|The Final Symbol
Author: WilliamAndJulia PM
William and Julia, finally, ultimately as One.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Words: 8,776 - Reviews: 11 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 1 - Published: 06-25-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8255668
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The words beat against her like a persistent tide. They withered, then they came back strong. They taunted her ears like the delicate notes of a song that urgently needed to be finished.
On the outskirts of Toronto, alone, laying as still as a doll in the grass, Julia watched the sun drop behind the horizon. The night swelled, fragrant and dense, all around her. Twilight stretched across the sky in layers of violet silk that reminded her strongly of the sheets on her bed. Her limbs shivered with the wish to be covered again. Some part of her missed the days when she would dream about him, alone in her bedroom, behind the curtains of her canopy. Now she stretched out in the grass, staring at the sky, trying to contain the sparkling hot passion that kept building inside of her – a chore she quickly realized she was pursuing in vain.
Julia remembered a time when the night had been so familiar to her. But it seemed the night had changed as her life became more complicated. When she shared the night with Darcy, every hour of darkness was deeper, filled with torturous silence. She had spoiled herself by spending so many nights with William in his study. Pouring over books and case files, the mundane, but the time spent, had deliciously shamed all hope of her enjoying a night for herself without the thought of him.
She was nervous, on edge, confused. The direction of her emotions was quite clear, but her destination was not. She knew what she wanted, but getting there would not be easy.
She thought about going back into the station to see him right now. Would things carry on as they had for the past few weeks, or would that unspoken tension rise up between them? Something scarily significant had shifted for each of them, and they both seemed equally aware of it, which made everything even more temptingly awkward.
Julia realized her worst fears in the moment she'd left him behind, standing in his office as she had told him she was leaving again, Their obvious feelings for each other were challenging their friendship.
The more she thought about it, the more William's reaction made sense to her. He did not want to risk spoiling it any further by acknowledging her feelings with words. In confidence, his gaze had penetrated her heart deeply enough that no words needed to be spoken. His awareness hurt her as much as it relieved her. At the very least, he had some idea that she was hopelessly in love with him. At the very most... he still reciprocated a part of that feeling for her.
She thrashed on the grass and whimpered at the stars. The thought of William still holding these kinds of feelings for her was beautifully absurd. Yet... it was not entirely unthinkable. No man she had ever met harboured as much unkempt passion as William did. She did not even need to read those hidden journals he kept, that she caught him writing so many times upon entering his office late at night, or the beautifully delicate time pieces, or the inventions from a labour of love to know how passionate he was. Surely a man like him had more on his mind. Surely a man so shy on the outside, yet so bold on the inside, had rapids of desire flowing within his heart.
She could only imagine what years of repression had done to make him this way. Waiting so long to unleash his passion would surely ripen it far beyond what was appropriate...
Years of isolated agony must make the force of that eruption ten times greater.
The blades of grass shuddered in the wind, caressing the bare skin on her arms like thin, cool flames. But the fire in her belly was wild with want.
All thoughts of reaching out to William tonight were out of the question. Visiting him in her current state would likely result in a violent assault on his moral composure.
Already her fingers were itching to pick apart the buttons of his collar. It was dangerous to even think about it, but her mind was so easily distracted by a simple suggestion. Ironic though it may have been, Julia often thought of William's collar as the gate to his hidden inner self. Each button, she thought, was like the key to the next layer, all leading to the man he was inside.
With all three buttons of his collar sealed tightly, he was a Detective.
He was elegant and refined, with a gentle authority that made everyone around him listen and trust. He was cautious in voicing his decisions, but his confidence was inarguable. He had no doubts in the world of Policing. He was strong and certain and smart. Regal as a king, but humble as a stable boy.
With one button undone, he was a deep thinker, a philosopher.
He was a noble young pilgrim, searching through his personal library. His voice was hoarse as he whispered to himself eccentrically about what he was looking for, pacing about the candlelit shelves of his office, his tie askew and the cuffs of his sleeves turned out to give his hands more room to search. He buried himself in a forest of books, and he would read enough to make any other man's head spin. It was just a chip in his sanity that caused him to ask unanswerable questions and probe forensic metaphors, but it was his own unique way of exercising his mind, expanding his horizons, attempting to bend the unbreakable.
With two buttons undone, he was a writer.
He did not have to be at his desk to write. He was not the scholar any more. He did not feed off the ideas of other men, but instead dictated his own. She could imagine him gently sat by a window somewhere, his journal open in his lap. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, his hair was dishevelled, and his waistcoat undone. He pressed the end of his fountain pen into his lower lip and closed his eyes as he pondered his next words, seeking written perfection in the recesses of his subconscious.
With three buttons undone, he became an the inventor – a vigorous, untamed youth with unmentionably intense dreams.
He was virile in body, and potent in instinct. His sleeves were not only rolled up to his elbows, they were torn in places, worn so much that the thin cotton looked as if it could melt from his body heat. In this state, he looked stronger than ever, yet in his face there was at least one fragile feature that revealed his inner child. When his hands began to move, to sculpt, to create, the rest of the world disappeared around him. His eyes were a hazy mix of calm and crazed, his breaths were luxuriously ragged, his thoughts were tortured and unhinged.
What lay beyond the third button? No matter how many times Julia had asked herself this question, she never dared to do more than guess.
Pure and rough. Honest and wild. Distressed and lost, beautiful and lustful.
It took a lot to provoke William in the world she knew; but in this dark, concealed, secretive world, one touch threw him into a frenzy. He was not shy about sinning. He did not settle for anything less than utter satisfaction. He lashed out when he felt something was unfair. In this world he was not afraid to purr like a lion, protecting his pride in the Constabulary. In this world he allowed himself to savour every criminal caught in the case, and pursue more when the time came.
Julia desperately, with every fibre of her being, wanted to be a part of this world.
Because once all the buttons were undone, William was, like every other man on God's great earth, a son of Adam. Whether he was merely bare-chested or stripped to his very soul, she could not fathom a reason to believe he was immune to the basest human needs.
Social status or not, It did not matter to her. If she needed him, then it must be just as possible that he needed her.
Julia heaved a long, shaky sigh and turned on her side in the grass.
Making speculations always made her feel emptier inside. Sometimes it was tortuously painful, like feeling someone scratch at an already smarting burn.
Julia was never before so nervous to welcome the morning. Her decision was made.
All night she had wondered about her future; how soon it would begin, whether or not she had the courage to change it. But a woman could only wonder for so long.
Just as she had watched the sun set the night before, she watched it start to rise when it finally came full circle round the world.
The clouds split open as the heat melted the mist. Just before the golden rays appeared, tiny bursts of pink light blossomed behind the leftover clouds, like roses blooming for spring. The scene was indeed beautiful, but even that did not ease her anxiety. What she had to do today was so much more terrifying than anything she'd ever remembered doing before. She knew that her only chance at happiness was to finally allow herself to trust again.
She had to trust herself. She had to trust Fate. She had to trust... William.
Walking back to the station very early that morning, she knew he would be the only one there. Julia felt almost frightened.
She went through the main doors, catching his faint scent, and felt the nerves strain all through her body. He was in his office.
Bright limbs of sunlight dripped through the foyer windows from the very crack of dawn, as if they were trying to cheer her up. It seemed too early to be seeing sunshine already, but somehow it pierced its way into the world.
Perhaps it was a sign of renewed hope.
She grasped the good thought before it could fly away from her and walked bravely towards the Detectives office. She paused to listen through the thick door, as all the blinds were down at first hearing nothing more than the quick caress of an ink pen on paper.
That sound was so familiar to her now, it was like home.
He was almost always writing these days.
The scrape of his pen carried on for a few more seconds before it stopped. The clink of glass. The shuffle of papers inside a drawer. Then, a low, thoughtful hum – the sound was sweet and deep, like warm chocolate.
Tapping his fingers on the desk.
Pushing his chair back.
Pacing in front of the windows.
He was in his tortured writer state for sure.
She wondered for a thrilling moment if he would be in plain clothes as he wasn't due working today.
It couldn't hurt to find out.
So she opened the door and invited herself inside.
Naturally he had to pick today of all days to be dressed like a perfect fairytale hero. His legs were clad in pale, sand-coloured trousers that firmly flattered the strong angles of his hips. On his chest, a stark white tunic that fit him far too loosely for her fragile sanity.
Her assumptions concerning buttons had been wrong.
The shirt he wore today did not even have buttons.
In fact, it looked like he hadn't dressed to be presented to anyone this morning. It was a little shocking to see him so casually dressed, but she was so tragically distracted by the generous area of tanned skin just below his neck that was left uncovered she didn't say anything.
William was beyond beautiful with his hair slightly ruffled and uncombed. He paced methodically before the bright windows of his office, looking like romance personified – like a prince who had lost his crown, an angel on a frantic search for his halo.
The least he had done was forget to wear his tie. It would not have been fitting for him today. He did not look like a Detective at all in the clothes he was wearing. He was less confined, less buttoned-up. In fact, Julia had never seen her Detective looking quite so at ease with himself, so loose. In the place of his tie that morning was the slim golden cross that lay around his wonderfully naked neck. Had he always worn that..? But it most certainly did not make him look like a Detective. He looked like some kind of evangelical vagabond. There was a spiritual regality about his every move that made her soul shiver with delight.
That cross positively glowed when William wore it. It truly hurt her to look at it.
It hurt even more when he looked at her.
She had never seen his eyes so loaded with secret thoughts before. Shining shapes and silken shadows swam through the endless pits of deep browns and black. His lashes blinked protectively, but that did not keep her from seeing the storm behind his gaze.
He paused not saying a word but watching her every move intently beside the window. She took the chair across from his desk, thinking frantically of how she could even begin to phrase what she wanted to tell him...
When she did not give reason for her sudden entry, William carried on in understood silence, his back to her looking out the window, knowing she would speak when she was ready.
Something was going on here. On any other day he would have, at the very least, greeted her with something other than a prolonged stare. She did not have to ask whether it had something to do with her feelings. It was very clear to her why he was being so silent. He must have been even more confused than she was this morning, as it was only last night she had told him she was leaving again.
His body language told her as much. For a man who usually possessed a keen sense of direction, William seemed lost in the familiar space of his own office. His hands kept busy by straightening the curtains every so often. At first it looked casual, but then it began to look more sensual every time he did it. His fingers brushed the heavy red velvet with purposeful care, using his strength to elicit sighs from an inanimate object.
As he repeatedly touched the curtains, Julia saw a ghosting of pink on his chiseled cheeks, a rarely seen blush of colour that she swore could not have been in her imagination.
She knew that her watching him in perfect silence must have made him anxious, but she could do nothing else just yet.
As the minutes pressed on, their eyes would pass along each other, knowing and pleading. They were both perfectly silent, but their gazes were all but singing with conflicting desires.
He said two words to her that morning. At precisely half past four, they came tumbling out of his exquisite lips and into her ear.
She'd asked him where his spare key to the morgue was so she could hand it in when she left.
He immediately put an end to his mindless pacing, pulled open the bottom drawer to his desk, and did not let his fingers brush hers as he handed her the crippled old skeleton key. His eyes grasped something deep inside of her as she received his final symbol. The symbol they had had a deep conversation about a few nights ago.
The mottled brass felt cold and heavy in the centre of her palm. It burned her skin, just as his eyes burned her heart.
She mumbled a thank you, and those were the last and only words they had said to each other.
She spent a few hours in the morgue, soaking up the loneliness for however long she could take it. The first hour was wasted sat on her office chair while she watched the sunlight make sad streaks through the dust-caked oval window. Occasionally a spider would creep across the dusty window, and she might envy it for knowing which direction it was headed. No matter how long she spent in the cold morgue, she would never reach any kind of sudden enlightenment. She would never know which direction she should take.
At the peak of her desperation, Julia wished that William would simply abduct her. She wished he would break down the doors to her bedroom, and scoop her up, and toss her onto the bed, and tear that flimsy white shirt off his chest, and shred those sinfully snug trousers off his legs, and...
The water gurgled contemptuously as the sink was suddenly empty beneath her, and she shivered in chagrin. She snatched a towel against her hands and arms before she could continue her halted fantasy.
She dried her hands off, and sat in a chair by her morgue window, waiting with her chin in the palm of her hand. If she was going to wait all day long, or at least until her first body arrived, she might as well be comfortable.
There was nothing worthy to watch aside from the swaying of whimsical amber grass and the buildings and odd working person across the street, the peach-coloured clouds churning like cream and cotton on the horizon. It was all clear blue skies and hope out there, nothing like what she was feeling inside. It could go on forever, really. Every day could be like this... just the same monotonous episode of hour after helpless hour. Waiting for nothing.
Oh, this kind of waiting was torture. In a sense, she was waiting for herself– she was waiting to be ready – and this was far worse than waiting for someone or something else.
It seemed silly to her how people longed for control – they pined desperately for it – yet once they were given control, they wished to be free of it. Because having control only made everything their responsibility.
Julia understood this now.
So many times she thought she had the courage. She grasped at it, hurried down the morgue steps, ready to spill her secret, and the fear would block her way. It was a monster lurking outside the door – a spiny green crocodile that thrust open its jaws for her when she came to the final step.
So she ran back up those stairs, every time feeling more exhausted until she had all but given up.
He was so close. She could imagine him, even now – his lovely ambiance in the office across the street – the scattering, rustling, pacing, sighing sounds he made. They were a gentle percussion to a lovely song she knew so well. The sleek brush of his calligraphy scratching on paper made her head toss and turn in her hands; thought of his every breath made her tremble.
An unforeseen number of minutes could have rested between this agony and her having him. If only she had that courage.
Because he was there. He was breathing. And so was she.
She leaned over the bay window and watched outside as the sundial's sluggish shadow creep around its marble disk as the hours dragged by. All of this breathing was making her light-headed. These thoughts of what could be kept taunting her.
Reality was not that kind.
She choked on a bitter laugh and ran her hands through her hair.
She wanted William to rescue her from drowning in herself.
No. She wanted him to drown with her.
Every so often, Julia's mind would wander sadly over to the drawer of her bedside table where the book of poetry and the white sculpted swan, and the angel-winged seashell from England called to her from inside. She would wonder for a while what love meant; whether the man who had cared enough to give her such gifts still loved her. Not as an old friend, but as a woman, a lover, a wife.
Was that not reason enough for her to give her these things? Was he truly giving her his heart, piece by piece, as he gave her those tiny extraordinarily special gifts? Had she been too blind all along to see it?
Reaching into her pocket, she found the little brass skeleton key he had given her that morning. It was just a humble key to the morgue – there was nothing special about it, nothing secret. But it was his final symbol. He had told her this for a reason. She just didn't know why.
Carefully, Julia turned around and approached her worktable draw with the intention of visiting her precious collection of William's gifts. She had to add his final symbol to the drawer with the rest of them. She had to see them, had to feel them, had to let the tips of her fingers ghost over them to be sure they were still real.
That was when she saw it.
A single red rose lay on her worktable. The sight of it inspired a jump in her weakened heart, and the sunlight seemed to dance around it, making it glow like soft scarlet fire.
She wondered for a moment how she had not noticed the scent of that rose, which now seemed far too striking to miss. Its familiar fragrance filled the entire room, enchanting to the senses. All she could do was stare at it, without a guess as to how it got there.
There was only one person who would put a rose on her worktable. One pair of feet bold enough to pass through her office door. One pair of hands tender enough to place the flower so gently beside her desk.
Though it seemed impossible to imagine William leaving a rose in her office, she had only to breathe in the evidence of his scent that lingered on the rose. She picked up the stem and buried her nose in the sweet red petals, accepting the gesture as a sure acknowledgement of their feelings.
So this was the reason behind his awkward behaviour that morning.
A knowing smile crossed her lips. She had known all along he would not be ready to accept her heart until she had ended her engagement to Darcy. Little did he know she had already ended it. Perhaps this was his quiet, gentlemanly way of saying "someday." Only time would tell if she could once again earn the undying love of William Murdoch.
In the meantime, he had given her yet another precious gift. One more she must add to her collection.
Holding the key in one hand, and the rose in the other, Julia opened her worktable drawer.
The drawer was filled to the brim with scraps of stark white paper. Some were folded, some were crumpled, and some were halfway tucked into envelopes.
None of them had been there when she last closed that drawer.
Her chest tightened.
With tremulous fingers, she reached in and turned one piece of paper over.
It was smothered with words, from margin to margin, written in startling peacock blue ink.
The rose slipped from her fingers. The little brass key clattered to the floor.
She knew these papers were from him.
But her eyes could only skim through the words, disjointed and confused. She desperately tried to piece them together with all the sense left within her.
They just could not have been real! These words... This carefully crafted calligraphy, liquid letters of the alphabet placed just so.
Bright stars of passion burst inside her chest as she caught sight of a word here and a word there, and they made no sense when she read them, but they somehow spoke the story of a man's tormented soul.
Her mind was overflowing with shining blue blots of ink, and striking words that were speaking to her... directly to her. On each piece of paper, the top line was poignantly addressed, Dear Julia, Darling Julia, Sweet Julia, My Julia...
She tried to read just one. She tried so hard. But her eyes were coated with tears, and her hands were trembling too violently to hold the papers still.
His words were still leaping off those scattered pages. His words... these hidden affections of his heart.
Do you feel the forceful caress of my eyes upon you...?
Do you ever wonder what might happen if we let the flames of our fires touch…?
I wish to share these cold nights with you...
...to feel your impressionistic fingers dancing feverishly over my skin...
Let me be the keeper of your rose...
Let me drown in you...
What was he saying? Oh, what was he trying to say to her with these recklessly written words?
Their message could not be what she assumed.
It could not.
He meant something else.
He was not speaking of that.
These notes had been placed in the drawer of the wrong woman.
William was not offering this to her...
Blindly, Julia gathered the notes into her hands, filling herself with the scent of the ink and the weight of his unreal words. Somehow she rose to her feet; somehow she found her balance. Somehow her heart was pounding, though it would burst through her chest.
Outside the sun was high and mighty, in the very apex of the sky. The late afternoon heat came spilling through the open doors of her Morgue with an intrusive breeze of spring pollen and the chirping chortles of birds.
Pretty scents of anticipation that were never real until now filled her from foot to heart, and she had to do something – anything – to tame the reckless orgy of emotions that maddened her every second.
Certifiably lost from her own senses, Julia broke the chains of reason and ran down those stairs.
This time, when the crocodile opened its jaws for her, she trampled it without fear. This time, shards of coloured light came down through the stained glass window in the foyer, blessing her with courage, and they chased her into the station.
With her arms full of the crumpled letters, and her chest heaving for breath, Julia found herself standing in the familiar threshold to Williams office.
He was not looking at her. He was just sitting there, behind his desk, with his hand around a leather binded book, and that distracted little half-smile on his lips. He sat further back than he usually did, more relaxed, not trying so hard to be presentable. One of his elbows rested against the edge of his desk, and his hand was curled up against his forehead. Some of the sunlight that streamed through the curtains behind him cast a gauzy glow around his uncombed hair, highlighting a few delicate strands that strayed rebelliously from the waves at the back of his neck. Every scent she had grown to associate with this room, with William, came blasting against her like a taunting aromatic army – polished mahogany, and cinnamon-scented candles, and old books, and burning incense. Christmas and springtime and holiness and passion.
The fragrant assault almost made her turn right back around and make a mad dash for the morgue. But he still wasn't looking at her.
Somehow, he did not even realize she was there.
She said his name without even hearing it. But she knew she had said it because his eyes turned up at once to look at her.
"What is it?"
She would have laughed at his question if she had the strength. It was too absurd for words. She wanted to scream at him.
Oh, William. You know too well what it is. The room is practically pulsing with it. You and I are all but consumed by it.
It means the end of "Darcy and I"... and the beginning of "us."
Wordlessly, she let her armful of letters flutter to the ground.
William watched the snowstorm of paper around her feet. He saw that her hands were smeared with blue ink. He saw that she was speechless. He saw that her eyes were still brimming with the very contents of his heart.
"Julia," he said her name, his voice so hoarse with passion that it frightened her. Then he stood up, looking so much the image of a man, so full of light and heat and love, he was like the sun.
Because she could not think of any words whose power would match those he had written in his letters, Julia settled for something much more succinct and precise and powerful. Having all the confirmation she now needed, she whispered it, softly enough that it could have been a mere afterthought released to the gentle ears of the air.
"I love you."
She had to say it. And now she had to get away.
Away from him. Away to nowhere.
She hadn't the faintest idea why she was running. It was all instinct – all primal fear. She was a restless young girl again, and she was high on the feeling.
She could barely believe the words she had let slip from her mouth had been real, tangible sounds. And now her entire body was positively sizzling with the thrill of releasing such a deeply kept confession.
The gravity of what she had just done suddenly slammed into her from all around. It both frightened and comforted her, knowing that she never needed to return. She could run forever until she came back to this same spot, having gone full circle about the earth, and his life would continue on, smooth as silk without her in it.
She could abandon him with her love and he could keep that... a little reminder of who she was, what she had felt for him. She never needed to see him again. This was a perfect parting farewell.
She turned round to tempt fate with a glance and she could see in the distance, the Station House its windows shimmering radiantly in the blinding sunlight. The back doors to the station were wide open.
But she had left through the main doors.
She was being chased.
Not bothering to lift her skirt, Julia burst her way through the warm shore waters of Lake Loren near the outskirts of the city, her legs pulsing easily against the resistance of the gentle waves.
Perhaps he hadn't heard her.
Perhaps he didn't believe her.
She heard it then.
He said her name.
And she stopped, Just as she entered the woodland on the shore of the lake.
She listened, wondering if she had only imagined it – some last sombre melody born from her intangible memories.
But no. It was real.
He was calling her. His voice. His heavenly voice, calling for her. Full and burning with genuine need. It was inconceivable.
He said her name only once, but it echoed in her mind a million times over like an endless song, stabbing her heart with each tender syllable.
The air surrounding her was an entity in that moment – she could feel it, gentle but determined, pushing her to glance behind. With a breathless sigh of surrender, she turned around to face him.
And he stood there, in a threshold of sweeping willow branches, both arms raised heraldically on either side of his body against the trees, like wings where the luminous white fabric clung to his strong, graceful arms. He was awash in a single beam of sunlight that seeped through the thick foliage above, glistening all over like an ivory angel, that ever-present halo about his blond head as he stared at her with unfathomable passion.
His expression was utterly helpless, yet his eyes were so very enlightened, as the gaze of one finally resurrected from ignorance should look. For once she did not envy the pure gilded brightness of his gaze, she only marvelled at it.
The soft words of his impossible request spilled forth clearer than bells, as the breeze ruffled his clothing and caressed his dark chocolate locks.
An endless siege of crippling chills ran through her body, weakening her to the very core. She could do nothing but stare at him in wide-eyed astonishment, refusing to believe her ears. She hadn't the strength to either reject or consent to his request. But she hadn't needed to.
He stepped forward, one arm still balanced against the tree, and the look on his face was shyly approaching elation as she stood, momentarily speechless, before him.
Oh, that was such a lovely word. Affirming, accepting, agreeing.
Such a small word it was, but it could solve her every problem in just one humble syllable.
And it was so easy to say, even as her entire body went into it – the very essence of her existence made it so much heavier, yet it seemed to float on wings.
She loved it.
She loved him.
And he must have loved her.
He covered the yards between them in a splashing instant, and took her blindly into the blessed sanctuary of his arms, into a fierce, life-dependent embrace that defied the very concept of love itself. The need was coursing through him. She could feel it violently pulsing all across his chest. She was startled when she first felt it.
His heart was beating with hers.
He lifted her up toward the sky as if she weighed nothing at all, then he brought her down against him so that she could feel every inch of him crushing every inch of her. He did not let her feet touch the water, as if he feared it would swallow her like quicksand. She was only too relieved to be free from any ties to the earth.
His arms became a tight, tiny world of her own, and she whispered the word over and over against his ear as he pinned her to his chest.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes..."
Buried in the curve of her neck, she could feel his heavy, laboured breathing where his chin pressed into her shoulder, a fragile sob chiming softly in his throat. His arms wound even further around her, trapping her possessively. His hands held her so tightly that they felt connected to her, a magnetic phenomenon that had no logical source. It simply existed in its own painful beauty, force undefined.
Somehow, William managed to right his head to hover above hers, arms still locked around her like a warm and gentle vice. His forehead was pressed against hers, his every breath a swell of sweet air that she could taste as it gushed between her parted lips. Julia's stream of yes's melted away as her wistful eyes fell upon his tender lips. She nearly lost all comprehension as those lips began to move.
"I've never been this...close to anyone before," he wept ardently, his soft voice breaking on the words. And even in a whisper, she felt the thrilling vibrations of his voice in her throat, and the tips of her fingers, and somehow, in the pit of her stomach. His words were swathed in an ache so tangible, she felt it sinking fast in the centre of her being. There was such heart-crushing sadness in his vulnerable confession; she was tempted for a moment to whisper back, 'Neither have I.'
But then she realized...
He meant physically.
Her breath stopped short as she felt the tips of her toes touch the water by his ankles. Suddenly her entire body was tingling. Because she knew what he would do to her now...
She could sense it in the way his breathing had changed. An exquisite, unsteady pattern – thrilled, soft, erratic. His hands found their home on either side of her face, and gently but surely, he forced her to look up at him.
It was just a flicker she saw of his face, gazing down, so deeply into her. There were tiny gold stars in the burnished windows of his eyes, a delicate glaze of long-ripened tears that could only threaten to spill onto her cheeks. His lashes were like dark threads of silk, sliding into a decisive slumber as he slowly tilted his head, poised at a willing angle to give her what she had always given him permission to give.
And finally, the swelling, trembling tension transformed into submissive bliss as he joined their lips, kissing her. Kissing her like it was the first time.
Her world did not crash, and she did not die. But her deepest fears were silenced in the moment that his lips innocently discovered hers again.
There were no chimes from heaven, no earth-shattering revelations. It was so much more profound, so far removed from anything that would call upon such pomp and circumstance. It was instead deathly quiet, absurdly warm, and absolutely still – a startling shock of inner peace and crippling completeness.
All the fairytales said that everything around her would cease to exist when this moment came. But that did not happen at all. Everything around her only came more alive than it ever had before. Every sound, every fleck of dust, every colour, every nuance in the earth around them and within them had such purpose.
And finally, Julia felt her own purpose, here in William's arms. She was not mislead, she was not lost, she was not empty inside.
In one kiss, he had restored her faith in love. In one kiss, he had awakened her soul.
The heat that had once been a barricade between them was now their blanket; it swept around them, forcing them to share their bodies and their breath and their souls.
And when he slowly pulled away from her to look into her eyes, she was suffocated by the love she saw gleaming in their depths. With just one glance, she knew, William could banish every one of her worries.
"I love you, Julia."
It was barely the sound of his voice, or the way he looked as he said it that humbled her so intensely. It was more the closeness of his body to hers, the exquisite chafing of proximity between them that staggered her to the core.
Because William had only once been this close to her before. And he threatened her loneliness like nothing had threatened it before.
"The poem you slipped into my case notes on Christmas morning…" she whispered frantically, her eyes shining, her hands travelling all over his face and neck, "…you were the one who wrote it, weren't you?"
He was nodding before she had the chance to finish her sentence. "Yes, I was the one," he said, his voice weak but proud, bolder than sunlight. "Yes. Yes, I wrote it."
Every time he said the word "yes," she melted a little more inside.
Her fingers, still smeared with the ink from his letters, left faint, watery streaks of blue on his throat as she stroked his skin.
"And the letters? All of those letters?"
"One hundred," he confessed with a shudder. "I wrote one hundred of them. I saved only half. The others were burned."
A stunned sigh fled her lips as she touched his face obsessively, barely able to process his words while he held her fiercely in his arms.
"You have no idea how many nights I wanted to slip just one onto your desk... how much I tortured myself over it," he murmured into her ear, cheek pressed firmly to hers. "I've loved you since... Oh, I cannot even bear to think it..."
His voice cracked breathlessly, a beautiful bruise on his accent as his lips rained kisses across her forehead, some falling into her hair. Every time his lips touched her, her heart swelled painfully. Before it might have been punctured by the ribs that caged it, but now it had the strength to snap them straight across.
She tried to tell him the danger she was in, but her voice failed her as he again consumed her mouth with his. He crushed her against him, and opened his lips, and her tongue was baptized in his taste.
He could not steady her sobs for he was sobbing just as much. Their combined passions flowed feverishly between them as they kissed, and they could barely contain their decency.
She managed to whimper his name as his lips fled to the hollow of her throat. Her hands clutched his shoulders as his curious touch found the soft skin on the side of her neck. Saying his name still felt like a sin, and as his tongue gently worked to consecrate every inch of her smooth flesh, she could scarcely think.
"I've needed you." She shuddered, clinging to him in weightless desperation as he held her just back from the water. "I've needed you for so long..."
"Oh, my love..." His whisper was like a warm salve against her aching throat. "I shall never forgive myself."
His words did not make sense to her, but they sounded so catastrophically wonderful, uttered so close, so soft, so sincere.
A fresh storm of sobs rendered her limp in his arms. Her eyes dared to open, and finding his gaze too near, she could make out every fine caramel line in each iris. Every beautiful complexity in his eyes was magnified before her, open for her, like flowers for the sun.
"Do you know how long I've wanted to tell you? Do you know how my heart aches whenever we are apart? How my soul thirsts for union with yours?" His murmured words were wrought with poetic passion, nearly unrecognisable from the gentle timbre she knew.
She barely realized that she was shaking her head until William lifted his hands to hold her cheeks still, staring straight into her eyes.
"You never knew," he marvelled, stroking his strong fingers across her cheeks, his voice choking back sobs. "You never even guessed?" He sounded so heartbroken.
"How could I have?" she whispered, in a private war against the desire to break down and cry in his arms. "Your compassion has never changed, William. Since the beginning you were so impossibly kind to me, so caring for no reason. You've always been this way with me. When I learned of your proposal, it made no sense to me, nothing had changed, you made no advances towards me. You've always treated me with love. We've always had a relationship that was more than friendship. I'd never recognised it to be anything more...never..."
She trailed away on the very last word, leaving "never" to hover homelessly in the air between them. William's eyes were shining like fire.
"Stay with me. Forever, Julia. I can't bare to watch you marry another man..." He pressed his face flush against hers as he pleaded, lips anointing every part of her within his reach. "Say you will be mine, always."
"Yes, always yours." She could scarcely remember the meaning of her own words. Repeating his declaration in half-ordered whispers, she willed the last waves of energy out of her body and melted into him, suspended from gravity and appending herself to a force much stronger. "Darcy and I have parted...I am already yours, William."
He whimpered against her, a sheer breath of disbelief and delight as his lips trailed over her cheek. Every hope in her heart danced with a new warmth as he closed his eyes and cupped her chin with his tender fingers.
The gentleness in his kiss was downright violent; infinitely more erotic than one of greedy desperation would be. He had the power to strike her heart with the lightest touch before smothering her with a temper of reckless passion.
Even as he flooded her with love in its purest, rawest form, she feared that she would never find her fill. She was afraid, and in awe, and in complete disbelief. Numb, but with senses on fire.
William's passion, having been gagged for so long, spilled into her freely with a force untamed. It was almost too much to bear. But beneath the strength of that passion, she could feel his control deep within, tenderly restraining his every desire, both base and desperate. He would not have her until they were bound in the eyes of God.
She knew this. She trusted this.
Locked together in a desperate embrace, they somehow sank to their knees in the water below. The gentle waves of Lake Loren could do so little to tame their fervour. With a resounding splash they landed in a comfortable knot, sobbing and crying and laughing. Every emotion Julia had ever felt came crashing together in a thrilling combination that made her feel so much more than just human.
Their bodies rubbed against one another, warm and wet and restless. Julia thought they may as well have been attached. To part with William at any point, no matter how insignificant the loss of contact, was enough to cause her real and true pain.
In that moment she was certain if she let him go, she would die.
He was hers now, and she would sooner be damned than give him up.
"Give me your hand," she heard him plead in the midst of their tangled limbs and frantic kisses.
When she first put forth her right hand, she was confused when he gently brushed it aside and firmly grasped her left hand instead.
Then she watched him reach into his pocket.
A faint golden glimmer winked at her from the palm of his hand, then a tiny flare of brilliant white light beamed into her eyes.
His sleeves slipped back down to his elbows, damp and wilting, leaving his forearms bare. Droplets of water slipped down his broad workers arms, accentuating the deliberate direction of his reach. Then, his lean tanned fingers, strong and sure, wrapped so tightly around her hand, she felt her wrist begin to pulse from the pressure.
With infinite care, he parted her last two fingers and fitted a Ruby ring securely over her knuckle. Both his thumbs pushed the ring slowly into place, until it could go no further.
She could feel his eyes on her, watching her as she stared at the treasure he had just placed on her finger. She could not even manage a gasp.
A rose. Her final symbol.
It was no accident that the Rubies were arranged just so.
The fact that he had it in his pocket the entire time, that he had obviously been prepared for this moment, was all the more thrilling to her.
How long had he been planning this proposal without her knowledge? She could hardly begin to wonder.
As he stared at her breathlessly, a tiny drop of water rolled down the side of his cheek, like a perfectly placed tear.
Her lips collided with the irresistible curve of his jaw, and nipped their way greedily up the side of his face and down again until she found his mouth. Shy laughter and tearful sighs melted between them as they shared kiss after carefree kiss on the shore of the lake.
Julia still could not fathom how wonderful, how good it felt to embrace William with all her strength. At last she did not have to hold anything back. At last she could allow the fierceness of her love for him to shine through. Her hands felt him as they never felt him before. She was aware of every movement of every muscle in every part of his body. Every blink of his eyes, every breath that filled his lungs.
To feel him now was not only to feel his physical body, but everything spiritual and emotional buried inside of him. If she could feel all of this just from embracing him, she could not even dare to imagine how it would feel when...
Like a swordsman drawing his blade straight through her, the sensation was more than she could withstand. Julia shuddered violently in the arms of her humble hero, furiously shedding all thoughts of what would happen now that they were… engaged.
Her new ring felt heavier and hotter with each passing second; like a tiny golden equator, it seemed to glow more brightly whenever he touched her finger.
Suddenly his hands were buried in her hair, tugging her closer, stealing her breath. His mouth latched onto her neck, deliberate and consuming. She felt a shock tremble through her every time his tongue tasted the soft skin on her throat. In the midst of his elaborate kisses, he whispered obscenely tender words of adoration.
"I never knew our love could be like this," he whispered, his voice burning in quiet flames. "I'd all but given up hope of having you back."
His lips were scorching by the time they reached her chin, and he paused, pulling away the barest of inches to stare at her face.
His deep chocolate eyes, which had once seemed like a vast barren desert of longing, now glowed with the unshakable certainty and hope of the sun.
"Don't say that," Julia hushed him, one finger precariously pressing his delicate lower lip. "Don't ever say that... You have me now. You have my love, William, you always have. All of it. Everything I am is for you."
He sighed in blissful amazement, a low whimper – raw and urgent.
Her soul took an effervescent breath, drawing in the goodness that surrounded him, absorbing the essence of his kind heart and the sweet tang of his hidden desires. His face was never more than a few inches away from hers as he held her, his hand pressed to the small of her back, the gentle pressure growing firmer with promise the longer he lingered. Butterflies were flapping like mad in her stomach at his slightest touch. He was so close, she could taste him.
His gentle fingertips lifted a curl of her hair away as she tilted her head back in welcome. He kissed her neck with a familiarity so fierce, it filled every bone in her body with a tingling heat. His breath was hot and rushed, and every place he touched awakened with a tender jolt. Light filled the dark spaces inside her, and she felt dangerously vibrant, wonderfully powerless, yet so very wanted, as he worshipped her in his arms.
"Tell me again," he whispered like a lost child into her neck, his lips refusing to part with her skin. Somewhere just beneath the surface of the water, his fingers lovingly clasped hers, and repeatedly stroked the golden ring.
"I am yours," she responded, tossing her arms around his shoulders and tangling her hands into his windswept dark hair.
He uttered a gasping laugh of pure disbelief, the joy in his eyes blazing above her. "How can I be so blessed?" He lifted one wet, reverent knuckle to trace the fine curve of her face, his voice unfathomable. "Tell me, Julia... How?"
She answered him readily with her lips, though not with words. Kissing was the only language that truly made sense to her now. So fluent with one another, it all came flooding back.
His arms tightened around her, and she was liberated. Every terror was trampled, every curse was crushed. Like a warm spring from the ground, her love erupted into new life, and it was more abundant, more bountiful, more vast than she had ever imagined it could be.
Love could only reach so far when it came from one person. But when two souls combined, love's path was boundless, tearing the brittle bindings of the universe to dust in its never ending conquest over the impossible.
TA-DA. This took me forever. But I didn't feel that i could capture their proposal/love/finding eachother again in I Was Saved. This was just an extended version, that took me almost the same amount of time I Was Saved has!
Hope you all enjoyed reading this, would love reviews! :D
*Also - currently working on the next few chapters of I Was Saved so look out for those soon ;)
*OH- and the references to the Final Symbol...? All shall be revealed soon ;D