Her throat works and she gives me such a vulnerable look that my heart aches. "But my hearing—"
"Does it bother you?" I ask, cutting her off.
She shrugs. "I'd rather deal with it than have it recorded somewhere that I've got a flaw, if that's what you're asking. Maybe that's stubborn of me, but that's how I feel. I know it bothers you, though."
I shake my head, grazing my lips over her soft, soft skin. "That's the thing. It doesn't. I don't mind working around it. I love you enough that I'd do anything for you, Ash, love. If you're not comfortable getting it looked at, then I'm not going to pressure you. I love you just the way you are. If you don't want to go to a party, then we stay home. If you don't like eating at the cantina, then we'll walk our food out and eat it in the streets like heathens. I actually prefer that because it lets me lick your fingers." I pause for a moment, and then add, "Just as long as you're not eating that keffing awful meat, that is."
She chuckles, and then her chuckles turn watery and fresh tears slide down her face. "I love you," she chokes out. "Please stay with me. Please don't go."
"Never," I promise her. And I lower my head to pleasure my mate and show her just how much I mean it.
One Year Later
The headache post-surgery is absolutely intense. Two days after I've left the clinic, I've still got a throbbing behind my ears that won't quit.
"I don't like it," Khex frets, putting a wet washcloth on my forehead. "I want to comm the medic again. Get him out here to take a look at you."
"It's fine," I reassure him, reaching for his hand. I find it and squeeze his fingers tight, pulling our joined hands to my mouth so I can kiss his knuckles. "It's a bit like when I got my hearing aids the first time. I expected the headaches."
"I don't like seeing you in pain," he grouses. "Can I make you something to eat, at least?"
I graze my teeth over his knuckle. I hope he catches on to the promise in my nibbles, because it's been three days since we've had sex and that's a long three days, headache or not. "That'd be lovely. And some more of that headache tea, please."
Khex practically races off to the small kitchen, and I have a mental image of him like in one of those old-fashioned cartoons with the many arms whirling about as he frantically makes me soup and tea. He's such a good caretaker, so eager to ease my pain and take care of me.
I really don't mind the pain, though. I know it's temporary. The medic mentioned that I'd have an adjustment period to the implants he put in my ears. They're not quite the same as the hearing aids I had back on Earth—these are surgically attached to the inside canal of my ear and can be activated with a tap, like I'm poking at my ear. It means I don't have to adjust them or remember to take them off when I shower, and I can tap them to turn them off at night.
But just like with my hearing aids, there's so much feedback going to my brain now that it's causing headaches. They'll go away once I've adjusted to the fact that the world around me is so much louder now. After being without hearing aids for several years, I'd forgotten just how much background noise there is in the universe. Even now, I can hear Khex making a mess in the kitchen, clinking dishes and brewing tea for me.
It took a long time for me to build up enough trust to visit the medic here in Port, but Khex never pressured me. True to his word, he left it entirely in my hands and never said a thing about it. It made me so incredibly grateful to have him that I might have wept over it easily a dozen times, and it was one of his comments about my bravery that made me decide to get up the courage to take the leap. Now it's on record that I have a flaw…but it's also on record that I'm the mate of Khex i'Yani, and I'm no longer afraid that I'm going to be snatched from my place in the universe again.
"Here," he says, returning to my side. A moment later, I smell a meat-flavored soup. "I got you some of that crud you like."
I bite my lip, trying not to giggle because it hurts my head too much. Khex has remained a staunch vegetarian despite the fact that I love to eat meat. He's tried a few bites here and there and has declared it Not For Him. "You didn't have to do that, love. I know you hate the smell."