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The set lights were bright, but Marco outshone them effortlessly.

“Marco, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how thrilled we are to have you back for––what is this, the sixth time?”

“Please, Regis, you’re going to make these people think I have nothing else to do.”

The studio audience laughed. “Well, we know that’s not true,” said Kelly. “Why don’t you fill us in on what you’ve got going on right now?”

“You know, I usually try not to talk too much about myself, but since you asked…” The audience laughed some more. “You might have heard Extrahuman got picked up for another season”––pause for a smattering of applause––“so that’ll start filming soon, and my Got Milk? ad debuts next month. Spoiler alert: I look amazing with a milk mustache.”

More laughter from the audience. “That’s great, that’s really exciting,” said Regis. “I hear the ladies love a man who’s chock full of calcium.”

“Why do you think I took the job?”

More laughter. Kelly leaned forward, smelling an opportunity. “Speaking of ladies, is there one in particular you’d like to tell us about?”

“Uh, that depends on what you mean by ‘like to.’”

“Now, you can’t blame us for being curious,” said Regis. “You’re so private about your love life.”

“Me, private? You must be thinking of some other Marco Lisiewicz Castillo.”

More laughter. “Oh, we know you’re well-acquainted with the bachelorette register, but it’s always radio silence after the first few dates. Why is that?”

“What can I say, Reg? My work keeps me busy. The way I race back and forth, you’d have to have four legs to keep up with me.”

More laughter. “So you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything?” Kelly asked.

“Nah, I’m used to it. Have been since we were doing the whole Animorphs thing.” Marco shot the audience his most convincing ‘hopeless single guy’ grin. “You all know how it was. Jake had Cassie, Tobias had Rachel, and I only ever had Ax.”

––

Backstage after his segment, Marco grabbed a bottle of water from a gofer. “By the way, your friend got here half an hour ago,” the kid told him. “He just went back to your dressing room.”

Marco blinked. My friend? Then it clicked, and he nearly choked on a swallow of water. Ax wasn’t supposed to get here until later. At least, Marco had thought he wasn’t supposed to get here until later. Had his text said 6 PM or 6 AM? Suddenly Marco wasn’t sure.

Any doubt as to who was waiting for him in his dressing room vanished when he turned the doorknob. The place was a sauna of bad vibes. “He-e-ey,” Marco drawled, flashing his pissed-off alien boyfriend a big, oblivious smile. “You seem tense.”

Ax gave him a look that could make it snow in the Bahamas. <I am not tense,> he said. <I am angry.>

“Aw, rough morning?” Marco knew playing dumb probably wasn’t his best strategy in this situation, but his mouth was going too fast for his brain to catch up. “I know what’ll make you feel better. Morph human and have breakfast with me. You won’t believe the food they stock in these dressing rooms.” He took a spiky pink fruit from a bowl on top of the mini fridge and tossed and caught it a few times. “I mean, what even is this fruit? It looks like a punk artichoke.”

Ax’s tail blade darted out and struck the pink fruit in midair, slicing it neatly down the middle. Its two halves hit the floor with a thump. “Nice,” Marco murmured. “Fruit salad à la Ax.”

<I have already seen you perform once today, Marco. I don’t need to see it again.>

Marco sighed. “I take it you didn’t like the show?”

<I didn’t like the part when you demonstrated your unwillingness to take something that is extremely important to me even a little bit seriously.>

“Oh, come on.” Marco rolled his eyes so far back in his head they almost went all the way around. “All I did was make a couple of jokes. Subtle jokes, by human standards. It’s not like anyone’s going to suspect anything.”

<You don’t know that.>

“Actually, I do. Look, Ax, humans assume everyone is straight until they’re standing on a Pride float wearing a feather boa and a rainbow-striped thong. We could make out on live TV and people would say, ‘wow, they’re so secure in their masculinity!’”

<This is all very amusing to you, isn’t it?> Ax came a step closer to Marco, which in the small dressing room put them less than a foot apart. His big green eyes stared down into Marco’s with an almost hypnotic intensity. God, why was he so hot when he was mad? <Would you be so amused, I wonder, if I were the one threatening to reveal your most closely-guarded secret to an audience of millions?>

That was substantially less hot. It was a low blow, and Ax knew it; after a moment, he looked away, ashamed. “Yeah, well, I know you well enough to know you would never do that,” Marco said, feeling generous now that he had the upper hand. “And you should know me well enough to know I wouldn’t out you to the media, even though I want to. I know the stakes are high for you.”

<And yet you can’t resist playing your little games.> Ax tilted his head and studied Marco as if he had suddenly become very interesting. He brushed his thumb over Marco’s lips, making him jerk a little with the electricity of the touch. <You need to learn to control yourself.>

Marco grinned. “Know any good teachers?”

––

“This is such a bad idea,” Marco breathed, but he couldn’t stop smiling.

He lay on his back in the giant bed in the master bedroom of his Manhattan apartment, wearing his light blue button-down from that morning’s TV appearance and nothing else. Ax, human now, held Marco’s arms above his head with one hand while he licked and nibbled his neck. In Ax’s free hand was Marco’s favorite egg vibrator. It ate up double-A batteries like nobody’s business and it was a seriously unsexy shade of pink, but it was his favorite for a reason: it got the job done every time.

And it had a special feature that had gone unexploited until today.

Ax slid the vibe in between Marco’s thighs and let it rest lightly on the head of his cock, sending a pulse of pleasure from his groin down to the tips of his toes. He closed his eyes and thrust up into the sensation. He felt Ax swirl his tongue over a patch of skin on his neck and seal his lips around it, sucking hard. That was going to leave a mark. Marco’s fingers flexed, wanting to rake through Ax’s hair or down his back, but with both of his wrists in Ax’s grip all he could do was lie there, and breathe, and feel.

“Oh fuck,” he gasped as Ax lowered the vibe and pushed it inside him, “oh shit, you’re the worst.” The vibe was well-lubed, but it didn’t really need to be; Marco was already wet enough to take it easily. Ax’s eyes searched his face, gauging his expression. Then he reached for the remote control and turned the vibrator off.

“Now,” he said, releasing Marco’s wrists, “we go out.”

Marco’s entire lower body was throbbing in time with his heartbeat, which at the moment was faster than usual. It took him a full minute to cool off enough to give Ax an answer. “Yeah, okay,” he said. “Where are we going?”

Ax rolled onto his side and propped his head up with one arm, looking impossibly delicious in the early afternoon sunshine. Marco’s apartment was on the twenty-fifth floor of his building, so they’d left the curtains wide open, daring the birds of Manhattan to be scandalized by their debauchery. “We could go shopping,” Ax suggested. “I understand that shopping is considered a ‘must-do’ activity for visitors to this city.”

“I guess so. There are a few things I could take care of while I’m here.”

Marco unbuttoned his shirt and got up to grab something more casual from the dresser. Since he wasn’t in New York all that often, his stuff here tended to stay more in order than his stuff back home in Santa Barbara. He found a T-shirt and a pair of skinny Sevens and got dressed, even though it felt super wrong putting on clothes when he was this horny.

“You know this’ll probably be pretty anticlimactic for you, right?” he said to Ax, whisking his hair up into a bun. “I’m an actor. I can play it cool as well as I play any role.”

Ax responded to that by thumbing the power button on the remote control. Instantly, Marco felt the vibrator jump to life inside him. It wasn’t even half as intense as it had been on his dick, but it wasn’t nothing, and he felt his face twitch like he was jonesing for a fix. Which he was, sort of.

“So you believe.” Ax smiled smugly and pressed the power button again, turning off the vibe. “I believe that this experience will be climactic for both of us.”

Marco groaned. “Why did I teach you about double entendres?”

They took a cab to Fifth Avenue and got out in front of Saks, a concrete cube of a building dwarfed by the skyscrapers around it. Inside, the sales floor was a rainbow of white, off-white, gray, and beige. Featureless mannequins posed atop small pedestals, dressed to the nines. Marco homed in on the nearest register and set a shopping bag on the counter. “I’ve got a return,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” said the cashier, a cheery, bird-boned blonde with a tragus piercing in her left ear. “Was the item defective?”

“No, but whoever invented paisley should be shot.”

“Yes, sir.” The cashier took a shirt and its receipt out of the bag. “I’m sorry, sir,” she said, glancing over the receipt, “but you’ve exceeded our thirty-day return period. I can only refund you the item’s current price.”

“Which is...?”

The cashier passed the shirt’s tag under her scanner. “One hundred and fifty dollars.”

“You’re kidding me!” Marco exclaimed. “It was three hundred when I bought it."

“I’m sorry, sir.”

“Listen, I haven’t even been on the East Coast in thirty days. There must be something you can do.”

The cashier blinked at him. “Would you like to speak to a manager, sir?”

“You know, I would love that.” The cashier pranced away, and Marco made a noise of disgust. “A buck fifty. Can you believe that?”

Ax’s mouth twisted sideways in a semi-frown. “Is that a lot of money to you?”

“It’s not about the money, Ax, it’s the principle of the thing. I put my life on the line for these people, and this is the thanks I get?” Marco crossed his arms and drummed his fingers on his upper arm. “Did you see that girl’s ear piercing?” he fumed. “It’s the one a lot of ex–Controllers are getting. If it weren’t for us, it would be a Yeerk doing my return. And the Yeerk would probably give me a full refund.”

Ax was unsympathetic. “Please don’t do anything embarrassing.”

“You do know now that you’ve said that I have no choice but to––” Marco pulled up short with a sharp breath, his focus yanked abruptly southward by the buzz of the egg vibe. It was faster this time––the second speed, he thought. There were six in all. “Ax,” he hissed. “This is so not the time."

“I think it’s the perfect time,” Ax said sweetly.

As if on cue, the cashier with the tragus piercing and another, older woman, presumably her manager, appeared at the register. “How can I help you, sir?” said the manager.

Marco glared Dracon beams at Ax, then put on a smile for the manager. “Hey, yeah, I was hoping you could make a liiittle exception to your refund policy for me.” He pinched the air between his thumb and forefinger. “Like, tiny. Invisible to the naked eye.”

The manager smiled back at him. She had big teeth, like a horse. “I’m very sorry, sir, but I’m afraid that’s not possible. All I can offer you is the current price of the item.”

Marco licked his lips. He could feel Ax watching him, the heat of his gaze rivaling the heat of Marco’s own arousal. “Okay, but you don’t understand,” he said. “I wanted to bring the shirt back sooner, I just...it was…” He probed his brain for a good excuse, but it seemed to have left his head and taken up residence in his crotch. All he could think about was how badly he wanted to be touched, licked, fucked, anything. “Aliens are public knowledge now. Would you believe me if I said I was abducted by aliens?”

<Which aliens?> Ax said in private thought-speak. <If there are aliens who have managed to get you onto their ship and back to their homeworld, I would like to know their secret.>

“What’s that noise?” said the manager to the cashier. “I thought I told you no cell phones on the floor.”

The cashier shook her head. “It’s not me, I swear.”

Ax snorted aloud, and Marco dragged his hands down his face. “Fine,” he said through clenched teeth. “I’ll take the partial refund. Just make it quick, okay?”

“Absolutely, sir,” chirped the cashier.

Ax let Marco suffer through the rest of the transaction and the walk back out to the street before he reached into his pocket to turn off the vibe. Marco shivered with equal parts disappointment and relief, and Ax gave him a look like he felt both. But he could only share in Marco’s emotions; the physical sensations were for Marco alone.

Lucky him.

He had limited time to collect himself before their next stop, since it was just across the street. Sephora was a city of brightly-lit product displays, each arranged as carefully as a museum exhibit. Marco picked out a couple of things from the wall display for his favorite haircare product and took them to the register. The cashier recognized him and he spent a few minutes chatting her up, saying how much he loved New York and how the girls here were smarter and prettier than the girls back home. Of course, he made her promise not to tell anyone he’d said so.

Ax stood to one side, playing spectator. Audience, more like, since the act was all for him. There was something insanely hot about flirting with a stranger in front of Ax, knowing he could undo him with the push of a button if he wanted to. Marco leaned over the counter and touched the cashier’s arm, but he didn’t feel her skin under his fingers. The only thing he felt was the current flowing between him and Ax, charging the air until it crackled.

When a line started to form behind him, Marco took a quick picture with the cashier on her camera phone and left. He and Ax walked down Fifth a ways, passing Madison Square Park and the Flatiron Building. Eventually they came to Barnes & Noble, where hardback copies of the latest Harry Potter book glowed in the window display. Marco took Ax by the elbow and pulled him into the store.

“A bookstore,” Ax observed, deftly slipping Marco’s hold. “What business do you have in a bookstore?”

Marco snorted. “What, like I can’t read?”

“I would not describe you as an avid reader.”

“Look, I read plenty. I just prefer my books in comic form.” Marco picked up a book from a nearby sale table, read the title, then put it back. “I’m actually looking for a birthday present for Wetherbee. He’s about to turn, like, a hundred and two.”

Ax raised his eyebrows. “That’s surprisingly thoughtful of you, Marco.”

Marco led the way further into the store, scanning the shelves for something that screamed ‘ancient British dude who forgot how to make facial expressions sometime during World War I.’ In the Biographies section, lightning struck. Marco snapped up a book and presented it to Ax with a flourish. “Hey, how about this one?”

Ax sighed. “And I am no longer surprised.”

“‘A delightful romp,’” Marco read gleefully from the back cover of The Gorilla Speaks. “‘Spellbinding. I couldn’t put it down.’” He never got tired of rereading his rave reviews, even if he did have them memorized by now. “Come on, it’s perfect. Besides, Mertil ghostwrote it. You wouldn’t discourage me from supporting an Andalite author, now, would you?”

“If you’re so interested in supporting Mertil, perhaps you should gift Wetherbee some of his poetry.”

Marco pouted. “But Mertil’s poetry doesn’t have a cute picture of me on the back flap.” An idea came to him, and he opened the book to its title page. “I should sign some of these, throw the good folks at Barnes & Noble a bone. You got a pen?”

“Leaving aside the question of why you would expect me to be carrying a pen,” Ax said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

“Why, is it too nice?”

“No.” Ax put his hand in his pocket, all casual-like. “It’s just that your hand may shake a bit.”

Understanding hit Marco in the same instant as the vibrations. “You’re not funny,” he said, his voice a gut-punched squeak.

“That is wealthy, coming from you.”

“Rich, Ax,” Marco huffed. “You mean rich.”

It took him a minute, but he mustered the composure to move on down the aisle. He could do this. If he could defend the planet from a hostile takeover, he could totally do this. Because it was nothing. It only felt like everything from his waist to his knees was on fire. He was only sweating like a couch potato at a Jazzercise class even though the store was air-conditioned to subzero temperatures. He was fine.

He would’ve been finer if Ax hadn’t been acting like such a shit, brushing up against him at every opportunity, pretending it was an accident. Every touch made Marco stumble like a drunk. Looking around, he saw that the aisle they were in was deserted, and that the old-fashioned high shelves hid the next aisle from view. So Ax wants to play games, he thought. I can play games, too.

He grabbed a handful of Ax’s shirt collar and tugged him to one side of the aisle. “If you keep bumping into me,” he said, craning his neck so that their lips were just an inch apart, “I’m going to have to tell the manager I’m being harassed.”

Ax’s eyes crinkled at their corners. “Go ahead and do it.”

Marco put his hands on Ax’s cheeks and brought their mouths together. He thrilled at the sudden influx of stimulation, at the contact he’d been craving since Ax had wound him up and left him hanging. Ax backed him into a bookshelf and sucked his bottom lip into his mouth, teasing it with teeth and tongue. Then he ground his knee into Marco’s crotch, and Marco actually whined into the kiss. Fuck, that felt good. Like, so good he was pretty sure he could hump Ax’s leg to orgasm right there in the Science and Technology section of Barnes & Noble.

But no, he had to keep his focus. Ax’s tongue was in his mouth now, warm and eager, and he could feel his hard cock sandwiched between their bodies. Marco wasn’t the only one who was wound up. He disengaged from the kiss and put his lips to Ax’s ear, breathing raggedly into its cup. “Have you ever seen When Harry Met Sally?"

Ax drew back and blinked at him. “Is that a movie?”

This was going to be too easy.

Marco shut his eyes and sank his teeth into his bottom lip. He moaned aloud, pulling the sound from deep in his diaphragm. “Oh,” he said. “Oh my God.” He stiffened his body and let his head loll backward. “Oh God,” he said, pitching his voice up to a whimper. “Oh God, oh…”

“Marco,” Ax said, alarmed.

Now for the clincher. “Ah, ah, ah,” Marco breathed, and shuddered from head to foot. The only noises in the aisle were his panting and the soft vrrr of the egg vibe, still humming away at mid-speed. When Ax turned it off, Marco sagged against the bookshelf behind him. He opened his eyes to see Ax staring at him, his freckled cheeks flaming red.

“Did you just…”

“Fake an orgasm to mess with you?” Marco supplied, grinning. “Yeah, I did.”

Ax said an Andalite curse word. “You are unbelievable.”

“Aw, don’t feel bad, Ax. Lots of guys get faked on. Not me, but, y’know. Lots of other guys.” Marco blew a loose wisp of hair off of his face and reached down to palm Ax’s erection through his jeans. “You better picture your grandma naked or something. This thing could put a toddler’s eye out.”

“Andalites are always naked,” Ax said despairingly.

They left the bookstore empty-handed, but that was okay. Marco would just grab something for Wetherbee at the airport on his way home. Maybe a nice ‘I Love New York’ T-shirt. He could wear it for Casual Friday.

Ax needed to demorph, but with the traffic in Manhattan there was no way they’d make it back to Marco’s apartment in time. Instead, they ducked into a Starbucks, where the single-stall bathrooms afforded privacy to shy bladders and incognito aliens alike. “You know you could just demorph in the open,” said Marco, snagging the last vacant table in the crowded seating area. “People love Andalites, and they don’t get many out East.”

“Not everyone desires attention at all times, Marco.” Ax smiled a smile that turned all the water in Marco’s body to steam. “Don’t worry. You won’t be bored while I’m gone.”

The egg vibe kicked on as Ax walked away, and Marco knew he was getting his just desserts for making a scene in the bookstore. Ax had set the vibe to its highest speed. If the Starbucks hadn’t been so noisy, everyone there would have heard Marco buzzing like his last name was Lightyear, and he would have been well and truly fucked. As it was, he was still very close to fucked. The highest speed on this vibe was his kryptonite. Applied to his dick, it could make him come in a matter of seconds. He wouldn’t come with it inside him, though. He would just go slowly insane.

Unless he did come with the vibe inside him. He had never come without having his dick touched before, but until today he had never faked an orgasm in a Barnes & Noble, either. There was a first time for everything.

Marco crossed his legs and fixed his eyes on the table in front of him. Whoever had been here last had left behind a section of newspaper with a ring-shaped coffee stain on it. It reminded him of the movie The Ring. He and Ax had rented it the last time Ax was on Earth, but Marco remembered the makeout session that had begun midway through the movie better than the movie itself. While a discount Haley Joel Osment droned his lines onscreen, Ax’s hands were sliding up the back of Marco’s shirt, his tongue searching Marco’s mouth like—no, that was a bad train of thought. Really bad. Engine-on-fire, heading-for-a-collapsed-bridge bad.

After about a hundred thousand years, Ax sat down in the chair opposite Marco. Marco didn’t lift his eyes from the table. He thought maybe if he stayed absolutely still, if he didn’t so much as twitch a muscle, he’d be able to keep it together. “Marco,” Ax said, and the sound of his voice, of him saying Marco’s name, raised goosebumps on Marco’s neck and arms. “Marco, do you need me to stop?”

“What?” Marco looked up and saw Ax holding a chocolate croissant in a paper wrapper. He took a bite, with some difficulty. He was so focused on Marco that he missed his mouth at first. “No,” Marco said. “Don’t stop.”

Keeping it together, he had decided, was overrated.

He recognized the pressure building below his belly, the way his body tensed as it prepared for release. He leaned into it. He wanted it. He’d been wanting it for two hours now, which in sex time was like, forever, and he was done waiting. Shoulders hunched, fingers curled, he sat as still as he could and let the pleasure overtake him, roll over him and pull him under.

He held his breath, and finally, finally... “FUCK!” he yelped.

It turned out that orgasms that didn’t directly involve his dick were a lot like orgasms that did. There was the same rapid flutter of muscle, the same chemical rush, the same melty, jelly-kneed feeling that told him he probably shouldn’t stand up for a minute or two. The major difference between this and every other orgasm he’d had in his life was the audience of tourists and desk jockeys on their coffee breaks. They were all looking at him. Ax was looking at him, too, as hungrily as he’d ever looked at a plate of food.

Thinking fast, Marco grabbed the abandoned section of newspaper off the table. “Sorry,” he said. “Bad horoscope.”

“Isn’t that the guy who was on Regis and Kelly this morning?” a woman whispered.

“Yeah, Mario something,” said her companion. “From the Animorphs.”

Ax had dialed back the power on the vibe when Marco cried out, and now he turned it all the way off. Marco relaxed against the chair back and smiled at him. He knew he should be embarrassed, but instead, he was exhilarated––giddy, even. “If you are still faking it,” Ax said, “you are very committed to the act.”

Marco shook his head. “Not faking it.”

Ax shifted in his seat, glancing past Marco at the alcove where the bathrooms were. “I believe it would be inappropriate for us both to be seen visiting the restroom at the same time.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Then you go first. I will wait a minute and follow you.”

Ax had overestimated his own restraint. It was only about thirty seconds later that he burst into the men’s room and shoved Marco into the nearest wall, kissing him desperately. There was a smear of chocolate on his bottom lip, from the croissant, and Marco licked it up. Ax’s skin was fever-hot to the touch, his whole body pulsating with need. Marco thought about making him wait, letting him taste his own medicine, but he needed this almost as badly as Ax did, even though he’d already come once. Once was never enough.

Hurriedly, Ax undid Marco’s jeans and tugged them down and off. He worked a couple of fingers inside him, found the loop attached to one end of the egg vibe, and pulled it out. “Do you have a condom?” he asked, undoing his own jeans with slick fingers.

“In my pants pocket. Back left.”

Ax barely got the condom all the way on before he hiked Marco up the wall and sank deep inside him, burying a groan in Marco’s hair. Marco wrapped his legs around Ax’s waist and bucked his hips to urge him into motion. Ax’s cock was like heaven in him, like the best Christmas and birthday presents he’d ever gotten combined with a beautiful day at the beach. It was better than the egg vibe, better than anything in the known universe, and best of all, it belonged to him. It existed for him, for this, to fill him up and fuck him until he was numb from the waist down.

Or at least until Ax came, which wouldn’t take long. He was already trembling, his breath coming in clipped rasps. But he wasn’t too far gone to power up the vibe and press it against Marco’s cock. He held the vibe in place, on its highest speed, while he thrust harder and faster and Marco screamed, drowning the sound in a mouthful of Ax’s shoulder. Sparks raced along his nerves and for a second he wasn’t sure if he was going to come or die, just fly apart into a million pieces too tiny and jagged to ever be put back together.

He didn’t die, but the orgasm he had in that fucking Starbucks bathroom almost certainly qualified as a near-death experience. By the time he rejoined the living, Ax’s dick was starting to go soft inside him. He stood with his head tucked into the crook of Marco’s neck, breathing slow, deep breaths. One hand braced Marco’s thigh, holding him up; the other was stroking his hair.

Marco turned his head so that his cheek was pillowed in Ax’s curls. “What was that about me needing to learn to control myself?”

Ax made a hybrid sound, half chuckle and half sigh. “We are well-matched, you and I.”

––

It was impossible to spoon on the couch with Ax in his regular body, so Marco lay draped over his lower back, slowly but surely falling asleep. He had intended to stay up through the end of The Daily Show, but Ax was comfortable and Marco was tired. He didn’t think anyone could blame him for that. It had been, to put it mildly, A Day.

“Today was hot, right?” Marco said, rubbing his chin between Ax’s shoulder blades to make him shiver.

Ax’s main eyes were fixed on the TV, but he was watching Marco with a stalk eye. <Yes,> he admitted, <although it was, as you said, a very bad idea.>

Marco brushed his fingers through the striped fur on Ax’s side. “Are you still mad at me?”

<Mad at you for what?>

“You know.” Ax was going to make him say it. “For being a dick on TV.”

Ax kept his attention on the TV for a minute, waiting for Jon Stewart to finish his bit. Then he lowered the volume and turned to look at Marco with his main eyes. <I am still not pleased with your behavior on Regis and Kelly. But it is in your nature to act as you did, and I understood your nature when we began this relationship. One cannot ask a river to flow upstream.>

“Your Andalite metaphors are so sexy,” Marco murmured. His eyelids drooped, losing the fight for consciousness. “You don’t think people can change?”

<Not if they don’t want to.>

Ax’s thought-speak was patient in tone, as if he were explaining something to a child. Marco’s first instinct was to argue with him. But Ax was right: he didn’t want to change. He wanted Ax to change, to decide that he didn’t care what the Andalites thought of him, or at least that he cared more about making Marco happy. He wanted to be Ax’s first priority, more important than his pride or his post or his people. But he wasn’t, and being a dick on TV was the next best thing.

All of which was way too heavy to deal with while he was running on fumes, so he closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep. Soon enough, he wasn’t pretending anymore.