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Far from the Sweeping Tide

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Watching Tavros get in and out of the shuttle to the train station is an exercise in heartbreak, because normally Dave doesn't even think about how much harder some things must be. He wants to give Tavros a hand, or an arm, or just help somehow, but has received enough Liberal Arts Political Correctness Training to overthink it. His first thought may be help him you asshole, but the second thought is thats fucking condescending, the third thought is but if i offered, and the fourth thought is no. By the time he gets to the fifth thought, which is strider where are your balls just ask, and the words make their way out of his mouth, Tavros is already sitting in the shuttle.

Dave gets to fold up the wheelchair to put it in the trunk.

And then Tavros has to do all of that in reverse when they get to the train station, and the ticket booth at the station is standing-height, and Dave feels guilty because he almost never thinks about these things.

There's an elevator down to the train tracks, though. When the door slides closed, Tavros says, all kinds of slow and careful, "Thanks for coming with me."

"Nah." Dave shrugs. The door dings open and they walk and roll, respectively, out onto the train platform. Dave's got a small duffel, just a few days' worth of clothes, since Tavros says he has a washing machine at his place.

The train ride is fairly uneventful, with Tavros grading first-year Alternian language homework and Dave starting in on Quadrants for Dummies, because he expects he'll be watching a lot of terrible Alternian film over the next month, and it would be a shame to not understand just how terrible it is merely because the relationships are beyond him.

+++

The Alternian Consulate General is, in one word, alien, though if Dave ever were to say that he'd run afoul of just about every tenet of political correctness there is, and not in the way that he likes. It's not ugly, but it's not pretty. Frankly, it looks like the shell of an enormous black beetle, all hard glossy curves, and there are two cell phone antennae rising out of the top.

There's a sandwich shop next door, so they pick up sandwiches and eat them before going into the consulate.

They go through security before being shunted into the area for Warp transit, where a few Alternians of various ages are waiting, most of them dressed casually. They're probably employed on Earth and going back to Alternia to visit, though there are a couple other students, too. There's only one other human besides Dave, but she's alone, and reading an Alternian-language book, which makes Dave feel so touristy he has a sudden craving for Hawaiian shirts. He took both Spanish and Alternian in high school, and while he still remembers the ayembedt and can understand okay, he doesn't think he could manage to say more than Gloradoration to the Condesce, the formal greeting, at this point.

He pulls out his iPod and a splitter, hands the other set of headphones to Tavros and queues up the set he played for the Ayem night last month, when Tavros was trying to bash out an English paper.

The wait isn't that long, maybe only an hour, before the whole group is shown through a creepily organic door that seems to be oozing glowing goop. The walls of the room might be expanding and contracting, like lungs, but Dave tries not to think about it.

The consulate employee closes the door. The lights stay on. The pressure changes, slowly, just enough that Dave's ears pop, and then a human opens the door.

"Welcome to Alternia. We hope that you enjoy your stay," a little automated voice says in English as they exit into the United States consulate in Prime, the Alternian homeworld capital.

Prime was a major metropolis before the Exodus, and in the ensuing centuries became too run-down to inhabit. After the Interworld Peace Accords, it was leveled and rebuilt as a modern, human-tourist-friendly city. It is located near the intersection of the Alternian equator and prime meridian – from which it takes its modern name – and is right on the coast, to better facilitate interactions between landdwelling and seadwelling trolls.

Tavros's hive is a ways north along the coast from Prime. They take a bug bus – the type popularized by Miyagaki's Two Young Moirails Travel to the Countryside with their Lusus to Help One of the Lusus Recover from an Unspecified Illness, Discover Nature Spirits etc, released just before the Warp – towards the train station.

It's night, so Dave can't see much – he doesn't have the night vision that Alternians do – but there's a lot of bright red neon, and a lot of street lights, so it just looks like they're out late on Earth. Except for the signs all being in Alternian.

The design of the trains is surprisingly familiar, after the semi-sentient bug bus, and after about an hour they get off at a stop whose latitude and longitude are written right after the name.

There are two badly-paved roads that intersect in front of the station, with one streetlight, and a few hives and stores besides that. It's pretty tiny. Dave half-expects a tumbleweed to blow by, but the grass growing in tufts at the edges of the road is verdant despite the winterlike weather, and the wind smells of brine.

"How far to your place?" he asks, trying to judge the time until dawn by the shade of the sky.

"An hour," Tavros says quietly. He's staring up at the stars. "I think we have, uh, three hours, maybe more, until sunrise."

"Right," Dave says, and slings his duffel over his shoulder. Waits for Tavros to start rolling, then says, "I'm going to move here and start a taxi company."

Tavros grins, purple light flickering off his fangs from the moon.

+++

Tavros's hive is two stories, with a windmill rotating slowly on top. Ten yards from the door is a cliff that drops straight down to the ocean.

The inside of the hive is, frankly, a mess, even by Dave's pretty lax standards, and he's horrified to realize that this makes him the neat freak in this relationship.

"I don't have a bed," Tavros says, fingers curling in the fabric of his jeans. "There's some blankets on the second floor, though."

"Cool." Dave discreetly kicks a Pokeball-like thing against the wall. "Where do you want me to sleep?"

"It doesn't matter, I think." He pauses, then looks up at a fluttering noise that heralds a white bull-fairy animal thing floating down from the second floor. It hovers there, looking between them, then squeaks and darts towards Tavros, crash-landing into a hug.

Dave realizes, as Tavros and bullfairy stare intently into each others' eyes, that this is probably Tavros's lusus, but they don't exactly teach you the intricacies of "Meeting the Lusus of Your Flushed Quadrant Significant Other" in Alternian 101.

Tavros finally lets his lusus go back to hovering at about Tavros's eye level. "Dave, this is Tinkerbull," Tavros says.
Dave somehow manages to transmute his laugh into a nod and a, "How d'you do."

"He doesn't talk," Tavros says.

"Doesn't mean I shouldn't get my gentleman on, tip my hat, pull out chairs for pretty ladies. Where should I put my stuff?"

"I have a guest respiteblock, or you could, stay, in mine, uh." Tavros is blushing, which is ridiculous. They've had sex more times than Dave can count, but talking about sleeping in the same room gets him looking like a very dirt-smudged traffic cone.

"It's your place; you tell me where I'm gonna sleep."

"Okay." Tavros leads him through a living room-like space, past a set of stairs, and through the kitchen to a back porch with a mechanically operated elevator. The elevator lets them off at the second floor, which is a bathroom, bedroom, and guest room. The guest room has a clean floor and an empty recuperacoon, while Tavros's room is, like the first floor living room, the kind of mess that would have made the Princess die of hemorrhaging no matter how many mattresses you put over it.

Dave kicks a stuffed bear out of the way and drops his bag next to the wall. "You said you had blankets?"

"Downstairs, in the laundry-storage subblock."

Dave clomps down the stairs, which are covered in dust, and rummages around looking for a closet. When he finds it, he yanks out a couple of blankets and drags them back upstairs, dumping them on top of his duffle and kneeling to clear some space on the floor.

"You didn't have to," Tavros starts, leaning forward in his wheelchair like he actually intends to get out of it and down on the floor.

"It's fine." Dave makes a neat little pile of trading cards and not-Pokeballs and hands them to Tavros, who puts them on his half-empty desk. "You got anything to eat in the kitchen?"

"Yes, I should, still, from the summer." Tavros rolls his way over to the elevator, Dave in tow, and they manage to find some dried noodles in the back of a cabinet, which they boil up and eat while watching some awful fantasy movie about a boy who moves into a run-down hive and discovers that its previous occupant is haunting it as a ghost. The two characters fall into an easy moirallegiance as they try to discover how and why the previous occupant was murdered.

Around the time the ghost starts regularly manifesting, proving the boy's lusus wrong about the non-existence of ghosts, Dave takes the empty bowls back to the kitchen, then returns to the couch.

"Scoot," he says to Tavros, who is sitting sideways on the couch, leaning against the armrest and watching the screen intensely.

"What?"

Dave pauses the film. "Move down. I want to sit behind you."

Tavros pushes himself away from the armrest, the movie still paused, and Dave wrangles himself into the space, his knees bracketing Tavros's thighs and Tavros leaning back against his chest.

Tavros keeps watching the movie but Dave doesn't bother; it's not even so bad it's good. At least listening to the Alternian dialogue is bringing back some of what he'd forgotten, and from this position he has a nice view of Tavros's shoulder and neck. Also of his earring.

He pushes Tavros's t-shirt aside, kisses at that in-between curve where neck and shoulder join, and feels the pressure of Tavros's sigh against his chest. Stays there, matching the cadences of their breathing, before skimming his open mouth up Tavros's neck, out to the lobe of his ear, struck through with metal. Tongues at the coldness of the loop, then at the quiet small place where it passes through Tavros's skin, half-warmed by his blood, and Tavros gasps, chest expanding and pressing Dave harder into the armrest.

Dave pulls away, lets his forehead rest on Tavros's shoulder. "If you stretched your ears," he says, the thought of it making him want to rock against Tavros's hips, "I swear I could come just from tongue-fucking the holes."

Tavros whimpers, head tilting back.

On the screen, the ghost says something upsetting about her lusus's death.

Dave slips his hands under Tavros's shirt, drags his fingers up Tavros's sides, over his vestigial grub legs – Tavros has started making noises about getting those pierced in the spring, hell fucking yes - and then just holds him, feeling the warmth of his body against his arms and chest, breathing him in. Thinking about how they have an entire month alone in this hive except for Tavros's lusus, and getting progressively harder because alone here makes him imagine sex in every single room, not to mention outside in the dark, cool night with the sea thundering below them.

He doesn't notice when the movie ends.

+++

They order groceries online the next day, enough to last a week, which arrive the day after that. They spend a lot of time watching terrible movies with long, spoilery titles. Only a few of the movies have Earth equivalents, and of those, only one dates from since the Warp. Apparently the new big question in the field of philosophy is what it means that Alternia and Earth were once imperfect mirrors, but are now developing independently since the Warp bridged that distance between them.

Dave's been sleeping on the floor, using his coat as a pillow, and it's not too bad, even if Tavros's recuperacoon occasionally sounds like an aquarium filter that's trying to aerate a dead fish.

Tavros usually gets up a couple hours after the sun sets, takes a shower after he gets out, then dresses for the day. Dave tends to wake up before him, right about when the sun's starting to set; the day/night cycle shift is fucking with him for being diurnal. Fortunately, though, he's a night owl by inclination and a college student by choice. And there's something to be said for watching Tavros, blurry with sleep and naked body covered in slime, make his way from the recuperacoon to the bathroom to take a shower.

The sun is brighter than Earth's, and warmer, too. This part of Alternia has six seasons, and while they're nominally in the cold-dry season, it's not real bad, enough for a scarf and a sweater but not much more. He could play Texan and whine, but it would just make Tavros embarrassed and apologetic.

Tavros is a terrible cook, but then, Dave can't complain. Between efforts by the two of them they manage to eat okay. It's a happy accident, or whatever, that Alternian and human diets ended up pretty similar, with a few exceptions. "Eating the Styrofoam" has had its own TVTropes page for a while now, named after the prototypical 'Alternian visitor to Earth is pleased by the snack the coffee came in' scenario, which always ends with everyone in the cast discovering that styrofoam is perfectly harmless for Alternians. Dave is tired of the trope on principle – he's had to sit through enough explanations of how Xenoism is the new Orientalism to give the whole spiel himself by now – but if it's pulled off really terribly he likes it. Ironically, of course.

Around the middle of the first week he goes outside to look at the sea, standing at the edge of the cliff with the wind blowing against him. The green moon's light reflects eerily over the water, the pure-white flying lizards down by the waterside crying out to each other in fights over food. He'd like to go down, put his feet in the water, but the cliff is maybe fifty feet high, and Tavros says the path down to the beach isn't stable anymore.

"You shouldn't stand there," Tavros calls out, from some distance away.

"No?" Dave turns.

Tavros gestures for him to come closer, eyes too wide, so Dave does. "It's not stable. Sometimes it, uh, falls. Or the wind blows extra hard."

"Huh," Dave says. "Hard fall."

"Yeah." Tavros wheels forward, takes Dave's hand, stays there looking at it for a while, while Dave feels how cold Tavros's hands are compared to his own and listens to the waves break.

After a while, Tavros says, "I wasn't hatched like this."

"In a wheelchair."

"Yeah."

Dave breathes out, slowly, looking back at the cliff. The grass just stops in midair, pretty much.

"How'd you get back up?" he asks.

"I don't remember everything." His fingers tighten around Dave's. "I remember realizing it was, the sea was low. And that I'd die if I didn't get to the steps."

And drown, salt water in his lungs, never grow up, never go to Earth. Never meet Dave, cold bones polished by the tides.
His stomach clenches. "But you made it. Sailed through that trouble with the flair of a chain theme restaurant waitress whose job is on the line."

Tavros makes a soft, pained noise, but when Dave looks over he's smiling, gaze cast over towards the water. "It took me three nights."

Two full days lying in the sun, broken and probably delirious from pain and light. Jesus H. Zombie-Raising Christ, Tavros could have died from fucking exposure.

"That's fucking ridiculous," he says, bending down, setting his hands on Tavros's shoulders for support to kiss him, feeling unmoored by the thought of how close they came to being not here, not together, that other Dave never knowing.

Tavros's hands on his cheeks are rough with calluses, cool against his skin, and Dave traces the tastebud-roughness of his tongue, wanting.

They haven't had sex since the movie with the ghost, twined together on the couch, and Dave's whole body thrums with pent-up desire.

Tavros pulls away, just enough for Dave to lick his own lips and feel how tender they are from brushing against Tavros's teeth, messy and wet. Tavros's mouth has gone dark and faintly warm-colored from the pressure, and he's looking at Dave so earnestly it hurts.

Dave takes one hand from Tavros's shoulder, takes Tavros's index and middle fingers and holds them as he turns his head to take them into his mouth. Tastes the salt and callus at the finger pads, drawing the tip of his tongue along the inner fold of the joint, closing his eyes to just feel.

He doesn't mind when Tavros pushes his fingers deeper, lets Tavros stroke at his tongue, imagines the way he would lick at Tavros's dick if Tavros could feel it.

Tavros's breath hitches, and he says, voice tight, "Let's go inside."

Dave pulls off Tavros's fingers, pulls his hand forward to give the palm a kiss. It leaves cool presses of saliva against his cheek.

Dave leans down to kiss him again right inside the doorway, but Tavros's response cuts short when Tinkerbull, who was curled up on the arm of the couch, makes a distressed squeaking noise.

"He, uh, wants us to go upstairs," Tavros says, shamefaced.

"Sure, why don't you just surf gravity and get down on the floor of your own hive to bang your partner. It's not like your toes won't hang the board and make you do the carpet breaststroke over to the hot lifeguard who needs kiss-resuscitation."

Tavros frowns. "Was that a yes?"

"It was an 'I have all the do not wanting for making you crawl on the floor.' Your lusus can stuff it."

Tavros tenses, looking away, then says, "There's the recuperacoon. It's - designed. To be horizontal. And the sopor's really shallow because it's not for eating..."

"Isn't sopor some kind of anti-psychotic?"

"Yeah?"

"What does it do to humans?"

Tavros wrings his hands once, then visibly stops himself. "Well, I mean, uh, it's not recommended for regular use or anything, but topical application tends to give humans, um, feelings of goodwill, relaxation, and sometimes the munchies?"

It's pot ooze. That's...oddly comforting. Also explains a lot about that kid Dave met in Gushing dorm who was licking green goop out of a spoon and giggling at the movie It.

"Yeah, okay, let's have sopor sex. All in the name of xenocultural exchange, right?"

In Tavros's room, he kneels in front of Tavros's chair, slides Tavros's shirt up and over his head before tossing it into the corner. Presses his mouth to Tavros's chest, feeling Tavros's pulse in his lips, then drawing his tongue down Tavros's vestigial grubleg joints.

He helps Tavros out of his pants, then lets Tavros strip him naked in return, and the way Tavros looks at him when Dave rests one palm on Tavros's belly, fingers spread so that Tavros can't feel all of them resting on his skin, is too much, so Dave kisses him to silence it, and then Tavros opens the recuperacoon lid.

It's really fucking weird. Dave never realized before that the outside looks like, well, a cocoon, not just being decorative.

The inside has some sort of raised flat squishy surface, like a bed, but there are smears of goop on it and he knows from watching Tavros get in that the bedlike part lowers, allowing it and the occupant to be covered with slime.

Tavros maneuvers himself in with the smoothness of long practice, then looks at Dave and grins, not unkindly.

"You'll enjoy it, I think, and if you don't, we'll stop," Tavros says, "but sopor's not a good reason not to try."

Dave, mustering his courage, rubs at one eye, scratches an itch on his shoulder, and then finally goes to Tavros, crawling in beside him. Tavros shuts the lid - there's a nightlight function that lends everything an ambient eerie greenish glow - and hits the control button that lowers the reclining platform, and the sopor starts coming in.

It's warm, and even though he wiggles his feet in it, he can't make up his mind about its consistency.

Tavros keeps the platform going down until they're about knee-deep in the sopor, and then he reaches to pull Dave close to kiss him, slow and warm, without rushing. And Dave, for once, doesn't mind ― there's something absorbing about the sharpness of Tavros's teeth and the ridges on the roof of his mouth. There's a ditch in the bedlike platform, making room for Tavros's horns so he can turn his head ― that's better than a bed ― and Dave helps him drag his legs into some kind of balance, lying on his side, their bodies pressed together.

Tavros's back, the play of muscles along his spine from the movement of his shoulders, is a fucking glory unto God, smooth skin scraped over with smoother scars and rough chitin-scale tracing over his spine, which a million years ago would have been spikes of bone and is now just perfect for Dave's fingertips to draw across, making Tavros shiver and pull him closer.

The weight of Dave's body makes Tavros unbalance and he spills onto his back, but Dave just follows him over, swinging a knee over Tavros's hips and opening his mouth to let Tavros taste him.

Tavros's septum piercing presses into his cheek, body-warm, and Dave pulls out of the kiss to lick stripes down the long tendons rising beneath the skin of Tavros's neck. He tastes the beat of Tavros's pulse in the soft hollow of his throat, and then the rich tang of metal and sweat just below that.

The way the piercing looks, glinting greenly out of the shadowed darkness of Tavros's skin, is perfect enough to hurt.

When Dave lays his mouth open over it, sucking slowly at the skin there and licking in between breaths, Tavros whines, and his hands tighten in Dave's hair, keeping him close.

Dave pauses, just breathing over the patch of skin of Tavros's throat piercing, and slowly Tavros's fingers loosen.

His dick smears up against Tavros in their closeness, half-above and half-below the wavering line of Tavros's paralysis, and Tavros reaches down between them to take hold of it, and the platform jerks downwards beneath them.

"What was that?"

"I hit the button, with my elbow," Tavros mutters, and strokes at him again.

"London Bridge is falling down," Dave sings mostly to himself, and gives a little experimental wiggle into Tavros's grasp that he cuts short at the sensation of slick between them, on the insides of his thighs and under his ass. "Bet this would make awesome lube."

Tavros frowns up at him. "Uh?"

Dave drops his hand to the side, dips his fingers in the sopor and shows it to Tavros. "This. Can you use it as lube? You know, so that the pistons slide better or something."

"No, machines use, uh, oil; sopor is for sleeping."

Dave puts his hand up close to Tavros's face. "No I mean if I use it so you can stick your fingers up my ass will it make me sick or hallucinate that there are snakes crawling all over me."

Tavros shakes his head. "No, I uh, it's, a kink. And pretty common, I guess? There's even a slime where if you use it all the time, you won't, I mean," He pauses, yawns, focuses his eyes on Dave's green-smeared fingers.

"What?" Dave says. A droplet of slime falls on Tavros's cheek and Tavros blinks, lashes drawing radials down his cheeks, close to catching in the slime, which glitters green against Tavros's cheek.

Something flutters in the back of Dave's head but falls silent without saying anything, and then his balls say Yo were still here, so he leans forward wih every intention of saying something hot and not-stupid. Instead what comes out of his mouth is, "Hey wanna touch me inside?"

Except Tavros just gasps against his ear, hands skimming down his arms to wrap over his hips. Dave takes his hand, dips his fingers low into the sopor and guides him close.

Tavros slides low circles along the muscle, then across, and Dave closes his eyes, lips pressed quiet to the metal of Tavros's earring.

The slide of Tavros's fingers pulls away and returns newly-slick, still warm – definitely better than their usual lube - and circles again. This time Tavros's fingers draw a spiral that ends with a press inside, and even though it's gentle and hardly deep at all, it's still enough to make him shiver.

Tavros tucks his chin more securely against Dave's shoulder and slides deeper, but at Dave's gasping inhale he says, "Are you okay?"

"I'm so good that when I die in bed with alien digits probing me anally to orgasm the Catholic Church will still nominate me for canonization and I'll be known for the miracle of the turntables that weep blood in the presence of anarcho-feminist acoustic guitar players and John Williams music, and I'll be the patron saint of apple juice makers and hard scientists." Dave kisses at the lobe of Tavros's ear, then just under it.

Tavros snickers. "Not good enough, though, if you can say all that." Which is why Dave isn't surprised to feel Tavros work deeper into him. There's something about the angle, though - Dave shifts minutely and makes himself relax. There, better. He drags one knee up a little higher, trying to make it easier for Tavros to reach, but he's really not flexible enough to manage it. Instead there's just trying to work himself onto Tavros's fingers, shallow and dark but not enough to drive him crazy.

"Wait, hang on," he says, and wiggles away from Tavros's hand, sitting up. "Try now."

Tavros slicks his fingers up with more sopor before pressing in again, and this, this is nice, even if he is knee-deep in sleeping gel.

He closes his eyes, rocking on Tavros's hand, keeping him pressed deep and just shifting on him without pulling away, enjoying the fullness and slide.

And then jerks, mind nearly blanking of everything at what he realizes after a moment is Tavros starting to give him a hand job.

"That was kind of, loud," Tavros says, wincing, pulling his fingers out all the way.

"I thought you'd replaced your fingers with an electrical plug and lit my spine up for Christmas and were gonna put a hat on me and put me out as your tacky light-up lawn Santa."

Tavros blushes, skin darkening in the green-neon light of the recuperacoon. "I wouldn't."

"Mm." Dave waits for him to slip back inside, heavy, before leaning down to give Tavros's septum piercing a little lick of hello-again. He tilts further down into a kiss, slipping his thumbs up Tavros's sides along the parallel lines of his vestigial grubleg joints and listening to Tavros whimper high in his throat.

The sopor's making gloopy waves against the walls, and Tavros pulling out all the way and then thrusting in again makes slick noises that seem louder in the enclosed space of the recuperacoon. There's green slime wet up between them, and his knuckles are smearing it over Tavros's belly as he jerks himself.

Tavros's breath keeps hitching, and after a moment he reaches down between them to wrap his hand over Dave's. He keeps going when Dave lets go. His calluses are rough and smooth and his hand's sopor-slick and there's that way the pressure of his hand changes right near the head that was clearly intended just to make Dave think that coming screaming might actually be justified.

And then Tavros does something inside him, still shallow and still tight and fucking glorious for it, and he doesn't have time to get in more than a couple of thrusts into Tavros's hand before he's coming, bright and shaking.

Tavros moans faintly when Dave starts in on his neck, and takes little quick inhales when Dave strokes a line down the bumps of his vestigial grub legs. Tavros's skin there is warm and a little firmer than the rest, and the middle right joint is the most sensitive of all six. Someday Dave is going to see if he can make Tavros come just from that one, mouth and tongue and fingers.

Tavros's arms, wrapped around him, tighten a little, and Dave bites a little harder, earning a jerking twitch that goes into a full-torso shudder when he scrapes a nail over two of the grublegs – he's not sure which ones – and Tavros says, more like a whisper, "Yes," over Dave bending further down, licking at the upper left one and fingers circling over the others that he can reach, a few moments of that and then Tavros goes limp beneath him, breathing hard.

"Clean-up time," Dave says, gesturing to the spooge smeared over their stomachs and starting to untangle them, but Tavros takes hold of his wrist a little too hard

circle and press down, hand on the other and no need to worry about getting kicked

and Dave freezes with holding back the reflexes of years of training.

"It's okay," Tavros says into the silence. "There's a filter on the sopor, and anyway it'll," he stops.

"It'll what?" Dave settles back down, sliding his hand across Tavros's chest to his vestigial grublegs, drawing a circle around the topmost right one; Tavros hisses with the stimulation.

"Nothing."

"Nope. No dangling that in front of me and then taking it away. It's not fair. Do it too many times and I'll jump up and bite you ‘stead of play along and do the trick you asked for."

Tavros snickers. "You do that, already, though. Bite me, I mean."

"Guess I do." Which might as well be an invitation to do just that, so Dave kisses him instead.

He means to keep it quick so that he can make good on the threat of biting, but then Tavros's hand comes to rest on the back of his head, holding him there, and he figures that if Tavros just wants to kiss then he's cool with that.

When they pause to breathe, Dave slides off to lie down beside him. "You were trying to distract me."

Tavros rolls onto his side. "Don't laugh."

"I'm so pokerfaced my second job oughta be, be...fake marble statue, or Botox-gone-wrong model."

"It...smells. Not bad! Just. I'll be able to smell it. And that's, nice, I mean, not like, oh God, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything,"

"Nope," Dave says. "Shoulda kept your mouth shut, ‘cause I'm gonna hold that against you so hard. You'll think it's the, the bridge of love. That stretches across the chasm of time."

"...what?"

Dave means to kiss him but misses, kissing the corner of his mouth instead and then shifting back to look at his eyes. "'s good. I like it."

"Oh." Tavros gives him a faintly drowned look, all wide eyes and hope soft beneath it, and that, that is why Dave, who invested in irony attacks when he should have been beefing up his earnestness defenses, is currently on the other side of the galaxy from home, lying in a puddle of slime after just having let an alien do things to him that pre-Warp UFO fanatics had paranoid dreams about.

+++

They make their way out of the recuperacoon and take showers, then go downstairs. Tinkerbull, who was flying in circles around the first floor of the house, nuzzles up against Tavros, squeaks loudly, and then glares death at Dave.

At least this overprotective parent doesn't have the opposable thumbs to handle firearms.

They're both pretty hungry – Dave is completely honestly jonesing for the food at the campus dining hall, and doesn't want to think about why – so they fumble together some pancakes out of a mix and manage not to burn them.

Tinkerbull keeps stealing pieces of pancake off Tavros's plate and then wrestling with them on the table, which is kind of sadly adorable in the way that YouTube videos of puppies wrestling stuffed animals are. At least until Tinkerbull opens his mouth and reveals a set of choppers more likely to be seen in a shredder than in the mouth of any Earth creature.

"Hey," he says to Tinkerbull, "Let's talk like the barely-legal alien and guardian bullfairy we are." He stops, tries to remember how to make the Alternian verb for speech take on the verbal suffix for requirement, and gives up.

Tinkerbull steals a piece of pancake from Tavros's plate and ostentatiously ignores him.

"Does he understand English?"

"No, I, uh, don't think so."

"Can you translate for me?"

"I guess...?"

"All right, so, Tinkerbull." He pauses, waits for Tavros to finish talking, which takes a while – he figures there's an introduction going on. At the end of it, Tinkerbull starts staring at him, pupilless eyes creepily unblinking.

" Look, I'm in Tavros's flushed quadrant, and I don't get what all the quadrants are about yet, but I'm pretty red with him. There are hearts flying all over like a chest-ripping chainsaw massacre here."

Tavros's name in Alternian sounds pretty similar to the human pronunciation, but just enough different – the rolling on the r is a lot heavier, and the v doesn't sound quite the same, and all right, Papa's got a brand new kink let out of the bag. He is, very quietly and in a shamefaced way he is never going to tell another living soul about, glad that he let Tavros persuade him into jeans before they went downstairs.

"I get that you're supposed to protect him, that's what a lusus does. I respect that. So if you've got a problem with me that isn't just concern for Tavros's maidenly virtue, I wanna hear it. Otherwise, nice to meet you, let's be friends."

Tinkerbull makes a low growly kind of noise and turns to Tavros, walking up onto his plate and looking deeply into his eyes, doing some sort of troll-lusus mindbonding thing. That lasts for a few minutes, and Tavros starts looking increasingly watery-eyed, before there is hugging and squeaking and Dave looks down at his plate. Pancakes are tasty. Would've been better with syrup instead of honey, but fine, sticky sweet stuff is all good.

"He says it's okay," Tavros says finally.

"Course he did." Dave isn't going to think about what Tavros might've said to Tinkerbull to make him change his mind. Dave is not going to think about it.

There's no way they're going to Texas over Christmas next year, but Bro'd probably be all over meeting Tavros via Skype, after the ribbing Dave got after telling him where he was gonna be all winter break.