...otherwise known as "five times everett tells tj he loves her"
1. The first time she hears him say it, she's not quite sure how to respond.
They are lying in bed, wrapped up in each other, limbs crossed and tucked behind others, sweat around their bodies as they lie unmoving, exhausted. He has his head pressed against her chest, his cheek touching just below her collarbone. As he speaks, she can feel the vibration in her bones, and she fights a delicious urge to squirm.
He says it softly, as if he is afraid to frighten her. "I love you," he murmurs to her neck, not looking her in the eyes. They stay like that for a long moment, as TJ tries to think of what to say.
She knows she loves him too. She has for some time now, even before the affair. But knowing it and saying it are two different things. There's very little risk in thinking it, in keeping it inside, safe and locked away inside her heart. By saying it out loud, by putting thoughts into speech, she's crossing a line that can't be uncrossed. Once something has been spoken, it has been spoken forever.
To hell with it, she thinks.
She reaches down, turns his chin up towards her. Her hands move over his scalp and through his hair. Her eyes meet his. "I love you too," she whispers, as her lips meet his in a kiss.
2. The second time, he says it, it's the wrong moment.
He's drunk, on Earth, in a seedy bar in a bad part of town. He came down here an hour ago (or maybe it's been four?) after telling Emily what he feels she already knew.
"I'm sorry," he says, and he means it. "I didn't mean to hurt you," he tells her, and it's true.
But she doesn't respond. Turning her back on him, Emily signals for him to leave. So he goes.
He's already downed five of the "House Special", an eclectic mix of both hard liquor and liqueurs. In between, of course, he made sure to include beer (can't leave a man behind now, can we?). And then poof! – he's gone, chin-deep in soothing alcohol, blissfully numb. Suddenly, it doesn't matter anymore that he's ruined his marriage. It doesn't matter that he broke regulations and fraternized with a subordinate. He doesn't even matter that he loves her, more than he ever should.
Without thinking about it, his phone appears in his hand, and he's carefully dialling a number, though it seems to be taking much more time than it ever has before. Finally, he presses send, and he waits for the voice on the other end to come through.
"Hello?" she says groggily, her voice cracking as she answers the phone.
He stays silent a moment, unsure of what to say (and if he is still even able to speak).
"Hello?" she repeats, a little more clearly now.
"I love you," he blurts out, trying his best not to slur.
There is a pause at the other end before she answers. "Everett?" she says, concerned and confused.
But he doesn't answer, and the line goes dead.
3. The third time he says it, he's near death.
He's been thrown out of the gate, sent flying across the gateroom, landing contorted on the other side. His legs are numb, and it feels like his arms are on fire. He can't breathe, can't get enough air, and his vision is fading.
A face appears above him, hazy and out of focus. It comes closer, and he can see that it is TJ, beautiful TJ. Even in a crisis, she still takes his breath away (but that could be the internal injuries doing, no?).
"Colonel Young?" she is saying, concern etched into her perfect features.
"I love you," he says, but it comes out as a gurgle, and everything fades to black.
4. The fourth time he tells her, she's in his arms.
They are in the infirmary, and he's just walked in. She interrupts his apology to tell him she's pregnant. Just like that. Matter of factly and straight to the point. That's TJ, he supposes.
She tells him that she's going to keep it, that she want this baby here, on Destiny. At first he's not really listening, he's still reeling from the fact that she's pregnant, with a baby. His baby. His heart skips several beats, as he tries to process everything that is going on.
Head still spinning, he can see that she's near her breaking point, trying hard to fight back tears. He moves to stand in front of her, taking her hand in his, kissing it gently, reassuringly. She folds into his arms, and he holds her tight against him, for the first time in months. He can feel the bump between them, where a new life sleeps, protected for the moment from the harsh world within Destiny's walls. He can remember all too vividly what it felt like to have her here, pressed up against his body, her skin against his skin, her breath on his neck. He is struck suddenly by the feeling – no, the need – to protect her, and to protect their child.
"I love you," he whispers, murmuring softly into her ear. "I'll be right here."
Safe where Everett's eyes can't see her, TJ starts to cry.
5. The last time he says it, she's gone.
He's in the infirmary, holding her hand, looking down at her face. If he tries hard enough, he can almost fool himself into thinking she's just asleep, just resting her eyes and her body after her ordeal. But he knows it's not true. He knows he'll never see her open those beautiful eyes again, never smile up at him, never gently hold him in her arms. He can't help the tears that start to fall, sliding down his cheeks and tumbling to the ground.
He finds himself speaking to her, whispering as if not to wake her from her slumber. "Hey TJ," he begins, still holding onto her hand. "The hostage situation is over, we took back control of the ship from the Lucian Alliance. A couple of them died in the struggle, but our people are all okay. Telford got shot pretty badly, but we got a doctor from home to use the stones to patch him up."
The tears are flowing much faster now, unabated. He's clutching her hand with both of his, much like a drowning man would grab onto a lifeline. "You did great, TJ, you did all you were –" he stops, unable to speak anymore. His breath catches in his throat, and he pauses to clear it.
There's so much more he wants to say. He wants to tell her how brave he thought she was, how courageous. He wants to tell her he thinks she would have made an excellent doctor, and an even better mother. He wants to tell her how much she meant to him, and still means to him, and that she won't ever be forgotten.
But he can't. So for now, he leans close, his hands still wrapped around hers, and whispers into her ear.
"I love you," he murmurs.
With that, Everett Young lays his head down on the bed and cries.