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under your stars

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“I miss the stars at home.”

“They’re all right here, you know. We just get to see them from a different angle. They haven’t gone anywhere.”

“I miss Orion. The Big Dipper. Scorpio.”

“What are those?”

“Constellations. I guess you wouldn’t call them the same things from Mira, since you see them from a different angle.”

“They sound beautiful.”

“They are.”

“Can you show me them someday? When we get back?”

“Of course.”

“I’d love to.”

“Then...it’s a date.”

Keats sat cross-legged on the side of the hill on a haphazardly-thrown-out quilt meant to keep grass and dirt stains off their clothes. Aki and Walter were lounging on either side of him. He was staring at the horizon, eyes wide, a grin stretched across his face.

“How are you two so calm about this? Are you seeing this?”

Aki laughed. “I’m watching, I’m watching. Just relaxing while I do it. Besides, it’s a sunset, cricket. Don’t you get those on Mira?”

“We were up there so long that I’ve really come to miss them. And...I’ve never seen one from Earth. I’ve never watched this sun set.” Keats’s head tilted to one side. “This one is new to me.”

“That’s a fine way to look at it.” Walter sighed, smiling to himself. “Y’know, this really is a dazzling sunset. Like a welcome home.”

Aki traced the clouds resting on the horizon with his finger. “It’s a beautiful kind of pink tonight. It reminds me of that...Walter, what was the old saying about that? Red sky…something.”

“Red sky at morning, sailors take warning,” he quoted. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. We were something like sailors up there, weren’t we?”

“I certainly am delighted. What did it mean, though? Wouldn’t this be just as beautiful in the morning?” Keats prodded.

“It’s an old superstition, said red in the sunrise meant there’d be a storm that day. Red in the sunset meant the next day would be calm, smooth sailing. Not sure how much truth there was to it, but it must have come from somewhere, I suppose.”

Keats was quiet for a moment. “I love...humans.”

“I’d hope so,” Aki snorted, playfully socking him on the arm. “You managed to snag two of us, after all.”

“No, wait!” Keats protested, laughing. “I mean to say that you have such funny ways of trying to understand the world around you, it makes me think perhaps you’re hardly different from us after all.”

“Are there Miran superstitions?” Walter prompted.

“Ah, plenty. But you’ll have to visit there if you want to learn that!” Keats grinned, wagging a finger. “That’s the rule.”

Aki sat up. “Well then, it’s a date.”

Walter followed suit, seeing that the sun had finally kissed the horizon. It was already starting to be swallowed up by far-off fields. They watched in silence now, save for contented sighs and little gasps of wonder. At some point, Keats’s fingers had laced themselves between Walter’s, and his arm had found its way around Aki’s waist.

The last sliver of scarlet sun dipped behind the edge of the world, leaving the sky purple and unexpectedly dim.

“I forgot how much I loved this,” Aki confessed.

Walter leaned into Keats. “Don’t tell my folks, but I’ve never watched one with anyone this special to me.”

“Me neither.”

“Nor I.”

They sat for a moment, bodies close and heads resting on each other’s shoulders, drinking in the quiet that had settled over the world.

Then, as if suddenly noticing they were no longer in view of the sun, an orchestra of crickets began to sing at once. More than a few fireflies flickered in the distance.

Keats’s ears perked up. “What’s that sound?” he asked, looking around.

Aki laughed aloud, realizing what he meant. “The chirping? Those are crickets, cricket.”

“They’re nocturnal bugs that’ll sing like this all night. You’ll get used to it,” Walter assured him.

Keats shook his head. “No, I...I love them. We have nocturnal beasts on Mira, too, but none of them ever put on a show like this.” He paused for a moment, listening. “Why do you call me after these creatures?”

Aki kissed behind Keats’s ear, soaking in the little whine that snuck its way up Keats’s throat. “You sing when you’re happy and you think no one can hear you. And you’re always up too late.”

Walter countered with a nibble on Keats’s jaw, drawing a gasp from him. “I like the noises crickets make at night.” Keats could feel Walter’s smile against his skin, teasing and dry.

Keats laughed lightly, half at the joke and half at the tickle of both of their breath on his neck. “Fair enough,” he managed between little pleasured hums as they peppered his throat and ears with kisses.

A gentle nibble on the ends of his ears sent arousal stirring noticeably between his legs, and his cheeks flushed hotly when Aki said, “Hey, look at that,” before he realized Aki was staring at the sky and not his dick. “We missed the first star already, there’s a bunch now.”

“I’m sure we’ll have plenty of nights to spot it,” Walter murmured into the ridges of Keats’s throat. “Our attention was somewhere just as important.”

“Well,” Aki said, returning his gaze to Keats and running a hand over his lover’s thigh, “I sure can’t argue with that.”

Walter looked out at the constellations slipping into view, a soft smile in his eyes. “I used to imagine what it’d be like makin’ love under the stars.”

“I’d be more than happy to help you find out,” Keats promised, catching Walter’s lips with his own and relishing in Walter’s pleased little hum. In the late hours of the day, stubble had found its way onto Walter’s face, just enough to tickle the skin of his cheeks and make him smile into the kiss.

Aki’s fingers traced patterns on Keats’s arms and legs, subtle but present, as Keats took in everything that was Walter Jack. He was not a man that most would describe as “soft.” The delicate scrape of his stubble, the hard muscles and callused fingers that gripped and pressed against his skin. The way he smelled, like the biscuits they’d had with dinner (Mrs. Jack had been so welcoming when they all arrived) and the nearby fields and sunlight, somehow, and warm flannel and maybe not quite enough deodorant but he couldn’t bring himself to care, because all at once it was so very Walter he couldn’t imagine it any other way.

No, not many would see softness in the hard edges of his jaw and the tough muscles that rippled beneath his skin. Nor even in the stern little growls he gave that Keats knew to be wordless pleas for more.

But there was a softness in him, in the way he relaxed into Keats’s touch, in the way he grew pliable and gentle with time. Walter’s furrowed brow unknit itself, and he leaned into Keats with a sound so small it was hard to believe it came from him.

Few would describe him as soft, but those were a blessed few indeed.

A sly smile crossed Keats’s face when his fingers ghosted over the tent in Walter’s jeans. Ah, he thought, perhaps not everything about Walter was soft.

With a final sigh, Keats broke the kiss and turned to Aki, eliciting a whine from Walter that was cut short quickly when Keats began kneading his hand absently on Walter’s crotch. It was Aki’s turn for attention, but he wasn’t about to let Walter lose that train of thought just yet.

Aki’s face was more clean shaven than Walter’s – he’d taken a razor to his five-o’clock shadow out of anxiety about meeting the Jack family, even after Walter had insisted he looked fine and his folks would love him regardless.

He’d missed a spot near his chin, not anything that could be seen, but it rubbed against Keats’s jaw ever so slightly. He could still taste dessert on Aki’s tongue – apple pie.

It was hard not to get lost in the sugary musk of Manabu Aki, the way his breath smelled like sweets but his body betrayed sweat and testosterone and the heat of the moment. It was intoxicating.

Aki’s hands were callused too, but their softness was more immediately evident, the curves of his body more forgiving from the get-go than Walter’s. Aki was strong but without hard edges, sturdy and delicate all at once. His kiss was more forceful than Walter’s, less submissive to the slow pace Keats had been taking. No, Manabu Aki was not quite so patient, and the stuttering of his hips against Keats’s leg betrayed his eagerness.

“Patience,” Keats murmured into Aki’s lips.

“No,” Aki replied smugly into his.

Keats laughed at that, breaking their kiss messily. Breathless, he leaned back until his head rested in Walter’s lap. His hands rested on his stomach, while his knees splayed enticingly before Aki – there was no way he didn’t know exactly what that did to him. “There’s really no point trying to teach you restraint, is there?”

Aki just smiled.

Walter, who had blessedly had the foresight to think to grab it from his room before they had headed out, passed Aki the bottle of lube he’d stuffed into one of his jacket pockets. Keats wriggled out of his pants and laid them in a pile of fabric off to the side. The night air was cool – not cold, but soothing against the burning of blood just beneath his skin.

Cold came with the first press of Aki’s fingers into him – first one and then, when he’d adjusted and relaxed, another – and he hissed at the contact despite anticipating it quite eagerly. Walter’s hands soothingly cupped Keats’s face, thumbs stroking just beneath his cheekbones. Keats shivered.

Guided by well-trained muscle memory, Aki hardly had to think about exactly how to send a shiver up Keats’s spine. He knew exactly where to curl his fingers, how to twist and scissor them to make his lover breathless.

Keats groaned out a few choice curses, punctuated intermittently by “more”s and “please”s. Walter’s fingers combed through Keats’s hair, gently pulling it out of slicked-back perfection. Keats looked up at him, eyes half-lidded and lips parted in a breathy moan. Walter looked calmer than he’d been in a while – the ever-present creases on his brow were less prominent than usual, and a soft smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he looked down at Keats’s squirming body.

Walter’s fingertips brushed one of Keats’s ears absently, and Keats craned his neck into the touch. An embarrassed “ah” escaped him as he realized what he’d just done. He ignored the tiny purr building in his chest.

“Are you ready?” Aki asked. Keats hummed affirmatively and gave a little nod.

“B-by all means.”

It was familiar and new all at once, and despite himself Keats let his eyes flutter closed, his mouth hanging open slightly. Aki was never one to take things slow, but he held back now, pushed forward as delicately as possible.

Keats pushed back against him, squeezing Aki’s torso lightly with his legs, urging him on. Aki laughed. “Shit, I don’t want me to be going this slow either, but you’ll thank me in the morning.”

Keats knew that, but it didn’t stop him from letting out a low whine, to Aki’s amusement.

“Okay, okay, I’m gonna start moving now. You good?”

“Do it.”

Walter snorted, smiling. “You’re both so romantic.” His thumb ran along Keats’s ear purposefully, relishing in the way it made him squirm. It set Keats’s nerves alight, especially as Aki’s hips began to rock into him. Slow at first, but then faster, more satisfying, until Keats threw his head to one side and then the other, pleading for still more. The more Aki gave, the more Keats demanded.

So needy.

Keats’s eyes opened, fixed on the sky Walter only partly obstructed above him. The stars were very visible now, darkness having properly fallen over the world now.

He pointed upward, breath hitching in his throat as he asked, “Tell me about the constellations.”

Aki’s rhythm stuttered, and both he and Walter looked at Keats incredulously. “Huh – ”

Keats squeezed Aki’s waist again, encouraging him to keep going. A little breathless, he continued, “I’ve got a perfect view of the stars. I want to know what the constellations here are.”

Aki burst into stunned laughter for a moment, unable to speak. Almost nonchalantly, Walter leaned back and pointed up at a row of three stars. “Orion’s belt. That’s one of the easier ones. See, the other stars there around it form Orion’s body. He’s got his weapon raised up there, to the side.”

Ahh,” Keats replied, somewhere between affirmation and moan. “What’s – fuck, Manabu, like that again, please – what is the story behind Orion?”

Walter grinned sheepishly. “I honestly don’t remember much about that story, it’s been a while since I learned it. Orion was an ancient legendary hero, probably killed some great mythical beast and saved people.”

“Honestly, that would describe about half of ’em,” Aki added with a grunt.

Keats traced the outline of the stars Walter had mentioned with his finger. “Orion,” he breathed.

“Then there’s the Big Dipper, ursa major – that means big bear,” Walter went on. He twirled a lock of Keats’s hair around the finger of hand, running a thumb over his cheek with the other. “You can see, it looks like a big, uh, dipper.”

“It’s really beautiful,” Keats said softly. He tensed then, a long moan drawn out from him by Aki’s movements. “Shit, just a little more, I’m – ”

Aki’s hand, warm and sure, wrapped around Keats’s cock and gave the gentlest squeeze before moving in quick, delicate strokes. Keats’s back arched off the ground at that, his head pressing hard into Walter’s lap. “That’s it, almost there,” Walter murmured, still so soft, so gentle even as Aki grew rough and danced on the edge of overeager.

The contrast was electrifying, hard to parse, and it was enough to send Keats finally, blissfully over the edge. He saw stars even with his eyes screwed shut, and his hips trembled as cum dappled the smooth expanse of his stomach. Keats heard himself moaning Aki’s name, plea and gratitude all at once.

It wasn’t long before Aki came undone too, hot and quick and with tension seizing his muscles sharply before releasing them into blissful afterglow.

Both were panting, their sweat-slicked bodies struggling to remember how their limbs worked and how to keep from collapsing outright.

Walter cleared his throat. “That group of stars – ”

Keats giggled – Aki’s and Walter’s hearts both jumped at the sound – and rolled over onto his stomach somewhat ungracefully. He eyed the visible strain of Walter’s cock against the front of his jeans and grinned, licking his lips hungrily.

“Don’t think for a moment that I’ve forgotten about you, Walter.”