A/N: I want to thank everyone for their kind, kind reviews for this story. It's been a crazy, crazy ride, but all good rides have to come to an end. I'll admit, I'm not entirely pleased with this ending, I probably should've ended it with the last chapter, but I forged ahead and so this is the final chapter. I'm glad you all have enjoyed the story as much I've enjoyed writing the story. Hope you'll come around and read some of my other stories. If you feel so inclined, review, enjoy! :)
Barbie was perhaps, behind Chris and Stephanie, the happiest person after they started dating.
Stephanie still laughed at the memory of it. Her and Chris telling Barbie that they were dating and the blonde girl throwing her arms around the both of them, gushing about how happy she was and how Chris talked about Stephanie all the time and how hard it was to keep the secret. She'd almost let it slip a few times and she was glad to not have to deal with secret any longer, now that it was out in the open. Barbie practically beamed at Chris and Stephanie felt like she wasn't in on the joke. Afterwards, Barbie no longer became a nuisance, this girl who had something Stephanie wanted and when she got to know her, she found that she wasn't so bad after all.
"You know, he's totally in love with you, right?" Barbie told her one time they were going out to lunch. Stephanie had taken on a big sister like role to mirror Chris's big brother role.
"Excuse me?" Stephanie asked, laughing as she looked over at Barbie.
"He's in love with you, he has said it, right?" Barbie told her.
"Barb, we've only been dating a few months, we're both fresh off divorce, I think we want to take it rather slow so he hasn't said he loves me yet."
"He's an idiot then," Barbie said, shaking her head. "He should just tell you already because it's so obvious."
"I think we're going to wait a little longer before we say that to each other, if he even feels that."
"Are you kidding me?" Barbie said. "He feels that for you and more. Don't you love him? I mean, I know I shouldn't ask, I'm always being told that I pry too much and that I'm too nosy. That's probably why you-know-who wouldn't stop bugging me."
Stephanie now knew who she was referring to and why Chris had felt so protective over Barbie. She'd been harassed for a while by Mike Mizanin, who couldn't take the hint that Barbie was not interested. Stephanie had made sure to put Miz on the other show in order to get him away from Barbie and Chris had been so grateful towards her that he'd taken her out to a special dinner. He was just a guy who liked to protect the people he cared about.
"I don't know," Stephanie answered honestly, contemplating the question. "I mean, I enjoy hanging out with him and dating him and he's so good to my girls, you know. Even Paul, who I thought would hate the entire idea of me dating because he wanted us back together doesn't seem to have a huge problem, which is weird, but I guess he's finally getting the picture, you know."
Barbie laughed, "It's probably because he knows that he can't compete with Chris."
Stephanie laughed as well. "I don't know, Paul has always thought highly of himself."
"Do you love being with Chris though?"
Stephanie had to admit, being around Chris made her feel so good. When he was around, she felt beautiful, it was strange. She had people tell her she was beautiful all the time, her family, her friends, her fans, people were telling her she was beautiful, but Chris, he didn't even have to say the words, she just felt beautiful around him. It was in the way he looked at her or the way he laced their hands together when she wasn't paying attention or the kisses to her temple when they were watching their kids be goofballs.
"Yeah, I love being with Chris," she finally answered.
"Then you're totally in love with him too," Barbie gushed. "You guys should just tell each other already instead of dragging it out and acting like you don't. What point does that really serve anyways?"
"It's more complicated than that, Barb?" Stephanie said.
"What, because you've both been burned before?" Barbie asked. "Stephanie, do you know why I've never met Chris's kids? I mean, didn't you wonder, me being his cousin, him being around me and all, did you ever wonder why they haven't even met me?"
Stephanie actually had never wondered, but now that she thought about it, it was a little strange, "Okay, why?"
"Well, I'd met them when the girls were just babies, tiny, little things and when Ash was too young to remember me. Jessica didn't like me. She thought I would be a bad influence and she told Chris that I wasn't allowed to see the kids. Now that they're divorced, I'm allowed to see them because that bitch can't control them all anymore. She's a power-hungry freak."
"You think I'm joking!" Barbie said, "Yet, I'm really not. Look, I know I've…I know that people talk and I know that some of the things they say are true. I'm not proud of things I've done, but not a lot of people have their early 20's up for grabs. All I'm saying is that everything is complicated in some way and if you don't make things uncomplicated, then you're just wasting time."
Stephanie was actually surprised as the astuteness that Barbie was displaying. Everyone painted her for this ignorant slut. Hell, Stephanie herself had thought of her in those terms before Chris had defended her and even after that, she still had her reservations about the mental capacity of the blonde. She was growing up though, maturing and it was obvious to Stephanie as it must have been obvious to Chris.
"I didn't know you had it in you, Barb."
"It's easier playing the idiot, less expectations," Barbie shrugged and Stephanie was actually shocked by the revelation. "Don't be so surprised, Stephanie. This business is way too superficial to be surprised over this."
"So you think I should talk to Chris and tell him I love him."
"I think you should just tell him the truth is all."
Stephanie was about to answer, but Barbie's eyes lit up at something behind her and Stephanie turned to see Chris coming over to them. The conversation had been dropped, but it had stuck in her mind for a few days before she thought to talk to him about it. The girls were with Paul this weekend and Chris's kids were with Jessica, which left the two of them alone. Chris had been straddling the line between Connecticut and Florida and had been trying to convince Jessica to move closer to Connecticut (or into Connecticut) so that he could be closer to Stephanie. She thought it sweet that he wanted to be close to her.
"So the whole weekend to ourselves," Chris said, nuzzling his face into her neck. "We've been dating for three months, more than three months and I think this is the first real time that we can be alone together. There's no my kids, no your kids, your ex-husband isn't skulking around…"
Stephanie giggled as he pressed a chaste kiss to her neck. "Whatever will we do with ourselves when we don't have to go to the zoo or the park?"
"I have an idea," he said, laughing at her squeal as he pulled her into his lap. "We could spend the entire weekend in bed. We will only answer the phone for our kids and nobody else, how does that sound?"
"Lovely," she said, turning his head towards hers so she can capture his lips in a real kiss. He loves to kiss her, she's found out. He does it at the most unexpected times. Sometimes, at a show, they'll be walking down the hall and he'll stop her and kiss her. He always has to have one before he goes out there for a match or promo and always needs one when he's done. She loves when her lip gloss gets on his lips and he has to rub them furiously right before he disappears through the curtain. It's just a little way of claiming him that nobody can really tell.
"Good, do you want to go away maybe?" he asked.
"I don't know, anywhere," he said, excited by the possibility. "The world is our oyster for the weekend. No kids, I don't have shows because my lovely girlfriend was kind enough to look at our schedules and want me all to herself. We could go anywhere, Ohio, Montana, New Mexico, California, Hawaii, Alaska, China, Egypt, I don't care, anywhere!"
"You are way too enthusiastic for your own good."
"I'm sorry, I just think it's great to finally get some alone time with you," Chris said, hugging her around the shoulders. "I love my kids, I love your kids, but sometimes, I'm going to need time alone with you."
"You know, if this things gets more serious between us, they're probably going to be around for a while," she joked. "A whole lot of the while since I have physical custody of Aurora and Murphy and you get your kids quite a bit and if Jessica agrees-"
"That's what I wanted to tell you," he bounced in his seat. "She's going to move to White Plains, in New York. She's been wanting to move North because of her mom, being close to her and everything and she said that this works because her Mom can move in with her and she can help take care of her because she's been sick and everything. It's only about ten miles from Greenwich and so I'm going to buy a house. I know that we aren't ready for moving in or anything so I thought getting my own house would be best for now."
She nodded and hugged him, "I can't believe you're willing to move your entire family for me."
"Well, I mean, it all worked out and I know we see each other all the time at work, but…well, look…these last few months have been so great. Once we got past that entire, 'you're dating Barbie!' fiasco, I like to think that we've been…wow, right, we've been pretty wow?"
She liked the way he described them. Yes, it had been pretty wow. Chris was pretty wow when he wanted to be. She wasn't one for huge romantic gestures, but Chris was one for very small romantic gestures, cooking her dinner when she was especially tired. Getting her favorite ice cream when she was feeling upset over some insignificant thing, holding her extra long in the mornings when she was exhausted from work and kids, all of these things were pretty wow of him and made her fall for him that much more.
"We've definitely been wow."
He beamed. "Good, because I want to make you stay with me forever."
"Chris, you're not…" She looked at him wide-eyed.
He looked at her for a moment, confused, then went over his words, "Oh my God, no, no, no, I'm not, no, not…no, I'm not asking that question or anything."
"Oh thank God," she said, "I'm not really ready to hear it."
"I'm not really ready to ask it," he told her, kissing her. "I mean, you know, in the future, I can very much see it happening, in the future, but right now, I'm just…I'd like…I like the way things are going right now. I was right when I thought we'd be good together, we are good together and I like that and I want to build on that."
"Sounds like a nice idea," she told him. "So Barbie was talking to me the other day…"
"And well, she was saying that…she was saying some stuff," Stephanie said. "I just…I've been thinking about what she said and I really think she's right, at least what she was saying about me."
"What was she saying about you?" he wondered.
"I've always felt something with you, Chris. Before we were even together, when we were friends, hell, before all of this, the families, the marriages, well, my marriage, before it all, I guess there was something that was there for me."
"And now you've realized that there's nothing there?" he kidded, raising his eyebrow and she leaned against him.
"I guess, I guess I just haven't been identifying my feelings correctly but Barbie of all people has made me see the light."
"Oh, the light," he said, mock seriously, this could be scary. "What did the light tell you?"
"The light tells me that I'm in love with you and that I wanted to tell you that I was in love with you," she told him and his eyes lit up like stars twinkling first in the just after sunset sky. "So there, I've said it, it's out there, I love you."
"I love you too," he said immediately.
"Ahh, so Barbie is really just a sage then," Stephanie laughed, "because she was pretty sure that you were in love with me too."
"I've got to get her to shut her mouth sometimes. She shouldn't be the one telling you, I should be the one telling you."
"You are now," she told him, kissing him and pulling him over her a little. "So you and me this weekend then?"
"You and me forever, how does that sound?"
"Don't become a sap on me," Stephanie said, standing up and then pulling him up. "Come on, I've got some things to do before we can embark on his weekend of love."
"I like the sound of that."
She laughed and looked over her shoulder. Chris followed her obediently and she waited until they were side by side before she hugged him around the waist as they walked. She hadn't wasted the opportunity after all. She had just had to wait for it to arise. She'd thought it would be simple, ask him out, but this way was better. Sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment for things to happen and she'd been patient and when the time was right, there he was. Their future would be the same, she was sure. There would be so many more opportunities for different things, for different moments and when the time was right, they would take those moments for themselves.
After all, you've got to seize things when you can.