Season's Greetings! This is a lot later in the day than planned, but I woke up late this morning, and then I completely forgot about this, and blah blah blah...
This is the final installment in A Starry Night Song. Thanks so much to those of you who reviewed (you know who you are) and gave constructive critisism (again, you know who you are :D). It means a lot to me; thank you!
And yeah, Vaughn's very OOC in this chapter. (Gee, I wonder why.) I was really tempted to have him pull a Scrooge McDuck and have him run around town in his pyjamas, slippers, and hat, but, well, that would have been entirely too silly. (Because, you know, the rest of the chapter is completely serious. Yeah.) This chapter contains 100% of your daily dose of fluff. Seriously, it's like a pillow factory exploded in here. It's that fluffy.
This is the only stave without a quote from the original. Sorry, no game today!
The curtains seemed familiar...Vaughn squinted, and realized they were his bed curtains. He cried out for joy and snuggled his face into them. He was back! Home! He'd never felt so good!
He jumped out of bed and raced into the hall. "Good morning, Carol!" he sang, rushing to the front desk.
Carol yawned sleepily. "Morning. You're certainly an eager beaver this morning. Checking out already? It's only Monday."
Something dawned on Vaughn. "Only Monday? It's Starry Night?"
She shrugged. "Well, it will be tonight, but yeah."
His face brightened, and he started giggling. Carol looked at him like he had two heads. Vaughn didn't giggle. It just wasn't done. He skipped back into his room, giggling and mumbling to himself. Carol debated calling for assistance, but decided Vaughn was just in an uncharacteristically good mood and said 'good morning' to Karen and Popuri, who had just left their room.
Back in his room, Vaughn mumbled to himself again. "They did it all in one night! I haven't missed anything! It's amazing, it's remarkable! Spirits are great. Thank you, Spirits!" he called to no one in particular. "Oh, and the Witch Princess too!"
Karen, Popuri, and Carol looked at Vaughn's door, then shrugged and went back to chatting.
"I have to...I have to..." He looked down and realized that he was still wearing his pyjamas and he had five o'clock shadow. "I can't go out like this!" He looked around for his clothes, and saw them folded nicely in his open suitcase. "Ah, there we go."
It took him a while to change and shave, because he was constantly hopping up and down in excitement. But he finished, and raced outside for the snowball fight which he'd seen with Alisa the previous night. He was instantly pelted, but instead of yelling like the 'old' Vaughn would have done, he laughed and launched back his own volley of snow.
Completely soaked, he went back to his room to change. He leapt into his fresh clothes and charged out again, headed for the church. Everyone seemed to be going there, and it took him a while to find a good seat. He quickly put his hat on the pew next to him, and it was a good thing he did, because how else was he going to save a seat for Chelsea, who he knew would be late?
Sure enough, about five minutes after everyone else had sat down, and Nathan was about to start speaking, Chelsea rushed in. "Sorry I'm late!" she called breathlessly. Everyone laughed as she looked around for a seat. Vaughn waved her over and patted the pew where his hat was. She nodded and smiled her thanks and sat down.
Vaughn had never heard Nathan's church sermon before, but it was very nice, and he vowed to come again the next year. As he left, Chelsea pulled on his sleeve.
"Are you doing anything later?" she asked.
"Um...I'm not really sure," he answered honestly. He didn't know whether or not to take Joseph up on his offer to eat dinner with them, or if he should stay in his room so Chelsea could find him later. Then he got an idea. "Wait here for a second." He ran off and caught up to Elliot, Julia, and Joseph. "Happy Starry Night," he said from behind them.
Elliot jumped and turned. "Vaughn! Hello! Same to you!"
"Thank you." He turned to Julia. "Last night, your son asked me if I wanted to come to dinner."
"If you have other plans, that's okay," Julia said hastily.
"No no, I'd be delighted to come!" laughed Vaughn. Elliot and Julia traded a look that clearly said, 'he's gone nuts.' "I was just wondering...could I bring someone?"
Julia looked over and saw Chelsea watching them. Women's intuition kicked in, and she smirked. "Good choice, Vaughn. But she can only come if you do the dishes!"
Vaughn rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine. I'll see you around six-ish?"
They nodded and Vaughn went back over to Chelsea. "Do you want to come to Elliot and Julia's with me later? To, um, eat?" He suddenly felt very awkward and wondered if his hair looked alright, even though it was covered up by his hat.
Chelsea looked shocked for a second, then she beamed. "I love you–I mean I'd love to!"
Vaughn gulped and nodded. "Okay then."
They stood there awkwardly as everyone else filed out. Finally, there were just the two of them, Nathan, and Alisa left. Nathan tapped Vaughn on the shoulder. "Is something wrong, Vaughn?"
He turned red and shook his head wildly. "N-no! Um, I'll see you then, Chelsea!" he said, running out of the church, leaving three confused people.
Look at me, he thought as he walked briskly along the boardwalk. A grown man, blushing like a schoolgirl! He calmed down and decided to not let it bother him. Who would say anything, anyway? Whoever it was, he was sure it wouldn't be someone whose opinion he valued, so it wouldn't matter. Pick your battles, he had heard somewhere.
Vaughn paced along the bridge to Ranch Island for about half an hour before finally walking onto the farm. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
He heard Mark say, "Just a minute, there's someone at the door," then it opened. Mark looked surprised to see Vaughn, but he welcomed him in anyway. "So what brings you here, Vaughn?" he asked as Vaughn removed his snow-encrusted boots.
"Well, I–" Vaughn realized that Regis was also there, and clammed up. Regis had always kind of scared him.
"As I was saying, Sabrina, I really wish that you'd accept my help!" Regis said to his daughter. They were sitting at the table, and talking in rather hushed tones. Vaughn saw why: Andrea was asleep in her bed, clutching a worn out plushy sheep, smiling in her sleep. "I know that Andrea is sick, and I want to help; I really don't see why you keep refusing and pushing me away!"
"Please, Father, this is Starry Night!" Sabrina protested.
"Exactly! I want to help you," Regis continued, "because it's Starry Night. Consider it a present or something. Please, I want to help my granddaughter!"
"You should let him," Vaughn piped up. Everyone looked at him, and he shrugged. "You know, he's your father, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with accepting money as a gift, especially from your family. No one wants to see your daughter suffer." He paused. "Least of all the people who care about her."
Sabrina looked at her hands in her lap. "But...I don't want to have to rely on Father..."
"And you won't have to," Regis protested. "I just want to give you enough to help you get going. I'm not going to fight your battles for you, Sabrina. I'm just going to supply some of the ammunition."
Sabrina's big eyes teared up as she hugged Regis. "Thank you, Daddy."
Vaughn watched them and felt really good for some reason. Then Mark nudged him. "Vaughn, was there something you wanted?"
He shook his head. "No, no, I think I have everything now. Thank you." He left, closing the door softly so as not to disturb the sleeping Andrea.
Vaughn glanced back at the house as he left the island and smiled. "I release you, Sabrina."
He wandered the island for a little while, watching how different people spent their holiday. Sometimes, as with Felicia and Mirabelle's gossip session, he'd observe from a distance, enjoying himself. Other times, he'd join right in, and he laughed along with Lanna and Denny in the diner. He saw Carol from the hotel shyly ask a passing Natalie to deliver a bottle of wine to Kirk. He saw Charlie playfully tug Eliza's hair ribbon, then kiss her cheek. He helped Halia, on her one day off, fix the broken table that had been bothering her for a month, and then he built a snowman in front of the hotel.
I can't believe I was missing all of this! he thought. What have I been doing all this time? It feels like...I've been awakened or something. I don't even remember what the old me was like.
He headed for his room to quickly look at his finances. Holiday and new revelations or no, there was still work to be done. But he didn't really plan to spend too long at it; there was so much to be lived!
No sooner had he opened his book when he heard a knock at the door. "Come in!" he called.
Chelsea's familiar red bandana appeared round the frame. "Hi, Vaughn!" she chirped. "Happy Starry Night!"
Vaughn swallowed. He recognized this situation from his time with Alisa. I have to do everything in my power to change the outcome! he vowed. "Hi, Chelsea," he replied, setting his book aside and patting the bed next to him.
"Um, thank you for inviting me to Elliot and Julia's," she mumbled, sitting down. "I know we'll be eating there, but well, it's lunchtime, and...I was thinking, do you want something to eat?"
Vaughn decided to play dumb about the gift. What would she think if I knew she'd made food? "Well, sure, but the Diner's closed, and so is the Café."
"Actually..." Chelsea pulled out the box. "Here, open it."
Vaughn took the box and opened it. Sure enough, there it was: Grilled Mushrooms, Rolled Omlet, Strawberry Milk, and Pudding. He looked at it for a moment, trying to figure out what to say.
"What's the matter?" Chelsea asked. "Don't you like that stuff?"
Vaughn's head snapped up. "Uh, yeah, I love it! Just, uh...I feel kind of bad because I don't have anything...wait!" He moved the food off his lap and headed for his suitcase. "I think I have some...there it is!" He grabbed the second thermos that he always filled with Egg Soup. "Here, we can share this."
The two of them ate lunch together, talking and laughing. And after they'd finished eating, they continued to hang out. They took walks, and Chelsea taught him how to fish. They visited Wada and Shea, even though Chelsea had already seen them that morning, and Vaughn got to meet Chelsea's pet pig Muncher. They went back to the Mystic Islands, and made an offering to the Harvest Goddess.
When she appeared, the Goddess saw the two of them and smirked, reminding Vaughn of the look Julia had gotten on her face in the church earlier. "Why hello, Chelsea and Vaughn. What brings you here?" she asked innocently.
"J-just thought we should make an offering, since it's Starry Night and all," Chelsea mumbled, turning a little red. Vaughn remembered her response to him asking her to eat with them all that morning–"I love you!"–and blushed too.
"Mm-hm," the Goddess said, in that all-knowing way of hers. "Well, in that case..." As she disappeared, the bell next to the church started ringing. Nathan and Alisa rushed out to see what was going on. They saw the red-faced couple next to the pond, put two and two together, and went back inside.
"What was that all about?" Vaughn grumbled. Chelsea giggled and he gave her a little look. "What's so funny?"
He didn't get an answer, and instead they headed for Elliot and Julia's.
At the end of the meal, when Vaughn and Joseph had finally given in and eaten their Stir-Fried Veggies and Vaughn was cleaning up, Chelsea came over. "What's up, Chelsea? Everyone else is playing games in the other room."
Chelsea didn't say anything, but she gave Vaughn a little kiss on the cheek, then started drying the clean dishes. Vaughn stared at her, bringing his hand up to brush the part of his cheek that her lips had touched. She turned. "What are you staring at, silly? We have to get this cleaned up so we can go play! They're playing 'Things in a Box' next, and I own at that game!"
Vaughn smiled. He now knew the secret to life: happiness is DIY. He hugged Chelsea and picked up a plate to put away. "We'll see about that!" They laughed together.
Several weeks later.
The bell by the church rang once again, and everyone cheered and threw rice as the happy couple left the church. Vaughn laughed as the grains bounced off his face and glanced at the crowd. His parents were there; his mom crying and his dad laughing his big, booming laugh. Chelsea's folks had shown up too. Vaughn had discovered that Chelsea had her dad's hair and eyes, but her mother's build and fashion sense. Chelsea herself looked gorgeous in a white, sleeveless dress with a white ribbon collar tied in a bow at the back of her neck, and a hem that came all the way down to the ground. Her hair was done up in wavy curls, with a lacy headband and white flowers. Vaughn didn't look too bad himself, in a rented black tuxedo with a silver tie that matched his hair.
"Give her a smooch, Vaughn!" Denny yelled. Lanna elbowed him, hard.
Vaughn and Chelsea laughed. Vaughn gave her a peck on the cheek, which she then returned. Then they clasped hands and ran to the boat, where Kirk was waiting.
On the way there, Vaughn glanced at the sky. He could have sworn that he saw Taro's smiling, self-satisfied face, and heard him say, You done good, Vaughn. You done good.
Thanks once again! Happy Holidays, and please review! :3