There were certain things Michael Westen expected about having an enormously cute little girl. Dresses, he expected dresses. Tea parties with Nana and Gram, sure, he was ready for that. Princess costumes for Halloween, of course (though Elise's costumes always involve swords and guns as well. She's way more Princess Leia than Cinderella. And considerably more her mother's girl than any Hollywood princess, ever.)
He wasn't expecting repeated bouts of flower girl duty.
But, when you've got a ridiculously cute little girl, with big blue-gray eyes and brown-black curls, and none of your other buddies do, you get to go to a lot of weddings and spend a lot of time going over how it's the little girl's job to walk straight up that aisle and drop the flowers on the runner.
Elise is an expert at it now.
The first time she did it, three days after she turned two, the instructions were pretty simple. Hold the flowers, walk straight up the aisle to Daddy, and drop the flowers while you walk.
After all, Daddy was right at the front of the church, standing next to Uncle Sam, the groom, so it wasn't like he'd be hard to find.
But there were a whole lot of people at that wedding. Between Sam's unending list of buddies and Elsa's numerous connections, both personal and business, there were over 400 people in attendance, so Elise got to the end of the aisle, saw everyone watching her, stopped dead, clutching rose petals in her hands, and burst into tears.
Fi got her calmed down, and held her hand, walking her up the aisle. But the flowers stayed in the little basket.
The second time was three months later, on an island known only by GPS coordinates.
Nana Katie was getting married, and she wanted all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren there for the affair. Getting the entire Glenanne Clan in one place was a challenge, but lucky for Katherine, Sam had some strings he could pull, and he and Fi knew some awfully good smugglers. And there was a guy with a very secluded island who owed Mike a favor.
And, though that wedding would have been an MI5 wet dream of anti-British operatives, no one found out about it until months after it had happened.
Not that Elise knew anything about that. She just knew that it was her job, along with her sixteen older cousins and two younger ones, to throw flowers at Nana Katie and Popa Jim when they walked back down the aisle.
And she was good at throwing things, the flowers, the basket the flowers were in, and her cousin Sarah's basket, too.
The third wedding was held shortly after her third birthday, and just about everyone there seemed surprised to be there, especially the groom.
But Evan's girlfriend wanted to be a wife before she was a mother, and his step-father just happened to know someone who possessed a little girl who had copious flower girl experience.
Evan looked awfully green in his dress whites that day (how much of that was jitters versus post-bachelor-party-hangover was known only to the groom), but his bride was lovely, and the wedding, flowers and all, went off without a hitch.
Mike, Fi, and Jesse proceeded to spend most of the reception teasing Sam about how he was on the verge of being a grandfather.
He responded with great dignity by sipping his mojito and flipping them off.
It was a fun night.
And the fourth wedding, well, come on, this one can't be a surprise, right?
After three years in Mumbai, Dani Pearce had had enough. She'd looked at faked prescriptions until her eyes had bled, and she was done with it, done with the agency, and done with stupid bloody politicking. She got into the CIA to make the world a better place, and she'd spent three years doing nothing even remotely like that.
She moved back to Miami and went in search of the people she knew were working on making the world a better place.
From there, she and Jesse more or less set the land speed record for first date to engaged to married at nine weeks.
As Jesse once said, "Women in our line of work are like ghosts. Sure everyone knows someone who's seen one, but they aren't exactly easy to find." As soon as he found a woman who got it and him, he didn't see any reason to wait, and neither did she.
For the fourth wedding, almost four-year-old Elise had the flower girl thing down pat. Stand at the end, walk in before the bride, scatter petals in an arc pattern, go to the far end of the aisle, and then sit with Mom. (Dad was once again on groomsman duty.)
And now, before the start of the fifth wedding, Michael's once again getting his daughter ready. This one is a little different. Usually, Elise walks up the aisle, drops her flowers and then goes and sits with whichever parent isn't standing up with the rest of the wedding party.
This time though, Mike's giving away the bride, and Fi is her matron of honor, and Nana Katie is the other bridesmaid, so Elise's instructions have been modified to go sit with Uncle Sam and Aunt Elsa.
For Mike, the idea of giving away the bride is a bit surreal, or at least doing it now is. He's hoping, God willing, he'll be able to do it in the future. (Though if Elise waits as long as her mom did to get married, he'll be 88 when he walks her down the aisle. The idea of which he finds both troubling and amusing.)
Two years ago, after an amazingly thorough background check, Maddie started dating Adam. And they kept dating. And really seemed to hit it off. So it wasn't exactly a surprise when he proposed and they decided to get hitched.
Which is why Mike's standing next to his mom, watching his mother-in-law, wife, and daughter walk down yet another white runner toward a pastor and a happy looking groom.
If you had told twenty-year-old Michael that he'd spend the second half of his life surrounded by women, he'd have grinned. And if you had told him the women in question would be his wife, daughter, mother, and mother-in-law, he would have laughed in your face. The idea of a wife and daughter wasn't out of the question, but he was purposely seven thousands miles away from his mother, and had no intention of getting any closer.
If you had told thirty-year-old Michael that he'd spend the second half of his life surrounded by his wife, daughter, mother, and mother-in-law, he would have smiled and wondered at how he managed to pull it off. He certainly had the girl picked out, but getting things in order to build a life with her was something that had been weighing heavily on his mind. Plus, he wouldn't have been able to think of any way to keep his cover intact and somehow get his mother to move to Ireland. Among other things, Michael McBride's mother was dead, so having her somehow show up, alive and American, would be an issue.
If you had told forty-year-old Michael that he'd spend the second half of his life surrounded by women, and that those women would be his wife, daughter, mother, and mother-in-law, he would have walked out of the room. The whole relationship thing, which he'd decided was something he couldn't make work, had gotten considerably more complicated because for the previous three weeks Fi had been back in his life. He might in fact be a bastard for leaving her once, but only a complete asshole breaks the same woman's heart twice. And his mom was calling him thirty times a day driving him completely bonkers. The idea was to avoid her, not spend more time with her. Meanwhile the idea of a daughter or a mother-in-law was so alien that he'd have been unable to wrap his mind around it.
Fifty-year-old Michael, on the other hand, has settled into the idea pretty well.
Elise has finished strewing flowers and has sat next to Sam and Elsa.
She smiles at him. "Yes."
"Then let's go."
A/N: Wow! And there it is, all 50k+ words. I hope you thought the ride was worth it.
First off, thank you all for reading and reviewing. All of your little notes made my day!
So, what next?
Well, there's Grand Gestures and Day to Day Life, which will be picking back up when season seven starts.
There may be some quick one shots ala Elvis on the Jukebox. (I've got titles, C4, Thermite, and Knickers in a Twist, but so far the story to go with it is really rough, and Dido At The Club isn't coming together as well as I'd like.)
If you like NCIS and the Tim McGee character, I'm in the middle of a scarily large McGee luv fest, called Shards To A Whole.
And (warning blatant self-promotion ahead) I do write my own stories with my own characters, so if you felt like wandering over to Amazon and typing Keryl Raist in, you'd see what I can do when it's all up to me. Rumor has it, those stories are pretty good. ;)
Here's where I ask you all a favor, if you do like my writing, and I'm guessing that if you're still reading, you do, please help the world know I exist. The hardest thing for a writer to do is get her books in the hands of people who have never heard of her. So, please, link to my stories/blog on Facebook, or tweet about them, or just mention them to a buddy who might like them.
(PS. See you in the summer!)