As another family-building activity, Bill had taken them all camping. Though the Cassons were less than enthused at first, the trip turned out to be excellent. The day had been a long one, filled with sun and swimming and games and keeping Jazzy and Juniper from eating dirt and lazing about in a long blur of dazed happiness.
But now the music was low, and everyone else had gone to bed. The stars shone in the sky, the moon scattering its soft glow over the ground. Two people remained, seated outside the tent.
She sighed, leaning back and looking up at the sky. He stayed seated, pretending to look down at the grass he was fiddling with but really looking at her.
In the moonlight, she appeared to glow, he noticed absently.
She sighed again.
"What?" The soft query slipped out of his mouth, not entirely intended and yet not quite accidental.
She turned her head and looked at him, eyes as black and bottomless as midnight under a new moon. "Look. Look up. Look at all the stars."
He did, turning his face up to the heavens as if basking in the starlight.
"Think," she continued. "Know that for every one of those stars up there in the vast sky, there is not only a planet but also another galaxy, filled with an entirely different set of stars. Think of all that must be out there in this big wide universe! And then think of how small we are, how relatively insignificant…" She trailed off as he looked back down at her.
Their gazes caught, and held.
"…and yet, so relatively significant." She finished her statement in a whisper.
He knew what she meant.
The air was so crisp and the night so beautiful that it felt like anything could happen, so he set aside his fears and took a deep breath and asked a question that had been plaguing his mind for ages.
"What are we doing, Rose? What are we?"
"We're friends," she replied, unconvincingly, continuing to stare at him for a moment before turning her gaze back to the stars.
The silence lengthened.
At last, he broke the stillness. "Really," he said, just the slightest bit of skeptical inflection in his voice.
She looked back at him, and her breath caught in her throat at the look on his face. When he looked at her like that, she didn't know what to feel. All she knew was that tingles would run up her spine every single time he did that for ever and ever.
"No. No, we are not friends."
When he didn't say anything, she continued nervously. "Not only friends, anyway. I mean, of course we're friends, how could we not be after all these years together. But we're not just friends anymore, we're something…more." Realizing she was babbling uncharacteristically, she shut up.
He kept looking at her. When she opened her mouth to speak again, he put his finger over her lips, shushing her. Still silent, he leaned down over her and carefully, softly, placed his lips on hers.
It was a short kiss, a chaste kiss. Yet somehow, it changed everything.
They could no longer be 'just friends,' could no longer deny the bond that had held them together for years.
And with that, the floodgates opened. All the pent-up longing and passion that had been accumulating for years was suddenly let loose, and they could hardly cope with it.
She rose up and pulled him down with her, limbs tangling as the world slipped away from them.
For a while, all was sliver and hot and brilliant, supernovas and starbursts and worlds colliding, tidal waves crashing around them and stars burning in the ocean.
Time passed slowly, allowing them an eternity to accustom themselves to this new development, and the stars moved on, disappearing behind the mountains and into the light of the sun as a new day was born.
Dawn found the two of them together, still entwined together on the blanket.
A golden head poked out of the tent, followed by a gleeful whispered exclamation: "Finally! I knew this would happen! Pay up, Indy!"