“Fuck the stars.”
I look up blearily from my seat on the floor to see Aster, standing stock-still in front of the window, holding back the edge of a curtain to look out. Their suspender buckles gleam dully. “Fuck the stars,” Aster says again, quieter and more confident.
“But there aren’t any.”
“I know. And there shouldn’t be.” They glance down at me. “Get up, come see this.”
I blink at them. “Okay,” I whisper, hoisting myself up and stepping over a dirty pair of someone’s Converse and an empty Cup O’ Noodles, my joints stiff from having sat on the floor against the foot of the bed for so long.
“Hurry,” Aster says, although I’m only about one foot away. I join them at the window and look out. They’re right; no stars. Just a fuck-ton of city.
“Look,” Aster says, in their version of reverence. Our breath makes blurry round patches on the glass. We’re maybe–thirteen stories up? I guess that’s supposed to be unlucky, but it was just an estimate. I don’t even remember our room number. Grey and Emerson got the key cards to the room. (There were only two.) They’re not even the most responsible, though, so I’m not sure why that happened either.
“I like light. A lot. I’m never going to see stars again.” Aster looks at me for a moment, light brown eyes shining gravely, then back to the view. “Fuck the stars. Look, Theo. Look at the fucking city.”
“I’m looking,” I assure them. And I am. It looks the way a city tends to look at this hour in the morning: purposeful shapes of silver and red and very occasionally green bits of light, all combined to make a million focus points so it seems like, even at the unusual hour, everyone’s awake. Which, making an exception for the majority of the inhabitants of our hotel room, everyone probably is. Even from up here I can hear a car’s panic alarm go off.
“I wonder if someone’s getting–mugged,” Aster says casually.
“Oh.” I draw back the curtains a little further and peer down. “Probably not. When I had a car, mine used to turn on all the time, even when I never touched the button.”
Someone moans. I turn my head slightly, searching for the culprit. The silver light of the city shows me it’s Xander, the upper and lower halves of her body suspended respectively between two desk chairs. “We should stop before she wakes up. She’ll rip out our throats, and then everyone else will have to clean it up in the morning.”
“You’re right.” We both let go of our corner of the curtain at the same time, and they come swooshing together quietly. It hardly makes a difference in the amount of light in the room, but at least now, if anyone wakes up, they won’t blame us.
“Tired?” I ask Aster. They nod and run their hands over their bob of brown hair, floofing it. “Let’s go see if the shower’s empty.”
Aster shakes their head. “No. Nyx and–I-forget-who are in there. I said I was tired, not that I wanted to sleep.” They look around for a few seconds, then settle cross-legged on a spot by the air conditioning unit. “Besides, someone has to keep watch. Who’ll set off our panic alarm?”
“We don’t have a car.” I stretch out next to them.
“All the more reason.” Aster picks up a can of Monster that was attempting to hide behind a leg of the desk. They take a sip and grimace. “Jesus Christ, this stuff is awful, it tastes like piss.” They hand the can to me.
I snort a little and drink out of the can. Surprisingly, it’s almost full. “Dude, it just tastes like Mountain Dew.”
“And that contradicts what I said, how, exactly?”
I’m silent for a couple seconds. “How come you hate everything?”
“I don’t. Not you. And not myself. And not light. That’s three things, right there. What three things don’t you hate, Theo?” They poke, a couple times, at a meaningless spot on their burgundy corduroy pants. No one’s wearing pajamas, I realize, and practically everyone’s in their bra; those who wear a bra in the first place, that is. Aster doesn’t, and the outline of their nipples is visible through their whiteish t-shirt. Not in some kind of weird or gross or erotic or dehumanizing way, but just in the way that most people don’t publicly acknowledge or accept or even are willing to admit that they have nipples. Xander certainly doesn’t. I always found it odd, the way girls are about their bras. I’m glad Aster is normal. I don’t know what I’d do if they weren't.
I hand Aster back the Monster. They take a couple large gulps, eyes on me the entire time although we’re sitting side by side. “You. And this.” I gesture to the quiet (except for the sound of a couple people snoring) hotel room. “And–and vegans, probably. Three things I don’t hate.”
“That makes one of us. Vegans fuckin’ suck.”
“Yeah,” I say, although I know that neither of us actually means that. “Aster, I’m lonely.”
“Aw, don’t be.” They set the Monster down on the carpet and rest their hand gently on my thigh. I stare at it–Aster’s hand, not my thigh–it’s long, and, if it’s possible, each individual fingernail is a different length. There’s well-mannered orange polish clinging to most of them. I point at it.
“Yeah,” Aster says. I can feel them smile. “Yeah.”
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