Last chapter! *sigh* So bittersweet...
I want to thank all of my wonderful readers and reviewers. You guys are simply beyond amazing and I can honestly never thank you enough!
I cannot believe I'll be changing the status of this story to completed...
I'd temporarily stolen Jim's hideout spot on the roof. From here, I'd been able to hear bits and pieces of the various conversations between kids and parents drifting out of the bedroom windows. It was always the same - a long, drawn out, confusing explanation, followed by a thousand questions. The reactions were what varied - Theodore and August's parents had probably been the most shocked, that their two studious boys had been involved in such an adventure; Rylee's dad had been the most accepting of the voyage itself, though not so much of 'this Cason boy'; Graham's mom was relieved and spent most of her time hugging Graham and saying things like 'my baby!'; Cason's parents had taken the 'I don't want to know' stance, and requested being filled in on as little as possible, so he'd given them a very shallow run through of everything... a run through that did include Rylee, and his parents were thrilled that their rebellious son had actually found a girl he loved that could stand him in return.
The most interesting discussion had been between Landon and his parents though. Landon's parents were by far the most reserved of the bunch, and Landon had somehow managed to explain the entire trip without making any of it sound dangerous. If I had to guess, I'd say he's spent the entire return trip writing out the dialogue to make it as easy as possible. No one in that room raised their voice until the Isabelle was brought up. Landon had literally begged for them to let him return to Lacuna, but they were less than thrilled with the idea. There was still the issue that her parents didn't accept him, and they weren't entirely sure that this was love. After all, Landon was the most level headed of all of us - this new, completely infatuated behavior was just odd for him. After his father had adamantly told him there was no way he would be returning, and he'd pleaded and begged and explained how he felt until he was on the brink of tears, his mother had finally stepped in and said they'd discuss it.
Now everyone was asleep, each family in their own bedroom. That didn't mean that the night was anywhere near over though. Commodore Aldamae had left about an hour ago to meet Amelia at the jail to plead Jim and Silver's case. The fact that the commodore was going with her gave me a small amount of hope that Silver and Jim would be home soon. I was so worried. Pirating, of course, was no small deal, and the punishments were harsh, and harboring a pirate wasn't much better, especially when you openly admit to it like Jim had. I didn't know what it was going to take to get the rules to bend, but stars above, I hoped they could do it.
In the meantime, all I could do was sit back and wait for them to return. I debated on whether I wanted to stay out here in the chilly night air or go back inside and huddle up under the warm quilt of my bed - out here, I would know the second Jim arrived home - if and when he did - and inside, under the covers, I was sure to fall asleep, and I couldn't do that. If Jim cared enough to stay awake the entire time I was sick, I could at least skip one night of sleep to find out what his fate would be.
I sighed and leaned back against the chimney, rubbing my hands together to warm them. Then, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. At first, I thought I'd just hallucinated it when I tried to adjust to the darkness of the road leading up to the Benbow. It looked like there was nothing, then there it was again - just a small bit of movement, as if a piece of the blackness around me had broken off and decided to go for a walk. That's when I realized the 'it' was a person, a person in a black traveling cloak headed towards the inn.
It was beyond me why a visitor would show up at this early hour of the morning, but it wasn't the first time it had happened. I climbed back in through my open window and rushed downstairs.
"What's the hurry?"
The sound of Rylee's voice nearly gave me a heart attack when I reached the ground floor of the Benbow. I jumped around and found her and Cason curled up together on the couch. For half a second, I wished Jim was here, so that we could be that close as well, then I spent the other half a second scolding myself. Calm down. You can live without him for a few hours. But that's what worried me... What if it wasn't just a few hours? What if it was much longer?
"Someone's at the door," I answered, just as there was a very light knock on the door, one I might not have even heard if I hadn't been listening for it. I walked the rest of the way to the door and opened it. Before I could even greet the stranger, they had thrown their arms around me.
"Tabitha! Oh, thank goodness it's you!"
"Wha... Isabelle?" I questioned in shock. Sure enough, she pulled down the hood of her cloak, and it was her.
"Whoa..." Rylee said in awe from somewhere behind me.
"I... Wh-what are you doing here?" I asked, hugging her back as she still had not let go of me.
Isabelle released me and I realized she was crying. "Oh, Tabitha, I-I don't know. I-I'm so confused. Landon asked me to come with him, a-and I told him I couldn't, even though I wanted to, but I d-didn't want to disappoint my parents, b-but then I stayed up all night th-thinking about it and r-r-realized that I'd made a hu-huge mistake, so I-I came here. I kept thinking I was doing the wrong th-thing, a-and that I should just go back, b-but I couldn't, I had to... I had to come see him, a-and then I got here and I w-w-wasn't even sure if I was a-at the right place, o-or if he would be h-here a-and - "
"Shh, Isabelle, calm down!" I consoled the hysterical girl. "It's okay. You're in the right place, obviously, and Landon - "
"What is it,?" Landon yawned as he stumbled down the steps, apparently having just been retrieved by Cason. "What is so important that it can't wait 'till - "
He stopped, frozen in his tracks by the very sight of her. Isabelle tensed as well, her mouth open slightly staring at him as if terrified of what his reaction might be.
"Isabelle?" he whispered.
"L-landon... I - "
But she didn't have time to finish, or even begin, her explanation. He raced towards her and, placing his hands on either side of her face, pulled her into a kiss he thought he'd never share. As touching as it was, I almost snickered at the whole thing; they both look so flustered - Isabelle with her windblown hair and tear-streaked face and Landon with his hair mussed in only an undershirt and pajama pants. It was really - for lack of a better word - adorable.
"What - what are you doing here?" he asked animatedly, running his fingers through her hair.
"I made a huge mistake. I should have just come with you. I'm sorry I - "
We all turned at the harsh sound of Landon's father's voice. He was standing on the stairs, dressed similarly to his son, with Landon's mother standing slightly behind him, wrapped in a bathrobe.
"Dad..." he began, unsure of what to say. "This is Isabelle."
"I figured as much, seeing the way you just kissed her," he said bluntly, making the couple blush a bright pink, something wholly uncharacteristic for Landon. "Would she care to explain why she's here?"
Landon opened his mouth, but couldn't think of what to say. He looked back to Isabelle, then back to his parents -
I cleared my throat. "Um... I'm just going to go hang out in the kitchen now..."
"Yeah, and, uh, we're... we're going to go to bed..." Rylee added, puling Cason towards the stairs.
The last thing I saw of the group was Landon sliding an arm around Isabelle's waist to pull her closer while Landon's mother kept one hand clasped over her mouth in shock. His father was just beginning with, "Stars above, Landon, what do you think - " when the door to the kitchen shut behind me.
Mrs. Hawkins and Abigail both jumped from their spots at the kitchen table. "Oh, Tabitha! You startled me," Mrs. Hawkins began.
"Sorry..." I mumbled.
Abigail looked me over, concern etched all over her features. "How are you feeling?" I shrugged. "What's the matter?"
"I'm worried about them..." I said quietly. "Not so much about Jim, but about Silver."
I was worried about Jim - very worried, in fact - but Silver's fate still worried me more. I was certain that Jim could get out with a minor charge, like probation, or house arrest, but Silver... Silver was a pirate. Silver had always been a pirate. Silver had committed numerous crimes, most of which I didn't know or care to find out. He was a wanted man, and he'd finally been caught. It just didn't bode well. It would take a miracle for Silver to even make it out of this mess alive.
Abigail walked over to me slowly and looked down into my eyes. At first, I didn't understand, but then I realized. Tears welled up in my eyes as I wrapped my arms around her. She didn't start, or stumble back, she just wrapped her arms around me and rubbed my back comfortingly, and I once again reached the conclusion that she would be the perfect mother.
"It's going to be okay," Mrs. Hawkins said as she approached both of us. "Amelia and Anthony are at the spaceport to try to work something out now."
I pulled away from Abigail and nodded. "S-sorry..." I muttered, wiping at my eyes.
"Don't apologize, dear," Abigail comforted me. "We're all worried."
Mrs. Hawkins sighed. "Why don't you get some sleep, Tabitha?"
"No. I couldn't even if I wanted to," I explained. "I'm too anxious."
"It won't hurt to try. You're still recovering from being sick and injured. Don't wear yourself out," Abigail told me.
I sighed, knowing I wouldn't be able to convince the two mothers otherwise. "Fine..."
I retired from the kitchen, but didn't go to bed. From the den, I could still here Isabelle, Landon, and his parents talking in the dining room. Deciding it was best not to interrupt, I wrapped myself in a quilt and curled up on one of the window seats so I could watch the path leading up to the Benbow. I would know the instant they returned...
That is, when, and if, they returned.
It was just me and Silver left in the holding cell. Of course, we were the only ones who'd done anything 'wrong'. Silver was a pirate, and I was the captain harboring him. Everyone else had simply fallen into the category of bystanders and had been released early on with nothing more than a warning. I guess not getting in trouble with the police was good news, but I couldn't imagine what there parents were going to do.
I felt horrible - I couldn't imagine how those conversations were going to go over. Not to mention it would be even harder for everyone to convince them of their innocence with the fact that their captain was still in jail with a pirate. This was the last thing any of us needed right now.
I'd called my mom and told her to contact Captain Amelia - not at all what I'd wanted to say, but I'd had a time limit, and I knew the apology/explanation I wanted to give her was going to take much longer than that. I just prayed she wasn't too disappointed. Who am I kidding? She never wanted me to go on this trip in the first place, and now I'm in jail. I let her down... again.
And then there was Tabitha. Things had finally gotten back to normal between the two of us, and now this. And damn it to hell, I still hadn't proposed. I'd been having fun teasing her, leading her on, while in actuality I was still waiting for the perfect time. Had I had plenty of chances? Yes, but none of them had seemed just right... I didn't know why. It seemed like no matter when I did it, as long as she said yes, it would be perfect... but something kept making me hesitate, wait for the moment to be completely flawless.
Who knows when that so called perfect moment would arise? I was stuck in jail for Heaven knows how long. Even if my mom had contacted Amelia, I really had no reason to expect she'd come and speak up on behalf of either of us. I hoped that maybe the commodore could help, but he was only man, and I had no idea if he had any influence on this planet like Amelia did. Amelia was prestigious, well-known - she could certainly pull some strings... if she wanted to.
"Whatcha t'inkin' 'bout?" Silver suddenly questioned.
I'd had my head leaned against the cold bars of the cell, trying to ease the pounding headache leftover from my hangover and the events of the day, but I sat up and turned to look at him now. "Everything."
"Ya aren't blamin' t'is all on yerself again, are ya now?"
I laughed lightly. "Not all of it."
"Well, good. It weren't yet fault, ya know. If anyt'ing it was me own - "
"No, Silver, don't - " I sighed heavily. "I really don't want to play the 'who's at fault' game. Can we just call it even?"
He grinned. "Good t'inkin', lad."
Silence fell between us once again. The cell was freezing and I pulled my coat tighter around me in a failed effort to keep warm. I closed my eyes, but knew I wasn't be getting any sleep tonight.
"Jimbo?" I grunted in response. "I've been meanin' t' ask ya some t'ings... 'bout Tabby..."
I opened one eye, then the other, spotting how nervous Silver had suddenly become. "Uh... okay."
"Well... I was t'inkin'..." He seemed to be looking anywhere but directly at me. "Since t'e lass don't have her parents, o' course, and now t'at bastard of a godfather o' hers is gone as well... Well, I was t'inkin' I might... "
I raised my eyebrows. "Might what?"
"I was thinkin' I might ask if I could adopt 'er."
I sat up straighter, gawking at him from across our small cell. "Is that why you told the commodore that she was your daughter?"
He blinked. "I never said tha'."
"Well... he thought she was. If people are assuming it anyway, you might as well."
"But do ya t'ink she'd - "
"She'd love it!" I jumped in before he even finished the question.
"Even after all that's 'appened, 'bout her parents an all? Besides, she's fixin' t' be an adult now - "
"No, you should! Really!" I encouraged. "She already sees you like a father, you know, and it's not like parents stop being your parents when you become an adult."
"No, guess yer right," he chuckled.
"What about Abigail?"
"What about 'er?"
"What does she think about this?"
"Hadn't actually mentioned it t' 'er yet..." he bristled.
"Well don't you think you should? I mean, if you're married to her, then that would make her Tabitha's mother, and - "
"What t'e devil ya talkin' 'bout, lad?" he said defensively. "I ain't married t' Abby."
"Not yet you aren't," I laughed. Silver shifted nervously. "Oh, come on! You're going to propose!"
Silver chuckled. "Everyone keeps sayin' t'at about you as well, but I 'adn't seen a ring on Tabby's finger yet."
"Yeah, well - " I could feel my face heating up even in the icy room. "That's different."
"Don't see 'how!"
"You've been waiting - what? Twenty years?. I only made the decision a few months ago."
"Ya still made t'e decision, lad. It ain't like yer gonna back out now. Besides, if its been t'at long, maybe I ain't - "
"I'd bet the Benbow you've got a ring in your pocket right now," I challenged.
He stopped and looked me over skeptically. I laughed and pulled the signature box from my own pocket. Silver laughed heartily, reached deep into his inner coat pocket, and did the same. "Trade ya?"
We tossed the boxes across to one another, each observing the others choice. Silver's was simple, classic - gold band with a diamond. "Cool."
Silver chuckled a little, then opened the box. His face shifted from one of amusement to one of outright shock. "Stars above, Jimbo! Ya better hope she says yes wit' how much ya must 'ave invested in t'is t'ing!"
In an instant, I was on my feet, jerking the box back away from him. "I-it wasn't that much."
"I ain't daft, Jimbo! How'd ya afford somethin' like t'is?"
I turned scarlet. "I-I saved up."
"For 'ow long?" he questioned.
"For..." Way longer than was necessary... which was part of the reason the ring was so extravagant. The whole time I'd been debating whether I was ready to propose, I'd been saving up, so by the time I'd finally decided, I'd had more that enough to get a typical ring, so I didn't get a typical ring. Tabitha wouldn't want a typical ring anyway. She's anything but typical. "For a while, okay? What does it matter?"
"No need t' get defensive. I's just askin'," he smirked.
I watched as he continued to survey it, holding it up in what little light was trickling down from upstairs. His brow furrowed and he seemed to be debating what to say... "Oh, God," I groaned. "It's too much, isn't it? She's not going to like it. It's not right. I thought it was, but it wasn't. How could I - "
"James Hawkins," he interrupted. "Ya worry too damned much. It ain't too much, an' she's gonna love it cause she loves you." He put the ring back in the box and chuckled. "Here, now, go get some sleep. I gotta feelin' we're gonna be here 'till mornin'..."I resisted the urge to add the words 'at least' to his statement. As I handed him his ring and sat back down, he shook his head, laughing under his breath. "Yer just like me, Jimbo."
"Heaven help me if that's true," I joked, but then stopped abruptly as I considered something. "Wait..."
"What is it, lad?"
I opened my mouth to say something, then sighed again. "Can I ask for a favor?"
"O' course ya can, lad."
I scratched my neck nervously. How can I say this without sounding completely -
"If yer gonna ask me to wait 'til after you propose to her, I was already gonna."
Well, that was easy. "You were?"
"Well, I don't wanna steal t'e spotlight from ya too much. Besides, t'at gives me time to talk to Abby 'bout it - "
"Assuming you've actually asked her to marry you by then."
"I bet I propose to Abby 'efore ya get up the courage t' propose to Tabitha.".
My jaw dropped at the proposition. This was clearly a scheme to get me to hurry up... but I couldn't blame him. Hell, I was impatient with myself. I couldn't imagine how Tabitha felt. He crossed his arms, waiting for me to respond. I've never turned down a challenge, and I'm not about to start now.
Our laughter stopped abruptly to the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs to our cell. I stood up and rushed to the bars, wondering who it was, and what are fate would be...
Tabitha woke up suddenly. She glanced out the window, trying to tell what time it was, but it was impossible with the infamous, dark, Montressorian rain clouds rolling over head. She sighed and pressed her head against the cold glass, pulling her blanket around her tighter. Then, she heard them... voices. Landon and Isabelle? No...
Afraid she was still dreaming, she waited, trying to make out who's they were, but they were too muffled. She laid the blanket next to her on the bench then carefully tiptoed toward the kitchen door, holding her breath. She took a deep breath, then swung the door open slowly.
"Here she is now!" Silver chuckled. "We was jus' talkin 'bout ya, Tabby. I - "
The rest of the statement was halted when she raced across the kitchen and threw her arms around him, hugging him as tightly as possible. He returned the hug, patting her back.
"It's alrigh', lass. I'm jus' fine."
"I didn't know you would be! I was so worried! I though you..."
"It's okay," he smiled. "Now, I don' t'ink I'm t'e only one ya been missin'..." He gently push her to the other side of the kitchen.
"Jim!" she cried out, hugging him around the neck tightly. "You're here!"
Jim couldn't help but be amused. She was always concerned for everyone else, which was one of the big reasons she was such a great doctor, but only a very tiny portion of the reasons he loved her. "Of course I'm here."
"I can't believe it! You're both here! I didn't know when I was going to see you, and I... mm," she whimpered as she hugged him again. "I love you." She let go and rushed to hug Silver again. "And I love you too. You're both here! How did you - ?"
Jim laughed. "Funny story, really." He grabbed a purp and hopped up onto the kitchen counter, only to jump right back down when his mother shot him a stern look.
"What? How?" Tabitha repeated.
"I believe this is where I come in," Amelia spoke up, and Tabitha noticed her for the first time. "Well, myself and Anthony."
"You and Commodore Aldamae?"
The commodore laughed. "Yes. Amelia and I are old friends. We go back quite a ways."
"That's what I said," Jim chimed in. "Just wait, it gets better."
"Well, I took off to meet this Amelia Doppler and plead Silver and Jim's case, so imagine my surprise when Amelia Doppler turned out to be Amelia Smollett, the girl - "
"Woman, if you don't mind," she interrupted good-naturedly.
"Lady," he compromised. "That I was stuck playing 'big brother' to her first year at the academy - I was in charge of ushering her around the campus, making sure she stayed out of trouble - "
"Which you were quite bad at, as I recall. I believe I actually ended up in more trouble because of you," Amelia teased. "It was a pleasure to see you again though. How long has it been? 10 years since we last sailed together?"
"Close to it."
Amelia smiled. "Anthony put in a good word for the both of them, naturally. He explained how Mr. Silver hadn't stolen the ship, and how he'd requested Anthony keep an eye out for you, Tabitha, and I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Silver once again. Seems I quite underestimated him."
"So, what? You just put in a good word, and they let a wanted man go free?" Tabitha questioned.
"Hardly," Commodore Aldamae said. "But when two prestigious officers speak up on behalf of an alleged criminal, a judge tends to listen."
"I think it also helps if you wake the judge up at 3 in the morning," Jim laughed. "He probably would have agreed to most anything just so he could go back home to bed."
"In conclusion, we were only able to get their punishments reduced, not eliminated completely," Amelia explained.
Tabitha paled. "What? What are they?"
"Mr. Silver is required to get special permission with the authorities any time he wants to set foot on a ship."
"An' I got stuck with Anthony as me babysitter," Silver laughed.
Commodore Aldamae laughed and explained to Tabitha's questioning look, "In exchange for his freedom, I pledged that I would take full responsibility for him. Any crimes he commits from here on out are just as much my fault as his. As long as he stays out of trouble - "
"Which he will," Abigail said sternly.
"There's nothing to worry about."
Tabitha's face lit up as she rushed over to hug him. "Thank you!"
Anthony tensed a bit, but laughed. "It's quite alright, Tabitha."
Tabitha's smile fell as she slowly turned to Jim. "What about you?"
Jim lowered his eyes, his face solemn. Just as Tabitha's hand flew to her mouth in concern, assuming the worst - that he'd lost his privilege to be captain, or their ship had been confiscated - he looked up and grinned. "I've been grounded for 6 months."
"I can't step foot onto a ship until then."
"B-but... you weren't going to anyway. We're taking a break, right?"
"Exactly," Jim grinned.
Tabitha's jaw dropped. "That's it?!"
"That's it," he chuckled.
Jim stumbled when she rushed forward to hug him again.
"Well, I must be going," Amelia said. "I'm sure Delbert's pacing around the nursery with me not there."
"Thank you!" Tabitha cried, wrapping her in an embrace.
"Erm, yes..." Amelia said awkwardly. She quickly softened and patted her on the back. "It's quite alright."
Silver waited until the door shut behind her to speak. "I t'ink bein' a mom's made 'er go soft."
"Hey, don't complain. It got us out prison, didn't it?" Jim pointed out.
He stood up and started to leave. "I wasn't complain'. I'm glad t' be back."
"And I'm glad you're back," Abigail smiled as she took his hand.
As they left the room, Jim quickly took a seat at the table while Tabitha sidled in next to him, laying her head on his shoulder.
Jim wrapped his arms around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head. "Would it sound stupid if I said I missed you?"
Tabitha's laugh was slightly muffled with her face pressed against him. "If it does, then we can sound stupid together. Oh! Speaking of missing people, you'll never guess who's here."
"Isabelle." Jim blinked in shock as Tabitha explained what had happened. "I haven't seen them since then, but I'm assuming she stayed."
"She did," Mrs. Hawkins spoke up. "I let her sleep in your room, Tabitha. I hope you don't mind. Space is limited, and the only other girl here is Rylee..."
"Oh, no, it's fine. I was going to sleep with Jim anyway." Mrs. Hawkins blinked in both surprise and amusement. "I mean like I did on the ship." Tabitha suddenly remembered that while sharing a bed with Jim on the ship had been commonplace from early on, Mrs. Hawkins had no idea. As far as she knew, they'd only shared a bed on a few odd occasions. "Oh, no, wait! I meant that... I-I had to, on the ship, b-because there wasn't a-a lot of room... W-we just shared a bed, is all... I-I - "
"Stop talking," Jim whispered in her ear at precisely the same time the adults began to laugh.
"I understand Tabitha," Mrs. Hawkins smiled kindly.
Embarrassed, she moved closer to Jim, burying her face against his chest to hide her blush. Of course, she was asleep within minutes. Jim smiled at her, noticing how happy she looked even in her sleep.
"You still haven't done it?"
Jim looked up at his mother with wide eyes. As this sounded like a follow up question to the conversation about he and Tabitha sharing a bed, only one 'it' came to Jim's mind. He flushed, unsure of why his mother was asking about that, and what answer was she expecting? Because judging by the sound of her voice, she sounded almost impatient. What business was it of her's whether or not he and Tabitha had -
"Proposed, I mean."
"Oh!" Jim said in sudden understanding. "Oh..." The repeated 'oh' was more anxious. "You know about that?"
"Jim, I'm your mother," she smiled. "I could have predicted it since the moment I saw the two of you step of the Legacy together."
Commodore Aldamae laughed. "It is quite obvious, you know."
"I know," he sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Everyone knows. Even she knows."
"So do it then," his mother encouraged.
Jim glanced down to make sure she was really asleep, then sighed. "I just really wanted it to be perfect, you know? It's not like I haven't tried. I have, but stuff happened..."
"Stuff?" the commodore repeated.
"Yeah, like... well, the first time was when I took Tabitha out to watch the sunrise, but we ended up getting distracted by the ship you bought us, mom, and then the next time was the night we went swimming and you found us, sir, and the next - " He stopped and decided to skip over the whole scene of getting wasted and nearly doing 'it' - the other one, that is. "The point is I really have tried."
Neither adult said anything, but something about their facial expressions made it clear they didn't accept this excuse. After double checking to see that Tabitha's eyes were still closed, he pulled the box out of his pocket and looked over the ring once more.
"Jim... " his mother began.
He looked up to face both his mother and the commodore, who were now sending him very pointed looks. "It's now, isn't it?" he asked.
"No time like the present..." Commodore Aldamae said as he left the kitchen. Mrs. Hawkins began to follow, but Jim stopped her. "Mom, wait - "
She raised her eyebrows. "Yes?"
"I wanted to apologize, for ending up in trouble again. I'm sorry, I just didn't want to see Silver get blamed for everything. I don't mean to keep letting you down - "
"You didn't let me down," she interrupted. "Speaking up with Silver was very respectable. You have nothing to be sorry for." Jim started to smile, but she quickly added. "Except making us all wait so long to see the two of you married."
Jim laughed as she left the room, then shook his head to clear his nerves. "Get a grip. You can do this..." he prepared himself. "Tabitha?" Tabitha didn't move a muscle. "Hey, Tabitha... wake up." Nothing. "Please? This is important."
Still no. He sighed and tilted his head back, groaning quietly in frustration as he crammed the box back into his pocket. He debated carrying her to bed, but didn't trust that he had the strength; he was just as exhausted as she was. He didn't have long to think about it though before the quiet dark of the kitchen pulled him into sleep as well.
Tabitha didn't even know she'd been asleep until she woke up with a start. It was dark outside, but that was because of the storm. It hadn't started to actually rain yet, but when it did, it was going to be one heck of a storm. Peering through the blackness, she was just able to read the time on the clock on the wall - 7 a.m.
Yawning, she turned to Jim. "Hey, Jim, wake up."
Jim groaned unhappily. "Why?"
She quickly kissed him. "I just think we'd be more comfortable in bed."
His eyes snapped open. "Okay."
Tabitha laughed as they stretched and stumbled sleepily through the swinging kitchen door, only to be greeted by the sound of cheers coming from the den.
"Did we miss something?" Jim asked.
"Apparently..." Tabitha said.
They followed the sound and were quite shocked by the sight they found. All of their friends, who were apparently still on the sleep schedule they'd acquired during the trip, were talking animatedly to Silver and Abigail.
Morph flitted over to the confused couple. "Proposed!"
"Proposed?" both Jim and Tabitha repeated.
Morph turned into a ring and placed himself on Tabitha's finger. "What? Who - "
"Tabby!" Silver shouted when he spotted her. "T'ere ya are!"
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Silver proposed!" Abigail practically squealed.
Both Jim and Tabitha's jaw dropped, though for entirely different reasons. Tabitha was thrilled while Jim was somewhat irritated.
"Really?!" Tabitha squealed. "You guys, that's fantastic!"
As the two women hugged, Silver walked past Jim, pausing just long enough to say, "I win."
Jim glared daggers at him, but Silver just laughed.
That was it.
"Come here," Jim demanded, grabbing Tabitha's hand and pulling her away from Abigail.
"Wha - Jim, what are you doing?" she questioned.
He didn't stop walking or let go of her hand until they were outside. As he breathed in the cool air of the storm, he realized that pull Tabitha around like that was probably not the best way to begin this. "Sorry I jerked you out like that..."
She raised an eyebrow. "It's okay, but what...?"
Jim tried to repeat a confident mantra in his head - "You love her. She loves you. She's going to say yes. Keep it together, Jim. You can do this..." - but his rapidly increasing pulse rate made him believe he had a better chance of having a heart attack than being able to do this. Somehow, he managed to take a deep breath without going into cardiac arrest. He ran his hand through his hair, then took her hands and laced his fingers through hers. "Tabitha..."
She looked down at their hands then up to his face. "Yes?"
"We've... we've been going out for a long time, haven't we?"
Tabitha grinned. "Yes..."
"And we... we love each other, right?" he asked.
"Okay..." he chuckled nervously. "Well, I... I-I just wanted to - "
But he was interrupted. This time, not by a ship, or a person, but nature itself. Halfway through his sentence, a raindrop fell and landed on his face. Then another on Tabitha's head. Then another on their intertwined hands.
Tabitha started to pull him back indoors. "Come on. We better get in before it starts to pour."
Jim followed for a few steps back towards the inn, then locked his legs and froze. He was not going to put this off again. "No."
"What?" she asked quizzically.
He shook his head. It had to be here; he was finally ready, right now, and he definitely couldn't do it in front of everybody - there was no way his nerve would hold up. No, rain or no rain, it had to be done now.
"No. Look, just..." he grabbed her hands. "Just wait."
"But it's raining," she laughed.
"I know, but this will only take a second. I..."
"I... I was..."
Tabitha raised her eyebrows in anticipation as Jim tried to ask her. He took a deep breath to settle his nerves...
In those few seconds it to take in that gulp of air, he realized how stupid he was being. He laughed and shook his head in amusement as his nervousness melted away into confidence.
"What?" she asked, smiling, but sounding anxious.
"I just wanted to ask you - " he began more confidently. He grabbed the box from his pocket and knelt in front of her, grinning wildly.
"Tabitha Renee Alexander, will you marry me?"
Tabitha laughed as her vision blurred with tears of happiness. "It's about time!" And with that, she tackled him to the ground in a hug which he returned tightly.
"So I can take this as a yes, right?"
She pulled back to look him in the eyes. "Yes! Oh, of course, yes! A thousand times yes!"
This time, Jim felt his eyes water - or maybe it was just the rain, which was now falling harder. Either way, he pulled Tabitha back to him in another tight embrace, clenching his eyes shut to savor the moment. After a minute, Tabitha shifted off of Jim and they helped each other up. Jim pulled the ring out of the box and placed in on her finger, looking up at her.
Tabitha gasped. "Jim, it's beautiful," she said breathlessly as she gazed admiringly at the ring.
"Really? So you do like it? Because I know it's not exactly a typical engagement ring, but I really thought you'd like it," he explained as he bashfully rubbed the back of his neck.
"I do. It's completely perfect," she grinned.
All they could do was stand there, to stunned to do anymore than laugh quietly as they gazed happily at each other, unaware that it was raining, unaware that they were soaked to the bone, still in disbelief that they were actually engaged.
"T'is is t'e part where ya kiss 'er, lad!"
Tabitha and Jim both jumped out of their lovestruck state at the sound of Silver's voice. They turned to see not only him, but everyone else as well, gathered in the window's and doorway, smiling at the couple.
While Tabitha was still confounded by the audience they'd just discovered, Jim took Silver's advice. He grabbed her hand and spun her to him where he kissed her passionately, much to the enthusiasm of their onlookers who cheered wildly. Tabitha smiled into the kiss and wrapped her arms around Jim's neck. Jim smiled back, lifted her feet off the ground, and spun her around while the rain continued to fall heavily around them.
The beaming, albeit wet and muddy, couple staggered love-drunkenly through the door, their presence hailed by more hoots and applause. Jim was stilling grinning wider than he even thought possible while Tabitha's cheeks retained a bright shade of red.
B.E.N., who someone had apparently decided to wake up to be here for this momentous occasion, was the first to approach them. Tossing a towel around each of their necks and pulling them all together into a hug, he shouted, "Oh, Jimmy and Tabby! I can't believe you're going to be getting married! How wonderful and exciting and thrilling!"
"Oh, Tabitha!" Mrs. Hawkins cried. "Welcome to the family, dear!"
"Thank you, Mrs. Hawk - "
"O-okay..." Tabitha stuttered in shock. "Sarah."
They embraced again before Mrs. Hawkins switched over to Jim and hugged him, kissing his cheek enthusiastically.
"Mom..." Jim whined playfully.
Next were their friends, who bombarded them with hugs and congratulatory exclamations.
"Congratulations, you two!"
"I'm so happy for you guys!"
"I can't believe you're getting married!"
"It's about time!"
After that was Morph, who decided to foretell the wedding by enacting Jim in a tux and Tabitha in a white dress and kissing.
Commodore Aldamae shook Jim's hand. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever ask."
"So was I," Tabitha laughed.
The Commodore chuckled as Abigail walked up. She hugged the couple together. "Congratulations to both of you."
"Right back at you," Jim chuckled.
Abigail laughed lightly and backed away.
"Tabitha - " Silver began, his voice much to heavy for the lightness of the situation.
Tabitha gulped at his use of her full name. "Yes?"
As he stepped forward, Jim released her hand. She turned to look at him confusedly, but he just smiled and moved away.
Silver knelt down in front of her. "Tabby, I dunno if now's t'e best time t' be askin' ya t'is... but I told Jimbo I'd wait till after he proposed, an' I really don't wanna wait any longer."
"What?" Her voice was quiet, but it might as well have been a scream in the eerily silent room. "What is it?"
"Well, Tabby, I was wonderin' if I - we - " he corrected, looking back at Abigail. "Could... adopt ya."
Nearly everyone gasped, except Tabitha. Tabitha either didn't or couldn't move a muscle.
Taking this as a bad sign, Silver began to ramble. "I been takin' care o' ya fer almost ten years, and Anthony t'ought I was yer pap anyways, an' ya said yerself t'at Abby would be a good mother..."
Tabitha opened her mouth to say something, but couldn't. Her eyes filled with tears as she shook her head. The occupants of the room gasped in quiet unison.
"Oh," Silver said defeatedly.
Tabitha hugged him tightly as she began to sob. Abigail's hand flew to her mouth, Jim ran his fingers through his hair, stressed and guilty that he'd told Silver to do this.
"It's alrigh', lass. I understand. Ya just learned a lot 'bout yer folks, an' it makes sense fer yer answer t' be - "
Tabitha pulled back to look Silver in the eyes, now grinning from ear to ear.
"Whatdya say?" Silver verified.
"I said yes!" she cried. "Of course I want you to adopt me!"
"But... ya shook yer head!"
"In disbelief," she explained. "I thought a fiance was a lot, but a family as well?!"
Silver gawked at her for a second, then laughed and spun her around. The crowd clapped and cheered. Abigail stepped forward and Tabitha rushed to her next.
"You really will be the perfect mother."
Abigail burst into tears as well, flinging her arms around her soon-to-be daughter. "Thank you."
As they cried together, Silver stepped over toward Jim, towering over him in a way that would have been intimidating were it not for the smirk playing across his lips.
"So, yer lookin' to marry Tabby, eh?"
"Yeah" Jim said, crossing his own arms and adopting a serious/joking demeanor similar to Silver's.
"T'ought ya were s'pposed t' ask her pap first."
"You aren't her father yet."
Jim smirked. "Well then I thought I kind of already had."
Silver broke into a full-out smile. "Well, son," he emphasized. "Welcome t' t'e family."
Jim blinked at the word he hadn't heard in almost ten years. "Thanks... dad."
At this, Silver held out his arms. As Jim did the same, they embraced each other tightly, neither trying to hide their tears anymore.
It had been a full day of celebration - of Jim's belated birthday, of their return home, of the two proposals, of Tabitha's adoption - and yet, Tabitha wasn't tired. Even now that she'd changed into her nightgown and was in bed, writing by candlelight, she was hyped on adrenaline that she thought would never leave.
Engaged - that's what she was. She couldn't have stopped smiling if she'd wanted to.
Well that was exciting. I don't really think I need to write about everything. It would be impossible for me to forget this night. I am engaged. Jim is going to be my husband soon. Very soon, in fact, and yet it can't come fast enough. And as if that weren't enough, Silver and Abigail are adopting me! ME! I would think I was dreaming, but even my dreams aren't this wonderful. No, this is real. I have everything I've ever wanted, and then some. I have a family.
Tabitha flipped the page over to the very last page of her diary and froze. There, in faded ink, was a note. A note addressed to her...
I am hoping that one day you will find this, though I know it probably isn't very likely. I know that I don't have much longer to live, and they won't let you see me, in case whatever I have is contagious, so I'm writing everything I wish to say to you down instead. There isn't much. I love you, and I hope you always remember me as I was. I'm glad you enjoy reading; in a way, as long as you read, you'll always be keeping a small part of me with you. I hope you have the happiest life one could possibly have. More than anything, I hope you're able to marry someone you love as much as I love your father and one day have a child that you'll love as much as I love you. Because I do, Tabitha Renee. I love you with all my heart. You're beautiful, and you're smart, and you can do anything you want to do, my dear. Never forget that or let someone tell you otherwise. Remain the head-strong, fearless girl you are. I have no doubt that you will go as you let your dreams take you.
I love you, dear. More than I could ever write in this notebook. Know that.
Tabitha read it three times before she actually grasped that it was a note. To her. From her mother. Then she read it three more times in shock. This had been here. Always. She'd been carrying it around since the day she left home. Then she re-read the part that stood out to her the most - More than anything, I hope you're able to marry someone you love as much as I love your father.
She had. It was too good to be true. Flipping back to the page before, she re-read the last sentence she'd written and decided it was a perfect ending. Or maybe it was the perfect beginning...
She sighed happily to herself and turned to look out the window. The storm was still raging on, and she suddenly realized she'd never be able to see rain again without thinking of tonight, of Jim's proposal, of her parents, of love. With that, she closed her eyes and clutched the notebook tight to her chest and didn't open them again until she felt a pair of lips press gently against hers. She smiled up at Jim.
"Tired?" he questioned.
"Well it has been a long day," she said as she went to place the completed diary on the desk. "A long, wonderful, glorious day."
"Despite the fact that your soon-father and your fiance spent part of it in jail? And your boyfriend proposed to you in the middle of a storm? After making you wait forever?"
She laughed. "Yes. It was amazing. So amazing that I don't even care that you made me wait so long. And Jim, you could have proposed to me in the middle of a blizzard and it would still be the happiest day of my life. Everything was just... I don't know. What's beyond perfect?"
"You," Jim grinned at her as he began to change. "And you know what I was thinking?"
"What?" she asked as she lay back down.
"Silver was wrong - there's no way that having an unnamed ship can be bad luck. None. Zip. In fact, I'd be more likely to believe it's good luck."
She laughed. "Good point... You know what I was thinking?"
"That I should have made you wait as long for an answer as I did for a proposal."
"Oh ha ha. Very funny."
She giggled. "What about you? Perfect day?"
Jim was too busy drinking in the sight of her to answer right away. She was stretched out before him in bed, legs folded over each other. Her white nightgown draped over her curves in a hypnotizing way. In the pale light from the candles they were using because of the storm, the sheer material seemed to shimmer, making her skin look like it was glowing radiantly, and the gold in her hair reflecting the light highlighted her features - she looked like an angel, something ethereal that existed only in his dreams.
"I suppose," he smirked. "Though I have an idea of how it could get better."
Tabitha bit her lip as Jim crawled up over into bed. He had her blushing before he even lowered his body to hers, but she was the one to initiate the kiss, running her fingers through his hair and pulling him to her. When the need for air beat out the need to be close to each other, they pulled away. Blue eye on blue eyes, their smiles were so much more than just happy - they were loved, at peace, thrilled. They were whatever was better than perfection. They're was only one one thing they could say, one thing that summed up everything they felt and thought, one thing they knew, an absolute truth that made no sense:
"I love you."
Jim broke the gaze just long enough to blow out the candle and cast the room into darkness.
Hmm, wondering why there's no author's note here?
It's because you need to go and look at the NEXT STORY!