Movie Night, Part 1 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 8)

After the sweet ending of their date night, our heroes are having second thoughts.

Adelie met with Leslie on Sunday afternoon to go for a run in the little nearby park, like they did every week. It had rained in the morning, and there were a lot of puddles on the paths, splashing up high when they ran through them. The first laps were usually spent in silence until they’d found their rhythm, but Adelie guessed from Leslie’s impatient side glances that she was dying to know what had happened at the Marmoset the night before.
“So?” Her friend finally blurted out on their third pass of the statue of General Guisan.
“So what? It was a lovely evening.” Adelie wasn’t sure if she wanted to relate anything more. The mere thought of their kiss still made her lips tingle. She hadn’t heard from him since, and she didn’t know what to think of the whole thing herself.
“A lovely evening.” Leslie huffed. “Adelie, I know you long enough to know that when you’re stingy with words, something more than ‘lovely’ has happened.”
Shoot. There was no way to avoid confessing now. “We danced. We kissed each other good-bye.”
“You let him kiss you? Did he make you drunk to achieve that?” Leslie abruptly stopped and pushed her fists into her pink tracksuit cladded sides. “You said he was honourable!”
“Woah, I didn’t say the kiss wasn’t honourable. And maybe I instigated it?” Adelie couldn’t help but smirk at her friend, even though she knew that this would make her furious.
“You did WHAT?”
She turned and fell back into running. “Leslie, I know that it probably wasn’t the smartest move on my side. It’s just…” She stopped again. “I don’t know. When I’m with him, I just feel good. He has shown me his vulnerable side, and I feel safe enough with him to do the same. I know you just see the unscrupulous womaniser in him, but I swear he’s more than that. So… kissing him was just a natural progression of the events. It felt right then. And he’s a good kisser.”
Leslie’s impression changed from agitated to concerned. “So why do you think it wasn’t a smart move to kiss?”
Adelie tightened the elastic on her ponytail. “Before it was just playful banter. Flirting. Neither of us venturing out so far that we could get hurt. Both playing it safe. This… this has changed now.”
Leslie touched her arm, her blue eyes wide with worry. “Why?”
“Because now the cards are on the table. We need to make our next move, and I hate to say it, but all involved parties could suffer a broken heart.”
The ran a lap without saying a word. Eventually, Leslie stopped again.
“I’m sorry.”
“Pardon?” Adelie brushed back a pert strand and gave her friend a surprised look.
“Because I acted stupidly. I just realised that he’s not just a cute boy who goes around and breaks hearts with intention. I never thought that he might do it to protect his own. And that there must be more to him when he manages to win your friendship and possibly your heart. You’re not a fool, and I forgot that too. If you think he’s worthy, I should not berate you for believing so. I’m sorry.”
“Hey, Les.” Adelie pulled her friend into a hug. “I know where you’re coming from. We’re all a product of our experiences. Sometimes this is helpful; sometimes it’s not. You know what – let’s call this off, have a shower and go pig out at Schmitz’s Caf√©. I need some cake.”
***
Nate found Eddy in the workshop, cleaning the rusty engine he’d pulled out of his latest restoration project.
“Hey man, need any help?”
Eddy glanced up and nodded towards a wire brush. “Sure. What do you want to talk about? Did your date not go well?”
“We kissed.”
“So what’s wrong?”
Nate took the brush and started to clean a rusty spot on the engine. “I don’t know what to do.”
This made Eddy look up for good. “You’re in neck-deep, aren’t you?” Nate could only nod. “Well, I can’t blame you. If I were straight, I’d fall for her too.”
Nate laughed. “Sure you would, she’s an ex-racer.”
“And pretty to boot. C’mon.” Eddy put down his own wire brush and motioned towards the rickety bench in front of the workshop. He pulled a crumpled cigarette packet out of the coverall’s breast pocket and lit one up. “Sit down. Tell me. What’s the trouble?”
“You know when you’re with someone, and it feels like you’ve known them for ages, even if you haven’t? I feel as if I’ve known her since our nappy days. We just click.”
“Not the worst place to start a relationship from?”
“True. And I really like her. She’s my workshop buddy and my study partner and… and my best friend. I don’t want to lose her. But what if I ultimately find that this relationship thing isn’t for me?”
Eddy puffed a cloud of smoke into the washed out sky. “A true, stable relationship isn’t far away from what best friends are. Yes, you have the sex and the kisses too, but ultimately and hopefully, you and your partner are also best friends. Because if you’re not, once the hormones have settled down, things won’t work out. I can’t tell you what to do. I can tell you what I’ve seen, though. You spent a lot of time with Adelie and a lot less with other girls lately. You already prefer her.”
Nate cleared his throat. “I just don’t want to hurt her.”
“Do you want a piece of advice?”
“Sure.”
“Forget about not hurting her. You will, sooner or later. And she will hurt you. This is the thing with being together, you can’t avoid hurting each other. But there’s always the potential of coming out as a stronger couple on the other side.”
Nate stared ahead, more talking to himself than to Eddy. “Is it all worth the risk?”
Eddy slap-grabbed his shoulder and shook him. “Nate, jeez, of course it is. Christ, buddy, people you click with aren’t waiting around every corner! How often have you found a woman willing to spend time with you in a dingy garage?”
Nate leant back, rubbing his face. “Never. The truth is, I’ve never found a woman like her. When she’s around the air tastes better, and the colours are more vibrant. Her smiles… oh god, her smiles. And she has this tiny watercolour kit and is always painting. It’s amazing what she’s seeing and capturing. Do you know how utterly fascinating a glass of water can be? How the light breaks, and how it magnifies things behind it…”
Eddy laughed. “Do you hear yourself? You’re gushing.”

The Marmoset, Part 5 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 7)

In which our heroes deal with some unfinished business.

The drive home was quiet, both of them occupied with their thoughts. Only as he pulled into her street and killed the engine in front of her house, Nate realised he wasn’t ready for the evening to come to an end. Her fingers entwined with his on the short way up to her door. Every step brought him closer to saying goodbye. His heart raced as she stopped and turned to him, gracing him with a gaze that made him feel three sizes taller and like a king. Dancing together had evaporated all borders of personal space, at least for tonight – she stood deliciously close to him, her hand brushing his arm. A mischievous smile danced over her face, and she cocked her head.
“You should persuade me to go on romantic dates with you more often.”
“If you let me…”
She laughed softly. “Sorry for being so hard to convince sometimes.” Continue reading

The Marmoset, Part 4 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 7)

In which Jake plays an unfortunate part.

Jake ushered his lady towards their turn on the dance floor almost as soon as they got back. Nate didn’t mind having Adelie for himself a little longer. She sat next to him and watched the dancing couples, one hand supporting her chin, the other resting on his thigh. He reached out and traced a finger over her beautiful pale back, dewy with transpiration from dancing herself.
“Hey.” She turned towards him and nestled into his opened arm. “What’s up?” Her eyes were almost black in the dim light of the lamp hanging over their table.
“Nothing. You look a million credits tonight… it’s hard to resist not touching you.”
A throaty laugh. “Thank you.”
“Are you having fun?”
She nodded, “Yes! Beautiful venue, great music, great drinks, and very agreeable company.”
“Agreeable? Just agreeable?” He poked her shoulder, and she giggled happily, shifting even closer. Continue reading

The Marmoset, Part 3 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 7)

Things get finally to the sizzle point…

Nate wondered if he’d finally met a woman too hot to handle. Adelie was not only breathtakingly beautiful and dressed to the nines, but she also was not evading him in any way. He was failing spectacularly at keeping his hands to himself, and she apparently had no interest in telling him he should stop. Their bodies had a conversation of their own, and there was a chance it became anything but civil soon. He needed to get her on the dance floor. He needed to be alone with her. He gave Jake an asking glance. Good wingman that he was, he just smiled and nodded him a go ahead, then focused again on his own woman.
Nate leant close to Adelie, whispering in her ear: “Do you want to test the dance floor?”
She turned her head and whispered back, her lips tantalisingly close to his skin: “I’d love to.”
“Well then, let’s go.” Continue reading

The Marmoset, Part 2 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 7)

More fluttery butterflies in Adelie’s stomach.

Adelie watched him steering the little sports car calmly and confidently. It was obvious that Nate enjoyed driving it, but he wasn’t a show off driver, a quality she esteemed greatly. They weren’t talking, but the silence wasn’t uncomfortable. Now and then, he quickly looked over, their eyes met, and he smiled. At a red light, he fitted his hand over hers resting on the middle console, threading his fingers through hers, thumb brushing along her index finger.
“Do you like dancing?” He asked.
She caught his thumb with hers. “Actually, I do. Do you dance?”
He smiled happily at her. “I love it.”
Fingers tightened around fingers in happy anticipation. Then the light turned green, and he had to let go of her hand. Continue reading

The Marmoset, Part 1 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 7)

In which Leslie turns into a protective mother hen and Nate forgets that Adelie is a former racer.

Leslie sat in one of Adelie’s armchairs, ready for another night shift. Her uniform was starched and ironed, and her nurse cap throned between two perfect blonde victory rolls. Her mouth was twisted in disapproval. “I wish I was your mother, so that I could say ‘No, you’re not going on a date with him.’ Seriously, have you lost your mind? Aren’t there any other cute boys worth your attention?”
Adelie adjusted her earring in the bathroom mirror and took a step back to see through the door. “Frankly, no. Nate is a wonderful human being, once you get past his womaniser shell.” Returning to perfecting her appearance, she picked the bottle of her favourite perfume and dabbed the fluid carefully behind her ear. “I like him; I like him a lot. He cares, he’s never dull, and I’m happy to tell you, he has never stepped out of line once.” She walked out of the bathroom to put on her shoes. As she shimmied into her stiletto heels, she heard Leslie gasp. Continue reading

Calibrations, Part 5 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 6)

In which it is time to face the music.

“She’s gorgeous. You have great taste.” Adelie never reacted in the way he expected. Nate didn’t quite know how to answer the compliment.
“Uh, thanks?” Avoiding his look, she played with the napkin holder, biting her lips. “You’re not holding her up against me, are you?” He asked.
She shook her head and sat upright with a sigh. “No. I can’t, can I? It’s just… weird. Weird to see you with another woman.” She aligned the napkin holder with the condiments tray. “I think I’m a little bit jealous.”
“Jealous?” Of all things, this was the last he’d expected her to be.
She turned and contemplated him openly. Her gaze swept over his chest and shoulders, lingered briefly on his mouth, wandered over his cheeks, forehead, nose and came to a halt at his eyes. She licked her lips and sighed again. “You’re gorgeous. It’s not like I didn’t notice.”
He raised his eyebrows. “So? If you want me, you can have me. You know I’m a full-service guy.” Continue reading

Calibrations, Part 4 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 6)

In which one of Nate’s nurses makes an appearance.

“You don’t like Eden?” Nate guessed.
Adelie sighed. “Eden itself is beautiful. There’s no place quite as beautiful, and I’ve seen a lot of other planets. But it’s still a relatively small colony, they’re still not done with populating the first continent. It’s perfect for adventures in unexplored regions if you’re into that sort of thing, but my mother never let me go. It wasn’t befitting for a baroness to go exploring.”
“You sound like life there was like a bird cage for you.”
She nodded. “I had everything and nothing at the same time. I had tasted freedom on the Planet 500 tour, and settling back in was very hard. I felt like I hit the brakes at full speed. Everything had come to a halt. That’s probably why Christopher had such an easy time fooling me. Only that he loved my status and my money more than me. And I so want to be loved for myself and not just for my status and what comes with it.”
“But you are!” He blurted out, unable to stop himself.
She craned her head and smiled at him. “Am I?” Continue reading

Calibrations, Part 3 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 6)

The ugly mess that are broken hearts.

He felt her taking a deep breath. And another.
“Christopher…” Her voice was strained, and she swallowed hard. Then she sat upright, still looking like if she was on the verge of tears. Adelie pushed back a strand of hair and looked into the garden, where silver veils of rain danced in front of the flower beds. “He made me believe I was in love. He played me like a stupid fiddle, and I was too blind to see it because I was bored to death after my return from racing. Then, the evening before our wedding, I finally saw it as what it was: a ploy to gain rank and status. The house of cards collapsed.”
“Holy shit.” He put his arm around her shoulder, needing to comfort her. She nestled into his embrace, her forehead resting against his collarbone. “I had no idea you were practically standing in front of the altar as the relationship failed. I’m so sorry, Lily. That must have hurt… that must have hurt.” Continue reading

Calibrations, Part 2 (Alpha & Omega, Chapter 6)

Decisions over paint chips and matters of the heart.

Holding her, even just as loosely as Nate was holding her now, was the best thing in the world. Adelie had installed herself in his life in a way he’d never imagined as he’d opened the door to let her in. Her smiles, her conversation, even her teasing – there was something profoundly missing when she wasn’t there. The colours were brighter when she was around, with her travel sized watercolour kit and her determination to capture happy memories.
“Why don’t you just snap a picture?” He once had asked, as she sat in the middle of the workshop yard, painting the garage and his bike, hair aglow like spun bronze in the setting sun.
“It’s not the same,” she had answered, “the emotion is missing. This is how I see it with my soul.”
As a former racer, she was good with a wrench and not afraid to get dirty. No more blindly groping for tools, she handed him the right one before he could ask and he missed her second set of hands every time she wasn’t there to help him.
He tried not to think about what this meant. Instead, he pulled her a smidgen closer and mumbled: “Too be honest, I was looking for something the shade of your lipstick. It’s the perfect juicy red.”
She giggled. “You’re in luck, I have it in my purse. Let’s compare.” She freed herself from his tender embrace and fetched the tote bag sitting on a chair. They picked the closest matches and Adelie held her lipstick next to them.
“This one comes quite close. Or this. The others are either too blue or too orange, don’t you think?”
His glance clung to her lips, and she probably could have read him the space force’s code of conduct, he’d still be as mesmerised. Even after all the weeks he knew her, he hadn’t gotten used to her beauty, her appeal, and it still had the power to derail his brain. Other women had vanished from his radar completely.
“Nate? What do you think? This red, or this red? I think this one would look fantastic with metallic flakes to add some depth.” She looked at him with raised eyebrows, holding up two paint chips. Focus buddy.
***
“Pick the one you like best. I trust you more with this than myself.” He was somewhere else with his thoughts, Adelie could tell, and she could also tell that these thoughts had something to do with her. She had no idea what to think about this fact.
“This is flattering, but I’d like to wait and see how they look when it’s sunny.” Resolutely she reunited the two paint chips with their brothers on the table and snuggled back into her corner of the swing. Nate was still watching her, a pensive look on his face. She prodded his thigh with her knee. “Why so gloomy?”
A smile flared up like an old aerobeacon. “I’m not gloomy. I thought about our summer adventures. How much fun we had. I’m gonna miss our weekends together.”
She scooted over and used him as a backrest. His arm naturally fell around her shoulder. Calm spread through her like it always did when they were close. “Why d’you think we won’t spend time together over fall and winter?”
A soft chuckle. “Because it’s unusual enough that you were willing to spend your summer weekends in the dirty garage. It’s freezing cold and uncomfortable in the winter, even with the oven glowing red. And we won’t be able to take trips to the coast and visit our secret cove, either.”
“There are some art galleries in town I could drag you to,” she suggested. “If you need a reason to meet up, that is.”
His chest expanded in her back, then air left it forcefully. “What d’you mean, Lily?”
She sat up and turned around so that she could see his face. “I mean that I’d be perfectly happy with holing up with you here or at my place. Watching movies, or something.” She took a deep breath and stared at their touching knees. “I liked being here because I had you for myself. I don’t need trips to the coast or an art gallery opening as an excuse. I… I just want to spend time with you.”
Nate remained silent for a minute that stretched into eternity. She couldn’t meet his gaze, so she kept on staring at their legs. Eventually, he moved, reached out for her face and gently lifted it. Embarrassed, she blinked as their eyes met. Sun-faded indigo, little dabs of Prussian blue, streaks of almost white. His irises were an endlessly fascinating kaleidoscope of different hues of blue. His wool sweater was soft under her palms as she slid them over his chest. Nate himself radiated a comfortable warmth. His hand moved from her chin to her cheek, cradling her face.
“My little Spitfire,” he whispered. “Beautiful, fierce, little Spitfire.”
The sharp memory of Christopher and his lovely words that meant nothing stabbed her heart again and the pain must’ve shown on her face. Nate furrowed his brows and pulled back a little.
“What’s the matter? Did I say something wrong?”
She shook her head, blinking back the tears. Hoping that her voice would not crumble, she said: “No, no, not you.”
He tugged her close, and she gave in to the impulse of finding shelter in the crook of his neck. Nate had always been open and honest, and she wished she could believe that what he said was true. That she was his little Spitfire. That she could trust him.
“What did this asshole do to you?”