~ Hero ~
by Eveh


Disclaimer: This is part of my Accident Series. You might want to read those before you read this. There's some bad language her but not a lot. There's no sex and I don't even think there's violence. There's mention of a couple of same sex relationships but nothing major. Write me at xengab01@hotmail.com


I am a firm believer that keeping an open line of communication will allow people to get along better. I believe it promotes lower stress levels and allows us all to interact peacefully in a chaotic world. There are so many misunderstandings that are caused by simply not talking things out. So, if people would just communicate a lot of the mix-ups that happen wouldn't happen.

And on that note, I'd also like to add in my two-cents worth that sometimes talking is a crock of shit. There are people out there that no matter how hard you try to talk to them or no matter what you say to them, nothing you say will be heard or understood. You could be talking until you're blue in the face and when you finally get to that point of, 'do we understand each other now?' the person will just be staring back at you with this glazed over look. You know the look; the 'duh' look.

But, I am a person that will talk things through. I won't raise my fists to another person because I know what it's like to loose control. I know what it's like to be so angry with someone that you don't hold anything back. You hit them the hardest you can and you yell at them the loudest you can?then of course someone ends up hurt. In my case, someone ended up dead. Don't go thinking that I killed someone now and just forgot to mention it, because I haven't. No, I'm talking about what happened to me in college. Self-defense is the reason why the man died, but because I'm too damn honest with myself I'll admit that my anger was too.

I remember having this moment thinking, 'who does this prick think he is! Coming into my room and assaulting my roommate! Who the fuck does he think he is hitting me! NoFuckin'Body hits me!'

Did I have a right to be angry? Sure I did. I'm almost sure that a lot of people would be angry in the same situation and probably even the same amount of people would loose just a little bit of control.

I don't like loosing control. I don't like control being taken from me. I don't like being a slave to my own emotions, whether they are joyful or unpleasant. That is the soul reason why I told Kel that I would talk to her about Michelle and didn't go crazy yelling and screaming at her for bringing some bitch into my home. Instead, we were going to talk everything out and I was going to make an effort to see past what Michelle had done and try to at least tone down the animosity that was between us.

I had a plan and I had a course of action.

Kel was going to come back to my home and we would talk then I'd suggest trying to get together with Michelle again, having the slate been wiped clean.

The unfortunate thing about plans though, is that sometimes the people involved in your plans don't act accordingly to their role in your plan. When I called Kel up and asked her to come over so that we could talk about what happened, she took that to mean, 'Kel why don't you and your girlfriend come over so that we can talk about this.' When in reality I meant, just like I said, 'Kel why don't you come over so that we can talk about this.'

So, when Kel showed up at my door with Michelle close at hand I had at first a moment of shock then I had a moment of unease followed quickly by the final moment of anger.

"What the hell is she doing here?"

Kel looked at me surprised and Michelle just tried to look anything but intimidated. "I thought you wanted to talk, Tori."

"I did want to talk, Kel, but I wanted to talk with you and you alone." I know I sounded irritated, but I really didn't care.

"Wait," Kel held up her hands. "You called me to come over so that we could talk. Why would that not include Michelle?"

I don't know, why is the sky blue and the grass green? "Well, it wouldn't include her because I think there are some things we have to work through before we go including her into our conversations."

"Tori, if you want to talk to me, then you're going to have to want to talk to Michelle too. She's part of my life and you're just going to have accept that."

Wow, that was a very special thing for Kel to tell me. If she was going to be giving me ultimatums like that then she probably feels a lot for Michelle. Of course, I had already ascertained this fact a few days prior when Michelle just had that burning desire to ask me what I had against the media.

I dropped my head down and just shook it from side to side knowing that we were in for a big episode of miscommunication. "Fine," I sighed. "Just?fine. Michelle is a part of your life and I have to accept that. If I want to talk to you then I'm going to have to want to talk to her as well. I get it." I looked up and stared straight into Kel's blue eyes. "Right now I'm thinking that I don't want to talk to you though."

Kel was going to say something but Michelle beat her to it. "Will you just give me a chance to apologize?"

I was completely and utterly disgusted with myself when I stepped aside to let them both back into my home after what had just transpired at my door. They each came inside and looked around as if they were expecting someone to jump from the corner or something.

"Talli isn't here at the moment. He left because he thought you and I should have some time to talk alone." As I said this I pointed to Kel and couldn't help the little smirk that formed. "Anyway," I turned to Michelle. "What is it you wanted to say?"

"When Kel and I got home the other night, she told me about what happened to you in the past and I realized that I was completely out of line I just?"

I'm sure she would have kept on speaking if I hadn't given her a look that promised someone's death?most likely either hers or Kel's. "What exactly did Kel tell about my past?"

"Nothing really Tori," Kel quickly answered. "I just told her how you had some problems with the press and about what happened when your parents died." I just continued to look at her like her spine was soon going to be in my hands. "Be reasonable Tori, I couldn't very well tell her not to talk about the media in front of you without giving her a reason."

I smiled but by no means did it reach my eyes. "Of course you couldn't, Kel. I wouldn't even ask you to do such a thing. I'm sure it doesn't matter to you that I'm a very private person and usually don't like stories about my past to get in the hands of anyone that I don't trust or don't even really know."

"Tori, I trust her." Kel said forcefully. "That should be enough."

She had a point. "It probably should be, but it's not and I don't feel that way because I don't trust you or your judgment?I just rather tell people about my past myself. I had hoped that you understood that."

Kel looked like she had been slapped in the face. She understood perfectly what I meant because we had actually talked about this a long time ago. We had been talking about how I had faced the press when I turned eighteen and she asked me why I didn't have a spokesperson or someone that would deal with the media for me, and I had told her I would always rather speak for myself. I never wanted anyone to make any statements for me or share any information about me that I didn't want shared. My biological parents often spoke for me. They often told people about things that I didn't want anyone to know about. Kel knew all this and in knowing this she realized exactly why I was so angry, but unfortunately for her it was too late for her to take back anything she had said or had done.

"Damn Tori," Kel bowed her head, "I'm sorry."

"Yeah?well that's nice to know." I would like to consider myself a forgiving person, but sometimes I just don't feel like being compassionate and understanding. "You being sorry really makes up for everything. Should we all sit down now and enjoy a nice warm glass of?" I never got to finish my sentence. I felt like something was trying to rip apart my stomach from the inside and knew that this couldn't have been good. I grasped at my stomach and quickly went over to the couch to sit down.

Kel and Michelle ran over to me asking if I was okay and if they needed to call an ambulance or something. If they were asking that then I guess I looked really bad. Honestly, I don't know what happened after that. I just remember repeating in my head over and over again, "Please God no."

In any event when I was aware again of what was going on around me I woke up in the hospital and immediately felt like something was missing. I looked around my hospital room and Sam was sitting by my bedside with oddly enough Talli. "My baby?" I choked out through my incredibly dry throat. "What happened to my baby?"

Talli immediately came closer to me and rubbed the hair that was in my face back. "She's okay Tor?she just decided to come a little early."

A little early?she was two months early.

"Are you sure she's okay? Where is she?" I looked around the room. "What happened?"

Sam came up behind Talli and smiled down at me. "She's going to be fine Tori. We were all a little worried about her at first, but she seems to have pulled through. She has her mother's fighting spirit."

"I want to see her." I began to get up from the bed but Talli pushed me back down.

"You can't go anywhere yet Tor. Your body isn't doing quite as good as the little ones. You've been put under a lot of stress and lost a lot of blood. You need to rest. When you're strong enough we'll take you to go see her. She can't be moved right now because they've got her hooked up to all kinds of machines to make sure she keeps on doing as well as she's doing."

I wasn't quite sure what he meant, but I was really tired. I was just so tired and I couldn't keep awake very much longer so I stopped trying to fight back my fatigue and just fell asleep.

Addendum By Samantha Evans

I have been struck by absolute fear only a few times in my life and my children have caused all of those times. I would have thought that my partner, Dana, would have been the one to worry me so much that I couldn't breath anymore but it didn't turn out that way. Tori, my eldest, seems to be especially good at causing me so much fear. I swear that that girl has been in the hospital more times then I have, and I work in one. She always makes it though?and she always gets better. Her will to survive against the odds are stronger than I have ever seen in my life, and fortunately she did pass that on to her daughter.

Tori doesn't remember what happened that day and she never really asked me to tell her. Actually, she never has asked anyone to tell her. I don't think she wants to know how close she was to loosing her daughter, and that's something I can fully understand so I let her have her way and don't try to force her to know anything. Tori does think it's important, however, that the story of what happened that day is told and she picked me to tell it. I'm not really sure why me, but she asked me so I'm going to do it no matter how hard it is.

I don't really know what happened to cause her to go into labor. It could have been the stress that she was under at that specific time, having had that confrontation with Kel and Michelle. For me, the nightmare started when Kel called the house to inform us that our daughter had been taken to the hospital. It took Dana and me only ten minutes to get to the place our daughter had been taken and when we arrived we were met with Kel, Michelle, and Tori's new friend Talli waiting for us.

Dana fell into the roll she was most comfortable with and left to speak to the doctors to find out what was going on. I stayed behind, no matter how much I wanted to follow my partner, and asked Kel what had happened. She told me that Tori and her had been just talking when my daughter grabbed her stomach and began to shout in pain. They immediately called an ambulance thinking that something had gone wrong with the baby. I started to ask Kel questions about how Tori looked and what she said?trying to ascertain what had happened to my child. I know I couldn't have been sure without seeing my baby for myself but it almost sounded like she had had a miscarriage. I prayed that that wasn't the case. I prayed so hard that that wasn't the case, but my medical mind kept on pointing to that being the case. Sometimes when it came to Tori, I desperately wished that I didn't know a damn thing about medical conditions. I've often thought that ignorance would have been bliss compared to the torture I put myself through thinking about how hard Tori's body would have to work to survive.

Dana came back to us and it didn't look like she had very good news to report. It took one look at her and I knew that our daughter or our granddaughter or both of them were in serious trouble. The bottom line of what happened was that something had gone wrong with Tori's pregnancy and things didn't look very good for our daughter and her child. The doctors had to take the baby, even though it was two months early, and Tori had lost a lot of blood and they weren't sure if she was going to recover.

It seems that life had decided to play another cruel joke on my daughter by giving her just one more thing that she had to get through?like her life had been too easy before. I could do nothing for my child at the moment though, because I couldn't fight the fates or life, so I made my way to where my daughter was and planted myself by her side determined not to leave until she woke up. Dana followed me and took one look at the Tori's weakened body then told me she was going to take her vigil by our granddaughter's side and to come get her when Tori woke up. She didn't say to come get her if Tori woke up, but when, because Tori always woke up and we wouldn't accept thinking that this time would be any different.

I took hold of my daughter's cold hand and leaned down to take a good look at her face. Her dark skin was pale and she looked anything but peaceful. I could tell she was fighting whatever it was that was trying to take her away. Tori would be fighting until she got her way and opened those beautiful blue eyes of hers. My child would never give up.

A nurse came intent on telling me that I had to leave my daughter's side, but he didn't quite succeed in getting me to leave. I wouldn't leave Tori and I was sure to make sure that that nurse and any other nurse that came knew that. I wasn't going to leave until she woke up.

After I had been sitting there for a few hours just staring at Tori's face Talli came in. He sat down on the other side of the bed and took my daughter's other hand. "She looks angry."

"That's because she is," I answered. "She's probably yelling at whatever knocked her down right now."

Talli chuckled. "Yeah that sounds like her." Silence fell upon us and we both just sat there holding one of Tori's hands lending her what strength we had to offer. "Do you think she's going to pull through this?" Talli asked me softly after the silence had stretched out too long for him.

"There's not any fight I don't think Tori can't win." I told him honestly. "I don't think this one would be any different."

Talli nodded then looked back down at my daughter's pale face. "I love her, you know." He stuttered out. "I would like to tell her that."

I smiled at him. "Then why don't you? It might just give her a reason to fight harder then she already is."

His deep brown eyes stared at me for a long time then he nodded and leaned over Tori's bed. "I'm sure you going to think I'm a complete sap, saying this in front of your mother and all, but you need to get better Tori because I'm in love with you and I refuse to loose the first and only woman that I'm ever going to love."

Once he's finished he kisses Tori lightly on her forehead then turns his eyes back to me. I think he expects me to pass judgment on him or say something about what he just said, but I won't. I know how special my daughter is and I understand how easy it is to just love her.

"So tell me about yourself Talli. My daughter, I'm sure, hasn't told me everything about you yet."

He smiles brightly at me, I'm guessing that he's relieved, and nods his head. "I grew up in New Mexico on a reservation?"

Talli told me everything about his life, not leaving out a single detail. I don't mind the chatter though, because it takes my mind away from the doubt in my head that Tori won't recover. He tells me that his name means Hero in Native American?and I don't think he met my daughter by complete accident. I would say it was something more like fate, kind of like how Dana and Tori and I got together and ended up being a family.

After Talli is done telling me his life's story another silence falls on us, but the tension of before seems to have settled somewhat. The tall figure of Tori's sister, Audrey, walks into the room and I immediately get up to give her a hug. I assume that either Dana or Kel called her, because I certainly didn't really even think to and that makes me feel a little bit guilty.

Audrey returns my embrace and her arms circle my body much like her younger sister's do. These two are so much alike. "How is she?" Audrey asks, as we break apart.

"She's fighting," I tell her and I know that she understands.

"Dana called me and asked me to pick up Riana from her friend's house. She's in the waiting room. Kel is looking after her."

I nod and know that it's time for me to tend to my other child. I'll leave knowing that Tori is in capable hands. I turn and take one more look at the form on the hospital bed then walk out. I make my way to the waiting room and see Riana being held tightly in Kel's embrace. I walk up to the both of them and Riana practically jumps into my arms.

I move over to a chair and sit down making sure to pay attention to all the things that Riana has to tell me. Once she runs out of air and can't think of anything else to share with me, I try to explain to her as best I can what is going on. She's only three so I don't expect her to understand a lot, but children are sensitive to the emotions that surround them and I just want to assure my daughter that, even though things might not be good right now, they're going to get better.

"Have you heard anything from Dana about the baby?" I ask Kel once I'm finished speaking with Riana.

"There's no change, but she says the baby looks like she's angry." Kel tells me unable to keep a smile from her face.

I laugh knowing that I must find humor where I can. "Then she must be our Tori's daughter."

I know this comment isn't harmless. I know what Kel and Tori have been through recently in their relationship and I know that one of the reasons Tori's baby came early was because she was under stress. I partially blame Kel for that, even though it might be wrong to do so.
"Yeah," Kel sounds despondent.

I know now that Tori truly is no longer our Tori. Tori and Kel have been distancing themselves from one another for a while now. Kel has a new girlfriend and Tori's in love with Talli, even if she doesn't realize it yet. I had often thought that my daughter would eventually come to her senses and claim the woman sitting next to me as her one true love, but I was wrong about her. True to form, my daughter surprises us by just living her life and meeting someone who she can't help but love. I think there might have been a time when Kel and Tori could have been together, but that time has long since past.

Kel's girlfriend takes Kel in her arms and gives me a glare. I have to concentrate on not laughing. This young lady obviously doesn't know whom she's dealing with.

"Tori's doing fine," I tell them, knowing full well that they didn't ask. "I can tell she's fighting just like her baby. I'm sure you both did everything you could to help her and I appreciate that." I'm not sure why I added in the last part, maybe it's because I'm too compassionate for my own good, or maybe it's because Kel has become like a daughter to me and I don't want her blaming herself for anything that has happened to Tori.

Kel looks at me with swollen red eyes from crying. "Thank you for saying that, Sam."

I spare her a brief smile then notice Dana coming down the hall. I immediately move stand up but she signals for me to sit back down so I do. She walks over to me and kisses me on the head then takes Riana from my arms. She's come to tell us good news, I can tell.

"The baby's won her battle. They still want to keep a close eye on her though to make sure she's going to be okay." Dana smiles brightly at me and I immediately lean over and wrap my arms around her. Riana protests being squished between us and I back off. "That's great news," I say just because I need to say something.

Dana nods her head. "So you can now officially call yourself Grandma." She smirks at me and I smack her lightly on the shoulder.

"Hey, if I'm one than that must mean you are too."

Dana's face scrunches up as I say this and then she smiles at me. "I guess you're right." Her face then turns serious and I know what she's thinking about.

"Tori is going to be fine, honey. She just has to fight her battle a little longer."

The stress the covers Dana's face relaxes a little and she reaches out to take my hand. "Who's sitting in there with her now?"

"Audrey and Talli." I answer her taking comfort from the hand that has taken my own.

"How's Talli doing?"

I know why she asks this. She asks because it's hard to see someone whom you are in love with lying in a hospital bed fighting to hang on to life.

"He told her he loved her, in front of me no less."

Dana looks surprised. "Well, it seems he might make an honest woman of our daughter yet."

I laugh, because the thought of anyone making Tori an honest woman is a terribly funny image. Richard tried to do it and he failed. He actually failed terribly.

"I should get back to her though," I begin to stand but Dana stops me once more.

"I'm sure Audrey and Talli can handle their shift. We need to make sure that this one," she tightens her grip on Riana, "gets something to eat and gets some rest."

"But what if she wakes up and we're not here?"

"She'll have Audrey and Talli there then. Two people whom she loves dearly." Dana stands up and pulls me with her. "So come on, lets go."

I plant my feet on the ground not allowing her to pull me anywhere. "She's never woken up before with me not being there." I understand that my daughter is twenty years old, but she's still my baby and I'm sure she wouldn't be comfortable waking up with me not there?I think.

"Sam," Dana says patiently, "Tori won't be waking up alone. That's the important thing. Right now we need to take care of ourselves and Riana so that when she wakes up we're strong enough to be there for her."

Just by looking into Dana's eyes I know she doesn't want to leave. I know that she wants to go and be by Tori's side just as much as I do, but she knows that we can't do that exactly for the same reasons she just told me. If I just push her a little more then I'm sure she'll agree to stay in the hospital by Tori's side, but that wouldn't be fair to Riana and that wouldn't be fair to her. So I nod my head and let her lead me towards the exit of the hospital. As we walk away Dana tells Kel to call us if there's any change in Tori's condition.

It took exactly four days and twelve hours for Tori to wake up and I got to be there when her eyes first opened. I was there to hear the first thing that she said or in reality asked. I got to be the one of the first people to comfort her?just like it should be.

End Addendum

I'm not quite sure how long I was asleep before I woke up again, but the next time I did wake up my baby was able to be brought to me. She was so?so?small, but really precious. Sam insisted that she looked just like me, but I could see a little bit of Jose in her?and for some reason that really didn't upset me as much as it could have. I would rather her look like Jose then not have her at all.

She needed a name though?I really hadn't thought of one yet. I thought I had more time to think about it. I looked around at the people that surrounded me and even though I had my best friend Kel there and her new gal Michelle, my parents and baby sister and older sister with her husband, the man I loved?whoa. Loved? Wait?there was no time to evaluate the thought at the moment; I was supposed to be thinking about how even though I had the people closest to me surrounding me, I still felt like there was something missing. I looked back down at my baby's face and I knew what it was.

"Her name's going to be Ryan Antoinette Marcus." I decided aloud.

I was met with many shocked expressions. "Aren't those your parents names?" Kel asked timidly.

I nodded my head. "Ryan was my father and Antoinette my mother."

"I'm sure they'd be honored by that Tor," Talli said as he walked up to my bed and put his hand on my shoulder.

"Yeah," Dana nodded her head. "That's a good name."

Sam just smiled and nodded her head as well. Audrey looked at me for a very long moment. "Do you think Dad deserves that kind of honor?"

"It doesn't matter what he deserves Dre." I told her evenly. "I want to bring some real respect to these names and I can't think of a better way to start that then by giving my daughter their names, because by doing that I can make what they did wrong with me right with her."

Audrey looked at me for another long moment then sighed. "Ryan Antoinette Marcus it is then."

I was in the hospital for a few more days before the doctors released me and allowed me to go home. Dana and Sam wanted me to stay with them for a while to make sure that I recovered properly, but I opted to just return to my apartment. Kel offered to stay with me, but Talli was already living with me so I didn't really see the need. I think she still felt bad about what happened before Ryan was born, but I just couldn't bring myself to care about it any more.

The situation seemed to be petty and?small compared to the other event that had happened in my life. Everyone came to my apartment to make sure I got settled though. While we were all there I took Kel and Michelle aside and I told Kel I forgave her-because I did-and I welcomed Michelle into my family. Of course there were still things that would have had to be worked out, but I wasn't really concerned about that at the moment. Things would just have to work out over time?like most things tend to.

I think they were surprised I didn't hold a grudge, but what can I say? They caught me on a good day. There are things out there that are much more important than what job a person has and what control issues I have. Kel and Michelle accepted my forgiveness and I might have added an apology in there myself which they readily forgave me for whatever I felt I had to apologize for.

My first day back at home was filled with family, friends, and a little baby girl that very early on informed me that she was going to make my life that much more exciting. I could tell just by looking at her tanned features-she had gotten my skin tone and my eye color-that she was going to make me really feel every single thing I had ever put my parents through. I think they could tell as well, which would explain the reason why Dana has this very self-satisfied smirk on her face as if she were responsible for how Ryan acted.

It took me a while, but I eventually got everyone to go home and Talli, Ryan, and me were finally left in peace. I'm not sure why I didn't really mind Talli being there. I just figured that I would have wanted to be alone with my baby for a while. You know, just to give us a chance to bond?or something.

I remember that night Talli and I were sitting on the floor each of us leaning against the couch. I had Ryan in my arms and we were watching her sleep soundly. Even though most of my family had left, I felt like I was still with my family. I don't know if that really makes sense, because it hardly makes sense to me, but that's just how I felt. My family still surrounded me.

I looked over and saw that Talli had taken his eyes off of the baby and was now looking at me. He looked like he had something important to say so I kept my mouth shut and waited for him to say anything that he needed to. It took him a while but he finally did speak.

"I want to tell you something?about something that I did that you should probably know about." I was going to say something but he held his hand up to forestall my speech. "On Ryan's birth certificate I had the nurses put down that I was her father." I opened my mouth to say something again but Talli kept his hand up. "I only did it because I don't want her to ever think that she doesn't have a father out there who loves her and cares for her. I don't know the man who is her real father, and I'm sure I don't want to, but I don't think he could ever be a better father to her than I would be." His face scrunched up and he looked as if he was having trouble making out whatever it is he wanted to say next. "If you give me the chance, I promise you that I will do everything to raise Ryan in the best way that I know how?if you let me."

Big wow. Really really big wow. This wow was actually so big that I was absolutely speechless. I didn't know what to think or how to react. This man?who I liked a lot (still wasn't thinking about the love thing), just told me he wanted to give my child a father. He wanted to love my little girl like she was his own?and he put his name on the birth certificate. Granted this was something I probably should have noticed before, but just didn't?so it was a surprise.

"I will love Ryan with all that I am, Tori, just like I love you."

That would be another big wow?although not totally unexpected.

I guess I was silent for a little too long because Talli asked me to say something to which I responded, "Wow."

"Don't you have any more to say then that?"

"Big wow?"

"Okay, I know that you may not love me in the way that I love you, but would you at least let me be Ryan's father. I'd really like to be her father."

I just continued to stare at him because my brain was actually moving so fast that I couldn't keep up with it so I stopped trying.

"I think Ryan would be very fortunate to have you as a father Talli," I said after what must have been eternity.

Talli's eyes perked up and I swear his bright brown eyes started to sparkle. "Does that mean you'll let me be her father?"
I could hear the hope in his voice and there was no way I could deny my child from having such a great man as her father. So I smiled and nodded at him. "Of course."

Talli looked like he was going to jump for joy?literally, so I put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "As far as you loving me goes though," I started and his face began to fall. "That makes me almost as lucky as my daughter is for having you as a father."

Suddenly Talli was having his own 'wow' moment.

"I don't know how this happened and-- lord knows I shouldn't try to figure it out, because we all know what happens when I overanalyze something-- but I guess while you were falling in love with me, I was falling in love with you too."

"Oh?wow." I knew exactly how the man felt. "So..uh..you're in love with me?"

"Those are some very strong words." I adjusted Ryan's sleeping form. "But they are also entirely accurate."

Talli nodded. "So..uh..you're in love with me?" This time he pointed to himself just to make sure I wasn't talking about the other me who happened to be sitting right next to him.

"Yes Talli," I nodded. "I'm in love you."

"I see." Talli rubbed his forehead the palms of both his hands then pointed to himself again. "Me?"

I laughed and shook my head. This man was unbelievable. "Yes you. No one else but you."

"Would it be okay if I kissed you now?"

That man was sweet; I had to give him credit for that. "That's something I would really like. As a matter of fact?" I wasn't able to finish whatever it is that I was going to say because Talli had quickly claimed my lips.

As soon as we parted and I was able to pry my eyes open and force myself to come back to earth I heard Talli asking me to marry him. Things then turned back into real time, but oddly enough I didn't get a suffocating feeling and it didn't seem like time was moving too fast. Everything just seemed to be just right. Everything was just as it should be.

"I want a long engagement," I told him only semi-seriously. I know that if he really pushed me we could have been married that night. Of course if he did that, Dana and Sam would probably kill him for denying them a chance to give me an incredibly obnoxious wedding.

"Two weeks long enough for you?" He asks me smiling.

I shake my head. "My parents may be miracle workers in some things, but I don't think they could plan the wedding they want to give me in two weeks."

"Four weeks?" He asks hopefully.

"How does three months sound to you?" I lean into his body and he puts his arm around me.

"Too long, but I guess I shouldn't try to fight your parents on the issue. I'm really just interested in the end result?that being you by my side until the day the Great Spirit decides to separate our souls on this world."

I could have cried?and I did. He was just such a great guy?a great guy that I just happened to really be in love with. My goodness?could he have said anything else that would have turned me into a bigger pile of mush.

Talli wiped away my tears and when I opened my eyes and looked into his eyes I could tell that he was on the verge of shedding a few tears himself.

"I'm really glad that you decided to stalk me," I told him.

He looked at me oddly for a moment then broke out in a huge grin. "So am I."

We sat on the floor for a few minutes more then put Ryan to bed. Even though I knew I should have been getting all the sleep I could while I could, Talli and I spent the rest of the night sitting beside Ryan's crib cuddled up watching our daughter sleep.

*******

Three days later Talli, Ryan, and I were at my parents' house having dinner and I decided to fill them in on the engagement. Sam was happy for us and immediately congratulated us. Dana just sat at the table and stared at Talli for a very long time. She almost looked like she was going to rip him in two at any moment.

"You love my daughter?" She asked continuing her staring.

Talli swallowed?loudly, but nodded his head. "Of course I do. I wouldn't have even asked her to marry me if I didn't."

"You love my granddaughter?"

"Even if Tor?Tori?Victorianna," He corrected himself, "Didn't wish to be with me I would still want to be Ryan's father. I want her to have a father that will appreciate the gift that she is and I don't think any other man could do the job as much justice as I can."

Dana raised her brow. "You don't have a good paying job and you're not done with school yet," she accused.

"My greatest goal in my life has been to get my education. That has always been on the top of my list, now while my list has been adjusted a little bit," here he gave me a meaningful look, "finishing school is still very important to me. No matter what I have to do or how hard I have to work I'll finish school and I know Tori fully supports me in that matter. As far as the job goes," Talli just shrugged, "I can't fix that problem until I finish school. I don't expect anything to be easy at first, but all I can do is work the hardest I can."

Dana leaned back in her chair and everyone in the room was looking at her eagerly waiting to see what her next words would be. I spared a quick look at Sam who just looked amused. Somehow?that didn't seem right. Her expression totally did not fit into the situation. Would I ever be able to figure my parents out like they had been able to figure me out?

"I guess then I'll allow you to marry my daughter," Dana said seriously, "But I swear," She held up her hand, which just happened to have her dinner knife in hit, and pointed at Talli, "If you hurt her or my granddaughter in any way I will hunt you down and make you pray to whatever god you believe in for a quick death."

"Dana!"

"Mom!" Sam and I said at the same time.

Dana turned to us and looked at us innocently?or at least as innocently as she could. "What?"

"You just threatened my fiancÚ bodily harm."

"No," Dana shook her head. "I just gave him a friendly warning. That wasn't a threat." She turned an almost frightful gaze to Talli. "You didn't take that as a threat did you?"

"No..nono," Talli waved his hands in front of him. "Just a little warning. Friendly warning that is."

I turned an annoyed look at Talli and smacked him on the back of the head.

"Ow," Talli grabbed his head. "What'd you do that for?"

"For letting her," I pointed at my mother, "push you around. You have to stand up to her or she'll get some deluded idea that she's all powerful or something."

"I am all powerful," Dana said indignantly from her end of the table.

"See?she's already begun." I quickly ran my right hand through my hair. "This will take months to reverse."

"Don't worry about it," Sam said from her place at the table. "I'll have her trained again in no time."

"Hey!" Before Dana could say anything else Ryan started to cry announcing to the world, loudly, that she was hungry. I immediately left to tend to her and left my future husband alone with my parents. I realized that that could be a bad idea, but he had to learn sometime how to deal with them. It was better he started sooner then later.

*******

Immediately after I told my parents, Talli and I made a quick trip over to Audrey's to tell her the news. She pretty much gave Talli the same 'warning' that Dana did. Once she was sure that under no circumstances was he allowed to hurt her niece or me she welcomed him to the family and asked him if he had bought me a ring yet. When he self-consciously told her that he hadn't she went to her bedroom and came back holding a ring box.

"This was my mother's ring, Tori." She handed me the box and I looked at the simple silver band inside. "I'm not wearing it because Adrian gave me his mother's ring. I kept it for you though, because I think she would really like you to have it. You don't have to wear it or anything, but if you want to, you can use it."

Audrey almost seemed nervous about this. I don't ever remember seeing my sister nervous. Audrey doesn't get nervous. It's a rule. It's a very strong unbendable rule.

I looked at Talli silently asking him if this was okay and he nodded his head. "I'd love to use her ring Dre. I know this was the only thing besides us that she cared a damn about."

"Yeah," Talli added. "We'd love to use it. I don't have anything of my family's to give her and I would much rather Tor wear something that means something to her then some flashy piece of rock."

"Plus it saves you a lot of money," Audrey added giving him a light punch on the arm.

Talli smiled. "Yeah that too." He took the ring from me and took it out of the box. "Do you mind?" He held up the ring and took hold of my left hand.

I shook my head and he very slowly placed the ring on my finger finishing with a kiss on my hand then a small kiss on my lips. "It's official now, we're engaged."

*******

The next person on my list to tell about my engagement was Kel. I invited her to come over and made sure that she knew that this time that the invite didn't include Michelle. It's not that I didn't want the other woman there-actually that was the reason-I just felt this was something that I wanted to share with my best friend alone. I wasn't quite sure how she would react, but I had to believe that she would be happy that I was happy?and you know she was.

She came over and we had a very long talk and she explained to me about how things were working out for her and Michelle. She told me that she would always love me, because she just couldn't help it, but she just didn't love me like she used to. I think her exact words were, "Tori I love you and I always will, but-and please don't take offence to this-but I just don't want to be with you in that way anymore. I don't want you like that?I just want your friendship more than anything else."

I certainly didn't take any offence to that, because that's what I had wanted since the day of my return. Which at this point seemed forever ago even though it had been only somewhere around five months or so. Kel had gotten herself a life and I had gotten myself one of my own?we were becoming regular grown-ups. What a scary thought?

Kel and I spent the rest of the day together acting like a bunch of teenage girls who have nothing better to do then annoy each other. It felt good to be like that with her again?it had been a while. Even though I kept on calling Kel my best friend, just because I refused to call her anything else, she really wasn't. We were still friends and I would be there for her no matter what and I knew she would be there for me, but that was more out of past obligation then anything. I think though, that after the day I told her about my engagement we became best friends again. So you see, talking about everything really did help us. We wiped away anything that we had been holding over our heads and decided that we loved each other too much to let our past get in our way.

*******

Time wise, three months is nothing. We had gotten the wedding planned in one, everything set up and ready to go in two and the invitations sent out in three. My parents had made sure that everything was set up perfectly. They added a few of Talli's people's traditions into our far from traditional wedding.

I arranged it so that his family would be there. I remember going to the airport to pick up his mother. I was shaking like a leaf and couldn't keep still for the life of me, I was so nervous. Talli was with me of course and we had Ryan with us, but I swear when she got off that plane and had met us in the waiting area I was the only person there for her to stare at.

My hair was all wrong. My clothes weren't appropriate. My smile wasn't bright enough?I just kept on thinking of all the flaws of my current appearance. Talli's mom didn't really notice anything of these things though. She came right up to me and looked at me for a very long time then turned to Talli and said, "She's the right one." Then she pointed to Ryan and said, "Is that my grandbaby?"

Talli nodded and held the baby out to her. She took Ryan in her grasp and walked towards the exit of the airport calling for Talli to get her bags. I stood glued to my spot on the floor for a moment as I watch a very proud looking Native American woman walk out of the airport with my child. My brain eventually told my feet to start working again and I hurried to catch up with the woman.

She turned to me as I stepped up beside her and looked up. "You're tall, but I sort of expected someone even taller. The way Talli tells it you're bigger than the Earth." She smiled at me and turned her attention back to the baby. "This one however, is just like I expected to her. She has a fire within her."

"My mother seems to think that she got that from me. She can't wait until Ryan becomes a teenager so that I may finally get paid back for what I put her through."

Bernadette, Talli's mother, laughed. "She did get it from you." She said as if she knew for a fact that my daughter had inherited this trait from me. "You have given her much of yourself."

"I guess so," I say somewhat uncomfortable. "But doesn't ever mother give of herself to their children?"

"Yes they do." Bernadette smiled. "I'm glad you understand that now."

After we left the airport we went over to my parents' home, which just happened to be the big meeting place. Everyone was going to make their way there after all the people who needed to be picked up from the airport were picked up. Sam had a big dinner ready and we had our first extended family union. It went surprisingly well. Bernadette and Mama got along really well and none of Talli's family seemed to hate me?so I'd say that the night was a success.

Talli's mother stayed with us and everyone else either stayed with Audrey, Kel or my parents. No one would be staying in a hotel room on Sam's watch. She didn't want anyone have to deal with the, "impersonal touch of those places".

As far as the wedding went, it was one of the best times of my life. It was set outside on a bright summer's day, only a few weeks after my birthday so I was able to drink alcohol at my own wedding. The timing for that wasn't really planned that's just how it worked out.

There was a lot of dancing and a lot of laughter?along with a few tears shed my Talli, my parents, our daughter and me. Everything really ended up being perfect, even though my limousine was late and the cake wasn't finished on time. I mean my family was there. My friends were there and I was marrying the only person that didn't make me think.

During our first dance together as husband and wife I remember thinking that I finally get a happily ever after?just like a fairy tale. I leaned further into Talli's shoulder and felt his arms tighten around me. Our chosen song was playing in the background and life was looking better by the moment.

Continued in Keeping Up Appearances



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