Title: The Perfect Goodbye

Rating: R

Summary: Maybe 'the perfect goodbye' is the one that makes you stay. Alternate ending. One-shot.

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And before he knew what had come over him-what this feeling of desperation was-he was grabbing her wrist and whirling her around and assaulting her lips with his.

And before he could catch his breath, clear his conscious, and decipher exactly what that look on her face was, she was kissing him back.

Between every time he was allowed to kiss her-from their first kiss to the prom video, from their break up to the beach house, from the beach house to the night Emma was conceived, and so on-he seemed to forget how soft her lips were. What he never did forget, though, was the way she kissed. It was so unique. She had a pattern-a rhythm. It was not routine or predictable, but it was consistent, and familiar, and always made sense to him. It was perfunctory, but measured and intentional. Always some staggering combination of nibbling and sucking that left him breathless and groping for more.

Their kissing began strongly, with an almost bruising intensity, but just like their first, it didn't take long to sink into a slow, comfortable cadence. For minutes on end, they were content to do simply that-kiss and hold one another, standing in the middle of his living room, occupying their minds and mouths to keep from crying. But the tension mounted and their pulses races and, soon, they both somehow implicitly agreed that was not enough.

Without words, his hands on her waist, he pulled her subtly backwards towards his bedroom. Call it instinct from their enumerate times before. Call it hopefulness. Call it insanity.

Somehow, their increased proximity to the bedroom was directly proportional to the force of their kisses and the decibel of their panting and moaning. By the time he pulled her backwards through the door, his hands instinctively pulled her hips forward into him, they were both out of breath. She fumbled with the buttons of his shirt.

"Wait," she whispered, her breathing unsteady and forced. "Should we really be doing this?"

"Uh, I don't know," he admitted, nervously smoothing out his unbuttoned shirt and trying to catch his breath. Oh, no, he thought. Now that we've stopped, there's no excuse for irrationality. Now that she's asked the question, we can't blame it on the moment. He panicked momentarily, knowing he was too good a guy to take advantage of her vulnerability, and that if she wanted to stop, he wasn't going to push it.

"It probably isn't a really good idea..." she considered aloud, though it was obvious she cared possibly even less than he did.

"Yeah, probably not..." he quickly agreed, though it was just as much a prerecorded response as hers had been.

A suspended silence echoed through the room around them for a few moments. Only their rugged breathing prevailed. They each averted their eyes, out of both awkward embarrassment and hesitance. Finally, their eyes landed upon each others and interlocked. She exhaled deeply and shook her head.

"Screw it."

And just like that, her lips were back on his again, her arms around his neck, and the momentum of her body hitting his sent them falling backwards onto his mattress.

For a long while, they stayed just as they'd fallen-her laying atop him. She ran her fingers through his hair as he lazily stroking her sides and back, occasionally letting his hands slide up underneath her shirt. Despite their previous hurriedness, they didn't push to make it more, at first. Secretly, they both missed the kissing and making out just as much as the sex.

"Hmmm, I've missed this," she confessed, blowing it quietly into his ear between kisses. He nodded in response, pressing his hands more firmly against her back.

"I've missed you," he whispered, and it was so soft that she wasn't sure he'd even meant to say it aloud. Neither was he. She nodded in confirmation and kissed his forehead, briefly pausing to lay hers against his. They didn't move or even kiss. The moment was tense, almost to the point of discomfort, but it was real and they both felt it.

After a moment, though, the heat and passion of the encounter began weighing in on them, again, and their mouths reconnected as their hands got back to work. He ran them thought her hair, over her back, her ass, the backs of her thighs, and up again. Every time they did this, she felt a little different, but always beautiful and perfect and Rachel. When he ran his hands up the sides of her torso and his thumbs grazed the sides of her breasts, she moaned quietly into his mouth and he felt that familiar tightening in his groin, and he was sure she felt it, too. Suddenly enveloped by a feeling of urgency, he began pulling at her clothes, loosening them from her body and tossing them aside. When they'd been together, this part of the ritual had generally been very drawn out and sexual-a part of the foreplay-but it was different now. They didn't have that kind of patience or time.

When they were both naked, he turned them over so he was above her, bracing himself with his arms on either side of her head and his hips cradled in the channel of her open legs. They both braced themselves for what would probably be one of the most emotional moment either of them had ever experienced.

It would be their last chapter. Her send-off. His defeat.

Before he could push into her, they paused again. He laid his forehead against hers, just like she'd done with him so many minutes ago, and he cupped her face in his hands. He could feel her thighs tight against the outer oblique muscles of his hips, and her hands gripping his back.

And as he dipped his head down to kiss her cheek, he felt something else.

Hot, salty tears.

He hadn't realized his eyes had been closed, but when he opened them, he saw that her head was turned away and her eyes were squeezed tightly shut, tears rolling freely from her eyes and landing on the sheets. She'd removed one hand from his back to cover her face. He took that hand and pulled it away, forcing her to open her eyes and turn to look at him.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, shaking her head. He shook his, too, and kissed each of her eyes.

"Shhh," he cooed. "Don't be."

For a few more, prolonged moments, they said nothing and dared not move. She ran her hands over his back and shoulders, down his arms, gripping his biceps. As much as she wanted to stop crying-for both of their sakes and for the sake of the moment-she couldn't. She didn't want to tear her gaze from his, but each compounded second she spent starring into his deep brown eyes reminded her that it would be the last.

That this would be their last.

Knowing he was probably unsure of what to do, as he'd probably never had sex with a crying women-certain not with her-she urged him on. Through her tears, she forced a smile and cupped his face with her hands, reaching up to kiss his mouth softly.

"It's okay," she assured. He nodded slightly and exhaled, knowing this was it. He bent his neck and rested his face right above hers, their noses touching, their breaths mixing in the thin space between.

When he slid into her, it wasn't as derailing as either of them had expected. No symphonic music was cued and no lights flashed. It was just them, alone, together.

It was slow, but deep-sweet but passionate. He found, though, that once inside her, he didn't even want to pull out for even long enough to push back in, so they instead simply rocked back and forth against one another. She wrapped her arms underneath his and hugged him more closely to her, planting her lips permanently against his. It wasn't really a kiss-just their mouths pressed together. This way, maybe he wouldn't be able to see how her crying had picked up.

He could hear it, though. She was practically sobbing, her chest heaving and her shoulders shaking. He could feel her soft whimpers travel kinetically though her lips to his.

"Shhh, it's okay," he assured. "Everything'll be okay."

He knew he couldn't promise her that, though, and he didn't even really believe it himself. And as he heard her sobs and moans bounce off the walls of the dark, lonely room, he, himself, was undone.

He, too, began to cry.

For at least 30 minutes, their rocked against one another that way, tears falling silently from his eyes, sometimes landing on her cheeks to mix with hers. Their sobs were soft, and, for moments, even silent, but always there. And in the end, their climaxes were quiet ones, long and drawn out and defeated.

After the customary recuperation period, he moved to pull out of her so she could clean herself up if she wanted, but she braced her arms and thighs and kept him clasped tightly to her.

"No," she pleaded, tears still plastered to her face. "Don't. Stay inside me."

So he nodded and did as she asked. Truth be told, he was glad. He kissed her nose, and her eyes, and her forehead, and cheeks, and chin, and neck, and collarbone. He kissed everything he could reach, and buried his nose in her hair, and enfolded his arms underneath her. Pulling the covers up more securely around them, oddly enough, he thought he probably felt just as protected by her and she felt by him, despite her tiny frame compared against his dwarfing one.

Finally, after a few long minutes, during some indefinite still of the midnight hours, their tears stopped. Afraid he might be smothering her, he finally pulled out, earning a whimper of protest, and turned over to pulled her on top of him.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"No," she whispered, her voice breaking. He nodded and ran his hands up and down the soft skin of her back.

"Me neither."

Silence.

"Ross..." she began, and he immediately knew what she was going to say. She'd said hundreds of times-thousands. He stopped her.

"Don't," he defied her. "Don't say it."

She nodded, knowing he was right. She wanted to say it, though. Even with the knowledge that it would make things so much harder-to much more complicated-she wanted him to hear it, and she wanted to hear herself saying it, knowing she meant it, and she wanted to hear him say it back.

"But I do," she protested, and he flinched, squinting his eyes, the words hitting him like a thousand tiny blades.

"I know," he assured, fighting back the last of his tears. "Just don't say it, or-" he stopped.

"What?" she provoked. She knew this was dangerous territory, but she couldn't help it. She needed this again. He breathed out.

"Or I'll-"

"You'll what?" she urged, stroking his cheek, kissing his chest. He gulped deeply, losing his composure-something he promised he wouldn't do, for her sake.

"I'll have to do something we'll both regret."

"What?" She was more than a little confused, now.

"I'll ask you to stay," he blurted.

That was it. He'd said it-what he'd been thinking since that first kiss so many hours ago. He'd known from the moment she'd kissed him back that if he somehow knew-had even the slightest inkling-that she was still in love with him-that they could be together if it weren't for Paris-then he'd have to ask her to stay. It was selfish, and it would ruin her, but he couldn't help it. He wasn't a big enough man to sacrifice everything he'd ever wanted since he was 15.

And now...she knew that.

"Wow..." she breathed, stunned to silence. Though he was still stroking her sides, he turned his head away, ashamed of his confession. He was sure she'd get up any moment, now, put on her clothes, and walk out that door. It wouldn't surprise him. So he was surprised to feel her hand on his cheek, though, when she turned his head to face her.

"Ross..." she finally spoke, kissing his mouth gently.

"Yeah?"

"I love you." He was confused, sure she'd misunderstood what he's said, but her gaze was serious and daring. She looked expectant...she he gave her what she was waiting for.

"Stay."

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The End.