Note: Now this is where I took Beyer's setting and did my own damned thing with the plot and dialogue ;) Hope she forgives me that. No infringement intended.

Epilogue


~~J~~


I finally see him sitting there, on the tranquil cobblestone streets of Venice, a figure among several but one I would recognize in a crowd of thousands. My pace quickens, my footfalls less and less soft as I approach. I rush the last few steps, breathless, an apology already forming on my tongue for making him wait.

He turns – and I see what's in his hands. The words die on my lips, my progress halted a step away from him. I've only seen it, held it once. It's wrapped in blue ribbon, my favorite color, but I know its shape. Its significance. And I freeze.

"What's the matter?" He's on his feet, his free hand on my arm, his dark eyes crinkling in concern. "Are you feeling all right?"

"I'm…I'm fine." In my hands, I clutch the box that has been with me since he left, all this time. Slowly, I bring it up, uncurl my fingers and show him what I'm holding. I'd wanted it to be the first thing that he saw. His face lights up as he reaches for it. He takes it from me, wraps his own fingers around it and mutely holds out the mirror he'd brought for me.

After a moment of looking it over, inspecting it closely, I notice that he looks back up to me, pulling my eyes from the most meaningful gift I've ever received, myself – even if it is the second time I'm receiving it.

It will be the last.

He places the wooden box in his pocket like a precious artifact he doesn't want to break, though I can't part with my own artifact just yet. It's too beautiful to put away, where the sunlight will refuse to catch the facets of the multicolored stones and reflect their splendor.

"I'm sorry I'm late," I finally tell him, watching the last traces of worry lines melting away from his familiar face, his smile breaking over the exchange we've waited nearly a decade to complete. "I knew you'd probably be waiting, but last minute debriefings had me–"

He leans forward and closes his lips over mine, silencing me. I'm starting to take that personally. Or would be, if he wasn't stirring things deep within me at the silken slip of his tongue sliding along mine, not-so-teasingly coaxing mine into a response he doesn't need to encourage to receive. If it wasn't such a tactile reminder of the last time that we met and all that lies before us now…

Lunch, when we're able to break apart long enough to politely experience it, is a quick affair. The food is delicious, and the conversation light and jovial. But there's a twinge there behind every word and gesture. Flirtation is no longer just that: meaningless fun. Comments and winking promises are just that. Real promises. Promises we intend to keep.

We're both free. It can be this easy; I'm finally starting to believe it. And when we stand, looking at each other for an eternity of a few seconds, I see everything I need to see standing right in front of me. I see my future.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, it occurs to me that it seems fate doesn't always have to be cruel. She's not always the ruthless bitch I've accused her of being over the years.

It's the easiest thing I've ever done when I take his hand and lead him across the quiet city street to the nearby hotel room that I've booked for us, carefully taking my mirror from the table with my other hand.

We get past the check-in with a belated wave and our notoriety alone, somehow manage to keep our hands mostly off each other until we break into our room, and the doors slide shut behind us.

We're alone. Finally, always alone. For years, when I'd imagined tracing my fingertips over the lines of his tribal markings, I always knew the absolute ease, the familiarity with which my fingers would move. I've done it once before now, but this time is even more real as I lean up and greet him properly, really greet him…fully welcoming him all the way into my heart, for better or for worse. With no lingering reservations. We fall across the newly-made bed and the mirror lies beside us, slipping from my hands to rest on the swiftly-rumpling coverlet. It bears silent witness to the frenzy unleashed between us.

From now on, when in doubt, I will look here. To this moment. To him. To us.

I'm already certain my life will never be the same for it – thank God.


~~JC~~