A/N: Thank you so much to everyone who has read and reviewed!
I spent longer fretting over the ending, worrying if it was exactly what I wanted, than I did actually writing it. After deciding I didn't have any more changes to make it took me a day longer to actually let it go. Somehow, finishing something like this always feels equally good as it does bad. But those of you reading have been so wonderful, and I know I can't hang on to anything forever, so I finally decided to post the very end and deem this story complete.
For the last time…
On Thursday nights, Chase dances with Nicole.
On Saturday nights, Chase makes his mom's spaghetti recipe for them and buys Nicole flowers. They're still working on this one. Chase argued that Nicole should do the cooking and he should just be responsible for the flowers. Nicole argued that it's his mom's recipe and therefore she shouldn't be responsible for recreating it. And buying him flowers would just be weird of her. Ultimately, they're in the process of trying to come up with an alternative dish for the tradition, which could be her part in their Saturday night.
On the rest of the nights, they're still working on coming up with some smultzy tradition of their own. Something their kids can tell tales about one day.
Now, they were approaching three months as a couple and Chase was looking to move.
"I don't know about this," Chase said skeptically as they followed the realtor's car as she led them to the next place. "I mean," he explained, "this next one is only five blocks from Dana and Logan and I don't know if I want to be that close to them- especially as Dana gets even more pregnant and moody and hormonal."
"She's not that bad," Nicole defended.
Chase parked the car behind the realtors and turned to Nicole. He looked at her meaningfully.
"Fine," Nicole caved, "it turns out that the heavier she is the more…irritable she is. And she's already gained thirty pounds. I swear she must be having the world's biggest baby."
"Or twins," Chase suggested for the umpteenth time.
"The sonograms have proved that theory of yours wrong. She's just…huge," Nicole quickly added, "and don't tell her I said that."
"Of course not. She'd rip my head off just for being the messenger. I don't know how Logan deals with it. And I don't know why I'm even looking at this house. It's too close to their craziness," Chase repeated.
"First of all," Nicole said as she got out of the car, "Logan doesn't 'deal with it.' He doesn't even notice it. He's so in love with her. It's adorable, really. And second of all, so far, this is the only house that doesn't look like a trash heap from the outside so you may want to consider it despite the location."
"Those other houses were not trashy," Chase argued as they maid their way to slightly ajar front door. "They were just…work's in progress," Chase amended.
"That needed dozen's of years of work," Nicole muttered.
Chase was prevented from arguing by the realtor finding them.
"Oh, don't you just love it," she gushed as she gestured to the house widely as she walked from the living room to where they were in the entryway.
The realtor led them through the house giving them a grand tour of the tiny cottage like home. It was just over a mile and half from the beach, built nearly a century ago with updated appliances and fixtures. The inside had a Hampton's beachfront cottage vibe with soft blues and rich creams on the walls, crown molding on the high ceilings, dark hardwood floors, and white wainscoting and cabinetry throughout the small three-bedroom home.
After weaving their way through the whole house ending in the kitchen and the realtor had raved about the house's charm for a good ten minutes, Nicole squealed, "It's perfect! We'll take it!"
"Uh," Chase broke in immediately, "first, the price is a little steep and what do you mean "we?"
"You two obviously need some time," the realtor broke in, "browse, talk, I'll be outside returning some calls."
Once the realtor had left the room Nicole dove right in responding, "You can't take any of the other houses. I watched Property Virgins on HGTV all last Saturday and the other houses just won't do. They're horrible investments and this one is perfect."
"First of all, Property Virgins is for people looking to buy a home. I was watching with you, remember? And I'm not buying. I'm only renting-" Chase retaliated.
"Which is why you can't take a 'handy-man's special'" Nicole interrupted, "because you are renting and that means you can't fix it up. So you have to get a house like this, already nice and not falling apart, because you're renting."
"I know," Chase agreed. He glanced around the kitchen and sighed, "I know this house is perfect, but I'm going to have to take one of the crappy ones. This is three hundred more a month than the maximum that I can afford."
"It wouldn't be if I lived with you, split the rent," Nicole suggested.
"What?" Chase asked completely thrown. They hadn't talked about anything like that before. After all, they'd only been together three months.
"I already practically live with you. I stay over almost every night. I don't even remember the last time I slept in my apartment," Nicole pointed out. She proposed again hopefully, "So, why not make it official? Let's move in here, together."
"We can't," Chase said running a hand through his hair. Really, he didn't mind the idea at all, but there was a problem. Given the look of confusion on Nicole's face she hadn't seem to realize it as he had, "Your dad would kill me for living with you. Right now you may stay with me a lot, but should your family show up you have a place of your own. And your dad was just told that he's back to being healthy enough to resume all past activities, which could totally include killing me."
"You're right," Nicole admitted with a sigh. She leaned on the kitchen island, drumming her fingers on the tile lightly, Chase pacing on the opposite side of the island. She suggested innocently, "He would kill you if we lived together…without being married."
Chase stopped. He turned. "Uh…" he managed to get out. Spluttering any further wasn't even an option. He was at a complete loss for words.
Nicole looked up and shrugged, playing nonchalant, "I mean, he couldn't be mad if we were married so…" she trailed off letting the suggestion linger.
"Uh, we've never, uh, talked about…this, before," Chase stumbled nervously, "You're not like, proposing or something right? I kind of thought you'd never do that, I mean, that you'd always want to be the one to be proposed to."
"I'm not proposing," Nicole broke in, "I'm just saying…it would…solve things. You'd get this house and my dad wouldn't be mad."
Resuming his pacing, Chase pointed out, "That doesn't seem like a good reason to get married."
Before she could stop herself, Nicole let slip in a mutter, "Well how about the fact that you've had a ring for over two months now."
"What?" Chase squeaked coming to a stop again.
"Whoops," Nicole cringed. She bit her lip. Chase turned to face her slowly. "Don't get mad okay?" she prefaced.
"Get mad about what?" Chase asked as he walked to stand directly in front of her across the island.
"I kind of talk to your mom," Nicole admitted, trying to smile, but the cringe still remaining so her expression was stuck somewhere between the two.
Calmly, Chase requested, "Explain."
"Well, remember when I used to call your house all summer?" Nicole asked.
"You mean summer before freshman year of college?" Chase answered, hoping he was wrong.
Nicole nodded, "I would call and she would answer and we'd get to talking- your mom is so nice- and then she started calling me to talk and it's kind of been consistent. She kind of talks to Logan, and Dana,….and Jerry, too."
"What? Why did no one tell me?" Chase demanded, shocked.
Nicole shrugged and defended weakly "I don't know, it never came up."
"She kind of e-mails us too," Nicole added honestly.
Chase shook his head disbelievingly. The thing was, knowing his mom, he really should have seen this coming. Getting back to the more important issue though, he checked, "And in one of your calls she told you about the ring?"
Nicole nodded and commented, "Your mom is kind of horrible with secrets. From the way she talked, she called me as soon as you left home over spring break."
Chase sighed, turned around and hopped up on the counter. He didn't feel like he had the strength to stand at the moment. Every idea, every plan, was ruined now. Not that he really had one, it had only been three months. But any possible surprise was officially no longer a possibility. Plus now Nicole knew that he got an engagement ring three weeks after they started dating and he didn't think that would scare her off- he was her Pacey after all- but he didn't think it said great things about him either.
Nicole came around the island and hopped up to sit beside him. "So," she began, trying to look on the positive side of things, "I guess I found out why you were so insistent on why you needed to go home over spring break instead of staying here with me."
"Yeah," Chase agreed softly. He played with a stray thread on the bottom hem of his shirt, but Nicole stopped him from that distraction by reaching over and taking his hand. He looked up and met her eyes. She smiled. He suddenly felt compelled to explain, "I wasn't…I just. Since there was a break and I had the opportunity to go home and get my grandma's ring, I just…I thought I should have it here, handy, for…whenever."
"Because you want to marry me," Nicole teased with a grand smile.
"Yes," Chase confirmed confidently with a smile.
"Then do it," Nicole encouraged.
"I thought you weren't proposing," Chase reminded.
"I'm not," Nicole maintained, "I want to be proposed to. I want something huge and not stolen from any movie or TV show and I want it to be super, super cheesy."
"Like," Chase said pondering, "I stand on the ledge of some building and threaten to jump if you don't agree to marry me."
"As romantic as threats of suicide are," Nicole began sarcastically, "no, that one won't work. It would be a very cheap way of doing it though."
"I don't think the ensuing arrest would be cheap exactly," Chase pointed out. Chase glanced away from Nicole and stared at his dangling feet as he got serious again, voicing a concern, "Are you sure about this though? I mean, it's not…too soon?"
"Probably," Nicole answered rationally. She smiled and continued honestly, ducking her head to try and catch Chase's eye again, "But I kind of don't care. At all. I already know you're my one right person. Why not just make it official?"
Chase smiled and leaned forward to kiss her. He still found the fact that he could kiss her any time he wanted the most remarkable and best thing of his life. His right hand gently cradled her head for the sweet, short kiss. He pulled away, his hand making it's way down to her hand to intertwine their fingers in the process. "I love you, you know?" he said smiling still, "It kind of worries me, but I don't see a problem with your logic. I know there are probably tons of reasons why we shouldn't, but I don't really care about any of them either."
"Really?" Nicole checked, holding back the squeal threatening to escape until she had confirmation that he was indeed saying that he wanted to marry her soon.
"Yeah," Chase confirmed, "I guess I should start working on that ridiculously cheesy proposal."
Nicole tackled Chase to the counter- she hadn't intended to be that forceful in her hug, but she was excited. She screamed a little, but stopped when she realized she was screaming into Chase's ear. She settled for kissing him instead. Nicole pulled away abruptly upon a thought occurring to her. She added to the requirements, "It has to be a surprise too."
"Oh, it will be," Chase promised confidently. "Come on," he said sitting up and taking her with him, "it's Thursday. How about we have our first Thursday dance in our house?"
"Our house?" Nicole caught.
"Well," Chase drew out as he hopped down from the counter and offered his hand to Nicole to do so too, "it really shouldn't be for a little while, until everything is official at least. But, when I move right after graduation in a couple weeks, well, you could start moving in too. You have so much stuff it may make it a lot easier to do it slowly. And when everything is all moved in, eventually, I think this will be the perfect house for us to live in as newlyweds."
"I thought this house was too much though," Nicole said, repeating his words from earlier because she loved the house, but getting married was expensive and a house that was over budget- she wanted it all, but she didn't want to be stupid about it.
"We'll make it work," Chase promised. Still holding one of her hands from helping her off the counter, he took her other hand in his and explained, "I don't want the first place we live together to be somewhere you don't like or something you're settling for. I want it to be as perfect as possible, so I want you to have this house, because I know you love it."
Nicole sighed. It was sweet of him, but she wanted to be sure so argued, "But I love you more and if getting this house is going to be-"
"I promise," Chase interrupted, "everything will be fine." He didn't exactly know how they would pay for the house and a wedding eventually. But he figured both of their parents would help out with the wedding- his especially since they didn't have any other children that would ever be getting married. Plus, he was figuring what he could afford as rent by what he would be earning as, well, he wasn't sure what the position entailed exactly, but Professor Walsh had helped him get some kind of job at a studio that Professor Walsh was really excited about so he assumed it was pretty good. And he hadn't figured in any revenue he may get from the film he worked on with Walsh, which would be released in a few months with his name on it as a writer. Even if he got next to nothing for the movie and his pay was significantly less than he was expecting though, Chase knew he'd make it all work. For Nicole, he'd make it all perfect.
"Okay," Nicole relented, giving him a quick peck on the mouth as she swung her arms around his neck. "What should we dance to?" She asked, knowing they didn't have any music with them so they'd just have to make their own.
"Probably the only song we both know the complete lyrics to by heart without even trying," Chase reasoned as he slid his hands around her waist, holding her close.
Nicole smiled and jokingly began singing as she knew it wasn't the song he was talking about, "Oh Hot Jolly Green Giant-"
"No," Chase said as he placed a hand over her mouth to get her to stop quickly. "Not the can food aisle song," he denied, "I was talking about the other song we both know." He smiled and sang softly, "I can only give you love that lasts forever."
"And promise to be near each time you call," Nicole joined in loudly.
"And the only heart I own," they sang enthusiastically as Chase twirled them from the kitchen into the adjacent dinning room, "for you and you alone, that's all, that's all."
They danced through the whole house. Chase quickly waltzing them in and out of each room as they sang at the top of their lungs through their joyous laughter. They ended up in the living room at the front of the house. Chase slowed their pace down to a near stop as they came to the last line of the song. He sang softly and she copied his tone, "Say it's me you'll adore, for now and ever more, that's all, that's all."
Chase stopped the gentle swaying they had slowed down to and simply stood, holding Nicole tightly in his arms. It was perfect. His world was whole and good and right with her in it. And he realized, he didn't see the point in waiting anymore. Following the courage he found only months ago, the strength she brought out in him, as his eyes remained locked to hers and with emotion filling his voice he whispered a plea, "Marry me."
It wasn't super, super cheesy or huge or really that big of a surprise. It was sincere and sweet and them. It was perfect. Nicole eyes already started to water and her voice sounded just as teary as she answered with her biggest smile to date, "Yes."
He kissed her passionately and picked her up in his arms, lifting her feet off the ground because he knew how much she loved the scenes in movies and on TV where guys did that- like at the beginning of 17 Again, which she was still making them watch over and over again.
Twenty minutes later after they had finally managed to pull themselves away from each other and Nicole wiped away all evidence of her happy tears, they left the house as they had finally remembered they needed to tell the realtor that they wanted it. When they got outside, however, there was no one in sight.
"Where'd she go?" Nicole asked looking around the block, searching for the realtor or her car.
"Uh," Chase answered, "I think she left. I kind of thought I heard someone come in when we were making out and…I think she may have decided to leave us be."
Rather than being embarrassed that the realtor obviously thought they were getting frisky in the house, Nicole simply responded, "Aw, that was so thoughtful of her."
Chase shook his head and smiled. He, was the shade of a tomato- he was sure. Nicole, had no qualms and was appreciative of the realtor's character. It was just so her. It was moments like this, when she was so essentially her, that he couldn't help falling for her even more.
"So, what do you want to do tonight?" Nicole asked as she took Chase's hand in hers.
"Hmm…." Chase pondered, "I don't know. What do you want to do?" He figured she already knew what she wanted and that was why she asked. He also figured that her answer would be to drive back to his place immediately so she could see, try on, and start wearing the ring if it even slightly fit.
Chase was partially right, Nicole had already thought of something she wanted to do. She suggested, "Let's watch tons of movies and episodes of TV shows with weddings in them to get ideas for our wedding."
"Sure," Chase agreed easily. A night watching stuff with Nicole had always sounded like a good idea to him. And after all, it was their longest tradition.
They started walking down the driveway to where Chase had parked on the street when Nicole suddenly came to a complete stop. She sniffed the air a bit, and realized, "We're near the beach. I totally forgot where this house was for like the last half hour." Before Chase could comment, Nicole's eyes widened as she got an idea that she immediately voiced, "We should totally go to the beach. I'll race you there."
Nicole was off in an instant running down the sidewalk.
"Uh," Chase began helplessly, more than a little startled- although her impulsiveness was one of the things he loved about Nicole. "It's miles," he yelled after her, stressing the distance, and not knowing that it wasn't as far as he thought.
Nicole simply glanced back and smiled. She yelled over her shoulder, "How many times have you told me that you're never going to let me go?" She joked, "What kind of fiancé are you? Letting me get away like this." She turned around and jogged backwards still smiling and waiting for what she was certain would come because she knew, without a doubt, that he loved her.
Chase sighed. He knew she was teasing and he knew that by letting her run the miles to the beach he wouldn't really be letting her go- he'd just be driving, meeting her there, and saving himself the physical strain. But now that he knew how amazing it was to really be with her, to love her and to be loved by her, he knew that there was absolutely no situation that he wouldn't go after her in ever. He wouldn't be the scared guy he once was. He didn't have any more fear, not with her.
Chase ran after Nicole.
He caught up to her by the time they reached the beach, both laughing and out of breath. Both, with light hearts- heavy hearts, forever in their past.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
And I hope that every time you're in a grocery store, down a certain aisle, or you see the Jolly Green Giant, you think of Nicole and Chase fondly and smile.
I'd love to know your thoughts on the end of the story- or the story as a whole if you have yet to review- so please do, one last time, REVIEW.
Thank you all again for reading!