Spoilers: Up through "The Other Woman"
Note: An AU/Future fic inspired by the TV Guide photo shoot where Naveen and Elizabeth looked like very elegant spies. And written for this quote prompt at lostsquee: We are changed souls; we don’t look at things the same way anymore. For there was once a time when we expected the worst. But then the worst happened, did it not? And so we will never be surprised again.
He had always thought she was beautiful. Now -- stepping out of the bathroom in a dark blue gown, head tilted as she absentmindedly puts in her gold-drop earrings, her thoughts obviously elsewhere -- she takes his breath away.
On the island, there was always the taste of dirt and sweat on her skin. Her face was plain, her hair wild and undone. Now, her hair is sleekly styled and subtly perfumed; makeup accents her dramatic bone structure; her lips, when stained with gloss, seem fuller. Her dress artfully wraps one shoulder, nearly exposing one breast in a daring way. Underneath, he knows, there is tape holding everything in place, a gravity-defying illusion worthy of a magician.
The gown conceals more than it reveals: the lure of bare flesh a distraction from the weapons hidden on her body.
Tonight, their mission is a joint one. He will not say ever say it aloud, but he breathes easier when she is in his sight. He knows what he does in the name of pursuing his targets; he imagines she does the same. They never talk about it. Tonight, there are no seductions, no disguise other than her gown and his tuxedo. They are just two extremely well-dressed patrons of the arts, a handsome couple who invite jealous stares as they ascend the stairs to their loge at the opera.
No one notices them slip out, no one sees Juliet dispatch their target with a knife from her bosom, as if enacting a scene from tonight's opera.
Sayid disposes of the body while she cleans up. They are both such experts at this by now, they make it back in time for the end of Act II, to see Tosca stab the villain Scarpia to death. They join in the thunderous applause for the soprano's glorious singing, for the baritone's dramatic death, for the bigger tragedy yet to come.
Sayid fears the worst when he sees blood on the carpet, when he hears water running but no sign of her.
He finds her crouched in the shower, still dressed in a now-ruined red gown, her head tucked under her arm. The water is cold, he discovers as he turns off the tap. The color from her dress has run, as if all the heat has drained from it as well. He wraps her in a towel and pulls her to her feet.
She does not meet his eye; her gaze is focused far away. The bruises on her neck and arm are slight now; tomorrow they will turn purple and ugly. Her lip is split, the nails on one hand are broken.
He does the only thing he can; he wraps her in his arms and leads her to the bed. She is shaking from cold or maybe delayed shock. He slowly undresses her -- she's like a doll in his arms -- and folds the covers around her, then slips off his own clothes to warm her body with his. She finally stops shaking. Her head rests against shoulder and she speaks, softly, in a flat voice that doesn't really sound like her.
"Everything is fine. I took care of it."
He buries his face in her wet hair. He knows she can take care of herself, that she knows her own limits. She will be fine and they will not talk about this again.
If he really loved her, he would not put her through this, but Sayid learned long ago that the man they answer to takes a perverse pleasure in using her this way. That she is with Sayid is beside the point; neither one belongs to themselves now, let alone to each other.
Sayid wishes that she could stop, that they could both just fucking stop. But they cannot go back to what they were, who they were. Their path is set, as surely as if it were written down long ago and they have no choice but to act out the scenes in turn, even if they surely know how it will all end.