This is my first Roger and Holly fic. Hopefully it's the first of many. I hated what happened to them in late 1994, so I tweaked a few things, and went in a completely different direction from the show at a pretty significant moment that occurred in November of that year. The story's title, and the song lyrics in italics, are taken from Don Henley's 1995 song "Everything Is Different Now."

Roger's POV

I hate to tell you this, but I'm very, very happy

And I know that's not what you'd expect from me at all

I'm not the kind to smile and bow out gracefully

I always wanted to take it to the wall

But I found somebody with a heart as big as Texas

I found an angel with the golden wings

She saw me down here in the dark somehow

And everything is different now

Of all the things that Roger had learned, and was continuing to learn, since rekindling his relationship with Holly, this was the most mind-blowing: she had hated it when he was married to Alexandra Spaulding! It had not only made her angry, she had confessed to him earlier, it had hurt her deeply. Holly had been nothing but supportive since Roger had started going after Spaulding Enterprises over the summer—she asked only to be included in what he was doing, and had proved just how far she was willing to go when she had broken into the Spaulding Mansion with him—but all the time he was spending with Alex lately was pricking at Holly's old feelings of pain and insecurity. Holly had admitted she was afraid she was going to lose him! Roger had thought it was only him scared of losing Holly. Now he knew that was not the case.

Roger Thorpe was not a stupid man. He just had the tendency to make stupid decisions that ultimately wrecked what mattered most to him, a lifelong pattern of behavior that he was actively working very hard at learning to break, with the assistance of a dedicated, first-rate counselor. The counselor was helping Roger, and Holly too, change the old self-destructive habits and behaviors that had always sunk them in the past. No one knew they were going to couples therapy twice a month, not even their daughter Blake. They both felt that Dr. Eileen Janssen of Bay City was a godsend, but, as she had pointed out to Roger and Holly more than once, she just helped them identify the behaviors and habits they needed to change and pointed them in the right direction to do so; they did all the heavy lifting. They also reaped the rewards for it.

Roger had not given up on making an honest woman out of Holly, but he knew that pushing her to marry him would only blow up in his face and wind up driving a wedge between them, and he didn't want that. She was wearing the diamond-and-sapphire engagement ring he had given her the week after Blake and Ross's wedding back in June on her right hand, and would move it to her left hand when she was ready to get married. Until then, they would be, as Holly had put it, engaged to be engaged. He would wait for her forever if he had to, because she was worth the wait. He knew he couldn't breathe without her anymore, and he didn't want to have to try. Holly was the center of the universe to him, and he would do nothing to jeopardize his universe collapsing in on itself.

Which brought them to where they were at this very moment: in each other's arms in the afterglow of make-up/reassurance sex after their latest argument over Alex and Spaulding Enterprises, and Holly's subsequent confession that Roger's marriage to Alex had deeply hurt and angered her and that she still feared losing him to the quest for Spaulding. Roger would die before he would let that happen. They had been through too much and come too far to let anything or anyone rip them apart again.

Roger knew he was quickly coming up on a crossroads. If it came down to a choice between Holly or Spaulding Enterprises, it wasn't a choice at all. It was, had always been, would forever be, Holly Norris Lindsey. And he would battle Alexandra Spaulding, all the self-righteous, hypocritical, laughingly named good citizens of Springfield, all the angels in Heaven and all the demons in Hell to stay with her.

The shadows of the afternoon were giving way to the darkness of the evening, and Roger was perfectly content to stay where he was for the rest of the night: in their bed, he and Holly wrapped in each other's arms, sharing long, slow kisses. Holly pulled back from him to look in his eyes and wipe a smudge of her lipstick from the corner of his mouth with her thumb. "We should see about dinner," she said.

"Not yet," he replied. "Let's just…" He kissed her again. "…stay here a while longer, just like this."

She gave him the flirtatious smile that never failed to make his pulse kick up a few notches. "Convince me," she said playfully, her hands disappearing beneath the covers.

He pulled her on top of him and was about to begin kissing her breathless when without warning, the bedroom door flew open, and there stood Alexandra Spaulding, not even seeming to take notice of where he and Holly were or what they were doing as she demanded, "Roger, I need to talk to you, NOW!"

Yeah, I miss the old crowd sometimes

And the wild, wild nights of running

You know, a starving soul can't live like that for long

You go around in circles that just keep getting smaller

You wake up one morning and half your life is gone

I got so tired of that; I got so lonely

I dropped down and I called out to heaven

Send me someone to love

And heaven shot back, You get the love that you allow

And everything is different now

"Alex, what the hell? Get out of our house!" Roger exclaimed angrily as Holly rolled off of him and sat up, clutching the top sheet to her chest.

"Not until you talk to me," Alex retorted stubbornly.

"Have you really not noticed that this isn't a good time?" Roger gritted out through clenched teeth. He looked at Holly, who looked like she had just been smacked upside the head with a two-by-four.

"Everything is falling apart!" Alex shouted. "Alan… I just came from a board meeting where he set me up to make a complete ass of myself, and I can't get Nick to listen to me, and Alan-Michael is no help because he's on Alan's side. You have to help me, Roger!"

Roger found Holly's silence heavy, like a two-ton weight crushing him. He watched as Holly's eyes traveled from Alex, carrying on her tirade in the doorway of their bedroom—a bedroom that Roger had only permanently moved into two months ago—to Roger, beside her in their bed. She looked like she was bracing herself for a blow, but she said nothing.

And at that moment, Roger knew he had arrived at the crossroads.

He didn't blink, didn't flinch, didn't have to give it even one microsecond's thought. He squeezed Holly's shoulder in what he hoped was a reassuring manner, looked Alexandra right in the eye, and said, "No, Alex, I don't have to help you. As a matter of fact, I am done helping you."

Oh, and it's sweet to know

The wisdom that living brings

Since I got a telegram from the god of simple things

She said, "I don't care what you do for a living."

She said, "I don't care what kind of car you drive.

All I want to know right now is, what do you believe in

And what it means to you to be alive?"

Will you stand here in this fire with me?

Are you ready for another life?

Holly and Alex both looked at Roger in shock.

"You don't mean that," Alex said in disbelief.

"Yes, I do," Roger said firmly. "I'm done. You're using me, Alex. You're using me to try and get one up on Alan, and to keep him and Alan-Michael out of the company. And you have totally crossed the line, barging into our bedroom like this! I somehow managed to forget how rampant the Spaulding insanity runs when you and Alan are battling for control of your precious company, but you've just given me a very vivid reminder. And there is no way I'm going to be that foolish or that masochistic ever again. I'm not going to play your Spaulding games anymore. I have better and more important things to do with my life than to get sucked into the middle of your family's raging dysfunction again."

Alex scoffed at this. "You forget, Roger, I know you. I know you're addicted to the money and the power that only Spaulding can give you."

"I was once," Roger admitted, "but I'm not anymore. I'm not that idiotic anymore, Alex. On the short list of things that truly matter to me, Spaulding Enterprises doesn't make the cut. It's taken me a lifetime, but I finally have my priorities straight, and they don't include you or your company. Whatever it is you're going to do, you're going to do it without me. I'm out of it completely as of this moment."

Roger was calm and emphatic. He meant it with every fiber of his being. He saw Holly looking at him, looking in his eyes, and he locked eyes with her, willing her to see the truth of his words. He saw the moment she realized he was being honest, and the expression of wonder on her face was a power punch to his heart.

Alex could see that Roger meant it, too, and it made her panic more than she already was. "But the presidency was going to be yours!" she shouted.

Now it was Roger's turn to scoff. "You would have screwed me over in favor of Nick the first chance you got, and we both know it," he said. "Now, I'll tell you one more time, Alex: get out of our house. Or do I have to get dressed, get up, and physically throw you out, because I will gladly do that if I have to."

Alex looked at Holly then. Holly merely gave Alex a dazed smile, as if to say I wasn't expecting this either, but he obviously means it. "You'll regret this," Alex said in a clipped tone, looking to Roger once more.

"No, I won't," Roger replied serenely. "Not one little bit. There's the door, Alex. Don't let it hit you on the way out."

Shooting daggers at Roger and Holly both, Alex stood her ground for one second more, then turned on her heel and noisily flounced out of their bedroom, slamming the bedroom door behind her. A few seconds later, they heard her slam the front door behind her.

Once Alex had departed, Roger said, "We have to get a locksmith out here first thing in the morning, change the front and back door locks, and find new hiding places for the spare keys."

"I can't believe you did that," Holly said feelingly, her voice rough with emotion.

Roger brushed Holly's hair off her forehead. "You come first, Hol. Always," he said determinedly. "And after what we talked about earlier, I would have had to be the world's biggest fool not to see the blazing neon signs pointing out the crossroads, and I'm not a fool. Not anymore. I've worked too long and too hard to earn back your trust to jeopardize it by staying in league with Alex. Spaulding or you, it's no contest. You, hands down, every single time."

Roger saw the tears in Holly's eyes and was not surprised when she threw her arms around him, dropping her head to his shoulder. He rubbed her back and said, "Hey, now, there's no need for tears."

She squeezed him before drawing back to look at him, her arms loosely clasped around him. "Yes, there is," she said, sniffling. "They're happy tears. You gave up Spaulding for me, for us."

"All I gave up was the one thing that had the most potential to derail us," Roger replied. "To me, that's not giving up. That's coming out ahead. I will find another professional challenge that won't rip us apart. Do you remember Acapulco?"

"I'll never forget it," Holly replied, laying her head on his chest as he eased them back down onto the pillows, his arms wrapped around her, holding her close. She trailed her fingertips down his forearm, needing to touch him.

"Remember when we were there and we talked about when we were married before, how neither of us knew what we were doing?" he asked. He felt her nod, so he went on. "I never asked you what was wrong. You never told me what was wrong. All we did was fight. We didn't communicate. But now we do communicate. We finally learned how to, with the help of a very good therapist.

"Well, today I asked you what was wrong, and you told me. After that conversation, I knew that the crossroads was fast approaching. And as soon as Alex threw open that door, there it was."

She shifted so that she could see his face. He shifted so that he could cradle her face in his hands, wiping the traces of tears from the corners of her eyes with his thumbs.

"I love our life, Holly. I love you," he said fervently, dropping his hands to her shoulders as he held her wondrous gaze. "And I remember what it was like all those years without you. It was horrible. It was like living in a world of gray. There was no light, no color. I could never catch my breath.

"I love you and need you too much to go back to that life. It's like you said in Acapulco: we could have worked when we were young. We didn't then, but we do now, and I want us to keep on working. That means no Alex, no Spaulding Enterprises, no Spaulding family. Let them all destroy each other and the last one standing gets the company. I don't care. Giving up the pursuit of Spaulding Enterprises to keep this life with you that I, by some fabulous miracle, finally have is the easiest decision I ever made."

Holly sat up and looked at him then, and Roger saw in her eyes everything she was feeling, everything that no words in any language of the world could adequately express. Two seconds later, she practically tackled him, pushing him down into the mattress as she rained kisses all over his face, punctuating them with whispered declarations of love, then gradually kissing and caressing her way down his body. He hadn't given up anything. He had gotten the one thing he had wanted for his entire adult life—a relationship with Holly built on love and trust-and he wasn't going to lose that. Not ever again.

Before completely surrendering to her, the last thought in his head was how grateful he was, for having learned to listen and really hear what she was saying, for having finally gotten smart enough to know what—or rather who—truly mattered to him, and above all for the extraordinary woman in whose arms he was enfolded and who had held his heart since they were young and would hold it beyond forever.

So I bit that bullet and took that vow

And everything is different now

Everything is different now