A/N I own nothing. Thank you for letting me know your thoughts on these, I've had fun with them. I believe this to be the last. And personally I prefer #2, 3 or 5. But maybe 3 a little more. lol. (Although, I would take it by a boat or on a goat, in a tree, or on one knee at this point.) Thoughts?


"I said no, Chuck." But he's not deterred because he knows that she's never meant it before. And he hopes that she's not planning on starting now.

"Please." The word gives her pause like he hoped it would and not like he intended it to. Because he's done pulling her strings, making her dance for an audience that never really saw her.

And would never see her – no matter how shinny his armor.

His heart's in his throat and he considers praying, as she chews on full lips, that this last curtain call includes an encore. He can see it in her eyes, the moment 'yes' plunges its dagger – the one it must have pulled from her heart, the one that he put there himself - into 'no' and steps to centre stage. So he nods and links his fingers with hers before 'no' resurrects itself once more.

She doesn't smile at the action, she's told herself she won't, he knows, but the fleeting twitch of her lips eases his mind, though they both know he doesn't really deserve it.

They've been here before, in this moment, in this place, and she's staring at him with that glint in her eye that tells him she's the reason he hates the term 'bell curve.' "This…"

He nods his head, his palm suddenly slick with nerves under hers, as the little black flats he requested she wear slap against the concrete and echo in his memory. Hers too, and it's that recognition that stops his throat from failing as it did then.

"I love you." And her breath is leaving her body faster than she can draw it in and he thinks it just may be the first time he's seen her speechless. "I should have said it then." He admits, because he finds he likes stealing her breath and doesn't quite want her at the top of her game if he's going to be able to get this all out.

She's still gasping for breath and her eyes can't quite hide her shock so he guides them slowly from the small of her back into the waiting limo.

He realizes now it's always been waiting, will always be waiting – the limo, yes. But her – and them– too.

She's always wanted perfect, and he's never been anything close, but he thinks this may just top rubies and pins and a decade of doldrums.

Her eyes question him, that tiny spark that starts deep with brown pools and ends up in the pit of his stomach, and he finds his lips curling upwards for the first time in months – years, maybe. But he doesn't tell her their destination, she'll recognize it soon enough, and besides, he'd rather see the expression on her face when she does head on.

He's done backing into life, into them. And she deserves to see it.

"It's a rooftop." She knows it, he knows it, but it's what rooftop it is that has her voice cracking right along with her resolve. "And we're in Brooklyn." And he's handing her a single white Lily that he's taken the time to tint a deep purple himself (Humphrey, for all his faults – numerous as they may be – is a (virtually) untapped wealth of useless knowledge.) A single tear appears behind her eyes to match the single flower she holds in her hand and he's struck by an unnamable distain for the singleness of it all.

Ironic, he knows. So he opens his mouth and repeats the declaration so at least she'll hold a pair of them in her heart. "I love you."

She tilts her head in that way she does when he's surprised her, really surprised her – and not with slander or manipulation, either. With sincerity. And he can't help but feel a pang as she hesitates for the briefest of seconds before allowing her fingers to meld into his.

She's holding back, he realizes, and this is his final test. But he's never been one for studying. "I should have said it that night." He's tempted to tack on 'too', but he knows her disdain for the word, born of reciprocation without thought or emotion or feeling, and can't bring himself to wound her anymore than he already has.

Some things you learn by doing.

He's pulled her all over town now, from Manhattan sidewalks and Brooklyn rooftops to Hampton Mansions framed by white pillars and surrounded by private gardens, handing her another piece of himself until he's not sure where he ends and she begins.

She hesitates again as he pulls her toward the helicopter pad that started his slow downfall into this hell of his own making, but this time, as she turns wide eyes on him, she's gripping his fingers tightly; all pretenses of curtain calls and last goodbyes and endings are gone from her gaze. And he knows he doesn't have to explain, but he never could separate wanting and having when it came to her. He hears the word in the air between them before his stomach can flutter to life with nerves as they come to the climax of their little play.

"Tuscany." A single word – and this doesn't bother him now, because the word might stands alone, yes, but he knows from the tears in her eyes and the slow kick of his heart in his chest that they never will.

He can tell by the smile that reaches her eyes that he's done redeeming himself and Manhattan.

And the city where it all ended, where she watched the crown she'd placed on her newly appointed Prince tarnish and slip from his head, is just the place for him to crown himself as the King to her Queen.

He doesn't worry about his title slipping this time, Prince Charming was over rated.

And he was never really one for incest, anyway.


A/N - ... I'm tempted to explain the incest comment to its fullest, but I want to leave this piece as is.
xoxo

Lynne