Disclaimer: Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Marvel Comics, Fairview Entertainment, Dark Blades Films, NBC, and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. All others belong to me, especially Cedric, and if you want to borrow them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
Well, I'm back. Real life decided I had other things to do, including dealing with some health issues (none truly serious, just distracting). After waiting so long, you deserve to have the whole story, so I'm finishing it up with three more chapters and an epilogue. Thank you for your patience, your encouragement while I've been on hiatus, and your feedback.
Especial thanks to Laura27md for last-minute reassurance, and Cincoflex, as ever, for editing, support, and telling me that yes, getting my appendix removed did take precedence over that last chapter. *snerk* Much, much love to you both.
All that and I didn't even pop the rating. Huh.
The grave marker was relatively new, flush with the bright green grass of the sunlit cemetery. Virginia could read it without bending: Peter Lucado, 1939-2009, Loving Husband, Loving Father.
There was another plaque next to it, older, bearing the name of the wife whom he'd loved, but it was Peter whom Virginia had come to see, and she looked down for a long moment before bending to lay the bouquet of lilies athwart the textured brass. "Thank you," she murmured.
Tony's private investigator had finally managed to trace the belongings at the abandoned campsite that had saved her life. Sam Lucado, a middle-aged businessman, had welcomed Virginia into his home and told her how his father--a dedicated and hardy camper even at seventy years--had nonetheless fallen and hurt himself while hiking six months prior. He'd been found within a couple of days, but a broken leg and pneumonia had overwhelmed him, and he had died before he'd told his son where his tent had been pitched.
It had waited, patient through rain and wind, for Virginia. Without you, I might be dead.
Perhaps not; some more legitimate camper might have found her, or she might somehow have made it to the road despite it all. But the tent and its contents had been there, and she'd survived. And though she couldn't thank Peter Lucado in person, she could honor him.
A hand touched hers where it hung by her side, and Virginia laced her fingers with Tony's warm ones, smiling a little as he stepped up beside her. "You doing okay?" he asked quietly.
It was very good to be asked, and better still to squeeze his hand and answer honestly. "Yes."
Tony nodded, his usual exuberance reined in by their location, and she appreciated the restraint. "Good."
Virginia looked down once more, memorizing the shape of the plaque, and bid her rescuer a silent farewell. Then she turned to the man beside her, her lover, her friend, her hero…the man who needed her, and said so. "Ready to go?"
He drew her hand through the crook of his arm. "Yep."
Side by side, they left the graves behind, walking in step.