Author's Note: And we have the epilogue. And possible plans for a sequel involving James and Stetson et al, if I can form some sort of plotline.

And somehow, the epilogue ended up being slightly more depressing than I intended. It was supposed to be complete fluff.

Epilogue – Christmas

It's Christmas Day. Christmas Day afternoon, I guess you could call it. After spending breakfast and lunch with my family, I finally convinced my mum to let me go to Bandy's for Christmas Day dinner, which, as Mrs Atherton kindly informed me, is not the main celebration. It doesn't matter what it is, my mum and Mrs Atherton are always going to be competing with each other.

Alex and I are sitting on his bed in his bedroom, hands intertwined and arms and legs connected from shoulder to ankle. In the past few days since my mum's Christmas party, I've become more acquainted with Alex's bedroom than I ever thought I would be, because no, I'm not a stalker. You know, except for that one stalker convention award.

"I never gave you your Christmas present," Alex says suddenly, turning to me.

I'd handed him his pretty much as soon as I stepped through the door. Then we'd gone into his room so that he could give me mine, and then, well... we got distracted.

"And you never opened mine," I state, retrieving my silvery parcel and dropping it into his lap.

"Thanks Cade," he thanks me again, pressing a light kiss to my cheek.

"You already said that," I point out. "And you still haven't got me my present," I pout.

"Right," he says. "But you're going to have to let go of my hand." He raises our joined hands so that I can see them.

He's only doing it to tease me. I roll my eyes and let go of his fingers. He ducks to pull my present out from under his bed, leaving me with a delicious view to admire. I resist the temptation to smack his arse, and instead lie back on the bed, staring at his ceiling.

"Here." He plops a wrapped box onto my stomach in the same way that I put mine into his lap.

"Open mine first," I command.

"Of course, m'lady," he teases me… again. He's developed quite the habit of that lately. I'm not sure that I like it.

I shove him. Unluckily he recovers his balance in time to catch himself before he falls off the bed.

"Okay, okay," he raises his hands in surrender and begins unwrapping his present. Alex is the sort of person who likes to save the wrapping paper. I have no idea why. It's pretty obvious that my present's been wrapped in unused paper, and he isn't the scrapbooking type. Or the artsy sort in general. Who knows what he does with the paper.

"A ski mask?" he asks, looking up at me.

I shrug. "You said you'd never robbed a bank before."

"So are you going to be my accomplice?" he asks.

"Maybe," I smirk.

"Where's my real present, then?"

I frown at him. That is a real present. "Perhaps you didn't hear me correctly," I state. "I said that's because you said you'd never been to the snow before."

He grins at me. "Ah. I thought you said it was because I'd never robbed a bank before."

Returning his grin I say, "Well, you haven't. Have you?"

"So is that my winter break planned out?" he asks, ignoring my comment.

"Only if you want it to be. My family has a house in Jindabyne we can stay in. Your dad does too, if you wanna stay there instead."

"Sounds good to me," he smiles. I am in love with his smile.

I turn to my present, it's a rectangular box, and unless Alex has turned into a completely different person over the past week, I'm pretty sure I know what it is.

"You'd better like them," he states as I get to the cardboard box under the paper.

"Why's that?" I ask, as I open the box. Inside is a black sunglasses case, pretty much exactly what I was expecting. It's the trademark of the sunglasses store where I make most of my purchases. I look up to hear his answer before finally getting to the sunnies.

"Do you know how hard it is to explain to the salesguy that you're buying sunglasses, but they're not for you, and they're for a guy, but no we're not like that?"

I crack up. I wish I'd been there. "Serves you right," I state as I open the box and peer down at the silver and grey glasses that I know are going to fit me perfectly. "For going shopping without us." I immediately lift them from the box, and go to stand in front of his mirror with them perched on my nose. "I love them," I state quickly.

I can see him smiling from the bed. "They fit exactly the way I thought they would," he says to me.

I go to straddle him, then kiss him full on the mouth. "Thanks again," I say.

"Did you tell your mum you're going to Sydney yet?" he asks once he's caught his breath.

What a mood killer. "No," I shake my head. "She's going to miss me too much. I can't hurt her like that."

"Did you tell Mel?"

"Yeah," I nod. "She said she'd think about moving in with Ivan, seeing as they're still settled and all."

"Yeah," Alex nods.

"And she said mum probably already realises that I'm going to be going to Sydney since that's where you're going to be. It actually makes sense since she's been busily depressed recently."

"Busily depressed?"

"She's planning something," I say. "But unhappily. You know how my mum never does much of anything."

"Okay," he says, humouring me. I can tell he doesn't really understand what I mean.

I peer at one of the pictures on his side table. There's one with him and Bandy. One with the three of us. One of him and his mum. And one with him and his uni friends. For a guy, he seems quite sentimental.

The image of Faulty reminds me of something I'd been meaning to ask since the first time I met him.

"So why does Faulty call you Atwood?" I ask.

Alex laughs. "I thought that was pretty obvious."

I frown at him. "Not to me."

"It's a reference to The O.C.," he says. "Ryan Atwood. Y'know, since I moved from Newcastle to here."

"But you don't live in a pool house," I state, looking at our surroundings. It's practically a granny flat since it does have it's own entrance, but it's still attached to the rest of the house.

Alex shrugs. "They didn't know that at the time."

"And speaking of Newcastle..." I lead in. He gives me a look, wondering where the questions are coming from.


"That time when you promised Bandy and I that you'd come see us at the talent quest? Where were you?"

He sighs and frowns, gathering himself before speaks. "My best friend Stephen was in trouble."

I frown. I mean, I knew it probably wasn't a good thing since he'd never told me and Bandy. Surely it must have been a sore spot. Actually, I don't know why I'm bringing it up now at all. Christmas is a happy time. Depressing topics should be left for Good Friday.

Alex takes a moment to compose himself before he continues. "His mum called me, out of the blue. Said he was in hospital. Bowel cancer.

"So I drove up there, ready to say goodbye, essentially. He'd been suffering for a while, so I went up there, and then... it was like a miracle. He made a full recovery and it was like it had never happened."

I reach up to hug him, pressing gentle kisses to his jawline. He latches onto me quickly.

"After that I just didn't want to talk about it," he finishes.

"I can see why," I say. I have three lifelines now: Bandy, mum, and Alex. And, though I don't want to sound like a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, I think the description is somewhat apt. Except that I'd have to be a contestant on a show called Who Doesn't Want To Die A Miserable Loner?. I hope I never run out of lifelines.

We make out for a while, as I feel guilty for bringing up the touchy subject, and Alex well, I guess he's coming to terms with everything.

"Dinner's ready," Bandy calls, and I look up to see her and Grover in the doorway. They're grinning at us as though they haven't just been doing something similar in her room.

Bandy and I let Grover and Alex go ahead as I straighten out my appearance. "Who would have thought?" Bandy remarks to me as we walk toward the dining room.

"I know," I agree with a nod. "You and Grover Daniels."

She smacks me. "Hey, he might have more money than your boyfriend, but a month ago I still would have said that he and I had more of a chance than you and my brother. Not much, mind you. But more."

I shrug, unable to wipe an utterly satisfied grin off my face.

We catch up to the other boys quickly, reaching them just as they get to the doorway in the dining room. We are greeted with a most surprising sight. One we are definitely not expecting.

Alex, Grover and I catch the opening of Bandy's mouth and open ours in unison.


x X X x

A/N: No, I'm not going to tell you what they just saw. Mostly because I fear that anything I come up with is not going to be nearly as shocking as what you're imagining.

And that is that. Thanks again for reading! Although, if the epilogue is completely unsatisfactory in that it's missing the answer to something you thought would be answered but isn't, it might mysteriously appear without you noticing in the future. But only if you ask. And if the epilogue is completely unsatisfactory in that the previous chapter is a better ending, well, then I might delete it.

And just for laughs, the following is my inspiration for this story which was supposed to be some ridiculously clichéd piece of crap that was just going to be fun to write. You'll note that half of it doesn't appear in the story at all:

Missing daughter
in love with best friend's older brother
no siblings
just mother, no father
ex-judge's step-daughter on DUI charge
father fleeing scene of crash where partner and sons in danger
daughter teaching her father a lesson about drinking.