Rick was not a fan of mornings.
He had already woken up just moments before, but even with the sun warming his skin, he didn’t want to open his eyes. Mornings were too bright and loud, making him burrow his face deeper in the satin pillowcases with a rumbling groan, wishing that he was dead to the world. The JSA knew all too well how grumpy he was in the morning, downright feral when he was forced awake. Mike still had the scratch marks on his nose to prove it.
(There was a reason that Yolanda called him a low blood pressure demon. It always made Courtney complain that Mike had corrupted his sister-in-law after one too many anime marathons, much to his amusement.)
Ironic, he thought as the corner of his mouth curled up, considering he married someone who was pure sunshine.
Beth was the only one who never faced the low blood pressure demon, coaxing him with nuzzles and the occasional tickle fight until he opened his eyes, docile as a cat purring in contentment. Court and Yolanda swore it was nothing short of witchcraft, but Pat was a little more romantic with his thinking, stating that Beth had grown into her power over Rick after being together for so long. But she was away at a medical conference this week, leaving her side of the bed empty and cool and it was enough for him to wilt.
It wasn’t as if they had no contact with each other. Beth’s habit of video calling at all hours and texting pictures of every single thing she found interesting hadn’t changed a bit (he was still bewildered at the video she sent of her being surrounded by a pack of Rottweilers pawing at her for attention) and he was always ready to listen, fully aware of the lovesick smile on his face the entire time.
It still wasn’t the same as her being home with their friends and family, with him.
The loneliness was starting to play tricks on his mind, swearing that he felt the mattress shift under him, as if his wife had slipped into bed with him. But he kept waking up alone, reaching for someone who wasn’t even there, and he wanted and wanted and wanted.
God, when did he become such a sap?
But that was the effect that Beth Chapel had on everyone.
Rick barely stirred as a comforting weight draped over him, unconsciously seeking out satiny warmth and wanting to bury his nose in the crook of her neck as the scent of shea and cocoa butter enveloped him. He hugged her close to him, a shiver running through him as warm breath fanned over his skin. If that wasn’t a sign that he was on the verge of waking up for real, the soft lips trailing kisses everywhere they could reach were.
“Rick. Riiiiccckk,” a familiar voice sing-songed as he felt a pair of warm lips nuzzling against his, never really touching. “C’mon honey, open your eyes.”
“Don’t want to,” he groused, his heart stuttering in his chest as he tightened his hold around her. “If I open ‘em, you’ll be gone.”
“That’s not gonna happen,” she insisted, pouting against his lips. “I won’t disappear.”
“Will—wow,” he let out a huff of laughter, a smile curving against her skin. “We’re really arguing about your existence right now.”
There was a pair of sparkling brown eyes peering at him when he finally drummed up the courage to open his eyes. Beth had started growing her hair out over the past year, the tight coils fanning out like a little halo around her head, but she was still as beautiful as she was on their wedding day.
“Morning, Rick,” she whispered, nearly giddy with happiness, wanting nothing more than to cuddle with her husband after a week of presentations and networking.
“Hi, sweetheart,” he rasped as she plopped down next to him in the bed.
He cupped her cheek as he brought her in for an achingly tender kiss, humming a welcome home as she smiled against his mouth, her gentle hands cradling his jawline.
“Still don’t think I’m real?”
Her nose bumped against his playfully as she giggled, brighter than the sun in a yellow cotton dress that always reminded Rick of the stars from Barbara’s collection of old Hollywood movies, the little gold butterflies on the delicate choker around her neck chiming as she tangled the fingers of his free hand with hers. There was a gentle glint as the sunlight reflected off her wedding ring, a string of emeralds in a half eternity band that reflected the woman wearing it.
(His own ring seemed plain in comparison, but Rick had spent the better part of a weekend at the Pit Stop, painstakingly engraving until his hands were ready to fall off. The end result was an hourglass interlocked with a crescent moon, Hourman and Dr Mid-Nite bound together. The symbol made Beth smile whenever she would play with his ring.)
He hummed as his lips curled into a smile, quick and teasing.
“I’m starting to come around.”
A hand stroked down her lower back as Rick pulled her closer, shifting a little to get more comfortable before nuzzling the crook of her neck. A breathless giggle escaped Beth as she tried to squirm away and it gave him an evil, evil idea.
“Remind me again, where are you ticklish?”
“No no no,” she scolded in between choked laughter, eyes wide when she realized what he was about to do, “Rick, don’t play dirty—”
Too late, he had already pounced and Beth found herself laughing hysterically, her arms curled around his shoulders as he planted big sloppy kisses everywhere he could reach. They were tangled up with each other as she bided her time, waiting for the moment that Rick was more than a little distracted by how they were so intimately pressed together before—
Beth grinned down at a breathless Rick as he found himself flat on his back without warning, straddling him as she tickled him mercilessly. His head fell back against the pillows, chest heaving as he laughed and laughed, open and carefree and it was like they were fifteen again, back to when she would cajole him into waking up, not realizing that he had woken up halfway and was looking at her in amusement.
Seeing Rick like this, messy hair falling over his forehead and his gaze soft and hooded, a breathtaking smile on his face before he surged up for another kiss…
That was when Beth knew she was home.