Disclaimer: This is a free work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Copyright © 2020 Rhea V. May. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form, by an electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except quoted brief passages in a review, post, article or other pieces of content. This work is intended for mature audiences only (18+).
Terran Prime station—the Ark, 2398 TST
She’d grown used to finding Kalon in the kitchen when she awakened, but this morning she found it empty and cold. The quirky scientist preferred traditionally cooked meals, and she would admit he was a decent cook. Unlike herself, who could barely boil water.
“Luna, have you seen my—” She turned around to find the tall Tul-Khamin in the doorway, gaping at her. Her own eyes widened; she’d never seen him looking so disrupted. “You look nice,” he stammered. He dropped his eyes to the floor after he gave her a quick appraisal, the action uncharacteristically shy for the otherwise blunt Rakh’Sha.
Figured. Every day for this past week, Luna had been extra careful with her appearance, wearing her sexiest dresses under the lab coat (unsuitable for a work environment, but dang it, she was a woman on a mission), and he’d never looked at her twice. So of course, he’d compliment her now, when she was dressed in her pajamas and wore a full crown of bed hair.
“Good morning to you too,” she mumbled, turning back to the food dispenser, tapping on her choice.
“Yes, sorry. Good morning. Have you seen my notes from last night? I thought I left them on my desk, but they’re not there.” She heard him approach, then saw his tail flicking at her left from the corner of her eyes.
She tapped her foot on the floor as she waited for the dispenser to spit out her eggs and yawned. “They were in the bathroom.” She pointed to a stack of papers on the small table in the breakfast nook. “Found them this morning. Some in the shower stall, some on the counter by the sink.” For such a logical and methodical man, Kalon was curiously scatterbrained with his possessions.
Kalon sighed. “Right. Sorry about that. Oh, no, you can’t eat that. I’ll make you breakfast. Sit.” He pointed to the table at their back and snatched the plate fresh out of the dispenser from her hands. “You need real protein. I’m thinking Baracanali, hm?”
Luna groaned. “Baracanali? Again?”
He angled his head in her direction, lips pursed. “What’s wrong with Baracanali? They’re a healthy option for breakfast. Back home, we have the seeds for breakfast each day. They’re full of minerals and vitamins and nutrients and very filling. They support the digestion and—”
He stopped his usual pitch with a palm over his lips. “—give you the energy necessary to start out your day, just right,” she finished his sentence. “I know. I just wanted some damn eggs, even if the protein’s artificial.”
Kalon frowned. “Humans and your disgusting eating habits,“ he mumbled around her hand.
“Disgusting? Really?” She laughed. “What’s disgusting about artificially enhanced food?”
“Exactly that. It’s not real. You’re tricking your own body.”
Luna shrugged. “It’s space food.” Of course, with Kalon’s reaping of vegetables and fruits in the little greenhouse a level above the lab, she had access to real food for now. But she lived in space for most of her life, and she craved the empty calories more often than not.
“Sit.” His command came out stern, and he made a little shooing motion with his hands to reinforce it.
Luna grinned and shook her head at his antics, but followed the request. Silence blanketed the room as Kalon worked, but it wasn’t the awkward, stifling kind. Luna cradled her cheek in her palm, watching him flit around the kitchen.
She wanted him. Wanted the Rakh’Sha male like she has wanted no one in her life before. Every time she saw a glimpse of his muscled body, her most intimate parts heated and tingled. She wanted to rake her fingers through his silky fuzz, devour his plump lips.
Thus, she’d started a slow game of seduction. Unfortunately, all her attempts flew right over his head.
At least he didn’t shrink away from her touch anymore. That was progress.
On the other hand, he appeared to see her as nothing but a colleague, a friend. She glowered at the table in the front of her. How could she make him see her?
A plate appeared under her nose, the mashed Baracanali seeds artfully decorated with blueberry syrup. “Thanks.”
Kalon put down his own plate and took a seat opposite her. “Leh’teva.”
“Leh’teva,” she returned the good wishes, which translated roughly as ‘bon appetite’.
Kalon interrupted the silence after a minute. “Do you still have the specs for your father’s telescope?”
The Baracanali curdled in her stomach. “Yes. Why?” She affected a nonchalant tone, even if her insides were somersaulting at the mention of her father. She decided against telling Kalon the truth about how her parents had died, preferring to provide him with the same rough sketch that was more believable.
Kalon hummed, tilting his head up, a faraway look in his eyes as he studied the ceiling. “I… have a new theory, and based on what you said it can do, I need your father’s telescope to prove it.”
“Is this about our finding from the other day?”
Kalon’s expression soured. Luna knew he wasn’t pleased with the discovery, but he had to see how much impact it would have on the scientific community.
“Kalon,” she began, putting a palm on his arm resting on the table between them. “I’d wish you reconsider and join me on the paper I’m writing regarding our finding.”
He scoffed. “Why you’re bothering with that insignificant information, I’ll never understand.”
“It’s not insignificant. That’s how progress is made, bit by bit. Theory by theory. It may not be what you set out to find, but it’s still something. And no one had discovered this slight thing about the Kalthera yet, I checked.”
“My goal was to prove the Kalthera were sentient. Not to learn the whole reason for the plant’s existence was this type of specific radiation on which they feed.” Kalon exhaled sharply and rubbed a palm over his forehead.
She hated seeing him looking so dejected. She got up and circled the table until she could throw an arm over his slumped shoulders. Kalon grumbled but accepted her half-hug. Kneeling next to him, she gripped his hands and looked him straight into the eyes. “Kalon, listen. You cannot give up. Think about it. For months, you’ve been at a stalemate and then I came and in less than a week we discovered this. Imagine what’s next. Even if you think it’s worthless, this new finding of ours, perhaps it’s just the first step toward definite proof of your initial premise.”
He blinked at her, a rather fond look in his eyes. “Where have you been all my life?”
Luna’s breath hitched at his words. Was he…?
“I know it’s too soon to say it, because we’ve known each other for such a brief time, but you’re the best lab partner I had!”
Her hopes came to a screeching halt once she processed his words. What? She jumped to her feet and shoved his shoulder forcefully. “You infuriating, oblivious, ignorant, insensible—” Another shove punctuated each word. “—brute!”
“Luna!” He abandoned his seat, taking a few steps back from her. “What has gotten into you?”
Her chest heaved, hands balled into fists by her side. She growled and turned on her heels, stomping out of the kitchen. She opened the door to her bedroom and slammed it shut, then ran to her bed and threw herself on it, grabbing a pillow and screaming into it. Her behavior was childish, she knew, but she’d never met a man as exasperating as Kalon.
A knock sounded on her door a second later. “Luna?”
She growled again. “Go away!” she yelled.
“I’m coming in,” he announced a beat before the handle turned and the door opened.
Luna jumped out of bed and waited until he took two steps inside her bedroom and closed the door behind him, before she hurried to him and pushed him against it. She realized they must look ridiculous. She, a petite woman, barely reaching the middle of his chest, pinning a Rakh’Sha male of his size.
They regarded each other in silence for long seconds. His eyes were wide and full of questions. Hers were narrowed and full of longing masked as anger.
“I apologize, Luna. I did not intend to upset you—”
“Shut up,” she hissed. “Just shut up. God, you have no idea, do you?” She shook her head ruefully, removing her hand from his chest and taking two steps backward, turning to look away from him.
The room was still for long moments. The only things she could hear were his chuffing breaths.
She realized she’d been unfair in blaming him for his inattentiveness and disregard. It hadn’t been intentional on his part. It was just how he was built. Plus, he wasn’t a human man, so she’d better stop regarding him through those lenses, constantly comparing his behavior to anything remotely human.
Sure, they were hundred of years away from how it used to be. Humans understood the rest of the Thirteen Races better than in the older days, and vice versa.
Though, it didn’t mean misunderstandings such as the one between them didn’t occur more often than not. That was expected when you mixed vastly different societies together.
Luna felt a heat at her back, and then his hands were cupping her shoulders, claws resting gently against her collarbone.
“Will you tell me what went wrong?” he asked, his exhales ruffling her hair.
She closed her eyes and sighed. “Nothing. It… doesn’t matter, Kalon. I apologize for my outburst.”
“It matters because you’re obviously upset,” he countered, forcing her to face him.
“It’s stupid,” she murmured, now embarrassed. Her chin tilted as she studied the floor.
With a knuckle under her jaw, he made her look at him. Their eyes connected. His were swirling with an indefinable emotion. “Please…”
Luna huffed and pulled away, turning her back on him again and hugging her middle. “I, uh… “ She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then let the truth rush out of her. “IthoughtyouwereasattractedtomeasIamtoyou.”
“What?” Kalon’s expression was the epitome of masculine cluelessness.
Luna rolled her eyes and huffed. “I’m attracted to you,” she repeated, slower this time. “And I thought you like me, too.”
Suddenly, Kalon released her, jerking away from her. Her expression crumbled, but she tightened her jaw, refusing to allow the traitorous tears to fall.
Then he started chuckling.
She saw red. Just as she was about to rip him a new one, he spoke again. “Goddess, I must be the stupidest male alive.” He chuckled again. Then, with a shocked expression: “Wait, were you trying to… seduce… me?” His features morphed into suspicion. “You? Seduce me?”
Luna threw up her hands. “Is that so hard to believe?”
“Yes,” he fired back immediately. He cleared his throat. “I mean, usually, it goes the other way for my kind. Males compete, vying for a female’s attention. Not…”
She waved his words away with an impatient hand. “I’m not Rakh’Sha. I’m a human woman, raised in a completely different society, freer and more balanced than my ancestors strived for on the old Earth. So, I’m not afraid to speak my mind, nor to express my desires.” Her voice turned husky. “State my claims.”
Kalon shuddered, but he tried to hide it behind his defiance. “I am not to be claimed. I will not become anyone’s thing or possession. It’s what I fought against my entire life.”
She approached him with hooded eyes, placing a palm on his chest. “Silly Rakh’Sha. Can’t you tell it goes both ways?”
She nodded. “It does.”
He mulled this over, his eyes pinging back and forth between hers. Then he sighed and stepped back. Her arm flopped between them, heavy and tired. “I… I can’t. Luna… Goddess. I’m not… I never—” He groaned, frustrated at himself, as he turned away from her and started pulling his hair at the roots.
Luna’s eyes went wide, and she covered her parted lips with a dainty palm. “You mean you’ve never…”
Kalon exhaled heavily. “I’m a Rakh’Sha male. They prohibit sex outside of mating.” His tone was bitter. “Not that I found myself interested in a female.”
“Oh.” Did that mean he preferred men? Or perhaps he was asexual. On wooden legs, she stumbled to her bed and collapsed on it, burying her face in her palms. She was utterly embarrassed.
Powerful arms enveloped her. “Until you. I meant I’ve never found myself interested in anyone until you.” He growled and muttered something to himself. “Forgive this inarticulate fool.”
Her head snapped up. “You mean we can… “ Suddenly, she felt like a teenager, shy and unsure. Even demure. She was blushing furiously.
He gave her a slight smile. “If you’ll have me.”
“I’d be honored, Kalon.” She knew her reply could never encapsulate all the feelings zinging inside of her, but he seemed to understand, for his smile turned blinding in the next second.
This changed everything. She’d never been in the role of a teacher before. A thrill went off inside her at the thought. She was excited to show him… all!
They’d start slow, she decided. She forced herself to pull back, for now. Clearing her throat, she said, “So, about that telescope…”
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