Chapter Eighty-Three

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"I see you met most of the family without my help," Harry laughed.

"Trust me, I would've preferred if you were there. I was so awkward. What do I call your niece and nephew? They have more power than me, and their combined age is less than ten," Meredith said. "And the Queen-- the grandmother-- she's like, I could touch her. And how does one curtsy? I looked like I was trying to take a shit but couldn't get it out-- and your grandfather, like what is that man and how--"

"Mere," Harry grabbed her by the shoulders, "breathe."

Taking deep breaths, Meredith watched Harry intently, as he was calm in the situation. Of course it was his family, but wasn't his past girlfriend this nervous? Well, some of them, probably not because they came from high class, but these people were celebrities. They didn't just go unnoticed. However, Meredith was becoming quite the celebrity too.

"Come on." Harry grabbed her hand, taking her down the path so that Meredith had a bit more time to breathe.

"I made a fool out of myself around them," Meredith admitted.

"Don't worry about it."

"No, really-- I think they might think I'm crazy."

"Mere, I'm sure you were fine."

He wasn't there, but Meredith knew. She also knew that this panic wouldn't stop. Every time she would see them, it would be a constant panic and making a fool of herself.

"You're still thinking about it," Harry said, blue eyes on her.

Meredith halted, sighing. "Maybe we moved too quickly. Maybe I shouldn't have met them so soon. Maybe I should've stayed in Minnesota, you know, because I really, really, really fucked up and we might be--"

"Mere," Harry commanded, and she clamped down her mouth. "I know you're panicking, because you ramble. And you're scared, I know, because you think my family is going to judge you."

"I think they already have."

"So what?" he asked. "Am I going to stop loving you? Am I not going to spend the rest of my life with you? I want you, Mere-- I need you. I don't care what my family says."

"Do they say things about me?" she wondered weakly.

He stiffened. "They're very protective, and you don't exactly come from a spotless background."

"I would never hurt you, Harry-- I wouldn't."

"I know, Mere." He gripped her hands, squeezing them. "I know, Mere. And I've told them that. In my world, we have to be careful." Harry's thumb ran over her lips, and he smirked. "You're not scared what the world has to say, but my family. Why does it matter so much?"

Meredith swallowed. "Harry, if-- when our relationship continues, how far it goes, I'm going to be isolated. I'm not going to have a lot of people that I can trust. I can't be weak, and someone will say something."

"Mere, don't think like that."

"But it's true, isn't it?" Meredith knew it was true. Harry always had this life, but he knew the life-- yet he knew who to trust. Meredith was going to have to let a lot of people go, and she didn't know who it was going to betray her. Who was it in her family? Who was it in her friends? Meredith had built many barriers since meeting Harry, but someone had to slip through. "Someone is going to...." Shaking her head, she started down the path again. Harry followed. "The question: who is it?"

"We'll get there if it ever happens."

When, Meredith wanted to correct.

"Mere?" Harry asked meekly. "Do you really think that we moved too fast?"

"No." This had been a long time coming, but she had hoped for meeting his family slowly. Jumping into a family holiday made her want to vomit. It was hard for them to talk about her with her there, but suddenly, she was completely outnumbered. "We had to do this eventually. You've met my parents and brother."

It was true. While the communication between Meredith's dad and Harry had been limited, Harry had gone out of his way to learn some American Sign Language. Meredith did the rest to translate.

"What do you think about our future together?" he asked. "You're graduating after this semester. What do you want to happen next?"

Meredith smiled. "I have given thoughts about it."

"How many?"

"Too many," Meredith admitted. "I started thinking about it quickly after we met. You know me, I like to plan ahead."

"And what were you thinking?"

"Unless something drastic happens in the next months, I was thinking perhaps London."

Harry smiled. "Do you mean moving in with me?"

"Well, I guess, I could live in Minnesota, and you could move in with me," she joked. Stepping forward, Meredith met him with an even gaze. "If that's okay with you, I was thinking of moving in with you-- in London."

"I would love that." Harry kissed her. "We can make a home together."

"I would live in a palace again." It was far too much space, but perhaps time and patience would make it more comfortable.

Harry bit his lip to correct her about the last "palace" she lived in. "London? You and me. We have a little flat of our own," he jested, when he knew how big a flat was at Kensington Palace. "That means, Mere, you're going to have a future with me."

"I know." Meredith kissed him. "It's going to be so much harder to escape from you."

"The paparazzi will come after you."

"Bring it the fuck on."

Harry kissed his girlfriend, pulling her into a hug. Her heartbeat was fast, and he knew her nerves went wild. This was another big step. Sometimes Harry feared what might happen if he went too fast with her. She didn't like to be told what to do, and he knew Meredith liked to lash out when scared. She liked to distance herself. But in his line of work, the family was most important; it was the only thing to rely on.

"You've met all the hard hitters," Harry said. "All that's left is Dad and Camilla."

"Yeah, because that's easy?" Meredith rolled her eyes. "Being nervous to meet the Queen is one thing, but being nervous to meet your dad is a bit more. That is in everyone's family."

"I was scared to meet your dad."

"You had met my dad before."

"Never in person, and then I couldn't keep up with the signing."

"At least you tried."

"Exactly," Harry laughed. "Dad is chill. You two will be fine." He led her back to Balmoral, but Meredith wasn't so sure. Perhaps this was a moment that she found breakfast on the floor.

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