Their relationship began as all epic love stories did, with one of them nearly getting hit with a car, heavy on the nearly . Howdy remembers that day in sharp detail, mostly from the adrenaline. That, at the time, had been his excuse for why his heart was racing. It definitely still was a little bit the reason.
Howdy hadn’t really expected to walk outside, bleary eyed as he prepared for a fresh wave of stock, and nearly get run over. He’d been plenty observant as he walked outside. The mud heavy ground caused by last night's rain, the sunlight glanced obnoxiously off the golden brick road, and the peaking sun itself a massive spotlight that was impossible to look at.
So, all in all, it’s not that Howdy was unaware of his surroundings. He just hadn’t quite put two and two together to realize that the hazards were there and maybe, just maybe, the delivery driver would get a little bit distracted.
By some miracle, Howdy registered the semi in time to jerk back, slipping on the mud. The truck swerved by mere inches from him, wheels skittering over the ground where they’d lost traction. No one had gotten hurt but his heart rate had skyrocketed.
Mud coated his front, sprayed against him by the wheels, and stained his back as he laid on the ground. Air came from him in low, gasping whistles. Some mixture of shock, the impact, and that just-woken-up fog had left his head spinning.
And then he’d met an absolute angel . Short hair shoved under a baseball cap, worried eyes asking if he was okay and I’m so sorry , and gentle hands offering him a way up. Nothing was special about their uniform compared to other delivery drivers, but this was definitely the first time one had gotten out of the truck.
“I’m fine,” He’d wheezed, breathless for all the wrong reasons. Howdy had taken their hand, marveling at how much smaller they were yet how strong they felt. Blood warmed his cheeks and he hadn’t even noticed.
“Are you sure? You’re all dirty! Ah, this is all my fault,” You’d worried. A tight grip had kept Howdy locked in place, unsure if he could leave even if he wanted to. Unfortunately, he also had three other hands he could use to make a fool of himself.
“No, honestly! Just a bit of mud, it’ll clean up real quick. Don’t worry about it,” Howdy waved them off. Ah yes, the best calming method, jazz hands . It was a little silly but it seemed to work at the time, letting You take several deep breaths.
“But I’ve ruined your uniform! First day and I’ve already bungled it all up,” You blamed yourself, which just hadn’t been true! You weren’t the one who made it rain, though the light of your joy made the sun shine on the darkest nights.
In the end, he’d been unable to convince you it was fine and you’d spent the rest of the day, and your shift, helping him around the shop before you absolutely had to drive home. It was a little awkward, a little stressful, but nothing else had gone wrong. You’d left at the end of the day and that was that.
Howdy hadn’t expected any more than that. You’d only gotten out of the truck at all because you’d nearly hit him. After that, he was certain that you wouldn’t get out again. Howdy has never been so happy to be wrong before in his life.
Not only had You willingly gotten out during the next visit to greet him but you’d also apologized again and given him a handsewn uniform to replace the one you’d stained. It hadn’t quite been irreparable, Howdy still had it as a reminder, but it was pretty bad. He’s been taken aback by the thought. Finding replacements was so tedious when you had about twice as many limbs as most people expected.
With a huff, Howdy finally set down the many empty crates he’d been hoarding to trade beside the road. Roughly 40% of them were for apples. Any minute now, you’d be here for a rare evening delivery, one of the only days he got to keep you overnight.
It had been so awkward the first time, Howdy reminisces with a smile. About three months and 12 visits into your not-quiet friendship, you’d ended up at his shop at 9pm as the sun was falling. By the time the exchange had been finished, it was well into the night.
The exact moment you’d realized the time was obvious, your face falling as you realized you couldn’t possibly drive home at such a late time of night. Embarrassingly, Howdy had jumped at the opportunity to invite you in. He called it a ‘sleepover’ sillily enough.
But in Howdy’s defense, he rarely got to go to sleepovers. They happened often enough, Sally usually had one a week at least, but Howdy woke up early to take care of the shop, far earlier than anyone else woke up. He’d hate to wake his friends up at such an early time.
After a pause, you agreed. The night had been as silly as its name, filled with awkward moments as they struggled to fight around each other. An expected issue considering he only talked to you about once a week, even if that was for nearly half a day at a time.
Somehow, you’d found your flow, dragging him along down the stream until, so many years later, he could hardly tell where you ended and he began. Days without you were agonizing, days with you far too short. Your off days were often spent driving down to visit and now…
Now, you’re his partner. Howdy’s face warms just thinking of you. Being able to hold you, to press sweet kisses against your lips, was the only payment he needed after a long day of work. What he wouldn’t give to have that be forever.
Fingering the box set carefully in his apron, Howdy couldn’t help but squirm restlessly. If all goes well today, it will be forever. Just him and you, fiancées. Maybe even Spouses, with begonias at the wedding, your favorite, and a vine wreathed arch under which they’d exchange their vows. You’d wear matching suits, possibly even suit dresses? Howdy could certainly be convinced.
Letting out a sickeningly sweet sigh, he had to stop himself from picking out the specific pattern on the napkins. You might not even want a lavish wedding, even if you deserve one. A small, private wedding in the neighborhood would be just as good. Possible even better!
Barnaby would act as entertainment, Wally would paint them just as he had Eddie and Frank. Sally and Julie would provide the flowers without him even asking. Poppy would make a feast for the party. Frank and Eddie would make the arch. Frank knows how to theoretically make one and Howdy knows that Eddie is more crafty than he appears.
And he knows this because they’d already helped with the ring, there was hardly a jewelry store in Home. What he did manage to get was made of plastic and faux jewels pretending to be sapphires, which you’d undoubtedly pick out as they were your favorite gems.
Worry worms into his heart, a shadow of doubt falling. What if you said no? What if you felt insulted by such a subpar ring? Howdy had no way of ordering a ring from the city, they were far too small for a small town shop owner like himself. No one would send a real sapphire ring to Home’s post office either, he’d tried. They’d thought it was a joke.
You wouldn’t think it was a joke right? Surely not. You know how much he loves you, he would never do something so cruel as to fake a proposal. But You’ve had horrible partners before. Howdy had let you cry into his shoulder many times before after a bad run in with your ex, who you unfortunately worked under.
Howdy doesn’t want you to leave him thinking he’s anything like them. You can’t think that. Howdy wouldn’t be able to survive-
“Howdy, Howdy!” You call out cheerily, ripping him from his spiraling thoughts. Howdy lets go of the box, instinctively staggering his legs and spreading out his arms. With complete trust in him, you tossed yourself at him.
Laughter bubbled from his mouth, sweeping you up and spinning about. Fake stumbling, he pulls you close to his chest. Your skin was burning hot against him. Each beat of your heart felt clearly as it marched in time with his own.
“Woah there, be careful. I might drop you,” Howdy warns despite the fact he’s never once dropped you before. You snort, pulling back just enough to flick up your cap. The clipboard was held loosely in your hand.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” You respond with a serious expression. That lasted for all of five seconds before you and him devolved into laughter. He’s never laughed so much as when he’s with you. A certain levity fills his heart in your presence.
“Alright alright, what do you have for me today?” Howdy gently sets you down, ring box an iron weight in his apron. He’ll wait until after, professionalism and all. Nothing to do with the not-so-newfound nerves buzzing under his skin. That would be silly.
New stock is listed neatly on the clipboard and, as Howdy gives it a once over, perfectly filled out. Everything he’d asked for was on there, including the inordinate amount of apples Wally manages to go through. Seriously, how does one puppet go through so many?
Like a well oiled machine, Howdy switched out the empties with the new stock and You helped him load it into the store. You never did need to do more than just sit there, but you did. You helped as much as you were able whenever you were able. It was one of the many things he admired about you.
All the while, you hum along to some nameless tune. Brushing shoulders, little wiggles and grins like the bumblebee esque puppet you were. It told Howdy all he needed to know. You are painfully excited about something, same as him.
“What’s got you so happy?” Howdy hums, hefting two boxes against his size and carefully balancing the last two on his palms. You bounce up to him, audibly buzzing in anticipation. Something is definitely up.
“No-thing~” You tease, “Can’t I just be happy to be with you?” And he melts , heart racing because even while being coy you were so devilishly cute. Yeah, he knows there’s something more to it than that but he doesn’t care. You’re here , that’s all he has to worry about.
“You’re so sappy Love,” Howdy nudges you with a foot. You stumble dramatically, crying out as you drop to the ground. He nearly drops the cases of lettuce and oranges he’s balancing as a laugh startles from him. Maybe he did a few silly things sometimes but you matched his energy to a T.
“Says you. If I recall, I’m not the one who hand made a giant heart out of origami flowers for valentines day,” You refute from the ground. Which, fair point. He still remembers having to awkwardly ask Eddie how to make them. Eddie hadn’t stopped giving him knowing looks for weeks after.
“And I’m not the one who snuck 15 pounds of chocolate into an order without payment for Valentine’s Day,” Howdy responds, carefully setting the last of the crates down. It had taken him months to get through all that chocolate, even while sharing. He still isn’t sure where you got all of it.
“That was a perfectly measured response in my opinion,” You waltz into his bodega, hopping up on the counter to watch him work. Even if said ‘work’ was just nudging boxes to the side for after you left. The neighborhood would survive if the stock refresh had to wait until tomorrow. Howdy, however, would not.
“Until you realize that I have to find a way to one up you,” Howdy pouts. He straightens up, stretching. Then, he falls into a pretend thinking pose. Two hands sat at his hips, one taps at his lips as it rests on the last. His antenna twitches.
“Oh know, what ever will you do,” You deadpan, mirth heavy on your tongue. He gives it several more seconds, letting you stew before he ‘gets an idea’ and snaps in a little ‘aha’ moment. Twisting around, he stalks up to you.
“I think I have an idea,” Howdy takes a steadying breath. Now or never, and he desperately wants it to be now. He slips his hand into his apron, kneels, and looks up at you with a smile playing at his lips.
The room falls silent as he pulls out the box and flicks it open. Howdy tried his best to keep eye contact but after only a few moments, it’s far too much with all the nervous energy buzzing in him.
“Marry me?” Howdy asks, eyes focused on the floor. The words ring in his ears, chest catching as he struggles to breathe properly. Your eyes burn into his headz. Hope whispers in his ears a frantic ‘ yesyesyesyesyes’.
You laugh, bright and airy. The joy and increaduality in your tone relaxes some part of him. He takes a careful look, tears stream down your face, cheeks bright red. Saying your smile is ear to ear would be an understatement.
“I- Howdy, I,” You hiccup struggling to get out a response, his knees start to ache against the hardwood floors. Carefully, you slide off the counter and reach into your pockets.
A velvet box clicks open, two shimmering gold rings embedded with beautiful deep red rubies. They were far too big for you, the right size for both of his left hands and… Howdy’s cheeks hurt as he can’t help but join you in incredulous laughter. He stumbles to his feet.
On desire alone, he reached out for you and you responded in tandem. You bury your head in his chest, he hunches over to press his face into your neck. Joy and love flow from his every pore. This has to be a yes, right?
Hugging evolves into sweet kisses, chapped lips warm against his own. Each one was its own little acceptance. Yes, yes, yes I will marry you. Together for forever, an infinite set of forevers to look forward to for all of time. You and him and You and him.
“I love you,” the caterpillar whispers to the bee.
No truer words will ever be said.