Falling.... Hook, Line, and Sinker.

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Delicate, final steps.

“What are we going to do now, Malcolm?”

We?

He sighed heavily and touched her gently by her face. His touch, and the way he was looking at her told her everything. She knew what he wanted to do--she wanted to do that too-- but neither of them had the confidence enough to take it there so soon.

He stayed with what he knew. “I’ll finish what I’m doing here. There are still some tricky things to do. Your hand will be next. I still have one hook to snip there, to free it.”

That, maybe hadn’t been what she’d been asking, but he had to deal with what was on his immediate time horizon before he could allow himself the luxury of giving free rein to his feelings where she was concerned.

“After that I’ll get the remaining hooks.”

He wasn’t going to dwell on the difficulties there, either, not with the trickiest part of all, still to do.

One step at a time.

“When I get your hand bandaged, and the rest of it, done, then I’ll see to this sunburn.” It would be yet another delightful challenge. “You might not be able to rest until I do, but I can get started on that, before we leave here.”

She would have a restless night anyway, so she’d have to go back with him, or he would have to stay here with her. However, that had already been decided by his mother.

He moistened some paper towelling under the tap and laid the cool sheets over the redness on her upper body. It was almost a travesty to be hiding her breasts away like that. He could have studied them forever, as he’d always wanted to.

Doing that, provided some immediate relief for her.

“I’ll smooth a moisturizer gel over the affected areas once I finish with these hooks. I don’t see any obvious blistering, so it may not be so bad.” It would still have to be dealt with.

“After that, what are we going to do?” She was trying to lead him on... even, astray. The question, and the way she asked it, were loaded with promise. The were both of them feeling breathless with excitement and both, were flushed and getting more confident with each other.

He answered his own question.

“As much as I… as we…” He looked at her steadily, giving voice to what they both were thinking, though without putting it into actual words.

“As much as… no matter how we are feeling about each other, after such a painful separation, I shouldn’t take advantage of you like that. I can’t. Not while I am your attending physician. I am wearing the wrong hat. But once I turn you over to my mother, and you are in her care, then, 'look out', and we can have this long overdue conversation between us, and reach an understanding, you and I, about the future. Our future. Unless I am seeing things wrong and moving too fast.” As he would always want to do. He knew that he wasn’t too fast about anything, but he needed some reassurance.

There would be a lot more happen than a simple conversation.

She comforted him.

“You are not misunderstanding anything, Malcolm.” He was glad to hear that. “Then that’s settled. We’ll make love before we leave here.” There, she'd said what he'd been aching to do for a long time.

This was already moving well beyond what he could ever have believed possible, and she was the one directing it… as she always would have been, had they ever met. She had always been far more precocious than he had been; her writing had said as much, but he'd constantly had to hold himself back.

He daren’t think about it.

He injected more of the lidocaine, and then snipped the one remaining connection between her left hand and her abdomen, lifting her hand slowly away and resting it, palm up, on the table beside her. There had been only three, multipronged hooks that had dug in. It was better than he’d expected.

After a little, gentle, persuasion, he removed those from her abdomen, and then started on those in her hand as she watched him, knowing exactly how her body, and her confidence, was affecting him.

He was in a routine now, so the few remaining barbs would be soon gone, and her hand could be looked after properly, and bandaged.

She watched him take even more care over her hand. Those hooks had been fairly-deeply embedded.

He didn’t leave her hand to the last, as he’d anticipated. There was an even more tricky place to deal with as a last step, and that would unnerve him enough. Getting them out of her... down there.

When they got back home, he’d X-ray her hand and abdomen and make sure there were no hidden surprises; bits of hook that he’d missed.

He laid more moist towelling under her breasts and across her abdomen as he worked down her body.

He was perspiring. The late afternoon sun was beating into the house from the west, and was heating the roof space above them, with the heat radiating down upon them, but that wasn’t all of it.

The most personal and delicate part of the process remained. He would need to survive that.

He became conscious that she had her hand holding at the top of his shorts, holding him close to her as he leaned over her. She closed her eyes for a few moments, almost scared to let go of him, and have this wonderful dream disappear.

He saw that she had her eyes closed.

“Are you okay?” He hoped he hadn’t overmedicated her, but he knew that he hadn’t.

“Yes, but I’ll be glad when it’s over.” He seconded that.

“Not far to go.” A few more minutes would see it completed, and then he could explore other possibilities with her. Exciting possibilities.

He paused and decided that he could share a particularly intriguing thought with her.

“For this next step, in some eastern societies that are very protective of their women, if anything like this happened to a woman, the physician... if he was a man...and he usually was... would need to marry her first, in order that he could do what was needed, even before he was allowed to begin, and then he would divorce her afterward, by simply saying, I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you… three times.” The magic of three. “It was all done amicably, and with the approval of her family. No damage was done to either party. Honor was preserved. Proprieties were protected, and everyone was happy.”

He smiled at her with what felt like a silly grin, on his face. He wasn't even sure if any of that was as accurate a situation as he was suggesting.

“At least that’s my version of it. It may not be true, but it sounds plausible, and in theory, it dealt with an otherwise, thorny problem.”

She had never heard of that.

He looked at her pointedly.

“So, my once lost love (he could become more outspoken now), will you marry me in that way, even if it isn’t valid?”

She smiled at him, pleasantly surprised.

“Yes. I will. I was never totally lost to you, Malcolm; just temporarily out of your way; displaced. I think I always knew that your mother would move heaven and earth to get us back together. She once told me that, knowing how hurtful and frustrating it was for us both. She and I always stayed in touch with each other. She told me of your progress in medical school and interning, and I suspect she told you a few things about me too.”

She had.

“And she did, arrange this so well. I will marry you this time, on one condition, Malcolm, maybe two.”

“Which is? Ask, and it shall be granted.” She would be asking a lot of him, along those same lines in a very short time, and before they left here.

“That we skip the divorce afterward, and that we never separate like that again.” She wasn’t asking too much. Not now.

“Done. I planned on skipping that step anyway, and now that we’ve found each other again, and know what we know about how we feel, I will not easily be separated from you again. My mother may object, but this is one issue that I will not give up on.”

“And how will you marry me at this moment?” What did she think he had in mind?

“That’s what I’m not sure about. In the absence of a cleric, I think that all it takes is that we agree, verbally, to marry each other. I could be wrong.”

Did it matter?

He cleared his throat, and picked up her right hand.

“Cassie Sinclair, will you marry me, according to god’s law, as we both so desperately need?”

Desperate, was only a word, and it didn't convey even one tenth part, of what he was feeling for her.

Her eyes sparkled. She liked how this was going, even if it wouldn’t go far enough... just yet.

’Malcolm George Robertson, I will marry you. And thank you for asking.”

He became serious as he temporarily put another hat upon his head.

“I now pronounce us, husband and wife, but I doubt it would stand up in a court of law.”

It didn’t have to.

He leaned in and kissed her again.

He liked kissing her. She liked to be kissed.

“Is that it, Malcolm? Is that all?”

What else did she expect?

“For the moment, it is.”

He moved a kitchen chair up to the bottom of the table and sat down, with his hands touching gently, just inside her knees.

“Now, my love, I need to make a very indelicate suggestion to you, my wife of a few minutes.” Her eyes sparkled as she waited to see how he would broach this last and most revealing stage.

“May I request, my love, that you put your legs apart for me, if you can. Just for me, please.” He doubted many newly-wedded couples would even need to ask, or would even ask so politely.

He smiled charmingly up at her.

“I used to fantasize about asking you to do this, so that we could do something else together like this, but we were never able to get together, to put it into practice.” He was revealing too much.

She giggled nervously. “Malcolm. I thought you’d never ask.”

He groaned as he saw her comply, albeit slowly and even shyly.

“A little more please. Even a lot more. Wide apart, but do it slowly in case there is anything snagging on both sides.”

There wasn’t.

“And, wider.”

He tried to smile at her.

“Vision of the promised land. I hope I can survive this.”

She giggled nervously and did so, putting her legs farther apart for him, as he helped her, looking closely at those hooks, and at her, where he had never seen her before, but where he had often imagined himself to be.

He wanted to lean in and kiss her there, but that might take her too much off guard and have her bring her legs together again, except she wouldn’t be able to do that, with him moving into that space.

She heard one loose fishhook drop to the table as he moved even closer to her. That one had just been sitting there, resting upon her legs.

He’d better watch what he said.

She felt him touch her inner thigh, and then felt a single sharp pinprick as he put a little pressure on her leg. A second hook, hung up on her leg, had barely touched at her and had been easily lifted off with the slightest of catching at her skin.

“Sorry.”

His head dropped to the side of her leg. He was overcome with suppressed emotion, seeing her there for the first time after so long.

He looked up at her, watching him, seeing his expression. He wasn’t as detached as he should have been.

“I waited ten years for this. I used to dream of coming down to your bedroom one night, and crawling slowly up under the covers to get where I am now… between your legs. I so much wanted to make love to you. And then, in my mind, I would slowly move higher to kiss your naval, your breasts, and then you. By then, however, it would have been game… very much ‘on’, and my mother would never have been able to stop us then, or pry us apart.

“We could have got an early start on our life together… except.”

Except for his mother listening for him walking those twenty paces to her bedroom and doing that.

Had he ever done that, his mother would have thrown him out of the house, banishing him forever.

He was glad it had never happened now, but it had been a close-run thing when that mood of utter desperation had come over him.

He looked up at her pleadingly, blinking perspiration out of his eyes.

She picked up the bikini bottom from the table beside her, and wiped over his forehead with it, before he went after two other hooks that he knew were in that hair, moving even closer to her to do that. He didn’t want to hurt her at this moment.

If anyone walked in on them now….

She felt his extreme frustration. It matched her own.

She heard other fishhooks drop into the metal tray, and then felt and heard him spraying a disinfectant on her.

He looked up at her, relief in his eyes.

“All done, my love.” He stood up from her and sat beside her on the table, leaning back against the wall, pulling her into his side, as she put her legs slowly back together again.

“How do you feel?”

“Much better than I did. Thank you.”

“Not too shocked or embarrassed?”

“No. No more than a little embarrassed now. Just relieved.”

“That it’s over?”

“No, not that so much, though I am relieved about that. I am more reassured about us, and how we feel about each other now, in a way that I wasn’t fully sure about before.”

His mother’s open conversation of a few minutes earlier, about what she had seen happening between them, had brought them closer together. His mother would probably never know how she had helped them move forward.

She snuggled closer to him and kissed him under his ear, confident where this would go now.

“Now that we are married… I suppose… will you make love to me now, Malcolm? I know you want to. I wanted you to do that years ago too. No one would know. I wouldn’t say anything.”

He sighed.

“I would so much like to, Cassie, but I may not.” He’d already explained that.

“Who would know, apart from us?” She continued to try and persuade him.

“We, you and I, would know. I would feel… it would not feel right, just yet, but soon, it will. Let me turn you over into my mother’s care, first. Then, tonight, sometime, we’ll be able to get back to this moment, once mother retires and goes to sleep. I’ll need to be close to you all night anyway. I’ll explain it that way. I don’t want to lose you again.”

“Promise?”

He nodded. “I promise.” He kissed the top of her head and then her, as she turned her face up to be kissed again.

“We can kiss, even though a doctor is not supposed to kiss his patients. I still have my doctor’s hat on, don’t forget. Although, I suppose we could technically argue, that you were giving me mouth to mouth resuscitation after my heart stopped with the excitement and shock of meeting you again, and what I had to do to help you in your naked state, and you were reviving me, or vice versa… I was reviving you.”

“Will you ever get rid of that doctor’s hat, Malcolm?” It had almost been lost, several times as he had worked on her.

“The minute I turn you over to my mother… it will be gone. Now, all I have to do is to check that I got everything, give you a longer acting sedative to help with the discomfort, and give you a shot of an antibiotic to counter any awkward bacteria that invaded your body.

“I, am the only one allowed to do that… invade your body… now that we are married.”

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