See disclaimer chapter 1
Stan and Abby picked Holly up from her friend's house and the three went to a little diner for breakfast. The adults didn't say much during the meal, just listened as Holly told them all about her evening with Stephanie.
Suddenly Stan felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle with awareness. He knew someone was watching them. He glanced around at the neighboring tables, trying to figure out who it was. No one seemed to be interested in his little family. But there, over in the corner, that man reading a magazine, seemed familiar, although Stan couldn't place him. The man was tall and lean with thinning, sandy colored hair. Nothing about him seemed out of the ordinary but Stan could feel a niggling memory at the edge of his conscience. Could this be their stalker? Then the guy reached to turn the page of his book and Stan spied a tattoo, what looked to be a spider, under the edge of his shirtsleeve.
"Dad?" Holly's voice snapped him back to reality. "Dad?"
"Yes, baby?" He turned his full attention to his daughter.
"Can we stop by the record store? The new N'Sync cd is out, and I want to pick it up."
Stan frowned. "I don't know how you can listen to that stuff. Can't you find some good music?"
"Do we hafta go through this again, Daddy?" Holly complained.
Abby laughed. "Stan, leave her music taste alone. I'm sure your parents didn't like what you listened to either."
He grinned and conceded the point to Abby. "Okay," he told Holly, "we'll stop." Then he thought to look over at the guy in the corner. He was gone. 'It must be my imagination. I'm too paranoid.' But the thought wouldnt leave him, that somehow he knew the man.
They visited the music store and Holly picked up her cd, taking some good-natured ribbing from her dad while they waited to be rung up. Abby hung back, listening to the exchange between father and daughter. Her eyes glowed as she watched Stan put his arm around Holly's shoulders and hug her gently. Abby wasn't quite sure when, but, at some point she had started thinking of them as hers. Her family. It sounded so good to her. After being alone for so long, she now had two people, so special to her that she would do anything for. It was a wonderful feeling to have.
Stan glanced up, knowing he was being watched and caught Abby staring at him and Holly. She had such an intense look on her face that it worried him for a moment, but then she flashed that brilliant smile, the one that always made his knees go weak, and mouthed, 'I love you both.' A warm feeling settled in the pit of his stomach. He had his family and he'd be damned if he let anyone hurt them, ever.
They spent the rest of the day at home, not really doing much, just being together, a family. Somehow Stan and Abby made an unspoken agreement to forget what was going on, at least for the day. Holly tortured her father by making him listen to her new music, but he didn't complain too much since Abby had decided to dance with Holly.
But all to soon it was bedtime for Holly. Abby followed Stan as he went to tuck her in. "Abby," Holly called.
"Yes, sweetie?" she answered, going to the girl's bedside.
"Goodnight," Holly whispered, wrapping her arms around Abby's neck. "I love you."
Tears formed in Abby's eyes. "I love you too, sweetheart." Stan watched with a soft smile on his face. When Abby rose, he took her hand and they went back to the living room.
Stan went to the stereo and turned on some soft jazz. "Ah, that's more like it," he sighed.
Abby chuckled. "Had enough kid music for a while?"
He wrapped her up in his arms and started swaying to the slow melody. "It's most definitely time for something a little more grown up." He nuzzled her neck and heard her sigh. They danced a while longer, then Stan stopped. He looked down at the petite red head in his arms, into her blue eyes. "Abby, I love you."
She smiled up into hazel eyes, surprised by the serious look in them. "I love you too, Stanley."
"I know this is not the best time for this, considering all that is happening," he began, "but I don't think I can wait." He placed a small kiss on her lips. "I have never felt this way about anyone. I have never needed anyone or wanted anyone as much as I want and need you. I realize now that I have always been searching for you. You make me so much more than I am by myself." He saw the tears sparkle in her eyes. "And I know that I want to spend the rest of my life making you happy. I want the three of us to be a family." He took a deep breath before dropping to one knee. Holding her hand, he looked up into her surprised face. "Abigail Spark, would you consider marrying me?"
A tear glistened as it fell on her cheek. She was silent, gazing down at the man who knelt before her.
Her silence worried him. "Abby, I..."
"Sshh..." she whispered. "I'm considering it." She smiled and pulled him up. "As romantic as it is to have you on one knee, I prefer you up here with me." His arms went around her automatically. "That's better," she sighed. "This is where I like to be, surrounded by you." She burrowed into his chest. "I feel safe here." She felt him press a kiss into her hair. His heart beat, sure and strong, under her ear. She couldn't contain a sigh of pleasure. But she knew he was waiting for an answer, and as much as she wanted to bask in the moment, she didn't want to worry him. She looked into his beautiful face and smiled. "Yes."
His arms tightened around her. "Yes?" he asked incredulously. Abby nodded. Stan was so happy he thought he would explode. He picked Abby up and swung her around before claiming her lips in a kiss. "I know it's been said before, but I don't think I've ever been happier," he said, smiling, "except for maybe the first time I held Holly in my arms, after she was born. I love you, Abby," he exclaimed and punctuated it with a kiss.
"I love you, Stan," she answered, softly. They stared into each others eyes and then their lips met again. This time, passion flared between them. Stan pulled Abby to the bedroom.