A/N: This is an AU version of "Caroline and the Kid" but it's been a while since I've seen the episode. I rewrote some of the scenes to be purposely AU but the others are written purely from memory, so please forgive any inaccuracies. And as always thanks for reading!
"The mural looks great, Caroline. You did an amazing job."
Caroline smiled and turned to admire her handiwork.
"Yeah, it does, doesn't it? But I couldn't have done it without you."
Richard blushed. "Oh, come on. Everyone knows you're the real talent. I'm just the guy who colors things in."
Caroline climbed off the ladder and touched Richard's arm. "Hey, come on. You know you're much more than that! You are in fact, one of the most difficult people I've ever met... and the best."
Richard's head rose at the unexpected praise.
"You're wonderful, Richard."
When Caroline smiled, his heart warmed and suddenly he was filled with courage so great that it could have only come from God.
He swallowed hard, unable to believe that he was about to say the very words that had clouded his heart for so long.
"Is something wrong, Richard?"
He hesitated for a moment, frantically trying to gather his thoughts. For he wanted this moment to be nothing less than perfect.
"No... It's just that..."
God, why was this so hard?
When he looked up he saw that she had turned her attention back to the mural and was busy repainting an apparent flaw that she'd found. But that was impossible. The beautiful and intelligent Caroline Duffy had no flaws.
In Richard's eyes she was absolutely perfect.
"I love you, Caroline."
It was several seconds before he realized what he'd said and even then it was due to the stunned look on Caroline's face.
He laughed nervously and rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, that was certainly an ice breaker, wasn't it?"
But she continued to stare at him in amazement.
"Hey! What happened to my room?"
They turned to find Martin, the young boy whose room they'd been painting, standing in the doorway.
Despite the scowl on Martin's face, Caroline smiled with pride.
"Oh, do you like it? Look, it's got a rocket ship and everything!"
"I hate it!" Martin screamed. "I wanted superheroes, not stupid cartoons!"
Caroline flinched at the harsh words and glanced at Richard.
"I'm gonna kill that kid!"
As she climbed off the ladder and prepared to take off after Martin, Richard grabbed her arm.
"Caroline, he's eight. Just let it go!"
"Nobody talks about our hard work that way! Especially not an eight-year old brat!"
Before Richard could stop her, Caroline began to chase Martin around the house.
But he wasn't fast enough. Caroline chased Martin into the living room, where seconds later a crash could be heard.
"What was that?"
Out of breath from trying to catch up with Caroline and Martin, Richard stopped in his tracks. The exquisite and priceless vase that stood in the dining room was now on the floor, having shattered into a million pieces.
And standing in the doorway was Martin's dad.
"What's the meaning of this?" He bellowed.
"He did it!" Martin yelled, pointing at Richard.
Richard could only gasp in shock.
"What? How can you say that?"
Martin's father crossed the room and headed straight for his son.
"Martin I am appalled that you chose to blame this man for your stupid antics! Now you know good and well that this was your doing and that there will be serious consequences! I'm sure that Citadel Academy will be happy to have you as their student! Perhaps a long stay there will whip you into shape!"
"No buts! Now I've given you chance after chance and each time you've disappointed me! So you leave me no choice but to send you to military school!"
"But Dad I swear I'll be good! Just-."
"Sir, Martin's right. It was my fault."
Caroline blinked in surprise.
"I broke the vase." Richard said, his head bowed to the floor. "I wasn't paying attention and... well... It was my fault. Look, I'll replace it, I promise."
"You couldn't possibly afford it. No one can. It's an extremely rare piece." The man said. "But I thank you for your honesty."
The man turned to his son. "Martin, I'm sorry I blamed you. I guess I just assumed..."
"It's okay, Dad."
"I'm terribly sorry." Richard said again.
"Well, like I said before, I thank you for your honesty. I hope Martin can learn from your example." The man said.
Richard extended his hand, smiling when the man shook it.
"Thank you, Sir."
When the man was gone, Caroline smiled at Martin, who continued to scowl."
"Martin, Richard did something very nice for you. Don't you have anything to say to him?"
Martin turned to Richard and gave him a huge grin. "Yeah..."
Richard leaned foreword in anticipation.
"All right, Martin... What do you have to say?"
"You're a loser!" Martin yelled. "You're as pathetic as the kids I beat up!"
"Why you little..."
Anger flared through Caroline and she lunged for Martin, stopping to pick up another vase which was the exact replica of the one shattered on the floor.
The vase in her hand, she threw it to the ground, smiling victoriously as it shattered into a million pieces and then ran out of the house.
"Caroline, Caroline! It's not worth it!" Richard said, catching up with her at the curb.
"Why did you do that?" Caroline asked.
"Take the blame for something you didn't do?"
Richard sighed deeply. "Oh, I don't know. I suppose Martin's right. I mean, what kind of loser becomes intimidated by an eight year old?"
Caroline took his hand, smiling when he gasped in surprise.
"You're not a loser."
"Well thanks for that, but-."
"I think you're wonderful. Difficult, but wonderful."
He blushed deeply. "Thanks Caroline. That means a lot to-."
Before he knew what was happening, he was in her arms, kissing her tenderly. It was the most incredible feeling he'd ever known, but it was over all too soon.
"Caroline..." He said when she drew back. "Wow... I never thought that would happen. I-I mean I'd always hoped but... I-I mean..."
She smiled and kissed him again.
"I knew what you meant."
Richard brushed a lock of hair from her forehead. "So... does this mean that you love me, too?"
She looked away, and then back at Richard.
But the prolonged silence told him all he needed to know.
"Look, Caroline... I know this is wrong, considering that we're partners and all. And I'm sorry."
"Well, this probably isn't what you want to hear but I care about you a lot, Richard."
"So... that's why you kissed me?"
She smiled and touched his face.
"This might be a bit foreword, but can I buy you dinner at Remo's? I-I mean it's not a date." Richard said nervously. "Just my way of showing my appreciation for your friendship and-."
He gasped when Caroline kissed his cheek.
"Richard I would love to not go on a date at Remo's with you. Besides, I'm starving!"
This time it was Richard who initiated the kiss on her lips.
"I was hoping you'd say that."