LENGTH: 5,099 words
This story is included in the anthology, Other Worlds Than These
On the night of his graduation from the Betelgeuse Flight Academy, Reth Reilly finally managed to corner the flamboyant Xan Anders. But what he hoped would be a tender moment that might lead to something more was interrupted when Xan slipped away. Seven months later, Reth is surprised to find all the old feelings still remain when he runs into Xan again, this time when the flyboy is assigned to Reth’s own ship, the USS Appomattox, for the Kressl ore run.
Though he tries to avoid Xan, their brief encounter earlier still stands out in both their minds, and it takes a rendezvous on the simdeck to bring this star-crossed pair together again.
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When the captain announced the new gunners, raucous shouts and wolf whistles filled the air. They were a rowdy bunch-gunners usually were -- but Reth could hear Xan's voice rise above the others. With a glance at the new crewmembers as he sipped his cocktail, Reth tried to infuse enough alcohol into his system to justify speaking with Xan or slinking off to bed, one of the two. As the crowd applauded, he wandered over to the food table to pick at a display of chilled fruit. He couldn't close the distance between himself and Xan -- after seven months, a galaxy kept them apart. But he had to say something, didn't he? Make it look like he'd moved on, even if he hadn't? Show he was above --
A breathy voice sighed into his ear, startling him. "Hey, sexy."
Reth jumped and took a step back, only to find himself in Xan's quick embrace. For one delicious moment, he savored the strong arms around his waist again, the warm chin resting on his shoulder. Then he turned and bumped into the food table in his haste to get away. "Xan. Hey."
"You remember my name," Xan said, running a self-conscious hand through his thick hair as he grinned. "And here I thought you might've forgotten me."
How could I? Reth wanted to know. Those dark eyes still shone in the same infuriating manner, as if lit from within. Those lips still smiled as wide, Xan's heady scent still aroused him like an aphrodisiac. And, God, that hair! Still long, still tousled, still streaked with strands of an impossible shade of blond.
Xan stepped closer, as if the gulf between them meant nothing. His voice lowered to an intimate level that Reth still heard in dreams. "Miss me?"
Reth turned to frown over the food, preoccupied. "Well, you know," he started, then because he didn't know what to add to that, he popped a frozen strawberry into his mouth and concentrated on the icy chill that made his teeth ache. With a shrug he hoped looked nonchalant, he added, "I thought you said you were coming right back."
"I did come for you," Xan teased, emphasizing the word come. When Reth didn't respond, Xan covered the hand reaching for another strawberry with his own. His smile slipped a notch. "I'm here, right?"
Reth sighed. He picked at the berries and refused to meet Xan's unnerving gaze. Wasn't he supposed to be over this guy already? "I meant --"
"What?" Xan asked. "You have someplace more private in mind?"
- Joyfully Reviewed:
- "A deliciously sensual and full of the exhilaration and angst of first love."