"Jackson I can't believe you are doing this for Lily. Why can't you be this nice all the time?" Miley finished hanging up some white roses over the archway.
"You're my sister and Lily's my wife. You see the difference?" Jackson admired the handy-work all around him. "Thank you for helping anyway. I didn't think it was fair that Lily not get a proper wedding."
"Ya think?" Miley joked, hugging her brother and admiring the archway she had helped fix up. "You know that a sunset wedding has always been Lily's dream? Not to mention she wanted to keep it small, just like this."
"She didn't tell me that, but somehow I knew." Jackson replied, knowing it was the truth. "I just can't wait to see the look on her face when she sees this."
"She'll be more than happy. After all, she's married a good one." Miley looked at her brother again. "As your sister and Lily's best friend slash maid of honour, I have to say that I'm really happy for you two. I know you'll be together forever."
Jackson raised an eyebrow before smiling at how sweet his sister was being. "Thanks Miles." He turned around, seeing Robby struggling with the huge and beautifully decorated wedding cake. "Wow that looked much smaller in the picture. Miles, you better go and help dad with that before he breaks the cake."
"Don't worry Jackson, he's not you." Miley joked before running off to help her dad.
Jackson shook his head and looked around at the scene. Flowers and strategically placed fairy lights decorated the area of the beach behind the Stewarts house. Each row of light blue chairs was set up perfectly. Feeling exhausted from all the planning and the slight guilt of sneaking around behind Lily's back, Jackson sat down on one of the chairs and pictured the scene. He tried to picture Lily in the dress that Miley had picked out for her, but his sister had been so insistent that he not see it. Even his imagination, Jackson knew, couldn't give justice to how beautiful Lily was going to look.
"Hey Jackson, so I guess today's the big day, or evening as the case appears to be." Oliver, done with all his duties sat down beside Jackson in the front row of chairs.
Jackson snapped out of his fantasy and turned to Oliver. "Yeah, Lily always wanted a sunset wedding. I just want it all to be perfect for her, after everything she's been through she deserves nothing but the best."
"Don't you think you're putting a little too much pressure on yourself? I mean, you've been through a lot as well and what makes you think that Lily isn't happy just being with you?" Oliver asked, before joking with his friend. "Then again, I think the big bash is in order."
Jackson glared at Oliver. "Don't you have something else you should be doing other than paying me out?"
"Okay okay. Let me just say this. I've known Lily a long time. Practically my whole life that I can remember and after all that, not to mention hanging out with girls a majority of my high school life, I know the signs and she loves you." Oliver told Jackson, patting him on the back. "I had my doubts at first, with all the drama that was going on but you really care about her."
"Of course I do and I can't back out now can I? We're already legally married. It doesn't matter though because I can't imagine ever wanting to." Jackson replied, staring at the archway and once again escaping into his thoughts.
Oliver snapped him right out of them though by continuing. "I'm glad to hear you say that because you know that if you ever did I would hunt you down and kill you."
Jackson turned to Oliver with a serious look. "A very bad choice of words, my friend." Seeing that Oliver looked a little guilty and embarrassed, Jackson cracked a smile and began to laugh. "Besides…you? You beating me up?"
Oliver tried to maintain his composure. "Yeah, what's so funny about that? Lily's very important to me and if you screw this up…"
Jackson decided to be serious, knowing Oliver meant well for one of his best friends. "Don't worry I will try the best I can never to screw up even the smallest detail. I'm not going to let her go again even if that means seeing a lot more of you."
"That's good then." Oliver replied before realising exactly what Jackson said. "Hey!"
Jackson walked away as opposed to replying, he knew he had to pick Lily up from her afternoon of shopping. Just as he was a few feet from his car, Max jumped out of no-where and startled him. "Hey Max, have you finished what I asked?"
"Yeah, suit and the others the whole deal so you and your girl can get married…again." Max replied, motioning to Thor and the others who were obviously writing speeches. Before Jackson could question why his friends were laughing hysterically at the paper in front of them, Max continued. "Why didn't you tell us about all this before last week? We could have thrown you a bachelor party with beer and strippers and the whole works. Come on, you deserve it after everything that's happened to you man. It's tradition the one last night of freedom before you committed to Lily for ever."
Jackson led him back over to the other guys. "Thanks for the thought anyway but it wouldn't have worked. I mean, where were we supposed to have it, your mom's basement? Besides, Lily is the only girl I want to see naked from now on."
"She's turned you soft, don't ya know!" Thor cried out, sounding like he had already had a bit of the champagne provided.
Jackson continued on the way to his car, shaking his head at his friends joking around. "Well, every wedding has to have the token drunk best friend of the groom doesn't it?" He asked himself, knowing that no matter how much they mucked around, his friends would be there for him at this time. This was the time in his life where everything would be absolutely perfect.
Unaware of what Jackson was planning Lily had not gone to the mall as she had originally promised. She hated lying to the man she loved, but at the time she had convinced herself it was the truth. It was the moment she stepped out of his car and watched Jackson drive away that she knew she was fooling herself. There was no way she could miss it, as seeing the event would be the final closure in this chapter of her life.
She hoped no-one recognised her as she stood behind a large headstone watching the few people around her, peeking through the gaps to catch a glimpse of what she had come to see in the first place. At one point she looked up at the man speaking his words, staying perfectly composed as he spoke the farewell to Mike.
"He made some bad choices, but we can be sure that God has forgiven Michael Wade for all his wrong-doings and keeps a space for him in Heaven…."
Lily couldn't help but wonder if the minister believed any of it. She certainly didn't want to think that Mike was somehow rewarded for all the suffering he inflicted on people. If anything, Lily would have expected that Mike be burning in hell where his soul would be tormented as hers had been.
She knew some people believed it by the tears they shed. Lily shook her head at hearing the two people who were muffling their wails. It amazed her that people still supported and loved this person, despite everything he had done. Looking around, Lily noticed a younger woman and a small child, figuring that she may have been Mike's first wife with their daughter. It amazed her at how young the other woman appeared to be.
As they lowered the coffin and people began to walk away, Lily kept her hiding place, planning to get her closure after they all left. It was only then that she recognised who she presumed to be the ex-wife. Her eyes opened wide and before she could regain control, her mouth suddenly blurted out the words. "Melina!"
The other woman jumped up in shock, the girl beside her seeming un-phased by anything that had happened. Lily walked over to them, looking down at the young girl that she figured for a moment could be Melina's sister. The resemblance between the two was blatant, except for one prominent feature. Biting her lip, Lily tried to turn away but the eyes kept staring back at her, eyes that were unmistakably Mike's.
"What are you doing here?" Melina asked, seeming partly shocked, partly embarrassed and on the verge of tears.
"What do you mean, I thought you went back home. Why didn't you tell me what had happened?" Lily asked, still completely flabbergasted at the revelation. She allowed her body to turn to Mike's grave, reading the date of death. It would forever be a date she would remember no matter how much she tried to forget.
"Frankly, because it was not your concern." Melina replied bluntly, following Lily's gaze and breathing heavily to fight the tears. "Besides, I didn't expect to see you here."
Lily put her arm around Melina. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. It's just a shock, you know. I don't even know why I'm here."
"For the same reason I am, right?" Melina looked into her eyes with a serious stare. She wouldn't dare speak the words. The truth being that she wanted to see for herself that her daughter's father was not coming back. "I guess whether mentally or physically it never really leaves you does it?"
"I guess it doesn't." Lily replied, still staring at the grave in front of her. A part of her felt closure, another part felt paranoid that Mike would pop out and surprise them.
Melina grabbed Lily's hand, squeezing it. They stood in silence for a few moments, sharing the bond of the burden that Mike had bestowed on them. Melina's daughter began to show her impatience. "Lily I'm just going to tell you this. You may think that Daniella worries me but the truth is she has turned something so ugly into something amazing and beautiful."
"I guess that's what Jackson has done for me." Lily motioned to her wedding band. "For so long I could have been waiting and wondering, but all this proved just how right everything was. It seems like a sick thought I know…"
Melina smiled and shook her head. "No, it just means you're moving on. You didn't have to come here to get closure all you have to do is live each day as best you can. Appreciate that your marriage is something beautiful to come out of all of this. The wrong guy led you to the right guy." She picked up her toddler and looked up at the darkening sky.
"It's kind of ironic, holding Mike's funeral at sunset." Lily observed. "Almost like it's supposed to be a sign of a brand new day."
"I guess he wanted things that way. Since it is getting dark I should get going. It's an early morning drive to get back home." Melina shook Lily's hand. "Hopefully the next time we meet, it will not be for reasons such as this."
"Take care of yourself." Lily replied, waving them both off.
As her friend walked away, Lily stood by the grave for a little longer. "Mike, you hurt me so much. Nothing will ever change what you did, despite the speeches. You can't hurt me or my mom or my husband. You can't control me anymore. I have a good life now and I will live a great life and I will feel better knowing that you are never coming back." Tears began falling down her face at the memories and release. "You're dead and you're never ever coming back."
Lily sighed and walked away. She had hoped that by coming to Mike's burial that it would give her closure, but she knew Jackson was right. It would take time, but he was always there. All she had to do was listen to Melina, turn something so ugly and hateful into a beautiful positive. At that point she just wanted to be with Jackson, wrapped in a beautiful moment which could not be interrupted.
Slowly she trudged back towards the mall. She looked up at the sky as the stars were coming out. Hugging herself to keep warm, she kept walking with her pace becoming more rushed as she became anxious about walking the streets alone at night. Noticing a car slowing up behind her, she began running.
"LILY!" A voice cried out behind her, making her stop solid. Before she knew it, Jackson was holding her.
"What's going on?" Lily looked up at him, feeling grateful at the safety his arms were bringing her.
Jackson led her back to the car, saying nothing until they were both sitting in their seats. "So how was it?" When Lily looked back at him confused, he explained. "I found the notice in the newspaper this morning. The truth is a part of me wanted to go as well but I don't want to waste any more energy or time than I already have on that asshole."
Lily looked outside the window, feeling a little ashamed that she had let Mike get to her again. "You must think I'm an idiot for going then."
Jackson reclined his chair, motioning for Lily to do the same. As they lay side by side in their seats, Jackson stroked her hair. "Of course I don't think you're an idiot. Did you get what you were looking for?"
"Not the closure I was expecting, but advice from and old friend….and her daughter." Lily replied, knowing that Jackson knew exactly what she was talking about.
"You're kidding me right? Melina and Mike…" Jackson stared up at the sky.
Lily turned his face back to her. "That's not my point. I mean, like it or not all this brought us that much closer and now we're married. I should stop thinking about all the crap because it's over and all that's left of it is you and me forever."
Jackson leaned over and kissed Lily, very passionately. He just wanted to be with her, right then and there. "I love you, Lily."
"I think that hungry kiss kind of said that for you." Lily pressed her cheek to his and whispered in his ear. "Translation, I love you too."
The wedding ceremony planned back at home suddenly came back into Jackson's mind. "I guess we better get back home then. It's kind of cold out here. Which is weird since it's nearly summer."
Lily pulled him back as he prepared to sit up. "Let's just lay here awhile, I just want to look at you. I need to do this okay?"
Jackson nodded in understanding, though he did not know completely what was going on in Lily's mind. It didn't matter as to why she needed to do it. Jackson let himself live in the moment. Feeling his heart beat faster and the butterflies in his stomach come alive as Lily touched him and looked at him. She was absorbing him, everything about him.
"I think I'm going to be alright now." Lily told him with a smile, moving her fingers from his neck down passed his shoulder to his hand. "Just don't let go of me okay?"
Jackson managed to start up the car while holding Lily's hand. The whole ride back to his house he never let go. He knew that she needed this, for whatever reason. In the back of his mind, he wondered what had become of the ceremony he had set up for them both. As he parked the car in the driveway, he was eager to find out.
"Where are we going? I thought you said it was cold." Lily followed Jackson as her hand clasped his, until she reached a beautiful scene. "Did you do all this?"
Jackson looked around. There were no people or chairs. The archway had gone but flowers were still decorating the area while the lights illuminated it. He turned to Lily to explain exactly what had happened when music started to play almost out of nowhere. Turning towards the house, Jackson saw the silhouette of his father slowly leaving them in private.
"Jackson this is really beautiful. It's too romantic." Lily wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
Jackson slipped his arms around her waist, going with the moment. "Actually it was all set up to be a wedding. Since you didn't get the most romantic one I wanted to surprise you. I guess we were a bit late in getting back and they figured something else out without us."
"What did I tell you?" Lily leaned on his shoulder, swaying to the beat of the music. "Weren't you listening to me or something?"
"I just wanted everything to be perfect. You deserve it." Jackson rested his cheek on the top of her head, smelling her shampoo. "I don't want our whole life to come to be me screwing up all the time."
"Jackson, shut up." Lily pulled away, still keeping a hold of Jackson's hands. Looking him straight in the eyes she moved in closer, intertwining their fingers. "The one thing I've learned is that no matter how much you try, things will never be perfect. You can't plan things, they just happen. All you can do is make the most of them. Sure I didn't get a big wedding, but I have you for the rest of my life and now even when you planned something else, we still have this romantic little dance floor all to ourselves."
Jackson pressed his forehead to Lily's taking in what she was saying. "I know but it doesn't stop me wanting to make your dreams come true. Actually, now that I think about it…"
"What?" Lily looked confused, yet smiled as Jackson seemed to have an idea.
Without warning, Jackson picked up Lily and ran with her towards the special spot. The spot where he realised his feelings for Lily, where their whole story began. He placed her down on the patch of sand where they sat the night she cried, except now she was laughing.
"You're laughing, that's a good thing, saves me from doing this." Jackson tickled her playfully anyway, watching as she tried to wriggle free.
"Jackson you're crazy." She managed to say through her laughter. Watching as he lay down beside her, she wondered what he was doing. "What's this all about?"
"Do you remember that day…" Jackson whispered, turning towards Lily. "The day when, despite the fact I just realised I loved you, I made you get on that bus."
"How could I forget, the day of our first kiss?" Lily was gushing, cuddling up closer and tightening her arms around Jackson. "Not to mention the day I realised I love you too."
"Do you remember that conversation we had before you left?" Jackson nuzzled her neck before meeting her eyes again. "About your dreams, the ones you had about me."
"What about them?" Lily asked, still caught up in the romantic memories of that day to really remember.
"If you've noticed Mike isn't in the picture. I'm right here and I'm making you laugh at every opportunity." Jackson quickly tickled her sides before turning serious again. "Then you said we always ended up on the beach…"
Lily put a finger to his lips. "You would take me in your arms and kiss me." The moment she finished the sentence she closed her eyes and felt Jackson's warm, soft kiss. A kiss that grew more passionate by every second it lasted.
"Wow that was amazing, second only to our first kiss." Lily couldn't remove the smile from her face and she could tell that Jackson was the same.
"Actually I think it was even better." Jackson replied, pulling Lily on top of him and admiring her bathed in moonlight.
"Why would you say that?" Lily whispered, curiously. "Is it because you're happy my dreams came true?"
Jackson shook his head, happy at the truth he was about to speak. "Our first kiss was unforgettable by all means, but I had to put you on a bus straight after it. I had to let you go…."
Pulling Lily to him, he squeezed her tightly. Seeing the new woman she had become, he knew they could face anything together. He knew they would always have each other and with that, finished his explanation. "…this time I know. I'm never going to let you go again."
NOTE: Seriously, I can't believe this fic has ended. Truth be told I had trouble on deciding what way to end it, which is why it was posted later than I planned, but I think it turned out sweet. Well, anyway I hope you've all loved L&D and re-read it over and over or atleast post a review :-) Look out for my next Lackson fic which should be posted pretty soon. It's called "What Happens in Vegas" and I'll try my best to top this one. Thanks everyone.