~

Blue.

Dark, almost black, but still blue. So much of it, just spattered everywhere. His chest tightened as the heavy stench of fresh blood forced its way down his throat and nose. So much. So much. If this much blood had come from humans, then it would’ve had to come from several people, but that wasn’t the case. Human blood didn’t run blue.

But theirs did. Alien blood ran blue. Her blood ran blue, and thick, and oh God there’s so much.

A sharp trumpeting scream tore through Bastien Lynn’s ears, muddled by the the sound of combat medics yelling to each other. The people around him moved in blurs, a frenzy of motion determined to keep her alive. There were half a dozen other people in the evac shuttle who were just sitting off to the side, tense and horrified. They all had injuries, but they were minor.

Bastien could barely feel his own fractured hands. There were things embedded in his skin, sharp things, but small. His fingers wouldn’t stop twitching – the shrapnel must’ve hit his nerves. None of the medics had come over to take a look, and if they had, Bastien would’ve shoved them away.

Another scream. Bastien cringed and bit down on the back of his intact hand, squeezing his eyes shut. He wanted to be able to cover his ears, too… the scream cut off sharply, ending in a gurgle.

“She’s hemorrhaging internally! Get me isofoam!”

Bastien saw the foam injection needle go in, and he heard more shouting, but all he could think about was the scream. It was the most terrifying sound he’d ever heard. It was high-pitched, but stretched out, whining like a satellite debris siren before collapsing into a harsh rattle. When Bastien was a child, his mother used to play recordings of whale song to help him sleep. Some of the sounds whales made were like that scream, but… they were nowhere near as painful to hear.

Why? How? Too many questions, but only one was important. Bastien’s voice barely worked as he croaked to a scurrying medic, “Is she going to make it?”

The woman cast a glance at him out of corner of her eye, grabbed several rolls of Biogauze, and raced back to the other medics trying desperately to keep a struggling mass pinned to a stretcher. As Bastien stared, a wing flailed out, talons outstretched and grasping madly at the air. The wing membrane was completely shredded. Bastien knew the other wing was in the exact same condition.

He knew – roughly – how much shrapnel was buried in her wings, her arms, her legs. She’d taken the full brunt of the blast with her entire body. That was why everyone else on the team had such minor injuries. In fact, if it wasn’t for her quick reflexes, most of them would either be dead or critically injured. Not sitting pretty with a few broken bones and burns.

It wasn’t fair. They were just scouting the older satellites! Nothing was supposed to happen, the ‘mission’ was practically a joyride through abandoned Martian Pangaean space. One older model satellite here, another piece of dead orbital station there. When they passed over Deimos, they picked up a faint static emission from the surface of the terraformed moon. Since the moon was an exotic biosphere and a restricted site, there weren’t supposed to be any radio frequencies on the surface.

Naturally, they were curious. Bastien wasn’t the first to suggest going down to the moon and checking out the emission, but now he was hating himself for agreeing. His job outside of the Legion was detoxing failed terraforming sites. Phantom radio frequencies were always, always bad news.

He should’ve known better.

At first, the moon seemed benign enough. Bastien went down with a small group in an exatmial jet, while the shuttle stayed up in orbit. The terrain they set down in was interesting, a fusion of tundra and razorlike rock formations. They’d tracked the signal for about half an hour before winding up at a very out-of-place structure. Bastien thought the complex looked military, but everyone else thought it was a research station.

None of them realized that they’d wandered into a remnant of the Edge Secession – the violent uprising of Europa and Callisto, the outermost colonized moons of the Pangaean system. The Edge Secession was humanity’s first experience with celestial warfare, though the same couldn’t be said of the lyrikants. The war was longer than it needed to be, and exhausted resources on all sides.

In the end, the citizens of Europa and Callisto were allowed to secede from Pangaea, and they formed the Edge Sectors. People did their best to forget about the uprising, and a lot of the outposts used in the war were forgotten as well.

“Maddie, do you have a lock on that static?”

“Nope. Not yet. It keeps fluxing in a funny way.”

“Yo, Lynn, come check this out!”

“What is it, Wyatt?”

“I dunno – looks like a trip laser.”

“Deactivated?”

“I think so.”

“Well, Wyatt, you better make sure it’s deactivated.”

It wasn’t.

Bastien buried his face in his elbow and doubled over, shuddering. All the sounds around him – screams and shouts and humming engines – were quickly reduced to a dull roar. For once in his life, he wished he was completely braindead. Right now, that would be easier than remembering.

The scene played over, again and again, on the back of his eyelids.

“Sir, yes, ma’am, whatever you say!”

“…Please, don’t call me ma’am.”

“Hey, Lynn, maybe you can get her to pull that stick out of her ass. I don’t think she likes me very much.”

“I’d like you better if you stopped calling me ma’am.”

“Guys! I got a lock on the signal!”

“Where is it?”

“It’s right – no wait, it’s moving – wait a sec-“

There was only one thing Bastien heard after that, and that was the hum of a UAV activated by proximity trip laser. It turned out that the static frequency they’d picked up from the shuttle was part of the monstrosity’s guidance system. Phantom frequencies. Just like Bastien feared, except much worse.

It wasn’t just a Secession War ghost site they found on Deimos. They also found one of the most infamous weapons of that war – technology cultivated for the singular purpose of inflicting a lot of injury in a big area.

A spin drone.

The modern grenade, it was a highly mobile, airborne UAV equipped with centrifugal compressors and a payload of charged metal shrapnel. When the spin drone was tripped by a proximity beacon, it focused on the closest cluster of biological targets, built up rotating momentum, and then detonated. Both the concussive and projectile effects were devastating, but spin drones were designed to be most affective against humans.

Lyrikants were bigger than humans. Their bodies were sturdier, more thickly muscled. They could withstand a blast that would otherwise kill a human, but they weren’t invincible. The shockwave knocked Bastien flat on his back, and his hands were both broken by the concussive perimeter.

His eyes were open the whole time. He went blind for several minutes, but he saw her move. Bastien had no idea that anyone could move that fast. If it wasn’t for her, he’d be in far worse shape than he was right now, and at least half of the other people, his colleagues and friends, would be dead or fatally wounded.

She’d seen the drone first. She’d reacted first, and because of her everyone was still alive. Bastien lifted his head up and stared at the stretcher and the medics. The shape that had been writhing so fitfully just a minute ago was barely moving, save for her twitching limbs. Bastien could see her face clearly now that the medics weren’t crowding her so tightly.

Her eyes. They were just barely open, little more than narrow slits. Her chest was heaving as she tried to breathe properly. She wasn’t coughing up blood anymore, so the isofoam had to be working. Something was working. Oh God, just let something work.

Her eyes flew all the way open and she screamed.

Bastien was on his feet in an instant, and he all but broke the sound barrier in running over to the stretcher.

“Glaucus!! Shit, do something!” he howled at the medics as they tried to hold him back. Maddie, Wyatt, the rest of the team were on their feet as well, frozen in hopeless bewilderment. None of them were medics, they didn’t know what to do. They felt useless. Bastien could see it in their faces.

“Keep him back!” one of the medics, a man Bastien faintly recognized, bellowed. “She’s going into shock, I need a stabilizer now!!”

“Oh God, no, Glaucus-!”

Glaucus’s dark golden eyes were glazed over, unfocused and staring into nothingness as she gasped. Every rattling breath she took cut deep into Bastien’s core, accusing him of not doing anything. What am I supposed to do?? What the hell am I supposed to do?!

Her breath caught in her throat. A choked stutter made its way to Bastien’s ears, and he stopped fighting the medics. His eyes widened in alarm – numb, sobering alarm. Glaucus croaking whisper pierced the air just as easily and loudly as the spin drone.

“S-save my wings,” she gasped, “Save…”

Bastien had to clench his teeth down hard to keep himself from screaming, or crying – he wasn’t sure which. His chest tightened and his vision went blurry as the medic let go of him to go help Glaucus. Frozen stiff, he could only stand there and stare at her now limp body.

Wyatt made his way around the stretcher and pressed a hand against Bastien’s shoulder. “Come on, Lynn, just step back. Let them work, they know what they’re doing. They’ll keep her breathing until we get back to Zeppelin.” Bastien heard the words, but was barely listening. He glanced down at the older man’s hand. The presence of his friend’s touch was anything but comforting.

Save my wings, Bastien repeated mentally. He sucked in a ragged breath and sank backwards against the wall, pressing the back of his hand to his face to hide his tears. Glaucus was barely lucid, and all she was asking was that the medics save her wings.

Bastien had seen her smile when she flew. That smile was the most beautiful thing in the world.

“Save her wings,” he whispered, “God dammit, you have to save her wings…”

It was going to be a long flight back to Pangaea, back to Zeppelin, back to home. Bastien clenched his teeth and breathed in through his nose, trying to clear away the growing ache in his head. His tears kept falling silently down his cheeks. It was going to be a long flight.

He felt like he was going to be holding his breath the entire way.

//-//

She’d seen it spin. That was when she moved. She remembered that in 21st century Earth, soldiers were trained to throw themselves over grenades in order to save their brothers and sisters in arms. It was a sacrifice, and one that could save lives. For the most part, she hadn’t been thinking about sacrifices.

All she knew was that she was bigger than her human compatriots, and she had a better chance at surviving a blast of that magnitude. It was hovering above her, so she’d launched herself at it and – for lack of a better term – hugged the spin drone.

In, out. Inhale, exhale. She was still breathing, so the spin drone hadn’t killed her. And if she was alive… her comrades, her friends, were probably alive, too. A numb haze hovered over her brain and her limbs, dulling her sense of time, but she could still feel a fierce aching pain every time she tried to move in the darkness.

As a matter of fact, why was it dark? She couldn’t tell if her eyes were open or not. And if they were open… she felt her throat constrict. She didn’t want to be blind! Her breath quickened in panic, and she concentrated on her eyelids, forcing them to open. She felt them open, an she still saw nothing but darkness.

I’m blind?! I can’t be blind I can’t be I can’t-

Her breath hitched in her throat. Whining weakly, she reached out with the one arm she could still feel, sinking her claws into soft, warm fabric. Slowly she started to realize that she was covered in the fabric, and the sensation started to crawl over her skin. It was warm… too warm.

Beep. Beep. She was suddenly aware of a sound… Glaucus’s ears flicked upright, swiveling in the direction of the beeping. She gasped, her breaths coming in short and wheezing. Another spin drone?? She was starting to hyperventilate, and with her lung configuration, she could create unwanted swelling on her air sacs if she breathed too hard and too quickly. Her lungs were designed to prevent that kind of swelling, but after the spin drone, she had no way of knowing if anything was still working the way it should.

She needed her air sacs. She needed them to fly.

My wings, oh by the Mercy Moon my wings.

She faintly remembered the silhouettes in the shuttle, racing around her like a swarm of ants. She remembered begging them to save her wings. She wasn’t even thinking about the people who’d been with her on Deimos – she just wanted to keep her wings.

Right now, she couldn’t feel them. Everything she felt and heard and didn’t see was jumbled together in a disjointed mix of sensations. Too warm. Too dark. Too much goddamn beeping. A hacking cough ripped its way out of her throat, mounting into a distressed shriek as her heartbeat spiked. Can’t see can’t move can’t fly-

Wrenching herself to the side in desperation, she only got more tangled in the blankets. They wrapped around her, heavy and warm, too warm, weighing down and squeezing the breath out of her lungs. Something else was in her lungs, and her brain – something that smelled like smoke. Somewhere along the line she felt something rip out of her arm. She hadn’t even realized there was something sticking into her skin to begin with.

She thrashed for a long time, then laid still for even longer. She drifted in an out of consciousness, and she couldn’t tell if she was lying there for a few minutes or a few hours. Her heart was pounding.

Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep. The beeping sounded in time with her pulse. How did it know? How did it know how scared she was? She could feel something pop in her back as she thrashed, something that sent a surge of pain throat her upper body. Screeching, she clawed at the air, trying to find the beeping sound, trying to make it stop.

Stop it! Stop it! Shut up!

“Holy shi-! Glaucus!! Glaucus, calm down!”

That voice. She knew that voice. He was still alive… Mercy Moon, he was alive. She stopped thrashing, if only to try and listen for his footsteps. She heard them, thudding towards her until something slammed into her bed. “Shit, shit, shit,” she heard him say, “Where the hell are the doctors? Why wasn’t someone watching you??”

Glaucus felt a hand on her face, or at least she assumed it was a hand. It felt rougher than human skin, like a bandage. The abnormally thick fingers framed her face and gripped something that wasn’t attached to her. The fingers moved, and suddenly she was blinded by light. Squinting, Glaucus waited for her vision to clear. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a hand toss a strip of gauze away from the bed.

I was blindfolded?? She hadn’t even felt the bandage over her eyes. All she’d seen was darkness, and instantly she’s assumed the worst. Glaucus was no medic, but that just didn’t feel right. And it was still so warm…

“Glaucus,” the voice breathed again, “Glaucus, it’s okay. You’re okay.”

Her eyes flicked towards the voice to find a face hovering two inches away from her own. Save for a minor burn on the left cheek, he seemed intact. Glaucus then glanced down, and she noticed that his forearms and hands were thickly bandaged. However, when she tipped her down back up to look at him, she was suddenly dizzy.

So warm.

Glaucus slumped down into the bed’s pillow, her breaths quiet and hoarse. “Bas,” she keened softly as she stared at the man, “Bas, why’s it so warm??”

Bastien’s eyes widened in alarm, and he leaned back, moving over to Glaucus’s arm and picking it up. Glaucus watched him turn her arm, and he gasped sharply. “You yanked out your IV,” he muttered. The next thing Glaucus knew, his forehead was pressed against hers. She shrank back, letting out a faint squawk of surprise. When Bastien pulled away, his expression was wild with worry.

“Fever,” Glaucus heard him whisper. “You got a goddamn fever! How long was that IV out?” She almost tried to answer Bastien, but her words ended in a stuttered croak before they even made it past her lips. He wasn’t talking to her, he was just thinking out loud. Already he was scrambling around Glaucus’s bed, rummaging through the medical cabinets and trays, looking for… something.

Apparently he found what he was looking for. Glaucus’s body was sore and limp, suddenly exhausted from her stricken thrashing, but her eyes followed Bastien everywhere he moved. He raced back over to her and jabbed a needle deep into one of her veins, biting his lip in agitation. The man pressed down on the plunger, and within seconds the warmth in Glaucus’s body vanished.

As the heat disappeared, so did a majority of the soreness in her arms and legs. Her head stopped aching, too, much to her surprise and relief. Fever, she mused. Was that why she’d been so panicked upon waking up? Just because she was sick?

Whatever the reason behind the panic, the shot Bastien had given her both cleared her head and calmed her down – she guessed there was a light anesthetic in the fluid, as well as antibiotics. Bastien sighed heavily and dropped his head to the blankets, his fingers curling around the syringe. One hand reached out for a chair sitting over to the side of Glaucus’s bed, and he quickly sat down in it, letting the syringe fall to the floor.

Glaucus noticed that the man’s bandaged hands were shaking. He’d been hurt by the spin drone… Glaucus tensed in fear. She’d moved as fast as she could, but she couldn’t remember anything other than an ear-wrenching blast of sound and pain. Maddie, Wyatt… the others were probably hurt, but she didn’t think they’d be hurt too badly.

Maybe she’d feel guilt about it later, but there was only one thin weighing on her mind. “Bas-” her voice cracked, even though she tried to keep it level, “Bastien… my wings. I don’t want to look, are my wings… still there??”

Bastien’s head lifted up, and he took half a second to look over at Glaucus’s arms before he grinned. At the sight of him smiling, Glaucus felt her terror dial back several levels. Bastien brushed his hand over the side of his face, still grinning. “Yeah, they’re still there,” he whispered. “You’re okay, Glaucus.”

Glaucus finally relaxed, sinking comfortably into the blankets that no longer felt like they were suffocating her to death. Losing her wings was one of her greatest fears. She relished the power of flight, the feeling of wind coursing over her fur. She could’ve lost that power within a half a second, just because she saw it spin.

Bastien was shaking his head. Glaucus gazed at him with heavy eyelids. Yep, he definitely hid an anesthetic in that shot. “Glaucus, what the hell were you thinking? That drone… God, I thought you were dead.” He paused for a second, his eyes fixed on the floor.

He wasn’t looking at Glaucus, but she could still see his Adam’s Apple bob. Her eye twitched in sudden irritation. “Bastien, don’t you dare!” she rasped.

The man jolted, his head snapping back up to stare at her quizzically. “What? Don’t I dare what??”

“Take the blame. Don’t you dare try to pin this on yourself. You didn’t know the drone was there, none of us did. So don’t you dare try to make this out like it was your fault!”

Bastien’s jaw dropped in confusion, but he quickly bit his lip and didn’t say anything that involved blame or unwarranted guilt. He just shook his head again. “…How? How is it you always know?”

Glaucus managed a smirk, her eyes glinting drowsily. “Your Adam’s Apple catches in your throat whenever you’re about to lie… and taking the blame for something like this is the same as lying.” She fixed a glower on the man, satisfied that he’d stop being stupid. Bastien was smart – very smart, but by the Mercy Moon, he could be stupid sometimes.

“How would someone even notice that…?” he mumbled to himself before offering up a grimace. “Okay, so maybe it wasn’t my fault-”

“It wasn’t anyone’s fault, Bas,” Glaucus countered before he could finish.

“You almost died!” he snapped. Glaucus flinched at his sudden outburst. “You almost died, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it! I should’ve been able to do something!” Bastien’s voice cracked halfway through his rant, and he deflated into the chair, pressing his hands against his face.

Glaucus swallowed harshly, trying to think of something to say to bring down the tension in the room, but when she tried to speak her throat tightened. Her attempted words came out as a ragged choke. It felt like something sharp was caught in her lungs… sore throat. She hadn’t had a sore throat in years. Now that she knew it was there, she could ignore it.

Bastien, on the other hand, automatically jumped to DEFCON 1 when he heard her choke. Jumping forward, he leaned against the side of the bed and all but shoved his face into Glaucus’s. “Shit, are you okay??” he asked, his voice rising in an alarmed pitch.

She nodded, smiling weakly. “Just… hoarse. You know, you can relax.” Glaucus didn’t tell him that she could actually feel his breath on her face. She didn’t mind. The presence of another person was comforting, but something was dawning on the back of her mind. “Bas, how long were you waiting for me to wake up?”

Remaining propped up on her elbows, Bastien thought about her question for a moment. “A few days. Four or five, I think. I wasn’t really keeping track.” He turned around and motioned with his head to the hallway beyond an open medbay door. “I’ve been staying in that conjoining ward since we got back from Deimos. Everyone else cleared out when the medics weren’t looking.”

It took a second for Glaucus to realize that that last sentence was supposed to be taken as a joke. She snorted quietly. “Thanks for staying, Bas.”

After she said this, the man gave her a funny look that she was far more used to seeing on her brother and sister’s faces. It was a somewhat childish, amused smirk. “You know what, I think this is the most you’ve ever used my nickname. Which is odd, now that I think about it. You hate nicknames!”

Glaucus shrugged into the blankets, her eyes half-lidded and barely focusing on anything anymore. At least her routine was still intact – usually her eyes fell asleep before the rest of her. She was still fairly awake, at least awake enough to laugh at Bastien’s comment. “I only hate nicknames because someone decided that mine should be ‘Glock’.” She fixed on Bastien’s face with a pointed glare.

Bastien smirked wryly. “Now, that’s not technically true. I could also call you Fluffy.” He paused, tipping his head to the side as he considered something. “Or Whale.”

The lyrikant almost choked again, her laugh turning into a hacking cough halfway through. She stared at Bastien with absolute incredulity, rasping, “Whale? Why would that be a good nickname??” Glaucus kept coughing after she stopped talking, her throat and nose itching fiercely. She shuddered and squeezed her eyes shut. Breathe. Just breathe.

She only opened her eyes when she felt something touch the side of her face. Bastien was still leaning on the side of the bed, but Glaucus now found that he was carding his fingers through her hair. Slowly, tenderly, he brushed around her ear and down the side of her neck, then back up again. For lack of a better word, he was petting her.

It felt… really nice. Soothing, actually. Slowly, Glaucus’s breathing evened out, and her cough transformed into a purr. At least, the sound resembled a purr. It was much throatier, with a soft, mellow rumble. She shut her eyes again and tilted her head into Bastien’s hand, wondering aloud, “Bas… what exactly are you doing?”

“When I was a kid, I had night terrors,” he answered softly. “My mom would run her fingers through my hair to calm me down. Then she’d play some kind of ocean soundtrack, usually whale song. She never sang lullabies, she was completely tone deaf…”

Glaucus sighed deeply and smiled. Tone deaf… that made Glaucus wonder where Bastien got his singing voice. He always put up a fight when someone tried to shove him on stage during karaoke night, but he had a surprisingly good voice. As Glaucus focused on the man’s hand, and the slow rhythm of his fingers brushing through her hair, a thought occurred to her.

Whale song. She peeked one eye open and stared at Bastien perplexedly.

“Bas,” she whispered, “What in the Mercy Moon could possibly make you think that ‘whale’ is a good nickname for me…?”

“What? Nobody ever told you that you sound like a whale?”

Her one open eye blinked, then just stared. “…No. No, they have not.” I sound like a whale? Really? He must’ve hit his head.

Bastien grinned roguishly. “Well, you do, especially when you breathe.” His finger flicked against the tuft of her ear, then scratched the back of her neck. Glaucus wriggled at his touch – it felt like her muscles were liquefying. Just this little bit of hair-brushing was like a full massage.

She could hear Bastien breathing, except he was breathing in an exaggerated fashion. Mocking me, are you? “I’ve heard you sing, you know,” he said, “and the nickname definitely fits. Can I use it? Pleeeeease?”

The absolute childish cheekiness in Bastien’s voice made Glaucus giggle. She did not giggle. She was not made for giggling. Sorcery, she mused to herself as she tried to tone down her laughter, if only to prevent another coughing fit. “Really, Bas…” she murmured, ignoring everything they’d been joking about with nicknames and whales, “Thank you for staying.”

“Well, not really much else for me to do,” Bastien smirked, wiggling his thickly bandaged hand at Glaucus. “Although for a little while, I honestly thought the medics were going to tranq me and dump me off the side of the airship.”

Glaucus gave him a sideways glance, puzzled. “And why would they do that?”

For a moment, Bastien looked like he was about to answer, but then he went silent, and stayed that way for an uncomfortably long time. Glaucus saw his Adam’s Apple catch, but it stayed caught, indicating that he was thinking about a bad memory. The lyrikant felt the mood plummet. What had happened while she was asleep?

Finally, Bastien spoke up. He averted his gaze and said quietly, “I said some things… they were trying to get all the shrapnel out, trying to make sure you’d wake up again, but I kept hollering at them to focus on fixing your wings. One of the doctors told me that they didn’t know if they could save your wings, and that they had to worry about your vital organs and stuff. I said-” he stopped abruptly, clenching his teeth.

Bastien’s face was slowly getting red. Glaucus stiffened. His face only reddened like that when he was trying not to cry. What the hell happened? “Bas…”

“Glaucus, I told them,” he interrupted, voice croaking, “I told them that if they couldn’t save your wings… then they shouldn’t bother waking you up at all.”

Silence. Stillness. The only thing that was still moving was Bastien’s hand brushing through Glaucus’s hair.

By the time Glaucus actually figured out something to say, she didn’t have the nerve to say it. She didn’t know what she was expecting when she asked Bastien what happened, but she hadn’t been prepared for something like that. All at once, the light atmosphere was gone, and the world felt heavy again.

It was Bastien who eventually broke the silence. “I don’t know what I was thinking, saying that, but… Glaucus, I’ve seen you fly. It’s the only time you’re completely, undeniably happy. I know you would want to wake up without wings. There’s nothing you love more than flying.”

“That’s not true,” Glaucus countered softly, her words barely louder than her own heartbeat.

Bastien rolled his eyes sardonically. “Okay, obviously except for your family, but still…”

“Still not true.”

His eyebrows knit into a single line of confusion. Bastien glanced away from Glaucus’s face for a moment, picking his fingers through a snarl in her hair distractedly. Glaucus flicked her right ear, and just barely was able to touch it to Bastien’s hand. That got his attention. Glaucus felt her throat constrict when he looked back at her, and for the briefest of moments she hesitated.

Then Bastien stroked his finger against her temple, and she breathed again.

“Bas,” she whispered, “If I’d woken up without my wings… I wouldn’t have cared. I wouldn’t have cared at all, so long as you were the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. I’d be okay.” She gulped silently, pressing her head up into Bastien’s hand. She could feel tears threatening the edges of her eyes, and she didn’t care. “Bas, you make everything okay. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, you just do.”

Her voice was faint, cracked, barely strong enough to be heard. “I saw the drone. I knew what it was, and all I could think of was making sure it didn’t kill you. You always watch me when I fly. Without you watching… flying doesn’t mean anything.”

Glaucus expected some kind of comment, some reaction, but Bastien was just as silent as she was. She hadn’t intended to spill that much… she wasn’t ready to say most of those words. She had no idea when she started noticing Bastien – noticing the way he smiled every time he watched her fly, noticing how he relaxed whenever he was just talking with his friends, noticing the simple little things that made him perfect.

It started out that they were just fellow revolutionaries, but soon enough, they became friends. Whenever Glaucus was around Bastien, life just seemed simpler, easier, better.

She wanted to close her eyes, to look away from the man, but she couldn’t. She was frozen. Bastien was completely expressionless, and Glaucus hated not knowing what he was thinking. She once knew how he worked. She had no idea what he was going to say now. She expected some kind of confused reaction…

Glaucus did not expect him to lean forward and softly press his lips against her own. In that split second, her mind went blank.

Lips lips lips oh Mercy Moon he kissed he’s kissing m-

Bastien only pulled his chapped lips away when Glaucus squirmed, and his face turned a sudden and brilliant shade of red. Despite his tinted cheeks, Bastien still smiled and intoned softly, “Glaucus, you are the best thing that ever happened to this revolution. We’re still here, I’m still here, because of you. I have never been more scared than when that drone ripped you to shreds.” He shook his head, and Glaucus watched a silent tear run down the curve of his jaw. “Don’t ever do that again, please. If you die, I won’t want to keep fighting this fight.”

Glaucus balked, her eyes widening to the size of dinner plates. “…Oh,” she murmured meekly, a blush making its way onto her copper-toned face. It would only be noticeable by someone who was looking closely at her face, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what Bastien was doing.

The man snorted, offering a roguish grin that made Glaucus want to burrow all the way under the covers and never come out again. “Come on, Glaucus, you can’t spill your heart out like that and then expect me to not do the same, can you?”

She shot Bastien a rueful glare. “…Okay, I guess not,” she whispered hoarsely. “But… really?” She scrunched into the bed, trying to avoid eye contact and somehow failing. “Did you really have to… kiss me?”

Bastien quirked an eyebrow. “Well, you have been kissed before… right?”

“…Not exactly, no. Lyrikants don’t kiss, we… nuzzle.”

Almost instantly, Glaucus regretted telling Bastien about the nuzzling. His puzzled expression vanished in favor of a devilish smirk, and the lyrikant let out an indignant squeak before she was assaulted by Bastien’s scruffy bangs. She made a swipe at him with her retracted claws, but he dodged with a laugh and brushed his face over the side of hers. Glaucus started outright shrieking as the man’s stubble itched at her cheek.

“Bas!” she shrieked. “Nuzzling is one thing! Tickling is completely different!”

“Not in my book!” he laughed, ruffling her hair with his hand and darting in one last time to bat his eyelashes over her cheekbone. Glaucus hissed nonchalantly at him, and he retorted by flicking her crest. “If you get to lose your wings over something as silly as me, then I get to tickle you.”

Glaucus rolled her eyes. “That’s flawed logic if I ever heard it… and you’re not silly, Bas. You’re one of the smartest people I know.” Sighing, Glaucus shot him a bemused smile. “And butterfly kisses? Really?”

“Look on the bright side, love, a butterfly kiss is like the best of both worlds – a nuzzle and a kiss all in one!”

Glaucus opened her moth to say something in response to the butterfly kiss comment, but she paused when her brain got through with processing everything that Bastien had just said. Gaping slightly, she just stared at the man still leaning close by on the edge of her bed, calmly waiting for her to make the next move. “Bas…” she murmured, “You just called me ‘love’.”

“Well, fancy that, I do believe I did!” Bastien smiled, continuing to brush back a few hairs that strayed over Glaucus’s face. Then his smile faded just a little, and he bit onto the side of his bottom lip. Glaucus frowned, puzzled. Nervous. Why was Bastien nervous? “Uh… too soon?”

Bashful. Mercy Moon, I got Bastien Lynn to be bashful. Smirking proudly, Glaucus lifted herself up from the bed and touched her nose against Bastien’s. The man stiffened and blushed a profound shade of red. “Bastien Lynn,” she whispered hoarsely, “I’m pretty sure I love you. If you want to call me ‘love’… well, I’d love that.”

Bastien perked up almost instantly upon hearing her say this. He returned Glaucus’s words with a quick kiss to her forehead. “Feel free to share the sentiment,” he teased, and this time he didn’t try to dodge Glaucus as she ruffled his hair with her claws. He grinned cheekily, then tensed, trying and failing to stifle a yawn.

“Been up a while?” Glaucus chided.

The man nodded, his eyelids and shoulders sagging slightly. “Yeah. Apparently combat medics don’t believe in clocks, so I have no idea what time it is.” He glanced at his fingertips sheepishly. “May have also pricked myself with a shot of epinephrine at some point, so I haven’t actually been able to sleep…”

Sighing, Glaucus inched back to the far side of her bed even as Bastien gave her a funny look. Lyrikant-seized beds were roughly the equivalent of a king sized human bed, and it looked like Bastien was about to fall asleep in his chair. Glaucus lifted up her right wing and motioned with her head that the man ought to make himself comfortable before he just dropped.

Realization dawned on Bastien, and he shook his head, grinning. “Who are you and what did you do with the Glaucus I know?”

“Shut up and accept it, Bas. Usually I only let Xyrtesh and Sarae snuggle with me.”

Eyebrows arcing up towards his bangs, Bastien didn’t need any more convincing. The bed dipped ever so slightly as he rolled onto it, tangling the blanket around himself until he resembled a bizarre cocoon. Snorting at the man’s impish ridiculousness, Glaucus folded her wing over him and sank into their now shared pillow. Yes… the man should count himself so lucky to be held in similar regard to her younger siblings. Glaucus was not the type of person to let people get this close to her.

Given that Bastien closed his eyes within seconds of cocooning himself, Glaucus assumed that he’d fallen asleep already, but she was sorely mistaken.

“So, Glaucus,” Bastien began suddenly, a dangerous amount of cheek in his tone, “Since I’m now your partner, does that mean I have permission to sing Chandelier?”

Glaucus narrowed her eyes at him venomously. “Absolutely not,” she rasped.

“Oh, come on, it’s your favorite song!”

She nodded and promptly nipped the man’s ear. “Yes, and that’s exactly why you will not be singing it. It’s my song.” Closing her eyes again, Glaucus subtly curled her wing digits around Bastien, pulling him just the slightest bit closer to her chest. She could hear him breathing. She imagined it was the most soothing sound in the world.

Bastien, in his exhaustion, didn’t seem to notice. He just snickered quietly and yawned. “Possessive much?”

“Bas… shut up and go to sleep.”

“Sure thing… love.”

~

Remember that doodle from my Artwork section? The two embarrassed people on the left and the bottom are the characters you see here, Bastien and Glaucus. See, when it comes to my writing, romance necessitates near-death experiences and the panic of not knowing if the other is going to survive. Snuggling is also a requirement.

I actually wrote this story per the request of a friend on deviantART. She wanted to see how these two characters became a couple, and I was happy to oblige. (Confession: I really needed to practice writing romance. It’s not one of my strong suits.) I’m still trying to find a way to incorporate this story into the events of Janissary’s Rise, the novel that these characters inhabit, but since they are already a couple by the time the story takes place, I’m not sure how to put it in.

I could always default to flashbacks.

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