Three Years Later

Xander and I stayed in the flat all through my three years at university. We had a spare room but that came in pretty handy if we ever had to babysit. Which happened pretty frequently. If it wasn't Jessie, Sophie or Holly, it was Jackson and Katie (Kane and Natalie's new born baby girl), and if it wasn't Jackson and Katie, it was James. Sometimes we had both James and Jackson at the same time, though that was pretty rare. But I loved it. I loved having the kids in the flat. It wasn't all that great for getting essays written but I loved it. I loved watching Xander playing with his sisters or his nephew or my brother when he got back from work. He was still at the café though he was now the manager. It didn't pay amazingly well but he loved it and it was more than enough on top of my student loan to keep the flat and to allow us to still go on dates and everything. He'd even been able to buy a car which we shared. He was looking for new jobs, though, that paid slightly more. He was still looking to stay in the food side, but looking to work in a restaurant rather than a café. I think he would be great at it; he's so good with people and everyone he meets loves him.

I was officially looking for a job, too. Photography wasn't the easiest industry to break into but Jane worked for a company that provided graduation gowns to universities and she had good contacts with a company that took graduation portraits. It wasn't exactly what I wanted to do but I knew that being a freelance photographer, being an artist, was almost impossible to make a living from, so I knew that I had to do the mundane photography and work on my own portfolio on the side. I wasn't putting all my hopes on the graduation portraits though, just in case, so I'd been applying for other photography jobs. I knew I'd find something eventually.

"Ready to go?" Xander asked, walking into our bedroom. I smiled and turned to him.

"It's going to be crazy," I said with a sigh and Xander chuckled, coming over to give my tie a wiggle – I wasn't all that sure he did anything to make it look better.

"It's your graduation dinner so you can't complain," he said and I sighed.

"But there's so many people," I whined. He knew I wasn't serious, though. I loved our families. Xander chuckled and pecked my lips. I smiled up at him, my weak complaints dying on my lips. Even after all this time, my heart still skipped a beat when he looked at me like that.

"We still picking up Kevin, Julie and Daniella?" Xander asked and I nodded. They'd all graduated this year too. Originally it was just going to be the five of us, but then Kane and Natalie had wanted to join. Then Xander's sister, Beth, who'd just finished her second year of university. And slowly, all of Xander's family had joined us. And then when Xander's mother told Jane, her and my father wanted to come, too. So there was 16 of us. It was crazy. We'd booked a table at an Italian place and they said they'd arrange the tables so we could all sit together.

Xander and I drove over to Kevin's parents' house about 10 minutes later. He and Julie immediately emerged from the house and headed down the drive towards the car. Xander squeezed my hand and smiled at me just before Kevin and Julie climbed into the back seats. "Hey," I smiled, turning in my seat to greet my best friend and his girlfriend. I was so glad they'd lasted through university. They'd gone to different unis but they'd only been about an hour from each other by train so they'd seen each other almost every weekend. They were perfect together.

"Hey," Kevin smiled as Xander pulled away from the curb. "Hows it going?"

"Good," I smiled. "You?"

"Good," he said. "Kings officially accepted my application today."

"That's great!" I grinned.

"Congrats," Xander added. Kevin had applied for a Masters in Chemistry – that subject was truly beyond me and I was impressed that he'd got a first class degree let alone was excited to take it to the next level.

"So are you guys…" I said, waiting for Kevin to finish the sentence.

"I'm looking for a flat," Kevin said.

"We can't live together until we're married but…I'll just tell my parents I'm staying with friends on the nights I'm at Kevin's," Julie said and I smirked and glanced at Xander who was grinning. He rested his hand on my thigh and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"I'm a pro if you need advice," I said and Kevin laughed and rolled his eyes.

We got to Daniella's parents' house a minute later and she was waiting for us at the curb. She quickly jumped in and gave Julie and quick hug. "Hey," she said to the car in general. "I just spoke to Jacob. He's bummed he's missing this." I smiled and shook my head. Daniella had met Jacob in her final year of university but they'd fallen hard and fast for one another. The only problem was that Jacob lived in Manchester so it wasn't really practical for him to come tonight.

"When are you next seeing him?" Julie asked.

"He said he'll come down next weekend," Daniella smiled. I knew Jacob was looking into getting a job in London to be closer to Daniella and she was super excited for that. I was glad she'd found someone. She'd phoned me several times over the last three years when her relationships broke down, convinced that she'd never find someone. But I'd never seen her as happy as she was with Jacob, and I knew he was the right person for her.

We got to the restaurant just before our reservation time but Kane, Natalie, Jackson and Katie were already there, seated at the end of a super long table. "Uncle Eli!" Jackson cried, scrambling off the chair and running towards me. I grinned and scooped him up into my arms. He wrapped his little arms around my neck and he giggled. It was only the kids and Xander who called me Eli. It still seemed like it was a nickname that was just for Xander to use. Xander's hand ran down my back and I smiled at him as he moved around me to greet Kane and Natalie and coo at Katie. I grinned and then turned my attention back to Jackson. "Daddy says to say congalations," he said and I chuckled and tickled his little cheek.

"Thank you," I said, setting him back on the floor. He toddled back to his parents. I went to stand beside Xander and Natalie stood and gave me a hug. Kane just grinned at me as he held a squirming Katie.

A minute later, my father arrived with Jane and James. They all hugged me, then Xander and said hi to the others. They'd all met several times, so I was relieved I wouldn't have to do any introductions. And then Xander's parents arrived with the remaining children. Though Beth was 20 now, so didn't really count as a child. And Thomas was almost 18. Jessie went to sit next to James and they started talking about whatever 9 year olds talk about. I thought they were adorable together; they'd gravitated together from the first time they'd met when Xander and I finished school.

Everyone took their seats. I was sitting between Xander and Jackson, who'd insisted on sitting next to me. I loved that little boy so much even though he wanted my almost constant attention. Between courses, Xander's hand rested on my thigh and, if Jackson didn't want help colouring, I rested my hand on top of his. Just before we all started eating, Xander's father stood and tapped his glass. The table quieted and we all turned towards him. "I won't be long, I know everyone's hungry," he said and I smiled. "I just wanted say a massive congratulations to Elijah, Daniella, Kevin and Julie for graduating university. We'll all very proud." He grinned at me and then clinked his glass with his wife's and everyone else's.

"Cheers!" my father added and everyone clinked glasses.

"Thank you," I said to Marc who smiled and nodded. We were in the restaurant for almost two hours. It was so nice, so relaxed, being with all my family and having everyone get on so well together. Xander's mother and Jane had become best friends almost immediately and I was so glad.

We got back home at almost 10 o'clock. I was knackered but instead of heading to the bedroom, Xander pulled me into the living room. "I'm tired, babe," I moaned. "I just wanna go to bed and…you know." Xander grinned at me, though he also seemed a bit on edge.

"I need to talk to you for a second," he said. "Then we can go to the bedroom and I'll let you have your way with me." I groaned, falling onto the sofa. Xander sat next to me and took my hand. I sensed how serious he was so I quickly sat up and faced him.

"Everything okay?" I asked with a concerned frown.

"So, I was thinking, I'd kind of really like to know the answer to that question now," Xander said and my frown only deepened as I tried to wrack my brain for a time when he'd asked a question and I hadn't answered.

"What question?" I asked curiously.

"That question Sophie and Jessie asked you a couple years ago," he said and my lips parted as the question came back to me. Are you going to marry Xander?

"Oh," I whispered and Xander smiled. My heart raced.

"I was considering doing this at dinner tonight," he said softly. "But then I thought that it would be much better like this, in our home where we've lived together for almost 4 years. And I just wanted us to have our own little bubble for a minute. So, Elijah, will you marry me?" I closed my eyes for a second as the words registered and then I smiled and opened them.

"Yes," I whispered and Xander grinned, tugging me towards him for a loving kiss. "For the record, that's the same answer that was on the tip of my tongue when Sophie asked me." Xander laughed and kissed me again.

"I'm glad you saved it for me," he said in between kisses. He pushed me back on the sofa and hovered over me. "I love you so much."

"I love you, too," I whispered, gazing into those beautiful eyes that I was sure I couldn't go a day without seeing. I shifted slightly so Xander could lie comfortably between my legs. "You realise we're gonna have to have all the kids in the wedding somehow."

"I know," Xander grinned, eyes sparkling. "It's going to be beautiful."

And it was. We were married the following year in September, on the 5th anniversary of the day we met. We were married in a church, which was important to me, and we'd found a small church about 20 minutes away which welcomed gay members. It wasn't a catholic church but I didn't mind so much. Once I'd found the church, I started going every week, before we even asked to get married there. Xander came too, just like he'd said he would, on the Sundays that he wasn't working. After attending services for almost 6 months I knew that that was the place where I wanted us to get married. The congregation was incredibly welcoming and friendly and had included us immediately. The vicar had commented how nice it was to have a new young family join the congregation. I hadn't known what to say but Xander had just shaken his hand and thanked him. "Guess that means we're gonna have to have a family, huh?" Xander had said on the drive home. I gazed at him and then grinned.

"I want us to have a little version of your running around," I'd told him honestly and Xander smiled and brought my fingers up to his lips.

"I want a little version of you," he'd said. "We can just take it in turns with a surrogate." I smiled and nodded. Clearly he'd been thinking about it just as much as I had.

The church wasn't packed when we got married. All of Xander's family was there, obviously. And my father and Jane, with James. A couple months before the wedding, I had gone to see my mother. I hadn't told Xander in case he worried, but I did tell him that evening. She'd remarried. How she'd managed to find someone even more bigoted and closed-minded than herself I'd never know. He took one look at me when he answered the door and had spat, "no fags in this house." My mother appeared beside him and just looked at me in disgust. And I left. At least I'd tried to fix things between us. But I knew it would never happen now. That was fine as long as I didn't think about it. I had Jane and Mel, who were both like mothers to me. Sometimes I did miss my mother but I knew that I was better off without her.

Xander and I both wore dark grey suits on our wedding day, with white shirts and black waist coats. Kevin and Kane, the best men, were in blue suits, and Daniella, the maid of honour, was in a blue dress which matched the best men suits. At the risk of inevitably upsetting someone, Xander and I decided not to involve any of the kids. There was only 2 roles – ring bearer and flower girl – and we couldn't be made to choose between James and Jackson for the ring bearer and Jessie and Sophie for the flower girl. So we just made it easy and didn't have either. We promised the kids we'd take loads of pictures with them.

We walked down the aisle together. We'd considered going separately but in the end decided to meet at the back of the church and walk to the altar hand in hand. There was a short prayer and then Xander and I exchanged vows. I was to go first and I was nervous but as soon as I looked into Xander's eyes, I knew I didn't need to be. I told Xander almost every day just what he meant to me. This was my chance to be as clichéd as I wanted without being embarrassed. "I love you, Xander," I started, taking his hands in mine. "I don't know what I did to deserve someone as kind and generous, as patient and understanding as you. Whenever I think of how much I love you, whenever I try to express it, I always think back to our first date when you showed me the verses in the Bible which showed me that it's okay to be who I am. The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. That's how I feel about you, Xander. My soul has been knit with yours from the very beginning. I am yours and you are mine. For eternity. Because the rest of my life just doesn't feel long enough." I turned to get my ring from Kevin and held it in front of Xander's finger. "I give you this ring as a symbol of my love; and with all that I am and all that I have, I honour you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." I slid the ring onto Xander's finger and he held onto my hand.

"Eli, I knew from the very first moment that you're my person," he said and I smiled softly. "You're the one that I am meant to share my life with, share all the ups and downs with. I adore you, Eli, with everything I have. I promise to laugh with you when you're happy and support you when you're sad. I've been there for you for 5 years and I promise to still be there for you for the rest of our lives. You're my best friend, my true love, my soul mate." I blinked away the tears that were threatening to fall and smiled. He got his ring from Kane and held my left hand. "I give you this ring as a symbol of my love; and with all that I am and all that I have, I honour you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." He slid the ring onto my finger and I looked down at it for a moment before looking up into his eyes. "I love you," he whispered and I smiled.

"I love you," I whispered.

"By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you married," the vicar said. "You may kiss your groom." I grinned and stretched up to kiss Xander, my groom, my husband. My soul mate.

The End.

So that's it, the end :( I truly loved writing this story and thank you all so much for reading and the great, supportive reviews you've left! I really appreciate the support :)

Please check out my other one shots that I've posted, and the first chapter of my new story.

-Nicola x