Author's Note: Okay, apparently once I get going I can't stop. So here's a double update for you. Hope you don't mind, haha. But probably don't expect another quick update, because I'm buried in my university classes. Anyway, enjoy! As usual, all mistakes are mine.

Disclaimer: I don't own "Melissa & Joey". All rights reserved to their real owners. I just write for fun.


Ryder

Jessica looks nervous. I would be too, if I was meeting my boyfriend's family all in one go.

Wait. No. Girlfriend. Girl. As in, female. I would never have a boyfriend, obviously. I mean—I'm totally straight, you can ask anybody. I just meant—

Never mind. Focus.

Anyway, I'm terrified and it's my family.

It's just that everyone important to me is here in one place today, for the first time since January. And I needed a date for this wedding tomorrow, and Jessica and I have been dating steadily since March. So when I asked if she would come to a wedding with me, she agreed.

And that's how we ended up here—me in a jacket and tie, her in a blue, knee-length dress with a neckline just low enough to get my attention and keep it on her.

The restaurant is a little crowded, given that the entire wedding party is in it. And some of the happy couple's friends. Well, lots of their friends. The wedding party isn't all that big. Two people on each side of the alter. Me and Joe on one, Aunt Mel and Lennox on the other.

Trust Aunt Mel and Joe to pick their favorite Chinese food place for the rehearsal dinner, no matter how small it is.

Although I'm kind of surprised Joe didn't insist on cooking. Weird of him to relinquish control on a task he's so convinced he's a master at. But I did have his pasta and homemade garlic bread for dinner last night, so I think I can give him the title of Master of the Burke-Longo-Scanlon Kitchen.

But only in my head, of course. Never out loud. Aunt Mel would probably kill me for Stroking his ego, as she put it last time I complimented his cooking. Joe had made some crack about stroking something else, and if Aunt Mel had glared at me like that, I probably would have run for cover. Joe, on the other hand, just laughed. Or maybe leered, one can never tell with them.

Ugh. The images. Moving on.

Jessica had rested and gotten dressed for dinner while the rest of us were at the park practicing for the ceremony tomorrow afternoon. I had gone back for her, and now we are walking into the tiny hole-in-the-wall place and I'm scanning the area for Aunt Mel and Joe.

There. Aunt Mel looks great in a deep green cocktail dress, her blonde hair down around her shoulders in Joe's favorite style. Joe's tie matches her dress, but he's in a grey suit so it doesn't look like they tried too hard.

They look…relaxed. Happy. Relieved. Like they are extremely glad it's almost over. Lennox told me a little about Joe's freak out but it was obvious he had kept most of the details to himself despite her attempt at getting it out of him at the time. I'm just glad they made it.

Six years is a long time.

I shake myself out of my thoughts and grab Jessica's hand as I wend my way through the crush of people to my aunt and her fiancé. They're at a table in back, a little removed from the center of things…another change I'm still getting used to. But I suppose once you pass 35 there is an unwritten rule about mellowing out a little and growing up a bit.

I stop right in front of them and they look up in surprise. I told them in advance that I was bringing Jessica as my plus one, but they hadn't met her yet. I feel a little bit anxious as Joe turns his stern gaze to her.

I clear my throat and squeeze Jessica's hand a bit. Jessica, I'd like you to meet my parents, Mel and Joe. Guys, this is my girlfriend Jessica.


Joe

I'm thrown for a loop. Ryder has never referred to me as his parent, or his dad, or his father. He might when I'm not around, because it's easier to do that than to explain, but he's never acknowledged our bond in that way before.

Not to my face anyway.

Lennox does, sometimes. Rarely. When Mel and I met Damien for the first time she introduced me as her dad. And there was that one time she asked me to stay with her, to be her dad for a little longer.

But Ryder. No. Not that I know of.

I feel my eyes sting as I think more about it. I blink quickly—no way is Mel going to see me cry over such a simple thing—and stand up, offering my hand to my son's girlfriend.

Nice to meet you, Jessica. Glad you could make it, I say warmly. Hope you enjoy the evening. Oh, and word of advice: don't let my buddy Ryder here eat the kung pow chicken. He can't handle it.

Ryder looks a little embarrassed. But Jessica laughs and shakes my hand and then Mel's, whose face mirrors my shock. Ryder drags her away from us, and I try to process the whole thing with my fingers creating a solid physical link to my fiancée as we sit there.


Ryder

That could have gone worse, I guess. It's Joe's job to embarrass me, I suppose. Now all I want to do is escape my parents. And maybe sneak away to make out with my girlfriend, like Joe seems to want to do with Aunt Mel.

He's not fooling anyone. We can all see his hand at her back. I don't even want to think about what's going on under that table.

But, you know, if Jessica wants to try anything, that's totally fine with me. I'm 19, what can I say.

Anyway, it's good to be alone with her, as alone as we can be in a crowded restaurant. For now, we can just sit here, and I can think about how grateful I am that I found a girl who will put up with my slightly dysfunctional family, and look hot doing it.


Mel

I'm Ryder's parent? That's so sweet.

Wait, I'm Ryder's parent? Joe and I are…parents?

God, that makes me feel old.

But he's sitting there looking as confused and sappy as I feel. Good. At least we're in the same awkward, parental boat.

Plus, we're getting married tomorrow. We're sort of stuck in this boat.

God, that really makes me feel old. Married. Like, a grown up?

But Joe is blinking hard—is he trying not to cry? That is just too sweet. I'll have to tease him about it later—and shaking Jessica's hand. He lets go, and she turns to me. We shake, and I feel my fiancé's now-free hand settle on my lower back.

He's rubbing tiny circles against the fabric of my dress and oh, wow, that feels amazing. And doesn't he smell delicious? I can feel my face flush a bit and I hope my nephew—son—doesn't notice. He doesn't, apparently, because he's smiling at us and turning to find a couple seats.

I sit back down at Joe's nod, run my hand over his thigh, clad in that sexy, sexy grey suit I didn't know he owned. I stop short of feeling him up under the table, because we promised ourselves we would observe the traditional no-sex-the-night-before-the-wedding. And if we start, I don't think we will stop. So, no.

He shifts under my hand, his own fingers traveling upward over my side toward my—

Whoa. Why did we decide to be traditional, again?

No, no. We promised each other we would do something right—given that our relationship has always been unconventional. So I glare at him a little and move my hand.

He grins at me wolfishly and moves his own. But that doesn't stop him from leaning down and capturing my mouth in a searing, quick kiss.

My eyes flutter and I start to kiss back when I feel him pull back, a smug smile on his face. Damn him for making me all hot in front of our kids. Damn him for not following through. Damn both of us for deciding we wanted to be traditional.

But I'm smiling back at him, almost against my will. His smirk softens, then widens as Lennox comes over and flops down next to him.


Lennox

Aw. Aren't they cute. Snuggled up together at that back table. But no, this party isn't about them.

Well, okay, it's about them. The whole weekend is about them.

But that doesn't mean we have to leave them alone. Plus, Damien is on the phone with his mom, and I'm bored. Might as well bug my parents, right?

Right. So I ease myself down into the chair next to Joe, effectively popping their little bubble.

Hey, Joe, Aunt Mel, how's things? I grin back at Joe, who greeted me with a smile.

It's a little hot in here, don't you think, Len? He answers with a swift glance at Mel, who bristles next to him.

Obviously I interrupted something. Something I would rather not think about, given that I know they pledged to wait until their wedding night to…well. Yeah. Not thinking about that.

Sure…I guess, I say hesitantly. Let's change the subject, shall we. Have you met Ryder's date yet?

Yeah. Jessica. Seems nice, Aunt Mel smiles. Much better than Holly. No stick up her butt.

The three of us snicker and I sneak a glance at my brother, who's sitting at a table not far from ours, eating with his arm over the back of his girlfriend's chair. He looks relaxed, and I'm glad for it. As much as he annoys me, I'm glad he's happy with her.

So, ready for tomorrow? I ask. I really want to know. After their major fight a few weeks ago, I'm still a little…unsure. Theirs has been the only stable relationship I've been presented with my whole life, so to have it shaken to thoroughly like that—and witness it so closely on the phone—was hard.

Aunt Mel literally lights up. Joe grins easily. I put my worries aside. They're in it. I know they are.

Yep, Joe replies, kissing Aunt Mel impulsively on the cheek. She smiles softly and I feel like I'm intruding, for the first time since I sat down.

Yep, Mel parrots. Parrots. Hm. I like that. I file it away to use in a story later. I'm ready to be done with this. I'm ready to be married. Feels like it's been forever since he asked, she finishes sheepishly.

No, forever would be how long it took him to ask you out, period, I smile impishly. I thought he was going to, and then he never did. And then….Ryder walked in on you.

Aunt Mel groans at the memory. Joe shrugs. I laugh. I'm just glad it wasn't me that caught them in the kitchen that one time. Poor Ryder. Scarred for life. It's hilarious.

On that note, I say, spying Damien coming back into the restaurant, pocketing his phone, I'm going to go eat dinner. Bye guys.

I start to walk away, then turn back for a second. I love you.


Joe

I'm going to fall asleep smiling tonight, even though I'm going to be sleeping in a hotel room with my nephew across town from my gorgeous fiancé on the night before our wedding.

Because after tomorrow, I'm going to have a wife, a niece, and a nephew. Who are more like our daughter and son, but whatever. Either way, they are going to be mine.

That thought is possessive and macho enough to get me through any sappiness I feel when Lennox says she loves me. No one needs to know just how elated I am to hear it.

Possessive and macho. Yep. That's me.

Love you too, Len, I answer automatically.

So much for macho. Possessive might still work though.

Who am I kidding? The Burke-Scanlon women have me wrapped around their little fingers. And surprisingly, I'm okay with that.

But if Ryder ever finds that out, I'm going to deny it six ways to Sunday. Or however that saying goes.


Author's Note #2: So there you go. I hope you caught on to the fact that this jumps ahead in the AU timeline a bit. We're getting closer to the end, I think. Thanks again to all my readers and reviewers!