Here's the final chapter. Hehe. Thanks again for all the reviews! And thanks again to my beta, Rae.
And once again…the disclaimer: 24 and all its character don't belong to me, they belong to Fox and whoever else. grumbles lucky people…
The ride home was quiet, both of them lost in their own thoughts of the tiring day.
Tony couldn't stop thinking about how he had almost lost her. Had there been another way, a safer one, to approach the situation? Michelle's life had been on the line only mere minutes before. The image of Derick Laney holding the knife against Michelle's throat….the scared look on her face as a small trail of blood had started to trickle down her neck replayed itself over and over in his mind in vivid detail. His hand moved to his forehead, wiping away a bead of sweat that was forming as his brows furrowed.
He tried unsuccessfully to push the image out of his mind, casting a glance over at Michelle. What was she thinking about? He could tell that she was shaken up from the ordeal; she normally wasn't this quiet when they were alone together. He couldn't blame her, though; having your life threatened could take a toll on anyone, no matter how strong a person thought they were.
The fight that had occurred between them before they had been called in weighed heavy on his heart, though. The two of them rarely had arguments, but when they did he always felt horrible about the argument afterwards. This time was no different except that, under the circumstances, they may have never been able to make up if something had gone wrong. He would have never been able to forgive himself if something had.
As much as he wanted to talk at that moment, he knew it wasn't the right moment. He still needed time to think things through more thoroughly, and he knew Michelle did, too. It would be better to say something when they were both situated and at ease in their own apartment, rather then now when they were both still on edge.
He sighed to himself in frustration. This was not how he had wanted the day to turn out.
After entering their apartment, Michelle looked at him and said, "I'm going to go take a shower, ok?"
Tony nodded and hobbled towards the kitchen, his leg throbbing with every step, while Michelle walked to the bathroom. He called over his shoulder, "Ok, I'll start making dinner."
He sighed loudly again as he took out a chicken and started making a simple dinner. Neither of them had broken the awkward silence that had set in during the car ride home except for now, which hadn't been the type of chat he desperately wanted to have. Although he knew that they would eventually talk and make up during the course of the night, he couldn't help but feel a little depressed about it. There was always a silent fear echoing in the back of his mind that she would leave him if one of their arguments ever went too far, though he doubted that this was one of those.
He snorted, 'Tony…stop exaggerating. You know that that'll never happen. We're too close.'
Although it had taken a while, he trusted her more than anybody. She had the perfect type of personality, mixed with honesty and complete innocence that could make even the hardest, coldest person open up. Michelle had been the only one that he could open up to completely and not have to worry about sounding like an idiot or being chastised about his feelings. He had bared his soul to her on many occasions during the course of the past few months. They had both been learning from each other and were growing in their relationship with each new day. And although neither of them had spoken of it, marriage was evident in both their minds.
Tony froze, his eyes averting to the place where he had hidden the ring until the right moment. All his plans to propose to her had fallen apart. His gaze shifted back to the dinner that he was making in front of him and he thought for a moment.
'Maybe I can still pull this off,' he thought, rubbing his chin. All was not lost.
Michelle sighed to herself as the water cascaded gently over her sore and tired body. It was a much needed refreshment after what had happened, allowing herself to calm down and think clearly about the days events.
'What a day," she thought to herself, 'First an argument with Tony and then the nightmare at Derick Laney's house.'
She groaned quietly. Out of all the things that she hated doing, having an argument with Tony was right at the top of the list. The disagreements they had were usually short lived, but it always left a small toll on her until they talked it over.
'It's going to be an interesting night,' she thought warily. There had been many hectic days in her life, but this one ranked as one of the highest. If it hadn't been for Tony's selflessness and quick thinking, Derick would have gotten away…or she would have been killed.
Michelle remembered looking over at Tony while they were driving home…remembered seeing that his usual cheerful demeanor was replaced by a look of insecurity and apprehension. It wasn't something she was used to seeing in him. He was always so strong, never showing any hint of anxiety or fear.
'Fear of losing me…'
It had broken her heart to see him in that rare state of emotions. He was probably feeling the same way she was. They would get through it though, like they always did. It seemed that whenever there was hardship, the two of them always managed to grow closer and even deeper in love.
Nothing like that had ever happened between her and her older boyfriends. When things got rough, they grew apart until they finally broke up; it was the exact opposite with Tony. She had never been more open with anybody in her life.
Michelle couldn't help but smile as she thought of the many nights they had stayed up talking and sharing their experiences with each other. They were going to get through this day all right.
They ate dinner in silence; the tension in the air could be felt by both of them and neither wanted to break the silence. When Tony announced he was going to take his turn in the shower, Michelle walked into their bedroom and got ready for bed.
As she lay down on the bed she let her mind wander over to the one memory she was trying to suppress. Derick Laney's sadistic grin flashed in front of her eyes…the pained look in Tony's gaze as he grappled over what decision to make. She shivered and ran her hand over the place on her neck where the knife had left its mark on her skin. As much as she tried to repress the tears that were forming in her eyes she couldn't anymore. Vaguely, she heard the shower stop and she turned over on her side, not wanting Tony to see her start to cry.
Tony walked into their bedroom feeling a bit more refreshed. He had taken some medicine to help with the pain in his leg before he had gotten in the shower, so it wasn't hurting as bad as it had been. He looked over at Michelle who had her back turned away from him. He put on some fresh boxers and was about to get a glass of water when he heard a small, almost inaudible sniffle escape from her.
His brow furrowed. He climbed on the bed and whispered softly, "Michelle? Are you okay?"
"I'm- I'm fine, Tony," she replied despondently, trying to keep her voice steady as she said it.
But Tony knew better and he wasn't going to take 'no' for an answer, especially when he knew something was the matter….especially when he knew what was bothering her. He gently turned her over to face him and lightly wiped the tears away from the corners of her eyes, "You don't look like you're fine," he commented.
She buried her head in his chest, "I just… I hate going through this. I'm sorry for everything…..Derick's house-"
He cut her off, "Listen to me, what happened at Derick's house couldn't be helped. It wasn't your fault. I meant what I said at his house and I mean it now."
Michelle pulled back and shook her head, "But if I had been paying more attention, you wouldn't have been put in the position you were put in…and you wouldn't have gotten hurt."
Tony couldn't believe what he was hearing. Was she blaming herself?
He pulled her in close again, "He came out of nowhere, Michelle. Not even I saw him until he had grabbed you. Nobody could have seen it coming."
Michelle had no choice but to agree with him, even though deep down she knew he was right. "All right."
Tony knew something was still wrong from the tone in her voice. After a long pause, he tentatively asked, "Is there anything else?"
She sighed and after thinking a moment, she nodded. Tony decided to take a stab at what he thought it was. "Is it about the argument we had before we left?"
Michelle looked up at him and nodded again, "I'm sorry, Tony. I hate it when we argue."
He smiled softly and said, "Everybody goes through them at one point or another in any relationship; I'd be a little worried if they didn't. And you know as much as I do that they bring us closer together," he lifted her face, "Besides, we always get through them."
Tears were forming in her eyes again as she replied, "I could've lost you, though. And I would have never been able to live with myself knowing that our last moments together were spent arguing."
"I know…I know; I feel the same way; I hate it when we argue with each other. I'm sorry, too," agreed Tony. "But we got through it, didn't we?"
Michelle nodded into his chest again, feeling as if a burden had been blessedly lifted from her heart as she felt herself starting to calm down. There was still an issue to resolve though; the issue they had been arguing about in the first place: Field work. As much as she hated the thought of it, she knew it was part of their job, no matter what. There wasn't any way to get around it, other than to resign, which neither of them were willing to do. They both loved their jobs.
Her resolve over the issue strengthened as she thought more about it. The most they could do during field work was stay strong and focused until afterwards, when it was all over and they could sit down and think about it or fall apart.
Unbeknownst to her, Tony had slipped away while she was indulging in her thoughts to grab the ring. Things seemed like they were finally smoothing over, even though he wanted to bring up and continue the discussion about field work they had been arguing about in the first place. But it was still an opportune moment to propose and he couldn't pass it up. He slipped the ring box in his back pocket and made his way back into the room, where he saw Michelle lying on the bed.
"And where did you go?" asked Michelle. She hadn't even noticed he had gone, until she had snapped out of her reverie and had looked around for him.
"Just out to the kitchen to get something," he stated stoically.
"Oh, ok," she replied, sitting up. It was now or never. "Listen, Tony. I know I said earlier today that I didn't want either of us doing anything in the field; and I still don't like the idea of it. But I realize it's a part of our jobs that needs to be done."
Tony was speechless; he hadn't expected her to change her opinion and accept the fact that doing work in the field was an inevitable part of their jobs. He wondered what had caused her to change her opinion. She had obviously been thinking a lot during the past few hours. Could it have been from something that happened at Derick's house?
He wasn't sure what it is, but he was content with her answer. He replied, "I hate it, too. And I'll try to get it so we can avoid them as much as possible. May I ask what changed your mind?"
She shrugged, "It's unavoidable, I guess."
Tony nodded and laid down next to her, "Even if it means one of us getting hurt?"
Michelle paused and said quietly, "That's what I don't like…but we'll get through each individual circumstance as it comes."
They lay in silence side by side, both of them looking up at the ceiling.
Tony sighed contentedly, finally allowing himself to fully relax. What she had said comforted him. He looked over at Michelle, who also seemed more at ease than before. He was relieved they had worked everything out and that Derick's house was now behind them for the most part.
He felt Michelle turn on her side and cuddle up against him, her hand on his chest. "I love you, Tony."
A smile spread across his face as he wrapped his arms around her, "I love you, too. I always will, no matter what." He paused momentarily. This was it…the perfect moment he had been waiting for. His heart started beating rapidly in his chest as he turned on his side so they were face to face. Gently, he reached over and tucked a curl behind her ear.
Slowly, he reached into his back pocket and withdrew the ring box, gazing into her eyes as he opened it. The words he had planned to say earlier were now completely forgotten, "This definitely isn't as easy as it looks in the movies…' he thought nervously.
"I know this may be sudden, Michelle, but I think it's the perfect time. With all we've been through and the months that I've known you and spent with you, I've felt a connection that I've never known with anybody else before in my life. And…I want to spend the rest of my life with you, through everything, whether it is good or bad."
Her eyes widened as she uttered, "Tony…"
He slipped the ring on her finger and asked anxiously, "Will you…marry me?"
Michelle's mind was racing. Had she just heard him right? Was this a dream? Did Tony really just propose to her? Even though they had only been together for not even a year, she had dreamed about this moment since she had realized she had fallen in love with him. If she hadn't been lying down, she would have fallen down and fainted. Words failed to describe how overjoyed she felt at the moment. She only managed to throw her arms around Tony and utter a quiet, yet emotional, "Yes!"
Tony pulled back. Michelle smiled; nothing could mistake the priceless look of pure delight that was etched into every contour of his face. "R-really?" he stuttered incredulously.
She nodded and leaned in, the overpowering tension in the room shattered whatever self control she had. Her lips gently parted his in a tender, yet passionate kiss. He returned the kiss with fervor, letting an almost inaudible groan escape his lips as he rolled over so that Michelle was underneath him. For Tony, the moment could be compared to that of paradise, feeling an indescribable and incomparable feeling of elation and love.
Michelle pulled back momentarily but Tony leaned into her to kiss her again, just as passionately as before. She didn't object and pulled him closer, opening her mouth to his willingly. This time, he pulled back.
"I love you," he said breathlessly, gazing into her chocolate eyes, "and thank you."
She returned his gaze, and just as breathlessly responded, "No…thank you. Thank you for being there for me all the time. I love you, Tony, more than anybody I've ever loved before. I don't know if I could live without you…"
Tony fell on his side so they were face to face, arms still wrapped around each other, their foreheads touching. He found himself stuttering over what he wanted to say to respond to Michelle's confession. He felt the same way as she did. Wordlessly he reached up and tucked a curl behind her ear and planted a brief kiss on her lips.
"I wouldn't be able to live without you either," he said quietly. That was all that needed to be said.
They hugged each other again and moved so that they were in comfortable positions. Tony reached over to the night stand beside the bed and turned off the light. Michelle soon fell asleep, the rise and fall of her chest moving against his side as he settled in beside her. His hands moved over hers and he felt the cool touch of the new gold ring that was on her finger.
He looked up at the dark ceiling and smiled. The two of them were meant to be and nothing would ever separate them. Michelle's smiling face was the last thing he saw as he drifted into a sound sleep, cradled close to his fiancée's heart.
A/N: Reviews and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated! Please let me know what you thought of the whole story!
I'll probably write some more fics in the future, I don't know when lol, but it will happen.