This is the Epilogue to the story. Thank you to all of those who have read and enjoyed this story. It was my first attempt at fan fiction and will always remain close to my heart.
3 ½ years later
Michael finished buttoning his shirt as he made his way down the hall to the living room. He was dressed a little nicer than usual since they were expecting company. As he rounded the corner of their home, the first thing he noticed was his daughter jumping excitedly up and down on the couch as she looked out the front window. "Christina Grace what are doing?"
At the sound of her father's voice, a huge smile stretched her face and Grace jumped down from her place on the couch and ran to her father. "Daddy! Aunt Sam! Uncle Linc'n!"
Picking his daughter up in his arms, he peered out the window. He could see brother and sister-in-law heading up the walk and made his way to the door to let them in. As soon as the door opened, Lincoln and Sam ducked inside. There was a warm front moving through Chicago for this time of year but with evening approaching the temperature was already falling.
Lincoln quickly removed his coat, throwing on a nearby chair before reaching to take his niece from Michael. Grace went willingly to her uncle, giggling, leaving her father with empty arms. Taking Sam's coat from her and grabbing Lincoln's, Michael put them in the closet out of the way just as Sara came out of the kitchen. Lincoln saw her first. "Hey Sara."
She smiled back at him, "Lincoln. Sam." Taking a few more steps into the room, "Can I get you two something to drink?"
Sam and Lincoln were utterly engrossed in the little girl Lincoln held in his arms but Sam glanced up at Lincoln briefly before making her way over to Sara. "Why don't you have a seat and rest for a bit, Sara, I'll get it." With that Sam disappeared into the kitchen.
Sara glanced over at Michael who just smiled and shrugged. Shaking her head, Sara followed Sam. She found the woman filling two glasses with ice. When Sam saw her, "Would you like something?"
Sara laughed. "Sam, I'm perfectly capable of getting myself something to drink."
"I'm sorry, Sara." She paused, flustered. "I didn't mean…"
"I know. It's ok. I know you mean well, Sam."
Laying the glasses down on the counter, Sam went over to give her sister-in-law a hug, which Sara quickly returned. "I just know you've been working all day preparing for tonight and…" Pulling back she straightened her shoulders. "What can I do to help?"
Sara couldn't help but smile. She was too happy and she knew Sam meant well. "Michael helped me get things together earlier. Everything's pretty much ready and in the fridge." Sam looked a bit disappointed. "I could use some help once everyone's here though." That brightened her up.
Sam was all smiles as she turned back to finish getting their drinks. "We're so excited for you, you know. Me and Lincoln," She paused. "We love Gracie like crazy. We can't wait to have another niece or nephew."
Sara's hand rubbed the small bump and smiled, "It will be interesting having a baby around the house again. It's hard to believe Grace is almost three."
"She's growing up so fast."
The object of their discussion let out a high squeal bringing the ladies back out into the living room. Standing in the entry way were LJ, Jessica and her parents who'd come to visit for the holidays.
Sara's gaze went immediately to Jessica and saw the tense set of her shoulders, which belied the smile on her face. After graduating from college, the young couple decided to get an apartment together. To put in mildly, Jessica's parents were not pleased. They'd decided to come out to Chicago for Christmas when Jessica informed them she wouldn't be coming home this year.
Christmas itself had been a bit strained and Sara and Michael both felt the real purpose for their visit was to convince their daughter to either come home or at the very least get a place of her own. The Rice's were very nice and had finally come to accept LJ as part of Jessica's life over the last three years. They were, however, still very traditional parents. Tom and Megan Rice did not feel it was right for their daughter to be living with her boyfriend. Not under any circumstances.
Michael politely greeted the new arrivals and put their coats away. As soon as Grace saw LJ's hands were free, she was wiggling off Lincoln's lap and begging LJ to play with her. Swinging his cousin up into his arms, he carried her over to where her new toys from Christmas lay, tickling her all the way. Jessica watched for a minute before making her way over to sit beside the two and join in their game.
Sara offered the new guest drinks before she and Sam disappeared back into the kitchen. Michael and the Rice's took seats near Lincoln and tried to make themselves comfortable. Michael and Lincoln both tried to make conversation with Jess's parents asking if they'd taken in any of the Christmas sights or shopping over the last week. Tom and Megan answered their questions politely but their thoughts were never far from their daughter.
Jessica and LJ seemed to find blissful oblivion while playing with Grace. She'd gotten a cooking set, complete with a kitchenette and plastic food, and was now trying to make a full course meal for the two of them. Jessica was currently play eating some waffles, while Grace had LJ sipping on a cup of tea.
As Sam and Sara began to bring things out to the table, Jessica and Megan jumped up to help. It didn't take long to get everything set.
Dinner went smoothly but the tension from earlier still hung in the air. Once everyone was full to near overflowing, the ladies once again helped Sara to clear the table while the men took the opportunity to entertain Grace. Making a trip from dinning room to kitchen Sara took a minute to observe the scene across the room and was surprised to find a broad smile on the faces of all four men, including Tom Rice. It would appear her daughter had even managed to win him over.
With a smug smile Sara returned to the kitchen. The mood in there was more tense than the scene she'd just witnessed surrounding her daughter, but it appeared to be getting a bit better. Grace's birthday was the topic of conversation now as Megan and Sam worked to rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher, while Jess put food away in the fridge. Sara joined in the lighthearted conversation and hoped this was an omen for the rest of the evening.
After cleaning up, everyone settled themselves back in the living room. LJ and Jess were back on the floor playing with Grace while the rest of the adults were seated around the coffee table in couples. The conversation turned to Lincoln's newly started construction business. Tom and Megan soon became engrossed in the conversation and seemed to finally be relaxing and enjoying themselves.
Michael sat beside Sara on the love seat, his arm draped over her shoulder rubbing small circles. He leaned in to whisper in her ear, "How you holding up?"
Sara leaned into him, "I'm fine." She knew he'd been watching her all night. He was always so protective of her when she was pregnant. In reality he was being a lot better this time. With Grace, he'd barely let her do anything. And although she loved him for his concern, it had nearly driven her crazy at times.
She rested her hand on his leg and drew his attention with her eyes over to their daughter. Grace was still playing with LJ and Jess but Sara had caught her daughter beginning to rub her eyes as she did when she got tired.
Michael placed a soft kiss on Sara's cheek before getting up from his seat and making his way over to Grace. Kneeling beside her, he brushed her red curls away from her face. Grace stopped playing with her doll and looked up at her dad. "Time for bed."
The little girl didn't fight it. She reached up and wrapped her little arms around her father's neck, leaning her head against his shoulder. By this time Grace and Michael had the entire rooms attention. "Can you say goodnight to everyone?"
Grace's little hand waved and then went directly to her rubbing her eyes. Michael rubbed his hand along his daughters back and turned to take her down the hall to her bedroom. At the door, her little head came up to whisper in his ear. "Can mommy come?"
Michael turned back and met Sara's eyes. "Sure." He said as he waited for Sara to get up from the couch and follow. The three disappeared down the hall.
With Grace tucked in, Michael and Sara began heading back to the living room and their guests. Just before they rounded the corner Michael stopped and grabbed Sara's hand, pulling her up short. Sara turned to face her husband as he closed the gap between them. She knew that look and gratefully tilted her face up to meet his lips. The kiss was slow and through. Pulling back, "I've been wanting to do that all night," Michael smiled.
Sara closed the distance again and gave her husband another soft kiss. "Is that all you've wanted to do Scofield?" she said with a teasing glint in her eye.
He groaned as her hands brushed against his stomach. Leaning his forehead against hers, "Don't start something you can't finish."
Sara stepped back, putting a little space between them. "Oh I'll finish," she smiled. "Later," she whispered as she rounded the corner into the living room, leaving Michael standing in the hallway trying to keep himself from grabbing hold of his wife and dragging her into their bedroom guests or not.
When Michael finally rejoined the group, they were laying out the scrabble board. Sam looked up at him and smiled. "Perfect timing. You ready to lose Scofield?"
Michael couldn't help but laugh as he took a seat beside his wife.
The night wore on and the couples played a rather rowdy few games of scrabble. As usual, Michael and Sam were the only competitors.
At eleven thirty, the TV was turned on and the game put away as the group focused on enjoying the New Years Eve festivities on the screen. It was already the New Year in New York but there was still a countdown going on for the rest of the country. At eleven fifteen, Sara saw LJ disappear down the hall. Jessica was sitting on the couch next to her parents listening to a local news anchor interview a group of partiers about their New Year's resolutions. Sara just smiled. She didn't think the girl had any idea what LJ had in mind for tonight.
At eleven fifty-five, LJ reappeared and pulled Jessica into his arms for a hug. Tom's shoulders stiffened briefly but he kept his eyes focused on the TV. Sara moved to stand next to Michael and Sam next to Lincoln. Everyone was in couples in preparation for the traditional New Years kiss. With two minutes to go, Sara saw LJ whisper in Jessica's ear and the couple disappear down the hallway.
As the countdown clock reached midnight for Chicago, Sara wrapped her arms around Michael's waist and enjoyed another long kiss. It was so long that it took Lincoln loudly clearing his throat to break them apart. Michael just smiled at his brother and raised his eyebrow in question.
Lincoln laughed and shook his head. "You'd think you two would be over the newlywed stage by now."
It was Sara who spoke up, "Never," and brought her lips once again to Michael's. And although he was laughing at his wife's response to his brother, he wasn't about to miss out on the proffered kiss.
As they broke apart, Sara noticed Megan Rice looking around for her daughter. Tom's gaze soon followed and Sara looked pleadingly at Sam and Lincoln for help.
Sam elbowed Lincoln and nodded toward Tom before addressing Megan. "Could you help us in the kitchen, Megan?"
The woman appeared to be caught off guard for a minute, "Uh, yea, sure."
Michael squeezed Sara's hand as the three women disappeared into the kitchen, leaving the men to entertain Tom and keep him out of LJ and Jessica's way.
With only a minute to go before midnight, LJ led Jess into the room they were going to share tonight. Closing the door behind them, he let Jess take in the scene for a second before moving to lead her across the room in front of the large window.
Jessica took in the room. She knew LJ had arranged to them to spend the night here at Michael and Sara's since their apartment was on the other side of town. She'd been in the room before. It was the guest room with a full size bed, dresser and nightstand. The room was nice but it had never struck her as spectacular until now.
Lit with at least a dozen candles, the room was filled with the most amazing smells. There were flowers too. Violets. Her favorite.
LJ stood before her, holding her hands in his. He looked nervous. "LJ what is it?" Jess asked as she brought her hand up to cup his face.
He smiled and took a deep breath before taking her hand from his cheek and placing it back at her side. His eyes flicked to the clock on the nightstand. Her eyes followed and she noticed the numbers change to 12:00.
Movement caught her eye and she looked to LJ again only he wasn't where he'd been only a moment ago. He was kneeling before her. She gasped. Suddenly she knew and her heart was pounding uncontrollably in her chest.
LJ held onto her left hand with his, removed the ring from his pocket and met her now tear filled gaze. "Jessica Anne Rice, will you marry me?"
She could barely speak. This was more than she could have imagined. It was perfect. "Yes," she whispered.
The smile LJ sent back to her was blinding even in the dim light. Her fingers were trembling as he slipped the ring on her finger and stood.
Jessica wrapped her arms around him. Her mouth found his as his arms pulled her against him. The kiss didn't end for quite sometime. Finally he pulled back just enough to see her face. "I love you," he whispered.
She didn't let him say anymore before she pulled his lips back to hers.
Thirty minutes later and LJ and Jessica still weren't back. Michael, Sara, Sam and Lincoln were running out of ideas on how to keep the Rice's distracted. They all knew what LJ had planned and were trying to give the young couple plenty of time alone but it was beginning to prove difficult.
Sara figured it would be much better for one of them to interrupt the couple than it would be her parents and was just about to suggest Michael go try to find them when the two finally appeared. Both wore smiles that radiated from across the room. Sara could also see Jessica's lips were slightly swollen and her hair a bit mussed. She really hoped the two hadn't been doing more than kissing. Not that she minded in the least personally, but she was sure Jessica's parents would and she'd just as soon the couple wait until the girls parents left before celebrating in that way.
Tom and Megan noticed their daughter only seconds after she entered the room and stood from the couch clearly awaiting an explanation for the absence. Jessica's hand was secure in LJ's as they both approached her parents. "Mom. Dad," Jess said before taking a deep, steadying breath. "LJ just asked me to marry him." Although it didn't seem possible, her smile got even brighter.
Sara wasn't sure what kind of reaction she'd been expecting but seeing Tom and Megan Rice embrace the couple without hesitation wasn't one of them. Each hugged their daughter and then proceeded to congratulate LJ, Megan with a hug, Tom with a handshake. The four remaining people in the room let out a collective sigh of relief.
Drinks were poured and a toast made to the young couple. With the tension in the room completely gone, Sam asked Jessica for details on LJ's proposal which she gladly shared. Everyone appeared to be basking in happiness as Tom, Megan, Lincoln and Sam said their goodnights.
The two couples took a few minutes to finish cleaning up after the other's left. Sara made a final swipe of the kitchen counter before wiping her hands on the dishtowel and tossing it on the counter before going to find her husband. Michael was leaning over the Christmas tree disconnecting the lights for the night. Smiling, she came up behind him wrapping her arms about his waist.
As Michael stood, he placed a hand over hers before turning in her embrace. Wrapping his arms around his wife's shoulders he pulled her against him. Her growing belly was still small enough not to get in the way as he buried his face in her curls.
Hearing movement from across the room, they saw LJ and Jessica get up from the couch and make their way down the hall to their room.
With a quick glance at each other, Michael released his wife and went to turn off the rest of the lights. Flipping the last switch, he slipped his hand in Sara's and they made their way down the hall.
Stopping first to check on their daughter, they made their way into their bedroom and closed the door. Sara walked to her dresser and removed the necklace and earrings she'd worn for the evening. As she set the last piece down, she felt Michael's arms wrap around her from behind. "Is it later yet?"
Keeping her face serious she turned and slid her arms up his and around his neck pulling his lips down to meet hers. "Oh it most definitely is."