The sharp pops of tight vertebrae ran up her spine as she leaned back in a deep stretch, arms reaching behind her. "So is that it?" She asked, trying to suppress a yawn. She glanced at the clock; 8:24 UT. Almost 2:30 in the morning.
"For the next two hours, at least." Matthias stood up from the computer, his own back arching in relief.
Celena heard the metallic grind of the heavy dome turning a short way, keeping up with the telescope as it tracked across the night sky. She exhaled deeply and left the control room and the living quarters to stand on the small wooden porch outside.
She gasped. It never failed to amaze her, no matter how many years she'd been picking apart its secrets in fine detail. The night sky was still a work of art to her. The bowl of darkness above her was devoid of clouds, letting the stars shine uninhibited, as if someone had scattered innumerable diamonds across the velvet fabric of night.
She heard the faint creak of the screen door as it shut behind Matthias on his way out to join her. She watched the shadows of his hands in the blackness rub his eyes, trying to massage the life back into them.
"Beautiful," Celena remarked to no one in particular. Her gaze was fixed on the constellation Perseus. Streaks of light wept from him every few moments.
"It's always nice when you can see the fainter stars in Lyra," Matthias added.
She nodded. "The Perseids are in full bloom." An orange streak emerged from Perseus as she finished the sentence. "Did you ever try to count the stars when you were a kid?"
"Of course," he answered. She could hear the smile in his voice through the darkness. "I always stopped after thirty. Guess I didn't have a very good attention span."
She laughed. "It always amazes me how many more there are when we come up here," she said. "These dark skies are incredible."
She heard him sniff as he craned his neck upward. "There's a thin layer of haze, though." He sighed. "That's going to wreak havoc with the photometry."
She turned toward him. "Matthias, don't you ever just look anymore?"
The shadow of his face turned to meet her watchful eyes. "I guess I've forgotten how."
The dry warmth of the summer night surrounded her like a light blanket as she lifted her arms to the sky. Nature herself seemed to be asleep at such a late hour on the 10,000 foot mountain, the nearest human miles away, and only the dry rustle of leaves bold enough to break the silence. Celena let out a giddy laugh as her long blond hair fluttered around her in the wind.
She didn't know if it was the suffocating beauty of the millions of stars; she didn't know if it was the warm summer air running tenuous fingers over the buttons and zippers of her clothes. She only knew that she was beginning to feel completely, utterly different.
She jumped down the three steps of the porch and walked to the flat, open area that made up the rest of the plateau that the telescope facility was built on. Her fingers gently popped the buttons of her shirt and let it fall behind her as it slid down her bare arms. She unbuttoned and unzipped the ragged jeans she wore and let them slip past her hips to the ground, stepping out of them as she kept walking.
"Celena!" Matthias called from the porch. "What the hell are you doing?"
She ignored him as she reached behind her, her eyes fixed on the sky as if in worship of Perseus and the glowing orange pearls he cast down to her, while she opened her bra and let it fall carelessly to the ground. She hooked her panties under her thumbs and brought them down in one swift motion.
Matthias ran the short distance to her, scooping up her clothes in his hands as he went. "Celena, have you completely lost it?" He asked, his voice mixed with amusement and concern.
She turned to him, a smile on her face that she knew she'd never smiled before. She watched his unbelieving eyes as they grabbed at the shadows of her nudity under the blanket of darkness. "Matthias," she cooed, her voice barely above a whisper. "Don't you ever just look anymore?"
He swallowed hard. "I'm looking now."
She stepped closer, so close that her fluttering hair lifted forward on currents of warm, dry wind to tickle his neck. "Don't just look," she whispered slowly.
He hesitated, then tentatively reached out to pull her naked shoulders to him as she let out a deep sigh. He kissed her. She pulled at his tongue, silently urging him to touch her, to run his hands over her warm skin. He did.
She felt his fingers trip lightly down her bare arms and cross to her breasts. Her back arched forward to meet his hands as they gently massaged the hardened caps of her nipples. She pulled at his shirt, freeing it from the waistband of his jeans, and broke the exploration of his hands long enough to pull it over his head and toss it aside to the ground. The buttons of his jeans popped open loudly as she nearly tore at the front of them, pulling them down over his legs to leave him as bare as she under the stars.
"Let's count the stars, Matthias," she breathed.
He made a desperate sound as he plunged down to her breasts, sucking at her nipples like a starved man. She felt him pull her to the ground and she went with it, lying on her back and arching upwards to meet him as he licked, nibbled, and sucked his way down her stomach to her pussy. She spread her knees as she looked up at Perseus, still raining orange, while Matthias enveloped her clit with the hot wetness of his tongue. She breathed harder and faster as he licked at warmth between her legs, and soon she was there, with Perseus, raining down through the sky in a screaming streak of orange brilliance.
When she regained enough composure, she squeezed and pulled at him, urging him to move over her. He did, gently entering her in one swift motion. The rhythm of their bodies was smooth and regular, like the clockwork of the heavens. He ground his hips against hers while her hands pulled him into her. She yelled, screamed, moaned — it didn't matter. The nearest human to hear was miles away. As far away as the uncountable stars.
She dug her nails into his back as she threw her head back in a primal yell. Moments later, he groaned and sunk teeth lightly into her neck, collapsing above her in fatigue.
They were silent. The orange glow of meteors streaked above them.
"We have to go back in," Matthias breathed gently. The creak of the dome from across the plateau interrupted the silence.
Celena smiled. "I know," she said softly.
She looked up at the sky. There would always be more stars to count.