by Renaissance Makoto J (ルネサンス・真・J)
The squirrel woke West up at precisely 7:30 AM on a Tuesday (August 18th, to be precise), and informed him that hostile aliens would be arriving in eight days and that it might be wise to leave Los Angeles.
Explaining this to the guys at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was not easy because squirrel. Five hours later and West regretted trying to save humanity (or just Pasadena, really). He should have packed a bag and headed out of town. Besides, nobody would really miss Pasadena.
The chair in the dark room was uncomfortable and the single bulb hanging above the table was just like the kind in movies with guys with epaulets and eye patches who said things like, “Ve hav vays of making you talk!” shortly before dangling heroes over vats of boiling lava.
West rubbed his neck and sighed. Today was just not his day. He didn’t really blame the squirrel; he was sure the squirrel had just been trying to help.
“Start from the beginning,” said Colonel Flanigan.
“Um, from the squirrel, you mean?” asked West.
“Yes, from the squirrel,” answered Colonel Flanigan. He had a first name, West was sure, but ultimately seemed only to answer to “Colonel.” Actually, maybe Colonel was his first name and his mother had been psychic. He looked precisely the way you might imagine a colonel looking, after all: He was tall, jacked, handsome, and grim. He had slightly longer than military regulation hair (it was dark and shiny and stood up at interesting angles), but other than that, his picture could have been used in the encyclopedia under the entry “Soldier.”
“It came to my window,” West began, then paused and tried again. “I mean. Um. I live on the second floor and there’s this tree, you know? And the squirrel climbed down the tree, sat right in front of my open window, and started talking to me about an impending alien invasion. They’re heading for Pasadena. For you guys actually. CalTech, the whole shebang.”
In the corner, Doctor Park of JPL scratched his head in that nervous way of his. He’d called security when West first arrived at the campus in his beat up Oldsmobile. Security had been a big guy who glared, rolled his eyes, and then called the police. Police had been a tired-looking woman who had glared, rolled her eyes, and then called Colonel Flanigan.
Now Colonel Flanigan was exasperatedly trying to understand why Park and company had thought it necessary to involve the Air Force.
“Well,” Park mumbled, “some of what the squirrel told him checks out.” He added a desperate shrug and then excused himself to go smoke.
“Squirrels,” he grumbled as he shuffled away.
“Mr. Westmoreland,” Flanigan said once Park was gone, giving West a grim look. “Are you on drugs?”
“No,” West said. “I’ve never even smoked cigarettes. Hate the smell of pot. No drugs for me. Oh, but I take aspirin for headaches,” he added lamely. Flanigan had a way of making him feel very small and very dumb. He was aces at it, squinting at West in just such a way.
“Do animals often talk to you?” Flanigan inquired, squinting, squinting, squinting.
West thought about it. “Since my cat died, yes.”
Flanigan pinched the bridge of his nose. “I need a fucking coffee,” he said.
Through luck, and looking really sad, and telling all the Air Force guys and NASA guys (and everyone else that would listen) any equivalent of “April Fools!” they were inclined to believe in the middle of August, West managed to sneak out of Pasadena and back to the Westside. He decided to treat the past twelve hours as a bad dream, including anxious Doctor Park and hot Colonel Flanigan and the squirrel. He thought they would have at least respected the time and effort it took to get to Pasadena from the Westside to warn them about impending doom instead of treating him like a nutcase, but, whatever. It was cool. He was cool. Aliens apparently had no appreciation for Los Angeles traffic, and didn’t it just figure.
He trudged up the stairs to his apartment, pausing midway to make room for his perky neighbor Maria who was heading out to walk her chihuahua, Melvin.
“Oh, good evening!” Maria said in her lilting accent. “It is hot, no?”
He nodded and tried his best to keep up as Maria lapsed quickly back into Spanish. Meanwhile, her dog was talking to him in perfect English.
“So they didn’t believe you about the aliens, huh?” asked Melvin.
“No,” West said sadly and Melvin sighed.
“Well, they’re gonna get a hell of a surprise in seven days. What will you do?”
West shrugged. “I’ve got family in Michigan. Go see the lakes?”
“Yeah, good idea,” Melvin considered. “Aliens give two shits about Lake Superior.”
And so West went upstairs and packed. Before his fat orange tabby died, he never could have simply picked up and left. The freedom to just go was very nice, but he did miss his cat.
The plane ride out was normal. Getting the car was normal. Hanging out with his sister Maggie and her kids was normal. Everything was so normal in Michigan that he was taken by surprise seven days later when the news announced that aliens were attacking Pasadena.
“Huh,” he said to his sister’s scruffy terrier, Bubbles. The two of them were lazily flopped on the couch, sharing a bowl of potato chips.
“Yeah, that’s messed up,” said Bubbles, smacking a little as he chewed.
“This squirrel told me it was going to happen,” West explained.
“Oh, Bradley? Out in California?”
“You know Bradley?” asked West, somewhat pleased.
“Yeah,” said Bubbles. “Nice guy. Did he tell you about the second wave?”
“There’s a second wave?” West marveled.
Bubbles smiled ruefully, took a deep breath, and explained that the first wave was just scout ships. The aliens used the first wave to test defenses. If they proved weak in any way, they sent out the second wave.
“Huh,” said West again.
“Yeah, it’s messed up,” said Bubbles.
And that was the last pleasant conversation West had, because the Air Force showed up at his sister’s door less than a day later and snatched him up and shuffled him away in a big black car.
“Sorry!” he shouted out the tinted car window to his sister.
“I’ll call mom!” Maggie shouted back.
Colonel Flanigan looked even hotter today. West had lots of time to appreciate the view since big armed men had locked him in yet another dark room with a single exposed bulb hanging above a table (and did the U.S. Government just build these rooms for kicks?). Locked him in alone with Flanigan.
West was in another uncomfortable chair, once again regretting listening to Bradley the squirrel.
But, yes, Flanigan. Hot.
He was wearing some dark uniform with black buttons and hardly any baubles or decorations, but lots of pockets, and he looked like an action hero with his five o’clock shadow and pale blue eyes. He also looked mad as hell to have to talk to West about his dead cat again.
“His name was Prince,” said West. “He was old. Just got sick. From one day to the next. After he lost his vision, his back legs went, then his appetite, and I had to put him down…”
“And then?” asked Flanigan, squinting at him even more than before.
“And then the next thing I knew, animals started telling me helpful things.”
“Like the winning lottery numbers,” West said.
“You’re joking,” Flanigan grumbled.
West shook his head. “No. I quit my job. Got a new place. I don’t want to work anymore. I worked at a coffee shop. Hated it. So now I just kind of hang around. Sleep late. I play a lot of video games. The money’s really changed my life.”
“You drive a crappy Oldsmobile!” Flanigan barked, making West flinch.
“Yeah. I do. I’ve never known what to do with money. I’m just sitting on it,” he explained. “But, um, I had a funeral for Prince,” he added kind of weakly. “There was a little kitten casket and everything. Very nice.”
Flanigan took a deep, slow breath. “I’m going,” he said between his teeth, “to get another coffee.”
While he was gone, a little cockroach peaked at West from a high vent in the wall.
“Will they listen to you this time?” the cockroach stage whispered.
“Heck if I know,” West sighed.
“Oh, well, make sure to tell them about the little green spot on the alien cruisers. Near the right wing. Hit it hard enough and they’ll just fall right out of the sky.”
“Maybe I should keep that to myself?” West tried. “I mean, they already think I’m crazy.”
The cockroach looked offended. “You tell them your friend Joey told you how to save the day. If they don’t listen to you, tell them I’m moving my whole extended family into the mess hall.”
West held up a placating hand. “Okay, I’ll tell them my friend Joey, the talking cockroach, told me about a weakness on the alien cruisers.”
“That’s the spirit!” cheered Joey.
“Who are you talking to?” Flanigan asked, frozen in the doorway with a cup of coffee steaming in his hand.
West just gave up. “My friend Joey, the talking cockroach, says that the first wave cruisers have a weakness you should exploit,” he said.
Flanigan squinted at him. “Start from the beginning,” he said in an exhausted sounding way.
“From the cockroach?” asked West.
“Why not?” Flanigan answered.
West watched the fifth wave of cruisers fall out of the sky one by one on TV in the comfortable hotel room the government had put him in. He could see the Minneapolis skyline outside his window and the big, angry-looking Secret Service guys they had following him around all the time weren’t so mean that they kept him from going shopping and even calling his sister sometimes.
Flanigan came by often, looking more and more tired each time. He’d been heading up the Air Force’s contribution to the defense. A lot of this was because he had access to West, West seemed to trust him, and many of the higher-ranking men and women of the Air Force had found talking to West very troubling. They wanted the information, but not the burden of a California Weirdo who dressed like a slacker and had won the lottery because a bearded dragon gave him the winning numbers.
For whatever reason, Flanigan–for all his squinting and headaches that needed lots of coffee to fix–didn’t seem to mind the insanity West had brought into his life. Sure he grumbled and cursed and crossed his arms in a huffy way, but at the end of every day, he treated West’s information with respect. He treated West with respect.
“I think I saw you fly on the news,” West told him on one evening visit. “This bird came by and said it was you, anyway.”
Flanigan had hit the point where he took these kinds of statements in stride. “What kind of bird?” he asked.
At first, Flanigan’s visits were just for more information: “What, exactly, did the dalmatian say about their long-range sensors?”
Or, “Did the sparrow say what city would be their target this time?”
Or even, “How reliable a source would you consider Joey the cockroach?”
But after a few weeks, Flanigan seemed to come by just to chat: “Talk to your sister today?”
Or, “How’s Bubbles?”
Or even, “Thought about what to buy with your lottery money, yet?”
His first name, it turned out, was Dean, but no one called him that. He admitted that even his own Sainted Mother (God Rest Her Soul) had called him Flanigan up to the day she died.
He’d joined the Air Force because his dad had been in the Air Force, because he could fly anything with wings, and because he couldn’t sit still for long. He always needed to move.
“The sky,” he said and gestured at the view outside West’s window, “it belongs to us. To Earth. To me. To you. I don’t like seeing them up there. They haven’t done a damn thing to deserve our sky.”
And West, in turn, explained to Flanigan why he went by “West” instead of “Mike” (there had been six Mikes at his high school and “Westmoreland” was a mouthful by any definition). He explained to him that Los Angeles was lonely for all that it was crowded; and that his cat had pretty much been his only friend; and that he’d never felt so sad standing there alone watching that small coffin covered by dirt at the pet cemetery.
He told Flanigan that nothing extraordinary had ever happened to him in his twenty-four years. Before Prince died, he went to work, came home, watched movies, and fell asleep on the couch with Prince curled up on his chest. And now Prince was gone and it was like the universe had given him all the cats, dogs, birds, cockroaches and bearded dragons there were as company to make up for the hole Prince had left in his life. West had recently had a protracted conversation with a moth.
Flanigan didn’t mock him for his mundane life. He listened, squinting, sure, but West knew that it just meant he was thinking hard about the things West said. Flanigan was always thinking.
When the aliens made it to the Twin Cities, West had already been shuffled away to safety in some underground network of caves that Flanigan called a “bunker.”
“Top Brass says you’re too valuable to lose,” Flanigan had explained as he’d shoved all West’s clothing into his duffel, grabbed him by the wrist, and tugged him to a waiting armored car.
The bunker was a far cry from his comfy hotel. His room was small and had only minimal furnishings, but West didn’t really mind that. There were other, worse problems with the bunker. West didn’t know how far underground he was, but thick pipes ran along the walls, dotted with bright, ugly lights that failed to warm the cold of the rock all around. West started to feel a little claustrophobic and was as lonely as he had ever been. He had guards, just like before, but Flanigan was rarely around anymore. West realized that he had gotten spoiled, gotten used to having Flanigan’s undivided attention anytime a butterfly whispered a warning his way. But now Flanigan was off fighting even more than before.
West knew that the aliens were gunning for him now, gunning for the source of Earth’s insight into their tactics and technology. A helpful basset hound had let him know one day that the aliens were aware that Earth had some kind of early warning system; aware that something was interfering with their invasion. The aliens didn’t know it was him, West, exactly, but they knew that someone was out there ruining their plans (perhaps a squirrel had told them). And so Flanigan was busy protecting him. West understood that and he appreciated it, but…well.
And nature was a crazy thing because one day a fly somehow made it into his tiny room deep in the heart of the giant underground labyrinth that was now his home (“Danger! Danger in the sky!” the fly screamed). By the next morning, maggots were inching their way across the floor. They made him shudder. He felt a little queasy.
He really just wanted to squash them, but they were talking to him, too. He was on his hands and knees when Flanigan knocked and entered without waiting for permission. West felt sulky and didn’t look up, just stared at the maggots moving in their slow, twisting way.
“Eww. Okay, that’s pretty gross. What do they say?” Flanigan asked.
West shrugged and said, “They’re not very good conversationalists, to be honest. They’re not very smart. They keep saying, ‘Look to the sky, look to the sky,’ but, like, we already are. I thought if I waited long enough, they’d say something useful, but they’re just…stupid.”
He dropped his head and closed his eyes and pretended he was back in Michigan with his sister and her sweet kids, standing by the lake that seemed bigger than the ocean in Santa Monica–bigger and greater than anything California had to offer at all. The fish had come near him and said nice things.
“Don’t worry, you tried,” they said. “Who said saving the world was easy?”
Flanigan crouched down beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. It was warm in the cold room and West hadn’t realized that he was chilled to the bone.
“We can send in maintenance,” Flanigan offered softly. “They can clean this up. Come have lunch with me and they’ll be gone by the time we get back.”
West nodded and let Flanigan help him to his feet. He didn’t want to know how maintenance got rid of the maggots, he just wanted them gone.
The cafeteria was just as dim as every other place in the bunker. Flanigan had said they would have lunch, and West’s watch said it was lunchtime, but it might as well have been midnight. Every hour of every day looked the same down here.
He poked at his food and Flanigan stared at him for a some time before asking, “Have you heard anything useful? Anything that might help with these new cruisers? They’re faster now. They’re learning.”
West shook his head and hunched in on himself even more. “I haven’t heard anything.”
“I see. It’s just been over a week since you’ve had any new information and that’s never happened before. Maybe the maggots—” Flanigan tried and West just snapped.
“They’re stupid maggots! They don’t know anything!” he shouted.
All around them, the cafeteria went quiet. All the soldiers and personnel were looking at him. West swallowed, turned red, and looked down at his fork, pushing the carrots around. He was mad at Flanigan for leaving him alone for days and days, but he was mad about more than that. Or, rather, he was mad about it for more than one reason, and it confused him, twisted him up inside. He was ashamed of himself for being so needy.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. He felt even more like a jerk when Flanigan took his hand and gave it an encouraging squeeze.
“Hey, no worries. You’re under a lot of pressure. We’ve put a lot of…pressure on you.” He dropped West’s hand and looked away. “What can I do?” he asked. “To help?”
West looked up hopefully. “There…aren’t any animals down here,” he explained after a moment of weighing his options. “Nothing smart, anyway. There’s not a roach in the whole joint, either.”
Flanigan cracked a rare smile. “Okay, I see. I get it. We put you down here because you’re valuable, and then we made it impossible for you to do what you do. That’s about the size of it, huh?”
West shrugged. “Yes.”
“You need to see some animals?”
“Yes,” West said again. “Can I…go aboveground? I promise not to get killed by aliens.”
Flanigan rested his chin on his fist. “I’ll see what I can do.”
West was pretty sure the birds were happy to see him again. A flock of pigeons followed the armored car he rode in the entire way from the bunker and into the city. He stared at them, at the sky, at every damn tree just happy to be in sunlight again.
“Hey! How’s it going? Bradley says ‘Hi!'” the pigeons said as they swooped and dove all around him.
“Oh, how’s he doing in California?” West shouted out the window when he begged Flanigan to let him roll it down. (“If aliens are going to kill me today, a rolled up window won’t stop them.”)
“Aliens,” said one of the pigeons seriously. “He really hates them.”
The parade of armored cars came to a stop outside a drab-looking gray building with a sign outside proclaiming it to be an animal shelter. Flanigan helped him out of the tall car with a comforting hand at his elbow and led him to the door.
The barking was shocking even outside. West wondered if the dogs barked all night, too. It was the saddest sound he had ever heard. The people at the shelter didn’t quite know what to do when over two dozen guards and government officials accompanied West inside. He was flanked on his left and right by two big Marines, and Flanigan was a menacing presence at his back, his gun strapped to his thigh and everything about him screaming danger.
“Uh, would you like to adopt a pet today?” asked the terrified older lady behind the counter.
West and his army of protection moved through the shelter, and West tried his best not to cry at the small cages that filled every space. There was hardly enough room for the animals to move inside, and some of the cages held two and three animals, all of them looking hopeless. Every animal he talked to was kind and sweet to him, but not always knowledgeable about the aliens. They were downright chatty, even, but they all seemed disheartened, lonelier than he had ever been in a pretty lonely life. They felt abandoned and wondered about their futures.
“I miss being hugged,” a little mutt with floppy ears told him honestly. “Sometimes people come, but they pick other dogs to take home. I wonder what is wrong with me.”
And West tried to console them, tried to tell them that one day, someone would come and see them and fall in love with them and take them home and hug them, but it was hard to lie to all of them like that.
One cramped cage held a fat tabby cat that looked so much like Prince, West had to fight back tears. The cat bumped his flat head against the bars of the cage and West held out a hand to scratch his soft chin.
“Hey, West,” the cat said.
“Hi,” West said back.
“We all wondered where you went,” the cat said.
“They put me in a bunker,” West explained.
“Huh, seems kind of dumb.”
West pulled a face. “They meant well.”
The cat sat down primly and leveled a serious look at him. “He’s cute,” he said and jerked his head at Flanigan, who was watching the entire exchange with the same, thoughtful, squinting look he usually got when he had to watch West carry on long conversations with animal life.
“Uh, yeah,” said West.
“I, um, never asked.”
“He looks single,” said the cat. “He likes you, too. You should try licking his ears clean. I’ve found the girls love it when I lick their ears.”
“That’s not really a thing people do,” West said, blushing.
“He’s going to get away,” the cat sing-songed. “He’s smokin’ hot. Kind of out of your league, right?”
“How about those aliens?” West tried.
“Oh, them, right,” the cat said, rolling his eyes. “I’ll let you change the subject, but come back after you save the world and we’ll continue this discussion.”
“Um. Sure,” said West. Flanigan was looking at him curiously and West was so red in the face he thought he might just catch fire.
“Have you tried talking to the aliens?” the fat tabby asked and West nodded.
“Yeah. They sent up a couple of pilots when the Mothership hit Earth’s orbit. They tried sending out all kinds of messages in all these different languages and codes. The aliens just blew up anything that got too close. Every time.”
The cat shook his head impatiently. “No, no. I mean have you tried talking to the aliens.”
West frowned for a long, long moment. Finally he said, “Do you think I could?”
The cat gave him a long-suffering look. “Dude: I’m a fucking cat and you’re talking to me. Didn’t you have a protracted conversation with a moth once?”
“He say anything good?”
“They’re not that bright,” West admitted.
“See? If you can talk to moths and cats and bearded dragons, I imagine the odds are pretty good that you can talk to an alien.”
A Siamese cat one cage over lifted her head to say sleepily, “And make sure you ask to speak to the Queen, dear. She’s the only one who can negotiate for peace.” The Siamese yawned hugely and fell instantly back to sleep.
West felt unbalanced. He turned to Flanigan and the look on his face must have been something because Flanigan took a step towards him and said, “What? Are you okay? West, what’s wrong? What did they say?”
Flanigan clasped his shoulders and his face was so full of concern that West wondered if maybe the tabby was on to something after all. He pushed that from his mind and tried to focus.
“I’m fine,” he said at last. “I was just wondering… Can you take me flying?”
It turned out that he had to go back to California before he could go to space. There was an Air Force base happy to humor his request, happy to do anything for Flanigan, it seemed. Everyone at the base treated Colonel Flanigan like a conquering hero. It occurred to West as they walked through the building and people stopped to stare at them that, through some crazy twist of fate, the defense of Earth was resting on his and Flanigan’s shoulders. Or not a crazy twist of fate so much as a crazy squirrel named Bradley.
It also turned out that you couldn’t just hop into the back of a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and tag along on a flight. Even as a passenger, it took a lot of training to ride in one of the monstrous planes. The U-2 could reach an altitude of 70,000 feet, which was pretty much just hanging out in space as near as West could tell. Even better (or worse, depending on your point of view), the damn plane could stay at that altitude for hours and hours without needing to refuel.
U-2 planes, Flanigan informed him, had been used for communication and reconnaissance since the ’50s, and seemed the best way to try to talk to a hostile alien force even today. West had wondered if they couldn’t just fly him up in a smaller, friendly-looking plane like the kind from Top Gun and just shout really loudly at the Mothership, but Flanigan had just slapped him hard on the back and said he was “pretty funny.”
The wingspan of the U-2 was like a joke and the body was black and dangerous-looking. Flanigan stroked his hand along the side of the thing and smiled hugely at West.
“I fly these a lot,” he said. “I’m good at it. I like them. They’re…complicated.”
“You have to wear a spacesuit?” West asked, running his eyes up and down the bright orange spacesuit that Flanigan somehow managed to make look sexy.
“You’ll be wearing one, too,” Flanigan said with a smile. “I’ll go up solo now so you can see what a takeoff looks like from the tower. Then we’ll get you trained so we can go up together, okay?”
West looked at the beast of a plane, then back at the man who could fly it. West could see his own worried expression reflected back at him in Flanigan’s helmet. Then Flanigan stepped close and placed his big, gloved hand on West’s shoulder.
“I won’t let anything hurt you,” Flanigan whispered. “I’ll protect you.”
West swallowed and nodded. He believed it. He had never been afraid of Flanigan. He was afraid of the damn aliens.
Three days into training and West was sore all over and exhausted. His head was stuffed with emergency procedures on how to exit the U-2 safely in case of catastrophic failure. He knew how to use the bathroom in a spacesuit now; how to breathe if he felt himself hyperventilating.
Flanigan was patient and very good at explaining things that were complicated and frightening. West felt more gratitude towards Flanigan than he had ever felt for another human being in his life. Tangled up with all the other things he was feeling for Flanigan, it was all he could do to keep from having a nervous breakdown. There were enough animals on the base to talk to (seagulls and a few stray cats that had no business hanging around an Air Force base), so he shared his woes with them. He talked to them when he was too sore and nervous to sleep, but even they couldn’t stay up with him forever.
Late at night, after all the animals turned in, West curled up on his small bed in his quarters on the base, and thought about Prince, the cat at the shelter (maybe he could go back and adopt him after the war), his sister, the silly maggots with their nonsense talk. He thought about Flanigan.
And then, before he knew it, their flight plan was filed and approved; and the President was calling and wishing them luck on behalf of the people of America and of the whole world; and West only remembered mumbling something stupid like, “Thank you, Mr. President,” at every pause in the conversation. Flanigan, however, answered with brave-sounding, stoic things and West couldn’t help but think that it was so, so much easier to talk to squirrels than presidents.
And then there were less than twelve hours standing between him and the fate of Earth. He was curled up in his bed again, thinking the same thoughts. Prince, the shelter cat, maggots. Flanigan.
He was finally falling asleep when there was a knock at the door. He was just in his boxers, but he didn’t think it mattered. There was only one person who would visit him this late, and West didn’t want to hide anything from him. When he opened the door, Flanigan’s eyes went up and down his body once, very quickly.
“I,” Flanigan tried and West just shook his head, grabbed him by his collar and yanked him into the room. He stopped long enough to close and lock the door, then looked Flanigan squarely in the eye.
“I want to kiss you,” West said and waited.
“Yes, please,” Flanigan said and then let out a high, desperate sound when their lips touched. The kiss ended quickly because West wanted to see Flanigan’s face, see what his kiss had done to him. His eyes were closed and he was breathing hard through his nose. His cheeks
were flushed and his brow was furrowed in concentration.
“Again,” he ordered.
West leaned in and kissed him again, just a little longer this time. A sweet kiss, close-mouthed, just the feel of dry lips pressing together. West pulled away again, took in Flanigan’s body language, how he still had his eyes closed, how he was clenching and unclenching his hands at his sides, as if he feared what he would do if he reached for West.
“We can have this,” West said. “You can touch me. Don’t change your mind now.”
That was all the permission Flanigan needed, because he whirled West around, pushed him hard against the wall, and kissed him so fiercely that West gasped. Flanigan took that as an invitation and shoved his tongue inside West’s mouth to move slow and wet against West’s tongue and teeth.
All West could do was hold on, spread his legs a little to let Flanigan push against him, rock their cocks together just perfectly so that West wasn’t sure how long this was going to last.
Flanigan’s hands were all over his chest, scratching down the sparse hair there and then lower to clench his hips hard enough to hurt. His mouth was everywhere, too, first nibbling at West’s neck and then sucking on his tongue, and then biting along his jaw.
West, meanwhile, was struggling to tug Flanigan’s shirt off and get his belt undone. He was feeling uncoordinated and shaky; not doing a very good job because being touched by Flanigan like this was the thing he wanted most in the world right now; and the aliens were the last thing on his mind. Aliens? What aliens? He was going to have really hot, really messy, probably really speedy sex with the hottest and greatest guy he’d ever known. A guy who didn’t treat him like he was crazy when he had long conversations with cats and who looked amazing in an ugly orange spacesuit. A guy who held his hand and told him he’d protect him.
Just as soon as he could get Flanigan’s belt off! Flanigan huffed, snagged West’s hands and forced them above his head.
“Hold still,” he said, low and raspy. Then he took a step back and very slowly undressed for West. West watched. He leaned against the wall with his hands above his head and his cock embarrassingly tenting his boxers and he watched. Flanigan watched him right back, seemed to like what he saw. And just in time, Flanigan was nude before him–all muscle and lightly furred thighs and dark hair on his chest and belly; dark hair surrounding his nice, hard cock–and West was having a brilliant idea.
“Go sit on the bed,” he said and Flanigan smiled and took a few sexy steps backwards before sitting down gracefully on the edge of the bed. West was on his knees in a flash, hands all over Flanigan’s cock, holding it steady so he could take it in his mouth.
“Shit,” Flanigan cursed and buried his fingers in his hair. His hips were moving like he couldn’t help it and West didn’t mind, just took him deeper, opened his mouth wider. He liked the weight of Flanigan’s cock on his tongue, the heat of it filling his mouth. Flanigan was pulling a little too hard on his hair, noticed, and uncurled his fingers with effort, stroking the side of his face gently in apology. But West took him deeper, sheathed his teeth with his lips and bobbed and sucked and that hand clenched again in his hair, harder than ever.
“Oh, shit, no. West….oh…”
“Mm?” West hummed and that made Flanigan’s hips jerk hard into his throat, and West loved it, wanted to feel Flanigan lose control in his mouth.
“Too much…ah…m-more….It’s…too good. Gonna,” and no sooner had he tried to warn West than he was coming, a long, hot release that West took and swallowed. Even after he finished swallowing, he didn’t stop sucking Flanigan’s cock; not even after Flanigan’s shudders subsided. He gently mouthed at the wet, shining head, traced the tip of his tongue along the vein, slowly squeezed the base.
After several minutes of West kissing his cock, licking it slowly, Flanigan uncurled his fingers from West’s hair again, clutched his shoulders and yanked him up and over so that he was suddenly on his back on the narrow bed.
“Oof!” West exhaled, then laughed as Flanigan kissed him and kissed him. He peppered kisses on West’s forehead, on his cheek, on the bridge of his nose, smiling down at him like he was a beloved Christmas present.
“You’re amazing,” he said between kisses.
“No, you are,” West giggled back. Then all the smiles fell away as Flanigan’s kisses moved from his face, to his neck, then lower, to his nipples, his belly button. He paused long enough to ease West’s boxers off and toss them to the floor. Flanigan openly stared at him, eyes going hot, and it made West feel like a centerfold or something, made him want to pose. Finally, Flanigan propped himself on one elbow, ever so slowly wrapped his hand around West’s cock, and then lowered his mouth.
West gasped and writhed and it was only the weight of Flanigan’s chest on his legs that kept him from thrusting wildly. Flanigan’s mouth was making him see stars, was making his cock feel huge and heavy. God, he needed to come, he needed Flanigan to finish this fast because he had never needed someone so much and he felt alive and precious and good.
Flanigan was methodical, bringing him to the edge, and then gentling him back down, only to repeat until West was begging. Sweat was in his eyes and he was twisting restlessly from side to side, needing Flanigan to give him release. And just when he thought he couldn’t take it anymore, Flanigan took him deep once more and West’s orgasm hit him like a freight train.
Since they were off to save the world tomorrow, West didn’t care if base regulations said Flanigan couldn’t spend the night with him. He curled around him like he was a giant teddy bear and steadfastly refused to let him go back to his own quarters.
“I need you,” West admitted. “I can’t do this without you tomorrow and so I need to you stay with me tonight.”
Flanigan exhaled and pulled him closer. “I won’t leave you.”
West kissed his chest–there were scars here and there, and he wanted to know where they came from, wanted to know everything about Flanigan.
“Do you think…?” West whispered twenty minutes later, just as Flanigan was starting to drift off.
“Yes,” said Flanigan in a low voice. “I think we can do it.”
West didn’t know how much the spacesuit weighed, but he was willing to bet it was, like, a million pounds. Flanigan seemed to think the thing was light as a feather and walked with dramatic purpose across the tarmac. There were a few seagulls hanging out near the runway and they hopped over and struck up a conversation.
“Did you see how nice he looks in the spacesuit?” one asked West, giving Flanigan an appreciative look.
“He looks good in a spacesuit,” agreed West.
“How come you don’t look as nice in the spacesuit?” another seagull inquired and West glared at it.
“Okay, look, do you guys have anything useful to tell me?” he snapped.
The seagulls conversed among themselves for a moment. The first one turned to him and said, “Don’t use the word ‘treaty.'” she said. “You don’t want to draw up a treaty. You want to form an alliance. It’s very important. Alliance, not treaty.”
West thought it all sounded pretty weird, but the animals had never steered him wrong before.
“Yeah, got it. Thanks,” he said, then followed Flanigan to the U-2, but one of the seagull called out to him.
“What?” he shouted back.
“Earl, the tabby from the shelter, said, ‘Nice going!’ and wondered if you licked his ears or not.”
“I am not having this conversation with you!”
“Is that a yes?”
Flanigan gave him a concerned look. “Everything okay?”
“Seagulls aren’t nearly as nice as squirrels,” West whined in explanation.
“Sure, why not?” Flanigan agreed in the easy way of a man so used to dealing with insanity that it no longer registered. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” West answered. When Flanigan gave his hand a reassuring squeeze–hard enough to feel through their thick gloves–West felt better. They could do this. Together.
“I think he’s out of your league!” the seagull shouted.
“Oh, go away!” West shouted back.
Takeoff was terrifying. The U-2 barely needed the runway at all. It went for mere seconds and was instantly airborne, the ground falling away so quickly it made West feel dizzy.
But then, sooner than he could have imagined, they were at 40,000 feet, then 50,000. When they hit 70,000 feet, the curve of the earth was so clear–blue and glowing and endless–that West was speechless.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Flanigan’s voice said over the headsets.
“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” West admitted.
“See? The sky. It’s ours. Yours and mine,” Flanigan whispered.
Then he flipped a couple of switches, called down to the tower with a string of technical talk that West didn’t even bother to try to understand, and then Flanigan was saying, “Ready to send a message?”
West took a breath. He felt at peace. He was ready.
“Sure,” he said. He didn’t know how the transmitter worked, but all the NASA guys had promised him that any aliens who were bothering to listen would be able to hear him. So he said, as clearly as he could, “Greetings aliens. My name is West. I come in peace.”
He was feeling pretty proud of himself for getting the words out. And Flanigan said “Good start,” and that was high praise. Things were going his way.
And that was the last perfect moment West had, because right then the damn aliens beamed them aboard the Mothership.
West screamed, though he couldn’t say why since he was all in one piece, as was Flanigan (still looking hot in his spacesuit), and nobody had shot at them or melted their brains or anything yet.
The first time West had seen one of the aliens, it had been when one of their bodies had been dragged from a crashed cruiser, way back during the second wave. His first thought had been “green” followed quickly by “slimy.”
So, it was a delegation of green, slimy aliens that surrounded him and Flanigan. And Flanigan had no weapons on him, but he still tried to push West behind him, tried to protect him with his body. It was sweet. Very romantic, West decided, and it wasn’t the worst way he could think of to die, knowing you were cherished like this.
But all the aliens were looking at West expectantly. He remembered the Siamese cat and said, “I’d like to speak to your Queen, please.”
The aliens looked from one to the other. One of them pushed a button on the wall.
Just beyond the delegation of slimy, green guys, a platform suddenly lifted into the air and the room was bathed with electric blue light. West and Flanigan shielded their eyes against the intense glare. In a flash, the massive space was dim again. Atop the platform stood a slightly taller, less gross-looking slimy, green alien.
West knew this was the Queen. She was almost willowy, almost graceful. She descended the platform slowly and the sea of aliens parted before her. Flanigan was still trying to shield West, trying to push him away from the Queen, but West stopped him with a hand on his shoulder and stepped forward to meet her.
She looked him up and down.
“West, is it?” she said.
“Yes,” West said and swallowed his nervousness as best he could.
“How is it that you speak our language?” she asked. “None of your soldiers have ever understood us before, yet you seem to understand us just fine. Why is this?”
“Um. My cat died,” he explained. He couldn’t say how he knew exactly, but the ooze of her face was frowning, he just knew it.
“Indeed,” she said. “You come to negotiate peace?” she asked.
“Yes,” said West. “We…um…People of Earth think we got started off on the wrong foot with you.” He looked at what passed for her feet and tried not to feel sick. “So to speak,” he added.
“What’s she saying?” Flanigan whispered.
“Um…not too much,” West said out of the side of his mouth.
“And who is this?” the Queen asked, her attention drawn to Flanigan.
“He’s my boyfriend,” West explained.
“He is?” asked the Queen.
“I am?” Flanigan said, smiling goofily.
“Yeah, if that’s okay?” West said. Flanigan nodded and West figured that was one thing going his way, at least.
“Isn’t he a bit…out of your league?” asked the Queen. “He looks handsome in that spacesuit.”
“Yeah, okay, I get it,” West huffed. “Look, can we talk about peace now?”
The Queen gave him a sharp look. “A treaty?” she said, leaning in closer, and West just knew she was smiling a cruel, calculating smile at him.
“Um…no,” he answered. “How about…an alliance?” Flanigan was giving him worried looks, but West felt sure that he knew what he was doing. The seagulls had been kinda rude, but they had been very clear about this.
He was rewarded when the Queen’s smile bloomed into an altogether friendlier sort. “Alliance, you say? Hmm…”
Quick as a whip, she turned to the first green, slimy guy standing nearby. “Order all units to stand down,” she said, all authority and confidence. “I am negotiating an alliance with West and his boyfriend.”
“Yes, My Queen,” the slimy guy said, then gave Flanigan a curious look.
“Boyfriend?” asked the slimy guy.
“So West says.”
“Yes, yes, out of his league. I agree. Now go order the units to stand down!”
The slimy guy bowed low and then slinked off to go do her bidding and West’s confidence was hanging on by a very thin thread right about then.
“Now, come this way,” the Queen said and jerked a drippy finger to the twisting depths of the Mothership. “We have much to discuss!”
West took a step to follow, then stopped, snatched up Flanigan’s hand, and tugged him along.
“So,” he whispered to Flanigan and tried to ignore the alien army standing around watching them, “she asked her troops to stand down. We’re going to go with her to negotiate an alliance.”
Flanigan frowned and squinted at him. “I need a coffee,” he said.
“Got any coffee?” West asked the Queen.
“Oh, somewhere around here,” she said and waved a slimy arm vaguely. “We’ll get your boyfriend something to drink, okay?”
“Okay,” West agreed and smiled at Flanigan who looked a little less worried when West promised him coffee.
“Now,” said the Queen, “tell me about your cat.”