Disclaimer: I own nothing.
AN: Written for tosca1390's Fresh Start ficathon on LJ. The prompt: Jenna/Alaric - nobody dies! - She loved me for the dangers I had passed
The Long Haul
The first dab of the steaming hot cloth had him bucking against the mattress. Jenna had only pushed him back down and now he missed the heat as she wrapped cool bandages around his torso. Though she had outright refused to learn to sew a wound (not that anyone was asking), she had learned to ignore his grimaces. The ring only healed what was life-threatening, leaving plenty for Jenna to do. She tightened the bandages until his cracked ribs protested. She sealed the tape with a kiss, smiling cheekily up at him through her lashes before pushing him down onto the bed.
He really shouldn't lie down, with his wounds getting up would be painful and he was exhausted from the werewolves. He was flat on his back before he thought up these perfectly valid reasons though, and he could only sigh.
"Listen, Jen-" He cut off when he realized he was alone in the room. Somewhere downstairs the microwave beeped and was followed by light footsteps. Jenna's smile was carefully frozen as she entered the room. She wasn't about to give away just how worried she was by all this. She knelt beside him on the mattress, resting the bowl she'd carried the cloth in on his thighs. It was warm, suffusing heat into his weary leg muscles.
"Hold still," she ordered before passing the cloth carefully over areas she'd neglected earlier, places he wasn't hurt.
His eyes drifted closed again, lulled by the soothing passing of the cloth over his skin. He was covered in dirt and sweat after the fight in the woods. He'd planned on heading home and showering before seeing to the wound on his side, but habit brought him to Jenna's door.
At first, after she found out about everything, he had stayed away, afraid if she saw the evidence of what he did it would scare her away when the revelation of it hadn't. Two weeks into that stellar plan, he'd stumbled home after a particularly nasty run-in with a chupacabra (he still hadn't forgiven Damon for that mess) to find Jenna sitting on the floor next to his locked door. They didn't fight. The worst she did was condemn his poorly stocked first aid kit as she patched him up. The next day he bought the most expensive kit in Mystic Falls' general store and had them make a duplicate of his apartment key while he shopped. Not that Jenna had needed the key much. He'd been spending more and more of his nights at her place ever since. He hadn't even spent more than a total off three hours in his apartment all week.
"I should go," he said.
"You should rest."
He forced his eyes open at the sound of her voice so close. She had lain down beside him while she cleaned. He lifted a hand to push her hair away from her eyes.
"If I don't get up soon, I'm gonna spend the night here."
"And that's abnormal, how?"
Her teasing smile grew when he smiled back.
"That's kind of the point," he said. "If I don't sleep at my own place at least once a week, I'm pretty sure it's no longer sealed against vampires."
She lifted the cloth to his face, wiping away a stain on his cheek. "So move," she said.
"That's not really gonna fix the problem if I'm still sleeping here all the time."
"That's kind of the point."
He caught her hand, pulling it down by his side so he could see her face. "Are you asking me to move in?"
She shrugged and lifted her eyebrows in an innocent expression.
"Isn't that kind of a big step? And what about the kids? And the gossip? Isn't it gonna be kind of weird to have a live-in boyfriend with two kids in the house?"
She fixed him with her most patronizing stare. "You really need to stop calling them 'kids' whenever you're feeling your age. They're teenagers who are almost adults. As for the gossip, after they get over you being a teacher at the school, I've got a plan that I think will keep everyone quiet."
"I think you underestimate the old biddies in this town. And it's still a big step."
Jenna shifted so that she was resting on her elbows and looking slightly down on him. "Ric. When a girl finds out your dead wife isn't really dead and doesn't run, she really likes you. When she finds out you're secretly a vampire hunter and have been keeping a whole walk-in closet worth of secrets from her and still doesn't run, she loves you."
A goofy smile settled on his face and he cupped her cheek in his hand. She pulled the hand away, holding it between her own and fiddling with his fingers as she went on. She twisted his ring, pushing it up over the tip of one finger and onto the next, then back up again.
"But when a girl is willing to patch up your wounds, to deal with the blood and the ick in her own bed and she still doesn't go anywhere, she is definitely in it for the long haul."
Her eyes dropped from his. His smile wavered as he wondered what could have her feeling embarrassed. His hand twitched as he tried to shift a little closer to her and he felt the tip of his ring finger touch the skin-warmed interior of his ring. He looked from his ring to her face and back again. She was blushing bright red by now.
"You know it goes on the other hand, if you're saying what I think you're saying."
Her eyes snapped to him. "Okay, first of all, that is a horrible answer but more importantly you are not wearing a ring your ex-wife gave you as an engagement ring and do men even wear engagement rings anyway?"
He grinned. "Well you are the one who proposed to me."
She hit him on his shoulder, one of the few uninjured places on his body. "I did not! That was not a proposal! I was - I was testing the waters."
"Ha!" he barked.
"No! No 'ha'! This is not a 'ha' moment! In fact, it's not an anything moment. Moment over. Like you said, you've gotta get home."
She let go of his hand and began rolling off the bed. He pushed through the pain and reached, snaking one arm around her waist to pull her back down and using the other to keep her from falling on him. She tried to wriggle away but he had the firm ground and pulled her against him, waiting until she settled.
"Let me go," she said, using a glare that had never even worked on the kids.
She tried to get away again and he linked his arms behind her back.
She stopped fighting and met his eyes.
"Will you marry me?"
Even though she'd been the one to bring it up, she was still somehow shocked. Her eyes went wide and she blushed brightly. She held her lip between her teeth and shifted uncertainly in his arms before looking up at him worriedly.
"Isn't that kind of a big step?" she asked.
Her innocent expression broke before he closed the space between them and he caught her mouth in a laugh. With his injuries they could do little more than kiss and that not even very long. He pulled away after too-short seconds and smiled at her.
"I hope you know I'm taking that as a yes."
She smiled back as she snuggled down, twisting around so they could sleep more comfortably together. "And I hope you know I'll be telling Damon I asked you."
He pinched her, earning an indignant squeal, and they settled down to sleep.