Nia’s heart was racing so hard from their latest group dance that she almost didn’t notice when the music abruptly changed pace.
It was only when Alex swept Kelly into her arms on the first beat of the new - slower - song that was playing that Nia realised what was going on at all.
After that, the rest of the guests didn’t need much encouragement to start pairing off, quickly following suit around the brides, swaying together in a matched rhythm to the soft plunks of piano keys that soon overtook the lively music that that had preceded it.
It was a warm and gentle instrumental cover. One that Nia quickly recognised.
“Dream A Little Dream of Me?” She smirked, shaking her head. “Seriously?”
“Purely coincidental, I’m sure,” a voice said from behind her.
Nia’s smirk grew to a full-fledged grin in a heartbeat.
She was still getting used to it. To seeing him and knowing that he was actually there, for real this time. Not just an illusion her sleep deprived mind might’ve conjured up in the early hours of the morning, not a voice of a stranger in a crowd she’d mistaken for his one too many times when she'd been out alone.
No, this time when Nia turned, it was the Brainy she had been far too afraid to imagine as a substitute that greeted her. A Brainy who was alive and well, who was present and with her in that moment – a Brainy who was smiling just as brightly as she was.
And, as she glanced down, she realised that he had his hand extended out towards her.
Nia took it immediately, squeezing him tight. “Oh, really?” she teased.
“Indeed,” Brainy said, offering a secretive smile. “After all, what are the odds this song was requested for the express purpose of having the opportunity to slow dance with the love of my life?” With that, Brainy tugged Nia’s arm above her head, directing her into a quick yet expert spin that sent the world tumbling out of focus.
Not that she minded. So long as Brainy was holding onto her, she knew that he'd never let her fall.
Nia's face warmed as she stumbled the final step into Brainy’s arms. She was practically moulded into his chest from this distance, the familiar warmth of his life projectors blossoming across patches of her dress. Brainy watched her with a tender smile, opening his embrace up to her when she pressed herself tighter against him, tucking her face into the welcoming curve of his shoulder.
She breathed him in, closing her eyes. “I’m sure you could tell me those odds,” she murmured, her lips teasing a wayward strand of blond hair that had curled by her boyfriend’s ear. “No more secrets, remember?”
Electricity danced up her spine when Brainy’s hands slid across her back. “Then, I concede that the odds were incredibly high,” he admitted, his mouth lingering for a long moment by her jaw. “And would be an absolute certainty... if you believe this to be an acceptable romantic gesture.”
Nia’s fingers dug appreciatively into Brainy’s shoulder. “It’s perfect.”
They fell into step with each other then, the rhythm of the music guiding them just as much as their own bodies. Nia had always seen dancing sort of like fighting in a weird not-so-much kind of a way. Both mediums involved a certain level of dexterity and practice, but to get it just right with a partner... you had to know that person intimately, you had to feel them at your side, every step of the way.
And so, for every step Brainy made, Nia was there to fill the space he’d left behind. It was simple, certain, performed as unthinkingly as breathing, and yet just a year or so ago, Nia knew they would have struggled finding their balance.
Now, she could have stayed like this forever.
As they both sank into the soft melody of Brainy’s chosen song, Nia let her fingers explore Brainy’s suit, running over the bumps and swirls of embroidery along the fabric. Every intricate detail was wonderful to her, because it only further cemented in her mind that this was happening at all. That this was all real.
She’d imagined Alex and Kelly’s wedding a million times in her head over the last few weeks, in equal parts dreading it as much as she’d been excited. A part of her had felt jealous to see them get their happy ending after everything they'd been through, and she’d hated that part of herself so much for trying to bring down an otherwise momentous occasion for her found family.
She’d felt so hollow standing in that green just a few hours ago, watching as Winn had walked around the corner with a lump in her throat large enough to choke her.
Stars fading but I linger on, dear
Still craving your kiss
I'm longing to linger till dawn, dear
Just saying this
Even without the vocals being present, the memory still prompted phantom lyrics to play inside her mind. The meaning behind them was oddly telling, after all, speaking not just for how she’d felt in Brainy’s absence, but what Brainy himself had surely been going through as well.
Neither one of them had known how the other was doing, had yearned for that peace of mind, to find themselves together again even when time and space had had another ending planned.
Still, the lyrics continued in her head:
Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me
The afternoon sun was low enough in the sky to cast deep tones of red in patches of the grass, warming the atmosphere into a fuzzy glow that seemed to cancel out the people around her. Nia found it easy to imagine that they were alone together in that moment, two bodies swaying in motion under the twinkle of fairy lights, the enticing smells of a fresh cut lawn and candle smoke tantalising their senses.
But, Nia didn’t have to dream any more, didn’t have to imagine anymore.
And, just like that, it really seemed to sink in.
This wasn’t just her reality for the moment, but for every moment that followed, even after the wedding was through. This wasn’t temporary, a means to draw out an already staggered and heart wrenching goodbye.
No longer did they have to spend their days together living on stolen time.
She had him now until forever, for however long that might be. The future they’d dreamt of building really and truly started today.
The sun had finally found them both, and Nia’s heart swelled with the knowledge that this was only the beginning, that there would be thousands of moments just like this one to come.
Impulsively, she pressed her lips into Brainy’s throat, grinning when he tightened his arms around her in response, burying his nose into her hair.
For the first time in three weeks, she couldn’t wait to see what the next day was going to bring.