Tempting Fate

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters in this fic!

Epilogue

Trixie's bedroom at Crabapple Farm was filled to overflowing. Honey and Di were chatting excitedly near the dresser. Helen and Madeleine were standing shoulder to shoulder, staring out the window, looking out towards the orchard and studying the folding chairs that the three handsome men were carefully and efficiently setting up. Lexie was beyond excited by it all and was bouncing in her white shoes, her blonde curls coming loose from the blue ribbon holding her hair up.

Trixie stopped in the doorway of her room, taking the chaos in with a smile on her face. She wasn't dressed yet, had just come from the kitchen where her father had persuaded her to eat a little before the ceremony commenced. "Hello, all," she greeted with a small laugh.

"Trixie!" Honey and Di called out as one and rushed towards their friend.

Due to her longer legs, Honey got to her first. She grabbed Trixie's hand and pulled her into the room, ready to get started with the preparations. She had been wondering where her friend had disappeared to. "Goodness but you're late! We've been waiting for you. It's time to get ready."

Trixie lifted her eyebrows. She still had a good hour before the official start of the wedding. It had been her plan to throw on the dress, apply a little make-up, do something with her hair, and then start the long walk down the aisle. There couldn't be much more to it than that, could there? Apparently as she looked at the faces of the women around her, there was. She suddenly felt an enormous amount of apprehension creep over her. "Really? Isn't there plenty of time?" she asked hopefully.

Di and Honey exchanged glances, as did Helen and Madeleine. They quickly came to the same conclusion. Trixie was clueless when it came to wedding preparations. "She has no idea," Di announced in a loud stage whisper. All four women could still vividly recall the hours leading up to their weddings. The hours hadn't been pretty, had been filled with more stress and tension than anything else, but the effort had all been worth it.

"It's the stress. It's got to be," Honey replied back, speaking over Trixie like she wasn't there.

Trixie looked at all of them like they were demented. Even her mother was agreeing with Honey. When her best friend motioned for her to take a seat in the chair, she sat down without arguing, trying to ignore the trepidation that was threatening to smother her. "What are you going to do to me?" she wondered a little nervously, looking at the instruments of torture laid out on the dresser. Combs, brushes, small containers of make-up, sparkly hair pins, perfume bottles...not exactly her forte. She didn't know what half of them were used for.

Honey picked up a small comb from the dresser and held it expertly in her capable hands. "Sit back and relax, Trix. We'll do all the hard stuff. All you have to do is remain calm and enjoy yourself as much as possible." She had to stifle a giggle at the small pout on her friend's face.

Interested, Lexie bopped over and stood next to her mom. She picked up a container of eyeshadow and inspected it, a line settling on her forehead. "What's this for, Mommy?" she asked curiously.

Di put her arm around the little girl. "I'll show you, sweetie." She opened up the tube and applied it to Lexie's lips, causing the little girl to chortle with happy little giggles. Di kept Lexie occupied, happily introducing her to many of the secrets of womanhood, while Honey focused on a reluctant Trixie.

*******

Outside in the orchard, the three men had finished setting up the folding chairs. All were perfectly in neat rows, facing the wooden alter that Jim had made at a moment's notice for the wedding. Mart studied the altar, noting the excellent craftmanship, as well as the ribbon, greenery and orchids that were expertly threaded through the lattice woodwork. It was an ideal place for a wedding. He could hardly believe that Trixie and Jim, with the help of the rest of the family, had been able to pull off all the preparations in such a short amount of time. Then he scanned the rows of folding chairs one more time, making sure that they were as perfectly placed as they could be. "I believe that the rows are the straightest they are going to be," he finally decided and joined the other two waiting under the deep canopy of shade of the old crabapple trees.

"You have to admit, Mart, that this is the way to do it," Brian said with a low whistle of appreciation. The wedding promised to be low key and small, the exact opposite of their weddings. Both had the experience of large, society weddings. That seemed to happen when one married the daughter of a millionaire, Brian thought with a small shrug of resignation. He could still remember the months leading up to his wedding and gave a small shiver. Although the work and stress had been more than worth it; the pleasure at making Honey his wife had never faded away; he would prefer to never, ever go through it again.

"Still a lot of work to it," Dan put in, the only one of the group to never make it to the altar. From the content look on his face, he had no plans to do that anytime in the near future. "I think the best way would be a nice, quickie wedding, preferably in Vegas. No frills, no hassles, no stress. Can't beat that, in my book."

Mart gave Dan a little push. "You'd have to find a woman stupid enough to marry you first, there, Office Mangan."

He ignored the teasing remark and leaned against a tree. Dan carefully inspected his fingers and shot an arch look at the Belden brothers. He knew how to get back at Mart. The gloating look glinting in his dark eyes warned them beforehand what he was going to say. "I believe it is May 31. I am pleased to say that I won yet another pool."

Mart's good humor deflated, just as Dan had intended. "Yeah. While I'm glad as Trixie's brother that she is joining our esteemed friend in matrimony so expediently, I have come to a certain and irreversible conclusion." He turned to his friend, a scowl on his face, and fished out two twenties from his wallet and reluctantly gave them to Dan, paying his forfeit and Di's. "I'm not ever, and I mean ever, going to place another bet with you in the room. You've taken too much of my hard-earned money over the years," he complained with a roll of his blue eyes.

"I aim to please," Dan retorted, his handsome face smiling, and gave a small shrug to his shoulders. He held his hands out in supplication. "What can I say? I guess I'm the lucky one in our little group."

Brian handed over his and Honey's fee, too, a bit more graciously than his brother. "It's got to be the Irish in you," he remarked idly. "We can't combat that. There's no other explanation. Honey thinks we should take a road trip to Atlantic City or Vegas sometime in the near future. She says you'd make a killing there and we could all benefit simply by standing next to you."

Dan sent them a lazy grin as he pocketed the money. It wasn't his heritage; it was his instincts, but he wasn't going to tell them that. He'd let them believe whatever they wanted to. "It's been awhile since the Bob-Whites went on a trip together." He motioned to the rows of chairs that were set up. "Speaking of trips...Any idea where Trixie and Jim are going after they get married?"

"They're taking Lexie to Disney Land for a family honeymoon," Mart added with a laugh and a shake of his head, clearly thinking the two of them were foolish. "Two sets of grandparents practically salivating to get their hands on their granddaughter and they opt to take her with them on their honeymoon. That is crazy, if you ask me."

"I think it's rather sweet," Brian disagreed. He couldn't imagine the two making any other decision. "Lexie's going to be in seventh heaven. Think about it. Disney Land. She's going to be able to hang out with all the princesses and assorted other characters. She's going to be floating on air for weeks to come."

They heard a car door from the front yard, bringing their small meeting to an end. It was almost show time. "Thank goodness Bobby and the Lynch twins pulled parking duty," Mart grumbled as the first of the guests started to arrive for the wedding. "I'm glad not to have to do that again."

*******

Jim stood in the comfortable kitchen at the farm, his hands deep in his pockets, and a nervous frown settling on his forehead. To him, the time couldn't go fast enough. He wished they had chosen nine o'clock in the morning instead of two in the afternoon. Then they'd already be married.

"Don't worry, son," Matthew said from the screen door, correctly reading the emotions fleeting across Jim's face.

Jim jolted, turned as his father came in the room, and gave a small laugh. He couldn't put his finger on exactly how he was feeling. Part of him wanted the day to be over while the rest of him couldn't wait to experience the wedding. It was a little confusing and disorienting. But it would be worth everything, once he and Trixie had proclaimed their eternal love for each other and they officially belonged to each other for the end of time. "I can't say that I'm worried, Dad. I'm not sure what I'm feeling."

"Weddings do that to all the grooms. It's a funny thing. A mixture of anticipation, joy, fear, nerves, happiness, and many other feelings, I'm sure. I can remember it well when I got married." Matthew moved further into the room, clapped a hand on his adopted son's shoulder. "But what I remember most is that it was one of the best days of my life. You'll remember it as such, too. I don't have any doubts about that."

Jim looked out the kitchen window, towards the orchard where he would finally make Trixie his wife. Today would certainly go down as the best day of his. There was no argument about that. "I can believe that," he agreed with feeling.

Matthew settled a hip against the counter that was covered with supplies for the meal after the wedding. There was to a be a big picnic-style celebration afterwards. He had been looking forward to this moment with his son for days. Without preamble, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a small box and handed it over to Jim. His eyes became serious.

"What's this?" Jim inquired. He took the box and inspected it, with the same expression on his face that Lexie had when she was looking at something new.

"Something I found the other day in my den. I was looking through my desk and there it was, hiding at the very back of a drawer," he explained carefully. It was almost like it had been waiting until just that moment to be discovered, as if it was a sign of divine intervention. He wasn't the fanciful sort but he couldn't argue with its timing. "You should open it. I think you'll like it."

He felt the same vein of interested curiosity that ran like water through Trixie. Lifting an eyebrow, he lifted the top to the box. The sunlight glinted off of a small gold pocket watch. He stared it, unsure of its importance.

"Take it out," his father invited him. "Look at it carefully. You're smart. I'm sure you'll be able to figure out quickly why I'm giving it to you."

Jim did as he was instructed. Eyes narrowing, he inspected the watch closely. He looked at the front and the back but couldn't find anything. He flipped it open. The words inscribed on the inside cover made him choke back a startled gas as astonished surprise held him within a strong stranglehold. He looked back at Matthew, unable to question him on the why and the how.

Matthew moved in closer, read the words aloud when Jim seemed unable to. "Winthrop Frayne." He laid a comforting hand on Jim's shoulder and explained lowly, "You know your father and I went to college together. I'm not sure how but somehow I ended up with this pocket watch. He won it during our freshman year. It was an award for a writing contest, sponsored by a literacy club at our college. Your mother was so proud of him. I remember her reaction clearly. She couldn't stop laughing or smiling. I wish I knew how I got it but I can't even begin to tell you. I'm glad I have it, though."

Jim's face was filled with wonder. What a special present, on the most special day of his life. He could actually feel his parent's presence. He couldn't ask for anything more. Tears briefly gathered in his eyes. He blinked them back furiously and then gave his adopted father a strong hug. The words were small, couldn't tell all that he was feeling, but were true and heartfelt. "Thank you."

Matthew returned the hug, sent up a small prayer of gratitude for the man who had become his son, and then cleared his throat. It was time to get down to more serious things. "The clock's telling me it's almost time. We'd better get outside and in the right spot. You don't want to keep her waiting. That one has always had a temper to rival yours."

*******

It had felt like Honey and Di were never going to be finished with her. She hadn't been the most patient customer either, but, since she was the bride, she figured she had the right to grouch a bit at the primping she hadn't been expecting. "Are you finished yet?" she grumped to her best friends. Good-natured laughter was her answer.

"Stand up, Trixie." Helen brought over the wedding dress. Just as she had predicted the first morning her daughter had returned to Crabapple Farm, Trixie had asked to wear her dress. It was simple in the extreme but Helen knew it would fit Trixie like a dream, the same way it had fit her so many years ago. Soft and white, with very little lace, short white sleeves, and a skirt that hit just below the ankles, it couldn't have been a better choice for her daughter. It was feminine but not frilly. With Madeleine's help, they fit it over Trixie's head, mindful of Trixie's hair and make-up. With a quick zip the dress was on.

Honey was the first to see the nearly finished product. "Oh, Trixie," she breathed out. She looked amazingly beautiful, so unlike the tomboy she had been at thirteen. Honey had a brief flash of memory of the girl who had barreled her way into her life, becoming her best friend and now her sister, twice over. She felt the sting of tears to her hazel eyes and wiped them away with a finger. She couldn't have asked for a better gift than her best friend in the entire world. "You're so beautiful." She threw her arms around Trixie.

Di joined in the hug, unable to resist, and blissfully happy. She was always the most content when things fell into place the exact way she pictured them. Trixie and Jim finally marrying each other was the epitome of perfection for her. "This is the most wonderful day!" she proclaimed happily and with meaning.

Madeleine brought over her addition to the bride. She carefully lifted out a wispy veil from a long, thin box. The veil was long, gleaming white, and surprisingly simple, with a sparkly white comb to attach it to her hair. "Here you go, Trixie," she announced tearfully, overcome with emotion at the sight of her future daughter-in-law. She held up the veil and explained, "It's your turn now. I wore it at my wedding. Honey wore it at hers. And now it is yours." With practiced care she arranged it in Trixie's hair.

Trixie hadn't expected it. Her hand came up and held on to her future mother-in-law's hand. "Thank you," she breathed out, touched by the gesture.

With a child's undeniable need to touch, Lexie reached up and felt the smooth veil. She liked the way it felt, as well as the way it looked on her mom. "When do I get to wear it?" she demanded, a little pout to her face.

It broke the sentimental mood. Trixie grinned down at her daughter. "When you get married, Lexie. It'll be your turn then." It didn't exactly appease her but Lexie accepted it.

Helen looked at the window. She saw the beloved faces of many of their friends from Sleepyside. Mrs. Vanderpoel and Old Brom, Regan, Tom and Celia, Spider and Tad Webster, Mike, Mrs. Elliot, Chief Molinson, Miss Trask, understanding as always and who had not brought Mr. Lytell with her, the Lynches and both sets of twins, Harrison, Hans, Juliana and their children, and so many others from Sleepyside that loved Trixie and Jim like they were blood relatives. She saw Peter give her a short wave. Turning back to the other women in the group, she gave the joyful announcement, "I think it's time to get this show started."

A collective sigh of excitement met her announcement. All of a sudden, everyone was in a sudden burst of activity. One by one the women left the room, Honey taking control of Lexie, until only Helen and Trixie were left behind. The butterflies were back, a hundredfold times two, and wouldn't leave, no matter how hard she tried to make them. Helen recognized the look of panic gathering in her daughter's eyes and gathered the young woman in her arms. "Breathe, Beatrix, breathe," she ordered her gently but firmly.

The use of her given name brought her out of her funk. She exhaled loudly and laid her head on her mother's shoulder, and enjoyed the last few sacred moments when she was only a daughter and not a wife. "I can't believe this is me, that I'm really marrying Jim today," she confided quietly.

"You deserve it," her mother answered meaningfully. She caressed the side of her daughter's face and gave her a smile that was happiness touched with a little bit of sadness. As excited as she was for her daughter, it was also a little bittersweet. She was losing her daughter to the joys of matrimony today. While she had already been through it two times before, it felt different this time. Daughters were different from sons, she realized with a start. "Both you and Jim do. I can't think of two more deserving people than you two. You should both grab all the happiness that you can." She gave a small kiss to Trixie's forehead, handed her the mixed bouquet of orchids, daisies, and white roses, and tugged on her daughter's hand, much like she had to do when Trixie was five and entering the elementary school for the very first time. Just like on that day, Trixie obediently followed. "Let's go, baby. It's time for you to get married."

The small pep talk was all that she needed. She followed her mother down the stairs, ready to leave her single status behind and become entangled with Jim, forever and for always. They met her father and Lexie in the living room. Lexie was clutching a small basket of white rose petals and dancing around in circles, excited to get going and complete her job as the all-important flower girl. They had chosen to not have a best man or a matron of honor, unable to choose from the many good choices available. Instead, it was only the three of them in the wedding party. Trixie, Jim and Lexie, the Frayne Family. It was the only choice for them.

Her father hid his gasp at the woman standing in front of him. She was radiant in her loveliness. He lifted her chin with his finger, looked deep in the eyes that were still as vividly blue as the day she had been born, and felt tears prick his own eyes. Where had the time gone? he wondered briefly, recalling many treasured moments of his life with his daughter. The first time he had held her in the hospital room, when she had been tiny and new and only minutes old, to the day they brought her home, to her first smile and her first steps, taken right in this very room. He recalled the fights between her and Mart, as well as the moments in her teenage years when she had managed to somehow defy all odds and go up against hardened criminal after hardened criminal, winning each time with the unfailing aid of her friends. All the memories collided within him, one on top of the other. Pride for her burst through him. He had to force out the words past a sudden lump in his throat. "Ready to go, Princess?"

She took a deep, fortifying breath and nodded. "Let's do it, Daddy." She slid her hand into the crook of her father's arm. She kept her other arm around her daughter's shoulder.

Helen slipped out the door, the sign that they were ready. Bobby led her to her spot. The second she got to her spot the small band of string instruments began the wedding march. Lexie was the first one down the aisle. She looked adorable in her white dress with a blue bow around her waist. Her hair had nearly come undone. Tangles of blonde curls were rioting around her face, much like her mother's would have done at the age of three, while the blue ribbon that had attempted to keep the mass of hair in its place trailed down her back. Mindful of her job, she carefully dropped rose petals here and there down the aisle. When she was halfway towards the altar, she looked up and saw her father for the first time. Forgetting her job, she dropped her basket with a small yelp of happiness and barreled into her father's arms, causing more than one gasp of laughter from the small crowd.

Trixie saw it, couldn't have been more delighted, and felt her nerves flee. What was there to be nervous for? She was marrying the most wonderful man in the world. She started down the aisle, her smile bright and brilliant, while all the love she felt for Jim beamed from her eyes.

He had to catch his breath at the sight of her. She looked like a vision, like his most favored, treasured dream coming true. He had never seen her more beautiful, although he knew she would never believe it. Her had been artfully arranged, with long curls left to frame her face. The dress looked like it had been meant for her, with its simple and sweet style. He had a fleeting thought of an angel who walked among the earth before her father was willingly handing her over to him. With one hand in his daughter's and the other in the love of his life, he turned to face the minister, his heart full and at peace.

Neither remembered much of the ceremony or the vows, too content to merely stand next to the other, shoulder to shoulder, as they become one under the eyes of God and in the presence of their many loved ones. The kiss was remembered, and was met with laughter at the prolonged length. After the minister pronounced them husband and wife, loud joyous cheers fell around them and enveloped them in its warmth. Trixie gifted him with a smile glorious in its beauty, her eyes as brilliantly blue as the cloudless sky above them. It wouldn't have dared to rain on their wedding day. "I love you, Jim."

He couldn't keep the happiness he was feeling off his face or out of his twinkling green eyes. He leaned in for another kiss to the approval of all. "And I love you. Mrs. Frayne," he stressed the name purposefully. He had been wanting to say that to her since he was fifteen years old.

Mrs. Frayne. She loved it. Her hand stole around his waist before the tidal wave of guests overflowed on them with their joyful congratulations. "I can't believe we made it through," she exclaimed softly in a voice tinted with wonder at the way they were able to overcome the odds that had been stacked heavily against them.

"I can," he whispered back. "When there's a love as strong as ours, nothing can come between it or destroy it. This isn't an ending, Trix. It's only the beginning." He held on tight. They went forward to meet their friends and family, with an excited Lexie tripping at their heels. Together, the way it should be and the way it would be, for the rest of their lives.


To the Perfectly Perfect Readers,

Thank you so much for reading Tempting Fate. I had so much fun writing this fanfic. I hope you had as much fun reading it! Please know that I appreciate the time you took to read it. It means a lot to me that you did! I wish you all the best. Thank you!

Mylee