The Scent of Sondja
by Patricia Green
Copyright ©2015 Patricia Green
All Rights Reserved
This is the 4th and final chapter.
Jack was tired, grouchy and worried when he got up the next morning. He’d hardly slept at all, waiting for Sondja to get back to him. She still hadn’t. As he straightened his jacket, he looked into the mirror and gave himself a steady glare. If he had to push aside her retainers and barge into her quarters, he would see her.
It was possible—unthinkable—that Sondja had somehow become unattached to him overnight. Maybe the pheromone attraction wore off after a while. He still loved her, but maybe the feeling was no longer reciprocated. Maybe he was going to have to go to Krate, in love with its leader, but unable to reach her except professionally. The idea was crushing.
As it turned out, getting in to see her was easy. She was sitting in her reception area, wearing her helmet and her dark blue body suit when he was shown in. The helmet was confusing. Weren’t they past that?
“Jack!” she cried, standing. “I am glad to see you. Very glad.”
He took her in his arms, or tried to, but she resisted. “I don’t understand, Sondja. Why didn’t you return my comm? Why are you wearing the helmet again? What’s going on?”
She strode away and gestured to the couch. “Please sit down. I have news for you.”
“And I you,” he said, sitting. She sat across from him, her posture stiff and formal.
“You go first.”
“We found the culprits behind the bombing. They are two of your delegation, plus someone on Krate. We don’t know how many populate the Krate homeworld, but identifying one will probably lead you to the others. When the bombing failed, the terrorists made a plan to kidnap you and hold you hostage until you reneged on the deal with Seeter.”
Surprised, Jack nodded. “Yes. How did you know?”
“We suspected all along, so intercepted his messages. I am not afraid of him or his cohorts. I did not know who he was working with, however, so I wanted to trace his communications back to Krate. We were able to do that and the terrorists on my homeworld are safely removed. They will be charged with treason.” The downturn of her lips showed her sadness.
“It is troubling, but it had to be done. You have Mimika?”
“You will release him to me? He’s with the diplomatic corps, so has immunity from your crimes. He will be tried on Krate and confined for his treason.”
While Jack sincerely wanted to try Mimika and his co-conspirator in the Commonwealth courts, he knew he had no jurisdiction. “Of course. But, Sondja, why are you helmeted? We’ve come so far.”
Her head tilted down. “I did not wish to infect you further. Things have changed.”
“Not with me, they haven’t.”
“I had a long meeting with some of my scientists on Krate, last night. We talked until very late.”
“That’s why you didn’t comm me back?”
She nodded. “Yes. It was late, and I was troubled.”
Jack leaned forward and tried to take her gloved hands. She resisted. “What’s the matter?”
“There is a cure.”
“A cure for the infection. I told my physician what had happened and he told me about an experimental drug my health scientists have been working on. I had been unaware of it before. Apparently, it can remove the infection and reverse the symptoms in several species, humans among them. An inoculation for human males will soon follow.”
Jack sat silently. Did he want to return to normal? What would his life be like, dispassionately dealing with Sondja on a professional basis and none other.
“I did not know,” she said, a note of pleading in her voice. “I am so sorry.”
He stood and walked a few paces away. Did he love her for herself, or only as a result of the pheromones? “I have to tell you, I’ve been promoted to become the Commonwealth ambassador to Krate. It’s a position I want, but perhaps you’d rather I wasn’t there.”
“Oh, Jack,” she said, her voice shaky. “You would be so welcome on my world.”
“Welcomed by whom? Your people, or you?”
“Both. You see, the cure is only for humans. It does not apply to Kratian females, so the love and attraction I feel for you, although caused by the infection, would not be removed. I will remain in love with you for my entire life. But, Jack, I do not wish to obligate you. Please take the cure and be free from this curse.”
The fact that she was willing to suffer unrequited love for him was stunning. The emotional pain would be heartbreaking. And, really, how much of his love for her was the pheromones talking and how much was caused by her good qualities: intelligence, wit, wisdom, confidence, and beauty. She was worthy of love in so many ways.
“I will take the cure,” he told her, and watched her shoulders droop. “But I will also become ambassador to Krate, because I know my love will not fade. I love you for you, Sondja. I would love you without the pheromones. I’ll prove it to you. How do I get this cure?”
She still looked forlorn. “For your sake, I had the molecular formula sent to your chief of medicine on the ship. I would imagine synthesizing it would take very little time.”
“I’ll go to sick bay right away,” he told her. “We’ll have our answer before you leave tomorrow.”
“Jack,” she said, then paused. “Jack, I have no hope for us. You will lose your love for me. It was false.”
He went to her and took her hands, squeezing them in his. “There’s more to me than that. Trust me.”
She nodded, but wouldn’t meet his gaze. Jack hoped he was right about his feelings. They’d only had a few days together. Could he really be genuinely in love with her? They’d laughed together, conversed, worked through difficult negotiations, and even more difficult danger. Although she was powerful, she was also vulnerable. Taking the cure would risk wounding her deeply and forever. Nonetheless, he had to prove his love to himself and to her. Taking the cure was the only way. He hurried off to see his chief medical officer and tried to keep an open mind and heart.
He couldn’t return to her until the next morning. The cure had been painful, excruciating. He was told that the inoculation for uninfected people wouldn’t be as bad, but as he’d already been exposed to the pheromones, he couldn’t be inoculated. After some truly awful hours, they’d put him to sleep, and hadn’t awakened him until the ship was on “day” shift. His joints still ached, and his head swam as he sat up. The dizziness soon passed, and the doctor called him cured. How he knew that the drug had worked was a mystery to Jack, but he’d seemed confident with his scans, so Jack was cleared to be exposed to Sondja.
Her guards were no longer at her quarters, and no one met him at the door which was unlocked. He began to have the impression that he’d missed her, that she’d gone back to Krate, when he heard movement behind her bedroom door. He knocked sharply and she called to him to enter.
She was dressed in a diaphanous garment that glittered subtly, swaying over her sweet body like gold-shot silk. She had no helmet, and her eyes told him nothing when her gaze met his.
He breathed deeply, not knowing what to expect. She stood there, as if paused while pacing, staring at him. He breathed deeply again, but he didn’t have that feeling of sensual attraction, the nearly overwhelming itch to make her his own. Instead, he felt a subtle sense of coming home. Of seeing a loved one for the first time after a long absence. Relief, pleasure, longing for an embrace all swelled in him. He took a step closer, now within a meter of her, and watched her anxious expression turn desperate. He couldn’t relieve her worries yet; it would be unfair to be premature. He wanted to kiss her. She was beautiful and exotic. Her fragrance was like button flowers from Zion, sweet, floral, gentle. Another step and he was close enough to feel her breath on his face. Her breathing was rapid and shallow. Fear.
“Kiss me,” he whispered.
“I am afraid.”
“We need to try, but I don’t want to force you.”
She nodded and he touched her cheeks, tilting her head toward his. As she leaned up toward him, his hands slid into her silky hair and the red stripe there shifted like a corona around her head. When her lips touched his, he knew. The answer was clear as could be.
He loved her.
There was no hesitation in him as he stole his kiss. It was tender and yet confident. She responded eagerly, returning the thrust of his tongue and the firmness of his lips.
They broke and stood forehead-to-forehead, breathing heavily. He drew in air like an almost-drowned man. “You smell incredible, my love,” he told her.
Her head popped back and her gaze was panicked. “It did not work.”
“Oh, it worked. I don’t want you the same way I wanted you yesterday or before. I want to talk to you, to know you, to laugh with you and build something. I don’t want to overwhelm you and demand that you feel as I do. I want you to give your love to me, but not in desperation. I want a merging. The kiss sealed it for me. I love you.”
“Are you certain?”
“With everything fiber of my being.”
“Will you come to Krate with me, Jack Hamilton? Will you make it your home? Will you make me your mate?”
“Yes, Sondja. Yes to all of that. Yes to building a life together. Yes to exploring each other and learning every detail of our thoughts and emotions. Good, bad, boring, exciting, and wonderful, I want you.”
She threw her arms around him and kissed him again, with even more enthusiasm. Once again, he was embraced by the scent of Sondja.
Thank you for reading “The Scent of Sondja.” I hope you enjoyed this short story. Eventually, I’ll put all my short stories in a book and share them with the world, but for now, these are for my blog readers, all of whom I cherish. If you want to be among the first viewers of my short stories, or any of my posts, sign up for my mailing list (over at the top, right column). I sometimes give things away there as well. Next prize: Saturday, May 23, for mailing list members only.