April 14, 1995, 6:21 AM—Faith Spaulding's Apartment

As much as Patrick hated to wake Faith, he had to get home so he could shower and change and still make it to work on time. "Faith," he said softly. She murmured and shifted in his arms. "Faith, wake up." He gently shook her shoulder.

Faith groaned as she cracked one eye open, then sat up, blinking blearily at Patrick. "What time is it?" she asked through a yawn.

"Almost 6:30," he said. "I have to be at the station by eight, and I still have to go home and shower and change."

She sat up, stretching her arms above her head. "Right," she said. Even though she was still suspended, she had a lot to do today herself, and the earlier she got started, the better. "I want to call my mom, and check on Aunt Alex, and I have a few other things to take care of today too."

"With the holiday, we probably won't be dealing with your suspension until Monday," Patrick said, referencing the fact that Easter was on Sunday, two days from now.

"I figured," she said. She stroked his cheek. "Thanks for staying last night."

"You feel any better this morning?" he asked, peering at her critically.

"I'm a lot more rested than I would have been if you hadn't been here," she replied honestly. She leaned in and brushed a quick kiss across his lips. "You'd better get a move on. You don't want to be late."

"Yeah," he said. "Hang in there, kid." They hugged quickly before she walked him to her front door to see him out. Then she headed in to shower and change herself before checking in with her mother about Alexandra and then heading out.


April 14, 1995, 9:07 AM—Roger and Holly's House

"I won't be long," Roger promised, lingering by the front door.

"It's fine," Holly assured him, resting her hands on his shoulders. "I'm fine. Blake's here. Everything's okay." She kissed him.

"We'll both be right here when you get back, Daddy," Blake promised as she approached holding two coffee mugs, one for herself and one for Holly, as Holly released Roger.

"Well, maybe if someone had actually stocked the fridge yesterday like she said she was going to," Roger said, looking over Holly's shoulder at Blake. "There are enough liquids in there to surround this house with a moat, which would be fine if you'd picked up a few other things, like bread, eggs, coffee, maybe some pasta or a couple of steaks."

"Well, we don't want Mom to dehydrate again, do we?" Blake challenged.

"No, but your mother and I would like a little food with our wide assortment of beverages," Roger retorted.

"Which is why you're headed to the grocery store now," Blake reminded him. "And the sooner you go, the sooner you can get back."

"All right, I'm going," Roger said. "Have fun." He kissed Holly again quickly before leaving.

"I thought he'd never leave!" Blake exclaimed after they heard Roger's car drive away. "Now, you said when you called that you wanted to talk to me about something. Please say it's Daddy's birthday!"

"Yes," Holly replied, seating herself on the couch with her coffee.

"Good," Blake said, settling herself on the other end of the couch with her own coffee. "What are we going to do about his birthday?"

"Well..." Holly began. She quickly outlined her idea, and Blake enthusiastically agreed. They were interrupted by a knock at the front door.

"I'll get it," Blake said. When she opened the door, Faith Spaulding was standing there. "Faith!" she exclaimed. "Come in." Holly rose from her place on the couch.

"Thank you," Faith replied.

"We heard about your suspension," Blake said. "Is it really because of the case?"

"No," Faith said. "That has to do with what happened at the mansion, and it's a well-earned suspension. The Chief was absolutely right to call for my head on a platter. The only reason things aren't moving on that yet is because Robinson is parading around the station demanding movement. Once Cutter has some time, we'll be meeting with the Chief and the review board. But that's not even a blip on the radar right now." She looked to Holly then. "How are you doing, Holly?"

"I'm doing a lot better now that I'm out of your wine cellar," Holly said. "Please, sit down. Would you like a cup of coffee?"

"No, thank you," Faith said. She sat down in a chair as Blake and Holly resumed their seats. "I've done a lot of thinking in the past few days about what's gone on between our families in the past, and I include both sides of mine in there." She looked at Holly then. "I never should have blamed you for that story in the Journal the day after Valentine's Day, and even if there was any justification there, I certainly never should have questioned your professional integrity because of a mistake. I know you've probably let it go, but…" She pushed a hand through her hair. "There have been so many grudges that have held on for so long and affected so many of us, and I just…I wanted to square it with you personally and tell you that I didn't mean any of it, including what I said about you and Roger, and I hope you'll accept my apology."

"Of course I will," Holly said. "When things didn't really change between us, or between you and Blake, I figured you were just letting off steam. I'm sure that was a difficult evening for your entire family."

"Not as difficult as this week has been," Faith said. "But Alexandra is getting the help she needs now. For whatever it's worth, Holly, if it's worth anything at all, what happened really wasn't about you."

"I know," Holly said.

"It wasn't even completely about Roger," Faith admitted. "It turns out that Aunt Alex has kept a lot of pain bottled up inside, and a lot of that pain is directly traceable back to her father. Roger had a part in things, and so did a few other people, but the root causes go back to Brandon Spaulding and the kind of man he was and what he did to Alexandra."

"Does the rest of your family know that Alexandra's breakdown was not entirely my father's fault?" Blake asked then.

"Yes," Faith replied. "And all of us really appreciate the fact that Roger isn't coming after Alexandra with both barrels."

"That's the last thing any of us needs now," Holly said, "and believe it or not, Roger does recognize that fact. It's not easy for him, but he doesn't want to prolong this war between us any more than you do."

"I'm also sorry we didn't get to you sooner this week," Faith continued.

"I heard that you had figured out where I was, but that I got out before you could execute your search warrant," Holly said. "I appreciate everything that you, and the entire department, did to find me. Really, I do."

The trio were silent for a moment before Faith stood up. "I should get going. I really just wanted to make sure that you were okay, Holly, and to make sure that we're okay."

"I am, and we are," Holly assured her. "And thank you for coming by." Blake echoed her mother's sentiments.

Faith was outside walking to her car when Roger got home. "Well, hello, Officer," he said as he cut the engine. "It's still Officer, isn't it?"

"That's still in question," Faith admitted. "I was just leaving."

"What, did you come here to badger Holly on Alexandra's behalf?" Roger wanted to know as he got out of his car. "There's no way you're here for any kind of follow-up statement. Or have you simply decided to disregard your richly deserved suspension just like you disregarded any bit of standard procedure?" He headed to the trunk to unload the groceries. He wasn't going after Alexandra, but he was still plenty angry at the police department for the way they had treated him and treated Holly's case.

"Roger, whatever you think of me, and however much Spaulding I have in me, I have just as much Bauer in me," Faith told him. She waited until he was looking at her again before continuing, "I'm sorry for what you've been through-for what Alexandra put you through. And I came here today to apologize to Holly for what Alexandra put her through, and for what I said to her the day after Valentine's Day regarding a certain story in the Journal, as well as to let her know that what happened wasn't really about her."

"No, it wasn't about her. It was about me," Roger said, frowning.

"It wasn't as much about you as you think it was," Faith said. When Roger looked at her, surprised, Faith said, "You were no picnic for Aunt Alex, but you weren't her worst nightmare either. The owner of that dubious distinction is the root cause of a lot of Alexandra's pain. Make no mistake, you bear responsibility for your share of her pain, but what she did to Holly wasn't just about her getting revenge on you. And her breakdown was not all about you either, and before you ask, as I told Blake and Holly when Blake asked, yes, my entire family knows that."

Roger was floored. Holly had told him in the hospital that the fact that Alexandra had come completely unhinged was not all on him, and now here Faith was telling him the same thing. Not only telling him the same thing, but telling him that all of the Spauldings knew it. So it had to be true, he reasoned, because Faith certainly wouldn't tell him this if it weren't true.

Faith could see that Roger was absorbing what she'd said. "I just have one more thing to say," she said. Roger looked at her warily. "My entire family is very grateful that you're not going after Alexandra with both barrels."

"I never expected one Spaulding to be grateful to me for anything, let alone the entire clan," Roger said.

"Well, we are," Faith replied. "I know it's not easy for you to leave Alexandra to the doctors—"

"It's against my nature, you mean," Roger interjected.

"You said it, I didn't," Faith said. She tilted her head and looked at him consideringly. "Although if I were to venture a guess, I'd say that you found something more important and more satisfying to you than getting revenge. But whatever the reason, we appreciate it, Roger."

"Don't appreciate it too much. A restraining order is now in effect against Alexandra. If she comes within 500 feet of Holly or Blake or me, she'll go straight to jail," Roger warned her.

"That's fair," Faith replied. "Goodbye, Roger."

Roger watched Faith drive off before hefting the grocery bags from the trunk and heading inside, still trying to absorb the facts that he was not solely responsible for Alex's breakdown and the Spauldings knew that, and, even more astounding, that they were actually grateful to him for not seeking some kind of revenge on Alexandra.


April 14, 1995, 12:32 PM—Wheels and Meals Diner

Tangie was just leaving the diner as Patrick Cutter entered. "Hi," she said.

"Hello, Tangie," he replied. "Just leaving?"

"Yeah," she said. "I have to get back to work." She adjusted her purse strap on her shoulder. "How is Faith?"

"She's had a really rough week, especially last night, but she's hanging in there," he replied. "That's about all she can do." He scratched his head. "I, uh, don't think I've ever thanked you."

"For what?"

"For keeping it quiet that Faith and I are seeing each other outside the precinct."

"What are friends for?" Tangie asked rhetorically. "Although either you two are better at flying under the radar than anyone I've ever known, or I'm the only really observant person either of you knows. But I guess with everything going on with her family right now, this isn't the right time for you two to go public."

"I don't think it would be very wise at the moment, no. Regardless, I know that some people think that you and I are seeing each other, I mean as more than friends," he continued.

"If that's your way of asking if Blake is wondering if you and I are going to move in together soon, don't worry, Detective. She has brought it up, but I didn't even really have to say anything. She convinced herself you weren't the type to shack up with a woman without benefit of at least an engagement ring, if not a wedding set," Tangie said wryly. "Another few months, though, and she may start asking if you're afraid to make a commitment to me."

"Terrific," Cutter said dryly. "Now that her parents are married off to each other, she figures that anybody can make it work if they can."

"It's actually a compliment to you, if you really think about it," Tangie said, ignoring the slight barb. "She wouldn't be so interested if she didn't like you. And she's friends with Faith…they used to be related, actually, now that I think about it…"

"Twice over, since Blake was married to both of Faith's brothers at different times," Cutter murmured. Tangie chose not to acknowledge the statement, but it was more proof—not that she needed any—that Cutter was more serious about Faith than even he realized, to know her family history the way he obviously did.

"Anyway," Tangie said, "I'm the one who will undoubtedly be the recipient of dozens of blind dates from Hell once you and Faith do go public. Blake will be thrilled for the two of you, and then turn her attention to finding a man for me."

"And when the time comes, you'll have my full sympathy," Cutter replied.

"Thank you. As for the other, you're welcome. But whenever you're ready for me to acknowledge that you and I are nothing more than very good, strictly platonic friends, just say the word," Tangie said. "And on that note, I really have to get back to the office. I'm helping to run the ship for a few hours this afternoon, since Nick's divorce is being heard, and Fletcher is with Alexandra Spaulding right now, so I'll see you later."

"See you later," Cutter said before heading into the diner to get some lunch, as Tangie headed to her car to head back to the Journal offices.


April 14, 1995, 3:27 PM—Roycedale Psychiatric Hospital, Outside of Springfield

Alexandra was all checked in at Roycedale, the private psychiatric hospital 45 minutes outside of Springfield. Dr. Braddock had privileges there and would be overseeing her treatment for the duration of her stay, which would be at least two months.

Nick, Alan, and Fletcher were all there, waiting to get in to see her before taking their leave. Dr. Braddock exited Alexandra's room and said, "You can go in one at a time."

"Go ahead, Nick," Fletcher said.

"Yes, Nick," Alan agreed.

Nick entered his mother's room. Alexandra was standing at the window that overlooked the large rose garden just beginning to bloom in the increasingly warming spring weather. Nick wondered for a moment what to say. He didn't want to tell her about his lengthy phone conversation with Beth the night before, about Lujack. Alexandra and Beth had been the two people who had known Lujack best, although Hope had been able to fill in a few blanks for him about the brother he would never know. Beth had been willing to discuss Lujack; as she herself said, thinking about him and talking about him didn't make her break down crying anymore. It meant a lot to Nick when Beth ended their conversation, after promising to send him some pictures and a copy of Lujack's music video by overnight express, by telling him that while she was certain that he and Lujack would have clashed upon first meeting, she was just as certain that Lujack would have been proud to have Nick for a brother, and that he would have always had Nick's back no matter what. But Nick didn't want to run the risk of upsetting his mother by bringing up Lujack just yet. There would be plenty of time for that later on.

Alexandra turned away from the window to look at him. "You're still here," she said, sounding somewhat surprised by that fact.

"So are Fletcher and Alan. They're waiting outside," Nick replied. "But I have to get back to Springfield. My divorce is being heard today, so I have to get to court." When Alex opened her mouth to say something, Nick hurried on. "And before you start raising your blood pressure, Melinda didn't want a settlement, so I'm not actually paying her a dime."

"No settlement?" Alex repeated. She would have thought Mindy would have bled Nick dry, as a way to stick it to Alexandra if nothing else.

"We can both see now that our marriage was a mistake for several reasons," Nick said. "And it's not like she needs the money. She even said that herself. So no, there's no settlement, and no alimony. Really, this is just a formality to restore each of us to legally single status." He crossed the room to join Alexandra at the window. "I'm so sorry for the pain my relationship with her, and my marriage to her, caused you."

"I didn't handle myself very well with Mindy," Alex admitted.

"That is perfectly understandable, given your history together," Nick replied. "I did love her, once. But it wasn't the kind of love that you build a lifetime on. We both see that now. If I had seen it sooner, maybe I could have spared you some pain."

"I just wanted you to be happy, darling," Alex said, reaching out to take his hand in both of hers, "even if Mindy was the one who made you happy. I hate that you got hurt, and I apologize for my part in that hurt."

"Then we're on the same page," Nick said. "And since Melinda is about to be officially consigned to both of our pasts, you and I can concentrate on what's really important: the future. And it's going to be good. Maybe not right away, but it will."

"I'm going to get well, Nick," Alexandra assured him.

"I know you are," Nick replied with a firm nod. He happened to catch sight of the time on his watch then. "I hate to have to leave so soon, but I have to get to court. I'll see you tomorrow, though, and every day after that until you're home again." He hugged her then, and she hugged him back. He kissed her cheek, then drew back, looked her right in the eyes, and said, "I love you, Mom."

Tears sprang to Alexandra's eyes. Nick had just called her 'Mom.' "I love you too, Nick," she said, struggling to keep her voice even.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Nick said before leaving.

Alexandra had just managed to regain her composure when Fletcher walked in. "Just let me get this out first, okay?" he said before she could even open her mouth. "I owe you a big apology for going on about Roger and Holly the way I did. Yeah, it bothered me, I think it bothered everybody in one way or another, when they got married because you just don't expect to see something like that happen, given their history together, but it did. I didn't get it. I still don't get it. But it doesn't matter, because it's their marriage, their business, and certainly no skin off my nose. But I realize now that it was an unfair comparison. Any comparison is unfair. Our relationship is ours, and whatever happens with Roger and Holly, or any other couple we know for that matter, is not and should never be an allegory for what happens with us. It seemed to you that I had a little bit of an obsession with their relationship, which fed into yours, and I never would have made the comparison in the first place if I'd known what you were thinking, so I'm sorry I did that."

"I wasn't making you a priority, Fletch," Alex replied. "You had every right to be as angry with me as you were."

"In case you didn't know or weren't sure, I'm not angry anymore," Fletcher said. "And they do have phones in this place, so if you ever want or need to talk to somebody that's not part of the staff here, or a relative, I'd love to hear your voice."

"I did enjoy our late-night talks," Alex admitted wistfully.

"There's no reason why they can't continue," Fletcher said. "I want them to continue. I hope you do too, because it won't just be the Spauldings that are waiting for you. Ben and I will be waiting too." Then he leaned in and gently kissed her. "I love you, Alexandra," he said when he pulled back.

"I love you too, Fletcher," she said, once again struggling to maintain her composure before hugging him goodbye.

After Fletcher left, Alan came in. "Alan," Alexandra said, "I am so sorry for the humiliation I've brought down on the company and on the family."

"Now, Alexandra, I've told you numerous times already that I won't hear of an apology," Alan said firmly. "After all, think of what I've done to embarrass the family and the company over the years." He looked at her dejectedly. "I'm the one who owes you an apology."

"Whatever for?" she asked.

"I've fallen down on the job of protecting you," Alan replied. "You truly believed that you were alone."

"I'm not trying to make you feel guilty, Alan, but in a very real sense, I was alone," Alex said. "You had Hope and your children. I didn't have anyone or anything like that. But maybe…maybe I finally have a chance to have it with Nick and with Fletcher, and even with Ben, if I can learn to break from Brandon's mold the way you did."

"You can," Alan assured her. "And you won't be doing it alone. We are all going to be there to help you in every way we can, and you won't be the only one finally laying Brandon Spaulding to rest once and for all. It's time for all of us to do that…which is why I told our children about Brandon." He anxiously watched her face for any sign that she was upset or angry about this, but her expression didn't change. "He's taken too much from all of us, Alexandra, or tried to, and he's not going to take one more thing.

"For so long, it was the two of us against the world, but it isn't just the two of us against the world any longer. It's the two of us, and Hope, and Fletcher, and our children against the world. Brandon Spaulding is not going to hurt any of us ever again."

Were the men in her life all determined to make her cry, Alexandra wondered. First Nick, then Fletcher, and now Alan.

"The only thing you worry about, the only thing you concentrate on, is getting well," Alan told her. "The company will still be there when you get home, and in the meantime, I'll take care of everything until you're well enough to return and try to oust me." He graced her with a cocky smile then, and she laughed through the lump of emotion in her throat.

"I'm going to remind you of that when I'm taking the CEO chair back from you," she told him.

"I would expect nothing less," Alan replied before they embraced.


April 15, 1995, 1:38 PM—Roger and Holly's House and Ross and Blake's House concurrently

After lunch on Saturday, Roger and Holly were sitting on the couch, Holly working a crossword puzzle, and Roger going over some paperwork for a meeting he would be having on Tuesday when the phone rang. Since Roger was closer to it than Holly, he answered it. "Hello?"

"Hi, Dad," Blake said on the other end of the line. "I'm sorry to bother you on a Saturday like this—"

"You are never a bother," Roger said firmly. "What's up?"

"I lost my office key, and I just realized I left something in there that I need to finish up the presentation for Cedars," she replied. "Could you meet me down there and let me in?"

"Sure," he said. "I'll be there in a few minutes."

"Okay, thanks, Dad. Bye," Blake said. She then hung up and turned to look at Ross. "He bought it. Now, you and the cake are going over to Mom and Dad's house, you'll wait with Mom, and Dad and I will be there in a little while."

"All right," Ross agreed as he went to get the cake from their kitchen.

At Roger and Holly's house, Holly looked up from her crossword puzzle. "Was that Blake?" she asked.

"Yeah," Roger said. "She lost her office key and she needs something to finish up her presentation for the Cedars project, so I have to run down there and unlock her office for her." He set his files on the coffee table and looked at her. "Wanna tag along?"

"No, I think I'll stay here, finish my crossword puzzle," she replied. "It's good practice for Monday, when we both have to go back to work."

He nodded. "Okay," he said. "I won't be long." He kissed her goodbye and then headed out the front door, snaring his jacket on the way out.

After she heard him drive away, she set aside her crossword puzzle with a grin and headed off to change before Roger and Blake got back, and before Ross arrived with the cake.


April 15, 1995, 2:09 PM—Roger and Holly's House

"I really think we have a good chance of getting this," Blake said as she followed Roger to the porch. She had seen Ross's car parked one street over, and since Roger hadn't mentioned it, she figured he hadn't noticed it.

"It would be a real feather in our cap if we got the Cedars job," Roger agreed as he put his key in the front door. "If we do get it, though, we'll have Maureen to thank."

Blake followed him into the house and grinned when he stopped short. He was just about to announce to Holly that he was home, but she was standing by the couch with a big smile on her face, a glass of champagne in each hand, and wearing a dark green evening dress that she would stop traffic in with matching heels and the emerald earrings he had given her on Valentine's Day. Ross came over from the kitchen, also carrying a glass of champagne in each hand.

"What's going on?" Roger asked as Blake closed the door behind him and helped him off with his coat.

"We are celebrating," Holly replied, handing him a glass of champagne. Blake hurriedly took off her own coat and stowed it and her purse, along with Roger's coat, on the coat rack by the front door before returning to the living room and taking one of the glasses of champagne from Ross.

Roger felt like his birthday had been a million years ago now. "My birthday?" he asked. He looked over his shoulder at Blake. "You didn't really lose your office key, did you?" he asked.

Blake smirked at her father. "What do you think?" she asked.

Seeing Blake's smirk, hearing her ask that question of Roger, Holly had the nagging feeling that she was forgetting something, but she couldn't recall exactly what it was.

Roger's eyes lit up then. "Is there still a big present for me in the basement?" he asked.

"Yes," Holly replied, turning her attention back to him now. Roger looked at her hopefully, putting on his best puppy dog eyes. "All right, everybody to the basement. You know I can't resist when you look at me like that." Roger grinned unrepentantly as he set his glass of champagne on the coffee table. The others all followed suit.

But when they got to the top of the basement stairs, Blake and Ross headed on down to the basement and Holly told Roger, "Close your eyes."

"Really? In front of Chrissy and Ross?" he asked, pretending to be scandalized.

"Keep it up, and I'll make you eat cake first," she warned.

His eyes slammed shut immediately. For good measure, Holly covered his eyes with one hand while guiding him down the steps with her other hand on his arm. "Okay," she said, removing her hand from his eyes. "Open up."

Roger opened his eyes to find Blake and Ross standing to one side of a black baby grand piano with matching bench. He looked from the piano to Holly in astonishment. "How did you do this?" he asked.

"I have my ways," she replied with a smile. "I know that we have the piano upstairs, and that's the one you grew up on, but I thought you might like a piano with no unpleasant memories attached to it…and some very pleasant memories waiting to be made with it."

Roger remembered their honeymoon then, the talk they had about some of their fantasies, and things they wanted to do together, one of which Holly had figured out without him specifically saying so: I knew it! I knew you had a Fabulous Baker Boys fantasy about me! His eyes widened even more as he looked from Holly to the piano and back again. "Really?" he asked quietly, eagerly.

"Well, as you can see, I fudged it a little," she replied quietly, gesturing to her dress. "I couldn't find an evening dress in red that didn't clash with my hair. But you said you like me better in green anyway."

"I do," he said, giving her a heated gaze. "I really do."

"And we're still here!" Blake called from where she was standing with Ross by the piano. "Save the foreplay for when you're alone, please! I may tease you about it, but I don't want a front-row seat to it, and I'm not just saying that for Ross's benefit."

"Thank you anyway," Ross told her in an undertone. Yes, he had accepted Roger and Holly's marriage as a good thing, but watching them look at each other with such heat made him distinctly uncomfortable. After all, he didn't figure they, especially Roger, would appreciate it if he looked at Blake that way in their view.

"You have to play something for us, Daddy!" Blake exclaimed.

"Yes," Ross piped up. "Blake told me last year about how you played for her and Holly, and she said you're very talented. I'd like to hear just how talented you are for myself."

"Any requests?" Roger asked as he walked over and seated himself at the piano, Holly following after him and standing on the side of the piano opposite from Blake and Ross.

"Surprise us," Ross answered.

In reply, Roger launched into "Für Elise." Holly, Blake, and Ross stood silent, watching him play. When he finished "Für Elise," Roger launched into a spirited rendition of "Take the 'A' Train," and he followed that up with a bold instrumental version of "Light My Fire."

Holly was as mesmerized as she always was when Roger played the piano, watching enthralled as his fingers danced up and down the keyboard. Blake was even prouder then she had been the night he had played for her and Holly over a year ago. Ross was completely blown away. "Roger, I had no idea you could play like that," he said when Roger had finished "Light My Fire," impressed. "Talk about a hidden talent."

"It's not completely hidden," Roger pointed out. "I play for Holly and Chrissy, and now you, and because I enjoy it. That's enough for me."

Ross wasn't sure why Roger exchanged a meaningful look with Holly then, but he definitely noticed it, as did Blake. "Why don't we go on upstairs and get the cake ready, Ross?" Blake asked. She looked at her parents, still looking at each other. "We'll give you two a minute. But only a minute, which is not enough time to start anything, so behave yourselves!"

After Blake and Ross had headed upstairs, Holly sat down on the piano bench beside Roger. "Thank you," he said. "This is… You never cease to amaze me."

"Well, I wanted your birthday to be memorable. For good reasons," she added.

"It is," he said, turning to face her. "Everything is, because you're a part of it." He stroked her cheek.

She leaned in to kiss him then, but before they could get too carried away, Blake called downstairs, "Cake time! And you do have another present up here, Dad!"

They broke the kiss and sat for a few seconds with their foreheads touching. "We'll come back later, alone," Holly said.

"Something to look forward to," Roger grinned as he ushered her upstairs.

A round chocolate cake with five candles (one for each decade of his life) waiting to be lit was on the kitchen table. Blake was holding an envelope, which she handed to Roger with a big smile and a hearty, "Happy birthday, Dad!"

The envelope contained a thick brochure for a bed and breakfast a couple of hours outside of Springfield. "They're expecting your call," Blake said. "One weekend, all expenses paid, anytime between now and Labor Day. Apparently there's some amazing fall foliage downstate that people come from miles around to look at, so they're always booked solid from Labor Day weekend through Thanksgiving weekend."

"Thank you, honey," Roger said as he hugged Blake. "You too, Ross."

Ross nodded from the kitchen. "I've taken the liberty of freshening everyone's champagne," he said as he carried a tray with four glasses of champagne over to the kitchen table.

Once everyone had champagne in hand, Blake said, "I would like to propose a toast. Obviously, none of us expected this week to go the way it has. But the important thing is that here we are at the end of it, together." She raised her glass higher and encompassed both of her parents with her gaze. "It's starting to become a tradition with us, celebrating occasions like this together. I have to say, I really like it."

"So do I," Holly agreed.

"Me too," Roger chimed in.

"So, in honor of this occasion, here's to you, Dad. May the next year of your life be filled with love, joy, and happy surprises, and when there are storms, may you walk between the raindrops with Mom by your side. I love you, and happy birthday." She gave him a kiss on the cheek before touching her glass to his, then Holly's, then Ross's.

"I'll drink to that," Holly said, kissing Roger's other cheek before touching the rim of her glass to his.

Ross touched his glass to Holly's, then Roger's, as Blake lit the candles on the cake. "Make a wish, Dad," she said.

Roger looked at Holly, beaming beside him; at Blake, shaking out the match and then looking at him with a smile; and Ross standing behind and to the side of Blake, champagne in hand and an expression that actually was not the least bit pained on his face. Even if, as Roger suspected, this wasn't Ross's idea of something worth celebrating, he was at least going along with it without complaint.

What did he wish for when his longest- and deepest-held wishes had already come true, were, in fact, right there beside him?

I wish for many more times like this with Holly and Chrissy and, okay, even Ross, he thought as he took a deep breath and then blew out all five candles.


April 15, 1995, 11:06 PM—Roger and Holly's House

"Blake wants us there for brunch tomorrow at 11," Holly said as Roger got into bed beside her. She marked her place in her book and set it on her nightstand before turning off the lamp.

"Okay by me," Roger replied, settling himself under the covers. He turned over on his side and propped his head on his hand, looking at Holly in the dim light of the room. "Today was a great day."

She smiled as she mirrored his position. "That was the idea," she said. "I'll bet I know what your favorite thing about today was."

"I'll bet you don't," Roger countered.

She made a 'you're kidding, right?' face at him. "Oh, come on. I made your Fabulous Baker Boys fantasy a reality tonight."

"Yes, you did," Roger said fervently, "and that…you…were amazing. It was definitely a highlight. But that wasn't my favorite thing about today."

"Then what was?" she asked.

"That you and Chrissy were there," he replied simply. "Don't get me wrong. The gifts, and the cake, and you as the chanteuse of my dreams were all terrific." He moved closer and pulled her into his arms. "But you and our daughter… The two of you are all I want, and all I will ever want, whether it's a special occasion or just another ordinary day."

She put her arms around his neck. "That works out well, then, since the two of us are kind of mad about you, too," she said before leaning in close to meet his good night kiss.

And so ends "Storm." Stay tuned for the sequel, which will be the fourth story in the series, coming soon!