((A/N: Based off the Sneak Peek where it was implied that Snow shares her birthday with her mother’s death — ALL THE CREYS))
He found her at the lake, as he so often did this time of year, standing quietly on the pebbled shore with her arms around herself and her face tipped up to the sky. His heart ached for her, for her obvious unhappiness, and he longed to draw her into the protective circle of his arms, to sooth and love and heal…but she had not gone to him for such things, having slipped wordlessly from their bed at midnight. It was not unusual and he understood her need to be alone, but that didn’t stop the hurt that he could do nothing for her.
"You should be in bed," she murmured while her eyes stayed fixated on the stars.
He took a deep breath, stopping a few feet away to study the silhouette of her profile against the backdrop of the castle. She looked so sad, so lonely and despite what she said, there was no where else he wanted to be because she needed him. Even if she refused to admit it.
"My place is with you," he said after a moment.
She hesitated, he’d seen the soft sway of her body towards him before she pulled back and stopped herself, and again there was a pang in his heart, again he tried not to be hurt. Tried.
"I’ll be up soon," she promised.
"If it’s all the same to you, I’ll wait." His voice was gentle when he spoke. “You won’t even know I’m here.”
She said nothing for a long time, continuing to watch the night sky. Then she sighed and extended a hand out to him, inviting him to join her. A ball of emotion lodged itself into his throat. They would not argue this year, and for that he was glad.
He stepped up to her, twining their fingers together as their hands clasped. He could feel the tension from her, the grief — both so strong and overwhelming, he pressed his lips together to keep from saying something, knowing that was not what she wanted. Then she started to tremble and his fingers squeezed comfortingly on hers. When she finally turned into him he caught a glimpse of her face in the moonlight and the pain reflected there was a dagger to his heart.
Their arms came around each other at the same time. She gripped the back of his shirt for purchase as her body shook from her quiet sobbing. He rested the side of his cheek against her head, his hand stroking her hair as he murmured soothing words.
"I love you," he whispered when the storm had passed, touching his lips to the top of her head. "I love you."
"Charming," she sniffled, rubbing her cheek over his heart. "I know…thank you."
He swayed them gently, his arms tight around her, and he was content. She let him in this year, this had been a good year.
"I love you," she said, giving him back the words, pulling away to look at him. "More than anything in this world."
The corners of his mouth tipped up briefly and he bent his head to brush his mouth over hers. He lingered for a heartbeat then moved his lips to kiss away her tears. She closed her eyes and curled herself back into him and this time he could feel her need for him, for his love and his presence and his comfort — he was glad that he could ease some of the weight from her shoulders.
A little ball of light streaked across the sky, catching his attention. A shooting star. It made him smile again.
Happy birthday, sweetheart, he said to her in the quiet of his mind.