[Note: I dedicate this final chapter to all the lives lost in Springfield, Massachusetts. This state was home to our favourite show:) I hope you've enjoyed reading this story, I tried as best I could to do our favourite couple justice. This is the last chapter in this story, but let's hope I made it count.]
The next couple of weeks, time drew out like a blade for Janet and Eddie. They hadn't seen or said a word to each other since that day in her mother's garden. Janet felt sick every time she saw something that reminded her of him and then one day that sick feeling transitioned into a dull pain in her chest. She came home one night and the phone rang.
"Honey," Sheryl said, "Was Eddie the one you're trying to get away from?"
"Yes," Janet said quietly. She could see that that wasn't going to suffice this time and she sat at the counter, "A couple of months ago, I met this guy on a dating site and we really hit it off. He was funny, charming and just a really nice guy," Janet noticed her mother was intrigued as ever. "We made plans to meet and he stood me up. Later I found out it was Eddie. He came to the restaurant, saw it was me he'd been talking to and left."
The line was quiet for a while, "And he didn't tell you?" Jack's voice asked, "We're on speakerphone," he explained.
"Nope. Said he was trying to think up a way to tell me when I found out about it myself," Janet and her parents were silent for a moment, "Anyway that's why we're fighting, that's why I had to get away from him and that's why I landed in the hardware store."
Sheryl couldn't stand to hear it so she moved away and put the kettle on for some tea. Jack rubbed the stubble on his face thoughtfully, "Maybe he really is sorry."
Janet threw her arms up in the air in exasperation, "I swear that guy could set an orphanage on fire on Christmas Eve and you'd say his intentions were probably good. How about taking your daughter's side for once?"
"Now Janet calm down honey," her father coaxed reaching for her, "I know you're upset but he came all the way over here to see you and apologise. You can at least do him the decency of hearing him out. I know he messed up. But on behalf of my gender, I'd just like to say that we don't always get it right the first time around," Jack glanced over his shoulder at his wife.
"What are you talking about?" Janet asked.
"Well when your mother and I met in college, we started out as friends and we grew really close and there has been disagreement on this over the years," he glanced at Sheryl, "But we were on the verge of becoming more than friends. Then one day, Pennilynn Lot transferred from U. Mass," Jack said.
"Who's Pennilynn Lot?"
Jack whistled and sat back in his chair, "Pennilynn Lot, she was… she was something else. Boy… She would give the Charlie's Angels a run for their money. Every fella in my fraternity wanted to go out with her, and she asked me out," Sheryl slammed the kettle on the counter, "Uh… anyway it's not important who she was, besides she was nothing compared to your mother." Jack said quickly and Janet smiled, "The point is, when I asked your mother if I should go through with it, she said 'Go ahead, what have you got to lose?' Which, silly me, took to mean 'Go ahead, what have you got to lose?' Turns out, a lot. The day after my date with Lynnie Lot, Sheryl stopped taking my calls, meeting me before our classes and began to avoid me at lunch. That's when I figured it out – Sheryl was crazy about me," he said with a mischievous smile.
"How can you lie to Janet like that?" Sheryl demanded planting her hand on her hip, Janet leaned in over the counter, intrigued, "Janet don't listen to your father, listen to me. Before that mouse ever moved to Michigan State where your father and I were, Jack and I talked about what it would be like to take our friendship to the next level. That was the only reason I ever had the impression that he was interested in me. So when Pennilynn Lot came to town and asked him out on a date, I wanted to know how serious he was about me, which is why I encouraged…"
"…Dared…," Jack corrected with a scoff.
"…him to go out with her," she finished, ignoring her husband, "Well he went and I was so livid at him for leading me on that I stopped talking to him." She looked at her husband and he shrugged.
"You remember it your way, I'll remember it the way it really happened," he said and then his voice grew tender, "The moral of the story is, sweetheart, that sometimes, even the people we love the most can make mistakes. And instead of looking at this one isolated incident with Eddie as some sort of 'insight' into the person he is, maybe look at it as a way of testing your own love for him – because it takes love to forgive a disappointment."
Janet's head was bowed and she began to cry again, "I don't know, Daddy. He really hurt me."
"I know Button. But at the end of the day, the only real question you have to ask yourself is if you love him or not. You've known each other for a very long time. So is this debacle with the dating website, worth losing your friend over?"
Janet wiped away her tears and sniffed, "I guess not." Janet said good night to her parents and sat down, staring into space for a very long time. She had a lot of figuring out to do.
Eddie threw himself into work and got nastier with each passing day. It became near impossible for his friends to joke around him without him lashing out suddenly. When Eddie wasn't working, he was drunk and driving Phil up the wall.
Eddie tried to avoid Sully's the shifts he knew Janet worked. But one fine afternoon he came in and saw her at the counter. She pretended not to notice that he was there.
"Janet those tables need service," Sully said and walked away.
Janet took her notepad and took down orders, feeling Eddie's eyes on her the whole time. The bell above the door tinkled and her new friend Matt walked in. She turned to find him smiling at her again.
"Hey there stranger," Matt said cheerfully and kissed her briefly on the lips. Janet went red not expecting that level of affection from a friend she'd only known a few weeks. Eddie sat up in alarm. Who was this guy?
"Hi Matt, what can I get you?"
"Caesar salad," he said patting his stomach, "Trying to watch my weight. Kevin has a reunion coming up and it's going to be a whole 'Look what I have been up to in the last ten years' deal. So I gotta look my best."
Janet smiled, "I understand," he touched his shoulder and Eddie flinched. Seriously, who was this guy?
"You're an angel," Matt said bending forward to kiss her on the cheek this time and hug her. Eddie scraped his stool backwards and stormed out of the bar.
"What are we going to do about this?" Owen asked the rest of the guys one night at Phil's house while Eddie was out getting drunk.
"What can we do? It's their lives," Ikey said.
"Well I don't know about you but I'm sick of this crap attitude Eddie's been carrying around. He's tap-dancing on my last nerve and quite frankly I can't take it anymore," Owen said frustrated, "So we better come up with a plan."
"O, just stay out of this one. Janet and Eddie have loved each other too long for them to just give up on each other now," Nick said taking a swig of beer, "Just give them time to work this out on their own. Eddie is a hard-headed guy but eventually he'll do the right thing."
"It's been two weeks since he drove up to her parents'. He hasn't mentioned her once and he walks around like a man with a death wish, starting up brawls at Sully's and on the street," Owen said. Bolting up he slammed his drink on the coffee table, "Eddie's my buddy and when I needed him he came and got me from New York. I have to be there for him too."
As if on cue, Eddie staggered into the house, "Door!" he cursed, tripping over the threshold, "I officially don't like beef jerky anymore. In case anyone was wondering."
"Where have you been?" Phil asked worriedly.
"I was there… and then I went there…," Eddie began pointing in different directions drunkenly.
"Okay buddy, it's alright just sit down and… Nick get him some food to soak up whatever he drank," Phil said as Owen helped him to the couch. "Ikey take his truck off the kerb."
"O?" Eddie said trying to focus his eyes.
"Yeah, buddy?" Owen answered.
"O I don't feel so good," Eddie said tearing up, "I don't feel so…," and without warning he bent over and chucked up whatever he'd been eating.
"Ahh!" Owen said jumping backwards, "Eddie sit down!" he scolded pushing Eddie back into the couch, "My God, you're a lousy drunk."
"Okay, here's some toast," Phil announced bringing it into the living room and setting it in front of Eddie who dropped his head back in the couch. "My carpet!" he said aghast, "Eddie!"
"What're we gonna do, Phys?" Owen asked worriedly, "I think he ate his weight in jerky tonight."
"I think we have to call her," Phil said pensively.
"Eddie's going to go off the rail if we do," Owen replied.
"That's not our problem. That'll teach him to control his alcohol next time," Phil said angrily.
"What're you bozos talking about?" Eddie slurred.
"We're calling Janet over here. She'll know how to fix you," Phil said authoritatively dialling her number from his cell phone. Eddie stared back for a long moment.
"What?" Eddie was much more alert now, "You can't do that. She wants to have nothing to do with me. Nothing she said. She 'nothings' me," he laughed derisively, "Can you believe she said that? After twelve years, she doesn't feel a damn thing for me? I mean," he got up and began to lose his temper, "I drove over there wanting to tell her how much I loved her, how sorry I was and I would do anything … but I… and then she… oh but I was prepared for her… and then she says… 'I nothing you'."
Phil's frown turned into raised eyebrows, "Okay I didn't understand a word you just said. But you should have thought about that before you decided to stuff yourself with jerky and drink yourself into a stupor. Janet has done a first aid course for the tavern, we have to call her."
"NO! Hang up the phone Phys," Eddie lunged for the phone and tripped on her coffee table, crashing to the floor, "You can't call her," Eddie pressed a finger to his lips, "She can't know I broke my vow and drank this much…" he pleaded with Phil and Owen.
But Janet did know. Phil didn't realise that his call went through and she was on the other line listening intently to what he said. All of it. As she stood frozen in place holding her phone up to her ears she grew increasingly worried about Eddie. She hung up, grabbed her jacket, keys and first aid kit, and ran out the door.
"He should be okay now," Janet said touching his forehead with a damp cloth to get rid of the sweat, "Just keep him hydrated and…," she looked disgustedly at him, "maybe a barf-bag wouldn't hurt either. As soon as he wakes up give him these," she dropped a couple of chewable aspirin into Phil's hand.
"But these are chewable aspirin," Owen said confused.
"Eddie can't swallow pills," Janet explained, "It's a phobia. Don't tell him I told you that."
Owen choked back laughter despite himself and Phil stepped forward, "Thanks Janet, we owe you big for this."
"No problem. You guys better clear out, he needs to sleep," She said capping the bottle of aspirin.
"Shouldn't we take him upstairs?" Nick asked concerned.
"Uh, no. Just leave him here. In case he wakes up, his odds of getting to the bathroom are better from here than his room. Just keep his head elevated."
"Alright well you heard the lady," Phil said and the guys all got up to leave.
"Call us if you need anything," Owen instructed Phil as they all left the house.
"Will do," Phil replied closing the door. "Janet I don't know how to thank you. How did you know he was sick?"
Janet looked down reluctantly at the first aid kit, "Your phone called me and I could hear what was going on, on the other end," she admitted.
"Oh that's right! I dialled your number but then Eddie said… Oh. You heard what Eddie said?" Phil grimaced.
Janet nodded, "Yup. Every word. You know, right until he fell over."
Phil stood awkwardly for a second, "He misses you. All this tonight?" he said gesturing at the room, "All this is a product of your fight."
"So this is my fault," Janet stated.
"No, I didn't say that. He just misses you. He really loves you, but he doesn't know how to tell you that," Phil said, not caring anymore whether or not Eddie would be happy about him telling Janet that.
"Unfortunately there's not much I can do about that, Phil," Janet said with a shrug, "He really messed up. I don't know how we can go back to being where we were."
"Maybe because you're not meant to," Phil suggested.
"What do you mean?"
"Well I'm just saying, if you're finding it difficult to be friends with him again it's probably because you have crossed that line a while ago. He said he fell in love with you on that site. But we all know that that happened a while ago. He just didn't realise it, or want to accept it. My guess would be that it was for the same reason he fled the restaurant that night – he didn't want to lose you, his best friend."
Janet swallowed the lump in her throat and roughly wiped away the tears that trickled down her cheek.
"Well anyway, it's up to you, how you two work this out. I'm going to bed. Don't forget to lock the front door when you leave," he smiled at her solemnly, "Night, Jan."
Too choked to speak she nodded and watched as he disappeared into his room. She resumed packing away her things back into the first aid kit.
"He's right you know," Eddie's voice came through the dimly lit living room. Janet gasped and turned to see his eyes flutter.
"I thought you were…"
"Asleep. Yeah I was," he said groggily. It took some effort, but Eddie shoved himself upward so that he was sitting up with his legs touching the floor. "Phil's right. About everything."
Janet stood frozen in place, too afraid to move in case this was all a dream.
"I'm sick and tired of lying all the time – to myself, to you. I hate that we're not talking. I hate the way I handled things, and I'm sorry. I don't want to be away from you anymore. But I understand that you probably don't feel the same way. So I guess I'd just like to know that we can be friends again. I miss not being around you. Do you have any clue what it's like to have a problem and not be able to talk about it with the one person who matters?"
"As a matter of fact…," Janet said softly. She lowered herself into the couch, next to him and leaning into him, she touched his forehead gently. Mustering up all the courage she had she leaned in to kiss his cheek. Anticipating her move, he turned his face to her and her lips landed on his.
Janet stiffened at first but slowly began to relax and Eddie's hand snaked around her waist and pulled her closer as he deepened their kiss. Janet honestly believed that kissing Eddie would feel like she was kissing her sibling. Creepy and incredibly wrong. But she was surprised to find that kissing him sent a surge of happiness through her body. How right it felt to kiss him.
Eddie's heart softened the second their lips met. Nothing felt more right in his entire life. It was like coming home.
When they pulled apart, Eddie gazed up at her, "I'm so in love with you, it has been killing me these last couple of weeks that I couldn't tell you that." He brushed a stray wisp of hair out of her eyes.
"How could you possibly think I don't feel the same way? The main reason what you did got to me so bad was because it hurt to think that you left because you didn't love me the… the way I love you," she said quietly.
Eddie looked at her for a second and then broke out into a light chuckle as he pulled her close for another kiss and when he pulled away he said, "Oh, baby… you couldn't be further off base. I was at Sully's the other day and when that guy came in and kissed you, I wanted to put my fist through a wall."
"What guy?" Janet frowned and then it dawned on her, "Matt?"
"Matt, Dead Meat, whatever his name was," Eddie replied and Janet laughed heartily, "What's so funny?"
"Eddie," Janet said between chuckles, "Matt's gay! He came in to tell me about his boyfriend's high school reunion."
"Don't I feel like an idiot," Eddie said sheepishly.
"Hm," Janet replied and Eddie stayed quiet until her laughter died down.
"What Phil said…" Janet began, breaking the silence again and growing serious.
"About you feeling that way for a while. Is that true?" she asked, butterflies fluttering in her stomach when he smiled back. "Why didn't you ever say anything?"
"And have you freak out on me? You know how you are. Everything is such a big deal with you. And you always saw me as this player who 'had more game than the entire NBA', your words, not mine."
"I said that? I'm witty," she mused.
"Besides, I didn't want to mess things up. So I wouldn't let myself feel anything more than friendship," Eddie explained.
She turned herself on the couch a little and tucked her shoulder under his arm, resting her head on his chest, "I don't think I've ever not loved you."
"I thought you 'nothinged' me," Eddie mocked with a smirk.
She glanced up at him and blushed, "I didn't mean that. I was just mad at you and it came out," she confessed. Eddie grinned but then grew serious.
"I'm sorry about what I did," he said sincerely.
"I know. I'm not mad about that anymore. Towards the end it was just about the fact that I thought I lost you because of this stupid fight and I was mad at that. And I blamed you for it. For cheating me out of a friendship with you," she snuggled in closer and he pulled her in tighter. They sat quietly for some time. Just comfortable in each other's presence and arms and lost in their own thoughts.
"What do you say Meadows?" Eddie asked finally breaking the silence, "Do you think we ought to give this a try?"
"I don't think we have much of a choice," Janet said looking up at him, "I mean we've officially ruined our platonic relationship after that first kiss."
Eddie's eyes shot up in the air, "Really?" he asked teasingly, "My kisses have that strong an affect huh?"
"Oh, if only you knew," Janet smiled. Touching his face, she pushed herself upward to kiss him again.
One Year Later- Epilogue
"You better keep your eyes closed," Eddie warned as he helped Janet out of his truck.
"Maybe if you told me where we were going, I wouldn't be tempted to peek," she retorted following his lead.
"I don't think you fully understand the concept of surprises," Eddie muttered and Janet whacked him on the butt.
When they got to the entrance, Eddie uncovered her eyes, "Really?" Janet's heart sank, "Jazz By the Bay?" she looked at Eddie disappointedly, "I don't want to come back here? This place is bad apples for our relationship."
"Will you just trust me?" Eddie said and the Maître'd lead them to the same table she sat at by herself a year ago.
"Okay this is not fun for me anymore," Janet said tossing her purse onto the table.
Eddie smiled and motioned the waiter over. "Yes, sir." The waiter responded when Eddie instructed him.
"Eddie what's going on?" Janet asked suspiciously.
"Patience, woman…patience," Eddie said and a song began to play softly in the background.
"We should order," Janet said picking up her menu, "The quicker we order the quicker we leave and the quicker we don't have to be here anymore."
"Okay, but before we do," Eddie got up, moved closer to her and went down on one knee, "I have something I'd like to ask you," he smiled as he watched the shock on his girlfriend's face. "I love you more than you could ever know, Janet. And I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?"
Janet stared in shock as he opened a small black box and saw an oval black diamond with white diamond studs around it shine through, "You want to marry me?"
"Yes," he replied fighting back emotion himself, "More than anything in the world. Will you?"
A slow smile spread across her face before she jumped into his arms, sending him flying backwards, but he remained on his knee, "I think that's a yes," Eddie explained to the restaurant staff who were bystanders throughout this whole scene, and they laughed. She hugged him tightly and then drew back kissing his face all over. He laughed, embarrassed that the restaurant staff were there to witness this private moment.
"Yes!" she exclaimed, "Of course I will!" she said kissing him again.
"Then I think this belongs to you," he said taking out the ring from the box and sliding it down her finger. Janet gazed lovingly at it and then smiled at him, pulling him in for another hug.
"I love you," she whispered in his ear and kissed it.
"Ditto," he said and when they finally pulled apart and Janet allowed Eddie to return to his seat, their parents and siblings came out from behind the bushes, surprising Janet even further. Suddenly there was complete chaos on the patio of the restaurant. Parents were hugging each other, and the others were laughing and linking glasses of champagne. Eddie pulled his fiancée away from the madness.
"This is insane," Janet said euphorically, tears welling up in her eyes, "I don't deserve this!" Eddie took her in his arms.
"You deserve all this and more," he said kissing her. She smiled at him and they both looked around at their new families. Turning to each other, they kissed again and Eddie whispered, "I think you should know that your dad cried when I asked him for your hand."
Janet laughed, "Yep, sounds about right," she nodded.
"What if he'd said no?" Eddie wondered out loud.
Janet raised her eyebrows, "Are you kidding? Dad probably wanted this more than either of us did. And that's saying a lot. Now he can finally stake his claim on you as one of the family. Officially."
"Stake away, Jack-o," Eddie smiled gazing down at his wife-to-be, and lowered his lips to hers again for the first of many more heart stopping kisses to come.