The drive to Mount Charleston was only thirty or forty miles according to the instructions Sara had printed out from the internet, but it felt so much longer. The radio was turned down low; the volume was high enough that it was clearly turned on, but low enough that a distinct impression of what was being listened to couldn't be made. It could have been any song for all she knew, noticed, or cared. Her attention was focused on two things: the task at hand, and the man accompanying her.
Every so often she would steal a look at Nick over in the driver's seat, and he would look over at her, and their eyes would meet just long enough for him to offer her a reassuring smile. The thought of flinging ashes off into the waters of Lake Mead and then going on a carefree day of sailing was an appealing thought, she had to admit. However, she was unsure of what potential health problems adding ash to the region's water supply would do. That being said, she was always more of a mountain woman than a water woman, anyway.
"You okay?" he asked, motioning to the small urn she held clasped in her hands. "If you're having second thoughts, I can turn around."
"No. No second thoughts," she said, smiling and placing the urn inside the cupholder. "I want what this represents out of our lives."
"So do I," he murmured, turning his attention back to the road in front of him. And she knew that he was right, and that he was thinking a lot about what the ashes had been in a previous life. What they meant to him was different than what they meant to her. Of course they did. "So do I."
The little mountain overlook they found made it appear as though they had entered a completely different world - instead of the harsh brush and sand and desert landscape that they had grown to know so well, there were trees and waterfalls and greenery. Sara stepped out of the car and held the urn tightly to her chest. It felt colder than when she had gotten in the car - then again, they were in the mountains now, it made sense. "You ready?" she called out to Nick.
"Yeah, yeah," he said, walking around to her side of the car. "The question is - are you?"
She knew the symbolism behind the moment. And - and she was ready. If she was honest with herself, she was ready. More than ready. Ready as she would ever be and more. And she said the one word that meant more for him to hear from her than any other at this moment, a simple and profound, "yes."
They stood there, looking out on the slope of the mountain together; his hand found hers, and they clasped their hands together as he took off the lid with his other. He shook the ashes loose, as the two of them watched them rain on the plants and cascade down to the ground, disguised in with everything else around them.
It was a suitable end.
She leaned her head on Nick's shoulder and looked up at him, with a smile on her face. "That almost seemed anti-climatic," she said. "I thought you were going to throw it like a football against the rocks over there and watch it shatter into a million pieces."
"I thought about it," he said, "but I didn't want to ruin the moment for you."
"This one," he said, crooking his finger under her chin and tilting it upward to face him. She caught her breath in her throat, and tried to force soft words from between her lips, but anything she could say now would be kind of pointless, as he leaned forward and kissed her. His lips were soft against hers, and she opened her mouth to him; oh, it felt so good to feel him there, pressed against her. She breathed him in, tasted him beneath her tongue; she wanted to freeze time in this moment, this peaceful, beautiful moment, and never leave it. It was just the two of them, and each other, and she wanted to hold onto this and savor it forever. And unlike before, she wasn't bursting into tears and wanting to run away from the situation.
That made it so much better, she had to agree.
They rested their faces against each other, their foreheads brushing and the tips of their noses touching, and Nick whispered to her, soft and sweet and oh-so-sincere, almost as though he had committed the phrases to memory, "And now, I'm stuck pining after the girl who stole my heart with her gap-toothed smile and big brown eyes. You."
"You're not 'stuck pining' any longer," she said in a matching whisper, flashing a devious little smile at him; so, apparently, her smile was an attractive feature to Nick. Who knew? It sounded like she had a lot of things to learn about him now, and she was going to have fun with the learning process. "You have me. We have each other."
"I know," he said, winking at her, "and I'm going to consider myself the luckiest guy in the world because of that."
"What do you say that we go back to town, get dinner somewhere, and see where the evening takes us?" she said. "I mean, unless you really were serious about taking me out on the lake."
"Oh, I was," he said, "but it can wait as long as you want it to. Maybe we can do that -" he paused, almost as though he was thinking about it intently, "some other time. When we have the full day, just to ourselves. No other commitments."
"That sounds nice," she said. Something he said took her aback, though, and she wet her lips, before asking for the clarification she so badly desired, "So in other words, you're letting me have control of how fast this relationship horse goes."
"If you want to put it that way, yes. The reins have always been in your hands."
"Don't worry, partner," she said, walking back to the car and putting her hand on the handle, tipping an imaginary cowboy hat to Nick with a wink and a laugh, "you won't be riding solo here very much longer. Not with me around."
"Oh, I was hoping that would be what you'd say," he said, walking up behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist, nuzzling into the side of her neck.
As they drove back down the mountain and back into the city, Sara couldn't help but look at Nick again; she swatted at the volume control on the radio, muting the incessant buzzing once and for all. She didn't want to be distracted from what she was doing. She wanted to memorize the curve of his neck and the way his hands held the steering wheel on the curving mountain roads; she wanted to imagine what they would feel like on her, holding her. She wondered if he would hold her the way she wanted to be held, whisper the words of love she knew he'd written about her, love her the way she yearned to be loved.
"What's on your mind?" he asked, rubbing his thumb along the top of her knee.
"Oh, just this guy I know," and she couldn't keep a straight face, so she quickly amended with a "you." She hid a coy smile behind one hand, and for one of the first times in what felt like forever, she knew that everything was going to honestly work out just fine.
For her, for him, for the two of them together.
Everything would be just fine.
Author's Note: So this story, and the little universe it created, are now officially complete. There's a high chance that there will be a smutty epilogue to this one day, but as it would be a completely different rating and tone than the rest of the story, that will be posted separately.
Thank you to Joe, my wonderful best friend/beta reader/resident Vegas expert/fellow Nick/Sara shipper, for everything you have done for these stories over the past few years - I will never have Sara and Nick undergo excessive rain in Vegas thanks to you, among so many other things I cannot begin to list here. And of course, how can I forget to thank all of the readers over the years. The reviews from my lovely reviewers kept me inspired, even when the updates were few and far between, and I also love all of those who put any of the stories on alert or on their favorites. And even if you did none of that, but read any of these stories still - you rock. Just so you know. :)
This isn't the end of me writing for Nick/Sara, just the end of this particular story. There are still a thousand more that could be told, in a million different ways.