The Green Fairy, Part 1 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 4)

pilot_concept_by_garang76-d34vdyh

Pilot Concept by AdmiraWijaya on DeviantArt

Adelie grants Nate a glimpse into the harsh reality of being a woman in their craft.

Adelie’s professional face rarely showed emotion besides a polite smile. Now a deep crease sat between her brows and her mouth was a thin, hard line as she entered the Officer’s Club. Nate excused himself from his flight mates and walked over to where she stood at the bar, ordering something to drink.
“What’s up, Spitfire?”
“Nothing.” She grumbled, but the frown softened as she turned towards him.
“Need to vent?” He pointed at an empty table in a quiet corner. A reluctant smile and a nod. He took her elbow and steered her towards the table. “Tell Uncle Nate what’s bothering you?”
“I was just kindly reminded that some people think this here is not my place to be in.” She sighed, leaning into her chair. “When I was a racer, I had to deal with a lot of misconceptions and prejudice against women in the field. I’ve heard my fair share of jokes about of the female inability to park a car, I can tell you. I thought I learned how to deal with degrading comments back then. And…” She made a frustrated sound and took a gulp of her lemonade.
“And…?” Nate asked.
“Only 20% of all applicants are admitted into one of the academies. 8% are good enough pass flight school. I foolishly thought, with the selection process being as harsh as it is… I thought we would all stick together, no matter our gender? I was so, so wrong. And I’m sick of it. I’m one of 24 in the Albatross Squadron. I’m consistently in the Top 5 of the leaderboard…”
“This is a polite way to say that you’ve been leading the ranks since forever.” He interrupted her, but she merely waved his argument away.
“I think I’ve proven over and over again that I’m worthy to sit in the cockpit, but no. Once more some little prick thinks he needs to tell me I’m degrading the Space Force with my presence behind the stick.”
He took her hand, which restlessly pounded the table, and wrapped it between his own. “I doubt he can fly the Double Richthofen with your precision. Who was the idiot?”
Before she could answer, they were interrupted by one of Adelie’s flight members.
“Ah, the Princess. Trying to distract your only worthy opponent to eliminate further competition?”
He turned to face Pat “Parachute” Bukowski’s oily smile. “Excuse me?”
But before he could put Bukowski into his rightful place, Adelie was on her feet, carefully setting down her glass on the table. “Have you all lost your minds today?” She stood to her full height, shoulders squared, legs apart. Something in her stance had changed, although Nate couldn’t quite tell what it was. She suddenly had an intimidating air of authority, and he could very well imagine the officer she would once become.
“I don’t think someone flying ten ranks below me is in the position to tell me how I should handle competition, Parachute.”
She turned on her heel and left the Club in measured steps, head held high. Everybody made way before her, resulting in an image that reminded Nate of a queen leaving court.
“Nice try, chap. Get ice for the burn.” He slapped the gobsmacked Pat on the shoulder and followed Adelie out of the club.

Laundry and Lemonade, Part 4 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 3)

lamborghini_las_vegas_by_dejz0r-d52dk5h

Lamborghini Las Vegas by dejz0r on DeviantArt

Nate discovers that Adelie is not the sort of Baroness he was expecting.

“Is that what you liked about racing too?” Nate asked as their food arrived. With glee, he noticed how delighted she appeared to be about her lemon meringue pie.
“Getting into racing was a lot about freedom too, but not so much the high-velocity variety. It gave me a reason to get away.”
He put down his fork which he had raised to attack his double chocolate fudge cake. “Get away from what?”
Adelie sighed. “The norms. The conventions. The expectations. I spent a year and a half on the Planet 500 tour just to be away from home. Not that being on a race tour is particularly fun either, but way more fun than being stuck with another fundraising gala.”
“And the food is better?”
She laughed. “It doesn’t require a formal dress and absurdly high heels.”
His brain suggested a mental picture of Adelie in a floor-length dress, a narrow skirt and bodice showing off her amazing figure, hair falling over naked shoulders… and then Adelie in nothing but expensive lingerie she’d likely wear under such a dress, stretched out on black sheets. He was convinced she was the kind of woman who had some expensive lace and silk in her drawer. He focused on his cake, crossing his legs to keep things decent.
“Is the chocolate cake not good?” She sounded worried.
“Oh, it’s excellent; why’re you asking?” He kept his eyes on the plate.
“Because you look a bit strained.” Shoot. She was very perceptive.
“I guess I’m a bit tired from the match this morning.” He barely made it across the line, but it was enough to pacify her curiosity.
“Oh goodness, I totally forgot. Were you successful?”
He pushed a bite of cake into his mouth and nodded. By the time he swallowed, he had regained enough control over his body to be able to make eye contact and answer without sounding like in pain. The jeans were still too darn tight. “Yes, we won with a comfortable lead of 20 points.”
She beamed. “Oh, fantastic! Well done.”
“What sort of cars were you racing?” This probably was a safe topic.
“At first an ELF Tornado and later, on the tour, an ELF Hurricane. Very reliable cars.”
Nate had once seen an ELF standing in the workshop yard, and it only had been the street version. Its idling engine sound had rattled the window panes. “Very fast too. And loud.”
“Oh yes. I never understood why people actually came to the races, you’re practically deaf afterwards.”
Something occurred to him. “Why did you stop racing?”
Adelie slumped back into her chair and looked out of the window, granting him the view of her perfect profile. “My brother had a stupid accident – on a regular street, in a regular car. It wasn’t even his fault, but still, he got out with almost every major bone broken and he had to spend a terribly long time in hospital. That was when my mother drew the line. Ordered me to come home instantly. Neither of us was allowed behind a steering wheel for quite some time. Not even my sister, who’s seriously the most defensive driver I’ve ever seen. I made a deal with my chauffeur: He drove me out of the driveway, around the corner, and that was where we would change places. He was thrilled to not having to drive, I still got my fix and my mother her peace of mind.”
He laughed. “You never got busted?”
“No.” She turned back to him, her eyes brimming with mischief.
“You’re not at all how I ever imagined a baroness.”
There was her defiant eyebrow again. “That’s probably because I’m the renegade baroness. My sister is very different.”
He reached across the table, took her hand and laced his fingers through hers. “I like you just the way you are.”
She grinned. “By the way, are you still interested in a rematch? How about tomorrow? Or are you afraid you’re going to lose again?”
Her gaze held his captive. “Afraid – of a puny girl? Never.”
“Famous last words, English?” She leant across the table. “I like losing as much as you do – not at all.”
He put his forehead against hers. “Are you challenging me, Princess?”
“You’re not a challenge.”
As he drove her back, he regretted that the fun for the day was already over. The afternoon had been too short, but there was the prospect of seeing her again the next day. He got out of the car to open her door.
“Always the gentleman,” she teased him. “Which reminds me: I still have your jacket.”
“You can return it to me tomorrow. We said at ten, right?”
“Yeah. At the gate.” She bit her lips as if she was pondering something. “Thanks for playing chauffeur.”
“You’re welcome. I understood it’s an honour to be allowed to drive you.”
She laughed and slapped him lightly on the shoulder. “Don’t let it get over your head.”
He took her hand. “I gonna try.”
Her glance got tangled in his, he felt her pulling away and drawing closer at the same time. Confusion flickered over her beautiful face, then it became impassive again, and she extracted her hand from his.
“See you tomorrow,” she said, slowly climbing the steps up the entrance.
“See you tomorrow, Princess.”
Before she vanished inside, she turned and waved, and he waved back.

Laundry and Lemonade, Part 3 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 3)

29_365___lemon_meringue_pie_by_mahou_koneko-d4nz4r1

29.365 – Lemon Meringue Pie by Mahou-Koneko on DeviantArt

Adelie finds herself being intrigued by Nate, as she discovers more and more things they have in common.

Having him right in front of her, without anything else to concentrate on, made it hard to look away. He had taken off his jacket, and his snuggly fitting t-shirt showed off his biceps to their best advantage. No wonder he had an easy time carrying her up that darn slope. The thought alone made her feel warm.
“You’re staring.” He had the guts to use her own words, to even tease her with them. She grinned, looking up into his blue, blue eyes.
“It’s hard not to. There’s a reason you’re so popular with nurses,” she teased right back. “But you know about your effect on women, so don’t feign innocence.”
He laughed, leant back into his seat, and pretended surrender in putting his hands up. “Wouldn’t even think about it.”
Before he could manage to corner her with the topic, the waiter arrived to take their orders.
“We have two Hensley’s lemon please,” he ordered for them. A man who remembered what she liked. That was new. Together they studied the menu. Nate not only knew the place, he also knew a lot about their cakes. His descriptions were so mouthwatering, she nearly ordered all of it. “You really like food,” she stated after they’d placed their orders. “I’d never thought someone could make me pine for eclairs.”
“Yes. It’s my passion.”
“Do you like to cook too?” She could very well imagine his elegant fingers prepping food. He chuckled and ran said fingers through his unruly hair, causing more chaos in it. Her own fingers twitched with the want to smooth it down.
“Yeah, I also like to cook.” He drew patterns onto the table, not meeting her eyes. He almost appeared ashamed of his interest.
“Good for you, I can’t cook to save my life. As I said, spoilt brat. But I love good food,” she offered, hoping it would make him smile. It did. In fact, he lifted his head and their eyes locked while he flashed her one of his amazing smiles that left her heart longing. “If you like food so much, why are we here, in a soda shop, and not in a proper restaurant?”
He laughed. “I didn’t expect you wanting to go out to dinner with me.”
Their hands touched over the table. Just the fingertips, but it was enough to jolt an electric current through her arm. She didn’t withdraw. “The only thing I really miss about my former life is the food. There were always the most amazing buffets ready for the drivers after the races. Not to mention the dinners on the social functions I was forced to attend. So if you’re looking for someone sampling restaurants with you, I’d be happy to help you out.”
His glance rested on her face, wandering over her cheeks, forehead, nose, meeting her eyes at last. He was intrigued. Their fingers had interlocked, and his thumb was stroking along her index finger again. Slowly. Seductively. She caught it with her own, arresting his movements. His sensual lips widened in a smile. “It’s hard to find a woman who appreciates good food for the sake of it. And indeed, I know some restaurants that would be perfectly wasted on a date who’s not enjoying getting her taste buds tickled.”
“Oh, come on – are you blaming the women going out with you not admiring the sumptuous treats enough? They have another treat sitting right in front of them.”
He leant back laughing and let go of her hand to run both hands through his hair. Oh goodness. She had to remind herself that she was not interested at all in finding out if he’d close his eyes like a lazy cat if she’d run her fingers through the wild mop. Get a grip on yourself. The roar of a powerful engine drew their eyes to the windows, where they could see a black, low laying limousine chasing some dawdling shoppers off the street.
“Tosser,” Nate grumbled.
“Ahem.”
“Sorry. But look at him… showoff car, but no manners at all.” He turned back to her, and his expression softened as their eyes met again. It had a weird effect on her.
“You’re not a car guy, are you? You’re more into motorcycles.” She inquired. He nodded.
“Yeah. More wind in your face. The sense of freedom that I feel when I zoom along an open road… A car doesn’t deliver this.”
She grinned. “I feel like that when I fly. Velocity pressing me in my seat, the roar of the thrusters, and only the horizon in front of me.”
“Yes! Flying is much like it. Minus the wind, though.”
They shared a glance and the peculiar vibe of meeting someone that ticked the same way grew stronger.

Laundry and Lemonade, Part 2 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 3)

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Cherry Red by IcarusHasFallen on DeviantArt

Nate finally gets a date with the elusive Baroness.

Adelie’s place was as very white and very elegant. A generous front of floor-length windows allowed for ample light to come in, even on a grey evening like this. She had a cosy looking love seat, and two armchairs arranged around a coffee table in front of the windows. There was a pot of tea on a warmer, and candles sitting in tall lanterns. Opposite of all this stood a large white bed, her desk, and a tall bookshelf. She also had a tiny kitchen, where her washing machine sat underneath the countertop. Nate was incredibly grateful that he could wait in one of the comfy leather armchairs, having a pleasant chat and a cup of tea, instead of having to wait on one of the wire benches at the laundromat without any company. Adelie lounged in the love seat, foot propped up and still wearing his hoodie. The sight tugged at some almost forgotten heartstrings.
“How was your day?” He asked, putting down his cup.
“It was okay. It wasn’t easy to reach the classrooms, and I had to skip combat training.” She brushed back a pert strand of hair falling into her face. “I’m glad I don’t have to hobble around anymore today. The new soda shop sounds interesting, though.” She smiled at him, and even though she obviously was tired and her foot probably bothered her more than she was willing to admit, it was like dawn was playing out on her face. The need for these smiles in his life grew steadily; irritatingly fast.
“I have a rugby game tomorrow morning. Ruins all the greatness of sleeping in on a Saturday, if you ask me. But if you want, we could check it out in the afternoon? If your foot is up to it, of course.”
She pulled up a knee and rested her chin on it, looking at him pensively. “Wouldn’t you be terribly tired after a game of rugby? I’d feel bad chasing you around town.”
He smiled at her. “You’re not chasing me around town. I’d get a sleek car from Eddy, I drive you around, and we have some lemonade down there. Sounds chill enough to me.”
He managed to get the cherry red two-door sedan from Eddy, which never failed to impress a girl with its generous curves and ample chrome accents. Eddy had also put in a lot of work into the interior, making it pretty with custom red and white striped upholstery.
“Riding a Chieftain, eh?” Adelie slowly made her way down the handful of steps leading to her building’s main entrance. She wasn’t limping anymore but still walked carefully. Today, she was wearing sneakers and white capri pants. She had tied her red sleeveless blouse over her belly button, allowing him a glimpse of creamy skin, which instantly put him into hot water. To redirect his thoughts, he focused on her face. Which was a mistake, because now he was confronted with a dancing ponytail of chestnut hair, warm brown eyes and red lips pursed into a welcoming smile. He pushed himself away from the hood, meeting her at the bottom, narrowly hindering himself to take her into his arms and at least hug her hello. They weren’t there yet.
“I admit, it’s a bit too much metal for my liking. But I can hardly pick you up on a motorcycle, can’t I?” He said jokingly.
She laughed and slipped her arm through his, leaning on him while walking to the car. His heart skipped a beat, then lurched into a frantic gallop. It had neither expected her sudden closeness nor the familiarity of her gesture. “Can’t you? I’ve never ridden one, I’d love to know how it feels.”
“Too bad my bike is a rusty pile of parts, pipes and two wheels leaning against a wall right now. I’d love to take you for a ride, but I need to restore her before I can do that.”
She wanted to know more, and so he told her about his project while they cruised down the road: How he found it buried in hay in an old barn, who the previous owner was and how long it was taking to bring it back to life. To his surprise, she readily commiserated with him about the difficulties he had trying to find spare parts. Adelie kept him always on his toes. Her enthusiastic reaction to his restoration project was just one of many examples. That she used to be a race car driver another. He learned so much about her in the last three days. It had been too long since he’d known more of a woman than how she looked after spending a night with him. It had been too long since he actually wanted to know more.
He tried to find a parking spot close to the soda shop, but they had no luck. Graham Boulevard was a major shopping street, and it was a busy afternoon. So he parked a block away, hoping her foot wouldn’t protest. He opened the car door for her. Adelie smiled at him, a lovely, honest, open smile, as she stepped out of the vehicle. Then she hooked her arm through his again and said: “Sorry – I still need you as my crutch.” He didn’t mind. Walking with her along the tree lined street while listening to her comfortable chatter was something he could’ve done for the rest of the afternoon. At one point, she stopped at a window display, asking for his opinion on a dress.
“I might be biassed, but I bet you’d look gorgeous in it,” he answered honestly.
Laughing she poked him in the ribs. “Oh, you’re already biassed?”
Thankfully, the soda shop was right next door.

Laundry and Lemonade, Part 1 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 3)

untitled_by_kristianna11-d7q80yh
Summer Rain by kristianna11 on DeviantArt

Adelie has a hard time convincing herself that she isn’t interested in Nate – with questionable success.

Adelie curled up on her love seat and poured herself another cup of tea. Her foot complained about a day of hobbling around campus, and she was firmly set on not moving anymore this night. Outside a light summer rain made the leaves on the trees shiny. Adelie snuggled deeper into a hoodie that wasn’t hers. It belonged to a man she barely knew, and it smelled of him. The musk of his aftershave, traces of motor oil and the personal fragrance of his body. Nate. Memories of the last evening were tied to that scent. Memories of his smile while they joked at the Lemon Tree, after a meal of burgers. The way he always ran his hand through his hair or rubbed his neck when he was flustered or thinking. How he’d offered his arm to lean on so that she could hobble the few steps to the diner. It was silly, but she was in awe of his strength. He’d carried her as if she was a featherweight and she certainly wasn’t. Her remark about it had led to him flexing his arm to let her feel his biceps, which she dutifully und giggly did. He deserved some admiration. They had laughed so much her cheeks had been aching in the end. That was when he’d wrapped her in his jacket because he had noticed her shivering.
“Don’t catch a cold, Princess. A hurt foot is enough malady for one day,” he had said, closing the zipper all the way up. At that moment he had looked like he also wanted to wrap her in his arms. With a smile Adelie leant back into her seat and imagined how being enveloped in these arms, being pressed against his chest would feel. Probably glorious. She should not think about him in this way. She was not interested. Her InstaComm beeped, interrupting her ponders.
“How’s the Princess and the royal foot?” Nate, with perfect timing. They had exchanged numbers after he’d driven her home in the baby blue, banged up workshop truck.
“If I’d known I have such precious cargo today, I’d found prettier transportation,” he had sheepishly said in the gym parking lot. She hadn’t minded their transportation, she was too busy being grateful that he had a car at all. Even if it was a rusty, creaky truck that smelled of dog and was filled with spare parts.
“The foot’s still miffed, the Princess is fine.” She hesitated, then added: “How’s the knight in shining armour?” She quickly pressed Send before she could change her mind.
“Currently wondering if you’re interested in checking out the new soda shop on Graham Blvd.”
Oh. A new soda shop. But that would mean walking again. “Sorry – foot says no.” She typed. There was no answer for a while, she’d already almost forgotten the little exchange and lost herself in her book, as the device beeped. It was Nate again. He’d send her a picture with two soda bottles: her all-time favourite Hensley’s lemonade in lemon and in raspberry, sitting in his lap propped up against a steering wheel. Underneath he’d written: “Which one do you want?” – “The lemon.”
Her doorbell rang. With a groan, she got to her feet and limped to answer it. The sight that presented itself to her was worth the pain, though. Nate stood there, with an impish smile, holding the requested bottle in his hand. He wore a fitted flannel shirt with rolled up sleeves, torn blue jeans and motorcycle boots, his hair was tousled and his blue eyes sparkling. Maintaining her state of disinterest would be very hard if he kept showing up at her doorstep looking like this.
“Hi. I thought, when you can’t come, I bring the soda to you.” His eyes lingered on her, and he smiled as he realised she was wearing his jacket. “Still cold?”
“Uh, ahem… it’s very comfy. What’s up with the lumberjack attire?”
He cleared his throat, scratching the back of his head. “I… uhm… Our washing machine broke down, and I’m actually on my way to the laundromat to do my laundry. This was my last batch of clean clothes. Just wanted to check on you, see if you’re alright.”
“I have a washer and dryer up here. Want to use it? Comes free of charge and with a cup of tea.”
He looked at her from below a tilted head. “You serious?”
She crossed her arms and leant against the doorframe. “Of course. You carried me all the way from the pond to your car.”

Picnic by the Pond, Part 6 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)

piggyback_time__by_georginastokes-d5ekaj8
Piggyback time! by Georginastokes on DeviantArt

Nate gets the chance to do a little rescuing by himself.

The nonchalant way with which she offered that information silenced him. Nate needed a moment to digest it, so he simply watched how she skilfully formed irregular blotches of colour into a beautiful picture. Of course, he knew she was a baroness and he sort of suspected that she had money – but the glimpse into her former life made it deducible that there was a lot of money. Racing was an expensive hobby, everywhere. She was so far out of his league, he should stop trying. The beauty of the place around them, her hair falling over her back, with golden highlights shimmering… she fit right in, looking like a little nature spirit, one with her art and her surroundings.
“You’re quiet. What’s up?” She looked up from her work, a warm smile dancing on her features. She treated him like her equal. She’d referred to herself as a spoilt brat. Maybe she didn’t care about status. She’d said she was a renegade.
“It’s fascinating to watch. A bit like magic.” He sheepishly smiled. “I’ve no idea how you do it. I would probably just produce a very colourful Rorschach test.”
This made her giggle. “Just like everything, it needs practice and knowledge of the right technique. A bit like flying a jet.”
“Only someone like you would compare watercolour to flying a weapon.” And that was what he found so fascinating about her.
They shared a mischievous glance. “Well, you make a wrong move, and the next thing you know is that everything’s going to hell, except that you don’t risk your life while painting.”
She put the sketchbook aside to let it dry. The sun stood low and would reach the horizon soon, long shadows now filling up the hollow. The skies slowly turned to lavender and indigo.
“It’ll be dark soon.” His remark triggered a sigh from her.
“Too bad. I had so much fun this afternoon.”
He decided to push his luck. “How about burgers, to conclude the day?” Adelie brushed her hair behind her ear, watching him with her head tilted sideways and smiled.
“I’d love to. But going downtown seems a bit tedious.”
“Don’t worry, I took the car as I had to bring Bob to the train station this morning. It’s parked behind the gym.”
“You own a car?” Now it was her turn to be gobsmacked.
He smiled. “No, but Eddy does, several actually, and he generously allows me to take one now and then. Is your picture dry?”
She patted it with a fingertip. “It needs a few more minutes.”
They packed their stuff as the setting sun tinted everything in a rosy shade. Adelie’s eyes wandered warily over the path between her and the top, favouring her foot. “I’m not going to make it up there. I still can’t walk.”
He scratched his head. “Are you okay if I leave you alone for five minutes? I’ll go and fetch the car. I can pull up behind the greenhouses.”
“Well, uh… I’d be more comfortable waiting up there, where there’s light.”
“Okay. Gimme a minute.”
***
Confused, Adelie watched him climbing the slope with long strides. He put his backpack down at the top and came back down. What was he up to?
“Need a lift?” He grinned, stretching his arms.
“Desperately. But…”
He turned and bent his knees a little. “Come on, climb on. I’ll take you piggyback.”
“I can’t do that!” He must be joking. “You can’t carry me.”
He straightened up and turned back towards her, stepping closer. His eyes were tender and kind as he took her hand. His palm was warm and smooth. “Adelie… I need to get you up there somehow.”
“I know! But…” She sighed. “I feel so helpless. I don’t like feeling helpless.”
He smiled. “It’s okay. I understand.” He reached back and took a flashlight out of his back pocket. “But you’re not entirely useless. I need you to light the way. I don’t want to trip while I carry you.”
She smiled. “Why do you have a flashlight?”
“Because the yard light is broken and Eddy doesn’t come around fixing the snapped wire. I need it to find my way to the door. That’s why I have it in my backpack.”
“I see.” With a trembling hand, she took it. “How do I… uhm, mount you? I can’t jump.”
He grinned and got into a squatting position. “Does this help?”
She bunched up her skirt and straddled his broad back, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. “I don’t strangle you, do I?”
“No.” He weaved his arms through her knees and got up. “Are you comfortable?”
“Yes, I think so.” She switched on the flashlight, and he began his climb. She looked over his shoulder to see where they were going and to light the way efficiently. They were basically cheek to cheek… and he smelled good. So good, she had to refrain from rubbing her nose against his scruffy jaw. His grip was tight and secure and his pace steady. Again, she felt she was in capable hands, safe even. With regret, she noticed that they had already reached the top.
***
The fact that she instinctively reached for him to find her balance as Nate put her down triggered a wave of protectiveness. What was wrong with him today? Yet, she stood there in the failing light, fiddling with the flashlight, and he could not leave her alone. Unprotected. Goodness, she was a soldier, she would probably clobber anyone to death with the torch… but she was hurt. She was vulnerable. He rubbed his neck which suddenly was flushed with heat. “I don’t feel comfortable leaving you here in this dark place. You’re not that heavy – I could carry you to the car.”
He thought he detected a smile in the almost darkness. No protest. Not even teasing that he was just looking for an excuse to touch her again? She either was really in pain or…
“I’d be grateful if you’d do that. Behind greenhouses, between compost hills and garbage cans is not exactly a place a girl wants to be alone in.”
“Your dignity can take it?” He gently teased, coaxing a chuckle out of her.
“I’ll pretend we’re practising a search and rescue mission.”
“Brilliant idea… and excuse, actually. Should anybody ask.”
She took his backpack, and they made their way to the parking lot of the gym without any disturbances.

Picnic by the Pond, Part 5 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)

dragonfly_and_lily_by_y_nakanishi

Adelie shares a little bit about herself and discovers that her almost-fall earlier had painful consequences.

How they’d left casual conversation and made it to the nitty-gritty of personal preferences was beyond Adelie. His gaze drifted from her to the pond to the bushes and back to her. He rubbed the back of his neck, hunting for words. Then he cleared his throat.
“She needs to be a home.”
The way his jaw ticked told her that he probably got once hurt as much as she did. Interesting. His face brightened again. “Liking my cake is a start, though.”
She shoved him with her shoulder, desperately needing to reach shallower waters. He shoved back. She giggled as she had to steady herself with her hand to not keel over. He caught her around her waist and drew her to the dangerous safety of his body. “Sorry. Rugby player. Don’t know my own strength.”
“Yeah, sure.” She was more out of breath than the giggles should have caused. His hand slipped from her waist to her bottom, and she gave him a warning glance. He put it on the ground but his arm remained behind her, providing a quite comfortable backrest for her. She shouldn’t lean against it. She did it anyway. They munched the cake in companionable silence, only interrupted by pointing out the occasional dragonfly darting over the sunlit pond.
“Your cake is delicious,” she eventually tried to jump-start the conversation again.
“Thank you. It’s left-over from yesterday. It was Bob’s birthday.”
“Who’s Bob?”
“One of my housemates. The other one’s name is Eddy. It’s Eddy’s house – he’s a mechanic and runs a workshop. Bob’s a professional guitar player and travels a lot. He gets booked for concerts often.”
“A musician, a mechanic and a pilot – what a mix. I live alone, I have rented one of the studio apartments in the Starcity complex. Immaculate, dull.”
Behind their backs, their hands had found each other, and his thumb was stroking hers. Little gestures. His proximity was maddening, she needed to put space between them.
“This is really a beautiful place. I should paint it,” she declared, rummaging in her purse for her travel-sized watercolour kit. It would give her a reason to get up and fill the little water bottle at the banks of the pond. But as she got up, a sharp pain shot through the foot that had gotten caught in the root.
“Ouch!”
Nate was up and next to her in the blink of an eye. “What’s the matter? Are you hurt?”
She steadied herself with her hand on his chest and tried putting weight on the foot. Again pain flared up. “I don’t know. I can’t walk. Maybe I twisted it earlier on the way down.” She somehow managed to sit again.
He squatted before her. “May I take a look?”
Adelie nodded. Gently he took her foot and twisted it. “Does this hurt?”
“No.”
He stretched it. “And now?”
“Nothing.”
Only as he flexed it, she winced. This time, he needn’t ask, it was evident she was in pain. “Guess you overstretched a tendon. It’s not swollen, and it’s not hot… but I can drive you to the doctor if you want.”
“It’s okay, thank you. I don’t think it’s that bad. But you need to fetch me some water now.” She grinned at him, and he grinned back. Before he left, he took off his jacket to prop up her foot. “Even when it’s not swollen, I think putting it up would be a good idea.” He strolled over to the pond and filled the bottle. Then he pulled out a clean white handkerchief out of his back pocket and wetted it before he returned to her. His movements were poetry, his walk a song. She’d never seen anyone moving with such grace, such harmony. It would be a pleasure to just watch him all day. With a shy smile, he kneeled next to her propped-up foot, folded the dripping piece of fabric into a neat rectangle and carefully draped it over her foot.
“Guess a little cooling wouldn’t hurt.”
Their eyes met, and the inexplicable feeling of being in good hands rushed through her. “Thank you.”
He settled down next to her on their makeshift blanket again.
“Have you been painting for a long time?” He asked.
“Yes. Classically trained baroness.” She smiled. “Although it’s the only role-appropriate thing my mother could get me to do besides playing the piano, I much preferred racing cars against my brother. Unlike my sister, who always did what she was supposed to do, I was a tomboy.”
He blinked. “You mean toy cars, right?”
Setting up her sketchbook and the kit, she shook her head. “At first, of course. But as soon as we were tall enough to drive, we switched to real ones.”
“You raced cars?” His mouth stood open, and his eyes were wide. She put her finger on his chin and closed his mouth.
“I’m the youngest of three kids. My sister will inherit the barony, my brother my father’s mines – the only role left to play by me was the one of the renegade. I’m well off, I’ll probably never have to worry about not having enough money… I was a spoilt brat who needed some thrill in her life.”

Picture by Y Nakanishi on flickr.

Picnic by the Pond, Part 4 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)

tarta_de_manzana_by_javier_lastras

Nate makes an unexpected apple cake discovery.

Nate hunted for his pen hiding in some parallel universe or crevice deep inside his backpack to distract himself from the fact that Adelie sat so close to him that their elbows brushed against each other. Instead of his pen, he found a box full of apple cake. “Oh, I totally forgot I packed cake this morning.”
“You carry around a box of cake, and you forget about it? I have a very hard time believing that.” Her face lightened up as he took out the sweet treasure and placed it on the grass in front of them. “But I’m certainly not complaining. This makes our little adventure all the more perfect.”
That Adelie found this little spot and the prospect of cake perfect filled him with unexpected delight. With her perpetual mask of indifference, he had assumed it was hard to please her. “You like it here?”
She raised him a mocking eyebrow and stretched out on the scarf, tucking her arms behind her head. “What’s not to like? Blue skies, this enchanted little place, a surprise picnic and pleasant company… I’m willing to postpone thinking about how many other women you brought down here.”
“Why d’you think I’ve done that?” Shit, he sounded more offended than he’d wanted. Why was he even offended? He had a reputation, after all, she was right in assuming everything.
“Oh, come on – this is the place to woo a woman. You can’t tell me you haven’t tried.”
“I haven’t.” Their eyes met, and she quizzed him with a searching squint to see if he was honest. He was. He could never lie while being held accountable by the large brown eyes of his guardian angel. Darn it; this woman had a power over him he was unable to resist. “But would it work to win your heart?” He couldn’t help asking either. She smiled, looking up into the sky above them.
“Certainly. If I enjoyed being courted in an overly romantic way.”
“But you don’t.” Disappointment settled in his chest. Why? He wasn’t the romancing guy. He was not after a relationship. All he wanted was to get her out of her clothes and explore the body he had the unexpected pleasure to briefly get acquainted with as she had stumbled into his arms. Unaware of his emotional troubles, she lay next to him, cute toes wiggling in the green grass, giggling as the blades tickled her soles.
“What do you like then?” He had to ask; he needed to know.
She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair, picking out pieces of dried grass. “Little gestures. Honest interest in me. Bringing cake was a good idea too.” Her eyes focused on him, twinkling with a smile. “What about you? What does a girl need to do to win a wanderer like you?”

Picture by Javier Lastras on flickr

Picnic by the Pond, Part 3 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)

"Out of this world"

In which Nate tries to score with a magical place.

The sun painted glowing rectangles on the wooden floors of the library. Nate’s eyes were riveted to how the chestnut of Adelie’s hair suddenly had threads of gold woven in.
“You’re staring again.” Her voice had lost her sting as if she’d gotten used to his gaze. Like she’d gotten used to him showing up every Thursday in this room, taking the place opposite from her and studying in silence.
“Your hair shimmered lovely in the light.” The remark won him an almost imperceptible smile. To his surprise, she then shut her book and leant back in her chair, looking into the gardens around the library.
“The weather is too beautiful to be inside.”
“How about taking our notes outside,” he suggested, hoping she would agree. The brown eyes abandoned the window and focused on him. For two heartbeats she just watched him, considering the offer, then her impassive face lit up in one of her breathtaking smiles.
“This is a swell idea.” She closed her notebook and stuffed it into her bag. “Let’s go.”
The weather was indeed beautiful, and for a while, they walked along the garden paths in silence. Bees hummed and from open windows, they could hear teachers’ voices lecturing. Under the oak trees, groups of students were sitting on blankets, discussing problems. All the good sites had already been taken.
“I know a beautiful and quiet place, very secluded. It’s behind the greenhouses.” He had no idea why he told her that, but it made her grin.
“Why doesn’t this surprise me in the least? Of course, you have a private spot for charming unassuming women.”
Her grin got even wider as he tried to look offended. “I haven’t said anything about charming you, have I? But it really is a beautiful place, with a pond and waterlilies.”
She stepped closer to him, eyebrows arched and eyes brimming with the thirst of adventure. “This sounds quaint and pretty. Why don’t you show it to me?”
“Are you not afraid I’m going to try and seduce you?” Two could play this game, and nobody was a better partner in scurrilous teasing than her. She chuckled.
“Over our notes of the history of space travel? Hardly. This always puts me asleep in ten minutes flat.”
“Oh, come on then.” With a laugh, he walked with her towards the greenhouse, built for the non-hardy plants adorning the campus over the summer.
***
He led her past some trash bins and a compost hill, around a hedge, and then an old structure reminding Adelie of an old bomb crater became visible. It was now overgrown with white and pink blooming bushes. The air was full of the sweet scent of honey. At the bottom, there was indeed a little pond, dotted with pink and purple waterlilies. A steep and stony path went down the slope in a zigzag course.
“Ta-dah!” Nate made a flourish as if he wanted to introduce the scenery to her. “What do you say?”
“It’s beautiful. Like from a fairy tale.”
“Do you want to see the waterlilies from up close?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
Descending wasn’t as easy, though. She carefully balanced on her heels to not slip on the uneven path. Sneaker-clad Nate watched her efforts with unbridled amusement. “Women and their impractical shoes. It’ll take a week until we’re down there.”
She huffed and grimaced at his back. “Oh, excuse me, if I’d known that I’d go mountaineering today, I’d have picked more sensible shoes than these sandaaaaa…” Not looking where she was going inevitably led to her heel catching in a root. Flailing only seemed to speed up her fall. Nate turned around as she squeaked, opening his arms to catch her just in time. “Ooomph.”
“Careful, Princess. Don’t sprain your ankle. You okay?”
Grumbling she peeled herself away from his chest, trying to catch her composure before she had to face his inevitable smirk. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
He offered his arm with a gallant smile. “Allow me to be of assistance, Baroness.”
“Thank you.” She grabbed his shoulder for balance and slipped out of her shoes. “Before I faceplant myself on the ground. Why didn’t I think of this earlier?”
With him to lean on, it was a lot easier to pick her way, and they eventually reached the grassy bottom of the crater-like hollow. It was a truly enchanted place, filled with the hum of insects feeding on the blooming bushes, a duck paddling through the waterlilies and there was even a hidden frog croaking. Adelie pulled out a scarf from her purse to use as a makeshift blanket.
“Ha, I knew this would come in handy!” She sat down, fluffed her petticoats and smoothed her full skirt over her knees. Finally decent and comfortable, she patted the place next to her. “Come and sit here.”
“This is an offer I can’t refuse.” He made himself comfortable beside her.
Cautiously Adelie eyed her companion going through his backpack seemingly without a care in the world. No matter how much Leslie tried to talk her out of it, she enjoyed his company. Nate was pleasant and fun to talk to. He liked motorcycles and books and played rugby for the varsity team. Not to mention that he was easy on the eyes and had manners to match.

Picture by Claire Tresse on Flickr

Picnic by the Pond, Part 2 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)

4months_after_new_years_by_ flattop341

In which Jake tries to figure out why Nate is not moving on.

The men’s locker room of the airbase gym was stuffy with its usual stench, a weird mix of sweat, shower gel and too much testosterone. Nate welcomed this gut-churning odour today, and he nearly craved it. He hoped it would take his mind off a pair of brown eyes, lips pursed in a superior smile and a warm, mellow voice.
“You look like you’re ready to bench two-twenty today. What’s gotten under your skin? Trouble with Payne?” Jake leant against one of the grey locker doors, watching him carefully.
“No, not Payne.” Nate took off his t-shirt and stuffed it into his locker.
“Can’t believe that you’ve got girl trouble. Did a nurse finally capture your heart?”
He only huffed a reply, stepping out of his trousers. Pulling a muscle shirt over his head, he eventually said: “Nope, not a nurse. And no girl will ever capture my heart.”
“It’s the Princess.”
Nate’s locker door slammed shut.
Jake folded his arms across his chest. “Lemme guess – she’s still indifferent to you?”
Nate huffed again. “She wandered into the Lemon Tree yesterday afternoon. Drank a lemonade, showed me a picture of her cousin’s adorable puppy, and we thought up names for it.”
“Sounds like you two had fun?”
“She’s like a slippery fish. Every time I think I grasp her, she wiggles away again. There’s a witty reply to everything I say.”
Jake laughed. “You’re so not used to women who are on par with you. She’s a pilot, Nate. She’s not going into headless chicken mode just because you smiled at her.”
“I’m not sure she even has a headless chicken mode.”
They walked out of the locker room and into the gym. A careful glance around assured him that Adelie wasn’t working out too. Not that he would mind seeing her in skin-tight workout attire, but he wasn’t entirely sure he’d be able to handle it. Stepping on a treadmill for warm up, Jake said: “Somehow I suspect you’re so interested in her because she’s not falling for your schemes. She’s challenging your ego.”
“Maybe.”
“Women are not game, mate.”
“Duh, I know that. But she has something that makes her irresistible.”
Jake chuckled. “A sense of self-preservation maybe? Sure, she’s a total doll, and knows how to handle a ‘ray – but you won’t be the first guy noticing that. It’s not like her squadron is only made up of other women.”
Nate laughed. “So? You think she’s already taken?”
Jake shook his head. “No. But she probably has a lot of experience in how to keep a cocky guy at arm’s length.”
Nate fell silent for the rest of their five-mile warm-up run. Jake had a point. Moving over to the free weights, Jake added: “Be careful buddy – don’t get burned.”
He went over to the bench press, putting on Jake’s predicted two-twenty. “Bah, humbug. Not gonna happen.”
His friend chuckled, shaking his head. “Even a heartthrob like you is not immune to falling for someone. Why else are you still pursuing her, and not moving on to the next one, like you usually do?”
Jake could call himself lucky that there had been a barbell in his hand, and not a rugby egg; otherwise, he’d thrown it after him. Instead, he funnelled the energy into lifting the weight out of its stand and held it, not taking the bait laid out for him. Even the burn in his muscles couldn’t take the mental image of her face away. The way she looked at him, how her eyebrows arched defiantly, her smile. Oh god, her smiles. They turned her impassive, unreadable face into something else entirely. Into the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. But falling for with her? Wanting her for something else than the pure pleasure of sex? No. Someone in a former life had made sure that he would never risk his heart like that ever again.

Picture by flattop341 on flickr