He sat in his car and waited. He'd seen Mr. Dodger's son, Gregory, come and go from Frankie's backyard a number of times but still had yet to see Frankie. Mr. Dodger had actually given her his house, written it into his will in fact, and she'd moved into almost immediately after it had been cleared of all the old man's belongings. From what Precious had told him, Frankie was happy. She worked locally, had a dog, a cat, a snake, and two gerbils, and had recently started a vegetable garden to go along with her four fruit trees that Mr. Dodger had planted years before. James wasn't surprised that she had so many animals, or that she was trying her hand at something new. He would've been more surprised if she'd been idly waiting in the house for him to show up. Frankie wasn't one to sit and wait for things, she preferred to be busy while she waited; James remembered her well enough to know that about her.
He glanced down at his watch then back up at the house. It was nearing dinner time. She was home, he knew that from her car sitting in the driveway, but she was working in the backyard. With the sun going down soon, and hunger more than likely growing in her belly, he was sure she'd call it quits within the next hour or so. Unless of course she had stadium lighting for the sole purpose of working at night--he wouldn't be surprised by that either. Gregory walked out of her backyard making James shift in his seat. He watched as the man looked over at his parked car. He looked from the parked car back to Frankie's backyard then back to the car. James couldn't help but wonder if perhaps Mr. Dodger had told Gregory about him, just in case he showed up. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. In either case Gregory didn't dawdle overly long. James watched as the man shrugged before disappearing into his own neighboring house. It was time for James to act.
It took him longer to reach the side of her house than if he'd had two good legs but thankfully it was still light enough to see her when he came around the corner. Frankie wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand as she leaned back to study her handy work. The row she was working on was crooked but she was smiling at it, and both facts made James smile as well. He watched her press a hand to her back, more than likely aching from bending over so long. A few moments later she turned and headed towards a shed near the edge of her property; the opposite direction from James.
He waited until she was tugging the hose towards the garden before he moved. It was dark enough for her not to immediately notice him as he moved in the shadows of the evening, but it was light enough to discern her facial expressions as he neared. He stopped, though, when she again trudged towards the shed, muttering something about kinks in hoses. He smiled as he leaned more heavily on his cane. He could wait. He listened as she gave a cry of delight, probably finding the kink, and watched as a gush of water sprang from the end of the house, effectively drowning the first few plants in her row. She came rushing back, muttering again, quickly picking up the hose and glaring at the damage. He watched her quietly as she watered the rest of her garden, admiring the simple beauty that the picture made.
James couldn't believe she had actually grown more beautiful since he'd last seen her all those years ago. When he'd first seen her, he'd seen a woman in need of rescue then later as a friend, but all the time he'd seen an average looking woman, not ugly but not strikingly beautiful, more likely cute or pretty. Now, however, living in the country must've done something to her, because Frankie was downright gorgeous. Her once pale face had a rosey tint to it, her scars having faded slightly against her skin, and her eyes sparkling in the evening light. She was still average height and build(that wasn't likely to change). Her hair was longer and braided down her back with some wind swept bangs framing her flushed face. She wore a plain white t-shirt, now grimy from her work, and slightly baggy jeans, equally dirty. To him, she looked absolutely amazing!
She moved from the garden, taking the hose with her, and went back around the shed. James moved then. He walked closer to the shed, being careful to avoid the damp ground as he didn't exactly want to greet her after landing on his arse. He must've moved more quickly, and silently, than even he anticipated because they were both taken by surprise when she came around the corner of the shed and smacked right into him. He reached out with his good arm when she started to fall backwards while she reached forward with both arms, getting a good hold of his oxford and ripping a number of buttons off before she righted herself using her arms and his for support. Once she was settled on her own two feet again, her face turned up towards his, he expected her to say something. However, neither said anything for a few moments, his hand still on her upper arms, her hands still pressed against his chest to brace herself. Then almost as suddenly as he appeared and caught her, she cleared her throat and stepped back. He let go of her easily enough, but he didn't want to.
"I heard you were dead." He saw sadness in her eyes, as well as a hope that he knew she was trying to keep in check.
"It was a stunt my office had to pull to cover my tracks for a mission."
She nodded but said nothing more for a few moments in order to regain her composure, "I see Precious told you my address."
James nodded, a small smile on his face, "Yes she did, only after cutting me down to size."
"Oh no!" Frankie covered her mouth. "I'm so sorry James! I didn't tell her-"
"I know Frankie," James reached out and smoothed away the frown from her forehead, "you'd never tell her to do that. She, however, felt the driving need to remind me of how much of a bastard I was to leave you hanging for so many years." He chuckled and tapped his cane against his prosthetic. "She even accused me of using my cane as a sympathy winner!"
Frankie looked down and gasped when she saw his leg. She felt tears sting her eyes and she did her best not to shed them when she looked back up to his face. He, however, noticed them and felt his throat tighten at the sight. He didn't want her to feel that she was worthwhile only now that he was crippled. He didn't want her to think that he only wanted her now that he was broken, quite literally.
James shrugged, "I should've expected it actually but I looked away at a very important moment and ended up getting caught in the explosion from a car bomb on one of my last missions. The doctors said they couldn't save the leg and at that moment in time I could've cared less."
"Why?" Frankie frowned as she looked from his face back down to his absent leg.
"I'd lost my life long before that happened."
Frankie looked back up to his face, "What do you mean?"
"I mean I kept living on the edge, pushing myself further and further, taking on more missions than any other agent, growing colder and colder, seeking out the most dangerous of situations just to spark something inside me that seemed dead." James sighed and shook his head. "However, no matter what I did I couldn't find it."
"Find what?" he heard that hope in her voice and he felt his stomach clench at it.
Her question was valid, and he knew he needed to answer it, but with his answer he'd be laying himself bare before her. Despite her assurances of accepting him if he found her in the letter he still felt vulnerable. He didn't want to be rejected, no one did actually, but he most especially didn't want to be cast aside by her. She was one of the reasons why he'd made it through physical therapy after the accident, one of the reasons he hadn't fallen into a drunken stupor after being honorably discharged. If she cast him aside now...he'd have nothing left. James shifted his weight nervously, "I couldn't find the spark of life that I'd felt when I was with you."
Frankie suddenly looked down at her feet for a moment before looking back to his face. "Did Precious give you my letter?"
James didn't say anything. His features changed from apologetic regret to something much different, something he'd wanted to show her so many times but couldn't given the situation and time. he finally let her see the desire, not just physical desire, but a desire rooted in mutual admiration and devotion, that he felt for her. He saw his own feelings mirrored in her eyes once she understood what he was showing her. He didn't need to say anything, they both knew that then, but he did do something. He limped closer, wrapping his free arm around her waist again and pulled her against his chest. For her part she wrapped her arms up around his neck and allowed him to take charge. He leaned down and kissed her forehead, her cheeks, the tip of her nose, her chin. Then when he felt the warmth of her tears, he kissed them away, making her smile. When he pulled back and looked down at her they both were smiling softly.
"So this is for keeps then?" She ventured to ask, already knowing that he wouldn't have come if it had been otherwise.
James nodded, "Definitely."
"Good. I need some help with this bloody vegetable garden." She grinned at him, her old mischief apparent. "It seems I can't keep my rows straight."
"I noticed that." James chuckled softly before leaning down and gently brushing his lips against hers. "I'll see what I can do."
"Well while you're at that," she looked past him at her yard, "I've been meaning to paint my shutters but haven't quite had the time. Do you think yo-"
He silenced her with a kiss. It was an unhurried kiss, filled with love and the promise of a long life of happiness. After many painful years of fooling himself into thinking adrenaline and danger were what made him feel complete, James had finally found what really did complete him. James was definitely ready to live happily ever after, and Frankie deserved that and much more.