What Matters Most~ Chapter Three: Part One

The Bauer Bar-B-Que- Where something interesting always happens…

Once again Marah found herself standing outside the Bauer home clutching a bowl of potato salad.  The only difference this year it was her that was filled with nerves instead of Tony. “Are you sure you can’t tell?”

Tony sighed, they had already had this conversation twice since leaving for the bar-b-que, “Marah you look gorgeous as usual.  You can’t even tell you are-”

His speech was halted by her placing a finger against his lips, “Shh!  Just a few more weeks before we tell everyone.  And we’re about to be surrounded by little ears that hear everything.  Remember the hooker boot fiasco? I could call Michelle over here to remind you.”

When she pretended to move towards the noise coming from the backyard Tony reached out a hand and stalled her, “Alright I’ll keep quiet as long as you stop asking if you have a pooch.  The only pooch you have is Toby and he isn’t telling anyone our secret.”

Marah laughed, “Okay stud but remember not to let it slip.  Especially since we are watching the kids while Danny and Michelle go on vacation.  Little ears and all of that.”

Tony stopped and sighed in mock exasperation, “Tell me again why we are watching the kids for a week.  Are you sure you should be taking on that much?”

She knew he was going to be a worrier, it was in his nature.  “How about because Danny is your cousin?  Or that they are our best friends?  Or perhaps it’s because they watched Toby while we were in Hawaii?  And yes for the fifteenth time I will be fine.”

“Okay fine.  But if there is any Barbie playing its with you this time.”

Marah laughed as they continued towards the backyard, “Probably best.  I’m sure Michelle will relax better knowing you aren’t telling her daughter about the latest street-walker footwear Barbie is sporting.”

***

Tony ushered Marah to the picnic table where Michelle currently sat trying to get Robbie and Hope to eat, “Want me to get you something to drink?”

Marah wanted to admonish him for hovering, but managed to reign in the comment.  Hovering beat the hell out of him wasting time worrying about what could happen, “Thanks honey,  anything diet sounds good.”

Tony hesitated, “Are you sure?  Isn’t Aspartame supposed to be dangerous?”

If looks could kill Marah’s glare would have sent him six feet under, “I love you but if you think I’m giving up my occasional diet soda you best forget it.”

“But-”

“But nothing.  I’ve given up alcohol, coffee, and for the forseeable future anything involving fish since it causes me to retch.  If you fight me on this I will make you give up something you like as well.” She slowly moved her eyes downward until she stopped on a particularly favorite part of his anatomy before looking back up and smiling serenely. “If you know what I mean?”

Not like he could miss it!  The look in her eyes almost made him flinch. “You fight dirty Marah Santos.” He looked to Michelle, “Would you like anything Michelle?”

Up until then Michelle had managed to hold in her laughter but with Tony ‘s innocent question she let loose. “You two are too much!  It’s going to be an interesting, not to mention entertaining, seven months.”  She wiped away the tears that had formed at the corner of her eyes, “And just for future reference, diet soda is perfectly safe.  Wouldn’t want you to end up scared for life.  Or walking around with that scared look in your eye.  What would the children think?”

***

After delivering Marah’s drink, and just to be on the safe side he brought an extra one for Michelle, Tony made his way over to where Danny and Ray were watching Rick man the grill.  He walked up and elbowed his cousin, “Not going to show off all your grill practice?”

Danny actually blushed.  “Not likely.  I think I’m actually getting worse.  Though I haven’t charred anything beyond recognition in a while.  Of course now everything seems to be done on the outside and raw in the middle.”

“Are Michelle and you excited about the cruise?”

Danny grinned mischievously, “Seven full days where rubbing suntan oil on my wife is almost a requirement?  Yeah you could say I’m excited.”  He looked at Tony and frowned, “You sure you want to watch the kids?  It’s a lot, especially for newlyweds.”

“Danny enjoy your cruise.  The kids will be in good hands, we’re actually looking forward to it.” Okay that last part wasn’t exactly the whole truth but he figured Danny and Michelle would be better off knowing the kids weren’t going to be a bother.  He loved Danny and Michelle, loved their kids, and would do anything for them.  Besides, how much trouble could they be?  And as far as he could tell those three loved their Uncle Tony and Aunt Marah.

Beside him Ray brough his drink up to his lips. “Talk about jumping into the deep end little brother.” After a healthy swallow he turned to his brother, “I’ll pray for you.  I think you’re going to need it.”

***

Michelle watched Tony join the other Santos men before turning her attention to Marah,”So you’re not even two months in and already you seem ready to clobber Tony.”

“He hovers, a lot.”

Michelle was attempting to clear Hope’s mouth of bar-b-que debris, no easy feat since Hope was literally jumping up and down in her eagerness to join the other children running around. “Get used to it now sister, Santos men make hovering an art form.”  She sent the now clean Hope away with an affectionate pat on her bottom, “Considering how our first two pregnancies went when I was first pregnant with Danielle I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without Danny trailing behind.”

Marah laughed.  She didn’t dare tell Michelle about Tony standing outside the shower the other day ‘just in case in case she slipped’.  Because slipping in the shower was such a normal occurence for her. But it seemed he came by it naturally, bathroom hovering was in the Santos genes, “I hear you loud and clear.  I am hoping that once we get past the two month danger zone he’ll ease up some.”

Michelle smiled patiently at the younger woman, “If he’s like Danny he will ease up somewhat, but he will still worry in silence.  You know how they grew up, and how protective they can be.  It’s enough to drive a person insane, but it’s the only way they can deal with the situation and lack of control.  My advice to you is to look at it as a Santos quirk and bask in the attention.”

“How did you get so wise?”

“You can’t be married to a Santos as long as I have, not to mention carrying three Santos babies, without picking up one or two pointers along the way.” Michelle reached over and laid her hand on Marah’s. “I’m just glad I get to pass this Santos wisdom down to you because Lord knows I went in blind.  Now let’s go get raid the desert table!”

***

The players who had signed up for the egg toss reluctantly took their positions in two straight lines on the patio.  At the front of the rows stood Rick Bauer in all his glory, he resembled an army General getting ready to inspect his troops.  Satisfied the troops were finally assembled he walked slowly down the row passing out the eggs to the teams.  “You know the rules.  Each team gets one egg. You toss the egg to your partner and if he or she catches it you are still in the game.  If either one of you drops the egg you are out.  After a successful catch each team will take a step backwards.  Good Luck and happy tossing!”  He made his way back to the front of the lines, “When I blow this whistle you may toss your egg to your partner.  If you toss it beforehand you are disqualified.  Are you ready?”

Most of the adults there were used to Rick’s dedication to the Annual Bauer games and merely grumbled their acquiescence.

Tony looked at his partner Hope and smiled. “You ready little Santos?”

The little girl nodded enthusiastically.  “I’m ready Uncle Tony.”

Rick sounded the whistle and Tony lightly tossed the egg which the little girl caught in her tiny hands. She held it up proudly, “See! I caught it!” She turned to her right and showed her brother who had caught the egg Danny had tossed to him.  From nearby he heard Marah and Michelle’s cheers for their little Santos clan but he kept his focus on Hope and their egg.   Hopefully he wouldn’t totally embarrass her.

***

Tony stood with Hope on his shoulders while they did a dance of victory over the egg toss.  As Hope pumped her small fists in triumph Tony locked eyes with his wife, whose face was practically glowing watching Tony with the little girl.  Conversation buzzed around him but he didn’t hear a thing, he was too focused on the woman who held his heart.  His intense focus was cut short by Danny’s slap on the back, “Will you two knock it off?  There are kids present.”  Tony laughed as his cousin walked off muttering and threatening to use the hose. Tony couldn’t let him have the final say on that one. “Oh like you and Michelle haven’t given Springfield something to talk about a time or two!”

Danny turned back and grinned. “You kidding?  We still do!”

***

Phillip stood off to the side and checked his watch for the fifteenth time in the last hour.  He hadn’t felt this nervous in years but he knew that it was time.  Time to make things right.  He looked at his watch again.

“If you check that thing again I am going to rip it from your wrist and chuck it into the hot tub.” Rick handed Phillip a beer before pointing his own towards the watch in question, “Got a hot date or something?”

“Or something.” Phillip took a long drink while debating about telling the other man about his secret.  They had been best friends for most of their lives but this had the possibility of blowing up in his face.  Best to keep it to himself and see what the night would bring. “Shame Leah couldn’t make it. But hard to beat the allure of vacationing in Florida.”

“Yeah can’t really blame her there, though I wish she were here.  This is a Bauer tradition and the more Bauer’s the better.”

If Phillip’s plans worked out Rick might just get his wish for an additional Bauer.  He resisted checking his watch again and instead turned his friend towards all the people gathered in the backyard, “Quite a turn out this year.”

“It’s a great tradition, and one that I hope continues even when we are old and grey.”

Phillip laid a hand on Rick’s shoulder, “Hate to break it to you my friend but we’re old and grey now.” He looked at Beth and Mindy fussing over a pregnant, and very tolerant, Lizzie.  Nearby her son Jackson sat on his father’s Bill’s hip hanging on his every word and Phillip smiled, “Hell I’m a grandpa.  But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Living away from all this made me realize just how important family is.”

Beside him Rick became instantly alert. “Danny Santos! Step away from the grill!” He turned towards Phillip briefly, “I’ll be back. I have to save the burgers from becoming charcoal.  And look, he has his partner in Bar-B-Que crime with him.  Don’t think I don’t see you Tony!”

Phillip laughed as he watched his friend march across the yard.  No one took grill duties as serious as Rick Bauer.  He watched all the happy families gathered together and he knew he made the right decision.  Which caused him to check his watch just one more time.

So focused on watching the time he never notice the couple approaching until they stood right behind him…

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One thought on “What Matters Most~ Chapter Three: Part One

  1. Reblogged this on Glmanny's Blog and commented:
    Tonight’s Bauer BBQ fanfic is from “I Believe in Mystery” the Marony blog. In this AU story Tattoo Tony was a fake and real Tony is now back with Marah in Springfield (thank goodness).

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