Live Well and Prosper || Chapter 20. Happy Ever After

From the author to my readers:

Here it is, my lovelies – the final chapter. Three years, ninety four chapter, four companion pieces; more than 150K words; the very first modern pairing; the hottest smut; the biggest heartbreak. The longest journey; the favourite characters.

It started as a one-shot based on a prompt ‘camping’ on fanfiction.net. It went on hiatus. It has been moved from FF to my blog. It could have ended twice since then. It had had a different wedding in it; and then the protagonists had to part their ways – because I’ve grown and learnt in the years it took to write it; and I just couldn’t do it to my dear Wrennie. She grew up as well, into Dr. Leary, and not Mrs. Thorington. She changed from the woman who finds herself accidentally pregnant; into a woman who offers her wonderful, progressive, feminist husband to have a child. It could have ended on a melancholic but gingerly hopeful note – with her walking away from their relationship, and then perhaps giving it another chance – but it turned out there were still people reading the story…

And you made it all possible, my dear readers! You guided, supported, asked questions, mused, disapproved, and sympathized. And you gave Wrennie and Dr. T their happily ever after.

And I will never forget it. Thank you.

Katya

P. S. I always thought that giving the soundtrack to one’s writing is a cheap trick, but since it’s my last chance…

The songs that travelled with me through the whole story:

“If I Didn’t Know Better” Nashville for sex and dance; first proposed by RagdollPrincess on FF. There was no dance scene in the charity auction chapter, but I could just see them in my head, and feel the warmth of a touch of a hand.

“As Cold As It Gets” Patty Griffin a song that caught my attention as a background music to a Thorin fanvideo, and that travelled with me from my first Middle Earth stories into this modern AU. When it was time to crank up drama in the story, Patty was in my earphones.

“Closest I Get” Katie Hertz the sound of Wren’s heart and Wren’s love for John.

And when the story gained the second life, after Wren walked out on John: “Slow” Leonard Cohen. Sometimes, we all deserve the second chance.

***

{From now on “Official Town Business” will be take this webserial’s place and will be updated on Saturdays. I hope you might consider reading/following the story.}

A/N: Leave me a goodbye comment, my dear reader. I want to remember you forever.

Six years later…

{Companion piece “Triple Trouble”}

Ten minutes into the drive all four men of your life are asleep; and you and Unna are left to think your deep feminine thoughts alone. Judging by a foot constantly digging into your ribs, your six month old fetus of a daughter is busy planning her Olympic athlete career. You’re pondering that blasted article you’re supposed to submit to a certain peer reviewed journal. Given a choice you’d rather shovel fish guts. The second pregnancy – which eventually will be thrice less productive than the first one – is much more difficult for you as a scientist. All you want these days is to curl in an armchair with a good book – something by Tolkien preferably – and a cuppa; and damn the articles, experiments, and grants!

John stirs on his seat, and mumbles something in his sleep. Poor duckie, he hasn’t had proper kip in the last four years. Funny enough, he’d been suffering from insomnia since he was a teen, and he’s still taking it worse than you. Maybe, it’s because less time passed for you between the mad uni years – survived on caffeine and refined sugar – and taking care of three babies. Or maybe, it’s just because you’re a woman, and thus, generally more of a badarse.

Unna inside settles on punching your bladder with an elbow; and now you have to choose between suffering and squirming; and making a stop at the nearest garage – and risking at least one of the boys waking up – most likely Othin, of course.

You sigh and slowly drive off the motorway, following a sign pointing at the nearest loo. You park, and gently touch John’s shoulder. His eyes fly open. Panic readily slashes into the blue irises. OK, you’re exaggerating – it’s just mild terror. In the habit still left from the days when a hiccup of one baby in one room could wake up the other two in the other room, he silently mouths, ‘What?’

“I’ll be right back,” you mouth in return, and point through the window at the washroom sign. He nods.

You carefully climb out of the Rover, and half close the door. The smack will wake up at least two; and just a lock clicking is enough for Othin.

In the queue to get some water and crisps, you’re lazily studying your reflection in a fridge door. Couple years ago you started cutting your hair very short, and this morning you forgot to brush it. It’s standing on your head in a very peculiar way. You consider quickly buying a tacky brush with Frozen characters that you see on the counter and trying to rein the daft orange semi-curls. You are after all going to a wedding.

It’s Thea’s wedding, as shocking as it sounds. Jimmy had finally ‘worn her out’ – his words, not yours. It’s been as long for them as you and John have been together. Together-ish. Just like the two of you, Thea and Jimmy had their ups and downs; but while for you it’s been a rollercoaster, those two have been in a bloody blender. They seem to break up and make up every month. But hey, who are you to judge? You’ve dumped poor Dr. Sexy couple weeks before the wedding. You bet there will be a dramatic falling apart just after the honeymoon is over – and perhaps, another wedding right away. Or a couple.

Killian and Lan are coming too. Thea has become their NGBFF, and they are her ‘run-to household when Jimmy’s once again fallen from grace.’ They call her ‘our practice baby.’ Altogether, clearly there’s a harmonious arrangement there.

You still see a lot of her, but mostly when you have ‘you time’ away from your family. Babies terrify – and honestly speaking, disgust – Thea. Six-month old Thomas spitting up on her best Dior coat didn’t help the case. Quite often you and Thea are joined by Candice – now Candice Dwalinson. Her son is two now; and the three of you go out, dance, and drink – except you, of course – away from all that manky testosterone.

Well, since we’re going through the list of your closest relatives and friends, Phil gets an honourable mention as well. The poor sod is in the middle of his divorce. His American viper has caught him cheating, and will now sue his arse off. According to Killian – the two of you are insufferable gossips, and couldn’t care less – she hasn’t been exactly the picture of marital faithfulness, but the plonker got caught first. Worse so, it was a drunk party shag. With three chicks. There has been a sex tape in the making involved. He’s in deep shite.

You take your bag and head to the car. Predictably, there’re voices inside.

“Giraffe!” Dain’s yelling, pointing at the piece of paper in John’s hand.

“Cow!” Othin offers another option.

You climb in and look at the back seat.

“Da can’t draw,” Thomas offers you an explanation. Apparently, your old man decided that drawing a deformed looking animal and letting the boys guess what it was must be the most engaging activity.

You look at the drawing and snort.

“It’s a dog, isn’t it?” you join the game, and get the very John Thorington, Roger Moore style eyebrow. “Cat?” you try again, and he theatrically crumples the paper.

There’s a protesting shout from Dain. He’s in the collecting stage, ahead of his brothers – everything has to go on the wall. Especially anything that has been touched, breathed at, or looked at by their father. Not that Dr. John Crispin Thorington ever needed an ego boost, but he has three avid fans. For them, he’s god. You expect this next one will just join the club. You bet they absorb this adoration towards him through the amniotic fluid.

Dain receives the smoothed out masterpiece; and he pressed it to his chest. Thomas is eyeing it with jealousy, but he’s too much of a Thorington to beg. Othin is already distracted by a dog outside.

John turns on Octonauts for them. They have a ration of an hour of ‘screen time’ a day, and they immediately grow quiet, fully absorbed in the adventures of Peso the Penguin and the Spook Fish. You’ve seen – sometimes with one eye, another peering into your laptop – about six hundred times. You properly hate the bloody Spook Fish. 

When they’re watching telly, only a live T-Rex barging in could make them hear or see anything around them.

You start the car, and then John’s hot hand lies on your knee. You press your lips to hide a smile. It might still be an affectionate gesture, and not a hint on shag. Nope, it is definitely a hint on shag – he’s stroking your skin with his thumb.

“What is it, Dr. Thorington?” you ask in a nonchalant tone.

“Why does it have to be something, Dr. Leary?” He mimics the intonation. “It’s my wife’s knee. I’m allowed to touch it if it’s not interrupting her immediate activity.”

“Uh-huh,” you draw out. “And the fact that there has been none of… a certain unmentionable activity in our house for fifteen days has nothing to do with this.”

“Sixteen, but who’s counting,” he answers, and the palm shifts higher. “And you fell asleep despite our ‘plans’ twice in the last week.”

“Well, at least I haven’t fallen asleep mid-process,” you snort, and he chuckles.

“No, we aren’t that bad yet.” You know his shoulders are shaking in his full body laugh. “But I’m serious, Leary. We have three months of life left. Let’s live it in full.” He then yawns, which gains him a quick sardonic glare from you.

“May I remind you that in most cases it’s you who loses consciousness before anything can start?” you point out. “I did try to poke you on Tuesday. You were nonresponsive. And I had a new… outfit on.”

“Oh? Damn it.” He emits a theatrical groan. You decide to take mercy.

“It’s in my bag right now.” You bet he’s just preened up.

“What colour is it?” he asks in a tone of a boy inquiring about a toy car under a Christmas tree.

You decide it might be a nice new game.

“Remember that day you came back from Japan for the first time?” A pleased hum tells you he remembers. “The same red. And it’s two items.”

“Two items? Hm…” He pretends to ponder it. “What else can you tell me?”

“There’s a bow.” He has a mild bow kink. There’s a low rumble in the throat.

“Any buttons?”

“A lacing.”

“You’re spoiling me, Leary.” His voice is dropping lower.

“I’m only returning the favour.” You quickly cover his hand, and intertwine your fingers. “I feel properly spoiled on everyday basis.”

***

The boys are placed in a guest bedroom in Jimmy’s parents house; and you two are in the next one. You’re closing the door between the rooms, when his fingers wrap around your upper arm, and he pulls you in.

You press into him, as much as your stomach allows; and ogle the sexy smile playing on his lips.

He makes a step backwards; and you follow. He leans to a bedside table, and pushes a button on the radio. You Don’t Own Me by Dusty Springfield starts playing, and you burst into laughter. He clearly has prepared, while you were tucking the boys in.

“Interesting choice,” you murmur, and he theatrically picks up your hand in an invitation to a dance.

“There was either this, or Dylan. Jimmy’s parents still aren’t over Woodstock.”

“Oh, so your generation then?” you ask impishly.

“Don’t push it, Leary. I’m still capable of throwing you over my knee…” He wiggles his eyebrows. “That is if I don’t fall asleep standing up.”

You laugh, and the two of you start dancing.

Dancing is one of the things that he does best. Oh wait, that would be all things requiring physical coordination! Bollocks, whom are you kidding? He’s basically 87% of a perfect man. Alright, maybe 92%. You’re biased, though. You’re madly in love with the bloke.

You move closer, and hide your face in his chest. He wraps his arms around you; and you breathe in the cologne, and the familiar, endlessly dear smell of his skin, fresh and spicy.

You two dance a lot. It’s your thing. Other things are ‘your thing’ too – reading the paper together; taking the boys to book shops; buying each other house plants; his magnificent back rubs, and the acupressure you’re certified in and that is the only thing that helps with his migraines. But dancing is special – it’s intimate and raw and vulnerable and open. It’s talking without words; it’s sex in clothes – not that they’re always present during dancing; or stay on for long.

Suddenly, you feel your eyes prickle, and a few seconds later you sniffle. By then you two are just rocking side to side holding each other tightly.

“Alright, Leary?” he asks, and moves away slightly, to look into your face.

You give him a teary smile.

“I am… happy.” You sniffle again, and the following little laugh from you is somewhat shaky. “I might be soppy from sleep deprivation.”

He guffaws.

“We could go to bed,” he offers; and you decide that it just won’t do.

You pop open the top button on his shirt.

“We could. Or we can enjoy the life in full.”

You lick your lips, and open two more buttons. Oh hello, chest! Look, Wren’s fully awake now! You place a slow, open mouthed kiss on the pectoral muscle, and give it a small bite. The chest rises in a sharp inhale. You tread the fingers of your right hand into the thick chest hair. There’s a lot of salt in this pepper now. Everything about the man makes you so randy – but fucking hell, the chest is pure magic!

You tilt your head and murmur, “I just think that if we don’t do something nasty on the Bofursons carpet, giving my knees and your arse proper rug burns… we’ll end up shagging tomorrow in some random place, once we can’t hold it back anymore… And then we will get caught…” The shirt is now on the floor, and you’re working on the belt. “And people will say, ‘Aren’t they too old for this? Look, she’s already preggers, and it’s still not enough for them…’”

He’s cupped the back of your head, and he leans in and catches your ear between his teeth.

“How about some carpet now, and then a quickie in the Bofursons’ pantry tomorrow?” he whispers, and hooks the finger of the other hand on the collar of your tee. The long nose brushes on the muscle between your neck and the shoulder, and your head spins.

“Should I go change in that new set?” you ask. You’re breathy, and your legs are wobbly – he’s kissing your neck just the right way.

“Nah.” He actually says ‘nah’ – in that posh voice of his, and you momentarily get distracted from your bosom heaving and giggle. “Keep it for when we’re old and disinterested in shag.”

“That will never happen,” you say solemnly. “You’re too lush.”

“Well, and if it does…” He kneels in front of you, and is unbuttoning your trousers. “Then we can buy a sleeping bag, unroll it on the bedroom floor, and reenact you crawling into my tent to ravish me shamelessly.”

“That never happened!” you protest loudly. That’s not the first time this conversation is taking place. “I legitimately thought there was something in the dark out to get me.”

“Poppycock!” He pops the ‘p’ and emphasizes the second half of the word. Cheeky bastard. And yes, of course you’re thinking about his cock at the moment. You’re intimately familiar. “You barged in to lure me in your web with your sexy PJ bottoms and your scratched ankle.”

“And wellies…” you pant out. He’s pulling down your knickers, and his tongue has just brushed at your right hipbone. “I had wellies on…”

“A definite turn on,” he purrs, and the tips of his fingers brush between your legs.

“Perv…” you breathe out.

“Beautiful…” he murmurs.

He’s kissing, and stroking, and undressing; and you push your fingers in the silky, heavy curls at the back of his head. Your body feels weightless and fluid and cherished. His wonderful hands caress your hips, and he starts leaning back. You’re even smaller this time with Unna, and you can still move very easily. He lies back, you crawl on top. Between the two of you, you have one shirt, one bra, and one sock left on.

You press your hands in the Bofursons’ carpet on two sides of his head, lean down, and look into his eyes.

“Dr. Thorington.” You smile widely; and the crows feet run into the corner of his mesmerizing cerulean eyes.

“Yes, love?”

THE END

Live Well and Prosper || Chapter 19. Wren Noticed

Author’s Note:

I just wanted to remind you that contrary to the previous plan to wait for Dr T Series to be over, I’ve already started writing the new webserial Official Town Business. It’s updated irregularly for now, sometimes twice a week; so your best bet to keep track of it is to follow/like my professional Facebook page.

Cheers! Hope to see you there!

Katya

It takes you eleven months to accept that – as good as the two of you are at shag – you aren’t good at conceiving a child.

You consider making an appointment with Graham’s Candice without letting John know. You might disagree with her retrograde outlook at women’s rights and prerogatives, but she’s bloody good.

But then you decide that’s now how you two roll these days. You sit him down at dinner one evening, and carefully approach the subject. He’s quiet all through your speech; you make sure to speak unemotionally. His jaw is locked; and he presses lips in a stern line – but you didn’t expect him to take it any other way. He says he’ll think about it. And you trust his judgement – and you trust him – enough to leave it at that.

For three days he’s subdued, his face dark; and you let him digest. And then he offers to go to the fertility clinic where Candice and Graham work. You give him a surprised look. The clinic is in the same hospital where he operates. The rumours will spread. On the other hand, it’s one of the best places in the country.

You two go; and tests start. Two weeks later you think that if any more people look at your fanny, or you’re asked to supply a sample of yet another of your bodily fluid, you might murder someone.

You get a ring from Candice; and she asks you to come alone for an appointment. It can only mean one thing – it’s you, and not John who is the barney. There was 50% chance that would happen, but on the other hand he’s a bloke over forty five here, while you’re a perky healthy young woman.

You tell her you think both of you should be there, and she agrees in a professional tone. You know she thinks you’re making a mistake.

John gets his results the next day; and you imagine how his specialist gives him a clap to the back, with a surprised but approving chuckle. Apparently the line of Thoringtons – previously having included sea captains, baronets, and somewhere there a copper who apprehended a gang of Irish bootleggers in New York during the roaring twenties – will not be so easily broken.

Three days later, the two of you are sitting in Candice’s disgustingly cheery office; and she explains that although there’s nothing drastically wrong with your reproductive system, your history of endometriosis, and several other issues you’ve dealt with through years, just isn’t a ‘favourable environment’ for conception. Basically, you have a resisting fanny. She isn’t sick or broken – she just doesn’t fancy a sprog. You’ve had time to prepare for this news emotionally; so you just ask what the next step is.

The next step is hormone injections. And of course Candice rushes to reassure you – that it’s shown itself very successful; that the side effects are very mild these days; and that there are all those other options afterwards, such as in vitro, and surrogacy; and so on, and so on. And you nod, and try to ignore how pink her cardigan is; and how sick you’re feeling.

And then she starts asking when you’d like to start the injections; and suggests a schedule; and you suddenly hear your own voice, “I think I’d like to take a month off. Just take the pressure off, and just stop thinking about it, you know…”

John stretches his hand, and his fingers wrap around yours. You grasp the familiar warm hand, as if you’re drowning.

“I think that would be a great idea,” he says, and it’s that quiet authoritative tone that is just so John Thorington. Candice shuts her gob, although she was clearly going to disagree. He lifts your hand to his lips, and you turn and meet his eyes. The expression in them is loving and supportive. “Just don’t hope for less shag, alright?” One corner of his lips curls up, and you give out a small weak laugh. To Candice it probably looks like a randy joke; you hear the reassurance and love he knows you need at the moment.

***

You return to the flat, and he’s supposed to go to the uni. You took a day off, having prepared for the meltdown you were surely to have after the convo.

“Do you want me to stay?” he asks softly, helping you out of your coat. You toe off your shoes, and lean your back into the wall.

“I want wine,” you say, and he throws you a surprised look. You give out a neurotic chuckle. “You know how they do in films? Sit on the floor, drink wine, and cry.”

“We have that bottle of Shiraz somewhere. And if you just pour and drink, without decanting it, you’ll start crying faster.” He gives you a soft smile. “And conk out faster too. It’ll be a short cry, but the hangover will be worth it.”

You nod and head to the pantry.

“I do want you to stay,” you answer without turning, and he pulls out his mobile from his pocket.

***

The two of you are sitting on the floor of the kitchen, legs stretched in front of you, the bottle and one glass between you.

You’ve taken one sip. Normally, you can manage one glass before you, as he put it, ‘conk out.’ And yes, the hangover will be a bitch. You monitor your state. Your cheeks are already burning. The next step is crying, or laughing, or jumping his bones demanding something very, very obscene, more obscene that your usual inventive and enthusiastic shag. But not today – not when you feel like shite; not after eleven months of ace shag, full of laughter, and hope, and words of love.

The first tears run down your cheeks.

He downs the glass, pours more, and passes it to you.

“I know I have no right to complain… or feel sorry for myself…” you mumble, your voice nasal, and he looks at you softly.

“You have a bit of a right…”

“I’m healthy, successful; I finished my degree; I have a great job… And Candice is right, the injections are the very beginning, and there are all those other options, if the hormones fail… And it’s not like I’m explicitly infertile…”

He nudges the glass with his index finger under its bottom towards your lips. You sip.

“Love, you’re human,” he says and picks up the glass from your hand. “You know I can’t stand emotions, even when they’re due, but even I think you are allowed to sit and drink wine and cry today.”

There’s about a foot of space between the two of you. And you aren’t touching. You might feel better if you press into him – but you don’t want to feel better just yet.

“Thank you…” you whisper, and he nods, his eyes on the opposite wall. You chuckle; it’s bitter and neurotic. You’re clearly bladdered already. “And I’m sort of relieved it’s me, and not you…”

He gives you a side glance.

“Because I’d take a failure much worse than you?” he asks, and sighs. “You’re right. It wouldn’t have been a civilized half a glass of wine, and apologetic crying, if it were me.”

“Apologetic crying?” you ask with a drunk giggle.

“You clearly feel like apologizing for being upset,” he reminds you.

“Yeah, but that’s not what I meant when I said that it’s better that it’s me… I just meant, in a sort of strange way, it’s only fair… I already have everything I’ve ever wanted in my life, and there has to be some karmic justice, isn’t there? All I’ve ever wanted is the career and you…” You take the wine, and lift it to your lips.

“You have very low standards,” he laughs, and you look at him over the rim of the glass.

“But it’s true…” Your head is starting to spin. “Since that day, when it was me and Phil and Killian, and we came to the mansion… And you came down for breakfast… All I’ve wanted… was you. And then I saw you in the evening jacket… God, the dreams I had afterwards!” You’re getting lost in the memories. “But even then, the first time… You were drinking coffee, and your throat moved… And the way you hold your cup, between the middle finger, and thumb, sort of twisting your hand…” You mimic the gesture. “That day, I… I wanted you so much then.” You drop your head back and stare at the ceiling. “You seem so… grown up… so… wow…” You sway the glass in the air, and he catches your hand with it. You try to focus on him. “I don’t think you even noticed I was in the room. And then next time we came over, you were jet lagged, and grumpy… and Killian said not to mind you…” You laugh, while tears are still running down your cheeks.

“I did notice you,” John says. “The first time you came over… You wore a green jumper, and had a braid.”

You gape at him, your jaw ungracefully hanging.

“Why?” you choke out. You were young, you still are; you aren’t the sexiest of them all, neither are you pretty. You don’t doubt he loves you now; and you know your worth. But sod it, you aren’t the kind of a bird men notice in a positive way. You’re noticed for the strange angular face; and the carrot hair – but not noticed noticed, as in remembering what your hair was like then.

He smiles to you – that very smile that still makes you weak at the knees. With crow’s feet, and the curled up corners of his wonderful lips.

“Why do people fall in love?” he asks.

And you lunge ahead, knocking the glass over, your arms go around his neck, and you catch his mouth.

***

You get pregnant six months later. Everything goes by the book: the good – your tits are much more noticeable now; the bad – your gingerness ensures you nasty nausea as a side effect; and the ugly – the mood swings are so hard to control that even John’s recently developed angelic patience slips sometimes. Two months in, you two develop a system when one of you leaves the room when you start hissing and narrowing your eyes.

The element of surprise is, of course, gone out of your pregnancy; and once the test results are positive, there’s no exuberance. The two of you, Candice, Graham, and couple more people in the know just keep your fingers crossed and wait. You take time off the work; and John and you have hols in Scotland.

You’re lucky. The first time, as Graham puts it, sticks.

And then the day of the ultrasound comes.

Bonus chapter:

Companion piece: Three Cheers to John!

 

Live Well and Prosper || Chapter 8. I Always Liked It Slow

Author’s Note:

I think this song by my beloved Leonard is the perfect soundtrack to Wrennie and Dr T’s relationship. The line ‘A weekend on your lips // A lifetime in your eyes’ reminded me of their weekend in Sheraton; and I can just hear ‘Let me catch my breath // I thought we had all night” pronounced in another, no less velvet male voice… 

If you like the song, check out the lyrics. There will no other like Leonard; there will be no other poetry like his…

copy-of-lwap7

Four months later…

You come home with only one thought in your head – you want to sit down. You don’t care if it’s going to be a sofa, an armchair, or the rug by the entrance door. You think you’ve never been that exhausted in your life; but to think of it, you felt exactly the same way yesterday. And the day before, and last week – and sadly, you’re sure you’ll feel the same way for a long time now.

Instead of pushing the key into the door, you stop and press your forehead to it. It reminds you of that day when you and John broke up. Although, the only similarity is that you’re frozen on the other side of the door from him. That’s where parallels end. You do want to see him. You do know what you feel towards him. You do want to come in – you just can’t. Physically.

The door unlocks, and he’s standing in the frame. It smells like Italian. There’s a glass of Scotch in his hand.

You peek, and your jaw slacks. He looks arsed up. He is so obviously drunk! The eyes are shiny, red-rimmed, and unfocused; cheeks red flushed. That’s so unusual that you straighten up despite being in danger to just fall into the flat like a rolled up carpet.

“Has academia defeated you again?” he asks softly, and opens his one armed embrace. You whine, step in, and press into him. That’s better. That’s a relief. John is very therapeutic.

“Remind me why I decided that post-grad was a good idea?” you mumble into his soft white tee. He smells like food, clean laundry, and John – he smells like home.

“Because you’re a badarse scientist, and weren’t going to let your giant intellect go to waste.” He rubs your back, and you moan into his chest.

You’d ask him if he’s trying to butter you up, but that would sound like flirting. And hinting on a shag. Which would be unacceptable, since you can’t shag. You’re too tired. You could probably just lie there, and let him do all the work – but surely, he’d get offended if you fell asleep mid-way. And you definitely would.

He closes the door behind you, and then kneels in front of you helping to take off your boots. You shake the coat off your shoulders, not caring that it falls on the floor, and plod into the living room.

“Italian?” you ask and drop onto the dining table chair.

“Yeah, I ordered take away.” He goes to the bar and adds more Scotch. “Three hours ago.” He gives you a soft reproachful look.

“I’m sorry…” You have no energy to get up and go to the kitchen. “We were in the lab, and then it turned out we needed to redo couple tests…” You can’t stifle a wide painful yawn. “And then one of the students in the group project cocked up some data…” You drop your head on the table.

He hums, and you hear a clank of the bottle. And then you remember. Oh fuck! Fucking fucking fuck! You jerk your face up and look at him.

“Oh god, it’s Thursday, and it’s our ‘dinner and talk’ evening, isn’t it?”

“Yeah…” You see him heavily sit down in the armchair. He takes a gulp of Scotch and drops his head back. His eyes slowly close.

“I’m really sorry…” you whine again. “It’s been a mental week, and…”

“It’s alright, Wren…” He lifts his head, takes a sip, and then goes back to the same position. “Have you eaten?”

“Some disgusting sarnies in the cafeteria. But I’ll enjoy the Italian tomorrow, yeah? I’ll take some to the lab for lunch. Or we can warm it up and have it for dinner.” You’re groveling, and he makes a small wave with his hand, his eyes still closed.

You consider apologising again, but then you realise that he’s much more drunk than you initially assumed. To think of it, except his stag night, you’ve hardly ever seen him under the influence, in all the time you’ve known him.

“John, are you OK?”

“Leonard Cohen died,” he answers, and takes another big gulp without opening his eyes.

“I’m sorry…” Your words sound empty, but you do sympathise. When it were an actor or a musician you were fond of, their loss always felt personal.

John loves Cohen. Well, ‘loved’ will now be a better term. Popular Problems, released couple years ago, is his favourite album.

“Should I choose some younger artist to fancy now?” he asks from his armchair, and you hum questioningly. “To make me more hip, and less… old.”

You frown not sure what he’s talking about.

“Peterson’s retiring,” he says. You properly fail to follow the leaps his mind is making tonight.

“OK…” you draw out. “Peterson from Cardiology? Well, he’s old, and…”

“We were in the same year in uni,” John interrupts. Oh bugger.

You could remind him it’s not dates and numbers that determine a person’s age. It’s not about ‘how long;’ it’s about ‘how’ – how the person lives, how they feel, how much they want, crave, how much they take from life, and how much they’re willing to give.

“Do you know that in a few years they will think I’m your Dad? I’ll get all that grey hair, and with your genetics you’ll stay young forever…” He emits a sarcastic sharp laugh, and finishes his bevvie.

Ah, so that’s what it’s all about.

You rise from the chair, cross the room ignoring the aching soles, and climb on his lap. He doesn’t stir, but you know he’s glad you’re here.

“So, is this Hemingway style drinking all about your mortality and…” you start in a light teasing tone, and he suddenly lifts his head and pins you with a dark stare.

“Do you want children, Wren?”

Oh sod it. Wrong time, wrong place – and really, John? Definitely wrong circumstances. He’s pissed, you’re exhausted. The combination is as cocked up as possible.

You have an odd thought. You wish you were forty right now. You wish you knew what one is supposed to answer to a man of his age, how one is supposed to talk, what to say to this question. Should you console? Flirt? Answer directly? Mollify?

And you’re tired, so very tired. And you feel young, and immature – and lost.

An adult wise woman would know what to say to her husband in this situation. She would know just the right words; she’d look into his eyes, and answer something that would make it alright. You want him to be happy. You don’t know how to make a man like him happy.

He’s achieved so much; but is looking back on one’s former successes a healthy way to deal with one’s age? He’s right – in ten years his hair will be all white. In ten years you’ll look just the same; you saw your biological mother’s photo in your file, she was thirty seven when she had you, and looked just like you do right now.

Are you to say that all is ahead of him? What if it isn’t? Are you to promise that the two of you will have a baby soon? You might not. There’s your education; and your career. On the other hand, you do want one. But you don’t want one right now. Right now, you want to sleep.

If you stay quiet long enough, he’ll shut like a clam, like he used to – or sigh melancholically, as he’s recently started. He’ll apologise, and say that the two of you need to go to bed.

“I’m sorry, Wren…” he starts, and you lean in and press your lips to his. He tastes like Lagavulin.

“I’m so tired…” you whisper, after moving away. His eyes open slowly, dark blue and shining. “I don’t think I can sustain this conversation.” He opens his mouth, and you press a finger across his lips gently. “Don’t apologise. It’s a valid convo, I just can’t…” You’re feeling sick, your eyes feel like full of hot sand, and there are some grotty yellow sparks dancing before your eyes.

He studies your face, and then sighs and nods.

You two go to bed; but despite how knackered you were, you can’t fall asleep. The conversation has left a nasty feeling somewhere in your stomach. And in half an hour or so, while you’re lying on your side, as if asleep, John carefully climbs out of bed, and leaves for the kitchen. You fall asleep before he’s back.