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Poking the Alien

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Sam Synn licked up the underside of Kellum's cock. He rocked back on his heels, pausing long enough to savor the taste. Guess under the circumstances, he could call the man by his first name.

It looked like they were going to be stuck on this planet for a while.

David. Yeah. Good, then. Sam looked up through his eyelashes at the man. David looked wrecked and weak in the knees. It was a hell of a good look on him.

This wasn’t Sam's usual modus operandi. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, he wasn't the one in this position. Still kneeling, he rubbed a thumb over his bottom lip and stared up into wide blue eyes. David looked dazed, glazed, and eminently fuckable. Oh yeah, this was going exactly the way Synn liked it.

It was the first thing that had gone right all weekend.


"Orders from General Herrington, Colonel: find David Kellum. This mission needs his particular talents." The major slid a manila folder across Sam's desk. It had confidential stamped on it in more places than Sam had scars. "He's gone underground. No one has seen him in years."

"That so? How exactly does the general expect me to find him, Major?"

"We found his sister. They're connected in ways that file will explain."

Sam raised an eyebrow but bit back the smart-ass comment on the tip of his tongue.

"The sister is his weak spot, Colonel. General Herrington is going to let it leak that we're after her. It should drive Dr. Kellum straight into protection mode."

"But you don't want the sister?" Sam looked up, leaning back in his chair. "Just Kellum?"

"We'd use her if we thought she had the stamina for what we need. And if we could get her to agree." The major shook his head. "As I understand it, she's too empathetic. It makes her hesitate in a crisis. The general is concerned that she'll get people killed with that kind of thinking. No, Colonel, we need someone who understands what it takes to survive and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty."

Opening the file, Synn stared down at the picture of the man they wanted him to find. Caucasian. Blue eyes. Slim and athletic with broad shoulders for his height. Long, sandy-blonde hair curled around his ears as he stared up at Sam with serious eyes. He looked fresh out of high school.

Oh hell. The man in the picture looked like jailbait and court charges just waiting to happen. Sam dragged a hand through his hair and wished for a drink. "Is that – mascara?"

"Likely. It was the eighties, sir. That picture is more than twenty years old. I wish we could give you something recent but our man there is very, very good at keeping his cover. If he doesn't want you to see him, you won't."

"Twenty years. He could be fat and bald by now." Sam stared down at the slant of Kellum's wide, soft mouth. "Well, at least some things don't change."


"Never mind. The file says he and his sister are mentalists?" Synn asked. Black marker obliterated the next four sentences in the report, eliminating any details that might have given Sam some information on what kind of mentalists.

"That's all I'm allowed to say, sir."

"You aren't giving me much to go on, Major."

"I'm sorry, sir. The General did say to tell you that he trusts your ability to handle unique situations."

Sam rubbed the back of his neck. "So, stake out the sister's place and wait for Mr. Mind Reader to swing by and bring him in. That about it?"

"Almost, sir." The spit and polish major looked uncomfortable for the first time since he walked into Sam's office. "The general said to tell you to load for bear. Heavy vest and armament. For your own protection, sir."

"Jesus. Is he expecting me to need a bazooka?"

"Couldn't say, sir. Will that be all, sir?"

Sam nodded. "Dismissed."

The major stood to attention then paused before turning to leave. "I haven't seen the complete file, Colonel Synn. It's above my pay-grade. But I've heard rumors and I don't think the bazooka is all that bad an idea."


That was on a hot Tuesday afternoon, and because life liked to play its little jokes, Sam knew the minute he saw the major that any chance of getting out of his office early was a bust.

Things on his list he didn't expect –

1. Exploding heads
2. Kellum healed puppies with his brain
3. Exploding heads

Yeah, well, that one was hard to get around. It made a man want to double and triple check the ammo in his gun. And the knife blade in his boot. Sam had gotten all the intel he could from Kellum's file but Friday morning he'd finally ended up calling General Herrington.

The general agreed to meet him at the nearest Waffle House. A stack of pecan waffles sitting in front of him, Herrington pulled out a half-dozen glossy 5x7s from an old, brown envelope. The pictures were in black and white. Even so, it made Sam damn grateful that he'd stuck with just coffee.

"What's your plan now, Colonel?" the general asked.

"Honestly, sir, I'm starting to rethink the bazooka."

Herrington gave him a dry smile and bit into his waffles.

Sam leaned back in his chair and considered his options. "I can see how Kellum would be an asset. If we'd had him along on that unexpected trip I took a few weeks ago, everyone might have made...well, our odds would have been better. The natural affinity he has with animals alone would have worked in our favor."

"Glad you see it that way, Synn."

"Oh, no."

"Yes, Colonel. The machine is operational again. The scientists assure me all the bugs are out of it. Well, you know how much I trust scientists. I want you leading the team, and I want Kellum on that team. Understood?"

Gathering up the pictures, the general stood up to leave. "Look, son, I'm trying to give you the best protection I can in an unholy situation. This is way beyond anything we can prepare for. David Kellum is an unorthodox weapon and I'm giving you the go-ahead to use him."

"He's going to have some say in that, sir."

"There's no reason to believe he won't cooperate. Do your best to convince him, and that's an order, Synn."

Sam never made it as far as the sister's house. He didn't need to.

He wasn't entirely convinced they didn't want Julie Vale, too, and Sam had a deep suspicion that Kellum would only be pissed off if Synn got too close to his sister, anyway. Instead, on nothing but a hunch, a scribbled address, with a five-hour drive ahead of him, Sam made a list of every zoo and animal shelter within a forty-mile radius of Julie's house.

He found David Kellum in the third place he looked. A local bar. It was more of a happy accident but he didn't have to tell anyone that.

The minute he walked into the bar, Sam could feel an odd skitter and slide of contact in his head as someone tried to touch his mind. He shook it off and let his eyes adjust to the dim light in the room.

It had the dingy 4 p.m. ambiance of all cheap American bars. Thin, wooden slats over the windows blocked most of the afternoon sunlight. Dust motes hovered in the few rays of sun allowed to enter. The bartender gave him a slow nod, his hand already reaching for a glass.

The only other person there sat at a corner table. A bottle beer sat at his elbow, seemingly forgotten. A candle cupped in a red glass sat on the table in front of him. Every table had one but the one in front of Sam's target kept lighting and going out, relighting again a few seconds later. It could have been the kind designed for party tricks but Sam didn't think so.

He took his two fingers of whiskey, put on his best charming-the-hostiles smile, and walked over to introduce himself. "Mind if I sit, Mr. Kellum?"

"You can see me."

David Kellum looked like a lost soul. He had a rough growth of beard and huddled in a trench coat that was insanely warm for the time of year. His long, too-thin fingers stroked the side of the red glass with the air of habit, as though he'd been sitting here for hours. His eyes were just as blue, but that wide, soft mouth of twenty years ago was now a hard, down-turned line.

There was too much that was hard and thin about David Kellum and Sam didn't care for it at all. Jesus, the first thing he was going to do when they got out of here was feed the man a Big Mac and French fries.

Kellum's voice dropped to a whisper. "They're not going to stop, oh god, they're never going to stop."

"Take it easy. Look, we can't really talk here. I know you haven't got any reason to trust me, but at least let me introduce myself. "

"I know who you are," David answered. "You're military, or from some alphabet soup gang, and you want me to kill someone."

"What? No." Sam leaned over so that only Kellum could hear. "You're right about me being military but scan me if you don't believe the rest."

"I tried that already. All I did was give myself away. Why didn't it work?”

Sam glanced over his shoulder to make sure the bartender was still ignoring them. "Other dimensions. Once you're seen into a few of them, reality becomes a lot sharper."

"So…you are?" Kellum's question trailed off as he finally raised his head to look Synn in the eye.

"It's Sam. Or Colonel Synn, but I'd prefer you call me Sam when we're not actively engaged in an operation." Sam took a deep breath and gambled it all on his next sentence. "Agree to come with me and I can take you some place where it won't matter who 'they' are, because they'll never be able to use you again."

Haunted blue eyes stared back at him, "You're not afraid of me. Not afraid I'll go crazy on you."

"Are you going to go crazy on me?" Sam asked, trying not to think about exploding brains.

Kellum gave him a slanted grin. "No." He paused then, and Sam winced at the trusting shyness in his next question. "You can really help me? My life can be normal again?"

"Let's get you cleaned up. Jeez, you look like you've been living the past month in a back alley." Sam guided Kellum out the door and to his truck.

"You should know I'm only agreeing to this because I know you're trying to protect my sister."

"I thought you couldn't read my mind?"

"Please, call me David, and I didn't read your mind. But if you'd tried to use Julie to get to me –" He paused and pointed to his temple. "– she would have told me."


Plans went FUBAR after that. The minute Sam's phone rang, he knew it meant trouble. The voice on the other end of the line was tense with urgency. It was that damn machine again.

It also meant gradually introducing the idea to Kellum of joining his team, let alone multi-dimensional travel was out. Even managing a shower and a hot meal for Kellum, was shot to hell.

"Sorry, David. Change of plans. We've got a helicopter waiting for us at the airport. I'll fill you in as much as I can on the way."

"Don't I need some kind of security clearance?"

"Not going to be a problem." Sam flashed him a grin. "The fact that you exist sits at a higher security level than most of the brass has access to. I had to take a general out to breakfast just to fill in some of the blanks in your file."

"Oh." Kellum ducked his head and hunched down further into his coat. The pink tinge coloring his cheeks should have looked ridiculous on a man almost forty, but it gave Sam the first real glimpse at the type of man who could, and would, heal puppies with his brain.

"Well, shit."


"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you." Sam resisted the urge to reach out and reassure Kellum with a touch. "I think all this is just starting to sink in. You really could kill me by just thinking about it, couldn't you? Don't answer that."

The airport was just ahead. It barely looked big enough to handle crop dusters, and Sam drove as near to the runway as he could get. "There's our bird, waiting for us just like they said.”

The matte black Ch-47 Chinook looked like a flying tank next to the little Cessna 210, the only other aircraft on the small landing strip.

Kellum stared at it, almost stumbling as he got out of the truck. "Overkill, isn't it?"

"Maybe not," Sam answered. "It's the fastest helicopter our military has. We should be back in D.C. in under two hours.” He clapped a hand down on David's shoulder. "Plenty of time to brief you."

Kellum didn't seem convinced. Tension ran across his shoulders and his hands gripped into fists. Just watching him made the hair on the back of Sam's neck rise.

"What are you sensing, David?"

"That's not our ride, Colonel Synn." His voice dropped to a husky whisper and a shiver went down Sam's spine. "No, it is our ride, but there are people on it that don't want us to make it to D.C. They want…" He tilted his head to the side in concentration. "They want the project to fail." David visibly swallowed. "They…they want to kill the alien."

"I'll fill you in later,” Sam said. "Okay, this is what we're going to do. They've already seen us. We're going to mosey up, nice and easy. Are you with me, Kellum?" He gave David's shoulder a hard shake. "You're going to do that thing you do and keep everyone out of our way except the pilot." Sam cocked his gun. "I'm going to persuade him to take off with just the two of us on board. Unless you can fly a helicopter?"

David shook his head. Sam watched as white stars glazed over where the man's pupils should be and his voice had a hollow sound when he spoke. "The flight crew doesn't know. It's the fat man and the one with the briefcase that want us dead."

Sam stared as the two men shook like they were being electrocuted. Their faces contorted in silent screaming and Sam tightened his grip on the gun. It was the eeriest fucking thing he'd ever seen. That included the monstersaur that inhaled Senator Crenshaw like a cream-filled Twinkie.

He pushed David forward into the helo's cargo bay as Fatman and Briefcase stumbled away from the helicopter and fell to their knees. They were still close enough that Sam could see their ears bleeding. Neither man would be causing trouble any time soon. Sam ordered the pilot to take off and turned his attention to David. "Kellum, stop! It's over."

"No killing, no more killing." A deep sob racked through the man, leaving Sam feeling more helpless than if he'd just shot the bastards.

"You didn't kill them. Hey, look at me." Sam cupped David's chin and turned his head so that he would have to look him in the eye. "You did the right thing."

David's eyelashes closed over eyes that were back to perfectly normal. Sam certainly did not want to brush his thumb over the long, thick length of those lashes but it might have been why it took him a few minutes to realize David's skin felt cold.

"You're shivering. C'mere." Sam made David lie down on the bench seat and pulled a foil emergency blanket from the Chinook's first aid kit. "Is this normal? Scratch that. Normal's taken a hike and I don't think it's coming back."

David wrapped his fingers around Sam's wrist. "Didn't used to be like this. My range is stronger now. I don't have to see people to affect them anymore. I just have to know where they are relative to my position."

"How far?" Sam asked, thinking Iranian dictators and nuclear weapons.

"Not that far. I don't have to be in the same room now but line of sight is still best. I think I could do a half-mile. Maybe farther if I have an exact location. And it's easier to stop before I do permanent damage. I don't feel…I don't feel taken over by it." A sigh escaped. "But now, I get so damn cold after."

Sam finished tucking the blanket around Kellum. "And that's why you have the long coat. You were wearing it when we met. Did you –" Sam gestured, making the universal sign for crazy. "– before I got there?"

That jerked a surprise laugh out of David. "Nothing so sinister, Colonel Synn. I just make it a little hard for people to focus their eyes on me.” He was still smiling when he added, "Jinto, the bartender, likes it when I come in. Says he sells more booze when I'm there."

"ETA fifteen minutes, sir."

"Roger that, Lieutenant." Well, fuck. Sam rubbed at the back of his neck. Just how long had he spent staring at Kellum's eyelashes anyway? He still needed to tell the man about Dr. O'Hara and the – what Sam personally thought of as the Tilt-a-World – project. Of course, he'd have to remind Kellum not to call it that in O'Hara's presence.

"David?" Sam asked. "I've got an idea, if you're up to it?"

David sat up and pushed the blanket away. A warm flush highlighted his cheekbones and Sam wondered what he would look like without the beard. "I'm good."

"Scan me. I know you can read my thoughts, if I let you. It's the quickest way I can think of so you'll know what to expect when we land."

"Are you sure?"

"No. But I don't think you'll hurt me and we need to be ready in case something else goes wrong."

It took more time than Synn expected; they were already making their descent. He also didn't like the white, shocked look on David's face. "Shake it off, Kellum. We've got a job to do or they wouldn't have hauled our asses back in such a hurry."


David Kellum curled his fists into his coat pockets and hunched down even further. Ever since Synn walked into the bar, he felt like he'd been caught in a whirlwind. He went along with the colonel to protect his sister. The jury was still out on whether or not that was a good thing. But David hadn't killed anybody. He hadn't. That had to count for something. Not to mention his estimation of Colonel Synn rose considerably when David realized he didn't want anyone dead, either.

O'Hara was talking about things that sounded like sheer science fiction. Still, at least now he had explanations to put with the images he'd seen while scanning Synn's mind. It didn't stop him from refusing to shake Dr. O'Hara's outstretched hand. PhDs were just another version of the alphabet soup gang until they proved otherwise.

"Excuse me, Doctor, are you saying an alien came through from another dimension and it's here, now?" Synn asked.

"Yes." O'Hara was nearly beaming. "You understand our urgency in getting you here. In another four hours, the emdrith will have to return to its own dimension."

"Why four hours?" David asked.

"That's how long we have left before our two dimensions slide out of phase." O'Hara motioned for the two of them to follow. "The emdrith wants to talk to you, Colonel Synn. It asked for you, specifically. Well, it asked for the savior of the Throthnor. Its description of a weapon-carrying humanoid could have been any of the military, but it took particular care in describing your green eyes, and um, your hair. Well, at least as well as its translation device would allow.” O'Hara's eyes lit up for a moment. "The exact term translated as Darkbrush-in-the-wind.

"Apparently, you've made a reputation for yourself. It would seem, Colonel, that your talent for eliminating nasty predators precedes you. And no, I don't know how they're communicating that information. This emdrith seems to think of you as some kind of – cowboy for hire." O'Hara nodded toward David. "We're hoping Mr. Kellum can ascertain the truth of the emdrith's request, despite its alien nature."

"Wait a minute. Are you saying this alien wants us to go to its home world, and do what, exactly? Kill the local wild beast terrorizing the neighborhood? In less than four hours?" Synn asked.

"Yes," O'Hara answered. "Look, I know it sounds desperate, but the emdrith has technology it's willing to trade. I don't have to tell you, Colonel, you already know how valuable a handheld version of the machine is to us. Imagine the benefit of carrying a single canteen of water to recharge it instead of searching for a source of water on each and every world."

At that point, they entered a room and David stopped listening. All of his attention was drawn to the creature on the other side of a one-way mirror. The creature was pale orange, hairless from what he could see of it, and tall enough that it was using the room's table for a chair. It had two arms and two legs but they seemed oddly jointed. The face reminded him of a beaver. "This is the emdrith? Never mind. Stupid question."

"You're allowed at least one stupid question under the circumstances, Mr. Kellum." O'Hara said, smiling. "You've had to take in a lot in a very short space of time."

A hand came down on his shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze, and he leaned in to Sam's touch. "I've got your back, David. What do you think? Can you do it?"

Could he? He had no idea. What if touching an alien mind left him tainted in some way? David steeled himself. Drak's mind had been a cesspool of violence and drug use. He'd survived because the other scanners had saved him. Now years later, Sam Synn stood solid at his back. It would do.

Before David could verbalize his assent, the alien raised his head and locked eyes with him. The world narrowed down to him and the emdrith. The images were horrid and fascinating in their strangeness, but it felt like truth. It was clothed in the same kind of sincerity he'd felt in Sam's mind.

"We should go." David pulled his coat tighter around him, feeling the usual cold that accompanied a scan. "They need our help."

"I was hoping you'd say that." O'Hara gestured to the waiting marines. "They're ready when you are, Colonel."


Sam handed David a mug of coffee. "Here. Made the marines bring a thermos along. You looked cold." He pointed at the group of emdriths watching them. "They all look alike. Does ours have a name?"

"Not really. Messenger is as close as we can get in our language." David warmed his hands on the steel mug before taking a drink. Coffee in another dimension. It was crazy and amazing.

Not for the first time, he let his gaze slide down over Synn's body. The man definitely looked good in uniform. He flicked his eyes away, hopefully before Synn noticed. Just because the Colonel was nice to him was no reason to think – those things. Especially now, in strange world with less than four hours to get the job done and get home.


It wasn't a dragon. No wings and definitely not green – assuming dragons were green. Now the fire breathing? According to Synn, it was damn dragony. The creature wasn't like any color David had ever seen before. It had hide not scales. Hide so rough it looked like the creature had rolled around in pickled burdocks. Rolling looked liked something it was good at considering the creature was barrel shaped with short legs.

The emdrith's mind had shown him an entire herd of what they called mudthas. Normally docile, the fire-breathing was its only defense. Personally, David thought it was a damn good one.

Messenger explained that it was shearing season here. Once removed, the burdock fur was soaked until it released long fibers like silkworm cocoons. Separated from the herd, this one had gone rogue, making it very, very dangerous. To complicate things, the emdrith considered this particular animal blessed. Messenger's people wanted them to save it if they could. If not, well none of the emdriths wanted its blood on their hands.

David crouched behind the boulder shoulder to shoulder with Synn while the two of them waited for a signal. The colonel seemed completely unperturbed as he checked ammo and then had the nerve to smirk. "Relax, Kellum. Think of it as a little fire-breathing gopher."

"It's the size of a horse!"

"Yeah, but I don't think it can move that fast."

Suddenly Synn turned all lethal intent. "That's our signal. Everyone's clear. You get one shot at this, Kellum, and if I think it's even twitching its tail the wrong way, I'm neutralizing it. Understood?"

David didn't bother to answer. Instead, he moved away from the protection of the rock and focused all of his attention on the mudtha. It was easier than he expected, almost as if the animal wanted to be helped. "It doesn't want to hurt anyone. There's something wrong with its brain." This was no tiny puppy but David knew he could fix it.

Without warning, the creature sat back on its haunches and mewled. It was a pitiful sound.

"Did you do that?" Synn asked.

"Shh, I'm not done yet."

"Well, hurry it up, we've got twenty minutes to make our window, and I don't want to be stuck here."

"Watch." The animal wobbled on its feet, its eyes closed, and it settled down in the long grey grass. David couldn't help smiling when it started snoring. "Tell them it's safe now, Colonel. The only thing wrong with the poor thing was that its brain got stuck in egg protection mode. It's all fixed now."

"You’re sure?" Synn asked.

"Just as sure as I am that I'm taking you up on that offer of a hot meal and a shave as soon as we get back."

Synn laughed. "Play your cards right, you whiskered hobo, and I'll throw in a free bed for the night." Sam hooked a finger in the front of David's shirt, pulling him closer. "Bed or couch. Your choice, Kellum. Personally, I'm hoping you'll choose the bed."

He could feel the heat rising behind his ears. "I…bed. I choose the bed." It felt like his tongue wanted to twist itself into knots, but David knew he had to add, "It's been a long time. I haven't even let people see me, let alone..."

"I see you and I promise to show you exactly how much, later."


One good thing about a secret project, it took almost no time at all to debrief. O'Hara was preoccupied playing with the new mini-dimension machine and Sam didn't have anyone else he to report to.

It was almost a shame. He'd been looking forward to writing a report that said David Kellum can heal fire-breathing dragons with his brain.

Sam looked up as the bathroom door opened and David stepped out, towel wrapped around his waist. He had a pair of scissors in one hand. From the looks of it, he'd trimmed back at least four months of beard.

"Ready for that shave?" Sam asked.

"You're sure you want to? I mean…. I think I saw a Bic razor in there."

"A Bic doesn't stand a chance against that stubble. C'mere." Sam pulled a chair out with a flourish. "Sit. I have a straight edge that's sharper than a fishwife's tongue. Your cheeks will be smoother than a baby's bottom in no time. Besides –" Sam grinned. "– I want to see just how far that blush goes."

"Oh. I don't…"

David looked ready to bolt and Sam drew him forward, rubbing a thumb slowly across David's lower lip. "I won't hurt you. Not ever. Scan me if you don't believe it."

David nodded. Those same long, damn eyelashes that Sam could go to jail for, framed wide eyes. Only a blind man wouldn't notice the way those eyes darkened in desire and Sam sure as hell wasn't blind.

It was mesmerizing in a way. Sam had never shaved anyone other than himself. Never had the desire to either. That was before David tilted his head back, closed his eyes, and trusted. Sam thanked his ability to keep a steady hand under fire and swallowed hard.

Every stroke of the blade revealed tender skin. If Sam were a man for metaphors, maybe he'd think he was peeling back years, peeling away hurt, and back to innocence. While that was ridiculous, he was here now and vowed to do everything in his power to give David something to live for.

He lost himself in the touch and stroke of motion. By the time he was done, Sam knew every inch of Kellum's face, probably better than the man knew it himself. He also noticed the towel didn't hide much and David was hard.

Kicking off his pants, Sam reached for David's towel, and growled, "Don't even pretend you don't want this."

"Oh god, yes. Please, please…" David reached out to him. "Let me into your mind—I can do—make you feel. I want to. I want..."

Sam shut him up with a kiss.

A few minutes later, as licked he up the underside of Kellum's cock, Sam finally understood what the babbling was all about. David was a mentalist. He'd read the file, he'd seen him in action, but never put it all together.

Well, he knew now. Sam bit back a moan and sucked frantically at David's cock, trying to keep from writhing as his fucking prostate was being pounded by an invisible touch. Mentalist. Synn groaned around the cock in his mouth. The file had never covered this.

David's fingers tightened in Sam's hair, letting him know that he was desperately close to coming. How close was answered when David's hips hitched up and he spilled into Sam's throat. "Sorry, I'm so sorry. I couldn't stop in time." He leaned back, pulling his cock away from Sam's mouth even though Sam tried to follow it, not quite ready to give up its taste. Clumsy in embarrassment, David left a smear of come on Sam's chin. "Oh, wow. Sorry, again. Um… just let me..."

He reached down and gripped Sam's cock. "You know what's really good about this? I can tell exactly what you need to get off." David moved his hand, holding Sam in an embrace with both his body and his mind.

Desperate to come, Sam threw his head back, opened his mind, and put all of his trust out there where David could see it. When he came, all he could see were the stars in David's eyes.


Sam woke up tangled in sheets with his arm thrown over David's chest. It felt damn good. It felt good to let David Kellum see the truth too. Plus he'd stayed with Sam until morning. It was a promising sign and Sam was gonna take what he could get.

Synn was sure there'd be more attempts on his life. More attempts to—kill the alien. Still, it could have been worse. At least this universe was a close match. It even had its own version of Dr. O'Hara. He was almost as pretty as Jillian and nearly as bright. The doc couldn't seem to figure out how to get Sam back to his own world but then again, he hadn't slid most of a building into another dimension and gotten nearly everyone killed.

David wriggled back, settling in closer, close enough for Sam to call it a cuddle. Sam tightened his arm around him and snuffled at the nape of his neck, breathing in his warm, clean maleness. He was still too skinny, but Sam had a plan for that. The local pizza place delivered. Unless O'Hara called, they wouldn't have to leave here for days.

Yeah, being stuck on this world wasn't going to get him early retirement or a boat. It might even get him dead. But, just maybe, it was starting to feel like home.