Who: Taliesyn Robards, Romilda Vane
Where: The Spinks House
When: 9 May 2002, afternoon
This time he was really going to do it. He had to. He had thought about it long enough. If he didn’t do it anytime soon, he’d still be thinking about it until he did, and even if he made an executive decision to abandon the idea of marriage altogether, it would still linger, still fester, still haunt every interaction with Romilda from then on.
Luckily Tali had set it up so backing out would be much harder this time. He’s concocted a layered potion. All Romilda had to do was give it a stir and a message would appear. Truly, deciding what the message should be was the difficult part; the actual layering was simple. Just three insoluble potions in one — one for the base, one for the letters and one to cover it all up.
He’d poured his heart out — literally — before thinking it was too much and the letters would be too small and hard to read. So, he kept that simple as well — a couple of lines about why she was “the one”, a pledge of eternal devotion, and then… the question.
Tali supposed he could always elaborate vocally, if needed. (He hoped not.)
He paced around the room. Romilda would probably let herself in. He’d only said there was a potion he’d like her to examine when she got a chance. He was just beginning to worry he’d been too casual about it and she’d be annoyed about being lured in under a false pretence when Watson barked and ran for the front door.
Tali fought back a terrific urge to kick the cauldron over.
Romilda opened the front door carefully, wary that Watson might charge at her in his usual friendly way. That was the last thing she needed when she was carrying a smoothie that would stain her dress very easily. She took a slurp. Plus, it was really tasty and that would just be a waste of a perfectly good drink.
“Only me,” she called, making sure the door was shut behind her. No corgis escaping into the world to eat Merlin knows what today, thank you. As he was brewing a potion, she had a good idea where he would be, so she made her way through the house. “Hiya. Oh, I picked this up for you to try.” Romilda passed him a takeaway cup of one of Mattie’s organic, ethically sourced teas. “No idea what it’s like. Mattie recommended it.”
She slurped her smoothie. “So what’s going on with this potion, then?”
“Oh, thanks,” said Tali, voice a bit squeaky. He turned immediately pink and held the cup up high, trying to disguise his embarrassment by pretending his face was hot from tea steam. He sipped it.
“Very nice.” He was in no mood to make a proper judgment but it probably was nice. He would pass his compliments to Matilda regardless.
“Uh, um, it’s um… consistency. Consistency is inconsistent. It’s not smooth enough.”
“Maybe it has something to do with how you prepared the ingredients,” Romilda mused, peering at the contents of the cauldron and taking another small sip of her drink. From the colour alone she couldn’t tell what it was, though she might have taken a few educated guesses.
She picked up a wooden spoon, smiling over at Tali as she started to stir. “This isn’t just you being really fussy, is it?”
Oh god oh god oh god this was it.
“No,” he answered, barely audible. Should he kneel now? But he needed both hands free and he was still clutching the cup — luckily the heat reminded him it was full or he would’ve squeezed it till it crumpled.
“Just… just, well, you’ll see.”
Romilda was so puzzled by the pained look on Tali’s face — perhaps it was the tea, she thought — that she missed the words forming on the top of the brew until the colour had changed enough for her to notice it out of the corner of her eye.
She had to read it three times before it sank in. There was no mistaking the question. Will you marry me?
Her lips parted in surprise and awe and a dozen other emotions that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. But none of them made her want to fling her arms around him and shriek ‘yes’. So she knew her answer. She looked up at Tali with a shy smile. “I love you. And I’m not saying no, but… but I don’t think I can say yes yet.”
Tali had gotten rid of the cup — probably the first person ever to chug tea — and had his hands on his precious, meticulously cleaned ring when Romilda answered.
Well, it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either…? There was both a yes and a no in there. But in what order or fashion… He tried to recall her exact, exact words and drew a blank. It was like they flew right over his head. Probably his brain trying to protect his heart from harm, he thought glumly.
“So. Um. Alright. OK. Well. I’ll just put this away, shall I?” Back into the pocket it went.
“Why— no, it’s fine, don’t answer that. It doesn’t matter.”
“Oh, Tali.” Romilda let the spoon fall against the side of the cauldron with a thunk. She hurried to put her smoothie down somewhere, anyway, and reached to catch his wrist as it went to his pocket. But with her hand holding his arm she wasn’t quite sure what to do.
She sighed, stepping closer. “I can answer it. It does matter. I mean, it’s our future, isn’t it?” Romilda frowned, loosening her hold on him a little. “I want to be with you and I see a future with you, but I like my life how it is right now. I’m not ready to get married.”
That all made perfect sense. Tali’s feelings were still hurt though, ’cause feelings were a bitch.
“Sure, sure, sure. Of course. Yeah. Sure. I get it. It’s fine. It’s fine.” He took advantage of her slackened grip to ease the ring away, wishing he had a bottomless pocket so he could drop it in and never see it again.
“Don’t worry, you wouldn’t want it anyway,” he assured her with the barest of smiles, remembering what Dorothy had said. “It’s taken a trip through Watson. Forget about it.”
“It…” Romilda gasped. “Oh, Merlin. That was what he swallowed the other night at dinner. No wonder you were so stressed.” She kissed him quickly, breaking away with a soft laugh and resting her forehead against his. “Stupid dog. I suppose that when I do finally accept that ring we’ll have quite the story to tell people.”
She sighed again, not wanting to move away from this closeness but also aware that Tali might want some time to himself right now. “I might say yes in a few months,” she murmured, not able to meet his eyes. “It’s our anniversary in November.”
“Yeah, sure,” said Tali, though it was mostly a moot point because once bitten, twice never again.
“I mean, even if you… it didn’t mean we have to straightaway. It could be two years. Three. Five. Ten. But it’s cool. I respect your wishes.” He patted her arm in an awkward sympathetic fashion.
Romilda looked down at her arm where he patted her, then up at his face. Okay… she needed to give him some space to not-sulk. But not before pointing out the obvious to him. “As if your mother would let us be engaged for five years without nagging us down the aisle.” A frustrated noise escaped her and she took a step back.
She exhaled. “Tali, I just… I don’t know what to say right now. Should I leave?” She’d never been in this situation before and she was damned if she knew what to do.
“Well we just wouldn’t tell her then,” Tali muttered under his breath. He sighed. She made very reasonable points and he really wanted to give them their proper due, but he couldn’t help how he felt and right now he was simply depressed about everything.
“You can leave if you want. I got you here under a false pretence and I’m afraid…” he sighed again, “I will probably be very poor company. Sorry. Sorry to be a downer. Sorry.”
“Don’t say sorry. Please.” Romilda glanced at the cauldron where his heartfelt message still shimmered on the surface of the liquid. “This was perfect. But I wasn’t.” She kissed him on the cheek, sad in a way that she couldn’t explain. “I’ll go. But I’ll see you soon, okay?”
He nodded mutely.