For Richer, For Poorer

DISCLAIMER: These characters don't belong to me. But if anyone's wondering what I want for my birthday...

Logan knew he was in trouble from the moment he stepped into their one-room apartment. The rich aromas of dinner assaulted his senses. Ribs, they were having ribs. Ribs *and* chicken. Ever since they'd moved out of the mansion so Marie could attend a four-year university, they'd been living on a budget. On ordinary days, they couldn't afford ribs. Not that they minded being on a tight income. Neither of them had what you would call expensive tastes, and they loved the independence this life afforded them, but two kinds of meat at dinner meant this must be a very special occasion. A very special occasion that he must have forgotten about.

'Ok, think, Logan. Anniversary? No that's in August. Birthday? Nope. Marie's birthday's on July 24. Think! Holidays? What holidays are in May?... Nothing! Well, maybe Memorial Day, but that doesn't rate a fancy dinner.'

"Logan?" Marie's voice called from the bedroom.

"Yeah, darlin'?"

"Would you set the table? I'll be out in a minute."

He opened the cabinet and retrieved the plates. Walking around the corner to the living/dining room he discovered freshly-cut flowers in a vase as a centerpiece. They were those small roses Marie liked so much with those weedy-looking sprigs that always came with fresh flowers.

Flowers? When did they ever have flowers? Flowers that she bought instead of him.

Hell! He was screwed. This had to be huge. Marie's graduation wasn't for another month, so it couldn't be that...

His train of thought derailed in a fiery explosion as Marie exited the bedroom. She was in *the* dress. Red, strapless, short, showing way too much deadly skin than was healthy. It was her favorite dress, and heaven help him, it was his, too.

"Hi, sugah. Good day at work?"

He nodded dumbly, her rich, silky words rushing through him without stopping at his brain. She said something, and he nodded. She said something else and he nodded again.

"Really?" she asked, surprised.

What? He'd nodded at something. What had she said? Dammit! He couldn't remember. It wasn't fair; she knew what that dress did to him!

"Uh... how was class?"

She looked at him strangely. "Fine... I wish it were June and finals were behind me, but... we weren't talking about class."

"Yeah, uh, I was just wonderin', though."

"Ok... I'll get dinner on the table. It should be just about done."

"I'll help."

"No," Marie said, then looking at the table, she changed her mind. "Well, you could finish setting the table. It'd be nice to have glasses and silverware to eat with."

She smiled and walked into the kitchen. He followed, trying to keep his eyes on the walls, on the countertop, anywhere but on Marie. When she was in that dress, he handled it like he would looking at the sun. Looking directly at her for a long period of time wasn't a good idea. Not if they were going to eat dinner before it got cold. She was too radiant, too breathtaking. Instead, he took glances every once in a while out of the corner of his eye, trying to stay focused on the task she'd assigned him. He had pulled open a drawer when she spoke again.

"No, Logan. Use the good silverware, ok?"

The *good* silverware had been one of the many wedding presents they'd received two years ago. They never used the good silverware except on their anniversary, Christmas, and Marie's birthday.

That was the final straw. He had no idea what was going on, but it was big. He wanted to just ask Marie and get it over with, but if he came right out and asked, she would know that he didn't know and that would hurt her. It was his life's mission not to hurt Marie. How was he going to do this?

"Do you like the flowers?" Marie asked, walking up behind him with a pan of ribs.

"Yeah. They're your favorites."

"Baby roses and baby's breath," Marie said with a little sigh.

After a few more trips back and forth to the kitchen, they finally had the table set and dinner arranged. Marie said grace and then they started to serve each other.

"This all looks delicious, Marie. Chicken and ribs."

"Stuffed chicken and baby back ribs," she corrected.

"Well, anyway, it smells great." Looking at the other bowls on the table, he saw vegetables, recognizable although much smaller than he was used to.

"Peas and carrots?"

"Baby sweet peas and baby carrots," Marie corrected again. "Oh," she added, reaching to pick up something from the empty chair next to her. "I thought we'd have dessert, too."

"Candy bars?"

"Candy bars can be dessert. Besides, they're Baby Ruth candy bars."

Ok, now he was getting really suspicious. "Marie, is it just me or are you saying the word 'baby' a lot?"

Marie looked up at him, a broad smile brightening her features until her face practically shone.

"It's not just you, sugah," she said in a voice almost tinkling with happiness.

He couldn't speak. He tried; his jaw moved and his lips formed words, but no sound came out. Finally, he stuttered, "Ya... you're... a baby?"

She nodded, that smile still shining, "A baby."

"A... but, how?"

Marie's smile changed to a wry grin. "Well, you see, Logan. When a man and a woman love each other very much, they..."

"I know *how*," he interrupted. "I mean... with us and our... well, the way we... how?"

"You know, I asked the pharmacist that very question, and do you know what he told me? He said condoms are only 97 percent effective. I guess we fell into the three percent."

"A baby?"

Marie nodded, "A baby."

"I'm going to be a father?" he asked, still in shock from the revelation. A baby, an innocent someone who would be affected by everything he did and didn't do for the rest of its life. There was so much potential for screwing up!

"You'll be a great father," Marie said, as if sensing his fears. "But me, someone's momma?"

"Hey now," he said, pulling on his gloves and reaching across the table to clasp both her hands. "This baby's gonna be the luckiest person in the world *because* you're it's mother."

"But what if... with my skin..."

"Hey, we'll work it out. We've worked it out with us, right?" At her nod, he continued. "Then there's nothing to be worried about." After a moment's pause, he asked, "So, when're we gonna meet this little person?"

"I don't know. Guess I'll have to go see a doctor," Marie replied.

"You haven't seen a doctor yet?" Logan asked, tension creeping into his voice.

Marie sighed. "Well, there is that whole skin issue. I don't know of a Doctor in Massachusetts that I could see."

"What about Jeanie or Hank? We could drive down tomorrow. If we start early, we could be there..."

"Whoa, I have finals, remember? Besides, three more weeks won't make much difference either way." Then, after a thoughtful pause, she added, a little hesitantly, "If we do go to Hank or Jean, we'll have to move. I know how much you like living on our own, but..."

"Come here," Logan said, pulling on her arms so that she walked around the table and sat in his lap. "We'll move back to the mansion. That's fine. I can teach again, rejoin the team."

"But you love your job."

Logan stroked her cheek, comfortingly. "It's not like I can't handcraft furniture in New York as well as I can in Massachusetts, but what about you, darlin'?"

"It's not like I can't write in New York, plus I'll probably offer to teach English if the professor'll have me."

"He'd be crazy not to."

"Oh, Logan," she said, nuzzling his shoulder. "We're really going to do this. We're gonna have a little defenseless child who'll look to us for absolutely everything. I mean, it's unbelievable."

"I hear they grow out of that, darlin'. Besides, with you as it's mother, I'm sure it'll grow up fine."

She leaned back, positively beaming, and dammit if that dress wasn't even shorter when she was sitting down. Now that she wasn't upset anymore, he allowed his eyes to wander and then his hands followed suit.

"Dinner'll get cold," she warned, her voice already growing husky.

"Let it," he replied, dropping a hand to his back pocket where he always kept a silk handkerchief for just such an occasion. Bringing it up to her face, he leaned in to kiss her when the egg timer started buzzing in the kitchen. She immediately pulled back and started to get up.

"What's the timer for, Marie?"

"Well, uh," she started, nervously pulling at her dress. "I wasn't sure how quickly you'd catch on to the whole dinner/message concept, so I, uh... I left some buns in the oven."

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