Ghosts in the Closet

Thanksgiving: Part II

Twelve years after the accident
Age 26

Elections were over. Congress was in recess, and wouldn't be reconvening until early December. The only thing left for Tucker to think about was his wedding, but the closer it came, the harder it got.

When he went in for the final fitting on his tux, the tailor looked at him over the top of his notes. "Okay. We have the groom, the father of the bride, the father of the groom…" He frowned, shuffling through his pages. "We're missing the best man."

Tucker closed his eyes, swallowing over the lump that formed instantly in his throat. "Yeah. We are."

The tailor looked confused. "I'm sorry. I don't know how we could have lost one of your orders…"

"No. You didn't lose anything." I did, four months ago. "There's no best man. Just women in the bridal party."

"Oh, that's… unusual." The tailor shrugged. "All right, then. I guess we have everything."

No, Tucker thought. We definitely don't.

"You guys wanna plan my bachelor party?" Tucker looked from Nick to Dash across the booth at the Nasty Burger, his forehead creased in apprehension.

"Why not?"

"A gay man and a guy whose DVD library consists of Baby Einstein and Thomas the Tank Engine are gonna plan a bachelor party?"

"Hey! Just 'cause I have a one-year-old doesn't mean I don't know hot girls when I see them."

"And don't you think a closeted college football player figured out pretty quick how to find all the good strip joints?"

Tucker blinked. "Are you nuts?" He looked at Nick. "When was the last time you had a fantasy about sleeping with your wife that wasn't about actually sleeping? And Dash." He shook his head. "I'm a member of Congress. I can't be seen getting a lap dance at the Bump and Grind."

"Hey, give me a little credit." Dash looked insulted. "I wasn't gonna take you to a dump like that. I figured we could hire someone to come to you."

Tucker buried his face in his hands. Danny would've planned something perfect. Just a touch of debauchery without being so sleazy as to endanger his public image or get Valerie mad enough to come after him with her plasma rifle. "No. Just… no. I don't need a bachelor party. Really guys, I'm good."

Tucker sat in the living room of his Amity Park townhouse, surrounded by photo albums. His mom was putting together a slide show—with a little technical help from Valerie's dad—to play at the reception, and she'd sent him home with a stack of family photo albums to select his favorite pictures to use. The baby ones had been easy, but by the time he got to the school years, it got increasingly harder. Nearly every one that wasn't a school portrait or a snapshot from a family vacation had Danny in it. Danny and Tucker at the zoo. Danny and Tucker at Tucker's sixth birthday party, the one with the clown that sent them both running away in terror. Danny and Tucker at the elementary school carnival, sharing a huge bag of cotton candy.

Sam started filtering into the pictures in middle school. Danny, Tucker, and Sam on the first day of eighth grade. Danny, Tucker, and Sam at middle school graduation. Danny, Tucker and Sam in the FentonWorks lab just minutes before the accident that gave Danny his ghost powers. Danny and Tucker huddled together, asleep, on the floor of the zoo observatory—Sam had taken that one. Prom. Graduation. Their college dorm. Danny and Sam's wedding. Nearly every moment of his life from kindergarten on, Danny had been at his side.

Until now.

It left him with more than two decades of memories, and not one that he could put into a slide show on what was supposed to be the happiest day of his life. Tucker scrubbed his face with his hands, trying to figure out what he could use that wouldn't get everyone crying for all the wrong reasons.

An arm slipped around his shoulders as Valerie slid into the seat next to him. "Having trouble finding anything you're not embarrassed to show the world?"

Tucker looked up from his hands and showed her the album. "Having trouble finding something that doesn't hurt too much to show the world."

She nodded slowly, turning a few pages on the album. "You're right. These pictures would set a really melancholy mood, wouldn't they? And yet, not including pictures of Danny would be wrong, too."

"Maybe we shouldn't be doing a slide show."

She was silent a moment. "Maybe we shouldn't be doing a wedding."

His eyes widened as he turned to face her. "What?"

"Don't look at me like that. I'm not trying to get out of anything. I want to marry you. I will marry you. But not like this. I want our wedding to be a joyful celebration. But we've got a 'best girl' who's five months pregnant, with all the hormones that entails, and who's grieving at the same time. We've got a maid of honor who isn't speaking to the best girl and is avoiding her own family, who will all be there. And we've got this huge gaping hole where the best man is supposed to be. This isn't how I pictured my wedding. Is it how you pictured yours?"

Tucker closed his eyes and leaned back against Valerie's arm. "Dreaming about our weddings isn't exactly a guy thing, but if I did think about it, it was always with Danny at my side. The bride might change, depending on who the crush of the week was, but Danny was always there."

That didn't even get him the punch in the shoulder he was expecting. Instead, Valerie tightened her arm around him. "We need to postpone the wedding, Tuck. You know it's the right thing to do."

"It's a week before, Valerie."

"So? Our friends will understand. And the press—"

"I don't give a damn about the press."

"I was just going to say, it'll make a statement."

He opened his eyes and looked at her. "I don't want to make a statement. I'm not gonna play politics with our personal lives."

"I know. I wouldn't even suggest it if I thought you really wanted to go through with it now, without him. But I see how much his absence is affecting you. You wouldn't talk for hours after coming back from the tux shop. You wouldn't let Nick and Dash throw you a bachelor party. And these pictures… it's too much."

He looked down at the pictures, and a sudden fury washed over him. Slamming the album shut, he pushed back from the table and stood up. "Dammit! He was supposed to be here! Why didn't he fight back? Why did he just let them…?" He clenched his fists at his side, unable to finish, then turned away.

Valerie got up and slipped her arms around him from behind. "You know why, baby."

"Yeah. And I don't mean to imply Danielle isn't worth it."

"I know."

He turned to face her. "You really wanna call this thing off?"

"Not call it off. Postpone."

"Until when?"

She gave him a determined look. "Until you've got your best man back."

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