A/N: To smut, or not to smut, that is the (grammatically incorrect) question. It wouldn't further the plot, and there's plenty of smut out there, so I'm moving along. I know some of you are disappointed, but you'll like what I have for you instead.
Previously: Movie night went well. They finally had their last first kiss. Their friends are apparently discreet voyeurs, since they all wanted to watch the kiss.
They were shocked to discover that they weren't big news. No one at the 12th was surprised in the least. Neither were their families. Nor Rick's poker buddies or Gina or Paula. Nobody. The way they acted at work didn't really change - everyone was already used to there being heat between them. And Rick hadn't done anything bad-boy in over a year, so the paparazzi didn't care, either, except at publicity events where they were supposed to get their picture taken.
They were normal. And it was weird. Happy, just not what they expected. They thought it would be wild and tumultuous like living in a hurricane; but, instead, it felt comfortable and just plain right, like a blue-flag day at the beach.
Many months passed as expected: there were quite a few times that Kate got ticked and pulled Rick into an observation room to yell at him. More than one of those times the fight ended with them doing things completely inappropriate for the workplace. And more than a few of those times, it was a ruse to begin with, just so they could do inappropriate things. Their banter and looks and touches were heated, but in no way compared to the steaminess of their nights.
Then Kate noticed something changing in Rick. Less excitement. More calm pensive looks. At first she wondered if he was about to propose, but after two weeks with no big question, her insecurities began to grow again. After another week of him watching her oddly (which really was something, for him), she was convinced that what had kept her away from him for so long had finally happened: He was bored with her. She'd always known it would eventually happen, but hoped it wouldn't. She really didn't think it would happen this soon. It broke her heart.
He could tell that she knew something was off. He'd tried to hide it. But he couldn't decide how she'd react, so he just watched her, waiting for a tell. He noticed that she was starting to spend more of her nights at her own apartment and quit absently leaving her things at his place.
That was the opposite of what he wanted.
So after a long, crappy day with an awful case finally wrapped up, they were alone in the bullpen. He had to talk to her before she completely pulled away.
"Kate, I want you to move in with me."
She looked at him like the request stung. "No."
He was sure she was reacting to his recent behavior, and he was the only one who could fix it.
So he picked up a piece of paper.
He ripped it in half.
He sat one half in front of her.
"You write Pros. I'll write Cons." It worked before.
"No." She didn't budge. Her face showed no emotion, which he'd learned meant that she was hurting but didn't want to show it.
He felt like that old barrier was up between them again, and he wasn't about to let it stay there.
He moved in front of her and leaned back against her desk. He pulled her close, so she was standing between his legs, and wrapped his arms around her. He held her in a soft embrace, how he knew she loved to be held. He nuzzled her hair and kissed her neck. "Okay, then," he said softly. "Why don't you tell me why you don't want to live with me. Then I'll tell you why I want you to."
She sagged against him. He could feel her trembling.
He stroked her back. He waited for her.
She shook her head no, then pushed away from him and sat back in her chair.
He moved back to his, watching her carefully, just as he had been for three weeks.
She picked up a pen and began writing. He didn't know if she was writing pros or cons, but it didn't matter. If writing was easier than talking, then she could write whatever she needed to say.
He began writing, too. When he saw a tear roll down her cheek, he wanted to wipe it away so badly, but she needed to see what he was trying to get down on this paper. And she needed to get out whatever she was thinking.
Once both pens were lying still on the desk, he pulled her chair over to in front of his. He cupped her face in his hands and kissed her tenderly. Then he put his paper in her hands.
She didn't begin reading. She seemed to be waiting for him. So he picked up her paper, remaining knee to knee with her.
Once he began reading, her words broke his heart. He expected it, that's why he asked for this exercise, but it still crushed him. "He doesn't love me. He did, I know he did. But it didn't last. It couldn't have anyway. He's pulled away from me and I don't know why. He stares blankly at me when he used to constantly undress me with his eyes. He looks at me like I'm a curiosity when he used to look at me like he couldn't wait to touch me. He said he would want forever, and I let myself believe that. But it's barely been a year and he's already gotten bored. He wants me to move in now, but that won't fix whatever's broken. It'll just kill me even more when it all crumbles apart."
Tears flowed down her cheeks. She couldn't have stopped them if she'd wanted to. But alone with him, she knew she didn't need to pretend to be strong.
His list was shaking in her hands. She made herself read it. "I love her more than anything. I told her once I'd want to ask her for forever before she was ready. I don't know what's too fast or too slow, whether she's ready or not. I've found myself lately not watching her with the same eyes. Instead, I've been wondering what kind of dress she'll pick for our wedding, what she'll look like swollen with our child, how she'll look when we're wrinkled and gray. When I'd normally get worked up about something, I just think about how amazing it is to get to wake up with her in my arms some mornings. How I love to watch her sleeping on my shoulder. That I get to be that guy for her. When she's talking to me, I've been distracted by wondering if she's ready for the next step. She's noticed, and she thinks something's wrong. But the only thing wrong is that I chickened out and asked her to move in with me. Because I've been carrying this ring around with me for three weeks, trying to figure out the perfect way to give it to her."
She gasped and sobbed once and blurted out, "Seriously?"
His eyes were wet, but he wasn't letting himself get teary. That wouldn't be romantic at all. "Seriously." He wiped her tears away with his thumbs. The corners of his eyes crinkled with an affectionate smile.
"Kate, I'm sorry that I made you doubt me the last few weeks. I didn't mean to hurt you. And I'll never get bored with you or stop loving you. You are my everything. I didn't want to do this here, since Ryan did. But it's intimate?"
She nodded, tears still running down her face. Is this really about to happen?
He hoped this was good for her since the timing seemed right. He pulled the ring box out of his pocket and knelt in front of her.
"Katherine, my love, will you please marry me?"
She sobbed once again, took a deep breath, and smiled. "Yes." She wanted to say more, but didn't want to cry, so she kissed him, fully losing herself in the promise and hope and love it conveyed.
When they finally paused, forehead to forehead, she whispered, "Yes. No pros and cons list necessary."
The end! This wasn't supposed to be a proposal fic, it just ended up that way. They love to mirror situations in the show, so when I thought of this after finishing Ch. 5, thinking it was done, I couldn't resist.
So, leave a review. I'm addicted to them; they're addictive like watching the blooper reels on Firefly & Serenity.