Peg had always loved B.J.'s hands. Sure, it sounded cliché (hands of a surgeon), but the truth was she'd never known a man with such a delicate touch. Long before he could put the words to it, she knew how much he loved her – knew it from the way he'd rest his hand at the small of her back, the way he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
Later he'd explore every inch of her with those hands, till her whole body cried out with want. Then he was gone, and every inch of her cried for him.
At the airport he kissed her – just briefly, but then he'd never liked to show much affection in public. She started crying, though she hadn't meant to, and he said, "Don't cry, Peg," but he didn't wipe her tears away.
He took Erin from her arms and held her close, almost clutching her, as if afraid someone would try to snatch her away. Erin – perhaps remembering the other time she thought she was meeting her daddy and everyone laughed at her, or maybe just not knowing what to do with her parents' great joy and sadness, didn't say a word.
When he took Peg to bed that night he was rougher than she remembered, rougher than she'd dreamed. Shoved in before she was ready, and she had to use her own fingers to finish. But that was understandable, wasn't it? For a man, after all this time, to need so urgently.
The calluses and chilblains faded with time, the white nails and reds skin smoothed to a healthy pink; but his touch was never as gentle again. For the rest of his life he'd clench his hands into fists without even noticing. Peg kissed his open hands while he slept.