Eight years later

"Remember that there had been a time when you didn't think this is for you?" Ryan asked, slumping into the lounge chair beside Mark.

"What do you mean?" Mark took a sip of his beer, raising one eye brow questioningly.

"Having a family, settling down." Ryan pointed towards the lawn and their wifes and Mark smiled broadly as his eyes fell on his pregnant wife.

"I know but then I fell in love and everything changed."

"Yeah, you have literally 2.5 kids right now and not to forget the white picket fence."

"Who would have thought?" Mark chuckled.

"We are insanely lucky, aren't we?" Ryan asked, his voice suddenly changing from amused to complete seriousness.

"Yes, we are." Mark replied quietly. "Extremely lucky."

As they watched their wives two whirlwinds suddenly appeared around the corner of the house, rushing towards them.

"Dad?" Mark was hardly able to catch his son before he would have crashed into the seat.

"Whoaa, not so fast, Jake. I'm not going anywhere." Mark ruffled his hair, smiling broadly as his six-year old son squirmed under his hand. Of course he felt already too old to get his hair ruffled. "What is it?"

"You'll ask." Jake pushed Eric forward.

"Why I?" Eric asked, clearly not willing to ask the question.

"You wanted to know."

"You want to know it, too."

"Guys!" Ryan interrupted them. "How about you just tell us?"

Jake pushed his hands into his hips, a stubborn look on his face and Ryan stifled a laughter, earning a raised eye brow from Mark. "You can't deny it."

"What can't he deny?" Jake asked curiously, for a second forgetting about his own question.

"What Ryan means is that we two are very much alike." Mark tried to explain.

"And?" Jake asked, clearly not understanding what the fuss was about. "You are my father."

"Exactly." Mark grinned.

"So will we hear the question today or are you waiting until we are old and gray." Ryan prodded.

"But you are both already old and gray, Dad." Eric replied in the typical blunt way children always stated the obvious.

"Figure of speech, son." Ryan replied, rolling his eyes.

Mark already expected some humiliating question like why Lexie and Keira looked different than boys or how gross it is to kiss a girl or something along those lines but thankfully the question that they had on their minds was completely harmless.

"Who is the better hockey player?" Jake blurted out. "Eric or I?"

Ryan and Mark exchanged a look, deciding silently that Ryan should answer them. "No one."

"What do you mean no one?" Eric whined. "One of us has to be better than the other."

"You are both gonna be stars on the ice." Ryan told them, suppressing a smile.

"You are only saying that because you are our dads." Jake said, pouting slightly.

"Precisely." Mark replied. "Father's pride."

"What about father's pride?" Lexie asked and Mark looked up surprised since he didn't realize that they had joined the party.

"Nothing." Mark told her, not willing to give her a chance to tease him but seeing a smile erupting on her face he was pretty sure she would tease him about it later.

But before he could say anything they got interrupted by Laura's babbling and she stretched out her arms towards her father and Chloe leaned down to give her to Ryan. Clearly satisfied she suckled on her pacifier, clenching her fingers into his shirt, her legs kicking and squirming until she found the right position.

Seeing her cousin getting comfortable in her father's arms, Keira started squirming herself, leaning forward dangerously, almost falling out of Lexie's arms. Lexie was hardly able to keep her from crushing to the ground as she walked quickly the two steps towards Mark, almost dropping their daughter into his lap.

"Look at that." Chloe said cheerfully, grinning from ear to ear. "These two and their girls."

"Very cute." Lexie agreed.

"Go away." Mark huffed, tightening his arm around Keira and she snuggled deeper into his chest, her thumb finding the way to her mouth as her eyes fell shut, soothed by the rumble of Mark's voice. "Jake, I promise we'll give you two an extra hour of practice if you snatch your mother and aunt and distract them for a while so that Keira and Laura can rest a little. What do you think?"

"You are showing me a new trick?" Jake asked excited.

"You haven't even managed the old one."

"Please, Dad."

"Fine." Mark gave in. "Ryan and I will show off for you a little bit."

"As long as no one of you end up with a broken bone again." Lexie said in a serious tone.

"Will I ever live that down?" Mark asked exasperatedly.

"No." Lexie chuckled. "Mark 'Hot Shot' Sloan broke his elbow while showing his son how good he is still on skates. I'm still surprised it didn't make the news."

"You are so funny." Mark replied sarcastically.

"I know." Lexie deadpanned, laughing out loud when Mark shot her an angry look.

Chloe grinned broadly while watching the banter between Mark and Lexie, her hand rested on Ryan's shoulder and he squeezed it with his own, looking up at her with a grin on his face too and she leaned down to give him a brief kiss before she came to her brother's rescue.

"Okay, come on." Chloe straightened herself and wrapped her arm around her son. "Let's give those four a little alone time. What about we are going to the kitchen and see if we can find something delicious to make? I might make chocolate cookies."

"And we can eat them fresh from the oven?" Jake asked excitedly, his head swiveling around to his mother. "Can we?"

"Yes, you can." Lexie replied, smiling when both boys disappeared in the house with a loud 'Yiphee'.

Lexie leaned down and gave Mark a peck on the cheek, brushing softly over Keira's hair. "Don't drop her."

"I … You didn't just tell me I shouldn't drop my daughter. How dare you think ..." Mark suddenly stopped when he looked up into her face, realizing that she was just teasing and he had fallen for it. Again.

"I love you." Lexie whispered into his ear before she followed Chloe and the boys into the house slowly.

"She is gonna drive me nuts one day." Mark huffed out.

"And you don't want it any other way." Ryan replied.

"No. I don't want it any other way."


"Everything okay in here?" Lexie stepped beside him, asking him quietly.

"Yeah, he is sound asleep." Mark smiled as he looked to the bed, the blond hair of his son hardly visible because he liked to curl up and pull the blanket over his ears. Even during the summer months. It was a small miracle that he hadn't suffocated himself by now.

Turning his head, Mark slipped his arm around Lexie's waist and pulled her into his embrace, his other hand coming to rest on her middle, his fingers caressing her skin through her sweatshirt as if her son was somehow able to feel it inside her. "And you two? Everything alright?"

"Yeah, everything is fine." Lexie pressed her hands against her back and winced slightly. "He is kicking ass or more precisely my liver."

"Did I thank you lately?" Mark suddenly asked quietly.

"For what?" Lexie replied, searching his face for any clues.

"For all this." Mark nodded his head towards his son while his hand was drawing circles over her stomach. "For giving me a second chance."

"You're welcome." Lexie laid her head on his shoulder, wrapping her arms around his waist.

"If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have any of it." Mark spoke softly. "No family, no home."

"Maybe it was destiny."


"That you landed on my operating table."

"Whatever it was, I can't imagine a life without you or the kids. I have everything I never knew I wanted. So, thank you." Mark leaned down and pressed a kiss against her lips. "Thank you for believing in me. In us."

"Ouhh!" Lexie suddenly exclaimed, rubbing her hand over her stomach. "I think your son doesn't like daddy kissing mommy."

"Well, he better get used to it. Because I'm not gonna stop." Mark smirked.

"He will." Lexie grinned back, trailing her hand along his chest until she reached his cheek, her fingers brushing tentatively over his scruff. "He will. He is a Sloan. He is gonna kiss girls before he even can walk."

"The Sloan charm?" Mark quirked an eye brow, his hand still resting on her pregnancy belly.

"It's irresistible." Lexie replied, standing up on her tiptoes carefully to press her lips against his. "You know the neighbor's daughter is already checking Jake out."

"Yeah, I know." Mark laughed. "And he doesn't like it."

"Well, the time will come when he will like it. No doubt about that."

"I hope he will find the right woman. The perfect woman for him."

"You did."

"Yes." Mark kissed her softly. "I did. Better late than never, right? Though I hope our kids will find their true love sooner than I have."

"But we still found each other and look at us now." Lexie said softly.

"We got lucky."

"Yes. Not everyone finds what we have."

"I love you, Lex." Mark told her quietly. "I'm so grateful that you are in my life."

"You are a wonderful man, Mark Sloan and I love you." Lexie whispered, tears welling up in her eyes. "You've given me everything I've ever dreamed of. A wonderful wedding, wonderful children, this wonderful life. So thank you. Thank you for coming back to me."

"I couldn't have stayed away from you even if I'd tried." Mark spoke hoarsely, chocked up by emotions. "You are the love of my life, Alexandra Sloan. I will love you forever."

A tear slipped out of her eye and trailed down her cheek and her voice quivered as she replied. "I will love you until the moment one of us has to go and even then ..." The tears were streaming down her face now and Mark cupped her cheeks in his hands, leaning his forehead against hers. "I will find you, Mark. Our love won't die with one of us. It will exist forever."

"I know." Mark brushed his hands over her cheeks, wiping away the tears. "Our souls are connected. We will always find each other."

"So if we would get reborn ..." Lexie held her breath, this thought had never occurred to her before.

"If we live several lives, we ..." Mark leaned back and looked into her eyes. "I will find you. No matter what, Lex. But we are still breathing. We are still gonna be here in sixty years, holding hands on a park bench."

Lexie smiled through her tears. "I like that picture."

"Me too." Mark replied. "So let's embrace every single minute we have left, shall we?"

"Yeah." Lexie sealed his lips with hers. "We'll embrace every single minute."

Taking his hand into hers, she walked slowly out of the room, giving him a smile over her shoulder as she pulled him into their bed room and closed the door behind them, turning the lock. They would embrace every single minute of the time they were able to spend together. Especially savoring the moments they could spend alone with each other. Just the two of them. Sharing their love. With their bodies and souls. Forever.

"The best love is the kind that awakens the soul

and makes us reach for more,

that plants a fire in our hearts

and brings peace to our minds.

And that's what you've given me.

That's what I'd hoped to give you forever"

Nicholas Sparks

The End

Thank you to everyone who went on this AU journey with me. I'm gonna miss this story, though I do have already another AU story in my head that I'm eager to get to but not before I've finished my other stories. I hope this epilogue wasn't too cheesy, but like I said I'm a sucker for such endings. :-)