A/N: This would be considered a Human!AU I suppose. Be warned?
Disclaimer: I don't own HTF.
It is the first night of summer when she steps out onto her private moonlit balcony and gazes up at the dazzling stars, clothed in luminescent white and strawberry-wine perfume. Trailing roses and climbing ivy blanket the marble at her feet and dewy hydrangea bushes cushion the ground below. She watches for a shooting star and sees a boy watching her instead.
"Hullo," he calls. "Can I join you?"
"You can try," she says.
The boy jumps over the high iron fence with little difficulty. He crosses the garden, tramples the hydrangea bushes and climbs up the balcony in a very short time. As she stares up at the tall boy who has just trespassed her father's property, he says, "Wow, you're prettier up close."
He has a nice smile, she decides. "You're going to jail," she says. "For breaking and entering."
"No I'm not," he replies. "I was invited."
No guy has stood so close to her except maybe her father and her cousin Cuddles. "I said you can try," she reminds.
"And I tried."
She holds out her hand. "My name is Giggles," she says.
He takes her hand carefully, she notes, and shakes it. "I'm Splendid. You can call me Hero," he says. "You don't look like your name."
"You don't like a hero," she retorts. "What do you mean?"
He says, "You look like Frowns. Scowls. Grumpy—" She finally giggles and he crows in triumph, "There! My life is complete. Well, I have to go now."
"Wait," she stops before he can leave. "Will you visit again? I'm—" Lonely. Sad. A self-sequestered princess.
Splendid looks at her. "I'll come tomorrow night," he says.
He tramples the hydrangea again and she doesn't care.
She invites him into her bedroom for tea and cake, eager to entertain her newest friend. She doesn't worry about disturbing the household because her room is sound-proof and nobody would dare dream of the proper princess drinking jasmine tea with a strange boy at midnight.
His blue eyes are wide. "You really are a princess," he says more than once, and when he spies the elegant canopy bed and mini-theater, he is floored. "You've got everything," he lets her know.
"Not everything," she murmurs to herself.
Splendid hears her anyway. "If you ever need a friend, just call for me," he says. "I'll come."
She knows he's joking, but can't help asking, "Promise?"
"I promise," he says.
"Because you're a hero?"
Giggles is teasing, but his gaze never wavers from her. "I'll come," he says slowly, "because I'm your friend."
"Thank you," she says. His tone and expression makes her feel more different than she's ever felt before with anybody. She thinks it is his sincerity. "How is the cake?" she asks.
"Delicious," he says. "Where'd you buy it?"
"I made it," she smiles.
He chokes and she considers smacking him, but then he grins so boyishly that she forgives him and they laugh over warm tea until it is time for him to leave. He promises to visit the next night, the night after that, and maybe the night after that…
She falls asleep with a smile on her lips.
After a lengthy diagnosis, the family doctor announces she has a cold and instructs her parents to keep her in bed rest for at least three days. Giggles asks if her balcony door may be propped open a crack to let fresh air flow, and the doctor consents. The maid turns off all lights except her night lamp and shuts the door.
When she opens her eyes, she sees Splendid standing by her canopy bed looking down at her. "I'm okay," she assures at the look in his eyes. "It was my fault for not wearing a jacket." Last night they stayed out on the balcony for two hours, naming constellations.
"I should have made you," he says quickly. "It's my fault."
His hero complex, she thinks. "I wouldn't have listened," she says. "Stay with me tonight. Tell me stories." When he moves to obey, she blurts, "Wait, you might catch a cold. You should go home."
It is his turn to raise an eyebrow, plopping himself down on her bed. "Heroes never catch colds," he declares.
"Want to bet?"
"Heroes never bet."
Her laugh turns into coughs, which she stifles with her covers. "I'm okay," she repeats at his expression. "Go on, tell me a story." He hesitates until she threatens to ring the maids in, and finally he begins talking with a playful smirk.
"Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away, a beautiful princess fell ill…"
Giggles likes to think she is calm and collected. She repeats this to herself like a mantra, over and over, until she realizes she's pacing and checking the clock too many times.
She curses. And she never curses.
When she finally spots the dark figure jumping over the fence, her entire body trembles in relief and joy so that she stops breathing. By the time he is climbing her balcony, however, she is trembling with suppressed anger.
She hits him in the arm. Hard.
"That kind of hurt," he says, and has the grace to look ashamed when she glares at him. "I'm sorry?"
Splendid chooses his answer carefully. "I'm sorry for not coming," he tries.
"For three nights," she adds.
"You win," he shrugs. "I guess even heroes can catch colds." He looks thinner and his voice is still hoarse. She sighs and beckons him inside, out of the night air.
"Why didn't you rest at home?" she chides him, giving him a cup of hot chamomile tea. She doesn't see the odd glance he shoots her.
"I wanted to see you," he says. When she opens her mouth to scold, he coughs pitifully and she stops. His hopeful eyes make her smile despite herself.
She wants to say she missed him something terrible. She wants to say that he's her closest friend and that her day is never complete without him. She wants to say that only he makes her laugh like she means it. She wants to say a lot of things.
Instead she asks, "Do you want more tea?"
He is such a good and kind friend, she thinks. Not many people she knows catch colds in order to be with her. A lovely gift should be in order. It doesn't take long for her to decide that a dinner date with Lammy, one of the most popular models in the country, will suffice. Any boy would sell his soul to date her, and Splendid is a boy. He will definitely be happy. The gift would be perfect in every aspect except for the fact that he would not have the time to visit her anymore, but it's worth the sacrifice if he is happy.
With a little help from her father's influence, she sends two notes: one two the model and another to Splendid.
That night she spends time with her mother, watching sappy romance movies and painting each other's nails. She doesn't go back to her bedroom until extremely late because she knows he won't be there tonight. She tries not to think about him having fun with another girl and goes straight to bed.
Or she tries. Splendid is waiting for her. Before she can demand how he got into her room, he turns on her and snarls, "What the hell were you thinking?"
For a stunned moment she can only stare at his angry face. He is wearing nice clothes, like the note suggested, but his tie is loose and his hair looks wild as if he's been running a hand through it. "What happened?" she finally asks gently, thinking the dinner date went wrong.
He flings a crumpled note on her bed. She doesn't need to look at it to know it says, 'Go to the Garden Restaurant at six o' clock sharp. Dress formal. Love, Giggles.'
She picks it up anyway and tells him, "I'm sorry for not asking. I thought—"
"We'd fall in love? Get married and live happily ever after?"
She flinches. "Why are you so angry? It was just a date," she snaps, crossing her arms. "You know, most guys would kill for a chance to meet Lammy. It wasn't all that easy for me to arrange this for you." That's a lie and they both know it.
His smile is mocking. "Well, thanks. I'm a lucky guy, aren't I?"
"You're a jerk," she says. "And if you want to keep acting like that, then you can leave." She turns to end the discussion, but he doesn't leave. He's not finished.
"Oh that's what you want, isn't it?" he says hotly. "If you want to get rid of me, you could just say so without tricking me into going out with some other girl—"
She whirls around. "I wasn't getting rid of you! It was a gift!" She doesn't wait for his response and demands, "How did you get in anyways? Did you break something?"
"The door was unlocked."
"You weren't invited," she grits out.
His expression is stony and hostile. Nobody's ever looked at her like that and she doesn't like it at all. "Don't like it when things don't go your way, huh, Princess?" he sneers. "You don't control everything. Not people. Not feelings. You can't handle change so you just hide in your little castle, afraid of getting hurt—"
"Get out," she says, trembling. She doesn't know if she's angry or scared or both.
"You think you can just push me at someone and decide I'll be happy," he continues as if she hasn't spoken, moving closer to her. "I don't come here every night just to entertain you. I come because—"
She throws a book at him. Then a doll. "Get out," she yells, not wanting to hear his because. She doesn't need his pity. "I don't need you. Get out and don't ever come back!"
And he leaves.
Five nights pass and Splendid does not come.
The family doctor takes one look at her and prescribes medicine. Then he confers outside with her parents in a low, urgent voice, asking if there have been any recent deaths or incidents in the family. Stress, anxiety, depression—her illness is anything but normal. Her parents shake their heads, no, her condition suddenly changed overnight and can't he think of a cure?
He says he will try.
Giggles is under the spell of a sleeping drug and in her feverish delirium she dreams of a blue-eyed hero with a boyish grin sweeping her in his strong arms and flying into the starry night sky. But when she opens her eyes and the balcony is empty, she has to swallow back the burning sob rising in her throat and close dry eyes to see him again.
When the doctor is called again at dawn, he has to run because the maids found her crumpled on the balcony, her thin nightdress soaked with cold dew. Once again he administers medicine, with strict orders to keep her in bed, and sighs when her parents ask if there's anything they can do.
Give her time, he says.
On the eighth morning, she wakes up. The entire household is astonished at her abrupt recovery, wondering if the past several days have been a dream. She smiles, a little wearily, when her parents ask what happened.
"I need to stand up on my own," she says, because she has been living in a dream, locking her heart in a lonely box and refusing to live her life. She is not going to wait for someone to live it for her.
She calls her cousin Cuddles for the first time in years and apologizes for being a brat. He forgives her immediately and promises to visit her as soon as vacation starts. Next she calls her childhood friend and apologizes for being such a bitch all those years ago. Petunia apologizes for slapping her and the two girls make plans to go shopping as soon as Giggles is feeling stronger.
Her parents reluctantly allow her to start school in the fall. She thanks them for their love and care, but now she is going to let go of their hands and walk on her own two feet.
She doesn't need a hero, but she waits for him anyways.
It is one of the last summer nights and the stars are so close she feels she can lean out of the balcony and touch them. She is wearing shorts and a skimpy tank top, an outfit she never would have worn before, but shopping with Petunia changes that. She fiddles with her red hair ribbon as she stares up at the crescent moon, remembering a night similar to this.
"Hey there," calls a familiar voice. "What are you waiting for?"
"A shooting star," she answers.
He is already jumping over the iron fence and crossing the small garden of stargazers and gardenias. "I traveled across three continents and an ocean just to hear you say that," Splendid remarks as he tramples the hydrangea bushes.
"You got tan," she acknowledges, watching him climb the balcony. "And taller," she adds, tilting her head further to meet his eyes than when she looks at the sky.
"You lost weight," he accuses, and she realizes he never changed. He still worries.
"Don't bother me," she says, turning back to the sky to hide her happy smile. "There's supposed to be a shooting star tonight and I swore I'd make a wish on it," she tells him. He doesn't ask her what the wish is and merely offers to help, his strong arm wrapping around her shoulders. Giggles wonders if he can feel her heart thudding.
"I'm glad you came," she says casually. "I'm enrolling in school this fall and I want to be in your classes. I don't know anyone else because my friends are at private school and I wanted to go to a public one because—I don't know. I think it'll be more fun. My parents think I'm crazy. What do you think?"
"I agree," he answers, but she doesn't know if he means she's crazy or public school is fun because she's rambling on.
"I like to bake so I think I want to be a baker when I graduate. Open my own confectionary—on loan, of course, since I don't want to use Papa's money and I should build it from scratch. I want your advice on—on a lot of things since you said you're good at math and business, but if you don't want to I totally understand—" She feels him shaking and tries to jerk away, embarrassed. He doesn't let her. "I'm serious! Don't laugh at me," she scowls.
"Do you know why I come here?" he asks seriously. She pretends to scoff.
"Because you're a hero?"
"Wrong. Guess again."
His voice is close to her ear and she blurts, "Because you're my friend." Her heart is going crazy.
"Because I love you, Princess," he says. "Can I kiss you?" And before she can agree or nod, he swoops down and kisses the daylights out of her. He's not very gentle and his hands are hot on her spine but she doesn't care because she's too busy kissing him back for all she's worth. If a hundred shooting stars fell at that moment she wouldn't have noticed.
When they're finished and she has to lean on him or else collapse in a mindless heap, Giggles says, "I want to introduce you to my parents tomorrow morning."
"So I can ask their permission to marry you?"
She rolls her eyes but winds her arms around his neck. "So you can stop trespassing on my father's property."
"Not trespassing," he murmurs into her lips. "Wooing."