Title: HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

***One Hour Challenge Response***

WEEK TWELVE

Type: Multipart Fic
Rating: K (PG-13) Genre: Romance, Humor
Couple: Mel, Joe, Lennox, Ryder
Category: Melissa and Joey
Chapters: 2/?
Status: Incomplete
Summary: One Hour Challenge Responce - WEEK TWELVE - #679 - Scene - You Couple pretend to be either engaged or actually married.


AN/ Hi everyone! Here is the second chapter! Although, I have to warn you – this will not be the last one. I know I've said it in the first chapter (up there under chapters) this story will be two-part, but the characters are threatening with strike if I end it too early, so… apparently the kids wants to have some fun. And I don't blame them… *grin*

I have to admit, I was really surprised by how well this story is accepted. So, to all of you who favorited, put it on alert, left a review, and followed it's progress, both now and in the future, THANK YOU! It means a lot to me!

DISCLAIRMER: Don't own the characters. Sadly.

Italicare thoughts. UPPERCASED words are emphasized.

NOTE! The timeline is different. Joe is working for Mel for two years now, and I've changed few things regarding his family. The characters are a bit OOC, hope you don't mind.

/

Chapter 2

About forty minutes later Lennox returned carrying a notebook in her hand. Ryder followed behind. Joe and Mel were still sitting, drinking coffee, but the breakfast leftovers were cleaned out and the kitchen was clean. Just as Lennox suspected, neither of them said a word to each other since she left the kitchen with Ryder.

'Forty minutes wasted.' Lennox thought, and sighed. She didn't know what she expected, but certainly not the silence. 'This is going to be hard work. Why do they have to be so stubborn?'

FLASHBACK

When Joe said his family was arriving on Tuesday, Lennox almost had a heart attack. They had only three days to make this sham working and it had to be believable. She glared at Joe.

"You knew this for a week and you are just telling us now? NOW? Three days before? That's just great Joe! Great! Good thing you had the brain and told us this now and not five minutes before they came knocking on the door."

"I'm sorry Lennox." Joe said, bowing his head in shame.

He knew she was right. He should've told them the minute he found out, and he should know they would be here for him. And now, Lennox was angry at him, and she was pretty scary when she was angry.

Mel chocked on her coffee hearing his defeated 'I'm sorry', hiding her smile behind the cup. Seeing Joe so lost was funny. He was always so annoying know-it-all and this was almost refreshing. 'No. Not almost. It is refreshing.' She thought.

Joe heard a chocking sound and immediately knew it came from Mel. He was positive she was enjoying herself at his expense, and that was confirmed when he turned toward her and saw her eyes dancing with glee over the rim of her cup. However, he knew he had to bite down any retort because Lennox was glaring at him, and he wanted to stay on her good side. Especially when his whole future is depending on her, Mel and Ryder.

Lennox harrumphed. "What's done its done. No reason crying about it. However, next time when you're in problems, please tell us immediately. Now, I think I might have few ideas how to work this through, but I'll need few minutes." Then she turned toward her brother. "Ryder? Care to help?"

"Sure." He answered. "But I'm taking few of these." Filling up his plate with waffles, he left with Lennox.

/

"Before we start, I need to know are we on the same page here." Lennox said and sat on her bed. They were in her room. It was the farthest room from the kitchen, just in case Mel or Joe decides to eavesdrop, not that she thought they would. And it was great place for her thinking. She always had great ideas in her room.

"You mean putting them in situations where they have to be alone, or even uncomfortable ones?" Ryder asked and managed to surprise his sister. At her raised brow, he continued. "Oh, come on Lennox! Give me a little credit! He is living here for over two years now. Even I noticed he loves Aunt Mel and that she loves him back. They are just too stubborn to admit the truth. This is actually a good opportunity to do something about those two. Push them to each other."

"I guess we are on the same page after all." Lennox said smiling.

"We are. So? I know you got something on your mind. Some evil scheme."

"Actually I do." She answered and in the next half an hour she explained everything, while writing it down in her notebook.

"I like it." Ryder said when she finished. "Do you think we can pull this through?"

"I sure hope so. We have to deceive his family into believing they are married AND in love, and in the same time make them realize they have feelings for each other, without them noticing it. How hard can it be?" Noticing Ryder's disbelievable look, she sighed. "Who am I kidding? This will be harder than anything, especially with them being so stubborn. However, we have to do it. Right? No matter what."

"Right. No matter what. Someday they'll thank us." Ryder said and they shaked hands, confirming the deal. "Now, eat some waffles. They are great."

END OF THE FLASHBACK

"We have a plan. But both of you will have to make some changes and do some things in order for this could work." Lennox said, looking pointedly at her aunt and Joe. "Here is what we have so far. This is most essential and 'MUST DO' so no whining."

Joe and Mel leaned over and started reading Lennox's 'TO DO' List, written in her neat handwriting.

TO DO LIST

1. Joe must return into the house with all his stuff. During his family stay, he will sleep in Aunt Mel's room. (YOU ARE MARRIED!). Aunt Mel must make some space in her closet for Joe's clothes. The rest of his stuff are to be neatly placed around the house.

2. Rings – buy the engagement and wedding rings

3. Pictures – wedding pictures, pictures of you two together, and with us (you have been together for long time – you are bound to have them), few pictures must be placed around the house, wedding picture especially.

4. Decide what kind of wedding ceremony was it: church wedding or a civil one. (It would be better if it was the civil ceremony - less complicated).

5. Inform closest friends of the situation so that they don't blow the cover by accident

6. Work on the story – how did you two got together, how Joe proposed, wedding details.

7. No dating other people! If you want to go out – go together. (In fact, two or three dinners per week in some fancy restaurant might be a great idea. You are, after all newlyweds. In need of some time alone).

8. NO FIGHTING! (Again: YOU ARE NEWLYWEDS!)

9. Show affection to each other – you are supposed to be in love. ACT THAT WAY!

10. Get to know each other – favorites and less favorites…what a couple should know.

11. Stuff under 7. – 10. ARE MOST IMPORTANT!

"I think I covered all." Lennox said after awhile. She hoped she didn't overdone it. It should look like a plan for Joe's family, not matchmaking or 'parents' trap.

Mel and Joe raised their heads. They were speechless. Astonished. They actually read the list three times. Lenox really did a great job.

"No…this is…great. You covered all the bases." Joe stammered.

"Yeah, honey. Great work. Really." Mel confirmed.

"Ok. I was thinking. Since we only have three days…" She looked pointedly at Joe, who was wise enough and said nothing. "…today we should do part of number 1. By that I mean the closet and Joe's stuff, then the part of number 3. And the rest of it tomorrow and on Monday. 4, 5, and 6 can be done on either day, but I recommend we start today. As well as numbers 8, 9, and 10. You need to practice. Things that are left we can do on Monday. The rings and wedding pictures."

"You really thought this through." Joe mumbled but Lennox heard him and her next words brought tears to his eyes.

"Joe. We need you. You are part of this family whether you like it or not."

Mel was surprised Lennox was so open with her feelings, even though she suspected the kids came to care about Joe during the last two years he was with them. She felt the same. Joe became part of her family. However, she would never tell him that. His ego already had two zip codes. She cleared her throat, saving Joe from answering.

"Ok. We'll do this your way Lennox. As much as it pains me, I'll clear few shelves for your clothes Joe." She grinned at him then her smile vanished. "But I'm not sleeping with you Longo!"

"Sure. Like I want to sleep with you!" Joe huffed. "Dream on Burke!" However, even while he was saying that, he started to have mental pictures holding her close in his arms…

"No fighting!" Ryder warned, noticing how the usual bicker was about to start. "See? It is right there under number 8! By lunchtime we should empty the room above the garage. I suppose your mother, aunt and grandmother can sleep there. We do have extra beds."

"Here? I don't know. I was thinking putting them in a hotel." Joe said confused.

"Hotel? No! That is so cold. You can't do that! Please, Aunt Mel? Can they sleep here? They won't even be here all the time." Ryder pleaded.

"Well, I guess, they can. It's not like we don't have room for them. And it would probably be inconvenient coming and going to a hotel and back." Mel said after thinking it through, then grinned. "Besides, you are the one who'll be cooking! I'm looking forward some Italian food."

"Gee, thanks Burke!" Joe rolled his eyes. "But, tell me the truth now. Are you ok with them staying here?"

"Joe. It is really no problem. They are your family." Mel said gently.

"Now that that is settled, let's do this thing. No time to waste!" Lennox said, standing up. "Aunt Mel, you do your room, Joe, bring everything back, and Ryder and I will prepare the basement. We meet here at lunchtime."

"Yes general!" Joe and Mel saluted, and Lennox just rolled her eyes.

"Oh yeah. You might stop calling yourself by your last name. You are married." Lennox said after them and laughed hearing their groans.

/

Ryder and Lennox brought empty boxes to Joe so he can put his things in them and bring them back into the house. They prayed this would be the last time they are doing this. Not because they were tired of moving the boxes around, but because they felt Joe belonged with them, in the house. Not in the room above the garage.

Returning back into the house they heard soft music coming from upstairs. Mel always listen music when she was alone in her room. The music was a sign she was actually doing her part.

"I can't believe how well this is going!" Ryder said to his sister while they were cleaning the basement. "I expected they would put a fight with us after that list you wrote."

"I know. Me too." She lowered her voice and glanced toward the stairs. "I was scared I overdone it, but I guess they were able see the reason. However, I'm surprised mostly at you! The way you manipulated them so Joe's family can sleep here. I must say, I'm very proud."

"I saw the opportunity and I took it! I still don't know what came over me."

"However, them staying here can be both good and bad for our mission. Both of them." Lennox said thoughtfully.

"I suppose. We'll have to be very careful."

/

Couple hours later, Joe came and helped bringing the beds into his, now former, room. He already put his clothes into Mel's room and the rest of his stuff around the kitchen, living room, and dining room. He didn't have much. The big parts of his belongings were his clothes and exercise machines. He put them in basement. Since Mel renovated big part of the house a year ago, she reluctantly got rid of most of her unnecessary things, so the basement was half-empty. While he was upstairs, he talked to Mel and they decided he would sleep in his room above the garage until his family arrival, and afterwards on a makeshift bed on the floor in her room, since they were supposedly married. He was genuinely surprised she was taking this situation so well.

It was lunchtime. Joe made something quick to eat and now they were all gathered around the table rereading the list. Mel suddenly spoke.

"You were right Lennox. Civil ceremony would be better cover. Less details and all. We could say we were married by a judge in her chambers. And the only one who were there were the kids, Stephanie and one of your friends who were the witnesses. Don't you agree Joe?"

"Yes. I agree. Although I don't know how can we do the pictures part. Sure, wedding pictures will be relatively easy to obtain, but the rest… we don't have time or much places to go…" Joe said thoughtfully.

"That is why you have me!" Ryder said. "Good thing Holly made me take that photography course last year, right? I can take photos of you two then photoshop them with different background. A friend of mine has a dark chamber so they can be done later today or tomorrow. And I was also thinking…" at this he stopped and glanced hesitantly at his sister who gave him an encourage with her eyes, but he was still debating whether this idea would be good or bad.

"Thinking what?" Joe asked. He saw Ryder was rather uncomfortable and wanted to help him.

"Well, tomorrow is Sunday, right? We could all go on a trip of some kind so I can take pictures of you two together and all four of us. Real pictures, not photoshopped ones."

After a good ten minutes after, Mel spoke and surprised all three of them.

"I think that might be good idea. I'm in if Joe is. We can go to the Swan Creek Park. I've heard it's beautiful in this time of year."

"So, tomorrow we go to that park?" Joe asked just to be sure.

"Yes. It's a date." Mel answered without thinking, and then huffed at his raised eyebrow. "I didn't mean it that way!"

"Sure!" Joe drawled smirking at her glare.

"I think I'm going to make some calls. Stephanie should know about this and my closest friends also. You should do that too." Mel said leaving the kitchen. Joe left after her, so neither saw smug expressions on Lennox and Ryder face.

Phone calls were made. Mel called Stephanie and few of her best friends telling them about what was going on. Stephanie volunteered to help and Mel told her she would tell her if she would be needed. However, Stephanie was a facebook friend with Lennox and soon she knew everything. Even the part neither Mel nor Joe knew. Joe called few of his friends just in case. Ryder called Holly and explained everything. He also had to cancel their date for tonight, but surprisingly, Holly understood. Then he called Mark, the friend who had the dark room for pictures. Joe had to drive him over at Mark's house so he could borrow few backgrounds and other things. Soon, the basement was prepared for the picture taking.

TBC


AN/ So, this is the end of the chapter 2. I've actually wrote another 1000 words in this chapter, but after thinking it through, I've decided cutting it off. It was great time to close it. There would probably be two or three more before this story is done. I'm really having fun writing this, and I hope you'll be with me till the end.

Tell me what you think. Did I missed something? Thank you all for following this story and all of you who put it on his favorite list, and also who reviewed. It means a lot!

NOTE! Swan Creek Park really exists. I found it on Google when I was looking for parks around or in Toledo. Ryder's friend Mark – made him up.

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