A/N: This was supposed to be posted before this beautiful show closed a few weeks ago, but I never got around to it. It's a missing scene that takes place during Liz's part in Surprise at the end of the first act. The characters are only mine to play with. Reviews and feedback are most welcome.
Make a Wish
"Cake, everyone! Here we come!" Josh bellowed as he balanced the cake in one hand, holding on to the rail with the other. Soon enough she lost him in a crowd of enthusiastic party guests. She heard him calling out for her, but didn't push her way through. Despite her giddiness, she made her way slowly up the stairs. Their brief exchange had left her mostly distracted. She just wanted to get the party over with and have everyone go home so they could have a proper discussion about this.
She was anxious before Josh's arrival, and despite his reassurances, she wasn't feeling any calmer. She had shifted into autopilot, smiling at everyone who wished her happy birthday without really seeing who was addressing her. The party became a blur of faces and voices, and it had a dizzying affect. She couldn't even blame it on the alcohol, because she wasn't drinking. She sighed wistfully. She would have killed for some bourbon.
It was chilly on the rooftop, and she held her jacket closer against her for the little warmth it could offer. Kate was waving at her; she smiled at her absentmindedly and let her eyes wander. Her gaze fell on Josh, across the roof with David and Lucas, and she eyed him with envy. He seemed completely unfazed by the news. He still carried himself with this ease and grace she had loved about him since day one. It filled her with irrational irritation. How was it possible he wasn't scared shitless about this, about what it meant? He said it felt right and in some strange way it did. But that didn't mean she was ready to become a mother, to be someone's parent. Was he?
"Liz!" She blinked, and everything swam back into focus. Anne was standing right in front of her, eyeing her with concern. "Are you okay?"
"Fine," she replied dismissively as Anne pulled her into the crowd. "What's up?"
"We're all ready for you," said Anne, gesturing at Kate and Josh. The cake, on a small table in front of them, was on fire, or so it seemed. Only when she approached them, she realized it was because it was completely covered with candles.
"Guys, what the fuck?" she laughed, looking up at her friends.
"Thirty nine candles, Liz, I know how you like candles," replied Josh, beaming at her.
An arm snaked around her waist. She didn't need to turn to know who it was. "Make a wish," said Lucas, his lips close to his ear. She could smell the alcohol on his breath. She breathed in longingly.
"And hurry. So many candles means that all this wax is ruining a perfectly good chocolate cake," said Kate, winking at her. She knew Kate had probably secretly found Josh's initiative charming. He just couldn't go wrong in her eyes. She had still held herself responsible for them ending up together, and she let neither of them forget it.
She rolled her eyes. "A wish? Really? Are we eight?"
"Don't be a party pooper, Liz, bring it!" Kate ordered. She strode forward, and in one swift motion tore her out of Lucas' grip and pulled her closer to the cake. From the corner of her eye, she noticed David turn on a camera. At the sight of a glare forming on Kate's face, she held back her protest.
Josh reached for her hand. His eyes were gleaming, pleading with her to play along. A soft sound escaped her, and she nodded, relenting. With Kate around, playing along was the only option. Still holding on to his hand, she closed her eyes and thought.
What should she wish for? Should it be a triviality, or something more profound? Maybe if she had taken this tradition more seriously in the past, her life would have been less of a mess at present.
That I would have no morning sickness? Or stretch marks? Was that even legit?
She opened her eyes. Only a few seconds passed. Everyone was looking at her expectantly. Josh squeezed her hand as if he thought she might change her mind, and she squeezed back reassuringly. A secret smile passed between them, and for the first time the thought of the imminent future didn't freak her out. It was nice to share something most of their friends had been unaware of yet. It was funny. Her mind was in complete disarray, but with him looking at her the way he did, she felt strangely grounded.
And then she just knew what she was supposed to wish for. It was an easy one, really.
I wish I would do it right this time.
They all broke into applause as she blew over the burning cake. Josh held her close; she could feel his lips press against the top of her head. One of his hands, the one which wasn't holding hers, found its way to her stomach and rested against it. Kate seemed to be the only one who had caught the subtle motion and raised an eyebrow, but she ignored her friend's wordless inquiry.
She turned to place a kiss on Josh's lips, and it suddenly dawned on her. Of course she would do it right this time. He was right. As was Kate, apparently. This was meant to be. Beyond the doubts and apprehension, this revelation couldn't have been clearer; it was impossible to shake off.
"What?" Josh asked her, and she realized she was smiling.
"I just realized I asked for the wrong thing. You can't ask for something you already have."
His smile widened as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. He managed to mouth I love you before Kate interfered again. "It's time to take some pictures!"
She posed for pictures with the cake and her friends and let Kate drag her from one corner of the roof to the next. A few bites of cake and dozens of photos later, she was amazed to discover she was actually enjoying herself. Earlier she was so adamant about getting the party over with so that she and Josh could talk, but the truth was there was not much to talk about. Her epiphany of sorts left her uncharacteristically confident. She was able to do anything, including going through a pregnancy at thirty nine, so long as he was there beside her.
She found Josh eventually, leaning against the rail, looking out at the city. Skyscrapers towered from each and every direction, their windows glowing white and gold and yellow in the darkness of the night. In her eyes there was nothing more beautiful. She remembered all those evenings in Phoenix, sipping wine on the balcony, yearning to be surrounded by this very view.
As if sensing her presence, he suddenly turned, and smiled at her when their eyes met. "It's quite something, isn't it?" he asked as she leaned on the rail next to him.
"Really is," she agreed, wondering if he, too, was missing it during his tours. Funny. For all the times she felt she had known everything about him, there was still so much to uncover.
He threw a look from over his shoulder, at their friends. "It doesn't seem the cake had the desirable affect. Everyone is still here."
"I know," she chuckled, remembering their initial scheme to use the cake to send everyone away. "But that's okay."
He seemed surprised. "Is it?"
"Yeah," she nodded. He said nothing, but he was obviously waiting for her to continue. "I think we should do this."
He eyed her carefully. "We should…"
"See this through."
It felt strange to speak out the words. He seemed equally overwhelmed to hear them. He shook his head. "Liz – "
"I love you," she cut him off. He mustn't think she was giving in to him because he had obviously wanted it so much. He must know she had wanted it too. "I'm almost forty. I may never get a chance like this again. Besides, I think it might be like Kate said. Maybe… it's a sign."
He laughed softly. "Elizabeth Vaughan, did you really just say that?"
She mock frowned. "If you repeat it to anyone I'll just say you're delusional."
His laugher was louder now, wilder. His eyes were still gleaming as she wrapped her arms around his neck. She hardly felt the chill anymore. Standing there with the man she loved, in this beautiful night that held so many promises all of a sudden, there was nothing she wanted to do more than lean over and kiss him.
The flashing light came out of nowhere, startling both of them.
"Got you!" David rejoiced, lowering his camera.
She was still blinking, trying to clear her vision from this persistent white light, as her mind registered what she thought she'd heard Josh say not three seconds before. She turned to face him, now staring at him as the whiteness gradually dissolved. He seemed shaken by David's appearance, but undeterred. Neither of them had spoken yet, or acknowledged David, who suddenly seemed to realize that.
"Unless I'm interrupting something here?" he asked; a slow, sneaky grin began to curl on his lips.
"As a matter of fact, you are," Josh muttered, not taking his eyes off her, as if to ensure he still had her attention. And he had it, alright. She still wasn't sure she'd heard him correctly. She must have, though, or he wouldn't have looked at her so pleadingly, still awaiting her reply.
There were two possible answers, yes or no. Two possible roads her life could take. But wasn't that the very thing that had pulled her away from New York City in the first place? Could she possibly make the exact same mistake again? Had she learned nothing? Who's to say she wouldn't repeat each and every step that had eventually brought her back here all those months ago? Who's to say this time wouldn't be just another failure?
As though he could read the doubts in her expression, Josh shook his head, smiling. "You never know," were his soft words, a reminder; and of course, he was right. Coming back here, newly divorced, she had never believed she would have another chance at happiness, and then he came along, and with him all these opportunities to turn her life around. A baby, their baby, and now this. If she had wished that things would be better this time around, there was only one option available, really.
"Umm, guys? Really, I can come back later – "
"Wait," she said, still not tearing her eyes away from Josh. She laughed softly at the tension in his gaze, then threw David a look. He looked somewhat uncomfortable, still trying to work out if the scene unfolding before him was the thing he had thought it was, or something completely different. She took a deep breath. She could do this. It was easy, really. "You won't get a better photo op than this."
Josh's eyes widened as realization quickly sank in. "Do you mean..." his voice trailed off, as if he didn't dare to complete the thought. She found his speechlessness endearing. Her smile got an inch wider.
"Yes. I'll marry you."
She was barely aware of David's loud squeal, the flash blinding her again, or their friends suddenly all around them once they realized what had just happened. There was nothing in that moment but the man she loved and the city she adored, and one revelation that couldn't have been clearer. She was thirty nine but none the wiser, but it didn't really matter. She didn't need to be wise; she just needed to believe and pull through and everything would sort itself out because she had him.
Looking back at this moment, it feels as though ages have elapsed. What naivety to believe such a silly notion. Five years later and she still isn't wiser, and all alone, no longer a believer.
She wears his dog tag around her neck; the metal feels cold against her chest. The flag is neatly folded in her arms. Her fingers dig into the fabric; all she really wants is tearing the damned thing to shreds, but she doesn't dare to. There are just too many people around. She stares at the ground, at the freshly covered grave, without really seeing it, because all she can see are images of that night when she chose to be with him for the rest of their lives, the night when she wished things would be better this time around.
Not quite what I had in mind, thanks, she lets out a bitter chuckle, watching her icy breath float in the air for a second before it too is gone. She shakes her head. Gone. It will take some time to get used to.
She reaches for her pocket and finds the photo. It's the one David took that evening, a spare copy she has kept in her purse while the other one is framed on the mantelpiece in their place. So we'd have proof of how for once I got my way with you, he used to joke and she in turn mock smacked him. The copy she carries with her is slightly yellow and creased, now stained with tears after endless times of looking and relooking. Ever since she got the news, it seems its value has increased.
She looks at her picture self, and can hardly believe they're the same woman. Despite everything that has ailed that woman back then, this is nothing compared to what she has had to endure these past few weeks. The conflicts she has been facing years back feel simple so trivial now, so juvenile; she scorns herself for her vanity.
One thing remains similar though. That day was a pinnacle in her life, just as today is. And if a new chapter in her life starts right now, filled with uncertainties and doubts, there's one thing she knows for sure. From that moment on, she will be careful what she wishes for.