Neal put his book down on the table, got up from his sofa and followed Sara's voice. He got to the hallway outside his apartment and when he looked over the edge of the staircase, he found Sara looking up at him from the ground floor.
"Neal, I'm not doing this anymore. I'm sorry, I love you, but… No!" She yelled up at him and made a gesture with her hand to emphasize the final tone of her voice.
Neal, expecting this day to come, chuckled briefly and replied: "I'll get my bag, we'll stay at your place."
"Is all I'm asking," Sara's hormonal version of a thank you sounded. She put her hands on her waist to support her back while turning around and setting course to one of the classically designed settees in the foyer of June's house. Before sitting down, she contemplated if that would be such a good idea: it'd be nearly impossible to get up after getting herself into the absurdly comfortable looking chair.
Oh well, Neal would just have to help her get up then.
Carefully, almost as if to not break her back or her 29 weeks old baby, Sara sat herself down, a satisfied sigh escaping through her lips when she succeeded.
"Sara?" June's voice echoed through the room, quickly followed by her footsteps, "Sweetheart, is that you?"
Before Sara could reply, June appeared into the foyer and immediately brought her hands to her mouth. "Oh, look at you!" June exclaimed affectionately and approached Sara with her arms stretched out, reaching for Sara's hands – which she held out for her.
"You look beautiful, pregnancy suits you." She gently squeezed Sara's hands as she sat herself on the edge of the coffee table.
"Oh," Sara chuckled shyly. She would love to rant about how much of a mess she is and how she does not feel sexy at-all, let alone beautiful, but she respected June far too much to disagree with her on anything – even this. "Thank you, June."
"Still no ring?" June held up Sara's left hand.
"Well, look at me!" Sara laughed, "I'm all bloated, no ring is gonna fit me now. I told Neal I wanted to wait till I'm somewhat normal sized again."
June tilted her head backwards in an understanding nod. "Am I then allowed to presume the wedding will be after the baby is born?"
That was a good question.
"I actually, honestly, don't know," Sara admitted, "We should probably discuss that, but with the whole pregnancy, shopping for the baby, work and looking for a house…" Sara let out a heavy breath at the never ending to-do list, "we haven't really gotten around to it."
June had opened her mouth to say something, but closed it when Neal entered the room, smiling at the scene in front of him. For some reason, it made him happy that June and Sara got along so well.
"Hey, June," he greeted while walking over to Sara to greet her with a kiss.
"Hello, dear. You're just in time."
"In time for what?"
"I have an announcement to make to the both of you," she paused to make sure she had their attention, "Though I love New York and it will always be my home, I have decided to move to the West Coast to be closer to my family."
"June…" Neal started, but his voice quickly died off as he didn't know how to react to this news.
"It's alright, darling. I must face the fact that I'm no longer as young as I feel and I want to be around my daughter and my grandchildren for as long as I can."
"We understand," Neal replied after June's words registered. Though he meant his words, he was suddenly very relieved that Sara still had her own apartment and they had never decided to just move into his place. "When will you leave?"
"I booked a flight for next week. That should give me plenty of time to arrange the move."
"That soon?" Neal asked incredulously.
"Good thing you packed your bag." Sara commented.
"Oh no! I'm afraid you misunderstood: I don't want you to leave, Neal. I would never ask that of you!" June almost sounded insulted at the assumption the couple made, "I want you to stay. Both of you. All of you." June smiled and paused for their reactions, but when all she got were blank stares and parted lips with no sound, she chuckled before continuing: "Neal, you know I've always considered you family. We had a connection right from the start; you remind me of Byron in many ways and on many occasions. I'd like to think that if we ever had a son, he'd be just like you. And as appropriate for any family member: I couldn't be more thrilled that you've finally found your happiness with this wonderful woman. I want this house to stay in this family – with you."
"June.. I-" Neal stammered, tripping over all the words he wanted to say, "I don't know what to say… Thank you."
"Yes, thank you" Sara stammered, just as taken back as Neal was, "But, God, are you sure you're alright with this?"
"Of course, there is no one I'd rather pass this part of Byron's legacy over to, than you. I'm more than confident that the character and spirit of this house will never die as long as you two wish to stay in it," June then suddenly realized that she may not be doing them a favor at all. Maybe they wanted a new house: A place where they can build their own character and their own memories. "So, do you?"
If possible, Neal and Sara's eyes only grew bigger at that question.
"Are you kidding? We'd be honored to." Sara replied when it didn't seem like Neal would. "You have no idea how much this means to us, June. We know how much you love this house and how important it is to you. Thank you." And she meant it.
"You're welcome, honey." June placed one hand on Sara's knee and the other on Neal's, patting them and then using them for support to get up from the table. "Well!" she concluded as she let out a satisfied breath, "If you promise me a place to stay when I visit New York, I'll go call my lawyers and have them draw up the paper work."
Neal, feeling as if the weight of the world – something he wasn't even aware he had in the first place – was lifted off his shoulders, got up from Sara's armrest and instead of replying, he placed his arms around June's shoulders, hugging her tightly. "Thank you." He whispered in her ear.
June's affectionate laugh filled the room as she gladly returned the hug, "Thank you."
"Oh, hun, that smells amazing," Peter complimented as he jumped off the last step of the stairs and walked towards the kitchen.
"Why, thank you, honey," she smiled and turned her head away from stirring the jus to answer Peter's quick kiss. "Oh, could you get some oranges and make some juice for Sara? They'll be here any minute now."
"Sure," Peter obeyed and went to grab a few oranges from the bowl when suddenly the doorbell rang.
"Hun, could you-" Elizabeth started.
"On my way!" Peter replied, letting go of the oranges he was holding and setting course to the front door.
"Wow, look at you!" Peter blurted out in genuine surprise, not able to take his eyes off Sara's belly for a second too long. "That's one bi-" He stopped midsentence after seeing Neal's panicked 'cut-it'-gesture and amended: "bi-eautiful belly!"
Sara, who was smiling at Peter's enthusiastic surprise when he opened the door, was now treating him to an all but amused glare as she stepped in, forcing Peter to take a few steps backward to allow her enough space for her belly. Well, maybe – just maybe – it was actually the glare that forced him backwards.
"S'cuze me while me and my big belly step inside." Sara huffed as she made her way inside, going straight for the kitchen.
"Subtlety, thy name is not Peter Burke." Neal joked dryly as he stepped inside. He couldn't help but be amused that not even Peter was saved from her hormones.
Though they could hear Sara greeting Elizabeth in the kitchen and handing over the bottle of wine they had brought along, Peter still felt like he had to whisper: "I'm sorry! I just… I mean, who knew it could grow so fast!"
"By "it" do you mean my kid? Keep going, Peter, you're on a roll."
Peter's eyes grew wide in shock: he had not at all meant that as an insult. What was wrong with him tonight?
"Oh no, n-no!" He was so quick to set things straight, that he tripped over his words, "I didn't mean-"
"I know," Neal chuckled, letting Peter know he was just joking, "I'm not the hormonal one, no need to explain every, single, little thing to me."
Peter caught on immediately and burrowed his brows sympathetically, "that bad, huh?"
"Sometimes," and now Neal was whispering, "worse."
"Really?" Peter inquired almost incredulously, but somehow intrigued as well: He knew Sara long and well enough to know she could be… difficult when she wanted to be. So how bad does it get when she is no longer in charge?
"We went shopping for baby supplies the other day and, I'm telling you, it was like shopping with a different version of Sara with every aisle we took."
"Huh." Peter stated simply.
"I actually feel no sympathy for you, at all." Peter beamed.
Neal's once vivid facial expression dropped instantly and he gazed at Peter almost disappointedly out of the corner of his eye. Then he suddenly turned his face away from Peter and walked off towards the kitchen.
"Elizabeth," Neal greeted when stepping into the kitchen, "how are you?"
"Hey Neal," Elizabeth received Neal's peck on the cheek with a smile, "good, you?"
"Great. Anything I can do?"
"Uhh, yes, actually. Peter was just about to make juice for Sara, but if you could take over then he could go set the table."
"Oww," Neal pursed his lips, "Orange juice?"
"Yes, why? What's wrong?"
"She actually doesn't like that anymore."
"Yeah, it's a struggle every morning to get her to drink just one glass."
"Aha… well I guess I could send Peter to get some apple juice from the market on the corner?"
"Great, then I'll go set the table." Neal walked around the kitchen island, completely ignoring a stunned Peter and Sara.
"Thank you!" Elizabeth cheered at him and turned around, facing her stove again, also paying no mind to her husband and Sara.
"Jeez," Sara turned to Peter, but raised her voice to emphasize that her words were meant for others: "don't you just hate it when people talk about you like you're not even in the room?"
"Yeah," Peter replied, also loudly, "hate when that happens."
Both Elizabeth and Neal stopped with what they were doing and looked at their respective partners, smiling apologetically.
"Alright," Peter smiled back at his wife, letting her know she was already forgiven, "apple juice it is. Anything else?"
"Nope, think we got everything we need, thanks honey."
"Then I'll be right back."
"Wait, Peter," Sara pushed herself off the stool, "I could actually go for a walk. See you guys later."
"See ya." Elizabeth replied.
"Be careful!" Neal added.
"I will," Sara rolled her eyes.
"I was actually talking to Peter."
Sara turned sideways to face a beamingly grinning Neal and Sara couldn't help but notice how happy he looked. It was a good look – happy suits him. Angry and offended hormones were instantly replaced by proud and affectionate ones at the thought of her being part of his happiness. There was no other reply to his grin than a smile of her own and she mouthed "Bye," – which he returned – before turning around again.
"So," Elizabeth started once Peter and Sara had left, "how are you, really? With the pregnancy and the house hunting and… the wedding?" Elizabeth's voice got a little higher towards the end, revealing her curiosity for the latter topic.
Neal smiled, "I'm actually, really, alright. I mean, sometimes it's overwhelming. It almost seems as if a lot is happening and all happening too fast. But then I breathe and count to ten and-" Neal shrugged, taking a moment to find the right words, "And then it seems everything can't happen soon enough, you know? It's good. We're good."
Elizabeth smiled at her friend's happiness. "Yes, you are. Gotta hand it to you, Caffrey, you got a pretty good deal with this one."
Neal smiled and looked down briefly, suddenly feeling humbled. "Thank you."
"Your welcome. Aaand the wedding?"
Neal chuckled at Elizabeth's poor attempt to casualty. "No news yet, but there's something else we'd like to tell you guys, but let's wait till they get back and we'll tell you at the same time."
"Ah, afraid she'll bit your head off if you tell me without her?"
Outside, Peter and Sara walked in silence. Sara was too busy focusing on walking and being glad at the opportunity to stretch her legs. Peter, on the other hand, was feeling like he owed Sara an apology, he just didn't know how to go about it. Women haven't exactly been his specialty – let alone pregnant ones – and it's moments like these that he remembered just how lucky he was with Elizabeth and their marriage.
Finally, Peter forced himself to just man up: Pregnant or not, it's still Sara and he's known her for years, come on!
"I'm sorry for what happened," he started, "you know, with the whole belly-thing."
Sara, after seeing Peter's careful expression, couldn't help but laugh loudly, "Thanks Peter, but really, I'm the one who should be apologizing. You weren't saying anything that wasn't true: I am big," she chuckled and gestured to her body, "I'm sorry for snapping at you; most of the time I barely have control over my emotions anymore."
Peter smiled, "Sara Ellis, no control? Who wudda thunk it?!"
"Not by choice, trust me."
"I know," Peter affirmed, "So how are you with everything else? Hope Neal's not stressing you out even more?"
"Neal's actually been amazing," Sara smiled proudly, "Part of me almost wants him to do something stupid, just so I know that all this has really dawned on him."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you know, it's a lot: There's the baby and moving and the wedding… And it's all happening so fast. Last year we couldn't even decide were to go for dinner and now we're a family. I mean, I don't even let myself think too much about it or I'll go crazy, but not Neal. Seems like he's handling it all just fine."
"Well, don't let him take all the credit. You're the one doing the heavy lifting and you're doing a damn good job at it too."
Sara could feel her heart swell as tears stung behind her eyes. She knew she had to stop Peter from talking or the waterworks would start again. "Thank you Peter."
When he just smiled at her in return, Sara thanked the Lord.
"And you know Elizabeth and I are always here for you guys. Whatever you need."
Oh no, there it goes.
"Oh no! No-no," Peter panicked, holding his hands in front of Sara, unsure of what to do, "Don't cry Sara, please. I didn't-"
Sara took a gulp of air, "It's fine… just… hormones… give me…a sec," she managed to choke out between her sobs.
Peter, whose eyebrows were raised in desperation, nodded slightly and lowered his hand, "O-okay…"
They stood there, in the middle of the sidewalk, forcing other passersby to walking around them and after a minute or so, Sara's breathing evened out. When she was sure there were no tears coming, she accepted the tissue Peter held out for her and wiped her cheeks.
"Thank you," Sara said when she looked up, "and sorry, again."
"It's fine," Peter smiled, letting out a relieved breath.
"Imagine going through that every day, huh?" Sara joked.
Peter wrinkled his nose at the thought, "I'd really, rather not."
Later that evening, Neal and Sara had stopped the cab a few blocks from Sara's apartment, deciding to go for a late night stroll and walking the rest of the route.
"So, I know we've been avoiding this subject like the plague," Neal paused briefly to smile at Sara's smirk: She knew exactly where he was going with this, "but when would you like to get married?"
Sara breathed out audibly, allowing herself a few second before having to reply, "I don't know… I've been thinking: If we're doing this anyway, why not doing before the baby gets here? There's no reason it should be born out of wedlock, now."
Neal took hold of Sara's hand and spun her around, forcing her to stop walking. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously and eyed her sideways, "Who are you and what have you done to my fiancé?"
"Shut up!" Sara laughed softly, "I do want this, you know, I said 'yes'."
"I know, I know. I just…"
Neal shrugged, "I just figured you'd wanna put it off for as long as you could."
"Why? Do you?"
"No! No, I was actually thinking the same. In fact, I think we should get married this week."
Sara almost choked on herself: Well, that was something else.
"Ah, there she is!" Neal joked.
"Be serious!" Sara complained, "Are you for real? This week?"
"June's leaving in a week," Neal shrugged, "she's done so much for me, for us, I just want her to be there."
"She could fly over…" Sara stated the obvious, wondering what was Neal's true reasoning.
"I know, but," he pulled Sara closer to him, wrapping his arms around her waist, her belly in their midst, "everything just seems to fall into place. Both you and the baby are healthy; you said 'yes'; June's giving us the house... I just wanna finish this part of our story, cause I can't wait to get to the next chapter. Every time I feel like things can't get better, they do."
Sara looked up at him, her bright eyes matching her ridiculously happy grin and leaned in for a kiss Neal was only too happy to answer.
Sara pulled back slightly, "Better than Palazzo Sasso?" she mumbled to his lips.
A/N: I try to stay in character as much as possible, with everything I write. This is my first time writing June and, man, that was not easy. If she came across as totally unbelievable or out of character, I'm sorry! Luckily, her part was short and so I hope it hasn't ruined any other parts of this chapter for you.
Thank you all so, so much for the wonderful reviews! Also thanks to those of you who added this story to their favorites and/or subscriptions!
Hope you've enjoyed this chapter and please leave your thoughts/comments.