It was a bizarre feeling for JC to actually… physically feel his blood stop. His lips turned to ice and he thought for a minute he might pass out. The sound of Sara’s car in the driveway snapped him out of his dazed state.

"Fuck." JC snapped the tiny box shut and dropped it into his pocket as he ran back into the house. He slammed the backdoor shut and carelessly threw the lock in place as he frantically searched for his keys. "Dammit!" He shouted when he couldn’t find them on the counter beside his cell phone. "Shit!" They were not by the front door either. "Dammit to hell." He ran back down the hall to his room where he scoured the floor for the pants he had been wearing that afternoon.

He found them gently placed over the back of Sara’s papasan chair in the corner. She was always putting his clothes on the chair. Seeing them there only made him go faster. He retreived the keys from his pocket and again bolted through the house, checking his pocket to make sure his wallet was there. Just his luck he’d be pulled over without it.

Driving blindly he thought quickly and drove over to Sara's parents house. Her car was no where to be seen, but he had to try. The doorbell echoed through the house as he pressed the button near the door.

He tapped his foot as his stomach did nosedives, it seemed like forever until the door was open, "May I help you?" An unfamiliar man asked as he answered the door.

"Yes, hi, I'm JC… I'm uh, looking for Sara."

"I'm sorry, Miss Sara no longer lives here." He said without expression.

"No, I know she doesn't… but is she here now? Did she come over?"

"I can assure you she did not." The man began to shut the door on JC.

"Wait!" He practically shouted as he used his foot to keep the door open. "Listen, if she shows up here let her know that I'm looking for her. JC… tell her JC is looking for her."

The gentleman didn't say anything as JC removed his foot so that he could shut the door. JC ran back to his car and pulled out of the driveway… where else could Sara have gone? He drove aimlessly for a few minutes then headed for Griffin Park. It wasn't the best place to be after dark, so he drove around the area looking for her little Toyota.

"Dammit!" He slammed his hands into the steering wheel as he hit the gas and got on the freeway. She couldn't have gone far and it pissed JC off that he didn't know where to find her. He tried to remember which apartement was Cassandra's over at Sara's old complex, but he had never seen Cassandra's place and he wasn't about to go knocking on doors shouting for Sara.

Cassandra. The name set off his thoughts like a domino effect.

Of course… Sara had gone to Dr. Grayson; the one person Sara would turn to if things got weird between them. JC exited the north bound freeway at the next offramp and flipped around to head south, he needed to get to Wycroft.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

JC pulled up in front of Wycroft twenty minutes later and parked at the curb. He killed the engine and turned his lights off, then leaned on the steering wheel to look up at the building. It seemed like an eternity since he had been there, and even longer since he had wanted to go inside. In fact… he couldn't recall a time when he wanted to be inside those heavy glass doors, in the world of the "students" and therapy sessions.

The image of the building disapeared as he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. JC rested his forehead against the steering wheel as he let out his breath and opened the car door. This was the last place he came to look for JC, and as soon as he pulled up he knew this is where she would have gone. He should have known. This should have been the first place he checked.

He hung his head and brought his shoulders to his ears as he shuffled up the front walk to the main doors. For some reason he expected them to be locked, so when they swung open at his first gentle tug, he was surprised.

"May I help you?" A lady asked as she half stood up in her chair.

"Dr. Grayson?" JC kept his eyes on the floor, a tactic he'd become familiar with when he didn't want to be recognized. Now was not the time or place for that.

"She's in her office pa -"

"Thanks." JC cut her off and headed down the well traveled hall to her office.

"Wait! I need to get your name."

"Josh." JC said over his shoulder as he rounded the corner to Dr. Grayson's office. He slowed his pace as her door came into view and he strained to see if he could hear voices coming from her office. He half hoped to find Sara in there, but he heard nothing.

JC approached Dr. Grayson's door which was half open as usual, then he knocked on the frame, "H-hi Dr. Grayson." JC stampered as he leaned on the handle.

"JC, what a uh… surprise." She looked up from her open purse and smiled.

"Is Sara here?"

"She was." Dr. Grayson nodded.

"Shit, Dr. Grayson what do I do?"

"Grab a seat JC." She indicated the only empty chair in the room. It was then that he noticed all of the boxes stacked knee high around the room. He frowned and looked up at her as he placed his hand on the arm of the chair.

"Yes, as of Friday I am retired." Dr. Grayson smiled. She took her chapstick out of her purse and applied it before she continued. "I’d say you have perfect timing." She put her purse on the floor and leaned on her desk.

"So you’re really leaving?"

"Yes, I am going to travel with my husband and drive cross country to visit my children and grandchildren." She nodded.

That took JC completely by surprise. She had always just been ‘Dr. Grayson’, he had never even imagined her with a family or a life outside of Wycroft. "Wow… that… I…"

"It will be lovely." Dr. Grayson smiled and leaned forward. "So… how can I help you?"

"I screwed up."

"You did? How?"

"If Sara’s been here then you know how."

"I want to hear your version." She removed her glasses and laced her fingers in front of her.

"I proposed. I asked Sara to marry me and I freaked her out." He shook his head and let out an exhasperated sigh. "I should have known better than to just spring it on her. I mean Jesus… she’s so…"

"She’s not as fragile as you think." Dr. Grayson shook her head. JC looked up with an almost shocked expression. "JC I can read you like a book. I know just what you were going to say, but you’re wrong."

"I’m… I’m wrong?"

"You didn’t freak her out. You didn’t… your actions did."

"There’s no way she’s ready for this. There’s no way either of us are."

"Why does it sound like you’re trying to talk yourself out of this?"

"I guess because I am." He sat back in the chair and covered his eyes with his hands.

"Do you lover her?"

"As midnight loves the moon." He quoted from a sonet or song he could never remember.

"And she loves you."

"I know but… that’s not all. I mean there has to be more than that."

"You think so?"

"For marriage? Yeah of course there has to be more." He sighed and leaned forward so that his elbows were on his knees. Dr. Grayson smiled, JC was a mover and a shaker, he couldn’t sit still for anything and she missed counseling him. "It takes commitment and trust, honesty, faith, time… all of that."

"Are you commited to her?"

"Yes." He said with certainty. "Absolutely."

"And do you trust her?"

"With my life. God I’d trust her with anything." He reached to his neck and ran his pewter pendant up and down the leather rope.

"And you’re honest with her?"

JC paused for a minute and thought about that, "We’ve gotten better about that."

"Explain."

"We used to… I don’t know. We used to not tell each other what we meant or what we were feeling. You know the game. Where you say somehting you think they want to hear. Or you don’t say something because you think they don’t want to hear it? We used to do that." He cleared his throat. "The old ‘where do you want to go?’, ‘I don’t know where do you want to go.’, ‘wherever you want to go’. Instead of just saying ‘I’d like to go to McDonalds’ or whatever."

"So you’ve started to be more honest with that?"

"Yeah." He nodded and ran his thumbnail over his bottom teeth. "That seems kind of insignificant though. We’ve been honest with each other from the beginning I think."

"That’s imporant to you?"

"Very." JC nodded emphatically. "I’ve never lied to her, and I don’t think she’s lied to me. I know she hasn’t." He corrected himself.

"Okay what else was it you needed for marriage? Faith…?" Dr. Grayson smiled. "You guys have that. The two of you have more faith in each other than half the married couples I know. No matter what happens in your life… good or bad, you have faith that Sara will be there when you call, right?"

"Yeah."

"And you’d be there for her?"

"Anytime she needed."

"Well JC… life is full of nothing but time… your last requirement." She nodded.

JC sighed and rested his ankle on his knee, "But if you have to convince me about this, maybe we’re not really ready."

"I’m not convincing you of anything JC. I’m confirming what you’ve told me."

"Yeah but if I’m having second thoughts…"

"If you are having second thoughts then stop right here. I don’t think you are though. I think that you had every intention of living the rest of your life with Sara and when she got scared you began to doubt yourself. If she had said yes when you asked… where would you be right now?"

JC looked out the window at the sky as the stars began to appear, "I’d be with her."

"She’s just scared JC." Dr. Grayson said quietly. "That’s normal… especially for someone like Sara. She loves you, she’s commited completely to you." Dr. Grayson unconciously touched the narrow gold band on her own hand, "She trusts you more than anyone else JC. You’ve touched her life in such a magical way… since the beginning. No one else could reach her to break that shell that she had built around herself and somehow you did. You got to her and for reasons I’ll never know, she trusted you. Coming from her background that’s a tough feat, you know that. She trusts you with more than her life, she trusts you with every part of her being. Mentally, physically, emotionally… you hold all of that in your hands and she’s okay with that."

JC nodded, but didn’t say a word. With the tears rising in his eyes he knew he could not trust his voice to not shake. He kept his eyes on the leg of Dr. Grayson’s desk as she continued, "Because of that trust, she feels safe being honest with you. Honest about herself and honest about you. She went from having faith in nothing, to having faith in you and everything that came with that… and most of all JC, time. She has time, she’s made time and she wants to devote her time… to you." Dr. Grayson’s voice softened as she finished.

JC wiped at his eyes and nodded, "I know."

"Then JC, do what your heart tells you. Sara loves you so much kid… go talk to her."

He stood up slowly and wiped his hands on the front of his pants then looked around the office. He sniffed quickly and forced a smile, "I can’t believe you’re leaving."

"I’ll never be far."

"What are we going to do without you?" JC felt foolish asking such a juvenile question. He hadn’t been a regular at Wycroft since he was released, but he still somehow felt better knowing that Dr. Grayson was right there.

"Without me? You’re going to do great things." Dr. Grayson nodded with a smile as she too stood up. "Come here JC, let me get a hug before you go."

JC wrapped his arms around Dr. Grayson and felt himself squeeze her tight. He hadn’t realized how much she had done for him, simply by helping Sara. Dr. Grayson was why he was there today and he had never ackowledged that.

"Thank you Dr. Grayson, God without you I don’t know if I’d be here."

"You’re stronger than that JC, you would have beaten it." She affectionately rubbed his back, but he didn’t let go.

JC sniffed and moved his hand up to his eyes to hold the tears back, "Thank you."

"You’re welcome." Dr. Grayson whispered. "Go on now… go talk to Sara."

"I don’t know where she is." JC sighed and released the doctor.

"She’s outside." Dr. Grayson smiled at the surprised look on JC’s face. "Hurry though, she won’t wait forever."

"Oh my God." JC’s heart sped up and a genuine smile danced acrss his face, "Okay… okay…" He bounced toward the door then ran down the hall.

 

JC knew right where he was going, even in the darkness of the back yard. He stayed close to the building and tried to avoid as many puddles as he could as he rounded the back corner. The motion sensitive light on the roof caught his movement and flickered on, illuminating the grassy yard and volleyball net hanging precariously on the pole. The porch looked exactly the same as when he left more than two years earlier; all the way down to the crumbling bottom step, the cobwebs in the high corners, and the curly blonde head barely visible above the railing.

Sara heard his footsteps on the soft ground before he turned the corner and activated the lights, and she knew he had talked to Dr. Grayson; there was no other way he’d know where to look.

"Sara?" JC said softly. More of a statement than a question, who else would be out on their porch at this time of the night?

Sara didn’t answer or move as he stepped onto the damp wood planks and into her line of sight, "Hey…"

She sat with her knees up to her chest and her back pressed against the dark railing, "Hey."

"You okay?" JC asked as he stuffed his hands in his pockets, feeling just as shy an nervous as the first time they met on the porch.

"Yeah." She nodded and looked up at him with damp eyes.

JC nodded slowly and shuffled his feet as his fingers played with the tiny box in his pocket. He knealt beside her and placed one hand on her knee, then made small circles with his thumb on the fabric of her jeans, "Never thought I’d be back out here again." JC looked over her head at the yard then he turned to look around the rest of the porch, "Weird."

"I’m sorry I took off." She said softly. JC wasn’t sure he heard her correctly, but he didn’t want to ask her to repeat it. Whatever she said started with "I’m sorry" and that was all JC needed to hear.

"Don’t be sorry Sara bear."

"I just got scared."

"Don’t be scared of me babe… I’d never do anything to hurt you." He ran his hand from her knee to her thigh where her hands were resting. "Come here Sara." He took her hand in his and pulled her to her feet before he kissed her softly.

"I wasn’t scared of you JC." Sara insisted as she licked her lips and averted her eyes. "You just… you surprised me with this promise of heaven and that was just… wow it was too much. I mean… this is all coming out wrong." She took a deep breath as if to start speaking again, but JC silenced her by placing his finger on her lips.

"Shhhh."

JC smiled at her persistance as she began to speak again, "Dr. Grayson said – "

"I asked you, not Dr. Grayson." JC cut her off and ran his finger from her lips to her chin, then down to her neck where his hand came to rest. "I know that this can be a scary adventure, and that you might not have been ready for it… but Sara we can do this. I want to start this together. We've saved each other from so much, we can do this." He paused and smiled while she was still looking up at him, "Sara I love you. With all of my heart, mind, body and soul. Every time I look at you, or even think about you I just can’t believe it. I can’t… I can’t see into the future, and I don’t even know where I’m going next but the one thing I know for sure is that I want you there with me. I’ve lived without you for so long I just don’t want to waste any time… I don’t want to put off the rest of my life, and that can’t start until you say yes." JC took a deep breath and reached into his pocket while she stood there in silence, too stunned to talk. "Sara, you are everything right in my life. Will you marry me?"

Sara’s hand shook slightly as she caught her breath and exhaled. JC held her cold hand in his and slid the thin platinum ring onto her finger where it was always meant to be. The flood light from above glanced off the diamond centered on the ring as JC brought her hand to his lips, "Please say yes."

Not trusting her voice, Sara simply nodded and wrapped her arms around his neck as her tears of happiness rolled down her cheeks and mixed with the nervous laughter coming from both of them. "Yes." She whispered as her lips brushed JC’s ear.

He leaned back and brushed her tear away with his thumb, then kissed her again like it was the first time.

His life began… 

 

 

 

Thank you for sticking with me through this series… I think it came full circle now and while I'm sad to see it go, it's time. J - AmyK

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