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A Little Unsteady

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They always loved each other – even as children they loved each other as playmates.

After the death of his father, Richard’s mother decided it would be the best if the youngest among the seven children would be given to the care of his father’s best friend.

The Nevilles were a small family of four, a far contrast from the nine members of the Yorks, and Richard was welcomed with open arms, Mr. Neville relishing in the fact that he finally had a chance to raise a boy, albeit losing his best friend was a bitter tragedy that affected both families.

Richard was only seven when he met the then 5-year-old Anne Neville.

 Soon they became best friends, much like their fathers however, not without small quarrels here and there, Richard had the habit of stepping on Anne’s long dresses when she annoyed him and Anne was guilty of thumping a book on his head on more than just once because of his stubbornness and arrogance.  But nevertheless, they shared a bond so special that Anne’s parents couldn’t help but be fond of the new-found closeness of the two children.  

The two were inseparable.

When Anne was eight, she wished she was his wife because of her beauty and grace and to that young Richard replied, "You'll be my wife Anne, just give me a few years and you'll call yourself Anne York.”

Mr. Neville walked in to the living room where the two were talking and couldn’t help but laugh. He welcomed the thought easily.

That changed however when Richard started middle school.

Once, they attended the same primary school and ate lunch together even though they weren’t in the same grade, they would always exchange glances of mischief and both knew there were thousands of stories to be told when they get home.

But now, with him going to a different school, Anne felt alone again. Her sister Isabel was a year older than Richard, she was already sucked into the world of Junior high to be bothered with her younger sister. Besides she always told Anne that sixth grade wasn’t that bad.

Anne always looked forward to coming home and finally having the chance to talk with Richard, his smile was like the sun to her.

Soon enough, Anne was in Junior high, she expected to finally spend more time with Richard again but that didn’t happen. They had different schedules and their classes were always on opposite sides of the building from each other.

As the years went by, they grew up. In a blink of an eye, Anne was the epitome of beauty with her soft light waves and eyes, while Richard was just as handsome as his father with his dark curls and dark eyes. Although Isabel used to tease him for having funny eyes and always being so serious. Anne thought his eyes reminded her of the stars against the dim night sky.

When Anne entered high school, things got complicated. Once again, Isabel was absorbed with her senior year and Richard spent most of his time in the library preparing for college – he was applying to one of the best universities in the country and decided to start polishing his records. He wanted a career in law, just like his father.

Once again, Anne was alone.

It was when Richard turned eighteen that things got more complicated for Anne. He had introduced his girlfriend; Kate was her name. Anne immediately knew she wouldn’t like Kate.

Three months later, Anne introduced Edward, her boyfriend.

Richard thought the boy was a jerk.


 

The space between them grew even more when Richard was about to leave for college. He was accepted to his dream university and was on the road to becoming like his father.

The night before he was supposed to leave, he and Anne met in the garden, sneaking a bottle of wine. They had done this with Isabel before when it was her being sent off to college. The two sat on the grass, passing the bottle to one another with laughs.

It was the first time in a year that they had the chance to talk and act like the kids they once were.

It was Anne who decided to turn to a serious topic.

“You won’t forget me, right?” Her tone was small and unsure. Everything in her body told her not to say those words but she needed to know.

“How can I ever forget you, Anne?” He smiled but when the frown on her face didn’t change, he knew that there was more to her question. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s just with you going away and Kate –“

“I broke up with Kate.”

The pleasant surprise in her voice wasn’t unnoticed by Richard. “What? Why?”

With a shrug, “Things got complicated.”

After a moment, she nodded, and took his hand. “At least were still friends.”

“We’ll always be friends, Anne.”

They stayed there and talked for hours, about the past, about their present, about what they would be leaving behind.

 


 

Richard returned during the summer, choosing to stay with the Nevilles during the first month of his break.

He noted the changes, Mr. Neville had a few grey hairs visible and Mrs. Neville’s eyes lost the spark they once held when he was young. Maybe it was time that was getting the best of them. His room didn’t change much, except from the new books he found on his shelf. As he began to read one, Anne entered his room without a second thought, half of her face hidden behind a stack of books.

More books? Richard thought to himself, amused. Anne always loved reading but when he read his law books, Anne always kept to her Hemingway’s and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s.

But he found her caring anatomy books.

“Let me help you,” He said as he took the books from her and he thought how Anne grew stronger. The books were heavy, even for him.

He took them to his shelf as he heard her appreciation. “Thanks.”

He continued to scan the several volumes of Medical books and arched an eyebrow, “Since when did you plan to be a doctor?”

“Last year,” She smiled proudly, “After you and Izzy left, I started volunteering at the Red Cross after school.”

“Oh, did you?” He couldn’t hide his surprise. Anne has always been a thin and frail girl growing up.

“Yup.” The pride in her eyes was a far cry from the unsure gaze that he saw the night before he left.

 Soon enough they were on the floor of his old room surrounded by books, him teasing her how she used to fear at the sight of blood and how she used to have the worst pronunciation skills.

“Shut up!” She laughed, nudging him with her shoulder. “It not like you’re any better.”

“I’m not saying I’m a genius, I’m just saying I’m impressive and should be seen as far better you.” It was a joke but the arrogance in his tone was just like when they were children.

Anne thought it was strange, she was certain that it would be awkward but she was grateful that after all this time, they were still those children arguing like enemies but laughing like best friend. Because they were. They were still each other’s best friend. The pull between them was still strong, Anne was afraid it would have been lost because of the distance, but she was glad it was still as strong as ever.  

 

Chapter Text

The summer heat was searing. The ocean called for Anne but she was busy volunteering that Richard had to nearly kidnap her so she would come along with him, his brothers and Izzy to the beach. She protested but he picked her up with ease and brought her out of the house. The sight of her sister being carried out to the lawn by Richard was nothing new to Isabel and the others.

Anne used to be clumsy little thing and when she tripped, Richard was there to help her get up.

Edward and George couldn’t help but tease the two.

“That wasn’t what we meant when we said you should sweep her off her feet, little brother!” Edward called out, his laugh was loud and his smile was bright.

Despite growing up apart from his real family, Richard was close to his sibling. Especially his brothers. The two older York brothers constantly pestered Richard about Anne. Always teasing him how she stole his heart at the young and innocent age of seven. Of course, Anne didn’t know this. And he was going to make sure she wouldn’t.

He could just imagine the flush on Anne’s cheeks the taunt would cause, however when he thought of the color on her face, he himself couldn’t help but blush.

“I don’t even have any beach clothes.” Anne complained as she sat in the back next to Richard and Izzy, while Edward drove and George sat next to him in the passenger seat.

“I got that covered, Annie.” Izzy smiled before handing her a bag of swimwear and other necessities.

Anne opened and near chocked. Her older sister packed her with nothing but two piece bikinis.

“Izzy!” She cried and quickly closed the bag, giving her sister a disapproving look.

“What?” She asked innocently, “I thought you might like them. And Richard would too.” She added with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

“Shut up!” Anne groaned as her cheeks were a delicious shade of red Richard has ever seen.

Edward and George couldn’t help but laugh at the exchange between the sisters from their positions at the front, they would almost pity their little brother if he wasn’t seated between the two gorgeous Neville sisters.

It was obvious the Isabel was the one who always got attention because of her looks, but Anne never lived in her sister’s shadow. They were equals. They were still sisters after everything.

 


 

When they arrived at the beach, they changed into their beach clothes, with Izzy having no problem running around her two-pieced bikini but Anne stayed behind as she sat on the sand, a towel rapped around her shoulders, protecting her modesty.

 

Richard watch as Izzy and George played in the water, they seemed to throw their worries of university into the ocean and Edward was talking to a blonde – Elizabeth, he thought he heard her name was.

He couldn’t help but stare at Anne, her porcelain skin was enticing. He wanted to feel her skin against his.

He sat down, aware of how close they were and was acutely aware of how she smelled like lilacs. His mind was running wild.

The thought of her shouldn’t be alluring. The thought of kissing her lips, his lips moving towards her neck to feel just how soft her skin was shouldn’t be compelling. He grew up with her, she was basically like his sister. But no, siblings don’t think of impure thoughts about each other, he shouldn’t think about the miles and miles of skin he wanted to touch.

“I don’t think that towel is needed.” He said and once again the blush on her cheeks was luscious.

“I need my modesty.” She replied and to his surprise, she lowered them from her shoulders, exposing more skin for him to appreciate.

“It’s the beach, Anne. Shouldn’t you be enjoying the water?” He asked, his eyes admiring the freckles on her shoulders.

More unholy thoughts dropped themselves into his mind. He tried his best to push them away. Scarred that if he stepped out of the boundaries of their friendship, he would ruin it forever. But with Anne, everything was just more. He felt more. He needed more. 

“Richard? Are you listening to me?” She demanded, the frown on her face making her brows furrow. “Talk to me!” She waved a hand in front of him, they furrow slowly relaxing as she started to laugh at his blank expression.

Without a second thought, he crushed his lips to hers.

She was startled for a moment but soon relaxed when his hand went to her neck, pulling her closer to him – molding their bodies as if they were made for each other.

The warmth of the sun on her back was welcomed when she let go of the towel and ran her fingers through his soft curls

She could vaguely hear cat-calls from their siblings but that didn’t matter. What matter what that after years of silent yearning, Richard was kissing her.


 

The ride back to the house was quiet, to say the least.

After breaking free from the kiss, the smile on Anne’s face was vivid and lovely. Just as lovely as the sunset. The sight before them was a magnificent fusion of yellowish orange and purplish blue as it reflected off the ocean water.

Anne sighed dreamily, sneaking glances at Richard who sat beside her. With hesitance, he placed his hand over hers, afraid that she might pull away but to his delight, she laced their fingers together.

The rest stayed silent, Izzy resting her head on the car window, just a few breathes away from drifting off to sleep. George was the one driving the car back, his eyes on the road as he tried to fight sleep and Edward had a smile painted on his face.

Even though no one said it, they all agreed that this trip was what they all needed.

They spent their day playing like children in the ocean, splashing each other and swimming. Running around and playing. Everyone forgetting the troubles of reality.

As they were unpacking, and the York brothers were preparing to leave, Richard took Anne’s hand again. He wanted to talk to her.

They made their way to the backyard, Edward giving his little brother a wink with mischievousness.

Suddenly, a nervousness rose to Ricard’s stomach.

“You kissed me,” Was the first words out of her mouth as she looked up at him.

“I did,” He nodded, smug smile on his lips. “And if I remember correctly, you kissed me back.”

She nodded as she heard her heart beating hard in her ears. “I want you to do it again,” It was almost a whisper but Richard heard it.

So, he did.

Chapter Text

They had expected more teasing from their siblings but they all shared a smug told-you-so smile that was actually worst.

After their first kiss and those that followed in the garden, they didn’t do much to hide their relationship. It was obvious with the blush that didn’t seem to leave Anne’s cheeks when she was around Richard.

Although Anne’s father approved, there were changes around the house. Richard wasn’t allowed in Anne’s room with the door closed anymore. The implication that there would be anything wicked going on behind the closed door scandalized Anne.

But of course, she understood. They weren’t children anymore.

When Richard’s mother – Cecily – found out they were dating, Anne didn’t expect a warm welcome for although their families were close, she was always frightened of her stern icy look.

But to her surprise, Cecily smiled as she watched the two during dinner at the York’s family house.

“I always liked you, Anne.” She said, “Truth be told, since Richard was under your father’s wing, I always liked the thought of you being my daughter-in-law.”

The confession made Anne choke. She glanced to Richard who sat next to her and he smiled. Smiled. As if the thought wasn’t far-fetched.

“I’m glad we have your blessing, mother.” Richard joked. Or at least Anne hoped it was a joke.

 


 

“Are you mad at me?” He asked. They fought a lot when they were young, but now that they shared more than just a friendship, the slight look of annoyance on her face gave him more dread and panic.

“Well not at the moment,” She answered, her face softening as she noted the look of anxiety on his face. She could easily forgive him because of that face. “But if you keep asking that I’m not sure my answer will stay the same.”

After dinner and the endless teasing the suffered from Richard’s siblings – his sisters adored Anne and she was glad about that fact – they went to his room. Unlike in her house, they were allowed to close the door.

Anne stayed silent and Richard could sense something was wrong. He probed her with questions to what was wrong but she kept denying that anything was wrong.

“Anne,” He finally cupped her face, making her face him. “Tell me. Why so apprehensive?”

“It’s silly.” She admitted, the space between them close. She could smell the scent of dinner still hanging in the air.

“Then tell me and we’ll laugh together.”

She smiled, “We have your mother’s blessing.”

He looked at her for a second, not fully understanding what she meant but mirrored her smile when he did.

“So, we do.” He looked warm and kind like fire that couldn’t hurt her. “Shall we elope this evening?”

He was joking now. And Anne was glad. She let out a breath that she didn’t even know she was holding before laughing.

“I think we should wait until I graduate from high school.” She joked, thankful that they were back to safe territory. Joking and playing with him was safe territory.

“At least my family already loves you.” He said, kissing her cheek lightly.

“Your sisters adore me!” Anne declared with pride. Richard wouldn’t admit it but the approval of his family was everything to him. He was loyal to his family to the grave.

“After all these years of our family being so close, I think they consider you as their sister.” He remarked.

“And you?” She asked, teasing him. The smile on her lips was contagious. 

“I’m your boyfriend. That’s just gross.” He told her with a mock look of disgust on his face.

“You’re gross.” She said playfully, as she pushed him away and felt drunk on the feeling of happiness and contentment. Feeling liberated, she laid on the bed, ignoring the fact that she might have kicked Richard in the stomach. Laughing as he groaned. The sheets smelled like him and for a moment, she inhaled the scent of him, feeling just a tiny bit of a creep.

Richard watched her with pure adoration. He laid next to her, his hand finding her waist. And for a moment they just stared at each other. However, the serenity between them didn’t last long because soon, Richard was tickling her and peppering her face with kisses. Saying his goal was to reach 500.  


 

“Where are you taking me?” Anne asked, watching Richard carefully from the passenger side of his car.

Summer was almost over and he had to return to university but he couldn’t say good bye without taking Anne out for a date. Of course, Richard didn’t mention what he had in mind and that infuriated Anne.

“Now where’s the fun in telling you?” He told her, the mischievous smile on his face was glorious. Anne bite her tongue between her teeth. She loved that look on his face.  

“Are you being super confusing on purpose?”

“Kind of, yeah.” He shrugged, his eyes on the road. “It’s easier if you don’t know what to expect”

The summer heat had reached its climax and both were thankful for the air-conditioning of the car. Anne longed for the rain to come but she knew that after the first drops of rain, Richard had to leave again. She recalled of how they used to play under the rain when they were young.

She couldn’t help but think how perfect everything was. She had Richard. She always had Richard but now, everything was official. They were official. Anne was never for labels but she just wanted to scream to the world that Richard York, her best friend was also her boyfriend.

Anne felt Richard’s hand on her thigh, he noticed how quite she became suddenly.

“Penny for your thought?” He glanced at her quickly.

“I’m just really happy.” She blushed at her own confession.

“The date hasn’t even started yet!” He pointed out but of course he felt the same. Everything with Anne was always better.


 

Anne watched as Richard stopped in front of his family’s vacation cabin. She hadn’t been here since she was in sixth grade and she noticed how forestry had almost swallowed the old cabin. It was old and dilapidated, it had been in the York’s family for decades. It was built by Richard’s great-grandfather.

And since his father died, no one had the heart to take care of the cabin, but it still stood.

“It’s still standing?” She asked, in awe.

Because it did. And there he stood. Next to her, their hands intertwined.

Richard smiled as he guided Anne inside. The objects and furniture had accumulated dust – the whole place covered with the stuff but everything was still in good shape.

Both of them spent an hour wiping the tables and sweeping the floors. Neither of them minded because it was still time spent together.   

So this was his plan. Anne thought to herself as Richard settled their belongings. An overnight date.

Her thoughts began to race to different places as she thought about all the possibilities that tonight could hold.

“How did you make my father say yes to this?” She asked as they settled on the sofa, sharing a bowl of chips and a cool can of cola. There was no way that her father consented to this but that just made it more exciting for her.

The smile on his face was playful, “Let’s just say that your mother likes me very much.” He teased.

And of course, that just made Anne blush.

“Want to go for a swim in the lake?” He asked suddenly.

“Trying to get me out of my clothes so soon, York?” She teased, her eyebrows playful. Two could play at this game.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Neville.” He retorted.

“Sure, you don’t.” She said with a smile that matched his.

Soon they were in near the lake and Anne was radiant. She always shined bright as the sun when she was with Richard and he basked in her glory.

And soon, Anne was tossed into the lake.

That caused a surprised shriek to fill the air, which caused another fit of laughter from Richard as he watched his girlfriend resurface.

“York!” She screamed as her hair was plastered to her face. “How dare you?! I’ll get you!”

Even with the not-so-menacing threat, she couldn’t hide the smile on her face.

Richard soon followed, making a splash and swam next to Anne, his arm circling her waist as he kissed her cheeks. Anne didn’t even pretend to resist. Why would she?

“You’re leaving soon.” She said suddenly.

She tried to push aside the thoughts of going back to school and him returning to campus – miles away from her.

“I’ll be back for the Holidays.” He promised, as he began to trace her cheek with the tips of his fingers. She sighed, glad for the small gesture. He was so caring and gentle with her. “I’ll miss you.”

“I think I already miss you.” She confessed.

“There’s no need to worry, Anne.”

“I love you,” The look on his face petrified Anne. Did he not feel the same? Oh god. What did she do? It was too soon! Of course, he didn’t feel the same –

Her thoughts stopped when she heard the loud crash of thundered echoing in the sky and dark clouds appeared, the bright sun hidden behind them.

Sensing the tension that Anne felt, he pressed his lips to her ears. “I love you too,” He whispered against her skin, almost like a secret.

Anne can’t stop the smiling from spreading across her face as he leaned down and captured her lips with his own, everything else just faded for her; every worry she held melted into the kiss. She responded to his kisses with the same need and passion.

Another loud crash of thundered echoed in the sky. The rain soon followed.  It beat down heavily, soaking the heat from the air, and relieving the dry desperate earth. It lashed down, a rhythm slowly building through the silence. The raindrops sounded like a million drummers pounding on their instruments at a thousand different rhythms. The noise is a pleasant one to the both of them.

The cooling rain swept across her skin and she titled her head towards the sky and relished how it washed over her flushed skin and extinguished her worries of the future. Because for now, this was all that mattered. Her and Richard.  

The rain poured down as they kissed, heaven approving of their love.

Chapter Text

Anne soon realized that having the one you love miles and miles away from you was awful. It was absolutely terrible.  No amount of Skype and FaceTime could ever compare to seeing Richard’s eye light up when she told him about her day in person. It wasn’t anything compared to hearing him whisper that he loved her. Nothing could ever compare to holding his hand and kissing him.

It wasn’t easy but she knew that it would only be a few months before the Holidays and she would finally see him again.

 


 

 “I’m sorry, Anne.” Anne could hear the earnest and sincerity in Richard’s tone. She knew that he meant it but she couldn’t hide the disappointment she felt.

“I’m tired.” Her response was small but he heard it.

It was almost Christmas and unfortunately, Richard couldn’t come home for the Holidays. He decided to take up a winter session course. Anne tried her best to understand. He was an ambitious and focused on his studies. He always has been like that and she admired him for it but she was so looking forward to finally seeing him again. 

“What?”

“It’s okay. I understand. Don’t worry.” She answered, her tone surer but she knew he could sense her dismay.

“Anne –“

“It’s late.” She breathed, it was almost midnight and all she wanted was to curl next to his warmth in bed but that was impossible. The snow was falling lightly at the moment, but she knew it was planning to increase and all hope of Richard to change his mind was gone. The roads would be closed by morning. It’d be impossible for him to drive to the North.

“Of course,” He pursed his lips. Anne knew he wanted to say more but he held his tongue. “Good night, my love.”

The endearment left his mouth with ease.

Anne was being paranoid. She knew that. But she couldn’t help but feel the irrational feeling of paranoia consume her being. Richard was miles away from her, surrounded by a hundred-different people each day and the thought of him meeting someone new clawed at the back of Anne’s mind. Maybe she was just being immature; for sure Richard only had his eyes on her. He loved her!

 


 

‘I love the way you dance when you think no one is watching - Your secret admirer’

She read the text and smiled, knowing fully well that it was Richard. She turned and there he was in all his glory, standing at her door.

“I thought you couldn’t make it?” She asked, lowering the volume of her speakers. She was trying to get her mind off the fact that Richard wasn’t going to be with her for New Year’s but to her utter disbelief, she received the text.

“I promised you, didn’t I?” He waited for her to nod. “I always keep my word.”

She smiled up at him, he actually drove 3 hours just to surprise her. Anne almost wanted to squeal in delight. 

He wrapped his arms around her tightly, holding her close. The warmth of his body surrounding her and she swore that it was the best feeling in the world. Suddenly all her worries and insecurities vanished because this was him. This was Richard, her Richard. Her love.

 


 

Richard came to visit again during the weekend of her birthday in June.

Isabel planned a magnificent party in honor of Anne turning 18. Of course, with the help their father’s credit card and of Richard’s sisters; after all they all saw Anne as a sister.

They had booked a pavilion to hold the party in, with lights and music to fill the room's atmosphere. Anne was surrounded by her friends, family and Richard. She was also dressed in one of the most beautiful dresses she has ever seen. It was an ivory colored dress that was embellished with beads and lace. And it was a present from Richard.

"Do you like it?" Isabel asked over the raging music.

"It's wonderful, Izzy." Anne said with a huge smile. "But I think the music's too loud, can you change it to something more… slower?"

"I'm on it!" Margaret, one of Richard’s sister volunteered.

“Why the sudden change of mood?” Elizabeth, the eldest sister of Richard asked with a knowing look.

Anne was quiet for a moment, “It was just too loud.” She replied meekly.

Isabel and Elizabeth exchanged a glance and both burst out laughing.

“You just want to slow dance with Richard.” Isabel teased.

Anne blushed and looked down for a moment, her cheeks were flushed. She wasn’t sure if it was because of the heat of the crowd or not.

“Speaking of my little brother, where is Richard?” Elizabeth asked as she scanned the room of her brother.

Anne found saw him from the corner of her eye – he was talking with his brothers.

She noticed that George whispered something to his brother and Richard gave a confused look. Anne almost wanted to giggle at the sight but suddenly Margaret was back next to them and whispered something to Isabel.

Isabel grinned and whispered it to Elizabeth.

What was going on?

Anne met Richard’s eyes from across the room and knew instantly that their siblings were up to no good.

What were they planning?

“What’s going on?” She asked, turning to look at them.

The three exchanged glances before Isabel grabbed her hand and drew her away from the middle of the room.

"Where are we going?" Anne asked as they climbed several steps of stairs.

"Just wait for it!" Margaret assured her as she ushered her to the top of the staircase.

They entered a room at the top of the stairs and it was a balcony overlooking the whole room. From there they could see everyone at the party.

But most importantly, Richard was there.

“Ah. I see you were forced against your will, as well.” He joked as he noticed the confused look on Anne’s face.

“Very funny, little brother.” Margaret said sarcastically.

“We just thought maybe you wanted a little alone time.” Isabel said, before turning and walking back down the stairs.

“Enjoy, little brother.” Elizabeth’s tone was suggestive and this time it was Richard whose cheeks turned red.

Anne couldn’t help but laugh.

“What’s so funny?” He asked as he grabbed her the waist and pulled her close to him.

“The look on your face when they call you little brother.” She admitted, placing a hand on his chest. She could feel the beat of his heart. “It’s adorable.”

"Look at them, they look like they're all having fun," Richard said as he looked down at the guests.

“I guess they do.”

"But the most important thing though, are you having fun?" He asked, cupping her chin so she would look at him. "Are you?"

“Of course, I am.” Anne beamed, “What more can I ask for?”

For a moment they just stood there, holding each other. Both were so caught up in the moment of finally being alone together, they didn't even notice that the music had changed to something much slower and romantic.

Richard pulled away and Anne cocked an eyebrow questioningly.

“May I ask for something?”

“Anything.”

“May I have this dance?” He asked, holding out his hand.

Anne’s eyes sparkled with delight. She placed her hand in his. “You may.”

Their bodies fit together like pieces to a puzzle. Together they moved in tandem to the sound of music around. Anne closed her eyes and sighed against his chest,

She doesn’t remember who initiates it but soon they were kissing.  Anne always loved it when Richard kissed her but tonight something felt different; it was as if he was dying and she was his only hope. She sensed an urgency and need in his kiss and how he touched her body. Once again, she was in uncharted territory.

The air was heavy with the heat surrounding them. But she knew that it wasn’t just because of the waves of bodies below.

Richard pulled away from the kiss and stared at her. His eyes held the ocean rages and storms inside them. That beautiful ocean storm of grey and dark blues.

“Anne, can we?” It was almost a plea and she knew what he wanted; what he needed.

“Your house please.” Anne whispered, not trusting her voice for it might reveal the true need that she felt at that moment.

They escaped the party without being caught by one of their family members. They knew that they would get reprimanded for leaving but with the feeling of urgency between them, both could live the consequences in the morning.


 

Soon they were back at the York’s house. Soon they were in Richard’s room. Soon she found herself on his lap as they kissed once again.

She found comfort in kissing his lips again. She loved the feeling of his lips on hers, slightly chapped but tasted so good. She wanted him. She wanted to kiss her, hold her, love her in every single way possible. His grip on her shoulders were an indication that he felt the same.

She could sense the care and love with each kiss. She could sense that he yearned for her just as much as she yearned for him.

He deepened the kiss, he had his hand on her waist, pulling her closer to him while the other one was on the back of her throat. She moaned in response to the sensation of having Richard.

He abruptly pulled away, the look of shock on his face.

“What?” Anne asked, confused. “Did I do something wrong?”

She stood from his lap, already planning to walk out the door but he grabbed her hand and pulled her back. She straddled his waist, she'd heard a small muffled moan come from his lips as she did so.

“Anne, stop.” He warned, his voice low – almost a growl.

“Why?” The question was innocent enough but both knew why.

Both felt hot but neither one of them wanted to cool down.

Richard’s hand traveled to the small of her back. He was fighting to control himself because this was Anne. His Anne. He didn’t want to do anything that would hurt her or make her feel ashamed but he could see that her eyes were already darkened with lust as her hands began to run up and down his sides.

Anne was overwhelmed by the feeling of hands on her body but she needed more.

A hand on the back of her neck, a dizzied breath as his thumb brushed exposed skin at her hip and then crept and settled upwards, warm and steady. Breathless, tentative, abruptly shy as their panting breaths chased the silence. 

“Are you sure?” He was breathless, the sight of his flushed face and swollen lips gave Anne a weird feeling of pride because he did that. Only she could cause that.

“Please, Richard.” She breathed, heart pounding “Now.”

 Richard stood from the bed and took off his tie. One after one, he opened the buttons of his shirt until his chest was fully exposed.

Anne’s eyes followed his fingers. Carefully, she reached out to let her fingertips skim over his porcelain skin. The muscle underneath felt quite lean and firm.

Richard practically tore Anne’s clothes off her body, and had her on his bed, and on her back in a matter of seconds.

Suddenly the air in the room changed. The urgency that both felt when they were removing their clothes vanished and was replaced with nervousness and shaky hands as they discovered new skin.

Soon enough they were moving together, Anne clinging to Richard as he thrusted into her with pure love and need. His lips were everywhere. On her shoulder, on her neck, on her jaw. Every kiss so soft and tender. Her moans filled the dark room and words of love were exchanged as they cried out in passion.

He collapsed onto her and they laid there on the bed before he rolled off and brought the covers of his bed up and covered them both before kissing her softly again. He wrapped his arms around her. She laid her head on his chest and tried to catch her breathe, her heart still pounding.

“I love you,” She said so softly it was almost a whisper.

“I love you too,” He kissed the top of her head as they started to drift to sleep.


 

“Richard!”  He heard someone whisper his name as he was shaken wake. “Richard! Wake up!”

Richard woke with a start as he found Margaret standing over his bed.

“Margaret!” He exclaimed but she signaled him to be quiet.

“Mother’s still sleeping.” She said, her tone gentler now compared to when she was waking him. “You should get her out of here before she wakes.”

She motioned to Anne who was still sleeping next to Richard on the bed. Her hair fanned in his pillow.

“This isn’t what it looks like.” He tried but with the look Margaret gave him, he knew it was a lost cause.

“Don’t me, little brother.” She smiled, “It’s a good think I was the one who came in instead of Edward or George.”

Richard agreed, if his brothers came in, days of endless teasing would be in his future.

“Thanks.”

“Just wake her up,” She turned for the door, “We don’t want mom losing her head.”

Richard turned to Anne, gently stroking her hair before leaning down to kiss her.

“Good morning,” She said, beaming.

“You should go,” He said with some reluctance. “My mother will be awake soon.”

“Of course,” She left the bed, using the blanket to cover her body as she looked around the room for her clothes.

Richard couldn’t help but smile at her, the girl who he once saw as just his annoying playmate but now, she was his sun, beaming brightly.

Chapter Text

Anne got accepted to her dream university. And it just so happened that it was the same university Richard was attending.

"I knew you'd get in!" Richard cheered over the phone.

"Thanks to you," Anne couldn't help but smile. Richard did help her with her application essay, it almost drove him mad because she kept asking him if it was perfect after every revision she did.

"What are you talking about? You're the one with the nearly perfect 4.0 GPA"

Nearly perfect, that was the keyword. Nearly.

Anne knew she shouldn't be concerned but compared to Richard's perfect 4.0 GPA, she couldn't help but feel jealous. 

"Still," She chewed on her lower lip, pushing the toxic thought from her mind. "I should thank you properly, York."

Richard noted the change in her tone. He was proud of himself for not laughing. After almost a year of being together, he had learned the meaning of even the slightest change in Anne's movement and tone of voice.

"And how will you do that, Neville?" His tone matched the mischievousness of Anne's.

"I guess you'll have to find out when you come home for summer." The happiness in her voice almost broke Richard's heart.

He hasn't mentioned it to Anne yet, he didn't have the heart to tell her that he was spending his summer interning at a legal firm for legal research.

"About that," The change in his voice notified Anne of what she already suspected.

"Don't."

"Anne -"

"You promised!"

Loving a person like Richard was difficult. She could feel his love for her was true, but with miles between them, with him constantly buried in his studies and excessively busy it kept them apart. Anne tried her best to understand, he was like this since childhood, she should be used to it by now but Anne felt she was alone on a dance floor. 

"I'll make it up to you, my love." He promised, again. "I'll be there for your graduation!"

Anne breathed for a moment, it seemed to her that she was not Richard's top priority.


 

As day broke, so did she. Anne watched the sunrise from her window.

It was her graduation and Richard couldn't make it.

His excuse was that his professor was so impressed with his performance in class that he asked Richard to accompany him to a seminar about Torts and Damages.

She should be proud that his professors were praising him but this was supposed to be the first time in months that she would see him again.


Richard stood at the back of the main quad, where the ceremony was. The seminar he attended ended early and he rushed his way to see Anne on the stage, to see her accept her diploma. He didn't tell Anne that the seminar was held in their in the same city.

She almost broke down in tears when she saw him from the stage. Standing in all his glory was Richard. Her Richard.

After the ceremony, she pushed past the waves of bodies to meet him. The first thing that came to Anne was to push him.

"You can't do that!" She cried, her hands balled into a fist as she started to hit him on the chest. "You can't fucking do that!"

Richard almost laughed hearing Anne curse, her voice was so sweet to his ears that it didn't seem to fit such vulgar language.

"I know and I'm sorry." He tried to calm her, engulfing her in a hug.

There were people who started to notice the rather petite girl crying in the arms of her boyfriend.

"I'm here now, my love."

 "You can't just keep getting my hopes up! Then appearing like magic!" She stopped pounding at his chest, breathing heavily.

"Really now?" He looked down at her, a smirk playing on his lips. "Thought it was rather romantic."

"You're a dick." She murmured against his chest.


The night before Anne went to college, she and Richard were at the garden behind the Neville's family house, like they did before when Richard left. They shared a bottle of wine and a dozen butterfly kisses.


Anne quickly gained new friends at university.  She sat with them at the quad of the main building after their General Zoology lecture. She was loving university! She had expected it, of course. She always looked forward to having more liberty and meeting new people. She was really starting to settle into university life.

Her roommate, Veronica was lovely. If only she was a bit more liberated than Anne, but she was nice.

"Look at him!" Vero said, pointing to the guy across the quad."

Anne didn't bother looking up from her General Psychology book. After all, she had her own university boy.

"He's definitely an A+" Alice, another girl she met during her General Zoology orientation a few days ago.

"He looks like someone who could screw your brains out." Vero commented.

"Veronica!" Alice gasped, scandalized by her blunt words.

"What?" Veronica shrugged, "Look at him! Tall, dark and handsome. I want to run my fingers through his black curls."

The mention of black curls made Anne look up from her textbook and immediately smirked when she saw that it was Richard, her Richard, they were talking about from across the quad.

"Oh, yeah." She nodded, the smirk still on her face. "He's absolutely gorgeous."

"Do you think it'll be creepy if we go up and talk to him?"

"Yeah, because a group of random girls walking up to him won't be creepy or weird."

Anne ignored the two's conversation as she continued to watch Richard talk with his colleagues. They had yet to spend more than a few hours together, and normally it would make Anne uneasy but after a week in university, she was starting to understand the workload was not easy at all.

When Richard noticed Anne's gaze, he smiled at her.

"He just smiled at me!" Alice exclaimed, excitedly.

"No, he didn't!" Veronica said, "He smiled at me!"

"You're both wrong," Anne said, the cockiness in her tone was foreign to her friends. Anne always seemed to have a permanent blush on her cheeks that made her look innocent.

She grabbed her bag, slinging it over her shoulder as she stood up.

As she walked to her boyfriend, she could hear the two talking behind her.

"Where are you going?"

Anne started to walk across the quad, smiling to herself as Richard met her half way. Before he could greet her, she mashed her lips to his.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down to her height.

Richard was caught off guard by the sudden public display of affection from his girlfriend but happily kissed back, his arm around her waist instantly.

"Hi," Anne said, breathlessly after pulling apart.

"Hello," The smile on Richard's face was bright and wide. "What was that for?"

"Can't I just say 'Hello'?" She asked innocently, batting her eyelashes.   

"That wasn't just a hello kiss, Neville." Richard pointed out.

"I didn't hear you complaining, York."  Anne shrugged, still in his arms.

The grin on Richard's face was infectious. Both stayed in each other's arms before deciding to return to Richard's apartment off campus.

After all, it had been weeks since they were properly alone together.

"Don't you have class?"  

"Nope," He shook his head, his hand intertwined with hers as they made their way to the side of the quad where Anne's friends were.  "But I do have a paper to write a paper for my Legal Latin class."

"Shouldn't you be in the library then?" Anne asked she watched as her friends looked stunned when they passed them by. "Oh, wait! I want to introduce you to them!"

"What the hell?" Veronica asked, dumbfounded.

"I forgot to mention," Anne grinned, her hand still in Richard's "Meet my boyfriend."

"Boyfriend?" Alice asked. She almost looked jealous and Anne almost felt sorry. Almost.

Veronica looked like she was going to say something, but Anne already spoke, "We need to go. See you in class."

"What was that about?" Richard asked, eyebrows raised.

Anne smiled, fully on intending on teasing him, "You'll never know, York."

"Neville." He said pointedly but he knew it was a lost cause.

As they made their way up the stairs to his flat, the keys too loud for their liking but in the rush need to be inside made them care less. Once they entered the flat, Richard threw his arms around her and kissed her passionately.

Legal Latin could wait till later.

Much, much later, as they laid together in a mess of tangled limbs and sheets, both knew that this was a start of a new chapter of their story.


 

It was spring when it happened.

It took them all by surprise.

Anne clutched Richard's hand when she found out.

Her father. A heart attack.

Isabel gaped as she held their mother who already burst into tears.

Neither of the three Neville women could process what just happened. It happened so fast and the next thing they knew, the doctor was already giving their condolences.

She couldn't believe how malignant and malicious life was. It was messy and unfair and a thief.  It stole her father away from their family.

It rained during the funeral. A light spring rain that made Anne thought it was the sky crying for the loss of her beloved father.

The Yorks stood with mournful faces. Everyone said their final goodbyes and prayers. Watching as the casket was lowered to the ground by the cemetery staff, Anne heard a muffled sob from the Yorks and realized it was Richard.

She had been so selfish in her grief that she didn't realize that her father was much of a father to Richard as he was to her. He was so young when his own father died and now it seemed that he was reliving the pain.

She stood next to him, taken his hand for comfort and she felt him squeeze back.


 

The events that followed were a blur to Anne. It had been a year and she was still mourning her father. Richard graduated from University with Latin honors. Anne was already busy with her undergraduate thesis.

Richard scored a perfect 180 on his LSAT because of course, he did, it was Richard.

Anne was so proud of him.

"I knew you'd ace it!" Anne cheered, a genuine smile on her face. Something Richard hasn't seen in almost a year.

Richard held her tenderly as they lay in bed, the sheets a mess like they always were after they made love. When he read the email out about his results, he immediately wanted to celebrate with Anne.

"Now, I just need a law school to accept me," He said, though he would never admit it to anyone besides Anne, but he was nervous applying to law school.

"Oh, hush!" Anne chided him like a little boy. "You'll get in. I know it!"

Richard smiled at her, after everything that happened to them the past year, Anne was the thread that held his life together.

"I love you," He said before pulling her into his arms again and kissing her lightly.

"I love you too," Anne whispered, her eyes closed as she relished the feeling of being in Richard's arms.

They stayed silent for a while. Savoring the calm and quiet moment that only they could share with each other. The feeling of contentment lingering between them both.  

Chapter Text

 

It happened suddenly and unexpectedly, even though it shouldn't surprise her, it still did.

 

Their life molded into something easy, with a go with the flow feeling that everything they did seemed to run into a pattern and Anne was glad for it because at least her life was back to normalcy. They still live in the small apartment near the university where Richard was taking up his second year of law while working as a paralegal in the law firm he interned in back in college and Anne had found an entry-level job as a research assistant for an institution that conducted scientific studies and clinical trials. She still planned on pursuing medical school but thought best if she should save money for the expenses.

 

Their routine is simple, they would both head to work in the morning and afterward, Richard would attend his classes at night, while Anne sometimes brought home some of her own work. Their schedules were hectic, but they always found time to have breakfast and dinner together, even if that meant meeting at the dingy hole in the wall diner that was located right in the middle of their offices.

 

Living together wasn't smooth sailing, Anne's "Neville temperament"  or at least that was what Richard liked to call it, often lead them to have small arguments and Richard still prioritized his work and it got to Anne sometimes, add Richard's York pride into the mix, their small arguments often lead to bigger issues but at the end of the day, they would never allow each other to go to bed without fixing their problem.

 

Every single component of their lives revolved around each other and both wouldn't have it any other way.

 

 

Anne would never call what they had mundane or trivial but there wasn't anything unexpected when it came to Richard. They planned everything together and were both involved in each other's life that it was a surprise when she received a text from Richard telling her to meet her at an unknown address for their dinner.

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The cab dropped her off at an apartment building in the city, not that far off from where Richard's law firm was and the company where Anne was working for. She entered the building, giving a small nod to the guard out front who gave her a small courteous smile.

 

She used the elevator to reach the fifth floor before looking for the apartment number Richard had sent her earlier. When she found it, the door is open and she slowly walked inside, "Richard?"

 

She found him standing in the middle of the mostly empty apartment, with a small smile. "What do you think?"

 

"Of what?" Anne asked, a little bit confused but their already an inkling in her heart and she could feel it spreading warmth throughout her body as she met his eyes.

 

"How does this place look?" He asked again, walking around the space a bit. "How does this look as our home?" Anne just looked at him with a blank stare for a moment. "I didn't want anything too big because then it would be hard to clean and I know how you hating cleaning." He joked but Anne's blank stare didn't change, which honestly frighted Richard a bit. "It's nearer to our workplace than the other one," He continued as he faced her. "Less travel time and then we could actually have time for dinner together here instead. And to be honest, this place is barely affordable on my salary alone but we could manage it with our combined earnings. So, what do you think?"

 

Anne just continued to look at him. They would be moving in together. Her moving into his small apartment during college was an unconscious decision, really. They just didn't see the point of Anne having her own dorm or apartment when she could easily live with him but now, this was different because now he is asking and he is planning and Anne's heart is ready to burst because she knew where this was headed.

 

"It's not ours yet, but I was thinking of starting to move our things before the wedding." Richard continued and Anne could hear her heart jump.

 

He watched her blank expression and he could feel something in his stomach start to uncoil because this wasn't the reaction he expected, he thought she would jump into his arms and agree immediately -- after all, it seemed obvious where their relationship was headed, at least to him it was obvious -- but now she remained glued on the hardwood floor of the apartment, with a poker face that he can't read.

 

"Did you--?" She started as she walked over to him slowly stopping just shy of a few inches from him. "Did you just propose?"

 

"Well, I mean," He stammered, overly aware that she might not have wanted this at all. "Isn't it obvious? But if you're thinking of something else or you're not thinking of marrying me..." He rambled because he was flustered and the fear of rejection was in the air.

 

"Richard." She said his name softly, calming him down and took his hand in hers.

 

"I mean, yes." He nodded, looking into her bright blue eyes. "Or did you want a grand proposal at a restaurant with champagne and a string quartet..."

 

"No!" She answered suddenly. She didn't want anything grandeur and she certainly didn't want others to witness this special moment that should just be between them and not for show.  Anne found her heart swelling more because of that. "Don't do that!"

 

Richard cracked a small smile, "So, you're going to marry me, right?"

 

She mirrored his smile and when all of her emotions have calmed down, she finally managed to say, "Yes."

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They tell their families over dinner after a week and their mothers are already planning the wedding, talking about reserving a church and flowers and caterers and Anne is overwhelmed but Richard squeezes her hand under the table and she calmed down a little because she knew that no matter what happened, no matter what preparations, she and Richard were getting married. 

 

"So any plans for babies?" George asked as he sat next to Isabelle and Anne nearly choked on the water she was drinking. 

 

"Excuse me?" She asked after a cough and Richard's hold on her hand tightened. 

 

"Not anytime soon." It was Richard who answered and George just gives a smile to his little brother. "It'll probably be after I finish Law School or it depends on when Anne plans to go into med-school."

 

She is thankful for his answer because it wasn't a thing she thought about. Sure, she wanted a family with Richard, had wanted a child of her own since she was a child! But she just wanted to enjoy their soon to be new life together. 

 

So that's why a month later she was hitting Richard, who was still asleep, with a pillow one early morning, yelling at him to wake up.

 

"Richard York, wake up." She slapped him on his arm but he didn't stir. He worked late last night and when he got home Anne was already asleep. But at the moment, Anne didn't care about that. She cared about the stick she was holding in her hand. "Wake up! Richard, I said wake up!" She hit him again, this time with a pillow and didn't relent until he groaned and cracked open an eye and saw his fiancée glaring down at him. 

 

"What happened?" He said, his voice hoarse from sleep and he just wanted to bury his face into the soft pillow.

 

"I told you to be careful!" Her voice loud as she held the stick to his face and Richard just squinted at it, not sure what she was holding.

 

"What's that?" He asked as he sat up on the bed and the frown on Anne's face just grew deeper. She had been waking up in the morning with a grumble in her stomach and she dismissed this as the stomach flu but when she noticed that she was more than a month late, she decided to find out on her own.

 

"I told you to be careful!" She repeated and shoved the stick into Richard's chest. At closer inspection, he noticed that it was a pregnancy test, with two red lines. He rambled his brain for a moment trying to remember but what that meant but at Anne's reaction, he knew the result. "My mother is going to kill me. Your mother is going to kill you! Like, how could this happen? How could you let this happen?"

 

"This is my fault?" He interrupted her, amused by her reaction.

 

"Ugh, I hate you!" She said, though there wasn't any venom in her words. "What will my mother say when she finds out? Oh god, Richard!"

 

Richard watched her for a moment before grabbing her wrist and pulling her back into bed. 

 

"Your mother will say that her beautiful baby girl is going to have her own baby." He said as he hugged her and Anne didn't even pretend to protest his action. "So, what if the baby is a little early? We're getting married anyways, Anne. This doesn't change anything."

 

Anne seemed quiet for a moment as she let Richard wrap his arms around her before speaking again, this time her voice soft. "We have so many plans. This just wasn't at the top of them."

 

"And so?"

 

"You're not disappointed?"

 

"What?" He asked, placing a hand on her chin, making her look at him. "Anne, I would never be disappointed that we are going to have a baby. Sure, he might have come a little early but this doesn't my love for you and what we have planned for our lives."

 

Anne smiled at him before giving him a quick kiss on the lips. "Her."

 

"Huh?"

 

"You said him," She pointed out. "This baby could easily be a girl. You can't assume that it'll be a boy."

 

Richard laughed at that. Neville temperament.  

 

"Regardless, we'll love him or her unconditionally." He gave her a slow and gentle kiss. "Like my love for you."

 

"As is my love for you." She said and the way he said those words made her love him even more because this was their life now, this was their family now and she couldn't wait to welcome the little bundle growing inside her. 

 

So that's how their life played out. Their story wasn't some grand tragic love story, they didn't need to fight hundreds of obstacles to be together because they always gravitated towards each other, the universe seemed to be pushing them together and Anne had never thought she would fall so hard. Never had she expected to be caught, yet he did.

 

They started out as childhood friends, who shared the same memories and love and she couldn't wait to grow old with him. Relishing in the familiar excitement and the steadiness that was their love story.