He doesn't realize how long it's really been since he's been back to Mount Justice until he's walking through and being tackled with hugs by four different bodies before the computer can finish recognizing him. There's an amused laugh somewhere off to the side where he sees Dinah standing beside Conner, Kaldur, Suzie, and Artemis, and he lets out a laugh as well, steadying himself.
"Okay, I get the point, I'll come visit more," he says, disentangling himself from the others.
"Where've you been, man?" Wally demands. "It's like you dropped off the face of the planet after your last visit or something."
"I've been preoccupied," he says. He hears M'gann giggle, but he's not sure if it's out loud or in his mind because no one else seems to acknowledge it. Then again, she could just be a giggly girl.
Dinah places a hand on her hip and gives this challenging smile. "You came just in time. We're doing hand-to-hand combat training. Care to join?"
"You're on. I call Kaldur first," he says, and as they are taking their stances, Dick and Wally mutter "aw!" simultaneously somewhere off to the side.
Sparring is pretty much what they do for the next two hours and he is everyone's partner at least once, including Dinah when she was trying to demonstrate maneuvers. That doesn't go too well, for him, anyway, because he ends up flat on his back. He knows Dinah is trained and perfectly capable of tossing a man up to three times her size out a window, so it doesn't bruise his ego, or anything.
"I've been meaning to ask you," Dinah says as he is pulling himself up (he smirked and batted her hand away playfully when she offered it), "Did you get the invitation in the mail?"
"Yeah. Sorry, I meant to answer but," he shrugs one shoulder, "you know, busy."
She laughs. "Don't worry about it. So I'll tell Ollie one for you?"
"Two, actually." It kind of just comes out because he's correcting her, but in retrospect, judging by the nine pairs of wide eyes now staring at him, he probably should've taken a less blunt approach.
The first one to react is Wally, and it's to zip up right in front of him and exclaim, "I knew it!" in his face. "You do have a hot girlfriend!"
M'gann laughs and he just smirks back at her and shakes his head because they both know who knew anything before Wally.
"Roy," Cassie gasps beside the Martian, her eyes wide with excitement as she flies over to him, "Please tell me that the idiot is right for once!"
"Atta boy!" Dick snickers and holds his hand out for a fist bump. "Way to go, tiger."
Suzie and Conner don't say anything but just give him these warm smiles and look honestly happy for him. Conner lowers an arm around M'gann's shoulder and pulls her to his chest, and Suzie comes to stand beside Dick, putting her hand on his arm gently and returning the wide grin he flashes at her. Then Kaldur has a hand on his shoulder and says, "I am happy for you, Roy. She must be special."
"I'll say," Dinah chimes in. "She must be a bigger deal than you're letting on if you want to bring her to the wedding to meet all of us."
And he doesn't even have to look at M'gann to know that there's this wide smile plastered onto her face when he sort of exhales a laugh and says, "Yeah, she is."
He hates the fact that everyone keeps staring.
He's not stupid and he sure as hell isn't blind, so he knows that Jade is just crazy sexy and beautiful by nature and people are just going to want to stare. He gets it; he doesn't like it one bit, but he gets why. But when they can't walk through one store without hearing a whistle or the murmurs then it kind of gets to him. And Jade is either very good at ignoring it or perfectly oblivious, because she just carries on.
"What's got you all worked up?" she asks, not even looking at him as she trails her finger along the spines of the books along the shelf.
"You mean you don't feel that?" She looks at him this time, one eyebrow arched. "Everyone's staring at you."
"Of course," she laughs.
"And that doesn't bother you?" he questions.
She shrugs her shoulders. "Not really," she admits. "Why do you have a feeling that it bothers you?"
Because it does. He's not going to say that out loud, ever, but she kind of smirks and shakes her head so he probably doesn't need to.
And it's not even just because she's the mother of their child. That's definitely a big half of the reason, but the other half of the reason is that he's just jealous. His temper is pretty short, but his tolerance is kind of shorter, so all those eyes checking out Jade? Not something he wants to let slide.
"Well, it shouldn't," she says after a few minutes have passed. "You don't hear me complain when it happens to you."
She plucks a book off of the shelf to examine the front and back covers, but his eyebrows raise and he just looks at her. He wants her to elaborate on what she means, because in his mind, he thinks she means that she actually pays attention to when other girls look at him and that this actually bothers her. "You get jealous?" he asks, and he knows he sounds too amused because she glares at him.
Instead of saying, "of course," or something along those lines, she says, "Don't get too cocky," and goes back to browsing through the bookstore.
That night he finds himself sitting in his sweats on the bed, pillows between his back and the headboard as he flips through channels. He can hear the sound of running water from the bathroom as Jade is washing up, but other than the small part of his mind that hears the channels as they flash across the screen, he is too lost in his own head to notice much else.
It's probably why he doesn't see the bathroom light turn off to his side, and only snaps back into focus when the TV is being turned off and Jade is jumping onto the bed, straddling his waist. Her nightgown rides up a little and he places his hands on her thighs underneath the hem of satin material.
"I have to admit," she begins, "seeing you get jealous earlier was pretty hot."
He arches an eyebrow. "Was it?"
She laughs this sultry laugh and leans in to whisper against his ear, "But don't tell anyone."
He groans lightly when her hands fall onto bare chest, her fingertips trailing a feathery-light touch along his skin as they dip into the contours of his abs. This woman is going to be the death of him.
So he captures her lips with his own and each kiss follows one another in a quick procession, leaving only time for breaths that get shallower and shallower as each kiss gets longer and deeper. He slides a hand over her waist and quickly flips them over, knocking pillows out of their way, and places a wet kiss on her neck just above her pulse that has her tossing her head back in pleasure.
"As long as we're telling secrets," he mumbles against her skin, "I kind of wish you were showing more. It'd give me a more justified reason to knock someone out for hitting on you."
"So possessive," she purrs. "And insecure."
"You don't exactly try to make it easy on me," he breathes.
She hums rather contentedly as he showers her skin with kisses, moving his lips in a path up her shoulder and to her jaw. "And what would make it easier?"
He doesn't answer, just kisses her lips hungrily. But he wonders if him running his thumb over her left hand and then over her ring finger is supposed to be an answer or just an impulse.
"So, are we ever going to meet her?" Wally asks between pizza slices.
They're working on their fourth large order because not only does Wally eat more than three people alone, but Conner and Kaldur are big boys so they do, too. Then Dick (of course it's him; of course) challenges them all to an eating contest that Cassie and Artemis are entirely up for and manage to convince M'gann (Martians are hungry people) and Suzie (small does not apply to her stomach, too) to join.
Basically, their food court lunch ends up costing over $100 when drinks and breadsticks and refills are added into the equation. But, whatever, he's hardly seen them lately so he doesn't mind paying.
"Maybe he'll bring her out of hiding when you learn to eat like a normal person," Dick snickers.
"Everyone knows I need to eat this much!"
"Not everyone, Bay Watch."
"I'm a growing boy!" Wally argues. "She'll understand that I need my carbs."
"That doesn't make it any less weird! Could you at least try to act a bit more normal?" Artemis nearly yells. "She'll think there's something wrong with you. Not that there isn't, but still."
And the rest of their table laugh as the happy couple continues bickering, oblivious to the rest of the world. Beside him, Cassie sips her soda and leans in a little. "Roy, is this really such a good idea? Bringing her to the wedding?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the League," she says, voice barely above a whisper, "About us. Is it really… It could be a little risky. Does she even know anything?"
"I… must also voice my concern," Kaldur adds hesitantly. "Perhaps it would be wiser to wait until things are more permanent before putting—"
"Things are as permanent as it gets right now," he interrupts in a slight huff.
When he looks up, everyone is sort of staring at him wildly. All except for one pair of eyes, and he doesn't need her to say it out loud or even in his head to know how desperately M'gann wants to jump in and defend him. He really, really appreciates how fiercely loyal she has become to him, to keep a secret from her closest friends despite the fact that it is entirely her place to tell.
Damn. He has to tell them.
Of course he knew he was going to, and he wanted to later, but it has to be today. "Guys—"
"Did you guys tie the knot and not tell us?" Wally demands, his hand slamming down on the table.
"It's not that!"
Conner's eyes whirl onto the girl beside him as M'gann slaps a hand over her mouth, eyes wide and darting to him in a mortified and apologetic panic.
He sighs, and his chair makes a loud scraping noise that can barely be heard over the noise of the food court as he stands up and mutters, "Let's pick this conversation up at home."
For that one moment, you could have heard a pin drop on the opposite end of the mountain. That's how silent it had been.
Wally and Dick looked as if he had just slapped them in their faces. Suzie and Artemis had hands thrown over their mouths that had fallen open. Cassie had let out this strangled sound as she choked on her own gasp. Kaldur's eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets, and so had Conner's before he turned them onto M'gann, who had her fingers laced together and pressed against her lips.
It was a better reaction than he had imagined.
"Pregnant," Wally gapes. "You're… you're just trying to pull a fast one on me—us—right?" His head snaps to M'gann. "Tell me I'm right!" She bites her lower lip and he mutters, "Oh, my god."
"And you guys aren't married. Unless you kept that from us, too," Cassie exhales dryly. It stings. Not that it was uncalled for, but he still feels a little pang at her words.
"No," he says sternly. "We're not married, or engaged. She… lives with me."
He can practically feel the tension in the air. They're trying to see reason with this situation, why he would get himself into it in the first place, but keep coming up fruitless. It goes against most things they've been taught from the beginning, like being careful, not getting involved, blending in and standing alone.
"How far along is she?" Kaldur asks.
"She's in her nineteenth week."
"And you knew?" This is from Conner, who is addressing an abnormally silent M'gann.
"I… yes," she answers. "I didn't mean to intrude, but his thoughts were pretty loud. He needed someone to understand. He needed help." She frowns. "He needs us."
It takes all of two seconds for Dick to chime in with, "Alright! You know, big guy, you could've just come clean and asked for help a long time ago. But I'm not changing diapers."
"Neither am I," Wally adds, crinkling his noise and crossing his arms over his chest. "That one's your department, Dad."
The word was like a fresh slap to the face: Dad. He'd heard father all the time from the doctors and pamphlets and whatnot, and it didn't feel like such a shock. Even when they had wandered into the baby section of a department store the other day, it hadn't been so dramatic. But hearing it from someone he has known since he was barely a teenager, still a punk little kid, is a whole different wakeup call.
"It looks like you freaked him out, Bay Watch," Artemis chuckles.
A hand being placed on his shoulder seems to snap him of his daze. "Maybe it would be a better idea if you were to introduce her before the wedding. Or, at the very least, make the announcement."
He doesn't disagree with Kaldur. He got off the hook with these guys because they're his friends, but the League… Batman… would certainly not appreciate learning this the first day they meet her.
If he were to be honest, he's worried. Worried about how much the League knows of Cheshire (will they recognize Cheshire just by looking at Jade?), worried about how much Jade knows of the League (they're his family, too; albeit, some he considers more a very, very extended family, but nonetheless family that is in it together). Either way, he's playing with fire on both ends.
(He now understands the saying, "between a rock and a hard place.")
Jade and Cheshire have become two entirely different people to him by now. Cheshire was a cold, detached assassin; quite merciless; a bloodstained beauty. Sure, both of them have the same rebellious flair and wild, untamed personalities and clever intellect; but Jade is so much more wholesome. She is charismatic, daring, charming, and warm. She's so full of life, while Cheshire was so full of death.
Cheshire he saw in the shadows, when rain and thunder and lightning stormed overhead. Jade he sees light, when she is bathed in the sun and warmth.
And perhaps the biggest difference of all is that the Team adores Jade.
It's sort of an out-of-body experience to see them gush over her, completely in love with her. He knows who she was to them before this, so it's just plain creepy for the first few minutes it happens. They're walking around the mall so she is able to distract them with the arcade in order to avoid a potentially dangerous game of 20 Questions.
The only two that don't seem overly excited are M'gann and Artemis. He knows that M'gann knows who this is, so he doesn't blame her for having mixed feelings.
Artemis, on the other hand—well, he didn't miss the way the color drained from her face upon looking at Jade. He also pretended not to hear a brief exchange between the two away from the others, which got him thinking to when he spoke with Cheshire in that holding cell that seemed years ago ("Hey, where are your little sidekick friends? They're always fun to play with. Especially Ar…chery girl. I like her.")
But the two mostly act like nothing is going on for the remainder of the afternoon, so it's probably a conversation for another day.
"So," Jade sighs as they head for the car at the end of the day, "those were your little sidekick friends. They're fun."
He exhales a laugh, "They're in love with you."
"It would seem so." She looks up at him and winks. "I'm willing to bet that they're not the only ones."
He's sitting on the couch flipping through channels when she walks over, her hair is dripping wet and clipped up from her shower, and it falls onto his arm when she sits herself on his lap. Her legs drape over the arm of the couch where his elbow is and his other arm wraps around her waist, hand resting on her thigh. She leans into him, her elbow resting against the couch as she pushes a hand through his hair.
"Do you want to know the gender of the baby?" she asks.
"What?" He says this distractedly and looks away from the screen to meet her waiting eyes.
"Dr. Kyle said during our last checkup that we'd be able to tell the gender as early as the eighteenth week," she informs. "It's my twenty-third."
"You don't want to keep it a surprise, or something?" He doesn't mean to sound completely amused, but he is.
"I think knowing ahead of time may be more practical," she shrugs. She's trying to act nonchalant about it and he isn't buying it.
"Look, if you're dying to know about the gender then…"
She scoffs, and he would've believed she was mildly offended by that comment if she hadn't followed it with a laugh. Of course he wants to know, but at the same time, he likes the surprise.
He draws a breath, about to laugh, but as he turns to her he sees that she's kind of just frozen, like she's afraid to move a muscle. He has a fraction of a second of total panic where he drops the remote on the side table and puts his hand on her shoulder, nudging softly. "Jade? What's wrong?"
She shakes her head and grasps his hand, bringing it down. Before he can as what she's doing, she's pressing his palm plat against the top of her stomach and not even a second later he feels something bump softly against it. Then he's kind of frozen there, too, staring at her hand over his over her stomach. When it happens again, his eyes snap up to hers and she's smiling, maybe even tearing a little.
"The baby's kicking," he breathes because he just feels the need to say it.
Jade exhales a laugh and watches as he traces his thumb over her skin.
He looks at her, her expression crossed between total fascination and complete adoration, and there's that shine in her eyes again. He kind of loves it.
He pulls his hand out from under hers and tucks his index finger under her chin, tilting her head to look at him, and he doesn't miss the smile she graces him with before pressing their lips together.
He kind of loves her, too.
"Roy," Jade calls when he is in the room, and he kind of mentally curses because she's got that tone that makes wrack through his brain to see what he screwed up.
He walks out to find her standing in the kitchen with her arms crossed. "Why didn't you tell me we were going out tonight?"
Oh. Crap, he forgot. "Dinah and Ollie left a message?" She nods. "Damn. Sorry, they called the other day and I made plans. It totally slipped my mind." She rolls her eyes and mutters something that sounds a lot like, "men," under her breath, and he suppresses a chuckle and puts a hand on her waist. "Look, I can call and reschedule. It's just supposed to be a dinner thing, and they wanted to meet you."
He throws that in there for good measure, and it must work because she shakes her head, "No, no. They're already on their way over. But next time, a little warning would be much appreciated."
He laughs and follows her back into the room.
(Well, okay, it wasn't exactly just a casual phone call the other day.
He dropped the bomb on Dinah just the previous week when she was down at Mount Justice. Needless to say, she freaked out a little and dragged him to the League, where he pretty much got mixed reactions about keeping the baby and staying with Jade. Most of them were pretty much on his side, but it was because of Diana—who can talk Bruce into anything, really—that he got their approval.
Not that he would have left Jade and their baby if he didn't get their blessing, but having the entire League there to help his situation and protect his new family for the price of having Dinah and Ollie over for dinner to meet her wasn't a bad option, either.)
She's wearing this strapless white dress with green palm leaves around the skirt and he throws on a brown sweater. They're matching without really matching, and the only reason he slightly cares about something like that is because even if he doesn't have to worry too much about it, he really wants Dinah and Ollie to adore Jade just as much as the Team did. It would entirely help their cause.
When the phone rings again, he answers it this time. "We're downstairs already," Dinah tells him. "Do you want us to come up?"
"No, we'll be down in a few," he says.
She tells him that Ollie insists on carpooling, so they're all going together, and then says to hurry the hell up because they're wasting gas. He laughs.
"Charming," he says. "I thought we were all supposed to be making a good impression here."
"No, you two are the ones worrying about making a good impression," she corrects. "We're judging."
"Whatever you say, Mom."
He hands up after she scoffs at him, and Jade is beside him as he sets the phone down, one hand on his arm. He must look more nervous than he thinks because she kind of smirks at him. "Are you going to be this tense for the entire dinner?" she teases. "You of all people know just how charming I can be. So if you're worried, don't be."
"I'm not worried," he lies. She winks at him and heads for the door.
When they make it downstairs, Ollie's car is idle in front of the building and Dinah climbs out of the passenger seat as they're walking over. "Roy," she greets. She pulls him into a hug and squeezes harder than she should, and he can tell by the blink-and-you'll-miss-it smirk she flashes him that it's intentional.
Then she turns to Jade, who extends her hand. "Jade Nguyen," she offers, smiling, "You must be Dinah."
"It's nice to finally meet you." She emphasizes finally in a way that makes both women look at him—Jade in amusement, and Dinah in accusation. Then Dinah turns back to Jade and her eyes water slightly as they fall on her stomach. She pulls the younger woman into a hug, which startles him and Jade a bit, though Jade returns the embrace. "Congratulations," Dinah says as she pulls back.
"Thank you," Jade returns.
Dinah puts a hand on her arm and squeezes firmly bit lightly, her voice a bit soft as she says, "Welcome to the family."
For dinner, they end up going to the same Italian restaurant he and Jade had eaten at after his first ultrasound with her. They find out that Jade had a French father and Vietnamese mother, which is why she speaks both languages fluently, and also learned Mandarin from a Chinese man who adopted her after her parents died young, whom she also learned martial arts from.
(He's not sure if any of this is true, and no, he's never thought to ask before. Okay, he's thought about it, but he figured if she was trying to move on in life then talking about the past should be avoided.)
After the mention of her deceased parents, however, they don't pry for any more information on her past.
They begin talking about wedding details a little before their food comes, and Jade seems genuinely excited about the whole thing. It kind of freaks him out how comfortable this is, especially for him. She steals food off of his plate and always absently has her arm against his or a hand on his knee as they eat and chat. It feels nice. He could definitely get used to them being like this more often.
By the time dessert rolls around, they begin talking about her pregnancy and Jade laughs when she gets asked how she reacted.
"It was… a shock," she admits.
"The best kind," he adds, and she smiles and nods in agreement.
They obviously can't tell them all of the details when they start asking for some, but their minds seem to be in the same place. They tell them that they met while he was on business and she told him about the pregnancy a few weeks later. They don't mention the fight about abortion, just say that it took a lot of adjusting from the both of them since it happened all of a sudden. But once they worked things out and she moved in, things were definitely better.
"Well, we're very proud and happy for the both of you," Ollie says, looking first at Jade then at Roy, smiling.
"Are you guys going to find out the gender, or are you leaving it as a surprise?" Dinah asks.
"I want to find out," Jade says, casting a playful smile, "but Roy's unsure."
"Really? I figured finding out the gender might make everything easier," Dinah says, "You know, when buying the clothes and whatnot."
"I never said I disagreed," he argues.
"Sure, baby," Jade says, patting his cheek. He chuckles and shakes his head.
When Dinah and Jade get up to use the bathroom before they leave, Ollie turns to him with a wide and knowing smile. "I think you're hoping for a girl. You were both automatically referring to the baby as a she or her the whole time," he points out. "It made me think you guys had already found out the gender."
"Huh. I never noticed." Now that he mentioned it, they always seemed to refer to their baby as a girl, since the beginning. He didn't think much of it until now. "I guess we do."
Ollie smiles warmly. "She's a beautiful girl, Roy. Smart, charming, definitely strong… she reminds me of Dinah in a few ways." He meets the older man's eyes. "She's definitely a girl you want to hold onto."
He nods in agreement. "That's my idea."
"I like them," Jade says as she is stepping out of the bathroom later that night. "Dinah has fire to her."
She climbs over him and lies down on her side, propping herself up on the pillow with her elbow. "I'm guessing you like that about her," he chuckles.
Her smile is like a little kid being caught red-handed.
"Hey," he says, shifting so that he is on his side facing her, "what you told Dinah and Ollie earlier… about your past…" He pauses slightly, half expecting her to say something. "Was… how much of it was true?"
"Most of it," she answers. "My father was French, and my mother Vietnamese. And I do speak those languages. But, they didn't die when I was younger. Life just wasn't ideal so… I ran away. Just took off, kept running. I got picked up by an old man who straightened me up a bit, taught me more than just martial arts, introduced me to certain people, gave me a mask, and… the rest is history."
"Do you regret it?"
"No," she exhales slowly. "I liked being the best at what I did."
She glances at him from the side, probably expecting him to feel disgusted or at the very least unnerved by this, but he isn't. He doesn't like it, but he knows that it's the only life she's known.
"But," she continues, "It's not a lifestyle I'd want to put our child in, just like I imagined heroism wouldn't be your first choice for her." She grins a little. "Or him."
He chuckles breathily and nods.
"You… look surprised," she points out.
"I am," he admits, "that you don't seem to mind giving up that information. You were always just so secretive before, or something."
She looks up at him from underneath her long eyelashes, voice impossibly soft as she tells him, "If you want something, I'll give it to you." And he knows she means more than just her life story.
"What do you think about tattoos?" he asks as they're stepping out of the elevator on their floor from the parking garage, having come from another one of their Lamaze classes.
When he looks over at her she has one eyebrow arched and her head tilted like she is seriously pondering this question. He thinks she might actually be. Then she smirks and looks him in the eyes when she answers, "Probably wouldn't get one for myself. Well, maybe." She chuckles. "But they're unbelievably sexy. Why do you ask? Are you getting one?"
He shrugs, which she knows means yes. "Aw, and you want my approval first?"
"That'd be hot, Roy, nothing to be ashamed of. Just don't get something stupid," she tells him.
"Oh yeah? What do you consider stupid then?"
She taps her chin with her index finger. "Something tacky, overdone: skulls, roses, flags, hearts, faces, names." She stops her stride briefly and shoots him a look. "You're not getting my name, are you?"
"No," he blurts out instantly, kind of shouts it, really. He doesn't mean it in an offensive way, and she doesn't take it as that. He's just glad that she seems to be on the same page with the fact that, while it may be romantic and totally fine for other people, tattooing anything resembling each other onto their bodies is just not an option for them. "Maybe it'd be easier for you to tell me what you do approve of."
She hums contemplatively as they round the corner into their hallway. "Get something… tribal, native."
"What?" He laughs a little and she rolls her eyes. "Do you have some sort of weird Navajo Nation fetish I should be concerned about?"
"Perhaps," she says, licking her lips. "That would explain my thing for archers."
He chuckles. "Good to know."
They stop in front of their door and she leans against him as he unlocks it. "Don't get it somewhere stupid, either. Get it on your arm." She smirks again. "I've always loved your arms."
"Mm." He drops a hand on the small of her back and presses their foreheads together, mumbling with his breath warm against her skin, "Good to know."
And, just as he is about to bring their lips together and she is closing her eyes, he kicks the door open, spins her around, and pushes her (gently, of course) inside. Then suddenly the lights are being turned on, and there's confetti falling (which will have to be cleaned up later; damn, he didn't think that part through), the flash of a camera going off, and voices exclaiming, "Congratulations!"
Jade is kind of frozen on the spot, looking around at the faces of people she didn't expect to be in their apartment, which is really just Dinah, Ollie, and the Team.
It takes all of two seconds for her to figure it out, turn to him, and shove her fist against his stomach. It's not painful, but the impact isn't all that pleasant either. "You ass! You set me up!"
"Hey," he protests, unable to wipe his smile off as he is gesturing back inside the apartment, "it was their idea."
Dinah is laughing loudly as she comes over to them. "Well, you're due in about a month," she reminds, plucking stray confetti from Jade's hair, "and we didn't want you to be without a baby shower."
"You guys really shouldn't have…"
"It's something to take my mind off of the wedding that's in three weeks," Dinah adds.
Jade gives a look that's slightly a smirk but mostly a smile as she says, "Oh, so now I'm being used as a distraction?"
"Come on," Cassie insists, "If it will get you into it, we can skip right to the present-opening!"
Jade gives him a you're-sure-as-hell-paying-for-this-later glare before Cassie takes her hand and pulls her towards the living room.
He chuckles and shuts the door behind him. Ollie walks over to him and puts a hand on his shoulder. He's about to ask the blonde man what's up, because he looks way too smug for there not to be something up, when he says, "So, she has an archer fetish?" and is guffawing seconds later.
He promptly gets shoved.
Three weeks later, he finds himself standing in their room in front of the mirror hanging on the wall, adjusting a forest green tie underneath his collar.
Jade steps out of the bathroom and dangles a necklace that she has between her thumb and index finger in front of his face. It matches the subtle diamonds dangling from her ears and clipped through her hair, but none of those diamonds compare to the one wrapped around her finger. It's not on her fourth finger, not just yet, but it's on her left hand around her middle finger for the world to see.
He takes the necklace from her and she turns around, draping it around her throat.
"Claire?" he asks. She shakes her head. "Valerie?" He clasps the necklace together. She purses her lips. "Caroline?"
"They don't have to be French, you know."
He chuckles. "Just going through the options," he says, placing his hands on her shoulders and looking at their reflection. "I have a feeling you want it to be French, though."
She smiles and turns around, his hand sliding onto her waist while the other grasps hers. He twirls the ring around her finger and her head bows to watch as he does this. Then she looks up at him and says, "We can talk about it on the way to the car. We should get going soon, Best Man."
"I don't understand why they'd want it so early in the morning."
She laughs. "Morning weddings can be very beautiful if they don't hold the bachelor and bachelorette parties the night before."
He laughs and guides her out of their bedroom, picking up his keys along the way. They stand at the door as she is pulling on her shawl, and he knows he's staring because her lip quirks upward and so does an eyebrow and she laughs, "What?"
"I love you."
She blinks. It's not the first time he's said it, but every time, she gets this kind of look on her face, like she is in a daze.
Then she hits his right bicep lightly and as he flinches (it's still a little sore there, even under the layers of his blazer and shirt and gauze; it's probably why she did it), she slides her hand over the back of his neck and whispers, "You too," before bringing their lips together. It's the closest she'll come to saying it back, at least for now, but he knows she truly means it even if the words don't form properly.
As they lock the door behind them and are walking towards the elevators, arms linked, she kind of pauses them in the middle of the hallway and he peers down at her. "What?"
"What about… Lian?"