Battlefield Terra

Woo coding chat colors. DX

Chapter 2

Warhammer was in need of so many repairs when they brought it in, John barely knew where to start. The impact with the alien biomech and then his crash-landing had warped a lot of things out of alignment, quite a few of them load-bearing. For a few days his buddy was in a lot of parts all over the repairs bay, being remade from the inside out.

Luckily they had an exceedingly awesome mechanic crew whose job it was to figure it out once the mech was back on base. There was no way he wasn't going to learn every single trick he could to take care of his buddy himself, in case it was ever necessary, though! Plus, he was pretty good at jumping off from Warhammer's propped-up head to a suspended, waiting-to-be-reattached arm to a nearby gangway to run for toolboxes or much-needed coffee. The mechanics tended to be older and creaky and have a weird distaste for swinging on a hanging chain a dozen feet over the hangar floor.

Also they couldn't lift a half-ton of scrap metal bare-handed.

Long story short he kept himself pretty busy, and learned tons of really neat, important stuff besides. And if that meant he got back to the boys' dorm exhausted every night and immediately crashed for eight hours, and was gone in the mornings before anyone could get started on their 'we hardly see you anymore, John!' prodding...

Blah. He could start socializing again once his buddy was fixed. Right now Rose had shuffled herself from tactical support to active duty to cover for the hole he'd left in her roster, and Jane had been shoved from inactive to standby, and not only did he know how much they both hated it, even if they'd never complain, it really wasn't the best use of personnel. Rose was scary in a mech, but as a tactician she was terrifying. As for Jane...

Well. Jane was Jane. She wasn't going to shirk her duty.

It hurt, thinking of her in a cockpit, though.

"Hey, kid! Higher-up for you."

John groaned and hooked his legs under a scaffolding support bar, flipping back in the void until he hung upside-down from his knees. Drove the Rear-Echelons Motherfuckers the UNE had saddled them with crazy, in between the 'casual disrespect oh my stars and garters' and the 'ridiculously risky behavior we can not afford to lose you Egbert your life is not your oooown', like perfect hand-eye coordination was a thing they could not wrap their brains around. Not that John never slipped or misjudged a landing and crashed, but only when he wasn't paying attention. Ten meters over a floor littered with sharp metal parts and electric cables was a stupid place to be distracted.

"I really wonder where the monkey genes came from," mused the elegant blonde woman at the door. "Then again that was the year Hass and I had our first drunk-off."

John broke into a smile despite himself. "Hey, Doc! I thought you were one of those UNE nags, come for another debriefing."

Because of course upon his return he'd had back-to-back debriefing upon debriefing where he had to rehash the whole sequence of events, with everyone from decorated UNE Generals to scientists of all types, xenobiology and xenopsychology and he didn't know what else... And then some more debriefings where he had to repeat everything he'd already said, only this time to politicians.

Not a one of them had wanted anything but a) intel and b) to berate him for everything he'd done wrong, from leaving an opening for the alien to pass him at all, to not putting "it" down straight away, to damaging "it" too much by taking "it" out of "its" cockpit; exposing himself to unknown pathogens, to potential mental influence (like telepathy was a thing anyone thought existed before it happened to him!), taking too many risks, not taking enough risks, and blahblahblah until it came straight out of his nose.

(Not a one of them had shown a half-smidgen of interest in how terrified of letting people down and dying on them the alien boy had been.)

"Nah, no more debriefings for you. They can just watch the tapes."

"Good, can't stand those assholes. I was this close to just straight out making up stuff. It would have been hardcore." He grinned at her upside-down and brandished a wrench. "Tell me when they're gone so I can emerge from my man-cave of repairs and grunts, okay?"

She smiled, as he'd known she would. There was something in her face, though... John twisted his neck and back to the side into a rather painful hook shape to try to see her expression better.

... Aw heck.

"I have a favor to ask of you, kid."

Aw heck no. John felt his stomach sink, and it wasn't because he was upside-down. "Betcha you only call me kid 'cause you can't even tell if I'm John or Jake."

"Don't be silly!" she retorted. "Jake has square glasses." John couldn't help cracking a smile, once again, but it died fast. The joke had been half-hearted.

He swung to grab the bar with his hands and jumped down; the scaffolding under his feet rang with the impact of his boots. He made the rest of the way down via the very normal boring way of the stairs and followed the Doc out of the hangar, worry curling tighter in his guts when she made sure the containment door was locked airtight before turning to him.

"Alright. Shoot. Uh, not literally, please."

"It's about the alien."

For an intense, burning second, John almost turned on his heel and went back to the hangar.

"Oh no. Oh Doc, please, no. I didn't want to think about that mess anymore--"

Her eyes were sympathetic, but he could tell she wasn't going to let him get out of it. "You broke it, you bought it, John. Suck it up."

God no, no, no. Facing him again. He couldn't. "Come on! What am I even needed for? I'm not a scientist and I'm not a, a, I'm a pilot and my job was to bring him in, and I did, and the end!"

He stood before her, hands fisted, shaking. She kept dissecting him with her eyes. "You built a bit of a rapport, didn't you?"

John exploded. "I'm not helping to interrogate him either!"

She bopped him over the head with her clipboard.



"Don't be ridiculous. You'd suck balls at it." Doctor Lalonde's gaze gentled. "That, and it would break your heart."

John bowed his head, boot tap-tapping at the concrete floor, awkward and flustered. "I just, what's the point? I can't do anything. I shouldn't do anything, even if I could." Her hand patted down his messy hair where the clipboard had hit. John's voice turned into a strangled mumble. "... It sucks being a responsible adult. I want to stop."

Pat, pat. He tilted his head into her hand and wished the Doc was more of the huggy type, because he could kinda do with one right now. She was more of the type to prod you into a tiger pit and yell encouragements all the way down.

"If you refuse to get involved, I won't order you, kid, you know that."

John let out a shuddery breath, and didn't know if he was more relieved or ashamed.

"I'll just go back to poking him with sticks and hoping that stops him being more or less catatonic. Or I could give in and stop vetoing the UNE scientists, since I'm not having any luck on my own. One of them suggested electroshocks."

John choked on his own spit. "I'm going! I'm going, holy hell, you're evil."

"I sure am!" she replied brightly, erasing ten years from her face, and looking more like Roxy than ever. She threw an arm around his shoulders and gave him a sideways hug, and opened the next door. "You're a good boy, John."

"You mean a chump," John grumbled under his breath as he allowed her to herd him along.

"Same difference," she said with a chuckle, and ruffled his hair into a right mess.

Roxy and Rose were scary, but man, what they would become with all those years of experience.


The laboratories were clean but not white. Doc Lalonde had them built when the eight of them were toddlers and so there were pastels everywhere (and also terrifying, terrifying clowns because that was apparently what kids liked or something, so sayeth some expert moron who'd never met a kid in his life, and it just so happened Mr. Strider was an enabling asshole.) One of the walls was a mural of kiddie scribbles.

It was also chock full of disapproving strangers in lab coats and armed-to-the-teeth security. John plastered a bright grin on his face and strolled through on the Doc's stilettoed heels, hands in his pockets.

"So what do you want me to do anyway?"

"I have no idea! Anything that works. This is pretty much my last ditch attempt before I have to let others try their hand at it."

She guided him down a side corridor, inside a dimly-lit little room. There was a table and computers and some old guys with writing pads and things that he didn't pay attention to, because there was also a full-room one-way window into the next bedroom over.

That room was white. Windowless. There was a hospital bed.

There was his alien boy laid on his back like a corpse still wrapped in scrubs, wrists and ankles cuffed to the bedframe, staring at the ceiling.

A perfusion pumped god knew what into the crook of his elbow. Bright red blood and other body fluids were sucked out of his thigh. He had little sensor disks plastered everywhere -- temples, chest, stomach, throat. Even his horns were wrapped up in some kind of wire that looked like Christmas tinsel, like they were tiny trees and someone had let over-enthusiastic three-year-olds decorate them.

"I don't suppose he's moved," Doc Lalonde asked one of the old guys, who shook his head no. John slowly stepped up to the window. "Well then, that'll be thirteen hours now."

... goddamn it.

"There's nothing wrong with him physically," the Doc explained quietly. "Repairs held, he's been shedding the nanites just fine, we hit on a goop that meets his dietary needs; he really didn't like the EEG machine but he was over it in a half-hour at most. All other bio scans might have been stressful but proceeded without pain. He just... quit."

"Why is he tied up?" John asked, voice reedy, choked-up. "I mean, the door's locked."

The closest old guy gave him a "are you stupid" glare. "It spent the first couple of days trying to claw and bite people to death, and the next four trying to claw itself to death. It would be gagged right now if we could stick anything in its mouth it couldn't bite through and choke on."

"I still think plastisteel--"

"No, the toxic byproducts--"

They devolved into some kind of boring fussy argument. Doc Lalonde stood back and leaned against the wall, arms crossed and a vague smile on her painted lips, all 'yep, end of working hours, professionalism ends right here, I don't care you're dying come back tomorrow'. She was making her soon, martini, soon face.

John nodded to himself, said, "Alright, then," and keyed his override code into the heavy, armored communicating door.

Immediately, a big great ohmygodwhatareyoudoing yelling fuss kicked up behind him. John didn't give much of a crap, because the alien boy hadn't even twitched, not even to check who was coming in. He closed the door behind him and keyed it locked, to keep interruptions to a minimum, and made his way to the bed.

"Um. Hey."

No reaction, not even a blink. John wondered, stupidly, if he still did blink sometimes, or if his eyes had gotten so dry he physically couldn't anymore.

John knew what he wanted to do. He didn't know how much of it was fueled by the guilt of being the one who had delivered the alien to this. The Dave in his head told him that was stupid, he'd done his duty and how did he know the alien hadn't asked for this and anyway it was war and sucky stuff happened during wars. The Rose in his head was pondering compromises, reasonable suggestions, ways to be humane without opening himself up, without allowing that guilt to grip him back, to compel him.

The Jade in his heart told him so fucking what if it was. Guilt or whatever, who cared why.

John was barely aware of the smile stretching his lips when he started walking around the bed and pulling out needles and sticky disk things, plop plop plop, dropping them on the floor and then carelessly stepping all over them.

The way he axe-kicked the steel lock off that wrist manacle was all Dirk.

Badass. (His heel kind of hurt now but he resolutely ignored it.)

"Rise and shine, buddy!" He jabbed the alien in the side. Aha! There had been a tiny, reflexive flinch. Not too far gone yet. "Up, up, up! You've lazed about long enough."

"What are you doing it will kill you we cannot spare you--"

"Nanana-nana-naaaa, la-di-da-dadahh, it's a beautiful day, let's play hooky today~" He started unwrapping his horns, careful not to let any metal edges catch on their curves. One of them was a little chipped along the outer side, where a scalpel had no doubt scraped some material off for testing. He wondered if he'd even felt it. Most horned or tusked animals on Earth wouldn't have, but who knew.

He gave the skull between the horns a hair-ruffling scritch, like he would Bec or Mutie. Surely there was a tipping point of annoyance after which the other boy would drag himself awake, if only so he could kick John in the face. Sooty eyelids fluttered, eyes twitching a bare millimeter in John's direction.

Score. John softened his approach as he went back around the bed to his ankles, quieted his voice a bit as he kept up a stream of friendly nonsense.

"At least use the key for the shackles, do you think they grow on trees? I have it right here. Don't be silly."

Shyeah right, John was going to come out of the room right now. Like they didn't have a crapton of security waiting. He resolutely ignored the urge to make grimaces into the mirror, too, foot rising high before scything down, heel first. Second axe kick of the day!

"--Ow! Crap." Wrong angle meant his foot had glanced off ineffectually and it hurt where he'd smacked his ankle-bone. Glowering, he tried it again. Goddamn but this would bruise nice.

The alien was watching him when he finished, faintly incredulous at the edges, like he was half-asleep and still wondering if this was some kind of stupid dream he could hopefully forget before he had to take it seriously. John grinned back, and tried not to bounce as he made his way back to the head of the bed.


He sat on his haunches; his chin was about level with the mattress. He didn't want to sit on the bed and be all loomy and accidentally threatening, give the poor guy flashbacks of when he thought John was all about the gray-and-bleeding-dudes molestation. He even hammed it up propping his hand on the edge of the bed and his chin on the back of his hand and looking up all soulful and cute like a hopeful puppy, the way he hadn't tried since he turned eight.

Bafflement flashed briefly in red eyes, and then the alien broke eye contact and turned his face away, a couple inches. John whined and bounced the mattress under his hand. Bounce, bounce.

Half-hearted raspy hiss. Probably go away. Oh man. John had been shooed away by masters before. This didn't even rate.

Still, the longer he was here and the longer they had to prepare a plan to get him out and the poor guy tied back down. Time to speed things up. "Oh well. Warned you, bro."

He pushed himself up, grabbed his upper arm, and pulled him off the bed.

He hadn't quite counted on how limp and unresponsive the guy was going to be -- pretty much a dense, really heavy lump of jelly, and then it was either fall on his ass or drop him on the floor -- so for the second time John ended up sitting with the alien in his lap. He started laughing. "Ow. We have to quit meeting like this."

Gray eyelids blinked slowly. His eyes looked a little more focused when John stared down into them. Not a lot, though; he'd been better put together back when he was gushing blood from the mouth, half-unconscious and begging for a mercy kill. John tried to smother his worry; apparently he'd already gotten him to respond more in ten minutes than the assholes out there in thirteen hours. Nothing to fret about!

John wrapped his arm around the alien's back, guided a gray arm dotted with needle tracks around his shoulders, and struggled back to his feet. He tried to see if the alien could stand... Okay, wobbly, head hanging, and he wouldn't keep his balance on his own, but when John took a step his feet stumbled to follow. Good enough.

"Onwards! Adventure awaits."

When he keyed the door open, the old fussy guys were gone. Doc Lalonde was still there, a mysterious smile on her painted lips. She mimed lifting a glass in salute. John bobbed his head in an aborted bow.

When he reached the end of the little side corridor where it met the big main one, he was faced with two rows of armored soldiers with weapons raised, one on each branch of the T. Urgh. He made a face, and was about to grump, or find something glib to say and bullshit his way through, only then the gray arm around his neck tightened minutely, startling him. Claws prickled through his t-shirt.

The alien's chin was lifted off his chest, just a couple inches, just enough to see those rows of booted feet. John tilted his head to peer at his face. Apprehension flickered there, heavy brows attempting to furrow.

"Hey, are you awake?"

A couple of blasters powered up with a quiet whine. John rolled his eyes at the closest military guy. "Seriously, dude, if you're that twitchy maybe you shouldn't be on security detail, huh? It's fine, he can't even stand up on his own."

"Its jaws are maybe fifteen centimeters away from your throat, you little twerp." The guy in charge -- John could never remember ranks -- shouldered his way through, all dark brooding eyes and radiating pissiness. "It could chomp through your carotid in a flash. Not that you wouldn't deserve it."

John rolled his eyes and bullshitted through his teeth. "Um. Yeah. And then, oh, what was it again... Oh, right! Nanites. Okay I'd gush blood like crazy for the first two seconds, and I'd be seriously woozy afterwards from blood loss, but that's about it. You know what'd really damage me here, dickface? If you shot him, because at this distance it'd char a nice big hole right through me too."

The man gave a curt shrug. "S'why God gave us tasers."

... Ngkkkh. Why was he trying to out-threaten Jack Noir. No, wait, now that he'd started he absolutely couldn't stop, it was all going to come down to sheer balls. John worked on not looking like his heartbeat had sped up, because who on Earth or anywhere else in the whole universe enjoyed getting tasered? That crap hurt.

"Uh huh." He started walking -- toward the side Jack stood with, because turning his back on him and appearing to run away seemed even worse somehow. "Have fun ruining the accords and getting all your people barred from the island entirely. I'm sure your leaders will be all fine and dandy with that, maybe they'll give you a medal!"

The alien's claws were caught deep in cotton; they hadn't broken skin, but they dug at him just short of that, clench-release-clench-ohgodohgodwhatareyoudoing, like a nervous kitten kneading away to settle his nerves. John could feel his breathing kick up.

The poor guy who broke first and took a half-step back when John and his alien buddy stalked within arm's reach was going to get reamed to within an inch of his life. Jack would probably keelhaul him somehow, even if he had to build himself a boat first. But once someone had given way, even just a tiny bit, it was easy to keep striding forward (like a boss, John, because that's what striding means.) He just went ahead and pretended he was some unholy merge of Dirk and Dave, unimpressed gaze and set chin and devastating confidence in his mad ninja skills and all.

The alien pressed against his side maybe a bit closer than strictly keep-from-falling accidental. John patted his side. "There, there. S'all good."

"Uh huh. Stop right the fuck there. Last warning."

John swallowed and kept walking, bracing for the pain that was sure to follow, because Noir just didn't make empty threats. Oh man, his dad was going to be so ticked off.

The click of a primed gun. Nghgh.

The hollow boom and sudden shadow of a mech touching down right before the window was the best sound John'd ever heard. Windows, actually. It was that big.

"Hi, John! Need a lift?"

Jade's gun was so much bigger than Noir's. Grinning to strain his cheeks, John shouldered a soldier aside, hauled the alien to the window, shoved it open. (It was such a relief to see a gray hand lifted awkwardly to help push it open, even if a beat too late and too slowly to matter.) Noir swore and shoved aside the same guy John had bumped into, but by then John was already seated on the windowsill and letting himself tip out and fall, right onto Remington's open palm.

The fall wasn't that far, but he landed flat on his back on hard metal and then had dense alien matter flop on his ribs and stomach, so while he was glad he'd cushioned the alien's fall he was still wheezing when Jade pulled up her mech's hand. He went "Whoa!" and wrapped his arms tight around the alien to keep him steady. He'd been riding around on his friends' mechs since forever but it helped with the splat-risk if you weren't too woozy to keep your balance, and all the guy was going to accomplish screek-ing his claws against metal in an awkward bid to grab a hold was break them.

"Jeez, just calm down, okay," Jade was telling the soldiers at the windows, though John couldn't see because she'd curled her mech's other hand over them as a shield. "It's not like he's being taken off the island."

The trip was pretty short; Remington only had to turn around and take three steps through the courtyard before it could lower them onto a roof terrace. Still enough time for the alien to squeeze his eyes closed and burrow his face in John's neck. John's wheezing hoots of triumph softened into chuckles, and he patted the back of his head; the thought of those teeth barely brushed the back of his mind and then was gone. "Aheh, sorry if you're scared of heights, buddy. ... Pff, space pilot, afraid of falling -- um. Yeah. Shh, shh, you're safe."

Jade apparently got bored of waiting for them to get up and off Rem's hand, and tipped them onto the tiles. They tumbled together, John landing across the alien's stomach, making him huff out a breath, and of course John couldn't stop himself cracking up again.

"I'll get you for that, Harley!" he yelled, shaking his fist, though he couldn't stop grinning. Remington's other hand flipped him a two meter-long bird. (Neatest bit of operating system programming Dirk had ever done, for serious.)

"Not if I see you first, buttface!" she called back.

When he looked back the alien was sprawled on his back and staring sightlessly at the sky, which would have worried John more if his black lips weren't also quietly shaping a litany of what John was convinced were curses upon his lineage and everything he had ever touched.

He pushed himself up on hands and knees and peered down at the alien, quite deliberately blocking his view of the sky with his face. "Hey there! Awake yet? I don't suppose you want to sit up and do things on your own. Like carry around your own personal black hole in there." He poked his stomach through the hospital gown, ready to tease a little more.

... Hospital gowns were really flimsy. Okay, this one wasn't the kind that opened in the back so you could moon people all night long, more like a bathrobe really, but it still opened all the way in front and ended at mid-thigh, and tumbling down had ruffled it up some. Flashing was not happening yet, but it would only take a little breeze. Eep.

"Haha um. It's kind of cold out here, huh? Let's get inside." John got up, held out a hand. The alien boy's eyes slowly tracked down from his face down his arm; before he'd gotten to the end his eyes had closed again.

He looked so exhausted. Hopeless. It still bugged the shit out of John, made him itchy inside, crazy with the need to just fix this somehow except he had no clue where to even start.

Also he'd like to see what the heck the guy looked like when he wasn't flat on his back and despairing himself to death! Growling, he leaned down. "Okay, fine, princess. I'm carrying you now, don't think I won't." No reaction. "... Okay, you asked for this."

He slipped his arms under the alien's back and his knees, straightened up. Doc Lalonde had said his injuries were fixed, right? There was nothing physically wrong with him. John bounced him to settle his weight, a bit too abrupt to be comfortable.

... oh god the gown. Oh god. He was torn between blowing on the little flippy corner to settle it back down over bare thighs before it finished fluttering down on the wrong side, or just staring straight ahead and ignoring it like ignoring things was an Olympic sport and he was running for the gold. (Not that some part of him wasn't morbidly curious to see what alien junk looked like, but he looked mostly human everywhere else, there was no reason it'd be that different. Oh hey maybe he had a claw on his auuuuugh.)

A claw-tipped hand flopped limply across the guy's lap. The alien was watching him through his lashes, face turned away like he was nervous. John winced. "Oookay, gonna have the 'not about to molest you' talk again, I think."

Though John wasn't sure if the nerves were even sex-related at all, or if he'd spent the last days having just about every doctor on base run their cold, impersonal eyes and grabby fingers all up every inch of him. It'd be violating either way.

There were stairs, so John didn't try to let him stand when he'd just have to pick him back up. He went straight to the staircase and tried to be prompt and professional as he made his way down and through the scanner-locked door.

The rec room was empty, which was a bit strange at this hour. Usually Rose at least would be sitting at the table -- oh right, she was probably up in space, filling in for him. So then that meant Jake and Jane would be asleep, and Jade had probably been on her way up to switch with Dirk, and he had no idea where Dave would be.

John stood like an idiot watching the empty room, until the alien shifted, glancing away from the room and to his face, la what the hell dude. John gave a nervous laugh and went to dump him on one of the couches in the TV corner "There you are! Hope you're comfortable."

The alien was making eye contact now. Progress, right? Yeah!

"Okay. Uh."

Did absolutely nothing else, though. Just kind of... Stared.

"... What do I do with you now."

He was kind of muscled, and not that much smaller than John in height, but right now he looked small. Defenseless, even despite the claws and fangs. It was the scrubs, and how out of place he was in this familiar room, how he sat on a four-people couch in a way that felt like he was a little kid on an adult chair for the first time in his life. John borderline expected his legs to dangle over the floor.

The room was just too big for him, was what John felt, full of bookcases and posters and potted plants and robot parts and knickknacks. It'd probably help to block some of that out.

Alas the folding screen had suffered a mysterious and purely accidental accident the last time he and Jake roughhoused. John would have to improvise.

His glasses went beep as he was dragging a couple of high-backed chairs to the couch. He tapped the frame to accept the chat invite as he started setting up the chairs along the arm of the couch.

RS: My delightful gene donor informs me that we have acquired a new roommate...?
JH: rose! hey!
JH: we sure did.
JH: he's flopped on the couch now and kinda staring at me. looks kind of like a stray puppy.
JH: hehehe.
JH: he followed me home, mom, can i keep him? :B
RS: Oh dear lord.
RS: John. I suppose it is utterly pointless to remind you that this poor alien you are feeling the urge to coddle is in fact Cancer, no doubt an accomplished soldier and the pilot responsible for your brief acquaintance with hard vacuum a short three months ago.

John winced a bit. He'd had nightmares about that one for a while. He sneaked the alien a quick, uncomfortable look.

The boy was still sitting where John had put him like an abandoned doll, half like he was too tired to move and half like even if he hadn't been he was too afraid of moving in a way John didn't want him to and so it was better not to bother. Apprehensive and exhausted, the most he did was move his eyes to track John across the room. Damn it, John didn't remember him so passive, he'd been all full of fire and sheer intensity and what the fuck had they done to him? It made him kind of pissed off.

Another beep interrupted him before he could poke him in the ribs. He dumped an armful of pillows and afghans on the alien's lap and turned back to the convo.

RS: So since I don't enjoy bashing my head upon walls of sheer diamond, I am going straight to the next item. No, I cannot read your mind. I am basing myself upon nothing but experience, such as the way you behaved when Jade brought back Bec... or when my dear sister and I brought back Jasper and Mutie...
JH: is this going somewhere??? so many words rose, i'm dying, you're killing me, i hope you're proud.
RS: You cannot play with the alien.
JH: what.
RS: I do believe his environment has been sufficiently altered at present. Perhaps you ought to give him a little space to breathe? Or as Dave would put it... Get off his grill, John.
RS: To continue this painful metaphor, his grill has been overcrowded for the last ten days. He has been poked, prodded, and had rocks thrown through the bars. People have been rattling his grill. His grill is approaching complete saturation and may well be about to disintegrate utterly.
DV: in shorter words that dave would actually put it in
DV: because im dave as it turns out
DV: no you cant cuddle the alien
DV: the alien is a hands-free zone
DV: pickpockets and prestidigitators banned 4 lyfe
DV: i know how you yearn to make out with your new space boyfriend but no just no
DV: ps we have to sit on that couch no defiling the couch
JH: bit too late for that one! whoops.
DV: ...
RS: ...
JH: i didn't mean defiling the couch.
RS: Is that supposed to be better or worse?

He snickered, watching red and lavender unwind on his lenses. Okay, now this book -- no, that book would be better, way heftier. And that encyclopedia, oh hey, and Rose's leather-bound edition of War and Peace, and Jane's Harry Potter doorstoppers. Soon enough his arms were full; he went back to the couch.

DV: ladies and gentlemen john egbert
DV: space molester
DV: boldly groping where no human has groped before
DV: there there poor xenomorph show us on the tentacledoll where his sweaty hand fondled you
DV: no youre not supposed to eat the tentacledoll its not food no thats my hand not food either
RS: Dear brother, if you make a "dick eating" reference I will be forced to have Roxy ban you from the server.
DV: man its not fair im her brother too why are you her favorite im gonna tell on you to dirk
RS: Alas and woe. It just so happens I am also Dirk's favorite.
DV: but hed understand the sanctity of a guys junk he could never betray that sacred brotherhood of manliness and penises
JH: there, there, bro. my dick is safe. his teeth aren't that sharp!
RS: ...
RS: John, now would be a great time to tell us something to the effect of "Haha, just kidding! Of course I didn't get the alien to perform fellatio upon my person on the couch."
JH: "Haha, just kidding! Of course I didn't get the alien to perform fellatio upon my person on the couch."
RS: ... You just copypasted that.
JH: hehehe :B
JH: just kidding. his teeth ARE that sharp.
RS: John, may I remind you. I love you. I also know where you sleep.
DV: it was the nanites wasnt it
DV: you smooched him cyborg good job egbert we knew we could entrust the safety of earth to you and your masterful tongue
DV: now he too can short out small unshielded electronics just by walking by his civilization is doomed mwahaha
RS: No, once the initial injuries were repaired he wouldn't have kept a breeding population of nanites without an external control to reprogram them; they must have been deactivated and shed by now.
DV: dont interrupt my goatee stroking with your science and earth logic rose
DV: it is all alien logic all the time this is an all-alien logic show
JH: hehe.

Alright! No getting distracted by convos. John had everything. He rubbed his hands together and started in on the actual building of the pillow fort.

He was careful not to touch the alien when he had to lean in to take the biggest afghan from the piled-up shit he'd dropped on the seat beside him. The alien made a low clicking noise deep in the back of his throat, followed by a confused chirrup of sorts. John grinned at him and threw the afghan over his head like a net, and started tucking it over the backs of the chairs and pushing it in the crevices at the back of the couch. He used Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to pin down the other end on the chair.

The alien was looking more and more openly baffled, which was better than blank and no-one-home by about a hundred miles, though he still wasn't moving at all, not even to bat away the cloth hanging in his face. John resolved to start whistling next, surely that'd be annoying enough?

But anyway. Main architecture, done. Now it was mostly frills.

JH: but seriously guys you're distracting me from gray-dude-watching. not that he does a lot, it's about as challenging as keeping watch on a potted plant, but still. anyone got any actual advice?
JH: i can't let him just go back to flop-ville, rose!
DV: he just *has* to pet him
JH: i just HAVE to
JH: damn it.
DV: get his hands all up in those smooth flowing locks
JH: oh shut your trap, you.
DV: survey the topography of those glutes in minute detail
JH: okay, this is making me a bit uncomfortable.
DV: its for science john
DV: science
RS: I do not advise that you allow him to fall back into complete catatonia, but neither does it seem advisable once he is responding, if minutely, that you assault his senses and his mind with a barrage of irritants which will surely prompt him to retreat again.

Um. Surely what he was doing didn't constitute a barrage. John guiltily stopped whistling.

Alright! Main tent complete. It swallowed a good half of the couch, plus -- if he cheated and pulled the cloth at an angle toward the floor via judicious application of War and Peace -- some space for the alien's legs. Oh but wait, he didn't want the alien to feel locked in either. Uhh. Bit of string, bit of string... aha! Electric cable, there, in the pile of robot parts. Okay now if he put this chair here, he could make an awning. Awesome.

RS: I suggest putting on soft music, or a TV program with as low a level of violence as you can tolerate, anything that wouldn't overstimulate him. Some animal documentary might do. And then just sit nearby, but do not stare at him.
DV: man you have never watched an animal documentary ever
DV: those penguins are hardcore
RS: Alas, new pets must get used to their surroundings and feel safe before you can play with them, or naught but stress and escape attempts will occur. When he is ready, he will hopefully engage you.
DV: in other words get your hands off the grey dude he does not need cuddles
JH: you are kidding, you are totally kidding, not even dirk after a sad pony macro needs as many cuddles.
JH: but yeah okay he already thought i was a rapist once, i probably should quit while i'm ahead.
RS: ...
DV: ......
DV: look mom the herd of dots is migrating back already short winter huh
DV: yeah son global warming you know
DV: makes for shitty seasons
JK: o o o (Those are the elusive mammoth dots!)
DR: Dude.
JH: why is everyone on the line? i was texting Rose!
JK: Well naturally we wanted to know how things proceeded with your wild captive after that daring rescue! Also make sure he had not yet eaten off your face.
DR: Or merely sucked it. But I see you answered that one already.
JH: look at the time! i'm gonna miss the disney channel! they have bambi, that's non violent enough right?
DV: thus introducing the trauma of bambis mom to yet another civilization
DV: you continue to exceed expectations john kirkbert
DV: breaking their wills making them ripe for the conquering etc etc
RS: Perhaps a different Disney movie would be more appropriate, John. I believe we have The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast...
RS: On second thought, those might send the wrong message as well.
JH: this is way too hard. i'll just put on a nice quiet peaceful football match, how's that sound?
DR: Got some MLP eps.
JH: yeah see the issue here is the last time i tried to open one of your files i accidentally found a nice and uplifting story about a schoolboy and his teacher. :-\
DR: What can I say. It had a pretty nice plot.
JH: yeah, if one of his buttocks was named plot!
JH: not that i thought anyone's buttocks were nice in there oh god.
JH: this zinger did not go as planned.
JH: going offline forever now guys.
JK: Go get 'im tiger.
JK: *double pistols and a wink*

Upon closing the chat window he found another one waiting underneath, just a note, the sender back offline already.

I love you, John, and I know you have to do this. But he managed to savage a lot of people before they found restraints that would hold him. I won't make you watch the footage, needless to say it was gruesome. Just because he has been hurt does not mean he cannot hurt you in turn. Be careful, please.

The smile on John's face faltered. It wasn't unexpected, though -- and it wasn't even as if he thought Jane was the only one of the eight to have the opinion that perhaps he should have kept out of it. He could tell Rose had doubts, and Dave was straight up unhappy. But Dave also already knew John had made up his mind and there was nothing left to do but snark about it. Jade and Jake were willing to wait and see, curiosity piqued... As for Dirk, who ever knew what he thought.

He turned only to find that the alien's toes, which used to stick out from the trailing end of his fort's walls, had disappeared; when he bent at the waist to peer inside he found him huddled in the corner of the couch, arms wrapped around his knees and half-buried in pillows. Moving on his own! Score.

The alien sent him an utterly exhausted look -- or actually more like a 'you're exhausting' one -- and spat out a sentence that started out slow and halting like a jamming machinegun and ended in a glorious explosion of growls and very irritated kh sounds.

John almost wanted to applaud. Instead he grinned bright and approving. "I'm gonna pretend it's a 'thanks John, that's exactly what I wanted!'"

He let his smile soften a little before he straightened up.

God knew if he'd been pinned like a butterfly and exposed to any and all passersby in some pristine, depersonalizing hell, he could think of nothing he would want more than a cozy little hideout made of soft cloth and cushions.

He took a cautious seat on the other end of the couch. Clever gaps (if he dare say) allowed the alien boy to catch glimpses out in quite a few directions, while still being hidden himself, and cutting out a lot of the background mess of details. John couldn't see him. He made sure to stretch his feet out so they'd be visible, so the alien boy could track him, and then he turned on the TV to the Mythbusters channel, sound turned down low, settling in for a long wait.

A sigh -- the alien boy muttered something under his breath that sounded like he had a throat full of gravel and snakes -- and then the couch cushions moved a bit, like he was looking for a more comfortable position, and then there was stillness again.

John waited another ten minutes before peering through one of the gaps. His guest was draped spine-bendingly over the arm of the couch, fast asleep.

[Chapter 1] - [Chapter 2]