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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 2:49 pm 
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“Yeah you're right, something good did happen, I got to see New Zealand for the first time,” he teased right back, laughing at her. “I mean you should have come, it was lovely.”

If he was being honest with himself, he would never change that moment in the gym with her, ever, after all there time of being best friends, of being each others go to when they weren't feeling particularly happy, he wouldn't have changed that moment. That one split second where he wondered if she would follow through with his suggestion, a suggestion he couldn't even remember making. He had just followed what felt natural to him and well here he was, standing in the middle of Italy the sun warming him, with a fantastic woman tucked into his side.

Laughing he pulled her so she was in front of him, him at her back, still walking to their destination as he planted a kiss on her neck and whispered, “How about I call you Nurse, E hoa wahine, and you can do what you want to me.”

Before letting her go, he knew he was being a damn tease, but he'd slept well for the first time in several weeks, it was sun shining, they weren't working, he had made plans that were beginning to come to fruition and to top it off he was with Claire. He didn't really think he could ask for much more in that moment, it was just going to be a good day.

Once they neared the horses he saw how her face seemed to just light up, seemed to become more carefree than he'd seen in the last few weeks. Almost as though she was kind of at peace in a sense, and he was quite proud that he managed to put that look on her face. It wasn't often he got to spoil Claire, it wasn't often he thought up something that actually managed to work in his favour at all.

He exchanged a few words with the guide, everything was prepared for them, everything was ready and waiting at the top and it would take them a few hours to get there. Longer if they stopped to look at the scenery every now and then, and if the trail was quite enough, he was pretty sure he could find a few make out spots for them. As though he was some sordid teenager once more, looking for the best place to get in her knickers.

Caleb made his own way over to his own horse, the deep brown colour shining in the morning sunshine, he reached out his own hand stroked down the beasts neck. He was actually surprised at how smooth the hair was, he had expected coarser hair for a horse, he found himself smiling at the animal. He liked animals, got along with them, unless it was a cat – cats did not like him for some reason – he respected them.

Laughing quietly, he stopped fussing the horse, made the checks he needed before replying to Claire, “Yeah that is so how it goes,” he smiled at her, “Just remember that am suppose to horse ride, not walk the animal.”

If he ended up on the smaller animal his legs were gonna be near enough touching the floor, or his knees would be up around his neck when he got them in the stirrups. No he was definitely going to be leaving the smaller horse to Claire, it suited her more.

Caleb pulled himself up onto his own horse, it was a very good job he was still fairly flexible, although he doubted he would be by the end of this horse ride. He had made a point of actually reading up on what he was meant to do, and he had emailed the people that ran this attraction about his concerns and they had helped him. So although he had never actually ridden a horse, in his entire life, he was at least prepared, for now anyway.

Putting his feet into the stirrups, letting the guide check over his horse first before moving onto Claire's, he smiled at her sweetly, “I'd hate for you to get lost being behind me, so if you want to go first?”


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 3:24 pm 
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"So all I'm good for is finding new holiday spots, eh," Claire laughed, giving her eyes an exaggerated roll. "Good to know." Caleb seemed to have fitted in perfectly with her family, once he had gotten over his initial nerves at meeting them. After all, her family was large - especially the extended Māori side - and could be quite intimidating. She couldn't be happier that he had gotten on so well with her dad, though.

A shiver raced down Claire's spine as Caleb tugged her in front of him, dropping a lingering kiss on her neck, before whispering a tease in her ear that had her tingling with anticipation. "Sounds like a plan," she replied, her voice husky with desire. One of these days, she'd give Caleb exactly what he wanted, and shock the shit out of him.

Claire paid no attention as Caleb talked to the guide, choosing instead to check her horse's tack. It had been years since she had ridden, but it was still second nature to her to check the tack, then the horse's hooves. The shoes looked in good nick, there was nothing there that looked as though it would cause the horse discomfort, and she was satisfied.

She laughed as Caleb replied to her joke about the size of the horses. "Oh, I don't know," she teased. "Would be great for comedy value!" Truth was, it had been long enough since she had ridden that she might have struggled with the larger animal, even though both looked sleepy enough. Appearances could be deceptive.

Grabbing the helmet that was hanging over the pommel of the saddle, Claire slipped it on, adjusting the unflattering chinstrap until it sat snugly on her head. A minute frown flickered across her face as she saw Caleb struggle - just a little - as he hauled himself into the saddle. Testing the stirrup, she pulled herself up into her saddle, settling and adjusting the stirrup length until her feet were comfortably supported, but her legs weren't too bent.

"Me? Go first? I thought you were the one with the plan?" Claire walked her horse close enough to lean up out of the saddle and plant a kiss on Caleb's cheek. "Tell the truth, you just want to look at my arse the whole way, don't you?"


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:34 pm 
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“Of course, I mean what else is there but beautiful vistas to look at,” he teased, winking at her. He would probably regret saying that later, she always made ways to make him regret teasing her as he was doing, in the nicest possible way of course. He wouldn't change a damn thing about there teasing because at the end of the day it was what kept them as friends longer than anything else.

Once he had gotten onto his horse, hopefully Claire hadn't seen him struggle with it too much, it was much harder to pull himself up onto the back of the several hand high animal than he had anticipated. He couldn't tell her he had never ridden a horse before, not after he had so proudly proclaimed that was a man of many talents not an hour earlier, he'd hate to think she had a misconception about him.

He settled himself into the saddle as comfortably as he could, he had a feeling he was going to be hurting something fiercely once they had finished this but he didn't care. He had a doctor on his side who he knew would make everything better.

Once he had gotten as comfortable as he was going to get, his hands found the reigns and he gently wrapped them around his hands, not wanting to pull the horses head up or hurt the animal, he just didn't fancy falling off straight away. He smiled at Claire as she came along side him, planting a kiss on his cheek as she did so, he couldn't help laughing at what she had said though.

“Well it certainly isn't going to be the horses arse am watching now, sweetheart,” he joked back. Of course that wasn't just the only reason he wanted her to go in front, but it was definitely a bonus one of them.

“Besides would I watching your absolutely amazing backside as you ride towards the sunshine? I mean honestly Dr Te Atua what kind of man do you take me for?” he said mock hurt.

He couldn't remember the last time he had joked, and teased her so openly, it was probably well before they had gone to Atlantis, he knew he hadn't teased her as merciless as he currently was even when they were in New Zealand for a short while. He regretted in that moment not opening up about his sleepless nights now, because if he had, then they would have been back on this even keel even sooner. He hated that he had wasted time being a stubborn basterd and had not spoken to her, well he was going to make damn sure he talked to her from now on.

The smile falling a little, he said, “Come on, the foods not gonna wait for us all day,” before giving the the horse a small nudge in the side to get it going, actually taking the lead a little.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 10:08 am 
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If it hadn't been for the guide being present, Claire would have made a completely inappropriate comment to Caleb, one that would have, undoubtedly, cut their day short in the best possible way, especially given the sparks already flying between them this morning. Instead, she just gave him a simmering look that said "you'll keep".

Claire cocked her head as she secured the strap on her helmet, noting Caleb struggled to get into the saddle. "Been a while, has it," she asked, her voice amused. Truth be told, she felt a little rusty herself, and wasn't letting herself think about what might happen if the horse got spooked and took off. She'd deal with that if it happened.

Still, if Caleb was as rusty as she was, she needed to know that he would be able to take care of himself if their horses bolted. "How do you do at a flat out gallop," she asked, double checking the tack one more time before they were ready to set off.

She laughed, though, as Caleb claimed he wouldn't be watching her arse if she rode in front. "You might be riding one, but it doesn't mean you need to go spouting a load of horseshit, e te tau," she laughed. "And I take you for exactly..." Claire drew out that word, pausing afterwards. "...the kind of man you are. Just about bloody perfect." Okay, so he was far from perfect. But Caleb was perfect for her.

Claire watched as Caleb kicked a little life into his seemingly sleepy horse, before gently urging hers forward to walk side by side with his. Hopefully, the trail would be wide enough to ride side by side for as much of the journey as possible. "I hope you bloody know where we're going," grinned Claire, glancing across to Caleb, her heart swelling with love, and pride that this lovely man riding beside her had taken the time to plan something that she would love so much. Sometimes, she wondered what she had done to deserve him.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 12:49 pm 
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Caleb ignored the heated look Claire threw his way, if he didn't then they weren't going to get very far on this horse ride at all. It would be a quick turn around and straight back to the hotel, if they even made it that far, she started throwing looks like that at him and he wasn't exactly know for being modest about what he did to her. He could feel his own face grow warm as he thought of other times she had started giving him them looks, it had been a splendid day in bed that day.

Clearing his throat Caleb got himself as comfortable as he could in the saddle, helmet strapped to his head, it was pinching a little at the sides, but it was going to have to do. He really didn't actually want Claire to play Doctor on him when he'd fallen off a damn horse and cracked his head open, he didn't think he would be able to live that down. So he'd pushed the helmet on, strapped it underneath his chin, he was sure he looked positively ridiculous in it, but anything was better than getting hurt.

As Claire asked him about going for a flat out gallop, he realised that he had maybe let himself in for something a little bit more difficult than he had anticipated. But he could think on his feet, he wasn't someone who flaked out under pressure, he thrived on it and this was just going to be another one of them moments. He was going to be able to do this, he would pull it off, he could think on his feet quick enough to do so...or rather think on the horse.

“Sure, gallop, it's fine,” he said, a little too quickly, before adding, “But maybe we should just take it easier, I mean it's not like we got to rush there and back, no one is gonna need saving,” he said, before adding under his breath, “Hopefully.”

He kept up the mock hurt look on his face for a moment longer, right up until Claire said he was perfect, and well he sort of looked away from that. How she ever thought he was perfect he didn't know, he wasn't perfect, he'd done things that weren't exactly conductive to being a perfect person. Yet there she was making outlandish sentiments to him, he looked back at her, smile firmly in place, he patted the side of the horses neck gently, before saying, “See boy, the good doctor likes you just as much,” before glancing up at her.

Caleb was glad when they started the trek, it was a turning into a nice day, he had Claire at his side, and they didn't have to worry about anything, nothing was going to spoil there day. So long as one of them didn't fall off, which with how many times he had the reigns wrapped around his hands he wasn't going to be the one to fall off any time soon. He had a good sense of balance, years of working on a submarine meant near enough perfect balance.

He laughed, “I have no idea where am going,” he teased, he knew the rough layout of how the trail took them. It would take them near enough an hour, maybe two if they stopped along the way, to get to the top, where there would most definitely be food waiting for them, a mini picnic he had laid out.

“I mean this is what I brought you along for, I figured your sense of direction, we'd get there in no time,” he joked. "Plus if we get lost, you're more likely to ask for directions, us men don't do diretions, sweetheart."


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 7:37 pm 
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Claire didn't comment on the heated blush stealing across Caleb's face as sher shot him a look designed to drive him nuts. Sure, he may have planned the day out for them, but that didn't mean she couldn't have a little fun of her own. She wouldn't take it so far that it ruined his plans, though. That wouldn't be fair, especially after all the effort that Caleb had gone to.

"You know, I didn't honestly believe you were going to wear that helmet," grinned Claire. "Not your finest look, e te tau, but if it keeps that handsome head of yours on your shoulders, it'll be worth it!" She really didn't want to be patching Caleb up on some Ischian hill. Better they took it easy than to try to push themselves, too. Claire hadn't ridden in too long, and she wasn't prepared to take the risk that things would go too far.

Her eyes narrowed as Caleb seemed to answer a little too quickly about a gallop being "fine." She gave him a few seconds before raising her eyebrows. "Caleb... how well can you ride," she asked, her voice soft and faintly amused. She'd bet he'd never galloped before, especially seeing as he also suggested taking it easier.

She rolled her eyes, though, as Caleb deliberately conferred her "perfect" tag onto the horse he was riding. "Nope, it's definitely you," she grinned, looking at Caleb with infinite love. "You're perfect for me," she said simply. "I couldn't ask for anyone better, and I wouldn't want anyone else." Having been a couple for well over a year now, Claire would be lying if she said that she was anything other than blissfully happy, despite Caleb's flaws. She had known who he was, what he was like, before embarking on the relationship, and she wouldn't change a thing.

Claire was more than content to ride sedately along beside Caleb, even as he professed he had no idea where he was going. "Bullshit," she laughed, passing the reins to one hand, and reaching over to push him gently on the shoulder. If there was one thing she knew about the man she loved, it was that he would have memorised the route in its entirety, leaving nothing to chance.

She laughed again as Caleb continued to tease her. "Well, you're shit out of luck there," she grinned, taking the reins in both hands again. "I left my sense of direction in my other jeans." If she'd seen the trail map, it wouldn't be a problem, but she had left everything to Caleb. "Let me guess... just keep pointing up for now?"


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:57 am 
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“You say that now, but in a few hours you'll love this helmet as much as I do,” he said, smiling, even as he adjusted the strap once more. He wrinkled his nose up as it pinched his skin again, the damn thing didn't seem to want to sit comfortably at all, but he definitely wasn't going to be riding without it. Once it was finally in place properly he added, “What do you reckon, think we could get this as part of our uniform? Am sure everyone would go crazy for them, we'd start our own craze.”

He didn't think in his wildest dreams that anyone would wear these as part of any uniform, he understood that they were necessary part of horse riding, but he definitely did not envy anyone who had to wear them all times. He wondered briefly how the full time career horse riders wore them, or were they given nicer more comfortable helmets to wear?

Damn! He knew he had answered a bit to quickly to the gallop question, he also should have known that Claire was likely to pick up on it, the woman was very intuitive when it came to knowing when he was holding something back or just not telling her the whole truth. Not that he had out right ever lied to her before, even when they were just best friends it was a note of pride for him that he hadn't ever lied to her. Embellished his stories sure, maybe had more outlandish adventures than what happened sure, but never lied.

He made an aborted move to rub the back of his head, the helmet was very much in the way, before he grinned at her slightly, “Erm....well the thing is....I've never galloped before,” he said, he didn't want to spoil her day, as he finally admitted, “I've never actually been on a horse before today.”

That was it, the truth was out there now, he wasn't going to be able to take it back, he didn't want to spoil the day. He had been looking forward to this day since he'd planned the whole thing out with her father, he had never ridden on a horse before, but it would be a new experience for him and one he got to enjoy with Claire. He was all for trying new things with Claire.

The red in his face wasn't just purely from the warmth of the day as Claire mentioned he was perfect again, he couldn't deny that he was completely in love with the woman in front of him, but he had never though that she would class him as perfect. He didn't quite believe he was perfect, even with how long they had been together, it was just....perfect was never something that had ever exactly been told to him or about him.

All he wanted in that moment was to reach across and kiss her, tell her that he loved her even without saying the words, but he didn't. He would definitely appreciate her later, in many different ways if he could.

Thankfully the talk turned lighter again, they'd had one too many serious conversations in the last few hours, he definitely needed a lighter conversation for a while. He laughed along with her, as she called on his deliberate act of looking lost, he had memorised the route, had made sure he knew which way they were going, even if he wasn't about to tell Claire that.

He shifted slightly as she pushed him in the arm, before pouting at her, “Now really, sweetheart, is that any way to treat the man that has gone out of his way to get you lost?” before breaking into a grin.

He did however give her legs the once over as she said she'd left her sense of direction in her other jeans, he could believe it the jeans she was currently wearing wouldn't have much room for anything even if they were battered. He winked at her as his eyes trailed back up to her face, he was being damn obvious about having checked her out, but it was fine, they were on holiday he could do that kind of thing.

“What's the saying, go north and straight on till morning,” he said, probably botching the saying completely. It wasn't his fault some of the folks on Atlantis had taken a selection of damn Disney films and decided to introduce the Athosians to them. It also wasn't his fault he got stuck watching them with a group a time or two either.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 1:19 pm 
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Claire rolled her eyes. "We still look like tits, though," she grinned, knocking on her own helmet. Still, she didn't care what she looked like. She'd rather look like a tit than take a bash to the head if she fell off. She laughed at Caleb's suggestion that they try to get the helmets added to the Atlantis uniforms. "Nice try, sailor, but I somehow don't think you could shoehorn Rodney McKay into one of these!" The abrasive Canadian even thought that he was above the uniform sometimes, although it might be fun to annoy him...

Claire recognised the sheepish look that slipped across Caleb's face when she asked him how well he could ride, and she laughed as he tried to rub a hand across the back of his head. Oh yeah, definitely hiding something there. It didn't surprise her when he admitted that he had never ridden before, and Claire grinned. "No worries, e ipo, better you tell me now," she chuckled, shaking her head. "We'll definitely take it easy, okay, and if you struggle, just let me know."

The old Caleb would never have admitted to something that he clearly perceived as a failing, and Claire marvelled at how open he was with her now. The old Caleb would probably only have admitted to never having been on horseback once he had fallen off and broken a bone. At least she knew now that they would have to take it easy. Maybe it was time for her to teach him a thing or two.

Caleb seemed a little discombobulated as Claire told him he was perfect. "Don't go getting a big head now," she grinned, enjoying the easy, sedate pace the horses were setting as they headed up the trail. "We both know you're not perfect, but you're perfect for me." She didn't even need to explain that any further. Caleb knew how happy he made her, and how well they fitted together. Sure, he wasn't perfect, but neither was she, but they were perfect together.

Claire giggled as Caleb looked mock-hurt. He knew those puppy dog eyes would melt even the hardest of hearts, and she was no exception. "I think it's exactly the way to treat him," she teased, her eyes dancing with ill-disguised heat. "After all, if we end up getting lost together, we'll have to think of something to do to pass the time until we're found, won't we?" Sure, it was a blatant flirt, but after the way their day had started, there was certainly only one way the day was going to end.

And with the way Caleb was raking his eyes over her body, Claire knew she was right.

She recognised whatever quote Caleb was spouting, but couldn't put a finger on it. "Sounds about right," she said, leaning forward in the saddle and giving her horse's neck a firm pat, running her hand over its shiny coat. "Thank you for organising this," she said, smiling warmly at Caleb. "You knew I'd love it. But... what do you get out of it? Which part of today is all about you?"


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:42 pm 
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Caleb couldn't help letting out a laugh, as she called them both tits, honestly he couldn't agree more with her, they did look like idiots. He wasn't going to lie, he was just glad that neither of them actually had bothered to bring a camera, because the last thing they needed was blackmail material on the other, although he was sure his team mates back on Atlantis would get a kick out of seeing the picture.

"It's the challenge though, sweetheart," he replied smiling brightly back at her. Caleb was if nothing else a very stubborn man, and there were times when he could deadpan a joke for a while, he'd definitely give it his damn best try to get these helmets back on Atlantis. "We could say it's for their protection, after all how many times do they always have there heads stuck under a console?" he asked, as though actually explaining his line of thought was going to make her agree with his statement.

Caleb wasn't quite sure what he was expecting when he admitted that he had never ridden before, obviously he hadn't expected her to call the whole thing off, or even shout at him. That wasn't how they did things between them, but it was almost as though she just completely took it in stride, like she had expected him to finally not be able to do something. In the nice way of course.

He could still remember a time, maybe not even that long ago if he thought about it, that he would have played the whole thing off, told her that he could too ride a horse, and try galloping the thing away. Then he would have landed on his arse, bruised if not worse, but he hadn't, he'd admitted the truth and despite the fact that he had been with holding information from her for the last few nights. She seemed to him, okay with it.

"Promise, I'll tell you," he said, smiling at her, as he moved the horse to be walking next to hers, "Besides I don't want to fall on my arse, no matter how nice it will be to have you nurse it better," he added, winking at her as he laid emphasis on the nurse part, a small nudge back to when they'd been sparring in the gym the first time they'd kissed and he'd called her a nurse. Of course that probably wasn't the only time he'd called her a nurse throughout their relationship but it was the one that stuck on most in his mind.

Not that he would actually fall off, he might never have actually ridden a horse before, but he did have very good balance, you didn't spend several months of the year on a submarine without learning how to keep yourself upright. Not that a submarine lurched around as much a boat did, but it still had it's moments, especially when you weren't expecting it.

He could feel the blush work it's way up his neck, as she explained about him being perfect for her, no one had ever said that him before. Not even when he was jumping from bed to bed did any of them tell him he was perfect for the woman in that moment. He laughed a little loudly as she told him not to be getting a big head over the comment, that was never going to happen, he had never been perfect for someone.

It was a strange feeling to know that he was perfect for her, without having had to change anything of himself, sure there had been the odd compromise here or there, but nothing that remotely changed who he was. He had not changed who he was, (okay maybe his flirting wasn't as much as it use to be with people nowadays) and there she went saying he was perfect. For a not perfect person - because honestly he didn't think there was such a thing - it took him a moment to accept what she was saying.

If he wasn't afraid of falling off the damn horse, he would have leant across and placed a kiss on her cheek at that comment, instead he settled for a soft smile in her direction, as he replied, "Perfect for each other, or we're both completely crazy." He couldn't help ending it in a joke, even if it didn't quite have the punchline he was looking for. He would definitely spend the night, showing her just how perfect she was to him, in ever way possible he could think of.

He was a bit more comfortable as they continued up the trail, the horses seemed to actually like the sedate pace they were currently taking, as the banter between them went back to being joking. Safe territory when they were in public, if there was one thing Caleb still didn't particularly feel comfortable with, it was the sincere moments between them being displayed.

Sure he could take the lewd joking, the out right blatant innuendo that people would joke to him about, but anything that was quite personnel to him, and to Claire, well it wasn't something he ever showed. It had surprised him, over the last few years since he'd been with Claire, just how much of his private life he kept private, it had taken Claire herself at least a few months to knock the rest of his walls down and there were still moments that they had to work at. Like the fact he'd kept the whole not sleeping thing from her.

"Oh don't worry if we get lost," Caleb said, almost dismissively, right up until he smirked at her, a mischievous look in his eyes, before he pulled out a piece of paper - just the paper he'd gotten from the guide earlier - half waving it at her, "I've got a full list of things here, that we can do if we get lost. I mean I've not checked it lately, but if we get lost, the first item on is 'Do Claire'," he waited a breath, before continuing on, "Or that could be second. No wait I think that's the last thing on the last, after find food. Maybe."

He was joking, full on teasing her, and god knows what the guide thought of his joking. He couldn't help laughing as he tucked the paper away into the pocket, again as he continued on the trek with her. If there was one thing he loved doing, it was being a bit of a joker with Claire, his sense of humour was at times - to most people - annoying, he'd normally get eye rolls at any of his jokes. But with Claire, with Claire it was different, it was almost as though if he didn't tell a joke, rude or otherwise, she'd actually worry that there was something wrong with him.

Caleb smiled as Claire became almost smitten with the horse she was riding, he loved seeing her like that, just almost carefree, both there jobs were hard, tough, the wrong decision leaving either someone injured or worse. There was never enough hours in the day to get everything done and especially with him being military there was always a chain of command to follow, an order to get done.

But seeing Claire as happy as she was in that moment, that was what he wanted to see all the time, he found himself wanting to make her happy, to make her smile at him in that gentle way she did and he knew she wanted and did do the same to him. He enjoyed spending time with her, hated it when he couldn't talk to her for whatever reason that day, she wasn't just his wife, she was his best friend and even if they hadn't gotten together, if he hadn't taken the plunge and decided to screw the consequences and kiss her, he'd still miss her if he couldn't talk to her at least once a day.

Of course as he had planted that first kiss on her in the gym, his body sparking alive as she'd reciprocated, he had been truly scared to death that he had messed everything up. He had a knack of messing everything up back then, had jumped from one bed to another, never staying long enough, so yeah he'd been scared when he'd kissed her.

He actually had to think about her question for a moment, before he smiled at her, "I get to see you happy, Claire," he said, quietly, thankful that they were still close together, "I've never wanted to make anyone happy, as much as you," before he lowered his voice, a tease coming into his voice as he added, "Plus the sex is fantastic." No one but Claire would hear that and if she wasn't sat on the horse he would have most definitely let himself run a hand up her leg.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2017 2:10 pm 
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"Maybe we ought to make a bet," Claire teased, twitching eyebrows up at Caleb. "See who could get McKay to wear one of these first." It would be an interesting bet, that was for sure, but knowing Caleb, whatever he agreed to bet would end up being a bugger for her. That was just how things were between them. Despite their closeness, they still loved to tease one another mercilessly, and there were times when things got close to getting out of hand.

Caleb seemed a little surprised that she didn't mind that he hadn't told her the truth about not having ridden before. Claire knew he hadn't done it maliciously, though. He had let her believe that he could ride so that he didn't ruin their day. Instead, it had had the opposite effect: Claire loved that he was willing to try something new just to make her happy, and it brought a lump to her throat.

She laughed, though, as he told her he didn't want her needing to nurse his bruised arse better if he fell off. "Is that you telling me to kiss your arse," she laughed, leaning out of the saddle as he came across to ride next to her, grabbing his backside in a cheeky squeeze, before settling back into her seat. "Feels pretty good to me already." Her voice had taken on that too-innocent tone, and her eyes were sparkling with mischief. "If you're that worried about it, I could just check it out when we get to wherever we're going."

This, of course, was how everything had started between them. She had thrown him on his arse, and he had complained. Claire, teasing as ever, had offered to kiss it better, and Caleb had taken her by surprise - his voice shaking, and clearly not their usual back and forth flirty banter - and it had the effect of lighting an unexpected fire in Claire. She had stood on tiptoe, bringing his head down to meet hers, and that had sealed it.

Now, here they were, a couple for almost eighteen months, and friends for a year before that, and Claire wouldn't have it any other way. Her relationship with Caleb was the best thing that had happened to her in a long time. For the first time in years, she felt complete, as though she had everything she could ever want or need. Well, there was one exception, but she wouldn't think about that. It wasn't possible, so she wasn't going to dwell on it.

A smile spread across Claire's lips as Caleb seemed to accept that she felt he was perfect, as far as she was concerned, before qualifying it. She laughed, passing the reins to one hand and reaching out to place a brief hand on Caleb's knee with the other. "Oh, I know we're both crazy," she laughed, taking the reins back into both hands. "But yeah, I think what we have is pretty perfect." Sure, there had been some tough moments, hard times when she thought they might not come out the other side intact, but they had worked through everything, emerging as stronger people, and a stronger couple.

Claire laughed as Caleb slipped beck into blatant flirting, letting her know whe he planned if they got lost. She twitched an eyebrow upwards as she batted it right back. "Oh, it's good to know I'm so far down your list," she grinned. "After all, we have to get our priorities straight, don't we?" She was only teasing, and knew that he was putting her happiness first and foremost today. It was a rarity that someone put her needs first, and she was still getting used to the fact that Caleb did it consistently.

That was confirmed as she asked him what he would get out of the day, and she blinked back happy tears for a moment, before bursting into giggles as Caleb made the comment more of a throwaway remark. "Well, there is that, I suppose," she grinned, shaking her head, and turning around in the saddle to look behind her. They were ascending the steep hill above Forio at a decent rate, although they hadn't left the town behind completely. It was definitely thinning out, though, and it wouldn't be long until they were on the mountain proper.

She wasn't certain, though, from looking at it, that there was a route all the way to the top, and she glanced across to Caleb. "Where, exactly, are we headed," she asked, wondering what else he had up his sleeve. Knowing him, he had everything planned out to the Nth degree.


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