They stood side by side, almost close, looking up at the twinkling stars. Byron pointed, and Nick followed his finger to the sky.
“Perseus,” Byron said. “Do you see that, the upper right branch of Perseus? Do you know what I’m talking about?”
“I had astronomy with you two years in a row. Or did you forget?”
“I didn’t forget. I nurtured the assumption that you and your gang of goons had more important things to do than pay attention in my class.”
“Goons? We did pay attention. I know the constellation.” He didn’t remember it from Byron’s class, though. They had a Mentor of the Month who lived at an observatory near the top of Mt. St. Helens in Washington, and they’d spent hours staring at the stars. It had been windy and cold, and the sky had been clear, the stars brilliant.
“Fine. That star, the bright one, is Algol. It means Demon Head. Fitting for the constellation that is supposed to hold the head of Medusa.”
Nick hmmed to show he was listening. Byron’s voice was soothing, deep and quiet in the dark of night. Comfortable. Safe. “Algol is actually a tertiary star, but the third star is so weak, it puts off little shine. It’s used by celestials as a binary system to imbue power into obsidian.”
“A twin star.” Suddenly invested, Nick gazed up with a sense of wonder. “Is that the power that was in my obsidian, sir?”
Byron nodded, then turned to Nick, his dark eyes fathomless, his face young and smooth and illuminated from above. “Yes. There are two stars there, circling one another. Their individual gravitational pull keeps them in a perfect orbit, tethered in their eternal spin. And together, they are brighter for it,” he said softly, reverently. The air felt heavy, and then Byron faced the sky.
Nick watched his old professor out of the corner of his eyes, unmoving, like a statue, gazing upon the night sky with a depth of sorrow and yearning Nick couldn’t understand, never could understand, even after his years of wandering. He wanted to reach out, touch him, perhaps melt his cold flesh, make him come alive with contact, and then he realized he was staring and thinking inappropriate things.
He cleared his throat.
“Well, I should get back in, Byron. Enjoy your evening.”
Byron slowly looked down at him, a small smile on his lips, not a smirk, but a close cousin like he could read Nick’s thoughts. Felt Nick’s desire like a breeze on his arms.
“You as well.”