There's loud opera music echoing behind the door, and Will has to knock three separate times to be heard over it. There had been no doorbell on the outside of the building–no lock for that matter–and the stairwell up to this level had smelled vaguely of mildew and urine. He rarely ever goes to places like this when not on duty, and the only previous time he'd been here, he hadn't been able to fathom why someone so obsessed with aesthetics would live in such a dump.

His third knock prompts the music to be turned down and the apartment's occupant to call out demanding his identity. He states it, triggering a string of profanity on the other side of the door and the sound of something falling over. A chain and deadbolt slide unlocked, and then the door opens about an inch.

"Will, what the hell are you doing here?" Grell's voice is cracked with frustration.


"You couldn't call? Give me a little warning, I wasn't prepared for a guest!"

"I did call. I left you a message," he says. "Have you had your music like this all morning? I would assume that it constitutes a noise violation."

"You should have texted me. And it's none of your business how I play my music, I–God, Will! I don't even have any makeup on!"

"I can leave."

"No! Don't leave, just–stay right there!"

Grell slams the door shut, as much as a door can be slammed when open an inch, the deadbolt lock is turned (as if Will would attempt to sneak in), and he stands there in awkward silence. There is new graffiti on the walls since his last visit, largely consisting of bright red hearts and filigree patterns covering up the more unsightly old etchings of profanity. He wonders if the landlord had consented to Grell's apparent 'restorative art' project, or if he had even visited the building since the last time the main entry door had had a working lock, once upon a time.

He can't say he feels comfortable here, out of uniform and unarmed, and he can't say he doesn't worry about Grell's safety from time to time. He knows first-hand how well Grell can defend herself, but everyone has their exceptions, their weak states. All it takes is one time, one slip-up to end it all, he knows very well from experience. And Grell has taken enough risks on the job to give him a reflexive near heart attack every time he hears her say anything along the lines of "I've got this!"

It's that attitude that's given her the best arrest record in the precinct, but also the most lawsuits.

The door opens again, and Grell stands in the door frame, posed like a starlet with her hair hastily pinned up, a pair of oversized sunglasses on and a red satin robe covering her less glamorous pajamas. Her bombshell smile falls quickly when she looks at him.

"You brought me a cactus," she says.

"It's a succulent," says Will, raising the ceramic pot in his hands. "They differ from cacti in that they don't have spines."

Grell thumps her head against the wall.

"You brought. Me. A cactus," she says, once more with feeling. "You are the least romantic person I have ever met in my entire life!"

"It's low maintenance, and a sign of good will," he says, then pauses for a beat. "May I come in?"

"Of course you can, sweetie, of course!" She steps aside and bids him welcome with a dramatic sweep of the hand. The studio apartment's interior is a stark contrast to the building it's located in, employing what little space there is with flair–it seems everything is covered in red, with patterns of vintage lace and skulls and spikes, and yet it manages somehow to work. There is a canopy bed that doubles as a sofa with the decorative pillows stacked against the wall, opposite of an armoire with a small television that's currently on mute while playing some old black-and-white melodrama. The only untidy area is on the kitchen (also dining room, also living room, also bedroom) table, where a stack of books two feet high flanks an open folder of scattered sheets of graphing paper.

"The cactus can go on the counter. You can keep your shoes on if you like. Shall I make us some refreshments? Perhaps a spot of tea?"

"No. You can't make tea."

Grell sticks her tongue out at him.

"Dreadfully sorry that my inferior skills don't satisfy your Britishness."

"Two stale bags of Lipton boiled in a coffee pot doesn't constitute potable tea. For anyone," Will says, setting the plant down. "You needn't make anything, as it seems I'm already imposing, and you shouldn't be working at all."

"Entertaining you is hardly work, my darling," she says, dancing across the floor to the refrigerator. "Hmm, well if it's not tea, I do have some wine coolers."

"It's eleven in the morning."

"On a Sunday, so what!" Grell pouts and pulls out a carafe.

"Your relationship to alcohol is disconcerting," says Will.

"Your relationship to joy is disconcerting."

"I should hope those sunglasses aren't to hide a hangover. That would be quite irresponsible in your condition."

"No, I haven't been having nearly that much fun lately, medications and all. I just didn't have time to get my face on. You know I don't even take out the garbage without looking my best."

She pulls a knife from its nest in the wooden block and flips it in the air with panache, catching it (by the handle, thank God, but then why wouldn't she be able to do that much; she's Grell) and then wields it against a hapless lime.

"I've seen you go undercover without makeup on."

"That's for acting's sake. Under normal circumstances I feel simply naked without it."

Will could say something smug about how he's seen her naked before as well, but is too polite, too repressed, or too British to do so. He gets the feeling that she wants him to say something lewd, and her statement was structured exactly so he would have that opportunity. It wouldn't be the first time he's disappointed her in that respect. Unfortunately, that just isn't the sort of thing he says.

A martini glass full of crushed ice with a lime wedge on the rim appears before him.

"It's just lemonade," says Grell, pouring some for herself, then him. "I respect your right to be a fuddy duddy even on the weekend."

He takes his glass, looks at the table for a moment. Grell sighs and sits down, and only then does Will impose so much as to take a seat of his own. He considers updating her on the news at work, then decides against it. For all he knows, it might be a sore spot, now that she's on unpaid, involuntary, indefinite leave. She claimed that the timing was just fine, since she had been planning on taking time off anyway, though the request for medical leave had been debated. Will can't help but wonder if the incident that got her as-good-as-fired wasn't completely intentional on her part, but it's always hard to tell with Grell. Sometimes she is terrifyingly good at plotting things out, and other times her wild and impulsive behavior makes it hard to believe she has a brain in her head at all.

The latest incident hadn't been the first time she'd interfered in a case far more than was necessary, but it had been the final straw as far as her job was concerned. Will doesn't envy the poor sod who will have to handle the legal red tape involved in getting her back on the squad, should she ever choose to apply to return. It certainly won't be him.

He picks up a sheet of grid paper from the scattered pile on the table.

"What on earth is this?" he asks, studying the meticulously drafted design. Grell snatches the sheet from his hand and slides her sunglasses down just a sliver to squint at it.

"This?" She says, surveying her own work for a moment. "This is a rocket launcher that shoots chainsaws... that explode."

Will can't even wrap his mind around the grade of 'what the fuck'(more eloquently stated) that would properly articulate his confusion.


"I was on enough painkillers to take down a bear at the time. The funny part is that I checked it while sober, and it's completely functional, down to the last screw." She lifts up a few related pages that detail the interior of the abomination; the motors, the gears, the ergonomic handle. "Volatile, but it would work for one launch at least."

"I... why would you even..."

Will clears his throat and avoids looking at the other drafts scattered across the table. Grell's skill for customizing weapons is both impressive and terrifying. Perhaps she had been in the wrong part of the business to start with.

"Speaking of painkillers... how have you been... since we last spoke?"

"I'm surprised it took you so long to ask. Forecast says it'll be another four or five weeks till 'Little Miss Grell' heals up entirely, for practical use." She raises her eyebrows suggestively, but then her mouth turns down, and she slaps the table in sudden fury. "I can't even ride my baby until then!"

"And by 'baby' you don't mean..."

She cocks her head to the side and smirks pityingly.

"Oh, Will. You may be my current beau, but Vespy will always be my true love. I miss the throb of the engine so badly..." She sips from her glass and her smirk turns to a sly grin. "If you could vibrate like she does, William T. Spears, I would marry you in a heartbeat."

There are toys for that, he could mention dryly, but that isn't the sort of comment that someone like Will makes.

The 'true love' in question is a 1965 cherry red Vespa scooter, one she bought and lovingly restored years ago. It is her most treasured and by far most expensive possession, a perplexingly singular indulgence on what Will knows is (or was) a fair salary. He had suspected, briefly, that perhaps a drug addiction was eating at her income and keeping her from spending her paychecks on reasonable things, like a car, or a decent house, but there had been no evidence to support that. In hindsight, it should have been stupidly obvious what she had been saving for, spending years in the cheapest apartments on the worst side of town.

Will clears his throat again–a time honored tactic of clearing the air that he has grown adept at since meeting Grell.

"How do you feel... personally, I mean?"

He's not used to asking these sorts of questions, and it shows. There is a reason he never put his psychology major into practice.

"Oh, I feel lots of things," she says, stretching lazily. This is a mood he's never really seen her in, though they've shared plenty of private domestic moments: relaxed, understated, less than fully dramatic. He wasn't even aware that her huge personality had an 'off' button, although this is more 'toned down to 3' than entirely switched off. Maybe it's the medication. "I'm tired, bored, sore, excited... mostly just relieved. And I've been lonely, all cooped up doing nothing."

"I apologize. I should have visited you earlier."

"No, it's fine. I've been a mess all this time. It's embarrassing, having a guy see me like this, and it was worse before today."

Will would have thought they were past the point where she could reasonably think they wouldn't see each other in their least flattering moments, but then, to Grell, all the world is a stage, and that goes especially for love.

"Do you need help with anything? Rides to the clinic for follow-up or... groceries, or–"

"It's been taken care of. Hannah was already here a few times, to help me tidy up and make some meals for the week. She is such a sweetheart."

"I thought you hated Hannah."

"I... it's complicated," she says, wrinkling her nose a bit. "But we're friends now. And she brought the kids over. They are so cuuuute, Will, you should see them!"

Will had met Hannah and her adopted sons only once. Hannah had struck him as taciturn and strong; an admirable sort of woman who harbored many secrets and spoke rarely. She had seemed like the kind of woman that other people would expect him to pursue, and, to be honest, he isn't sure why that isn't the case. And the children... well, they were children, and in spite of his understanding of child development on a scientific level, Will just doesn't know how to deal with them. They're all rather irritating and loud and inept at carrying on conversations. And they always have sticky hands.

"How do you entertain children in a place like this?"

"I let them play video games while Hannah and I cooked."

Will glances to the shelf where the only visible game title is 'Grand Theft Auto'.

"You make a terrible police officer and a terrible parent," he deadpans, taking a sip of lemonade.

"And you're the meanest boyfriend I've ever had."

She has a sour expression as she says that, but Will has learned to understand that coming from Grell, it's a compliment of sorts. She likes being challenged, and has apparently destroyed more than a few friendships simply because the average person's 'polite resignation' reads too much to Grell as 'being a boring doormat'. He'd thought that had been the case with Hannah. Apparently something changed.

She stands up and tugs at the sleeve of his shirt.

"Come here."


"Sitting at the table like this feels like a business meeting. If you're going to drop in on me looking like Slob Zombie, then we might as well get some cuddling in.

"I'm only here to–"

"We're cuddling and that's that."

He lets himself be pulled to his feet and over to the bed-turned-sofa.

"Do you usually sit like this?" he asks, settling back against the pile of repurposed sofa cushions that supposedly transform the mattress into a sitting space. "That can't be good for your posture. It could cause injuries."

"So can a stick up your ass," Grell says sweetly, as she crawls to his side, gingerly setting a pillow under her hips, and drapes her arms around his shoulders. The television is still playing that old movie on mute and the opera album is still soft in the background. On the opposite wall, there is a poster for a death metal band hanging beside a vintage art nouveau print. On the closet door handle hangs a lanyard with her ID and a gothic rosary, and a customized switchblade lays beside a tube of red lipstick on the armoire.

Little bits of Grell surround them; separate but not entirely unrelated to the Grell that is a 'Necessary Evil' on the squad, a thorn in his side on paper, a prima donna on stage, a peerless romantic over a candle-lit dinner.

The ID card is relatively new–she had gotten it a year ago–unchanged from before except for the very significant 'F' in one corner. At the time he had wondered why that was all she had changed about it. He had read the narratives in textbooks during college; he knew how things were supposed to go, and that the gender-affirming name change was supposed to be a very important, empowering part of the process of transitioning. Grell had given him a theatrically perplexed expression in response when he asked.

'Why would I want to do that?'
she had said. 'I like my name. It's unique!'

Grell continues to perplex and surprise him with the ways she breaks rules, both defies and embraces types and stereotypes, pulling a 180 just as soon as he thinks he has her pegged. He wonders if someday he'll have figured her out entirely, and then perhaps lose interest; if the only reason he continues to risk his career for someone who is, by all measurements, completely wrong for him is simple curiosity.

Well, now that she's no longer technically his employee, that risk is diminished. It's a relief in many senses, but work won't ever be the same without her there, for better or for worse. In spite of some of the extra paperwork her folly tends to generate, the squad is still going to have to pull some overtime to make up for her absence.

"What will you do now?"

"Do? About what?"

"For a job."

"I'll go back to the force again, naturally."

"I don't think you understand the meaning of 'indefinite unpaid leave.'"

"Same song, different words. They've done it to me before. I just have to write a few letters, do some re-training and remedial work around the office, spend some time on traffic duty and eventually another case will come up that requires my expertise, and we'll all be back to our old games."

"Being an officer of the peace is not a game, Sutcliffe. The fact that you think so is evidence that you don't understand the job at all."

"Hmph. I'm indispensable and you know it."

Unfortunately, that much is true. Grell is a valuable asset in a lot of their important cases, not only for her impeccable undercover work, but for the fact that she thinkslike a criminal. He had been surprised to find that she'd had no criminal record prior to joining the force, though she had once drunkenly admitted that that was only because she was too good to get caught. She'd never slipped up enough to tell him exactly what she had been guilty of in a past life, possibly even still. He probably doesn't want to know.

"Abusing your position to further your own perverted sense of justice hardly makes you indispensable."

"That cheating bastard broke her heart! He had it coming!" Grell says, reclining over his lap, clutching at her chest as if the woman's pain had been her very own. "He should be lucky I didn't shoot his balls off."

There are few ways to respond to that, Will knows, that won't compromise the safety of his own balls. He adjusts his glasses and says,

"Perhaps you would make a better lawyer."

Grell bursts out laughing, and punches Will's thigh as she does so.

"Ow, Will, don't make me laugh, it hurts my stitches!"

"It wasn't my intention to make you laugh."

"Then you're in the wrong business, too." She stretches back languidly, taking a moment to coyly pull the panels of her satin robe shut, only to lift the hem revealing her not-so-glamorous skull and crossbones patterned pajama pants. She hums a moment.

"Maybe I'll join the circus."

Will shoots her a severe look and she giggles knowingly. She's never going to let that go, is she? It was onesummer in college! He was only an usher! He'd nearly destroyed all photos of himself in the... unfortunate uniform, but somehow she had managed to find some and it is now one of her great joys in life, reminding him of that folly of an employment venture. She grins and shrugs.

"Or I could get the band back together. Go back to school for classical voice training since at this point I'll probably never sing baritone again. Call up the old members, write something new, go on tour. I still have those fang veneers I used to wear..."

"Hm," is all he says. He had listened to a recording of Grell's old band once and hadn't exactly liked it. The group had enjoyed moderate local popularity years back with their combination of opera, metal, and ridiculous stage performances. Neither of the musical genres particularly interest Will, and what little he knows of their performance antics qualifies as... indecent at best. Reviving the group is not an idea he thinks very highly of, but Grell is an adult who can do as she pleases, so long as it's legal. (As far as he knows, there are no laws against drenching oneself, flashdance style, with gallons of fake blood in front of a live audience. He could be mistaken.)

"And now that I have tits, taking my top off on stage will be even more fun!"

(There are some laws against that.)

"Maaaybe," she says, sitting up and wrapping her arms around his shoulders again, "I could be someone's live-in mistress."

"I doubt you would take well to that career track at all."

"Why not? It is a time honored social position; courtesans have been the preservers of fine art and the shadow puppeteers of political power throughout history."

"Your understanding of history is tenuous at best. I advise you not to get involved in that branch of academia either."

"You concern yourself too much with things that don't matter," she says, resting her head on his shoulder. "I'll be fine. Something always works out."

He'd like to believe her, but the last time she had assured him, "I'll be fine," she had promptly passed out from blood loss. He's wary of her assurances.

The unfortunate side effect of being fond of someone is that one tends to become consumed with worry for that person's well-being. This is, of course, normal in a relationship, taken to a healthy extent. Grell, however, is not generally a person for whom normal concerns apply, and for someone like Will, who needs the world to run according to schedule, the kind of worry she generates will probably be the death of him.

Half a year from now they could be living together with steady jobs, or she could be taking a cross-country road trip by herself and writing a self-indulgent travel memoir about it (dedicated primarily to her Vespa), or she could perhaps start a satanic cult as a marketing ploy to manufacture interest in her band and sell those creepy plush dolls she crafts in her spare time. She could also slip off the rails and end up wanted for murder. All options are equally likely.

It's hard to express, for someone so (repressed, polite, British), how frustration and fondness can run so closely together that he isn't sure they're separate feelings any longer. It's hard to express what exactly he's aiming to find in her. He wants skilled employees who don't make their own rules. He wants a girlfriend who is agreeable, stable, sweet, makes a decent cup of tea and can at least pretend to be normal in public.

At least, he thinks that's what he wants.

What does she want?

He pulls her sunglasses off.

"Hey! What are you doing?" she says, swiping for the glasses while attempting to simultaneously hide her face in the crook of his neck.

"You don't need these. It isn't even bright in here."

"Yes I do, they have a prescription. Everything's fuzzy now."

"Why not wear your regular glasses?"

"I already told you, because you showed up so suddenly I couldn't even put my makeup on. Give those back!"

What does she want?

"Honestly, Sutcliffe, there's no need to be shy about things I've already seen."

She wants him to argue with her.

"Don't call me Sutcliffe like that; you're not my boss anymore!"

The length of her arm is just shy of what it needs to be in order to snatch the glasses back. If she had really wanted to, she could have overpowered him and taken them in a matter of seconds. She hesitates.

"Why should you hide your eyes from me, of all people?"

She pulls back. Her pout has melted into an expectant doe-eyed stare.


She wants him to say something romantic.

He wants to indulge her, but he's lost the words for a moment.

'Your eyes are green,'he thinks, studying her, the way her naturally light eyelashes nearly disappear against her skin without her usual mascara and eyeliner, the way her pupils adjust as she tries to get a look at him getting a look at her.

'Your eyes are two different shades of green because you have a condition known as central heterochromia,' he thinks. Heterochromia is not a word that has appeared in any love sonnet as far as he is aware.

'I have a similar condition, and I don't believe in superstitions like 'fate', but I think that's an intriguing coincidence. It's perhaps the only thing we have in common,' he thinks. Grell had been right. He is a very unromantic person.

Without her usual foundation, beige freckles dot her pale skin, and the blush creeping up her face is unsuppressed. She hates the freckles and she hates her blush reflex; it isn't right for an actress to have such limited control over her appearance.

They remind him that she's human, in spite of all that she's capable of–in spite of her ridiculous bravado and the apparent emotional indestructibility that allows her to treat all of life as a gigantic comedy of errors. He loves and hates that reminder, because she is human and that makes all of her risks and all of her dramatic posturing just that much more disconcerting. She's going to die someday, in spite of how she acts as if she never will. She's going to fall, get hurt. She claims she isn't afraid of those things, or really of anything, but he wonders.

'It is the only thing we have in common, and yet...'

She wants him to say something.

"You look fine," he says.

Her face falls. He said the wrong thing, not for lack of deliberation.

"Ugh." She pushes him roughly and grabs the glasses, putting them back on and unclipping her hair (all that mess of it apparently held up by a single pin), letting it drape over her face like a red veil of mope. "You are just so... Will!"

"I suppose I am."

"You know, before I met you, I thought English guys were all, like, polite and charming and romantic and chivalrous. But you're not a Prince Charming; you're more like–" she scrunches her face in thought "–a Mister Rochester."

"I wasn't aware that Mister Rochester was a somehow less-than-English literary figure."

"Well, he's the wrong kind of English, just like you. The kind that's stuffy and cold–"

"I thought you liked me being cold."

"Only when I was chasing you! You're supposed to transform into a perfect Casanova once I melt your troubled heart with the power of love."

"Casanova was Italian."

"And you brought me a cactus as a get-well present."

"A succulent."

"You're supposed to bring flowers when someone is recovering. Especially someone who's recovering from getting their own flower installed."

"... flower?"

"Cunt!" Grell shouts emphatically, clearly aiming to get a flinch out of him with harsh language. "My brand new cunt! The one that's full of stitches right now and making it hurt to laugh. I'm disturbed that you thought a cactus would be a good symbol of my feminine recovery."

"It isn't symbolic."

"Yes it is!" Grell practically faints over his lap again with the back of her hand to her forehead. "A symbol of your dry, dry love."

"Flowers would be impractical; they would die within the week. "

"So? Better to die a beautiful death than live a boring cactusy life."

"And this place could use a touch of greenery."

"Oooh, suddenly my little Will thinks he's an interior designer." Grell sniffs indignantly. "My color scheme is just fine; black and red are the most powerful colors there are."

"Red and green are color wheel opposites. They're complementary."

Grell lifts her head and looks at the potted plant sitting on the counter beside a bright red sugar jar.

"I suppose a bit of contrast doesn't hurt once in a while," she says, shrugging and snatching a pillow for her head before she settles herself back down. "Hey, Will." She nudges him with her elbow. "Are you excited?"

"For what?"

Grell pulls her glasses down enough to roll her eyes at him.

"For Christmas," she says with all the sarcastic sass she can muster. "For five weeks from now, of course, when I'm healed up, and I'll be able to ride my baby. Then you can sidle up behind me and I'll drive us to some romantic location where you can ride me."

"Where are you planning to take us?"

"I'm not 'planning' anything. We can just go. You take the weekend off and we'll just run away and keep going until we land somewhere beautiful. Hell, we can even pitch a tent." She pauses and grins mischievously. "Well, youcan pitch a tent."

She wants him to say something suggestive in return. She wants him to banter with her, exchanging one lewd joke after the next to cut the tension, and he almost wishes he could, but that's not who he is and probably won't ever be.

Before he can attempt to say something and have it be the wrong thing, she turns around.

"The movie's done!" She says, rolling over to see that the film has indeed just faded out of its last title card. She gets up to stop the VCR and hit rewind.

"The sound wasn't even on; how did you know?"

"Because, this album and that movie sync perfectly, and the album just finished." She smiles. "I was enjoying them both quite intensely before you showed up and interrupted."

"Pardon my intrusion, then. I can let you be if you like; I do have other plans for today."

"No, I really don't mind..." she coyly digs her toe into the carpet, shuffling side to side. "But if you have other things, maybe you should go."

She wants him to argue with her. To object, and tell her 'no, no, there is nothing more important to me than being with you right now, my love,' and he almost wants to, but that's not the sort of thing he says.

"Perhaps we should arrange another time. A date with a bit more foresight," he says.

She nods.

"We can watch movies here, or maybe go out to see a show. Nothing big, though, I don't have the energy just yet."

"Tuesday would work. Once I know the exact time I'll be finishing work that evening I'll... text you." He stands up and approaches her. "Well then, I'll be off–"

Her hand makes a sudden barrier over his mouth just as he's leaned in to kiss her goodbye.

"Wait! I'm not ready yet. Just... wait right there!" She rushes off to the bathroom, leaving him waiting for the second time this morning, and from behind the hastily closed door he can hear her brushing her teeth.

He sighs and shoves his hands into his pockets. Grell had lied when she said she wasn't the planning type. She plans everything, just as much as Will does; she plans for everything to be perfect and romantic and beautiful in her own warped view. The only problem is that she doesn't plan far ahead; she generally only knows the precise details of her life's screenplay a split second before she's decided to enact them. And if, God forbid, that perfect script isn't played out, all hell breaks loose in Grell world, and romance turns to tragedy.

He muses, for a moment, that he's just a placeholder in the role of 'brooding romantic love interest,' in the script of Grell's life. He'll be trapped in the monotony of his rules and his 'stuffy' (job/relationship/Britishness), and then she'll sweep in and teach him how to loosen up and love life and view all the world with the innocent wonderment of a child (a demented, violent, sociopathic child who wears fang veneers and writes erotic-grotesque poetry about demons).

She'd be the same even if he weren't there, even if she were to find some other boring square to project her fantasies on, to dance with (or dance at, as nothing Will ever does with her on a dance floor can really be construed as actively participating), or bounce her worst insults off. He'll probably remain just about the same even with her, in spite of how she wants him to melt at some point to embrace her sometimes-illegal quirks and brighten up for the better. Sometimes he thinks he will, or that he already has, in some small way, but that isn't who he is; that isn't how he works. He is, after all, a Mister Rochester. He will not woo her or romance her like a prince in a fairy tale; he will not marry her.

She will marry him.

She makes her debut, now a touch more cleaned up and suitable for kissing, according to her incomprehensible script. Her hair is pinned up again (she can never settle on one thing for long), she has on a touch of lip gloss, and as she wraps her arms around his shoulders, he notices she is also wearing perfume.

She wants him to do something romantic.

"Where should one use perfume? Wherever one wishes to be kissed"–that was a Coco Chanel quote that Grell had clipped from a magazine and pinned up in her cubicle at headquarters once long ago. After a few weeks, she had finally worn out the 'passive' of her passive-aggressive campaign of communication and taped the clipping directly to Will's computer screen. That night he finally took the hint after their dinner date, and discovered that her breasts (relatively new at that point) were just about doused in No. 5.

He leans in, slowly, because it wouldn't be very 'romantic' for it to be made obvious that he's following his nose to figure out where to place his lips first. He finally lands on her neck, and she rewards his effort with a dramatic sigh. The freckles dotting her skin create a trail, leading up her throat, over her pulse, towards a final resting place that tastes like cinnamon mouthwash and imparts the waxy texture of lip gloss. She slides her fingers through his hair, he locks his arms around her waist, she leans in and kicks up one heel with flair. He can't do romance, but he can do this much. If later she wants to call it the most romantic goodbye kiss she's ever had while wearing her ugly pirate pajamas, then he's not going to correct her.

"Okay," she says, at long last, returning to two feet on the floor and turning him around by the shoulders, pushing him toward the door. "Now get out of here and come back when I'm looking sexy."

'You already are sexy,' she wants him to say. 'You are so gorgeous all the time that it drives me mad with lust and I can't stop thinking of you.'

But he doesn't say it, because that isn't the sort of thing he says.

"Tuesday evening then," he says as he heads out the door.

"I'll be waiting with bated breath, my love."

Then the door closes and as he stands there, rifling through his pockets for his keys, the music begins to play loudly from within once again. Tuesday... there's enough time for both of them to lay their plans and break them.

He's going to bring flowers.