[Flashback - Pre-curse Storybrooke] To The Nines ~ William & Mariana.

Record profits meant celebratory drinks, and record profits at the town’s wealthiest institute called for something special – Now he was in charge, Will wasn’t having any wishy-washy beers in the back of the office nonsense, not when his name was over the front door. If a work do was worth doing, it was worth doing at the Beaufort Bar with 100% attendance, a black tie dress-code and an open bar. There was a little – Or, rather, not so little – Pocket of cash squirreled away in the finances for exactly these purposes, and what sort of dreadful boss would Mr. de Laci be if he deprived his devilishly hard workers of a well-dressed booze-up?

A glass of the house’s finest in one hand, the other trying desperately hard not to sneak his sleeve up to glance at his watch and check the time, Will endeavoured to actually enjoy discussing work while he was still waiting on Mariana. Forty-five minutes in, and the majority of his employees had been joined by their plus-ones and Will, apparently, remained single. While his colleagues must have known of the new woman in Will’s life – Not least because he hadn’t been such a grouchy fucker over the past three months – They hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting her until this evening. That was, if she ever turned up.

Save for the odd quick phone call or a goodnight text, Will and Mariana hadn’t managed to spend any quality time together for over a fortnight. His books needed going over, he had a ridiculous number of meetings with clients that apparently couldn’t possibly be delegated down the ladder, and there were only so many hours in the day. With commitments suddenly more numerous than either of them would have liked, this blissful little evening of drinking and dancing was supposed to be perfect. He had combed his hair and knotted his bow tie to the exact degree, parked the car around the corner and was doing his best at engaging in conversation with investors, even when his mind was absolutely elsewhere.

Yesterday I died | Marian & Guy

A pale hand wrapped around the goblet before him, lifting it to beautiful red lips, lips he longed to kiss one last time. But he had lost this right. He had lost it and he had lost his mind. Guy shook his head. It was impossible, yet she still haunted his mind. She haunted him every night. And he could only keep her at bay with unhealthy amounts of alcohol, which numbed the pain temporarily. But only temporarily.

It was not lost to the villagers and people of the town. Sir Guy had become easier to anger, he was reacting violently much sooner, but apart from his doing the workd for the Sheirff, as his cruel master-at-arms, Gisborne was rarely seen, either drowining in a bar or in the castle or in Locksley.

Currently, thanks to the weather, Guy was in his manor, sat downstairs with his goblet filled with wine. And he drank one after another until it stopped the images, her constant accusations and the other demons trying to rip his mind to shreds. The winter has given all of them a bit of free time… something he hated more than anything. It gave him too much time to think. And thinking would send him spiralling down again. He already did look more dead than alive, since he was obviously not taking care of himself anymore.

Relationship Page <3

Right relationship page is done, finaly :D

aoncenoblewomansirguyofgisbourneaservanofrohanthorindurinsheiriamtheoneandonly-melissa-scarletdjaqthesaracen and gabrielgisborne You’ve all be added because you’re awesome >.<

While thefairmaidenmarian, theoneandonlygwen, imcalledsnowwhite, lost-in-a-lullaby-world and thelegenddieshere your profile thingys have all been updated with other verses and stuff :D

I know I’ve probably missed something or got something wrong so if you want me to change something, or something’s not right just tell me :D

[Flashback - Pre-curse Storybrooke] Second First Impressions ~ William & Mariana.

For one blissful afternoon, it had not rained. The clouds had not loomed steel-grey and angry in the chill sky, nor had the wind whipped in from the ocean, spinning the weather vane like a hurricane, the structures of some of the town’s older buildings creaking nauseously. In fact, it had been reasonably pleasant. Will had taken the liberty of unbuttoning his coat, a particular rarity for this period of the year – An even more particular rarity for a man who kept his head down and his stride long – Although he had forced himself to do the sensible, grown-up thing and spend such a pleasant afternoon grocery shopping. There were only so many nights a week one could eat Chinese take-aways without having to re-evaluate their stance on life.

Laptop bag slung over one shoulder, having previously just left work, and a classic grey scarf loosely draped around his neck, he had assembled his essentials – And a cheeky slice of cake, because this evening was going to be a late one – Dumped them in a classic brown paper grocery bag and tucked them in the crook of his arm. He flipped his collar up around his ears, immediately disengaging from conversation, and turned the corner from the grocery store towards the tiny, book-filled flat that made up house and home.

He had purposely found himself an apartment moments around the corner from his office after the promotion, anticipating spending a considerably greater time at the accountancy than he had been used to – He had recalled Robert Frost’s words with a wry smile: ‘By faithfully working eight hours a day, one may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.’ Nothing had ever been truer. The place had become house and home and second office in a matter of weeks, and Will was dangerously close to being undisputed first in the running for Most Boring Banker Alive.

Three For A Girl, Four For A Boy ~ William & Mariana.

The room had lain untouched for twenty-eight years. It was one of two spares of the house, the slightly smaller – They had chosen it to be the nursery, later a play room, later a den, later still a library, so the other could be their bedroom when they were a little more grown up, when Mariana saw fit to let the child out of her protective custody. They’d have the cot in their room for weeks, he was sure of it, while the pair of them pretended they were asleep, all the while watching their tiny human breathe and dream. The door to their room was closed behind him; he had not wanted to wake her.

The pristine new cot stood silent and empty in the centre of the otherwise bare room – Save for Will, hands in his pyjama pockets and standing at its foot, the early morning sun shining bright on his face and casting his shadow across the floor. The carpet had already been replaced and the curtains changed and the power sockets filled in with white plastic stoppers. The walls, once dull and white and particularly bank-manager, now looked like the de Laci cupboard full of mugs, an eclectic patchwork field of contrasting paint test swatches, ranging from deep burgundies and navies and vicious sunflower yellows to conservative creams, powder greens and sky blues. They couldn’t quite make up their minds…

It was in these small, otherwise inconsequential moments that Will felt so… So powerful. Not with a sword in his hand and a small army at his disposal, with his coffers piled high and a torch on hand should he become displeased with his people – That was the power he had snatched for himself, which he had used and abused and exploited most mercilessly. This sense of self-worth than ran deep in his veins allowed him to hold his head high in a town that saw fit to hate him. Did they not understand how he tried, how he burned inside to keep these lives separate and to keep Will so pure and noble and undefiled by Vaizey’s memory? This power came from the knowledge that the harder he worked, the more he was loved. He fought to keep his head for Mariana, and for their child, and he would strive to be the man she wanted of him, now he understood the importance of loyalty and companionship and affection that had been denied to the ruthless Sheriff all those years.

[FTL Flashback] Forgive And Forget ~ Richard & Marian.

It had taken Richard a week – Ten days, even – To swallow his pride and admit that his conduct towards Marian had crossed the line, even for him. She knew he was stubborn as an old mule, and used the power he wielded to ensure that he was always in the right, but she also knew that he treated her differently, and not merely because the two of them had suffered a long history. Ten days of side-long glances from the council he had dismissed; ten days of the castle’s serving maids affording him a much wider berth, with absolutely no intention of getting on his wrong side when he was this wound-up; ten days of dragging out the inevitable: That it was him who must make the first reconciliatory move.

His ten days were up.

Dismounting, passing the reins of his glossy black destrier to one of the two senior figures of his private guard who had insisted they accompany him, Richard ran the fingers of his right hand through his hair, settling it – And his nerves, although he would never admit to that – From the ride. There was every chance she would hit him again, this time with an audience, slam the door in his face or refuse even to open it, let alone listen to his apology. He had treated her and her father terribly, and he had had no right to do so. Edward had been good to him as a boy, a young man, and even when Richard had decided he no longer needed his influence on his council Edward had been gracious in defeat. To force him back into armour, onto a front line miles from home, to subject Marin to that sort of loss, when he was all she had left in the world… He regretted his forcefulness and his refusal to back down. He regretted the fear in her eyes and the tears on her cheeks. If he could make it up to her with anything, anything at all, he would.

He drew a small, purple velvet pouch from the saddlebag – A necklace, a peace offering – Tossing it fidgetingly in his hand as he approached the front door. Part of his resolve remained, in that he could not be seen to falter. The men settling their horses in the Knighton stable respected their Sheriff to the death; he still could not be seen to fear the reaction of a woman. The knock was gentle, for him, four quick beats on the wood that, hopefully, didn’t sound like him and wouldn’t scare her off before he had even had the chance to apologise.

[FTL Flashback] You Can't Take The Sky From Me ~ Richard & Marian.

The castle was suffocating him. Richard felt seven, not seventeen, sent to his room for some misgiving. Except this time, the misgiving was simply not being old enough. His father had passed away— No. Been murdered. He would not hide from what it was. His father had been murdered two years ago, near enough to the day, and although Roderick’s son had inherited the title, minority rule dictated that the council of nobles made every decision and rubber-stamped his name onto it with a smile and a pat on the head that told him to go play in the armoury. Less than a year, and he would assume full power, full position and full fucking authority, and would be able to carve into their ranks as he so chose.

They didn’t force him into stupid lessons with stupid tutors any longer; he was the sheriff, and he studied what he wanted, when he wanted. His councillors were particularly keen in seeing him trained as a swordsman to the standard Roderick would have wanted. Richard often spent hours in the courtyard with his Master-at-Arms and a few of the nobles’ sons, sparring until his feet and fingers bled. Whether they involved him in the politics of the war on the eastern front, which glowed red in the sunset on the other side of Sherwood Forest, or not they were determined to make a soldier of him yet.

Opting instead for an unscheduled evening off, he had dropped the Sheriff’s ring onto the pillow of his father’s bed in his father’s chambers in his father’s tower, just about the sole significance of his title, and crept through one of the many back exits that he and Marian had discovered as children. They wouldn’t come to the room. After nightfall, they never came to the room. He wore old clothes – Anything but black. The people were always used to seeing him in black – And a heavy cloak with no telling Vaizey insignia, and endeavoured to look older than seventeen as he shoved his way into the Tripp Inn with some vague sense of purpose in his eyes.

One For Sorrow, Two For Joy ~ William & Mariana.

The cake was a peace offering – Will was late.

It was 8.39 by the time the car pulled up outside, and 8.42 before his key scraped in the lock and he levered the handle open with his elbow, leather laptop bag stuffed with notes over one shoulder, and a brown paper grocery bag tucked in the crook of his arm. “Sorry!” He called, dropping his keys into the bowl on the side table, the Valentine’s keyring Mariana had given him two years ago clinking against the rim. “I’d have called, but I was driving…” Shrugging off his coat and hanging it beside hers on his peg behind the door, he slid his work bag underneath the low hallway table, reshuffled the contents of the bag and made his way through to the kitchen.

He might have slammed the door frame-shakingly hard on his way out, but his brief trip to the store over lunch had been just enough to clear his head enough to survive the remainder of the day. There was dissent amongst his ranks, and even without putting names and faces to the whispers he heard behind closed doors and partition walls, he knew it was Lucas Darton’s – Robin Hood – Doing. The man had worked for him for this long without knowing either of their true identities, and now the secret was out it was becoming harder and harder to avoid confrontation. Will didn’t doubt that Darton would have enjoyed surrendering the job in a heartbeat, if it wasn’t such a profitable source of income, definitely one of the best-paying jobs in town – More proof that William de Laci had been a generous, if a little slave-driving, perfectionist, and somewhat demanding boss.

“Everything alright, sweetheart?”

[Flashback - Pre-curse Storybrooke] All In A Day's Work ~ William & Mariana.

By the age of thirty, most people had figured out their stance on children – One, plenty, wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole – But William de Laci remained undecided. On one hand, he was definitely the settling-down sort, eager to maintain a strict sensibility and predictability to the progress of his life; on the other, his attempt at relationships always seemed to turn sour, always some complaint at the amount of time he spent in the office, or unjustified disappointment as she discovered that, behind the pretty face, he wasn’t the rough-tough-save-the-world sort she had been hoping for, but a considerate, conservative bank manager, the least exciting specimen known to mankind.

Will believed in the job; he trusted in the job. While his small apartment was made smaller when he left in the dark and returned home in the dark, cluttered with books and files and folders filled with notes, he enjoyed the certainty of the job, the routine of the job. The closest he got to SAS hero was strategy and planning and method. But he’d worked his way to the top of the God-damned job, even in a town this size, and he was damned if he would be thrown off-course by one measly, surprise school visit.

Craig Kinley, who usually dealt with the finances of Storybrooke’s joint schools, had grovelled in sick that morning, leaving Will to pick up the pieces. He couldn’t say that he was utterly delighted to be left in the firing line, but his expression was the picture of professional ambiguity as he arrived on the school site, signed in awkwardly with a staring receptionist and clipped an ugly, laminated visitor’s badge to the breast pocket of his jacket.

6A, he’d been instructed – Room 6A, with a vague wave off down one long-lost corridor and a giggly smile – Which made fuck all difference to his sense of direction. Kids were one things, but schools themselves were quite another. It took him ten minutes to find the bloody room. A gold ‘6A’ glinted off a royal blue door, half-open to reveal the classroom within. Will knocked thrice, poking his head around the door to address the young woman in her deserted habitat. Must be breaktime. “Miss May, I presume…? William de Laci, from the accountancy. I’m afraid Craig couldn’t make it today.”

[Flashback - Pre-curse Storybrooke] Home Is Where The Heart Is ~ William & Mariana.

The apartment looked like a bombsite.

Will had lived alone since he had finished studying, in the same rooms in the same part of town. He felt confident in the comfort of it all, the same roads back home, a man with a daily schedule and the knowledge of security, and he didn’t like change. There was a place for everything, and everything remained steadfastly in its place, from his mugs in his cupboard to his books on his shelves to his suits in his cupboards. He valued efficiency and ergonomics and organisation and had been more than happy with his mild OCD and his military precision that everyone else found mildly unnerving, until Mariana May had crash-landed in his life.

He liked to think that she had changed him for the better, although it was, admittedly, tough to convince himself of that with dirty dishes stacked to the side of the sink and several pairs of her shoes skew-whiff by the door. He loved the new stacks of books, though, that had taken up residence in the make-shift library that used to be his study; he loved watching her from the doorway as she vanished into another tale. He loved waking up beside her, as Monday morning sunlight snuck in through the gap between the curtains and she stroked her fingers along his hairline, or pressed her cold palms to his stomach until he relented and offered to make the tea. And, like any lovesick young man, head-over-heels for the woman curled up on his couch with ink stains on her fingers and a rapidly cooling mug at her side, marking papers, he looked passed her flaws and picked her socks up off the floor because he loved her.

Returning from the bedroom – Their bedroom, if the new, bright sheets of the double bed, replacing the dull navy and white, had anything to say about it – Into which he had vanished ten minutes ago, Will swept in beside her on the sofa, pressing a kiss to her cheek and a small, black gift box into her hands. “You can reprimand me for distracting you while you’re marking, not for buying you presents. This one’s special.”

[Flashback] Gold Digger ~ William, Mariana & Mr. Gold.

Anyone who caught a glimpse of the de Laci couple contentedly at home might have been forced to rethink their image of the suave, sophisticated couple who wore expensive clothes and drove expensive cars. Their house might have been the picture of success, sleek and elegant and conservative, but they were far from the proudest, most up-tight people in the town. That house was a home, a little patch of Heaven on the doorstep of a town at war with itself.

“Come on, Ana—” Will pouted, every inch the anti-accountant as he wrapped his arms around her waist, distracting her with pattering kisses to her neck as he attempted to sneak a finger into the bowl of half-whisked cake mix she was preparing. “—Who’s it going to hurt?” She had tugged the dish away from him every time he had tried, no longer bothering to hide the laugh on either of their lips as he pawed for it childishly. They often cooked together, their relationship relishing a breather of raw energy.

Pancakes remained their favourite.

Will had come home from work early to surprise her with an afternoon alone, and had caught her in the equally surprise cake-baking act. But, with crumpled sleeves rolled up to his elbows and white-flour handprints, sporting very definite feminine fingers, on the arse of his crisp, black suit trousers, his cufflinks, tie and jacket languishing somewhere in the living room and the brightest smile in his eyes, he could not have looked any less like the head of an accountancy firm. “Please?” He murmured, kissing the hollow of her ear, his teeth on her earlobe. “Just a taste…?”

[TAG: Mariana.]

[Flashback] Tiptoe By The Window ~ William & Mariana.

He should not have felt so tense upon the birth of their child, but when he was waiting, just waiting, for her to become suffocated by his very presence, insist he stop the car so she could get out and run, it was hard to relax.

Will had been good, so good, while she had been holed up in the hospital with her son at her side: Once she had become more comfortable with her surroundings and had insisted, with a very Marian-esque decisiveness, that he return to work lest the town’s finances crumble while he was otherwise occupied, he had visited frequently, but not so often that she might feel he was smothering her; he had kept his voice low and non-threatening, his movements small and unobtrusive and had not so much as asked to hold Matthew, but waited until a few brief seconds were offered. In short, he had done whatever she had asked, whenever she had asked it – Reverting to the perfect husband archetype for an entirely different reason – Although he was more than happy to pick them up when mother and child had been discharged as healthy.

Home waited. Will had spent little time there while Mariana had been absent, lost to the maternity ward. What had she called it? ‘The cold, abandoned house of their marriage’ – Nothing could have been more apt. With thirty years of blissful memories of this house clogging up his mind with a vicious smugness, Will had not been able to look at a single inch with a clear head for days; every room felt twice as large with half its occupants. He had taken up a room at the B&B, or spent whole nights hunched over his office desk, thoughts bleached out by his laptop screen.

Unlocking the front door with a familiar click, he stood in front of the hall table – The dent where she had flung the door so savagely into it still painfully evident – And, having already fussed over her getting out of the car itself for fear of her tugging boldly at her stitches or tripping over her own feet, depending on which woman she felt like today, held it open for Mariana, with Matthew in her arms.

The Sum of All Thrills ~ Richard & Marian.

He could have sworn that his head was still spinning. When they had finally torn themselves apart after multiple rounds and a smear of blood across her white desk – She had hit him, hardest still, as the deep nail-scratch on his left shoulder, just below the thick, white scar he had always believed he had sustained in an ill-advised tree-climbing accident as a child, had smudged across her leather chair. Then kissed him again – Remembering the baby in his cradle and his wife waiting on them back at home, Richard attempted to pull himself together in the car, his breathing remaining erratic.

Regina had successfully destroyed his shirt to the point of no return – Simply for the sake of it – And the seam of his right sleeve was ripped deeply, almost clean through – That one was desperate lust, no thought besides his practical purpose as she stripped him. He had never been gladder to have withheld himself from her for so long, to deny her the privileges of devouring him in both soul and body, because when they came together they were as explosive as they had forever promised to be. It was long overdue, but close your eyes to her black and white office and both worlds looked the same in the dark.

His shoulder ached where she had thrown him up against the wall and dug her teeth into his throat; Christ, he’d be black and blue by morning, let alone the scratches covering his chest dried with blood and sticking to his shirt fabric. It was so worth it. Pleasure and pain and everything in between, a hundred miles from the vanilla sex his marital bed saw – Marian had decided her husband, her childhood friend, was not worth the effort it took to keep him pure, and had evidently taken great pleasure in having her Lord, so let the Sheriff have his Queen. He couldn’t stomach her betrayal, couldn’t pretend the black heart in his chest wasn’t clawing for its freedom. Regina had seen to that.

Shirt held closed with one hand across his chest, Matthew’s carrier slung over one arm, he unlocked the front door with the slowest, quietest motion possible, and prayed to any deity that considered him worth listening to that Mariana had been simply unable to breathe in a silent house and had taken herself off to town, perhaps to spend his money, or pop in to Granny’s and slag Ruby off a little more. Richard was certain he could not have dealt with her persistent questions quite so immediately, not while he was still so exposed, so covered in Regina’s marks, which the queen had not seen fit to ease from him, so undeniably hers, despite all he had promised.

God, he wanted to try it with magic.

[FTL Flashback] Sins Of The Father ~ Richard & Marian.

It was said that the Devil lived behind those high, stone walls, cloaked in shadows and blotting out the sun. It was said he struck a deal with fallen angels. It was said he could not die.

The centre of the province, Nottingham town lurked like a dark ink stain on the landscape, painted a thousand shades of grey, every one of which suited their lord and master. It was said that he, unburdened with the trials and tribulations of a sense of decency, fair play or a moral centre, even bled grey – Coal grey, or aristocratic blue, or ice white, or dirt green, or dead black, or did he even bleed at all? They supposed he had no need to, once he had leached the red from every man, woman or child who dared defy him. They had learned to keep their tongues in their mouths and their eyes downcast as he rode through the city, the tall, dark man on his tall, dark horse.

It was said both beasts had fangs.

Lord Richard Vaizey, Sheriff of Nottingham, was a soldier, born and bred for the battlefield and all the horrors Hell could throw at him therein. He may have ruled his people with fear, but it was sheer bloody respect – Disturbingly literal, in some cases – That sat him squarely at the helm of his men. He ate with them, slept with them and fought with them and they, in return, would die for him, without question. Such unfaltering, suicidal loyalty had left him untouchable; it was said he had half the nation’s army under his thumb, tucked away for a rainy-day coup.

On a clear day, with a cloudless sky and just the smallest of breezes, from the battlements he could see smoke from the front line, far off, beyond the edge of Sherwood Forest. It was acrid, black stuff, thick and tar-like, that stuck to your lungs and had you coughing up soot for days; it was the long, dark, blood-scream through a wailing sky of burning bodies. It hadn’t been long since he had made his last campaign over there, intent on keeping a finger on the still-beating pulse of the Southlands’ involvement in the Ogre Wars; the smoke still clung to his spurs, a whisper of mortality along the cold castle flagstones. No one was safe, not from him.

The Great Hall was cold as sin, and left dragon’s breath lingering in the air behind every word. A shaggy, grey, direwolf-pelt cloak was slung haphazardly over the high helm of the chair at the head of the long table, but its owner had not reached for it for hours, knees spread, fingers steepled and eyes fixed on the intricately-inked parchment map spread before him. Those eyes should have been black, to match – It was said – His heart, but they were startlingly bright, piercing blue as the sky, and agitated, flitting from one detailed landmass to the next, with an endless vigour for the fight.

They were losing – He could damn well see that, he didn’t need the incompetent councillors arguing loudly with one another across the table to cover it up to spare him. He was their general! He was practically their king. And if they thought that pacifying him would see them safely behind high castle walls instead of following him on his next campaign, they were sorely mistaken. “Ailemer—” He barked, his first word in over half-an-hour of unceasing argument, with which he had simply had enough, shattering the lords’ little reverie and reminding them who was in charge. “—How many men moved to the eastern flank yesterday evening?”

A breath. A swallow. “Five-hundred, my Lord.”

“And how many did I tell you to move?”

“Two—Two-hundred, my Lord.”

Two-hundred. Yes – I remember.” He smiled, sharkish, such beautiful blue eyes in a hard, handsome face devoid of all humour. “But, I suppose you didn’t believe me, when I ordered the movement of such a small contingent because the terrain was unsuitable for a full squadron, that anymore than two-fifty would be spotted immediately, and our best hope at a three-pronged attack would be wiped from the face of the earth? I suppose you didn’t trust a man with half your years and twice your knowledge, hmm? Remind me, Ailemer – Which of us is the soldier?”

“You, Sir.”

“And which of us has killed with those men?”

“You, Sir.”

“And which of us will be swinging from my rafters with candles inserted into every orifice within the week, when your cretinous attempt at military prowess goes disastrously wrong, and I lose my friends, my comrades, to your disgustingly insubordinate hand?”

“Me, Sir.”


[Flashback - Pre-curse Storybrooke] Something Borrowed ~ William & Mariana.

If you’d have told him it was a fortnight until his wedding, Will would not have believed you for a second. The ring on Mariana’s left hand and his parents’ daily phone calls and the tacky foil ‘Congratulations!’ banner strung up over the door of his office proclaimed otherwise. Butterflies, she called it, when they were stopped in the street by yet another well-wisher, a friend of a mother of a pupil in Miss May’s class, or the brother of one of Mr. de Laci’s employees. Butterflies – He felt that, the nervous excitement that could have helped or hindered. She made an honest man out of him, and he loved her so hard his heart could burst.

He took a shortcut on the way home, the conspicuous car driving through ‘her’ half of town, half-a-mile from her childhood home, passed her fairytale little church, with its climbing ivy and cracked lead tiles. When they had visited – For there had never been any other option, really – Mariana had been offered a hefty discount for her lifelong contribution to the parish, but Will had insisted on paying in full, and a touch more. He had no intention of showing off – It was generosity, a donation to their cracked tile and Sunday School fund; it was thanks that they would welcome such an outsider to their community, thanks for the inherent value of family he had found amongst their congregation.

He was only a little earlier than his routine suggested, which hardly made any difference in the long-run – Key in the lock of the last door along the corridor, then a clatter in the bowl, jacket on the back of the door, briefcase beside his shoes, and a call through the apartment that bounced off the walls. “Honey, I’m home!”