Story title: The Roses
Rating: T
Disclaimer:
I own nothing that you recognize from Joan of Arcadia. I do however own all other characters. Blah, blah, blah, enough said right?
Summary: 14 years after Ryan Hunter's last attack the people of Arcadia find themselves besieged by a rash of calculated and connected heinous crimes. With Ryan securely behind bars, who could be targeting the town? More importantly, who's next on his list? Part 4 of my Joaniverse.
NOTE: This story is the 4th part of my on-going series; "That Summer", "Holds Me Together", and "Keep The Faith"
Special thank you to Tiff and Trace for their input and encouragement!


Prologue

Tuesday, September 4th, 2029 6:30pm

"Hey," Grace smiled at Lara as she came into the kitchen through the backdoor. She had gotten caught up with a new client and had missed dinner. Ever since they'd secured more than enough money to take care of themselves and their extended family thanks to Luke's fingerprinting formula, Grace had reduced her cliental to assure that she only worked part-time. She'd also accepted pro bono clients only. The lawyers in her office building took care of all the other clients.

"Hey, you're home," Lara took her eyes off of the ceramic dishes and utensils she was washing in a sink full of soapy water for a few seconds to smile back at her mother after stating the obvious. Grace set her over stuffed briefcase down on the counter and laid her blazer over top of it. She rolled up her sleeves as she approached Lara and the sink full of dishes.

"I see you've been busy today," She flipped a hand through Lara's newly dyed hair with an amused smirk.

"Oh, yeah," Lara used her shoulder to push her hair out of her face as she continued to scrub the dishes. She blocked Grace from scooting her out of the way to take over the dishes by nudging Grace's hip back in the same way Grace had tried to nudged her over. "I decided to be daring for the first day of school when I got my hair trimmed today. What do you think?" Lara gave a slight shake to her originally blonde locks that were now a shade of brown Grace couldn't identify. At first it seemed to be a light chocolate brown color but upon further inspection Grace could see it had some slight auburn and caramel tinted highlights throughout it. Grace brushed the loose strands of Lara's hair behind her ear as Lara tried to blow them away from her face. The now darker locks fell just a couple of inches below her shoulders.

"I like it," Grace confirmed, trying to inch Lara away from the dishes again. "Where's Brynn? Isn't it her night for dishes?"

"She's in the middle of a raging tantrum again," Lara succeeded in fending Grace off from trying to take over doing the dishes. Instead, Grace was lined up to start drying them as Lara passed the cleaned dishes into the drain board. "I volunteered," Lara shrugged. "Dad looked tired."

"And what are you sucking up for exactly?" Grace smirked at the fifteen year old who stood just about three inches taller than Grace with a lanky body frame that Helen often termed "rail thin." He stature had earned her the nickname "Skin bones" from Caleb a few years back. It didn't take long for the rest of her cousins and her friends to pick up and adapt the nickname to "bones." Lara took the nickname in good fun and adapted to it easily. She had been the most laidback of her friends and family.

"Nothing," Lara drawled innocently as she finished the last dish and set about draining the sink. The sleeves of her form fitting brown thermal sweater with white seams were damp, despite being rolled up to her elbows. She shook the loose water off her hands before brushing her hair behind her ears. Both women smirked at each other, almost sharing an inside joke as they both started on putting away the dry pile of dishes.

"Where's dad?" Grace clinked utensils as she put the forks, spoons and knives away. Lara waited until she'd come back down off her tiptoes where she'd been sliding the plated back into the cupboard shelf to answer. "He's upstairs feeding the Keats," She referred to her four-month-old brother, Keaton. Before Grace could inquire about the whereabouts of Raegan, Luke and Grace's ten-year-old, Lara continued speaking. "Rae went to Aunt Joan and Uncle Adam's, I don't know why though."

Grace nodded. Lara unrolled her sleeves and pulled her hair into a loose bun, leaving strands sticking out all over, framing her face and sliding down the back of her neck. Grace watched her retie one of her sneakers and straighten her shirt out before grabbing her house keys from one of the hooks by the back door.

"And you're going…?" Grace let the question hang, knowing Lara would have told her anyway.

Lara rolled her eyes. "Me and Mac are meeting Harley and Dylan to go finish up last minute shopping for school supplies. Daddy saved you a plate; it's on the table. It should still be warm. I'll be back by 9." She turned and made her way out the door intent to walk across the lawn to Joan and Adam's house to get Mac. Grace watched her go. She brought her dinner plate to the counter and had just uncovered it and gotten a fork when Lara came walking back through the door and towards Grace, who was leaning on an elbow, slouching over the island counter. Grace was about to ask Lara if she forgot something when Lara stooped over, being close enough now, and planted a kiss on Grace's cheek.

"See ya mom," Lara smiled, turned on her heel and left again, leaving Grace to stare after her with an amused half smile on her face.

Minutes later, Grace was just getting into picking through her chicken and broccoli when the backdoor opened again and the 4'11" bouncing figure of Raegan came striding into the kitchen. The ten-year-old spotted Grace and smiled widely as she paused, contemplating if she should charge and hug Grace or not. Grace smiled back, finishing a bite of chicken just before Raegan darted for her. Grace lifted her arm and Raegan latched onto her side, burying her face sideways against Grace's shoulder while her arms linked around Grace's waist. Grace brushed Raegan's hair away from her face and behind her ear.

"Well hello to you too," She smiled as Raegan launched on a rant of what she did for the day. Grace nodded along and interjected enthusiastic comments. Grace and Luke had figured they were done having kids after Brynn. Grace wasn't exactly sure when or where the decision came from but at some point she and Luke had collectively agreed that maybe another baby would be okay. Along came Raegan on April 9th of 2019. From the moment she was born she was loud, wild and hyper. Anything and everything she could get her hands on became an experiment. She climbed anything and everything, and she loved following Lara and Mac anywhere and everywhere because they would let her. Brynn and Justin were less tolerable most of the time because they were trying too hard to be cool.

Keaton, on the other hand, had been a complete shocker. Grace's first reaction when she'd found out she was pregnant for the fourth time at 40 years old, early last September was to say, "I'm way too old for this…" When she'd arrived home to tell Luke, Joan, Adam, Gabe and Mac were there, having come over for dinner and when Lara had said hello and asked how she was Grace had simply blurted out one word, "Pregnant." Forks had dropped along with jaws until Luke had leapt out of his chair to hug her and spin her around. Keaton had arrived on May 14th of 2029.

Brynn had been the one who was most resistant to the idea of having a sibling 14 years younger than her. She had been acting unruly since Grace had come home and announced the pregnancy; she threw frequent tantrums, she acted sour, she only held Keaton when she had to, and she left Lara and Raegan to fuss over him and make faces while tickling him and even feeding him. Lara had been the most excited. Keaton, who she'd dubbed 'the Keats', still fascinated her. She was always eager to play with him, feed him, baby-sit him; she didn't even cringe at the diaper changing.

"Ooh, and Daddy said we could watch a movie tonight, so can we watch a movie?" Raegan finally stopped her hurried speech to breathe as she looked at Grace hopefully.

"Sure we can," Grace nodded. "After I'm done eating and I get a shower okay?"

Raegan nodded and then took off for the living room. "I'll play my game until then!" She called as she ran.

Grace shook her head and leafed through the mail as she finished her dinner and polished off the can of Dr. Pepper she'd opened for herself. When she'd finished she gathered her briefcase and her blazer and walked through the house, heading up the stairs. She stopped in the room that doubled as a study and an office for both Grace and Luke to drop her brief case off before walking back past Lara and Brynn's room, Raegan's room, and the bathroom before she turned into the master bedroom and dropped her blazer in the hamper.

She could hear Luke talking in hushed tones to Keaton in the room next to theirs through the baby monitor as she shut the door and started disrobing herself on her way into the bathroom in her and Luke's room. She shut the door of the bathroom until it was just open a crack and turned the shower on after moving all the baby stuff out of the tub. Once it was warm enough, she stepped into the shower and let the hot water loosen up the kink that had formed in her neck a few hours before.

"How was dinner?"

Grace jumped and nearly flung a shampoo bottle when Luke's head came through the shower curtain at the back of the shower. He laughed when she nearly screamed out of shock.

"How many times do I have to tell you not to sneak up on a me, brain, I have issues!" She scolded him, but Luke just smiled.

"How else can I stare at you soaking wet and naked?" Luke questioned.

"That was lame," Grace rolled her eyes but stepped forward and granted Luke a kiss. She pulled back the curtain when some when she heard a noise and discovered Luke had ventured into the bathroom with Keaton against his shoulder. "Dude, you're going to scar him for life," She teased as Keaton stared at her with big vibrant blue eyes as he drooled against Luke's shoulder.

"Please, he's 4 months old," Luke retorted.

Grace smirked. "Can I finish my shower now, brain?" Grace reserved using nicknames on Luke for when they were by themselves or out somewhere without the kids or nieces of nephews around.

"I suppose so, since I can't join you as I'm occupied," He bounced Keaton slightly, earning a gurgle and a giggle from the baby.

"Oh, you're just so suave, aren't you?" Grace rolled her eyes before Luke pulled his head back out of the shower and shut the curtain for her.

"Did Lara give you the plate of dinner we left out?" He called to Grace after sitting on the closed toilet to finish burping Keaton.

"Yes she did. Surprisingly it wasn't half bad. You didn't even burn it, congrats." Grace teased him. Luke laughed sarcastically at Grace. "So what's going on with Brynn today?" Grace shifted topics before ducking her head back into the water to wash the shampoo out of her hair.

"I have no idea. The usual I suppose," Luke sighed.

"She's getting out of hand, Luke," Grace commented.

"Well, she didn't ask to be woken up all hours of the night by her noisy little brother," Luke reasoned. "She's just adjusting. It'll blow over once school starts."

"She's been adjusting for over a year now," Grace replied. "I understand she feels a little put out by this, but really is it necessary to snap at everyone and throw a fit when she doesn't get exactly what she wants?" She finished rinsing soap off of herself and turned the water off. She wrung her hair out before opening the shower curtain and grabbing her towel off the wall, drying herself quickly and then wrapping it around herself.

"No, it's not, I don't know, I guess she doesn't know what else to do?" Luke grasped at straws while Grace went to the sink to rewash her face to get anything she'd missed. "We were thinking of redoing the attic into a room to give Brynn and Lara separate rooms, why don't we offer to move her up there once it's done?"

Grace used a hand towel to dry off her face. "So we should reward her behavior with a new room when Lara, who also lives in the same room as Brynn and bares the brunt of Brynn's tantrums, to have the left over of their shared room? That seems unfair."

"Well, we'll make it contingent on her attitude. If she doesn't improve her attitude on a regular basis by the time the attic's done, then the room goes to Lara?" Luke suggested.

Grace considered this for a moment. "All right. But only if she truly changes her attitude, not just in front of us but around everyone."

"Agreed," Luke nodded, following Grace into their room. He sat on the bed with Keaton while Grace got changed into a pair of sweatpants and a long sleeved T-shirt. Luke and Grace had both decided that just because they'd come into the money didn't mean they had to live in a mansion and spoil their kids rotten. The money went to setting up trust fund for all four of their kids, plus their 5 nieces and nephews to pay for college and other expenses. At first, Kevin, Lilly, Joan and Adam had been against accepting the money for college tuition and things of the like but Luke and Grace had finally won the argument and set the accounts up. They'd also paid off their house, Helen and Will's house, Adam and Joan's house and Kevin and Lilly's house, ensuring that their family knew they were treating this money as everyone's and not just their own. They would have used it to pay off the rabbi's house, but he had vehemently refused and Grace couldn't convince him otherwise. Since then, he'd recently finished paying off the mortgage.

Otherwise they used only what they needed and frequently donated to local, national and international charities. It boiled down to they refused to become spoiled, snobby and lazy just because they'd lucked out thanks to Luke's genius. They're kids still did chores in order to get an allowance and they were required to work for what they deserved. Grace refused to program them to expect everything to be handed to them. Luke had readily agreed.


6:45pm

Lara and Mac were used to walking almost everywhere. From the time they were little, Joan and Grace had made a point of walking them wherever they were going whenever possible. Of course there were times when driving was necessary, but mostly they walked. It didn't take them long to get to the main strip where they normally hung out. Their chatter died down as they approached the corner where the thrift store was. Harley Johnson and Dylan Coogan were already there. They each smiled and waved as Lara and Mac approached. All four of them shared quick hugs all around.

"Okay, let's get this over with," Harley grimaced.

"I would so rather spend my money on something worthwhile, instead of stupid school crap," Mac sighed as they passed a few outdoor racks of clothes in front of the thrift store on the way to the office supply store. Mac and Harley were standing next to each other as they poured over the rack.

Lara rolled her eyes slightly. "We'll meet you in the store," She grabbed Dylan's arm, linking it with hers and dragged him with her three stores down. Lara rolled her eyes before speaking again. "They act as if school is the worst thing ever in the world."

"That's cause it is," Dylan replied in his usual quiet tone. While Dylan at 18 was closest in age to Gabe at 19, he'd become he best of friends with Lara. Dylan was very quiet, and overly shy. He talked most when he was alone with Lara, Mac or Gabe, who were his closest friends. Otherwise he spoke in short phrases, using only the words he needed. It wasn't that he didn't like their circle of friends; he just got nervous easily and would rather not give cause for everyone to pick on him.

"Oh please…famine, disease, pollution, poverty, discrimination, extinction…school is the least of our problems in the world," Lara was piling things into her basket, glad she'd babysat for most of the summer so she'd have the money to pay for her supplies.

"All of those except for maybe extinction are involved in high school," Dylan reasoned, having spent three years there already.

Lara laughed. "Prove it."

"Okay," Dylan had an armful of notebooks and a box of his favorite liquid ink pens in his right arm as he strolled behind Lara. "Famine-the absence of edible food that isn't rubber in the cafeteria."

"Solution-bring your own lunch." Lara shot a challenging look towards Dylan.

"Perhaps," Dylan smirked back at her as they pressed on through the isles. "Disease-if one person gets so much as a cold, at least 30 people are out with a stomach virus or flu by the end of the week."

"That's a fact of life, it could happen to anyone. It happens in my family, even, if one of us gets cold by the end of two weeks, we've all gotten it." Lara stopped, mulling over which calculator she should get.

Dylan picked up a calculator package whose picture on the outside of the box had about a million buttons on it and handed it to Lara to put in her basket before they continued their trek to look for art supplies. "Pollution-all the students who decide the floor or their locker as their trash can. They leave sandwiches and such to rot inside the abyss of their lockers and the mold makes people sick. Poverty-you knows I don't need to explain this. This aids the famine. If you can't afford to bring your own lunch, you either eat the rubbery nasty crap they call food or you starve. Discrimination-runs rampant."

Lara considered this for a moment. Dylan watched her, knowing she was going to come up with an argument still. "Well, if those leaving sandwiches in their lockers would put them to good use since they're not eating them, then the famine wouldn't be there because the people who couldn't afford it would be able to eat something that wasn't dangerous to their health like mystery meat. And if teachers and students alike didn't turn their heads, like I'm assuming they tend to do, in high school, and people educated themselves better than maybe there wouldn't be a discrimination problem either." She finally spoke, turning to face Dylan and leaving them standing face to face. Lara looked up at Dylan who was four inches taller than her at 5'10".

A small smile came to Dylan's lips. "There's no end to your idealism, is there?"

Lara looked at him with a slightly curious, almost innocent expression. "Is there ever a time when people should stop trying to make the world better?" There was seriousness in her expression as she looked at Dylan, who seemed to be taking this answer in. They hung there silently staring each other down curiously for a few seconds. Lara could have been mistaken but did Dylan just inch towards her?

"Marco?" Mac's voice filtered through the isles.

Lara broke the gaze, startled at the sound of her cousin's voice. "Polo!" She called after clearing her throat and turning to the side to grab a new sketchpad before taking a step to her right to look at a set of charcoal pencils. No one was sure when or how but at some point in her childhood, coloring had morphed into drawing and eventually Lara had spent hours watching Adam and mimicking him. Mac had never been interested in art, and the closest Gabe came to art was digital imaging and photography. He had started college in Baltimore a few weeks ago to be a graphic artist. Lara however had a footlocker at the end of her bed full of a collection of drawings and paintings she'd done since she was 7. She was using the excuse that she needed the proper art supplies before she got to her grandmother's class as an excuse to stock up on her supplies.

"There you are!" Mac came around the corner of the isle first to see Dylan shaking his head to stop from staring at Lara, still stuck on their conversation. "What's up with you?" Mac asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Hey, look who I found!" Harley interrupted before Dylan could make up an answer. She came around the corner with a 5'8" tall figure in tow. It was the only person Lara knew that rivaled her own stick figure stature.

"Sephie!" Lara cheered before sharing a hug with the lanky, awkward girl. "I forgot you worked here."

"Today's my last day," Sephie replied, pushing her thin-rimmed glasses back up onto her nose. Persephone, better known as Sephie, was Sweet Lou and Glynis' only child. She was tall and lanky just like the two of them. She had long brown hair that flowed to almost halfway down her back. She was jittery and nervous and spoke quickly most of the time. She was a genius, which was truly not surprising. "So, can I help you find anything?"


8:22pm

"What time did they say they would be back?" Joan placed her head down on Adam's shoulder as he flipped through channels for something to watch. Adam moved the arm that was around Joan's shoulder and used his hand to rub her up warmly.

"Relax, Jane, they'll be home by nine," He smiled. Joan had been anxious ever since Gabe had graduated in May, and moved to school in August. Mac and Adam had done their best to keep her emotions and paranoia at bay throughout the summer.

"Nine o'clock is late on a school night," Joan spoke again after a few minutes.

"Jane, she's with a group of people, they went for school supplies and some coffee," Adam smiled at Joan. "She'll be fine."

"Okay…" Joan agreed weakly. Adam placed a kiss on the top of her head.

"Would you be more relaxed if I suggested taking a bath?" He questioned.

Eight years ago, Adam and Joan had nearly fallen apart, for the second time in their tumultuous relationship. It had been another reason for them both to hate winter. In the middle of January of 2021, a blizzard had hit. It snowed steadily for two days, blanketing Arcadia, all of Maryland and much of the Northeastern part of the country in 31 inches of snow.


Plows worked round the clock, store shelves became bare of food, water, rock salt, shovels and firewood. Joan was six months pregnant, with twins no less. Adam had ordered her to stay put, in the living room in front of the fire place with Mac to keep her company watching cartoon movies and drinking hot chocolate while Adam, Gabe, and Luke shoveled and used the fuel efficient snow blower Luke had designed sporadically over the two days in an attempt to keep pathways clear. Grace had cooked extra food for dinner both nights to send back with Adam, in an attempt to help curb Joan from doing anything other than relax, having already been warned by a doctor to stay off of her feet.

It was the middle of the afternoon. Joan had gone out front to build a snowman with Mac, Lara and Brynn. Gabe, Luke and Adam were at Luke and Grace's house clearing snow away. Grace was on her way through the snow from her kitchen with a tray of hot chocolate for everyone at their request. She made it to the side of the house when she could see everyone. The scarf that they were going to use on the snowman whipped out of Lara's hands and into the unscathed snow out in the street. Lara frowned and apologized but Joan simply waved her away and headed for the scarf.

Grace reached the kids as Joan reached the scarf. Lara was still frowning; feeling guilty for losing the precious possession that would warm the snowman's neck. "Buck up kiddo-," Grace stopped her comforting mid-sentence at the sound of an engine. She turned her attention to the street and if it were a movie time would have slowed. "Joan!" Grace hadn't been aware she'd screamed the name until hours later when Lara told her.

"Mommy!" Mac had cried loudly, confused.

The hot chocolate tray tipped from Grace's hands as she started running through the snow. It melted a brown hole in the snowman's head, and also scalded Grace's ungloved right hand-pain she wouldn't feel until much later. She stumbled through the slippery snow of the lawn and towards the sidewalk while Luke, Adam and Gabe, who'd heard Grace even from Luke and Grace's house came charging up to the lawn in time to see Joan tossed into a pile of snow on her side and a car skidded sideways into a nearby telephone pole. Grace reached Joan first and found her pulse before carefully turning Joan onto her back.

"Girardi, wake up," Grace called, horrified as she tried to figure out what exactly to do. "Joan, come on!" Grace's tone increased in urgency when she noticed the liquid and blood covering Joan's lower half. Adam was paralyzed for only a few seconds before he darted through Grace's snow tracks and landed on his knees on the other side of Joan. He tore his jacket off to prop her head up as Grace called out to Joan and tried to wake her. Luke had rushed the kids inside and called for an ambulance. When he got back outside, he snapped into action.

"Ambulance is going to get here as quick as they can," He stated.

"She's, she's bleeding, really bad," Adam stuttered numbly.

"No shit, Rove, move!" Grace pushed the catatonic version of Adam out of the ay before using her scarf to tie around Joan's upper left thigh above a puncture that was seeping through her torn pants to stain the white snow around her. She still hadn't gained consciousness. Luke was feeling around Joan's stomach, for what Grace had no idea.

"Her pulse is slow," Grace said to Luke as he searched for other wounds. He nodded in acknowledgement before placing his ear gently down against Joan's swollen stomach.

"This isn't happening…it's not happening," Adam repeated to himself.

"What's taking them so long?" Grace asked. She knew the reason but she felt desperate.

Luke glanced at her. They both knew why she felt desperate. "They'll get here. We need to calm down," His adrenaline had kicked in enough to keep him calm and collected. He had felt movement in Joan's stomach so for the time being she was okay. "Adam, go get some blankets and towels, go. GO NOW!"

Adam leapt to his feet and wadded through the snow to inside probably faster than the speed of light. Grace looked up at Luke from clamping down on the wound in Joan's leg with both her hands.

"Luke…her water broke," The apprehension in her voice was more than evident. In fact, Luke could see her shaking and it wasn't because she was cold. He looked at her gravely. He'd already figured that out.

"I know," He offered a curt nod of his head before going back to timing Joan's pulse again. Despite her lack of consciousness he could tell by the rapid speed up and slow down of her pulse that she was in fact having contractions. Her face contorted a few times, and her head stiffly jolted.

The ambulance had arrived fifteen minutes later; two actually. One for the car and driver and one for Joan. Three cop cars also arrived. Luke, Adam, Grace, Kevin, Will and Helen paced the waiting room for almost eight hours. Joan had regained consciousness in the ambulance. Adam wasn't allowed to follow her into the delivery room because of her injuries. He sat catatonic in the waiting room until the doctor came out.

In the end, one of the identical baby girls died three minutes after being born; the other, three days later. Depression, fighting, crying, self-blame, anger, more fighting, and strife ensued. It took nearly two years for everyone to pull both Joan and Adam out of the abyss and back to a state of normalcy.

Lara often asked Grace if Joan blamed her; Lara blamed herself.


8:25pm

"Sorry, I'm late,"

"Hey sexy," Mac grinned mischievously at the intruding boy, Justin's friend Crispin, who had started dating Mac in June. She jumped out of her chair to wrap her arms around his neck and greet him with a kiss.

"Aw, how revolting," Harley teased.

"Ew, you guys, enough with the intense PDA, I'm trying to ingest sustenance here," Lara pretended to gag.

Mac laughed at her, swaying slightly in Crispin's arms as he grinned and nodded to everyone. "Oh don't be jealous Lar," Mac stuck her tongue out at her cousin.

"Oh yeah, I'm jealous of you and Cris, mmhmm," Lara rolled her eyes and finished of her cappuccino. She stood and gathered her things. "On that note, I'm heading home-,"

"We're gonna stay and get a donut or something," Mac said to Lara. Lara nodded.

"Walk me home?" She asked Dylan. Dylan looked slightly alarmed but nodded and stood.

Lara hugged everyone goodbye before dragging Dylan with her for the second time that day. Dylan shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his loosely fit jeans, cause the waistband of his black boxer briefs to show in the open gap between the bottom of his worn thrift store T-shirt and the top of his pants. Lara fell easily into step next to his slow, easy pace.

"So are you nervous?" Dylan spoke first. He watched as Lara looked up at the sky while they walked. Her arms were crossed and her plastic bag of supplies hung from her hand as it rested in the crook of her elbow.

"I guess." Lara shrugged as she strolled along. She seemed to almost dance as she dragged out her movements and hummed lightly to herself. Dylan watched her with interest, only taking his eyes off of her to make sure he wouldn't walk into anything. "It's just another year of school. I don't see why everyone makes a big deal about it."

"It's really just an excuse for people to become bullies and feel big about themselves, when really they're just feeling shitty about themselves, so they take it out on everyone else." Dylan replied with a shrug as they continued to stroll. Lara fell just a step or two behind.

"Well, I'm a ninja warrior, I have no fear," She imitated a kun-fu stance and a karate sound. Dylan chuckled along with her, before he finally succeeded in wrestling her bag of supplies away from her like he'd been trying to for the whole walk.

Not long after that, Lara took a jogging start and hopped easily onto Dylan's back for a piggyback ride. Lara and Dylan had been friends since she could remember, despite that Dylan was older and a boy and probably should have gotten along better with Gabe and Justin and Caleb and their friends. He had always, instead, insisted on playing with Lara and her friends. He made his own friends with Gabe's help when he'd gotten to high school, but had still made sure that he didn't just up and abandon Lara. His taller frame and muscular build allowed him to easily carry her for piggyback rides with her small, thin frame. It was almost like a custom at this point. Dylan loved to have Lara tighten her grip around his shoulders so she could lean up and whisper some joke by his ear so they could laugh on their way to wherever. Then again, Dylan just plain loved Lara.


8:52pm

It was just a few minutes before 9pm when Dylan ascended the front stairs to Lara's house and let her down on the porch. Her body slid to the ground and gave tiny thunk when her Chuck Taylor's landed on the wooden porch. She took the bag back when he handed it to her.

"Are you walking tomorrow?" She asked. Dylan nodded. Lara's face lit up happily. "Me, Mac and Justin are leaving at 7:30, if you want to walk with us?"

Dylan nodded again. "What about Brynn?" He stuffed his hands into his front pockets, keeping his arms straight at the elbows as the jeans slouched under the weight of his arms. His hip jutted out to the right just slightly, taking his usual stance.

"She doesn't want to walk with us. She says we're lame, and she's not going to out school anyway, so," Lara shrugged, flashing a tight smile, but Dylan saw the sadness in her eyes. Lara had always been a loving person. In fact, Dylan couldn't think of a single person she hated-not even the bully girl that picked on her throughout most of grade school. To have her own sister not want to be her friend had been devastating; and to not know what had caused the change in Brynn was even more agonizing for Lara.

Dylan reached out and gave Lara's shoulder a small reassuring squeeze. "She'll come around," He assured.

The front door of the house opened, Dylan dropped his hand back into his pocket and Grace appeared in the doorway. She smiled at the two teens standing before her, turning her head up to actually see Dylan's face instead of his chest since he towered over her. Her eyes flashed briefly, as she remembered a time when he was shorter than her and had to look up to see her face.

"Hello offspring," She smiled, swaying slightly with Keaton in his car seat in her left hand. His diaper bag was over her right shoulder and her keys in her hand. "Are we loitering on the porch for any reason?" She was well aware that Dylan was hopelessly hung up on Lara, mostly because he always had just a small glint of a look in his eyes whenever he was around Lara; Grace saw this every time Luke looked at her.

"Just talking about walking to school tomorrow," Lara smiled broadly and leaned over to a grumpy looking Keaton, putting her hands on her knees as she smiled widely at him. "Hey Keats!" She said enthusiastically, reaching out to tickle his stomach. "Is mommy taking you out with her? I'm totally jealous," She spoke in a slight baby voice to her little brother, hoping to get a coo, giggle or smile out of him.

Grace and Dylan exchanged amused glances. "I'm heading to pick up some things for your lunches tomorrow, want to tag along?" She looked at Lara. Lara stood up after taking a swipe with her finger at Keaton's drool-covered chin.

"Totally," Lara nodded.

Grace smiled slightly and turned to Dylan. "Come on, I'll drive you home," She nodded with her head as she started down the steps with Lara in tow. Dylan followed but shook his head.

"It's okay. I'll just walk. It's not like it's far," He smiled. Hs house was only three blocks away.

Grace wavered slightly but nodded. "Tell your mom I said hello."

Dylan nodded and Grace started hooking Keaton into the backseat, but she still saw Lara hop off her feet to latch her arms around Dylan and give him a warm hug goodbye. They exchanged a few last words and laughs before Dylan jogged off across the street.


9:33pm

"I'm home!" Mac called as she entered her house through the back door into the kitchen. She yanked open the fridge and began grabbing an assortment of items, intending to make her lunch for school tonight so she could sleep just a few minutes extra in the morning.

"What happened to 9 o'clock?" Joan strolled into the kitchen in her pajamas. Mac rolled her eyes slightly.

"Mom, please," She smirked. "I called and told Daddy I was on my way home."

"Why didn't you come home with Lara?" Joan quizzed, aware that she sounded like her own mother. She inwardly cringed just slightly.

Mac couldn't help the smile on her face. She cleared her throat and moved her attention to assembling a sandwich similar to something her grandfather would assemble. "I got caught up in a conversation…with Cris," She colored slightly.

Joan raised an eyebrow. "Where?" She asked before she could catch herself. She remembered long ago when her parents had found out about her visit to the hotel Adam worked at and freaked out.

Mac rolled her eyes and grinned, knowingly, again at her mother. "We were having coffee mom. Harley was there. Don't worry," her voice was slightly sarcastic and innocently sweet, much like Joan's had been right before she was about to take a joking jab at her parents, "your precious baby girl has not been defiled," She smirked as she slipped her multilayered sandwich into a glad container. She grabbed a smaller container and located the strawberries and peaches she'd pulled out before setting about cutting both fruits and dropping them into the container.

Joan shook her head and couldn't help but smile at her daughter. She gave one last glance the teen before she leaned forward and laid a kiss on Mac's temple.

"Goodnight," She spoke before turning and leaving the room. Mac just watched her go, curiously before shrugging and decided her mother was a strange one, and going back to work on her lunch.


10:15pm

While Grace made Lara, Brynn and Raegan's lunches for he next day, Lara turned on the kitchen radio. Keaton had just finished burping and Lara came across a great old song that she loved. She almost squealed in delight as she easily started to sway to the song, dropping kissing and raspberries on Keaton's cheek as he giggled and wiggled in her arms. Grace couldn't help the partial smile partial smirk that came to her face as Lara danced with the baby and sung aloud.

Every time I look into your lovely eyes/I see a love, that money/Just can't buy…

Before Grace knew what was happening, Luke had crossed the room to her from the doorway, swept her into his own arms and spun her around. Grace danced along, despite vocally fighting not to. Lara and Keaton dance around them as Luke and Lara sung the song together while Keaton and Grace laughed.

One look…from you…I drift…Away/I pray…that you…are here…to stay…

Soon, waking up from the noise and laughter, a bleary eyed Raegan came to the door. She frowned, and Grace saw her first. She wanted to be included. Grace stepped further apart from Luke and held her hand out for Raegan. Instantly, the smile that claimed Raegan's face as she crossed to her mom and took a hold of one of Grace and Luke of Luke's hands, dancing with them and letting them twirl her, was brighter than the sun.

Anything you want/You got it/Anything you need/You got/Anything at allllll/You got it/Baaaaby…

When Lara noticed Brynn, peaking around the corner of the doorway, she wordlessly passed Keaton to Grace who made exaggerated faces at Keaton, while the baby giggled and cooed happily. She kept dancing with Raegan and Luke, knowing they wouldn't have let her stop anyway.

Before Brynn realized she'd been spotted and cowered away up to her room, Lara caught her at the wrist and, still singing along, managed to drag Brynn-who was in a rare mood-into the kitchen to join. She even started singing along at one point.

Grace cast her eyes at Luke as he sung. He smiled broadly at her as he danced with Raegan, proving that even super-genius geeks had rhythm as he sung along to the song.

Every time I hold you/I begin to understand/Everything about you/Tells me I'm your man/I live…my life…to be…with you/No one…can do…the things…you dooooo…

Across the yard, Adam had entered the kitchen for a late snack and happened upon Mac, who had just finished creating her lunch and was not making a snack of half a peanut butter and banana sandwich-something Grace had gotten her and the other kids hooked on when they were little-and singing along to the radio. It didn't take long to get her attention and spin her around as if they were at the father-daughter dance that he and Luke had taken Mac, Lara and Brynn to last May. He spun her around and danced with her, humming along to the song and doing his best not to step on her toes as he often did to Joan.

Anything you want/You Got it/Anything you need/You Got it/Anything at all/You got it/Baaaabyyy/Anything you want/(You got it)/Anything you need/(You got it)/Anything at alllllll/Doo, doo, doo doo, Doo, doo, doo doo… Doo, doo, doo doo, Doo, doo, doo doo… Doo, doo, doo doo, Doo, doo, doo doo/You got it.

Three blocks away, Dylan snuck up on his mother. She had just put some water on the stove for tea and was tapping along to an old song that Dylan only knew because of Luke and Lara and their musical obsession.

Without warning, He caught a hold of her delicate wrist, spun her around and kept a hold of her hand, swaying to the swift beat and grinning, singing along to the words he knew and even dipping her. Becky laughed along freely at her son's shenanigans, which only caused Dylan to smile as well while they sung along and made silly faces to their dance moves.

I'm glad…to give…my love…to you…/I know…you feel…the way…I dooo…

A block between Luke and Joan's house and Becky's house, Kevin and Lilly were just finishing up cleaning the kitchen for the night. Lilly was about to slide into a chair at the table when Kevin stopped you.

"Oh no you don't," He held his hand out. Lilly raised a questioning eyebrow at him. Kevin made a sarcastic face. "Please, like I'm not smooth on my feet," He caught her hand and spun with her, drawing her to him to dance. Since Kevin had started walking again, he'd done many things that he'd been too 'embarrassed' to do before his accident; dancing was one of them. He had even enlisted Joan and his mother's help to learn to dance so he could surprise Lilly on one of their anniversaries. Lilly felt herself laughing as He led her around the kitchen.

Anything you want/You got it/Anything you need/You got it/Anything at all/You got it/Baaaaaby…Anything you want/You got it/Anything you need/You got it/Anything at all/You got it/Baaaabyyy…Anything at all…Baaabyyyy…You got it.


10:45pm

Across town, near Adam Rove's old house, Amy Corvin was finally finished unpacking. She had just moved from Baltimore to Arcadia. She was starting her first day as a guidance counselor at Arcadia High tomorrow and was glad she'd gotten finished at least somewhat early. Her husband, Fischer, would be joining her in three weeks when his job transfer would finally go through.

She put out the last of the trash before heading inside and up to the bathroom. She filled the tub and was undressing to climb in when a set of hands grabbed her. She didn't have time to scream before her head was thrust under the water. She flailed about as the liquid invaded her lungs unnaturally, trying in vain to fight off the predator.


A/N: Oh my God, a happy beginning! Well, mostly, except for the very end. Yay, right? AND it's super long! Worry not, turmoil will come soon. I just wanted to set characters up for you, since I jumped so far ahead in the future. And for my pre-emptive strike, yes, this story will focus a lot on the kids and their interaction not just the fab four.

The story title comes from "They Are The Roses" by Jessica Andrews. See note at the bottom of page.

Chapter title s from "You Got It" By Roy Orbison (although Bonnie Raitt did indeed to an awesome cover of it-if you've seen Boys on The Side, you know what I mean!)

Poll: What do you want to see happen in this story? What do you want to know about the past 14-ish years that I've skipped over? Any other suggestions? Lay it on me people!

I love ya in advance for reading and reviewing! (Violence to you KW!)

Story title note: lyrics to "They Are the Roses" by Jessica Andrews:

Born with heaven in their eyes/God sent, innocent/The promise of life/Born into this mess we've made/Holding the future/And hope of better days/Cause there is nothing more beautiful and wild/Then the dreams that grow in the heart of every child/They are the roses/They are the lights that shine/They are the waves that, roll in on the ocean tide/They are angels/They are souls in flight/They are the hope that, everything's gonna be all right/They are the roses/Imagine a place/Filled with happy sounds of playgrounds/Where every child is safe/Where people join hands/And pray that the children/Will all have a chance/In every family, every tribe and every town/We're the keepers of this garden/And we can't let them down/ They are the roses/They are the lights that shine/They are the waves that, roll in on the ocean tide/They are angels/They are souls in flight/They are the hope that, everything's gonna be all right/They are the roses/Imagine a place/Where all people join hands/Where every child is safe/ They are the roses/They are the lights that shine/They are the waves that, roll in on the ocean tide/They are angels/They are souls in flight/They are the hope that, everything's gonna be all right/They are the roses