The night was nearly quiet again; a quick glance told me we were alone again. I snuggled close to him, resting my head against his shoulder.

"I don't want to be angry with you anymore," I admitted. "But I have more to say."

He nodded, his chin brushing against my hair.

"I'm going to put it out of my mind until tomorrow," I continued. "Because tonight I don't want to wallow in anger."

He pressed a kiss to my forehead. "Then I will try not to make you angry now."

"Then you should try not to speak at all tonight," I joked.

He shook with the laughter he tried to hold in. His forehead dropped to mine. His fingertips stroked the edge of my jaw.

"If I'm not permitted to talk, you will have to speak to me," he reasoned.

"What? Why?"

"So I might hear your lovely voice."

"What should I say?"

His smile was light, easy. "What are you thinking of?"

Considering for a moment, I turned the question back on him. "I've been wondering the same thing about you." At his questioning look, I added, "You seem to have been thinking of the past lately. About our time together before you left. I was curious as to why."

Twisting a lock of my hair between his fingers, Dark's expression became thoughtful, distant.

He inhaled and exhaled slowly. "I've been regretful," he explained, his brow furrowing. "I have thought many times since we arrived here how your life now might be different, had I kept my promise to you."

Astonished at the revelation, I grasped his free hand in both of mine. "But why?" I asked. "We are together now. Isn't that enough?"

"Of course," Dark said. "It is more than I ever hoped, but I can't pretend that I didn't hope for a better life for you."

I felt a stab of my old sadness and tried to shrug it away. "Nothing has turned out as we expected, Dark...but I meant what I told you. I would not trade you."

Dark bent his head to kiss me. I returned it, clasping his face between my hands to convey my sincerity.

"I will not let you want for anything, Zaina," he promised me. His fingers sifted through my hair, cradled my head.

I let my head rest against his chest, above his heartbeat. I wound my arms around him and breathed deeply of his scent like home, just as my younger self had wanted to do so many times before on our nights like this.

"I know," I whispered back. "Right now I only want your love."

Dark held me close to him, as my younger self had always hoped he would. "You have it," he murmured.

~oOo~

Barton didn't declare it safe to travel the seas again for several more weeks. Although the rains lasted for months this time of year, he was now certain that we'd have good chance of reaching our respective destinations.

Sykes and Tallera had almost immediately begun readying themselves to leave. The rest of the crew had been shocked, but Sykes had assured them with a wink and some banter that his departure had everything to do with wanting time away with his new wife.

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