Ever After


C/S pairing, rated PG. A response to the I Do/I Don’t episode challenge. This story, like all the others, is purely a work of fan fiction. I have zero rights to the characters, the show, or anything else.


He wasn’t even going to show up.


Still not convinced that the whole thing wasn’t a practical joke, Carmine simply hung out in his apartment for awhile, showering off the leftover stink from his day of peaceful fishing, and waiting for Shirley to either call or knock and cry, “April Fool!” When she didn’t, he expected either Lenny or Squiggy to arrive, claiming responsibility for putting Shirley up to the joke. But, no, no one came, and he was left standing in his underwear, staring at a tuxedo with a small round hole through it and wondering what the hell he was supposed to do next.


Then Lenny arrived, all dressed up and ready to take him to the church. It was then that Carmine’s heart sank to his shoes as the realization set in – this was no joke. Shirley intended for them to get married, today, apparently whether he liked it or not.


He didn’t. Looking Lenny straight in the eye, he said, “I ain’t going.”


Lenny blinked. “What do you mean, you ain’t going? You can’t not go. It’s your wedding day.”


“No, it isn’t. I didn’t plan this. Hell, I didn’t even propose…I don’t think. This is insane! She’s insane!”


“Oh.” Lenny stared at his shiny black shoes and scratched his well-oiled hair. “Well, um, then what do you want me to tell her, Carmine?”


He threw his hands in the air. “Tell her no!”


“Isn’t that your job?”


“I,” Carmine hesitated. “I thought I did. But then she looked at me with those big Bambi eyes and went on about a free dream wedding and how happy we’d be….”


“And that’s when you said no?”


“Not exactly.” Carmine’s shoulders slumped. “I think I just kind of left after that.”


“Oh. So you decided it was okay.”


“No! I didn’t!”


“Ah, I see.” Lenny shook his head. “Wait, no I don’t.”


“Argh!” Carmine picked up one of the free dress shoes – which was at least a size too big for him – and hurled it across the room. It left a black stain on his wall to mark the collision.  “Why is she doing this to us? Why now? Everything was going along just great.”


“Yeah, I can see that.” Lenny eyed the other shoe near Carmine’s feet and took a step backward.  “You gonna be throwing more stuff? Cause I’ll just stay over here….”


Carmine groaned and dropped down onto his sofa, head cradled in his hands.  “Len, what am I supposed to do here? I love Shirley and I’m pretty sure she loves me.”


“I’d take the wanting to marry you as a pretty big hint that you’re right.” Lenny sidled over to the sofa and sat down next to Carmine. He used his foot to move the other dress shoe out of reach.


“We’ve been going steady for a couple of months now. I think it’s fair to say we’ve never been closer.”


“Uh, huh.”


“Then all of a sudden, she wants a lifelong commitment? Tonight, just like that, she expects us to become man and wife?” Carmine dropped his hands and turned his face toward Lenny. “That’s a serious thing, you know. It’s for life, on and on, eternity, until death do us part.”


Lenny nodded. “I’ve heard that somewhere before.”


“So here it is, about a half hour before I’m supposed to show up at a church and take these vows and I don’t know what to do. Tell me, what’s the right thing to do?” He held his hands out in supplication.


Lenny stared at him and Carmine wondered if his buddy had completely lost track of their conversation. Abruptly, Len said, “I can’t tell you that. But how ‘bout this, instead of trying to figure out what to do, why don’t you ask yourself how you feel? Maybe your feelings will point you in the right direction.”


It was Carmine’s turn to blink. “Did you just say that?”


“Say what?”


“Exactly. Wow.” Carmine took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “How do I feel? Right now?” Lenny nodded. “I guess I’m pretty mad right now.”


“At Shirley?”


“Oh, yeah.”




Why? Haven’t you been paying attention? She’s trapping me into a marriage out of nowhere!”


“Well, come on,” Len chuckled. “That’s not exactly true. She ain’t having a baby or nothing. She didn’t tell you marry me tonight or else, did she?”


Carmine rewound his last, bizarre conversation with Shirley. “No, I guess not. I mean, I’m sure about the baby part – really, really sure, trust me – and no, I suppose she didn’t give me an ultimatum, not in so many words.”

“Ah. But you think it’s there.”


“Yeah, I do.” Carmine frowned. “I’m worried that if I don’t show up, she’s gonna call it quits with us, once and for all.”


“And you don’t want that.”


“No, of course not! I told you, I love her.”


“Even though she sprang this wedding on you?”


“Yeah, well, that’s Shirley. That’s all part of who she is. Impulsive, emotional, romantic, a dreamer. That’s all part of why I love her so much.”


“So I guess you ain’t all that mad, after all.”


Carmine cocked his head to one side. “Who are you and what have you done with Lenny?”




“Nothing. You’re just making way too much sense here. I’m not used to it.”


Lenny grinned. “Me neither. So while I’m on a roll, let’s keep going. We figured out you’re mad, but not all that mad. And that you love Shirley. And that you’re afraid.”


“I ain’t afraid of nothing!” snapped Carmine.


“Yeah, you are. You just said you’re scared that if you don’t go through with this wedding, you’ll lose Shirley.”


“I didn’t say scared.”


Lenny rolled his eyes. “Fine, call it worried. But judging by that look on your face, it’s one of the only things that really ‘worries’ you, am I right?”


Carmine sighed and let his head fall back against the couch. “Okay, okay. You’re right again, the thought of not having Shirley in my life scares the bejeebus out of me. She’s the only bright and perfect thing in it, my whole reason for trying so hard to succeed, for rolling out of bed every day to earn a buck.”


“You basically do it all for her, huh?”




“Because you love her and want to make her happy.”


“Exactly. I want to be the man she deserves, to be able to give her everything she’s ever wanted.”


“So all Shirley wants is stuff? Cars, fancy clothes, a ritzy house?”


Carmine shook his head. “No, Len. See, you don’t know her like I do. Underneath all that all Shirley wants, all she’s ever wanted, was a family of her own. Two parents who love each other and stay together, kids they really want and stick around to raise. A family like she never had herself.”


Lenny shrugged. “You can make babies.”


Carmine arched an eyebrow at him. “Far as I know.”


“And you take marriage pretty seriously from what you’ve said.” Carmine nodded. “So, basically, you can give Shirley everything she’s ever truly wanted right exactly now.”


Carmine opened his mouth, but didn’t say anything. He met Len’s guileless blue eyes and something inside him clicked. “Oh, my God. You’re right, Len. I love Shirley. I’m scared to death of losing her. I want to be with her, I want to give her everything she really wants…and I can. I can do it tonight if I want to.”


“That’s the real question, isn’t it, Carmine. Do you want to?” Lenny stood up and stretched. “Look, you don’t have a lot of time, but I think you oughta spend what you’ve got left alone. You got a big decision to make, you don’t need a big dope like me hanging around distracting you.”


“You’re not a dope, Len.” Carmine smiled. “I’m starting to think you’re one of the smartest guys I know.”


“Hey, geeze, thanks there. And I want you to know, I’ll be a great best man, should you decide to go through with this.”


“Wait,” said Carmine. “You’re my what now?”


“See ya later.” Lenny waved and strolled out of his front door.


Carmine sat on the sofa only five minutes longer before running into his tiny bedroom to search for a needle and thread. He managed to dig out an old mini sewing kit he’d gotten for opening a bank account in Burbank and spent several harrowing minutes trying to thread the needle and sew up the hole in his tuxedo jacket. Glancing at the clock, his heart sank when he saw that it was already a few minutes after six.


“Damn it!” he swore as he yanked on the stiff trousers and shrugged into the jacket, careful not to tear apart his awkward stitches. “I’m coming, Shirl! Hang on, Angel Face, I’m coming!”


He showed up. He vented a little of his anger at her springing these surprise nuptials on him, but then he went to the altar by Shirley’s side, said his, “I do.” And after all that soul-searching, after coming to terms with taking their relationship to a whole new level, her response was, “I can’t.”


He heard her explanation. He said it was okay.


It wasn’t.


Carmine managed to keep the smile plastered on his face as he danced with his now-official girlfriend in front of some other couple’s family and friends. He even held it together through the free reception, laughing at Lenny and Squiggy’s goofy but well-meant toasts, and taking turns spinning both Shirley and Laverne around the dance floor. He kept his cool when Frank DeFazio clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Make it a double wedding next time, wouldja? Don’t you have any friends for my Muffin?” He did a great job keeping up the façade, until he was home alone in his apartment once again. Only then did he rip off the tux, stomp over to his refrigerator, and fling it open with a grunt. He peered inside and saw he was out of beer. He slammed the fridge door shut, opened it again, slammed it harder, opened it again, and began banging it closed over and over, letting out a stream of curses he’d been holding in for hours. If his mother could have heard him, she would have disowned him on the spot.


Exhausted, Carmine finally let the refrigerator door drift shut on its own and slumped down onto the linoleum, hugging his knees into his chest. “How could she turn me down? After springing a wedding on me out of nowhere, I actually show up ready to tie the knot and she’s the one who changes her mind at the altar?” He shook his head. “I’ve must’ve stumbled into the Twilight Zone somehow.”


Carmine got up off the kitchen floor and stormed into his bedroom, yanking on a pair of comfortable jeans and a tee shirt. Then he marched to his front door, grasped the knob…and hesitated. So what are you going to do now? You gonna go to a bar? You gonna pick up some floozy for the night? Or you gonna confront the woman responsible for putting your guts in the wringer?


He’d told Shirley it was okay, let her think that they were on the same wavelength, that he was as relieved as she that they hadn’t gone through with the wedding. But the fact was that he wasn’t. He was angry, even more so than when she’d tossed this curveball at him in the first place. Screw it, she’s gonna here about it, I don’t care how late it is! No one stomps all over Carmine Ragusa, not even Shirley! He flung open his door.


And froze.


Shirley was staring back at him, still wearing her wedding gown, one small fist raised as if to knock. Her eyes were wide and bloodshot, and her perfectly applied makeup was streaked. At a loss for words, he just stared at her, one hand still on the knob, the other grasping the doorframe.


“Carmine,” she said, her voice quavering. “I thought you…I’m glad I didn’t wake you.”


“Shirl.” He fought to keep his voice calm. “I was just coming to talk to you.”


“Really? Well, what a coincidence.” She sniffled. “I’m surprised you’d ever want to talk to me again, after what I did.”


He shook his head. “Um, what now?”


“This whole day…I’ve been so horrid. Treating you like you were a…a pet, to be told where to go and what to do, without any care for your feelings.” She reached up and stroked his cheek. His face burned under her caress. “Of all people, I know how much you feel, even when you hold it inside. I hurt you, didn’t I?”


He pressed his lips tightly together and turned away, walking back into his apartment. He heard her follow him in and close the door. “Carmine, I’m so sorry. The one thing I never wanted to do was hurt you. You know that, right?”


“No. No I don’t.” He turned back and faced her. “I hear your words, Shirl, but your actions tell me a whole other story.”


She hung her head. “I should never have forced you into this whole thing. A wedding, out of the blue…of course you didn’t want it.”


“That’s true, I didn’t.”


“Yet you showed up. You put on that tux and a smile and you came to me.” She gave him a brief smile. “You looked so handsome. All you needed was a white horse to ride in on.”


“Would that have made you say I do?” he snapped. She blanched and he felt a small surge of satisfaction.

“See, I knew you were hurt. I want you – no, I need you to understand why I didn’t go through with it.”


“I know why,” he muttered. “I’m not a doctor. I can’t give you a house with a picket fence. And my name’s not Dave.”


“The dog is Dave,” she murmured.




“The dog is…oh, never mind all that. You know that’s all just a silly girlhood fantasy.” She took a step toward him and he took one back. Shirley sighed. “Carmine, I’m almost thirty. I may remember my fantasies, but I’m not naïve enough to expect them to come true anymore. Besides.” She took another step toward him, only this time, before he could back away she grabbed his wrist and pulled him closer. “My reality is a lot better than a made-up doctor and his shiny white, boring house.” She ran her fingertips along the side of his face and a shiver went down his spine. “I have a sweet, sexy, hot-blooded man and he’s very, very real.”


Carmine closed his eyes briefly. He gave his head a brisk shake and opened them again, glaring at her. “See, you say stuff like that and make me feel all…gushy inside, but then comes the time to take the next step and you back away!”


She tilted her head to one side and studied him out of the corner of her eye. “You know I’m waiting for marriage.”


“I was giving you marriage!” he shouted, waving his left hand in front of her, pointing at the ring finger with his right. “We were right there, Shirl, in the presence of God and witnesses, just like you wanted, and you still turned me down! What the hell else is there? What do you want from me? If I’m not good enough, then just say so already and let’s be done with this, whatever this has been for the past decade!” His voice cracked like an adolescent and he turned away from her again. Catching his breath, he added in a much softer tone, “We’ve got to fish or cut bait now, Shirl, ‘cause I just can’t handle it anymore. I can’t love you this much and not have you, and I don’t just mean physically. I want you to be my wife, my partner in life, forever. If I can’t have that, then I want to be able to move on. Okay?” He turned back to her. “Please, just give me – us – some sort of resolution, before I completely lose my mind.”


She stood there, looking so fragile, like a bridal doll from the top of a cake come to life. A large tear snuck out of the corner of her left eye and wound its way down her rosebud cheek, until she swept it away with one graceful gesture. He found he was holding his breath, terrified that she’d give him what he’d demanded…an end to uncertainty that would also be an end to them. Take it back! he screamed in his head. Tell her never mind, everything can just go back to the way it was, you were only kidding! He fought the impulse and stood his ground, hoping he wasn’t trembling as hard on the outside as he was within.


Shirley sniffled. “I thought you were just going through with it for me. You do everything for everyone else, always put their feelings first, especially where I’m concerned. I thought you only said I do because it was what you thought I wanted.”


“I ain’t that selfless,” he said, managing a quick grin.


“No, I guess not.” She cradled his face in her hands and stared deeply into his eyes. “You meant it, even though I all but tricked you into a wedding. You really wanted to marry me.”


“I did,” he said. “God help me, I still do.”


“But earlier, you said….”


“I know I told you I wasn’t ready and if you hadn’t pulled this wedding out of your hat, I probably wouldn’t have proposed any time soon. I was waiting until I was more secure and could support a family.”


“So, then. I was right.” She let go of him and started to turn away, but he stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.


“Then I talked to Lenny.”


“Lenny? Kosnowski?” She raised her eyebrows. “Tall blond guy, that Lenny?”


Carmine chuckled. “Yes, of course that Lenny! He helped me figure out a few things, about what you really need, about what I really want.” He rested his other hand on her cheek, enjoying the velvety softness of her skin. “I love you, Shirl, and I don’t need to wait anymore. I’ve still got a lot to do, but I’m sick of us being on hold while I do it. I want you by my side while I’m reaching for that brass ring.”


Shirley blinked quickly, her eyes glistening. “Oh, Carmine. I want that, too.”


“You do? So what was all that about being the one who wasn’t ready?”


“It was what I thought you wanted to hear!” she exclaimed, clutching his shirt. “I thought you were marrying me out of obligation, to protect me from embarrassment! I wanted to give you an out, some way to show everyone that I was the bad guy, not you! Oh, Carmine, I wanted to say yes today more than I wanted to take my next breath, but I didn’t want to start our life together with you resenting me! When we take our vows, I want it to be because we both came together at the same time, because we both reached the same conclusion…”


“…that we belong together,” he finished.


“That we love each other.”


“That we should become husband and wife.”


“Until death do us part. Not anger, not resentment, not being forced into nuptials that would only lead to divorce. Death alone.”


Tears ran freely down her cheeks. Carmine bent over and kissed them away. “Then we do want the same thing at the same time.”


“Yes,” she whispered. “I do.”


His mouth sought hers and found it, warm and willing in its response to his kiss. He held her so close he was afraid he might hurt her, and it still wasn’t close enough. He ached for her like he never had before, beyond simple sexual need. He wanted her, body and soul, and he didn’t want the feeling to end.


“So now what?” Shirley asked, pulling back slightly. “What do we do now?”


“Well.” Carmine glanced at the sofa, on which the crumpled tuxedo lay. “I still got the tux and you’re still in your gown. Why don’t we get married?”


Her eyes widened. “What…now? How? Where?”


Carmine shrugged. “Vegas is only a couple hours drive from here.”


Shirley pushed him back. “You want to elope? Are you crazy? What about the arrangements…flowers, our friends….”


He grinned. “Hey, we tried it your way earlier tonight, with all the pomp and circumstance. Why not give my way a shot?” She just stared at him, so he got down on one knee and took her hand. “Shirley Wilhelmina Feeney, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? Tonight, just the two of us, party with friends and family to follow whenever we get back from our honeymoon?”


Shirley’s eyes met his. A mischievous grin crept over her face, and her eyes lit up. “It is a shame not to get more use out of this beautiful gown.” She nodded and executed a ladylike curtsey. “Carmine Ragusa, I would be honored to become your wife. Tonight. Anywhere and any way you’d like.”


His heart thudded in his chest as he rose to his feet and lifted Shirley into his arms, swinging her around and kissing her. She flung her head back and laughed with abandon, the same impetuous spirit that had wreaked havoc on his day ready to make it up to him tonight. Then Carmine hopped back into the tux, but pulled on a pair of his own loafers that actually fit his feet. Shirley adjusted her veil. Together, they left his apartment, hands clasped and fingers intertwined. They didn’t let go, not even after they got into his car.


They were holding hands two hours later, when the Welcome to Vegas sign finally came into view.







To "Always a Bridesmaid"