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[personal profile] daylight_darknight
I usually say that I don't write romance fic but I'm pretty sure this qualifies even if only one half of both pairings are actually in the fic. Anyway as my first real romance fic, I hope it didn't turn out too corny or weird or whatever. Romance is really not my specialty.

Title: Wives and Wedding Rings
Characters: Rip Hunter, Martin Stein
Rating/Warnings: G
Genre: Angst, Friendship
Word Count: 3200
Spoilers: Set somewhere the last few episodes of Season 1.
Summary: Martin and Rip discuss the women they've left behind.

Wandering through the Waverider on his way to the bridge, Rip was drawn to a sudden halt by a loud series of exclamations echoing down the metal corridors.

“Of all the... How could you have been so stupid? You moronic nitwit. You addlebrained imbecile. You dimwitted, lamebrained... Blast! Where the hell is it? Damn, confounded...”

Following the noise, Rip was lead towards the fabrication room where he was once more drawn to a halt this time by the sight that greeted him.

Nearly every inch of the fabrication room’s floor was covered with scattered and discarded clothes. There was a beige turtleneck sweater, a denim jumpsuit, a pair of white go-go boots, some bellbottom trousers, a wide collared shirt, suits and ties of various colours and styles, a red pleated skirt, a green evening gown, the collected pieces of several military and medical uniforms, a fur coat, a tuxedo or two, a denim jacket with a fur collar, a pink floral dress, several drab garments of gray wool, a long black coat, a leather vest, a red bandana, and much more.

As Rip took in the sight, eyes wide, another a pair of trousers went flying across the room and landed among the piles of clothing. The source of the flying trousers as well as the passionate string of curses he’d been following was Professor Martin Stein. The professor was bent over digging furiously through a large bin in the corner of the room, yanking clothing out, examining them, and then tossing them over his shoulder.

The bin, Rip knew, contained clothing that had been fabricated and used on their missions but was no longer needed. The clothing was meant to be washed and recycled to make even more clothing but apparently that hadn’t happened, most likely for the simple reason that no one had actually gotten around to doing it. It was a good thing that much of the cleaning on the Waverider was automated, Rip mused. He hated to think what would happen if he had to institute something as ridiculous as assigning chores or creating a cleaning schedule. The chaos surrounding the bathrooms and the galley was bad enough. The fights that had erupted over those two areas were already close to reaching legendary status. For some reason, the team was quite happy to help out with ship maintenance, but had to be dragged kicking and screaming if any actual cleaning needed to be done.

“Infernal garments,” Martin was grumbling, still digging away at the apparently bottomless pit of clothing. “Why have we kept so many of these ridiculous getups? Damn, blasted...” His curses broke down into low and incoherent mutterings for a while, and then he sighed and said bitterly, “Well, maybe if you weren’t such an absentminded, old coot...” He flung a floral shirt over his shoulder.

Rip dodged out of the way of the flung shirt and cleared his throat. “Professor?”

Martin startled rather comically dropping the clothes he currently had in his hands and whirling around to stare at Rip. “Captain!” he said in surprise. “What brings you down here?”

“I was following what sounded like a rather interesting conversation and I found this.” Rip nodded towards the floor.

Martin’s face creased with confusion, and then he glanced down and saw the mess he had created. “Ah,” he said. “You’re probably wondering what exactly I’m doing?”

“It had crossed my mind," said Rip. He gazed at Martin, eyes narrowing in concern. “Is everything alright?”

Martin's shoulders slumped and he let out a long tired breath. “No, quite frankly, it’s not,” he said running a hand through his hair. “And it’s all because of my own confounded idiocy. I mean it was bad enough the first time. I can’t believe I’ve done it again.”

“Done what?” asked Rip.

Martin threw his hands up in the air in a gesture of extreme vexation. “Lost my wedding ring!” he exclaimed. “Though at least this time I can say it’s only been lost spatially and not temporally.”

Things finally started to make sense to Rip. “And you think it’s somewhere in the clothes bin?”

Martin nodded. “Remember how I was playing the part of the eccentric billionaire businessman on our last mission? Well, Ms. Lance thought things would go more smoothly if I didn’t appear to be married, so I took off my ring and slipped it into my coat pocket; then when we got back, I completely forgot about it. I just chucked the damn coat in the bin without taking the ring out.”

“And now you can’t find the coat?”

“Oh, I found the coat,” said Martin picking up to aforementioned garment from the floor and waving it about, “but the ring’s not in it. The ring must have fallen out and now I can’t find it.”

“Perhaps a second set of eyes will help,” Rip suggested, picking up a nearby pair of trousers and giving them a thorough going over before folding them and putting them neatly to the side.

Martin gave a grateful sigh. “That would be very much appreciated,” he said and turned to continue digging through the clothing bin. “Honestly, I can’t understand how I could have been so careless.”

Rip picked up a shimmery silver dress Kendra had worn during their previous mission and carefully shook it out before folding it too and setting it aside. “Don’t beat yourself up over it, Martin,” he said. “It was a simple mistake. Anyone could have made it.”

“I know. I know.” Martin pulled out a checkered shirt and scowled when it also proved ringless. He crumpled it up and tossed it away to join the rest of the scattered clothes. “It’s just... Clarrisa.”

“Your wife?”

Martin nodded again. “She’s already had to put up with so much from me. First I go and disappear for over a year because of the particle accelerator explosion; then I take off to learn more about being Firestorm; then I take off again on a trip through time without even telling her; and to top it off, I go and lose the very symbol of our union.” He rubbed his forehead wearily. “I do love her, Mr. Hunter. It may not seem like it, but I truly do.”

“I don’t doubt that,” said Rip, and added his voice taking on a softer tone, “Just because you love someone with all your heart doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment of your lives together.”

Martin gazed at him, a thoughtful expression on his face. “Like you and Miranda?” he ventured tentatively.

Rip stopped halfway through folding a dark blue dinner jacket, the reminder of his wife sending an all too familiar jolt of pain and guilt through him. He finished folding the jacket and tried to cover up his pause with a slight cough. “That’s right,” he said.

“You obviously made it work.” It was a casual observation but the curiosity was evident in Martin’s tone.

“We did,” said Rip continuing to work, finding it easier to speak about it if he focused on searching through the clothes and avoided the look of compassionate sympathy he knew would be in Martin’s eyes. “It wasn’t always easy but we managed. I made sure to come home at least once a month, send home messages every few days, take as much time off as possible between missions, or I tried to. Things would come up and get in the way, and the Time Council was never really understanding when it came to matters of family, but Miranda was always very forgiving when I was delayed.”

“Just like Clarrisa,” said Martin with a smile. “Your Miranda must be quite something.”

“She is, was...” Rip stumbled over the words. Even for an experienced Time Master tenses could be difficult especially when the last time you’d seen the person you were talking about, they were technically... He cleared his throat. “She was actually meant to be a Time Master herself but she resigned before she made captain.”

“She resigned?” Martin raised his eyebrows in disbelief. “I find it hard to imagine anyone willingly giving up an opportunity like this, but then travelling in time has been a dream of mine since I was a child.”

More guilt. Rip grimaced. He knew Miranda had insisted that she no longer wanted to be a Time Master, but it was hard to get over the fact that if it hadn’t been for him, she would have been one and an amazing one at that. “She didn’t have much of a choice. When the council found out about us... Well, they weren’t happy to say the least. She resigned so that I could stay.”

“I see,” said Martin. “It must have been difficult for her going back to a normal life.”

“If it was, she never showed it,” said Rip, a bit of pride slipping into his voice. “She dived right in and never looked back. She insisted on living in the mid-twenty-second century because she wanted to help people and that was where she thought she could do the most good.”

Honestly, Rip, she’d said, if I’m going to be stuck in a single place in time, it needs to be somewhere I can make use of what I’ve learned, somewhere I can make a difference. And she’d looked at him determinedly with her eyebrows raised and her jaw set, an expression he knew meant he didn’t have a chance in hell of arguing with her.

Martin stared at him astonishment. “You mean she chose to live there? But you must have known what would happen, that Savage would eventually invade?”

Rip closed his eyes momentarily pausing in his work, his hands clenching and twisting the sweater he held. “The timeline changed,” he said, the frustration audible in his voice. “I don’t know why and I don’t know how. Originally there was a lot of unrest at the time, but it wasn’t worldwide. England in particular was safe.” He shook his head. “It was supposed to be safe.”

He should have noticed the change in the timeline sooner, realized it wasn’t safe for Miranda and Jonas anymore, gotten them out of there. Everything just happened so fast. From one week to the next Miranda’s messages went from complaints about the government cutting funding and wry reports on Jonas’ recent exploits to talk of soldiers on the streets.

“Suddenly Savage just started...”

“Decimating everything?” Martin suggested.

Rip nodded. He started going through the clothes again needing something to distract him from the unwanted thoughts and memories. “Before Savage reached England, Miranda worked for a refugee organization. She used to help bring people from places Savage had already conquered to safety, or at least, what we thought was safety.” Sheltering the castaways and bringing home the lost as Miranda always called it.

“Noble and admirable work.”

“I actually took a couple of years off from being a Time Master,” Rip continued, “once when Jonas was two and again when he was five, so Miranda could go off and do some hands on work helping refugees overseas.” He recalled the strangeness of the time, the oddity of staying in one place and one time for so long, the joy of spending so much time with his son combined with the frequent worrying about Miranda. “It really made me appreciate what she has to go through when I’m away on a mission.” He winced, biting his lip as he realized he’d unintentionally changed tenses again. Unable to say more, he fell into silence.

“It’s good to know she had a chance to go off on some of her own adventures,” said Martin when the silence grew too long. “You know Clarissa used to do that when we were younger, go off on adventures, or at least, that’s what she’d call them. She’d pack up her easel and go hiking up some mountain to get the perfect image of a sunrise or travel to Zimbabwe to paint waterfalls.”

“She’s a painter?” said Rip, glad of the change of subject.

Martin nodded and dived into the clothing bin to pull out the last few items there. “A particularly good one if I do say so myself. People seem to assume that I’m the one who paid for that fancy house of ours, but academia has never paid that well. No, it’s all her.” He scrunched up his nose at a bright red sock as he turned it inside out. “She doesn’t paint as much these days though. She’s too busy running the Central City Art Gallery.”

“You must be very proud of her.”

“Oh, I am. I am. But frankly I’d still love her if all she did was spend her time drinking gin and tonics and raising purebred Pekingese. She is amazing, simply amazing.” A warm smile spread across Martin’ face. “Whatever did we do to deserve such wonderful women?”

A painful tightness seized Rip’s throat. “I honestly couldn’t say,” he said, hoarsely.

“Clarissa has stood by me for so long,” Martin continued, his tone growing more somber. “Despite my absentmindedness, my various obsessions, and my random whims, she has always been there waiting for me when I got home.” He pulled the last item from the clothing bin, a silk scarf printed with large violet flowers, and let it fall to the floor. “And I’m afraid I’ve been taking her for granted recently. I’m afraid that one day I’ll go home and she won’t be there waiting for me anymore.”

Had he taken Miranda for granted, Rip wondered. Should he have sent more messages home, taken more time off, given her a chance for more of her own adventures? Should he have quit being a Time Master altogether and stayed at Miranda’s side to raise their son? If he’d spent more time at home, taken less for granted, would Miranda and Jonas still be alive? The possibilities ran in darker and darker circles in his head.

Martin must have seen something in his expression because he hastily added, “Sorry that was a terribly insensitive thing for me to say given...” He cleared his throat and turned his gaze to the clothing bin which now stood empty, absent of clothing and rings. “Well, I’ll just have to hope that Clarissa will continue to stand by me after all this. It’ll be bad enough when I tell her about this little adventure I’ve run off on, but then I’ll have to inform her about the missing ring. It must have fallen out of my pocket before I even got back to the ship. It could be anywhere.”

Letting out a deep breath and wishing he could let go of the pain just as easily, Rip picked up a neon green hoody Ray had worn once when they’d visited the 1980s and began sifting through its pockets. “From what you’ve said, I highly doubt Clarissa’s the type who would begrudge you the opportunity to fulfill your childhood dream,” he said. The hoody’s pockets were empty but Rip could feel something small and hard tucked within the hood itself. He smiled wryly. “As for the ring...” He pulled the object out of the hood and held it out to Martin. “I don’t think you need to worry about that.”

Martin stared in amazement at the gold ring sitting on Rip’s palm. “You found it!” Striding over, he took the ring from Rip and turned it over in his fingers. “Thank you, Mr. Hunter. It seems you’ve saved my marriage yet again.”

“You’re welcome,” Rip said and was surprised to see that despite the grin on Martin’s face, there were tears in his eyes. “Martin?”

“Sorry.” Martin sniffed. “I know it’s ridiculous getting so emotional over a simple inanimate object. After all, it’s Clarissa that’s important not the ring, but you see this, this is my anchor,” he declared holding up the ring. “Clarissa has been my home for over forty years. It admittedly hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but she’s always been there, and this is my link to her. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been lost in my work, seen this ring, and been brought back to Earth from whatever far reaches my mind’s wandered to.” With reverence, he placed the ring back on his finger. “I have a wonderfully patient woman waiting for me and this reminds me of that fact.”

Rip felt tears welling up in his own eyes. “Yes, well, we should probably...” Trying to hide the tears, he grabbed an armful of clothes from the floor and went over to dump them back in the bin.

“Right,” said Martin as he gazed about at the scattered clothes. “We need to do something about this little mess, don’t we.”

With the two of them working together, it didn’t take long. The bin was soon full once more and the floor of the fabrication room clear. Rip stared at the clothes trying to decide whether or not he had the energy to wash them and set up the recycling process.

Martin patted him on the shoulder. “I’ll take care of it,” he said as if reading Rip’s thoughts. “Maybe that way if I am dimwitted enough to let this happen again, there won’t be quite so many clothes to search through.”

“Thank you, Martin,” said Rip. He rubbed his hands together wondering if instituting a cleaning schedule might not be such a bad idea after all. Glancing over at Martin, he saw the professor was gazing at him with a thoughtful look on his face as if he were mulling over something in his head but was unsure whether or not to say it out loud.

“What?” Rip asked.

“Excuse me for prying,” said Martin, hesitantly. “Well, more than I already have, but I couldn’t help noticing... I mean maybe it’s no longer traditional in the future and I don’t see why it should be, not that I have any issue with that, but I did wonder...”

“What is it?” Rip asked again, interrupting Martin’s babbling.

“I was wondering why you don’t wear a ring," Martin finally said.

“Oh,” said Rip and he gazed down at the bare fingers of his left hand. He should have expected this question. In fact, he was surprised no one had asked him about it before. “It’s true wedding rings aren’t quite as popular in the future, but...” He reached under the collar of his shirt to the chain that hung around his neck and slowly pulled it out. Hanging from the end of the chain was a gold ring.

Martin gave a soft chuckle. “I should have known.”

The light glinted off the edges of the ring as it dangled from its chain. Rip could still vividly recall placing the matching ring on Miranda’s finger in the tiny church where they’d gotten married with only the priest, their adopted mother, Mary Xavier, and a couple of Miranda’s coworkers for company, their connection through space and time as Miranda had called it that day.

Rip tucked the ring back under his shirt. “I’ve found that as a Time Master it doesn’t always pay to advertise the fact that you’re married,” he explained to Martin. The ring came to rest against the bare skin of his chest, a familiar, reassuring weight. “Besides,” he added with a sad smile, “I like to keep my anchor close to my heart where it’s less likely to get lost.”
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