Summary: A newly-made bride finds time during a blizzard to reflect on herself and her husband, where they've come from, and where they are now. Doctor/Elli married!fluff with a sprinkling of angst.
Disclaimer and Notes: I don't own any of the characters appearing or mentioned. Also, this is sort of...an homage to all of us girls out there who play MFoMT with the intent of getting all the guys to red-heart before picking one. That said, I hope you like it, and please read on!
This was not an ideal way to wake up, Elli decided somewhere between a startled shriek at the icy cold hand gently stroking her cheek, and a mad attempt to squirm away.
Still, she thought with a sigh that became a lot more happily resigned than it otherwise might have as she blinked up at the dark-haired man seated at the edge of the bed and trying to hide a smile, as long as she was awake, she might as well stay there. And so, with a heroic effort, she struggled from the seductive embrace of a warm nest of blankets and pillows sufficiently to sit up and glare sleepily at her adored and adoring husband of two whole weeks now.
"Good morning," Tim greeted, a small bit of hair falling forward into his eyes as he leaned forward to tuck the blankets around her shoulders to stave off a small shiver.
"What was that for!" she demanded, outraged.
Fighting the urge to laugh by tucking it away behind a solemn expression, he regarded her very gravely.
"You asked me to wake you if you weren't up by eight."
Elli froze mid-yawn and sat bolt upright.
"It's eight! Oh, no, I did this yesterday too! I'm sorry, Tim, I've been so irresponsible lately! I was supposed to take Grandma her painkillers this morning before work, too, and now I won't be back before nine—"
"Elli!" he broke in, biting back a laugh. "It's alright. I took your grandmother her medicine because I didn't want to wake you. The weather's gotten a lot worse, though; I think we're in the middle of a blizzard." He chuckled softly. "Carter was a little surprised when I ended up at the church door, holding a bottle of pills and calling him Ellen," he finished with a slightly embarrassed smile. "He asked if the headstones in Ellen's front yard didn't tip me off."
Her eyes went wide with sympathy.
"Oh, honey, you must be freezing!" she fretted, snuggling forgivingly against his shoulder and wrapping her arms around his waist. "You should have stayed there!"
"It's bad out there today," he agreed gravely, one hand moving down over her hip and pulling the hem of her nightgown closer. "And your grandmother said the same thing. But I wanted to get back here before you tried to leave to find me."
She made a contented noise remarkably like a purr, lips pressed softly to his throat. Maybe she could find a special, creative way to help him warm up…
All such appealing thoughts, of snuggling warmly into their nice cozy haven together and just seeing what sort of fun might develop on its own, evaporated into a startled shriek as an icy-cold palm pressed tightly against the back of her thigh.
"Don't do that!" she exclaimed, twisting away and shoving him playfully, before taking his hands and bringing them to her face, breathing warm air into his palms.
"Well. You're completely awake now, aren't you?" he said with a tiny grin. "And anyway," he added, pulling her into his lap and brushing his fingertips in light circles over smooth, sleep-warmed skin, his smile widening at her expectant gasp, soft and quick against his shoulder, as he gently traced the curve of her bottom, "you're warm."
"Tim," she murmured after a long moment, breaking the heavy, comfortable silence filled only by slightly laboured breathing, his and hers.
"You should stop that; we'll be late for work."
"Well, then. I'll go see if I can manage to open the door without getting lost, and you come on down when you're ready."
Hugging her knees, she sent him a beaming smile.
Then, once the door had clicked softly shut behind him, she expelled a long breath and flopped back against the bed. She really had meant to be up early this morning. This extra hour or two of sleep each morning couldn't continue. After all, it didn't seem to have this effect on him, the extra hour or two they spent awake each night, still almost too good to be true that they could go to the same room now. Climb into the same bed and snuggle and kiss and laugh and not apologize for being too forward. Even when the kisses became heated and the laughter became warm, startled gasps.
Funny, how much difference a wall could make.
Still, as much as she had always envied him the ability to be alert in the mornings despite a ridiculously small amount of sleep, it could only be a good thing that he wasn't spending his days in an exhausted haze as a result of their newly found late-night games.
If he had, she would likely have felt bad about jumping him the second he climbed into bed every evening.
As it was, even though he didn't seem to mind much – and she knew she didn't – she had been swearing for a week now that tonight she would behave and let him get some sleep. Tonight she would resist the temptation to wriggle against him just a little bit and see what sort of fun noises he would make in responses to the light kisses she was dusting over his neck and shoulder.
But last night, of course, was special.
While in the process of working doggedly at her sad attempt at knitting – Grandma always said that every married woman had to know how to knit, and had commanded her on Wednesday with twinkling eyes to have this pot holder done by her next visit – her thoughts had wandered to how long it might take her to make a baby blanket, if a silly scrap like this was taking her so long. From there, vague images of a tiny little creature with a dark fuzz of soft downy hair covering its head, smelling of talcum powder and tucked snugly between two adoring parents had danced across her mind until, almost without any idea of how the words had come out, she had announced very matter-of-factly that she wanted to try for a baby right away.
There had been a decidedly loud silence from the other side of the bed before he had finally turned over, propped himself up on one elbow, and asked her to say that again.
Haltingly complying, she had stopped short as a trail of slow, sweet kisses burned at her knee and upwards through the thin fabric of her nightgown.
The thought of his smile and eyes and voice when he asked, in response to her incredulous look, well, didn't you say you wanted to try right away still sent a little shiver through her and drew a smile very much like the cat that had got the canary.
She was really, really getting to like this whole marriage thing.
He glanced over his shoulder at a soft noise, distinctly like a muffled yawn, behind him.
"Still not enough sleep?"
She stuck her tongue out playfully at his gentle teasing and shuffled across the front room of the clinic, wrapping her arms around him from behind and resting her cheek against his back.
"Well, don't go back to sleep there," he protested, turning with some difficulty.
"I'm not going back to sleep," she assured him, snuggling happily.
When, after a long moment, she remained silent, nestled against his shoulder, breathing growing deep and even, he chuckled softly.
"Are you sure?"
With a self-conscious smile, she let him go and straightened up.
"Sorry. But it's your own fault, for being so cuddly!"
"Cuddly," he repeated, mulling this over, as though not entirely sure whether he had been grievously insulted or lavishly complimented. "I can honestly say, I have never been accused of being cuddly before. At any rate," he continued, frowning as he tried unsuccessfully to open the door, "it wouldn't be a big problem if you did go back to sleep; I'm sure no one will be coming by today. And if they do, they'll have a hard time finding the door."
"I hope everyone's okay," she said anxiously, peering out into the swirling mass of white obscuring the street outside the window.
"I'm sure they'll know enough to stay inside."
"Not like you," she added, shooting him an impish smile over her shoulder as she started towards the front counter.
"We'll just go about business as usual," he announced after shooting her a glare, only half-serious, that sent her into helpless giggles. "We might close up early, though."
Elli nodded as the Doctor disappeared behind the curtain partition. Settling herself in the chair behind the counter, she withdrew a pen and a stack of papers.
Business as usual.
It had been a long four hours for a hopeless workaholic with no work to do. Early in the day, she had filled out the order forms for a few items the Doctor had mentioned the day before that he was nearly out of, and moved quickly on to filling a few prescriptions that he had deemed her entirely capable of handling on her own.
"Doctor?" she called softly, peeking around the corner of the curtain.
He looked up and raised one eyebrow.
"Um, is there anything else you need right now?"
He looked around the room, as though hoping that some previously unnoticed task might pop out of the woodwork.
"I'm sorry, Elli; there's really nothing else right now."
"Oh," she sighed sadly, approaching his desk.
"If you really want to, I suppose the filing cabinet could use tidying."
"I did that this morning."
"Oh. Well…thank-you. Those prescriptions?"
"Finished," she replied glumly. "Before the cabinets."
"We're running low on a few things," he said, pulling out one of his desk drawers and poking through the contents. "I made a list; it's here somewhere."
"I took it," she admitted, blushing slightly. "And I've filled out the order forms, but I haven't mailed them yet. I could go do that," she finished hopefully.
He looked up and caught her hand.
"No, I don't want you leaving in the middle of a blizzard. But as long as you're here," he continued quickly, "maybe you can give me your opinion on something."
She hurried around behind him and peeked over his shoulder. He gave her hand a quick squeeze, and then held up a small objects shaped rather like a microphone with a particularly bad rash.
"Oh! It's a Negative Ion; like the one you gave Vickie."
"I made a few improvements," he admitted. "It should be far more effective now. Do you think she'll take this one?"
"I don't see why not," she shrugged, straightening up and dropping his hand abruptly.
He frowned as she started toward the gap in the curtain.
"I thought you were out of things to do."
She hesitated. Well, as long as she kept lying reserved for emergency situations like this one, it would be fine.
"I just remembered something I haven't done yet."
The Doctor watched, bewildered and a little annoyed – although very attentive nevertheless to the slight sway of her hips beneath those voluminous skirts – as she walked quickly away. Then, picking up his pen, he gave voice to the cry of desolation uttered by men throughout the ages.
Meanwhile, Elli was engaging in a lengthy bout of moping. Mostly out of embarrassment at behaving so childishly in front of the person she admired most, but also in response to a decidedly unpleasant wave of memories that the mention of the little blonde farmer's name in conjunction with that silly Negative Ion had conjured up.
From almost the first day Vickie had arrived in town to take over the farm, she had become a close friend, and Elli was grateful for someone so supportive and cheerful and warm and caring in her life.
Even when Tim had begun taking extra-special care to look nice each morning, and seeking out the pretty blonde on his days off, and she began to think that maybe the notion of heartbreak wasn't as silly as she had always thought while reading romance novels. She had certainly felt hers crack a little when he had told her with a little smile that few things could evoke, that he was going to be spending the Starry Night Festival that year at the farmhouse south of the village.
And again, much more acutely on his behalf, when she had heard of the impending marriage of Vickie to that Kai who ran the beach house. The Doctor had given little indication that the news – delivered by Manna, naturally – meant anything more to him than any good friend's marriage might, although there were moments when something came into his eyes that gave Elli the distinct impression that she might like to wring a certain pretty blonde's neck.
Strange, how that had melted abruptly away when she had gone several weeks later to ask Vickie as gently as an unaccustomed and uncomfortable bubbling anger would let her, exactly what she had been playing at. The stark confusion in her friend's expression had made Elli feel as though she was kicking a very small, affectionate little puppy; the softly stammered explanation that everything Tim had interpreted as more had been meant as friendship had removed the sting of disillusionment at finding out that her best friend would play such cruel games with people.
But despite a tiny spark of joy at finding that the Vickie she had grown to love as a sister still existed, she had felt the crack deepen and shatter when she had come back to the clinic that evening to find Tim at his desk, head bowed and resting against his hands. When he had responded to her timid offer to lend an ear with a sharp request that she leave him alone, timidity had evaporated in short order.
Almost without realizing how, she had found herself shouting that she wasn't going to leave him alone, because she cared about him and it hurt her to see him so miserable and she wanted to help even if it was only by letting him know that she was just as miserable as he was because your friend marrying the person you like might hurt, but not nearly as much as your friend just amusing herself with the person you like before dropping him like it was nothing. The tears streaming down her cheeks had caught her by surprise and sent her hurrying for the door; his arms tightening around her from behind and his cheek resting on her shoulder had stunned her and changed her mind about leaving.
He had breathed into her hair with a laugh that was closer to a sob than she had ever expected to hear from him, that she was too good to be true, if she had felt that way and still gone through all of this without flinching. Women, he had said – had often said – were stronger than men could ever hope to be.
The world was not perfect; it had still been a few seasons before either could hear the young farmer's name without wincing or speak to her without strain. But gradually, she had began to catch him smiling more often – certainly more often than he had since Vickie's wedding, and, she thought hesitantly, maybe even more than he had before Vickie had come to town.
But smiles and true love are two very different things, so when he had asked her that evening about three weeks ago if she was free for a walk to the beach, she had been completely mystified. And when he had spoken of her strength, and then of love, and then of a lifetime together, she had been stunned.
Even now, she wondered occasionally if maybe he hadn't just turned to her as an acceptable substitute. It happened, didn't it? When she had blurted out how she felt about him, he had felt guilty about leaving her in the same state as Vickie had, equally unwittingly, left him in. Since he could never be with the girl he loved, he would at least make the girl who loved him happy.
Most of the time, this thought seemed absurd. Others – including now – it struck her as distinctly and uncomfortably possible. But if that was the case, she would just be there for him as long as he needed her, and hope that someday, he might feel as strongly about her as he claimed to.
With a shaky sigh and a shaky smile, she blinked away the tears gathering at her lashes and made a pact with herself to buy a deck of cards for slow days.
She had just begun to poke through the bottom drawer of her desk in hopes of a stray pack mysteriously materializing, when two slim, cool hands landed at her shoulders.
"Are you alright?"
"Fine," she replied quickly, glancing up at him over her shoulder.
In an instant, he was in front of her, crouched next to her chair, her hands in his.
"And now, how about the truth?"
"That is the truth."
One hand came up to cup her cheek.
"Elli. Please. If this is about Vickie, just say that."
"It-it is a little bit," she admitted haltingly, looking away. "I know; it's stupid when we've already talked about it. But—"
"It isn't stupid," he interrupted gently. "You have no reason to worry, and I hope you'll try to remember that. Vickie is…interesting. Now that entire year feels a bit like waking up after a fever. But nothing that worries you is stupid. I just wish you would tell me these things."
"I'm sorry," she murmured thickly, staring down at their hands folded together. "I love you so much, and the thought of losing you…"
She blinked viciously against newly gathering tears and cringed as a drop landed at his wrist. He pulled her carefully into his arms and urged her head down against his shoulder as he leaned back against her desk.
"I love you too," he murmured against her hair. "I'm sorry if I've given you reason to doubt that."
Resolutely, she looked up, shaking her head and smiling reassuringly. Almost unconsciously, leaning closer and kissing him tentatively. With a soft exhalation, he brushed his lips over the tears leaving gleaming tracks down her cheeks, and returned her kiss more firmly.
Several breathless minutes later, he pulled back and laughed. She blinked wide-eyed confusion up at him.
"I think we'll close up for the rest of the day after all."
End Notes: This was supposed to be harmless lemon-scented fluff. And then I realized that it didn't have a point, and when I tried to inject one, it went all faintly angst-ish! Why don't my stories every turn out the way I want them to, darnit? has a temper tantrum