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#1
  
4th January, 1891 — Delaney Townhouse, London
A new year, a new - well, not quite a new him, but Evander was feeling quite resolved, and much better prepared.

He had called on her after work, had a ring to give her, had composed a lengthy pros and cons list, felt quite preternaturally decided. Besides, if he was being ruthlessly honest with himself, he was getting on in years - and Charity would be on her way to Hogwarts and thence to womanhood in no time - and he hardly had the time to start from scratch and embark upon another courtship now, had he? Realistically, it was Caroline or bust: and indeed, he wanted Caroline. He did. He was fairly certain she too felt this way; she had been making hints enough about it, and that she was still as pleasant as she had been towards him a perfect six months ago (to the day) when she had accepted the courtship, he could not imagine this proposal would go badly.

Well, he could imagine it.

But he was hopeful about it, decently confident, and had written down some semblance of all he ought to say in which to couch the words, and was ready to declare it. Only - he had come in, her maid was here in the parlour as usual, Caroline had asked after his health (much better, quite well, all fine) and his workday and then he had felt compelled to ask her some question of social nicety and for all he had endeavoured to listen to her answer, he had missed half of it and now could not get a word in edgeways.

That had - thrown him off, somewhat; he had raced through his speech once again in his head and now seemed to have gone off piste, or jolted it all out of order. “Caroline,” Evander interrupted at last from where he was standing, apropos of nothing she had said, his tone almost coming out exasperated for the nerves and impatience of expelling it. “Will you marry me?”
@Caroline Delaney
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   Caroline Delaney, J. Alfred Darrow


#2
  
Had Caroline known that Mr. Darrow might be visiting that afternoon she would have worn her favorite celadon gown, the one that brought out her eyes, in hopes she might entice a proposal from her beau. She had almost thought he would propose during his visit on Christmas Eve, on reflection she wondered if is odd behavior was because he had intended too and had lost courage - she would have rather thought that with the kiss they shared he wouldn't have had any reservations. Yet he hadn't proposed. Nor had she seen him since that afternoon. There had been letters of course, there were always letters between the two of them, but nothing had hinted of his arrival this afternoon. Internally she had regretted the light blue gown and the fact that she had styled her hair in a simpler fashion than normal. But she'd have to make do.

She was relieved to hear that his health was improved and as conversation drifted in the patterns it so often did in visits such as this, Caroline found herself watching him. He had brushed aside the offer of chair and stood as they spoke, although the conversation seemed rather one sided, as if Evander weren't quite in the mood to discuss. Did he have something on his mind? Had he determined that he ought to call off thier courtship? But no, she still remembered the promise in that kiss, in his eyes when he had looked at her. Perhaps she didn't need her best tea gown after all. Caroline had determined she would need to do something about this, just as soon as she finished relating the story of Miss Fisk and herself at the Minister's tea just the other day, when Evander interrupted her.

Surprise jolted through Caroline, her green eyes blinked as she took in his question. He had finally asked her, although she couldn't help but note the frustration and impatience in his voice. "Of course." She heard herself answering as if he had asked if she might attend a dinner party. But then realization fully dawned on her and a grin inched across her face. She couldn't have controlled her features in that moment if she had tried.

From her seat near the window Hope had discreetly looked out at the street below, giving the pair a moment of relative privacy, not that either of them were apt to notice.

Caroline didn't remember standing up, taking the few steps toward Mr. Darrow, capturing his hand in her own and tilting her face up toward his so he could see the very truth of her intention written in her features. "Of course." The word was whispered fervently, truthfully, as her hand gently squeezed Evander's. In that moment any other dreams she may once have had faded to a singular point that focused entirely on Mr. Evander Darrow. The very thought of being his wife seemed as if it might hold enough happiness to satisfy her every day of her life from here on forth. There were no doubts in that moment, perhaps there ought to have been, perhaps certain things should have been carefully taken stock of, but Caroline didn't think of them at all as she grinned up at her fiancé.
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   Evander Darrow


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#3
  
He froze where he stood. Had he just... said it? Like that? Damn it -

There was little to do to take it back now, but thankfully, mercifully, God bless her, she had sprung up and clasped his hand as if that was just how proposals were meant to be executed, and spared him having to decide whether to advance or retreat. (And for his part, Evander thought she looked rather elegant in the light blue. Perhaps a little less elegant when she broke into that grin, but her face was so aglow with it that it seemed infectious, an expression he mirrored without meaning to.)

“Of course?” Evander echoed, trying to contain his amazement. But he shook his head a fraction, in haste - he was not asking that - because he already had the answer to it; he had heard it; Caroline had just agreed to be his wife. Which was almost terrifying in itself, but at least it had cleared the cloud of anxiety in his head that had been lingering there for weeks. With a clearer mind, then, he smiled again, feeling as though she had tugged him back from teetering on disaster.

“Wait. What I meant to say was how fortunate I would be if...” The speech he had memorised made much less sense, grammatically, now that he had fucked up the order - was there any of it to be salvaged? More than anything he wanted to kiss her, but really he ought to get down on one knee. What first? In absence of a decision, he merely squeezed her hands back and released all the trepidation from the set of his shoulders, his throat a little hoarse from all the worry. “You - you cannot fathom how happy you have made me.”
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#4
  
Evander almost seemed shocked by her response, as if he could not quite accept the fact that she had indeed agreed. But then she was rewarded with a grin so wide stretching across her face. She very rarely had seen a smile from him, but a grin such as this - no she wasn't even sure she had seen that yet.

He shook his head for a moment as if trying to clear it and then started in again, as if to propose a second time. Knowing Evander, as Caroline felt she did, she realized how very nervous he must be. She waved aside his words, there was no need. The question had been asked, their future was now twined together. His hands tightened around hers, expressing his own happiness in this arrangement.

"I think I might have some idea." Caroline returned, her gentle voice filled with happiness, "For you have no idea how very happy you have made me."


[Image: vg1Bdq.png]
Amazing MJ set!
#5
  
“Well,” Evander managed mildly, unsure he had ever gotten to be lost for words in such pleasant circumstances before, “I hope it is just the beginning for us.” That was how this felt, more securely than the early days of courtship had: just the beginning, and he earnestly hoped they might stay as happy as this moment felt to him for a very long time.

He smiled again (for the second time in a row?!) - the kind of grin that flashed teeth and that he could feel crinkling his eyes at the corners - and this one only had the slightest waver of nervousness left, already felt more natural, might even be an expression that bore repeating in future. His cheeks felt a little flushed and his head felt strangely light. After all, it seemed as though he needed not say anything and still she would somehow understand him perfectly. Perhaps that was exactly what had always been missing in his stalled attempts to ever marry prior to this, in his withdrawn life more generally? He had not realised it quite until now, how well it felt to be so easily understood.

Reassured that Caroline would forgive the mess he had made of this, Evander loosened his grasp on her hands longer enough to reach a hand into into his inner pocket. “Here,” he said, offering the engagement ring to her - you know, before he forgot anything else important.


#6
  
Of course it is, Evander.” There was no way that Caroline could doubt their happiness in the future. For all she had learned of Evander she felt she could tempt him out of his shell and around others she could guard him as he had guarded her. Together they would balance each other in a beautiful harmony. Even if Caroline had had the sliver of doubt another, even broader, smile of Evander’s would have erased any misgivings she would have had. If he could truly show her how happy he was in this moment then she knew there would be many such moments like this in their future.

Caroline could picture it, the quiet moments in the library in the evenings as he would smile contentedly at her. His grin when he met their first child. The enthusiastic conversations they would have about absolutely everything. Caroline hosting dinner parties and helping her husband in the social realm his job as he advanced would require. It was a happy picture, and one Caroline found she wasn’t quite as afraid of as she might have been. Funny how love and affection could temper fears like a salve on a burn.

The moment, in Caroline’s opinion, warranted a kiss, even a chaste brush of the lips, but the only physical touch Evander dared was to hold her hand. Caroline would have to hold onto that. That was until Evander removed his hand from her grip. Already she missed the warm presence it had provided through her glove.

The disappointment was short lived as Evander brought out a beautiful ring. Caroline’s eyes took in the gold band and diamond stone nestled between leaves of rubies. She wasn’t sure what she had expected but this wasn’t it, this was as beautiful as any of the jewelry pieces her father lavished on her mother but not as simple as her mother’s wedding band. Perhaps she had expected that simplicity. But this has a simplicity of it’s own, an elegant beautiful pride to it. Caroline carefully took her glove off, one finger at a time, and held her hand out for Evander to place the ring on, her fingers shaking ever so slightly from her excitement of the moment.


[Image: vg1Bdq.png]
Amazing MJ set!
#7
  
Caroline had never doubted it, any of it, and Evander supposed he would just have to get used to that, begin trusting her, if their future was to unfurl just like this. What moved him most, he thought, was the very slight tremor of her hand - what he knew as nerves was probably excitement from her view, but that she felt anything so strongly that it became visible was a sign of something beneath all her perfect composure of the everyday.

He managed to ease the ring onto her finger, knowing he would have to offer a fervent thank you to the maid later for her assistance, but for the moment quite forgetting her presence in the room as he leant in to kiss Caroline gently, not yet satisfied with any words that had come to mind to say.

“Your parents knew of my intentions, of course,” he put in eventually, as he drew back, with a smile of slight teasing, “but they will have to hear from you before they believe it, I’m sure. And I hope you will not be opposed if the wedding preparations are left very much under your command?” Considering the way she had decorated the place for Christmas, he fancied that Caroline would be rather thrilled by the prospect of such a project.

(Was it too soon to talk of weddings? Evander was trying very hard not to miss the signs again; perhaps he had come a little over-prepared today.)


#8
  
His fingers were warm against her hand as he slipped the band over her fingers, each touch causing her stomach to bounce in excitement and warmth. Then his lips captured her's gently, as if saying the very sentiments neither of them could find the words for. Mere words paled in this moment, even Caroline found herself convinced that they could not do justise to the very feelings that bubbled inside her. Her eyes fluttered open as he pulled back, her gaze meeting his own. She could only hope that he could read the depth of her emotions in her very gaze.

Her smile grew wider as he spoke again. Was he ... teasing her? Her stoic Evander. teasing? Caroline's smile broadened, if that was even possible. "I'm sure they believed you the moment you wrote." Caroline teased back. She could picture the solemnity of any letter Evander might have written on the topic. She couldn't wait to hear from her mother of the letter. It was a rare moment when Caroline truly missed her mother, but now was one of those moments. To put pen to paper rather than to bubble the news so joyously in her own voice and watch her mother's expression change. But her mother wouldn't be long before making plans to cross to England, Caroline was sure. Before she could get too lost down the rabbit hole of her thoughts Caroline assured Evander. "I shall have to write them this evening, I am sure they will want to celebrate."

Oh! To plan a wedding, the very thought seemed as unreal as it did appealing. "Not at all! I should be delighted." And indeed her excitement was now clear on her face. They could have a late spring wedding, or perhaps early summer. May or June. Caroline found herself thinking. But she did not dare mention this just yet, not when Evander has seemed so flustered by this very conversation. No, she'd give it time, she'd consider the options, and then she would discuss it with him in a manner who well planned he would agree.


[Image: vg1Bdq.png]
Amazing MJ set!
#9
  
Never mind your parents, Evander thought to himself, I will have to celebrate. For she had said yes, had agreed to be his wife - he didn’t know how to possibly begin celebrating such a thing, but he could see himself now finding it hard to sit still or sleep or - anything but wander the house in a daze.

A happy daze, to be sure. The anxiety would no doubt creep in again sooner rather than later - there was the wedding they were so casually speaking of, and the thought of actually meeting her parents in person after so long knowing her, and then there was telling people about the engagement and hoping Charity liked her and imagining what their life would be like once they were married - but at the moment it was all an impossible blur.

Except the expression on her face, which was more guileless or more gleeful than usual and made him want to smile all the more. “I -” Evander began, seeking some way to express the burst of something in his chest, but fell back upon a simpler sentiment. “I’m glad.” He smiled again, exhaling a little in another wave of relief. “I’m looking forward to it, actually.”

Maybe he was teasing her a little, again. He wasn’t sure. At any rate, he lifted a hand to her cheek and leant in to kiss her once more. After all, they were engaged; it was not so unthinkable now.




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