Long awaited epilogue:
1 year later
"You may now kiss the bride." Teddy places his hand behind Emilie's, his palm against her smooth cheek. He gave her a tender kiss as the small crowd erupted with applause. Then they were making their way back down the aisle, this time together, as man and wife, and their fingers interlocked.
As the grainy sand made its way between her toes, Maddie was so thankful she wasn't wearing heels on the beach. Emilie insisted she go barefoot after a little persuasion from Phoebe. "It's exfoliating, Emilie. You'll have sexy feet for your honey moon." Maddie smiled at the thought as she made her way back down the aisle, passing Zac who wiggled his eyebrows and wore a smirk that read I'll see you later if our parents aren't around. She bit her lip, holding back laughter and facing forward.
Once the wedding ceremony was over, the guest took a short walk to a party tent where the reception was going to be held. Ana clutched Christian's hands, not necessarily for physical support due to her gun wound, but emotional support. Her baby was all grown up and married. Christian looked down at her, kissing her temple sweetly. "He'll be fine."
"I know," she nodded, "he will be. I'm just a weird mixture of happiness and sadness right now."
Christian rolled his eyes. "Women. I'll never understand them."
Ana laughed, stretching up to whisper in his ear. "I think you understand me very well." She turned to see if anyone was behind her (mostly hoping Christian's parents weren't behind her), before swatting his backside and jogging forward. Christian caught her arm and encircled his own around her. "Oh how you surprise me, Mrs. Grey."
Inside the tent, Maddie watched Emilie bend down to hug Olivia. Emilie had found her biological daughter and met with her adoptive parents. Olivia's parents seemed thrilled and eager to let them meet and they have arranged a plan for Teddy and Emilie to become Olivia's God parents. Not much of Emilie's family showed up so it was nice for Olivia and her parents to come and support her. As they left, Maddie made her way over to her brother and sister-in-law. "Congratulations!" She hugged and kissed her brother on the cheek. Then she squeezed Emilie in a tight hug, pushing back tears. Emilie and Maddie had gotten close in the last year, discussing Eric and their feelings about him. After much probing, Christian let Maddie visit Eric in prison, as long as Emilie went as well. Eric was doing well, had good behavior, and Emilie and Maddie had both forgiven him. They were all on great terms. Maddie clutched her hand. Emilie smiled back. "I wish he could've been here," Emilie whispered.
Maddie gave the hand a slight squeeze. "I know." She kissed Emilie's cheek chastely. "I'll let you newly-weds talk to other guests. Love you both!" She fluttered away running smack in Zac. "Hello."
Zac smiled at her, his eyes flicking up and down her body. "Green looks nice on you."
Maddie raised her eyebrows. "Really? Great. I have some green hair dye at home."
Zac chuckled and pulled her closely by her elbows. "As long as there's some left over. We can match."
Maddie laughed soundly and pulled him even closer, kissing him in the middle of the dance floor. Her hands could feel the heat of his body through his crisp linen shirt. She pressed herself as close as possible, her teeth catching his lip. He pulled back, whispering her name. He looked in her eyes for a moment then framed her face with his hands. "If we don't stop, I won't be able to." He whispered, leaning his forehead forward to meet hers, breathing in her scent.
She laughed softly lifting her left hand, her charm bracelet clasped around her wrists. "We can hold it off, I guess. Besides, I think it'll deserve a new charm."
He was aware of her thin arms wrapped around him so tightly and he kissed her forehead quickly, returning back to their small touch of the foreheads. "I love you." He had been so afraid for Maddie since the night with Jennifer, though luckily nothing dramatic or life threatening had happened to her or anyone in the Grey family. But since that night, he felt the need to tell her he loved her as many times as possible. She smiled at him, kissing him softly once more. "I love you," she replied. She sighed. "I think I have to go find my dad before I sing. Meet you for fireworks?"
He nodded, and they kissed once more. They held hands as she walked off, staying connected until the last moment.
Maddie walked over to her parents, squeezing through the crowd. Christian smiled down at her. "Are you ready?"
"As I'll ever be." She smiled, giving her dad a small hug, him kissing her forehead. She looked to her mom, taking her hand.
Ana smiled, "I'll try not to cry this time."
Maddie laughed and rolled her eyes. "Mom, please don't. If you do, blame it on Teddy and Emilie."
Christian went on stage introducing his daughter to sing the song for Teddy and Emilie's first dance. Maddie took a seat in front of the piano, taking a quick breath, and then started playing. She wrote the music so long ago, when she first came back home, her dad walking in on her. She didn't have lyrics until about a month ago, when teddy approached her with singing their first dance song. They didn't have anything in mind, so Maddie offered to write an original song for them. While singing, she looked down at the dance floor, watching them sway to her music. Once the song was over, everyone clapped while Teddy and Emilie blew her kisses, mouthing thanks to her. She left the stage, catching her mom wiping her eyes. They stared at each other for a moment, and then Maddie laughed, pulling her mom into an embrace.
The guests flooded the dance floor again, dancing to an upbeat song the DJ selected. After a few songs, the DJ announced it was time for a special dance. "Teddy has chosen to dance with his mom tonight. Emilie will be dancing with a special guest as well." Emilie looked at the DJ confused, and then turned to find her brother standing there, dressed in a tux. Her steps were hesitant at first, then she flat out ran into his open arms, tears streaming down her face. Maddie, who was standing next to her dad, had her jaw dropped and eyes wide. She whipped her head up and looked at him. He shrugged. "I may have pulled a few strings to ask for his release. Just this night. The officers said he had great behavior so it was no problem." Christian pointed to a man in uniform standing in the corner, watching Eric's every move.
Maddie turned back toward her father. "I love you so much, Dad."
Once the dance was over, Eric approached Maddie and Christian. Eric turned to Christian first, and they stiffly shook hands. "Thank you, Mr. Grey. For everything. And I am truly sorry. For everything." Christian nodded and gave him a half smile. Eric then turned to Maddie.
Maddie was frozen for a moment. With her eyes closed, she pictured Jen yelling at her, fresh bruises on Maddie's arms, and Eric just standing there. She breathed deeply. Let the hurt go. She opened her eyes, and slowly wrapped her arms around him in an embrace. He returned it with so much strength mixed with relief.
"Maddie, I am so sorry."
Maddie shook her head. "Don't be. I forgive you."
Tears filled his eyes and he caressed her cheek for a moment. "I loved you like my own. But this is the life you deserve." He looked back at Christian and nodded, heading back to say goodbye to Emilie and return to Prison with his guard.
Maddie wiped at her eyes, turning to embrace her father once more. Ana came over to them, and Maddie grabbed her hand and Christians. "I love you guys more than anything. Thank you for loving me like you do." They were all crying by that point, when Phoebe comes up. She groaned loudly. "Why is my family so emotional?"
Christian smiled, grabbing Phoebe and kissing her head. "Phoebe, you know you cry too. Should I even bring up Titanic?"
She pulls away. "Dad, it's a sinking ship where many people die! Jack dies, leaving Rose all alone-" her voice caught and everyone starts laughing.
"This is why we love you, Phoebe." Maddie said, dragging her sister by her arm to the dance floor to brighten her mood.
Before Teddy and Emilie left for their honeymoon, a grand finale of fireworks was held back at the beach. Ana and Christian walked hand and hand to the shore where they watched fireworks explode in the sky. Christian looked down to see Ana rubbing at her wound. He looked concerned but she answered. "It's fine, I just remember it's there from time to time."
He exhaled, looking back up at the sky. A few minutes passed before he felt Ana squeeze his hand. He looked down. "What?"
She smiled dreamily. "We have a great life, don't we?"
Christian looked around, spotting the people her loved.
His saw his parents watching the fireworks next to Elliot and Kate. Elliot had his hands on Gift's shoulder, who stood in front of him. Kate's hand was wrapped around Elliot's arm as she spoke enthusiastically to Dr Trevelyan- Grey.
He saw Phoebe surrounded with a group of friends, sitting in the sand, pointing out certain fireworks. He saw Teddy and Emilie, who sat elevated in white chairs, Emilie's head pressed against Teddy's shoulder while he kissed her hand.
He saw Maddie who stood in front of Zac as he wrapped his arms around her, whispering softly in her ear. She glanced at Christian for a moment and smiled.
He even saw Flynn standing with his wife, observing people rather than fireworks. His eyes caught Christian's and he nodded in his direction.
He finally looked down at Ana, whose focus turned back to fireworks, the colors lighting the sky, casting its light down on her skin. She smiled slowly at the fireworks. Sensing him watching her, she turned her face up to him. He nodded, closing his eyes and pressing his forehead to hers. "We do."
And they all stood beneath the explosions of fireworks with the feeling of happiness hanging in the air and love flowing through their veins.
what a fantastic journey I've had with this story. I've never been much of a writer and you support and kind words have encouraged me. I was hesitant to write this epilogue, unsure of how I wanted it to look and feel like after so much time putting it off, so I hope this is sufficient enough. Much love as we, readers and author, part ways. Happy reading and Later's baby.