Excerpt for Always Be You (A Chameleon Moon Short Story) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


ALWAYS BE YOU


Warm. Quiet. Dark. One of Regan's favorite times of the day: late, after Library closing hours, but not so late that it was time to slip through shadows or run through crumbling streets. One of his favorite places: the secret, secure, safe back room filled with books and jars and his soft beanbag-chair nest and pile of blankets.


And one of his favorite people. His fingers moved through Rowan's soft, curly hair, hand coming to rest on the back of their neck, using the slight pressure to kiss them more deeply. Their quiet sigh and way they seemed to further melt in his arms told him he was doing it right. Getting better at this.


The two of them had already been here for some time. They usually were. They were never in a hurry to reach their limits and fall asleep, because that meant an end to their time together that night, time that could otherwise be spent in warm embraces and slow, lazy kisses. Or just quiet talking for hours. Or not talking. Regan loved lying here and listening to their breath, their heartbeat— in their chest, an odd sensation for him after years with someone whose heart stayed safe in a jar in this very room—just as much.


They weren't talking much tonight. Regan didn't get many opportunities in his life to feel this completely relaxed, so blissfully, almost dreamily happy, so he focused all his attention on enjoying every second. And on Rowan.


There was a lot to learn about one another. Probably more than most, considering Regan's first and only experience so far was with a much-beloved partner with a not-quite-living body. This was full of surprises. Like feeling a heartbeat. Watching someone actually breathe as they slept. And what it was like to feel this warm. Until now, no matter how heated things got, Regan had been the only one whose temperature rose at all. Now, for the first time in his life, Regan held someone warmer than he was, and never wanted to let them go. Sometimes he wondered if this was how Zilch felt, holding him. It was a good feeling.


There were a lot of good feelings. Some of it was the contrast. Regan was all thin, angular limbs covered in smooth, cool scales. Rowan was so warm he wanted to curl his entire body around theirs and soak in their heat like a lizard on a sun-kissed stone. But a rock was an unfair comparison, he thought, because except for their hooves and horns, they were also soft in all ways. Like their wonderful, fur-like wool Regan loved to run his hands through and sleep with his cheek nestled in, and their waist Regan wrapped his wiry arms around, their soft belly pressed against his own; his was much slimmer but his scales were softest there too.


Regan loved them so much he thought his heart might burst. It didn't, but it was certainly pounding as Rowan's hands—gentle, like everything else about them when they were with Regan—went to the loose frill of skin around his neck. As they stroked down its hanging folds he let out a soft, involuntary sound, half-sigh, half-moan. Just as automatically, his frill trembled in reply. He didn't need a mirror to know it would be a couple shades darker than usual. Some people blushed in their cheeks; Regan did in his frill.


And just like his frill, he felt his entire body start to tremble. His heart pounded under Rowan's hand, which he realized had moved down to press against his chest. Regan leaned into the touch, feeling the shared heat rising between them, sure he could feel Rowan's heart speed up as well as he closed his hand over one of their hips, other hand stroking their side.


More touch. He wanted more closeness, more warmth, more sweetness. More of this. More of them. Just more Rowan. What and how, he wasn't entirely sure. He just knew they were pressed as close together as they could be, no space between them, and they still weren't close enough.


When he broke the kiss it was to suck in a gasp. Rowan's hand was still on his chest, and the other had slipped beneath his frill, fingers brushing across the point of his racing pulse.


Then Rowan's soft voice was in his ear. Saying something. It took a moment for him to sort the syllables into something he recognized. "Regan..."


Any other time, any other way, he would love the sound of Rowan whispering his name. But now, it felt like a vaguely dissonant note in what had up to this point been his favorite song. Their voice was tinged with uncertainty. It sounded like the same confusion starting to creep into his own head like a very unwelcome guest.


"What is it?" Regan's voice came out more breathless than he expected. All of this was more than he expected. His head spun; it felt like they'd just been in a speeding car, and someone had slammed the breaks.


"Is this..." Rowan stopped, and slowly, that same uncertainty filled their face as well as their voice. Their bright blue eyes flicked down, and they seemed to realize where they were for the first time. They didn't move or recoil, but they did take in both of their hands, then their bodies, and when they looked back up at Regan, it was as if they were seeing him for the first time too. "What is this?"


"I... I don't..." Realization fell on Regan like a bucket of ice water. He didn't feel warm at all anymore. Instead he felt the beginnings of the telltale shiver right before he vanished from view. "Let's just—stop for now, take a break, okay?"


"Agreed," Rowan seemed to know they didn't have much time before everything went to hell in any number of possible ways, and talked fast. "But Regan, don't go, please, you don't have to—"


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