The beagle looked up curiously from her shelter bed at the man with the curls. His aura was different from the humans who cared for her. He crouched down, extended a hand, and smiled warmly at her. She saw stars in his eyes. Whole galaxies of them.
She'd always heard about them, but she tried not to put stock in anything the cats at the shelter said. Cats were strange creatures alright, but she might have to give them credit for this.
She decided she'd go home with this Starman; he looked like he could use a friend.
Michael wasn't sure who was bathing whom anymore.
"'It'll be easy,' they said. 'You'll be fine,' they said. Yeah, sure, cleaning grease stains off a squirming, wriggling dog? Piece of cake," Michael deadpanned.
"Why couldn't you just stay in the truck while I got your collar from the Airstream, hmmm?" Michael floated the puppy back into the wash basin out behind the cabin. Again. She seemed to like that part, at least.
"It's a good thing you're cute. Your new Dad's coming home in ten minutes and I was hoping we'd be at least somewhat presentable for the big surprise."
"What big surprise?"
"Alex! Hey, Alex. Five minutes early. As per usual. Should've remembered that...dammit."
Michael was acting squirrelly, which could only mean one thing.
"What did you do now, Guerin? And why are you all... wet?"
Suddenly, the answer came running at him, all blonde hair and long legs.
"Alex? You okay?"
Alex realized his jaw was hanging open. He looked back at Michael through watery eyes.
"Happy Anniversary, Private."
Alex tackle-hugged Michael into the grass. The beagle climbed on top.
"What should we name her?"
Alex looked lovingly into Michael's starry-eyed gaze and inspiration struck.
"How about Astra?"
Astra looked up from the passenger seat of Starman’s truck, wagging her tail and panting in delight.
She had caught the smelliest smell. It was perfect. At first glance, her playmate was a fluffy cat begging to be chased through the junkyard. But then. Oh wow, but then... Not a cat.
Hissing and chattering it lifted its fluffy tail. Astra had to investigate closer.
But Starman called her name and Astra turned to find him. Astra always came when Starman and Dad called her name.
Astra felt wet.
It was a lovely stink. She wanted to share.
“No. Don’t.” As soon as he’d pulled up to the cabin, Astra rolled and rubbed her back onto the leather seat.
Grumbling, he carried her and the bags of canned tomato sauce out back.
"She’ll behave," Alex had promised. "I’ll only be gone a few hours."
How was Michael supposed to watch her and work when she escaped her leash every five minutes?
But she’s Alex’s baby and Michael would be damned if he let Alex come home to the skunkiest dog this side of the galaxy.
At the garden hose, Michael opened a can and poured.
And Astra shook.
Starman held Astra in a vice between his thighs and gripped her by the collar. But Astra shook and pulled. She had to get away. Red stuff was covering the smelliest smell, the perfect smell, evidence of the loveliest smell she’d ever sniffed.
Starman continued to pour and scrub and mumbled words Astra couldn’t quite make out. She’s pretty sure they weren’t happy words, but with the way Starman’s voice bounced as he spoke, Astra couldn’t be certain. He didn’t sound angry.
“Your Dad’s gonna kill me.”
That didn’t sound like something Dad would do. Dad wouldn’t kill their Starman.
Alex found Guerin and Astra behind the cabin -- a string of curses carried on laughter led Alex’s way.
He watched from the side of the house, unnoticed, as Guerin wrestled their sopping red beagle in the grass.
Alex’s resulting chuckle gave away his position and earned him a saucy stink-eye.
“A little help?” Sauce dripped from Guerin’s curls.
“Nah, you got this.”
Alex scrunched his nose as Guerin approached.
He smiled as Guerin boxed him in against the cabin wall.
He hummed into his kiss.
Guerin pulled back with a malicious glint in his eyes. Ducked his head. And shook.