“I wish you didn’t have to go,” Indy murmured, sliding her arms around his waist and burying her face against his chest. She listened to the quiet thudding of his heart as Mike folded his arms around her, inhaling deeply the scent of her hair. The wind keened outside the covered hangar. The transport stood about twenty meters away, on the rain-sodden tarmac. It was due to depart within the next twenty minutes, and he had to be aboard. If he wasn’t aboard, he’d never make the military transport dispatched to Wayfarer to take him and other personnel out of the sector, back to their postings.
It wasn’t so much that she cared whether or not he made it back to the Sixth—she’d rather he stay here, on Xenen—but that wasn’t her decision to make. She thought she’d be all right with his going back, if only for a little while, to wrap up loose ends. But now all she wanted was for him to stay here.
We have a second chance. I shouldn’t worry. He’s coming home this time. I can feel it. I know it. He won’t betray me again. He won’t betray us again.
He kissed her forehead, tears welling in his organic eye as he stared down at her and she up at him. He managed to smile, brushing her hair gently from her face. “I’ll be back before you know it. Just one more little mess to clean up with the Sixth and then I’ll be back here, with some small little rig to worry about protecting cargo haulers from pirates.” He grinned. She laughed. They both knew life wasn’t that uncomplicated. Not with the new alien threat in the galaxy. He leaned down and kissed her gently, holding it for a long moment before murmuring, “You have places to be today, too, love.”
“Nothing more important than being here, right now.” She tugged him closer, pressing against the warmth of him, inhaling deeply. He chuckled softly, rumbling in his chest.
“Don’t,” he murmured to her. “We don’t have time.” His thoughts were clear—he wished they had the time. For that matter, so did she.
She sighed softly, reaching up and gently running her hand along his jaw. “Did Dav at least let you say goodbye?”
He frowned a little and shook his head. “He wouldn’t take my call. But I’ll see him soon enough, when I come back and when he’s back from patrolling with the Legacy. I’m not worried.”
“Dad! I can’t stall them much longer.”
Mike waved a hand toward their middle son, a signal for him to wait just a minute longer. He stared down at his wife, cupping her jaw in one rough hand. “Guess that’s my cue, huh?”
“Guess so,” she whispered, covering his hand with hers. “I love you, Mike.”
“I love you, too, Indy.” He leaned in and kissed her one more time, lingering, savoring the taste of her lips. It would be weeks before he tasted that again. “Always,” he breathed against her lips. He hugged her, tightly, then withdrew, picking up his bag and smiling at her before raising a hand in a salute.
She returned the salute, then let her hand drop. He dropped his arm as well and nodded to her, smiling wistfully, then turned and started walking to the transport in the rain.
I’m going to get soaked. He was almost to the gangplank. She ran after him. Just one more for the road.
He turned at the last minute, engulfing her in his arms. It was like that first kiss on their wedding night, every kiss on the nights they conceived their children, every good-bye and every hello all at once. It took her breath away and made his stomach feel hollow.
Their son hesitated to interrupt. The transport’s engines rumbled. Mike held her tightly for one last, long, shining moment, then let go.
“I’ll see you soon,” he said. She nodded.
“May the Force be with you, Mike.”
He grinned. “Only if it brings me home to you.” He turned and walked up the ramp after their son. She stood in the rain and watched as the boarding ramp slowly closed up, erasing the sight of him, watched as the transport slowly lifted, only backing up a few steps to watch it go.
I love you so much.
Her comm beeped.
“It’s operations, ma’am. We’re waiting on you up here for the dispatch orders.”
She nodded, even though the voice at the other end couldn’t hear her. “I’ll be there in ten.” She shut off the comm and watched as the transport disappeared into the clouds, beyond her vision. He would call when they made it to the Sixth. Right now, she had an operation to coordinate.