A/N: Disclaimer: My last name isn't as cool as Mantchev. :P
It had been years since I had seen Ariel. I had lost him to the winds, to the sky, where I could not go after him, even with the Scrimshander being my father. I missed him more than I could say, each breath, each caress of the wind a reminder of him.
Not that I was all alone in this world. Nate was with me, as he always had been and always will be, and the fairies were loyal to the core. Waschbär had also joined us, and we had been content touring the countryside, performing when asked or were in need of food or coin. The others had been good at giving Nate and I time alone, though it never went far and the child that Serefina was so sure would manifest within me did not.
We had just parted ways with the Innamorati, on our way to the Aerie to pay Ophelia and the Scrimshander a visit. Nate drove up the steep slope until we came to the house, then jumped off the driver's seat to stand beside me as I rapped on the door. Though my mom and dad had said that it was my home, I thought it rude to walk in as if I owned the place.
The door creaked open and I watched for Ophelia's star-filled eyes, or perhaps the Scrimshander's lanky form. Instead….
"Bertie." Ariel said softly, butterfly familiars swarming around him, a gentle breeze caressing my cheek. "It's been a long time."
Nate gave a growl and stood in front of me, as if Ariel was part of the brigands, willing to hurt me. "What ye doin' here?
Ariel wrinkled his nose in disgust at the pirate. "Why, I came to speak with Bertie, of course."
"Ye can say anythin' ye need to wi' me here." Nate said.
I pushed around him, to stand in front of Ariel myself. "What do you need to say?" I asked softly. Remembering Sedna's cave, I did my best to keep this from turning into a fight.
"What I have to say is not for their ears." Ariel said, nodding towards the members of my company. "It would be in everyone's best interests if we would talk on our own. A short walk out to the bluffs, what do you say?"
"Not o' chance." Nate protested, but I put a hand on his arm.
"Wait here." I ordered him. "Keep an eye on the fairies and Waschbär. I'll be back soon."
Nate gave a reluctant nod, and watched as I took Ariel's offered arm and we walked away from them. When their forms were nothing more than specks in the distance, he stopped, whirling around to face me, back to the steep drop down to the sea.
"How has it been, kind Mistress of Revels? Has Her Gracious Majesty once again called you for a performance? Or have you found others to entertain?" He bombarded me with questions.
It took a moment for me to respond. There had to be some hidden motive, some reason for him asking me such things. Finally, I replied "Her Gracious Majesty has not called on us again, though we have given other performances."
"Oh? And has the current Mistress of Revels perhaps… grown up a bit and taken on one of her own as an apprentice to her craft?" He asked, raising an elegant silver eyebrow. It took a second, but I realized, what he was implying.
I blushed. "I… I… no, I haven't… I mean, Nate and I…" I stuttered.
He gave a slow nod. "So, then, if you have no such bond to him, I ask you this: what would it take for you to leave him and come with me instead.?"
Once again, it was a moment before his words sunk in. "But, I thought…. I mean, you said that you… what about the one-in-a-thousand wind? I thought you found it and you couldn't come back and…"
He cupped my face in his hands. "Bertie." he said softly, and I shivered as, contrary to his tone, powerful winds swept around us. "I told you then, as you told me: I love you. It's been many years, and I know I have spent that time away from you, reveling in the winds. But now, I have gained some control over such primitive wants and needs, and am able to stay with you, if that is what you so desire." he traced fingers lightly over my collarbone; my heartbeat sped up in response. "My coming to the Aerie was not only to talk with you, but also… I know you have gone through it twice now, but I wished to ask your mother and father for their blessing."
My stomach flipped weirdly. "Blessing for what?"
"Why, if we were to be married of course."
I stared at him, dumbfounded. "Married? Ariel, I thought… it's not right for me to keep you here, on land, not when you belong in the skies."
"And if we were to be married, what would stop us from traveling through the skies, the wind at our backs. Come, Bertie, you have flown before. It is a joy, the wonderful feeling of complete freedom. Don't try to deny it; you know it's true. Stay, Bertie, Mistress of Revels, Teller of Tales. Stay-with me."
He kissed me, hands on the small of my back, holding me to him. I was surprised at first, but my body reacted, tangling my fingers in his long hair, holding him to me. And, even as surprised as I was… I liked it.
When we finally pulled back, a little out of breath, he rested his forehead gently against mine. "Stay with me, Bertie." He whispered, cool breath washing over my face.
I glanced back, where I knew Nate and the others were waiting. What would they say if I walked back to them and told them that I was with Ariel now? How would Nate take it?
No. I decided. I can't go back to them now. Some day, hopefully, when they aren't as surprised… or angry and jealous.
I glanced up at the air elemental standing before me, arms still holding me to him. Very, very softly, I asked him "If I fell, would you catch me?"
He was silent for a moment, just watching me. Then, with a brilliant smile, he swept me up in his arms and flew us through the salty sea air, towards our new life in the skies together.
A/N: The ending's bad, I know, but I couldn't think of any other way to end it, so...
If you review, I'll see if I can catch Ariel and Bertie and send them to hug you! :)