A/N: Thanks for the reviews and everything, I feel like this story might be starting to wind down, so we'll see where it goes, hope you enjoy, review if you want. :)

It wasn't going to be the easiest thing in the world.

She knew that going in. She knew that her relationship with her parents wasn't going to come overnight. She was a realist in that sense. Where she was a dreamer in every other part of her life, when it came to her parents, she knew that truth and confronted it. There were going to be days where she couldn't stand them. There were going to be days when they looked at her and saw a stranger. The important thing was that they were working on it. They were working on becoming better.

She also knew she wasn't the only one who was working with her parents. Shane was doing the same thing, the only difference being that he had a head start, and their mother and father actually liked him to begin with, all he had to do was convince them that Emma was someone worth knowing, and if her parents were smart, they would realize that sooner rather than later.

That brought up the subject of Chris, and where he fit into this entire picture. While she was trying to get long better with her parents, she also had to get them to like Chris. Chris was going to be here for the rest of their lives, the rest of her life, and they would have to accept that. At least with Emma, she had what her parents would probably come to consider an acceptable job. She was successful, powerful, professional, she wore a power suit to work and not a pair of tights. Chris was going to be in this for the long haul, which meant that while she was pulling herself along, she was pulling Chris too.

"This is a bad idea."

"It's actually not," Shane told her as they ate lunch together one afternoon. It was still something of a revelation that she could actually go out to lunch with her brother like they were normal people. Once upon a time, she would think her brother simply subsisted on oil he got poured into his tank after couple weeks, but he was a normal human being who ate and everything!

The scarier part was that she actually kind of, sort of…liked her brother. His wit was pretty good when he let it show, and while he was nowhere near as funny as she was (yes, sometimes she tooted her own horn), he could actually crack jokes that made her smile or, on the rare occasion, chuckle. He was interesting at least, although, if he had been a robot like she feared growing up, it probably would have been cool to introduce people to her robot brother.

"Yes, it is, it's like, if you were to get a hurricane that let to a tornado that led to an earthquake that led to a meteor hitting the earth and creating an impact winter, commonly confused with a nuclear winter, but I'm not likening us to nuclear warheads, although I could if I really wanted to, it's not that much of a stretch," Stephanie said.

"It's going to be fine, we're outnumbering them anyways, so they will be on their best behavior," Shane reasoned.

"Yeah, because last time they tried to have you over for dinner, you told them off and stormed out. Do you know how high you've set the bar now? How am I ever going to top something like that, it's just not going to happen."

Shane nodded sagely, "It was pretty great of me, and how ironic is it that out of the two of us, I was the one to tell them off and storm out of their house. I always figured that was your job."

"You stole my thunder, so I'm going to have to go lightning on them, which is probably going to happen because this is such a bad idea. I really think Chris and I should pull out…not that…I mean, not to say that…you know, that was just a really poor choice of words. I think that Chris and I should just cancel, maybe I could say that Chris got the mumps or the measles, are those still things? What about mono though, I can say we got mono and it only strikes around dinnertime, so therefore, we can never come for dinner."

"I never pegged you for such a coward," Shane took a sip of his coffee.

"Oh, I'm yellow-bellied alright, I'd show you, but we're in a public place."

"I thought you were getting along with Mom and Dad."

"For the most part, but I feel like we've created this delicate balance, you know, like a tightrope walk, and we're all on it, and we're all trying to keep on that tightrope, and one wrong move, and we'll all go toppling over."

"Then that's not really building a relationship," he pointed out, and she frowned at him.

"What do you mean?" she wondered. She didn't think it was a bad thing to try and keep the peace. That's all she really wanted. She wanted her wedding to be beautiful and fun, and she wanted her parents to be there. Everything was falling into place really.

"I mean that you're holding back yourself, and they're probably doing the same, at least a little bit, and that's not the truth. I mean, when I went to them, and when I brought Emma, I wasn't afraid to let them have it. Same thing when they refused to come to your wedding initially. I told them off, I told them that it wasn't right, that they couldn't just skip out on their daughter's wedding."

"The difference is, Shane," and she was grateful he took up her cause, but he didn't know. He would never know what it was like growing up in his shadow. He would never know what it was like to have a sibling that was revered and adored while she was the awkward, strange one they wanted to tuck away in the corner. "The difference is that they like you. They liked you then, they like you now, and you've never had to work for it. They've always been proud of you, but I've spent every conscious second of my life trying to get them to be proud of me."

"But if they don't know the real you then it's all a lie."

"So I just go in there and act like my weird self with my weird sense of humor and my weird everything?"

"Yup," he nodded, "because at least you'll be yourself. That's why this dinner is a good idea. Chris will be there, your weirdo partner-in-crime, and I'll be there, and Emma will be there, and she can jump right in with you and Chris. Let them see you, let them get to know you. Yes, you have been doing well with them, but not in the right sense."

"Don't go all logical and stuff on me," she rolls her eyes, but she knows he's right. She knows that if she really wants a relationship with her parents, she can't hold back who she is. She spent the first eighteen years of her life trying (and failing) to fit into their stiff parameters. "The hardest part is going to be getting them to like and accept Chris."

"You really need their approval for that?"

"Absolutely not, but Chris is here, he's here to stay. Chris has been here since I spilled hot chocolate all over his chest, and they never really liked that."

"I think everyone knew you were going to be together at some point…okay, maybe Trish didn't know, but I think everyone else knew that you two were just biding your time until you started dating, and you didn't disappoint. Of course, it would have been better if he hadn't done all that on his wedding day."

"We don't talk about that," Stephanie hissed playfully. "We pretend that day never happened, we struck it from history, as far as we're concerned, the year has 364 days, except leap years then it's back to 365."

Shane laughed, "Okay, I guess I can strike it from the record."

"I just want them to be accepting of him, that's all. I want it to where, I don't know, we can have the quintessential Christmas, you know, the picturesque one with the snow outside, the stockings hung by the chimney with care, the tree with tinsel spread out on it evenly. Chris is part of my picture, I want him to be part of the bigger one."

Sometimes Shane was surprised by how profound his sister could be without even trying. For so long, he never gave her the credit she was due. He just thought her silly with her odd sense of humor and habits. Underneath that, though, lay a woman who was smart, with a sharp wit, and someone who could crush anyone in her path, but chose instead to make people laugh and feel at ease. His sister was something special, and he regret that it took him so long to properly see it.

"He will be."

"I want him to be, but he's not…he's not what Mom and Dad wanted for me, and that's going to stick with me for a long time."

"It shouldn't."

"But it does," she told him, wishing it weren't true. "I just feel like every time they look at him, they're going to wish that he was a different guy."

"The same could be said of Ems."

"No, it can't because Emma is so great at what she does, which is a normal job. I mean, she's a sports agent, how cool is that? She goes in and she represents athletes and gets them ridiculous contracts that are way too much for simply playing a game."

"Yeah, she is good at what she does, but she's not what Mom and Dad wanted for me either, and I love her, Steph, I love her so much that my life seems so stupid before she came into it. Mom and Dad want me with someone who will spend their days…I don't know, making flower arrangements or lunching at the country club, wearing very large hats and sunglasses. Someone who will direct the servants and keep the house, pop out two perfect children who will be prim and proper and well-behaved because we'd get the best nanny to raise them. They don't want someone who is going around busting balls."

"She dos bust a lot of balls."

"Yeah, she does," Shane said proudly.

"But it's an easier leap for them to like her than for them to like Chris."

"It's not a competition," Shane reminded her. "We're in the same boat, we're a united front, and that's what we're going to present when we go to dinner. Chris is a grown man too, if things get bad for him, he won't stand for it."

"I know, I just…I worry, it's what I do when they're concerned. Shane, you just don't know how it felt to have them tell me they didn't want to come to my wedding. I feel like I have to at least toe the line in order for them to still come."

"No, I won't let them," Shane reached out and grabbed the hand that was sitting on top of the table. "I will not let them back out on that promise, and when they told me the first time they weren't going to come, I should have done more to get them to see reason."

Stephanie hadn't told Chris how much it hurt her that her parents weren't going to come. He automatically knew without her saying. He always knew, but with others, she played it off like it didn't bother her as much as it did. It seemed like Shane was just now realizing how incredibly hurt she was by their rejection. His eyes held sympathy, and yes, he knew, now he knew why she really wasn't pushing her personality on her parents. There was the fear that they wouldn't come, that they would break their promise.

"You did enough. You said you'd come, that was enough, more than enough really."

"They won't back out now, if they know what's good for them, they won't let themselves ever be out of your life again, Stephanie. They need to know better. So this dinner is going to happen, and you're going to be yourself, and if they don't like it, tough, because you're pretty great, little sister."

"You know what, big brother?"


"You're pretty great too."