It took ten whole minutes for Doug to peel off his uniform, wincing as it took chunks of hair along with it. He balled up the slimy, dripping mess and shoved it into a trash bag with his boots. Warlock would try to work his laundry magic on it later, but Doug doubted it could be salvaged at this rate.
He really, really hated extraterrestrial slug monsters.
A glance in the bathroom mirror gave him little hope for his hair either, the lot of it matted down to his skull with blue gunk. With a wince, he managed to pry his left ear free from the side of his head, but the rest would take a miracle. His white undershirt was dyed completely blue, and it didn’t budge no matter how he tugged at the hem.
Doug ran the hot water and stepped in under the shower, still clad in his undershirt, boxers, and socks. Unfortunately, the slug goo proved insoluble in water — if anything, it seemed to meld to his skin even more. With a great sigh of despairing exhaustion, he sat down in the tub and let the shower rain over him. The water soaked through his hair and dripped blue streams down his cheeks.
“Warlock?” he called, knowing his selfsoulfriend would hear him above all else, “Can you gimme a hand in here?”
A few seconds later, a shuffle and a thump revealed Warlock’s presence just outside the room. “Self is not permitted to join bathroomadventures,” he announced. “Quote: Them’s the rules.”
Slipping through the crack under the door, Warlock let himself into the bathroom and followed the blue footprints over to the tub. He poked his head in though the curtains with the tendrils of his hair all plastered over his eyes like a blindfold and gave a broad grin.
Doug reached out and tugged those shy tentacles away, rolling his eyes at Warlock’s pitiful attempt at giving him privacy. For one, Warlock could sprout eyes anywhere, and it wasn’t as if he hadn’t seen it all before anyway. As he held the wiggling tendrils in his hands, Doug pulled a long face and said, “Come on, buddy — my hair’s gonna be a total loss at this rate.”
“Unacceptable.” Warlock’s eyes snapped open. They raked over Doug so intensely that he shivered even under the scorching spray of water.
“So fix it,” he grumbled, ducking his head and leaning towards Warlock all at once.
Without further delay, Warlock’s hair snaked over to start teasing at Doug’s own matted mess, the end of each tendril splitting into threads so thin they were barely visible. Lithe enough to maneuver even among the clumps of goop, they set about systematically eliminating the foreign contaminant and freeing each golden hair individually. Doug sighed in relief and leaned into Warlock’s touch. He wasn’t usually one for having his head scratched, but there was no denying how relaxing the prying tendrils were.
While Warlock’s hair continued working on the most important rescue mission, his hands found their way to Doug’s back, smoothing over his shoulder blades and following the line of his undershirt where it had melded to his skin. His fingertips flattened razor-fine and began chipping away at the cotton. It quickly became apparent that the shirt couldn’t be saved, so he carved whole swathes of it away to reveal angry goosebumps below.
Warlock snatched up one of Doug’s hands, holding it between them. The pinkish rash on the back of that hand glowed in the steam of the shower — an allergic reaction to the slug goo. “Observe: It is as Self said. Other aliens bring only trouble.”
“At least it’s not itchy.” Doug gave him a strange smile, amused by his territorial display. “I think I’ll survive.”
“Hm.” Unconvinced, Warlock rubbed his thumb in gentle circles on the back of Doug’s hand, a ghostly touch of lifeglow sparking at his skin to burn the pollutant away.
Meanwhile, his other hand continued working at Doug’s back, finally clearing enough to rub down the full length of his spine. He moved clockwise around his selfsoulfriend’s torso, freed one side and tried to resist the urge to tickle at the sensitive skin of that too-scrawny waist. Reach wasn’t an issue for Warlock, but Doug still turned to face him, crossing his legs on the floor of the tub.
A few tentacles drifted down to deal with Doug’s socks, but the greater part of Warlock’s attention remained firmly on the problem of Doug’s shirt. Off came the shoulder straps. Plying fingers stroked along his collarbone, then traced downward and followed the light grooves of his musculature through the thin fabric. The touch wasn’t the problem-solving effort it was meant to be, much too reverent for that.
“Having fun there?” Doug asked. The corner of his mouth twitched into a tiny, lopsided smirk.
Warlock’s eyebrows shot up, caught in the act, but he returned the smirk at once. He pressed both hands flat against Doug’s chest, looked him right in the eye, and used the transmode to devour the infected cotton straight off his naked skin. Doug gaped at him, then yelped as Warlock rubbed him over one last time to check for further injury, brushing at his nipples with a teasing touch.
His socks had disappeared, but Doug couldn’t see his feet beneath the squirming mass of tentacles surrounding them. Nibbling at the soles of his feet like tiny minnows, those clever tendrils wove between his toes and tugged at the tired joints. Doug wiggled his toes, and their inky black captors wiggled back.
He rarely forgot the limitless possibilities of Warlock’s shapeshifting, but rare, too, was it for him to get such an intense reminder. Between the dual massage of his feet and his scalp, and the warm spray of the shower on his newly rescued skin, the day’s disasters all faded away. Doug sighed in contentment.
A shy, hesitant tentacle ran along his inner thigh. It paused there, laid flat against the juncture of thigh and groin, and after a moment Doug felt an awful flash of borrowed uncertainty strike through him. His eyes had fallen closed, but he opened them now to glance at Warlock, who looked back at him with such anxious bewilderment it stalled his heart in his chest.
It brushed slightly to the left, curling curiously over his boxers, and with that simple touch Doug abruptly realized how aroused he was. He blushed bright red and turned his face away.
Warlock drew back, but Doug caught at his hand, his hair, whatever that inquisitive tendril had been, and held him fast. He swallowed hard, shivering as another tentacle stroked down his neck and followed the bob of his Adam’s apple. Doug wasn’t sure what either of them were asking, meanings stuttering and shattering before he could parse them properly, but it was Warlock, and with him, only with him, things were simple.
A nod was all it took.
Pulling the shower curtain shut behind him, Warlock climbed fully into the enclosed space and sat on the rim of the tub. He shifted until his hands were free, constructing some mysterious distinction between the teeming swarm of his feet where they swallowed their way up Doug’s ankles, the teasing nest of tendrils raking through Doug’s wet hair, and the long vines of techno-organics that sprouted from his back and shoulder to brush over Doug’s torso, matching part for part even when all of him was one. Warlock held out a hand, made an upward gesture, and helped Doug rise to his feet.
“Blue has been eliminated,” Warlock hummed, turning him this way and that for a full inspection.
“Do you have to be so—” Doug choked as a half dozen tentacles skimmed over his boxers, front and back, and gave a perfectly unnecessary squeeze. “—Pushy?”
The last scraps of clothing disappeared under Warlock’s careful, yet playful touch. He reached for the soap and made a great show of lathering Doug’s back and shoulders, tendrils chasing the soapy streams that trailed ever lower. Broader swathes of techno-organics molded against his skin, pinpoints of pressure and long, lingering touches that worked all the tension out of his muscles.
So powerful was the massage that Doug barely registered the soap make its way to his front, swiping across his chest before meandering down his stomach, touch growing feather-light in its own distraction. Warlock didn’t quite dare. But Doug was so relaxed and pliant under his fingers, head thrown back in appreciation of the kneading tendrils in his hair, of the more daring ones nipping softly at his throat, and so warm, too, warmer even than the shower’s heat, lifeglow thrumming happily in Warlock’s vision.
The first gentle tug at Doug’s cock dragged a long, breathy gasp from his lips. He shot out a hand to grab hold of his partner’s shoulder and steady himself. Warlock’s surface clung to him gladly, holding him there with unusual stillness as the rest of his techno-organic array slid slick and smooth across Doug’s naked skin, relishing every inch.
They read each other in the strangest of ways, always had. No matter how many languages lurked in Doug’s head, Warlock perceived more of him in a single glance than anyone else ever would. Temperature raised, pulse racing. He reached out a free hand to cup Doug’s cheek, and Doug leaned into the touch, smiling at him with half-lidded eyes.
Happiness, joy, delight — all of them fell short of describing that exceptional emotion, a considerably different kind of glow. Affection, that much Warlock understood. And ownership, mutual, the way his tendrils left golden ridges in their wake, Doug’s own transmode rising to prickle back at him and seek their more usual link.
His selfsoulfriend was marked, not by blue but by gold.
As it should be.
The water had washed all the suds away by now, but Warlock’s tendrils no longer needed the pretense to bolster their courage. With each caress more measured, Doug lost himself within that all-consuming touch, the dance of fingertips against his wrists, the soft slide of too many hands down his thighs, thumbs brushing over his nipples, palms splayed against his lower back, a ticklish kiss at the nape of his neck.
And that firm hold on his cock, absentminded one moment, experimental the next. One tendril ghosted along his shaft, barely touching him, and though it should have been all too easy to miss under the cacophony of sensation, Doug found himself enthralled by the lazy journey of that maddening wanderer. He bit his lower lip so hard it bled, trying to hold back his groans as he watched that tendril wrap around his erection like a fragile vine, flat leaves lapping at his head and the thin stem twirling achingly slow along the vulnerable underside.
Just as a keening noise broke from Doug’s throat, another tendril pressed firmly against his lips, shushing him. “Neighbors do not wish to hear your showersinging, selfsoulfriend.”
Doug’s answer was a buck of his hips, desperate, but a broad arm snaked around his waist to hold him in place. He scowled and hummed his displeasure.
The tentacles hummed back, thrumming all at once to tease him, then froze the very instant before Doug reached the edge.
“Don’t you dare,” he hissed, rocking his hips forward to no avail. “Please.”
With that command, the single tentacle around Doug’s cock branched into a whole writhing mess of tendrils and swallowed him down to the root. He came with a muffled cry moments later, gone boneless in his partner’s many arms.
Warlock turned off the water and reached for a towel. As he shifted his disparate parts back into his core, he tugged his selfsoulfriend ever closer, nearly pulling Doug into his lap as he dried him off from head to toe. He spent so long fussing at that golden hair that Doug broke into giddy laughter, cheeks still painted a heady scarlet.
Doug shrieked as Warlock wrapped him in the towel and threw him over one shoulder, blithely ignoring those kicking feet while he carried Doug back to their shared quarters. If the neighbors hadn’t heard them already, they definitely didn’t miss the commotion this time around, and Doug fell silent out of mortification alone.
“What is rule?” Warlock demanded once they were back in their room. He watched Doug change into his spaceship pajamas with a sour look on his face. His crest had sharpened back to its usual state, and the spines chimed anxiously together as if trying to hurry the answer like Jeopardy music.
Glancing back over his shoulder, Doug gave an indulgent grin. “Believe me, buddy, the only alien I need around is you.”
The twinkling lights of Warlock’s eyes left no doubt as to whether that was the correct answer.