Notes: For LJ's 78tarot community. Seventy-eight fanfics for each card of the deck. (Oh damn.) This is more or less a reaction story to Crimson and Clover, albeit inspired by the 1971 film Melody. I eschewed canon and made Radarr appear later in the story.
Prompt: Two of Cups. It is recognition of love, of a friend or soul mate. It predicts that you will find someone who 'knows' you, and you, in turn, will 'know' them.
First of May
Their promise was nine years in the making. Without speaking a word, their steel-toed boots plodded up the sloping hill as a light, playful breeze blew against the fine hairs on the back of their necks. The squadron decided to visit the terra where they all met. On this Thursday afternoon, Piper and Aerrow separated from the group. The red, hazy sun began to set on the dark green forest in the distance. Standing side by side, the boy and girl's arms brushed up against one another's, and Aerrow grinned. His voice broke the quiet.
"So, you wanna race?"
Piper rolled her eyes skyward. Her chest heaved dramatically as she sighed. How typical of him. She wasn't in a racing mood and just wanted to relax. Besides, sprinting up the hill was a ridiculous idea, considering the mount in question took less than three minutes to climb. It was a total waste of breath. The girl voiced her opinion on the matter.
Aerrow threw his head back and laughed; bumped his hip against hers as he pointed teasingly at her. He didn't expect her to take up the challenge anyways, and was just looking to get a rise out of her. His eyes sparkled with mischief. He blurted a rapid "Ready. Set. Go!" before he sprinted ahead and left his companion downhill. Staring aghast, Piper shook her clenched fist and shouted after him.
"You jerk! That's not fair!"
Grudgingly, she ran up the hill and punched Aerrow in the arm as soon as she was able. The boy bent over his knees and snickered. She hit him two more times for that.
"I can't believe you left me!"
There wasn't much to see on top of the grassy knoll. It was an excellent place for tobogganing in winter, and all the neighbourhood kids took their sleds and slid down the hill, hooting with laughter. The Storm Hawks had good memories of sliding down as well. Finn's favourite method of travel came in the form of an old rubber tube; he sat in the middle while Junko gave the blonde a good push down the side.
Stretching his arms, Aerrow bent over backwards before he fell on the ground with a thump. He shut his eyes. Blowing some stray strands of hair away from her face, Piper laid down perpendicular to him, and rested on her side while she used one of her hands as a pillow.
Barely moving his lips, he asked her a question.
"So, did you get those stains out of your old uniform?" He referred to the splashes of grey paint she accidentally stained her clothes with when the team repainted the Condor last Saturday.
Her reply was short and succinct. "Nope."
The grass was tall this time of year, almost four inches in length, and the green blades tickled Aerrow's cheeks and nose. He opened his mouth and sucked in a good lungful of air. His heartbeat seemed louder in his ears when he was flat against the ground, as if his soul had a direct connection to the earth – as he breathed, the world breathed with him. It felt pretty amazing.
"Close your eyes," he said to her, "and tell me what you hear."
Piper lowered her eyelids to oblige his request; unaware that as her vision darkened - his opened. With a smirk upon his lips, he craned his neck upwards to look at the girl lying beside him. They were both wearing standard Storm Hawks uniforms, but unlike Piper's paint-splattered suit, the cut was different.
With the end of the war, the money the sky council gave the squadron for their efforts were spent on repairing the Condor, improving their sky rides, and designing better clothes. No longer a group of patchy-clothed teenagers, they were a real team with an official crest, armour – everything.
But unlike most sky knight squadrons, Aerrow permitted his friends to choose their own style. While he adopted his father's classic blue flight suit, Piper made some minor adjustments to her own navy-coloured wardrobe and added several decorations of her own. In the end, everyone matched with the odd body piercing to differentiate them from the others.
He liked it when she wore blue. He wasn't an expert on colour coordination, and was slightly blind in his right eye (Thanks Dark Ace, he reminded himself), but it complimented the natural hues of her hair. Besides, it brought out the twinkle in her eyes. Nothing was more infectious than a happy Piper bubbling with joy.
A few clouds swept across the sky and hid the sun. The wind got a little colder. The grass swayed in the breeze, bent at the waist and began to prick and scratch at Aerrow's skin.
"Yeah? I'm still trying to hear." Her brow furrowed into a mild frown as she searched in the dark for whatever it was she was supposed to find. There was the wind, the pebbles that pushed into her back – but that was it. Wrinkling her nose, she questioned his motives. "Just what am I supposed to do?"
"Relax, it's not a test. Just take a deep breath and let nature call you."
She snorted. "That's silly, Aerrow."
"Oh really? Well– " Words failed him as he tried to formulate up a suitable comeback, but he was too darn relaxed. Shrugging his shoulders, he allowed this battle to pass. Moreover, Piper had a larger vocabulary and getting into a word scuffle with her didn't exactly play to his strengths.
The girl lowered her voice and whispered softly; her message drifted down from her lips and curled around his ear like smoke. It made his body tingle all over. "I still can't hear it."
Rolling over on the dirt, Aerrow rested on his stomach as he shifted over on the grass in such a way so his body was now parallel to hers. He grasped her hand and told her to keep her eyes closed. There was a certain softness about her features as the small shadows underneath her eyelashes danced and fluttered over her brown skin.
It was now or never.
"Will you finally marry me?"
The girl's eyes shot open and she let out a bark of laughter. Her hands immediately went to her breast as she sat up, and wiped the tears from her eyes. He had almost gotten her that time. Lifting her knees to her chin, she sucked on her bottom lip to prevent herself from choking to death.
"So, was that good or what?" Aerrow remarked, and leant back on his elbows with a sly grin. "I almost got you there too."
She agreed. "One of your best yet."
It started as a game, and every year, he was obliged to ask. They didn't take his proposals seriously; it was an entertaining tradition.
Unlike the rest of the team, whom Aerrow knew from elementary, he met Piper near the end of their school days - right before he formed his squadron. The first time Aerrow asked was when she just turned thirteen. She remembered him knocking on her door one morning, holding a bouquet of daisies and baby's breath he then presented to her aunt before requesting to see Piper.
The woman with mocha-coloured skin smiled pleasantly and instructed him to wipe his shoes on the rug before he entered the house. From the kitchen table, Piper polished off the last of her sugar cereal and rushed to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Her uncle was still reading the morning paper.
Seven minutes later, and she was ready. Waving goodbye to her guardians, the kids walked away.
"So, where are we going?"
"It's a surprise."
They drove their sky rides to the junkyard where they were supposed to meet up with a boy named Finn and his wallop friend. Stork was tied up at work and would join them later. So far, there were five members on the team, but the redhead said there was one more. That afternoon, Aerrow introduced the sixth party of the Storm Hawks – Radarr.
But before that happened, Piper and Aerrow waited about on the dirt road for their friends to arrive. Eventually, the conversation deviated from Finn to the Condor to dreams of the future. Aerrow obviously wanted to be a sky knight while Piper wanted to be a world famous crystal specialist. With pride, she touched the jewel hanging just above her developing breasts.
"And hey, did you notice this necklace my aunt and uncle bought for me?"
"Sure do. It's really pretty." Scratching the back of his neck, the redhead kicked some pebbles around and waited for the familiar roar of a motorcycle. Leaning against the aluminum fence, he crossed his arms and stared hard at the 'No Entry' sign posted on either side of the road.
"Hey, do you really want to be on my squadron?"
"Yeah!" It sounded like an adventure, and Piper was looking for some fun. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, dunno. I thought you might refuse since you're a girl. You'll be living with a bunch of guys, and most girls I know wouldn't take that chance."
To his delight, Piper placed her hands on her hips and struck a pose. She fluttered her dark eyelashes and a knowing smirk materialized on her lips.
"As if. I'd rather save the world with you than stay here and wait for the Cyclonians."
As far as he was concerned, she was still a bit of a tomboy, but every now and then, he'd catch a glimpse of the grown-up teenage girl she was meant to be. He was just making sure she didn't have any regrets.
"Are you sure about this? Since you're going to be my first officer and the Condor's navigator, what's going to happen if you want to leave?"
"What makes you think I would want to leave?"
Her body posture made his cheeks flush and he looked away. He wasn't familiar with the female sex, but he knew enough to know that when girls were at this age, certain things happened to their bodies that suddenly made them more attractive than before.
"Uh," he stuttered, searching for the right words. He had the urge to climb up the fence, jump over, and disappear into the heaps of junk on the other side. "What if you found somebody you like?"
"Like what?" She urged him, gesturing with her hands to continue. With her keen hearing, she heard the faint rumbling of thunder. Motorcycles.
"Like. As in someone you liked - liked. Somebody like a serious boyfriend. Would you leave the team then?"
Piper clamped her hands to her mouth; her cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk, and attempted to swallow a fit of the giggles.
Unable to hold it, the girl burst out laughing and pointed at his chest in mirth. Oh, that's just silly. As if she would leave the team for a boyfriend. As if she was interested in getting one. The joke was so good, it made her ribs ache.
"What?!" The corners of Aerrow's mouth pointed downwards as she continued to ridicule him at his expense. It was a valid question, wasn't it? He had reason to fear her quitting in the future, especially if romance was on the mind. "Did I say something wrong?"
Wiping her tears with the bottom of her hand, Piper snorted one last time before clearing her throat. "Yes! I can't believe you'd think I'd abandon you for a boyfriend!"
"You'll be hanging out with us for a long time." He warned.
She waved a hand in the air like she was batting away flies. "That's okay. We'll be going to all sorts of terras and I'll get the chance to discover new crystals on the way. And just think! Some of the Atmos has never been explored before – we'd be like pioneers. If I stayed here, I wouldn't get to do that. There's not a lot of jobs on this terra. I'd probably sit on my doorstep and start daydreaming again…"
The girl babbled at ten words every two seconds, and Aerrow mentally worked out she could have cut down her speech by half if she didn't use so many words. Then again, that's what made Piper – well, Piper.
"What if you suddenly liked someone in the group?" That suggestion earned him a great stinkface.
"Ewww! You're not serious, are you Aerrow?" The thought alone made her feel a little gross, to be honest. There were some lines that friends should never cross. Ever.
The boy laughed and turned his head to the side, peered over Piper's shoulder and saw a dust cloud coming up the road.
He teased her with a roguish wink. "Hey, you never know. One day, you might marry me."
The girl rolled her eyes but couldn't resist flashing him a grin. "Ha ha. We'll just see about that."
Every year, for nine years, he proposed to her. What started as a casual remark turned into a full-fledged joke. The first two years he bested her, and cramped up laughing at Piper's wide-eyed reaction before her lips blurted out a feeble rejection. Soon, the girl worked out his strategy and kept vigilant, anticipating his next attack. He only asked once a year, at no particular time, and only when they were alone.
The last time he apprehended her was during the seventh round of a card game. It hadn't been his smoothest delivery, and Piper declared it his worst one yet. They were sitting in the kitchen, bored as hell while the rest of the team played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey in the hangar, only that the donkey was Harrier's chiseled face. Stork taught Aerrow and Piper how to play as a way to pass the time, although she had the sneaking suspicion that they were supposed to pass the knowledge onto Finn. That way, the blonde wouldn't pester the merb so much.
Anyhow, it was fun.
It was Aerrow's turn. Unable to withhold his upcoming victory, his green eyes flickered over to Piper's fingers, and did a little mental dance knowing he held the last queen she needed to complete her hand. Exaggerating his gestures, he flourished all the matching cards in his deck and finished the game with the red queen.
"Hey, that's what I was looking for!" she exclaimed loudly. That made the score four to three. Never one to take defeat lightly, she gathered all the cards to her side of the table, stacked them together into a single pile, and started shuffling. "I challenge you to another game."
Leaning against the back of his chair, Aerrow calmly replied.
"Only if you marry me."
Piper groaned. "That was weak, Aerrow. Weak."
Now, nine years since the joke's conception, he finally received the physical reaction he sought for so long. The look on Piper's face when he asked - her eyelashes blinked thrice to register his words, the corners of her mouth turned downwards as if she was seriously contemplating his question – the delivery was perfect. He couldn't wish for a better one.
The Storm Hawk stood up and clapped his hands together to clean off the pebbles and grass. Reaching down, he helped his comrade get up and pointed towards the sky. The sun completely disappeared into the tree tops and the wind picked up its pace. True to Stork's uncanny skills of natural observation, the sky looked ready to rain tonight.
"Should we head back to your aunt's?" He inquired, and thought about the hot leek soup Piper's aunt promised to prepare for dinner. Coming back to this terra made him feel as if he were reliving both his early and late teens, if that made any sense. Somehow, it didn't feel so long ago. Was it really almost a decade since they first left?
Shaking her head, Piper took out her wrist watch and turned the dial to make sure the hands were properly wound. "It's not six-thirty yet. We still have half an hour to make it." The lilt in her voice indicated there was something else on her mind, so Aerrow let her take the lead.
Piper bounced down the hill and made sure she was the one ahead as she led the way through the bushes and into a forest of pine trees. The old school ground was where they first met, where Aerrow introduced her to all of her other best friends. Fate had a way of working out. Junko transferred only three months before her, and Finn popped in a year before that. Stork was the oddity among them; the sky knight's son found him during one of his junkyard expeditions. Apparently, that's where the merb worked. Stork repaired the Condor for them, and as payment, he became her carrier pilot.
"You know, this place has a lot of memories for all of us."
Aerrow words didn't come out quite as clear as he wanted to as he chased after her, his chest puffing a little at the fast pace Piper kept. The foliage wasn't dense, but it felt thick. There was at least three inches of debris on the forest floor and he kept running into small clouds of mosquitoes. Either Piper was trying to lose him amongst the trees, or she was really eager to get to the swings.
"Oh hey! Look Aerrow, it's still here!" Again, that infectious giggle of hers lifted his spirits. His feet ran faster and Aerrow vaulted over a fallen tree trunk, stopping just in time before he launched himself over the edge of a small cliff. Below their boots, there was the old grade school with walls of red bricks, and beside it was the playground.
"Last one to the swings has to push!" she squealed and sprinted down the mossy precipice. It was just like the toboggan hill, only dirtier. They slid down on their hands and bums, and shared ridiculous faces at the soiled state of their uniforms. Piper pushed the gates open but didn't notice when her orange headband slipped off her hair and fell into the sand.
And because Aerrow picked it up and returned it to her, he was the loser of the race.
They didn't go down the barrel slide. An old oil drum, once painted red but now chipped and dented from years of abuse, made them cringe in horror with the knowledge that preschool kids peed in there all the time. They had one heck of a time trying to crawl underneath the metal bars onto platforms that were far too small for their adult bodies. However, they did go down the wide steel slide. Instead of sitting down like proper kids, they stood up and whooped for the three second ride.
When Piper sat down on the swing and kicked up some sand, Aerrow grabbed hold of the chain links and dragged her back as far as he could, almost to the level of his forehead, and gave her an almighty push.
Piper shut her eyes. It felt like flying for the first time.
"Again!" she cheered happily, "Aerrow, push me again!"
Their favourite piece of equipment was the roundabout. Finn called it the merry-go-round, but that usually conjured up images of a fun fair, complete with a ferris wheel and shooting stalls. Piper and Aerrow stood on the flat metal disk, which was approximately three metres in diameter, and propelled themselves with their feet. They stood on opposite sides of the wheel to even the weight distribution, and they whirled around numerous times to the point where the playground became one metallic blur.
"Are you dizzy yet?" He shouted. Piper's screams in addition to the constant roar in his ears made it a smidge difficult to communicate properly.
They spun faster.
Finally, the girl surrendered to motion sickness and started dry heaving. She cried for him to stop and dragged her foot in the sand to slow their momentum. Taking shallow breaths, she released the handle bars and wobbled over to the tire swing, which she gladly threw herself over. Thankfully, it wasn't too far away. The sound of boots shuffling across the sand indicated Aerrow followed her. He wasn't as ill as she was, if only for the reason he liked the tosses and turns better.
Piper groaned uncomfortably as the swing was pushed to the side. Aerrow clung to the chains for support.
"Too much spinning?" It was a rhetorical question.
"Too much spinning."
Like a drunken pair, they looped their arms over the other's shoulders and made their way back to Piper's aunt's house. They took the long way around. Although their sky rides were at the bottom of toboggan hill, the two weren't keen or confident enough to pilot their vehicles in their current dizzying state. They'd ask Junko to retrieve them after supper to avoid water damage from tonight's anticipated rain.
Piper started giggling as she recalled something very funny. Correction. It wasn't that funny as it was a nostalgic memory.
Aerrow felt her lean against him some more.
"What is it?"
"Remember the time you asked me to be your first officer? It was right at that same playground, on the same merry-go-round." Aerrow caught her just as she tripped over a crack in the cement sidewalk.
"Nah. It was the tire swing. We were standing on it like bad kids and swinging around." Still looking dazed, the girl blinked up at him.
"How can you remember that? That was almost ten years ago!"
He shrugged. He really didn't know. Maybe he just had a good memory.
Eight minutes later they walked with their backs straight and their arms swung freely at their sides, all previous symptoms of vertigo dispelled. The street lights flickered on and Piper checked her watch again – quarter past six. They were going to make it in time.
"Are you glad you came with us?"
The girl made a show of searching the dusky blue sky for a possible answer. Yawning, she patted her cheeks with her hands and tapped a finger to her chin. In the distance, they could see her aunt's house. The rest of the guys must be home already, they could make out the Storkmobile's silhouette in the dark.
"Yeah, I guess I am."
"Is there anything else you would change if you got the chance?" He stepped a little closer to her and flexed his fingertips. Their knuckles knocked against each other more frequently. Piper withheld her smirk – she knew he was doing this on purpose.
"Really? Not even one?" They were coming up to the porch now. A few more metres - Piper rapped on the door to announce they were home.
"Well, now that you mention it…"
Aerrow halted in front of the lit doorstep. Piper's aunt always made sure to keep the light on whenever they visited, just to make sure her grown-up niece and her friends could always find their way back at night. The girl took after her aunt - she took after both her foster parents.
"What is it?"
He backed up to make more room for her on the cement block. The toe of her boots came to the edge of the welcome mat as the girl rocked back and forth on her heels. She formed a peace sign with two fingers and made them walk up Aerrow's chest like a pair of little legs. The look on his face entertained her – and yes, she knew she was acting a little crazy. But hey, everyone was bound to act a little childish once in a while, right? She could see his Adam's apple bobbling up and down. It was a little dark to tell, but he might have blushed.
She spoke. "Aerrow?"
The girl placed her hands on his chest and stood on tiptoe so that she was as tall as she could be. While the rest of the boys continued their growth spurt into their late teens, she remained small and petite just after she turned sixteen. Sighing contentedly, she placed a small kiss to the side of Aerrow's cheek before she rang the doorbell. If it wasn't for him and his passionate dreams of being a sky knight, who knows how her life would have turned out?
She murmured quietly against his ear and felt his arms wrap around her waist. "Thank you for being my friend for all these years."