Disclaimer: You know the deal...don't own the characters... or the lyrics...


She'd take Colorado if he'd take her with him

Closes the door before the winter lets the cold in

And wonders if her love is strong enough to make him stay

She's answered by the tail lights shinning through the window pane

And I love ya, but I leave ya

I don't want you but I need ya

You know it's you that calls me back here, baby

When I close my eyes I see you

No matter where I am

I can smell your perfume through these western pines

-Lyrics from Colder Weather by Zac Brown Band-


He was only passing through. A stop on his way to she doesn't know where. The weather was cold, colder now that he was gone. She wished her love was strong enough to make him stay, but the red taillights on that sleek black motorcycle gave her an answer she wished was different. Wished it could be different.

But she knew long before he tore himself away from her soft warm lips, before he left the safe haven of her sheets that he was leaving.

It was always the same. He'd show up here, in this little Pacific Northwest town that had been his home and hers, on her doorstep. He'd always come to her first, before he saw his father, as soon as he crossed that sign that told him where he was. Even if it was three a.m. and raining. His eyes told the story his voice couldn't find the words to say. She'd try to fight against the pull he had on her. She'd try to be angry for him leaving again, for the time he'd spent away, for the phone calls that rarely came. She would curse his name, and then kiss him in the rain, the water soaking through her clothes and his, falling coldly against her pale skin. Their wet clothes clung to their bodies as they would stumble their way inside. He'd kiss her deeply, love her recklessly. If only for tonight.

And he'd apologize. Empty hollow words, empty promises she knew he couldn't keep, no matter how much they both wished he could. He wrap his warm arms around her, burying his face in her hair and inhaling that sweet intoxicating scent that stayed with him even when he was hundreds of miles of way. Sometimes he'd swear he would smell her perfume and before his mind had made a conscious decision to do so, he would find himself rushing back to her waiting arms. Sometimes it was only the deep vibrant green of the forest that told him he was close, or the sweet smell of rain that lingered in the air.

A few days he'd stay, tangled in her sheets, making love to her so slow and tenderly. Easy. Like they were made to do this with each other. Sometimes it was so beautiful she'd cry, the way their souls seemed to join, their hearts entangled. Other times it was so bittersweet she'd choke on her sobs, and try to push him away, shoving hard against the smooth muscles of his chest. Wishing she didn't love this man.

He'd hold on only so long, his grip on her slowly releasing, until he realized again he couldn't stay and just let go. Like the grains of sand slipping through her fingers, she just couldn't seem to hold on. Was it the past, the hurt, the guilt, the damage she had inflicted on him once upon a time that kept them from moving on?

Sometimes she'd plead and beg for him to stay. Apologizing for the mistakes she made all those summers ago, when she had chosen another man over him. In the end she could never go through with that blasphemy of a wedding, but he was already gone.

And she stayed in this little rain soaked town waiting for his return.

And he'd come home, only to leave again when the past would catch up with them. When he'd realize he would never hold all of her heart the way she held his.

But tonight, as those red taillights faded into the darkness, the cold winter air swirling snowflakes around her as she stood on her front steps in her bare feet, holding her arms around herself to keep from falling apart, she didn't beg, she didn't plead. She let him go, letting him give her a desperate lingering kiss. He didn't say anything more. Those three little words hung in the thick silence between them, and burned against his tongue. Spoken only too clearly in their memories.

But he saw something in her chocolate brown eyes tonight that he couldn't explain, and he couldn't let that flicker of hope come to life. He stuffed it back down. His long legs straddled that monstrous machine as it came snarling and growling to life.

He drove away, afraid to hope that maybe her heart was finally his, trying to blink away the tears as he pushed the bike faster down the slick road. The green forest whirled by him, but instead of taking the highway and escaping this place that held every good and bad memory, every smile, every hurt, every joy, every heartache, he turned down a familiar road, the pebbled shoreline and gray waters of his ancestor's land coming into view.

He took that road up to that godforsaken cliff where his whole world had fallen apart. Was it here? Or was it a lost cause even before? Vivid memories of a younger her, his mouth hovering just above her pink parted lips, his heart pounding in his chest as he leaned in to kiss her like he'd been dying to do. Only it was too late. And the first time he would kiss her on that snowy mountain was too full of goodbye and desperation. It left a festering ache in both their chests.

He came to a stop, walking out to the ledge, watching the icy waters crash violently against the rocky face of the cliffs.

He wanted to leave again. He didn't want her to have this hold on him. But he had given his heart away to her so many years ago, he didn't even know how to get it back. The snow fell against his back, melting against his russet skin. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and just stared out across the ocean, watching the reflection of the moon rippling across the sea.

He couldn't leave. Not again. He knew he saw what he had wanted to see for so long in her eyes. He knew it by the way she let him go. She was tired of pretending. Maybe he had come back again, maybe she had finally had enough. Maybe she just needed to make peace with that before she could give him what he had always craved, the only thing he had fought so tirelessly for.

She was still standing on her front steps, watching the snow fall. She loved him. She had wished she didn't. She had promised an eternity to another. She had been willing to give up everything. But his deep husky voice had echoed in her mind…maybe even then… his kiss haunted her dreams. She couldn't give him her heart, because for so long a part of it still belonged to another. She had been so wrapped up in her twisted little fairytale, but his love had taken that all away. Why couldn't he just let her go? Why had he fought so hard for her heart to continue beating? So much so that when the time came, and that soft piano music played, she couldn't go through with it. Even though her heart was breaking, her lungs barely sucking in enough air at the thought.

Somewhere along the way, she realized what she had refused to see. That her heart had belonged to him long before she had tried to give it to another. He'd had stolen her heart when they were only kids playing in the mud. When he had fixed up her truck. When he had fixed her. Even when she had run back to him, blinded by immortality. Even when he left. Even now.

She thought maybe she was hearing things—it wouldn't be the first time—when that loud familiar rumbling turned onto her street. The large shadow of a man coming to a stop in front of her house where he had been only hours before. She had thought he would have been in colder weather by now.

His stride was full of purpose as he walked up to her, standing only an inch apart, his heat warming her frigid skin, their eyes locked in a silent conversation. His eyes were red and puffy, the tear tracks still etched into his tan skin, his short inky black hair hung limply in his face, water dripping from the ends. He reached for her, his hands wrapped around her waist, sliding under the hem of her shirt so that his warmth seeped into her flesh. Her whole body surrendered to his touch, her eyes fluttered closed and she waited for his kiss.

He took in a deep ragged breath, studying the lines of her face.

"Look at me." He commanded, but his voice held no hard edge, instead it was soft, broken and pleading. She opened her eyes, drowning in the depth of emotion she saw in his dark eyes.

And he waited.

Waited for her to say the words she knew he needed to hear.

"I love you. I'm yours." She whispered, her cool breath tickling the coarse hairs on his chin. His lips answered her declaration with urgency as they melded to hers. Her slender arms wrapped around his neck as he pulled her flush against his chest. He kissed her long and deep, unwilling to ever let her go again, until he was stealing the breaths from her lungs. She broke away, panting, sucking in the much needed oxygen.

Two tears escaped her eyes, and his hand came up to cup her cheek, stroking her cheek with his thumb and catching one tear. His kissed her cheeks tenderly, then her lips once more, unable to fight the emotion that had been so buried inside him any longer, or the words he'd been born to say to her.

"I love you. I've always been yours." He murmured as he kissed her softly once more. It was a slow lingering kiss that started a fire deep inside her gut.

"Stay." She breathed when he pulled away. He nodded, his lips meeting hers again, as he walked her backward into the house. He closed the door behind them, scooping her up in his arms and walking towards the stairs, never breaking the kiss.

When he laid her down on the soft mattress, climbing between her legs, and resting his weight on his elbows, he raked his fingers through her long wavy longs, staring deeply into her eyes, and whispered the one word that she needed to hear….

"Forever."


A/N: Reviews for my birthday? That was shameless, I know...