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Seven thousand and three hundred days. That was how long Brackish had been in a coma following the alien attack. At first Milton had been convinced it was the sudden death of the alien linked to him that caused the coma but most of the alien prisoners had fallen into the same catatonic state following the destruction of the mothership. At least he had the power as head of the medical division to ensure they kept Brackish in the hospital wing inside AREA51 where Milton could visit him at any time, day or night. They had renamed the wing the Marilyn Whitmore Hospital after President Whitmore's wife and Milton could understand the sentiment. She had stayed longer in L.A. than she should, hoping to quell the fear in the people around her, and had paid the ultimate price. She was the first to die at AREA51 following the arrival of the aliens, but sadly not the last. Her name was on the Washington memorial alongside countless others who had died at the hands of the Harvester aliens over those two hellish days twenty years earlier.

Although he wasn't awake to see it, Milton made sure Brackish received the best attention with a topside room carefully air conditioned to allow sunlight for the many orchids he carefully grew and nurtured for Brackish. It was a pastime they had both shared and which had brought them together.

His awakening from his 20 year coma heralded the arrival of the Harvester Queen, but he was still linked into the hive mind sufficiently to feel the awakened 'warrior drones', for want of a better description, celebrating their Queen's return. He was a stronger link to the aliens than most others who had been in close proximity to them, but Brackish had the quickness of mind to make sense of the images fed to him, giving humanity the slightest edge they needed to bring hope and turn the tide in their favor. Once again it was Levinson who came up with a plan to draw the alien queen away from where they were hiding the sphere but as soon as he and Brackish were alone, locked into the isolation chamber with it, Brackish's insatiable need for knowledge had him asking questions. He was incredible, acting as if 20 years had been just a few hours, or minutes, and Milton refused to leave his side as he deciphered all the incredible things the sphere showed to him - to them.

The ruse worked but the plan to kill the queen failed. Encased in her own personal shield she survived the bombing of her personal ship. Tom Whitmore had seemingly died for nothing, and when the warrior drones attacked the base the guards didn't stand much of a chance. He wasn't certain who reached out first but he held hands with Brackish as the aliens breached the isolation chamber and attacked.

Milton remembered the pain of being shot in the chest, of falling backwards from the transference of kinetic energy. He remembered Brackish hovering over him, and recalled telling Brackish the scarf was meant to be a sweater but he hadn't had enough time to finish it before the 4th of July celebrations. It sounded so silly in hindsight. He could have spent his, possibly, final breaths telling Brackish how much he loved him but they had never needed to say those words to each other. It was there in all the common place gestures, in bringing each other food when one was delayed by some experiment, in working in companionable silence as they nurtured the orchids or read a book, and even in the bossy gestures as Brackish ordered him around. Bickering like an old married couple, someone had once remarked.

Everyone on Earth knew the Harvester aliens could come back one day though many chose to live in denial, convinced they had killed the entire civilization. Milton liked to be a romantic but he was also a pragmatist, a medical scientist first, and he had always doubted that could be all of them. As he lay on the cold floor he could hear Brackish yelling as he fired the alien-inspired weapon at the approaching warrior drones, could hear a rage in his voice that had never been there before, grief from believing Milton was dead. Milton saw the giant claw come through the ceiling above his head, saw it grab the sphere. Humanity's best and last hope for survival in the grip of their mortal enemy. He felt Brackish fall to his knees beside him again, hair even more disheveled than before and eyes wild with anger, despair, and grief.

"I'm not dead... yet," he croaked out, and the change in Brackish's countenance was one he would always remember. The way the dark shadow of grief lifted him back into the irascible Doctor Brackish Okun that Milton knew and loved so much.

Milton had to be told the rest later, of how Steven Hillier's son Dylan, and Whitmore's grown-up little girl Patricia, along with their fellow pilots, had brought down the alien queen with only minutes to spare before the Earth's core was breached. The planet was saved for now but the fight would have to go on, this time it would be taken to the stars.

"Time to kick some serious alien ass? Is that what you really said?"

Brackish grinned wildly, maniacally, but then the man was always so full of exuberance.

"Not the only ass I'm going to kick," he declared and the playfulness dropped away for a moment. "Don't ever die on me again, Milton."

"Only if you promise not to fall into another coma."


Brackish smiled and leaned over the bed, sealing the promise with a kiss.