Emma curled herself beneath his arm, resting her head on his chest feeling the protective warmth of his body and the feeling of security he represented. Liam ran his thumb affectionately along her soft brown hair, his attention split drawn from the window by the tone of her voice. He hadn’t expected to find a companion when he had first embarked on the long journey to the colony. They had met entered for the first time several years before, competing against each other in the sport hall. She had won their first contest, but it had been competitive and they agreed to a rematch the following week. Quickly there they had developed a friendship based around these weekly clashes.
Perhaps he could have asked her sooner, but neither had never felt the need to rush. They had steadily increased the time they spent in one another’s company to include the exchange of their favourite stories, music and occasionally sharing a meal. Liam was not reclusive, but he was content with his own company. Emma on the other hand surrounded herself with people and had adopted Liam into her circle of friends. Together they had enriched these shared experiences for one another.
“It’s so beautiful,” the pure awe in her voice moved him, “Like nothing I could have imagined.” How long must it have been since she had been able to voice such honest wonderment. He couldn’t be certain when it had been for him, when he was very young many things had held such magic; his first sunset, the first smell of the alien air on his second home planet, and the feeling when his firstborn held his finger tightly. Now he was very much older, and wiser to what life held.
He was born and raised in the Andromeda, he had led many lives across many worlds but this trip to the Triangulum group was his first pilgrimage beyond his own galaxy. He hadn’t realised at the time but the wanderlust had represented the beginning of his twilight. He didn’t know how old Emma was, they hadn’t shared those stories yet after all and the physical tells of age being long conquered by technology. Knowing she was from the milky way galaxy she was likely even closer to the end of her twilight. The thought comforted him. Having her there to share this moment with him felt an honour. He shifted his gaze to look at her, the The soft red glow of the emergency warning lights gave her an ephemeral quality.
Feeling daring he responds while staring meaningfully at her, “I have never seen anything quite so beautiful either.” Her eyes flicker up to meet his before demurring bashfully at his compliment. Squeezing his hand in wordless reciprocation she looks back through the viewing screen. Marvelling at the view beyond the ships protective hull, acknowledging the terrible power that clawed at the fabrics of reality.
Before she began this journey, Emma had already crossed half of reachable space. Having travelled from the milky way to the Andromeda galaxy. Even exploiting the folds in spacial topology, such a journey had lasted longer than memory. In that time she had called many worlds home. She had even been fortunate enough to have witnessed the death of a star on the way. A life as long as hers was packed tight with memories, both happy and sad. Her plan had been for this to be her last journey. Considering that she may never arrive, she was content with that too. Holding Liam’s hand and tightly squeezing it between her own hands. She was grateful that they could share this moment with one another.
Outside the ship, the storm shifted with a sense of finality. Together they watched as everything came unravelled. Neither of them carried with them any lingering regrets. Their senses struggled to, and failed to comprehend what they were experiencing. What could have been blinding lights and all-consuming darkness became cacophonous choirs of incomprehensibly beautiful melodies. Experiences translated across neurons as fondly remembered scents which were felt through an overwhelming array of temperatures, textures and pressure. The fabric of reality yawns open before them and from beyond its veil a distinctly alien intelligence stirs.
As the universe died around them, they hold one another. In this climactic moment of reality, he kisses her.