Almost Here

By: Regina Scorpio

Chapter I: The Quiet

It was quiet… too quiet. I slowly opened one of my eyes, glancing into bright sunshine causing me to quickly shut it once more. Groaning, I began to roll over until I felt something pull me closer and someone exhale near my ear. Turning slightly, I saw the peacefully slumbering Will Carrington, who was mouthing something inaudible. He did that a lot… and seeing as I was at his apartment more than mine, I was getting to know his crazy habits well.

For example, everything had it's place. If I even so much as knocked something askew on the coffee table, he would run up behind me and quickly fix it. You should see him when I practice in the music room… not pretty. He also hated when I would rambled on for minutes at a time… though I usually did simply to irritate him.

But, of course, there were things about him that irritated me. He was obsessed with my hair and absolutely hated when I pulled it up. So, whenever I tried, he would come up behind me and smoothly pull my hair tie out. Also, he refused to let me do anything for him. I couldn't clean, couldn't pay… I couldn't even cook for him! It was becoming slightly ridiculous.

Still, I ended up spending more and more time at his apartment as the summer months past. It was a nice escape; very quiet, lots of room, a nicely outfitted practice room, and a lovely roommate, who just happened to be my boyfriend. But the best part was the fact that there was absolutely nothing wedding related for miles.

The wedding had taken over my and Taylor's apartment. There were cloth swatches, lace, theme books, and phone numbers everywhere. The color white was prominently becoming part of our décor. David was becoming a fixture, his voice beginning to grate on my nerves. So, about two weeks into the planning, I called Will and said I was coming over. That was about a month and a half ago.

Of course, I still stopped by the apartment for clothes and get my mail, but I had kind of unofficially moved in with him. And I didn't have to pay rent… or for groceries… or for anything else actually.

But waking to a quiet apartment was still unnerving. I sighed softly, trying to not wake up Will, knowing that in a few minutes his alarm would be going off. I almost missed the loud racket Taylor would make at six in the morning… almost.

But what I really did miss was the time we used to spend together. With planning an entire wedding and spending most of her free time with David, it made things difficult to make time for us. I guess I didn't make things any easier by spending almost every waking moment with Will… and if I wasn't with him I was practicing fervently for my Anderson audition. It just seemed that life had decided to take in two different directions.

I jumped slightly as I heard the shrill alarm go off. I felt Will stir beside me, grumbling as he rolled over to turn off the alarm. Another interesting thing about William Carrington… he was not a morning person. He rolled back over, squeezing me slightly and planting a soft kiss just below my jaw bone.

"Luv," he sang into my ear. "Time to wake up."

I didn't feel like moving, so I simply shook my head and pulled my knees closer to my torso. He felt him laugh deep in his chest before leaning over to kiss my cheek. I smiled to myself as he finally got up and walked over to the bathroom adjacent to his bedroom.

I turned onto my back, my arm resting against the warm spot on the bed where Will just was. As comfortable as I was, I knew that just laying there wasn't going to get anything done. So, I heaved myself to a sitting position on the bed, pushing my tangled hair out of my face and rubbing my eyes. I yawned and popped my neck before standing fully, making my way down the hallway to the newly stock kitchen.

I had just dragged Will to the local market, tired of eating out all the time. I may not act like it, but I was from the south, and sometimes I needed a good home-cooked meal.

I stumbled into the brightly lit kitchen and living room area, desperately wishing that Will would buy a curtain to cover that huge window. Blinking a few times, I reached into a cabinet beside the stove and pulled out a small skillet, slamming it on the stove top.

Turning on the stove, I then shuffled over to the refrigerator and pulled out a carton of eggs. I cracked two open, dropping the yokes into the heated skillet. As I let them cook, I turned to the new coffee pot I had just bought and poured myself a cup. Stirring in a packet of sugar and some creamer, leaned against the counter, my elbows resting against the ceramic top.

I remembered vaguely jumping on top of these counters, rummaging through Will's personal things… trying to find out who he was. I shook my head at my foolish actions. All I had needed to do was ask.

I turned my head slightly, seeing the eggs needed turning. Placing my coffee cup on the counter next to me, I pulled open a drawer and fished out a wooden spoon beginning to stir the eggs.

Just as I began stirring, I heard Will walk down the hallway, his bare feet padding against the hardwood floor. "Good morning," I called, turning my head to seeing him dressed in his normal work attire: black slacks and a white collared shirt. He wasn't wearing the usual tie or jacket yet, but I knew he would grab them before leaving.

He was fiddling with one of his shirt cuffs as he rounded the corner. "Morning," he greeted brightly in return, coming behind me and wrapping his arms around my torso. I leaned against his chest, savoring his warmth and the clean smell that surrounded him. I knew I needed to take a shower, but I just wasn't up to it at the moment.

"You're up early," he commented lightly, leaning his head down to rest on my shoulder.

"I was hungry," I responded shrugging, continuing to stir the eggs.

"Hm," was his only response, tilting his head so he could kiss my jawbone.

Here we go again, I thought, sighing internally. Every morning… I moved my head away from him, trying to remove him from my shoulder, but he continued to follow placing soft kisses along my jawbone up to my ear.

I sighed softly, pretending to be effected, but my eyes slid over and watched his hand inch it's way over to my coffee cup. Turning slightly, I gripped the wooden spoon harder and reached over, smacking his hand away from the mug.

"Get your own coffee!" I scolded moving out of his arms and protectively grabbing the mug.

"Technically," he stated. "That is my coffee. I did pay for it." I glared, grabbing the skillet and dumping my food onto a plate. Spinning on my heel, I stomped in to the living room and plopped down onto the couch.

Placing my rescued mug of coffee on the table in front of me, I speared a large amount of scrambled eggs onto my fork and shoved it into my mouth.

"None for me?" he asked innocently, brown eyes wide. I just glared some more and roughly turned on the large plasma TV. I heard him chuckle quietly and walked over sitting next to me, a fork in hand.

He waved the fork around slightly in front of the plate. I rolled my eyes and leaned into his side, settling my plate between us. I felt one of his arms wrap around my shoulders as he dug into my eggs.

We sat like this for a while, simply watching the news and making small comments here and there. We actually did this a lot… just sitting on the couch together, each of us in our own little world. You would think we would grow apart, but it actually brought us closer. I guess it was because we didn't feel the need to fill every silence between us, or maybe we had finally gotten past the flirting stage, but either way I enjoyed the time we spent wasting away on his plush sofa.

Once we had finished the eggs on the plate, I placed it on the coffee table in front of us and picked my untouched cup of coffee, cradling it in my palms. I felt Will's hand playing with my hair lightly, twirling it around his fingers.

"So, more auditions today?" I asked lightly before taking a small sip of coffee.

"Unfortunately," he replied, an annoyed look crossing his feature. I snickered slightly to myself. "It wouldn't be so bad if they didn't force me to listen to the violins and violas."

"What's wrong with them?"

"Other than the fact that most of them are completely hopeless and screech through their pieces, I'm getting tired of listening to the same concertos over and over again," he explained. "You would think they would a little more creative with their audition selections."

"They're just trying to be impressive," I countered. "It doesn't help that there's a limited selection of 'audition appropriate' pieces."

"Still," he pouted.

"You just don't want to go," I said knowingly.

"You're right," he agreed. "I would much rather spend the day with you." I rolled my eyes as he leaned down and kissed me on my temple.

"Poor thing," I mocked, turning my head toward him and trapping his face between my palms. "You're so pitiful."

"Yes, I am," he murmured, making his brown eyes huge. He was attempting the puppy dog eyes, and I have to say it working quite well.

I sighed theatrically, rolling my eyes to the ceiling as if in thought. "Now how do you propose we remedy your pitiful state?"

"I have a few ideas," he responded before crossing the meager amount of space between us and kissing me softly. I smiled briefly, before wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling myself onto his lap. In turn, he positioned his hands on my back, slowly tracing my spine with one finger.

As happy as I was, I could feel a slight reservation. I was unsure who it was coming from, but seeing as Will was like a lark over there, I was beginning to think it was me. But reservations from what? I had no answer and worse yet, I had no clue on how to find it.

I sighed, feeling Will move slowly from my mouth, leaving a trail of kisses along my jawbone, stopping at my pulse point. We could've had spent all morning like this, but that dratted phone of his decided to kill the moment and ring.

I jumped slightly, tightening my hold around Will's neck. Once realizing it was just the phone, I blew a strand of hair out of my face and untangled myself from Will.

"Damn it," I heard him mutter reaching for the phone, which was resting on the coffee table in front of us. "Yes?" he answered shortly.

Deciding not to loiter around, I grabbed the empty plate and mug from in front of me and walked over to the sink to wash them. "What do you mean they won't sign the contract?" I heard Will ask harshly into the phone. "I don't care that they have a problem with it, we've used that contract for years and no one's complained before. And if they have, they were graciously shown the door."

I heard him pause again, carefully listening to the speaker on the other end. It was kind of amazing the transformation William took when business came up. He was always so mellow and calm with me, but then that phone would ring and he would change into a harsh and uncaring individual. He was never rude, but he made sure he got the point across… although the fact that he hated his job may have something to do with it.

"Look, just wait there and I'll take care of it when I get there," he sighed, running a hand through his hair in frustration. I saw him close his eyes briefly before tapping the end button. "I'm sorry," he said, coming over to where I was leaning against the counter.

"It's fine," I consoled. "You can't help the incompetents who seem to flock to your company."

He smiled down at me. "Thank you," he whispered. "For being so

understanding. I know it can be frustrating with all the phone calls and paperwork…"

"It's your job," I sighed, shrugging. "There's not much I can do to change it." His smile turned into one of chagrin. "Speaking of job, don't you have to leave soon?" I pointed to the clock hanging on the wall above his counter.

"Christ," he muttered turning and disappearing down the hall. I smiled sadly at his form as he walked away. I couldn't image being so dutiful. Everything I've done in my life thus far had been for my own benefit, and yet all he ever did is worry about other people.

I turned back to the dishes that were haphazardly thrown in the sink and starting cleaning them off and placing them in the dishwasher. The least I could do was try and keep his apartment as neat as I could…

"What are you doing?" Will rounded the corner, just as I was placing the skillet into the dishwasher and closing the door.

"Cleaning up," I answered, grabbing a towel to dry my hands before turning to face him.

A scowl crossed his face as he opened his mouth. "Kristen, you know you-"

"- Don't have to, I got it," I finished for him. "But I want to. It's the least I can do since I've pretty much invaded your apartment."

"You have not invaded it," he corrected, kissing me briefly. "You've made it my home."

I smiled up at him. "But, I still feel bad not helping. Oh, hold on…" I pulled him closer, attempting to fix his black tie. I scrunched up my nose in concentration.

"Having trouble?" he asked amusedly, his eyes flicking down to look at me.

"No," I replied, stepping away and admiring my handiwork. "Much better."

"Thank you, my dear," he said grandly, turning to shrug on his suit jacket and shove his phone into his pocket. He started moving toward the door and I followed, grabbing his briefcase.

He turned back to go and grab his briefcase, but I shoved it into his arm lightly. "Thank you, again. Oh, and don't forget about tonight," he reminded me.

"Yes, yes, I remember," I said airily, waving a hand around. "Are you going to come by my apartment, or should I meet you here?"

"I'll pick you up at yours," he said thoughtfully. "Besides, I would like to see the others, if only for a moment."

"Uh hm," I hummed, nodding up and down. "Now go! Or you're going to be late and how would that look?"

He sighed before leaning down and giving me one last kiss. "Don't forget… tonight at eight."

"I know, you crazy fool!" I laughed. "Now leave, shoo!" I pushed him out the door, still laughing as I closed it. I leaned against the closed door, glancing around the empty apartment.

You know, this would be the perfect time to practice, I thought. Or you could use this time to snoop around and figure out what he planning tonight…

Mentally deciding that snooping would be a more productive use of my time, I began rifling through nearby drawers. He had been reminding me all week about this date, making sure that I had no other plans, reiterating several times to make sure I dressed nicely and that I should be ready at eight o'clock sharp.

I chuckled to myself, finished searching the living room. I breezed past the kitchen, knowing he wouldn't hide anything there. I entered the music room, shuffling through the cabinets and looking inside the piano bench. I stood up straight, blowing my hair out of my face. Where else could it be…?

I exited the room, walking down the hallway and deciding to investigate Will's bedroom. I stopped in the doorway, scanning the room thoughtfully. Where would he hide it…? Probably not in the bedside table, that's too obvious. I continued my gaze around the room, stopping on the bookcase.

I walked closer, examining the books closely and running my hand along the spines. But, whenever I'm around books, my attention gets drawn away from the task at hand and I became in enraptured with the titles. He had everything from the classics, like Shakespeare and Austen, to more modern books, such as ones by Dan Brown.

But one stood out among the rest of them. It was a dark and faded green color, with no title written on it's spine. It looked to be very old and well worn. I stared at it curiously for a moment before grasping it's thick spine and pulling it off the shelf.

I coughed slightly, dust getting caught in my throat. Waving a hand around, I walked over to the bed and sank down. On the cover, there was an intricate coat-of-arms in blue and green, ivy draping over the side and the head of a griffin above the shield, it's large wings expanding it's length. On the bottom the motto "En scientia vertias, en arte honestas" embossed in silver.

Thoroughly curious, I opened the front cover, seeing a large etching of a tree covering the front pages. As I examined closer, I saw that there were names written with the branches. And at the bottom was Will's name next to his brother's.

I gasped, finally realizing that I was looking at Will's family tree. I traced it further, seeing all the names that preceded his. Simply glancing over the names made me realize how hard it must have been, especially if they were as suppressing as he said they were. It was hard enough trying to find yourself when you had no idea where your family's from… but having all this behind you? It was almost inconceivable to me.

I continued flipping the pages, but instead of it being filled with words, there was nothing but blank pages. I was slightly confused… why would Will own a book with nothing written in it? I starting scanning past them faster, but what I found about halfway through surprised me.

Cut into the middle of the second half of the book was a square hole and inside it was a small velvet box. Questioningly, I wrapped my fingers around the box and brought it closer to examine. I turned it over a few times… you know, it kind of looked like a jewelry box… Finally, the inner Pandora came out and I flipped the top open.

Inside was the most beautiful ring I had ever seen. It was silver or platinum (I couldn't tell which) with three large gemstones gracing the top. In the middle was a large diamond, accented by smaller sapphires on either side.

I stared in shock at the small piece of jewelry. I deftly grasping and pulled it out of the small box, bringing it up to the light. The dark sapphires glinted in the sunlight, while the diamond in the middle sparkled brightly, causing small rainbows to appear around me.

My breaths were coming in small gasps. I knew that Taylor and David had been joking about a possible engagement, but was Will really that serious? We had only been dating eight months!

I sank to the floor, pulling my hair with my free hand. Perhaps it was just an heirloom he kept, I thought, trying to ease my racing mind. Well, there was one way to find out…

I glanced at the ring briefly, before deliberately and carefully sliding the ring onto my left hand. It was slightly loose, but it was close enough. Staring straight ahead, I realized that's why he was so adamant about tonight… he was going ask me to marry him!

I deftly pulled off the offending ring and jammed it back into it's case. I then ran into the living room, looking for my cell phone. Where it is?! I thought frantically, shuffling through the papers lying haphazardly on the table.

Finally finding it, buried under a personal release form, I quickly looked through my contacts list, stopping on Taylor. Pressing the green call button, I quickly pressed the phone to my ear, waiting for her to pick up.

Please pick up! I thought, after the third ring. I need to talk to you!

"Hello?" I heard her finally answer.

"Oh, thank god," I sighed, sinking on to the couch. "I think I may have a problem."

"What is it? Did Will forget to tell you goodbye?" I heard her ask teasingly, a slight giggle emitting from the speaker. I growled internally. Here I was in distress and she was laughing?

"Ithinkwillisgoingtoaskmetomarryhim," I slurred out, all my words running together in my haste.

"What?" she asked curiously, attempting to understand my jumbled words.

I sighed and closed my eyes, calming myself enough to speak coherently. "Will is going to ask me to marry him… I think," I added, still trying to convince myself that the ring I found was not meant for me.

"Really!?" she exclaimed, excitement evident in her voice. "That's so sweet!"

"Yeah, yeah…" I groaned. She was missing the issue… I didn't want to get married.

"I didn't think Sir William had it in him," she declared. "Wait… how do you know?"

"Oh, um, about that," I trailed off, scratching my head sheepishly. "I was kind of looking through his stuff and I stumbled over the ring."

"You were what?!" she hissed at me.

"Well he was being all secretive about the date tonight!" I defended. "I was just curious… and was trying to make sure he didn't buy some crazy expensive present again."

"Well, it looks like he has bought you another expensive gift," she said, pausing for a moment. "What does it look like?"

"It doesn't matter! All that does matter is that I'm not ready to get married!"

"You're not getting married," she corrected.

"Pretty damn close, if you ask me!" I shouted into the phone. "I'm not even sure I love him!"

"Now I know you've lost your mind," she said skeptically.

"Oh really?" A sarcastic edge was creeping into my tone. "Have ever noticed he's the only who says 'I love you?'"

"Yes… what about it?"

"I don't want to even think about marriage until I'm sure about my feelings… and I haven't even met his family." There, that was a good reason.

"So, I've haven't met David's family yet," she countered. "And I know you love him… even if you don't think so. You wouldn't be so freaked if you didn't."

I sighed, running a hand through my hair. "Maybe," I finally answered. "So what am I going to do about it?"

"What do you mean?" she asked in a suspicious tone of voice.

"Well, I'm obviously not going to be able to answer him tonight…" I trailed off.

"Wait, he asking you tonight?"

"Yes, we have a date… but that's beside the point. How am I going to put this off?"

"Why don't you just tell him that you want to wait?" she suggested, and I could picture her shrugging.

"Oh yes, that would go over so well," I returned. "He gives this long romantic speech, gets on one knee, and I say 'ask me in a few months.' That would go over brilliantly."

"I don't know then, Kristen!" she said exasperatedly. "I'm sure you'll come up with something."

"Yeah, sure," I grumbled.

"But, try not to hurt him," Taylor said gently and quietly. "He's only trying to follow his heart."

"One, that is cheesy," I responded. "And two, I would never purposely hurt him. I guess I'll just have to get creative."

I heard her laugh hesitantly. "This isn't going to end well."

"Of course it is," I chirped brightly. "Just don't worry your pretty little head. Concentrate on the wedding, that'll keep you occupied."

"Ugh," she grunted. "I have to go now… David's getting suspicious."

"Okay, I'll see you later," I said. "Will's picking me up there." With that we hung up.

Glancing around the apartment, I decided that would have to act oblivious… But what I did from there was up to fate.