Disclaimer: They're not mine.


Orbit

The universe is smaller here.
Colorful kites form constellations against the sky;
satellites and comets, planets and moons, all condensed into a
single, crowded horizon.
It's such a clear day, he sees galaxies for miles.

Such a delightfully complex thing, a kite;
physics and geometry and the history of aviation,
disguised as a child's plaything.
He adores it, in that certain way he has, and she laughs at his enthusiasm.

It's so
very
human.

(Can you fly it, Doctor? Tony'd asked,
Tyler-green eyes wide and trusting and hopeful.
What was he supposed to say? No?)

It's just that it's so
fragile in his tentative grasp, crepe paper and sticks
bundled together with string.
Hardly something to trust in the clumsy grip
of a genocidal maniac.

Or so he'd assume.

He remembers how she seems more delicate, when she sleeps—
it's fascinating and horrifying, how much of her fits into
the palm of his hand. Last night
(every night)
he'd been powerless to do anything but stare at the way
he could span the width of her shoulder blades with
his fingers barely splayed.
As if she were nothing more substantial than moonlight.

"Gonna stand there all day?" she teases,
tongue caught in the space between her teeth.
He unspools the tether and runs.

He runs and it stumbles behind him,
Desperate to keep up, faltering, flickering,
and then—
almost—

it suddenly
learns
to fly.

(He'd forgotten
how very good at this he is.)

Tension pulls the string taut in his hands; it fights him,
this fragile thing,
and he struggles to keep it under control.

Her voice is pleasantly warm in the brisk, early-spring wind.
"Want me to take over for a little while?"
It's still a shock when her hand brushes his,
his fingers becoming fumbling and shy at her electric touch.

He'd told her, once, that he could feel the Earth turning
beneath his feet;
that they were clinging to the skin of this tiny little world,
and if they let go…

He's seen enough of the cosmos to know that Copernicus
had certainly been onto something—
(fascinating fellow; took his tea with three sugars)
but frankly, looking at her now?
The idea of even suggesting that
the center of the universe lies elsewhere
is nothing short
of ludicrous.

(He feels her always, without even trying. Like gravity.)

Tony tugs on his hand,
bored for having been ignored all of five seconds.
"Make me an airplane, Doctor."
He grabs the tiny boy and flings him into the air,
clasping both hands, grinning and spinning and
up
he goes.

There are stars in her eyes, and wisdom in her smile—
she'd remembered, even if he hadn't:
he's always been so very good at this.

Last night, leaning against Tony's doorframe, he'd watched as she read
a bedtime story—
the Three Little Pigs, because she knew he'd be looking.

She'd caught his eye as she narrated,
using voices and all;

"And then the big Bad Wolf said,
'I'll
huff and I'll
puff and I'll
blow your house down.'"

Not even an hour later, she was gasping against him,
Her warm breath whispering nonsense into the shell of his ear
and he'd come undone for her, as promised.

A sudden gust makes the kite dive unexpectedly, but
Rose is an expert—
effortlessly pulls it out of terrifying freefall, her clever hands
grasping
just the right way,
and it soars.

He remembers another day,
gray and cold, alien beings flying above them;
a promise she could never hope to keep.

Had she really been so young then?
Could he ever have been so old?

Here and now,
colorful kites form constellations against the sky.
There are stars in her eyes, and wisdom in her smile.

Forever is shorter these days—
the universe is smaller here.

He finds he doesn't mind.