Crescent’s ears perked up, starting slightly when his name broke through the reverie he’d been lost in. He’d been staring out the great windows in Seibel Abolan’s quarters, momentarily lost in the field of stars that lay in the void just beyond.
“I’m sorry,” he said, turning toward his host with a sheepish face. He felt his cheeks heat, though thankfully the color was obscured by his fur. “Sometimes I lose myself a bit, and I must say you have a fabulous view.”
Seibel handed him the cup of tea he’d been preparing, giving him a smile that told him without words that all was well. It was reassuring. When he thought about it, he realized it said something that he was comfortable enough with this man for him to have drifted off in the first place.
He took the cup with a soft thanks and watched as the grey-skinned man poured one for himself. He could see the appeal in a man like this; he was certainly attractive, despite what some would have called detractions in his bionics and the broken horn. Each movement Seibel made was smooth and deliberate, and he found it somewhat mesmerizing to watch.
He’d invited Seibel with them to the market, but this was the first time he’d really gotten to observe him without distraction, having followed Domerin’s suggestion to get to know him better. He’d been rather surprised when the man had invited him over for tea.
“I understand” Seibel said, his calm smile not faltering. “It doesn’t matter how old I get, the stars always fill me with wonder. My people say they’re the lanterns of the Divines, hung when the universe was new to light our way to the heavens.”
“That’s a beautiful sentiment,” Crescent said, a smile touching his lips. It was rather poetic, another surprise from this man. “Do you believe it?”
Seibel seemed so taciturn at times; he could picture him being the religious type. He lifted the steaming cup to take in the scent, appreciating that the gentle notes didn’t overwhelm his sense of smell.
“I did, when I was young, but not so much anymore.” The man’s voice was soft, tinged with a sadness Crescent hadn’t expected.
A somewhat sad smile came to the man’s lips, and for a moment he was reminded of Domerin in his more melancholy moments.
“It’s a bit different when you’re flying past one of those lanterns in a spaceship, though it’s surprisingly still easy to believe they were made by the Divines. But, I turned from the Word because my people have used it as an excuse far too often to justify war. Our high priests send men and women out into horror and death from the safety of their temples, never knowing it themselves.”
“That’s awful!” Crescent shook his head, disbelief on his face. Domerin had always made sure he was in the trenches with his people; it was a core of who he was. What sort of cowards hid in a temple while their people died?
“It is. We’ve been involved in this conflict almost since the beginning. Countless lives have been lost chasing divine right. I used to buy into all that bullshit, do you believe that?”
The question caught him off guard, but the slight upward play at the corners of Seibel’s lips put him at ease.
“It’s easy to believe what everyone else around you does.”
“That it is. I signed up to fight as soon as I was old enough, and was off planet mired in mud before a year was out. I was good at it too, much like Domerin is. But war isn’t glorious and I saw no divinity in it. I fought for a very long time before it eventually chewed me up and spit me out like it does with everyone it touches, and I was left missing half my face. That’s how I met Domerin.”
Crescent stared at him a few long moments. Seibel was blunt, that was for sure, but he could appreciate that. “I’m sorry you had to go through all that. I’ve been quickly learning what war does to people too. Even when they’re not directly in it’s path, like Domerin. It’s hard to imagine fighting for so long, like you and he have. For my people life is hard, fast, and short. We had territory scuffles but I couldn’t even conceive of a war like this. It wasn’t until I met Domerin that I even knew anyone could live as long as his people do. Sometimes I forget he’s got centuries behind him and he’s seen things I can barely contemplate. I’ve always thought I must have looked like a baby to him when we first met.”
He looked down a moment, but when he met Seibel’s gaze again the man had that same calm smile on his lips.
“Many species like ours look down on shorter-lived races, and treat them like children, but Domerin would never have seen you that way. When you live as long as we do it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be young. The years to begin to blur together and you struggle to find meaning. But that is not how Domerin sees the world. He cannot, after what he’s been through, though I tend to think he would still be searching even if he’d never had his accident.”
Crescent couldn’t help but offer the other man a smile. At first glance Seibel looked like such a tight laced person, but he really wasn’t. He could see why he and Domerin got on so well.
“I feel the same way, actually. I used to worry a lot about what people thought of me. I didn’t even know what a toaster was when I was taken from my planet, let alone how to get along in the wider galaxy. But Domerin’s confidence in me helped me get past that; he was far more patient with me than I think most would have been. I owe a lot to him, and I’ll never forget that.”
Seibel’s smile edged up more toward a grin.
“From what he tells me, he owes a lot to you too. The Kattar must be more stubborn than all the other species in the universe to break through to that man.”
Unlike at dinner, Seibel’s comments and humor were more understated today, but there was a glint in his eye that suggested joking and Crescent took it for what it was.
“We are known for being recklessly determined sometimes,” he said, giving a hearty laugh over the rim of his cup. He hesitated a moment, then went on, his furry brows knitting slightly. “You… don’t mind what I am?”
Seibel gave him a quizzical look. “Whyever should I? I don’t care that you’re new to the wider galaxy, or that you have fur. You’re clearly a man of intelligence and Domerin speaks highly of you. I need no further assurances. Besides, I consider that you came to see me in your natural form to be a compliment. I imagine you keep that secret very close, outside of the Dragons, and it’s clear you trust Domerin’s word about me. It tells me a lot about you, that you don’t feel the need to hide yourself in front of me.”
The man’s words brought another small bout of heat to his cheeks, but he smiled in the wake of it.
“I do keep my secret close to the chest, but I know Domerin would never say I could change in front of you if he didn’t trust you. He’s been more supportive of what I am, and of my people, than I could ever have asked.”
“I hope you know I also extend the same support. If your people ever need a haven they are more than welcome here. I would be happy to host them. There are jobs aplenty and this is as safe a place as any to become acclimated to living among others.”
A great sense of warmth grew in Crescent’s chest as the man said that and for a moment he didn’t know what to say. He knew Domerin and Seibel shared many of the same values, but such an offer was something he’d never expected. The man had gained his respect, that was for sure.
“T-thank you so much!” He managed around a lump of emotion in his throat. “I’m frankly overwhelmed. Having seen your station I fully believe it would be a good place for the Kattar to learn. I’ll have to mention it to Domerin.”
“Please do. I think he’ll be open to the idea.”
“I think he will be too.” Crescent went a bit quiet then, still a bit overwhelmed. He took a long sip from his cup and used it to gather himself, looking over at Seibel as the man sipped from his own.
“You haven’t hidden yourself from me either, you know, and I appreciate that.” He went on when Seibel gave him a quizzical look.
“During the tour, during dinner, and at the market, I could tell you were being yourself. You weren’t trying to put on some show for me, or try to impress me, and most importantly you didn’t try to test me, to see if I was worthy of Domerin. You trusted him about me, like I trust him about you. I just wanted to thank you for that.”
Seibel seemed to get his meaning, a soft smile touching his lips that warmed his eyes and expression. “You don’t have to thank me. I was lucky, I got to know Domerin before he had up all the walls that he does now, but I know how high and thick they are. All joking about stubbornness aside, I know you must really care for him if you were willing to court him as you did. He deserves to be loved that way, by someone who genuinely cares about his well-being. If he thinks you worthy of his love, then I trust that you are.”
Crescent looked down a moment, taking that as great praise coming from someone like Seibel. He was so very glad Domerin had such a good friend in his life.
“I do. Really care about him, I mean. I know he’s been through a lot of things I can never really understand or fully relate to but I love him no matter what. The things he went through are a part of his life and I would never try to deny part of who he is. But, I have to say, I’m really glad he has someone like you in his life. Someone who understands in a way I can’t. He- told me the two of you got each other through some really rough times, and I’ll be forever grateful for that, as I’m sure he will be too.”
“He was there for me when I needed him too,” Seibel said, looking across the space at him, something slightly hard to read in his gaze. “But, to be honest… I don’t know that I could have ever given him what you can. Even what you and Robin did for him after he lost his bionics. I wish I’d been there, but I don’t know if I could have kept him afloat to see the other side.”
Seibel trailed off, but Crescent got the feeling he had more to say, and so waited patiently until he went on.
“Domerin and I… we both walked through hell and came out the other side. That changes a person. In our case we were both broken in different ways, and I still do not consider myself to be whole. Sometimes something is taken from you, and you never get it back. I was already on the battlefield while Domerin was still young, while he lost a loved one long before I did. We understand each other’s pain in a way that doesn’t need to be spoken with words, but I do not know that Domerin and I can heal each other. Two broken halves can come together and create something, but there are still always going to be leaks. We both understood that too.”
Seibel’s words were spoken so calmly, but they held such weight, threatening to bear down on him. But he’d learned from Domerin that you had to roll with it, even if you couldn’t carry it fully by yourself.
“I never thought I could simply swoop in and fix all of Domerin’s problems,” Crescent said softly. “I wasn’t even trying to fix him. I just wanted to be with him and help make him happy in whatever way I could. If that meant just sitting with him when he was hurting then that was what I’d do. Over time, things started to get better. They aren’t perfect and there are plenty of bad days. There will always be cracks and imperfections, but that’s just part of life. If I can use what I have to help stem the leaks and close those cracks, I will see it done. I happily give Domerin all my love and I consider myself a lucky man that he gives me his in return.”
He worried for a moment he’d said too much, offended his host, but the ghost of a smile touched Seibel’s lips, and it grew after a few moments.
“You know, I can see what Domerin sees in you. You’re like the lanterns that hang in the vast darkness of space. There are followers of the Word who eschew war and those who use the stars as excuses to sate their own agendas. They say the great lanterns were given to us by the Divines to show us the way to devotion, great deeds, and, mostly importantly of all, to love. That was to be the Word we spread. Perhaps you are Domerin’s lantern, here to lead him out of the darkness toward a brighter day. I’d like to believe that, anyway.”
Once again Seibel managed to leave him speechless. He hadn’t been sure what to think when Domerin had first introduced them and when he’d revealed that they’d been lovers. But he could tell Seibel was a good man. He would know it blindfolded and he could understand why Domerin felt such a kinship to him. He thought he understood now why he said Seibel was like another part of him.
His love cared very deeply for this man and he knew now he could never sever what the two of them shared. If Domerin wanted him to help share his joy with Seibel, he would do it. He felt comfortable welcoming him into their relationship, to try and help the ache both men seemed to feel so keenly to go away, even if only for a time.
He didn’t know much about Seibel’s beliefs or if what he said was true, but he could be their lantern, if they needed him to be. Love was something he’d found with Domerin, and he had more than enough to go around.
“So would I, my friend,” he said, giving Seibel a genuine smile. “So would I.”