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Teresa lay against Jane's side, her leg thrown over his and her hand covering his heart, which had now returned to its normal steady rhythm. He held her with one arm, tracing lazy patterns on her hip. She had imagined sleeping with him in the past - had even imagined waking up with him - but she had not imagined this in-between time, how the seconds and minutes would slow down and drip into each other like honey, how it would feel like the bed was a raft adrift on a calm empty ocean, how there would nowhere to go and nothing to do but lie together in the moonlight.

Then Jane opened his mouth and said, "We should get married."

She laughed, refusing to let his ridiculousness puncture her endorphin-buffered lassitude.

"I'm serious," he told her.

She pushed herself up on her elbow to scowl at him disbelievingly.

"Well, I was serious," he amended. "Now that you're looking at me that way I may have to reconsider."

She shook her head. "That was not a proposal."

"Of course not," he agreed, and she began to lie back down until he continued, "it was a statement of intent. The actual proposal will be much more eloquent and romantic."

"Don't be silly," she told him. "We can't get engaged now. We just had sex for the first time."

"Exactly," he said. "In many times and places it would be a terrible scandal we've left it this long. I'm not a cad, I have every intention of making an honest woman of you."

"Are you making fun of me?" she demanded. "Is it amusing to you that I don't take marriage lightly?"

"And you think I do?" he asked incredulously.

She shut her mouth, forced to admit the point. To say he had taken his wedding vows more seriously than most men would, as she understood it, be a significant understatement. "Then… what is this?"

He sat up, tugging a pillow between his back and the headboard. "Well, we already knew we matched up well in the rest of life," he explained. "Now we know we match up well in the bedroom too. So what else is there to worry about? Why not just settle in and enjoy it for the long haul?"

"We've been a couple for less than six hours," she said patiently, as if to a child. "I don't think it's unreasonable to think we should see how things go for a while before signing our lives away."

"Signing our lives away? Is that how you see marriage? No wonder you haven't done it before now."

She sat up too, crossing her arms over her bare chest self-consciously. "I know not everyone feels the same way, but I believe in -" she was going to say til death do us part, but in light of how Jane's first marriage had ended, it seemed unkind "- marriage as a holy sacrament. A permanent joining of souls. So I don't want to rush into anything. I want to be sure."

"Of course it's going to be permanent," Jane said huffily. "What would the point be otherwise? The rest of it's just paperwork." His gaze softened. "I don't mean to argue. You're right of course. There's no rush. I just… I already wasted so much time not being with you out of fear. I don't want to waste any more by pretending I don't know what I want, or how I feel."

Well, there was no way not to smile like an idiot at that. He really was awfully sweet when he wasn't making her feel like her head was about to explode. "I know how I feel too," she said, her eyes dropping away from his face. After everything they'd done and said already that night, it was absurd to still feel shy, but somehow she did. "It's not that I really think I'll change my mind," she added, "it's just… I need some time to get used to this."

"Then time is what you shall get," he said, smiling fondly at her. "I want you to have everything you wish for." Then he tsked in disapproval. "Now I've gone and made you tense again. Come over here." He spread his legs and patted the space between them.

She climbed into position and tried to lean back against his chest, assuming he wanted to hold her, but he stopped her with gentle hands that pushed her upright again and began kneading her shoulders.

It felt like magic, like he was turning her muscles into butter and bathing her skin in pixie dust. He dug his thumb into a knot and she groaned. Loudly.

"Like that?" he asked, chuckling, his hands stilling against her.

"Don't stop," she protested, as actual fear flooded her at the thought that it might be over, that he might take these sensations away from her.

But he just pressed a kiss to the base of her neck and resumed his ministrations.

It took a minute for her to relax again. She understood, rationally, that this was a nonsensical thing to panic about, that Jane - Patrick, probably, when they were both naked, she reminded herself - was unlikely to decide to withhold backrubs from her.

Unless, of course, he left her. As the tension drained from her body under his talented hands, she realized that this was the actual fear. It was all so new. It felt fragile, like a soap bubble she'd caught on her finger through sheer luck, that might pop at any second. It seemed improbable that anything this beautiful could last.

It struck her that if she was this afraid, it must be absolutely terrifying to him. To risk this much happiness again when it had been so brutally ripped from him before. She didn't think she, in his place, would have the courage to take her heart out of her body and hand it over to another person a second time.

He'd told her he didn't want to be ruled by fear anymore. She could understand that, even if she couldn't quite fathom the strength required to make that choice. But he must have been so sick of terror, after so many years under its merciless thumb.

And with that, what he'd said about wanting to get married finally made sense to her. It was, she saw, his way of coping with the fear of losing her. A wedding band wouldn't stop her from dying, of course, but she could see that it would seem to him like a way to ward off the more banal, everyday forms of separation.

Her fear of losing him made her want to edge toward commitment only slowly, once he'd proved he wasn't going to change his mind, so she could work her way up to trusting him that much. His fear pushed him in the opposite direction.

And if he could be brave enough to love her in spite of everything he'd gone through, she could be brave enough to try to make it a little easier for him.

"So," she said, as his fingers continued to turn her into mush, "tell me what I can expect from this eloquent, romantic proposal of yours. Will there be live music and fireworks?"

He froze for a second, apparently surprised, then cleared his throat and began to massage her again, moving his hands down to her lower back.

"No," he said, "nothing like that I don't think. I wouldn't make a big elaborate show of it. I'd - maybe I'd take you for a hike - nothing too strenuous, of course, but one that brought us somewhere lovely, somewhere we hadn't been before but could come back to without too much trouble when we wanted to revisit a happy memory. We'd sit down for a few minutes to catch our breath and drink some water, and I'd give you a wildflower I'd picked somewhere along the way, and I'd tell you… That when I was lost in darkness, meeting you was like seeing a tiny pinprick of light. It wasn't much, at first, but it gave me a direction, something to orient myself toward, and as I slowly moved toward you, the light got brighter. And by and by I could see clearly enough to make out other little glows as well, Cho and Rigsby and later Grace, and then even some of the people who needed our help, who in their own darkness we could reach out to with proof that someone cared about what had happened to them, that it mattered. And eventually the rest of the world came into focus around you and began to feel real again. I could feel the sun on my face, sometimes, and not immediately think of how cold it must be in Angela and Charlotte's graves, how they would never enjoy a warm day again. I could eat vanilla ice cream - it was Charlotte's favorite - and think about how much she used to relish it and not… I could hold a baby and not imagine it lifeless and covered in blood. And once I was in the present again, you began to make me see a future. At first it was just planning how I might surprise you, or make you laugh. But then one day you smiled at me and I imagined what it might be like to kiss you, and there was a whole lifetime wrapped up in that single thought because I knew that if I did it once I'd never want to stop. And back then it seemed impossible, as far from my reach as the stars, but I couldn't stop wanting it. I never did, and I never will. My love for you is the best part of me, it's saved me again and again. You're the most precious thing in the world to me, and I never want to be without you. Will you marry me, and let me spend the rest of my life trying to make you happy?"

During all of this, his hands had never ceased making their slow, steady circles beside her spine, anchoring her even as his words swept her away. She blinked rapidly, trying to get a hold of herself. "And will there be a ring involved in all this," she asked, voice a little thick, "or am I meant to wear the flower instead?"

"The flower will look lovely behind your ear," he told her, "But there will also be a ring."

"Well," she said, "I suppose I'd want to try it on and see if I liked the look of it."

"I have excellent taste," he reminded her.

"Then I suppose I wouldn't want to take it off again."

Instead of responding with words, he leaned in to kiss her neck again, this time working his way down her back with his mouth.

She giggled breathlessly. "This is all just hypothetical," she said. "We are not engaged."

"Of course not," he agreed, changing direction to kiss back up her spine. "I haven't proposed yet."

"Hey, how do you know I'm not going to be the one to propose?"

"And how would you do it?" he asked, sounding intrigued.

"Maybe I'll pull a ring out from behind your ear and ask you if you lost it," she said. "Maybe I'll take you to the beach and bury you in the sand and refuse to dig you out until you agree to marry me."

"Tricks and threats?" he asked. "I'm not really feeling the love here."

"Sure you are," she said. "And anyway I don't get the sense it's gonna be all that hard to get a yes out of you."

"No," he conceded. "I'm pretty easy."

"Hah," she said. "You're the most difficult person I know." Her tone grew warmer. "But I wouldn't have you any other way. And… I wouldn't have anyone but you."

"Very nice," he said. "You should think about working that into your proposal. Maybe amid some discussion of my finer traits - you know, my charm, my brilliant mind, my delectable body…" He leaned in to nibble on her neck.

"Mmm… I thought it was frowned upon to admit you're only marrying someone for their looks."

"I don't mind being your trophy husband," he said. "And don't worry, I won't let myself go after the wedding. I want to look good on your arm so you won't trade me in for a younger model."

His hands had snuck around to her front. She sucked in a breath. "Well, if that body of yours is one of your main selling points, maybe you should demonstrate its features again."

"That can be arranged."


Later, as they lay in sated silence once again, Teresa found herself musing on what he'd jokingly called his finer traits. Sometimes, she thought, a joke was how you turned your weak points into weapons to use against yourself before anyone else could. She wondered how many women, over the years, had wanted him for his handsome face and charisma without knowing or caring a bit about the man behind the dazzling curtain. She wondered how many people had ever in his life valued him for his true self, and not the facade he put on or what he could do for them or make them feel.

She lifted her head to kiss his shoulder, slightly sticky from sweat, and licked a bit of salt from his skin experimentally. He turned his face toward her, blinking hazily.

"This is all very nice," she said, gesturing toward his physique, "but I wouldn't say it's worth hypothetically filing joint tax returns for."

"Hey," he said, "I'm going to not take offense at that and instead just assume it's your way of asking for yet another demonstration, which I am not averse to, but, uh, maybe after we rest a bit?"

"No," she said, and then, "well, yes, actually, in a little while. But what I meant was - you know I love your body because it's yours and not the other way round, right?"

"Sure," he said, a little too fast, not quite meeting her eyes.

"Look at me," she told him. "If I wanted to butter you up when I popped the question so you wouldn't play hard to get out of wounded vanity, I'd say - I'd say that you're the strongest, bravest man I know, and I love you for your kind, generous heart and your gentle, loyal soul. Because you are fierce in defending your own and utterly impervious to common sense and because you are free from the blinkers of convention and propriety, so you make me see that way too. And none of that would change even if you were bald and wrinkled and saggy."

He gave her a watery smile. "Okay, you win," he said. "The answer is yes."

"I didn't ask you anything," she pointed out, flopping down onto her back.

"Well, I thought I'd spare you the suspense. So you see there's no need to put off proposing because you're worried about rejection."

"I'll bear that in mind," she said wryly, "though I was not in all that much doubt about your sentiments."

"You say that now, but I bet if you were really asking you'd still fret."

She considered it and found he was right. Even after everything he'd said - if she held out her hand and asked him to take that leap with her in truth, she'd still be afraid that he wouldn't accept.

He nuzzled her ear. "The answer will always be yes," he murmured. "I promise."

She shivered pleasantly and leaned into him, a smile spreading across her face. The whole conversation was ludicrously premature, but she found she didn't mind that anymore. Maybe, once in a while, it was all right to follow Jane's lead and forget about being practical and prudent. He had a way of making anything seem possible.

Of course, they weren't actually engaged. There was still a line between optimism and insanity. But it couldn't hurt to talk about where they might be going, and if they happened to agree on their general destination, so much the better. They could spend a sensible length of time dating - a year? She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He didn't look like he had that kind of patience. Well, a reasonable number of months, then. Definitely at least several months.

And then - maybe they'd go hiking. Or for a trip to the beach. And after that?

"I'm keeping my name," she told him.

"It's a beautiful name," he said. "I'd hate for you to lose it."

"As long as that's settled, then."

He rolled toward her and kissed the corner of her mouth. "Excellent." Another kiss. "I like having things settled."

She wondered exactly how much he felt was now settled and briefly contemplated asking, then decided she'd rather focus on the kissing instead. She already had the distinct impression that, much like working with him, dating Jane was going to require that she spend a significant amount of her time deliberately not trying to understand what was going on in his mind. It was often better, she had found, to just let him go his own way for a while and round him back up only when she needed them to be on the same page. She didn't have to know his every thought. She just had to know him.

And she finally had confidence that she did. So she reached up to thread her fingers through his hair and pull him back down to her mouth. Everything else could wait.

At least for a little while.