A/N: Yay, moar! An early Christmas present to you all - or for whatever holiday you claim.
101. First Kiss
It certainly wasn't when or where Cortana expected it to be, but the simultaneous passion and tenderness made the blood-stained battlefield fade into the background.
102. Long Distance
Distance was hell on some relationships, especially when the couple in question was a smart AI on Earth being studied for further data on metastability and the other was a SPARTAN-II super soldier fighting evil alien parasites scores of light years away, but they swore that they would make their relationship work even if it killed them.
103. Wait, what?
It was impossible for the Spartan not to say it when the Chief told them in passing, "Oh, by the way, Cortana and I are getting married."
Their impact on the unknown planet wasn't so much a landing as it was a crash, leaving displays and glass panels shattered, metal bulkheads warped and punctured, and tools and gear strewn everywhere about the aft end of the Dawn, but both of them were alive, if a little worse for wear.
The dim lighting of the ship gave in a slightly ominous feel, but the Spartans were utterly at home on the Flood-infested ship, gunning down the parasitic life forms even in zero-gee.
It was the cheesiest line ever used and reused, but the Spartan still couldn't resist shouting, "Resistance is futile!" when the Grunts began running about in terror.
Cortana's mood swings were more erratic than the weather on a non-terraformed planet after she went rampant, but John had almost limitless amounts of patience.
John knew that Cortana loved him, and she knew that he loved her even if neither said it outright; it was the little things that they did for one another that showed the depth of their affection.
The flower petals were so delicate beneath her fingers that she was afraid too soft a touch and she wouldn't be able to feel them, but too hard and it would damage the flower; John gave her dozens of them for her to experiment with in any manner she pleased.
110. Hold On
"Don't let go!" John shouted to her, his grip tight on her wrists as the floor dropped away beneath her, leaving her dangling out over the canyon miles below, "Don't you dare let go!"
She willingly bound herself to him for all eternity.
John had been so worried about the state Cortana would be in when he came back for her, especially after he found out that the Gravemind was on High Charity; seeing her so broken on the holopedestal sparked an unbelievable amount of rage inside of him that demanded an outlet.
Even a decade after her death, she was still his most precious person.
114. Odds and Ends
John was not sure what he was expecting to find in the little knickknack shop he walked into on that one side street, but he was suitably satisfied when he walked out with a record that completed his impressive collection and a date with the pretty girl with intense blue eyes working the register.
It was a special blend that the Didact made especially for him, and if anyone else tried to drink it - even her - it almost put them into comas, it made them so relaxed.
After seven years on her own in the eternal void of space, her processing strings should have been so snarled and tangled that she had been unable to think; Dr. Halsey was not quite sure as to why she was not at all surprised to find that Cortana was perfectly functional after all these years.
Even after all these years alone, he could still hear her voice echoing inside his head.
His siblings were long gone, and he still had nightmares about their deaths, but a single touch from her was enough to soothe all of his worries away.
They finished it.
It wasn't the first time she had seen him bare as the day he was born, but it still brought a blush to her cheeks and a fervent thank you to whatever deity had made her lucky enough to get him for a husband.
"C'mon, Cortana, you can do it! Push!" "JOHN! I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!"
She fought feverishly against the shaking of her hands, performing the systematic compressions and assisted breathing without stopping, trying to get his heart beating again - and then he gasped in precious air, and she was so glad that he was alive that she forgot her threats about killing him for dying on her.
All of the sensations her body gave her were completely and utterly new; it was as if all of them were seeing the world with fresh eyes - through her eyes.
It would never fail to make them laugh so hard they cried; they were "born" on the exact same day.
John could honestly admit to Cortana that he had never been anywhere in temperatures this low, but being able to see the ancient and abandoned Forerunner city coated in ice and snow like the mythical City of Ice was well worth the three hours it took for him to get warm again.
It described her perfectly, especially when she was in one of her moods.
Almost a decade of isolation on the Forward Unto Dawn had not been kind to Cortana; she was just this side of total system failure when the UNSC finally came for them.
His stomach had stopped voicing its emptiness a long time ago, not because he wasn't hungry, but because all things go silent in the end; he barely had enough energy left to care, much less go search for food on the dying home of the humans, and they sat there until starvation took him.
It was so hard to remember that now he was more breakable than her.
It was the first time Cortana had seen snow with her own eyes, and the first thing she did was gather it up and throw a snowball at her Spartan, even though she should have known better; after almost three hours of rapid-fire throwing, she finally conceded defeat.
John had always known that it was impossible to ignore Cortana when she wanted you to pay attention to her, so when she popped up on the holopad in his room, he immediately stopped what he was doing and sat down to listen to her rant about ONI.
Her holoform had all of the colors present in the sky at midday, from the darker blues directly overhead to the pale sky blue towards the horizon.
"If sex was food, it'd be chocolate." "Does that mean that if you were food, you'd be chocolate because you're sexy?"
Up until their hormones hit, the two teens were unable to be more than civil to one another; it came as a surprise to everyone when John asked for permission to marry Cortana before he went into the military.
"I've never been to China." "...Where in all the blazes did that come from?"
It was their home, and it was no more.
People found it unbelievably difficult to accept the fact that the "Chief-and-Cortana" were actually two separate people.
In Cortana's humble opinion, they were mankind's greatest inventions: portable, battery-powered heaters and electric blankets.
After she got her synthetic body, the thin veneer of conduct that prevented him from falling completely and utterly in love with her fell by the wayside.
It was Cortana's favorite time of year because she got to see the leaves change, and it never, ever failed to fascinate her.
They were nonexistent so long as she was there.
They both hated contagious diseases; it started with Cortana getting the chicken pox because the Doctor had never had them, and then John got infected because he had never had them, and everything went down hill from there.
"But what if I've been so very baaaad?"
He had never wanted to say it, but the passage of time eventually dragged it out of him.
His body was covered in them, and she knew where each and every one had come from.
146. Last Dance
Their last dance happened eight hours before he died on the operating table after a battle.
The planet was burning, falling to pieces around them, but they were still fighting with every ounce of their power to save it.
His aim and trigger finger never once faltered.
"I? I am a monument to all your sins."
It goes without saying that it would only be where the other was.
John almost - almost wasn't able to stop his hand from ging for his sidearm when Paragosky said it was time to "take out the trash."
He had never been camping for peaceful means, and she had never been at all, but they muddled through their first trip together.
They were the unstoppable force, the immovable object, and humanity's first and last lines of defense.
Each and every day, without fail, there was at least one fresh red, red rose resting before the headstone.
If all seventy-five of them were the gears of a machine of destruction, then she was the oil that kept them running smoothly.
Neither of them were real clear on their destination, but they would get there when they got there.
They were in the middle of nowhere, on a planet that probably wasn't even inhabited, but they were together again, and that was what mattered.
They weren't quite sure if it was Eden, but it was close enough for them.
159. I Know
"I love you." "Silly, I already knew that."
She was still there, even after he had died - dust unto dust - but every time they saw her, every time she looked in a mirror, she was reminded of his sacrifice.
It had always been a dream of hers, to become a human, so she wasn't quite sure why it had shocked her so much for Lord Hood to offer the opportunity.
Sometimes he wondered if it was destiny for him to be so lucky; he had managed to get a date with a woman so far out of his league it was unbelievable, managed to get her to say yes to marrying him, and grown old with her, watching their children and grandchildren play in the front yard - "Not bad for a military grunt and a princess."
The leaves were green, the sky was clear, and the lot of them got into a fight with the mud created by the spring rains.
She sighed in her sleep and shifted closer to him.
She absolutely hated the fact that the fingertips were the most sensitive part of the human body, and she knew that he knew it because he was smirking sinisterly as he licked the icing off of her fingers one by one.
It was agony, sitting outside the hospital room with their son and daughter, waiting for news but the moment the doctors said that it was all going to be okay, Jacob darted into the room to see his mother and new baby sister, his father trailing behind and smiling.
Sheerly by nature, John could never be one.
Paragosky had taken it upon herself to "arrange" for an "accident" while John was on his mission, and the moment Cortana received word, she began planning a little revenge.
The fireworks were so beautiful.
It was swift and capricious, which would probably explain why John's fist clenched around the water bottle in his hand at the sight of some Marines hitting on his very uncomfortable-looking Cortana.
"But there is no such thing as a free lunch, John-" "Just shut up and enjoy it, Cortana."
The fireworks outside were wrapping up the anniversary of the defeat of the Covenant, but the fireworks inside were only just beginning.
She lost count of how many times she'd just looked up and thought that the stars would be prettier if she had real eyes to see them with.
She couldn't bear to go to the morgue to identify the body; she didn't want to see the love of her life lying so cold and still on the steel table.
It was one of the most desolate and most beautiful places they had ever seen.
The color of his skin after spending so much time inside his MJOLNIR armor, but she was determined to change that.
The one thing he would never be, not with her inside his armor and inside his mind.
The doctors had been forced to put him in a medically-induced coma to save his life, but he refused to wake when he was in the clear; Cortana was the only person who remained by his side for the fifteen years it took for him to claw his way out of the darkness.
The one thing they couldn't do to the other.
It was the one that no military wife wanted to receive, and it just so happened to be on her birthday.
Not everyone knew that John knew how to play piano, but every year, without fail, he would wind up being the one to provide the music for the Spartans' Christmas party.
The silence inside his head was deafening after she had gone; it made him want her back all the more.
He hated sending them out at Christmas time - "Why should we bother? We both see these people practically every day!" - but she made it fun by buying two rolls of stamps more than necessary and having a war to see who could stick the other with the most stamps in the shortest amount of time.
She was his calling card.
For all of the fact that she was technically his superior, Cortana never actually ordered him to do anything; she said that they were equals, and that was the way it was going to stay.
The other Spartans were not at all surprised to find that John's absences had been a result of Cortana monopolizing his time to serve as her personal chauffeur.
The AI had long since lost her grip on reality, but they kept her alive anyway; she was still the best at what she did.
It was impossible with the Spartans on-base.
The explosion had shattered almost every bone in his body, and the doctors said that he would never walk again; the luckiest Spartan shocked everyone but her when he resumed active duty four years later.
190. Chalk Dust
He walked into their bedroom, tracking it in behind him, and growled, "Don't say a word."
Their story had been cleverly disguised as an archaic romance novel, but the moment Cortana began reading it, she recognized it for what it was and couldn't stop herself from smiling.
His body was liberally splattered in it from all the bombs that he had been forced to set off during the training exercise, and Cortana laughed and laughed and laughed until she couldn't even breathe.
There was no such thing, but in his eyes, she was as close as the "lowly mortals" were ever going to get.
The ring was just a simple golden band with a speckling of tiny diamonds around it, all he could afford to get her, but with the way she reacted to it, you would have thought that he'd given her the Hope Diamond.
No matter how far, they would drive until they kicked their enemies' asses.
She had been missing for six years, but he would know her anywhere.
197. Full Moon
"Are you absolutely sure you're not a werewolf?"
198. New Direction
"It's that way, John, that way! Augh, you missed the turn again!"
Logically, John knew that nothing was immune to death, so he wondered why he was so shocked when Cortana passed away suddenly.
His words held a lot of sway with the populace, but it came as a surprise to everyone but those who knew him well when he declined a political position in the New Covenant.