Thea - Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - 6 Weeks Later

I'm not usually an early riser, but this morning my eyelids cannot stay closed. I blink and see watery light filtering through a layer of mosquito netting. I blink again and see clapboard walls and a big blue backpack.

I take a deep breath – savoring the rush of cool morning air into my lungs, savoring the weight pinning my body to the bed. An arm is thrown across my chest, a thigh lays over my waist. His long limbs are dark, damp with humidity. We stick. I don't mind.

I'd made a point of waiting with Alec. I'd wanted to be certain. I'd wanted to see what seven thousand miles might do to the way we felt about one another. Seven thousand miles ached and opened up a yearning in my chest; something dark and magnetic. Seven thousand miles and water splashed and boards creaked, and there was a soft knock at the door of the tiny house I'd been renting.

Now he lays here and I'm home.

"Hey."

His voice is husky and full of sleep. I feel his lips on my neck and memories of last night flit through my mind.

"Alec?"

His answer was a kiss. Waiting was over.

"I couldn't let you leave and forget me."

"I remembered you more the farther away I got."

"Should I go then? Let you remember?"

My answer started with a kiss and ended in bed.

His arms awaken, pulling my body closer, pulling me underneath. Sunlight makes his damp skin seem to sparkle. His nose brushes against mine. My heart flutters.

"So, you didn't forget me?"

"Have we met before?" I giggle.

"Shut up." His kiss is firm, commanding. "You couldn't forget that."

"Overconfident much?"

"I don't mean me. It's us together. Right?"

"We were supposed to meet in Istanbul."

"I couldn't wait."

"Why not?"

It turns out that many of our answers are kisses. This one is long and strong, assertive. He pulls and kicks at the sheet tangled between us.

Later, the sun is higher in the sky and the air is hot and thick. Lying in the bed inside, while endlessly tempting, is physically uncomfortable. We take the little row boat I've been using and find some sand underneath a limestone outcropping. I sit between his legs. We eat papaya and smoked fish.

He places his backpack in my lap and pulls out two small envelopes.

"I come bearing gifts."

I know the handwriting on each envelope instantly. Alec leans back on his elbows so he's not reading over my shoulder, affording me some privacy.

The first letter is from Hanna. Inside is a small snapshot of Kiko in her temporary home – a specially made exhibit at the Seattle Zoo.

Thea,

I promised Alec I'd hold his monkey while you guys were on the road. Don't be jealous.

Seriously, though, I never got a chance to say thanks. Thanks for keeping my confidence when it must have killed you, and when you knew I was my own worst enemy. Thanks for being a trustworthy and constant friend and someone I know has my back 'til the end of time.

I miss you and Kiko misses you. Come back soon.

Hanna

P.S. I have a feeling there might be some things you'll want to keep from Faith these days. I'm happy to reciprocate.

P.P.S. Don't let the kid take you to Bali. I don't think you could handle their prisons.

~ H

The larger envelope is from Faith. Inside there's a photo wrapped carefully in tissue paper with a piece of stationary taped to the front.

Thea,

I don't think I can truly express how much Jonathan and I love the album you made for us. That chronicle of our relationship is too special for words.

It got me to thinking, though. I can't wait until you're back in Seattle so I can show you my entire wedding album, but for now this picture is yours.

Love, Faith

I unwrap the tissue paper to find a print from the reception. It's one of the 'spontaneous' pictures of the wedding party. People are making ridiculous faces, giving rabbit ears, hugging, throwing things in the air. In the middle of it all, though, there's Alec holding me securely in his arms.

As I hold the photo in my hands, my skin tingles and my eyes threaten tears. There's a difference in the sliver of space between Alec's smile and my profile; it's full instead of empty. I don't know if it's his eyes or the way I'm holding my arms. I don't particularly care. I simply know that whatever it is, it's undeniable – I can't pretend it's not there any more than Faith and Jonathan could – any more than Hanna could pretend in front of her dad.

Alec sits up, wraps his arms around my waist and leans his chin on my shoulder.

"That's a good shot."

"Right?" I ask.

"Yeah."

He kisses my neck and I turn my head, because I'd rather feel his lips against my mouth.

There's a lot left unsaid, but we've only known each other for weeks. It's enough to know that there's something real between us; something that keeps me moving forward – because no matter my decisions or Alec's, the reality of what's between us won't change. It was always there. That's good enough for me – for now.

~Fin~


A/N: Thanks to everyone who's stuck with these characters. Obviously they mean a lot to Amy, Jo & me - so it's nice that they have a place in your hearts too. Never say die for us & these three girls. The stars could align & we could write about them again someday.

Thanks so much to SueBee, who I might have to christen "Comma Fairy" just for me. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your patience, Sue.

Today's the last day to vote for Amy's original fic, The Weather Girl in So You Think You Can Write. Please visit our profile & help our girl get published for real!

To Jo and Amy, I have no words. I would still be trying to put words on a page if it weren't for you two.

Much love, BDC