Baek & Zatalia

Chapter One

Baek sat in the drivers seat of his own ship, a gift from his grandparents on his fifteenth birthday. It was beautiful and much like his father Neek’s. It felt like home when he was on board but he couldn’t enjoy it’s comforts on this trip, not where he was, especially not when he wasn’t yet allowed to be this far from earth without his father at least in the ship, much less in a territory so dangerous and war ridden that you couldn’t rely on auto pilot. He was here for Zatalia, hoping to win her affections with something gorgeous that could only be found on a planet near here. She had instantly stolen his heart when she transferred to his school but his feelings had him acting like a complete moron and often had him coming off rude. He hated that, it crushed him when he did it but his brain just couldn’t seem to function right around her.

His words would end up coming off wrong and other times she’d be speaking and would think he wasn’t listening because he had trouble answering her. He hung on her every word, he truly did and he hoped he could gain some composure soon. She meant the world to him and since he couldn’t rely on himself to act like a normal human being around her he was hoping a gorgeous gift would at least help him convey she meant a great deal to him. He didn’t want to lose her and he knew at least one other boy in his High School was interested in her. It was honestly ironic, he was always so smooth around her but he was the biggest ass Baek knew. He only wanted to get Zatalia in bed so while Baek actually loved her she probably saw him as a jerk while a boy who only wanted in her pants was probably coming off as wonderful to her.

He had a lot of stress on his shoulders, including hoping what he had done to his fathers tracking system on his own ship wouldn’t be detected if he and his mother for whatever reason went out on it. His father had set something up to always know where he was, for safety reasons since space was so vast and could be incredibly dangerous. Today his father couldn’t know, his dad needed to be with his mother Johana since they recently had twins. They weren’t even six months yet and he couldn’t be so selfish as to ask his father to help him while he should be helping his mother with the new babies.

He took a deep breath as another ship whizzed by him with the markings of a race his father had drilled into him to avoid at all costs. Here he was, in their territory but Zatalia was worth it. Even if his father found out and took his ship away, if she would just smile at him this would all be worth it. Suddenly a bright flash of light nearly blinded him and his ship was tossed backward which was no easy thing to accomplish with how heavy their ships were from the material they were made from. It was a bomb, a bomb that had him now struggling to regain control of his ship.

He didn’t panic, he knew better than that from his fathers lessons. He kept his cool and managed to regain a little control but not before another planets gravity had snagged his ship. He had to make a quick choice, get out of this planets gravity or land and rethink how to get where he was going since a few more ships had joined the fray and were shooting things off at one another. His decision was to land and consult his maps before he got himself killed.

He checked his cloaking device to ensure it still worked and then his radar, scanning the surface as he approached, wanting to make sure he wasn’t going to land in the middle of a village or in hostile territory. He slowed his descent, finding an area large enough for his ship and guiding it down. He was relieved when he had finally settled down and made sure everything was still functioning properly. The explosion hadn’t done any real damage. He got up from the pilot seat and went to the platform in the middle of the room, letting his fingers tap over it until it lit up and a large map filled the screen. He typed in his co-ordinance and it moved to his location.

“I’m not that far.” He said to himself and a part of him wish his father was here, but he knew he had to do this on his own. He knew he couldn’t go directly back up from where he was. He was sure those ships were still fighting and he didn’t want to risk his ship getting blown up. If he stayed slow and kept himself cloaked he knew he could probably make it to the other side of the planet then go around the largest part of the two fleets. It would take longer, but it was his best bet.

He quickly grabbed something to eat, used the restroom and made himself a drink so he wouldn’t be tempted to leave his pilots chair then set off. His mind now fully where he was and no longer on the girl he loved or the possibility of his fathers anger. He had to stay in the moment, another lesson of his fathers. He may not be allowed in these areas of space but that hadn’t stopped his father from training him for all possibilities anyway. He half wondered sometimes if his father expected a rebellion like this which is why he prepared him for situations that he shouldn’t be in. In any case he was confident as he flew, he respected his dad and his knowledge. Baek had paid close attention to his lessons so he knew he could accomplish this.

When he got to the point he was aiming for Baek deeply desired to jump up and cheer but instead he lifted off back into space and away from this planet that had granted him safe passage away from the warring ships. He could see clearly once more the lights of war and shook his head. He grew up with the same distaste for it all his people had. War was pointless, it only brought misery. His journey continued and he hoped that would be the only excitement beyond collecting what he was looking for.

Zatalia sat in front of her computer playing a video game, trying for possibly the fifth or sixth time to get passed this boss. “come on” she said in frustration. Her mother came in with a smile and cut up fruit “eat baby girl or I’ll unplug that thing”

“Yes mam” Her mother kissed her head and walked out. Zatalia died once more and sighed, taking off her headset and setting her controller down so she could pick up the plate of fruit. She stood with it, going to hangout with her mother a little bit “Oh, coming out here and everything” her mother teased lovingly, her tone sweet “Of course, is dad still coming home tomorrow?”

“yep and he wants to have a family day. He wants you to decide what we do”

“anything?”

“anything within an hour of here. Understandably he’s tired of driving”

“Hmm, I don’t know. I’ll figure it out by morning”

“good” Zatalia took another bite of fruit “thank you mom”

“gotta make sure you eat something healthy. Anyway, your father also wanted me to ask you if you looked over those college brochures. That’s not far off, you’re seventeen honey”

“I don’t know mom, I don’t even know what I want to do. It’s a lot of pressure”

“we’re not trying to pressure you Zatalia”

“I know, you guys are just looking out for my future but I feel liek I should know what I want to do first”

“Not necessarily, I mean, you could just take basic courses everyone has to take no matter what they want to end up doing”

“I’ll look at them later”

“alright sweetheart” Zatalia sighed and laid back “Hey, I’m sorry if we come off pushy” her mother said, fearing she had upset her daughter “No, it’s fine mom, that boss is kicking my ass and I fear looking at my phone. That dude from school is always blowing it up” Her mother laughed “you’re beautiful, smart and kind, I’m not surprised you’ve got a boy who wont leave you alone”

“he’s not a catch mom, he’s an ass. I mean, he acts nice to me but I can see his ulterior motives. In general I can’t seem to attract a nice boy”

“Hm, you sound sad Zatalia, want to talk about it?”

“No”

“Is it Baek?”

“Mooom”

“what, it’s a legitimate question”

“Baek couldn’t be less interested in me. I really think I bore the life out of him. He talks to everyone but me and even when he answers me it’s a mess. I don’t know why he hangs around me at school at all. I wish he wouldn’t. It’s hard to get over the crush I have on him when he’s always sitting with me at lunch and following me around. I mean, his fourth period is on the other side of school but he somehow always ends up walking with me to mine”

“that doesn’t sound like a boy who isn’t interested”

“he’s not interested in what I have to say”

“Maybe he’s just listening”

“I don’t want to talk to a wall mom”

“I get that baby, maybe he’s just shy”

“Baeks not a shy type of person”

“You’d be surprised how many outgoing guys turn into mumbling idiots when they have a crush. Just because he isn’t shy in general doesn’t mean he isn’t with you Zatalia”

“I guess, can we talk about something else though that isn’t college or boys?”

“sure sweetheart”

Baek was relieved when the alert for his destination sounded and he slowed. His heart was beating hard in his chest as he scanned as he started his descent. He was so close then he could go back to her and apologize for acting like such an idiot. He exhaled a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding when he finally touched down. He checked his notes on the area, looking for any sentient creatures that lived there. There were a few tribes of humanoid type creatures and he studied the picture of them before shifting his shape as his father had taught him. He then went and gathered the container he would need to transport his gift.

The air that rushed at him when he stepped out of his ship smelled sweet and fresh. The plants here were unlike any he had ever seen on earth, but there was one in particular that he was looking for. It was beautiful like Zatalia, reminding him of her bright blue eyes. The smell was also supposed to be amazing and the plant never died, the scent never fading. He hoped she would like it and it would be enough to get her to see that he adored her. He also hoped she wasn’t with that idiot when he returned. It would kill him.

Chapter Two

He walked carefully, knowing well how much these people treasured the plants around him. They wouldn’t be angry about him taking one but destroying one by mindless walking over them or something like that would cause trouble and beyond trying to be a respectful guest he wasn’t sure what happened when someone got in trouble here. It was documented they got angry over careless destruction of plants but not how it was handled. The one sent here to study had been careless and lazy but nobody else had been willing to take such a station since this place was located in such a horrible part of space. His mind was now wondering what had happened to the one sent here. He simply left his position and the only way anybody had known about it is that he quit sending anything at all home to their planet.

Zatalia sighed as she lay in bed that night, unable to fall asleep. What if her mom was right about Baek? Maybe he was just shy. It was weird to think about, especially when she had seen him interacting with his friends just fine. Sometimes he would just stare at her when she spoke. She sighed again and picked up her phone, rolling her eyes when she saw all the texts. “Geez.” She said as she sat it back down and turned over, pulling the covers up and burying her face in them. Maybe she would try contacting Baek once they were back from their family day.

Baek smiled when he finally found the flower he had been searching for. He crouched down and opened the container then gently dug it out and placed it in the container. He closed it and admired it for a moment. He was so lost in his triumph that he didn’t realize someone was behind him until he felt something sharp poke him in the back. He froze, throwing his hands up. “Who are you?” The question was asked in the native language, but sounded a bit off, like the speaker wasn’t native, but Bake dared not turn just in case.

“I don’t mean any harm, I only came here for the flower. I’m not a soldier.”

“Wait, are you a researcher?”

“Yes, my father comes from the planet Krawnum. He is currently assigned to earth, has been since before I was born but I love my home planet and it’s morals. I would never purposefully bring harm anywhere I go. If I was disrespectful in some way I apologize. I thought it would be okay as long as I didn’t step on any plants or anything like that”

“relax” whatever had been in his back was pulled away so Baek turned as the stranger said “I’m Lim, are you old enough to know me? I’m sure even if you’re not you would given my poor reputation” Lim changed, becoming what he really was and Baek did the same “In my studies with my father I learned about you”

“who is your dad?”

“Neek”

“No way, Neek had babies. I thought that man might marry a book one day. He didn’t so much as look twice at women”

“from how I hear it my mom changed that pretty rapidly when he came to earth. He fell for her right away but why did you stop writing home?” Lim shrugged “I just didn’t feel like doing my work any more. I mean, its easy living here. I didn’t need the food our home was sending me or anything like that so I just quit without saying I quit” Baek wasn’t sure how to answer that. He couldn’t understand all together abandoning a job you had sworn to do but he wasn’t here to give a speech to Lim, he was here for Zatalia. “well, if you want it a secret it’s safe with me. I’m not supposed to be here”

“here for a girl then, is that flower a gift?”

‘Yes”

“damn, these girls from the planet your dads on must really be something. I’ll give you an offer our kind can’t normally refuse. If you take me home with you, I’ll write up everything I’ve learned over all these years. I mean it, every single thing”

“so you’re stuck here huh” Lim chuckled “sharp like your father, yeah, one thing I forgot I needed was fuel for the ship. Nothing here works so when I ran out I ran out”

“Our leader wouldn’t have refused you fuel if you had asked”

“by the time I swallowed my pride the ship had been left sitting so long without care that it wouldn’t function in any capacity. I couldn’t ask”

“I’ll help you then, maybe I’ll be in less trouble if I bring you”

“How old are you?”

“seventeen” Lims eyes went wide “and you flew here by yourself, here of all places. Even bringing me might not spare you from your father. Neeks a good man who undoubtedly loves you, I think fear he could have lost you is gong to make for a bad day when you get back but I’ll be on your side, I’ll try to remind him what it’s like to be a teenager. Please bring me back, you have no reason to trust my word given my history but I will stay true to it”

“My conscious would eat at me forever if I left you here knowing you can’t leave, come on” They shifted back to look like the people that lived here and began to make their way to the ship. “so truly, is she really worth taking so much risk?” Lim asked along the way “I’ve been such an idiot I needed to do something grand. I mean, she wont understand all this risk but this flower is so beautiful and perfect I’m hoping just it alone will express how I feel”

“does she even know you’re not from her planet?”

“I can barely talk about normal things so no not yet. If she’ll be with me I’ll tell her”

“But being Neeks son you’re still not going to brag about what you went through for her are you”

Baek shook his head. “I just want her to see that I love her, that I’m always thinking of her. She deserves something beautiful for me being such an idiot.”

“Human women are so fascinating. Your father got lucky when he was sent to earth.”

Baek nodded, having to agree. He loved his mother and couldn’t imagine having anyone else but her and he had also been able to meet Zatalia. If had been born on his father’s planet, he would never have any of that. “So how did you survive out here?” He asked as they loaded into his ship and he put the flower next to his seat.

“Blending in mostly avoiding certain areas. This planet is mostly a peaceful place, but there are wild animals and poisonous plants that can kill you if you are not careful.”

“I made sure to do as much research as I could before coming here. I was more concerned about the war going on.”

He sighed “yeah, you’d think one side would tire of it but they seem to live and breath for it now. I’m anxious to get away. The weapons they use are only getting bigger and more deadly. It’s only a matter of time before they start destroying the planets around here.”

“How about we don’t bring up these points to my parents” Baek said and Lim chuckled again before asking “what should I know of human custom before I get there. You’re doing me a huge favor, I know that so I’d feel awful if I offended your mother”

“They behave around each other about like we do so you don’t have to worry. However, a sad thing about humanity is that they aren’t peaceful. They hurt each other all the time, a lot seem to think nothing of others feelings so you can’t just trust everyone you meet there. However my mom and her family are amazing. The only person in her family that can’t be trusted is her mother and she doesn’t interact with her anyway. Oh, she’s actually descended from Freg by the way.”

“He’s alive?”

“Yep, apparently this family is good at finding people that are supposed to be dead”

“Ouch.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it, it’s just a fact.”

Zatalia groaned as something brushed her nose and she swatted at it. It came back, accompanied by a laugh and she snapped her eyes open, smiling near instantly when she saw her dad. She sat up and hugged him, happy that he was home. “Hey princess.”

“When did you get in?”

“Early this morning.” He pulled back. “Mom’s making breakfast, she told me to come and get you up.”

“Alright.”

“She told me you’ve been having boy trouble.”

Zatalia blushed. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

He patted her head. “He’ll come around, trust me, I’ve been there. When you like someone, sometimes your brain forgets to send those little signals to your mouth. Anyway, just be patient.”

“I will.”

“Sorry to embarrass you first thing in the morning, now hurry up slow poke or I’m eating your food.”

She couldn’t resist hugging her dad again. It was amazing when he was home, especially after such a long trip. He held her until she pulled away again. Once he was out of her room Zatalia quickly dressed and ran downstairs to eat with her parents who were laughing and playing around with one another. They were both incredibly fun but they seemed to bring out even better versions of each other. Some friends, after finding out he had to travel different places for work quite a bit would pity her but Zatalia would end up pitying them right back most the time. Few of her friends parents loved each other quite like Zatalia’s parents did and her father was so amazing and spent so much time with them when he was home, not to mention calling one to twice a day when he was gone that it truly wasn’t that bad.

She could even text him whenever she wanted. Sometimes it would take an hour for him to reply but there was never a time she couldn’t reach out to him. There was even once when she was in Middle School where she broke her arm and he came home that day, not caring for his second how mad his boss was because he had been so worried about her. There was also back when her mothers mom died and he came home. They came first, always and she wouldn’t want anybody else other than the dad she had.

A ship seeming to fly right toward them startled Baek a bit the ships cloaking is still on, they can’t see you he comforted himself before dipping the ship down. Real fear gripped him when the other ship went lower to “I think they can see us” Baek said to Lim “that can’t be”

“let me try again to move out of the way” he took a hard turn, trying to go a completely different direction but the ship followed “Oh god” Lim said “what kind of ship is it? I can’t see it that well” Baek started trying to get a camera on the ship to zoom on it. “damn I don’t know this ship” he said once he could see it. Lim looked “they can see us, of course, finally when I thought I was headed for a nice peaceful life.”

“there’s no time for pity parties. What do I do?”

“Hope they don’t catch up. High tail this thing as fast as it goes to the left. There should be a black hole. If we can just stay ahead of it until we can go through”

“I’m not going through a black hole! I’ve never been through one”

“I have, it’ll be fine, I’ll drive once we’re through. I just want you to get us there since this is your ship and you’re familiar with it. They wont follow us, their ships can’t take the pressure”

Baek calmed himself and jerked quickly to the left, accelerating once he was straight, his eyes flicking to the image of the image of the ship gaining in them. Lim pointed at the black hole and Baek’s fingers gripped tightly to the controls as he headed into it. It felt strange, like he was suddenly being compressed by some heavy weight. He squeezed his eyes closed and when he opened them again he was laying on the floor and Lim was behind the controls. “What happened?” He asked.

“You passed out, it happens sometimes.”

“Are we safe?”

“It didn’t follow us, at least I don’t think it did, so I’d say we’re safe for now.”

Baek got to his feet and went over to the console next to Lim, his fingers moving over the buttons as he checked his ships status. Everything seemed in working order so Baek just sat down with a sigh. “My dad’s going to kill me.”

“As long as this trip was worth it.”

“It was. How long until we’re back on track?”

“Not long, I promise.”

Chapter Three

Johana looked stressed as she walked in circles around the living room and kitchen with little Tarryn in her arms. Despite the fact Tarryn was refusing to go to sleep he knew it didn’t have anything to do with the baby so he asked “what’s wrong?”

“Baek, hasn’t he been gone a long time? He didn’t even say where he was going and he normally does. I’m just worried. I know you’ve trained him well but..there’s so much out there and it’s weird he hasn’t come home yet”

“I’ll check on him” he walked over, giving her then the baby a gentle kiss before walking out to his own ship to see where his son was. Some of Johana’s anxiety lifted just knowing her husband was going to go look. Neek instantly knew something was off the second he got everything running and it didn’t take him long at all to see his son had tampered with the tracker. Anger and worry washed over him that Baek would do this. He had a lot of freedom and that was about to drastically change if he didn’t have a good explanation. once he got this fixed and found his son. He just hoped Johana wouldn’t come out here until he fixed it, he didn’t want her more worked up than she had to be.

He called his younger sons cellphone, not wanting to go back inside and risk having to talk to Johana just yet. “yeah dad? Did you leave?”

“I’m outside in my ship, come out here”

“why?”

“because I don’t know where your brother is and I’d rather know where he is before I have to talk to your mother. I want you to help me fix what he’s done and I want to talk to you.” Iseul walked into the living room nonchalantly “dad outside?”

“yeah, whats up”

“Oh, just gotta ask him something” he walked by then ran to the ship once he was outside. Once Iseul was on board Neek said seriously “If you know anything right now is the time to tell me. This is your only chance to talk to me without serious consequences. What your brother has done is beyond stupid and he may not see that ship again until after he graduates “dad, I swear, all I know is he’s been rambling about some flower for” Iseul couldn’t think of her name for some reason but his dad knew “Zatalia?”

“Yeah, he’s really striking out with her but that’s about the extent of what I know”

“I will go with you boys anywhere, he goes where ever he wants, just sometimes I need to be there. Why is that so hard?”

“I don’t know dad”

“He just better hope your mother doesn’t come out here before I fix what he’s done to my tracker. It’s only going to make me madder if I have to watch her be upset”

“what should I do dad?”

“I need you to write a letter to our leader and send it back home. You remember how to use the box right?”

“yes sir”

“Jean has the ability to message all the ships at once. If I can’t fix this I need to at least know where the last place he was spotted was if I hope to find him. I also know our people will help me look”

“yes sir”

“Then I want you to send a message to your brothers ship telling him to get home right this instant. I wish I could trust him to just come home and tell me where he is now but I can’t apparently. Iseul, please, never do anything like this. I thought you boys understood how dangerous space can be, how vast. If I’m to give you freedom I need to know I can trust you”

“I wont dad” Neek sighed “please hurry and write those letters son”

“yes sir”

Baek was proud of himself when he managed to stay awake and on his feet as Lim pulled out of the black hole and back into open space. It was such an odd sensation, one he wouldn’t forget. “Alright, it might take us a little longer to get back to your planet, but we’re safe at least.” Lim said as he relinquished the controls.

“Thank you.”

“Feeling uncomfortable?”

“Just a little. It’s like my entire being has been stretched and then mashed back together.”

Lim chuckled. “You’ll get used to it. I’m sure your father has been through his share.”

Baek checked their location and then typed in a new route. He hated it was going to take him longer to get back to Zatalia, but at least he would get there alive. He was surprised when he got an alert something had come through for him and his heart stuttered in his chest. He didn’t want to get up and check it, he was sure it was his father. Lim retrieved it anyway and brought the letter to him. “Who’s it from?”

“Someone named Iseul.”

“I’m in real trouble then, that’s my younger brother and if dad had him write me instead of doing it himself then he must be furious.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine, even if you are punished.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“want me to read it to you? Sometimes it’s easier to just hear these kind of things instead of reading it”

“sure, thank you”

“Baek, where ever you are you need to come home now or write back and tell dad where you are. He knows you messed with the tracking system and I’m honestly surprised you did it too. You’ve always been able to go where ever you want and honestly, I think dads more hurt than mad that you’ve done this. Please, hurry home or at least write back. Just an fyi dad had me write a message to Jean to have everyone look for you”

“should I say something back?”

“I suppose we have to…I don’t want to make everyone search for me….”

“I’ll tell him we are on the way back and that you’re with me. I can also semi explain the situation so you aren’t coming into it having to explain everything when you get home”

“thank you”

“don’t look so blue kid, it’s good to have parents that care about you”

“I know..eh…I didn’t want to hurt them, especially not mom….I was hoping I could get back before they found out.” Lim set to writing back and Baek paid attention to where he was driving, his mind consumed with his parents and Zatalia. “Um, a guy named Lim wrote back from Baeks ship dad” Iseul informed Neek right away when the letter came through. Neek looked puzzled as he took it “do you know him dad”

“Maybe” he said as he opened it. Iseul tried to read his fathers face as he read the letter to himself. Neek sighed when he was done “He did go off because of Zatalia”

“can I read it?” Neek handed his son the letter then went back to trying to fix the tracker. When Iseul was done he asked “so are you still mad?”

“Maybe not as mad but he’s still in trouble. I can’t stress enough my need to know where you two are in space. Right now if something should happen I’d have no way at all to find him beyond hope and help from my people and people get lost all the time like Freg and Lim. It’s not because I’m trying to control you…I love you boys. I can’t lose you and neither could your mother”

“I’m sure he knows that dad, I mean I guess I understand why he’d do something like this, but he should have asked you for help.”

“He should never feel like he needs to hide things from any of us.” He ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “You should write him back and also write Jean again and ask him to have a couple of ships head in their direction. Also write back to Lim and tell him to look out for your brother or else.”

“Alright, should I tell mom Baek’s okay?”

“Just tell her he’s safe and on his way home and that I’ll talk to her once I done here, that she shouldn’t worry.”

“Okay.”

He tussled Iseul’s hair. “Thank you.”

“Love you dad.”

“Love you too.”

Once Neek managed to fix his tracking system he calmed down even further. There it was, the location of his son and now no matter what happened he’d be able to find him as long as the ship survived it. With that done Neek went inside to talk to Johana who had finally gotten Tarryn to go to sleep. When morning came it was a call on Baeks phone that woke Johana. She always turned into a light sleeper anyway when she had a child under one in her home but with Baek gone and in a dangerous part of space last night she had barely been asleep at all so she went to his room to see who it was. By the time she got there the phone had stopped but there was a message for Baek. Normally she’d respect his privacy but she didn’t feel her son could be the one upset when he got home. Johana smiled when she saw Zatalia’s name and began to read “Hey, I know it might be weird I’m finally using your number when we exchanged them a few months back but I wanted to hangout sometime before spring break is over if you’d like to.”

Zatalia was sitting at home, a mess of nerves to have finally used his number. She hadn’t until now because she didn’t like texting and Baek didn’t even seem to want to speak to her at school but she was hoping her parents were right and he was just shy. If they needed to start out texting that would be okay with her. It would honestly be nice to have a real conversation with him. “is everything okay Johana?” Neek asked from behind her “Yeah, Zatalia is trying to reach him”

“He should be home any moment. I’ll make sure to hand him his phone after I talk to him”

“you’re going to let him see her? She’s trying to make plans to meet with him”

‘Yeah, he obviously really loves this girl and at this point I’ll just be relieved to see him safe. Baek has always been smart and reasonable. I’m going to chalk this one up to being a teenage boy and give him a pass”

Chapter Four

Baek was both relieved and nervous when he finally landed near his home. He just sat there for a moment, feeling ashamed for worrying his parents, especially his mother. “You ready to face the music?” Lim asked.

“Not really, but I know I need too.”

Lim patted his shoulder. “You can do it.”

“I know, thanks.” He got up, lifting the container with the flower in it and started for the exit. What could he really say? Would they understand and would they forgive him? His father was waiting for him, arms crossed and looking disappointed. “Hey dad.”

“Baek.”

“I…”

“We should talk alone.” Neek looked at Lim. “So it is you?”

“Alive and well.” Lim rubbed the back of his neck. “I asked your son to bring me back. He pretty much saved my life.”

“That’s not true.” Baek said. ”

“Sure it is, you could have left me there.”

Neek sighed. “Go up to my house, tell my wife you are a friend, I need to talk to my son.”

Lim nodded then hurried along “I’m sorry dad’

“I’ve had time to cool down but you terrified me son. Mostly because you made it so I couldn’t track you. I know you did it trying to make me think you’re somewhere safe but I know my ship, if you mess with anything I’m going to know son. Why didn’t you just ask me to go with you?”

“Because of the twins…Tarryn doesn’t sleep much and I wanted you to stay here to help mom. I knew you wouldn’t want mom and the twins in the ship going into that part of space”

“That’s true, but still, I love you Baek and there are some things I really want you trained more in before you do it on your own. Your mother could have handled the twins while I helped you. She has her family and your brother Iseul after all.”

“I didn’t think about that”

“You were just thinking of Zatalia…I get it. You must deeply love her to have risked so much”

“I do, I’d marry her some day if she’d have me but all I do is make an ass out of myself around her. I can’t talk and when I do it comes out all wrong. It’s frustrating and the more I get frustrated with myself the worse I get. I feel like this gift is my only hope of winning her over”

“Just breath son, keep your cool. It’s like how I always tell you to keep a clear head no matter what’s happening on the ship. Just remember you need to stay calm if you want to win her over. I have good news for you though”

“what?”

“she tried calling you this morning and then she texted you. It looks like she wants to meet you somewhere”

“Seriously?”

Neek pulled Baek’s phone out of his pocket and handed it to him. “I think she’s just as nervous as you are.”

“How can you tell?” Baek asked as he looked at the message.

“Call it a hunch.”

“Can I see her? I know I’m in trouble, but…well I want to give her her gift.”

Neek placed a hand on his shoulder. “Of course, but you must promise me you will never do anything like this again. I understand why you did it, love is a powerful force, but if anything had happened to you, a lot of people would have been hurt. You got incredibly lucky.”

“I know dad and I promise to ask you next time.”

“Good, now why don’t we get you inside so your mother can see you’re alright.”

“Okay.”

“Then you can text Zatalia back and set up a date.”

Baek rushed inside and hugged his mother “welcome home baby” was all she said, figuring he had been fussed at enough at this point. He showed her the flower and Johana remarked “that’s gorgeous”

“and it’ll never die”

“she’s going to love it” He hurried to his room and took a few steadying breaths before deciding what to say back to Zatalia “It’s not weird, I’m happy to hear from you. I’ve missed seeing you at school. I’d really like to meet you as soon as you’re free. Just let me know okay? I’ll even take you out for lunch if that isn’t too soon” He made himself hit send before he over analyzed what he said and erased the message. Just in case she was willing to see him so soon he set down his gift and took a quick shower, checking his phone the second he was out. She had replied and he could barely believe it as he opened the text “Lunch sounds good if you can pick me up. My parents are busy all day today but if you can’t I’m sure they’ll give me money for a taxi”

He nearly dropped his phone he started responding so fast. “Of course I’ll pick you up, how about eleven thirty?” He swallowed nervously as he waited, his heart beating so hard he was sure it would burst from his chest.

“That sounds great.” She said back and he exhaled the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. What was he going to do until then? He couldn’t believe she had actually said yes so soon. He needed to get cleaned up and get the plant read for her. He was also nervous about telling her the truth about him. What if she thought he was crazy and decided she didn’t want to see him?

“So? What did he say?” Zatalia’s dad asked as he peeked over her shoulder.

She blushed. “He said yes, I’m so nervous.”

“I’m sure he is too, just breathe and remember if he doesn’t say anything that’s probably why.”

She sent him her address then began getting ready to meet him. She tried not to think too much about it since this wasn’t a date but it was hard when she found him so ridiculously handsome. He could take her breath away by just looking at her and she couldn’t help but want to look cute. She was heading out to wait on the porch when her father handed her a few twenties “Have fun, that’s all yours. Even if he decides to pay for everything today you can still keep it.”

“really dad?”

“I’m not always here to spoil you and you’re a good kid.” she hugged him tightly and he reminded her “You keep him in line okay, if something makes you uncomfortable tell him and if he doesn’t stop break something” Zatalia laughed “I love you dad” She decided to wait outside since it was such a nice day. When Baek arrived she stood and nervously approached his car, blushing when he got out of his car with something in his hands “I…I wanted to give you this before we left” He was almost shaking with nerves but he kept telling himself to calm down, to focus like he did when he flew. She gasped when she took it from him “wow, this..this is gorgeous Baek. I’ve never seen anything so pretty”

A flirty response instantly popped up in his head but when he opened his mouth to say it nothing came out and fear swelled within him he was going to ruin this chance. “thank you so much Baek” she was almost taken back by just how gorgeous this flower was, she had never seen anything like it. “where did you buy this”

“I didn’t have to buy it…I know where they grow and I went to get one for you…I…” he inwardly groaned as she looked up at him with those gorgeous blue eyes. With all he was he didn’t want to ruin this chance to hangout with her, he wanted her to invite him out again sometime. “These flowers remind me of you because of how pretty the blue is…like your eyes” he finally spat out and her heart tripped over itself. She was beginning to wonder if this was a date.

“Thank you so much, Baek, you’re the sweetest.”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m glad you like it.”

“Just let me run this inside real quick.”

“S…sure. Just so you know it doesn’t need water, unless you want to give it some, but it’s self sustaining so yeah.”

He wasn’t looking directly at her and she smiled when she realized he was nervous. “Okay, just give me a minute.” He nodded and she hurried inside, pausing just a moment to show her parents the gift he had given her before taking it to her room and sitting it on her desk. She waved at her parents on the way out and Baek straightened immediately when she came out. “Okay, I’m ready.”

“Oh, good, um…” he looked a little lost at first and then something seemed to dawn on him and he quickly opened the passenger door for her, a blush tinting his cheeks.

“Thank you.”

Once he was inside the car as well he said “I have a place in mind but we can go anywhere you want”

“we’ll go to where ever you were thinking of” His heart was slamming against his chest but Baek was just grateful he was managing to act semi normal around her. When he still hadn’t said anything more when they arrived at the first stop light she began to talk about the game she was currently playing. She had hope he’d say something but if he didn’t she’d try to not take it personally. “So I finally got past this boss I’ve been stuck on awhile. It’s in that game I was talking to you about the last day of school. It was such a relief, I think I should just eat fruit more often. My mom cut me up a huge plate and when I came back from eating it bam, done”

She glanced over at him then continued “my dad just got back so my mom is happy as can be. We had a family day yesterday” She left a brief pause, trying to give him an easy opening to say something to her since “what did you do” could fit there but he didn’t so she just continued talking. When they arrived at the restaurant she went to get out and he said “wait”

“Hm?”

“I’m sorry”

“for?”

“struggling to talk around you, I mean it’s at ridiculous levels. I just end up silent because I over think everything because…” he swallowed “because I think I love you. I’ve always been so collected and outgoing but you throw everything about me because all I can think about when I’m near you is how much I like your voice and how pretty you are and I enjoy hearing about your family and everything else you tell me about but I know I should talk more…I’m trying…”

“did you say you love me?” He nodded, unable to look at her “Baek, please look at me” he turned his head, his eyes finding hers. “I’m glad to hear you even like me…sometimes I’ve wondered about that because I’ve been attracted to you since my first day at school” She took his hand and smiled at him reassuringly “so if you’d like it to be this could be our first date and I could be your girlfriend” His hand felt like it may catch fire it was so hot and she almost laughed, it was more adorable now that she knew his silence shouldn’t hurt her feelings. She let go of his hand to move so she could kiss him. She had imagined it so many times when she first moved here and was still dyeing to so she hoped he could at least kiss her back.

He placed one hand on her arm and the other on the side of her face as he awkwardly kissed her back, hoping it wasn’t too obvious this was his first kiss. Even if it wasn’t, this was Zatalia, he couldn’t believe she was actually kissing him when all he did was act like a weirdo around her. When she sat back in her seat she wanted more than anything for him to say something and he actually did, he uttered words that melted her heart, especially with the way he was looking at her “I love you so much Zatalia”

“I love you too”

“I’ll do anything to make you happy…I’m going to talk more, I mean it” She smiled at him and he couldn’t help but kiss her again. It was brief and he got out of the car after to let her out before he just kept kissing her. They were on a date and he wanted her to see he could be a good boyfriend. He was going to make this day amazing and if she let him, he planned on making the rest of her life amazing.

~ The End

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