Disclaimer::runs away sobbing::
Summery: One does not die until they are truly forgotten. A/A
A young couple, blissfully in love, dancing and sharing a tender moment.
An ecstatic young bride, laughing as she flicks a glob of frosting at her new husband.
A warm, adorable young baby, full of life and curiosity.
Two children, twins, proudly displaying finger-painted portraits that portray a typical family.
A family portrait, of a teenage girl, twin boys, and a proud mother and father.
"Dad?" A brunette woman looked around the doorway and smiled gently. "Come on… We have to go soon."
He nodded heavily, and looked back down. "Chiara… Do you remember…"
"I remember a lot of things, Dad." Her tone was brisk, but held a tense edge of pain. "But right now, it's best to not-" She broke off, and sniffed suddenly, rubbing her eyes with repressed sorrow.
He smiled serenely, and patted the seat next to him, slowly opening the photo album again.
"Ashley?" He opened the door, a small smile dancing on his face. Carefully, he pushed it open and slipped inside. "I'm back…"
"Andros…" She turned and smiled warmly.
"Happy Anniversary, Ash." He presented her with a bouquet of red and yellow roses, a card tucked amidst the blossoms. Her eyes lit in delight and she buried her face in the flowers. Plucking out the card, she read it silently, her eyes flitting over the words, an unreadable expression crossing her face. She looked up, her gaze teary, and a mysterious smile tugging at her lips.
"I love you, Andros," she said, her voice trembling. "And… And…" She let out a sob, and flung herself at him.
"A-Ashley? What's wrong? Is something wrong?" Bewildered, and a little scared, he rubbed her back soothingly. In response, she took ahold of his other hand, and moved it to her abdomen. He stopped abruptly, and met her eyes.
Her eyes shone in delight. "Happy Anniversary."
"That was when she told me about… well, you." The old man sighed, a wistful look in his eyes. "I'll never forget that day."
Her finger trailed over the picture of the two, her mother barely showing, but already glowing; her father looking completely happy, a content love in his eyes. Gently, Chiara leaned over and turned a few pages until she reached one of her father with his arm around her mother as she cradled two infants in her arms.
"Oh, god, Andros…!" Ashley sobbed with joy, as she clutched her newborn son closer.
"They're beautiful, Ash." His smile was infectious and his eyes glistened. "You're amazing."
"Daddy!" A little girl, around four years old, launched herself at Andros, hugging his leg tightly.
"Chiara, honey," Ashley said, smiling down at her daughter. "Meet your brothers."
"She loved you all so much. Even the boys – she was never irritated when they got too loud or messy. All she would do was… was smile, and hold them, and say she loved them. It worked better than any threats or punishments."
Chiara looked at him with sad eyes. "She was amazing. I remember me coming home sometimes and she would always be there with a smile and a hug. Even when I was a teenager-" She grimaced, remembering her rebellious days.
"She had such faith in you." Her father reached over to grasp her hand gently. "Both of us knew you would always come back to us; our little girl."
"Oh, Andros." Ashley frowned, her eyes distant as she gazed out the window.
"Ashley, come to bed. You and I both know that she's not coming home for a while."
"But why?" The brunette frowned, and pressed a hand to the window in dismay. "She was such a happy child, always so bright and full of life. Now…"
"She's sixteen, Ash." Andros climbed out of bed and came around to hug her from behind. "She knows we love her and that we'll always be here, waiting for her when she's ready." And she better be ready soon, his mind added.
"I love you, Andros."
He kissed her gently. "Love you too, Ash."
Chiara smiled quietly, shifting in her seat. "I'm glad you never gave up on me. I was… in such a hard spot at that time. I can't imagine what might have happened had you written me off as a lost case."
He turned the page, and their gaze rested upon one of Chiara, resplendent in a white gown, clutching the arm of a beaming young man. Her husband.
"Smile!" Ashley hissed, nudging Andros in the side. "Do you want your daughter to look back on these days and only remember an unhappy, overprotective father?"
Andros sighed in reply, looking over at his daughter's husband. In truth, he was rather pleased with the man, and thought that he would treat his princess right – although, it had been fun threatening him as to what he and his fellow ex-rangers would do if he didn't (treat her right, that is).
Ashley's face melted back into a smile as the camera flashed, and the group dispersed.
"Oh, honey!" She rushed to embrace her daughter again. "I'm so happy for you!" Her gaze fell upon her son-in-law. "And you…" Her face was hard before she beamed again. "You will make a fine addition to this family. Good taste runs in the family."
"Hey, sis." Her younger brother sauntered up.
Chiara reached over and messed up his hair again. "Hey Brat, where's the Geek?"
"Astounding your bridesmaids with his extensive knowledge of macro- and micro-economics."
As the bride snorted, rolling her eyes, and the "Brat" insisted that it was true, Ashley and Andros watched this scene with fond eyes.
"They're growing up so fast…"
"They'll always be ours', Ash." He leaned down and gently pressed his lips to her's.
"It's been a while since then," Chiara said, helping her father into the car.
"It still feels like yesterday," he replied. "She would always live in the moment. But it's hard to do that now."
The two sat in silence, until the car slowly rumbled to a stop. Chiara faced her dad, eyes solemn.
"Dearly beloved, we gather here to say our goodbyes…"
Silently, Andros sat, stony-eyed throughout the entire ceremony. When given the opportunity to speak, he declined, saying, "Everything that was meant to be said, has been said. I have nothing more to say."
He filed out of the church with the rest of his extended family, as they came to a stop beside her gravestone.
"Home is where the heart is."
Andros smiled, and it wasn't bitter or despondent. Instead, he smiled with a love not suppressed by death, his eyes distant with the memories he would never forget.
"My home is with you."
And as he caressed the stone with familiar hands, he swore he could hear Ashley's voice, as gentle and loving as it had always been.
"And my heart is yours…"
Author's Notes: Yay! This is for MARIEKE on her birthday (which should be today…) So everyone wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY, even though I know that she'll probably end up with at least three or four other birthday fics. :D And sorry this is late; FF(dot)net was being very stupid today - but all is forgiven! We must not let anything sully this glorious day of celebrating the birth of one of our favorite people ever!
Review for Marieke. ;)