Fandoms: Little Women, Supernatural RPS, Arrested Development, Dirty Sexy Money, House M.D., Bones, NCIS, Heroes, Firefly, The Secret Garden, Criminal Minds, Ocean’s 11, Wire in the Blood, The Daily Show RPS, Law & Order: SVU, Anne of Green Gables, The Bible
Pairings: Laurie/Jo, Jared/Jensen, Michael/Lindsay, Nick/Karen, House/Wilson, Booth/Brennan, Tony/Ziva, Mal/River, Dickon/Mary, Hotch/Reid, Danny/Rusty/Tess, Tony/Carol, Jon/Stephen, Elliot/Olivia, Gilbert/Anne, Adam/Eve
Timeline/Spoilers: See here.
Word Count: 5, 800
Disclaimer: Well I obviously don’t own any of the aforementioned fandoms. They are the property of their various creators/licensors and no offence is intended. (Except maybe to Louisa May Alcott – c’mon already, Jo and Laurie are clearly meant to be together. Ahem.)
Summary: Seventeen loves.
Laurie kisses Jo more than a year after the Professor dies.
It is strange to think that they have known each other for so long – and known each other so intimately – and yet they have never properly kissed, and it is the newness of it that strikes Jo, the foreign wonder of it that makes her tilt her head and open her mouth beneath his.
It does not occur to Jo until days later that she kissed her sister’s husband. It does not feel wrong, which should be alarming but isn’t, and she does not think of Amy at all, not even when Laurie takes her to bed, not even when he tells her, with his fingers twined through her greying hair, that he has always loved her, only her.
She has never thought of Laurie has anything but hers, her ownership complete and absolute long before they lay together.
Jensen expected there would be a bigger fuss, but given the supernatural subject matter of their show, they’ve never exactly been on the good side of the Christian right anyway.
The only person who’s seriously upset is Kripke, because, as he points out, they’re supposed to playing brothers and now the viewers will be totally weirded out whenever Dean and Sam go near each other. They couldn’t possibly be more weirded out than Jared and Jensen were when they first started sleeping together, both paranoid that everybody would be able to tell, both bound by the relationships they were in, both tentative and shy and terrified.
But Jared’s engagement fell apart, and Jensen was single for ages, and they were buddies, so the tabloids never paid any attention to how much extracurricular time they were spending together. Hell, they’ve given seven hundred interviews to the effect that they’re best friends forever and even live together like The Odd Couple, y’know?
It was the hand-holding that gave it away, and in Jared’s defence, he didn’t do it deliberately, he just forgot they were in public. Jensen didn’t notice Jared had taken his hand either, until they’d walked three blocks down Granville Street.
They’d have got away with it too, if not for a fan with her cell phone camera (Jensen hates Nokia, officially now), and then there was the Internet and wildfire and ET doing a lead story and their agents going out of their minds with panic.
The best part was that when it happened, it turned out neither of them cared. It was worth every outraged letter and guttersnipe blog when Jared kissed Jensen on the red carpet at the CW Upfronts to cheers and catcalls and the click of a thousand cameras.
Over Jared’s shoulder Jensen could see Tom Welling getting misty-eyed about it.
Every time, Michael swears he won’t do it again, and he means it, the way he means it when he tells George Michael that family is the most important thing.
But then Lindsay sponsors a giraffe, or tries to sell Buster’s kidneys on the black market for shoe money again, and Michael has to sort out the ensuing mess, and somehow, that always leads to him and Lindsay having the kind of sex he’s always wished he could have but never has had until now.
Family is the most important thing, and Lindsay is still Michael’s family, even if it turns out she’s not his twin sister anymore.
Nick suspects Karen was not expecting to see him today because she is wearing jeans, a faded pinstripe shirt that probably belonged to one of her former husbands, and her hair is pulled back in a messy ponytail.
Her face is still fully made up.
She has to sign some trust documents – although Nick could probably forge the Darlings’ signatures by now – and she quickly reproduces her flamboyant scrawl on the pages Nick has marked.
When she offers him something to eat, Nick agrees, having skipped breakfast in order to bail Jeremy out of jail, a story he then spent the morning attempting to kill in the press, with marginal success.
They eat their chicken sandwiches at a breakfast nook that overlooks the smallest of the penthouse’s three gardens. One of the family’s army of gardeners is manicuring a hedge that already looks perfect to Nick, but then, what else is the man supposed to do with his time?
Karen asks about Jeremy, tells him about some interminable charity fundraiser she went to the night before, and in true Karen style, complains that her monthly allowance isn’t nearly enough despite the fact that it’s been exponentially increased at least three times since Nick gave up his life to this family.
When they are finished, Karen reaches across him to collect two apples from the Orrefors fruit bowl, and the sun lights her hair, and she does not look anything like the young girl he once loved, but exactly like the grown woman he could fall in love with.
Karen offers him one of the apples, and Nick almost rolls his eyes at the cliché. But he takes the fruit and kisses Karen back when she leans in suddenly and presses her mouth to his. She tastes of mayonnaise and Nick wonders whether the gardener can see them through the window.
They only stop kissing when they have to breathe, and Karen looks at him with something shining and real in her eyes.
She is always at her most tempting when she does not intend to be.
Wilson does not expect House to remember birthdays or anniversaries and in that way he is never surprised, because House never does.
House remembers his own birthday of course, and for some strange reason he remembers Cuddy’s, but that’s probably because he enjoys tormenting their boss about being another year older.
Otherwise, the days are all the same to House, and he only remembers when Wilson’s mother rings to wish him a happy birthday and to give him another of her lectures about dying alone.
House never says anything, never says happy birthday, or makes an offhand remark about it, or apologises for forgetting. He doesn’t buy Wilson a gift the next day or offer to pay for dinner the next time they go out, or even give him an extra blow-job, or any blow-job at all, actually, because Wilson gives but does not receive which says everything worth saying about their relationship, Wilson thinks.
Instead, Wilson usually buys himself something with House’s credit card and waits until the end of the month for House’s apoplectic reaction.
House always remembers the anniversary of Amber’s death, though. He leaves for the hospital early in the morning, avoids Wilson all day, then goes out and gets blind drunk every damn year. And every damn year, Wilson goes to pick him up when the inevitable phone call comes.
Because if House is with him, his bed is not empty.
They have sex on three different occasions before they have sex in a bed, which Brennan doesn’t realise until they are in Booth’s bed, and when she tells Booth so he grins in that knowing male way that infuriates her and entices her in equal measure.
On Friday, at their morning briefing, Tony stands next to Ziva and traces circles on the small of her back with his forefinger, thinking nobody can see him until Gibbs smacks him across the back of the head. Tony deserves it.
On Thursday, Tony apologies for the thing that happened on Wednesday. That night, Ziva ties him to the bed with a red scarf.
On Wednesday, she is wearing a red sweater with a neckline that looks normal to the untrained eye, but it actually has special powers because Tony can see the lacy ridge of Ziva’s red bra every time he’s within two feet of her. The red lace is like his Kryptonite, destroying his higher brain function entirely. He waits until they’re alone in the elevator before he tells her that she cannot wear that sweater to work ever again, only by sweater he means her red bra. Ziva laughs, low and languorous, and Tony pulls the emergency lever, pins her to the wall and kisses her until he can tell she had a turkey sub for lunch. Gibbs is waiting for them when the elevator doors open and he smacks Tony across the back of the head. Tony deserves it.
On Tuesday, Ziva returns to her usually scheduled wardrobe, which allows Tony to think straight about her, but it’s strange between them all day: half-looks and pointed remarks (their particular speciality) and a burgeoning, alarming tension that appears to be going down a one-way road that has no helpful maps or sign posts. That night, they’re three scenes into their movie before Ziva kisses him and Tony decides her crazy ninja aggression finally has some benefits. He’s naked before she is, but when he unbuttons her shirt to reveal a red lacy bra he has to stop for a moment to catch his breath. To breathe.
On Monday, Ziva has court in the morning so Tony gets to rule the bullpen, and to make it even better Gibbs reams out McGee for some geekspeak he’s been stupid enough to put in a field report, and if Gibbs is concentrating on McGee it means he can’t concentrate on Tony and the distinct lack of work he’s doing. Then Ziva arrives after lunch and she’s wearing a sharp, well-tailored black suit with pantyhose and a pair of sky-high black stilettos that do amazing things to her already amazing legs, and her hair is smooth and straight and she’s wearing make-up and a pair of earrings that catch the light and Tony can’t think straight about her and he can’t stop looking at her, so he’s mean to her all afternoon and she’s mean back, only she’s clearly confused about why they’re doing it because she’s barely said more than good afternoon to Tony. When the day is done though, when they are all leaving, when Ziva is waiting for the elevator in her goddamn stilettos, Gibbs leans across Tony’s desk and says quietly, Rule 99: Only an idiot lets the girl get away. Then he smacks Tony across the back of the head. Tony deserves it.
“Claire sighs when she comes,” Nathan says to Peter.
And just like that, Peter is suddenly the third side of a triangle from hell, and he hates them both, for one brief, joyous moment.
Mal hurts her the first time they’re together, and he knows he’s going to, but what makes it worse is that River knows he’s going to, but she lets him do it anyway.
He’d seen it coming for months: how River started inventing reasons to be with him, her eagerness to fly Serenity, her bemusing attempts to ensure they always sat beside each other for dinner, the way she turned her head at the sound of his voice, her eyes suddenly clear and bright.
For a genius, she was near to hopeless with anything real between people and Mal knows he’ll always have that over her – his experience, his people smarts. And whilst he’d managed to prolong it, somehow managed River’s fragile need for as long as possible, Mal was not a man to shirk his Fate and she is his.
When they’re done she cries.
Mal has gleaned enough about River’s particular strangeness to know that asking her why she’s crying would net him an answer that would only puzzle and probably alarm him, so he holds her instead, shifting her pliant, naked body until she is moulded to him and her tears dampen his shoulder.
It is better after that, River finding her feet – or her body – and she proves to be slippery and devilish and lovely in bed.
Many moons later, River tells him without prompting that she was crying with relief. When Mal asks her why relief – unable to quell his curiosity – she tells him true, with her eyes shining steady, that she thought he’d never hurt her.
Mal does not know what to say, but that’s about par for their course anyway.
It feels like their first summer together, or maybe their last.
Uncle Archie posits that even nature knows England has won the War: the summer is glorious, hot into September, the fields full of life. Dickon, Mary and Colin work in the garden every day, and each day Dickon seems a little more himself, the garden working its usual spells of healing and renewal. Their days are quiet and Colin and Mary are careful not to ask Dickon about his time in France.
Dickon is changed in obvious ways: his accent has softened, his shoulders are broader, his body thinner than it should be after years of rations and constant movement at the Front. Other changes are not so obvious: although Dickon was always a calm, taciturn boy, he has returned with a stillness and a silence he didn’t possess before.
But in many ways he is the same, and Mary thinks only she can see that.
If Dickon asked her then, on any one of those perfect days, if he declared himself, Mary would say yes without hesitation. But he doesn’t ask her, and Mary supposes that too much time has passed, that what they could have been to each other is lost now. She tells herself that their friendship will have to be enough.
One afternoon, late in August, she is startled by the broad back of a stranger when she enters Uncle Archie’s study.
“Pardon me,” she begins.
“Mary.” The stranger turns, and it is Dickon, kitted out in a new dark suit.
“I’m sorry.” Mary cannot explain why she is startled by Dickon’s appearance. “I didn’t realize…”
Uncle Archie – his hair thin and greying now – beckons to Mary. “Come, Mary. Dickon has just informed me that he intends to take up veterinary science at Balliol in October.”
Mary stares at her oldest, closest friend and decides he is a stranger to her. “I didn’t know that.”
“I applied for a bursary. I didn’t want to tell anybody, in case I didn’t get it.” Dickon isn’t looking directly at her but at something behind her left shoulder. “Me Mam is thrilled.”
“Of course.” Mary holds out her hand. “Congratulations.”
She can tell she has stung him by offering up so formal a gesture but he has no choice but to shake her hand. “Thank you.”
“When do you leave?”
“Next week. Colin’s offered to show me about the place.”
“He’ll have you drinking at The Eagle & Child in no time.”
Uncle Archie makes a face. “I’m not sure you should know of those things, Mary.”
Mary touches her Uncle’s shoulder as she walks past him to his desk. “It’s your fault, really – I was raised amongst boys. I only wanted this.” She collects the household ledger and retraces her steps.
She leaves the door ajar, as she found it, but does not return to the drawing room. She hears Uncle Archie dismiss Dickon moments later, and when Dickon emerges in the hall he is not surprised to see her.
“When were you going to tell me?” she asks in a harsh whisper.
Dickon manhandles her down the hall, away from her uncle’s study. “Yesterday. Last week. Two months ago, when I applied for the bursary. You would still be as angry as you are now.”
“I thought…” Mary clutches the ledger tightly. “You should have told me.”
He stops in the middle of the hall and stares at her. “Why?”
“Because....” She’s unsettled, unbalanced by the intensity of his gaze; he has never looked at her like that before. “Oh, it doesn’t matter.”
Dickon grips her elbow and prevents her from walking away. “No. It matters.”
“We’re friends.” Mary pulls at his hold. “Let go of me.”
“That’s not what you meant to say.”
“I think I know my own mind,” Mary fires back.
He tightens his hold on her elbow and propels her backwards until she is pinned to the wall. “I think for a clever girl, you’re a fool.”
“Tell the truth. Why should I have told you?”
“Dickon, this is…”
“We’re not friends, Mary.”
She doesn’t see the kiss coming until his mouth is on hers. The ledger falls to the ground, pages scattering across the floor, and Mary thinks for a moment that they are in plain sight at the top of the main staircase, but then he kisses her again and she doesn’t think of anything but Dickon.
“I’m not sorry,” he says fiercely, when he pulls away, his mouth bare millimetres from hers, every part of their bodies touching, his hands in her hair.
Mary presses her forehead to his jaw, smiles.
Hotch has a particular tone he uses, a tone that marks him out as the person in charge, as the man with answers, the alpha male. It’s a tone that commands, a tone that brooks no argument, no suggestion of rebellion. When he uses it people listen and everything Hotch says sounds important, even if he’s only ordering his coffee.
It never fails to give Reid an electric charge, a kind of thrill, to hear it.
But it’s not until he’s naked in Hotch’s bed, on his knees, his wrists tied to the bedposts, his back arched as Hotch thrusts into him that Reid finally understands why he gets that charge. When Hotch bites Reid’s ear and tells him to come in that tone of his, Reid comes with a shudder and a moan and realises that Hotch will always been in charge and that’s exactly the way Reid wants it.
Rusty finds Tess six blocks from the Bellagio, wandering along the Strip in that dress like a column of flame, her shoes painful just to look at and she’s smiling and crying at the same time. Rusty pauses for a moment, considers whether he could just slip away and let her walk to the end of the Strip, halfway out to the damn desert for all he cares, but only a fool hesitates over a Minding Tess con, and he’s never hesitated over it before.
“Rusty,” she says when he steps into her path, and then she cries properly, like she was waiting for him to hold her and she falls into him, locking her arms around his waist, every part of her shaking. She smells like Danny’s aftershave and Rusty holds tight to her.
“I don’t have anything,” Tess finally says.
It takes Rusty a moment to realise that her comment is purely practical and not anything to do with Danny having been arrested again.
“And I’m not going back there,” she adds.
Rusty nods. “Okay.”
It’s a short walk to his car and they drive for more than a day, until Nevada is two states away and Tess’ shoes are tossed into the backseat and her hair is loose and they’ve heard Hotel California four times on local radio.
Rusty chooses a hotel in Colorado because it looks like it rents by the hour and the only person who would come looking for him in a place like that is Danny. He doesn’t think about it, gets one room, only realises he’s made a mistake when Tess stands at the foot of the strangely small bed and says, “Can I borrow something?”
He hands over a pink shirt Danny calls his Pepto-Bismol look and hunts and gathers food from a vending machine while she showers. When he gets back, the gold dress is draped over the television and Tess is lying in bed, staring at the ceiling.
Rusty presents his offerings. “Ho Hos or Cheetos?”
“You really know how to treat a lady.”
“Well, they were all out of Snickers.”
“Are you coming to bed?”
“Later.” Rusty leans against the desk, which promptly makes an ominous cracking noise. “Or now.”
He undresses without thinking about anything, until he’s down to his undershirt and briefs, more clothes than he’d usually wear to bed, and Tess has those miles of bare legs under the covers and the whole thing is a recipe for disaster, no matter how much damn money he now has.
Rusty leaves the food on the desk, flicks the light off and feels his way to the bed. The sheets are scratchy and the quilt smells musty. Tess smells clean and faintly like the French perfume she wears that Danny and he once stole an entire shipment of, just for the hell of it, over a decade ago.
“Did you visit Danny in prison?” Tess asks after Rusty has punched his pillow twice.
“I sent him cookies.”
“I sent him divorce papers.”
He tucks his hands under his head and doesn’t say anything because he doesn’t blame Tess, but he doesn’t forgive her either.
“Why didn’t you visit him?”
Rusty is never sure how honest to be with Tess, never sure how much she knows, how much she has gleaned over the years. She’s a smart woman, smarter than Danny, but not smart enough to stay away, apparently.
“I don’t like prisons.”
“Nobody likes prison,” Tess shoots back. “You just didn’t want to see Danny in prison.”
“Neither did you.”
Rusty falls asleep not long after Tess turns her back to him and curls up in a ball, and he has jumbled dreams of the quiet, sweaty sex he and Danny had in Rusty’s bed, that first night in L.A. after Danny found him. When he wakes in the morning, it’s a kick in the gut to realise the body spooned against his back isn’t Danny but his lover’s former ex-wife.
“Good dream?” Tess asks.
“Nightmare,” Rusty replies, kicking off the sheets and stalking into the bathroom.
When he re-emerges, Tess is sitting on the edge of the bed, Rusty’s shirt fluttering at the top of her thighs, those legs taking up half the room. Rusty considers the fall of her hair across her jaw, her pale, luminous skin, her wide mouth, her long neck. They won’t sleep together today, or tomorrow, but weeks from now, somewhere on the East Coast, or maybe they’ll have looped back to L.A. by then, so in Rusty’s bed, both of them lonely, both of them longing for the third person in the room.
Now, Rusty scratches his chest and says, “I’m having the Ho Hos for breakfast.”
Three days later, in Illinois, Tess tucked in the front seat in tight jeans and his pink shirt, which she won’t give back, and she says suddenly, “Where’s Danny’s share of the money?”
“I’m serious. He owes me nearly four grand.”
“So he did give it to you for safekeeping.” Tess’ face is tight, unhappy. “Always you, Rusty.”
Rusty drives, curses Danny out for the hundredth time since they left Vegas, misses him for the hundredth time.
Tony is pacing his hallway, musing aloud to his framed Escher prints when his doorbell rings, so he treks down the hall to open his front door and turns to complete his circuit, muttering, “Why do you mutilate their breasts? You don’t rape them, so it’s not sexual.”
When he stumbles back down to the front door he notes that the person standing in his doorway has blonde hair and a knowing smile, but it takes another circuit before he realises that the person standing on his threshold is Carol, somehow returned from South Africa, and even then, Tony stares at her for at least a minute before he says, “You never said goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” Carol offers softly.
“Goodbye,” Tony replies.
Then he leans in to kiss her instead of saying hello.
They’re up, after the fight. Three middle-aged men full of adrenaline, laughing like teenagers, cracking each other up. Jon knows it’s because he’s with Stephen. And Conan, too: the three of them doing something goofy and hilarious. The crew egg them on and the fake fight gets bigger, sillier, until it reaches a zenith and they wrap.
It’s Conan who suggests they go out for a drink. It’s nearly six on a Friday night and they all have families to go home to (well not Conan, but Jon assumes he has places he could go and young women he could see) but they’re too energised to walk away, so Stephen and Jon say yes without hesitation.
Conan picks the bar, a short walk from the studio. Jon is pleased to see that it’s tucked away, private enough that while they’ll be recognised, it won’t be a huge deal. Jon leaves Stephen and Conan riffing about McCain in a corner booth and heads to the bar to buy the first round. When he gets back, they’re doing bad Clinton impersonations, Stephen out-impersonating Conan by a fraction, but that’s no great surprise. Stephen is never entirely himself, always happier when he’s playing somebody else.
They’re three rounds in when Jon decides to call Tracey. She knew they were filming the fight today, so when he tells her he won’t be home until late she’s unsurprised and tells him to have a good night.
When he returns to the booth, he puts up with Conan’s good-natured joshing, but he has eyes only for Stephen. Jon can’t always read the other man – it’s one of the elements that makes their relationship so challenging – but he wants Stephen to know that he’s called Tracey.
He needs Stephen to understand what that means.
It’s been years now, since they did this. The last time was before Stephen left for his own show, and if Jon had known it would be their last time he would have imprinted it on his memory. Instead, he vaguely remembers that Stephen had a cold but insisted on giving Jon a blow-job, only he had trouble breathing and snuffled the whole way through it. Jon laughed, but he came.
After that, they couldn’t find the time, they were busy, Stephen was setting up his own crew, his own staff, Maggie was born, and it just didn’t happen. They’d never had a set pattern anyway, and all in it only happened a handful of times, but it was never meaningless or casual.
Tonight, all the distance – both physical and emotional – that has grown between them seems have disappeared. Stephen is laughing out loud, holding eye contact with Jon, touching him more than usual, calling him Jonny, which he doesn’t often do. They’re good, they’re discreet, but Jon can feel it humming between them. He has to sweat through two more rounds before Stephen slides out of the booth and says he better call Evie and Jon can’t help but grin.
It’s at least another two rounds later, when Conan suddenly says, apropos of nothing, “It was funny today.”
Jon and Stephen must make matching faces of confusion, because Conan adds, “The way you two were.”
“People do tell us we’re funny,” Stephen offers.
“No, people tell us that I’m funny,” Jon cracks.
Conan half-smiles. “No, I mean when we started filming. I talked to you both about what we were going to do, but you didn’t talk to each other.”
“I can’t talk to Jon – there’s a restraining order in place.”
“You didn’t need to talk to each other,” Conan says, a little exasperated. “I just found it interesting. You know each other so well. I work alone now; I forget what comedy duos are like. I guess I’m fascinated by your…intimacy.”
It’s a strange word to use, and Jon knows Conan doesn’t mean it that way – it’s just the best word to describe what he’s talking about. But Jon still lets the silence fall, wondering what Stephen will say.
Stephen eventually shrugs and says, “We worked together a long time. I suppose it does come easy.”
Conan stands up and heads to the bar, insisting that it’s his round. Not long after that Conan says he should get going. Jon means it when he tells Conan it’s been a good day. Conan is both funny and extremely intelligent, and Jon genuinely likes the guy.
But he’s never been happier to see anybody gone.
Jon downs the last of his beer and say, “Well.”
Under the table, Stephen lets his thumb brush Jon’s wrist, just a little. Just enough.
What surprises Elliot most is that his children – who were babies a few moments ago but are suddenly now cool-eyed, appraising adults – are not surprised by his announcement.
Kathleen, always mouthy, always on the money, probably sums up their collective mood best when she says, “Oh thank God, Dad. It’s about time you two got it together.”
Maybe he’s more surprised by the way his suddenly independent quartet simply accepts Olivia, enfolding her into the drama and minutiae of their lives as if she had always been there. Perhaps because she has: Dickie and Lizzie do not remember his old partner, only Olivia.
He is startled that the girls like her as much as they do. She is not their mother and does not try to be, but they like being with her, they listen to her, they love her and she loves them. Kathleen talks to Olivia a lot about her illness, the two of them taking long runs on the weekends.
Eli, small and unsteady on his two-year-old feet, seems unperturbed that his time with his father now always includes Olivia. His second son and his second wife share a strange, grave, silent language that Elliot is not a part of, although he does not feel excluded.
It is different with Kathy, obviously. Worse because he went back to her when he should not have, and he carries that heavy guilt with the certain knowledge that he deserves it.
But even their enforced split at work, which is difficult to begin with, eventually settles. It takes time to learn new routines and cues, and they continue to look for each other and find strange faces instead. They talk about it at night, in bed, their bodies cooling and still yearning.
If only I had known, Elliot thinks, one morning, stepping out of their bedroom to see Olivia sniffing the milk suspiciously, her hair springy and mussed, her neck a long, slender column as she twists to smile at him over her shoulder, the world in her eyes. If only I had known it would be this simple.
In the face of the other complexities of his life, this infinite, perfect simplicity seems like an answered prayer, a faith rewarded.
He should have known Olivia would be his state of grace.
Gilbert is quiet, as tired as Anne after the revelry of the day.
The house is quiet too, the wedding guests scattered, the children gone to their own homes, the tables cleared, the garden empty, the day gone.
Anne sits at her bureau and lets her hair down, making a noise of relief. She begins to brush it, pulling at the long locks. She can see Gilbert in the bureau’s mirror, his cufflinks undone, his bow-tie loosened. Her husband is still a trim man, his back still straight, his limbs still lean, no matter that his hair is now completely grey.
Gilbert begins to unbutton his shirt, but when he sees his wife watching him he pauses and says, “Anne?”
She shakes her head. “I was daydreaming.”
Gilbert drapes his shirt across Anne’s ancient glory box. “The last of our girls gone, now.” He sighs. “They seem so young.”
“Perhaps because they are.”
Gilbert sits on the end of their bed to undo his laces and remove his shoes. “I do wonder how well Rilla’s household will function.”
“As well as ours first did, I should think. She’s as scatterbrained and distractible as I was.”
Her husband chuckles without malice. “Indeed, but it’s never been anything less than interesting.”
“Kenneth will do well by her. He’s as practical and as patient as you ever were with me,” Anne observes.
Gilbert steps out of his dress pants and folds them across his discarded shirt, no amount of exhaustion ever diminishing his neat habits.
“Can you help me with my dress?” Anne asks. He crosses the room and begins to undo the tiny pearl buttons that run along her spine.
“I wished today that all our children were not grown,” Anne says quietly. “I wished they were all with us, small and safe, and ours again.”
Gilbert’s hands still at her shoulders. “They will always be our children.” He bends to press his cheek to her forehead. “Always ours.”
“I know. But I wanted Walter there today, for Rilla. For all of them.”
Anne can’t help the catch in her voice. She knows it will always be this way: her grief for her son never fading. Anne knows too that Gilbert shares that pain equally, the two of them bound by their love for their children, and the loss of them.
“And I wanted him there for you,” Gil tells her. He presses his lips to her forehead.
Anne twines her fingers through his and looks at their reflection in the mirror, their faces aged and lined now, their hair grey, their eyes no longer young and innocent, their bodies marked by the years.
“We were young,” Anne tells him, turning her face into his neck. “All those years ago, when there seemed to be so many miles ahead of us, the road stretching away infinitely.”
Gil kisses her again. “You looked beautiful today.”
“I looked old.”
“No.” Gil turns her face to the mirror and wills her to see what he does. “Never old. Not my Anne-girl.”
He shakes his head. “Your eyes are as green as the day I met you. And you still have those detested freckles on your nose.”
She covers her nose reflexively. “Thank you, Gil.”
“I love every one of those freckles.”
“You’re the only one.” Anne kisses his palm. “The only one.”
Gilbert helps her stand and leads her to their bed, and Anne thinks that no matter the many miles they have travelled together they are not at the end of their journey yet.
Adam glances up from the river, looking for Eve, but she is not there.
He turns, searching the field until he sees her standing beneath a tree, gazing up into the dark branches. He calls her name, but she does not reply. She is reaching for a piece of golden fruit.
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
- the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
— e.e. cummings