And now for a more fluffy-future…
She didn't move at the scrape of boot heel on metal, but when his legs wrapped around to bracket hers she relaxed. "You're cold," he murmured, in an echo of their past, "And your hair is wet."
"It's raining," she said, tilting her face to tuck her nose into the space between his shoulder and chin.
"In Seattle? Huh, good thing I brought an umbrella." She looked up at his profile against the red fabric as he watched the skyline, and then she settled again, eyes as captivated as his on the city lights from their High Place.
"Are you coming back?"
"No. It's called a permanent vacation for a reason, Lin."
"What are you going to do with yourself?" she demanded.
He'd thought about it. A lot. Who he'd be away from politics. Who he'd be away from everything he'd made himself aspire to. And all he'd come up with was, "Whatever I want."
"Do you even know what you want anymore, Alec?"
"I want to be a good father. I want to make things work with Max." The front door opened to reveal his family, smiling brightly. "I want everything they told me I couldn't have."
"Punishment!" Eve yelled, banging open the front door and dragging Ben by the ear. Max sprang away from Alec, straightening her clothes.
"What did you do now, Benjamin?" Max asked, sighing. Her son had definitely gotten into more mischief now that he had his father in his corner.
"He kissed me," Eve hissed.
"Dalton dared me! Double dared, my pride was at stake!"
"Just your pride?" Max prompted.
He grinned, "And possibly my new camera…"
"Ben," she reproved.
"An older woman, huh? That's my boy." Alec grinned.
Max and Eve shared a look as their boys exchanged indiscreet high-fives.
They left the courthouse hand in hand, fingers locked, Ben following at a leisurely pace as he clicked through his digital stills. She looked over, and he was watching her, smiling softly, and she knew there would never be another moment like this. So quiet and private and theirs.
It was raining out and she was wearing jeans, but it had been the perfect day for a wedding.
Not that they really needed one; their claims were absolute, complete, unshakeable, and unbreakable.
But sometimes, sometimes, a girl liked to have thing in black and white and then filed in triplicate.
When they placed the little pink bundle in his arms he felt like dying. Like this was all some elaborate hoax to make it seem like all his dreams were coming true and in a minute he'd be ripped away, back to a bed half-cold, listening to her bumbling attempts around the kitchen as he tried desperately to remind himself it wasn't real. That happiness was fleeting and he was living on borrowed time.
Then she yawned. Squinted up at him with his eyes. Max's hair. Tiny fingers and tiny toes. Real. Perfect. His… and his heart started beating again.
"I can do it," she insisted, little hands fussing with the front of her powder pink jacket.
"Okay," he said mildly.
She looked up at him shyly five minutes later, eyes wet and lips pouting. "Daddy," Hope whispered, "Help, pwease."
He kept his smile small as he knelt down before her, wondering at how like and unlike Max she was. "How about I start it," he offered, his fingers already deftly hooking the ends of her zipper together. She took it from him, pulling the tab up smoothly and smiling at him in triumph.
"I did it!"
"That's my girl."
It really is the end. Hard to believe, huh? Thank you, everyone, who read this fic no matter how long it took. I appreciate your dedication and all your input on this crazy, angst-riddled story. Love to you and all you do!