"She's seafaring," the captain promised before he brought the siblings on board. This in response to the skeptical expression Samael wore as his stare swept the ship from bow to stern.
But beggars couldn't be choosers, and they could afford none of the other ships at anchor. Samael's uncertainty was soft and tremulous, but his fear for Tabitha was bright and sharp and his determination was as unyielding as granite.
Now she feels his frustration and terror, amplified through the squeeze of his hand around hers, and nausea as the ship swells and rolls beneath them. But Samael's presence is swallowed by the feel of the ship buckling in the grip of the storm that rages. She is the ship, every straining board, the rigging whipping against the deck and the mast, even the crew — most of them hunkered down against the wind, but a few still fighting for control against the indifferent destructive force of the storm.
Trying to hold it all together is a hundred times harder than trying to remain curled tightly around herself against the prying, pulling hands of the wardens who strapped her down for her treatments before Samael freed her. She could never do it. They were too strong. And the storm is beyond the strength of mere men.
But she must, she must — alone, the ship would have been torn apart already, all thirty-three souls on board lost to the sea. Together they are stronger. Maybe they can accomplish together what Tabitha was too weak to do alone. She holds on. The wind howls and the water chops and crashes, stealing away the voices of the crew — drowning out Samael's broken murmuring of "Bitty, Bitty… Tabitha… It's okay" as his fingers tense in her hair — but Tabitha hears it all as if it is spoken in her own voice.
Eventually the storm eases, and Tabitha leaks back into her body to find herself diminished. She fights for breath against a chest that is suddenly heavy. Her muscles are liquid, her skin at once cold and hot, and chills set her to shaking that aches in her bones. She slits her eyes toward Samael and tries his name, but her throat squeezes it into a moan.
"Bitty," Samael murmurs, his dark eyes flicking over her face. "Where did you go?"
She doesn't need to answer. She senses his understanding — a soft feeling under the pang of despair. I was the ship, she wants to say. We were strong. But that strength has gone.
His fingers thread through her hair. "I wanted to keep you safe. I thought I could — I thought this was the way."
Her eyes slip closed, but she fights for a smile. She manages a bare whisper. "S'okay." She may yet survive this; she's not sure. But if not, better to die free, having felt the strength to withstand a storm, than in captivity.