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Resisting Maxu: Chapter 16

Sweat poured down his back, his thighs and calves burning with the effort it took to sprint up the vertical side of Nascep Mountain. This was Maxu’s third trip up the steep incline, and his lungs were on fire. Still, he pressed on. Anything to forget about the warmth expanding his chest for a minute or two.

He’d intended to break down her barriers and, on the surface, he’d succeeded. She’d been shackled to the wall and made to do exactly what he’d wanted. So why, then, had he come out of the exchange so raw and exposed?

Maxu reached the peak of the mountain and sucked in ragged breaths. He hated feeling this way. Weak. Like if she asked him to drop to his knees before her, he would.

He stabbed a hand through his sweat-soaked hair. Gripping it with his fingers while turning in a circle and relishing the sting. His steps paused when he remembered her kiss.

This emotional overwhelm hadn’t felt awful then. She’d asked him about the items he’d collected, and until that moment, he hadn’t known specifically why he’d lugged the junk around with him. But when she’d asked with those red cheeks and large blue eyes, the reason had been clear. He’d wanted to keep the information inside, so it was safe, protected, only open to his own judgment, but somehow the words had spilled out. And she hadn’t pulled away.

No screaming about how he shouldn’t be taking her things. Instead, warmth had lit her eyes and she’d kissed him. And it had been…amazing. Not just the kiss itself but the acceptance of his words. When Meg had pressed her lush lips to his, it’d felt like he was being rewarded for his honesty.

So, did he despise admitting such private feelings to her? Or did he love it?

What was he supposed to do with the little human who had the ability to confuse him so thoroughly that he’d needed to empty his cock three times and then sprint up a mountain just to process his thoughts?

Maxu laughed humorlessly into the warm wind. Anger? Annoyance? Those he was used to. But this? This was a new type of puzzle entirely.

One of the two moons was already visible, rising in the sky though the sun hadn’t set yet. He’d see her tonight at the party. How should he act? How would she act? Would she regret what had happened in his room?

Even as trepidation made his chest clench, there was something exciting in the air. What if she wasn’t unhappy to see him?

He jogged back down the mountain, legs a little shaky now that his adrenaline had worn off. He sped past happy people going about their lives and whispering about the humans. Then he locked himself in his room, used some cleansing foam to get himself clean, and spent the next few hours examining the objects he’d stolen from the Xeric Tower.

Frustration built as he stared at the items, most of which hadn’t been added to the sparse directory he’d stolen. There was no context to explain what they were or how they were used. Some were easy to figure out since they were similar to things on Clecania. A golden ring. A ragged shirt. A primitive communicator of sorts.

But others were just too foreign. A purple canister with a sparkling symbol on it hadn’t been catalogued yet. Maxu sprayed a small amount into the air and waved a portable chemical reader through the mist, sure it would be innocuous.

He was shocked when the reader flagged the spray as a nonfatal toxic substance. He lifted the canister again, squinting at the small, sparkly Y on the side. Who’d make weapons that look like this?

When his translation glass indicated a small rectangle containing even smaller soft pink rectangles was something called bubble gum and seemed to be edible, he held himself back from tasting it for fear it was another disguised weapon, possibly an unknown poison.

Maxu set the items aside, resigned to the fact that it would take longer than he currently had to decipher their uses. Tomorrow, on his ride to the next city, he’d have time to read some of the expansive directory he’d stolen. He only hoped it was more enlightening than today had been.

He dressed and tamed his hair, trying to ignore the creeping doubt whispering that Meg would prefer a different outfit. Then, with his heart pounding in his ears, he stepped out of his room and navigated through spiral hallways and sandy paths until he reached the Zoa Chamber, the location of tonight’s party.

The cylindrical building had been constructed around an ancient, fossilized coral climbing hundreds of feet into the air. Taking a deep breath and urging his jaw to unclench, he stepped into the lowest level of the chamber.

The hardened sea plant towered over him, dominating the room. A walkway wide enough to hold twenty people across ran in a spiral around the perimeter of the building all the way to the ceiling, so that the coral remained the focal point wherever you stopped.

He scanned the crowds, eyes gliding upward even though the people on the higher levels were out of sight. His gaze rested on the underside of the walkway about thirty feet up. Somehow, he knew Meg was there. His chest expanded with his deep inhale. A piece of him existed, miraculously, outside of his body, and he could sense exactly where she was. The mating instinct was becoming easier to recognize, but it was no less incredible.

With tentative steps, he meandered his way through the party, stopping at intervals to grab a drink or a bit of food. Stalling.

“You look wonderful,” a female voice called from his right. Rita and another human, Camille, were there standing among a group of curious Adenelese. Camille gave him a smile and a wave, while behind her the guards Uthen and Atolicy prowled, taking in their surroundings while staying close enough to intervene in case of trouble.

They appeared more on edge tonight than they had before, and Maxu understood why. The tour, while pleasant for some, wasn’t calming the growing curiosity of Clecanians. If anything, having a glimpse of the humans only made the people angrier.

There were reports coming in of cities demanding answers from the Tremantian Queen. Why hadn’t Earth been reclassified yet? Why wasn’t the Queen pushing the Intergalactic Alliance harder?

Apparently, there had been a common misconception that humans were primitive, sheltered, naïve. Seeing them dash through each city, displaying a similar level of intelligence to Clecanians begged the question of why they were still a Class Four planet.

“Have you seen Meg?” Camille asked. He did a double take at her mischievous smile. She and Rita exchanged a knowing look. His spine straightened. Had Meg revealed what had happened between them in his room?

A small boy he hadn’t seen before stepped out of his father’s shadow and stared up at Maxu with large sunset-orange eyes. “Do you have a mate, sir?” The boy’s gaze flicked between Maxu’s face and hand where his mating marks were on full display. Maxu clutched his drink a little tighter.

“Yes,” he said shortly. He didn’t like his private life on display. First Camille and Rita had behaved as if they knew something they shouldn’t, and now this curious boy was staring at his hands.

A part of Maxu enjoyed his mating marks, wearing them proudly for everyone to see. Yet another side of him wanted to bury them in his pockets so he could keep them to himself.

The blue marks spanning his hands were great big signs to everyone that he had a weakness. If any of his old enemies saw them, all they had to do to hurt him was hurt her.

“Do you want a mate one day?” Rita asked the boy when she realized Maxu was not intending on speaking again, busy scowling into space.

The boy’s nose scrunched. “No.” The group chuckled. But then the boy glanced up at his father. “I think my dad would like one, though.”

The group chuckled again, but Maxu caught the barest glimpse of pain light the eyes of the Clecanians standing around the two humans. 

Life was difficult on this planet. Clecanians were dying out. Estimates had them reaching extinction within three generations. Three.

Mothers were expected to leave their children so they could mother more children, all in the hopes that one day they’d sacrifice enough and could finally rest. Males, like this boy’s father, who were lucky enough to have conceived a child, were no longer eligible for marriage. They were expected to spend the rest of their lives raising their child and finding scraps of romantic affection where they could.

And now there was a world with billions who were reproductively compatible. Earth.

Humans not only had ancient Clecanian DNA running through their veins and could have Clecanian children but they could also call mating marks forth. It was easy to see why cities were growing restless.

Resentment settled in Maxu once more, and he stared down at his mating marks. There were so many people on his planet who’d struggled to do the right thing, to sacrifice and hope for a better world. Maxu had never been one of those people.

For so long, he’d been comfortable knowing that Clecania would die out. That, just like everything else in the universe, his species would end. It had never mattered what he did. Nothing mattered. People died. Planets died. The universe itself would one day die. He’d never seen the point in following the expectations of his people. Best-case scenario, they eked out a few more miserable centuries before the last Clecanian vanished.

But now, for the first time since he’d been young, he felt like something mattered. A renewed hope was rising among people who’d been so worn down. They might have found a solution to all their troubles. Finally, a way out that would alleviate the crushing pressure placed on them all.

But who was he supposed to be in this new world? The male he’d always been? The one he’d come to accept and even like?

Or a new male? One that worked to save his planet and allowed hope to guide his actions. He peered at the boy once again. He’d never wanted children. It’d always seemed pointless and cruel to bring a child into this world, knowing that each generation was one step closer to extinction. All he would be doing was gifting his offspring an even harder life than he’d had. Like forcing someone to burn themselves in order to throw a cup of water on an inferno.

But now? Maybe his children could live in a world on the rise. They could flourish, knowing they’d have choices. That one day they might even have a mate and love. Having a child didn’t seem so pointless when he thought about it that way.

The conversation had moved on while Maxu swam in his mind. When he focused on the group once more, he locked eyes with Rita and she gave him a sad smile.

With a silent nod, he drained his glass and continued toward his mate. Did she want children? Until there was a plan to lessen their burden by sharing it with the people of Earth, Meg would feel the same pressure to have children as the other females of his world experienced. Maxu didn’t even know enough about her to guess how she’d react to that.

Warm, glowing tentacles of the anemones planted over every spare inch of wall lit the space in gentle neon light. Only days ago, he’d felt like the coral dominating the center of the room. Fossilized and stripped of all potential. But now it was as if he was thawing. Was it just the mating instinct, or was he changing on his own?

Did this new lens through which he examined the world emerge out of nowhere, or had it always been there locked away under layers of bleak pessimism?

The crowd parted ahead of him, and he nearly crashed into a stationary Adenelese male. There she was. Heartbreaking in her beauty. She was smiling, waving her hand, and pointing at the mass of coral, her eyes wide and enraptured. He looked at it again, trying to see it how she did.

He made his way closer but didn’t approach her. Despite the things that had happened between them in his room, he’d told her he’d keep his distance, and he intended to do just that. It helped that forcing her to approach him was easier.

There was a whole new world of things he was beginning to want now, but what if she didn’t want them too? What if she still didn’t want him? What if she never did?


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