Epilogue: 93 percent stardust

Eli woke up in the middle of the night and rolled over to his back with a heavy sigh. He really needed the rest. They had a day and a half left on Excellon, and a month long journey ahead of them. Something woke him up. Not Muffin's barking. A bad dream, perhaps? A sudden vibration. Or… he sat up in his bed. There was a noise. Soft footsteps, walking slowly, outside his room.

He got up, glancing at the clocks. It was four thirty in the morning. Who the hell was awake and walking around at this time, especially this night? The steps grew closer. He froze on the spot. The unlocked door clicked open, and somebody stepped over the threshold. Eli held his breath. It was Rob.

-Hello, darling. – He said with an awkward smile. – First of all, can I just say… your security sucks. Ship's out there in plain sight, no cameras or anything, and you haven't even changed the entrance code. I just walked right in!

-Rob. – Eli's mouth was suddenly dry.

-Yeah, I know. – He smiled again. – Haven't texted for seven weeks, disappeared from all the social media, blah-blah-blah. I'm an asshole, I'm aware of that.

-I…

-No, shush. Quiet. I need to say this before I forget, cause it all sounded awfully beautiful in my mind and I don't wanna fuck it up. Eli, I… I was wrong. Like, completely delusional. It was great to be a part of the Nova rebuilt, and I thought I was really good at it, but I wasn't.

-Yeah, you were. – Eli disagreed. – I followed the news. You were brilliant, on your way to amazing accomplishments. I was proud of you.

-That's… thank you, but that's not the point. I… I was an idiot. A fool. A real fucking dumbass. And I know what you think about intelligence-based insults, but in my case, it's accurate. I was stupid, because I thought I could force myself to be something I'm not. I thought I had to do it, but I didn't. I didn't have to. At all. It wasn't my place. My place is here, on this spaceship, with you.

He took a few steps closer to Eli and kneeled in front of him.

-I love you. I love you so much Eli, you have absolutely no idea. I'm in love with every cell, every atom of you. I love you with everything that was ever alive in me. Remember that stuff you said about us being hopelessly in love with the stars? Well, I am, and you, you were made from stardust.

Eli felt a lump in his throat, and fought back overwhelmed tears. As Rob got up from his knees, they embraced.

-I love you too. – Eli said. – And I hope it didn't actually need saying.

-Do you forgive me?

-Of course. Of course I do.

And for a few minutes, they smiled, and kissed, and didn't need to say a single word.

-It's funny, isn't it? – Rob said, his hands on Eli's shoulders.

-What's funny?

-All this time, we were looking for something, something out there, special and far away, to give us what we were missing. And it was right here in front of us all along! We didn't have to search for it at all.

-Yeah. – Eli agreed. – I guess it is. I'll keep that in mind.

-What?

-Stars. They're closer than we think.