Do you want to meet? It was a short letter, but not something he had been expecting. As an experiment he and the others had not exactly formed bonds and to have Nikolai write and ask him was surprising.
“Well, it’s up to you.” Joy said as she looked at the letter. “If you want to go, I can close up for a week.”
“I’m sure he found out about me when he caught wind of what your father did.”
“Do you think it’s safe?”
He shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know if he bears a grudge against the institute. I believe it would be good to know him, who he is, what he does. You don’t have to accompany me.”
“Sure I do, it’ll be fun to go somewhere together.”
“If you’re sure, I’d feel more secure having you around. I mean, even if meeting him doesn’t go well, I will have still gotten a trip with you” Joy kissed him and it still made his whole body react. She was such a treasure and a blessing in his life. Being assigned her had lead him to so much happiness that nothing else really mattered. He didn’t care who else he had as long as he had Joy. Joy set up a sign to have a big sale for the rest of the day to get rid of some of her inventory then that night she started preparing to be gone awhile.
Carter stayed too, helping her in any way he could. It was late once they could go home so they just ordered pizza and watched movies together before bed. That next day he got in contact with Nikolai, letting him know he did want to meet and that he was bringing his girlfriend with him. Nikolai seemed excited and maybe even a little nervous too.
“He didn’t sound like someone who grew up in that place.” Carter said as they headed for the airport.
“It’s been awhile though right?”
“Yeah, he left after they tried killing him. He sounds so human.”
Joy leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I’m sure he has his bad days too, it can’t be easy to get over something like that.”
“It’s overwhelming, but having you makes it easier.”
“I love you Carter”
“I love you too, so much. I am really happy you’re coming with me”It was a long car ride but it flew by. They talked or just listened to music on the radio to pass time. Making conversations last for hours was fairly easy since he hadn’t been out all that long yet. If she wanted to talk about an activity or show she liked she normally had to explain a lot before even getting to what she wanted to talk about. He loved listening to her voice so he was glad though he hoped it never started to bother her.
Boarding their flight took no time at all and they were sitting quietly together watching a movie. Her fingers laced through his and she rested her head on his shoulder, making him let out a contented sigh. Happiness couldn’t even begin to describe the emotion he felt when he was close to Joy. He was so focused on her, that he didn’t really catch anything that was happening in the movie and she smiled because she could feel him watching her. He wondered if she knew what she did to him, that she was his everything. Only when she fell asleep half way through the flight did he let his mind drift to Nikolai. He had heard stories about him, about his powers, about how promising he had been. He had been deemed a failure, but even the scientists seem to speak about him with awe in their voices. He was what could have been. He wondered what kind of man he was, if he was truly safe for Joy to be around. The flight wasn’t long and he gently shook Joy from her nap when the plane was getting close.
“Sorry.” She mumbled as she removed her headphones and buckled up. “Were you okay without me?”
“Of course, my mind was busy.”
She smiled as she kissed him. “So, ready to meet you brother? He’d be your brother right?”
“In a sense, yes. Though we are not blood related, we were both raised in that place.”
“This is fun. It’ll be like being reunited with a long lost sibling, with less tears and more awkwardness.”
When they landed Nikolai was already waiting with his wife Pandora. Pandora caught their attention and waved them over “hey, Nikolai says he mentioned me. My name is Pandora but you can call me Pan for short if you’d like. You’re Joy, right?” Pandora asked and she said “yep, nice to meet you both” Nikolai and Pandora guided them to their car and Pandora asked “are you two hungry? We’ll stop somewhere. It wouldn’t just be for you guys, I’m hungry too”
“I am pretty hungry”
“any preferences on where we stop?” Nikolai asked.
“Wherever is fine. I haven’t found anything I don’t like and I don’t have allergies.” Carter answered.
“The perfect specimen, no allergies, good immune system, highly intelligent. Perfection is everything, perfection is the future.” Nikolai said.
“It was drilled into us every day.”
“How is life on the outside treating you?” Pandora asked.
“It’s fine, confusing at times, but I’m learning thanks to Joy and her patience.”
“Pandora is the same, she’s shown me a lot of patience, even when I say or do stupid things. Her and her friend Hardy are my family.”
“I guess I don’t know where either of us would be without them”
“well it seems to me you falling for her is what brought the organization down”
“Yeah…I’m so glad I wasn’t foolish enough to kill her” Carter pulled Joy against him, in that moment needing to hold her. Joy snuggled into him, always feeling a rush of contentment in his arms. They just pulled up to the first place they passed and went in. It took them awhile to decide what they wanted but it came out impressively fast so they were soon eating and talking about what it was like to go from that life to being free and about their partners.
“So, how long will you two be in town?” Pandora asked as they were heading out of the restaurant.
“About a week, maybe more if Carter wants more time.” Joy replied.
“You have a business to run and I wouldn’t keep you from your flowers.” Carter chimed in.
“We can stay as long as you like, I’ll just take more time off.”
“I’ll think about it.” He gave her a gentle smile.
“Have you gotten a hotel yet?” Pandora asked. “We have room.”
“Carter made sure we rented one. He’s a little uh…you know.”
“I see, Nikolai too.” Pandora giggled. “Well then we’ll spend as much time with you as we can during the day. We could your the city or maybe the guys can take a boys day with Hardy.”
“Boys day?” Carter asked.
“It’s when guys go out together and do man stuff.” Joy tried explaining. “Like maybe drinking and watching a game or a cage fight.” She smiled at him processing her words and she couldn’t help but wonder what men like Carter and Nikolai would find entertaining.
“Oh” he said, still not quite understanding the concept. He still felt like he needed Joy so much. He didn’t really have a desire to go out and do somthing without her. They discussed the possibility and eventually agreed on the guys going out for awhile and the girls going out together. The next day they would hangout as a group but Nikolai wanted to get to know Carter on a one on one level first. After the guys left Pandora walked Joy to her motorcycle “ever ridden one of these?”
“Um, twice, they still make me a bit nervous but I can ride” Joy answered truthfully. Pandora smiled and gave her a helmet “just hang on tight to me. I’m a good driver so you can relax”
“where are we going?”
“You may have noticed I’m exactly the most girliest of girls, but I heard Carter say you liked flowers so first I’m taking you to this big garden and then if you want, we can go to the little bungee ballet thing they’re having at the gym.”
“Sounds fun, I’ve never done anything like that.”
“So Carter, what are your super powers?” Hardy asked then took a bite out of his burger. “Do you have like x-ray vision or are you like Nikie the human lie detector?”
“I have heightened senses so I’m more sensitive to the world around me. Even my skin, it can detect changes in the air, subtle vibrations, even the brush of Joy’s fingers illicits a strong reaction, but the draw back is pain is more intense. I’ve learned to block it out. I am also incredibly fast and skilled with firearms.”
“That’s pretty cool and the heightened senses has to be great for sex” Nikolai hit Hardy in the back of the head and Hardy laughed “what? You’re not jealous?”
“I’m sorry, he can be immature at times” Nikolai said and Carter answered without embarrassment “It probably does make sex better. I love any way of being close to Joy”
“It’s mostly because you love her like I love my Pandora. Pandora made my life worth something. She made me happy in ways and depths I didn’t know I could and I assume it’s the same for you and Joy. “Saps” Hardy said and chugged some of his drink.
The garden was gorgeous and Joy spun in a circle, taking in all the colors. “This is amazing.” She said as she walked over to a lily plant and inhaled the slightly musky scent. “These are so pretty.”
“I knew you’d like this place. They even have a really nice greenhouse.”
“Thank you, Pandora.”
“You’re welcome. So how is Carter adapting to life on the outside?”
“He’s actually a really fast learner, but things he deems unimportant he ignores. He seems to be more interested in what I want than anything else. He helps me run my shop and pretty much stays attached to me all day, not that I’m complaining, as long as he’s happy then so am I.” She watched as a butterfly flitted by and landed on a flower. “He’s also very direct and doesn’t know the meaning of modesty.”
“That must be fun.”
Joy blushed. “It is, except for when he nearly flashed the mailman. I got to him just before he opened the door. I guess nudity isn’t a big deal when you’re learning to fight for your life. Oh and he has no problem telling someone they’re an idiot, he’s not shy.”
“he sounds a lot like Nikolai but I also have no problem telling someone they are an idiot either if they are.” Joy continued to blush “I just worry about people’s feelings..”
“There’s nothing wrong with that. You seem like a sweetie” Pandora sort of followed Joy, letting her lead the day since she was somewhere new and they were really just wasteing time to let Nikolai and Carter catch up. They stayed out in the garden a long time, Joy having trouble moving away from all the beauty surrounding her. Next Pandora walked her into the green house. It was almost as beautiful to Joy as she had thought outside was.
“So guys watch this?” Carter asked as he sat at the bar and stared at the TV.
“Women too, cage fighting is for everyone.” Hardy answered. “I bet Pandora would kick some ass in the ring.”
“They’d definitely run.” Nikolai agreed.
“Joy is far too gentle for something like that.” Carter said. “And that man is horrible at blocking. I can read his opponent’s movements easily.”
“Maybe that’s what you should do. Joy can be the sweet, gentle one and you can be the tough cage fighter.” Hardy replied as he took another swig. “You’re right this guy is garbage, it’s like he’s not even trying.”
“I don’t think it would be fair if I chose to be a cage fighter. My training would give me too much of an advantage.”
“But that’s the point, you’re supposed to be better than your opponent.”
“I’ll think about it after speaking to Joy. I wouldn’t want to do something that would make her worry.”
When they met for dinner at the place they decided on before parting Carter hugged Joy. Since starting their relationship he hadn’t been away from her that long. It had been fun but different and he had missed her. Carter, never one to shy away from talking about what he was thinking asked Joy how she felt about him becoming a cage fighter right after they ordered their drinks. “I think you’d be good at it. If you really want to I don’t mind..just be careful”
“If all the fighters are like I saw today they shouldn’t be able to hurt me. They don’t have anywhere near the training I do” Nikolai pulled out his cellphone and started researching cage fighting in their area, showing Carter his opponents and where he’d need to go when they got home. Cage fighting dominated the conversation as they enjoyed their food. After dinner Pandora went straight home on her bike and Nikolai took Carter and Joy to their hotel.
“Pan and I will meet you two here for breakfast, nine thirty good?”
“Nine thirty will be fine”
Nikolai told them goodnight and Carter scooped Joy up the moment he was gone, wanting some time alone with her. He had her in the room and on the bed in a matter of minutes and he held her tightly to him, his lips pressing hungrily against hers. Her giggling broke the kiss and he pulled back to look at her smiling face. “You act like I’ve been away fro years.” She said as she ran her fingers through his hair to push it back.
“It’s just every time I see you, I want to hide away and keep you to myself. I love you and since I’m so new to all of this, I want to show you how much I love and need you.”
Her hands framed his face and he closed his eyes for a moment, savoring her touch. Every nerve ending tingled, goosebumps covered his skin even as his entire being warmed. “I love you, Carter, with all my heart. I’m so lucky to have you.”
“I’m the lucky one Joy.” His opened his eyes, every emotion he felt swimming in their depths. “I feel so out of control when I’m with you, like I’m being pulled in a million different directions, like my heart might burst with all the love I have for you. I can’t live without you, I’m nothing but a mindless killing machine without your warmth.”
“Oh Carter, stop before you make me cry.”
He smiled and her heart danced in her chest. “Happy tears are okay, it just means I’m being clear about my feelings.”
He admired her a few more moments before he began to hungrily kiss her again, addicted to the feelings she caused in him when he made love to her. Every moan, squirm and giggle was like a shot of heroin and it was an addiction he never wanted to break. When he was spent he asked ‘do you want to shower with me before we go to sleep? Maybe a bath if you’re too tired?”
“A bath, not because I’m too tired but because I just feel like soaking”
“Okay” he gave her a brief kiss “you just stay right here and I’ll get us a bath running baby”
Joy let out a happy sigh as she snuggled beneath the blankets. She didn’t realize she had drifted off until Carter kissed her temple. “Sorry, you make me sleepy.”
“Would you like me to switch the water off?”
“No, let’s take a bath.”
Carter lifted her, carrying her into the bathroom and getting settled in the tub. He switched the water off and they relaxed in its warmth, surrounded by steam. “Good?” He asked.
“Perfect, thank you.” She laced their fingers together. “So, having a good time with Nikolai and Hardy?”
He nodded. “They’re enjoyable.”
“It’s good to have friends. I really like Pandora, she’s fun and nice. She took me to this amazing garden.”
He let his fingers run up and down her arm “I’m glad she took you some place nice”
“I’m excited you found something you want to do” He continued to rub her as they talked. They relaxed in there until the water was cold then went returned to bed and went to sleep. The next morning Nikolai came to pick them up and they all went to The Golden Egg for breakfast. “Do you two like your hotel?” Pandora asked as their coffee was poured. “Oh yeah, it’s really nice” Joy answered then Nikolai asked “how do you two feel about roller skating? I know you probably don’t know how to Carter but Pandora insisted on me trying to get you two skating”
“I’m sure I can manage. Would you like to go Joy?”
“Yeah, sounds like a lot of fun. I haven’t been since I was a kid, but I’m sure I’ll pick it back up really quick.”
He stroked her cheek. “Just hold onto me if you lose your balance, I won’t let you fall.”
“You two are so cute together, you wouldn’t know Carter had been a hit man with those puppy dog eyes.” Pandora said with a big smile. “That’s exactly how you look at me, Nikolai.”
“That’s because you’re my world.”
“Oh hush.” She said with a blush. “I’ll beat you up for embarrassing me.”
Nikolai chuckled and took her hand “you will do no such thing” he said, grinning at her as she got redder. After breakfast they drove over to Pandoras favorite skating ring and Nikolai paid for them all despite Joy and Carters protests “we invited you two out. Let us pay for a few things” Eager to try this with Joy Carter let it go and soon sat next to joy to put their skates on. Joy was surprised how easy it was to start again and by the fact Carter seemed to be doing it with ease. “you’d think you do this every week” Joy said and he answered “It’s really just balance. I’ve had so much training there are probably a lot of fun things I can just do because of it”
They had a good time skating and Carter couldn’t help but sweep her off her feet and spin around the roller rink. Her laughter was infectious and had him smiling. He loved when he made her happy and hoped there was never a day he made her cry. She was his light in this world and he would do his best to adapt for her. Because of her, he was able to experience so much more in life. He was making friends, even though he didn’t really know the first thing about being friendly, he was going to try and settle into cage fighting because she wanted him to have interests, and he felt so much love for her that sometimes it made him weak.
“You’ve gone away silly.” Joy said and he sat her back down, taking her hand so they were skating side by side.
“I was just thinking about you again.”
“What did I do to deserve you? I don’t you know, it’s almost like the universe made a mistake, but it’s such a wonderful mistake that I’m glad it’s never been corrected.”
“You know, you say the sweetest things sometimes.”
“You bring it out in me, you touch this part of me that I had not known existed until we met. I’m going to do everything in my power to make you happy, so you know how much I appreciate all you’ve done for me.”
“Oh Carter” she felt her eyes dampen, he was so sincere and thats why it touched her so deeply. They stayed about a week with Nikolai and Pandora and hated when it came time they absolutely had to leave. They promised they would come for long weekends as frequently as they could and Pandora promised the same to them. Both girls wanted Nikolai and Carter to have eachother in their lives. The two truly knew what the other had been through and as much as they needed Pandora and Joy having eachother in their lives as friends was something they needed too. Soon after returning home Carter got into cage fighting and was just as good at it as he and Nikolai had predicted. It made Carter feel good when Joy would praise him or fuss over an injury. It also felt good to be bringing in income for her. Sure he had been helping her at her flower shop but he thoroughly enjoyed spoiling her with money he earned all by himself.
~ The End