Out of Africa

Yet

"Everything you want in life has a price connected to it. There's a price to pay if you want to make things better, a price to pay just for leaving things as they are, a price for everything."
~Harry Browne.


September 2013. Nairobi, Kenya.

Clyde Easter did not achieve his current position in life by being a dull or unobservant man—he saw the grim expressions of George Whitting and Ahoo Shir-Del as they prepared to leave the hotel that morning, and he knew that they were coming for him.

He didn't have to wait long. They had barely gotten into the conference room at the CID before Ahoo had appeared at his elbow, her voice low and conspicuously neutral, "May I have a word with you, Mr. Easter?"

He glanced over at Agent Whitting, who simply returned the stare with little hint or emotion. Then he gave a heavy sigh, "I suppose I don't have much choice, do I?"

"Not particularly," Whitting drawled, allowing the first glint of amusement to shade his expression. "Agent Shir-Del has her mind set, so you might as well get it over with."

Easter smiled at that. He barely knew the young, tiny thing standing before him, but he knew that she was definitely a bulldog—determined and graced with a lock-jaw tenacity which enabled her to hold on and hold out longer than most.

"There's another conference room that hasn't been used at all," Shir-Del suggested quietly, ignoring the entire exchange between the two men. Clyde nodded and motioned for her to lead the way.

Once the door was shut, she turned to him with cautious eyes, "I'm sure you know why we want to talk."

Clyde Easter actually grinned like a Cheshire cat, holding up a finger, "Now, now, Agent Shir-Del. You know I'm not going to fall for that old trick. As I mentioned to you yesterday, my job entails keeping secrets, not sharing them. So why don't you tell me why you want to talk, not the other way around."

She bit back a small smile of her own, and he knew that he had her number. She was a smart thing, which was definitely a plus for someone in her line of work, though Clyde didn't much appreciate her intelligence at this particular moment, as it was the source of his current dilemma.

"Where's Agent Connelly?" George Whitting asked, pulling a chair from the long conference table and taking a seat.

"Oh, my. You're sitting down—that must mean we're going to be here for the long haul, then."

"She didn't leave the hotel with us this morning and I've already called the lab—she isn't there," Ahoo wasn't deterred in the least by Clyde's snark. "And yesterday, I heard her on the phone—presumably with her mother, but she happened to mention six thirty-four."

"And that is relevant because….?" Clyde looked from Ahoo to George and back again, his face skewed in confusion.

"Six thirty-four happens to be the building number of the address for yesterday's op," Whitting supplied in a low tone. He looked almost bored as he casually added, "The same place where Emily Prentiss was shot."

If this had any effect on Clyde Easter, he hid it beautifully. George had the brief thought that this man might be a sociopath.

"Ah. I see." Easter looked down. Then he pulled out a chair and sat as well, each movement beautifully executed with a weighted precision that bordered on theatricality. When he looked back up, his expression was filled with slight contempt and more than a hint of sarcasm, "Yes, I completely agree with your logic—six thirty-four is such a rare number, it would be statistically improbable that it could ever come up again, unless in exact conjunction with this address. My, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service must be over the moon about snagging two clever sleuths such as yourselves."

Ahoo opened her mouth to retort, but then stopped herself. Still, there was a flush to her cheeks that implied her unhappiness. However, George remained unaffected as ever. His voice was low, calm, perfectly paced and weighted, "Constance Connelly mentions this number in conversation and subsequently disappears—and has remained missing since that time, which happened to be late morning. In the early afternoon, we are given an address with the same number. However, by the time we arrive, someone is in the building with Wasaki, and Wasaki escapes—yet again, another statistical improbability for you, Mr. Easter. Emily Prentiss sees someone and is subsequently shot—perhaps this is a good time to point out that, despite the fact that Chief Prentiss has been out of harm's way for almost seventeen hours now, she still hasn't identified her shooter. Everyone has simply been operating on the assumption that Wasaki or Ade was the perp, but Prentiss hasn't actually told us so yet, despite being awake and well on the road to recovery."

"How do you know that she hasn't identified her shooter?" Easter crossed his arms over his chest.

"I didn't say that she hadn't identified the shooter," the Canadian returned coolly. "I just said that she hasn't confirmed that it was one of our targets. I think she's already told you who shot her—and I think you aren't telling the rest of the task force because it's Connelly."

"All because the woman mentions a number—in an overheard one-sided conversation that you claim was between her and her mother?"

Now George shifted, losing his disinterested air as he leaned forward, his eyes boring into Clyde's. His voice stayed as neutral and low as ever as he quietly decreed, "We did our homework, Easter. Constance Connelly's mother has been dead for five years."

Easter sat back, and Ahoo knew that they'd won.

There was a beat of silence as the Englishman looked out the window. He quietly murmured something to himself—Ahoo could have sworn that he said Sorry, Emily.

Clyde Easter turned back to them, his expression still stone, "Who else knows?"

"We haven't told anyone," Ahoo assured him.

He rose to his feet again. "Good. Let's keep it that way."

Ahoo looked to George in confusion, and the older man simply stood as well, gesturing that they should follow the Interpol agent, who was on his way out the door.

"Give him some space," Whitting kept his voice at a whisper, so that only she could hear. "He's going to give us what we want, but let him do it on his own terms. It'll make things a lot smoother."

She nodded, following her mentor's lead and hanging back as Easter charged down the hall, towards the other conference room.

"You were amazing in there," she admitted.

"Pretty words don't turn this head," he informed her drolly.

She smiled, but persisted, "No, really. I mean, I've seen you give dozens of interviews and interrogations—but that was…you really knew how to hit him where he lives."

His expression remained unaffected as he quietly intoned, "I've told you, Lion-heart—I am a damn fine read of human behavior."


Aaron Hotchner glanced at his phone again. David Rossi fought back a smile at the small action—he knew that his friend was waiting for a call from Emily Prentiss, informing him that she was officially being released from the hospital. And of course, Aaron had decided that he would be the one to pick her up and return her to the hotel.

It was the perfect time to tease him.

"You seem awfully…impatient this morning," Dave kept his voice low, not even looking up from his own work. "Something big happening today, Hotchner?"

The look that was shot his way would have killed a lesser man, but Rossi still knew there was a smile deep underneath that stern expression.

The Italian gave a slight shrug, turning the page of the interview transcript. Aaron didn't know if he wanted to laugh or scream. Damn profilers.

Spencer was busy scrutinizing a city-wide map that they'd pinned on the board, tapping the marker against his chin as his eyes narrowed in concentration. Information Intelligence had given them the addresses for four separate buildings, and the CID was gearing up to send another set of satellites to scope out the locations—but a search of this magnitude would take hours, and it would certainly help if they could take an option or two off the list.

The silence was interrupted by Clyde Easter blustering into the room.

"Agent Kimathi," his tone was brusque, and obviously he was unhappy about something. "I'd like you to transfer to the other conference room—help Eric Silver prep for the tactical op. I know Prentiss liked keeping you by her side, but I'd prefer to have an Interpol agent in each room. Keep the bases covered, as it were."

"Yes, sir," Mika rose to his feet, gathered his things, and left.

Clyde opened the door a little wider and motioned to Shir-Del and Whitting, who entered.

"Well, here we are then," Easter closed the door before turning back to everyone and setting his hands on his hips. "The only people who know the truth about Constance Connelly and what really happened to Emily Prentiss. We are running a secondary, and obviously covert, operation alongside the task force's hunt for Wasaki and Ade."

Aaron's face obviously betrayed his alarm, because Easter held up his hand as he explained, "I know, it's Emily's call on who to include in the circle, but these two were already on to it—I told you last night that Shir-Del would be a problem, and if I thought they could be deflected, I would have done so."

"Wait, what?" Ahoo was thoroughly confused.

"We all know," Spencer Reid piped up. "Emily told us that Constance shot her, and we've been looking into it since yesterday."

Easter gave a heavy sigh, "I suppose it's time we actually devote manpower to finding Connelly—and more importantly, finding Wasaki and Ade. Right now, I think that both trails will end at the same point."

He motioned to some empty seats, "I suggest you two sit down and let us get you up to speed."

George and Ahoo wordlessly took a seat.

"Now," Clyde Easter became absolutely foreboding, his voice filled with a low intensity that would brook no refusals. "By joining this operation, you are relinquishing your autonomy as agents of your nation's security service and operating under the authority of Interpol. As such, you are also entering an understanding, which entails that you cannot speak of anything that happens in this room outside of this room. You cannot include any details of this in any briefing or debriefing, with your own agency heads or anyone else on this task force, or anyone else alive, for that matter. This will be a secret that you take to your grave—and trust me, there will be official paperwork to go along with this, once all is said and done."

George took a moment to look at his protégé, to silently let his eyes ask, Are you sure you wanna do this?

She pressed her lips together, gave one small, definitive nod. They both turned their attention back to Clyde Easter.

George Whitting opened his hands in a welcoming gesture, "Let's see just how far this rabbit hole goes."


Major Zamir was very, very ill. Chava Azoulay could hear the horrible sounds of retching whenever she entered the women's restroom. She quietly leaned against the sink counter and waited for the older woman to emerge from the bathroom stall.

If Zamir was surprised to see Azoulay, she hid it well. She merely wiped the corners of her red-rimmed eyes and stated, "This habit of yours—hovering over me all the time—it is not the most endearing trait to have."

Azoulay didn't even smile (mainly because she wasn't sure if it was really a joke). Instead, she simply said, "Something is happening."

"Something is always happening," Zamir returned tiredly, washing her hands and patting some cold water on her face.

"You told me to keep an eye on things," Chava reminded her. "I am telling you that my eye sees something."

The older woman stopped, turned her topaz-colored eyes to her subordinate with renewed interest.

Chava continued. "Interpol just sent Kimathi over to our conference room. At first, I thought maybe he was keeping an eye on things, too—but then, when I walked past the other room, the door was shut."

A shut door didn't necessarily mean anything, but it certainly was a warning sign. "Who's in the room?"

"The Americans—well, not the CIA. The Americans who used to work with Chief Prentiss, plus Clyde Easter, and two Canadians."

"The Canadians don't fit." Zamir slowly wiped her hands on the rough paper towels, the wheels in her mind slowly turning. "Especially if it's just two of them."

"Depends on which two," Azoulay pointed out. She crossed her arms over her chest, "One of them is the Muslim girl—the one we saw hounding Easter yesterday. This morning, at breakfast, she and the older man were quiet, withdrawn from the others—and she was watching Easter's every move while we were at the hotel. I think she has something on him, or at least suspects something."

"But what does she suspect?"

Chava bit her lip. "I don't know."

"Whatever it is, it got her in the room." Major Zamir was playing with the button of her shirt pocket again—an odd nervous tic that Chava had noticed over the last twenty-four hours. "But that is all you know, so far?"

"So far. But I will keep an eye and an ear towards that room."

"Good." Then the older woman closed her eyes, taking an unsteady breath.

"You are unwell," Chava stated.

Her superior gave a small hum of affirmation (nodding would only increase the nausea rolling through her brain).

"You know, I do not get sick—or at least I hardly ever do. The last time I was this ill was when—" She stopped, her eyes opening as her hand instinctively fluttered to her abdomen.

She looked back at Chava, whose wide malachite eyes informed her that she didn't have to ask because she already understood.

Yonah was immediately sick again.


They were out to lunch when Aaron's phone buzzed in his pocket. He read the text message and then quietly declared, "The doctors are releasing Emily today."

Rossi glanced over at Reid, his expression filled with a smug I told ya so.

Hotch stood, leaving some cash for his meal on the table, "I'm going to pick her up. I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Take your time," Dave leaned back in his chair, a serene smile on his face. "Take all the time you need."

Hotch gave him a disapproving look. Dave's side comments were aggravating—and the fact that his insinuations were right on the money was even more aggravating. Everything that he hinted at was exactly what Aaron was thinking about, and to make matters worse, Rossi knew it.

"We've got it covered, Hotch," Reid assured him, trying to break the tension between the two men and lower the level of sheer awkwardness that came from the realization that at some point very, very soon, Emily and Hotch were going to have sex.

"Let me know if anything changes," Hotch informed them before heading for the door.

Spencer turned his attention back to Rossi, "Seriously? What is it with you and this weird obsession about making this as socially uncomfortable as possible?"

The older man grinned, "It's fun. Besides, Aaron needs to remember what if feels like to be a normal human being every once and awhile, with friends who crack jokes at his expense and who tease him about girls."

"Prentiss isn't just some girl," Reid reminded him.

"No, she isn't," he agreed. "But it's good for both of them to remember not to take life too damn seriously—a lesson, which I might add, you need to remember as well."

"Life is serious. It's a fatal disease that no one survives," the young doctor intoned. Now he was simply toeing the line for the sake of a debate.

His partner sat back, opened his arms in a nonchalant gesture, "Well, if Rome's gonna burn, we might as well fiddle."

Reid took a moment to scrutinize the man sitting across the table. "It's hard to fathom how a man of your hedonistic tendencies ever succeeded in a career field such as this."

"Because I like all the flash that comes from being the guy who catches bad guys," Rossi answered easily, drinking the last of his ice water.

"Thank goodness you're not nearly as self-centered as you pretend to be." Reid was smiling now.

Rossi grinned as well, "Maybe you should talk to some of my exes before you say something like that."


Emily Prentiss tried to calm her twittering hands as she glanced at the clock for what must have been the thousandth time in a matter of minutes.

I'll tell you the answer tomorrow. Aaron's words still rippled across her skin, as warm and full of promise as they had been when he first uttered them. But now tomorrow was today, soon to be now, and she couldn't deny the anticipation building in her veins, receding and swelling like the tide as she imagined just how Aaron Hotchner would keep that promise.

This was ridiculous. Emily Prentiss was by no means a blushing virgin, but she couldn't recall a single sexual encounter that had filled her with more nervousness than the thought of finally pushing back the curtain that separated what is from what could be in her relationship with Aaron. Even now, her hands were sweating (sweating, what was she, fourteen all over again?) and her heart was flip-flopping in her chest, and the man hadn't even arrived yet.

Yet. That was the word that held all the weight. Now all the things she'd imagined in her mind, all the things she'd thought would never happen, went from not happening ever to not happening yet.

Amazing, how those three simple letters changed everything.

Amazing and scary and wonderful and nerve-wracking and oh-dear-god-why-are-my-hands-sweating-this-is-ridiculous.

She kinda wished that she were drunk. If she had enough alcohol in her system, she wouldn't care at all—nerves would dissipate and all would be left was the important part, the part that wanted to have a moment of quiet relief and happiness with a man who understood her on a level much deeper than most—though something in the corner of her heart told her that she wanted to be totally sober, to be able to recall every single detail in lightning clarity.

A light rap on the door ripped her from her fevered thoughts. Aaron's dark head appeared.

"Just in time," she motioned for him to come in. "The nurse went to get my wheelchair—they gave me crutches, but hospital policy won't allow me to simply walk out of here."

He held up a bag, "Another gift from Rowena. She—she thinks of everything, really."

Emily took the bag, her face filled with confusion, which disappeared once she saw the contents. She pulled out a dress, loose with a colorful print splashed across the fabric.

Aaron explained, "She gave it to me, this morning. She knew that with your bandages and everything, putting on pants would be too difficult—not to mention, they were completely ruined by the paramedics—"

"They were my favorite pair, too," Emily added mournfully. However, her bereavement was over soon, "I'm really gonna have to get her something in return—she's been so kind through all of this."

"She has," Aaron agreed. "You two seem to have really hit it off."

She made a small noise of agreement, sitting up straighter as she began figuring out how to put on the dress.

"May I?" Aaron's hand was on her back, so light that she could barely feel it.

She looked up, surprised by the question and intrigued by the answer.

Soon had just become now.

She nodded, using her fingers to brush her hair over her shoulder as she angled herself slightly, giving him better access to the back of her hospital gown.

There were three sets of string-ties down Emily's back, and unlike the previous day, Aaron did notice the skin peeking from underneath the fabric—and more importantly, he noticed that Emily wasn't wearing anything beneath her gown. An unanticipated-yet-not-unwelcome detail.

Emily tried to remind herself to breathe as his fingers untied the knots, purposefully without being too slow, and the thought of such a pace in other areas made her heart flutter.

Dear god. The man is untying a fucking knot and I'm twittering like some kind of straight-corseted Jane Austen virgin who's never even had a man look at her ankle. It'd be funny, if it wasn't happening to her. It'd be funny, if any other man had made her feel these things. It'd be funny, if the implications weren't so damn scary.

The ties were undone, and more of Emily's pale skin was showing, beckoning, tempting him with a glimpse of more. Until now, Aaron had barely touched her—just accidental brushes as he untied the strings, light glances that didn't convey warmth or affection of any kind. Emily was quiet, waiting for his next move, and he could tell by the set of her shoulders and the stillness of her body that she was actually holding her breath.

Breathe. That's what he wanted to tell her. But he decided to say it with his hands.

Emily couldn't stop her eyes from closing in relief when she felt the first brush of Aaron's fingertips slipping past the fabric of her gown. His fingers gave way to his palms, warm and weighted and assuring, moving across the line of her shoulders, pressing outward to push away the clothing.

He could literally feel her breath as it left her body, and he felt his own breath releasing as well (her nervousness made him nervous, because Emily Prentiss was many things, but scared was never an adjective that fit her well). More of her skin came out to greet the air, and she gave a shiver—he wondered if it was from the cold or from something else (and hoped it was the latter).

The curve of her shoulder appeared like the newly-born moon rising from clouds of fabric, and he couldn't stop his mouth's impulse to rest upon that very spot.

Emily turned her head instinctively, leaning her forehead against his. There was a beat as their eyes simply found each other, silently acknowledging that this was real—his dark eyes quietly asked if she was alright, and her eyes, so close to the shade and hue of his own, affirmed with the slightest smile at their corners.

She raised her hand, fingertips caressing the edge of his jaw, guiding his mouth to hers. She let their lips simply meet before her tongue came out to explore the land of his own, a place that was becoming dizzyingly more familiar. A soft sigh escaped at the simple relief of a kiss.

"Jesus," he pulled away slightly, his voice still low, sharing a secret between them. "Don't you know you could stop the world with that sound?"

Her smile was radiant, though her eyes danced mischievously, "Then maybe you should stop doing things that make me make that sound."

"Not a chance."

She laughed, turning away to finish dressing. Her actions implied that she didn't want him to see, so he turned away as well.

She noticed, explained, "It's not—modesty isn't the issue, Hotch. I just would like some things to be a surprise for a little bit longer."

"But not too much longer," he assured her. She gave a small hum of amusement.

"Okay, you can turn around again." She had slipped the dress over her head and tossed the hospital gown into the empty chair by her bed. It was a simply white summer dress, with gold and navy designs all over it, a loose skirt with a fitted tube top that only accented the swell of her breasts and brought attention to her collarbone, which suddenly looked so delicate that Hotch suddenly remembered just how fragile her health had been, less than twenty-four hours ago.

"What?" She asked, in a breathlessly shy and curious way that somehow was still the epitome of the Prentiss that he had always known.

"You. Just you." There weren't enough words to explain, not enough emotions to cover them all, nor enough time to label and categorize them into something expressible.

She grinned again, looked away for a second. Not that she wasn't enjoying Hotch's wondrously romantic side, but she wasn't sure that she could ever get used to this—and sadly, she realized she probably wouldn't have enough time or chances to even try getting used to it.

"Where'd you go?" His voice was gentle, lined with concern.

"What?" She feigned confusion, but she knew that he saw through it.

"For a moment, you went somewhere else. The light left your eyes."

"Oh." She looked down at her hands. "I was just—nothing. It doesn't matter, really."

"Of course it does." He didn't press for more, didn't try to pry her secrets away from her, and for that, she was grateful. Of course, it only served to remind her that Aaron Hotchner knew her better than most.

Aaron wasn't sure what had just happened, but the air in the room shifted. If this had been a different time and a different place, he would have simply let it go, let the problem sort itself out on its own—but they did not have the luxury of time. So instead, he kept talking, kept reaching out for the woman in front of him, "Look, if something has changed, and you don't want to—"

"No. God, no," her head snapped up, dark eyes meeting his with sudden intensity. "Aaron, it isn't about that at all. Nothing could change that."

He smiled softly, and she thought she saw a flicker of doubt behind his eyes. She reached for his hand, held it gently as she searched for the right words, "My only regret is that we don't have as much time as…as I wish we could, I guess."

He made a small noise of understanding (after all, hadn't he felt this same regret, just yesterday?).

"How about we make a deal?" He pushed a playful note into his tone as he leaned forward, planting his hands on either side of her hips, which were still hidden beneath the hospital blankets. "From this point on, we don't waste a single second of what precious time we do have. Starting right now."

His nose was just a whisper away from her own, and for a moment, the intensity of his gaze made her mind go blank. She found herself speaking, before she could even think, "But—Hotch, there's a city-wide manhunt going on. You have to—we need to focus on the case—"

"We're always in the middle of a case," he interrupted, his tone dipping lower, almost teasing. There was a grin dancing at the corner of his mouth, "Your words, Chief Prentiss."

They were the words that started this whole journey. She couldn't stop herself from smiling, too, her hand automatically reaching up to cup the side of his face. "I guess I can't argue with that, can I?"

"Well, you could. But it would be a waste of time."

"And we're done with that, right?"

"Right." He recaptured her mouth with his own, and he could feel her lips smiling against his.

There was a quick rap on the door, and they pulled apart as the nurse entered, along with a wheelchair, "Alright, Miss Prentiss. You are ready to go."

Hotch moved to help her stand, but the nurse waved him off, "Hospital policy—I handle her until we reach the sidewalk out front. We don't want any accidents—we do not want her back here again."

Emily knew the woman meant it—they hadn't been on the best terms ever since Emily had demanded phone privileges. The nurse still refused to call her Chief.

Aaron simply nodded, giving her shoulder one last squeeze of reassurance before heading for the door, "I'll go pull the car around."

Regardless of the recent rockiness with the woman currently helping her into the wheelchair, Emily felt as if she were arriving on Cloud Nine. Nerves and hormones waged war as her body and mind tried to adjust to something that she hadn't even realized how desperately she wanted until she was finally given the chance to have it.

Freedom. Freedom to finally speak of all the things volleying between her and Hotch, freedom to finally admit (aloud, to him) things that she thought would stay forever locked away, freedom to say I want this and I don't want that, freedom to fall without fear of what would happen if and when she was caught, freedom to love this man without fearing that she would hurt him.

This freedom colored everything—from the way she felt when he entered the room, the way they spoke to each other, to the way she saw him. Right now, as he waited beside the unmarked sedan, khaki cargo pants and a button-down with the sleeves rolled up, as casual and un-Hotch-like as could be, he looked like the most obscenely erotic thing that she'd ever seen. His movements, as smooth and as graceful as always, reminded her how easily and smoothly his hands had found her body yesterday morning, when they shared their first kiss. His smile, open yet almost-shy, reminded her that there were still bridges to cross, bridges that would soon be crossed—surely the whole world could see the story written on their two anxious and eager faces, Emily thought, and surely this was something that the world shouldn't see. This was his and hers, no one else's, they'd earned it, earned the right to treasure its secrecy.

Emily Prentiss may have been one of the best compartmentalizers that Aaron Hotchner had ever known, but she'd obviously forgotten that skill in the last few minutes—because the look on her face as they approached informed him that she would very much like to devour him whole. He couldn't stop himself from grinning in response (a shared sentiment, to be sure).

The wheelchair stopped within a foot of the car.

"Now you can help," the nurse informed him, handing over the crutches.

He opened the back passenger door, deposited the crutches, and turned back to Emily, who lightly held up her hands in expectation. He leaned forward, letting her hands rest on his shoulders as his went to her waist, steadying her as she stood up. Of course, his hands might have slipped a little further down, mapping the outline of her hips beneath the flowing fabric of her dress—slight enough not to be noticed by anyone else, but sure enough that Emily's eyes latched onto his with soft surprise.

"Congratulations. She's all yours." The nurse did not seem enthused. She stood there, waiting—obviously, she had to make sure that the patient made it safely into the car before she could return to her usual duties.

Emily was grinning at him, and he knew why. All yours, Hotchner. Ball's in your court.

His hands slipped further around her lower back, pulling her body just a little closer than necessary, but judging from the growing size of her grin, she didn't mind. In fact, she leaned further into him, though her own two feet were perfectly capable of keeping her upright.

Once she and her crutches were safely installed in the backseat, he closed the door, thanked the nurse (who remained nonplussed), and got behind the wheel.

"I guess we should probably head back to CID, huh?"

He glanced at Emily in the rearview mirror—her dry smirk informed him that she was being her usual sarcastic self.

He kept a straight face, "I've got a better idea."

She quirked a dark brow in response, and her smirk turned into a kind of breathless grin that made her look twenty years younger.

Emily tried to distract herself by watching traffic—but she could physically feel the pulse thrumming through her neck as her breathing shallowed. Every second brought them closer to the final threshold, and if she over-thought this any more, she'd go insane.

It's just like every other guy, she reminded herself. There's nothing to get worked up about. Yes, you care, and yes, he cares, but it's no different from any other time.

Her hammering heart couldn't seem to agree.


"I Love You,
In ways you've never been loved
For reasons you've never been told,
For longer than you think you deserved
And with more
Than you will ever know existed inside me."
~Tyler Knott Gregson.


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