A/N: At last—the final chapter ;)
I know I said I wouldn't write TAY fic, but I think Cuore may have won me over, at least in part. Not to say that I will be continuing TAY fic, since...it's already spoken for, lol. But it was good fun.
Plus, everyone needs a few cavities once in a while. Or just...tooth rot.
ALSO. I may have been watching Gilmore Girls...if that's any indication XP
The king and queen visited for a few hours only, and content upon seeing their foster daughter healthy and well cared for, they left her with warm wishes and loving embraces. But of course, not before Asura had let slip the fact that it had been Edge who had invited them in the first place. It was a sly, motherly smile that Asura had given Rydia before the king and queen dismissed themselves to the Feymarch.
"This was all your doing," Rydia accused later, sorting through the papers on her desk while Edge leaned against the doorframe with his arms crossed.
"You weren't corresponding, and to be honest, I was wondering if you had forgotten about us-about me," he added as a quick aside, sounding hurt.
Rydia twirled around, waving a sheaf of paper in his direction. "I've been busy-I told you that already."
Edge adopted an offended expression. "Too busy to spare a moment to write a note? Not even a haiku?" he quipped.
She set the papers down with a snap and walked toward him, poking his chest with her finger while stepping around. "You and I both know I have absolutely no poetic bone in my body, so stop complaining. I was doing you a favor," she retorted, walking into the hallway behind him.
He followed her, keeping step at her elbow. "You were doing me no favors by making me wait on tenterhooks for any form of communication. Did you even consider replying?"
Cuore appeared in front of them, hopping out from around the corner. "She missed you," she informed Edge, matter-of-factly.
Rydia pursed her lips at Cuore, feeling betrayed. She caught Edge's bemused expression, and frowned. "Of course I missed you," she said in her own defense. "I just-"
"Couldn't find time to pick up a pen?" Edge queried, reaching out for her hand and examining the ink stains there. "A likely story."
Rydia snatched her hand away and cleared her throat. "Why did you show up now? This doesn't have anything to do with Cecil's latest summon, does it?"
Edge spared her a look of righteous indignation. "I'm offended that you would think Cecil has me in this region of the world on political technicality; or that I would use such an excuse to pay you a visit."
"Offended because you're so easily figured out, or offended that you're under obligation?" Rydia bantered back, grinning mischievously.
"Touché," Edge replied with a wry grin of his own.
Cuore stood between them, looking up, and tried to get their attention by balancing on her tip-toes.
"She said she missed you, at least," Cuore continued, picking up where she left off.
"You missed me?" Edge repeated, looking at Rydia pitifully.
Rydia groaned and reached out to swat his arm. "Stop doing that."
"That thing that you do," she argued, unable to settle on the right word.
Edge raised his brows suggestively. "That thing-that I do," he said, drawing out the last syllable as if savoring it.
Rydia narrowed her eyes. "Keep this up, and I'm evicting you."
"But if you do that, you might not see him for many months, and you'll make more of those sad breathing sounds," Cuore protested, her expression pathetic.
"You," Rydia countered, pointing and glaring at her daughter, "are being unsurprisingly obstinate."
"It's only logical," Cuore explained. "Is this one of those strange human rituals where you say one thing and mean another? I am not entirely certain of the ramifications of the word 'love', but the villagers all seem convinced that this is the malady you are suffering from."
Rydia felt her face turn at least three different shades of red, while Edge stared at her, shocked into silence.
The pause that followed was long and awkward.
Rydia was having a hard time meeting Edge's eyes, and as a result, she couldn't decide if he was avoiding her gaze as well or staring straight at her.
"Well? Do you love him or don't you?" Cuore persisted.
"Cuore," Rydia warned.
Rydia glimpsed at Edge and saw him tilt his head and pout at her in such a way that made her unable to contain a giggle. "I'm not sure who's worse between the two of you," she complained.
Edge took hold of her hand again, and she felt a jolt run up her arm.
"Do you?" he asked quietly.
Rydia wanted to wiggle out of this just like she wanted to wiggle out of responding to Cecil's correspondence, but his grip on her hand was firm and left no room for wiggling.
She swallowed, her throat suddenly parched. "I—"
Edge frowned at her. "How long are we really going to keep having this conversation?" he asked. "We've already been having it for over seventeen years."
"That is a long conversation," Cuore frankly observed.
"You've backed me into a corner," Rydia protested uncomfortably.
"Asking you a direct question is backing you into a corner?" he asked.
"You didn't actually ask me anything directly," she pointed out.
Edge narrowed his eyes, annoyed. "Do you love me?" he said more definitively, pulling her a few inches closer.
Rydia chewed on the inside of her lip. "I am not going to go so far as to say that what I feel is love per say, but I certainly feel a certain...fondness for you."
Edge's expression became flat. "A certain fondness," he repeated slowly.
Rydia was not unaware of the disappointed tone in his voice, and thought she would melt on the spot. "What I meant was—"
Edge let go of her hand and took a step back. "What you meant was, that it was a bad idea for me to come," he said mournfully, turning toward the door.
Cuore reached out to stop him before Rydia could even move. Edge looked down at the Maenad, perplexed.
"She is not being completely honest with you," Cuore said with a put-upon expression.
Rydia fidgeted, realizing that she would now have to reply. "Yes-yes," she said, exasperatedly. "I—love you."
Edge's grin was quick, and Rydia felt instantly deceived. "Never mind, I take it back," she fumed.
"Rydia—if the not the most indecisive person in the world, most certainly the fastest," he retorted.
"You planned this so that I would have no choice," she argued.
His grin became devious as he took her hands, both of them this time, and pulled her close. "And about damn time, too," he said.
"You invited my parents in an attempt to win me over, didn't you?" she accused, though she was finding it difficult not to stare straight at him, relieved she had finally said what she had meant to say for years beyond count.
"It worked, didn't it?" he asked.
"How long are you staying?" Cuore interrupted them, and they both looked down at her. "After all, now that you've both settled the unresolved matter between you—"
"You weren't kidding when you said she was direct," Edge mused.
"How long are you staying?" Rydia asked instead, echoing her daughter's query.
"How long am I welcome?" Edge returned.
Rydia grinned warmly, but was too uncertain of her reply to give him a true answer.
Cuore noticed her plight and continued. "-Because the villagers were saying that stars are going to fall from the sky tonight. I want to see this for myself, don't you?"
Rydia blessed her daughter's quick thinking. "She's right," she informed Edge. "Every year on this night, there are star showers. The skies are clear—it's perfect weather for it."
"I'd like that," Edge replied, winking at Cuore.
Happy to be obliged, Cuore pulled them both out of doors and into the cool evening air. The other villagers were standing in the village square already, but the three of them found a spot away from the others.
Edge lifted Cuore onto his shoulders so she could better see the sky, and they waited. At first the star shower was sporadic, but after several minutes, the sky lit up with curtains of shooting stars. It was like every light in the heavens was shining, and Rydia gazed up, wondering how many wishes were being made and granted this very night.
Edge pointed up at a particularly bright shooting star and Cuore watched it disappear behind the peaks of the mountains to the north.
"I think that one fell all the way to the ground—I'll bet we could find it if we went looking," Edge said, patting Cuore's knee.
"I wonder if they'll be happy here—if they'll find a home like I did," Cuore said with utter sincerity.
Edge glanced quizzically at Rydia, who was looking at the girl in wonderment. Cuore had never said anything so sentimental or illogical in the year she'd been living in Mist.
"The shooting stars?" Edge clarified. "What do you mean?"
"We come from the same place, after all," Cuore answered.
"Cuore," Rydia said at last, tears glistening in her eyes.
The little Maenad child looked at her placidly. "Your eyes are leaking again," she announced.
Rydia laughed, wiping the corners of her eyes. "I'm happy, Cuore."
"Is this another occasion where you have too many emotions to express?" Cuore asked.
Edge jostled Cuore to get her attention. "Some things have more than one meaning, Cuore."
"That's what Rydia keeps saying—so if I can find a home, certainly the shooting stars can, too," Cuore continued.
"You think of this as your home?" Rydia asked, her voice wobbling with emotion.
"Aren't you my family?" Cuore inquired, confused. "Wherever you are, I am home."
Edge glanced sideways at Rydia, and reached out to take her hand, smiling. Rydia laughed and cried all over again.
"Yes, Cuore, we're family," Rydia conceded.
"All of us," Cuore corrected her.
Rydia grinned at Edge, and gasped when he tugged her close so that her head was resting against his chest, and his arm was wrapped around her shoulders.
"All of us," she admitted, and the three of them continued to watch the sky until the last of the stars lit up the night. ~
A/N: The end of the mini-saga! Moonclaw, I hope you enjoyed your gift!fic :)
For the rest of you—I hope you enjoyed this quirky little story, and thank you for reading!
Until next update...