This beach is the most beautiful place Michael has ever been, and the choice to come here was perfect. They both need time to relax after everything they've been through, time to figure out who they are together and how to live now that the past is buried and all that's left are new possibilities.
Sara's hair gleams red in the sunlight, so vivid against the backdrop of the sky that Michael has to close his eyes for a moment against the brightness. He still sees it anyway, an afterimage burned into him with the purity of beauty or hope.
"You look incredible," he says, lost in the aura of happiness that radiates from her smile. Her fingers tighten on his own as they walk toward the ocean, and her step is so light it's as if she believes the future's already started, the one beyond broken laws and broken families, the one where their refuge becomes a paradise they build together.
That she could forgive him for all he's asked of her—all that's happened to her—still amazes him. He's planning on spending a lifetime making it up to her, one soft kiss and kept promise at a time.
"Here?" she asks. They've come to some trees above the tide line, one of the few shady spots in a wide expanse of sand.
"Perfect," Michael says. He spreads out the blanket and opens his backpack full of food, ready to settle in for the afternoon. "Want some wine?" But she's already down by the water, running through the slow edges of the waves with her skirt bouncing and her hair flying in the wind, and Michael has honestly never seen anything so beautiful.
"Hey," he says, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist. She leans against him, all slender softness and warmth, and when he kisses her he finds the faintest traces of the sea on her lips. Then she turns in his arms and deepens the kiss, and his head swims with the roar of the wind and the surf and the pounding of his heart inside his ears.
Sara… he breathes, holding her closer than his own skin. Her name is a lifeline that pulls him out of his past.
When the kiss finally ends, he brushes her hair back from her face and just looks at her, at the pale skin so smooth under his fingers, at her eyes so liquid and full of emotions like tenderness and trust that he really doesn't deserve.
She takes his hand again, leading him over to the blanket. He sits down against the nearest tree trunk, drawing her into his lap and taking note of the secluded beach and the shadows that gather around them.
She laughs when he kisses along her neck, a deep, throaty sound that fills the space between them. When she leans her head back in a slow arc of pleasure, the light coming in from the side nearly blinds him…
Michael opens his eyes to the glare of morning, the air turned white by the sun as it gleams off the walls in his new cell. Someone's laughter turns to sobbing as a drug-induced high shifts down into the coda of false euphoria.
He lies there not daring to move, afraid to lose the tail of his dream. He's never had any of that with Sara yet, their time together summed up by few heated kisses and whispered assurances: What we have together is real and I'll meet you on the boat and It wasn't your fault. Now she's a hostage for some hidden agenda, and he's running out of time to save her.
They had those minutes in the bathroom on the train, when everything could finally be said, when every touch was truer than words. There was the moment in the Infirmary, when he kissed her as a distraction but couldn't bring himself to take the key and become the person she'd been afraid he actually was.
Her eyes on his held such hope then, tentative but unmistakable. He'd do anything to prove himself worthy of that trust.
He longs for the feel of her, her face silk beneath his touch, her fingers pressed so sweetly against his own.
But his grasp is empty as he closes it on the nothing that is all he possesses, trapped here waiting for another miracle to arrive.
It isn't her hand he holds in his now, it's her Fate instead.
He shivers with sudden realization: Maybe it always was…
----- fin -----