A/N - I do not own SOSF, the characters or anything to do with the series. No profit is being made. All writing is for entertainment purposes. A special thanks to Tanith, whose earlier work in another story inspired this cemetery scene. (And Merry Christmas / Happy New Year!)
The First Christmas, Redux
Christmas Day, 2000
He stood several steps back to let her have a moment in solitude. The wind was cold and the ground was damp from an earlier fog, so he knew they would not stay long. He watched her kneel down before the marker. At that moment, she looked like a lost child as she stroked the side of the stone.
"It's my first Christmas without him," she whispered quietly as her fingers traced the engraving of his name. "I miss him so."
He looked down with his hands crossed and didn't respond.
"Oh, Mike. The holidays just won't be the same," she said to the marker. After six months, it was still unbelievable to her that she would never see her father's caring smile or hear him call her 'sweetheart' anymore. At Christmas, his favorite holiday, Mike became a kid again. His enthusiasm was contagious and something that she'd never forget.
He remained silent, but after a few more minutes, he walked behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Come on, babe. I don't want you to catch a cold. He wouldn't want that either."
"Just another minute. Please?"
He nodded and did his best to console the woman who captured his heart. "He loved you. You were the apple of his eye. There was never anyone else."
Jeannie agreed. "He gave me everything: his love, his spirit, his values. He was such a good man. I only hope that I was a good enough daughter."
"You did him proud. What you two had was truly special," he said as he looked into her eyes. Thirty years later and they were still as blue as when they first met. He lifted his hand to stroke a stray curl away from her cheek. The curl contained the only sign of her years: an unyielding stubborn grey streak. She was still trim and petite, and she was still the knock-out he remembered, especially when she smiled.
Jeannie rewarded him with that same smile as he extended his hand to hers. He was as handsome as ever. While his longer brown hair had been replaced with a shorter gray variety, the distinguished look suited him. She rose and allowed herself to become encircled in his arms.
"I'll say one more thing for the man," he began as he tried to lighten the mood. "He knew what he was doing when he had you."
"Aw." She snuggled and buried her face in his tan raincoat. It had less to do with crying and more to do with being as close as possible to the man with whom she had fallen in love.
"You know, he loved you too," she whispered.
"I know, and it was mutual. I have no problems admitting it," he quietly responded.
"You were the son he never had."
"But then I became the son-in-law he was afraid to have," he said as he chuckled. "I remember that Christmas. 1980. When he realized that we were together, I thought he was going to clean my clock. He said to me, 'Buddy boy, you treat her like a queen and I'll have your back whenever you need. But if you ever hurt her, I will be the last person you see.'"
"He didn't." Jeannie feigned disbelief.
"Oh yes, he did. I don't know why he felt like he had to say that," he interrupted with a deliberate 'ahem', "because I was an innocent man."
Jeannie cackled. "It was your prior record. If serial 'dating' was a crime, you'd have been in prison for life without parole."
"Well, I did get sentenced to life…with you," he retorted with a goofy grin.
"Careful," Jeannie warned.
"Don't worry. If the Governor pardoned me and gave me my freedom, I would stay put. I don't want to be anywhere else but by your side." He reached down and cupped her chin. Lifting her face gently towards his, he brushed his lips to hers. Much to his delight (and relief), she returned the kiss with one that was deeper.
After surfacing for air, he looked over to Mike's gravestone and then glanced at the one beside it. Helen Stone. Nearly thirty five years after her death, they were together again. The younger couple could take comfort in that.
"You know, I can see it now. Your mom and dad together looking down on us from above. What do you think they'd say?" he asked as he looked at the clouds.
"I know what he'd say," Jeannie responded. "He'd say, 'Helen, you never got to know my Buddy boy, but he's taking care of our little sweetheart just fine."
"And if he doesn't, I will haunt him every day for the rest of his natural life," he continued in his best 'Mike' impression.
She pinched his side and then gave one more quick hug to her husband. "Come on, Mr. Keller. Let's go."
"Yes, Mrs. Keller. I think it's time we head back home." He took her hand and they began to walk back to their Porsche.
As Steve led the way, Jeannie turned to the grave markers and whispered, "Merry Christmas, Mom and Daddy."