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Seven and Nine Across

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Beth rarely got to celebrate her own birthday. Most of the time she was chasing around her army or attending a last minute PTA meeting because Dean forgot. Don't get her wrong she loved doing all of that, but for just once it would've been nice to be pampered for a change and she wasn't talking about last minute gas station flowers that were wilted.

This year was different. Ruby so graciously put together a schedule to ensure that Beth's fortieth birthday went off without a hitch. It consisted of a four step plan.

Step one happened on Friday. Dean would pick up the kids around noon and keep them occupied for the rest of the evening.

"No way in hell Deansie can do that" Annie said, peeking over Ruby's shoulder.

"He's gonna".

Step two relied on Rio, and when they say on him, they meant it literally. He needed to bring Beth back to his place and wait for Annie's all clear. They knew it was a risk since those two couldn't keep their hands off each other, and Mick refused to act as their mediator. He had enough of them during their drops, back when they were actively trying to kill each other.

"They're gonna bone. I guess happy birthday baby girl".

Ruby snorted, shaking her head at Annie's consistent commentary on her sister's sex life. She always said the most outlandish things, but what made them funny was how many truths were behind them.

The final two steps in the plan were more or less irrelevant. They were to happen the following day and involved the whole gang. Greg was even dropping Ben off so that he could spend some time with Sara and Kenny. Now the schedule served a purpose, it wasn't just for shits and giggles.

It was Rio's idea and no matter how ill advised Mick found it, he needed their help to bring his gift to fruition.

Annie found a create-your-own crossword puzzle online, determining that would be the perfect way to break it to her sister. Would it be the name of the restaurant? A place somewhere in Detroit where her present was hidden? Beth would have to solve the puzzle to find out.

At first it was entitled, 'our greatest hits', but she quickly changed that because both Beth and Rio were extremely family oriented. They would take their crew to the zoo, movies and even bimonthly trips to Legoland. Combining their families was effortless. It certainly helped that Marcus and Jane were two peas in a pod. 

Annie threw in some questions about their kids and even a few sneaky jabs at Dean that she hoped Beth would get a kick out of. On second thought, she probably wouldn't even remember that conversation. It was too late now, the crossword was printed. And dammit, it printed the questions out of order. After downing a shot of vodka, she managed to think of a solution to that minor problem. All she needed to do was handwrite the order in which they needed solved. Duh, it was such a simple correction. 

She grabbed a pencil from Ben's backpack and wrote down some instructions at the top of the page, channeling her inner English teacher. Actually those notations back then were corrections made in red ink when she halfassed her papers. 

"Now that's how they're gonna remember it".

"Then gang friend should've done it by himself" Annie said, folding the paper small enough so that it would fit into an envelope.

All she had to do was knock twice on Rio's door, slide the envelope underneath it and hightail it out of there. Ruby was nervous about the whole thing. It would either go great or terribly wrong, there was no happy medium with those two. All they could do was sit back and twiddle their thumbs until the text came through.

Beth had no idea what Rio had planned and honestly when Ruby heard it, her jaw dropped to the table, almost as wide as it went when she initially found out her best friend of twenty plus years fucked a gang leader.

*knock, knock*

Annie skipped the final two steps, jumping off the top to save time. She landed a little funny and the last thing she needed right now was to fracture her foot. Dean would love to hide her in the back office pushing papers, as if working full time at Boland Bubbles wasn't enough torture for her. The only good thing she got out of it, was sitting inside the empty hot tubs during her breaks to piss him off. 

When Beth didn't see anyone outside, she bent down to pick up the envelope that was down by her bare feet. Annie only wished they were closer so that they could see the confusion on her face. It would've been priceless. 

"Who was it?" Rio asked.


Beth held up the envelope that was addressed to herself. It obviously had to be someone they knew because who else knew that she would be there. It wasn't like Rio went running around, shouting from the rooftops that Beth was his girl. Although from what Mick told them, those were the rumors around the streets.

"They're all sayin that you fell for a pretty suburban mama".

"She's smart as hell too" Rio didn't deny the rumor, but there was more to Beth than just her looks. She was smart, capable and if he doubted her abilities one more time, she would shoot his ass. He wasn't making that mistake again. Although it was fun to push her buttons and get her all worked up.

That was a year ago.

Now he found himself sitting in his black recliner, pretending he had no idea what lied inside the envelope. Technically he didn't know how Annie went about it, but he knew what the end result was supposed to be.

"It's a crossword puzzle".

Rio patted the small space beside him invitingly, "alright, let's do it".

"Are you in on this?" Beth asked. When he shook his head, she sat on his lap and shifted her weight onto her right leg so that the arm rest wasn't digging into her ass. Rio moved over as much as he could to give her space. Why he always refused to let her sit across the way on the couch was beyond her. 

"Spent a lot on this chair mama, gotta get good use out of it".

Rio was very hands on, that was something she learned early on in their relationship. He ran his hand up her leg, letting it settle just above her knee and started reading Annie's notes, "I'm givin you the first clue, six is grasshopper. She doesn't know this works, huh?".

"N– wait, I thought you didn't know what this was".

"Three across. Botox" he answered, ignoring her accusation.

Beth forgot that she tried to pitch him the idea to sell botox. He didn't have anyone who ran with middle aged women at the time, but now Mick frequented Mrs. Karpinski's house. It could've worked.

"One down is grocery store," Beth said, taking the pen from his hand.

It was nice, cuddling up in his chair and doing a puzzle. "I can't read the next one".

Rio reached over to the table and handed Beth her glasses. She only used them for reading small print and when she needed to get dirt stains out of Kenny's football jersey. 

"C'mon mama, I like you in em".

Beth complied and slid them on, instantly knowing the answer to the next question was caesar. 

The gift was bringing back so many fond memories. How they first got into crime all the way up to their most recent robbery at Stan's strip club. Ruby was dumbfounded when he came clean about noticing the tin foil and fake cash. Beth thought she hid it well enough in the back of the bag that it would be undetectable. Who said helping her kids out with a science project wouldn't come in handy some day.

Annie's instructions told her to save seven and nine for last, so she moved on to the question about Marcus. "Airplanes and Danny's is soccer". Two quick hits.

"Jane's bunny, Carl and funny money" Rio provided the next two answers. He raised his hand and tucked a few loose strands of hair behind her ear.

Rio looked over the final question in the down category, "What'd she think my name was?".

Confusion was evident in his voice and brows, making it hard for Beth not to laugh. "Ron. Ruby thought your name was Ron".

"Do I fuckin look like a Ron?".

"No, Christopher". She quickly pecked his cheek before writing in the answer. The final two questions left where specifically meant to be that way.

"Rio wants to know if you would blank him. Its got two r's".

Fuck. Bone. Kill. Every word that came to mind was either short a letter or didn't include the required ones.

Rio cleared his throat to get her attention. When Beth looked his way, he had a ring box open and a wide smile on his face, "marry".

Beth counted the boxes again. It fit.

"What do you say Elizabeth, will you marry me?".

"I– Annie was okay with this?".

She looked at him, then at the ring.

"You wanna marry my sister? The woman you wanted to kill. She shot you".

With Beth's parents gone, Rio felt it was only right to ask for Annie's blessing. They never had the easiest relationship and yeah, there was a small chance that they would fight and need to crash on someone's couch until they made up, but he loved her and fate would continue to bring them together. It was time for them to stop delaying the inevitable. 

"You think I don't know that?".

"Do you?" Annie just needed clarification because it didn't seem like either of them did. If it ended badly, it would affect all of them and Annie just paid off her car, she didn't want to go back to slumming it. "What's in it for me?".

Rio groaned, running his hand over his lower face, "extra five percent?".


"For an extra five percent she'd let you marry that dumbass ex-husband again".

Yeah that sounded like Annie.

Beth looked down at the paper. There was only one question left that asked for her answer. It had three letters and began with a y. "You're confident".

"Nah, optimistic".

She got off of his lap and unbuttoned her pants, pushing them down until they pooled at her ankles. 

Beth walked over to the entrance of his bedroom and crooked her finger, beckoning him forward, "yeah".


Rio dropped the pen and paper before rushing toward the bed, once again thankful that he had the open floor plan. There wasn't time to lock doors or pull curtains, he wanted her right then.

Beth pulled him into a kiss, feeling his hand on her ass, pulling her closer with each move she took. "Yes" she breathed, nose scrunching when he gently bit her neck and quickly followed her next moan up with, "I'll marry you".

Rio slipped his hand down the front of her panties and grazed her clit. Maybe birthdays weren't so bad after all.

When Beth woke the next morning, she tossed around the covers in search of her panties. Rio ripped them off on the way to the bed, somewhere near the couch if she remembered correctly and sure enough there was a piece of blue fabric over by the table. 

Once she was somewhat dressed, Beth picked up the crossword puzzle and decided to fill in the remaining three spaces with y, e and s.