The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

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Normal people have normal relationship issues. Does he like me? Does she like me too much? Are we going too fast? Why won't he commit? Why won't she move in? To judge from taglines on stupid magazines and advice gurus on talk shows, those are the usual questions.

Nobody tackles the big problems, like mine:

After you've gotten caught up in a massive corporate conspiracy, fallen deeply in love, and had passionate sex during a snowstorm – in an entirely different universe – how do handle your first date?  

Paul and I are doing things slightly out of order.

Only one week ago, we both returned to this world. Things are still pretty chaotic. Mom will fly to Zurich in a couple of days to meet privately with some other physicists, to try to persuade them of the danger Triad Corporation represents. Dad has spent the last three days attempting to convince his bank that yes, actually, he is alive, so they should reactivate his debit card.  Theo is … keeping to himself. He says he doesn't feel good after all that Nightthief got injected into his veins, but the last dose would've been more than a month ago. Probably he's still feeling awkward around Paul and me.

We might feel awkward around him too, if we weren't so busy feeling awkward with each other. Which is ridiculous, because we love each other so much that everything else should be irrelevant –

But we both know how much I still have to learn.

"We could go see a movie," Paul offers. He's behind the wheel of the new car Mom bought during our absence, which low, dark, sleek and unfamiliar. (While Dad came back from the terrible car accident that we thought had killed him, the Honda he was driving is toast.) "If there's something you want to see."

"Um, sure." What is out that I haven't seen? I made it to Mockingjay Pt. 1 two days after it opened, so that won't work, and I have no idea what else is showing in theaters. January is kind of the cinema Dead Zone. "Is there anything you want to see?"

"A few screens are still showing the last Hobbit movie," he ventures.

"Okay," I say, but my expression is apparently more honest than my words.

"You don't want to see it."

"It's just – " How do I say this? "The Lord of the Rings movies are great, but the Hobbit runs so long."

"It's true. It should never have been three films."

"if you don't like them either, why do you want to go?"

He shrugs. "I didn't know what else to say."

Oh, God, we're on the worst date ever.

Why is it like this? We should be past all of this awkward junk. Then again, that's the problem; our emotions have gone so far past our personal experience, and we don't know how much of what happened in Russia actually counts.

Paul loves me. He proved that with his total selflessness, when he put himself in danger in an attempt to protect me. How he feels about me began long before Wyatt Conley's plans came to light, long before he used the Firebird for the first time and began the wild adventure that sent me running after him.

As for me – it's harder to say.

I had feelings for Paul before I ever met Lieutenant Markov. That day he watched me paint – I felt like he knew me more deeply than I knew myself. At first I'd found his height and his powerful build intimidating, but I'd learned to see the vulnerability within his strength. Once I'd seen that, it was only a matter of time before I figured out that the combination of his grey eyes and his quiet voice and his intensity was totally hot. Something had been brewing between us. If Triad Corporation hadn't gotten in the way, we would have hooked up by now – the right way, step by step. In order.

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