Late night walks had become routine for Bran. Especially when Will was in Wales and Bran couldn't sleep. It was an opportunity for him to clear his mind and sort his thoughts. A chance to redefine the lines between reality and fantasy, which blurred every time he saw Will's face.
Will had been visiting him in Wales for years now. Soon he would be going off to university and Bran was terrified that he would lose him for good. Summer wouldn't be the same if Will stopped hanging around. Will had jokingly suggested that Bran come with him, but they both knew that was impossible. Bran was needed at Clwyd.
The landscape was comforting. His world peacefully slumbered while the sun blazed on the other side of the globe. Bright stars seemed to eagerly await his gaze falling upon them. He imagined that they beckoned for him to hear whispers of their convictions, held close for billions of years. Bran looked out across the dark gray-green grass waving in the shadow of Cader Idris, vague in the silvery light of the moon.
He didn't mind the darkness, he knew his way by heart. After all, these were his mountains, just as much as Cadfall had been his. He knew he had nothing to fear from them. Over head the stars glittered and winked at him. He tilted his head back and smiled, identifying a few of his favorite asterisms.
They were not conventional constellations like Gemini or Ursa Major. He had never bothered to learn where those were. These were imagined representations of reality and fantasy. They were physical dots, connected by invisible lines that somehow untangled the complex webs that were his dreams and memory.
The easiest to find was the Afnac. It took up most of the night sky. In his mind's eye Bran could clearly see the horrendous beasts, frighteningly grisly and yet oddly unthreatening. Not because the Afnac was not dangerous, but because he knew it was not a threat to him. Of course, a dream could never harm anyone, which is exactly what the Afnac was.
Next Bran found the Dewin. A constellation he associated with Will. It stood away from the other constellations. Separate, much as Will had become, except when he was with Bran.
Finally Bran found The Prince with his blazing sword, a constellation that had walked straight out of his dreams. He knew he saw this constellation as himself. He just didn't know why.
His eyes traced over the night sky near the horizon in search of Cafall, who ran by The Prince's side. As he searched a tall shadow on the slopes caught his eye. He forgot all about seeking Cafall as he realized it was Will. Pen, John Rowland's dog, sat alertly at his feet. The dog's eyes were trained on the sky, his ears shifted forward as if listening to something Will was saying.
Curiosity provoked, Bran quietly moved closer, hoping to catch some of what Will was saying. Without alerting Will or more likely Pen to his presence, he crept forward on cat's feet. Then the wind died, turning the night's volume back up.
"And that one there is The Prince." Will was saying to the attentive dog, wistfulness tinged his informative tone. At Will's acknowledgment the stars brightened. Bran never noticed. He was too busy listening to what Will would say next because he had just pointed at his own constellation. Surely The Prince couldn't be real. Surely they were not the same.
"It's actually Orion, the hunter. But, I call him The Prince, for Bran."
Astounded at the revelation that Will had named a constellation for him, Brans next step was not as soft as he would have liked. A twig snapped loudly beneath Bran's foot and he cursed under his breath. Pen barked a greeting to him. Will started and looked at him expectantly. There was an anxious pause as they both searched for words that would smooth over the awkward situation.
"You're going to be tired tomorrow." Bran stated sagely, attempting to tactfully cover his eavesdropping with teasing.
"Hello, to you too." Will replied while rolling his eyes at Bran's missing hello. Wryly, covering his own embarrassment from being caught confessing his secrets to a dog.
"What are you doing out here?" Bran asked, as he came to stand next to Will. "It's past midnight."
"I'm waiting for the sunrise." Will had recently acquired the habit of hiding in sarcasm and ambiguity. Bran didn't like it, at all. It proved that Will kept secrets from him.
"Crazy Sais." Bran chided, "You're supposed to wake up with the sun, not stay up for it."
"That's not what they used to do." Came Will's vague response.
Bran rolled his eyes. Feigning disinterest he said, "I'm sure you know all about that."
"I do." Will's tone was distracted as if he wasn't entirely there with him. "But what are you doing out here?"
"Looking at the stars." Bran admitted dispassionately. Hoping Will didn't delve any deeper. Ardently wishing it caught his attention and brought him back.
Will looked at him then, happy surprise brightened his pleasing still roundish face like the rising sun. "I didn't know you liked astronomy?" Bran could hear the hopeful question mark at the end of the statement and hated that he could not affirm it.
"I just come out to look at them." He confessed, "I don't, know anything about stars. Except that they're beautiful."
He was surprised when Will's smile did not succumb to disappointment. Instead he grinned, a roguish grin that did nothing to calm Bran's quickening pulse. "I could show you." He offered, "If you want?"
"Alright, then." Bran conceded, ignoring his pounding heart. Will was leaving in the morning and Bran could not have said no. Even if there had been a reason for him to do so.
Will stepped closer, close enough that their shoulders brushed together. "First we'll find Polaris, the North Star." Will said his voice low. Bran nodded, unable to tear his gaze from Will's still roughish grin. The grin widened and Will chuckled. "The stars are up there, Bran."
Aptly mortified for getting caught staring, Bran's eyes obligingly followed Will's pointing hand to a patch of stars that he was supposed to be looking at. He didn't see anything special in them. "Now the easiest way to find Polaris is to first find the saucepan. See those three stars there that form a curved line. That's the handle. Then, that dip that comes off of it, that's the pot."
Bran nodded, trying to concentrate "I see it."
"Now take the star at the tip of the pot and follow it, this way…" Will's hand traced an invisible line to another star, "to Polaris. That's the North Star."
"Oh." He said caught up in the fact that he could now find the North Star. Then he added, "But, which one is the South Star?" in a weak attempt to cover his awe at such a small thing.
Will rolled his eyes and muttered, "No such thing and you know it." Then he started searching for the next constellation mumbling something that sounded like arc to Arcturus.
While Will studied the heavens, Bran lost an inner battle and blurted. "Which one's Orion?"
Will inhaled sharply and Bran almost regretted asking.
"Orion, huh?" he could hear Will's blush in his tone of voice.
Bran nodded mutely. He shouldn't have asked, but he wanted to know what Orion looked like. He needed to know why Will called it The Prince.
"Orion's not that hard to find, if you know what to look for." Will pointed north. "See that line of three stars there."
Bran tried to follow Will's hand, but couldn't see it. He could see the three stars that made up the Princes sword belt, but the two constellations couldn't be the same. "There are lots of lines." He protested haughtily.
"These are different." Will murmured, moving to stand behind Bran. Standing close enough that his breath tickled Bran's neck. The sensation was intoxicating.
"Here let me show you." It was Bran's turn to gasp when Will took his hand and guided it so that Bran was pointing at the Princes belt.
"That's Orion's sword belt." Will whispered in his ear, "If you look down and to the right, that star, Rigel, is one of Orion's knees. The star in the opposite direction is Betelgeuse. It's one of Orion's shoulders."
"I see it." Bran breathed, impressed that he managed to keep his voice even. Orion, named The Prince by Will, and Bran's constellation were the same. To Bran it had to be more than an extraordinary coincidence.
"Do you?" Will asked nebulously, pulling away with his head bowed.
Not wanting Will to pull away again, Bran grabbed his hand and turned around to face him. Golden eyes met stormy blue ones. Before he could stop himself Bran blurted a vital question."Why did you rename Orion for me?"
There was a long silence while Will figured out how to answer Bran's question. Bran let him have his time to think, his answer would change everything.
"I did it because Orion's the best, my favorite." Will answered haltingly, before blushingly admitting "and because you are too."
That was all Bran needed to hear before leaning in for a quick kiss. Deliberately he touched his lips to Will's before pulling away. He didn't want to push.
Will had different plans. Growling, "No you don't." he pulled Bran back to him. Will kissed Bran hungrily. Stealing his breath and giving him his own instead. When they finally parted neither could quite breathe normally.
Bran cupped Wills cheek in his hand, lightly tracing the outline of his lips. Will closed his eyes, leaning into Brans touch and sighed. "What now?" Bran queried softly.
"Hmm?" Will asked wrapping his arms around him with Bran's back pressed against his chest. Will's chin rested on Bran's shoulder as they continued to stare at the stars.
"What happens now? I mean what if you meet someone else when you're at…"
Will silenced him with a chaste kiss behind his ear. "Not going to happen, Cariad." He still pronounced the word with an accent.
Bran believed him. "Will?" he asked, suddenly remembering his other question.
"Why did you choose The Prince? Why not some other name? Like, I don't know, The Shepherd?"
At first Will didn't answer. Bran was about to despair of ever finding out when he said, too quickly, "It just fits. I'm not sure why."
Bran nodded, not believing him. His hand found Will's and traced the curve of his thumb and index finger. He didn't believe Will, but he wasn't going to press the issue. Not tonight.
Bran didn't know how long they stood there enjoying the silence and each other. But the moment was interrupted when Bran caught Will stifling a yawn.
"Maybe we should," Bran started to say.
"I don't want to go." Will stated before letting Bran finish his sentence.
Bran's sigh managed not to sound too amused, "I was going to say, maybe we should sit. You could show me some more constellations, if you want."
Will agreed. Bran lay down instead of sitting in the cool grass. With an ankle crossing his knee, he used his arm for a pillow. When Will sat next to him, Bran reached for him. They arranged themselves so that they were both lying on their backs. Will using Bran's chest for a pillow, Bran's free arm draped across Will's chest.
"What's that one there?" Bran asked when they were comfortable, pointing to the Dewin.
"That is random space between Bootes and Virgo." Will answered promptly.
"Wrong, Boyo." Bran affectionately told him, "It's the Dewin, named for you. If I get my own constellation then so do you."
"The Dewin." Will choked looking at him incredulously, but then he recovered and asked instead, "You make up your own asterisms? And you named one for me?" There was a note of sadness in the question that Bran did not understand and did not think Will would explain.
"Why not? They're just silly constellations from my dreams, nothing special."
"There's nothing silly about it." Will said in his overly serious way, before turning to kiss Bran.
The spent the majority of the night that way, sharing asterisms and making up some of their own. When Bran pointed out the Afnac that sadness returned to Will, and Bran resolved to cease pointing his constellations out. Later he would find out why his constellations and dreams bothered Will. Later he would ask Will for the real reason he had named Orion, The Prince. For now, he would enjoy their last night together.
As the night waned and morning drew near Bran started to fall asleep. Before he did he made one last request of a drowsing Will. "Don't leave." Bran commanded sleepily.
"Never." Will swore, snuggling closer. They fell asleep on the slopes of Cader Idris, wrapped in each other's arms.
That morning Will did leave. Bran drove him to the train station and said a painfully inconspicuous good-bye. Will's train pulled out of the station and he watched it leave. Then Bran walked back to the Land Rover, the Welsh landscape unfurling out before him. He took a fortifying breath, started the engine and drove home. As he drove under the shadow of Cader Idris he remembered the previous night with a smile. There were a lot of questions left unanswered. Still, he now knew, without a doubt, that Will would be back. That was reason enough for Bran to be happy.