-Author's Note: Okay guys, this is it. The last chapter. I finally boiled this thing down to a finish. Any grammatical errors found are purely mine, as this is an un-betaed copy, simply because I just wanted to go ahead and get it up. I hope you guys enjoy it, I really wrestled a lot with how to finish it off, and this idea just kind of hit me at work. I'm sorry it too so long to finish, but without further ado, here it is.-
There was a peaceful silence inside the Malone household, and Samantha smiled. It was what she had always dreamed of. The love of her life asleep beside her, the family dog curled up on the floor at the foot of the bed, and her son safely asleep at the end of the hallway. Yes. This was definitely an acceptable new life for Samantha. The silence was interrupted by a loud snort and an abrupt jerking of Jack's foot back under the blanket.
"Zeus!" he mumbled, grumpily. "Stop licking my foot."
She tried to hold back a laugh, but failed. A muffled giggle escaped.
"I see nothing amusing about this," he mock-grumbled.
"Maybe he likes the taste of Goldbond."
"I hope his tongue swells up. Here," he rubbed his foot against her leg. "Have some sticky, dog saliva and foot powder."
She pulled her leg away and playfully scrunched up her face.
Jack couldn't help but smile at how cute she was. The one thing that made it even better was that she was his, and he had a gold band to prove it. The past four years had treated him well. They had gotten married shortly after he had committed to helping Sam care for the baby.
Then the baby was born. There had been a few minor bumps in the road. A pre-mature birth was their biggest scare. 3lbs 1oz was not a size either of them had been comfortable with. In fact, Jack could remember his daughters having dolls smaller. None the less, they ended up with a healthy baby boy; Coleman Elijah Malone.
Being new parents together had been quite an experience. Jack wasn't completely unfamiliar with the basics, but it was different with a baby Coleman's size. Diapers were smaller, clothes were smaller, even the bottles had been different. Those weren't the only setbacks either. They had ended up changing formulas several times before finding one that didn't bother his sensitive stomach, but they managed. Through blood, sweat, and tears, they made it through that intense period of life.
"Listen," Samantha stated, interrupting his trip down memory lane. He raised a lazy brown and strained to hear something.
No sooner had the words left her mouth, did they both hear the rumbling of foot-steps coming down the hallway. Zeus lifted his head and snorted as if mentally bracing for the 4-year-old that was about to wrap him in a huge hug. Jack smirked. 'Poor guy,' he thought.
"Zeush!" Coleman announce, bounding into the room. Jack watched as a bundle of blonde hair and freckles, clad in Phineus and Ferb pajamas tackled the giant German Shepherd.
"Easy, Cole," Jack softly scolded. "Zeus can't handle but so much this early."
"…I just want you guys to understand how important this day is. It isn't the end of journey, but in all actuality, the beginning..." Jack was brought out of his memory by the sound of his son's voice. "…We're all going on to bigger, better things; careers, colleges, but most of all, life. We did it, guys! We made it! We are the graduating class of 2015!"
Jack and Samantha beamed with pride, as any parents of the valedictorian would. 18 years had flown by. It seemed like only yesterday they had been changing diapers, or listening to Jack rant about melting any Lego block he could find to keep from demolishing his foot in the middle of the night. The late nights of sitting up due to stomach aches, or sleeping in due to snow days had finally passed. Their son was now an adult.
Everyone stood to clap, amazed at the young man's speech. Then, it was time for the big moment, for every graduate to walk across the stage and receive their ticket into adult-hood, their diploma. The students walked across, one by one, stopping for a brief moment for the camera to capture the memory.
"…Stephanie Nicole Maes, Coleman Elijah Malone…" Coleman stood, a smile beaming across his face, and walked across the stage, accepting his diploma graciously. A small section of the audience went nuts, and inside Coleman wanted to laugh. He knew how proud every one of them was of him. Danny, Vivian, Elena, and his parents had coached him along and encouraged him every step of the way.
"You did good, son," Jack complimented, hugging Coleman tight. "We're proud of you."
"Extremely proud," Samantha added in, grabbing a hug of her own. As she held him in her embrace, part of her never wanted to let go. It was only a matter of days before he would be leaving to become even more of a man than he was now. He had chosen the Marines as his career choice, to become one of the few and the proud, and though she was impressed with him, she was also scared to death. A motherly instinct, she supposed, to fear for her son's well being, but she knew he would be safe, he was a smart man.
"You'll do just fine as a Marine," Jack said, and added almost as an afterthought. "Damn fine."
If anyone could survive the Marines, it was Coleman. He had always had a tactical mind, prone to problem solving and any kind of puzzle he could find, and Jack was truly confident in that. He reminded him much of Martin; goofy in ways, but when it boiled down to it, damn good at anything he wanted to do. In that moment, Jack realized just how much Coleman was like Martin; blond hair, steel blue eyes, and a quirky grin. Whatever doubt he may have had, vanished in that moment when he realized he was standing next to Martin Fitzgerald's carbon copy.
'Yes.' He thought. 'This kid will definitely go far.'