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you've almost convinced me I'm real

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Tristan opened the door to Octave's room as softly as possible, trying to ignore the jolt to his nerves: both happiness and guilt.

Really, it was weird that he was allowed access to the suite where Octave was recovering. He wasn't a relative, and until Octave woke up and recognised him, he wasn't sure he was a friend. But he was human, which made him a better-known quantity than Arpegius and Stella and Baryl. He could honestly say that there was no available human who knew Octave better than he did.

Well. He wasn't being entirely honest.

He had to talk to Octave about the sex.

It had happened once, and he had been resigned to it never happening again. Now, he was so, so, glad it had been just the once. The other band members had described their experiences as the Crescendolls, so now he knew - the man whose cock he had grasped, whom he had kissed, had fallen asleep next to... might as well have been a blow-up doll, barely more consciously present then than he was now, in the hospital bed.

Octave's eyes remained closed as Tristan approached. His lips were slightly parted, his breathing even, but slow. Tristan had noticed before how slow his breathing was. At the time, he had thought Octave was detached, bored, unimpressed... Now, he knew that he had overestimated Octave's reaction. He swallowed.

Now that he was used to the bright, warm teal of Octave's skin, he found it strange that Earl de Darkwood had had to change so little to turn a blue alien into a human rockstar. The bone structure of Octave's face, wrist, neck - the dull gleam of his fingernails, and the glitter of his eyelashes - these were all human-perfect.

Comparing the real Octave, and the Octave whom Tristan had been introduced to as the keyboardist of the Crescendolls, left him with the uncomfortable conclusion that he was attracted to both of them.

He could feel his face growing warm. He jerked his chin up, fixing his gaze instead on the monitors above Octave's head. He counted his breaths in time to the rhythm - weird, yet familiar - of Octave's heartbeat. Da-da-DAH-da. Da-da-DAH-da.

His breath quickened -

He could swear the pulse on the monitors was speeding up.

He glanced down again at Octave in time to see a muscle in his cheek twitch, and pressed the button to summon Arpegius and Stella and Baryl just as the monitors let out an announcing beep.

He regretted it a little. He'd hoped to use this time, today, watching over Octave, to think of what to say to him. And if he'd done that... and Octave had woken up a few minutes later... then maybe he could have used this time alone with him to say it, too. Courage permitting.

Octave's eyes fluttered open. He looked at Tristan... and smiled. Tristan's heart lurched. What did that mean? Octave recognised him - that was good, right? But did he only remember the man who'd found him twitching on R Company's floor, or did he remember more?

Then Stella and Baryl and Arpegius crowded through the door, and Tristan stepped back to allow them their reunion.

The next few weeks were the busiest weeks of his life.

At first, it had been Tristan's job, and the job of his PR assistant, Sahil, to arrange interviews and promotional appearances for the Crescendolls. From the day that Octave had woken up, they had had to hire a new assistant just to help them turn requests down.

When people couldn't get the Crescendolls for their magazine or radio show or TV slot, they asked for Tristan. Tristan gave two interviews, and then went to press statements only.

"You can cut things out of your schedule," he emphasised to the Crescendolls. "Everyone is very curious about you! But you don't owe it to us to spend all your time giving interviews. Maybe you want to see more of Earth. Maybe you want to spend some time by yourselves. Tell us what you need."

Baryl looked at Stella. Stella looked at Octave. Octave looked at Arpegius.

"This is like home," Arpegius said, shrugging. "We like our fans."

Baryl added, "I want to meet our fans." Octave nodded. Right, Tristan, thought, because it wasn't them meeting them before.

"Okay," he said, trying not to be dismayed on their behalf. "Okay. Whatever you want."

They wanted the spaceship of their rescuer, Shep, to be dug up from the forest and restored. That... happened... after the most terrifyingly serious negotiations Tristan had ever attended, involving the United Nations and five different universities. At least the cash wasn't a problem.

They wanted new outfits, to match what they'd worn on their home planet. Not only was that easy, but, a week later, the Crescendolls were receiving invitations to fashion events, where the designers' work was entirely based on Stella and Arpegius and Baryl and Octave's preferred look.

And they seemed to want his company.

Apart from the music, his impressions of the band - from the moment they stepped into R Company's offices, to the last concert and award ceremony - were: tired faces, eyes that shut him out or looked past him, and monosyllables. But it seemed that the parts of them that were still people down below the brainwashing had noticed him smiling. Insisting on breaks. Finding them quiet corners and glasses of water.

As casually as he could, he asked them what they remembered. As discreetly as he could, he tried to angle his questions towards Octave in particular. But if he gave nothing away - neither did Octave.

Maybe it didn't mean anything, he wondered. Maybe their culture's idea of sex is so different that - what we did - doesn't matter.

But he knew that was no free pass, because it had mattered to him.

When he finally got Octave alone to talk to him, it wasn't something he'd planned. They were all going to an interview together. They'd started travelling in multiple cars, because the limo just got mobbed, every time. And today it was him and Octave.

"Octave," Tristan started; he'd been thinking about something else, a delay in delivery of the synthetic-ruby headbands that would apparently complete the band's garb.

In the back of the car, next to him, Octave turned from looking out of the window to facing Tristan, as nearly as the seatbelt would permit him. "Yes, Tristan?"

The tone of Octave's voice, the use of Tristan's name, and the alert expression did not belong to the man under Darkwood's sway, and Tristan still blushed, caught somehow unawares. He knew he blushed, because Octave looked puzzled. "Is something wrong?"

"It's - hard to explain. When we are back at your suite - could I speak to you - just you?"

Octave tensed up, completely bewildered - and frightened. "Are we in danger?"

"No," Tristan said quickly. "I just have something I want to tell you."

He felt flustered and embarrassed and sad, but he'd got the words out.

"I will decide," Octave said, "if the others should know." His bright green eyes bored into Tristan.

"Of course," Tristan said, despite his discomfort, because any other response really would alarm Octave, and he didn't blame him. "Um, also, about your headbands..."

This time, coming to Octave's suite, he knocked.

Octave opened the door. He was alone, as Tristan had expected; the other three were in Arpegius’s suite, watching a movie. A few morbid possibilities for what that movie might be passed through Tristan’s head. Perhaps he would be called from this conversation to an even more awkward one. If that were possible. But these were aliens, not children; poorly-chosen media probably posed less of a threat to the Crescendolls’ innocence than it did to humanity’s pride in itself.

He put it aside. “Thank you for agreeing to talk to me,” Tristan said.

“You are concerned,” Octave said. “I would like to know why, and why you think it concerns me, but not the others.”

Tristan nodded.

He was finding it difficult to look in Octave’s eyes.

Octave placed a hand on his sleeve - a perfectly correct, kind, human gesture. “What is wrong?”

That was how it had started.

Tristan placed his other hand on top of Octave’s. “Do you remember,” he asked, “touching me before?”

Octave frowned. “I don’t know. Tell me.”

It had been well into the evening, at least eight PM. Two sacks of fan mail had arrived at R Company and he had taken them over to the hotel whose penthouse the Crescendolls were staying in. In the penthouse’s common area, Earl de Darkwood and two security personnel were still sorting the previous day’s mail; he’d offered to send someone over to help with it. Putting down the sacks, he’d had a pile of mail for Octave thrust into his arms, and had been told to take it to Octave’s room.

(Earl de Darkwood and his personal staff often ignored what was said to them and started the conversations they preferred. He didn’t like it, but you got all sizes of egos in this business.)

He was admitted. In his room, Octave was sitting at a table, beside a pile of signed photographs that rose above his shoulders - although it wouldn’t have, if Octave hadn’t been slumped forward, his head almost in his hands. Tristan had reached out to touch his forearm, beginning to ask if Octave was all right.

Octave removed Tristan’s hand from his arm, and Tristan winced. He stopped mid-question, preparing an apology. But Octave didn’t let go of Tristan’s hand - he tugged slightly, bringing Tristan’s hand in front of his face, sitting up a little, the better to look at it.

Every movement was slow and careful. Tristan had the feeling of having woken some kind of ancient machinery. Octave was acting so exhausted that when he raised his head, Tristan looked for red-rimmed eyes behind his glasses.

"Are you all right?" Tristan tried again.

Octave turned his head slowly to look at Tristan, still not letting go of his hand. "Is... this all right?" he asked, more an echo than a question.

"Yes," Tristan said.

If it hadn't started that way, it might have started any number of other ways.

He thought he was pretty good at concealing his crushes from the artists signed to the R Company label. He had to be, because the alternative would be embarrassing, sleazy, or both. But he still had them. It was hard not to: his work life stretched out and shrank back unpredictably from week to week, and the friends he could keep around that schedule stayed casual. The who knew him best were his team at the company. And the new people he met most often were artists.

So Carrie-Lynn, his production assistant, had already begun to tease him about his attraction to a certain tall, dark, handsome keyboard player.

He had laughed, and deflected the comments, as usual. But he'd thought about it longer than he usually did.

Octave was in his 30s - he was star quality, but not starry-eyed. Tristan was younger than him (and felt it). With the money Octave and the band were pulling in, he wasn't dependent on R Company's contacts and good graces. If Tristan happened to get closer to him, it didn't have to be... like that. And Tristan could back off. Of course he could.

That was assuming that he got anywhere in the first place.

But here he was, standing in Octave's room, only a few feet away from Octave's bed, and Octave was holding his hand, stroking his thumb over the inside of Tristan's wrist, and looking at Tristan's fingers as if he'd never looked at fingers that closely before.

(Because he hadn't. But how could Tristan have guessed?)

Octave's fingers reached Tristan's cuff. "Go ahead, undo that," Tristan said softly. He watched Octave work the cufflink through the loose fabric.

With Tristan's jacket still on, there was only so much skin Octave could expose by pushing back Tristan's sleeve. "I can take this off," Tristan offered. "If that's what you want?"

Octave looked up at him, then put Tristan's hand down carefully, as though it would have thudded to the desk if Octave had just let go. He pushed his chair back and stood up, Tristan moving out of his way, then looked Tristan up and down very deliberately.

Tristan smiled. Octave was no more talkative in private than he was in public, but that was fine - there was no way he could miss these signals. "I like what I see, too," he said, grinning broadly.

"May I... look?" Octave asked.

"Sure," Tristan said.

He stepped closer, and both of them undid Tristan's jacket buttons, Tristan starting from the bottom, Octave starting from the top. Tristan hung his jacket over Octave's chair, and then started to work on the other cufflink and the front buttons of his shirt while Octave watched him.

He'd never fucked anyone, or even fucked around with anyone, who was so blatantly fascinated by him. It was more than flattering. Had Octave looked in a mirror lately? Tristan knew his smile could coax a return smile out of a lot of people, but Octave was ... beautiful.

"Better?" Tristan asked, now bare to the waist.

"Yes," Octave said, and put a hand up to Tristan's shoulder. Tristan stepped closer.

The long fingers trailed lightly along Tristan's arm, and he shivered. It seemed like Octave was a fan of taking things really slow. That was fine by Tristan... absolutely fine.

Octave was watching the movement of his own hand as though he wanted to memorize Tristan, sight and touch synchronized together, and Tristan watched the movement of his gaze. At this distance, he could pick out the green in Octave's eyes behind the polarized glasses. It was a weird affectation. Those had to be coloured contacts, right? Why wear them, and wear glasses tinted so that nobody could see behind them?

He'd asked Carrie-Lynn to ask the photography studio to highlight Octave's eyes more in editing, which was when Carrie-Lynn had started teasing him about Octave.

Just as then, he was equal parts attracted and curious.

He placed his own hand on the small of Octave's back. Octave looked at him - puzzled? Was even that too much?

"Hey," Tristan said, smiling at Octave, "if you don't tell me what you want, I'm going to guess, okay?"

Octave smiled back at him. a slow, dazzling smile.

Oh my God, Tristan thought. This man is too good to be real.

Recovering from that smile, Tristan slid his hands up Octave's back as Octave's hands stroked back up his arms, and over his chest and collarbones. Tristan made encouraging noises as Octave's fingers slid over his face and through his hair. Tristan lifted his chin up to kiss Octave's wrist.

Octave pulled his hand back, putting his fingers to his own lips.

Tristan moved Octave's hand out of the way, leaned up just a little, and kissed him.

For a moment, Octave was unresponsive. Belatedly, he returned the pressure of Tristan's lips.

Tristan had closed his eyes as he kissed Octave; now, suddenly nervous, he was glad he wasn't looking into Octave's eyes. Had that been the wrong move? Octave was holding Tristan, though, one hand pressed to the small of Tristan's back, mirroring Tristan's earlier contact. And he hadn't broken the kiss.

Without otherwise moving, Tristan opened his eyes. Octave's eyes were wide. Tristan pulled back a little.

He glanced sideways, then tried to glance down as discreetly as possible. To his relief, Octave's pants were as tented as his own.

"Has it, uh. Been a while?" Tristan asked.

Octave blinked rapidly. "I can't remember," he said, quietly but clearly.

"That's too bad," Tristan said, taken aback, instinct telling him to skate over this as lightly as possible. "I guess I don't have to try too hard to impress you, then, hmm?"

He smiled wryly at Octave, his heart hammering, feeling the opposite of confident. He really, really wanted this to be a good memory for Octave.

Octave smiled back as though he were only just learning how.

"I'm going to try to impress you anyway," Tristan told him, and kissed him again.

He kept Octave pressed in close to him with one hand, and stroked his back, hip, and chest with his free hand, rolling curves of flesh under his thumb - where he could find them. Octave was lean, the muscles of his chest incredibly firm. Tristan was gaining a new appreciation of chiseled physique.

Octave broke the kiss, and raised his chin, looking over the top of Tristan's head. A tiny shudder went through him as Tristan passed his hand over Octave's extremely well-toned buttocks.

Tristan tossed through phrases in his head. You feel great. That was stupid. I'm feeling pretty lucky, here with you. Embarrassing. Octave's silence worried him. Stop it, he told himself. Just let yourself feel good.

He slid his hand over the open ruffles of Octave's shirt, across his shoulder, curving his palm briefly around Octave's upper arm. He knew his movements were becoming repetitive, but Octave wasn't pulling away, or giving him any other kind of direction. Slow, Tristan thought, and stroked Octave's body as though he were tracing Octave in stone. No - he wasn't quite that remote. The skin below the finely-woven jacket was betrayed by its warmth. So was the skin under the trousers.

Movement at the edge of Tristan's vision caused him to open eyes he had allowed to fall half-closed. Octave was tilting his head back down, moving in, eyes intense even behind the glasses. Tristan opened his mouth very slightly, but this time, Octave most definitely kissed him.

Warmth rushed through Tristan - desire and immense relief. He flicked the tip of his tongue against Octave's too-dry lips, and when Octave met his tongue with his own, Tristan sucked on it hungrily. Octave grunted, shuddering against Tristan's hands, and kissed him harder.

Tristan let his hands slide lower, rubbing his palm over Octave's groin. Octave grunted again, jerking into the touch, and Tristan obliged him, rubbing up and down the whole clothed length of Octave's cock.

If it really had been a while since Octave had last got laid, maybe drawing this out wasn't a good idea. He wanted Octave's cock in his hands, he wanted Octave to fuck his throat, and he wanted to touch Octave before he came, not just after.

"Can we get you out of these?" he asked, fingering the fastenings of Octave's trousers.

"Yes," Octave murmured, undoing the buttons and zip. He let Tristan lift the edge of his Y-fronts and pull them down, freeing his cock, which was short and thick and very hard, the large head glistening with pre-come.

"Gorgeous," Tristan said appreciatively, then blushed, the word sounding overeager in his own ears. He cleared his throat. "Why don't you sit down, and I'll see if I can make you feel good?"

Obediently, without comment, Octave sat on the edge of the bed, propping himself up with his elbows. Tristan knelt between his knees, Octave's trouser fabric brushing against his bare chest. He took off his glasses and reached around to put them on the table behind him, next to Octave's stack of photographs.

Scooting in, Tristan gathered Octave's balls loosely into his right hand, his thumb stroking over the base of Octave's cock. He leaned in, sucking the pre-come from the tip. Octave tasted a little odd - there was something sharp that Tristan couldn't identify. The hair at his groin was far softer than the wiry texture Tristan had expected.

He glanced up at Octave. Octave's head was back, his chest thrust out, his mouth open on a very soft groan. Tristan placed his left hand on Octave's thigh and took Octave's cock into his mouth.

The moan that that elicited from Octave was incredibly satisfying. Tristan's own cock strained in his trousers. He sucked slowly, luxuriously, moving his tongue around Octave's cock as best he could, adjusting to breathing around its thickness.

He pulled his mouth off Octave slowly, enjoying Octave's shuddering breaths.

"Hold that thought," Tristan said, and undid his own trousers, pushing his pants down to his knees. "That's better."

Octave was watching him. Now that Tristan wasn't wearing his glasses, Octave's eyes were invisible behind his own glasses, only a dark blur. "Could I ask you to take those off?" Tristan asked. "Your glasses?" He tapped on his own cheek.

For a moment, Octave didn't seem to understand him, but then he shrugged slightly, and complied.

"Thanks," Tristan said, grinning at him, and went back to work on Octave's cock with both hand and mouth.

Octave's hips moved as Tristan sucked, with shallow, jerky, almost involuntary thrusts. The rhythm was irregular, but Tristan moved with him as much as he could so that Octave's thrusts hit the back of his throat. The pressure, the way he had to breath in gasps around Octave's cock, the sting in the corners of his eyes - these went with the intensity he wanted, and the pleasure pooling in his own untouched cock and balls.

"It's so... so," Octave half-muttered, half-moaned.

Tristan pulled back for a moment. "So good," he said, and this time when Octave looked at him he could see Octave's green eyes. "You can come like this, if you want. I don't mind swallowing."

Octave didn't reply. Tristan filled his mouth with Octave's cock again, sucking to make his cheeks ache.

He slid his mouth up and down Octave's cock, his hand following with an easy, steady grip. Octave had to be close now. Tristan moved a little faster, anticipating a final swelling, and salt trickling down his throat. His own cock, bobbing in nothing but air, twitched as Tristan imagined Octave spilling for him.

He reminded himself to be patient.

He kept up the rhythm for several more minutes, but although he didn't increase either pressure or speed, Octave's moans didn't increase either. He was growing quieter, in fact. Tristan squinted up at him, trying to gauge the effect he was having.

He circled the tip of Octave's cock with his tongue - to little response - and looked up properly. "I can take a hint," he said, "if you give me one. What do you like better?"

Octave opened his mouth as if to answer, but got no further. He looked, Tristan realised, uncomfortable.

Tristan took his hand off Octave's cock. "Sorry if I got a bit ahead of myself. Ahead of you," he said. "You're just... yeah." He tried to make a wave of his other hand stand in for elegant, charismatic, drop-dead gorgeous, enigmatic, cool.

He waited for Octave to say it was all right, or anything else at all, but he didn't. Octave was staring at him as if he couldn't remember what Tristan was doing in his hotel room - though Tristan couldn't imagine any less ambiguous scene.

The silence stretched out. Octave's cock was drooping down towards his thigh. Tristan felt his confidence shrink with it.

"Excuse me a moment," he said, and, his trousers still around his knees, shuffled as rapidly as he could to Octave's ensuite, there to splash his face - and his groin - with cold water. The sweet throbbing in his cock was replaced by a roaring in his ears. It took several gulps of water before he could pull his pants up and face Octave again.

"I'm sorry," he said, "that... uh, didn't go well. I guess sometimes it just doesn't, right? Though, if I did something wrong. Uh. I hope you'd tell me."

The only thing he expected Octave to tell him was that he should go.

"Stay," Octave said. "Please?"

It took Tristan a long moment to reply.

"All right," he said. "Tonight."

Octave nodded.

He's lonely, Tristan thought. That's all.

Tristan undressed, slowly, leaving on his underwear, and turned down the covers of the vast bed while Octave took a few minutes in the ensuite. He got into the bed, on the side he figured Octave used less (the table at that side of the bed was empty; its opposite number held Octave's glasses and various other things). He closed his eyes, his pulse beating dully in his ears.

Octave came back, gave Tristan a long, inscrutable look, and got into bed fully clothed, minus only his shoes. He switched off the light.

If, a few hours before, someone had told Tristan that he would be lying in bed next to Octave of the Crescendolls, he wouldn't have believed them. Nor would he have believed them if they had told him that he would be lying stiffly straight, as far to his side of the bed as he could comfortably get, hoping that sleep would soon provide an escape from his mortification.

And to think he'd been mortified then.

"Tristan," Octave asked him, patiently. "What is distressing you?" He took his hand away from Tristan's sleeve. Tristan managed not to curl his fingers in, to catch on Octave's hand as it was withdrawn.

"You touched me," he said again. "It was a night during your tour, just after you hit number one on the UK charts. Because of the way you touched me, I... thought you wanted sex. Do you know what I mean by that?"

Octave frowned as if Tristan had asked him to solve a mathematical problem. "You are not..." he began, and trailed off.

"Touching - touching with, ah, genitals. Humans have sex to reproduce, to create children, but also just to be close or... have fun," Tristan continued, a bit desperately. The aliens' bodies functioned incredibly similarly to humans, he knew - firsthand - but he was getting the impression that the cultural implications were very different. "It's something adults do. After they've agreed to do it."

He should have watched a video for teenagers before attempting this conversation. Something with very simple language.

But Octave seemed to grasp some of what he was saying. "You did not ask to talk to me because of fun," he observed.

"No," Tristan said gratefully. "I wanted it to be good, but it wasn't. I mean, I enjoyed it, up to a point, and I thought you were enjoying it too, but I think you were just confused. I would never have touched you, I would never have kissed you unless I thought you wanted to kiss me back. I didn't know you didn't know."

Octave frowned again. "Kissed?"

Was this really a piece of Earth vocabulary he was missing? "Kissed," Tristan repeated. "Touching lips." Octave put his hand up to his own lips, and Tristan had to glance away. He still wanted Octave badly. Even knowing how the last time had gone, he wished he could kiss Octave again.

"You don't remember that at all, do you?" he asked.

"I don't..."

Octave looked as though he was concentrating deeply. He placed one hand on his torso and stroked downwards, slowly, past his hip, to mid thigh, as though the gesture would help him to call up memories of touch received. It did not seem to work - for him. It worked cruelly well for Tristan.

"I don't understand," Octave said at last. "Some of what you mean, but not all. It is important to you that I understand, isn't it?"

"Yes," Tristan said.

"Perhaps you could show me," Octave suggested.

Tristan's mind provided, in technicolour saturation, a glut of images and memories: Octave's erect cock under his fingers, Octave kissing him, the smell of Octave's sweat, Octave's hair's soft curl under his hands. He remembered Octave moaning, during the parts of their previous encounter when he'd seemed eager and gratified. He remembered caressing Octave's back and buttocks, and remembered Octave exploring his own chest and arms and face. He imagined pulling off Octave's jumpsuit and pressing coral lips against turquoise skin.

He imagined Octave examining Tristan's naked body with exactly the same expression he was wearing now - bright, interested detachment.

"Why?" Tristan asked. "What do you want?"

Octave said, "You wanted me to understand, so I want to understand."

"Do you want what I want?" Tristan asked. "Because I want for you to want to touch me." These were clumsy and circular words, and he was getting frustrated with himself. He tried again. "If I hadn't come to you to explain this. If I just said, may I touch you. Would you say...?"

"Try it," Octave suggested. "I will tell you if I like it."

Tristan was about to say that that wasn't quite it - and paused.

This was not an invitation he wanted to turn down.

"Yes," he said. "Good. I need you to tell me what it's like for you."

He stepped in very close to Octave, one foot planted between Octave's feet, and placed his palm just above Octave's belt. He slid his hand up Octave's body, his fingers coming to a rest curved loosely below Octave's ear. "Is that okay?"

"Yes," Octave said.

"You can touch me too," Tristan said. "If you want." He placed his other hand on Octave's shoulder, hyper-alert for a flinch or a withdrawal, and set both his hands to roaming over Octave's body. Octave's real skin had a slightly abrasive feel. Perhaps it was tougher, like human calluses. It was not at all unpleasant.

For perhaps a minute, Octave stayed still, with an air of concentration, as though Tristan were explaining an interesting but difficult concept by writing it across his clothing and face and hands.

"I want you to feel good," Tristan told him. "Like this is what your body's for."

Octave put his own hand up and touched Tristan's face lightly. "If you're curious," Tristan said, "that's good, start there." Octave's finger passed across Tristan's nostrils. "Maybe not there," Tristan said, with a sniff of amusement, trying not to sneeze. "If it would feel good for you, try it for me."

"All right," Octave said. He pushed Tristan's hair back from his forehead and combed his fingers through it, his fingertips skimming over Tristan's skull. "Hm, you don't have..." He trailed off on a murmur; the last word was unfamiliar.


"Here," Octave said, pulling Tristan's hand towards Octave's forehead, and Tristan discovered that just past Octave's hair line, there was a line of small.... lumps? that spanned from one ear to the other.

"No, I don't have that," Tristan confirmed, fascinated. "What is that for?"

"Pleasure," Octave said, and when Tristan rubbed one node with his finger, his shuddering reaction was unmistakeable.

"Now," Tristan said, "we're getting somewhere."

"Yes," Octave said. "Now show me what you mean by kissing."

"All right," Tristan said, and leaned in, pressing very gently with closed lips, holding the pose for a moment to enjoy Octave's warmth.

"Like that," he said, pulling back, and leaned in again, this time pressing Octave's lips just a little open. "And like that... all right?" Octave nodded.

"And then like this..." Normally, Tristan hated the idea of putting so many words and pauses around each gesture. Like explaining the punchline of a joke, before even telling it. But Octave was utterly unembarrassed, so Tristan tried to be too. There were, after all, better things to concentrate on. Like trying to demonstrate when a little bit of tongue action could spice things up. And working out what kinds of fun he could have with Octave's additional erogenous zones.

"Good," Tristan told him, as they broke apart again. Octave looked pleased with himself, and that was even better.

"What should I do now?" Octave asked.

"Undress," Tristan suggested, and led by example.

Octave eyed him with interest that was - thankfully - as naked as the rest of him.

"I want to touch you," he assured Tristan, without prompting, and Tristan could feel himself respond, as though the words had struck his cock before they'd even reached his ears.

"Then do," he said.

They reached for each other's chests, hips, asses, using palms, fingers, fingernails, light and hard grips. It was clumsy and awkward, and Tristan was incredibly into it. He pushed, Octave pulled, Tristan groaned. He sat down on Octave's bed so that he could worry about other things than balance, and Octave followed him down. A pillow went flying as Tristan sucked a circle on Octave's stomach and Octave twisted himself around to try to follow suit. Tristan reached for Octave's cock.

"Do you like that?" he asked, circling Octave's cock with a finger and thumb and sliding down.

"Yes," Octave said, "the pressure and the warmth."

Tristan curled the rest of his fingers around Octave. "Good. Then maybe you should fuck me," he said. He wanted to follow an entirely different script this time.

"Explain, Tristan," Octave said.

"Your cock," Tristan said, reinforcing the words with a quick stroke, "my ass." He spread his legs to show Octave what he meant. Octave looked surprised, but only a little. Interested.

"There are probably condoms here," Tristan said, because he had arranged for an awful lot of musicians to stay in an awful lot of hotel rooms. He had no idea if an alien cock fucking a human anus meant more issues than usual, or fewer, but right now, he mostly wanted to find out what they felt like together. "I'll find some."

"Hm," Octave said, to the sensation of the condom, and made a more approving sound as Tristan gave him a few invigorating strokes through the latex.

"Now for me," Tristan said. Spit, he thought, would do. He doubted he'd have to tell Octave to go easy on him; it was more likely Octave would need encouragement to thrust hard.

He fucked himself with two fingers while Octave watched, rubbing over his prostate at the end of each stroke.

"This is good," he told Octave, "but you're going to feel even better for me."

Octave nodded, intent, and Tristan grinned. "Hand me that pillow we kicked to the floor," he suggested, and slid it under his lower back to give Octave a better angle. "There. Now... ready?"

"Yes," Octave said, and under Tristan's hand, he pushed himself slowly, solidly in.

"Good," Tristan said. "Hold it - just let me... yeah..." He squirmed a little, adjusting to the pressure. "Good."

"Am I?" Octave asked, sounding a little amused.

"You are," Tristan said, rocking his hips towards Octave's to bring Octave even deeper into him. Octave obligingly rocked back. "That's it," Tristan groaned.

Octave leaned down, somewhat to Tristan's frustration, because it meant the angle of Octave's thrusts moved away from his prostate, but it allowed Tristan to reach for the swellings hidden under Octave's hair, and use them to draw from Octave gasps and more urgent thrusts.

"Will you reach.... a peak... like this?" Tristan asked him.

"Yes," Octave panted back, "I think so. Is that acceptable?"

"It's good," Tristan replied. With the hand that was playing with Octave's skull, he pulled him into a kiss. "Let's get you there."

Octave disentangled Tristan's hand from his hair. "That was good," he said. "But now it is a distraction." He leaned back, adjusting his position. Tristan wasn't complaining. Now Octave's thrusts were again hitting him exactly where he wanted. His hand crept to his own cock, bouncing against his stomach. Octave grinned at him, and covered Tristan's hand with his own, his fingers threading through Tristan's to reach Tristan's cock.

"Yes," Tristan said, or tried to say - it barely emerged as a word. He could feel his orgasm building with irresistible suddenness. Perhaps a stroke away - and then Octave thrust, and it surged over him, perfect tension perfectly broken into dazzling shards. Octave thrust again and again, his grip on Tristan's cock still firm. Tristan moaned helplessly, overstimulated and dazed, and Octave thrust faster until Tristan nearly sobbed his breaths, the bliss mixing queasily with the burn. He let his head fall to the side; it was hard just to breathe through Octave's relentless rhythm.

Then Octave stopped at the end of a thrust. He said nothing. For half a minute, they both caught their breaths.

"I am - what did you say? There," Octave told him.

"Ah," Tristan said. "Good. I meant," he added, giddily, "here. You are here." He suppressed a giggle that rose in him like a bubble in champagne.

"Do you want me to continue?" Octave asked.

"No! Thank you," Tristan said, earnestly.

Octave pulled out slowly; the burning sensation that remained was an old and welcome ache. Tristan felt well and truly fucked.

Octave gingerly adjusted the condom. From some mysterious source, Tristan summoned enough energy to sit up, and ease it off him, and go to throw it away.

Returning, he paused just to look, to take all of Octave in. Octave returned his gaze calmly.

It was a cliché, but... he was talking to Octave, so nothing was a cliché. There were no worn-out phrases, no banal acts. "Was that good for you?" Tristan asked.

"Yes," Octave said. "I enjoyed that, thank you." It was not an overwhelming response - but not an underwhelming one, either. Tristan did not think Octave was dissembling.

"Do you not... do that?" Tristan asked. "On your home planet?"

"Yes," Octave said. "But not often. There are particular reasons, and rituals, that are hard to explain. It will be some time before that happens again."

Tristan raised his eyebrows. "That's... a pity," he said.

"I suppose so," Octave said.

"Well - that's when you go back," Tristan said. "That's not tomorrow, or the next day..." Actually, the repair of the Crescendolls' ship was expected to finish at some point in the next two months. One of Tristan's jobs was seeing through the excuses that the university researchers were giving him, because he knew they were desperate to extend their work on it as long as possible. That... was feeling like a conflict of interest right now.

"What I mean is," he said, "we can do this again, if you like. And again after that?" He smiled at Octave, hoping.

"Yes," Octave said. "Stay."