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"I gave up," Lenny said. Carl looked at him blankly and Lenny elaborated, "I let it go. I surrendered. I stopped trying."

Carl was still looking at him so Lenny waved his hands around a little to distract himself from what he was saying; it helped him when he needed to talk about important stuff to not think about it. "I got tired of waiting and so I just stopped."

Comprehension dawned in Carl's eyes. He put his hand to his forehead and rubbed his eyebrows, which made him look like a Vulcan. Lenny always liked that. He never told Carl about it, just liked it quietly to himself.

"You always choose the worst possible time," Carl said, and normally Lenny would have had to struggle to keep from laughing because the sentence was full of the lead-tongued exasperation he'd known for all these years, known and anticipated and sometimes elicited. Normally he'd have to keep from laughing because laughing would just make Carl even more annoyed. This time, though, there was something threading through Carl's voice that made the chortle stick in Lenny's chest, because that, that wasn't funny at all.

Sighing, Carl brushed his fingers down his front and asked, "You still got it?" Lenny nodded, patting his pocket to make sure. His throat felt clogged. That dangly thing in the back was probably as big as a grapefruit.

"Let's get you married," he managed to say, the ring-box pushing insistently against his palm. Carl reached out and pressed his fingertips against Lenny's wrist, just once, and suddenly he could breathe again.

That, he guessed, would never change.