Compromises

After fastening the clasp on her delicate necklace, Charlotte turned to appraise herself in the bedroom mirror. Her simple dark blue dress – one of Cooper's favorites, she knew – seemed like the perfect thing to wear out to dinner, where, if he ever got his nerves under control, Cooper planned to pop the question – again.

Charlotte wished she could chastise him for being so nervous. It was silly, but the truth was that she was nervous, too. This was a big step in their long two-year relationship. After tonight, they would officially be engaged and after the vows were exchanged and the last slice of red velvet cake eaten, they would be husband and wife.

Granted, Cooper wouldn't be her first husband, but if Charlotte got her way – and she usually did, he would be her last.

"C'mon, Coop," she called, giving her lipstick one last touch up. "It's nearly seven. We're gonna lose our reservations if you don't kick it into high gear." When Charlotte didn't get a response from inside the bathroom, she muttered good-naturedly, "I swear, you take longer to primp than I do."

Capping her lipstick and tucking it inside her clutch, Charlotte walked up to the bathroom door to knock. She stopped short, though, when she heard Cooper's hushed voice. He was talking to himself which would've been odd if Charlotte hadn't realized what he was actually doing; he was practicing his proposal speech.

"I-I never saw you coming. You're everything I never knew I wanted - bossy and stubborn and domineering - but I like it. Honest, I do. I mean...prob- probably, you'll take a good ten or fifteen years off my life and turn my hair grey, but it'll be worth it. It'll be worth it because I get to spend those years with you. I love you, Charlotte. I love you even when I don't understand you and when you're being impossible, and sometimes, I don't know whether to kiss you or just flat-out arm wrestle you, but even then, I love you."

Charlotte smiled despite herself and didn't care that she probably shouldn't be eavesdropping like this. To justify it, she tried to reason that it was better she knew what was coming now and prepared herself for it, rather than get caught off guard and become emotional in the restaurant. She'd already done enough raw, public emotion at Dell's funeral the day prior.

"Now," Cooper continued, sounding nervous as hell. "I- I know I haven't always treated you right, like I should. I've said things...and done some things, and I know I've hurt you. I- I hope that, maybe, one day, you can forgive me. I know that rebuilding that trust will take some time, but to show you I'm all in, for the long haul, I've written down some promises that I want to make you."

Charlotte heard the crinkle of paper like he was unfolding something from his jacket pocket and it touched her that he'd actually taken the time to write this down.

"Number one," he recited. "I will never fight dirty during another argument. Now, I can't promise that I'll never say anything stupid or mean or thoughtless, but promise I'll never hurt you again on purpose, just for the sake of hurting you. That was wrong and I apologize."

Charlotte doubted that she'd ever really forget all the things Cooper had said to her during their horrible argument, but she also knew, in order to wipe the slate clean, forgiveness was a good place to start.

Cooper took a deep breath and she could almost picture him standing on the other side of the door, all sweaty and anxious. "Number two," he began. "I won't disrespect your job." He was quick to add, "I'll be honest, Char, I don't like the fact you're a sexologist. It's uncomfortable for me, I guess, and I still don't know how I'm going to explain it to my conservative, Midwestern parents. But it's your choice and I'll try to respect it."

That made Charlotte smile. She'd always hoped Cooper would eventually accept her new, thriving career, and be happy she'd finally found a rewarding specialty she enjoyed.

"Number three." He cleared his throat. "I won't – or I'll try not to, at least – let money come between us. I know you have more money than I do. You make more than me, you save more than me, and your family is better off than mine. It's just a fact, and I'm going to work on not letting that bother me so much."

A knot loosened in Charlotte's stomach when she heard that. It was a huge relief for her to hear Cooper acknowledge his inferiority complex when it came to their finances. There was middle ground there and it seemed he was willing to at least discuss ways to reach it.

"Uh, number four, you're going to be my best friend. Now, I- I love Violet and she'll always be my oldest friend. But right now, I think it's important for us to be best friends - especially right now, and that means talking and sharing and listening, and all those things I know you hate. But I promise I won't judge you and I won't pull away again."

It was a long time coming and it felt good; Cooper was finally going to put her needs over Violet's near-constant, meddling ones.

"Number five, at least once a week, for the rest of our lives together, I'll do that thing will my tongue that you love-"

Charlotte snorted a loud, delighted laugh and right away, she knew she'd gone and blown her cover. The bathroom door swung open almost immediately to reveal Cooper looking none-too-pleased by her eavesdropping.

He eyed her suspiciously – utterly adorably, actually – and asked, "How long have you been standing there?"

Charlotte quirked an eyebrow and replied, "Long enough to know we're gonna need to amend your list, there." Going up on her tiptoes, she kissed his cheek and whispered suggestively, "I'd like that thing you do with your tongue twice a week – at least."

Cooper chuckled and pulled her closer. "I think I can be persuaded." He added glibly, "I mean, what is marriage without a little compromise?"

The End.


A/N: I was in the mood for a little fluff...REVIEWS make me smile! :-)