Claire could feel Caleb shaking, and she let her fingers drift down his cheek, onto his neck, where it rested. It must have been a huge decision for him, to decide to commit to her so completely, and that meant more to her than she would ever be able to articulate. If she were honest, Claire had been blown away that he had decided that she was what he wanted, and not some parade of one night stands with beautiful women.
Now this, this massive, lifetime commitment to her, knocked her sideways all over again. Caleb was the one for her, Claire knew that, and that was why she had no hesitation in offering the same commitment back to him. He was the one man she just knew would never let her down, would always be there for her, and would never, ever be unfaithful. He was the one man she felt that she could trust with her life - and with her heart.
Until that day in the gym, Claire had avoided even dating. She didn't want to risk her battered heart again. The risk was too great. However, she hadn't banked on one of her best friends sneaking his way past all her barriers, piecing together her fractured heart, the claiming it for his own. And, all the while, Claire hadn't realised that she had been doing the same for Caleb. Two damaged people, coming together and forming a perfect whole. The realisation had been earth shattering, but so right.
Claire's eyes drifted to the tag dangling from her wrist, Caleb's fingers wrapped around the chain, almost as though he was afraid it would fall off and their commitment to one another would be broken. Gently, she placed her fingers over his. "I'll be here," she replied, her voice soft and resolute. "I'll always be here, and I'll always be looking at you like this." She lifted her wrist, and kissed Caleb's fingers.
"Tomorrow, I'm going to have to find a chain to wear this on, you know," she breathed, her voice carrying the smile that lay on her lips. "I can't wear it wrapped around my wrist like this." Anything on her wrist would get in the way during surgery, and she didn't want to have to take it off. Hung around her neck on a chain, though, she never had to remove it.
For the briefest of moments, Claire thought she had overstepped the mark by mentioning marriage, but the tender kiss that landed on her lips said otherwise, and she chuckled quietly as Caleb traced kisses over her cheeks and jaw and neck, before stilling with shock as he told her that, at least as far as he was concerned, what they had counted as marriage.
"I think you're right, e te tau," she whispered. Her choice of endearment there was significant, too. It was the main term that the Māori used for a husband, and, though she had used it before in terms of calling Caleb her lover or her partner, never before had it held so much meaning for her.
Caleb's fingers were still wrapped around her wrist, keeping the tag in place, even as his lips traced soft kisses over her face and neck. She laughed quietly, dropping a kiss onto Caleb's shoulder, as he admitted that he had had no idea what she had said a few moments before. "Firstly, I said 'I love you, darling'," she explained, a soft smile gracing her lips as she kissed his shoulder again. "Then... well, e te tau... as well as meaning 'lover' or 'partner', it also means husband."
Claire let those words land, her face nuzzled into the crook of Caleb's neck, twining her legs with his, wanting to be as close as she possibly could. "You know... this has to be the strangest wedding ceremony ever," she chuckled, her lips brushing Caleb's skin with every syllable. Strange it might be, but she couldn't have asked for anything better in terms of making their commitment to one another.