Pain.

Sadness.

Fear.

Hope?

Yes. Hope–

A hope for the future.

That maybe if – no, not if – when things changed, they would lead to happier times.

After all, that was why they were going their separate ways, right? To be happy?

For her, it was to go back to her roots, to regain her objectivity…to forget her worries about her career, about her family, about her partner.

For him, it was to save lives, to protect the country he loved…to try to get over his love for her, to go back to just a partnership.

In the quest to be happy, they were walking away from their best chance at happiness– they were each other's best chance, yet they were going their separate ways.

As a pair, they had fallen into a set pattern. They were comfortable and content with each other as professionals and as friends. Occasional, momentary touches notwithstanding, the two knew the boundaries of their relationship.

To them, it was a good professional, yet friendly relationship.

In actuality, though, it was as Sweets had said – a stalemate.

The partners would never admit it, but each of those quick touches and heartfelt admissions were slip-ups, cracks in their carefully built defenses. They had tried a relationship once, a "love at first sight" situation, but because the circumstances were wrong, the affair had stopped almost as soon as it began.

To them, their personalities were obviously incompatible; she was a hard-facts-scientist, while he was a heart-and-gut-relying-FBI-agent. Opposites– that was why it hadn't worked out.

Once again, in actuality, though, the people and the personalities were perfect; the timing was just off. Had they begun dating at that time, the bickering and disagreements and misunderstandings would have overcome the attraction. At that time, they were opposites. As time wore on, their experiences shaped their understandings of each other. Instead of incompatible opposites, they had pushed each other's boundaries, resulting in complementary opposites. Like puzzle pieces, they each had the missing parts of each other. Opposites– that was why it would work out. Opposites attract.

With his admission of love, although those words had never actually crossed his lips, the stalemate was not just broken, it was shattered.

With the passionate, yet terrified kiss, their contentment and balance were lost, destroyed.

Now, the partners were forced to come to grips with the initial attraction. They had both buried it deep within, hoping that time would heal the wounds and erase the magnetism that had seemed to pull them inescapably toward each other.

In this case, though, the attraction was like a seed. Bury it and, under the right circumstances, it would live. Not only did it live, it thrived and grew stronger over time.

Now, the partners were uneven, unbalanced. They had always been equals. Not in wealth, in circumstance, in age, in profession, or even in temperament, but equals nonetheless. They had understood each other implicitly and had grown to meet each other's needs.

Too bad their only misunderstanding, the only misinterpretation, was in regards to one of mankind's most important needs – to love and be loved.

On this subject, the two were clueless – clueless to each other's desires, clueless even to their own.

That fateful night, six years after that first fateful night, his words and actions shocked her.

That fateful night, six years after that first fateful night, her words and actions shocked him.

She had never expected him to take Sweets' advice.

He had never expected her reaction to cause him so much pain.

In the weeks following, they were able to keep their faces, play their roles. On the outside, it was as if nothing had happened; on the inside, their worlds had been shattered. They were no longer content, no longer happy in the partnership. What had happened could no longer be overlooked, but each was too scared to bring it back into the spotlight. The subject held to much weight, hit too close to home.

Because of all this, when an opportunity for separation arose, it was accepted with little thought. Sure, they each considered the other, but relations were still a bit tense. They were still balance on a precipice; too much change and movement could endanger both their lives and, more importantly, their hearts.

They each took the job, stepped up to work for the bigger cause, or so it seemed.

They each took the job, stepped away from each other. Maybe they stepped away to breathe, to regain objectivity, to get over each other, whatever.

In the end, they went their separate ways to be happy. Right?

Twice they had scaled the mountain separating them. Twice they had reached the summit and been too afraid to reach across that final chasm and hold each other. Twice they had sadly and slowly backed down that mountain and rested.

The need to reach the top, the need to succeed, drew the partners back again. The need for happiness. The body knows what the conscious mind does not. One cannot suffocate oneself by simply choosing not to breathe. In the same way, these two could not deny themselves true happiness by willing themselves not to love. Their bodies felt the need to breathe, the need to love.

A year away from the mountain, a year away from each other would not bring happiness. Relief? Maybe. Excitement? Maybe. Happiness? Anything long-term? No.

Holding your breath longer than another person may give a fleeting feeling of victory, of triumph, but the longer you hold it, the stronger the need for air becomes.

With the two partners, the need for each other grew stronger in their time away. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

One day– actually, a year from the very day they took in that last long breath– the need for air will overcome the quest for victory. It will no longer be a struggle about who can hold out the longest. White flags will wave above both their heads, but it will not matter, because all they will be able to do is breathe a sigh of relief.

And, after that initial exhalation, they will be able to breathe nothing but each other.