One Month Later

Every seat in the bleachers surrounding the ice is full and I know half of the people here are anxiously awaiting the boys appearance on the ice. Tonight is Matt's first game back since he went to rehab almost three months ago. Coach and the team wanted him playing as soon as he returned to school, but Matt wanted to wait until he felt more ready. I'm not convinced that he does, but I know how much he's desperately missed the game and I have all of the confidence in the world in him.

"This is killing me!" Mom says, bouncing nervously in her seat. "Is it starting soon? I want it to start!"

"Deep breaths, Mom," Andy says, chuckling as he slips an arm around his shoulders.

"Have any of you seen your father yet? I'm worried he won't be able to make it in time!" Mom replies, ignoring Andy's pleas for her to remain calm.

"You do realize, Mom, that you regularly give presentations in front of hundreds of the most brilliant legal minds in the country, many of whom you have faced in court and beaten, right?" I ask. "I think you can handle a high school hockey game."

Mom shoots me a withering stare and shakes her head.

"Thank you, Alexa," she replies dryly. "That's quite helpful."

"Just doing my part," I say, smiling.

Murmurs in the crowd morph into cheers as the players enter the ice for pre-game skate. Doug skates out first and finds us in the stands, pointing is stick in our direction - though I assume that is more for Wil's sake. Matt follows straight behind him, his eyes trained on the ice as he skates a quick loop. The cheers explode in a near deafening cacophony of noise. Matt's reception back into our school society has gone like much of the things in his life. People are thrilled to have him back and few know where he's been for the past few months. Those that do don't seem to care as much as we all feared that they might.

Just as the warm up countdown clock is approaching one minute to the start of the game, I see Dad making his way up the stands to where we're sitting. His brief case is in his hand and the other is pressing a cell phone to his ear.

"I thought I told you to have the case summary on my desk by three today," Dad says, nodding briefly as he steps past me and Dom to sit next to Andy. "Next time I fully expect you to meet your deadline. No excuses."

He hangs up without a farewell and, in a shocking turn of events, immediately shuts down his cell phone and drops it into his briefcase.

"I'm glad that you were able to make it," Mom says, leaning over Andy.

"Yes, well, it wasn't easy," Dad says, seeming drained. "I may need to make a few calls, but I'm hoping to hold off during game play."

"Either way, it'll mean the world to Matt and Doug that you're here, Dad," Andy says sincerely.

"It's been too long since I was able to see them play," Dad replies with much less stress and annoyance than anything he's said so far. In Dad language, he might as well be holding a blinking sign that says he's thrilled to be here and he loves his sons. It'll do. For now.

"Now that we're all here," Wil says, pulling a paper bag from beneath his seats. "I brought some things!"

He presents Mom with a flowered lei in the school colors and hands each of us a giant pin with a picture of Matt and Doug in uniform. He drops a pair of colored pom poms onto Dad's lap and I start laughing so hard that Dom has to pinch my arm to calm me down.

"Please use those, Dad," I say, wiping a few tears from beneath my eyes. "Oh my God, I'll die."

Dad picks them up and examines them with a look of disgust. "Absolutely not."

"Be nice," Mom says, rolling her eyes and chuckling.

"Oh, come on, Mr. Malone! Where's your team pride?" Wil asks, a teasing lilt to his voice.

"In a land far, far from here getting well acquainted with my sense of humor," Dad replies dryly.

"And people wonder where our sarcasm comes from," Andy says, laughing.

"Guys, it's starting," Dom says, pushing all of our focus back onto the ice.

Matt is at center ice, face to face with the other team's captain, and the ref is poised next to them in preparation for the puck drop. Doug is on Matt's left, his gaze an icy concentration as the tension in the stands builds.

"Let's go boys!" I yell, eager for it to get started.

The ref blows the whistle, the puck seems to fall in slow motion, and Matt quickly takes control, zipping around his opponent and snapping the puck at Doug. Doug taps it through the legs of an opposing defender and passes to Tyson, who quickly finds Matt. Two moves and he's in the goal crease, flicking his wrist and sending the puck right over the goalie's shoulder and into the net.

The crowd explodes in a flurry of excitement and we're all on our feet. Even Dad is hollering Matt's name as he pounds fists with his teammates and skates back to the bench.

As I watch my family lose themselves in the game I realize that we're all going to be okay. The next few months are going to be some of the hardest times of our lives, - Hell, maybe even the next few years - but we're building something new here. Something good. And I can't imagine that there is anyone on earth who feels as fortunate as I feel right now. Because if anyone can make it through the shit we have facing us, the Malone's can. We are survivors after all.


We're waiting outside of the locker room when the boys emerge and Doug smiles widely, still riding the high of scoring the winning goal. He marches right over to us, drops his bag to the floor, and kisses Wil so hard that the tips of his ears immediately turn red. Mom smiles and even Dad doesn't seem too upset before he glances away politely.

"Get a room!" Andy teases, rolling his eyes.

"Did you see that goal, man?" Matt asks, coming up behind Doug and clasping his shoulder in congratulations. "Kid was on fire."

"Alright, Mr. Hat Trick," I say.

"The whole team played fantastically," Matt replies. "I couldn't have done any of that without such a great group of guys behind me. And my brother on my left, of course."

"You both played wonderfully, boys!" Mom says, squeezing them both to her. She looks so tiny trapped in a sandwich between my gigantic brothers. It's adorable.

"I say we grab dinner to celebrate!" Wil exclaims. "You guys worked so hard. I think you deserve a little TLC."

"Who can think about food right now?" Andy asks. "I'm still hung up on Matt being so humble. Who knew you were even capable of humility, bro."

"Ha ha, very funny," Matt replies dryly, rolling his eyes. "I'm with Wil, though. I could probably single-handedly eat 12 pizzas right now. And maybe a table."

"Dad, why don't you ride over with me and Wil?" Doug suggests.

"Perfect," Dad replies. "That will give Wilbert and I a chance to discuss his plans for next year. What have you been thinking, son?"

Wil glances at me in a clear panic as Dad begins to lead him toward the doors. Doug winks at me and jogs to catch up with them, falling into step beside Wil. I watch him take Wil's hand and smile to myself as they disappear into the street.

"Do you want to come with us?" I ask Dom, grabbing his hand in mine. He brings our hands to his mouth and presses his lips across my wrist. "Or do you need to head back to the shop?"

"It'll keep for a few slices," Dom replies. "And maybe you could come back with me after to help me with that project we were discussing. Unless, you know, you need to get home."

I blush, knowing 'project' is Dominic's code for 'make out like crazy'. As I watch Matt laugh at something Mom says as she, Matt, and Andy make there way onto the street, I gather that no one will be needing me tonight. But there is something I need. A moment to celebrate how far we've come with the one person who has always been in my corner. The one person who makes all of my insecurities evaporate as though they were nothing more than water left on the stove to boil to long.

"Absolutely," I reply, pressing a kiss to his cheek.

A/N: Oh my God, guys. I just finished The Youngest Malone. In some way or another, I have been writing about these characters for nearly eight years. Like I said in my last a/n, there is still so much more to their story, but I always envisioned leaving Alexa for a bit once she was finally on a road to figuring out who she is outside of her family unit. I definitely think I'll write more about them in the future, but I already have a new story in the works. If you're interested, check out the first chapter of "Intertwined" in the next few weeks. It's my NaNo from 2013, so I have a sizable portion of it written. It's a little scary for me as it's more supernatural than anything I've tried before, but I'm having a blast with it.

Thank you so much for following Alexa's story. I love the Malones so much. They're a huge part of me and I'm sad to see them go. I can't express how honored I feel that you guys cared about these characters, too, and stuck around for so long while I wrote about them. I truly cannot thank you enough :) Happy reading!