It was like a jungle in a bubble, floating in the atmosphere of Venus. Hannah could hear her sister Melody singing some song she’d learned from the crew of Columbia, about a bird of peace looking for a place to rest. It was pretty, but even though Melody sang very well, she did not fill it with the same longing that Chief Petty Officer Logan had brought to his performance, three nights ago. Huck wondered who or what the man had been thinking of while he sang.
Huck found a likely place in the fern-like undergrowth and let herself fall over backwards, her arms outstretched. She moved her arms and legs in a fit of vandalism, making a green snow-angel. The minty and green smell was glorious after long weeks of being cooped up in the Good Old Girl, who sometimes smelled like a wet dog, or an outhouse.
Heibai wandered over to her.
“You’re getting dirty-” He yelped as she sat up, grabbed his hand, and pulled him down. From a ways off Jules called out, “We’ve got to work on your stance, Little Master!”
Heibai fell on top of her. Huckleberry, Hannah, Ming Mu, ‘Bright Eyes’; she had many names to him. He relaxed and breathed in deep. Her smell, and the green scents. Heibai found that he had closed his eyes. He opened them again, to look down into hers.
“You know, people are going to talk...” His lips brushed hers, and she opened them to him. She tasted like honeysuckle, or maybe whatever Huckleberries tasted like. They broke off, and she smiled up at him.
“I kinda wanted to do that for a while...”
“But I thought that the whole tomboy sharpshooter thing put you off?”
“Oh, yes. Absolutely, it did,” he breathed, eyes wide and hamming it up to gently mock her. She gave him a knuckle in the ribs. But it was a ghost of the one she’d given him for the last stupid thing he’d done, and he only pretended to be hurt.
“Do you want me to kiss it, and make it better?”
“That would be good,” he whispered. “But I know a secret.” She leaned closer to whisper back.
“You do? Wanna share it with me?”
“The little rodent told you!”
“No, but you did, just now,” he said, and fell to tickling.
He had her shrieking with laughter in no time at all, and a little later they lay side by side, out of breath. Heibai sat up and saw that he had a good view of the setting sun. It was in the East, of course. He took her hand, pulling her up beside him, and pointed without saying a word. He was holding his breath. All of his nerve endings seemed to be in his arm... She snuggled up next to him, and life was good. Mankind was not in danger of being wiped out by petty disputes or by genocidal aliens, one of whom was a childhood friend. No, not just at this moment.