The night sky was alight with stars. The Arab army was camped for the night, fires burning low. Not too far away, a blanket was stretched out, and Aurens and Ali were curled close together. They were hard at work.
Or Aurens was, anyway.
“So the current type of government in Britain is….?”
“No.” Ali stole a kiss, and Aurens smiled. “Try again.”
“No! Ali, focus!” Aurens managed to get the words out around another kiss. Ali’s brow furrowed as if deep in thought.
“No!” Aurens burst into laughter, his suspicions confirmed. “You’re just making up wrong answers to get kisses!”
“How dare you accuse me of such a thing!” But Ali was grinning, and trying to steal another kiss. Laughing, Aurens held him back.
“You always do this!”
“You are the one who made up the rule of surrendering kisses when I get an answer wrong,” Ali pointed out.
Aurens had to concede. “Fair point.” Cupping Ali’s cheek, he pulled him into a kiss, slow and deep this time. Ali hummed happily, leaning closer, pressing Aurens back against the blanket.
Aurens chuckled at his relocation. “One track mind,” he teased, stroking Ali’s cheek. The Harith arched a brow.
“I think I have quite an attention span for politics, considering its competition.” And he lightly ran his hand over Aurens chest to illustrate his point. Aurens blushed at the compliment, and the sight filled Ali with warmth. He couldn’t resist leaning in and pressing their cheeks together to feel the heat of that blush.
“So warm,” he murmured.
“Ali,” Aurens protested weakly. Ali pulled back to smile at him.
“I love it when you blush. Your beautiful white skin turns the loveliest shade of pink. Like a pale desert rose.”
Aurens stared up at him, eyes wider than Ali could remember seeing them. His face was now aflame. Ali gently poked his cheek. “Not now. Now you are like a tomato.”
If Aurens could have blushed any more, he would have. Instead, he did his very best to glare, but couldn’t quite manage it. “You can be such a brat.”
Ali grinned. “And you love me.”
The Englishman shook his head, unable to help smiling. “God help me, I do.”
“Mm.” Ali hummed, leaning in for a kiss. “No help for you now.” He flopped beside Aurens and tugged the man into his arms. “You are stuck with me.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The words filled Ali with warmth, as did the feeling of Aurens’ body curled close to his. The two lay in silence, staring up at the stars. The sky really was beautiful that night.
“Aurens?” His voice was hesitant.
“…..what is England like?”
There was silence, and Ali glanced down at Aurens, curious as to the cause, but it was immediately clear that the man was thinking. “….cold,” he said at last. “You cannot imagine how cold, compared to here. And the sun rarely shines.”
Ali tried to conjure such an image in his mind. “And there is no sand.” This he was fairly certain of.
He could hear the smile in Aurens’ voice. “Not much, no. We do have a few beaches, but other than that, no. It is all cities and countryside.”
“Countryside?” Ali found it hard to picture countryside that didn’t involve sand.
“Yes.” Aurens stroked his cheek. “Nothing but wide, open plains, just like this, only instead of sand, its grass. Fields of green, as far as the eyes can see.”
Ali tried to conjure the image and found it nearly impossible. At last he shook his head. “I cannot imagine it.”
Aurens laughed. “I’ll see if I can find a picture for you.” He paused as if debating whether or not to say something, and when he spoke up, his voice was hesitant. “….or maybe…”
Aurens’ voice was very small, as if he was afraid of how Ali would react. “….maybe someday you can see it for yourself.”
Ali would swear he felt his heart stop, then begin pounding so hard it would beat a hole in his chest. “…..I would like that,” he managed.
Aurens’ face lit up, all trace of nerves vanishing. “Really?”
Ali nodded, smiling. “Really.” He didn’t even have a moment to register the sheer joy on Aurens’ face before the man was on him, kissing him with everything he had. Ali laughed into the kiss. “Would you like that?” he managed breathlessly. “If I came to visit you?”
Aurens nodded enthusiastically. “I would. Once I leave--” but he broke off, the joy fading from his face as quickly as it had come. Ali understood the feeling all too well. He didn’t want to think about Aurens leaving Arabia. That was the last thing in the world he wanted. He wanted Aurens to stay there with him. It had come up once, but they had never spoken of it again. The timing never seemed right. Even now. He didn’t want to get into a heavy conversation. It wasn’t the time to beg Aurens to stay with him. That was another discussion for another time. Now was a time to simply be together.
His arm around Aurens, he pulled the man closer and kissed him gently. “Tell me more about England.”
Aurens’ worries faded, face softening with understanding. He too knew that they were living on borrowed time, each precious moment stolen. But he also seemed to agree that tonight was not the time to debate the future; indeed, he seemed grateful for the distraction.
“Well,” he began, “my family lived in Oxford.”
“Is that the country?”
“Sadly, no. Not the part we lived in. More suburban.” He realized Ali was looking questioningly at him and smiled. “Suburban. Not quite city, not quite country. A little bit of both.” Ali’s mouth formed a tiny ‘o’ of understanding, which was too adorable for words. “It was a nice house, but I’d rather live in the country, any day.” He sighed, snuggling closer to Ali. “A nice, small cottage in the country, just big enough for two….” He hesitated. “….maybe a couple more.”
Ali’s brows shot up at that one, and the tentative hinting behind it. “A couple, huh.” Aurens said nothing, but his silence spoke volumes. Ali kissed his forehead. “That sounds perfect.”
Aurens’ face broke into a smile. He burrowed closer to Ali to try and hide it, but there was no way he could; it was a thing of beauty. Ali stroked his hair back, kissing his forehead again. “Goodnight, Aurens,” he murmured. “I love you.”
Aurens came out of hiding to capture Ali’s lips, smiling at him. “I love you, too.”
He curled against Ali again and the Harith wrapped both arms tight about him, holding him close. The two men lay wrapped in each other’s arms beneath the starry sky, dreaming of the future and all the wonderful possibilities it held.