Summary: "When Strat's eyes took on this gleam they became completely focused on her—seeing only her. She was the point in any time that grounded him."
AN: Short quotes and scenes were taken from the books "Both Sides of Time", "Out of Time", and "For All Time" for purposes of flashbacks/memories. I highly recommend listening to Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years" while reading this. I picture them dancing to this song.
Seeing Only Her
In the six months since meeting this new Strat, love had never been absent. No longer was Time the great and mysterious force in Annie's life; replaced so thoroughly by Love that Time had almost ceased to exist for Annie. The only reminder of Time's connection was the ever-present pull of Fate that Annie welcomed. How could she not accept Fate's role in her life? Every day spent with Strat affirmed that he possessed traits that she knew were present in him a hundred years ago.
He loved to go on long bicycle rides through parks, laughing as he race down steep hills.
He was fascinated by her hair: the length, the color, the silky texture. As they sat talking, or watching a movie, or at a restaurant with friends, he would wrap his arm around her shoulders and run finger through her hair.
As they walked, he would place a hand lightly around her back to rest on her hip. Gentle pressure would guide her to move with him. Some saw this as controlling, an action that a man should not be allowed to have with a woman in this day and age. But Annie knew that Strat would never control her. Wanting to be connected and wanting to control were two very different things.
His lips felt exactly the same, but their actions were thankfully braver now, matching the social conventions of this century.
Even Tod agreed with her. He saw the similarities between Devonny and this Strat. But after searching through photos Devonny's descendants, Tod had to admit that only one Stratton was with them now.
This Strat loved Annie as much as the first, but Annie could see something more simmering beneath the surface and waiting to burst through.
The first sign was a few weeks after they met and were happily together. They walked along a beach and she saw mermaids' tears sitting in the sand. With an eager smile, she washed one in the seawater and Strat laughed as she place the treasure in his pocket.
But as his hand came back to rest in hers, Annie watched his eyes glaze over. Without a word he pulled her down to sit in the sand next to him. Annie knew that when she daydreamed of her other Strat over the past four years her eyes had also shifted, seeing beyond what was in front of her, watching people that weren't there. But when Strat's eyes took on this gleam they became completely focused on her—seeing only her. She was the point in any time that grounded him.
Sitting in the sand, he gently stroked her face, running a single finger down her nose and across her cheeks. Annie leaned into his touch and held back a sigh.
"…your hat?" he whispered, as if this was a half-formed thought.
Tears threatened to spill over. Annie swallowed hard, trying to swallow hope with the tears. "I would never wear a hat. But I took yours to wear."
His eyes still glazed, he leaned over and kissed her. This was not the deep, breath-stealing kiss she had come to expect from her new Strat. This was the chaste, love-filled kiss that her other Strat brought with every brush of his lips against hers.
"Sorry, I just felt this need to kiss you suddenly," he had apologized afterwards.
She held him close. "I will always want you to kiss me, Strat."
A few months later, he surprised her with a Valentine's Day carriage ride through Central Park. Even for February, the wind was fiercely cold and bit at their cheeks. As the sun set and their teeth began chattering, Annie was taken back to a sleigh ride with another Strat and danger at their heels.
The Strat beside her laid another thick blanket on top of them. He tucked her head into his neck and nuzzled into her hair. Annie turned to kiss him and saw that he was no longer completely with her. His eyes saw her but she knew that everything else in this scene was different. She thought that he may even be seeing her in a large, billowy dress with a veil pulled over her face.
"We can't get through…" he whispered. "We would die of the cold in minutes."
"Then we have only one hope," Annie replied, selecting the better moments from that memory to share. "You'll have to take the horses and drive us out of here."
"I haven't forgotten how," he spoke again.
And then he blinked and returned to this century. "I'm sorry darling, I'm not sure where I went just now."
Annie smiled at the common term of endearment, one that she thought both Strats approved of. "Tell me about where you were."
"I'm not exactly sure. It was cold and there were horses. We were on a sleigh ride at night, but in a forest—not in this park. At there was such a sense of urgency…but I couldn't tell why." His brow furrowed as he tried to rationalize such sudden and strange image.
Annie kissed him and whispered in his ear, "Next time you go to that place, I'd like to come with you."
In May, for their sixth month anniversary, he took her into the city for dinner and dancing. She wore a pale yellow dress with a corset back and a layered skirt that bloomed when she spun; the closest dress she could find to the Victorian gown Harriet loaned her in 1895.
When he picked her up, arrived at the restaurant, talked over dinner, and drove to the dance hall, Strat told her that he loved her. Annie had lost track of the number of times they had spoken those three words to each other over the past few months, but each one still took her breath away. She knew that it was Lockwood Stratton saying those words and feeling that strongly for her, and she had decided that would be enough.
There had been no glazed eyes for Strat since Valentine's Day and Annie knew that she could not stall their relationship by waiting for the next moment of possible recognition. Tonight Annie would try to say goodbye to her previous Strat in the only way she knew how: by dancing in a yellow dress, the same as she had done the first day they met.
Though she had danced with other men that night and she knew that each of them had taught her a different step, she only remembered the waltz that Strat had taught her. In his arms she felt comfortable and confident, gliding through the room as though her toes never touched the floor.
Her new Strat had explained that his mother forced ballroom dancing lessons on him years ago. He deftly took her through the fox trot, quick step, and other lessons that Annie couldn't even name.
A slower song began, whose beat Annie's body recognized before her mind did. The ease of the 3-beat timing lulled Annie, who responded to Strat's change in step as he effortlessly led her into the next dance.
Her eyes closed, Annie quietly moaned in pleasure and pain as she realized that they were waltzing as she had always dreamed they would do again.
Strat's sharp intake of breath forced Annie's eyes open.
His unfocused eyes bored into her own. His hand on her shoulder blade tightened and drew her closer. His right hand tensed around her fingers.
They spun around the room, never nearing another couple. Spins, dips, twirls, nothing separated them, his eyes only absent from hers for half a spin. The last notes of the song played as he dipped her low, holding all of her weight in his arms.
"…hope and joy and love," he murmured to her.
Tears slowly fell from her eyes. Annie asked the simplest question she knew could be answered by her first Strat, "What's my name?"
"Anna Sophia," he whispered before kissing her.
When their lips finally parted, they stood and he wiped away her tears. "Why are you crying?"
She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her fingers in his hair. "Because we belong together."