The Intelligence Plan

tithi-luadthong-woman-with-red-umbrella-standing-on-water-against-full-moon-background-illustration-painting

The Intelligence Plan (679 Words)

“Miss me?” he said, and kissed her.

It was a firm kiss, soft but passionate. His hands at her elbows were not confining but relaxed. It would have been simple to translate his laxness as overconfidence, but there was something in his expression that warned Li otherwise. And she couldn’t help it—not when his glance was lost to her, not when she saw how tired he was—not when he looked as if he had read her thoughts and his heart was close to breaking.

She returned his kiss, gentle but somehow more pressing, her fingers in his hair, holding him close.

Lev’s eyes widened. He looked startled and afraid. Li let him breathe, his head drawn back at a subtle angle.

“You were gone—so long,” he said. Hesitant. “I was worried.”

She studied him closely. “You’re sweet,” she said. “There was no need.”

“Where did you go?” he asked.

“You know.”

He blanched. His breathing shortened. “What?”

She took his hands, carefully, in hers.

“You already know. Don’t you?”

Lev was trembling. “Yes,” he whispered.

She held him tightly. “Then you know my orders.”

“Yes.”

 

“Can you read my thoughts now?”

“No. I mean—I could, but—I’m not.”

“Will you let me read you?” she asked.

He looked sick. His hands were clammy and his brow looked wet.

“You can’t,” he said. “It’s only in me.”

Li released him.

“Will you let me try?” she asked.

“No.”

“Why not?” said Li.

His response surprised her. Lev laughed, a short, gasping sound, and raised her hand to his face. She felt his breath, shuddering and hot, as he kissed her fingers softly, then held her knuckles to his cheek. His lids were lowered and the line in his brow had deepened, as if every faculty were concentrated on memorizing the impression of her hand against him. His eyes opened. They were wet but calm.

“I love you,” he said.

Li’s throat tightened. She held his gaze. “I love you, too,” she said.

His glance lowered. “May I sit down?”

She smacked him lightly, playfully, pulling free of his grasp. “What are you, a guest?”

He smiled and crossed to the sofa. Rolling up his right sleeve, he settled, his head against the pillowed arm and his legs stretched.

“Will it hurt?” he asked.

Li stared at him. Suddenly, she realized.

The dam broke.

“You think,” she said, and stopped. Her voice was choked. “You think—”

He watched her.

“How—” Li said. “After—? I just said, I love you. What does that mean, nothing?”

He was silent.

“I married you,” Li said. “Oh God. Was that just a ritual, a ridiculous Earthling ceremony?”

Lev was guarded, critical, withdrawn.

Li drew a hand roughly across her eyes. “I thought you trusted me,” she said, hoarsely.

He stood again. He held out his hands but did not touch her.

“I do,” he said. “I did. I—”

“Then why do you do this to me?”

“I was afraid,” he said. Carefully he stroked the tears from her face, his thumb moving in soothing circles at her flushed cheek. “I was afraid I’d lost you. I didn’t understand.”

She shook her head. She took his hands and held them.

“Tell me what I’m thinking.”

His mouth trembled.

“You’re very angry with me,” he said.

She laughed. She couldn’t help it. She laughed and wiped her eyes, and pressed her face against his shoulder.

“We can do this,” she said. “I know we can. But we can’t stay here. I don’t care what you are. I need you and I won’t let them take you from me. They say you have a ship. Is that true?”

She felt him nod. She wanted to ask if he was a spy or a fugitive, but the words stuck.

“I like Earth,” he said. He was still reading her, aware of her thoughts. “I am a fugitive in a sense, but I don’t miss my homeland. I never wanted to take you from here. I never wanted to leave.”

Her fingers pressed his. “Let’s go.”

***

Written in response to Tithi Luadthong‘s beautiful painting, Woman with Red Umbrella Standing on Water Against Full Moon. Check it out and support the artist! Also written in response to Daily Addiction‘s one word prompt, “Respect.”

Image (c) Art.com.

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