The Devereaux Legacy: Chapter Five - Part 5 (A)

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The Devereaux Legacy: Chapter Five - Part 5 (A)

  1. 1. Welcome back to the Devereaux Legacy! In the last chapter Karen was dating Thaddeus, but Zane busted out his Reaper Tone and scared Thaddeus off. For now. Laurana, who had been determined to just be by herself and not get close to anyone, found a friend in Vaughn Fitzhugh and she realized that she actually liked him as more than a friend. Unfortunately, as she's an awkward person, she ended up running away from him as soon as they got too close. And, heiress Eden Devereaux spent a good portion of college “getting friendly” with Sims from other mini-verses and being a main topic on celebrity gossip sites. Mary, Eden's mother, decided that it was time to put her foot down and issue and ultimatum: “Don't get caught in public with another man, otherwise you're marrying him.” Eden tried to be discreet, but she still ended up being spotted with a rather infamous Sim, Rhys Fitzhugh (Fitzhugh Legacy/Villainous Apocalypse by Smoothiequeen). Needless to say, Mary was not pleased. Oh. And Keith's Pants Embargo ended. He got a TARDIS. He's very happy with it. If absolutely none of this made sense, you probably started reading my legacy in the middle of the story. Why would you want to do that? It'd make a WHOLE lot more sense if you started from the beginning! For everyone else, on with the show! ***
  2. 2. The gossip sites had a field day when the mystery man that Eden had been seen with in Twikkii Island was Rhys Fitzhugh. However, much to the media's dismay, when it became apparent that he wasn't going to do anything scandalous, everyone grew used to seeing Rhys accompanying Eden to various social events. The pair could always be seen holding holds or their arms wrapped around each other. Rhys seemed to enjoy being in the spotlight and they were both very good at smiling and posing for the cameras.
  3. 3. They were also very good at finding a secluded corner or private area where they could do much more than hold hands.
  4. 4. Eden having a steady boyfriend made it much easier, and much less gossip worthy, when the two of them would spend the night in at his place.
  5. 5. The privacy also made other things much easier. And comfortable. At first, Eden had been reluctant to contact Rhys. She had read about him on the site that her grandfather had shown the family and while it appeared that Rhys had reformed, somewhat, there was a lot of baggage that came with him. Baggage was something that she really didn't want to deal with in a boyfriend, especially since whoever she dated would be in the spotlight with her, and the media would find new and creative ways to insult not just her, but him as well. She didn't want to subject anyone to that. And then, of course, there was her mother... On a whim, though, after she had received another harassing phone call from her mother, she decided to call him up. Her original intent was to irritate Mary a little and maybe have a bit of fun with a cute guy. After a few conversations on the phone, they met in person. She hadn't counted on the mad chemistry they had together. He was exciting, charming, charismatic, and best of all, he made her smile. They ended up at his place that night, which was something that Eden never did on a first date. The 'hoo was fantastic, mind blowing, even. So, there had been a second date. A third. The trip to Twikkii Island. Rhys was rapidly becoming a permanent fixture in Eden's life.
  6. 6. She was head over heels for him. It took her a while to realize that, but the fact that she always felt herself smiling like an idiot whenever she looked at him was a big clue. Not that she told him or used the “L” word with him, of course. She knew better than to put him on the spot like that. Unfortunately, because she actually cared what he thought about her, it made some things rather difficult: like eating in front of him. She knew that he was a far more neat person than she was and no matter how hard she tried, she was always dripping something on her shirt or skirt. In fact, she really didn't like spending the night at his place because he was one of those people who liked to make breakfast in the morning. This morning was one of the few exceptions that she made, as she was going to be going out of town for a few months to film a movie, her first since she graduated college. She sat at the table nervously as Rhys grabbed mixing bowls from the cabinet, humming a bit under his breath as he did so.
  7. 7. “Thank you,” she said as he placed the pancakes in front of her. “But it wasn't really necessary to make breakfast.”
  8. 8. “Well, I never want it to be said that I don't stick around in the morning,” Rhys said with a teasing smile. “Besides, I'm starving. I know you said you ate before coming over last night, but I think we might have burned off a few of those calories.” Eden smiled wanly and picked up her fork.
  9. 9. She carefully cut off a small piece of the pancake and made sure that there was no syrup on it and slowly placed it in her mouth. She was concentrating on her task so hard that she was completely unaware that Rhys was observing her. The smile was gone from his face and his brow was creased slightly. Eden chewed slowly, swallowed, and began to cut another tiny bit of pancake.
  10. 10. “Is there something wrong with the food?” Rhys finally asked. “Oh, no. It's delicious. I'm..just not very hungry,” Eden said, praying that her stomach wouldn't choose that moment to growl. She willed for him to believe her and she was relieved when a slight smile returned to his face and he said, “Must have been a big dinner you had the night before.” She shrugged and looked back down at her plate, again unaware the he had stopped smiling. She took a few more painfully slow bites before she said, “I really should get going. I still have a few things to pack before I head to Three Lakes.”
  11. 11. He stood up with her and touched her cheek. As she leaned into his caress, she could see the question on his face. Please don't ask, please don't ask. I'm far too embarrassed to tell you, she thought. Again her inner pleas were answered when he only asked, “You'll call me when you get there?”
  12. 12. She kissed him on the cheek, wished that she could stay for more, and then reluctantly let him go. “It's not like you won't see me. I gave you the address to where I'll be staying.” She took a deep breath. “I..I hope I'll see you there often,” she said with a smile. He opened his mouth, and it looked to Eden as if he were going to ask about the food, but he must have thought better of it because he only replied with, “Well, just let me know when it's a good time for me to come.” She nodded, gave him another quick kiss and left before she gave into the temptation to stay longer.
  13. 13. She rushed home as fast as she could and made an immediate dash to the refrigerator. She was positively starving. As she looked for some food, her thoughts strayed to Rhys. She knew he was going to ask about her eating habits sooner or later; the last few times they had gone out she could see the question on his face and even that morning she could tell that he was very close to asking. She sighed and put it out of her head as she spied all the ingredients to make a salad, including some onions. She wasn't going to be kissing anyone in her immediate future, so she grabbed all of it.
  14. 14. She managed to suppress a sigh when she saw that her mother was sitting at the table waiting for her. “Why, Eden! How nice of you to come home before you're off to the movie location! Shall I assume that you were out with Rhys all last night and all this morning?” “Yes, Mother, I was.” “Well, how...delightful. He's that one fellow who is very meticulous, isn't he? Didn't I tell you that learning how to eat like a lady would pay off? I can't imagine that he would find unsavory eating habits very attractive. Or have the two of you been too busy plotting nefarious deeds to have a chance to eat?”
  15. 15. This time, Eden did sigh. She didn't know which was worse: Her mother harassing her about marriage, which she promptly stopped as soon as Eden got involved with Rhys, or Mary's digs about his past. “He's not really like that. At least not anymore,” she said quietly. “And how, exactly, do you know that, Eden? Part of the reason why he's so 'charming' is because he knows how to manipulate people. I don't want to see you, or the rest of this family, hurt when you find out that he's just using you.” “I'm an adult, Mother. I can take care of myself if that is the case, of which I don't think it is.” She was fairly certain about that. With all the time they had spent together he had appeared...genuine. Oh, she was sure that at first he wanted to date her because of who she was. On the other hand, to be fair, that was the same reason why she started dating him. But, things had changed, and Eden was a big believer in second chances.
  16. 16. “I really, really like him, Mother. I really do.” “Eden, dear, that's because you don't know what you want. You shouldn't settle. I was wrong to pressure you into marrying someone too soon. Clearly it has made you act in an irrational manner,” Mary pleaded. “I do know what I want. I want someone who..who makes me happy, and he does. Shouldn't that be enough?” “Well, I was just thinking--”
  17. 17. Eden got up from the table. “Mother, I need to get a little sleep and then I have to pack.” “It's just...Eden, I met the most delightful young man at the bookstore the other day and I think you would really like him. He's a bit on the shy side, but he's a Family Sim. His name is Ly--” “No, Mother. I'm not a Family Sim, nor do I really want to be one. The 'issue' with Rhys is closed. He likes me for me. And I, quite frankly, find that refreshing.”
  18. 18. Mary crossed her arms and shook her head as she watched her daughter go up the stairs. She didn't really like the attitude Eden was getting since she had started dating Rhys. Before him, Eden would have never thought of talking to her mother in such a tone. She was glad that Eden was going to be far away from Rhys for the next couple of months. Her only regret was that the stores were keeping she herself in town, otherwise she would accompany Eden to Three Lakes. She really hoped that Eden's infatuation with Rhys would die down. After all, Romance Sims had a tendency to be flighty when it came to love. She knew that from personal experience. ***
  19. 19. “...Speaking of which, did you know that they moved to Pleasantview?” Jill Grunt asked.
  20. 20. “Why the hell would I know that? I've made it a point not to know about Phee's life ever since the divorce became final. She got what she wanted.”
  21. 21. Buck watched the conversation between his wife and her brother. Whenever the topic of Ophelia came up, he tried to remain as silent as possible as she was a very bitter topic for Johnny, even though a few years had passed. However, he couldn't help himself when he blurted out, “They're married now.” He winced after he said the words.
  22. 22. “That's just fucking fantastic news!” Johnny exclaimed, his tone heavy with sarcasm. “So he's finally admitting that Sadie is his then?” “Well, they had a paternity test done and--” “Why was there a need for one? I'd like to think that I have some rather distinctive features and dark blue eyes and brown hair are not on that list.”
  23. 23. “Johnny, watch your language in front of Matthew, please,” Jill said. “Sorry, Buck. I didn't mean to swear. It's not you I'm angry with,” Johnny apologized. “No, it's okay. I know that.”
  24. 24. “So what about you?”
  25. 25. “What about me?” Johnny asked. “Come on. You know what I'm talking about. You're a Pop Sim. Have you 'Met Someone New?'” When Johnny shifted uncomfortably, Jill pressed on. “Johnny, I love you and I know that what they did hurt, but are you going to remain a recluse forever? I thought you moved to Pleasantview to have a fresh start.” “I go out sometimes,” he mumbled.
  26. 26. “Okay, this is coming from Mom and not me, I want you to know that. But the last time I talked to her the words, 'Itching to have another grandbaby,' were mentioned in that order. Often.” “The definition of subtle should have Mom's picture right next to it.” Jill sighed. “It's just, you know, you're getting older and--”
  27. 27. “I'm thirty, Jill. That hardly qualifies me as 'older,'” he said dryly. “You're making it sound like I have my foot in the grave.” Then, because he was curious to see the expression on his sister's face, he said, “And as a matter of fact, I did meet someone.”
  28. 28. “Liar,” she said with a snort. “I can tell when you lie, you know that.” “I'm serious. I did. Her name is Karen. She's even spent the night at my place,” he responded with a smile. It was technically true, though nothing had happened between the two of them other than her passed out in the middle his bed while he spent an uncomfortable night in an armchair. He had the feeling that the Grim Reaper would have been displeased if anything more would have happened, not that Johnny would have done such a thing. “Really? You're shitting me,” Jill said, disbelief evident in her voice. “Jill, what about Matthew's precious ears? I'm quite surprised at your language,” Johnny said, enjoying himself. “It's been five years since you and Phee broke up. I would have thought that you meeting a new girl would have been the first thing you mentioned.”
  29. 29. “Well, you know, it's not very serious--” “But serious enough for her to spend the night at your place? That's not like you.” Johnny suddenly wished that he wouldn't have said anything. While it was true that Karen did spend the night at his place, he hadn't talked to her since then. He had thought her to be obnoxious and cruel. And cute, but he tried not to think about that, even though she had seemed different the following morning. He sighed. “It's not what you think--” “I think you're moping, to be honest. I think you're too scared to get close to anyone again. So, instead, you bury yourself in your work and you let the world pass you by. That's not healthy.” She had a point, and he knew it.
  30. 30. “Okay, you got me. I'm not seeing anyone. I did meet someone, kind of, I guess. But, I don't know. It's complicated.” “You should call her.” “You don't even know her!” “What harm is one phone call going to do? Seriously, one day you're going to wake up and realize that your blond hair has turned white and that you are all alone in that house of yours. Call this girl. Go out for coffee. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But at least you'll have made the attempt, and the next phone call to a girl you just met will be easier.” “I'll think about it, okay?”
  31. 31. Jill hugged him as he got ready to leave. “Oh, Johnny,” she said, “I just want to see you happy. We all do.” “I know that. But did it ever occur to you guys that maybe I am happy just being alone?” “No you aren't, and you know it.” He did know it, but he didn't want to give her the satisfaction that she had scored another point on him, so he just shrugged, smiled, and went to say goodbye to his nephew.
  32. 32. “Hey little guy,” he said to Matthew, “I'll see you next week, alright?” “Bye, Uncle Johnny,” the blond toddler said cheerfully. Johnny smiled as he tried not to notice the color of Matthew's eyes: the color of Buck's eyes...the color of Sadie's eyes, the child that should have been his.
  33. 33. Johnny sighed when he got home. Confronting the empty house was always the worst part.
  34. 34. He tried very hard to ignore the echos his footsteps made as he walked up the stairs towards his bedroom.
  35. 35. As he sat down at his computer, he tried very, very hard to ignore the empty bed behind him. His sister was right: he did have a tendency to bury himself in his work. Working for the Pleasantview Bugle was okay, he supposed, as writing articles for it provided a necessary distraction from his thoughts. But sometimes the writing didn't help.
  36. 36. “Okay, so after the wedding, of which Ripp will be your best man--” “Of course.” “After that, then what?” “Well, then I will work my way up the media food chain until I control all of it. That way, my lovely wife and three wonderful children--” “Who will all be college educated.” “Naturally. That way, my family will be well provided for.” “That sounds like a good plan. Want to seal the deal with a kiss?”
  37. 37. “Dude, I can't believe you let her dress us up in pink!” “Shh, Ripp. If she says it's burgundy, then we'll pretend it's burgundy.” “Both of you be quiet. I want a nice picture of me with my two best guys wearing their burgundy vests.”
  38. 38. “That's one. Two more to go. We're almost there, Phee.” “Well, don't forget the college part.” “I'm not. Oh my God, we're going to be parents. Can you believe it?”
  39. 39. “What the hell!”
  40. 40. “Johnny!” “I'll send for my things.” “John..Johnny. We're sorry, man. It just happened.” “Fuck you , Ripp. Fuck both of you.”
  41. 41. Hesitantly, he went to the phone and dialed a phone number. He was surprised to realize that he had memorized it.
  42. 42. “Hello, is this Karen? It is? Um, this is Johnny Smith. I don't know if you remember me, but--” he blinked. “You do remember me? Oh...”
  43. 43. He took a deep breath. “I know this is really out of the blue, but I was wondering if you would like to go out for coffee with me sometime...” ***
  44. 44. “Because they...?” “Yes. Because they...” “And how do you know that they're really...” “What are you saying? That they fake it?” “It's possible.” “Get outta here!”
  45. 45. “Why did you turn that off? Not only was I watching that, but that was one of the best parts of the movie,” Aviendha said. “It's a stupid movie.”
  46. 46. “What has gotten into you lately?” Aviendha asked her daughter, exasperated. “Ever since you came back from school you've been like this. I can appreciate sullen, I really can. But you are being downright morose.” “Nothing's gotten into me, Mom. I'm fine.”
  47. 47. For the last four months, the words “I'm fine,” were frequent in Laurana's dialog. I'm fine, she would think to herself as she halfheartedly tended her garden.
  48. 48. I'm fine, she thought when she saw the only job opening in the Marine Biology field was in Veronaville, to which she rejected.
  49. 49. “I'm fine,” she always said to her mother when Aviendha would ask what was wrong.
  50. 50. “No, Dad, I'm fine,” she would always say to her father who meant well, but who had started resorting to threats of violence against whoever hurt his daughter.
  51. 51. I'm fine, she said to herself every night, and every morning, when she saw the empty half of her grownup bed.
  52. 52. Four months since the last time she talked to Vaughn. For four months Laurana had kept everything bottled up inside. Her stomach was constantly in knots and her chest always hurt. Even worse, her friend Eden was constantly on the television with her new boyfriend who looked an awful lot like Vaughn; which made sense seeing as Rhys was Vaughn's father. Had she not been so upset, she would have giggled at how strange that was. She couldn't pinpoint exactly what her feelings were. She was sad that Vaughn actually went to Veronaville and she missed him terribly. She was also angry, both at herself for allowing it all to happen, and at Vaughn for integrating himself so much into her life that everything she did reminded her of him. She was also frustrated because she couldn't get out of her slump and she knew that she was acting like one of those weak willed women in a sappy romance novel who waste away because the man in their life had left. After four months, she had enough.
  53. 53. But instead of facing the new day with a new attitude, she found herself crouched over the toilet dry heaving.
  54. 54. After she was done, she sat on the bathroom floor and cried. She knew that she wasn't pregnant seeing as her courses came every month right on schedule. But she was upset that she wasn't because then maybe she would have had a reason to call Vaughn. She couldn't stop crying even though her mother had started knocking on the door. “Lori, are you okay in there?” “Go away, Mom. I'm fine,” she choked out in between sobs.
  55. 55. Aviendha ignored her daughter's words as she came into the bathroom and sat down next to her. “Next time you insist that you're fine when I hear you throwing up and crying, you might want to lock the door,” she said. “Now, I want you to answer me honestly. Are you in trouble? Is that why you've been like this? Does your father need to find someone and hide their body?” “No, Mom, I'm not in trouble.” “You know what I mean when I say that, right? Are you--” “No, I'm not pregnant,” Laurana sniffled. “Then what is wrong?”
  56. 56. After four months, Laurana told her mother everything. She talked about how she met Vaughn and how they became friends. She talked about how now she realized that he was dating her, but not really pressuring her. She talked about how much she missed him because he had left. She even told her mother about what happened the last night she saw him and what she said to him the following morning. “And it was a lie, Mom. I didn't sleep with him because I wanted him to stay. Not really. I did it because I realized that..that--” she stopped. “And now he's gone because I told him that I wanted him to leave and find a girlfriend. I don't want him to have a girlfriend, I want him to be with me. But now he's gone!” Aviendha laughed. “Is that all?” she asked. Laurana became indignant. “What do you mean, 'is that all'? It's a lot!”
  57. 57. Aviendha pulled her daughter close and stroked her head. “You're in love, that's what I meant.” “It hurts!” “I know, baby, I know. Did it ever occur to you to call him? Or, even better, why don't you go to Veronaville and tell him everything you told me? It's only a couple hours away. Things like this need to be said in person.” “What if he doesn't want me? What if he hates me?” “I really doubt he hates you. Go and find out. Do you have anything better to do today other than mope?” “No.” “Then go. Get out of here. You need the fresh air.” ***
  58. 58. The trip to Veronaville actually took two and a half hours considering that Laurana took the train and then a cab to Verona Village.
  59. 59. Laurana picked nervously at her fingers. It was fine and dandy that she made it to the village, but she had absolutely no idea which apartment Vaughn was staying in. This was so stupid, she thought to herself. What am I going to do? Knock on every door and ask, 'Hey, is Vaughn Fitzhugh living here? I just realized that I'm madly in love with him. Could you get him, please? I'll just wait right here. Please don't mind the lovesick look I probably have on my face. Thanks.'
  60. 60. And then, almost as if he heard her, Vaughn exited one of the buildings and started heading to another one.
  61. 61. Her breath caught and she ran a few steps towards him, getting ready to call out to him. Then she stopped, his name on her lips dying. She let the arm that had started to wave to him drop.
  62. 62. She watched him as he turned a corner and headed inside a house, presumably his. She almost followed, but she stopped herself again.
  63. 63. What if that's not his house? she thought. What if it's a girlfriend's house? How would that look? 'Oh, hey, Vaughn. Remember me? I'm that girl you slept with at the end of college. Would your girlfriend mind if I talk to you? Does she mind if I tell you that I'm madly in love with you and I want you back despite what I told you the last time we spoke? Oh, I'm sorry, were you getting ready to 'hoo her? Well, I'll just get going then. Don't mind me, I'll just be on my way.' Yeah. That would go over well.
  64. 64. She slumped down on a bench and clutched her head in her hands. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. This was so stupid. Why did I come here? Of course he has a new girlfriend. I told him I didn't want him. A guy like him? Yeah, he found someone right away. Someone who is not such an idiot.
  65. 65. She sat on the bench until it grew dark. Other residents of the village shot her strange looks as they walked past her, but she didn't notice. She was too busy berating herself for her stupidity. And then, as she sat there her thoughts became more angry at Vaughn. How dare he find a new girlfriend so soon, she thought, utterly convinced that it was true. Doesn't he know that he's supposed to pine away for me for at least six months? How could he get over me so fast? I thought he said that he was madly in love with me! He is such a liar! He's at his girlfriend's house, right now, kissing her when he's supposed to be kissing me. Oh, God, and they're probably 'hooing right now. He hasn't given me a single thought since he made his merry way to Veronaville. How could I have been so stupid? How dare he!
  66. 66. Armed with her anger, she strode to the house she saw Vaughn enter and knocked sharply on the door. Thoughts of him answering with a towel around his waist and a goofy grin signaling that he just got done 'hooing danced in her mind.
  67. 67. He answered, fully clothed, and the only expression on his face was one of surprise, which was quickly replaced with mild curiosity. “Laurana,” he said, “what..what are you doing here?”
  68. 68. I want to know if you have a girlfriend. Did I come at a bad time? Do you still love me? I'm an idiot, Vaughn. Is it too late for me to tell you that I'm madly in love with you and I think I have been since I first met you? Did you know that I still think about our last night together? Did you know that snuggling against a pillow isn't the same as being wrapped in your arms? Did you know that I want nothing more than for you to grab me, kiss me, undress me and...and.. Laurana didn't say any of those things. Instead, the first words that blurted out of her mouth were, “So what's a guy like you doing in a place like this?”
  69. 69. A pained expression crossed his face as he ran a hand over his hair. “Do you want to come inside?” he asked. Laurana nodded, relieved, and followed him in.
  70. 70. The two of them walked into his kitchen and she watched him grab a cup of coffee. She kept opening her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. He also didn't say anything.
  71. 71. He sat down at the table, but kept his face turned away from her. She could see that his chin was jutted forward a bit. It was quite apparent to Laurana that he wasn't going to make things easier for her by breaking the ice. Nervously, she rubbed her hand on her neck. “I'm sorry, Vaughn,” she said quietly, “you hate me, don't you?”
  72. 72. He shoved his cup away and slumped down in the chair with a sigh. “No, Laurana, I don't. Far from it. In fact, I pretty much stopped being upset with you as soon as you showed up at my door.”
  73. 73. Bolstered by his words, she began to reach out to touch his shoulder.
  74. 74. “But I don't know what you want,” he continued, which made Laurana stop. “Because I can't do it. I can't be your friend. I don't want to be. We've tried that before and it didn't work. I--” “You don't need to say anything else, Vaughn,” she interrupted. “I..I think I got my answer.” “Wait..what?” he asked.
  75. 75. He got up and watched her walk out of his door for the second time.
  76. 76. She managed to make a out of his house and a few steps down the road before she broke down crying. “So stupid!” she said out loud. “This entire thing was so dumb! Of course he doesn't want me, not after what I did to him. Why would I think otherwise?”
  77. 77. She tried to stop crying as she heard footsteps behind her. Hastily, she wiped the tears from her face. “You're crying,” she heard Vaughn say. “No, I'm not,” she sniffled, keeping her back to him. “Yes you are. I saw you from the window. Laurana, why are you here? Please, tell me.” “It doesn't matter now. I have to get going if I'm going to catch the train back to Pleasantview in time.”
  78. 78. She felt his hand on her arm. There was no force restraining her, but she stopped anyway. “Why are you here?” he asked again in a whisper. Laurana's voice hitched as she spoke. “It doesn't matter why I'm here, now. You have a new life and a new girlfriend and--” “No, I don't,” he said. The words she wanted to say came tumbling out of her mouth. “These last four months have sucked without you. I've missed you so much and damn you for making it where I see you in everything that I do! I think about you all of the time. So I finally came here to tell you that..that..”
  79. 79. She felt his fingers gently thread into hers. “I came here to tell you that I'm such an idiot. I've been in love with you all of this time and I pushed you away. I came here because I wanted to see you. I want to be with you and have you in my life not as a friend but..but like---”
  80. 80. He turned her around and kissed her. “Like that?” he asked. She nodded. “Is that okay?” He grinned. “Oh, I think something can be arranged,” he said before he kissed her again. ***
  81. 81. The next morning, Laurana made her way downstairs and into the kitchen where Vaughn was already awake and cooking breakfast. She smiled at the grin on his face and she blushed as she admired his bare chest. She tugged at the hem of his nightshirt that she was wearing. “All that and you can cook, too,” she said.
  82. 82. “Well, I have to tell you a secret,” he said. “Omelettes are my specialty. And by that, I mean that they are the only thing I can really cook.” “Fortunately, I like omelettes,” she replied. Vaughn grinned.
  83. 83. Laurana sighed. “So how is this going to work? You're here for another eight months. Do you want me to come up on weekends? Or you come and visit me on weekends? Alternate weekends? Phone calls? What?”
  84. 84. Vaughn put the plate down and took her into his arms. “Or,” he said, “you could stay here.” Laurana laughed. “Oh, Vaughn.” “I'm being totally serious, and I'll admit, a little selfish. All my life I've been surrounded by people. I've come to realize in these last couple of months that living alone sucks. Granted, I don't have to see my parents strut around in their underwear, so I'm glad about that. But,” he shrugged. “I don't know. I'd like to make up for lost time, I guess.”
  85. 85. “You really are serious about me staying, aren't you?” she asked. “Well, yeah. Laurana, what part of 'I love you' and 'I want to be with you' and 'I want to marry you' don't you understand?” “Wait, you never said that you wanted to marry me.” “My apologies. Let me rectify that.”
  86. 86. He bent down on one knee. “Laurana Lewis, as frustrating and stubborn as you can be, I wouldn't want you any other way. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Oh, and have babies with you. And it's probably not appropriate to add in a proposal that I certainly don't mind trying for babies with you, but I'm saying so anyway. My father would probably add that he wants red headed grandbabies with 'The Nose', but that's neither here nor there; our children will be beautiful no matter what because they are ours. What I'm trying to say is will you please marry me?” Laurana found herself laughing uncontrollably. “Vaughn, are you seriously asking me?”
  87. 87. He pulled out a black velvet box and opened it. “I am seriously asking,” he said. “Wh..where did you get the ring?”
  88. 88. He grinned. “You mean you don't carry a diamond ring in your back pocket at all times in case the situation for it arises?”
  89. 89. She slipped the ring on her finger and it fit perfectly. “You knew. You knew I was going to come here and tell you how I felt about you, didn't you?” He shrugged. “I hoped that you would. I was almost sure when you showed up last night, but even then, until you told me why you had come, I wasn't a hundred percent certain. It was a gamble. But, I also figured that I would take the chance and ask you when I moved back to Pleasantview. You know, just in case you didn't show up here.” “What if I would have said no?” The grin slipped from his face. “Are you?”
  90. 90. She jumped into his arms and hugged him. “No, I'm not saying no. I mean, yes. Yes, I will marry you.” “Oh, thank God,” he said with a sigh of relief. “You had me worried for a second.”
  91. 91. With a new found boldness, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him. “Does that make up for it?” she asked.
  92. 92. With a grin, he kissed her again and then slowly started kissing down her neck. The stupidest thought popped into Laurana's mind, but she said it out loud anyway. “Vaughn, what about the omelettes?”
  93. 93. He pulled back and looked at her. “Would you like to try my new cooking specialty later? I call it 'Vaughn's Awesome and Delicious Cold Omelettes.' Patent pending, of course.” ***
  94. 94. “Oh, Zane, everything looks beautiful,” Tina exclaimed. Zane smiled slightly as he placed dinner on the table. “I'm really glad you think so,” he said. “Okay, so now are you going to tell me why you wanted us to get dressed up and why you asked everyone else to leave for the night? What's going on?”
  95. 95. This time Zane gave her a huge smile. “I know I'm being very obvious here, but..thank you for pretending not to know what I'm doing. I really would have liked to do this in a more formal setting that our kitchen but,” he shrugged and left it at that. He pulled out the chair in an old fashioned gesture and smiled again. “Dinner is ready.”
  96. 96. Tina was by no means a stupid woman; she did have a pretty good idea what was going on, and she loved Zane all the more for the effort he put into it. But, though she could tell that he was trying very hard not to let his nerves leak, she could still feel them, and they were making her nervous.
  97. 97. “I..I want to ask you something,” he said. “Yes, Zane,” Tina said firmly. He blinked. “Uh, 'yes' to you allowing me to ask a question, or 'yes' to the question I'm about to ask?” “To the one you're about to ask.” “Oh. Because, well, I was going to ask if the reason why you love me is due to, like, Stockholm Syndrome or something like that.” Tina almost laughed, but she could see that he was completely serious. “No, Zane, that's not why.”
  98. 98. He grinned happily and poured some champagne for the two of them. She could see that his hands were shaking slightly as they sipped from the glasses and after that, she could see that he was starting to twist his hands in his lap.
  99. 99. Gently, she took one of them into hers and smiled encouragingly at him. “Zane, I love you. Don't be nervous, okay? Just...ask!”
  100. 100. Shyly, he pulled out a small velvet box and carefully placed it on the table.
  101. 101. “I was thinking the other day that, according to the ages of my family on the Mortal Realm, I've been Dead for over forty years. You've been here for about twenty, and you and I have been..er..together for almost four.” Tina blinked, startled by that revelation. It hadn't seemed that long. Zane continued. “What I'm trying to say is that I've loved you for nearly every moment that I've known you. And I don't know what possessed you to fall in love in return, but I thank the Creator every day that you do. You make me so happy even when you're just in the room with me reading a book. I can only hope that I come close to making you as happy.” “You do,” she said softly. “And, well, I know it's not much of a life here, but I would be honored if you would spend it with me officially as my wife. Tina, will..will you marry me?”
  102. 102. Tina gently pulled the ring from its box. “I don't know what I did to deserve this undying devotion you have for me,” she said quietly, “but I'm glad that I have it. I have never been more loved by anybody else in my life. And Zane, how can anybody not love you? You're...you. That's why I do. There's no other way to explain it.” She laughed a little as a tear slid down her cheek. “You know, never once, while growing up, did I ever think to myself, 'You know, I think I'm going to marry the Grim Reaper when I grow up.' And yet, here I am and..and I wouldn't want it any other way.” She gently placed the ring on her finger.
  103. 103. Zane smiled wider than he ever had before. “So, is that a yes?” “Yes, I will marry you. I want to marry you.”
  104. 104. He got up and grabbed her around her waist. “Yes? You're saying yes? We're going to get married? We're going to have a wedding and everything?” Tina laughed. “Yes, we're getting married. How are we going to do the wedding? In the living room?” “Oh, no. I have somewhere that we can go that's on this realm. I mean, I have to ask him, but it should be okay. I should go right now to make sure that--”
  105. 105. Tina cut his words off with a kiss. “Or maybe I can ask him later.” Tina kissed him again. “Tomorrow. Tomorrow would be a good time to ask him,” he said as he slid his arms around his fiance and kissed her deeply.
  106. 106. Very late the following morning, Zane found himself asking a favor from his friend. “...so I was wondering if we could borrow your garden,” he said. He was consciously aware that he was grinning, but he seemed unable to stop ever since the night before.
  107. 107. Spider Jerusalem Vetinari flicked one of his wings moodily as he glanced at his grinning guest. “Huh? Oh, sure. What was this for again?” he asked, as he had stopped paying attention as soon as Zane began babbling on and on about his love life.
  108. 108. Unperturbed by the winged man's attitude, Zane's face took on a dreamy expression as he recalled, for the umpteenth time, the night before. “Tina,” he said, “I asked her to marry me.” “Uh-huh. That's great. Good for you.”
  109. 109. Zane leaned over one of the numerous flower bushes and pulled a branch towards him. He inhaled the sweet smell which was intense in comparison to actual flowers. Everything in Spider's garden was slightly more real and more bright than reality. He knew that Tina would love it and it would be the most perfect place to get married. He would have been slightly jealous of Spider's capability to create such wonderful settings when he himself was unable to, due to his status as a Grim Reaper. As a rule, Reapers cannot create, they can only take away. But Zane found that he wasn't jealous. Not that day. He was far too happy with his lot in life and for once, he didn't feel as if he were missing out on anything. “Can you believe that she actually said yes?” Zane asked for the tenth time.
  110. 110. “Actually, yes, I can,” said Spider Jerusalem wryly. “This is the Dead Realm. Dating opportunities are really limited.” He caught Zane’s hurt expression, and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, sorry, she’s your dream girl, yadda yadda, you want to borrow my garden for the wedding, fine. You’ll have to bring your own booze and clean up afterwards.”
  111. 111. Zane's expression was shocked as he began to protest. “Oh! I wouldn’t dream of . . . oh.” He had just registered that Spider’s face was twisted in a grin. “Oh, I see. You were making a joke.”
  112. 112. Spider rubbed his forehead and sighed. “Zane, we're both Reaper Children. Dead Reaper Children. How is it possible that we don't have anything more in common than that? I mean, seriously!” Zane shrugged. For his part, he wasn't always sure what to make of Spider Jerusalem. He was spiky, stompy, and often times a rather difficult neighbor.
  113. 113. On more than one occasion he had caught Spider trying to steal his newspaper, even though the Dead Realm had no newspapers. He figured that it was probably the principle of the thing. He had since taken to buying newspapers and garden gnomes from the Mortal Realm so Spider had something to grab. He had absolutely no idea what Spider did with them.
  114. 114. But, Spider had come to visit him and made him feel less alone on the Dead Realm. And that alone made it worth the price of all the newspapers and garden gnomes in the world. Having Tina, Ruth, Jezebel, and Remington was nice and all, wonderful really, but to know that there was someone almost like him made Zane happy. He never had to explain things to Spider, because Spider understood. Besides, Spider was so...cool. He was embarrassed to admit it, but he sort of hero worshiped him.
  115. 115. “We would both really like for you to be there,” Zane said. “I sort of have to be there. This place only exists from my consciousness. If I'm not here, there is no here. That's the entire point!”
  116. 116. Zane ran a hand through his hair. “I know,” he said kindly, “but I don't mean it like that. I don't want you here just creating the garden. I want you to be here, for my wedding. As a guest.”
  117. 117. Spider was about to make a snarky reply, but stopped. Very few things made him feel bad, but raining on Zane's parade was one of them. “Fine,” he said, “I'll be here. I'll imagine up some formal clothes and try to look all thrilled for you and stuff.”
  118. 118. Zane happily walked over to the fountain and reached out to touch one of the perpetual soap bubbles. He was happy that he was getting married and that there would be an actual guest. “Oh, you don't mind if Ruth, Jezebel, and Remington come, do you? I mean, they live with us and of course I want them there anyway, but it'd be really mean not to invite them.” “Sure,” said Spider, who didn't even try to look interested.
  119. 119. Zane stood up and began to wring his hands. “Because, um, it's not like I can invite my mother or anything.” “Oh, dear God, I hope not! That psycho bitch isn't coming anywhere near my garden!” “Spider...” “I mean it! Let her die and get her own. Wait, no, just let her die and leave it at that. Oh, and while we're on the subject of who to bring, your horse can't come. I don't want him eating all the flowers.” “Oh, Palus said that he doesn't do weddings because they're too stiff and formal and there's never enough booze to get a horse drunk.” “Palus? I thought his name was Binky.” “Why does everyone keep thinking that?”
  120. 120. Zane shook his head and his smile returned. He gestured towards a large plot of flowers and said, “Oh, and if you wanted to invite--”
  121. 121. The words died on his lips as soon as he saw Spider's expression. “I mean, I just thought...” he trailed off. “What..how--?” were the only words Spider uttered.
  122. 122. Evidently, Spider hadn't learned that when people disappeared, their shadows did not. At least not to Zane who was able to sense that sort of thing.
  123. 123. Zane quickly grew embarrassed. What Spider did was his own business, of course. But, there were no doors in this place and Spider was sort of an...exhibitionist. Zane blushed to the roots of his hair. There were things he did not need to know and did not need to remember and things he probably hadn’t seen anyway. But, certainly the person was a friend if they were in Spider's garden, right? Zane had learned a long time ago that Reaper Children had very few friends, and any friend of Spider's was a friend of his. “I..I just thought. Um, never mind,” he stammered.
  124. 124. “Oh, I almost forgot,” Zane said quickly in an attempt to change the subject. “I brought you some cake.” He pulled out a white box and handed it to his friend. “It's from Cassidy and Gil's bakery in Pleasantview. I know they don't know that they're my...well they don't know who I am here, but it makes me happy to check up on them from time to time. I saw this and I thought you might like to have it.”
  125. 125. “A bribe, huh?” Spider said as he peered under the lid. “Mm, chocolate.” “No, not a bribe. It's a gift.” Spider looked up at Zane. “That's an awful lot of cake for just one person.”
  126. 126. Zane's eyes were drawn back to the spot of flowers over his shoulder. “It's not like it will go bad here,” he said. “I'm sure you'll find something to do with it.”
  127. 127. He turned as if to go, and then turned back. “Thank you again for letting us use your garden,” he said with another smile.
  128. 128. He turned and walked away, determined not to look back this time. Behind him, he heard a faint discordant sound like feedback, and then an indignant masculine voice. “And precisely what was that supposed to mean?” “Hey, shut up,” he heard Spider say. “We can has cake.” ***
  129. 129. “Are you happy?” Vaughn asked in a whisper as Laurana approached the wedding arch. She smiled and placed her hands in his. “Very,” she replied. The two of them had agreed on having a very small ceremony limited to immediate family. Vaughn knew what Laurana had meant when she requested that: If Rhys was going to come, he couldn't bring Eden. It was nothing against her, it was just that Laurana didn't want to deal with the massive amounts of photographers that would inevitably follow her. Eden had been far more understanding about it that Rhys, but, in the end, Laurana's wishes were respected.
  130. 130. Though the wedding was small, it didn't make it any less beautiful or meaningful. Laurana smiled at the happy grin Vaughn had on his face as she slipped the wedding ring on his finger.
  131. 131. As Vaughn placed the ring on her finger, Laurana felt a tear in her eye. She blamed it on the contacts that she very rarely wore.
  132. 132. With a few more words, and a whole lot more smiles they were married.
  133. 133. The most important thing, of course, was their first kiss as husband and wife. When it was all over, Laurana Lewis became Laurana Fitzhugh.
  134. 134. Laurana took a deep breath and smiled at all the people there. It turned out that she knew more of Vaughn's family than she had originally thought; a lot of them had been friends with her grandfather, Xander, and they had been present for a lot of his multiple parties.
  135. 135. Not that it made her any more comfortable when they all started tapping their glasses and chanting, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss”
  136. 136. “You okay?” Vaughn asked as she started looking around in a panic. She breathed a grateful sigh of relief. “Yeah, I'm fine. But, what am I supposed to do?” Vaughn smiled. “I think we're supposed to kiss.” “In front of everyone?” “Yep. In front of everyone. Get used to it, because I think they're going to do this all night.”
  137. 137. As they kissed, Rhys gasped in mock horror. “Oh, no, my virgin eyes! I'm going to be traumatized! Someone pass the brain bleach. I can't believe you guys do this in front of me!” De and Cassius laughed along with him and they laughed even harder when Spencer called out, “Oh, man, that's nothing. Hey, Rhys, do you want to hear about--” “NO!” Rhys practically shrieked.
  138. 138. Vaughn heaved a long suffering sigh and shook his head. “Yeah, welcome to the family, by the way. Sane population: Zero.” “This...this is normal?” He laughed. “No. They are being tame and well behaved today.” “You know what?” said Laurana. “I don't care.” “Good. I'm glad.”
  139. 139. He spun her around in an impromptu dance. “You know what just occurred to me?” he asked. “What's that?” “That I really should call Achilles up and thank him.” She raised her eyebrows. “What for?”
  140. 140. “For loaning me that Hawaiian shirt. It actually did work,” and before she could say anything, he dipped her back and kissed her. They were both laughing when they came up.
  141. 141. “Okay, it's my turn for a toast!” De called out to everyone. “Vaughn, come stand by me!” “Oh, God. I'm right here, Mom.” “Good. Okay, Laurana, I want you to know that we all love you and we want to welcome you to the family. Resistance is futile! Anyway, if you ever want to know anything, just call me up and I will be more than happy to take you on a trip to the Department of Oversharing.” “Oh, dear God up above, please, please, please stop my mother,” Vaughn said. “Hush Vaughn. Just send me the therapy bills. You are far too sensitive and I have no idea where you got it from! Anyway, to Vaughn and Laurana: May you embarrass your children with as much glee as your own parents embarrass you.”
  142. 142. Ashley's toast was a bit more sentimental, but no less funny. “Lori, your mother and I want to wish you and your husband all of the luck and the happiness in the world. I am really glad that you found someone who makes you laugh as much as I've seen you do around Vaughn.” He dropped his voice to a theatrical whisper. “And if you ever need to hide his body because he upset you, we will be right there to help. No questions asked...that red haired guy is glaring at the back of my head isn't he?” “To Vaughn and Laurana!” Aviendha cheered and everyone joined in.
  143. 143. “To Vaughn and Laurana,” Rhys said as he clinked his glass against his son's. “Congratulations.” “Thanks, Dad. I'm glad you could make it here from Three Lakes in time. When is Eden due back?” “They wrap in a couple of days. She sends her congratulations, by the way. I'm supposed to tell your wife, 'I told you so,' from her.” Vaughn laughed a little. “I'm really sorry about the entire 'not wanting her to be here because of the photographers' thing.” Rhys shrugged. “She wasn't offended, if that's what you're wondering. She understood what the issue was before I did. She's..she's really good at that sort of thing.” “Okay, I don't want any more information than I need to know, but what are your plans when she comes back?” Rhys shrugged and gave a non-committal smile. “We'll have to see.”
  144. 144. “I'm going to ask him,” Cassius Marius said to his wife, De, as he watched Rhys talk to Vaughn.
  145. 145. “No, you are not,” De said with a sigh. “As tempting as it is, and no matter how..weird the situation is for all three of us here, what he does in this mini-verse is none of our business. It pains me to say that, it really does, but--” she stopped when she noticed that Cassius was no longer standing next to her. In fact, she saw that he had gone over to talk to Rhys despite what she had just said.
  146. 146. “Let me be the first to congratulate you, Dad,” Cassius said to Rhys with a smirk. Rhys raised his eyebrows at the other man. “Uh, yeah, okay, the emphasis on 'dad' is a bit strange, but thanks. I'm really happy for Vaughn. I'm glad they got everything all figured out.”
  147. 147. “Vaughn's not the kid I'm talking about. I'm talking about the new one. You know what I mean.” Rhys narrowed his eyes. “Cassius, what the hell are you talking about? What kid?”
  148. 148. For once, the perpetual smirk that was always on Cassius' face disappeared as he raised his eyebrows. “Oh my God, you really don't know, do you? I mean, I thought you would have seen...you're always on that site.”
  149. 149. He laughed a little and turned away from Rhys. “Yeah, I'm not going to touch that with a ten foot pole. I'm sure you'll find out soon enough.” Without saying anything more, he walked away.
  150. 150. “Rhys?” De asked as she walked up to him. “What is he talking about, De?” he asked quietly without looking at her. “Rhys, it's Vaughn's wedding. Please don't be a Drama Llama and scare his new wife off.” “So, you aren't going to answer me?” “Rhys, I--” She didn't have the chance to say more as Rhys spun on his heel and walked away.
  151. 151. “Vaughn, can I borrow your computer?” Vaughn looked at his father and sighed. Rhys noticed and rolled his eyes. “I'm not planning on erasing legacy information, hacking into databases, plotting someone's downfall or doing anything else even remotely criminal. I just need to look at something real quick. It will take five minutes, tops, then I'll be back out here to help you celebrate your happy day.” “I believe you, Dad. It's on the table in the kitchen.” “Thanks,” Rhys said over his shoulder as he strode toward Vaughn and Laurana's apartment.
  152. 152. Unlike himself, Vaughn didn't have the website bookmarked. Had the circumstances been a bit different, he would have laughed and teased his son about it later.
  153. 153. He almost laughed. He knew she wasn't pregnant seeing as he just had intimate knowledge of her body two days prior and she certainly didn't have a baby bump, or any other tell-tale signs of pregnancy for that matter. He almost laughed, but he didn't, because a realization had occurred to him: they had never been exactly careful. In fact, they had been rather reckless. Oh, no, she wasn't pregnant. But he got the sudden feeling that she was trying. He swore under his breath as he rubbed his forehead. He had tried so hard to use a delicate touch with her. He didn't pressure her. He didn't ask all the questions about things that he wanted to know about her, like the entire eating thing. He didn't question her about why she looked so sad when she thought he wasn't looking. He didn't question why she wanted to be with him even though she clearly knew all about his past and did before she called him out of the blue. He had kept his mouth shut because he knew that she would eventually tell him everything he wanted to know. People always did. Then it hit him: he was hurt. He genuinely cared about her and it hurt that she didn't trust him enough to be part of that decision.
  154. 154. If, he thought to himself. If that's what she's doing. She's not really the type to-- “She totally played you like a chump,” Cassius said behind him, interrupting his thoughts. “Shut up, Cassius,” Rhys said automatically. “Your girlfriend is pregnant and you didn't even know. That's classic!” “No, she isn't. But it's not really any of your business, so don't worry about it.” He got up to leave the kitchen.
  155. 155. Cassius leaned against the wall and asked, “So what are you going to do?” “Right now? Well, my son just got married. I told him that I'd only be away for a few minutes, so I'm going to go out and continue celebrating with him and not be a 'Drama Llama' as De put it.” “I was talking about Eden.” Rhys stopped and ran a hand over his hair. “I don't know,” he said and walked out. *** (To be continued...)

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