A/N: So, this idea came to me a few months ago, after I saw the video for the Thomas Rhett song, "Marry Me." The song is heartbreaking and beautiful and the music video is a perfect accompaniment to it. I highly recommend listening to the song.
Anyway, the song and the video gave me this idea and I hope you guys enjoy it! I very much did!
Just Three Words
Terry couldn't believe he was here. How could he let this happen?
Max was getting married. To someone else.
And Terry was actually about to let her.
Max and Evan Crowder had been dating for about a year and a half when he popped the question. Terry, honestly, felt it was too soon but he did want to meddle in Max's life like that. Besides, Terry had a bias since he had fallen in love with Max four years ago, not long after they graduated high school. By the time Terry was admit that to himself, he declared it was too late. He was far too deep into his life as Batman to even risk bringing romance into his life. Especially when it came to Max. He convinced himself that he would ruin Max's life in some way, shape, or form and didn't want to hurt her in any way.
Still, Terry couldn't deny the pain he was in now.
Terry was standing in the Greenglade Church, which stood about an hour outside of the Gotham city limits, where the wedding was set to take place. He walked around the church, looking for Max. He didn't think that was the best idea, but he had to see her.
Maybe for the last time.
He came across Chelsea talking with some people in a hallway. Chelsea looked up, saw Terry, and smiled. Terry smiled at her and waved.
Chelsea excused herself from the people she was talking to. She walked up to Terry and hugged, "So glad you're here, Ter."
"Thank, Chelsea," Terry replied. They separated and he examined her.
Chelsea was wearing a bright red bridesmaid dress. Her blonde hair was tied up in a bun and she had a white lily in her hair.
"Wow, Chels," Terry said. "You look fantastic."
"Thanks," Chelsea smiled. "But if you think I look hot, wait until you see Max!"
Terry gave a small smile. "She looks good, huh?"
"'Good' is an understatement." Chelsea motioned for him to follow her, "C'mon."
Terry followed Chelsea through the church until they came to bride's dressing room. Chelsea headed in first, Terry waiting for her to give the all-clear. Chelsea poked her head out of the door and nodded at him.
Terry rounded the corner and what he saw completely took his breath away.
Max was in a beautiful, snow white-colored wedding dress. The dress extended up to her shoulders with long, transparent sleeves going down to her wrists. But Terry couldn't keep his eyes from staring into Max's face. Whoever did her makeup did it, perfectly. Not that Terry ever that she needed any makeup.
Max looked at him and smiled.
Terry almost lost his balance. "Whoa," he whispered.
"Told ya so," Chelsea said.
"Terry!" Max said, excitedly. She ran at Terry and hugged him as tightly as she could.
Terry was in shock for a second but slowly wrapped his arms around her. He held her as tightly as she was holding him.
Chelsea smiled. "I'll leave you two alone."
"Thanks, Chels," Max said.
Chelsea left the room and Terry and Max released the embrace.
Terry looked her up and down. "You look… so beautiful, Max."
"Aww, Terry," Max blushed.
"No, I really mean it. Just… you've always looked beautiful. Just… today… wow!"
She smiled. "Thanks, Terry. That means the world to me."
He took a breath and, desperately, needed to shift the subject before he said something he shouldn't say or couldn't take back. "Is your family here?"
"Priscilla couldn't make it. Mom's here. But, Dad…" She sighed. "…he never answered the phone."
"Oh." He felt quiet for a second. "I'm so sorry."
"It's okay," she said. "I'm used to that, by now."
Terry took another deep breath and exhaled. He hoped she wasn't picking up on the number of times he was doing that. "So, this is happening."
Max exhaled, as well. "Yeah. It is."
He wasn't sure if it was his own mind or he really heard something in her voice. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Just…" She took another deep breath. "…I'm so nervous."
"Why?" he asked.
"I just… I'm worried. That… maybe… me and Evan are… rushing into this. Like… I mean, I don't know him like I know you."
"That could be a good thing," he smirked.
"Yeah, maybe." She sat down. "I just feel like… something's… missing."
Terry was listening to her, intently, and every bit of his mind was screaming at him to tell her what was missing was she was marrying the wrong man.
He should be the one waiting for her down the aisle.
But he let his better sense takeover. "Something like what?"
Max shrugged, "Hard to say, really. But the main thing is like I said… I don't know him like I know you."
Terry sat down next to her. And, with all the strength he could, declared, "That's because you don't know him as long as you've known me. And you know things about me… only one other person knows. Probably because you're the only person who can handle knowing that."
She smiled. "Yeah. I am pretty awesome that way."
He stared at her. "Yes, you are." He nudged her lightly, "Give this time, Max. You love Evan and he loves you. Going from dating to engaged to married… it's a different world. Yeah, you'll be nervous. That doesn't mean it's wrong. It means… it's life."
She smiled at him. "So. I'm not horrible from being nervous?"
"No. You're being human. You're fine, Max. You can do this."
She stared at him for a second then put her hand on his leg.
He made sure to put forth every conscious effort to not react in any way that would reveal anything she shouldn't know.
"You mean the world to me, Terry," she admitted. "I want you to know that. Me getting married today doesn't change how much you've always meant to me. And you always will."
Terry forced a smile. "Don't let Evan hear that."
"Oh, he'll be fine! He knows you're my best friend. If he didn't understand that… me and him never would've worked." She narrowed her eyes. "And whoever you end up with better know that, too."
Terry laughed. "She will, she will. Whoever she is and however long that'll take."
"She's out there, Terry. I believe that."
"Maybe." He patted her hand. "You mean the world to me, too, Max. More than you know."
He stood up. "Ya know, let me get out of your hair. Let you finish getting ready."
He headed for the door.
"See you out there."
He stopped and looked at her, "Of course. I'll be there if you need me." He paused. "Always. No matter what."
After leaving Max's room, Terry walked outside, to get some air, and sat on a bench. He really was finding it hard to breathe. He couldn't believe that this was so hard.
Mad Stan? Easy. Shriek? No problem. The Jokerz? Hardly even an issue. Blight? Difficult but not impossible. But this was easily the most difficult thing he'd ever done. He'd never seen Max look so beautiful. All of this was beginning to physically hurt him. He leaned over and rubbed his forehead as he tried to come terms with this.
"Terry?" Chelsea asked, concern in her voice.
Terry looked up at Chelsea, grateful it was her and not Max. He wasn't sure he could get through another conversation with Max right now without giving himself away. Chelsea, however, was always easy to talk to and, when Terry thought about it, was always a good friend to him and Max.
"Hey, Chelsea," Terry replied.
Chelsea sat down. "What's wrong?"
"Oh. Not feeling too good. Think something I ate on the way out here ain't sittin' well." It almost scared Terry how easily he could lie these days. He always blamed Bruce for that.
"You don't look sick."
"No, you look… disturbed," she said. "Like… in pain or something but… I can't fully place it. What's going on?"
"Nothing," he lied. Though, he was surprised that she could see through him. He didn't think Chelsea knew him that well. "I told you. I think it was something I ate."
"No, it's not. Something's going on. What's wrong, Terry? C'mon. You can tell me."
"There's nothing to tell, Chels. I'm okay, really. Just got a bug or something."
Chelsea was never one of the people who could read or fully understand Terry. That job fell to Dana for a while then Max. But, for some reason, she could tell that something was going on with him this time. She kept staring at him and going over in her mind what was bothering him. She saw him earlier and he seemed to be doing okay.
In fact, the only thing that seemed to be different from the last time she saw him was that he saw Max.
Chelsea's eyes widened as her thought process came to a screeching halt. "Oh. My. God."
"What?" Terry asked.
"Max," she whispered. "You're… Oh my God!" She looked around to make sure they were alone. She looked back at him, "You're in love with Max!"
"No, I'm not," he said, quickly. He managed to keep the desperation to evade this subject out of his voice.
But Chelsea would not be deterred from this revelation. "Yes, you are," she said. She covered her mouth. "Oh, my God! You're in love with Max. Oh, my God!" She blinked. "What am I talking about?! Of course, you are! Of course, you are! It was right in front of me all this time! I could see it for years! But I missed it! I saw it and I missed it! How did I miss that?! How is that even possible?! What's wrong with me?!"
"Nothing's wrong with you," Terry replied.
"Yes, there is! I didn't figure that out?! How didn't I figure that out?! Why didn't I see this? Why didn't I help?"
"This wasn't your issue to deal with."
"Wrong." Chelsea stared at him, intently. "Terry, you need to tell her."
"Okay, on the long list of bad ideas I'll do at any given moment, that's such a bad idea even I won't do it."
"Terry!" Chelsea grabbed his arm. "You need to tell her this! She's about to get married! To some other guy!"
"Who she loves!" Terry argued.
"Yeah, as far as she knows! As much as she's around you, you have no idea if she's in love with you or not because neither of you ever said anything! The only reason I never pushed you two together, which made sooo much sense to me, is because I wasn't sure if that's what you both wanted!"
Terry stared at Chelsea for a while then looked away, "I wasn't sure it was what I wanted… until it was too late." He scoffed. "Life's complicated that way, I guess."
"Yeah, I can't argue that." Chelsea stared at him. "Wait. Does that mean… are you admitting it to me?"
He sighed. "Yeah. I am."
"Then tell her! Terry, please. I've never wanted anything from you, but the one thing I want right now, I swear the only thing I'll ever ask you for again… please, tell her before it's too late."
"She said 'yes', Chels. It's already too late."
"She said 'yes' to a guy that's not you!"
He shook his head, "Evan's not a bad a guy."
"No, he's not. But he's not you."
Terry didn't respond.
"Terry," Chelsea said, "I have never begged you for anything in my life."
He looked back at her.
"But, for once, in my life, I'm going to beg you for this. Please. Please, please, please, go tell her! Please! Do this for you. Do this for her."
"For me?" he asked, confused.
"You do everything for everyone else," she said. "I know that about you. Do this to make you happy! To make her happy! Please, Terry, please. Please, tell her."
He wanted to. He wished that Chelsea was right. But she wasn't. He couldn't tell Max how he felt. It wasn't right. It wasn't his place. He should've done it a long time ago, if he was going to do it all. Not minutes before her wedding. But he waited too long. The opportunity was gone. And he already made up his mind that he had to live with that.
Terry looked down. "I can't."
Chelsea exhaled as tears started to fall.
He looked over at her, "And, please… you can't tell her either."
She looked at him in shock, "What?!"
"Chelsea, come on."
She glared at him, "You can't really expect me to…"
"Please," Terry interrupted.
Chelsea looked around, shaking her head, then looked back at him, "So, you want me to stand up there, at my best friend's wedding, while she's marrying someone else, who's not the guy she's probably been in love with since high school, and pretend like you're not brokenhearted about it and I'm not brokenhearted for you?! You want me to pretend like my two best friends, who should be together, won't be and that everything's okay?"
"Can you?" he asked. "For me? Please, Chelsea."
She looked at him, indignantly. "You stupid moron. I hate you." She sighed. "But fine."
"You're the best, Chels."
"I am not. If I was, I would've fixed this."
"That's not your fault. It's mine. I did this and I have to live it."
"We all will."
"Yep." He exhaled. "Look, uh… I'm gonna take off."
Her eyes widened. "You're leaving?" She stopped. "Wait. What am I saying? Of course, you need to. I'm being stupid."
"No, you're not. Just…" He tried to think of another convincing lie or story but couldn't. He was tapped out for the day. "…tell Max something huge came up and I had to go. Tell her… I'm sorry I couldn't be here." He stood up and started to leave.
He looked back at Chelsea.
"As much as it's killing me that you're not telling her, and as hard as it'll be for me to keep this from Max… I get why you're doing this. And you're the best man I've ever met."
"That's not even close to true."
"For once, you couldn't be more wrong," she replied. "This is just further convincing me that Max is marrying the wrong man today." She stood up, walked over, and hugged Terry, with him hugging her back. "I'll call you later to check on you."
"You really are the best, Chels," he said.
"Second best. I don't mind that when Max is number one."
They released the hug and Chelsea patted his chest, "Go. I'll cover for you."
Terry nodded and walked off. Chelsea fought back tears again and headed to the bathroom to get herself together.
Chelsea walked back into Max's room, as Max was putting on earrings.
Max looked at Chelsea from the reflection of the mirror and grew concerned when she saw Chelsea's disheartened expression. She turned around to face her, "Chels?"
"Yeah?" Chelsea asked.
"You look… upset. What's going on?"
Chelsea opened her mouth and sighed. "Terry. He…"
"What's wrong?" Max asked, worriedly.
"He… had to go. He got a phone call and had to go. Sounded important."
Max jerked her head back. "He had to leave?"
"Yeah," Chelsea said, amazed that she was able to keep up the lie. "He's really sorry."
Max stood up. She almost felt a cry coming up. "He's… not gonna be here?"
"I'm sorry, Max."
Max started to breathe, erratically. "But… but-but he's always there! Here! For me! When I need him. He's been there for all my big life moments! This is a big life moment!"
Max let out a deep exhaled. "Did he say why?" she asked, although she partially knew the answer. It had to be Batman-related. That would be the only reason Terry would leave.
Chelsea had no idea what to say. She opened her mouth to speak but stopped. She let out a resigned exhale. "He… didn't say."
"Not a word?"
"Something came up. That's all he said."
Terry and Max had a number of ways and code words Terry could use to tell Max if something Batman-related came up. Terry could've used any of them and Max would've known something was up. If he didn't say anything, that was an even bigger cause for concern.
"Chelsea," Max said, suspiciously. "Why did Terry leave?"
Chelsea narrowed her eyes. "I… just told you. Something came up."
"Something like what?"
Certain pieces were beginning to fall together for Max. And it was starting to surprise her that she didn't see them before. "You talked to him, right? What did he say before he left?"
"Just that something came up," Chelsea lied.
"Bull," Max declared.
Chelsea looked around, nervously, and quickly swallowed the lump that formed in her throat.
"Chelsea. What did Terry say? And don't tell me nothing again. I know he said something. If it's something he couldn't tell you, something's really wrong. But he had to say something, because your face is breaking my heart and I don't even know what's really going on. Now, what did he say?"
Chelsea opened her mouth and exhaled. "I can't."
"Why?" Max asked.
"Because I promised."
"You promised what?" Max asked the question but, almost as soon as the words left her mouth, clarity struck.
And it was clarity she really wished she would've had years ago.
Max closed her eyes and exhaled. The answer was clear to her. So clear that it hurt. She looked back at her other best friend. "Then I'm gonna guess. And if I'm right, you tell me."
Chelsea thought it over, "I never promised I wouldn't confirm. So, yeah, that works."
Max fought back tears. She knew why he left. And she hated herself for not seeing it sooner.
"He left…" Max said, "because he didn't want… to see me marry someone else… because…" This was a lot harder to say out loud than she expected. "…because he's… in love… with me."
Chelsea, slowly and nervously, nodded her head.
Max's breath caught. She suspected, practically knew for a fact she was right, but the confirmation was a punch to the face. "He told you?"
Chelsea paused again but gradually inclined her head. "Took a few minutes. But, yeah. He told me."
"Oh. My. God." Max looked around, lost in thought. "Terry's in love with me."
Chelsea nodded, nervously. "Uh-huh…"
Max slowly sat down, "I think I'm gonna be sick." She bowed her head and started rubbing her temples.
"Max," Chelsea went and sat next to her, putting her arm around her. "Max, you didn't know."
Max looked at her, "And that makes it okay?! I didn't know! I didn't know something about Terry?! Me?!"
Chelsea struggled to find the right words. But winced. "Okay, yeah, that's kinda sad that you missed that. And, no lie, a little stupid on both your parts. But still!"
"And you could see it? You could and I didn't?! What? Am I blind?"
"No, you're not! Just…" Chelsea scrambled, "…you might've been… scared to see it."
Max stared at her. Chelsea was right.
"And he never told me," Max shook her head. "I'll kill him."
Chelsea blinked. "That's one reaction," she said with a confused giggle.
"I mean… maybe he's scared too, but he kept a secret from me, that jerk! I'm really gonna kill him!"
"Okay, this is still kinda sad but you're starting to make me laugh, so can we pick a road here? I'm getting all mixed up."
Max leaned over and a series of courses of action came to her mind. She finally settled on one. And it was a doozy.
"Chelsea," Max said.
"Yeah?" Chelsea asked.
Max looked up at her, "Do you wanna help do something really horrible?"
"Like, seriously, we're gonna be considered the worst two people on God's green Earth for what I'm about to suggest."
"Does it end with you going after Terry?"
"Actually, that's the whole plan," Max answered.
"Then I'm one of the two worst people on God's green Earth," Chelsea replied. "Let's do it."
"You didn't even hear the plan yet."
"And you don't get that I'm already in?"
Max smiled. "You're the best, Chels."
"Second best," Chelsea corrected with a smile. "Let's go get your guy."
Terry drove back toward Gotham, stopping at a diner at the edge of town. He sat in the booth, rubbing his forehead. He had a cup of hot tea sitting in front of him, but he hadn't touched it yet. He thought about ordering food, but he wasn't sure he would be able to keep anything down. He was starting to feel physically ill from this whole ordeal.
His phone rang and he answered it, "What's going on, Bruce?"
"I saw the signal from your phone that you weren't at the ceremony's location," Bruce said. "And I know it can't be over already."
Terry paused for a few seconds. "I couldn't do it. I couldn't tell her and I couldn't stay. I took off."
"Are you alright?"
Terry sighed. "Not really."
"I understand that you wanted to tell her. But… I'm proud you made the choice you felt was best for her."
Terry ran his hand across his face. "Do you think it was the right thing to do?"
Bruce was silent for a while. "I don't think that's for me to say."
"Please, Bruce. Just tell me. I need to know. Did I do the right thing?"
"It's not for me to say, Terry. For all I've put on you, you're not me. Our lives aren't identical. The restrictions I had on my life, you don't need to have on yours."
Terry paused. "But I do. I did. I probably blew my one chance to find anyone remotely as… amazing as her."
"For her good," Bruce reminded. "So… in my opinion… you did the right thing."
That made Terry feel slightly better. He nodded, "Thanks."
"I know that's not much of a comfort. I know this still hurts."
"Like you wouldn't believe."
"I'm truly sorry, Terry."
"I appreciate that." Terry exhaled. "Give me about an hour or so. I'll be out later, Bru…"
He stopped when he looked out of the window.
And saw Max staring at him with tears in her eyes.
"Terry?" Bruce asked. "Terry? What's going on?"
"Max," Terry whispered. "She's here."
Bruce fell silent. "Call me later." He ended the call and Terry set his phone down.
Max walked into the diner, walked over to his table, and stood next to it. They both looked at each other in silence.
"Hi," Terry whispered.
"You complete and total idiot!" Max said, fighting the urge to cry. "I'm gonna kill you! How could you do that to me?!"
Terry stared at her, in stunned silence, as he scrambled for a response. All that came to mind was one question. "Did you talk to Chelsea?"
"Yeah! Which made me realize I was about to make the biggest mistake of my life! And you were gonna let me, you selfish jerk!"
It took a second but Terry's mind finally caught up with what her being there meant. "Wait. You left?"
"Yeah, I left!" Max fired back. "I'm here, ain't I?! I left a note for Evan and Chelsea helped me make a run for it!"
Terry looked at the car parked outside. Chelsea was sitting at the driver's seat and gave a small wave.
Terry looked back at Max, "I didn't want you to…"
"Oh, so sorry!" Max interrupted, as she sat down in the booth across from him, "Did I just throw your world upside down with a huge secret I should've told you forever ago?! Oh, wait! No! No, I didn't! That was you!"
"But I didn't tell you! So exactly that wouldn't happen."
"Well, maybe you should have, so I could decide how it affected me!"
He sighed, "Max…"
"And you told Chelsea how you feel about me?!" she argued. "Chelsea! I mean, she's great and I love her, but you told Chelsea how you feel about me?! I tell you everything about my life! You've told me… apparently, nearly everything about yours! I mean, I thought I knew everything about you but apparently not! I mean this?! You couldn't tell me this?!"
"I didn't tell Chelsea," he said, quietly. "She just… figured it out."
"And I didn't!" She wiped the stray tears that escaped. "You've been in love with me all this time. But I didn't see that?! Of the stupid things I've done, that's number one!"
He looked away. "It wasn't like… all the time we've known each other. Just…"
"Just recent enough that you didn't want to disrupt my life."
"Look at my life, Max! It won't get any better!"
"And you think I give a crap?" she asked. "I've been invested in your life since we were seventeen!"
"And I want you to have the choice I don't. The choice that I willingly gave away to be who I am. I can't have a normal life and I'm fine with that. You wanna have a normal life. What's so wrong with that?"
She stared at him. "You wouldn't be in it."
He stopped, having to swallow the lump in his throat.
"That's what's so wrong with that. And I know you. You'd pull back from me once I got married, whether you're in love with me or not. I can't believe I didn't figure that out sooner, either, but that's exactly what you would do. You'd pull back until… until you were gone."
He exhaled. She knew him better than he thought. "You want a normal life and you deserve one."
"When have I said that's all I want? I don't even know what normal is. And screw normal. And screw you for thinking I wouldn't give this a shot because of your…" she looked around then back at him, "your job."
"And that's the point. A shot. That's all this would be. We've never tried dating or anything like that. We have no idea if it would work."
"And you didn't think we're worth a one-in-a-million shot?"
He looked away.
She took a long deep breath and looked down, "But who am I to talk?" She lifted her eyes back up. "I actually said 'yes' when someone else proposed. I was gonna marry another man." She stared at him, "When I've been in love with you for the longest time."
Terry's eyes widened as he looked back at her.
A few tears escaped and Max didn't even bother wiping them away. "I love you, Terry. So much, I love you."
"I can't believe I screwed this up so bad." She ran her hand across her face, "I can't believe I… almost married someone else. What was I thinking?"
"You love him," he said. "Evan's a good guy. There's nothing wrong with that."
"I did love him. Evan's great. But… for all of his strengths and good points… he was never gonna compare to you. No one can. No one ever could. I just… wouldn't let myself see it."
"He would've taken care of you. You would've had a steady life. Nothing like me. Hell, I'm gonna go out in a couple of hours."
"And a steady life without you in it?" She shook her head, "That's not a life I want."
"Terry," she interrupted. "We argue this all day, until we're both blue in the face. And we're both that stubborn. But we can do that later. Right now. I want to hear it. I told you that I love you. Now I want to hear it from you."
He looked down, fighting back his own tears. "I don't want to hurt you or ruin your life at all."
"You didn't. You never have. You never will."
"You don't know that."
"Yes, I do. Because above everything else…" She took hold of his hands. "…I trust you, Terry. Absolutely, I trust you."
That hit him almost as hard as the fact that she left her wedding to tell him she loved him.
"Now, say it, you idiot. Tell me how you feel."
"Max, I…" Terry said. But nothing followed.
She stared at him then stood up. She moved over and sat next him, forcing him further into the booth to give her room.
"Say it," she said.
"What if…" he started to say.
"Three words, Terry. Just three words. Three of the scariest words for us but it's just three words that I need. We've dealt with 'what ifs' and 'buts' our entire lives. This will be no different. And I can deal with all of that scary, unknown future stuff. If. You. Just. Say it."
He could say it. He wanted to say it. But he was afraid to.
So much had happened between them. So much more would happen, whether she was married to someone else or not.
But she was here. With him. She just took the biggest gamble of her life. Just for him.
He'd be a fool if he didn't take that same chance.
"Max," Terry whispered. "I love you."
She kissed him.
It was meant to be a small kiss. But, after one second, it deepened. It took no time at all for them to completely given to how perfect this felt.
Chelsea started excitedly squealing inside the car. She couldn't help herself. She got out of the car and ran inside. Terry and Max break the kiss to see Chelsea standing there with a huge smile on her face, causing them both to laugh.
"So, are we good here?" Chelsea asked, sitting across from Max and Terry.
"Except for the people I pissed off back at the church?" Max asked.
"Oh, they'll get over it! And we can deal with that later. I'm asking about this. Right now!"
"I think so." Max looked at Terry. "Are we good?"
Terry smiled. "Yeah. We're good."
Chelsea smiled. "Things are really gonna be interesting from now on, aren't they?"
"For sure," Max said.
"They always have been," Terry agreed. He looked at Max, "Sorry I ruined your wedding."
Smiling, Max shrugged. "Well… as long as you don't ruin the next one, I'll forgive you."
He smiled and interlocked his fingers with hers. "Deal."
"And I'm still the maid of honor, right?" Chelsea asked.
"You can be the best man, too, if you ask me," Terry replied. He smiled at her. "I owe for this one, Chels."
"Ditto," Max added.
Chelsea smiled, "Nah. You two are together. And happy. That's enough for me."