Forrest comes through the door, looking as hardy as ever. This visit to the hospital they didn’t shave him, so that fuzz of beard is still on him. The line of his shoulders moves with the same swagger, easy and powerful.
Maggie almost glides to him, smoothing silently-fretting hands over the sleeves of his (new, with the last bits of Jack’s money) cardigan, breathing his name out.
“How are you feeling?” She says, wanting to touch his cheeks, shoulders, his arms, wanting to strip his shirt from the collar where she can see a patch of white, white gauze sticking out so she can understand how hurt he is. Instead, her hands just linger on his forearms and her eyes eventually linger on his face, a tad paler than usual and-
His eyes are on her, clear and bright and mossy-green, rich and thick with color, little strands of gold, a dark ring around his iris. They are gentle, too gentle, too gentle for a man who took four bullets to the chest and lived.
“I’m okay,” he says, in his deep, gruff voice. She loves his voice, filled with murmurs and mumbles in place of words. “Get your coat,” he adds.
There’s a hint in his voice, the gruffness still there but affectionate, warm like molasses.
She doesn’t want to let him go, but his command is… it isn’t gruff or urgent… no, that molasses-hint in his voice is what she thinks might be excitement. She smiles a little at how cute he is, lingering her fingers on his wrist, then goes to the closet to get her coat, the red one.
In the closet, too, is a big woolen overcoat, an expensive, dapper looking thing. It looks like it’s Forrest’s size. She brings it along.
When she steps back out, there’s a tension to Forrest’s shoulders she hasn’t seen before. Not in dealing with the police, not in recovering from death, not in anything before.
“I brought this one too. Is it yours?”
He looks back at her, face like when she said goodbye the night he got his throat cut, that beautiful loneliness. He looks startled, almost, at whatever he’s feeling.
“Sorta. It’s me n’ Howard’s.”
“You should put it on. It’s cold out and you’re recovering.” She holds the shoulders open for him, holding his stare until he sighs and turns to let her help. When he turns back around, she pulls the lapels forward to get it fitting around his shoulders.
He looks very nice. Very, very nice.
He stares at her.
“What?” She says, reaching to touch her face, see if there’s any smudges of something there.
“Nnh.” He mumbles, placing his hand onto her shoulder, the warmth and strength of his fingers radiating into her. “Come with me.”
He slips his hand down to hers, taking her hand and tugging lightly.
“Where are we going?”
His fingers are rough — that she knew — but they are gentle. His thumb rubs her knuckles a little when she jogs to catch up to him.
He gets the door for her and helps her in with an extended hand. His expression hasn’t changed, but those little golden sections of his eyes are lit in the winter light. It’s like he’s laughing.
He comes around the hood and gets up into the driver’s seat, starting the engine and turning around in the station’s yard with familiar precision.
She looks over to him as they leave the drive, his hat as battered as ever, slung low on his forehead, contrasting nicely with the pristine clean charcoal-color of his coat, fit well through the shoulders and back.
“Your dad must have looked like you, huh?”
“Mm.” It’s not really an answer, but there’s a tiny up-tic on the corner of his mouth.
It’s cold in the car but the heater is on. It must be about 4, because the light’s getting low on the horizon, that sort of dusky blue color. Forrest looks handsome in that light.
“Where are we going?”
“You got business?”
His mouth ticks up one more notch and he looks over quickly. “Mm.”
“Can I turn on the radio?”
When the music comes on, it’s this slow, beautiful little tune. It’s strange it should be playing here, the clear brass tones of the trumpet like a serenade along this little country road. It sounds better fit in Chicago. The more it plays, the more she realizes that’s where she knows it from. She hums along when the vocals come back, a slow and mellow piece.
She sinks back into the seat, smiling a little. She doesn’t notice Forrest’s hand comes off the steering wheel until it’s on hers, warming it.
She smiles at that.
“Have you been anywhere outside the state, Forrest?” She asks.
He thinks about it for a moment, then says, “Naw.”
“Would you ever want to?”
“Hmmm,” he mumbles, “Maybe.”
“I’ve always liked the idea of Paris,” she sighs, closing her eyes, “in the springtime.”
“Would you want to go?”
He’s silent, looking over at her a moment. His thumb strokes hers.
“If we could…”
It’s heavy, his voice, mournful, almost, frustrated. It makes her sad to hear it.
“It doesn’t have to be today. It doesn’t even have to be soon. Just someday.”
He nods, eyes on the road.
The music changes and they drive on until they reach the town.
Forrest parks in front of the office and gets out, coming around to help her down.
She takes his hand when he offers it, but tries to let go when she’s settled on the ground. Forrest has other plans, though, and keeps holding her hand, walking up the steps to the office with her hand in his.
“Forrest? What are we doing here?” She finally asks.
He turns to her and grunts, leaning into her so their foreheads could almost touch.
“Maggie…” he mumbles, digging into his cardigan pocket for something. He looks like he wants to run away and laugh and kiss her all at the same time.
He presents her with a ring, flat in his palm. It’s a simple, simple ring, just a band of gold.
“Might have done this out of order but. Ah. Will you marry me?”
Her whole self goes still for a moment. Her heart stops beating, she’s pretty sure.
Her eyes flick up to his. The golden strands in them are reflecting like crazy in the low sunset light and he looks so damn tender she thinks her heart will turn into a pile of mush.
“Is that why we’re here?” Her voice is a trembling whisper.
He doesn’t answer for a second, and then says, “Mm.” His eyes do the darting thing they did when he had told her he didn’t want her hurt, that day in the hospital the first time.
She bites her lip, trying to keep a smile from splitting her face. She can feel the tears pricking her eyes and wishes them to go away.
His hand comes away from hers and cups her cheek, looking into her eyes almost pleadingly, the golden green so bright with hope she thinks she’ll have to look away.
She nods, finally letting the smile free.
He pulls her into his chest, a totally unexpected thing.
“Mm. Good.” The deep timbre of his voice reverberates through her. He sounds like she’s smiling, so she untangles herself from him to look.
He is indeed smiling, this little brilliant quirk of his thick lips. It makes her smile even wider, and then because she’s smiling so big, he smiles bigger, and then she laughs, and then he laughs, just a few little chuckles into his wrist, but the vibrations of it shake her and make her giggle until she’s collapsed into his chest and he’s holding her gently, gently.
“Are you even fully healed, Forrest Bondurant?”
He makes a noncommittal, partially smiling sound. She sighs exasperatedly, but she’s smiling too.
“Did you really check yourself out of the hospital to do this.”
“Yeah. Couldn’t wait.”
She grips at his sleeves and pulls herself back from him with much effort, and then she whispers, “Then don’t wait any longer.”
They walk into the county office together. The man behind the counter apparently knows Forrest, and stands a little, wringing his hands.
“What can I do you for, Mr. Bondurant?”
“Get me a marriage license, Tommy.”
The man looks like he’s just been struck.
He makes an affirmative noise. There’s still a lingering smile there.
“And- and Miss…?”
Tom looks confused, but somewhere in there is a hint of a smile, a triumphant one.
“Yeah, alright. I’ll be right back.”
Forrest is still holding her hand, and once Tom disappears into the back room, he takes her right hand and puts the ring on her finger.
It’s not that big, but it’s loose enough that when she returns her hand down to her side, it falls off.
She catches it, thankfully, but Forrest looks so disappointed that it’s almost funny.
“Thought it would fit.”
“It’s okay.” She hands it back to him. “Keep it in your pocket for now. I have a chain I can put it on.”
He digs into his pocket again, though, instead of taking the ring back. He pulls out a thin gold chain, with fine little links.
“Bought it with a little bit of Jack’s money.”
He takes the ring and slips it on the chain as she stands flabbergasted.
“What?” He says, pausing.
She isn’t quite sure why she’s surprised. Forrest isn’t foolhardy in the least; he would have prepared for any eventuality. Even her saying no.
“You’re always prepared,” she says, voice edging on confusion.
“Mm. Was gonna give you the chain if you didn’t want to do this.”
There it is. He had prepared.
“You thought I wouldn’t?”
He hums, noncommittally.
Forrest comes around behind her and closes the chain around her neck.
She turns to show it to him, and there’s that light again, bright in his eyes.
“Very nice,” he almost growls, and suddenly she remembers there’s a honeymoon part of a marriage, and something in that thought makes her shiver pleasantly.
“Thank you,” she laughs softly.
Tom comes back with the marriage license just then, and seems startled at the show of affection he just walked in on.
He places the piece up on his desk and fills in his name where it’s appropriate, the date, and the location, and then turns it over to them.
Forrest has her sign first. She signs it through, trembling slightly at this turn of events, but happy. Very happy.
Then he signs, easily and simply, an unpretentious signature.
Then they turn the license back to Tom, who signs it.
And that’s it.
It feels a little strange, at first. But then Forrest turns to her, tucks the ring into her blouse with those blunt, calloused, gentle fingers, and smiles, and then it doesn’t seem so strange.
“Congratulations,” says Tom, who is smiling.
Forrest tips his hat and takes her by the waist, possessively yet kindly.
She stops him out on the porch, and he looks at her, curious.
“You forgot something,”
He seems genuinely confused at what he could have forgotten. She can see his brain working, working through the ring, the certificate, not yet finding it, not yet…
“You may now kiss the bride?” She offers.
The look of realization, and then embarrassment, is endearing as can be.
“C’mon Maggie,” he grumbles, the slightest flush coming to his cheeks.
“No one’s around,” she sing-songs.
He groans, resistant.
“You still haven’t kissed me properly,” she reminds him.
At that his embarrassment turns to more embarrassment, and he murmurs, “One kiss.”
“Just one out here.” She adds the stipulation in because she expects many more kisses in the next few hours.
He grumbles, but leans down and presses his lips to hers. The gentleness surprises her, the light pressure, reassuring but not insistent, warm and kind and amazing. He is not quite chaste, his mouth open against hers, but he doesn’t go deep, not like the kisses they had shared before in his bed.
When he pulls away, she is breathless. Her heart is hammering in her chest, fluttering up in her neck. His big hand comes up and cups the side of her neck, laughing a little when he feels her pulse there.
She swallows and smiles up at him.
“What now?” she says.
His mouth quirks up and his eyes light up again with mischief. “Honeymoon.”
Something goes liquid inside her and she pulls her lips in again, trying to hide a smile.
“Are we honeymooning back at the station?”
He shrugs. “Thinking the hotel. ’s private.”
She nods, and lets him take her by the hand and help her back into the car.