|Against the Tides 1/1
||[Mar. 22nd, 2009|10:21 pm]
Title: Against the Tides
Pairing: Beckett/Cadman, Sheppard/Weir, Tony/Michelle
Word Count: 5,367
Spoilers: Post "All Minnows In" (found at lantean_manor)
Summary: Laura Cadman makes a choice about her life.
Author's Note: This fic was finished about a gazillion years ago, but I've been so bad about posting. Huge thanks to my beta, joyfulfeather for taking what was arguably a much rougher piece and making it something far better.
"Carson? What's all this?"
He smiled, and his gentle blue eyes glimmered at her.
"It looks like dinner to me, love."
She rolled her eyes, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek exaggeratedly.
"I know that. What made you decide to do all this?"
He clobbered her gently on the head, smiling affectionately when she feigned surprise. Silently he drew her into a gentle kiss, swaying gently as she surrendered to his affection.
"I'm going to pretend you didn't forget our anniversary, Laura."
She squinted. "Honey, I didn't forget. You're just early."
"Not for the day we met," Carson argued, leading her toward the kitchen table.
"I don't count a day I was covered in mud and shoveling cow manure as a good anniversary," she teased.
Carson grinned, brushing her sweaty hair away from her eyes. "You were cute."
"I was dirty."
"I liked you anyway."
She grinned, kissing his cheek again. "Not to be out of the spirit of the anniversary, but can dinner hold till I've taken a bath?"
"Of course, go ahead."
She squeezed his neck. "Can dinner hold without you?"
"I suppose," he replied coyly.
Although they opted for a shower, she felt just as refreshed when she left as she would have after a bath. She felt even better when she realized that Carson had laid out her sweats for her to wear to dinner instead of some skimpy negligee. He really was too good to her.
He had already poured the champagne when she came into the kitchen, her wet hair pulled back away from her face. After handing it to her with a little kiss, he made a quiet toast and served their dinner. It was delicious, as always. She was no slouch in the kitchen herself, but she was lazy where Carson was not. He could probably be a world class chef if he wanted.
"I talked to Mum the other day. She said she'd like to see us for one of the holidays this year, but doesn't want to travel once the winter sets in. Do you mind spending Christmas at your family's and maybe flying to see her and Dad for Thanksgiving?"
"Course not. Christmas is when all the fun football games are on anyway," she added with a teasing grin. Carson had been amazed at how much football her family could watch in one week's time.
"Alright. I'll tell her when we talk next week." He smiled quickly and his eyes fell to the table again.
She reached for his hand. "What's got you tonight, honey?"
"I'm just tired, Laura. Don't worry."
"You need to work out with me more, if a little shower tires you out," she teased.
He laughed, but she knew him well enough to know it was a nervous sort of laugh.
"Don't worry about me."
After taking their empty dinner plates from the table, Carson set a bowl of whipped cream covered strawberries down, handing her a dessert plate and ordering her to help herself.
"Laura," he murmured a few minutes later, leaving his chair and dropping beside hers. Immediately she knew what was coming. They'd had this discussion before, and she'd given him the same answer time and again. Every time it broke his heart, and hers, a little more.
Two days later she was on the treadmill, trying to keep her mind off of what she'd done. After she'd turned him down again, she watched his smile fall. His eyes darkened and drew hard. They finished their anniversary dessert in silence and he immediately went to bed. An hour later she joined him, sleeping beneath the comforter and letting the sheet separate them, even with them clinging to opposite ends of the bed.
"Good afternoon, Laura. Guess who I brought?"
How Elizabeth could be so cheerful when she was up six times a night, Laura had no idea.
"Hey Elizabeth, how're you?" she greeted, climbing down from the treadmill and mopping at her brow. "Let me see her, gimme." She held out her greedy hands for the baby, eager to be distracted by cradling her friend's young daughter. Victoria grunted at being taken out of her carrier but settled quickly, even in Laura's inexperienced grip.
"We just came from our 8-week check. We're both doing fine."
"Good." Laura grinned, brushing her fingers over Victoria's fist, bouncing it gently when she latched on. "So you're cleared?"
Nodding, Laura pressed a kiss to Victoria's forehead before handing the baby back to her mother.
"I'll let you get changed and we can get started, then. We'll go without music since you've got her here."
She tried to ignore Elizabeth's inquisitive glances as they stretched, instead keeping her busy by asking questions about how the baby was doing, how she and John were adjusting to parenthood, and how much longer she would put up with being asked the same three questions.
Finally Elizabeth crossed her arms. "Alright, what happened between you and Carson? I saw him today he looked like someone had shot his dog and run over his mother all at the same time."
Laura crossed her arms. "He asked me to marry him again. And I said no again."
Elizabeth sighed. "Laura."
"I can't, okay! I can't do the dress and the priest and the huge family gathering. I can't do the vows and the commitments and the forever. I'm not you and Michelle. I don't want to get married and have kids and do the white picket fence thing."
"I'll be honest with you, Laura, I never wanted to get married either. And then one day I did. If it's right for you and Carson, it'll happen."
"I want to be with him, I just don't know if I want to marry him. Does that make any sense?"
Elizabeth nodded thoughtfully. "In a way. God knows I told myself the same thing when I was with Simon. But it was just a cop out."
Yeah, that was Elizabeth, giving it to her straight, even if she didn't want to hear it.
"If you're happy with Carson, and you can't imagine having anything different in your life…"
"Jesus, Elizabeth!" she exploded, tugging roughly on her falling ponytail. "Don't you think I know that? Don't you think I've gone over this with myself about a hundred times? Do you think I like hurting Carson like this?" She didn't mean to yell at her friend, but she hated the way Elizabeth was boiling it down so simply.
The baby fussed, and Elizabeth stood quickly, crossing over to where her carrier rested against the mirror. She squatted, murmuring quietly to Victoria and resecuring the blanket around Victoria's kicking legs. Laura sighed, watching her friend step into her mommy role easily, watched her smooth her child's downy hair and stand again.
"I'll be honest with you, Laura, I think you like it when he chases after you. I think you like playing hard to get."
She blinked. "I don't –"
Elizabeth held out her hands, speaking calmly. "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wanting to know that he's determined and interested and committed, but he's not going to let you keep breaking his heart because you feel like teasing. He's ready to settle and have that happy family and the white picket fence, and if you're not, you need to tell him."
Laura lowered her chin. "But I love him."
Elizabeth nodded sympathetically. "But you need to think about whether that's enough. For you and for him."
Elizabeth was right, of course. She wasn't being fair to Carson.
"I'm sorry, Elizabeth. Can we do this another time?"
"Sure, Laura. I'd forgotten we were even going to work out." Elizabeth winked, trying to lighten the mood a little.
Laura bit the inside of her lip. She felt worse than before. Elizabeth patted her shoulder lightly and moved back to her things, making sure the baby was secure before lifting the carrier.
Her friend smiled softly. "I just want you to be happy. You and Carson both. And if getting married isn't for you? Then it's not for you. Just remember, there are ways around the dress and the priest and the huge family gatherings."
"I'll think about it," she promised quietly, looking at her hands.
Elizabeth nodded. "Good. And oh, before I forget. The boys are watching the game this Saturday, so I'm leaving the baby with them and Michelle and I are going out. We'll pick you up at three-thirty. No arguments."
Great, just what she wanted. An entire afternoon listening to her friends chattering about their happy, successful relationships and engagements and babies and everything else that she was apparently doing wrong.
"Sure," she answered unenthusiastically.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow and nodded, leaving quietly. Laura sighed again, moving over to the stereo and flicking it on before crossing over to the punching bag near the window.
~ ~ ~
"Carson? Are you here? We need to talk."
She frowned. The townhouse was quiet, but that didn't mean he wasn't in his office reading or sacked out in their room. She set her bag down, gingerly flexing her bruised, bloody hands. She might have spent a little too much time at the punching bag after Elizabeth left. But that was mostly okay she could handle the aches in her body.
"Carson?" she called again.
Wearily she climbed the stairs, shooting a glance into the dark, empty study before wandering into her bedroom.
The room was empty, bed neatly made the same way it had been when she returned from her run that morning. Carson had already left for work by then.
The light on Carson's side was on, though. It hadn't been earlier in the day. There was also a slip of stationary propped against his pillow.
So he had been there.
She sat down heavily, reaching for the paper and reading his neatly penned note. He had asked to stay with one of his doctor friends for a couple of days, to give her some space. Maybe to give himself some space.
She looked into the bathroom, and sure enough his toiletries were gone. He really had left.
She took a shower and went to bed without worrying about dinner.
By the time Saturday rolled around, she felt more useless than useless. She hadn't slept well in days, finding it difficult to fall asleep without him at her back and his feet wrapped firmly around hers. But frankly, she hadn't been able to bring herself to call him and rehash the entire thing. She didn't want to fight with him, but she also didn't want to concede.
Her morale team was here. Fantastic. She hoped that, at the very least, Teyla was with them, but knew when she only heard two voices that she was out of luck.
"Laura? We've got a four fifteen appointment, let's go."
"I'm not going," she denied, coming downstairs and taking her lukewarm coffee into the kitchen. She was still in her pajamas, having woken up only about two hours before after being up most of the night.
Both of her friends followed her, exchanging a look between them. Michelle Dessler shook her head and stepped forward, taking her hand from where it rested limply on the counter.
"You should have called me; I had no idea until Elizabeth said something on the way over."
"You're busy, Michelle. You've got work and Tony."
Michelle shook her head. "Last I checked Tony and I weren't joined at the hip. He's not a puppy; he can get his own food and water. It's just his treats that he's a little fussy over," she added teasingly. Laura hardly cracked a smile.
"Guys, just go on without me. I'm not really in the mood."
Michelle shook her head, tugging on her hand. "Remember when we were in school and you had to drag me out of my room and away from my computer just to make sure I ate and took care of myself? It's my turn. Go get cleaned up."
"Don't make me come with you. And don't think I won't; it's not like there's anything I haven't seen before, Miss I Don't Need No Stinkin' Towel In My Own Apartment."
She laughed at that. Michelle never had let her live that down. She'd forgotten to bring clean towels, and had left her robe in her room, and Michelle knew it.
"Okay, okay. I'm going. Don't bother following me unless you're bringing Tony along."
"In your dreams. I seem to recall him being mine," Michelle retorted.
That got another giggle out of her; it wasn't often that her friend was so blatantly possessive. She nodded. "I'll be back."
Twenty minutes later she slid downstairs, feeling slightly more human.
"You ready?" Elizabeth asked, already putting her sunglasses back on. Laura had briefly forgotten that the last time she'd seen her, she'd yelled at her. Even if Elizabeth didn't seem mad, she felt slightly sheepish about getting upset. If she couldn't trust her friends to tell her the truth, why did she ask?
"Yeah," she replied, feeling far meeker than she would have liked.
Elizabeth and Michelle ignored her lack of enthusiasm, instead reaching for her at the same time.
"Come on, sweetie, let's go get some coffee, drink it in front of Elizabeth to be mean, and make ourselves pretty," Michelle suggested lightly.
"Hey!" Elizabeth laughed. Everyone knew how much Elizabeth loved her coffee.
While they drove, she looked out the window, watching strip mall after strip mall pass them by. Both of her friends were quiet, possibly because they were unsure of what exactly to say.
"After we're done with our nails, what do you think about grabbing some ice cream?" Elizabeth asked. "I can blame it on baby weight and both of you can just pretend like the calories don't matter. I can tell you all the stupid things men do –"
"I'm not hungry. And you don't have to pretend like it's Carson's fault. It's mine."
Michelle shifted in the front seat, reaching back for her hand and wrapping her fingers around Laura's. Laura blinked, determined that she wasn't going to start crying again. She fingered Michelle's engagement ring thoughtfully, tracing the shape of the sapphire in the center. She remembered how many nights in the three years they'd lived together that the two of them had sat up talking, with her razzing on Michelle for being about to get a real job and having to let go of being young and fancy free while she took advantage of being two and a half years her junior and got to screw around with her life a little more. She remembered how many nights, both before and after Michelle graduated, that she'd battled with the decision to go into Basic or stay at the local community college, seeking her friend's advice and taking her opinion before all others.
"You know it's not your fault either, Laura. You and Carson are just in different places, and you don't need to apologize for that. I'm sure you'll work everything out," Michelle assured, squeezing her hand.
Elizabeth nodded her agreement, parking the car in front of their favorite spa. Michelle squeezed her hand again. "Come on, Laur."
Two hours later she'd managed to let the conflicting emotions she'd been battling with all week take a backseat to the pampering she'd just received. While they'd been in the chairs getting their pedicures the conversation had been kept to the safe topics; no mention of husbands, fiancés, or the happy ever after both of them were looking at, just work out techniques, ways to keep from overeating come Thanksgiving, and the best places to get some new shoes that wouldn't kill Elizabeth's still temperamental back.
When the others were finished with their manicures, and they'd decided their nails were dry enough, she readily agreed to the previously proposed ice cream. Smiling proudly, Elizabeth motioned for her to lead the way.
"I'm sorry I'm such a downer, you guys."
"Don't worry; we're not too badly offended."
She laughed, promising that this treat was on her to make up for it.
As the three of them slurped on their ice cream cones, she remembered the last time Carson had asked her to marry him. It had been over ice cream then. She remembered the eager way he'd dropped the ring on top of a huge pile of sprinkles then, practically bouncing as she'd dipped her spoon into the top, only to look at him in confusion. His crestfallen expression was the same after every refusal.
"Maybe I should just marry him," she murmured.
Elizabeth looked vaguely alarmed. "Laura! It's not something you should 'just' decide to do. Carson wouldn't want you marrying him for the sake of doing it. And you're obviously not happy with the prospect."
She glared. "What do you want from me, Elizabeth? First you tell me I'm making excuses for not marrying him, and now you're telling me I'm doing the wrong thing by saying I will?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "I'm not saying it's the wrong decision. I just don't want you making it for the wrong reasons. It's what you and Carson want from your life together, not what I want, or what Michelle wants. We're all different people, we make different decisions."
"She's right. Remember your decision to join the Marines?" Michelle asked quietly. "That wasn't easy either, but you made the right choice."
"Did I? I quit after three years, Michelle."
"And then you joined DWB and met Carson, and everything else is history. How's that a bad thing?"
"It's not. I'm just, I don't want to fight with him, and I don't want to keep hurting him because I'm being selfish. He practically left me already over this!"
Elizabeth touched her hand. "Have you called him? Gone to see him?"
She felt bad for snapping at her again. She really was just trying to help. Laura shook her head.
"He doesn't want to see me."
"I'm sure he does. I'm sure he's just as frustrated and upset as you are. He just needed somewhere to go lick his wounds."
"And what if he decides that this is it?"
Both of her friends shrugged. "Then it's up to you what you want to do. We're behind you whatever you decide."
"And if it makes you feel better at all, Tony and I've talked about the wedding, or the concept of the wedding, exactly once since he proposed. And it was the same day as the proposal. So it doesn't have to be a speedy process."
Laura snorted. Knowing Carson, it would be much different, but Michelle was right. There was no rush if they didn't want it.
After ice cream, Elizabeth decided it was retail therapy time, despite refusing to even look at anything until she'd lost the rest of her baby weight. Both Laura and Michelle managed to find things they liked, Laura a new warm up outfit, and Michelle a slinky blue something that she refused to show them, despite loud, obnoxious wheedling from them both.
While they were in line, Elizabeth's phone rang and she excused herself to take the call, leaving Laura playfully pawing at her friend's rolled up selection, hoping to get it spread across the counter for her to see. She always had been one to use everything else as a distraction when she was miserable.
Michelle swatted at her again, laughing despite the annoyed look on her face.
They both looked up when Elizabeth crossed back over, smiling apologetically.
"That was John. Victoria won't take a bottle. Do you guys mind if we drop by the house so I can see if she'll nurse?"
"Course not. If you want, you guys can go on without me, and I'll take the bus home."
"Absolutely not," Elizabeth denied.
"Bossy bossy," she teased.
The speed that Elizabeth used to get them back to her house was the only real indicator that she was worried, which Laura figured was pretty good for it being her first trip away from the baby. She was faster getting out than either her or Michelle, though, after the car was in the driveway, so she figured out she was freaking out quietly.
They entered the house, hearing Elizabeth call out to her husband. Laura and Michelle laughed when they bumped into their much taller friend at the doorway to the kitchen and the living room. Apparently the fire they'd been called back for had been put out already. Tony Almeida grinned at them from the center of the room as he slowly rubbed Victoria's back, swaying the silent baby gently.
"Hey, sorry. John shoulda called you. Crisis averted."
Laura watched Elizabeth relax and cross the room to check on her baby, while Michelle just seemed transfixed at the sight of her fiancé holding Victoria so capably.
"Do you want to take her?" Tony asked, presenting the child to her mother. Elizabeth shook her head.
"No, if she's comfortable with you, leave her," she replied, bemused. She rubbed Victoria's fuzzy head gently and turned around looking for John.
Laura shoved Michelle forward, earning a dirty look for her troubles. She enjoyed watching Michelle move to Tony's side.
"Hey there," her friend murmured, kissing Almeida lightly. Laura saw her adjust the spit-up cloth on his shoulder and whisper what she assumed was her complete and utter approval at the domestic display.
Apparently it really was true what they said: there wasn't anything more attractive than an attractive man holding a baby. Even she could agree.
"Hey," John came jogging in out of breath. In his hand he had a bottle that was half full of milk. "I couldn't find this and she didn't want the other one," he explained to his wife, smiling sheepishly. "Who knew Almeida here was a master of child rearing? He let me sweat it out for almost an hour before he took her and convinced her she wanted the other nipple in less than five minutes."
Elizabeth snickered along with Laura.
"She probably was too hungry to care by then," Elizabeth soothed, circling John's waist slowly.
Laura suddenly felt out of place again, standing in the middle between Elizabeth and her husband and Michelle and the man she was devouring with her eyes.
"How was the game?" she asked suddenly, wanting to change the subject back to something neutral.
"You mean there was a game on?" Tony drawled.
"Yeah, it was that thing we caught between diaper changes and feedings," John replied, earning a slap from Elizabeth.
"Poor things. Well, go back to watching TV, even if it's just the highlights. We'll take her for the rest of the night. That is if Laura doesn't mind sharing the backseat with her while we finish our girls' night."
"And if we can drag Michelle away," Laura quipped.
"You know, Michelle, there are plenty of rooms you two are welcome to. Just give me back my baby first," Elizabeth teased, to her oblivious friend's back.
Laura reached out and tugged on Michelle's hair, causing her to jump.
"Come on, Tony looks a little scared by the feral look in your eye."
Michelle laughed. "I hate you, Laur."
She shrugged. "I'll wait in the car while you four make your kissy faces at each other. Bye Tony, later Shep."
Elizabeth looked worried when she and Michelle got in the car. Frowning, Laura looked around.
"Forgetting someone? Where's Victoria?"
"With John. He decided to try his hand at the bounce and pat routine. He hates it when his friends show him up."
"They're both really good with her," she praised quietly. "Tony'll be a good dad," she added, looking at her hands instead of at Michelle. Carson was good with kids, too. She remembered as much from their time together in DWB.
"I think so, too. We need to get married first, though, or his mother will have a cow. Tony's words, not mine."
All three snickered.
"Carson wants kids," Laura murmured. "I guess I can see the appeal."
Michelle looked sympathetic, but it didn't begin to make her feel better. The whole thing was a mess, really, at least on her end.
"Take some time, get your head together, then talk to Carson."
She nodded, feeling so incredibly stupid for continuing to rehash the same things over and over.
Somehow she managed to change the subject during their dinner, but felt herself slipping back into her thoughts on the drive home. Even though she'd been awake for less than ten hours, she still felt exhausted, ready to fall back into bed and pretend Carson was beside her.
Imagine her surprise when Elizabeth pulled into the driveway beside Carson's Lexus. Both of her companions looked at her.
"Will you be okay? You haven't had a lot of time to think."
She nodded. "I'm fine. Carson's the one you should be worrying about."
"Do you want us to stay?" Elizabeth offered. She laughed, shaking her head.
"I'll be fine. We needed to talk anyway, remember? Thanks for trying to cheer me up today."
She gave them each a hug.
"Call me, okay? No matter what time," Michelle asked, squeezing her a little tighter. She nodded.
"With all the gory details. Love you."
"You too, Laura."
Something made her stop as she slid from the car.
"Elizabeth, I'm really sorry about the other day, and about yelling at you today, too."
"Don't worry about it. I'm just sorry I wasn't more helpful. Teyla's the sage, wise one."
"No, you're fantastic. I'm the one who needs to think things over. I'll see you soon, okay?"
After waving to her friends she took a deep breath and opened the front door, stepping inside.
"Laura? Is that you?" he called as soon as the door was shut.
"Yeah. Where are you?"
She found him standing in their bedroom, duffle open on the bed, but she couldn't tell if he was unpacking or packing more. Shyly she stood against the doorframe, watching until he turned to reach for something.
"Hi," she offered quietly, unsure of what she wanted to say or do beyond reach for him.
He looked down at the shirt in his hand. "I'm sorry about leaving like I did, Laura. It wasn't fair –"
She shook her head, joining him by the bed. "No, no, you needed space. I understand that. I am glad you're back, though." She looked at his bag. It was still full. "You are back, aren't you?"
Carson avoided her eyes.
"Can we talk?"
After a second he nodded. She reached for his hand, tugging him around and pushing him lightly to sit. Silently she settled beside him.
Unsure of how to begin, she brushed her lips over his. Carson neither returned the kiss nor pulled away, but she touched his cheek anyway.
"I love you, Carson."
"I love you, too."
"And I want to be with you," she continued. "I just don't know if I can get married right now. Before, before you say anything, Carson, it has nothing to do with you, this is all on me."
He was tense, but he nodded, taking her hand and indicating for her to go on. She'd told him this before.
"A couple days ago, I tried to explain why to Elizabeth, and she told me it was a cop out. And maybe it is, but marriage is a big deal, and I'm not ready for that. All of the planning and stress and effort that goes into a wedding is a big deal. Getting up in front of our families and a priest, pastor, reverend or the like is a big deal. Wearing a big stupid white dress and pretending that I'm something I'm not is a big deal. And I can't do it right now. Maybe not ever."
She released his hand and scooted a few inches away.
To her surprise, Carson's hand followed hers, sliding around her wrist and lacing their fingers together. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze and reached out, touching her chin.
"Look at me, Laura."
She did, and he gently kissed her forehead.
"If you're not ready, there's nothing I can do to change that, is there?"
She shook her head, feeling her eyes flood with tears. This was where he told her that he loved her, but he couldn't live with her like that. She felt wetness on her cheek and took a deep breath, trying to keep herself from shaking.
When he pulled away, she couldn't help the sob that ripped through her. She clung to his hand, pretending she wasn't tugging him back.
"Don't go, Carson, please," she begged softly.
"Shhh," he whispered quietly, raising her hand to his mouth. "I'm not going anywhere," he promised, smiling with concern when her eyes slipped open. "I'm making sure you don't go anywhere," he added, reaching for her shoes. He settled beside her again, trading hands and wrapping his arm around her shoulders, tugging her side into his chest.
"I know you're not ready, love, and I can respect that. I just wish you'd told me so plainly sooner. I thought you were unsure if we were going to work and that's why you kept saying no."
She shook her head, feeling him smile against her temple.
"I'm going to say something now, and if you tell me so, it'll be the last time I bring it up. It's not an ultimatum, or even a real suggestion, it's just a possibility to consider, alright?"
"If we were to dispose of all the stress, the planning, the clergy, the dress, the families, and just have you, me, and a man with the authority to officiate, would you feel less pressured?"
She blinked. Was he really suggesting that they go to a justice of the peace just to make her happy? Carson? Who lived and breathed by the values and morals his wonderful mother instilled in him? Was he actually willing to give up the big white, traditional wedding just for her?
"You- you'd do that?"
He nodded into her hair. "It's just a thought. For when you're ready."
"What if I'm never ready? What if I never want to get married?"
She felt him take a deep breath and squeeze her hand. "I'll still be here," he promised quietly.
"What about kids? I don't know that I'll ever be ready to go through what Elizabeth did. I mean, I like kids well enough, but giving birth?"
Carson kissed her temple gently. "There are a lot of ways to have a family, Laura. There's always adoption; plenty of the children we used to help need loving, happy homes."
She nodded slowly. "So you're saying that you're willing to possibly never marry me because I'm a pain in the butt, and eventually you want to adopt a baby or a child with me?"
Chuckling, he nodded. She closed her eyes again, resting her cheek on his collar. He was willing to do all that for her; shouldn't she be willing to do something for him?
"Hmm?" Carson asked.
"Okay," she repeated. "The last option you mentioned, us and a Justice of the Peace. Let's do that."
Carson kissed her forehead gently. "Are you sure?"
"No, but if you don't mind waiting a few months, I probably will be."
Gently, he cupped her cheeks, kissing her mouth warmly. "Thank you, love."
Kissing him again, she shook her head. He didn't owe her any thanks. "Now where's my ring? You keep flashing it every year or so, I never get a good look."
Carson laughed, shoving her lightly onto her back and tickling her sides. "Cheeky."
After she'd calmed and was tucked into his side, lightly trailing her index finger over his chest, he pulled out the ring from his bedside table. For the first time since that first proposal, she didn't panic.
"I believe this is for you."
Her fingers spread and she allowed him to put in on her hand. This time it felt right.