The first weeks are the worst of his life, the emptiness, the uncertainty.
Time after time he hears a voice in an empty room, sees a silver head in a crowd and hurries to catch up, only to find he has scared the hell out of a total stranger.
Itís the helplessness, the loneliness, the feeling of too much left undone.
Itís the solitary breakfast. Itís the dinner for one. Itís the empty bed, where the scent of him fades with each passing night.
Itís the shirts that hang beside his in his closet, the underwear tangled with his in the drawer.
Itís the plans of a sailboat that he finds in his desk when heís looking for a pen.
Itís knowing that however good it was, it was never good enough to keep him there.
Itís existing, not living.
He exists for a week.
Then a month.
They give him the team and he wins them over.
They send him undercover.
He meets a girl and falls in love with the idea of being in love with her, even though sheís part of the case and there must be a rule for that.
He holds onto the threads of hope because he knows this will end one day.
One month rolls into two, two into four.
He conquers the emptiness, the uncertainty and begins to live again.
But he never forgets.
And the shirts still hang next to his in the closet; and the plans of the sailboat are still in his desk.
And if he digs down deep enough he can find an ember of hope.
At six months he moves in with the girl. He tells her he loves her and buys her a ring, and they talk of mortgages and babies and happy ever after, because thatís what people in love do.
So they tell him.
At seven months the undercover case collapses and the carefully constructed house of cards comes tumbling down around him. The lies become transparent and she sees what he is, what heís done.
The imitation of love is too fragile to weather the storm.
And itís back to the solitary breakfast and the dinner for one, and the empty bed that no longer smells of him.
He becomes brittle and hard and cold and unfeeling and empty and lost.
And seven months becomes eight, then nine.
They offer him Spain: he turns it down. He says heís not ready, hiding behind a half-truth, asking for time.
Not quite ready to abandon hope.
Itís a year to the day.
Heís no longer wary when he tears open the envelope. Itís not that he feels immune, he just doesnít care anymore.
The picture on the postcard is of white sand and sailboats beneath an azure sky, and the sight of it makes his hands shake and his heart pound and his eyes sting.
He remembers hands working the wood, planning and sanding, their rhythm attuned to the cadence of shared breathing.
He remembers the scent of sawdust and warm skin and breath tart with the taste of bourbon.
He remembers soft laughter and whispered words and the sweet slide of skin on skin.
And he aches.
There is no message on the card, only an address scrawled in a deceptively elegant hand.
But itís enough.
The shirts have gone from his closet now: they are packed in his suitcase, with the underwear and the plans of the sailboat.
Ten minutes after receiving the card he emailed his resignation.
Handed his gun and his badge to McGee.
Kissed Abby goodbye.
An hour later he was on his way to the airport.
Now he looks out at the bright blue Mexican sky and he smiles.
Heís going home.