Nihlus opens his bleary eyes. The room is off-white; the ceiling, the walls, the furniture are all sleek and modern and spotless. He didn’t notice that last night. The large window on the north wall is not entirely covered with snow, though a fair amount has gathered at its corners, piled high in triangular patches on the bare steel frame. Again, sleek, and modern, but indiscernible for now under its soft white coat. A single moon in the sky, huge and round. Perfectly so. Crisscrossed with snowflakes that leave white streaks in his after-vision.

He rolls over and smacks his lips. The time panel reads 2182. No, wait, that’s the year. Time is 0382–no wonder he’s too tired. He grabs a fistful of blanket and tucks it under his chin, squirming as he does. Hehe, he smiles, Saren’s gonna be so annoyed.

Those were the old days. They used to be too lazy to fold up the miserable little cot in Saren’s cabin after the feverish wrestling of the late night and the dreamy tumbling of the early morning. They used to lie side-by-side, limbs stuck at odd angles, fringes in each other’s faces, trying to tell the other to get the heck off but ending up asleep anyway. Nihlus takes a moment to curl up, then stretch, relishing all this newfound space. No more cramps in the morning, no sir.

Time to see if Saren’s up for a snack. He casually reaches downwards and sideways.


More blankets.

Saren’s not there.

Maybe he’s already getting a snack of a different kind. “The tequila, please,” Nihlus calls out, sticking an arm out from the warmth of the covers into the frigid Noveria air. Brr. That’s really cold. He hurries to tuck himself back in.

No response. Damn. He sits up as quickly as possible, before his body can complain. Scans the room for Saren. Ah, there he is. Sitting on the floor, right behind that night table. Nihlus knew he wouldn’t leave. Right?

“Hey, aren’t you cold?”

Saren looks up. “No. Go back to sleep.”

“Mph. Okay.” He flops to the bed again. Faces the opposite direction for good measure. Saren can suit himself. Suit. Heh. That bloody armour.

Damn it. He bolts back up again, letting all the blankets fall to his waist. “Come on. Take that off and come back here.”

Saren seems to examine his own hardsuit for a while, one thumb running over a crack in a thigh plate, before shaking his head.

“It’ll be just sleep for once. I promise—“

“I’m used to this.”

Nihlus sighs. “Not to ask for too much, but, you know, it’d be nice if you came here.” He pats the space beside him.

“It’s fine.”

Damn you, this isn’t about you. Nihlus swallows.

“What’s wrong?” he asks instead.

“I’m used to this,” Saren repeats, one hand stroking the metal window frame. “Nothing’s wrong.”

Nihlus looks from the frame, to Saren’s prosthesis, to his glowing eyes. “Please, Saren. I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all. Just join me and we’ll be all warmed up in a minute. Honestly I don’t—”

“It’s not,” Saren frowns, “that.”

What is it? The words almost slip out, but Nihlus clamps his mouth shut. Yeah, as if he’s going to get an answer just like that. He gathers up some courage, the remaining wisps of body-temperature air, and swings his legs over the edge. He stands up, pulling all the blankets behind him like a robe. Saren is watching his approach with something like apprehension.

“Fine.” He sits down beside Saren, wincing at the coldness of the floor on his bare ass and hurriedly putting a few layers under him. “Fine. Have it your way. I always wondered what ice fishing would feel like.”

Saren glances at him, then at the bed, then back at him. Nihlus expects him to say something at that last part, but he doesn’t. At last, Saren tucks his chin in, hunches his shoulders, and crosses his arms. Settling down, it seems.

Nihlus waits until he himself begins to shiver. Saren hasn’t moved. Nihlus waves a hand in front of closed eyes. Nothing. Asleep.

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