Putting Down Roots

She’d thrown the plant out a few minutes ago and he was having trouble tearing his gaze away from the mostly-dead leaves on the sidewalk just outside his family’s house. He’d managed to kill it in less a week; surely that was a record? And he sort of wanted to be a father one day? Christ almighty…

Feeling his girlfriend’s arms wrap around his waist from behind, he smiled. “Come to gloat, did you?” he asked lightly, hoping she wouldn’t mock. He had tried, after all, had wanted to prove that he could be dependable, a steady she could trust. It had gone about as well as his previous efforts had: a baby cousin with a scraped knee, burnt pancakes for breakfast, and a night out underneath the stars, ended swiftly by torrential rain.

“Of course not,” she said, laughter in her musical voice, resting her head against his back. This particular ugly sweater had been her birthday gift to him and she seemed to enjoy snuggling into it whenever possible lately. He could feel the vibrations of her voice against him and it was a strangely pleasurable feeling. “Your mom sent me out here to comfort you, actually. Apparently she hasn’t seen you this forlorn since Jeff borrowed your guitar and it came back with missing strings and out of tune.”

He turned, his long arms immediately finding their place around her trim body, and burrowed into the crook of her neck like it would hide his embarrassment. “Pretty close,” he mumbled. “One day I won’t fuck everything up.”

“Oh, honey,” she began, the sympathy in her voice making him want to run. Far away. “You don’t. And even if you did, I’d still love you, you know.” He stilled. Typical of her to drop that bomb so casually. Her fingers tangled in the curls she’d banned him from trimming. Could they just stand here forever, please?

“You too,” he said quietly into her blouse.

She laughed. He couldn’t believe he’d once found that noise irritating; now he made something in his chest expand somehow, made him warmer. “I’m going to make you repeat that, Linds. Louder. Don’t you dare think you can get away with THAT being your first ‘I love you’.”

Raising his head, he smiled shyly at her, strangely hesitant to say it right to her face. He’d anticipated this moment, had even half-planned to make a big deal about it. Maybe he should feel cheated but instead he felt good. Very good. She’d told him that she loved him, he thought to himself, something akin to pride welling up inside of him.

“Lindsey,” she said, a warning note in her voice.

“I love you.” He took a deep breath. “A lot. More than anything.”

Her eyes softened and she thanked him with a kiss, one that held so much promise he could weep with the beauty of it.

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