Shine

Epilogue

Five years later…

Beth groaned and threw an arm over her eyes to block out the early morning light.

"Will," she growled. "Why do you always get up so early?" On weekends she liked to indulge herself and usually slept in. Will, on the other hand was always up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by 6:30.

He smiled. "Sorry. Habit, I guess." He sat down on the bed to put on his socks and running shoes, and she rolled over to face him muttering, "So inconvenient."

He smirked. "What, are your toes cold?"

Beth had to suppress a grin. She couldn't fall asleep with socks on, and as a result her feet were usually pretty chilly by morning. Will's long legs provided an excellent source to thaw her toes on.

"No…" she began petulantly, but broke off as it was obvious she was lying and shrugged. He knew her too well. She abandoned all pretenses of sleeping for the moment and propped herself up on the pillow.

"You want to come run with me?" he asked, but she shook her head no. She would have to do a dead sprint the entire way just to keep up with his jog.

"Thanks, but no. Hey," she began, and he looked up from tying his shoes. "I'm going to make a big fancy dinner tonight to make up for the horrible one I made on your birthday."

He laughed. "Beth, you don't have to do that…"

She interrupted him. "No, but I want to. I don't know how you managed to eat a full helping that night; the food was absolutely disgusting. I don't know what happened. Somehow it all turned out like mush, but I'm going to make up for it."

Will gave her a calculating look and then quickly bent down to tie his shoe, lost in thought. "So you're making dinner here?" he asked, after a minute of silence, and she nodded.

"Yeah. Your kitchen is way nicer than mine anyway." Beth shared a town-house with Marianne and Cole, and the appliances in Will's kitchen were decidedly better than her own.

She was surprised by Will's sudden change in demeanor. Only a few minutes earlier he had been happy and had joked with her. He now seemed very distracted and not at all happy. She wondered what he was thinking about and what had caused the mood change. He leaned down to kiss her forehead absently, more out of habit than anything else, and headed to the door.

"I'll see you when I get back."

She nodded and frowned as he left the room. Something was off, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. Maybe she was just tired. She hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. She waited for the sounds of the front door closing before snuggling down into the covers to reclaim some of her lost sleep. After all, she would need all of her energy for cooking.


She woke up several hours later, took a shower, dressed, and lounged about with Will for a while before going out to the grocery store. She realized as she picked out a bunch of asparagus that she hadn't been home to the town-house in almost a week.

The drive between his apartment and her house was rather inconvenient. It was a waste of time and gas to commute back and forth between the two, so she sometimes stayed at Will's for days at a time. It seemed to be happening more and more frequently. Cole and Marianne didn't even ask where she was any longer, although sometimes they joked about finding someone else to rent out her room.

Beth speared a piece of asparagus and looked across the table in confusion and growing alarm. She felt the same as she had earlier; something was off. She had been able to tell that something was wrong from the moment she'd walked in the door, but she had no idea what it was. Dinner had turned out great, so it wasn't her cooking. What was it?

Something was obviously going on with Will. He was pale and agitated. He wouldn't stop fidgeting. Beth had immediately asked what was wrong, but he only shook his head slightly and said he was fine. Beth knew that he wasn't. She could hear his foot tapping a million miles an hour under the table; their glasses were shaking wildly because of it.

She knew he hadn't heard a word she said, and he was stammering. Will was always articulate, thanks to the prep-school upbringing, so stammering was an extremely unusual occurrence. In fact, Beth had only seen him act this way once before in all the time she'd known him.

A sudden wave of horror and dismay hit her as she remembered the last time she'd heard him stutter. She tried to calm her heart, which was thumping painfully in her throat. She didn't want to think about that, but it was too late. She couldn't help thinking about it. The last time she'd seen him act this way…

It had been the start of the worst two weeks of her entire life.


Two years earlier...

Beth took a sip of water and tried to keep herself from looking at her watch; she already knew what it would read, as she had glanced at it only minutes earlier. Losing the battle, she stole a glance at her wrist.

7:32

Will was 32 minutes late. She sighed unhappily, listening to the clinking of expensive china and crystal. She straightened her skirt and tried to look as though she was supposed to be sitting alone, as though she wasn't getting stood up. She was drawing circles with her finger on the table cloth.

She'd been at the restaurant since 6:50. She had been so excited for the dinner. It had been a week since she'd last seen Will, and she missed him. They'd both been busy. She had class and more school work to deal with than she'd ever had before. Junior year was turning out to be a rather tough experience.

Pemberley had lost some of its appeal with her because Will had graduated. It seemed empty without him. Will was busy with work. He'd received a new promotion. He wasn't anywhere close to being C.E.O. yet, but he was getting closer. However, with all the obstacles, it was becoming increasingly difficult for them to find time to be together.

And the time they managed to spend together seemed to be filled with fighting more than anything else. The littlest things seemed to set them off. They were both extremely stressed; they were dealing with large amounts of pressure. Beth from Pemberley and Will from his job.

She could feel that they were drifting apart. They barely even got a chance to speak anymore. She turned her head away as a waiter walked by. She didn't want him to stop at her table. He'd already been by twice, and she didn't want to have to explain that her date had still not shown up.

She'd thought at first that he was just running a little late. Perhaps the traffic was bad. She knew as more time passed that he wasn't running late; he'd forgotten. It had happened once or twice before, but Beth still couldn't believe it was happening again. Her expectantly happy expression slowly slipped off as the time passed and was replaced by a terribly unhappy and disappointed one. She shook her head slowly. What a wonderful night it was turning out to be.

She looked up in surprise as Will slid into his seat across from her.

"Hello," he said simply. He was slightly out of breath. She noticed he looked tired. He had the beginnings of dark circles under his eyes. She waited a moment for an explanation, but none seemed to be forthcoming. She looked off to the side and took a deep breath. She was angry.

"Will, where have you been?" she asked, desperately.

He winced. "I--I know. I…I'm sorry. I just…"

"No, where have you been?" she interrupted, angrily. "I've been here for almost an hour. Alone. The waiter's been by eight times already trying to take my order. He probably thinks I'm crazy for sitting here this long, as I was obviously being stood up. I don't even know why I waited."

Will sighed and tiredly rubbed his temples. Beth felt bad for a moment. It seemed like all they did was fight. "Can we please not get into this now?" he asked, sounding annoyed.

She stared at him in disbelief. "When else are we supposed to talk about it? I haven't seen or spoken to you in a week."

"I--I know. I've been busy."

"I have too, Will, but I still managed to make it to dinner on time. Hell, I was early. It would be fine if this was the first time you'd forgotten dinner, but it happens all the time."

He sighed heavily in frustration. "I'm sorry. Okay? It's--it's been a hectic couple of weeks for me. I--I don't have time anymore for…" he trailed off, looking down.

Beth's head snapped up, and she froze. She tried to breathe normally, but the sudden weight on her chest made it hard. When she spoke, she tried to keep her voice even, but it was still a little shaky.

"Time for what, Will? Time for us? Time for me?" When he didn't speak, she had to fight the urge to start hyperventilating. "Oh, god. That's what you were going to say. You don't have time for me." The lump in her throat made it harder to speak. "That's what a relationship is; it's making time for the other person."

"Well, maybe…maybe we shouldn't have a relationship anymore. Maybe we--we should take a break," he stammered, not meeting her eyes.

Beth's jaw dropped open. Whatever she'd expected, this wasn't it. She felt like someone had ripped out a piece of her heart and stomped all over it. Clenching her jaw shut, she narrowed her eyes. Whatever hurt or shock she felt was slowly being replaced by anger. He was breaking up with her? 'Well, fine,' she thought, bristling. She didn't need him. If he wanted to break it off, well, fine.

"You know what, Will? Fine. Fine." She threw her napkin on the table and hastily stood up. "This," she waved her hand back and forth between them. "It's over. We're over. Happy? You and your company can live happily ever after together," she said, sarcastically.

She waved off his protests and walked out to get her coat. The last she saw of him, he had his head in his hands.

She walked back not a minute later, feeling extremely foolish; she'd forgotten her purse on the floor by her chair. He looked up hopefully as she came back, and she rolled her eyes, still angry. "Oh yeah right, Will. I forgot my purse."

After grabbing it, she turned on her heels, and quickly left the restaurant. She stepped out into the cold night air and drew her coat closer about her. Whatever anger she had felt was slowly burning away, and she could feel the horrible dread and panic trying to rise up.

From that moment on it became like a series of challenges for Beth.

'Just get to the car, and you'll be fine.'

'Just drive to the house and you'll be fine.'

'Just get to the door…'

She unlocked the door, stepped inside, and slumped against it. Her keys and purse fell from her limp hands. She felt like lying down on the floor and dying, but somehow managed to stay standing. She was half-supported by the door.

Cole and Marianne were sitting on the couch watching a movie. Both rushed over as soon as they caught sight of her.

"Beth? What's wrong?" Marianne asked in alarm, grabbing onto her shoulders.

"He said we should take a break," Beth said, her voice completely monotone and dead. "But I didn't really want to break up…" Her voice sounded weird even to her own ears.

Marianne threw a shocked look over her shoulder to Cole before turning back to Beth. "You and Will broke up?" she asked softly, in disbelief. Beth nodded slowly. She was shaking slightly, but couldn't cry. She was too numb to cry. She was too numb to think, move, or speak.

"Oh, Beth…"Marianne consoled, pulling her into a tight hug. She stroked the top of Beth's head, giving her as much comfort as she could. Beth slowly raised her arms to hug Marianne back; she was only going through the mechanics. She felt like she was made of wood, but there was a wave of feeling building inside of her.

The first sob was so hard to get out that she half-believed there wouldn't be one after it, but the next sob came as easy as anything and with no pause. From then on it was like a dam breaking with everything she'd been repressing since the moment they'd broken up in the restaurant breaking free. She clung to Marianne, burying her face in her shoulder as she cried.

She sobbed for a long time. She couldn't have stopped if she'd tried. After she had cried herself out, she used the door to support herself as she stood on shaky legs. She was physically and emotionally exhausted. She looked down at Marianne, and at Cole who had joined them on the floor.

"Thank you," she whispered.

Marianne waved her off, still looking worried. "Beth, it's nothing. Don't worry about it. I'm here for you. Are you sure you're all right? Do you want me to get you anything?"

'My boyfriend back,' Beth thought, but taking a shaky breath she slowly shook her head. "No. I'm going to take a shower and then go to bed."

Marianne nodded. "Okay. Just tell me if you need anything. Seriously…anything."

Beth gave a small, wobbly smile and nodded. She made her way slowly up the stairs.

She looked at herself in the mirror in the bathroom and was amazed that she still looked the same. It felt like an eternity had passed. This was not the ending she had predicted for the evening. She couldn't have imagined this in her worst nightmares.

She climbed in the shower, and let the warm water dispel the tension in her neck and shoulders. She thought that she was past all feeling. She thought she had cried herself out, but she actually had to sit down in the shower as a wave of unbidden and unwanted memories hit her. She hadn't known anything could hurt so much. It was close to a physical pain.

'Don't think about him,' she pleaded with herself, but she couldn't stop thinking. Will had been a huge part of her life. Everything concerning college and Pemberley was all wrapped up in her memories with him. She couldn't separate the two. They had been so happy in the beginning. It had been perfect. It had been amazing. She didn't know what had happened to them; she didn't know how it had gone so wrong. She only knew that she would never be quite the same without him.

Beth finally made it out of the shower what seemed like hours later and walked slowly back to her room. Her stomach sunk as she looked around; there was so much of Will's presence in her room. Over on the chair was a sweatshirt he'd left at some point, and on her desk was a framed picture of them…it went on and on. Everywhere she looked there was something that reminded her of him.

Feeling a slight surge of anger, she grabbed an empty box from her closet and began piling everything that was remotely related to him into it. In went pictures, items of clothing, jewelry, and everything he had ever given her. She'd loved him and he'd hurt her. She didn't ever want to see him again.

When she finished the purge, she took the box, shoved it into the closet with more force than necessary, and then sat down on the edge of her bed. She was suddenly completely exhausted. She was too tired to be angry or cry and definitely too tired to think. She slipped under the covers and quickly fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

She woke up the next morning with her head feeling very stuffy from so much crying the night before. The view from her window was beautiful. The day was filled with sunshine, and she almost smiled until she remembered that she had broken up with her boyfriend, and probably the love of her life, the night before. Her chest contracted tightly under the pain. She could feel it bearing down on her again like a physical weight.

She didn't want to get up and go to class. She didn't want to go anywhere near that campus. That was where their relationship started. That was where it all had begun.

After laying about for another half an hour, she finally managed to make it out of bed. She didn't bother with showering and put on a hooded sweat shirt and a baggy pair of jeans. She wore her glasses as well. She didn't care what she looked like. As far as she was concerned her clothing did not matter one iota. It wasn't like she had anyone to look good for anymore…

She broke off that thought abruptly. It made her feel like crying, and she'd vowed not to shed another tear over him. She was done crying, or so she tried to tell herself.

She headed down to the kitchen, but couldn't make herself eat. She took an apple on her way out at Marianne's insistence, but threw it away once she was outside. She had no appetite whatsoever. Eating correctly didn't seem to matter so much anymore either.

That day was one of the hardest for her simply because she had to walk through the campus, and sit through all her classes. She couldn't be at Pemberley and not associate it with Will, even though he'd graduated. To her, the campus screamed 'Will'. They'd spent so much time there. There were so many moments and memories; nearly three years worth.

Beth closed her eyes unhappily, wishing that she didn't have be on campus, or have to sit through class, or that if she did have to sit through it, that she could at least think of something else besides him. But she couldn't. She just kept going through all the memories; their first kiss, which had been at Carla's, their second kiss, which had been in his room, their first date, which had been in a little restaurant in town, the first time they'd…

'Oh no. No,' Beth thought, blushing faintly. 'I am in class. I won't think about that,' she mentally willed herself. She couldn't think about sex, not when she couldn't be with Will, because being with him was wonderful. She loved getting so caught up with him that she couldn't think straight. She loved being so close that she didn't know where he ended and she began…

She pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes, trying to force back the images and feelings that were trying to overcome her. She concentrated fiercely on her text-book, unwilling to think about anything else. She would go crazy if she thought about it any longer.

She sighed, but promised herself that she would get over it, get over him, even if it killed her. She had the sneaking suspicion that it just might.

Beth found it got easier as the week passed. She still thought about him constantly, and she still missed him, but she no longer broke down at the mention of his name, and she was at least able to control her memories, which was some consolation. If she still cried on occasion at night, she was the only one who knew.

She threw herself into her studies and spent nearly all her time working on homework. She was trying to go back to her routine from before they had been together, but she soon found that it was nearly impossible to do so. Something was so obviously missing. There was a void in her life that hadn't been there before, and no amount of studying or school work could fill it.

Will called once, halfway through the week, but she recognized his voice almost instantly and hung up. From then on she refused to answer the phone, not matter how many times it rang. She didn't want to give in to him. It made her feel weak. She was frightened that someone could have that much power over her, but he did. Where had all her independence gone? How had he come to mean so much to her?

It was true that she hadn't wanted to break up, but she had too much pride to give in so soon. He'd hurt her, and she wanted to make him hurt as well. She'd lived without him for the first 17 years of her life, she was almost positive she could do it again.

No matter how much she repressed it, there was still that nagging feeling in her gut that told her differently.


That Friday, she locked herself in her room and dug out 'The Box'. It was still currently in her closet where she had left it the night of the break up. For some reason, she'd been itching to go through it all day. Steeling herself, she flipped off the lid.

She smiled tiredly as the first object caught her eye. It was a framed picture of her and Will, which was taken earlier in the year by Marianne and once resided on her desk. They'd been in a thrift shop, and in the picture she was wearing an enormous pair of sunglasses while he wore an outrageous cowboy hat. She was laughing and looking up at him while he made a goofy face for the camera. Standing arm in arm, they looked so happy.

She wondered what had happened to them. 'His job happened,' she thought gloomily, putting the picture frame down on the bed beside her. His job had been the start of it all. He received a new promotion at the beginning of the year, and his free time had plummeted to nearly zero. She had been busy with school. They'd both let other things get in the way of their relationship.

She moved on to the next item. It was a sweatshirt he'd left the last time he was over. She looked at it for a moment in quiet contemplation before putting it behind her on the bed. Next came out the necklace he'd bought her for their 1st year anniversary. She loved it; it was so beautiful. However, she could only look at it now with despondency. It made her think of him, and of better times. She doubted she would ever wear it again.

She looked thoughtfully at the next item; a page torn out of a magazine. It was part of an article and a picture from US magazine. The magazine had done a short report on the wealthiest men in America, and Will was somewhere in the middle. Being slightly more attractive than many on the list, the article included a small picture. It showed both Will and herself. They'd been grocery shopping, and neither was looking at the camera.

Beth had been delighted to find herself in a national publication. She'd found it hilarious that anyone would care enough to take a picture of them doing something as silly as grocery shopping. Now, the picture only made her a little sad.

Sighing, she put the box down on the floor. She didn't want to look anymore. She reached behind her and pulled Will's sweatshirt on, inhaling deeply. It still smelled like him. She curled up on her bed, looking at the happy picture. 'God, I miss him,' she thought, tracing her finger over their outlines in the picture. She knew that if he'd called in that moment she would have gone back to him right then and there without a second thought.


She woke up the next morning feeling better, not good, but better. She thought about doing some of her school work, but for the first time in a long time decided to put it off. It wasn't so very important that it couldn't wait until after breakfast. She'd definitely been spending too much time on it lately.

She was confronted by an interesting sight as she came downstairs. Marianne was pulling a wedding dress out of a box to show Cole. She laughed as Beth gave her a strange look.

"Look! This is Elinor's wedding dress. Isn't it pretty? It's too long for her, so I said I would hem it," she explained. She held it up and then eyed Beth with interest. "You know, you're just the same size as she is…"

Beth held up her hands. "Oh no. No way. I'm not trying that on for you."

"Please, Beth? It'll be so much easier to pin it up if it's on an actual person. Please?" she pleaded, giving her best puppy dog eyes.

Beth groaned and protested, but after ten minute's of Marianne's begging she finally agreed.

"Great! Now, go take a shower; I'm not letting your greasy butt into her gown."

Beth laughed, but dutifully went up to take a shower. For some reason she was in a good mood. She couldn't explain it. She pinned up her wet hair after her shower, and Marianne helped zip her into the dress. She felt extremely odd to say the least. She was trying on a wedding dress, and she no longer even had a boyfriend!

"Wow, so your boobs are way bigger than hers," Marianne said with laughter as she struggled to zip the top up. "Just don't breathe too much, or you'll pop out."

Beth rolled her eyes. "I'm sure Cole would love the show."

She tried not to trip as they made their way down the stairs. Marianne had her stand on the stool and began to pin it up.

Standing there, it was impossible to keep her mind from wandering. She looked down thoughtfully. The dress really was beautiful. Its lines were simple and yet elegant. The ivory silk was just to die for. Beth thought that if she had to choose a wedding dress, hers would look very similar to this one.

While they were dating, she hadn't really ever thought about marrying Will. She smirked. 'Well, maybe once or twice…'Her smile slowly slid off. There really wasn't any use to think about it now. It was out of the question.

Marianne had just finished hemming the dress when the doorbell rang. She laughed. "Why don't you get it, Beth? You can give the person at the other side a big surprise."

Beth smiled and walked over to the door. It seemed like a funny enough thing to do.

"Just watch, it'll be your mother. I'm sure Fanny would go crazy if she saw you. Finally one of her daughters in a wedding dress," Marianne added, still laughing.

"Oh, ha-ha," Beth said sarcastically over her shoulder as she opened the door. She was stuck by a little cord of fear as she opened it. She sincerely hoped it wasn't her mother.

Will was extremely surprised at the scene that greeted him when Beth opened the door. His brow furrowed down in confusion, and he opened his mouth twice to speak before shutting it finally. He looked dumbstruck.

Beth took one deep breath, almost screamed, and then slammed the door in his face.

"Oh god," she breathed. Ignoring Marianne's concerned questions, she grabbed at the many folds of fabric and then made a mad dash up the stairs to her room. She couldn't believe what had just happened. Being extremely careful of the pins and the dress itself, she stripped it off as fast as she could. She ran around the room wildly, grabbing this and that as she changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.

Her heart was pounding painfully in her chest, and she couldn't stand still. She paced agitatedly back and forth before resting her head against the cool wood of the door. She tried to breathe normally. "Okay, he's here," she said, trying to calm herself. "Okay. O-kay. What do I do? What do I do?" However much she wanted to, she knew she couldn't stay hidden in her room forever. She had to go down eventually.

She picked the dress off the floor, straightened it out, and then stood and faced the door for another minute. She finally closed her eyes, grabbed the door handle, and forced herself to go downstairs.

As she had predicted, Marianne and Cole had let Will in. They were standing in the living room talking, and they all looked up as she came down.

She gulped and did not look at Will, but went straight to Marianne. She handed her the dress. "Here's Elinor's dress," she said, quietly.

"Hey, thanks." Marianne put it on its hanger. "You know what? Cole and I were just heading out," she pushed the rather reluctant Cole toward the door. "We'll be back…later." She smiled encouragingly as Beth gave her a pleading 'don't go' look and grabbed her keys. Pushing Cole to the door, she gave Beth a thumbs up and followed him out. The door's slam resounded in the suddenly quiet house.

Beth couldn't look up. His sudden appearance had left her completely unbalanced. She had so much adrenalin running through her system that she couldn't keep still. She wrung her hands nervously and tapped her foot. She didn't try to calm her racing pulse; she knew all attempts would fail.

He was standing there only a few feet in front of her, and she had to fight the irrational urge to tackle him to the ground. Her body was going through extreme Will withdrawal.

She noticed that he looked like how she felt. She didn't think she'd ever seen him look so tired. He looked like he needed a hug…

'No!' she scolded herself. She felt like she was going crazy. She wasn't used to fighting herself. 'You can't touch him anymore; you have broken up.' She hated that she had to remind herself of that, but it was necessary. All she wanted to do was touch him.

"That dress…" he said, softly and reluctantly.

"Oh." Beth cringed, horribly embarrassed. She waved a hand dismissing it. "It's Marianne's sister's dress. She's getting married soon and it needed to be altered a bit. I think it was too long. Marianne said we were about the same size so I was wearing it so that Marianne could hem it, so that Elinor could wear it in her wedding and it wouldn't drag. It wouldn't be a very good thing to have the bride tripping down the aisle. Because who wants to trip on their wedding day? Ha ha. Yeah, I was--" She could not stop babbling.

Will cut her off. "It was beautiful. You looked beautiful."

She inhaled sharply, fighting the sudden urge to cry. Somehow throughout her babbling the distance between them had decreased significantly. They were standing less than a foot apart. Beth was overwhelmed by his presence. She had missed him so much…

She nodded and spoke over the lump in her throat. "Thank you," she said quietly, watching his mouth. In a few more seconds there wouldn't be any distance left between them…

She hastily backed up and skirted past him. She made sure not to brush him in the process. She didn't know what would happen if they touched.

"Umm, are you thirsty? I don't know what we have. Probably some juice." She was off babbling again. "Maybe Ice Tea. I think we might even have some lemonade in the kitchen. Marianne might have bought some. She went to the store a few days ago. I can go check." She started toward the kitchen, but stopped when he shook his head no. She didn't walk back, but stayed where she was in front of the stairs. She figured the more distance between them the better.

He seemed to be of a different mind. In only a few strides he was there in front of her. Her hand was resting on the banister, and he placed his on top of hers.

Beth gulped and took a step back and up. She did not think it was a very good idea for him to be looking down at her. It was too familiar. She was now at his eye level.

"Beth," he started, in a tone that made her swallow hard. "I don't know what to say. I'm sorry, I guess. I was wrong. I made a huge mistake. Work; it's not important." He waved a hand. "I haven't been able to concentrate all week. It's been totally pointless. All day, I sit and think about you. I didn't even go to work today because there was no point. I've regretted what I said that night, so much. I didn't mean it. I don't know what I was thinking. You mean more to me than the company ever will."

Beth held her breath. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed those eyes until they were right there in front of her. As he spoke, she could feel the weight that had been crushing her chest all week finally lifting.

"I--I tried to call, but you wouldn't pick up…not that I blame you. But I had to come see if…" He swallowed and looked down. "I understand if you don't want to get back together, but I had to ask," he said in a low voice. He looked up. "Beth…"

Beth felt such a wave of relief that she had to fight to keep from breaking down into hysteric sobs. He wasn't there to pick up things he'd left. He wanted to make up!

She threw her arms around him and buried her face in his sweater.

"I forgive you," she said, relishing the feeling of being close to him again. His arms tightened around her almost painfully, and she heard him sigh in relief.

"I should have answered your calls. I was being stubborn," she muttered almost incoherently as he rained kisses over the back of her neck. He lifted his head and kissed her roughly, making up for two weeks of total hell. She backed up, pulling him with her. He easily followed her lead, and they wasted no time making their way upstairs to her room, as they had so many times before.


Snapping back to reality, Beth put her fork down; she'd suddenly lost her appetite. The dinner setting now struck her as awful. He wasn't breaking up with her, was he? Was that why he had been acting weird earlier that morning? She shook her head. He couldn't be breaking up with her. Things had been going so well. They weren't fighting. They were getting along perfectly.

The relationship was the best it ever had been. Breaking up had been bad enough the first time. It was two years later now, and she didn't think she could handle it if he did. It would be like total annihilation.

Perhaps she was overreacting. She might be reading too much into the situation. Perhaps he was nervous for some other totally inexplicable reason…

"Will," she croaked. Her voice was half-strangled. "What's going on?"

Will looked up, surprised. He opened his mouth to speak and then shut it again. He swallowed before finally managing to speak.

"I was going to wait until after dinner to do this, but I guess now is as good a time as any. I've--I've been thinking about--about us lately," he said unsteadily, avoiding her eyes.

Beth felt her stomach lurch horribly. He was breaking up with her. She tried to breathe normally.

"We've been together for a long time now, and it's hard because I feel like we never see each other anymore. The drive between my apartment and your house is just…it's horrible. I hate driving it. And you're over here all the time anyway…"

She wondered if he was drawing it out on purpose. If he was going to prolong it to try to make it easier for her, she couldn't take it. She cut him off. "Will, if you're breaking up with me, just say it already."

Will froze, mid sentence, with a look of complete astonishment on his face. "Break…I'm not—I wasn't…"He shook his head and seemed to really see her for the first time that night. "I wasn't breaking up with you. Do you want to break up?" he asked, furrowing his brow.

"No! I was…" she trailed off, unable to continue. She felt enormous waves of relief. "You were stuttering and fidgeting, and the only other time I've seen you do that you were breaking up with me, so I thought…" She shrugged, nearly laughing in relief. "If you weren't breaking up with me, then what were you doing?"

Will half chuckled, half-groaned, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I guess I wasn't making myself very clear. I was asking you to move in with me. I—I was asking you to marry me," he said softly. If Beth had been eating, she would have choked. She felt her stomach drop, as though she was riding a roller coaster.

"Are you joking?" she asked quietly, eyes wide as saucers. The words caught in her throat. It would be such an awful joke…He laughed then, really laughed, and Beth didn't quite know what to do. This wasn't something she'd been prepared for.

He shook his head lightly. "No. I'm not joking." And with that he pushed his chair back from the table and walked over slowly with his hands in his pockets. "I suppose I should have just done it the right way from the beginning..."

Beth stared at him, speechless for a moment and then scooted back as well. She stayed seated. She didn't think she could get up. "You...you're being serious...I" She trailed off, completely confused. She was having trouble forming a sentence. All thoughts were blown out of her mind, however, as he paused and then got down on one knee before her.

She inhaled sharply and clamped both hands over her mouth. Her hands fell limply into her lap.

"Oh god," she said, catching sight of the ring. Definitely not joking. Her heart was beating painfully in her chest, but she couldn't keep the huge grin off her face.

Will was smiling too. "Beth, I love you." He paused slightly. He no longer seemed nervous. "Will you marry me?"

Beth blinked, sat for a moment in complete shock and then vaulted off her chair, throwing her arms around him. They collided with such force that they both fell backwards into a heap on the floor.

"Yes! Yes! Yes," she said excitedly, raining him with kisses. "You're so stupid. Why did you act like that in the beginning? You made me so nervous!"

"I was nervous too!" he protested laughingly, while slipping the ring onto her hand.

He rolled them over so that he was on top and settled between her legs. His mouth was warm on her throat, and he was already nimbly undoing the first buttons of her shirt.

"Hey, Mr. Happy Hands," she said, laughingly scolding him. "I spent an hour making this dinner, and I'm…I…" she trailed off. The hands under her shirt were so distracting.

He let out a low, amused laugh. When he spoke, his mouth near her ear made her shiver. "I have a microwave you know. We can always reheat this stuff later."

She smirked, and running a hand through his hair, she drew his mouth down to hers.


Much later that night, Beth sat atop the counter top in the kitchen eating some reheated pasta and chicken. Having never quite lost her propensity for wearing his clothing, she wore the button down shirt he had occupied earlier that night. 'Bedsides,' she thought, swinging her feet. She looked at Will, who stood lounging next to her in his boxers. 'He looks much better without a shirt anyway.'

"I don't know who's going to be my maid of honor. Jane, Marianne and Carla are already married," she said, continuing the conversation they'd been having. She was struck by a sudden idea. "Do you think your sister would do it?"

Will smiled happily. "I think Anna would love to be your maid of honor."

"I can't wait to ask her. Oh, and speaking of that, I'm fairly certain my mother is going to lose her mind when I call to tell her the news. You know how much she loves you…" She laughed as he rolled his eyes and continued on. "Just think about how much she'll be able to gloat to her bridge club friends now. I think we've made her year. Now, about my dad, I'm not so sure. You know he's never really taken to you…"she teased. Thomas was very fond of Will.

"Don't worry. He's fine with it; I already asked him," Will said, nonchalantly.

"What?" Beth looked at him with disbelief. "You asked him?" When Will nodded unconcernedly, she only gaped more. "You seriously asked him?"

"Yes," Will said, laughing at her skepticism. "Isn't that what you're supposed to do…ask the father for permission first?"

Beth blinked. "I--well, yeah I guess so…" she trailed off and then smiled up at him. "Aww, you asked my dad for permission. I'll have to thank him for giving it to you." He rolled his eyes, but she couldn't help clasping her hands together. She couldn't get over it. "How long have you been planning to ask me?" she asked curiously.

Will shrugged. "For a while. I bought the ring a couple months ago."

"A couple months ago!" She shook her head and laughed. "Thank goodness I made this dinner tonight, otherwise you never would have gotten around to it. I gave you the perfect opportunity.

"I would have asked anyway. Hey, I would have!" he protested, as she gave him a disbelieving look.

"Right," she said sarcastically and popped a piece of chicken from her plate into his mouth before he could protest any further. Doing so drew her attention to her hand and she smiled evilly.

"Do you know what I love most about you right now?" she teased playfully, leaning into him.

He chewed, for a moment, pretending to think. "That I am a bona fide sex god?" he quipped.

Beth laughed and shook her head. "Not what I was thinking. What I love most is that you're filthy rich." She held up her left hand and waggled her fingers as he groaned and then laughed.

"It figures."

Beth only laughed. "Do you see this ring? Look how pretty it is." She held it up to her face for closer inspection. It only got better. The big, beautiful, shiny square-cut diamond and the gorgeous platinum band were the definition of perfection for Beth.

Will snorted. "I take it you like the ring."

Beth nodded enthusiastically. She tried to suppress her grin.

"And I suppose it's the only reason you said yes?" he continued.

Beth slowly shook her head no and drew him closer, smirking.

"No. I said yes for a different reason…" She walked her fingers up his chest, loving the feel of it under her hands, before throwing her arms around his neck.

"Because I'm a sex god?" he asked again.

She laughed and buried her face in the crook of his neck. "Yes. That's it."

"Good. I'm glad our relationship has such a firm basis."

Beth laughed again before pulling back slightly.

"Will," she said in a more serious tone as she looked up at him. "All joking aside, I really do love you."

Will nodded and smiled happily down at her. "I know. I love you, too."

After four and a half years of saying it, the effect of those words still hadn't worn off. He still made her toes curl in delight. She looked down to their entwined hands. She smiled as the ring sparkled and glinted in the dim kitchen light. She knew that this was how she wanted to spend the rest of her life. Sitting in a kitchen eating reheated pasta at 11:00 at night with the one person she truly loved seemed like a pretty perfect picture to her. She was exactly where she belonged.


The End.


AN:
Now that you've read the whole thing, go back and read it again! haha

If you would have told me two years ago that I would write something this long and involved, or that it would be so well loved and received I would have slapped you for being so silly. Over 300 reviews? SHUT up! I like to think that as I've grown over the years, my story has grown too. If you were a reader of Shine in the beginning, and by beginning I mean September 2003, I'm very, very sorry. It was so bad. I hear you saying, 'Luna, Luna, this can't be true!'
Oh, but it is. If you were there reading, back in the day, you know what I'm talking about. And so, Shine would have remained that lifeless piece of…work, had it not been for some wonderful and amazing constructive criticism I received.
Hence, after a huge rewrite on nearly every single chapter, the Shine as you know it today was born. I must say it's a rather bittersweet moment finishing this story. It's been a huge part of my life and it's my first major work in writing. I want to thank you all for coming on this journey with me and for spending so much time on my brainchild. I appreciate it more than I can say.