A/N: Wow, here we are at the end of this story. I've had more fun writing this story than anything else and it's because of all of you. The viewer stats on this story were amazing throughout and you guys gave me awesome reviews, which kept me inspired to continue quickly.
This one got away from me too...so I'll apologize now for the long chapter - longest one.
Thank you, RoryFaller, for your wonderful ideas, the beta and support.
"Vick, your bags are packed. Do you have everything else you need?" Hazelle asked from the door.
Vick walked over and kissed her on the cheek as he said, "Awe, Ma. You're the best. I love you."
"I love you too, honey. Don't be gone too long this time?" she said moving into the room and sitting on his bed. This was going to be the first time that she would not have any of her children home, even though it was probably just for a week.
Vick packed up his prize possession carefully as he answered, "Ma, it's only a three-day shoot. I'll probably stay a few days with Gale after that and then come home. I'll call you and let you know when I'm coming home."
Hazelle sighed. Posy had only left a month ago for District Eight to follow in her brothers' footsteps. Rory and Nona still lived in District Eight; Vick was the only one at home these days. Vick looked back at his mother and kissed her cheek again, "I'll be back before you have a chance to even miss me. Want me to bring Rick and James back with me?" he asked mischievously. Just the mention of those two always cheered up Hazelle.
She laughed and said, "You can try, I suppose. I don't' know how far you'll get with them."
Henry walked in and said, "Vick, it's time to leave if you're going to make the hovercraft."
Vick kissed his mother one more time and headed out the door wishing Gale wasn't away for training so he could've picked him up in The Hob.
At Hazelle's sad look, Henry put his arms around her and kissed her quickly on the lips. "Why the sad face, gorgeous? I think it'll be nice to have some time just to ourselves." He kissed Hazelle slowly until she smiled against his lips and deepened the kiss.
When Hazelle pulled back, she looked up at Henry and said, "I have four grown children and I'm a grandmother of two. I don't know how you can manage to make me feel like a young girl in love."
Henry bent his head down and kissed her as he said, "Don't talk about my wife as if she's an old woman. She is the most beautiful, sensual, the smartest woman I've ever met." He finished saying in between kisses to her cheek, lips and neck.
"I think you had better take Vick to the hoverport before he misses his flight," she said with a slight blush.
One more kiss to her forehead and he said, "Okay, but we're picking this up right here when I get back."
Hazelle flushed and took a deep breath; she and Henry had never had the entire house to themselves before. They had married two years ago and he made her feel – beautiful and sexy. She never imagined she could love again or feel so loved again, but Madge was the one that convinced her to take the chance. Madge was the one who showed Hazelle to take her own advice and believe in second chances. Henry was patient with her and all her children throughout it all. It took Gale the longest to come around to the idea of someone else in her life. She knew it wasn't that he didn't like Henry or didn't want her to be happy. He was the one that knew his father the most so it was hard for him to see her with someone else. Hazelle knew Madge helped him come around.
Posy, who never even knew her father, adored Henry and pushed Hazelle to marry him quickly. Henry had lost his only child, a little girl, when she was just an infant. His wife and daughter had been killed in the town square by the peacekeepers as a punishment for his rebellious acts. Henry showered Posy with all his fatherly love and she quickly became the apple of his eyes. The boys approved of Henry for just what he had given Posy – a father.
"Well, aren't we lucky to have the Vick Hawthorne? I didn't think rich, sexy bachelors needed to work?" Fiona purred as she moved her hand to Vick's chest.
Vick smiled and said, "Well, there are advantages for sure. I can pick and choose the work that interests me. I would never miss the opportunity to take your pictures, Fi," he flirted back unabashedly as everyone else watched them in awe.
Fiona smiled seductively at Vick and said, "Three days of Vick Hawthorne in this picturesque setting of District Two Mountains. I can hardly contain myself." Fiona was tall, but Vick was still taller. She stood up on her toes and whispered in his ear, "My trailer's the big one. You're welcome anytime."
Vick winked at her as she walked away swaying just for his benefit. Another photographer, Lenny, walked up to him and patted Vick on the shoulder as he said, "You lucky, dog, you. Fi never puts it out there for anyone. Especially not photographers."
Vick took out his latest birthday present from his mother – his prized possession – a brand new camera he'd had his eye on. Lenny whistled when he saw Vick pull out the camera and said, "I can't believe you have your own; the company is letting us borrow some for this shoot."
Photography was Vick's passion. When he took pictures, he was in another world all together. Two years ago, Vick had done a photo shoot with a young and upcoming model, Fiona, at the beaches of District Four. The two had such good chemistry together that that one shoot made Fiona the top model and Vick the most sought out photographer in the nation. They had both been written up in several magazines and Vick's phone buzzed non-stop with requests of work. He only picked ones that he found interesting.
Fiona was a beautiful woman and she responded to his camera in a wholly different way than she did for anyone else. They made a great team together and he always accepted the projects that Fiona modeled for. Like him, she also had high standards for the work she accepted, especially now that she was the top model in the country.
At their first break, Vick was cleaning his camera, crouched on the ground, when Fiona walked up to him. She slid her hand around his shoulders and leaned her head down to whisper in his ear, "I'm going to my trailer, now."
Vick had a strange feeling that someone was glaring at the back of his head and he turned his head. He stood up abruptly, almost making the blonde model fall. He walked away from Fiona and towards the new photographer that had just joined the shoot. "Hello, Lacey. It's nice to see you after such a long time," he said with a smile.
He almost hugged his old friend, but a cold glare from her stopped him. "Hello, Vick. Two and a half years out of college and still the same old Vick…flirting away at every opportunity."
He couldn't understand why she was so cold to him. The last time he saw her was at graduation. He'd congratulated her with a hug. They worked on several projects together while in college, he thought of her as a friend. "Well, nice to see you too, Lacey," he replied just as coldly back to her.
It seemed suddenly the temperature had dropped in the mountains as Vick and Lacey coldly worked together shooting the pictures. As the day went on Vick became more and more frustrated by Lacey's cold attitude towards him. It frustrated him even more that he cared what she thought of him. He had a hot model waiting for him so why did Lacey's opinions matter?
At the end of the day, when everyone was wrapping up the shoot, Fiona walked up to Vick and said, "I missed you at lunch time." She seductively ran her hand down his chest and said, "It's been an exhausting day; want to come back to my room with me?"
Vick moved her hand off his chest and said, "Look, Fi. You and I work well together. Let's leave it to just that." He didn't understand exactly what was bothering him, but he knew he didn't want Fiona right now.
Fiona pouted and asked, "Not even some cuddling and kissing like last time?"
"I'm not in the mood, Fi. I'm sorry," he said as he watched Fiona stomp away from him. Vick looked around the area. He couldn't find Lacey so he asked one of guys cleaning up, "Hey, have you seen Lacey?" When the guy just looked at him puzzled, Vick said, "She's the only female photographer?"
The guy shrugged and said, "I think I saw someone walking down towards the stream, but that was an hour ago. She probably went back to the hotel in the first shuttle." The young man started clearing up the site again.
Vick took a deep breath and walked towards the stream to make sure Lacey was alright. The guy had told him to just follow the path down to the stream and he could hear the water, but it felt like he walked for a long time. Finally he came upon the stream and saw Lacey standing next to it. She had pulled her hair out of the ponytail and it flowed around her shoulders like a cascading waterfall, down to her waist. Lacey had removed her thick sweatshirt and stood by the stream in jeans and just a tank-top. Vick had always found Lacey attractive, but she always hid her body under loose clothes. Suddenly, he wished he had his camera because the blonde model at the top of the hill didn't even hold a candle to the beautiful, sexy girl in front of him. She had rolled up her jeans a few folds, the tank-top clung tightly to her delicious curves with sandy, brown hair flowing around her. He'd never seen a more beautiful sight before.
"What do you want, Vick?" Lacey asked without even looking at him as she rung out her wet sweatshirt.
"I came to tell you it's time to go. Everything is packed up and the bus is ready to take us to the hotel."
"Fine, I'll be there in a minute," Lacey said coldly as she looked away from Vick.
He caught her wrist and said, "No. I want you to tell me what the matter is. I thought we were friends, but you've been nothing but cold to me since you got here. At least tell me what I did to upset you." Why do I care what she thinks so much?
"Don't you think it's time to grow up, Vick?" she asked. Lacey freed her wrist from his grasp and walked away from him. She walked away from the stream and deeper into the woods in the opposite direction of where he'd come from. He knew he should leave. This girl was infuriating. He should be angry at her words, but he was just confused. Baffled, he followed her into the woods without even giving it a second thought.
"Gale!" Madge screeched running towards her husband. He put his arms around her and caught her as she launched herself at him. He pulled her to him in a fierce kiss and when he released her, she said, "You're home a day early." She kissed him again.
"I missed you, angel," he said kissing her again as he lifted her feet off the ground. Gale put her back down on the ground as he deepened the kiss. His hands moved under the hem of her shirt and he groaned when he felt skin. "I hate these three-week training sessions," he said putting his forehead against hers.
They heard, "da-da-da-da," in sync from the two fifteen-month old, dark-haired, gray-eyed toddlers waddling quickly towards their father. Gale released Madge as he laughed. James continued on his chubby legs determined to keep his balance and stay upright. Rick dropped down to all four as he realized he could reach his father before his brother crawling instead of walking. The proud father of the twins laughed and scooped up Rick who had just reached his feet and he took a step forward to pick up James as well. Gale hugged them both as he kissed their cheeks. His boys brought back Vick's and Rory's childhood to mind.
Madge hugged all her boys and said to Gale, "I have a surprise for you." She kissed his cheek and went into the kitchen to finish preparing dinner since the boys would start screaming for it any minute. Now that Gale was back this would be her last night to cook and she couldn't be happier.
Gale took off his coat and got down on the floor to play with the boys. James was especially clingy this time to him and he decided that he wasn't going to go away for so long anymore. Gale had always overseen the training, but it was time for someone else to take over now. The General just wanted to be home with his family. Two more years and he'd retire; then they could move back to District Twelve.
After a bit, he found Madge in the kitchen. Gale walked up behind her and wrapped one arm around her waist as the other moved her hair aside from her collarbone. "I missed you, so much," he said nibbling on her neck. Madge tilted her head to give him better access. She moaned as both his hands wrapped around her and then moved higher up to cup her breasts. Madge turned in his arms as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
"I missed you too," she said before she caught his lips in a deep kiss. Gale moved his hands down her body and lifted her up slightly to seat her on the counter so he didn't have to bend so far down to kiss her.
He had only unbuttoned the top two buttons of her shirt, when little hands grabbed his pants and he looked down to see James pulling himself up. Gale laughed as he released Madge's lips and buttoned her shirt back up again. He picked up James and walked out of the kitchen. It was best for him to not be around Madge with the kids still awake.
While Madge finished cooking their dinner, he fed the boys and gave them a bath. Madge was surprised to see them fed and bathed so quickly; she laughed. "What?" Gale asked innocently.
"You're always really efficient with the boys when you come back from a trip," she said as she eyed him suggestively.
He flushed a little and replied, "Is it a crime that I love my beautiful wife and can't wait to make love to her?"
They played with the boys for a bit and put them to bed. As soon as Madge stepped out of the nursery, Gale gently pinned her to the wall as he kissed her passionately. "Do you want to eat dinner first?" she asked as she pulled his t-shirt off over his head.
Gale laughed as her actions contradicted her words. "No, I just want you right now," he said, his voice thick with desire. He unbuttoned and slid her shirt off her shoulders. Madge hadn't had a chance to change out of her work clothes so she still had on the knee-length gray skirt and white blouse. Gale pulled up her skirt as he lifted her off the ground. She wrapped her legs around his waist immediately as he carried her to their bedroom.
Covered in sweat, glowing from their love-making, Madge sighed happily in Gale's arms. "Want me to bring you some dinner in here?" Gale whispered in Madge's ear as he ran his fingers up and down her arm.
She sat up and said, "Let's both go eat." Gale got out of bed and threw her one of his t-shirts. Seeing her in one of his t-shirts still excited him more than anything else.
Madge raised her eyebrow at him as she caught the shirt. He smiled mischievously and said, "Dinner and then round two." He quickly pulled on some shorts and headed out to the kitchen to warm up some food for both of them. He knew Madge liked seeing him walk around without a shirt and he was more than happy to oblige. Gale wanted her back in that bed as soon as she had some food in her stomach.
They'd just sat down when the home phone rang and Madge hit the speaker button. Hazelle's panicked voice came through, "Hi, honey. I just got a call from the people managing Vick's photo shoot. The manager said that Vick and another photographer got left behind in the mountains. They looked everywhere, but did not find them. Vick's been missing for a few hours and it's starting to get dark out there. I'm sure it's really cold too in the mountains."
"Ma, it's okay. Let me call them and get more information. I'll find him," Gale said calming his mother, but he felt anything but calm inside. He knew his baby brother knew nothing about surviving in the woods and the District Two Mountains were full of bears, wolves and bob cats. Madge looked up at him panicked.
"Gale, you know how Vick is. He's not like you. He doesn't know his way around the woods like you."
"It's okay, Ma. You know I'll find him."
As Gale called the manager of the photo shoot to get more information, he forgot all about dinner. Madge brought him clothes and all the things he would need to go out and look for Vick; it was already cold and dark. A half hour later, he was ready to leave. He kissed Madge and told her not to worry; he'd find Vick. Gale had called the base and a small team of trained soldiers was ready to go out in the mountains with him.
"Lacey, slow down. We've been walking in circles for hours now," Vick growled as he followed the impossibly frustrating girl. She hadn't spoken to him since she stalked away from him; she didn't even explain her comment about growing up. He had to jog to catch up to her.
Suddenly, Lacey fell down clutching her ankle as she howled in pain. Vick ran faster to catch up to her. He bent down and picked up her ankle to examine it. He ran his finger on the creamy, silky smooth skin and he swore she shivered at his touch.
"I don't think it's broken, but you probably sprained it. I think it's going to start swelling soon so you need to stay off it," Vick declared.
"You know a lot about foot injuries?" she said mockingly.
He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I played sports throughout school. So, yeah, I know a lot about foot injuries." Vick saw her discomfited look and said, "I'm going to pick you up, now."
Vick noticed a twinge of pink on her cheeks as he lifted her up in his arms, effortlessly. He smiled and controlled the urge to wink at her; she'd probably get mad at him for flirting. As soon as she was in his arms, his entire body came alive with strange sensations. He'd never experienced anything of the sorts before so he did his best to ignore the feeling. "I think I see a clearing up ahead," he said as he walked with her in his arms towards it.
"I'm sorry," Lacey said after a few minutes of silence. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow and she continued, "I haven't been very nice to you all day. I never even thanked you for coming to find me. And now I'm hurt and you're carrying me. I don't know what I would've done out here by myself. My parents are from District Eight, but I grew up in District One so I'm not exactly a country girl."
Vick laughed, "We're friends, Lacey. I wouldn't have left the shoot without you. I know you don't think highly of me, but my mom raised me as a proper gentleman. But since we're finally talking, will you tell me what I did that made you so mad at me?" They reached the stream once again and Vick said, "I think we're on the other side of the stream than where we started. We've been walking in a big circle." He sighed.
"Oh no!" Lacey cried out. "Does this mean we're stuck here for the night?"
He found a tree near the stream and set her down against it. It was starting to get dark and cold. He realized neither of them knew what to do in the woods to survive the night. Vick looked at Lacey and calmly said, "Don't worry. My brother will tear down the mountain to find us. He won't leave us here all night." Lacey smiled tentatively at him and he continued, "I saw some tree branches back there. I'm going to gather those and try to start a fire." She nodded so he took off.
After he set up the branches neatly for the fire, Vick looked at Lacey and asked, "You don't by any chance have matches, do you?" She shook her head. He tried to start a fire with two rocks; he'd heard Gale talk about that. But it was no use. The rocks didn't even spark. Finally he gave up and sat down next to Lacey. He inspected her ankle and sure enough it had already started swelling. Vick took off his sweater. They'd left her sweatshirt on the other side of the stream and it was too cold for her to be in just a tank top.
"Won't you be cold?" she asked surprised at his gentlemanly behavior.
Vick shrugged and said, "I'll be fine. So talk to me. I want to know why you're so mad at me."
She defended herself, "I'm not mad at you. You just…you just always think you can get everything by flirting. I guess it was fine when you were in college, but now that you're not don't you think you should become serious? You're such a talented photographer and you're really smart that…," she stopped abruptly as Vick took her hand in his.
"I never realized you were paying such close attention," he whispered. Lacey shivered and Vick put an arm around her.
"Yeah, well, you're the one that wasn't paying any attention," she said embarrassed, looking down at the ground.
"I paid plenty of attention, believe me. I just didn't think you'd ever be interested in someone like me. Why do you think I always sought you out when we were in college?"
"Oh," she said looking up into his eyes. Vick leaned in close and lightly pecked her lips once, then once again before he kissed her and ran his tongue over her lips. Lacey opened her mouth to let in his tongue and Vick wrapped his arms around her as he pulled her on his lap and deepened the kiss.
They kissed for a few minutes and when they took a moment to breathe, Lacey laid her head on his chest and said, "I didn't think I was your type. You always had beautiful girls fighting for your attention."
"You're beautiful; I would've liked to know I had a chance with you," he said immediately.
Lacey joked, "Even with my thick glasses?"
"I liked your glasses. I like you without glasses too." Vick ran his hands through her hair and continued, "I like your hair down; I liked it in the ponytail earlier and I liked it in the buns you used to put it up into when we were in college." Once again he wrapped his arms around her as he slowly ran his nose up and down her cheek. "I liked that your finger nails were never polished with color. I noticed you were always at the top of every class. You never cared what anyone thought of you; you were always your own person…always confident in everything you did. I noticed you liked to wear brown a lot. I like the way brown brings out your eyes and makes your hair look darker than it really is. Though my favorite color on you is white."
Lacey put her hands around his face and kissed him this time. Vick laughed into the kiss and asked, "So…were you jealous earlier when Fi was all over me?"
She leaned back to look at his face and said, "I was not jealous! I just thought you could do better than some simpering model." Vick laughed again and Lacey tried to move off his lap. His arms held her in a vice and he kissed her again.
"Just for the record, Fiona and I only kissed once and that's all," Vick clarified for Lacey.
They both startled at a howling and Lacey asked, "What do you suppose that was?"
Vick shrugged his shoulders and said, "I have no idea. Don't worry my brother will find us soon." He took out a small packet of nuts from his pocket and said, "This is all I have to eat. We'll share it."
Lacey leaned back again as she put a peanut in her mouth and said, "Sometimes I forget that General Gale Hawthorne is your older brother." Vick made a sour face at the dreamy look in her eyes; he'd seen that on enough girls to know where Lacey's thoughts had carried her – to Gale's physique and strength.
"I hate to break it to you, but my brother is happily married and a doting father of two. Ever since Madge came back into his life, he's turned into one of those sappy guys that don't even see any other girls," Vick said hoping to take Lacey's thoughts off his brother.
Lacey sighed with her eyes closed and said, "That's so romantic; he's just perfect." She opened her eyes and laughed at the sour look on Vick's face. "Now look who's jealous." Instead of defending himself with words, Vick kissed her passionately making her forget other men even existed. After a few moments, he lowered her to the ground so he could be on top and really kiss her properly.
Vick felt someone's finger on his shoulder and he startled away from Lacey's lips. The scared young man looked up into his brother's gray eyes and said, "Gale! I knew you'd find us. I've never been happier to see you." Vick looked up at his brother and noticed several other people behind Gale with lights that blinded him.
"For heaven's sake, Vick. Do you know how many bears and bob cats are in these woods? Ten of us walked in here and we weren't exactly quiet. You had no idea. What if it was an animal?"
Vick looked at Lacey and said, "Sorry, we were a little busy." Lacey tried to sit up, embarrassed.
Gale crouched down and put his hand forward towards Lacey as he said, "I'm Gale, Vick's older brother."
"She hurt her ankle. I think it's sprained," Vick explained.
"My name is Lacey. Thank you for finding us, Mr. Hawthorne," Lacey said politely with red cheeks. Vick extricated himself from Lacey; she looked mortified.
"Call me Gale. One of my guys is going to carry you back to the jeep and then he'll take you to my house. My wife, Madge, is at home."
"I've met Madge before. When she visited Vick in District Eight," Lacey offered.
Gale raised his eyebrow at Vick and he offered, "Lacey and I were friends in college. We ran into her at brunch when Madge visited. Wait, what do you mean they are going to carry Lacey and take her home? What about us?"
Gale smirked and motioned for one of his men to pick up Lacey. Vick didn't like the idea of an overly muscular soldier carrying his girl, but one look from Gale stopped all his protests. Gale turned to his younger brother and asked, "If you collected the branches, why didn't you start a fire?"
"I didn't have any matches," Vick offered quickly.
Gale shook his head and said, "You and I are going to spend the night out here and I'm going to give you a crash course on surviving in the woods where Ma can't baby you out of it."
"Gale, I'm exhausted and cold. I just want to go home," Vick complained hoping to get out of this excursion.
Gale pulled out his phone and called Madge as he explained the situation to her. "Ma, Henry, Rory, Nona and Posy are all at my place. They were worried about you so they all flew in on the corporate jet," Gale explained to Vick.
"Come on, Gale, can't we just go home? I want to see Ma and I need a soft, warm bed. I promise we'll do this another day."
Gale shook his head and gave orders to all his men to leave. He kept a jacket for Vick along with a few simple supplies. It was brotherly bonding time. "It's embarrassing to think my brother didn't even know how to light a fire to stay warm. Have you even had anything to eat?" Vick shook his head hoping Gale brought some food with him. Gale threw him a bow and said, "Let's go catch dinner."
Gale and Vick walked into his apartment at seven in the morning – dirty and exhausted. Gale had talked to Madge and Hazelle on the phone and though they both disagreed vehemently with his decision to stay in the woods with Vick, he hadn't relented one bit. It was always because he gave in to his mother that Vick didn't know how to survive in the woods. Everyone had finally given up trying to change his mind and gone to bed knowing that Vick was safe with Gale. Nona and Rory were downstairs in Madge's old apartment. Everyone else was asleep in the penthouse apartment.
Madge sat up on the bed as she saw Gale step out of the shower. She jumped out of the bed to hug him and immediately asked, "Is Vick alright?"
"Yes, and I'm fine too," he teased as he kissed her.
She peppered his face with kisses as she said, "I'm so glad you're both home safely. Did you really need to teach him tonight, Gale?"
By the time Gale and Hazelle prepared breakfast, everyone was up and about. Madge pulled out things from the pantry as Posy and Nona set the table. Only Vick and Lacey were still asleep. Everyone else sat down to eat breakfast. Gale held Madge's chair back for her as he always did; he loved the smile she gave him every time.
He remembered something and went back in the kitchen to get it. Walking back into the dining room, he put a jar in front of Madge. She looked up at him surprised and he winked at her. Madge's cheeks took on the crimson color he loved and he leaned over to kiss her cheek. Before he could get away, she asked him astonished, "How did you know?"
Gale moved his lips to her ear and whispered, "I know your body better than you know it. I knew it last night as soon as we made love. That's why I stopped by the store on my way home this morning."
"Gale, that's ridiculous; it's too soon for changes in my body," she protested.
"Maybe for you to notice. If you'd study your body as closely as I do, then you would know too," he whispered planting another kiss next to her ear.
"I love you," she whispered back, blushing. Fortunately, everyone was busy talking or serving themselves so they'd all missed the little exchange between Gale and Madge. He had cooked all of Madge's favorite breakfast items so he scooped healthy portions of everything onto her plate.
"That's a lot of food, Madge," Posy said. Madge just shrugged her shoulders. Gale leaned over and opened the jar he'd placed in front of her and gave Madge his I-love-you-more-than-life-itself smile.
While Madge was lost in Gale's smile, Nona reached over from the other side of Madge and grabbed the jar as she said, "It's the weirdest thing, I was just thinking of okra pickles when I woke up this morning." She put one in her mouth quickly and sighed as if it was the best thing in the world.
Posy made a disgusted face and said, "Okra pickles in the morning? That's gross, Nona."
Gale looked up at Rory and said, "You know what this means, bro, right?"
"No, what?" Rory asked looking confused and somewhat disgusted at his wife.
A sly look crossed Gale's features and he said, "That I'm finally going to be an uncle."
Rory looked from Gale's smug face to Nona's shocked one. He looked a little green as he whispered, "How did that happen?"
Gale laughed as he looked up and said, "Henry, do you want to explain this one to Rory?"
"Hey, not in front of my precious, innocent princess," Henry said covering Posy's ears.
"Dad! I am not that innocent; I'm eighteen years…,"
Rory and Gale both cut Posy off and said in unison, "What?"
Posy rolled her eyes and said, "I do know where babies come from." She turned to Rory and continued, "Even if Rory doesn't."
Hazelle stood up and cleared her throat before Posy's brothers and Henry interrogated her any more. Hugs and congratulations were shared around the table. Rory declared he and Nona would be moving to District Twelve soon since neither knew what to do with a baby. Hazelle assured them both she'd be there every step of the way for them. She kissed Nona's cheek and then straightened thoughtfully.
Hazelle eyed Madge and said, "Hmmm…I saw Gale put that jar of pickles in front of you, Madge. And I clearly remember your constant cravings for okra pickles when you were pregnant with the twins." She raised her eyebrow at her eldest daughter-in-law.
Madge blushed and said, "I just found out yesterday. I hadn't even had a chance to tell Gale, but he just knew." She looked at Gale and her eyes begged him to not tell anyone how he knew.
Everyone turned to Gale and he smugly said, "Hey, what can I say I'm good." He wasn't about to tell everyone that he knew by the fullness of her breasts or a slight firmness of her stomach. Gale turned to Nona and said, "Be prepared, Nona, those Hawthorne genes are really strong." He pointed to the dark-haired, gray-eyed twins at the other end of the table. Nona laughed embarrassed and Gale continued, "Though I'm hoping for a blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl this time." He kissed Madge's cheek.
Just then Vick carried a very embarrassed Lacey into the dining room and set her in one of the chairs. The room went quiet and he looked up and asked, "What did I miss?"
"You're going to be an uncle again," Hazelle said excitedly.
"Excellent! More children to spoil." He looked at the twins and continued, "Ah, there are my little tyrants." Vick kissed his nephews earning some excited gurgles and baby food in his hair. He then turned his gaze to Madge and Nona as he asked, "So, which one of my lovely sisters-in-law is it?"
"Both," Hazelle said barely trying to contain herself.
Before Vick had a chance to say anything, Madge stood up and pointed her finger at Vick and Lacey as she said, "And you are not getting married while I'm pregnant. You will wait till I lose all my baby fat." She then turned her gaze accusingly to Nona and Rory.
"Awe, angel, you looked beautiful at Rory's and Nona's wedding," the doting husband said to his wife, meaning every word of it.
"Gale, I was eight months pregnant with twins. I was huge – not beautiful!"
"Uh, Madge, Lacey and I just saw each other for the first time yesterday in almost three years. I don't think we're ready to talk about marriage. We haven't even been on a date yet."
"You better not be, Vick Hawthorne. No wedding while Nona and I are still pregnant. Got it?" Madge declared with finality.
She sat down and gingerly placed the napkin across her lap once again as she sweetly said, "Hey Vick, I so called this between you and Lacey. You should've just listened to me three years ago." Gale laughed the loudest, Madge had filled him in on Lacey and he knew she wasn't going to be just another girl in Vick's life. There were definitely wedding bells in their future.
Gale looked around the table at everyone's happy faces and then at Madge. Her eyes mirrored his thoughts...this is our family just as we were always meant to be - happy and together!
A/N: Thank you again, everyone, for reading, reviewing, following and favoriting this story. I don't consider this story solely my work since a lot of it is based on ideas from several of you. I enjoyed hearing from you and our correspondence back and forth.
Thank you, andinify, for encouraging me to write this. I told her several ideas and she picked this one.
Let me know what you thought of the Hawthornes in this chapter.