The hay crackled underneath as she shifted and lay her head on his chest. Holding her close, he took her hand as they lay together. Looking up at the beams overhead, the young man ran through the events of the past half hour in his head.
They had been incredibly foolish. Euphoric he may be, as he absentmindedly linked their fingers together, he couldn’t help but grimace at the possible consequences of their rash behavior. The very worst that could happen, he reasoned, was a shotgun wedding, should they have mistakenly conceived a child, which wasn’t horrible per se. Of course, he’d have rather finished his studies before wedding her, but their union was always something he had dreamt of. So, in the case that their little…”romp” (he winced at the flippant description; it had been so much more than just some scandal spurred by lust, to both her and himself. To say that it was a romp was unfair to their love, and though these were merely his thoughts, he couldn’t help but grow a little indignant; they had made love, not romped around) did result in a child, he wasn’t at all devastated.
Of course… She was a bit young, wasn’t she? That they had done this in secrecy only proved how much younger she felt to him at times, and as they lay there together with her fast asleep beside him, he instinctively cradled her in his arms. Never before had he experienced the desire to protect her as strongly as he did now. The sensation was nearly as overpowering as the need to have her that had overtaken him moments earlier, and it was all he could do to keep from disturbing her rest so that he could confess to her his intentions and dreams for their future.
There was no question about his love for her. Simply put, he adored her. First, like a sister, until they had grown a little older and a little wiser, at which point he outgrew his childish affection and began to like her – love her – as a man would a woman. But because he loved her, he had subsequently become unreasonable and greedy. Because he loved her, he sought out a profession that promised security and wealth so that he may provide to her a mere sliver of what he thought she deserved. Because he loved her, he had, knowing how she had always dreamt of living in those fantastic coastline cities (the epitome of western civilization), begun a correspondence with a prestigious law firm so that when he finally asked for her hand (as he wanted nothing more than to make a bride of her), he could show her how he was worthy of her. But because he loved her, he had also been reckless and rash and had done as he pleased with little thought for the repercussions – repercussions which required the woman to pay significantly more than the man.
He thought back to Sunday, when he’d driven her home from church. They had made a small detour and gone to the lake beyond the edge of town near the homesteaders. Reaching down from the buggy, they had gathered armfuls of flowers to weave crowns and pretty spring bouquets, when she had (quite unintentionally) brought up the subject of marriage.
The discussion had been brief as it soon became evident that they had both been contemplating the matter for a long time and shared very similar views. There had been one matter, however, that they had disagreed upon, and that was the question of elopement.
He was against it completely. While she had said she hadn’t minded since, knowing her father, it would be no easy feat to convince him for his blessing, he on the other hand had put his foot down. For her sake, he wanted their union to be legitimate even in the eyes of society, and eloping would only mean moving farther away from such an achievement.
She had said little in argument after his announcement. Perhaps it was because she realized how serious he was about the whole matter, but she’d given up her usual teasing and cajoling as she’d quietly sat beside him with a half-finished crown wilting in her lap. Naturally, he’d done his best to lift her spirits – tucking a daisy behind her ear, he’d made some inane joke about their monotonous preacher and had handed the reins over to her when they had reached the time limit for avoiding scandal – as he wanted her to be happy and excited over their potential future, but the question of elopement was something he refused to bend on. He’d caved in to her on various things in the past, but with something as serious as marriage, he was staunch; while it meant they would have to wait longer and run further the risk of her father pursuing his own agenda, the pay-off in the end would be indispensable. Or at least he hoped it would be anyway.
“Lelouch…?” Groggily, she raised herself up onto an elbow as she rubbed her eyes. Affectionately picking out the hay in her hair, he couldn’t help but smile as the somber train of thought faded away and he reveled in how endearing she was.
“Well, it is just about lunch time.”
“What’s for lunch?”
“Perch, I think.”
Sitting up, he lowered his head for her as she ruffled his hair. Closing his eyes, he felt the hay settle onto his shoulders. Thanking her, he moved to stand, when she whimpered. Looking back, he saw her still seated near the impression his weight had left.
“I’m too sore.”
Flushing, he squatted besides her as she helplessly looked up at him. Turning, he offered her his back.
“Come on then.”
“But you’ve spent so much time indoors lately…”
Smiling, she parted her lips to continue her teasing, when he suddenly turned about face and, slipping his arms under her knees and the small of her back, lifted her up. There was a grunt from him but otherwise he carried her well without dropping her or running into anything. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she asked him to pause before they stepped outside.
“What are we going to tell your mother when she asks why you’re carrying me?”
“I’m sure this isn’t anything unusual for her to see. You’ve made me do plenty of strange things over these past few years.”
Shifting her up, he opened the door to the barn, when she stopped him a second time.
“Cera, if we don’t leave now, you’re going to have to walk. I can’t carry you for much longer.”
“No, I know, I just…” Pulling him down, she kissed him on the cheek before whispering into his ear, “I just wanted to tell you that I love you.”
She’d have almost thought he’d stopped breathing if it weren’t for the violent coloring of his face. Staring at her with wide eyes, he stood stock still as if he wasn’t quite sure if he’d heard correctly. Embarrassed, she averted her gaze.
“…I don’t know what came over me,” she muttered. “I knew I shouldn’t have-”
“I love you too.”
Even though she knew she’d been the first to say it, hearing him say such words, with the sincerity and warmth that he had made her heart race as she hid her blushing face. Laughing, he teased her.
“I’m not quite sure what you expected to hear, but that’s the simple truth of it.”
“Let’s just go to lunch,” she mumbled.
“As the lady wishes.”
Covering her eyes, she muttered something or other about how much of an insufferable…insufferable… Oh, who was she kidding? Certainly not herself.
Not that she minded. Obviously.