"Eliza? We're going to be late!" He called.
"Just a second!" She answered. She stepped out, spreading her arms. "How do I look!?" Hardestadt's mouth opened slightly, seeing the blue dress she had decided on. "Is it too much?" she asked with a touch of shyness to her voice.
"No, no, you look amazing!" He came forward, wearing his own dark suit. He put his arms around Eliza and leaned in, her own hand coming up to his cheek as their lips touched briefly. "Just two little details for the public?"
"I think you just prefer me blonde," she said with a wink. With barely a thought, her white hair turned gold, her red eyes shifting to blue. "And how do I look?"
"Still radiant as ever, milady Cortly," Hardestadt said. He cupped her cheek again and kissed her one more time.
"Did you not say we would be late if we delayed?" Eliza asked with a beaming grin.
"Quite right, quite right," Hardestadt grinned and stepped back, adjusting the silver ring on his finger. He picked up his coat, walking to the door and offering her his arm. Eliza slipped hers through his own and leaned into him as they exited the house.
It was only a fifteen minute walk to the theater, and after being so busy, they had decided to take a fun evening. Hardestadt had been doing his best for the impoverished during the depression, Eliza assisting him with managing certain foundations, and that did not cover the supernatural tasks they had been handling.
But February was upon them now. One evening without stress wasn't too much to ask for. The local theater had received Frank Capra's newest film a bit early, and Hardestadt had already purchased their tickets.
The two walked down the street, Eliza keeping her arm in his. She looked incredible, he had to marvel yet again. Absolutely radiant, no matter what she wore. But it was her smile that filled him with such pure light. He had seen Eliza at her lowest, had seen her miserable, despairing and mourning. She had seen him at his lowest, nearly broken and despondent. Neither had left the other, no matter what. Both had fought so hard to see the other stand anew, to see the other smile again.
And the last five years had been full of smiles. There was a happiness to them now, a peace that hung over them. Eliza had not left his home since she had arrived in 1928, the two having shared a bed for years now. Some even mistook them for a married couple, which always made Eliza blush and giggle.
And despite the difficulties of the country and overseas, they devoted themselves to helping others still. Eliza had not needed to be asked; she had thrown herself into the work. They had done such good together over the past years, and to Hardestadt's surprise, he could scarce imagine his home without her now.
Eliza was even beloved by the children in the area, spending every weekend reading to them at the park, giving toys and sweets to her young friends. Hardestadt always marveled how little Eliza kept hidden about her true self. The kindness and warmth were so utterly genuine, and she stood unbroken, no matter what she had endured over her centuries. He understood that only too well.
What he loved most in Eliza was her strength. He saw that in her, that unyielding resolve. He had asked her one night, as she lay in his arms, illuminated only by pale strands of moonlight in the darkness. He had asked her how she could go on as she did.
She had leaned back a bit, bringing a hand to his cheek. "No matter what, Hardestadt Delac," she had said. "No matter what. We must always turn our eyes to the brightest future."
They reached the theater soon enough, still talking together. Eliza grinned. "Would you mind if I take some extra money? I was thinking of buying some more treats for the children this weekend. Perhaps some books as well?"
"Of course," he said. "I'd love to see them happy, too. As much as you need, Eliza. Anything you want is yours. As for the other matter, have you been keeping abreast with the local politics?"
"That abhorrent man declaring Germany to rearm?" Eliza frowned. "Nothing good can come of that…"
"We'll keep a close eye on it. If people need help? We'll do what we can," Hardestadt promised. "Try to be happy tonight, Eliza?"
"How can I not?" She asked, squeezing his arm. Hardestadt went for their tickets.
"Ready?" He asked. "It Happened One Night?"
"Claudette Colbert?" Eliza giggled. "I'm rather excited" She squeezed his hand as they walked in, finding their seats. Hardestadt still loved how motion pictures could so fascinate Eliza. Sometimes he would find her by the radio, listening to the dramas with rapt attention. She had devoured every book in his home, loved their weekly treks to the movie theater for the serials and the films...and yet, Eliza was the type of person to marvel over mundane phenomena as well. Many times, they had sat back to watch a sunset or sunrise, or lay on the roof to watch the stars. The world was still a wonder to her, despite having seen so much of the worst of it.
Always look towards a bright future…. Those words rang in his head as they watched the film. Eliza was laughing, hands clasped before her, fixated on the screen. She glanced at him, the grin on her face visible even in the dark. Hardestadt returned it, the two looking back to the screen.
When they left the theater, Eliza was still laughing. "That was delightful! Why can you not be as dashing as Clark Gable?"
"Hey!" He protested. "Come on, now!"
"You don't have his distinctive voice, nor that roguish slicked back hair and mustache…" Eliza giggled playfully. "Though clean shaven is preferable in my estimation…"
"Someone's asking for it…" Hardestadt rolled his eyes, hiding his grin. Eliza giggled louder and winked at him.
"Perhaps we shall discuss such discipline later then," Eliza said.
"I have the cords and bonds at home, Eliza. You're playing with fire testing me on this," Hardestadt said.
"And yet I do not feel in danger of being burned," she leaned closer and wrapped her arms around his waist as they walked. Hardestadt smiled as they moved down the street. The sun had set now, and he was going to cook dinner when they got home.
They enjoyed the walk in silence then, feeling the cool February breeze as they contemplated all they had, all they shared. Hardestadt clasped her hand firmly, Eliza putting her head to his shoulder.
Hours later, the two were sitting back in the garden, gazing back at the stars, Eliza's hand upon his. "Hardestadt?" Eliza asked softly. Hardestadt turned to her and she leaned up, kissing him softly. "Thank you."
"No…thank you," Hardestadt said. "I don't think I would've gotten back up after Arkham if not for you."
"I felt the same sometimes," Eliza admitted. "But being here with you means a lot to me."
"The same to me…whenever I look at you, Eliza…whenever you're hurt, it's like a part of me hurts as well. I guess…I want to see you happy. When that happens, it's like a new day dawning."
"You're such a poet," she laughed softly as she squeezed his hand. "But yes. I feel the same. You smiling…makes me feel…"
"It's worth it again?" He finished. Eliza closed her eyes and nodded, the warm smile lingering on her face.
"So much….whenever you are afraid or lost? I'll be there."
"And I for you," he said. "That's an oath. An oath to Eliza Cortly. Unbreakable."
"I believe it," she leaned against him closer, and he had to admit, he was content.
Eliza stirred in bed, having allowed herself a restful sleep. She stretched out luxuriously and sat up, memories of the previous evening lingering in her mind. She sat up, seeing Hardestadt already awake, sitting back at his desk, eyes on her. He gave that playful grin she loved so much.
"And a very fine morning to you, milady Cortly. Have I ever mentioned you look stunning in the morning light?"
"Do you ever run out of lines?" she laughed as she shifted to the mirror, beginning to brush her hair.
"With you? Never…though aren't they effective?"
"I must admit they have their appeal…" Eliza chuckled as she ran her fingers through her straightened hair. "That is better. We should get to work soon-"
"Well, I'll be making breakfast first," Hardestadt leaned in and Eliza leaned to meet him, the two sharing an affectionate kiss. "Happy Valentine's Day, Eliza Cortly."
Eliza hugged him at that. "Then I am going to assist if you do not mind a sous chef!" She pulled back and put her hands to his face, kissing him again. "Happy Valentine's Day, Hardestadt Delac."
Looking into herself, she realized in a start something that had eluded for so many centuries. Something that had been there all along with him, something she had not been able to confess even to herself.
She felt content.
I know that it's all about understanding
And I'm hidden inside
Your beautiful soul as it's crying for love
To conquer the day slowly dawnin'
I want you to know
You're the heart of my temple of thought
So when you're restless I will calm the ocean for you
In your sorrow I will dry your tears
When you need me I will be the love beside you
I'll take away all your fears
I'll take away all of your fears
So you can let go all your fears
"Temple of Thoughts," by Poets of the Fall