Five Months later
Natasha looked down at their entwined hands and sighed. Taking off, flying across the Atlantic, was something she never thought she'd do ever again. But here she was heading to Boston initially, before the Mid West, Chicago and Detroit, and then onto California. Time with Bo's friends, and his family. With the option of a 'reunion' with her parents if she felt like it.
She wasn't sure that she could deal with seeing them, but Bo was pushing her a little, his argument was that she'd have it hanging over her forever. Sometimes a giant full stop, or period as Bo insisted on calling it meant that she could just get past it all. She wasn't so sure. Even as they boarded the plane she had no idea what she'd do, and it was no clearer now as they soared into the air.
The two had spent Christmas together, well that was no surprise, since he'd moved into her home they'd spent every possible minute together. And there was no bad times. They had their quabbles, who didn't? But generally life together was stress free, and for Natasha is was the greatest time of her life. She'd never felt so happy.
Bo squeezed her fingers and her eyes flashed up to his, he was like an excited child. Something about going back to his motherland was having a positive effect on him.
"We're at altitude...think it's time for a celebration."
Planting a chaste kiss on her lips, he gestured to the steward who was serving them on their business class flight. He'd wanted first class, but she had been horrified at the prices. Business was apparently their compromise. Though it was still ridiculously expensive.
"Champagne please," he gave his most genial grin, then turned back to her.
"What are we celebrating?"
He grinned, boyishly, "being on holiday, having you to myself 24/7 for the next three weeks. As much as I admire your business acumen and drive, I bloody hate that we can never have a luxurious lie in together. That we can't just go on an impromptu day trip, can't just wake up and do something." When her face dropped he leaned in and cupped her chin, "this is not a criticism, I am just greedy, all I want is you, all to myself."
That made her smile, she couldn't fault his enthusiasm for her. Because he was that, very enthusiastic, he literally worshipped her, and Steph repeatedly teased her about that. But it wasn't nauseating or over the top, just a sign of how much he cared.
"You are Mister Extravagant all of a sudden."
He nodded, "have tried to live sufficiently this year, not eating into my savings, and now...I want to treat us, I worked damn hard for all that I have, and if we want a little luxury, then we will."
She was silent and contemplative as he smiled at the steward, accepting their drinks. He had a whole life in the US that she had no real idea about, this trip was her seeing the NHL star coming home as much as anything else, and it made her a little nervous.
"Cheers!" He announced handing her a glass and raising his to join it.
His enthusiasm, the champagne, even the business class seats, none of it helped her anxiety. In all honesty she was returning to the home of her teen age years, and there wasn't a single positive memory there to ease the tension. She felt like a lamb to the slaughter, albeit a lamb accompanied by the most annoyingly excitable and very cute puppy.
She managed to sleep, but then it was so much easier when she could convert her seat into a bed and lie flat. Not that sleep came easy. Bo insisted it was her choice what she did when they got to Boston with regards to her family.
He had a few things he wanted to do, and it was only meant to be a brief stop. Nathan was meeting them, with Bo's car, and they were road-tripping to Chicago via Detroit. Ten days, before flying to California. The Holdings were waited excitedly, in particular Bo's sisters, who were all desperate to meet her. Only Astrid his oldest sister, had been to the UK on business, and they'd both gone to London to meet up with her briefly. Natasha had loved her and looked forward to more time with the whole clan. Once they left Boston, she had zero concerns, it was the time there that freaked her out.
Emerging into the warm Boston day, Bo led her across the arrivals hall to the unmistakable figure of Nathan, head and shoulders above everyone, bar Bo himself. After a bro hug, and a kiss to Natasha's cheek, he led them out to the short term parking, and a huge black SUV.
"This is your?" She asked Bo. When he didn't answer, she turned to see him almost purring over the vehicle.
"This baby?" He offered, a grin a mile wide, running a hand over the immaculate paintwork. "THIS is a car, Natasha, a real car."
She laughed, "that micro car you have really kills you."
He nodded, spreading out his arms as he leaned back against the SUV. "What is about you Brits and your little cars? That matchbox they gave me from the club isn't as big as the engine on this baby. Just wait until you see the cars I have at my parents."
Plural. She rolled her eyes, men and their motors.
They stayed at Nathan's central penthouse apartment that night, and he and his girlfriend ordered in a feast of food. They sat on the roof terrace talking and laughing, hearing all about the two men when they were rookies together.
Katie, his pregnant fiancée was the first to give up and head to bed, which wasn't bad, considering that both Natasha and Bo were jet-lagged.
But sleep eluded Natasha, again. They were going to the Bruins Stanley Cup game the next day, but after that, they were leaving for the mid west. She had the night to decide whether to make contact with her parents.
Even after breakfast the following morning, she still had no idea what to do. But attending game five of the Stanley Cup was an occasion like no other, all too soon she was swept up in the moment, buying a cap, a shirt and flag. Skipping into the arena holding Bo's hand so excitedly.
Bo was happy to see Natasha finally relax. He hated that she was so tense, he really wanted her to have fun, for this holiday to be everything to her, but her awful parents and their treatment of her, hung over her like the darkest cloud. He hoped that her seeing them again would be cathartic, offer some sort of closure.
Then the hockey started, and he got embroiled. He wasn't a specific fan of either team, but Nathan was playing and he knew a few others on his team. So he started to shout and cheer with the fans.
At the end of the second period, it was poised at three all. The atmosphere was electric, and he was back enjoying his life, his sport.
Natasha squeezed his hand, and he looked down at her, "I need the bathroom."
Nodding he stood, leading her down to the concourse, "I'll get us a couple of beers whilst you do your thing?"
Rolling her eyes, she scooted across the walkway to the ladies bathroom, and he watched her disappear inside before making for the beer stand.
He waited for her, before returning to their seats, and smiled as she appeared through the doorway from the bathroom. Her eyes searched the crowd for him, and before he could gesticulate, or make himself known, her eyes suddenly flared, her face paled and she looked as though she was about to faint.
"Shit," he muttered as he tried to cut through the crowds to reach her. He was almost at her side when he realised what, or rather who, she was staring at. A man in his sixties, stood frozen to the spot a few feet from her. It wasn't an obvious likeness, but there was enough similarity for him to know it was her father. Almost twenty thousand people in the arena, and they were in the same block as him. He didn't believe in coincidences, but this seemed like fate, the cruel twisted hand of fate.
Natasha's heart had stopped, she was sure. He looked different, older, more worn, yet miraculously exactly the same. Those warm eyes that had supported her through every school play, every exam, every scraped knee, until the time when she needed him more than ever, they were the same.
He was staring back at her, equally as shocked, and stunned. For a moment she wondered if he'd recognise her, it was almost fifteen years since they had last seen each other. But his eyes flashed, and a myriad of emotions flashed across his face, the last, the most obvious was guilt. He couldn't even show pleasure, he knew what he'd done.
She stepped slowly towards him, and he watched her every move intently. Then she felt a hand, warm at the base of her spine. A sideways glance took in the profile of Bo, strong, supportive and dependable, always there to take the burden. She felt tears prick at her eyes, but that wasn't at seeing her father, but at the realisation of how wonderful he was, how lucky she was that she got over herself, over the past, and managed to hold on to him.
Giving him a watery smile, she turned back to her father, who was now in front of her. Touching distance.
"Natasha?" he half murmured, half questioned.
She nodded, "Dad."
The silence hung between them, despite the noise of hundreds of people rushing back to their seats.
"I didn't know..."he began, then reached out to touch her hand. She almost flinched, but forced her hand to stay in contact with his. "You came back?"
She sighed, "I'm visiting, it's the first time."
He nodded, "were you going to come to see us?"
She shrugged, "I don't know." And that was the truth, causing his head to drop.
He ran a hand through his hair, and sighed, "I guess we deserve that."
She wanted to answer, but there was a lump blocking her throat, she suddenly felt as though she was choking. Trying to speak, trying to breathe, it was all the same. All impossible.
Bo spoke, as he pulled her close to him, "Mr Ingram, I think this is a shock for you both. May I suggest that we meet up a little later, once you have both had the opportunity to get over the shock?"
Natasha leaned against him in relief, and he happily took that pressure, and they both watched as her father bit his lip nodding.
"Will you meet us somewhere? Or come to the house?"
She thought for a moment, could she go to the house? Then she nodded, "we'll come over at about six."
He nodded, "we'll be waiting."
Then they both watched him leave, and for Natasha, she didn't remember much about the rest of the day, until they were sat outside her family home. Looking at the same white picket fence, and the garage with the basketball hoop. Signs of her still existed all these years later. She had been a pregnant and terrified teen the last time she'd seen the place, and Bo seemed tuned in to that, sitting beside her in silence.
"You OK?" He finally offered. "You up to this?"
Her fingers were entwined, white from the pressure of her own grip, but she had to do this. Had to get this over with.
Bo stared at Mrs Ingram – Maggie, repeatedly, she was the exact replica of her daughter, or rather he could see just how Natasha would look in thirty years.
Neither parent had the answers she needed, but her mother insisted that they'd tried to get in touch. It was something, yet it was nothing.
"My mother," her mother offered. "She wouldn't let me speak to you, she took every call, returned every letter. We did want to speak to you, to reconnect."
"To apologise?" She asked, anger warring with the tears that wanted to fall.
Her mother shrugged, "we still think that a baby at that age was the wrong thing for you. We only wanted the best for you."
As her heckles rose, Bo steadied her, a calming hand on her back grounding her. "I was seventeen, I was old enough to make those decisions."
Her father hadn't spoken, he seemed to be more upset than her mother, but he spoke now, "when we heard the baby died..."
"Mia," she interjected. "Your granddaughter had a name, she was my little girl."
Her father looked devastated and he came across to squeeze onto the sofa beside her. "When we heard she passed away, that poor little Mia died, we tried to come across. But Hilda was furious, told us you didn't want us near, and we didn't want to upset you. Didn't want to make things worse for you."
"I told Nana H I'd never speak to you again," she confirmed. Then her lip wobbled, "but that doesn't mean it was the right thing. I have been alone, I've been scared, I've been sad. I had to organise your mother's funeral." She directed that at her mother. "You never came."
Her mother sighed, "we didn't know. It wasn't until I had a Christmas card from a distant cousin that I knew she'd gone. That devastated me too."
"I can't pretend this hasn't happened, there's no easy solution. I hated you both, for so long."
Her father's head popped up at that, "you don't hate us now?"
As she looked at him, the tears finally started to fall. "I'm disappointed, that you weren't better. I'm jealous of people like Bo who have devoted and supportive parents, I am sad, that I've dealt with so much alone. But I can't hate you, because that makes my life black, and I've lived in that for too long. I can't have that shit in my life any more." She turned to Bo, sat beside her. "You were right, again. I needed this."
Because she did, throwing her hatred out seemed to let even more light into her life, and she felt twenty pounds lighter for it.
"You convinced her to come?" It was her father again, this time to Bo. When Bo shrugged, he offered a hand to him.
As he shook it, genially, Bo smiled at her.
"I didn't come here to make you guys feel better. I hoped it would help Natasha." He beamed, "and it has. But there was no altruism in it all." Staring at Natasha, he took her hand once again, and before he turned to meet her father's eyes, he smiled at her, "I came here to tell you, rather than ask you, Mr Ingram, that I am going to marry your daughter, very, very soon."
Emotions like she'd never known washed over her as Bo glanced briefly at her father, but then he was back, staring at her, sliding to his knees in front of her, taking her hands.
"That's if you'll have me."
Tears of pain, sadness, euphoria and relief all combined as they stayed in that cocoon, no one else mattered at that moment.
"Did you plan this?"
He shook his head, "if I had, I'd have a ring. It just was the perfect moment. You're finally fully out of your chrysalis, butterfly."
"Butterfly?" she asked with a watery smile.
"Yes or no?" he countered.
Running her hands over his short black hair, thumbs ghosting over his cheek bones, she couldn't imagine a more perfect moment.
"Will we tell our grandchildren about this moment?"
Turning his head, he nipped at her thumb, "all depends on whether the next word you utter is a yes...or a no."
"Yes. Of course you idiot. I love you."