Rocks and Hard Places


Chrono Harlaown raised an eyebrow, surprised at the address as he walked onto the bridge of the Arthra. It was still 05:00 ship time, and since they were just cruising most of the crew was still asleep while the Arthra's auto-pilot managed the basic functions. As captain though, Chrono made it a habit to be up and about in shifts during any cruise. The habit was a remnant from his Enforcer days, since as the head Enforcer of the ship he had been required to be on stand-by all the time.

Yet somehow, his mother had always been awake whenever he went looking for her during those earlier days. Chrono could almost swear with certainty that Lindy didn't sleep. Now she claimed that with him as the new captain that she could relax, but yet Chrono still found her popping up suddenly at the most unexpected times. But it seemed that this morning was one of the rare times when his mother was actually in her quarters, and the ship was quiet.

Still, that wasn't what surprised Chrono. It wasn't that out of the ordinary to find Amy awake and tinkering on the main computer at incredibly odd hours, after all.

What was out of the ordinary was how hesitant Amy looked. The brunette sat in her usual seat on the bridge, but there was something…off about her. Not in a bad way, Chrono quickly added in his head, but…off.

"Good morning, Amy." Chrono crossed the bridge, coming up beside her. "What are you doing?"

Normally, such a question would result in a happy babble of technical terms and flashing screens as Amy showed him some new algorithm or program that she had created. The Arthra had the wary honour of being the first to host those programs, and although most of them improved functioning Chrono still remembered the never-to-be-mentioned-incident where one of Amy's algorithms mixed badly with the Arthra's internal security system…

Chrono had never heard screams that loud before.

But anyway—back to the situation at hand.

Normally Amy would perk up when he asked her what she was up to. But today, a nervous expression filled Amy's face despite her efforts to hide it as she tapped distractingly on her keyboard, avoiding his gaze. "Nothing…I couldn't sleep well."

Chrono's cheek muscle twitched. What did Amy mean by that? Her tone of voice wasn't teasing, so she wasn't making a crack at him about the fact that he still refused to stay the night in her room…and yet she wasn't cold, as she might if she was mad at him about something…

"Are you alright?" He said lamely.

"Huh?" Amy squeaked, accidentally smushing a bunch of keys. She quickly turned her back to him and typed frantically, undoing whatever she had accidentally activated. "Oh! I'm fine! I mean, why wouldn't I be?"

"You're acting weird," Chrono stated flatly, putting a hand on the back of her chair. "What's wrong?"

Amy's hands trembled. Frowning, Chrono reached to put his hand on hers but Amy pre-empted him, quickly turning and grabbing his wrist in both of hers. "Um, Chrono-kun…maybe you should sit down."

He stared at her, utterly bewildered.

"Really," she insisted, looking at him desperately.

"What's wrong?" Chrono repeated, his tone dropping into a near-growl. Was someone bothering Amy? Most of the Arthra's crew had been sailing together for a long time, but they did pick up a few new people now and then as crew members retired or transferred, or if they were shuttling units across worlds. If anyone was getting in Amy's way then Chrono would find a way to—

"I…" Amy bit her lip, looking more nervous and scared than Chrono had ever seen her. Her chest heaved, and she actually looked pale. Chrono hesitated, then reached with his free hand to gently stroke her back, just as Amy swallowed and whispered, "I'm pregnant."


Chrono was silent.

He knew that he shouldn't be. He could still see Amy looking fearfully at him, waiting for some kind of reaction. But he had just gone quiet and numb inside, and it was all he could do to stand there and not walk away or fall over.

They had never talked about raising a family, or of anything beyond…what they did. And part of that was Chrono's fault, he knew—he just didn't talk about things like that, and Amy sometimes let him be and other times forced him to listen or contribute to a conversation about topics about feelings and relationships.

Belatedly, he realized that Amy was crying.

Her shoulders shook, and she was staring at her keyboard, her head lowered. She wasn't making a sound, and so he hadn't noticed initially. That alarmed him—Amy didn't cry about serious things! Over little, silly things, yes, but that was always almost theatrical and he never took it seriously. She'd get annoyed with him and then they'd bicker, and everything was okay afterward.

Chrono finally moved. He sat on the edge of the console in front of Amy, and touched her elbow. When she glanced up at him, tear tracks on her face, Chrono pulled her closer until her cheek rested against his chest and he wrapped his arms around her and just held her.

He knew that he should say something, anything…

He could feel her tremours as his hands lay against her back to hold her close. Weren't people supposed to be happy at this kind of announcement? Chrono wondered vaguely as he sat there, his own cheek against Amy's messy hair. He could smell her shampoo, that flowery stuff that he remembered her using ever since they had first met. Even in his room Chrono could still smell it, and he'd never admit it aloud but that was the only reason he could bear to tear himself away from Amy's bed at night to creep back to his own.

Chrono had prided himself on always knowing what to do.

But he had never felt so lost in his life, so unsure of what to do and even more unsure of what he should do.

The elevator doors hissed, and Chrono twitched, looking up as Alex took a step out, and froze, clearly apologetic at intruding. Before Chrono could decide whether he should uphold his dignity as captain or screw dignity and keep holding on, Amy had felt his tension and pulled away first, wiping her tears on her sleeve.

"…Reporting for duty, sir," Alex said, saluting and staring off at nothing, a vaguely embarrassed tint on his cheeks.

"Reporting for duty, Captain," Amy echoed, giving Chrono a forced smile. She brushed her shirt cuff over her face again and straightened, and Chrono let her go.

"Noted," he said dully, straightening. His voice was rougher than he'd like, but Chrono wasn't in a mood to bother with it. "I'll be…making rounds of the ship."

Both Amy and Alex were staring at him while trying to conceal the fact that they were looking: Alex with a puzzled and guiltily curious air, and Amy with an uncharacteristic anxiousness. But Chrono still had no words, so he turned his back and walked into the elevator lift, his steps reverberating loudly in the utter silence.


The engine room of a warship was surprisingly quiet, as the hybrid magic and machinery engine rotated in three interlocked cylinders at the rear of the Arthra. Since most maintenance and repair was done by single technician-mages, the entire engine room was more of a glorified broom closet, with dim lighting and barely enough space to squeeze more than a handful of people in at a time. There were even actual brooms stored here.

It was a popular make-out spot, since the only other people who would be inclined to drop by this region of the ship would be other couples or the captain on patrol.

In fact…Chrono coughed, remembering moments when he would have Amy pressed up against the far wall and—

Suffice to say, the engine room constituted a private location.

Which Chrono really needed at the moment.

He wasn't sure where to start trying to gather his thoughts.

I'm going to be a father.

Chrono dropped onto a storage crate, stunned.

Amy was going to have a kid. Her kid. His kid.

He clutched at his hair, feeling the dampness of his sweat clumping his bangs together. There was…a little person forming inside Amy. Chrono had figured out through bits and pieces and ship innuendo how babies were made, even as he had succeeded in dodging his mother's or Gil's or worse, Lieze's teasing threats to sit him down for the Sex Ed talk. And he had somehow helped with that process, it's…part him.

Chrono couldn't remember anything about his own father except for the records of the earlier Book of Darkness incident before Hayate's. He'd poured over that final recording from Clyde Harlaown so many times he had memorized every second and every detail of the clip—which was why Chrono had immediately recognized the Book in the last incident. He'd watched his father salute to Admiral Grahem hundreds of times, always going out with a smile. His father's last words had been concern over his crew and of the safety of the fleet.

But not a word about his wife or his son.

Chrono never resented his father for it—Clyde was a hero! Still, he could not deny that his only memory of his father was a fleeting, dream-like memory of falling while at a high perspective off the ground, and of a hand catching his ankle to arrest his fall; or when he had been on Clyde's shoulders, and Chrono could barely remember a blur of teal hair that was probably his mother beside them. Those few sense memories and a box of medals were all he had of his dad. Chrono didn't know a thing about being a father.

What will Amy do now? Most officers took a leave of absence to have children. Lindy had when she gave birth to Chrono, since Clyde had been deployed often even during that time. Of course, his mother had come back to command after Chrono had gone off to officer school, and it probably worked out better for her because after touring on different ships for a year Chrono had been assigned to the Arthra with her. He didn't need his mother to look after him, but it was nice to be with family.

Chrono…wasn't ready for any of this.

He admitted it cleanly to himself. There was no point in blustering or lying to himself…he wasn't ready. Chrono was barely twenty years old! If he could wish it all away, he would, even if he winced at his own callousness. But it was true! Chrono...he never expected to have a family of his own. In a way, it was kind of foolish…what did he expect from his relationship with Amy, that they'd be boyfriend-and-girlfriend forever?

Alright, he had thought that, but it clearly was a teenager's thought.

What was he to do? Break up with her? Chrono flinched at the thought, gritting his teeth in irrational anger. That wouldn't be fair to Amy, asking her to raise their kid all on her own…would any man marry her in that case, if she had children already?

Yes, they would, Chrono thought, thinking of his mother and of Fate. People still loved children who did not carry their own blood. And there too were people who would hate a child despite that blood tie.

Again, he thought of his sister.

Parents held a lot of responsibility.

Some time later, a holoscreen flashed open beside him, casting pale blue light over the side of his face. Probably a message from the bridge, asking him something or another. Pointless things at the moment. Chrono ignored it.

He didn't want to break up with Amy. Really, by this point in his life, there was no pretending away how much Chrono…loved Amy. No matter what, he couldn't give her up! And yet…Chrono had no idea how to make his vision of his life and Amy's current state mesh together in a way that made sense.

You still haven't given her any kind of reaction to the fact that she's pregnant, you jerk, he thought miserably. Yeah, he had given her a reaction—utter apathy on the surface. If Amy hated him forever, Chrono would deserve it.

He was such a screw-up.

Emotionally stunted.

Cold jerk.

Insufferable idiot.

He sucked.

Chrono groaned, sinking his face into his hands, his elbows propped on his knees. He wanted to stay like that and not have to think about how many things he had to deal with. Even hearing the soft hiss of the engine room door opening didn't make him stir.

"Ah, I thought that I'd find you here."


His mother, and her uncanny ability to always show up in places unexpectedly.

Lindy strolled in, smiling as if it wasn't weird at all to be finding the captain of a warship holed up by himself in the engine room moping. She sat on the bin beside Chrono, humming as she tapped the small cardboard box she carried in the palm of her hand.

Lindy must know. His mother always found out about things. It was only when Chrono had become a captain himself did he realize that people liked to report any little bit of news to the captain, even if it was strictly unnecessary. Seriously, half the job of captaincy was being a gossip.

"Mother," he finally grunted, after the silence dragged on uncomfortably.

"Chrono-kun," Lindy replied. Her voice was still sweet and warm, but there was a lack of something soft that made Chrono flinch as if she had reprimanded him.

"…What are you doing here?"

"On this ship?" Lindy remarked, seemingly oblivious. "Nothing much anymore—I've passed you on the last parts of your captain's training last night. The paperwork is through—you are the certified captain of the Arthra, effective immediately. Congratulations, Chrono-kun."

"Thank you, Admiral," he said dully. Really, Chrono should be ecstatic at the news. He'd always dreamed of being captain of his own ship. Displacing his mother had never been his intention, but things had worked out well for him with Lindy taking temporary leave so that she could be at home for Fate. As the youngest captain in the TSAB fleet, it was indeed a great honour that Chrono had just achieved.

But that all just seemed empty and silly right now.

They sat there silently.

Lindy shifted on her seat, and held the cardboard box she carried under Chrono's field of vision. She read aloud, "Vacuus: 99.9999% effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies." Lindy tapped the box on her palm. "I suppose you and Amy were unlucky enough to prove that 0.0001% chances exist?"

Chrono made a sound. In a less dignified individual that could have been called a whimper.

Lindy seemed to be waiting for him to actually say something.

"…How did you and Dad decide to have me?" It wasn't the most elegant question, but Chrono wasn't in the mood for subtlety.

"Honestly?" Lindy chuckled slightly, a smile on her lips as she remembered something funny. "We had the opposite problem that you seem to be having, Chrono-kun. Back then…working in the TSAB was dangerous. Not that it isn't dangerous now; presently, the risks may be even higher. But we didn't have nearly as many mages and officers that we needed then, so life felt constantly reckless and precious. Your father and I married young."

"But…didn't you want to become an Admiral?" Chrono rubbed his brow, pinching the bridge of his nose to stave off his growing headache. He never used to have so many stress headaches before becoming a captain. Amy would always rub his neck for him and kiss his forehead, and despite how embarrassing it was he'd always feel better afterward—probably from the relaxing touch itself, but there was something special about the times when Amy did it. Did he reciprocate enough for her? Or was it one more thing that he sucked at?

Oblivious to his internal moping, Lindy said, "Yes, I did…but I wanted to be a mother more." She chuckled a little, remembering some amusing memory. "It's a lot simpler, in a way, for women."

"How?" Chrono exclaimed, thumping his head onto his balled fists. "You have to give up your job—for a few years at the very least, and we all know how much that could affect careers, and deal with…all that family stuff. Guys don't have to do the giving birth part or anything!" Good lord, his coherence was dropping with every sentence. He smacked his forehead onto his knuckles again.

"That's true; the woman has the hard part," Lindy nodded. "But your father had to decide what he wanted to do—continue being deployed, or transfer to Headquarters and become a desk officer. It wasn't…an easy choice for him, because I had already chosen to be the stay-at-home parent, you see."

"I wonder what…" Chrono stopped himself.

Lindy waited patiently.

"…What…" Chrono shut his eyes. "…What Amy wants."


That was the crux of the problem.

If Amy ever wanted to talk to him again…

"What do you want, Chrono-kun?"


"What do you want, Chrono-kun?" Lindy repeated patiently. "There are two of you in this relationship."

"Me? It's not the same. I'm the guy."

"You're just as involved in this as Amy is." Lindy patted his arm, and Chrono felt a surge of unease. His gut was getting shivery, and Chrono wanted to stuff that feeling down or just run. But he couldn't do that, and so more and more unease just kept creeping up into his stomach.

It hurt.

It made him angry.

"I don't know what I want!" Chrono snarled, jerking to his feet. "I don't want kids, I didn't! Even if I did, I couldn't make it work. But Amy…with Amy…" He paced, his fists clenched at his sides. "Mother, Amy's different. I…things I used to think change when I'm with her. I don't…" Chrono sighed, feeling his entire body slump. "I don't know anymore."

"Think about it," Lindy said, rising from her seat. She stopped as she passed him, and reached up. Her hand was soft as she patted his cheek, smiling a little at the rough feel of his shaved chin under her fingers. "Even as you respect Amy's decision, you should know how you feel. So that you can truly be there for her, no matter what her decision is."

"You're not saying something," Chrono said glumly. He could see it in his mother's eyes, see her holding something back because she was too polite and kind to say it. "Just say it, Mother. If I'm going to screw up my life I'd rather know what your advice was before I do it."

"My thoughts…" Lindy paused. She didn't want to bias him, Chrono knew. But really, Chrono wanted to know—he was flying worse than blind here, and there was no one else he could trust enough to ask about love and kids and such.

The word slipped out, giving away far too much of his internal conflict. "…Please."

"You're thinking so hard on what you could lose." Lindy stroked his cheek. "Maybe you should think about what you could possibly gain. Or what Amy could possibly gain. Those are my thoughts."

"Hm," grunted Chrono. He glanced at the door.

"You know what you're going to do?" Somehow, that didn't sound entirely like a question. But then again, Chrono supposed that his mother had more intuition into his thoughts than he realized. It was a discomforting thought to think of how much his mother knew about how his mind worked.

"…Yeah." He'll talk with Amy, and find out if she wants to keep her…their kid. And if she did, Chrono was willing to pay as much child support as she needed. He wasn't going to just walk away from it all, but he couldn't…he couldn't see himself as being the right kind of man, with the right kind of career, to be a father. He couldn't.

No matter what he wanted, facts were facts.

It was only logical.

Chrono sighed, lowering his head and turning for the door.


He stopped curiously. Lindy caught his hand and lifted it between them, placing something into his palm.

"In case you want another option," she said, and brushed by him, her footsteps fading away alongside her light humming.

Chrono stared after her, breathless. His fingers closed into a white-knuckled fist over the item.

He knew what it was.

And in a split second, his mother had made his life simplier and more complicated all at the same time.


Chrono didn't have to look for Amy; he knew where she'd be.

He rapped on her door, hearing the metal ring hollowly in the empty corridor. There was no way that Amy would be in his room—they've never spent time truly relaxing while in his quarters. His fault, Chrono knew, and the reasons behind that shamed him when he thought about it. Absolutely nothing could make him ashamed of his relationship with Amy! But the thought of mixing their private time together with a semi-public space like his captain's quarters—because with the amount of message and in-person traffic that passed through his rooms every day, the captain's quarters really was just an extension of the bridge—brought a knot to his gut.

But what kind of message did that give to Amy? Chrono would have bet that on some level, Amy understood—but still, that didn't forgive the fact that he had never told her exactly why.

Amy's door hissed open an inch.

"Yes?" Amy peeked out through the gap, and her face whitened. "…Chrono."

Chrono hastily stuck his hand into the gap, just in case she decided to shut the door on him. "Amy—I'm sorry. Can…can we talk? Please?"

She turned away, but opened the door all the way. "Come in." Had she been crying? Chrono felt a sharp twinge under his ribs.

"Thanks." He stepped inside, letting the door slide shut while he tried to think of what to say. "Um…" Reaching out, he grasped Amy's hand, feeling her jolt of apprehension through their fingers. Firmly, he held on. "Can we sit down?"

Amy let him tug her over to her bed, sitting down with her face still downcast. Chrono couldn't keep his knees from twitching, and he hoped that she wouldn't notice.

Gently, he stroked the back of her hand with a thumb, feeling his nervousness strangely die at the warmth of her skin. "How are you feeling?"

"How am I feeling?" Amy asked incredulously.

He nodded.

She stared at his face. Her eyes were red at the corners, and he could see the faint, smeared tear tracks by her nose. Anger and fear fought for precedence in the mixed expressions that crossed her face, and Chrono had to breathe steadily in order to keep himself present and not close off inside his own head.

He…he tended to do that when he was scared.

And Chrono was pretty scared right now.

"…I'm kind of pissed off at you right now."

Ouch. Chrono's face twitched. "…Yeah, I kind of deserve that," he admitted.

Amy's hand tightened around his. "I'm not mad at you for…the pregnant thing," she said quietly. "You just walked away earlier. You didn't…you haven't said anything about it yet."

Some of Chrono's fear bled away. "I'm sorry." He lowered his gaze to stare at the fibers of the blanket they sat on. It was standard navy issue but he knew that the blanket underneath was an Earth one—a present from Fate that she had made in school. This was Amy—no one else was closer to him than Amy.

"I'm…I'm kind of mixed up right now."

Amy huffed, understandly annoyed at his vague response.

Chrono swallowed. "Amy…what…what are you going to do? About the…" he fumbled around the word, feeling his face heat up. "…baby?"

She shivered. Chrono grasped a handful of blanket and pulled the other end up, draping it around Amy's shoulders and letting the other corner fall over his, cocooning them together. Amy didn't shove him away, so she probably wasn't too mad at him. He touched her other hand, and was glad to feel her shaking subside.

They sat silently.

"I'm scared," Amy whispered, finally looking him in the eye. "I'm scared, Chrono, but…" She took a breath. "But I want to keep him."


She gave him an exasperated look. "Him or her—I can't call our baby it, can I?"

"No," Chrono admitted sheepishly.

"I love my job; I love working with you and Lindy-san on the Arthra…but I can't, you know." Amy sniffed, rubbing at the new tears. "I can't give up our baby, Chrono. I…I kind of like the idea of…having a family…"

"It's just all a little soon, and a little sudden."

Amy nodded agreement. She was watching him now, and Chrono knew that she had picked up the reflection of his own feelings in his empathic statement.

His turn. "Amy, I…I'll support any decision you make. For any reason. Whatever you need from me, I'm yours." Chrono ran his free hand through his dark hair nervously. "I'm sorry for all this."

"Sorry?" Amy repeated, her eyes narrowing. Hurt and anger made her voice harsher as she said again, "Sorry?"

"I'm not…" Chrono stammered, then gritted his teeth. He had to get a hold of himself! More calmly, he said, "I'm not sorry for the fact that we had sex. I'm not sorry for loving you! I'm sorry that now you're stuck in this position, and that it's hard on you."

Amy's frown eased, and Chrono bit the inside of his mouth to hold in his sigh of relief. Angry!Amy was just as terrifying as Angry!Lindy; both women were scary in the promise of hell that glinted in their eyes when they were furious, which was freakier than any level of explosive anger. He hated it when either of them were mad at him.

"Chrono?" Amy asked, her voice wavering slightly. "What…what do you want?"

What he wanted…

What he wanted…

"Chrono? You're…you're crying!" Amy exclaimed, touching his cheeks. He could feel her brushing at his tears in amazement and worried caring. Chrono caught Amy in his arms and pulled her close, hearing her slight yelp of surprise. He shook and laid his face against her neck, breathing raggedly.

"Chrono?" Amy murmured in his ear, one hand rubbing the back of his neck soothingly.

"I'm terrified."

Chrono felt more tears sliding down his face in the silence after his confession.

"I love you so much, Amy…and I want to, no, I love our kid too…but I'm scared, Amy, I…I don't know if I can be a good father. I don't know if I can do it, if I can be there for you and for our child like I need to be."

He felt her stroke his hair, felt all the love and support that she wordlessly offered.

"Amy, I'm a captain. I'm an Enforcer. I spend more time deployed than on-planet! I don't want to be like my father." Chrono gulped, shutting his wet eyes. "I know that he loved me and Mother, and that he was as good a dad as he could be. But I don't want to be that kind of father—always away and never around when he's needed. I don't want to be like that, Amy…but what else can I do? How else can I earn enough money to take care of our child? To take care of you? I don't care if you continue to work too, Amy, I'm not just going to leave you to deal with it all on your own. So how can I do my part and still be there for our kid?"

He stopped, his shuddering breaths having nearly made his last few words unintelligible.

"I can't ask you to give up your dream, Chrono!" Amy said, suppressed sobs audible in her voice. "I know how much it means to you—I can't do it to you. Being out here, helping people, putting away the bad guys…that's what makes you happy. I love the Arthra, but I can do my work anywhere I want. I don't want to leave our son, or our daughter…I don't want to leave him at home without his parents. I don't mind giving this up, for a while at least…but Chrono, I can't watch you give it up."

"I don't want to be away from our child all the time," Chrono whispered. "I don't want to be that kind of a father."

"Chrono…" Amy's voice was so quiet he wouldn't have been able to hear her if he hadn't been so close. "If…if you don't want to be away all the time, you could always transfer to HQ. I…I'll be fine, really, on my own. That way you could be close to your son or daughter if you wanted to be."

He pulled back, so startled that he had to stare open-mouthed at her. If Chrono transferred to Headquarters, he couldn't expect as high a salary as he was currently making as a warship captain. It would suffice for a bachelor's existence, and maybe enough for child support…but that wasn't what he wanted! Did Amy really think that all he cared about was their child?

Why wouldn't she? You're not bound to each other in any way but your child.

Chrono loved Amy.

He had known that for a long, long time, even if he had tried not to think about it. Tried not to think about how that love could drive him to flip his entire life upside down in a heartbeat. But he knew it to be true.

In the corner of his vision, Chrono could see the paw prints and puppies of Amy's inner blanket. It was very Fate-like, and only Amy had gotten one. Lindy had made a fuss about how cute she thought that the blanket was, but compassionately didn't tease Fate for not giving it to her. Amy had been red with pleasure, and Chrono had been a bit puzzled at Fate's choice but he had been pleased. Pleased because Amy had always awkwardly thought of herself as not part of the family, and his sister had in that moment shown Amy how wrong she was.

Did that hesitance plague Amy still?

Chrono slipped a hand inside his jacket pocket.

"Chrono?" Amy sounded confused as Chrono rose, slipping out from under the blanket. Her bewilderment doubled when he crouched in front of her, one of his hands resting gently on her knee.

He pulled his hand out of his pocket and opened it between them.

Amy stared for a second without recognition—Chrono understood, he could barely recognize the ring too when it was off his mother's hand. Then her eyes widened and she tensed.

"Amy," Chrono said firmly, gazing up at her until she met his eyes. "I don't know exactly when, but I know that ever since we met in officer school, I've never felt happier than when I was with you. And I've fallen in love with you so many times over the years, I…" he swallowed, faltering as his embarrassed pride fought with the determined love that he felt inside. "I…I can't imagine working or living without you nearby. At first I only thought that it was because I liked working with you, but then I couldn't stand the thought of you not being with me all the time. I wanted you to share the family dinners and the holidays and the quiet evenings with me and Mother, and Fate too. I know I'm kind of stupid emotionally about all this, but today I've had to think about it, and I know that I have to tell you just how much you mean to me."

He turned his mother's ring in his fingers, watching the fluorescent lighting flash off the simple golden band and sink into the etching carved across the surface. It was Lindy's wedding ring, so it wasn't fancy or encrusted with jewels like a proper engagement ring should be. But Chrono liked the warmth of it, and the smoothness of the metal from the wear of everyday use felt wonderful to his calloused touch. This was how Chrono showed he cared—through little everyday things, inglorious things that needed doing and that he could do.

"I'm certain that I would have done this down the road—in a year, or in two, or in ten. I'm scared and nervous and it's all a little soon for me, but I know deep inside that baby or not, I want to be with you forever, Amy." Chrono took a breath, then dropped one knee to the floor, and held out the ring. "Amy, will you marry me?"


Amy was just staring at him.

Chrono's knuckles were turning white, and he could feel every groove of the ring digging into the pads of his fingers, he was holding it so tightly.

She's not saying anything, Chrono panicked, a light-headed sensation building up in his skull. He didn't think that he was breathing—white flecks were starting to appear in his vision.

God, she doesn't want to.

It's over.

A prickly burning started behind Chrono's eyes, and he fought not to blink, because if he did he knew that he would embarrass himself again by crying.

This must be how Amy felt when I didn't say anything to her.

He had never felt such a terrible, paralyzing fear in his entire life.

Amy lifted her hand. She wiped her tears away with the back of her wrist, and then a real, amazed smile lit up her entire face, banishing every trace of sadness in a dazzling instant.

"Yes," she breathed. "Yes, I'll marry you, Chrono!"

For the second time in his life Chrono cried, thick tears trailing unashamedly down his cheeks as Amy kissed him, their arms wrapped so tightly around each other the world vanished away for a moment.

For that moment, she was his only world.

For that moment and forever.

Author's Note: This fic was inspired by the scene in the StrikerS/A's manga, chapter 1 page 12, where Chrono's response to the fact that he and Amy are going to be married was "Well, there were various reasons…" And so I decided to write a fic around just what those "reasons" may have been =).

Details about how Chrono and Amy met were taken from A's Sound Stage 02.

Just for clarification, Chrono and Amy are referring to their twins in the singular because at this point they don't know that they have twins, and so are assuming that Amy is pregnant with just one child.

While I personally prefer "Asura" to "Arthra" my good friend Dezo convinced me through long arguments that there is some merit in keeping to canon for little things =). So for the first time, I'm begrudgingly using the proper spelling for our favourite warship in one of my stories!