Author's Notes: Well folks, sadly, this story has finally come to an end. We hope y'all enjoyed the ride, and that you'll like the last chapter!

Gin (Disco Inferno) and myself (wandaXmaximoff), would like to thank everyone who has read this story, whether you've commented or not. The support you've shown us is overwhelming, and we really appreciate it.

Our personal list of 'thank you' are at the end of the chapter.


Chapter Twenty: All the Difference in their Lives

Marissa was the not the "kiss and tell" type;" she was indeed a lady. Kate, on the other hand, wanted to hear every juicy detail — once she had had enough coffee to wake up from a long physical night and when they were finally alone back at home. The redhead was humming to herself as she debated between two pairs of pants to wear to RAW that night. Kate lounged across her best friend's bed and tried again. "Was it everything you thought it would be? Did he wear the belt? I'll even tell you what tattoo Dave has on his butt." Marissa glared at her and turned to her vanity to open her jewelry box. "These pants show off your butt better. They'll make John want to touch it."

"Kate!" Marissa exclaimed, turning around to face her. "Maddie will hear you."

"Munchkin's down for a nap," the brunette replied and curled around a pillow. "Not a good enough excuse."

"Don't you need to get ready? You hair's a mess. It looks like you just rolled out of bed after a night of—" the redhead suddenly stopped herself.

Kate shrugged her shoulders as if to say, 'and your point is?' When was her hair not sticking out in all directions? At least it was in a ponytail. "Why bother? Dave'll just mess it up after the show anyhow."

Marissa rolled her eyes. "Just get ready so we're not late," she said, slipping the black jeans on under her robe. The other woman got the hint and lazily rolled off the bed and padded off to her room, humming her own tune.

After pulling on her red RAW polo shirt, Marissa went in search of her daughter, who was off from school for a holiday. Even if she was taking a nap, Marissa always stole a kiss before leaving for the road. The little girl wasn't in her room and she wandered downstairs, thinking Kate was wrong that she was asleep. Spying her mother in the kitchen, she asked, "Have you seen Maddie?" Glenna put a finger to her lips and nodded in the direction of the living room. There, the redhead found Maddie asleep but curled up against her grandfather's side. Joseph had an arm around her but his head was reclined on the back of the couch and his eyes closed. A closed book rested on Xerxes' back while the dog's head was in Maddie's lap. An open book was resting on Joseph's lap. Quietly, Marissa placed both books on the coffee table. Xerxes opened his eyes and blinked at her before tucking his head beside Maddie and letting out a doggie sigh. Marissa smiled and shook out the blanket from the arm chair, laying it over them before lightly kissing her daughter on the cheek.

Something had gotten into her father. He was being civil towards her and now he was reading to Maddie, even to the point of falling asleep with her in his arms. Then the horrible thought struck—her father was dying and her parents had intentionally withheld this information from her. He was sick and knew he had little time left. She backed slowly out of the room to demand answers from her mother. When she made contact with flesh, she squeaked and clapped a hand over her mouth to stop from waking up the nappers.

"I took a picture of them like that right before you came down. I think Maddie would like it for her scrapbook. If you want, I'll have it processed this evening with your Halloween pictures."

"That would be great. I'll go get them." She took several steps toward the stairs but then turned back around. "Mama, is everything okay with Papa?"

"Yes, honey, why would you ask?"

"You're not lying? Promise?"

"Yes, I promise. Is something wrong?"

"It's just…well…" Marissa didn't know if she should take her mother at her word or explain the forbidden thought or even just explain her father's odd behavior. But Kate, good ol' Kate, and her well-timed interruptions took care of that.

"The pot calling the kettle black, huh?" she said, glancing down at the redhead's bare feet.

"Yeah, yeah," she muttered. "Will you get Mama the memory chip from the camera so she can get our pictures processed while I finish getting ready?" Kate nodded and Marissa skipped up the stairs.


The shows were finally back to normal with a bit of exception. It didn't take any persuasion on Kate's part to get Marissa to go out with them. It wasn't a concern at all whether Brad and Josh were coming along. Brad and Jeff were already inseparable. Kate was now planning on doing a little match-making for Josh. Maryse had her little clique but they had always avoided the usual crowd that Kate, and now Marissa, hung out with.

Given their different responsibilities and the need to arrive at the arena at different times, Kate, Marissa, and Brad still carpooled with Josh while the wrestlers kept to their usual travel arrangements. It seemed that "room mix-ups" were becoming regular and who was getting John and Dave's room with the double beds or Kate and Marissa's with the singles had become a contest. From games of 'paper, rock, scissors' and thumb wrestling to arm wrestling and poker, the couples good-naturedly fought for the better room. Being on the road was the only time Marissa and John could spend together and Dave and Kate intentionally chose to not let themselves neglect their families, friends, or other responsibilities at home since they lived less than a half hour apart.

Yes, life had settled down and into a routine. But there was one thing still bothering Marissa—her father. Over the weeks, she had seen him spend more time with Maddie than probably in her entire life. While he was still distant with her, he wasn't breathing down her neck and complaining about everything. He had always treated Kate like a third daughter, much like he did Shannon when she was home from Cambridge. But even the brunette had caught on to the difference despite her head being in the clouds over Dave. Marissa didn't want to say a word about it for fear he would change his mind and their relationship would go back to the way it always was. But it finally came to a head over dinner one evening.

Shannon had managed to come home for Thanksgiving holidays and the three girls had gotten into some major carousing. Unlike her sister, Shannon had no trouble getting into trouble. After their parents called it a night, the three would head out on the town, Marissa coming along to control them—or so she claimed. The family skipped mass that morning to see a bleary-eyed Shannon off at the airport.

Marissa and Kate were a bit exhausted from staying out so late with the youngest Carlson sibling on her last night and Kate wasn't so sure she was even completely sober by the time they had all gathered for dinner. Both the redhead and brunette jerked up form their plate when Joseph began, "So, Kate, when are you going to bring this Dave to dinner so that we can meet him?"

Kate blinked at him. "Uh, well, sir, I don't know. I haven't met his parents yet and I didn't know you would like to meet him."

The couple had been talking about her meeting his family but decided Thanksgiving dinner might have been a little much for the first time. As for Marissa and John, she knew it was going to take some time for her to explain their relationship to her parents and either him traveling to DC or her to Massachusetts to meet the family wasn't going to go over too well.

"Of course, I would," he replied, setting aside his napkin. "The same goes for you, Marissa. Madison has talked non-stop about John since Halloween. I want to meet this man that has enamored my granddaughter so…and apparently my daughter as well."

Both women couldn't hide their surprise and they glanced at each other out of the corner of their eyes. Glenna sat down from them and across from Joseph. She expectantly looked at the two of them, her eyes encouraging them to answer.

Kate wet her dry lips to respond but Marissa's face had turned a deep shade of red. The brunette wasn't about to agree to a family dinner with Dave if it upset her best friend that much. And she sure as hell wasn't about to answer for her in regards to John. "Yeah, we should talk about that some time," she said, giving the best neutral statement she could come up with on the spot.

"No, we talk now," Marissa angrily bit out. "These are the same men that you took every opportunity to deride and now suddenly they're good enough to grace your presence?"

Everyone at the table was surprised at the outburst. She was always quiet, accepting of whatever her father dished out. The only time she had lashed out at him, it had been between the two of them. Kate knew she was riled up, even her ears were red. This wasn't going to end with that comment. Both the brunette and Glenna realized this at the same time but Kate was faster. "Hey, pumpkin," she began, kneeling beside Maddie's chair. "You never did show me your present Aunt Shannon brought from London."

Maddie wasn't stupid and knew something was going on. She hardly ever saw her mother angry but she knew it when she saw it. But this was something serious when Aunt Kate was suddenly asking about her new Princess Di doll, which Kate had seen when Aunt Shannon gave it to her at the airport. She glanced at her dinner plate and then at Kate who was holding out a hand for her. Well, it got her out of eating her peas. She slipped down from her chair and let Kate lead her to the kitchen where the brunette grabbed the plate of cookies that were for dessert before they headed off to Maddie's bedroom.

Kate hated Hannah Montana with a passion but it was Maddie's favorite at the moment. Just in case loud voices reached the room, she popped in the CD while the little girl pulled the collector's doll down from its place on the shelf.

"Is Mama okay?" Maddie asked, crawling up on the bed beside Kate and handing her the doll.

"Absolutely, cupcake."

"Why is she mad?"

Kate paused a minute, wondering that herself. Her father was finally treating her like his adult daughter and she was yelling at him for it.

Marissa wasn't exactly yelling but she had indeed waited until Maddie and Kate were already up the stairs. The redhead was telling herself over and over again to breathe and stay calm. She had stood up to him at Halloween—she could demand answers now.

Feeling this was not between her, her husband, and her daughter, Glenna silently withdrew from the table and disappeared into the kitchen, still within hearing distance. If she needed to step in and rescue Marissa…or even Joseph, she wanted to be ready.

"What's going on?" Marissa demanded but didn't give him a chance to reply. "Ever since the day Maddie was born, you've tolerated her instead of loving her like your granddaughter. I think it's fair to say that we've established that I'm a horrible, immoral person but none of that is Maddie's fault."

"Are you accusing me of not loving her?"

"No," she answered, a bit surprised at the question. This wasn't exactly the direction she wanted to go in.

"Then what is it?"

"You've been cold to me for five years, treating me like a rebellious teenager. You've expressed your disappointment with me at every turn. You have given me grief over and over about my job and the one true friend I make at work, you basically called a violent animal. But, Kate the replacement daughter, she dates Dave and it's okay?"

"That's not why I invited him and John to dinner."

"This is what I don't understand. Why even invite men over that you called, and I quote, 'steroid filled meat-heads.' Between that and suddenly you act like you care about Maddie and you start treating me like a human being rather than a leper. It's all a lie and it's not something I can live with!" Marissa's voice had started out neutral but had risen in volume and anger by the end. She couldn't do this anymore. Her legs were prickly from anxiety and her heart was pounding against her ribcage. She shot out from her chair and rushed outside to lone stone bench in the backyard. It had hit her at that moment that her father couldn't change and whatever was going on, he was manipulating her. She would rather have him remain honest and derisive than lie to her.

Marissa didn't know how long she had sat there but her sweater wasn't enough against the early November twilight. The small pond that lay at her feet was becoming an inky black with approaching evening. Finally deciding she should go back inside, she heard her name, quiet and soft. It was her father and she didn't feel she could even turn around. If he wanted to talk, he could speak to the back of her head, she thought, keeping her eyes on the now still tulip shaped fountain.

"I know you think me cruel and incapable of love, of showing love." He paused. "I had such high hopes for you, for your education, your career, your future family." He could see her breath quickening in anger. "But you said something at Halloween that made me think."

Marissa suddenly held her breath. She had caused her father to stop and think? About their relationship? Their argument had actually meant something, gotten through to him?

Joseph didn't wait for her to acknowledge his statement and he continued. "When you threatened to move out and take Maddie with you, I think I realized what I could lose. If you left this home that angry because of me, I assumed you would never return. I realized that I was alienating you to the point that I could never see Maddie again. You are a grown woman, a mother, and I should treat you as such."

Marissa swallowed hard and forced the tears back. Why couldn't he have just said those things to her? Instead of going from completely cold to, well, at least, lukewarm, he could have told her instead of her fearing that he was dying or manipulating her. She finally turned and looked up into his eyes, seeing there something other than coldness or angry. The woman nodded and her father did the same before turning to go.

"Papa," she called and he paused, facing her. "How did you know about John and Dave?" It wasn't like she offered up her dating habits to her father because of his derision and she rarely said anything to her mother who would try to marry her off.

A slight smile tugged at the corner of his mouth but it was immediately gone, replaced by his usual tight-lipped frown. "Kate's loud," he simply stated and then left his daughter to be alone with her thoughts.

She didn't expect him to suddenly start showing affection and she was sure she would always be a disappointment, even if it was something her father could now tolerate. What mattered was that they had an understanding. She knew in that one nod that he would at least keep his comments to himself and give her the independence that she needed in exchange for not taking away his granddaughter or turning her back on him herself. What she also knew was that his disappointment was because he loved her and, despite the bitterness on her part and the distance on his, he always had and always would. No, things wouldn't suddenly be perfect but they would definitely be better.

Marissa wiped away the few tears that had managed to leak out and rose from the bench. She smiled to herself—she had a dinner to plan and it would take some doing to convince John that it was indeed not a joke that her father had invited him.


Epilogue

The flowers in the garden were brilliant colors, unaware of the encroaching humid summer…and unaware of the decorative lattice that was keeping them safe from a frolicking dog who was spending much more time outside with spring in full bloom. The mottled puppy-at-heart was bounding around the bottom of the massive oak tree, barking up a storm at his younger mistress who was aiming a water balloon at him from her tree house. She had managed to miss the dancing dog but not the two men who flanked Xerxes. A soaked Dave Batista was laughing to the point of his stomach hurting while John Cena was protesting his wet shirt and trying to catch Xerxes to save the dog from the same fate.

Cena's little plot that he had hatched with Maddie hadn't gone according to plan. The wrestler and the little strawberry blonde had managed to sneak filling up water balloons and John had hid them in her treehouse. After dinner, the two were going to surprise Dave, Kate, and Marissa with them but Maddie had a plan of her own. She thought it would be funnier to divebomb John and Dave rather than her mom and Aunt Kate. And it appeared she was right.

The two women in question were resting in lounge chairs on the patio, watching the ensuing chaos in the back yard. "You know," Kate began, placing a hand on Marissa's arm, "we're not always gonna have this. It won't always be the three of us girls."

The redhead grasped her friend's hand tightly and raised up in her chair. "Is there something I don't know? Are you and Dave…"

"No," Kate replied with a dismissive wave of her free hand. "I was just thinking that one day either one of us will finally move out. If you go, then I'll definitely find a place of my own."

Marissa didn't know how to exactly reply to that. It was rather depressing to think that eventually she and Kate would no longer live together. She wasn't naïve enough to think that it was possible for the two couples to live together nor would she really want that. Even though it had been almost six months since the first dinner that had occurred between her family and Dave and John, she couldn't help but think about what it would be like for she and John to live together. Still, she would miss her best friend if one of them moved out of state.

"I think you'll be first though," Kate added.

"What?"

"Of the two of us, I think you'll be first to settle down and I think it'll be with John," the brunette explained, watching the wrestler tumble to the ground after dodging another water balloon. He was threatening to climb up the roof of the house and jump into the treehouse with Maddie.

"You will one day too."

"Oh, I know," the sound tech replied with a grin, her eyes falling on Batista, who was hiding underneath the deck of the treehouse and still laughing uncontrollably. She and Dave were quite serious. They had shared those three little words not that long ago and they talked of their future together. She didn't expect a proposal any time soon and would be wary of one that came so quickly. What mattered was that they were enjoying each other and being in love.

"You do, do you?" Marissa asked with a laugh and the other woman only smiled. "I will miss you so much."

"Me too," Kate replied with a sigh. "When you do go, I want you to take Xerxes for Maddie."

"But he's your dog," the other woman responded, her eyes starting to well up at the gesture.

"Look at them. That traitorous, ugly mutt would be utterly lost without her," the brunette stated, sweeping an arm toward the scene playing out in the yard. She then patted the redhead's hand and added, "But don't think about now. Neither one of us have gone anywhere yet. However, I do know someone who is."

"Oh, juicy gossip," Marissa replied with an intrigued tone.

"Jeff is proposing to Brad next week at my birthday bash," Kate responded with a sly grin.

"Why haven't you told me?" the redhead exclaimed.

"I found out right before dinner and haven't really had a chance to tell you," the other woman said with a shrug.

"Wait a minute," Marissa sternly countered, sitting up and turning towards Kate. "How do you know about your surprise party?"

"I didn't 'til now," she replied with a laugh. "I just figured you and Dave were up to something to rub it into my face that I'm turning thirty. Tricked you into telling me, didn't I?" She raised her eyebrows at the disgusted noise that her best friend made. Then she added, "That's kinda an unfair statement though. Jeff gave it away when he wanted me to check my e-mail to see a picture of the ring he got Brad and then told me he was going to do it at the beginning of the party so it wouldn't take away from my birthday."

"Well, I'll be," Marissa muttered.

"Don't worry. I'll still act all surprised so it doesn't upset D—" Kate was interrupted by the shrill scream that was elicited from Maddie. One of her balloons hadn't busted when it hit the ground and John had launched it back at her, only managing to merely splash her somewhat.

"How do they eat like they do and then go out and act up like that?" Marissa asked, nodding her head toward the two wrestlers. "And how does Maddie always manage to get them to play with her in the yard every time with have dinner?"

Kate was about to respond when John suddenly yelled, "That does it. It's not fair." He turned on his heel and advanced toward the two women.

"What's wrong?" Marissa asked, rising from her seat.

"I'm wet and you're not," he said with a pout and picked her up before she could protest.

Kate waved at the woman who could only dangle like a sack of potatoes over John's shoulder. She squealed loudly as the first water balloon busted on her back.

When Dave finally emerged from hiding beside the tree trunk, the brunette realized she was next. Had it not been for Xerxes hemming her in, she would have made it back inside where Glenna was watching their antics through the kitchen window. Dave dragged her, kicking and screaming to within Maddie's throwing range. She gasped as the cold water exploded on one shoulder but she really couldn't complain with her back against Dave's broad chest, feeling the vibration of his laugh. She glanced over at Marissa to see the same smile spread on her face despite her wet clothes as she twisted free of John's grasp.

The redhead taunted the wrestler as she dashed away. "Go for the water hose," Kate yelled, no longer fighting the hold Dave had on her. He let go, though, as the blast of water from the garden hose hit him full force in the face.

When they were all so dripping wet it no longer mattered, the two couples collapsed on the lounge chairs on the patio while Maddie carefully made her way down from the treehouse. Cena scooped her up in a big bear hug, getting her all wet as well. She pouted at first but then settled down between her mother and John, happy to just be there whether or not she was now damp.

The two women glanced at each other and, even though their cheeks hurt from laughing so much, they smiled again. Yes, they would miss each other but they also didn't exactly have a problem with that. Wanting the other to find happiness was what really mattered. They would part ways on their individual journeys but they would forever remain close and this past year was the one that had made all the difference in their lives.


Well, we hope you all liked the conclusion of the story, and we look forwards to hearing your comments on it.

We'd just like to take a moment to thank :

Purplefeather21, Vera Roberts, MrsJeffHardy, Jewelgirl04, Takersgurl35, cassymae, ImissPadfoot, Inday, OneTreeHillWrestilingFan, AzMiGu, RasslinChick, Be-Urself-NoOne-Else-Will, jada951, littleone999, Laffy.x.Taffy, Fozzy-Floozy, Cena-holic8, xxHungryeyesxx, wrestlenascargirl and justkimmy

For all your wonderful comments and support through out the story. Without you guys, this fic wouldn't have gotten of the ground, and for that, we're really grateful!

All the best,

wandaXmaximoff

and

Disco Inferno