AN: Robert Frost said, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader" and that's certainly been true for me while penning this beast of a fic.

Thank you so much to whoever stuck with and read this story. Peace and love to you all!

'here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life, which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart:

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)'

"I Carry Your Heart With Me" ~ ee cumings (song by Connor J. Koppin)

Greg has a lot of favourite memories.

Dean's inaugural cry upon entering the world, Spike calling him 'Greg' for the first time on that wretched warehouse floor, Marina walking down the aisle towards him with Ed as his best man, watching Ed and Sophie make up after their estranged year.

Spike entering the SRU briefing room, hand in hand with Winnie, going slack jawed and bug eyed, instantly earns a spot on the list.

"Supwise!" calls Izzy.

She throws sunflower petals and yellow confetti at Spike's face, along with Sadie in her high chair.

The stuff is absolutely everywhere, on the table and the floors and even a loose piece caught in Dean's hair. It's turned the well lit room into a sunshine space, gleaming with cheer.

A cloud of laughter plumes in the room at Spike's expression, mirrored on Ed, though he's entered a few minutes earlier with time to process it all.

Spike's stare wanders over the briefing table, now packed to buckling with more food than the six of them, plus their families, Leah, and Holleran, will possibly ever eat.

A mammoth turkey summits the center, where the microphone normally sits. Kitschy pumpkin fairy lights hang overhead and on the door frame.

"What's all this?" Spike finally asks.

"What does it look like?" Greg comes over to rest a hand on their boy's shoulder. "My house really isn't equipped to deal with this many people so, well, we thought we'd do Thanksgiving here."

Ed gestures with his arms. "They hoodwinked us, Spike."

"We missed celebrating it," Jules pipes up, "with everything that happened."

Ed's eyes shine. He sniffs and then says, to hide it, "This is more of an American Thanksgiving, you know, with how late it is."

"How fitting," says Holleran. He hands a manila letter to Spike. "Seeing as our neighbours helped us out so much. Thomas and Ben sent this along with the regular postal service. They say you're welcome back any time."

Spike doesn't read it right away, too busy drinking in these loved faces and heaps of home cooked food. He's already looking a little red rimmed around the eyes, and this sets him off again. "I don't know what to say…thank you. Thank you."

Everyone finds their seats, but not before coming over to embrace Spike and Ed. News of their requalification spread before they were even finished, though Spike is on watch until they're sure his immune system can handle more rigorous field work.

It's Sophie who spies it first, a glinting shape on Winnie's hand.

A collective cry goes up. So of course, more hugs and well wishes are exchanged, with even Holleran slapping Spike heartily on the back, wearing a rare, broad smile.

Greg pulls Spike tighter under his arm. "About time."

And then they're all crying while dishes are passed around the table.

Greg ends up at the head of it, Spike on one side and Ed on his right. He doesn't eat right away, just savouring the chatter of happy voices. The discreetly wiped eyes.

Greg hasn't even touched his plate, but a satiated sensation washes through his gut.

That agitated fire burning inside it, like the curtain on a final act, at last swishes out. In its place rushes a dazzling trail of sweet indolence, the all encompassing gravity of love and loyalty he burns with for these people.

Casual contact points spring up everywhere, fingers in hair and knuckles on cheeks and hands squeezed.

"Here. This calls for a special celebration and I've been saving it." Holleran hands a bottle and corkscrew to Greg. "You do the honours."

Greg wavers until he sees that it's non-alcoholic champagne. His eyes burn all over again and he huffs a wet laugh.

Jules sees and reaches in front of Spike to pat his arm. "We've got you, boss."

Greg pops it open and pours into their glasses, with maybe a few of his tears getting lost in them too. The others say nothing about it, for they're all pulsing with the same joy and hope and relief.

With the utter novelty of having Spike and Ed sitting here, this family alive, whole. Battered but complete.

"To the happy couple." Sam holds up his glass.

"Hear, hear!"

Everyone clinks glasses and then Spike catches his eye across the table. "To the best man and party thrower."

Dean ribs Clark. "I thought we were throwing you a bachelor party?"

Greg laughs and Spike rolls his eyes.

"Not in a million years, pal. Sorry."

Over dessert, more pies and cakes than anyone knows what to do with, Izzy hops off her chair. Her mother and the other women are distracted looking at Winnie's ring, so she steals the chance to escape and toddle up to Spike.


This catches Ed's attention. He puts an exaggerated hand over his heart. "Stop the presses—she actually said it! That's my girl!"

Spike's name has always been the hardest to say of the team, aside from 'Juwes.'

It's a day for milestones.

Izzy holds her arms up in the universal signal and Spike obliges with a laugh, scooping her onto his lap. The little girl's chest puffs when she looks at Spike and Greg to make sure they heard it too.

"Good job, Iz." Spike cants his head when she hands him her giraffe with a proud, gap toothed grin. "Is this for me?"

"Named him, Spike."

Spike's eyes light up. He chews another mouthful of gingerbread and speaks around it. "By what moniker should we call this esteemed gentleman?"

"Comet! Cause he's impowtent like us."

Greg doesn't understand the significance of this at all, but Spike must. His eyes immediately fill up, close to leaking over before he wrestles it back, swallowing. Wordy's shiny eyed too, one hand over his mouth.

"Oh yeah? That's a…that's a great name." Spike kisses her fuzzy head. "Did you and Comet finally make a wish?"

"Yep!" Izzy's sticky palm whaps the table. She looks around at the adults watching her, then points to her father sitting directly across. "Came true."

Ed takes her tiny hand.

Spike leans down so he's sure she hears his next words. "Did you wish for Papa to be rescued?"

Izzy's face twists into one of confusion. "No, Spike. Wish f…for you and Papa…t' come home and smile. Togever."

Spike and Ed stop dead, staring at each other. Brown on blue.

Greg has heard the official report, has had more late night chats to debrief with Ed about what happened than either would probably care to recall. The gritty details about every time Ed passed out and how Spike was audibly dying from the inside out.

But then a tear sneaks down to Ed's chin and the millstone of their gazes—trust, remembered fear, devotion and honour, agony, love—bull rams into Greg's chest for the first time.

The six members of their family look at each other, having drawn into a closer, on top of each other circle without even noticing. Six celestial planets in the pint sized cosmos of this board room.

This time, Ed and Spike aren't imagined by Greg's mind. This time, their world is aligned.

Then Wordy holds up his glass. He stills his tremoring long enough to keep it aloft while meeting each person in the eye. "To their safe return."

Jules takes her husband's hand. "To always making time for each other."

"And never leaving someone behind," Sam adds.

Ed doesn't take his trickling eyes off Spike, Izzy dozing off in her food coma against his chest. Ed too lifts his glass. "To family."

"To the best bunch of rambunctious rug rats a guy could ask for," says Greg. They share a bout of sniffling, wry chuckles. He raises his cup. "And all the second chances we've given each other."

There's a hush and then, by mutual consensus, everyone looks to Spike before drinking. His jaw is working, back and forth in a futile fight against the overwhelmed tears looming in his own eyes.

Greg doesn't even realize he has a hand on Spike's wrist until it shifts in response. He rubs a circle on it with his thumb.

Spike gazes at him, at these faces that love him with such ferocity.

An unsteady breath pauses on its way into the tech's lungs. Then, nodding at Ed, he joins the toast.

"To being enough."

They clink glasses, bells ringing in proclamation of their words and an untouched future before them.

Spike's wet cheeks lift in a small smile, so genuine it's pure electricity. "To this second, chosen home—wherever it takes us."


Written in 2019.