Claimer: MINE. Ah.
A/N: Same characters as, um, "A Fleeting Dance" and "Look Back and Remember". Um. If that matters at all. It's not like the stories are connected. Slightly edited.
A Matter of Perspective
"It's all a matter of perspective," she had said to him those long years ago as they had laid on the hood of his car and gazed up at the bluer-than-blue sky studded with spots of white cloud.
He had chuckled at the statement and adjusted his hands so that they better cushioned his head. "A matter of perspective? Seriously, Lana, I can't believe we're doing this. Finding cloud pictures—I mean, how old are we, anyway?"
"Last time I checked we were both seventeen," she had remarked dryly, and he could see her smirk from the corner of his eye. "But who cares how old we are, Rafe? Aren't we still allowed the use of our imaginations?"
"Of course we are," he had replied. "I never suggested that we weren't. But I still don't see how you think that one looks like a duck."
She had rolled her eyes and propped herself up on one elbow so that she was gazing down into his gray-green ones. "I already told you…" She had trailed off with a bit of a sigh, and it had seemed that she found no joy in repeating herself. She had laid back down and tucked one hand beneath her head, the other resting on her stomach. "Just don't look so hard," she had told him, her lilting voice quiet, hard to hear over the rustling leaves of the nearby trees.
Rafe had wondered briefly if she were referring to something larger and greater than the clouds, if she were trying to imply something, but he could not figure out what deeper meaning could exist. So he had simply laid there on his car, soaking in the warmth of the sun, and as his eyelids had drifted half closed, he could distinguish the shape of a bill, the contours of the head and neck, the oblong blob of a body. All belonged to that ethereal bird that she had glimpsed as it flitted across an azure playground.
Feigning annoyance, he had grumbled, "So that cloud is a duck. What's the point again?"
She had smiled at him, and he had been taken aback by the sheer softness of the expression. "Didn't you hear what you just said? The cloud is a duck. And that, Rafe, is the point."
And now, years later, he lay beside her once more, but this time no words passed between them, no clouds sailed overhead. She slept soundly, the blankets fisted in one hand near her chin, and the brown curls that were not trapped beneath her head were strewn about the pillow and gleaming darkly in the grayish glow of earliest sunlight. He lifted one hand to her face, carefully smoothing one of the rogue strands behind her ear, and his fingertips lingered on the curve of her cheek, amazed anew that she was there at all and that he could have been so fortunate, so blessed by the fates or the gods or whomever.
She stirred beneath his touch, and her eyelids quivered before raising lethargically, the hazel irises half-masked by long lashes as she blinked blearily. "Mm, what is it?" she asked in a voice still slurred with sleep.
His fingers slid down her cheek, and he watched their progress for a moment and then met her gaze, which was now clearer, more alert. "I was just thinking about how beautiful you are."
Lana snorted incredulously at that comment. "Yeah, right, Rafe, sure you were. My hair's an absolute mess and I'm not wearing any make-up to speak of except the mascara that probably managed to stay on despite my best attempts to wash it off and is now probably smeared across my temple. Add to this that I'm half awake at dawn, of all times of day, and I severely doubt that I look anything remotely close to beautiful," she informed him. As if she wanted to prove her point, she yawned and rubbed the heel of her hand against one eye before pulling the covers back up to her chin.
He toyed with one of her curls, causing her to cease trying to fall back asleep and look at him, one of her eyebrows arching ever so slightly with tired attitude.
"You're always beautiful," he whispered, capturing her lips in a brief, tender kiss.
She opened her mouth, ready to protest again because she just had to be stubborn and contrary, but he spoke before she had a chance.
"Come on, Lana. Didn't you hear what I just said? I didn't say you looked beautiful. I said you are."
Her eyes narrowed in vaguest annoyance. "Don't turn my words back on me, Rallendoh. I don't appreciate it." And then, with a huff, "And that's hardly endearing, saying I don't look nice. You obviously failed charm school."
He simply chuckled and leaned in to kiss her again, and despite all evidence to the contrary, she leaned into him as well, meeting him halfway.
"Yeah, yeah," he murmured with dismissive humor against her lips. "I love you, too."