"Did you know-"

Mary dropped her head back on the couch and groaned, hoping that just this once that would be enough to stop Marshall before he got rolling on another pointless tangent. To make her point, she sat forward to get the remote, and turned up the volume a little.

"-that people didn't always throw rice at weddings? Grains have symbolized fertility and prosperity for millennia. When the custom originally started, wheat was far more readily available than rice, so wedding guests would throw wheat to-"

"Marshall." She gestured between herself and the TV. "Do you see what I'm trying to do here? You wanted to watch MythBusters. You promised me 'exploding bird stomach analogues.' And now I'm trying to watch the exploding bird stomachs, and you're preventing me from doing that. Will you shut up?"

He stretched his legs out at the other end of the couch, stuffing his hands in his pockets and grinning at her. "Don't try to pretend you don't love this show."

"I love explosions," she corrected, trying to keep the frown on her face, turning away from the TV to glance at him.

He inclined his head a little, conceding the point. Something crinkled in his pocket, and he pulled out a brightly colored foil packet, tearing it open before she could figure out what it was and holding the contents out to her. "So, want to get married?"

She stared at the ring pop (ring pop, what the hell? She hadn't had one of those since before her dad left) for a moment, trying to decide if her stomach had just clenched out of excitement or horror. He just sat there, holding it out (and of course if he was going to propose he was going to do it with something ridiculous like a lollipop), his eyebrows quirked slightly as he waited for her to recover.

"Really?" she asked, looking between his eyes and the pop again and floundering a little. She fell back on what she knew best. "You couldn't wait until the commercial break?"

He shrugged a little, smiling like he was just asking what she wanted for dinner. She didn't understand how he could look so calm while he waited for her to stop avoiding the question. "I figured I'd better ask before you found out that rice doesn't actually make birds explode."

"Thanks for ruining the ending," she said, and then paused for a moment. "What if I say no?"

He shrugged again. "Then I get to eat the ring pop."

"Marshall," she said, not smiling.

"I'm serious. If you don't want to get married, you don't want to get married. It's not as though you suddenly love me any less, it just means I was wrong in thinking your not wanting to get married was only applicable to certain people and not a general state of being."

That was reassuring, and the panicked flutter in her stomach started to subside. "Why?"

"Why get married?" She nodded. "I'd be getting married because I love you. You'd be getting married for the exploding birds."

She started to smile a little, one side of her mouth quirking up in something bordering on a smirk. "I thought you said they busted that."

"I'm sure we could find something else for people to throw."

Her smile grew wider. "And you thought the best way to get me to agree to get married was with a ring pop?"

He grinned back at her as he drew his bare foot up onto the couch so he could rest his arm on his knee. "If you even want a real ring, I thought you'd rather pick it out yourself."

She laughed a little, partly because it was true, and partly out of relief that he understood that. She tried to come up with something that would change if they did get married, something in their relationship that would be different, and she couldn't think of anything. The tight feeling in her stomach completely eased away, replaced with a quiet calmness. If she married him, the only thing that would change would be the lack of a ring on her finger, and that wasn't exactly an earth-shattering difference.

"Yeah, okay," she said, reaching for the pop, only to have him pull it back.

"'Yeah, okay?'" He said, not quite able to stop grinning enough to frown at her. "That isn't very enthusiastic."

She socked him in the arm, then leaned back so he couldn't retaliate, needlessly it turned out. "What did you expect? Give it to me."

"Something more enthusiastic than a 'Yeah, okay,'" he said, not even trying not to grin anymore and stretching his arm back and away from her so she couldn't grab the pop.

"I'll give you an enthusiastic kick in the pants," she said, laughing a little as she pushed him down and pinned him to the couch, planting her knees on either side of his torso to make up the height difference so she could reach the end of his arm. He let go of the pop easily, and she slid it onto her finger, the rough bit where the plastic joined scratching her a little. Still keeping him pinned to the couch, she sat back and looked down at him. "I don't want a big, fancy wedding."

"I know," he said, his hands coming to rest on her hips. "We can do it at city hall, if you want."

She nodded a little. "And I'm not going to start doing your laundry or making dinner every night or anything."

He grinned. "I'd think you were replaced by a pod person if you did."

A grin spread across her face in response to the goofy look on his. This was worth not getting to see fake bird stomachs burst from expanding rice. "You're an idiot, you know that?"

"If I ever forget, I'll have you here to remind me."

THE END