Afterboom - Chapter 80

[Okay Roadies, this is it. I know it has taken me long enough, but this is the concluding chapter in this story. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Thanks again for ALL your support and encouragement!]

St Patrick's Chapel – the day of the wedding

Hannah and every other girl in the wedding squeezed themselves in the preacher's room and continued to fuss over Leslie's makeup.

"I can't believe you're getting married today! This day couldn't get here quickly enough!" Hannah exhaled as she fastened the last button on the wedding dress.

"How you feelin'?" Janet inquired smiling, anxiously leaning forward from a chair by the dresser.

"Ready," Leslie replied with a smile. Janet looked down at her left hand and gazed at the rock on her finger as it burned like a cold fire. "May I?" Leslie asked reaching out for her hand.

Janet blushed and stuck her hand out as the girls all gathered around and oohed and ahhed about the ring.

"Ooh mama! Talk about Gibraltar being a molehill!" Audrey commented.

They all heard a knock at the door and looked expectantly at Eddie who stuck his head in, "Y'all about ready to get out there? Ronnie kind of messed up the flower arrangements in the foyer and –" Eddie gestured to the chapel area.

"What!" Hannah shrieked, "I'll kill him!" she exclaimed, "Spent two days yelling at the florist… " she continued to complain hurrying out of the room. Eddie still stood in the doorway and looked back at the girls, realising that every single one of them were looking wistfully at him with goofy smiles on their faces.

"What?" he asked expectantly.

"All I know is, you better treat her well. She's a good one," Leslie said smiling as she got up and put an arm around Janet's shoulders.

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Eddie replied. Emily sighed and turned back to helping Audrey get Leslie's veil on.

Eddie flashed a flirtatious wink at Janet, making her blush, and closed the door behind him.

10 Mins Later -

"Dearly beloved, we're gathered here today to celebrate the joyful union of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony…." the preacher continued to talk about love and commitment… quite frankly, Hannah wasn't really paying much attention. All she had on her mind was the way Nick looked in his tux, and how perfectly they fit walking down the aisle with their arms linked. She shot a glance his way now and he was busy focusing on the preacher.

"For there is no greater weapon in our arsenal, than love. Love is patient and kind…"

Yeah yeah yeah we get it. Get to the 'I dos' already! Nick complained in his head. Leslie and his father looked more peaceful than ever. Which conflicted with his pet theory about people being the most anxious at the wedding. Hannah looked more stunning in her dress today than she did the day they were playing dress up. Things between them were definitely getting more intense over the last couple of times. He couldn't have imagined any of that. Could he? He lifted his gaze to steal a quick glance at Hannah now. She was smiling to herself. What was she smiling about? Did he miss something?

He looked back at the preacher and his father was placing the ring on Leslie's finger. Phew! Finally.

At the reception

Everyone seemed to be having a great time. Even the Commander's fellow veterans. The music was impeccable and the food was even better. Hannah made a mental note to put down event management as a potential career option. Hey, if all else fails I'll just go for broke and become a full blown party planner. She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice someone sit down next to her.

"So, you having a good time?" the Commander's voice tore into her thoughts.

"Yeah, I'm glad everything is going off as planned, so I'm thrilled," Hannah replied sitting up straighter. She had no idea why, but no matter how long she knew the Commander, Robert made her nervous. Like she was under the microscope.

"Wanna dance? I mean I'll try to keep up but you're going to have to get used to the fact that this old man cannot move the way he once did," Robert said with a lopsided smile and he held out his hand.

Hannah grinned, "Are you kidding? Looks like I'll be the one trying to keep up. Dean Etwood has told us an anthology of tales about your Antonio Bandaras moves." She followed him onto the dancefloor and swung around into his arms.

"Don't believe everything you hear – Leslie tends to stretch the truth when it comes to making me look good," he winked. His face grew serious as he looked at Hannah's face intently, "Look, Hannah Jane, I've always looked at you as my very own. Even after Caroline passed, you were always a big part of the Garrett household," He paused, long enough to draw her closer and dip her a little.

She laughed at the unexpected move, "Told you I'll be the one trying to keep up…"

"I wouldn't even be bringing this up under normal circumstances," Robert continued, "but today I'm a big bundle of love, and no one can stop me from saying this. Hannah, you and Nick…"

"Mr. Garrett…" Hannah began.

"J-j-just hear me out will ya? And after I speak my piece, I'll never bring the two of you up ever again except when I talk about my grandson."

"Alright," Hannah looked passed the Commander's shoulder at a wine glass on a table. What she wouldn't give to chug it right then.

"You know, when you get to be my age, you cant afford to live your life in regret. Every moment counts and you have to make the most of it while you still can. You and Nick have had your differences over the last eleven years. You have both made mistakes and choices you wish you could have done differently. I know what that feels like, but Hannah – don't wait around until you're as old or as ill as I am to seize your moments. Claim what's yours. You and Nick belong together. Everyone, including the pair of you, know that. Sam needs his mother and his father. And you can say what you like but I know you love my son. And you'd be a fool if you didn't see how much he loves you. I may be old, but I'm not blind…yet. So seize your chance with him now – while you still have the opportunity to build lasting memories together."

Hannah smiled shyly at Robert and looked down, "Thank you Mr. Garrett. I don't know what to say I – "

"Hey! Fancy seeing you out here on the floor," Leslie trotted up next to the Commander and Hannah with Nick in her arms, "Mind if I cut in? I'd like to dance with my husband."

It was only after Hannah surrendered Robert that she realised she would have to dance with Nick. "I guess you're stuck with me," Nick offered apologetically reading her alarmed expression.

"I'm not stuck with you. I want to be here. In fact, I'm never leaving," she teased to ease the pulled her into his arms, glancing twice to make sure it was okay. They danced in silence for about a minute, then Hannah broke the silence.

"So that was one of the best straight faces you pulled at a wedding in a long time. Have you been practicing?" she asked smiling.

"What're you talkin' about?" he smiled back quizzically.

"Well I know how you hate the sappiness of wedding ceremonies…"

"I do not," Nick lied.

"Oh yeah? Then why'd we have to sneak out of your Uncle Milt's wedding when we were 15? And then again from my Aunt Sarah's wedding when we turned 17?" she eyed him closely. His grip around her waist tightened protectively as he steered them both away from Ikey and Owen who were comically waltzing with each other around the dance floor.

"Okay maybe I did dodge the occasional ceremony, but I dunno, today was different. It felt good to see the Commander up there. He looked so happy," he remained focused on the tables behind Hannah.

Another few minutes of silence.

"I wanted to tell you that I really appreciate you allowing me to spend time with Sam. He's such a great kid and it's been great spending time with him over the last few months."

She looked him in the eye for the first time since they began dancing, Okay Hannah, this is it. It's now or never. "Nick I've been thinking a lot lately. About our situation," she began, more cordially than she intended.

"Our situation?" he repeated.

"Well yours, Sam's and mine," she cleared her throat.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, and uh, I was thinking… I mean since you've moved back permanently now, you could… I dunno, maybe consider moving in with us," she finished staring at the flower in his button hole.

Nick smiled, "Oh yeah? Just like that? You want me to move in?"

Hannah looked up to meet his eyes, "Yeah it's no big deal really. I mean you can move in tomorrow if you like."

"That quickly huh? What's the rush?"

"No rush it's just that uh, I have the day off and if you needed to move heavy boxes I could help out," her plams were beginning to feel sweaty.

Nick looked puzzled, "Well, not to put a damper on things but I was kind of hoping that when we made that move, we'd resemble a family more, you know?"

"But I thought that we… I mean that you and Sam… well that we were a family," Hannah finished quietly.

Nick looked taken aback, "We are? From what I can tell Sam's the only family I have besides the Commander and Ronnie. I feel like I make you mad all the time. I didn't even think you liked being around me, let alone thought of me as family."

Hannah looked up at him, "Really?" she asked barely above a whisper, "I didn't… I mean I don't… what I mean is… how could you think that? I mean sure we argue a lot… but I mean I…" she couldn't finish her sentence. She knew she was being completely unfair to Nick since he found out he was Sam's father. Heck, since he got to town! But even when he tried to be a good father, she wouldn't let her guard down and was anticipating his failure to deliver.

"Hannah…" Nick began gently as he saw tears flood her eyes, "I have always wanted us to be a family. Whether Sam was my son or not it wouldn't have mattered because I knew that we'd make it work," he raised the back of his fingers to her cheek and brushed away a stray strand of hair, "Hannah…"

"No, you're absolutely right. I haven't been fair," she said roughly wiping her tears away, "It's just that I have been living in such fear of you leaving again, that I was protecting Sam and more so myself from the idea that you might actually be a great dad. And you are, Nick. You are," she said with more intensity and pulled him close for a hug.

Her head rested on his chest and his fingers were in her hair. She'd never felt closer to any man before. She slowly pulled away and looked up at him, "I'm so sorry it took me this long to say it. And if you don't want to move in, I completely understand," she said pulling away from his embrace.

He let her go to about arm's length and then gripping her fingers he lazily pulled her back to him. By this time, nearly all their closest family and friends including Sam, were looking at them. "What're you crazy?" he asked incredulously, smiling, "You think I'm gonna let you go twice? How stupid do you think I am?"

Smiling she replied, "Don't ask questions you know you won't like the answers to."

He threw his head back and let out a hearty laugh, "You better watch it, I locked you in the closet once I'll do it again," he drew her closer and then closer still – until their foreheads leaned against each other and he kissed the tip of her nose. She smiled shyly and tilted her head up so that her lips could meet his.

Nick kissed her deeply. His kiss drowned out the world around her and it felt like she was standing outside time with him. She kissed him back and slid her arms around his neck.

When their lips parted, their spectators erupted in applause. Hannah mortified, turned away from the crowd and blushed uncontrollably. Nick took a comical bow and caught a wink from Owen, "You go buddy!" and "Atta boy! I knew you'd get around her!" were only some of the comments he'd picked up on.

Hannah wanted to get out of there so grabbing Nick's arm she pulled him in the opposite direction.

They got into her house and locked the door behind her.

"That was incredible! Where did you learn to run like that?" Nick panted bending over and resting his hands on his knees.

"I jog," she shrugged.

"Okay but why are we here?" he asked smiling, still a little out of breath.

"So that we could finish our conversation in private," she replied simply.

"Uh, I don't think that's what we were doing out there."

"You know what I mean," she said whacking his shoulder, "Besides I don't like it when people stare, it's more private here."

He walked up to her and slid his arms around her waist, "Wanna pick up where we left off?"

She smiled flirtatiously, "In a minute. Right now we need to clear a few things up; I have to tell you something I've thought about telling you for a long long time," she sighed, "I love you. I do. I've tried to fight it but its just impossible. I love you and that's the way it is and that's the way it's always gonna be," she stated matter-of-factly, "so… there. Get used to it."

Nick bent down and kissed her again, not quite as heavenly, but when he pulled away he smiled, "I love you too Hannah Jane. I always have. And I do mean always."

"So… where to from here?"

"I think we oughta get back to the reception and tell my father I'm packin my bags." he said grinning.

"Okay then. Let's do it," she replied taking his hand as he lead them both back to the wedding.

"Louie I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship."

"Ugh, do you have to do Casablanca? It's so cheesy."

"Well I would have done Porky Pig 'T-t-t-t-t-that's all folks!"

Hannah's laugh faded into the distance.