A/N: Decided to split it up. I really don't know if such a thing as a three-shot exists but IT DOES NOW.

Let me know what you think at the end please: Were Rose and Ethan developed enough? Were their actions realistic? Do you like papayas? Do people actually read my author's notes? Is there anything you particularly liked or disliked about the story?


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xxx

February 14 – one year ago.

Ethan came home happier than Rose had seen him in months.

He'd been working especially hard and frequently as of late, so it was nice to see him come home early today. The kids of her class had been particularly rowdy today, with the sugar-induced craze from their Valentine's treats, and she was beat. But just seeing Ethan flash his mischievous little smile got her animated.

He got white roses – her favorite flowers, and a bag of Jolly Ranchers because she hated chocolate.

"We're going out!" he declared while picking a purple strapless dress out of their closet and tossing it at her, and after a moment's pause her cardigan too. "So I can keep my hands off you long enough to drive," he explained.

.

The highway wasn't too busy and the lack of lights let Rose see the dark, dark blue sky littered with stars clearly. They were going to some restaurant downtown.

"Why would you ruin the surprise like that?" Rose fake pouted from the passenger seat after Ethan told her their destination.

He winked, eyeing her through his peripheral vision. "Baby, I think you'll like the actual surprise much more than the food."

She scoffed. "Sure, sure, don't let me underestimate you."

And then they were spinning. Everything went black.

Rose didn't remember what happened after that, save for an odd variety of noises: a cringe-inducing screech, a deafening roar, Ethan's screaming, and then a nagging, incessant beeping that drove her insane.

But Ethan remembered, of course. For nothing happened to him, really, just a few bruises and bumps. A sprained clavicle and seventeen stitches to the left of his collarbone where the airbag sent shattered remains of the windshield slicing into his skin. It hurt like hellfire. Even today, simply thinking of it made him shudder.

He wanted to cry. Not from the pain though – excruciating as it was – but from the fact that he found he could move his head.

That's what John had always told him when he first taught Ethan how to drive, after all. First thing you do after a car accident: move your arms, legs, head. Make sure everything's still working. But Ethan never liked to listen to his older brother, so why would that change now?

So he turned his head, not really caring that it "worked", instead seeking out the girl in the passenger seat. Needing to see that pretty purple dress free of blood; to see those beautiful eyes, clear and focused; to hear her laugh witlessly and scold him for his abysmal driving skills.

But he didn't. And he wanted to cry. Because all he saw was blood and glass and something so mangled it couldn't possibly be alive.

.

He wasn't allowed to see her. Having been taken to the emergency room himself, they only let him know she was in the ICU. He refused to be knocked out for the stitches, knowing the longer it took to wake up the longer it'd be till he saw Rose.

Not that it mattered, anyway. He'd all but ran to the ICU after he was discharged, only to have a crabby nurse tell him Rose wasn't allowed visitors at the moment.

He sat in a waiting room for two hours, doing nothing but stare at a wall and gradually drive himself insane, until his mother and John showed up. He'd completely forgot about them, suddenly thankful they'd been called, and informed about the situation too, saving him from having to explain. He couldn't even talk.

The driver of the pickup that hit them apparently broke a rib and had his forehead stitched.

John called Rose's father. Bastard was too busy to make it out till the weekend. Again, he was fortunate for his family's presence, as he likely would've threatened to kill the man if he'd spoken to him himself.

It wasn't till four o'clock in the morning that the doctor came out and told them what the hell was going on. Still no visitors, though.

The man had given them a long, winded explanation only Lucille – a retired physical therapist – had understood. At John's request he dumbed it down for them.

"Right arm is broken, as are a few ribs. A, thankfully, mild concussion. Her right lung collapsed, but we were able to pump it in time. The damage from that is irreparable, you have to understand. She likely would've asphyxiated, regardless of pumping it back or not, so we had to perform an emergency lobectomy—"

"You can't operate without patient approval!" Ethan apparently got his voice back.

"Sir, understand, she was unconscious—"

"No shit! You didn't think she had any relatives to speak for her?"

"She died, sir, we couldn't really wait."

Ethan could feel the blood drain from his face. He staggered a few steps away from the stranger in front of him. His vision grew blurry and he blinked rapidly, surprised to find his eyes wet and burning. The last time he cried was so long ago, his father's funeral. But Rose had been there to comfort him then. Rose.

He croaked out her name, his voice so low nobody really heard him. A hand landed on his back but he didn't pay it any attention.

The doctor suddenly looked guilty. "Only for a few minutes, sir, we revived her. She's alive now."

Rage and relief filled him at once. All those fluctuating emotions were making his head spin.

"I didn't mean to cause you so much grief, I'm truly sorry. I just needed you to understand how severe her injuries were, why we went through with the surgery without seeking permission. It was either that, or…"

"We understand, Doctor." Lucille, pacifying as ever. She held Ethan's arm in a tight grip, he was sure she was the only reason he was still standing upright.

The doctor nodded, but didn't look convinced. "I hope you do. The risks of the operation certainly outweighed the outcomes of what would have occurred had we not acted immediately. This is the ICU, there's rarely time to discuss plans of action."

"Plans of action? She doesn't have fucking cancer! Why would she need a lobectomy? It was just an accident. I didn't mean – I wasn't paying attention, but – Why is this…It's not fair! Look at me, for God's sake! I'm fine! I'm fucking fine and she's…she's…." He hadn't realized he'd sagged completely till John caught him, gently putting him down in a chair while heeding the sling Ethan's arm was in.

The doctor eyed him warily. "Sir, you're clearly in shock, maybe it'd be best if you checked in again—"

"Shut up. Stop calling me bloody sir; I'm half your age. Just go – Just, just fix her, alright?"

.

Ethan didn't like to recall how she looked in that bed when he was finally allowed to see her. It gave him nightmares sometimes.

It was like being cleaned of all the blood only made it worse, magnified her injuries. Save for the ugly purplish-blue splotches marring her face – an oddity in itself as her brown skin bruised so rarely – she was a pathetic shade of gray. That tended to happen, he figured, when you lose that much blood. Nearly every part of her body was covered in gauze. All sorts of tubes stuck out from her arms, her chest, her face. God, her face. He looked at it for just a second. Just one second, and he already shut his eyes. But it still was too much; he hurled into the nearest trash can, then demanded it be taken away so she wouldn't wake up to the smell.

The steady beep...beep...beep of the heart monitor to the right of the bed harmonized with every pang to Ethan's gut. He felt so guilty, seeing her. He barely suffered, and she…Well, here she was.

It was that one second of seeing her face that led him to act the way he had for the next eleven months.

While she spent the next week and a half recovering in the hospital – however no longer in the depressing ICU, fortunately – Ethan spent it talking to Dr. Karhad.

He turned out to be a nice man, and Ethan later regretted giving him such a hard time. But the man understood, and he'd explained everything. How sensitive her lungs would be now, how the slightest of respiratory problems could be extremely detrimental to her health. Even a simple cough could be the cause of her death, or maybe running too far. She was so fragile now. Extremely so.

Ethan knew things would have to change. No more midnight trips to McDonalds just because she wanted fries. No more bear hugs. She'd have to quit her job, five-year-olds were too wild for her to handle. No more sex – God, how he felt like an arsehole just for thinking it. She liked to run in the mornings, that'd certainly be out of the picture. Everything would change.

When he finally took her home, he didn't kiss her. Couldn't. He was afraid.

.

xxx

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Rose was hoping tonight would be different. It was a new year, after all. She was hoping that maybe Ethan wouldn't wait till he thought she was asleep to hold her, or maybe they'd kiss a bit more, or… Well she didn't exactly know what she was thinking.

They hadn't talked. They hadn't acknowledged whatever problems they had – because surely there were problems. She knew it wasn't such a good idea to go on the way they were, as did Ethan; tiptoeing around each others' feelings, letting them buildup the way they were, but still. Still, for only tonight, she wanted to forget about those problems and just lose herself in him, in every sense of the phrase.

But Ethan had always been a romantic. And romantics were, inevitably, quite predictable. Not that Rose minded. She didn't fairly like surprises, and they weren't too good for her condition either. He'd been predictable, yes, but never boring. She'd become used to it though. She'd become so used to it in fact, that when they were riding up the elevator to their apartment and he uttered two words which – to any typical couple – would be life-changing, the only thing Rose could do was wonder why on Earth she hadn't expected this.

"Marry me."

She looked at him, trying her hardest to keep her face blank. Ethan's hands were shoved in the pockets of his dress pants, his suit jacket riding up. He was rocking lightly on the heels of his black loafers and his ears were red from the cold. He looked almost bored, not at all how she'd pictured him to look the numerous times she'd dreamed of this particular scenario.

The elevator dinged, stopped, and a boy of about seventeen got on. He smelled like pot and looked as if he'd dumped an entire bottle of hair-gel atop his head. That surely wasn't what she'd imagined either.

When they arrived at their floor, Rose calmly walked out and followed Ethan into their apartment. Charlie ran about their ankles, yipping noisily and demanding for attention. Ethan scooped him up and turned around to face Rose as she slipped off her heels.

"Rose."

"Yes?" she murmured, humming faintly in pleasure as her sore feet sunk into the cushy carpet.

"I asked you to marry me."

"It wasn't really a question Eth."

He glared at Charlie. "What's that supposed to mean? That I didn't add a 'will you' at the beginning?"

"No, that's not—"

"Damnit, this is where you're supposed to answer me. Will you, or not?"

"Do you realize how silly you sound right now? Chill, why are you making it such a big deal?"

"A big deal, Rose? I'm not making it a big deal. It is a big deal."

She sat on the couch. An argument was coming on, and arguments tired her.

"Ethan, please calm down. I realize you're not making it a big deal; that much is evident." She sounded bitter, she realized ashamedly.

So she'd never been the type of girl to expect someone to go all out, but surely Ethan was better than a half-hearted proposal in a dingy elevator. She knew he was.

Meeting someone when you were sixteen and awkward and pimply was normal. Inviting said someone out for coffee three years later when you were less pimply and awkward was also normal. Asking that same someone to marry you in an elevator was not at all normal.

"All I meant was," she hastily explained, "That my answer should be very obvious, Ethan. I love you. I was just a bit…surprised, is all."

"Of course," Ethan spat out, the sarcasm in his voice so cutting Rose flinched. "What did you expect? Candles littering the room, a skywriter, or, or possibly a row of chocolates spelling out 'I love you'?"

She inhaled sharply, ignoring the slight stabbing feeling in her chest, and counted to five before she spoke next. "I don't like chocolate."

"Fuck's sake, Rose!" He swiveled around, leaning his forehead against the wall in a universally recognized position of fatigue. "I need a bloody smoke."

There it was again, that stabbing feeling. A bit more painful this time.

Perhaps he hadn't realized what he'd said, Rose thought. Perhaps he was just extremely stressed. Perhaps…

"Go. Have one. I'm not stopping you." She said it coldly, masking her hurt. For it did hurt, a lot. So much so she found it was hard to breathe.

"Rose." His voice was low, hoarse. "Rose, I didn't mean that. I'm sorry."

"No you're not. Why should you be? I frustrate you so much, don't I?" When he opened his mouth to reply she cut him off, she couldn't help it. It was like every word she'd been holding back for the past year was suddenly dancing at the tip of her tongue, refusing to be locked in. "Don't! Don't even. I'm always frustrating you! Like a child who never shuts up or sits down. And you can't even smoke because of me, isn't it? Because of my stupid, pathetic lungs. I'm nothing but a burden and you treat me no differently!"

Charlie started whining as Rose's voice grew louder and louder. But she didn't care.

Completely ignoring her dangerously racing pulse and heaving chest, she barreled on. "So go! Go have a smoke! Let it kill me. Let it. I don't care, Ethan! And you definitely shouldn't either. Think how much better you'll be without me. You can work as much as you want, you could go out whenever you want, find a girlfriend who you're not afraid to sleep with!"

"Shut up." It bothered Rose immensely how Ethan never had to yell. He never raised his voice and yet his words still held the same effect as if he'd screamed from the top of his lungs. It was always more of a hiss with him, harshly whispered words in a biting tone. "Just shut the fuck up."

"I don't want to! I'm tired of you ordering me around. I'm not a child, for chrissake. I'm your girlfriend. Oh wait, what is it now, fiancée? Yes, your fiancée. Are you really sure about that Ethan? Think of it, sure it's not so fun babysitting me now, and some rings and a marriage license won't change much, but you'll be tied to me then. Officially. Officially my babysitter. Is that what you want? Nothing's going to change! It'll just appease your mother, won't it? Did she ask you to do this? Is that why?"

"Rose, just calm down, okay? Don't overexert yourself. Take a deep breath, calm down. I get it, you're angry, you hate me, you—"

"I don't hate you, Ethan." Her throat hurt, so badly she had to hold back a wince. She assumed it was from all the yelling. Lowering her voice to a mere whisper, "I could never hate you. And that's what I hate. I hate this, the way you…the way you look at me. You say you love me, and I hate how you do so. I hate it."

"And do you know why? Have you never wondered why, or are you so daft?"

"Don't go turning this conversation around in your favor!"

"No, think about it, Rose." Even with the very prominent accent she'd always thought was heart-wrenchingly adorable, his voice still managed to sound brutal. "How would you feel, if our roles were reversed, hm? How would you treat me if every time you looked at me all you saw was my body all broken and bloody and covered in glass, hm? Because that's what I see every fucking time I look at you."

"Must be a beautiful sight." She smiled sardonically and leaned back on the couch, suddenly feeling dizzy. "No wonder you want to marry me."

"Stop it, okay!" It seemed he was finally beginning to lose his cool. "Just stop it with this petulant little act of yours. You do not get to bring something like this up and then just…just joke your way out of it."

"And why not? That's all I'm really here for, isn't it? A bit of amusement. A little doll for show, to accompany you to work parties and Christmas dinners? You certainly don't treat me like a girlfriend anymore, much less a fiancée."

Ethan glared down at her from the same spot he'd been standing in since they returned home, still completely dressed. His eyes were blazing with so much rage Rose wasn't sure whether to feel accomplished or terrified. He took a step towards her, and she willed her body to keep from retreating.

His mouth opened, clearly about to speak, but then suddenly he snatched his keys – house keys, as they rode the metro or cabs ever since the accident – and turned for the door.

She waited one whopping minute, trying to fight the urge to go after him and eventually losing. Her curiosity got the best of her. She didn't care much where he was going, to a bar probably, but she wanted to know what he'd been about to say, looking as angry as he did.

Forgoing shoes and her coat but at least remembering to shut the door behind her for poor Charlie's sake, Rose raced down the hallway, disappointed to see the elevator in use, and headed for the stairwell.

Only one flight this time, but her hastened pace exhausted her to some extent. She didn't mind it though. She glanced around the lobby, looking for Ethan, only to catch his backside as he left the building. Ignoring the desk clerk staring inquisitively at her (it wasn't every night, holiday or not, you saw a woman dressed in nothing but a stylish dress and pearl necklace running barefoot through the lobby at one AM) she ran after Ethan.

He was a good thirty feet away from her down the sidewalk but stopped when she screamed his name. The streets were empty, fortunately, but most of the buildings along them were still open, their lights on.

"Ethan Carr get your stupid white ass back here!" she screeched at the top of her lungs, which really wasn't all that loudly.

"What the hell are you doing?" Ethan yelled, seemingly forgetting all about his "inside voice" scruples. He walked briskly towards her, almost jogging, and none too gently seized her shoulders.

Her latest bout of shouting had used up the little reserve of air she had after running so much. She forgot what she was going to say, apparently, and could only stare back at him, wondering why he looked slightly fuzzy.

"Where the hell is your coat? Or your shoes? It's bloody thirty degrees!"

"We weren't…" She trailed off, blinking as a bit of blackness settled on the edges of her vision. "Weren't done talking."

"Rose… Rose, breathe. Calm down and breathe."

"What are you…going on…about, just—"

It was funny, Ethan sounded both worried and calm at the same time. How did he manage to pull that off? She wondered about it for a while, leading to questioning why exactly he was worried, all the while paying no attention to the fact that he had taken off his own coat and was trying to wrestle it over her body.

"You're so stupid. What the hell have you done to yourself, you complete divvy. Just shut up and breathe." He crushed her to his chest, before abruptly pushing her away as if he'd been burned. "Rose. Rose, look at me, hey."

"Shut up!" She inhaled harshly. "I hate you, Ethan! I hate you so much and you—"

"Alright, alright, that's fine. You can hate me all you want but just calm down – Fuck, Rose. Calm down, breathe, do you hear me?"

Everything was so dizzy, Ethan's face was a big pale glop, and her chest hurt incredibly. She hadn't realized she'd said anything till Ethan responded, his voice more panicked than she'd ever heard but still somehow it reassured her.

"Shh, shh, baby. I know it hurts, I know. Just hold on, okay. Try to breathe." And then he was beeping – no, no it wasn't him, it was his cell phone. And then he was talking again, not to her though, he was asking for help.

"Whose that…whose on the phone?"

"Shh, Rose. Sorry, yes … The corner of Willoughby and June, right in front of the Ivanhoe Apartments."

She frowned, he wasn't even talking to her. How rude.

"Ethan," she mumbled, only to find her voice could barely be heard it was so low.

He merely stroked her hair, continuing to talk. So she listened, let his deep, distressed voice lull her to sleep, barely comprehending his last few words.

"Yes, yes, but … No, she – she's blacking out! Just fucking hurry! … Okay, okay, just – Hurry, please!"

And then she was gone, having let the sound of his voice accompany the edging blackness of her vision into sending her to the brink of oblivion.

.

xxx

.

It smelled when she woke up. Like hospital soap and urine. What an odd mixture, she thought, and then, oh. Oh no.

The sheets around her hips were damp, as was whatever article of clothing she was wearing. Looking down, she realized it was a white hospital gown. She was lying in a white hospital bed in a white hospital room with a white IV hooked up to her arm and a white oxygen tank connected to her nose.

Everything was white – save for that embarrassing patch of yellow beneath her thighs. Adjusting the plastic nubs in her nose, she sat up, ignoring the dull throb in her chest and reached for the familiar remote control by the bedside. A click of a button and seven seconds later a nurse had rushed into the room.

"Everything alright?" he asked, readjusting the IV tube that didn't really need adjusting.

Perhaps if it were a fellow female this wouldn't have been so uncomfortable. Breathing, she said, "I think, well, I peed the bed."

He nodded. "As long as you get up very slowly you're free to use the bathroom. I'll send someone in to take care of the sheets."

"Thank you."

By the time she'd cleaned up and seated herself on the now unsoiled bed, Ethan had yet to arrive. But instead of wondering why, she realized she didn't have a right to expect him to come now – but that didn't mean he wouldn't. Sure, she'd yelled at him and all that, but if Ethan was anything he was caring. To a fault.

Sure enough, it wasn't a minute later till the door opened. But it wasn't Ethan, rather another familiar face.

"Hello Rose." He smiled genuinely, her name sounding funny on his accented tongue. "I'd say it's good to see you but…"

She beamed, despite her condition. "Same to you, Dr. Karhad."

He laughed, a rich sound, and his thick beard bobbed considerably.

Dr. Karhad went about a usual routine: checking her vitals, asking her to cough, poking and prodding. When it seemed he was all done, he sat by the edge of her bed and folded his hands in his lap.

"So, care to tell me your side of the story now that you're awake?"

"My side?"

"Yes, I received Ethan's already, but I think he may be a bit biased."

Oh. "Yes, well, um, whatever he said must've been the truth. It was a bit of stupidity on my part, I got pretty…excited. And I did a lot of running. I should've been paying more attention—"

She was cut off by Dr. Karhad's snort. "Your fiancée said the same exact words. It's clear how close you two really are."

She tried not to show her surprise at his words. Fiancée? She'd never really answered Ethan's question, as far as she knew.

"Look, I won't ask for all the details, but you should be more careful. You're free to live a completely normal life, just one that's a bit…toned down. Tell me, how's the teaching going?"

"I – Doctor, I quit last year. Ethan said that…" She trailed off, thinking.

"I don't see why you have to do that. Maybe with such young children it was necessary, but certainly you could teach high school? I assume older students require less exertion on your part."

She was nearly overcome with joy. "Have you told Ethan all of this?"

"We discussed it, yes."

"When, if you don't mind…?"

"Just now. You've been asleep for a few hours. Happy New Year, by the way."

Dr. Karhad went on to remind her of all the things she'd never really forgotten and Rose thought about what he'd said. Surely if he'd explained all this to Ethan than he'd loosen up a bit.

"If you feel fine, I'm sure we can discharge you now."

"Of course! Just a bit sore, and tired. But I'm more than ready to get out of here." Rose hated hospitals, they reminded her all too clearly of the accident.

"Aha, alright then. I'll send Ethan in, poor boy's been pulling his hair out waiting."

Rose smiled sympathetically, reigning in her own anxiety as Dr. Karhad headed for the door. He turned suddenly, a slight curve to his lips.

"You know Rose, it's not…agreeable in my culture for an unmarried couple to live together, but you and Ethan… The two of you are so beyond your years it's remarkable. Makes me wish my daughter will find a man who cares for her the same way. Congratulations on your engagement."

She could only nod, a bit taken aback. His words were comforting yes, but the thing was, Rose didn't want someone – Ethan to care for her. No, she wanted more than that.

.

When she finally saw him he didn't rush over and take her into his arms, he didn't weep and beg for forgiveness and promise eternal love. He took measured, composed steps towards her, stopping a foot away from her bedside with his hands behind his back.

"How are you?"

"Fine, thanks."

And then she grimaced. For this was the kind of conversation she'd have with her father, the clerk at the grocery, the teenage delivery boy from the Thai place below their apartment; not Ethan.

"Are you sure?" he questioned, raising an eyebrow at her expression.

Unable to help a short, nervous giggle, she nodded. "Yes, fine. Though I still don't exactly know what happened…"

"It wasn't very serious, they said. You just lost your breath, passed out."

"Oh. Right." She bit her lip, suddenly feeling nervous. "Are you mad?"

She expected him to say "No, of course not. You know I love you." And he did. But he also closed the distance between them, cupping her face in his warm hands, leaving them there.

"Rose, about last night, everything you said…"

"I'm sorry. I don't know what got into me."

"No, shh." Without letting go of her face, he moved his thumb across her mouth, effectively silencing her. "It was all true, to be honest. But so was what I said."

His gaze was so concentrated she had to look away; as such it came as a surprise when he touched his forehead to hers. His breath smelled of toothpaste and coffee against her face when he spoke – much better than she assumed hers did at the moment. It was a good thing he said next,

"Let me do the talking for now."

She nodded.

"I know I've been a complete arsehole, and my behavior less than favorable the past months. But you have to understand, I just – I, God, Rose. It's pathetic sounding so dramatic, but really, I've been so scared for you. I don't want to see you hurt like that, like you were, ever again. It's done me worse than you, I think."

"Dr. Karhad said I'm fine, though. I understand Ethan, but now it's your turn to. I'm fine, I can live normally, without you tiptoeing around me like you're avoiding broken glass, as long as I don't do anything that's too…much."

"Anything can be too much though, don't you get that? It's like you don't even care for your own wellbeing!"

"Of course I do," she said, unconsciously kneading Ethan's shoulders in an attempt to sooth him. "You simply worry too much. You're caring to a fault, Eth, don't you realize that? I am fine, just a little fragile."

"'A little'." He scoffed, but she could see he had calmed down considerably.

When she looked away for the second time she noticed something lying to the side of her lap. Ethan must've dropped it when they'd started talking. She eyed the intricate object curiously.

"What are these, Eth?"

He smiled. Really smiled. "Paper flowers."

And it seemed they were. They weren't like the pipe-cleaner-tissue-paper intricacies her old students used to craft, but were still just as endearing. A bit like origami, they were folded and creased and nipped into a bouquet of perfect, cream-white petals.

"I didn't want to provoke your allergies," he explained, unnecessarily.

Something was fluttering about in her stomach she hadn't felt in a very long time. She gave his hand a light squeeze and didn't immediately let it go.

"Are you ready to leave?" His voice was rough.

"Mhm, just have to change."

He nodded, reaching for the ties on her back. It seemed both of them were holding their breaths as Ethan gently helped her out of the hospital gown, and reached for the same dress she'd worn last night – it'd been hanging in the cupboard across the bathroom.

He stilled suddenly, black dress still in hand, staring at her with darkened navy eyes. Rose couldn't help but squirm, being so exposed in front of him like this after such a while.

"What?" she mumbled, looking down at the now extremely interesting linoleum tiles.

He shook his head; there was an unusually hesitant look on his face, only to be replaced with a determined one. His hands were suddenly gripping her hips, tight. Leaning her into him until their chests met, he kissed her hard on the mouth.

The quickness with which he pulled away and slid the dress over her head might have offended Rose, if it weren't for the fact he hadn't frowned. Or snapped. Or cursed under his breath. He stayed smiling.

It all seemed too good to be true.

"One more thing, Rose."

"Yeah?" She was surprised to see him looking absolutely crestfallen.

When he saw her looking his expression cleared once again. "About asking you to… Well, just forget about it, alright? I—"

"But I want to, Ethan."

He relaxed visibly. "Sure, but still. I want to try it again. I have to, so just forget yesterday for me." When it appeared she was going to argue, he spoke again, "Do you remember I was taking you out to dinner, for Valentine's Day? Last year?"

She laughed a bit sarcastically. "How could I forget? It was the stupidest idea you ever had."

He looked pained and she immediately regretted it, joke or not. "Don't remind me. Anyways. Did you ever wonder why I was so excited?"

He took her left hand and threw her a pointed glance. She paled. "No… No, Eth, you weren't…"

"I was." He shook his head with an impossibly sad smile. "I finally made enough money to buy a ring and everything. I didn't actually buy it yet, but I was going to tell you that day. Not at the restaurant either – I'm much too classy for that." He chuckled. "I was going to take you ice skating afterwards."

She all but tackled him, burying her face in the comfy spot between his neck and shoulder, grasping his shirt enough to leave wrinkles. She hadn't realized she'd started crying until she felt her face become wet. Horribly embarrassed, she wiped them away on the back of her hand and flashed him a watery smile. Ethan – bless him – pretended not to notice, only hugged her back just as tight.

"Come on," he said after a while, his voice slightly hoarse. "Let's go."

They said goodbye to Dr. Karhad and all the nurses and soon enough were on the metro. Rose realized rather belatedly that they were headed in the opposite direction of their apartment.

"Where are we going?"

Ethan grinned. "I don't really know, actually. The movies maybe, and how about milkshakes afterwards?"

"Are you sure?"

He leaned over the armrest and kissed her cheek. "If you want to."

She smiled softly, reaching over the armrest to grab his hand. His fingers somehow managed to intertwine flawlessly with hers of their own accord. "I do."

xxx

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fin


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