Inspired by "Confessions in the Moonlight" from the Castle in the Sky soundtrack. THIS IS SUPER OLD ARGH.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to or affiliation with Sym-Bionic Titan.
It is freezing on the roof of G3's base, and Ilana's breath looms in front of her in shapes as distinct as those in the clouds permeating the starless sky.
It occurs to her as she stands in her pajamas that she has not experienced real silence in the longest time. The obscure hour has kept all of G3's guards safely inside, hoping that the abundant cloud cover will compensate for their usual vigilance. She cannot see the Earth beneath them and feels so achingly distant from a place she swore she would never dare to call home; as she turns her gaze to the sky, she wonders if the burning surface of Galaluna thinks of her as often as she thinks of it.
Despite the cold and her discomfort in it, she cannot help but feel irrevocably numbed by the force of her recent realizations that she is alone, that she is to blame, and that she is horribly, heart-gnawingly scared. She has been contemplating this for the past hour and a half, and her legs are so covered in goose flesh that it is painful.
She tenses abruptly as she hears the sound of bare feet approaching from behind her. Her stomach feels as though it is imploding; not even her privacy is respected anymore.
She doesn't turn around, keeping her gaze focused on fog she doesn't entirely see.
"It's dangerous to be up here alone."
Lance. Of course.
"I'm fine," she murmurs, clenching her shoulders with her rapidly cooling palms, hoping to smooth the goosebumps prickling over them. A shiver runs through her body and she clenches her teeth to keep them from chattering. Suddenly her ribs feel larger, more ungainly; they are knocking together in the cold, clattering and snapping.
"Go away," she croaks, taking a few steps forward despite her heart's every insistence that she not increase the distance between the two of them any further.
"You're cold." Lance is astonishingly good at stating what was blatantly obvious to any observant person.
"I said I'm fine," she repeats, hoping for some idiotic reason that it will deter him. Naturally, it doesn't.
She senses him approaching her, his steely tenseness clutching the atmosphere around her. He invades the veil shielding her and she doesn't protest it, instead simply darting her eyes aside until they are looking at his silhouette in the moonlight.
It is poised like a birch tree, like a lighthouse – she wonders how he does it, how he plows through every hardship with the same resolute, unaffected expression, how he talks with the same evenness and disinterest. She inwardly begs him to teach her how to be strong. She feels as though she never really learned properly.
She finally turns her head infinitesimally to get a look at him, and sure enough, his countenance reveals nothing: his brow is low, his eyes calculating, his mouth a thin line like a battle ground. The wind is blowing his unruly black hair hither and yon, and for once she can see his face properly, its inscrutability more visible than it has been before. Over his sweater and gray pajama pants, he is wearing a thick brown poncho that looks to be able to fit three people besides him.
"Here," he says quietly, and she doesn't protest as he lifts the poncho over her head and pulls it down over the two of them.
"This doesn't exactly look like something Solomon would keep lying around," she says in the most aloof tone possible, attempting to hide the fact that his body warmth almost sets her ablaze.
"I found it in the closet," he mumbles in reply. "In the room they put us in. It looked warm."
"Why are you here?" she mutters, slouching into herself for warmth until the poncho covers her nose and mouth. She is no longer looking at him.
"I noticed you were gone a while ago," he answers, and she scoffs. "But I figured maybe you needed some air. So I waited a while, and when you didn't come back…"
"Lance," Ilana huffs, turning to face him as best she can in the tiny space allotted to them by the poncho, "Do the words 'I am fine' exist in your language?"
He scowls at her – another demeanor he has perfected.
"Do the words 'I'm sworn to protect you' exist in yours?"
She grumbles and turns away again, choosing not to continue the argument.
She's so tired.
"If Octus were here…" she starts to whisper, but it is swept apart by the wind. She confesses herself to be relieved that he doesn't hear it.
They stand in silence for a time Ilana can't be bothered to measure, just a few inches away from contact, searching the clouds for something they know they won't find. Ilana grows steadily more grateful for his presence as the moon shifts.
"Why are we here, Lance?" she asks after a time, her tone hushed with despair, and she looks up at him with pale, glittering eyes. He stares back without blinking.
"People are dying," she whispers, "And we're… going to high school."
He doesn't respond.
"I should have stayed," she chokes out after a moment, her teeth gritted to the point of pain. "Galaluna needed me and I ran away."
Lance's mouth pulls itself minimally open, and his eyebrows furrow as he gazes at her, speechless.
"Oh, Father," she sobs quietly, a hand fluttering to her mouth as her breaths become wracked with tears. "I would… give anything to be able to tell him I'm sorry. To go back to that day and… and refuse to come here. To stay with him, to fight with him! To—"
"Ilana," Lance says, stepping closer to her. She flinches away.
"No!" she cries sharply. He goes silent, eyes wide. "I'm sick of people trying to change my mind! I wish… I wish we'd never come here. I wish I had stayed." She turns away from him. "I wish I could have at least diedbeside them."
"No." Lance's voice is more emphatic than she's ever heard it, and suddenly his hands are on her shoulders, reeling her around until she is facing him. His brow is tight and his eyes are sharp and serious. She bites her lip. "No, Ilana. Don't you dare say things like that."
"Why not?" she snaps. "I know you're thinking it, too! If not that I stayed, then at least that youdid!"
"I had nothing to stay for," he says flatly, not having broken eye contact with her in the slightest. "There was nothing for me there."
"You could have fought for Galaluna," Ilana tells him bitterly. "For my father. And yet you chose to fight for me, a figurehead with no political worth. Why?"
"You areGalaluna," Lance retorts, his grip on her shoulders tightening. "And you're worth everything."
As those words drop onto Ilana, she ebbs into silence, her eyes still locked on his. His hands loosen around her, and then they let go, and she wants to object, to pull them back, but she doesn't.
He turns away from her. Despite the fact that they are huddled inches from each other beneath the poncho, she cannot help but feel as though he has just traveled light years ahead of her.
"It's better that I fight for something I know I won't lose," he says tensely, quietly.
"Lance…" Her voice is demure and pliant in the harsh coldness of the fog, and she leans against him, eyelids lowering contemplatively. "I miss home."
"I do, too," he replies softly.
"I keep thinking that… I need to make Earth my new home. But I can't. No matter how hard I try. It just never…"
She feels a presence in her fingers, then, and it takes her a moment to realize that the calloused surfaces intertwining with them are none other than Lance's. She blinks, astonished, and looks up. He is looking out over the expanse of grayness, the stars reflecting in his eyes like bits of rock.
"We'll make it back," he reassures her, and there is a tender steadiness in his tone that she has never heard before. He squeezes her hand, and somehow, it is all the contact she will ever need from another – her vast loneliness, her craggy doubts, dissolve into the night.
"All of us?" she whispers.
Lance nods against the back of her hair.