My bags are all packed and lined up against the wall. Most of my luggage was FedExed out last week, so all that's left are a few solitary duffels. Early flight tomorrow -- everything is planned so that all I have to do is roll out of bed, pull on clothes, brush my teeth, grab the bags, and drive to the airport. I've got a fairly accurate ETA to the airport, so I know exactly how long I can oversleep and still make the flight. I'll end up looking like an idiot as I sprint to the terminal, but it's worth every extra minute.
I love going home on breaks - always have. California is nice enough, but I'm an Iowa boy at heart. My whole family is back there. Walking around the farm, I can be twelve again and tussle with the dogs for hours. Come home caked with dirt and have Mom throw me out of the house until I clean up. Hang out with my old friends from high school, talk about who went where with who. Stay up late playing poker with Dad, trying to out-bluff him. Bale hay with my brothers until we're exhausted. Visit my sister and marvel at how much my niece has grown. Sleep in my own bed, in my own room. Yeah, I love going home.
Usually, I'm at the airport an hour early, pissing off the airline attendants. I'm the first one on the plane, bouncing with impatience as the stewardesses demonstrate how to use the cushion as a floatation device. I'm the first one off the plane, too, which involves some out-of-character shoving. I miss my friends from school, of course. By the time August rolls around I'm usually ready to come back. But it isn't any urgent need. Not like this.
I'm not even gone yet, and already I'm feeling a weird pang in my chest at the thought of leaving behind the tiny blonde cuddled against me. I've had girlfriends before, but none that I actually asked to come with me to the airport just so that I could hold them right up until the last minute.
I've been in love before. By the time you hit twenty, you've usually fallen in and out of love at least three times. That puppyish kind of love that teen idols croon about and parents kinda smile at. It was quick to begin and quick to end. Left a little ache afterwards, but it healed with no scarring. This time, though, the feeling has a more permanent tang to it.
I'll admit, half of me wants to start running for the hills right now. If this is what it feels like after just six months with her, I'm scared to know what comes next. The other half of me, though, likes this -- wants nothing more than to just lie here forever, just watching her face as she sleeps. That scares the other half of me even more.
The thought of what I gave up for this girl amazes me. I walked away from a promising military career. Became a fugitive from the very men I had trained and commanded. Good cause, yeah, but just the idea of that still amazes me. When I went for the debriefing at the end of the entire Adam crisis, I was just hoping and praying for an honorable discharge. My father and grandfather both served in the Marines, and the thought of having to come home and tell them that I had been kicked out makes me cringe. The military surprised me, though. In exchange for my silence, they not only allowed me to stay, but they promoted me. I'll be in command of a skeleton crew of men to try and keep an eye on the HST activity around Sunnydale. No more experiments -- just standard dismemberment and dusting.
I don't want to sleep. I came to that conclusion fairly early in the evening -- right after we ran out of things to say and went to bed. Sometime around midnight, I think. From the bright numbers on my digital clock, it's now about three. From the shift in her breathing, she drifted off around two. My older brother Richie fell hard for a girl when he was a frosh in college. Once he started waxing poetic and described how there was nothing he loved more than just lying beside her and watching her breathe. Being the supportive little brother that I was, I promptly choked on my soda and fell over laughing. Mocked him for about a year. After that, though, she transferred to another college and Richie threatened to deliver serious bodily harm unto me if I ever mentioned his moment of poetry again. Since Richie's freshman 15 was pure muscle, I meekly obeyed in the interest of personal safety.
Now, the sex is great. Fantastic, actually. It's definitely something I look forward to. But I've been finding that these are the moments I really like. Just sleeping next to her. Even if we don't have sex, I love just curling around her for the night. When I first realized this, I wondered if Walsh had started feeding me female hormones or something. I finally confessed my fear to Graham, and he put me through a series of grueling tests to try and confirm if I was slowly turning into a woman. I won't go into detail about the tests, but the final exam included a movie choice between Top Gun and Sleepless In Seattle. Proud to say that I passed with flying colors.
Of course, that meant that I was in love with Buffy Summers.
The barest hint of light is beginning to filter through the window. I have to get up soon, but not before I just lie here and memorize what she looks like. Over the months we developed a standard sleeping position where I don't end up completely crushing her. It took a few mornings of stiff necks or numb arms, but we managed to find a position where we're both comfortable.
I should really get up now, but I just can't bring myself to wake her. I'm lying on my back with both arms just cradling her against me, and she's just limp as a noodle. Her left leg is tangled with mine, her head is nestled into my shoulder, and her left arm is lying around my waist. The thought that I won't wake up like this again for three months fills my chest with another of those pangs.
I can't help but be afraid about what will happen when I go back to Iowa. What if she meets someone new. What if she just decides to ditch the whole relationship. What if my heart ends up going through a meat grinder.
Then there are the darker fears. What if she's not alive when I get back. What if while I'm in Iowa eating dinner with my family, she's lying alone in some ditch bleeding. What if something happens to her that I could've stopped if I were here.
I'm painfully aware that I don't have forever with her. From a stray comment she once made, there's no way she'll make it past twenty-five. Before I knew that, six years seemed like an eternity. Now it seems like an eyeblink. I want to just hoard her every moment to myself. Savor everything I have with her.
The three months of separation hasn't even started yet, and already it seems like forever. Long distance calls from Iowa to California cost a pretty penny -- my dad is probably going to have a coronary when he gets the first phone bill.
I love her, but I'm really scared. I want to see my family, but I don't want to leave her. I'm way past when I should've gotten up. I could go twenty over the speed limit and ignore every law of the road and still not get to the airport in time.
It's okay. There's probably a later flight. I'll just stay here a little bit longer.