Let Me Count The Ways

The meaning of life cannot be found in a dictionary, or on the internet, or in an encyclopaedia. You can't just ask someone, and expect them to answer you right away. The meaning of life is found in the friends that you make, the family you live for, and the relationships which burn brighter than passion's candle. They are what makes every day special, and each day whole, and you get to a point where you realise that without them, your life would be meaningless and empty. Relationships are the same. There isn't much to say about them other than that when you find someone who you have fallen head over heels for, you don't rush by telling them that you love them a week after you get together. Likewise, if you really, truly love someone, and they have doubts about you, you don't rush them into being with you. Because you wait. You wait because you love them, and to be in a relationship with them where they're not sure they want to be there is worse than not being with them at all. The minute that the wait is over makes it all worthwhile, because you know that there will never be anyone else who can make you feel that true love.

But, what is true love?

Reed Richards had wondered that a million times during his life, and through a more foolish time, he'd been more determined to find the meaning of love than he had been on his work. All of those times, it was because of Sue. No other woman had made him feel so strongly, and yet confused him so much at the same time.

He knew it now, that he was close, and that even though he shouldn't, he was on the brink of falling again. So far, he had managed to catch himself every time she reignited the flames of passion that had once burned between them, but he knew that this wouldn't last forever.

It was the way that he felt when he heard her voice; how he wanted to feel her fingertips brushing up against his bare skin once again. He needed to hold her in his arms once again, and see the fragile beginnings of a blush spreading over her cheeks when he told her that he loved her.

But it wasn't the way that they had once kissed, or even the way that they would fit into each others arms that was making him fall again. Neither of these were responsible for his feelings returning. It wasn't how it had felt to know that she once loved him. Had it been a simple memory of this, he wouldn't have needed to be around her for the flame to return.

It was the way that she always smelt good, even if it was just her shampoo. He found himself drifting past her numerous times, making up excuses just to pass her after she'd showered, just to catch a fragment of the aroma he had since learnt to be of lilies. Even though sunflowers were her favourite, he knew that she held a lesser-known love for lilies, particularly white ones.

It was the way that her head always found the right spot on his shoulder; a memorised position from when they were still together two years ago. But instead, her head now fell upon his shoulder when she was just on the brink of sleep, and the group were in the living room, watching a late-night movie together. She'd always end up sitting next to him, and he couldn't help put wrap his arm around her while he felt her breathing against his collarbone.

It was the way she looked when she was sleeping. He'd walked into a room many times to see her sleeping, when she was trying anything to get to sleep to cure the insomnia that the new stresses brought to her. He'd always approach her, keeping silent as he lifted her into his arms, and slowly returned her to her bed, whether she had fallen asleep on the couch, or whether she was sitting at the table with her head buried in her arms. Some nights, as he placed her beneath the duvet covers, she'd roll back into his arms, pinning him in place and keeping him at her side. Of course, it would be easy for him to slip out of her embrace without her knowing, but the chance of a few short hours with her head on his chest, and her arms around him, was too much to pass up.

It was the ease in which she fit into his arms; the simplicity that came from the embraces they didn't need to think about. Like, for instant, when they'd been in battle, and they'd find themselves separated. He'd always be more concerned for than Johnny or Ben, and it wasn't just because she was the only female of the group. No, it was because he couldn't stand the thought of something happening to her. So, when he saw her emerging from underneath some rubble from which her force fields had protected her, or when she'd come back from the alleyway she'd just chased a mugger down, he'd never stop himself or hold back from the furious hugs they gave each other. Her brother would put his hand on her shoulder for a minute, and Ben would give her a tiny hug, but Reed would pull her into his arms and they would grip each other fiercely until both had all the comfort they needed.

It was how cute she was when she was eating. He'd never been one to use the word 'cute', especially with eating habits, but Sue seemed to bring out all sorts of strange new habits in him. He liked the way she'd pick up a larger slice of pizza with one hand, and quickly bring her other to help when the melted cheese would start escaping from her; or how she'd hold the box from the Chinese from the underneath, rather than from the side; or how she'd fight about them always eating take out, and he'd hover in the doorway suspiciously whilst he watched her cook. Although, when he got caught out, he'd often be roped into helping, which often ended in disaster.

It was the way she'd take hours to get dressed, but in the end it was all worthwhile. Whether they were going to the press conference after defeating Doom, or whether they were all going out for dinner together, she'd spend hours locked in her room, music playing from her stereo with her singing along, trying out different outfits. But, no matter how long she spent, and how much they all banged on her door trying to get her to leave it, she always looked beautiful; whether she was just wearing a fitted shirt and pants, or whether she was wearing the gorgeous black dress which clung to her body in all the right places.

It was the way she was always warm, even when it was freezing outside; although, he wasn't sure whether this was because he felt his own body temperature rising whenever she was near. It was the same as the way she'd fall asleep with her head on his shoulder, and he could feel her warm breath against him. There was warmth that radiated from her that he found more amazing than the flames that covered her brother from head to toe. No, her warmth was the only one that captivated him so strongly.

It was the way that she'd search for compliments, even though he suspected that she knew that he thought she was the most beautiful thing in the universe. She didn't even mean to fish for compliments all the time, but it was usually when she was leaving her room after the hours of getting ready, and she'd tug at her clothing effortlessly and enquire whether she looked alright, and then she'd consider getting changed, and then, finally, they'd managed to get her out of the apartment. Usually, it was because Reed approached her before the others, and assured her that she looked beautiful, which always brought a blush to her cheeks.

It was the way she looked when she was arguing. Of course, not with him, with her brother. Johnny wound her up on a regular basis, and Reed knew that he wasn't going to ever get bored of seeing the small frown on her forehead, or the occasional pout that made him want to kiss her an awful lot. Instead, he would make a point of leaving the room before Johnny dragged him into the same argument, which would put him in a very difficult position where it would be wrong to stand there and admire the beautiful fury in her eyes.

It was the way that her hand always found his, especially when she wasn't meaning to. Somehow, when something shocked her, she'd always take a step back and find herself coming into brief contact with him, which pleased him to no end. He remembered the time that they'd had a power cut because one of his machines backfired on them, and they'd kept their hands firmly locked whilst they made their way to where Johnny was lighting candles in the kitchen to get the power back on. Even when they were all holding a candle each on their way to the fuse box, they'd still held on to each others hands, but had forgotten to release each other when the lights had come back on, just a split second too late, which had given Johnny the opportunity to tease them all night about it.

It was the way that she smiled at him, or at anything. He could remember times when her smile would get him through the day, the gentle dimples which rose her cheeks that fraction closer to her eyes. She could make a room light up just by the slightest lift in the corner of her lips. Of course, when she was laughing and enjoying herself, there wasn't a single person around who could deny their own smile when she was happy. She just radiated happiness to everyone around her, especially him.

It was the way she had fallen into his arms when she was crying. A short few weeks after they had all permanently moved into the Baxter building, it had been the anniversary of Johnny and Sue's mother's death. Although they had both been small children at the time, Sue at eleven, and Johnny at seven years old, they had both been plunged into a small depression for the day. Johnny had locked himself in his room all day and not come out, and Sue had sat out on the balcony by herself, ignoring everyone around her until Reed had taken her out a blanket when the chill had set in after sunset. She had kept her strong front up all day until that moment, when she had surrendered to all the heartache and burst into tears before him. However, even though she thought she would have scared him away, she found herself wrapped in his willing arms whilst he held her, whispering nothings into her ear and stroking her hair. For Sue, the anniversary of Amanda Storm's death was the marking of a day where she had lost a person who had loved her unconditionally, but that year, she had believed that she had found a person who could also love her so much.

It was the way that her tears made him want to change the world so that it wouldn't hurt her anymore.

At the end of the day, he was a fool for her, and a slave to the love that he felt for her. Just her being there had shown him what the true meaning of love was. She had shown him so much, even in their time apart. Because whether you loved or hated someone, and whether you wished that they would die, or that you would die just to stop the pain, it didn't matter. It didn't matter because once in your life, they were your world. She had been his universe. That person, the one, because everything to you, and when you look into their eyes, travelling to the depths of their soul, saying a million things without the trace of a sound, you know that your own life is inevitably consumed within the rhythmic beatings of her very heart.

He loved her for a million reasons, reasons that could not be done justice by him listing them off, but rather, just by living them. Because these feelings were a thing of the heart, not of the mind, and it was only when it came to Sue Storm that Reed could think with something other than his brain. With her, it was about feeling, rather than thinking, and love, after all, is something that can only be felt, not invented.