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Swan Song

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He considers himself one hell of a cliché. A sad, single man, drowning his sorrows, looking deeply into a tumbler of whiskey. He's lost his home, his wife, his child, all for an infatuation with a beautiful woman. He doesn't regret the loss of his wife, though, for that was inevitable. He regrets not ever telling that beautiful woman - his friend - how he felt about her, about their deep connection, that he could so easily fall in love with her if she'd only let him.

But it was too late. She was due to get married to someone else in the morning, time be damned.

The worst thing to Joel is that, being Teresa's friend - closest friend, she has told him on many occasions - is that he has also gotten to know her fiancé and is now a staple part of the wedding party. He'd tried to decline, but when Teresa asked why, he couldn't just open up to her and tell her the reason, so he'd acquiesced and agreed.

He remembers the night that her boyfriend of then two months asked her to marry him out of the blue. She'd turned up at Joel's apartment in a tight, red dress (clearly a date night number), soft brunette waves cascading down her chest and back. When he opened the door to her, he had to mentally check he wasn't dreaming, because many of his dreams of her started this way. This was real, though, and her eyes shone with unshed tears. He moved aside to let her in and she'd stalked through to the middle of the living room, before turning to him.

"He asked me to marry him," she says, quietly. This dream was turning into a nightmare and fast.

He'd taken a deep breath and waited for her to continue. Why would she have tears in her eyes if she was happy about this? In fact, why would she be here, of all places? Why was she here? She could have gone to one of her girlfriends or her family but no, she's here, with him.

"Joel, what do I do?" Is she really asking him? He takes several steps towards her and puts his hands on her biceps in an attempt to quell her nerves.

She looks at him then, a single tear escaping down her cheek. "I'm not sure, Joel. Help me."

He reaches out to stroke her cheek but she twists her head around so he drops his hand back to his side. "That's not what I need."

"What do you need?"

She breathes in before she speaks, wondering if this truly is the way to say this, if this is the time or whether she should say it at all. "I need a reason to say no."

He still can't bring himself to say the words he needs to say to slot himself right into place. That wouldn't be right. She can't be swayed by his feelings for her. "You do what you think is right." He eventually says.

"Doing what I think is right and doing what feels right are not the same thing," she retorts sharply. "I'll marry him then, shall I?"

Her eyes were pleading with him to just come out and say it. Ever since the mall siege, after which he had held her (as friends, whatever her heart screamed at her), she had been waiting for him to say it. He was probably expecting her to do it but she was the one who was free and single. He was the one with the ties and responsibilities. It had to come from him and even now, now that the tables had turned… He still wasn't willing to step forward.

She doesn't say anything, other than a desperate say something! Anything! to which he simply replies, follow your heart.

That wasn't the right answer. Not at all. She lets out a cry, pushes past him and storms out.

------

He doesn't hear from her for a week after that, but he hears through the precinct grapevine that everyone's favourite paramedic is now happily engaged sooner than that.

They start talking again properly after a month or so, tension in the air at words unspoken. He could deal with that much, then he ended up getting entwined with her wedding plans. He says that a marriage within six months of dating is too quick, but he's so hyper aware that even that could be deemed selfish of him, so he says little else.

She calls him up one evening, out of the blue and it's a pleasant surprise, until she asks him to come with her to choose a dress. Torture, he thinks, but he agrees.

They meet the following day and Teresa has begun to settle back into their old ways, gentle flirting, banter and he follows her cues, appreciating this, getting to be close to her. She explains what she's looking for - cut, length, material - then she laughs because she knows he has no idea what she's talking about. She also admits she has no idea what she's talking about, for she has never really been one for dresses, only wearing one when the occasion really demands it.
And this is an occasion that demands it.

He places his hand on the small of her back as they enter the shop and the cashier jumps to meet them in greeting, then looks at them, confused.
"It's bad luck for the groom to see the bride's dress before the big day!" She exclaims and Teresa feels her face heat up as she and Joel look at each other.

"No!" They both say at the same time, but Joel continues. "No, I'm just…"

"Yeah, he's just a friend," Teresa affirms. The shopkeeper gives them another knowing look before guiding them to the dresses, right at the back of the store.

She starts to run her hands along the multitudes of fabrics, the choice overwhelming, the whites far too bright for her eyes, giving her an almost instant headache. The owner tells them to have a look and, if they need her, she'll be right over.

So it's just the two of them in the room, Teresa pulling out different styles, frowning and placing them back on the rail. After five minutes, she sighs with annoyance, putting her hands on her hips. He comes up behind her then, putting his hands over hers. He may be crossing a line but she either doesn't think so or is ignoring it, because she rests right back into his hold. He takes in her vanilla scent, her waves cascading down her back.

"Can't see any you like?"

"No." She sighs. "They're all so… Fancy. Complicated. I don't want that, I'm not any of that, am I?"

"No, T, you are not, at least not in a negative fashion." That nickname… her fiancé had attempted to call her that but she'd automatically batted it back; it was Teresa or nothing at all. With Joel, however, it was acceptable, a sign of their affection for one another. She extracts herself from his grasp and starts searching again, still not finding exactly what she's looking for.

Joel isn't clued up on women's fashion, let alone bridal wear, but still tries to help out this stressed bride-to-be. He goes to the other end of the rail and leafs through, before he finds a dress tucked away, out of sight from the rest. He pulls it from its hiding place and studies it. Simple off-white lace, short sleeved, floor length, intricate without being too dramatic. He looks up at Teresa then, a scowl on her face with dissatisfaction. She could only say no.

"Hey, T. What about this?"

She turns and studies the dress he's holding and gasps. She walks over and takes the hem of it in her hands, getting a feel for the fabric. She pushes a tuft of hair from her face and smiles, really beams.

"This is beautiful. Where did you find it?"

"It was just tucked away here," He gestures to the rail, "I guess it was just waiting for the right woman to find it." And that's you goes unspoken as she takes the hanger.

"Will you wait here whilst I try this on?"

"Of course." She squeezes his arm as she walks past, into a cubicle, pulling the curtain closed. She slips off her shoes, cardi, t-shirt, slacks and looks at herself in the mirror. Not so bad, she thinks, even in the unflattering underwear she's chosen to wear that day. She pulls the dress up and over her body and she finds that it already fits perfectly to her. It really was fate. She reaches round to the zip and finds she can't quite make it.

"Um, Joel?"

"Yeah?"

"Can you come zip me up?"

He takes a deep, silent breath, clears his throat and pushes back the curtain, pulling it closed. He chooses not to look in the mirror, at her, because he wants to see her for himself when he turns around, but also because he can't handle the fact that she is getting married to someone else. The regret kicks in again and he forces it down, instead glancing at the expanse of her back (noting the odd freckle here and there he'd give anything to kiss, as well as the clasp of her white bra, and the hem of her cotton panties; he looks no lower) before placing his hand at the zip and pulling it up and up until it is securely in place.

He places his hands on her waist again and pulls her flush against him. Not wanting to break the moment, he glances at her in the mirror and… He is breathless. She looks beautiful. The dress is perfect, like it has been tailored to her. Not too long - it doesn't overwhelm her small frame - and the bodice sits snugly against her without being tight. The details are minute but together make an impact. She just looks utterly…

"Teresa?"

Her head hangs, her breaths uneven. "I love it," she says, looking at him through the glass. "It's perfect."

Although she's smiling, her eyes are sad. There is something she's not saying but he knows better than to coax it out of her. Instead, he pulls his arms around her more, letting her rest her head against his chest, laying her cheek slightly against the fabric of his jacket. The look that passes between them says the same thing: why isn't this us?

Their eyes are locked on one another. If he spins her now, his mouth will be on hers and there will be no going back. There is something explicitly wrong in kissing a woman in her wedding gown, the one that the man in love with her chose for her when she's not his bride. It's a fucked up situation, and they're just digging deeper.

He makes the decision to step back, allowing her to turn. The mirror didn't lie; she looks stunning.

"You are beautiful, Teresa. This is the dress."

"It is, isn't it?" She smoothes the dress down with her palms. "Could you call the cashier?" He nods and bows out, drawing the curtain behind him, not at all thinking of the soft, lush curves beneath that dress.

------

She goes for that dress, as he expected, and they spend the rest of their day together flirting over coffee. Neither of them really know if it's flirting anymore, as it's so commonplace. He knows he's messed up big time but hey, how can he go back and erase time? He can't. He can only move forward.

And that is what leads him to this bar, alone, drunk, a walking cliché if he's ever seen one. He knocks back the rest of his whiskey and reasons to himself that he's not a bad man. In fact, he's a good man. He left Kelly instead of hurting her in other ways (but he is insistent to her and Willie that he did not leave his son. Won't stand for that), he did the honourable thing by giving it time, not going straight for the woman he'd fallen for the moment he was single. He's not even tried to break up her relationship. He is a strong man, a good man. He repeats this mantra in his head, over and over… So by the time he's at Teresa's, banging on the door, it is fact.

He hears a yell from inside before the door opens, revealing his love in a robe, damp, her curly hair clinging to her face. He'd just disturbed her shower.

"Joel?" She questions, already disgusted by the strong smell of alcohol. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you," Joel slurs slightly, his stance swaying. She peers behind him and sees his car parked haphazardly on the street. Idiot.

"So I see," she mutters. "If you come in, I want you in that shower, sobering, okay? I'm sure I can find some clothes for you."

He just shrugs at that, smirking that she wants him in the shower, a smirk she catches. "Don't even think it, Stevens." He steps - rather, tumbles - in and she closes the door. "You know where it is. First door on the left. And don't end up in my bedroom again." Ah yes, he found himself in her bedroom at her engagement party. His excuse was that he couldn't find the bathroom. They'd spoken for a little while and the temptation to push her onto the plush mattress was overwhelming, the only thing stopping him from acting on those urges being the open door. She was always so open, so honest, but he could tell she was dying to talk about something. Something she hadn't talked about with her current partner.

"Joel? You have that glazed look on your face. Go up and have that shower."

He mutters join me in such a low voice that it completely passes her by and he stumbles up the stairs. She stands behind him to make sure he doesn't fall and sometimes, it's touch and go, but he makes it to the top.

"First door!" She shouts as he tries walking past. Damn. He just wants her in that bedroom. No! In the shower. No! He's a strong man.

"Come on Joel, try," she pleads, pulling a towel from the linen closet. He stands still, watching her. "I'll ask the questions once you're out of the shower, okay? I'll leave the clothes on the landing." She shows him how to use the shower, pretty simple for most, though maybe not for a drunk man and she turns to face him again.

"And for goodness sake, be careful. I don't want to have to spend my last night as an Ortiz in a hospital waiting room."

That sobers him slightly, as she leaves, closing the door behind her.

He stands under the shower, the temperature cold enough to sober him up. His thoughts clear and he is surprised he even made it here without killing himself or someone else. Drunk driving. He isn't McNorris - he didn't do that… Did he? Ugh. He steps out after a few minutes, wrapping a towel around himself, heading to the landing where, sure enough, there were a pile of clean clothes, as well as a packet of aspirin and a glass of water. Once a paramedic, always a paramedic.

He thinks about the generous, caring soul walking the floors beneath him. Kelly would have had a go at him for drinking so much, let alone driving drunk. Teresa though… she just told him to get in the shower (it made him smirk still).

Teresa can hear him on the landing. "Drink that water before you come down. And if you're going to be sick, make sure it's in the toilet, okay!?" She shouts up, and he can picture her rolling her eyes. He straightens himself out and heads downstairs with an empty glass.

"Thank you." She takes the glass from him and sets it on the counter. "How are you feeling?" He notices she's changed from her robe into a pair of pale blue flannel pyjamas, but her hair still remains in damp loose ringlets.

"Like I shouldn't have imposed."

"It's alright. I'd rather you were here, safe, rather than… Doing goodness knows what." She points in the direction of the window and he knows she's referring to his car. "In any case, I've had half a bottle of wine to myself."

"You're getting married tomorrow."

She scoffs. "And you're meant to be part of the wedding party tomorrow. You can't judge me for what you've just done!" It's a fair point and he puts his hands up in surrender.

"You got me there, Ortiz."

She looks smug. "I would offer you a glass but I think you've had quite enough."

He shrugs and watches her take a sip from her glass. "Surely you want to be alert for tomorrow though?"

It's her turn to shrug this time. "I don't know. Sometimes I think it would be easier to handle if I was just plain drunk through the entire service."

"That's not the best sign of a lasting marriage," he stops, suddenly, and regrets saying anything at all. "Sorry, I shouldn't have said that."

She shakes her head and takes another sip. "Let's not talk about what mistakes I may or not be making, eh?" That sentence causes her to down the rest of her wine, a warmth spreading through her body, causing a gentle tingle. Good. "Joel, can I ask you something? And I want an honest answer." Oh. God.

"Sure, go for it." He looks at her as she adjusts herself on the sofa, curling one foot under her.

"Do you… Do you think I'd make a good cop..?"

Well that wasn't quite what he expected her to say.

"What?"

"Would I make a good cop?"

He runs his hand over his face. She would, absolutely, but seeing her so often, especially at work, would be nothing short of torture. "There's lots of… Elements to being an officer. A lot of layers. You know? You're a paramedic, you save people. Cops… Don't always get that privilege, you know? You have to be able to put that feeling aside you get when the only thing between you and death is the shotgun in your hand."

She looks at him incredulously. "You didn't answer the question, Joel."

He looks at her and indeed, he has skirted the question. "I think you'd make a good cop, Teresa. You're observant, willing to do what's right." He winces internally at that, remembering the night she was proposed to. "But…"

"Oh how did I know there was a but coming," she says, rolling her eyes.

"It's a dangerous job."

Her eyes glare and he knows he's hit a nerve. "Why are you saying this? Hell, Joel, I was kidnapped, for crying out loud. I go to a call, I don't know what's around every corner, do I? This is Los-fucking-Angeles. Do you really think anywhere is safe? You know why I want to join?" He shakes his head. "Because I want it to be safe. Call me naive or whatever you choose but one extra person wanting to make sure that her children don't grow up afraid of their surroundings isn't gonna hurt anyone, is it?" She is mad. Really mad.

"I'm sorry Teresa."

She stops then, blinking a couple of times. "No, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have blown up on you like that, I'm sorry. I'm just stressed. I… See you and I see how you're… making a difference this way and I think, yeah, why can't I do that too?"

He bites his lip then, taking a breath. "You know, I… Just want to make sure you're safe. You're my friend," he emphasises, "I don't want anything to happen to you."

That pulls the edges of her mouth up into a small smile. "I could be just as easily hit by a bus tomorrow, Joel. None of us knows what's going to happen." The thought of tomorrow unsettled her.

"As a cop, there's a higher chance of that happening."

"As a paramedic too," she counters. "I'm a big girl. I can look after myself." Her smile is bigger now.

"I know. So," he begins, "Why did you become a paramedic?"

"Why?" She takes a deep breath and rakes her hand through her hair. "I told you about my mom, didn't I? That she got sick and she died when I was 17." He nods, waiting for her to continue. "I made a pledge to her that I would save lives… Because I couldn't save hers." Her voice is steady. "I cared for her because my father couldn't do it alone. I was eight, I was a child and… It shaped the woman I am today. It's all I know."

That explains a lot; the caring, compassionate, street-smart woman she'd grown to be. "What was it? That your mother had."

"Breast cancer. She was in remission for a couple of years but when I was 16 it came back, they found it was terminal, aggressively so… Well, you know what that means." He nods.

"I had no idea, Teresa." She puts her hand up at that.

"Please don't feel sorry for me. I loved my mother and I know she's at peace now." She decides to leave it at that. She doesn't need to go into the final moments, the painkillers, the reason she can no longer stand the sight of apples.

He reaches for her hand then and squeezes it. He notices she's not wearing her engagement ring, but decides not to ask.

"I need to ask you something else Joel and it's not pleasant in the slightest, it's probably not my business or… But this has bothered me for the longest time."

He's nervous now. If he asks her about…

"Kelly. Why did you leave her?" She says it quickly, wills him to understand straightaway so that she doesn't have to say it again.

"Why did I leave Kelly?"

"Yes Joel. After… After what happened to her and your baby… Oh God, I shouldn't have asked."

"It's okay," he assures her. "We weren't the people we were when we first met. After Emma died and… Kelly did that to herself… I sound like a terrible human being but… Something changed. Well yes, something changed before that, but…" He's struggling to put it into words and she knows, so she reaches for his hand, their fingers interlacing on her knee. "I loved Kelly, but I wasn't in love with her. She's a wonderful woman, the mother of my child, but she felt the same, I know, she told me often enough. She just didn't want to give up on a marriage where a child was involved. I reasoned with her and myself that separating would be easier, less painful now than later. Of course, it was always going to be painful." It was so hard to explain this to the woman he had loved for so long without sounding like an ass, without giving up the game.

She nods slowly. "So I told her the best thing we could do was to move away. Elsewhere, maybe to… I don't know, Tucson or something but she hated the idea. I wanted to give us a fresh start, leave the painful memories behind, as we couldn't do that here. That was the argument that caused me to leave."

Teresa's brows knit at that. "But you're still here..?"

"My boy. I couldn't just move without him." Or you, he adds in his head.

"Well I'm glad you're here still, Joel, and I am sorry about Kelly. I am." She smiles slightly then, looking down, causing Joel to ask what she's smiling about. "I guess… I thought you left your wife because of me." He doesn't say anything to that, opting to smile instead.

"Hey, I miss this," she starts. "Us talking like this. About… Everything. Like that night we talked long into the night about everything and nothing at all."

"Teresa, that night - something shifted." That knocks her even more off kilter. "I wish to God that we had just gone for it."

He grabs her bottle of wine, pours more into her used glass and knocks it back. He needed the courage for this. To blow the whole thing apart. "I'm sorry it didn't go like that."

She places a finger to his lips. "Don't say anything more, Joel. Saying things… You can't take it back, you can't come back from what you're going to say. Remember, I'm getting married in the morning -"

"Then where's your ring?"

She hesitates at that, then straightens up. "I took it off for my shower." He doesn't believe it for a moment. "It's on my bedside table."

"Okay, Ortiz." He runs his hand over his face, wondering when their easy atmosphere had turned so tense, before realising the conversation topic wasn't exactly small talk.

"I asked you, Joel. I asked you to give me a reason to say no. You told me to follow my heart, so I followed my head, because my heart doesn't know what the hell it really wants."

They both know why she came to him that night. A way out, but he didn't take the bait and she was convinced he didn't want her. Now she wasn't so sure, but she was getting married. So that was that. She stood up at that, ignoring the rush of blood to her head.

"I'm going to bed, Joel. There's blankets and pillows. You can stay on the sofa."

Teresa leaves the room quickly, heart beating at an alarming rate for someone so fit. She climbs into bed, tosses, turns, can't find a comfortable position. Her head is swimming, she should have got water. The world is turning.

Joel also tries to get comfortable on the sofa, a tough call when your legs are hanging off the edge, but it's not working. He gets up and pulls his jacket on with every intention to leave, seeing as he's sober enough to leave but, as he makes for the door, he stops. The woman he wants is upstairs alone and having doubts. The selfish man inside him wants to play on those doubts, but the other man, the real Joel Stevens… He just wants to make sure she's okay. He pours a glass of water and pads up the stairs.

He stands in the doorway and watches her restless face, illuminated by moonlight streaming in through the blinds. He crosses over to her bed, places the water on the beside table and turns to leave.

"I know you're there." Teresa turns over and looks up at him. "Are you going?"

"Do you want me to?" He tries.

She shakes her head. "No."

He removes his shoes and jacket, letting them both lay on the floor as he slips in behind her, covering her body with his. She instantly feels infinitesimally more relaxed. They had done this a couple of times before, mainly when drunk. He always surrounded her with warmth. His arms comforted her and tonight was no different. His arms sat under hers, idly stroking her stomach. He inhales her scent and wriggles a little closer. He hears a light inhale of breath when he presses against her innocently enough, but common sense reaches her first.

"Joel, wait." She moves away and sits up. "I'm getting married in the morning."

He sits up also, taking her hand. "What are we doing, Teresa?" He pauses and although they haven't done anything exactly, it's such dangerous territory. "I should go." He goes to pull his hand away but she keeps it in a firm grasp.

"No. I don't want you to go," she explains. "I want you to stay."

A contradiction, but one he's happy to indulge. She turns to him and leans forward then. He goes to kiss her, but changes his mind at the last moment, instead bringing her into an embrace he doesn't want to break.

"Joel," she asks, breathlessly. "Why won't you kiss me?"

He kisses the side of her face. "Because I know that if we kiss, then we'll almost certainly do something we'll regret." A pause. "Or you'll regret." He wouldn't regret finally getting to spend the night with the woman he loves.

She purses her lips together and nods slowly. "Okay. But… I like this." She indicates to them together. "Can we still have this?"

"Of course we can." They lay back down then, spooning. They silently figure that that would be the safer option.

------

Sleep comes quickly once they're settled and the following morning alerts Joel awake long before Teresa stirs. The morning of her wedding. He can't be there. He can't wake up with this bride-to-be in his arms. She's not his bride. He extricates himself from her body and bed, picking up his shoes and jacket before leaving the room.

But not before he notices that her engagement ring is nowhere to be seen.

He escapes quickly, rushing home to get himself ready. He doesn't want to go, doesn't want to do this, watch her get married to someone who isn't him, but they're friends. Friends and nothing more, friends with terrible timing. It was just never their time.

So when he pulls up outside the venue, he is constantly thinking about her engagement ring. If she's so sure about getting married, then why doesn't she wear that symbolic piece of jewellery? Damn his lack of attention to detail outside the job, for he can't remember whether she has worn it around him.

He checks his watch. Two hours until the ceremony.

He parks, heading inside and weaving his way through the many corridors at the hotel. He follows the signs for the wedding party, knowing exactly what room she'll be in. It seems pretty quiet so far, no guests to be seen, no bridesmaids either. So when he finds her door partially open, he quickly darts his eyes to make sure no one is around, then he slips in.

She has her back to him. She's looking out of the window, but that dress is stunning on her. Her hair is pinned back in an intricate updo that he can't fathom, finished with a veiled tiara he can only see from the back.

The most beautiful bride he has ever seen. And she isn't his.

She turns, stunned at his sudden appearance in her room, makeup smudged from tears. He looks at her hands again and, sure enough, her engagement ring isn't there. Joel closes the door behind himself and watches as she moves.

"You were gone when I woke."

"I know, I-"

"Please don't," she says, putting her hand up. "It was a sign to me. If you had stayed, that was my mind made up. If not, well…" She speaks quietly, almost like she's scared someone will hear, even though rationally they know they won't. He's mortified.

"Your engagement ring isn't on-"

"I know." She indicates to a box sitting by her dresser. "What am I doing Joel? I'm standing here in this beautiful dress, crying on my goddamn wedding day! I'm surrounded by people who love me and I… want you. God sake Joel, give me a sign, give me anything. Give me a reason to call this whole sorry charade off!"

He walks towards her then, stopping when their faces are only inches apart. "Months ago, you asked me to give you a reason to say no. I was too much of a coward to say how I felt so I thought letting you go was the right decision. Then, last night, you said you thought you had broken up my marriage. That I left Kelly because of you." The air crackles with tension. "I said no, but truthfully? I left Kelly because I was in love with someone else." A pause. "You."

She barely has time to register the words he had just said before his lips are crashing to hers violently, his hands grasping at her frame this time, just needing to get close to her.

Seems she's much the same, for she turns and unzips her dress halfway and he pulls the rest of the way, letting her step out in her heels and bridal underwear, which he has mere seconds to enjoy before she is kissing him again, her tongue insistent against his mouth.

He grasps her hips and carries her haphazardly onto her bed, landing with a soft bounce as his body covers hers. She is busy unbuckling his pants as he grasps at her breasts through ridiculously sinful white mesh, lowering his lips to her nipples to give them a tug through the thin material as his cock springs free, her hands immediately on him.

They work at each other, their mouths against each other's, swallowing gasps and moans, but neither can stand it. They can't wait anymore; time is running out on them. He pulls off her panties, swiping his fingers against her damp core and, with a silent nod of agreement, he moves into her, causing gasps from both and tears to form in Teresa's eyes.

He freezes, cradling her face when he notices her expression. "Am I hurting you?" He asks gently.

She shakes her head, "No. Don't stop." Her tears don't fall, all but ceasing as they continue their rhythm against one another, nails scratching, fingers bruising, the feel of soft skin against skin addictive as it can be. She falls first, her body pressed to his in a strangled gasp and he follows soon after. They lay there in a tangle of limbs and sheets, dishevelled and breathless.

They are quiet, his hot breath bouncing off her collarbone as they regain their control over their bodies. Teresa has to admit that was the most intense sexual experience of her life but the gravity of what she has done hits her, and when tears form in her eyes this time, she lets them fall and her uneven breaths alert him to her state. He simply pulls her closer then, placing one kiss on her shoulder.

"You wanted me to give you a reason to say no. You want a reason to stop?" He whispers, her eyes on his, understanding. "This is your reason. You and I." He indicates between the both of them, his fingers tracing her jawline. "This has always been the reason. Why I left Kelly, why you are searching for reasons to not. It all comes back to the fact that you and I… aren't meant to be with others." He strokes her cheek before getting up. "Come with me, don't make a mistake you can stop yourself from making." She visibly hesitates, but he won't push her. "You know where I am, Teresa. I can't make you do this."

He redresses and, with one final lingering kiss, he leaves, leaving Teresa naked and mussed with a choice to make. To the outside world, it seems like a massive decision to make, but to her… It's never been easier. She sits up, ignoring the increasingly sticky feeling between her legs (she's got an IUD, it's okay, she reasons with herself) and chucks her bridalwear to one side, pulling off the tiara and heads to the shower.

Afterwards, once she's scrubbed off all that desperation, she can't even bear to look at the garment. It's beautiful, sure, but it's also a symbol of everything that's wrong with what she's about to do. She dresses, grabs a bag, stuffing the dress inside it and leaves without a second glance.

She's finally following her heart, because it always knows.