The light in the corner they've settled in is mottled, uneven. For some reason, Jonah likes that, the broken light and the tiny space and the unobstructed view of the balcony above conferring a sense of security, a feeling of refuge that he can't quite understand.
The survival of civilization depends on the life of every worker. It is my honor to serve.
Either that, or it's Thera, sitting beside him and eagerly sharing all the ways she's devised to improve the safety and efficiency of the plant.
"It's obvious, really," she says, her voice colored with delight that he doesn't understand but treasures nonetheless. "I can't understand why no one's thought of it before. This could make things better for all of us."
The life of one worker depends on the steadfastness of many.
Sometimes Jonah feels like he shouldn't be watching her. The impulse to turn away is so strong it's like a memory, but he definitely doesn't remember being told not to look at her.
Like now. She's turning her head, her eyes darting around the room, and the light shifting on her face is like flames leaping, like the sparks of ideas he knows are always popping in her mind.
That spark, that flame, that warmth in the darkness, it's almost irresistible. He wants it, wants her, but when he thinks about that, thinks about touching her face and kissing her lips and whispering her name as he worships her body, it's too much.
Even as his gaze slides away from her face, he's already puzzling over the reason why.
There is little but danger to be found in change.
It's growing quieter in the cavern now. Half the machines are being shut down for the short but still warmer hours of surface-side daylight, which means it's the off-shift for most of those manning the power plant.
Thera's still speaking, though, her hands moving in accompaniment to her words, pointing here and there and sketching symbols in the air. Jonah doesn't understand any of it, but she'll tell him anyway. It's charming and sweet and more than a little ridiculous, and if he could just stop feeling like he didn't have a right to her, he'd have her in his arms right now.
"I hope Brenna will listen," Thera says, glancing over her shoulder, up at the administrator's office.
"How can she not?" Jonah answers, and when Thera turns back to him, eyes alight with eager anticipation, she's radiant.
Our people have lived beneath the surface for generations.
She's like the sun, she burns so brightly.
Of course, he's never seen the sun. It's a child's story, a fairy tale; it feels real, though, as if he can remember the warmth on his face and the burning in his eyes and the way sunlight has of scalding the skin if you stand in it too long.
Sensory deprivation in the underground causes false perception and memory. The first responsibility is to fight off the night sickness. It is an honor to serve.
Jonah shakes off the thoughts that drift unbidden into his mind. They're vague, fleeting, contradictory; and she's definitely not.
"Hmm?" She turns to look at him.
"What do you know about the sun?"
"The sun? Why?"
She isn't yours.
He shrugs. "You made me think of it. The sun, I mean."
She smiles, and it's dazzling. She's dazzling.
Don't look too closely.
The thought's absurd.
When he lifts a hand, her smile shifts slightly; a question. He touches her cheek, and she blushes. The tips of his fingers chase the color across her skin; the soft pink only adds to the glow.
He leans in and brushes his lips against hers, then sits back to see her face. Impossibly, her smile is even brighter than before.
Maybe she's the reason he thinks he can remember the sun.