Cristina runs to the park, unable to see Owen in the streetlights. She arrives at the unlit park, huffing and puffing, staring helplessly into the dark.
She stops and tries to catch her breath. She listens, but can't hear anything but normal residential noises. She tentatively walks into the park, peering around. Wish I had a flashlight. Her eyes starting to adjust to the soft moonlight, she steps towards the picnic area where they ate earlier.
"Owen? It's me, Cristina, I'm alone."
Suddenly something rushes out of the bushes and runs by her. She jumps and squeaks before realizing it was a cat.
"I hate this," she mutters. She walks around in the open area of the park, peering into the shadows. Tentatively, she walks closer to the trees and bushes, leaving the relative safety of the open area. Finally she hears heavy shaky breathing coming from behind a couple of trees.
"Owen?" No answer.
She carefully steps around some bushes and sees him. From the side, she can see that Owen is sitting down, head and shoulders hunched down, shaking and fighting for control of his breathing. She squelches the gasp that almost made it to her lips. Oh shit, I've never seen him this bad.
She steps back so he can't see her. What do I do what do I do? She takes a deep breath. He would not want me to see him like this.
She steps backward another step and trips over a rock, falling on her rear with an "oof!" Goddamnit.
"Who's there?" Owen asks with a raspy, shaky voice.
"It's me, your klutzy girlfriend," she says, getting up. "I'm alone."
"Go away. Please."
"I can't. I can't leave you alone."
He doesn't respond.
"Ethan is sorry. He didn't think about what the firecrackers would sound like to you."
Owen mutters something she can't hear.
"I'm worried about you, Owen. Can I come over to where you are?"
She runs her fingers through her hair, and shuffles her feet. What would Owen do? She pauses. He would listen to his gut.
She walks over and crouches in front of him.
"There you are," she says softly. She observes him. He's still shaky, but his breathing is slowing down. Tentatively, she reaches out and strokes his hair. He just shakes and keeps his head down. She continues to stroke his hair softly, eventually shifting her position so she's kneeling. His breathing slows down further and he mumbles, "shit."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
He shakes his head.
"Ethan felt terrible," she says, gently tilting his head up so she can start rubbing his temples. He keeps his eyes cast downward. "Nobody blames you, they just didn't know …"
"I punched my brother," Owen grumbles, pushing her hands away. She sits back on her heels and waits. He runs his fingers through his hair. "Jesus Christ, I'm messed up. What the hell was I thinking, coming to a family reunion."
"You didn't know that would happen."
"It's more than that!"
She opens her mouth – and then closes it. She lets him find the words.
"I – I thought that if we all got together, it would feel like before – before. And it did, mostly. But I could see them looking at me, here and there, watching me, like they never did before. Like I'm this broken thing. There's no way it can be like before when they keep looking at me like that."
She nods. "Your mother has been very worried about you," she says softly. "They care about you very much, Owen. What happened tonight was something that they couldn't foresee, and it wasn't deliberate."
He nods. "And I go and blow up and ruin everything. Twice." She reaches out again and rubs his temples. This time, he lets her.
"I think it will be all right. They really do love you, they just – they just don't know you very much right now."
He sighs and gestures for her to sit down next to him, which she does. She leans against his shoulder, watching his face.
"Want to know why I really asked you to come here this weekend?"
"Because you're the person who knows me best in the after and I wanted you close to me."
"But you'd be better off without me and you should get the hell away from me," he says gruffly.
She draws in a sharp breath, sits up, and stares at him.
"I mean it, I'm fucked up. Haven't you put up with enough of my crap? You should go back to the house, pack your stuff, and leave. You can go now, if you'd like." His voice is cool and level, but there is a very queer flat tone to it.
She looks away, feeling like she's been punched in the stomach. She looks at him again, sitting perfectly still, his head and shoulders are still downcast.
She gathers her thoughts, then speaks. "No."
"No," she declares calmly. "No, I am not getting the hell away from you, no, I am not going back to the house without you, no, I am not leaving without you, and no, I am not better off without you. I am not going anywhere."
"Because I won't. I'm staying with you, like I have all along."
"Because I'm falling in love with you, Owen!" she snaps. "Quit trying to shut me out!"
He looks up at her quickly. She claps her hands over her mouth, brown eyes wide with surprise. Did I just say that?
He peers at her, confused. "Did – did you just …?"
"Uh huh," she moans. She feels like she is standing on the edge of a cliff somewhere. Do I dive in?
His mouth twitches. "You said you were falling in love with me?"
"I know!" she moans again, burying her face in her hands. "Sorry!"
He's silent. She peeks at him through her fingers. He still looks confused.
"I told you I suck at talking about relationships," she mutters, throwing her hands into the air. He unexpectedly chuckles, then. "It's not funny, Owen."
"I really can not understand you sometimes," he smiles, rubbing his beard.
"We need a vent," she mutters. "A vent to blow away all of this confusion. Things are easier on the vent."
"But the vent is a distraction, and this is real life," he says softly.
"Very real," she agrees.
"What are you sorry about?"
"The way that I said that I was falling in love with you. Not very romantic or smooth. And you in the middle of a crisis." She looks down at her hands.
"Ah. So you're not sorry that you're falling in love with me?"
She looks up at him. He is smiling patiently, but she catches the intense yearning in his eyes. I have no idea of what I'm getting myself into. Oh well. "I am not sorry about that at all."
"C'mere, you." He sighs and reaches out to her then, pulling her onto his lap, cradling her in his arms. She settles against his chest, comfortably tucking her head under his chin. They sit in the silence of the trees.
"I hope you can still put up with me, because I believe I'm falling in love with you too," he says quietly, stroking her hair. "You're smart and beautiful and funny, and very confusing, but it's fun trying to figure you out. You're certainly not boring. And I do appreciate that you won't abandon me in the middle of a crisis."
She smiles contentedly. "Hey, I just had another first this weekend."
"What was that?"
"For the first time, I was the first person to say the word 'love' in a relationship," she murmurs, tilting her head up to kiss him. "And I really meant it. You are a good man and you are not getting rid of me any time soon."
He kisses her then, with a sudden and fierce hunger. She opens her mouth and slides her tongue against his, as he lowers her to the ground, then slides his hands under her shirt. I've never made love in a park before …
"Helloo?" They hear Charlie's voice from the open area of the park. "Owen? Cristina?" Owen groans softly and rests his forehead against Cristina's.
"It'll be fine," she whispers, reaching up to caress his face. "I'm with you."
He nods and stands up, then reaches down and helps her up. Hand in hand, they make their way towards his family, searching the park with flashlights. "Hey, we're over here."
"Owen!" Charlie gasps, running towards them, followed by Jon and Ethan. She flings her arms around Owen, followed by Ethan.
"I'm sorry!" The brothers man-hug and then Owen starts checking Ethan's jaw.
Cristina feels a hand on her shoulder. She looks up at the gently smiling face of Jon. "Thank you," he says softly. She smiles and nods at him, patting his hand.
Back at the Hunt house, Cristina can tell that Owen is getting very tired of being the centre of attention, as the family fusses around him and tries to anticipate his every need and thought. She pulls Charlie aside.
"Do you guys have any board games or something? I think all of the attention is making Owen very self-conscious."
Charlie smiles and nods. "Good thought." She goes into the living room and asks, "Okay, who wants to play a game of something? Scrabble? Monopoly?"
"I'll play Monopoly," Owen says, "but only if Cristina is my partner. She's ruthless and scrappy." Laughter rings around the room.
"Okay, I didn't make Izzie cry that one time we played," Cristina retorts. "That girl is just too sensitive. Oh stop laughing." She extends a hand to Owen as he gets up from his chair. "Come on, partner."
"Are you sure you're not getting married any time soon?" Amanda calls out.
"Ready for me to turn the light off?"
Owen turns off the light and crawls under the blankets with Cristina.
"I forgot how squeaky this bed is," he says. "Some WD-40 and we could do more than sleep."
"What, your parents don't know that you're not a virgin?"
"Nope." They laugh.
"I'm really sore from football, anyways," she admits, cuddling up as he takes her in his arms. "How long were we playing?"
"A couple of hours, I guess."
"Thanks for getting me to try it. That was fun."
"I'm glad." They both look up at the star-studded ceiling.
"Hey Owen," Cristina says. "Want to know why I really came with you?"
"I just wanted to spend a whole weekend with you."
He laughs. "And what a weekend!"
His mouth finds hers and they kiss.
"Well, I'm glad you did come."
"Me too. So what are we doing tomorrow before we leave?"
"Dunno. We could drive around and I could show you the city. What do you want to do?"
"Play with your dad's model trains."
She feels him smile against her face. "What?"
"Come on, Owen."
"Well, if things were to go in a new direction, like years and years into the future …"
"You would be his favourite daughter-in-law." He waits for her protest. "Cristina?"
"Well, I could be. But we're not going to talk about that any time soon, okay?"
"Let's just enjoy the now."
"I like the now."