The subtle muted cabin lights didn’t come on. Some other mess-up in my far-from-perfect ship. The malfunction didn’t seem dangerous, though. I’d see to it in the morning.
There were no lights in the bathing unit either, but the scented water worked, and warm air and towels jumped on me out of the wall with their usual terrifying alacrity.
It was very dark, only faint starlight smokily seeping in at the window through blue gauze—I’d forgotten to draw the curtain open, which was odd, for I thought I had. Maybe my poor little overtaxed mind was giving out.
I found the bed, not too easily, tired and bemused as I was, banging my unclothed anatomy on furniture, and uttering oaths resplendent in their inventiveness and squalor.
I sank on to the bed, head and body singing like slackened strings. And at once hands had me, turned me. I was gripped and held, firmly yet unbruisingly, close as the earth holds what grows from it, all the length of a male body.
I knew it at once. How not. It had been mine.
The contact was so vital, so instantaneous, so predictably electric, I could no more have thrust him off than I could resist some painless, potent anesthetic gas.
Skin on skin. He was naked as I was. He didn’t caress me or speak to me, simply held me there, letting my flesh find him out, even if my brain refused to do so.
But my brain, submerged, overwhelmed by my flesh, remembered and, remembering, conjured him from itself till we seemed one thing, indivisible. He understood my compliance before ever I put my arms around him, before ever I said:
“Tell me who you really are.”
“You,” he said into my mouth—his mouth, my mouth. “Who else?”
Later, he was laughing at me. I could see him laugh, for one small light—he’d asked Moddik how to fix the lights—had been allowed to come on. His eyes were sapphire in that dark glow, as my eyes must be too, for my eyes were still the poet’s eyes, Esten’s eyes. Those eyes would make us look, though all else was different, like children of one maker, one womb.
“Well now,” he said, “was I as good as you were when you were me?”