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With Friends Like These (I'm Going to Need More Star Trek Metaphors)

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It was beginning to smell a lot like Christmas.

At least it was if Christmas smelled like gingerbread spices and a whole lot of bacon, which it should. Bacon made everything better, especially when you were pushing forty and slowly going crazy while holed up in the middle of nowhere with a pregnant dude.

Well. Being holed up with a pregnant dude was weird, but it really only called for about a pound of bacon. Then there was being holed up with a pregnant dude when the baby wasn't yours. That called for maybe two pounds of bacon.

When the pregnant dude was one of your best friends who was sleeping with another one of your best friends, who just happened to be—Surprise!—an alien, and the baby was an alien, too, but of unknown parentage... Well, then. Congratulations. Your life just turned into an intergalactic soap opera... or at least three seasons' worth of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.. You need truly copious amounts of bacon.

Chris would've liked equally copious amounts of tequila to go along with his bacon, but he couldn't have it because of, you know, the aliens. With all the aliens running about—good aliens and bad aliens, morally ambiguous aliens and the severely near-sighted aliens who apparently caught one glimpse of JC Chasez and thought, “Now those are child-bearing hips!”—someone had to keep a clear head. Chris preferred to have that responsibility spread out a little more. In the past, Lance and JC had sometimes shared the burden of clearheadedness with him. But the burden was his alone now.

JC couldn't be sensible about aliens if his life depended on it, and Lance was... just really invested in babies. And in JC. Hell, when it came to the JC-and-a-baby combo, Lance was pretty much Zachary Quinto after the destruction of Vulcan: emotionally compromised.

At the thought of Lance as Spock, Chris had to stifle a laugh with a mouthful of bacony goodness. It wasn't a kind thought, but if Lance were a Vulcan, it would explain so much about his dancing back in the early days. It might also explain his eyebrows.

Chris finished off two more appetizers while contemplating the relative hilarity values of Original!Spock doing the “Bye Bye Bye” moves versus Reboot!Spock doing the same. Original won, of course, but Chris sort of wanted Reboot!Chekov to be dancing with him. The new Chekov reminded him of Justin, back when Justin was still cute and eager to please.

He was reaching for yet another bacon-wrapped bundle when he heard the soft flip-flop-flip of JC coming up behind him.

“Hey,” JC said, and his belly bumped into Chris's side a moment before he sort of snuffled at Chris's temple. “You smell good.” JC patted Chris's hip, and then continued to flip-flop-flip his way to the other side of the kitchen island.

And yes, that. That was weird. Like Chris needed more weird in his life.

They were holed up in the middle of nowhere because it was the best solution to the mess they were in. JC wasn't safe. He was too pregnant at this point to be out in public, and he couldn't be left by himself in private, either. Chris was mostly concerned about JC being abducted again. Lance was also concerned about... well, pretty much everything. If Lance could wrap JC up in bubble-wrap without suffocating him, he'd probably do it. Not that JC would let him, but he'd try.

Chris was here because he'd volunteered. To others, it probably seemed like Chris was on JC-duty because he was the only one of them who could disappear for several months without raising any suspicions. And maybe it was like that, in part. He wasn't very high-profile for an ex-pop star. But he'd volunteered because he would have freaked the hell out if he'd had to sit back in Orlando and wait for updates. There was nothing in Orlando that was as important to him as this was. If his life was going to be part of an intergalactic soap opera, then he sure as hell was going to be tuned into it 24/7.

That being said, there was weird and then there was “Hey, we're going to need to buy an extra freezer to store all this bacon!” weird.

Chris had been around enough pregnant women to know that pregnancy brain was a real thing. But increased levels of absent-mindedness—even when taking JC's pre-alien-pregnancy levels of space-cadetery into account—didn't really account for forgetting that the guy you were getting handsy with wasn't your boyfriend, did it?

Although... as far as Chris knew, JC had been pretty much living with Lance for the last four months. Maybe it was like autopilot. He could have slipped into the “that guy in the house with me is my boyfriend” subroutine. Maybe Chris just needed to kick him back out of it.

Heh. Maybe Chris just needed to give him a reboot to the head.

No, wait. Back up a minute. Was that right? Four months? JC had to have moved in back in like... July?

“Hey, 'C? How long have you been playing house with Lance?”

JC was sorting through the different jars and canisters of gingerbread ingredients cluttering up the island and didn't look up to answer.

“We're not playing.”

“Yeah, yeah, call it what you want. You know what I mean. How long has it been now?”

Because JC couldn't be normal if he tried, he picked up one of the spice jars, thumbed off its cork, and sniffed it, before smiling and answering. “Thirty weeks.”

“Thirty—What are you—? Stop. Don't rub your nose on that!”

“I love the smell of nutmeg and cloves.”

“Yeah, I can tell. Just enjoy it from afar, okay?”

“I was just trying to get a clearer scent of it, without the overpowering bacon base notes.”

Chris gasped and hunched over his platter of appetizers, curling his arms protectively around it. “Don't say that! Bacon is a gift from the gods!”

“So is nutmeg.”

“Heathen!”

JC laughed, and leaned over, trying to reach for Chris's platter. Chris pulled it farther away.

“What are those things? I can't tell. They're all—” JC wriggled his fingers. “—twisty.”

“Club crackers, heaped with Parmesan cheese and wrapped with bacon, and then slowly baked into delicious perfection.” Because sometimes pure, unadulterated bacon didn't have enough fat calories in it.

“Ooo.”

“Yes,” Chris said. “And they're also all mine.”

“But Chris...” JC batted his lashes like the girl in the stupid “Gone” video opening. “If they were mine, I'd share them with you.”

“Yeah, sure you would. But it wouldn't be out of the goodness of your heart, no matter how much you might want to think so. You'd do it because you'd know that I'd make your life miserable otherwise.”

For some odd reason, this made JC smile again. Then he tucked a lock of hair behind his ear—all the hormones were making his hair grow like crazy and he was rocking the sexy bedhead look even better than he'd done in his “Blowing Me Up (with Her Love)” days, which seriously ought to be illegal, not that Chris had noticed or anything—and his smile turned rueful.

“I guess you know me better than I know myself, huh?”

“Well, I wouldn't go that far. Don't worry, 'C, you're still a mystery to me. And quit distracting me. I was saying something. I had a definite train of thought going.”

“Am I being distracting?” JC batted his lashes again and reached with exaggerated stealth for the bacon appetizers.

Chris let him have one this time.

“Yeah, so... Thirty weeks? You've been living with Lance for—? Why have you been counting in weeks?”

JC made the best “you're a moron” face he could with his mouth full.

Chris smacked himself on the forehead. “Duh. You're pregnant. You're counting everything in weeks.”

“Mmmhmm.” JC nodded. When he could, he said, “It's been thirty weeks, unless you don't count these last two weeks, but since this is Lance's house—”

“His top-secret newt bunker.”

“Since this is one of Lance's houses, and I miss him, then I can still count this as living with him. 'Cause like 'living under his roof' should count.”

“Thirty... that's like... Dude. That's like seven months in human years.”

“I know.”

“And you're happy.”

JC nodded.

“And you're serious,” Chris said.

“I am.”

“About him.”

“Yes.”

“And it's not just because you want to keep your all-access pass to the kinky alien sex games?”

“Chris!”

“What? You said it yourself. I know you well.”

“And you said I was still a mystery!”

“So? Those statements aren't mutually exclusive.”

“You—” JC shoved himself away from the island, and Chris didn't know if it was on purpose or just an accident because JC wasn't at his most graceful these days, but his shove was violent enough to send some of the spice jars flying. Chris caught one before it fell, but another smashed on the floor.

“I can't deal with this,” JC said, and he started to walk out... in the same direction as the broken glass.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Chris said, hurrying over to him. “Hey, I'm not—Stop! Glass! Flimsy-ass flip-flops!”

JC stopped, and Chris knelt down to pluck the biggest chunks of glass off the floor.

“God,” Chris said. “You can't—”

“First of all,” JC said, glaring down at him. “First of all, don't be such a... such an angry little badger.”

An angry little badger? Really?

“And don't knock the kinky alien sex till you try it,” JC said. “'Cause it's hot, and it will blow your mind.”

“It's not like there's a lot of aliens going spare, so—”

“Just don't. You don't even know.”

“I—”

“It will. Blow. Your. Mind.”

“Well,” Chris said, “at least we know you're happy with your sex life.”

And then he instantly regretted having said that while he was kneeling in front of JC, face-to-face with the visual evidence that JC was going commando under his yoga pants. And seriously? Shouldn't JC's dick be looking smaller these days? Like the bigger his belly got, the smaller his dick should look in comparison. Right?

“I am,” JC said. “And it's only getting better—”

What? Chris shook his head and forced himself to look away from JC's crotch.

“—and that's not even... I told Justin I was in love with Lance before I knew he was an alien.”

“You told Justin?” Chris's hand tightened around the chunks of glass and—Ow! Ow! Stupid!—goddammit, he was not going to be jealous of Justin. JC didn't have to confide these sorts of things in him. Chris wasn't Dr. Ruth and he didn't want to be told these things.

“I did. It just sort of... came up in conversation.”

“Did you tell Lance? Before you knew about his newtiness?”

“Jesus! Why are you grilling me?” JC flailed a bit, all the lines of his body shouting out his frustration, but then he looked down and his entire expression changed. “And why are you still kneeling there? In a pile of ginger. Are you stuck?”

“Sort of,” Chris admitted. “Don't look. I've cut myself and I'm not sure how to get off my creaky old knees without leaving a bloody hand-print or two.”

“Oh.”

“Well, it's not really that much blood, but—”

JC squatted down beside him and carefully cupped Chris's cut hand.

“Geez, you're a flexible bastard,” Chris said. “That Yoga for Mommies is really paying off, huh?”

JC took the glass shards from his hand and put them on the counter. “This is why our mothers would tell us to get a broom and dust pan if something broke.” He stood up again and fetched a clean towel from one of the drawers.

“Our mothers are smarter than us,” Chris agreed, taking the towel when JC offered it to him.

He wiped his hand, and really there was barely any blood at all. Just one of those things that always felt like a huge, gaping wound and then surprised you by being the size of a paper cut. When JC offered him a hand up, he took that, too.

“Thanks,” Chris said. “I guess I should apologize.”

JC shrugged. “That's not necessary. Just...”

“Why am I being an angry little badger?”

“Yeah.”

“Because I'm looking out for you. I'm trying to look out for both of you.”

“For me and the young?”

“For you and Lance... and well, I suppose for the fetus, too. Though really, it's still just a fetus to me.”

“Ah.”

“Did you tell Lance that you love him? You know, before the 'Oh, by the way, I'm a giant newt' thing?”

“Yes. Yes, I did. Well. I didn't say it in quite those words, but I did tell him that I was serious about him. I am serious about him. I even—”

JC abruptly stopped talking. Chris waited a moment for him to continue, but he didn't.

“What?” Chris said.

“Nothing.”

“What? What?” Chris said, because he couldn't resist poking.

JC shook his head.

“Is the baby kicking you or something?”

“No, no. It's nothing. Um. I told Lance I was his. All his. One hundred percent.”

“See? That's what I'm talking about!”

“I have no idea what you're talking about.”

“Infidelity isn't cool, 'C.”

“What!”

“It especially isn't cool when there are children involved.”

“I'm not—”

“I'm just looking out for both of you.”

“Chris, I'm not—”

“Even the appearance of infidelity isn't cool. And I'm sure you don't mean anything by it, but do you have any idea how much you've been touching me?”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, I didn't want to have to mention it. I don't want to be fighting with you. But my 'ignore it and it'll go away' method of dealing with it wasn't working. So...”

“I'm sorry. I've been making you uncomfortable.”

“No! It's not—Look, it's not like your touch is a hardship to bear.” Except for how it was hard to bear, because it felt good, and it wasn't Chris's good to feel. “You weren't making me uncomfortable. I was just... discomforted by the... I was just anticipating the future pain that would result from your actions. Uh. Pain not necessarily my own. Like yours or Lance's or most likely both. Oh my god. I think I sound like you right now. Do I sound like an idiot?”

JC shook his head. “No, I'm sorry—” Huh, he must not have noticed the insult in there. “—I didn't realize... I was getting ahead of myself.”

“'Ahead of yourself'? That's not how I saw it,” Chris said. “More like you accidentally stepped on the Flashback Train to 1996.”

“That was a good year,” JC said.

“It was a horrible year.”

“Well. It was... tiring?”

“It was tedious in the extreme,” Chris said. “And made bearable only by a few stolen moments exchanging hand jobs with a fellow dorky-looking guy.”

“I remember more than a few such moments.”

“Never enough, though.”

“No,” JC agreed. “It never seemed like it at the time.”

“Yeah.”

“It was nice,” JC said.

In any other situation, Chris would have been insulted by that. Talk about 'damning with faint praise,' right? Except JC wasn't wrong. It had been nice, but it hadn't been... anything really. Feelings hadn't been involved. Unless a sort of... fellow feeling counted.

They'd been set apart from the others then. Just a little. In certain ways. They'd felt ages older than Lance and Justin. They hadn't been as reckless or as jovial or as good-looking as Joey. And they'd both... They'd both had a bit of feral cat in their personalities, Chris thought. They'd had hard times in their formative years, and that had left a mark on them both, even if JC's childhood had taken a distinct turn for the better after his adoption.

It was sort of ironic or something. Now that they'd both known each other for so much longer, they weren't as alike as they'd been then. Except for how their shared history also made them pretty much unlike anyone else. And dorky-looking!JC... that guy had sure disappeared. Chris didn't feel the least bit romantic about JC now, but he sure was physically attracted to him. And that made Chris feel sleazy.

“It was nice enough,” Chris said, “but hardly worth risking your relationship with Lance over. I mean. You're going to have a kid, and...” Chris didn't want to go there. He had definite thoughts about father figures, but he didn't want to be pushing those thoughts at JC. JC had enough to deal with. “...and I hear there's mind-blowing kinky sex.”

“You have no idea.”

“Well... yeah. Let's not dwell on all the kinky sex I'm not having, okay?”

“So it's lucky for us that I wasn't trying to recapture anything. I mean. About 1996. I was just skipping ahead to the threesomes.”

Chris blinked.

JC smiled.

“What threesomes?” Chris said.

“You, me, and Lance. We've talked about it.”

“No,” Chris said. “Maybe you and Lance have talked about it. 'We' have most definitely not talked about it.”

“But we're talking about it now.”

“No.”

“But—”

“Why would you want to?”

“Because we like you,” JC said.

“That's not good enough.”

“I think it is.”

“Lance isn't the least bit interested in me. And you just got finished telling me that you were serious about him.”

“Lance could be interested in you. He would be. If he knew it would be welcomed. I know it.”

“JC, he's crazy about you. Don't fuck it up.”

“That's exactly what I'm trying to not do!”

“You're doing it wrong, then.”

“Apparently.” JC sighed. “I would have sworn that you were attracted to us both.” He rubbed the side of his belly. “Is it because I'm pregnant? Or because he's an alien?”

“What? Is what it?”

“Are you not attracted to me anymore because I'm pregnant? Or because Lance is—”

“Attraction isn't everything, 'C.”

“No, but sometimes it is a hell of a lot.”

“Look,” Chris said. “I really don't want to fight with you. Can you just give me some space?”

“I guess. I really wish you'd think about it, though.”

“Just. Give me some room to breathe. Okay. Go. Write a lullaby or something.”

JC nodded his head. “Well... I do have a very agitated psychic baby tap-dancing on my bladder, so... yeah. I'll...” He gestured vaguely and then flip-flop-flipped his way out of the room.

“Fuck,” Chris said when he was gone. “Fuck.” He picked up one of his appetizers, but it was room-temperature now and not at all enticing. “Goddammit. My bacon has failed me, too.”

The floor was a mess, and his plans for gingerbread were shot. Ginger was his least favorite of all of the gingerbread spices, but it was also sort of vital, given how it was gingerbread and all.

“Fuck,” he said again, just because it felt good saying it.

Well, for a top-secret newt bunker, the place was stocked like a castle. The rest of the house looked like it came straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog, and the kitchen was pure Williams-Sonoma. Somewhere in all those cupboards, there had to be all sorts of liquor and everything needed to drink it.

“Goodbye, bacon,” he sang to himself. “Hello, Margaritaville!”

(*~*)

Shape-shifting wasn't anything like how they showed it on TV. In some ways, that was good. Lance was particularly repulsed by the 'shifters on Supernatural. Shedding their skin like that was gut-churning levels of disgusting. And he wasn't overly fond of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine concept of Changelings as floating masses of inorganic gelatinous goo.

Really? Sentient, inorganic goo? Who thought that was a good idea? Lance was firmly in the “never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps it brain” camp.

But he wouldn't mind being able to shift as quickly and heedlessly as they could on TV. Imagine being able to turn into someone else in the middle of a chase—where the heck did those writers think the 'shifters were getting their energy? It took huge amounts of energy to remake yourself—not to mention intense concentration and, in certain cases, medical assistance—and yet they could shift and then keep on running without even getting a little hungry.

Wouldn't that be something?

Lance could do something simple, like changing his Caucasian coloration back into something more natural, in about forty five minutes if he ate a bowl full of energy cubes first. He could change the color of just his face in about ten minutes, but then he'd need at least a candy bar.

The best way to change from one humanoid shape to another was to go to a secure place, hook yourself up to an IV line for a couple of days, and have someone monitoring your vitals just in case. Normally, a superficial shift was exactly that: superficial. But internal organs could be shifted, too, and sometimes people got distracted and ended up putting small holes in their hearts or other fun things when they only meant to tweak their nose a little.

If shifting were as easy as it was on TV, then if you had to beg your sister to assume your form for several months so that you could be in two places at once... well, you wouldn't owe her such a huge favor in return. The timing of his request hadn't helped, either.

Stacy knew him best. She's be the best fake!Lance possible, and really, she'd get a kick out of being him for a while. But he'd had to agree to babysitting for two weeks first, so that she and Ford could go on a second honeymoon. He loved his niece and nephew, but he'd hated being away from JC right now. But apparently, if Stacy was going to look like Lance on her thirteenth wedding anniversary, there had to be compensations.

 

“No offense, little bro, but you're really not Ford's type.”

“He should try it. Maybe he'd like it.”

“What? You think I haven't grown a penis a time or two just so we could try that out?”

Lance covered his ears. “Oh my God. I am not hearing this.”

“It's a pretty interesting appendage. I can understand why you like them so much. I mean, I've always enjoyed Ford's, but it was fun having one of my own. Unfortunately, it never really did anything for him, not even when I tried different colors and sizes.”

“La, la, la. I can't hear you,” Lance sang without moving his hands away from his ears.

 

So, he'd had to put in his time babysitting. But at least it was almost over now. Stacy had already taken his shape.

“You got my hair wrong,” Lance pointed out.

“It's better this way. Trust me.”

“You don't sound right, either.”

“You know how impossible that is. I can't duplicate your vocal cords exactly.”

“You guys sound the same to me,” Ford said.

Ford was pretty unflappable, but he was definitely looking a bit freaked out.

“You'll get used to it,” Lance assured him. “It'll get better.”

“Yeah,” Stacy said. She smiled Lance's best shark smile and then leaned in to whisper, loudly, in Ford's ear. “And I kept my pussy.”

“Oh my God!” Lance said. “I hate you.”

Their father chuckled and his shook his head at Stacy's antics. Lance was sure he wouldn't have acted as amused if his mom had been around. “Go on, Stacy. Ford. Let me help your brother now. Lance, why don't you go get settled in the other room?”

Lance nodded and headed that way. He was going to take JC's shape—JC's not-pregnant shape. He knew JC best, so he could do a much better fake!JC than Stacy could, and between the two of them, at least the human public would never catch on that something strange was afoot.

Lance was looking forward to it. JC's shape wouldn't feel quite as natural and comfortable as his own, but it was still pretty much his most-favorite shape in the universe. It would be fun to try it out for a while.

Lance was taking off his pants—he wasn't going to grow longer legs while wearing the wrong size pants—when his phone rang. His heart skipped a beat. It was the ring tone for the house—the house he'd left JC and Chris at. Was JC okay? Was something wrong? He shouldn't have left for so long, not even for Stacy.

He grabbed the phone. “Hello? 'C?”

“Hello, Lancelot!”

Ah, Chris.

“Is everything okay? Where's JC?”

“Everything's peachy. Are you busy?” Chris sounded weird.

“Are you drunk?”

“Nope! Not at all. I'm just—JC's off talking to his psychic baby or something. And here I am, cleaning the kitchen and thinking deep thoughts.”

“Well, I'm sort of busy. Are you—? What sort of deep thoughts? Are you stressing out about the alien thing again?”

Lance still really wished that there'd been a way to keep the alien thing a secret. Not that he hadn't, at some level, wanted his best friends to know him for who he truly was. But. He understood that aliens, as a concept, could be world-view shattering.

Chris laughed. “Man, I'm never going to be completely un-freaked by the alien thing.”

“I'm sorry.”

“No, no. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?”

“Are you sure you're not drunk?”

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

“Chris, did you call just to throw random Star Wars quotes at me?”

“No, actually, I called 'cause I needed some help with my deep thoughts.”

“Okay... How can I help you?”

His father stepped into the room, and Lance gestured to his phone, shrugged, and mouthed, “Sorry. Chris.” Jim nodded, set some bottles on the counter, and slipped back out again.

“Which Star Trek character do you think Joey is?”

Star Wars,” Lance corrected automatically.

“No,” Chris said. “Star Trek. Which Star Trek character—?”

“You called for this?”

“Yes. It's important.”

“Joey isn't a Star Trek character.”

“He has to be,” Chris said.

“No, he doesn't. He's not a Trekkie. A Trekker. Whatever.”

“Everyone's a Star Trek character, even if they don't know it.”

“Fine,” Lance said. “You're right. It's true. Joey is Ensign Kim.”

“Harry Kim?”

“Yes.”

“Interesting. I did not see that coming. Is that a pun on Joey's general hairiness?”

“No. Joey is Ensign Harry Kim. But instead of spending all of his time in the Holodeck playing the Adventures of Captain Proton, Joey's in there playing Return of the Jedi because deep in his heart of hearts, Joey is not a Star Trek character.”

“Did you think of that just now? Because that was really well thought out for something spur of the moment.”

“Chris—”

“And which Star Trek character is JC?”

“Uhura.”

“Really? 'Cause I was thinking one of those green-skinned girls. You've seen those yoga pants of his. There's something very remi... reminiscent of sex-slaves about them.”

“True. But he's not green. And he's Uhura, who is much more interesting than any green girl. He's smart and underestimated by the general public. He spends all of his time listening for space communications. Plus he's got the legs for it, and he'd have fun with her wardrobe.”

“Interesting... So you're a Reboot guy.”

“What? No. I'm thinking Nichelle Nichols. She was a NASA recruiter, you know. She's awesome.”

“But it's Reboot!Uhura who's with Spock. It makes perfect sense. I should have known you were shipping the Spock/Uhura.”

“I don't. I mean, not to be too gay or anything, but everyone knows it's Kirk/Spock.”

“That's just fanfic,” Chris scoffed. “Spock/Uhura is real.”

“Um. They are still fictional characters. Look, Chris... is this really why you called? Not that I don't enjoy talking with you, but I was sort of in the middle of something.”

“Ah! Funny that you should say that...”

There was a moment of silence, but it wasn't really quiet because Lance realized that he could hear Chris pacing.

“Is everything okay there? You sound really wound up.”

“Seriously, Lance, why would you even want to fuck me?”

Lance nearly dropped the phone. “What?” he croaked.

“I have eyes. I've seen the guys you date. You have a type and it's tall, toned, and handsome, and why would you ever—”

“I do have more than one type.”

Chris laughed. “Yeah. Right. Tall, dark, and gorgeous or tall, blonde, and handsome. That is two different types. Pardon me.”

“Chris—”

“And you have JC, who is, okay, yes, a little strange even on a good day, but you have to admit that he's like the sweetest guy imaginable like ninety percent of the time and freakin' gorgeous. Why would you ever let him think that wasn't enough for you?”

“I've never—”

“Why else would you be auditioning threesome partners?”

“I'm not auditioning anyone. We're not auditioning anyone. I'd be perfectly happy with JC and JC alone for the rest of my life, okay?”

“Well. Neither of you are acting like it!”

Lance sighed. “I don't even know what's going on there.”

“Nothing's going on.”

“Something obviously is if you're so upset—Look, I shouldn't have to tell you this, but sometimes you can have everything and still want more. You don't need it, but you want it. Or you don't need it, but you know it would make someone else feel good. If everyone's on the same page and everything is safe, sane, and consensual, what's the problem?”

“Why would you want me?”

“Seriously? Why wouldn't we want you? JC's very fond of—”

“Don't. Don't tell me how JC feels about me. I can ask JC that myself. I want to know about you. You've never shown any sexual interest in me, and suddenly I'm on your threesomes list? I'm nobody's pity fuck.”

“That's not—”

“Fine. Fine. Not pity. But you don't have to fuck me just because your boyfriend is feeling nostalgic.”

Oh my God. Really? Some days Lance could just scream. He took a deep breath, held it, and slowly counted to ten on the exhale before speaking.

“Believe it or not, but 'short, smart, and wisecracking' has always been one of my types. But I'm not stupid. Brian Littrell is straight and Chris Kirkpatrick is a bristly little hedgehog. I don't care how cute the hedgehog is, I'm not going to poke it.”

“Brian Littrell.”

“Yes.”

“Brian Littrell... the Backstreet Boy.”

“That's the one,” Lance said.

“Seriously? Brian?”

“Yes.”

Chris laughed and laughed. When he was finally breathing somewhat normally again, he said, “Oh my god, I can't even begin to tell you how much bacon you owe me.”

Lance ignored that. He honestly didn't want to know.

“Today,” Chris said, “and let me remind you that it's not even three o'clock yet, just today I've been compared to a badger, a hedgehog, and a Contemporary-Christian singing gnome. I'm feeling particularly short-legged and heavy-set now, and about as far from sexy as humanly possible. Just so you know.”

“Uh... I'm sorry?”

“Nah. Don't be. I am what I am, Lance.”

“Aren't we all?”

“Yes. Yes exactly. Well, I'll let you get back to whatever you were in the middle of. I've got some more deep thoughts to think.”

And Chris hung up before Lance could say anything more.

Lance rubbed his thumb over the side of his phone like it was a worry stone. He really needed to get back.

Why had JC said anything to Chris about threesomes? Sure, they'd talked about it, but only in passing. It was something that Lance was certain that he'd like—he and JC had picked up thirds before, back when they were just casual. It had always been hot, though not as emotionally fulfilling as having JC all to himself now. It wasn't something worth risking his relationship with JC for. And it wasn't worth hurting Chris's feelings over. He didn't need it... though a greedy little part of him—that was not his dick, though his dick sort of did it, too—sat up and shuddered in delicious anticipation at the thought of having both JC and Chris all to himself.

He suppressed that thought. He had more important things to do, like shifting as fast as he safely could and getting back there ASAP.

(*~*)

JC hurried to take care of his most pressing problem, and then stood for a moment looking at his belly in the bathroom mirror. It was hard to believe now that he'd once been worried that his “pouch bump” wasn't showing. Now he was just worried that he was running out of time.

He'd spent so much time certain that he wasn't keeping the young, certain that he didn't want to keep hir. Hir alien parents would come for hir or they wouldn't come and he'd give hir away. And even then he hadn't been thinking clearly. He'd thought to give hir to Lance because Lance wanted to be a father, but then he'd simultaneously thought that he'd be giving hir away in order to be free to pursue a more committed and serious relationship with Lance. How the hell had he thought that was going work?

He patted the part of his pouch where it felt like xe had settled. “Yeah, that was stupid. Wasn't it?”

And then the young had reached a certain level of development—or maybe JC had finally gotten better at psychic communication with hir—and xe became a lot more real. He really could feel hir a bit, psychically. It wasn't much, and probably everyone except Stacy would say that it was all in his head. But he had a sense of hir now. He talked to hir, and he knew xe couldn't understand language at this point or anything, but xe was spirited and xe was going to have a sense of humor to rival both Lance's and Chris's put together. Xe was going to be a handful.

He wasn't cut out to be a parent. And he couldn't give hir up. And he couldn't give Lance up.

It was crunch time. Oh, sure, they had weeks and weeks yet. Seventeen to go, if their estimates were accurate and if they managed to go full-term. Except no one thought that would be possible. There were too many possible complications.

“And too many daddies who have to pull their heads out of their asses, huh?” He pressed his hand near the young's side again. “It's 'make it work' time, and I really fucked it up. And yes, your other daddies are going to get on my case for using language like that around young ears, but that's part of why we need them, right? They'll look out for us both. If I don't fuck it up more.”

He was in no mood for singing or writing lullabies, but he had some tracks laid out. Things he'd been writing for the young all along. And while the lyrics weren't right for them yet, the sounds were soothing.

“Maybe more soothing for me than for you.”

He left the bathroom and went over to nudge his laptop awake. A couple of clicks got his favorite track going. And then he lowered himself to all fours. It looked ridiculous, but some easy yoga would help settle hir.

“I'm doing Dromedary Droops for you,” he told hir. “I hope you appreciate it. My stage-humping days are probably over now.”

After a while, the music and the movements brought him to a semi-meditative state. His brain was full of pictures instead of words: Lance's tears when he first believed that JC was pregnant. The horror behind those tears. Chris's angry-badger face in the kitchen. The bewilderment in his expression when he'd asked why Lance and JC would want him. The jealousy that had pulled Chris's face taut at times before he had smoothed it out into something less telling. The tightness in Lance's face every time there was a secret the other aliens didn't want him to share. The wild, haunted look in Lance's eyes when he had first shown JC his true skin. The beautiful engagement ring JC had hidden in his sock drawer.

JC carefully rolled himself out of position.

“We're all scared. That's why we're fucking up.”

He thought of the other small secrets he'd been trying to keep. Nothing harmful, not really. But there were so many other secrets on all sides, so many mysteries and unknowns. He certainly wasn't helping things if he was being less than transparent...

Was that right? Obviously some secrets had to be kept. He couldn't endanger Lance's family or his people. But what about... He was so tempted right now to go out and tell Chris everything that he could, to tell him how he wanted to marry Lance and keep the young, but then he also felt like swearing Chris to secrecy so he wouldn't spill the beans before JC was ready.

Or could he just rely on Chris's discretion—now that was a scary thought! But... if he was going to trust Chris with the young's safety. If Chris was going to be one of hir dads. If he was going to trust Chris with a piece of Lance's heart...

“Wow. This is hard.”

Had it been long enough? How much time and breathing space did Chris need after their failed discussion?

Well. No way to know, except by going to find out.

JC slowly pulled himself up from the floor, feeling like a flamingo who'd swallowed a bowling ball. Yoga for Mommies was great, but it couldn't work miracles. Then he went to the dresser and dug the ring box out of the toe of his favorite blue socks.

He'd worked with a jeweler to design the ring. The setting was sort of abstract and swirly and meant to feel like the sweep of music or the dance of stars through the galaxy. But really, when he looked at it, he only had eyes for the stone. It was a big chunk of black opal, a cabochon left in an irregular and rough-edged shape. It was polished all over to bring out the play of its colors, but it hadn't been polished down to perfect glassy smoothness. You could still imagine it half-embedded in a rock formation somewhere—there were opal deposits on Mars. This opal wasn't Martian, of course, but he could picture it there.

Its colors danced blue, green, pink, and yellow like it was lit from within by a magical fire... or like it was a memory of the true beauty of Lance's natural skin caught and held safe forever in stone. He hoped that Lance would wear it someday and know, every time it caught his eye, how beautiful JC thought he was.

The young kicked him, hard.

“Too schmoopy for you? Don't worry, you're beautiful too. More than any rock.”

Xe kicked again, and he laughed.

“Okay, okay. You don't have to tell me twice.”

 

Chris was still in kitchen. He was mixing something in a bowl, facing away from the entryway. JC paused there at the door and tried to judge Chris's mood by the line of his back.

“Um. Can I talk to you now? There's something I wanted to tell you about.”

Chris shook his head. “I'm full up on talking right now. Think I'm done with it for the day.”

“Oh. Well... it can wait. It's—” important, too important to tell you when you aren't ready to listen. “No. It can wait.”

“That's good. 'Cause I'm serious. The Kirkpatrick chat lines are closed.” Chris poured vanilla extract into a measuring spoon, then dumped it into the bowl.

“May I hang out with you? Or... when you're done here, we could go swimming?”

Chris shook his head again, and JC's spirits sank.

“Can't. I've had too much to drink to be a good life guard right now.”

“Oh. Okay then. I'll just—”

“Come on in here and make yourself useful, 'C. Cookies aren't going to bake themselves.”

Chris put him to work mixing another bowl of dough. They were just going to have sugar cookies since JC had killed the ginger. JC mourned the loss of the gingerbread. He'd been looking forward to it because Lance smelled a bit like gingerbread.

“Do you know how to cream butter?” Chris asked.

“Yes.”

“Okay. We can make some shortbread, too. Shortbread doesn't have to chill first.”

JC nodded. “Refrigerator cookies, man. They were invented by a sadist.”

“I know, right? That would kill me as a kid. Mom says we're making cookies, and then we have to wait? Who wants to do that?”

“And then,” JC said, “you have to wait again for them to cool down before you can frost them.”

“We always had these gingerbread men that looked gruesome.” Chris laughed. “Their faces half melted off 'cause I couldn't wait long enough to put the icing on.”

They worked mainly in silence. But that was okay. It didn't take long before there was fresh shortbread to snack on, and then Chris showed him how to make stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. That took a lot of prep work, and JC had to get off of his feet for a while. So he sat at the table, wrapping each date and stabbing it through with a toothpick, while Chris puttered around.

“I didn't know you could do all this stuff,” JC said. “Baking and things.”

“It's not difficult. It's just a lot easier to get a pizza or something. It's not worth the effort until you really want it. And then it's totally worth it.”

JC giggled.

“What?” Chris said.

“If Justin was here right now, he would have intoned something like 'Ah, the short man speaks the truth.'”

“And then the short man would've had to whup some ass.”

“It was really wise, though. What you said.”

“Yeah, but you can't let youngsters like Justin get away with being cheeky like that. Gives 'em delusion of grandeur.”

“Ah. The short man speaks the truth, again. Our minds and our hearts are enlightened.”

“Shut it, you.”

 

Much later they had dozens of newt-shaped sugar cookies cooling on wire racks.

“Well,” Chris said. “The cookie cutters were labeled as salamanders. But they're obviously newts.”

JC told him about the dance of colors across Lance's skin. Chris had seen Lance turn his face a pale blue-green, but he'd changed it back quickly without really showing off how lovely it could be.

“I'm not sure that he's happy that way,” JC said. “I mean... I think he's uncomfortable showing it because he wants to not be an alien.”

“Who doesn't want to be just like their friends?”

“But he's beautiful. And I'm not just saying that.”

“Uh huh.”

Chris nixed his plans for simple green frosting, and they experimented with food coloring and different consistencies until they discovered a method that created a nice, swirly tie-dyed look that wouldn't turn muddy and gray when stirred.

It took a long time to decorate all of the newts, and by the time they were done, JC was even more certain that they needed Chris as part of their family. And not just as a part of their extended family, which he'd obviously be no matter what. They needed him right there at the core with them.

It was hard to sleep that night. It felt like everything he'd ever wanted was so close, but still out of reach. He called Lance, but Jim answered instead. Lance was shifting, so he really couldn't talk.

Eventually, Stacy took the phone. She didn't sound quite like Lance. But it was enough, sort of. He told himself that it was Lance talking over a bad connection, and fell asleep listening to Stacy reading a children's story... something about a little pig coming home for Christmas and another little pig waiting there for him.

(*~*)

In the morning, JC made Divine Swine waffles for Chris, although he felt a little guilty about it since he'd dreamt of little pigs in the night. He fried some bacon and ground sausage until it was extra crispy, and then he followed a Belgian waffle recipe that he'd found online.

Making the batter was a lot of work. The recipe had him using four different bowls before he was through, and separating eggs which was tricky, and using whisks and the electric mixer, and it was sort of a huge production—and a comedy at that, if Chris's reaction to the show was anything to go by. But he wanted Chris to know that he was worth making an effort for, so that was okay.

When the batter was finally mixed, he crumbled the bacon and sausage and sprinkled it onto the hot surface of the waffle maker. He really didn't know what he was doing, but he'd had a Divine Swine once somewhere and he thought maybe this was how they'd done it. He poured batter over the top of the pork and hoped for the best, and this time at least, hoping got him exactly what he wanted. The waffles were pretty good.

“I've got to hand it to Lance,” Chris said. “He really does think of everything. I mean, me, if I was stocking up a top-secret newt bunker for emergencies? I'd never think to include a Belgian waffle maker.”

“It's not really a bunker, though. It's more of a... high-security vacation home in an undisclosed location—”

“With no external windows or doors and a point-to-point transporter do-hickey which is somehow completely different than 'Beam me up, Scotty' technology. Which means that this bunker is only accessible via the secret door in Ma and Pa Bass's basement and is therefore, totally a bunker.”

“You do have a point about the windows, but I really liked the secret door. Didn't you?”

“The old, unassuming bookcase, where if you pull just the right books in just the right order—presto!—a secret passage?”

“Yeah. It's like an old mystery show. 'Murder, She Wrote' or something.”

Chris stopped with his forkful of waffle halfway to his mouth. “Seriously? Seriously, Angela Lansbury was the pop-culture connection you made to the trick bookcase in the newts' basement?”

“Maybe it wasn't her. But some sort of show like that.”

“This is why I have to worry about you. Doesn't 'Kevin Richardson, in the basement, with the bookshelf' ring any bells for you?”

“Oh! That Clue movie could have totally had a secret passage like that, too.”

“Kevin Richardson, the half-lizard man, in the basement with his scary pseudo-medical torture devices—”

“Oh! Backstreet's Back.”

“Yes!”

“That's... that's really creepy. Jim is my obstetrician... and his medical lab is in the basement... and hidden like...”

“Oops,” Chris said. “I probably should have left you in the dark on this.”

“Like Dr. Jekyll... I have to see him regularly...”

“Oh, I'm sure it's just a coincidence. Like you said, it's pretty cliché.”

“Hmm.”

“Although... Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Lizard. That was an interesting twist, wasn't it?”

“You're not helping.”

 

After the breakfast dishes were in the dishwasher—“I'm just saying, if they have transporters and artificial wombs and things, shouldn't they have sonic dishwashers?” “Yes, Chris.”—JC apologized for how he'd approached the threesome topic earlier.

“I think maybe I forced you to be on the defensive because I made it sound like Lance and I have been plotting something behind your back or, you know, making plans concerning you without your input. And we haven't done that. That was all me. I've been wishing for things and hoping things would go a certain way, without consulting either of you. And I know that's wrong—of all people, I should know that's wrong 'cause like, isn't that how I ended up pregnant?”

Chris leaned forward in his chair. “That's really not the same thing. Hoping for something is a lot different than going out and making it happen with complete disregard for others' consent and autonomy. You were raped, 'C.”

“No.”

“The fact that you're excited about the alien baby doesn't change the circumstances of its... its...”

“Conception?”

“Of its arrival in its current location?” Chris said. “I don't know what to call it. When something good comes out of something very, very wrong.”

“Can we maybe not focus on... all of that?”

“Can you understand why all of that is a concern for the rest of us? Why Lance and I might both—”

“That's what I want to talk about,” JC said. “There is no one who cares about me quite like you do. There is no one who cares about Lance quite like that either... I know I made it sound like maybe the threesome thing was all about sex.”

“Well, that's sort of your trademark.”

“I know. But it's more like I'm being greedy and selfish. I want to always have you and your care for us as part of our lives. And if there's any way—”

“You better not be turning this into some sexual bartering thing. You can't buy my care with sexual favors or repay me with them.”

“It's not like that at all,” JC said. “It's more like... my caring for you has always had a sexual... um... component to it. And so when I want to care about you right back, I want to care with sex, too. If that's something you'd … welcome. And if it's unwelcome, tell me it is. And I won't do that. Maybe I'm overly sexual and it creeps you out.”

Chris scoffed at that. “No such thing. I'd welcome your sexual advances in an instant—if you weren't with Lance.”

“Because you don't want me to hurt him.”

“Because you shouldn't be careless with something precious—ugh, I hate you for making me say that. He's precious to you. Take care of him. Treat him well, and I know he'll love you back with everything he's got.” Chris suddenly jumped up. “Oh my god! Did someone stick a womb in me, too, when I wasn't looking? I actually am Dr. Ruth!”

“Isn't her advice more about sex than relationships? You're more like Dear Abby.”

“Oh, hey,” Chris said. “I know. Could I be Deanna Troi? She was sort of hot.”

“Counselor Troi? The Betazoid counselor chick? With telepathic abilites?”

“Yeah.”

“You are so not her,” JC said. “If anything, I am.”

“You are not.”

“My hair's even a little like hers now. Don't you think?” JC grinned and preened.

“You are not Troi,” Chris said. “Your hair isn't even close. I've at least had hair that could be put in an up-do.”

“That doesn't count. That wasn't your real hair!”

“Wait,” Chris said. “Are we... actually fighting over which of us can be Deanna Troi?”

“... Yes.”

“That's way more embarrassing than calling Lance your precious. Let's forget this ever happened.”

“Okay.”

“Good,” Chris said.

“But only because you are most definitely not her.”

“Drop it! It was just a passing thought. I don't want to be—”

“Oh. Oh, oh, oh!” JC clapped his hands. “I've got it! We're not Troi, because Howie D is.”

Chris's face went blank for a moment, like he was processing that mental image... and it was gradually resolving... and—Chris laughed. “You are absolutely correct, 'C. I take back every mean thing I've ever said about you.”

“So now we can talk about my preciousss?”

“Was that your Gollum impression?”

“Yes.”

“It needs work,” Chris said.

“But I have the ring!”

“The One Ring?”

“The 'if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it' ring.”

“Whoa. Really? You're going to make an honest man of Lance?”

“Can I show you?”

“Of course. Man, I didn't see this coming. I really thought it would go the other way.”

JC nodded. “Yeah. Me, too. I didn't see me ever getting married, and that's—”

“No. I didn't see you proposing. I thought Lance would have to, and that he'd have to wear you down until you finally... Uh. You know what? Never mind my big mouth. I do really think this is great. Do you have a plan? When are you going to ask him?”

“I don't know. I still need your help.”

“I better be your best man for this. No matter how much Justin begs. It's gonna be me.”

“You've got no choice, babe.”

Chris laughed. “NSYNC lyrics. There's one for every occasion. Get yours today!”

“I still need your help, though. Please.”

“What do you need?”

“It's about taking care and treating him right. Do you remember how I said... sometimes I think he wishes he wasn't an alien?”

“Spock doesn't want to acknowledge his Vulcan heritage?”

“Um. I think. Maybe? A little? I think he's suppressing some of his basic needs because he feels they're too non-human?”

“How illogical.”

“Yes,” JC said. “He could be so much happier, so much happier with both of us.”

“Ah, and this is where we return to the threesomes.”

“Please. There's like all these alien physiology secrets that I've learned from Stacy. It's probably more biology than you've ever wanted to know, but please, would you hear me out?”

“Well, hell. How can I refuse an offer like that? Just tell me that the 'healing power of my cock' will not be part of it, okay?”

“I'm serious.”

“Oh, I am, too. Giant alien newt physiology? Say no more. I already know I don't want to know. But if I'm going to be your best man, I'm in this for the long haul, yeah?—”

JC started to tear up at that. He had to wipe his eyes. Chris in it for the long haul was exactly what he wanted.

“—The best man's the one who's supposed to keep the groom from fucking it all up before they can tie the knot. So you'd better bring it on.”

JC couldn't stop himself from throwing his arms around Chris. “Thank you,” he said, shifting so his belly wasn't getting quite so in the way of the hug. “You're the best.”

“Besides, the best man gets to knock boots with the prettiest chick at the wedding, too. Right? I'm pretty sure that's a thing. So pretty much... given that you and Lance will both be the prettiest girls there—Hey! OW!”

Since JC was already right there, Chris had no chance of dodging that smack upside the head.

(*~*)

Poor, sweet, clueless JC. God love him, but JC had to be like the only male ever who thought you needed an hour-long lecture in order to explain to another male that—Newsflash!—men are dogs.

That last bit was totally Chris's paraphrase, but it summed things up well.

Chris didn't buy that shit, though. He didn't care how many theories there were about human males being biologically programmed to spread their seed around. The most important part of the “human male” descriptor was “human.” Humans could damn well rise above certain levels of shitty behavior.

So Lance wasn't human—or male, apparently. Chris actually didn't care. He'd been a bit wigged out over the alien thing. He'd felt like the alien thing had changed everything. But while listening to JC, he realized that it didn't. Or it didn't where Lance was concerned. It was just like Original!Kirk's eulogy for Spock's original kicking-of-the-bucket. Of all the souls Chris had encountered in his travels, Lance's was the most human.

And if that was speciesist, so be it. Chris didn't care.

So Lance had a biological urge to seek out multiple mates? Chris didn't care, and Lance didn't care either. That's what Lance had meant when he said he would be perfectly happy with JC alone. Stacy should have kept her physiology lessons to herself and encouraged JC to spend more time talking to Lance. Lance would have put JC straight. … Heh.

There were only two parts of JC's arguments that Chris found persuasive. The first was that on Lance's home world, it took three to make a baby and family units were based on pods of at least three adults. Chris wasn't an expert, but to his way of thinking, this made a difference. Making babies was biology. Biology was selfish. It just wanted to keep making more of itself. Making families was societal. It was probably selfish, too, but at least there was some effort in there to curb biological urges that were detrimental to others.

If JC wanted the three of them to be a family pod together, than that was how to sell it.

Chris wasn't the hottest guy around, but he could get all the sex he wanted, thank you very much. Maybe it wasn't the kinky alien sex that so obviously turned JC's crank, but. Eh. Chris had simpler tastes. If he wanted something more complex, he could get all the threesome action he wanted, too. He could have threesomes with single people. He could have threesomes with couples. He didn't care.

What Chris didn't get a lot of was sex with people he gave a damn about. And what he just couldn't get enough of was the long-term well-being of the people he did give a damn about. So. He cared about JC and he cared about Lance. If it was casual and potentially meaningless and likely to fuck them up later, then “hell no” to that. But if there were a real chance that it could be something more...

Well...

He'd have to consider it. He'd be crazy not to.

The other persuasive thing about JC's arguments wasn’t anything that JC had said. It was just how very earnest he was about it. JC thought Lance was amazing. That was a given. But he acted like if Lance had hung the stars, then Chris had hung the moon. And that was some flattering shit. It made him want to try.

 

Eventually, they had lunch. BLTs for Chris and ALTs—avocado, lettuce, and tomatoes—for JC. Chris went out to the “Holodeck” afterward, while JC went to do JC-things. It wasn't really a Holodeck; it was just the room with the swimming pool in it. Chris had no intention of swimming. He just wanted to sprawl out on one of the comfy patio chairs and maybe nap off a few of the newt-cookies.

The pool room was the best part of the bunker—not the pool itself, but the room it was in. The ceiling and three of the walls were high-definition video screens. There were controls that let you scroll through different “exterior views” that would be projected onto the screens. The views were mostly nature-scapes of different kinds and fairly static, but they were still kind of cool. And they helped—at least a bit—to counter any claustrophobic side-effects from life in the bunker. It was big and it was nice, but it was still an enclosed space. Even their buses had had windows.

Chris chose a wintry-woods scene from the menu. It seemed seasonally appropriate, and it was sort of fun to feel cozy warm while it looked so cold. He dozed off thinking of the places where the bunker might actually be. Under the mountain at Stargate Command? In the actual Holodeck on the Enterprise? In an even-more-top-secret sub-basement at the Bass's place? Maybe in a...

 

Chris woke to the sound of splashing in the pool, and that made him angry. JC knew he wasn't supposed to do that. Part of the reason he was having such a pleasant pregnancy was that artificial gland that the bad aliens had thrown in as a bonus with the artificial womb-pouch thingy. JC's system was awash in a cocktail of pain killers, muscle relaxants and who know what else, along with all the hormones. Maybe nothing bad—worse?—would happen, but he had a much higher risk factor for serious accidents than he was used to. He certainly shouldn't be swimming without supervision, and a napping life guard was a useless one.

“Dammit, JC!”

Chris was half-way out of the lounge chair before what he was seeing registered. JC was standing by the pool. He wasn't swimming. But Chris still heard the regular splish-splash of someone doing slow laps in the pool...

JC had been watching the person in the pool, but he turned to Chris and smiled.

“Lance is back?” Chris asked.

JC's smile widened, and a shiver raced up the back of Chris's neck. It took a very long, creepy second for Chris's brain to start noting significant details: JC's hair was shorter than it had been at lunchtime. He was wearing the neon-pink octopus T-shirt that Chris had given Lance after the Alien (Who Could Possibly Have Tentacles) Reveal... and the shirt was noticeably loose, especially over JC's flat belly.

“Yes, I'm back,” Lance said. He didn't sound a thing like JC, but he didn't sound quite like himself, either.

“Wow,” Chris said. “Wow.”

Lance tilted his head in question.

“You look amazing, but I'm like so freaked right now. I mean, you were all, 'Oh, hey guys, did I ever tell you that I'm a shape-shifter?' And I believed you, because, you know, you changed the color of your face and that's not normal. But. Dude. You look like JC. Like, exactly like JC. That's like, you've got mad 'shifting skillz, man.”

Lance smiled. “Thanks.” He made a run-way model turn and then struck a pose. “And I've never looked better?”

“Well... I don't know. I mean, yeah, you're hot, of course. But I think I liked that shirt better on your other body. Showed off those nice abs you'd been working on.”

Lance's smile grew happier, which made him look even more like JC.

“And I think...” Chris said. “I'm reserving judgment for now, but I think I might miss your old butt.”

“Oh, really?”

“Quite possibly. Time will tell, I suppose. I'm sorta—” Chris gestured toward JC who was now at the far end of the pool. “—surprised he isn't all over you right now. He's been missing you, and you just got back.”

“I got back a while ago. Must have been right after you fell asleep. And apparently—”

Lance paused, looked over at JC, and then sat down at the foot-end of the lounge chair that Chris had been napping on. He sat at an angle so he could still keep an eye on 'C. When Lance patted the empty space at his side, Chris sat down next to him.

“Apparently,” Lance said, “he's really happy I'm back and really glad that I still smell like me, but... he's ever so slightly weirded out by kissing himself.”

“Really? I wouldn't have expected that.”

“Me, neither. I mean. He is JC.”

“Exactly,” Chris agreed. “Well, I'm sure he'll get used to it, and then he'll want to try out all sorts of things with himself.”

“Mmm, I do hope so.”

Chris shivered. Lance's voice wasn't right, but he could still do a sexy rumble that should have been illegal outside of the bedroom.

“So... why don't you sound like him? Or like you, for that matter?”

“I was in a hurry. I'll have to go back later and tweak some things before I can pass as him for anything but paparazzi pics. I sound different because the shape of my chest and nose have changed, but I didn't have time to concentrate on my voice-box.”

Thinking about it made Chris's throat hurt.

“You can really do that? Change your larynx and stuff?”

“Yeah. I won't sound exactly like him even then. But I'll be close, and if it ever really matters, I have enough voice control to fake it. That's actually... My kind. We were genetically altered. Ages ago. We weren't always 'shifters, but we were natural mimics. You know, sound like other creatures, change colors for camouflage, those sorts of things. And grow back lost appendages, too. Useful stuff 'cept for how those qualities were what drew the attention of the people that changed us.”

“Oh my god... that's...”

“It was ages ago. Like hundreds of years ago, maybe thousands. And it's horrible to think about, but it's like... I know it was an atrocity mainly because I grew up here and learned human history and have human events to compare it to.” Lance shrugged. “It feels really remote to me. When I think about it, it's awful, but it's not something I dwell on. So... I'd like to keep that between ourselves, okay? JC...”

Chris nodded. “Yeah, he doesn't need to know right now.”

“Thanks. I appreciate that.” Lance turned to face him more directly. “And how are you? You doing okay?”

“Oh, I'm fine. Geez. No one's knocked me up. No one's tampered with my DNA. The worst thing that's happened to me recently is that I found out that these two like super hot guys want to get freaky with me.”

“God,” Lance said. “I hate it when that happens.”

“I bet. You poor bastard, it must happen to you all the time.”

“I'm starting to wonder if I might end up with a terminal case of it.” Lance leaned closer to him. “Seriously. Are you okay? You seemed pretty upset yesterday, that's part of why I—” Lance pointed to his face and then drew his hand down his chest. “—rushed perfection here.”

“I'm good. We're good. Misunderstandings were had, things were discussed at length—at very great length—and conclusions were reached.”

“Ah,” Lance said. “Thank you, Mr. Kirkpatrick. Your summary was most enlightening.”

Chris laughed. “You're welcome, Mr. Bass. I'm glad you're back.”

“Would you mind me asking what conclusions were reached?”

“Oh, please do.”

Lance chuckled, and it was another really sexy sound. “What conclusions were reached?”

“I'm not sold on it, but I'm interested... and on the condition that all other parties are likewise interested, I'm willing to try it and see where it goes.”

“And if I were... interested in kissing you right now?”

“You should try it and see how it goes.”

Lance did.

It was soft and nice, but disconcerting at first. All those hand jobs back in the day had only been hand jobs... with a lot of heavy breathing and a little biting thrown in. It was strange and new, to be kissing JC for the first time while kissing Lance for the first time, too.

But then he closed his eyes and the kiss deepened and it wasn't strange. It was a very nice kiss. Not as forceful as he'd imagined JC's kisses to be—since JC had been the biter back then—but that wasn't a bad thing. It helped him to remember that this was Lance. Mmm. Lance.

“Wow,” JC said. “That's hot.”

Lance took his time breaking their kiss, and Chris found that very gratifying. He wasn't Lance's boyfriend, but he wasn't chopped liver, either.

JC was dripping wet, with a towel draped around his shoulders, and a very appreciative look on his face. Some guys probably would have been freaked out by his very round, bare belly, but Chris wasn't one of them. Well... he was a little, but only because there was a baby in there. He had no problem, though, with seeing a guy with a bit of a gut.

“So...” Lance said. “Obviously watching yourself kiss Chris isn't on your 'slightly freaky' list.”

“Mmm. No, it looks good. Like watching in a mirror, but better. Feel free to continue.”

“Do you want to continue?” Lance asked Chris.

Well, yeah... but...

“Oh, I want to. But. I want—I've never kissed JC. I'd like to know what that's like so like... when you're kissing me, I know it's definitely you.”

Lance stroked a line down Chris's back and let his hand linger at the spot where the back of Chris's T-shirt had ridden up slightly. “I think that's a good idea, I'd want you to know that. And I suggest you lean back in the chair and let him straddle you.”

Just the thought made some circuits fry in Chris's brain. It was a long moment before he could move back as Lance had directed. And then JC was climbing over him, and that was JC's cock making itself at home up against Chris's thigh. And JC was leaning carefully forward—because of the bump—with one strong arm reaching to the chair back to help brace him. For a moment, Chris's entire world narrowed to just that forearm, the muscles tensing, the tendon sharply defined. And then his view expanded to the biceps and the water beading up on them.

Chris leaned forward and licked some of the water beads off before he really knew what he was doing. Then there was a deep chuckle with an even deeper rumbling echo, and Chris blinked and looked up to see two identical faces watching him intently.

“Either I'm dreaming or... Santa just brought me twin-porn for Christmas.”

“Really?” JC said, leaning forward again and nuzzling at Chris's ear. “Is that the kind where you fuck twins or the kind where they fuck each other?”

“Can't I have both?”

Chris barely heard Lance's “I'm sure you will,” as JC finally kissed him properly. Oh, yeah. That was a very demanding mouth, just like he'd always known. His feral little cat. Chris pressed up to meet him, growling slightly as he nipped at JC's mouth. JC growled in return and twisted his free hand into Chris's and tugged.

“Fuck,” Lance murmured appreciatively.

Chris broke the kiss. “Like it?” he asked Lance, while rocking his thigh steadily up against JC.

“Mmm. Yeah. I rarely see him so... greedy about it.”

“It's true,” JC panted. “You can call me selfish—”

“Hey,” Lance said, leaning forward to press a quieting kiss on JC's lips. “That's really not a threesome song.”

“No, that's good,” Chris said. “I want him to be selfish this time. Do you know about how we used to get each other off?”

Lance nodded.

“It was always really rushed, and we had to be so quiet about it. I've never heard him come when he's free to make noise. But I bet he's noisy, 'cause he bit me a lot, like right before he'd come. I think he was muffling himself.”

“I was,” JC. “I'd bite my fist sometimes instead.”

“I want to make you come, okay? I want to hear what you're really like.”

“God, yes,” JC said. “Please?”

“Lance? Help me with him?”

“Always.”

 

Mmm, Chris thought much, much later. Twins. Alien twins... I've just been laid by alien tw—

“Oh my god! I'm Kirk!”

“Of course you are,” JC said, and snuggled down deeper into the blankets.

Lance raised his hand in the Vulcan salute, before rolling over and turning off the lamp. “Yes, indeed. Welcome aboard the USS Clue Bus, Captain.”