He trudged out of bed feeling a little more cornered than usual with the ring once again placed on his finger.
It really was a beautiful ring. Berwald did such a great job picking it out that he felt a little bad taking it off sometimes. But he just didn't feel ready for marriage quite yet. Was that really so bad? Gently he put the band on Berwald's bedside table as he was now accustomed to doing.
After getting dressed he journeyed to the kitchen for a quick breakfast before work. He took some sliced bread and slipped it into the slots of the toaster before perching himself on the counter. Yeah, it was weird to go to the bar during the daytime on a Saturday, but they were doing inventory and a thorough cleaning today. Plus, Peter was going to be at Ravis' Birthday party and would most likely end up sleeping over, so he felt no guilt leaving the little one with Ber and Emil for the morning. It was a free day for everyone except him! But the extra hours and cash couldn't hurt.
Hearing his toast pop up from the toaster he quickly put them on a plate, before he burned himself, and grabbed some jam out of the pantry. He laid the jam on thicker than usual since no one was around to judge and eagerly began devouring the morsel. Because of the crunchiness of the toast he didn't register Berwald's footsteps coming down the stairs.
"What?!" Tino asked with a full mouth, now paranoid about his amount of jam.
"Before you left for work." His boyfriend raised an eyebrow at his reaction.
"Oh . . . yeah, hahahaha . . ." He quickly stuffed the last piece in his mouth as Berwald came over and sat at the island counter. It wasn't until he swallowed that he noticed Berwald was playing with the ring. The giant twirled it in-between his fingers, letting them turn over each knuckle until they were flipped around the underside to repeat the same process.
There was still a pang of guilt that took Tino's heart when reminded of the declined proposal; the heart-broken look in Berwald's eyes; the confused creases in his brows; his frozen yet cracked posture.
After the date Ber insisted they were back on great terms but Tino felt like he was walking on eggshells, waiting for Berwald to give up for refusing him.
"You know, we don't have to get married, but you can still wear the ring for show at the bar, in case you don't want that sort of attention."
The Swede didn't look up at him as he spoke. His gaze was glued downward on the wooden counter top. Tino still felt the ring was a tender topic, and quite often now found himself wanting to just say 'Yes, let's do it,' just to get Berwald off his back and happy again. But there was still that voice that whispered doubts in his head. If marriage made him nervous the first time, it only made him terrified now.
"I would but I'm only cleaning today. We won't be open for public use so it'll just be Ludwig, Feli and I."
"Ah. Well that's good then. I was wondering why you had to leave so early."
"Mm." The air began to feel heavier, so Tino tried brightening it up once again. "Plus I don't want to get it dirty or lose it! Can't have that right?"
Berwald looked up at him and gave a half-smile. "Yeah."
After a minute or so they both glanced at the clock and Tino spoke up. "I should get going."
Without a word Berwald craned his neck to give Tino a peck goodbye, only Tino didn't want just a peck. Still holding onto some guilt Tino cradled the Swede's face and firmly planted his lips against his. It was long and unexpected, but most of all tender. When Tino pulled back Berwald was at a loss for what to do and say. The Finn simply smiled before leaving the kitchen and heading out the door.
Emil woke up in one of the worst ways possible for the 5th morning in a row-
A new voice mail from Lukas.
Not even bothering to listen to it he tossed his phone back on the bedside table and got ready for the day. While stretching, he heard the front door open and close. He hoped it wasn't Xaio but wouldn't be surprised if it was. The teen now treated Tino's house like his second home and rarely knocked anymore. Emil liked to pretend it annoyed him but really it had become a sort of comfort.
Climbing down from the attic and walking down the hall he looked down the stairs and out the window. When he saw it was just Tino leaving the teen turned around to go back up to his room.
"Emil." Berwald's deep voice practically bounced off the walls with how quiet the house currently was. It made him jump, not sensing the man's presence at the bottom of the stairs.
"Yes?" He turned around to face his eldest brother.
"You have to call Lukas."
"Don't concern yourself—" Berwald held up his hand, successfully cutting him off.
"If Mathias and Lukas are calling me non-stop, then it's become my business. Please just call him. Today," he said flatly, obviously a little irritated.
Coming down the steps and fleeing away from Berwald he instead decided to fix some cereal. His nerves were just starting to calm when Xaio walked in. Being surprised yet again within ten minutes, he accidentally spilled some of the milk he was pouring.
"We should just get you a key if you don't bother to knock."
"Or we could just be together all the time and share yours."
"Please, my cereal is sweet enough as it is. I don't want to eat up your sugar-coated garbage as well."
"Heh, well someone is crankier more than usual. What's got your panties in a bunch?"
Emil finished chewing a bite before mumbling his response. "I was ordered to call Lukas today. They've managed to recruit Berwald so now I can't run away."
"So you admit it; you are running away from the problem. Admitting it is the first step, now we can make progress."
"Shut up. I still need to shower so do whatever you please in the meantime."
"Fine, fine, go take your shower. I'll find something on TV before Peter gets up."
Putting his bowl in the sink Emil retreated upstairs while Xiao unpacked some food from his bag and loaded the fridge. He and the pale teen still enjoyed cooking together so he liked to bring over whatever he could even if Tino's fridge tended to be full.
After he was done with that he remembered a shirt he had forgotten in Emil's room last week and went to go retreat it. Climbing up the attic stairs he could hear the shower running and so took his time looking for the clothing. During his search he heard an odd noise, like a vibration. Locating the sound Xiao discovered it was Emil's phone by the bed. He knew better than to pry into his boyfriend's privacy but the others had been so crabby and stressed because of his far away brother that it had not become his problem. Looking at the screen he saw Lukas name and to Emil's unknown horror picked up.
"Finally got the balls to pick up have you? About damn time."
"This is Xaio speaking. You're Emil's brother, Lukas?"
"Yes. Xaio what are you doing with my brother's phone?"
"As if my headache isn't large enough already—"
"I've been wanting to speak with you. I'm Emil's boyfriend and have nothing but good intentions towards him."
"As fine and dandy as that sounds, why hasn't Emil told me that himself?"
"Because he's afraid you don't trust him. He's told me the reason for moving in with Berwald and Tino and I want you to know those days are truly behind him. I take not only our relationship but his well-being very seriously. The main thing we do is cook, schoolwork, and watch Peter from time to time. I assure you, I won't deter Emil to do anything stupid or unsafe. Except maybe play with fireworks—that's too much fun."
" . . . Look I don' even know you. Let alone talking over a phone. . . . How can I even take your word?"
" . . . Good point. But surly that can't be the only reason. Convince me why I shouldn't get on a plane right now and check on my little brother."
"Because he's afraid of just that. He's realized his mistakes before moving here and doesn't look to repeat them. I don't want him to either. I've had friends that took a bad path and Emil is one of the last people I want to see take the same road. I love your little brother sir, and I don't know if he or Berwald told you but I've given him a promise ring, to show that I care and will stand by him."
" . . . If that's true, it's very admirable. You seem like a good person Xaio, but I don't like judging someone until I officially meet them. I look forward to seeing you on Christmas break. I've got to get going, but still have Emil call me."
With that Xaio heard a click and hung up. He put the phone back and found his shirt when Emil came in drying his hair with a damp towel.
"What are you doing in here?
The taller held up his shirt.
"And I talked to your brother."
"You got Berwald to hold a conversation with you? How on earth did you manage that?"
"No, your other brother, Lukas." Emil stopped what he was doing and looked at him with a horrified gaze.
"Yeah. He called and I've been meaning to talk to him, so I answered."
"Oh god, what did you tell him?!"
"What he wanted to know; you're okay, my feelings for you and that we're together and I'm taking care of you." Emil rolled his eyes. His face held the look of dread with a hint of embarrassment.
"Xaio, I really wish you didn't. It's none of his business. . . From now on let me handle my brother." He threw the towel into the hamper and sat on his bed.
"You weren't handling anything, so I stepped in."
"Come again?" Emil raised a pale eyebrow and glared.
"You were running away, Emil. You have to break that habit. Why do you want to keep our relationship such a secret when our rings are for the world to see?"
"You know sometimes you remind me of Lukas and right now it's really pissing me off. I was going to let him know today—"
"Only because you were being forced to."
"Let me do things in my own time!"
"And make a loved one worried sick about you? Think of it through his eyes. Your baby brother moved far away after having some trouble and now he's back in another relationship and you're not there to meet the new guy or protect him. In the meantime you're sensitive and get migraines whenever said brother is up to something. Also, if what you say is true about his partner being a total dip-shit I feel bad for Lukas."
"Lukas could have had anyone he wanted! He chose his fate with Mathias, don't pity him for that! And as for being sensitive he doesn't need to be so attached. I don't want him to think he needs to fuckin' care that much! He's my brother, not my mom. Why are you on his side anyway?"
"Because I know what it's like. We have similar upbringings, Em, but I think you were more sheltered than I was. Where were your parents Em? Did you think that maybe he had to take it upon himself to take over that role? My dad is hardly around because of work so my siblings and I had to step up."
"Don't compare our families. Yours is more open and loud, mine are a bunch of quiet freaks! You don't know what we all have to go through with each other—talking is like pulling teeth."
"It doesn't have to be. Stop making things so difficult on yourself and others, all you had to do was tell your brother about us and that you're happy! But no, you had to extend it out to this point. This could've been avoided if you didn't run away from your fears."
"You know what—leave. Get out."
"Yes. Get out and leave me alone. You've spoken your piece and I've had enough Xaio. I want you to go!"
"No because that'd just be running from the problem again! I'm going to make you break this Emil. Be pissed at me, I don't care as long as we're still together."
"I don't want to get you involved with my family because we're not like a real family. Hell, it seems like we just find escapes. Lukas escapes our broken family problems with Mathias, Ber with Tino and Peter, and now I want to with you. You should understand with how much you come over, you escape your family when you come see me."
"It's not about ditching family and problems. It's about combining them and seeing if they fit cohesively. Your last relationship wouldn't work because he brought too many problems and not enough solutions. I'm determined to be your solution.
"Stop making sense. I'm still really mad at you."
"But do you still love me?" Emil's cheeks flared red and he looked away.
"Who said anything about 'love'?"
"I highly care for you too."
Alfred sat patiently sipping his coffee outside a cafe waiting for Ivan. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't slightly nervous, but if he just stayed calm and cool, hopefully he and Ivan could work out some past, and now current, issues. Just when he was going to check his watch he saw Ivan approach and sit across from him, smile ever present and beverage in hand. He wondered how he missed him going in the cafe but brushed it off.
"Good morning Alfred. Have you been doing well?"
"Morning Ivan. Yes. You?"
"Just splendid, got everything I need for the next year done. Little Peter should be quite the busy bee."
"Mm. Great. Well let's get down to the reason we're meeting. You couldn't possibly still be this mad at me."
"Oh, but you still haven't apologized."
"I didn't think it was necessary, since you took your rage and broke my arm."
"You cheated on me Alfred," Ivan deadpanned.
"You treated me like shit."
"Yes but you didn't seem to really care for the year and a half we were together. In fact I think you enjoyed it."
"You'd let your anger get the best of you and hit me Ivan."
"You hit back."
"That still doesn't make it okay."
They were running in circles again. Nothing was going to get accomplished at this rate.
"Look. . . . maybe we should just share our own views on the past. You want to go first?"
"Fine. This is how I saw it: The gorgeous man I've been crushing on all throughout high school accepts to go out with me and I was on top of the world. We turned out to have a lot in common and after high school we saved our money to live together when we started college. Things were going great for us and then you got your internship. With you doing school, working part time and the internship at city hall I hardly ever got to see you. And you seemed fine with that."
Ivan paused to take a drink before continuing. Alfred was starting to feel the guilt even though a voice in the back of his mind was telling him not to be.
"You were meeting all these interesting people and I felt I was being left in the dust. It made me so frustrated, seeing you so happy with these random strangers in power and not me. I felt like you'd forget about me unless I made more of an impact, I just didn't realize how much harsher I was starting to become. But you just took it and I figured it wasn't too big of a deal. When they extended your hours with the internship it only made me more worried. I'd come home to an empty apartment so often reminded you're not there that I was quickly growing more depressed."
Alfred looked down at his drink, absorbing his ex's words. He remembered those days. He remembered feeling a distance forming between them.
"I'd go to the gym to try and work out some anger but then I saw you come home late, too tired for anything. The anger just returned with full force. I didn't know how to make you happy anymore and everyone else did. I wanted you to be just as miserable as I was but at the same time love me like you used to. That makes no sense, but I felt like I was losing you and I didn't know what to do. You were working with big shots in politics while I was in school for a teaching degree."
A faint smile was playing at the Russian's lips and Alfred could tell the man's gaze was in another place. His lips quickly drew into a frown as he continued the story.
"Then you began staying later and I grew more upset. It's like we weren't a couple anymore but at the same time were. I missed you all the time but you didn't do anything about it and when we did hang out it was as if you were on call. Then you let that Senator fuck you. Why? We were hitting a rough patch and you go ahead and cheat on me. I wanted you so bad, then had you and we were happy, then you let others take you away from me, soil you, and suddenly you weren't happy with me anymore. I didn't mean to break your arm but you sure as hell meant to break me."
The air was colder while Ivan looked at Alfred for a response but the American still held his head down.
"Wow . . . I didn't know that was what you were going through. . . "
"Da . . . Now, tell me your side."
There was a long pause before Alfred began telling his view of their past.
"Well, I never had you on my radar until after one of our wrestling meets. In high school I thought you were just husky underneath all those layers of clothes but in our gym attire I got to see your true form. Who knew you had all that muscle? When you asked me out I was pleasantly surprised. We did have a great time in high school and when college came I felt more prepared with you around. Living with you was a lot of fun and when I got that internship it felt like everything was all falling into place. I just hadn't realized how hard juggling everything was going to be. I'd try and get everything done in school, rush to city hall and help there, and go home and catch up with you to repeat it the next day or have a full day of work at the garage."
Alfred stopped to take a long sip of his coffee before starting back up again.
"When I was taken on as a secretary for Arthur my hours did increase, but I figured you'd be happy for me. Instead when I came home you'd put me down, insult me, or 'play' wrestle with me and I figured you needed a release and we hardly saw each other as it was, so it was the least I could do. But it was starting to become too much after a while. It was like walking on eggshells coming home. I never knew what kind of mood you'd be in. Soon though, you were just upset with me most the time and I didn't know what I could do anymore to fix it. I just became your punching bag. I thought you were done with me."
He cradled his coffee while Ivan tried hearing him out. As much as he didn't want to admit it this was helping. He knew he was cruel at times back then.
"At that time it seemed like the only people that cared was Mattie, Gilbert and Arthur. Arthur . . . he showed me the tenderness you neglected to give me. He wouldn't hurt me or force himself on me. Arthur showed me kindness and after a black-eye from you my feelings shifted. Yeah it was an 'accident' but how many 'accidents' can there be in a few months concerning one person? He made me realize that, and was my one haven when you were supposed to be. You've let your anger get the better of you countless of times and I was tired of being the receiving end of that. When you broke my arm that was the last straw."
They were both quiet after Alfred shared his piece. It was almost like they were frozen in time, except the gentle breeze and their breathing gave it away.
"So, we were both in the wrong." Alfred looked up to meet Ivan's purple eyes.
"Yeah . . . . Look, Ivan, I'm sorry I didn't make time for you. I'm also sorry for cheating. I shouldn't have betrayed you like that."
"I'm sorry too Alfred. I should have never laid anything but loving hands on you. Just so you know, I've been seeing a therapist about it and learned to control it." Alfred smiled up at the man who returned it.
"That's great Ivan! I'm really happy for you."
"Thank you . . . . How are you and Arthur?" With the heavy stuff no longer clouding their minds the air felt much lighter and both loosened up a little.
"We've been doing good. Super busy as you probably guessed. . . . Have you found someone new?"
"No, no not yet. Been busy as well."
"Hey maybe you'll luck out like Berwald! One of your kids could have a hot MILF or DILF~" The American smirked.
"So far no. I've met all the parents with the parent/teacher conference meetings and none are for me." He lightened up some. "But I am in no rush. Things will run its course and I'll find someone along the way."
"To new beginnings." Alfred held up his Styrofoam coffee cup.
Both men took a long sip and put their cups down almost at the same time.
"So we're all good?"
"I think so. Though you are still as annoying and loud as you used to be, it is good to be talking again," the Russian joked.
"If you're gonna be my kid's teacher you better get used to it." They both laughed lightly.
"Yes, now-a-days parents blame the teacher and not the child when there are complications with the kid's schooling. One of my up-coming students has an iPad and the parents want them to use it in class! How can I teach a room of 27 six year olds while one is sitting there with an iPad, and is doing who-knows-what with it?! And God, the other kids—they'll be distracted and think it's unfair."
"That really sucks dude. I knew teachers have it rough but that just sounds like bull crap."
"It really is."
"Well Peter's not so bad but if he does something don't hesitate to call. I know kids growing up with divorced parents are usually more apt to act out but so far with Berwald he's been doing good with him."
"That is good. Plus he is right down the hall if I need him."
Trying to be a wonderful boyfriend and hopefully-future-fiancé, Berwald was in the yard cleaning the gutters when he heard a car pull into the driveway. To his surprise it was Arthur's black beetle parked. He climbed down his latter to meet the man while the other cut the engine and stepped out.
"'Ello Berwald, is Tino home?"
"No, 's at work. Everything okay?"
"Sorry, I should have called. Yeah-yeah things are alright, just a little bit on edge."
"Come inside. Peter's at Ravis' and Emil is out with Xaio."
Inside Arthur made himself comfortable at the island bar in the kitchen while Berwald grabbed glasses for them.
"What would you like the drink?"
"Tea if you've got any, please." Ber went to the cupboard and retrieved the bitter substance. Tino always kept some stashed away in case Arthur visited. Same with Coke for Alfred. He set some water to boil on the stove and turned back to the Englishman.
"So, what's wrong?" The question was finally asked.
"I'm worried about Alfred. He's with Ivan right now and I can't help but get anxious whenever that man's involved."
"Why's that?" Berwald would be lying if he said he wasn't curious. When Ivan first mentioned Alfred the Swede was intrigued. He knew he got bad vibes from the Russian but would like a reason besides a 'sixth sense'. Tino told him that Ivan and the American used to be together and the pale man was less than a supportive boyfriend. It was hard to believe the American just went along with the abuse but people can be surprising.
"I'd rather he be nowhere near the brute. I mean, they're in a public setting and Alfred's' really matured since then, but Ivan's also to be Pete's teacher and I hope they can get some things worked out before then.
"I don't like Ivan either, but have faith . . . "
"These years are crucial for child development and I don't want the lad to hate school. I want him to exceed and love learning."
"I'll be sure to help with that regardless of who his teacher 's," Berwald boldly stated.
"Thank you Berwald. It's a true relief that we have you . . . Call me paranoid but I think Ivan still loves Al."
"Mm . . . I thought he was gonna make a move on T'no."
"Ja. He walked into my class one afternoon and eyed him up."
"The nerve of that arse-hole."
"Mm. But maybe he was just doing that because he was upset with you and Alfred."
"Let's hope so. How are you and Tino doing?"
Berwald turned and saw the water was boiling. He started working on the tea for Arthur, and thinking how to answer in the meantime.
"How long did you wait to propose to Tino?"
"Whoa. . . That's a big step mate."
"Mm." Berwald grunted as he handed the Englishman his beverage.
"Well let's see . . . It was after he graduated high school and I met him at least a year or so beforehand. Are you thinking of proposing?"
"Already did." Arthur almost choked and spit his tea.
"No. No I think he just wants us to stay the way we are right now. So that's what I'm tryin' to do. I need to stick around to show how committed I am."
"I'm sorry . . . You are a good man, Berwald. You have my blessing if that counts for anything."
"You know, Alfred and I have the same problem." Berwald looked at him and raised his brow, obviously showing his interest for the senator to continue.
"He wants to get married so badly but I told him just to wait until after my term. Our lives are busy and crazy as it is and to add a wedding into the mix would be ludicrous. The boy said he'll be fine with eloping but that's not proper or fair to our families. I know Peter would be quite upset with me if he weren't part of it."
"How much longer do you have?"
"It's still quite a while. A few years. But my duty comes first. That and I know if Al really means it, he'll stick around, so I'm not worried. Just like you shouldn't be with Tino." He looked up at the Ber from his tea.
"He got married right out of high school and soon had to drop out of college to take care of a child. When I gained my success we felt like we were on top of the world. He had a nice home, a new son, and seemingly loyal husband who was bringing home the bacon. Then he discovered his loving husband was less than faithful and he wouldn't take it—I commend him for that. One of the reasons I loved him." The green-eyed man cradled his tea as he continued, Berwald listening intently.
"He can take things in stride. Tino left me and took Peter, braving his way through the media and press, and started from scratch as a single parent with only a high school diploma and a few credits here and there. And now he's somehow making it work, much thanks to you."
Berwald was surprised to hear so much from the other man.
"You are his rock Berwald. He trusts you with his home and his treasure, Peter, and wants you near to help him protect and grow it. I used to be his rock but crumbled. You've gained a lot of his trust in relationships back but right now may not be the right time to make that big a step. Surely you understand."
The Swede nodded slowly, understanding more.
"He loves you Berwald. And I'm positive he'll want to marry you sometime in the future." They were both quiet, contemplative silence holding them.
"Alfred's a strong guy. I'm sure he's over letting anyone seriously hurt him. And he's more mature than we give his credit for."
"Yes . . . He did the same thing I did you know; cheated. Only Ivan isn't the kind of person that's as understanding."
Berwald raised his eyebrow again but didn't say anything in case Arthur wanted to elaborate.
"Ivan used to beat Alfred when they were together. He said it'd just start off with a light slap or play wrestling but it was when he'd come in my office with a black eye or marks around his wrists I began rising questions. Over the course of his employment I started caring for him because it's so rare in this job to find people with such genuine concern over the environment, people's rights, regulations and the like. Tons of individuals lose that drive and passion, but with Alfred's energy he just fueled the atmosphere. Still does too."
The corners of Arthur's mouth subconsciously curved upwards while his eyes glazed over with a faraway look. Berwald was having mixed feelings over the man's story mainly because he didn't like the idea of anyone hurting Tino, but at the same time if Arthur didn't, then he himself wouldn't be with the Finn.
"I quickly fell for him when he was assigned as my assistant. With my time more spent with him and away from Tino my feelings shifted. I know I shouldn't have had an affair but we both felt so stuck. We were also at that age where we were discovering what we liked and didn't like. Tino turned into such a tame person and so did I I guess. We both got bored with each other and our routines. We wanted to fix that. . . but my schedule was chaotic and he was tired from having to be with Peter and clean the house and things. We both gave up. . . We became strangers with our own separate priorities . . . Work and Alfred was my only escape. Peter and guns were his."
"'n you weren't scared?"
They both erupted in laughter.
"Quite terrified actually. Anyways I'm sure you've heard enough from me. How's everyone been?
"Peter's good. Very social, he's making a lot of friends. Emil and Xaio are good I think. They keep to themselves mostly. You know teenagers. And Tino's been busy. Work and classes taking up his time. How are you and Alfred?"
"Glad to hear it. Busy as well. New proposals every day! Alfred wants a dog but our place isn't big enough for that kind he wants I'm sure."
"Mm. Peter wants one too but I don't want to add more responsibilities on Tino."
"Mm . . . . Well I've taken more than enough of your time. I think Alfred is texting me so I'm going to get out of your hair. Thanks for your company. I really appreciated this chat."
======At the bar=======
"That is so romantic! Why didn't you say yes?!" The Italian exploded.
"Please don't yell—" Tino said meekly.
"But it's an outrage! If you love each other why not get married?!" Feli proclaimed in a huff.
"Because I'm not ready." The Finn tried to reason. The brunette gasped.
"Luddy always said that, but I got him to say yes! Or do you think Berwald is the one?"
"He is, he is! I just don't want to jump into it like I did before."
"It's typically better to wait at least a year before marriage, unlike three months like we did Feli." Ludwig interjected.
"Then at least be engaged with no set date!"
"I don't want to be that kind of couple." Tino tried to play it off but the passionate Italian was having none of it.
"Passion should not be put on hold!" The German and Finn laughed as Feliciano began scrubbing the bar counter harder.
"Don't get me wrong Feli, I do love Berwald, and I do want to marry him one day, but things are still getting settled. Once everything is where it should be I'll propose to him."
"I'm holding you to that Finny-Finny-Tino! Or else say goodbye to all my recipes!" He huffed and went into the back to fetch another rag.
"I've never seen Feli so upset," Tino whispered to Ludwig. The tall man nodded before responding.
"He has no tolerance for unrequited love. Gets enough of that drama from his twin, who always lies about his feelings. So Feli's extra honest about his. I love him for it though. He's an open book for me. Written in another language sometimes sure, but still open."
"Berwald might as well be a triple-locked safe then. Even though, sometimes I think I get him. . . . Slowly but surely. If he lets me."
"As long as you both are communicating then things are going to be okay. After you declined his proposal, have things felt the same?"
"Honestly? No. He's accustomed to putting the ring on when I sleep or sneaking it on my hand when I'm distracted. I don't want to wear it but I still want to show him I love him. I'm sure he didn't mean to, but he's turned this ring into a kind of game. It'd be cute if only I didn't picture his disappointed face every time I saw the thing, you know?"
"Then play along."
"Wear it long enough to make a good memory to associate it with. Like, wear it while on a romantic walk or date."
"You know . . . That's a really good idea."
After work Tino got a text from his love, confirming his thoughts about Peter spending the night at Ravis'. Seizing the opportunity, he went to their favorite Chinese restaurant to pick up some take out and hit up a red box. Speeding his way home he thought of scenarios of them on the couch and making a happy memory with the wedding band that wouldn't end up in an engagement.
Pulling up, grabbing the food and movie he hurried inside at a giddy pace. When Tino got through the door he went to the kitchen table and unloaded everything.
"Babe I'm home~! Got us some Chinese and a movie!" He heard steps coming down the stairs and a wet-haired hunk of a boyfriend appear.
"Welcome home." He lightly pecked Tino's forehead and peeked into the takeout bag. Berwald hummed in satisfaction and lightly pushed Tino out of the way with his hip in a playful manner.
"Hey! You can't eat that yet!" Tino tried taking the bag away but it was only proving to be difficult. It was like Berwald was a hungry Labrador and Tino was a small Maltese. Whenever Ber moved his head his hair would flick water droplets everywhere.
"I would expect this from Alfred and Peter but not you. Have you eaten today?"
"Why not?!" He managed to get the food away and walked into the living room with it, having the giant following him.
"As soon as ya left I got caught up in chores. Just got out of the shower five minutes ago."
Tino tsk'd and shook his head.
"Figures. I leave you with a fridge full of food and you forget to take a break to eat. Anyways I rented a movie, could you pop it in while I grab the plates and silverware?"
======Hour and a Half Later========
Tino set his plate down on the coffee table and shifted around to lean himself against Berwald's chest. Automatically the man's arm reached around him and pulled him closer. Tino inhaled his fresh scent and hummed in satisfaction. He was so full and with the house all theirs it was entirely too peaceful. His eyes felt heavy and decided to close them for a little bit.
=====3 Hours Later=====
The Finn shifted around feeling sore yet still surrounded by comfortable cushion. Opening his eye he realized he was laying on the couch. Next he noticed the time on the DVD player and groaned. He fell asleep when he should've been giving his boyfriend a good time.
'It's things like that that make a marriage sink,' he unconsciously thought. 'No! Stop that Tino! Ugh, just see what he's up to now and try to seduce him.'
Getting up off the couch he wandered around his home in search of Berwald. It wasn't long before he located him on the porch, fixing the outside light. The light was above the door so Ber was standing on a chair in order to reach and switch the bulbs.
"Babe I'm sorry for fa—"
The Swede must not have noticed his presence beforehand because he nearly fell off the chair in surprise. Reflexively he grabbed the man's jean-clad legs to steady him and anchored his knee onto the chair. Having raising Peter helped his protective, mother-saving instincts.
"Aaaaaand I'm sorry for that." Letting out a relaxed breath he placed his hand on the other's head and messed it lovingly.
"Tino what are you talking about?" Berwald was confused by the blond's weird behavior.
"I didn't mean to fall asleep during the movie."
"It's okay we can watch it another time. You had to work today so you must've been tired."
"Mm well I'm not tired anymore. In fact, I have plenty of energy." Pulling his other knee onto the stair his head was now crotch-level, and with his hands still on Berwald's pant-legs, he tugged them downwards. Not enough to show any skin, thanks to the stupid belt in the way, but to get his point across. "Especially for some exercise best suited for the bedroom." He winked up at the taller man.
I'm SO sorry for the delay. I'll hopefully be updating more frequently but no promises.