Ok, well this is the end. Sorry again that it took so long. Thanks for sticking with the story and I hope you enjoyed it!!


CHAPTER 22

Natalie did the best she could to contain her smile. It was unlike her to tune out the Director during meetings, but she couldn't help sneaking glances at her partner across the table. It didn't help that he was doing the same thing. After what seemed like an eternity, everyone pushed their chairs back and gathered their papers, snapping Natalie out of her daze. She glanced briefly at Jake, who was looking back at her and grinning unabashedly. They filed out of the room with the rest of the agents, trying to appear casual and failing miserably.

As the Director watched his two best young agents leave, he had half a mind to stop them and give a brief lecture about paying attention during meetings. But this one time, he figured he's just let them be the teenagers they were. Hell, after the last year, they deserved it.


Natalie had barely made it to her office when she felt a strong pair of hands on her waist. She was rapidly turned around and her lips captured before she had time to say anything. Natalie responded to Jake's kiss, and ran her hands over the body she knew so well.

After a few minutes, Jake pulled away, breathless with his eyes the most intense green Natalie had ever seen.

"Hi" he breathed quietly, leaning forward to touch his forehead to hers.

"Hi" she responded, somewhat shyly.

They both were quiet for another minute, then burst out laughing. Jake slumped onto the couch in the corner, and Natalie soon joined him, wrapping her arms around him. It struck her as odd that there hadn't really been an awkward phase when they switched from being partners to suddenly proclaiming their love.

But it wasn't really sudden Natalie reminded herself.

"You know I've loved you for years" Jake whispered quietly in her ear, sending shivers down her spine.

"That's amazing, I was just thinking the same thing."

"Yeah well I guess I know you pretty well" Jake quipped, smiling.

"Pretty well?" said Natalie, acting offended. "Well I'll have you know that I don't lie on couches with people I know 'pretty well' so-"

He quickly silenced her by bringing his mouth over hers, which she definitely didn't have a problem with.

After they broke apart, she joked, "So that's how you're planning on shutting me up from now on?"

"Do you have a problem with it?"

"Hell no"

Jake laughed and kissed her once again.

"You know what" he proclaimed. "I'm taking you on a date tonight."

"Really, a date?"

"Yup"

"Wow, haven't been on one of those in a while"

"Hush, I don't want to think about all the guys I've watched you go out with" he chided, tapping her nose in fake reprimand.

"Jake, I've seen you go out with just as many" she replied sweetly.

"Yes, but I have a feeling you won't have to anymore." he suddenly turned serious. " I love you so much Natalie, nothing I say or do could ever really express it"

"Well you don't have to, cause I feel the same way."

She laid her head back down against his chest as he played idly with her hair, randomly sending tingles through her scalp. Actually, she seemed to have tingles whenever Jake touched her. She slightly tightened her grip on his thin t-shirt, and he smiled at the gesture. While the office bustled around them, Jake and Natalie sat quietly, each relieved at finally having everything work out. It wouldn't last forever. There would certainly be more Aaron Williams with their line of work, but for that moment, the peace was enough.


After leaving the office, Natalie returned to Preston Hall to gather her things. When she entered through the gates, she marveled at how different it was from the first time. She made her way along the brick path, past the classrooms, offices, and classrooms until she stood in front of her dorm. With only a slight hesitation, she opened the door and began up the stairs.

She had told Jake she needed to go back to Preston Hall to get the rest of her stuff, but they both knew she had to visit Matt. Jake of course didn't want her to go, but a sweet kiss and another "I love you" eased his worries a bit. He couldn't help it. Natalie had lived with the guy for a big part of the school year and they'd gone out for a while. He didn't know how Matt would take things. He thought back to how jealous he'd been when Natalie said Jake was just her friend, but now...he just didn't know. And most of all he didn't want Natalie to get hurt. But he knew it had to be done.

Natalie really somewhat relieved that Matt wasn't in their room. His room she mentally corrected. She really didn't have a lot of stuff, so it only took her thirty minutes to pack. After that was done, she was out of excuses. She walked down the hall, hoping to find Matt in Dan's room.

She knocked tentatively and when she heard "Come in!" she opened the door and stepped in.

Matt and Dan, who were just hanging out and watching TV turned to see who had just entered.

Dan wasn't really surprised that she had come back, but Matt seemed floored. They'd never really resolved anything since Jake had taken Natalie to the hospital and Matt and Dan had returned to Preston Hall.

"Hey guys" she said, hoping her voice didn't sound as weak as she thought it did.

"Hey Natalie" said Dan, rather amiably.

"Hi" was all Matt could manage to choke out.

"Look," Natalie said, knowing it was best to dive right in. "You guys are some of the best friends I've ever had. With my...job, I don't really get to hang out with other kids my age. It was so great to be with you guys. Its time I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. But it was just a break from life, it wasn't permanent for me. I- I have to go back to the agency now, where I belong. I just wanted to say thank you for everything you've done, for sticking by me the other day, and just, for just accepting me. It means more than you'll ever know."

By the end of her little speech, Natalie was sure her voice was wavering and she had tears in her eyes. Dan got up off the couch and wrapped her in a hug. She clung to the boy that had been her comfort and support throughout everything, who had protected her and kept her secret. He pulled away and gave her a small smile. "It was great meeting you Nathan. Just promise me you'll keep yourself safe." he tapped her nose lightly and laughed. "Don't be a stranger either." And with that he walked from the room, knowing the ex-roommates (and ex-boyfriend and girlfriend for that matter) would need some time alone.

"Matt?" she asked cautiously, taking a step forward and putting her hand on his shoulder. He jumped up like he had been shocked and Natalie recoiled, a sick feeling beginning to settle in her stomach.

"Are you- are you with him now?"

"Yes" she answered quietly.

"And you love him"

"I do" she replied again, fearful of where the conversation was going.

"I was growing to love you" he said, with just a hint of bitterness in his voice. "I would have loved you. If I'd just had more time...If we'd just had more time..." he trailed off. She knew how difficult it was to admit it.

"What we had was real Matt. My feelings for you were real. You're everything I want in a guy, you know that. The thing is, Jake, well, Jake is just -" she stopped speaking, not knowing how to put her emotions into words.

"You know it kills me to lose you. You must know that."

"Matt, you're a great guy - "

"Yeah I know, I'll find someone else" he cut her off, the anger starting to build. "I'm sorry" he continued "I know you and Jake have a lot of history, and that's something I could never compete with. I just found a girl who made me feel like no one else could, and to see her happy with another guy, it just hurts Nat."

"I wish it hadn't turned out this way."

"Everybody does," he said simply. "But that's how life works."

She was silent, not knowing if they'd had their closure or not.

"I wish I could tell you that I was happy for you, but I'm just not there yet. At least I know he really cares about you."

Natalie still remained silent, accepting that this was all Matt could give her.

"If Jake ever screws up, I'll be waiting to kick his ass" he said, more lightheartedly.

Natalie gave a small laugh, but quickly turned serious. "I'll probably never see you again."

"I know" he stepped forward and pressed his lips to hers.

Natalie's body relaxed slightly and the familiarity of his touch, and she almost started to kiss him back as he grew more heated.

Almost.

She pulled away gently.

"Goodbye Matt"

Then she walked out, and before she knew it, she was back in front of the gates. She turned around one last time. The ghost of Matt's kiss still lingered on her lips. With a sigh, but no regrets, Natalie left Nathan behind for good.


Jake literally couldn't breathe when he picked up Natalie later that night. She had on a emerald green dress which complimented her blonde hair and made her eyes seem more blue, if such a thing was possible. Natalie certainly had a toned body from all her FBI training, and the dress clung in all the right places without seeming overdone. Her hair was slightly curled in loose waves, and it hung around her shoulders. She complimented the outfit with large silver earrings and some delicate silver heels.

Jake didn't say anything, he just quickly closed the distance between them, tilted her head up, and kissed her. It was gentle, but both could feel the emotion behind it. Jake pulled away and said softly "You look so beautiful"

Natalie blushed slightly, but was very pleased with the outfit's effect on Jake. She'd never considered herself fashionable, but she could certainly dress up when she wanted to.

"And you are looking quite handsome yourself" she replied in a slightly joking tone, yet she couldn't have meant it more. Jake wore dark khaki pants and blue and white striped button down shirt that emphasized his muscular torso. She could tell he had recently showered cause his hair was still slightly damp, giving it the messy sexy look she loved. He also smelled so incredible that she didn't ever want to let go of him.

When neither pulled out of the others arms, Jake said, "Nevermind the date, let's just stay here..."

"As tempting as that sounds, I was promised a free dinner"

"I'm paying?" Jake said in mock surprise.

"Of course, that's how dates go. The guy picks up the girl, opens the door for her, pays for the meal."

"I'd have thought a kick-ass girl like yourself wouldn't want a guy to do all of that for her" Jake continued, playing devil's advocate.

"Well, every once and a while, its nice" she said, giving him a quick kiss and rolling her eyes. She began walking for the car.

Jake laughed and ran to catch up with her, reaching the car just in time to open the door.

"Well thank you" Natalie said with a slightly miffed tone. Jake grinned and closed the door once she gotten in and walked around to the passenger side.


When Jake and Natalie pulled back up to her apartment after dinner, both hesitated. They'd had a wonderful meal a great restaurant. The food was excellent and the atmosphere was upscale, but not snobby. They still talked like old friends and teased each other mercilessly, but their relationship had another dimension now. To Natalie, the night couldn't have been more perfect.

When she saw Jake sitting still, she said in the most sultry voice she could manage, "Wanna come up?"

Jake gave a nervous laugh, but didn't really say anything. He'd stayed over at Natalie's countless times and slept in the same bed. Now, he just didn't know what the boundaries where.

Natalie sensed his apprehension and continued, "Jake, even if we're going out, you're still my best friend. We don't have to sacrifice the level of comfort we had before. Besides, though you look damn hot tonight, I know those shoes are killing you."

Jake smiled at the compliment and joked back "You know me too well."

He put the car in park and cut the engine, following Natalie up to her apartment.

After unlocking the door, Natalie walked straight into her bedroom and grabbed something from one of the drawers. Jake went to the kitchen to get himself a glass of water. Of course, he knew her apartment as well as his own.

He was just turning around when Natalie threw a pair of sweatpants at him, almost knocking the glass out of his hand.

"Hey!"

"Um, think fast?"

"Little late for that, Nat"

"Anyway, those are you pants you left here a while ago. I don't have a t-shirt that would fit you though."

"Well then you'll just have the pleasure of seeing me half naked"

"Lucky me"

Natalie once again retreated to her bedroom, this time to change herself.

When she emerged a few minutes later, she was wearing a pair of loose sweatpants, a FBI training shirt, and had pulled her hair back, though a few curls escaped. She had also washed off her eye makeup and lipstick. Not that there was much left she thought with a smile.

"What are you smiling about?" Jake asked.

"You." she replied, giving him a quick peck and heading towards the living room.

"Oh you don't get away that easy" he joked, coming up behind her and scooping her up in his arms.

He put her down on the couch, laying on top of her and capturing her lips with his own. Natalie of course was happy to respond.

After a few minutes, they broke away and Jake settled down the couch next to Natalie with his arm resting lightly around her waist.

"You know, we find ourselves doing that an awful lot"

"It's cause we teenagers with crazy hormones," Jake said matter of factly.

Natalie rolled her eyes.

"Or" he continued softer, "it's because I love you."

"Now that, I'll accept."

They turned on the TV for a while, but soon both were yawning and nodding off. Finally, Natalie fell asleep with her head against Jake's chest. Jake watched her sleep for a few moments, unable to take his eyes off her.

I've wanted this for so long. And now that I have it, I'm never going to do anything to lose her. She's the most important thing in the world to me.

Despite the perfection of the moment, Natalie's weight was starting to cut off the circulation to one of Jake's arms. As carefully as he could, he picked her back up and walked to the bedroom. He put her in and pulled the covers over her. Deciding it was best not to be presumptuous, Jake kissed her on the forehead and was prepared to leave when he heard a soft voice.

"Stay"

Jake didn't need to be told twice. He walked over to the other side of the bed and crawled in next to his partner. She didn't really seem to be fully awake, but as soon as he settled down, she scooted up next to him, drawn to the heat. He pulled her into his arms and her head rested against his shoulder. More hair spilled out of her ponytail across her smooth skin, and her lips were slightly parted as she softly breathed.

Jake knew she probably wouldn't hear (and frankly he was glad since he was a little embarrassed) but he whispered "I've never seen anything so beautiful. I love you Natalie Burton."

Then he laid back and closed his eyes, but not before hearing the soft whisper "I love you too"

Both agents drifted off to sleep wrapped around each other. In some ways, it felt like nothing had changed.

THE END