Dancing with Donna is my new favorite thing.

…Well, at least while we're clothed.

The thing is, we've danced before, dozens of times probably. We've been to any number of formal functions together over the last nine years, and I was usually able to sneak in a song or two with Donna. This, however, is completely different.

This is slow. Romantic. Our bodies are pressed together in a way they never would be before this. Our faces go from being cheek-to-cheek to buried in each other's necks. I can run my fingers over her soft skin, her back mostly exposed by the dress she's wearing. She's running her fingers through my hair, making me shiver. Every once in a while, we lift our heads and kiss.

This is nothing like anything we used to do. These are things I always wanted to do but was never allowed. It's all more amazing than I ever could have imagined. It almost makes me glad that my fantasies were nothing compared to reality—if I'd been able to imagine what this would actually be like, I would have grabbed her hand run off with her years ago.

"I think the music's stopped," I mumble against her cheek, realizing all I can hear are the sounds of the ocean, the birds flying through the darkening sky. She just tightens her arms around me.

"Who needs music?" she whispers.

I sigh, wrapping my arms around her waist. Who needs music indeed? We only stumbled upon it by accident anyway. We were walking along the shore after a late lunch, stopping frequently to take pictures of the view or each other or some exotic animal or plant, or even just to sit down in the sand for a few minutes, taking time to watch the sun ever-so-slowly sink toward the horizon, talking about whatever popped into our heads, or, my favorite activity, just kiss each other. We've done that constantly this past week. Probably obnoxiously so, if anyone's been paying attention. We've even been that annoying couple that sits on the same side of the table at a restaurant. This past week has been absolutely everything I never knew I always wanted, and I'm beyond disappointed that it's coming to an end.

But we happened upon a party on the beach an hour or so ago—we couldn't see it, so we figured it was in one of the private resorts—but the music was loud enough that we didn't need to get any closer. We just wrapped each other up and started swaying. Most of the music was slow, but it didn't matter—we only wanted to hold each other close.

It's convenient that we fit together so nicely.

She makes a contented noise in the back of her throat, her arms wrapping tightly around my shoulders.

"I've never been this happy in my life," she tells me, her voice soft, almost inaudible over the sound of crashing waves.

I pull back a little, taking her face in my hands, the slowly setting sun reflecting off of her, making it look like she's on fire. It makes her eyes glow. My stomach aches, twisting around inside of me, but it's somehow pleasant. "Making you happy makes me happy," I answer. God, it's so true. This is the best I've ever felt. Everything I've done for the past week has been to make her smile, and her grin has been constant.

Her eyes sparkle at me, the light sheen of tears catching the light, and I pull her closer, pressing my lips softly against hers.

She breaks away several long moments later, smiling so broadly her cheeks have to hurt. Not that I'm judging—I've hardly stopped smiling myself.

I rest my forehead against hers. "I love you so much."

"I love you, too," she responds immediately. It makes my heart hurt. I'm honestly not sure which is better—finally being able to tell her how I feel, or that she feels the exact same way. It only took us two Presidential administrations, but it feels like things are finally falling into place.

She tightens her hold on me. "I don't want to go home."

I sigh, nodding slightly. I understand that completely. Everything about Hawaii has been perfect; it's been like a honeymoon. I feel like we're getting to know each other all over again and, in some way, for the first time. We've been in this little bubble for days—no interaction with the outside world. We've hardly turned on the TV in our room, and I don't know that I've even opened a newspaper. The only calls we've made to the mainland were early in the week to let our friends know we'd gotten in safely. I figured I'd be going through withdrawals by day two—I'm rarely cut off from the world for more than an hour at a stretch—but I've been surprised to realize I've hardly thought about any of it. It hasn't felt important. The only thing that matters has been Donna.

The real world hasn't even been an afterthought.

"I told you—we'll stay here. I don't care if we build a little hut on the beach and forage for our own food. We'll stay here and forget about the rest of the world. None of that matters to me the way you do." I feel her shoulders shake ever so slightly as she chuckles silently and I pull away, actually taking a step back so she can see my face clearly. "I'm not kidding. You're the most important thing in the world." She opens her mouth to protest, but I shake my head, cutting her off. "You're the most important thing to me. You have been for a long time. I would do anything for you. I'm tired of pretending otherwise. I would give it all up—all of it—my career, our life in DC, everything—if you asked me to. Hell, you wouldn't have to ask. I'd give it all up in a heartbeat if there was ever a choice." I stop, trying to figure out how to convey what I want to tell her. I don't know if worlds exist for it, though. "Love" isn't enough. It doesn't carry enough weight. She is absolutely everything to me. She's the sun and the moon and all the stars. She's the air I breathe. She's my heart. She's my heartbeat. She's the ground beneath my feet. She's the beginning and the end. That isn't even half of it. She's part of me. She makes getting up in the morning worthwhile, and now I really don't want to sleep because I can't help but marvel that she's next to me. Why the hell did it take me this long to figure it out?

She ducks her head, pushing a lock of soft, wind-blown hair behind her ear. She looks somehow bashful and disbelieving at the same time. "Josh…"

"I mean it, Donna. You complete me. You fill in my empty spaces. You make me want to be a better person, someone who's worthy of all the joy and happiness you bring into the world." I reach out and grab her hands, squeezing her fingers with mine.

"Where is all this coming from?" she asks, her voice barely audible over the waves. It makes me ache—does she not believe me? Or is it too much? Maybe it's too much right now. I just don't want her to ever question my love and devotion to her, now that we've come this far.

I squeeze her fingers again and lower myself to the sand, giving her hand a tug. She doesn't hesitate to sit beside me, pressing herself into my side. There's so much I want to tell her—need to tell her—that I don't know where to begin. "You know I've loved you for a long time, right?"

She shrugs, twining her fingers between mine. "That's what you told me."

"But you don't believe it?"

She looks up at me, studying my face intently for a while. "No, I believe you. I don't know that you've been aware of it for that long, though." I can't argue that one. "Not that it matters. I don't care if you've only been in love with me for a week. But all that other stuff—"

"I'm going overboard, aren't i?"

She tightens her grip on my hand. "No, it's not that."

"It's okay if I'm freaking you out. I know I'm laying a lot on you at one time. I just…I don't ever want you to wonder how I feel about you. We've had too much uncertainty in our lives, and I'm sure there's plenty more to come, but how I feel about you is not something I ever want you to question. It's all just coming out at one time. It's all been there for…I don't know. Years, probably. I just feel like I have to tell you these things as they come to me. There's just so much I want to tell you. I promise you, it's not coming out of nowhere."

"It's just…" she trails off, her gaze going out to the water, the pinks and oranges of the sunset hitting her in a way that makes her look surreal.

"What?" I finally ask, nudging her shoulder gently with mine. "It's just what?"

"Nothing."

"Donna, come one. Talk to me. We should be able to do that."

She laughs a little. "Since when?"

"Since always," I answer incredulously. "Since the day you walked into my life we've been talking to each other."

"Not the last year or so," she says softly, looking sad.

I sigh, releasing her hand so I can wrap my arm around her waist. I prop my chin on her shoulder. "You're right. The last year has been rough. Maybe it's been longer than that. I stopped listening for a while—I guess I was too afraid of what I'd hear. I regret it, Donna—I do. I hate that I let us get to that point."

"It wasn't only you. I stopped trying, too. I stopped talking to you. I let everything get so messed up—"

"We," I correct her. "We let everything get messed up." I'm sure it was a long time coming but, without a doubt, after she got back from Germany, things went downhill at an alarming rate. "I don't want to risk us going down that road again, though."

"I don't, either."

I press my lips to her neck for a few long seconds. "I know this probably isn't the talk you wanted to have but…"

"We probably need to have multiple talks. I think there's too much to cover at one time."

"You're probably right."

She wraps her hand over my knee, stroking my skin gently. "It doesn't have to be a bad thing, though, right?"

I kiss her neck again, sucking at her delicate skin just a little. "Not a bad thing at all." I can see the corner of her mouth turn up. "But that means you have to finish your thought from earlier."

She sighs, her fingers tightening her grip on my leg. "I guess I'm just wondering where this guy is coming from."

I lift my head in confusion. "What do you mean?"

"Josh, a few days ago, you balked at the idea that we could figure out what was happening between us in four weeks. A few hours later, you'd booked a trip for us and told me that you wanted to wake up with me. Now you're telling me that I'm—I don't know—your reason to be. It's just a lot to take in and it's a little hard to keep up. Where was this guy hiding?"

"He was hiding," I answer simply. "I was so focused on the job that I didn't think I could handle anything else. I guess I figured if I blew you off now, it'd be easier than a few months down the line." I run my hand through my hair then use it to cover her hand. "So much happened in such a short amount of time, you know? Hell, of course you know. Look what's happened in just the last twelve months." I could rehash it all—her quitting, the campaigns, the separation, joining forces, losing Leo, finding each other, and a million other things—but she was there. She knows what's happened. "But…I don't know. It was one of those things, and maybe people have pointed it out to me a million other times, but all of a sudden, I noticed that everyone I talked to mentioned how I have no life, and they were all right. I have nothing in my life except my job. And it hit me—repeatedly, sometimes in slow doses, sometimes like a ton of bricks—that I didn't want to carry on like that, and that maybe, if I was really lucky, work wasn't the only thing I had. I finally realized that I had the ability to change it all. I suddenly knew that I didn't want to wake up twenty, thirty years down the road and realize that I had nothing, or that I had no one to share my ups and downs, and I knew that the key to all that…was you."

She turns her head, gracing me with her mega-watt smile. "Really?"

"You were-you are—the answer to everything. You're not some quick fix," I rush to reassure her, "but I knew you were the solution to everything. I already knew you made me happy even if I couldn't admit it, I did know what an insufferable ass I was without you, and how much I missed you when you weren't around. I realized I was on the verge of missing you forever and I knew…I could change that." Her smile softens and she leans in, kissing me softly, her free hand coming up to hold my cheek. "And this," I breathe when we part somewhat reluctantly. "It's kind of a new thing for us, but I couldn't handle the thought of not kissing you again. It was horrible. I realized I could have someone to make life bearable, who actually could make it fun. Someone to go to parties and dinners and the movies with. Someone to celebrate victories with me, and who made the bad days less bleak. Someone who's done that for years without even trying. I didn't want to fight it anymore. I just wanted to be able to love you out loud. I realized somewhere in there that you meant more to me than anything else in my life. So, I need you to know it. I need to be able to say it. Sometimes, I'll probably say it to excess but—"

She silences me then, pressing her lips to mine once more. "I think we're a long way off from it being excessive."

"Yeah?"

"Oh, definitely. I want to say all of those things to you, too. All the time. I just…I guess I need to get used to you being so open about it all and not worrying that one world that smells vaguely like a commitment will send you running for the hills."

"I'm not going anywhere," I promise. "Whatever you throw at me, I can handle it."

"Josh…you want us to talk, right?"

"Yeah, of course." I can feel my pulse quicken. Her tone is ominous.

"I want you to know I'm not pressuring you for anything when I say this but…I'm not looking for a fling."

"Okay…"

She shifts uncomfortably, her grip on my knee tightening. "Again, I'm not expecting anything right now. That's not what this is about. But—"

"Donna, I get it."

She shakes her head a little. "No, you probably don't."

"Give me a little credit. I may not be great at all this stuff, but this is you…it's us. I'm playing for keeps."

Her eyes grow wide, but I can see the smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. "You are?"

"It's us," I repeat, tightening my hand on hers. "It's not a game. This is the real deal."

Her smile nearly blinds me. "So, we're talking…" She gestures out in front of her, but I get what she means.

"Yeah." I gesture vaguely, too. "I mean, I'm with you; I'm not ready for—"

"Right," she agrees quickly. "That's…a long way off. It's not a conversation to on our first vacation together."

I do like the idea that this is our first vacation instead of our only one. "But when the times comes…we'll be having that talk together, right?"

"There's no one else I'd have that conversation with."

I stare at her for a few moments in wonder. I'm having a conversation—vague as it is—about the rest of my life with Donna. No—not just with. It involves her. While I agree this is not the time or place to put it all into words, I think we're on the same general page. It's a little intense in its own way, but I think I've always known that if were to ever be lucky enough to be with Donna, I wouldn't have any interest in letting her go. She's far too important to half-ass it. If I were just interested in mindless sex, I wouldn't have picked Donna. All right; that's a lie. I've been imagining sex with her every which way possible for years. I was honestly willing to take whatever she wanted to give. I'm just really happy she wants more.

"I love you," I finally breathe, and she sighs, a blissful expression coming over her face.

"I can't get over that."

"What? That I'm capable of love?"

"No," she grumbles, elbowing me in the ribs. "I've known how big your heart is for ages. I can't get over that you love me."

"It can't be that hard to believe. I couldn't possibly have done that good of a job at hiding it. I've been in love with you for years."

"Since when?"

"When?"

"Yeah. When did you realize that you love me?"

"If I tell you, will you answer the same question?"

"Deal."

I stop to consider it, but I don't know how I could possibly begin to answer it. "I have no idea."

"Josh," Donna moans, her head dropping back in frustration.

"No, listen to me. I'll be honest, the first time I realized it was the day I asked you to come to Hawaii."

She looks at me, startled. "Oh."

"It's not as bad as it sounds. That was just the first time I actually associated love with how I feel for you. I realized in that moment, though, that I've had those feelings for a long time. I don't know when they started. I think they've always been there." She looks at me dubiously, so I tighten my arm around her waist. "I'm not feeding you a line, I swear. I don't know when I fell in love with you. It was a long time ago, that much I'm sure about. Probably around the same time I started trying to sabotage your dates."

"Josh, you've always sabotaged my dates."

I shrug, shameless. "There's your answer, then." She shakes her head at me, disbelieving, but it's the best answer I have right now. "So…your turn."

She sighs, bringing up her free hand to rest on mine, sandwiching it. Then she runs her fingers over the beads of my bracelet contemplatively. It's an oddly touching gesture. She's actually been playing with the beads since we got here, never asking me why I wear them—she never asked me at the White House, either—I think she knows, really. She doesn't need me to spell it out for her. Within a few days of our vacation, I'd taken off a strand and given them to her. She protested at first, but hasn't taken them off since. I doubt she'll wear them at work, and that doesn't bother me, but I like seeing our matching bracelets for the moment.

"You want to know the first time I said it out loud? Or the first time I realized what I felt for you wasn't exactly platonic?"

Well, this is surprising. I didn't realize she'd ever said it before our declarations the other day. "All of it. Whatever you're willing to tell me."

She makes a face so I squeeze her fingers, hoping to reassure her. "The first time I said it was…right before I quit."

I'm actually speechless for a few moments. "What?"

"I think you heard me."

"You said it then left me?"

She sighs. "No, I left a job. I was on the verge of hating you, though; I had to leave."

I make a mental note to try to come back to that—there are still things from a year ago we haven't talked about at all. "Who'd you tell?"

She hesitates before shaking her head. "I think that's a different conversation."

I really am just scratching the surface with this woman. "Oookay, so, you told someone else a year ago that you love me. When did you first realize it?"

"You want the truth?"

"Of course."

I watch as a deep flush spreads across her face and down her neck. "During the first campaign."

"Excuse me?" I couldn't have possibly heard that right. "You realized it all the way back then?"

"More or less."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

She snorts and glances over at me. A moment later, she bursts out laughing, leaning against my side to keep herself upright. I immediately assume she's screwing with me, hoping to see me squirm. "What's funny?"

"Oh, my God, Josh! What would I have said? 'Thanks for not calling the cops when you found me rifling through your office. Oh, by the way, I think I'm falling for you.' Come on. I'd just driven halfway across the country, fresh out of a really bad relationship, and even though you had absolutely no reason to trust me, you let me stay. Of course I was enamored. I had a huge crush on you. I would have done anything for you. But I kept telling myself that I was being stupid, that it was misplaced feelings for someone who was being kind to me. Then I told myself that it didn't matter because someone like you would never be interested in me anyway. I mean, who was I to you? Why on earth would you have been interested in me? Look who you were at that point—you were an alum of two different Ivy League schools, and I was only a college dropout, some idiot willing to do whatever her loser boyfriend said so he wouldn't leave her."

"Donna, I never thought you were an idiot. If I ever said—"

"No, no, no, you didn't. It would have been easier if you had. Instead, you were this sweet guy who was so good to me and always treated me like an equal…of course I was infatuated. Who wouldn't be?"

My first instinct is to tease her—not necessarily about her feelings, but just about how she described it all—but I'm somehow wise enough to suppress that urge. "So, that's when you think it all started, or…"

"It's so convoluted. For a long time, I really let myself believe it was just a silly crush. You know, the older, more experienced man—"

"Let's be honest, Donna; you were far more experienced at that point than I was, and I am even now." She makes a face and I smile at her. "I don't mean anything bad by that, just that you had an easier time dating than I ever did. Hell, you were sixteen when you lost your virginity. I was significantly older than that."

"Whatever. I still thought I was being silly. I'd driven out to New Hampshire to try to help a man get elected and all I could do was fawn all over a man…again. I felt like that's all I ever did. I kept losing myself for someone else and I couldn't do that again. It was years before I could start admitting that it wasn't going away."

"Years? How many years are we talking about?"

"Josh…" she says, her face twisting in discomfort.

"Hey, hey, hey." I shift my arm from her waist and gently put my hand on her head, pulling her close so I can kiss her temple. "If you don't want to talk about it, that's okay. I told you—whatever you're comfortable with." The last thing I want to do is upset her, not when this should be a fun conversation.

"I think it started when you handed me your badge, but Joey Lucas made me realize it was more than hero worship."

"Joey?" What does she have to do with any of this? You kept pushing me off on her!"

The look she gives me leaves no doubt as to just how clueless she thinks I am. "Of course I did."

"Okay, I'm lost."

"That's what you do when you like someone you're not supposed to—you do everything you can to make sure they think you don't like them at all."

I'll be damned—Joey was right about Donna being into me back then. "So you knew five or six years ago?"

"Sort of. I didn't really let myself use the world 'love,' not even in my head. It was too much and it felt too inappropriate. I knew you made my stomach flutter and my heart pound, and that I smiled more around than anyone else. I thought about leaving more than once because I thought maybe…but the idea that I wouldn't see you every day broke my heart. So, I stayed."

I really am stunned. It's one thing to be aware in retrospect that I've been in love with her fro years, but for her to have been holding onto this for so long, pretending she's not interested, fighting it, encouraging me to date…Jesus.

"I can't believe you knew how you felt about me and still tried to push me off on Joey. And all those times you helped me with Amy—"

"She was what you wanted, and I wanted you to be happy, so I did what any good martyr would do."

I shake my head slightly, floored. "Yeah, but, still…setting up dates, sending flowers—"

"What about you?" she exclaims defensively. "You say you had no idea what you felt for me, but you sabotaged almost every single date I went on!"

"Okay, first of all, not true. I help you, as you recall, with your commander dude."

"Oh, my God, once! What about all those other times—"

"Hey—they were losers. You have a real knack for picking up worthless morons who are so far beneath you—"

"What does that make you?"

"A worthless loser far beneath you and who will do anything he can to try to prove he's worthy if you'll just give him a chance. I've told you, Donna—I'm not going to be good at this. I'm going to need your help. But I can promise that I'll love you until my last breath. That's got to count for something, right?"

The sunset hits her eyes again, this time reflecting off the tears filling them. She blinks and they roll down her cheeks, and I curse myself.

"Donna," I whisper, working my hand free so I can brush her tears away. "I seem to be making you that an awful lot lately."

She sniffles and laughs, pressing her cheek into my hand. "They're good tears, Josh, I promise. And you're not a worthless loser. We'll help each other with this, okay?" I'm not exactly the relationship guru, you know. I'm going to mess up, too. We'll just be patient with each other, okay? When we screw up, we'll talk to each other and figure out why."

"Sounds good," I answer softly.

"Promise me." She sounds so adamant.

"I promise."

"We'll make this work."

"We will." I'll do everything in my power to do right by her. She hasn't been treated well by the men in her past, and if I'm being honest, I haven't been much better, and all I want is to make her happy. I think that's all I've ever wanted.

"I'm going to love you forever," she says, no doubt or reluctance in her voice. Her eyes are still watery, but they're clear and certain and I swear I can see all the way down to her soul. It's amazing and terrifying.

Naturally, I opt to try to lighten the moment. "And apparently, you already have for years."

"Yeah," she whispers, not looking fazed. "I have."

I swallow and we watch each other for a few moments. The intensity of what I feel threatens to overwhelm me. There's a tiny part of me that's yelling to run, to get out, that it's too much too fast. I squash that part down—those are old instincts. They might have served me well with women in the past, but I need to move past it. I've waited for years to be with Donna-I'd go so far as to say she's why I always had those instincts about other women. I just have to retrain my brain. What I feel for Donna…is a lot. It keeps getting stronger, growing exponentially by the moment. It's a little overwhelming, but I think I can live with being consumed this way.

"Can I ask you something?" I finally say, blinking a few times to pull myself out of my stupor.

"Of course."

"What you said earlier, about hating me…"

"I didn't hate you, Josh," she sighs. "I was getting to that point, but…I think sort of hated myself."

"I don't understand."

She takes my hand off her cheek and holds it between her hand, playing with my fingers. "I felt trapped in my job. I wasn't going anywhere. You kept avoiding me. I was still…" She pauses, taking a shaky breath. "I was still traumatized by Gaza. I wasn't getting the help I needed. My head was kind of messed up. I'd known for a while I couldn't keep doing what I was doing. If I wanted to have any chance of not hating you, I had to leave. Whether or not you were the reason I was stuck in neutral didn't matter—that's where I was directing it. I was miserable. I was lonely. I was scared. I didn't know how to deal with, and sometimes, a lot of times, it felt like it was all your fault, which is ridiculous, right? I mean, you're the reason anyone takes me seriously in politics. How could you be at fault for me being where I was. I wouldn't been anywhere without you. I just needed more from it, and I didn't think you were interested in helping me."

I close my eyes and sigh, my head falling back for a few moments. PTSD—of course. Or, at least a lot of the same symptoms. How could I have missed it? Truthfully, I probably didn't want to see it. I just wanted to pretend that everything was normal again. I just wanted to do my job with Donna by my side. "First of all, you're the reason people take you seriously. You've worked your ass off for years. All I did was hire you. I might have given you credibility early on, but everything else, that was all you."

"You did more than just hire me. You taught me. You have me opportunities—"

"Not enough of them," I interrupt sadly. "You really did outgrow being an assistant a couple years into it. I just couldn't stand the thought of losing you, so…I guess I never did. Think about it, I mean. I just ignored the possibility, even down to the last second. I guess that's why I cancelled all those lunches with you."

She threads her fingers through mine, squeezing tightly. "So, we've messed up a little."

I let out a loud laugh, the sound echoing off the empty stretch of beach. I bring our joined hands to my mouth, kissing her knuckles. "Yeah, I guess you could say that."

She laughs, pressing closer to my side before resting her head on my shoulder. "So, let's just move on. We don't have to forget the mistakes—we just learn from them and try not to do it again. We know it's important to talk to each other. We've always known that. We have to force ourselves to have the scary conversations because they probably won't be as bad as what we can imagine. And we have to trust each other."

"I do trust you."

"We have to trust each other in a whole new way. I know it's mostly an extension of what we've had for years, but things are going to e different, no matter what. I mean, when it comes to things like loyalty, I have no doubts. You're not a cheater, and I don't want you to ever doubt that I know that. But…I guess we have to trust each other to be there, to see the worst parts of each other and still be in love."

"We can't give up, either," I throw in. "This is probably going to be really tough at times—all relationships are—but if we promise to keep working on it, I think we can make it."

I hear her hum in agreement, though she says nothing. I wrap an arm around her shoulders again, leaning my head against hers.

"You make me ridiculously happy," she says suddenly, making my heart leap in my chest.

"Oh, yeah?" I answer, not entirely sure how to respond.

"It's a little absurd, actually. I mean, I've known you for how long?"

"You mean I haven't been making you ridiculously, absurdly happy this whole time?" I tease, earning myself a laugh and a nudge at my leg.

"Not hardly."

"Ouch."

"I'm sure I wasn't always your favorite person."

"Not true. I may not have liked you very much at times, but you've always been my favorite person."

"What about—"

"Favorite person."

"Even when—"

"You've always been my favorite person. Always."

She lifts her head from my shoulder, a smile spreading across her face slowly. "Okay."

My brain tilts, my vision fuzzy at the edges for a few seconds. I don't know what it is about Donna that gets to me this way—she always has. It's not that I get dizzy every single time I look at her, though it's been happening with greater frequency the last few weeks—but over the years, it'd just hit me out of the blue. Sometimes it was because she looked particularly studding, but more often it was because of the way she looked at me, or something she said, or how she'd smile. No rhyme or reason to it—sometimes it was just because it was her. Most of the time, it's because it's her.

"I love you," she whispers, her face absolutely radiant.

"Seriously, those are the best three words I've ever heard," I answer, smiling so broadly my cheeks hurt. "Let me try 'em on you, see what you think. I love you."

Her smile manages to get even bigger. "Yeah—those are pretty good."

I lean in, pressing my lips to hers. Her mouth moves against mine gently, and I revel in the sensation. Kissing her is still a novelty. Maybe it always will be. I know for sure that I like doing it. I like kissing her goodnight. I like being able to lean in and kiss her for no reason at all. I love being able to kiss her good morning.

She pulls away slowly, resting her forehead against mine. I stroke her cheek softly. "Hey—did we just have the talk?"

She snickers, rolling her eyes a little. "More or less."

"More or less? What else is there?"

"Maybe it seems redundant at this point, but…we haven't really talked about what we want from each other."

"We haven't?" What the hell have we been talking about then?

"What…what happens after this? When we get home? I guess I just need to hear it out loud."

"I want to be with you, Donna. For as long as you'll have me."

She licks her lips slowly, taking a deep breath. "What if I want you around forever?"

My breath whooshes out of my lungs. "Forever is a long time."

"I know," she whispers, clutching onto my hand. "If it's too—"

"What if that's not long enough?"

I see a flash of her smile before she launches herself at me, tackling me to the ground. Soft or not, I et out a loud "oof" as I fall onto the sand. Her arms wrap tightly around me, her body mostly pressed on top of mine.

"Let's start with forever and see how it goes," she says into my ear, making me shudder from head to toe. She pulls back, grinning at me broadly for another second before she kisses me. I guess I answered that correctly.

Forever is a big word, and maybe we're letting the romance of the island take us away, not to mention the newness of our relationship, but I can't imagine a future that doesn't include Donna. I haven't been able to for years. Now, after all this, the future is starting to solidify. I don't want to look at it too closely just yet—the details of it all might be too much right now—but I like knowing it's there waiting for us.

I give her a little nudge, shifting my hips until I push her over, settling on top of her. She breaks away, gasping, but before I can move to her neck, she yelps, "What the hell is that?!"

I lift my head, looking at her curiously. "If you don't know what that is by now, I've been doing something very wrong."

She makes a face, shifting beneath me. "You really have a one-track mind, don't you?"

I can't help but grin, shifting my hips against her, but she winces in response. I push myself up to my knees, checking her for injuries, when I feel something shift in my pocket. I make a face and pull out the camera we've been using most of the week. After going through two disposables in about a day, we found our way to a store and I bought a real camera, along with a bunch of film. Donna tried to convince me to buy a digital one, going on about saving money and picture quality and that everything would be digital soon anyway, but…I'm an old dog who's not terribly interested in new tricks. At any rate, I've been carrying it with me for most of the week, taking as many pictures as possible. I'd completely forgotten it was in my pocket, though, which dug into Donna's leg when I flopped gracelessly on top of her.

"I'm sorry," I tell her, holding it up sheepishly.

She just smiles and pushes at me a little, sitting up as I roll of her. "It's okay," she says, rubbing her leg a little. "I think the moment's gone, though."

I settle next to her with a sigh. She's probably right, though that's likely for the best. Actually, having sex on the beach right now might be going a bit too far, at least for people who are as high-profile as we're about to become.

I turn the camera over in my hands a few times before lifting it as casually as possible and pointing it at Donna. Before I can get my finger on the shutter, though, she ducks her head, turning away from me.

"Josh!" she exclaims. "Stop! You've taken about five hundred pictures of me since we got here."

"Yeah, because I think you're really pretty." She snorts a little, but I'm actually serious. Superficial or not, Donna's a very beautiful woman, and she happens to look exquisite on the beach and with all the tropical surroundings. I've probably taken more pictures of her than she realized, snapping them furtively when she's been looking the other way. Ostensibly, it's to help remember our first vacation together, but it just so happens that my girlfriend is a goddess and I kind of need photographic proof of the fact that she's willing to call herself mine.

"Hey—let's take our picture together!" I exclaim, settling for the next best thing—pictures of us together in paradise in case anyone ever doubts me.

"Uh, in case you haven't noticed, we haven't seen another soul walk down this stretch of beach in forever. I think you're out of luck."

"We have arms, don't we?" I wrap one arm around her shoulders, pulling her close, holding the camera out in front of us. "I can probably do this, right?" I mumble, trying to adjust my grip so I can get my thumb on the shutter. She doesn't answer, which leads me to believe that does not think I can do this. "Just smile, would you?"

She snuggles closer to me and I press the button, waiting, though for what, I'm not sure. She snickers a little, but I hold my arm out determinedly, pressing the button again.

"Did it take?" I ask.

"You know," she says, turning her head toward me, "if you'd bought the digital camera, you'd already be able to tell."

I look at her, lifting my eyebrows. "You're not being very supportive, you know."

"When have I ever been supportive?"

"Some girlfriend you are."

"If you're looking for support, buy a bra," she answers, grinning at me, and pauses a moment later. "Are you taking another picture?"

"I have no idea," I answer honestly. "I just keep pushing the button, hoping something will turn out all right."

She laughs and I lean in, capturing her mouth with mine. I hold my arm out for few more seconds, trying to take what will possibly be a very clichéd picture of us kissing before I let the camera drop to the sand, wrapping my arm around her. Her hand comes up to stroke my cheek, and I feel a wave of utter contentment wash over me. Up until now, I never realized this is how a relationship should be—it should be laughter and silliness and stupidity and smiling and randomly kissing and hugging and being utterly and completely fascinated with one another. It should feel like being at home, even though it's completely foreign. It should feel like being complete at last.

This forever thing is sounding better and better.


Okay, I think I've driven this whole Two Tickets To Paradise thing into the ground. I've somehow managed to get four stories (three, technically, if I'm being really honest, since one was kind of copied from another) from one little song. Anyway, I've had this written for a while, I've just been in the middle of posting Fonder. Enjoy some harmless fluff.