Chapter 1 : All is Calm
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She cannot remember the time before he was her everything; the days of living for pen and paper and sketching outlines of perfection with washable ink. Her old love has become a past passion, replaced by the very edge of the universe itself. He is a mystery and an open book, a whispering life amongst six billion others shouting out, wanting to be somewhere, someone. Perhaps his name will not be marked down in the history of the world but nor will hers and that’s okay, because their names will fall side by side for sixty, seventy, eighty more years and long after their souls leave their bodies and ascend to secrecy.
Each time he looks at her, she feels new. She feels like the most delicate ornament on the tree, a glass angel shimmering against the light of a thousand and one tomorrows. She feels like the breeze of the pages of a book, letters scattering into words and making sense in the way that words and letters do. She feels lost and found and stranded in the middle, and then she looks back and gravity is the only thing pinning her to the floor.
She watches the snow fall unseasonably early and settle upon the sill like a beckoning, a calling. She hears the robins in the gutter, the distant humming of a black cab, the muffled laughter of the little girl downstairs and she feels home. She feels his nerves, she feels his smile, she feels his every move, every unspoken word, every thought. She knows what’s coming and yet she has no idea.
Against a backdrop of wilting walls and whitened skies, she hears him, all heavy feet and angular in a way that is masculine and yet infinitely graceful. She dances and he tags along, a thousand paces behind and yet just as smooth, just as perfect. The swell of her heart is no longer a thing of story, of novelty. It is every second of every day and night and she never wants to remember what her life was like without it for fear of the emptiness that she might face, the stillness that would bring hell tumbling down upon her with nobody to save her.
She turns and she can’t not smile. He made a promise and he has kept it; a Christmas jumper complete with waving snowmen, and real reindeer antlers sticking out of his close cut hair that mean he has to duck and go through the kitchen door sideways. It is not elegant and it is not stylish but she laughs because it is him and a drunken promise kept and it has only been a year and ten months but it feels like so much more.
“You look ridiculous,” she says, all slightly-pitying smiles and twinkling eyes so clear that they reflect almost perfectly the sight before her. He sets down a tray filled with mince pies and his mother’s Christmas cake and glasses of brandy from last year that he thinks might taste a little funny but they’ll need something stronger than milk to wash the cake down. She hits out playfully with a stocking-clad foot and he grins a grin that reaches beyond his eyes and into the air that is warm and fresh between them. He nestles back against her legs, pulling out his wand and the antlers vanish as though they had never been, and when she pouts, he blindly reaches out and strokes a finger down her cheek. “Thank you.” She says it but it does not need to be said. He has kept every promise since that first day, the promises of tomorrow and the next day and a year and ten months on.
They sit in their comfortable silence on a settee bursting out of its seams. The floorboards creak with every breath, the window rattles in its frame and from the kitchen, there’s a distant burning smell from the mince pie that fell down the back of the oven and none of it makes the slightest difference. She watches him sipping at the brandy, his nose wrinkling and lips smacking, and if she didn’t know better than to expect the impossible, she thinks he might be perfect.
It is night before it is evening and the blackness outside glows with the fluorescence of the city below. It reaches beyond the limits of human sight and out past the boundaries of the city, into the fens and the mountains and every country cottage filled with families who love each other and yet cannot bring themselves to say the words that confirm it in the eyes of the world. The sadness of inexpression is overwhelming, she thinks, and living like that would surely see the end of her and him and everything they hold true and always will.
She does not feel him rolling off the seat beside her, so deep are the tracks of each strand of thought she has. Her heart only stops its beating seconds later, when the sound of his shuddering awakes her to the absence at her side. He holds the box tightly in his hands, his eyes for the first time, she thinks, not focusing on her but somewhere off to the side. She moves to catch his eye and when she does, he does not say a word because they know that it would grow into something uglier than the moment needs to be. He opens the box and takes a breath filled with a tang of brandy and the cinnamon of the candles burning around them.
It is two words and that is all it needs.
Her reply is one and when he slides the ring onto her finger, there is silence once again. The silence of surety. The silence of reality. The silence of him and her and them, and the silence of their future. Two names written together for two lifetimes and beyond. Whatever awaits them out there, in the fluorescent lights of London town, she knows that one day it will end, but for tonight, for now, it is far away, buried in the edges of time itself.
Now, it is the time for silence, for knowing, for being.
When they fall asleep, the candles fade one by one; the end of their guardian angels but the start of so much more.
A/N: This was written for and dedicated to my Secret Santa at TGS. I hope not only that she enjoyed it but that you did too. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone :)
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