3/2/13 06:02 pm - slythgeek - FINALLY have the Christmas thing done for Oudetron!
Due to running two conventions within four months of each other, my time for writing was nil. I'm not sure whether you knew I was running this far behind or not. I'm so very sorry!
But I don't think this story will disappoint you.
Out of your prompts, I chose a Boss/Strangelove "angst" story about the darkness of space.
Pairing: The Boss/Strangelove
Characters: The Boss, Strangelove
Rating: PG (any sexual content is not explicit)
Summary: Two nights before the Boss is to go to space, Strangelove wonders how the darkness of space would feel.
Concrit: None, please. It is complete.
I counted them. I tied them together with invisible ribbons into shapes my professors called “constellations”. On a cold, clear night in Scotland, I photographed them with a long exposure. I exhaled in measured puffs, waiting for the final click of the shutter, as if one good breath could blow them all out like birthday candles.
Age demystified the stars for me. They were large – so unfathomably large – giant bonfires set by the cosmos itself, giving light indiscriminately. Making the darkness bearable.
“Don’t you feel you could just pluck some down and wear them on the front of your shirt?” she said.
I opened my mouth to tell her about the unfathomable largness, but her stern profile against the night wiped the words from my tongue. She had to know already, about to launch herself into the sky, that it was not blue outside the confines of the atmosphere, that the starlight surely reflecting from my glasses might be older than either of us.
“I thought you might like to know,” she had said only a week ago, after informing me in her blunt way that she would be the first human in space.
She thought I might like to know… after having no contact with me in the months since she came to Cape Canaveral but a few questions during the mandatory lectures and a quick apology after she had opened a door in my face.
I might like to know. I might have liked to know a bit sooner. I might have liked to know a lot of things about her.
“How can you stand it, though?” she said now, on this night of stars and unfathomable largeness, just two nights before the launch, “living forever in the darkness?”
Something people often asked me just to make conversation, though with her it mirrored the question in my own mind – How will you stand it, seeing just how dark the universe really is?
“One can get used to anything,” I answered her with a shrug I hoped was more coy than dismissive.
“I suppose,” she said.
The first night we’d sat on the roof, it was under the pretense of studying the capsule’s window design. I had noticed the flaws immediately, but when I spoke, thinking myself a mathematical authority, she only rolled up the papers and told me I was wrong.
And I was wrong – wrong about her intentions, for one. With her man’s uniform and granite chin and half-smiles I imagined only I could see, she could have been – she should have been – like me. The term “lesbian” had been bandied about in certain circles. A group of us at university had preferred “Sapphist”, calling to mind a cluster of Victorians in white nightgowns sneaking off to the drawing room for a smoke and poke after the gentlemen fell asleep. For all her clandestine glances and the short notes she left at my station, the Boss only wanted me for business. Far as she was concerned, I was simply a way for her to confirm her suspicions, and even then she did not plan to have the design changed to remove the window. She only wanted to leave the planet knowing why she would never return.
Tonight, she made no pretense.
Above the chem lab. 11:00, read her note, affixed to the underside of one of my scratch papers with a spot of tape.
She made no pretense but hardly any conversation. Despite my urge to ramble, to ask, to touch, I allowed her to continue in silence. I followed her eye-line to the stars and tried to merge my vision with hers. Did she see the stars, or the space between them? In the silence of her meditation, questions spilled through my head, and I knew our minds could never be one. She had asked me how I could stand the night because she thought the night to be lonely. It isn’t. Once you find the creatures of that night world – insomniacs and watchmen and drag queens – you are never lonely. People talked at night. In the dark, they would talk to anyone, say anything. I wanted to say everything to the Boss, but the night had rendered her silent.
“I want to go to space, you know,” she said, and I had somehow missed her turning her gray stare on me.
“What?” was all I managed. She had spoken so quickly, so suddenly, that my mind had not yet formed the sounds into a sentence.
“You don’t need to get me out of it. It is a duty and a joy,” she said.
“I never –”
“You’ve been trying, though. You pulled my medical records.”
“You should be dead,” I said.
“It’s a sealed file,” she said. “I shouldn’t ask how you got it.”
Another of her half-smiles, and this time it was all for me.
The medic had a nocturnal opium habit, I thought. I said, “But against all those men, peak physical condition, months of training…”
“And they picked me?” she finished, no trace of a smile left.
“Precisely,” I said. “Three major war injuries, radiation exposure – ”
“The wounds have healed. The war was years ago. You probably don’t even remember.”
What little pigment my body possessed seemed to rush to my cheeks. “You were shot in the head!” I sputtered.
“Grazed.” She said it as calmly as if she were talking about sheep.
For the third time since seeing her file, I searched the side of her head for a scar. Hidden, as always.
“Because of the… new design, the pilot will be exposed. The dose of radiation I already had makes me ideal.” She had almost recited it, and I wanted to protest. I should have protested. It wasn’t the measles! You didn’t just become immune to radiation burns! I couldn’t speak for my visions of her skin turning dark and cracking on descent. What an irony that after the cold of space, one could come back covered in burns!
In less than two days, radiation or not, she would climb into that capsule, would gaze out that window which seemed so strangely precious to her, and be that much closer to touching the stars. Of course I, as a mathematician, knew the difference in distance was infinitesimal, but it was just enough to draw back the veil of our atmosphere. No blue sky. No twinkling.
“You’ll be so cold and alone up there,” I said. “I wish I could feel it with you.”
It sounded so childish, but such was my love of the stars, the one joy that had survived my adolescent cynicism.
I started when she said, “Okay.”
“I can help you feel space… as you say, ‘cold and alone’.”
Not sure what she meant, I said only, “How?”
“Take off your jacket.”
Was she joking? There was no smile.
“It’s not that cold anyway,” I said with a small laugh I tried to make sound natural. I shrugged the jacket off of my shoulders.
“Now the rest.”
She had commanded, not a barked order, just a simple statement that begged to be obeyed. And I removed them, under the watch of her eyes. She studied me almost curiously but did not touch me until I sat naked before her and the unfathomable largeness of the sky and shivered. She leaned in to my neck and breathed warm down my spine. Then her fingers danced constellations over my skin. The real stars paled to her gray eyes and her golden hair and the hard lines of her mouth grazing my thigh. So far away that miles became meaningless, two galaxies collided, colluded, that Earth won’t see for another thousand years. Down here, on a water-logged planet circling a middle-aged star of no great importance, I fell in love. I fell asleep in her jacket. The mist fell on my face in the hours before sunrise, and she was gone.
I reached behind me, thinking I’d rolled too far from her in the night. Then, with a half-formed idea of her tumbling off the roof while asleep, I jerked my head to scan the ground below. The jacket around me was my own. I snugged it close to my naked body and struggled into my dew-soaked socks.
I was cold and I was alone and the stars hung over me so unfathomably large yet small as brass buttons. In a day, they would be hers.