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Author's Note: Okay, this is the second to last update for this story! Thanks for joining me with this story, guys, and I'm glad you enjoyed it! Hope you like this too!


Adam slowly opened his eyes when the sunlight sneaking in through the blinds hit them, taking a deep breath as he turned onto his back. He was glad his first night home from Italy had been dreamless, probably due to exhaustion. Otherwise, he wouldn't have gotten any sleep. He had also spent quite a bit of the night with Susannah, which probably hadn't hurt either.

He rubbed his tired eyes before slowly turning to look at where she was asleep, blinking with surprise when he saw she was no longer in bed next to him. Adam propped himself up on his arms, looking around their room with confusion. It was a rare occasion his fiancee was up before him. Wondering what she was doing, he sat up completely and grabbed the shorts he wore for sleeping and slipped them on before getting out of bed. He then put on a black tank top from the closet and made up their bed before leaving the room and heading downstairs.

Susannah was in the kitchen, and when he got closer, Adam could hear she was talking on her cell phone. "So, when are you thinking?" she asked whoever was on the other line. There was a slight pause where she nodded. "Yeah, that sounds good. Okay, yeah, see you then. Bye."

"Who were you talking to?" Adam wondered, leaning against the kitchen doorway.

Not expecting the sudden voice, Susannah jumped as she set her phone on the counter. "What the... Adam!"

Adam laughed a little as he walked into the kitchen and approached his startled fiancee. "Sorry to scare you," he muttered, wrapping his arms around her when she attempted to glare at him. "I was just wondering what you were doing since I'm usually the first one up."

Despite herself, Susannah felt a smile spread across her face as she carefully hugged him back, resting her chin on his chest as she looked up at him. "Just making a phone call. Nothing too important," she said. "Sorry I woke you."

"That's okay. It was just weird waking up without you there." Adam ran his hand through Susannah's hair. "So, nothing too important?"

Susannah bit her lip slightly as she shook her head. "Nope," she confirmed.

Adam recognized the nervous gesture, but he hid it behind a smile as he leaned down and caught her lips in a kiss. "All right then," he muttered. "Have you had anything to eat yet this morning?"

"No, I was waiting for you," Susannah told him. It was their first morning home, and she wanted to make it special for him. "Anything you want in particular, Addy? I'll make it for you. Whatever you want."

"Hmm..." Adam narrowed his eyes slightly in mock thought before winking. "An omelet with cheese and Canadian bacon."

Susannah rolled her eyes. "Don't press your luck," she said. She couldn't make an omelet to save her life, and he knew it. "If you want that, you can make it."

Adam laughed a little, pulling her closer. "Nah, I'm just kidding," he replied, resting his chin on top of her head as he truthfully thought about what he wanted. "Remember that one vacation we took when I was out on injury, and that bed and breakfast had banana pancakes? That sounds good if you'd want to attempt it..."

"Only if you let me look up a recipe for it online and you help me," Susannah told him. Cooking wasn't her strongest point, but she could at least make pancakes. It would just be fun cooking with her fiance.


Susannah smiled up at him. "All right, let me grab my laptop." She stood on her toes and gave him another kiss before moving out from under his arms, going back upstairs to get her computer from their room. Adam watched her leave before going to the refrigerator and pouring himself a glass of milk. He took a sip, leaning against the kitchen counter next to Susannah's phone. He glanced down at it, wondering who she had been talking to when he had come downstairs.

But before he could dwell on it, Susannah came back into the kitchen with her Mac, setting it down on the counter on her fiancé's other side. "All right, so banana pancakes..." she muttered. Adam wrapped his arm around her waist from behind and watched as she searched for the recipe. They both read it over when she pulled it up. "Doesn't seem too hard."

"Nope," Adam agreed, taking another sip of milk. "I'm sure we could do that."

Susannah glanced at him. "You never know when it comes to us," she reminded him. "But this seems simple enough."

Adam nodded. "So, what are we waiting for?" he asked.

Susannah shrugged, a smile appearing on her face as she took the glass of milk from his hand and took a sip before setting it on the counter. She raised her eyebrows quickly before turning and opening the refrigerator to get what they would need to make the pancakes. Adam looked after her, shaking his head slightly as he laughed quietly.

About twenty minutes later, the couple was sitting at the table with their pancakes, Adam wiping off some batter Susannah had wiped on his cheek with her finger. "And you wonder why we have a hard time cooking anything," he muttered, a smile on his face as he set the napkin aside.

"I don't know why you're complaining, Addy. You got your revenge," Susannah reminded him, still able to feel where he had tickled her sides.

Adam winked at her as he took a sip of milk. "I'm not complaining, I'm just pointing out a fact," he told her.

Susannah rolled her eyes. "Yeah, well, it makes cooking more fun," she replied, taking a bite of her pancakes. Then, she picked up her phone to check the time. "When we're done, I think I'm gonna start getting ready."

"Do you have anything planned for today?" Adam asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Um, well, you never know," Susannah answered with a shrug. "Plus I don't want to stay in my pajamas all day."

Adam looked at his fiancee carefully. "You sure you have nothing planned for today?" he repeated.

Susannah met his gaze. "Yeah," she said offhandedly, taking another bite of her pancakes. "Mmm. These turned out really good if I do say so myself. You haven't tried any yet."

"I will, don't worry," Adam replied, noticing she was trying to change the subject. "I'm just wondering what's up with you."

"Nothing is up with me, sweetie." Susannah narrowed her eyes slightly as she eyed Adam's plate. "Now start eating your pancakes before they get cold."

Once they were both done eating, Adam offered to do the dishes. Susannah argued a little, but she finally conceded when he threatened to tickle her again and instead went upstairs to get ready. Adam put the plates, bowls, forks, and cups that had been used for cooking and eating in the hot water first, quickly washing them up and leaving them to dry.

But when he picked up the couple knives, he gasped quietly when the silver caught the light from the kitchen. His gaze moved to his left hand, to where his ring finger used to be, and he closed his eyes tightly as he tried to suppress the memory of what had happened in Italy. He clearly remembered the men holding his hand on the table, the knife hovering above it as it got closer and closer...

Susannah came back down the stairs, changed into a dark t-shirt and faded jeans, and entered the kitchen. "Forgot my phone..." she began, but her eyes narrowed with concern when she saw her fiance standing tensed in front of the sink with his eyes closed as she walked over to him. "Adam, you okay? Adam!"

Adam gasped quietly when he felt her hand on his arm as he jumped slightly, and he opened his eyes and quickly looked over at her. "Yeah, Susannah, I'm fine..." he muttered, turning his attention back to the knives as he prepared to run them under the water.

But Susannah could see the fear lingering in his gaze, and she sighed as she looked at what he was holding. "I'll finish these up," she told him, carefully taking the knives from his hand. "Why don't you go get ready while I do this?"

"Yeah... okay." Adam didn't really feel the need to argue as he made his way out of the kitchen and back upstairs to their room. He changed into a pair of jeans and ran a brush through his hair before looking at his weary expression in the mirror. He was home. He was safe. Nothing he had to endure in Italy was going to happen to him anymore. But yet, the memories were just as prevalent as if he was actually still there.

Then, he moved his gaze away from the mirror when a pair of arms wrapped around him from behind, and he looked down at Susannah. "Are you all right?" he wondered, seeing the concerned look on her face.

Susannah nodded, tightening her arms around him slightly so she wouldn't hurt him. "I'm just so glad you're home," she murmured, a thin line of tears forming in her eyes.

Adam's gaze saddened as he turned around, pulling her closer to him. Susannah rested her head on his chest, and he sighed as he ran his fingers through her hair. There wasn't really anything he could say in response, so he simply held her as he rested his chin on her head and closed his eyes. He was relieved to be home too, wrapped in the arms of the girl he loved. They stood together that way for neither one knew how long before Susannah looked up at him, giving him a small smile. Adam returned it, brushing some hair out of her face before leaning down to kiss her.

But when their lips where only inches apart, he stopped when he heard the doorbell echo around the house. Susannah laughed a little while Adam sighed quietly with frustration, pulling him into a quick kiss.

"I'll get it," she said, ruffling his hair slightly before leaving the bedroom.

Wondering who it was, Adam followed after her and walked downstairs as he straightened his hair out, watching as Susannah walked across the living room and opened the front door.

"Hey!" she greeted, a broad smile on her face as she hugged whoever was standing on the other side.

Adam came to a stop next to his fiancee, surprised to see who was outside their door. "Jay? Allie?"

A broad grin appeared on Jay's face. "Hey, there you are, Man!" he said, giving him a hug. Then, he turned his attention back to Susannah when he let go of him. "So, we're the first ones, I take it?"

"Yep," Susannah confirmed with a nod.

"Wait... what are you talking about?" Adam asked, wrapping his arms around Allie when she gave him a hug too.

Jay gave his best friend a smile before looking at Allie when she stood back next to him. "Mind starting to get the food out of the car?" he asked her quietly. "We should probably get that in the refrigerator."

"Food?" Adam repeated, confusion crossing his face as Allie walked away. "Jay, what the hell is going on?"

"Well, after everything that happened, I thought it might be fun to, well, have a get together to celebrate having you still with us," Jay explained with a grin appearing on his face.

Adam stared at him for a long moment, his words slowly sinking in. "So... what you're basically saying is you want to throw a party for me in my own house without letting me know?" he wondered.

Jay nodded, the grin lingering. "Yeah, that's pretty much it."

Susannah tried to keep the smile off her face but wasn't completely able to as Adam rounded on her. "You knew about this?"

"Uh... I'm going to help Allie get the food out of the car," Susannah muttered, hurrying past Adam and Jay as she crossed the lawn to where their friends had parked.

Adam sighed as he turned back to his still smirking best friend. "Jay, I am going to hurt you," he stated.

But Jay only laughed. "Hey, come on, Man, lighten up," he replied. "What better way to put that nightmare behind us than to celebrate with a few friends, huh?"

"So, I take it you're not the only ones who are coming, then?" Adam said.

"Nope. Mike, Anna, Jillian, and Phil are coming too," Jay told him.

Adam sighed, running his hand through his hair as he leaned against the doorway. "You do know I wouldn't have agreed to this."

Jay nodded. "That's why I didn't ask," he replied.

"I wish I would have known about this, Jay..." Adam began.

"Well, as you said, then you wouldn't have agreed." Jay smiled at his best friend, patting his arm. "Just act like you're happy to see everyone, okay?"

A small smile appeared on Adam's face, watching as Susannah and Allie shut the car after they got all the food out of it. "I am happy I'm going to see all of you, Jay, that's not the point."

Jay's smile saddened slightly as he took a deep breath. "It'll be okay," he told him quietly when the two girls approached.

"All right, Jay, that's all of it," Allie said with a smile, stepping past Jay and Adam into the house with Susannah close behind.

Adam looked at the large box in his fiancee's hands before he and Jay began to follow them inside the house. "What's in there?" he asked, glancing at his best friend curiously.

Jay laughed a little. "You'll see when everyone else gets here," he answered.

They entered the kitchen, watching as the two girls set up the chips on the counter and put all the two liters of soda in the refrigerator to keep cold. Susannah also fit the large box inside before shutting the door, smiling as she turned to look at Adam.

"You're not too mad, are you, Addy?" she wondered.

Adam smiled, walking over to Susannah and wrapping his arms around her. "No," he told her. "But I knew something was up with you."

It wasn't long before the doorbell rang again, and Adam saw Mike and Anna had arrived when he answered it. "Thanks," he said with a smile when the latter handed him a bouquet of multicolored flowers "We'll get these in water."

Before they could walk away from the door, Adam saw another car pull up, watching as Jillian climbed out from behind the wheel. But then, he raised an eyebrow when he saw Phil get out of the passenger seat, taking the girl's hand as they began to walk toward the house.

"So, they really are together now then?"

"Yeah," Susannah confirmed, taking the flowers from her fiance as she approached the door with Jay and Allie. "Amazing what a fender bender can do, huh?" But as they got closer, she sighed. "You know, we really owe Phil an apology. We blamed him for what Chris did..."

Anna nodded in agreement, looking at her boyfriend. "I think someone needs to start, though," she muttered.

Mike met her gaze as he rolled his eyes, but he didn't have time to say anything as Phil and Jillian approached them. "Hey, sorry we're a little late," the latter greeted, a smile appearing on her face as she hugged Adam. "I wish I could have seen your reaction when these guys showed up."

Adam laughed a little. "Well, I was definitely surprised," he replied before moving his gaze to the dark-haired man with her. "Phil, I want to thank you for your help. Things may have turned out differently otherwise."

A small smile appeared on Phil's face as he gave Adam a quick, one-armed hug. "Glad you're all right," he told him. "Glad things turned out the way they did."

Anna cleared her throat, elbowing Mike in the ribs. He sighed with irritation, watching as Phil turned to look at him curiously. The tension still between them was easily felt.

"Yes?" Phil wondered pleasantly, his smile lingering.

Mike glanced around at the rest of the group, seeing they were looking at him intently. "I'm... sorry," he mumbled, not able to meet the Straightedge Superstar's gaze.

Phil leaned a little closer to the other man as Jillian tried to suppress her laughter. "What was that? Couldn't hear ya there, Mike."

"Seriously?" Mike looked at Phil incredulously, but when he heard Anna clear her throat again, he sighed with frustration. "All right. I'm sorry. Did you hear that? S-o-r-r-y. Sorry. I was rash and shouldn't have blamed you. And... thanks for saving our asses too."

"That's all I wanted to hear, Mike," Phil said, his smile broadening as he patted him on the arm before he walked into the house with Adam and Jay, and Anna smiled as she went with Susannah and Allie to get the flowers in a vase. Mike grumbled under his breath as he took a step after her, but he stopped when Jillian placed a hand on his shoulder.

"I told you so," she muttered with a laugh, following after the girls. Mike mimicked her in a quiet, high-pitched tone so he wouldn't be heard, but then a smile appeared on his face as well as he stepped inside and shut the door behind him.

Once everyone was in the kitchen and gathered around the table, Jay cleared his throat as he looked around at all of his friends. "Before we start eating and having a good time and all that, I just wanted to say I'm grateful to still have my best friend, my brother, after everything we went through," he addressed them, a smile appearing on Adam's face when his gaze landed on him. "Plus I'm grateful we're all here together." He paused for a moment, a smirk appearing on his face. "Now, even though I invoked the wrath of Adam by springing this party he didn't want on him, what's important is we're all right and we're leaving that nightmare behind us. Allie, wanna bring the cake out?"

Allie smiled, breaking away from the group and pulling the large box out of the refrigerator before setting it on the table between everyone. Jay laughed a little as he reached forward and opened the flaps, pulling back the lid to reveal the cake inside.

Adam's eyes narrowed with confusion when he saw it. "Really, Jay?" he asked quietly.

"Well, Adam, they didn't have a glad you survived cake, okay?" Jay replied, a broad smile on his face.

"Yeah, I understand that. But you couldn't have gotten something other than it's a girl?" Adam continued, eyeing the pink and white frosting and fancy lettering warily.

Jay shrugged. "Hey, what can I say?" he muttered. "We were in a hurry."

Despite himself, Adam couldn't help but laugh as he shook his head at the random cake his best friend had brought. He smiled down at his fiancee when Susannah wrapped her arms around him, winding an arm around her and pulling her closer as he kissed her head. He then watched as Jay started cutting the cake for people to start taking, and as he looked around at all his close friends, Adam realized that though he wouldn't have agreed to this party, he was glad they were all there.

He was glad to be home.

He screamed in pain as his back was drenched in lemon juice, his rough skin from the sandpaper burning as though it had caught on fire...

He tried to back away from the men coming toward him, holding darts with their sharp points dipped in acid in their hands...

He didn't even have the strength to try to escape as the men held his left hand in place on a table, holding a knife over it...

He cringed, holding back a scream of pain as the whip came in contact with his already ravaged back, each strike more painful than the last...

He watched as the silver engagement ring he had given to the most important girl in his life fell to the hard floor in front of him, slowly picking it up and holding it in his palm as hot tears formed in his eyes and an extremely high pitch rang in his ears...

Susannah gasped as her eyes snapped open when she heard a scream from beside her. She quickly sat up on the bed, seeing a look of clear distress on Adam's face as he continued to cry out in his sleep. "Adam, it's okay," she muttered, turning on the lamp beside their bed before placing her hands on his tense shoulders. "It's okay. You're okay..."

After a long moment, Adam quickly sat up and looked around the room with wide, anxious eyes as he tried to push her away. "Get away from me!" he shouted, moving out from under her hands as he got to his feet and walked away from the bed. He stopped by the closest wall, staring at it with an almost fearful look still lingering in his eyes.

"It's okay, Adam," Susannah repeated gently as she got out of bed, her expression darkening sadly as she cautiously approached him. When he didn't react to her, she lightly set her hand on his arm until he slowly turned to look at her. "Let's sit back down. Come with me, sweetheart."

Almost as though he was in a daze, Adam let Susannah pull him back to the bed. He sat back against the pillows with a sigh, his fiancee next to him. She immediately wrapped her arms around him tightly and simply held him. "You're safe. It's over," she murmured soothingly.

Adam blinked repeatedly as he tried to cast away the lingering flashes from his nightmare, winding his arms around her and taking a couple deep, shuddering breaths to try to calm himself down. "Susannah..."

Susannah smiled slightly as she brought him closer, running her fingers through his hair. "It's okay, it was just a dream," she told him quietly, her heart breaking. "It's over, love."

They stayed like that for neither one knew how long, Adam feeling more relaxed from Susannah's efforts to comfort him. Then, he sighed as he pulled her into his lap and rested his chin on top of her head. "I thought after last night I was going to be okay," he said in nearly a whisper. "But now I can't even close my eyes without seeing it all again. It feels so real..."

"That's what I'm here for," Susannah replied just as quietly, resting her head on his chest. "I'll be with you through this, Adam."

Sighing, Adam tilted her head up so she was looking at him. "Susannah, this isn't your burden," he muttered, running his fingers through her hair once before wrapping his arm around her again. "Thank God you didn't experience it, but this is mine to deal with."

"I experienced enough." Susannah sat up a bit, placing her hand on his cheek. "Having to watch you get taken and not be able to do anything to having my own nightmares and to just imagine what you were being put through... The worst feeling was knowing you were in pain and I wasn't able to get to you. I have never felt anything worse in my life. And then when we had you back, having to almost marry Chris and then being afraid we lost you... I can't explain it.

"But yet, somehow... Here we are. You and me. Together. After all that happened, we still have each other. I honestly can't tell you how the hell that worked, but it did." Susannah paused for a moment, giving him a kind smile. "I love you, Adam. I've been with you through a difficult time before, and I'm going to do it again... You don't have to tell me what happened, but just know that you're stuck with me, whether you like it or not."

Adam looked at his fiancee with surprise before a small smile appeared on his face. "Well, I guess if I have to be stuck with you, this won't be so bad," he replied quietly, running his thumb over her cheek lightly. "I love you too."

But then, he gasped quietly as he looked at his arm, and Susannah looked at him with alarm. "What's wrong?" she asked.

However, Adam just shook his head. "It's nothing..."

Susannah's concerned gaze followed his, seeing he was looking down at his right arm. Sighing, she lightly traced the "Y2J" Chris had carved into his skin with her fingertip, knowing it was going to be a lingering reminder about what he had to go through in Italy. "All scars heal in time," she told him in nearly a whisper, reaching up and brushing his hair behind his ear. "Even the ones you see when you close your eyes."

"I know," Adam said, trying to give her a true smile. But she could tell by the look in his eye it was taking a lot of effort. "But there is one thing that can't be fixed."

Sighing, Susannah took his left hand before kissing it softly, ignoring the ring finger that was missing. "It's something to get used to, but it won't be impossible," she replied.

"Chris was pretty adamant on making sure we didn't go through with the wedding, huh?" Adam asked quietly.

But surprisingly, a small smile appeared on Susannah's face. "I admit, normally it would be pretty hard to get married without the left ring finger," she answered, her eyes gleaming. "But I've been working on something since we've gotten home. I'm determined not to let Chris beat me. And I know that typically you're not really supposed to reveal anything before the wedding, but I can make an exception."

"Oh?" Adam watched his fiancee curiously as she released his hand and got off the bed, walking over to the dresser by the door. She knelt down and opened the bottom drawer, digging around until she pulled something out before crossing the room and sitting down by him again. He saw with surprise that she was holding a double-layered black string with a couple white beads evenly placed around it.

"I told you I wouldn't let him beat me," Susannah said, sounding proud of herself. "It's not done yet since the ring has to go on it, but you get the idea."

Adam slowly reached forward and took the necklace from her hand, holding it in his own for a long moment as a thin line of tears formed in his eyes. "Susannah, I honestly don't know what to say to this," he muttered, shaking his head slightly as he blinked his tears away.

Susannah leaned forward and met his lips in a soft kiss. "Then don't say anything," she told him, taking the necklace back and setting it on the small table beside the bed.

Smirking, Adam pulled Susannah closer into a more intense kiss as she moved closer, holding her tightly. The memories of what he had endured in Italy were still very vivid in his mind, but with her, he knew they were going to be easier to manage. He smiled at her when they broke the kiss for a moment, running one hand through her hair as his other ran up and down her back. Though he had almost been taken away from her, he still had Susannah after everything he had gone through, and that night, that was all that mattered to him.

The End

Author's Note: All right, so even though it says "the end" right there, there is one update left for this story. Hope you liked it, and please review! Thanks!