Part III

And I know a girl who would wait onto the stars
When she sings the heavens part…

So do you know what I mean
So do you know know how I feel

Cye stayed in Robyn's bed but slept fitfully: she still tossed and turned enough to jostle him awake a few times, but he didn't like the thought of leaving her. It grew warm enough under the covers that he pulled off his shirt and tossed it to the floor, feeling less hesitant about such a move than he would have a day ago. Once, hoping it would help her restlessness abate, he rubbed her upper back until she let out a deep sigh and laid still. He didn't mind it so much, this time, when her legs pressed against his and her toes touched his lower calves. Or when she accidentally discovered he'd removed his shirt, and then made a sleepy noise of pleasure that went straight to his gut and cuddled closer to him.

The sound of the shower eventually woke him, but he was still exhausted. He lay in the bed, hugging his pillow, and lightly dozed while he waited for her to come back.

A slight shift in weight on the bed alerted him to an intruder that was not Robyn.

He opened one eye to stare at the cat slowly padding over to him, her blue eyes wide. "No," he mumbled. Dinah pressed forward, sniffing at his bare arm hesitantly. "We're not friends."

She meowed in protest.

Cye sighed. He turned over and sat up, the covers pooling at his waist. Dinah took it as an invitation and stepped on him, her little feet pressing on his stomach. Resigned, he let her turn once and then sit, purring like a little engine.

"You are rather cute," he admitted, scratching her head and lightly petting her back. "But you shed so much. Where does she even keep your litter box? And your breath smells terrible." Dinah was unmoved by his insults and rubbed her head against his large hand.

Robyn found them like that when she left the bathroom dressed for work, her hair dried and straightened. It made her freeze in the doorway: the shirtless man and her beloved cat, nestled in his lap. She thought finding him still in her bed sans shirt, sleeping deeply, was bad enough – but this. Her heart swelled with a love that she could feel evolving with added layers that were new and terrifying and lovely at the same time. She didn't want to break the spell and the image they made, partially because she couldn't yet speak without doing something ridiculous, like begging him to stay or crying or telling him she loved him and thought he was the best thing since sliced bread, even though she'd told him that before in the past.

She took a moment to collect herself and then breezed in. "I am so glad Papa Cye is spending some time with my baby." She half got on the bed to kiss Dinah on her furry head, and then glanced at Cye. Even as shyness gripped her, she couldn't help but lean in and give him a kiss, too, just for being a trooper and looking so delectable.

Her intention was a light kiss on the lips, but Cye stayed her by cupping her jaw with one hand and lengthening the kiss to something unhurried, lazy, and toe curling. Robyn nearly fell on the bed and stopped herself by bracing a hand on the warm skin of his chest.

"Good morning," he murmured against her mouth.

"Morning," she breathed. When did the room turn into an oven? She was suddenly so hot. "I have to go to work."

He nodded and placed a kiss on her jaw, his fingers trailing up the sensitive skin of her inner forearm.

"Just for a few hours," she said weakly as he kissed the side of her neck.

"I'll be here when you get back."

Robyn's heart trilled like a songbird. "By lunch."


She could not handle how attractive he looked, and ended it with another quick peck to his cheek and fleeing the room with a wave behind her. Robyn still felt flustered as she left the apartment and got a quarter of the way through her hour drive to the organization she worked for.

Knowing he would still be there when she returned warmed her to the core. She wasn't even at work yet and she couldn't wait to leave.

He fell back asleep not long after Robyn left, with Dinah dozing at his side. When he woke again, the bedside clock read nine am. He rolled over to Robyn's side; her scent lingered on the pillow. He happily buried his face in it, letting the cat climb over him as he enjoyed being in her space and anticipating her return.

After showering and eating some oatmeal that wasn't very good, he wandered the small apartment. It felt a little strange being in Robyn's home with her gone, but he couldn't help but poke around and look at what she'd built for herself. Her clutter and belongings might help him know better who she'd become over the years and fill in some of those gaps.

She had pretty pieces of art on the walls of her bedroom, bordering on whimsical. She needed to do laundry; her hamper was full and a few items were spilling out onto the floor. He didn't imagine doing laundry was very fun without having a washer. Her computer desk was cluttered with piles of paper and school books, a few glasses with a little water left in them, and a seashell made of glass holding an array of charming bows and hairclips shaped like flowers. The lamp by her laptop looked like an antique. He peeked in her closet and was not surprised to find more of his sweaters in there than he remembered giving her. She had adorable clothes; he ran his fingers over a silk shirt, the chiffon on a skirt, the soft cotton of a feminine blouse and a matching soft green cardigan. In the back were a few airy summer dresses. He wanted to see her in all of it.

The small bookshelf in her living room held titles he'd never heard of, and others he'd had; romance, some classics, collections of environmentalist essays and anthologies. He recognized some books Rowen had gifted her – nonfiction physics and astronomy - and volumes of poetry – contemporary Japanese poets and European Victorian poetry - that must have come from Sage. The blankets in the basket weren't just store bought fleece throws, but afghans and wool blankets with what looked like Native American patterns. The shoes littered by the doorway were a mixture of well worn casual shoes, sturdy boots, and flats.

Cye made calls home while he waited, checking in with his mother, Kento, and returning a missed call from Ryo. He hesitated to call Sage, because word would get to Rowen and frankly, he didn't want to go into a detailed explanation of his trip here yet. A part of him wanted to keep it – and her – all to himself for a while longer.

Around one, he heard her key in the door. She burst in, singing, "I'm home!"

"Do you do that for Dinah, too, or am I special?" he asked cheekily.

"Do you want the truth?" she shot back, grinning at him as she kicked off her shoes and set down a bag presumably filled with work to do at home. He held out his arms, and she launched herself at him as she'd done when he first arrived. His breath whooshed out as he caught her and held her to him, his blood spiking when he felt her legs wrap around his waist.

"Did you gorge yourself in the hours you were gone?" he asked teasingly.

"Excuse you! You're just a weakling today." Not – she could feel the hard muscles of his biceps as he held her up. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her fingers automatically played with his hair. It was so neat – and so different – to have someone to come home to, even for this short amount of time.

What would it be like if she always had this?

His face was inches from hers, but he merely brushed noses and kissed her lightly on the cheek. "How was work?"

"Fine." She could not tame the silly grin on her face. They were acting like…like a couple, and it was deeply satisfying. How quickly things could change.

How little she had known that she could want him this way, yet it made all the sense in the world.

"Hungry?" he asked.


He used lettuce and other fresh vegetables from Robyn's fridge to make a salad for lunch, and paired it with edamame, onion, and ginger with rice. They stayed in for the rest of the day, talking about anything and everything, pausing only to watch another movie and then get on Robyn's laptop to laugh over something funny she wanted to show him. He only referenced the next day once, but it was enough to almost put a pall over the day – he was leaving tomorrow night. He had to return home. When he noticed her wilt, he suggested they go somewhere nice for dinner, his treat – within reason, since he had very little in the way of nice clothes with him.

Robyn was still bummed about the reminder, but agreed. And then reminded him he did have decent clothes available. "They're hanging in my closet, Cye," she laughed.

He paired fairly clean khakis from one of his duffels and a deep green sweater he had not seen in years from Robyn's closet. Robyn grabbed a curling iron, some hair products, and a cosmetic bag from the bathroom and kicked him out of her room while she changed and got ready.

She came back into the living room wearing a feminine, sleeveless lacy dress in midnight blue with a ruffled hem and knee-length gray boots. A dark gray cardigan was draped over her arm. Robyn's hair was loosely curled, some of it pinned back from her face. She had very little makeup on – just a faint shimmer to her cheeks and eyeliner with a bit of eye shadow. She looked like a fairy princess. Her face glowed with happiness and health.

"You look amazing," he said honestly.

Robyn gave him a small, shy smile and curtsied. She grabbed her keys and paused as she passed him to run her hand up his arm. "Sweater's a little snug," she said, although her tone told him she didn't mind at all.

"Well, it did disappear from my closet a number of years ago," he quipped back.

She shrugged on the cardigan and they left. They ate at an Italian restaurant with mellow lighting and a drowsy, romantic sort of ambiance that felt cozy instead of overly formal. To Cye's delight, Robyn slipped off her boots under the table, as well as the cardigan, since the restaurant was surprisingly warm and the booth hid her casual move from view. All through dinner, her bare toes skimmed over his khakis, whenever she shifted or laughed. He thought she looked radiant in the candlelight, as it reflected over her pale skin, the vibrancy in her face and color of her hair, and deepened the green of her eyes.

Robyn relished his company and the delicious food. She didn't mind ogling him a bit, since he was doing the same; it was kind of liberating to give herself permission to look at him like that, too. His eyes were gorgeous in the lighting of the restaurant and it deepened the shades of auburn and brown in his hair. He looked so good. She couldn't get over it. She had no idea what would come of this or what was going to happen – she didn't even want to think about the future. She wanted to live in these moments with him and hold him as tightly to her as she could.

At some point, he cleared his throat and told her with a warning tone, "Keep looking at me like that."

"Or what?" she asked flippantly, licking creamy garlic sauce from her fork.

His words were slow, measured, and low. "Or we're paying the bill now, going home, and I'm helping you out of that dress."

Robyn paused, the tines of the fork still between her teeth. Heat flooded her as his expression promised exactly that.

The rest of dinner was a blur as a sweet tension rose between them and Robyn was caught up in it. Her heart thudded when he paid and they rose to leave. She jolted when his hand accidently brushed hers as they walked out to her car. His arm hovered at the small of her back. He smelled wonderful. She was more aware of him now than she'd ever been, and her stomach did somersaults as he opened the car door for her and closed it when she got in. They said nothing on the drive home, but his large hand rested over hers, idly caressing the back of her hand.

It got worse when they were back in her apartment. Robyn knew where this could lead, and she was partly terrified and partly excited beyond reason. She wanted to explore this with him. She felt safe with him, but also electrified by him. Robyn wanted to see where it led even as nerves shot through her like fireworks.

Cye peeled the cardigan from her shoulders and she let him. The room was soundless except for their mingled breathing. Robyn was frozen in the middle of the room, with Cye just behind her, the cardigan now discarded. She jumped when his fingers touched the bare skin of her back, where the dress had a key hole opening that left her upper back bare. Her eyes closed when she felt his lips press between her shoulder blades. His arm wrapped around her waist and he continued giving her upper back feathery kisses, up to the base of her skull and the side of her neck. His beard lightly scratched her skin. He fingered the back tie of the dress at the nape of her neck and hesitated, asking silent permission.

Robyn nodded. He undid the knot and slid the straps of the dress off her shoulders. She wore a strapless bra because of the gauzy lace detail, so he ran his hands over her bare shoulders. Robyn gripped his forearm as his unsteady breath warmed her skin. She unconsciously tilted her head to give him better access, and Cye seized the opportunity to bestow open mouthed kisses on her neck, shoulder, and collarbone.

Her knees were growing weak, and she could feel in the tautness of his body that it was going to escalate quickly. Little lightning jolts of desire and nervousness overwhelmed her and prompted her to say, "Can we…Cye, can we…"

She didn't have to voice it – he stopped, and rested his forehead against her shoulder, breathing shallowly.

"I…I don't…" Robyn swallowed, trying to think of a way to phrase it. "I don't want to stop, necessarily, but I need a moment."

Cye slowly turned her around so they faced each other. She couldn't quite look at him, but he put two fingers under her chin and lifted until she met his gaze. "We will do whatever you want," he said seriously. "And only what you're comfortable with. We don't have to do anything, Robyn, if it's not what you want."

She searched his gorgeous eyes and found what she was looking for: kindness, affection, lust. Love. She could tell him no and he'd sleep on the couch. Or they could explore this new facet of their relationship together. Before the chance was gone.

"I'm going to change," she said. "I'd like to go…slow."

He took one of her hands and kissed it. "Then slow it shall be."

I will not ask you where you came from
I will not ask and neither should you

Honey just put your sweet lips on my lips
We should just kiss like real people do

Robyn retreated to the bathroom and Cye changed, too, figuring she would be more comfortable with him similarly attired. He was just as turned on at the thought of taking her out of her pajamas as he was her dress, and even imagining her undressing in the bathroom had him walking restlessly throughout the apartment, to stop in her bedroom. He distracted himself with the view outside of her window. Moonlight glistened off the ocean's undulating waves. It looked peaceful, while inside him was a riot of emotions. He never knew how badly he could want this with Robyn. It undid him that she could feel the same way.

She entered quietly; he wasn't even aware of it until the door closed softly. She was wearing a gray shirt and comfortable looking blue shorts. Her pale legs were slender and smooth. She'd taken the pins out of her hair, which disappointed him – he'd wanted to remove them himself and sink his fingers in her curls, but he could do that anyway. She flitted nervously to the bedside lamp, turned it on, and then shut off the main light. She was seconds away from ringing her hands, and it made Cye's heart ache with love for her.

"Should we make some popcorn, braid each other's hair, and talk about boys instead?" he asked.

He got the reaction he wanted: she looked startled, and then laughed. Cye beckoned her forward. "Come here."

Robyn complied, and Cye wrapped her in a simple hug. "It's just me," he said in her ear, rubbing her back. "We can just cuddle like your cat did to me earlier. Only this time there's no shedding involved."

"She's smitten with you, too," Robyn said into his shoulders. She ran her hands up his arms, feeling his biceps. "I really love these pajamas on you," she added.

"I really love everything about you," he replied.

Robyn drew back to look up at him. Her eyes searched his again, wide with a little of the wonder from after he first kissed her in the parking lot. Cye grazed the side of her cheek with his knuckles and watched her eyes darken, her lips part. He slid his palm down her jaw, and then caressed her lower lip with his thumb.

Before he could do anything else, Robyn captured his hand with her smaller one and placed a light kiss on his palm. His heart clenched. She took his hand and led him to the bed, but Cye sat first and pulled her into his lap. She wrapped her legs around his waist.

For a long moment they stayed like that and gazed at each other. Cye could feel her pulse racing under his fingertips. He ran his fingers through her silky hair while Robyn smoothed her hand down the material of his shirt and played with the hem. Her breath shaking, she lifted his shirt. Cye let her bring it up his torso, and then helped her by lifting his arms. It fell to the floor.

He sucked in a breath when her careful fingers touched him above the clenching muscles of his abdomen. She ran her hands up his bare chest, then along his arms and biceps. The expression on her face was concentrated and so utterly serious, as if she was determined to learn every line of him. No one had ever touched him with such attentiveness. Robyn pushed lightly at his chest, and he lay down with her on top of him. She kissed the scruff on his jaw, and then went lower to his neck. Cye's hands convulsed with the need to touch her, but he refrained to let her explore. He didn't want to scare her – she was setting the pace, and he was determined to let her carry it through.

Robyn placed kisses on his neck, his collarbone, and then moved down his body to his chest, her fingers dancing over his abdomen and his sides. When he thought he was going to lose the battle with his self control, she rose again and kissed him on the mouth, at the same time her hand crept down to his pajama bottoms and teased at the edge of the material, dangerously close to his groin.

He moaned into her mouth and kissed her hungrily, wantonly, tongue and a scrape of teeth, hitching her closer to him with a hand on her bottom to press their lower bodies together. He pulled back when the tone in her whimpers subtly changed and gentled his kisses. She broke from his lips to bury her face in his neck, her breathing ragged. He soothed a hand up her back.

"Your heart is racing," she said as she turned her head to lay her ear on his chest.

"You have no idea what you do to me," he replied gutturally.

He threaded his fingers through her hair, and Robyn turned her head to stare at him, a growing sensuality in her gaze. She sat up, tugging at his arms for him to do the same. Cye mirrored her earlier actions and reached for the hemline of her shirt. They didn't break eye contact as he pulled it up; she only looked away to lift up her arms and let him draw the shirt over her head.

He looked at her with an admiring gaze and a small sigh of pleasure; unbidden, nerves started to flutter in Robyn's stomach again. He must have sensed it, for he kissed her and let his hands wander down her arms, then her sides, only grazing the sides of her breasts before splaying along her lower back. She squirmed in his lap and he hissed in a breath. It empowered her to see his eyes glaze over from her movement - so she did it again.

His arms clamped around her waist and he clutched her to him, the bridge of his nose resting against her shoulder. "Take off your shorts," he said hoarsely.

Feeling bold, she maneuvered his hands down to her waist. "Help me do it," she said in his ear.

He tugged them down, over her hips, and then turned them until Robyn was on her back. She lifted her hips to help him. Cye caressed her legs, pressing kisses to her calves, her knees. He squeezed on either side of her kneecaps and Robyn squeaked; he did it again and she laughed and tried to squirm away. He pinned her down by her hips and kissed her stomach, and then lower again. Robyn's breathing grew ragged as he slowly removed her panties.

In an effort to combat another bout of shyness at being completely naked, Robyn got to her knees to meet him before he rejoined her. She kissed him demurely, her hands going over his smooth skin and the hard muscle underneath, down to his waist and his pajama bottoms. She moved to his lower back and slid her hands underneath his pants. Her eyes widened to feel bare skin: she expected him to be wearing…something underneath.

Cye broke the kiss to grin at her reaction. "Surprise," he said, laughing threading through his voice.

Robyn giggled a little, dropping her head on his chest. The urge to tell him she loved him fluttered in her chest; instead of voicing it, she tugged down his pajama bottoms.

He didn't move right away. They stared at each other, shuddering breaths mingling. The question was in his eyes again. Robyn gripped the back of his neck and, nodding, brought his mouth to hers.

They tangled together on the bed, playful at first. He hit another ticklish spot, making her gasp and laugh, and then hovered over her as he lavished attention her breasts, her flat stomach, and then lower, parting her legs and making her cry out as shockwaves of sensation bombarded her.

Robyn's body pulsed with need for him and she eagerly received him when he ascended her body and all but carried her further up the bed. Cye gathered some of her pillows and reclined her against them. Their lips almost met for a kiss but he stopped. He ran a calloused hand over the inside of her thigh. She closed her eyes, but Cye whispered, "Look at me, love."

She did. Robyn made an indescribably erotic noise as he claimed her. She gripped him tightly, her hands fists in his hair as they made love. Cye was drowning in her: the gasping breaths she took, the tension in her body, the way she felt under him. When his movements grew more desperate, she clutched at his back, digging her fingernails into his skin as she cried out his name.

They came apart in one another's arms. Cye hid his face in her neck, careful not to press his full weight on her. Robyn quivered under him, and he slid his arms underneath the pillows to embrace her. They held each other until their skin cooled and Robyn began shivering from cold. Cye lifted his head, brushed the hair from her forehead, and gave her a sweet kiss.

He pulled down the covers and tucked Robyn in, following her to coil around her. She turned to face him, some of the shyness back in her gaze as she looked at him and traced his jaw with her fingers. Cye's heart felt too large for his chest. He fell asleep intertwined with her, her steady breathing lulling him like the waves of the ocean.

There's room between today
And the last time that I saw you
The pictures in my brain
Will fade until I lose you

If you would come back home
We could start all over
If you would come back home
I swear it would be better

Robyn awoke with the sensual sensation of Cye's bare body next to hers. Her cheeks flushed at the memory of what they did the night before. She stretched a little, feeling tiny aches in her muscles that felt oddly good. He was behind her in a protective embrace, one arm flung over her waist.

I am sleeping, naked, with my best friend, she thought, testing the truth out in her own mind. I am very likely in love with him.

I am in love with him.

He is leaving today.

She closed her eyes as the reality of it smothered her happiness.

That doesn't mean you'll never see him again, the rational part of her argued. What is stopping you from going back to him? Can you really say you can stay away now? Could you really send him off and act like this meant nothing by just…staying here while he lived in Japan?

This was so hard.

Robyn felt him shift and pull her closer. He nuzzled the back of her neck. She must have been tenser from those thoughts than she realized, for he murmured, "All right, love?"

Her heart sighed. "More than all right," she whispered.

Cye ran his hand up her waist, then back down to the curve of her hip. He rose on one elbow to lean over her and kiss her temple, and then her shoulder. Robyn's hum of pleasure turned to a moan when his touch wandered lower.

They made love languidly, almost leisurely, with him behind her and holding her to him. Robyn was undone by the slow, sweet torture of it; the way he held her, the honeyed words he murmured in her ear before he, too, succumbed to the cresting wave of sensations that took them both under.

She hadn't yet caught her breath when he laid her on her back and rested his head on her stomach, his own pulse still galloping. She dropped a hand on his hair, but didn't have the energy to do more than that. As the stirring emotions calmed, Cye could finally hear the birds chirping outside. Sunlight warmed them both. He basked in the fact that they were together like this and completely alone. He fooled himself for a few minutes and thought that this is what it would be like if they lived together. Lazy mornings in each other's arms. He could forget everything in this space with her. No fighting, no family obligations, no work – just his Robyn, and this sleepy little town by the ocean.

He could stay forever.

They remained in bed a while longer, talking softly. Cye eventually shifted next to her so they could face one another. Robyn lied on her stomach, resting her head on her arms.

"Have you…thought about this before?" Robyn asked softly. "Us, like this?"

"I had wondered," he answered slowly. As he spoke, he idly stroked her back. "I missed you terribly on the ship. I was so used to you still being fairly constant in my life, even with the distance. Not being able to pick up a phone and call you was extremely annoying, so I was just left with my thoughts and wondering how I could come see you. I'd decided enough was enough. I still didn't have any idea it would be like this until I got here. Until I saw you. Touched you." He traced her shoulder blades.

Robyn smiled and hid her face in the pillow, making him chuckle.

"Never doubt how much I adore you," he told her, serious although his tone was lighter. "And now ... frankly, I'm not sure what to do.

She groaned. "I don't want to talk about it," she said, her voice muffled.

Cye went to speak, swallowed, and when his voice came out, it was a whisper. "You could…There's always r-" He stopped himself, closing his eyes. You could come with me, be with me, his mind finished. I love you, and I want you to come home. He felt it was unfair to ask her that, however. She had a life and a home here. A job, a leased apartment, school.

When Robyn looked up, tears shimmered in her eyes. "I know," she said thickly. "I-"

Her throat closed and she shut her eyes, willing the tears back. Cye made a noise of distress and sat up, gathering her to him. Robyn held on to him for dear life.

"It's all right," he crooned as her shoulders shook.

"Is it?" she asked, her breath shuddering in the crook of his neck. "What do we do now? I don't want to just…let you leave."

Cye battled with the heaviness in his chest over the anguish in her voice. It sounded as if she were still truly torn over the aspect of staying or returning with him.

Maybe if he put the question out there, gave her the option, made her see that it would be all right, he could fix this. Or build it, whatever this was between them. The potential for what they could be together was an intoxicating thought, and the idea of it never coming to fruition terrified him. He had to do everything he could not to lose her again. Not after these past few days and last night – he didn't think his heart could take it. "Come back with me," he said in her ear, before kissing it and nuzzling the side of her neck. "It doesn't have to be now. I know you have things to sort out. But would it be so bad? Being together?" Robyn stilled in his arms. He was encouraged by it. He added with a whisper, "I will wait for you."

Robyn untangled herself from him. Before she could wipe her own tears, he did it for her. The look in her eyes was still hesitant.

He could feel himself getting a little desperate. "Whatever you're afraid of happening, we can talk about it. Later, in person. I'd rather not lose you again."

There was a trembling note in Cye's voice that tore at Robyn's heart. The emotion in his eyes stole her breath and she had to look away. No one had ever looked at her the way he looked at her now. As if she was that important to him. That vital.

Would it be so bad? Oh, Cye, it would be the most glorious thing in the world. He gave her a sense of belonging and safety and love. She wanted more of this, and the only way it could happen was if she put her fears to rest and returned to Japan. He was a part of something with the other Ronins that would never allow him to just up and leave them – but she could adapt anywhere. She already knew what waited for her there, and it wasn't just Cye. He was offering something she would be a fool not to seize with both hands. Friends and family again: and love. A relationship.

"Okay," she said shakily.

Cye grasped her chin with his hand and stared into her eyes. "Okay?"

"After I graduate." Robyn took a deep, shuddering breath. "Just a few months. And then I'll come home."

His hands gripped her shoulders tightly, as if he were in disbelief. He gave her a scorching kiss. When he laughed, it was tinged with relief, and he swept her up in another hug. "I love you," he said.

She melted and more tears burned in her throat. "I love you, too. So much."

They were inseparable for the remainder of the day. After showering and dressing, they made breakfast together and ate next to one another on the couch. Cye called his contact in Port Orford about his flight home; he only needed a ride back there, and then he would have arrangements for a trip home made for him. Robyn wanted to cling to him, maybe stuff him in her closet, to keep him from leaving. She was giddy with the thought of seeing him again so soon, and the plans to really uproot herself again and leave were both thrilling and daunting. As much as she wanted to be with him, leaving the little life she'd made here would be hard.

"What about Dinah?" Robyn asked as they put breakfast dishes away.

"She's yours; she comes with, of course."

She squealed with happiness and flung her arms around his neck. "Thank you, you are the best," she cooed, kissing him on the nose.

The elation and planning – should she send boxes ahead with her books? She could sell some of the furniture and the car to some of her neighbors – lost its luster when it came time to take Cye to Port Orford. His duffels were soon packed back up and waiting by the door. Robyn loitered by them, keys in hand, while he double checked to see if left anything.

"That's it," he said with a sad smile. "Ready?"

"Ready," she said quietly.

The car ride was silent. Robyn had only been to the port town once, in passing. She forgot how beautiful it was. The beaches were even prettier than the one she lived by. Cye directed her to a dock where people he knew waited for him.

Robyn took one of his bags and insisted on carrying it while he had the others. They walked in silence.

"We'll take a ship up to Portland," he told her, "and catch a flight from there."

"Call me when you get home safe," she said automatically. The urge to cry was overwhelming, and she couldn't say anything more as he drew closer to boarding. The sun was setting behind the harbor of ships, casting a rosy glow over the water. It caught in Cye's auburn hair. He was wearing a light sweater that looked great on him.

She wanted to drag him back to the car.

"May?" he asked softly.

"May," Robyn said fiercely. She wrapped him in a hug. He held on to her tightly, squeezing her waist to the point of discomfort. There was something urgent in the way he clasped her to him, as if he still thought this would have to last him a long time. With a sharp pang that cut her to the bone, she realized he was preparing himself for the possibility of her never coming back to him. That she would change her mind in the ensuing months.

When she pulled away, Robyn read the uncertainty in his eyes and the sadness in his smile.

"Cye, I will see you again," she said earnestly, her heart fluttering at the thought that he didn't believe her.

"I know," he said, tucking her hair behind her ears. She thought he lied, but she didn't know how else to reassure him.

They shared one last kiss that held the same sense of urgency as his embrace. Cye caressed her face with his hands, kissed her forehead, and bid her goodbye. Robyn's vision blurred with tears as he boarded the ship and she was left on the dock, waving goodbye.

She stayed until the ship was out of sight.

Dinah pounced on a small pile of clothes on Robyn's bedroom floor, her paws digging through the shirts and pants like a little miner.

"Not the donate pile!" Robyn fished the cat out of the clothes and plopped her in the lap of a young woman seated cross legged by her computer desk.

"Do you need these philosophy notes?" Regan asked, waving them to the redhead. She absently scratched behind Dinah's ears.

"I don't need them, but I'd like to keep them."

Regan placed the papers in a short, rectangular box. "I'm putting your taxes in manila envelopes and labeling them, so you're not calling me in a panic next January."

"Thanks, pal." Robyn left her bedroom for the bare living room. All of her books were packed in boxes. An attractive man who looked a lot like the girl in her bedroom was taping up the last box.

He glanced up at Robyn with green eyes identical to Rae's. "I repacked some of your books – you put enough in there to throw out someone's back."

"Sorry," she grinned. He rolled his eyes. "Thanks for wrapping things up here for me," she added more sincerely.

"Yeah, yeah. You've got things to do, guys in Japan to see."

Robyn's graduation had only been days ago, but she was eager to get things rolling. It still hurt her to leave behind the friends she'd made here, but they already lived so far away – she'd still try to see them every year. The necessary personal belongings were already packed and in Regan's car; they were driving her to the airport, since she'd already sold her car. The nice chunk of money would help her purchase one in Japan if she needed to.

Crating Dinah wasn't pleasant for anyone involved. Robyn lost her grip on the cat when Dinah realized she was headed for the carrier, and Jude, Rae's brother, earned himself a swipe on the arm for his efforts to grab her. Robyn cooed to the scared cat the entire way to the airport.

Robyn was excited to have Rae come with her and stay for a few days while she settled in; also to have someone help her lug some of her things from the airport to Toyama's suburbs. She'd decided not to tell Cye exactly when she was coming. Every time they talked about it, he sounded appropriately thrilled, but she couldn't help but wonder if that nugget of doubt still kept him from fully believing her. She would show him – by showing up on his doorstep.

When she and Rae settled into their seats on the plane and waited for takeoff, she sensed a growing smugness coming from her friend. The girl kept glancing at Robyn out of the corner of her eye.

"Don't even say it," Robyn warned.

Rae smirked. "I was only going to say that I'm glad you came to your senses."

She reflected on that short weekend from two months ago. The smile that stole across her face was slow and beautiful. "He was persuasive."

"I'll bet he was."

Robyn lightly punched Rae on the arm. "I can't wait for you to properly meet him. With real introductions exchanged and everything."

The flight was uneventful. Robyn's heart began to race when they went through customs, collected their bags, and secured a rental car from the airport. She drove them through the heavy traffic and chattered at Rae, almost nervously, as they drew closer to Cye's neighborhood. He was still living at home, although he'd made noises about looking for a place of his own, since he finished his degree and the expedition was over. Regan listened, but also drank in the scenery like a kid, taking pictures with her phone and asking after certain buildings or monuments they passed.

Pulling up to Mrs. Mouri's house made nostalgia hit Robyn squarely in the chest. She all but clambered out of the car, but stilled at the walk. Rae drew up next to her.

"Now you walk to the door and knock," she instructed helpfully.

"Yep," Robyn nodded. She didn't move.

Rae gave her a gentle push. "Go get your man."

The redhead approached the door. Her knock was timid, at first, and then strengthened. She waited, her heart pounding. Would Mrs. Mouri open the door? Cye? She knew he was home – she checked with Kento first. He was the only one aware of her return, and he assured her Cye would be there.

The door opened and Robyn steeled herself. Cye stood in the doorway, wearing a casual t-shirt and nice jeans. His feet were bare. He'd shaved – his cheeks were smooth – and cut his hair, but it was still on the longer side. He looked good enough to eat.

Robyn's heart wanted to explode out of her chest. "Hi!" she chirped happily.

His eyes widened. "Robyn?" he said uncertainly.

"I promised," she said. "I'd never break a promise to you, Cye. I…" He hadn't moved, and she was suddenly struck with an uncertainty of her own. "Do you still…" Want me here? Is this okay?

"Oh, baby, of course I do," he said throatily. He pulled her to him and hugged her tightly. Robyn joyfully returned the embrace.

"Rob!" a voice called from the inside of the house. Robyn peered over Cye's shoulder and saw Kento waving, rising from the living room couch. Ryo and Rowen sat next to him, and both rose, too. Sage entered from the kitchen. Robyn's heart swelled. They were all here!

But her attention was still primarily for Cye. She buried her face in his shoulder as happy tears fell.

"I'm so happy to see you," he said, muffled against her hair. He kissed the crown of her head, and then drew her back, his hands gripping her forearms.

"Hey Cye, can you let her get in the door?" Rowen called. "Some of us want to-"

He was stunned into silence when Cye gave Robyn a deep, passionate kiss. She wrapped her arms around his neck and returned it with equal fervor.

Kento started clapping while Rowen simply stared. Ryo laughed in disbelief.

"Welcome home," Cye whispered to Robyn.

She smiled and gave him another, sweeter kiss. "Thanks for waiting."

"I would wait forever if I had to."

"Lucky for you, you don't." Robyn ruffled his hair. His gaze drifted from her to a point behind her, and he smiled a little.

"Hello, Rae," he said. "Nice to see you again."

Robyn craned her neck to see Regan wave, grinning. "Hello, Cye."

It was more perfect than any of the daydreams she'd had about reuniting with him. Robyn had never felt happier than in this moment, in his arms, with the rest of her boys behind him. She could not wait to see what the future held.

As long as Cye was in it, Robyn had everything she needed.


Songs referenced: "Snaggletooth," by Vance Joy; "Like Real People Do," by Hozier; "If You Would Come Back Home," by William FitzSimmons