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"I can't believe it," Tamara said, leaning against the massive hull window. Outside, the world was black and spotted with distant stars. She ran her hands through her thick black hair. "After all this time, this is how it ends."

T'xelron stood a respectful few feet away, his back to the door of the Tremaldian ship's storage-room-turned-brig. Around them, creaking pipes far too old to be up to code spat hot air and moisture from their cracks. The room was dark, lit only by the light of the stars, which filled the room with blue-tinted light that only served to make the shadows deeper.

"It might not," T'xelron said. "Maybe the embassy has received our message. Maybe Terox and Ch'itavi caught our distress beacon. Maybe we just have to wait."

"Yeah," Tamara said. "Maybe."

She slid to the ground and drew her knees up to her chin.

With a heavy sigh, he sat down beside her.

"Tamara," he said. "It's going to be okay." The words felt strange coming from his mouth. They were words she would normally be saying the him.

She chuckled. It was a small, false sound. "No," she said. "I don't think we are." She smiled weakly and sniffed. "You're a terrible liar, Tax."

Silence stretched between them. They were inches apart, but it seemed to him that they were separated by miles.

"I suppose now that this really is it, I should say something that I've been meaning to tell you."

Something in his voice made her look up. "Tax?" she said. "What is it?"

He was looking down and slightly away from her. Two of his hands were intertwined in front of him, the other two were down by his sides.

"I know this may seem inappropriate," he said, voice shaking. "But it seems we may not have another chance, and I wanted you to know before we died how much-- how much you mean to me."

"Oh, Tax," she said. "I know. You're my best f--"

"No," he said. "Please. I'm sorry, but I have to get it out now, because if I don't, then I fear I may never do it. I know I'm your friend. It is a title I treasure, and you are mine as well. But there's something more. Tamara, I. . . I. . . " He took a deep breath. "I love you."

She opened her mouth to say something, but he shook his head. "Not like-- I know what you're going to say. And I do, too. These past few years-- you're my family. I love you. But I love you in another way, too. I've tried to fight it for so long bit-- I can't. Not anymore. Tamara Egunsola, I love you. I love you!" The words were spilling out of him now. "I know it's unnatural, but I do. I've never cared for another single being on any world as much as I care for you. I've known since the raid of Talroth 9, when I got shot by that Garish fire. I thought I was going to die then, and the only thing I could think of was you, and how much I wanted to see you again before I passed. Then you were there, leading the attack and dragging me out of the fire zone. I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't. You saved me, and I still couldn't tell you. But I can tell you now."

He turned further away, his back to her. "I am sorry," he said. "I'm sorry if I've- upset you. Disgusted you. I just had to let you know."

Tamara watched him for a moment in silence, then pulled off her arm bands and gloves. Tax," she said, placing her ungloved hand on his back. His fur was thick and soft, like that of a cat. "I care about you too."

"I know," he said miserably.

"No," she said. She sat up on her knees and leaned against him, wrapping her arms around his broad shoulders. "I mean, I love you too. I didn't see it until now, but I do."

In a sudden rush of movement, they were on the floor together. He was was above her, resting on his elbows which sat on either side of her head. His other arms were balancing on either side of her hips. The two stayed there frozen, both shocked by his sudden action. They could both feel the warmth emanating from the others' body in the cold storage room.

"Tax?" she said.

"I want to show you," he said, voice barely above a whisper.

"Show me what?"

He tensed. "I want to show you how much I love you."

She looked into his eyes; they were wide and purple and shone in the starlight. She pressed her forehead against his chest. "Do it."

Before he could finish, she moved up and kissed him. It was a light kiss, delicate kiss on the lips, but when she left go, her pursued. They kissed again, deeper, longer, entangled on the floor, hands searching each other, and when their lips drew apart, he still kissed her, traveling down her neck as though his lips couldn't bear to be parted from her skin so soon. Somehow her uniform shirt had come unbuttoned. He kissed and nibbled and lapped his way down to her breasts, giving each nipple attention in turn. When his mouth was occupied with one, one of his hands teased the other. Down, down he went, past her belly button and lower still. She gasped. He didn't stop.

After a time that felt simultaneously too long and not long enough, he drew himself up, still over her, but no longer touching her. She glanced down, and her lips parted in surprise. Sometime during their intimacy, he'd taken off what had remained of his uniform. She flushed, seeing part of an Andarian she had never seen before. It was different than a human's, but still recognizable. It was hairless-- the only hairless part of him that she could see. And it was large. Maybe large enough to hurt.

"I love you," he said again.

"I love you too," she whispered. She nodded.

Slowly, gently, he brought himself to her. She felt him press against her, pushing his way tenderly, firmly inside. One of his hands guided himself, and she felt herself part to welcome him. There was pressure familiar in some ways, yet entirely new. For a moment, they were simply together, taking in the scope of each other's body. Then came the movement. Slowly at first, as though savoring every moment, then with more vigor, he thrust against her.

She arched her back. A low moan escaped her lips. They--

"Hey X'melborp!" said Human Greg, coming into the room. He held up his comms device. "Check out this funny video Val'raex showed me--"

X'melborp yelped and jolted so hard he nearly fell out of his chair. He hurriedly dispersed the holo-page and opened up some benign looking statistics reports-- knocking over the (thankfully empty) cup on his desk. Several of the Earth knick-knacks his viewers had sent in-- an Earth rock, a small bag of marbles, a tiny jar of different sands and sea shells-- toppled over in a domino effect.

"Uh, X'melborp?" said Greg, tilting his head as the Andarian hastily tried to clean up his desk. "Are you okay?"

"Fine!" X'melborp said with too much force. "I am fine! Thank you for your friendly concern." He turned on his swivel chair to face Greg. "What was it you wanted to show me?"

"What. . . what were you reading?" said Greg.

"Nothing!" X'melborp said, his antennae twisting guiltily.

Greg looked at him levelly. "X'melborp, you're bad at lying. I distinctly saw the word 'breast'. Why were you reading about breasts? Do You even know what a breast is?"

"I can make a guess based on context," Xmelborp said defensively. "It is the part of the human with nipples."

Greg pinched the bridge of his nose. "Why are you reading about human nipples?"

"It is a scientific-- Well it is a study in-- ugh." X'melborp sighed. "Do you promise not to laugh?"

"I promise," said Greg.

X'melborp reopened the page. Greg leaned against the desk to look.

Suddenly, as if unable to hold the words back, X'melborp rushed to explain. "It is a series of fictionalized events regarding the blossoming affections between a human space cadet and an Andarian reporter sent to interview her, but during the interview their ship is attacked by a fictional enemy called the Phazar who are allies of the Garish and the two are taken captive as hostages, but they fight their way out and due to circumstances beyond their control, both are framed as traitors to their embassy and must make their way to the high intelligences on the Andarian home planet to clear their names and stop an assassination attempt on the fictional prime minister and save a newly discovered fledgling species from being eradicated by a megalomaniac Valorian space tyrant! There is much adventure and humor and--"

"Sex," said Greg, looking over the page. The space cadet was apparently having a good time.

"That is a new component," X'melborp said. "They were fighting the Garish a few scenes back, but now they have devolved into-- uh. That is to say the writer-- ah. The writer of the novel seems to be-- well. She is a human and she seems to be unusually fascinated by Andarians." X'melborp frowned. "Is that. . . typical, Human Greg, for humans to find creatures outside of their species as viable potential mates?"

"Humans are icky and weird and will contemplate mating with literally anything, so yes."

"Greg!" said X'melborp, offended. He looked around anxiously. "Do you always talk of such things so openly?"

"Not really, no. But you asked." It was Greg's turn to frown "Are you. . . embarrassed?"

"Yes!" hissed X'melborp. "Interspecies relationships are not unheard of, but those are relationships based on-- on emotional and intellectual compatibility. Not--" he waved his hand, gesturing towards the screen. "This. Not actual physical mating. The idea of an Andarian finding one of you hairless, gangly humans physically attractive is, frankly, disturbing. Ah, no offense meant."

"None taken," Greg said dryly. "If you don't like it, then stop reading."

"I can't!" X'melborp cried. "It was so good before that part! This author clearly has a grasp on adventure and character development and seems roughly familiar with the political structures of the galaxy-- at least enough to feasibly integrate it into the plot. It is just this they got wrong. Andarian mating procedures do not involve such primitive physical intimacy, and we certainly do not procreate for fun. Is that normal for humans?"

"Uh. It's not procreating that's the fun part, but yeah. I guess you could say that it's the process that's the fun part."

"We do not do that at all," said X'melborp, shaking his head, clearly flustered. His ears pressed back against his head. "This writer has it all wrong! The female lays her eggs, and then the male pollinates them by spraying them with a biological powder, and the entire ordeal is-- is private, and sacred, and secret, and clean. It is not something written, it is something somber and fleeting and private. It is a ritual between people who agree that they want to take responsibility for creating new life, for propagating the species and our civilization. And we certainly don't include it in our action adventure novels for-- for-- I do not know, some kind of obscene authorial gratification! Never before have I encountered such grotesque obscenities in a piece of writing."

"Heh. You'd probably freak if you ever discovered actual porn."

X'melborp's brows furrowed. "What is that?"

"Uh, nothing. So you guys don't have, like, shitty erotica novels or. . .?"

X'melborp's lips curled in disgust. "That is a genre?"

"Yeah," said Greg. "People, er humans, some of them, really like reading about romance and stuff."

"Your people are either completely depraved, or they are woefully ignorant if they equate prehistoric mating rituals with romance," said Xmelborp. "Even one as inexperienced as I am knows better than that!"

"Wait, have you. . . Have you never done it before?" Greg regretted the question immediately, but in for a penny, in for a pound.

"No," X'melborp said simply. "I am far too young."


"Only the wisest ones with the most life experience even consider reproducing. It's such a burden to care for twenty to thirty new lives!"

"Oh, yeah." Greg had forgotten how large Andarian clutches could be. "Hey, X'melborp, remind me again how old you are?"

"Sixty three, by your earth reckoning. Nobody under 100 would even consider reproducing, though."

"Right. Okay."

This felt like a lot of new information, and Greg had no idea what to do with any of it, so instead he said, "Well, I just wanted to show you this funny video Val'raex showed me, but if you're busy--"

"Gregory Namanarra," X'melborp said severely. "I respect you as an individual. There is very little you could do to make me think less of you or your species. But clearly your people do not know what they are doing if they think that is romance." He scowled at the holopage. "The worst part is that there was real chemistry between the characters before this nonsense."

"Then write your own version," Greg said.

X'melborp blinked. His antenna perked up. "What?"

"It's called fan fiction," Greg said. "It's when you don't like how a story went, so you write your own. Like, I don't know what Andarian plagiarism laws are, but on Earth you can just post it online provided you don't try and sell it as your own."

"That sounds perfect!" X'melborp swung around in the swivel chair and turned his attention back to his screen. "I will fix it! And then I will post it on the internet! Surely there are other like-minded individuals who were also disturbed by the egregious display in the original material!"

"So you don't want to see the video?" Greg said helplessly. "It has a bird doing a funny dance in it."

"Send it to me on Twitter," X'melborp said. "I will finish reading this, and then I shall start writing my own superior version for the internet. Ah. Human Greg?" He turned around again towards Greg. "Please do not tell others. I would not want them to think I am harboring any untoward thoughts towards humankind."

"You're still gonna read it?" Greg said.

X'melborp looked at him seriously. "It was a very engaging story, Human Greg. I want to see if they save the prime minister or not."

"Okeedokee. Well, this was awkward. I'm out. Let me know when you're done."

X'melborp waved him off, and Greg left to go see if someone else wanted to see the bird video.

Request 2018
The first like 1000 words of this WU was literally the most difficult thing I have ever written in my entire life, including the PACT and my teacher induction portfolio.

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