His fingers twine with mine, the uneven number of fingers leaving my pinky bereft. His thumb grazes mine and he stares down at our joined hands. "It's what they've always wanted for me." He pauses and then adds, "What I've always wanted."
"Then be happy," I exclaim. "When do you go?"
"A week from today."
My heart feels as if it's breaking all over again, but I keep smiling somehow. "Just enough time to set up a going-away party to send you off in style, then."
Ash holds my hand as we watch the human vid—something called Man-a-Kin or some such—and her gaze is firmly fixed on the screen. It's hard for me to concentrate, when all I want to do is soak in the sensation of her at my side. Her scent. The feel of her fingers laced with mine. The tiny laugh she makes when something happens on screen.
Six months ago, I'd have been thrilled to shake the dust of this planet off my boots and return to Homeworld for a chance to redeem myself. My family won't be easy to sway—they've not contacted me once since I was enrolled into the militia—but it's an opportunity, and one that I suspect won't come again. I like Risda and I like my job, but for years and years, I've hoped for a chance to prove my worth to them again. To show them that I'm not the loose thread in the family's tapestry. To make something of myself, something that I could be proud of after my stupid, foolish youth.
Six months ago, I hadn't met Ashley, though. Six months ago, I was unaware that my heart would be plucked right out of my chest and handed to a woman who pretends to be willfully ignorant rather than point out that she can't hear someone properly. She's grumpy and obstinate at the best of times. She's a terrible farmer, too.
She's also funny and full of dry wit and an indomitable spirit. She's clever and courageous and we can talk for hours on end about nothing at all.
I can't imagine my life without her.
And that's a problem, because Ash has indicated time after time that she doesn't want to be more than friends. That she certainly doesn't want a mesakkah touching her. I don't blame her. She's confessed that she was stolen from Earth by bounty hunters of my species and that they abused her before selling her off. It's taken a long time for her to trust again, and I cherish that she actually trusts me.
The problem is that I still think about her drunken groping. I think about how she licked my neck and grabbed my cock. I think about that all the time, and it both makes me ache and fills me with misery. I'm like a comet that's ventured too close to paradise, lured into her gravitational pull and doomed to crash and burn. Every day I spend with her has me yearning for more, and at some point, it's going to be too much.
My unrequited love is going to turn to bitterness, or anger, and I don't want that. Ashley deserves better than that.
So it's best that I go after all.
Best that I go, because when our hands are joined and resting on her thigh like they are right now, I won't think about how I want to shove her legs apart and bury my face between them. I won't think about the sounds she makes when I'm deep inside her, or what her hungry mouth will lick. I need to go, and there's no better time than now.
Khex is getting a promotion and leaving. Will you help me throw him a going-away party? I think he'd really like it! He enjoyed the get-together at your place and I figure you know his friends better than I do.
Of course I'd be happy to help! But omg, you must be devastated. Are you okay?
I'm fine. Like I keep saying, we're just friends. I'll miss him terribly but I want this for him. He's excited for the opportunity and I'm excited for him. — A
If you say so. A good man on this end of the universe is hard to find, though. Once you find one, you need to climb him like a tree. That's all I'll say! Oh, and do you want to have the party here? Or at your place? — L
Your place, please! — A
The day of the party looms and I want to crawl into a hole in the ground and never emerge again. Khex has been gone all week, wrapping up projects and checking in on some colonists to let them know of his departure. It's giving me a glimpse of what the future will be like without him around, and I hate it. I feel even lonelier than ever, even though my data pad is abuzz with messages from Lucy and others that will be going to the party.