Holds Me Together
Rating: T-M Just in case
Disclaimer: You know the drill.
A/N: Much love! Sorry for the proofreading as always. FYI: This chapter's going to be considered the epilogue for this story. First and foremost thank you for all sticking with me, I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it! Secondly, yes there will most likely be a third story, stay tuned! And Thirdly, just to let you know this chapter leapfrogs a bit into the future, but not very far, just so you aren't too disoriented. Enjoy!
Chapter 17 – All That I Need Is Right Here
"Girardi!" Grace called out over the loud buzz of annoying travelers huddled around the baggage claim carousel. She had managed to find her suitcase and finally had spotted Joan and was now trying to make her way through rude, tired, travelers.
When Joan spotted her, she almost squealed as she launched herself at Grace. "You're here!" She cheered.
Grace disentangled herself from Joan quickly, "Can we save the greetings for a less crowded place?" She asked with one of her all too familiar smirks.
Joan smiled and nodded, "Gladly, let's go." They made their way out into the May evening.
Once they were safely inside Joan's car, which was a new metallic dark blue GTO, a far cry from Squiggy, Joan brought the engine to life and started driving.
"I can't believe you live in New York and have a car," Grace commented, looking around at the pristine vehicle.
"We only use it when we have far enough places to go," Joan defended, "Like back home to Arcadia, or for picking someone up from the airport."
Grace smirked at this before moving on in subject matter. "You know you totally owe me big time for this," She commented.
"Oh come on Grace, you dress up for work all the time," Joan retorted. Grace smiled as she looked out the window.
"At least I get paid for that," Grace muttered, doing her best to sound put out for having to wear a dress and be Joan's maid of honor.
"Oh that's how it is huh?" Joan replied, she reached for one of the cup holders and pulled a quarter out of it, holding it out to Grace without looking away from the road. "Well here you go," She said.
Grace couldn't help the chortle of laughter that escaped her as Joan dropped the quarter into her palm. "Well, it's not my usual fee, but I suppose, it'll do," She commented sarcastically.
The rest of the ride was spent talking about what had been going on in their lives since they last saw each other over the Christmas holidays. After completing her Bachelor's degree in two years by taking classes during summer and doubling her course work during the regular semesters Grace moved straight on to Graduate school, at Harvard Law, spent the last three years working as hard and as fast as possible. She passed her bar exam easily and had been recruited by the firm she'd been working for since her first year of college thanks to Fleur, since she'd graduated last may in 2011. In fact the reason she had had to fly in so late was that she had been waiting for two days for a jury to return a verdict in a child abuse case. The jury had come back at nearly 4:30pm, narrowly avoiding stalling Grace for another day so the jury could deliberate on Friday. Afterwards she'd gone back to the apartment where she already had everything she needed packed and had left immediately for the airport, as her scheduled flight was for 6:30.
Joan had taken an interesting turn in her school career. She'd met her two year goal easily and had transferred to NYU where she'd spent three and a half years working through summer and winter holidays completing a Ph.D in Clinical psychology. She'd finished her degree this past December-and amazing feet considering the turn Joan and Adam's life had taken not too long ago-and had just walked with the graduating class the Saturday before. Grace had been unable to come down for the ceremony but had made sure to send her present along and called Joan in the evening.
Adam had transferred after the end of their first year in college to Columbia to finish his media arts degree. He had quickly, thanks to the ease of his money situation now, found a nice studio apartment to continue making his art in while he went to school. By the time he'd graduated, after four years, in 2010, his sculptures and artwork were going easily for double-digit thousand dollar biddings, and in a few rare cases, he reached over $100,000 biddings. He was currently working as a freelance marketing and advertising art consultant while still making art for Sadie's gallery. Out of loyalty to her, he had refused to release his art to any other gallery.
When Joan had transferred she'd, naturally, moved right in with Adam. When she'd graduated this past December, he'd used his own money to lease out an office in a building that was nearby Sadie's gallery. It was full of psychologists and a couple of doctor's offices. Joan had been interested in starting her own office in order to start working as a clinical psychologist working mostly with adolescents and children under 18. Since the others in the building were already established in other topics, they welcomed Joan's practice in, since they all worked together to help people and gave each other references and referrals when appropriate.
It seemed everything was working out. Luke had completed his Graduate studies in 2010 and was working as a forensic pathologist for the FBI thanks to some FBI connections his father set up for him. He had been in town since Tuesday.
Considering it was only 8:30 at night, the traffic wasn't too horrible it had only taken a half an hour to get from La Guardia Airport to Joan and Adam's apartment near Washington Square Park. Joan took a turn right into the parking garage for their building and found her spot.
"I figured you're only staying a few blocks away, we can stop in for a few minutes before we bring you over there right?" Joan asked as she and Grace climbed out of the car and Grace pulled the handle of her wheeling suitcase. Grace nodded. "Besides Kevin and Lily are staying with us so Caleb and Katie are with them," Joan gushed. Caleb would be 5 in October and Katie was born two years after him, she was turning 3 in July.
Grace smiled at this but a new question she'd been waiting to ask Joan since they had greeted each other came up as they made it into the elevator. "How's Gabe?" She asked.
Joan smiled. "Oh he's all out of whack since Caleb and Katie are visiting," She almost laughed as she said it.
They were mostly silent as they entered the large, open apartment.
"We're here," Joan called out. Loud thumping footsteps bounded forward and around the corner. Caleb and Katie skidded to a stop only when they hit Grace at the knees and hip, latching their arms around her. Grace's eyes had widened but she hadn't had enough time to brace herself and she found herself on her back on the floor before she could even speak.
"Hi aunt Grace!" The two of them chorused, grinning widely at her.
"What'd you bring us?" Caleb inquired.
Grace laughed. "That's how you greet me? You assault me and ask for presents?" She asked, reaching out to tickle them as a punishment as she sat up. The giggled madly and nodded.
"Ye-eee-eesss!" Caleb answered through his giggles as the two untangled themselves from her.
"O-kay…" Grace said dramatically, before reaching into a compartment in her bag. "I suppose I can give you these then," She handed them each a present. Katie's was a stuffed turtle, since she'd been collecting them for a year now. She hugged it and cheered before diving at Grace for another hug. Caleb's was a bag full of packs of baseball cards, since he had started recently collecting them. He hugged Grace as well and then ran off to the living room to open all of them.
"Adam?" Joan called out, as she and Grace advanced into the apartment to the living room.
"I'm coming!" Adam called out from somewhere up the hallway of doors to their right.
"Hey," Adam came out of the hallway and greeted Joan with a kiss on the cheek before turning to Grace and dragging her to him in a one-armed hug.
"Whoa, too many hugs in such a short time people," Grace stated. "Is there a phobia for that?" She mused.
"Gabe, are you going to hide or come say hi?" Joan asked, leaning around Adam to speak.
Grace looked down and saw a small boy with dark hair that mirrored Adam and Joan's hair and the same chocolate brown eyes as them. He stood with his right thumb stuffed into his mouth and his left hand clinging to Adam's hand. He looked timid, and frightened but highly curious. Grace couldn't blame him, since his birth just after Christmas of 2010; Grace had seen Gabriel a total of 20 times, if that. He was only a year and half old and was still getting used to recognizing people who he didn't see more than 4 times a year. Adam turned and picked the little boy up, resting him against his hip.
"You remember Aunt Grace don't you?" He asked Gabe. Gabe looked Grace.
Grace smiled and offered a small wave. "Hey Gabe," She said warmly, hoping she didn't scare him any further. Gabe instantly turned his head and buried it into Adam's shoulder, curling against him tightly.
"Guess not," Adam supplied with a sheepish smile.
"Where are Kev and Lily?" Joan asked as she poured a few sodas for them in the large kitchen that was separated from the living room by a strategically placed wall that had a breakfast counter on the side facing the living room. Grace accepted one gratefully.
"Went to drop some stuff your mom and Dad left in their carry-on bag," Adam supplied. "They should be back in a little bit."
Joan nodded. "Okay, I'm going to go with Grace to the hotel to check in," She turned to look at Grace, "Okay?"
Grace nodded. "Hey, I'm all up for being carted around," She nodded. Adam rolled his eyes and shook his head smiling.
"You guys wanna say goodnight to Aunt Grace?" Joan asked turning to look at Caleb and Katie playing with their new presents in the living room. They looked up and nodded before they ran over, hugged Grace quickly and went back to their presents.
Adam hunched his shoulder to get Gabe's attention. "You're not even gonna say buhbyes?" He asked. Grace stifled the laugh she wanted to let out at hearing Adam talk to his son. Gabe shook his head, not moving. "Aw, come on, you're going to hurt aunt Grace's feelings," He said. Gabe looked up to see if his daddy was telling the truth so Grace, reluctantly but quickly, pouted her bottom lip dramatically and pretended to wipe a tear away. Right away Gabe took his hand out of his mouth and reached out for her. Joan and Adam laughed and Grace smiled as she accepted Gabe from Adam's arms and hugged him.
"Bye-bye Gabe," She smiled as she offered him back over to Adam before she and Joan headed back out of the apartment.
Once in the lobby of the hotel she was staying in, Grace and Joan said goodbye and Joan left to go home. Grace approached the front desk.
"May I help you ma'am?" The man behind the desk with a name tag reading 'Bluto' asked as she approached.
Grace smiled, mostly because she was thinking about how his parents must have been as mean as Friedman's for giving him such a name; or they just really liked Popeye. She wondered if he had a sister named Olive. "Uhm, yes, it's under Polk," She spoke up after clearing her throat.
Bluto smiled. "Yes, we've been awaiting your arrival," He turned around and went to a mailbox, bringing back an electronic key. "You're in room 949," He handed her the key.
"Thanks," Grace took the card and turned, pulling her suitcase behind her to the elevator.
Once she reached the floor, she stepped out and read the number plaques before turning to her left and heading down the hallway to the last door on the left. Smiling to herself she slid the keycard into the slot and opened the door. She stepped in, put her bag next to her and shut the door behind her.
"Hey there stranger…" She offered an impish grin as Luke stepped out of the bathroom with a towel on to inspect who had entered his room as he'd just gotten out of the shower.
His smiled matched the mischief in hers. "Took you long enough to get here…" He said as he took another step forward, just as Grace took a step towards him.
"A woman's gotta work you know," She commented, biting her bottom lip slightly as they gravitated another lingering step towards each other.
"Oh, of course, definitely," He replied with a mock look of agreement. Both of them let smiles spread across their faces and they swiftly closed the gap between them. Grace linked her arms around his neck and ran a hand through the back of his wet hair as he pulled her to him by her waist and their lips connected, engaging them in a long awaited kiss.
After a long few minutes, Grace pulled away looking up at him with a grin. "I like you in this new look," She ran a hand across the top line of the towel, looking down at it and then back at him.
"I supposed it would be easier then having to unbuckle a belt and jeans," He shrugged, playing along.
Grace gave him a sly grin, "Ah well, there you go always think of me," She said before they commenced in kissing again, edging easily towards the oversized bed.
Friday morning rolled around easily. Luke and Adam's main job for the day was to chauffer everyone who was flying in from the airport to the hotel Luke; Grace, Helen and Will were staying at. This meant primarily that Johana and Tristan were flying in from Arizona at 11:30 am with their daughter Jocelyn, who had just turned three and was born a year before she and Tristan graduated. Johana had continued going to school after Jocelyn was born and finished on time. Tristan had waited until Johana had graduated to finish schooling, opting instead to get a full time. Hayley and Brandon, who were finally engaged, were flying in at 1pm. Hayley had graduated a year before Brandon, since she was older, and had gone into real-estate at her father's company. Brandon was going for his Master's Degree in marketing, but was working at Hayley's father's company in the mean time, just not as a real-estate agent. Missy, who had become a good friend of Joan's after coming down for Thanksgiving breaks and visits sometimes when Luke and Grace did was flying in at 12:45 with, of all people, Collier as her escort. Even Joan's favorite professor/kickboxing coach, Jessie Brinks was flying out with her husband. They were going to be arriving late, around 7pm. They had phoned ahead and assured Joan that they would take a cab to the hotel, since the rehearsal started at 5pm, with the rehearsal dinner following at 6:30pm.
Grace, Lily, Helen and Joan spent the day insuring that everything was in order. All of their dresses were pressed and so they picked them up and dropped them off at Joan and Adam's apartment. They made many phone calls to check on the hall and make sure everything was okay for Saturday, to check and see if the flowers were ready to be dropped off in the morning, to make sure the limo company knew where to come to pick everyone up in the morning, and other such arrangements.
By 3pm Luke and Grace met up again at their hotel room. Grace dramatically flopped onto the bed and let out a sigh.
"This is way too much work," She reached up to rub her face, "I'm never planning a wedding…" She commented.
Luke was too busy staring at her shirt riding up along her stomach as she stretched to pay too much attention to Grace's frustrated comment.
"It's all about Vegas…or maybe a beach…no," Grace shook her head, still rubbing her eyes, "I don't like beaches much…anyway the keyword is elope…" she propped herself up on her elbows and looked at Luke. He just watched her, amused. "Not that I'm getting married…who needs institution?" She questioned.
Luke simply smiled and shrugged. "Marriage isn't about forcing yourself to spend the rest of your life with someone," He stated as he flopped down on his back next to her, "It's wanting to."
Grace mulled this over for a few minutes before she became uncomfortable with her own thoughts. She dug into her pocket and pulled out a quarter. "Heads I shower first, tails you do," She said. Luke sat up as she flipped the quarter and reached out and caught it in mid-air. "Hey…" Grace frowned and crossed her arms.
Luke grinned and pressed his forehead to hers. "Who says we have to take separate showers?"
Grace snickered at him. "We usually wind up late when we do that…" She warned.
"We don't have to be in the lobby until 4:30…" He pressed on, moving in to start trailing kisses into her neck. Grace bit sucked her bottom lip in and bit into it, closing her eyes, losing her side of the argument.
"God, I'm glad I don't have to go to court against you…" She spoke up in a low whisper.
Luke laughed. He knew he'd won as he kissed on.
After the rehearsal, Joan, Adam, Will, Helen, Lilly, Kevin, Grace, Luke, Johana, Tristan, Missy, Collier, Hayley, Brandon, and the kids, Caleb, Katrina, Gabe and Jocelyn went to Da Salvino for dinner. Grace wasted no time in making a comment about Italians and their food causing Will, Luke and Kevin to promptly rub their stomachs muttering 'bring on that garlic.'
By the time the appetizers came the long table they were seated at was buzzing with laughter and conversation. Actually, it was more like a couple of tables pulled together. Will sat at the head of one side, to his left sat Helen, then Joan, Adam, Gabe (in a highchair), Johana, Tristan, Jocelyn and Lilly. Kevin was at the other end in his wheelchair with Lilly to his right. Along the other side to his left sat Katrina in a booster seat, then Caleb, Grace, Luke, Missy, Collier, Hayley and Brandon.
Lily was talking to Johana and Tristan about their jobs and the daycare center Lily had started in Arcadia while Kevin was keeping Katie entertained but bringing a piece of toasted bread to life and making it talk. Grace was showing Caleb how to fold paper boats while Luke talked to Missy, Collier and Adam about various things. Hayley and Brandon were telling Joan all about what they were doing in California. Talking about real-estate sent Will into a long conversation with Hayley while Helen was interested in taking Gabe form his chair to her lap so she could bounce him on her knee and shower the top of his head with kisses.
"I've been thinking about what you said," Grace commented to Luke after their main courses had come and the table's chatter had increased as they ate their dishes.
"What did I say?" Luke asked after swallowing a mouthful of pasta.
Grace smirked and wiped some pasta gravy off of his cheek. Once she was confident that no one was listening to them, she spoke up with an answer. "About marriage," She said.
Luke looked at her strangely but nodded, allowing her to continue. "I think you're right," She nodded.
"Am I?" He asked. Grace looked at him smugly; he was not going to make this easy for her. Luke smiled.
"Yes," She nodded. "I mean, maybe my parents married each other because they thought they wanted to, and I spent most of my life seeing how they just forced themselves to stay married. But," Grace glanced down the table at Helen and Will. They were both feeding short strings of pasta to Gabe and laughing when he got gravy all over his face and he reached his stubby little hands out to smear it all over before licking at his palm and fingers. Grace shrugged, "I don't know…I understand how you grew up understanding that it was about wanting to you know…share your life and all that…mumbo-jumbo…" Grace began to blush.
"Mumbo-jumbo?" Luke grinned. He let his shoulder tap hers playfully. "I was starting to get worried you were going soft on me…" He teased her.
Grace shrugged, "I'm just saying…I think you're right and I agree with you," She stated.
Luke nodded. "Good-," He began to say.
"That doesn't mean I want to get married, brain…" She said hastily.
Luke held his hands up in defense. "Loud and clear…" He commented, though the slight disappoint me he couldn't cover up did not go unnoticed by Grace as they started eating again.
Once dinner was finished everyone walked back to Joan and Adam's apartment since it wasn't far from the restaurant. Once inside Joan went to put Gabe to sleep since he'd been falling asleep on her shoulder the whole walk home. Everyone gathered in the living room for a few more conversations before everyone staying in the hotel prepared to leave. Johana and Grace were staying behind, as bridesmaids to stay at the apartment. Will was going to stay at the apartment and watch the kids so that Lily, Grace, Helen, Johana, Missy and Hayley could take Joan out. Jessie Brinks and Sadie were going to meet them out at the bar they were heading. Likewise, Kevin, Luke, Brandon, Tristan and Collier were going to bring Adam out. At the end of the night Johana, Lily, Grace and Hayley would bring Joan back to the apartment and they would prepare for the wedding there in the morning. Adam was going to go back and stay in Luke's room, where they hotel was supposed to be setting up an extra cot for Luke to sleep on.
"Come on Grace loosen up a little bit!" Hayley said, giving Grace's arm a slight shove. They were in a trendy club, aptly named Rehab. In the corner by the stage where a DJ was playing and lights were flashing, was a long horseshoe shaped plush booth that the women occupied. Grace was seated on the end with Helen next to her. She was drinking a cup of water. They'd been here for only two hours and already Hayley, Johana and Joan were buzzed. Jessie had shown up shortly after they'd arrived and soon Glynis arrived, fresh from flying in late with Sweet Lou, who had gone to meet up with the boys.
At the moment everyone except for Helen and Grace were out on the dance floor dancing to some monotonous techno song.
"Oh, no, I'm fine, thanks," Grace assured, declining the drink Hayley held out for her. Hayley shrugged and left the extra drink on the table before heading back into the crowd. Grace glanced at Helen, who was watching her thoughtfully. They seemed to be having an unspoken conversation when Glynis came over from the bar and sat down next to Grace with a cup of water. Glynis' appearance was a far cry from what it had been in high school. When she'd started getting low on cash due to tuition, she'd picked up modeling jobs to pay for what she needed.
"You're not drinking tonight?" Grace asked over the music.
Glynis blushed. She shook her head. "Oh no, I can't," She smiled with one of her infamous nervous laughs.
"You can't?" Helen asked suspiciously.
Glynis shook her head. "Oh no, it would be very injudicious and detrimental," She said absently with a nod. Grace raised her eyebrow.
Helen's eyes widened. "Glynis, are you pregnant?" Helen asked when she noticed Glynis chewing ice cubes as if she was trying to settle her stomach. Even Grace looked shocked at the statement. Glynis blushed at looked at Helen, who had just put her wine glass down.
Glynis nodded, "I haven't told anyone but Louis yet," She stated.
It was then at Grace noticed a large diamond ring on Glynis' left hand. She reached out and grabbed Glynis' hand to examine it.
"How did Sweet Lou score that big of a rock?" She asked in shock.
"Congratulations, Glynis," Helen said, still in shock.
"Thank you Mrs. Girardi," Glynis smiled. She turned her attention to Grace. Grace knew Lou was a genius. He'd been in college since he was 16 and had graduated to become a doctor at 24, two years ago in 2010. It had garnered him the nickname of Doogie, from Doogie Howser. Grace didn't think Lou had it in him to marry anyone.
"He thought he was the one with the big news of the night, ha-ha," Glynis laughed her normal anxious laugh. "He asked me, I said yes and then I told him," She smiled.
Grace nodded. This was too much. Even Sweet Lou was the marrying kind. Before anymore could be said, the rest of the group came over. It was time to head for another club.
"What've you got there?" Adam asked. He was sitting next to Luke at the corner of the bar in the pub the guys were at. Collier and Brandon were playing Tristan and Sweet Lou at a game of pool and Kevin was giving Collier and Tristan pointers since they didn't know how to play. Luke and Adam were sitting at the bar, chatting and drinking. Luke looked down at the black box in his hand.
He put it down on the bar in front of Adam with a sigh before picking up his bottle of beer and drinking down a gulp. Adam reached out and opened the box. Inside was an engagement ring. Its band was white gold and it had a big diamond in the middle with five small diamond's running down each side of the band.
Adam was shocked for a moment but he replied with a joke, "Sorry, man, I'm taken," He teased.
Luke offered a small smirk of a smile and then took another drink. Adam became serious.
"Are you going to ask Grace?" He questioned, even though the answer seemed obvious. Luke thought about this question for a minute before looking at Adam. He shrugged. "I don't think she'll say yes," He sighed.
Adam studied the ring. He knew it must have cost a pretty penny. At some point Luke had to be pretty sure that Grace would say yes, or else, why would he have bought it.
"I've had that since the day before we graduated high school," Luke spoke up. Adam stared at Luke in shock as Luke took the box back, staring at the ring for a few minutes. He laughed slightly at himself. "Only, I've been too chicken to ask her. I'd rather be with her, than have her leave me because I asked her to marry me," He confessed.
Adam smiled slightly at this. He had spoken to Grace two times in their lives about marriage. Once had been when they were nine and the other had been when Gabe was born.
Grace had known before then that Adam and Joan were going to get married. She stared through the nursery window at Gabe while standing next to him.
"You know…" She had spoken up, "and make no mistake, if you tell anyone I said this you're a dead man…but, watching you guys and seeing him…I can see why people have good reason to get married…I suppose it wouldn't be so bad," She said. Adam had smiled. Though it didn't seem like it, Grace had just admitted that she would like to marry Luke one day.
"Well," Adam finally spoke. "First of all, I doubt she'd break up with you. At worst, she'd probably smack you and tell you that you're crazy for thinking she would want to become someone's property," He laughed. Luke had to smile at this comment. "However…if you want some advice from someone with inside knowledge…" Adam trailed off.
Luke looked at Adam. "I'm listening…" He said slowly.
Adam nodded. "I think she'd say yes to you," He confessed, taking a sip of his own beer. "When we were nine she wanted to get married out on a hillside at sunset. Of course, she didn't want to get married in a big fluffy white dress though. She never liked that idea, she always said it seemed too uncomfortable," Adam nodded. Both of them couldn't help but laugh at this.
"I don't know," Luke finished off his beer and ordered another.
"That's just it, though," Adam put a hand on Luke's shoulder. "You'll never know if you never risk it and put the question out there."
Luke nodded and stuffed the ring in his pocket. "I'll ask her…soon."
"Good luck," Adam held his bottle out and Luke clinked the top of his bottle with Adam's.
"Yeah, really," He chuckled before he took a drink.
"If that's Adam tell him he's not allowed in!" Joan demanded as Grace went to the door of the back room at the Church. Helen was helping Joan with her veil as Johana, Hayley, Glynis and Lily fixed her train. Grace walked over to the door and opened it enough to peak her head out.
"Luke! What are you doing?" Grace asked with a smile. She hadn't seen him since the end of dinner the night before. Before she could demand him to answer he kissed her.
"I came to make sure everything was okay," He tried to strain his neck to look around Grace and see Joan in her dress. Grace blocked his view and laughed.
"Oh, no you don't," She teased.
Luke held something out. "Here, there's one for everyone but make sure Joan gets this one, and this one is yours,"
Grace looked down and saw gift boxes in his hands. Grace took them, looking confused and interested. He held one more out.
"This one's for mom," He gave it to her. He looked nervous. Grace was perplexed.
"Okay, what's going on?" She asked him.
"Do you girls need any help?" He asked. "I was sent to see if you need help. Plus I wanted to give you those," He motioned towards the packages.
"No, we're fine," Grace assured.
"Okay, they want to start in 15 minutes," Luke told her.
Grace nodded. "Gotcha. We'll be ready," She promised. Luke leaned in and kissed her again. Grace swatted him again. "Stop it, we're in a church dude," She said playfully.
Luke gave her a last lingering smile. "Have I told you today that I love you?" He asked her.
Grace flushed. "Dude, this stuff is making you way too sappy…" She teased him. Luke smiled and kissed her once more before turning to go finish helping guests to their pews. "Hey Luke?" Grace called in a whisper. Luke turned his head back to her. "I love you too," She said before disappearing and shutting the door. Luke just smiled at the door and then went to escort someone.
"What's all that?" Joan asked.
"Luke gave them to me…" She passed them out to everyone by whose name was on it. Johana, Hayley, Glynis and Lily's all contained silver bracelets that matched their bridesmaids dresses and a short letter, thanking them for being true friends and for always supporting his sister. Helen held a beautiful pearl necklace and a letter professing her a wonderful mother that none of them deserved and expressing his gratitude and love for her. Joan's contained a gold necklace charm in the shape of a little boy with green painted shorts and a baseball cap that she could put on her necklace with the sun charm on it. It held three page letter, front and back, telling her how much she meant to him and that she was her closest friend despite the fact that they fought like cats and dogs most of their lives and picked on each other. He told her how happy he was for her and how proud of her he was for not only finishing school but for taking her education past the level almost everyone told her she never could. He also told her that he always believed she could do it, even if he picked on her for her intelligence; he never doubted her will power and determination. Joan was in tears by the end of the letter and the others had to make sure her eye make up didn't run.
"What's yours, Grace?" Joan asked after a sniffle as Helen helped her put the charm on her necklace.
Grace looked at her package, almost afraid to open it in front of anyone, in case it made her as emotional as Joan. Slowly she opened the box. Inside were a small velvet bag and a letter. She took the letter out and read it thoroughly. It was short, just a page long, but held volumes in a few words.
Before you freak out and threaten to murder me for this, let me share with you a few important things, Grace. I love you. Yes, I know you know that. You asked me a few weeks ago why I love you. Well, there are a lot of reasons. I love how strong you are. I love how determined you are in everything you do. I love how fierce you are. I love how you're willing to grow and change and not apologize for it. I love how fiery and stormy your eyes get when you're working on a case to help a kid, or a family or any one in need who's been dealt an injustice. I love walking around the city with you just because you can't stand to be inside anymore, and that pair of Chuck Taylor's you wear even though the soles are worn down and your feet get soaked when you accidentally tread into puddles. I love everything there is to love about you.
Do you remember that conversation? When you asked me what I could possibly love about you when you had so much baggage and flaws? That's just it Grace, I love everything about you-even that baggage and the flaws. Nothing is ever routine with you. Well, no, one thing is routine-you love me. I know you do, I can see it, I can feel it. Anyway…this is a big day, not just for Joan. It's a big day for all of us. We've been together and fighting for a long time, the four of us. Joan and Adam are completing part of the future today. I've had this present, since the day before we graduated high school. I've been waiting for a long time to give it to you. I've always been afraid that your reaction to this would be the end of us, but I can't keep fearing such silly matters. Love, ours especially, is stronger than gold, diamonds, and documents binding us together. I meant what I said; marriage is about two people wanting to share their lives forever.
I love you, Luke.
P.S. – Dump your present out into your hand already, would you!
Everyone was watching Grace by now. Her eyes were welling, so they knew it must have been good. Slowly she tipped the little bag upside down into her hand. A little piece of paper slid out followed by something hard. Grace looked at the paper and her eyes widened dramatically. Timidly she looked down, her mouth gaping open, at the ring in her hand.
"Oh my God!" Joan rushed over to her. She saw the little piece of paper reading 'will you marry me' on it and then the ring as Grace stared at it, frozen. Joan was almost squealing as Helen and the others rushed over.
"Oh, Grace it's so beautiful!" Glynis commented.
"She looks like she's going to hurl," Johana almost laughed.
"Well, are you going to say yes, girl?" Hayley asked.
Grace looked around at them, dumbstruck and almost terrified. Her eyes landed on Joan's. Joan smiled warmly at her. Clearly she knew that this had been in Luke's possession for awhile.
"I…" She couldn't think of what to say. "I don't know…" She said nervously. Suddenly a knock came at the door.
"Are you ladies ready?" A deep voice called through the door. It was Will.
"We're coming, Daddy!" Joan assured. She told the others to go ahead and that she and Grace would be out in a minute. They all ushered out and left the two alone. "Grace?" Joan asked putting a hand on Grace's shoulder. "Are you all right?"
"I'm…freaked," She nodded. She took a deep breath and shook her head. "It's not a big deal. This is your day. Let's get you and Rove married," She said to Joan.
"Oh no you don't!" Joan said. "We are not leaving this room until you decide," Joan said defiantly.
Caleb helped Gabe up the isle as the ring bearers during the ceremony. Katie and Jocelyn were flower girls. Behind them the bridesmaids and the groomsmen walked up the isle. Luke stood just behind Adam, with Gabe at his side, holding tightly to his pant leg with a pacifier in his mouth. Adam swallowed hard, staring at Joan as she walked up the isle. Luke looked at Grace, trying to see her hand. Grace remained with a smile plastered to her face. She'd promised Joan she would smile for the pictures. She kept her hands hidden from Luke with her bouquet. She had to make him squirm after all.
The ceremony was sweet, and relatively short. It brought tears to Helen's eyes, but Will cried harder in Grace's opinion. Everyone was glad to be at the reception though, where they could relax. After the cocktail hour, the bridal party was announced and walked in, followed by Adam and Joan's first dance as a married couple.
They danced to "I Knew I Loved You" by Savage Garden. Halfway through the song, Gabe trotted up and reached out for them, so Adam scooped him up easily and they swayed with him as they danced. Neither of them could stop smiling.
After the dance everyone sat down to dinner. Grace was careful to keep Luke in suspense throughout dinner. It worked out well because Adam and Joan were seated in the middle of the table and the groomsmen sat on Adam's side and the bridesmaids sat on Joan's sides. After dinner were the toasts. Will made a tearful toast to his daughter. Kevin had pulled himself out of his chair and into a standing position, something he'd only recently been able to do for short periods of time and made a toast about Joan and Adam and even made everyone laugh by commenting that he was older so he should have been the best man. Then Luke made his toast, one he'd written long ago and managed to leave hardly a dry eye in the house. Last it was Grace's turn. She managed to make everyone laugh at her stories from high school of Joan and Adam being turbulent but steady in their feelings even when they hid them from each other.
Sometime around midnight, Grace spotted Luke off to the back of the hall swaying with Katie on his hip. He head was burrowed in his shoulder and neck and she was asleep. In his free hand Luke was nursing the end of a rum and coke. He put it on the table and let his hands fold together under her rear to support her better. Grace smiled to herself as she sat at her seat for the first time since the toasts had ended. She given in to Joan's requests finally and had been dancing. Luke still hadn't managed to see if she was wearing the ring or not.
Finally, when Grace had gotten to sit down, after many bathroom trips to fix Joan's dress, and fast dances to crappy cliché songs, Grace simply reveled in watching Luke with his niece. It was short-lived however, because Kevin rolled over and Luke handed Katie over gently. She woke up only for a minute to realize who had her and then curled into Kevin's lap and fell back asleep. Luke smiled and he and Kevin talked for a few more minutes. Afterwards, Luke looked into the direction he knew Grace had been sitting only to see her gone. He went over to the edge of the dance floor and was about to speak when the DJ interrupted to dedicate a song.
"I was told to send this one out to…" He looked at the paper in front of him, "Brain. She says you know who you are," And he started playing the song.
Luke smiled slightly as Grace appeared in front of him.
I don't need whiskey, to drown out the pain…/Or some old umbrella, to hold off the rain…/Don't have to cross over, a river of tears…/All that I need is right here…
"So are we going to dance or are you going to gawk at me?" She asked. Luke hadn't even looked at her hand now that it was in plain view. He stepped forward and swooped her into his arms. He took her left hand in his right and laid his right arm around to her back. Grace rested her right arm at Luke's shoulder as he smiled down at her and they began to dance to the tune.
"I thought we agreed no more country songs?" He asked with a grin. Both of them had reluctantly become somewhat country fans thanks to Squiggy's radio never being fixed years ago when they drove her.
"Shut up," Grace said quietly. "This is the sappiest I'm going to be for awhile so listen close, brain…" She told him.
Luke smiled as they swayed. "That's not true…I can just put on the animal channel…I know your weakness for puppies…" He grinned. Grace rolled her eyes at him and sighed. She moved her right arm around him further and put her head down against his shoulder.
Holdin' you…hold me together…/When holding on…gets just a little too hard…/When this tight rope I travel…/Begins to unravel, and I feel like I'm falling apart…/Holdin' you…holds me together…
Grace was aware of Luke's embrace tightening on her a little as they continued to dance. She didn't even mind that Joan and Adam and Helen and Will who were all dancing nearby were staring at them, intrigued. She lifted her head up and looked at him, letting all the memories from the moment she met him on roll through her mind-good and bad. Luke simply smiled back, knowingly. The same memories floated through his mind. Grace could feel his heart pounding.
You know life's a freight liner…/On a runaway track…/But I'll take the ride knowing…/That you'll bring me back…/No fate's too uncertain, no distance too far…/As long as you're here in my arms… Holdin' you…hold me together…/When holding on…gets just a little too hard…/When this tight rope I travel…/Begins to unravel, and I feel like I'm falling apart…/Holdin' you…holds me together…
"You now I really don't deserve you," Grace said quietly.
"We've been over this…" Luke said. "Love's not about whose worthy. It's just about us. We deserve each other."
Grace's eyes filled against each other. "I don't think I could ever tell you how much…" She let the sentenced trail off, knowing she'd probably cry if she continued and she refused to do so.
Luke shook his head. "Shh…I don't think I could either," He grinned and pressed his forehead down to hers. "It's not something you have to say, it's just something I know," He assured.
Grace nodded, venturing to offer him a quick kiss. He smiled as they kept dancing, which, eventually caused Grace to give a small smile.
When ever I…hold you tight…/This crazy world of mine…falls right in place…/What ever the…trouble is…/You find a way to…give back what it takes…
"I never thanked you…for everything," Grace said.
Luke shook his head. "You never had to," He told her. Grace wasn't sure she was ready for this. She was used to them being together, yes, but she wasn't sure she could marry him. She didn't want to disappoint him. She looked at him anxiously.
"I don't want to ruin this, Luke," She told him.
Luke shook his head. "It won't always be easy and perfect you know," He told her. "That doesn't mean it's not completely worth it though…" He said. Grace nodded. She moved her left hand around and let him see the ring on it.
"How's it look?" She asked. Luke took her hand in his and kissed the back of it, pressing it to her heart and then kissing her as they swayed to the end of the song.
"Perfect," He smiled, pulling her in. By now they mostly looked like a swaying hug.
"I love you," She confessed to him. She felt him land a kiss to the side of her head.
"I love you," He replied.
Holdin' you…hold me together…/When holding on…gets just a little too hard…/When this tight rope I travel…/Begins to unravel, and I feel like I'm falling apart…/Holdin' you…holds me together…/Holdin' you…holds me together…
A/N: Tear…it's over! Okay…so I went out with the sap ending, can you blame me? I am a hopeless romantic after all…was it horrible? Moving on…
Chapter title was from "Holdin' You" By Gretchen Wilson.
Quickly, a huge thank you to everyone who read this, double thanks to all the faithful reviewers! Much love (cough hate, kool-wolf) to you!
Responses: Tiffany – You get special preference because you were up really late waiting for this even though you left just 5 minutes too soon, yo! Update your story soon! You DID disappear!
Butterfly Dancing – (update!) Where have you been? Oh I have missed you! I can't believe I left you speechless…! I'm sorry about your aunt. Thanks for the Adam and Grace scene kudos. And the best friend kudos! I agree, there's nothing you can say to make it better, just worse, even if it's the thought that counts. Thank you! )
Sayxanything – EXCUSE ME, I meant how bad was this chapter? Actually, how bad was this finale chapter? I'm glad you loved the last one! I noticed the withdraw…lol. I love to leave people hanging! Here's your 17th chapter…the epilogue. Should I do another story?
Kool-Wolf – Dude! I'm sorry! This was a faster update doesn't that count for something? Yeah, it was a sad chapter…this one was happier and sappier though! Technically, I didn't make Joan pregnant…I skipped over that part! Psst…there's probably gonna be another one…that will have more predominant Ryan showdown chapters in it…just FYI. Hat your guts too. Glad you like violence? Violence to you!
Coveredinrain16 – Intense chapters are good though right? Thank you for the kudos, I'm not worthy! Aw, I made so many people cry with that chapter! I'm glad you agree it's a good time to end it. I think it's appropriate. The question is, did I end it well, with the jump in time? That's a great song, it's John Mayer right? Another Shade of Green? ) Never apologize for long reviews! I love long reviews! I love story and song suggestions too! It is a good J/A song btw. Thanks for the kudos and rambling! I'll probably pick up the third story in a few days! Much love!
Laura – I'm sorry I made you cry when you were going clubbing! I'm sorry! Psst, you owe me a review though! Lol. Thanks for the kudos, email me darn you!
Audrey – Youuuuuu need to update! I wish I had a Luke too…wow…I'm speechless as the "this could have easily been in the show." I'm so not worthy of that good of writing! This was the last chapter for this but I'm going to do another story, don't fret! )
Jane and Adam – Thanks for the kudos. I'm sorry I made you cry! I made a lot of people cry…I feel bad! Thank you. What'd you think of the ending?
Carol – I'm sorry you cried! Agh! I feel guilty I made everyone cry! I'm glad you liked the flashback. I was afraid people wouldn't like it, but everyone seemed to! ) Thanks for the kudos! I'm not worthy of the 'you are too good to stop now' seriously, I'm not! Don't fret; though this is the end, a new story is coming soon.
Magentabear – Every time I see an update of Mother's Footsteps, I cheer. Seriously. Moving on. Thank you times ten for the kudos on subplots, novel length and realistic characters. ) I'm glad you like! I know a lot of people have taken a bit to get used to the new Grace I write. I'm trying to keep her fierce attitude, but let her open up because realistically the more she lets in the more she's going to change…in my mind at least. Unfortunately you won't get to see Ryan's torture until the next story, if you're still addicted after this chapter. Response to sidenote: Dogma is the truest philosophical movie about religion ever. I didn't consciously model Collier after the 'angels' in the movie, but subconsciously it's possible. Random from me: My favorite quote from that movie is Salma Hayek when she said "When are you people going to learn? It's not about who's right or wrong. No denomination's nailed it yet, and they never will because they're all too self-righteous to realize that it doesn't matter what you have faith in, just that you have faith. Your hearts are in the right place, but your brains need to wake up." Because it's so true! Anyway…moving on! Thank you for the kudos! I'm thrilled you like it! (And I'm dying to read more of yours!)
MdM79 – Hey! Thank you thank you for the kudos! ) I'm sorry I made you (and everyone) cry! I feel so bad! I'm sorry to hear you went to a funeral. I attended one in the beginning of July that was heart wrenching. I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for the song kudos too. Before I forget, thanks about the H/G convo in ch. 15, I'm glad you liked that and the part with G/L about the relationship and not breaking up! ) Much love!
P.S. – A third story will be up and running soon. It will have more Ryan confrontations, more tension, and probably more crying…but also happy things! I love all my readers and my lovely reviewers! Thank you from my heart for sticking with me! All my responses to any reviews left on this final chapter will be at the bottom of the first chapter of the next story! Until then my friends (and foe), much love (and hate) to you and yours! Also, leave me any ideas, song suggestions, or complaints that you want me to fix for the next story! Thanks again! Ciao!