"I can't believe you made me come up here," Jane grumbled as she nearly lost her footing, sending a fine spray of crumbling asphalt shingle into the gutters.
"Well, I can't believe you weren't excited about going up on the roof," Maura said, stepping deftly across the small chasm between wings of the house. "It's fairly dangerous, and how often do I encourage you do dangerous things?"
"I do them all the time when you're not looking." Jane slipped sideways and flailed for a moment until Maura grabbed her hand to steady her. "I'm just usually on the ground when I'm doing them. What are you, part mountain goat?"
"I told you I was Best Tree Climber at boarding school," Maura sighed. "I have an excellently calibrated inner ear."
"Your outer ear's pretty good too," Jane said, lowering herself to a sitting position.
"Thank you," Maura said, settling next to her. "I quite enjoy the construction of your auriculae as well."
"Thank you," Jane said, smiling with satisfaction. "I'm pretty proud of my arugulas, if I do say so myself."
Maura grinned, shaking her head. She reached into the small basket she'd been carrying since Jane had nearly dropped it when making the initial leap onto the roof, immediately disproving her bravado about her excellent climbing skills.
"Didn't you want to be a trapeze artist?" Maura laughed. "I don't know if I'd trust you to make it up the ladder."
"I just wanted to get paid to be on the swings," Jane said. "I was always really good at swings in school."
"I was good at math," Maura said, twisting a corkscrew into the bottle of wine she'd pulled from the basket. "And science. And spelling."
"Yeah, but were you good at recess?"
"We didn't really have recess."
"No recess?" Jane stared at her incredulously. "How did you—what did you—how did you not go insane?"
"On second thought," Jane said, "you really like cutting open dead people. So maybe you are insane."
"I also love you," Maura added, pouring the wine into a glass tumbler. "The evidence is mounting."
"Hey!" Jane cried, nearly losing her balance. "If you're not careful I'm gonna take it personally."
"If you're not careful you're going to fall off the roof, Jane, come over here," Maura said, tugging at Jane's arm. Jane scooted up and sideways, putting her arm around Maura's waist. Maura smiled, closed her eyes, then frowned as Jane fished in the basket next to her and pulled out a beer, withdrawing her arm.
"I'm gonna put it back," Jane murmured, popping the cap off the bottle. She grinned, then slipped her arm around Maura, wrapping her fingers around her waist and pulling her close.
Maura smiled again and leaned in to Jane, resting her head on Jane's shoulder. They sat for a few minutes in contented silence.
"Okay," Jane said. "What am I supposed to be looking at?"
"Well." Maura took a sip of her wine and expertly balanced the glass on the center ridge of the shallow-pitched roof. "That's Orion, those three stars in the middle—"
"Yeah, I see it," Jane said. "I know that one."
"Okay, well, if you look straight up there's a zigzag, like a sideways W. Do you see it?" She pointed at the impossibly clear night sky, stars scattered across it like diamonds.
"Yeah, I think so?" Jane squinted in the direction Maura was pointing. "Like this?" She traced a shape with her finger.
"Yes, that's it. That's Cassiopeia."
"Cassie does what?"
Maura laughed. "Cassiopeia, Jane," she said. "It's not its brightest this time of year, but it's bright enough to see. It's named after a Greek queen who said her daughter was more beautiful than the Nereids—sea nymphs," she said in response to Jane's unasked question, "very pretty. Anyway, she was forced up into the sky for eternity, clinging to her throne of stars so she wouldn't fall off and be swallowed by the night."
"That's . . . uh, cool?" Jane said, frowning slightly. "Seems like a pretty harsh sentence."
"I suppose," Maura said. "But there's something sort of romantic about being cast into the heavens as punishment for declaring someone more beautiful than the daughters of Poseidon, don't you think?"
"You're prettier than anyone's daughter," Jane said, "Well, except your mother's, I guess. I'll ride a comet around Jupiter forever if Zeus wants me to, but I stand by my word."
Maura blushed so brightly Jane could see it in the dark.
"Cassiopeia—the star, not the constellation—is what's left of a supernova; its light just started reaching us in the seventeenth century. So it's comparatively very young," Maura said.
"It's the light from a supernova, Jane," Maura said softly. "The most explosive kind of event in the known universe. An incredibly destructive force," she almost whispered, "but look how beautiful it is. To us it's something precious, it's a star. We only see the light, not the violence it was born from."
Jane stared at Maura's profile, tilted up toward the sky, lips slightly parted, a look of dreamy wonder on her face.
"I love you, Maura," she whispered. "I love everything about you."
Maura looked down bashfully. "What makes you say that?"
Jane shrugged. "You're just . . . amazing, is all."
"I took a year of astronomy at school," Maura offered. "There was a tower, and all the classes were at night. I suppose it made more of an impact on me than I realized at the time."
"I think it's cool," Jane said, holding Maura more tightly. "You know, like, pretty much everything. It really saves on my Googling time, too."
"Hardly," Maura said. "I don't know very much at all about violin repair, for example. Or how to chase down bad guys."
"You could probably chase down a bad guy or two," Jane said. "If you were wearing normal shoes."
"My shoes are normal! They're just not made for . . . running."
"They're barely made for walking."
"You'd be sad if I stopped wearing them," Maura said mischievously.
Jane tried and failed not to acknowledge the accuracy of Maura's statement.
"Fine," she huffed. "I'd be sad if you stopped wearing fancy shoes."
"Thank you," Maura replied. "Look, Jane!"
"What?" Jane jerked her head up, nearly losing her balance again.
"This roof isn't even steep," Maura chided. "I'm beginning to think you're not even trying."
"I'm trying not to fall off," Jane muttered. "So I'm not that great with heights, whatever."
"I didn't know you were afraid of heights. Acrophobia is quite common and nothing to be embarrassed about. Though I'm afraid it would've affected your childhood dreams of getting paid to go on the swings."
"I'm not like, afraid of heights," Jane said crossly. "I'm just not, like, crazy about them."
"Well, I'm very glad you agreed to join me up here," Maura said, leaning over and kissing Jane on the cheek.
"What was I supposed to look at?"
"It was a shooting star," Maura said. "We're very near to the Perseid meteor shower. It won't reach full intensity for a few more days, but if you watch carefully you'll almost certainly see at least one shooting star."
"I only need one," Jane said.
"What do you mean?"
Jane wrinkled her nose, embarrassed. "I mean, uh, I've really only got one wish."
"Yeah, after that."
Maura smiled and settled close into Jane, wrapping her arm around Jane's bent knees. "What's your one wish, Jane?"
"I can't tell you," Jane said, "otherwise it won't come true."
"I don't know if I believe that," Maura replied. "I feel like the more you offer something to the universe, the more likely it is to manifest in your life."
"Oh my God," Jane groaned. "No more yoga for you."
Maura smiled and shook her head, sighing into Jane's neck. Jane swallowed hard.
"I'm just more vocal in my acceptance of the beauty of existence," Maura said. "I don't think there's anything wrong with that. And I don't think there's anything wrong with you shying away from it—"
"I don't 'shy away' from anything," Jane cut in.
"Mm-hmm," Maura murmured skeptically. "Anyway, I don't think there's anything wrong with you being hesitant to express your love of beauty and goodness, because I know you feel it, even if it's hard for you to say the words."
"It's not hard for me," Jane grumbled, "I just . . . it makes me feel weird."
"How is 'it makes me feel weird' not the same as 'it's hard for me'?"
"Okay," she said after a moment's thought.
"Maura," Jane said, lifting Maura's chin so that they were looking into each other's eyes. "I think you are the most beautiful and wonderful and amazing person that I know, and since the people I know are basically the only people who have ever existed, I think you're the most beautiful and wonderful and amazing person who has ever existed."
"Oh, Jane," Maura stammered.
"I'm not done yet. I'm proving a point. And that point is that I will never be afraid to tell you how great I think you are, and how lucky I am to have you." She leaned over and kissed Maura gently. "So there."
"It was so wonderful right until the end," Maura said wryly. "I love you, Jane, and I think you're kind and caring and compassionate and gorgeous. You're even funny sometimes."
"That old chestnut," Jane groaned.
They sat on the roof, pressed together, for a long while.
"There's so many," Jane whispered.
"Billions," Maura said. "An infinitesimal number."
"That's a lot, huh."
"It's the literal definition of 'the most.'"
"I wonder if I'm not luckier than you," Jane said, "because when I look up, all I see are stars. I don't see queens falling off their thrones or . . . or . . ."
"Hardly any of the constellation myths are happy," Maura said. "Mostly dead lovers immortalized for all time, or gods or mortals being punished for hubris."
"Yikes," Jane whispered. "Yeah, all I see are stars."
"I don't know if you're luckier, it's just that our experiences are different. And I don't just see lists of facts when I look at them. I promise you, I see their beauty first."
"That's why I love you," Jane said softly, running her hand up Maura's back and stroking her hair, cradling her close. "That right there."
"Oh Jane," Maura sighed again.
"Plus you're really good-looking."
Maura giggled. "Thank you," she said softly. "You're really good-looking too."
"Aw, whatever," Jane scoffed.
"You can deny it if you like," Maura said, "but I'm sure I'll have reason to tell you again."
"And I'll deny it again, I guess," Jane replied.
"Eventually you'll just give up and accept it."
"When have you ever known me to give up?" Jane cried, nearly slipping off the roof again.
"Maybe you should give up on violent outbursts," Maura suggested, "at least while you're twenty feet off the ground."
"Don't remind me," Jane said.
They lay back on the roof, Maura tucked against Jane's side, Jane's arm around her shoulders.
"Look!" Jane cried suddenly, pointing at the sky. "There goes one! Wow, look how big it is," she breathed.
Maura turned her head to watch as the meteorite sparkled across the expanse of the night. She smiled and put her arm around Jane's waist, nuzzling her neck.
"Did you make your wish?" she whispered.
"I already got it," Jane said. "Here you are."
A/N AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! Thanks everyone for liking these little stories; they've been a delight. Housekeeping: the trapeze artist and fear of heights things are my own invention; the trapeze bit is a callback to the fifth chapter. And the spider thing in chapter 9, that's my own invention and a callback to the fourth chapter. This is a hermetically sealed universe, basically; it's a snow globe filled with glitter and rainbows and adorable and sex. WHAT COULD BE BETTER I ASK YOU.