"Oh, Simon! Come quickly!"
The ocean waves on the shore were loud tonight, but Simon could still hear Nia's voice, yards away down the beach. Her skirts had been pinned up, and even at this distance he could see the water splashing on her legs, and in the brilliant light of sunset she looked like she was glowing.
Simon smiled as he treaded across the sand, each footstep sinking from his weight; Nia always looked like she was glowing. Even after so many years, she was still as beautiful as the day he met her -- slim legs, delicate arms, eyes that sparkled in every light and lack thereof, bright smile. Other people would describe her in terms of innocence, but Simon knew better. Nia knew hardship, and pain -- she simply rejected them, and kept her heart full of light, and love, and hope.
She smiled at him then, splashing a little deeper into the water and waving her arms; Simon wondered if there had ever been a time when he wasn't in love with her.
"Simon, look! There are so many things in the water."
"Yeah?" he asked, approaching the furthest lip of the tide, but not yet crossing into the water. It was getting late, and a little cold; treading through water now meant walking home with his pants and boots soaked through. Nia wouldn't have the same problem, with her skirts out of the water. "What do you see, Nia?"
She put her hands on her hips and tried to look stern, but neither her lips nor her eyes could stop smiling. "Simon, you have to come look!"
He laughed, shaking his head. "Nia--"
Nia crossed her arms, wavering softly in the water, the gentle tide buffeting against her knees. "If you won't even come out this far, I don't see why I should!"
He crossed his arms, leaning back. He thought about drawing out the game longer, but the sun would be gone soon. "Fine, fine," he murmured, kicking out of his shoes and tossing them up-beach, away from the tide. The sand was cold, and wet beneath his feet, particles squelching between his toes and clinging to his skin. As he walked into the water, cold from the falling sunlight, and the breeze, and the season, he felt his pants grow heavy around his ankles, and calves, and knees, chill climbing up his legs and tangling in between cloth and hair and skin. All the while, Nia giggled -- he must have been scowling from the cold. He could feel his mouth turned up in a grimace.
"Is what you have to show me really worth the cold, Nia?" he asked, trying (and failing, always failing) to take a stern, unhappy tone with her. She only nodded, her cheeks rosy and her hair almost orange in the light.
"The world is so beautiful, Simon. Of course it's worth the cold. But look!"
In her pale pink hands she held motley shells, all glimmering from the sunlight off the clinging water; as the tide shifted in and out between their legs, even Simon could not stand perfectly straight. He knew that away from this beach, the shells would not be as beautiful -- their off-white exteriors would always look dirty and smell of seaweed, and the inner colors would not be as vibrant -- but with the way Nia smiled as she held them in her hands, Simon could only smile back.
Nia pressed the shells into his hands, and Simon took them gladly; her fingers brushed his own, and then without a second of hesitation she had bent over, digging through the water. The water to their knees, even Nia's skirt was soaked by the rolling waves, and Simon almost dropped the shells. "Nia!"
But she merely turned her face up and just kept smiling, eyes bright and wet.
"Simon, it was your brother that wanted to break through the heavens first, wasn't he?"
Simon was surprised by the topic, on such a night as this -- years distanced from those hard battles, and from that harder loss. He closed his hands, but did not tighten his fists as he wanted -- even if that loss still hurt, using his grief to destroy the delicate beauty in his hands was not something anyone would have wished. He slid the shells into one of his pants pockets.
"Yeah. It was always his dream for us to use our drills to pierce the heavens. You know that, Nia."
"Mm." She nodded, and slowly she pulled back from the water. "I found proof."
Now Simon was very confused. He stared at her soft face, and the gentle seriousness in her eyes, and wondered if Kamina would goad him on to just kiss her already.
Curiosity won out. "Proof? Proof of what?"
She stood straight, water glittering off her arms, the tide growing a little stronger. Nia shivered in the cold; Simon did, too, but it was only curiosity that stilled him from throwing his damp-hem jacket over Nia's shoulders.
She held out her hands then, an offering, with the most brilliant smile he'd ever seen.
In her hands was not something beautiful like seashells, or sunset, or Nia -- and that was fine. Simon's finger traced along the tough, thick skin of the thing; its texture was rough, and cold, but feeling strong despite its size. It clung to Nia's hand, and Simon couldn't help a chuckle.
"What is this proof of, Nia? It's just a starfish."
"And where else would a star-fish come from, other than raining from the hole that Kamina and you and everyone else pierced in the heavens?"
Simon looked up into Nia's eyes, sparkling in the last of the evening sunlight, and it was if he had never met her before, as if every feeling of love and devotion for her had been taken away for a split second -- and all of them forced back into him in an instant, in the blinding piercing force of a giga drill.
He grinned, heart swelling with love -- for Nia, for Kamina, for everyone in the Gurren Brigade, for every civilian he'd ever met, all the ones he hadn't, for the drill around his neck and all it represented, for the shells in his pocket and the cold of the ocean tide and the gentle waving of Nia's hair and the color of her cheeks and the groping starfish in her hands.
"You're right," he said, cupping his hand around Nia's, feeling the cold and wet of her skin but under that her own fierce heat and strength. "We should probably put it back, before it flies back through that hole and undoes all of Bro's hard work."
The starfish glided smoothly into the water, and Nia went just as easily into his arms -- wet and smelling of seaweed and salt. His pants clung uncomfortably to his legs, and even when he managed to kick back into his shoes he felt nothing but hard granules of sand beneath his feet.
But the world was beautiful.