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Under the Stars

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Pera glowed in the dark. It wasn’t much, barely enough to notice even in the darkness of the room they shared on Sirena’s ship, but his skin had the softest golden radiance. He glowed brighter now under the light of the three-quarter moon overhead, sunlight reflected and refracted but still lingering along Pera’s arms like a second skin, shining over the pale white of his tattoos. The boy who sat here now was so different from the one he’d met in Port Bliss, the Pera who had alternated between sullen and silently vacant.

Xion watched the light playing off Pera’s tattoos, pale against his beautiful brown skin. It changed slightly, brightening and dimming to the beat of his heart, faster now by just the tiniest bit. He reached out, slowly, carefully so he didn’t break the tension that stretched taught between them. His hand made contact with Pera’s and heat, gentle like a banked fire, spread up his arm as he ran his fingers across Pera’s palms.

He nearly backed away as Pera moved, slowly too, in this dance of lovers and youth under the light of a three-quarter moon. He ran his fingers up Xion’s arms, tender and soft and so painfully slow until Xion wanted to pull him close and kiss him until he couldn’t breathe but the moment had taken them now, wrapped them in silky moonlight and the soft ocean breeze.

Xion ran his hands over Pera’s tattoos, slowly reaching around the back of his neck to tangle paler fingers in Pera’s soft dark hair. He had spent hours stroking Pera’s hair, long nights tangled together, intertwined. Pera always smelled a bit like applewood smoke, sweet but not cloying. He smelled like home in a way that none of Xion’s homes ever had. He smelled like somewhere you wanted to come home to.

The kiss was different from all the ones that had come before, not that there had been many in these frantic times. They moved slowly, still tangled together, rocking back and forth with the waves. Pera’s breath brushed across Xion’s lips, warm and gentle as they touched, slowly falling into each other. Seconds stretched to minutes, to hours, to centuries as they breathed each other’s breath in the salt sea air.

Xion could feel every inch of his body where it made contact with Pera’s skin. It wasn’t just Pera’s natural warmth, though he was comfortably warm even in the cool wind. He was hyperaware of Pera’s every breath, every gentle motion, every breath of wind that blew through his hair and every swell of water that pushed them together, cleaving more tightly as the minutes drew on and on.

When Xion finally pulled his lips away he had to squint against the new light. Pera was glowing, pale and gold like the sun in the sky, bright enough that it hurt Xion’s eyes. As his eyes adjusted he realized he was glowing too, not as brightly and with a pale purple energy that seemed to wrap around his body and Pera’s, interwoven with Pera’s golden glow.

“Come with me,” Xion whispered, pitching his voice low though he and Pera were the only people in sight, blazing like a beacon on the bow of the ship. They slipped down past the ballista, over the forecastle and onto the main deck, hands still linked, lights still wrapping around them, brighter where they touched, as they paused to kiss again, as they leaned against the rail of the ship for balance and pulled each other close, then they were out on the deck and moving, tracing circles across the night.

Kadarians, as a rule, do not dance, but it’s not hard to slip under the radar. Circle dances are disguised as formation exercises, a way to train quick movements and calm under pressure. Xion was clumsy with a staff but he had always loved the dance, the quick mirroring of steps as you spun and twirled and moved in unison, one of a hundred, a thousand. Now it was just him and Pera, but there was the same feeling, that wholeness that can only exist when everything fades away into motion and music, where thought extends only to where next to place feet and hands so that everything can keep swirling.

Stars turned their slow dance overhead and below them two boys turned too. They were smaller, dimmer, less significant in the scheme of the world, but still they turned together, orbiting, a matched set, a binary star two parts so close the difference can’t be resolved by a human eye and still they spun.

The moment ended, as moments do. A bare foot, whether Xion’s or Pera’s made no difference, slipped across the smooth deck and the harmony of motion ended in a tangle of laughing boys and disturbed rigging. They were not too caught up in the beauty of young love to miss the stars, glowing in the night as their own glow faded back into Pera’s original soft golden radiance. They curled together as the stars faded and the sun’s glow crept into the sky, long night breaking into orange dawn across the faces of two sleeping boys, huddled together for warmth and joined by another type of fire altogether.