AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here it is, the end! Hope you like it.
THE THICK SPLOT OF RAIN LANDED ON HER KNEE. The tiny drop of water was dark against her jeans, marring the perfect blue. Gaia glanced up - the sullen sky was finally making good on its promise of rain. But as she felt a drop on her nose she found that she didn't care. Despite the heaviness of the air she couldn't recall the last time she had felt so light. Dully, she remembered how people in New York always became as grey as the sky every time it rained; everything became dirtier and stained. It had been the same in California. Rain broke the endless sunshine days and leaked everyone's endless happiness over the faded pavements. But here, in Quantico, it was different. The rain refreshed, it cleaned. And while it marked the end of Ed visit it also marked the beginning of their new friendship. She had been so busy clinging onto the broken remains of what they had had back in New York, that she had failed to see until moments ago that she had the ability to fill the cracks and give their whole friendship a dusting. It had been so simple. She just had to be honest, completely honest, with herself and him.
Well, Gaia thought, I might as well continue with this honesty thing. Turning to Ed, she smiled and said the one thing she really wanted to say: "I'm glad you came." Ed smiled back, his face lighting up against the darkening sky. "I'm glad too."
It really was as simple as that.
ED SLID OFF THE CAR BONNET, SMOOTHLY MOVING TO STAND ON THE RAIN SPOTTED TARMC.
"I kinda wish I wasn't about to say this, but I think it's time I left unless I want Agent Malloy personally kicking my ass out of the car park."
One of the old tears in Gaia's heart suddenly split open. She had seen this sad smile before, heard this resigned tone, and Gaia was back in the side street off 47th looking at a younger Ed who was trying not to say goodbye. But like back then, Gaia knew they needed to part so that they could continue to grow, even if parting tore them apart for a while.
In a blink Gaia slid off the car as well and wrapped her arms around Ed. Ignoring the raindrop slowly sliding down his ear, Gaia buried her face in the curve of his neck, letting his warmth soak into her and her soft memories of him.
"I'll miss you," she whispered. "I missed you."
Ed's arms tightened his arms around her waist, and Gaia felt him press his face into her hair. "I missed you too."
For a long, luxurious moment they clung onto each other, breathing in deeply as if trying to commit the smell - the essence - of the other to memory to help tide them over until they next saw each other again. Slowly, Gaia pulled back slightly but did not loosen her hold round Ed's neck. For a second she stared into the darkest brown eyes she had ever seen, then leaned forwards and pressed her lips against his. Briefly she wondered if she had broken the last wall between them or if she had finally pushed them over the edge, then she felt his lips part under hers, his fingers curl into her hips, and she didn't care.
His lips are soft and hard, and his tongue tastes of coffee and him. Gaia sighed as she let herself relearn the feel of him beneath her lips, beneath her hands. She ran her hands across his shoulders, then down his back and felt Ed sigh under her splayed fingers.
Finally Gaia pulled her lips back from his, feeling heat rise in her cheeks as she noted the redness of his.
"Gaia, you know you're making it really hard for me to say goodbye, don't you?" Ed said with a slightly chuckle.
Gaia shook her head. "But this isn't goodbye. This is a see-you-later," Gaia corrected, her smile becoming more of a smirk. "I promised to call you more than once every four years, didn't I? And well I was planning on working another visit into that promise."
Ed chuckled again. "Really?"
Gaia nodded. There was a spark in Ed's eye and Gaia could tell that instead of just being on the same page, they were now on the same sentence.
Ed's lifted his hands to her face and softly brushed back her rain tangled hair, leaving a trail of goosebumps that clearly had nothing to do with the dropping temperature.
"I'll see you later Gaia."
AS ED CLIMBED INTO HIS CAR HE COULDN'T HELP BUT THINK THAT THREE WEEKS HAD BEEN STUFFED INTO THE NOT-EVEN-THREE PAST COUPLE OF DAYS. It was weird. His life had always been more eventful and crazier than most people's, but the past few days had been a new level of eventful craziness - even with Gaia involved. Ed rubbed his head, it suddenly feeling a bit too full. Craziness aside, what he couldn't understand was how just by asking him to visit - that one single question - had resulted in him getting a whole lotta answers, many of which he didn't even know he had asked the question to. But then again when had he ever truly understood anything relating to Gaia? Basically never.
Ed started the engine, feeling the whole car rumble around him, then pulled out of his parking space. Pausing briefly, Ed looked out of the window. Odd raindrops were dribbling down her neck, her dark grey jumper was turning even darker, and she was smiling. She had never looked so beautiful. Ignoring how corny it was, Ed blew her a kiss through his steamed up glass and watched as her smile became infectious.
Turning the car round, Ed began his way towards the FBI base's exit. It was only once he reached the guard at the gate that he allowed himself to look back.
She was still standing there. She was still smiling.
A LOT LESS THAN FOUR YEARS LATER...
APART FROM A FILM OF FOAM, THE PITCHER WAS EMPTY. Glancing from her glass to Kim's, then to Bradley's and Garrett's, Gaia noticed that they were all just drinking suds, the beer having been already downed. Standing up, Gaia reached for the empty pitcher and picked it up off the water stained table. "I don't know about the rest of you guys but I think we need a round two!"
Gaia paused mid-turn: Kim had placed his palm on her arm, drawing her attention away from the jug in her hand. "We've already had one pitcher, you don't need to buy another," Kim said, obviously having decided to ignore Garrett's appreciative agreement at Gaia's announcement.
"Oh come on Kim, we deserve to celebrate. You deserve to celebrate! You cracked the freaking case!"
Even in the dim light of Johnny Ray's, Gaia could see Kim blush at her praise and smile shyly as he turned to talk to Garrett. Though Kim clearly didn't agree, Gaia felt he deserved every thank you she gave him. It had been on one particularly frustratingly fruitless day that Gaia had given in to Kim's urges to look over her Socorro files. Within minutes of flicking through the papers Kim had turned to her with a brilliant look in his eyes. If it hadn't been for his idea the anti-Socorro team would not have caught Marsh earlier that day.
Gaia quickly squashed down the pang she felt when she thought of Marsh. Whilst she didn't feel sorry for Marsh himself, she wish she hadn't had to take away Catherine's father. Catherine may have been deranged but Gaia knew how hard it was to lose a parent. Gaia took a deep breath and began to wander over to the bar. Tonight she would focus on Kim. Tomorrow she could focus on Catherine.
Reaching the bar, Gaia set down the empty pitcher. She glanced round for a barmaid then smiled brightly as Kelly appeared out of the kitchen. The sound of Bradley's laugh rolled through the bar, filling Gaia with unexpected warmth. It had only been recently that Gaia had really gotten to know Brad, something she regretted as she had quickly discovered that he was kind and caring, with the sharpest wit she knew of. Coming level with where Gaia stood, Kelly cast an eye over to where her friends/fellow FBIs were sitting. Bradley's laugh filled the bar again and Kelly raised an amused eyebrow. "Heya Gaia. Celebrating tonight, are ya?"
Gaia nodded. "Uh-huh."
"Well then," Kelly said, swooping the empty pitcher for a clean one, "I'd say that calls for a free round!"
Gaia begun to rebunk her offer but Kelly waved a dismissing hand at her.
It was as Gaia watched Kelly begin to fill the glass with fresh drink that she jolted with surprise as her phone suddenly buzzed. Fishing it out of her pocket she hoped it wasn't work. With a second jolt of surprise Gaia read the caller ID: Ed.
She had made good on her promise, emailing and calling him whenever she had a spare second. Ed always responded with enthusiasm, and had recently begun to tell her in detail how his physiotherapy course was going - so far it seemed that Ed was in love with it. Whilst she loved talking to him, with each passing day she found herself increasingly missing him.
"Hey Gaia," Kelly said, cutting across her thoughts. "I'll take this pitcher to your table, you go answer that."
Gaia looked feebly at the pitcher then flashed Kelly a grateful smile. She weaved her way towards the exit, wondering if Kelly knew exactly who was phoning her. Though if the answer was 'yes' Gaia wouldn't have been surprised. After Ed had left, Kelly had practically forced Gaia to tell her all about him. Not that she minded. It was nice to have someone to talk to about things other than work. Gaia pushed through the door and hit 'talk'.
"Hi Ed. How are you?"
"Gaia!" Ed's voice trilled over the phone and straight through her heart. "I'm good thanks. Just wanted to hear your voice. Corny, huh? Anyway, how are you?"
Gaia smiled into the phone - she knew exactly what it felt like to want to hear someone's voice. "I'm good too. Great in fact. We had a bit of a break through with our case today."
"Oh good! That's good," Ed exclaimed. Gaia could hear the smile in his voice and wondered if he had heard her's too. "Okay. I lied."
Gaia stilled. "Lied?"
"I didn't phone just to hear your voice. I phoned because I wanted to ask you a question."
For a second Gaia felt like quoting the first rule of their relationship, then bit her tongue. That was then and this was now. And now was so much better than then. "What's the question?"
"Do you want to come visit me?"