Four in the afternoon and Lisa was lying across their double bed, getting an early start on the semester. She had a green highlighter in her right hand and the book spread open on the bed. Her legs were up, flexed feet pointing towards the ceiling and she was starting to get bored with the text. He could tell by the way she started waving her bare feet back and forth, her slim ankles sliding through the stark sunlight. She pushed at her unruly curls, and then tutted when the coppery-blonde strands refused to stay back.
Casey leaned a shoulder against the doorway and settled his hands into the back pockets of his jeans. "I'm going to marry you someday."
Lisa spun around as if caught, her long legs folding up as she turned to face him. "I thought you had class."
"It got cancelled." Casey didn't bother hiding his grin. He'd signed up for Creative Writing because it sounded useful to a future journalist. As it turned out, dissecting epic poems and listen to students read their banal stories out loud had become his curse this semester. "I've got the afternoon free."
Lisa smiled, then the corners of her lips turned down. "I've got class in an hour. I need to get through this stuff."
"That's cool. Go ahead," Casey said, waving at their plain cream bedspread and the two-inch thick book weighing it down. "I'm going to watch the repeat of the Rangers' game."
Lisa raised a pale eyebrow. "Don't you have class work you should be doing? Like, say, a poem that was due today?"
Casey winced dramatically and bobbed his head from side to side. "Maybe."
"Maybe," he said, "as in yes, I do. I'll do it in front of the game. Wax poetic about the infield rule."
Lisa laughed brightly. "e.e.cummings, eat your heart out."
Casey stood up straight, tapping the doorframe quickly. Then he said, "I meant what I said, you know."
"You're really going to write a poem about the infield rule?"
"I want to marry you."
Lisa smiled, and it somehow softened the angles of her cheekbones and the sharpness of her eyes. "Then you should ask me sometime."
Charlie's twelfth birthday party fell on a warm June day and came complete with a huge cake, a clown, and a screaming pack of children. It also came with an almost civil invitation from Lisa and a smug smile from her fianc. (Dr Robert Jensen. Dan had taken to calling him Dr Bob, which made Lisa scowl and left Casey hiding a grin.)
The clown was up to his third balloon animal -- based on the number of balloons he was twisting and squeaking together, Casey suspected it would be an octopus -- when Casey noticed Dan wasn't there. He slipped out the door, checked the hallway and the kitchen, and eventually found Dan outside.
Sprawled across the hammock, Dan had one foot against a tree branch, swinging himself gently from side to side. His eyes were closed against the sunshine. That didn't seem to make a difference to his ability to know that Casey was there.
"You know what's weird?" Dan asked without opening his eyes. "Birdsong. I'm lying here, listening to it, and it's very weird."
Dan was wearing shorts and sandals, and Casey found himself staring at the pale skin of Dan's feet. It was a sharp contrast to the dark hair on Dan's calves. "Sounds normal to me."
"Listen carefully. There's no traffic, no shouts, no screams. No sirens. How is anyone supposed to relax without comforting background noise?"
Casey laughed, and Dan kicked at the tree again, making the hammock's swing wilder. "Lisa will have a fit if you break that."
Dan raised a hand to shade his eyes and squinted up, dark eyes amused. "Promise?"
"I think the clown is providing enough entertainment today." Stepping closer, Casey ghosted the back of his fingers over Dan's cheek. A small gesture, one that was easy to hide, but it made Dan smile. "We should do this more often."
"Unless you have illegitimate offspring I don't know about, your kid's birthday is a once a year deal. Besides," Dan said, shifting slightly and making the hammock rustle, "more parties would imply more clowns, and nobody needs that."
"So, I've been thinking about us," Casey said, shifting his weight from foot-to-foot. He couldn't seem to find stable ground. "We should make this a regular thing."
|Turning her head slightly, Lisa shot him a sly look. "Regular, huh?" She stopped making notes for midterm exams and closed the textbook, trapping her pen inside.||"We do the show every night. Well, apart from Wednesdays and rostered nights off," Dan said, looking up from the anchor desk. The studio was empty; Dan was revising his 'Final, Final, Yes, This Is Really It' draft. "How much more regular do you need?"|
"I was thinking about you and me. About marriage and what it means." Ducking his head to the side, Casey dug his hands into his pockets. "About having someone regular to come home to."
|"Are you asking me to marry you?" Lisa laughed a little, like it was ridiculous, like it was expected.||"Huh," Dan said slowly. Then he waved at the dead cameras. "You want to talk about this here?"|
"Yeah." Casey's voice wavered; he didn't dare say more.
|Lisa laughed loudly, joyously, as she scrambled off the bed and wrapped her arms around his neck. Then she kissed him, messy and sweet.||"This *is* a regular thing. We don't share living costs and we don't have some stupid social contract detailing it, but this--" Dan paused. "This is you and me. We don't need that stuff."|
"That's a good thing, right?"
|"Yes. Yes, you idiot," she said between kisses, "*yes*."||Dan stared at him. "Are you crazy? Of course it's a good thing."|