A/N: Hopefully this ridiculous and incredibly far off idea of how Emily and Nick's life together began and eventually ended isn't too dreadful to read. I'm not yet sure how long this one will be, but I hope those of you who are enjoying 'Absentia' so far may find some enjoyment in this unplanned little story.

"Stood at the coal face, stood with our backs to the sun
I can remember being nothing but fearless and young
We've become echoes, but echoes that fade away
We fall into the dark as we dive under the way"

-Silhouette, Aquilo

The first time he sees her is during an FBI training course. She's slim with dark hair, harsh bone structure and eyes on fire as she climbs over a ten foot wall with a fifty pound weight strapped to her back. It's freezing outside, the crisp air of a DC winter in single digits with flakes of snow threatening to fall at any moment, but she has beads of sweat dripping down her face.

"See something you like, Durand?" Nick straightens automatically, but it's not their commanding officer coming to reprimand him for slacking off. He's supposed to be hustling through the same course as the dark haired woman he's watching, but he has yet to start.

It's just his roommate, Matthews, eyeing him with a smirk.

"Who is she?" Nick asks.

He chuckles, crosses his arms, and follows Nick's gaze back to her. "Emily Byrne. I wouldn't pursue that one, though, buddy."

She dismounts from the wall, drops the weight from her shoulders, and jogs onto the next obstacle without pause, as if she hasn't even broken a sweat.

Nick tears his eyes from the sight of her. "Why?"

"Isn't worth it. Daddy's a decorated police officer, she's made a name in law enforcement already herself, and all the higher ups are already keeping an eye on her," Matthew explains. "You'd be under that same microscope if you hitch your wagon to hers. Not to mention, the chick probably comes with a ton of baggage."

Nick arches an eyebrow. "Why do you say that?"

Matthews shrugs. "I knew her brother. Just keep your eye on the prize, man." He claps Nick on the shoulder. "The right prize."

Nick rolls his eyes as Matthews trots on ahead of him, but returns his gaze to the woman, Emily, nonetheless. She's approaching the final stretch of the course now, the six minute mile that each recruit starts and ends every day of this week's morning training session with.

He wants to do more than watch before she leaves.

Nick jogs over to the circular track just in time to check in and join her by the first of four long laps.

He gains the fleeting flicker of her gaze once he meets her pace, the subtle quirk of her lip. She speeds up, spares another glance his way, challenging him.

Typically, Nick favors the quiet girls with sweet smiles and soft eyes. He learned not to pursue the dangerous types, to risk his heart after he witnessed his father's so violently broken when Nick was still a boy. He never wanted to hurt like that, the way his dad always did, still does, so he learned to guard his heart at an early age, to protect it with the same skill he's able to possess in the field.

And yet...

He doesn't know Emily Byrne, but something about her has him wanting to throw all his years of special training to the wind and run straight into danger with her.

She pulls ahead of him, long legs carrying her forward with ease. He lets her have the lead for a couple of minutes before he puts on his own burst of speed. He can feel her determination to finish first even though it isn't a race, has already caught the competitive desire in her eyes, but he doesn't let her have the win. He accepts the unspoken challenge in the upturned corner of her mouth, and runs hard beside her throughout that final lap.

They're both panting as they bound across the finish line, times being recorded by the bookkeeper on the sidelines table.

"You're fast," he breathes, slowing his pace beside her while they walk to the bench littered with personal belongings near the fence. "I'm Nick, by the way. Durand."

"I know." She grins, wiping the sweat from her eyes. "You're not so bad either, Nick Durand. But you've still got an entire course to finish."

She grabs her bottle of water and begins to stride away from him.

"Hey." She doesn't stop, but turns around, arches her brow as she strolls backwards. "I'll - uh, see you around then?"

Oh god, he's become a flustered teenage boy.

Emily shrugs, but her smile is bright, brilliant without even trying.

"Maybe." She pivots on her heel, disappears towards the showers. Nick takes a deep breath and returns to the course that awaits him, but he doesn't stop thinking about Emily Byrne for the rest of the day.

They don't have any educational courses together. He learns that she's two years younger than him and he's already surpassed her in most of the training thus far due to extra time in the Alexandria PD. But he's secretly delighted when she enters his physical combat class later that same week.

The FBI has no bias towards genders, no 'girls versus boys' segregations, so when their group is paired off to practice hand to hand combat techniques in pairs, Nick gravitates towards her without a second thought.

"You sure?" she smirks as he approaches. Her hands are wrapped and he can see stains of red faded into the cloth. He's both impressed and mildly intimidated.

"I prefer to train with the best," he answers, watching her assess him slowly. She doesn't accept the words as a compliment, but instead, as another challenge. It makes him like her more.

Emily nods and they fall into the correct stance, wait for the trainer to give the signal. The second their instructor says the word, she wastes no time knocking him on his ass, swiping the breath from his lungs with the swift sweep of her foot to his legs. But he doesn't stay down.

Nick tackles her in his attempt to rise, flips her onto her back. She grunts while he pins her to the mat, but she's not giving in. Not even close. He barely knows her, but he's already certain that defeat is not in this woman's nature.

Her legs twist with his, forcing him to his stomach with a loud slap. She grabs his wrist before he can absorb the impact, secures them at his spine in a standard arrest procedure move, and digs her knee into the small of his back.

"Step it up, Durand," their instructor calls. "Well done, Byrne."

Emily pats his shoulder before she releases his wrists.

"I'd prefer to train with the best too, you know."

He huffs, turns to face her and tries not to soften under that damn smirk. "We're just getting started."

He manages to pin her long enough for a point in the next round, but she shatters what little confidence he's managed to regain by the end of the class.

Emily slaps his wrist to the mat over his head for a third time, hovering above him with that infuriating grin. Strands of hair are slipping from her ponytail, her body heaving and skin glistening. His chest stutters with the skip of his heartbeat.

"You're not a bad opponent," she murmurs, releasing his wrists, but taking her time in moving off of him. "But you're better than that."

She pushes a palm to his chest to find her footing, chuckling at his grunt while she stands. He sighs as he follows her lead. He knows that she's right; he's usually patient, calculated, but today, he rushed, fumbled. He let himself fall victim to the distraction of Emily Byrne.

"I'll prove it to you next time," he promises, straightening his shoulders, lifting his chin. He can be a worthy opponent, worthy of her.

Emily hums. "Until next time then, Durand."

She leaves him standing alone in the middle of the mats where they spared. He wants to jog after her, suggest they grab dinner together tonight or meet for coffee tomorrow morning. But something inside whispers for him to wait. To be worthy of her first.

Next time turns into every time they share a class, it becomes mornings through grueling training courses and nights after class in the FBI academy's expansive gym. It becomes Nick's favorite thing to look forward to - spending his evenings fighting with Emily on the mat until they're both shaking and breathless.

He quickly proves that he is worthy of being her sparring partner and evens out the score between them within a matter of days, shows her what he's capable of. She never lets him know if she's impressed by his abilities or not, even when he has her lying trapped beneath the weight of him, every piece of their bodies aligned. The most she'll allow is the split second drift of her eyes to his mouth before she's nudging him off of her.

Tonight, though, once he finally wrestles her to the ground, pins her on his fourth try - after she's already taken him down twice in the past hour - he's not so quick to obey the familiar tap of her knee against his thigh.

"Let me take you out for dinner tomorrow."

He swears he feels her breathing hitch beneath him while he watches her lips part with a hint of surprise.

He doesn't think he's ever seen her taken off guard before.

"Like a date?" she inquires, attempting to regain the upper hand with the playful rise of her brow, teasing him. But her eyes are still flickering with that flare of bewilderment he caused.

"You want it to be a date?" he tosses back, mimicking the quirk of her eyebrow.

Emily bites her lip and slips her wrists from beneath the loose grip of his hands.

"I'll go to dinner with you," she murmurs, feathering her fingertips along the backs of his arms. It's the first time she's touched him with any form of tenderness, with anything other than the intention to overpower him. His triceps flutter beneath her fingers and she smiles. "Kinda feels like we've had enough dates, though."

An incredulous chuckle sneaks past his lips.

"Beating me up is your idea of a date?"

"Always a good time," she shrugs, fingers traveling higher until she's able to cup his shoulders in her palms.

Nick eases down onto one of his elbows, consciously keeping his body from sinking into the all too tempting embrace of hers below. He draws his opposite hand closer to her head, grazes his fingers through the dark waves of hair that have escaped the braid she wore to train today. Her knees tighten at his thighs.

He doesn't expect her spine to arch, for Emily to flip them over so that her body falls into what has become its usual straddle over his.

But no, he's not willing to let her dominate the conversation too. Nick rolls into a sitting position after her, grinning as she's forced to grip his shoulders to avoid falling out of his lap, settling snugly into it instead.

Emily's gaze falls to his lips, remains there while the pale skin of her throat ripples with a swallow.

"I'll go to dinner with you," she repeats, but her eyes fail to rise.

Her fingers dig into his shoulders instead, the pressure slight but demanding. He leans forward at the touch, inhales the sweet scent of vanilla and spice that he's only ever managed fleeting breaths of before. But this… the change in proximity, the heat of her body and the smell of her skin, is intoxicating, overwhelming.

Her knees squeeze again at his hips and her forehead brushes his in a tentative kiss. Everything about this encounter so tentative, so careful. For someone so confident in the field, in the gym with him, she's surprisingly timid, uncertain even, when he's in her personal space like this.

He doesn't mind, intrigued by this gentler side to her that he never would have thought existed.

Though, it doesn't last very long.

Emily tilts her chin, their noses bumping in prelude to the first touch of her lips to his mouth. A soft sigh escapes her to flutter between them, as if she's been waiting for this as long as he has.

Her hands ascend to his neck, fingertips dusting along his pulse, causing it to accelerate, before they rise to his jaw. Nick's lips part and she takes advantage of his bottom lip, sucking it into the heat of her mouth, stroking hard with her tongue.

He moans, splays his hands at her back, and relishes the play of muscles beneath his palms. Emily hums in response, presses deeper into the cove of his body. Her teeth nip at his lip, shooting fierce sparks of electricity down the line of his sternum like a defibrillator to his heart.

"Emily," he whispers in hopes of suppressing a groan, feeling her chest push into his with the struggle she faces to inhale an even breath.

But she doesn't stop, showing no mercy as she sinks her fingers into his hair, drapes her mouth over his. Nick gasps, fists his hands in the back of her tank top, fingers snagging in her sports bra.

He lets her kiss him deep, returns every delving plunge of her tongue and caress of her lips with his own. He arches into the cup of her hands at his cheeks, the bow of her body over his, like he's coming up for air.

Her hips rock, so perfect and devastating into his, the wave to drag him under.

He gasps, tears away from her mouth to bury his face in her throat. He can feel her heart pounding, the beat of it throbbing in time with his.

Nick brushes a kiss to the skin beneath her jaw, elicits a rippling shiver beneath his lips.

"You're gonna kill me," he rasps, feeling more than hearing the exhale of her laughter. Her hands slip from his hair to lace her arms around his neck.

She drops her forehead to his shoulder, sucking the air from his skin before she seals a kiss there. So sweet, unexpected, that he unfurls his hands at her back to return her embrace. Her body sinks deeper into his as they catch their breath.

"You're not too bad at this either," she murmurs, lips spreading into a grin against his collarbone.

His mouth can't help but echo the smile and he presses it to her cheek before he migrates his lips to the shell of her ear.

"Just getting started, Byrne," he reminders her.

He falls in love with her. Hard and fast and with a breath stealing kind of intensity.

They share dinners at night after they train, meet in parks and coffee shops on the days that they don't. They run together in the mornings, every day at dawn until he eventually convinces her to ease up on the brutality of her workout regimen.

"You can't take down killers if you kill yourself first, Em," he points out one evening, bracing the sharp bones of her hips against his palms. Every night, he walks her to her dorm building, lingering outside the entrance with her until he's forced to pull himself away and venture across campus to his own dorm. "Do something else with me tomorrow morning instead."

Her brow rises. "What'd you have in mind?"

They're more than halfway through the rigorous five month training program, he only has so much time left with her. He wants it to be memorable, memorable enough for her to still want this, want him, even after she becomes a certified agent.

"We have the weekend off," he states, leaning her into the tree at her back. The base in Quantico is located on a beautiful stretch of land, decorated with miles of foliage and trees. It serves well in nights they stay out past curfew, hiding behind bark and bushes, risking reprimand.

Emily nods, bridges her fingers at his nape. "We do."

"Let's go on a roadtrip."

Her lips quirk. "A roadtrip?"

"Just to DC," he murmurs, releasing her hips to wrap his arms around her waist. "It's not a long drive. We can leave in the morning, drive back Sunday."

Emily leans back into the bark of the tree, the band of his arms. She looks beautiful in the moonlight, staring up at him with the dark waves of hair framing her face, the gold sparks in her eyes. It's how he knows she'll say yes.

She chews on her bottom lip in a brief debate before arching on her toes, pressing her smile to his mouth. "I want to leave tonight."

He doesn't argue.

Nick abandons her at the dorms to pack, rendezvouses with her in the parking lot fifteen minutes later, and then they're slipping into his car and onto the highway.

It's the most relaxed he's ever seen her, singing along to the radio in the car in the middle of the night. The drive is only an hour long, but she has him grinning the entire time, humming along with her to silly pop songs.

He books two hotel rooms despite the roll of her eyes, kisses her goodnight at her door before entering the room across from it. In the morning, he meets her downstairs for breakfast and smiles at the picture of her hair in soft curls, the black liner and mascara framing her eyes, her body wrapped in a sweater and jeans. He rarely gets to see her with much makeup, wearing anything other than an FBI turtleneck or her exercise gear.

Emily twines her hand through his while they walk through the city, playing tourists in the nation's capitol. He's been here a million times, seen all of the monuments and tribunes, and something tells him that Emily has as well. But she strolls along his side with their fingers locked in a loose embrace throughout the entire day, looking as if she's witnessing the statues and museums in all of their glory for the first time.

When the sun sets and night falls, after they have dinner in a lovely restaurant in Georgetown that overlooks the water, he drives them back to the hotel and kisses her goodnight at her door. But tonight is different, he can feel it in her reluctance to let him leave her lips.


She catches his wrist in the hall and glances up to meet his eyes. He sways into her helplessly, pulled to her like a magnet from the day he met her, until their forehead bump and her lips are an inch away.

"Stay." It's not a demand, not a question either, just a hope infused syllable in the exhale of her breath between them.

Nick nods, flexes his fingers to fit between hers once more, where they belong, and follows her into the small hotel room, follows her to the bed. Emily nudges him towards the edge of the mattress ahead of her, her hands fitting to curve along his shoulders as he takes a seat.

She plants one knee into the bed beside his thigh, drifts into his body with an effortless fluidity. Nick cradles her hips in his palms, steadies her as she eases into a straddle over his lap. His lungs falter the moment she sinks down, so intimately aligned with him, a perfect pressure that takes his breath all too soon.

He may not survive this, not if she's already seizing him of air so soon.

Emily brushes her knuckles to his cheek, the touch causing him to realize how he's let his eyes fall shut. She dusts her lips to his eyelids before he can open them, whispers silent promises along his cheekbone, down to his jaw. He trails his fingers along the edge of her sweater, grazes the bare skin above her jeans, up the ladder of her spine.

But it's Emily to lean back just enough to snag the hem of fabric with her fingers, drag it up the length of her body. The pretty olive material goes over her head and onto the floor, but he doesn't mourn it long. Not when he has the bared altar of her upper body to worship.

He kisses the rounded edge of her shoulder first, traveling down the sharp ridge of her collarbone, the gorgeous valley between her breasts and the black lace of her bra. Emily clutches at the collar of his shirt, her cheek pressing against his temple as she gasps.

Her hips roll into the embrace of his and he crushes her tighter against him, scraping his teeth at the swell of her breast. Emily whimpers into his hair, fists her fingers in the back of his sweater, and yanks. He helps her tug it over his head before she can wipe his mind clean with the building rhythm of her lower body colliding desperately with his.

His sweater joins her on the floor and his fingers hook in the clasp of her bra. She releases him to drag the lace down her arms, replacing the lingerie with the press of his body wrapping around her. Nick groans at the naked seal of her breasts, the kiss of her ribs and graze of her abdomen, the searing heat of her skin on his.

"Emily," he breathes, coasting his hands up her sides, watching her skin shiver beneath his fingertips.

She takes one from her ribcage, draws his hand up to her lips, and presses a kiss to his knuckles.

"I'm glad this is the beginning," she mumbles, mouth migrating to the inside of his wrist, feathering over the intensifying beat of his pulse. "Don't want this to end."

He unfurls his fingers to catch hers, reclaim their place between the spaces of hers, and guide their clasped hands to his lips this time. He's not a man of many words, he prefers actions, prefers to speak with deft hands on a gun and quick work in the field, but she makes all of the pretty promises crowd at the tip of his tongue, push at the seam of his mouth.

"It's not," he answers, kissing the back of her hand, dragging his lips over the river of her veins, before lowering their hands to his chest. "Not with you."

She kisses him again, a gentle drape of her mouth over his like a promise of her own. He lets her linger, savoring the warmth of her breath coating his lips, the soft pressure, and doesn't stop her when she presses him down to the bed. Their hands remained matched, fingers laced and palms kissing, as she raises them above his head to rest on a pillow, and follows the length of his arm with her mouth.

Every muscle quivers beneath the alternating caress of her lips, stroke of her tongue, and nip of her teeth, his hips jerking harder into hers with every touch. The brush of a kiss to the middle of his chest, above his heart, is all he can take before he weaves his fingers through her hair and drags her back to his mouth.

But he doesn't let go of her hand. Even when their bodies twine and come together as well, he keeps the connection of her fingers locked in his as he loves her.

Emily keeps him awake until the spill of sunrise spreads light through the nation's capital, trading laughter and moans throughout the night until neither of them can remain coherent any longer.

He doesn't curl around her like he wants to once she finally succumbs to sleep mere minutes before he does. She's so fiercely independent, a beautiful contradiction of steel and softness. He doesn't take her for the type to seek out post sex cuddles. So he lies beside her, traipsing tips of his fingers down the path of her skin and watching the rise and fall of her breathing until it lulls him to sleep

Even then, a part of him knew that no matter how tightly he held her, he could never make her stay. Not unless she chose to stay herself.

But when he wakes later that morning, she's coiled at his back, every piece of her body slotted into his. Holding onto him.