DISCLAIMER: I own nothing.
Written entirely as a little birthday present for Scription Addict. xx
Que Será, Será
She's forgotten. There's no other explanation for it.
Bloody woman. Every other year, without fail, she's remembered, no matter how hard he's tried to keep the whole thing as quiet as possible, and this year – this year of all years – she's forgotten.
Well, thanks, Grace.
Showered, shaved and dressed, but sulking like a toddler whose favourite toy has been unfairly confiscated, Boyd slouches his way down the narrow stairs. True, he is hardly renowned for being any kind of ray of sunshine on even the very best of mornings, but this is not the best of mornings and by the time he reaches the kitchen he's even more bad-tempered than is usual for such an early hour. Nor is he mollified by the off-hand greeting, "Kettle's boiled."
It's pretty much just as bad as being married. Only with slightly more sex and not quite as much responsibility.
He grunts and marches past her without a word. Seated at the small kitchen table, her attention all on the morning paper as she drinks her tea, Grace does not appear to notice his displeasure.
It wasn't supposed to be like this, Boyd is fairly sure about that. Age and decorum notwithstanding, he's fairly sure that there was supposed to be heat and excitement and spontaneity for far longer than just the first few heady months. Fairly sure there were supposed to have been expensive birthday presents, too. And quite possibly an entertaining early-morning romp under the duvet to celebrate his special day.
Boyd makes his own coffee. Loudly and irritably. There's no milk left. Black coffee before noon is an abomination he doesn't think he should have to bear, particularly on his damned birthday. Which she has forgotten.
"About this evening, I was thinking – "
" – that we could pick up some shopping on the way home. Save ourselves a trip."
The fridge door won't shut properly, so Boyd kicks it. Hard. The noise makes Grace look round with a frown, but he pointedly ignores her. Why the hell is he more-or-less permanently living in this tiny, cluttered house with its aging appliances and temperamental plumbing when he has a large, comfortable house of his own on the other side of the damned river?
"You'll break it," she says in a long-suffering tone.
"It's a fucking antique anyway," he counters tetchily. "Christ, is there anything in this place that doesn't pre-date decimalisation?"
The look Grace gives him is steady and maddeningly calm. "What's the matter with you today?"
"Nothing," Boyd growls. Which, of course, is a surly euphemism for 'You've forgotten my bloody birthday, woman'.
"I see," she says gravely.
He glares at her suspiciously. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. To coin a phrase."
She is quite possibly the most infuriating woman he's ever been intimately acquainted with. Up to and including his annoying ex-wife. Who may indeed have eventually run off with a ridiculously hirsute Spanish dentist but never once managed to forget a single birthday or anniversary. In general, however, the feistier and more exasperating a woman is, the more powerfully Boyd is attracted to her. It's always been a bit of a problem.
So Grace has forgotten. So what? At his age, yet another birthday isn't a great cause for celebration anyway. Though he will always be younger than her by a wide enough margin to be able to smugly gloat about it whenever the mood takes him. Which is admittedly quite often. The gleeful novelty of his status as younger man hasn't worn off yet; possibly never will.
He's going to nobly forgive and forget. Won't even bring it to her attention. Not yet, anyway.
Putting his untouched mug of black coffee down, Boyd inquiries, "Breakfast?"
"I had some toast while you were in the shower."
He scowls. "I meant… Oh, never mind. I'll just grab something on the way to work, shall I?"
"Mm," Grace agrees, evidently not listening. "It says here that…"
She's not the only one with highly selective hearing. Paying no attention whatsoever to what she's reading out to him, Boyd morosely settles on the other spindly wooden kitchen chair. No birthday present, no early-morning romp, no milk for his coffee and now no breakfast. Such a blissful domestic set-up they have. Next it'll be casually leaving the bathroom door open and covertly nicking his razor to shave her bloody legs.
He loves her. Absolutely adores her. Wouldn't trade any of it.
"You're not listening, are you?" Grace accuses.
Boyd shakes his head. "No."
She surveys him for a long moment. "You look different. Have you trimmed your beard?"
"Is it Sunday?" he inquires gravely.
"Then I haven't trimmed my beard."
Characteristic roll of eyes. "Smart aleck. You definitely look different. I can't quite…" she pauses. Makes a great show of sudden realisation. "I know what it is. You look older. Definitely older. Happy birthday, grumpy."
Okay, so he's been expertly played. Yet again. He glowers at her. "Piss off, Grace."
"Now, now," she scolds mildly. Then she smirks slightly, knowingly. "You thought I'd forgotten."
"Hadn't thought about it," Boyd lies glibly.
"Of course you hadn't. I bet it hadn't even crossed your mind to wonder whether I'd got you something, either."
She really is very infuriating. And by Christ, he's tempted to just grab her by the hand and drag her back upstairs to claim his thus far non-existent birthday treat. Bollocks to being disgracefully late for work. Who's going to challenge him about it, after all?
Apparently she's a mind-reader, too, because she chuckles quietly and says, "Later, Peter. Later."
Fair enough. He can live with a promise. Leaning back in his chair, he gives her a speculative look. "Well?"
Boyd snaps his fingers impatiently. "Birthday present. It better be bloody expensive, too."
Grace stands up, opens one of the lower kitchen drawers and extracts something that is immediately hidden behind her back. "Actually, it didn't cost me a thing."
Well… terrific. He eyes her placidly. "Ah. This is going to be one of those 'it's the thought that counts' things, is it?"
"If you like. Eyes closed."
"Bugger off, Grace. I don't trust you that much."
"So not as stupid as you think I am."
"You couldn't possibly be as stupid as I think you are, Boyd."
"Thanks," he says and holds out his hand. "Present. Now."
"Close your eyes first."
"For God's sake, I'm not a child."
That's the trouble with a relationship so heavily characterised by bickering and acerbic banter – getting even the simplest things done can prove to be an incredibly tedious marathon. Slowly, menacingly, Boyd gets to his feet. Forcing her to look up at him usually makes him feel marginally better, even if she never seems remotely intimidated. As he paces towards her, the height difference becomes even more pronounced, but Grace just smiles serenely. He looks down at her and wonders again about simply hauling her up the stairs after him. There are some interesting tricks she's been known to employ in the bedroom that have never failed to improve his mood. Considerably.
If fact, he'd happily accept just one of those tricks in lieu of a more tangible birthday present, no further questions asked.
Grace still looks incredibly serene. Apart from the sudden subtle dilation of her pupils. He knows some interesting tricks, too. Several of which have an amusingly detrimental effect on her usually unassailable equanimity. He goes straight for the sensitive spot on her neck, just below her ear. Just barely brushing his lips against the soft skin, he murmurs, "Naughty girls who tease invariably end up getting a big surprise, you know that."
He feels her shiver – probably against her will. Ha. Oh yes, she's not the only one who can –
"Stop it," she says good-naturedly, fending him off. "For heaven's sake, Boyd; sometimes it's like trying to deal with a randy teenager."
He knows damn well it's not intended as flattery, but he preens anyway. "Complaining…?"
"No," she says, a husky note of raw honesty briefly edging her voice before disappearing as she continues, "But you have a meeting with the CPS at nine, remember?"
Damn. Ardour thoroughly dampened, he growls sullenly and straightens up. "Some bloody birthday this is turning out to be."
"Close your eyes and hold out your hand," Grace instructs.
He's lost the will to argue. And he doesn't care much anymore, either. The twilight years are coming, whether he likes it or not, and not having to face them alone means a lot more to him than any trifling birthday trinket. Dutifully Boyd does as he's told. He's luckier than he has any right to be. Lucky she didn't die, lucky his career didn't nosedive straight off that damned roof months ago. Lucky that when it finally came to it, she decided to take a chance on him, despite knowing all his faults and failings only too well.
Something small and square is pressed warmly into his hand. He knows it's a box before he opens his eyes. The kind that comes from jewellery shops. Being a gambling man at heart, his money's firmly on cufflinks. Boyd has more cufflinks than he knows what to do with, many of them bestowed on him by briefly-infatuated females whose names he'd seriously struggle to remember now. He opens his eyes and considers his prize. A little, modestly-wrapped almost-cube.
"Happy birthday, Peter," she says softly.
There's a note in her voice that he can't quite identify. Sounds a bit like apprehension, which seems peculiar. How wrong is it possible to go with something like cufflinks? Unless they are some hideously brash novelty item, and he knows she has far better taste than that. He gives her a slight, reassuring smile. "Thank you. Birthday kiss?"
Grace stands up on her tiptoes to oblige. Amuses him no end. She really is very tiny.
"Open it," she instructs, suddenly shy as she steps back.
Apprehension… and expectation, too. Strange. He shrugs inwardly, gives her another smile – quizzical this time – and goes to work on the wrapping paper. Hardly difficult, there's so little of it. Brusque and tactless he may often be, but at heart he's a very thoughtful sort of man, and he wouldn't intentionally hurt her for the world. If Boyd has to smile through gritted teeth and feign absolute delight, he will. Because he loves her – but mainly because she loves him.
Small, leather-covered box. Old, slightly scuffed. Antique cufflinks, then. Might not be as bad as he fears.
He opens the box carefully, absolutely prepared to give an award-winning performance of delight and gratitude.
It would appear to be –
"It was my grandfather's," Grace says softly, and now there's absolutely no doubt that the strongest emotion lacing her voice is apprehension. "I was fairly sure it would fit you."
– a wedding ring.
Not saying a word, Boyd takes out the gold band and puts the box down carefully on the kitchen counter. The ring feels smooth and heavy in his hand – eighteen carat or more – and the metal warms quickly. Thoughts and questions and implications rapidly tumble through his mind. He carefully holds the band up between finger and thumb, watches her intently as he poses the cautious question, "Left or right hand?"
Colour rises in her cheeks, but Grace staunchly holds his gaze. "That's a decision only you can make, Boyd."
He holds the ring out to her, waits for her to take it before he repeats, "Left or right?"
Grace studies him for a long moment, seemingly searching his face for something. Slowly and silently, she shakes her head.
He looks down at her, reflectively considering the situation. Evidently she's not intending to say a word. He says, "You know it makes no bloody difference, don't you? Legally speaking."
"And you know I won't wear it, don't you?"
Oh, what the hell. He deliberately holds out his left hand to her, vaguely surprised by how steady it is. "Go on, then, Grace. Put the shackles on. Before I change my bloody mind."
His dry flippancy abruptly breaks the quiet but intense tension. She grimaces. "Why do I love you?"
Boyd shrugs nonchalantly. "Who knows? You just do. Annoying, isn't it?"
The heavy gold ring slips easily over his knuckle. Surprisingly good fit. Oh, well. Que será, será.
The voice is light, but the clear blue eyes are earnest. "Marry me?"
"One day," he tells her with over-emphatic solemnity. He thinks he probably means it, too. "One day, Grace."
Grace snorts softly, stretches up to kiss his cheek. "I won't hold my breath."
He rather likes the solid, reassuring weight of the ring. But he's not quite ready to surrender completely. Not just yet. Intentionally peevish, he asks, "Can I take it off now?"
"No," Grace says. Her eyes glint a warning at him. "Not if you know what's good for you. Maybe later."
He's really not as stupid as she thinks he is. And actually, Boyd suspects that in reality she doesn't think he's stupid at all. When he leaves the house he does so openly wearing her grandfather's ring, but by the time he finally strides into the CCU's squad room and barks a gruff greeting at Spencer and Kat, it's disappeared and is nestling safely in his wallet. Coincidentally very close to his heart.
Boyd may very well be in love, but no, he really isn't stupid. Not at all. Which is exactly why he probably will marry her. One day.
- the end -