author's note: This is the third and final chapter. I got a lot of mixed reviews on the previous installment, but I think almost everyone realized why what happened... well, happened. Instead of wanting to punch me at the end of this one, you may want to cry. But don't worry, that's a good thing... :)
Following this, there will be one more "main" fic in this series called "futatsu boshi." However, I am also planning to write a few side pieces that will be published together, probably before "futatsu" even emerges. There is also a sort-of-kind-of sequel to "negai"/prequel to "futatsu boshi" that will be published shortly, but it is NOT for younger readers. You'll know it when you see it, if you peek at my account or get author alerts from me. It is not at all essential to the story, so if you aren't comfortable with the premise, you won't have to read it.
Anyway, here we go! Thanks to everyone for your absolutely overwhelming support and feedback. I am eternally grateful. Enjoy!
part three - northern downpour
Sleep had been difficult for Hubert.
He stood at the open window in his bedroom, still wearing his glasses and rumpled sleep clothes, and the sigh that escaped from him as he looked out into the morning was a heavy one. Sleep had, in fact, been almost entirely out of the question. After Pascal had left his room, he'd undergone the hours between night and day with an aching in his chest that had refused to cease. He'd tossed and turned in his bed, paced the room, even sat at his desk and scribbled semi-coherent thoughts onto a pad of paper. Her words had all but ruined him; he had wanted to sprint up the stairs and embrace her, wanted to beg her to take back the things she'd said... but he had come to a realization that wouldn't allow him to do so.
It had been his fault. All of it. The words she'd spoken had been nothing but true. And he'd had no choice but to come to terms with that.
After the long night spent alone in his room, his thoughts wandering, he'd finally come to the conclusion that Pascal had been right. It had been difficult to admit - but he had admitted it. He had, truthfully, treated her poorly. It wasn't simply a matter of pushing her away when they grew too close for comfort. He had done everything that she had said, had hidden his relationship from others and not yet told his family the truth about them, about his feelings. In his mind, his actions had been fully justified. But he hadn't realized how much he had hurt her. And he had hurt her, over and over... only he hadn't realized it until she'd broken down, sitting there in his bed. He wished he had taken her into his arms at that moment, that he had apologized... but she had fled from him, and he'd been left alone for a long, sleepless evening.
He knew what he had to do, now, facing the new morning. He turned from the window to the door of his room and pulled it open, exiting and making an immediate turn to the closed door to the right of his. The breath that he drew in before opening this door was shaky, but he proceeded, twisting the knob to reveal a short set of stairs that led to the second floor. He climbed the stairs with unsteady legs, his eyes fixed on his feet lest he trip and fall. Upon reaching the landing he lifted his gaze to take in the sight of Pascal's bedroom in front of him. As usual, her room was a disaster zone, with various machines, documents, books, and tools spread out everywhere. Normally he found her in the midst of this mess, a whirlwind of activity... but not this time. His blue eyes settled on the bed that had been tucked into the corner of the room, and this was where she lay, sound asleep, sprawled out in a mess of blankets and pillows, snoring loudly.
As he slowly paced across the room to her bed, he could see a few hints of the way their abrupt argument had affected her, as well: there was a pile of crumpled tissues on her mattress, and two of her three pillows were scattered across the surface of her bed, rather than beneath her head. Her comforter was twisted had fallen to the floor, and she slept on her stomach with a thin sheet wrapped around her waist, her arms stretched up underneath the single pillow. He arrived at the side of her bed and stood there for a moment, simply looking down at her. He was glad that she hadn't left - because he had, in fact, worried that she might slip out her window and flee back to the Amarcian Enclave. But here she lay, sound asleep. So there was still a chance.
He bent slightly at the waist, reaching out with one hand to touch her back. "Pascal," he said softly; then, when she showed no sign of stirring, raised his voice, shaking her gently. "Pascal. Wake up."
"Hmmmm...?" A pair of amber eyes fluttered open, shifting up to meet his, and there was a moment before she seemed to come to her senses - and when she did, her expression immediately sharpened into one of annoyance. "Noooooooo," she groaned, shutting her eyes again. "I'm tired."
"That is no excuse. You must wake up."
"No. Go away." She stuffed her head beneath the pillow in her arms. "I hate you."
"You do not hate me." He sighed, sinking onto the surface of the bed, reaching to pluck the pillow from off of her head. "If you truly hated me, you would have packed your things and fled by now. You show no hesitation to act when there is something you truly feel strongly about."
"Huuughhhh..." She folded her arms on the top of her head in lieu of the pillow, burying her face in the mattress. "It's like five in the morning... can't you just go away for a while so I can yell at you later...?"
"... wha - ?" She lifted her head slightly. "Huh?"
"It's eight in the morning," he corrected her, setting the pillow aside. "Still early for you, I suppose, all things considered."
"Why are you..." Her head came up completely from the mattress now, and he saw a pair of golden eyes fix on him. "You're late for work, Hu..."
"I realize that. However, I have chosen to take a sick day. I already sent word via your communicator, which you so thoughtfully left with Mr. Paradine yesterday." He spoke to her matter-of-factly, folding his hands together in his lap. "Considering how poorly I slept last night, I would not have been of any use at my post today. I am certain that my current business can wait until Monday, at which point I can address it properly."
Her voice was soft. "You slept like crap too, huh?"
"Terribly." He reached out to pat her gently on the top of her head, smoothing down her messy hair. "And all because a certain Amarcian saw fit to break my heart, yesterday evening. I had no hope of sleeping soundly while undergoing such feelings of misery."
She didn't speak for a moment, lying still, but then she slowly shifted, pulling herself up into a sitting position. He withdrew his hand, watching her rub at her eyes, one arm sweeping the pile of tissues to the floor. "I dunno when I finally passed out," she mumbled, "but I had no clue I had that many tears in me..."
"Pascal." He sighed, shaking his head. "I owe you an apology. The way I behaved - "
"You were a jerk to me again, Hu." She leaned forward, looping her arms around his neck, clumsily collapsing into his lap. He watched her, bewildered, as she yawned loudly, moving around to get comfortable in between his legs. "But you know what?" she asked, tucking her head beneath his chin, slinging her legs over the side of his. "I kinda deserved it."
"Y - you did not deserve it." He frowned. "I accused you of trying to seduce me when you were doing nothing more than asking to sleep in my bed. I was the one who initiated ... those things. It was a terrible mistake on my part." She didn't reply to that, and so he continued, making his best attempt to voice the thoughts that had nearly driven him mad over the last few sleepless hours. "I am truly sorry," he told her, "and not only because of the way I reacted to the situation, but also because... I really have treated you very poorly."
"I dunno about that, I mean... you're usually pretty nice to me..."
"That isn't what I'm talking about." He pressed his cheek to the top of her head, one arm wrapping around her shoulders and the other reaching for her hand, which she immediately slipped into his own, their fingers twining together. They sat together like that for a few minutes, in silence, as Pascal gradually became more awake and Hubert gathered his thoughts. When he was ready he spoke again, carefully, his voice soft. "I have," he said, "acted just as you said. As if I was embarrassed of you, or ashamed. But the truth is that I am merely... afraid."
"I am made nervous by too many things in this world. It is both a product of my upbringing and my own weakness. For every situation that arises, I see only the worst possible outcome. It is difficult, sometimes, for me to see beyond my fears." He closed his eyes, holding her tighter. "When I think of speaking publicly of our relationship, I worry that you will be treated as an outcast, or that those who dislike Fendel will feel the need to attack you in some way. When I consider telling Asbel of our living situation, I grow concerned that he will tell my mother, and that she will become angry with me for not acting kindly to my adoptive father. And when I wish to embrace you, or kiss you, or tell you my feelings... I worry that I will act foolishly, or lose control of my actions entirely, and hurt you in the process."
Her voice was soft. "Hu... I didn't realize..."
"All this time, I have been trying to protect you. But by protecting you, I have hurt you more than I would have if I had simply allowed things to happen as they would, without any intervention on my part." She reached up to press her free hand to his cheek and he leaned into her touch, immediately, bringing his lips softly to her wrist before speaking again. "I realize now that I was... misguided. I hurt you without realizing I had done so. I allowed my fear to control me, and to force a great distance between us."
She began to withdraw her hand, speaking a little louder. "But, Hu, I said some really mean things, too - "
"Did I not deserve them?" he asked, interrupting her. She didn't respond, her hand lingering in the air, and after a moment he chuckled, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "As I said, Pascal... when you left last night, my heart was entirely broken. But it was my own doing, in the end. I pushed you away when I should have been drawing you closer." He exhaled. "If you still wish to leave me, you may leave. I cannot fault you for considering it. But I have given substantial thought to my behavior."
"... you have?"
"Yes." He looked down to where he held one of her hands in his own, passing his thumb gently across the top of her slender fingers. "And I would like a second chance."
"Don't be silly, Hu. You don't need a second chance. You never lost the first one." Her voice was unexpectedly cheerful, and she released a quiet laugh, turning her head to look up at him. "Listen to me for a sec, okay? I said something really stupid last night, and I didn't mean it. When I said I didn't want to be your family..." Her gaze shifted away for a moment, then returned, her words gaining strength. "That was super duper mean. I really shouldn't have said that. Even though I was really upset and everything..." She fidgeted, her free hand dropping into her lap. "It feels a little weird to say this, but you're my family, too. At least... you kind of are. In a different way than my sister, I mean. It's like... beyond that, you know?"
"Yes. I understand."
"But aside from that..." She gave him an apologetic look. "I think I was pushing you too hard. I should have realized you weren't comfortable with... doing stuff." Her cheeks colored and she laughed nervously, turning her head away. "I don't really have any experience with that kind of thing, so don't get any weird ideas, but it's just... sometimes it's hard to control the way I feel about you, and I get all touchy-feely and grabby and crazy, and when you tell me no it just makes it worse..."
He cleared his throat, suddenly uncomfortable. "I noticed."
"But you know, it wouldn't be so bad if you weren't totally into it too..." She fidgeted again. "Right? Even if we're just making out or something, I can see how much you like doing it, but you're always like "no, Pascal, I can't!" and that's the end of it. I don't want to force you into anything, but..." Her blush had darkened over the course of the last few words. "... but it's starting to drive me crazy ..."
"A - ah..." He looked away, heat causing his own cheeks to darken. "Yes... well... I cannot proclaim to be completely immune to those ... feelings ... b - but..." He cleared his throat again, tightening his hold on her shoulders, burying his head in her hair. "... but the thought of ... engaging in those types of ... activities ..."
"It's kinda embarrassing to talk about this, isn't it?" She laughed nervously. "Sorry..."
"No. It must be said." He breathed in, deeply, then released a loud sigh. "Regardless of my personal beliefs on the matter... perhaps it is because of my age, but I am simply... not ready." Admitting this gave him some relief, and he closed his eyes, pressing his forehead to the back of her neck. "Over time, should you choose to stay with me, I am sure that will change. But for now... I will have to ask you to be patient with me."
"No problem!" Her tone brightened. "But you have to promise not to run away the second things start getting intense, okay? Otherwise we'll never get anywhere." She giggled lightly, squeezing his hand. "And you may not realize this, but the idea of you losing control is... you know, it's pretty hot..."
"Pa - Pascal!"
"What? I'm just being honest." She giggled again, shifting in his lap to make herself more comfortable. There was a long pause before she spoke again, which gave him ample time to put aside the thoughts that had entered his mind - against his will - upon her mentioning of a certain subject. "Hey... Hu?" she queried, turning her eyes up to his. "We had a fight last night, didn't we?"
"We have had many fights, Pascal." He chuckled, passing his thumb across her fingers again. "You seem to forget them so easily."
"But I mean..." She leaned back to rest her head against his shoulder. "It was our first big fight, yeah?"
"I suppose so. It was rather... one-sided... but it was a fight nonetheless."
"Yelling at you like that... it made me feel pretty rotten inside..." She turned to look up at him again, suddenly. "It was almost like how I felt when Fourier yelled at me that one time, but way worse, 'cause I was on the other side of the fence..." She cringed. "I really thought you didn't want me, Hu. And then after I got up here and cried it all outta me, I started to think that you were gonna kick me out or something..."
"Even if things ended between us, I would not be so cruel as to force you out of our home onto the streets of Yu Liberte. That would be far more dishonorable than anything else I have spoken of this morning." He smiled slightly. "We must move past this and begin anew. I cannot promise that we will never fight again, but if you are willing... I can promise that I will change my ways."
"Change?" She blinked. "How?"
"First, I will immediately introduce you to my mother." He lifted his arm from where it had been wrapped around her shoulders, holding up one finger. "She may find fault with our living situation, but she will certainly understand our reasoning. Second..." He held up another finger. "I will no longer insist upon not being seen with you, or telling others of our relationship. If I am to be an honest man, I cannot act as if I am ashamed of my feelings for you - regardless of your country of origin, or how others may choose to react." He raised a third finger. "Finally, I will do everything in my power to treat you in the way that you deserve. If I am as much in love with you as I claim, I must ensure you are aware of it."
She leaned forward in apparent awe, her amber eyes wide. "You're really going to do all that...?"
"Yes." He nodded firmly. "I am. And I must. Otherwise we... we have no future together."
"But nothing, as you would say." He gave her another small smile, his hand falling back to his side. "However... I must ask you to do something as well."
"Oh, yeah, well I'll totally lay off trying to pressure you into sleeping with me - "
"Th - that is not what I was going to say!" He turned his head away abruptly, feeling heat rush into his face. "We already discussed that!"
"Ohhh..." She laughed awkwardly. "Riiight..."
"I would like to ask you to... to make me a promise." He reached out to grasp both of her hands with his, swallowing, struggling to reclaim his composure as he looked down into her eyes. She cocked her head to the side, apparently curious, and it took him a full minute to regain the ability to speak without stuttering. "Pascal," he began, his voice slightly unstable, "more than anything, I want you to be happy. And I want to be the man who makes you happy. Yesterday, you made the decision to remain in Strahta. I should not ask you to make any further decisions today, but I cannot keep myself from it, and - " He closed his eyes, drawing in a breath. "... and I must ask you for this before my courage dies entirely, or I risk losing you again. If you have not gone back on your decision to remain here, and we are able to pass half a year together with no further complications... I would like to ask for your hand."
"Uweh?" He could hear the confusion in her words. "My... hand?"
"Y - your hand in - m - " He sighed, shaking his head. His inability to speak in certain situations combined with her utter cluelessness was making this situation entirely impossible. "I would like," he began again, "to know that if - if we are still together, and happy, in six months, then... then..."
"Umm... then what? I don't get it."
He groaned, slumping forward, his forehead coming to rest against her shoulder. "I'm trying," he began, exasperated, "to ask if you'll marry me."
"WHAAAAAAAAAAT?" Her shout was almost deafening, and he winced not only because it caused the temporary loss of his hearing, but because her reaction hadn't been what he had wanted to hear. He felt her suddenly scramble out of his lap, and he opened her eyes to see her jump off her bed, to her feet, and start pacing the floor of her bedroom in her nightshirt. Her cheeks were red and she refused to look at him, biting down on her bottom lip. "I've never ever gotten a marriage proposal before," she murmured, staring at the floor as she paced. "What am I supposed to do..."
He reached up to rub his forehead, followed by his aching ears, slowly shifting to face her. "I am not asking for your hand immediately," he explained, softly. "Nor is it a decision that you must make today, or at all. If you cannot ever agree to such a thing, I understand. It will make me no less happy."
"But is that really true...?" She glanced up at him, stopping mid-pace, her blush darkening. "If - if I said no..."
"That is not a lie. I promise you that." He shook his head. "I have given this matter a significant amount of thought. In six months, I will be nineteen. In Strahta, a man is expected to be wed by his twentieth birthday. I am well aware that your culture's opinions on marriage are... odd, at best, and that we have been raised entirely differently. But I wish to follow the path that has been set for me." He lowered his gaze to the floor, folding his hands tightly together. "Marriage will not mend the problems that exist between us as of right now. Nor is it the answer for other... desires... that we may have." He paused at that, clearing his throat. "But I am asking for a promise that... you will at least consider it, in half a year's time. If we still cannot commit to each other by then, it would... it would be fine. I would be happy just being by your side." He gripped his hands tighter together, his voice beginning to crack with emotion. "But I meant each and every word I said to you, Pascal. You are my family, my heart, my everything. I can think of no one else I want to spend my life with. I cannot endure another night without you. I simply cannot." He looked up, suddenly, speaking to her rapidly. "I have asked you now. I will ask you again in six months. And if you are ready, at that time, we will marry."
"But..." She chewed on her lip again for a moment, avoiding his gaze. "You're not asking me... right now...?"
"I can only ask that you will consider it." He swallowed hard. "As I have said, I will ask you a second time, after I have turned nineteen. By then, your feelings for me may have changed entirely. You may wish to leave Strahta, by that time. Or you may find that you are happy here, and wish to remain with me. But please consider what I have said to you, and what I have promised. My only wish is that you become happy."
"I... I am sorry if this seems sudden." He rose slowly, moving to where she stood in the middle of the room. "But it has been an ever-present thought in my mind for many months."
She lifted her head, watching him approach. "Then I'm... I'm really the reason you turned down that girl, aren't I?"
He smiled slightly, reaching for her hands. "Could I have dared to marry another when my every thought concerned you?"
"I..." She sighed as if she was frustrated. "I don't get it, Hu... Why would a guy like you ever want to spend your life with a girl like me? I'm totally not your type... You're way smarter than I am, and it seems like all I ever do is make you mad."
"Your self-doubt is entirely unnecessary."
"But..." A frown creased her eyebrows. "I'm really not anything special - "
"Nonsense." He covered her hands with his, squeezing them tight, giving her a frown of his own. "Do you not think I feel the same kind of doubt? I, too, question why you would feel any kind of love for me. But you cannot allow yourself to become crippled by your fears. It will only cloud your judgement in the same way it has clouded mine." He bent to her, staring down into her eyes, watching them widen with surprise. "I wish to move forward, Pascal. Past ... this, past the turmoil we have experienced. I have doubted myself before, but I cannot do so any longer. I must allow the beating of my heart to drown out the cries of fear in my mind, and embrace only the thoughts that concern your happiness."
"... did..." She blinked, her cheeks slowly growing rosy again. "Did you make that up... just now...?"
"I ... I suppose that I did."
"That was kinda... super romantic."
"W - was it?"
"Yeah." She laughed softly, looking away, and as he watched he saw the expression on her face shift from one of shock to something much kinder, something he hadn't seen very often - and it was the same look, he realized, that she'd given him three months before, when she'd tackled him to the floor of her bedroom exclaiming that she'd wanted him and nothing else. "You're really something, Hu," she murmured. "It's bad enough that I fell head over heels in love with you, but then you went and decided you wanted to marry me, and..." She laughed again, shaking her head. "Now I'm really super sorry that I yelled at you, if you were thinking about that the whole time..."
"As I said, I fully deserved it." He watched her closely. "If my proposal has... troubled you... then you may forget that anything was said. But I - "
"Don't say something like that!" Her head snapped up. "I - I ... " She shifted under his gaze, seeming uncomfortable. "I'll think about it," she said finally, her voice softening. "For the next couple months. If you were asking me right now, I... I don't even know what I would say. But I really, really - " She nodded once, firmly. "I really want to make this work. I've never felt this way about anyone before."
"Neither have I."
"I promise I'll think about it." She gave him a half-smile, tilting her head slightly. "And I promise I'm not gonna go anywhere until I've made up my mind. That thing I said about not wanting to work for Strahta... that was pretty stupid, too. I'm gonna go for it."
"I am glad to hear that." He bent closer to her, placing a soft kiss on her forehead. "We will do our best together. Won't we?"
"Yeah." Her smile widened, and she squeezed his hands tightly before shaking them up and down, as if they were making a new pact of friendship. "I'll give it my all!"
"Very good." He gently separated their hands, straightening. "Now that we have... settled things..." As if he had been cued, he was seized by a loud yawn, and he covered his mouth with the back of one hand, closing his eyes. "... unfortunately," he murmured, "I must try to sleep for at least an hour or two. I spent too much of the evening pacing my room in an attempt to discern my feelings, and determine my next course of action."
"Oh, yeah..." She crossed her arms across her chest, giving him an understanding look. "I was up pretty late, too. So um..." She glanced back at her bed. "I know you just got done saying how you don't want me to make you feel uncomfortable and stuff, but would it be totally weird if I asked to sleep beside you? 'cause, you know, last night was super horrible, and - EEP!" Her sentence ended abruptly when he bent to lift her almost effortlessly into his arms, one arm around her shoulders and the other looped firmly beneath her knees. "Huuuu," she whined, looking up at him with wide eyes, "you don't have to carry me..."
"If there is one thing I do not want you to think, Pascal, it is that I do not want you beside me." He began to walk to the door that led out of her bedroom, carrying her carefully through it, starting slowly down the stairs that led to the first floor. "We will sleep for a short while," he said, "and then we will determine our course of action for the remainder of the day. But I must insist that you do not leave my side until I give you permission to do so." He fixed her with a stern look. "Is that clear?"
She lifted one hand in a salute. "Yes, sir!"
He chuckled, reaching the landing and turning the corner to re-enter his room. As he did so he felt her laugh, suddenly, and a quick glance at her face told him that she was amused by something. "What is it?" he asked, moving to deposit her on his bed.
He gave her another stern look, this one more serious than the first. "Pascal..."
"Well, you know..." She smiled up at him as he placed her down on the mattress, reaching up to gently ruffle his hair. "Isn't that supposed to be a thing people do when they get married? The guy carries the girl through the door, or something?"
"H - how do you know about something like that?"
"Oh, come on, Hu, do you think I'm that clueless?" She laughed again, louder this time, watching him settle on the bed beside her. "Fourier used to tell me stuff about weddings and whatever. She went through a totally crazy phase like ten years ago where she was obsessed with this guy named Navier, and she was convinced that they were gonna get married and and all that. I mean, he was a total hunk, but..." She sighed, rolling her eyes. "He was also way too old for her, and since Fourier never even said anything to him, he ended up marrying some other chick."
"I see." He reached up to remove his glasses. "I had no idea."
"Yeah. She's probably still kinda bitter about it... Anyway, she used to sit there and talk about how he was gonna carry her over the um..."
"Over the threshold," he supplied, helpfully. "The reason being that it is seen as bad luck if the wife happens to trip on her way through the door."
"Yeah! ... Oh, wait." She blinked. "That's why? Ooooh..."
"Don't profess to know these things if you don't know the reasoning behind them!"
"Whatever. It doesn't matter. The point is, what you did reminded me of that." She flopped back onto his mattress, seizing a pillow and smacking it between her hands a few times before dropping her head onto it. "Maybe," she continued, her voice taking on a playful note, "you'll do that for real someday, huh?"
He sighed, helpless against the smile that worked its way onto his mouth. "We will see," he remarked, and with that he moved to take her into his arms, drawing her close as they lay together on his bed. Despite the bright sunshine that shone in through his open windows and the sounds of chirping birds, Pascal dozed off immediately, and Hubert had only a moment to notice before he followed, drifting away into a deep, dreamless sleep.
"C'mon, Hu, hurry it up! We're gonna miss it!"
"Just what are you talking about?"
"You'll see, just get your butt up here!" Pascal yanked hard on Hubert's hand, tugging him up through an opening in the roof of their small house. The opening was supposed to be a small skylight in the second floor bedroom... but for one reason or another, after night had fallen, Pascal had dragged over a ladder, climbed up, and removed the pane of glass from the window. She had refused to tell him what she was doing, or why, but before she had sprang up from her seat in the living room, she had been pouring through a book on astronomy. The rest of their day had passed mostly in harmony, although they had both still been tired after their nap, and had gotten rather short with each other over dinner. It was after their meal that she'd seized the thick book from his library, and then...
"Are you sure this is safe?" Hubert gave the Amarcian a critical look as he climbed from the top of the ladder to the shingled roof, allowing her to help him pass through the windowframe. "I am not certain that our roof is meant to bear weight like this."
"It'll be fine! Don't worry." She waved a hand at him, smiling brightly as she plopped down on the slanted rooftop, her legs stretched out in front of her. "This is a pretty well-built place. There's more than enough support for us, based on the way the second floor is constructed."
"I should have assumed that you would have some knowledge of architecture, too." He sighed, settling down carefully beside her, glancing down once off the edge of the roof before he decided it would be better not to look. Instead, he turned his eyes up to the sky, which had darkened to a deep shade of navy, save a remaining spot of light far off in the west, where the last rays of sunlight still lingered. In the distance above them he could see twinkling stars and a pale moon, all just beyond the edge of Ephinea's outer layer, which was difficult - but not impossible - to view at night. He observed this scene in silence for a moment before looking back to Pascal, who had scooted over to sit close beside him, one of her legs pressed to his. "So," he began, raising an eyebrow, "what is it that you were afraid I would miss?"
"Just hold on a second." She grinned, pointing up at the night sky. "Any minute now and you'll see. You are soooo totally lucky that I decided to start reading about astronomy tonight, 'cause I'd been putting it off for way too long, and then BAM!" She clapped her hands together. "I hit paydirt right away!"
"Yepyep!" She leaned over to rest her head on his shoulder, giggling into his ear. "I promise it'll all be worth it, Hu. Just you wait."
"I suppose that I will have to take your word for it." He stretched an arm around her back, drawing her closer, and breathed out deeply as a gentle breeze began to blow on them. As reluctant as he was to remain sitting on their roof, waiting for some sort of unknown event, he had no choice to admit that it was not a bad scenario. The city had cooled with nightfall, as the temperatures in the surrounding desert dipped, giving them relief from the heat. From their vantage point, he could see not only the stars and moon, but also the spread of semi-detached houses and vacation homes around them, some dark and others twinkling with light. In the distance he heard faint laughter of children still playing outside, the barking of a dog, and... he strained his ears, listening, and confirmed that there was music being played somewhere very far away, a piano and a violin harmonizing together. "This is," he murmured, somewhat surprised, "quite... nice."
"I know, right?" He could hear the smile in her voice. "You'll probably get totally mad at me, but I started coming up here in the middle of the night last month, when I needed to think about stuff. It's way cooler up here sometimes, you know?"
He chuckled. "I am just glad that the roof didn't collapse. That would have been difficult to explain to our landlord."
She laughed nervously. "Well, I coulda just patched i - oh!" She broke away from him suddenly, sitting up straight, pointing up at the sky. "Look!"
"Look...?" he echoed, turning his eyes back to the stars - and after a few seconds, just before he could ask her what it was she had seen, a flash of light shot across his field of vision. His mouth fell open, and he blinked, dumbfounded. "A shooting star - ?"
"It's totally happening!" She sounded gleeful. "It's a meteor shower!"
"A meteor shower?"
"Haven't you ever seen one before?" She smiled up at him. "There's a really huge comet that circles Ephinea, and every year at this time there's a meteor shower that happens when the debris from the comet falls down toward us. It never makes it through the atmosphere, but if the night is clear, you can still see everything before it gets burnt up." She looked back to the sky. "I never really got to see it up at the Amarcian Enclave, but I just happened to notice the date of the shower in the book I was reading, and it was tonight! Are we lucky or what?"
"That is... marvelous." He lifted a hand to his open mouth, still stunned. "To be honest, I have never even heard of such a thing. I have seen a shooting star, once, but..." He watched as another flash of light zipped across the sky from right to left, twinkling brightly before fading away. "We live in a truly mysterious world," he murmured.
"Oh! Yeah! So, Hu - " She grabbed his hands, tugging on them. "You have to make a wish, okay? That's why I wanted you to see this!"
"A wish?" He raised an eyebrow. "Pascal, isn't that just a children's - "
"Nope, nope, nope, nope, bzzzzt! Wrong!" She shook her head vigorously from side to side. "You're not allowed to doubt me on this one. Trust me." She tugged on his hands again. "If you make a wish during a meteor shower, and wish that wish on every single shooting star you see, it has to come true."
He sighed, smiling. "Do you really believe in something like that?"
"Of course!" She returned his smile before her attention shifted back to the night sky. "It's no fun if you go through life only believing what you know. I'm super scientific about everything else, so why shouldn't I dream a little bit about this one thing?" She giggled softly. "It makes me feel happy, anyway."
"Ah." He slid an arm around her back again, drawing her close. "Well, then. I suppose I can humor you just this once."
"You'll wish with me?"
"Just this once," he repeated, and patted her gently on the back. "But what is it that they say...? That wishes must be kept secret, or else they will not come true?"
"That's right! So yeah, no spilling the beans, okay?" She wagged a finger at him. "Now get to wishing before you lose your chance!"
"Ah." He looked back to the stars, watching and waiting for the next meteor to fall, and although he only meant to humor her... Well, he thought, there wouldn't be any harm in making a wish, would there? As foolish as it sounded, it wouldn't hurt anyone - and it would, he guessed, make Pascal happy. "I wonder what it is that I should wish for?" he murmured, hearing another light giggle from his side as he spoke. "Perhaps for wealth, or a new weapon..."
"Hu! You're not supposed to tell!"
"Oh, yes. Then I suppose I will have to wish for something else." A flash of light raced across the sky, and he drew in a breath, hearing her do the same beside him. His eyes closed and he bent his head, and for a moment his mind was blank - but then one thought came to him, as clear as day, and he knew that he had no choice. He made his wish in that moment, speaking the words silently to himself once, then twice, opening his eyes when it was finished. "There," he declared, straightening. "It is done."
"Me too." Another meteor raced by, and then another, and beside him Pascal laughed, her voice echoing in the small area around them. "Make sure you wish again!" she exclaimed, her eyes wide and dancing. "It'll definitely come true then, right?"
In lieu of an answer he leaned over to her, cupping her chin in one hand, listening as she gasped softly. He lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her soundly, drawing out the moment as long as possible, parting from her only when he heard her begin to squeak (because she somehow never remembered to breathe through her nose when they kissed, and had a terrible habit of nearly suffocating herself). Even in the low light he could tell that her cheeks were stained with a blush, and as they sat close together, Hubert could see a meteor fall through the sky in the reflection of her golden eyes. "It has already come true," he said, passing his thumb across her lips. "My wish, that is."
"H - huh?"
"I already have the only thing I could ever truly wish for." He smiled, studying the look of surprise on her face - and he had to admit that he found a strange pleasure in being able to render her speechless. "You are all that I want," he explained. "I spent too long wishing for you, and you alone. It was a selfish wish, but having fulfilled it, I should have no others."
"Hu..." Her gaze fell to where her hands were clenched together in her lap, and her voice softened as she laughed quietly. "You really are a big softy, huh?"
"I am." He caressed her cheek, watching her face break into a happy smile as he did so. He released a breath, his body suddenly trembling, and at that moment he had no choice but to act on his feelings, lest they overwhelm him. "I love you, Pascal," he said, and bent to her again, kissing her lips once, then twice. "And I will always love you," he continued, "regardless of what the future may bring us. No matter what, I will never cease to love you. Even if I cannot promise you anything else, I can promise you this."
"Stop it, Hu, you're gonna make me get all sobby and bawly again..." She flung her arms around his neck, hugging him tight, pressing her forehead into the top of his shoulder. "I love you too," she replied, her voice unsteady. "I - I really, really love you - no matter what - " She leaned into him, choking back what sounded like a cry. "I don't get how you keep doing this to me, but... please don't ever stop... I'm just..." She hiccupped. "I'm so happy I could cry right now!"
He smiled, patting her gently on the back, and said nothing else - because he knew exactly the way that she felt. After the evening before, being able to hold her again, to tell her he loved her, was a dream come true. He hadn't expected to end up on their roof watching meteors shoot across the sky, hadn't expected her to speak of wishes, and hadn't even expected that she would allow him to propose without rejecting him. But here they sat, together, and to Hubert, there was nothing better in the world than that moment.
No, there truly was nothing better. And as he held her in his arms, watching the stars rain down around them, he knew that it would have been foolish to ever wish for anything more.