He ends up practically in traction by working out “beyond physician reccomended limits,” and loses two weeks to muscle relaxants and the persistent drone of CNN on the television in his bedroom.
It’s been six weeks, and not a word. Even the news is relatively silent, focusing more on the new E.U. trade laws and the escalated War On Drugs, but what he hears is mostly bad, and none of it points to her coming home anytime soon.
John finishes The Master and Margarita, Elizabeth’s Ondaatje novel that she left there, half the Master and Commander series from the library, and then starts again on War and Peace, for old time’s sake. Carson comes to visit when he’s in town meeting with Keane and the IOA, but that’s not much of a distraction, because a special news segment is on and they end up just watching CNN together.
He doesn’t hear from Keane. He dusts off his uniform and goes to a State dinner, even, but the General doesn’t make it and all Davis can tell him is that he hasn’t heard anything new.
“No news is good news,” he reminds him, and while that’s true, it’s not really helping John sleep at night.
He wants her mission to be successful, but he’d also settle for it falling apart completely, if that meant she could get the hell out of there.
She calls him once, and it’s three in the morning, but he’s not about to complain. “Elizabeth! Are you okay?”
She either laughs or whimpers – the connection is terrible. “I’m so tired,” she admits. “The talks are progressing, I guess.”
“That doesn’t sound particularly reassuring.”
“God,” she says, “It’s good to hear your voice.”
He wants to reach through the phone right then and pull her to him, get her out of the war zone and the responsibilities weighing down her voice and just... protect her.
“When will you be back?”
The phone crackles and when it clears, she’s just finishing saying that she doesn’t know.
“This is taking forever,” she groans, and he has never known her to be impatient with things like this. Normally, she’s the one counseling him that delicate negotiations take time, and he can’t expect punch and cookies after the very first day. “John, I have no idea if I’m doing any good here. It’s just... it’s too much, you know?”
He’s rarely heard her sound this worn out, and he’s seen just about every mood she has.
“You could always quit,” he baits her, knowing she’ll rally out of pride, but he’s at least half serious.
“I can’t quit.”
“I know. You’re the best, and the world would fall apart without you.”
He wants to be having this conversation with her in person, some way other than a crackly phone conversation that’s going to have to end any minute. He wants to be able to squeeze her hand and see in her face if his words are making any difference. He remembers this feeling, this gut-wrenching helplessness, from that first year when he was in Atlantis and she wasn’t, and he never got to talk to her without General O’Neill or General Keane standing over her shoulder in the communication window.
It was different then, because she wasn’t really in danger, just gone, but it was also the same.
“How are you?” she asks.
“Oh, you know. Running marathons.”
“You’d better not be,” she chides, and it’s the first time in the conversation that she sounds like herself. “I expect you to be in one piece when I get back, mister.”
He laughs, because that’s all he can do. “Same to you.”
The BBC gets the news before the American press: the U.N. has pulled out of Sudan. Diplomatic channels are closed. The hostages, all except three, are dead.
Elizabeth is in one of the accompanying pictures, standing behind someone with her head down as the U.N. negotiators are escorted, at gunpoint, out of the former embassy. He can’t see enough of her face to tell if she’s all right, if she’s hurt or tired or angry or scared, but he knows it’s her from just her hair and shoulder. He always knows it’s her.
He can’t breathe.
Stalkerish or not, John calls Davis for her itinerary. She’s in London, then New York. Debriefing with the security council, teleconference with the President, meetings, meetings, meetings.
On the day she’s scheduled to get back, John waits for her at the airport. He hasn’t heard from her since she landed back on American soil, but that doesn’t mean anything in particular – she’s always run ragged during U.N. debriefings and is lucky if she gets five minutes to eat a sandwich.
She’s okay. She must be. John can come up with as many paranoid fantasies as he wants to, but he knows that if she were hurt, if anything happened to her during the withdraw, someone would have told him.
He sees her at the security exit before she sees him. She looks exhausted, head down, but she walks like she’s unhurt and John feels a rush of energy so sharp that he practically sprints toward her across the airport lobby.
She smiles, faintly. Her eyes are glazed over, like she barely recognizes him through however many consecutive weeks she’s been awake.
“You’re late,” he accuses her. She was supposed to be on the 8:05 flight from New York.
“I missed my boarding call. The President called while I was at the gate. I’m sure my luggage is lost forever.”
“I guess the President’s a pretty good excuse. Are you hungry?” She needs to eat something. Her face is thinner than it was when she left, and she probably hasn’t had a decent cup of coffee in two months.
Elizabeth opens her mouth to answer, then covers her face with her hands and groans. “God, I’ll bet everything in my fridge has grown legs.”
He touches her wrist, pulls one hand away from her face. “Hey.” He smiles, hoping she’ll smile back. He’s missed that. “Welcome home.”
Elizabeth wraps her arms around his shoulders, then practically goes limp in his arms. She laughs into his neck, a vaguely hysterical sound.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” she says.
He brings her to his place. Elizabeth falls asleep in the passenger seat of his car before he’s even out of the parking lot, and he worries if they go back to her place she’ll start cleaning out her fridge before getting a full night of much-needed rest. It’s been at least a week since he put fresh sheets on his bed, but he’s pretty sure that, in her current state, she really won’t care.
He’s right about that, because when he leads her from the car into his townhouse, she doesn’t even seem to wake up enough to recognize that she’s not at home.
She sleeps for eighteen straight hours. He tiptoes around, sleeps on the couch, walks down to the corner store to stock his fridge with essentials like cereal and bread and TV dinners.
When he comes back from the corner store, his shower’s running. When she finally emerges, she’s dressed in his bathrobe, skin pink from hot water, bare legs, hair dripping.
“Good morning,” she greets him, collapsing onto his couch.
It’s actually evening, but he doesn’t correct her. “How did you sleep?”
“Like the dead,” she answers easily. “Thank you. Has my phone been ringing off the hook?”
It buzzed at least twice from the pocket of her carryon, but he doesn’t want her to check it just yet. “No. I think they’re giving you a break. I can make grilled cheese.” He even bought a tomato to put on her sandwich – she thinks grilled cheese is incomplete without them, he thinks it’s absolutely disgusting to contaminate bread and cheese with nutritional vegetable content. She’s the one who just came back from a war zone, though, so she wins.
She smiles so broadly it looks like she’s going to cry. “That sounds wonderful.”
He serves her the sandwich and his crappy bargain coffee that she always mocks. He’s not hungry, but he sits next to her.
She only pokes at her meal, though by all rights, she should be starving. The bathrobe slips down over one of her shoulders and she draws it back up, almost in slow-motion.
“Do you want to talk about what happened over there?”
She shakes her head. “I don’t know what to say.”
She sets the coffee down, runs one hand over her face. “I’m getting too old for this.”
He wants to tell her to quit, now while she’s vulnerable and might agree, but that’s too selfish to do, even for him. He wants her to stay here, with him. He wants to hold her, to kiss her, to be with her in an honest, intentional way, to be something more real and permanent than the not-quite-just-friends they’ve always been. This is the only thing that still feels right: taking care of her, her taking care of him. He doesn’t want her to leave again, not for Russia or for the Sudan or even for Atlantis, if she ever has that chance again.
Maybe that’s all he’s ever wanted from her.
“It was really hard,” Elizabeth says. “And... it didn’t even matter. Everything’s worse now than it was before.”
“You did the best you could.”
“And has ‘doing your best’ ever been enough for you?” She leans her head on his shoulder. She’s tactile by nature, always has been, but this is a new vulnerability, even for her. “God, John. There was nothing I could do. I just wanted it to be over.”
He turns toward her enough to brush her wet hair away from her face. “It’s over now.”
“Until next time.”
Something sharp catches in his throat, because there will be a next time, and they’ll both have to go through this all over again. “Until next time.” He tries to memorize the weight of her head resting against him. “You saved an entire galaxy once upon a time, remember?”
She laughs. “I guess that’s something.”
“Take a break,” he suggests. “Let someone else babysit the planet for a while.”
He can’t tell if she’s teasing or actually considering it. “And what would I do?”
There’s only one answer. “Nothing.”
She breathes deeply a few times, her chest rising and falling next to him. “That sounds nice.”
A week after she gets back, they go to the ocean.
John hates the Earth oceans after Atlantis, and tells her as much. Elizabeth misses water, though, and he goes along because she invites him, and because it might not be so bad in the company of someone who understands.
Besides, he’s not quite ready to let her out of his sight. He can’t follow her into war zones on the other side of the globe, but he can follow her to Massachusetts.
They stay in a Cape Cod beach town recommended by General Keane’s wife. She’s a descendant of Mayflower New Englanders and, more importantly, knows someone who rents furnished beach cottages.
It’s off-season, so they probably didn’t really need an ‘in’ to reserve a place for a weekend. It’s November with patches of freezing rain, not the best time for an ocean vacation, but then, this is hardly the strangest thing they’ve ever done.
They’re both soaked and cold by the time they bring in their duffel bags and groceries. Elizabeth shakes the icy pellets from her hair in the cottage entryway while he fumbles with the thermostat. “I guess surfing is off the table, John.”
Not that he surfs anymore. “It’s not my fault you decided to do this in November.”
“You didn’t say anything when I suggested it.”
Neither of them ever really picked up the rhythm of Earth seasons again. John misses Atlantis’ perpetual summer, though when he was there, he rarely had time to enjoy it.
“Besides, there’s fewer tourists,” Elizabeth adds, ever the optimist. “Don’t give me that look. There’s a fireplace.”
“Are you going to make the fire?”
She rolls her eyes at him. “Depends. Is it the kind that lights with a switch?”
“Nope.” There’s a stack of wood piled neatly next to it, along with instructions for getting a fire started, for cottage renters who never spent nine years building campfires with alien wood in another galaxy.
Elizabeth smiles brightly. “Then it’s your job.”
He smirks, enjoying the familiar hint of command in her voice. “Yes ma’am.”
Even with the fire and the baseboard heaters, it takes a while for the cottage to warm up.
“Go sit next to the fireplace,” Elizabeth nags. She’s making dinner, a thick winter soup. “It’ll be better for your back.”
“I’m keeping you company,” he tells her, propping a pretzel in his mouth. He likes watching her be so terrestrially domestic; it still seems strange, no matter how long they’re on Earth. In Atlantis, he knew she’d send an army to rescue his team from danger, but it seems infinitely more bizarre that she’s making him dinner.
“I didn’t know you cooked,” he tells her.
“I try not to,” is her easy answer. “And don’t call it cooking until you try it, but I know how to make a few things. My mother was a master chef.”
“Mine made a mean TV dinner.”
Elizabeth laughs. She stops stirring the soup long enough to take a few sips from her wine glass. “Were you the first house on your block with a microwave?”
“We were the first house on our block with a broken microwave, too. My mom said not to put metal in it...”
“... so of course young John Sheppard found the nearest fork and had to try it.”
“It was a toy car, actually.” He grins. “Scientific method. It’s important to test these things.”
“Does Rodney know this story? I don’t think it would surprise him.”
“Somehow, it never came up.”
She smiles, that mischievous expression that hasn’t changed in twelve years. It’s hard to remember now exactly when he first saw it, first started to uncover her sense of humor, but he does remember how it made him feel: like they were partners. “You’re just lucky my phone plan doesn’t cover the Asgard galaxy, or he’d be hearing about it right now.”
“So there’s some benefit to terrestrial exile after all.”
She smirks, getting the joke as only she can. He thinks about what Rodney said to him when John was recalled – So you’re just giving up and leaving the rest of us here to finish this fight? – and winces. Rodney wasn’t being fair, of course, but that’s Rodney.
John should have known better, when it was Elizabeth packing her bags. He accused her of abandoning them, professionally, but he abandoned her personally, and probably when she needed him most. He doesn’t know how he can ever apologize for that.
Elizabeth dips a wooden spoon into the soup and then holds it out to him. “Feeling brave?”
Being here with her, driving through the ice and building her a fire and sitting in the kitchen while she invents a soup recipe, he feels more like the brave soldier he used to be than he has in years.
She frowns. “It doesn’t need salt?”
In truth, he barely tasted the soup. He wants to pull the spoon away and kiss her hand. The feeling in his chest is warmly familiar – having one conversation with Elizabeth, meaning another. “Maybe a little. I’m not much of an expert on gourmet cooking.”
She laughs. “You’re too easy to please, Sheppard.”
It’s been a long time since he’s been this pleased by anything.
He can’t really tell the difference when she adds salt to the soup, but it tastes great. Even better, with her leg touching his on the couch closest to the fireplace, as they laugh about all the awful things they had to eat in a foreign galaxy.
He’s glad he has already finished his dinner when she gets around to mentioning their goodwill visit to the Kolrasaans.
“I felt like the whole platter was watching me,” Elizabeth says, shaking her head as she makes a face. She takes a gulp of wine, as if washing the taste out of her mouth.
John tops off her glass and his before putting the empty bottle aside. He doesn’t drink much anymore since Doctor Hayworth dressed him down, but this is a special occasion. “At least the eyes weren’t still alive.”
Elizabeth shudders. “Don’t remind me. Dreyna did really enjoy keeping that... thing you brought back as a pet, though.”
He laughs, pushing against her knee with his. “That was meant for you. The Premier of Pirin would be very disappointed if he knew you gave away such a delicacy.”
“Hopefully he’d have gotten over it by now.”
Her cheeks are red with warmth and wine, and John can’t resist staring. It almost feels like they’re back there, reviewing reports together in one of the Atlantis lounges. The ocean air was warm, but different than the earthy heat of burning maple.
The smell, the crackling and popping as the logs burn and settle, it reminds him of youth, before he ever knew about Atlantis.
His own voice surprises him. “I don’t entirely hate being back on Earth.” He’s wondered, for a while now, if Earth is even really his problem.
Elizabeth sets her wine glass down and turns on the couch to face him, propping her elbow on the cushion behind her. “It’s where we’re from. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we were only ever visiting Atlantis.”
“Eventually, we might even remember not to plan beach vacations in the winter.”
She pouts, eyes twinkling. “Maybe I just wanted to make you build a fire.”
She’s so close to him. Close, and warm, and the hand that was draped over the back of the couch is now brushing his shoulder, with a gentle, casual touch that sends bursts of energy up and down his spine.
He’s been half-dead for years, it feels like. He’s so tired of worrying that if he opens up, she’ll leave him alone. Again.
But here, retired – she’s the only thing on Earth he wants.
What the hell, he thinks, watching her mouth, and he kisses her.
She breathes in surprise, the action drawing air between their lips, and then... she kisses him back.
Her lips are cool compared to the heat of the fire, welcoming, refreshing. He feels like he’s kissed her before, because he knows her so well, because he’s dreamed this so many times, because it’s almost too much to take in that it’s real. He expects her hand coming up to touch the sensitive skin under his jawbone, anticipates the direction she’ll tilt her head to let him in deeper. When her tongue brushes against his, arousal surges through him like he’s a much younger man.
Like he’s still in his thirties, the city bursting through the surface of the ocean and Elizabeth next to him, both way over their heads. He doesn’t even remember the first time he saw her and wanted her, because everything was moving so fast around them. He came so close so many times, when Athosian wine was buzzing through his head, all those late nights reviewing reports, the infirmary when her fever finally broke and he was sick with the thought that he needed her and he almost lost her. He always thought they’d have time.
He has that, now.
Her hands skim up underneath his shirt and his whole body jerks toward her. Her hands, touching him, pulling him closer into her, her mouth soft and wet, the body he’s been dreaming about for years. His blood is pounding so fast he can barely breathe and every bit of will in his body just wants to grind against her, but this-
He has one last coherent thought in his head, and it’s that after eleven years, eleven years, this can’t just be a kiss that got carried away. He can’t regret anything else when it comes to her.
When he pulls back, he’s left looking at her face, inches from his, her hand warm on his thigh and his gut coiled tight with desire. She licks her lips, her whole body shuddering on a breath, and he can’t look away.
But if he pushes her too far-
“Is this...” he struggles to find words in a brain that’s mostly full of her, of the shivering trails her fingers left on his ribs. “Do you want to wait?”
Elizabeth laughs, his favorite sound, and she cups one hand over his cheek. He feels like she’s opening him up, letting free all the things he’s been stewing in alone since they came back to Earth. She asks, smiling, “What in the world are we waiting for?”
The master bedroom is cold with the living room fireplace drawing all the heat. There’s another fireplace in here, but John would rather keep Elizabeth warm another way.
They’re already kissing in the doorway, and the longer he touches her, the more amazing it seems. It felt like a dream on the couch, but when she shoves her duffel bag off the bed and then tugs his hands to encourage him to join her, it feels more real than anything he’s experienced in far too long.
Yes, he thinks, sinking down onto the mattress, Elizabeth stretched out next to him. This is what he wants.
And it’s happening. Her hand brushes through his hair as she kisses him. He pulls back and pushes up her shirt just enough to give him clear access to the fasten of her jeans. He’s had years to imagine – consciously or otherwise – how he’d like to undress her, and now that he can, he wants to feel her long legs first.
Her skin is pale, textured with goosebumps from the chill, and his heart flips over at just how beautiful she is.
She peels his shirt off and then trails her fingers down through the hair on his chest. He tenses when her fingers brush his stomach.
He smiles. “Never used to be.”
He’ll never get tired of kissing her, ever. Their clothes come off, piece by piece, and he’s filling his hands with all the skin he’s never had the chance to touch before, with her breasts and her hips and the coils of hair pointing him down between her thighs, but he can’t pull himself away from her mouth. Faint words are coming on her breaths – yes, come on, John – and he trembles, blood racing to his groin even faster every time she says his name.
He starts with the cold when they slide under the covers, but the sheets start to warm around them in seconds.
Moving against her, sliding his skin over hers, his erection hard and needy against her thigh, it’s blowing his mind.
She’s talking as they explore each other – “John, you feel amazing.” She keeps repeating his name, like she knows what it’s doing to him. “I want this. John.”
He pushes her hair back from her face, mouth dry, hips aching to move, to push inside her. He can barely finish a thought, his whole attention used on sensation, but he knows his body and heart and mind are in a rare alignment: he wants to know her, inside and out.
He can’t think of a thing to say that would get close to how he feels. All he can do is look at her, and hope she can read him as well as she always has.
She’s always the one who finds the words: “I want you.”
Yes, he thinks, years of wanting her driving his urgency. His back twinges when he settles his knees between her legs, and he tries to take back the noise he made, because the last thing he wants to do right now is stop. Not now, he wants to scream at his failing body that’s already taken so much away from him. Not now!
Elizabeth’s hand is on his ribs, and she’s looking up at him, worried.
“It’s fine,” he says. “Stupid back.”
Her expression relaxes into a wicked grin. “Over,” she says, with all the decisiveness of an order given from her post in the control tower.
John spent a year fighting her authority, but that was ages ago. Here, as he settles onto his back, he’ll let her take charge all day.
“Are you okay?” she asks, above him. His erection is throbbing in her hand, draining him of thought, so close so close so close-
Yes, he thinks desperately, yes, this.
“I’m perfect,” he assures her, and then she sinks. onto. him.
“Christ,” he breathes as lights go off at the edges of his vision. She’s tight, hot, and it’s Elizabeth around him like this, compressing him, and God, it’s been forever, and it’s never been her. His hands go up to her breasts, feeling her, helping hold her up, and he’s almost too overwhelmed to breathe as she starts to ride him.
Yes. Her muscles fluttering around him, squeezing, lighting up his every nerve with sensation so intense it shoves all the pain from his body until there’s nothing but this.
Yes. Nothing but her.
Yes. Her face, watching him, and he couldn’t look away if he wanted to. He sees her orgasm building in her expression, her mouth going slack as she moves even faster, and God, he wants to experience this, wants to hold on and watch her come, but it’s too much, it’s Elizabeth, and he feels himself thrusting up to meet her, watching pleasure rise in her face every time they come together and-
“Yes,” she says on a choked breath, her nails digging into his shoulders, and he grits his teeth, thinking come on, Elizabeth, come on-
And she does.
When her orgasm hits, John thinks he might be dying, thinks she might be pulling his last breath from him with the crush of her muscles pulling him in, and he can’t imagine a better way to go, can’t imagine anything in the universe he’d want more than this. He’s moving helplessly, without thought, grinding his hips against hers, adjusting their angle so he’s even deeper inside her as she shudders above him, and he comes on a groan so hard that he can’t breathe.
For long minutes, afterwards, Elizabeth’s weight on him and John feeling wholly drained, he doesn’t want to open his eyes. She kisses him and he kisses back blindly as his heart starts beating again, trying to take this in.
It’s real. It’s her. Finally.
He has to look when she moves, though, when she slides off of him, because he still has enough nerves she hasn’t fried to shiver at the cold without her.
Grogginess tugs at him so sharply he can barely talk, but he knows he wants her to stay closer. “Where’re you-”
“Bathroom,” Elizabeth says, kisses his temple. He wants to watch her go, but her kiss is the last conscious thing he remembers.
Until untold minutes later, when she slides back in next to him. He turns to curl around her air-chilled skin, pulling her close.
She sighs, kisses his hand where it ended up near her face, and it relaxes him through to his bones.
His back wakes him, complaining at the unfamiliar mattress, the exertion last night, the unusual position caused by a beautiful woman curled in his arms.
It’s still cold – probably part of the problem – and freezing rain is still pelting the windows with sharp pliks.
Elizabeth sleeps through him making a fire – amazing, when he thinks of all the times he found her in the control tower at 0300 because she “couldn’t sleep” – and stirs only when he gets back in bed next to her.
“Good morning,” he says.
Elizabeth shifts so her head is resting on his chest. He doesn’t think anything could feel better than last night, but her smile against his skin is a close second. John kisses the part in her hair, where her natural streaks of gray are growing in.
After another minute, she shifts, and he can see her face. He still can barely believe it. She’s here. He’s here. After all the years of waiting, of being angry and bitter and lonely...
Like she can read his mind, she says, “That was a long time coming.”
He laughs. “We’re stubborn people.”
John expects her to argue, to point out – probably rightly – that it’s more his stubborn fault than hers, but she just nods. “Sounds ugly out there.”
He caught sight of the ice-slicked wonderland outside when he went to the living room for firewood, but he didn’t put much thought into it when he’s got food and wood and Elizabeth in bed.
“Got somewhere to be?” He tries to say it casually, but some habits are hard to break, and expecting her to leave – expecting he’ll let her – is one of them.
Elizabeth’s brow wrinkles. Her eyes are intense, searching his face, and he really hopes she can live with whatever she sees.
He’s owed her this for a long time. “I fucked up,” he says. “In Atlantis. I took it out on you, when you left, and I should have been there for you.”
Her mouth twitches. “Yes,” she says, not unkindly. She always seems to forgive him before he forgives himself. “You should have.”
He touches her cheek. “I’m sorry.”
She lays one hand on his heart. “I know.”
He’s reading a military thriller, in theory, but it’s hard to get through more than a few wildly inaccurate paragraphs with Elizabeth so close to him, her feet in his lap.
John thinks she’s actually reading, but she smiles whenever he rests his hand on her ankles or pokes at her fluffy winter socks.
Finally, she closes the book, leaving one finger between the pages to keep her place, and smirks at him. “Do you want to do something else?”
He’s not sure she means sex, but the answer is yes... later. He got to eat her out a few hours ago, got to stretch her over the fireplace-warmed bed and taste her the way he’s been wanting to for God knows how long, and after watching her come apart, mouthing his name, he barely made it inside her before he was done. He needs to recharge, and needs to give his back a break if he wants to continue this having sex thing without medical intervention.
He still hates the painkillers, but it was somehow easier to take them sitting in bed, next to her, with her hand rubbing up and down his aching spine.
“I’m good,” he assures her. “This book is just terrible.”
She pulls her reading glasses down her nose to glance at the cover he’s holding. “But paperbacks-dot-com speaks so highly of it.”
He rolls his eyes and ends up just looking at her, enjoying the warm relief that fills him just being here. The freezing rain stopped outside and the sun came out enough to see peeks of gray water through the ice-laden trees.
“I think we should just stay at the ocean,” John finds himself saying. He could do with ignoring the rest of this planet for a while – maybe forever. “I’ve always wanted a beach house.”
Elizabeth’s face turns serious. “I’m not ready to retire.”
He nods. He knows that. “I was.”
“Were you really, though? Doing nothing makes you miserable.”
John feels like he needs something to do with his hands, so he puts down the novel and starts squeezing her feet in an improvised massage.
“I don’t like this,” he admits. “I just don’t know what else to do.”
She sits up, touches his shoulder. “You’ll find something.” It doesn’t feel like the kind of pat assurance Doctor Hayworth would give him, or General Keane. Elizabeth knows him, like few people ever have, and he believes her. Deep down, no matter what happened, he never stopped trusting her with his life.
It still hurts, though, when he thinks of how he’s no longer entrusted with hers. “It’s hard to let you go out there without being there to watch your back.”
Elizabeth swallows. Her eyes are suddenly watery. “I know. I don’t know how much more I have in me. But until then...”
He squeezes her ankle with a promise. “I’ll be here.” Being on Earth alone felt like exile, but being on Earth with her, feeling alive and in love and trusting she’ll come back whenever she leaves...
He thinks he could find a way to be happy.
Elizabeth touches his face, and he feels his heart speed up. This, this is what he always wanted.
“Find me a beach house to come home to,” she says.
When she kisses him, he feels her smile on his lips.