(a sort-of epilogue to this because I can’t stop writing about it, apparently.)

"You’re still sandy," Emma remarks, running her fingers through his dark, damp hair after they finally pull themselves out of the water. She knows she’ll be washing sand out of her own hair for another week or so too, but when he pulls her into the hammock to sit in his lap she decides it doesn’t matter as much as she originally thought.

He’s doing his best to avoid getting ready for dinner, even though they both agreed to get dressed up for this particular excursion (or at least more dressed up than usual. The silky button-down and the jewelry are about as fancy as Emma gets these days, and he can’t say he minds.)

You’re still sunburnt,” he answers back, leaning into her touch and laying his hand against her thigh. He can feel the heat of the sun on her skin just as much as he can see it in the pink on the apples of her cheeks, a color he knows will turn more red as the sun continues to sink. Every good sunburn takes a few hours to really show and hers is only just coming up.

He trails his thumb back and forth over her smooth skin, tracing around a freckle that he’s never seen before. Granted, they finished the list of goals she wrote out for him a year ago ago, the day he came into her clinic, but he likes to think he knows her better than almost anyone else. He’s almost sure, in fact.

Sometimes he thinks losing his hand might have been the best thing that ever happened to him, if it led them to each other.

"We can’t sit here forever," Emma reminds him gently, doing absolutely nothing to extract herself from his hold and go back inside to grab her shoes. "We’re going to be late."

"Didn’t anyone ever tell you there’s no such thing as late at the beach, Swan?”

"Only you, and only when we’re running late to to something."

She smiles one of his favorite smiles then, tracing the curve of his eyebrow and looking at him like he’s just told her the best secret in the world. The small velvet box in the pocket of his most formal pair of shorts shifts slightly as he leans up to taste her smile, but it’s not time yet. He pushes it back out of sight as he allows Emma to pull them both off the hammock, hoping he gets to see that same smile when the right moment comes.