A knock on the door surprises me and I look up from the chessboard at the dining table blearily, meeting Jax's gaze across the table. His face wears the same worried expression I'm sure is fixed on my face. I frown as I stand. We aren’t expecting anyone, much less so early in the morning when curfew had just ended. Jax pushes his chair back from the table but I motion for him to stay seated. "I'll get it."
"Be careful," he says quietly, shoulders and back tensed. I nod, flashing him a reassuring smile before striding to the door.
I look out through the peephole cautiously, scared of what I might see. A young woman about my age stands calmly on the other side. She appears weaponless, but that doesn't mean anything when guns and knives are so easily hidden. I’ve seen her before, creeping around the building on soft feet. But I know she doesn’t live here, Jax and I have checked ourselves, and I wonder cautiously what’s brought her to my door today. Carefully, I unlock the door, opening it just a crack to meet a pair of cool gray eyes. She speaks before I can, voice calm and clinical. "Pardon moi, senora."
Pardon me, ma'am.
English, French, Spanish, lilting German accent. She sounds slightly ridiculous, but not particularly notable to the casual passerby, which is the intention. She’s a messenger.
The correct response to the coded opener jumps to the front of my mind. "Quién sont you?"
Who are you?
Spanish, French, English. My German accent is worse than hers, but it gets the message across. I've signified my willingness to accept the message. The funny codes and extreme measures of security all seem silly until someone ends up dead. You only make that mistake once.
I step aside, ushering her in and closing the door quickly. Jax is standing at the dining table watching the messenger warily. There is nowhere else to gather in this sparsely furnished apartment. We spend almost all our time outside of work here, though I would never call it home. The correct term would probably be our base of operations. I wave her towards a seat at the dining table and we all sit. She begins immediately, directing her focus at Jax. “Aquila has requested your assistance."
"With what?" I ask, my answer so quick that it catches the tail end of her words.
"We need his help to retrieve some information from a secure facility," she responds vaguely. “Our first attempt at retrieving the information from a remote location was…unsuccessful. We need a hacker on site.”
"Aquila is a world class hacker,” Jax states, narrowing his eyes. “An acrobat, too.”
“This may be true,” she acknowledges with a slight tilt of her head. “But you are a government employed one. You have the access needed to enter the base undetected and the knowledge necessary to navigate the facility. You will be able to overcome the intricacies of the program faster and easier than even Aquila.”
I knit my eyebrows together. Jax twines his fingers through mine, squeezing reassuringly. “Is there no other way?"
The messenger shakes her head sympathetically. "I'm sorry, Aquila sent for him personally. We have a brief window to achieve the objective. There's no one better."
"And what of the starling?" Jax asks quietly, motioning to me. Real names are strictly avoided, the messenger probably knows neither of ours. It’s hard to give up information that you do not know. That’s how we protect ourselves and each other.
"Her assignment remains the same," she replies readily. "If you accept this assignment, you are to meet a guide at the place of diverging paths at 9AM sharp."
I glance at my watch; that's in just under two hours. Jax gives the messenger a curt nod. "Understood."
She rises, heading towards the door. We stand and follow her. One hand already on the doorknob, she turns back to shake each of our hands for luck. "The stars, they are watching."
"Thank you," Jax replies for both of us. And then the messenger is gone.
I close the door gently behind her, sliding the lock into place with nervous fingers. I can feel Jax at my back, hovering. His warmth is welcome and I know I’ll miss it in the days to come. He sighs heavily and drapes his arms over my shoulders from behind, pressing a soft kiss to my cheek. "I'm sorry."
“Don’t be,” I say softly. “We always knew what it meant to choose this life. We…joined up because we wanted to use our skills to fight for justice. In the back of our minds…we always knew someday they would come calling.”
“But not so soon,” he murmurs. I close my eyes and lean back against him, relishing in the warmth and safety of his embrace. His hair tickles the right side of my face as he rests his chin on my shoulder. Dark locks take up one side of my peripheral vision and I reach my opposite hand up to stroke his head gently.
We stand like this for a while, locked in the embrace. Neither of us want to move, but we both know we have to eventually. In less than two hours Jax will be gone. “Two hours…”
“I’m sorry,” he whispers again, holding me tighter. “We didn’t get enough time.”
The “together” hangs in the air though it remains unspoken. I squirm around in his grasp so that I’m facing him. His eyes are a darker brown than usual, clouded over with sadness. I cradle his face in my hands and tears begin to slip down his cheeks in silent streams. I feel the telltale sting at the back of my own eyes. “Time is fleeting. We…we can’t hold onto those moments forever even though I wish we could. But we can treasure them for the rest of our lives. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
He closes the distance between us, pressing his lips to mine tenderly. He pours his emotions into me, and I taste his passion and love, his longing and regret, his sorrow and determination. I wrap my arms around his neck, responding in kind. I show him my fear and anguish, my affection and yearning, my resolve and acceptance. This kiss is a window to everything that’s happened in the last few years, from our first meeting to our first kiss and everything in between. The slight minty breath of toothpaste is buried under the onslaught. It’s the sea of emotions we both cannot conceal. We break apart with soft gasps and I press my forehead to his as our chests rise and fall with erratic breaths. The minutes slip away as our breaths even out, the moment falling into the past so quickly.
I pull away from him, drawing to my full height and straightening the cuffs of my sleeves. I can feel my expression ice over, chilling several degrees. My voice is calm and detached when I speak. “You should go pack.”
“Lore—” He reaches out for me imploringly but I shake my head, taking a half a step back, shoulders bumping up against the front door. There’s a flash of something akin to hurt on his face, but it fades into sad understanding in the next moment.
“Y-you don’t have much time.” I glance away quickly as tears begin to trickle down my face. Jax is silent, and for a moment I think he will protest. He doesn’t, and out of the corner of my eyes, I see him nod his acquiesce and depart.
I draw in a shaky breath, guilty at drawing away from him. My greatest weakness has always been dealing with strong emotions. I had been taught to ignore them, to stay calm and collected at all times. Only recently have I begun to overcome my knee-jerk instinct of closing myself off or running away altogether. But that doesn’t justify my reaction to his attempts to console me. I wipe away my tears, waiting for my breaths to calm and my head to clear before following him.
Packing with rebels is a simple business. We have to be ready to relocate at a moment’s notice which means essentials are packed and stored in compact shapes or containers. When the time comes, all you have to do is grab everything and stuff it in a backpack. Disorganization gets you killed; another mistake you only make once.
Jax is almost done by the time I enter the room. His electronics were already stored safely in their respective sections and he’s just finishing up with his toiletries. A good thing too, it’s already 8:01 and he needs thirty minutes to get to the ‘place of diverging paths.’ It’s just a fancy way to say the train station, but one that might confuse anyone who overhears into scouting an airfield or port. Train stations are the most easily accessible and you can disappear into crowds quickly.
I curl up on the bed as he disappears into the closet to change into some comfortable day clothes. I have to glance away from him again when he steps out to hide my tears. But he sees right through me and the next thing I know, he's kneeling at my side, imploring eyes fixed on my face. "Busy morning, huh."
"Too busy," I murmur.
"Want breakfast?" He asks, crawling up onto the bed and pulling me to him.
"No," I reply immediately, hands grasping his shirt in an iron grip. "Don't leave."
He chuckles sadly, leaning back into the pillows. I can feel the vibrations of his laughter deep in his chest and it stirs a wistful feeling within me. These could be our last moments together and I can’t let anything go unsaid.
“I’m sorry,” I begin quietly, eyes downturned and focused on my still hands, “for pulling away from you earlier. I didn’t think, I just fell back into protecting myself. I-I didn’t think about how that would…hurt you.”
He strokes my hair gently. “I know you didn’t, Lore, I know. It’s not your fault the way you’ve had to learn to cope and you’ve improved so much. I’m so proud of you.”
I peek up at him and he smiles affectionately. “You know…this apartment was almost starting to feel like home to me.”
“Really?” I look up at him inquisitively. “Why?”
“Because I fell in love with you here,” he says, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear. “When I think of this place, all I see is you.”
I acknowledge his words by hugging him tighter and he returns my embrace, squeezing just as hard. The soft ticking of my bedside clock is the only sound in the room as we lay there, wrapped around each other.
When Jax shifts with a soft grunt, I know it’s time for him to go. He plants a chaste kiss on my mouth before sitting up. I slide off the bed silently, not trusting my voice to stay steady. He pulls on a pair of socks as I sling his backpack over my shoulder. “Your backpack is heavy. What did you put in here?”
He jostles me with a bright grin. “I think you’re losing your touch if you think this is heavy.”
I shove him halfheartedly and he chuckles, draping an arm around my shoulders. We walk leisurely to the front door as if we have all the time in the world. I wish we did.
Jax pulls on his shoes with little effort, remaining standing throughout the entire ordeal. He extends a hand and I hand him his backpack which he slips over his shoulders. We share one last hug and I know this is it. He might never come back. “Jax, I—”
“Don’t.” He presses a single finger to my lips, silencing me. His hand drops from my mouth and encircles my body in a hug instead. I return the embrace unsteadily. He seems to deflate in my arms, shoulders lowering and eyes fluttering shut as he leans his forehead against mine. With a rattling sigh, he says, “No…no negative thoughts. Not now.”
“O-okay.” The word sticks to my throat and I barely get it out.
A few tears track down his face, catching on his eyelashes and gathering at his chin. “I love you.”
He says it like a vow: so soft, so final. And I choke back tears of my own, my voice suddenly uncooperative. I have to take a deep breath before I can trust my voice not to quaver. “I know.”
Jax leans back so that he can meet my gaze, raising a mocking eyebrow as he forces an exasperated chuckle. I’m going to miss that laugh, the way it starts in his chest and vibrates out. “Are you quoting Star Wars to me now, nerd?”
“It’s this or pouring tears. Pick your poison.” I manage a watery smile. He responds with a fierce hug and I tilt my head up to whisper in his ear. “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you, too,” he mumbles into my hair. “But this isn’t the last time we’ll see each other. I promise.”
“I don’t know if you get to decide that,” I tell him gently.
“Even…even if we next meet on…the other side…” He takes a shaky breath. I squeeze him tighter. “I will see you again.”
All I can say is: “I love you.”
It sounds like a plea, but I don’t even know what I’m pleading for. He pulls away from the embrace and I feel the loss of his warmth like I’d feel the loss of a limb. It’s too quick, too soon. I wish I had more time with him. I wish he didn’t have to leave. There are so many things I wish I could change. But I can’t, and I have to live with letting him go.
Jax opens the front door, laying a quick peck on my forehead. He flashes me one last cheeky smile. “I know.”
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Lilyyyyy I vaguely remember us being online besties for a long period of time and I logged on for the first time since like November and saw you were active recently and about screamed bc everybody left D: (kinda including me lol bc I don't write anymore which is actually rly sad)
I'M SO SORRY I HAD BEEN TAKING A BREAK TOO And yeah, I don't even write that much anymore either T_T
mdkwpnffjnew i havent been here in so long that i've forgotten ur nickname i feel terrible 😭
all good, all good. It's Lily, or Livia. Drastic name changes are killer I know lmao
omg YOURE BACK HII :DDDD livia <333 hihi hru??
hiiiiiii im backkkk
Beautiful story, Raelynn, gave me the feels :) You are a gorgeous writer.
I thought this might turn into some huge battle and it'd be all action packed and then this happened and my heart softened and I got all in the feels and cried. The description of their pain is so well done, as well as the situation all together. Loved it <3
OMG BROOKE SORRY IT TOOK ME SO LONG TO RESPOND TO THIS BUT YOURE COMMENT IS SO GREAT, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!
OMG YOURE GOOD, AND ITS MY PLEASURE :)
How are you doing? Also, why is Skribbls doc dead again? Why'd you change your name?
Hey Dhwani, I'm good, busy s'all. The Skribbls doc is dead? Wdym? Just trying some new things out. I like the name Madeleine or Madelyn, but I'm not sure if it's MY name. Trying on different things. Madeleine
*CRI* e-echo-li-livi- stop cutting the onions TOT you are so amazingly talented and you deserve more recognition uwu
*continues chopping onions like a maniac* Eheheheehehe Tysm Skyeeee
NU *tries to grab knife* *slips and falls* Oof >:3
*grabs arm* *pats shoulder* Donotest injurest yourselfest D:<
ooof do you have pinterest?
yes indeed, et tu?
DAMMIT KYLE AND YOUR CHEEKY SMILE- *shaking fist, a tear rolls down my cheek* Your death will not go down in vain, in the name of LOVE- Lyvia, this was an overall amazing story. I can't wait to see what you'll do next.
Hehehehehe thank you so much!!
HAPPY PRIDE MOTH!
HAPPY PRIDE MONTHHHH
Ace day's in 4 days, I am pumped. I will wear one ace article of cothing ehhe
Wooooo that’s great!!!
Do you think I could post a fanfic here?
Yeah, you definitely could!
Wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww Gosh, you write such AMAZING romanceeeeee (and stories in general). The emotions were clearly painted and relished and it all felt so real. How— just how do you write so much emotion into your work?! It’s astonishing! Congrats on another heart-wrenching story. Thanks a lot (not) for leaving us with Heartache. Chef’s kiss—I just can’t even put all my thoughts into words ack- Amazing great stupendous job! Reedsy should come out with a ‘love’ button and a ‘like’ button cause I would be loving this lol
Amazing story! I loved the way you did the kissing scene, and I loved the little star wars reference you put in there. I would like to know more about the world their living in though. For some reason I got dystopian vibes, but that could just be me being weird. 😅 Overall, great story, and can't wait for your next one!!
Hahahaha thank you!! I tried to make the world like stop around them, yk??? And yesssss, all the star wars!!!! I'm falling into that trap againnnnn And it's super funny that you say that!! I was imagining a dystopian world while I was writing this 😂😂😂 Thank you soooo much!!!
Hey Lyvia! I'm back as I promised. XD I absolutely loved the story and how you described the MC's actions which are connected to their dark(?) past--when they push away Kyle, I mean. You wove the gravity of the situation so nicely in between their romance. Twas beautifully heart-wrenching. Especially when they part, in the end. Lovely. I wish I could write as good as you do. TvT Smol insignificant critique, I hope you don't mind: "I nod, flashing him a wolfish smile before striding to the door." Wolfish doesn't sound very appropriate. giv...
THANK YOU SO MUCH PHILIAAAA especially for coming back ;))))) And yessssss dark past muahahahaahahah This MC's got serious PTSD MUAHAHAHHHAHAHAHA Also, you write just as good as me if not better, what are you talking about???? Thank you so much for your critiques as well!! I realize that is definitely the wrong word to use in the situation and I've fixed both mistakes. Kinda think it was a little too dramatic though...working on toning drama down *dramatic (and counterproductive) sigh*
PTSD FTW HHAHAHAH YESSSS statement denied. i'm trying to improve tho--that counts, right? XD Me is honoured. XD Not really, they were both in love so one would expect them to be very tearful and dramatic about the situation. My opinion, though. XD
"Oh Romeo, oh Romeo!" 😂😂😂😂😂 DRAMAAAAAAAA AND DON'T YOU DARE DENY MY STATEMENT
"Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" XDDD OH WAIT-I erred there, pardon me, dear friend-of course there's loads of drama in the story--how could I-(no, I'm serious. 'Tis full of drama but it's woven seamlessly so it doesn't seem overdone. xD)
LOLOLLLLL Tyyyyyyyy, that means a lot!!
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