The hum of the plane vibrated around them, along with the buzz of unintelligible conversation from the passengers. He'd been on planes before to visit Morgan and her husband. He'd travelled cross country for a graduation trip to LA. He'd never felt fear like this before. He'd never thought about just how far up they were going and what that meant for if they fell.

Bethany's hand was palm up on the armrest and she was wearing a hoodie that was two sizes too big for her and probably his. Her dark hair was pulled back and her face was bare of makeup and it made her look younger; made her look a little less sure than he'd ever seen her before.

Josh wasn't the jerk who led girls on.

When he was thirteen his father had sat him down and talked to him about respecting women and treating them well and the conversation had stuck. He opened doors and let women pass first into the room before him, he always walked on the outside of the sidewalk, and he was the first person to shrug off his jacket when it was cold outside. He knew it was old-fashioned and plenty of girls at NYU had been irritated at him for it. Even his niece, Riley would occasionally give him a look and comment on what decade they were living in, but Josh had never been able to help it.

His father was a little older and had raised him with the same values that he had been taught and the worst thing Josh could imagine was having his father feel like he wasn't the person he had raised Josh to be.

"Christmas was nice," Bethany's voice was hopeful, and her fingers twitched, reminding him of the open invitation that he'd been ignoring.

He should be better at meeting her halfway. During his first fight with his high school girlfriend his mother had sat him down and talked about the art of the compromise.

"It was," he agreed.

They'd driven to Connecticut to spend Christmas eve with her parents and made it back to Philadelphia Christmas evening to see his own. They'd spent all of that time in the car trying to make both of them happy.

At her home, they'd drunk eggnog and he'd watched Bethany sing carols gathered around the piano with her mother and sisters. Her father, a gruff police officer that still terrified Josh had taken him out to the garage and pretended Josh wasn't completely incompetent at trying to help him fix up a 1966 Ford Mustang.

"It's going to be nice to get away for a while," Bethany turned her entire body towards him, and he was forced to take in the sincerity in her dark eyes. The first thing he had noticed about her was the way her every emotion played across her face. There was no guesswork to how she was feeling and there were no games.

"You're going to be busy," he reminded her. She was starting an internship at a firm in London and between the work and the classes, he had no doubt that she would be seeing far more of the office than she would of the city.

"I want this to work," her hand finally bridged the gap between them, grabbing ahold of his arm.

The first time he saw her he was working a shift at the hardware store. His entire summer had seemed to take place helping with the family business and he was experiencing a restlessness that he had never felt in his hometown before.

His high school friends were gone, electing to spend their summers elsewhere or caught up in adulthood and it was the first time it had really hit home that there was never going to be any going back. His childhood was over and all that stretched before him was a series of adult decisions and responsibility.

His college friends were having infinitely better summers in Florida, or The Hamptons, or working to pay for next semesters tuition back in the city. And he was stuck in Philadelphia living out the same summer he'd lived a million times before.

He would call Maya at night, well aware that she was struggling at whatever art camp she was spending the summer at. There was something familiar about talking to her, something of that past hero worship that made him feel a little less stuck. It was easy to convince himself that he was worried, that he was trying to help her cope with whatever had led her to his dorm room not that long ago.

It was easier then admitting that he was lonely and would rather be spending his summer anywhere else then helping out his aging parents.

And then, the bell above the doorway had rung and there Bethany had been. She was wearing paint splattered jeans, flip flops, and an oversized t-shirt with the NYU torch on it. Her dark brown hair was partially falling out of the ponytail she'd secured it and her dark eyes had immediately landed on him and paused, as though she was at a loss of words for a moment.

(She would tell him later that it was love at first sight and he would hurt her feelings trying to change the subject because he'd been more interested in her t-shirt then planning their future life together.)

"Hi," she'd given him a self-conscious smile when he'd failed to greet her, "I'm trying to match this paint shade. My aunt bought the paint a year ago and never got around to putting it on the walls and it never occurred to her that we might run out halfway through the living room. So, now half of it is blue and half of it looks yellow, even though my grandmother insists that the original color was supposed to be green. And you probably don't care."

"I think I can help you with that," Josh smiled, and her gaze dropped down to her feet. Her toes were painted a warm orange, with what looked like a palm tree on the big toes and he could see the flecks of blue that were splattered around her ankles.

"I would really appreciate that."

He had been the one to complicate their relationship, to undergo major surgery without giving her any kind of warning. He'd been relieved when she had broken up with him, relieved when he could feel what he wanted to feel for Maya without having to feel guilty for it.

And then reality had reminded him of all the reasons why that guilt wasn't just tied to Bethany.

"Me too," he took her hand, weaving his fingers through hers and letting them rest in the space between them.

The physical contact doesn't have the same discomfort that he had felt when they'd started up again, apologies given, and ready to start over. There had been weeks where he had wondered if it would ever feel comfortable again or if they were always going to hesitate just a second too long before accepting physical contact with the other.

It felt strange to try to go back; strange to try and pretend that their breakup during the fall had never happened and that they were fine.

"I know that it's hard for you to leave your family right now," she started, and he felt the memories of the weeks leading up to their semester abroad running through his head.

"I don't really want to talk about it," Josh cut her off before she could continue. He knew she'd been listening at the stairs and had overheard his entire argument with his parents. She probably hadn't heard the conversation that had taken place when Cory had pulled him outside and they'd screamed at each other by the hedge. Though, maybe, they'd been loud enough that she'd heard that, too.

"NYU, huh?" he questioned, as they sat in front of a wall of paint samples, trying to find the one that best matched the painted piece of cardstock in her hand.

"If you wear New York merchandise in the city the locals assume that you're a tourist and the friends that know better make fun of you."

"So, you turned it into a paint shirt?" Josh concluded.

"I thought that way at least I got some use out of it. My father bought it for me when he found out that I had been accepted. He was more excited than I was. So, I would feel awful throwing it away, but I don't have anywhere else to wear it."

"I go to NYU," Josh kept his eyes fixed on the samples in front of them.

"What year are you?" her entire face lit up and, for a second, Josh felt as though he couldn't swallow.

"I'm going to be a senior."

"Majoring in?" she pressed, and he wondered why he suddenly was having such a hard time trying to talk. He wasn't sure that anyone, before this moment, would ever have described him as shy.

"English," he admitted.

"I'm majoring in legal studies," she informed him.

"That's ambitious."

"I'm not afraid of hard work," she admitted, picking a paint chip out and holding it up to the light, "What do you think of this one?"

"It's not exact, but it's pretty close," Josh agreed.

"I think it's probably the best we're going to get," Bethany decided.

His first semester of college, he'd gone with his roommate to cross the border into Canada for a weekend. They'd gone to Niagara Falls and spent a night in a cheap motel room, just so that they could say that they had been out of the country.

It didn't compare to staring out a plane window at the mass of ocean beneath them. For hours, there wasn't a single mass of land in sight and then, there was, and it looked like nothing he had ever seen before. It was just a mass of bluish green with buildings the size of the toy city he had played with as a child.

"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore," Bethany breathed, her excitement almost palpable, as she stared out the same window.

"Thank you for your help," Bethany hesitated at the register, holding the receipt in one hand and the gallon of paint in the other.

"I was happy to help," Josh smiled, and she sucked her top lip between her teeth before releasing it again.

"I don't have a lot of friends my age in Philadelphia and I thought, since you're here and I'm here, maybe you would save me from another night painting my grandparents living room and show me what's worth seeing around the city."

(She would tell him, later, that it was a line. She'd been spending summers with her aunt in Philadelphia since she was ten and she had plenty of friends in the city. But, in the moment, all he could see was an adventure suddenly laid out at his feet.)

"I could do that."

"You can't sleep," Bethany insisted, as Josh sprawled out across the bed.

They'd taken a taxi from the airport to the small apartment that had been included in their program. It was a one-bedroom, with the smallest kitchen and bathroom that Josh had ever seen, and the bed took up half the living space, but Bethany hadn't looked deterred in the least and was already lining up her shoes at the foot of the bed.

"We barely slept on the plane," Josh countered, though that wasn't entirely true. Bethany had passed out on his shoulder for a solid four hours, while Josh had tried not to think about the likelihood of them surviving the drop and getting to use their seat cushion as a flotation device.

"Well, you're never going to adjust if you don't try to get accustomed to our current time zone. Speaking of time, when are you supposed to meet with your academic advisor?"

"Tomorrow afternoon."

"I was thinking, maybe, after we could go check out The British Museum. They have that exhibit with the ancient Mayan hieroglyphics and then, after we could go to Sainsbury's."

"You want to go shopping?" Josh clarified and Bethany let out a laugh, as she sunk down on the bed next to him, "You had to know that request was coming."

"I was actually surprised when it wasn't the first thing you suggested off the plane," Josh admitted, and she leaned back until she was lying on his outstretched arm.

He could feel the ease between them that had once existed and, for a moment, he believed that maybe everything was going to be okay.

"You should call you parents and let them know that you landed safely."

"You can almost feel the history, can't you?" Josh questioned and an indulgent smile pulled at Bethany's lips.

He had taken her to see The Liberty Bell Center, which was the sight of plenty of his school field trips. If she didn't like it, he'd promised ice cream on their way back and he figured that it ought to balance things out. He'd yet to go on a date that couldn't be salvaged with a scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone.

"I can see a love of history didn't stop with your brother."

"My siblings were so much older than me that, for a long time, I felt like an only child. Morgan didn't really want anything to do with me, but when Topanga was studying for law school Cory would pack up Riley and come home for the weekend. He was working on his teaching degree and he would take me to museums and historical sights and talk to me about what he was studying. I guess, it was bound to rub off on me," Josh explained.

"I think I would have liked history a lot more if you had been in my class," Bethany slipped her arm through his.

"You didn't like history?"

"History was always a lot of book work at the school I went to," Bethany explained, "I liked science, where there were laws and rules. If you were lucky, maybe, something would blow up."

"And a lot of math," Josh added, and she let out a laugh.

"And a lot of math," she agreed, "Your family sounds like they're close."

"As different as we all are, my mother always made sure that we carved out time for each other. What about your family?"

"I have two younger sisters, Isabel and Courtney. They drove me crazy growing up, but we're closer, now. My mother is from Connecticut and my father is from Boston. My mother owns a little clothing boutique. She wanted to be a fashion designer, but then she met my father and decided she'd rather settle down. My father started out as a police officer and now he works for the FBI."

"The FBI? That's intense," Josh commented.

"He does mostly desk work, now. He says the adrenalin stops being exciting after a while and it just makes him jittery. He's at home a lot more then he used to be when we were growing up and it's nice."

Josh can't remember the last time he'd been on a first date. College had kept him plenty busy and his father had kept him busier over the summer. There was something nice about the idea of a summer romance. It didn't have to go anywhere, but it was something to add color to an otherwise bleak three-month period.

They ate ice cream, while walking through old graveyards and for the first time in a long time Josh went home and fell straight asleep. It wasn't until the next morning that he realized that he had forgotten to call Maya.

"You want to go to Florence?" Bethany kicked her high heeled shoes off at the foot of the bed. She was wearing a skirt that looked difficult to walk in and a loose white shirt that billowed around her torso.

"We have a long weekend, and a group of students at the college were thinking it might be a great opportunity to see a little more of Europe then the inside of a classroom."

"That's like an eighteen-hour drive," Bethany stopped at the dresser to pull out her pajamas.

"We were going to stop along the way, see the sights. We have one semester and then when are we ever going to be this close to Europe again?" Josh pointed out.

"There's no way that I can take that much time off. You see how late I'm getting home at night."

"And you want me to stay," Josh realized, and she let out a groan.

"I didn't say that" she sat down on the edge of the bed with her pajamas bunched in her lap, "I just thought that this trip was going to be different. I thought we would spend more time together and that it was going to be more than just working all the time."

"You knew that a law program was going to be intense. I don't think it's going to get any more fun when you start in the fall," Josh reminded her.

"You should go," she decided, a frown pulling at her face, "One of us should get everything that they can out of this experience."

"I'll bring you back a souvenir," Josh promised.

"Thanks," she stood up and closed herself in the bathroom. He could hear the sound of her shuffling around and the water for the shower going on and he sighed, rubbing his eyes with the pads of his fingers.

Their first kiss was on Bethany's aunts back porch. They had been swinging on the bench in a patch of yellow porchlight and she'd leaned over and kissed him so suddenly that it took him off guard. He'd hesitated for a minute, trying to catch up with how quickly things were moving and when he'd found no reason to stop, he'd leaned further in.

He found the postcard at a giftshop in Florence. It wasn't his favorite painting; he'd always been more into romanticism and he knew that Maya had a soft spot for post impressionism. However, there was something about the way Venus's golden hair fanned around her face and the focus in her eyes that reminded him of Maya when she was creating something. He could almost hear the jokes Maya would be making if she were there beside him and so he bought it and tucked it away in his pocket.

Then, he'd gone back to the hotel room that he was sharing with two of his friends from the English program and stared out at the city spread out beyond the window and drunk cheap rum he'd bought at the corner store.

He wasn't someone to drink away his feelings, but there was something about the lonely evenings before Bethany would get home and the guilt, he felt for not having to put in as much time as she was to get by in his classes. Then, there was the guilt for wishing he could be making this entire journey with someone else. Someone who cared about the history, or the art, or the architecture.

It was hard not to imagine how Maya would have reacted to a city like this; the way she would have listened as he took in the history, but only had eyes for the art that existed in the very stones that made up thousands of year-old buildings. She would have appreciated the experience because travel wasn't a big staple in her life growing up, while Bethany had gone on elaborate family vacations every summer.

It wasn't fair to compare them. It wasn't fair that he could be this far out from his breakup with Maya and still miss her the way that he did.

He knew that Maya was back together with Lucas. His brother had passed it on as an awkward postscript in one of the infrequent emails he occasionally shot Josh's way. Their relationship had been strained since their argument the night of Katy and Shawn's wedding and he missed being able to set his problems down at his brother's feet and have Cory offer some kind of advice for what to do.

He missed the simplicity of a clear cut right and wrong.

He had expected the pain when he came out of surgery, but what he hadn't expected was for his emotions to still be twisted in his gut. He'd expected the guilt to go away, at least. Yeah, he'd known something was wrong with Maya and dropped the ball, but now she had one of his organs, so shouldn't he be able to get a minute where he could feel like he was taking in a full breath of air.

"How are you feeling?" Topanga sat at his bedside, holding a Styrofoam cup of ice chips.

"Tired," he decided, and she nodded, offering him a spoonful. He was pretty sure that he could feed himself, but there was a maternal no-nonsense quality about Topanga that had taught him from a young age that it was better just to agree with her.

"We never asked if you wanted us to call your mom," Topanga leaned back, and Josh let out a laugh that pulled at his back and made him wince in pain.

"Mom worries. She'll be upset," Josh pointed out, "And Dad doesn't need the extra stress."

"They'll be furious if they find out that we kept it from them, but it's your choice. I hope you feel like it was your choice."

"Of course, I do," Josh was surprised by the emotion that Topanga was trying to blink away.

"I love Maya, but this was a major surgery, and I would have let Riley do it, if that was what she wanted to do. I've never felt so torn about the right thing to do before. I'm grateful that Riley didn't have to make that choice. She's made all the right choices and done all the right things and she shouldn't have to worry about this."

"I know," Josh agreed.

He thought about telling her his realization before surgery. He thought about voicing his newly discovered feelings about Maya. Out of all of his family, Topanga would probably be the most likely to let him talk and offer sound, unbiased advice. However, he doesn't want to see her gratitude change to horror, or worse, disgust. He wants her to think that his first thought will always be to the family.

"You'll come and stay with us while you're recovering," Topanga's voice refuted any argument and Josh reached out to grab her hand from the guardrail of the bed.

"I'm glad that Cory found you," he admitted, and she squeezed his fingers.

There were a million things that he thought about writing on the back of the postcard. He wanted to tell Maya about the architecture, about the food, the languages, and the classic pieces of art that he had thought he would only ever see-through pictures. He thought about all the explanations he might give her or the apology for not having the strength to stand up to his brother.

He wanted to erase the memory of the look in her eyes when he'd told her that it was better if he gave her space. He wanted to believe all the things that had sounded so compellingly right at the time he had said them.

He wasn't one to rock the boat. As the youngest of four kids, by the time his parents had gotten to him all they'd wanted was someone who could follow the flow of things and try not to make too many ripples. So, that was what he had become.

He'd fit himself into the container that someone had already labeled for him.

The mug was warm against his hand and he couldn't bring himself to look up from the logo that was stenciled on the side. His incision was still healing, and it felt like a brand reminding him of how much had changed from the summer before.

It had all seemed so easy then.

"Do you love her?" Bethany's voice sounded like it was coming from far away. She'd asked him before if he had feelings for Maya and he had assured her that he didn't, but now he can't be sure of what he feels.

It had been simple to decide to give up his kidney, but nothing seems simple on the other side. He felt something for her, he didn't want Maya to die, but did he love her? Did he even know what love really was?

"She snuck up on me," Josh admitted, still trying to avoid the hurt in Bethany's eyes.

"You like to feel needed and Maya is just the kind of train wreck that will always need you."

"That isn't fair," Josh countered, and she let out an exasperated sigh, her drink sitting untouched in front of her. Her eyes had a glossy sheen that suggested she was trying not to cry, and something twisted painfully in Josh's chest over the idea of causing her pain.

"You want to talk about fair? Why did you let things go this far if you weren't sure about how you were feeling?"

The answer: he didn't realize they were careening towards anything. In his head, their relationship had always been casual; a summer romance that had bled into the fall.

"I wanted it to be you," Josh admitted, "It would be so much simpler if it was you."

"Don't call me when you realize what a mistake you've made."

He watched her leave and tried not to think about what it said about him that all he felt was relief.

It was selfish to send the postcard. As far as he knew Maya was doing fine and this was just him trying to remind her that he was still there. He tried to convince himself that it was a friendly gesture, that the intent was the same as the postcard of the colosseum that he was sending to his parents or the Italian countryside that he had picked out for his brother's family. He wasn't even sure that people sent postcards anymore.

He posted all of them together before they left Florence and slept through most of the trip back.

"I think you should talk to her," his mother had her back to him, cooking something on the stove and Josh was sitting at the kitchen table working on homework that needed to be completed before his class on Tuesday.

"Talk to who?" he didn't look up from his laptop.

"Bethany. You don't seem happy since the two of you broke up," Amy informed him and Josh sighed, closing his laptop.

He'd managed to avoid talking about Bethany for most of the weekend, though he knew it was a matter of time before someone cornered him.

"I'm fine, Mom," he assured her.

"Josh, life is too short for regrets."

"And what if I don't regret it?" he felt something reckless buzz through him that he had been pushing down for most of his life.

"I want you to be happy, but I, also, don't want you to be so picky that you end up alone. No one is going to be perfect; no one is going to be everything that you want them to be. You have to work at relationships and try to meet each other halfway. I worry, sometimes, that we didn't teach you to keep trying; that we didn't push you as hard as we should have."

"You raised me fine," Josh assured her, tucking his laptop under his arm and pausing to give her a kiss on the check before heading up the stairs.

"It's beautiful," Bethany turned so that he could secure the necklace clasp at the back of her neck. A pink pearl dangled from the front and he'd known that she would like it from the moment he'd seen it at the shop window, even it did cost more than what he really wanted to spend.

"I'm sorry you weren't able to go with us," Josh apologized, as she turned around to face him, letting her hair fall back into place.

"I'm sorry that I've been such a nightmare to live with. I just get so stressed and I worry that you're not happy," Bethany stared at the ground and Josh sunk down onto the edge of the bed, "We've spent so much of this trip apart."

"I'm not driven the way that you are," Josh admitted, "You have all of these big dreams and ambitions, but all I really want to do is write. I want to experience things and you want to change things."

"I want you to write," she assured him, sinking down beside him so that their hips brushed, "I'm not asking you to be anything other than who you already are."

"You deserve so much better than me."

"I don't want anyone else," she reached out and took his hand.

He was in class when the first call came. He'd ignored it and gone back to his lecture, irritated that his mother would try to call him when she knew his schedule for the semester. Then, he'd received a second call and one from Cory shortly after that.

He wasn't talking to Cory after the fight they had gotten into at Shawn and Katy's wedding and, though, he knew Cory would eventually try to make things right, Cory was usually pretty good at giving him a cooling down period.

Then, he'd gotten a call from Topanga.

He'd slipped into the hallway and called them back on his next break and then, he packed up all of his things and gone straight back to his dorm room. Cory was already on his way to Philadelphia and he'd been a mess trying to figure out how he was going to get home.

He hadn't expected to find Bethany waiting outside of his dorm room with a box of his belongings.

"I just thought it was time I should give them back," she'd said without any preamble and he'd stopped trying to wrap his mind around this unexpected situation.

"My father's in the hospital and I have to get to Philadelphia," he tried to say the word without any emotion and found that he couldn't quite string them together.

"Let me drive you."

It was never really dark in the city. He'd learned that first in New York and found it to be true of London as well. Light always spilled through the curtains into the room and painted everything in shadow.

He could hear Bethany's breathing beside him, not slow enough for her to be entirely asleep, yet.

"Josh?" her voice was quiet.

"Yeah?" he continued staring up at the ceiling, knowing that whatever she wanted to ask, she'd been getting up her courage for a while.

"People can live with congestive heart failure for a long time," she spoke the words quickly and he closed his eyes tightly shut, "I know you think that if you don't talk about it and if you don't think about it, maybe it won't be true, but I just thought you should know."

"I didn't like to take my parents to parent-teacher conferences," Josh started as though they were already in the middle of a conversation, "It used to embarrass me how much older they looked then all of my classmate's parents. I stopped going grocery shopping with my mother because people would think she was my grandmother. What kind of a son does that make me?"

"They know that you love them."

Everyone assumed that he had gotten back together with Bethany when she'd arrived at the hospital with them. He knew that he needed to correct them, but it was hard when Cory looked relieved that whatever he had had with Maya seemed so far behind him.

His mother had pulled Bethany into a hug and expressed how happy she was to see them together and it had felt like putting a band aid over a gaping wound that he had caused his family through his own decisions.

"We don't have to tell them," Bethany's hands were white against the wheel.

"What do you mean we don't have to tell them?" Josh questioned, half-asleep after the events of the day.

"You didn't correct them when they assumed, we were together and I figured that you thought it would be easier to just let them assume and I'll go along with it, if that's what you want."

In that moment, he felt his own weakness with perfect clarity and was disgusted with himself.

"I'm going to tell them the truth," he promised her.

"Whatever you want. I just want to be here for you."

"Do you still think about her?" Bethany let the question sit between them and he wondered how transparent he must be for her to so easily piece together the story from the fragments he had given her.

He hadn't wanted to go to Europe. He'd tried to call the entire thing off when it had become apparent that his parents needed him at home. He'd thought about quitting school altogether and helping with the hardware store. But his mother had refused to let him quit and his father had insisted that he go off to Europe.

His father wasn't even letting them tell the grandchildren what was really going on.

And Bethany had slipped back into his life so easily, forgiven him for all of his mistakes and wanted to just pick up where they left off. He felt like all it would take was one wrong move for everything to crash around him.

"No," he lied.