Dixie looked like someone had run over her dog
If Tad hadn't known the reason behind the look, he would have been feeling that ache inside he always felt when he saw such unhappy emotion on her face. When she hurt, he hurt, and it was the other way around. At the moment, though, his cheeks hurt from trying not to laugh and his eyes burned slightly, and it was almost too much.
"You don't have to find it so funny."
"It's your color, really."
Dixie, squashed into what looked like a tent in a bright green shade, just gave him an evil eye. He bit his tongue, quickly gulping down a bit of his, well, Big Gulp. "I think Erin's a fan of green," his tiny ex-wife noted needlessly, and he chugged down more of Pepsi, watching her stare at her reflection glumly. "I look like a watermelon."
"Nah, you look like a cucumber."
This time, she gave him a stink-eye, crossing arms over the loopy bow on her stomach.
"I have become immune to your evil stares," he chirped, and gave her a salute with his massive soda.
"Don't want to, it's too funny."
"I thought you were here for moral support," she scowled, looking even tinier than she was as she waddled her way off the stool and proceeded to try to wrestle the dress off. "I am," he assured her, and absently steadied her with a leg when, in an attempt to step out of the dress, she began tilting precariously to the side. "You call this moral support?"
"At least I'm not laughing outright."
"Maybe it would be better if you did," she muttered, brow wrinkled as she stared at the next piece, seemingly not bothered by standing in front of him in her lingerie. He certainly didn't mind, no, not at all—Oh, yay, she was bending again! "I mean, when I put on that one with the orange trim, you sounded like you were dying, trying to hold it in."
"It was funny."
"You think everything's funny."
"Uh-huh," she drawled, and started wrestling the next dress up her legs, a truly blinding mix of lime green and fire engine red, decorated all over with bows and loops of lace. "Who designs these things?" she asked him, but received nothing except a soft grunt, glancing over her shoulder to find him frozen, eyes wide and glued to her back end. "You're pathetic."
"Uh-huh," he agreed, and nodded solemnly enough that she gave a little shake as a reward.
"This whole unofficial thing is fun," she snickered to herself, struggling to get the sleeves up and nearly blinding herself in the process when they whipped up into her face. "And it's funny, the way your eyes bug out like that," she added, and he nodded again, completely in agreement. "That said, I think I hate my son's fiancé," she sighed, catching sight of herself in the mirror.
"Erin's a sweetheart, and you love her, don't deny it—"
"What kind of woman thinks this—" and she swept a hand across her form dramatically, "is the kind of thing for someone to wear at a wedding?" She looked atrocious, she knew: the fabric bulged horribly around her middle and the bows kept smacking her arms when she moved, giving the impression that tie-dye bats were attacking her. "I look like a sunburned leprechaun!"
"I seem to remember you looking like a swirl of pink cotton candy during one of our weddings—"
"Shut up," she snapped and gave him a stare that should have flayed him alive but he just smiled brightly, popping another handful of M&Ms into his mouth and chewing happily. "Here," she finally muttered, and held out her arms, allowing him to give her a long look, eyes sliding up and down her figure. "Tad?" she demanded, and he shook his head slowly, looking honestly traumatized by the sight of her.
Catching her reflection, she couldn't blame him, not at all—
"Oh, it's so perfect!"
Dixie snapped her head around, found Erin standing there, looking like she had just come just gotten what she had asked Santa for. It was rare for Erin to look so completely joyous, so Dixie stood there, smile frozen on her face as Erin rushed into the changing room, circling Dixie excitedly. "Oh, Mom, it's so beautiful and it brings out your eyes—" Dixie knew full well she had blue eyes and so blinked in confusion at the young woman. "—and you look stunning."
Erin and JR hadn't even tied the knot yet, and already, Dixie was Mom.
Dixie thought about the family she had grown up with, and couldn't help but sigh when Erin flung her arms up around her, squealing excitedly. Erin had no fashion sense whatsoever, was the clumsiest girl in the town, and was helplessly dense when it came to things like actual dating tricks— but she was downright giddy these days, light-hearted in a way that probably would never have happened if they all hadn't found each other.
And Dixie couldn't help but love her for it all.
Babe Carey couldn't help but hate Erin Lavery.
Ever since she had rode into town with her brothers when Ryan Lavery came back around as a little prince of Cambias, offering a little shoulder to cry on when her marriage to Paul had come out, she'd been wrecking Babe's life right and left. Not only had she gotten her and Mama tossed out onto the streets, she'd stolen JR from her.
And then her stupid brother had stolen Jamie from her!
Erin Lavery, Babe Carey was firmly convinced, was the bane of her blonde existence.
And now, they were getting married.
The thought of it literally turned Babe's stomach, and the realization of what it meant had caused her to pass out when she'd first woken to read it on the front of the tabloids. Mama had tried to catch her, but she'd dropped too fast, Mama had said, and she'd ended up holding a frozen pack of chicken fingers to her forehead for a few hours while she grieved her loss.
Her loss being JR, of course, not his money, not at all.
"Maybe it's for the best, I mean… maybe it is."
"JR and I are meant to be together, Mama!"
Her mother made an odd face, and glances sideways at the towering pile of cheap romance novels beside Babe's bed, lifting one eyebrow doubtfully. "I don't know…" she started, but jumped when Babe flung the soggy chicken fingers across the room, the drama of the moment lost when they splattered against the stained wall. "We're meant to be together forever!"
There was a sudden crack of thunder and Krystal frowned, glancing out the window at the brilliant sunlight.
"It's not fair!" she continued, not picking up on her mother's worried look, and stomped to the table where the tabloids rested, news of the upcoming Chandler nuptials squished between the discovery of a long-lost Martin cousin and Reggie Porter-Montgomery's joyful return to his hometown following his near-death accident involving a fake basketball camp and a money laundering scheme. "I can make him happy, Mama!"
"Where is all this thunder coming from?" Krystal demanded, peering out through the glass at the sunny day.
"Look at her, Mama! She's not capable of being a Chandler, not like I am!"
"Oh, my leaping frogs, is that hail?"
\In the end, despite everything they had all been through together— a near marriage between Ryan and Greenlee before Leo had saved them all, a baby-stealing mystery that had ended in Greenlee and Kendall accidentally going off a balcony during a fight over who had the better man, trying and failing to get the Careys thrown in jail, and even managing to find Trey a real woman— Leo and Ryan would forever be just The Husbands.
This title wasn't a bad thing, exactly, but the whole town knew who carried the Gucci bags.
To their credit, they had come to enjoy this—while their wives ran their multi-billion dollar company out of a single office, they got to stay home all day and watch the kids and watch football and, at times, exchange That Time of the Month horror stories. Leo and Ryan understood each other, connected as the lesser partners of the real super-couple that made them who they were— Kendall and Greenlee, the walking stick and the adorably bitchy midget, defining the word "friendship" in fascinating new ways every single day.
Life with their wives was never boring, especially when their beloved and not-quite-sane wives black-mailed them into secret missions to help their company survive. At the moment, the two men stood together in the bright sunlight in their best burglar outfits, peering up at the window some feet above them, taunting them.
"Why are we doing this?"
"Because they can withhold sex."
"We can just do a striptease, that always works."
"You're getting flabby in your old age."
"So are you."
A long moment of silence settled on the two men as they peered up at their mission before, grimacing unhappily, Leo strode forward and crouched. "Up," he ordered with a scowl, even thought he didn't need to— they had gotten very good at this. Stepping hard up into Leo's palm, Ryan pushed himself up firmly, catching the windowsill and snatching his tools out of his pocket, hurriedly getting to work on the lock. "Why don't we just hire ourselves some criminals or something?"
"Because they always laugh at us, remember?"
"Stop digging your feet into me! God, it never hurts this bad when I'm assisting Greens in a breaking and entering!"
"I'm very sorry I'm not as tiny as your precious little wife!"
"Says he who married the walking, talking stick?!"
"Are you mocking my wife?!"
"Just get the freaking window open!"
"I'm working on it— Son of a bitch, Jon!"
"Ah, shit…" and Leo slowly tilted his head back to take in Ryan's younger brother, head sticking pleasantly out the window and waving brightly. "What the Hell are you doing here?" he demanded, and the younger Curry gave a short snort of amusement, reaching out and dragging his older brother up and into the room. "Mags sent us to steal a few formulas."
Jamie Martin stuck his head out and waved gaily, enough that Leo rolled his eyes and stuck his hands up, pushing his feet against the brick wall as they hauled him up and promptly dropped him right to the floor. "Does your father know what you're doing?"
"I don't know," and he went back to stuffing a bunch of folders into a big leather bag.
Jon and Jamie were, indeed, a strange… well, Leo wasn't completely sure what they were, but they seemed more at ease than anybody else in town. "I take it the Kenlee sent you?"
"What's a Kenlee?" Jamie asked curiously, and Jon shook his head, grinning wickedly. "Kendall and Greenlee?"
"Oh," and he nodded and went back to working.
"What are you here for?"
"Something for Maggie," Jon whispered mysteriously, and waved his fingers in their faces with a quiet chuckle of amusement. "How the hell did you get in here?" Ryan hissed, and Jon snorted, unhooking a pair of keys from his belt and jingling them mockingly. "You know how much Simone adores me, right? She said I could have a few things as long as I show up on her arm at that gala in a few weeks."
Jamie, Leo noticed, looked extremely unhappy about this fact.
"No, I'm using the tools at my disposal."
"Cheater," Leo snapped, and glared at him.
"You're not really going to go with Simone, are you?" Jamie asked, and Jon looked over one shoulder. Neither Leo nor Ryan could see whatever face he made, but Jamie suddenly perked up, grinning brightly and going back to his file-gathering with an extra skip in his step. "Erin isn't buying our excuse, by the way."
"That we can't cake taste with her on Saturday because we lost the use of our taste buds."
"Did you show her the diagrams?"
Jon and Ryan looked quickly over to Leo, who waved vaguely around them. "Files, for our wives?"
"I'll see you on Saturday?"
"I'll be there!"
The two younger men left, were gone for a few minutes before— "Son of a bitch, they took our files!"