The profound emotion in the farmer's voice as he admitted his love made Davan's gut clench. What would it be like to have someone give you that kind of unguarded, true devotion? He'd felt plenty of raw passion and some sweet intimate moments with lovers in his life, but never the feeling Marr was talking about. Davan had been too busy rocketing from one thing to another to make time for that kind of connection.
Needing to hear more of Marr's deep, rumbling voice, Davan prompted him to continue talking. "Have you always lived here?"
"This farm has been in my family for generations, since the first settlers came to Theon. We used to raise a variety of vegetables, but now I have the fields planted to mostly corn and wheat. And, other than lamidas which I raise for milk and to sell, there's not much livestock."
Davan imagined what it would have been like to live in the same place all his life, to have a connection to long-dead family and roots that were as deep as the trees growing on the land. "Never wanted to try something else?"
"No. I like the rhythm of the seasons. I like seeding the soil, nurturing the plants and bringing in the harvest. There's nothing I'd rather do with my life."
Davan nodded, seeing the simple nobility of it. There was peace and a sense of continuity in this man that was unlike everyone he'd ever known. But then most of his acquaintances were other pilots, men who loved careening through the skies from one adventure to another as much as he did.
"Me, I've never settled anyplace longer than a few months at a time," he admitted.
"No family?" Marr asked.
He shook his head. "I lost touch with my mother a while ago when I came back to where we used to live and she'd moved on. It's a big universe. Easy to lose people in it." He smiled to show it didn't bother him. "What about your family?"
"My parents died in the super-flu epidemic six years ago. I have some cousins, aunts and uncles around, but no siblings."
"You ever get lonely out here in the country?"
The farmer's big shoulders lifted. "No more than I'd be in a crowd. It's about who you're with, not where you live."
"True enough." Davan actually couldn't imagine not being lonely. It was what he kept busy to distract himself from.
"How long have you been flying?" Marr asked, keeping his hands busy with refolding one of the blankets and putting the empty stew bowl in the box. Davan wished those hands were on him again. He'd enjoyed their warm weight stroking his head.
"A long time. Since I was young. I don't think in terms of years. Time gets skewed when you spend it in space moving from planet to planet. I worked on transports then had my own shuttle business, sometimes legal, sometimes not."
"How long have you been fighting the Tandus?"
"I joined the rebels after the Galactic Army took over Theon. The Tandus were becoming more powerful with every planet they invaded and suddenly it was clear I couldn't go on with my life and ignore them any longer."
"That's what Sasch said." Marr's heavy brows drew together.
"He was right." Davan reached out and touched his thick forearm, the dark hair crinkling under his fingertips. "But that doesn't mean you were wrong. Like you said, people still have to eat. You're doing exactly what you need to do."
"The fighting seems to be growing worse recently, coming closer to home," Marr changed the subject. "We used to hear rumors about battles on other planets, but now things are happening right on Theon."
Davan couldn't tell him that was because they'd only recently established an on-planet base. The less Marr knew, the better. If by chance they were both arrested, Marr couldn't tell what he didn't know.
He shifted, trying to get more comfortable on the air mattress. He'd slept on much worse, but his leg was aching again and he couldn't find a comfortable position.
"Is there anything else I can get for you?"
Marr sounded like he was getting ready to leave. Davan knew he should thank him again for all his help and let him go, but he didn't want to be left alone. The hours trapped underground in the dark had shaken him, not just the fear of discovery, but the long silence, lying still and alone with his thoughts. He wanted Marr to stay with him as long as he would.
"No I don't need anything, but I wouldn't mind your company," he finally admitted. "Tell me more about Theon or about farming. Tell me anything."
Marr stopped packing the box and settled beside Davan's pallet, one long leg stretched before him, the other bent with his folded arms resting on it. "So the meds aren't kicking in, you want me to dull your pain with boredom?"
Davan grinned. "I thought you said farm life was rewarding."
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean it's interesting. I can tell you my daily routine in one sentence. I get up, take care of the animals, eat, work in the fields, repair things, maybe do a little housework, eat dinner and I'm in bed about an hour after sundown. Theon's an agricultural planet, so everyone's story is pretty much like mine. Why don't you tell me something about your life, instead?"
"Oh, you know, pick pretty much any Gindre adventure and I've done it," Davan teased. "Fighting the henchmen, outwitting the evil mastermind, saving the pretty boy, it's all in a day's work for me. But seriously, everyone's life is a routine, isn't it? Mine is flying every day, as much as possible. Whether it's for business or pleasure or fighting, I spend most of my life in the air."
"What? You don't like flying?"
"I never have and never expect to. I don't want my feet off the solid ground. The mere idea makes me queasy."
"Didn't your mother make you try a food even if you didn't think you'd like it? Someday I'll take you up there and shake up your world. You won't ever want to come down again," Davan promised.
His words resonated in the air, suddenly sounding suggestive. Silence fell. Did he dare reach out and touch Marr's cheek, so close, only a few feet away where he sat beside the bed? What would the farmer do if Davan touched him? They'd only just met and under extreme circumstances, it was too soon, and yet Davan found himself doing exactly what he wanted to. His hand moved, almost of its own volition, and bridged the space between them.
Marr's face was warm beneath his palm. His jaw was rough with stubble, his skin weathered. The flex of muscle when he swallowed sent a pang of lust through Davan that crowded out the pain in his leg and awoke a different kind of ache in his groin.
Davan traced his thumb over the man's lower lip, tempting it to open, and it obeyed his command. Marr exhaled. His eyes glittered and drifted partway closed. Without words, he showed that he wanted Davan, too.
"I should go keep watch. The soldiers might come back." His nervousness was as obvious as his desire. He probably hadn't been with a man since his lover Sasch left. This was a big deal for him.
"Just a kiss. Or maybe two," Davan whispered, then added, "please." Without waiting for an answer, he leaned in, his leg screaming at the sudden shift, and covered Marr's mouth with his. The soft gulp the farmer made just before he kissed him sent another bolt of fire burning through his body.
Marr's lips yielded to the pressure of Davan's mouth. It didn't take much to prompt him into what he already wanted to do. He moved closer, snaking his hand around the back of Davan's neck and holding him steady. His tongue slid across Davan's lips.
Davan was exhilarated by the eager response and groaned as he stroked Marr's tongue with his own. Mouth to mouth they fused, inhaling each other's breath, becoming one. Davan gripped the other man's shoulder, feeling the warmth of muscle beneath his shirt and wishing he was touching bare skin.
Marr pulled away with a gasp. "Wait a minute. Wait!"
No, Davan wanted to protest and drag him over for another kiss.
But Marr wasn't leaving, he wasn't ending it. Instead, he moved from the dirt floor onto the mattress beside Davan, careful not to jar his leg as he slid beneath the blanket. The heat of that big body pressed against his supplied all the warmth Davan needed. He could've thrown the covers aside.