There was a smile on her face as she pulled her car into the driveway and turned off the ignition. Abby was raking old leaves and mulch from the flower beds that lined either side of the porch steps. Lauren was dancing through the grass on the lawn, playing with her soccer ball. The sun was shining and the air had just a touch of spring nippiness. She got out of the car and pulled her bag after her.

"Hey…," she called as Abby stopped and leaned on her rake. 'Should you be doing that?"

"I've got to do something" Abby sighed. "It's too beautiful to be inside." Susan nodded and rounded her car. She dropped the bag in the ground and leaned back against the side.

"And how's the baby today?" she asked. Abby grinned broadly.

"Holding his temp on his own," she said as she started raking again. "He actually nursed without falling asleep…much. I'm guessing we are still on for bringing him home on Thursday. Oh, and they let me take Lauren in with me today."

"Really?" Susan exclaimed. Abby nodded.

"One of the perks of being on staff, I suppose," she said. "I left her with Luka in the ER and he brought her up." She stopped raking and straightened again. "She has seen me use the pump and I have explained it all to her but if you could have just seen the look on her face when I was nursing him…." Abby's shoulders shook with laughter.

"Oh, give her a week and she will be sitting next to you when you nurse holding her baby doll under her Dora tee shirt," Susan chuckled and then frowned a little as she saw Lauren stabbing a stick into the ground.

"What is she doing now?" she asked. Abby glanced over her shoulder.

"Ah…Luka's newest," she said. "He doesn't want Lauren or Cosmo handling the feces yet so whenever they find a 'puppy pile' in the grass they are supposed to put a flag in it for him."

"Serves him right for bringing Cosmo home with a chocolate lab," Susan cried. "I specifically told him to help pick out something that had small poops."

"Awww….he's cute and Cosmo knew you would have a hard time resisting anything with the word 'chocolate' in it's name," Abby chuckled.

"Which is why he and Susie came up with the name Fudge for the dog?" Susan shook her head. "Hey, I signed a contract today…"

"Really? Where at?" Abby ducked her head and raked her refuse into a pile. Susan watched her curiously.

"If you have to ask that the County grapevine isn't working as well as it used to." Abby stopped and then looked up at her.

"No, it works just fine,"' she said with a smile. "Welcome back." Susan grinned.

"You knew I would do it, didn't you?" Abby shrugged.

"Eventually, I guess. Something about County just gets in your blood," she said as she moved next to Susan and leaned back against the car. "Besides, you told Carter once that this was your home. That it was important to you."

"Yeah, I did," Susan sighed.

"Spaghetti for dinner tonight?" Abby with a tip of her head. "There's plenty if you want to invite David as well." Susan shook her head.

"Naw, he's busy," she said. "There's a cute little third grade teacher that he's seeing." Abby's brows raised in surprise.

"He's ready for the whole dating scene again," Susan sighed. "I'm not…..yet I've got a salad in the fridge and bread too, I think. We'll bring that." She picked up her bag and headed for the porch.

"The school bus will be here any minute," she said as she climbed the steps and pulled out her keys. "I'd better let the Fudgesicle out of his crate."

Abby dragged her rake over to the porch and sat down on the steps to watch Lauren. She grinned as the little girl kicked the pink and white soccer ball in the grass again and chased after it. Abby looked up and laughed as a wriggling puppy clambered down the steps, stopped to paw her shoulder and lap at her face and then bounded out in the grass toward Lauren. Susan was holding tight to an extended leash when a school bus drew to a stop in front of the house. She sat on the step next to Abby as the doors of the bus opened and Cosmo jumped down the steps carrying his back pack and jacket. He grinned and fell to his knees as Susan finally released the straining puppy's leash. Fudge raced through the grass to the little boy. Cosmo fell back in the grass as the puppy climbed all over him licking every available piece of skin. Lauren dropped in the grass by Cosmo and the puppy climbed all over her as well. Their giggles resounded back to the porch and Abby and Susan exchanged grins.

"Nice life we have here," Susan sighed as she tipped her head back and closed her eyes to catch some warm rays from the sun.

"Yeah…." Abby nodded and did the same.

The End

When I first conceived this story it was intended to cover the span of one year in the friendship of Susan Lewis and Abby Lockhart-Kovac. A year of grieving, laughter and shared events. A story intended to tell of the ins and outs of friendship and 'family'. My original intention was to write 12 chapters, one for each month. Heh. I dropped the ball on several events and have not been totally happy with how they played out in the end. But I like the story enough not to delete it entirely. I know there are at least some of you that feel the same. Thank you for your support and reviews. I love writing for these families in the duplex…..and I fear this won't be the last you see of them. I keep seeing Luke in my head… a Goofy hat at Disneyworld….