A/N: I do not own any Studio Ghibli copyrights.
Arrietty opened the door of the burrow and stepped out into the fresh air, taking a deep breath. Sunlight filtered down from the treetops, blanketing the green grass in the glow of summer. Murmuring a goodbye to her mother who was clicking pots around the fire, Arrietty shut the door and headed for the stream.
'EEEH!" Squealing girlishly in surprise she sprung back, pulling her foot out of the squishy goo covering her bare toes. Hopping wildly backwards, she tripped and landed firmly on her rear, one gooey foot in the air. 'Eeeeew!" She cried, waving her foot wildly to knock off the slimy yellow stuff, flinging most of it into the tall grass. Gingerly she stood and tried to wipe it off on a fallen leaf. Only when she was sure it was all gone did she turn to look at what she had stepped on. Sitting in a somewhat sticky mess all over the front step was a large black and yellow beetle. Most of it's insides were now scattered, but it's shell reminded largely intact.
Grabbing a small stick, Arrietty poked it in disbelief. It had not been there when she had first opened the door, in fact she wasn't even sure this beetle lived in her area.
"Mama, there's a dead beetle here." She said after a moment, turning back to look at her mother who had come to the window to see what the fuss was about. Homily looked at the bug and then at her disheveled daughter.
"Oh dear." She said, still stirring the contents of her bowl. "Would you mind cleaning it up?"
"No, Mama." Arrietty replied, heading off for something to pick up the carcass with.
Homily watched her go, smiling to herself. Humming a little tune, she headed back to the kitchen, reaching the stove just as Pod came down the stairs.
"What's the noise?" He muttered, standing in the doorway.
"Oh nothing special. Just a bug in the pathway." Seeing his confused look Homily added, "A dead one. That she stepped in." Nodding, Pod turned to head back upstairs before pausing.
"Dead bug?" He asked. Homily nodded, still smiling widely.
"Yes! An entire beetle, can you imagine?" A strange, almost wistful look passed over Pod's face before turning into a small, but genuine smile.
"Worth it." He murmured gruffly, sounding pleased. Homily pressed a kiss to his sun roughened cheek in affection.
Meanwhile, Arrietty had found the shovel. Setting against the carcass side, she worked the flat wooden tool until it was completely underneath the beetle. Tying a piece of grass around the load, she started to pulling the mess away from the path and towards the river. It would be easy to send the bug into the water and she would then have the bonus of being able to clean the shovel right away. Walking back from the water, Arrietty started to put the shovel away when out of nowhere another beetle came tumbling down to fall into the yellow puddle shin the middle of the path. Startled, Arrietty dropped her shovel and jumped back. When the beetle proved to be just as dead as the first, she walked closer and looked up into the trees. At first she saw nothing but as she peered into the leaves she thought she saw a brown shadow darting off along the branch.
"Spiller?" She called as he disappeared. "Where are you going?" Silence answered her. Huffing in annoyance, she pushed the second beetle into place and started the long walk back to the stream.
"Sorry I took so long, Mama." Arrietty said, setting her clean shovel against the wall and shutting the front door behind her.
"No problem at all, dear. Your father helped me set the table while you were gone." Homily set the pot of stew on the table and smiled at her daughter. "Have you already washed up?"
"Good girl." The sound of footsteps on the stairs announced Pod's arrival and their meal began.
"So," Homily began, a wide smile on her face. "Where did you put the beetle?"
"I threw it in the river." Arrietty replied, unsure why her mother wanted to know.
"The river?" Homily exclaimed. "Why?"
"What do you mean? How else was I supposed to get rid of it." She stared at her parents in bemusement as her father started to cough and her mother's mouth dropped.
"You didn't, uh, want to keep it, dear?"
"Why would I want to keep a dead beetle?" Arrietty asked, feeling as though she was missing something important. "We can't eat it and it was blocking the path."
"Not even a leg or one of it's horns?"
"What would I do with them?" Pod and Homily exchanged looks, their expressions unreadable. After a moment of silence, Homily looked back at her daughter and smiled faintly.
"Oh well, I suppose you do have a point." Arrietty knew that look, it was the one her mother always wore when she had done something wrong.
"Did you need it for something?" She asked, suddenly worried she had once again caused problems for her parents.
"Oh no, dear, of course not. We just thought you liked Spiller."
"Spiller?" Arrietty asked, feeling lost again. "What does he have to do with beetles? Were they his?" Her parents glanced at each other again.
"Oh dear." Her mother said.
"What? What are you talking about?" Arrietty said, standing up from the table. There was a long pause before her mother spoke.
"Arrietty, do you remember the mouse skin rug that I used to have next to our bed?"
"The one I accidentally burned?"
"Yes, that one. Do you remember who gave it to me?" Arrietty frowned, sitting back down.
"You said Papa gave it to you." Homily smiled, nodding.
"Yes, he gave it to me when we started courting. He killed it for me and turned it into a rug as a gift. It was his way of asking me if I was interested in him." Pink bloomed across Arrietty's face.
"Spiller?" She sputtered, completely embarrassed. "But he- I - he never - What?"
"We thought you knew but I suppose we've never really talked about it. There weren't any boy around when you were young so the subject never came up." Homily said sadly, one hand pressed to her cheek.
Pod set his spoon down and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"Beetles are hard to catch." He said, not really looking at either of them. "Boy probably had a time of it." Arrietty's face turned pale as his meaning sunk in.
"Oh no." She moaned. "And I just threw his hard work into the river. No wonder he ran off, I hurt his feelings!"
"Broke his heart, probably." Pod added gruffly. Arrietty groaned and thumped her forehead on the table.
"Pod!" Homily admonished, putting an arm around her daughter's shoulders.
"No, he's right!" Arrietty said, pushing away. "It's all my fault!" Tears in her eyes, she turned and fled to her room, leaving her parents at the table. Her door slammed and the house fell silent as they gazed up at the ceiling. "Oh dear." Her mother said again, picking up the dishes. "Oh dear."
Upstairs, Arrietty surveyed the meager contents of her room. There wasn't much, she hadn't done a lot of collecting in the few years they had lived in the house, spending most of her time out gathering with her father. Of the stuff she had brought with her from the big house, she only had her pillow, a mirror, and the pin she had first borrowed. She pulled the sliver of metal out of the wooden sheath she had made for it and studied it's unblemished shine. Coming to a decision, she slid it back into the wood and attached it to her hip, ignoring the painful thug on her heart. She stopped to listen to the voices of her parents downstairs and then crossed the room to her window, slipping silently into the night.
Spiller, she knew, was not far. He lived in a hollow hole at the top of a tree and was only a short run from her house. The real challenge would be the climb. Having gained a few neighbors who couldn't make it up the trunk the way he could, Spiller had eventually designed a rope and pulley to make it easier. Unfortunately, it could only be used from the top of the tree and so she would have to climb by herself. Only a little out of breath, Arrietty stopped at the trunk of his tree and gazed up into the darkness. She could only see a few inches above her head, but the vines that grew along the bark seemed sturdy. Swallowing, she heaved herself up. The time seemed to crawl by as she focused only on where her hands and foot went. She didn't want to think about the conversation with her parents or what would happen when she reached the top.
Soon her fingers met air as she pulled herself into the crook of the tree. Keeping her eyes level, she moved carefully forward until she reached the opening of Spiller's home. "Spiller?" She whispered, peering into the darkness. "Spiller, are you awake?" Silence meet her soft calls. Unwilling to crawl into his home uninvited, Arrietty turned away and looked at the treetop. Up closer to the moonlight, she could clearly see the branches and leaves. Following the thick branch she stood on up to its tip she though she could see a dark shape sitting between another fork. Taking a deep breath, she cautiously crept towards it. As she drew closer the shape began to take the form of a man until, stopping a few inches away, Arrietty found herself looking into Spiller's dark eyes.
"Uh, hi." She whispered lamely, cringing at her own bland greeting. Spiller nodded, his face shadowed. The silence seemed deafening despite the faraway noises that seemed to come from the darkness itself.
"I'm sorry for coming so late." She said after a while, tears pricking her eyes when he still refused to answer. Feeling like she was the worst person in the world, she pulled her pin out and held it out, offering it to him.
"Here." Pushing the pin into his startled hands, she stepped back and started to hurry back down the tree.
"Wait." Arrietty froze, looking over her shoulder. Spiller wasn't looking at her, he was studying the shine of the metal in the moonlight. A man used to weapons, he held the pin with confidence and gave it a curious flick.
"It's a gift?" He asked, his low voice unusually strained. She nodded and stepped closer. "It's not a bow, but it's sharp." She said, wondering what he thought of the human made object. He nodded and slipped the sheath into his belt. It settled smoothing and became a part of him almost as if it had always been there. Arrietty felt it's loss in the corner of her heart, but if losing it meant keeping her friendship with him, she was willing to lose it.
She looked up from it to find him watching her with his deep eyes. They reminded her of a deep pool, their depths beyond her sight. Smiling self-consciously, she tucked a piece of hair behind her eyes and looked away.
"Thank you for the beetles." She murmured, embarrassed. "I thought they were lovely." Spiller's face darkened as he turned away from her.
"No good." He muttered, sounding weary. She wondered just how hard a time he had had killing those beetles.
"No!" She said, touching a hand to his shoulder.
'This was it', she thought. Whatever she said now would change her life forever. She thought of her parents, of Sho's goodbye, and, most importantly, of Spiller. Arrietty breathed in deeply and made her decision.
"I didn't understand," she explained. "My mother had to tell me." Red was creeping into her cheeks again and she hoped he couldn't see it in the dim light. "But when I knew, I was very proud that you gave me such a wonderful gift." When he remained silent, doubt started to set into her mind. Had she misread his intention? Had her parents been wrong? She shivered as a cold breeze blew through the leaves, her mind in a whirl. Reaching out, Spiller grasped her wrist and pulled her into his lap, his fur large enough to cover the both of them. Arrietty stiffened, taken by surprise, but relaxed when she realized how warm he was. Shifting slightly, she kissed his cheek lightly.
"Thank you." She said shyly, feeling like she was made of air. As a reply, Spiller tilted her head and pressed his lips to hers. Nervous, but not frightened, Arrietty closed her eyes and breathed him in. He smelled like wood, grass, and that hint of something that separated him from her. Cautiously she kissed him back. Spiller pulled away, his dark eyes bright, leaving her a little breathless.
"I've never kissed before." She whispered, almost apologetically. He hummed a little in agreement, smiling somewhat. Slightly disgruntled, she rested her head against his shoulder and sighed. Warm and not as embarrassed as she had been, Arrietty felt happier than she had in a long time. She could feel the cool metal of the pin's round top touching her hip and she smiled. She had given it away but she hadn't lost it after all. Silent, they watched the moon rise into the sky together.
a/n: Spiller and Arrietty! They do seem to get left out in a lot of fanfictions and such, don't they! I hope you enjoyed this and please tell me what you think or of any mistakes. :)