I awake in stages, in and out, a little more aware each time, until my surroundings begin to register. The softness of a mattress under me; the gentle patter of raindrops against the window. The pale morning light leaking through the curtains and the force of unaccustomed planetside gravity weighing me down...
The slim, strong arms tighten around me as I shift a little, pulling me comfortably close. Lips brush my neck, and he murmurs, 'I've missed you.'
I met Churches briefly while I was based in Syndicate with Tygris Alliance, then lost touch for a while before he'd got back in contact on a whim. A pod pilot himself, Chu had made his billion running missions for the Gallente Navy, and had settled in for an early retirement, occasionally venturing forth into space simply because he could. When I'd returned to Gallente space after my stint in Universal Securities, Chu had suggested meeting up, and things just sort of worked out from there. Despite his carebearing nature, he was fearless in low-security space, entering and leaving as he willed, and eventually acquired living quarters on several planets in the systems I frequented.
I sigh and tug the duvet higher around our shoulders. 'I've missed you, too.'
We see one another only a few times in a week. My lifestyle is one which keeps me out late and anchored largely to stations where I can be in a ship and active at a moment's notice. I have repair bills to pay and crewmen to take care of, and every day I'm not available to support my allies is a day that one more pilot could make the difference between success and failure. It's the same everywhere, for every man or woman who steps into a pod or straps into a captain's chair. And for the ones we leave behind, it can be days or weeks, sometimes months, before they see us again. Sometimes, never. I count myself lucky to have a man who can afford to visit me in space.
Chu understands all this. He's been there, himself, though his risks were against the non-pod pirate factions and subsidised by the Navy. He's fought with and against other pilots for survival and lost ships in encounters with pod-pirates such as myself. He does occasionally ask why I do what I do, but I have no better answer than that it's what I know best; and for some reason, rather than bringing condemnations and accusations to my door, he brings relaxing evenings and chocolate-stuffed breakfast pastries.
Perhaps, in the end, that which makes us different from the normal people outweighs that which makes us different in our moralities. Capsuleers are gods among men: in our protective shells, we are virtually immortal, and to control a ship as we do is to master the beast and become one with it, with the power and energy of a tempest at our fingertips to call forth at will. The last young man in my life - not the odd distraction but actual interest - had been as grounded as one can possibly be aboard a station, and could never see why I didn't settle on a more 'normal' career path, hauling pharmaceuticals and tourists the way the only other pilots of his acquaintance did. Chu may ask why, but he doesn't try to change me, as I do not try to change him. We try to see things from each other's perspectives and we respect each other's choices.
When I leave, he holds me close, and it's the hardest thing in the world to let him go. 'I'll see you later,' he says, in that soft accent of his. He says that every time, knowing that if it isn't true, it will be no doing of my own and due to circumstances far beyond our control. At the end of the day, it is the path I have chosen to follow, and a part of who I am.
I remember his kiss of farewell as I slide into my pod and begin the startup sequence. Yes, you will.