Bring Her Home
Epilogue – Paint it With A Pen
Then the devil took your breath away
And now we're left here in the pain
Black suit, black tie standin' in the rain
And now my family is one again
Stapled together with the strangers and a friend
Came to my mind I should paint it with a pen
Six years old I remember when
-Afire Love by Ed Sheeran
Giggling. Pounding feet. The smell of pancakes permeated the air. The distinctive click of the door opening. Greg allowed whomever it was their moment of fun and pretended to be asleep still. Then –
"GRANDPA!" a high-pitched squeal startled Greg as he fought his way out of the blanket. He winced when he landed on his bad hip but managed to get up with the assistance of the nightstand. In the doorway, Adaline watched the scene with a bit of amusement. He grinned at her before turning his attention to the granddaughter peering up at him from the spot she had landed on, on the bed.
"Grandpa's going to tickle you!" he said as began to dive toward the young girl. She squealed again and ran out of the room. He winked at Adaline before "hurrying" after the young girl. He found her hiding behind her dad in the kitchen. He pretended to not see her before contemplating aloud who was going to help him blow out his birthday candles. All four children let out "Me!" from where they were. Greg chuckled as he took a seat at the table. Soon breakfast was served, gifts were opened, and cake was consumed. Afterwards the grandchildren gathered around Greg in the living room. It was story time. Every time they visited the house, Grandpa would tell them a story from when he was younger. Adaline had been recording them for years. When they could not visit grandpa, they would watch the video.
"Now let's see, let's see, what story should I tell you today?" Greg mused. The children leaned forward as they waited in anticipation.
"When you met Papa!" the eldest called out. Greg blinked and then a smile crossed his face.
"Ah yes, I have yet to tell that one," Greg recalled in agreement. He barely noticed as Adaline videoed him. "I was in my early twenties and it was my first day at my brand new job. I had arrived from California only the day before. My apartment was full of boxes and in no way organized. I was lucky to find any clean, decent clothes for work. It took some time for me even to get past the front desk. I had to fill out form after form, pose for a picture badge, and then I waited to meet my new supervisor. Your uncle Gil walked up and gave me a quick tour before setting me to work. The day shift had left a lot to be done. I had been working for a few hours before Papa came in. Now keep in mind I had just finished catching up on what day shift had left behind so I was celebrating when he walked in. I had been pushing myself around on the wheeled chair when I slid into him.
"Before I could even say anything he was shaking my hand and introducing himself. He handed me three bags full of evidence and three sheets of paper. I was confused and he noticed. On the three sheets of paper, he had given me a run down on the lab and things I should know – including their pager numbers-"
"What are pagers?" one of the kids asked. Greg blinked as he was brought back to the present.
"It was an older version of cell phones – not much could be done with them, they were a way to let someone know you needed to talk to them and not much else," Greg explained. The kids nodded. Greg smiled. "He then asked for me to page him when the results were in. I went about testing the evidence he had given me. I was waiting for results to print when I heard someone walk up behind me. I picked up the results and noticed someone was looking over my shoulder. Papa had seen me waiting for the printer and realized his results were in and decided to not wait for me to page him." Greg chuckled. "I almost fell out of my seat when I noticed him." The children giggled.
"Did Papa catch the bad guy?" the middle child asked. Greg smiled.
"Yes Papa caught the bad guy," Greg told them. Adaline turned the camera off.
A game of monopoly had been going for a couple of hours when a knock came on the door. Greg nodded to Adaline who answered the door. She greeted her old friend and followed her in. Lindsey grinned at the older man and handed him her present.
"Look at it later," she told him as she hugged him. He nodded just enough for an agreement.
"How is your class going?" he asked as she took a seat next to him. He studied the monopoly board as she chattered on about her art students. Lindsey had found her true passion in art and teaching about it to others. Greg had several of her paintings and drawings on display around the house. A few minutes later she was gone and heading home. Adaline's family left soon after, it was bedtime for a couple of the kids. Adaline stayed behind.
"Quite a party," she teased him as they cleaned up the living room. Greg gave her an amused smile before he headed in the kitchen to put up the remaining cake. He took a seat and allowed himself a moment as he felt his age. Adaline watched him as she tied off the garbage.
"I miss him too," Adaline said as she rested a hand on Greg's ring. Greg played with his ring sadly. Nick had passed away a few years before and Greg missed him every day. Nick had made him promise to hold on as long as he could. He used to tell Greg they had forever together and he wanted the kids to have at least one grandpa around for as long as possible. It had been hard losing Nick but having Adaline and her family nearby helped.
"I remember when you turned 16," Greg chuckled. "He looked like it was the end of the world. You were growing up far too fast for his liking. He wanted you to be 9 years old again. He didn't you to be thinking about boys and going away for school. He panicked when you began looking into schools because you were going to be away from home." Greg swallowed as tears fell.
"He was so proud of you when you got into Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Princeton," Greg continued, ignoring the falling tears. "Every time you came home or called he lit up like a 1000 watt bulb. He told anyone he could about his amazing goddaughter."
"He called me a few days before he passed," Adaline admitted as she took a seat. "He told me to take care of you. He knew he was going to go soon and he wanted someone by your side. He really loved you." The two sat in the kitchen and talked about Nick for several minutes before Adaline cleaned up the last of the trash and said her goodbyes to Greg. She gave Greg a kiss on his forehead and smiled sadly, as she left the house.
The crinkle of the leaves and the crunch of the snow under Greg's boots brought Greg back into his memories. He watched them with a sad eye. Nick was gone and he was still here. He kneeled down and cleared the headstone of snow. Nick Stokes-Sanders.
"The grand-kids are getting older," he said. For a moment, Greg imagined that Nick could hear him as rattled on. "The oldest is 12 now. It seems like just yesterday we were waiting in the hospital waiting for him to be born. I told them about how we meet today." He paused and rubbed his hands for warmth. "I didn't tell them that that was the last story I would tell them. I can feel it in my bones Nick. I don't have much time left in me. I miss you so much. Adaline tries but she is not you. I am ready to come home Nick. I want to be back in your arms again." He pressed his lips against his gloved hand and placed his hand on the gravestone marker. Carefully Greg stood back up and left the cemetery headed for home.
He shook the snow off his boots, headed to his room – their room, and changed into his pajamas. As he laid his head down, he thought of Nick and of their lives together, he thought about seeing Adaline grow up into the wonderful woman she was, and about their grand-kids. The echoes of years of laughter, tears, anger flashed through his mind. With a smile, he imagined Nick's arms around and closed his eyes for the final time.
(A/N: And the story comes to a close. Thank you everyone for reading. The inspiration for this story came from CSI Season 6 Episode 5 Gum Drops. I do not own CSI or Harry Potter although I do enjoy playing in their sandboxes. I want to thank everyone for their reviews and encouragement throughout this story. I'm not sure what or when I will be writing next as school starts up soon for me but keep a look out - you never know when inspiration will hit! Goodbye until next time!)