" Wille."

The man jumped, surprised, and turned in his chair.

" Ah. Nova. It's been a while since you last called on me in my room, hasn't it? Wait. How did you get in."

He held up a small plastic card.

" You left your identification in the cafeteria," he answered. " I'm here to return it to you."

William tipped his chair back on two legs.

" And that's all?"

" I don't know, Wille, what do you think," he deadpanned.

William stood and walked over to him, taking his ID.

" You could've easily commandeered my ship, you know."

" I have literally no reason to do that," he responded. " You're the only thing on it of any interest to me."

" That's rude. I always thought our facilities were fairly nice, considering we're a flagship."

Nova walked around him, and laid on his bed.

" Wow. This is a terrible mattress, you know."

" It's good enough to sleep on," William responded.

" Your room's smaller than mine by quite a bit, too."

" I'm just in a regular officer's room. You have the big fancy one."

" Thank you for the hospitality."

" You always sound so dry and acerbic," William said, setting his knee on the bed to climb in.

Nova seemed to be making to reply, but William spoke before he did.

" You can let your guard down around me, you know," he said softly. " I've liked you for quite a while."

" Forgive me for not letting my guard down around you after seeing you fell a Starka twice your size," Nova mumbled, voice muffled by the pillow.

" I'm harmless," William insisted, draping himself over Nova.

Nova grabbed the collar of his shirt and dragged him off, to the side of the bed facing the wall.

" You're not getting on top of me," he said.

" So I can get beneath you?"

" See, you are dangerous."

Nova turned and looked at him.

" You always look so tired, William," he said. " Is your job so stressful?"

William sighed.

" I've been burning through a year of my life every day," he said. " I fear it'll catch up with me sooner or later."

He was actually a bit surprised that the look in Nova's eyes softened when he said that.

" Don't spend your years so recklessly," he said, voice quieter. " You already have far fewer of them than me."

" ... Yes, that's true," William replied.

Nova rolled onto his side and brought up a hand to William's face.

" ... Wille."

" ... Nova."

" You said a lot of concerning things to me, you know."

" I figured I probably did."

" I hadn't realized you were so cold before."

" I don't know what you mean by that."

" You had said to me that you had never loved anyone before... And viewed sex only as a tool of convenience... Which was such an odd thing to hear from something like you..."

" Ah, so I let slip that much...? That's a shame."

" I feel, Wille, that you would've carried on letting me disdain you as a mildmannered fool if not for Diurn."

" I'm comfortable with people holding that image of me. It makes my life easier."

" That's selfish, you know. Your own insistence that you're harmless... it's selfish."

" How so?"

"You're not sharing yourself with me."

" I am, though, aren't I?"

" Do you really think you are?"

William was quiet for a moment.

" ... I had the feeling that I wanted you, so I acted on it. Even if Diurn hadn't appeared, you know, I would've been looking for ways to impress you... I'm always looking for ways to impress you."

" You avoided my question, Wille."

" ... I've never shared myself before, Nova. This entire world is nothing but threats to close myself off from."

" Weren't you just scolding me for being the same way? Honestly..."

" Ah!"

William winced as Nova's hand ran up his side, and he accordingly stopped.

" Wille?" Nova questioned.

" It's nothing," he said, gritting his teeth a bit. " I've got some pretty deep bruising from where Diurn threw me."

Nova looked at him with consternation.

" It's not healed yet? Your ankle's almost fine."

" The bone in my ankle's one thing. They can put that back together easily. Deep muscle bruising is another."

" How much longer til it heals?"

" It'll be aching for a while."

" ... You're so soft."

" Mm? Ah, N-nova-!"

Nova pulled him closer, and held him tight, face nestled in the crook of his neck. His hand on those bruises was causing a dull ache, but William dared not speak up about it.

" You're such a soft thing, Wille... You bruise and break like you're made of nothing at all..."

... William hadn't ever expected Nova to speak to him so gently, and something bitter twisted in him over it.