It wasn’t until his seventh space walk that Anders saw them. He thought he was going insane. Repairing a finicky solar panel junction is no picnic with no leverage, and you have to take a few minutes rest every fifteen or so to prevent over-exertion – and over frustration. Anders usually looked down. His planet was beautiful, after all. His very first look had proven Michael Collins right; borders were invisible up here, and anyone who ever thought about fighting over one should be sentenced to this view – for even five minutes.
Sometimes, however – when orbit took them across the night side, he’d look up. That was even more humbling, and something he knew he’d never find the words to convey. But when he looked up and saw them, it was something else entirely. Asteriae. He knew that word, knew the myths. There was nothing else they could be. Beautiful beyond experience, at once distant as the stars themselves and clustered close enough to the station he could reach out and touch them. Clad in nebulae and solar wind, his heart instantly ached for them. For one in particular. One he could single out from the flow of limbs and tresses. Was it Hesperia? Aegle? Some other without a name mortals knew?
He knew he was in danger. His felt his legs tensed to leap from the skin of the station. He knew exactly how much fuel his suit’s jets had, and how quickly they could take him away from his minuscule outpost. He also knew the stories of the Dryads, the Nereids, the bliss and peril they represented. How obvious, he thought, we should find them up here too, closer to the seat of the gods. But was that a rational thought? He wasn’t sure anymore.
Anders watched them watch him. He watched her. Her lips quirked in a shy smile, and he realized he was shaking – with desire and need he’d never known. He’d never experienced an erection in his suit before, and couldn’t imagine what the medical monitors were recording. Without moving he felt on the verge of some kind of climax. But was it sex, or something else he walked the edge of now?
“Please,” He mouthed. Maybe he even said it, wondering if she could see – or somehow hear him, somehow. He didn’t know what he was asking for, though.
“Hey, ‘Reddo! You awake out there?” Dexter’s voice crackled through his comm. He thought he’d stood there, coiled, joints frozen, for an hour, a day, but a glance at his chrono said ten minutes. Anders shook himself.
“Yeah…. Yeah Dex, I’m Ok.”
“Why don’t you come on in for now. Your respiration’s bugging the Doc.”
“…Yeah, all right.”
It was almost physically painful to tear his gaze from her. It felt like abandoning a lover, even though her smile never faltered.
Anders was sweating and used up by the time he made it back through the airlock.
“You can finish up tomorrow, okay? After a good sleep.” Dex said as Anders went through his post-walk checklist. Dex’s unspoken questions hung weightless – Anders could beg off, pass the final work to one of the other crew with no one blinking an eye.
“Yes. One more should do it.”
One more spacewalk. The last needed to repair the junction. Anders also knew it would be his last one. He slept like a baby.
I could tell you I have no idea where this came from, but it’d be a lie. It started with an image from Will’s latest Daydream, The Little Mermaid:
With which my mind immediately did this:
Not exactly a mermaid, but you get the idea. –M