A/N: I have to say that part of this story was actually written by my friend, Sharell, who was as big of a fan as MD as I am. Okay, so maybe she didn't try to burn the house down, when trying to burn the magazine with Fiona's face on it, but she loved the show, nonetheless. =))
LAST CHAPTER… but I made it a LONG one. Enjoy!
He brought a six-pack around. To break the ice.
She agreed to have a drink with him, and they sat outside on the porch at Drover's run. They sat in silence for a few minutes, before Alex put his beer down by his feet and turned to her. "I know that I ran out and I didn't call," he began. "I can only imagine how you must have felt."
"I was so worried," she admitted. "I had an ache in my gut the size of a sheep station. I didn't know what had happened to you, you never picked up the phone."
"I know," he said gently. "I am so sorry. I promise that I will never do that to you again. Ever. If I run away, I'll take you with me."
"I mean it," he said seriously. "There is no one in the world that I miss more than you, Stevie. I swear to God, that's the honest truth. I wanted to pick up the phone, I wanted to call you… I was just too messed up to know what way was up. I didn't know what to say. I had nothing to offer you."
"I don't expect anything, Alex," she told him.
"But you should."
"Stevie, I… I just… I…"
"Just say it," she begged, unable to stand the awkwardness anymore. "Please."
"I love you," he whispered, facing her.
Their eyes locked.
The smile that filled her face, reached her eyes, and they sparkled like they hadn't done in years. "You do?"
"I do," he said. "I love you, Stevie. I'm so sorry it took me so long to realize it. I'm sorry I had to make you watch me with Fi, and me running out on you again. I was messed up. But I know now that I can't find what I need anywhere else."
"And what do you need?" she grinned.
She leaned over the bench pressed her lips to his. She felt his hands encircle her waist and drew her closer. It felt so right being this close to him, like she had come home. "Me too," she whispered. "I love you, too."
"I know," he smiled.
Stevie laughed. "Good."
"Yeah, it is, isn't it?"
They kissed again. And again. And again.
"Alex, stop it!" she smiled, trying to push him away from her.
But Alex was determined. He hadn't been able to keep his hands to himself since the minute he'd told her he loved her. Not that she was complaining. On the contrary, she was enjoying every single moment. But Stevie was a little scared. Now that she and Alex were together, she was waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it did whenever anything good happened to her. She thought that if the whole world knew they were together, it was just a matter of time before she told the whole world that they were apart.
"I don't want to," he said, kissing her again.
It was hard to resist his kisses. She was addicted to him. To THEM.
They were working at the back of the house, and Stevie knew that if they weren't careful someone was going to catch them. And she wasn't ready for that.
"Alex…" she giggled, when he nibbled her neck. "Not our here!"
"Why not?" he asked, breaking apart, long enough to listen to what she had to say. "Are you ashamed of me?"
Stevie slapped him playfully in the arm. "Of course not. Maybe I'm just not ready to go public yet. Let's just keep it as our little secret, just for a while," she pleaded.
He sighed, trying to hide the smile from his face, despite the fact that he was a little disappointment. "I don't know if I can do that," he stated.
"We'll you're going to have to try," she laughed, fighting the urge to kiss him. She loved kissing him. His lips were soft and warm. "Besides, it could be a lot more fun this way."
"It would be even funner to kiss you whenever I felt like it," he insisted. She smiled as he kissed her again.
"I'll tell people soon, I promise."
"Okay," he said. "I gotta go. I got a farm to run. I'll come by and see you later. I love you," he kissed her one last time and then forced himself to leave her.
She watched him walk away. He had the cutest bum she'd ever seen. Finally, she turned back to work. She didn't stop thinking about him all day. And she was excited when he came by later, to ask her if she wanted to go to the pub.
"Sure," she said casually. She couldn't wait to be alone with him.
At the bar, Alex resisted the urge to kiss her.
"How you doin, cowgirl?" he smiled cheekily, looking down at her with desire etched across his face. He was as subtle as a sledge hammer.
"Alex, stop it," she grinned. "You're making it obvious. It's not going to take people long to figure it out."
Alex leaned in. "Figure what out? That I love you."
Stevie's smile widened. She had waited so long to hear that from him.
They managed a game of pool, and called it a tie.
Outside, Alex grabbed her around the waist and drew her close, kissing her deeply. She didn't resist this time and kissed him back
Eventually she broke apart. "I have to go to a camp-drafting demonstration tomorrow," she told him.
"Because I promised Regan."
"How long will you be gone for?"
"What about me?" he pouted.
"You'll still be here when I get back," she laughed. she looked around to find that the car park was deserted, and snaked her arms around his neck, kissing him once before releasing him.
"Want to spend the night at Killarny?" he asked, wiggling his eyes suggestively.
"A little too soon, don't you think?"
"I hardly think three years is too soon," he said. "How much longer do I have to wait?"
"Until I get back."
"I'll hold you to that," he said.
"I'll call you while I'm gone," she promised.
He kissed her again. Stevie heard footsteps approaching and took her back to Drover's Run.
Alex was there the following morning to see her off. No one else was out the front, and so he used the opportunity to kiss her goodbye. "I missed you last night," he admitted. "Don't make me wait too long."
"I'll be home before you know it."
She kissed him quickly and then pulled away, but he was reluctant to let go, and Regan came around the corner at the exact moment that Stevie snaked her arms around his neck.
It wasn't until they pulled away that they noticed her presence. Regan stood smiling at them.
Stevie, who was never shy about anything, turned several shades red and buried her face in Alex's chest. When she had the courage to look at her friend, she was laughing. "When did this happen?"
"A couple of days ago," Alex answered. "But Stevie wanted to keep it a secret"
"I want details," Regan stated. "We better get going. Unless of course you'd rather stay with Romeo," she teased.
Stevie kissed Alex one more time and then stepped away. "Romeo will wait for me. I promised you I'd come, and I will."
As she went to climb into the driver's side of her Holden Ute, Alex mouthed, "I love you."
Stevie closed the door, unwound the window and yelled out as she pulled out the driveway. "I love you, Alex Ryan."
She smiled at Regan, who was looking at her with wide eyes. They hadn't even been driving for ten minutes when Stevie pulled the car over to the side of the road.
Regan laughed. "You're not…"
"I am," she replied, taking the ZAT phone in her hands and dialling Alex's number.
"Hi, cowgirl," he answered, as if he had been expecting her.
He sounded as happy as she was.
"Hi," she laughed. "I just wanted to tell you that I miss you."
Regan was laughing at her, and shaking her head.
"Good to know," he answered. "I didn't think you could last long without me."
"Is that right?"
"It is. I miss you, too. Are you going to turn around and come back?"
"No," she said, wishing that she hadn't made a promise. "But I'll be home tomorrow. I love you. I'll ring you again, tonight," she promised.
"Don't forget me."
She forced herself to hang up.
"I want details?" Regan grinned.
"All I'll say is that Alex is naughty with his tongue," Stevie laughed.
"I love you," Stevie smiled happily, as she sat with her new husband on the plane. They were heading to Argentina for their honeymoon. Stevie was excited to see Tess and Nick, and she knew that Alex was looking forward to seeing his brother.
"I love you, too, beautiful," he replied, leaning over to give her a kiss. The two of them chatted excitedly on the way there and when they arrived at the airport, they collected their suitcases and headed outside to hail a cab.
Alex directed the cab driver to Nick and Tess' place. He'd been there before and she hadn't. When he pulled the car into their driveway, Tess and Nick came out to greet them. "Hi," Tess grinned, as Stevie stepped out of the car and gave her a hug.
"Hey," she laughed. "Wow… it's good to see you."
"Yeah you, too," she smiled. "Hi, Alex."
"Tess," he beamed. Alex hugged his brother. "Gid'day brother. How's it been?"
"Not bad. So you finally made an honest man of him, huh?" Nick teased Stevie, when he hugged her.
"Yeah, he finally realized how he couldn't live without me," she replied shooting Alex a smile.
"You were just as bad," Alex laughed.
"I never said I wasn't," she answered. Stevie returned to Alex's side and wrapped her arms around the back of him. He kissed her sweetly, and a moment later, they all went inside.
Tess showed Stevie the bedroom they would be staying in, while Alex and Nick stayed chatting in the kitchen. "How was the wedding?" Tess asked. She had wanted to be there, but Stevie and Alex had thought it was a waste since they'd be spending their Honeymoon with them.
"Perfect," Stevie smiled. "We had some issues on the way… but it was wonderful once we both got to the Alter."
"You look happy," Tess noticed.
"I am," she nodded. "I love him very much."
"He loves you, too," she assured her.
"I know he does," Stevie blushed and looked away. She turned back to Tess and changed the subject. "So how have you been? How do you like it here?"
"It's not Drover's. But I'm happy."
"Nothing does compare to the land does it," she agreed.
"Do you think you'd ever leave Drover's?"
"I dunno. I don't think so. But now that I'm married…" she laughed. "Gee that sounds funny. I'm married. If Alex wanted to leave, or something came up… as long as Alex was with me. I guess I'd move. I just hope that doesn't happen. No offence," she said.
"None taken. I miss the sunsets and sunrises. I miss the horses. I even miss the drenching. But it's not so bad here, I have Nick."
"What would we do without them, huh?"
"Do without who?" Alex asked, standing in the doorway.
Stevie grinned as he walked across the room and pulled her into his arms. "You," she answered, kissing him softly.
"Oh… the truth comes out. Girl talk."
"Gossip actually," she teased him. "Isn't that what you told me once? Girl's gossip."
"I did not. You asked me what gossip us men talked about."
Stevie laughed. "A man? Is that what you call yourself?"
"Nice. Real nice." He kissed her again and then turned to Tess. "Can you give us some space, Tess? I have to teach my wife, whose boss now."
"Yes. You wouldn't want to witness me killing you're brother in-law would you?"
"Is that right?'
Tess disappeared with a smile on her face. It had taken them a long time to get to that point, but Tess was happy for them. They deserved this. They'd waited long enough, and Tess had seen how gutted Stevie was when he met Fiona. She had waited a long time.
"I love you," Stevie murmured as she kissed him.
"I love you too, beautiful girl," he scooped her into his arms and lay her head on the pillow of the double bed. Luckily, Tess had had the sense to close the door behind her so that she and Nick could only hear the faint sound of laughter echo through the house.
SIX MONTHS LATER
Stevie Hall-Ryan sighed sitting alone on the edge of the bath tub at the back of Drover's Run. It was a tough choice to make. She had finally come to call a place home and now she had to make a choice to leave or stay. Stevie's eyes darted towards the paddocks. It was a beautiful place.
She loved waking up in the morning to the sound of the birds and other farm animals. She loved the sunset and sunrise on Drover's. She loved the indescribable feeling of freedom when she was riding Banjo through the West paddock and along Skinny Jim's. She loved drenching and bringing in the cattle. She loved fixing fences and moving hay bales from shed to paddock.
How could she leave it all behind to move ten thousand miles away? Besides, she had imagined she and Alex would raise their children on the land. The place they had come to love each other. The land they both loved. A place they both called home.
But that feeling of freedom and having a home was nothing compared to waking up beside her husband to find him smiling at her. It was a feeling of peace and comfort. It was a feeling of safety and love. She knew that he loved her, and she didn't have to try to be someone else. She loved that about him. And she wouldn't change who he was either. She had loved him since the moment she stepped on Drover's, and he had been her mate years before that.
"Hey, mum," a voice called from behind her. Stevie turned to see her daughter, Rose, come and sit beside her. "Are you okay?"
"Liar," she replied. "What's wrong?"
Stevie sighed and turned to face Rose. "Alex wants me to move to Argentina. He says he has a good steady job working with Nick and he's happy there," she told him. Rose's opinion mattered. Stevie wasn't sure she was willing to leave Rose without her okay. She had missed out on so much of her life as a mother and she didn't want to miss anymore, but she didn't want Alex to be unhappy in Australia, and she knew how much he was missing Nick.
"What's the problem?" Rose asked.
"It means leaving you… and Drover's."
"You don't want to leave Drover's? Can't you get a job up there, too?"
"Yeah. But I love the land it's the first place I've ever called home. And I don't want to leave you."
"But I'll be travelling in a few months. You'll hardly see me anyway. And once you get used to it, the next place will be your home. Wouldn't you rather be with Alex than here without him?"
Stevie frowned. "So you'd be okay with me moving to Buenos Aires? You could handle that?"
Rose smiled. "If it makes you happy, then yes. Mum, you've been here for me over the last two years and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that. I love you, mum. But it's your turn to put you first. Don't you want to be with Alex?"
"Of course I do," she nodded. "It's the only thing I know I want. But if I say no, Alex will come back here. I won't be without him."
"Would he be happy?"
"No," she answered honestly.
"Would you be happy with Alex being unhappy?"
"No," she laughed, hugging her daughter. "When did you become so wise?"
"I learnt it from you," she grinned. "Do it, mum. Besides, you can always visit. The farm isn't going anywhere. Neither are the girls. Have you told them?"
Stevie shook her head. "Not yet."
"What do you think they'll say?"
"Go," she nodded.
"Why would they say that?"
"Because I love Alex and I belong with him. I know what you're getting at. I'm so proud of you Rose… you've really matured over the last year. I love you."
Rose blushed. "I love you too, mum. So are you going to leave?"
Stevie sighed. She could imagine what it was like to live somewhere else, she had done it a thousand times before, and though she would miss it, she would love the next place.
"I guess I am," she answered.
"Good. But you have to promise me something…"
"That I get my own room when I come and visit you?"
"Aren't you pushing it just a little?"
"No," Rose looked horrified. "The last thing I want is to share a room with my mum and her husband."
"Well, I wasn't thinking that. Turbo's basket is quite comfortable," she teased. The two of them laughed for a while before Stevie went inside and broke the news to the girls. While they were all teary-eyed and sad to see her go, they knew it was a new beginning for her. A new life. A new chapter, and without Alex she would have been very unhappy.
After dinner Stevie called Alex in Argentina and when he answered she was smiling. She loved to hear the sound of his voice. "Hey beautiful," he greeted.
"Hi. I miss you."
"Yeah, I miss you, too. Have you given any thought to what we talked about?" he asked.
"And? Can we move up here?"
"I've thought about it long and hard and I concluded that as much as I wanted to, it never works."
"What doesn't?" he asked sounding instantly disappointed. He figured she was leaning towards NO.
"Raising children on Drover's," she replied. "If we're going to have a baby, then we might as well raise it in Argentina, that way baby Claire has someone to play with."
"I like that idea," Stevie knew he was smiling.
"Is that all you're going to say?" she asked teasingly.
"I really like that idea. I want to move here, but if you don't then you know I'll come back to you."
"No," she laughed happily. "I mean usually when someone announces they're having a baby, you say congratulations."
There was a long silence on the other end.
"Alex, are you there?"
"Are you having a baby?" he asked nervously.
"No, we are."
"Are you kidding?"
"Nope. Hi, dad," she beamed.
"Get over here, woman. Take the next plane here and hurry up."
Stevie laughed. "I got some things to do. I'll be another few weeks and then I'll come over."
"Fine. I'll take the next plane there and be with you."
"I like that idea."
"I'll see you as soon as I can," he assured her.
"I love you, Alex."
"I love you too, mum. Can I tell Nick and Tess?"
"I'd like to tell Tess myself. You can tell Nick, but make sure he doesn't tell Tess."
The two hung up a moment later. Stevie found that she was excited. Yes, she was leaving her home, but she was going to love being with Tess again, and sharing her life with Alex was what she had wanted for years. It was perfect.
This was her happy ending.
The reference to the "Alex is naughty with his tongue" actually came from an interview that Simmone Jade Mackinnon (Stevie) did a long time ago. She was asked how well Aaron (Alex) kisses, and that was her reply.
THANKS everyone, for reviewing and alerting and reading. I hope you enjoyed the journey. YAY… to happy endings!