Here's the second story. It's a long one, and the whole thing won't be posted in one day, seeing as how I'm still working on it, but I decided to start posting it. This is the sequel to "Everything Is Different Now," so you should really read that one first. A few more characters appear in this one besides Holly and Roger, including Maureen Bauer. In this alternate universe/timeline I'm creating, she never crashed her car and didn't die. I like the friendship she and Roger had, so I'm keeping it going.

December 24, 1994-Holly and Roger's house, the hour approaching Christmas morning

Holly and Roger returned home from spending Christmas Eve at Ross and Blake's house, along with a visit to Vanessa's to spend some time with Peter. Only the lights of the Christmas tree illuminated their living room. Holly sat on the couch with her shoes off, her legs tucked under her, and Roger joined her after lighting the candles on the mantel and getting the fire in the fireplace blazing. He slid his arm around her shoulders, and she rested her head on his shoulder. "You've been quiet since we got home," he said.

"I was just thinking about where we were this time last year," Holly replied. She lifted her head, and Roger turned his head to look at her. "I was never so relieved in my life as I was when I realized you were really here...although the way you keeled over nearly stopped my heart."

Roger looked over at the area where he had collapsed one year earlier with the bullet Billy Lewis had pumped into him still in his chest. Holly followed his gaze. "As sad as this will sound, that was actually one of my better Christmases, because I was with you," he said. They were both silent for a moment, remembering. Then Roger looked at Holly and said, "I promise, I got you something better than mousetraps this year."

Holly smiled, then said, "Actually, I have a gift I want to give you right now."

Roger looked over at the Christmas tree and the gifts underneath it. "Is it the big one or the little one?" he asked with a grin.

"It's not something you can unwrap," Holly replied. Roger swung his gaze back to Holly, puzzled. In response, Holly brought her right hand up from her lap, removed the engagement ring Roger had given her six months ago, the week after Ross and Blake's wedding, and slid it onto her left-hand ring finger. Once the ring was in place on her left hand, she dropped her right hand back to her lap and kept her left hand up. Then she looked Roger right in the eye and said, "I'm ready. Let's get married."

In that instant, Roger was whirled back in time to when he had first given Holly that ring...

"Roger..." Holly said, surprised.

Roger was on his knees at Holly's feet, holding up the open ring box with the marquis-cut diamond flanked by two sapphires on a white-gold band that he had chosen just a day earlier. "Clearly you're surprised," he said. "And I know I've mentioned this before, and I've even asked before..." His face momentarily clouded, remembering the morning after they had made love at Cliff House almost one year earlier. "But there's no pressure."

"There's not?" Holly asked, raising an eyebrow.

"What's the saying? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?" Roger inquired. "I'm not going to demand an answer right now. I'm not going to demand an answer at all, in fact." Roger removed the ring from its box and held the band between his thumb and forefinger so that Holly could see the diamond and sapphires. "I'm just stating my intentions and putting the offer on the table. I want to marry you, Hol. But not until you're ready to marry me."

"It's a beautiful ring," Holly replied.

Roger exhaled a sigh of relief. "Then you do like the ring," he said.

"I love the ring," Holly said, looking from the ring to Roger. "And I love you. I'm just...I'm not ready. Not yet."

Roger reached for Holly's right hand and slipped the ring onto her right-hand ring finger. "How about this?" he asked. "How about you wear the ring on your right hand, and when you're ready, you move it to your left hand?"

Holly looked at the ring on her right hand. "Okay," she agreed.

"Okay," Roger echoed with a smile. He and Holly both looked down at the ring on her right hand, admiring it.

"You know what this means, don't you?" she asked. Roger looked up at her, unsure of what she was getting at. She ran the fingers of her left hand through his hair and smiled at him as she said, "We're engaged to be engaged."

Roger grinned as her meaning sank in. It wasn't a "no," it wasn't an "Ask me again in a year or so." They were engaged to be engaged. She would move the ring when she was ready, and that was enough.

He rose from the floor and sat beside Holly on the edge of the bed, still holding her right hand, which was now adorned with his ring. She leaned in and kissed him.

"Thank you for understanding," she whispered when she pulled back. "And for waiting."

"You're worth the wait," he replied, pulling her into his arms to kiss her again.

Now here they were, almost six months since that night, and Holly had moved the ring! She was ready. She wanted to get married! To him!

Several emotions played over Roger's face in rapid-fire succession: uncertainty, as if he wondered if he might be dreaming; fear that somehow this wasn't real; hope that it was real; and finally sheer joy, as he realized that it was, indeed, very real. "Oh, Holly," he said. He pulled her into his lap and hugged her tightly. She gave a happy little laugh as she threw her arms around him. She was surprised, though, when she drew back to look at him and saw that the expression on his face had morphed from one of pure joy to one of worry.

"What? What's wrong?" Holly asked anxiously.

Roger swallowed hard before meeting Holly's gaze. "I can't give you the wedding you deserve," he said dispiritedly.

Holly knew what this was about: Ed and Maureen's vow renewal. After being separated for most of 1993 because of Ed's affair with Lillian Raines, Ed and Maureen Bauer had reconciled in September of 1993, and Ed had surprised Maureen in October with a big, splashy vow renewal ceremony that most of Springfield had turned out for...including Holly, as an invited guest, and Roger, as someone who crashed the reception to congratulate Maureen and get in a couple of digs at Ed. Holly had seen Maureen and Roger talking outside when she left the Lakeland Country Club ballroom to get some fresh air, but she had never let on that she'd known Roger had been there, although since Maureen was probably the closest thing he had to a best friend, she hadn't been surprised-and neither had Maureen-when Roger had shown up.

But Roger and Holly were Roger and Holly, not Ed and Maureen, and even if most of Springfield still thought Holly was insane to get back together with Roger, and still couldn't see Roger as anything but evil, Holly still didn't want a big, public wedding, because that was not her or their style.

Gently cupping Roger's chin in her hand so that he had to hold her gaze, she asked him, "When have I ever given you the impression that I want the entire town of Springfield at our wedding? Or a six-tiered cake, a champagne fountain, and fireworks over the lake? You know me better than that. At least, you'd better, since we're getting married." She took his hands in hers and squeezed them. "I already have what I want, Roger. I have you. And I just want to be married to you."

This brightened Roger's mood considerably. "If you only knew how long I've waited to hear you say that," he said, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "So, what is your dream wedding, if it's not something big and grand?"

"You. Blake, because she would never forgive us if we got married without her, and Ross, and a qualified officiate. Something intimate that's just about us," Holly replied.

"Then that's what we'll do," Roger said firmly. The smile returned to Roger's face, causing Holly's own smile to return. "I'd marry you tonight if I could, but I promised you no pressure when I first gave you this ring." He took Holly's hand in his and ran his thumb over the ring now on her left hand. "So I leave it up to you. When do you want to get married?"

"How about in four days?" Holly asked.

"Four days?" Roger asked.

"There's a three-day waiting period after getting the marriage license," Holly explained. "Everything's closed now for Christmas, but we can go down to the courthouse first thing in the morning on the 26th to get the license. That gives us three days to do everything: get dresses for Blake and me, have your tux cleaned and pressed, and for you to get the rings and find a Justice of the Peace, and for me to get the flowers and arrange everything for a short honeymoon. We get married on the 29th, ring in the New Year as husband and wife away from it all, and come back on January 2. What do you think?"

"I think you're amazing," Roger replied. "And it sounds perfect to me. It's the wedding you want, so it's the wedding I want. What did you have in mind for this honeymoon you mentioned?"

Now Holly looked a little nervous. "Well, like I said, all I have to do is confirm a few things. I hope that's all right."

"Anywhere with you is exactly where I want to be," Roger assured her. "Does this mean no hints?"

"Well..." Holly considered for a moment. "It's a place of significance for us, and it will have even more significance after we get there."

"That's the worst hint ever," Roger said, mock complaining. Then he grinned. "But I'm very intrigued."

"I have to keep you on your toes, especially now that we're getting married," Holly replied. "I don't want you getting bored, or going out and looking for trouble...at least, not unless I'm right there with you."

"Bored? Not possible," Roger said. Then he grew serious. "We'll get it right this time, Holly. I swear. I'll spend the rest of my life making you happy, and I won't keep things from you, and..."

Holly touched a fingertip to Roger's lips. "Save it for your vows," she said softly. The fire cracked and popped as it absorbed another log.

"You're really going to marry me?" Roger asked, making absolutely sure he wasn't dreaming.

"I'm really going to marry you," Holly declared. She glanced at the clock on the mantel and added, "In four days."

Roger locked eyes with Holly, giving her a mingled look of awe and love. Holly rested her hands on Roger's shoulders, then leaned forward and kissed him softly. The kiss grew in intensity and passion as Roger pulled Holly closer and held her in a fierce embrace. She could feel his heart pounding, and felt her own heart speed up in reply. When the need for oxygen forced them to break the kiss, Holly drew back just enough to rest her forehead against Roger's as they both tried to catch their breath. She felt Roger trail a fingertip gently down her cheek, and they kissed again, safe in each other's arms and secure in each other's love as Christmas morning stole over Springfield.