Sam wonders how long they’ve been hiking. It feels like hours, but the days on this planet are short and he wasn’t exactly keen when they started. Most of his wilderness training is useless here, but he estimates that they’ve come a little over five miles and he could find his way back without Steve if he insists on going much further. He glances at the forest around him, the tall and thin glass trees blending together like a layered mirror.
As beautiful as they are, the twinkling trees do little to shelter them from the gust of wind. Sam curses a little as he hunches his shoulders, cringing into the soft wool of his coat. He knows he said he’d follow Steve anywhere, but this cold ass mountain is not what he had in mind. The wind eases and he glances up, catching Steve watching him with a soft smile on his face. Sam feels his face begin to heat and suppresses a smile of his own. How is he supposed to keep his composure when Steve looks at him like that? He pulls up his hood and motions at the path ahead. “This was your idea. Lead the way.”
Steve laughs and pushes a large branch out of their way. “C’mon Sam. I wasn’t going to let you sit around the lodge all week. We’re on a new planet! There’s so much to see!”
“Taking a nap after ten hours of diplomatic negotiations ain’t exactly sitting around,” Sam mutters, rolling his eyes. “How much further?” he asks louder.
Steve checks the notes he took on his phone. “Just ahead in that clearing. The guidebook said it should roll in around ten minutes. Let’s find a spot.” Sam can’t quite make out the clearing ahead, but he trusts his supersoldier’s sense of direction.
They hike in a comfortable silence, Sam’s mostly joking grumbling petering off as the air thins. He’s no stranger to heights, but this atmosphere is built different. They reach a break in the trees and look out across an open field, packed with snow. Far from the only ones here, beings from any number of worlds are spread out across the space. Some are gathered in pairs or small groups, but most stand alone. “Lots of people come here to meditate, or at least that’s the closest English word for it,” Steve reports, still reading from his phone. “ To find what peace they can in solitude or tandem . Not sure that one is translated correctly.”
Sam takes a hold of Steve’s coat and leads them to the far end of the meadow while Steve continues to parrot various facts about this landmark. “Ba--Steve,” Sam catches himself, taking the phone from Steve’s hand and pocketing it. “Thank you for the context. Now let’s just live it.”
Steve blushes and nods, finally looking up and around them. They aren’t quite at the top of the mountain, though they can see the peak from their plateau. Above it, the inky night sky is dotted with distant stars and a crescent moon larger than the Earthlings are accustomed to. The clearing is surrounded by the same pale crystalline fauna that lined the path they hiked to get here. They sway in the breeze, diamond-like leaves clinking together like wind chimes. The moonlight bounces off the bright snow, illuminating their faces. Sam gets distracted watching the equally bright smile on Steve’s face as he takes it all in. Steve looks over reaches up to brushes a gloved thumb over Sam’s cheek. “Hi.”
“Hi.” Sam tugs him closer by the zipper on his coat. This thing between them is new, but they've run and fought and lived together long enough to anticipate each other’s every move. They lean into the little space between them, but before their lips touch, a surprisingly warm gust of wind shocks them apart. With it comes a thick, bracing mist that settles over the glade and dissipates into a fog. Their eyes are no longer on each other, but Steve’s hand wraps gently around Sam’s.
As the vapor stills, it begins to glow. Moonlight bounces off the crystals poking through the snow and the fog lights up a pale pink color. It begins to blend and shift as they watch, colors rolling into and through each other. Pink. Violet. Peach. Sam is reminded of that Norwegian mission when they saw the northern lights. It's a similar feeling. A warm embrace rather than a distant dance. Moments ago, they could see the nearest visitors just a few meters away. Now there’s nothing around them but the soft, rippling clouds drawing them together.
Sam doesn’t know when it happened, but they’re wrapped in each others arms. Their eyes meet, wonder shifting from their surroundings to each other. Sam is taken off guard and exposed, heart flayed open for Steve to see. He knows it’s too soon to feel this way, to love Steve this openly, but he can’t bring himself to look away. Steve’s eyes are just as bright, shining and searching Sam’s face.
“Oh,” Steve whispers, lips parted and unmoving.
“Yeah,” Sam laughs breathlessly.
“Oh!” Steve says again, louder this time. Sam snorts.
Steve’s shaking hands leave Sam’s hips to cup his cheek. He leans in and presses a soft kiss to Sam’s forehead. Sam’s eyes close and they still, holding each other up.
They separate as the fog does, pulled away with another warm breeze. Steve pulls Sam’s beanie down over his ears. Sam takes hold of Steve’s wrists and leans up to drop a soft kiss on his lips.
“Ready?” Steve asks.
Sam sighs happily. “I guess.” He pulls away, but doesn’t let go of Steve’s hand.
“And you didn’t want to come,” Steve teases, bumping Sam’s shoulder with his own. They turn together and head back towards the trail.
Sam rolls his eyes, but squeezes his hand affectionately. “Tomorrow we’re napping in front of the fireplace.”
Steve presses a kiss behind Sam’s ear. “Yeah, napping .”