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Scene Title Iridescent
Synopsis On a significant day, Elliot and Merlyn follow traditions only in a way that feels right to them.
Date May 24, 2021

Without having lit a fire last night, the bedroom is cold. Elliot wakes to find he’s warm anyway, Merlyn curled up in his arms for warmth. He’s certain he set an alarm that hasn’t gone off yet. Just in case he missed it he pulls away and reaches behind himself for his phone on the nightstand. Just over eight hours until they’re married.

Elliot’s Townhouse
Red Hook

Monday, May 24th
6:59 AM

He dismisses the alarm before it has a chance to annoy either of them, then wraps his arms around his fiancé. Sighing contentedly, he begins to annoy her to wakefulness himself with a series of kisses behind her ear.

The only real annoyance from the kisses is because it does tickle, just slightly. Merlyn cracks an eye open but doesn't move, instead just snuggling back against him. Her witty morning commentary comes in the form of a contented noise from her followed by a murmur of words. "You're warm," she assesses, it's a satisfied tone. "Is it time to get up or can I get more of those kisses?"

"We've got plenty of time," Elliot assures her, planting a kiss as requested below her ear and behind her jaw. "No plans for the day, I'm pretty sure," he continues, turning her head with his fingers to set the next kiss on her throat. "Unless there was something you had in mind to do?" he wonders, levering himself up to place another between her collarbones. "Is there something you need to do today? An errand, maybe?" His tone is playful, not forgetful, and instigating. Another kiss on her chin, then, "Are we out of stamps?"

The fact that they don’t have to get up right away is a relief, and Merlyn can’t help but smile—they have time. There’s a small laugh at the suggestion of stamps, and it’s enough for her to shift in the bed to face him. Nestling herself in close with no clear plans to leave, she takes the opportunity to steal a kiss of her own. “Yes, stamps, so I can send some kind of important legal document or something,” she teases. “Maybe I’ll get a change of address form.”

She takes a moment to just look at him. Her eyes scan his face, mostly, to take in his expression. She wants to remember every bit of this as vividly as possible. It’s enough that no joke is there to mask her vulnerability. “Never going to get tired of this,” she murmurs.

“Glad to hear it,” Elliot replies, combing blonde hair from Merlyn’s eyes for his own benefit as he settles back down. “I myself am so awake with it that I’m going to cause problems. If I could begin every day tormenting you awake with kisses I would do so happily and repeatedly.” Hair tucked away, he traces a fingertip delicately along the length of the cartilage of her ear.

“Every morning that I get to start by telling you that I love you is a good morning,” he says. “I love you. And, after we get stamps, I’m going to marry you.”

“I’m more awake and excited for later than I let on,” Merlyn admits with a sheepish smile. “I’m just enjoying being here while I can. I’m enjoying the pestering awake with kisses thing. I definitely think that should be a thing on the regular. As often as possible, I hope.”

She leans in closer, conspiratorially, then continues. “You know, we don’t actually have to do the stamp part. I may be a little too excited for the whole Merlyn Hitchens thing. Maybe.”

Elliot hums in agreement. “How excited?” he asks, kissing her on the forehead and temple. The number of days that they have in the immediate future where he can fulfill her request to be pestered with kisses are numbered; he’ll have to give her enough to hold her over until he returns.

Regardless of the number, Merlyn seems happy enough to enjoy the one she’s currently got. “Well, clearly not as much as you, you seem ready to jump out of bed and go right now,” she teases. “Honestly, though, if you weren’t so warm and comfortable I never would have slept. I’ve got too many butterflies.”

"You are the perfectly proportioned little spoon," Elliot says, leaving a kiss on her cheekbone. "I can sleep through anything with you here, butterflies or hurricanes."

"One thing I take issue with, however," he says, kissing her finally on the lips, "is the idea that all of this kissing means I want to get out of bed at all. You're going to have to get up first, I plan to distract you all day unless stopped."

Merlyn makes a grumpy sound at the prospect of getting up, but she leans in close for a final few parting kisses. The last seems to linger perhaps a moment too long, but eventually pulls herself back. “I suppose I can save the kissing for later,” she murmurs before she starts to retreat from the bed.

“I am sorely tempted to go back to bed though. Maybe for a bit…”

"We do have eight hours," Elliot posits, taking Merlyn's hand gently as she begins to disengage. "So as a counter proposal, I suggest we could continue to kiss, see where that leads us, set an alarm for a recuperative power nap, then get out of bed." A crook of his brow asks, What do you think of that?

It’s not exactly hard to tempt Merlyn back, especially with the amount of time giving them plenty of wiggle room. She scoots back closer, returning to the comfort and warmth of her prior position. “You better promise to pester me awake after our nap like you just did, though,” she murmurs before leaning forward.

"I promise."

8:32 AM

The most difficult part of sneaking out of bed to prepare breakfast was waiting until Merlyn was sleeping deeply enough not to notice he went missing. All of that time spent alert with her tucked in beside him was its own torture as he knew at a very basic level that it would have been possible to continue kissing well past the natural conclusion of the first round.

The breakfast stacked on the tray table is a testament to his resolve if nothing else, though it is other things as well. Crepes stuffed with soft cheeses and fruits dusted with confectioner's sugar, sliced apple wetted with lemon juice to preserve color and sprinkled with Maldon salt. Squares of his favorite dark chocolate for breakfast dessert. All this set at the foot of his side of the bed for safety.

He rounds the bed, sitting sideways to lean over her sleeping form. He's loathe to wake her when she looks so serene but they do have a schedule to keep; a glance at the bedside clock informs him that everything is going exactly according to plan.

He respects her desire to be woken in the same way as he did earlier, though he keeps things as chaste as he can for this segment of the program.

Merlyn makes a sleepy noise at first, though the wake-up kisses are enough to pull her back to remembering exactly what the plan is… and what later would be. She opens her eyes promptly, then shifts a little to look at him and offer a tender smile. “Always a nice wake-up, I think. I really could get used to that.” She scans him over. “You look very awake and alert though.”

"Oh, yeah," he says, scratching at his stubbly chin. "The power nap was a ruse to give me time to make you breakfast in bed." He nods toward the tray, still warm and bearing streaming coffee. "You've been bamboozled."

Merlyn’s eyes widen slightly and it’s followed up by a grin. “You are quite the bamboozler,” she notes. “I regret nothing. I couldn’t have asked for a better surprise.” She shifts in the bed so she can peek towards the breakfast. “Fuck, are you trying to convince me that I’m dreaming or something? If you are, you’re doing a damn fine job of it.” Her eyes light up, especially since she’s realized she is quite hungry at this point. She leans in to briefly touch her lips to his in a small affectionate thanks.

"I'd never be so mean as to trick you into thinking you're dreaming," Elliot says. His own dreams are rarely pleasant, but that's beside the point. "I want you to feel so vibrantly in the moment that you never have to doubt that it's real. That I love you and I'm here with you now. That every moment counts."

"I'm going to enjoy this," Merlyn says, one more kiss stolen before she moves so it'll be possible to actually eat on the bed. "I love you, and this. All of this. This is all…" She's not going to cry, but there's some emotion in there. "This is new. So I hope you know that it does mean something. You'd better feel just as good as I do, though," she grins. "Honestly, you do seem to be enjoying yourself bamboozling me."

Elliot hums with satisfaction. "I do enjoy a good bamboozle," he says. He adjusts the bedding as she shifts to make things easier, then reaches across the bed to slide the tray into a more accessible location.

"If you ever worry that this isn't amazing for me, or that I don't feel just as happy as you do," he says, "I'm happy to dispel your worries directly. Let you feel it heart to heart." A second coffee cup is lifted from the back corner of the tray, half empty, and sipped. "Though I'm enjoying the intricacies of feeling it all out the old fashioned way. The nerves and the pitfalls. The highs of hearing you say you love me. That's the good stuff."

"If I ever worry, I'll ask," Merlyn lifts her own mug to take a sip before she looks over at him. "But I like it this way too. There are butterflies, it's exciting. I have no reason to doubt. I like letting you experience this differently. I like saying I love you and just seeing how it affects you. So that's good. I'm glad I can share this with you… like this." She sets the coffee down, mostly so she can focus on the food for a moment or two, an apple slice selected and feasted upon before she looks back over at him.

"You're going to get some pretty good 'I love you's today, so I hope you're prepared."

"That's fine by me," Elliot says. "I'm going to test your tolerance to hearing me say I love you today, so buckle up for that." He takes one last sip before setting down his mug.

"Speaking of which," he says, sidling up to Merlyn and nuzzling into her neck for a moment, "I love you. Also Wright is being an absolute gem and picking up our outfits and jewelry. This frees up a couple hours for us, so once you're finishing up here it's going to be 'luxuriating in a hot bath' time. Salts, bath bombs, essential oils that don't come from a pyramid scheme. However you'd like to enjoy your last bath as an unmarried woman." Their schedule hasn't been freed up at all, this was always Elliot's plan. With significant contributions and suggestions from Wright, of course.

“I feel like we’re going to have to challenge each other for the ability to stand up from all the ‘I love you’s. It’s going to be intense, I’m sure,” Merlyn says, then grins widely. “Wright is definitely a gem. You should keep her around.” She can’t help but laugh at all the plans involved. “Somehow, I don’t think baths as an unmarried woman are anything I’ll miss.”

She slips an arm around him so she can keep him close. “So is this a ‘keep Merlyn occupied’ activity so you can be sneaky and surprise me with something else, or are you going to keep me company? You can share, I’ll pretend I had no idea you were planning something.”

“No sneaky surprises remaining,” Elliot responds. “I plan to keep you company. Whether or not you want company for the bath is of course up to you.”

He slips free of her arm without fully letting go, instead settling in behind her. He combs at her hair with his fingers, leaving her free to eat breakfast while he’s occupied. He kisses the back of her bare shoulder, then leans his head against hers.

“It’s not a real luxurious bath if you don’t have someone to cuddle up to,” Merlyn explains with a mock serious expression. “I don’t make the rules, it just means it’s less luxurious without it.” She continues to eat, but the breakfast is more grazing between chatter with Elliot. “So you’re welcome to join me, provided you think you can deal with seeing me all day at this rate. I imagine some people wouldn’t be able to keep up with it, but I have faith in you.”

"I will attend to you at all times unless instructed not to," Elliot assures her with a laugh through his nose that tickles the hair on the back of her neck.

He wraps his arms around her waist, interlacing his fingers, and views the prepared food before them. "How is everything?" he asks.

Merlyn takes a moment to enjoy the food, leaning against him a little. She's making sure to try a bit of everything, taking her time to select things as they interest her. "You're too good at this," she murmurs. "It's lovely. No one's ever made me breakfast like this. No one does this for me. It's delicious and it was worth you sneaking off and bamboozling me even if it meant you didn't get a nap."

She nudges him playfully, tilting her head so she can peek at him for a moment. "You aren't getting a nap later either. I don't think there'll be time." She grins.

“I’m sure I’ll be fine without a nap,” he chuckles. “Not napping provides me with the time to be the one who does this for you.” he nods at the breakfast tray with his chin.

“And there’s always coffee,” he adds. He settles in, pulling his arms snug around her and humming contentedly. His eyes are closed and his breathing even, but little movements betray his wakefulness.

She seems content for the moment, allowing him to enjoy being nestled close while she eats, and she lets the breakfast go on in silence. He might not be sleeping, but he’s at least resting in some way and letting him enjoy that to the fullest seems like a good plan.

Eventually the coffee is finished and she’s eaten her fill (which was a very generous portion), so she shifts just slightly to lean into him a little more. She doesn’t break the silence, there’s something about it that makes her want to give them that moment.

Elliot is content in the silence, content in the moment of simple physical intimacy. He knows that they have places to be, but this is important.

After a minute he talks quietly. "I could stay like this forever. And I'm grateful to my core that I got this chance. I'm so afraid I'll fuck it up because that's what I'm used to doing, but the impulse to run is gone. I guess the fear is just that I'll have to make the right decisions in the moment. Or except correction with grace where I would have doubled down on being wrong before. I've been changing but it's not immediate." It's not a lot of things.

"So thank you for giving me this opportunity to do right by you," he says. "I'm not the man I promised you I was, but I hope the one i'm becoming will always be the one you'll need."

Her voice is soft in reply, mostly because she's just enjoying the moment. "People fuck up all the time, Elliot. It's what people do after they fuck up that matters. Took a while but you came back to me, and you're putting in effort." She takes a moment, breathing deeply, just enjoying being there. She's enjoying being able to realize all that it had taken to get to that point. "I love you. We'll both grow together. Thank you for coming back to me, and being here." Regardless of the future, Merlyn has this moment and it's one she treasures.

Elliot hugs her tightly in thanks and acceptance. "I love you," he says, then peppers he cheek with kisses. "I'll clean up breakfast if you go run the bath. Lots to do."

A Small Park
Phoenix Heights

1:15 PM

Following the luxurious bath, they had made their way over to a small park near Phoenix Heights. Merlyn led the way, and when they finally get there, she takes Elliot's hand to lead him. The park isn't much. It's a tiny area with little more than some grass, a giant oak tree, and a sturdy but rather rusty metal frame holding up two swings. The oak tree is what she focuses on, and she meanders her way there, looking up at the large branches.

"My mom and I would have lunch here sometimes. Picnics under the tree. I used to lay on a blanket and look up at the tree and wonder if I'd ever be able to climb that high."

"That sounds really nice," Elliot says, looking around the small space. "Cozy, simple, out of the way. Ancient. I can't imagine foot traffic made it too busy." These observations aren't knit-picking or disparaging; quiet time at underfunded group spaces made up a lot of his own peaceful childhood memories. Nevermind that Wright usually bought them with violence.

"It's always sort of been one of the few places that still exist that tie me to the good part of my childhood," Merlyn notes. "So I kind of associate it with whatever's left of my mother and those memories here." She hooks her arm around his. "She was the hardest working person I've ever met, and she wanted to make sure I had the world. She couldn't give me all of that, mind you, but she tried her best. I can tell you for sure she'd be over the moon for this."

Elliot wonders what would have happened to Merlyn if the Bomb never took her mother. How much happier she would have been, living poor but not alone. He'd never ask the question aloud, his own thought experiments on the topic always trending bleak: she never would have met him because he would probably be dead.

"Tell me a story about her," he says, focusing on the important parts as they reach the oak.

Merlyn smiles softly, hugging his arm a little. There are happy memories, but they're still painful ones. "There was one day my mom spent a whole day with me. She actually used up a PTO day from her work at the diner just so we could have time together. I think she felt bad sometimes for when I was home alone without her. Grew up fast, even with having a mom that was there. That made it easier after, but I'm getting off track. Anyway, she spent the whole day with me. We walked through a museum and looked at art, which I liked a lot, saw some broken pottery, and I don't know why it meant so much but it did. We'd gone. We ended at the park, sitting under this tree, watching the sun set and eating cheap sandwiches."

She looks up at the tree. "And then before it got too dark, I sat on the swing and she told me stories, ones she made up. She'd think them up while she was working."

Elliot smiles when he imagines it. His eyes wander back to the swings, then back up to the sky where it threatens to rain but hasn't yet. Arms already interlinked, he directs Merlyn toward the seats. "What kind of stories?" he asks. "Kid-friendly magical fantasy adventure stuff, or was she more of a unknowable cosmic horror gal?"

“She liked stories with happy endings,” Merlyn says as they take a seat. “Everything under the sun, though. The horror ones usually were pretty tame, I was a kid, but I could tell she toned the story down if it was a bit much for me. I liked the mystery ones, she’d let me pipe in and ask questions during various cliffhangers.” She shakes her head. “Fuck, she deserved better. She’s the kind of person everyone should have had as a mom. World would have been a better place.”

She glances up at the sky for a moment. “Those are just the memories I’ve got. Memories kind of get lost over time, we forget details… I wonder if I make her out to be more saintly than she was. I guess the important part is that I have some happy memories in my childhood.”

"There's nothing wrong with remembering the good times," Elliot says. "Even though memory really is imperfect. As somebody who has accessed multiple conflicting remembrances of single events, I can say you do the best with what you have." And push the rest down into the BLACK BLACK BLACK.

"I'm sorry I never got the chance to meet her," he says quietly. "I'd love to thank her for…" he takes his hands from the chains holding the swing to make an outline of Merlyn's entirety in the air, "all of this. Ten out of ten. Would marry twice."

Merlyn laughs, the following smile even reflecting in her eyes. “She’d have liked you. Probably said something about how you are a good catch and how I shouldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. She would be absolutely right on both counts. Good luck getting rid of me now, you’ve essentially got my mom’s approval and she was the biggest romantic that ever lived. Signed, sealed, delivered.”

Elliot smiles just as deeply, even though he's bad for her. Maybe someday he won't have to be, but for now he rides the high of loving her and feels all of it. "I'm glad," he says, rocking his seat a little without lifting his feet from the ground. "Even if she's the only parent to bless our marriage, that's good enough for me."

“I mean, my dad fucked off, so she’s the only parent worth getting a blessing from anyway,” Merlyn says, holding the chains so she can tip back a little to look at where the oak tree reaches for the sky. “I’m glad you got to meet her like this, even if it’s not exactly the most, uh, traditional meeting.” She rights herself, glancing in his direction. “Thanks, it really does mean something to me.”

"Doing things that mean a lot to you is one of my favorite things to do," he says, looking up to better remember how high the oak towers over them. "Thank you for sharing this with me."

Looking back to her, he gets caught up in her beauty, another one of his favorite things to do. Before he gets lost entirely he looks away, saying, "We should go get married."

Safe Zone Municipal Building
Red Hook

2:52 PM

The seat of the municipality is massive, foreboding even, looming large over the heads of those making their way inside. It seems more imposing to Elliot today than it did a few short days ago when they began this process. "We don't have to do this, you know," Elliot says, knowing the absurdity will prevent Merlyn from thinking he's contacted cold feet. "We can knock Wright unconscious, run for the car, and elope instead."

"Wow," Wright says, several yards behind.

If he was trying to use a bit of humor to calm her nerves, it works. Merlyn laughs, glancing over to Elliot at her side. “I’m pretty sure you’d really have to work hard to knock Wright out,” she grins. “I love you, Elliot, but I’m pretty sure she can take you. That and we’d still need a witness.” The nerves seem to have been calmed and redirected into a flutter of excitement in her chest as she murmurs, perhaps in disbelief, “We’re really doing this.”

She looks up at the building, then back over at her future spouse. “I’m ready if you are.”

"It's really happening," he says confidently, taking her hand to lead them through the entrance. "I'm ready." The inside of the building doesn't carry a heavy tinge of smoke, the sporadic rain having taken most of it out of the air outside.

"Even though you wouldn't bet on me in a fight, which hurts. I've got a good inch and a half on her and I've been swimming, which is great exercise if she's to be believed. The witness thing is a problem though, I'll have to think on that one." As Wright catches up she meets Merlyn's eyes to convey disbelief with a baffled shrug. She might win a fight here right now on principle.

Merlyn gives a lopsided grin to Wright, her amusement plain. She knows what she’s getting into. “Don’t get yourself punched,” she teases, squeezing his hand gently. “I need at least one good wedding kiss and I don’t know that I can pull off the handsome prince to your Sleeping Beauty.” Any lingering nerves that might have been loitering are banished. The presence of the nerves at all makes her silently grateful it’s the Safe Zone Municipal Building and not a grand cathedral with stained glass. She’d never have survived.

"Hear that?" Elliot asks Wright as he presses the up arrow of an elevator. "Merlyn says you can't punch me, so I win the fight by default."

"Are there any cameras in these elevators?" Wight asks Merlyn. "Just curious, no need to be alarmed or anything. Unrelated, you could absolutely pull off the price charming, let me know if you want him laid out just in case."

Elliot chuckles, and gives Merlyn's hand a squeeze in return. A cathedral full of people is one of the last places he'd ever want to be in; keeping a low profile is important for a number of reasons. Despite his formal but subdued attire, he feels comfortable knowing that almost nobody will know why they're here. On the other hand he's happy enough to not worry about secrecy, which is a novel feeling.

The elevator chimes and Elliot steps back to allow passengers to disembark before leading them in.

“Your offer has been taken under advisement,” Merlyn directs at Wright with a wry grin. She continues to follow Elliot’s lead—which is good, because she’s just the right mix of distracted and excited to be absolutely mixed up on what direction they’re supposed to head in. Distracted though she may be, she looks genuinely happy, which is likely a thing she’s not used to. She does take a moment to remember that breathing is necessary and that she should focus herself. Words were important to be able to say, and she certainly wanted to say them.

Elliot's anticipation flows to Wright, but her steady joy is all that returns; she's been here before and she's genuinely happy. She hits the button for their destination and leans against the wall to observe the little details of Elliot and Merlyn's happiness.

Elliot runs his thumb over the back of Merlyn's hand as the doors close and they begin to move up. He's still a bit stunned that this is happening, considering where they were just over a month ago. At the same time it doesn't feel rushed despite the urgency of getting her a spot in the new Ark. There's a feeling of continuity after a pause, not hitting bottom and having to climb his way back out. He would climb as long as it took, but here he is already hand in hand. His hope overflows to Wright and this time echoes back to him.

Merlyn squeezes his hand, taking the moment in the elevator to rest her head against his arm. It's still a little hard to believe, but it's like it never hit rock bottom. The fact that both of them were able to just seize something and pull it from the past to the present is likely to always shock her, but she's content in this. She knows they have a finite amount of time, but being able to have this day, to do this, even if it was quick by outside standards. It feels right. After a moment, she looks up at him with a slight playful smile.

"No second thoughts?"

The easy answer would be to repeat that he did all of his second-thinking in advance. His eyes are locked to hers with serious sincerity, because the truth is, "Absolutely none." When the door chimes again and slides open, he steps into the reception area.

Color floods Merlyn’s cheeks, the sincerity enough to send her heart racing. Her eyes stay on his until the movement of the door opening forces her to pull them away so she doesn’t trip on exiting the elevator. She steps after him, sure of both her footing and her purpose. She takes a deep breath, not out of nervousness but something out of purpose. She’s ready for this.

Upon exiting the elevator, she mentally checks off that they have everything necessary to actually wed. Her mind, satisfied that the logistics are all in place, now allows her heart to fully enjoy the moment. Instead of simply being led by Elliot to their destination, she keeps full pace with him, striding with confidence.

They don't have to travel far. Arriving a few minutes ahead of schedule, their way to the counter is open. "Welcome back!" the friendly face of Linda says as she sees them approach. "Does everybody have their ID and marriage license? Not you obviously on that last one." The last directed to Wright, who smiles politely yet warmly as she pulls her ID from her pants pocket.

"Good to see a familiar face," Elliot says, planting his SESA registration on the counter. He looks to Merlyn for the marriage license.

Merlyn smiles at Linda, placing both the license and her ID on the counter. The sight of the Green Ranger sticker causes her smile to broaden and her gaze briefly traces over the words on the paper. Doesn’t get more real than that. “I’m glad I don’t have to explain the sticker to someone,” she laughs. “I’m pretty sure I’d be red in the face trying.”

"You could just tell them I did it without permission," Linda says with a conspiratorial wink. "You wouldn't think to look at me but I'm the office troublemaker."

Wright snickers as she leans forward to set her ID on the counter as well. It gets a review, though Linda does look confused as she begins to enter data on her computer. "Did they get your names backwards on here," she asks as people frequently do, "or do you often get annoyed that people ask you that question?"

Wright chuckles. "That is the correct but admittedly weird name order," she says. "My birth surname was Clark, so it's probably not a birth certificate typo either unless somebody really liked Superman."

Linda keeps the marriage license but returns the IDs. "A great guy by all accounts," she says, then levers herself up from her seat. "I'm going to buzz you through here and we'll get the show started." The buzz is immediate.

“Like I could throw a fellow troublemaker under the bus,” Merlyn scoffs, a grin flashed in Linda’s direction before she tucks her ID safely away. When that’s taken care of, she returns her hand to Elliot’s. A small sliver of the need for it might just be because of the location—there’s always something a little off putting about official buildings to someone who spends their time mostly trying not to leave much of a paper trail. The discomfort of that, however, is easily tempered by her hand in his and their whole purpose for being there.

Instead of letting Elliot lead her this time, she takes the initiative to head back, even though she has no idea what to expect on the other side.

Elliot is delighted to see Merlyn so determined and excited, though with her being a half step forward, only Wright notices the feeling. He's happy to be led, and when the door clacks shut behind them he sneaks a kiss of her temple.

Linda is waiting for them, attaching their marriage license to a clipboard. "Andy will be your officiant and registrar today," she says as she leads them across a short hallway. She enters a small gathering room, lined with a few rows of staffing plastic chairs. "Don't mind all of these, it's just easier to leave them out. And honestly it feels weird to stand at one end of an otherwise empty room if you don't bring a crowd, you know?" Elliot chuckles, not minding at all.

Merlyn also doesn’t seem to mind, cracking a smile at the chairs. “An empty room would be worse,” she agrees. “Besides, don’t really need much of a crowd anyway. I do like it being personal rather than a big performance.” She may like to twist words the way she needs to and charm her way to what she needs, but she’d rather have a moment around people she trusts to be vulnerable around. That is what means something to her. Vulnerability was what they ended up reforming the relationship off of.

Merlyn flashes a quick but warm smile at Wright before she looks back to Elliot and finds butterflies in the pit of her stomach all over again.

The smile Wright returns to Merlyn is the same one she's been wearing the whole time, happiness for the couple with a touch of admiration for how adorable they are. She follows Linda with her eyes as the teller begins talking to someone in an adjoining room.

Elliot doesn't balk at the difference in emotions from Wright, he's too distracted by how radiant Merlyn looks in the moment. He marvels again at the unlikely encounter that brought this all about. It seems odd that he can reach out and touch her, so he does just to remind himself she's real, cupping her face in his hand. "I love you," he reminds her.

There's almost a shy smile from Merlyn, just the hint of something with a blush at the words. It's not the first time he's said them, but sometimes it strikes home more than others. She leans into the hand, resting her cheek against it for a moment. "I love you," she echoes in a softer tone, shy smile remaining. She turns her head to press a quick kiss to the edge of his hand. "I'm very glad we're here." It's just as strange a thing for her, the fact that they had reconnected and actually made it to this point. Her smile broadens as she gazes back at him.

"I love you and I'm going to marry you, Elliot Hitchens."

"Well, Merlyn King, that's damn good to hear," Elliot says playfully, lowering his hand, "otherwise this next part would get awkward."

"Elliot and Merlyn?" asks an older woman in a black caftan patterned with golden vines. She carries the clipboard once held by Linda, who is already making her way out of the room. "I'm Andy, your officiant, it's a pleasure to meet you both." She holds out her hand for a shake, which Elliot does gently.

"Pleasure to meet you," he agrees.

Merlyn flashes him a quick grin, but her attention is moved as soon as the woman enters. She also takes the hand in a shake. "It's a pleasure Andy," she says as well. "I'm honestly not entirely sure how to do this. I've never attended a wedding at all, much less something like this." She does look a little awkward at the fact that she's admitting something she doesn't know, but she covers it with a smile. "Excited to find out, though."

"You're in luck," Andy says with a loud laugh, "I'm kind of an expert at this. These can range from freeform and on-the-spot to over-encumbered and micromanaged. I'm guessing you're looking for something closer to the first, further from the second. Would any of you like something to drink? We have water and I can make tea. Or coffee, if you dislike flavor and want to be jittery."

She looks down and around herself, then sets the clipboard on a chair and takes a seat next to it, motioning for them to do the same.

"I don't think I need anything to be jittery," Merlyn laughs, shaking her head a little. "Besides, Elliot has spoiled me with real coffee. I think I'm alright without a drink myself." She glances back to Elliot, then looks to Andy once more. "We're on the spot, though, that's sort of been our relationship. I think that makes things appropriate in the long run."

"The bare-bones version is that I ask you both of you want to be married, you respond, then we sign the bottom half of your marriage license," Andy says. "Quick and painless. For you anyway, I'll still have to fill out the certificate of marriage registration."

"The version with less-bare bones," she continues, "is that the two of you say something first, which can be a traditional exchanging of pre-existing or self-written vows. Saying one of many various prayers is also popular, but neither of these things is mandatory. Did you have anything in mind?" She leans sideways against the back of her chair, draping an arm over the backrest; comfortable and unrushed.

"I'm pretty sure I'm going to say some sort of sappy thing, so there's definitely that," Merlyn glances between Andy and Elliot, then back to Andy. "We also have jewelry we're exchanging, but other than that unless he's got some surprise…" Her eyes briefly shift in her future spouse's direction as if daring him to have another surprise built into this somehow before she looks back. "That's what I can think of."

"No more surprises," he promises softly. No need to make Merlyn deal with something unexpected during an already emotionally charged event. He gives her a reassuring hand squeeze. Wright pats down her pockets to reassure herself she didn't lose the expensive stuff.

"Well then," Andy says with a soft clap, "since there won't be any surprises, we'll head over to the front of the room, you tell each other what you want to say, you two can exchange rings—jewelry, sorry, force of habit—I'll ask you each the Other Big Question, then we all autograph your license. Sound like a plan?"

“That sounds perfect,” Merlyn says, returning the squeeze of the hand. Having his hand in hers is reassuring, grounding, because it means he’s still there. This time he’s staying and the hand in hers is a reminder of that. It’s subtle, but she waits for him to move first. It’s another chance for a reminder that he’s staying this time—at least for the time they do have together.

"Perfect," Elliot says, looking to Merlyn with a glowing smile, heart skipping beats as their short engagement begins to end. He stands despite the familiar fear of change, because he has changed; both recently for the better and in the past in ways he doesn't like to draw attention to. Ways Merlyn wouldn't know to see the differences, where Rue should. Ways that will do harm to Rue more than Merlyn, and not because of this, here and now.

He rises smoothly and with a confidence that buries deep the conflict inside him. "I feel like we never got the chance to introduce each other as fiancé," he laments, pulling Merlyn gently to her feet instead of merely letting her pull herself toward him. "We had all weekend! And we spent it living in sin and doing errands! Straight to husband and wife."

He resists to urge to kiss her when they'll get to that so shortly. "I can live with that," he adds in a more serious tone that doesn't hide his happiness.

Merlyn laughs as she’s pulled to her feet, the simple gesture seeming to mean a lot by the way she’s smiling. “Now it’ll be more dramatic to introduce each other,” she says, clearly also resisting the urge for a kiss. She takes a half-second to calm herself from the overwhelming excitement of the moment. “I think we’re doing great with our pacing,” she says. “Pretty sure husband and wife is supposed to be the good part anyway.”

It’s a reassurance, at least, that someone wants to be there for her. It’s a feeling she’s needed for a long time. She squeezes his hand one more time before she looks over at Andy. She’s ready to move on with the ceremony and likely cry.

Andy is already on a happy clip toward the front of the room, clipboard discarded for now. Elliot doesn't flinch as Wright slides a narrow box into his pants pocket without warning. His eyes remain on Merlyn, then the walk ahead of them, completed in a few short steps. "I do love the shock factor," he agrees.

He suddenly finds himself as far as they need to travel to do this. When he steps away from where he's standing—in front and to the left of Andy—he'll be a married man. It's not something he's ever really considered, so no version of this has ever played out in his mind. Would he have ever suggested this to Rue if the world wasn't ending? Would he have suggested it to Merlyn?

It's not fear that he's doing this for the wrong reason; that he's just weaponizing hope. Because as he looks down at her, all the versions of this he could have imagined begin to play out and carry on into the future, and every version where he's still alive carries on with her next to him. He sighs, never looking away from her eyes. "I'm ready," he says.

It's not something Merlyn ever thought would happen to her. With the loss of her mother and the events that followed, a sense of permanence of any sort seemed unlikely to her. When she first met Elliot, there was a hint of that which both terrified her and made her hope that maybe, just maybe, there could be something like that in her life again. That was something torn from her but never fully lost. It was never lost, and it had somehow found its way here.

"I'm ready too," she says in response. She only looks away so that there'll be a chance to take their positions. She does, in fact, find that she feels ready for this, even if her stomach is full of butterflies. She looks at Andy. "Um, what was it, jewelry first?" She's already forgotten the order to all of this at the moment.

"Vows, jewelry, signatures," Andy says to summarize. "Traditionally the groom recites his vows first, but it's up to you."

Elliot looks to Merlyn to see if she has a preference. He hasn't prepared his vows in advance, planning to stumble through it as awkwardly and adorably as necessary to seal the deal, as is tradition.

"Vows, jewelry, signature," Merlyn repeats. She's got it this time. "I don't really have anything planned, but I think that's very much the point for us. I'll go first," she says, making sure she's fully turned to face him. She clears her throat, taking in a breath. "Okay, right, I'm saying a thing." She's going to be just as awkward as he is, so she's going to do it while she has the focus to do it. That and she'll likely cry from whatever it is he's going to say, regardless of what he even says.

"I'm not really good at this formal pronouncement of love, but I really know that I wanted to say something. It's important to me because this isn't something I'm good at. This is not at all what I ever thought would happen to me, but… I'm really glad it has. I kept hope alive even when it hurt because I needed something to hold onto. That's been you this whole time," Merlyn says, then pauses to take a moment to gather her thoughts again. "I'm happy we reconnected, I'm happy that things just fit and we picked up somewhere that we'd left off, that this became what it is." She smiles sheepishly.

"Sorry, I'm not good at thinking what I want to say. I want to say something good because I want to explain how much you mean to me and how incredible this feels and I'm just… so good with words and now I'm not," Merlyn laughs in spite of herself. "That's what you do to me. You take what I'm good at and you jumble it all up because I look at you and I feel incredible. I feel love. I feel loved. I love you. I'm not letting that go and no one can make me."

Merlyn keeps her eyes on Elliot, even when she feels awkwardly unsure of how to end the vow. "I'm… I think that's all I have for now. Just for now. I reserve the right to tell you more things later when I'm a little less tongue-tied. It's hard to think of more words when I'm looking at you."

Elliot feels his and Wright's amusement jumbled together, his own tapered with a love of Merlyn's earnesty and vulnerability. He blushes because it's happening in front of a stranger, it's hard for him to be so open. He gathers himself before he can freeze, and begins to put the words in order.

"I also didn't plan for this," he says before immediately backpedaling for a clarification. "Didn't plan out what I was going to say, I mean. Probably should have in retrospect, as I’m already veering wildly off-course. But I’m happy to keep saying it wrong with you, and trying again, and being as ham-fistedly awkward as I am whenever I see you.”

He centers himself and tries another approach. “Losing you was the single dumbest thing I have ever done in my entire life,” he admits, feeling Wright’s nonverbal agreement. “Just absolute, bald-faced stupidity. Getting this chance to make it right in what time we have means so much to me. This hope that I can do it right. The knowing that I can be afraid and stand in place despite it. That I can fight for this.

“I love you enough to break the world,” he says, knowing now where he’s going with this and picking up speed before the emotions burning like the sun inside him spill out of his eyes and over his cheeks. “And no matter where life takes me, I’ll always bend my path back here, because all my roads lead back to you. Even though I got lost in the weeds for a while. I love you, and being loved by you fills me with light. I’m grateful for you, and I’m here for you, and I’ll be back for you.”

Merlyn's certain that the words won't make sense to Andy, but it doesn't matter. She knows what he means about being back for her. Tears form at the corners of her eyes and she swallows hard. "I know that vows are supposed to just be one person talking and then the other and then then we move on but we're making this up as we go and I want to just add something. I just want you to know that I'm going to be here for you. I'll be waiting, you can count on that. World couldn't keep me away," she promises. "Okay, sorry for rudely interrupting and adding a second vow onto the first one. I just… I needed you to know I'll always be here."

Elliot’s smile splits wider and he clears his throat when he plans on chuckling, relishing the confusion of love. “I know,” he says, sliding free the box Wright snuck into his pocket. She’s kind enough to take the lid as he removes it, revealing a gold chain bracelet with a curved plate bearing no design on the outward face. He reaches out to wrap it around Merlyn’s wrist, clasping the ends together with a satisfying click. He turns the plate around enough for her to read the inscription: You’re my home and I’m returning.

The inscription causes Merlyn's throat to get tight as she looks at it. The tears that had threatened to spill now do. "Fuck, I was gonna try not to cry," she murmurs, but she doesn't sound mad. She just looks at the plate for a few seconds before she looks back to Elliot's eyes. "Thank you."

She's not forgotten that it's her turn, and she turns towards Wright. The box extended towards Merlyn is taken, and she opens it and mirrors the gesture he did, passing the lid off to Wright with a sheepish smile before she holds the necklace out. It's a gold locket, expensive from the looks of it, and she holds it up to hang it around his neck. "I kinda guessed a little on the sizing, but you should be able to open it and see when you're wearing it." Long enough to see but also long enough to tuck away if he needs to.

Inside the opened locket is a small picture of Merlyn with the smile she reserves for him, sealed with resin to keep it safe and secure.

Elliot chuckles, sniffling as he holds the locket delicately. He snaps it closed and tucks it beneath his shirt then holds his hand where it rests over his heart. "Thank you for keeping me company while I'm away," he says. "I'll sleep better knowing you're near." Right across the river in Manhattan and infinitely far away.

He smothers another impulse to kiss her knowing full well how pleasant it would be to give into the temptation. He takes her hands instead, they'll do this next part together. He turns to Andy, who's smiling fondly as if they've all known each other for years.

"Merlyn," she asks, "do you want to be married to Elliot?"

Merlyn doesn't hesitate for a moment. "I do, I absolutely do," she says, even if it brings a flush of color to her face. Her hands squeeze his gently, her eyes seeking out his expression so she can remember it always. She had resisted the urge to add something playfully to her response, but the moment was too important to her to not at least be somewhat traditional in this case. Once the words are out, her breath catches in her throat and the butterflies flutter as she knows his response comes next.

"Elliot," Andy continues, "do you want to be married to Merlyn?"

His eyes don't waver for a second, there's no pause before his response. "I really do," he says, soaking up every facet of Merlyn and his love for her in a memory strong enough to serve as the foundation for many more. Iridescent, he decides.

"Then by the power vested in me by the State of New York," Andy is happy to relay, "I pronounce you married." Just like that.

It takes a moment for Merlyn to fully process that that's all it takes. There would be the paper to sign, but it was done. While she was smiling before, the realization hits her hard and the smile broadens into something new entirely. She's never smiled quite like that before. It's only a moment that he'd see it, though, because she's not letting him beat her to the kiss. Especially when she's been waiting for this part. She leans in to kiss him, dropping his hands in favor of wrapping her arms around him. He'd come back to her. He'd come home.

Elliot's open smile is interrupted by the kiss he's been delaying, he's relieved it's finally here. Having nothing better to do with his arms, he scoops her up off the ground, breaking the kiss but nuzzling into her neck with laughter of joy. His wife. Even if this world ends she'll live, and hope will live with her.

She lets out a laugh as she's scooped, clinging tightly to him as the joyous laughter continues. She buries her face against him, taking a moment to relish the closeness. Merlyn will always have this memory–it's one she would never forget. The feelings all of this brings are overwhelming, but it's a rush of joy and excitement and happiness. She'd never thought she'd end up here, but now that she is, it's all she wants. "Now you can go around and introduce me as your wife for the shock factor," she teases. "It's a move no one will see coming."

"An absolute power move," he says as he sets her back on her feet. He feels Wright's anticipation, then turns toward her with an expression trying to say too many things at once. She's glowing with happiness for them, waiting to greet them as they stand newly married.

"Mr Hitchens," she says to Elliot. Her hand and Elliot's meet without having to look, tipping themselves together to each rest their forehead on the other's. For a long second their eyes are closed before Wright brushes a tear from his face that she doesn't see fall.

Pulling back, she smiles down at Merlyn. "Mrs Hitchens," she says. "Christ you two are fucking cute." She reaches out to give Merlyn a hug, face inquiring as to whether or not that's okay as she nears.

Merlyn moves forward to the hug, clearly not having a problem with it, though the way she smiles indicates she's glad that Wright's even thought to silently inquire. She grins broadly at Wright after the hug, looking back over to Elliot. "I blame him, he brings at least fifty-percent of the cute to this relationship. Probably more, don't listen to him if he protests. He's the cute in the relationship." She sideyes Elliot and winks at him before looking at Wright.

Elliot smiles at Merlyn but turns to Wright with a dismissive shake of his head, Not true. Wright, happy to agree, also shakes her head, Not true.

"Thanks for being our witness, it only seemed right," Merlyn says with a grin. "Couldn't ask for anyone better."

"It was an absolute honor," Wright says. "Looks like Andy has some sort of paperwork for us, maybe we should get that sorted and then head on out."

The last of the rain seems to have passed, which is a blessing for their attire but a curse for the smoke. No point dawdling.

"Since we're doing everything in a sort of…" Elliot nobles his hands, "traditional but incorrect way, I'm delighted to inform you that the only way I will transport you over the threshold of the house is via piggyback ride."

"You know, I like that. I like our incorrect traditions," Merlyn says, gesturing towards him as she prepares herself. "You're tall, though, so you're going to have to bend down enough so that I don't look like a fool trying to jump onto your back." She raises an eyebrow in his direction. "Unless, of course, you'd like me to attempt to just jump on your back and see how that goes. We are, after all, doing things untraditionally." She seems amused at the prospect, but not opposed to the attempt.

"Let's try the not jumping idea first," Elliot suggests. He crouches to give her an easier time of it. "Would be a shame if I threw my back out before our first opportunity to no longer be living in sin."

Merlyn laughs before she moves to climb onto his back, wrapping her arms around him and ready to do the same with his legs when he stands straight. "I'd really like it if you didn't throw your back out," she says. "Not even just because it would be a shame but also because I'm a sucker for you being in pain. Easiest way to get to me, apparently."

"I promise not to injure myself just to make you feel bad for me," Elliot says as he stands, fumbling in his pocket for the keys before Merlyn wraps her legs around him. "Ready, Mrs Hitchens?"

“I wonder if I’ll ever get used to hearing that,” she muses, adjusting her position on his back so she’s comfortable. She takes the opportunity to bury her face in against his neck and plant a kiss there before she replies. “Ready, Mr. Hitchens.”

Elliot takes the stairs, opens the door and carries her home.

The Hitchens' Townhouse
Red Hook

Monday, May 24th
3:57 PM

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