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Out of This World

Chapter Text

A typical Monday morning was all today was, nothing atypical about it. All weeks start like this, the dreaded first day back to school from a nice two day break. At least, that’s what Andy thought. What she did not expect was someone sitting in her usual seat in third period English.

“Oh, um… hello,” she said, to the boy sitting in her seat. He was only a few inches taller than she was, with dark, shoulder length hair, tan skin, and brown eyes. Kinda cute, actually.

“Uh… hi?” he replied in a lightly accented voice, giving her an awkward smile.

“You’re in m-” she was cut short by a hand grabbing her arm and pulling her into the seat beside her usual one.

“Don’t be mean to the new kid!” hissed Mary Wang, releasing Andy’s arm.

She rubbed it, glaring. “Jesus, Mary, that wasn't very nice!” she hissed. “And I wasn't going to be rude!”

“Hey little brother,” said the pale blond sitting next to the guy in her seat. “That girl is pretty, no?”

“She is human,” he replied, at a volume that suggested Andy was not privy to this conversation. Before he could continue, Mr. Roberts walked in, and class began.

Human? What was wrong with being human?

 

After class, she waited until the two new kids walked out before leaving. She walked up to the boy who had been in her seat, who was walking next to that blonde girl, and cleared her throat. He turned, but the girl did not.

“Can I uh… help you?” he asked again, in the same pleasantly accented voice. She couldn't quite place it. Possibly Spanish? But not quite.

“Sorry I uh… was weird this morning,” Andy said. “You were just in my usual seat.”

“Oh, I apologize,” he replied. “I did not know we had to sit in certain spots!”

“We… don't?” she said, scratching the back of her head. “That’s just the one I normally use. I just wanted to apologize for being rude.”

“Oh,” he nodded. “I did not take offense.” He smiled.

“I’m Andy,” she said, sticking her hand out for him to shake.

He took it gingerly. “Krel,” he supplied. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “And that’s my twin sister Aja.”

They didn't look related, but she decided to take his word for it. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah!” he replied, walking back to his sister. “Have a good day!”

 

The next morning, Andy got to class before Aja and Krel did. About to take her usual seat, she changed her mind and sat one over. The twins walked into the room after a minute, and Krel saw that she had left the seat open.

“Hey, isn't this your seat?” he asked her.

“Nah, you can have it,” she replied with a smile. She liked sitting next to him anyway.

“Ew, are you flirting with him?” Mary Wang asked, in a tone that suggested that this subject was going to be on everyone’s lips by the end of the morning.

“What!? Absolutely not!” Andy said, gripping her pencil.

“That sounded like flirting,” said Darci, who sat in the seat in front of me.

“Y’all suck,” she growled. “I was not flirting.”

“Do you think he’s cute?” asked Claire, leaning in.

Andy gave her a look that was a mix of incredulousness and disgust. Not at the suggestion of Krel being cute, because he was. No, this was more a look of ‘why are you joining in on this, I thought you were better than this!’ It seemed she wasn't.

“Of course he’s cute!” Andy whisper-shouted. “You three have eyes! Any of you can see that!”

“I have a boyfriend,” they all said in unison.

Ugh. It was true, they did all have boyfriends. Claire was dating Jim Lake, who was a really nice guy. Andy honestly wouldn't be surprised if they dating all throughout high school and got married afterwards. Darci was dating Jim’s best friend, Toby, a total goofball and quite the charmer. Mary Wang constantly had a new boyfriend, but she was currently dating Tight Jeans Hank for the fifth time.

“But you know who doesn't have a boyfriend?” Mary Wang asked, with a stupid grin on her face. “You!” She poked Any on the sternum with her index finger. She giggled.

Andy batted her hand away. “I don't need a boyfriend,” she hissed.

Chapter Text

“So… little brother?” Aja said, with that stupid shit eating grin on her face, the one she always wore to tease Krel. She was hovering over his shoulder as he exchanged two books at his locker in between classes.

He rolled his eyes. “What, Aja?”

“That hoo-man girl, I think she is very pretty,” said Aja, wiggling her eyebrows.

He closed the locker with a bang. “She is human,” he said. “Made of flesh, soft, biological.”

“And currently,” said Aja, poking him in the chest, “so are you!”

“Eugh, don't remind me,” he groaned, walking to history class.

“But you do not think she is pretty?”

“I didn't say that, I- Seklos and Gaylen, Aja, I have to go to class! I do not want to worry about this right now! Please leave me alone!”

She rolled her eyes at his little outburst, smiling. “Okay little brother. See you after school!”

The rest of the day passed pretty quickly, and with it, the rest of the week. A full week after House Tarron had crash landed on this mudball of a planet, Krel was now comfortable with his new schedule and his new routine. Krel had a few more classes with Andy, including math. In fact, the two of them had become almost friends. After Ms. Janeth’s super easy math class, she came up to him.

“So… I couldn't help notice you are like, amazing at math. Like, beyond amazing at it,” she said, holding her book bag in front of her.

“I mean, I do like math,” said Krel. “I wouldn't say I am beyond amazing at it though. I just have a bit more experience with it than the average kid.”

“Would… would you tutor me?” she squeaked. “I got a C on my last math test and I’m trying to graduate with honors. If I don't get an A in this class I’ll lose that achievement.”

“What is the benefit of graduating with honor? Doesn't everyone feel honor upon completing school?” he asked, readjusting his backpack. The two of them began walking to the exit.

“I guess,” she said. “But graduating with honors means that I got super super good grades, and more colleges will want me to attend their schools.”

“Okay,” Krel said, as if he understood. He did not.

“You’ll tutor me?” she asked, turning around with a dorky half smile.

“I mean sure,” he said, shrugging. “You seem like a studious person. I’d be happy to help you.”

“Come around my house at around eight?” she suggested, holding her hand out.

“Sure,” he said. He looked down at her open palm, as if she were waiting for him to give her something. “Wait, what do you want me to give you?”

“Your phone! So I can put in my number and address of course,” she said, weight shifted over her right leg.

“Oh, yeah, right,” he said, pulling out his cell phone and handing it to her. “May I… also have yours?”

“Yep!” She fished her phone out of her left front pocket, handing it to him, and he punched his number into a new contact.

“See you tonight!” she said, smiling, as she handed his phone back to him.

He returned her phone as well and flashed her an awkward smile as well. “See you tonight.”

 

“Wait wait wait what?” Aja shouted, laughing incredulously. She grabbed Krel’s shoulders. “You’re going to tutor her in math!?”

The twins were walking the somewhat short distance from school back to the Mothership, their home, which was currently being disguised as a typical Earth domicile. It was a bit out of date, but a lot of the humans seemed to think this was, in the Eli’s words, “dope” and “wicked.” Krel wasn't sure what the Eli thought was wicked about Mother, she was not programmed to be evil.

“I mean yeah,” he said, brushing her hands away. “She’s smart enough. Shouldn’t be too hard. She just wants to do a little better is all.”

Aja gave him that same shit eating grin from before. He rolled his eyes. “Great Gaylen’s core, Aja, you are the worst.”

When they got back to the house, Aja kicked open the door. “VARVATOS!” she yelled gleefully. “You are never going to guess what Krel is going to do!”

Varvatos Vex was sitting on his reclining chair, watching a game show. He did this every night. Turning down the volume, he looked to the twins. “Your yelling upsets Varvatos Vex,” he grumbled. “He wishes you would not speak above the television.”

“Sorry Vex,” Aja chirped. “Krel’s got a date!”

“I do not!” he protested, as soon as she said those words. “It’s a school thing!” he pushed her shoulder and she pushed him back.

“He’s going to a girl’s house,” she giggled. Krel tried to tackle her.

Vex rolled his eyes.

“All she needs is help in math,” Krel snapped. “I am not courting a human.”

Vex made a face at the thought. “Of course not, why would you?”

“I wouldn't,” he growled. “Not like Aja.”

“Hey, Steve is no ordinary human,” she protested.

“You are correct!” Krel said, sitting down on the couch. “He is remarkably stupid, even by a remarkably stupid species’s standards!”

“That is not very nice,” said Aja. “he is good to me. Much better than either of you!”

“Beh.” Krel made a noise of dismissal and rolled his eyes.

Chapter Text

The doorbell rang at about 8:05, making her three dogs go absolutely crazy barking their heads off. Sliding down from her position on her bed, Andy went to answer it.

“Coming!” she yelled, running down the stairs. She threw open the door to reveal Krel standing awkwardly and shifting his weight from foot to foot, holding a couple of books. One of them was the algebra textbook they all used in Ms. Janeth’s class, but the other two were in a language she couldn't read. They were written in some strange characters that she had never seen before.

“Krel! Come on in!” she chirped. “I’ve got some snacks if we get hungry,” she said, pointing to the kitchen table.

He walked on in, looking nervous. Sitting down at the table, he took a cookie from the plate. “Your parents are not home?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No, they are at a gymnastics meet for my sister,” she said. “They’ll be gone all week.”

“Nice,” he replied. “And who is this?” he asked, reaching down to pet Davenport, one of her two bulldogs.

“That’s Davenport,” she answered. “We call him Dav. The big one,” she gestured to the Great Dane in the kitchen “is Fern, and the small scared one is Priscilla. We call her Prissy.”

“Three dogs!” he laughed. “That’s a lot. We just have Luug.”

“I didn't know you have a dog!”

“Yes, we do. Well, he’s my sister’s dog, but I do enjoy playing with him. Only sometimes though. Most of the time he is just a nuisance,” he chuckled, petting Dav.

Andy took a seat next to Krel. “So… math?”

“Math,” he said, nodding affirmatively, then giggled. After a minute, he pulled out the textbook. “Okay, so. What exact concept are you having trouble with?”

The next hour was spent working on math, which Krel was much better at than Andy had realized. This kid had an incredible mind, and was very good with numbers.

When they were finishing up, Andy cleared her throat. “You are very smart,” she said.

“And you are a quick study,” he replied. “I should probably get going…” he said, looking at the clock on the wall.

“You can stay a little while longer if you’d like,” offered Andy. “I have the Danger House movies and the Gunrobot series.”

“That sounds nice, actually,” said Krel. “But I’ll admit I am getting warm in here.”

“We could go on a walk,” she offered.

He nodded. “I like this proposition.”

 

The night was warm, and Andy was glad for no rain. “Lots of stars!” she chirped, holding both arms up to the heavens, palms facing upwards.

“Yes, lots of stars,” Krel replied. After a moment, he asked, “So, I’ve been curious. Is Andy short for a longer name? You are the only girl at school with this name. The only other person with it is a boy.”

“It is, actually,” she replied. “It’s short for Andromeda.”

“Andromeda? Like the galaxy?” he sounded somewhat excited.

“Yeah,” she said, smiling. “Just like the galaxy. That’s what my parents named me after.”

“That is beautiful,” he said. “I love outer space.”

“Me too,” she replied. “Someday I hope to see it. My aunt was an astrophysicist at NASA,” she told him. “She wanted to name one of her daughters after her favorite galaxy, but she… couldn't.”

“Why not?” Krel asked, looking at her attentively, despite her eyes fixed to the stars.

“She died,” said Andy. “So my mom gave me that name.”

“That is… remarkably sad,” said Krel. “I am sorry.”

“It’s okay,” said Andy. “She has been gone a long time. Part of the reason I want to see the stars is because of her.”

He nodded. “That much I can understand.”

“Do you ever think about how large the universe is?” she asked, as they sat down on a park bench.

“All the time,” he replied.

“And do you ever wonder if there are other… people out there?”

“What are you suggesting?”

“Oh, you know, like intelligent life? Other people.”

“Oh, yes. I think that is a definite possibility,” Krel said, nodding definitively. After a beat, she saw him look down at his phone. “Kleb,” he said, under his breath. “I need to go home. I told uh… Varvatos I would be home at uh… ten?"

Andy looked down at her watch. “Well shit, it’s 10:10. Would you like me to walk you home?”

“Oh, no its okay. I really am okay. Thank you for tonight, it was nice!” Krel said, standing up. “I will see you at school tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” she said, smiling. “See you tomorrow!”

Chapter Text

Krel ran in through the front door, just as the transduction wore off. He slammed the front door with his two left arms and collapsed on the couch, exhausted.

“Seklos and Gaylen! Krel, you look terrible,” Aja said, walking into the room.

“Wow, thank you for that,” he groaned. “Such a kind and supportive older sister you are. How utterly and completely blessed I am to have you in my life.”

“Yeah yeah, screw you too,” she laughed, bopping him on the forehead with their biology textbook. The thick book made a clinking sound against his smooth, solid faceplate. She sat down on the couch and opened the book to chapter six. He was larger than her in this state, something he was not entirely used to. Despite the two of them being twins, she had always been a little larger and stronger. Krel speculated it was because she was a few minutes older.

“Wait a secton,” Aja said, as if she had just remembered where Krel had been for the last couple of hours. “How was your date!?”

Krel groaned and rolled over, so that his face was smashed into the couch cushion. “It was not a date!” he protested, face muffled by couch. “We studied for an hour, and then we went on a nice walk to look at stars.”

“Sounds like a date to Varvatos,” said the man himself, standing in the hallway, watching the twins argue.

“Stay out of this, Vex,” Krel groaned. “Everyone here SUCKS.”

Chapter Text

It was morning, and Andy hopped off her purple bike, locking it onto the rack next to Jim’s blue one. She yawned, pulling off her helmet.

“Hey! Andy!” she heard Krel’s voice yell.

She turned, groggily. “Hm?”

“Oh, you still look like you have yet to wake up,” he laughed.

She shrugged. “I mean yeah, kind of. Didn't sleep too good last night.”

“That’s a real shame,” he said. “Sleep is good for humans, you know.”

“Yeah,” I laughed. “I would know. I'm a human, dorkus.”

“Yes, yes, I knew that,” he said. “Dorkus…” he said, softly to himself, as if trying out the word. “I like that word.”

“Yeah, me too.”

The two of them walked together as far as they could, before they had to go their separate ways. He had Spanish first period, and she had Home Ec.

She walked into her Home Ec class, and sat down next to her friend Claire Nunez. “Morning Claire,” she yawned. Darci and Mary Wang sat behind them, and stopped gossiping as soon as they saw her sit down.

“Good morning Andy,” Claire said, smiling. “Long night last night?”

“Kind of. Just had trouble sleeping is all.”

“I heard she had Krel over last night,” Mary Wang whispered to Darci, purposefully loud enough for Claire and Andy to hear.

“OMG, you had Krel over last night!?” Claire squealed. Shit. Andy knew immediately where their minds all went with that.

“Wait what!? No no no I- I uh.. I did! But uh… not like that!” she protested, gesturing. “Not like that at all!”

“Then what exactly was it like, Andy? Spill!” urged Mary.

“He’s my math tutor! He was helping me with my homework!”

Darci raised an eyebrow. “Your math tutor?”

“Yeah? The guy’s really smart,” she said nervously.

“We know you like him!” Mary Wang said, pointing a finger.

“As a friend!” she said, putting her head down onto my desk.

“That’s what Claire said about Jim,” Darci said to her. “Now I’m fairly certain they’re going to get married after high school.”

Claire turned to Darci. “A lot can happen in two years, Darce. A lot.”

“Oh, is Jim not your one and only?” Darci wiggled her brows antagonistically, with a shit eating grin on her face.

Claire sighed. “No, he is. You guys are right.”

“Well, for all it matters, I do not have a crush on Krel,” Andy said. “He is my friend. That is all.”

“You two have been sitting together for a few weeks now, right?” Mary Wang asked. “You two eat lunch and stuff?”

Andy nodded. “Yeah,” she said.

“How bout his sister? She seems cool,” Darci inquired.

Andy again nodded. “Aja is very nice.”

“Isn’t she dating Steve Palchuk?” Claire asked.

Andy nodded. “Yeah, she is. They’re a really cute couple too, always holding hands and being adorable. Krel hates it.”

Mary Wang giggled. “Staja certainly is a cute couple. You know what else would be a cute couple?”

“What?” Darci asked.

“Kandy,” she replied. “You know, like Krel and Andy? Kandy?”

Andy rolled her eyes. “Give it a rest, Mary. I don’t have a crush on Krel.”

 

Andy lay awake in bed in the middle of the night, unable to fall asleep. All she could think about was her new friend Krel. He was smart, funny, kind, witty, and- oh no. She did have a crush on Krel. She had to tell someone, somebody else had to know. Someone, anyone.

She looked over at the clock to see what time it was. Was 12:30 too late to call someone? She opened up her messaging app to see who was online. Darci, Mary, and Shannon were all asleep, but Claire was awake. She always seemed to be awake in the middle of the night.

She dialed Claire’s number, and her friend picked up. “Hey Andy, what’s up?” She sounded wide awake, as if it were the middle of the day.

“I kind of realized something,” she said. Andy heard a couple of voices talking in the background. She recognized one as belonging to Jim, and heard a shout that she knew belonged to Toby, but there were two deeper voices Andy didn't know. “Wait, who are you with?”

“Uh… a couple of Jim’s relatives,” Claire said, in a way that didn't exactly sound like the whole truth.

“Okay….” Andy said awkwardly.

“You realized something?” she said, after a period of awkward silence. Andy heard Jim say something to her, and she pulled away from the phone. She heard a muffled “In a second, babe,” before she returned to the receiver and said, “Okay, I’m back.”

“Okay, right,” Andy said. “So remember how Darci, Mary and you were um… teasing me?”

“Yeah?”

“About liking Krel? The new kid?”

“Yes.”

“Well turns out I was wrong.”

“Okay…?”

“I do in fact like him.”

Claire squealed, and Andy held the receiver away from her ear, wincing in pain. She heard Jim and Toby talk to Claire in a questioning tone, and she replied. What she told them, Andy did not know. “This is so exciting, Andy!” she exclaimed, coming back to the receiver. “OMG!”

Andy sighed. At least she hadn't called Mary Wang; if Mary Wang knew, so did everybody else. At least she could count on Claire to keep a secret. “You can't tell Mary Wang though,” she hissed into the receiver.

“Right,” Claire said. “If Mary knows, so does everyone else.” There was a brief pause before “...can I at least tell Darce?”

“I suppose,” she conceded, shrugging (despite the fact that Claire could not see her shrug.)

Claire squealed again, causing Andy to yet again hold the receiver away from her ear. “You gotta admit,” Claire said, “Kandy is a pretty good ship name.”

“Okay okay, none of that,” she admonished. “He doesn't even like me back. We aren't even a couple.”

“You should ask him out!”

“What!? No way!”

“Come on, it’s a new world! Women can do a lot more in the realm of dating these days.”

“Mary would rip your head off for that.”

“Oh, I am fully aware, trust me.”

“What’s the ship name she gave you and Jim again?”

Claire made a noise of slight disgust before saying, “Jlaire. It’s terrible.”

“Yeah… it’s not great! Doesn't quite roll off the tongue as well as Staja does.”

“Or Kandy.”

“Shut up,” Andy laughed, flopping over in bed.

The two voices she did not recognise came within the range of Claire’s phone’s microphone, both sounding a bit urgent. “Fudgeknuckle,” Claire spat out. “Sorry Andy, I have to go.”

“That’s okay!”

“Talk tomorrow at school?”

“Sounds good!”

“Alright Andy, keep it crispy,” she laughed into the receiver.

“See you later, dorkus,” Andy chuckled. Claire hung up, and Andy set her phone on her nightstand. Now that she had gotten that off her chest, she might be able to fall asleep.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Krel,” Eli said. Krel barely heard him, he was focusing on his math assignment. “Earth to Krel? Krel Tarron?”

Krel looked up, finally registering what the Eli was saying. “Yes? What is it that you want?” He looked peeved, crossing his two arms and tapping his pencil against his side impatiently.

“Is it true that you went to a girl’s house last night?” Eli said, leaning forward across the aisle.

“Um… yes? Is that a big deal?” Krel lifted an eyebrow.

“Is it a big deal. He asks if it’s a big deal,” Eli said to himself, in an incredulous tone. “Of COURSE it’s a big deal!” he exclaimed, turning to Krel. “How did you do it!? How did you woo her!?”

“I didn't woo anyone,” Krel said, looking back down at his paper. “I’m her math tutor. That is all.”

“Which girl is it though?” Eli asked, leaning into the aisle again. “Whose house did you go over to?”

“As if I’d tell you, Eli,” Krel grumbled, rolling his eyes.

“C’mon, Terron! We bonded over surviving the Billycraggle! You can trust me!” Eli pleaded, with that stupid grin on his face.

Krel looked up to the heavens. “Gaylen help me,” he said to himself. “First of all, we did not bond over the Billycraggle, because the Billycraggle is not real. I told you that much.”

“But we both saw it!”

“It wasn't a Billycraggle, Eli.”

“Fine, what was it then? HMMM?” Eli queried insolently.

“It was a-” Krel realized what Eli was trying to do. “Look, if you want to know so bad, I’ll tell you. It was Andy, okay?”

“Wait, Andy Hawthorne?” Eli asked, excited.

“Is that her house name?” asked Krel. “I like it. Quite regal.” Eli’s attention turned, and it looked almost as if he were looking through Krel instead of at him. He had a dumb expression on his face, and Krel huffed. “What are you looking at, Eli?”

Eli gave Krel a sly smile as his attention was yanked back. “I think you have an admirer,” he told him in a sing-song voice. “Don't look now, nine o’clock.”

“It is not nine o’clock, it is 2:35,” Krel said, sounding confused. The Eli was being weirder than usual today.

“Nine o’clock,” Eli explained, “as in the direction. Like you are the center of a clock?”

“Ohh, okay,” Krel said. That much made sense.

He snuck a glance in the direction of the nine on a clock, if he were a clock. Across from him sat Andy, who had a silly, dazed expression on her face. It was almost like the look Aja got when she looked at Steve. She seemed to see that Krel was looking at her and froze, the expression dropping from her face. Krel gave her a small wave and an awkward smile, and she did something odd, something Krel had never seen before. She turned bright red, making yet another expression and turning away quickly. She covered her face.

Krel was puzzled. He looked over to Eli. “What was that?”

“She was staring at you, dude!” Eli said, and attempted to cuff him on the shoulder. Krel pulled back before he could, however, and Eli fell out of his seat and onto the floor.

“Mr. Pepperjack, what are you doing out of your seat and on the floor?” Ms. Janeth loomed over the Eli with her hands on her hips. The class giggled.

“Sorry Ms. Janeth!” Eli exclaimed, scrambling up and back into his seat. “I just dropped my pencil is all,” he fibbed.

She gave him a skeptical look, but passed on, making sure other kids were doing their work as well.

Krel had been finished for some time now, and leaned over to talk to Andy. He was tired of Eli’s pestering. “Hey,” he said in a quiet tone, as to not get in trouble for talking in class. “How are you?”

Her cheeks and ears were still that weird red, as if they had too much blood in them. Humans were so strange. “I’m doing alright,” she said smoothly.

He gave her an honest half smile. “How is your math?”

She looked down at her paper. “Your guidance has proved quite useful,” she said. “I honestly think I am beginning to get the hang of this!”

“Good, I am glad,” he said. “I was wondering if you would need more help tonight?”

“Oh! Is… that a problem?” she asked, sounding nervous.

“Not at all,” said Krel, smiling. “I was simply asking if you would need the help.”

She nodded. “Yeah, probably.”

“Same time?”

“Sounds good! Also, I can drive, I’ll pick you up if you don't want to walk.”

“Okay, that sounds fine,” he affirmed, nodding.

“Okay,” she said, smiling.

 

It was about eight o’clock when there was a knock at Mother’s door. Andy was right on time. Krel got up from where he was lying on the couch… had he renewed his transduction?

“Mother, did I renew my transduction?” he asked.

“Yes, one hour ago,” the AI program responded.

“Thank Seklos,” he breathed. “Tell Aja and Vex I’ll be back after ten, Mother.”

“You got it, my royal.”

He grabbed the three books from before, and ran out the front door. He attempted to wave to the girl behind the wheel, but almost dropped his stack of texts. He opened the passenger side door with one hand and practically fell into the seat. “Hello!” he said to Andy. He liked the color of her hair, it was a shade that wasn't quite brown but not quite blonde. It reminded him of that one really sticky sweet human food, honey? At least he thinks that’s what it is called.

She smiled. “Hello!” she chirped in reply. “Ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” he replied, and she pulled away from his house. The two of them drove down the street, Krel staying silent. Partly for a lack of an idea for what to say, but also because he did not want to break her focus on the road. She was an excellent driver.

When they got to a stop sign, he looked over at her and cleared his throat, which captured her attention. “I noticed that you are an excellent driver,” he remarked.

“Thank you,” she said, crossing the four-way stop when the coast was clear. “Do you have your license?”

“Not yet,” he confessed, “though I am licensed to drive other sorts of vehicles.”

“Like a motorcycle?”

“Um… sure.” He wasn't exactly certain how to tell her he was licensed to drive a spaceship, seeing as humans didn't exactly have them for commercial use.

She laughed, but didn't say anything more on the matter. They pulled up in front of her house, and they walked up to her front door. “Just so you know,” she said, walking a few steps ahead of him, “my parents came home yesterday. They do not know we are friends.”

“Is that a problem?” Krel asked, cocking his head to the right. He readjusted the books in his arms, wishing he had four of them. Things would be so much easier to carry if he did.

“Well, I mean, not really,” she said, looking to the side and following the look with a tilt of her head in the same direction. “They know I have friends who are guys, but I just don't really have them over all that often.”

“I am your friend,” said Krel, with an awkward smile, “and also your math tutor.”

“True enough,” Andy conceded, smiling at him. She had a nice smile.

She opened the front door, and led him inside for the second time. She really did have a nice home, it felt comfy and lived in. Krel was immediately accosted by her three dogs, Dav, Fern, and Prissy. Fern nearly knocked him over, but Andy reached out a hand at the last second and latched onto his upper arm, keeping Krel from falling over. “Seklos and Gaylen, she is strong,” Krel remarked to Andy about Fern. “And thank you for catching me,” he added.

“Yeah, no problem,” she chuckled. “She doesn't know her own strength.”

“Andy? Is that you?” A woman’s voice came from upstairs. “Who do you have with you? It sounds like a boy!” The woman that came down the stairs had to be Andy’s mother, though she did not look much like her. She was tall, much taller than Andy. (Andy wasn't short, but she wasn't exactly the tallest girl Krel knew.) Her hair was dark and her skin was olive, though not with the ruddy hue that Krel’s fleshy form had. She had a larger nose than Andy, and it was not small and turned up like her daughter’s; it had a slight hook at the top and looked quite regal. The only thing the two of them had in common was their smile and their eyes. Both had the same not quite blue, not quite green, not quite grey eyes.

“Oh! Mom!” Andy said, fidgeting. “I forgot to tell you, this is my math tutor, Krel.”

“It is nice to meet you, Mrs. Hawthorne,” Krel said, extending a hand as was custom for humans, when she reached the bottom of the stairs. She shook his hand.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Krel,” said Mrs. Hawthorne. “Where are you two planning on studying?”

“My room?” Andy squeaked, looking nervous. Her cheeks were that weird red color again. Humans were so strange.

Her mother gave her a look, but sighed. “Okay, but keep the door open.”

Andy nodded and pulled Krel up the stairs. This whole exchange had been so strange, Krel thought. Humans were bizarre.

I followed her into her room, and made sure to leave the door open. No use in making Andy’s mom mad at her; she was one of the few friends Krel had made at Arcadia Oaks High School. Unlike Aja, who was the life of the party and super congenial, Krel had a much harder time connecting to people and making friends. Aja was always well liked, followed by swarms of her peers, whereas Krel seemed to mostly always be by himself. He did not mind, he was more of a loner anyway, but it was nice to have someone to talk to other than himself or Mother.

He sat the math books on her bed, and plopped down next to them. She took a seat by her pillow. “Hey, Krel?”

He looked up at her. “What is it?”

“I hope this isn't rude, since I know we aren't super close and I know you don't really talk about it, but… what happened to your parents?”

He took a deep breath and drew his knees into his chest, hugging them. “That is a heavy question, Andy.”

“Oh, I’m really sorry,” she said, putting both hands out in front of her. “I shouldn't have asked you, I’m really sorry I-”

He cut her off. “But I do need to tell someone.”

She sat back with a concerned look on her face, folding her hands in her lap. She didn't say anything.

“I am from a small French country called… Cantaloupia,” he said. “Small island, fairly insignificant. Mama and Papa were… leaders of a sort there,” he explained. “We were all betrayed by General Morando, someone who used to fight by my father’s side. Mama and Papa were badly injured and are at a hospital. We do not know if they will make it.”

Krel felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked up to see Andy sitting next to him. “You’re without a country or a home,” she said, somewhat to herself. He nodded. “You look like you could use a hug,” she said to him. He nodded again. His throat was beginning to tighten, and he was afraid he might start crying if he talked about this more. Crying was something that Akiridions did too, something Krel learned here. Humans were so much more open and forward about their feelings, something that was alien to Krel.

She opened her arms and embraced him, and he sat in the hug for a heartbeat, feeling safe, before returning the gesture.

When she pulled away after a minute, her face was a little pink and she cleared her throat awkwardly.

“Thank you,” he said, looking at his feet.

“Anytime,” she replied. He could practically hear how awkward she felt.

He reached over and grabbed one of the math books. “How about a little math?”

“Okay,” she said, smiling.

Chapter Text

After she dropped Krel off at his house and drove back home, Andy sat in bed and pulled out her computer. Thinking about the conversation she had with Krel earlier, she decided to google ‘Cantaloupia’ to read more about the coup.

She typed the name into the search engine, but nothing about a coup came up. In fact, nothing about a country came up. This was strange… she didn't think Krel would lie to her about this, and the details of his story didn't change much, but there was no such thing as Cantaloupia.

Dav jumped up on her bed and began licking her right knee. She tried to push him away, but he was too heavy. “Okay, I guess you can stay up here,” she said to him. He snorted in reply.

“What do you make of this, Davvy?” she asked him, closing her laptop and pulling the seventy pound bulldog puppy up into her lap. “Krel says he’s from the country of Cantaloupia, but I can't find hide nor hair of it online,” she explained. “I don't think he’s lying to me either.”

Another doggy snort.

“But why would he lie to me about that?” she said, scratching his chin. “It’s more likely that he’s simply not telling me the whole truth,” she mused. “He’s protecting something. That much I can respect.”

Andy’s phone rang. “Hello?”

“YOU HAD A BOY AT YOUR HOUSE AND YOU DIDN'T TELL ME!?” Andy held the receiver far away from her ear as Mary Wang went on her tirade. “Come on, Andy, we’re FRIENDS! FRIENDS TELL EACH OTHER THAT SORT OF THING!”

“This is kind of exactly why I didn't tell you,” Andy said, making a face. “You’d freak out and make a huge deal out of it.”

“Claire said he was your math tutor… oh my God, is it Seamus!? Is Seamus at your house!? OH MY GOD DO YOU LIKE SEAMUS?”

Andy groaned. “No, Mary, I do not like Seamus. In fact, I kind of think he’s annoying.”

“Omg, omg, don't tell me don't tell me… NO,” she gasped, her voice dropping. “It isn't the new kid, is it?”

“Who, Krel?”

“Yeah! Aja’s brother!”

“Um….”

“OH MY GOD!” she squealed, and Andy had to hold the phone away from her ears again. “OH MY GOD YOU LIKE KREL!”

Andy made a face as Mary Wang continued to carry on about it. “Listen, Mary,” she hissed. “If you breathe a word of this to anyone outside of our friend group I will personally make sure you never see Tight Jeans Hank again.” Andy was a blackbelt in taekwondo, and Mary Wang knew that she could kick anyone’s ass to the point of hospitalization. Now, Andy would never do this, but she couldn't afford to let this information get out into the world. She didn't want Krel to know that she liked him; they were friends and she did not want to make anything awkward between them.

She heard Mary gulp on the other line. “Okay,” she said, in a less enthused voice. “Got it.”

 

The next morning at school was an interesting one. When Andy sat down next to Krel in the morning, he seemed more focused on his paper than talking to her. Normally he was a bit of a chatterbox as soon as she sat down.

“Everything okay?” she asked, leaning over the aisle before class started.

He looked up as if startled. “Hm?”

“I asked if everything was okay?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m okay,” he said. “Just a little on edge is all. Aja lost something and has been dragging my ass around everywhere to look for it.”

“I can't have Vex knowing I lost my serrator!” I heard Aja protest. “He’ll have my head!”

Andy shook her head and laughed. She had not yet had the privilege of meeting Varvatos Vex, but from what she had heard from the twins she could infer that he was quite intense.

Class started, quelling whatever argument the twins were beginning to have. Andy still sometimes couldn't believe the two of them were twins, they looked so incredibly different. Krel was very tan and his skin had a ruddy undertone, whereas Aja was incredibly pale with pink cheeks. His hair was dark, hers was nearly white. They didn't even look related. Despite that, they certainly acted like brother and sister.

 

After class, Andy was walking to her locker when Claire, Darci, Shannon, and Mary Wang came up to her. They all had their next class together, and like to walk together every day.

“I saw you talking to Krel,” Mary said, wiggling her eyebrows.

Andy turned red and covered her eyes. “Dear Lord, when will this end!”

“Have you said anything to him yet?”

“When will I be free from this torment?”

“Have you been flirting?”

“I plead my heavenly Father to please, please release me from my punishment and take me up to be with you, oh Lord!”

Darci, Claire, and Shannon giggled at Mary’s pestering and Andy’s dramatic antics. Soon enough, the five of them were sitting in their class. Despite this, Mary had not stopped teasing Andy, and Andy was
face down on her desk when Coach Lawrence walked in to start health class.

Andy was beginning to tire of Mary Wang’s teasing. She tilted her head so that it was the side of her head on the desk instead of her face, and so she was facing Mary. “Remember how I can kick Tight Jeans Hank’s ass?”

Mary gave her a quizzical look. “Can you?”

“Twelve years of taekwondo and a black belt, so yeah.”

Mary sighed and sat back, stopping the flood of jabs and digs. “Fine, you win.”

Finally, thought Andy.

Chapter Text

After school was out for the day, Krel was leaving with Aja to look for her missing serrator. He was a little peeved, you couldn't just lose one of those.

Suddenly, he lurched forward, struck by something about his size barrelling into him and wrapping around him. He gasped as the wind was knocked out of him, and when he regained his balance, looked to see Andy hugging him. She broke off and patted his shoulder.

“Sorry,” she giggled. “Thought I’d get the drop on ya. Gotta stay sharp!” She tapped her temple with her index finger.

“Yeah, gotta stay sharp,” he echoed, rubbing his arm and watching her leave. There was something about her he couldn't quite place, something different. And there was this feeling… his face was hot, especially his cheeks and ears. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but whatever it was, he didn't like it. It was strange and new, and he was not so good with strange and new. He may have adapted okay to Earth, but a lot of it was a facade. He missed his home more than he’d ever let his sister or Vex know. After all, he didn't want them to worry.

“Seklos and Gaylen,” Aja giggled. “You are bright red!”

“What?” Krel said, incredulously. “I am not bright red, I am a sort of… medium brown,” he said, holding his arms out.

She giggled again. “Your face, silly.”

He pulled out his phone and opened the front facing camera to check his appearance, like he had seen so many humans do. Mostly girls, but still. Indeed, Aja was right. Krel’s face bore the same odd flush that seemed to randomly afflict humans off and on.

“How do I turn it off?” he asked as the two of them walked back to Mother. “This is embarrassing!”

“Steve calls it ‘blushing,’” Aja explained. “Humans do it when they are embarrassed or flustered. I believe it is an emotional response.”

“Well, I do not like it,” grumbled Krel. “The sooner it stops, the better.”

 

“Hey, Eli, can I… ask you a question?” It had been a full day, but Krel still didn't really understand what had happened.

The Pepperjack looked up from his paper and over at Krel. “Um… sure!”

“Why does my face sometimes get all hot when I have a strong emotion?” he asked, an unreadable expression on his face.

“You mean like… blushing?” Eli asked, lifting an eyebrow. Krel nodded. “Oh, that's just a normal emotional response,” said Eli. “I don't really know why we do it though. Why?”

“It keeps happening to me,” said Krel.

Eli gave Krel a quizzical look. “Do you keep getting embarrassed?”

Krel shook his head. “No, not really. I mean every day something at least a little embarrassing happens, but not all that bad.”

Eli shrugged. “I don't know what to tell you, my dude.”

Krel made a pensive face and looked back down at his paper. He felt like he was being watched, so he looked up to investigate. Andy was looking at him again, with that dazed expression. He felt his face heat up again and- oh no. No no no. The two of them looked away quickly, both beet red. He now understood why Andy had acted a little odd… it was because she liked him. And the feeling was possibly mutual.

Eli looked up and saw Krel’s expression. His face broke out into a shit eating grin that Krel thought only Aja was capable of. “Oh, I see what’s going on here.”

Krel covered his eyes and put his head down on his desk. “Kleb,” he swore.

“You like Andy!”

“Not so loud,” he groaned.

“I mean, everyone alive could tell that Andy had a crush on you,” Eli said, more to himself than to Krel, “but I didn't know the feeling was mutual!”

“Neither did I,” he agonized.

The bell rang and the two of them got up. Krel saw Andy hang back to chat with a few of her friends, so he headed out the door with Eli. Krel walked over to his locker and began entering the combination.

“So, are you gonna ask her out?” Eli asked, a smug grin on his face.

“I wouldn't even know where to start,” Krel protested, looking inside his locker.

“Come on, you should totally ask her out,” Eli said, wiggling his eyebrows.

“Ask who out?” Krel stiffened when he heard Steve’s voice. He knew that Steve and Eli were best friends, but Steve was dating Aja, and the last thing Krel wanted was for Steve to tell Aja about Krel liking Andy. He didn't even want to like Andy; she was just a normal, biological human, and he was the King-in-Waiting of Akiridion-5.

“Krel has a crush on-” Eli began, but Krel slammed his locker shut with a bang before Eli could finish his statement.

“Shut up,” he growled, glaring at Eli and repositioning his backpack on his shoulders. He brushed past Steve and Eli, headed to his next class. “I don't want to talk about it.”

 

Krel sat on his bed, the door to his room open just a little bit. He held the guitar in his lap, computer open in front of him and playing a tutorial video on learning how to play it. He strummed a few chords, smiling and forgetting all about the events of the school day. It was moments like this he loved the most about Earth; the quiet moments where he could just be himself, by himself, without having to worry about where he was needed and what he was needed for. Sure, he was alone, but Krel most often was. He and Aja were very different in that regard.

His twin opened the door just a bit. “Knock knock,” she said, and he looked up. “Can I come in?”

“Sure,” he said, stopping his guitar playing. “What is the matter?”

“Nothing is wrong,” she said, taking a seat on his bed. He set the guitar aside. Something strange was going on here.

“Then what is it?” he asked skeptically, narrowing his eyes. “Out with it.”

“So I was talking to Steve, who had talked to Eli, who had talked to you,” she began, and Krel already knew where this was going. His expressioned deepened into a full blown scowl. “Steve tells me that you told Eli that you like that girl,” she said, voice beginning to grow giddy.

He glared at her. “What does it matter?” he asked, not bothering to deny it. Denial never got anyone anywhere.

“Are you going to ask her out on a date?” she asked, grinning.

He stood up. “No, I am not. I am going to wait patiently until we can fix the daxial array and get off this mudball,” he said, “and return to Akiridion and reclaim our home. I am not interested in tying up my emotions here. I have squashed this kind of thing before, I will squash it again.”

He turned to leave, but Aja caught his hand. “Krel, you cannot run forever. I know that Ryven hurt you… but I do not think that-”

He yanked his hand out of her grasp. “Please do not talk about him,” he said, voice thick with an emotion that was hard to place. He stopped at the door to say something before leaving. “I have had enough pain in one day.”

Chapter Text

She sat down at her desk, pulling out her various papers and getting ready for English. She had English first with the twins.

Speaking of the twins, she looked over to her left to greet Krel, as was her custom each morning. “Good morning,” she said, a big grin on her face. He looked cute today, he was wearing a new shirt. It was a darker blue with the Gunrobot logo on it, though Andy knew Krel had never seen that movie. His hair was hanging in his face a little, and he kept batting it out of his eyes with an irritated expression. She absentmindedly wondered if he ever pulled it up.

He didn’t respond. Hm, that was odd. He almost nearly always would crack a grin and give her a good natured reply. Today he sat in silence, staring at the board with an unreadable expression on his face. Oh well, maybe he didn’t sleep well last night. It was not unlikely, she knew how horrible the boy’s sleeping habits were based on when he would respond to texts. However, this was still out of character for the kid. Oh well, whatever it is will pass, she thought.

It didn’t. When the bell rang and everyone got up to leave class, Andy stood, expecting to walk with Krel per custom, but he brushed right past her to walk with Aja. She stood, book in hand, watching him leave with a confused expression. What was up with him today?

He put her book into her bag and walked out, the last one to leave class, a puzzled expression on her face. Hopefully he would sort out whatever was eating him soon. She may like him, but at the end of the day he was still probably her best friend.

Her frustration continued, however. All day he did not speak a word to her; in fact it almost seemed as if he was avoiding her. He was either talking to Eli, studying, or listening to music. He didn't respond when she spoke to him most of the time, and if he did it was a noncommittal grunt.

She finally pulled Eli aside. “Hey, Pepperjack,” she said, tugging on his backpack. She was still taller than him, but it seemed he had finally hit a growth spurt, because his voice sounded deeper by the day and the gap between their heights was growing smaller by the week.

“Oh, Andy!” he squawked, as if not expecting to see her. He readjusted his glasses as she let go of his backpack. “What is it?”

“What’s up with Krel?” she asked, grabbing her arm across her chest.

“What do you mean?” He gave her a quizzical look.

“I feel like he’s avoiding me,” she explained nervously. “He hasn't said a word to me all day.” She felt ghosted.

“He has seemed a bit down today,” Eli mused, rubbing his chin, “but I haven't really noticed much more than that.”

“Oh, okay,” said Andy, pressing her lips together in a line and rubbing her arm. “Thanks Eli.”

“No problem,” he said, walking to his next class.

She sucked in a breath and checked the time. She had History next with Aja, whom she sat next to. She would try to talk to her to see what was up with her brother, maybe she knew something that Eli didn't.

 

The bell rang as Andy slid into her seat next to Aja. The blonde was on her phone, probably texting her boyfriend, Steve Palchuk. What she saw in him Andy would never know, but he did treat her well. She brought out a soft, sweet side in him that Andy hadn't really seen prior to Staja.

“Hey, Aja?” Andy said softly, as to not disturb the quiet atmosphere of the classroom.

“What?” she asked, turning her head and setting her phone down.

“What’s up with Krel?”

Aja looked down at her hands, which were laying on the desk. She let out a long sigh through her nose, before looking up at Andy and saying, “Is he being a snackbutt?”

Andy stifled a giggle. She guessed that Aja meant ‘buttsnack’, one of Steve’s favorite zingers. “I mean… I’m not sure?” she explained, after regaining her composure. “He’s not his usual self. Well, I mean he is, but just not to me.”

“How so?”

“He’s like… quiet? Yeah, he’s being real quiet towards me. He’s not laughing at my jokes or really even talking to me at all. And when I do talk to him, he doesn't answer me. Sometimes he’ll give a little acknowledging grunt, but not like… an actual conversation?”

Aja sighed again. “I will kick his ass later,” she said, with all the venom of an older sibling peeved at their younger sibling in her voice.

“Uh…” Andy was unsure why Aja seemed so pissed. Clearly she knew something Andy didn't. “Do you know something I don't?”

“Most likely,” Aja said. “And you probably know things that I do not know.”

“No, I meant about Krel.”

“Oh, yes, about Krel. Yes, I do know something you do not.”

“Can you tell me what it is?”

“Not likely.”

“Oh, okay,” Andy replied, puzzled. She looked back down at her history packet and continued to work on it. This day just kept getting better and better.

 

It was at the end of the day, after the quietest math class that Andy had ever sat through, at Krel’s locker, when it happened.

Andy spotted Krel across the courtyard. He was looking into his locker, pulling the stuff he would need for that night’s homework out of it and putting it in his bag. He was supposed to come over that night to help her with math, but based on his current behavior she wasn't sure if he was still in the mood. She walked over to him to ask him.

“Hey Krel!”

No response. At least, no verbal response. The response she got was a tensing of his shoulders, like he was angry or afraid. Had she done something wrong? She tried to think back to any conversation they might have had that set him off. Was it the talk about his parents? He had seemed so grateful for a listening ear at the time.

“I was uh… wanting to know if you were still up for coming over to my house this evening to tutor me?” she asked cheerfully. “Today’s lesson was confusing and Ms. Janeth doesn't always do the best job of explaining things in terms I understand.”

Again, no response.

“Yo dude, what’s up today?” she asked, concerned.

Suddenly, he slammed the door to his locker shut with more force than Andy had ever seen from him. He jammed the remaining textbook into his bag and turned to her. “Seklos and Gaylen would you give me a quiet minute!?” he snapped. “It’s like I never get time to think around you! All you do is talk talk talk! I hate this stupid mudball, and everyone on it!” There was an anger on his face that Andy was not accustomed to, especially not from him. If she hadn't been focused on him, she would've noticed that the crowd in the courtyard around them had grown quiet, all eyes on them.

She did not say anything for a minute. She didn't even know what to say… he hated the world? He hated everyone on the world? He hated… She took a deep breath, struggling to say anything. “Even… me?” she managed softly, after a heartbeat.

He didn't have a reply. She saw the anger melt off his face all at once, as if he’d realized what he’d said. However, she was too angry at him to care.

“Listen,” she said, voice raw as if she was about to cry, “you may have lost your home, but it’s not like mine is worthless.” After she got the words out, she burst into tears and ran out the front gates of the school in the direction of her home.

Tears of rage and sadness carried her home, and it wasn't until she was standing in front of her house that she realized she might have just lost her best friend.

Chapter Text

As soon as he realized what he had said, what it sounded like, and seen how she had reacted, he regretted those words.

She stormed past him, tears of anger and sorrow streaming down her face. “Andy, wait, Andy!” He attempted to follow after her. “Andy, I… I-” But it wasn't of any use. She was already gone.

“Kleb,” he said, looked down at his feet. “I really fucked that up.” That was a newer word he had learned from Andy, though she warned him not to use it in front of discerning adults.

“You sure did,” Eli said, coming up next to him. “Wow.”

Krel felt his throat growing stiff and his face grow hot. Was he going to start leaking fluid? He certainly felt upset enough.

He heard heavier footsteps come up behind him, footsteps he knew belonged to Steve. “Wow dude, did you make her cry?” he said.

Krel winced. “Unfortunately, I did.”

“Yikes.”

“I know.”

Aja came out from the main building. “You have to fix that,” she commanded.

“You didn't even-”

“I saw her walk past me. I put two and two together, snackbutt.”

“It’s ‘buttsnack,’” Steve added, unhelpfully.

“Okay, yes, that was really bad. And I… feel really bad,” Krel said, “and I’m afraid I just lost my friend. So how do I fix this?”

The four of them began to walk in the direction of their homes. Steve and Aja were holding hands, and Krel was trying to ignore that fact. He really did not like Staja as much as the rest of his class.

“I think this calls for some sort of… grand gesture,” Steve said, rubbing his chin with his free hand. Krel rolled his eyes. Great. Feelings. Something he was so wonderful at. Sure. Right.

“Yeah!” Eli chimed in. “Telling her that you’re sorry probably won't be enough. Andy is a tough cookie, which means you really rattled her dude.”

Krel winced. “Yeah, don't remind me.”

“What are some traditional forms of apology on this pla- uh- in this country?” Aja said, saving that near miss. Steve winked at her and she shoved his arm playfully. Eli remained blissfully unaware.

“I am going to call her,” said Krel.

“No man don't do that!” Eli warned, but it was too late. Krel already had her number dialed and his cell phone up to his ear. It rang for about two seconds before going straight to voicemail.

“That is odd,” said Krel. “It went straight to the voicemail.”

“Yeah dude, she rejected your call,” said Steve, in that really annoying tone that made Krel want to punch him in the face. Steve may be dating his twin sister, but he was still a stupid oaf. “Duh.”

Krel sighed and pocketed his phone. “I suppose that was wishful thinking.” He paused for a moment, and looked at Aja. “When you said ‘traditional’, it made me think. You know all those …moving pictures we watch?”

“Wait, like movies?” Eli said. Steve had a shit eating grin on his face, which Krel pointedly ignored. No use feeding the fire.

“Yes, like movies,” Krel huffed. “Anyway, so in the movies, the older ones, sometimes,” he paused here and scratched his head. He hated how stupid this idea sounded, “one of the characters would take one of those large stereos and play music? Outside of the girl’s window. And it was always to say sorry.”

“Oh my god, you’re basing your knowledge of American culture off of movies from the 1980’s?” Eli giggled.

“It’s not like he’s got anything better,” Steve retorted.

Eli shrugged. “Fair ‘nuff.”

“I have an old stereo… what you might call retro,” said Krel. “Fixed it up after the skeltegs. Seklos and Gaylen, that took a while,” he added, speaking more to himself than to the three other people with him. “But do you think it would work?”

“Sounds lively,” Aja said, grinning.

“Hold up,” said Eli. “As much as I completely adore the idea of you standing outside of Andy’s house in the middle of the night, blasting music from your 1985 boombox until she opens her window and you can apologize, I think that this situation calls for a little more nuance.”

“What do you mean?” Krel asked, cocking his head.

“I’m not sure Andy would appreciate it as much as you hope,” Eli explained.

“So you have to get a little more personal!” Steve crowed, as if he had figured something out. “Eli, that’s genius!”

“I am smarter than the average bear,” Eli said, pulling down his glasses with one finger to peer over the top of them at Steve, a smug expression on his face.

Steve shoved Eli’s head to the side with his free hand playfully. “C’mon, Eli, you’re not a bear. You’re hardly even a twink.”

Eli gasped in mock horror. “I resent that comment!”

“More like resemble!” Steve laughed.

Not really wanting to know what that whole exchange was about, Krel decided to focus on what they had been talking about just moments before. “What do you mean, more personal?”

Eli gave him that same shit eating, sly grin he wore when talking about Krel’s love life. Krel rolled his eyes. “You play guitar, right?”

“Uh… yeah?”

“You sing, right?”

“Kleb.” Had any of them heard him sing before? He hoped not. He was always embarrassed about singing in front of other people.

“You gotta play your guitar for her bro!” Steve urged. “C’mon man, she’d positively melt.”

“I don't want her to melt,” Krel said. “I want her to stay in one piece!”

Steve and Eli started laughing, and Aja and Krel just looked at each other and shrugged. Steve and his best friend could be so weird sometimes.

 

Krel sat in his room, holding his guitar on his lap. He needed something that said ‘I’m sorry’. It didn't have to be literal, it could be figurative. However, he didn't really want the gesture to come across as romantic, because this was not yet a gesture of romance. This was apologizing to a friend. He hoped. He really truly hoped and prayed that the two human idiots weren't setting him up, and that this truly was something a friend would do. Something told him this might make Andy think that he thought of her as more than just a friend, but he quelled those thoughts as best he could.

He listened to a few songs, before finding one that he thought was absolutely perfect. It was figurative, but it said everything he wanted to say. Now all he had to do was learn to play it.

He didn't have time to learn it in its entirety the human way, so he learned part of it through thermogenic cosmosis.

He held the guitar in his hands, two on the neck and two on the body of the wooden instrument. He sighed. It felt quite a bit smaller like this, and the strings felt different against his fingers. When he tapped the wood it did not made the soft padding sound of human skin on a hard surface, but rather the solid clinks of his energy based form. She couldn't see him like this either; no one could. Well, no one except Steve, which Krel still resented.

He renewed his transduction with Mother, then looked in the mirror. The first time she had done this he had not known what she had meant by ‘Latino,’ but he had a fairly good understanding now. Humans from different parts of the world looked different, and people who were considered Latino were from the countries south of the one he was in. At least, he thought that's what it meant. Maybe it was more nuanced than that.

He put on a different shirt, marveling at how small the human body was for just a moment. So much smaller than Akiridions, that was for sure. The shirt he chose was his classic teal shirt with the heartbeat monitor readout on it. Couldn't go wrong with a classic, right?

At least he hoped.

He put his guitar into the case he had recently required, and walked out his front door. Aja followed him out for a ways before wishing him luck and going back inside.

Well, it was now or never. Time to set things right.

Chapter Text

Andy sat in her room, feeling downtrodden. She had walked home from school and barely said a word all evening; she knew her mother could tell something was wrong.

She heard a knock at the door, but didn't bother responding. She could tell the difference among the three other members of her household when they knocked: her father’s knock was a sharp rapping, her mother’s a light tapping, and her sister’s a solid thunk. This knock was a light tapping, and her mother never bothered with permission.

Sure enough, the door opened readily and her mother walked in. Andy did not move from where she sat despondent at the desk, waiting for her mother to speak.

“Something is wrong,” her mother started.

Andy, not facing her, rolled her eyes. No duh, she thought.

“Can you tell me what it is?” There was a sort of earnest quality in her mother’s voice that Andy did not hear all that often. Her mother could be an overly critical person, something her sister had picked up as well. She did not often lend herself to warm kindness, or verbal intimacy. Andy and her father, however, threw themselves wholeheartedly into both.

She sighed, and turned towards the window. “Someone… who I thought was my best friend said something very mean to me today.”

“I’m sure whoever this person is will come around,” her mother supplied unhelpfully. “They were probably just having a bad day.”

Andy turned to face her mom. “That’s the thing, Mom. I don’t think they lashed out because they were simply having a bad day… I know what they look like in a pissy mood. This wasn’t that.”

Her mother shrugged, at a loss. “I’m sorry, baby.”

“Despite the fact, I can’t even bring myself to be angry at him,” she said.

“Him?” her mother questioned, leaning forward a bit in interest.

Andy sighed again. “Yeah, him. My best friend is a guy, Mom.”

“Oh, okay,” her mother said, sensing the peeved tone of Andy’s voice, and leaned back a bit to sit more comfortably on her bed.

“I am sure he is more mad at himself than he is at you,” her mother soothed, standing up and resting her hand lightly on Andy’s shoulder. “And something tells me you care for him more than you’re letting on.”

Andy didn’t say anything, she just watched as her mother left the room, closing the door behind her. She turned her attention back to her math homework with another dejected sigh. She didn’t understand any of this; she wished Krel was here to help her.

Another half hour passed, Andy mulling over math problems with an air of general confusion. She used Khan Academy liberally, but not even its great wisdom could teach her polynomial functions.

Just as she was beginning to give up, there was a tapping at her window. At first Andy thought it was just the wind knocking the branches of the tree outside her window against the glass panes, but they were a bit too even and regular to be the wind or the tree.

She went over to the window and opened it, expecting it to be nothing. She certainly did not expect to open her window to find Krel crouched on a tree limb, holding a guitar with an earnest expression on this face.

“KREL! What the-” she gasped, taking a deep breath. “What the fuck are you doing outside my window?! My second story window?!”

He sighed. “I know I messed up this morning. I said things that I should not have, because I was dealing with feelings I was not accustomed to feeling. However that is no excuse. I am here to say I am sorry.” The whole time he did not make eye contact with her, only looking down at his guitar, as if he were afraid of what she’d do or say if he looked into her eyes.

Andy did not know what to expect.

Krel took a deep breath, situating the guitar in his lap, and then began to play a song. It was slow, and in a minor key. It had a four note pattern that Andy only sort of recognized, but loved instantly.

It told the story of a matador who no longer wanted to fight bulls, and it was told as an apology from the matador to the bull. It was a figurative apology, but one that Andy understood truly and wholly.

And Krel? Krel had an amazing voice. Andy had always suspected he could sing, but nothing like this. This was absolutely incredible.

“I’m sorry, Toro I am sorry,” Krel sang, and Andy could see the music on his face. “Hear my song, and know I sing the truth, and although we were bred to fight, I reach for kindness in your eyes tonight.” He looked at me when he sang that line. “And if you can forgive and if you can forgive, love will truly live, and if you can forgive and if you can forgive, love will truly live.” He drew out the last note on the guitar and let it hang in the air for a heartbeat, before releasing the breath Andy hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He looked up at her, not saying anything.

Eyes filled with tears over how touched she was and how beautiful his performance was, she threw her arms around the boy in a warm embrace and tried to hold back her tears. Ultimately she failed, sobbing into his shoulder. He set the guitar gingerly inside the window and returned Andy’s embrace with strong arms. Andy wanted very badly to kiss him right now, but she sensed that might be in poor taste.

When the two of them broke apart and Andy wiped the tears from her eyes, Krel spoke. “I didn’t know how to make it up to you,” he said, climbing into her room and sitting on her bed. “So I did one of the two things I am good at. Do you… forgive me?”

“I forgive you,” she said, sniffling. “I do forgive you.” She saw Krel attempt to discreetly wipe away his own tears.

“Good,” he breathed, voice a little ragged with emotion. “Thank Seklos.”

“Krel, I didn’t know you could sing like that!” Andy exclaimed, after a brief moment of silence.

He shrugged. “It is just something I enjoy.”

“Well I enjoyed it too,” she said, putting a hand on his shoulder.

He reached up and placed his hand on top of hers in an almost romantic tender gesture that definitely caught Andy a little off guard. “I am glad.”

Chapter Text

It was morning, and Krel slid into his seat in his first period class. He looked over; Andy’s seat was empty. However, he knew she should be arriving at any minute. It wasn't quite like her to be late.

She burst in through the door just as the bell rang and lunged for her seat. She sat, chest heaving at the effort. “I ran all the way here,” she managed between breaths. “Overslept,” was her explanation, when Krel raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

He chuckled. “We were up kind of late.”

Andy looked as though she were mulling that over, and then looked at him with a silly expression. “It’s true. Two in the morning is a bit late.”

The night before, Krel had ended up staying at Andy’s house until his transduction started to wear off. When she had asked him why his eyes were black and blue, he had stammered out some dumb excuse and literally jumped out the window.

“You left your guitar at my house,” said Andy. “I wasn't sure how to safely transport it to school, so if you want to walk home with me today to retrieve it you can.”

He slapped his forehead. “My guitar!” After a moment he nodded. “Yes, that would be nice.”

She smiled and tucked a rogue strand of hair behind her ear. In the past he had noticed that she actually had quite a few piercings. The only other people he had seen with that many piercings were the kids that wore all black and listened to loud, angry music. She had a small silver hoop through the septum of her nose, two turquoise studs on each side, and a thin gold bar through the round part of her right ear that was fashioned to look like an arrow. They were quite tasteful, honestly.

She was a girl of not-quites, he had noticed. Not quite tall, but not quite short. Her hair was not quite brown, but not quite blonde. Her eyes were not quite blue, not quite green, and not quite grey. She was pale, but not with the pinkish undertone that a lot of pale people had, Aja included. There was a sort of olive undertone to it, which was interesting.

She looked up from her paper and caught him looking at her. He blushed and looked away sharply. Seklos and Gaylen, this was more difficult than he thought.

 

After school was over, the two of them walked back to Andy’s house so Krel could retrieve his guitar. He was still kicking himself for leaving it there, he needed to be more careful with his things.

“So… what you did last night…” Andy began, and Krel suddenly noticed how close she was walking in proximity to him. Their shoulders were nearly touching, and it was killing Krel.

He began to stammer some excuse, thinking she was going to chew him out a little for what he did.

“It was really lovely,” she said, smiling and making eye contact with him. He was turning red, he could feel it. His face was all hot. Gaylen’s core, this was embarrassing!

“Thank you,” he stammered, and she bumped him with her shoulder playfully.

“You have an incredible singing voice,” she said. “Thoughts on trying out for the spring musical?”

“Musical? What do you mean by that?”

“Oh, you know, like a play but with singing and dancing?”

Krel mulled it over. “Hm. I am thinking… no.”

“What!? Why not!? You would be absolutely amazing!” she said, waving her arms around for emphasis. She was so animated, especially when she was excited. It certainly was cute.

“I really am not as good as you say I am.”

“Oh, but you really are!”

“Hm.”

“What you sang to me last night was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever heard, Krel.”

“...Oh.”

“Yeah, ‘oh.’ Besides, I’m gonna be trying out!” she added, grinning at him.

“You are?” If she tried out, maybe… just mayyyyyybe, he would try out too. Maybe.

“Yeah, I try out every year! But in the past, I’ve always gotten stuck in the chorus,” she said, sounding a little sad in the second half of the statement.

“Why?” he asked. He wasn't sure what the chorus was, but he was guessing it was not what Andy wanted to be in.

“Because of how deep my singing voice is,” she explained. “I have an unusually deep voice for a woman, and there aren't a lot of songs written for people with my vocal range. Especially not in musicals,” she sighed, sounding somewhat dejected.

“That is unfortunate,” he said, as they came upon her house.

She led him in through the front door and up the stairs. “Yeah, it’s a real big bummer, I’ll tell you that much.” They walked into her bedroom, and she picked up the guitar that was sitting under the window. She handed it back to him.

He took it in his arms and smiled. “Thank you, Andy,” he said.

“Not a problem! Besides, it is me who should be thanking you.” She smiled, resting a hand on his shoulder.

 

Krel sat on his bed, scrolling through a couple of websites. Human courting rituals were confusing and difficult. He scratched his head and sighed. He was certainly going to mess this up.

He heard Aja walk down the hallway, and pause at his slightly open door. She poked her head in. “Oh, you are home! Lively!”

“Good afternoon Aja,” he said, not looking up from his screen. He was using two of his hands to prop himself up, and the other two to type and scroll.

Aja came into his room and sat down on his bed. “So, I take it that last night went well?”

He looked up at her and smiled. “Yeah, it worked.”

“That is excellent!” she said, cuffing him on the shoulder. He made a noise of protest and batted her hand away. “Though you came inside after the transduction wore off. She didn't…” Aja said, nervously.

Krel shook his head. “Nothing to worry about, sister. She didn't see a thing. She asked about my eyes and I made my getaway.”

Aja nodded. “That’s good.”

“Hey, Aja?” he asked, when she stood.

“Yes, little brother?”

“I don't know a thing about human courtship,” he admitted. “Seklos, I barely know anything about courtship! All my dates to formal events have previously been arranged. I mean, I guess I know the basics from what we were taught of our traditions… but I’ve never seen it in practice.” Great, he was rambling. “How did Steve… ask you out?”

“He just invited me to a bon bon fire thingie. Though technically, it was a group thing,” she supplied.

He sighed. “I don't have a ‘group thing’ to invite Andy to,” he grumbled. “She’s my only friend other than Eli.”

Aja sat back down on his bed. “What about… an Akiridion gesture?”

He cocked an eyebrow. “Surely you are not serious, Aja. I feel like that would expose me.”

“Oh come on, it’s just giving her something you’ve made.”

Krel opened his mouth to protest, but then sat back, mulling it over. “You know, that is not a bad plan.”

She chuckled. “I know.” Her phone rang, and Krel could hear Steve on the other line. Aja got up to go to her room to talk to him, and Krel flopped back on his bed. This posed a new problem now. What was he supposed to make for Andy?

He mulled over her interests. He knew she was really good at martial arts, but he had no idea how he could turn that into a gift. He knew that she was an artist, but that he knew nothing about art supplies, at least here on Earth.

Finally, he remembered music. She had not sang in front of him before, but he had caught her humming in the past. She was always listening to music, and she was always humming some sort of a tune.
Okay, so, what to get her that has to do with music? He looked around the room, trying to find inspiration. Finally, his eyes rested on his speaker, the baseball sized orb that floated around the room, playing music. Krel had invented it shortly he had come to this planet, after he had discovered that he loved music more than anything. Even more than math.

He cracked a smile. That’s it! That’s personal enough to make his point, but still something you might give a close friend. He set to work making another one, attempting to plan how he was going to give this to her tomorrow. Would she understand? He hoped so.

Chapter Text

Andy was feeling pretty good at the moment. She tapped her pencil against her desk, looking down at her math worksheet. She finally knew how to solve polynomial function equations thanks to Krel. Speaking of Krel, the dark haired boy was sitting across from her and doing his best to avoid eye contact. They were taking a test, but she felt that it went deeper than that.

She looked back down at her test, but out of the corner of her eye she saw Krel sneak a glance at her. She gave him a discreet smile so Ms. Janeth wouldn't see and think she was cheating. He blushed a deep red and looked down at his paper quickly. He pulled his backpack under his chair nervously, fidgeting.

Jesus, what was up with him today? She knew he was odd, but this was odd even for him.

 

Andy opened her locker and pulled out her biology textbook. As she opened her backpack to put the textbook in it, she heard Krel clear his throat behind her.

She jumped, startled. She turned to see Krel standing off to her right, holding something in his hand. “Oh, hi Krel!” she said, scratching the back of her head awkwardly.

“H-hi,” he stammered. He was already red.

“How do you think you did on the math test?” she asked, but she already knew the answer. He got a perfect score, but he wouldn't get the A+. Seamus got the A+ now, ever since Krel had let him win the math duel so he could go to space camp. Seamus’s racist father had made a fuss about Krel, who was Hispanic, being better at math than his white son. The whole thing had made Andy very angry; she had wanted to beat up Seamus’s dad, but Krel had stopped her.

“Perfect score,” he said, shrugging. It was not an arrogant remark, it was the truth. Krel really just was a math genius. “You?”

“I’m hoping for a B-,” she said. “Fingers crossed, am I right?”

He chuckled. After an awkward pause, he ran his fingers through his hair in a nervous way and said, “So… before you go home…”

“Yeah?”

In response to that, he held out the box he had tucked under his arm, towards her. She looked at him, and looked at the box.

“Do you want me to…”

“Take it?” he managed, face still the reddest Andy had ever seen.

She took it gingerly, and she saw Krel visibly relax as if someone had deflated all the air out of a balloon. “Do I…”

“Open it?” he supplied again.

Andy turned the box over in her hands, looking for a way to open it. It was not made of any substance that Andy recognized; it was black and smooth to the touch. There seemed to be a small latch at the top, which Andy flipped. She peeled the top off the black box; inside of it was a bocce ball sized black orb. She picked it up and turned it over in her hand. It was… a… well, she didn't know.

“Thank you!” she chirped, smiling at Krel. After a moment she looked at him again and asked, “What is it?” She cocked her head.

The look on his face was a hard mix to read. It looked somewhere between confusion, disappointment, and sadness. Andy immediately felt bad. But before she could apologize or say anything, Krel spoke. “It’s a portable music player,” he explained. “Here, I’ll show you how to turn it on.” He demonstrated where she should place her fingers. “Now push in,” he said, “gently.”

She did as he showed her to, and the orb vibrated slightly. The surface, which had been black, turned on and glowed a soft blue color. It lifted out of her hand and began floating around her head in a lazy circle, playing a Papa Skull song at a low volume. “What the hell?” she breathed. She had never seen anything like this before. This was incredibly high tech. “Krel… this had to have been expensive,” she said, looking up at him. “I really can't…”

“No no no! Don't worry, it wasn't expensive at all,” he reassured her. “I uh… I made it.”

Now Andy was plain confused. She knew Krel was a math genius… was he a tech genius too? “You made it?”

“Yeah,” he said, awkwardly. He reached out and tapped the orb as it floated past his head, and the music stopped. It went dim, and settled into his hand. He handed it to her.

She took it from him gingerly. “Why?” she asked, out of genuine curiosity. She had never received a gift like this from someone outside of her family.

“Well…” he began, awkwardly, “on A- uh, I mean in Cantaloupia, we give each other gifts on all sorts of occasions.” The poor kid looked really nervous. He was fidgeting with his backpack, and his face was red. He was also refusing to make eye contact with Andy. “We get them on certain anniversaries, and certain holidays,” he explained, “but we also… we give them to the person… the uh… the person we… the person we wish to court.” He squeezed his eyes shut. “It shows we feel… an affection for them.”

Andy looked down at the orb in her hands. “Are you asking me out, Krel?”

“Is that what you call it?”

Andy let out a short, awkward laugh. “Yeah, that’s what we teenagers call ‘courtship’ here in Arcadia. Well, America in general.”

“Then yes. Yes. I am ‘asking you out,’” he said, nodding. He looked like he was trying to convince himself more than Andy.

She gave him a big, genuine smile. “I would love to go out with you,” she said. She put the orb back in the box gingerly and set it carefully into her backpack. She reached over and hugged him. He stood there, somewhat stiff in her arms, before hugging her back warmly. This was nice. This was really nice.

 

Krel had walked her home, the music orb thing circling around them, playing Papa Skull. Krel showed her how to change the song, change the type of music, make a playlist, change playlists, and all sorts of other things. He even taught her how to change the color of light it emitted, or how to sync the lights and colors with the music. This gift was probably one of the coolest things Andy had ever gotten. However, nothing compared to what it meant. This gift meant that Krel Tarron liked her. She was on cloud fucking nine right now, and nothing could bring her down.

 

“C’mon Claire, pick up!” Andy whispered to her phone, bouncing from foot to foot on the rug in her room. She had to tell Claire. She HAD to.

“Hello?”

“CLAIREYOUARENEVERGOINGTOBELIEVEWHATJUSTHAPPENEDTOME!”

“....what?”

“WELLFIRST-”

“No, no, no, I meant what did you say? I can't understand a single word you are saying.”

Andy took a deep breath. “Okay, sorry, sorry. Claire, you are NEVER going to believe what just happened to me!”

“I think you might be surprised,” she said, and Andy could hear a little bit of smugness in her tone.

“So you know how I like Krel?” she said, voice full of excitement.

“Yeah,” Claire replied.

“And you know how we had a fight, and he apologized by singing a song to me in the middle of the night in a tree outside my house?”

“Wait wait wait wha-”

“WELL HE JUST ASKED ME OUT!” Andy squealed, jumping from foot to foot.

“Holy sheeshkabob!” Claire exclaimed. “There was a LOT in that story I didn’t know. What did he do outside your window? And… HOW DID HE ASK YOU OUT?!”

Andy started from the beginning, telling her all about Krel’s apology and how he asked her out. Claire listened intently, making the occasional reactionary noise or remark. The two girls chatted for a couple hours until Claire had to go.

Andy flopped down onto her bed, grinning at the ceiling like an idiot. She pulled out her phone again, planning to text Krel. Today had been a good day. No, scratch that, today had been an AMAZING day.

Chapter Text

He took a deep breath, nervous. Since it was apparently custom for the boy to pick the girl up for an outing here on Earth, he was walking to Andy’s house to do just that. He hoped that what he had planned would be a good outing too, this whole thing made him very nervous.

He rang the doorbell and waited, hands behind his back. He shifted his weight from foot to foot awkwardly.

She opened the front door, and Krel momentarily forgot how to breathe. She wasn't wearing her normal t-shirt and jeans, rather, she was wearing a sundress that showed off her broad shoulders. She had done her hair and had put makeup on. She looked really pretty.

She grinned at him. “Are you ready?”

He nodded. “Yes, I am!”

They left her house, and began walking towards Arcadia proper. The sprawling residential suburbia soon gave way to shops and busier streets as they headed for downtown.

“So, what exactly do you have planned?” she asked, turning to him with a grin.

“Well, we both like music,” he began, “soooooo…” he drew out the sound until they showed up at the desired location. Zimue Records, the place that Krel accidentally shoplifted from his first day on Earth. He since had learned a bit more about how stores on this planet worked, and had come prepared with some local currency.

“Oh hey, a record store!” she chirped. “Super cool!” She looked over at him and smiled, a big, pure, genuine Andy smile. He blushed, giving her an awkward half smile in response.

Remembering himself, he opened the door for her. She thanked him and walked into the shop. Krel followed after her. He saw the familiar pink haired punk store clerk behind the counter, she was actually pretty nice once you got to know her. Krel was a bit of a regular now, and had bought nearly all of the store’s Papa Skull records. She brushed her pink hair out of her heavily made up eyes, and put a hand on her hip. “Welcome to Zimue Records,” she droned, sounding like she’d rather be anywhere else. Krel waved at her, and she rolled her eyes but waved back.

Krel was going to make a beeline for the Papa Skull records, but remembered himself and went to find Andy. She had disappeared somewhere amongst the aisles of vinyl.

He found her pouring over two very different albums: a Capital Cities vinyl and an Avenged Sevenfold album in the EDM section. She’d taken the metal album from the other side of the store.

“You have broad tastes,” he remarked, startling her. She jumped and made a little squawking sound, before giggling and putting her hand on her heart.

“You startled me, Krel!”

He held up his hands. “Sorry!” He smiled.

She giggled and looked at him again with a dopey expression, before turning fuschia and looked back down at the records in her hands.

“Found some good ones?” he asked, tilting his head towards her full hands.

“Yeah,” she said, grinning sheepishly. “What about you?”

“Well I heard there was a new shipment in of the one Papa Skull album I do not own,” he said, leaning his head the other way, towards the metal section.

Andy giggled. “You sure do love Papa Skull,” she remarked.

Krel shrugged. “They make good music,” he said. “I cannot argue with good music.”

“Fair enough,” she said, as they looked through the albums on the shelf. After a moment, Krel heard her make an adorable noise of exclamation. “Found it!” she crowed, holding it up.

“Fantastic!” he said, an eager smile on his face. “Ready to go check out?”

She nodded. “Yeah!” The two of them walked up to the counter to purchase their albums. After a moment, Andy turned to Krel and said, “This was an excellent spot for a date! Unique for sure, but that’s a good thing.”

The pink haired cashier gave Krel a sly smile as she handed him the bagged records once she had heard Andy call it a date.

“It’s not over yet,” he said to Andy. “Thank you,” he said to the cashier. “See you tomorrow!”

Andy and Krel walked out of the store, Krel shouldering the bag with the records in it. “So, where to next?” she asked, tilting her head to the side.

He smiled as they walked down the street. “Well, Eli told me that one option for a ‘date’ here is ‘going out for iced cream’,” Krel said. “So I thought we might do that.”

“Iced… Krel?”

“Hm?”

“Have you never had ice cream?”

“Uh… no. No I have not.”

“Oh my God,” she said softly. After a minute she looked up, determined. “I have a great place in mind!”

 

Krel wasn't so sure what to make of the frozen stuff in front of him. He had chosen a kind called ‘butter brickle’ and Andy was happily eating ‘peanut butter cup.’ Krel was always wary of new foods, and this was no exception.

“So, is there no ice cream in Cantaloupia?” Andy asked between bites.

Krel pulled out a spoon, and dug it into the iced-cream. “No, there is not.”

“Shame,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s good stuff. Great stuff, actually.”

He tentatively stuck the bite into his mouth and- Seklos and Gaylen! Nobody had told him it was that GOOD! He dug his spoon into the iced-cream again and took a rather large bite, bliss written all over his face.

“It’s good, isn't it,” Andy giggled.

Krel took another fast bite when all of the sudden, his head felt like it was going to explode. He grabbed it and groaned. What was going on!?

Andy looked surprised, and then knowing, as if she understood what was happening. She put her hand on his shoulder. “Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth,” she instructed. He did so, and the pain subsided after a moment.

“What was that?” he asked, looking at the iced-cream with suspicion. “I did not like it.”

“That’s called a brain freeze, dorkus,” she explained. “It happens when you eat something really cold too quickly. Just slow down a little, you’ll be fine.”

He nodded, and did as she advised. Seconds later, she was making a face and clutching her forehead in a manner that suggested to Krel she needed to follow her own advice. “I really hate brain freezes,” she laughed, squeezing her eyes shut.

 

The two of them were walking side by side back to Andy’s house. So far, today had been a success. Krel really wanted to keep it that way, this was nerve wracking.

Andy wasn't saying anything at the moment, just looking around contently. Krel felt her hand brush his, and he felt a flutter of some strange emotion in his chest. It was nervousness, yes, but it was more than that. Her hand brushed his a few more times, and she pointedly did not look at him every time.

He brushed her hand in return the next time it happened, and she turned red. Krel blushed, but smiled slyly. He reached over again and brushed her hand. She turned red, but didn't move it away this time.

He slowly wrapped his hand around hers. It was awkward and a bit fumbly at first, but it was worth it when he saw her face. She looked totally shocked, eyes wide and face red. A small smile soon crept across her face, and she looked up at him with a sheepish happiness. He gave her a small, friendly shoulder bump, which she returned.

They soon came up to her house and the two of them stood on her porch. “Today was great,” she said, grinning.

“I agree,” he said, giving her a genuine smile in response. “We should do this again sometime.”

Her face lit up, and she nodded. “Definitely!” She hugged him and then turned to the door, resting her hand on the handle. He was beginning to loosen up when hugged by her now, not quite as nervous as the first few times. It wasn't that he didn't like being hugged, no, he loved being hugged. It was more that he didn't always know what to do, or that he was nervous about the action of being hugged. Despite this, he had no problems initiating hugs, which Ms. Janeth knew firsthand.

“I will see you on Monday,” he said, still smiling.

“See you on Monday,” she replied, opening the door. She winked at him before disappearing inside.

Chapter Text

Andy walked up to the girl group (Darci, Mary Wang, Claire, Shannon, and Aja) after biology on Wednesday morning. She and Krel had been hanging out a little bit beforehand; the two of them hadn't held hands since their date, and Andy wasn't sure if that was a thing Krel was comfortable with at school yet, so she didn't push it.

“Hey Andy!” Darci called, waving her over. “Come on over!”

Andy joined the circle of girls. “What are we gossiping about?” she asked, raising an eyebrow and giving the group a dorky half grin.

“Oh, we’re not gossiping,” Claire replied, about to continue with more of an explanation. Before she could, however, Mary Wang cut her off.

“We’re planning a sleepover!” the queen bee squealed. “I’ve been wanting to do one for so long, and our schedules finally line up!”

“What day?” Shannon asked.

“Probably Friday,” Darci replied.

Andy nodded. “I should be free on Friday, but I’ll have to check with my mother.”

The other girls nodded in agreement.

“I’ll make sure I don't have any urgent business to attend to,” Claire added, pulling out her phone.

“‘Urgent business’?” Andy echoed in a questioning tone.

“Don't sweat it,” Claire said, giving her a half smile. “It’s really nothing.”

Andy shrugged. “Okay. Say, how was that trip to Jim’s Uncle Marlin’s place?” she asked her, shouldering her backpack a bit more so the weight distribution felt better.

“It was kind of an eventful trip, to be honest,” Claire laughed. “I learned I am not his biggest fan. But I got to see a lot of neat places, so that was cool I guess.”

Well, that was vague. Andy looked at her with slight suspicion, but said nothing.

They finished making their plans, and dispersed to their other classes. This Friday was going to be fun!

 

Andy pulled up to the Tarron residence. Since Darci lived a bit further away than some of the other girls, she was giving Aja a ride. She hopped out of the car and was about to ring the doorbell, when she heard a voice right behind her.

“Varvatos Vex demands you state your name and business before approaching this household!”

Andy acted on reflex. She reached behind her and grabbed the wrist that she knew was there, sliding her foot back to plant her weight. She slid her other hand up the man’s arm and flipped him over her body, throwing him down into the ground with surprising force. This happened in a matter of seconds, before Andy realized who exactly she just flipped.

“You have the reflexes of a larvox and the strength of a member of the Taylon! Most glorious!” he crowed, getting up from the ground with a couple of cracking sounds Andy hoped were his joints popping and not his bones breaking.

“Oh my- holy fuck, I am so sorry!” she gasped, putting a hand over her mouth and rushing forward to help him.

“It is not a big deal,” he replied. “In fact, that was most impressive! You have a warrior’s strength.”

She gave him an awkward smile, embarrassed. “Well I try not to go around flipping grandpas,” she said.

“Do not worry!” he said, clapping her on the back with surprising force. “Varvatos Vex is much stronger than he looks!” He opened the door and beckoned her to follow him inside.

This was the first time Andy had been inside the Tarron residence, and it was a nice house. It was pretty retro, but that sort of thing was in these days.

She saw Krel sitting on the couch near the window, trying not to laugh. “Great Gaylen, you just flipped Vex over your head!” he giggled, covering his mouth. “What are you, all of 110 pounds?”

“109,” she retorted.

“Most impressive,” Vex noted sagely. “You are a mere fraction of Vex’s glorious form.”

She studied him for a moment with an inquisitive expression; he didn't look like he weighed much more than she did.

After a moment, he continued. “Varvatos likes this one, and he can see why you do to. He approves,” he said to Krel, who immediately turned an impressive shade of red.

Andy didn't quite know what to say to that, as she had turned red as well (albeit not quite as red as the poor kid sitting on the couch across the room.)

“Vex also wonders why you two have not yet gone on another one of those… date things,” the older man said, sitting down in his arm chair and picking up the newspaper.

Krel sunk lower into the couch, pulling his phone up to cover his face and chuckling nervously. Andy also pulled her phone out and pretended to busy herself with a text, standing awkwardly in the middle of the room.

Luckily before Krel’s grandfather could say anything else, Aja came out from down the hallway.

“Oh! Andy! You’re here!” she chirped, grabbing her overnight bag from where it was lying next to the counter. She hugged her, and the two girls turned to head to the door. “I’ll be back tomorrow morning!” Aja chirped.

“No more than twelve horvaths!” Krel called after her, a slight note of panic in his voice. Andy was unsure what a horvath was, or what that was all about, but she shrugged it off. Aja mostly ignored him, save for a subtle roll of her eyes.

Once in the car and on the way to Darci’s house, the girls started talking a little.

“So… you and Krel?” Aja said, tilting her head a little to look at Andy, who had her eyes on the road.

Andy gripped the steering wheel a bit tighter. She let out a nervous chuckle. “Sorry, I- I’m not the best at these sorts of conversations,” she managed. “I’m not used to these kinds of feelings.”

“Well then you’re perfect for him,” Aja concluded, looking at the road. “He’s the kind of gloober who’d swear off dating when someone breaks up with him,” she said, in a tone of voice that suggested that’s exactly what Krel had done.

“Oh no, did that happen?” Andy’s voice had a genuinely concerned tone. “Is that why he… freaked out?”

Aja’s eyes widened for a moment, but she then nodded. “Yes. That is why.”

After a moment of awkward, yet not uncomfortable silence, Andy spoke. “So, have you ever been to a slumber party before?”

Aja shook her head. “No, but it sounds lively!”

“You’re in for a treat!”

 

“Okay okay, so how was your date with Krel?” Shannon asked Andy, leaning into the circle of girls.

“Wait, you went on a date with him!?” squealed Darci, clasping her hands in front of her mouth and nose. “Oh my GOSH!”

All the girls started squealing as Andy recounted her date, except for Aja, who sat back and listened.

“Did he kiss you?” asked Mary Wang. Andy noticed that Aja made a face when she said this.

“No,” Andy answered. “Also, Aja, what’s wrong with that?”

She was caught off guard, and she awkwardly tucked a stray strand of her platinum blonde hair behind her left ear. “I don't know… it is just a little weird for me to hear you… gush about my little brother.”

Andy gave her a sly smile. “Oh, is it now?”

Aja looked confused at her reaction, as it was not really one anyone would have expected. “...Yes?”

“Well just know that it’s also weird for me to see the sister of the guy I like being all cute and gross with my cousin at lunch,” Andy said, sitting back with a triumphant grin.

“I am sorry?” Aja said, turning to fix a stare of disbelief on Andy.

“Wait wait wait, Palchuk is your COUSIN!?” Mary Wang shrieked, jaw dropping so low it practically touched the floor.

“Shhh! Not so loud, you’ll wake my parents!” Darci hissed.

“How did it escape you to possibly tell us that Steve Palchuk is your cousin?” Claire asked incredulously, holding a hand out in disbelief.

“I thought that it was common knowledge,” she said, looking puzzled. All the girls around her shook their head. “Wait what?” Andy asked, eyebrows raised. “It isn't?”

“Nope,” said Aja.

“But… we look alike!? And don't hate each other!?” Andy said, holding her hands in the air. “He looks like his mom! Who looks like my dad! And you know who I look like? My dad!”

“Actually, now that you mention it,” said Shannon. “You guys do look like you could be related.”

“That’s because we are.”

Claire begin to giggle, and soon we all were. “I cannot believe I have been dating your cousin!” Aja said, through giggles. “This day just keeps getting more lively!”

“Yeah, well it’s gonna get weirder if Krel and I start dating, like, regularly,” Andy added, adding to her point with her hands. “Talk about awkward family dinners!”

“Great Gaylen’s core,” said Aja, as the group was laughing. “You have no idea.”

Chapter Text

Krel sat at his workstation, nodding to the beat of the song playing over his headphones as he worked on the computer he was building. Accidentally bumping the desk, he sent a wrench flying off the desk, but reached out and caught it with his lower left hand. That was the beauty of having four arms, it was a whole lot harder to drop things.

He had completely lost track of time, as he was often wont to do, and nearly jumped out of his skin when Aja popped into the room from behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. “AAH!” he screamed, fumbling with the tool he was using. He turned to see his sister standing there, hands on her hips. “You look… mad? No, not mad. Peeved?”

“Neither,” she said. “You are going to be late to dinner family with Andy if you don't hurry up and leave immediately,” Aja said, tapping her foot impatiently. “Vex made me come down here to get you after Mother reminded him of your engagement.”

Krel paled a little. “Kleb, that’s tonight…”

“Yes, and it sounds lively,” Aja said, giving him a grin that he suspected was supposed to boost his confidence.

“Easy for you to say,” said Krel. “You’ve already met Steve’s parents, and one of them is our gym teacher!”

“Technically Coach is not Steve’s real father,” said Aja. “The Palchuk told me his real papa left him and his mama when he was younger, and his mother is dating the Coach.”

Krel made a face. “That is sad,” he said, walking with Aja out of the workshop.

She tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear. “Yeah, it is.”

 

Krel straightened his shirt and ran his fingers through his unruly mop of curly dark hair, taking a deep breath. “Aja, I cannot do this,” he called from the bathroom.

“Don't be a gloober,” Aja called back. “You are going to be totally fine. Dinner family really isn't so bad.”

He walked out and released a deep breath. “I still am nervous.”

“That’s okay,” she said, shooing him out the door, “everyone is the first time they meet parents. At least, that’s what Steve says.”

Krel walked out the door, and down the road to Andy’s house. He was super nervous about this whole thing, seeing as Andy had warned him her parents were a little strict. She had then reassured him that they were very kind and loving, but he was apprehensive.

He passed one of her neighbors, quickening his pace when he saw flashing green light from the garage and what sounded like a grandpa geezer swearing colorfully. He did not want to know what that was about.

He walked up to her door and rang the doorbell. He nervously tucked his hands behind his back, rocking up onto the balls of his feet and back onto his heels. He heard Fern, Prissy, and Dav lose their collective shit at the door in reaction to his presence, barking like Luug always did when someone drove by the Mothership.

“I’ll get it!” he heard a muffled voice shout, one he did not recognize.

“NO NO NO NO!” That muffled yell definitely belonged to Andy.

The door swung open to reveal a girl about two years younger than he and Andy. She actually closely resembled Aja’s human form, with her white blonde hair, blue grey eyes, tall lanky build and round face. Her chin was a bit more pointed, however, and her skin was much more tan. “Hi.”

“Hello,” he replied, giving her a nervous wave. “I am-”

“Krel,” she supplied. He was already regretting this whole thing.

“Yes.” He nodded. “And you must be Cassie.” Cassiopeia was Andy’s younger sister, though the two of them did not look anything alike. But hey, neither did he and Aja in their human disguises.

“Are you even going to let him in?” Krel heard Andy snap, before he saw her. She came to the door, pushing her sister aside. “Or are you just going to make him stand out there?” She turned to Krel. “Sorry about her, she can be like that.” Andy shooed Cassie away, telling her to go help their mother with dinner in the kitchen.

He shrugged. “It is fine.”

“She was hazing you.” Andy led him inside.

He let out a nervous chuckle and winced. “I kind of gathered.”

“Oh, hello there!”

Krel looked up to see a middle aged man with short, honey brown hair and a goatee standing in the hall as if he’d been heading to the kitchen table. He had brown eyes, but other than that, looked just like Andy (if Andy were a fortysomething year old man with glasses and facial hair).

“You must be the man we’ve heard so much about, Krel… Terra?” He said, extending his hand.

Andy was blushing deeply and not saying anything.

Krel shook his hand how he’d seen the humans do before. “Tarron, actually,” he supplied. “It is nice to meet you, Mr. Hawthorne. Thank you for having me over.” He had rehearsed these lines over and over and over again until Mother was sick of hearing them. He couldn't afford to get any of this wrong.

“Of course, Mr. Tarron!” Mr. Hawthorne said jovially. Krel could tell where Andy got her demeanor and mannerisms, she was practically a carbon copy of the man before him.

“Dinner’s ready!” called Mrs. Hawthorne, from the dining room. The three of them filed in and Andy showed Krel where he could sit. He was sitting in between Cassie and Andy, which he was grateful for. As nice as Andy’s parents were, it would certainly make him very nervous if he had to sit next to one of them.

They all did this thing called “saying grace” which Krel only halfway understood, before they were permitted to eat. Mrs. Hawthorne had made spaghetti and meatballs, which Krel discovered was an extremely delicious human food. Generally anything that looked like worms he was suspicious of, but after a single bite he knew he had nothing to worry about.

“So, Krel,” Mr. Hawthorne began, “Andy tells me you’re very good at math!” There was no malice in his tone, but Krel got a little nervous. The last time a middle aged man had confronted him about his math skills, Eli said they were “being racist.” Krel wasn't sure what racist was, but it didn't sound good. “What’s your favorite type of math?” he continued. “I’m partial to physics myself, I tutored my friends all throughout high school and college!”

Oh okay, this was not racist. This was common ground. “I also really love physics,” Krel said, grinning. “It is so fascinating to me! Especially astrophysics!”

“Do you want to work for NASA?” Mrs. Hawthorne asked.

He looked to Andy. “What is a NASA?” he asked in a low voice.

“The National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” she replied in a similarly low voice. “It’s the space program here in the United States.”

Krel smiled, amused. He had already been to space, a few times actually. But he would play the part. “Yes, I think that working for the NASA would be quite engaging,” he said, giving her parents a genuine smile. “Maybe one day I will go to space!”

Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne shared a warm look between the two of them. Krel did not know what this meant, and looked to Andy for reassurance. She gave him a thumbs up. “It’s going well,” she mouthed.

Over the next ten minutes, House Hawthorne learned that Krel’s hobbies included computers, building things, machines, music, and dancing. He felt a little bit as if he were being interrogated, but Aja had told him to expect this. “They just want to get to know you,” she had said. Well, they were getting to know him. At least, the version of him that was safe for them to know.

“So, Krel, what do your parents do for a living? You aren't from the States, right?” Mrs. Hawthorne asked. The second half of that was not rude, it was genuinely curious.

“Right,” he replied, after taking a bite of a ball-of-meat. “I am from Cantaloupia.”

“Where is that?” asked Mr. Hawthorne.

“It is in the Medeterranian,” Krel replied, stumbling over the foreign word a little. He and Aja had agreed on the location together so that their stories lined up. “It’s new.”

“Ah.”

“As for what my parents do…” Krel said, taking a sip of water. “Well… they were, um… politicians. That was- that was before we had… we had to leave,” he explained, trying not to stumble too much over his words. He set his silverware down and stared at his plate, trying to collect his roaring thoughts. He had thought they might ask him about his family, but answering those questions was harder than he thought.

Mrs. Hawthorne gave Mr. Hawthorne a worried look, which he returned. “Krel?” she asked, after a moment. “Is everything alright?”

Andy reached under the table to where Krel’s hands were balled up fists on his legs, and took his left in her right.

“A few weeks ago there was… a coup in my country,” he said, a bit quieter. The mood at the table had completely shifted, even Cassie, who had been munching away on her side salad with Italian dressing, looked concerned. “General Morando took the capital and we were forced to flee with Varvatos Vex and Zadra. Zadra did not make it out with us… she is still there. My mama and papa were injured, and are in a hospital. I do not- I do not know when I am going to see them again,” he managed. “And I do not know when I can go home. We had to come here to escape.”

“You’ll see them again,” Andy said reassuringly, giving his hand a squeeze. He returned the squeeze. “And you’ll get to go home, too.”

He looked up to see expressions of genuine concern and sympathy on her parents’ faces, reminding him a bit of his mama and papa.

“Krel, sweetie,” Mrs. Hawthorne began, “if you ever need anything, ever, do not hesitate to ask. Aaron and I would be happy to help you and your family, no matter what.”

Mr. Hawthorne nodded in agreement. “No matter what.”

Krel smiled, thankful, despite the fact that these two had no clue how dire the real situation was. “Thank you,” he said, and he meant it. He was glad he had come here for dinner family.

 

“Here,” said Andy, handing Krel some sort of device. It was shaped kind of like a U, and had a lot of buttons on it.

“What is this?” he asked, turning the device over in his hands.

“It’s a game controller,” she explained. “I’m going to teach you how to play Go-Go Sushi!”

“What is that?” Krel asked. He knew that sushi was something you could eat, he had seen Steve eating it one time at school. He did not know you could play with it too.

“It’s a video game!” she chirped. She turned on the TV, and started up the game. “The goal is for us to catch all the ingredients of the different sushi rolls as they fall from the sky in order to feed hungry customers!”

“Sounds weird,” he said, narrowing his eyes at the television.

“Come on, Tarron, give it a go!” she said, finger hovering over the start button.

“Okay,” he said, giving her a small smile.

She pressed start with a dopey grin, and immediately began attacking the game with a voracity and tenaciousness he hadn't really ever seen from her before. “Come on, Tarron!” she shouted good naturedly. “Cover me!”

He held the controller for a moment, trying a few of the buttons. He wasn't sure exactly how it worked, but he slowly got the hang of it.

“GET WRECKED, BUTTSNACK!” Andy yelled at the television when she got the golden tuna roll.

Krel let out a single short chuckle in surprise, (she didn't seem to notice) looking over at her and watching her play. It was moments like this that he realized how incredibly human he felt, despite not even knowing what that meant. It was easy to picture this as normal, him as normal, her as normal, when it was just the two of them. When he didn't have to worry about the Zeron Brotherhood, or General Morando, or the safety of his entire planet. It was easy to see this as all he’d ever worried about, and he often wished it were so.

When she noticed he wasn't playing so much as staring (despite the fact he was enjoying the game, she was just more distracting) she set down her controller and paused the game. “Like what you see?”
He turned red, having no idea how to respond to that. How did one respond to that!? “I.. uh- um..”

She giggled. After a moment, she said, “I’m sorry for the depressing tone that dinner took. Can I make it up to you tomorrow?”

“There is nothing to make up,” he said, cocking his head. “You did not do anything wrong.”

“I know, I just know that life isn't exactly easy for you right now,” she said, scooting a little closer to him. Oh, she had no idea. “And I wanted to change that as much as I could.”

He smiled, a bittersweet one, albeit, and put his hand on hers. “I appreciate that a lot.”

“Well then, tomorrow, meet me by the statue in the park at six,” she said, smiling. “I have something you’ve gotta see.”

Chapter Text

Andy sat by the statue, waiting for Krel. He wasn't late, she was just super early. She was excited to show him the overlook, and had been ansty about it all day. To tell the truth, she had wanted to show it to him ever since Claire had told her about it and then showed it to her while they were hanging out. It really had an unparalleled view of the sunrise over Arcadia, but looked just as beautiful during the sunset.

Speaking of Claire, Andy had not seen much of her in a while. This was a bit distressing, because Andy could honestly safely call Claire one of her best friends. She was also a little worried about Jim, he had been missing more and more school ever since showing Aja and Krel around. She knew how much Claire cared for him, and she would hate for anything to happen to the poor boy.

Despite the fact he was her neighbor, she had not seen much of him lately. Only his mother, coming and going to and from the hospital, the same hospital Andy’s dad worked at. They both worked in the Emergency Room, and were both constantly frazzled and on call. Andy’s dad was a physician’s assistant, and Dr. Lake was the physician he assisted, so to speak. She was a really good doctor.

“A small coin for what you’re thinking,” said a familiar voice, goodnaturedly.

Andy looked up, startled out of her thought trance, to see Krel standing in front of her and smiling. He was wearing a black t-shirt with the Panic! At the Disco logo on it, and she smiled. She was the one who had told him to start listening to that band, and was glad he was liking it.

“I believe the expression is, ‘penny for your thoughts,’” Andy supplied, stepping away from the statue to join him.

He nodded. “You are probably right, then. Penny for your thoughts?”

She smiled. “I was just thinking about my neighbor. Haven't seen him in a while, and I’m a little worried about him.” The two of them passed Stuart’s electronics, and Andy noticed Krel craned his neck a little as if to look into the store. His face lit up briefly, and then looked back at Andy. “What was that?”

“Oh, I know Stuart,” he explained. “He gave me that box of boom!”

“Oh, cool!” Andy said good naturedly. “That thing weighs like a million pounds.” She didn't know how he had managed to carry it around all day, but somehow he had.

“It is heavy, yes, but it does not weigh anywhere close to one million pounds,” Krel replied.

She giggled. She wasn't sure if he was playing along or if he was being literal; something told her that he was being literal. Things like this, idioms, hyperbole, and other figures of speech sometimes went right over his head. It was adorable.

As the two of them walked to the edge of town, chatting, Andy’s hand brushed Krel’s. It was an accident at first, but grew more and more intentional. When they reached the part of the town where the buildings got fewer and the trees grew steadily in number back behind a neighborhood, Krel finally, yet gingerly, took Andy’s hand. She smiled, blushing a bit and interlocking their fingers. He gave her a nervous smile in response, and she gave his hand a gentle squeeze in reassurance.

She led him through the forest on a fairly well known trail, high schoolers liked to come out here to party and whatnot. All the parties she had been to out here had been organized by Shannon Longhannon, who always made sure there was no alcohol involved, but Andy had heard that Mary Wang’s parties out here could get a little crazy. Andy was not so much a party animal and frankly was glad she had never been to one of Mary’s. She was always, of course, invited, but she never went.

“Wait a second, I know this part of the forest,” said Krel, pausing for a moment. He stopped. “We’re not going to the-” he started, anxiety plain in his voice.

“Kissing tree?” Andy giggled. “No, that’s tacky as hell.”

He sighed in relief. “Oh, okay. Steve took Aja there a bit ago,” he said, walking with her again. “Eli and I got attacked by Ze- er, I mean the Billycraggle.” He stumbled over his words a little, not something Andy was used to from him.

“Wait, you actually saw the Billycraggle?” Andy laughed. “Like, it’s real?”

“Eh,” Krel said, tipping his free hand side to side in a so-so motion. “I wouldn't give it too much validity. It was very dark, it could have been a bear.”

Andy chuckled. “Okay, whatever you say.”

Once past the kissing tree, they made their way up the hill to the spot that Claire had told Andy about. Andy watched the sky, making sure the sun was at the right point in its descent below the horizon.

“Okay, close your eyes,” she told Krel, grinning, while they were still within the trees.

“Why?”

“Just do it. Please?”

“Okay.” He covered his eyes with his right hand.

Andy pulled him forward by his left, slowly, so that he would not trip over anything, and down to the rocks at the edge of the cliff at the end of the clearing. The whole time, she was grinning like an idiot. She couldn't wait to see his face when he opened his eyes.

“Alright, you can open them,” she said, stepping to his left side.

She watched him slowly pull his hand away, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the bright warm glow of the setting sun. his face went slack, his eyes growing wide, as he slowly lowered his arm to his side. “Seklos and Gaylen,” he breathed. “It’s incredible.”

She sat down on the rocky outcropping and he joined her, sitting about a handbreadth away from her. She leaned towards him slightly. “Isn’t it? I thought you might like it.”

“I have been to many places,” he began, “but I have never seen anything quite like this.”

She inched closer, looking away from the sunset to look at him. His dark, tanned skin was glowing in the golden light from the setting sun, almost seemingly illuminated from the inside. His hair was the fluffy mess that it always was, and Andy was tempted to run her hands through it (but didn't, due to better judgement). His strong brow contrasted sharply with his small, turned up nose, and his jaw was a clean line separating his face from his neck. Perhaps one of his most striking features were his cheekbones. To put it frankly, Andy didn’t know that regular people could have cheekbones that high and perfect, she had always thought that was a famous person thing. He was quite literally perfect, in Andy’s humble opinion.

She sighed in contentment. This was probably the best evening she’d had in a long time. “It all looks so small from up here,” she said, referring to the town of Arcadia below them.

He nodded, looking over at her. “It really does. It puts it into perspective how small we are in comparison to everything else.”

She nodded. “Honestly, yeah.” She had been scooting closer ever so slowly this entire time, and now they were shoulder to shoulder. He didn't pull away, as she had feared he might.

The sun was disappearing behind the horizon, the last rays of light kissing the clouds with pinks and oranges straight out of a Van Gogh painting. In the boastful sun’s wake, the timid stars began to show themselves and paint the night in color and light in place of their bolder kin.

Andy looked up at Krel. The night was cooling off a little, but it was not yet cold enough to warrant leaving. She gave him a quirked half smile, not the snarky one she used when roasting someone (namely her cousin, Steve Palchuk), but a genuine awkward smile. A nervous smile.

He looked down at her, and his eyebrows raised almost imperceptibly. He leaned towards her just a little, their shoulders touching and faces close. That’s when it happened.

Andy reached up with her right hand, cupping the side of his jaw, pushing up onto her left hand to meet his lips. She had never kissed anyone before, and never thought she’d ever want to until now. She wasn't sure if she was doing it right, but he didn't pull away. Instead, he kissed her back, hesitation melting away.

Something changed under Andy’s hand, and there was a flash of light she could see behind her closed eyelids, but she ignored it. It didn't matter right now.

When they parted, Andy opened her eyes to see the last thing she ever expected. Krel was… well, Krel was gone. In his place was a tall, blue… person…? With a glowing blue face and four hands… FOUR? Four hands… four arms… The person’s hair was spiky and also glowing blue, and there was a round symbol in the middle of their chest. What was this thing? Was this… this had to be an alien.

Andy’s eyes widened and she scrambled backwards, heart pounding. What the fuck? What the fuck had happened to Krel!?

The alien looked at her terrified face and then down at their hands. “Kleb,” they hissed softly. They sounded too much like Krel for Andy’s liking. The alien stood up slowly, reaching a full height of a little over six feet. Six feet!? Krel wasn't that tall!

“Who the fuck are you, and what did you do with Krel!?” Andy cried, terrified. The alien took a ginger step towards her, and she scrambled backwards more. “Don't take another step,” she said. “I’m a blackbelt in taekwondo.”

“I know, I know,” the alien said, with Krel’s voice. “I know you are. Please, I can explain-” He took another step towards her, and her heart lept into her throat. Were aliens even real!? Was this a fucking dream? If this was a dream, it was a weird one, and most certainly a nightmare.

She took a few more rapid steps backwards on the rocks, distracted and not paying attention to where she was walking. Her heel landed on a loose pebble which rolled forward when she shifted her weight, causing her to lose her balance. She gasped, eyes wide as she fell, and then everything went dark.

Chapter Text

Well, this was just kleb-tastic.

He pulled away from the kiss (which had been really nice, much to his surprise) only to see an expression of total shock and fear painting Andy’s face.

He didn't understand at first, but directing his gaze down to his hands soon enlightened him to what was freaking her out. He had four of them. Four blue hands.

“Kleb,” he hissed softly. He must have forgotten to renew his transduction before he left the house. How could he have been so foolish and reckless? He wasn't a soolian!

She scrambled away from him, visibly frightened. He stood slowly, not wanting to freak her out more than he already had. Great, today was shaping up to end just wonderfully.

“Who the fuck are you, and what did you do with Krel!?” she cried, voice tinged with panic. He took a step towards her, but that only startled her even more. “Don't take another step,” she threatened. “I’m a blackbelt in taekwondo.”

“I know, I know,” Krel said, emphasizing his words with his hands. “I know you are. Please, I can explain-” He had to try to explain this to her without her making a huge scene, and without too much attention being drawn. This was really not the way he had wanted her to find out. In fact, he really would've liked it if she hadn't ever found out.

He took another small step towards her, causing her to scramble back even more. She put her foot down on a loose rock and slipped, foot shooting out in front of her and landing on the rocky outcropping, head hitting the stone with an audible crack that Krel really did not like the sound of.

“ANDY!” he yelped, lunging forward as she fell. He was too far away to catch her. He rushed forward, checking her pulse. Luckily it was regular, but she was out cold and probably concussed. He needed to get her some help and get her to safety.

He scooped her up in his upper arms, holding her gently. He could see there was a little bit of blood on the back of her head, and winced at the sight of it.

He pulled out his phone and dialed Aja. He really needed her right now, she would know what to do. Her phone rang and rang, going to voicemail. He tried twice more before giving up; she was most likely on a date with Steve.

He dialed Vex next, who’s phone also went to voicemail. Krel sighed, Vex’s favorite game show was probably on right now, and that was why he was not picking up.

Who could he call that could help him? He could directly contact Mother, but she would just send the Blanks and he did not trust Ricky or Lucy to get either of them home safely or reliably. He couldn't call Eli for various obvious reasons… oh! Stuart! He would call Stuart!

Stuart picked up on the third ring. “Yello, it’s Stu, how can I help you?”

“Hey, Stuart-”

“Prince Krel! Hey, how’s it going! Wait, weren't you on a date with that lady friend of yours? Why are you calling me?”

“If you would just let me explai-” Krel began, but Stuart cut him off again.

“Uh oh, is the date going poorly? What’s going on? C’mon, tell Uncle Stuey, he promises not to tell a soul!”

“If you would just shut up for one mekron and let me explain!” Krel shouted, exasperated. Stuart did not say anything, and Krel knew the exact expression he was wearing. It was one of sheepish embarrassment, Stuart often wore this expression after interrupting people. “Yes, the date went poorly. Not in the way you might think, though. It seems that before I left the Mothership, I neglected to renew my transduction,” Krel explained, “and she freaked out when I changed. She slipped and fell and knocked herself out, and I think she has a concussion. We’re stuck out in the woods.”

“Holy shit!” Stuart exclaimed. “Say no more! I’ll come get you and take you back to the Mothership!”

“Thank you, Stuart.” Krel breathed a sigh of relief.

“Wait, where exactly are you?” he asked. “There aren't exactly street corners in the woods, y’know.”

“Here, I will send you my location,” Krel replied, pulling the phone away from his ear and entering it into the text bar.

“Alrighty, on my way,” Stuart said, and Krel could hear the sound of the taco truck starting. He wasn't entirely sure how Stuart was going to drive it through the woods, but with him if there was a will, there was a way.

Krel waited for about ten minutes, the sky getting darker and darker until the last rays of the sun had all but disappeared. It was better this way, actually, Krel was much less likely to be discovered when it was dark. He saw headlights down the hill a way, and sure enough, Stuart pulled up into the clearing in his rattly old food truck. Krel turned around to face him.

Stuart hopped out of the drivers side and rushed over to where Krel was standing with Andy in his arms. “Oh my gosh, is she okay!?” he exclaimed, checking her pulse and lifting her eyelids a little.

“I am not sure,” said Krel. “I’m hoping she’s just unconscious.”

“C’mon, hop in,” said Stuart, running back to the truck and opening the passenger’s side for the king in waiting, trotting around the other side to hop into the driver’s seat as Krel climbed into the truck gingerly, being careful not to hurt Andy. He buckled his seatbelt, and Stuart started the engine.

What happened next is not something Krel likes to remember. It was probably the most terrifying experience in a car he’s ever had, even scarier than Driver’s Ed. He knew Stuart was kind of a crazy driver, but he never imagined what that would look like careening down a hill at mach 20, dodging trees and animals alike, would be like. His stomach was in his throat the whole time, bracing himself against the truck’s walls with his lower arms and holding Andy fiercely with his upper arms.

“STUART!” he yelled, when they almost hit a tree.

“SORRY!” he squawked, swerving at the last minute.

They careened down the hill and into a nearby neighborhood, whipping past Andy’s house. “I DO NOT THINK THIS SPEED IS LEGAL HERE!” Krel yelled, desperately trying to hold onto something stable.

“I’M JUST TRYING TO HELP!” yelled Stuart in reply, voice tinged with panic.

“WELL THEN TRY NOT TO GET US ALL KILLED!”

They sped past Eli’s house and Steve’s house, eventually roaring down the street the Mothership was on, screeching to a halt in the driveway. Krel flung open his door and stumbled out of the truck, clutching Andy and gasping for air, trying to calm his pulse.

“I am never, ever, ever driving with you again,” he said between wheezes. “That was the most terrifying thing I have ever done, and I fled a planet being tailed by Akiridion V-Strykers!”

Stuart shrugged, looking sheepish. “You said it was an emergency.”

Krel ran to the door, throwing it open. “AJA! VARVATOS!” he yelled, dashing through the living room and ducking through the door to the lower half of the Mothership that was hidden behind the fireplace, Stuart trailing behind him. Varvatos jumped, having fallen asleep in his armchair with the television on.

He swerved around the corner, skidding to a stop in the stasis chamber. He needed somewhere to put her down.

Varvatos walked into the room, arms crossed. “She’s injured,” said Krel, holding Andy close. “Not badly, but I need to make sure she’s okay. I do not know where to put her… The spare stasis chamber is not operational.”

“Might Vex suggest your room?” he said, in a tone that Krel knew meant a lecture was coming later.

Krel ducked his head in a single nod, and dashed out of the room past Stuart and Vex. He ran down the hall and into his room, laying Andy down on his bed gingerly, being really careful to support her head and neck. He knew that humans had to take really good care of their head and neck because of how easily they could be injured.

“Mother, scan for injuries,” he commanded.

The AI appeared, and blue light scanned Andy’s unconscious form. “Minimal injures,” she droned. “She is suffering from a minor concussion. She will make a full recovery, as long as she is careful.”

Krel sighed in relief, and slumped into the chair at his desk. He barely had a moment to breathe, however, before Vex and Aja walked into his room. He knew from the moment he heard their footsteps that they were unhappy.

“Great, this is just great,” Aja drawled sarcastically, arms folded over her chest. “You go on a single date, and you come back with her unconscious in your arms, without your transduction!?”

“Technically, this was our second… date,” Krel corrected timidly.

“This was not a smart move, Princeling,” Vex growled.

Krel groaned and put his head down on his desk. “I know this,” he said, voice muffled by the hard surface. “I know it wasn't.” He sighed again. “But I cannot change what happened.”

Aja sighed, and uncrossed her arms. She took a few steps forward, and put her right hands on his shoulders. “I am thinking you are probably more upset with yourself than we could be,” she said, her tone a caring one rather than sarcastic.

He didn't say anything, she was right. He felt like a huge soolian right now. Of all the idiotic things he could have done, he forgot his transduction at an important time, and possibly lost his… well, he wasn't quite sure what Andy qualified as right now.

“I will let you sort this one out on your own,” said Aja. “No use being angry with you at an accident.”

“Varvatos Vex is not pleased,” Vex grumbled, “but he cannot be angry with people for things they did not mean to happen.”

The two of them left the room after a moment, leaving Krel alone with a sleeping Andy. He sighed again, resting his head in his hand, elbow propped up against the table.

Mother’s hologram appeared. “You are troubled, my Royal,” she said.

He nodded. “You could say that much.”

“Would you like to talk about it? I have learned that humans often tell each other what is troubling them in order to work through it.”

“I am… just afraid,” he said.

“Afraid? Of what?” she asked, hologram circling around to face him, bathing the room in a soft blue light.

“Afraid that she will hate me,” Krel said despondently.

“I do not understand why she should have any reason to do so.”

“I lied to her!” Krel said, tossing two of his arms into the air in frustration. “I lied to her again and again!”

“But you were protecting yourself, my Royal.”

“It is still lying.”

“Well, look on the bright side. Now she has to believe you when you tell her the truth.”

“I suppose you are right, Mother. You usually are.”

“I do my best,” she said, in a contented voice, before floating out the door.

Krel looked to Andy’s sleeping form again and hoped she would not hate him for lying or for anything else. He didn't know if he could take it.

Chapter Text

She blinked her eyes, half blinded by the warm sunlight streaming in through the window. Her eyes came into focus, and she looked immediately about her through a pounding headache. She panicked; she did not know where she was as this room was unfamiliar to her. She sat up quickly, trying to get her bearings.

“Oh, you’re awake!” she heard Krel’s voice say, coming from the left side of the room. She was flooded with relief; she was probably at Krel’s house. Which meant that she was in… oh. Well fuck.

She turned her head to the sound of his voice, blinking through the light as she tried to look into the darker part of the room. Her eyes widened, and the last thing she remembered flooded back into her memory when she saw the glowing, blue, four armed figure sitting at the desk.

“We… have a lot to talk about,” he said nervously, standing up.

“You’re… an alien?” she asked, dumbfounded. Her head felt a little sluggish, like it was hard to think.

“Careful,” he said, extending two of his hands out when she shifted her weight. “You have a concussion.”

Well, that would explain the headache and sluggish thoughts.

“But yes… I am an… ‘alien,’” he said, using air quotes. “Though we think that word is offensive.”

“Oh, fuck, I’m sorry,” she said, scratching the back of her head. She winced at the pain; that must’ve been where she hit her head.

He stood up, and began to speak, pacing as he did so. “I did not lie about everything,” he said. “There really was a coup on my planet, Akiridion-5, led by General Morando, and my parents, the king and queen, were badly injured and are currently below deck regenerating. Aja, Vex, and I barely escaped with our lives, and our ship is badly damaged.

“My home… it is in danger. Every day his bounty hunters get closer to finding us, and he does not care if we are dead or alive. I am light keltons away from anywhere I call home, and I am so incredibly scared of what is going to happen to us. I am the king-in-waiting of Akiridion-5, my duty is to my people, and when they need me the most I am nowhere close enough to help them.

“I feel terrible,” he said, circling around the edge of the bed, “for lying to you every day. You do not deserve that. I do not know when I was going to tell you, I did not know how, and I did not know when. I wasn't sure how you would react,” he said. He was beginning to ramble. “I am incredibly sorry, and I hope you can forgive me.” He sat down on the side of the bed, and in that brief moment, Andy’s head felt clear enough for one thought, and one action.

The thought was that this boy sitting in front of her, this very tall, very blue boy, who was apparently the king-in-waiting of an alien planet called Akiridion-5, was the most beautiful boy she had ever seen in her entire life. The action immediately followed.

In one swift motion, she put her hands on either side of his face and bridged the short gap in between the two of them, kissing him square on the mouth. No more rambling.

She felt him tense underneath her hands out of surprise, but then relax to kiss her back albeit timidly. His skin was cool to the touch, feeling like slightly porous porcelain. It was an interesting texture, much different from the warm pliability of human flesh.

When they broke apart, she gave him a sympathetic smile. “There’s no need to apologize,” she said. “You did nothing wrong.”

He gave her a smile paired with an expression that looked like he was close to tears. “I still feel guilty.”

“There’s nothing to feel guilty about,” she reassured. “You were protecting yourself and your family. Besides, if you had told me any other way, there is no way in hell I would’ve believed you.”

“I thought as much,” he admitted with a chuckle.

“I mean, you’re a prince!?”

“Used to be a prince,” he corrected, “now I am a king-in-waiting.”

“So let me get this straight,” she said, raising an eyebrow playfully. “My boyfriend is the king-in-waiting to the throne of an alien planet?”

She saw his eyes widen when she said the word ‘boyfriend,’ but his face broke out into a huge grin. “Yep,” he said, nodding and smiling. “I am.”

 

“So let me get this straight,” said Andy, leaning up against Krel’s tall form as they walked down the hallway. She still felt a little dizzy on her feet, and her head still felt full of soft cotton. Not painful or harmful, but annoying. Krel was supporting her so she would not fall, after she insisted on getting up out of bed and seeing everything she had formerly not known about. He had his lower left arm looped around her waist, and his upper left arm bracing her shoulders. “Your house is actually only one fourth of a spaceship, the rest of which is hidden underground?”

“Pretty much, yes,” Krel replied.

“That’s pretty freaking cool,” she said. “I want to see it! How do we get there?”

He helped her through the living room and to the fireplace, which quite literally lowered into the floor to reveal a large, blue, glowing portal. “Through that!”

“A portal?”

“It’s not a portal,” said Krel, chuckling. “It’s just a door.”

He helped her through the door, and the room around them changed completely. No longer was she in the 50's-esque retro style living room, with comfy decor and a homey feel; they had been transported into a scene straight out of a sci-fi movie, complete with shining steel walls and blue, glowing markings all along the walkway. The hallway was round and tunnellike, with smooth, curving walls that were cool to the touch.

“Seklos and Gaylen,” she breathed, something she had heard Krel say on many occasions. “This is incredible!”

They walked through the ship and into the bridge, the walkway materializing before them. They stood on the main deck, Andy taking it all in. “I cannot believe this is where you live!”

“If you think this is cool, you should have seen the palace where I grew up!” Krel chuckled. “That was impressive.”

“I think I can stand now,” said Andy, smiling up at Krel. She wasn't used to having to look up so far to look him in the eyes.

“Okay,” he said, looking down and smiling back.

He helped right her, and she took a few steps forward. Suddenly, hologram controls appeared, dials and levers and keyboards and screens blinking to life. “Whoa!” she exclaimed, and Krel waved them away.

“How are you enjoying your tour?” Andy felt a heavy hand on her shoulder, sending a surge of panic through her. She grabbed the wrist, other hand sliding up the astoundingly massive, thick, blue forearm. Foot sliding back and knees bending, she flipped him over her head, slamming him into the deck before he could even think.

He was positively massive, probably between eight and nine feet tall, with huge, broad shoulders and thick blue armor made of a material that Andy didn't recognize.

“AUGH!” he yelled in surprise, as he hit the ground. “You are incredibly good at that!”

Wait… she knew that voice. “Oh my god,” she said, paling. “Vex?”

“Indeed,” he groaned, pulling himself to his feet. “Varvatos is much more impressive when not under the effects of a transduction, is he not?”

“Damn,” said Andy, looking up at him. “Yeah. You’re HUGE.”

He smirked at the compliment, but then looked down at her. “Vex is amazed that you were able to flip him over yourself like that, especially since he is likely more than twice your size!”

“I would have to agree,” Andy heard Aja say, and she turned around to see a really tall, incredibly beautiful, blue, four armed woman walk down the platform.

“Hot damn,” said Andy, putting her hand on her hip.

“Hey!” said Krel, smacking her playfully on the shoulder.

“What!? She’s hot!” Andy protested, laughing.

“I assure you I am a perfectly normal temperature,” Aja said, dipping her head. Andy snorted.

“Vex would like to know how exactly you managed to do that,” the four eyed warrior said.

“As would I,” Aja seconded.

“It’s just simple physics,” said Andy, shrugging. “It’s not too hard if you know how to do it correctly. I could teach you sometime, if you wish.”

“I do wish,” Aja said, grinning and bringing her fists up to her face in an excited manner. “I want to flip people!”

“As does Varvatos!”

“You should spar with us!” Aja said, putting her hands on Andy’s shoulders and arms. She turned to Vex. “Can she spar with us?”

“I would love to!” Andy exclaimed.

“Wait wait wait,” said Krel, emphasizing his words with his hands. “She’s still healing from her concussion. She can spar with you two once she is all the way better.”

“I second that,” said a woman’s voice, coming from an upside down, glowing, blue teardrop that materialized and was floating near Krel’s head.

“Whoa, who’s this?” Andy asked.

“This is Mother!” Krel said, grinning up at the hologram. “She is the ship’s AI!”

“It’s nice to meet you!” Andy chirped.

“It is lovely to meet you as well, Andy Hawthorne,” the AI replied in a steady voice.

Andy beamed. She then looked down at her watch. “Aw, damn, my parents come home at noon. It’s 10… I better head home and clean up the house a bit.”

“I’ll walk you,” said Krel. “Just let me get ready first!” He disappeared, but shortly reappeared as the Krel Andy had known up until last night. Short, with shoulder length dark hair, tan skin, and a blue t-shirt.

“Hello again,” Andy chuckled, grabbing his hand. He raised his eyebrows, but smiled. The two of them walked out of the bridge, through the hallway. On their way to the door inside the fireplace, Andy saw an opening to a room with something large, orange, and glowing inside. She pulled away from Krel and walked towards it, curious.

She entered the room, coming upon two oblong shaped pods, almost like sarcophagi or coffins, connected to this large, glowing orange treelike structure. She peered inside the pod on the left, and jumped, startled. Inside was a face, looking up at her without eyes, face carved in a peaceful expression. Upon closer inspection, she saw a half formed body around a glowing central geometric shape, like a prism of some sort.

“That is my mama,” said Krel, coming up behind her and resting a hand on her shoulder. “And over there is my papa.” He gestured to the pod on the right as he spoke. “They are healing from the attack. We do not yet have full power, so they are not regenerating as fast as they should be.”

“Are you doing okay?” she asked, placing her hand over his and twisting her head back to look at him. “I mean, without them?”

“No,” he chuckled, melancholy. “It is hard.”

“I understand,” she said, solemnly. “I can't imagine what this is like. I am incredibly sorry that it is something you have to go through. I’ll always be there when you need me, y’know.”

“I appreciate that,” he said, smiling.

Andy couldn't imagine what Krel must be going through. To lose both parents and a home all in one day, to flee to an alien planet and attempt to fit in, all the while escaping bounty hunters and death at every turn? To have to fix the ship all by yourself? To have both parents so close, yet so far away? It seemed like torture.

He took her hand, his expression suggesting that he knew what she was thinking. “Let’s get you home, shall we?”

Chapter Text

When Krel saw Andy next, it was in first period with her head down on her desk, hair pooling around her head and off the small table like dripping honey. That was an earth food he had discovered he rather liked, despite the fact it always made his hands insanely sticky. Steve had told him you weren't supposed to eat it with your fingers, but the Palchuck had ‘punked’ Krel so many times about Earthen customs that the prince wasn't sure if he could trust him on these sorts of things.

He wasn't sure if she was asleep or not, so he leaned in to see. He heard a gentle, rhythmic breathing coming from her, signifying she was in fact, asleep. He really didn't want to wake her, but the bell was about to ring and Mr. Roberts would soon be on the warpath (Mr. Roberts was the new history teacher, or so Andy had told him. He was the history teacher when Krel got there, but apparently there was another one before him, Mr. Strickler, that had just sorta… disappeared.)

“Andy,” he whisper-shouted, leaning over. She did not respond. He shook her shoulder gently. “Andy!”

She groaned, stirring. She lifted her head, hair cascading over her face like some lake monster surfacing, getting tangled up in the aquatic plants in its ascent. “What?” she asked. It was really cute, and Krel had to keep himself from giggling.

“Class is about to start,” he replied, hesitantly brushing some of the hair out of her eyes.

“Fuck,” she groaned, putting her head back down. That seemed to be one of her favorite words, Krel noticed. He knew it was profanity, but it seemed to have a wide variety of uses from the practical to the downright stupid. “I have a monster headache, dude. Stupid concussion.”

“I hope you are taking it easy,” he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “You do not want to make it any worse.”

“I know, I know,” she said. “No taekwondo for a while.” She groaned again. “Fuck me, this feels like a hangover.” Krel was not sure what a hangover was, but if it was anything like being concussed, he supposed it was very unpleasant.

“How do you know what a hangover feels like?” Krel heard Darci say, leaning over to look at Andy. “Also what happened to you?”

“Long story,” said Andy. “Basically I tripped and hit my head really hard.”

“You didn't answer my first question.”

“I was at one of Mary Wang’s parties,” she said, looking up. “First time ever consuming alcohol and frankly, the last time consuming alcohol, at least until I’m of the legal age. The next day was absolutely brutal.”

Mr. Roberts walked to the front of the room as the bell rang, flicking off the lights and turning on the projector. He began to lecture about ancient Rome, and Andy rolled her eyes. “Great, this is just great,” she said. “The lights are out and it’s doing nothing for how tired I am. I am going to sleep. Krel, can you wake me up when class is over?”

“Sure,” he said, chuckling to himself. She was usually a really good student and never missed a lecture, she must be in a lot of pain if she was actually driven to academic negligence. He’d let her sleep, she’d been through a lot.

“Okie dokie, lights out,” she said, putting her head down on her desk, promptly falling asleep.

 

“Andy,” he said, shaking her shoulder gently, as kids began filing out of the room. “Andy wake up!”

She lifted her head groggily. “Is class over?”

“Yep.”

“Okay,” she said, standing up and shouldering her backpack. The two of them walked together out of the classroom, and Andy extended an open palm to him. He looked at her hand and then looked at her, a question on his face. She rolled her eyes and chuckled, grabbing his hand and intertwining their fingers. Oh, okay, hand holding. That’s what she wanted.

“Oh. My. GOD!” Krel heard a familiar screech from behind the two of them. They both turned inwards to look behind them to see Mary Wang with her hand over her mouth and her expression ecstatic. “ARE YOU HOLDING HANDS WITH KEVIN?”

Both Krel and Andy winced at the same time. Krel knew that Mary knew his name, at least, he thought she did, and that messing up his name every time she saw him was a running gag for her. He really hoped so, at least, because it was frustrating.

“Geez, Mary, tell everyone why don’t you,” Andy snapped, rubbing her head. “What does it look like we’re doing?” she asked, holding up their hands. “I’m too tired for this.”

Krel wasn't really sure what to do at this point. Mary always kind of stressed him out, she was a little unpredictable; he knew, however, that she and Andy were fairly close.

Andy rubbed her head. “Look Mary, Krel and I are dating,” she said plainly.

“I KNEW IT!” she squealed, pointing at Andy repeatedly. “YOU FINALLY LIKE BOYS!” She ran forward and hugged Andy.

Andy rolled her eyes and heaved a sigh. “For the record, I’ve always liked boys.”

“Yeah, as friends,” Mary jabbed. “I mean jeez, you pretty much act like one.”

Andy laughed, pushing her friend off of her. “Yeah yeah whatever, asshole. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

“Okay,” she giggled, flicking Andy on the side of the head. Andy slapped her hand away, wincing in pain.

“Are you okay?” Krel said, reached up and lightly touched the side of her head where Mary flicked her. “That couldn't have felt good.”

“It didn't,” she said, as the two of them walked to their next class. “But it’s okay,” she didn't know.”

 

The rest of the day passed fairly quickly, and after Krel walked Andy home and then walked himself home, he decided to sit on the couch and work on learning his guitar. He was halfway through his warm-up chords when Aja came into the room looking rather dejected, throwing herself down onto the couch on top of his legs, which hurt.

“OW! Get off me Aja!” he protested, pushing her with his feet in frustration.

“I just had the worst day,” she said, putting her head in her hands.

Krel’s response shifted from annoyed to concerned. He sat up, setting his guitar aside, and put a hand on her shoulder. “Is everything okay?”

“Clearly it is not,” she said, “I just said I had the worst of days!”

“Well,” Krel began, “what happened?”

Aja sighed. “Mary and I had a fight,” she said. “It was about Steve.”

Krel lifted an eyebrow. He knew that Mary was one of the world’s biggest Staja fans out there, and he wasn't sure why she would fight with Aja about him. “Why?”

“She says I spend too much time with him and that I am ignoring the girls, Mary, Darci, Shannon, Claire, and Andy,” she said, looking at her feet. “I mean, I do spend lots of time with him. But he is my boyfriend!”

Krel nodded. “I… admit I am not much help in this area,” he said, mouth scrunching up to the side in thought. “I suppose time is the best remedy.”

“You are probably right, little brother,” she said.

He put a hand on her shoulder in consolation. “It will be alright,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

Chapter Text

Andy stood crouched in the middle of the training deck, holding an ionic staff in her left hand. She didn't have a serrator, and Vex wouldn't let her fight with just her fists, so hence the staff. It had been long enough, and Mother had cleared her to be healed and able to fight, so she was sparring with Aja and Vex.

She heard something very light behind her and whirled around, spinning the staff. She made contact with something hard, registering milliseconds later that she had indeed beaned Aja across the face and sent her flying, serrator nearly knocked from her hand.

Aja laughed, hitting the ground. “GOOD!” She lept to her feet and ran at her again, but Andy heard something else.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Vex shouted, vaulting into the room, slicing down hard with his serrator. Andy blocked it, grinning wickedly.

“Did your grandmother teach you to fight?” Andy jabbed, spinning the staff to block Varvatos’s attacks. Aja tried the sneak attack again, and Andy spun around and landed a toe kick square in the middle of her chest.

“Indeed she did!” Varvatos crowed. “Anasia Vex was a fearsome Taylon commander!” He tried to sweep the leg, but Andy dodged it. She had forgotten, however, that it was two against one, because as soon as she landed she felt the cold buzzing of an ionic blade at her back.

“Gotcha,” said Aja. Andy twisted her head to see Krel’s older sister wearing a shit-eating grin on her face.

Andy laughed. “You sure did! Nice job!”

Aja pulled the serrator away, allowing Andy to stand. “Would you like to spar again?”

“Yes!”

Vex puffed his chest, circling the two of them as they took their stances. “Varvatos Vex will grant you the honor of the most remarkable pummeling!”

“Oh, are you sure about that? Because I’m about to wipe the floor with your ass,” Andy shot right back, and Aja raised her eyebrows, trying to hide her laugh.

Vex whirled around and brought his serrator down hard, Andy leaping out of the way just in time. Aja took the opportunity to take a shot at his legs, sweeping them with one of her own. He dodged, and Aja turned her attack to Andy.

“That is funny,” Aja said, as Andy blocked her serrator with the ionic staff in her left hand. She parried a blow to the head, ducking to do so. “You fight with your left.”

“Well, I know something that you do not,” said Andy, loving that she was getting to use this line. She spun around and landed a blow on Aja’s shoulder. “I am not actually left handed.” She switched the staff to her right hand, spinning it even faster and with more ease, blocking most of Aja’s blows.

Aja laughed in shock. “That is something I did not know, you are correct!” she said, as Andy disarmed her and knocked her to the ground, pushing the staff into her chest.

“Now we’re even,” she said, helping the Akiridion up.

“Both of you have done well today,” said Vex, circling them with his hands behind his back. “Varvatos is almost impressed. Lady Aja, your skill with the blade increases with each lesson. Andy, you are quite adept with the staff, I wonder how you would fight with a blade?”

Andy twisted her mouth to the side pensively. “I honestly don't know, I’ve never used a blade in fighting before.”

“Well then, that shall be for tomorrow’s lesson,” said Vex. “You two are dismissed.”

Andy and Aja walked together out of the inner workings of the Mothership and into the main house. Aja flopped down on the couch, and Andy joined her.

“That was lively,” Aja said, grinning. “It is more fun to train when you are not the only student!”

Andy laughed. “Yeah, I can see how Vex would be a hard teacher to have as a private tutor.”

“I am not so bruised!” Aja crowed, throwing all four hands into the air triumphantly. “Neither my ego nor my body bear as many marks!”

Andy chuckled. “That’s ‘cause I got half of it,” she said, giving her a side smile.

Krel walked in, carrying a cardboard box filled with various scrap parts salvaged from who knows what. He had grease on his forehead, a stark contrast with the blue of his skin. Skin? Was it skin? Andy was honestly not sure. “I make things,” he said, pointing a wrench at Aja. “You break them. That is why I do not train.”

Andy laughed. “Gotta have both sides of the coin, you are twins after all.”

“I am older,” Aja said, lifting her chin and looking down her cheekbones in a playfully haughty manner.

“By six mekrons!” Krel protested, setting the cardboard box down on the counter with a heavy thud, whatever was inside making a loud clanking sound. He shook the wrench more vigorously. “It barely counts!”

Before Aja could retort, there was a screech, and Lucy Blank came charging into the kitchen with a cleaning rag in one hand. “NO MECHANICS ON THE COUNTER!” she yelled, brandishing her towel. “I JUST CLEANED THIS!”

Krel froze, looking at Lucy in shock.

“Move it or lose it, buckaroo!” She thwacked him on the shoulder with the towel, and he squawked indignantly, gathering the box up in his arms. She thwacked him again as he made a hasty retreat.

Andy put her hands over her mouth, stifling a laugh at his injured pride. Aja didn't bother to stifle anything, slapping her knees with all four hands at poor Krel’s expense as Lucy lamented over the soiling of her recently cleaned countertops, setting to work again.

 

“So, how is your training going?” Krel asked from where he was laying. He had his back on the ground, feet up on her bed. Kind of like he was sitting, but sideways?

She tapped her forehead with her pencil. “Not bad!” she chirped. “Vex said he was going to let me use the blade today, but he didn't. I don't know if he forgot or if he’s testing me.”

“He is testing you,” Krel replied, staring up at the ceiling, a half smile on his face which she saw when she stole a glance back at him over her shoulder, from her spot at her desk. “Did you complete the equations I set for you?” he asked, looking at her.

Despite being her boyfriend, Krel was still her math tutor. Honestly, that was the best kind of math tutor, the kind you occasionally got to kiss. Not as boring that way. “Well…” she said, looking down at her paper. The further they got into this unit, the less and less it made sense. “No.”

“That is alright,” he said nonchalantly. “We have gotten a lot done, so we can be finished for now.” He had his hands folded neatly on his stomach as he looked up at her ceiling. There was a pause, as Andy went and joined him, laying down on the ground with her feet up on her bed, hands folded on her stomach. “What is on your ceiling?” he asked.

Andy blushed. “Don't laugh,” she said softly.

“Why would I laugh? You told no joke.”

She sighed and rolled her eyes, standing up and turning off the lights. Her slowly began to glow with the soft green light of dozens of those stick on glow in the dark stars. This elicited a soft gasp from her boyfriend, and when she looked down at him she found him staring open-mouthed at her ceiling.

“Really?” she chuckled. “You have a floating music ball and a fucking spaceship, and it’s stick on glow stars that blow your mind?”

He smiled. “They do not blow my mind, my head is intact.” She really needed to learn some Akiridion idioms, geez. “I was merely… oh, I don't know… pleasantly surprised?”

She layed back down next to him, turning her head to look at him. She smiled softly.

He caught her staring out of the corner of his eye, and turned his head to look at her. “What?” he asked nervously, an awkward smile on his face.

How could she even begin to explain? How could she even begin to explain to this amazing person that he was the most incredible thing in her life? That she counted her lucky stars every day that he fell out of the sky and into her life? She couldn't.

“Nothing,” she said, smiling stupidly.

“Oh, okay,” he said, smiling stupidly back, and then did something he’d never done. He kissed her first.

Chapter Text

When he looked back at her, she was holding tightly to the hoverboard and screaming her head off. But it wasn’t terrified screaming, it was ecstatic screaming. She was having a blast.

“GO FASTER!” she yelled, so he put on a burst of speed. He had borrowed Aja’s hoverboard to show Andy how it worked, but they had sort of accidentally taken it for a joyride.

After a little while, he slowed down and turned to look at her. “Are you positive you are not wanting to take it for a spin? I think you would be better than me.”

She giggled. “I mean, I can try.”

“Definitely!” he exclaimed, and they swapped places on the board. She stood and shuffled to where he had been standing, and he crouched at the front of the long and glowing blue board.

They ducked in and out of the trees, weaving through the forest and dodging the occasional wild animal. She put on a burst of speed, going faster than Krel had initially. He knew she had experience longboarding around Arcadia, but great Gaylen, she was going fast. She took a lower stance on the board for better stability as the two of them shot forward, the dodging and weaving getting more and more frantic.

Suddenly she lost control of the board, spinning out and sending the two of them flying. They came tumbling to a halt, Krel on top of Andy. As he picked himself up, he paused and looked at her. “Ow,” he laughed. “You crashed us!”

She was bright red, not really speaking much at all except for a few stammered phrases. Krel shrugged and stood up, helping her up as well.

Once she had seemed to regain her composure, she nodded. “Yes, we did crash, didn't we? I wonder what went wrong?”

“I am sure we simply hit a rock,” Krel said, taking her hand after pocketing Aja’s now folded board.

Andy shrugged in agreement. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Hoverboarding feels different than skateboarding.” She took his hand when he offered it, smiling at him with that big genuine smile that he loved so much.

They walked for a little ways, chatting about honestly nothing in particular, when suddenly Andy stiffened and stopped, arm going taut.

“What is it?” Krel asked, turning back to look at her, mounting concern on his face. “What is wrong?”

“Did you hear that?” she asked softly, looking around with an apprehensive expression on her face.

He shook his head. “I hear nothing,” he said plainly. Wait! There was something… A shiver ran down his spine and his stomach tied itself into a knot. “Oh no,” he whispered.

Out of nowhere, a hail of lasers rained down upon the two of them. Thinking fast, Krel whipped out his serrator and opened the shield, lunging to his right and wrapping Andy up into his arms. After a moment the lasers stopped, and a large creature came barreling down out of the trees at the two of them. Zeron Omega slashed at them with their claws, but Krel pulled them out of the way just in time.

However, as they lunged, Krel felt a large hand pull him back by the neck of his shirt. Andy’s eyes went wide with fear, but the scared expression slipped off her face in an instant and she set her jaw. “Let him go,” she growled.

Okay, that was a little hot.

“Like I listen to children,” said the voice belonging to the arm that held him, the voice of Zeron Alpha.

“That wasn't a suggestion,” she said, sliding her feet apart and slipping into a fighting stance. She pulled up her fists. “It was a command. Let him go.”

“Come any closer and your precious prince gets it,” said Alpha, lifting his fist cannon to Krel’s neck. Krel could tell this freaked her out, but only because he knew her so well. Her expression changed almost imperceptibly, skin turning a shade paler and a muscle in her temple twitched.

She gave him a hard stare, clearly trying to figure out what she was going to do.

Alpha jerked his head to his left, signaling Omega to attack Andy.

“NO!” Krel shouted, straining at the end of his shirt. He had to do something, he had to help her, he had to-

Andy whirled around and connected a ridiculously solid roundhouse kick to Omega’s exposed stomach as the bounty hunter flew through the air towards her.

It was like watching a balloon pop, only without the pop. Omega crumpled mid-air, crashing to the ground as his girlfriend ducked smoothly out of the way of the falling alien. They remained on the ground for a secton before springing back up and attacking her, trying to keep her from reaching Alpha.

They threw some darts at her with their tail, which she dodged effectively. Alpha seemed distracted for a moment as he watched his sibling battle Krel’s girlfriend, and the king-in-waiting took his chance. He whipped out his serrator and swung it up towards the hand at his arm, blade connecting with Alpha’s arm guard and causing the canid to yelp with the force of the blow. He lost his grip on the young Akiridion, who then wiggled out of the bounty hunter’s grasp.

Alpha took a swing at him, but Krel jumped out of the way as Andy landed another hit on Omega. Omega then lunged for Krel instead, who threw up his shield from his serrator. The bounty hunter crashed into it and Krel was thrown backwards, rolling across the forest floor. From his vantage point he watched as Alpha swung at Andy, who grabbed his wrist like she had done to Vex, throwing him over his head and onto his back. Before she could land another hit his fist shot straight up, the spinning yellow energy blades connecting with her stomach. He felt, rather than heard, the connection of energy on flesh, and Andy was thrown backwards. She landed next to Krel just in time to block Omega’s next attack.

“GIVE ME YOUR SERRATOR!” she yelled, kicking the catlike alien in the stomach with both feet almost like a springboard, throwing them back, and landed on her feet.

“What!? NO!” he yelled in reply.

“I can't block their blades with just my fists!” she protested, punching Alpha.

Krel shot at Omega. “Well at least you can throw a punch!”

“Tell that to the three large bleeding burns in my stomach!” she shot back, grabbing Alpha’s mask and and throwing him by the face into Omega. He was stronger than Andy so it was not as effective as it could have been, but it worked to get him off of her at the moment.

Krel saw the blood running down her chest and his core dropped. The only cut he had was from one of Omega’s blades, a thin line of glowing blue blood running down his arm, but Andy’s was much more serious. He had more bruises than anything.

Thinking fast, he did a volleyball dive to get closer to Andy, landing right behind her. He tossed her the serrator and catching it, she opened the cannon.

Krel’s eyes widened. She’d never used a serrator before, how had she known how to do that? She turned the crank and loosed a large blast of ionic energy at the two bounty hunters, who jumped back in alarm. Krel stuck close behind her, her cannon turning into a large shield. She turned to him and he grabbed her hand as the two of them ran away as fast as they could.

He heard the sound lasers being fired and looked back to see Andy shooting at their assailants as they fled. She was bleeding from a spot on her temple, a split lip, and from her nose. He wondered with guilt how she was going to explain that to her parents, who would most certainly ask about it. He also hoped their assumption would not be that it was he who hurt her. People who hurt their partners were despicable to Krel.

They made it into the neighborhood in which Krel lived, Andy taking the lead as Krel was a bit slower than she was. She helped him hop the fences of his neighbor’s backyards, pulling him over his own and onto the soft grass of the lawn. His transduction was beginning to fade, and the two of them barely managed to stumble into the house before it evaporated completely.

A bewildered Varvatos looked up from his television program. “Seklos and Gaylen! What happened to you!?”

The two teens leaned up against the wall, struggling to catch their breath. “Th-th-th-the Zerons,” Krel managed, trying to calm the buzzing of his core. Andy was leaning up against the wall, chest heaving up and down. He smiled at her, reaching across the gap with his lower left arm to take her hand. She giggled deliriously.

Vex stood up, stern face cold with the severity of the situation. “King in waiting, are you injured?”

Krel shook his head. “I am not, no, but Andy is.”

Vex’s eyebrows shot up and his four eyes widened in concern. “Come, we should get a better look at your wounds, he said, leading her into the inner workings of the Mothership. Krel tagged along. “The two of you are lucky to have escaped with your lives.”

“Unfortunately we are well aware of that,” Krel remarked.

They really had been lucky.

Chapter Text

“This has been a difficult decision for Varvatos,” said the large blue Akiridion, circling Aja and Andy on the main training deck of the Mothership.

Andy held her stomach, which was bandaged in multiple places, because the long walk through the maze of rooms that led to the bridge had tired her out and put stress on her wounds. It seemed to her that much like the TARDIS, the Mothership was bigger on the inside. She wasn't entirely sure how it worked, and wasn't sure she wanted to, quite frankly.

“It is not common we do this. However, due to the given circumstances, the uniqueness of the nature of the situation, and Varvatos’s own need to protect his charges, he has deemed it necessary that you, Andy, should be given a serrator.”

Andy’s mind was torn away from the pain she was feeling in her stomach and she looked up, shocked, glee written all over her face. “Wait, really?”

“The prince has told me you were able to manifest a shoulder cannon without any prior training, which is both impressive and concerning. Your only weapon is your fists, which are frankly no match for weaponry of the ionic variety, and let’s face it, although you are very strong and agile, you are quite small.”

She glared at him. “I’m really not that short!”

“Varvatos Vex is over eight feet tall,” he said, standing directly in front of her and looming over her slightly hunched figure. “You are tiny.”

She pouted as he continued to speak. “The king in waiting has agreed to construct one for you, along with Stuart, as we do not have any spares that Varvatos believes are fitting.”

Andy grinned up at him. “Wait, you’re being serious!?”

“Would Varvatos lie to you about this?”

“I honestly doubt it at this point,” she said, excited. She turned to Aja. “SO COOL!”

Aja made a little happy noise and held up one of her hands for Andy to high five. She returned the gesture.

“Once you have healed sufficiently and the serrator is finished, we will begin your training with it,” Varvatos said, standing strong. “You are dismissed.”

 

Andy took a couple of the healing supplements that Mother had been chiding her to take, which apparently boosted DNA replication and cell production in injured areas. She wasn't sure how that was scientifically possible, but there were lots of things about the Akiridions she didn't think were scientifically possible. It came to a point at which you really stopped letting it bother you.

“Almost, almost, BE CAREFUL!” Stuart shouted, hovering over Krel’s shoulder.

Her boyfriend cringed, almost dropping the ionic charging crystal that he was holding with a very long pair of forceps. “Seklos and Gaylen, Stuart, you are going to make me drop this thing! Is that what you are wanting!?”

“No, sorry, sorry,” said the Durian, stepping back. He ran a hand through his thick, anime protagonist style hair. “These sort of things just stress me out, is all.”

“Understandable,” said Krel, setting the crystal very carefully into the groove along the inside of the serrator. He picked up a few miniscule screws with his other two hands, locking down some more inner mechanisms that Andy did not even have the bandwidth to understand.

As he continued to work, Stuart turned his attention from fretting over Krel to fretting over Andy. “Are you feeling alright?” he asked her, laying a hand on her shoulder in a gentle and affectionate manner, like a father to a child. Normally she would have shrunk away from such physical contact from someone she did not know as well, but this was Stuart. He was the weird uncle of the group, well meaning, well mannered, kind, and well, frankly one of the nicest people she’d ever met, if not a little bit stupid. High intelligence, certainly. Wisdom? Not so much.

“Doing better today,” she said, lifting up her shirt to expose her stomach, showing him the bandages. “Not as ugly looking, I think. Less pain when I stretch.”

“What did your parents think?”

“I told them I got in a fight. They’re frankly both quite suspicious, but haven't pressed the matter. Well, they have, but they won't get much out of me,” she said. “I have secrets to keep.”

“You are certainly good at keeping them,” said Stuart, patting her on the shoulder again. He moved over to return to his original position, helping Krel. “I like the design on this,” he said to the king in waiting, “very sleek. Similar to yours and Aja’s, but different enough to be distinct. I dig it!”

“You cannot dig with it,” Krel refuted, lifting an eyebrow. “It is an advanced weapon. I mean sure, you could dig with it, but that would be below its dignity if you are asking me.”

Andy giggled into her fingers. She always felt bad for laughing when Earth euphemisms flew over her boyfriend’s head, but damn, it was so fucking funny. She watched as Stuart tried and failed to explain to him what he meant, digging himself into a deeper and more complicated hole with every word.

“Give it up, Stuey,” she chuckled. “It’s not worth it.”

“You’ll understand eventually,” Stuart said. “I’ve spent thirty keltons on earth and I understand most euphemisms now.”

“I don't wish to spend that long on this mudball,” Krel griped quietly to himself, as if he were trying to stay too quiet for her to hear him. She shook that sort of comment off, she knew it was because he was homesick. He didn't mean it when he bashed Earth like that, at least she hoped he didn't.

After a moment, Stuart got up and left, saying something about needing something to eat. Andy spent the next good portion of the hour watching Krel work on the serrator that was soon to be hers. She could not believe how lucky she was to have met him.

He rubbed his chin with one of his left hands, punching a few buttons on that odd device he wore on his upper right hand. The expression he wore when he was deep in thought was so incredibly adorable and endearing, with his rounded blue eyebrows furrowed, turning the light blue arc that connected them into a long and narrow arrow shape. His lip was pushed out in a near pout, fingers moving from supporting his jaw to curving over his chin and back again. He ran a hand through his stiff blue hair, the texture of which was so incredibly different than any human hair. It was less flexible and coarser, feeling almost like a fiber optic, but not quite. It was honestly quite interesting.

She was so filled with affection for him in this moment. Everything about him was the best thing about him, that was what blew her away. She couldn't choose one reason above any of the others why he was so perfect. He was a genius, funny, sweet, kind, generous, and one of the most genuine people she’d ever met. Not to mention his singing voice was incredible. She loved to catch him singing and just listen to his smooth voice.

She couldn't imagine being with anyone else, not now, not ever. He was her whole world, and he was the most important thing in her life. She would die before anything happened to him.
While thinking all this, one thought in particular sort of settled into her gut and rose like a warm surge up to her head. She loved him. The realization hit her like a semi truck on a freeway. She loved somebody. Like, romantically, not platonically. She really loved somebody.

She wasn't sure if she would've ever been able to get here before now. She had never formed crushes on people growing up, ever dated anyone. It wasn't her thing. She just hadn't ever been into that. Until Krel came along.

He changed everything.

She loved him.

He tapped his fingers on the desk, the smooth surface of his fingertips making little clinking sounds against the hard table. “Penny for what you are thinking,” he said, gaze flitting upwards to meet hers.
She wanted to tell him ‘I just realized I love you,’ or ‘I think… no, I know, I love you,’ but instead what she said was, “nothing, just zoning out honestly.” She couldn't bring herself to say anything. It was better this way anyway; if he didn't know, it would be easier for him to return to Akiridion-5. That was the most important thing right now, Aja and Krel returning to their home and taking the throne back from General Morando.

He gave her a cute half smile. “Okay,” he said. She could tell he knew she wasn't telling him the whole truth. It was better that way; she would fool herself into believing that.

 

“How are you feeling?” Varvatos asked her, as he helped her remove the bandages around her middle. For only having three fingers on two positively gargantuan hands, he was surprisingly nimble.

She peeled back the dressing on the wounds. “Wow! They’re almost healed!” She looked over at Stuart, who was standing in the corner, and grinned. He had given her a healing accelerant for her wounds, changing several weeks of recovery into several days, which she was forever grateful for. “Thank you so much, Stuart.”

He nodded in reply. “Anytime!”

Vex watched as she gingerly pressed on her mostly healed wounds, not making much of a pain face. “Varvatos observes that you are mostly healed, and thinks it prime time to start training again. But first, he has something to give you. Follow Varvatos,” he said, beckoning for her to stand and follow him.

She followed him through the winding passages of the Mothership, coming to a halt in front of Krel’s workshop. He opened the door for her, and she walked in. She noticed Aja come running in behind Andy and Vex, blonde hair up in a bun and fists at her sides in an excited manner.

Krel was standing at his desk with the finished serrator sitting in front of him, grinning like a five year old at Christmas. She walked up to the side of the table across from him and put her hands down on the table, matching his pose. He looked down in a very direct manner, guiding her gaze to what he was looking at: the serrator sitting on the table between them.

“Go on, pick it up,” he urged, looking up at her and grinning.

“Okay,” she said, with a slight giggle. Instead of picking it up, she leaned forward to bridge the gap in between their faces, kissing him.

“I am serious,” he laughed, pushing her away in a playful manner.

She leaned down and scooped it up, holding it in her right hand with confidence. It felt right. She turned it over, examining and admiring its design. It was very sophisticated in its design, and she could see similarities between it and the serrators belonging to both the twins and Vex.

It was a little larger between the twins’ serrators, but darker blue in color like Vex’s. It fit in her palm comfortably, with a slightly rubberized grip. It was light, and had a blue stripe with a slight glow.

Krel tilted his head. “Show them,” he said, smiling. He was referring to her innate ability to use a serrator without having been previously taught. He had later told her while he was working on her serrator that this was actually quite strange. He said that when Steve had found Aja’s serrator, he had not known how to use it at all. Andy had honestly discovered it to be quite instinctive, with what short experience she had with using one.

Andy held the serrator, taking a deep breath. Now that their lives were not on the line, it was more difficult to summon anything. Before it had been a necessity, now it was a display. An ionic blade appeared, materializing slowly out of the serrator. It was long and single edged, with the designs and patterns common of Akiridion tech.

Aja’s jaw dropped, but quickly turned into a large grin. “Lively!” she chirped, trotting up to Andy and cuffing her on the shoulder. “That is fantastic!”

“Indeed,” said Vex, pensively. Andy had seen his eyes widen when the blade appeared, but now he simply looked lost in thought. “Most impressive.” That was all she got out of the big man before he appeared to fall deep in thought.

The blade dematerialized, and Andy hooked her serrator to one of the belt loops on her pants. Aja’s phone rang, and she trotted out of the room as she answered it. It was probably Steve, based on the way her face lit up when she answered it. Vex left to go watch TV, as it was time for his favorite game show. Despite being from such a technologically advanced culture, he had not yet figured out how to use the DVR.

Andy leaned over the desk once the two of them were alone, and gave Krel another kiss on the mouth. “Thank you,” she said.

He gave her a small, genuine smile in return. “It was no trouble,” he said, shrugging. “You really did need one.”

“Yeah,” she said, nodding. She walked towards the door, as it was getting late and she needed to start homework soon. She paused in the middle of the floor, thinking. If she didn't tell him now, she didn't know when she would ever have the courage to.

She turned in the doorway, pausing to look back at Krel. “Hey, Krel?” She felt almost nauseous with nerves. But she had to say it, she had to tell him. He deserved to know. It would complicate things, most definitely. It would make it harder for him to leave. But it wasn't something she could hide from him. It wasn't something that she could keep to herself. He needed to know. She owed it to him.

He looked up from whatever he was fiddling with on the desk. “Hm?” His eyes were wide and his eyebrows were raised in curiosity.

“I love you.”

Chapter Text

He stood looking at her. Or rather, the absence of her, the space left by her after she left. He stood looking at the negative space she left behind, unable to reply to what she had just told him. Then again, she had left before he could have replied, but she had left with the hopeful air of someone who knew or hoped the feeling was mutual.

Krel… Krel didn't know.

Krel wanted to be able to say it back. Krel wanted so badly to tell her that he loved her too. He could say it in his mind but as soon as he opened his mouth, there was some sort of disconnect between his thoughts and his words and he could not say it. The amount of guilt he felt at that was crushing.

She was incredible, there was no doubt about that. But… how do you know if you love someone?

How can you tell?

 

Krel woke up, rubbing his back, which was bruised and battered from breaking into Area 49B the night before to steal the osmic circuit from Stuart’s impounded vehicle. His head felt a little like it was full of cotton, a low throbbing in the back of his skull.

Aja opened the door carefully. “Oh! Little brother! You’re awake!” she chirped, bouncing into his room and plopping down on his bed.

“Is the daxial array working?” he asked, leaning forward in earnest.

She nodded enthusiastically. “It is!” she exclaimed. “Stuart and I got it working last night!”

He smiled in relief. “Thank Seklos,” he said, putting a hand over his core. Pushing the covers on his bed back, he stood up on shaky legs. He lost his balance a little, lurching forward. Aja lunged to catch him, grabbing two of his arms and helping him steady himself.

“Careful, little brother,” she said, letting go of him slowly. “No need to rush.”

“I just want to see it,” he protested feebly, trying to push past her.

“I will help you,” she said. “You probably need some water first though, it would not be surprising to me if you were dehydrated.”

He allowed her to help him into the kitchen to get some water, balancing unsteadily on his small Akiridion feet. That was something he had to give it to humans for, they had better natural balance. Their feet weren't ridiculously small for their bodies, and their ankles were defined and flexible.

Soon he was balancing on his own, with only Aja’s hand on his shoulder to steady him if he had a lapse in strength. They walked into the engine room, and Aja did a goofy ‘ta-da’ motion at the finished daxial array.

It was… interesting looking, seeing as it was cobbled together from ramshackle parts of other ships. It wasn't terrible though, it looked to be quite functional! The osmic circuit glowed the moving parts spun consistently. It was fully operational, which pleased Krel immensely.

“You and Stuart did an excellent job putting this together,” he said, nodding at Aja while examining it. “Good work.”

“Thank you,” she said, beaming. “Now, you should go get some breakfast before Lucy finds you and makes you eat,” she chuckled.

 

Krel stood in front of the mirror in the bathroom of the Mothership, gripping the sides of the sink. He had been so wrapped up in being excited about going home that he had totally forgotten it had meant leaving. Not that he was bothered by leaving Earth, no, he was quite ecstatic. He was absolutely thrilled to be leaving this primitive mudball. It wasn't the place he was upset about leaving, it was who.

It hadn't hit him until he had crashed Aja’s date with Steve, where she was going to tell him their secret. He didn't think it was wise. It was different that Andy knew, she found out by accident. She wasn't told.

Steve had found out anyway, when the three of them had been abducted by the two remaining Zerons, and Aja’s transduction had worn off. It was one of the less favorable moments of Krel’s life; he had been having a whole lot of those lately.

No, all of this brought to Krel’s attention that leaving wasn't only good. It was also bad. Krel was going to have to leave Andy, and it was tearing him up inside. Since she had said those three words the first time she had said them again and again, and he had never been able to respond. Each time he was caught off guard, each time he didn't know how to answer. Each time he didn't know how she could, would, or should love him, how it was allowed, how it was okay.

It would never fly at home. Aja was under the impression, for whatever reason, that the Akiridion people would be okay with her relationship with Steve. And maybe they would be, if she were not a princess, if she were not the queen-in-waiting of the throne to Akiridion. Maybe they would be if she were anyone else. Krel understood that royals were to marry other royals, or at least people of high standing. When their parents woke up and found out that both of their children had ties to Earth, he knew they would not be pleased.

Now he had to find a way to tell Andy all of this. The very last thing he wanted to do was leave her. He would sooner pull out his own core than hurt her, she did not deserve it. She had been through so much for him, for House Tarron, that he could not justify this.

And yet here he was.

He didn't know how to break it to her.

He ran his hand through his black hair and sucked in a shaky breath, letting it out slowly through his teeth. He walked out of the bathroom and into his bedroom, picking up his guitar and absentmindedly strumming it while lost in thought.

His hands eventually went to picking chords in a specific pattern and he started humming along. Then… it all sort of clicked. This was how he would pour out his feelings, on this guitar. It always made more sense to Krel this way, he was much more able to speak his mind, speak what he was feeling, and convey exactly what he was going through when it was done through music. Andy understood
music. At least, he hoped she would understand this.

He began to pen the words he was thinking, making sure they matched and making sure they lined up with what he wanted her to know what he was feeling. It was important he got this right, it was important she knew how he felt. The words he used… were maybe not the best. But how do you tell someone you love them… without telling them you love them?

You can't.

Chapter Text

She followed him through the woods, holding onto his hand. She knew exactly where they were going. The cliff, where they had first kissed.

“What’s the occaision?” she asked, giggling. He had his guitar on his back and she wasn't really sure what that meant. He often would sing and play to her and with her while they were hanging out, goofing around on the guitar. However, he had seemed more intent today, being more direct in what he wanted to do and all around just acting different. Andy wasn't quite sure what to make of it.

When they made it up to the cliff, the sun was beginning its downward journey below the lip of the horizon, the evening light just beginning to take on that subtle hint of orange that would grow stronger as the hours wore on, until it disappeared completely.

He walked over to the cliff and sat down, hanging his feet over the edge. He took his guitar off his back and held it in his lap, waiting. She sat down next to him and looked at him intently.

He began to pick the guitar strings softly, looking out over the town as he started to sing. “I love you too much, to live without you loving me back, I love you too much, heaven’s my witness and this is a fact. I know I belong when I sing this song, there’s love above love and it’s ours ‘cause I love you too much.”

She smiled as he sang the song, feeling warm and fuzzy and special in a way that only a person who has been serenaded by someone they love can feel. He sang the second verse and she tilted her head in an affectionate manner.

“I live for your touch, I whisper your name night after night. I love you too much, there’s only one feeling and I know it’s right. I know I belong, when I sing this song, there’s love above love and it’s ours ‘cause I love you too much.”

“Heaven knows your name, I’ve been praying to have you come here by my side,” he sang, beginning to sing the chorus. “Without you a part of me is missing, to make you my whole I will fight.”

He kept singing and her heart was just so filled with love, she couldn't wait to kiss him when he was done. But she didn't want to stop him. She wanted to live in this moment for as long as she could.

He sang the last verse strongly, dropping to almost a whisper on the last line. “There’s love above love but it’s mine ‘cause I love you, there’s love above love and it’s yours ‘cause I love you, there’s love above love and it’s ours… if you love me as much?” He strummed the last note and held it.

He turned his head to look at her to gauge her reaction. As soon as he did, she launched herself at him, kissing him on the mouth (albeit a little awkwardly due to the guitar on his lap). They broke apart and he put the guitar back in its case.

After Krel set his guitar down he took both her hands in his own. She interlocked their fingers, tracing shapes on the backs of his hands with her thumbs. “Andy, I-”

She cut him off. “Did you mean it?” Andy looked at him, an expression of realization painting her features. She had known this day would come, but she had always hoped it was in the distant future. Now she knew she was wrong, and she didn't know what to do about that.

“Did I mean- what?” He looked slightly bewildered and taken aback.

“The song. Did you mean it?”

He opened and closed his mouth a few times, and Andy knew the answer. “I… I am not sure how to answer that yet,” he admitted, looking down. “I am sorry.”

Andy shook her head, fighting back tears. “Don't be,” she said. “It’s not fair of me to hold that against you at all. It’s not like you can control it.”

“I need to tell you something,” he said, after a moment. The way he said it was rushed and awkward, like he was afraid if he didn't get it all at once, she would shatter like glass and he would be left with empty hands.

She did not reply, waiting for him to speak.

“We recently acquired an osmic circuit,” Krel said, still unable to meet her gaze. “Aja and Stuart have fixed the daxial array which means… we will soon be-”

“Leaving,” she said, finishing his sentence. The weight of the word on her tongue was crushing, but she did her best to swallow it.

He let out a heavy sigh, seeming to crumble into himself. “Yes.”

“How soon?”

“I… do not know. But.. soon. Within delsons.” He looked close to tears.

Andy wanted to scream and kick something, take her anger out on something, break something, smash something, destroy something, but that sort of reaction was wholly inappropriate given the situation.

“I was so eager for this day to come,” he said, sounded bitter. “And I still am excited to return home. But… I do not want to leave you.”

“Can't have your cake and eat it too,” Andy said, giving him a sad smile.

“I don't see why not,” Krel said, looking pensive. “Isn't that sort of the whole point of having cake?”

“It’s an idiom, Krel.”

“...oh.”

“It means that you can't have everything you want.”

“Oh.”

“I understand why you need to go home,” she said, after a pause. “The future of an entire planet is more important than one human girl. I know my place in the scheme of things, and so do you. And yours is no longer here.”

“I am sorry, again,” he repeated. “I wish to Seklos it was not this way.”

“Text me, at least,” she said, smiling at him.

“I will do you one better,” he said. “I will video call you.”

She smiled, squeezing his hands. He returned the squeeze. “Thank you,” she said.

The two of them stood and began to walk away from the cliff and into the woods, heading back to Krel’s house. Andy wasn't sure where the two of them stood now, honestly. She didn't think anything could be normal again after what just happened. She knew today would change the rest of her life, but she did not yet understand the full extent of what that meant.

Suddenly, Krel tensed. His eyes had already flickered to black and blue, his fingertips glowing, suggesting his transduction was about to wear off, but that was not what had him on red alert. “We’re being watched,” he hissed.

Suddenly, Andy could feel it too. It was a horrible sensation, like being hunted. “Bounty hunters?” she hissed back.

“Certainly,” he replied.

Her hand inched towards her hip where her serrator was. Firmly clasping the weapon, she stepped out and away from Krel. She took a few more steps to patrol the area, putting about fifty feet of distance in between the two of them. She kept an eye on him though, it was him they were after. She turned to look back at him, standing upright and letting her serrator fall to her side. “I don't see anyone,” she said to him, watching as his transduction wore off.

Something moved in her peripheral vision, and she directed her eyes up to the branches of the trees. A couple hundred feet back, there was a massive canine-like figure with black fur crouched in the branches of a tree, large ion cannon mounted on his shoulder. Zeron Alpha. Her eyes widened as she watched him turn the crank to power it, and tilted the barrel in the direction of Krel.

“KREL! GET DOWN!” she screamed, running at him, crossing the distance between them in a matter of seconds. She grabbed two of his wrists mid-run, pivoting on her right heel and swinging him around, flinging him several feet back and out of the way.

No sooner had she let go of his wrists when the whole world split in half in fire and agony, vision white in pain and fear and flame, every heartbeat feeling like a thunderstorm, threatening to shatter her. If that even was her heart. Everything was bright- too bright for her liking. She could not hear anything over the roar of something like fire and something like fear, but she heard her name, screamed at a throat-tearing volume. Her name. Her full name. The name of the stars in their distant dying splendor. Dying.

She felt as though her body were not her own when she crumpled to the ground amidst the light and fire, watching the smoke climb into the sky and the flames touch the stars.

The stars.

Her namesake.

Her birthplace.

They came closer and closer, and she was floating in them, unconfined to the earth below it seemed, feeling weightless until the world went dark and she did not feel at all.

The stars.

They had never been so beautiful.

Chapter Text

She turned to look at him, clear and perfect and still one moment, the whole world going to hell the next.

Her eyes widened and she sprinted towards him, screaming “KREL! GET DOWN!” When she reached him a split second later, she flung him out of the way. He hit the ground, chin bouncing off the forest floor with a thunk that would've split the skin if he were still under the effects of the transduction.

The blast from the hidden ionic cannon enveloped her, covering her in white light and fire and pain. It was like losing his parents all over again, only this time, permanently. Humans don't come back.

It felt like the world was moving in slow motion, Krel cold with fear. She was there one moment, gone the next. No, no. No. No no no no no, this wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening. There was no way this could be happening.

“ANDROMEDA!” he screamed, feeling his throat tear at the scream. Rushing forward across the clearing, he searched for any sign of her, frigid fear turning his veins to ice and filling his head with both a cold clarity and a panicked fog. “Please, please,” he whimpered, scanning for any sign of her frantically.

There! He saw her form and rushed to her, scooping her out of the fire and dragging her a few dozen feet to safety.

He sank to his knees, sob catching in his throat. Her head was turned to the side, obscuring the right side of her face. He cupped her jaw in one hand and gently turned her head, only to pale in horror at what he found. It was mostly missing, and he stopped looking after that. He did not want to remember her face this way.

“Not again, please, Seklos, please,” he whispered, voice trembling as he held her under the trees, the only light coming from his glowing form and the golden fire. With a free hand he searched until his hand was pressed up against her battered chest cavity, feeling for a heartbeat. He held his breath, waiting…. Nothing.

“NO!” he keened, gripping the fabric of her shirt and sobbing into her burned hair. It wasn't supposed to end like this, it wasn't! It couldn't end like this! They hadn't even said goodbye. She had loved him.

In the distance he heard familiar screaming and the sounds of serrators being fired. All of it was peripheral, the only thing that mattered was Andy. The only thing in the whole world that mattered was Andy.

Suddenly, very strong arms scooped him and Andy up, Varvatos sprinting in the direction of the Mothership. Aja ran behind, firing her serrator behind her at whomever had attacked Krel and Andy.

The run back was an adrenaline filled, shock ridden blur for Krel. He didn't even form a coherent thought until they were in the Mothership, and Krel was running alongside Varvatos into her inner maze.

He skidded to a halt in front of the stasis chambers housing the king and queen, Krel nearly running into the big man as he stumbled to a halt. He looked around wildly, attempting to figure out what to do.

“The spare!” Aja exclaimed frantically. “Help me with the spare!”

That seemed to snap Krel out of his shocked stupor enough to get him moving, stumbling up to the control panel and retrieving the spare pod. On the other side of Mama and Papa, facing the back wall, the two spare pods sprung up.

Vex dashed to the nearest one, the one on the left, setting down an unconscious Andy inside of it. The gel enveloped her unmoving form, hair billowing out around her like a cloud of golden spider silk. A few stray bubbles escaped her mouth as she settled to a neutral position.

“Mother,” Krel said, voice raw, “Mother, please save her. Please rewrite her molecular structure and begin regeneration.”

“I am afraid I cannot do that,” Mother’s voice said solemnly. “I am only made to repair energy based life forms, I am not programmed to understand biology.”

“Please, Mother, I am begging you,” Krel managed. Vex and Aja watched fearfully. “Do something! Do anything!”

Mother was silent for a moment, before she spoke. “I may have an idea. It’s risky, and there's a strong possibility it will not work.”

“What is it?”

“As I am only programmed to repair energy based life forms, if Andromeda Hawthorne had a core, I would be able to regenerate the parts of her that are missing,” she supplied. “She has enough remaining, albeit ebbing, life force, that I might be able to mimic the molecular structure of a core with her genetic code and life force, and regenerate the missing pieces of her that way.”

“Do it.”

“There’s a chance it will kill her instantly, beyond the ability to revive her.”

“She will go there if we do nothing,” Krel choked out. He staggered over to the computer screen on the power source of the stasis chamber. “Begin operations.”

“There’s a catch, my Royal.”

“What is it?” Aja asked, before Krel could wave the AI away and begin operations himself.

“I will have to sustain her with some of the king and queen’s life force. It will slow their recovery.”

Krel looked up at Aja and Vex, fearful they would object, but they both solemnly nodded. “Mama and Papa would do it in a heartbeat,” Aja said.

He turned to Mother’s hologram. “Commence operations,” he breathed.

“Commencing operations,” Mother droned. The pod around Andy began to glow a soft orange as energy from Mama and Papa entered the pod. He hoped that they knew who they were saving, and why it was so important to him. The pod to the right also began to glow. He staggered over to it and peered in, curious as to what was going on inside.

The faintest glowing outline of something round, fist-sized, and disc-like was beginning to form in the pod. A life core. All Akiridions were born through the formation of a life core, but never the formation of a life core synthetically. He hoped it would do its job; he did not know what he would do if it did not.

“Time to completion: seventy two horvaths,” Mother said.

“Seventy two horvaths until she wakes up?” Krel asked, looking up to notice Aja and Vex had left. They knew to give him space when he needed it.

“Seventy two horvaths until the life core is ready for placement, my Royal,” Mother replied. “You should get some rest, Krel. It is going to be a long three delsons.”

“Yes, Mother,” he said with a defeated sigh. “Please notify me if anything happens.”

“Will do, my Royal.”

 

Krel heard the hiss of the door opening, and directed his gaze in its direction to see Aja walk into the room carrying two steaming mugs. She padded over to him, feet clinking on the hard floor, putting her hand on his shoulder in an affectionate gesture. She handed him one of the mugs.

He peered down into it to find a brown liquid. “What is this?” he asked, a note of disgust in his voice.

“Lucy called it “Hot Cocoa,” she replied, taking a sip of hers. “It tastes delicious.”

Krel regarded it with suspicion, shooting her a skeptical glance. Aja always did have questionable taste in what to eat and drink, as proven by the number of Diablo Maximus Breakfast Burritos she consumed a week. Krel personally hated them, he didn't like eggs when they were all fluffy like that.

“Don't look at me like that, little brother, I speak the truth!” she laughed, bopping him on the head.

“For the last time, you’re only older than me by two mekrons!” he laughed, batting her hand away.

“Yes, but you are smaller than me!”

“Don't remind me,” he sighed, sniffing the mug. He took a sip. “Hey, not bad!”

“Told you!”

He took another sip. “So, what brings you in here?” he asked, looking up to the side at her.

“I wanted to check on you,” she said. “You have not left this room, I needed to know you were alright.”

“I think alright is too vague a term,” he said. “I am physically okay.”

“That’s not what I’m asking, Krel.”

“I will be alright,” he said, sucking in a breath through his teeth, “as long as she is.”

Aja patted him on the shoulder. “I hope for both your sakes that she is,” she said. “I know everything will work out.”

“Thank you, Aja,” he said, smiling up at her and putting his hand over hers.

There was a knock at the open doorway, and Steve stuck his head inside. Krel rolled his eyes, and gave Aja a look that said ‘really? You brought him here?’

“Hey Krel,” the older blond said, rubbing the back of his head. “Is she… okay?”

“She is stable and her vitals are normal, if that is what you are asking me,” Krel said, somewhat stiffly. He didn't know why Steve would really care.

The Palchuk walked into the room tentatively, posture submissive, which was a stark contrast to the usual chest-puffed stance he always wore. He stopped when he got to Andy’s pod, putting his hands on the smooth surface and looking inside. “Oh my God,” he whispered. “Oh my God.” He looked like he was going to be sick.

“Don't look too closely at her,” Aja warned, with a tenderness she only used for Steve. “I told you that you can't unsee this. Maybe I should not have brought you.” There was no unkindness in her tone, only concern.

“What!? She’s my cousin!” he exclaimed, turning to face the two of them. Was he… crying? And wait what?

“She’s your what?” Krel asked, cocking his head. How had he not known that?

Steve didn't answer his question. “I just saw her yesterday, all in one piece! We were in History! And now…” he couldn't finish his statement. Krel took in a deep breath through his nose, trying to steady himself.

“She is going to be okay,” said Aja, with a firm reassurance, both to Krel and Steve. “Why don't we go get some hot cocoa?” She stood, and put her hand on Steve’s upper back.

“I would like that,” he said, still sounding shaken.

Krel stood, walking over to the pod, but Aja intercepted him with a hug he didn't know he needed. “Thank you,” he said, when they pulled away.

She nodded. “May Seklos be on our side here,” she said, patting the top of his hand before walking out of the door, comforting Steve.

Krel sank back down into his chair, resting his chin on his fist, looking at Andy’s unconscious, broken form through the smooth surface of the pod, which distorted her appearance even more than Zeron Alpha already had. The weight of the situation came crashing down upon his shoulders and he wept openly without fear of who might hear him. He was too old to worry about that, and she would’ve chided him as a fool for caring.

She had saved his life with complete and utter disregard for her own; the ion cannon would've vaporized him instantly, leaving nothing but his core lying in the grass. He shuddered at the thought, yet still wished it were him in the pod and her in the chair and not the other way around.

 

Krel sat in front of the pods, watching over the life core, Andy, and both his parents. He was drinking the “Hot-Cocoa” that Aja had brought him, which he had to admit was honestly quite delicious. It had been a full day since the Zerons had attacked Andy and Krel, and he honestly still wasn't sure what had happened.

The door opened, and he looked up to see Vex enter the room, arms folded behind his back. “Is the king-in-waiting feeling alright?”

“If by ‘alright’ you mean less distraught, then yes,” Krel said into his mug. “But if by ‘alright’ you mean perfectly fine, then as Andy would say, fuck no.”

Vex nodded, sitting down next to Krel. “Varvatos knows.”

“Varvatos?” Krel said, looking over at the big man sitting next to him. Vex turned his head to look up at Krel. “What happened?”

“Ever since you and Andy were attacked by the Zerons the first time, Varvatos has taken to following you on your excursions,” Vex began, but before he could continue, Krel interrupted him.

“Excuse me?” he said, raising an eyebrow. “You follow us on all our dates?”

“Varvatos is not proud of it, but yes.”

Krel put his head in his upper left hand. “I mean, I cannot be mad at you, you saved our lives.”

Vex did not say anything, and when Krel stole a glance at his expression, he looked pensive, with a slight smile on his face. “He saw Zeron Alpha before either of you thought you were being watched,” Vex continued, smile melting off his face, turning to look straight ahead with a stony solemnity that only a trained soldier could deliver a report with. “Regrettably he did not attack before the bounty hunter pulled out his ion cannon.”

Krel put his lower hands on the pod that contained Andy. “It’s okay.”

“Varvatos wishes that it had gone differently,” he said.

“As do I,” Krel said, rubbing his temples. “But it is not your fault. Say, can you check on the core?”

Vex stood, taking a few steps to peer into the pod. “It looks nearly fully formed.”

“Good,” he said.

“It reminds Varvatos of when his children were born,” he said, sounding wistful and nostalgic, but also incredibly sad.

“What were they like, your children?” Krel asked tentatively. He knew that Vex’s family could be a sensitive subject for the older man, seeing as it had been less than a dozen parsons since he had lost them.

“Roma was growing into a fine young man,” Varvatos said, “Only a bit older than you, actually. He was going to be a fine Taylon warrior someday, like his Papa. Syvil was young, many keltons younger than Roma, still needing her mother and father. She liked pretty things, and was very smart. She wanted to be just like you,” he said to Krel, turning to him and smiling.

There was a pang of referred guilt at that remark, but Krel did not know where it came from. It just made him ache that this man had lost his family, then his best friend and his home, and was stuck on a dump-heap planet caring for two teenagers who weren't even his. “They sound remarkable.”

“They were.”

He looked to Andy. She was so full of light and magic and fire, and she loved so freely and openly that it was plain to anyone who looked upon her that she was fierce and strong in everything she approached. Her passionate nature always awed Krel, he did not know how any one person could find it in themselves to care that much. And yet, she somehow found a way. She had loved him, she had told him so, yet he could never find it in him to say it back in a way that wasn't a song. There was a difference between words spoken and words sung. Words sung are premeditated. Words spoken are spontaneous. He never knew quite what held him back, all he knew was that those were words he was not ready to say. But he did not know anymore.

After a moment of silence, he turned to Vex again. “Varvatos?”

Vex turned to look at him. “Hm?”

“How do you know when you love someone?”

Varvatos’s eyes widened, but he set his jaw, folding his hands behind his back. “It is not the same for everyone,” he began, “and it is something one must decide for yourself. Varvatos knew he was in love with Reigna when he felt he would die a million deaths for her just to see her safe,” he said, referencing his late partner. “It was an incredibly frightening feeling, strong and blinding, that gripped him in the gut and refused to let go. He could not imagine a world without her.” Vex looked down at the floor. “But… he has to now, and every day it tears him apart.” He looked at Krel, his face holding an unreadable expression. “That is how you know,” he said, placing a giant hand on the boy’s shoulder in a way that was so fatherly it made Krel’s core clench. “When you would rather die than be apart.”

Chapter Text

It was the laughter that Andy noticed first. It was all around her, dancing like rain and singing like birds, high and giddy and glittery the sound of it. It spun all around her in a place she did not recognize, a place with no name, a place with no words, a place with nothing but her, and the laughter. Was she even Andy? Was she even a person? She did not know these things, but she was sure she once did.

The laughter spun faster and faster and faster, getting brighter and higher and glitterier with each moment, spinning out of control before everything twisted itself into familiar shapes.

She was in her bedroom, sitting on the floor, staring at the broken toy in her hands and absolutely wailing. She had broken it with her hands on accident, and could not for the life of her figure out how to fix it.

The door opened and her young mother bustled in, scooping Andy up and helping her with the toy, cooing to her toddler, who clutched her shirt confused. She was not unhappy, but why was she here?

She heard the whisperings of two unfamiliar voices, one male one female… or did she? They were just on the outside of what she knew… maybe there was nothing at all.

She turned back to her mother, explaining what was wrong with the toy, being bounced on her mother’s hip again and loved like a child.

She blinked. When her eyes flickered open, she was staring up at the stars. Moments later she recognized that her mother and father were there, hands on her itty bitty shoulders, telling her the names of all these stars and the constellations they belonged to. They told her about Andromeda, the legend behind it, and about her aunt. The sea air from the San Diego coast coated her throat in salty familiarity, making her feel warm despite the cold and at peace with the world around her. To be a child was everything.

Just on the outskirts of her hearing she heard the whispering voices again, but she could not see where they were coming from.

She opened her eyes and found herself in a van, face wet with tears. Her mother was reaching into the back seat to rub her knee and comfort her. It was going to be alright, she said. You’ll make friends in Arcadia, she said. Steve is there, you like hanging out with Steve.

It was true, she did like hanging out with Steve. But it did not change the fact she was leaving her forever home of San Diego and driving hours up north to live in Central California, away from everything she knew and loved. She stared out the window forlornly, 11 and full of angst.

Andromeda.

Her head snapped up, and she looked about wildly, swinging her head so fast some tears went flying. Who had said that?

It was the first day of sixth grade, and Andy was not ready for it. She walked unsteadily into her homeroom class and sat next to a young girl with shoulder length black hair and brown eyes. She was taking selfies on a real cell phone, and Andy was immediately jealous but did nothing to show so. The girl looked over at Andy and told her that her name was Mary, what was her name?

Oh, I’m Andy.

Isn't that a boy’s name?

No, not my name. It’s short for Andromeda.

Oh, I like that. It’s pretty.

Thank you! There was a moment of awkward silence. I like your phone.

She looks up, smiling. Thank you! I just got it last week for my twelfth birthday!

Oh, happy birthday!

Thank you! Would you like to take a selfie with me to see how it works?

She blushed nervously. Yeah, if it’s not too much trouble?

Of course not, here, lean in! Mary put her arm around Andy’s shoulders, and they smiled up at the camera together as she took the selfie. Do you have anywhere to sit today at lunch?

No… she looked down, embarrassed.

You should come sit with me and my friends! We have an empty seat!

Andy smiled. This year wasn't going to be so bad after all.

Andromeda. Andromeda.

 

She opened her eyes in history class, listening to Mr. Strickler lecture and watching Jim Lake glare daggers at him from across the room. She wasn't sure what his deal was, honestly. He used to really like Mr. Strickler, and he used to be the teacher’s favorite student. Something in their relationship had changed as of late, the tension between them was so thick it seemed you might be able to cut it with a knife.

There was something clearer about this memory. She couldn't quite put her finger on it… maybe it was because it was more recent. This one felt less hazy, less like a dream, less like she was sleepwalking. This felt real, concrete, solid.

She jotted down a few notes as the teacher lectured, watching the awkward exchange between Jim and Strickler, almost as if their friendship had turned into a rivalry. She would have to ask Jim about it after school.

The rest of the day passed pretty quickly, and soon she was unlocking her bike from the bike rack in the courtyard. Her car was in the shop right now (the radiator needed working on) so she had to ride her bike to school. It wasn't that big a deal though, she lived close.

Jim came out of the building and unlocked his bike right next to her. He looked lost in thought.

“Hey Jim!” she chirped cheerfully.

“Oh! Hey Andy,” he said, snapping out of his daze and turning to smile at her. “Is your family still coming over for dinner tonight?”

“Yeah,” she said, smiling. “Say, are you alright?”

“Uh… yeah! What makes you think otherwise?” He gave her a pained, nervous smile. He was kind of a terrible liar. She knew for some time now that he was hiding something, she just hadn’t been able to figure out what it was.

“Woman’s intuition,” she fibbed.

Dinnertime at the Lake domicile came and went, and soon Andy and Jim were lying on his bedroom floor, looking up at the ceiling. She remembered when they were here, age thirteen, and he had confessed that he had a crush on her. He had kissed her on the cheek and she had panicked and ran out of the room. She giggled.

“What?” he asked, not turning his head.

“Remember when you liked me?”

“Oh my God.”

She giggled in response.

“You suck!” he laughed, sounding embarrassed, smacking her arm.

“And you kissed me on the cheek and I flipped out and ran out o-”

He cut her off. “Oh my Lord, Andy, please, I am begging you. Spare me,” he groaned, putting his arm over his eyes.

“You’ve got your eyes on Claire now though, don't you?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Oh my God,” he said, sounding embarrassed. He put his hands on his face and dragged them down in a mortified manner. “How did you know?”

“How do I know? How do I know? Seriously, Jim? Are you freaking kidding me?”

“Is it that obvious?” He sounded mortified.

“Toby told me,” she said, giggling.

“I’m gonna fucking kill him,” Jim laughed.

The walky talky on Jim’s desk sprang to life. “Warhammer to Trollhunter, you there? Over,” Toby’s voice came through the small black box, sounding scratchy and distant. Trollhunter? What did that mean?

“Yeah, I’m here, over,” he replied, standing up and scooping up the walky talky. “Andy’s here too. Over.” He turned the walky talky to face Andy and pressed the button.

“Hey Tobes,” Andy said cheerfully.

“Yo!! Andster!” he said cheerfully. “How’s it hanging?”

“I’m doing alright,” she chuckled.

“Do you think you can… uh… get away, Jim?” Toby asked in a low voice. Andy lifted her eyebrow at him again.

“Yeah, not really Tobes,” Jim said, his face contorting into a nervous expression. “It’s dinner night.”

“Oh yeah. Okay. I’ll call Blinky back and tell him no.”

Blinky? Who was that? Andy was confused, but it didn't seem like Jim would be open to talking about it.

“Alright, Tobes, you do that,” he said.

“Warhammer out, over,” Toby said goodnaturedly, and the line went dead.

Andromeda.

 

The world went fuzzy, blurring in and out, colors swirling. She felt light headed and she pitched forward, or at least it felt like she did. Her ears rang and her chest felt tight, as though she couldn't breathe. Her eyes flickered for a moment and everything was orange and gold and bright and thick and hazy and the last few months began to flash by her: meeting Krel, having that fight, kissing him for the first time, saying those three words, she was so overcome by how much she cared for him and then something she couldn't quite grasp but it hurt it hurt it hurt it hurt it-

Andromeda.

Andromeda.

“Andromeda,” the voices said, together this time. “Andromeda.”

The world stopped spinning all at once, and Andy was sitting on her couch, holding a recently emptied bowl of popcorn. She was watching Treasure Planet, her favorite movie. This was a memory. Or was it? It felt like one, but she wasn't sure this exact moment had ever happened before. It was vivid, like the memory with Jim, but had a much more deja vu feeling to it than that one had. She held her head as the feeling of vertigo left her still reeling.

She paused the television, getting up to get more popcorn.

“Andromeda.”

She looked to the right into the kitchen, nothing. However, looking to the left into the dining room took her breath away. She stopped, nearly dropping the bowl in her hands. Sitting at her dining room table silently watching her were none other than Queen Coranda and King Fialkov.

“Andromeda,” said King Fialkov, smiling.

“Yep, I knew it! I’m dead,” Andy said, shifting the bowl to her left hand and scratching her head with her right.

“No, but you gave it your best shot,” he replied with a chuckle, and the two of them stood up. Andy was immediately aware of how incredibly tall they were, and in total awe of their beauty.

“You… you’re… the king and queen,” she breathed, somewhat in shock. “You’re in stasis! How can you be here?”

“We are still in stasis,” Coranda replied, taking a step forward. “You have joined us.”

“I have… joined…” she said, head beginning to pound. She dropped the bowl and screeched, clutching her head and doubling over in agony as her skull split in two with the pain of the flash of the memory. She was… in the woods… and… she… “AUGH!” she screamed again, falling to her knees.

The king and queen rushed to her side, laying hands on her shoulders and back in an attempt to comfort her. Under the weight of the memories, Andy began to sob. It was too much all at once, there was too much pain… she remembered how it felt, how it burned and seared and screamed.

“Oh, child,” Coranda cooed, stroking Andy’s hair. “You have been through too much.”

“We saw through your memories how much he means to you,” Fialkov said, “our son.”

Andy couldn't say anything, she was too paralyzed by what happened to generate any sort of response.

“He is lucky,” Fialkov continued, as Andy sobbed softly, “to have someone who would lay down their life for his. We will not let you die.” The king and queen pulled Andy into an embrace on the floor, holding her close so she did not have to cry alone.

“You are so brave,” said Coranda, still stroking Andy’s hair. “To have conquered death. You are not alone, remember that. You will always have us, and you will always have Krel.”

“Take good care of him,” said Fialkov, holding both her hands. “Take good care of him until we can return.”

“It hurts because they are giving you your own life back,” Coranda explained, “and we will no longer be here with you when it is over.”

“We will no longer be sustaining you,” Fialkov said, in a kind and fatherly way. “You will have to heal and grow on your own.”

“We are very proud of you,” Coranda said, softly and affectionately.

Andy did not know how long they sat there with her while she cried and cried and cried, but it was a very long time, the torrent of emotional trauma and pain breaking down the floodgates and drowning her heart in tears. It hurt so bad, all of it. How lucky she was to have eight arms to hug her, and how lucky she was to be embraced.

Chapter Text

“Easy now,” Mother said, hovering over Krel’s shoulder. He was holding Andy’s new life core gingerly in two of his hands, taking it to her comatose form. This would be the tipping point in whether she would make it or not, and Krel was scared out of his mind.

“Quiet Mother, you’re distracting me!” he hissed, padding across the floor to Andy’s pod. Aja, Vex, Steve, Luug, and the Blanks were all there, watching Krel do this. It was extremely stressful, especially with an audience like that.

“The moment of truth,” Aja murmured as Krel reached the pod, holding Steve’s hand.

“This part is going to be awkward,” Mother said. “You’re going to have to put it inside her chest.”

Krel grimaced. He was going to have to put his arms inside- he was going to stop there before he threw up. That may be his girlfriend in there, but biology still grossed him out enough to make it not enough.

He took a deep breath, and slowly lowered his hand with the core into the pod, hands moving through the thick, jellylike fluid until they reached her chest cavity. He grimaced again, and found an open spot in the middle of her chest, the perfect space for an Akridion life core. He stuck his hand down inside it with the core, trying not to look. He positioned it, ignoring the disgust he was feeling at touching living flesh, real inside flesh, and pulled his hands away.

What happened next almost made him cry out.

Her entire form just… seized. The lights in the room flickered, and her vitals began to fluctuate wildly.

“MOTHER!” he yelled. “What is going on!?”

“Her body is reacting to the core in a way that I thought might happen, but hoped would not,” she responded. “Her biology does not know how to cope with the energy invading its system. Additionally, it is working on restarting her heart so it no longer beats with the energy from the king and queen.”

The whole pod filled with light, and all the parts of Andy that were injured or missing glowed fiercely for a split second, before fading back to normal. Her vitals evened out, and Krel’s core stopped burning in fear as much as it had been.

“It looks like she is going to be alright,” said Varvatos, his tone full of relief. “Thank Seklos.”

Krel looked down into the pod again, and noticed that parts of her body that were missing flickered with a blue pixelated light. He put his hands on the surface of the pod and sighed. Vex and Aja put their hands on his shoulder, looking down at Andy’s unconscious form.

“I think she is going to be okay, little brother,” Aja said, smiling at him.

He reached up with one of his hands and patted her own where it connected with his shoulder in a grateful manner.

“Yes, Andy is a strong and resilient warrior,” Varvatos said, puffing his chest. “Varvatos knows she will make a full recovery.”

Krel hoped so.

 

“My Royal,” said Mother, hologram popping up over his shoulder while he worked on repairing Andy’s serrator. It had been largely destroyed when Zeron Alpha had… well… you know.

“Not now, Mother, I am working,” he said, attempting to wave it away.

“I think that this will be of some interest to you, My Royal,” she persisted.

“Fine, what is it?” he asked, exasperated, turning to look at the hologram.

“Andy Hawthorne is nearly fully developed,” she said. “The new core has almost finished doing it’s job. In a few delsons time she will be ready to wake up.”

Krel stook, setting his tools down and walking briskly through the hallways of the Mothership and into the stasis chamber. His small Akiridion feet made a hollow clipping sound against the floor, like china on metal. It was a sound he was used to, but it had surprised Andy so much.

“You sound like my Grandmother’s fine china,” she laughed, rapping her knuckles against the back of one of his hands. “And it feels like it too.”

“Oh yeah?” Krel asked in a teasing manner, grinning.

“Yeah,” she giggled. “I like it.” She reached up and ran her hand down his cheek. “Your skin is so smooth and cool to the touch,” she remarked.

He ran his hand down her cheek. “And yours is warm and soft.”

She giggled again and stood up on her tiptoes, but she was still too short to reach Krel’s face with her own. “You’re so goddamn tall like this,” she laughed.

“Is that bad?”

“No, I like it. I think it’s sexy.”

He picked her up with ease and plopped her down onto his work desk. Now they were eye to eye, and he smirked. “Better?”

“Much,” she said, giving him a sly smile. She cupped his face with her hands and leaned down, kissing him on the mouth. Two of his hands found her face and the back of her neck, while the other two wrapped around her waist.

It felt different to kiss her like this, in his natural form; his cool and hard faceplate meeting her warm, soft skin was a different sort of experience altogether. But it was not a bad one. In fact, he might even like it more.

Krel squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head at the memory, trying not to think about it. That had only been last week… Now he wasn't sure if he would ever get to do that again. He hoped he would.

He rounded the corner and walked into the stasis chamber, walking past his parents around the round wall and to the back, where Andy lay in the pod on the left. The pod on the right no longer glowed, as the core was fully formed and already placed about a day ago.

He peered into Andy’s pod, curiosity getting the better of him. Mother was right, she was almost fully formed. Parts of her hair were stiffer and blue now, where the core had repaired her scalp. The half of her face on her right was smooth and faintly glowing, though she still had her right ear. Both her arms had remained intact, but… wait what? Krel looked closer down at the pod.

His eyebrows shot up in surprise, the little glowing arch in between them pushing up into nearly a V shape. She had four arms. She had her normal, human arms on top, and underneath had formed a set of Akiridion arms, complete with the typical suit sleeves and blue hands.

“Mother?” he asked, and the blue hologram appeared over his shoulder.

“What is it, My Royal?”

“Why does Andy have four arms?” he asked, putting his hands down on the pod.

“I had to use a model for an Akiridion core,” Mother explained, “and the most recent data in my system on one were those of the King and Queen.”

“So she has a royal core.”

“Indeed, My Royal.”

“Does that make her… a royal?”

“I am not entirely certain, My Royal,” Mother replied. “She has the core of one, but no bloodline, so it is hard to be certain.”

Krel looked down at Andy’s left leg; it was nearly finished forming as well. She was probably going to have some difficulties walking at first, he knew how different Akiridion ankles were from human ankles, and having to walk on both simultaneously sounded quite hard.

“How long until she is ready to wake?” Krel asked Mother.

“By my calculations, she will be ready to wake up in one or two delsons,” Mother replied. “Her white blood cell count has evened out and her cerebral activity is increasing. Her energy signature is stable, and her core pulse is steady.”

“That is all good news.”

“You got lucky, My Royal.”

“I know,” Krel breathed, rubbing his hand along the orange surface of the pod. “This by all means should be impossible.”

“Indeed,” Mother agreed.

If Krel had asked Mother more on the matter she might have revealed to him something she found while repairing Andy, but he did not, so the AI remained silent and the information remained unknown.

 

Krel came home from school, flopping over onto the couch. He was lucky that Andy’s family was out of town right now; her father was on a business trip working on keeping his license to practice and her mother and sister had three gymnastics meets this week. That however, still didn't keep the questions from coming at school.

All of Andy’s friends had been on his case all week about where she was, seeing as she wasn't returning their texts or calls and she had just disappeared without warning. Krel had told everyone she was sick, and had been collecting her homework from their teachers and had been doing it himself. Aja had been helping him too, she was much better at English and History than he was. Both of them felt overworked and exhausted, this was more work than either of them were used to.

His cell phone rang. “Hello?” he asked, sounding exhausted.

“Is she okay?” Krel recognized this girl’s voice as belonging to Claire, one of Andy’s best friends.

“Yeah, she is doing alright,” Krel replied. “Still feeling under weathers, though.”

“Can I talk to her?”

“She has lost the use of her vocal chords,” Krel fibbed, scrambling for a good excuse. “She has a throat sickness.”

“Oh, okay,” Claire said, sounding a little crestfallen. “Tell her we’re all thinking of her for me, will you?”

“I will,” Krel affirmed.

“Thank you, Krel. You’re a good guy,” Claire said kindly.

“It is no problem,” he replied.

She wished him well and hung up, and he flopped back over on the couch, exhausted. Today had been quite the day.

“Are you alright, little brother?” Aja stood in the hallway, hand on the wall. She tucked a loose strand of blonde hair behind her ear, a concerned expression on her face.

“I am alright,” Krel said. “Just very tired.”

“That is understandable,” she said, walking over and sitting down on the couch next to him.

“Have you seen Andy?” Krel asked Aja.

“Yes I have! She has fully regenerated!” Aja said, nodding. “It will not be long now before she is up and about!”

“I hope so,” Krel said, nodding. “I miss her a lot.”

“I do too,” Aja said, nodding. “I miss sparring with her, and speaking with her.”

“I… I love her, Aja.”

Aja turned to him, an incredulous smile on her face. “You do?”

He nodded. “I do.”

Aja hugged him. “I am proud of you, little brother.”

Before Krel could say anything in response, Mother’s hologram appeared in the middle of the room directly in front of them. Krel and Aja jumped a bit, surprised at the suddenness with which Mother appeared.

“My Royals, Andy is beginning to wake up,” she said calmly.

Krel jumped up so quickly that he tripped over Luug and just barely caught himself before smacking his face on the floor.

Aja helped pull him up as Varvatos Vex rushed into the living room from where he had been napping in his bedroom. “Varvatos heard word that Andy was beginning to wake up!” he exclaimed.

“Indeed,” Mother replied.

“Glorious!” Vex yelled.

Krel hadn't bothered to stay and listen. He dashed through the fireplace into the deeper portion of the Mothership, running into the stasis chamber. He skidded to a stop in front of Andy’s pod, chest heaving with the effort of running all that way. Aja and Vex rushed into the room a few minutes later as Krel was watching Andy’s vitals with intense anticipation.

He watched as Andy’s face, which had remained motionless for so long, began to twitch. Her limbs began to move almost imperceptibly, signalling that her body was fully regenerated and she was about to wake up. Her eyes snapped open, locking onto the surface of the pod directly in front of her. Krel was right above her, not sure if she could see him; it almost looked as if she was seeing right through him, staring off into some distant part of space.

She began to stir even more, moving her arms in a floundering motion. Her face looked panicked for a split second before she pushed herself up with all four of her arms, head breaking the surface of the pod, stasis fluid pouring off of her to leave her hair dry. She gasped, air filling her lungs in a rush after she coughed up some of the stasis fluid, wincing. Krel couldn't imagine it tasted good.

“Andy?” he asked, breathless, taking a step forward. Behind him, Aja and Vex watched eagerly, Aja’s hands over her mouth in anticipation and excitement.

She looked at him, blinking in confusion. “What… where…” Her eyes, which had once both matched were as different as night and day. Her left eye was the same, yes, but her right eye was an Akiridion black and neon blue.

He took two cautious steps forward, heart filling with joy. He reached out, offering her his hands, which she took to steady herself. It was now or never.

“It was not… until I thought I lost you that I realized… It was not until I was sure I’d never see you again that I… I…” He was struggling to get it out, to make it sound real and genuine and good. He took a deep breath. “Andy, I love you.”

Chapter Text

She was drowning.

At least, that was her first thought as she became conscious, surrounded by some sort of fluid. Her eyes snapped open, staring straight up and having trouble comprehending what she was seeing. It was orange and glowing, everything was blurry.

She floundered for a minute before getting her bearings and pushing her head up. When it broke the surface of the orange glowy space, she understood. She had been in a stasis pod. The viscous orange fluid, almost gel-like, flowed off of her completely, leaving her hair dry. Her vision seemed just a little bit different; she couldn't quite put her finger on it but colors seemed just a bit different. It was the blue, it was just a little bit deeper and more vibrant.

She suddenly realized she couldn't breathe, despite being outside of the stasis pod. Her chest clenched and she retched, coughing up some stasis fluid. It was bitter, and felt like half solid jello. Kind of squishy, kind of slippery, and not super tasty. It was pretty gross, honestly. She gasped and winced, her chest felt sore.

“Andy?”

She looked up, and her eyes immediately locked onto her beautiful boyfriend, Krel Tarron.

“What… where…” Andy stammered, head swimming. She was faintly aware of the other people in the room, Aja and Vex were standing a little more off to the side. She began to climb out of the pod, but was unsteady on her feet.

Krel took two steps forward and reached out to steady her. “It was not… until I thought I lost you that I realized… It was not until I was sure I’d never see you again that I… I…” he stammered, trying to say something.

She cocked her head.

Krel took a deep breath. “Andy, I love you.”

She smiled weakly, reaching up and putting her hand on his cheek. Her other hand floated to his shoulder, and her bottom two steadied herself against the pod. “I love you too.”

The moment was broken by the sudden, shattering realization of how many places she was touching. Krel’s cheek. Krel’s shoulder. The pod. All with her hands. Her… hands. She only had two of those. But… how…? How? Her eyes widened and gasped, stumbling backwards and looking at all four of her hands.

“That’s the other thing,” Krel said slowly and steadily, in a soothing and reassuring manner. “You may need to sit down… and look in the mirror.”

 

They made their way slowly and steadily through the Mothership as Andy continued to get her bearings, leaning heavily on Krel. She kept stumbling, her balance felt off for some reason.

Soon they had made it all the way to Aja’s bedroom, where there was a full length mirror. Andy had wanted Krel to tell her everything, but he had insisted she see for herself.

Andy stood in front of the mirror, Krel standing behind her to catch her in case she passed out. She felt completely numb.

She did not recognize the face she saw in the mirror, it was not hers. At least… it was not hers in a way she knew.

Her right hand floated up to the right side of her face. Almost evenly down the middle, (but avoiding her nose) was a blue line. The right half of her face looked like Krel’s. There was half a face plate, with the glowing blue border. Her skin was a dark navy underneath it, but she still had an ear on that side. She realized why her vision had seemed off, her right eye was Akiridion black and blue. Her eyebrow was a blue line and a completely different shape than the one on the left. It was flat, but arched towards the inner corner, much like Krel’s. That half of her face felt different too, it felt like Krel’s skin. If you could call it skin. Andy wasn't actually sure if Akiridions had skin.

Her eyes moved downwards, taking in another part of her body. In the center of her chest there was a dark circle, lined with the typical neon blue that was common among all Akiridions. Inside the circle was a life core. It was round like Aja’s and Krel’s, with a circle at the top and a semi circle underneath, like a really thick upside down fermata. Her fingers brushed it briefly, she could feel it thrumming in her chest.

Just a little farther down were her arms. She had two normal, human arms. Two perfectly average, maybe a little long, human arms, with her regular slightly too large human hands. Normal. That's about where normal stopped. Underneath her two perfectly average, perfectly normal shoulders, that had two perfectly average, perfectly normal arms, were another pair of arms. These were also perfectly average and perfectly normal, for an Akiridion. A royal Akiridion. Her hands were blue and glowed faintly, and her arms sported the typical Akiridion bodysuit.

She couldn't see under her shirt and she wasn't about to lift it up to see what had become of her stomach, so her eyes drifted farther downwards. Her right leg was completely fine. She couldn't exactly say the same thing of her left.

No wonder I had so much trouble walking, she thought.

Her left leg no longer sported a human foot. Rather, it had the typical Akiridion boot, a small round foot with not much of a visible ankle. She could still move it around like an ankle, but it was different. Less mobile, almost. She wasn't sure how the Tarrons moved as agile as they did.

She stood there, unmoving, unable to formulate a response to what she was seeing. Krel rubbed her shoulder.

“Are you alright?” he asked, sounding worried. Aja came into the frame of the mirror, also looking concerned.

“I… I’m not sure,” Andy said, rubbing her head and chuckling. “It’s a lot to take in.”

“I know,” said Krel, sympathetically.

Andy jumped as a realization hit her. “WAIT, HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN OUT!?”

“Six delsons,” Varvatos supplied.

“MY DOGS HAVE BEEN ALONE FOR SIX DAYS!?”

“Do not worry,” Aja said, rubbing her arm. “Krel and I have been taking care of them.”

Andy let out a sigh of relief. “Thank God,” she breathed.

The door burst open. “I came as soon as I got the news,” Stuart’s familiar English accent exclaimed. “Where is she?”

“In here Stuart,” Andy called.

The portly taco truck and electronics store owner rushed into Aja’s bedroom. “O-M-Gorbon!” he exclaimed, grabbing his head in surprise. “Andy, is that you?”

“In the flesh! Er, sorta.”

“You’re… half human, half Akiridion!” he exclaimed, walking forward. He extended an arm, but then pulled it back hesitantly. “May I?”

“By all means,” she said, holding her lower arms out.

Stuart took her hands, examining them. “Seklos and Gaylen,” he breathed, turning them over in his own hands. “Never in all my years did I expect to see something like this.”

“Pretty incredible, isn't it?” Krel asked, beaming.

Stuart nodded. “You’re half and half. Hey, And is the first three letters of your name! Half-And-Half!”

Andy giggled. “Is that my new nickname?”

“Yes,” Stuart said, with mock solemnity.

She turned to Krel. “So this is all well and good, but there's just one thing bothering me.”

“What is that?” he asked, cocking his head.

“I am glad to be alive,” she said, prefacing what she was about to bring up, “but I cannot help but worry about how I am going to hide this from my parents.”

“Right,” Krel said, nodding.

“The transductors!” Aja chirped, sitting down on her bed. “I am sure that Mother will be able to reconfigure the Akiridion portion of your energy signature to resemble your original form!”

“Right!” Krel confirmed. “That should work just fine!”

 

Andy sped down the street, just over the speed limit. She watched her pixelated glowing fingers with mounting concern, she didn't want to go full light show in the car.

She had been doing homework in her bedroom when she noticed her transduction begin to fade, and had immediately jumped out the window to get to her car. She needed Mother.

Indeed, for the past few days she had needed to go to the Tarron residence every twelve hours to renew her transduction. She felt much more comfortable when she looked fully human, because she knew how to use a human body. She was still adjusting her her extra limbs and weird ankle, it was proving more difficult than she originally anticipated.

She swung her car into the driveway and practically flew out of it as the transduction faded, extra arms materializing, foot and face changing. She burst through the door and dashed across the living room, flying past Vex, who was watching his favorite game show, pretty much diving through the fireplace and into the inner workings of the Mothership.

She could slow her roll now, there was no chance of anyone seeing her at this point. She jogged down to the transduction chambers, passing Krel’s workshop on her way.

“Oh, hey! Andy!” he called, and she stopped.

Turning, she poked her head through the door of his workshop. “Yeah?”

“I finished fixing your serrator!” he said, grinning. She crossed the floor, coming to stand right next to him. “I upgraded it too. It is now capable of manifesting a few new weapon forms.”

She grinned, taking the serrator from his outstretched hand. “Thank you!” she chirped, giving him a peck on the cheek.

She walked into the transduction chamber, stretching her arms. “Hello Mother!” she called in a sing-song voice.

“Hello my child,” the AI said kindly and evenly. “How are you today?”

“I am feeling alright,” Andy said.

“Any new or unusual pain?” the AI inquired, as was her custom. To make sure that Andy’s body was not rejecting the Akiridion core, Mother performed checkups on Andy every time she used the transductors. It honestly was quite endearing; at first Andy thought it was protocol, but she was beginning to think that Mother was truly concerned for her.

“Nope! I’m right as rain,” Andy reassured, grinning. “All good in the hood.”

“I admit I do not understand your human idioms,” Mother said, “but your tone suggests that you are alright.”

“Yep!” Andy stepped into the transduction chamber, feeling it spin around her as it took effect. A moment later, she stepped out of the chamber looking and feeling fully human. “Thank you, Mother,” she said.

“It was no bother.” After a moment, Mother asked Andy another question. “Andy, where do you come from?”

“Uh…. San Diego?” Andy was unsure of what Mother meant.

“Not your birthplace. I am talking about your ancestors.”

“Oh, like my heritage and family tree?”

“Yes.”

“Well, on my dad’s side I am English, Irish, Scottish, and Cherokee. My great-great-grandmother on my dad’s side was Cherokee, and she married my great-great-grandfather, who was a farmer in Oklahoma. They moved to Arizona during the dust bowl, right before the Great Depression. Way way way way waaaaaaaaay back on my dad’s side I am English Puritan, descended from William Brewster, who was the governor and reverend aboard the Mayflower. On my mom’s side, I’m Irish, German-French, and Lebanese. My great-great-grandmother on my mom’s side was Lebanese, and she married a native Irishman. They moved to the States after that. You wouldn't know I’m Middle Eastern by looking at me, I got all the Irish genes. But you would know looking at my mom, she has olive skin, dark hair, and a straight nose. So yeah, those are the basics of my family tree.”

Mother remained silent for a moment. “Nothing unusual?”

“I don't think so?” Andy was unsure of what Mother meant. “Why?”

“Nothing,” Mother said with dismissal. “Do not worry about it, my child.”

Chapter Text

Krel sat on Andy’s sofa, photo album open across both of their laps. He had found that the custom of keeping track of your ancestry was something that Akiridions and humans shared. Of course being a royal Akiridion changed that a little bit as his lineage was a little bit more culturally significant on his planet.

“These are my grandparents on my mom’s side,” she said, gesturing to one of the books. “Here’s their grandparents too. That’s Adeline, my great-great-grandmother, and her husband Sean.” She pointed out a young man and woman in a grainy black and white photograph. They looked happy, holding a baby and a small child. Adeline had a sunny smile on her young and pretty face, and Krel could tell how much Andy’s mother looked like her.

After looking at that book for a while, she pulled out the other one. “Here are my dad’s parents,” she said, pointing to an old photo. “Ron and Paula.” He looked down at the photo. It showed a young woman hugging a young man in fatigues, grinning and flashing presumably new wedding rings.

“And here are Ron’s parents,” Andy said, turning the page, “Lola and Gaylen.”

If Krel hadn't been paying as close attention to Andy’s words before, he was certainly listening now. “I’m sorry,” he said, tilting his head curiously at her. “Did you say Gaylen?”

“Yeah, why?”

“That is an unusual name…” he said, trailing off a little.

“Yeah, a bit. It’s a family name,” she explained. “There’s a number of Gaylens in our family, on both sides. One of my great-great-great and so on grandmothers, Avaria, was the first to name her son Gaylen on my father’s side, and my great-great-great and so on grandmother Savari was the first to name her son Gaylen on my mother’s side.” She flipped to the portion of the books that held the family trees. They were in the same position on each family tree, the same number of generations back. That could not be a coincidence.

None of this could be.

 

Krel sat in the control room, going through Mother’s cerebral matrix, running a few updates and reading through logs and files. He couldn't help it, but his mind kept wandering back to his time spent with Andy earlier today, poring over her family tree. He couldn't help but perseverate on the fact she had many ancestors named Gaylen; it was too strange.

“What is eating you, My Royal?” Mother asked.

Krel looked at her hologram, puzzled. “Nothing is eating me, Mother. I am not being eaten.”

“You misunderstand,” she explained. “That is an Earth idiom that Andy taught me. It means: what is bothering you?”

“Andy showed me her family tree today,” he said, “and something in it bothered me.”

“What is that, My Royal?”

“She had a multitude of ancestors named Gaylen,” he told the AI. “And as we all know, that is a distinctly Akiridion name. Because of who Gaylen was.”

“Ah yes, the creator.”

“And two of her ancestors bear Akiridion names,” he said, scratching his head. “Avaria and Savari.”

Mother remained silent.

He ran his hands through his hair, sighing. “This is all so strange.”

“There is something you need to see,” Mother said, beginning to flip through files of her own accord. She brought up a file labeled ANDROMEDA SAVARI HAWTHORNE, and opened it. “This is the map of Andy’s genome,” she explained. “I had to create it in order to create her core.”

He began to read it. It was all normal human DNA, holding the- wait what? Krel’s eyes scanned back to what had caught his eye. It stuck out like a sore thumb against the rest of her genome.

It was A-56, an Akiridion eye color gene. He began to flip through it faster and faster, finding more and more random Akiridion genes. A hair color gene. A plating color gene. A plating type gene. A core shape gene. A glow gene. A finger number gene. A core matrix gene. Actually, a number of core matrix and shape genes. A number of hair color genes. All of these genes did not exist in single numbers; all of them had a few cousins. Not enough to make a difference in her appearance, but enough to change her genetic makeup significantly.

“Even her blood is abnormal,” said Mother. “It contains the Akiridion energy conduit compound that allows the flow of energy through the body, and her energy signature is slightly more elevated than the usual human.”

“What exactly does that mean?”

“Under certain lenses, like an energy signature detection lense, she glows like a signal fire compared to the other humans.”

“What does all this mean?” Krel said, troubled, clutching his head in confusion. What did any of this mean? What could it mean? How on earth, and he meant that literally, could Andy have Akiridion DNA?

He didn't know how any of this could be possible. He didn't know how any of it should be possible. This was one huge headache for him, he didn't know what this meant.

He hoped that everything would be made clear in due time.

Chapter Text

Andy sat on her bed poring over her songbook, which was a notebook she filled with all the songs she had learned on the ukulele, guitar, and piano, trying to figure out what song she wanted to sing for Battle of the Bands. She really should have prepared for this sooner. At least she knew all the songs in the songbook though, it wasn't like she had to learn an entirely new song.

Before Krel, she was going to sing In the Woods Somewhere by Hozier. But she wanted everyone to know how she felt about Krel, she wanted to embarrass him. Now, that was a bit cruel, but it was also cute.

She flipped through the booklet again, stopping to skim each of the love songs she found. She wished she could write her own songs, it would make this process a bit easier. However, songwriting was very hard for Andy, so she chose to sing other people’s songs.

Her phone began ringing and she picked it up to check the caller ID. It was Krel, and he was wanting to video chat. She answered the phone, flopping back onto her bed. “Hi!” she chirped.

Krel grinned, giving her a small wave. “Hey! How is it going?”

“I’m doing alright! How are you doing?”

“I am doing quite well,” he said, leaning down out of frame. He was at his workstation fiddling with something that Andy couldn't really see well. “What are you up to?”

“I’m choosing my song for Battle of the Bands,” Andy said.

“Don't you think that it is a little late for that?” Krel chuckled, coming into frame to give her a goofy look.

She rolled her eyes. “I mean, yeah, but I already know all these songs.” She held up the songbook. “What are you doing?”

“Fixing Aja’s phone,” he said, holding up the battered piece of tech. “Luug got a hold of it and it broke.”

“Oh no!”

“Yeah, she was pretty upset. But I know how to fix it, so it is not a big deal.” Andy heard barking in the background, getting steadily louder. “And here he comes,” Krel exasperated. A purple blur came flying into the frame, knocking Krel out of view. “LUUG! Get off of me!” Krel yelled, trying to push the dog off of him. Andy burst out laughing, partly because it was hilarious and partly out of shock. She knew Luug kind of launched himself at anyone who had been sitting for too long, as he was full of life and energy. Krel had told her that was fairly common of Luug’s breed; they were fairly high energy and rambunctious dogs.

In the past, Krel had brought Luug over to Andy’s house (under transduction, of course) to play with Andy’s three dogs. The four of them got along swimmingly, and Andy’s dogs always seemed to tire him out.

Speaking of Andy’s dogs, Davenport waddled into the room. He had been getting bigger as of late; he was the youngest of her dogs and had recently just turned one. He was almost fully grown and was still filling out, but he was as tall and as long as he was going to get. At the moment, he was 75 pounds of pure energy.

The bulldog launched himself onto her bed, beginning to attack her face with love and kisses. Andy squealed and fell over, Krel letting out a laugh. “Looks like we’re in the same situation,” he said.

“Indeed we are,” Andy chuckled, pushing Dav off of her. She got him to calm down and lie down next to her.

“Well, I better let you finish choosing your song,” Krel said, smiling as he pulled himself up off the floor. “I just wanted to hear your voice.”

“I love you!” Andy beamed.

“I love you too,” Krel said, smiling at her before the screen went blank.

She looked back down at her songbook, flipping through the pages before landing on one in particular that caught her eye. To Make You Feel My Love. Andy nodded. She had found her song. That’s what she would sing.

Chapter Text

Krel took a deep breath. He was trying desperately not to think about what had happened back at the mothership, and he was trying desperately not to be sad. But that was incredibly hard.

Zadra was watching them from a distance he knew; he hadn't spotted her yet, but there was absolutely no way she was letting them out of the ship without her supervision.

“Earth to Krel,” Andy said, waving her hand in front of his face. He snapped back to reality, finding himself on the stage in the square, setting up for Battle of the Bands.

“Sorry,” he said, somewhat distantly.

She stepped in front of him, taking the box of equipment from him. “You good?”

“Hm? Yeah, I am fine.”

“You don't look fine.”

“Oh yeah? How so?”

“You look like someone ran over your cat,” Andy said, tilting her head. “If you had a cat. What’s going on with you?”

“No one has ran over my cat,” Krel said, shaking his head. “And I am fine.”

“I guess I will have to take your word for it,” she conceded, shrugging. “Even though you look like you could use a million hugs.”

He laughed. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Here, gimme a sec,” she said, trotting off to set down the box of equipment. “Okay, Krel Tarron, Dr. Hawthorne has come to administer your sadness cure,” she said, marching up to him and putting her hands on her hips.

“Okay, I am ready to be cured,” he chuckled.

She practically threw herself on him, squeezing him in a tight embrace. She pulled away after a secton, and kissed both of his cheeks. Then she hugged him again. “Do you feel any better?” she asked after freeing him from her grasp.

He gave her a side smile. “Yes, I do feel better now.”

“Good!” she chirped. She ran back over to the box of equipment. “Help me set up the microphones?”

“You got it,” he said walking over to help her.

“I’m no good with sound equipment,” she giggled, pulling out the mess of wires in the box. “I can draw or paint or whatever, but when it comes to this stuff I’m hopeless.”

“You are fine,” he laughed.

Great Gaylen, he was going to miss her.

Chapter Text

She took a deep breath, standing backstage. Aja and Krel were in the audience, waiting to be called up in a few acts. Andy would not have been this nervous if Krel wasn't out in the audience; before him this wouldn't have mattered. But this song was for him, so now it did.

She had done something kind of dumb; she had changed her song last minute. She was still playing the ukulele, though she had really wanted to play the guitar. Krel had been teaching her the guitar, and she had been teaching herself via YouTube, but she wasn't good enough yet to play the song she was going to sing.

It was kind of dumb to change her song last minute, she admitted to herself, but luckily this was a song she knew well and could play accurately. The song she had ultimately picked was one that she thought represented their relationship better than To Make You Feel My Love. That song would have been more appropriate at the beginning of their relationship.

“Up next is Andromeda, playing Under Your Scars on the ukulele,” Senior Uhl announced into the microphone, reading the entry off the notecard he held. Andromeda was sort of her stage name, she used it when she was performing.

Nervously, she walked out onto the stage, replacing Uhl in front of the microphone. A stagehand ran out with a mic for her ukulele, and there was a brief pause while they got it set up.

She drew a shaky breath, looking out over the sea of people and locking eyes with Krel. He gave her a double thumbs up, and she cracked a nervous smile.

She took another deep breath, and began to play the intro chords on the ukulele. “Do we make sense, I think we do, in spite of everything that we’ve been through,” she began, starting off a bit soft. “Oh and you say black, and I say white, it’s not about who’s wrong as long as it feels right,” her voice grew stronger. “Don't think those stars won’t align.” She took a deep breath.

“Under your scars I pray, you’re like a shooting star in the rain, you’re everything that feels like home to me, yeah. Under your scars, I could live inside you time after time, if you’d only let me live inside of mine, live inside of mine.

“Wish you were here, right beside me, so I could watch you sleep, hold your body closer breath you deep, and everything feels broken, when you’re not next to me, would you still be you, if we weren’t we?
“Under your scars I pray, you’re like a shooting star in the rain, you’re everything that feels like home to me, yeah. Under your scars, I could live inside you time after time, if you’d only let me live inside of mine, live inside of mine.” She began to play the small instrumental break right before the bridge. Her nerves had melted away, being replaced with pure affection for Krel. She really loved him, and hoped he felt it through this song. She had never sang to him like this before, it had always been him singing to her. It was her turn to return the favor.

“So hey, if you feel like coming down, if you feel like coming around, just call my name out loud, na na na. Hey, if you feel like coming down, if you feel like coming around, just call my name out loud, na na na, yeah.” It was time for the final chorus.

“Under your scars I pray, you’re like a shooting star in the rain, you’re everything that feels like home to me, yeah. Under your scars, I could live inside you time after time, if you’d only let me live inside of mine, live inside of mine.”

She played the outtro, slowing down the chords a little the closer she got to the end. When she hit the final note, she stood there chest heaving with the effort of the song.

The audience erupted into applause, and she surveyed the crowd for her beautiful boyfriend. She couldn't find him… she would look for him offstage.

“Thank you,” she said, giving a little stage bow and walking off. Senior Uhl walked onto the stage and began announcing the next act, and she stood in the wings to watch.

That’s when she was attacked from behind with the biggest hug ever. She squawked and wiggled around to get a look at her attacker; it was Krel. He had happy tears in his eyes, and he embraced her again. “That was beautiful,” he said.

“You liked it?”

“I loved it,” he corrected. He kissed her on the forehead. “And I love you.”

“I love you too,” she said, kissing him on the mouth.

They rejoined the crowd, and the two of them collectively winced when Steve and Eli went up on stage. Steve was a terrible singer. Aja seemed oblivious to that fact, however, because she had a stupid lovestruck expression the entire time.

Soon it was Krel’s turn up on stage. The second he began to play (despite the fact that it was incredibly experimental and a little strange) Andy shouted, “WOOOO! GO KREL! THAT’S MY BOYFRIEND!” She saw his face flush with embarrassment when he heard her cheer, and she grinned.

Soon he changed the music to something a little more along the lines of teenage taste, and the crowd started going wild. She cheered wildly along with them, jumping up and down in time with the music. Krel was so incredibly talented, she was so proud of him.

When he was done, she ran backstage and threw herself onto Krel. “You did so good!” she exclaimed, showering him with tons of little kisses.

He laughed. “Thank you!”

“I love you,” she said, hugging him. “You’re so incredibly talented.”

He blushed. “It’s nothing. And I love you too.”

“Great job kiddo, you did amazing!” Stuart cried, wrapping Krel in a hug. “Aja, I have a few notes,” he added jokingly. Turning to Andy, he cuffed her on the shoulder playfully. “I didn't get a chance to tell you that you crushed it girly, where’d you learn to sing like that, eh?” he said, beaming. “I’m very proud of you three.”

She almost didn't notice Claire Nunez take the stage, she was so wrapped up in her boyfriend. But one flash of purple and she whirled around, only to find one of her best friends clad head to toe in purple armor.

Claire adjusted the mic, looking nervous. “Um, hello, can I have your attention?” There was a small screech of feedback, but it wasn't too bad. The crowd quieted to hear what she had to say. “Look, I’ve got something to say. Something about this town.”

“What is she going on about?” Andy said softly to Krel.

He shrugged. “I do not know.” On stage, Andy could see Mary and Darci whispering to each other, clearly looking confused. What was Claire doing?

“Listen to me!” she admonished. “Something dangerous is coming. Strange things happen in our town. We all know it! Pets go missing. People go missing. There’s something alien amongst us. But we bury our heads in the sand and ignore it.”

Krel looked at Andy, looking perturbed by the word ‘alien.’ Aja took a step closer to them. “Is she talking about us?” Krel asked, looking worried. Andy didn't reply.

“But we can't do that tonight. Tonight, when night falls, you need to run!” Suddenly, Claire’s speech was interrupted by a very loud, very terrible strum of a badly tuned electric guitar. Andy winced. She had never had the heart to tell Mary that she sucked at guitar. Darci began banging away at the drums and they both began screaming the last phrase, ‘you need to run.’

“NO!” she screamed. “This is not part of the show! You all need to run! You need to hide!” Her band continued to play behind her, parroting her final word of each sentence. “NO!” she yelled, clearly irritated and slightly panicked.

Andy looked at Krel. “I don't like this, something doesn't feel right.”

“I have a bad feeling too,” Aja said, putting her hand on Andy’s shoulder. “Claire does not lie, and her face looks actually worried. Something bad is going on.”

“So you do not think it’s us?” Krel asked, worried. “You do not think she knows?”

“How could she?” Andy asked.

Suddenly, there was a rumbling unlike anything Andy had ever heard, or felt. It was shaking the earth, but it didn't sound like any earthquake Andy knew. They’d had tremors over the last few days that the scientists hadn't been able to explain; something big was happening right now.

That’s when she saw it: the giant pillar of greyish orange smoke and light shooting into the sky. Everyone began screaming and running.

“Holy fucking shit,” she breathed.

The pillar of smoke swirled up into the sky and began to fan out from the center, slowly covering the sky in a blanket of ash. It reminded her of how the sky looked when she went with her parents to visit her uncle and his family in Redding after they lost their home to the Carr Fire.

“That’s not summer weather, is it,” Aja said darkly.

The four of them heard the sound of screaming, and saw a horde of monstrous figures walking through the red dust. They were huge, looking as if they were made of stone, with giant spears and horned helmets.

“Do you think it’s Morando?!” Krel asked, sounding terrified.

“Whatever it is, it’s not Akiridion,” Aja growled, and the three of them drew their serrators.

“And just when I thought we were done using these,” Krel remarked dryly in regard to his weapon.

The group watched as the creatures began attacking the people and smashing things, seemingly held back somewhat by two people in armor. Andy studied them more closely and realized that it was Claire and Toby. Wait WHAT? Claire and Toby?? She would definitely have to have a talk with them later. For now she was focused on surviving.

“What on Earth- and I say that literally- are these things?” Krel asked, sounding almost stupefied.

“Nastier than any Earthlings I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve been to Florida. Ugh,” Stuart griped, shuddering either at the horrid memory or at the fear of dying at the hands of these things.

Krel turned to Andy and gave her a questioning look.

“Hey now don't look at me, I’m just as confused as you are!” she protested.

“So you do not know what that is?” Krel asked, gesturing to one.

“How the motherloving FUCK would I know what the FUCK THAT IS!?” she yelled, gesturing as well. “IT’S LIKE NINE FEET TALL AND GLOWING GREEN WITH STONE FOR SKIN AND GIANT HORNS!”

“Fair enough,” Aja said, tilting her head towards Andy.

One of the beasts roared and ran at them, but Aja let out a warcry and ran to confront it, vaulting off of it to stab it in the shoulders. It turned to stone and crumbled around them. Another came forward, only to be shot down by Krel, and a third threw its spear. Andy ran forward and jumped up, catching the spear midair. She landed and whirled around, flinging the spear back at its owner, who crumbled to dust when it hit it.

Out of nowhere, another one ran up to attack Stuart, but before it could do anything, it fell apart, dead, revealing a massive woman. She was at least eight feet tall, with spiked neon blue hair and stilt-like legs. She wielded a double sided scythe, and peered down at them with an expression Andy couldn't quite read. She approached Stuart.

“Hey there, the name’s Stuart, but you can call me Stu,” he said, lying on the ground.

“Zadra!” Aja cried. “Thank Seklos you are here!”

“Who’s Za-” before Andy could finish her question to Krel, a creature began charging at them. Andy raised her serrator, but before she could fire a large green man with wings swooped down.

“Excuse me, coming through!” he yelled, grabbing the creature and throwing it down, where it shattered.

She knew that voice. “Mr. Strickler?!” she asked incredulously. Could this day seriously get any fucking weirder?

“This is not our fight. We must return to the Mothership at once,” Zadra commanded. “The citizens of Akiridion-5 need you!”

“So do the people of Arcadia,” Aja said, a look of grim determination crossing her face. She took off running in the direction of a screaming Toby.

Andy looked at Krel, who looked uncomfortable. “Yeah, um, what she said,” he stammered, and then turned to follow Aja, Andy close behind.

“Incoming!” Stuart yelled.

That’s when the most unbelievable thing happened. A truck, most likely launched by one of the creatures, went flying through the air. That wasn't the unbelievable thing. The unbelievable thing was that almost instantly a third armored figure lept through the air at an impossible height, whipping out a flaming sword and cutting right through the truck with a scream.

The two flaming halves of the truck went flying, and the trio hit the deck to avoid one as it crashed to the ground just inches behind them. They stood as the figure landed a few feet away from them. He was blue, with shaggy black hair, small tusks, and dark horns, but Andy would recognize those eyes anywhere.

“Is that Jim? He looks so much more blue,” Aja exclaimed incredulously.

“Aha! Trollhunters!” both of the twins exclaimed in unison.

“What the fuck is trollhunters??” Andy shouted. “What the hell are you two talking about? Jim! What the fuck is going on!?”

Zadra ran up. “My lieges, it’s a distress signal.”

“From where?” Aja asked.

“Home,” she replied.

“We need to get back to the ship!” Krel cried.

“Mama, Papa!” Aja’s voice sounded panicked.

The twins, Zadra, began running in the direction of the Mothership, Andy took three steps to follow them, but then looked around her, suddenly overwhelmed by the need to protect her home. Earth was not Krel’s concern, but it was hers.

“I’ll meet up with you later!” she screamed after him, but he did not respond. He was hellbent on getting to his ship and she couldn't blame him.

“FOR GLORY!” A large blue four armed thing with a staff yelled, and a surge of stone creatures (who she presumed to be the good guys) surged into battle.

Andy joined the fray, bobbing and weaving until she caught up with Claire, not noticing that her transduction was beginning to wear off. “Claire!” she yelled, catching the girl’s attention. She jogged up to her. “Claire, I can help!”

“What!? No! This is way too dangerous, you have no clue what you’re up against! Get somewhere safe, please!” Claire protested, a look of panic in her eyes.

Andy’s transduction took that precise moment to wear off, revealing the blue parts of Andy’s face, left leg, chest, and two extra arms. She pulled out her serrator, whipping out the blade.

“...Nevermind,” Claire said, as Andy stabbed one through the face. “You can help.”

The battle raged around her as she killed the monsters left and right, putting every ounce of training she’d ever had into use. This was both exhilarating and terrifying; it was nothing like fighting the Zerons. This was actual war, and it was the most horrifying thing that Andy had ever been a part of.

She lost track of where she was, and found herself finally free of opponents on 5th Avenue. She heaved a heavy sigh, and dropped to her knees, exhausted.

“Andromeda!”

Her head snapped up at the familiar voice, eyes searching for his face. Finally she locked onto the familiar face of Varvatos Vex, as he ran forward and scooped her up. He was undisguised.

“Andromeda, are you alright?!” he fussed, looking her over for wounds.

“I’ve been worse,” she laughed. “I’d take bruised over dead in a regeneration pod any day. Can you put me down now? Your hug is gonna do more damage than those fucking monsters out there man.”

He laughed, and set her down. “Varvatos Vex wonders if you have been fighting a most glorious battle?”

“The most glorious of all,” she cracked, lifting and eyebrow and giving him a sly side smile. He guffawed and clapped her on the shoulder. Suddenly it occurred to her that Vex was out here, and the Tarrons were somewhere else. “Vex?”

“Hm?”

“Why aren't you with Aja and Krel?” she asked, taking a step back. “Why are you here?”

His face fell.

“What is it?” she demanded. “What aren't you telling me?”

“Krel must have told you about how Morando gained access to the city on Akiridion-5,” he began.

“Yeah, a traitor lowered the shields.”

“In.. a moment of weakness and desperation, filled with rage and the desire to avenge his family… Varvatos- I- lowered the shields. I let Morando into the city,” he said, voice wobbling with emotion.

Andy took another step back, face slack with shock. “Come again?”

He didn't reply.

“I’m sorry, what I thought I heard you say was that you did it. You were the traitor. But that can't be right, because you would never do that. You would never- you would never do anything to hurt those kids.” She choked up. “How could you? How could you?” tears began welling up in her eyes, threatening to pour over and stream down her face. “How could you do that?”

“I never intended for anyone to get hurt, Morando promised no one would get hurt,” he protested softly.

“No one gets hurt? KREL GOT HURT! AJA GOT HURT! FIALKOV AND CORANDA GOT HURT! HUNDREDS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE GOT HURT! You did that! You hurt them! You hurt them Vex!” The tears were streaming freely down her face as she screamed at him. “YOU HURT THE LOVE OF MY LIFE! BECAUSE OF YOU, HE IS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF LIGHTYEARS AWAY FROM HIS HOME, STUCK ON A PRIMITIVE PLANET AND FIGHTING A WAR THAT DOESN'T BELONG TO HIM!”

Her breath caught in her throat and she let out a choked sob, voice weakening from a scream to a quiet sob. “They trusted you. I trusted you. I trusted you. I trusted- h-how could you do that?! How could you do that, Varvatos, for what!? A little revenge? Grow the fuck up!” She sobbed again, tears spilling down her face. She sniffed. “How could you do that? For such a brilliant warrior, you are such a huge idiot!”

She fell to her knees again, sobbing as gutwrenchingly hard as when her puppy had drowned in the river the summer after eighth grade.

Despite how angry she was with him, Vex knelt down, and wrapped his arms around her. “There is not a day that goes by where I do not regret my actions,” he said. He was being serious, he was using personal pronouns. “Fialkov was my best friend. But so was my wife. When she and my children died I felt as though the universe had broken apart. Fialkov denied me my revenge, but Morando guaranteed it. In a moment of selfishness I thought not about was was best for the Royals, or for the planet. I acted purely out of selfishness and I did a horrible thing. There are not enough words to express how deeply and gravely sorry I am.”

“I understand,” she said weakly. “I understand why you did it. I cannot hate you, Vex.”

He helped her up. “Varvatos must go,” he said. “He has been exiled to this mudball for the rest of his days, so he might as well fight to protect it. Please, get somewhere safe.”

She nodded, and watched him leave. She felt broken. She slumped against a building, watching the battle rage around her from her secluded spot. She needed a minute before she could rejoin the fray.

Suddenly, there was an ear splitting boom from the direction of the museum. She whipped her head around to see Jim with his sword through a massive stone creature, which was emitting an orange light. There was another boom, and arcs of lightning shot out of the creature, striking each of the others and turning them to dust.
Was it over? If it was over, why was the sky still dark? She looked around wildly for an explanation; that’s when she saw a floating figure descending from the sky, heading towards the museum. That couldn't be good.

Mustering up the strength to stand and fight, she grabbed her serrator. Her friends needed her, her home needed her. She began to run towards the museum. She watched as the gold clad figure wrapped an energy rope around Jim, flinging him far far away in the direction of the bridge. Shit. she didn't change directions though, because she knew Claire and Toby would need her too.

She arrived at the museum, where her two friends were picking themselves up. Two large creatures, one smaller blue one and one massive green one, were getting up as well.

“Claire!” exclaimed the smaller blue one. His voice was deep and melodious. “We need to stop her!”

Claire nodded, and whipped out the staff that Andy saw her wielding earlier. She shot a large portal out of it. “C’mon Andy,” she said, beckoning to her as Toby and the others ran through it. “We could really use you up there.”

Andy nodded, and followed Claire into the portal. They exited the portal at the bridge, only to see Jim soaring through the air towards the large twisting column of smoke and magic. Thinking fast, Claire shot a portal and Toby spun his warhammer, using it to launch himself through. The other end opened up just underneath Jim, and Toby caught him, yelling “GOTCHA!” as the two of them soared back onto the bridge, crash landing and skidding a few feet.

The gold armored woman threw her arms out in fury. “WHAT?” she yelled, with angry disbelief.

The blue four armed guy, holding a glowing green stone in each hand yelled, “He said, ‘Gotcha!’ It’s a colloquialism and a contraction, you vile troglodyte!” With that, he threw all four stones one after another at the gold woman, which exploded midair. She somehow managed to dodge all of them, though looked quite flustered.

The giant green guy jumped up and grabbed her feet, slamming her to the ground with a roar. He punched her head into the concrete twice.

Toby sat up, and Andy ran over to where he and Jim were laying. Toby dragged him over to the side of an abandoned car. “Jim?” Toby said, tapping the side of his face. “Come on, come on, wake up Jim!”

Andy helped Toby position Jim in a sitting pose up against the car. “Jim, you okay?” she asked, opening his eyelids to look at his pupils.

Jim groaned and rolled his head.

“Oh yeah, there we go buddy,” Toby gasped, sounding almost desperate. “Don't worry, we got your back.” Toby ran off to help Claire and the others, and Andy knelt down beside Jim.

“What the hell?” he said, squinting at her. “Andy? Is that you?”

“In the flesh,” she cracked.

“What’s wrong with you? Why do you have four arms… why is half your face blue?” He struggled to sit up more, but Andy stopped him.

“Sh, please rest. You took a beating. Besides, I could be asking you the same question, Mister. Since when did you have manly sideburns, blue skin, tusks, and horns?”

He chuckled, and it sounded painful. “Yeah, about that. I’ll tell you later, okay?”

“Sounds good,” she said. “I’ll tell you about this too.” She gestured to her extra arms, face, and leg.

“Solid plan,” he grunted. “But first we gotta live.” Jim stood up against the car, wiping blood from his nose. The two of them watched as Claire taunted the gold woman, jumping between portals.

“Insolent things,” the gold woman growled, slamming the green guy into the ground.

“Who exactly is that?” Andy asked Jim.

“Her name is Morgana,” he replied. “Green guy’s Aaargh, blue one’s Blinky.”

“You are like gnats to me!” raged Morgana, shooting bolts of gold energy at a screaming Blinky.

Andy ran out with her serrator, summoning the gun and shooting at her. Toby took the opening and swooped past her, hitting Morgana with his hammer. “Aw geez lady, pick a metaphor,” he griped.

Blinky managed to land a hit with one of the green rocks, and Claire pulled Andy through one of the portals with her. Inside the portal, Andy summoned the cannon. When they shot out, she loosed the blast, knocking Morgana back at least ten feet.

“ENOUGH!” Morgana screamed, blasting all of them with a wave of eldritch energy. Well, all except Andy. Andy managed to dive behind a car to avoid getting hit, and when she looked up, she saw all of them wrapped in those gold energy ropes that Morgana was fond of. Well, all except Jim, who had deflected the blast with his sword.

Morgana grabbed Jim with another rope that he was not able to deflect, holding him high above the bridge. That’s when Andy heard a crash. Her head whipped to the right, and in the distance she saw the tip of the Mothership breach the town. That wasn't good; she knew there was no way that Aja and Krel would be gone yet.

“FUCK!” she yelled. She looked to her friends, who were still getting beat up by Morgana, and then back to the slowly rising Mothership. What was she going to do!? Stay and fight Morgana, or go help Aja and Krel?

She grit her teeth. Jim screamed in pain as Morgana bashed him around.

“PALE LADY!” A deep voice bellowed from the other side of the bridge. Everyone looked in the direction of the speaker. It was another one of those stone creatures, with surprisingly Akiridion-like eyes and horns.

“My champion!” Morgana gasped, sounding pleased. “On time for the grand finale! Here, for your efforts, I give you the honor of finishing him.”

Andy watched in horror as the new guy charged towards Jim, knife drawn. Then, at the last second, just before he was about to stab Jim, he whirled to the left and punched Morgana in the face with a sharp right hook. She went flying back and hit the side of the bridge, looking rather hurt.

“WITCH!” he roared with fury. “I am no one’s pawn!”

That was Andy’s queue to go. She threw open the door to the nearest car, searching for the keys frantically. There, on the seat! She jumped into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition, starting up the car. It roared to life and she floored the gas, plowing through a bunch of other cars on the bridge. She winced each time she smashed into one, but kept driving.

Once off the bridge, she sped towards the Tarron’s house, the Akiridion Mothership. She was going at least 120, the fastest she’d ever driven. She was paying zero regard to buildings or anything, taking shortcuts through yards and stuff. It was stupid, but she was desperate.

She careened into their neighborhood, and spotted Zeron Alpha standing over Krel. “OH NO YOU DON'T!” she roared, flooring the gas again. She practically flew through the neighborhood, smashing into Alpha and sending him flying. She crashed into a nearby fence, and tumbled out of the car, rubbing her neck.

“Andy?” Krel gasped incredulously.

“Hi,” she wheezed, wincing at the pain everywhere in her body.

“Great Gaylen!” Aja exclaimed, throwing her hands to her head. “Andy!” She ran to the battered girl and wrapped her up in a big hug.

“GAHH!” Andy yelped as Aja basically crushed all her bruises at once.

“Seklos and Gaylen, are you alright?”

“Been better,” she grunted.

Zeron Alpha got back up and knocked the two of them to the ground. Andy whimpered. She wasn't sure she could get up; everything hurt. She probably had a few broken ribs, and internal bleeding. She would need a hospital after this, or a stasis chamber.

“With the royal cores, nothing will stop Morando,” Zeron gloated.

“I wouldn't bet on it,” Aja retorted, scrambling to her feet and attempting to take her serrator back from the bounty hunter.

He knocked her to the ground with ease and chuckled. “Omen has your ship, and I have your life.” He pulled out his ion gun, pointing it at her. “You’ve become so very human, little girl,” he sneered. He gave another dark chuckle, and then something weird happened. Stuart, with his hands cuffed behind his back, began making all sorts of strange gibberish sounds, spinning around the asphalt. “Screaming won't help you now,” leered Alpha.

“On the contrary, sir. You may not listen to me, but there’s someone that does!” he retorted, sounding confident. The ground began to shake and Andy could hear the sound of something large running towards them. “SIC ‘EM, BUSTER!” Stuart cheered, as a giant spider-like bug alien thing burst out of the trees. He roared.

Alpha shot it with his ion gun, but it didn't even seem to phase Buster, who flung the doglike bounty hunter threw the air and out of sight.

“Buster! Oh, good boy!” Aja cried, getting up and running towards him.

Krel grinned and approached him, and the creature broke the cuff off of him. “Thanks,” he breathed with relief.

Buster approached Andy and bent down, lowering the spike on his nose for her to grab. She reached up and grasped it, then he slowly and gently pulled her to her feet. “Thank you,” sighed, rubbing his nose.

“We have to find a way to get up there,” Aja said, referring to the Mothership.

“Who is this Omen?” Krel asked Zadra, as he and Stuart helped her up.

“That’s what I wanna know too,” Andy said, grimacing as she took a step forward.

“A Blank, reprogrammed by Morando to kill the resistance,” replied Zadra. “It’s designed to be the ultimate weapon, even serrators can't penetrate it.”

“Like the Zerons, but indestructible? Wonderful,” Krel griped, as they walked toward where Aja was standing.

“I see no wonder in this,” Zadra replied. “Omen is unstoppable. I fear there is nothing we can do.”

“There is always something we can do,” Aja declared.

Krel nodded. “Aja’s right. Now, where’s your ship?” he asked Zadra. The five of them ducked as something went zooming over their heads.

“What the…” breathed Andy as it happened.

“That's my ship!” Zadra roared. “Stryker 274, identify yourself. I repeat, identify!” she raged into the communication unit in front of her.

A hologram of Varvatos popped up over the communication unit. “This is Varvatos Vex,” he replied.

“Hello Vexy, how have you been?” chirped Stuart, waving at the hologram of Vex.

“You traitor!” raged Aja. “I spared your life and your thanks is to hijack the first ship you see!?”

“When Varvatos saw Mother launch without you, he had to do something! Varvatos must ground the Mothership before it exits the atmosphere.”

“Vex, your ship lacks any weapon. The blasters are damaged!” Zadra cried.

“Varvatos knows,” he growled, and the five of them watched as he gained on the Mothership. Andy covered her mouth with her upper hands in fear, and with one of her lower hands, reached out to grasp Krel’s hand when Vex slammed the stryker into the side of the ship.

“His ship is the weapon!” gasped Krel. “Your ship cannot withstand a collision like that!” he exclaimed to the hologram of Vex. “You won't survive!”

“To protect the King, sometimes you have to make a sacrifice,” Vex said. “Lose a pawn to win the battle. The geezers taught me that. Varvatos knows what he did was wrong, and that he- that I am the pawn. I shall make amends for House Tarron. For you!” he exclaimed.

“Varvatos, don't do this!” begged Aja.

“Please,” Andy breathed. “Please don't.”

“Aja, Krel, Andy, together you are unstoppable. Varvatos Vex is proud of you all. Tell your parents that Varvatos was sorry, and that he had a glorious death!”

“No!” the three of them screamed in unison. They all watched in horror as the stryker slammed into the Mothership, halting its ascent into the upper atmosphere. Both ships careened down towards the earth.

Krel gasped, looking panicked. When the ship crashed, Krel knit his brow in sorrow. “He actually did it,” he said softly. Andy squeezed her eyes shut and grasped his hand a little tighter.

“Vex!” Aja gasped when he popped up on the hologram again.

“Aja? Aja!” he exclaimed, reaching out towards her.

“Thank you,” she breathed, as he let out a sigh and collapsed. The hologram faded. She turned around. “Stuart, can you…?”

“Yeah, say no more. I’ll try and find Vex, you go save your parents,” he replied, Buster lifting him up and onto his back. Buster roared, and they ran off into the woods.

“Let’s get Mama and Papa,” Aja declared, pulling out her hoverboard. She and Krel both hopped on, but there wasn't room for Andy.

“I gotcha,” Zadra said, scooping Andy up into her arms, and dashing forward with the hoverboard as if the teen weighed nothing. After a bit, she hopped onto the back of the hoverboard, still holding Andy.

They floated up to the Mothership carefully, which had the house disguise on the upper floor. The four of them climbed into the house, which was tilted on its side, serrators drawn.

“Mother, Mother!” called Krel, attempting to trigger the AI. A dish went flying and they all gasped, but Luug jumped out from behind a cabinet.

“Luug!” exclaimed Aja gleefully, and the dog barked happily. “Lucy?” Aja asked, tilting her head.

The Blank rose, and her head spun around to face them. Her eyes glowed red, and she had a wicked grin on her face. “Welcome home kids, you’re just- you’re just in time- time- time for supper- supper- supper!” she shrieked, beginning to throw plates and dishes at them. “And just in time to die. DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE!” she screamed, flinging the plates at lightning speed.

They dashed about, dodging the plates and bowls. “That is NOT NORMAL!” screamed Andy.

“You think!?” Krel retorted.

“Don't worry honey. I’ll get the job done!” exclaimed Ricky, jumping down from an unseen place. He swung two golf clubs around like swords. “And the job is to kill.”

“Stay back, I have this,” Zadra declared.

“No!” exclaimed Krel. “Omen must have corrupted their programming! They’re our friends, Zadra! Don't kill them!”

“DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE!” Lucy shrieked again, flinging a ladle at them.

“Fine,” griped Zadra, dodging the ladle. “I’ll distract your ‘friends’. You find the cores.”

“Two against one isn't all that fair,” Andy said. “I’ll stay behind with you Zadra, and help.” She pulled out her serrator and summoned the blade.

“Sounds good,” Zadra said, nodding. They both screamed, leaping towards the Blanks as Aja and Krel jumped through the hole in the floor to the lower levels of the Mothership, the hole likely blasted by Omen.

“Gaylen help us,” Andy whispered, dodging a blow from Lucy. She hoped the twins could do it. Otherwise, they were all going to die.