I know I know I know! It has literally been forever, and I don't deserve to have any of my old readers read this let alone review, but I hope you all just enjoy where this is going. More soon, promise!


When Ajai still could not tell her where Thomas had gone off to, Jo became frustrated and headed off through the trees. It was as she was walking and absently playing with the corners of her sari that Jo first saw the little monkey. It hopped quickly from one branch to another before disappearing within a clump of leaves, leaving Jo startled. She saw short glimpses of it afterwards, but it soon left her memory when she smelled the cigarette smoke. There he was…up ahead in the clearing. She spotted an easy to climb tree that's branches extended over him and clambered up it as quietly as she could. The jungle, however, made enough of its own noises that she barely had to silence hers. Once she'd crawled over where he stood, she finally wondered what to do next. A whack resounded throughout the clearing, and the next thing Jo knew, she was falling down towards Thomas and the ground. He cursed loudly as ever, and she soon found herself in what she now considered to be a most favorable place: Thomas' arms. His now broken cigarette dangled in half from his lips, as he looked at her in an unsurprised, wary way. She smiled abashedly, removed the cigarette from his lips, dropped it to the ground and pressed her lips to his hard. He added no pressure to the kiss but pulled his head from hers shortly before attempting to gently set her down. She wouldn't let him, instead tightening her arms around his neck.

"Not until you tell me what's wrong," she said.

"Why would anything be wrong?" He asked in a tone that clearly belied the meaning of his words.

"You tell me," she finally muttered in frustration.

He let out a heavy high filled with worry upon worry and doubt upon doubt. "Nothing." And he tried to look away from her, but she grasped his chin and captured his eyes with hers.

"You've been making mistakes, Thomas. Lately, you've been letting me get my way. I won't have it any other way now. You will tell me what's bothering you."

He grimaced at her and set his lips shut stubbornly. After a few moments, he said, "If I didn't have sewn into every fiber of my being the wish to keep you from every and any harm in the world, I would drop you right now."

Though the frustration didn't leave her face, her eyes jumped in playfulness. "Empty threats."

"More like empty promises,' he muttered.

"You would never," and she was so sure of herself that he was almost tempted, though every cell in his body was against it. "Fine," she gave in. "Don't tell me, but do kiss me." This was an even harder temptation to resist, but his aching heart had made him promise. He turned his head from hers and tried to ignore that he had so clearly hurt her. Still, he could tell anyone that ever asked, it wasn't easy to ignore the pain in your heart when you've caused pain for the only reason it still beats.

A moment later, he was surprised to feel her grip on him loosen. She slid down his body and slipped away through the trees, leaving him cold and lonely. He didn't even try to stop her but kicked a stone away from his feet instead in frustration.

LATER

Jo had not returned when Thomas finally found his way home from the village bar and restaurant. His breath vaguely smelled of whiskey, but he wasn't drunk. Far from it. He felt clearer headed than he had in months. He needed to talk to Jo, to let her know what was bothering him. She then had the duty of confirming his suspicions and, in the process, of spreading the cyanide of her words through his blood stream. Or she could refute them and, in doing so, save him some very painful pain. It was a rare occasion when Thomas Englehorn wished to be wrong, but there it was. The only catch at the moment was that in order to tell her, he must find her.

When Ajai informed him that the girl had not reappeared after her original departure, Thomas became worried. After looking through the huts, starting with Jimmy's and ending with his, he became alarmed and took a torch from the surrounding where Ajai's family from the village was gathered. Upon ascertaining what Englehorn was doing, the rest of the men and Ajai followed suit and picked up torches. Soon, the surrounding woods were filled with the sound of Jo's name being called. Thomas followed the same trail he'd taken earlier, holding the torch before him and swinging it from side to side. Besides the crunching of leave beneath his boots, he was silent. She would not come to him if he simply called her name. She might respond to the others, unfamiliar, but him…he must hunt for her. He eventually reached the clearing in the woods where last her face had pressed against his. He pursued the trail that she, hurt and disappointed, had taken..

It wasn't long before he saw her crumpled form on the ground ahead of him in the area lit by his torch. He would have worried had he not heard her soft, familiar snoring that meant she was asleep. Almost being the operative word, it almost did not surprise him to see the monkey in her arms, clutched to her chest. It was curled into and resting against her. He felt a sudden desire to lie beside her and fall asleep as naturally as she must have. Somehow, he simply knew that he belonged next to her always, the only place he would ever fell natural. Still, he felt as if there was something blocking him from an eternity of being where he belonged. It was something immovable and invisible, and it frustrated him to no end that he didn't know what this obstruction was or how to get rid of it. He resisted his urge upon hearing the approach of another searcher.

It was Ajai's brother, Hareem. "I found her," Thomas said with a slight smile in that beautiful language that Jo could not even being to comprehend the meaning of.

Hareem gave him a toothy smile. "She found monkey."

"Yes," Thomas grinned back and held out the torch for Hareem to take. Without effort and for at the least the tenth time, Thomas picked the girl up in his arms. The monkey stirred in hers but remained firmly in place with a faint chirrup. He held her against his chest and let the warmth of her body and presence flood him with a rush of contentedness. With one hand he brushed her hair away from her face and then kissed her forehead.

Ajai's other brother, Harai, joined Hareem, and they watched as Thomas walked away slowly, clutching the girl in his arms as if she were the most precious jewel in existence. "True love," Hareem's brother laughed to him.

"Truly," Hareem replied.

Back at the huts, Ajai slipped the baby monkey easily out of Jo's arms, and Thomas proceeded to her hut and put her in bed. He started awake hours later at a creak from his door. Jo stood in the dim light of the doorway. "What is it?" He asked, beginning to rise.

She smiled tiredly and shook her head. She let the door shut and walked slowly towards the bed, wary of tripping. He was entranced by the sight of her as she approached. Her tangled hair, riddled with stray leaves, surrounded her shining face. She wore the night dress from before and the pale gleam of her legs drew his eyes. Without another word, he pulled the blanket back and she slid under the covers next to him. She curled into him, burying her face into his bare, warm chest. He felt her inhale deeply. "I missed you," she whispered against him. "I don't care about…anything. I won't go another night without you."

His body floated in some distant region of space and ecstasy as she finished speaking. He gave in and wrapped his arms around her tightly. She groaned in pleasure, but it was his turn to do so when she draped one of her warm, bare legs lazily over his. They turned their faces towards each other at the exact same time, making Jo giggle. She rested her forehead lovingly against his cheek and he turned his head to graze her skin gently with his lips. When they finally relaxed against the pillows, Jo kissed his cheek. She trailed her lips softly across his skin, leaving soft kisses upon his ear and finally his neck. Her kisses at his neck deepened until every part of his skin that touched hers burned with an unquenchable fire. He pulled her up almost violently, so they were once again face to face.

Their breaths mingled as he said with shallow breath, "You are testing my self control to the breaking point."

Her lips now touching his, he felt her smile, then huskily whisper, "Good."

He pressed his lips softly against hers, then readjusted her head, so it rested in the crook between his neck and chest. "Sleep now."

"As long as it's with you, I don't care what I do." She murmured. Within minutes, she was asleep. Long after she began softly snoring, he traced his finger over her bared arm where it was flung around his waist. He watched her face as she slept soundly. Her lips curved at the edges, the beginnings of a smile. He let his finger trace the pale, thin scar on her face where she'd been cut with a rock thrown by a native back on the island. The bruises were only just beginning to fade. He lightly traced a splotchy brown bruise at her hairline. Then around her lips where she had tiny healing cuts. His finger continued down to her exposed shoulder where the bruises were the worst. They were still purple and blue. He leaned down gently and kissed her shoulder. He sighed deeply. If there were any way to take away the memories of what she had gone through, he wouldn't hesitate.