Night had fallen on the town, draping the quaint houses, the paved streets, and the belltower that cut above all, in drowsy shadows. Everything was still and at peace - not a single soul was in the streets, not a single living thing moved, and not a single leaf tumbled across the stones. There was only thick silence, filling every square inch.
In an empty house that she and Ritmo had randomly chosen to pass the cold night in, it was hard for Fisica to imagine that there had ever been anything but the quiet, surrounding her. But just this morning, the massive pocket of Notalium in the giant clock residing in the belltower had threatened to spiral out of control and trigger a catastrophe. If it wasn’t for Ritmo’s flawless tuning, his hands steady and unfaltering even as ear-piercing sounds had screeched all around them, they wouldn’t still be here at this very moment.
After such a stressful day, he deserved some rest. They both did, to let their tensed shoulders relax and for their shaking hands to calm. Such that they could return well-rested tomorrow, ready for another day of tracking down and tuning Notalium in hopes of restoring colour to the world.
Now that the Al Niente had cleared from the town, no longer looming above in an ever-present gloom, she could see the stars if she angled her head to look through the window. Glimmering brilliantly in the dark canvas of the sky, painting constellations that she could give meaning to, simply by giving them a name.
It was the same sky hanging high over everyone back home in the village. Were they looking up at it right now? What was running through their minds? What were they doing? She couldn’t help but wonder, as the stars continued to blink, almost as if winking mischievously at her.
Were the children sneaking out of their houses after curfew to gather around a tiny campfire that they liked to imagine was a blazing inferno, and discuss secrets in hushed whispers, knowing full well they would get caught and reprimanded the next morning? Were the adults getting ready for the next day, drawing up plans for what needed to be done? Were those with exhaustion weighing on their backs crawling into bed, satisfied with a day well spent, ready to shut their eyes and drift into the fluffy comfort of dreamland?
The house she had shared with her father would be sitting empty once again. Dust gathering on every surface, with no one there to keep it clean. Silence echoing through the corridors, with no one’s footsteps to interrupt it. Rust gradually growing on the sides of the extra tools she had left behind, turning them brittle, for no one was there to maintain them and give them the care they needed.
Unable to experience the magic of starlight, kept out by the shut curtains, leaving only darkness.
“You have that look on your face again, Fisica.” Ritmo’s voice cut through her thoughts, making her gaze snap downwards to where he sat, at the foot of the bed. Staring up at her with a contemplative expression, guitar held in his hands, for its weight could always ground him. “What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing,” she muttered, drawing her knees to her chest and tearing her gaze away from the stars, tantalising with the possibilities of imagination, that she could easily spend the whole night engrossed in. On the dresser sat the Tuner, the Notalium inset in its centre catching the light of the stars, shining all the more, like it had a life of its own. “Just home.”
“Missing it, huh?” He strummed on the guitar, a few mournful notes floating through the air, trembling for a moment before disappearing. “I do too, but it’s no good to go to sleep while sad.”
She already knew what he was going to do. What he always did, for music was the weapon he wielded, the instrument he was most skilled in, the tool he used to navigate the world and overcome any challenge thrown at him. Capable of warping and transforming when filtered through the Tuner, capable of stabbing with sharp words and frantic melodies, capable of crafting entire worlds with beautiful tunes and colourful lyrics.
But also capable of soothing her heart, as he plucked gently at the strings, the guitar emitting familiar notes that pushed the silence away, accompanied by his rich voice, washing over her. She recognised what he was playing as the song that they’d created together on lazy afternoons, taking a break from their duties. Her head pillowed on his lap as she had held his guitar gingerly, not quite used to its weight, so different from that of a wrench or an Allen key. Experimentally picking at the strings, learning the sounds associated with each of them.
Even though she’d mumbled that the chords were nonsense, he’d insisted otherwise, and even written lyrics to accompany them.
A song known only to them - their little secret.
It brought back all the time they had spent together, working hard on a solution to save the world from the Al Niente. Passing entire days and sometimes even entire nights, hunched over early prototypes of the Tuner. Warmth creeping up her arm every time their fingers brushed, a blush dusting her cheeks that he would tease her about, grinning all the while.
She couldn’t help but smile, leaning forward and closing her eyes. Losing herself in the memories and the music, wrapping around her like a soft blanket.
By the time he was done, the cloak of melancholy had dissipated from around her heart, leaving behind only a sweet warmth that lit up her heart.
“No problem. Have a good rest, alright?” He stood, guitar held tight by his side, and took her hand. Quickly, he lifted her knuckles to his lips, making her squeak as she pulled her hand back and held it over her chest, blushing hard. He never shied away from the roughness of her hand, having been scarred and hardened on the cold of metal for so many years, showing it just as much gentle love.
She was certain she’d have lovely dreams tonight, cradling the imprint of his warmth against her heart.