Never Always Sometimes Maybe

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"This is crazy." he said breathlessly when their lips parted, and she giggled as he almost slipped in the rain-wet grass as they made their way towards the shade of the trees away from the noise behind them.

"We're involved in craziness." she agreed teasingly, knowing the grass would stain the white satin slippers and not caring.

"We just met." he insisted, although he didn't stop, didn't protest as she helped him collapse into the grass beneath the shadow of an oak, curling against his chest like a cat.

"I knew from the moment I saw you." she insisted in return. She kissed him, and by the time they stopped the shadows had stretched longer and the sky was bruised above them.

"Is it always going to be like this?" he asked wonderingly, and at the party on the other side of the lawn, someone let loose a hand of balloons to a cheer.

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"What do you think?" She held the dress against her chest, back arched for maximum effect, and wondered if she could pull it off. Her stomach still felt flat under the press of her hand, and she thought she might be able to fill out the chest without looking pathetic. She did like the material, though, and she fingered it, pleased, at the way it brought out her eyes in the mirror. "James?"

He cocked his head appraisingly, nervously, from where he sat, hands clasped between his thighs, and his gaze fell on the price tag. "I think, uh, I think it's too expensive. You know, maybe if we tried the other shop . . . I don't even think I'm supposed to be helping you shop for this, anyway. Isn't it bad luck?"

"Not until the Big Day." she responded, inflicting the words with a heavy gravity dispelled by the delight in her eyes. "And anyway, would it kill you to just imagine a little? I mean, really? I know we can't afford it . . . but they don't know that." she added in a whisper, inclining her head towards the front counter, nose wrinkling impishly.

He took in the sweet curve of her throat, the inviting swell of her breasts, the snug fit of her jeans over her slender calves, like an encircling, intimate grasp, and murmured, "You look beautiful."

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"Look. Look at this."

"What am I looking at?"

"This." Half exasperated, half amused at his baffled expression, she gently took his hands and pressed them against the underside of her throat. His fingers pressed tentatively, and she knew he felt the swelling. "Looks like I'm in for one heck of a cold."

"In July?" he said, skeptically, stroking the smooth skin with the balls of his thumbs until she took his hands away and stood with them clasped between their bodies.

"Stranger things have happened. I married you, didn't I?" She smiled and freed one hand to tweak his nose, giggling a little at his surprised expression. "I'll be fine. Why don't you pick me up some throat drops with the champagne tonight?"

"Cherry Halls and ginger ale it is, madame."

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"You should be inside." he whispered into her ear to be heard over the sounds of the surf, although he made no effort to move. His hand was comfortable and secure on the curve of her hip. "Resting."

As though she hadn't heard him, she breathlessly took in the roiling gray sky, not yet split with lightning or rain, and the seething sea that pressed up towards it. The end of her nose was red with the chill in the air, and she felt even more short of breath than usual, but her heart seemed to be swelling beneath her breast. "You can't see this from home."

Giving up, he simply pressed her body more snugly against his, lending her the warmth her own body seemed incapable of producing lately. "Concrete gets in the way."

"People, too." she replied. She encircled his arm with her own, pressing it between her breasts. "I like being alone with you, James, honey. I feel like I could spend forever here with you -- "

She broke off, coughing.

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He should open the door.

He knew he should.

Open the door, go inside, climb the stairs, go into her room.

The problem was that he hadn't before. The problem was, the faces there would knew he hadn't, and he didn't want to see the dull curiosity or disgust before he shut the doors on them, feeling foolish with his too-late boquet of cheap yellow tulips.

From where he stood, he could pick out her window easily. Pigeons were on the sill, and the curtains were drawn, forcibly cheery yellow like the flowers.

An orderly bumped into him from behind, and he turned away from the inquiring, pleasant look and, mumbling an apology, hurried down the stone steps of the hospital and back to his car, almost running by the time he reached it.

She watched him go from the window, fingers briefly balling the curtain material into her fist, before making her way stiffly back to her bed.

She swallowed the pills without tasting them, and couldn't place the dull ache in her chest amidst the countless others.

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"James." the mouth a raw red hole in the pretty face, head straining against the bonds, and he flinched from the sound as much from the feather-soft kiss of butterfly wings against his cheek, heart too fast in his chest. "James."

Something screamed like metal-on-metal, and his mind plunged inward with the scent of her hair, the nape of her neck, the feel of her legs intwined with his, and cherry pie fed to one another on the porch on Sundays.

"James." it gasped again, and he wondered how he could ever have felt anything but revulsion for the thing strapped to the contraption, with it's mottled skin and too-flashy clothes stained and torn. "James."

Are you going to kill her again? Maria?

He pulled the trigger.

The report was deafening in the sudden silence, and he felt something loosen inside his chest with sudden, blessed relief.

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He held the door for her, and Laura clambered into the passenger's seat, stockings bright in the dim interior, doll clutched against her chest. She watched him with none of the solemnity he would have thought from the windshield as he crossed to his own door and slid inside.

"Where're we gonna go? James?" she asked, voice still a little demanding. He thought it might be some time before that changed, before she forgave and accepted him.

The fog pressed against the exterior of the car as he shook his head, waiting for her to fasten her seatbelt, but it was just fog and nothing more. The pines along the road were no longer threatening, only silent witnesses to the beginning of one journey and the end of another. "I don't know. Does it matter?"

She thought a moment before replying, tugging on a lock of blonde hair. "I guess not." she said. The smile she offered was pure, radiant, impish, alive. "Anywhere we can start."