You, he answered, and pulled her down into a laughing kiss that quickly got more serious. His flight didn't leave for another nine hours, and the bed hadn't gotten nearly enough of a workout tonight.
She pulled away with a small smile and twisted to get at the glass of water on the nightstand, bringing the sheet with her, but leaving the long, pale line of her back bare. He traced it with gentle fingers, lingered over each vertebrae, marked each bit of soft skin, etched his DNA into her with every touch.
Seriously, what are you thinking about? she asked again, the words muffled when she took a long, noisy drink.
I am thinking about you, he repeated, because it was the truth and because he knew she'd want to hear it. But, because he also knew she valued honesty, and she was his best friend, he gave her the other truth.
But I'm also thinking I'm scared as fuck.
Why? When she turned back, she crossed her arms over his chest and settled in, looking at him with those big, beautiful eyes of hers that always pierced right into the core of everything he was. He remembered the first time he'd ever looked in them – it had felt like he'd been caught up in an undertow. Like he was going to drown. He still felt that way, but it didn't bother him nearly as much. If he had to go under, he could think of worst sights to take with him into the abyss than her face.
What if I fail spectacularly?
What if you don't? she countered, and placed a kiss right above his heart. He appreciated the gesture, but he was serious.
What if it doesn't work out and I'm stuck in some meaningless bullshit job and I get all old and bitter and resentful and start to hate everything I am?
What if I become like everyone else was left unspoken. He knew she'd know what he meant. She always knew.
I'd never let that happen.
You'll be a thousand miles away, he reminded her. Reminded them both. The distance already felt like years. Like another abyss threatening to swallow him whole. Without her faith in him, who was he, really? What was he?
Only for a year, she said. Then I'll be all up in your space, promise.
He smiled; he couldn't help it. Somehow, she always knew just what to say. All up in my space, huh?
She smacked his ribs with her palm. It stung, but didn't really hurt. I'm being serious.
So am I, he told her, toying with a stray curl of her hair. It felt like the finest silk under his hands. He wanted to memorize the texture of it, the way it felt when he buried his hands in it while they traded kiss after kiss. Wanted to memorize the smell of her when he was between her thighs and drunk on the taste of her. Wanted to memorize the breathless way she laughed when she was surprised, the contented noises she made when she was asleep and curled around him at night. The way the space between her brows tightened when she was annoyed, and the thin tone to her voice when he'd said something that pissed her off. Wanted to memorize every imperfection that made her so perfect. The small scar on her knee from a childhood bike accident. The short stubbiness of her fingers. The hairs that grew on her toes, in spite of her best efforts to get rid of them. Every anecdote she'd ever told him, every bit of flotsam and history that made her the person she was, greater than the sum of her parts and so much a part of him that he felt like he'd carry her inside of him for the rest of his life.
Hey. At her soft word, he stared into her eyes. Into her. Lost himself in the promise and the faith she had in him. At her unshakeable faith in the universe and their place in it.
It'll be alright, you know, she told him. The year will fly by, you'll see.
Don't con a conman, he said, and they both smiled at the old, well-worn joke. Outside their small sanctuary, the glittering lights of the city laid themselves out like jewels, competing with the stars themselves for brilliance. Morning would come far too soon, and take the magic with it.
He couldn't bring himself to look at the neatly stacked suitcases by the door. At the neatly stacked boxes all neatly labeled and ready for the movers to take them away. He didn't want to think about three hundred and sixty-five days without this. Without her in his arms, without her pushing him to do better, to be more. Of nights alone, with only sporadic phone calls for company. He didn't want to think about days that would pass into weeks until he got used to her absence.
He never wanted to get used to her absence.
He stared at her until his vision blurred. Until her features melded together into some sort of collage that he could pick apart at will. The asymmetry of her smile, the stubborn tilt of her chin, the high sweep of her forehead. That fucking smile.
You promise? he asked, even though he didn't really know what he was asking for.
I promise, she replied, and leaned in for a soft brush of lips against his. She tasted like mint and springtime and everything that was right with the world.
Time couldn't pass by fast enough.