Disclaimer: I do not to claim to own anything. Well, except "gianormous." I'm still sure I invented that one.
A/N: So, I wrote this as a one-shot back in June, and then needed an entire story to justify its existence.
"Please tell me this gets easier."
Johanna looked up from the grill at her daughter, who was sprawled on one of the chaises on the rooftop deck. "No. But it doesn't last much longer, and then the real hard part begins."
"Sshhh... don't want to hear it. Not today anyway. Why does it have to be the hottest summer on record?"
"Don't worry," Jo said while flipping a burger. "That's over soon too. Can you grab me the cheese?"
"Sure, Mom," Kate said, awkwardly reaching out for the tray of condiments they'd brought from the kitchen. "Did we forget it ... we left it inside, didn't we? I'll get it if you help me up."
Johanna laughed and put down her spatula. She walked over to the chaise where Kate was resting. Kate stuck her arms out, and Jo pulled her to her feet, both of them wobbling a bit at the effort. Kate held onto her mother's arms for a second until she caught her balance. Once on her feet, her daughter surprised Johanna by leaning in, hugging her. Jo wrapped her arms around her little girl.
"Not that I'm complaining, but what's this for?" Jo asked.
"I just been thinking a lot lately and ... thank you, Mom. For my life."
"Starting to realize what I went through?" Jo joked.
Kate gave her mother a look. "Not that. Well that too, since I'm not sure how I'd do this without you. But I meant everything. A great childhood. Not killing me when I was a teenager. The drama around my job. Rick and Alexis."
"You did all those things, all on your own, honey."
Kate huffed, "Right. Mom, I am not in a condition to be messed with, so just accept the compliment, okay?"
"Okay dear, if you wish. I am the puppet master that pulls the strings to bring you happiness."
Kate laughed. "See? What that so hard? Thank you, puppet master."
"You're welcome, I guess."
Kate gave her another hug in thanks and walked to the stairs off the rooftop deck. Johanna watched her leave, then turned back to to the grill, enjoying the breeze coming in and the smell of burgers and hot dogs being nicely charred.
She had always loved Labor Day. Fall was such a more enjoyable season in New York than summer.
Kate returned a minute later, carrying a plate of cheese. "I told everyone to come up, that things were ready."
"You know, grilling is supposed to be a man's job. Where are Rick and your father?"
"Oh, they're in Alexis' room. She's making them cry."
"Should I be worried?"
"No, she's just giving them the speech."
"Ah," Johanna said. She knew the speech. She took the cheese from Kate, laid slices down on half the burgers.
She had just started removing the patties from the fire when Rick, Alexis, and Martha joined them on the deck. Alexis ran over and hugged her, which she tended to do lately every time she was separated from someone for more than five minutes. Jo gave her a one armed hug back, handed the girl a plate with a burger on it.
Everyone else crowded around, loaded up on food for lunch, except Kate, who had invoked privileges to get her husband to do it.
"So she gave you the speech?" Jo asked as her husband came over to stand with her.
"It amazes me how serious she is," Jim said, picking at his chips and looking over at his wife, "considering who she has for parents. Kate's starting to rub off on her a bit though."
"So, did you say yes to her request?"
He huffed. "Right, because there's any chance I'd say no."
"You know, Kate and Rick both asked me to rush the papers if I could. They're sitting in my bag. Think we should give them a Labor Day present?"
"Definitely," he said. "I'll get them."
Johanna chatted with Martha while her husband ran back downstairs to the loft. When he came back, holding a sheaf of papers, Johanna tapped on her glass to stop the conversations around her.
"Mom?" Kate asked.
Jo looked down at the papers she'd spent the last few months rushing through the system. Over the years, the family had come to terms with the fact that Kate's role has a homicide detective occasionally put her in danger, but three months ago, when a killer had started mimicking one of Rick's books, dragging him into Kate's world, they'd realized that his life wasn't completely safe either.
Two days later, Kate, Rick and Alexis had met with Johanna to start filing paperwork for Kate to adopt Alexis. As Rick's wife, she had some rights to Alexis, but if something happened to him, the Becketts had all agreed that they needed every tool available to keep Alexis safe and in the family.
While Rick had worked on Meredith to give up her parental rights, Jo had called in every favor she could in family court to rush things. Everyone had agreed, it was necessary to let Alexis know how important she was by completing the formal adoption before Kate's due date in another month.
"I have a present for you," Jo said, holding out the signed adoption papers for Rick to take. Rick flipped through them with a smile.
"Are those the papers?" Alexis asked. "Does that mean it's official now?"
It was Kate who answered. "It doesn't change anything though, Alexis. Everyone here loves you just the same as before."
"But the law says it too, right? And that's important, right ... Mom? Grampa? Gramma?" Alexis said the last two words quietly, as if she was still unsure of them.
Kate pulled Alexis close. "Yes, honey, that's what it means." Jo reached over her daughter and kissed her granddaughter's head, nodding to the little redhead. Jo's thoughts flashed back to a week before, when Alexis, in a practiced speech, had asked Johanna if, when the paperwork was done, she could start calling her Gramma instead of Aunt Johanna. Alexis had tried to lay out a bunch of well-thought out twelve-year-old's reasons why titles were important, though Johanna couldn't remember any of them, since she'd started crying almost immediately. She'd needed no reasons at all, since she'd started thinking of Alexis as a granddaughter well before Rick and Kate had gotten engaged, maybe even before they'd started dating.
Jo wiped an errant tear from her cheek. She looked over at her husband, and at Martha, who were both a bit misty-eyed. Kate continued to hug her newly adopted daughter as Rick looked up from the papers, mouthed a 'thank you, mom' to Johanna.
A few minutes later, everyone got back to their meals, while Martha regaled everyone with a theater story that had Jim laughing and Rick rolling his eyes. Jo leaned against the railing of the deck, watched the group enjoy the last day of summer together.
Jim moved away from the group and came to her. Her husband wrapped his arm around her waist, tucking her into his side. She hugged him back, neither of them taking their eyes off the little family across the deck.
"Sweetie, I've always wanted to know. What did you see?"
"See?" Johanna asked as Martha drifted over and joined them.
"At the beginning, with those two?" Jim asked, nodding towards Rick and Kate. "You were a pretty strong advocate for them, right from the beginning. So what did you see?"
"Honestly? That," she said, pointing at Kate. Next to her daughter, her granddaughter was still tucked into Kate's side. Kate, however, was busy stealing a bite of potato salad off of her husband's plate, even though she had some on her own.
"What, Kate stealing food?"
She slapped her husband's chest for his playful ignorance. "No. The way they just fit. You should have seen those two. She was in love with him five minutes after she met him, I swear. And he was too, even if it took a while for either of them to realize it. I didn't have to push ... not really. They would have gotten here eventually, even as pig headed as they both are."
"Yes, but it might have taken years," Martha said. "My goodness, he'd call and before I knew it, he'd have regaled me with an hour of how great Kate was, and when I'd call him on it, he'd swear I was exaggerating." She paused, looked over at Johanna. "You did a good job, darling. Rick and Alexis were a pretty good team, but I think Kate gave them something they both desperately needed."
"I think we all came out ahead on this one," Jim said.
Johanna hugged her husband, squeezed Martha's hand. They were right, of course. This was what life was supposed to be. She couldn't imagine it any other way.
A/N: Again, thank you everyone for a wonderful ride. I really had no idea one little fluff bunny would turn into 40,000 words...