A/N: I've been thinking about writing Serquel fics for months now.
So here's an oneshot until I can gather the courage to write a multichapter. :)
This one is dedicated to the beautiful people I've met through this fandom. I'm so grateful.
The ocean waves soaked Sergio's pants at his ankle, as he stood there looking up at the sun, meeting its blazing glare. Birds were chirping at a distance, shadows of palm trees reflected in different patterns in the rippling water. Palawan was as majestic as it always was. But all Sergio could feel was an unimaginable sense of rejection and abandonment.
That past week had been especially hard for him. He had not considered anything could be harder than the last four months. Still, that week was.
Four months ago he had lost his beloved brother in the heist, along with two other members of the team who had trusted him with their lives. He used to adore Andrés, losing him made him impossibly desolate. For a man who prefered spending the majority of his adult life all by himself that was saying something.
On top of it all, he had lost the one woman who was his anchor all through the tumultuous heist. He had lost his Raquel. She was the reason Sergio was not rotting in a prison cell at this moment. She was the reason Sergio knew there were many more colours to life than just shades of grey. Raquel had made him feel alive much more than his life's sole project of robbing the Spanish Mint ever could.
That same Raquel was now in Palawan, yet not with him.
Just over a week ago Sergio had received an alert through his sources that Raquel Murillo was arriving in Palawan as a representative of a Spanish non-profit organisation. She would be staying there for a week to conduct various seminars and fieldwork to support battered women and children of the Philippines.
When Sergio had left the coordinates on the postcards he knew there was a slim chance of her figuring it out. Yet under the circumstances, he could not leave more hints than that. He had started sitting at the bar near the coordinate since the day he arrived at Palawan, hanging on to that slim chance. For four months, he did not skip a single day, even on days he had simmering fever or days when heavy winds thundered the beach.
The day he had received that alert he felt like the wind had been knocked out of his gut. When the initial shock had subsided, pure ecstasy washed over him. He was in fact proud of the cover Raquel had chosen to arrive there. A non-profit work raised a lot less suspicion than just travelling for fun. Though Sergio was quite sure Raquel cared for these women and children deeply, cover or not. The night before her arrival he spent hours pondering over which suit he should wear the next day. Sleep was an illusion. At the crack of dawn, he was already pacing on his porch trying to calm his nerves.
Dressed in his white suit and fedora hat, he had ordered two glasses of wine at the bar, for Raquel and him. He kept checking and calculating the time it'd take her to come there from the airport. The adrenaline rush in his veins was so high he could barely touch his wine.
"Are you alright, Sir?" the bartender had asked him in broken English.
"Sí, sí," Sergio had forgotten to speak English in his ever increasing anticipation.
Hours went by but she did not materialize. Sergio kept darting his eyes in every direction. With every passing hour, his agitation kept increasing as his hopes diminished. The sunset over the horizon caused a mild gloom to descend around him, his heart darkened as well. He had no idea what had gone wrong. Try as he might he could not find an answer as to why Raquel would arrive in Palawan and not rush to the coordinates, to him. He concluded she might have been too jet-lagged that day.
Sergio returned to the bar the next day with renewed vigour. He ordered two glasses of wine again and waited, his heart full of hope. He did not let his heart get clouded by the day before. Swirling the wine in his glass, he tried concentrating on the chatter of other tourists until she arrived. But it was fruitless as he could only think about her.
She did not turn up.
The walk back home from the bar on the second day was especially painful. He considered going to her hotel directly. He, of course, knew where she was staying. Yet couldn't bring himself to do that. He had once muddled with her life so much that she had to bear the consequences for days and months afterwards. He was not willing to invade her privacy again.
He kept going to the bar for the following days as well, convincing himself that that day she'd be there, probably asking the bartender for a charger because her phone had died, again. But he came up empty-handed each day. His hopes being crushed over and over again.
He knew today was her last day in Palawan, and he was almost at the end of his rope. In the end, there was only one conclusion that sounded relatively probable to him: Raquel had come to the coordinates, saw him at the bar from a distance and realised he was not worth it. She must have thought he was not worth leaving her life behind and adopting the life of a fugitive. So she had left without greeting him.
Sergio was exhausted from all the pent up energy of that week. On this last day, he could not bring himself to sit even until the bar closed. He did not have enough courage to have his heart shattered yet again. So he walked back with fast steps.
Thus he was now glowering at the sun, standing in ankle-deep water in the ocean, letting the combination of the sweltering heat and the somewhat cool ocean numb his nerves.
Eventually, he came back to the shade of his home. He had work to do, had responsibilities to the society he now lived in whether Raquel had forsaken him or not.
The scorching heat of the Philippines was blazing over Raquel as she went from shop to shop trying to find a dress for the party that afternoon. Shopping was not exactly her favourite hobby. She knew she needed a summer dress, that's neither too down key nor too extravagant. Raquel didn't want to spend a fortune on it, especially considering she was there to help impoverished women and children of Palawan. Spending too much money for her luxury did not appear to be ethical to her.
It was a small party thrown by one of the sponsors of their charity in the Philippines. Though Raquel was not too keen on attending the party since she hardly knew anyone there, her liaison had informed her it'd be beneficial to build a good rapport with their sponsor.
Her phone started ringing while she was trying on an assortment of long orange and blue dresses in a quaint shop. It was her home number in Spain. Raquel, in fact, was expecting a morning call from her daughter.
"Hey honey, did you just wake up?"
Paula's groggy voice came through, "Yes, Mamá. Good morning."
Raquel imagined her cub stretching and rubbing her eyes lazily. She missed her already, although she had been away from her for just one week.
She said softly, "Good morning to you. Though mamá has been up for a few hours already. I have a party this afternoon that I don't really want to go to but I've to. So I'm trying to buy a dress for it."
She didn't know when Paula of all people had become her confidant. Raquel more and more found herself talking to her like she was a human by her own rights and not just her little girl. In retrospection, probably it was the time she got to spend at home with Paula after the heist at the Royal Mint concluded four months ago. Raquel and Paula got especially close in these past few months, clinging to each other, helping one another through rough times. Both of them needed time to heal from several heart-wrenching events and Raquel was so glad to have gotten that time with Paula.
By the time, Raquel started working again, primarily with several international charity organisations, it seemed like the air had changed in their house. They were generally jubilant, much more enthusiastic about their daily lives and ready to face each day together. The cherry on the cake was Paula's custody case was going in her favour, despite the dents Raquel's involvement in the heist had put on it. These days Marivi was more aware of herself too, though Raquel knew that could change any day for better or for worse.
Paula's concerned voice brought Raquel back to reality, "Oh no. What are you going to buy? Do you like anything?"
Raquel fought hard not to smile at her worrying over her mom's petty issues, "Not really. What colour do you think would suit me best here?"
"Lemon yellow", Paula answered without missing a beat, "At a beach party you'll look so pretty in yellow. You'll look just like the sunset, Mamá."
Though Raquel knew orange and crimson red were more probable sunset colours in Palawan she was definitely not going to rectify her daughter. "That's great advice, honey. Thank you," she then donned her mom voice, "Now you got to get ready for school though."
She heard Paula whimper as she answered, "Okay."
"I will tell you all about the party when you come back from school," Raquel promised trying to cheer her up again, "I'll even email some photos to abuela. All you have to do is smile through the day."
Raquel could almost see a soft smile forming on her daughter's face, "Deal. I miss you, Mamá."
"I miss you too darling. I'll be home before you know it."
As it so happened, Raquel found a mid-length, strapped, flowy dress in lemon yellow with patches of green in that very shop. Her reflection in the trial room mirror told her Paula definitely knew her way better than she knew herself. Probably she should consult her more often before dressing up, not that she needed to dress up much these days. In fact, the last time she had dressed nicely was her first date with Sergio, well Salva as she knew him then.
She had some time in her hands before the party, so she went to the beach close by and sat there watching waves crashing on the shore, children splashing water at each other.
She let her mind stray away to Sergio. She was not proud of it and this was probably not something a therapist would suggest, but thinking about him calmed her nerves down every time. Memories from the warehouse of their first night together, sleeping in his arms in her own bed with a stuffed penguin sandwiched between them, hanging from the ceiling and kissing him fervently were few amongst many memories from those five days that had a special place in her heart. She had built a mind palace with those precious memories, walking down the hall of those memories gave her much needed solace.
She was especially sensitive since the day she arrived at Palawan the week before. She could still picture him dreamily saying they could go away to that particular island and build a life together. It ached her heart to know that he gave up on that dream by the time the heist came to an end. Yet for some reason she did not entirely hold it against him. She knew the safety and protection of his team members was his topmost priority and taking the disgraced cop in-charge of the heist and her family along with him was not exactly the smartest plan.
But it was never enough to soothe her heart. She craved his presence around her. The longing to see him again, touch him again kept growing no matter how much she tried to suppress it. Raquel reached into her purse and brought out a postcard. She ran her fingers over the picture of the serene beach. In all these months despite how much she held onto her memories of Sergio, she couldn't gather the courage to look at those postcards again. It was only before coming to the Philippines for her charity work, did she take out this one postcard from the pile, containing the picture of a beach in Palawan. She couldn't even bear looking at the rest. Holding something tangible that Sergio had once given her made losing him far too real.
Raquel got up and walked over to the ocean, letting the short waves wet her feet. It was a beautiful place to be. She didn't know what pipe dreams she was nurturing by bringing that postcard along with her. It was probably her silly way of trying to determine which beach Sergio might have chosen for himself, though she did not really consider him to have actually landed there. But it was still a glimmer of hope for her last day in the Philippines and she was not ready to let it go.
Sergio hated parties in general. There was too much noise, too much alcohol and too many people he often neither knew nor had any interest in conversing with.
But it was the house warming party of one of his few friends on the island. He had first seen Kiet at a beach in Palawan playing chess by himself. Sergio had uncharacteristically walked up to him and offered a match. They have been playing ever since during their leisure. The man was an ardent feminist and philanthropist. His knowledge of international affairs was limited which worked well in Sergio's favour. But Kiet worked tirelessly for and sponsored many charities dedicated to the welfare of weaker sections of society. Sergio found it easy to collaborate with him while also continuing to teach a handful of local children. It gave him a sense of purpose in his life in Palawan.
The wine in his hand was getting warmer as he sat rigidly in a chair by a small round table observing others. They seemed to be enjoying themselves as they chatted and laughed animatedly. Sergio wondered when he'd be able to bail; thankfully, his home was close by. A while later he was relieved when he saw Kiet approaching him, manoeuvring through the guests.
Raquel never really faced any trouble getting along with people in gatherings. Earlier in the day she had not wanted to attend her sponsor's party but the chance to know the residents of the island was growing on her fast now. Most people she talked with after arriving at the beach-facing picturesque house were humble and welcoming. Both sides talked in broken English, yet the conversations felt genuine.
Kiet, her sponsor approached her while she was talking to a local surgeon.
"Can I borrow Miss Murillo for a minute, Dr. Timbol?"
"Oh certainly," Dr. Timbol smiled, "It was nice talking with you, Miss."
"Likewise," Raquel smiled back.
A little away from others, Kiet asked her whether she was enjoying herself at his party.
Raquel answered positively, "Thank you for inviting me, Mr. Saetang. It's been a pleasure getting to know you and to work with you," she added, "I'm having such a nice time getting to know the beautiful people here."
"That's wonderful to know Miss Murillo. In fact, I'd like you to meet another nice person we have here on this island," he gave her a warm smile as he started walking through the crowd of party attendees to the next room which was just as charmingly decorated as the one before, with warm colours and antique furniture.
Kiet continued, "Though Sev hasn't been here for long, he has adapted to the island life fairly well. What makes me so fond of him is the way he has taken several neighbourhood children under his wing and has been mentoring them ever since."
Raquel was moved. A man not only providing financial help but also actually putting in the effort for the upliftment of children, especially considering he was new to the island, was commendable.
She said while following Kiet to the other room, "Sev sounds like a real gentleman."
"That he is."
As they walked towards a wooden table in the corner of the room, through the crowd she could partially see a man, clad in a polished two-piece suit sitting stiffly on a chair. From a distance, he looked somewhat familiar. Something about his posture especially stood out to Raquel. It bothered her that she couldn't instantly register why she felt that familiarity.
He was looking at them as well. His intense gaze was almost uncomfortable even though they hadn't approached him yet. And then it struck Raquel. That gaze, she knew that stare a little too well. She knew those eyes well, knew them intimately.
It was Sergio.
Raquel realised just in time. Her head swaying, unbelieving of what was right in front of her eyes, she heard Kiet say, "Sev, this is Raquel Murillo. She came here from Spain to represent her charity. The organisation is doing such an incredible job. I've been so inspired listening to Miss Murillo's words and seeing her work this past week."
Those words hardly made any sense in her head as she gaped at Sergio. He was there, in person. He was looking a little worn out, yet just as impeccably handsome in his two-piece as she remembered him to be. He always radiated soothing yet comforting energy. Raquel soaked it in.
It was still surreal and she did not dare jinx it but the truth was that she had finally found him. She had finally found Sergio fucking Marquina.
"Hello, Miss Murillo. You're doing great work," Sergio said, showing absolutely no emotion on his face. He did not even offer to shake her hand.
Sergio had seen Kiet approaching him moments ago, with a woman on his toe. Long golden brown hair loosely fanned over her shoulders, she looked remarkably beautiful in her flowy yellow dress. Her presence instantly brightened up the room.
His breath had hitched. Sergio did not need a moment to recognise who she was. She was the woman he had been dreaming to share his life with all these months. The woman who was walking up to him was the one Sergio had been waiting for, longing to have in his arms, in his home.
But the wound was fresh. Sergio knew Raquel had chosen not to come to him. She had gotten cold feet after arriving in Palawan and had abandoned him. She had let him know he was not worth it. Despite the array of emotions now storming in his heart, screaming to him to embrace Raquel in front of everyone and not let her go ever again, he could not ignore the other voice in his mind, clinging on to his hurt. He decided to regard her formally, as he would do if he had met a stranger.
"I'm Sevlievo Manriquez. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"That's quite a mouthful, Professor," Raquel winked at him.
She had made sure Kiet didn't notice it. But making Sergio fluster in public or in private was something she took particular pleasure in. Raquel just couldn't help herself from addressing him as the Professor. He was a teacher in Palawan too, so that worked in her favour.
Raquel had noticed Sergio didn't show any sign of recognising her, he didn't even offer his hand to her. She promptly deduced he was putting up an act in front of Kiet.
The more realistic side of her brain prodded her to think how cold Sergio's gaze was, how unmoved he seemed after meeting her again. But she firmly chose to ignore it. She didn't want to get nitpicky about a moment so phenomenal.
So she played along.
Sergio momentarily lost his focus seeing Raquel wink at him. A jolt of electricity shot through him with that gesture. The hold Raquel had on him always left him baffled. He knew he was powerless in front of her.
"How did you like our island, Miss Murillo? Did you get a chance to travel?" Sergio ignored her previous tease and tried seeking answers to his own questions.
"Not really. No. I had such a packed up schedule. On top of that I didn't really have anyone to see the beaches with," Raquel pursed her lips, trying to convey to Sergio she didn't feel the urge to see those beautiful places without him by her side, telling her all the tidbits about them.
Kiet quipped in, "Our Sev here is an avid birdwatcher. He probably knows about our beaches more than I do."
"Does he now?" Raquel raised an eyebrow at Sergio, teasingly.
"Yes, Miss. Only if this wasn't your last day here I'd have surely asked Sev to show you around the island. I'm quite sure he'd have been glad."
"I'm sure too," Raquel snuck in another wink at Sergio.
Sergio shook his head, subtly. He knew Raquel was doing that on purpose and she was succeeding. Sergio was getting disconcerted.
"I don't think you'd have liked my company," he didn't lose a chance to remind her that she, in fact, didn't want his company.
"Oh you don't need to be so modest, Professor. I think we'd have hit it off instantly."
That caused Sergio to roll his eyes at her. Raquel was so hard to comprehend at times. She had an entire week to come to him. She had chosen not to for whatever reason and now she was what.. flirting with him? In front of Kiet?
Kiet cleared his throat, "Ahem.. I'd let you two talk now. Miss Murillo, please let me or even Sev know if you need anything."
Raquel smiled at him in gratitude, he had led her to Sergio after all, "I will Mr. Saetang. Thank you again for having me here."
She then turned to Sergio. It was time to address what his cold stance meant. She was starting to get frustrated with how distant he was behaving.
"May I sit with you, Professor Manriquez?" she asked with a sly smile on her face. She'd get her answers but not without teasing him some more.
"You may, Miss Murillo," Sergio was getting frustrated too. He was not really surprised to meet Raquel there, but she for some reason seemed exhilarated to have found him. Her eyes glistened when she first recognised him, almost as if she had been delivered what she had been looking for in a long time. That was the very opposite reaction from what Sergio had expected.
He expected her to be shell-shocked and avoid him at all cost, considering she didn't want him in her life. But the more Sergio was trying to push her away, the more she was injecting herself into his space.
Sergio sat back down in his own chair, finally taking a sip of his wine. He waited for Raquel to join him.
"Should I sit on a chair or on your lap?"
Sergio coughed audibly, almost choking on his wine.
"Please uhm.. sit on a chair," he dabbed his shirt with a napkin in a haste and nudged back his glasses.
Raquel sat down across from him, utterly pleased with herself. Whatever might be his reason to adopt an indifferent attitude, it was good to know that he was still not immune to her.
"How are you doing these days, Professor?" she stopped herself from asking 'how have you been'. They were still playing the game.
Sergio looked at her, really looked at her. Her hair was done properly, yet they were not perfect. It was laying on her shoulders unkempt. The lines at the corner of her eyes deepened when she smiled. She had put on makeup for the party and her glossed lips appeared particularly intriguing to Sergio, almost as if.. He averted his observation to her eyes, her unblinking, scrutinizing eyes. He squirmed under that gaze, even though he was the one who was hurt. Although she was looking at him softly he sensed she could see right through him.
"I'm hanging in here, Miss Murillo. This island life suits me and the people are incredible here."
Raquel quickly darted her eyes around the room, scanning the local people, they were chatting, laughing, swaying to the music. They did look like an amicable bunch.
"Seems like you don't lack anything in your life, then," Raquel tried but failed to hide her hurt. She had expected him to be waiting for her with bated breath. She realised how selfish a thought that was. She was restructuring her life in Spain. She longed for him, but that didn't stop her from building her life back up again. He had the same right to live his life as well.
Raquel felt sick in her stomach with the next thought. Was it possible that Sergio had moved on and settled down with another woman? It'd certainly explain why he had been refusing to recognise her as someone he already knew. He didn't want Raquel to complicate his current life. The thought nauseated her.
"That's one way of looking at things," Sergio answered. The way Raquel was looking at him, pained him despite everything. It appeared to him that Raquel was waiting for any word of affection from him. Sergio had absolutely no idea why. There was no logical explanation as to why she'd first abandon him and then look at him as though her world would collapse if Sergio didn't walk by her side.
"Professor," Raquel leaned forward on her elbows across the table and whispered, "Am I too late? Have you already moved on with someone?"
Holding her breath, she saw Sergio's eyes widening at her words. Whether he was ashamed at being caught or merely shocked Raquel did not know.
He called her by her name. Finally. She felt a flutter in her stomach despite the circumstances.
Sergio shook his head vehemently, "No, of course not. There's no question about it," Sergio had completely dropped his act. He was getting tired of the game anyway.
He looked at her, earnestly. She might not have chosen to have him in his life, but she needed to know there never was, never was going to be another woman in Sergio's life. No other woman could rock his life the way she had time and time again.
"Raquel," he uttered firmly, debating whether he should hold her hand, "I.. there.. never.."
Sergio trailed off, suddenly too overwhelmed to let her know what she meant to him.
"I know Sergio, I know," Raquel held his hand, the sensation of both saying his name and holding his hand a bit too much for her, but she powered through it, "I'm so sorry for even entertaining that thought."
Raquel holding his hand gave him the strength he needed. He needed the strength to be vulnerable, "Why didn't you come to me, Raquel?"
Raquel looked at him, puzzled, "Come to you? I wish I could Sergio but I didn't know where you were," it was unfair for him to blame her for that. He was the one who had disappeared. She had chosen to forgive him for that but the reality wasn't lost on her. He hadn't put any effort to have her back in his life.
But she didn't let go of his hand.
"You didn't know?" It was Sergio's turn to look puzzled, "If you didn't know the coordinates, then why did you come to Palawan?"
"Which coordinates? I came here for the charity, Sergio. That's what I've been doing all week."
Sergio's questions were not making much sense to Raquel, so she kept talking, "I only had a thin hope that you might be here. Remember the time you showed me a picture of this island?"
Raquel fished through her purse and brought out the postcard, "See I brought this postcard with me. I thought this might help. But turns out it wasn't that easy," Raquel pouted a little, suddenly reminded of the fact that she was not going to see Sergio again if it wasn't for this party. It seemed impossible now sitting across from him.
Sergio laughed out. A breathy, noisy, hearty laugh.
That made a few party guests look around at them. Raquel frowned, taken aback by his sudden change of attitude, but the sound of his laughter warmed her heart nonetheless.
"You brought one postcard with you?" Sergio said between his laughs, "Oh this is something.." Sergio wiped his eyes under his glasses, "Oh Raquel.." Sergio held her hand more firmly, stroking his thumb over it.
"What Sergio?" Raquel was getting impatient now, "Do you plan to blame me some more for not finding you sooner?"
"Oh no, no," Sergio grew insistent, "Quite the opposite, Inspectora. I want to commend you for not giving up on me."
Sergio drew in a breath. He still could not believe they were both under such misconceptions about each other. The explanation was simple, way too simple. Raquel had not found the coordinates, she came to Palawan exactly for the reason that was stated. It wasn't a cover. He felt terribly guilty for doubting Raquel to the point he had started resenting her. His belief in the fact that he was totally incompetent when it came to emotions was reestablished. Sergio felt bubbles of relief and joy forming in his stomach as he finally grasped how luck had turned in their favour yet again and they had met in that party by a mere coincidence.
"I was an idiot, Raquel," Sergio took the postcard from Raquel with his free hand and turned it over to show her his scribble at the corner, "If you had joined all the four postcards, you'd have gotten my location. I probably should have left a more distinct clue."
Raquel gaped at the scribble, realising with pain she had his location all this time. The lonely nights in her bed, the gloomy afternoons she had spent wondering about him, the mornings she woke up feeling an enormous void in her heart wouldn't have to happen if only she had turned around the goddamned postcards.
"Damn right you should have," she hissed at him.
Sergio knew he deserved her rage. In fact, he was surprised she wasn't more infuriated, "I know, Raquel. I should've gone to your hotel when you didn't appear at the coordinates after you came here. I'm sorry I doubted you... I'm.."
"You knew?" it suddenly became apparent to her why he had asked her the reason for her coming to the island, "You knew I was here and you didn't even reach out? What the fuck is wrong with you? Why wouldn't you.."she flailed her arm around, trying to make sense of the situation,"If I hadn't come to the party and left tomorrow..."
"Raquel.. Raquel.." Sergio called out, sincerely, trying to ground her senses with him. He needed her to not lose her trust in him. Not after all this time, "I thought you had come to the island, seen me and then decided I wasn't worth all the trouble, all the baggage..."
Raquel looked at him, stupefied.
In a moment of clarity, she realised that one of the most dangerous criminal masterminds of the world truly was a fool. He thought Raquel had deserted him because he wasn't good enough for her, "Oh cariño, I'm sorry if I ever made you feel that way. You are worth every last bit."
It always amazed him how swiftly Raquel switched between her irked and soft personas. Sergio always had to take refuge in his Professor alter ego to shift between strong emotions. The very things he sucked at, Raquel excelled in.
Sergio took his chances and reached out his hand at her. He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand.
"Let's get out of here," he murmured.
Raquel leaned into his touch, relieved that all the bickering, mudslinging, lack of communication, the game of playing strangers was finally all over.
It was just them. Vulnerable, bare, devoted.
"Yes, Please," she hummed.
They left through the back door after saying a quick goodbye to Kiet. He had offered them a knowing smile. They guffawed as they made their way through the sand. The sun had just set over the horizon, leaving behind a divine afterglow.
Sergio smiled thinking about how a week ago he had looked at that same sunset and felt gloom had descended around him and today, with Raquel by his side, holding on to his arm, the island, his entire world was automatically brighter, illuminated by her glorious presence.
He stopped walking, abruptly.
Raquel was giggling for no apparent reason. She looked up at him quizzically when he stopped, "What happened, cariño? Did you forget something inside?"
"No," Sergio shook his head, he could still hear faint music coming from the party, "Let's dance."
It was so astonishing a statement coming from Sergio, Raquel could only gape at him. The world around her kept falling far, far away, as only they remained in a celestial existence.
Sergio took her silence as hesitance. So he figured he needed to do better by her.
Raquel saw him going down on one knee, putting his open palm in front of her, "May I have this dance with my lady?"
She giggled again, tears threatening behind her eyes. What an absolutely crazy moment to live in, with an absolutely crazy man! She shook her head grinning, disbelieving her luck.
"Yes, you may, my lord," Raquel made an elaborate bow, as she gave him her hand.
Sergio stood up, blushing. Only Raquel could make him do such things, voluntarily.
Sergio put his other arm around her waist, grazing her skin through her dress, revelling in it. Her arm came to rest on his shoulder.
Raquel leaned her weight on him and whispered, "Hold me."
Sergio's voice got caught in his throat. He knew Raquel was an extraordinarily strong, proud woman. That she let herself be so vulnerable with him made his heart swell. He held her firmer.
Raquel let him support her as she took off her heels with one hand.
As soon as she threw those aside, Sergio lifted her off the ground without warning and spun around with her. Raquel shrieked midair.
As he set her back down again, she tugged his hair and drawled, "Aren't you playful today?"
No matter how confident Sergio tried to act around her, she still managed to make him gulp and left him speechless more often than he would like to admit.
Sergio blushed again as he mumbled, "You do that to me."
He sure was corny today. Raquel laughed, giggled, snorted all at the same time. All forms of her laughter merged, she swooned in the feeling of how free she felt in his arms. Sergio had an incredible talent of grounding her and letting her heart fly simultaneously.
They swayed to the distant music, holding each other close. Their feet dipped in the sand as they spun and turned.
Sergio bent his head down, close to her shoulder, the move making Raquel shiver. He planted a featherlight kiss at the crook of her neck.
Bliss surrounded them.
"Raquel," he breathed in the scent of her hair as he asked softly, "How is Paula?"
Raquel looked at him, eyes moist, "She's well. She has been making really good drawings and gives me so much fashion advice," she chortled, making Sergio chuckle as well.
"I'm so glad to hear that. Bet she has much better fashion sense than you," Sergio smiled, it was fun to tease her as well. He then asked sheepishly, "Did she ever ask about me?"
"She did, soon after the heist. She asked why didn't I go on more dates with the nice bearded man," Raquel smiled at the bittersweet memory, "or why didn't you come over anymore?"
Sergio hated that Raquel had to face those questions on her own. He traced her chin with his left index finger and asked throatily, "What did you tell her?"
"That you went on a long vacation but we'll meet again soon," Raquel tilted her head, her voice cracking slightly, "I didn't want to lie to her, Sergio. But I wasn't ready to believe you were gone either."
Sergio cradled her head, looking at her earnestly, attempting to convey that he never was gone. Raquel hugged him in response, placing her head on his chest silently telling him that she already knew that.
They kept swaying to the music, moving in a slow synchronised rhythm. Then he dipped her from her waist and brushed her nose with his, catching himself just in time to not kiss her, yet. Raquel's eyes glimmered as she looked up at him, holding on to him for support.
After he hailed her up on her feet, back to her previous position, he ran his hand through her hair, asking her again, "How is your mother holding up?"
Raquel's grip on his torso became firmer, seeking courage, "She's better but there is no guarantee how she'd feel tomorrow. She.. uhm.. distinctly remembers many things from when she was a toddler yet often forgets what she had for breakfast."
Silent tears dampened Sergio's jacket as he held her firmly in place, stroking her back, grounding her in the present.
"We'll face that tomorrow together."
Raquel nodded, mumbling something akin to 'we will'.
Later they walked down the beach in the moonlight, arm in arm, Raquel's heels dangling in Sergio's free hand.
"You said that this island life suits you, didn't you, Professor?" Raquel asked, cocking her head to the side.
"Well, yes.. I mean.."
She left his arm to bend down and splashed some water at him unceremoniously.
Startled, Sergio asked, "Really, Raquel?"
"Really! No.. Sergio.. no.." she sprinted, as Sergio tried to repeat her movement.
"You know I will catch you," Sergio ran after her, not even stopping to think about how different a human he was till yesterday; the reserved, cold man was now running along the shore to catch his woman.
"Not before I tire you out well, Professor," Raquel screeched over her shoulder.
"Are you planning to tire me only by running, Miss Murillo?" Sergio increased his speed.
Surprised by him making a suggestive comment, Raquel made the mistake of looking back at him to gauge his expression.
Sergio caught up to her in no time. Holding her by her waist, he tackled her to the ground. They rolled in the sand, getting partially wet with short waves, not that they cared. Their laughter filled up the air.
Raquel tittered as Sergio tickled her mercilessly. She caught her breath, stopping herself at the last minute from kissing him. Not yet.
Sergio bent his head down to nibble her ear softly, before rolling off and lying on the sand beside her. Hand in hand, they looked at the sky adorned with millions of stars.
Their individual thoughts were not too different. Panting, they both thanked the stars, the marvellous sky, the never-ending ocean, the coarse sand, the universe for that moment and for every bitter, horrible thing that had happened in their lives before, that led them to each other.
Raquel brought his hand, held in hers, close to her mouth, "I belong to you," she kissed one of his knuckles, "Sev.." she kissed another knuckle, "Salva.." and another, " Sergio ."
Sergio nodded, with hooded eyes, once again falling short of words.
They got up eventually, dusting sand off their clothes which appeared to be a vain attempt since they were half drenched. They gave up soon. Raquel's arms snaked his torso, as he held her shoulder, walking lazily by the beach. The concept of time lost on them.
"How have you really been, Sergio?" Raquel inquired, sincerity filling her eyes.
"Miserable," Sergio confessed, "I used to crave solitude yet ever since I met you, my life turned into a void without you in it..."
Raquel drew slow circles on the side of his waist with her fingers, letting him take his time.
"I.. I felt.. like a mess.. Without you, without Andrés," Sergio cleared his throat, "Andrés was my brother.."
Raquel's brain seemed to have paused for a moment, but she recovered quickly. She filed that information away in a corner of her mind. They can surely talk about it later.
Sergio continued when he didn't receive any judgemental look from her, "Often I felt like I was living without myself ," the memories of those grim moments spent a shiver down his spine. He was grateful for the nth time for running into Raquel at that party.
It scared him how good it felt to lay his heart bare in front of her. It was frightening to be so freely dependent on another human being for his emotional stability. Yet when he looked at her again, his fear faded away, replaced by a sense of reassurance.
She was here.
She was here with him.
Raquel did not lose her eye contact with him, wordlessly communicating to him that she was there. That she was there to stay, that she would pick up every piece of his broken heart and nurture him, protect him. She nodded to him, promising she would.
As a single tear escaped Sergio's eyes, his glasses getting cloudy with his heavy breath, he heard her utter softly, "How far along is our home?"
And that was it. Sergio could not hold it in anymore.
He turned to Raquel, placed his palms on her cheeks and pulled her face closer.
He whispered, millimeters away from her mouth, "It's almost here.."
Whatever Raquel wanted to respond was drowned out as Sergio kissed her, chastely. His sweet-salty taste on her mouth overwhelmed her senses. He kissed her once, twice, thrice.. and broke apart.
Raquel opened her eyes to look at him, her knees on the verge of giving away. She gazed into his eyes for several moments, before putting her arms around his neck and pulling him back to her.
She kissed him with all her force.
Sergio took a moment to get back his footing, lost in the supremacy that is Raquel Murillo. He soon cradled her wet head and kissed her back. Moments after moments passed, as they kissed, their lips and tongues tangled, having forgotten to take breathers, having forgotten about the world around them.
Raquel suddenly bit his lower lip hard and hissed, "That's for playing games with me."
Sergio didn't even try to discern how he felt about it.
She pulled his tongue further with hers, causing him to groan, "That's for not coming to my damn hotel."
Sergio's ears started getting hotter, as Raquel kept dominating him.
She then put his lower lip between her teeth and proceeded to lick it in rapid motions. Sergio felt the tingle from his lip straight to his groin, making it impossibly hard for him to keep standing on the sand, holding her and also focussing on kissing her back.
He began trembling as Raquel added, "And that's for being mine."
Sergio put one of his arms flat on her lower back, holding her firmly in place and kissed her back thoroughly, with all his might. He commended himself when Raquel couldn't gather herself enough to take a jab at him again and especially when a particularly loud moan escaped her mouth.
He told himself 'now we are even' but didn't dare tell it to her face.
Properly exhausted, they started walking again. Their home came into view soon enough. All that she felt looking at that house could be surmised as pure, unadulterated love. She was absolutely in love with the private beach, the big, open patio, the hammock, the whole idea that now it was her home too.
She beamed at him, as he proceeded to open the door for her.
He turned on the lights in the living room. The room welcomed her with open arms, it's enormous bookshelves and grand piano catching her attention immediately. Raquel was boiling with anticipation to see the rest of the house.
She turned to him when he asked, unsure of himself, "Do you like it, Raquel?"
The fact that he was unsure about Raquel's thoughts on the house made him appear too adorable to her. Only he could offer her the world, yet look at her for affirmation like she was his first girlfriend in high school. It was something that made Sergio especially appealing: he never took her for granted. Even if his life was on the line, he wouldn't hesitate about her. He'd still worship her.
Raquel swallowed at that realisation. There was no moment with Sergio that was not too intense. She touched the side of his face and stood on her tiptoe to kiss his cheek, managing to say only, "Oh cariño.."
Sergio didn't need her to say much more than that. Their bond transcended the need for words.
He let her explore the house by herself, not wanting to crowd her thoughts. He still felt unsure whether she would actually like it or not but deduced that this was her house too and she'd make it her home in her own way. If not anything else, he was pretty sure she'd tell him to his face if she didn't like any portion of it.
Raquel wandered through the house with slow steps, switching on lights, marvelling at the rooms, turning the lights off on her way out. In the end, she reached a beach facing room that she immediately knew belonged to Sergio. It had more furniture than other rooms and it was just way too organised.
Raquel sniggered at how clean and sterile the room was, because she was about to mark her territory.
Still dripping, with sand all over her, she plopped down on his bed, feeling like some big rebel. She shook some water and sand off of her and onto the bed. As she fell backwards on the bed, Sergio's familiar woody smell hit her nostrils instantly.
The feeling finally sunk in. She had arrived at her home. A home her daughter will grow up in, a home where her mother might find some peace, a home where she herself will grow old with her love.
Eyes still closed, she could hear a faint tune coming from the living room. She concentrated on the sound and soon realised it was Sergio playing the Entertainer on his piano, the same song he had played on their first night together.
In a way tonight was their first night together too. The first night of their new lives, in their own home...
Raquel got up slowly and made her way to the living room with unhurried steps.
Sergio smiled when he saw her coming towards him, in the dimly lit living room. He kept his fingers gliding over the keys, creating music for her. He felt this was his first night in their home too. That place never really felt whole without her...
She stood by the piano facing him, swaying subtly to his music.
When he finished he said in his hoarse voice, "You know, you'll miss your flight tomorrow."
Raquel looked at him through her lashes, taking in all his beauty. She then lifted her dress as she stepped closer to him.
Eyes locked with his, she straddled him on his piano stool and murmured, "I know."
A/N: If you enjoyed reading this one, please consider letting me know your thoughts. It'd mean so much to me.
You can reach me on twitter too(ch_rainlily).
Also who recognised the movie reference at the end of this fic? ;)