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Stardust

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Searle was on the Observatory Room again.

Lately, the psychologist seemed to spend all his free time there. When one of the crew members wanted to talk, and the man wasn't in his designated space, it was in that room they would look for him. Always sitting on the wide bench, sunglasses on. His expression calm, but rigid, same as his body posture.

Today was no exception, thought the young physicist.

Standing at the entrance of the room, Capa stared at him. His skin had been slowly darkening. The golden tinge from the exposure to the Sun was oddly appealing on the muscled body. At that moment, with the light coming through the solar filter, Searle looked almost made of gold. Shiny.

Capa couldn't figure out the appeal the other man saw in this… contemplation. He had tried to explain it to him, several times, but no matter how many words the psychologist used, Capa didn't understand.

/Light is everything. It is everywhere./

His speaches usually took on a somewhat religious undertone, as if he saw the face of God within the big Star.

As a scientist, it was hard for him to believe such thing. Even considering the huge act of faith that was this journey through the Solar System. Yes, he admitted, no matter how many calculations and verifications he made, he could never be sure the cargo would work, until the moment he tried. But Science, his science, told him the odds were at his favour. Was that it then, faith?

Faith in God, Faith in Science. Were they so different? Like him, as a physicist, and Searle as a psychologists are different?

He didn't know. He wasn't even close to find out. Not now. Not with the way he felt.

/Darkness is vacuum. It is the absence of everything./

Out there, in the middle of nothing, the ship was his entire world. Around him, nothing existed, even though they were surrounded by the entire universe.

One ship. Seven companions. That was his world now.

His sister was little more than a memory. Bittersweet thoughts before falling asleep.

Earth, the cold and dark planet that had stayed behind.

Years would pass before Capa saw them again. If he ever returned.

Everything looked the same. Days passed by, and his only concern was the precious cargo. Sixteen months in space until the drop point. That goal was the only thing that would make him get out of bed each morning.

Not even the arguments with Mace made him feel less numb. The punching, the bleeding noses, they didn't feel anything. Corazón's sweet words and Cassie's gentle, healing hands didn't warm his frozen body.

As if he was in the dark himself.

All the others had their hobbies, as little distraction as they were. But Capa had the vacuum.

Corazón had called Searle crazy. But looking at him now, he wondered if it was that insane to believe something lived within that intense fire.

Searle certainly seemed happy. Or at least, less on the verge of depression, like the rest of the crew.

"You still have doubts." A fact, not a question.

Jumping slightly, Capa wondered for how long the man knew he was being watched. He had made no gesture. No movement at all that betrayed the knowledge that there was someone, something, besides himself and whatever it was he was watching.

He hadn't brought his glasses with him, and for some reason, he didn't want to interrupt Searle's meditation by raising the filter. He stayed where he was, in the twilight of the entryway, and spoke. "You and me, we don't speak the same language. Your theories and explanations don't mean anything to me."

This time, Searle turned. His dry lips pressed against each other. "You’re wrong, again. The universe is made of the same matter. In the beginning, there was only dust. Electrons, Protons, Neutrons. Then, they were atoms. Stones, Planets, Stars. Water, Trees, Men. We are all made of the same material."

He stood from the bench and walked towards the young man's voice.

"If all comes from the same thing, then everything is the same. The shape matter takes may be different, but the language used is the same. This light that involves us. Whether you call it Fire or God, isn't it still Light?"

"A Rose by any other name…" Capa murmured. Searle raised an arm and took off his glasses. "Mmm, I'm not sure if Shakespeare had an exact idea of how the universe works, but he wasn't that far from it." Following the other's voice, he kept coming closer. He was still seeing yellow spots floating ahead of him, instead of his shipmate.

"But you think there is something out there, whatever it is. Something bigger than all we know - or believe." Capa felt confused, small, every time he talked with him. Everything he had studied, everything he knew, seemed useless against the man's philosophy and faith. He had always believed in facts, solid things that he could prove. Calculate.

"How do you expect me to understand that? I'm a man of science. That is what I believe in." Capa crossed his arms and looked at the other's face. The filter was so weak, he could barely find a shadow.

Shaking his head, Capa sighed. He uncrossed his arms and made a vague gesture with his right hand. He crossed them again and leaned against the wall, still in the shade. "How does one calculate the existence of something that has no shape? What is the equation to find God? It isn't something one can comprehend so easily."

"But you understand your equations," retorted Searle. "It is the same thing. You have faith that those calculations are correct. That those equations are true. You believe that. The difference is not that great."

In his current position, the heat of the sun warmed the left side of his body, while his left one slowly cooled down. The room was incredibly hot, but when he was no longer under the influence of the light, a part of him missed the energy from the dying star. His left fingers were starting to get cold.

Without breaking eye contact with the young man, Searle leaned against the wall opposing the large window. The hot surface burned his back, but the heat was comforting.

"Your numbers and formulas may be real to you, but they aren't solid matter either. You can't touch them, can't feel their existence." In an impulse, he approached the young physicist and took his hand, pulling him against himself. Into the light.

Without resisting, Capa stepped in front of him. His breath quickened with a strong gasp as he felt the heat at his back. He hadn't been ready for that.

Now standing, face to face, they stared at each other in silence.

Searle didn't realize how fragile and ethereal the other appeared, a shapeless shadow against the strong light of the sun. Capa didn't realize their hands were still joined.

Only the pressure of the heat and the sweat dripping down their bodies made some kind of impression in their minds.

Light was everything.

Light was everything.

Minutes passed by before the older man broke the silence with a whisper. "Your equations are nothing but imaginary friends. Surreal and untouchable forms that you will never get to feel."

"But this. This light. This heat exists. You can feel it. You can't touch it, but it can touch you. It's intense, and smothering and real. It's alive.

He squeezed the hand he holding, feeling their sweat like a thin sheet that united and separated them at the same time. The other hand came up and lightly touched Capa's face before sliding to cup the back of his neck.

"It's as real as you and me. It's real as my hands on your body. You can't deny it."

The young man opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He was right, he couldn't. It was an extremely intense sensation. It was something he had never felt before. Something he had understood all those other times he had been inside that very same room.

That knowledge arrived like a dizzy spell. The light really was alive. It existed, same as he did.

He felt his eyes open as he breathed in. Felt his legs shake as he breathed out.

He would have fallen if Searle hadn't held him. The hand on his head gripped him harder while the other let go of his own only to grab him by the waist.

Searle pulled him towards himself and touched his forehead to the other's.

"It's ok." The air between them was saturated. Both breathed in and out, and they both felt it on their faces.

The heat had become too violent, but it was the point of contact between the two that burned them.

Capa swallowed, his dry throat hurting a bit, and closed his eyes. There was no darkness inside his eyelids. It was clear and brilliant, like the star behind him.

He brought his empty hand up to Searle's chest and felt his heartbeat. He gathered all the saliva he could on his pink tongue to moisten his lips. His breathing still ran fast.

"It's ok," Searle repeated. He copied the young astronaut's action and closed his eyes. The hand on Capa's head caressed him and then rested again.

They stayed like that for hours - days - until Cassie warned them through the intercom that dinner was ready.

No one spoke or moved. Only the burning sensation of that gentle touch reminded them they were alive. That all that was real.

When they finally broke apart, Capa touched tenderly on the psychologist's arm. "Maybe someday, they'll discover the equation to find God."

Searle gave a soft laugh and gazed at him affectionately.

Before they started walking toward the mess, the older man spoke one last time.

"Don't forget, we are all stardust."