart leapt into her throat as he opened the box. "AJ..." she whispered, stunned. A gorgeous diamond ring sparkled at her in the mid-afternoon sunlight.
"Sarah MacKenzie, I asked you before to marry me, but you wanted to wait until we knew each other better. Well, I know you better than anyone else, and I'm asking again. Will you marry me?"
Her breath caught at the look in his eyes. It was loving, hopeful, and vulnerable all at the same time. She swallowed. 'Crunch time, Mac,' she thought. 'What'll it be?'
A plea bargain for his heart. That was what he had called it, and she should've known he would make the offer again. He was just that kind of lawyer... that kind of man. Once he knew what he wanted, he went for it.
What did she want? She wanted a family of her own. She wanted stability. She wanted a strong but gentle companion to grow old with. She wanted love.
She wanted AJ.
Mac nodded. Tears began to stream down her face, but she didn't hide them. "Yes," she whispered. "I will."
A brilliant smile spread over AJ's face. He removed the ring from the box and took Mac's left hand in his. They both watched intently as he slid the ring onto her finger. As it nestled at the base of her finger, Mac giggled. She looked up at AJ's face and laughed joyously. She threw her arms around her fiancé and kissed him while standing on the steps leading to his childhood home.
She finally ended the kiss. "Come on. Let's go meet the parents," she smiled.
"Here goes nothing," AJ muttered. Mac smacked his arm. He pouted playfully. "You know, I get a lot of abuse from you." He lifted the knocker and let it fall.
"Oh, you know you love it," Mac teased.
His riposte was interrupted with the opening of the door. A tiny woman looked up at them, curiosity written all over her face. "Can I help..." She trailed off. The look on her face transformed into shock warring with joy.
AJ confirmed the woman's identity with his soft greeting. "Hello, Mama."
The gray-haired woman turned and shouted up the stairs, "Edward! Edward, come here quickly!" Her voice was hopeful as she asked, "Albert?"
"It's me, Mama," AJ smiled.
"Albert!" AJ's mother hugged her son fiercely, as if she would never let him go. "I can't believe it's you!" She sobbed unapologetically. AJ rocked her back and forth as she cried.
A tall, dignified older man walked down the stairs. Mac knew immediately who this was. The sharp, alert gaze was all it took.
"Marie," the man said in a quiet voice, his eyes not leaving Mac's. He raised an eyebrow. Mac lifted her chin defiantly. He smiled a familiar half-grin and nodded in approval. "Marie?" His gaze went to his wife.
"Edward!" She broke out of AJ's arms and turned to her husband. "Albert's come home!"
"I can see that, Marie," Edward said dryly. The two men stared at each other. AJ made the first move.
"Dad." He stepped forward and held out a hand.
"Albert." His father pulled him into a hug. Mac was surprised to see tears spring to AJ's eyes as he embraced the man he had been feuding with for four decades. "Welcome home, son." The elder Chegwidden male was on the verge of tears as well.
Mac sniffled quietly. AJ and Edward stepped apart. "Aren't you going to introduce us to your lady friend, Albert?" Marie asked.
AJ took Mac's hand. "Mama, Dad, this is Sarah MacKenzie, my fiancée."
Marie Chegwidden shrieked and threw herself at her son again. "Finally, my baby boy is getting married! When do I get grandchildren to spoil?"
"Mama..." AJ groaned.
"Marie, perhaps we should let AJ and Sarah get comfortable before pelting them with questions," Edward cut in. He winked at Mac, and she grinned at him. She had the feeling that she would like this man.
"Of course! Albert, you remember where the parlor is, don't you, dear? I'll go get some tea while you make yourselves comfortable." Marie practically ran to the kitchen.
Mac couldn't help it. She laughed. "Didn't I tell you everything would be all right, AJ?"
"Yes, dear," he quipped. He led her into the richly furnished parlor. "Thank you," he whispered in her ear as they sat.
"No," Mac replied in a soft voice. "Thank you." Their eyes met, and Mac smiled in contentment.
AJ wasn't the only one who had finally found his way home.