Corbin hurried through the spaceport Noel Prime, his head ducked and his eyes firmly fixed on the pathway ahead of him. Usually at this time of year, he would meander through, taking as much time as he could to enjoy the spectacular Christmas decorations hanging in every door and window and attached to every wall, but not right now. Today, he was running late. A last-minute customer had kept him at work longer than he’d anticipated, and that, combined with Neal arriving earlier than scheduled, meant that if Corbin didn’t hurry, he wouldn’t get to watch the Wanderer dock.
“Sorry,” he murmured, skirting by a group of people gawking up at the sky. They were tourists, here to buy one of the Christmas trees Navidia was famous for, and Corbin wondered what planet they were from. Noel Prime, even with all of its Christmas decorations, wasn’t much different from most of the other spaceports in the human-inhabited planets known as the Gaian Alliance. The real magic of Navidia was in the trees.
As soon as he was clear of the crowd, Corbin picked up his pace, hurrying along the back passageways that few people were aware of, and emerging on the platform he’d been seeking. He arrived just in time to see a large, sleek ship slow in her approach. It was a familiar sight, though one he’d been missing for the past five weeks, and he couldn’t help the grin that blossomed on his face as he stepped up to the railing that marked the edge of the safe area. Even from here, Corbin could feel the searing heat from the ship’s thrusters, but he didn’t let that stop him from curling his fingers around the top rail and leaning forward, his gaze fixed anxiously on the hatch.
It felt like an eternity before the thrusters died, leaving the ship sitting silent on the large metal platform near the upper level of Noel Prime, and even longer for the familiar click of the hatch opening to reach Corbin’s ears. The moment it hissed upward, revealing the inside of the Wanderer and the tall dark-haired man standing there, Corbin vaulted the rail and dashed across the empty platform that separated him from the ship.
Neal met him halfway. “The gate too far for you?” he asked, his tone teasing and his brown eyes twinkling as he let them rake over Corbin’s body. Corbin looked good, his short blond hair disheveled from his run through Noel Prime and his dressy work shirt open just enough at the neck to reveal the dip of his collarbone. It was a welcome sight after nearly five weeks apart, and Neal licked his lips appreciatively as he took it in.
“Tonight it was,” Corbin said, closing the last few feet between them with swift steps. He didn’t hesitate before slipping his arms around Neal’s neck and pulling him down into a brief kiss that was full of promise. “I missed you.”
“Yeah,” Neal agreed, wrapping his arms around Corbin’s waist and pulling him closer. “I missed you too.”
The moment felt more intimate than it was. In the shadow of the Wanderer, it was easy to forget the thousands of people walking and waiting nearby, but a clang on the next landing pad over reminded both Corbin and Neal that they weren’t alone.
Corbin reluctantly slid his hands over Neal’s shoulders and rested them against his chest. Neal didn’t loosen his grip, so Corbin leaned back, trusting that Neal wouldn’t let him fall. “We should head back.”
Neal flicked his gaze toward the source of the noise and nodded. “We should. We can pick this up at home,” he added, his lips curling up into a grin.
“Right.” Corbin couldn’t resist leaning up and kissing Neal one more time before he stepped back out of Neal’s arms. “Do you need anything?”
“Just my bag. I dropped off everything else.” Neal stepped back and grabbed his duffle from where he’d left it just inside the Wanderer’s hatch. “I am officially all yours for the next two standard weeks,” he added as he held his hand out to his partner.
Corbin grinned as he took it, and a thrill ran through him when he thought about what they could do with the time. It was unusually long—they normally had a few days, at most—and though they planned to celebrate Christmas with both their families, there was going to be plenty of time when it was just the two of them, and they were both looking forward to it.