"I'm surprised all right!"

Rick's wide grin as he saw the decorations in their living room was only surpassed by the joyful smile his wife wore, as they took in the streamers and paper Wedding bell in front of their fireplace.

"Of course we're going to have Nick's blessing in the morning, but we thought we'd get things ready today…" Oscar began, then Cecilia finished somberly, "Not knowing what was going to happen, of course. Honey, we can wait a couple of days if you need to rest…"

Laurie instantly shook her head, then winced. "No, Mom….I can hardly wait to see you and Dad get married ….I mean, get blessed." Rick snickered as she threw him a frustrated look

"Oh, you stinker, you know what I mean….yes….I'd love for us to have the ceremony tomorrow. I just need to sit down in my chair for a little rest….."

"As in bed rest, sweetheart…doctor's orders." Rick corrected her, then helped her to their room as the rest of the family pitched in to reheat dinner. Once Laurie was settled into their bed, propped up with all the pillows he could find, Rick started to sit next to her, only to see tears running down her face.

"Sweetheart, what is it? Are you in pain….let me go get Rudy."

"No, no, darling…I'm sorry, I don't need to frighten you…I just….I should have told you I knew something was going to happen…..that I couldn't stop!" Laurie sobbed.

Suddenly it all made sense to Rick; the sad look on his wife's face at times, the expression of terror she had when told she had to stay put at the ranch. For a moment he was upset that she kept her fears from him, then the sound of her crying melted any resentment. Gently he took her in his arms, saying, "It's all right now, angel….I'm not going anywhere. It's all right…"

"But I should have t….told you." She wept, looking into his face. "Last week I had a horrible dream about today…including that monster hitting Rob…The dream I had …a voice said I couldn't change what was going to happen, then I watched Adams fire his gun, then both of us fall. I was screaming your name…then when I got that awful phone call, it was like a waking nightmare. When I saw you lower your gun, I thought he was going to kill you."

Now Rick understood, and he cuddled her to him. 'Darlin'….I knew something was wrong…I should have talked to you….asked you why you were so sad.

I don't ever want you to be so frightened that you faint like that. My sweet girl….I'm here for you, remember…good times and bad."

She stopped shaking and wearily rested her wet face against his as he added, "No matter what, I won't leave you, sweetheart…"

"Oh, Rick…I love you….and I promise, even if I'm afraid of what might happen, to always share my worries with you….." Laurie murmured, lifting her face to kiss him. After a long moment, Rick reluctantly released her lips, then snorted as A.J.'s voice came from outside the bedroom.

"Dinner's on! Do you want me to bring you guys a tray?"

"He's not too big to….." Rick sighed, then grinned at his wife…"Darlin' ……"

"It's okay, love…we'll take a rain check." She promised, then smiled as Rick pretended to pout. "You'd better…" Raising his voice, he called back, "Just a minute…."

The next day found an overflowing house full of family, bursting at the seams with children gathering rose petals and an excited Jack chasing them around.

"Dad, where's the ring?" Rick asked, nervously searching his pockets. Grinning, A. J. plucked it from his finger, then handed it over to Oscar.

"Show off…." Rick growled under his breath.

"Now, boys….don't let me get your mother." Oscar warned facetiously, then gave a little jump himself when the back door slammed shut.

"Kids…." Laurie gave the guilty party a look as Davey squeaked "Sorry" and ran into the living room. Standing next to Rick, she beamed as Robbie stuck his head in the kitchen.

"Father says everything's ready if you're ready, Uncle Oscar."

"Thanks, son…." The older man replied, his nervousness disappearing. Giving Rick and A.J. a grin, he went in to the living room.

"Okay, Mom…you can come out now…" A.J. called, and a radiant Cecelia Simon came out of the hallway. Wearing a summery pink suit, she looked so happy that Rick had tears in his eyes.

"Thank you, son…." She smiled at both Rick and A.J., then teared up herself when A.J. told her, "You look wonderful, Mom… "

"Yeah, you look like a million dollars. Wait until Dad sees you….", Rick added.

"Thank you, Rick….I feel like a million dollars…well, let's get started." Cecilia beamed at both of them, then linked arms with both sons as they went through the kitchen door.

Ahead of them in the living room stood as many of their friends and family as could fit. Father Nick stood facing them, a satisfied smile on his face as first Abby and Jaime, then Linda and Laurie preceded a beaming Cecilia.

When they reached Father Nick, the old priest grinned at Rick and A.J., then asked, "Who gives this woman in matrimony?"

"We do." The brothers said in unison. Oscar immediately stepped forward and Rick placed their mother's hand in his. Suddenly A.J. covered it with his, then looked at Oscar and said, "Thank you….Dad."

"Thank you, son." Oscar whispered, clearly moved, then turned to face Father Nick as he began to speak.

"Friends, family…we are present here to witness a true marriage in spirit. Oscar Goldman and Cecilia Simon have both lost loved ones, but they have gained each other as well as a large and loving family…."

Throughout the short service, Rick grew nostalgic for the childhood he remembered, realizing it no longer hurt to miss his father, then a soft touch on his hand made him smile.

"Yes, Darlin'" he whispered, wrapping his large hand around her small fingers. From his pocket he took a handkerchief and handed it to her.

"Thank you, love…" she "told" him, then dabbed her eyes with the small square of material. Just then Father caught their attention when he announced, "It is my pleasure to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Oscar and Cecilia Goldman!"

Instantly Oscar took Cecilia in his arms and kissed her, to a rousing cheer led by Rudy and all the grandchildren. Laughing, the groom released his bride so she could hug first Rick and A.J., then Laurie and Linda. Oscar followed suit, embracing the two brothers and sister-in-laws, then the rest of his adopted family. Rick took it all in as he stood with his arm around his wife, realizing how very near they had all come to not seeing this day.

"Jacky, drop that bouquet, now!"

His mother's voice broke into his thoughts, as a rambunctious Jack ran through the crowd of family and friends, Cecilia's fruit and flower bouquet in his mouth.

"Oh, Jacky…no..drop that right now!" Laurie commanded, trying not to laugh. Instantly the little dog stopped in mid-run and let go of it, as instantly Laurie scooped it up and handed it to her mother.

"Sorry, Mom…I thought I closed the bedroom door…" she said apologetically, and Cecilia laughed.

"It's okay, I think one of the children left it open….bad Jacky, what do you say?" Cecilia said to the unrepentant terrier. At that, Jacky made a whimper noise, then offered his paw.

"Well, look at that…" she gasped, then took the little dog's paw in her hand and shook it.

"Okay, Jacky, you're forgiven, now go outside and play." Immediately Jacky ran out of the room, barking and was followed outside by the younger children.

"Which one of you taught him to do that…that was so cute!" Cecilia raved, and proudly Rick stuck out his chest.

"That was me, Mom…." He began, then A.J. shook his head. "But I'm the one who got him to hold out his paw, Mom."

As the two brothers began to squabble, Oscar rejoined Cecilia, shaking his head.

"Looks like our sons are at it again."

"They sure are…but I wouldn't miss seeing this for the world…" Cecilia smiled, then kissed his cheek. "Ready for the challenge?"

"Like you said…" Oscar grinned. "I wouldn't miss it, or you…for the world. Come on, let's remind them who's the boss….Mother."

Laughing, Cecilia replied…"Yes…Father."

Fin