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Starlight, Starbright


By: Ronnee

"Have you ever noticed how sounds seem to be so much louder at night?" Blair whispered; his gaze locked on the distant crescent moon. The faint light cast shadows across his face, deepening the hollows and adding years to his profile.

"When I was little, Naomi used to take me to some of the best places for quiet nights," he continued, taking a slow, measured breath. A tear rolled down his cheek, leaving a silvery track through the grime and the unshaven beard. "I kinda wish I were there now."

Moving on silent feet, a shadow approached, slinking close. Large, curious eyes reflected green-gold in the dim light.

Breath hitching, Blair stirred. He flicked his hand; a rock flew. It spun through the dark air in a neat arc, landing with painful accuracy on the furred marauder. It yelped and vanished into the underbrush. Without looking down, Blair picked up another small stone.

"Once, in the desert, I could swear I heard the earth turning in the sky," his fingers ran gently over short brown hair. He smiled wistfully. "In the morning, the guides listened to me and smiled. But after that they took me to a lot of places no one else was shown. They said only the true wise ones could understand the winds over the dunes, but that I was on my way."

Moving with stiffness and deep-seated aches, he looked away from the dim moon and the twinkling starlight.

"Some of the tribal peoples believe that the stars lead the way to heaven. Each constellation linking together to form a ladder Ė Jacobís ladder." A bit of hesitant laughter clouded the anthropologistís voice. He smiled, his teeth flashing momentarily. "I guess that means we can share the ladder, huh?"

He waited, listening to the silence, his body leaning against a tree. Gingerly stretching his legs, he barely grimaced as the movement stirred his friendís body.

"I wish youíd wake up, Jim," Blair sighed. Resolutely gritting his teeth, he reached over and picked up a long silver knife. He studied it a moment before buffing it on his shirt. Satisfied, he held it over the pale face, angling the blade to catch as much of the dim light as possible. As a faint coating of mist clouded it, he smiled. "But I guess you need your sleep while I take the watch."

Silence reigned for a long time. The young man rested against his tree, content with simply holding his companion. But in time his head began to nod and Blair jerked himself awake.

"Simoníll be back soon," Blair promised, resting his hand on Jimís chest. He kept the touch light as he counted silent numbers between breaths. Leaning his head back against the tree, he fought off his exhaustion. "Iím tired, Jim," he whispered brokenly. More tears made their way down his thin face. "When I was little I used to sing with Naomi. Hope you donít mind, but maybe itíll keep me awake."

His voice was soft, crooning and halting as the words slipped between his lips. His eyes remained locked on the darkness above them, staring out onto the star filled sky.

Starlight, Starbright

First star Iíve seen tonight

I wish I may, I wish I might

Have the wish I wish tonight

Embarrassed at the fact he was singing a childís song, he went silent. And he fought off the exhaustion, his fingers slowly moving as they caressed the stone in his hand. He could hear things moving around in the forest but had no idea what they were. None of them approached, which he decided was a good thing.

"I always wondered what it would be like to be a sentinel. But Iím not one. Iím the Guide. Iím supposed to know enough to help you. But I canít." his voice was rough from talking the night away. He sighed and cleared his throat. He only hoped his voice would keep the encroaching darkness and silence away. They scared him in a way he would never have thought possible. "There are so many things I still want to know and share. There are so many things we can learn."

Blair closed his eyes for a moment, his hand growing still and letting the stone fall. Unconsciously, his hand moved to rest on Jimís side. The slow rise and fall of their ribs was the only sign of movement in the tiny clearing. After a few moments, his eyes opened and he leaned over his friend.

"How are you doing, Jim?" he whispered, one darkly stained hand carefully lifting a dark jacket away from the sentinel, baring pale skin and stark white bandages. "Well, youíre not bleeding. Thatís good." He tucked the jacket back around his friend and looked up at the stars again.

"The stars are so bright," Blair murmured, his eyes drifting closed and flickering back open. "Oh, look, thereís the archer. I know stories about him. Do you want to hear them?"

"Shh, Blair," Jimís voice was gentle, almost too soft to be heard. He stirred under Blairís hand and then was still. "Iíve got the watch."

"Jim?" Blairís voice cracked and broke with surprise and exhaustion.

"Itís okay, Chief. Iíve got the watch." Jim replied quietly. His ribs rose and fell with carefully taken breaths. "Simoníll be here soon."

"Thank you," Blair whispered, a smile gracing his worn face. He relaxed again, his body easing back against the old elm tree. He gazed at the stars for a long moment and then closed his eyes.

The two men breathed in perfect sync Ė slow, measured breaths calculated not to hurt damaged ribs. Their faces slowly relaxed, completely losing the lines of pain and fatigue. All around them silence reigned under the night sky.

The End