(Thanks Justine for goofy constellation names!)
Cath opens her eyes slowly, not really wanting to leave the bliss of her evening nap and the warmth of top-grade Japanese electric blankets, only to see a dark piece of paper right in front of her nose.
"What do you think?" Steve's voice behind the paper precedes the grin on his face.
"What do I think about what?" Cath blinks a few times, realising it's a brochure of some sort, and tries to focus her bleary eyes on what's written on it.
Steve pushes the brochure into her hand in response, before leaning back and propping himself up on one elbow. Cath stares at him for a moment, waiting for him to say something, but he doesn't, only directs his eyes towards the brochure and then glances back at her face, evidently waiting for her to read it.
"A stargazing tour?" Cath says after a while, "Steve, this is rather expensive. And," she adds, flipping the brochure over, "at least six hours away."
They usually try to make sure to keep costs low on their short getaways on their common leaves, so apart from the occasional dinner at a slightly more upscale restaurant, Cath's dress long and floaty and Steve's jacket crisp, they mostly resort to long walks, some sight-seeing, and more often than not, staying tangled in the sheets. And this time, they have not even left their tiny hotel room in Hakodate, tucked away in one of the less crowded areas of Hokkaido, since they arrived the afternoon before.
"I know," Steve replies, "which is why we don't have to actually go on the tour." He grins, seeing her confused look, "Let's just go and look at the stars in the park tonight."
Cath looks at him for a moment, eyebrows raised and lips slightly parted. "Really?"
"Well, why not? We can walk there in under ten minutes. And, the skies are apparently very clear this time of year," he explains, shrugging and leaning back against the pillows behind him.
"I just never pictured you as the romantic, stargazing type," Cath grins, poking him in the arm with the edge of the brochure.
He glares at her, attempting to look insulted, but his eyes are still sparkling. "You just wait and see, Lieutenant."
The sky is a light purple, the last of the sun just disappearing behind the tiny shops scattered along the streets. It's still too bright for the stars, and there are small groups of people still milling about the row of shops before the last few trains leave the nearby station.
It's early winter, and the evening air is cold, nipping at their faces and hands. Cath shivers slightly, stuffing her hands deep into her jacket pockets. "I haven't gone stargazing in a really long time," she says, her hair blowing about gently in the breeze. "We used to, back in Colorado, during summer." Steve hears the smile in her voice and he turns to look at her, catching the tiny bit of nostalgia in her gentle smile.
"Dad used to try to teach me about the constellations," she tells him, grinning now, "although I think some of them were made up."
They enter the walking path that will lead them into Onuma Park, the sky steadily darkening as the air gets colder.
"I don't blame him," Steve tells her, walking slightly closer to her so that their jacket sleeves touch, "Isn't there some constellation called... dolphinus, or something?"
"Delphinus," Cath corrects him, giggling.
"Oh fine," Steve huffs, "They mean the same thing anyway." His forehead is scrunched up adorably and Cath laughs, hooking her arm through his and pulling him ahead slightly. Even though they've spent the past day or so lying in bed together, heated bodies pressed together amidst moans or tangled in sleep, this simple contact makes Steve's insides flutter a tiny bit. It's as if he can never get enough of being close to her, with all their time apart. And it's the same for Cath too, with the way she always makes sure there is some part of her touching him, whether it's just her knee against his as they sat cross-legged on the bed eating croissants that morning, or her hand on his arm around her as they fell asleep.
Cath pulls him ahead slightly now, her strides getting a bit quicker. The tall, bushy trees overhead like a canopy over the entrance path, lit from below with tiny lamp-like lights on the ground, is blocking much of the night sky, but it's obvious that night has fallen. "Sky is almost dark, slowpoke, hurry up." But she stops in her tracks as the cover of the trees on the path disappears, revealing the scene in front of them.
"Wow," she says softly, squeezing Steve's arm tightly as he stops too.
The sky is completely dark, clear of clouds, and absolutely littered with stars, the crescent moon bright and the snow-covered peak of Mount Komagatake visible even in the dark. The winter-bare trees cast black silhouettes from where they stand, and the lake in front of them, its surface completely still and a glossy almost-black, is sprinkled with the reflections of the hundreds of stars above them.
"Told you we didn't have to travel six hours to Bisei for the observatory," Steve tells Cath quietly, finally tearing his eyes away from the gorgeous view to look at her. She is still standing pressed against him, her arm through his and her hands in her pockets. Her lips are reddened from the cold and slightly parted, which makes Steve want to kiss her deeply, to feel them against his own, to perhaps taste the faint hint of cherry from her lip balm.
"You did tell me," Cath laughs softly, looking around, "This is amazing." She spots a bench near the edge of the lake and she pulls him towards it. Sitting down, she still continues to gaze up at the sky, and Steve can see the sprinkling of stars reflected in her dark eyes, like tiny sparkles of glitter. "How come we didn't come here last night?"
"Um..." Steve grins, leaning back against the bench, "Last night we were engaged in some... other activities, if I recall correctly."
Cath turns to smirk at him, "Having trouble remembering what I did to you?" She pokes him in the thigh, before letting her hand linger there, "Maybe I should do it again later." Her eyes glint in the light from the moon and the solitary lamp nearby, and Steve grins, but failing to hide his intake of breath.
"Gladly," he murmurs, before slipping his hand into hers, "but first it's time for an astronomy lesson."
"Sure, Commander, go ahead."
Steve smiles widely, looking very proud of himself, and he clears his throat. "So, first of all, that," he points upwards with his free hand, and Cath follows the direction of his finger, "is the moon."
Cath stares at him for a moment, before bursting into laughter.
"I see," she says, feigning newfound understanding, "I never knew."
He winks at her, still looking very proud of himself. "Mhmm. And that, over there, is Pegasus, supposedly a horse with wings but personally I think looks more like some sort of jellyfish."
Cath glances at him, slightly surprised. "How did you know that one?"
"Well I do know some of them," he insists, looking at her. "Actually... I googled them while you were taking a shower and I only remember this one," he admits sheepishly.
She gapes at him. "You are unbelievable," she informs him, and he grins.
Cath gazes at him for a moment, shaking her head slightly, before laughing and turning back to face the lake. "Okay, so what's that one?" She points to a random cluster of stars directly in front of them.
"Ah, now that," Steve's forehead crinkles in concentration, "is, um..." he hesitates, clearly trying to come up with a name for the group of stars that unfortunately doesn't seem to have a clearly discernible shape, "the Great Seal."
"The Great Seal, see, if you look at it this way," he gestures very vaguely at it, "it looks like an actual seal, but if you look at it the other way," he waves his hand in the opposite direction of the first, "it looks like a man, like a Navy SEAL."
There is silence for a moment, and they both burst out laughing. "I need to tell Dad about this Great Seal constellation," Cath splutters, "He'd be pleased to know there's someone worse than him when it comes to making up names for constellations."
She calms down slightly, turning to face Steve, but still smiling widely, "I'm sure he'd be very pleased to meet you."
Steve looks at her, not fully sure if she's being serious now. "Because of Great Seal?" he asks, pointing up at it again.
"No, you goof," she hits him lightly on the leg, smiling, "because of us." She looks down at their hands, having somewhat forgotten that they're still intertwined, the pale moonlight making her eyelashes cast very long shadows on her cheeks, and she somehow just looks really pretty. "Because of us," she repeats, more quietly, before looking up at him again.
He is gazing at her, and when she looks up he gives her a small smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "I'd love to meet him," he says, "and your mom, and your brothers," he adds sincerely.
"Oh, I'm sure they'd love another guy to join their extremely violent rugby matches," Cath laughs. The ease with which he had accepted what she was saying gave her so much relief that she doesn't know why she even doubted anything in the first place - and it gave her a sense of reassurance, that she didn't really need, but it was comforting all the same.
Steve somehow senses this flood of emotions inside her, and he moves even closer to her on the bench, his eyes fixed on her lips, before kissing her gently, his lips pressed softly against hers, the scent of her perfume drifting slowly into his nose. Her lips are so soft, her hair slightly cold from the chilly night air but smooth and silky in his hands, the curve of her body pressed into his now so familiar.
She pulls away after a long while and gives him a small smile again, thanking him silently. "And I'll ask Dad to teach you about these," she smirks, gesturing at the night sky.
"I'd better make full use of Google before that."
"You probably should," Cath smiles at him, "but for now," she leans against his shoulder, grasping his hand in hers again, "tell me more about the Great Seal."