After waking up alone, Aidan Ryder padded into the kitchen. She yanked open the fridge and grabbed the bottle of juice; after she unscrewed the cap, she stopped it halfway to her mouth before she grabbed a glass and filled it. As she sipped, she savored the calm and quiet that enveloped her. It felt like home, except … there was something missing.
“Hmm?” She stepped around the island in the kitchen and wandered through the house. She groaned when she caught her reflection. The neat ponytail she went to bed with had been possessed by some bedhead demon and she was missing a sock.
Making a mental note to look for it later, she continued on her search for her vanishing lover. Of course, Aidan knew where she’d find her. Cora loved the view from their hideaway—a perk of being the pathfinder, she thought, as she slipped through the door to the lower deck.
“Good morning, sleeping beauty,” Cora greeted with a hearty laugh.
“Not an accurate comparison this morning,” Aidan replied, leaning on the arm of the sofa. When Cora tipped her head back, Aidan pressed a lazy kiss to her lips, then onto the tip of her nose.
“Nonsense,” Cora argued, patting the cushion beside where she curled up.
When Aidan dropped down next to her, Cora unfurled her legs across the pathfinder’s lap, essentially trapping her there.
“Glad to see you didn’t drain the bottle.”
“How do you know I didn’t?”
“You wouldn’t still be walking around with the glass,” Cora said with a bright chuckle.
Aidan raised the aforementioned vessel with a slow nod. “Accurate.” She inhaled a slow breath gulping down the rest of her juice. A smirk played over her lips, then she scooted a little closer and leaned past Cora to set the glass on the end table. Since she was already there, she pressed a kiss to the corner of Cora’s jaw, dropping another a few centimeters lower.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.” Aidan continued the pace she’d set. Tender pecks became open mouthed kisses; she added an occasional flick of her tongue or a gentle suck here and there for good measure.
Cora set the datapad down, abandoning work to drape her arms over Aidan’s shoulders. “I’m rather fond of this nothing,” she sighed, letting her head fall back.
Aidan chuckled, tracing the divot at the base of her lover’s throat with the tip of her tongue. “Well, if you woke me this morning, I’d have given you something else you like.” She gave the curve of her shoulder a savage bite.
With Cora’s chirp, the two of them dissolved into giggles. When Aidan cuddled up against her, Cora stroked her back softly. “You were … unsettled last night. So, I didn’t have the heart to disturb you when you finally seemed to be sleeping so soundly.”
Aidan didn’t say anything, just leaned her head upward to happily find Cora’s lips waiting for her own. She was glad she couldn’t remember whatever the dreams were that disturbed her sleep, especially that day. It was their first day there, together, in their home.
“I have a surprise for you,” Aidan said, unable to wait any longer to break the news. “Come on.”
It took a moment to extract themselves from their tangle on the sofa. Taking Cora’s hand, Aidan led her toward a small room that neither had explored yet, in person; though they’d both seen it on the blue prints.
“Close your eyes.” Ryder made a production of the reveal. Cora’s eyes narrowed her eyes. “Let me surprise you for once.”
The biotic closed her eyes and veiled them with her hand for good measure. Aidan’s heart raced as she steered Cora into the room, which was part of the surprise in and of itself. But the big deal sat in the center of the room all tied up in a big red bow.
After guiding Cora near, Aidan dashed around and hopped onto a counter and crooned, “Ta da!”
Cora’s fingers split, one light brown eye peeking at Ryder, who snapped a pic with her omnitool.
“This looks suspiciously like a gift,” Cora said, planting one fist on her hip as she cocked it to one side. Aidan hopped down again, rounding her keen-eyed lover only to wrap her arms around Cora’s waist. She perched her chin on Cora’s shoulder.
“Does it change anything if I tell you it wasn’t supposed to be ready until your birthday?” She pressed a kiss behind Cora’s ear.
Her lover turned slightly, straining her neck to meet Aidan’s gaze. “Only a tiny, tiny bit,” Cora said, pinching her fingers together.
“All right fine. It’s a present. I’m a horrible girlfriend,” Aidan relented, leaning back against the gardener’s counter. “I pulled some strings. Vetra found the equipment for your greenhouse,” she said, holding up her hands and looking around. “Vorn and Kesh hooked me up with the piece de resistance there.” Her bare foot pointed toward the box.
“Greenhouse?” Cora asked, clearly having forgotten the usual lecture she kept on file for when Aidan could be a brat.
“Yeah. Even programmed a little gardener’s helper.” Aidan’s omnitool chimed with the dance of her fingertips across the interface. A remnant observer shelled in white crept out vocalizing in its distinctive warble, more higher pitched and melodic than the ones the team encountered at remnant sites throughout Andromeda. “That way you can make sure your plants are all tended and cared for when we can’t be here.”
The way Cora said her name made her smile. It bore that tone that seemed to say, “you’re the most wonderful woman in the galaxy and I love you,” all in two simple syllables.
“Open the crate, Cora,” Aidan replied. A wide grin plastered across her face, her pulse raced with excitement as she waited to see her lover’s reaction.
The momentary hesitance shattered and Cora yanked the bow loose. Her hands moved with haste to free the clasps. Ryder was nearly certain by the frenzy of movement that Cora knew what she’d find when she opened the lid. Even so, she still gasped, drawing back from the container one hand going to her mouth. Her eyes shot to Aidan.
“Damned if I know. I’m not a botanist, but one owed me a favor. Figured there was no better cause to call that chip in for than making sure that the commando I love got a healthy start to her rose garden.”
The air rushed out of Aidan’s chest when Cora launched herself at her, wrapping her arms around her shoulders.
“Damnit, Aidan,” Cora sniffed. “We said no gifts.”
Aidan chuckled holding the biotic close. “Guess you’ll have to teach me a lesson. Perhaps helping you plant them near the deck will be punishment enough.”
Cora choked back a happy sob and squeezed tighter. When her grip finally loosened, she gave Aidan a sparkly eyed grin. “Not even close, but it’s a start.”
“I’m good with that,” Aidan laughed, stealing another kiss before they set to work.