Caroline, Julia, & The Bullfighter

Caroline, Julia, & The Bullfighter

Rated 'PG'

BY: Jana~

~~Disclaimer~~

*****~*****

--"Richard and Julia having sex at their own party?!" Caroline exclaimed, crinkling her nose in disgust... "And I thought the napkins were tacky!"

"I can't believe they were doin' it on my coat!" Annie added, shaking her head.

"And what was that weird sex laugh Richard had?"

"Oh, I know! It would be like doin' it with Peter Lorre!"

Annie and Caroline both did a poor imitation of Peter Lorre, looking quite the sight when Richard walked in from the living room...

"Is Remo serving his special brownies again?" Richard joked, approaching them.

"How did you get out here so fast?" Annie asked, then her expression went shocked... "Oh my God!"

Caroline, at about the same time, realized what Annie had, and her eyes got wide... "Oh my God!"

"Oh my God!" Annie repeated...

"Oh my God!!" Caroline was almost panicking.

Richard looked at them incredulously, one eyebrow raised in curiosity... "What?"

"Nothing..." Annie quickly covered... "It's just... this hallway!"

"It's an 'oh my God' hallway..." Caroline interjected.

"With an 'oh my God' sconce..."

"Well, don't look at me..." Richard informed... "Julia did all the decorating..."

"Speaking of Julia... where is she?" Annie asked, receiving a glare from Caroline.

"Oh, I don't know, mingling probably..."

"Yeah... her being the hostess and all..." Caroline quickly cut Annie off from whatever she was about to say... "Her friends seem..." she hesitated… "Nice!"

Richard just looked at her a moment... "What party have you been attending? These people are insufferable."

"Hey Richie..." Annie couldn't hold it any longer... she had to interfere. It was driving her mad not to... "Could you go into your room and get my coat?"

Caroline grabbed her arm and glared at her... "But we're not ready to leave yet!" she snapped through clenched teeth.

Annie forced herself not to laugh... "Yeah, but we will be shortly, and I'm a bit cold." she told Caroline, then turned back to Richard... "Richie?"

"You can't get it yourself?" he complained, not knowing exactly what, but knowing Annie was probably up to no good.

"Well, you know... I don't like going into strange bedrooms..."

Richard smirked and headed for the bedroom door... "Since when?" he muttered, then opened the door.

--He flipped on the lights and immediately realized there were two people having sex in his bed. At first, he was embarrassed...

"Oh, I'm sorry..." he apologized, ready to back out of the room. He turned the lights back off when he heard his wife's voice...

"Reechard?"

"Julia?!"

Richard flipped the lights back on to see his wife in bed with Jose... the crass, rude bullfighter he had met earlier.

"What are you doing?!" Richard demanded to know, taking a step towards the bed, angrier than he had ever remembered being.

"Reechard! Let me explain..."

Richard grabbed Jose and dragged him out of the bed... "Get away from my wife!"

"She said you had an 'open marriage'!" Jose exclaimed as he hit the floor with force and grabbed at his pants.

"What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?" Caroline asked, stepping forward.

"Caroline! I'll handle this!" Richard snapped, turning back to Julia...

"Carolina! I should have known!" Julia hissed, wrapping a sheet around herself and crawling out of bed... "You just can't stop meddling in our lives! Can you?!"

"This isn't about Caroline Julia, and you know it! Don't try to twist the blame away from yourself!"

"An open marriage..." Jose stated as he put his pants on... "Is a marriage where two people get married for status. But it's understood that the two can DO whatever they want..."

"Including bullfighters..." Annie interjected.

Julia angrily pointed at Annie... "Shut up you beetch!"

Annie just blinked twice, then anger took over and she rushed at her. Caroline tried to grab her but wasn't quick enough and Richard had to hold her back...

"Annie! Get out! This isn't your battle!" he barked as he dragged her towards the door, Annie still fighting to get free and at Julia.

Caroline grabbed her arm and took control of the situation... "Annie! C'mon! Let's go! Now!" she yelled as she pulled her out into the hall.

Richard slammed the door with Julia and Jose still in the room with him.

--"Why didn't you let me kill her?" Annie barked as she calmed down.

"Richard is right... it's not our fight. It's his..."

"She called me a 'beetch'! That MADE it MY fight!"

Caroline shook her head sadly... "Annie, why did you do that? Why did you send him in there knowing what Julia was doing?"

"He had to know Caroline..."

"Did you see the hurt on his face. Seeing her with Jose hurt him Annie..."

"It woulda hurt worse if the marriage had drug on... Julia stacking up affairs and bullfighters. It's better he know. Better he SEE it rather than just hear stories and rumors... always wondering if the gossip were true."

Caroline looked sadly to the ground...

--"Caroline..." Trevor called out as he entered the hall... "We ready to go yet?"

"Oh, umm... Trevor... uhhh..." Caroline stammered. She knew he wasn't going to like what she was about to say...

Annie started to make her way to the living room... "I'll just leave you two alone..."

"Ok, what's going on now?" Trevor asked, obviously irritated.

"Look, something has happened. We can't leave yet..."

"Why not? What's happened?"

"It's ummm... Richard... you see--"

"Of course it is! It ALWAYS is!"

Caroline sighed... "Trevor..."

"No, Caroline! No more! WE will never be able to be 'US' if RICHARD is always in the way! You have to choose! Choose between Richard and me!"

"Don't do this Trevor. Richard is my friend. Don't make me choose between you and my friend..."

"Caroline, he is so much more than a friend. If he were just a friend, there wouldn't be a problem. I can't live like this anymore. You need to choose..."

Tears splashed down Caroline's face and she looked to the floor, sadness tugging at her heart... "If you make me do this... if you make me choose, then I choose Richard..." she stated quietly.

Trevor sighed deeply and shook his head, dropping his gaze to the floor... "Ok."

"Ok?"

"Yeah. I understand." Trevor approached her and lifted her chin, smiling at her... "Goodbye Caroline..."

He kissed her softly and she nodded sadly...

"Goodbye." she whispered.

He gazed at her for a moment, as if to say he was ok with her decision, then walked towards Richard's bedroom door...

"Don't mind me... just getting my coat..." he said as he walked into the room without knocking...

"Trevor!" Julia barked, annoyed by the intrusion...

"Sorry Julia, but I have to go..."

Trevor grabbed his coat off the bed and turned to leave... "Hope everything works out for you..." he said to Richard, then he left, closing the door behind him.

*****~*****

--The guests caught wind of what was happening and were desperate to leave, not wanting to be involved with the marital fight going on in the bedroom, but they couldn't leave without their coats and belongings. Annie, having no shame, volunteered to go into the room to retrieve the items being held captive by the Karinsky's and the bullfighter.

"Don't mind me..." she announced as she entered the bedroom, making a beeline for the bed where all the coats and purses had been thrown...

"GET OUT!" Julia yelled, causing Annie to stop in her tracks...

"I would love to, but I need my coat to do that!" Annie snapped back.

"Why are you taking all of them?" Richard asked in a slightly more civil, but still irritated tone...

Annie smirked as she collected the items off the bed... "Cause EVERYONE wants to leave. Looks like Julia's party is a bust!"

Julia glared and threw a wadded up ball of tissue at her... "Shut up SLUT!"

"Oh, now if that aint the POT calling the kettle BLACK!" she scoffed, walking out the door and slamming it as she did so.

*****~*****

--The guests left quickly, as soon as they got their jackets, and soon, Annie, Caroline, Del, Charlie, Del's date Monica, and Annie's date Brian were the only people left...

"You sure you don't wanna just get out of here?" Annie asked Caroline, as everyone but her stood poised at the door, ready to go.

"I'm sure. I have to make sure Richard is ok. I have to talk to him..."

"Ok sweetie..." She hugged Caroline, then joined Brian at the door... "Let me know what happens..."

"I will..."

--Caroline sat waiting on the $12,000 couch, her chin in her hands, looking bored and concerned.

"You'd think if they were gonna spend $12,000 on a couch they'd at least get one that wasn't ugly..." Caroline said to herself as she looked around the posh penthouse at all of Julia's new purchases.

--Jose was the first to leave. He sheepishly looked around for his coat and left without a word upon finding it. Sometime later, when Caroline heard the bedroom door open the second time, Richard appeared around the corner with a bag and a suitcase in his hands...

"Caroline! What are you still doing here? I thought you left with Trevor or Annie..."

Caroline stood as he approached... "I couldn't leave till I knew if you were ok..."

"I'm fine. Homeless, but fine."

"She's kicking you out?"

"No, I'm leaving."

"Where are you going to go?"

"To be honest, I'm not sure yet…"

Caroline grabbed a brown paper bag full of art supplies out of his hand… "You can come to my place then…"

"Ummm… I appreciate that, but I don't think Trevor would be too happy about--."

"Well, ummm… actually… we broke up…" Caroline interrupted, looking to the ground while scuffing her feet on the floor.

"What? Why?"

"We were just going in circles… we had been for a while…"

Richard just nodded… "Did I tell you how beautiful you look tonight?"

Caroline smiled… "Yes. You did."

*****~*****

--"Here we go…" Caroline announced chipperly as they entered the loft… "Mi casa es su casa…"

Richard flinched… "Please Caroline… no Spanish…"

"Oh. Right… sorry…"

"It's ok…" He dropped his few belongings to the floor and headed for the couch.

"So, you want a drink?"

"Yeah. Something strong…"

"Scotch?"

"Perfect…"

Caroline grabbed 2 glasses out of the cupboard and poured them each a glass of scotch while Richard made himself comfortable.

"Here…" she said, handing him the glass…

"Thanks." Richard took a healthy drink and set the glass on the coffee table. He felt comfortable at Caroline's, and surprisingly at peace. His marriage was over, but he didn't feel upset or sad… he felt relief. He kicked off his shoes and leaned back, taking his glasses off and rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"You ok?" Caroline asked, watching him closely.

"Yeah, actually… I am."

"What happened?"

"Variation on the same old problem. Julia and money… and with Julia, money always wins."

"So, what happens now?"

"Well, we're going to get an divorce."

"I see…" Caroline grabbed her glass and sipped her scotch.

"You wanna talk about Trevor?"

"He's a great guy… but he's not the one. You know… sincere amore…"

"Yeah…"

"I've known for a while, deep down. But I couldn't admit it…"

"Why?"

"Do we want to do this now?" Caroline asked, knowing full well they would have to discuss their feelings for each other eventually, but wondering if that moment was the right time.

Richard looked at Caroline, a slight smile on his face… "If you do."

Caroline took a deep breath… "He wasn't… you."

He nodded and gulped the rest of his drink…

"More?" she asked, picking up the bottle and pouring herself more.

"Please."

Richard had never been a big drinker, but he knew he would need the affects of alcohol for the conversation they were about to have. He sipped a few sips of his drink and sighed, gathering his courage.

"I want you to know… I married Julia--"

Caroline interrupted… "Richard, you don't have to--"

"Caroline, please…"

"Sorry, go ahead…"

"You have to understand… I never thought you could love me. I was lonely. I wanted someone to love… to love me. Julia was… familiar…"

"Yeah…"

"When I found out about your feelings… when Annie told me at the airport… I wanted to go to you. But, marriage isn't to be taken lightly. I couldn't do that to Julia." A dry chuckle escaped his lips… "Apparently, Julia didn't have that problem…"

"I'm so sorry…"

"Don't be. I'm not."

"You're not?"

Richard smiled… "Caroline, I wasn't in love with Julia. I thought I was, but I wasn't. I was in love with… some idea of Julia…"

"I know what you mean."

He downed the remainder of his drink and set the glass on the table…

"More?" Caroline asked…

Richard shook his head… "I better not."

"Ok…"

"So, what happens now?"

Caroline shrugged… "I don't know. Maybe we should sleep on it?"

"Yeah… good idea…" The tone in Richard's voice caused Caroline to feel the need to clarify…

"I just don't think it's such a good idea to rush into anything…"

"I agree."

There was an awkward moment of silence between them…

"Ok, so, I guess I'll go on up to bed…" Caroline stated shyly…

"Ok."

"You'll be ok? On the couch?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Thank you."

"You're welcome Richard."

Caroline kissed him on the cheek and hugged him tightly. His scent was arousing, and she fought to keep her senses. She pulled away and stared at his face, her desire kindled.

"Ummm… I better go to bed…" she blushed, turning from him and towards the stairs.

Richard noticed her reaction, her bright shade of red giving her embarrassment away… "Yeah, ok…"

"Ok, so… goodnight…"

"Goodnight."

*****~*****

--Caroline couldn't sleep knowing Richard was just feet away, downstairs on the couch. She was in love with him… and she wanted him, but was reluctant to jump into anything hastily. He was minutes out of a marriage, and she was minutes out of her relationship with Trevor. Best to wait. Wait for the timing to be better.

--Richard laid awake on the couch, his thoughts racing over the day's events. He knew he should be upset about Julia and her infidelity, but he wasn't. Images of Julia, her in bed with Jose in the most intimate act quickly left his mind, making way for thoughts of Caroline. The thought of her right upstairs, nothing standing between him and her except his morals was most frustrating. He forced himself to close his eyes, pushing the image of Caroline out of his mind.

*****~*****

--Caroline tiptoed down the stairs, peeking at a seemingly sleeping Richard on the couch. His body was tense and his eyes were shut tight. She sighed quietly and turned to walk back upstairs when she heard his voice call to her…

"Caroline?"

She froze… "Yes?" she replied, not turning to face him.

"Are you ok?" he asked, concerned…

"Yeah, why?"

"Why did you come downstairs?"

"Just wanted to make sure you were comfortable."

"I am."

"What?"

Richard chuckled… "Comfortable."

"Oh."

"Caroline, come sit with me…"

Caroline sat beside Richard on the couch, wringing her hands nervously.

Richard placed his hand over hers, forcing her to realize she was fidgeting…

"Sorry…"

"It's ok, Caroline…"

She sat silently, not sure of what to say or do, his hands on hers causing her heart to beat just a little bit faster. She couldn't believe how such a simple touch could cause such emotion. She forced herself to stop squirming and looked to the floor, staring as if it was the most interesting thing she had ever seen.

"Caroline?"

"Yeah?"

"I know the timing is bad… but I want you to know…"

"What?"

"I love you Caroline. And I'm so sorry I hurt you."

Caroline looked at him with tears in her eyes… "It's alright…"

"No, it's not…" Richard corrected… "I should have told you about my feelings a long time ago. I should've never married Julia…"

"You weren't intentionally trying to hurt me though. I know that…"

"No, I would never INTENTIONALLY hurt you, but the fact of the matter is, I did. And I can't forgive myself for that…"

Caroline touched his cheek, holding her hand to his face compassionately… "Richard, if I can forgive you, YOU can forgive yourself."

"You are so amazing. What have I done to deserve you?"

"Whatever it is… I'm glad you did. I love you Richard."

Caroline leaned forward to kiss him, and he responded, tilting to meet her lips. It was soft and tender at first, but quickly grew in intensity. He wrapped his arms around her small waist, running his hands up her back and sending shivers of desire up her spine.

"Richard…" she whispered, his lips finding their way to her neck…

"What?" he asked softly.

"Come upstairs…" she beckoned, her voice quiet but sure.

Richard looked her in the eyes, trying to decipher the emotion there… "Caroline… are you sure?"

"Yes. I'm sure…"

Richard scooped her up in his arms and headed for the stairs. They only made it half way when there was a knock at the door.

Caroline shook her head and sighed, irritated by the intrusion… "Ignore it…"

Richard smiled and continued his way up the stairs… till another knock stopped him…

"REECHARD!" Julia's shrill voice could be heard on the other side of the door… the pounding continuing.

Then they heard Annie's voice… "HEY! Shut up!" she shouted at Julia… "Some of us are trying to sleep!"

"Sleep?" Julia scoffed… "Is that what you call it? I call it whoring!" she snarled, her snotty indignant tone causing Annie to attack. She had just made it to her when she felt hands pull her off.

"Annie! Calm down!" Caroline shouted as Richard pulled Julia out of Annie's reach.

"Ok! Ok, I'm fine!" Annie started to calm herself and Caroline let her go. "You're lucky they came out!" she barked as she headed for the door. Julia said something insulting in Italian, and Annie stopped and turned, as if she were ready to attack again…

"Annie! Go back to bed!" Caroline ordered, pointing to Annie's apartment. Annie walked away in a huff and Richard let go of Julia, glaring at her…

"What are you doing here Julia?" Richard's voice sounded angry.

"I have come to tell you…" her voice smug and superior… "I am filing charges against you in the divorce proceedings… claiming that you drove me into the arms of another man because of your relationship with Carolina."

"You can't do that!" Caroline interjected…

"I have not had a relationship with Caroline beyond friendship and employer/employee. There is no validity to such a claim!"

"I know what I've seen!" Julia snapped, a self-satisfied smirk crossing her lips. She headed for the door, then spun around melodramatically… "Oh, and by the way… I'm pregnant."

Richard's jaw dropped as she walked out the door and for the elevator. Richard sprinted to her and grabbed her arm, turning her to face him…

"What? You're pregnant?! When did you find this out?!"

"Today. I took a home test…"

"Is it mine?"

"Reechard! How could you ask me such a thing?"

"Oh, please! After what I saw! Is it mine, Julia?!"

"Yes, Reechard, it's your baby."

The elevator arrived with a 'ding', and Julia went to walk on, but Richard stopped her…

"How can you be so sure?"

"Cause Jose was my first…"

"Affair?" Richard asked, finishing her sentence with bitterness in his tone.

Julia just glared at him, but she quickly dropped the expression, smiling wickedly instead… "You will be hearing from my attorney."

With that the door shut and Richard just stood silent, leaning against the wall in frustration.

Caroline approached hesitantly, placing her hand on his shoulder… "Richard?"

Richard jumped at her touch and moved away, shaking his head.

"Don't do this Richard. Don't shut me out…"

"I can't… I can't…"

"You can't what?" She could sense his anguish…

"Ruin your life!" he snapped, tears in his eyes… "Don't you see?! Agony and suffering follows me! A relationship with me is self-destructive!"

Caroline stopped him from pacing and held his face in her hands… "No, Richard, it's not. You don't have to suffer through this alone. We will get through this… together. Ok?"

Richard held her tight and sighed, forcing back the tears that were threatening to fall… "Ok." He agreed, then pulled back to look in her eyes… "I love you Caroline."

"I love you too…"

*****~*****

--Caroline hired an attorney to work Richard's divorce. After several months and multiple letters, a meeting was set between Julia and her lawyers, and Richard and his.

Julia talked about Richard and his obvious love for Caroline. The looks, the working late, the way he would drop everything to go to her when she asked him to. Richard knew she was right… all those things were true. He never even tried to deny any of it. He loved Caroline, and had since the first day he met her, but he was also a married man. A commitment he didn't take lightly. As much as he wanted to go to her… to be with her when he finally found out about her feelings for him, he knew he couldn't do that to Julia. Even after he found out that Julia had erased Caroline's message to him on their wedding day, as agitated as he was by her deceit, he wouldn't cheat on her. It wouldn't be right. Caroline respected him greatly for that. And now, Julia was trying to dirty it… lying again and claiming that all along they'd had a relationship, driving her into the arms of Jose the bullfighter.

When it came Richard's turn to explain his side, he openly admitted being in love with Caroline. He explained how he never thought she could love him, cause she deserved so much better than a starving artist with no money. He told of how he felt when he found out from a mutual friend that Caroline could indeed, and did, love him. He felt so conflicted. He wanted to go to her, but he couldn't because he was married. He went on to describe how hurt he was when he'd learned that Julia had erased Caroline's message, on purpose. But even after all of it, he never cheated on Julia. His and Caroline's relationship remained as friends and co-workers… nothing more. He offered as proof… the fact that they worked in Caroline's home where often, friends would drop by unannounced, giving them no time or privacy to carry on an affair. He could also provide a witness in Annie, who was at Richard's door when Julia admitted to erasing the message, telling Caroline it was to save her from humiliation. He was also able to find Martha, the burly, crass nurse who overheard Julia tell Richard while at the hospital that she erased the message on purpose. Even Jose offered to testify to the fact that Julia had claimed to have an 'open marriage' with Richard.

The judge agreed that even though Richard clearly had feelings for Caroline, Julia, with her deceit and affair, was clearly responsible for the break up in the marriage. Richard, for his part only wanted one thing… the divorce along with a DNA test to determine paternity. It had been Julia who wanted blood against Richard, but got nothing instead. The judge condemned her for her actions and had stated that IF Richard had asked for alimony, she would have granted it to him. She then commended Richard for his moral standing and wished him and Caroline all the luck in the world.

Julia was seething, but her outbursts of contempt didn't win her any favors… the judge threatened to throw her in jail if she didn't stop yelling. Julia complied, grumbling as she took her seat.

*****~*****

--It was a cause for celebration. The divorce would soon be final, Richard and Caroline would soon be married, and everything was finally going right for the couple. It had been 2 weeks since the hearing in front of the judge, when Annie decided a party was in order.

"Any excuse to get drunk…" Richard teased as Annie set up for the party.

"Yeah, well, after everything you put me through… I deserve a party!" Annie shot back…

"What I put YOU through?! What are you talking about?"

"Oh, c'mon! Do you know what kind of torture it was keeping your letter a secret?! And let's not forget the fact that I was the one who was here for Caroline when she needed a shoulder to cry on while you were doing the horizontal tango with the 'Italian Scallion'!"

"Annie, must you always be so crude?"

"Must you always be so snooty?" she shot back, smirking as she set several bottles of liquor out on the counter.

Richard rolled his eyes and started to put his easel away when Caroline came down the stairs…

"Play nice guys…" she said, kissing Richard and heading for Annie… "Do we honestly need this much liquor?"

Annie just patted Caroline's shoulder… "Yes. Absolutely."

Caroline just chuckled… "Ok, if you say so…"

*****~*****

--The party was in full swing. Annie was working the room, trying to find 'Mr. Right'… or at least 'Mr. Tonight', and Caroline and Richard were holding each other close, swaying to the music. With all the bodies crammed in the medium sized apartment, they almost didn't hear the knock at the door. Some guy, who was only there as a friend of a friend of a friend, answered the door, clueless as to whom 'Richard Karinsky' was…

"Hey! Yo! Is there a 'Richard Karinsky' here?" the guy shouted over the music. Richard looked up from his dance with Caroline and waved his hand, walking towards the door.

"Mr. Richard Karinsky?" the messenger asked, receiving a polite nod from Richard… "Sign here…" he added, pointing at the line on his clipboard.

Richard took the form and signed his name… "What is this?"

"I didn't write it, I'm just the messenger." He handed Richard the letter, then turned and walked away as Caroline approached.

"What is it?" she asked, touching his shoulder to gain his attention.

"Not sure…"

He opened the letter, reading it carefully, his eyes expressing a myriad of emotions that was beginning to worry Caroline…

"Richard? You're scaring me… what's wrong?"

"It's the paternity test…"

"Oh my God. What does it say?"

"You tell me…" He handed the letter to Caroline and watched as she read it.

Annie saw the emotion on their faces from across the room and headed for them…

"What are we looking at?" she asked, peeking over Caroline's shoulder. Richard glared at her and Caroline ignored her for the most part… until… "Oh my God! That's the test results?!"

Caroline quickly whisked the paper from her line of sight… "Annie!" she scolded, irritated.

"What?" Annie shot back, offended by Caroline's tone of voice.

"Just give us a minute Annie… please?"

"Fine. Fine."

Richard and Caroline looked at each other for a moment, then Caroline gestured at the stairs. Richard nodded, and they walked up the stairs to the bedroom, in order to have some privacy.

--"99% chance that the baby is not yours?" Caroline said, holding the paper up for him to take.

"Yeah…" Richard seemed somewhat sad…

"Are you ok?" Caroline asked, concerned…

Richard nodded and sat down on the bed, holding the papers as if the words would change if he stared at them long enough. Caroline sat beside him and rubbed his back affectionately…

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I'm sure. It's better this way…"

"Yeah?"

"If the child had been mine… we would've had a lot of problems with Julia…"

"Yeah…"

"This way, we can go our separate ways… with nothing as a link between us…"

"True. But…"

Richard looked at her, knowing she was trying to tactfully bring up the obvious… "But…?"

Caroline sighed. He wasn't making it easy on her, and she knew it was because he hoped she would drop it. But, she wasn't ready to drop it. It needed to be broached.

"If you are not the father…" she hesitated, feeling out his mood before continuing… "She told us about the pregnancy the night she slept with Jose. If the baby isn't yours… then she slept with Jose before that night… or someone else--"

"Caroline…" Richard interrupted… "I know, ok? I know…"

"I'm sorry…"

"You know… all her trips to Italy… to see friends or… whatever. I guess I kinda knew. Or at least knew it was possible, but I didn't want to see it." Richard chuckled… "It's funny… I've spent most of my time in recent years avoiding my feelings… the obvious… the world around me. I've missed so much…"

"But not now…" Caroline interjected, smiling lovingly at him. Richard took her hand and kissed it…

"No, not now. Not anymore. I'm done running… avoiding… missing. No more."

Caroline leaned in and kissed his lips softly… "You wanna go back down to the party?"

"In a few minutes. Right now…" he whispered as he snuggled up to her, nuzzling her neck… "I want you…"

"Now?" Caroline giggled… "What will people think?"

"Who cares…"

The time at Julia's party, when she and Annie caught Julia in bed with, whom at the time they thought was Richard, she remembered how her and Annie had criticized such an act. Having sex at your own party…

"I care. Richard, I love you… and I want you…" she moaned as he kissed the nape of her neck, running his hand down the front of her dress… "But, the party…"

"A bunch of drunks, half of whom I don't know…"

"Still… Richard…" she lightly pushed him, making her position on the matter clear.

He groaned and pulled back, then smiled at her, running his finger across her lips… "Ok… later then…"

"Absolutely."

--They went back to the party, Annie immediately attacking them upon descending the stairs. Richard rolled his eyes and headed for the liquor table to get he and Caroline a drink while Caroline filled Annie in on the letter.

--After the last of the drunks left, Annie cleaned up, whining about the lack of romance in her life and leaving with effort not to stumble and fall.

"I think Annie had too much to drink." Caroline surmised as she watched her best friend stagger across the hall.

Richard chuckled… "Whatever gave you that idea?" he asked sarcastically, closing the door and locking it. "So…" He said, wrapping his arms around Caroline…

"So…"

"It's later…" Richard whispered, gently kissing her ear…

"Yes it is." Caroline knew what he was getting at… but she wanted to make him ache.

He grumbled, looking dejected… "Caroline…"

She smiled and kissed his passionately, feeling him respond immediately, full of love.

"Let's go to bed…" she suggested, walking towards the stairs.

"Let's…"

--Finally, after all the wasted time, after all the avoided feelings and mistakes and failed relationships, Richard and Caroline were finally together. And they lived happily ever after?

THE END