There was still plenty of other things to do, though. She spent a large part of her time fixing various household appliances. It seemed like the higher she raised her skill level in Mechanics, the more things went wrong around the house!
"Washing machine's broken again," Harrison pointed out, rather needlessly, one morning. Anastacia grumbled at the sight of it. They really, really needed a new washer. She was sick of fixing this one every ten minutes.
Especially because stopping to fix it meant she was late for work that morning. She grumbled as she got out her tools and tightened up the water pressure gauge inside the ancient machine. She was pretty sure her parents had bought this thing when they'd first moved into the house; the fact that it was still going was unbelievable.
After wolfing down some breakfast, she hurried to work in her fire engine. She eventually wanted to get the alarm system set up at the family home so that she could cut out the trip to the station each day. She would be able to respond to emergencies more quickly once she could deal with them from home. But at the moment, she was only focusing on the wedding, and those sorts of adjustments to the house would need to wait.
After work that day, she realised that she needed to finalise the hen party that she'd been planning on throwing before the wedding. She didn't have lots of friends in Appaloosa Plains - mostly her family, to be honest, and Chloe and Jennifer were unable to make it over due to previous commitments - but she did invite Joyce, who she was still fairly close to despite everything that happened with Locke, and Irene Funke-Parrott who was always up for a good night out (or in, in this case.)
Anastacia had decided to throw the party in the garden, to keep costs down. She invested in some 'mood lights' for the evening, which the rather suspicious-looking shopkeeper assured her would create a 'wild' effect. Anastacia had originally dismissed his words as hyperbole, but as she stood out in the front yard, she felt a weird sensation come over her, and she looked down to see that she was very... pink.
Joyce, who had just arrived, noticed as well. "Um, Anastacia, you're kind of glowing...? And you weren't wearing that a minute ago, were you?"
It seemed as though the 'mood light' had some weird transformative effect. In fact, the only guest it didn't seem to effect was Joyce, who had recently undergone a change herself... a werewolf-related change. She never talked about it, and Anastacia didn't like to bring it up. Besides, if anything, it made her friend a little more easy-going.
As it wasn't a school night, Anastacia agreed that Harrison could stay up for some of the party. He seemed pretty keen to socialise with an actual werewolf, and politely shook Joyce's hand. Okay, he was a bit freaked out when she decided to sniff him, in much the same way Yumi often sniffed him, but she was pretty fun.
And a surprisingly good dancer.
A male stripper turned up at some point, but Anastacia absolutely forbade him from taking his clothes off in front of her little brother and father (who had also been transformed into rather an odd costume); she figured it would scar them both for life.
She was soon interrupted from her discussion by Joyce shaking up the fizzy nectar bottle...
The sticky liquid splashed over her face and she laughed merrily. She'd already had quite a lot to drink and was beginning to enjoy herself.
Gradually, everyone else got into the swing of things too, and they danced and drank and ate for a few very fun hours.
At about 1am, the Cantrell family admitted defeat and slumped off to bed. They hadn't quite planned on Joyce, Irene and the stripper staying on, but that's what their three additional party guests decided to do.
At about 3am, Miles woke in his bed and realised that music was still blaring outside in the garden. The temperature had dropped, and he was slightly disturbed by the scene that faced him when he came out the front door: Irene and the stripper were still enjoying themselves, somehow, dancing into the small hours of the morning, whilst Joyce was a frozen solid mass on the icy floor.
Miles sighed, went inside to get the hairdryer, and then attempted to defrost the comatose werewolf from her block-like state. Irene and the stripper didn't seem to care in the slightest; they were obviously having too much fun grinding against one another.
"Party's over, kids," he told them all as Joyce eventually thawed out and stumbled to her feet. "Off you go home."
"Worst party ever," he heard Joyce grumbling as they left the front yard. He rolled his eyes, wondering how Anastacia had ended up with such stupid friends, then went inside to get back into his warm, comfy bed.
Anastacia spent her last day as an unmarried woman helping her dad out in the garden. She found that she enjoyed this activity; her mum had always been quite protective of her crops, to the extent where she would often lock the gate to prevent her family getting in, but Miles was more than happy to accept her assistance.
She also made a trip down to the Civic Centre to buy her second property. It was something that she, her father and Lawrence had discussed together, and though the investment this time was more sentimental than anything else, Anastacia knew it was something that a lot of people visited. They had decided to purchase the Dog Day Plaza that Hailey had loved so much when she was alive.
With that task finished, Anastacia was free to enjoy day-dreaming for the rest of the day about fortunes that might come her family's way as a result of the money they had invested in protecting their future. She felt very happy that the money she had earned fire-fighting was going on something meaningful, and something that would keep their mother's legacy alive.
Later, she noticed Harrison looking around deviously before pulling out a whoopee cushion from his pocket.
"What are you doing?" she asked. He looked up, face flushed from being caught, but she just laughed when he begged, "Don't tell dad." Recently, she was happy to see Harrison acting a bit more, well, like a teenager. He'd been so quiet and sullen all year, and it was good to see him acting more his age.
"I won't," she promised. "So long as you behave at the wedding tomorrow."
"Like I would ever spoil that!" he protested.
Later that evening, they both stifled a laugh as their dad sat down on the sofa, emitting a long, lingering fart sound. "Very funny, Harry," Miles said. "Good job your sister is getting married tomorrow otherwise I'd have to ground you."
But Anastacia could tell from their dad's face that he was relieved as well. It was always a happy surprise to see Harrison laughing and smiling, and it seemed to be happening a lot more frequently these days.
The next morning was a last-minute rush of wedding cake buying and dress fitting, but Anastacia finally allowed herself to relax when she looked at herself in the mirror. Everything was going to be okay.
They had decided to get married at Hangman's Tree, as it was the most picturesque spot in Appaloosa Plains. Anastacia hadn't quite planned for having to run the last part of the way to the park, as cars weren't allowed past a certain spot, but she gamely hitched her dress up slightly and took off up the hill, Harrison and Miles close behind.
"I get why she's beating me up here," Miles puffed. "I'm an old man. But there's no reason why she should be faster than you."
"Dad, just shut up and run."
The guests gradually started to arrive, as did the groom - who hung back near the bottom of the hill to greet everyone who came up. Lawrence frowned when he saw Chloe working her way up to the park. Was she... no, surely not?
"Hello, Lawrence, you look very handsome and pale today," Anastacia's little sister greeted him. He bit his lip to stop himself from saying anything. He was probably wrong. He was usually wrong about stuff like this.
But as Chloe approached the top of the hill, the way she was walking was unmistakeable. Although she was still very slender, there was a small but unmistakeable bulge around her stomach area.
"Um, Chloe... something you want to talk about?" Miles asked as soon as he saw her. Chloe looked down, blushing.
"Chloe," Miles said, more sternly. "There is something you want to tell me, isn't there?"
Eventually, Chloe gave in, nodding slightly and sighing. "Congratulations, daddy! You're going to be a grandfather."
Miles reached out with uncertain hands to feel Chloe's swelling tummy. He felt a strange sort of happiness run through him, but also a great deal of worry and anxiety. Chloe... his baby Chloe was pregnant? She was his youngest daughter, for goodness sake. He hadn't even been aware that she was in a relationship. Or... was she?
"So... who's the father?" he asked, praying it was someone respectable and, preferably, rich enough to support his little girl.
"He's not around anymore," Chloe said. "And I don't really want to talk about him."
"But Chloe, this is madness. You're barely out of high school. You're going to be a scientist! How are you going to cope?"
"Jennifer has said she'll help. I'll manage somehow. It was a mistake, I know that now, but I'm not going to take that out on this little one inside of me. I'll get by, I'm sure I will. Please, say you're happy for me, daddy."
Miles groaned. He didn't know what else there was to say. It was done now, and Chloe had clearly made up her mind. "I'd be happier if I knew who the father was."
"Why? He's made his feelings on the whole thing clear, just as I have, so there's nothing more to say. You don't need to know about him."
Their conversation was interrupted by people gathering on the folding chairs placed in front of the wedding arch. The ceremony was about to start. "We'll talk about this later," Miles said, but Chloe was already sheepishly walking away.
As the guests took their seats, Lawrence and Anastacia happily waited, sometimes smiling at one another, sometimes gazing into the distance as they imagined their lives together.
The turnout was fairly small, but Anastacia was happy that her whole family was there, along with a few more guests. Amongst them was Imogen Pelly, who Miles had struck up an unlikely friendship with after apologising to her about Harrison egging her house, and a pretty girl from Harrison's school, named Lucy Haskins, who the teenager had shyly invited on a whim, not thinking she would turn up.
Anastacia couldn't contain her happiness as Lawrence slipped the wedding ring onto her finger. She couldn't wait another minute to start her life with her husband, and she giggled with anticipation as he solemnly declared his vows for her.
She knew from his face, too, that he was struggling to contain his excitement, as she put the ring onto his finger. He squeezed her hand, whispered, "Love you", and Anastacia gazed helplessly into his eyes before completing her part of the vows.
After that, there was nothing left to do but finish the ring-giving ceremony with their first kiss as husband and wife. The guests cheered as they embraced and kissed each other deeply before parting to smile in adoration at one another.
After the ceremony, the guests scattered and began to mingle, and Harrison made his way over to Lucy. He was hoping it wouldn't be too awkward, talking to her, but she pulled him into a hug as soon as she saw him.
"Thank you for inviting me. It's beautiful up here."
"Thank you for coming," he mumbled into her shoulder.
"No problems. Sorry I'm a bit underdressed, I've never been to a wedding before!"
"I think you look nice," he said, then flushed. "I mean... well, yeah, not that you don't always look nice."
She smiled at him as she pulled away. "Smooth, Cantrell. Anyone would think you've got experience in chatting girls up."
"So are you going to stay for a while?" Harrison asked, changing the subject and trying not to sound too hopeful - he didn't want Lucy to think he was desperate or anything like that. He knew that girls didn't like desperate guys. But she just laughed.
"Sure, it's gotta be better than school work, right?"
He smiled weakly, thinking 'that's how you play it cool.'
Miles and Imogen, meanwhile, were dancing up a bit of a storm after Miles sidled over to her and asked for a dance. He'd had a bit of fizzy nectar and was starting to enjoy himself, truth be told.
Imogen was a funky dancer, even if she'd decided to come dressed in what looked like her most casual summer clothes. But Miles was just happy to have someone to distract him from the fact that Hailey wasn't here to enjoy this beautiful day.
Imogen had mentioned dating a couple of times, but Miles had always rebuffed her advances; he liked her a lot, especially now he'd got to know her a bit better, but dating again was out of the question for him. He just wasn't ready for it. He wasn't sure he ever would be.
"Smile for the camera!" Jennifer said from behind them. They turned to pose, and Miles jumped as he felt Imogen grab his bum.
"Sorry," she laughed. "Couldn't resist!"
He knew it was good that he could spend time with Imogen and not realise where the time had gone. In fact, he barely noticed that the sun was beginning to go down, and that they had been dancing for hours.
He missed Hailey every day, but he was thankful that Imogen was easy, uncomplicated company. She was a lot of fun to be with, and was a much needed friend in a time in his life when he was beginning to feel like he needed all the friends he could get.
Harrison was also finding out how easy it was to spend time with a female friend. He and Lucy had been talking for ages, whilst secretly swigging nectar when nobody was looking, and they were both starting to feel a little tipsy as a result.
"You're so pretty, Harrison. I love your hair. You look like a Barbie doll. Can I stroke your hair?"
"No, you can't," he laughed. "And don't call me pretty! I'm going for rugged here, can't you tell?"
"How about cute?"
"That's no better."
"Yeah, that works. Come on, let's dance."
Lawrence and Anastacia were working their way round the guests at the wedding, ensuring everyone was having a good time. Lawrence took a bit of time to chat with Jennifer, who he'd always secretly liked best out of Ana's siblings; she was friendly and approachable, but had a business-focused mind that Lawrence admired.
"You make my sister very happy," Jennifer told him matter-of-factly. "I don't think I've ever seen her smile like she did today when you exchanged rings."
"Well, she makes me very happy too," Lawrence said. He meant it. He'd always been a loner in school, a bit of an outcast. The fact that a girl as stunning as Anastacia had wanted him had meant everything to him. He knew he wasn't typically handsome, but he genuinely saw desire in Anastacia's eyes when she looked at him, amongst other emotions. "I'm going to treat her right, you know."
"I know you will. And if you don't, my dad can still pull some strings if he thinks you're not doing a good enough job," Jennifer said in a serious voice, and Lawrence spluttered out the sip of nectar he'd just taken. "Just kidding. You'll be fine. Dad likes you a lot."
"I hope you're right..."
Anastacia had decided to accost Chloe who, at this point, was getting a little bit sick of people asking her about her pregnancy or staring at her stomach. Had nobody ever seen a pregnant girl before?
"So do you need any help?" Anastacia asked. "Financially?"
"No," Chloe sighed. "I've got some savings, and the father did give me a bit of money, enough until the baby's old enough for me to go back to work, at least. We'll be fine, Ana."
"I can't believe you're going to be the first one out of us to have a baby," Anastacia grumbled. "That was meant to be my job."
"Well, you're the first to get married!" Chloe pointed out brightly, and Anastacia grudgingly conceded that this was true. She leant forward and felt Chloe's stomach.
"Oh," she said, feeling herself welling up. "It's so lovely. It's just in there, growing inside you... a tiny little baby. I want one, Chloe."
"And you'll get one," Chloe reassured her. "Tonight, probably, if the way Lawrence has been looking at you is anything to go by!"
It was weird for Anastacia to hear her innocent little sister talking about stuff like that, but the thought did cheer Anastacia up, and she decided to go and see if Chloe was right about Lawrence. Maybe they could duck out of the party early.
She saw her new husband over by the buffet table and headed over, smiling at him as he beamed happily at her.
"We did it!" she giggled. "Mr and Mrs Cantrell. How awesome are we?"
"The most awesome."
They talked for a while about the ceremony, about how well everything had gone, but gradually Anastacia saw that Lawrence was thinking along the same lines as her.
"Come here, Mr Cantrell," Anastacia said, pulling her husband into a tight embrace. He stared deeply into her eyes. "Best day of my life," she announced, and Lawrence nodded in agreement.
"I think there's something that can make it even better, though," he said, then whispered in her ear: "Home time?"
She felt a shiver run through her, knowing what that meant. "Absolutely."
Harrison had been working up the courage to kiss Lucy all evening, and when she announced that she really had to get home, he decided to just make the first move and try it. The fizzy nectar helped, sure, but she looked like she was waiting for him to try, so...
She seemed surprised at first, as if she couldn't quite believe what was happening, but her lips were soft and yielding and gradually she closed her eyes and moaned sweetly.
It was Harrison's first kiss, and he knew he'd remember it forever.
Back at home, Anastacia and Lawrence headed straight up to their new bedroom. They'd had to do some reshuffling in the house to best suit everyone now there was an extra person in the house, and though Anastacia had felt bad about Miles moving out of the bedroom he had shared with Hailey, he wouldn't hear any other suggestion; she and Lawrence couldn't carry on sleeping in bunk beds as a married couple, and there was plenty of space in the girls' old room now that Jennifer and Chloe had moved out - just not enough room for a double bed - so Miles would move into there instead.
"You look so beautiful," Lawrence told Anastacia as they moved closer together on the bed. "How did I get so lucky?"
"Because," Anastacia replied, "I love you, and it's not about luck. We both found one another because we were meant to."
She leant in to kiss him, and when she pulled away he felt... giddy. Giddy, light-headed and hot all over. With her soft hand resting on his arm, he didn't think he'd ever seen anyone or anything as perfect looking as this.
It wasn't long until the wedding dress and tuxedo were thrown in a less than perfect heap on the floor.
Miles, unfortunately, didn't end the day on such a positive note. After saying goodnight to the remaining guests, he returned home with Harrison, who fell asleep in the taxi, his head resting on Miles' shoulder, and after Miles had half-dragged, half-carried his teenage son to his bedroom, he noticed that something was... amiss.
On the floor in the hallway was a small urn of ashes. The reaper had been earlier for Yumi.
Miles blinked in shock. Yumi had been part of the family for so long, had exceeded her years for so long, that Miles had almost let himself believe that she wouldn't ever die. He stumbled into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water, then began to weep silently, not wanting to wake his slumbering family up with the distressing news.
Yumi had been the most faithful, patient dog a master could ever hope for, and he would miss her with all his heart. But part of him knew that she would be with Hailey now, playing Fetch on the other side, and he allowed himself to be comforted by that.
Miles now truly felt like he was the last of his generation, and deep down he realised he was ready to go too. It would be lovely to see his first grandchild, of course, when Chloe gave birth, and hopefully Ana's would follow soon after. But the need to be with Hailey and Yumi pierced him strongly, and he vowed then not to fight it when it happened. When his time came, even if it was tomorrow, he would go happily, knowing that he had left a legacy that would continue for many generations to come.
Notes: So... this is Chloe's baby daddy.
I know, I know. Damn you, story progression. Although to be fair, it does suit Chloe's eccentric, dog-loving personality to allow herself to be impregnated by a werewolf with a penchant for dressing up as a giant hot dog. And when I took him into CAS, he actually isn't TOO bad looking in his human form, especially as a young adult, so maybe the kid won't be hideous. :-/
Pretty soon after she had the kid, SP told me that she and Benjamin had split up, so I didn't see the point in introducing him to the story. He's just some nameless werewolf jerk as far as I'm concerned.
I was really sad to see Yumi go, and... might have even cried a bit when I was playing. :( It did happen on the evening of the wedding, which was horrible as nobody was in to grieve for her. But the family sure grieved plenty when they got home - probably even more than they did for Hailey. She was a very popular dog.
Anyway, long chapter, but as I haven't updated for a while I figured it was needed. Hope you enjoyed reading!