's the latest of this for now. As so many of us were, I was inspired by the final moments of Last Rites. I just felt compelled to put the visual into words. Enjoy.

The First Time: Three Words

He was trying to look positive. Fiona could tell the moment she saw him. He wore a forced smile that didn't meet his eyes. If they'd been at the loft or even Maddie's house, she would've called him on it. She would've told him not to play games, using her annoyance and anger to cover how it wrenched her heart to see that mournful look in his eyes. So many times she'd covered how deeply he affected her with forced vehemence, or by kicking him in the ribs. Now, though, Fiona couldn't make herself speak. She couldn't smile or scream. She simply sat there, hollow-eyed, knowing her suffering was white-washed across her face.

And she watched Michael crumble in front of her. His smile faded and his eyes filled with tears. Still, his words belied his expression. Picking up the prison telephone, he told her she looked beautiful. It was the most exposed, raw, honest compliment he'd ever paid her. But then he began to ramble about how he would get her out, how close he was.

Fiona knew what he was saying. He was using a hundred words when he needed only three. Three words they'd never spoken to one another. For the first time, she wasn't interested in playing the game. She needed him at the most basic level. She needed to lay everything on the table, to know that what she'd done for him was worth it. Fiona needed to know that she'd given up her life for someone who was now hurting as badly as she.

So she stopped him, and stated without hesitation, "I love you, too."

Michael stopped, and she saw another level of his emotional armor break down.

"We don't have much time," Fiona went on, her voice choked with emotion, "I don't want to talk about that."

Michael struggled for a moment, and then he started again, this time with tenderness in his voice that Fiona knew he reserved only for her. He started recounting their first meeting, referencing the little pub where he'd first approached her. She went with him, remembering and trying not to let the memories hurt. Still, when he let himself fall back into the lilting cadence of Michael McBride, Fiona couldn't hold back the tears. Michael's face was wet with his own crying, and it ripped her apart. Her Michael didn't cry. She knew that he hurt sometimes, that he would do anything for her. She believed he would die for her, because he was her strength. She pushed and he pushed back. She knew they were nothing without each other, but they didn't say it. Their relationship to this point had been held carefully between them, with neither fully willing to own it. Now, however, pretense was stripped away by the raw reality of how lost they were without each other.

So Fiona listened to him and felt her heart breaking. She gripped the phone as though he might feel her touch through its nondescript plastic. She let her tears run, wanting him to know unequivocally, without game-playing or double-speak, how much she loved him. She took him in, seeing the undisguised longing in his eyes, which were made impossibly blue by his tears. She felt a terrible ache in her throat from trying not to dissolve into sobs. That would be too much for him, she knew. Michael would kill for her, and seeing her reduced to sobs might send him over the edge.

So Fiona held the phone and listened. She watched him unashamedly cry, and over and over, in every story he told, she heard just three words:

I love you. I love you.

I love you…