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Take my hand (Take my whole life too)

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There's no guns firing, no mysterious assassin calling the shots, and Meg Coburn finally has the time to stop and survey the ruins of her once not so carefully ordered life.

 

Apartment - trashed. Car - totalled. Tools of her livelihood - pretty much unusable.

 

She has a choice here, a fork in the road, and she need to decide which way to go down.

 

Building her business back up again will be difficult, she needs capital, and word on the street is that after her recent escapades she might not be the first choice, or even the second anymore for those who choose to live below the radar.

 

Too much heat and too much attention. It's not really what a potential customer is looking for in their forger.

 

There's another road, one which could be more difficult, which is certainly going to be longer. It's the road that she started down with John, and while he might have left her midway, it's her choice whether she continues or not.

 

One good deed , she'd said to him. She figures she's already racked up a few more since then.

 

The night after she says goodbye to John at the airport, Meg goes to sleep in her bullet riddled apartment, a gun under her pillow and damaged furniture piled in front of her door, and wonders if turning legit could possibly kill her where Wei's goons couldn't.

 

But there's the memory of John there, when she closes her eyes. The tenderness in his face as he'd gazed at her one last time, the warmth and strength in his hand as he'd cupped her cheek and told her he'd miss her.

 

She wakes, resolute.

 

There's a hesitant knock on the door as she's pulling on her clothes, and she pulls the furniture aside, gun in hand as she peers out the holes caused by the battle.

 

Her visitor is a Buddhist monk by his robes, and he holds a package in his hands.

 

At her enquiring glance, he clears his throat. "From a friend."

 

The package handed over, the monk quickly leaves, and Meg tears the paper and tape away to reveal the contents.

 

Well sure, $25,000 could definitely go a long way towards building a new life.

 

She wonders why John didn't give it to her before he left, whether he thought she might refuse it if he'd tried to give it personally. She has her share of pride, and if she'd seen it as a payment for services rendered she might have.

 

Meg knows what this is though. This is John looking out for her, make sure that she gets by now that he's not there to watch her back. Came in and wrought havoc on her life, and he wants to help with the clean up.

 

She wishes that she could refuse the money. She wishes she could tell him to hurry up and get his ass back here so that he can help her himself instead, so that they can do it together.

 

It's been a long time since Meg has wanted together, a long time since she's relied on anyone but herself. But John - his arm around her shoulders during the gun battle in the arcade, tense and gripping her as if afraid to lose her; his eyes flicking to hers after Wei's death, checking to make sure she was alright, even with Zedkov's gun pointed at his head.

 

And Jesus Christ, she'd never known it was possible for someone to make her feel that safe, she'd certainly never felt that way before in her life. She didn't know it was possible to crave another person's presence so badly either, waking up sweating in the middle of the night from the sheer want if it.

 

John's not here though, and his money is, so she takes it and begins to build her life anew.

 

//

 

Meg's first task is to find a new place to live.

 

She's certainly not getting the deposit back on this one, can't even remember if she'd given one in the first place she's been living in this shithole for so long.

 

So Meg takes a few days, going through the classifieds, and chooses an inner city two bedroom apartment in what's primarily a working class, recent immigrant neighbourhood. She's not a suburbs type of girl, might never be, but the location's definitely a step up on her previous one.

 

People here, they know each other, look out for each other. There's a neighbourhood bakery that serves fresh Persian bread among the more usual types, there's a Hungarian grocery store right down the street from the Iraqi one.

 

Her neighbours introduce themselves, welcoming her, and when they ask Meg what she does she flounders for a moment.

 

"I'm a freelance graphic designer," she finally replies, the not-quite-lie slipping easily off her tongue.

 

Well that's good, that's a good line of work, and incidentally the woman's nephew Murtaza is opening a new restaurant soon. Would she be willing to design the signage and brochures for him? He can't afford to pay much of course, but she'll get a free meal whenever she wants one.

 

Meg can do that, of course she can.

 

So once she's bought herself a new ride, second hand cause she doesn't want to be conspicuous, she goes and picks up the hardware she needs.

 

She gets the best computer possible, all the specs top of the line, and for once she buys authorised software, might as well with that much money to burn. Meg sets it up in the spare bedroom, creating an office of sorts, the only room in her house that looks complete.

 

She's sleeping on a mattress on the floor in her own bedroom, only a small collection of clothes in her closet. Her kitchen has a pot, a pan, a couple of plates and some cutlery.

 

She'll get there eventually, and it's not like you need a lot of pots when you mainly exist on takeout.

 

So Meg goes to meet with the woman's nephew, who offers her $200 for a design for his signage and brochures, and it might not be a lot but it's the first honest job she's worked in years.

 

She finishes the design in three days straight, and the owner is so impressed that he gives her $100 extra, as well as a standing invitation to come and eat whenever she wants to.

 

Meg takes him up on it from time to time, she really does love the Burek there.

 

Murtaza recommends Meg's services to other business owners he knows, and before she knows it she's got a regular income. It might not be as much of a challenge as forgeries, or earn her as much money, but she's too busy to be bored, and she earns more than enough for her rent, expenses and to put some aside.

 

Meg wonders what John would think about all this, whether he'd be proud of her, whether he's started down his own road to rehabilitation back in China now that there's no one to force his hand.

 

She doesn't know though, because it's been two weeks since he left with no word at all.

 

I will miss you , he'd said.

 

He never said if he was coming back.

 

//

 

The temple seems different by day light.

 

Walking into it, almost hesitantly, Meg glances reflexively behind the altar, but of course there's no body there.

 

There is a monk though, the same man who had appeared at her door that day, bearing a bundle of cash and handing it over to her with almost no words at all.

 

He looks up, and recognition crosses his face. Meg holds her hand out to him, a cautious smile on her face. "We were never introduced, I'm Meg Coburn."

 

The young man nods, serious and intent. "I knew of you, Meg Coburn, it is a pleasure to meet now. I am Leung Kar Fai."

 

He gestures to her to follow him inside to an office of sorts, a dark wood table and a couple of chairs, books lining the shelves and scattered across the surface.

 

She waits as he fetches them both a cup of green tea, placing hers in front of her before he takes his own seat, waiting for her to begin.

 

"Have you heard from him?" Meg blurts out, unable to hold it in anymore, the worry that has caused her sleepless nights. "Is his family safe? Is he safe?"

 

Kar Fai nods, taking a sip from his tea before he replies. "He was able to get to them in time. John has now shifted them to a new location, he is... Making preparations."

 

"Then he plans to return?"

 

Meg hadn't dared to hope, hadn't been confident enough as to his plans when he left. She holds her breath, waiting for an answer, only to be met with an elegant shrug.

 

"It is as yet uncertain. There is still unfinished business... Men, who were loyal to Mr Wei. John must deal with them first."

 

Her heart jumps to her throat, and Meg struggles to swallow. She has no idea who he may have to rely on there, whether there are any allies to help him. What she wouldn't give to be able to join him now, to be able to give any help at all.

 

"If something were to happen to him, would you... Would you tell me?" She almost can't say the words, to place that thought out into the open and make it all the more real.

 

Kar Fai nods seriously. "He has already asked it of me."

 

Oh.

 

Then he has thought of her, wherever he may be, and whatever situation he may be in. He has thought of her, and wanted her to know, should something befall him.

 

There is a fire somewhere inside of her, her chest burns with it, as her gut clenches with a strange emotion that borders on pain.

 

"Would you... Would you tell him thank you for me? For the money. Tell him... Tell him I'm doing well, and he'd better be coming back so I can return it."

 

Kar Fai nods, and as inscrutable as he is, Meg could swear that he's biting back a smile.

 

She writes down her new contact details for him, just in case, and he places them inside what looks like a diary to keep them safe.

 

Meg's almost to the door when an instinct prompts her to turn around, a question she never knew she wanted to ask on her tongue.

 

"Hey, do you know where I can learn Cantonese?"

 

//

 

Three months since John left, and still no word.

 

Meg keeps herself busy. She's built up enough of a body of work now that she actually has a proper portfolio, and she sends it across to all the agencies she knows of that use freelancers. Some of them are impressed, and soon she has more work coming her way.

 

Wednesday nights she drives to Chinatown, where she sits in a classroom with 11 other students, learning the basics of Cantonese. Meg hasn't learned another language since Spanish back in elementary school, but she finds herself picking it up easily, the only difficult part the tones that she often forgets.

 

Mastering the writing might take years, but in the time since she started she's at least picked up basic conversation. After class, she and some of the other students sometimes head out for dim sum, practicing amongst themselves or just chatting. There's a couple of businessmen, looking to pick up skills for upcoming transfers to their Hong Kong offices, a newly married lady wanting to impress her husband, a girl adopted by an American couple as a baby now looking to rediscover her roots. They've all got a story, and Meg's not quite sure what to say when it's her turn to share.

 

An assassin took me hostage so I would make him a passport. Somewhere along the way I finally figured out who I wanted to be. Somewhere along the way, maybe I got way too attached to him, maybe it became more than just a problem with watching him die.

 

Instead she claims a love for Hong Kong cinema, old John Woo and Wong Kar Wai films in particular. It's not a total lie, she's found herself down at her local video store, renting whatever they've got with subtitles, watching them at night in an empty house, striving for an hour or two to feel closer to wherever John might be.

 

It's helped her understand somewhat better why John is the way he is and his unique code of honour.

 

It also does her language skills good, Meg thinks. She finds as the weeks go on she's able to understand more and more of the dialogue, filling in the gaps she hasn't learned yet from the subtitles.

 

She's instructed Kar Fai not to tell John about her lessons, let it be a surprise for when he's back.

 

When he's back.

 

//

 

Zedkov comes to see her one day, out of the blue and with no prior warning.

 

"Better digs than your last place."

 

She shrugs, leaning back in her chair as he considers her from his.

 

"What do you want, Zeedo?"

 

"Wanted to check you were doing okay. Heard you'd gone legit, couldn't believe it without seeing it with my own eyes."

 

Meg sweeps her hand in a gesture to encompass the room they sit in. "Freelance graphic designer extraordinaire. Turns out that honest work actually does pay the bills."

 

Zedkov laughs, then nods approvingly before his expression turns more serious. "What you and your friend did for me, that can't be repaid. But you need anything, anything at all and you know where to come."

 

"Thanks," Meg tells him sincerely, cause as cops go, he's far from the worst.

 

"You tell your friend as well, he doesn't have anything to worry about if he finds himself back here one day. The records on both of you are gone, it's a fresh start."

 

Meg's throat is suddenly dry, and all she can do is nod in response, as Zedkov stands up to see himself out.

 

A fresh start. It's what she's been working towards these last months, but it's confirmed now, there's nothing to hold her back.

 

And John. There's no reason for John to stay away, if only he would decide to return.

 

//

 

Meg visits Kar Fai the next day to tell him about Zedkov's gift to them, and also because quite frankly she finds it hard to let a week go by without a visit.

 

Just in case, she tells herself, just in case there's some news.

 

Usually she stops into the temple on Wednesdays before her class, to light some incense and have a brief chat with Kar Fai, practicing her Cantonese on him. He's encouraging and honest about her mistakes, and Meg knows it's helping her.

 

It also helps to be able to talk to someone who knows John, makes it seem somewhat more real to her, that it wasn't all something she made up in her head. Three passport size photos and conversations with a Buddhist monk, that's all she has to prove that John Lee was ever a part of her life.

 

Kar Fai is surprised to see her when she turns up, his lips curving into a smile. They've become friends in a strange way, she knows he's someone she would be able to count on if she needed to it.

 

"It is not Wednesday, Meg."

 

"No, it's not," she laughs, before continuing. "Had a visitor I thought you should know about."

 

Kar Fai's expression turns serious, and he quickly ushers her into the office. "You are not hurt?"

 

Meg belatedly realises that he could've assumed anything about the visitor she'd mentioned and shakes her head. "It was Detective Zedkov, he came to tell me that he's given John and I a free pass, there's nothing to worry about if he comes back." She fixes Kar Fai a look then, daring him to lie to her, "There's obviously something that you're worried about though."

 

"John has had some trouble recently. He worries... He worries that the men targeting him may try to hurt those he cares for."

 

Just somewhere along the way I've developed a problem with watching you die.

 

I have the same problem with you.

 

Those he cares for. So it hasn't all been imagination on her side, a story constructed in her head. It has been hard to know, when all that ever passed between them was brief touches, words that fell too short, and gazes that said far too much.

 

"He worries for you," Kar Fai continues, bolder this time. "It is why he has not been in contact directly. They should not know that any connection exists in case they try to use it to hurt him."

 

Meg's breath catches in her throat, and unable to speak for a moment, she simply nods.

 

"Tell him not to worry, I'm keeping myself safe. Tell him that... That I also worry about the people I care about getting hurt."

 

Kar Fai gives a tiny smile, quickly hidden, almost as if he approves.

 

//

 

It's not that she's waiting for him, not exactly. Meg hasn't put her life on hold, she's doing well for herself, and if a number of her extracurricular activities revolve around Chinese language or culture, well that's due to a personal interest. Perfectly natural to develop one after everything she went through.

 

It's somewhat of a surprise though, when a man at the company she sometimes does freelance work for asks her out.

 

They've just finished a meeting about an upcoming project she's contributing to when he asks if she'd like to go grab a bite to eat.

 

It's casual, could easily not be counted as a date at all, but Meg knows what his intentions are all the same.

 

And she could say yes, there's nothing to stop her. She's given no promises, and received none back. It's been almost five months since he left and she still has no definitive evidence that he's ever coming back.

 

So it's not that, not John himself entirely that makes her say no.

 

This man, he sees her now, the successful freelancer, maybe with a slight flair in her dressing style but confident, and engaging, and he wants to know her better. He doesn't actually know her though, doesn't know who she once was, who she truly is now or how she became that way.

 

And if he did know, if she were to admit she used to be a rather successful documents forger, if she were to tell him about launching an all out assault on the Chinatown bastion of a gangster, what would his reaction be then?

 

So she pauses, and then gives him an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry, I've actually got someone. It's... It's a long distance thing at the moment, but we're making it work."

 

Making it work through messages passed through two sets of monks, but making it work nonetheless.

 

If only Meg actually knew what they were working towards.

 

//

 

Six months pass by, and it's edging towards the seventh when her intercom buzzes one day.

 

Meg's not expecting a client, but it's not unusual that one might come without an appointment, and she presses the button to communicate with a questioning "Yes?" slipping from her lips.

 

"Meg Coburn?"

 

She would know that voice anywhere, could never forget it whether it be six months or six years, and she skitters out from behind the desk, almost tripping in her haste, not even bothering to reply through the intercom when she can see him in the flesh instead.

 

She throws open the door, needing to catch her breath at the sight of him leaning against her doorframe. Another expensive suit and not a hair out of place, she could almost believe that she's gone back in the past again to that day they first met, except for the expression on his face, open now when he was once so inscrutable.

 

"Never heard of her." Meg laughs then, and reaches out for him, not sure if she should pull John into a hug or demand to inspect him for bullet wounds.

 

But John's smiling and he seems well enough apart from a little lost weight, and he allows her to tug him inside readily enough, shutting the door deliberately on the way in before he turns to consider her.

 

"I did miss you." John announces simply, and it is the weight in his gaze that finally decides it for Meg as she throws her arms around him. She doesn't know what they are to each other, or even what they might be working towards, but John is solid and warm in her arms, and his own close around her with a quiet strength, pressing her to him closely.

 

This, this is what she's craved through these long lonely days as she's waited for him. That feeling of safety, of belonging, returned tenfold.

 

She doesn't know how long they stand together like that, but when they part she's smiling up at him, and maybe there's tears in her eyes but that's okay, after more than six months of worry she figures that she's entitled to some.

 

"I missed you too, John Lee, and you'd better not ever think of leaving me to worry for that long ever again."

 

//

 

They sit and talk well into the evening, ordering take out and catching up on the time they've spent apart. Meg tells him about starting her business, about her projects and clientele, her neighbours and friends, Zeedo's offer and her visits to Kar Fai to ask for news.

 

John tells her about a life on the run, moving his family from place to place to stay ahead of the remnants of Wei's gang, of the inevitable confrontations whenever they would catch up. He tells her that it's over at last, that he is once and for all finally free.

 

If their fingers brush every so often while passing dishes, then it's nothing out of the ordinary. If John's shifted closer on the couch as the night's worn on, his thigh now brushing against hers, then Meg doesn't mind.

 

The hour grows late though, and before she knows it John is rising from the couch with a regretful expression on his face. "It is only my family's second night here. They will worry if I do not return."

 

Meg has to control her disappointment, the sudden feeling of loss as he prepares to leave. Under other circumstances she might have asked him to stay, but there's a mother and sister who are in a strange country and he's the only protector they have.

 

"Tell them I'm glad they finally made it here," Meg impulsively reaches out to take his hand as they stand by the door, holding it firmly in hers. "Will I meet them soon?"

 

John clears his throat, looking down to their entwined hands where his larger one engulfs hers. His fingers tighten upon hers before he looks up again, his eyes searching her face. "They wish to meet you, and to thank you for all that you have done for them. They asked me to invite you for dinner tomorrow so that they may do so."

 

Meg brightens, immediately looking forward to meeting the two women who have had such a large impact on her life, even if they didn't know it at the time. "Perfect, what's your address?"

 

"I will come to pick you up tomorrow." John offers instead, "At 6?"

 

"It's a plan."

 

He is still holding her hand, his thumb now absently stroking across the skin as he looks down at her, and Meg has to look away for a moment, her balance upset by the tenderness she sees there.

 

She could step forward, place a hand on his chest, just above his heart and...

 

But the moment is lost as John releases her hand, and with one further look of barely disguised intent, exits her door.

 

Meg's not worried. There's no bullets being fired, no assassins chasing them, they have time now to decide exactly how they wish to take things ahead.

 

And she plans to make the best use of that time possible.

 

//

 

It takes Meg until the next day to realise exactly what she's agreed to and begin to be nervous.

 

Sure she's tackled assassins and gangsters face on, sure she's blackmailed a drug dealer out of his car and weapons, sure she's dealt with more than her fair share of low lives in her old line of work.

 

She's never been invited to meet someone's family though.

 

What should she wear? Should she take them a gift? What if they don't like her? What if it's terribly awkward and nobody knows what to say?

 

In the end she settles on wearing a nice dress, neither too fancy nor too casual, and buys a potted plant to take them as a housewarming gift. She tells herself to stop being ridiculous and take things as they come, it's just dinner not a marriage proposal.

 

She still checks her appearance in the mirror twice before John comes to pick her up.

 

//

 

6pm on the dot and her intercom rings. Meg opens the door to see John in what for him is casual attire, a t-shirt and jeans, with a jacket over it. She wonders whether John genuinely likes wearing jackets or whether it's just the best way to camouflage the gun he still doesn't feel comfortable enough to do without.

 

"You look nice," she comments, as she turns to pick up the pot plant where she'd placed it by the door, pulling it shut behind her as she steps into the passage.

 

"And you look lovely," John replies, and she could swear that his eyes rake over her where she stands, "I do not think I have ever seen you in a dress."

 

Meg laughs then, "I remember the clothes you did see me in, I hope you didn't think I was going to turn up to meet your family like that."

 

"I would not have minded."

 

//

 

The journey out to the San Gabriel valley where his family are living doesn't take long. It turns out one of his mother's cousins is settled in the area, as well as his father's childhood friend. John explains that his mother will be comfortable there, and is already beginning to make friends. He hopes that his sister will go to college in the new year, but they will need to see where she's accepted before they know where she'll be.

 

"And you?" Meg asks him, and John flicks his eyes away from the road, resting on her face for a long moment before he replies.

 

"It is still uncertain. I am unemployed now, I need to find work first, and the rest will follow."

 

Meg almost laughs to hear John describe himself as unemployed, but John sounds perfectly serious as he says it. "Yeah well, if you find yourself in a fix then don't forget that I owe you some money, you can collect it whenever you need."

 

John reaches out from the steering wheel to touch her hand, and there is urgency in his gaze when he looks towards her from the road. "That money was a gift. It is not to be returned."

 

"It was way too much," Meg argues, "I didn't even manage to spend it all, I've still got some put away."

 

"It was in no way enough for all that you did." John replies, his tone brooking no opposition.

 

"You think I did what I did for money?" Meg asks rhetorically, "Well sure, maybe when you first walked in, but after that it couldn't have meant less to me."

 

"I know," John's tone is soft now, his voice low. "But I also know that you deserve to be looked after, and at the time it was the only way I knew how."

 

Oh. She'd known, at least a part of her had, but god damn all the same.

 

God damn.

 

//

 

John opens the door when they arrive, calling out for his mother and sister who come to meet them in the living room as he performs a round of introductions.

 

"My mother does not speak much English," John explains, "I or my sister will need to translate for her."

 

"That's alright," Meg replies, and welcomes his mother in near perfect Cantonese before asking her how her journey was.

 

The look on John's face makes all those months of lessons worth it, and his sister doesn't stop laughing at him all throughout dinner.

 

//

 

"You learned Cantonese."

 

"Yeah well, found I had a lot of extra time on my hand without all those gun battles you kept dragging me into. Had to keep busy somehow."

 

John chuckles, a low, warm sound that Meg's never heard from him before. She thinks she could get used to it if he would laugh more often, maybe she'll have to give him reasons to.

 

They're nearing her place now, and she glances over at him, to the warm glow of the streetlights that fall on his face as they drive.

 

"You didn't have to pick me up you know, I could've found my own way there."

 

"I know," John turns from the road for a moment to give her a significant glance. "I wanted an excuse to drop you home."

 

Meg's heart rate speeds up, and she is silent as they pull into her complex, trying to gather her thoughts as John pulls into the guest parking.

 

He looks at her expectantly, and she knows the decision's in her hands, if she was to hop out of the car and send him home now he wouldn't object to it.

 

Instead she fixes her gaze on his face and allows him to see her as she is, to perhaps see some measure of the yearning she's experienced over the months that he was gone. The naked need that she sees in his own eyes in return is all the answer she needs.

 

"Are you going to walk me upstairs then?" Meg asks, and John nods, locking the car before he moves to join her on her side of it. He walks close behind her as they make their way up the stairs, not touching her, but she can feel the heat from his body nonetheless.

 

They make it in her front door, Meg closing it decisively behind them, and there is a pause where neither is sure just which of them should act.

 

"Gee, this was a lot easier when they were shooting at us, huh?" Meg quips, echoing her words of months before, and it seems to decide John's course of action.

 

One hand reaching out to tug her forward, the other moving to cup her cheek, he leans down to kiss her. He does so slowly, carefully, as if she is something precious beyond words.

 

"I wanted to kiss you at the airport, before I left." John admits, his forehead resting against hers as he draws back from her.

 

"Then why didn't you?" Meg asks, "And why did you stay away for so long?"

 

"Because you needed time to choose."

 

She gets it in that moment, why he didn't speak before he left, why he's kept himself away perhaps longer than he needed to. He wanted it to be her choice, a true choice and not one made in the heat of the moment.

 

"And you? Did you need time to choose?"

 

John shakes his head minutely, pulling slightly back from her to do so. "I knew it then. From the moment you convinced me of the good deed we must perform."

 

Meg surges forward, her lips locking with his, and there is nothing of gentleness or hesitation now. John matches her kiss for kiss, his arms wrapping around her to press her against him, one then moving to tangle in her hair. There is so much of passion in him, repressed for so long, and his lips upon hers are demanding upon hers, taking their share of her. It is not long before Meg has pushed his jacket off, and John pauses only long enough to remove his shoulder holster, tossing it onto her couch before he looks at Meg questioningly, as if to confirm whether they should continue.

 

Her reply is to unzip her dress before stepping out of it, and she can hear his sharp intake of breath, can see the hunger in his face as he steps towards her once more.

 

His shirt soon joins her dress, and it is all Meg can do to concentrate on unbuckling his belt once his mouth is on her, hot upon her neck, as he reaches behind her to unclasp her bra, fumbling with it before she takes pity on him to do it herself.

 

"Meg," he murmurs, still for a moment, only their underwear between them now, before he scoops her up and carries her through the bedroom door, Meg laughing as he deposits her on the mattress, still not having bought a bed all these months later.

 

She runs her hands over the hard muscle of his back, feeling the scars evident there, as one of John's hands finds a breast, the other dipping down to between her thighs as he continues to kiss her.

 

She's wet already, and she doesn't want to wait any longer, even as she gasps at the feeling of his fingers inside her, the slow pace he's setting matched by his kisses, ardent and intent upon taking his time with her.

 

"John... I want...."

 

 

He silences her with another kiss, dedicating himself to her pleasure with the same focus with which he appears to attack all his tasks, and it is not long before Meg is falling apart, waves of pleasure overcoming her as she calls his name. Once she has recovered, she moves quickly to divest him of his underwear, before moving to remove a condom from the pack in her bedside drawer, a last minute purchase today that she had almost thought twice over.

 

She hands it to John so that he may wear it and he does so quickly, checking that she is ready as he positions himself to enter her.

 

Then he is inside her, moving slowly, and Meg can't help the sigh that escapes her as she presses him closer, her fingernails digging into his back, able to feel the raw strength of him as he brings her closer to a second release, his pace picking up as if he knows how close she is until she is finally driven over the edge. John finds his own release shortly thereafter, collapsing on top of her as if the sheer force of his will alone had kept him going until then. His body is warm against hers, and he presses his face into the crook of her neck as he sighs words of endearment into her skin.

 

It is lucky that Meg took all of those Cantonese lessons or she would not have understood what it is he says.

 

My love, he calls her, my love.

 

And she has never been that before, not for anyone else.

 

//

 

John stays the night.

 

Meg learns that he is always warm to the touch, his body heating the bed so much that she is forced to throw off the light blanket she normally sleeps with. She learns that he seeks her even in his sleep, an arm thrown over her that gathers her close, murmuring her name even while in a dream.

 

They make love twice more before the night is over, and when she finally wakes to the morning light streaming in it is to see John watching her with what she could only describe as a rather self satisfied smile.

 

Meg smiles up at him sleepily, before tugging his face down to hers to kiss him good morning, an unhurried exploration that soon leads to more, John's hands slipping within her sleep shorts and beneath her top, his lips still curved into a smile beneath hers as she straddles him.

 

It turns out that if Meg wants to make him smile more, then she's found the perfect formula.

 

//

 

They do move out of the bedroom eventually, but it's much later in the day, and John regretfully announces that he should go home, at least to shower and change.

 

Meg takes him to an all day diner first, buying him greasy breakfast food for lunch that they both tuck into energetically.

 

"When am I seeing you again?" She asks as she walks him to his car, suddenly nervous and unsure at this upcoming parting. They still haven't defined just what they are to one another, though she's fairly certain she understands just how serious John is about this, just how serious she is.

 

"I do not wish to disturb your work," John comments, and for a moment Meg wonders if he is as unsure as her about how to proceed. "I could take you out for dinner tonight, if you are free."

 

"Or we could stay in and order something," Meg offers, "I know a few good take out places around here."

 

Once he arrives that night, they never do make it back out the door.

 

//

 

It takes time, but John does find a job. He's hired as a consultant with a firm that manages security solutions for celebrities and people with money. He's good at it and his boss values him, but he's begun to discuss going back to school, to resume the education that was disrupted so many years before.

 

He spends so much time at Meg's place that in the end it makes sense to move in together, not three months after he'd arrived back.

 

John's mother makes pointed comments to him about marriage, and making an honest woman out of her, but Meg is content with their relationship as it is. She doesn't need a ring to know that John is devoted to her, not when he shows her every day in everything he does.

 

She has never been loved before, maybe not even by her poor drunk mother. It takes some time to get used to that level of acceptance from another person, but now that she has it, Meg doesn't know how she would ever do without again.

 

She does love him, truly and deeply, and more than she ever could have expected herself capable of feeling after all the walls she built around her heart. They found each other at the right time, and in the process she found herself as well.

 

Meg hasn't had a lot of choice in her life, spent a lot of time just trying to survive, but when there finally was that moment, that defining choice, she made the right one.

 

She chose the right road, and in doing so she's ended up where she is now, with a life she never knew that she could want, let alone have. With a man she couldn't imagine her life without.

 

There's no guns firing, and the mysterious assassin is now retired from action and happy more often than not to let her call the shots.

 

Meg surveys the life she now has, and she thinks she's right where she was always meant to be.