Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh!" he whispered.
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you.”
― A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner
Vladie had lost Jupe and her boyfriend hours ago, the press of the Taste of Chicago crowds eventually too much to push through. He'd skulked in their wake for weeks now, rewarded only with nauseating displays of affectionate canoodling, really sore, sweaty feet, and the ever increasing certainty that Jupiter was up to, or caught up in, something big. Possibly something big and profitable. Something he wanted in on very, very badly, if it was good, and something he wanted Jupe out of, if it was bad.
Giving up for the day, he found a quiet bar away from the worst of the tourist crush and nursed his suspicions and a drink over dinner. She clearly thought it was good deal, whatever Jupe was into, because nobody should be that cheerful about cleaning up someone else's shit all day, especially after they'd been decidedly not cheerful about it for years. Vladie had honed his sense for a good thing to a sharp, occasionally ill-conceived edge, but even more, Vladie knew Jupe. He knew how much she dreamed: of the stars, of security, of the beauty that hung within her reach and yet so far out of it. A year apart, they'd grown up in each others' pockets, spent hours in a haphazardly constructed blanket fort in the attic, trading the secrets of their dreams until they'd grown old enough to grow apart.
He knew Jupe, and gorgeous, dutiful new boyfriend or not, Jupiter Jones was never this happy with her lot in life. They still had that much in common.
And so he was going to figure out what she was up to, or what mess she was in, if it was the last thing he did.
Twenty minutes later, when he left the bar and big, hard hands dragged him into an alley down the street, lifting him off the ground with a crushing grip around his throat, he realized it might be.
The alley was well-enough lit by the late afternoon sun that Vladie got a good look at his impending death, all three of them with their tallness and burliness and very angry faces, the one choking him and casually banging him against a brick wall.
"What do you want with the Abrasax queen?" The one choking him snarled.
"Queen?" Well, it came out more like a raspy "Queeeeeee?" wheeze. One banged him against the wall again.
"We've seen you watching her."
Bang. Bang. "The queen."
One of the others, Vladie decided to call him Two for convenience's sake, stepped up. "Jupiter Jones," he said, and smiled at whatever he saw on Vladie's face.
Oh shit. ShitshitSHIT. Dad was going to kill him this time, if these guys didn't. Really kill him. Forget the chicken speech. He'd led Jupiter down the wrong path and now she was involved in the freaking mob. Vladie screwed around with some shady shit from time to time, but even he knew better than to-
Bang. Bang. "What do you want with Jupiter Jones?"
"Um, look. Uh..." Should he admit they were related? No, that was phenomenally stupid. "Look," he squeaked out, high and reedy, "maybe we can come to a compromise. Share information."
One slammed him into the wall. All the air whooshed out of him and he clawed at One's wrist as he gasped to catch a breath.
"Put him down."
A figure coalesced out of the glare at the mouth of the alley: tall, broad shoulders, effortlessly nonchalant as he stalked into the center of the little tableau that Vladie was starting to not-very-fondly think of as his dramatic death scene. Vladie blinked, thinking oxygen deprivation was making him see things but, no, that was him. Jupe's boyfriend. Her very large, very solid, very glowery boyfriend.
"What's going o-" One's hand tightened, cutting him off even as Jupe's boyfriend pinned him with a glare and said, "Shut up."
The Boyfriend shifted that very unfriendly look to One, Two and Three. "I'd remind you that you're trespassing on Her Majesty's property, but I'm guessing you're already aware of that." Three snarled in answer and he and Two broke off their little formation and charged Boyfriend.
One dropped Vladie to join the fight and Vladie scrambled onto a nearby dumpster, jumping frantically to try and catch the fire escape ladder that remained just out of his reach. Giving up, he turned back in time to see Boyfriend bodyslam Two to the ground with a sickening crunch, Three already in a heap nearby, and One...
"He's got a gu-"
The air sizzled and Boyfriend flew back, slamming into the wall. He shoved to his feet, shaking off the impact and he flickered, once twice, and then he... had wings?
Two, caught in the edge of the blast from the gun, flickered too, and then he wasn't big, just small and gray and his arms or were those legs bent in all the wrong directions as they flailed.
"Well fuck," said Jupe's boyfriend, flaring out his holy crap those totally were fucking wings behind him as he grabbed the flailing gray spider dude thing and unceremoniously snapped its neck, flinging it across the alley into One.
Vladie was still screaming when he jolted awake, sprawled on a floor. The air around him felt cool, and everything was washed in a pale blue light. That came from some sort of machine sitting on a table a few feet away, and Jupe's boyfriend stood behind the table, staring into the machine's glow, backlit by a blinding glare from the large window that was one wall of the room. The space appeared weirdly lived-in, like Boyfriend used this place a lot, maybe even stayed in it, but Vladie didn't see anything that looked like a door.
Heaving in rapid, rasping breaths Vladie scrambled to his feet.
"You're going to hyperventilate," Boyfriend said mildly, cocking his head so he had an eye on Vladie, and one of his pointed ears twitched.
Vladie immediately sank back down to the floor and dropped his head between his knees. "Where am I?" he said, figuring that was probably less likely to get him eaten than, "What in the hell are you?!" But he was thinking that one, really hard.
His harsh breaths turned into a hiccup, the two, then three, with high pitched giggling in between. A bottle of water appeared between his feet and he lifted his head to see Boyfriend standing above him. "That'll help," Boyfriend said, and holy shit those were fangs.
Vladie kicked the bottle away and scurried backwards until he hit a wall. "Where is Jupe? What have you done with her? JUPE!" he yelled. "JUPITER JONES WHERE ARE YOU?"
Boyfriend growled, "Shut up, Vladie," and Vladie's mouth snapped shut so hard his teeth ached.
He stared up at Boyfriend. "Are you going to kill me?"
Boyfriend smiled, making sure those very sharp-looking canines were on full display. "If it were my call I'd end you just for your deplorable treatment of Jupiter with your ridiculous money-making scheme. Fortunately for you, her majesty would not approve."
Anger pulsed through him, sudden and bright. Bad enough this beefed-up asshole was judging him, but if he was lying to Jupe... "Who's this 'her majesty'? Are you cheating on Jupe? Because if you're cheating on her I'm gonna..."
"You're going to do what, Vladie?" Boyfriend stalked closer and crouched down in front of him. Something predatory tightened the line of his gorgeously chiseled jaw, and he raised one pale brow and said, very quietly, "Tell me, Vladie, I'd like to know."
Anger was still there, but shocked back into a low simmer by the rush of cold, clear self-preservation. "You can't keep me here," he managed to get out around the awkward knot of fury and pants-wetting terror stuck in his very bruised and sore throat.
"You're welcome to go. Be my guest." Boyfriend rose, fluid and graceful, stepping back and gesturing toward the windows with a flourish.
Vladie clambered to his feet and skirting a wide berth around Boyfriend, made for the window. Close enough now that the glare from the sun wasn't whiting out the view, he looked down, down, down on the skyline of Chicago spread out before him.
Dizziness roiled through him. "I hate heights," he whispered as he slumped forward, suddenly not sure what was up or down. He felt the cool glass slide across his cheek and then nothing.
When he opened his eyes he was in the same spot as before, deja vu swirling with another wave of wooziness. He slunk back until he hit the wall, the solid presence enough to mostly clear his head.
Boyfriend was even in the same spot, fiddling with the glowy thing. He poked at it and it chimed at him, then spit sparks. "Piece of shit," Boyfriend muttered as he started to take it apart, or at least that's what Vladie guessed he was doing. He paused, shooting a glance at Vladie, and jerked his head; Vladie saw the bottle of water sitting nearby. "You okay now?"
Vladie cracked it open and drained half of it in three big gulps. He was really nowhere near okay, but he wasn't about to admit that. Instead he said, "What are you doing?"
"Trying to get information on whoever it is hunting Jupiter."
Right. Jupiter. He twisted the cap back onto the bottle. "Speaking of Jupiter, where is she?"
"Busy," was all Boyfriend had to say.
"Busy like you have her locked up somewhere?" Vladie set the bottle down, and then picked up back up again. It was the only weapon he had, totally useless as it was. Still, having something in his hands made him feel better. "I saw her with you like two hours ago. I want to talk to her."
Boyfriend sighed and pulled something out of his pocket. Vladie blinked. He had all this weird alien glowy tech, and he was holding a freaking iPhone? "You really want me to call Jupiter," he was saying, "and tell her I had to save you from bounty hunters who targeted you because you'd been following her around for the last three weeks? Okay." He swiped his thumb across the screen. "we can do that."
Shit. That would not go over well at all. "No! No, that's.... just... is she okay? Those guys didn't seem all that friendly."
"She's safe. And I will allow no harm to come to her." Conviction rang clear in his voice, and for the first time since he'd felt that hand close around his throat, Vladie felt something vaguely akin to okay. "But yes," Boyfriend continued, "there are those out there who wish her harm, and you've run into their agents."
Boyfriend uttered those words with that same deep conviction and that tiny comforting hint of okay was clawed down into the chasm of worry that opened up in Vladie's chest and unceremoniously drowned. Jupiter Jones, what have you gotten yourself into?
Boyfriend came around the table and once again crouched down in front of Vladie, elbows resting on his knees, and holy shit, were his biceps huge. Vladie licked his lips and suddenly yanked his hand back; he'd started reaching out to touch the ridiculously intricate tattoo on Boyfriend's arm without even realizing it.
Boyfriend looked irritatingly amused. "You really want to help Jupiter? Really help, not just maximize your profit margin?"
It was hard not to take insult from the dry insinuation in that question. Just because he'd offered her a business opportunity that hadn't worked out, and really how the fuck was he supposed to predict aliens would screw it up? "She's family. And I'm not a monst-" Vladie caught Boyfriend's raised brow and lip curling back those really sharp, long teeth and gulped the word back down. "I'm not a jerk."
Boyfriend tilted his head, leaned in a hair closer and... was he sniffing something? Apparently satisfied with what he smelled he said, "How quickly can you get word around that you have information someone might be looking for?"
"Please." Vladie scoffed. "Three hours, tops. An hour, if I have some cash to move things along."
Boyfriend regarded him, measured him up with a deeply calculating expression for so long Vladie started to squirm. "Good," he said abruptly, digging into his pocket and pulling out a wad of bills, dropping them into Vladie's lap. "Then here's what I need you to do."
They sat in a back booth at Vladie's usual bar, and Caine - Vladie had finally gotten a name out of him - didn't seemed to even notice it was full of dudes, a fair number in black leather not unlike him. Vladie got some thumbs up and some serious side-eye coming in; he wasn't not going to take this opportunity to up his cred a little (Jupiter so owed him) and Caine didn't seem fussed about being checked out.
Caine nursed a beer and Vladie was on his third shot of vodka, which was doing nothing to quell his nerves. He'd been checking his phone every few seconds for a text, until Caine rolled his eyes and took it away from him. "Relax," he'd said. "You look like you're going to explode."
"Sorry, not a veteran of intergalactic intrigue like you." Vladie ran his odds of wrestling his phone back from Caine, laughed hollowly to himself, and poured another shot. "Seriously, what are we doing? What am I doing? I can't do this! You're the space marine or whatever, you do it."
"I'm a little conspicuous," Caine said dryly, and okay, very good point to him, "and they already know you're interested in Jupiter, and they don't know who you are, so it won't look as suspicious. So relax. Freaking out doesn't get the job done faster or better. Usually the opposite."
The "job" as Caine so casually referred to it, was that Vladie had spent the better part of the last hour texting and calling and paying off parts of his network, letting them know he heard heard rumors of about a woman of very particular means, and he was really interested in those rumors. Caine had insisted just the word Abrasax would draw out either more of the goons who'd attacked him, or hopefully, whomever had hired them. And so Vladie had dropped the name and all of Caine's sizeable wad of cash, this name of a queen that freaking aliens associated with his dorky cousin, that Caine refused to explain beyond firmly stating, every time Vladie asked, "That is Jupiter's story to tell, not mine."
Fifteen minutes later, Vladie said into the awkward silence that had fallen, "So, Jupe knows about the..." and he tugged the upper curve of his own ear, and then sort of vaguely flapped his arms, and oh god, what was wrong with him? Caine stared at him, blank and still, and Vladie suddenly felt a deep kinship with the small woodland animals on the nature documentaries Moltka was obsessed with when his heart started to thunder in his chest under the weight of those deep, terrifying, incredibly gorgeous and mezmerizing eyes.
Vladie swallowed hard. Shit. Do not, he told himself, start crushing on your cousin's hot, angry alien boyfriend. Bad idea of bad ideas, Vladimir Bolotnikov.
Caine blinked suddenly, and a knowing smile curved his mouth. So, so, so bad. "Yes, Jupiter is aware."
"Okay, that's good. I'd have to be mad if you were lying to her."
"I would not lie to Jupiter." Caine said it with such depth and finality and feeling; he wasn't the friendliest dude by a margin the size of the ocean, but he softened around the edges whenever Jupiter's name came up.
"So you're an alien, too?" Vladie said before he did something stupid like sigh dreamily.
"Like genetically engineered?" Vladie said and hazarding a guess based on the ears and teeth and occasional growling, added, "With, like animal DNA, like some kind of predator?"
Both eyebrows went up, and Caine huffed. "Pretty much. Closest thing you have on Earth would be a wolf."
Vladie rolled his eyes. "Look I may, from time to time, not think through all my decisions when I am excited about something, but I'm not an idiot."
Tipping his glass in acknowledgment of the point, Caine smiled. He really had a great smile, one started at the corner of his mouth, tugging a little until it lit his eyes and- Vladie desperately downed shot number four and resolutely pushed the glass and the bottle away. Vodka wasn't helping at all today. "So these guys after Jupe. Is that how you and she hooked up?"
Caine hesitated, and Vladie held up his hands. "I know, you said it's Jupe's thing to tell. I'm just trying to figure out how bad this shit is likely to be."
"It was at the fertility clinic," Caine said slowly, clearly weighing his words. "They were working for someone else, but that was the first time someone tried to have her killed."
"Wait, what?" Vladie shot up from his buzzed slouch. "Did you say someone tried to kill her?!" His voice shot up too, and Caine reached across the table and clapped his hand over Vladie's mouth. He took his hand away only after Vladie clamped his lips tight and gave Caine a thumbs up. Caine eased back into his seat, ears twitching under the knit hat he wore to cover them, eyes assessing the room.
"There's other aliens out there trying to kill her? Like kill her, actually kill her?" Vladie whispered this time, and Caine nodded.
"Had I been even a few moments later, she would be dead."
"Jesus." Vladie planted his forehead against the tabletop and sucked in breath after breath. He'd been so happy when she agreed to the egg thing. Okay, so it was a big score for him, but he'd seen how many times Jupe had looked at that Ebay listing for that telescope. She'd talked, sometimes, when they were kids, about studying the stars like her dad. He remembered how small she'd curled when Dad had scoffed about it, reminding her that college cost money, and how was she going to go to college anyway, while Aunt Aleska raged in whispered Russian across the dinner table. She couldn't have been more than nine, and that was the last time she ever mentioned the stars out loud, even to him, under their blanket fort.
And as little as they talked now, he hated watching Jupe ask Dad for the money she'd earned, and yet she'd always turn him down when he tried to offer her outs. "I'm not a hustler, Vladie," she'd laugh, and he'd say, "No, you're right," biting back the "you're a sheep, cleaning people's shit and letting Dad push you around and make you beg for what you've earned" that tried to follow it out. Family came first, but like hell was he ever going to be stuck in a position to beg Dad for what was already his.
He'd just wanted to help them both, and he'd almost gotten her killed.
A warm hand settled on his shoulder and Vladie lifted his head to find Caine watching him. "They would have found another opportunity," he said, and Vladie nodded and scrubbed at his eyes which were not at all wet, and dragged the bottle of vodka and shot glass back within reach, just in case he changed his mind about how helpful they'd be.
"So if these guys aren't the same people who tried to kill Jupe at the clinic, who are they?"
"There is," Caine said, "an unfortunately long list of possibilities. If they're using Keepers, they're a Higher House. The question is if they're using an intermediary. We won't get much out of Keepers, but if there's a middle man..." Caine smiled, and Vladie suddenly felt very, very sorry for this mysterious middle man, because he probably wasn't going to survive the day.
Vladie's phone beeped, startling them both, and Caine slid it across the table to him. Vladie squared his shoulders under Caine's expectant eyes and picked it up. "Showtime."
Showtime actually meant start waiting all over again, but this time Vladie was standing outside the bar and Caine was up on the roof of a nearby building, a faintly discernible shadow in the fading light. Vladie pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He hated the things, but they were part of the image. He took one pull, blew out the smoke, then let his hand fall to his side, leaning nonchalantly against the wall a few feet away from the door.
"Wait a second," Vladie said, hissing as he startled, whackinghis shoulder against the wall, nonchalance traded for unease as something occurred to him.
"What?" Caine's voice was warm and clear through the little communicator button in his ear.
"Am I bait?"
"Yes?" Caine sounded baffled. "What did you think you were doing?"
"I thought," Vladie cleared his throat and throttled back the volume on his indignance, "I was using my skills to help Jupe!"
Caine's weary sigh was also very clear through the little communicator button. "You are. If you can draw out whoever hired the Keepers, then I can take care of it before Jupiter ever comes to harm."
Vladie forced himself back into his chill, attempting to look as relaxed as possible for someone being used to bait a freaking trap. "Take care of it how? Like the guy-alien-thing in the alley?"
"No, I'm going to hug some sense into him," Caine said, and wow, space tech was amazing because Vladie could practically hear him roll his eyes. "I'm going to get the information I need, and then yes, I am going to kill-" He stopped, and a shiver ran up Vladie's spine. "They're coming. On your left."
Sure enough, when Vladie glanced up the street under the guise of taking a drag from the cigarette, three dudes approached. Two of them looked exactly like the ones from the alley ("Maskers," Caine had explained, "Keepers use them to blend in on tercie worlds."), but the third... That guy was in the dictionary next to "gives you the creeps, all of them."
"You Bolotnikov?" Generic Goon Version 1.1 asked, and Vladie just froze, his throat suddenly tight with the memory of that meaty hand clenched around it and Creepy Guy was smiling and it was a terrible, terrible smile and what the hell was he thinking what the hell was he doing-
In his ear, Caine said, gently, firmly, "Vladie," and the torrent of panic ground to a halt. "Vladie, listen to me. You can do this. I won't let you come to harm."
Vladie basked in that bedrock conviction for just a tiny moment before he pulled his shit together and dropped the cigarette, carelessly grinding it out with the heel of his shoe. "Yeah. What do you want?"
Creepy stepped forward and sketched a little bow. "I understand, Mr. Bolotnikov, that you and I seek a mutual interest."
"Jupiter Jones," Vladie said, keeping his eyes on Creepy, which just, ugh, and chanting over and over in his head, "Don't look at Caine, don't look at Caine." Caine was there, Caine was watching, and he'd said he'd keep Vladie in one piece. So. Time to man up and do his part. "What's your interest in her?" He stuffed his hands in his pockets when he realized they were shaking.
"Perhaps," Creepy said, "we can discuss this somewhere more private?"
Vladie pushed away from the wall, hoping his legs would hold him up. "Let's talk in my office."
Vladie's "office" was the top floor of a mostly abandoned office building a few blocks away. He had a deal with the realtor that represented the space, and he used it for the occasional meet-up and some place to go when the crush of home maxed out his cope. It was open plan, full of sad, abandoned cubicles, and he'd staked out one in the back corner, complete with a crappy laptop that siphoned wireless from the three unsecured networks in the apartment building next door.
"So," he said as he led Creepy and the goons through the cube maze, the back of his neck crawling as he imagined Creepy's creepy eyes on him. "What do you want with Jones..." Vladie trailed off as he turned around to find a elaborate, deadly-looking gun pointed right at his forehead.
"Let us dispense with this charade," Creepy said silk-smooth and the crawling sensation became a whole-body shiver. "I've done my research, Mr. Bolotnikov, and I am quite aware many things about Miss Jones' life here, including your relationship to her."
It took a couple of tries, his mouth was suddenly so dry, to say, "So why did you come, if you know so much about Jupiter already?"
"I wanted to find out how much of a loose end you are, one that could be tucked back into the weave, or one that needed to be," and Creepy smiled that terrible smile again, "snipped."
Panic drummed through him until he caught sight of a shadow behind the goons and the sudden relief galvanized his mouth into a moment of bravado. "Thing is?" he said, "I did my research too." And he flung himself into one of the nearby cubicles and under the desk in it as Caine descended on the goons like a beautiful, avenging angel. He heard shouts and grunts and the crunch of the flimsy particle board cube walls, saw a bright flare from the gun, and then it was quiet except for the sound of his own heart hammering in his ears.
He crawled out from under the desk, and when it remained quiet, eased out of the cube. He had to step over one of the goons to get out. The other goon lay a few feet away, and beyond that, Caine had Creepy pinned to a wall.
Seeing that made Vladie really happy. "Hey," he said as he sidled up next to Caine, "can you do me a favor and just kind of smack him into the wall a few times?" Creepy's eyes were murderous but he squeaked futilely, unable to get enough air for a coherent villain-ish retort.
"Sure," Caine said, and banged him against the wall three very satisfying times, and after that Creepy just looked dizzy and like he was about to barf. It was fantastic.
"You're the best," Vladie patted Caine on one glorious bicep, like satin over iron, letting his hand linger until Caine shot him an amused look.
Vladie just shrugged. He was pretty much out of fucks about everything at this point.
"I need a drink," Vladie had announced once Creepy was deeply unconscious and secured, and he'd marched back down the street to the bar, Caine following in his wake.
Once seated and a shot in hand, he let his head thump back against the booth. "So. You and Jupe. It seems pretty serious." Which might not be politic to bring up, since he only knew that because he'd been pretty much stalking them for weeks, and Caine seemed to agree, given the look on his face. "Look, I know it's probably not obvious given recent events, but I just want to be sure she's okay. That you're going to treat her right, not like some of the other losers she's hooked up with."
That got him a grin. "A number of them you introduced her to, as I hear it. You need better friends, Vladie."
Okay, so maybe his track record was pretty abysmal too, but it was complicated in his case. He didn't have Jupe's uncanny ease with people. He was more likely to come across, even as he mentally screamed at himself to stop, like an overexcited little dog humping someone's leg. That kind of enthusiasm was endearing when you were five. Twenty-five? Not so much.
"If you sell yourself short," Caine said, tapping the table between them to get Vladie's attention, "then so will the people you gather around you."
Huh. That made a lot of sense. Gorgeous and wise. Vladie sighed. Maybe he had a brother. Or cousins. "Jupe's a lucky girl," he said. "You're pretty cool, Caine Wise."
"Occasionally," Caine said with that little corner-of-the-mouth smile, downing his beer in one long pull. "I need to get the intermediary and this information to the proper authorities." He set down the glass and held his hand out to Vladie. "Thank you. You did well."
Vladie shook his hand, trying (and failing) not to glow under that praise. "So is this where you ride off into the sunset and I get to wonder after your enigmatic appearance in my life forever? Or just hound Jupe for the sordid details?"
Caine snorted. "I'll put in a good word for you. Maybe Jupiter will decide you should know the truth."
"And if she doesn't, you'll what, flashy-thing me?" Caine's brow wrinkled and Vladie explained, "Wipe my memories?"
"That's what usually happens in these situations," Caine nodded. "How did you know?"
"Kind of a staple of science fiction alien stuff." Unless Caine was asking... "Wait, have you flashy-thinged me before?"
"I haven't," Caine said, clapping Vladie on the shoulder as he walked by on his way out. "Stay out of trouble, all right?"
"Yeah, sure," Vladie called after him weakly, leaning out of the booth to watch until he disappeared out the door, before slumping back into the seat, staring at the bottle of vodka and shot glass he had yet to fill. It would be just his luck that he'd have done something this freaking awesome, and some alien would wipe it out of his mind.
If that hadn't already happened before.
No, he decided. He was in this now, and okay, yes, he was in this because he was poking his nose where it didn't belong, but that was how you made things happen, not just sitting around. And he'd done something good, something right. Even Caine had said so, and that had to count for something, didn't it? He'd made a difference, even a little one, and he was not going to let anyone, Jupiter or aliens, take that away.
In the end, he used the best weapon he had in his arsenal; he texted Jupiter with: You'd better spill everything, Jones, and I mean EVERYTHING or I'm telling Dad, your mom and Aunt Nino you invited your hot ALIEN-FROM-ACTUAL-OUTER-SPACE boyfriend to dinner with the family this weekend
He pictured her face when she got that, and the rush of realizing that he actually finally knew at least some of Jupiter's big secret, and it was so beyond his wildest expectations, erupted out of him as choked (maybe slightly hysterical) giggles. Giddy with his success, he picked up his phone again and sent: Speaking of hot alien boyfriend. Does he have a brother?
He tapped the corner of his phone on the table and poured another shot before adding:
I'd even settle for a moderately hot cousin. I'm not picky.