Chapter three, part one
It was not exactly morning when they awoke. As Citlally had researched before, there was no set morning, noon or even night on a space station. They kept the clocks of several major planets on display in the public causeways of the hubs, and there were data terminals where more obscure and specific information could be looked up, but for the most part the station did not follow any one planet’s diurnal and nocturnal patterns. There were far to many life-forms, each with their own sleep patterns, coming and going on the station to have shut-down periods and wakeful periods.
That said, most space stations ran constantly, the workers coming and going in shifts that best suited their abilities and origins. Unless a restaurant was directly linked with its home-world’s time, it was possible to order any type of food at any given hour, though there did tend to be patterns as to when certain meals were more sought after. It was not easy leaving a world with patterns of day and night in order to travel the æther, with all its infinite possibilities– in fact, for many races it was that sense of time that called them back home– but the journey was nearly always worth the trouble.
For Citlally, time had never bothered her too much. ‘Morning’ was whenever she woke up, wherever she was. Indeed, on Earth that tended to be sunrise, but in her galactic travels, she had not found it difficult to adapt to the luck of a rising star to stir her awake. On the morning after her arrival at Regulus Station II, it was a growling stomach that roused her. She discovered that Endan hand already risen, but had not left her alone. There was a sort plush creature on her bed, a stuffed cloth version of the docile creature from which the wool of her scarf had from from.
“That man,” she sighed as she noticed that her scarf was wrapped around its neck. There was also a note tucked into the soft fabric, which she read as she shook her head in amusement.
I thought I would spare you the scent of a hard-worked warrior and take my shower early today. I will be in the front room when you are ready.
With a smile, she set the note down and slid out of the bed. Citlally noticed their luggage beside the bedroom’s dresser, and the bag containing her new skirt on top of it. It was relief to see that it was finally there, though she hoped that Endan had seen it delivered to the bedroom himself, and not taken the risk of the delivery boy catching a glimpse of her unadorned form. Lucky for him, she trusted him completely and knew what a conscientious gentleman he was.
Knowing that she would have fresh clothes to wear, she wandered into he bathroom and began her typical morning routine. Endan had set out their personal care items, prince that he was, and ordered fresh towels for her to dry with. The shower had luxuriously hot water, purified to the strictest standards, and if her not to the demands of her stomach, she would have let it pour over her for much longer than she actually did. As she shut off the water and reached for a towel, Citlally could hear music creeping in from the front room.
“When marimba rhythms start to play,” a smooth voice sang, and she gaped. Had he really put that old song on? “Dance with me, make me sway.”
She did not care; she loved that and, and she knew that Endan was quite aware of how easily it got her body dancing.
“Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore,” she sang along as she wrapped her hair in a second towel and walked back into the bedroom, “dance with me, sway me more.”
By the time she was dressed, taking the opportunity to don her new skirt alongside an old-fashioned silk shirt (another gift from her beloved), the song had come to a close and given way to another tune that Citlally adored. She stepped out of the bedroom to find Endan putting the finishing touches on the table that he had spent. It smelled distinctly of food, and her stomach grumbled with the demand that she not wait for her hair to be combed and braided before she ate.
“Good morning, my sweet Aztec princess,” Endan said with a grin as soon as he saw her. “You look ravishing as always.”
Citlally yawned and walked over to him. “It’s nice to see a Celtic warrior like you,” she said as he wrapped his arms around her, and she felt the warmth of his body, “when I get out of bed.”
“Mmmm,” he intoned, and kissed the top of her head. “Being in bed with you is even better.”
“It most certainly was… and now I have to eat in order to replace all that energy that I expended with you.” She eyed the table, where lidded platters sat waiting for them. “What did you have room service bring?” she asked, trying not to drool from the smell.
Endan pulled out a chair for her, perfect gentleman that he always was, and sat down at an adjacent side of the table. He lifted the lids off the platters, which filled the room with ever more of the scent of delicious food. Citlally gazed at the veritable feast before her, ready to eat all of it herself, even if there was more than enough for the both of them. There was toast, a small dish of butter, a jelly made from the bright pink berries of some strange world, three types of juice in chilled pitchers, and, much to her delight–
“Is that… were you able to order scrambled eggs?!” Citlally exclaimed.
“Well…” Endan cleared his throat, and spooned out two servings of the steaming curdles of yellow fluff onto her plate. It delighted her to see the golden strong of cheese when he lift the spoon; he really did know exactly what she loved. “They are not eggs from Terran chickens, that is for sure. I don’t even think they come from alien chickens. The cook said something about a bird taller than me, that just one of its eggs would be plenty.”
Being a girl who had always been set of space travel, Citlally did not seem to mind at all. “Eggs are eggs– are you are incredible!”
She took two pieces of toast, half of a waffle that was more than twice that size of any Belgian back on Earth, and then looked over the assortment of meats. She knew that none of them were from actual earth livestock, but many of them looked like things that she was used to eating: browned links of various sausages, pink flanks of something that looked like ham, and crunchy sticks that reminded her of bacon. In the end, Citlally took some of each, and tucked into the most generous meal that she had yet to eat during her journey across the galactic arm.
“Endan,” she began after a while, when she was less ravenous and more will to converse civilly, “I was wondering…”
“Wonder away, but do not wander, for I would miss you terribly.”
Citlally gave a short laugh, and then asked him. “How did you know?”
“Know what, my beloved starlight?”
“Do not be coy.”
“But you often are.”
He chuckled and put on an innocent grin, hoping that she would not throw her toast at him. “I cannot answer your question if I do not know what you are asking.”
“Fine,” she grumbled affectionately despite her expectation that he know what she meant. “How did you know that Regulus would be the best station to do this at?” She gestured around the luxurious room. “Why not Centauri Station Alpha, or even the lunar outpost where we spent the first night after we took our vows?”
“Because I actually listen to you,” he replied, the look on his face one of total self-satisfaction.
“What do you mean?” she wanted to know as she went back to eating. Citlally spread the bright-colored jelly over her toast as she listened to him.
“Back when we were studying for the college entrance exams, you were talking about wanting to study astronomy so that you could explore the galaxy. You were fascinated by the star Regulus—well, the four-start system, really. It’s where you wanted to complete some of your advanced studies.”
Endan noticed Citlally staring at him, absolutely transfixed and unmoving, and stopped talking for a moment. “Have I said too much?”
“No,” she gasped. “No, not at all. But… you were listening? You actually took the time to remember all of that?”
“Citlally, I have loved you for a long time; of course I listened, and of course I remembered!”
She blinked, staring at him as though in disbelief. “Amazing. You really are the most romantic man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting!”
Endan grinned with pride. If it had actually been possible for a girl to have hearts in her eyes, or floating above her head, Citlally would have had both just then. The way she gazed at him, he could tell that she was swooning with awe and affection for him.
“Endan… Ni mits neki,” she told him once she had recovered her senses.
“I love it when you speak Aztec,” he grinned.
“Nahuatl,” she corrected him.
“Either way,” he teased, knowing very well what her ancestral language was called; he merely wanted to hear her say ‘Nahuatl’ again. “Oh, and by the way, tá grá agam duit.”
Citlally visibly shuddered at the way the Gaelic words rolled of his tongue. Just he he loved hearing her language, she loved hearing his; it made her melt to hear that lilting tone, the thick accent, they way it seemed magical that he could pronounce it at all. It was like a game for them, hearing one another speak the old words, although they had limited understanding of the other’s language. Although English was simple enough to use a a lingua franca, honoring the old cultures was one of many ways in which they showed their affection for one another.
“I remember the first time you told me that you loved me,” Citlally told him, giggling at the memory. “You had somehow found the words in print, but when you tried to say it to me, it was so loud where we were that I thought you had said, ‘me needs nookie.’”
Endan wished that there was a way for him to make her forget that part of it, or to at least keep himself from turning bright red at the reminder of it. “I was so relieved that you did not hit me, but that look on your face was…” He stopped and swallowed hard when he saw her expression. “I am just thankful that you gave me the chance to explain, or we not be here together now.”
Citlally gave him a contented smile and got up from her chair, walked Over to his side, and leaned in close. “Ni mits neki, now and forever more. As for the nookie…”
Her lips caressed his ear, and Endan fell his skin tingle. Her hands slid down over his chest, and he turned his head to meet her lips with his, and share in a long, affectionate kiss. When she stepped back, smiling sweetly, he was tempted to pull her back to him.
“We have plenty of time for that later. Right now,” Citlally told him, picking up her jellied toast, “I want to finish breakfast and then explore the third hub.”