STORM FRONT
By SFWriter
Copyright 1998 2009 SN Studios, All rights reserved.

SF37: Goodbye

* * * * * *

"Well, Mr. Marcus." I said with a broad smile as I adjusted Mike's bow for him. "How do you feel?"

Mike stood before me dressed in his wedding suit. I couldn't believe this day was actually here. Dade and I were with Mike here at our place. Lucas and Claire were with Sarah at hers. Marcel was busy making sure everything was in order down at the South Lake Beach. I couldn't believe how excited I was. I knew today would be a double edged sword. Today was the day Mike and Sarah would be leaving Merlow as well the day they finally marry. Still, the good far outweighs the bad. I'm excited for them. This is a positive step towards their future together. Towards Sarah's recovery. It's incredible.

Mike looks absolutely brilliant. His smile is just glowing. He looks as though he's about to burst. I'm so proud of him today. He's also finally a Marcus. It ain't Mike Mitchell anymore. It's Michael Patrick Marcus. Same initials, different last name. Sweeeeeeeeet!

"Storm, I feel like I'm gonna burst. Pinch me. Somebody pinch me." Mike said ecstatically.

Dade, being the ass that he is so often, didn't pinch Mike. No. He punched him on the arm. Pretty hard too. Such a great guy.

"I said pinch, not punch!" Mike said scowling as Dade bolted with a grin on his face.

"My mistake!" Dade yelled as he ran downstairs.

"It's almost time to go." I said with a somewhat melancholy smile. "You ready to say goodbye to this house? To your room?"

"Not really." Mike said with a bittersweet tears as he stood looking over his room.

"It'll always be yours. Whenever you want to come home, we'll have to get you a bigger bed of course so you can fit your wife on it. But you just remember, no matter where you are in the world, this is your home." I said as I put my hand on his shoulder. "Mom would be so proud of you, Bro."

"I wish you hadn't said that." Mike said letting out a sigh as a few silent tears escaped him. "Just in case the day gets a little hectic, Storm. I want you to know now how much I love you. You're my brother. Thank you for letting me be a part of your family."

"Our family." I said as I gave him a huge hug. "Don't get me started on the tears before we even start the wedding."

"I'll miss you, Bro. So much." Mike cried as we held each other. "Miss all of you."

"I'll still try and get up to Saran City to see you. But it's probably going to have to wait a while now."

"Are you gonna be ok on your own, Storm?"

"I'll be ok. I'm a survivor. I'll be fine."

"I wish you were still coming to Saran City. Seems we're all leaving now but we're going in different directions."

"As long as we remember where home is." I said with a smile. "You better come back and see us one day."

"I will, Bro. I promise."

"Good. Let's get out of here. Time to get you married, Mr. Marcus."

"I like the sound of that. You go on ahead. I'll meet you there."

"Huh?"

"Please, Storm. I promise I'll be there. I just need to do something on my own first."

"You sure?"

"Positive."

 

* * * * * *

 

"Are you ready, Sarah?" Lucas yelled as he stood on the driver's side of the wedding wagon. "We're late!"

"Hey, the bride is supposed to be late!" Claire yelled impatiently as she rushed out of Sarah's front door.

"Wow, you look great." Lucas said with a smile.

"Wait'll you see Sarah."

Sarah was led out by her father, Phil. Lucas couldn't help but smile proudly as he saw Sarah. Her wedding dress was fairly minimalist by traditional standards. It didn't have the huge puffy dress or even a veil. It was a white sleeveless lorean style dress with long sleek silk white gloves. Instead of a veil, Sarah wore a white silk band around her head that almost looked like a crown. It doubled to hold her hair up and replace the traditional veil. The minimalist approach was taken due to the fact the wedding was lakeside on the beach. Sarah would only be wearing her heels until they arrived on the sand.

Claire's outfit was not unlike Sarah's except her dress was somewhat more modest. She herself couldn't help smiling either. She almost wished she were the one getting married.

"How do I look?" Sarah asked finally as she stood before Lucas.

"Like a queen." Lucas said proudly. "Mike is a lucky man."

"I'm a lucky woman."

"Are you ready? This is it."

"I'm ready." Sarah said with a huge smile. "I'm ready."

 

* * * * * *

 

"Testing, testing." Dade said as he tapped the mic. "There's too much reverb."

Dade's biggest part in this wedding was the song that would lead Sarah to Mike for their nuptials. The area of the beach set aside for the main ceremony was all ready to go, thanks to Marcel. Dade had already been here this morning to make sure the sound was set up. And he'd just arrived back after getting changed. But still he found sound problems that needed fixing. He had every confidence in his ability to sing, but he wanted to make sure the equipment he used was going to enhance and not detract. This had to be right.

"You are to me ..." Dade sang before he stopped again suddenly. "Ok that's better. My Bro is counting on me. This has got to be perfect. One more time ..."

 

* * * * * *

 

"Hey, Mom." Mike said with a smile that broke through his bittersweet tears.

With an adoring and reminiscing smile, he looked down at June's graveside. In one hand he held a photo of her and him together. In the other he held an invitation to his and Sarah's wedding. He placed it on top of her grave, patting the ground around it in an almost loving motion. His eyes filled with more tears as he crouched down beside June's grave.

"Well, Mom. I'm leaving today. I have this nagging feeling that I wouldn't be leaving if you were still here. Because if you were here you'd make everything better. And I wouldn't have to go."

"I know you'll be watching today. And I hope you're proud of me. I wouldn't be here without you. One day I'll have kids, Mom. And they're going to know everything there is to know about you. About how fantastic you were and how much I love you. It's still so strange without you. Your room is still the same. Nobody's emptied it. Keep an eye on Storm and Dade for me while I'm gone. I know you will anyway but you'll have to do double duty to make up for me not being around. Those two had a hard time getting over you, Mom. I don't think they ever will be. This all still feels so wrong. Anyway, I'm about to get married so I better get going."

"I don't like goodbye, Mom. I never said it when we buried you. I won't say it today. I miss you. One day I hope we see each other again." Mike said choking back his tears. "I don't know what to say. Except ... thank you for my life. Thank you."

 

* * * * * *

 

"Make sure you get all the seating right. I don't want any screw ups." Marcel said anxiously as he oversaw the set up of the wedding reception. "And take those pink motifs off! I said no pink! Sarah hates pink!"

He had of course hired a planner to take care of all this but he couldn't help himself from interfering. This was Mike and Sarah's big day. He wanted everything to be beyond perfection. The main wedding area on the beach was all set up and ready to go. He just had to make sure the reception was ready for when the wedding was over. The food had to be ready, tables set up, seating arranged. So much to do and they were still behind schedule.

"Hey!" Josh yelled as he rushed up beside Marcel. "You gotta hurry. Mike's here and Sarah should be here any minute."

"Is Dade all ready to go?"

"He's ready and waiting."

"Video guy's got the camera ready?"

"He's ready."

"Photographer?"

"Ready."

"Great. Then get back down there. I have to make sure this is all done. If they start, they start." Marcel said as he went back to his organizing.

"Marcel. You have to be there. Mike said you have to stop whatever you're doing and get down there. He doesn't care if you're not finished. He just said you have to be there. I'll take over here."

"I'll help." Carl said as he stepped up beside Josh. "You'd better get down there though, Marcel. Mike told us we have to make sure you get down there."

"Ok." Marcel said hesitantly. "You guys just make sure everything's looking good up here. Don't fuss. I don't want you missing the ceremony. Where's Brad?"

"He's there. Everyone's down at the beach. They're just waiting for Sarah now."

"Oh man." Marcel said with a sudden grin. "I can't believe we're really doing this. This is so incredible."

"You've done really well, Marcel." Josh said sincerely. "Everything is just so well done."

"Forget the rest!" Carl said with a goofy grin. "Now get down there."

"Shit." Marcel said hurriedly kicking off his shoes and socks. "I forgot to take these off before."

"I'll take them." Josh said as he picked Marcel's footwear up instantly. "I'll put them in your car for you. Go on. Hurry up."

 

* * * * * *

 

"Does anyone else think we look weird?" I said as I looked down at Marcel, Mike and my own feet. "Tuxedoes with no shoes?"

"Sarah wanted a beach wedding." Mike said flatly. "So we're having a beach wedding. Besides, I like it. It's different."

"I like it too. This whole set up is great. Plus you look sexy as hell, Mike. If Lucas and I get married, I want a suit like yours. Maybe even in this very spot. This is beautiful."

The three of us were standing beside the main podium in front of Mike's side of the aisle. Mike didn't have a lot of blood family. His real Dad was here but Mike didn't know it. I don't like his father, he's an abusive drunk but I'm glad he's here. So he can see how happy his son is on a day like today. Maybe some other time I'll tell Mike that Bill was here.

Sarah's side was filled with a lot of her family and friends, people from school, karate, even Sensei is here. Mike's side was mostly filled by our family and school friends. Dad was here. Abby. Robert. Those two oughta be married by now. They've been together for years. Mike asked for one seat to be left empty for Mom. I've been thinking about her a lot today. I believe she's here. I really do. The vibe or atmosphere here is really great. It's positive and happy. Upbeat. I like that.

Almost all of Mike's team were in the second to fourth rows. Naturally, Marty Lee, Josh, Carl and Brad were more towards the front. Even though Brad's not playing, Sarah wanted him towards the front. Even Mira came back for the wedding! She flew in this morning and surprised all of us. I couldn't believe how happy I was to see her. Who would've ever thought? I wasn't half as happy as Lucas though. He was over the moon.

The whole vibe for this wedding is just great. Everybody's helping. Everybody's getting along. And there are so many people here. Way more than we expected. That just got Marcel right into a tizz, trying to make sure there was enough to cover the excess guests. He's such an independent spirit at times. So ... old. I guess that's what happens when life throws you curveballs. All of us feel old. Some of us are. Thankfully, I'm still sub eighteen but it won't be long till Marcel and I officially join Lucas and Sarah in the old people's club.

"She's here!"

"Holy shit." I said frantically checking myself over to make sure I was presentable. "Have you got everything?"

"I'm good." Mike said with a nervous gulp.

"I'm good." Marcel said with a nod.

You would have almost thought that the three of us were all marrying Sarah. It was strange enough to have two best men but Mike wanted this all his own way. And since Dade was singing, that left me and Marcel. Lucas was going to be beside Claire. Damn! The butterflies are multiplying!

The whole crowd goes silent as Sarah stands up on the bank, led by her father. This is it. It's real. It's finally happening. As Sarah begins the walk up the aisle, followed behind by Claire and then Lucas, Dade begins his song. Sends a chill up my spine as soon as he starts.

"You are to me ... what poetry tries to say with the words
You are the song ... or the music my heart ever heard
I can't escape ... the air that I breathe if it speaks of you
And I'm not shamed to say, that I feel this way

I will stand before God
Give you all that I've got
I can promise you, I'll be true
I'll declare here and now
As we both take this vow
I am so in love with you ...

Words can't express ... what I confess with each beat of my heart
I'm overwhelmed ... with a passion, I've felt from the start
Our love will grow ... as the years come and go, I'll remain by your side
There isn't anything that I would deny

I will stand before God
Give you all that I've got
I can promise you, I'll be true
I'll declare here and now
As we both take this vow
I am so in love
I am so in love ... with you ...
"

Damn, my brother can sing. Sure got a few eyes leaking. Mine included. And especially Mike and Sarah. Sarah's finally made her way to us. She shot a grateful smile to Dade as she passed him. It's a good thing the sun's shining, because there are a fair amount of tears that need drying off in this place. Everyone's pretty emotional and they haven't even exchanged vows yet!

As it should be though, the focus is entirely on Mike and Sarah. I always believed in the love they shared. And standing here beside them now, as they share this moment, fuck. It's enough to set me off and my eyes are already watery. Just watching them look at each other. There's so much truth in this moment that it's unsettling. I'm barely even paying attention to the marriage celebrant, I'm too busy watching Mike and Sarah. Seeing their lives flash before my eyes ...

"You're my brother."

"What?" I asked in surprise.

"You're my brother. This place feels like home because it IS home. YOU are my brother. YOU are my family."

That's my brother. That's Mike. Shit, I'm really gonna start crying soon.

"What happened to Storm Marcus, the fighter? Storm Marcus the guy with whom you did not fuck."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Well frankly, Storm. You've been acting like a bit of a girly blouse lately. And that's coming from a girl."

Now remembering that time makes me smile. Which is good because I'm so close to crying. That's typical Sarah for you. Miss Blunt and Direct.

So many moments. It's hard for me to fathom just how big a part these two have played not only in my life but in the lives of all of us.

I hand the rings to Mike who takes them with a smile. As he turns back to Sarah, Lucas shoots me a loving gaze. His eyes are no better off than mine. And as for Claire, well just shut up. She's the worst. I should have expected it though.

"Sarah ..." Mike said with the happiest smile I've ever seen on him, but still overwhelmed with the emotion of the moment. "You are the greatest source of joy my life has ever known. You carry my hopes, my dreams, my heart and my soul. From this day on, I promise to keep you, to cherish and honor you. I will stand by you, support you, take care of and love you. Through good times and bad. This I promise you, for as long as I live."

"Mike ..." Sarah said with joy filled tears. "Thank you for promising yourself to this journey. For sharing your life with me. Thank you in advance, for all the moments of joy and sadness we share together. Thank you in advance, for putting up with all the grief that I only I can cause you. For not giving up on me. For always standing by me. For always being steadfast in your devotion and love for me. You are the most loving, supportive man I know and I thank god every day for sending you to me. You are the my greatest source of strength and inspiration. From this day on, I promise to honor you, love you and share my life with you. My heart, my soul and my life is yours. This I promise you, for as long as I live."

Damn. Make me cry why don't you? I was crying alright. But for the best reason. Two of the greatest people I know are promising themselves to each other for the rest of their lives. What they're saying now has started to zone out on me. But my mind still lingers on the two of them. On moments past.

Sarah pulled a plain white envelope out of her locker that had her name on it. Mike and I were the only other people who knew Sarah's locker combination so if she didn't put it there and I didn't, it was fairly obvious who did. I turned away to give Sarah a little privacy but she quickly turned me back to her as she opened the envelope and pulled out a greeting card with a cartoon boy sitting all on his own on the front. He had a lonesome look as he sat on a park bench. Sarah opened the card slowly and looked as if she were about to melt as she read the only three handwritten words on the inside. `I miss you'.

I smiled slightly as Mike stepped behind Sarah, putting his finger to his lips to make sure I never said anything. He wrapped his arms around Sarah and snuggled into her from behind, kissing her neck gently. "Hi."

"Hey." Sarah replied with a smile on her face as she turned around and jumped up on Mike, wrapping her legs around him as she locked her lips onto his and gave Mike a zealous kiss. She smiled at Mike as she wrapped her arms around his neck and sighed. "I'm sorry."

Tears streamed steadily as that moment flashed through my mind. Hopefully, they'll never miss each other again. They deserve to be here. This is all just so overwhelming for me, but in the best way imaginable. And looking at them right now, their eyes locked on one another as they made their final commitment.

"Do you, Michael Patrick Marcus, take thee, Sarah Marie Leo, to be your lawfully wedded wife? For as long as you both shall live?"

"I do." Mike said with a huge smile.

"Do you, Sarah Marie Leo, take thee, Michael Patrick Marcus, to be your lawfully wedded husband. For as long as you both shall live?"

"I do." Sarah said with overwhelmed tears, her eyes fixed to Mike's.

"Then by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you ... husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."

This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I'm not even the one getting married! I swear I can see Mom standing in the back. Smiling at Mike and Sarah. Perhaps a trick of the light. Perhaps my heart wanting so much for her to be here. Either way, it makes me smile.

Mike and Sarah both share a look of pure joy. There are so many people here but it's as if all they could see was each other. Finally, Mike leans in and gently kisses his new bride, Sarah Leo ... Marcus. How cool is that?

As Mike and Sarah share their kiss of union, the entire crowd claps and cheers wildly for them. Most of all the other five members of the pack. I may be crying like an idiot, but they're all tears of joy. And that's something I'll never be ashamed of. Dade too was rather overwhelmed as he smiled his huge dimples at me. Both of us were so happy for these two. Today was a much needed injection of happiness into all our lives.

Lucas put his arm around Claire as she tried fruitlessly to wipe her tears. I smiled at my mate who beamed back at me. Maybe this day will come for him and I. I only hope it can match the emotion felt here today. I think ... that day will come. Someday.

Marcel was silent as ever. Standing in place like some loyal warrior, watching over his two charges. His eyes were tinged with both joy and sadness, but even someone as hard as him couldn't help shedding a few tears.

"Don't look so sad, Blondie!" I said giving Marcel a huge kiss on the cheek. "This is a great day!"

"I know, Storm. It's the best day." He said with a small nod, his eyes not wavering from the still kissing newlyweds.

As soon as they were done kissing, rather long I might add, they stood together and smiled for their audience. The congratulations all started in earnest. The six of us shared a huge group hug, but this day was for Mike and Sarah, not the pack. We kept our hugs as short as possible to let Mike and Sarah do the rounds for the rest of their guests.

"I'm so happy for the two of you. Thank you for giving the rest of us something to share in. This is one of the happiest days of my life. I know Mom sends her love. Husband and wife ... finally." I said with a huge smile. "Welcome to the family, Sarah."

"Excuse me? I already was family, thank you very much." Sarah said with a huge smile as she hugged me. "Thank you, Storm. Thank you for everything. I couldn't imagine having this day without you here."

"Yeah, Bro. You're like our third wheel." Mike said with a cheeky wink, happy tears still evident on his cheeks. "Seriously though, this is the best day of my life. And it's even better because all of you were here to share it with us. So ... who's next?"

"Aye?" I asked with a bewildered smile.

"Dude, it must be us." Lucas said nudging me playfully. "You just say the word."

"Man ... that was incredible. I'm so proud of you two." Marcel said as he hugged the newlyweds. "Storm's right. This is one of the happiest days for the rest of us I'm sure."

"I wasn't sure we'd get here." Sarah said with a tear filled happy sigh. "And we might not have if it wasn't for you guys. I hope you guys know how important you are to us. We couldn't have this day without you. Thank you all so much."

"We know, we know. And don't forget how great I was." Dade said with his own tear filled happy smile. "That was beautiful. One of the best days of my life. And I wasn't even married!"

"So beautiful." Claire said still overwhelmed by the whole thing. "So beautiful. I'll never forget this day."

"Maybe you and Carl one day, Claire?" I asked with a grin.

"We've only been dating a week. We've got a few years to go yet, Storm." Claire said with a blushing smile.

"Ok, Dudes. You'd better move along. You got a lot of guests who want to share some love." Lucas said smiling at Mike and Sarah. "Congratulations. This is the best day of my life. After meeting Storm of course."

"You didn't have to say that." I said smiling at my mate. "But thanks anyway. Go on you two. Go share the love around. There are a lot of people here who want to share this day with you. Besides, we've got some organizing to do now. Don't we, Blondie? Need some help?"

"Sure do, Storm. Come on guys, we gotta make sure the receptions all ready for when these two make it over."

"Storm, you gotta stay with me. So do you, Claire." Mike said holding the two of us back. "And make sure the rest of you come back as soon as you can. We've still got to do the wedding photos and I want all of you here for that. Ok?"

"We'll be back, Bro."

"And thank you, Dade. You were beautiful up there. You sounded incredible."

"Only the best for the best." Dade said as kissed Sarah's cheek and hugged Mike. "We'll see you guys later."

"Bye, Babe." Lucas said giving me a kiss before he, Marcel and Dade wandered off.

"So, what do you need us for?" I asked with a shrug.

"You're my main best man. Claire's the bridesmaid. Haven't you been to a wedding before?"

"Of course I have." I said trying not to look like an idiot. "You two go on ahead. Claire and I will be a step behind you the whole way. This is your day. And what a day it's been. Husband and wife ..."

 

* * * * * *

 

"Well ... as your master of ceremonies today, I'd like to thank everyone on behalf of Mike and Sarah for turning up and sharing this special day with them. I'm not really a man of many words, which might surprise some of you out there. I know I have a reputation as a bit of a show boat, but that's Storm and Dade's department. I suppose I should say something about the bride and groom. I met Mike over seven years ago. I was one of those chubby little fat kids that people didn't really want to hang out with. I was fortunate that Storm took it upon himself to say hello and the rest is pretty much history. Thanks to Storm, I met Mike who has always been like a brother to Storm. One thing about Mike is he's always for as long as I've known him, had one of the most sincere, open and generous hearts of any man I know. Even as a kid. He did a lot to help me make Merlow my home. When I first left Merlow to pursue my own dreams, I found myself having quite a difficult time adjusting to life at Drake Sports Academy. I was out there on my own, didn't know anyone. I was really homesick. And just completely by surprise, Mike shows up on my door. He sold almost half of what he owned at that time, saved up all his pocket money and paid for his own ticket to come out and see me. It seems like so long ago now but he was the first and only person to visit me out at Drake. If it wasn't for him, I might not have lasted out there. He came to make sure I was ok, that I was settling in alright. He just wanted to watch out for me. To take care of me. That's Mike. That's what he does. I'll never forget that. It really meant a lot to me. He's one of the great ones. As for Sarah. She's always been like an older sister to me. She's always been a great friend and someone I can depend on to support me no matter what I do. I used to get teased a lot when I was a lot younger because I was a fat little kid back then. She'd always jump in and beat the crap out of anyone who had a go at me. That's Sarah. She's very protective of me and the rest of our little pack. We've had our moments where we fight, every family does. But that's the difference with us, we can do that because we always come back to each other. We're all here today for Mike and Sarah and a lot of us are here because of Mike and Sarah. To two of my greatest friends, I want to say thank you. I wish you both nothing but the best in life and your future. And I hope you know that you'll always have this blondie at your side, whenever you need me. Thank you." Marcel said with emotion charged sincerity in his voice as he smiled at the newlyweds. "And now it's time to ruin this wedding by letting the best man talk. Mike's brother, Daniel. Or Storm for most of you."

"Thanks for that flattering intro, Blondie. Uhh. Man I hate doing these things." I said with a nervous smile as I stood before the reception. "What do I say here? I had a whole speech planned out but it's all been blown away. A little like me today. I never believed this day would be as emotional as it was. It's one of the greatest days of my life. To see two of my best friends and my family, come together like this is just beyond description. This day is for Mike and Sarah. I know I'm probably just supposed to talk about the groom, but I've known these two for my whole life. Mike since I was a baby and Sarah not long after. Mike has always been like a brother to me. I haven't always made things easy for him but I could always count on him to come through when I needed him. Marcel gave you a good example of classic Mike. Just to give you more of an idea of what Mike's like on top of what Marcel's already said. There was a time, a couple years back when I had an unfortunate run in with a baseball bat, the holder of which I happen to be great friends with now. Anyway, I came home and being a stubborn prick, didn't want anyone to see me. Didn't really want any help. But Mike wouldn't hear about it. He took me up to my room. He cleaned me up and put me to bed. He sat there for over four hours just watching over me. He didn't move that whole time. He wanted to make sure I was ok. That's the kind of person Mike is. When Mike makes a promise, he keeps it. And I know the promise he has made to Sarah today will be one he keeps for as long as he lives. I couldn't be happier or prouder of my brother today. And as for Sarah ... well ... I'm gonna say something about her anyway. She's a bitch." I said with a wicked grin.

I wondered whether I might have just pushed it a bit in such a formal gathering but luckily Sarah took it with typical grace. She gave me a smile and of course a one finger salute. Classy. Everyone else was either wide eyed or wrapped in laughter. Most of our circle were the ones laughing. I thought I better just carry on before I kill my own momentum.

"Sorry. I shouldn't have said that. Excuse my foul language. Sarah is a very strong willed, fiery and blunt woman. It's what we all love about her. Mike is one of the few people who tames her fire. But Sarah has a heart that is giving, loving and nurturing. She's been there so many times in my own life. Kicking my ass when it needed kicking. Putting me in my place when I needed to be put in it. Which is quite often. Or just being there and giving me support. If she had it her way, she'd be around every minute. She loves us that much. Sarah's a fighter. She's loyal. She's loving. I could tell you a thousand stories about her. She's the mother of our little group. She's one of my best friends. I hope both of you know just how much I and all of us love you. Those of us who stay here in little old Merlow will be the lesser for your absence, but we know that one day you two will come back to us. All I can say now is thank you for sharing your lives with us. No matter what trials and triumphs lay ahead for you, we know that you'll share all of them together. To Mike and Sarah." I said as I raised my glass. "May their future be filled with as much joy as their hearts can possibly handle. And hopefully a few kids as well. No pressure or anything."

Everyone raised their glasses and toasted the bride and groom. I'm sure I could've done a better job but to be honest, I'm still buzzing on the day today. When we all toasted, I sat down before Mike stood up.

"Ok now that my brother has said his piece. It's my turn to say my part. To my beautiful wife ..." Mike said as he beamed at Sarah. "Thank you. Thank you for giving me this day. For giving me a reason to smile in the morning. For giving me someone to hold at night. I promise you that I will do everything in my power to make you the happiest woman on earth."

Sarah threw a happy smile up at him. She was still reveling in the afterglow of her marriage to Mike. And rightly so. Both appeared to be completely blown away by the event's of today. Still in disbelief and amazement.

"To those of you who share this day with us. Thank you for coming and for your well wishes. Your support. This hasn't been an easy time for Sarah and I. We've had a lot of trials lately but to finally make it to this day makes everything that much more bearable. We all know this is a pretty unusual situation to be married so young. Well, I'm young. My wife's a bit older than I am." Mike said with a grin. "But I'm sure you all understand our reasons and I know you all believe in the love that Sarah and I share. I'd like to take this time now to thank some people in particular. First of all ... I wanna thank my Mom. She's not with us today in person. I know she would have been if she could. And I know she supports us. She always did. I want to thank her for everything she did for me. She's responsible for the man I am today. She did so much for Sarah and I. Mom, Sarah and I will always love you. We'll always miss you. And we'll never forget you. Thank you. This is for you, Mom."

I sat there as staunchly as I could. Trying to keep my face as expressionless as possible. But I knew it was obvious that Mike's speech had moved me. And not just me. Dade seemed to especially feel it as he held his glass of OJ up to toast our mother.

"I knew that was coming." Mike said managing a smile. "And I knew I'd turn into a crybaby when I said it. Now I can get onto the fun roasting part. Storm, where do I start with you? Has anybody ever met anyone more difficult than my brother? My goodness. Just kidding, Bro. To my brother. Thank you for saying what you did. You were right about what you said. You've been in our lives for as long as we can remember. You, me and Sarah. Some of you might not realize but Storm was once the love of my wife. Thank goodness that didn't work out! I don't think I need to say anything to you Storm for you to know how I feel about you. I hope I don't. I think you know already how much you mean to me. And even though we won't be here in person, we'll always be with you. You can always count on me, Bro. You know that. Thanks for being my brother and my best friend. I love you, Bro. To Dade. That song was beautiful. I've really enjoyed being in the room next to you, Dade. I'm sorry I won't be there anymore. But just like I said to Storm, I'm always here if you need me. Sorry to leave you on your own. But I'm sure Storm will move back in now, won't you, Storm? Someone's gotta look after baby brother. Also to you, Dade. I just wanna say that I'm proud of you and we both love you, Bro. We love you a hell of a lot. You'll always be welcome by us whenever you need us. To Blondie! Mighty Marcel. Forget the rest. What can I say? First of all, can everybody just give Marcel a huge round of applause. He is the one who made sure this entire day went off without a hitch. I can't thank you enough Marcel for what you gave us. Thank you for making this day possible. Forget the rest man, for real. Marcel's like me. We both muscled in on Storm and Dade's territory. We were both fortunate to become part of that family. And Marcel, I hope you know how much I value your friendship, your loyalty, your courage and generosity. You'll always be a part of our family, Marcel. I could say something about Lucas but he might cry. He always cries. And we've had enough crying today. No, actually, I will say something. I want to get all of this off my chest before Sarah and I leave Merlow. Only fate knows when we'll be back. So ... Lucas. Lucas has been my best friend in the classic sense of the word. The rest of our little group were always more like family. We had more ties. But Lucas was always like a classic friend. I'll miss hearing 'Dude' every other day, Lucas. I'll miss your goofy smile and heart on your sleeve attitude. Thanks for being a great friend not just to me but to Sarah as well. And for those of you who don't know, Lucas just happens to be wildly in love with my brother, Storm ... or Daniel to you less familiar folk. One day I'd like to be sitting at a table like this for the two of them. Of course Sarah will be sitting on the other side being that she's the alpha female and all." Mike said with a cheeky grin. "But I just want to state my ... our clear and unwavering support for you two. If you ever choose to take this step one day, and I hope you do. Know that we'll be there to help you as much as you have helped us. Trust me both of you, this is the greatest feeling in the world. Forget everything else, if you two ever want to get married, just do it. You have our vote. Ok! That's enough about everyone else. Would you like to say anything, Sweetheart?"

"You better believe it!" Sarah said as she stood up. "First of all, I may be a bitch but Storm is a pure shit sometimes. The hell that guy has put us through! I mean for crying out loud. Sometimes I just wanna hit him. But for all of that, he really is one of the most sensitive, loyal and caring people I've ever had the privilege of knowing in my life. We're family now, Storm. How's that for weird? As far as everyone else goes, I think Mike about covered it. I reiterate everything my strappingly sexy husband said. But I would really like to thank everyone who helped make this day possible. My family have supported me through a pretty crap period in my life and I thank them for it. And also for supporting mine and Mike's decision to marry. I love you guys. I'd also like to thank June. Not just for everything she did for Mike but for me as well. I can only hope to be as wonderful a mother as you one day, June. I love you. Uhh to the awesome pack! These guys are just so incredible. They're going to miss us so bad, you just wait and see. But no matter how far away Saran City is, it's never too far for you guys to feel how much we'll miss you. So call every day damn it! I love you guys so damn much and am eternally grateful that you're all a part of our lives. You're our family. Blondie, what can I say? This day is incredible. Everything is just mind blowing. We'll never forget this day because of you. Thank you so much. You're incredible. Marcel's one of the most supportive people I know. I can't wait to share the future with not just my husband, but the rest of you who've been so important to us. Dade, you're a right pain when you want to be. But you're so damn spunky. Don't knock any girls up, ok? We don't need any little Dade's running around. Not to mention that you're `taken'. As far as what my husband said about Storm and Lucas. Hey, chicken shits, the marriage celebrant's still here. What are you waiting for?"

She taunted us with a grin, waiting for us to say something. I couldn't help sending her a little scowl. Lucas just looked at me with a wink, perhaps hoping we might actually take the bait. Still too young!

"No? Good. I don't fancy sharing the attention. Besides, I'm hungry and it's time to eat. Oh, Claire! I also have to thank Claire for all the help she gave for organizing a lot of this with Marcel. Helping with the dresses, decorations, all that. She's also my only real girlfriend and I don't want you to lose touch, Claire. I really appreciate you and hope we spend a lot more time together. Make her happy, Carl. Did I forget anything?" Sarah said with a cheeky grin as she looked at Mike. "Oh yes I did. My ... wonderful ... husband. Mike. Relationships are supposed to be 50/50. Ours is about 80/20. I am without a doubt the luckiest girl in the world. I got the most popular guy in school, who just happens to be the captain of a champion team and he's also an utter hottie. How's that? But none of those facts are why I love him or why I wanted to share the rest of my life with him. It's because he is the most giving man I know. The most generous. He understands me and puts up with me when I'm being difficult. He supports me. Comforts me. Shares with me. He is the greatest part of my life and in front of all of you today, I want to say how grateful I am to be with you, my love. You are my northern star. I hope I can make you half as happy as you already make me. To us."

Everyone raised their glasses once again for a toast. And before anyone had barely finished a sip, Sarah was at em again.

"Ok, that's enough drinking! Let's eat!"

I feel pretty special sitting here beside Mike at the front of the reception area. Marcel really outdid himself. Absolute legend. Next to me is Dade, Dad and Marcel. On Sarah's side of the table is her parent's, Claire, Lucas and her two brothers.

"Holy shit." I said as waiters come out of the makeshift kitchen that Marcel had organized.

I figured we'd be doing the buffet buzz to save money but obviously Marcel's `gift' meant he had free reign over everything for this wedding. And he was making sure everything was top line.

"Where's the buffet?" Dade asked with a shrug. "I want the 'all you can eat', man!"

"Dade, not now." Dad said rather crossly.

"Yeah, ya little ingrate." Marcel said punching him playfully. "There'll be heaps of food."

"I know, I'm just being a punk." Dade smiled. "Looks great."

Everyone's lunch was served to them by a smartly dressed crew of waiters and waitresses. First course was a delightful soup that I did not recognize. Suppose I should've read the menu, aye? Lucas gave me a ok gesture with his hand. We were all pretty blown away by the lengths that Marcel had gone to for today. One of the few times he's been allowed to really splurge on us. But it was his wedding present to Mike and Sarah, and what a present it was.  Perfect!

"Hey!" Sarah called out to me with both of us leaning behind Mike's back.

"Yeah?"

"Isn't this fun?"

"It's awesome! When can I have my boyfriend back?"

"Later. He's on my side of the table. You mingle with your side!"

"Bitch."

"Bastard."

"Love you too."

"And don't you forget it."

 

* * * * * *

 

"How do you feel?" Mike asked Sarah with a smile as the two shared the first dance. "Mrs Mike Marcus."

"I thought it was Mr. Sarah Leo?"

"Too late." Mike said with a grin. "It's a done deal. You're a Marcus now."

"Sarah Marie Leo Marcus. I like the sound of that. I know June would have been so proud of you today, Baby. So proud."

"I know. She was here though. She was here."

"You know we're going to be ok. We'll beat this. And one day we'll come back to Merlow and make it our home again. You'll see."

Mike closed his eyes and sighed with relief. He held Sarah close to him as they continued to dance. The day had been perfect so far, but hearing Sarah so positive about the future just made it even better.

"Thank you." Mike said gratefully. "That's what I like to hear."

"And one day we'll have a family. When we're ready. And I'd like it if our first girl's name is June. I think that would be nice. How would you feel about that?"

"I think that would be perfect. I'm really looking forward to our future, Honey. We're gonna be ok. I'll make you happy."

"You don't even have to try. You already do. I feel like the luckiest woman on earth today."

Mike couldn't contain the amount of happiness he felt right now. The future seemed so bright. They were both being optimistic about the future. And he'd finally made the girl of his dreams his wife. The only woman he'd ever had eyes for. The only woman who'd ever had his heart, was now his and his alone. He couldn't help breaking the dance as he picked Sarah up off her feet and spun her around in a hug.

From the main table, two pairs of eyes were watching happily. With smiles on their faces, they cheered the newlyweds on. Both their hearts were filled with overwhelming joy for the pair.

"This is a great day." Dade said with a sigh. "But where's my champagne already? Come on, Marcel. Hook me up."

"You know what Storm will say."

"Do you see him anywhere? He's not here. Just one glass? Lucas is getting toasted, can't I at least have one? Or do I have to go out back and find my own bottle.  Besides, Dad said I could have some."

"Ok, you win." Marcel said pouring Dade a glass.

"Good, let's have a toast then." Dade said raising his glass. "To the newlyweds. May they live well, laugh often and love much."

"I like the sound of that. To the newlyweds ... and us."

"I like the sound of that even better." Dade said with a grin. "To all of us then. May we all live well, laugh often and love much."

"Amen to that."

 

* * * * * *

 

Everyone was still going on at the reception, at the marquee setup Marcel had organized. I have to say, he did an absolute uber job. He knows that we've never wanted anything from him in his life. We all know he's rich but it's never meant anything to us. He's always been the one to mean something to us. But on this he wasn't budging. He wanted Sarah and Mike's wedding to be wanting for nothing. Everything had to be perfect, because he believed their marriage would last for the rest of their lives. We all did. Of course, Sarah's cancer plays into that a lot but they're `it' in my mind. I put them ahead of any other couple, myself and Lucas included. They've been together the longest of all of us. They've gone through so much. This day just makes me smile inside.

I needed to get away and breathe for a while. To sit here on the beach. My toes curled up in the sand. It's a perfect day. The weather is perfect. Everything is just perfect. Incredible.

Yet still my mind contemplates my own fate. Selfish I know. Sarah wanted to leave Merlow on her wedding day. Today. So her last memory of this place would be filled with joy, surrounded by the people who made her happy. Ironically, I find myself in that same position. Yet hardly anyone knows of my situation. Only Marcel. Not even Lucas knows. For if he did, he'd freak. Things have been so good for us lately that I didn't want to bring him down. He's worried enough as it is. And I wanted today to be just for Mike and Sarah. Not even they know what lies ahead for me.

I'll miss them more than I can say. I hoped to be with them in Saran City for at least a little while, but recent developments have forced me to change my plans. I won't be going to Saran City. I'll be going to good old General State. My favorite place ... yeah right. I'm not looking forward to saying goodbye to them. I can't help feeling as if today may very well be the last time the six of us are in the same place. I hope not. But if it is, I couldn't think of a better last day to spend together.

Marcel fought me as much as he could to come with me, but I wouldn't let him. Not because I want to be a hero. I just want him to keep an eye on Dade. Mike won't be here. I won't be here. And he and Lucas aren't exactly bosom buddies. So I'd like Marcel to keep an eye on him. But at the end of the day, if Marcel wants to come, he'll come.

And then there's Lucas. My sweet babe. Even with everything that's happened in the last week, I feel as grateful as ever to have him in my life. Especially today.

I don't just love him. I trust him. That's as important to me as the love is.

"Storm?"

"Oh hey, Mike." I said smiling in surprise as he sat down beside me.

"What are you doing out here? We've been looking all over for you."

"Just thinking, Bro. Thought you'd have your hands full anyway."

"Never too full for you, Bro. You know that. You're supposed to be sharing the love with the rest of us!"

"How do you feel, Mike?" I asked as I smiled at him. "This must be a pretty incredible day for you."

"Incredible is not the word, Storm. I can't believe we're actually married. I can't believe it. I'm so happy."

"So am I, Bro." I said as I put my arm around me. "I'm so happy for you two."

As if sensing my mood, Mike put his arm around me and leaned the side of his head against mine. He's always been somewhat of a security blanket for me. Things like this are what I'll miss most about him.

"It's funny what life throws at you sometimes. It's been a hard time, Storm. For everyone."

"It has, Bro. It has."

"You know you're always welcome, Bro. Don't even ask. Just come. I know plans have changed but if there's a way for you to get to Saran City when you're out of General State, come up. I'll take care of you."

"You have enough on your plate."

"And I don't begrudge any of it, Storm. Just think about it."

"I will, Mike. Thanks for the offer."

"It's a standing offer. Whenever you want, Bro."

"Thank you." I said as I let him do the big brother routine by keeping his arm around me, even though I'm the oldest.

He's always been the mature one of us. I'm older than he is but you'd never think so. I don't know if things will ever be like this again so I let myself savor it.

"Marcel told me." Mike said breaking what I thought was an easy silence. "He told me why you're really going to General State and not Saran City. Why didn't you say anything?"

"Because you have enough on your plate. I can't believe he told you ... no wait, actually I can. I think he owed me one for me telling Dade what happened to him."

"I can understand that. And I'm not here to rag on you for not telling me. But what you're doing to Lucas isn't any different to what Sarah wanted to do last week. If you really want things to get better for the two of you, you can't hold back. You can't just share the good stuff and hold onto the bad stuff. You know how much he loves you and you're not protecting him by keeping him out of the loop. I know you're trying to be brave and you're trying to protect him. But can you sit here and tell me that you really don't want him to go with you?"

"I don't want him to worry. And basically, we can't afford it. Lucas isn't working. We make do with what I bring in and what his father sends him but we're not like Marcel where we can just take off whenever we want. I still don't have any of the money Mom left me.  I won't get any of it till I'm eighteen. And I'm not going to ask Dad for help. Or Marcel. Lucas and I have to do this on our own. We've got a house to run now. Plus he has to look after Marty Lee. Mira's here. It just makes more sense for him to stay. I don't want to cause a big ruckus."

"The only thing I'm hearing are excuses, Storm. This is important. I'm not going to tell you what to do. But if I can give you one piece of advice before I go, it's this ..."

 

* * * * * *

 

"Babe?" I said tapping Lucas on the shoulder before I sat down next to him at the main table.

"Dude! Where the hell have you been!?"

"Talking to Mike. There's something I need to tell you. And something I want to ask you."

"What is it, Dude?"

"Well, you know how we talked about you staying behind while I went up to General State?"

"We didn't talk, Dude. You talked. I just didn't want to upset you."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"Half the reason I'm drowning my sorrows over here is because two of my best friends are leaving today and the other half is because my baby's leaving tomorrow. And he's not taking me with him."

"I want you to come, I just didn't want you to worry. I didn't want to disrupt anything. And you know me, always trying to be a hero. Trying to be brave. Not wanting to cause any trouble or grief."

"You told me it was the money."

"I can get around that. I do have enough for both of us to go. Things might be tight when we get back but we'll manage. But you'll have to find a hotel or something. Maybe you can stay in the same place as my Dad."

"Fuck the hotel. I'm staying at the hospital. Wait a minute. Am I coming?"

"Please." I said with a weak smile. "I ... need you."

"Dude, watch out you might have an aneurysm if you say those words too loud." Lucas said with a broad smile.

"Hey! I'm trying to apologize here."

"I know. I'm sorry, Babe. I wasn't going to say anything to you but I would have come up after you left. I'd already worked something out with Marty Lee. You didn't really expect me to just sit around here while my baby was in trouble, did you?"

"I guess not." I said with a surprised smile. "I'm sorry for being such a hero."

"What changed your mind?"

"Something Mike said to me."

"Good old Mike. Who's going to keep everything steady when he's gone?"

"Hmm ... can't think of anyone. We'll just have to make do on our own."

"What did he say?"

"That if I really want things to work between us, I can't hold back. I can't just pick and choose what I want you to know. Or when I want your support. Can't protect you from the bad stuff. We have to share everything. That's what being partners is about."

"Man, I love that Dude."

"There's something else I have to tell you. Something I should have told you last weekend. This is the real reason I didn't want you to come. I didn't want you to know. But I have to tell you." I said as I took a deep breath.

"What is it, Dude?" Lucas asked with an intense look of concern. "What's going on?"

"Well ..."

 

* * * * * *

 

"Well, here we go guys." Mike said with an excited yet sad sigh. "Time for us to love and leave you."

"Oh shit." I said shaking my head in an attempt to stem tears from forming in my eyes. "Harden up, Storm. Harden up."

It's a good thing we had our dinner last night. There are so many people here today, we don't want to crowd Mike and Sarah while they're thanking everyone for coming. The four members of the pack left behind, all move ourselves towards the side of the car that would take Mike and Sarah away from us. We all watched silently as they said their goodbyes to everyone. Classmates, teachers, family, friends, everyone. Except us. It was some unspoken agreement between the four of us left behind that we just wanted to wave goodbye. That we'd had our moment last night. I don't think we're up to saying goodbye.

Mike made sure to thank everyone in his team. Josh especially, Carl, Marty Lee, Bobby, he even seemed to make peace with the three stooges. Sarah gave Brad a huge hug and I'm sure I could see him getting watery eyed. Mike too wished him well for next season. Claire was shocking. In the sense that she probably cried the most. Mike gave Dad and Abby great big hugs and made them promise to visit him. I know Dad will, he's always been fond of Mike and he travels a lot.

We all thought we were home free. Edging ourselves behind the crowd. None of us were doing any good. Surprisingly, I think I was holding up the best. I was doing my best Marcel impression, trying to be as hard as possible. To not show any emotion. My eyes were still watery though. Dade was the worst. Just standing there, crying softly but steadily. Marcel put his arm around him in a gesture that looked more platonic than the relationship we knew they shared behind closed doors. Lucas is usually the worst crybaby of us, but right now his face is pretty sullen and blank. I know he was really close to Mike and Sarah, they were his first friends besides me in Merlow. He's looking pretty devastated to be honest. I think I'd feel better if he was crying. He's just ... quiet. Strained eyes are about as close as he's getting to crying. Marcel is Marcel. His face is pretty flat but it's easy to see he thinks this is the end of an era for us. He's feeling it. We all are.

Come to think of it though, we're all trying our best to look pretty hard. To try and not be obvious in the amount of loss we were feeling right now.

I don't know why we thought we could get away with them leaving and not saying goodbye. They're both standing next to the car trying to look for us. Sarah's face is priceless when she eventually catches us in the crowd. As soon as she sees the four of us standing silently and trying to not be obvious, her eyes just well up with tears. I can feel her heart breaking from here just seeing us like this. We stand there for a while, looking at each other. The four of us remain silent and try not to look as lonely as we feel.

Mike soon sees which direction Sarah is looking and sees us. The four of us are just numb. We can't say goodbye. Now my eyes are filled with tears and I can sense all of us beginning to break as we look back at them. I shake my head slowly as if to say we can't do it. We can't say goodbye.

They know exactly what we're feeling, what I'm saying to them with a simple shake of my head. Staunch tears stream steadily down my face, Dade and Marcel to my right and Lucas behind. Sarah looks at Mike who seems to consider our unwillingness to turn into utter saps by saying goodbye.

We motion for them to leave. Use our eyes to tell them it's ok to go. For a while they consider it, but when it's obvious that all four of us are in agreement, they wave sadly at us and prepare to leave.

I hold my hands around my arms, still doing my best to keep myself together. Dade is the one I can hear sniffling as he tries to keep in his sobs. I put my around him and kiss his forehead as Mike and Sarah get into their car. They look back at us and wave. As they drive off, Dade starts to lose it. Hell, we all do. You can hear him crying now. My tears are still silent but somewhat bitter and definitely free flowing.

When their car disappears from sight, I walk away from our frozen four pack. I turn myself away from everyone else and then just let myself cry. I don't care about being hard now. I just wanted to keep it together for Mike and Sarah. But I feel like shit and I know Dade does too.  We all do.

"Sorry, we couldn't do it." Mike's voice said behind me as he picked me up in the biggest hug. "I love you, Bro. I love you bigtime. We had to say goodbye.  We couldn't leave without doing it."

"I love you too, Bro." I said crying like a wuss as I held onto him with all my might. "I love you too."

The six of us must have looked like idiots as we all exchanged hugs with our departing members. Dade was a real crybaby with Mike, but I wasn't any better.  I must have looked like such a dick.

"Don't forget me, Bro." Dade cried as he held onto Mike. "Don't forget me."

"Never, Bro. Never."

"Come here, you big stud." Sarah said as he hugged Lucas. "I love you, Dude Boy."

"I love you too, Sarah." Lucas said with his voice straining. "I love you too."

"Gimmie a hug, Snoogums." Mike said as he grabbed Marcel. "Don't bother trying to be hard with me."

"Hey, you." Sarah said as she rubbed my arm softly.

"I don't wanna say goodbye, Sarah." I said with angst filled tears.

"Then don't. Just say ... until next time."

"Won't be the same without you bitching at me."

"Won't be the same not bitching at you." She said as she held me tight, almost squeezing the life out of me. "Damn, I love you. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for being the second greatest man in my life."

"That's good enough for me." I said with a small smile.

The six of us all huddled together like this was the start of a big game. If there was a big game that we were all preparing for, it's called the future. Mike led us in a little rally call for the pack. And then with one last hands in the middle, it was time for them to go.

"Now you four don't be a pack of sad asses, ok?" Mike said with a huge smile.

He led a still sad Sarah by the hand to their awaiting car. This time when they waved, we all waved back. And I think we all felt a bit better. We'd still miss them like mad but at least we said our goodbyes in a way that only we could. A smile passed over my face as I remembered so many of the good times we shared. Which is basically my whole life.

I prayed inside that we would still share many more good times one day. But until then, Mike and Sarah ... goodbye.

* * * * * *

Storm Front: GoodBye 'Theme Songs'

'Enigma - Child in Us' for the wedding ceremony
'Enigma - Return to Innocence' As Mike and Sarah drive away and leave the other four members of the pack.

 

* * * * * *

Feedback is always appreciated. You can email me or drop by my site, StormNation