Just the end. It's a little bit-I don't know-but this is how I pictured the story ending. Thanks for all the feedback.

"Dad, Mommy...hi," said Seth sheepishly. "That color looks terrific on you, Dad, you know; it reminds me of...your dress from last night, Mom, which I should have told you looked absolutely amazing, not that I was surprised, I mean, you are the most beautiful woman I've ever met; I..."

"Seth, stop filibustering," Sandy told him sternly.

"Dad, come on, I know I'm in trouble. It was wrong, but hey, you guys don't want to be up yet. Look at Mom! She looks exhausted—beautiful, Mommy, but exhausted. Go to bed. Get another hour of sleep or something. Ryan and I will get you breakfast—right, Ryan?" Seth's voice had risen nearly an octave within the course of his "filibuster." Ryan regarded him with amusement.

"Hey, keep me out of your bargaining. You were the one in the fight, not me. For once."

Seth's face fell, and his voice was defeated.

"Yeah, well, what's my punishment? I guess I'm grounded, not that it really matters. You know, if you really wanted to punish me, you'd make me...go out and stuff...you know...keep me from sulking over Summer." He shook his head. "She's the only girl I've ever loved, and you know, Dad, I'm a one-woman kind of man. She's the only one I'll ever love. I mean, I thought that Anna...and Alex...but there's no one else for me but Summer, and she hates me now. So, yeah, my social life from now on is going to be hell; there's actually no point in punishing me. I lost her. That's punishment enough." He shook his head. "The only woman in the world for me is never going to speak to me again, and you think that whatever you're going to do to me is going to hurt worse."

Kirsten gazed at her boy, tears beginning to pool, unshed, in her eyes. When had her little baby gotten so—so old?

For Sandy, Seth's words hung in the air, taunting him, making his heart break. Like father, like son...he knew how much Seth was hurting.

"First, you're going to call her," Sandy said, struggling to keep his voice steady. "You are going to apologize, ask for her forgiveness, and then you are going to give her time." He drew a breath and instinctively drew his wife closer to him. "As for your punishment, you're right. I know Summer, and I know that she can punish you much more than I'll ever be able to." Sandy offered his son a small, ironic smile. "You might still be a little kid to me, but you love that girl as a man loves a woman, and all I can say is 'Welcome.' But, Seth—after all we've taught you—after everything that's happened to Ryan—don't use your fists to prove a point. Ever." Then his arms went around Seth. Kirsten followed, a split-second behind. The three Cohens embraced as Seth cried. Ryan stood by awkwardly until Sandy pulled him over. He gingerly put his arms around Sandy and Kirsten and reached around Kirsten's neck to tousle Seth's hair.

"So," said Sandy when the four broke apart. "Here's the phone. Call Summer; call Zach. You owe him an apology, too, you know." Seth sighed.

"I'm going to go to my room to do it, okay?" Kirsten nodded.

"I love you, sweetie," she told him, taking his hand. Seth rubbed her knuckles, his fingers grazing her ring.

"I love you, too, Mom." He observed his father, an unspoken message passing between their eyes. "I love you both." They watched as Seth trudged to the stairs.

"We raised a good kid," said Kirsten chokily.

"Yeah," agreed Sandy, stroking her hair. She turned to look at him. "We did, didn't we?"

"Do...um, do you guys want coffee?" offered Ryan. Kirsten shook her head.

"I think we're going to follow Seth's advice, go back to bed," she said. "But thanks, honey." She gave him a smile. "You're not a bad kid, yourself." Then she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek for the first time. She'd kissed Seth so many times, but there had always been something...manly...about Ryan that had kept her from kissing him. Today, though, it was okay. "See you later."

With her words, Sandy and Kirsten headed toward the stairs themselves. His hand found the small of her back and rubbed it gently through the silk robe and thin camisole.

"I love you," he told her, for what seemed to be the millionth time. After witnessing Seth's pain, Sandy was reminded of how important his wife was to him, of how close he'd come to losing her forever. She responded by wrapping her own arm around his waist and pulling him to her, her hand slipping over his hip.

"I love you."

They walked silently into their bedroom. It hadn't changed, thought Kirsten, through any of their issues. Not when the boys were gone and they were barely speaking, not when Sandy was saying good-bye to the memory of Rebecca, not when she was running to Carter...throughout all the relationship problems they'd had in the past year, and even before that...she remembered the Heights and Rachel and the time he was angry with her for not mentioning that Jimmy had kissed her...still, their room had been a constant. The bed had been a constant, whether they were facing each other, at peaceful bliss with the world, whether they were on top of each other, having passionate sex, whether they were facing away from each other, secrets and pain between them, whether one of them wasn't there...the room remained the same. They could go back to it always, and the sad memories, though they didn't disappear, were not what came to mind. They could do this. She turned slightly to face him.

"I think...we're almost there," she said, carefully considering her words.

"What do you mean?" asked Sandy.

"Back to normal," Kirsten explained slowly. "This is going to work...I know it is. It's going to be okay. We're almost there." Her left hand ran gently through his dark hair; her right went to the sash around his waist holding his robe in place.

Sandy stood transfixed. He didn't want to move, so terrified was he of doing something wrong. It had been a long time since she had been interested in the little things, kissing and caressing and the like...since their anniversary, he realized, months ago, and even then, it hadn't been the same...not the way it was before. He felt her gently tug on his sash, which came loose with not too much effort. She followed by sliding her hand inside his robe and reaching around to his back. He could barely breathe.

"Well?" said Kirsten quietly, privately. "Aren't you going to touch me?" Sandy slowly tugged on her sash. The neatly tied bow came apart, and his hands went to her waist for a moment. Then he leaned forward and kissed her. Her mouth was warm. Neither pulled away as they freed their hands and let their robes drop. Instantly, their hands were on each other again. Sandy was still afraid; irrationally, perhaps, but he was terrified. It was even scarier than the moment before he'd slept with her the first time. Now there seemed to be more weight on right now, and each movement required intense contemplation. Her hands were in his hair, both of them now, and she was planting feather-kisses across his face. He took the hem of her camisole in his hands and pulled it gently over her head, blonde hair spilling over the neckline, slipping, sliding everywhere. Kirsten looked him in the face. Her own face was written with so many emotions—desire, he was glad to see, but a little apprehension at the (what, almost four months?) time since they'd last undressed each other, and love, in vast quantities. He was reassured. Their hands both moved to each other's waistbands, slowly, gently pushing, pulling, until they stood before each other without any clothes.

Suddenly, Kirsten broke the careful, deliberate motions and surprised Sandy with a firm, passionate kiss. She pushed him backwards until the backs of his legs hit the bed and he fell onto his back. Then she was on top of him, her mouth moving down his chest.

"I want you," she mumbled, and it felt almost as good as her "I love you" had minutes before. They were reaching for the last piece of their marriage, cast aside while they had considered all of the emotional aspects of their life, but now in the forefront.

"You...are...incredible," Sandy breathed, arching his back instinctively as her kisses moved farther down. "You feel...incredible."

"Good," Kirsten said with the mischievous smile he'd missed so much.

Some fifteen minutes later, they both lay on the bed, heartbeats slowing down. They had finished the last step of "Normal." Normal. It would have to be redefined now; there was no going back to last year. But now...the last hurdle, the final test...however they wanted to call it, their marriage had no more "making up" to do any longer. The only tests that faced them now were the average, every-day ones, which they silently vowed not to let build up again.

Kirsten leaned over and kissed her husband affectionately, aiming for his cheek but missing and getting his jaw. He smiled. It was definitely worth it.