Helen's stomach was churning as she stared up at Pat from her place on the kitchen floor, her heart beating a rapid pace in her chest as she absorbed his expression.

He didn't look offended or like he was about to reject her, but—

His features shifted abruptly, until he looked almost annoyed, and when he blew out a heavy sigh Helen felt her heart plummet to her feet.

Oh, no.

Oh, God.

"Damn it, Helena," Pat grumbled, and she swallowed thickly.

How much are tickets to Paris? I bet if I'm gone for twelve years, this will have all blown over by the time I come back. Right? That's seems perfectly reasonable.

But before she could stand up to hide her humiliation behind her laptop screen while she did some digging on Expedia, Pat continued.

"I should've known," a smile lit up his face, but Helen was too nervous to relax. "You're always ahead of me, aren't you?"

He dropped to mimic her position, and her eyes widened when she spotted the box he held up for her. "Did you have a speech prepared to ask me?" Was his question, and it was so unexpected that she didn't answer right away.

After a minute, she shook her head rather sheepishly. "No. This whole thing was pretty last minute, if I'm honest." Clearing her throat, she straightened as best she could in her position. "Still. I do love you, Pat. You mean so much to me, truly, and I know it's not traditional, but I'd like to have my love for you symbolized with this. And, uh, you know, maybe a better, more golden band later on, after I convince you to wait at the end of the aisle for me."

Pat smiled sweetly, reaching up a single hand to brush his fingers soothingly against her cheek. "No convincing needed, sweetheart. I don't want to seem like a copycat here, but I'd like to say some things of my own, if that's alright with you?"

She nodded stiltedly, so he kept going. "It's difficult for me to talk to you about, well, you." he began carefully, clearly struggling to find the right words. "I just . . . the way I feel for you can't really be expressed with 'I love you.' I didn't think I'd ever find anything I enjoyed the same way as being in the navy, you know? And, God, I was pissed after the accident, I know I told you that." He cleared his throat, his eyes darting away from her, and she was startled to see tears shining in those blue orbs she adored so much. "I haven't told you how blessed I am to have been in that accident, though. I'm not sure if I would have met you if not for that disaster, and you're my joy now. The thought of not having you with me . . ." he trailed off, moving the hand on her skin up to his lips, as though biting back a sob, and her heart melted at the sight. "Jesus, it scares me, sweetheart. When I found you so injured, I'd never been so terrified in my life, and I know for a fact that I want you with me for the rest of our days, if you'll let me be there with you."

When he was done, his eyes found hers once more, and she released a wet laugh. "Damn you, Pat," she stated weakly, wiping at her face as best she could with her free hand. "When I told you to say a few things, you weren't supposed to make my two sentences look so bad."

He started laughing too, even as he reached out for her, and then they were huddled together on the floor, the ring boxes between them as they tried to wipe each other's face free of tears.

"We're a mess," Pat said several minutes later, once they'd calmed. He shifted her in his lap, until her back was against his chest, and pressed a kiss atop her hair.

Helen smiled as she grabbed his hand, pulling the ring from the box and slipping it onto his finger. "A mess," she agreed as she admired the way the silver band contrasted his tan skin. "But at least we're a 'we.'"

Pat hummed deep in his throat, even as he copied her actions and slid a simple but beautiful diamond ring onto her finger. "A 'we,'" he mused, kissing her head again. "A team."

"A family."

"Right. A family. You, me, Ginger, and Gill."

"And Gill's tummy."

She earned a nip on her ear for her teasing, and she squealed at the sensation, trying in vain to wiggle out of his arms. "Hey!"

"What? You insulted my cat." She peeked up to find him faking a scowl, and she smiled at how precious he looked.

"I'm sorry," she said. "What can I do to make it up to you?"

"Apologize to Gill, obviously."

She nodded thoughtfully. "Fair enough. Let me just get up and find him—" No sooner had she attempted to stand was he pulling her back into his lap.

"I changed my mind," he stated as he moved her until she was facing him, her legs straddling his hips, the now-empty ring boxes strewn off somewhere beside them. "Just stay here with me, sweetheart. Gill will be fine."

Her grin was only half-formed when he bent to kiss her in that deep, slow, loving way that made her toes curl with excitement. She practically molded herself to him, sighing with contentment even as he broke the connection, stroking her hair gently when she tucked her head into the crook of his neck.

"It doesn't have to be like Addy and Isaiah's wedding, right?" she asked quietly, raising her hand behind his shoulder to admire the stunning gem on her ring. "I don't want a big wedding. Not really."

"It can be whatever you want," Pat murmured. "Small is fine with me. At church?"

"Yeah. Your family has to be there. And Addy, Isaiah, Ivan, Tonya, Buckley, and we should invite Thomas too."

"That sounds nice, sweetheart. Do you want cake?"

Her nose wrinkled at the thought, and she knew he'd felt it when his chest rumbled with a chuckle. "Only if it's an ice cream cake."

"I like ice cream."

"Good. So ice cream cake, then."

"Absolutely."

"Can we get some flowers too? Just a few. Cecily always wanted irises at her wedding, you know."

"Of course we can, love. That's a nice way to honor her. Anything else you want there?"

"Just you."

"I can do that."

There was silence for a while, and Helen wasn't even aware of how much time had passed before he spoked once more, his words barely audible.

"I asked Cecily for her blessing."

She almost started crying again. "You asked her?"

His ministrations continued. "Of course I did, sweetheart. She said yes—or, I'd like to think so, anyway."

"Thank you, Patterson."

"Anything for you, love."

"Do you . . ." she sniffled. "Do you think maybe one day . . . not now, but maybe . . ."

"You'd like to visit her?"

She nodded weakly, and his grip tightened ever so slightly, no doubt as he worried about how she would handle such an outing. "Of course we can, Helena. Whenever you want. There's no rush, though; Cecily seems very patient."

"That's my Cece," she murmured, half-asleep thanks to the feel of his touch drifting through her curls. "So patient. One day?"

"That's right, sweet. One day. Whenever you're ready."

Perhaps she was overestimating herself, but she felt that, with Patterson alongside her, she would be ready much sooner than first expected.


Wow.

A total of 63 chapters and nearly a year later, and we're finally saying goodbye to #Helerson. Can you hear my sobbing? Great.

I'd like to get sappy for a moment, if you'd let me:

As with all my long, seemingly never-ending tales, it's been an absolute joy to develop these characters and share them with you. I write mainly because it's flipping (whoa - language!) fun, but it's so wonderful to have the ability to share my stories with y'all. :) And, with that in mind, I'd like to extend my utmost gratitude to you for reading this 63 chapter monster in all its glory. Whether you reviewed, favorited, followed, or simply just read it, I truly appreciate your commitment to me and my work.

Okay, mushy time done! Ron Swanson would be ashamed of how sappy I'm feeling right now, le sigh. ;)

Rae-07: Awww, I'm with you; posting this chapter makes me so sad. :'( What to do without #Helerson? Only time will tell . . . (write another story, probably. Definitely.) Thanks for always sticking with me! 3

Now, not to be a shameless plugger, but cue shameless plug!

This story is complete, but I am currently posting another tale, The Day(s) I Died, on my website (ardewler (d o t) com). It's free, and no account is required! In addition, if you'd like updates or to hear stupid jokes/thoughts from yours truly, you can follow me on Twitter (DewlerR).

Stay sparkly, you wonderful, fantastic humans!

(Also, don't forget to ration your quarantine snacks, because I'm struggling with that, and I imagine I'm not alone. *cries in front of the empty fridge*)

Love you more than toilet paper,

Ziggles