by Domashita Romero (地下ロメロ)
I woke up to find the other half of the bed empty and let out a small sigh. I’d made all sorts of attempts to get Augustine to turn into the kind of man who’d linger in bed for a cuddle, from sleeping on top of him to asking politely to adjusting the ship’s day/night cycle, but he was incurably a morning person. Next step had to be wearing him out a little more before bed. That’d at least be fun trying.
I could smell coffee working its way to me through the recycled air of the ventilation system, making it something fresh for now. I swung my legs out of bed and yawned and stretched and made all kinds of loud bellows that I hoped Augustine could hear from the kitchen. If he did, and I was lucky, maybe he’d have a cup waiting for me. He made it just how I liked it, even if he clucked and shook his head at how much sugar I preferred.
I pulled on a pair of pants and walked out of our quarters, heading towards the good smell and the soft sound of humming I heard. I needed to bathe and brush my teeth and all of those important things, but the real important thing I needed was that cuddle. I swept up behind Augustine and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, and nuzzled my nose into the curl of his hair. He made a soft, happy sound and reached up to rub his knuckles just under the base of one of my horns, right where I liked it.
And then some total nonsense came out of his mouth.
I straightened up and slipped around to where I could look at his face. “What?” I said. This wasn’t nonsense like Augustine usually got up to, babbling out his life’s narration and verbalizing all his half-formed thoughts; this was just sounds that didn’t make sense. His brows drew together as he looked at me and more senseless noises came out of his mouth. “What’s wrong? Why are you talking like that?” He looked just as concerned as I had to, and after a few more moments of his senseless babbling, he put his hand over his mouth. It hit me at the same time.
“Oh, shit,” I said. “The translator is broken, isn’t it?”
He scrunched his eyes shut and put his fingers to his temples, like he always did when stuck on some particularly difficult problem. He was talking, and I kept listening, trying to find some sense anywhere in his words, but I could barely tell where one word stopped and another began. I didn’t know how the translator worked — my scientific specialty involved bigger things, like comets. I left the stuff on the smaller levels to Augustine. I knew it worked with some kind of nanotech and neuro-waves or something like that. Mostly I just knew it worked.
“Things you take for granted until they’re gone, huh?” I said, and Augustine tilted his head, looking up at me with sad eyes. “Oh, I hate this already.”
He was human and I was naqri and we didn’t know a word of each other’s languages other than the homeworld-native things that just didn’t translate. “Coffee?” I said, and Augustine smiled in relief. I knew some others, but I’d need some of the stuff before I could think of any.
“Coffee,” he said, and poured me a cup, spooning sugar in it with no complaints. At least, not any complaints I could understand. Maybe some parts of this weren’t so bad.
“Okay,” I said, as I took a drink. I pointed at him. “Augustine.” He nodded. I pointed at myself. “Raada.” He nodded again.
“Augustine,” he said, pointing at himself, then turned his finger on me. “Raada.”
“We’ve at least got that going for us.” I pointed at my face and nodded exaggeratedly. “Yes.”
Augustine’s brows knit together and then raised as he nodded. “Yes?” It sounded wobblier than he usually said it, the sounds slightly off. That was the sound of him saying it for real, in my language, and not just translated to it for my benefit.
“Yes,” I said, and smiled. Then I scowled and shook my head. “No.”
Augustine shook his head. “No.” He laughed a little and said something I couldn’t understand.
“We’ve got the basics, at least,” I said. “Important fundamentals in a relationship.” I reached over and held his hand, rubbing my larger thumb across his slim, small fingers. He squeezed it a little and I took another sip of coffee. “I think I have some ideas.”
I tapped on the computer screen beside our little dining nook to wake it up. I could still read the menus, so that was at least something going for me. First things first, I checked the ship diagnostics. Everything was in the green there, so that was no help. I kept hold of Augustine’s hand as I tapped through menus, looking for a feature I’d seen once and thought to myself, well, hell, who’d ever use that?
TRANSLATE said the top of the screen, and I shook my head. Machine translation. What the hell century was it, even? Augustine started babbling something, so I hoped he had caught on to what I was doing. I tapped the menu and after some scrolling found my language, naaqlut, and then my finger wavered over the other side, trying to select what Augustine’s native language was. I didn’t even know the word for it. I frowned at the screen until Augustine made an ‘Ah!’ sound and started scrolling at himself, tapping proudly on a selection. English. It just sounded made up.
I took a breath and hit the ‘listen’ icon on the screen. “I have a friend who I think can help us,” I said, speaking slowly and clearly. A slightly stilted voice spat out a translation that Augustine frowned at first, but then nodded. “And she speaks like fourteen languages, maybe she knows yours, too.” Augustine frowned at the voice this time, and I sighed. “Little less casual, maybe, Raada,” I mumbled, and then swatted at the ‘listen’ icon again when it started to translate that, too.
Augustine hit the ‘switch’ icon. He spoke something, and a moment later the computer translated into something I understood. “I think good talk to your friend idea.” I sighed. How anyone understood each other before neurology got involved, I could never know for sure. Augustine spoke again. “We’ll be okay.” That was clear. That was good. I leaned over the table to give him a brief kiss.
“Yes,” I said.
“Yes,” he said, and squeezed my hand.
I let go of him to turn to the larger communication screen, leaving the awkward translation behind me for now. “Comm, connect me to Mearad Nulan.” It showed a zip through my contacts and settled on the right one. The ship still understood me. That was good. That was fairly vital.
I lucked out, and it seemed to be a reasonable hour of the day for Mearad. I could see sunlight streaming in behind her desk and one of her kids knocking over a tower of blocks in the background. “Hey! Raada!” she said as she settled fully into view, though her horns didn’t quite fit in the camera’s range. “Been a while, friend. What’s the special occasion?”
It was weird how I already felt such relief at hearing real, intelligible speech. “It’s not much of a social call, I’m afraid.”
“Boo,” she said, and tilted her head and waved. “Oh, Augustine’s there.” She said something I didn’t understand then, some nonsense that was starting to get a familiar rhythm, with Augustine’s name at the end.
Augustine let out a huge sigh and spoke back to her, and her eyes went between us as she started to frown. “Something’s weird,” she said. “Something’s off.”
“Something’s very off,” I said. “Our translator’s stopped working.”
“Oh, no,” she said. “That’s not good.” She looked to Augustine and said something directed to him. He responded in kind; I could manage to pick out my name, at least. “He says that you checked the diagnostics and everything was normal?”
“Completely,” I said, and shifted so my hand could rest at the small of Augustine’s back. I felt him lean into it. “Everything’s fully operational, we just woke up and…” I looked at Augustine and shook my head. “No.”
He sighed and scooted closer to me, pressing his smaller frame against my side. “No,” he said.
“What are you two doing out… wherever you are?” Mearad said. “Still chasing comets?”
“It’s what we do,” I said. Augustine sighed again. He had to feel helpless, like being a child again and having your parents speak over your head in words you couldn’t understand.
Mearad chewed on her bottom lip for a bit. “Send me your coordinates and flight plan, would you? I have an idea.” She spoke Augustine’s name again and I felt him raise and relax under my arm. I turned to the control console and did as she asked while the two of them had what sounded like a light chat. I hoped she was keeping him abreast of the conversation.
“Sent,” I said, and I could see her lean back, the tell-tale posture of someone looking at something on their screen that wasn’t you. “Wow, you guys are out there.”
I laughed a little ruefully. “It was a nice way to get some alone time.” Just the night before I’d fallen asleep with Augustine in my arms, listening to him talk about some time when he’d been a child, on a beach with his parents, glittering white sand and pure blue water. I’d told him I’d like to see it someday, such fantastic colors, and that I’d protect him from any more vicious crabs. He’d pinched at my bicep with his fingers and I’d smiled as I drifted off.
Mearad tapped her teeth together, an old nervous habit of hers. “You did ship diagnostics, right? But did you do any exterior scans?” She repeated herself in english for Augustine, or at least, I assumed she did.
“No, not yet, that would have been part of today’s work, but…” I frowned. “Is something outside causing this?”
“I think I’ve seen this before,” she said. “I mean, things like this are what keep people like me employed.” Ships with a crew of greater than two people always had at least one linguist on board, in case of disaster or simple cultural misunderstanding. “You’re probably moving through some sort of anomaly that’s causing interference on the nano-level. Nothing you’d feel or would cause you harm, except for, well.” She started in on a translation for Augustine, and I sighed. Deep space research was rewarding and exciting, except for the damn anomalies.
“So, what do we do?” I said.
“Do some scans and I’ll bet you’ll find you’re deep in something. Then it’s just a matter of figuring out where it ends and how long it’ll take to get out of it.” Her smile went soft and she tilted her head a little. “Until then… I guess you just have to learn to communicate in other ways.”
She repeated herself for Augustine as I slipped my hand around his hip and pulled him closer. Machine translation could get us part of the way. As for the rest…
“Mearad,” I said. “Tell him we’ll be okay. We can make it work.”
Mearad smiled, bowed her head slightly, and spoke in Augustine’s language. He leaned into me and tilted his head up to smile at me, the way that made the little lines around his dark eyes crinkle up. He said something to me.
“He says…” Mearad said, but I shook my head.
“I think I got it,” I said.
Scans showed Mearad’s theory to be absolutely right; we were deep in a cloud, and in absence of any other evidence, we had to assume that was what was causing the nano-interference. We could change course to get out of it in a day or so. It would be a setback to our research, but not being able to communicate with each other other than in exaggerated gestures was a much more significant setback.
I got our new course set and through some pointing at the screen and nodding, got that Augustine knew what was going on. “Well, now we just… wait,” I said to him. He tilted his head and said something to me. “We’ll have to find other ways to communicate.”
I had something of a headache forming. I pinched the bridge of my nose, and Augustine made an ‘ah!’ sound as he held up one finger. I watched him expectantly as he poured me another cup of coffee and spooned my preferred amount of sugar into it. He put it into my hands with some words that sounded kind.
“Yes,” I said. “Thank you.” Nothing did the trick for my headaches like coffee, and Augustine knew it. I bowed my head a little over the cup and said it again. “Thank you.”
Augustine’s brows raised and he looked pleased. “Thank you,” he said, vowels still a little strange. He put a hand on his chest and looked grateful, then said something that sounded like a lot of mush. It had to be ‘you’re welcome.’ I smiled and repeated it as best as I could.
“See, we’re learning,” I said, and drank my coffee. I could feel the pinch in my head start to recede at the first sip. I held out my arm and Augustine slid in underneath it, fitting himself up against my side. “I guess we really should have learned these things earlier.” He turned his head towards my armpit and mumbled something against my skin. “I think we’re both due for some studying once this is fixed.”
I drank a little more and stroked my fingers through the loose curls of his hair. “Of course it’s now that I can think of so many things I want to say to you,” I said. “I love your hair. I love the way it feels between my fingers. I love that face you make when I do that, the one you’re making right now, happy like a cat. I love the way it looks in the morning, the rare times I wake up before you. I love… everything about you, and I don’t say it enough.”
Augustine tilted his head up towards me. “I love?” he asked. I supposed I was repeating it a lot.
I set my cup of coffee down and put a hand over my heart. “I love.” I moved my hand to his chest. “I love you.”
Augustine closed his eyes and put his hand on top of mine. “I love you,” he said, and I even loved his strange vowels. He put his small hand on my jaw and urged me downward to put his lips to mine. When he drew back he said a word, hard at its front and hissing at the end. Kiss, that had to be. I said it back to him, and he smiled. Then he grabbed on to the end curve of one of my horns and pulled me down for a deeper kiss. Some methods of communication didn’t need translation.
I would have happily kept kissing Augustine and more, but I heard his stomach growl. I laughed and put my hand on it. “I understand that. You need breakfast.” He put his hand on top of mine and chomped his teeth a few times while looking abashed. I kissed his forehead and stood up to set about feeding us. He always woke up before I did, but consumed nothing but coffee until I’d joined him in the conscious world. It was another thing I loved about him.
Augustine had a habit of talking with his mouth full, and it was one that wasn’t hampered by his dining companion not being able to understand a word of what he was saying. It wasn’t much different than normal, though; I usually just let him talk while I focused on chewing. He pointed his fork at me to emphasize something and I just had to laugh.
“I hope you remember all of this later,” I said. “It seems like you’re making some good points.”
I reached over to take a piece of carrot off his plate. Augustine looked confused — I didn’t care for them raw myself, too much snap in the teeth for me — but then I looked at him and opened my mouth. “Say ‘aah.'” I said.
Augustine laughed and said, “Aah.” I popped the carrot into his mouth and he kissed my fingers before eating it up.
“See, such a fast learner,” I said, and Augustine started up his mealtime monologue again. I just smiled and listened, like always.
The day went by slowly after that. A lot of both of our work was very solitary and quiet, and I’d taken for granted just how much I relied on having Augustine to talk to make the hours of data analysis go by. I’d look up from my screens to see his face, brow knit in concentration, and wanted to ask him what he was seeing, what he’d discovered, what had him looking so serious. Augustine did better work when he could think out loud, usually at me, but now he was just mumbling under his breath.
“It doesn’t bother me,” I said, softly. “I love your voice.”
Augustine looked up. “I love?”
I put my hand on my throat and brought my hand up and out beneath my mouth. “I love your voice.”
Augustine chewed on his lower lip for a moment, and with a sly grin burst into song. I leaned my head back and laughed. I loved listening to him talk, but he was an awful singer. For once, though, I didn’t cover my ears.
By nighttime I could see that it had worn on him. Augustine had called himself a butterfly once, and once I’d looked up what one of those was, I’d agreed that he was certainly just pretty to look at, but the comparison was lost on me. He’d told me it meant he was flighty, that he always flit between one focus and the next, one subject or another, one person or another… and then he’d taken one of my hands between both of his and told me that I could keep his whole attention. It was why he could be out alone so deep in space with no one but me.
His eyes looked tired. His whole body looked like it felt heavy, his slim shoulders drawn inward. I took his hand and led him to sit on our bed. I put my hands on his shoulders as I sat down next to him and let my thumbs press along the column of the back of his neck. Augustine let out a long, pleased moan. That needed no translation.
I rubbed his neck for a while, soothing out the tension with my strong thumbs. I tugged on the collar of his shirt. “Off?” I said, then tugged again.
“Off,” Augustine echoed, and then pulled it over his head. I dropped a kiss onto the back of his neck and he stretched out on his stomach on the bed. This was habit enough that it didn’t need discussion.
I settled myself just astride his thighs as I brushed my fingers down his back. I could splay out the fingers of one hand and nearly span him from shoulder to shoulder. I didn’t think of him as small, even though he was in the literal fashion of it, he was much smaller than me. He was always so bright and full of life that he filled up a room more than I did when I had to duck my head to get through a doorway. He seemed small now, though. I’d just have to make him feel big again.
He loved my hands. I worked my fingers into his muscles, keeping my touch soft until he moaned, then working deeper. He felt so tense, just after such a short time. I bent down to kiss the back of his neck. “When this is over,” I said, as my thumbs drew circles on his lower back. “I’m going to become fluent. Going to learn every word of your weird language. And I’ll pronounce it wrong, and have a funny accent, and you’ll smile every time I speak. And that will make me so happy.”
Augustine let out a sigh into the pillow. “Raada,” he said, and that was all. He stretched his arms up so his fingers brushed the head of the bed, the whole gesture making his body seem even longer, even more lean.
I kissed my way down his spine. “Augustine,” I said, and I could feel his smile inside the warm sound he made under my lips. We always had that. We still knew each other.
My hands slipped down to the waist of his pants and I slipped my fingers underneath. “Yes?” I asked.
Augustine turned his head a little and I could see him nod. “Yes,” he said, sounding content. I gently tugged off the rest of his clothing, leaving him stretched out on the bed beneath us. His skin looked faintly golden in the dim evening ship’s lighting, and even more so against the dusky grey of my own hands as I continued the massage, rubbing his thighs, his calves, and on down to his feet.
I never could resist. I could touch the soles and tops of his feet for hours, but the minute I traveled out of bounds… I tugged a little at one of his toes and Augustine let out a yelp, followed by a clear, “No!” I laughed and bent over to kiss the base of his spine. We’d played exactly this out dozens of times before.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “No.” My hands came up to his hips, fingers settling to curve around them.
Augustine made an indignant little snort, but I could see him smiling. “No,” he said, and then I kissed along his back some more. “Mm, yes.”
“Yes,” I said. We could get a long way with just those two words. I kissed along Augustine’s waist, over where his ribs expanded and fell with each easy breath. His skin still smelled like the lemon soap he used, fresh and sharp in my nose. He woke early but bathed just after supper, one of the many strange little things about him I’d grown to love so much.
I slid my hands up Augustine’s thighs to cup his ass and he made a good sound, pleased and eager. No mistaking that. He murmured something as he shifted on the bed, squirming a little, raising up his hips to meet my hands. I gave him a squeeze and he laughed, soft and throaty, and gave me another, “Yes.”
“Yes,” I said, as my lips skimmed over the curve of his ass. He had a gorgeous ass, I never hesitated to tell him, at length, until he put a hand over my face and told me to stop. I nipped at the curve of his rump with my teeth to hear him yelp and laugh again, and then brushed my thumbs between his cheeks. “Yes?” I asked.
“Yes,” he groaned, and drew his legs up to spread himself out for me. I dropped my head down, so my nose nudged at the underside of Augustine’s balls and the tips of my horns pressed into the back of his thighs, and then I held on to his hips and ran my tongue slowly upward.
Augustine made a high sound as I slowly traced my tongue around the edge of his hole. He loved this, loved it so much I couldn’t do it every time, because it was just too much. I licked at him slowly, first long strokes of the flat of my tongue while he shivered, and then a tease of the tip of my tongue just inside of him until he started to keen. I groaned against him as I felt him writhe with each touch, each twist.
He said something again, stammered and breathless, and I couldn’t understand, until he came out with a shaky, “No.” I drew back immediately and looked up to his face. He was gasping and gorgeous, his cheeks flushed dark. He’d said ‘no,’ but he smiled. He shakily rolled over onto his back.
“Too much?” I said. I still had all my clothes on, which seemed stupid, with how his cock was straining upwards and mine was aching in my pants. “Not enough?”
He babbled something quick and breathy as he sat up to tug at my shirt. I slipped out of the buttons as quickly as I could to shrug it off, and he dropped kisses across my collar bones and chest the moment they were exposed. My eyelids fluttered shut as he reached down with those little clever fingers of his to rub my cock through my pants, giving me a squeeze enough to make me dampen the fabric. All it took was the suggestion of his fingers slipping beneath my waistband and I had them off before he could even take another breath.
Augustine was spread out beneath me, skin flushed and breathing hard. “You’re beautiful,” I said. I leaned down to kiss him. He smiled as he brushed his fingers back around the curves of my horns to grab hold of the ends of them. He mumbled something that felt soft and pretty against my lips. I smiled underneath his kisses as I reached for a bottle at our bedside. “Let’s make you speak something we both understand.”
He let go of my horns and smiled eagerly as I slicked up my fingers. “Yes,” he said, and his hands were wandering over his own body, stroking over his chest to tease fingers against one of his nipples. I bit my lip and let out a little grunt; it drove me crazy to see him do that, and he knew it. I grabbed him by the hip and pulled him up until his ass was off the bed and his thighs rested atop mine.
“I love you,” I said, as I teased a slick fingertip around the rim of his hole. I felt him shiver around me as I nudged into him, nice and slow. He’d want fast later, but he liked the build, the burn, the anticipation.
“Mm, I love,” Augustine said again as he stretched his arms up over his head, circling his hips to urge me deeper. I fucked him slowly with just one finger, listening to him breath. Some nights I could do this forever, just this, driving him over the edge. The longer I just toyed with him like this, the more he started to babble, telling me how good I felt, how good he felt, how much he wanted me, how much he loved me. He was just whispering now. I slipped a second finger inside of him.
“Go on,” I said, and had to give my cock a quick stroke just to take the edge off as Augustine arched and gasped and curled his body to get more. “Let me hear you.” I reached up with my other hand to stroke underneath his chin, and brushed my thumb over his lips. He kissed it as it passed and spoke louder. “Good.”
Three fingers had him speechless again, biting his lip while he fucked himself onto my hand, doing all the work for me. His fingers still teased over one of his nipples, just a flick now and then to make himself squirm. I leaned down to follow their touch, to give one a little bite just to hear him gasp my name.
“Raada,” he groaned, and then, as he still ground his hips down on my fingers, let out a frustrated groan and said, “No.”
I went still and started to pull my hand away. “No?”
Augustine was breathless, his eyes wild and a few whorls of his hair stuck to his forehead with sweat. He reached up to rest his fingers on my wrist. “No,” he said, and then stretched further to wrap his fingers around my cock. “Yes.”
I closed my eyes and shivered. I could understand those instructions, perfectly clear. Augustine shuddered as I drew my fingers out of him and grabbed him around the hips, easily lifting him to switch our positions on the bed. He rest his palms flat on my chest and rubbed himself a little against my cock, just enough to make me bite my lip and gasp. Just a tease, though, until I slicked up my cock and held it steady for Augustine to slide himself down on it.
He liked that I was big. He liked everything about how big I was, but especially liked that I was big. He’d teased me that he’d had bigger, a human man, even, but I’d always thought that was just to get me to huff and growl and fuck him harder. I kept my hands on his hips to steady him, but Augustine was in control, groaning and gasping as he took me in by slow inches. He felt so hot around my cock, so good and tight, but the best of all was his face, the look of satisfaction, that cat expression again when his thighs touched to mine.
“Beautiful,” I said, and he smiled. Tone of voice could be enough sometimes. “I love you.”
“I love,” he groaned out through bitten lips as he started to rock his hips, still keeping my cock deep in him as he fucked himself on it. He rode me so well, his own cock twitching as he started to move more. He didn’t lay a hand on it, though, and neither did I. Not yet. I knew how he liked this, even if he couldn’t say.
He leaned down and stretched himself out over my chest, and that meant it was my time. I held on to his hips as I worked mine off the bed, fucking him faster and harder than he could manage on his own. His fingers curled up around my shoulders first as his mouth skimmed my chest. I could feel him talking more than I could hear, and I wanted those words. I wanted at least one word.
I gripped his hips hard and arched up my own to slam deep inside him. That got Augustine to toss his head back and shout out a “Yes!” loud and clear. “Yes, yes yes yes,” he said again and again, just what I wanted as I made our bed squeak and groan with each hard thrust. I’d be sore in the morning, and I’d love it. I grinned as I thought of fucking Augustine so well he’d sleep in with me.
Augustine’s hands left my shoulders and wrapped around the ends of my horns for purchase, and that was a sign I knew well. He was whimpering and going so tight around me, so hot that it made me see red, made me want to forget everything but fucking him. Not yet, though, not yet. I let go of one hip to put my hand between us and wrap around Augustine’s cock. I gripped him tight and he cried out another “Yes!” as he thrust into it, moving perfectly between sliding himself down onto my cock and forward into my hand. He held me just as strong, hands wrapped tight around my horns as he said my name, again and again.
“Raada, Raada, Raada, yes!” The last was followed by a sharp cry and the hot splash of come between our bodies, over my hand. I felt every shiver, every gasp, every shudder of tension along my cock as I kept fucking him through his orgasm. It was too much, it was just enough, and he’d barely begun to still before I was gone, too, my cock pulsing deep into him as I felt every inch of me, every nerve in my body alight on that yes.
Augustine’s fingers slowly loosened their grip around my horns and I gathered up one hand and then the other, kissing his fingertips while my breath still came hard. He was boneless on top of me, warm and sighing happily. “I love you,” I said.
“I love you,” he said in response. His pronunciation was perfect, and I laughed.
“Oh, you figured out the rest of it,” I said.
“I did,” he said, and then we both went still.
“You understood me?” I said.
“I did!” he said, and wrapped his arms around my neck to kiss me hard. “I really did say it, I really did have it figured out, but…”
“It’s fixed,” I said, and stroked my hands down his back.
“All better,” he said, and stroked his hand over my cheek. “I missed you.”
“So did I,” I said, and took his hand up to kiss it again. “Beautiful. Wonderful. I can’t stand not to hear you running your mouth all the time.”
“Never again,” he said. “I’m starting language lessons right away.”
“Same here,” I said. “Maybe should have done it a while ago.”
“Maybe,” Augustine said. “I got rather distracted from that sort of intellectual pursuit by falling madly in love with you, that’s all.”
“Funny,” I said. “Same thing happened to me.” I kissed him again for a long while, before he let out a soft sigh and rolled off of me to curl at my side. I tucked my arm around him, keeping him close. “So, should I tell Mearad that I made you come so hard it cleared out a deep space anomaly?”
Augustine groaned into my armpit, before laughing and saying, “Yes.” That one was one of mine, I could tell. But they all were.