Rhezerë is not pleased. There’s a niggling sensation, warm through his entire mind, of someone who’s supposed to be there, and nobody told him a new sync would feel like this.
Rhezere didn’t like to think of memories, instead he made endless plans. But sometimes he dreamed them, waking with screams strangled between his teeth.
Sometimes he woke and muffled the memories until they faded. Sometimes he called Kasuru, who had seen his scars and never heard the stories behind them.
“You did a terrible job of healing them,” Rhezere complained. “When the weather’s bad, they hurt.”
“Ah.” Kasuru could hear everything Rhezere wasn’t saying.
They didn’t talk about the past or about the aches and pains Rhezere claimed to have. They talked about their plans, their work, and the future.
Rhezere’s been staring after Cor from the moment he first saw him.
Kasuru never interfered beyond the reminder that future pilots shouldn’t interact with future integrates. It kept Rhezere from speaking and safeguarded him for the moment they might meet mind to mind.
But he never stopped staring at the way Cor threw himself over the wings and under the bellies of the spaceships he repaired, the way he streamed to practice flights, the way he honed his body in anticipation of his affinity for war.
Cor would be a warship one day, no doubt. Rhezere would be his pilot.
Cor knew it wasn’t a lack of trust that made Rhezere shy away from displaying any kind of vulnerability with his own integrate. There were enough issues bubbling between their minds that the filter couldn’t hide for Cor to know it wasn’t even personal. But it grated.
“You okay?” No matter how neutral and offhand the delivery…
“Aww, Cor, you were worried about me!” Rhezere always managed to brush it off with brilliant smiles, a light tone, deliberately changing the subject to something annoying. Anything to avoid letting Cor acknowledge there was vulnerability.
Never talked about the scars they both knew weren’t from accidents. Never talked about the people Rhezere wouldn’t admit to caring about. Never talked about the fact that Cor preferring to sleep in Rhezere’s room wasn’t only because they were synced.
Cor sighed in disgust and let it go.
Kasuru looked up from the ship plans he’d been poring over with Nanere for half the night. He was the designer; she was the builder ripping apart his every bad idea.
It was well past when Rhezere went to bed. The boy was getting longer, and he looked at Nanere like he was deciding how much vulnerability to show with someone else present.
He sighed and trailed over to the couch behind Kasuru’s worktable and flopped down with his blanket. In moments, his breath evened in sleep.
“You have a kid,” Nanere said.
Kasuru shook his head. “He’s not mine.”
She looked pointedly over at the boy curled into his blanket, choosing to sleep near Kasuru rather than in his own dark room and bed.
He knew it was a bad decision the moment he did it. It had been months since the last time Rhezere contemplated the knives in the drawer with more than clinical disinterest in slicing food. Now, the blood welled up over his fingers as he cradled his arm and stared down at it.
He felt nothing, then sudden overwhelming panic flooded into the spaces where his heart was numb.
He went without thinking, moving quickly into Kasuru’s office where he was meeting with the ship builder Nanere.
Kasuru said nothing, just pulled Rhezere to the space beside him and took down the healing scanner, a steadying hand firm on Rhezere’s shoulder.
Nanere dropped her gaze back to the plans they’d been discussing. Kasuru patiently ran over the arm until the wound no longer gaped. The flesh still looked raw and blotchy, less severe but not fully healed.
Kasuru wrapped it in bandages, then tucked his fingers under Rhezere’s chin to draw his gaze up. “We’ll let it rest overnight then look at it again.”
Nothing could be healed in a moment.
Rhezere knew that. Something inside him eased at realizing he’d been willing to be healed at all.
Rhezere complains every single time Bhazaf takes major damage that he doesn’t act like a normal integrate and sleep in the cradle, where he can heal properly and the ship can finally shut down his extensive sensors.
It minimizes pain. It’s smart. Bhazaf never does it.
For once he has.
Rhezere remembers all the usual complaints—at having to share his bed, having to throw an arm across Bhazaf’s chest to remind him he has a human body and it’s not in critical condition.
Right now, the bed is achingly empty.
He sighs and goes to sleep by the cradle.