'And what's that one?'
'The Painter's Easel,' Ret answers promptly.
'Oh, very good. What's the constellation name for it?'
'Um. Pictor. Also equuleus pictoris.'
Crux raises an eyebrow, 'You have quite the memory, don't you, little grus?' He asks, turning halfway on his side. His tone is teasing, his eyes shining, and Ret barely stops himself from counting the stars in Crux's eyes.
Instead, he replies, 'Well, it's better than yours.'
Crux snorts, 'I know all those names and more, you idiot.' A few months ago, Ret would have started at his rough tone. But now, having spent so much time with the other, he's learnt a few things -such as how to identify the teasing tone hidden in Crux's gruff exterior, for example.
'Wait ten years before you're better than me,' Crux continues, and Ret smiles. He doesn't reply, content to let a little laugh fill the silence as he returns his gaze to the sky. The night is particularly clear. He and Crux had been waiting several weeks for a moment just like this, when the clouds wouldn't swim across the sky and the stars were free to dance, and when it finally happened, the two of them had practically stumbled over themselves to find a place to set up the telescope.
Remembering the messy-haired, frantic Crux that had burst into his room and scared Lary half to death, Ret lets slip a fond sort of smile. Beside him, he can barely see Crux eyeing him, and prepares himself just as the other boy asks, 'What's got you so happy?'
'... Hah?' One of Crux's eyebrows rise up and Ret, with a grin, reaches over and flicks him on the forehead.
'I was remembering how you looked like when you came to get me. To see the stars.'
There's a pause. Ret can't exactly make out the expression on Crux's face, but it doesn't seem like it's particularly bad.
'... Did I look like a mess?' Crux asks eventually, voice just the slight bit hesitant, as if he's not really sure that he wants to know the answer.
In reply, Ret gives him the best look he can muster and reaches over to poke Crux on the chin. 'You still have something like half a stubble. Just on the left side.'
'Fuck.' Crux curses, smacking Ret's hand away lightly. Ret laughs in response, softly, and closes his eyes. He can feel the grass beneath his head (it's going to be hell to clean out later) and the soil beneath his bare feet (he hopes he doesn't track dirt all the way into the dorms) and, if he listens real hard, he thinks he can hear the sky singing.
All of a sudden, Ret feels a bit breathless. It's not as strong as his sky -not half as familiar, not nearly as beautiful- but.
'Can you hear it?' Ret asks, for some reason speaking in a whisper.
'The sky,' he opens one eye and reaches out a hand. If Ret clenches his fist, he can almost pretend that he's catching the stars, 'It's singing.'
'Maybe you should go see a doctor,' Crux returns promptly but, after a moment, slowly says, '... But if you can hear it, then I'm sure it's there, somewhere.'
Somewhere. His own sky, watching over a secretive forest, is also out there, somewhere. Somewhere, Mich and Benne are in their own rooms -or maybe they're together. Somewhere, someone else is gazing upon the glitter in the sky, some passion of their own gradually being lit. Somewhere, the world sleeps.
For the first time, though, instead of mourning his old sky, Ret realizes that -from the very beginning- they've all only ever looked at the same one.
He laughs. A small sound at first, and then it grows into a chuckle, and continues until Ret is half-sitting upright, clutching at his stomach, tears in his eyes. Crux looks at him like he's crazy. It rather makes Ret laugh even more.
Eventually, when the bubbles of giggles stops, Ret sits up properly and wipes at his eyes. He takes a few breaths, his stomach hurting a fair bit -but it's a nice sort of hurt. 'Hey, Crux?'
'Thank you.' Ret only says.
Crux is silent for a moment and Ret, eyes closed, doesn't know what he's doing until he feels a hand on the top of his head and Crux ruffles his hair instead of speaking.
When Ret mentions, offhandedly, that he's going to be conducting a video call with his twin, Crux seems rather interested. In all the time that they've been friends, Ret has never really mentioned Mich very much, apart from from the first story time, so naturally, he's rather worried.
'Why do you want to meet him?'
'Do I need a reason?' Crux raises an eyebrow, a familiar expression nowadays, and leans back on his seat. Ret huffs, 'Yes!'
'Well, then, because he's your twin.'
'Yes, but that doesn't mean you have to meet him.'
'It doesn't.' Ret's getting increasingly frustrated. He has no clue what he looks like right now, but he's sure that it's not anything pretty -his hands are in fists, his shoe tapping out a rhythm on the floor. Not pretty at all.
'Of course it does,' Crux replies simply, seemingly not at all bothered by the sound, 'He's your twin. So I want to meet him.'
At that, Crux falls silent and looks straight at Ret, as if he's discovered a new species and is wondering how exactly he can make it understand him.
Crux is the one that doesn't understand. Ret's fists are held so tightly that he can almost feel himself breaking the skin -Crux is the one that doesn't understand. He doesn't understand what it's like, having done so much, having only just carved out a life outside of his twin, and suddenly his best friend becomes interested in someone he's only briefly heard about before. He doesn't realize how much he means to Ret. He doesn't know -will never, probably, never know- what it feels like, will never-
Ret looks up. He hadn't realized when, but Crux's hand is on his, eyebrows furrowed in concern, 'Hey,' Crux repeats, voice soft. Soothing. 'Are you back?'
Ret nods his head, not quite trusting himself to speak. Crux stays there for a moment before sitting back down on his chair.
'If you really don't want me to meet him,' he begins, brown eyes looking straight into Ret's soul, 'then I won't. I'm not planning to do something that you don't like. It's just that I wanted to know more about you -about the people around you, about your twin, because you sounded close to him. I was being selfish, sorry, okay?' Crux takes a breath, his gaze finally breaking, and he coughs -awkwardly, 'I mean, just. I don't want you to be upset.'
It takes a moment for the meaning of this to actually dawn on Ret, but when it does, he finds himself slowly blinking out of his haze. Looking at the rough, sarcastic, confident boy in front of him, stubbornly refusing to look back at Ret, he can't help but smile just a little bit.
'Crux,' He says, carefully, 'Are you blushing?'
The world jerks back into motion.
Crux is snorting and denying and kicking at Ret's chair, and Ret is laughing right back, wringing this for all it's worth, and their little astronomy club room is once again filled with hidden stars and ringing laughter.
It's a few days later that Ret goes up to Crux and asks him if he's free to sit in on a Skype with Mich on Sunday.
Crux replies yes immediately, then pauses and looks down at Ret. Ret himself has no idea what Crux might see -what Crux could possible see- but the other's eyes take on a softened glow and a hand reaches to ruffle Ret's hair.
'Oh little crane,' Crux says, and somehow it's not at all condescending -rather, Ret feels a happy warmth spreading through his body, 'Thank you.'
A/N: Sorry for the wait! These silly boys are back.
(also... two boys under a sky...?!)