“Okay, I got it. We can,” Steps slowing as my words trail, mind wandering with curiosity. She’s just standing there at the edge of the sand, water washing over her bare feet. My eyes spotting her heels discarded next to a rock a few feet from me. “What are you doing?”
She doesn’t answer, just stares out into the agitated ocean. The water and sky seemingly running together off in the distance curtesy of the darkness. Pale moon obstructed by thick, gray, slowly passing clouds. It’s going to rain soon. We really should get a move on. But why do I get the feeling she doesn’t share the sentiment. My features scrunching as I take several steps closer, sand slipping underneath my foot. Had the straps not been done so tight, I’m sure my heel would have slipped right off of the shoe.
“Is something wrong?”
“Hm,” She sort of chuckles under her breath. “That’s an interesting question.”
“I guess that was a pretty stupid question.”
“I didn’t say stupid.”
“No, but I know what you meant.” This time it’s my chuckle swallowed underneath my breath. “We should go before they notice something is wrong.”
“They won’t notice a thing.”
“Okay, then we should still go.” My eyes moving from the bare curve of her shoulders up to the hidden moon. “We might actually make it home before it pours.”
“I doubt it will rain tonight. Can normally smell it on the air, kind of like snow.”
“Well to be fair, we are standing next to the ocean.”
“We would still be able to smell it.”
“Okay Doctor Bloodhound.” I nod, rolling my eyes to myself. Soft sigh escaping as I look down at the sand, pretending I’m looking for something when all I’m really trying to do is figure out what’s happening. “You want to stay?”
“Should I go?”
“I don’t know,” she tilts her head so her chin is grazing her shoulder. It gives the illusion she wants to see my face, see my reaction, but really I think it’s just a reaction of her own. She had a tendency of doing that. Tilting her head to one side or the other. Turning her head halfway if I was out of her line of sight. “Should you?”
“If you want me to leave I’ll tell Dyson and he’ll bring you back whenever it is that you’re ready.”
“That’s fine….if you want to go.”
“If I want to go?” I repeat under my breath, scoffing at the question. “I feel like I’m having a conversation with the Riddler right now.” Pausing, hand running through my hair. Two hours’ worth of work ruined in a single tussle. “Should I go?” I repeat gently, all the frustration in the heat of the moment long gone now.
I could go away, but that wouldn’t be us----not anymore. We made a promise, more of a vow actually, to stop running from each other. To stop running away when things got too hard. Though I can admit, it was me who ran the most----she did have her moments. Beyond the promise, beyond the vow there’s something much more simplistic to it. Simply I don’t leave because I can’t, I’d miss her. Simply I don’t leave because underneath it all----I know she doesn’t really want me to either.
I run my hand through my hair again, small steps further toward her. Each step as though I’m scared the wrong one will make her run off. She won’t though, she’ll just stand there and ignore me----or fight me----or worse, pretend its all okay now. She has a horrible habit of doing that. Pretending everything is okay when it isn’t, I used to prefer it that way maybe. It made it easier. She pretended things were okay with the situation with Dyson. She pretended things were okay with Tamsin. She pretended things were okay with so much. At the time it was just easier. I was scared of committing fully. I was scared of opening up that much. I was scared that one fight would destroy it all.
Now----I’m just scared of the pretending.
“Lauren?” My voice almost breaks as I speak, now close enough to see her face. Just the side of her face, but it’s enough to see she’s been crying. “What’s going on?” The cool water washing over my feet, heels sinking deeper into the sand. The unpleasant feeling of wet sand making it between my toes pulling at my attention momentarily.
“You were flirting with her.”
“With who?” My eyes widening in momentary confusion. “The Countess?” Her head tilts forward slightly, looking down at the sand. “Lauren that was part of the plan. It was part of YOUR plan.”
“Then,” Head shaking, not quite understanding what’s happening. “Lauren this was your plan, I even protested before we left the Dal. And in the car. And before you sent me over toward her.”
“What’s happening right now, because I think I lost my ticket to this crazy train?”
“It is crazy.” She sort of laughs, tilting her head back up. “I know it is. I spent two days on this plan. I did the research on her to give you a play-by-play of what to say to achieve optimal effectiveness. I was right there watching, so it isn’t like anything happened that wasn’t a part of what I orchestrated.”
“It meant nothing.” I reassure her, attention shifting to the mansion off in the distance behind us. They’re far too busy celebrating themselves to notice our absence, but a force of habit I guess. I’m not used to one of our little covert missions being covert enough to stick around afterward. “I promise you.”
“Jesus Bo,” Her chuckle hushed in a sniffle. “I know that.”
“Then you’re really gonna need to fill me in on what’s going on here because I really want to understand. I’m trying to, but it’s not making much sense.”
“It’s not about her. It’s not about the flirting. It’s not even about you, not really.”
“It’s about what we don’t have.”
“What we---Oh.” I sigh softly, reaching out to touch her shoulder but my hand falls short. “Babe, so what she’s a succubus? That doesn’t mean anything. She could be the succubus or all succubi and I still wouldn’t care because she isn’t you.”
“That’s sweet but,” She finally turns toward me, halfway. “I meant time.”
“Tomorrow we’re going to take on your father and his army once and for all and there’s a good chance we’re going to lose.”
“Stop.” She orders softly, her hand reaching out and ghosting over my cheek. Her thumb brushing ever so softly against my lips, silencing me. Even in the pale light I can see the stray tears that continue to slip down her cheeks. “It’s true. You know it. We all know it. And it’s fine, this is what we signed up for. Champions.” She laughs softly, swallowing a sob that nearly shatters my heart. “But I was standing there and seeing you flirting with her and that’s just moments that you aren’t with me. That’s most likely one of that last moments I’ll even remember of you. That’s moments I’m not getting to tell you how much I love you. And that’s all we have now is moments and---.”
“Hey.” I whisper, instinctively reaching out for her wrist as she goes to turn away from me.
“We don’t have enough time, Bo.” Her voice breaks, eyes meeting mine and I’ve never felt more helpless than in this moment. “We never seem to have enough time.”
“No,” Shaking my head, trying desperately to keep my own tears at bay. I don’t think I’m someone who really cries a lot. Or easily for that matter, but there’s just something about seeing her in so much pain that hurts deeper than any physical wound I’ve ever suffered. There’s something about how true her words ring that cuts deeper than even that. “But to be honest, we could have an eternity and it still wouldn’t be long enough for me.”
“An eternity, hm?”
“Yep, I’d still want more.” The tiniest of smiles pulling at her tear moistened lips. “I’m greedy.”
“I know.” She laughs softly, leaning into my hand as it comes to cup her cheek. Thumb brushing away tears as my other hand falls from her wrist to her hand, fingers intertwining.
“I blame you.”
“Yep, you made me this way.”
“I made you greedy?”
“So much,” I nod. “I was a simple girl before I met you. Very easy to please.”
“Bo, you have NEVER been simple.” Her smile growing slightly, taking a single step into me. “And you’ve certainly never been easy to please.”
“I don’t know,” Tilting my head in, lips brushing against hers. “You’ve never had the slightest bit of trouble.”
She leans in, tip of her tongue grazing my lips before teasing them with her own. And had I not heard the softest of stifled sobs I wouldn’t have opened my eyes. Tears welling in her eyes again, her trembling hands on the curve of my neck.
“It’s not enough time Bo.” She says in between painful kisses, my heart breaking a little more with each one stolen. “There’s so much we never got to do.”
“Like what?” My own hands moving to her cheeks, tilting my head back to look into her eyes.
“We—we never made love on the beach. We never got to fight about having kids. We never got to go to France….or anywhere. We never got to get the house with the picket fence. We never went on a rollercoaster. We never got a dog or a cat or both. We never got to have one of those painting fights.”
“Yeah,” She sighs her chuckle, gripping my shoulders tighter. “Where you’re painting your house and someone brushes someone else with the paint and then it’s a paint fight.
“Oh yeah,” I nod, tears slipping from my eyes as each breath becomes more painful than the last.
“It’s stupid and it’s silly and it’s romantic and sexy. And it’s something we never got to do. And we never got to fight over something silly, all of our fights have been real and serious and I just want to fight with you over something stupid Bo. I want to fight with you just because at the end there is mind blowing makeup sex. And I want to make love to you in your car. It’s stupid and would be highly uncomfortable, probably not very sexy, but it’s something that couples do and we never got to. And I want to make you dinner every night and yell at you because you don’t do the dishes.” Suddenly she stops, pulling away from me just slightly. “Do you have nothing to say?”
“I’d help with the dishes…..fifty percent of the time.”
“Okay, okay. Thirty-five percent.” Smile forced through pain riddled features as my hands drop to her waist pulling her back to me. “House with a picket fence and a dog and cat and talking about kids.” I nod, needing a moment to keep a soft sob of my own in check. Damn tears. Damn pain ripping my heart apart. “Why Doctor Lewis, sounds like you planned quite the life for us. All that’s missing is the minivan.”
“That and,” She looks away, unable to keep a new wave of tears at bay. “I never got to ask you to marry me.”
“Well to be fair you would never have gotten to ask me that one.” I chuckle through a sob, smiling through the tears making it so I can hardly see now. But I know she’s looking back at me. “There’s a ring in Kenz’s dresser. So unless you have a ring already I think I would have won this one.”
“Yeah,” I laugh, turning my face from her blinking away enough tears to see clearly again. “I was waiting for the weekend of your birthday. Had it all planned already. Pesky apocalypses always getting in the way.”
“You don’t have a ring do you, because I would have to fight you then.”
“N-no,” She laughs, taking a step back from me altogether. Hands running over her face before through her hair. “You beat me too it.”
“Don’t sound so disappointed.”
“Sorry, I’ve just imagined this moment a lot through the years.”
“You’ve imagined THIS moment?”
“Not THIS moment specifically, but you asking me to marry you and it was always….different.”
“Oh no,” I laugh heavily, tears drying now. “You misunderstand. I’m not asking you to marry me.”
“Yeah, I didn’t run all over town with Kenz, Vex, Mark and Dyson looking for rings and take extra cases and going through lots and lots of speeches for THIS to be my proposal. No, I spent too much time and effort for this to be it. Not to mention, what kind of story is this to tell our dog,” I smile, softly waiting for her eyes to meet mine again. “Or our kids.”
“Yeah, I thought we were having two? I mean I distinctly remember us having two names picked out already. It would be a shame to waste one.”
“It would.” She smiles genuinely, but sadly.
“And if we have a boy and then a boy we’re just gonna have to keep going until we get the girl. So I hope you have an alternate name or two just in case we need them.”
“It’s cool if you don’t, but you might wanna start thinking about it. You name the kids, I’ll take care of the dog.”
“I’m partial to Gizmo, we could call him Giz or Gizzy. And we have to make sure he’s big enough to catch a ball or something. I have no problem with small dogs but if they can’t catch a ball they lose points.”
“Bo.” She sort of snaps. “Please, stop.”
“Fine.” I nod, looking out toward the ocean taking a breath. “We can get a small dog if you insist but at that point we may as well just get a cat.”
“It’s not a joke Bo.”
“I’m not joking.”
“I’m telling you---.”
“You’re either telling me that we haven’t had enough time and you’re giving up.” I step into her, eyes meeting hers demanding her attention. “Or what you’re telling me is that we haven’t had nearly enough time together so I better kick my father’s ass tomorrow because we aren’t done yet.” My eyes dropping down, watching as I take her hands in mine again. Thumb brushing over where a wedding band will be one day. “If you say it’s the first then fuck it Lauren, we’ll sit down here and just let it happen. Die right here together. But if it’s the second one, I promise you I will kill my father and every last one of his army singlehandedly if it means that future, paint fight and all is what’s waiting for me. For us.” Eyes slowly running up her body, over her face to meet her gaze. “So, which is it?”
She doesn’t say anything, just peers into my eyes. The sound of the ocean drowning out. The sound of the distance party drowning out. There’s nothing other than her in this moment. She’s searching for something and I’m not sure what. There’s nothing to search for, not this time. Not now. I laid it all on the line. If she is honestly giving in, then we’ll give in together. Why fight at all. There’d be nothing to fight for. If she’s not by my side, not crossing the finish line with me, then what’s the point?
“I know you love to show off for me, but how about you leave at least ten or twenty soldiers to spit for Dyson and Mark. You know how they get when they can’t show off too.”
It takes me a second to get what she’s saying. Honestly, with as long as she was silent I was expecting her to say she was giving in. Or maybe something like ‘yes the second one’. But in true Lauren fashion, she surprises me. She’s always been amazing at that.
“I can’t promise anything, it’s been a while since I had the opportunity to impress you. I think I’m falling behind on sexy points.”
“Well, I didn’t want to say anything.” She sort of trails off, quiet laugh entangling her word.
“You can be such a---.” I bite my bottom lip to keep from laughing, her eyebrow raising.
“Such a what?”
“Such a amazing woman who looks absolutely gorgeous in that dress.”
“Firstly, it’s ‘an’ not ‘a’. Secondly, that was a horrible save.”
“Oh well, at least I’m cute.”
“Cute yes, sexy though, you are right you have been lacking in the points there.”
“Oh my God!” I can’t help laughing, arms wrapping around her waist pulling her against me. “Woman, you are so lucky I love you otherwise you’d be in so much trouble for that.”
“I think lucky covers it adequately.” She smiles softly, brushing her lips against mine.
“You know what I was just thinking? Something to add to our ‘Need to Do’ list.”
“What’s that?” Her eyebrow raises slightly, curiously.
“We have never--.” I trail off, my arms tightening around her and lifting her up in one swift motion.
She’s not heavy by any means and through the years I’ve become an expert on picking her up in various positions. But the heels plus the dress plus the sand makes it slightly more difficult than normal. Her hands grabbing my shoulders, laughing in union with me as I carry her to toward the water. Her protests drowned out as the water sweeps us, or rather me off my feet. The two of us falling into the water, tide pulling us further in. Hours of hair and makeup. Hundreds of dollars in confiscated dresses and heels ruined in a moment. Mark is gonna be so pissed.
The smile over her face and the glisten in her eyes tells me all the bitching from him and of course by proxy, Vex is worth it. Besides there’s always a price of saving the world. This time, its dresses. Not a bad price considering. My own smile growing as I feel her legs wrap around my waist, pulling me to her. Eyes running down her collarbone, over her chest to the tops of her breasts. Water pulling her dress down slightly. I’m not complaining.
“I so meant to do that.”
“I’m sure you did.”
“I did!” Words laughed, hands sliding from her hips to her ass keeping her in place. “I have a little secret to tell you.” Smiling turning to a smirk, gently biting her jaw. Her hands moving to my hair. “I can’t hold my breath for very long.” I whisper against her skin, earning a laugh that silences as she bites the curve of my neck.
“Thank God you’re an expert with your hands then.” She whispers against my ear, playful nipping at the top.
“More like addicted and in love.” She pulls back to hold my gaze. The moon having made its way free from the clouds. Moonlight shining over her face, letting me see every little millimeter of perfection. “What?”
“I’m just taking you in.”
“Um, no you’re not.” She playfully taps her fingers against the back of my neck. Leaning in just long enough to bite my lip. “Not yet anyway.”
“Frisky.” Smirk accompanied by a giggle. “But I’m serious.”
“I was too.” Her forehead coming to rest against mine, arms wrapping around my neck more lovingly than sexually. “I know what you mean.”
“This isn’t the end for us Lauren, just the end of this chapter.”
“I promise you.”
“I believe you.” She kisses my nose affectionately, forehead immediately going back to rest against mine. “With everything that I am.”
“What a coincidence,” Head tilting back to meet her eyes. I could get lost in them. “Because I love you with everything I am.”
“Such a romantic.” She smiles sweetly, genuinely, but there’s still a weight there. For a moment I had forgotten it. For a moment we were lost out here. Just us floating in the water, entangled as one. “You want to know something?”
“I human, Lauren Lewis want to spend the rest of my life with you, succubus, Bo Dennis.”
“What’s my line again?” Quiet laugh escaping through a smile, her eyes narrowing ever so slightly in that ‘you better be joking’ type of way she gets from time to time. “Something about being messy and complicated?”
“And then I ask, do you think that we can do this?”
“I’m supposed to say I do and then kiss you, but I can’t.”
“I can’t agree to thinking we can do this when I know we can. We have and we will.”
“Hey!” Dyson’s out of place voice pulls our attention back to the beach. Mark and Kenz walking beside him.
“We got a world to save ladies, plenty of time for the kinky stuff later.” Kenz waves us over.
“Looks like reality is calling us.” She smile sadly, legs gradually falling from my waist.
“Hm.” I groan in protest. Leaning down, placing a soft kiss to her chest just above each breast. And then another over her heart, smiling against her skin as I pull the dress back up the inches it had slipped. “Mine.”
“Until the end of time.” Her hand taking mine as we reluctantly make our way to the group.
“Just until the end of time huh? What about after?”
“Well I don’t know about after.”
“That’s a long way away and I might have plans by then.”
“Well I can tell you with certainty you do have plans,” I playfully smack her ass was we reach the beach, earning the cutest of scowls. “With me. All with me. Only me.”
“We’re going to talk about that later.”
“About our plans?” I nod, trying not to laugh. “I fully agree.”
“You know what about.” She’s trying not to laugh herself. Mark taking his jacket off and giving it to Lauren. Dyson’s already taken by Kenz.
The five of us slipping into a silence. It’s heavy and dripping with fear and uncertainty. A single question on each of our minds, ‘Would this be the one we lost’. But as much as the question plagues my mind, even now, I don’t think it is. I don’t think this is the end for us, any of us. And considering I know more or less what the future holds for me, I’ll sure as hell fight to make sure it isn’t.
The three of them make it some way ahead of us, Dyson hanging back by me. Every few steps he looks at me, wanting to ask something, but he doesn’t. Finally I go to ask him what it is, but the sound of Lauren’s laughter steals my attention. Mark’s got his arm around Lauren and Kenz and he must be saying something hilarious because the three of them are sort of falling together, sharing a laugh. After all, we did all we could for now. We’ll go back to the Dal and get drunk and eat like it’s our last night on earth because well, it really might be. We’ll share stories and jokes and pretend we’re all okay, because in these moments we are. And then tomorrow, we’ll go and save the world because that’s what we do.
Lauren glances back at me, and says something with this huge smile and I see Dyson laugh from the corner of my eye. I even feel myself smiling along with them all, but I hear nothing. I find myself lost in the moment, staring at her in all her perfection. A Kodak moment if ever. The way the drying water shimmers on her skin perfectly in the moonlight. The way her eyes glisten when she smiles enough for me to see even from her. The way her hair falls in her face as she tilts her head toward me.
I wish I could say I had been looking for her my whole life. I wish I could say I always knew she was what I was searching for. I wish I could say that I always knew there was another half of me out there waiting for me. Waiting to complete me. But I never believed, I never dreamed, I never knew anything could feel this right. Could feel as right as being in her embrace, in getting lost in her kiss, in looking into her eyes, in hearing her say my name. I never knew that this, what we have, what she is for me could exist.
How could I?
There’s so much I could tell her before tomorrow. There’s so much I want to tell her. So much I had ready to say when I gave her the ring and asked her to spend forever with me. She was right, there’s so much we haven’t gotten to do. So much we haven’t gotten to say.
“You ready for this?” Dyson says, tearing my eyes from Lauren. I go to quickly answer him, the trademark Bo answer, but I find myself hesitate. “Bo?”
“I don’t think I’ve been more ready for anything else in my life.” I smile gently at him as he gives me that curious look he gets. This is all just a hurdle to what comes after, with her. And we’ve come too far for this to stop us.
For that’s forced to be left unsaid, looking at her in this moment, this one perfect moment, I just want to tell her one thing. I just want for her to hear me tell her just once aloud what I’ve always known.
She was always the only one.