A/N: Thanks for the reviews and what not, hope you enjoy the chapter! :)
"I'm glad we got a moment to speak alone."
Stephanie gave her mother a strange look. This wasn't exactly an alone moment. Her mother had nearly tracked her down while she went to the bathroom. Now they were standing in the small hallway between the dining room and the bathroom. She eyed her mother warily, wanting nothing more than to get back to the relative safety of the table. The dinner had been going, she wouldn't say it was going well, but it was going.
"Did you need something, Mom?" Stephanie asked, hoping that her mother just needed some chapstick or a pixie stix, which she also had in her purse. There was no telling when you might need a little sugar.
"I just wanted to talk to you about your wedding," Linda told her, and Stephanie was afraid of this. She'd seen it in her parents' eyes when she and Chris were talking about it. She knew her parents would never completely be on board with what she wanted for her wedding, but it was her wedding, and therefore, whatever she wanted should be what she had.
"What about it?" Stephanie asked, trying not to sound defensive even though she would defend her wedding to the death if she had to do so. She wasn't about to let her mother walk all over her about this.
"It just seems a little…non-traditional," Linda said, trying to put it nicely, but there was a tone to her voice that bordered on rude. Stephanie chose to ignore it because she wasn't about to fight her mother in a hallway near a bathroom.
"Yes, it is, that's what Chris and I are like," Stephanie tried to explain rationally. "Mom, you don't know how Chris and I because you've never taken the time to actually get to know us as a couple. I know and I understand you're trying, and believe me when I say I appreciate the effort—"
"You do?" Linda was surprised and Stephanie was surprised her mother didn't realize she did appreciate it. Stephanie might not have liked the catalyst, but after extensive talks with Chris, she was appreciative that the effort was being made.
"I know how difficult it was for you to swallow your pride," Stephanie said, "and of course I appreciate that. I don't think you understand me, Mother, I don't think you ever really have. I'm not saying that like it's a bad thing, it's not. I don't need you to understand me, I'm not twelve anymore. I wanted so desperately for you to understand me when I was younger."
"You've always been a freer spirit than I've ever seen anyone be before," Linda told her, and Stephanie actually detected a note of wistfulness in her mother's voice.
All that did was make Stephanie realize that as much as her parents didn't understand her, she would never understand her parents. Yes, they were stuffy and oh so prickly, but she'd never made the effort to try and get to know them. It was hard, though, when they tried so vehemently to fit her into their box, but there was no effort on either side. Her mother was trying, but Stephanie was seeing how hard it must have been for her mother to have someone like Stephanie in her life.
"I have," Stephanie agreed.
Linda sighed and tried to loosen herself up. She'd had some wine this evening, and Stephanie wondered if perhaps that helped her mother get these things out, "When you were little, you always wanted the world, but not our world, the world out there. We wanted you to be our little princess, someone we could brag about and take to outings and show off…"
"And I turned out so disappointing, right?" Stephanie was now getting defensive. The way her mother said things, it made it sound like she'd turned out as something rotten, to be hidden away and never claimed.
"No," Linda grabbed Stephanie's hand. "I've had a lot of time to think now that your brother…well, now that he's changed. I've had a lot of time to think about how I've seen you, how I've treated you, and how you have been, and I've been wrong about a lot of things with you, Stephanie."
This was taking a new turn, and Stephanie started to feel uncomfortable under her mother's scrutiny. It felt all out of place. Stephanie had never heard her parents praise her in any way, so to have this now, she didn't know what to do with it, but it didn't feel right in the slightest. "Mom, I really don't want to do this right now."
"I know I haven't been a good mother to you," Linda continued as if she didn't hear Stephanie, "but I am trying."
"I know you are," Stephanie cut in, and she knew her mother was trying her best to be okay with everything, even if deep down she wasn't really. "I know you are, and thank you. I know it's hard for you to sit by and listen to me talk about having a literal carnival for a wedding. I've not turned out how you thought."
"No, you haven't, you haven't turned out anything like I thought, but I'm learning that, that isn't a bad thing, not at all. I may not see the fun in a carnival wedding, but you do. You see things I could never see and instead of cherishing that, I've fought so hard against it, so hard against you when I should have been embracing everything that you are."
"Do you really mean all of this?" Stephanie asked desperately. For so long, all she'd craved was her parent's affection. She knew they loved her in their own way, but to actually be accepted for the person she was, it was her deepest desire. Everyone else in her life knew her, loved her, thought so highly of her, but her parents were holdouts.
"Of course I do," Linda said, "I saw the way you interacted with Chris's mother, how comfortable you are with her, how you can talk and laugh with her. I saw her looking at you like you were already her daughter, and I heard you call her Mom, and it made me see how much of a fool I've been. I would have loved to have that rapport with you."
"Mom, did someone give you an emotion chip?" Stephanie asked.
Linda narrowed her eyes, "I don't understand what you mean."
Stephanie shook her head, "It doesn't matter. Thank you for saying these things, I really needed to hear them."
"It's going to take me some time to really understand you," Linda said, "and it may never come, but I'm trying, and I would love to be a part of your wedding, in however capacity. Your father and I are willing to pay for whatever you need—"
"Mom, I do appreciate the offer, but Chris and I want to take care of the wedding ourselves. That's not a rejection of your money, but it's something we would rather do, even though I know it wouldn't be a burden on you."
"Okay," Linda nodded, knowing when not to pick a fight.
Chris walked down the hallway and saw Stephanie and Linda standing there, "Hey, you guys hadn't come back yet, and I just wanted to make sure everything was alright."
Stephanie looked at her fiancé and the concern so secretly etched on his face. She knew that he assumed the worst and a week ago, she was sure the worst would have been the only possibility, but now, now she wasn't even sure she knew the woman standing across from her. As much as Linda needed to get to know Stephanie, Stephanie needed to get her own mother. It wasn't fair of her to expect her mother to do all the changing around here. Stephanie had room to learn more about what made her mother tick.
"Yeah, Snooks, we're okay," Stephanie addressed him with a slight smile, the corners of her mouth turning up just slightly.
"Good," Chris nodded, his eyes searching Stephanie's face, but he found no signs of trouble.
"Actually, I would like to talk to you as well, Chris," Linda said.
"Right here?" Chris wondered, staring at their location.
"I'm a firm believer in taking care of things when they should be taken care of," Linda answered, and Chris, for a moment, wanted to challenge her on that. He wanted to bring up how she had never taken care of Stephanie even when Stephanie needed it so much. Still, this was neither the time nor the place for that. This dinner was meant to be a turning point for them all, and if he couldn't embrace that then he wouldn't be here.
"I see," Chris came closer and as soon as he was at Stephanie's side, she immediately took his hand, giving it a little squeeze.
"I wanted to apologize to you both. I know this is long overdue and it needs to be said if we are going to try to be a family here," Linda said, looking between the both of them. "I'm sorry that we initially did not want to come to your wedding. It was not something I'm proud of, and your father feels the same way. You're our daughter, and we need to be there for you. We do love you, Stephanie, and we don't want to push you away anymore."
"Wow, thank you, Mom," Stephanie said, "I'm glad you said that."
"And Chris," Linda took a deep breath, "you make my daughter happy. "I may not understand your love or the way you act around each other, but I know you are just the type of person she should be with, not any of the people I wanted for her. They never would have understood her like you so clearly do. I'm sorry I ever made you feel like you were inferior to my daughter."
Chris's eyes widened. That was the last thing he was expecting, but it was something he needed to hear as well. "I only ever wanted Stephanie to be happy. That's all I've ever wanted since the day she spilled hot chocolate on me."
"And you do," Linda said, gazing at her daughter. "I hope that we can continue to get to know each other, all of us."
With that, Linda walked back to the table, leaving a stunned Chris and Stephanie in her wake. Chris turned to Stephanie and asked her in disbelief, "Okay, so the pod people have clearly come to Earth, and your mother was the first target, right?"
"I need a pair of those glasses that Roddy Piper had in that movie that lets you see the alien's true form," Stephanie said, looking back to where the tables stood, Linda already sitting down and talking with her brother. "I don't know what that was, but yeah, I think my mother has been abducted."
"What the hell did she say to you when I wasn't here?" Chris asked. "Did she ask to suck your brains out or did she want something weird, like to soak in tomato juice?"
"No, but I noticed a distinct stench of old onions," Stephanie answered. "She told me…I don't even know, I'm so stunned by it. She said that she never really tried with me, she actually owned up to something for once, and she pretty much said I was never a problem."
"Wow," Chris said, "did someone roofie her food with happy serum?"
"Perhaps future us came back in time and bribed the waiter to slip it into her food," Stephanie narrowed her eyes. "I thought I saw myself leaving when we walked inside. It would make sense. She said she would go along with the wedding. My mother wants to attend my wedding, which is going to be a carnival. By transference, my mother wants to go to a carnival."
"I'm trying to picture your father holding cotton candy…"
"Think of my mother eating a funnel cake!"
Chris laughed, "They want you to be happy."
"They do, and it's strange, and it's weird, and it's…completely wonderful," Stephanie turned to Chris. "They still don't understand me, and they never will, but they're trying, Chris, they really want to try, even when they don't get me at all."
"It's amazing, I'm so happy for you," he hugged her. "You deserve this, you deserve all the love in the world."
"I have to be better too, I have to get to know them," Stephanie said as she hugged him back. "I have to give as much as take, I know that now. It's the least I can do."
"Look at you, being all grown up and everything, does this mean that I'm going to have to cancel that playground I was going to give you as a wedding present?" Chris asked.
"Hell no," Stephanie told him, "I want a swing-set, and I deserve one!"
"Fine, fine, you'll get your swing-set," Chris kissed her, "your mother of all people apologized, I don't think I'm going to get over it."
"I don't think I will either."