At the end of the street, right by a bus stop, is the first intact bench Dana has seen all day, empty and inviting in the light of the setting sun. She glances up and down the empty street, checking for any injured or trapped civilians, and when she spots none, she rushes over to the bench and sits with a heavy sigh. Constant and steady behind her is the beat of heavy footsteps. She waits until they’re closer before leaning back, stretching out her legs, and saying, “My aching feet! Finally, they get a break.”
The source of the footsteps comes into view now, setting his jacket and helmet on the far end of the bench. Carter looks as tired as she feels, but he’s smiling, laughing at her under his breath as she reaches over and pulls off her high-heeled shoes.
“Why did you even wear those?” he asks, sitting next to her.
Shrugging, she sets her shoes on the ground, between her feet and his. “Well, y’know, it’s not like I was expecting it to be the end of the world today.”
“You’re a doctor. An EMS specialist,” he states, grinning. “You can reasonably expect to be running around on shift.”
“Yes, and I had a moment of weakness!” Leaning back against the bench, she lifts up her feet and wiggles her toes. “I wanted to feel pretty on the job.”
“You always look pretty.” He reaches over and claps his hand on her shoulder, his smile goofy until their gazes meet and he says, voice soft and warm, “Once a Glitz Girl, always a Glitz Girl.”
She rolls her eyes, but she can’t fight back a smile. He’s put up with her puns all these years; she can hardly complain that his thing is finding chances to be sweet. “I appreciate that.”
Nodding, he pulls back his hand and sighs. “This is why I told you to always leave a pair of sneakers in the truck, by the way.”
“When you’re right, you’re right.”
They say nothing for a while, listening to the silence around them, the kind that hums with tension and fear and the trembling strength of the human spirit. It’s familiar to them. Even in smaller emergencies, it’s there in people’s eyes, in the slight tremor to their breath.
The last time either of them had witnessed destruction of this magnitude was when they’d been kids, practically, and they’d fought their arch nemesis back into the tomb from which she’d emerged. The city center had been blocked off for weeks, and the air had felt heavy with all the what-ifs on people’s minds. Back then, they’d known the threat had been vanquished.
Here, today, no one is sure of that, and the doubt of the whole world crackles like static in the atmosphere, threatening to blow at any moment.
“It feels different this time,” says Carter, his eyes unfocused as he stares at the street in front of them. “More imminent.”
“It feels like when you told us to seal the tomb with you still in it,” Dana tells him.
He takes and holds a breath at that, shutting his eyes against a memory that still haunts them both.
She places a hand on his, the gentle pressure of her fingers giving a silent apology.
A few moments later, they speak at the same time.
“You know what—”
“Hey, why don’t—”
They laugh, and she says, “You first.”
“No, you go ahead,” he insists, turning his hand so he is holding hers.
“I was just thinking,” she begins, shrugging. “It’s, what, the tenth apocalypse we’ve witnessed since we were active Rangers? And every time, I wonder, ‘Maybe this is it. Maybe this time, we’re done for.’ It never happens, but what if? You’re right, this does feel different. So I figured…” She takes a deep breath, meets his gaze—takes the chance. “How about we get married?”
He smiles, and she feels breathless as she waits, and then he shuts his eyes and snickers.
“Hey!” she gasps, caught between amused and appalled. She tries to pull back her hand, but he holds it tighter as he catches his breath.
“I’m sorry, I just—” He shakes his head and opens his eyes. “I was going to ask you the same thing.”
Now it’s her turn to laugh, even as she smacks him lightly in the arm with her free hand. “Rude. I thought my heart was going to stop!”
“I’m sorry,” he repeats, his shoulders still shaking with laughter.
A moment later, when they’ve both quieted down, her heartbeat quickens like on the first time they went out. “So is that a yes?”
“Of course, yes,” he tells her, leaning over for a quick kiss. When he pulls back, he slides an arm around her shoulders and tugs her closer.
Leaning against him, she rests her head on his shoulder and watches the setting sunlight paint the building across the street a darker shade of blue.
“I meant today, by the way,” she says about a minute later. “Because the world could end in, I don’t know, an hour. Anything’s possible.”
“All I can think of is the few churches we passed on the way here,” he remarks, and when she tilts her head to look at him, she finds he’s completely serious. “I don’t know, though. Don’t they want you to take a pre-marital seminar? I feel like that’s a thing.”
“I think they’d be willing to make an exception, you know, since the world might be ending.”
“Probably true, yeah.”
“And I mean, I know it doesn’t really matter, whether or not we’re married, because it’s been years, so I’m pretty sure this is a long-haul kind of deal, but—”
“I know.” He looks down at her, smiling, almost fifteen years of memories shining in his eyes. “We should probably tell your dad before we do anything, though. Hey, wait—is he the type of captain that can marry people?”
Sitting up straight, she frowns. “I don’t think so, but he must know someone who can.” Lifting up her morpher, she presses the right button and says, “Hey, Father?”
“Yes?” answers Captain Mitchell. “Everything all right at your location?”
“Yes. We’re at Myrtle and Second, and we need a favor.”
Taking Dana’s hand, Carter pulls her morpher close and says, “Do you know anyone who can marry us?”
“What?” asks another voice.
Dana and Carter exchange a glance. “Is that Angela?” asks Dana. “Father, are we on speaker right now?”
“Congratulations!” says Angela, behind whose elated exclamation is Captain Mitchell’s deep, slow laughter. “You see, Captain? I told you there’d be wedding bells soon.”
“More like wedding explosions,” remarks Carter.
“Anyway, do you know someone?” Dana asks.
“Head back to base,” Angela interrupts. “One of my techs is an ordained minister.”
“Really?” asks Captain Mitchell.
“We’re on our way,” Dana says, snickering, and closes the channel.
Carter stands and puts on his jacket and helmet as Dana reaches for her shoes, telling herself it will be worth the pain that putting them back on will cause. She starts to do just that when Carter swoops in and lifts her into his arms.
“Excuse me?” she demands, wide-eyed and laughing. “I thought this was supposed to happen after the ceremony.”
“You’ve worn those enough for one day,” he says as he starts the walk back to the truck. “And it’d be nice if you’re standing when we take our vows.”
Dana laughs, hooking one arm around his neck and holding her shoes with her free hand. “When you’re right, you’re right,” she says, and kisses his cheek.