Star Light, Star Bright,
Chapter Two

They'd come up to the roof, beers in hand, ostensibly to look at the stars. Annie had managed to find a chair, no doubt left behind by kids who'd snuck up here to make out, and dragged it over to where he sat on the parapet, one leg dangling over the edge.

He sampled his beer, savoring the bitter taste of the micro-brew as he tried to figure out his next move. Coming here tonight had been a mistake, he knew that. He should have asked his partner to meet him somewhere neutral, somewhere that wasn't filled with memories of things he had thought long dead and buried.

"I haven't looked at the stars for a while, you know that?" he said, looking up at the sky in an attempt to escape the memories brought back by being up here again. Unfortunately, the stars held memories of their own, memories of evenings spent lying on a blanket, tracing constellations on the bare skin of her stomach, eliciting soft moans as his meandering fingers brushed against sensitive spots...

"We used to come up here a lot," his partner pointed out, a slow smile spreading across her face. Obviously he wasn't the only one who remembered exactly what they used to do up here...

"So, how are you doing?" he asked in an attempt to redirect the conversation to a safer topic. "You miss Mexico?" he smirked as he took another swig of beer.

She chuckled softly in response, the sound of her laughter bringing with it a fresh wave of memories. "You know," she continued, suddenly growing serious, "I know what you did... What you must have done..."

"Annie-" he said, cutting her before she could once again beat herself up over what he'd done. This wasn't the first time she'd tried to bring up the subject, but he refused to discuss any of it with her, or with anyone else for that matter. He had no desire to rehash what went down during those hellish hours, when he didn't know if he'd ever see her again, didn't even know if she was still alive...

Besides, there was really nothing to discuss. He didn't regret his actions, not for a second. He also knew that, were he ever faced with the same situation, he'd do it all over again, all without so much as a moment of hesitation.

"No," she countered, burying her face in her hands. "That's your badge... That's your career-"

"Listen," he said firmly, causing her to look at him. "There was never even a choice," he told her, shaking his head to emphasize his words. "You know, I thought that I was never going to see you again. And, um..." He trailed off, unable to meet her eyes. He couldn't do this... Not like this... Not with everything else unsettled...

"What?" his partner prompted, something dangerously close to hope creeping into her voice. "What are you thinking?"

"You know what, just forget about it, it's fine."

It wasn't fine, of course – it was anything but fine – but he couldn't let her know that. Not now.

"I don't want to forget about it."

"I'm just... I'm glad you got back in one piece, you know?" he said lamely, knowing she wouldn't buy it – she knew him too well – but unable to come up with anything else.

"There was a moment there that I didn't think I'd see you again either," she told him, her eyes never leaving his.

She didn't say anything else; she didn't have to.

Silently cursing himself for what he was about to do, he reached for her, feeling her tremble at his touch. "I'm sorry, Boots."

"What for?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

"For the things I did..." he sighed, "but mostly for the things I didn't do..."

He cupped her chin, tilting her head up as he leaned in to capture her lips.

She kissed him back, bracing herself by laying her hands on his thighs as she leaned into him. Being close to her like this again, the taste and feel of her, it all felt so familiar, so... right.

It was like coming home, and he never wanted it to end.

But end it must... He was engaged to someone else, and playing ostrich about it wasn't going to make it go away.

Granted, he was in love with his partner – there was no point in denying it any longer – but that didn't really change anything. Cheaters the world over always came up with one excuse or another for straying but, in the end, a cheater was a cheater, simple as that.

And his partner deserved so much better than hooking up with a cheater...

It took every ounce of control he possessed to pull away from her, but he managed to do it.

"Jimmy," she said softly, her voice laced with regret, "we can't..."

"I know," he replied, resting his forehead against hers as he tried to get himself under control. "I should go."

"I don't want you to go," she murmured. "Do you think you could just... hold me for a while?"

He nodded silently, sliding down the side of the parapet until he was sitting on the cold rooftop, then pulled her into his lap. She sighed contentedly, leaning back against him as he snaked an arm around her waist.

"The stars really are beautiful," she said as she looked up at the night sky.

"Indeed they are," he agreed, tightening his hold on her.

They stayed that way a long time, the companionable silence only occasionally broken by the faraway sounds of traffic on the street below. As minutes slowly turned into hours, his partner's breathing evened out, and he realized she'd fallen asleep.

Knowing he might never again get to hold her like this, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift off to sleep.

Dealing with the outside world would just have to wait until tomorrow...