"He said his name was Pollination Technician 646," said Vidcund more than a little wistfully.
Lazlo, from the kitchen, whined, "Oh, no. Not this again. I'm tired of hearing you wax poetic about your alien boyfriend."
Pascal shifted uncomfortably on the couch, the old, familiar banter between his brothers an unwanted interruption.
"646 is not his boyfriend," Pascal answered before Vidcund could get going with some "humorous" love poem about 646's obsidian eyes which reflected the stars or some other such nonsense.
Vidcund gave Pascal a sharp look and said slowly, "Right." Chuckling slightly, he added, "Yeah, he never even brought me flowers after our date. What kind of Sim doesn't leave you at least one red rose on your doorstep to trip over later?"
Lazlo snorted. "One who thought your date was horrible," he replied, and drowned out Vidcund's protest of, "But, I'm a dream date," by turning on the food processor.
Beryl, Vidcund's infant daughter with his not-boyfriend, squirmed in his arms and let out a small, soft cry. He shushed her gently and bounced her, then covered her pointed, green ears by cupping his hands around them, protecting her from the noise.
The food processor stopped a few seconds later and Pascal attempted to pick up their conversation. "Describe to me again the instruments 646 used. You said one had... tentacles?"
Pascal was only taking mental notes this time; he'd done his official documentation the morning after Vidcund's abduction, adding to his notes throughout Vidcund's pregnancy and eventually ending up with hundrends of pages of his and Vidcund's observations interspersed with Pascal's own theories. But, no matter how many times he reread his notes, it couldn't beat Vidcund's stories about his abduction. Pascal was fascinated with the whole experience, living vicariously through Vidcund's every recollection, from the barest description of the smell of the sterile metal to supposed wattage of the bulb in the light above his head. Even when Vidcund had been pregnant, Pascal spent a lot of time with his hand or ear to Vidcund's growing stomach to experience from the outside the life growing inside his brother.
For months, Pascal had attempted to facilitate an abduction of his own, to the point of only getting a few hours of sleep every night. His work performance suffered and he found himself kicked back down to lab assistant, scrubbing beakers while dreaming about a green-skinned, black-eyed stranger literally sweeping him off his feet right onto a spaceship examination table.
So, he took a step back from the telescope to focus more on research, work and his own waning personal life. He spent more time with Nervous Subject, whose friendship he'd neglected in the height of his obsession. But, Beryl's birth brought his desire to meet aliens roaring back life and he again begun spending countless hours peering at the night sky, hoping for a blinding bright light to shine down on him.
Not tonight, though. Tonight, he and Nervous were having dinner at the Crypt O' Night Club. Pascal, eager to stargaze, had almost declined Nervous' invitation to go out, but the tremor in Nervous' voice told him that Circe and Loki had been experimenting again. Nervous had learned to find somewhere else to be when they got a little overzealous in their trials.
"They had me running up on the treadmill then taking samples of my sweat at different, um..."
"Intervals?" Pascal supplied.
Nervous' fork clinked lightly against plate. His hands had been shaking slightly all through dinner, but Pascal suspected it was just the result of low blood sugar from all the exercise.
"Yeah," said Nervous, looking down at his plate before twirling another forkful of spaghetti noodles.
"To what end?" Asked Pascal, boggling at the weird experiments the Beakers ran. They had always been irresponsible and a bit cruel, using science as an excuse to their get kicks from hurting Sims.
Nervous still had his mouth a bit full when he answered. "Who knows?” He swallowed and added, "I've seen Circe with that Atrociously Evil witch a lot lately. Maybe they're working on a spell?"
Pascal scoffed. "Mixing science and magic? That'd be just like them." He stabbed his filet mignon with a little more force than necessary. Circe had always been interested in the intersection of magic and science, but experiment after experiment in better controlled labs had proven that testing similar theories was mostly just a good way to get yourself blown up.
Nervous dropped his fork, looking worried. "Is that - is that bad?" His hand shook harder.
Pascal hurried to allay Nervous’ fears. "No. Well, not implicitly," he said casually, like what he suspected the Beakers were doing was no big deal.
"What does that mean?" Nervous asked, his voice pitched high.
"It means..." Pascal paused, not sure what to say. He didn't want to worry Nervous unnecessarily by elaborating on scientists tendency to find themselves meeting the Grim Reaper after doing experiments with magic. On a whim, he reached across the table to take Nervous' hand, hoping he'd take comfort from the contact. Nervous was startled at first, but didn't pull away.
"It means," Pascal continued, "that they'll probably get nowhere with whatever they are doing." Secretly, Pascal hoped Nervous was out the house when the Beakers' lab inevitably went up in flames. They'd better have invested in a good fire alarm.
Nervous laughed slightly, gripping Pascal's hand more firmly, like, now that he was used to the feel of Pascal's hand in his, he never wanted to let go.
But, there was still spaghetti to eat and Nervous was obviously very hungry, pulling away after a few seconds and picking up his fork to quickly take a few more bites. His cheeks were tinged pink and Pascal hoped it wasn't some side effect from any of the experiments the Beakers had been running on him.
"You always make me feel better, Pascal," he said softly, almost too soft to hear. "How is that?" Nervous asked, glancing up at Pascal with such wide-eyed wonder and intensity that Pascal felt his heart stutter in his chest.
Pascal's eyebrows climbed up his forehead in an expression of surprise. He was used to being the one who made people uncomfortable. Even Beryl cried when he held her. Though, to be fair, he was trying to measure the length of her fingers instead of changing her diaper at the time. And, no one had ever looked at him like Nervous was at this very moment.
Words stuck in his throat. He was naturally a quiet Sim, but he wasn't used to not having the words when he wanted to say something. However, a sudden commotion on the dance floor drew Nervous' attention away and Pascal was saved the embarrassment of stuttering out some response.
The record the DJ was playing scratched dramatically and the music stopped, replaced by the high-pitched squeaking of bats and odd howling of wolves. Though, it could had just been some stray dogs outside; Pascal wasn't quite sure. Then, the tell-tale mewling "blah blah" of a newly born vampire carried across the room.
"I told you when we got here," whispered Nervous excitedly. "The Count was definitely looking to turn someone tonight with the way he was stalking around the place." He shuddered. "Just glad it wasn't me."
The moment from earlier was completely shattered and Pascal wasn't sure how gather the pieces. Not that he was sure what to do with them if he could.
"Hey," he finally said, "You want to get out of here before the Count starts building a little army? Maybe go bowling?"
This drew Nervous' eyes away from the dance floor where the two vampires had started doing the Shuffle with a few other increasingly nervous looking Sims. His face lit up as a smile spread across it.
"But you never want to go bowling!"
Pascal dropped enough simoleans on table to cover the bill, stomach feeling as though he'd swallowed a few butterflies along with his filet mignon.
"Yeah," said Pascal, trying to keep his voice casual, "but, I'm in the mood for something different."
Nervous' smile grew and he grabbed Pascal's hand and pulled him along to their next destination.
Strangely, his outing with Nervous increased his desire for abduction. He didn't just want to meet the same aliens his brother did, he felt like needed to. When he slept, even his dreams were of dark skies filled with stars. The stars held mysteries that Pascal was eager to pursue. Strangetown just held confusing feelings he wasn't quite sure how to address.
His desire was so fierce that he completely forgot he and Nervous had plans to meet at Lucky Shack later that week.
Pascal was engrossed in reading about an obscure account of alien abduction which involved a tactic for attracting them to you. Mortimer Goth, the Sim who'd written the book, had tried in vain to contact aliens following the disappearance of his wife, Bella, who was suspected to have been abducted and not returned. In desperation, he shined a flashlight through his telescope like searchlight and, almost immediately, aliens dragged him into their ship. It was an interesting strategy that Pascal was eager to try.
He was scrounging around in the closet for a flashlight when knock came at the door. As Lazlo was out with Crystal and Vidcund was visiting Jenny with Beryl, Pascal had to forgo his search to answer the door himself.
"Hey," said Nervous, waving his hand awkwardly in greeting. "Did you, um, forget?"
Pascal started to ask what he had forgotten, but stopped himself.
"Lucky Shack tonight!" He said, mentally slapping himself for standing Nervous up. "I'm so sorry, Nervous. I was catching up in some research and I just couldn't put the book down."
With a sheepish smile, Nervous accepted his apology. Pascal invited him in, explaining as they settled on opposite ends of the couch what he had been reading and why it was so fascinating.
Nervous started fidgeting when Pascal got to the part about Mortimer's wife going missing.
When Pascal paused, Nervous broke in, "And you still want to try contacting aliens even after you know some people don't come back!"
"Well," said Pascal, "we don't really know if Bella was actually abducted. That was just his theory - a good one, mind you - but the aliens he met would never confirm anything either way. I researched the case separately from Mortimer's account and, apparently, there were other suspects. Mortimer's current wife, Dina, was even a suspect, so the whole situation is just really strange and suspicious."
Nervous just frowned.
"And," continued Pascal, "Vidcund was abducted and he came back."
"Exactly! You heard about what's up there already right from the mouth of your brother. Why do you need to risk it too?" A little wrinkle of worry appeared between Nervous' eyebrows.
Pascal didn't get why Nervous refused to understand. "Because I have to know what it's like, Nervous. I need to experience that exam table first hand. I want to meet my own Pollination Technician and -" Pascal paused, realizing for the first time that the next thing he was about to say was a truth he'd not previously considered. "And, I want to ask," he continued, "if they'll let me stay. It's possible. What Mortimer suspected could be true."
Nervous gasped, and edged closer to Pascal. "But, why? Wouldn't you miss your family? Wouldn't you miss..." He trailed off and didn't finish the sentence.
"Of course I'd miss my family," said Pascal softly, hoping to lessen the blow of his confession, "but think of all the knowledge I'd attain. I could spend a lifetime just studying their technology."
"I'd miss you," said Nervous suddenly. "I'd miss you a lot."
Pascal swallowed around the lump that grew in his throat at Nervous' confession.
"I'd miss you too," he admitted, without stopping to think about what it meant.
"But," said Nervous with a desperate sort of determination, "if you really want to go live with aliens, I'll help any way I can."
It was sweet of Nervous to offer to help, and Pascal told him so, but this was something Pascal wanted to do alone.
So, Nervous headed home, though it took some convincing. Before Nervous left he gave Pascal a long hug.
"Don't leave without saying good-bye," he begged, and Pascal promised he wouldn't. Though, truthfully, he had no idea how asking aliens if you could move in and study them was actually going to work. Maybe he wouldn't get a chance to say good-bye, like Bella Goth. But, the promise made Nervous feel better, even if Pascal felt a bit guilty for stretching the truth.
Pascal headed up to the observation deck with a flashlight he found in a toolbox in Vidcund’s room. A few hours later, so late that even Lazlo and Crystal had made it back from their date, Pascal was beginning to think Mortimer Goth must have angling for a fiction best-seller rather than writing a true account of his experiences. He sighed, and was about to flop in chair behind him when a blinding, bright light swallowed up his flashlight's weak beam. The flashlight clattered to the floor and rolled away.
Being dragged up to the ship was just as disorienting as Vidcund described. Pascal briefly tried to hang on to the telescope just to give him a chance to catch his breath and mentally document the feeling of weightlessness. His mental notepad was not accepting new entries as it was full of illegible scribbles of surprise and excitement. Pascal was dragged upwards, into the belly of the ship.
"I am Pollination Technician 913," said a voice.
Pascal opened his eyes, not realizing he'd even closed them. He was lying flat on an examination table and a light was shining in his face, causing 913, who was leaning over him, to be haloed by the harsh white light. It blurred his features and Pascal could only make out his pale green skin and shiny black eyes. He was more... beautiful than Pascal had imagined.
"You are an excellent specimen. We have previously pollinated two with similar genetic profiles," said 913, running some kind of metal instrument up the inside of Pascal's leg. Pascal's skin was weirdly numb, and all he could feel was how cold the metal was and how it gently pressed into his flesh.
It was difficult to speak, but Pascal managed to croak out, "My brother and my father."
"Ah, yes," agreed 913, "I remember now. The Curious family has always been perfect for pollination. Even one of our own has made a home in your town with a Curious Sim."
"My sister's husband," said Pascal.
"Yes." 913 laughed, a weird tinny sound. "He always liked to do things his own way."
Pascal wanted to ask what that meant exactly, fascinated as he was by their society. Pollination Technician 9 had always been cagey about his life before Strangetown. He wanted to ask so many questions, so many that he couldn’t choose the first one. Thoughts of asking 913 if he could come with him left his head.
“It will be a pleasure to pollinate you, Curious Sim," said 913 silkily. Then, fireworks went off in Pascal's brain and all he knew was pleasure.
It was quite a shock to be spit out on the sidewalk the next morning. One minute he was in ecstasy, relishing the achievement of meeting a Pollination Technician and, in the next, his back was meeting hot concrete. He tried to call out to 913, but the ship was gone in a flash. Pascal sighed as disappointment crept in. He never got to ask 913 if he could stay.
"Wow," said Lazlo when Pascal stumbled into house. "You look like something the cat dragged in."
Vidcund said, "No, he looks like something the ship spit out."
Lazlo laughed. "Really? Another abduction?"
Pascal nodded and flopped onto the couch.
"Well, how was it?" Asked Vidcund. "Amazing, right?"
"Yeah," sighed Pascal, "incredible." He was already planning for a repeat performance that night. This time he'd make sure he'd ask if he could stay.
The flashlight trick didn't work that night, nor the next or the next or the next. Pascal shut himself off, researching everything he could get his hands on, looking for any other ways to contact 913 or any other aliens. He even begged Pollination Technician 9 for any information, but the only thing he would say was, "They only come when they want to."
Pascal didn't even try to argue that his Pollination Technician complimented his good genes and seemed extremely interested in the Curious family. Surely, he would come if called the right way.
Pascal tried shooting off fireworks and lighting bonfires spelling out "Abduct me!" The fire department didn't like that last one and fined him for having to come out and help put out the inferno he accidentally started.
Months passed and Pascal found himself donning pairs of sweatpants in place of his usual jeans as his stomach swelled. Pascal grudgingly had to give up long nights of stargazing, and turned to writing a book on his and Vidcund’s experiences and pregnancies.
Nervous spent a lot more time visiting Pascal at home and volunteering to help him document his pregnancy.
“You don’t have to,” Pascal had told him, reluctant to involve Nervous in this part of his life.
But, Nervous was always happy to be involved in Pascal’s life, regardless of how tedious he found some of the tasks for him.
“I don’t mind, Pascal. As long as I’m spending time with you,” he had said, stifling a yawn while alphabetizing a stack of books. Pascal typed faster, trying to ignore the growing blush on his cheeks.
Thirty minutes later, Nervous dropped There’s Something About Aliens on the top of the stack and groaned, throwing himself backwards onto Pascal’s bed.
“Very dramatic,” said Pascal with a smile, spinning around in his computer chair just as dramatically. Nervous was loosely curled up on his side, fingers idly playing with the edge of the quilt. Something about seeing him so comfortable in Pascal’s own bed made Pascal’s chest warm, and his heart speed up just a little.
“Tired of organizing already?” He asked, voice a little thick.
Nervous yawned again. “Just plain tired. I don’t know what Circe and Loki were doing in the lab, but they are doing it noisily. All night long.”
Nervous’ yawn was contagious and Pascal found himself mimicking him. “I’m a little tired too,” he said, gently patting his stomach. “This little guy zaps my energy like a failing noodlesoother.”
“He or she is really starting to get big,” Nervous said, laughing.
“Yeah, the baby is moving around a lot more too, kicking me when I’m trying to sleep. I think they're ready to come out.”
“Wow,” said Nervous. “That’s – that’s amazing.” He paused and Pascal could tell he was thinking very hard about something. Finally, he asked hesitantly, “Can I feel?”
His hesitancy was sweet, but unwarranted, as Pascal found himself strangely eager to allow Nervous to touch his belly.
“Sure,” he said, and motioned Nervous over. Nervous slid from the bed and knelt cautiously on the floor next to Pascal’s chair. He held his hand out, but was so hesitant about bringing it all the way to Pascal’s stomach that Pascal ended up taking Nervous’ hand in his and pressing it forward until it made contact with his thin shirt, stretched tight over his belly. The baby took that opportunity to move around a bit.
“Wow, said Nervous again, eyes wide and shiny with amazement and joy.
The moment was back, the one from so many months ago, when he first held Nervous’ hand in his. But, it was clearer and stronger this time, and he knew what to do with it now.
Pascal’s free hand found Nervous’ chin and tilted it up. He leaned forward and pressed his mouth against Nervous’, just a chaste brush of dry lips, but enough to make his meaning known. He pulled back slightly, just enough to give Nervous space to breath.
“Wow,” said Nervous a third time, sighing against Pascal’s lips. “Wow,” he said, and this time he didn’t hesitate to press forward and deepen the kiss.
“Stay,” Pascal said later, and they curled up together in bed, Nervous’ wrapped around him with one hand on Pascal’s stomach.
Nervous nuzzled against Pascal’s neck. “You too,” he muttered sleepily.
Pascal didn’t have to think. “I will,” he said, and it felt right.