License to Wed


elliot_icon.gif merlyn_icon.gif

Scene Title License to Wed
Synopsis The (late) morning after an unexpected title suggestion, lovers decide on another name.
Date May 21, 2021

An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven is moved onto the cooktop, the oven switched off. The lid is removed, releasing a wave of steam and the scents of garlic, onion, egg, cheese, and crisped corned beef. The plunger of a French press pushes coffee grounds to the bottom of the carafe, releasing another puff of the smell of good coffee.

Elliot had a late start to the morning of his day off, but he’ll never complain about the cause of this interruption to his routine.

Elliot’s Townhouse
Red Hook

Friday, May 21st
11:30 AM

"I get breakfast too? Best night ever," Merlyn says, her voice coming from the direction of the stairs as she heads down them. At some point she'd crawled into a long shirt and sleep shorts to serve as something to wear, but she hadn't spent the time to really try to get her hair in order. She angles her way towards the kitchen combing her hair with her fingers into something less of a mess, or so she hopes. Once she reaches the kitchen, she's simply enjoying the smell of the food and watching Elliot. "Starting to really wonder if last night really happened with how nice this all is."

"If what you remember is that you are my fiancé now, that did in fact happen," he says happily, testing out the label and finding it gives him an unexpected thrill. "That plus several hours of pre-marital sexual activity that God is probably furious about. Also a valiant effort to consume too many desserts."

He places two coffee mugs on the island and fills each, one is then slid across the counter to a seat at the breakfast bar. Cream is retrieved from the refrigerator, and sugar from a jar in a cabinet.

"I'm sure he's particularly furious," Merlyn moves to take a seat, comfortably leaning over to add just a touch of cream and sugar to her own cup. "Those desserts were pretty good, but I am kind of glad we stopped after a point. I'd much rather be enjoying this morning than having spent the rest of the night feeling sick over some kind of chocolate mousse." She rests her elbows on the counter as she reaches for a spoon to stir her coffee with before she smiles warmly at him, just taking a long moment to gaze over.

"It is the fiancé part that gets me," she says, taking a hold of the mug between both her hands and lifting it close to her face so it's a little less obvious that she's turning red about the whole thing. "Never exactly saw me being the kind of woman anyone would marry," she admits. "Usually the whole running around and making money off the backs of people who already have too much, plus doing that super illegally and keeping a bit for myself, getting my head into trouble I shouldn't be in… kind of seems like the thing most people steer away from. People don't tend to stick." She sets the mug down after a moment, so she can watch him unimpeded. Better to have a view than to hide a blush, she decides.

"No second thoughts?" She asks playfully, her eyes almost betraying her with a slightly concerned look.

"That's just radical wealth redistribution. Anyone who doesn't respect your Prince of Thieves qualities is a fool. I was once a fool, but I've undergone radical realignments of my own. Now, I do all of my second-thinking in advance," Elliot replies just as playfully, noticing the shadow of insecurity and smiling gently. "Got it out of the way. All further thinking is that I'm absolutely certain." He loves her, and even if he doesn't live, she'll have a chance to survive the unthinkable.

He drinks his own coffee black to really consider the complexities of the flavor before adding a light spoonful of sugar. "And I'm glad we didn't eat all the cake as well, so there's room for this frittata." He nods backward in the direction of the stove where the breakfast will spend a few minutes sitting before he'll cut it.

Perhaps complexities of coffee flavor are lost on Merlyn, but she certainly likes it. She takes a sip, looking back over as she grins slowly. "I'm glad to know you're not a fool, I'd hate to have a foolish fiancé who had second thoughts about marrying me." The words even still feel weird coming out of her mouth, but it leaves her with a bit of a goofy smile that she covers up with a sip of coffee. "I'm really happy about last night. All of it. I've… I honestly never could have asked for or expected for anything better. I'm just happy to have whatever time I have with you. It's all been worth it. Hell, I wish I'd reconnected with you earlier, but we're here now."

"Last night was amazing," he agrees. "I will relive the absolute hell out of it. That being said, I don't want it to be the only great evening that I remember, so I'm going all out on this and future evenings. So long as you're not busy delivering pizzas, of course."

"Also maybe don't get too attached to the fiancé part though," Elliot suggests. "At the speed we're going to have to move before I leave, it'll be husband and wife very soon." He grins in a sly, self-satisfied way that soon dissolves into a shy grin. He turns his back to hold a hand above the Dutch oven, then switches off the vent above the stove.

“I shall wear the current title with honor and look forward to the next mantle I take on,” Merlyn sounds pleased, she does shoot him a worried look. “I don’t like that you’re leaving… but I like having this time. I don’t want to waste it,” she says, watching him move about the kitchen before taking another sip from the mug in her hands. “It’s worth it all.”

Elliot pulls two plates from the cabinet to set beside the stove. "I've researched the process of getting married through the city," he says as he draws a knife from the block and tests the firmness of their breakfast. Satisfied, he begins to cut the frittata into sixths. "First we need a marriage license, which we get from the city clerks office. We both have to arrive together, and we'll both need a photo ID."

He runs a silicone spatula around the inside of the pot. "Then we have to wait twenty-four hours for a marriage ceremony, which is also at the city clerk. We'll need a witness who has a photo ID, and then we leave with a certificate of marriage registration. Then we are legally wed." One slice of the frittata is carefully lifted from the Dutch oven and plated, then the other. He turns and places both on the breakfast bar, a cheesy egg and vegetable layer on top a crust of corned beef hash.

Merlyn reaches to steal a fork from near him before she takes a moment to taste the breakfast. The paperwork can come after she's admired the food. After taking a bite, she grins. "I know you're going to protest and say this isn't much, but I feel spoiled. I'm going to enjoy every minute of you that I can get." She takes another bite before she focuses on the discussion of paperwork. "That's a lot of stuff for a marriage, but I'm sure we can work it out. I don't think there's anyone I want to bring for it, so if you'd like Wright to be our witness, I can think of no one better."

She then grins. "Where's the part where you kiss me?"

"The fun part?" Elliot asks. "Absolutely any time you want me to. In relation to the wedding ceremony, traditionally right after a declaration by the officiant that we are legally wed." He smiles, then takes a moment to eat, clearly pleased with the product.

"I am happy to spoil you at this and all other meals," he adds. "And other times for unrelated, non-food spoiling opportunities. What are your thoughts on wedding rings? I'd like to have some token of you to take with me, though I'm flexible as to form."

"That is the fun part," Merlyn agrees, flashing him a grin before she distracts herself with the breakfast for a moment or two, thoughtfully considering the form of an exchange. "I'd really like you to have something from me to keep with you," she admits, her tone a little softer. "I know I can check in with you through Wright but at least if you've got something with you, that might be nice." Another sip of coffee, and she looks back over at him.

"I don't need a ring myself. I didn't think I'd get married, so I've never even thought of what I'd want. But maybe something other than a ring? I'm clearly not terribly traditional. I'm trying to think of what I'd wear. A bracelet of some kind? What kind of thing would you like to have with you?"

"Would it be weird to get a locket with your image laser engraved into it?" Elliot wonders. "It would be nice to see you when you're not around Wright." He's clearly thought of this in advance, no time is wasted pondering possibilities. He does seem to be enamored with the sight of her, judging by his shy gaze.

“That’s not weird. That’s actually really sweet,” Merlyn finds herself a little flustered by the sweetness distracting herself by taking another bite before looking back at him. “You’re staring at me. That’s really sweet too. I’ll be sure to visit with Wright when I can. It’s a shame I can’t see you in person, but knowing I can keep in touch makes it easier.”

She puts down her fork so she can reach over towards him. She’s not really sure what she’s doing with her hand, just seeking contact of some kind. “I like having you here. I also like that I’ll be your wife to come home to. Those are words I never thought I’d say. I’m going to turn into one of those weird obsessive housewives or something, aren’t I?”

Elliot says down his fork and reached out to take Merlyn's hand. "With any luck," he says, seriousness betrayed by a quiver of a smile. "Speaking of which, I'll also need to get you a key so I can come home to you."

It's strange to think of it, and he sighs as something comes to mind. "Before Rue went on mission," he says to clear the air of an inevitability, "She said she'd be moving up here from the garden apartment. I don't know if she'll still want to after I tell her we got married. So it's even more complicated than before, but I'm hopeful."

To cut off any worry that he's giving Merlyn an out, or running away himself, he folds his other hand over hers. "I want to know that you have someplace safe to stay, even if it's only when you want to. But this is your home too, if you want it to be."

“That honestly sounds nice,” Merlyn’s smile is almost shy. “You’re too damn good, getting me some roots put down.” She squeezes his hand. “I hope this doesn’t piss Rue off too much. I know she’s going to come back and I’m just going to be a surprise interloper and that’s not what I want, not for you or for her.”

Her grip on his hand tightens for a moment. “I’d like to get to know her. If you love her, clearly she must be something special,” she laughs, but there’s that thread of seriousness there. “If she comes back before you do, I’ll look out for her. I know she probably doesn’t need someone looking out for her, but it always means a lot to have someone to have your back. I dunno how I’d explain, but the sentiment is there.”

She lifts his hand, leaning to rest her cheek against the back of the hand clasped in hers. “I’m going to be here when you come back, so you’ve got that to look forward to.” She pauses for a second as s thought crosses her mind. “Joey’s going to kill me when she finds all this out. I can guarantee you she’s part of the ‘people don’t change’ and ‘exes should remain exes’ school of thought. She might surprise me but…” She quirks a bit of an amused smile at the thought.

"I won't lie," Elliot says, "she won't take the news well. But I think once the initial shock passes there will be a road to repairing that hurt."

"I think you'll get along well," he continues. "She's kind of an anthropomorphic Molotov cocktail, but she's amazing. Like a runway model had a kid with a 5-alarm fire, and that kid grew up to be a ballerina mercenary." He doesn't think she'd burn the house down, which he adds to his new list of hopes.

He keeps ahold of Merlyn's hand in one of his, but finally realizes that he's been standing and rounds the island to sit facing her at the breakfast bar. He pulls her hand close to kiss it before continuing. "All we ever do is change. You can tell Joey if she wants to set up an obstacle course to prove my seriousness, I'll run that gauntlet," he says. "I watched a lot of Legends of the Hidden Temple as a kid." He shrugs, unfazed by the thought of any real challenge.

She laughs, the slightest blush coloring her cheeks as she watches him. He might have been staring at her before, but now it was her turn to admire him. “I’m sorry she won’t take it well, but I hope she’ll come around to it. You’re worth it.” She finally releases his hand, mostly because she’s interested in eating breakfast. At least a little more.

“You know, I don’t know what she’d say to that. I might just have to ask her. I admit I’d almost want to see you run it.” She pauses like she’s going to add something relevant, then mumbles, “How hard is it to just put a giant golden monkey together?”

Elliot tries to contain a laugh around a mouthful of his own breakfast, and has to wash it down with a sip of hot coffee before he chokes. "Okay, on second thought don't suggest that unless you don't see any other options available. I can swim now, maybe a swimming competition. Trial by combat but it's laps in a swimming pool."

She grins over at him. “Maybe you could just tell her that it’s serious and that our whirlwind romance isn’t just a phase.” Merlyn looks down into her mug of coffee, taking a long drink before she looks back at him. “Everyone’s gonna think we’re crazy for this. If I didn’t trust you as much as I do, maybe I’d be skeptical. Hard to explain the situation to someone who isn’t in it. I’m happy, explaining it to other people will be tricky.”

The grin gives way to a soft smile. “This is worth it.”

Elliot smiles, feeling a deep hope and appreciation; not because she trusts him even though she shouldn't, but despite it. He wants to be trustworthy; maybe hope can replace the Lock they make by lying.

"If she requires a personal touch," Elliot says, drawing himself away from what he was thinking about, "I could break the news to her myself when I get back." He doesn't believe he will get back, but there's hope blossoming there too. Not because they aren't good at their jobs, but because there isn't a Looking Glass remaining in the flooded world.

"While we're out and about today I'd also like to set you up with a bug out bag," he remembers. "A general emergency survival kit so you have something at hand if things get bad out there." There's currently a fine have of smoke visible through the door to the garden, where plants have not yet been unwrapped for the season.

“That’s not a bad idea, proving you came back would honestly be a good move in her book, I think,” Merlyn agrees, though it’s the bug out bag that’s got her thinking. “Actually, that’s a good idea. I usually don’t need one because I tend to find different places to crash, but if I’m settling in a bit more in a location for a while, having that ready would be nice.”

She grins. “I might always be a bit more of a feral cat than a domesticated one, but somehow I don’t think you mind too much.”

Elliot doesn't mind at all. "To this day I am still pretending that I am not a feral cat," he laughs, though the permanence of this place has definitely worn down his edges.

"You should always have the bag nearby," he says, not chiding but in instruction mode. "It's not useful if you can't get to it in an emergency. Though maybe I can get you a multi tool to keep on you that has a smaller profile so you're not lugging the bag around on pizza deliveries." When's the last time he did an inventory on his own?

“Being feral doesn’t mean you can’t stay in a cute home with a husband who cooks you breakfast,” Merlyn tries out the word, then grins broadly, her cheeks flushed. “The tool sounds great. Makes sense to have the bag nearby, especially if I need to lay low or anything.” It’s not something she anticipates, but with the kind of life she leads, there’s always a chance for things to go south quickly.

“You’re definitely still feral at heart, domesticated cats don’t have bug out bags or deliver pizza,” she notes. “Besides, I think you like being a little bit feral anyway.”

"Thank you," Elliot says, seeming grateful that somebody finally noticed how feral he has been trying to appear. Being afraid he'll be taken again is his primary reason for being ready to relocate at a moment's notice. Those close to him need to be able to get away as fast as possible if those coming for him kill him instead, knowingly or unknowingly beginning a catastrophe that nobody is prepared for because he can't tell anyone to prepare for it.

He keeps his thoughts on better things: Merlyn here in his kitchen and how he loves her. He focuses on his breakfast for a moment and checks the time. "Assuming you have your ID on you, we should be able to get into the city clerk's office and be out without too much headache."

“Any ID is okay, it doesn’t need one of the ones where you admit if you’ve got abilities or not, right?” Merlyn frowns. “It would be kinda silly to need to know that to get married.” Her frown deepens. “I don’t exactly have much paperwork establishing my identity anymore, the foster system pretty much had everything when I bailed. I’ve mostly gotten by with some basic stuff, but…”

She shrugs. “I just left when I could. Had to. Pretty much didn’t bring anything but what I was wearing.” There’s both some sheepishness and some shame, especially because she doesn’t like to recall much of anything from that period. That and now she’s unsure if that’s going to bite her in the ass.

Elliot leans in, kissing Merlyn softly on the temple. "I just up and left too," he commiserates. "Fuck that place. The system was bad before the bomb, I can't imagine it was suddenly better after it. Especially here. If for some reason we need to try to get information from them I will sneak in and see what I can find. Then we go to the city clerk. Then we can come back here and take a therapeutically hot bath in a tub that is, frankly speaking, way too fucking big."

He doesn't seem worried. Illegally entering a state facility to steal records is his wheelhouse.

"It was hell, everything was so unorganized and it was like they never knew where to stick me," Merlyn leans against him for a moment before she goes back to take a bite of the frittata. "Yeah, I think if we can find the information we'll be fine," she murmurs. "I just hate that it's paperwork, but I guess it's not terrible to exist where people can see you. Kind of just avoided it for a while because I just didn't want anyone hunting me down for some reason. I didn't think they'd come after me after I left, but… who knows. That was a long time ago." She distracts any anxiety she has over the issue by another sip of hot coffee. Good coffee.

She does smile, the suggestion of a bath clearly sounding appealing. "I think you're very good at rewarding me for difficult things. Like I said, I'm going to be spoiled. I unsurprisingly don't mind."

"That's not spoiling," he chides. "That's support. Spoiling comes after the bath."

"But I know what you mean," he continues supportively. "I had the same fear for a long time. That they'd come looking for me for some reason. Honestly though, in retrospect, they were probably glad I wasn't their problem anymore. They'd given up trying to place me in a home years before. Too much work for such a difficult child." He runs his hand over her back, breakfast all but finished. "If you never want to talk about it, I'm happy to commiserate and then we can reward ourselves."

“I think it would have been easier if I had been in the system earlier, as weird as it sounds. I was the whole world to my mom and going from that to having absolutely nothing and no one was…” Merlyn glances over at him. “That’s a little bit of why losing you in the first place was so hard. I get used to something really good and then the world screws me over.”

She leans in against him a bit, careful not to fall off the stool. “I got used to it after a while, and getting out of the hair of people who didn’t want me in the first place felt kind of empowering. I got to make the choice that time, even if I had no idea how to live on my own.” She lifts her head a bit to look at him. “That’s why you have to come back. I need the world to show me it doesn’t always just take away the good things.”

She pauses, her throat a little tighter. “You know I’m going to wait for you forever, right? I don’t care how long it takes. And I mean that.”

Elliot stands just long enough to move his seat closer to Merlyn's, settling back in with his knees on either side of her. He pulls her close, wrapping her in his arms. Safely deposited, he rests his head against hers. "I know," he says quietly. "I'm not going to make you wait a second longer than I have to. I'm not going to leave you alone again. Even if it takes longer than I want it to, I'll be back." He honestly hopes he will be.

"In the meanwhile you'll have my work benefits, and Wright will help you however she can. And while you can always text me, I'll also always be here," he says, placing his hand over her heart. "For as long as you want me, I'm there."

She squeezes him gently, nestling herself comfortably in her place against his chest and tucked under his head. It’s a safe feeling. “I know you won’t make me wait,” she says, a little muffled against his chest for a moment. Lifting her head from where she’s tucked, she looks at him.

“I already told you I’d wait forever,” she grins at him, but it’s full of both mirth and genuine honesty. “That also implies there’s a very specific time period when you are here. I’m not just going to suddenly stop wanting you. I never did in the first place, it just sucked for a little while. I figure I probably need to remind you that I love you. You might have forgotten. I’ll be better about making sure you know that in the future.”

She leans in to steal a quick kiss, never leaving his arms. “I’m agreeing to marry you. Marriage is something my mom would have loved to have in her life. She never got to be with someone she loved. I honestly didn’t think anyone would want that with me, I just sort of compare myself to her sometimes. So marriage is big. I’m not doing it to be with just anyone. It’s you.”

"You'll never need to remind me that you love me," Elliot promises, still smiling after the kiss, "but you're always welcome to tell me."

He takes his hand from her heart to lift her hand and place it over his own. "I love you and I'll tell you as often as you need me to. And if you ever doubt it, I can share it with you. Let you feel it, both delicate and concrete. Hopeful and afraid. Complicated and changing but only ever love. Once I'm back the whirlwind may fade but this is love as a promise. We'll put in the work to be our best selves together."

“I wouldn’t mind hearing it whenever you feel like sharing,” Merlyn’s smile is warm, the one usually reserved for him. “The whirlwind is only because of the timing. We’ve known each other for longer. Reconnecting was a spark, and you can bet I’ll still have it. If we didn’t give a fuck so much earlier on, these feelings wouldn’t have slammed into us like some kind of stampede.”

She leans in to peck at his cheek. “You already make me a better person. But I like the idea of working on our best selves together… that sounds like the kind of thing you’d say at a wedding.” She lets out a sigh, but it sounds like a more contented one. “This is a promise I’m going to hold on to. I’m glad I get you for this time that we have. You can bet I’m making every moment of it count.”

Elliot returns the peck on the cheek. "You're right, and I love you," he reminds her. He drinks more coffee, happy to just sit in contact with her, the future Mrs…

"Right, something we should probably talk about in advance of this," he says, setting down his mug, "when getting a marriage license you have the option to change your surname. One or both of us. What are your thoughts on taking my name, or keeping yours, or me taking yours, or both changing both to a portmanteau of both of ours?"

"Hitching," he tries and discounts with a shake of his head. "Kitchens. Also no."

Merlyn laughs, looking like she's deep in thought over the portmanteau. "I have to say, both of those would be pretty ridiculous, so I think I'm with you on that." She watches him for a moment before speaking up. "I mean, actually, I'd like to take yours if you don't mind. I know that's super traditional and neither of us are ridiculously traditional, but the more I think about it the more I think it's kind of a nice nod to my mom."

She waits a moment before she explains. "I know people like to keep surnames to remember people by but that's not exactly how I want to remember her. She was the dreamer and the romantic and one who made up stories… and she never got to have any of this sort of thing. I think it'd be really sweet to at least give a nod to her by changing my name. She never got to do that with my biological father and the way she talked about him she very clearly wanted to. So it might be a sweet thing to do."

"She sounds wonderful," Elliot says softly. "I wish I could have met her." He traces his fingertips over her cheek for a moment, tucks away an errant lock of hair, taking in the woman he'd like to personally thank her mother for.

"I suppose the real test is, how will it sound?" he suggests, trying it out. "Merlyn Hitchens."

"Merlyn Hitchens… I like it. It's definitely something that would stick in someone's head, that's for sure. Unforgettable," she says, offering him a wink. "I think I like it. It's something I get to keep from you. The more things I get to keep with me that remind me of you, I love it. Even when you're here."

The thought of her mother gets her to lean against Elliot again. "You would have liked her, I think. She was the hardest working dreamer that ever existed in the world. Made up stories so I wouldn't think my dad was some deadbeat who fucked off. I never told her I found out the story she made up was fake. I think she liked thinking she was protecting me from the world. Any good qualities I have, I got from her."

She lifts her head again to look at him. "I think she'd love me doing this and taking your name. So if you don't mind, I'd like to be Merlyn Hitchens."

This isn't something Elliot ever saw for himself. The idea of Merlyn taking his name is nearly confounding. His heart races, and he's surprised to hear himself say, "I'd really like that." He knows in his bones that he's not just marrying her to keep hope alive as it's beginning to sprout. It's a delicate emotion, complex and alien, but he isn't lying about loving her or wanting this; it's just not something he ever dreamed of.

He not sure why, feeling slightly separated from intent and action, but he takes Merlyn's hand and places it over his galloping heart to let her feel his excitement, his nervousness. "Merlyn Hitchens," he says, "see what you do to me?"

Merlyn's hand lingers there, not pulling away as she takes the opportunity to feel his racing heart. "I didn't think that was the kind of thing I'd do to anyone, so it's nice to feel something tangible," she says, her smile softer. "You keep making me smile like this, we're going to be distracted and never get that paperwork done." Her fingertips brush across where his heart is before she returns her hand.

"I can't be angry that paperwork is more important than being a distraction right now," he says. There will be plenty of time for distraction after a hot bath.

Safe Zone Municipal Building
City Clerk's Office
Red Hook

1:15 PM

Elliot taps his shoe idly on the stone floor. He's slouched partially over the arm of a chair in the waiting area to better lean against his future wife. The line hasn't moved in twenty minutes, which was half an hour after they arrived. Their paperwork is complete, all that needs to happen now is for someone to run it through the system and print their marriage license. Assuming nothing goes unexpectedly wrong.

"I'm kind of sad that we didn't burgle the group home," he says tiredly. "Even though we don't need to. We could have gotten in there for some light burglary and revenge pranking and made it here now without having lost any time in these progressively less comfortable chairs."

Leaning against Elliot, Merlyn glances back over to him. "We can burgle it. They're supposed to keep records for like… thirty years? Would kind of be nice to get some revenge on my shitty childhood." She glances towards the line, then back at Elliot. "Could be a nice date night activity. Breaking in, getting my records. I mean, at least it'd be good to have the paperwork, right? Safe."

She takes a moment to shut her eyes, just resting against him. "I'm kind of hoping this all just works. I could use a win."

"The traditional gift for your first wedding anniversary is paper," Elliot muses. "Maybe I'll sneak in on my own for the most on-brand gift I could give you."

He adjusts his slouch in order to wrap an arm around her. "This is going to work," he promises her. "Everything is in order, and if for some reason they decide to make our lives harder for no reason I will stand in the middle of the lobby and scream 'Do you know who the fuck I am' until they give me what I want just to make me leave. You'll get the win even if I have to get my arm stuck in a crane machine to steal the win for you."

"You're sweet," Merlyn murmurs, seeming content with the PDA simply because it's waiting. If anyone complains, she's more than happy to give them a piece of her mind. "But you're not allowed to get your arm stuck, mostly because I like your arms. I'd like to keep them." She taps her fingers anxiously on her knee. "I've just had awful luck with paperwork so I usually just don't bother and automatically assume the worst. Bureaucracy always seems to make me nervous."

"I understand," Elliot says softly. His eyes stay on her fidgeting fingers, familiar with that as well. "If for some reason I have to throw my weight around to get this done, I will. We have a lot of leverage to work with. War veteran, government contractor going on assignment, adorable height difference. The whole package." He squeezes her arm to comfort her, trying to provide the surety that he feels that they have nothing to worry about.

"And I'll keep my arms," he relents, "but only because you asked me to. I'd been planning to get them stuck in a crane machine either way."

If he was trying to perk up her mood with humor, the effort is a resounding success. Merlyn laughs, tipping her head a bit so she can manage to get a kiss on his cheek. “You certainly are the whole package,” she agrees with a grin. “They’d be a fool not to let you have whatever you want coming in here.”

She manages to keep her fingers still, releasing her breath in a sigh as she finally manages to relax a little bit. “You have nice arms. The crane machine doesn’t deserve them. I’d fight it for your arms back if I had to.”

"Sorry," Elliot says seriously, "but I already struck a bargain with the demon lord of crane machines. If my arms get stuck, it gets to keep them. That's the price you pay to save several dollars when you're trying to get a fourteen-cent plush Kermit the Frog. The only way to guarantee I keep my arms is to fight me if you are me near any crane machines." He shrugs, You know how it is.

"But I'll go without completing my stolen, stuffed, crane-machine Muppet collection for you," he promises, unable to maintain his serious expression.

“Fuck, why do you have to be so funny,” Merlyn mutters, unable to hold back her grin. “Funny is my thing. I’m supposed to be the one who breaks the tension with humor. You’re supposed to be the pretty one.” She gives him a playful nudge, then her grin turns into a more serious, soft smile.

“Thanks,” she murmurs. “I needed that.”

"You're welcome," he replies just as quietly. "And I am both pretty and funny. But I'm comfortable with both of us being the funny, pretty one." He told his head to nuzzle his cheek against her head just as the human bottleneck finally leaves the clerk's window in a huff.

"Probably wanted too many weddings," Elliot jokes to dispel any worry about the process in advance. He stands and stretches quickly before offering his hand to help Merlyn stand. "Still only allowed one of those for some reason. In this day and age!" Scandalous.

Merlyn doesn’t bother hiding her grin, accepting to help to stand and stealing a squeeze of the offered hand before releasing it. “Clearly it’s all the work of big business who doesn’t want to pay extra to support multiple spouses. I mean, people shouldn’t get married, just produce profit for the corporations, obviously.” She hides a grin, managing to sober herself quickly before they head over.

Scooping up their clipboard and paperwork, Elliot looks pleased and surprised by Merlyn's joke. "I grew up fairly survivalist," he says as they meander to the window. "Being linked to Wright throughout the war definitely taught me the finer nuances of cooperation and collectivism. Seriously though, fuck money. Absolute garbage."

He smiles for the clerk's benefit as they reach the counter, setting down the clipboard. He produces his SESA registration card and supplies that before the woman minding the counter asks for it. "We'll have one of your finest marriage licenses, please," he states jovially.

“There’s a reason I don’t become some elaborate well-known underworld network,” Merlyn says before they get to the window. “Money isn’t worth it.” She clears her throat as they approach the window, and she flashes a smile—surprisingly not as nervous as before. “We would also settle for an ordinary one if you’re out of stock of the finest,” she quips in a friendly tone to the clerk, sliding her NY State ID over afterwards.

"I only have the ordinary kind," the woman—Linda, according to her placard—says with a laugh. "But I have a bunch of Power Rangers stickers my son left in my bag that I can spruce it up with." Elliot gives Merlyn a look that says, What do you think? as Linda takes the clipboard and scans over the information without producing the aforementioned stickers.

"Okay," Linda continues, reading off the relevant details from the form and their identification cards in more of a mutter than a conversational tone. "Military endorsement," she pipes up when looking over Elliot's. "Thank you for your service!"

"Thank you for yours," Elliot responds without mentioning that he's technically a mercenary, and that what's now considered his war time service was technically considered terrorism at the time. "Can't see to the needs of the populace without dedicated municipal employees." Linda gives him a look that indicates he's laying it on a little thick, but turns to give Merlyn a look that indicates she approves of her choice in flatterers. Elliot winks at Merlyn while Linda can't see him.

Linda’s friendliness seems to have put Merlyn at ease, and she relaxes, resting her head momentarily against Elliot’s arm affectionately as his charm relaxes her the rest of the way. “He’s always like this,” she flashes the clerk a knowing grin.

A few seconds later, her grin melts into a bit of a shy smile. “Could you put one of the stickers on there for real? If it doesn’t mess up the validity of it or whatnot. I just kind of like the idea of it being unique in some way.” It’s a memory, one more thing to keep for when she needs to think of something good.

"I sure can," Linda says. She retrieves a brown leather handbag from a filing cabinet and produces a slightly mangled sheet of stickers, some already spoken for. "I see that you're opting for a civil ceremony here at the office, so I'll probably be the one you show your license to. I won't tell anyone." The sheet is set at the edge of the window for Merlyn the review, asking l along with their ID cards.

She clacks noisily at a computer keyboard that barely dates after the invention of the typewriter. "Which reminds me, the earliest time slot for a civil marriage ceremony will be next Monday, if you can work with three pm. Other days have more flexibility. How much of a rush are you two in?" Linda herself doesn't appear rushed at all, merely listing the options, though she doesn't stop typing while she speaks.

“Green Ranger, I think,” Merlyn decides, tapping her selection on the sticker sheet with a shy smile that turns into a grin at the rebellion that is the bestickered license. The suggested time gets her to glance at Elliot. “My schedule is very flexible so it’ll work for me, if you’re free.” A beat. “And Wright too, we need our witness to actually be here.” She grins, but it slowly broadens as an actual date seems to have suddenly made it feel more real.

"I'm sure we can make that work," Elliot says for both Wright and himself. He taps on his ear to communicate to Merlyn that his partner is aware of the particulars and has given her approval. He feels his delight in seeing Merlyn's happiness overflow to Wright and back again. "Green is a classic choice. Flute-knife and everything."

Another short moment of loud typing is quickly followed by the sound of a printer spitting out a document, which isn't immediately retrieved by Linda, who clicks around her desktop with a mouse for a while.

"I figure you can't really go wrong with the Green Ranger," Merlyn says with a nod. She glances over to Linda as she processes the paperwork before she lets her gaze rest on Elliot. The excitement bubbles in her, but she's keeping it contained. At least enough that a soft bump of her shoulder to Elliot's is her only real outward expression of it. "Monday at three," she murmurs, as if the phrase is now burnt into her mind.

Elliot smiles wide and rests his hand casually on Merlyn's hip to pull her closer for a moment. As a second sheet of paper is expelled from a separate printer, Linda goes into action. The second sheet is produced first, a simple appointment reminder notice showing the date and time of their marriage in large centered letters:

Elliot Abel Hitchens & Merlyn Alabaster King
Marriage ceremony to be held on
Monday, May 24th at 3:00 PM

"How does that look for you two?" Linda asks.

Now Merlyn can't hide the full excitement. "That looks… wonderful." Her voice is elated, but she's toned it down so that it's not loud, just happy. This is not something she thought she'd ever see in her life and it's clearly a lot. "Thank you so much," she says, doing her best to reclaim her composure. She dips her head a bit to refocus, to pull back her usual controlled face. She leans in against Elliot, her arm wrapping around him a bit to give a small squeeze.

Elliot turns the squeeze into a hug, topping it off with a kiss on the head. Linda, happy to be of help, produces the first printout. This one is their marriage license. The top half of the page is filled out with all of their information. Everything looks in order, despite the fact that three out of four parents are listed as 'Unknown.' The standout is that after her name there is a second field.

New Surname: Hitchens

The lower half of the page is incomplete, fields on the form for the marriage officiant to complete after they've been married. The license expires, one way or the other, long after Elliot will have left this world. Linda adds the finishing touches by applying a Green Power Ranger sticker at the top beside the state seal.

"You'll need to bring this back with you on Monday," Linda says. "Along with the ID you gave me today, plus your witness and their ID. Sound like a plan?" Nothing to sign, good to go.

Licensed to be married.

Merlyn nods towards Linda, her smile seeming to be perpetual now. "Sounds like a plan, we'll be here, wouldn't miss it for the world," she says, and really, honestly, sounds like she means it. To hell with anyone or anything getting in her way now. She takes a moment to enjoy the certificate before picking it up in one hand, reaching for Elliot's hand with the other. Married. That's a new concept.

"Thank you," Elliot says to Linda.

"I'm so happy for you both!" she says, and means it. "Take care."

Elliot marvels in excitement with Merlyn, squeezing the hand of his wife to be. It's felt so ephemeral up to this point, but now suddenly so concrete. He makes a memory with care; every detail of Merlyn in this moment and how she makes him feel. His smile will feel sore later.

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