Four years. He couldn't believe it had already been four years since his world had been turned upside down. Four years had passed since he realized that he never wanted to go back to his old life of picking up women in bars and only pretending with himself that there was a deep connection between him and his newest conquest, as Bobby usually called them over a game of pool. She was his partner, his best friend, and his one true love—if only he could gather up enough courage to tell her so.
Two months had passed since she'd decided to stay and despite his speech out in the hall, where every agent in the Bureau could see them, he had yet to take the next step in the direction he so desperately wanted to go in. He'd refused to revert back to his turtle ways; too many nights had been filled with pain and a sense of loss that she was not laying there beside him or that he had not even tried to kiss her goodnight. He'd made a promise that he would not put either of them through that again, but he knew that she was losing faith and soon she would probably drift away from him until he completely lost her.
"I'm scared," he admitted to Bobby one night as he drank shallowly from his bottle of beer. That was the truth. He was terrified to commit to the one woman he loved more than life itself. It scared him to think about how much his life would change with just uttering those three little words to her. A loving relationship, marriage, children; those were all things he'd never experienced before and he was horrified that he wouldn't be any good with any of them.
Bobby was quick to tell him that he was a drongo and elbowed him in the ribs, like a best friend should. That was what had set him on the present track and if he played his cards right, everything he'd worked so hard to achieve with her would come into fruition tonight.
In celebration of Sue's anniversary, Lucy thought a party was in order. He wasn't in much of a partying mood, but for Sue, he would suck it up and try to enjoy himself. It didn't help that he'd been mentally kicking himself for the past two months. He should have finished what he had started then, because so much time had gone by that she probably wouldn't even bother with him. He prayed that she hadn't given up on him, yet.
He sipped his drink as he eyed her from across the room. There wasn't a large group of party-goers, but enough to keep them separated for most of the night. If he kept his distance, he wouldn't jump at the urges his heart and mind were both trying to thrust him to succumb to. They wanted tonight to be the night, while he wanted to wait just perhaps one more day. He was fighting a losing battle with himself.
He smiled as she talked to guests with congratulations on their lips. There were a number of different people present and if someone from Sue's past decided to crash the party right now, he was sure they would see what a difference had been made in her. She was more confident than when they first met and her tenacity always made his heart thunder like a herd of wild horses, but what impress him most—and turned his legs to jell-o at the same time—was her kind heart. The fact that she had cared about each and every one of her guests at one point or another was enough proof to show that Sue had placed her mark upon the world.
He was proud of her and everything she'd accomplished, meanwhile he was standing by the punchbowl as he wallowed in self-pity and she was on the other side of the room. Why couldn't he find the words? 'Maybe if the drink was a bit stronger,' he chuckled to himself.
She looked so beautiful in a new red tunic top that was form-fitting enough to reveal her curves to him, the color of the fabric simply taunting him even more as he tried to pull himself together. She always looked so beautiful in red and while she was signing, which is what she was doing at that very moment. Her hands moved in a graceful rhythm as she signed to Troy. He hadn't been able to catch everything, but the words "date" and "Saturday night" caught his eye.
His heart sank into his stomach. They were planning a date for Saturday… together? Were they dating? When did he miss this? He felt his heart sink even lower. He should have assumed that it was inevitable. It was probably fate that two people of the same world should find one another and fall in love. 'Who said anything about love? It's one date! That's all!' His mind was not being very reassuring. One date; there shouldn't have even been one date! He should be the one taking her out on Saturday night, showering her with kisses and telling her how much he loved her. It wasn't fair!
As if she'd heard his thoughts, she looked over at him curiously and he averted his gaze. His cheeks flamed with embarrassment at the threat of being caught. Had she noticed him staring? Had she seen the love present in his eyes, his dark pools swirling with desire for her? He braved a glance back in her direction and saw that she and Troy were back into their conversation. He didn't try to interpret their words; his heart wouldn't be able to handle it. A slight groan escaped him at the sense of loss he was feeling and he drank deep from the non-alcoholic punch. Yup, it definitely needed to be stronger.
"I saw that," a familiar chuckling voice stated as an arm wrapped around his shoulder in a brotherly hug.
He cleared his throat awkwardly as he sipped his drink to avoid the knowing gaze of his best mate. "Saw what?" he asked innocently. Against his best intentions, he turned his gaze on Bobby and instantly regretted it. He'd been caught.
"Don't play coy with me, Sparky. I think I would know that 'I-love-Sue' look on my best mate's face by now," he chuckled as he witnessed the death-stare he was receiving. If he'd said it any louder, everyone else would know that love-sick, little Sparky had finally admitted his own feelings to himself. As a matter of fact, that didn't sound too bad. He opened his mouth in a mock attempt to get his friend to talk and it seemed to work quite well.
"Is it that obvious?" Obviously, Jack Hudson knew very little about the effect he had on the lovely Miss Sue Thomas. He needed to be cracked over the head for that.
"Only to me… and the team… and half the world," he emphasized that last word so Jack would get the picture. Love was in the air between those two and neither of them was privy to that information. It wasn't right and Bobby should know. He'd been harboring his own feelings for a certain teammate with bouncy blonde hair, amazing eyes and a personality that could make anyone smile. Not only had he fallen in love, but he'd fallen hard.
Jack winced. It was that 'half of the world' that really bothered him. It's not like it mattered much right now, anyway. He spared a glance back to her and Troy and saw how he'd made her blush with a comment he hadn't quite been able to read. He immediately turned back to Bobby, completely missing the longing glance she shot him. "I don't know about you, but she looks mighty happy with Troy to me."
Bobby raised an eyebrow in confusion. "What does that have to do with anything?" He glanced over at Sue next before turning his confused gaze back to Jack. He didn't get it.
"They were signing about a date on Saturday night." Jack was acting like it was the most obvious explanation in the world. Plain and simple, Sue and Troy were dating, why couldn't Bobby understand that?
"And you got that they were dating out of that?" Bobby could help but laugh at that. It was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard.
"I don't think it's very funny," Jack mumbled under his breath, pretending to take sip from his cup, which was now empty.
"Mate, the next time you eavesdrop, make sure you catch everything they're saying," his voice held a tinge of amusement. Jack was so clueless sometimes. "Troy met someone a few days ago and Sue was trying to give him advice on what he should cook when he made her dinner. That's all." He noted the puzzled look in his best friend's eyes and cleared his throat awkwardly. "Lucy told me," he explained. He'd thought Troy was teasing the fair Miss Thomas about her true-turtle-love (which was the norm as of late) and since his signing was not nearly as advanced as Lucy's, he thought she could help him out. The only thing they got out of it was a recipe for Chicken Marsala which he now realized could come in handy now that he had a fair lady to woo.
"So, they aren't dating?" The shake of Bobby's head sent a wave of relief to wash over him. He'd had enough doubts, now was the time for action. "Bobby, I could kiss you," he stated with elation so great that the Aussie thought Jack would shoot off like a firecracker.
"Sorry, Jack, you're not my type," he teased with a friendly nudge to the shoulder before wandering off to find the beautiful Miss Williams and invite her over to dinner tomorrow night.
Jack poured himself a bit more punch and quickly drank it to moisten his suddenly-dry pallet. He must have drank it too quickly, because it had no effect, so he reached for the handle of the ladle again only for it to come into contact with the smoothest skin he'd ever felt before. Her skin. His heart was beating a mile a minute. She was so close and yet those words would still never come.
"Hi," she smiled at him and thanked him as he poured her a bit of punch. Why all of a sudden did he feel like he was at a Junior High School dance and the girl of his dreams had just walked up to him? Oh, yeah, because she had!
"Hi," he replied before pouring himself some more. He wanted to take the entire bowl of punch and raise it to his lips, but he knew it would do very little to quench his thirst. Only the taste of her lips against his would save him.
"Great party," she said awkwardly. She rolled her eyes at her own comment. Why was she trying to make small-talk?
"Yeah." Well, this was going nowhere.
They were both saved from the awkward moment as Myles took the floor, the selected person to make a speech about their favorite analyst. When Jack looked up to listen, Sue did the same so she was able to read his lips.
Jack's heart still pounded like a wild jungle drum. He could smell her scent; her shampoo meshed with her perfume and an aroma that was all Sue. He felt feverish. His cheek had tinted to almost red and when he felt the slightest brush of her hand against his, his control finally snapped.
He let his gaze wash over her as she watched Myles intently, tears brimming her eyes from the kind words he was both speaking and signing to the room. He'd been wondering what had caused him and Lucy to go to lunch together everyday for the past week, but perhaps this wasn't the only reason. He could swear he saw a look of adoration in the rotor's eyes when the two were talking in hushed tones earlier. That same look had been in the Bostonian's eyes as well. He raised an eyebrow in question; what kind of epidemic was floating around his team?
He caught a few words of the speech as Myles sent out his greatest gift of thanks to her for showing him the light and allowing him to prove to himself that he was much different than he'd first appeared to be. "It's because of you that we're not just celebrating the anniversary of you joining the team. We're celebrating the formation of a family that I am most humbly privileged to be part of." That statement held so much truth. They were a family thanks to her and there was no amount of gratitude that any of them could show her for doing so, but there was one thing Jack could do.
This was the time. This was the moment he'd been searching for. The timing was perfect and everything was right in the world, except for one thing. Taking in a deep breath, he turned to her and took her hand in his. She looked at him with curiosity, but she wanted to see the rest of Myles's speech. It took a man to admit when he was wrong, but it took an even greater man to accept the changes in his life.
She was torn between the two, but of course, Myles would probably love to repeat it if she asked him to and he'd probably do it with an over-dramatic bow to her. Who knows, he might even kiss her hand.
She turned an uncertain gaze to Jack. He seemed like he'd been avoiding her all night, though she couldn't understand why. And now when he was so close to her he wanted to talk. What was going on with him?
She'd been trying to ignore the tingling sensation in her fingers from when their hands had brushed together, but now that they were safely tucked away in Jack's grasp, she couldn't. The tingles traveled up her arm and ran a course through her entire body until she was shaking with nerves. She'd never seen such an intense gaze in his eyes before. His chocolate-brown eyes were almost black and her heart rate increased just by one glance into them.
Of course, looking at his lips wasn't much easier. Her breath caught in her throat as she watched the pink tip of his tongue lightly flick out to moisten his lips. It was very difficult to breath with him looking at her that way.
"Have I told you how happy I am that you're staying?" It wasn't exactly what she'd been expecting, but of course, she wasn't sure what she'd expected. She'd never seen this side of Jack before, but she liked it.
"Only everyday since I made the decision," she managed to retort. How the words managed to cross her lips, she wasn't sure. She'd been completely tongue-tied only a moment ago.
He smiled. "Have I told you today?" His eyebrows raised in a mischievous manner, quite like the teasing manner he used, but somehow different.
She shook her head, forcing her tongue to remove itself from the giant knot it had wound into. "No. I don't think you have."
A dark sheath shifted over his eyes as he watched her loose blonde tendrils fall over her shoulders to frame her face like a halo; she was an angel—and better yet, she was his angel.
Unable to resist temptation, he reached up and pushed the few fallen tendrils back into place, his fingertips brushing the smoothest skin of her cheek and completely taking her breath away. Her chest was rising and falling at a much faster rate than normal; he knew he was having an effect when her eyes fluttered closed only to open a second later to see his declaration. "I'm glad you decided to stay."
She didn't know it was possible, but the depths of his eyes darkened a shade more as she stared directly into them. Jack was never very good with words, but his emotions were all she needed; she was hearing him loud and clear. "Me too," she whispered when she found his lips descending toward hers.
He wasn't sure by what force this was happening, all he knew was that he didn't want it to stop. There was no pulling away this time and there was definitely no backpedaling. Tonight was the night that he would make sure that everyone knew that Sue Thomas was his, even if it began with just a simple kiss.
His lips brushed against hers ever so lightly and shock waves were instantly sent through both of them. It was but a brief test of the waters and he tried to ease away to gauge her reaction. All he needed was one simple sign that she wanted him to continue and he would oblige, wholeheartedly. He'd barely begun to pull away before he felt her hand at the back of his head, her fingers trailing through his hair and her nails sending chills from his skull to the very depth of his being.
Her taste was just as he remembered from their undercover assignment in the Dragon Lady's office, but this was far from Callahan & Merced and this kiss was filled with so much more love and passion. Jack swore his heart would burst with love for her as her lips claimed his with a possessive ardor. He didn't want to tear his lips away from hers, because he didn't know what breathing was until his lips made contact with hers this time. He couldn't get enough of the tentative teasing and nipping she was applying and he told her so with a deep rumble emitting from deep within his chest.
She'd been able to amaze him with her personality and her entire being, but he never knew how amazed he could be by her kisses. He knew he never wanted to give this up. He wanted it for always and forever. He wanted it until the end of time. This first real kiss was just the start of something new, but he was looking forward to the future as long as he was permitted her kisses for the rest of his life.
This was what she'd been waiting for. She didn't hold back and she knew he wouldn't either once she illustrated what she wanted from him. Her kisses had never been so bold before, but then again, she'd never been in love before. She loved Jack Hudson more than anything and the fact that he'd been willing to show her his heart in front of everyone in the room at this very moment made her heart soar.
Everyone… in… the room?
She suddenly pulled away to find the entire room filled with uproarious applause. Her cheeks now not only flamed with the heat from Jack's kisses, but also from the embarrassment she was feeling at that very moment. She couldn't believe she just let herself go like that in front of everyone. It felt both liberating and terrifying at the same time. This was all so new to her that she was overwhelmed. Tears pooled at her eyes and slowly trickled down her porcelain cheeks.
Jack was quick to wipe them away and with the gentle touch of his index finger, draw her attention away from those around her. This was their moment and no one else's. He wouldn't let anyone take this away from him. His lips pressed light butterfly kisses upon her forehead, traveling in a downward path between her eyebrows, then her nose, until he placed one last light kiss upon her soft lips. "I love you," he mouthed so only she could see and "hear". He wouldn't have been able to voice the statement if he tried, anyway. She'd taken his breath away with her arduous matching to his kisses, so his voice had completely vanished from existence in that moment.
More tears sprang to her eyes and with an exasperated groan, she leaned her forehead against his. "I love you too," she'd replied in the quietest of whispers. He'd taken her breath away with the gentleness of his kiss, but she knew what her heart wanted and that was Jack. Nothing would have stopped her from telling him that she loved him too.
He glanced around at their friends and teammates who were now watching them with the stupidest smiles he'd ever seen plastered on their lips, before they flitted back into the hazelnut depths of his true love's eyes. "We have a lot of talking to do, don't we?" His tone was quite and unsure, but he didn't tense up or try to pull away. This was where he wanted to be, with Sue in his arms forever and ever. No one would ever keep him from this heaven beside her.
She nodded as she took her lower lip between her teeth. She felt the quick exhale of his breath on her cheek and the rumble from deep within his chest. It never occurred to her the effect that simple gesture had on him. "Later," she concluded as she raised her lips to meet with his once again.
Bobby smiled as Tara leaned against his side, his gaze flitting to Myles and Lucy who shared the same exact smile. This was what they'd been waiting on for so long. Finally, the shy FBI analyst and the turtle FBI agent had done what they were beginning to believe was impossible—reveal what was in their hearts.
As they watched in the most profound glee they'd ever experienced, they couldn't help but think: This night had started off as a celebration of a milestone, but tonight was not simply a night to celebrate. It was a night to remember.