Book Two in the Iska Universe
Several years ago, Will’s best friend ran away with an alien to live happily ever after. They’ve kept in touch, but Will misses the man that might as well be his brother. So, he decides he’s going to go visit. Who cares if visiting requires a trip to outer space? No big deal, right?
Ticheck met Will for the first time while trying to find a friend who had gotten lost. Since then, they’ve seen him a couple times a year at most. Ticheck wasn’t expecting him to be coming for a surprise visit, and they definitely weren’t expecting to end up with him as a temporary roommate when cramped quarters on the ship force them to share.
From strangers, to surprise roommates, to friends…and maybe something else? But do they dare to dream of a life together when they literally come from two different worlds?
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“What do you mean you’re coming?” Eric paced in and out of the shadows at the edge of the trail, his dark skin almost seeming to change colors in different patches of light.
Will crossed his arms, determined. “I mean, I’m going with you.”
“Let me get this straight.” Eric pinched the bridge of his nose between two fingers. “You scheduled a month off work. You sent coordinates through the transmitter so we’d come to meet everybody. Except everybody isn’t here, because it’s just you, and you’re coming with us.”
Will nodded. “Yeah, man. That is what I explained.”
“Why?” Eric looked confused.
Will looked confused right back. “Why what?”
“Why would you do that?”
Will laughed. “Seriously? You’ve been gone for years. Galivanting around on a spaceship doing God knows what.” He shoved a hand through his hair, roughing up his already-messy brown hair. “I want some time with my best friend. More than the week with all the guys every summer. I want to meet your in-laws. Shit, man, you just explained that Keeska didn’t come because one of you needed to stay on the ship just in case the baby needed something.” Will reached out and grabbed Eric’s shoulders. “The baby,” Will shook him gently, “that I didn’t know about. Come on man, that’s bullshit and you know it.”
Eric looked pained. “Eet isn’t even technically born yet. Eet is still in an incubator. You know we would have brought the kid with us the next time we were here.”
Will threw up his hands and spun away. “So not the point!”
“Yeah, okay. I’ll grant you that.” Eric sighed. “It’s going to be weird as fuck for you. You and I will be the only humans most of the time. You sure you’re up for this?”
Will slumped, relieved. “Of course. I miss you, man. I want to see what you’ve been up to. Plus, I would be stupid not to travel to space since my best friend lives on a freaking spaceship.”
Will rolled his eyes. He wished he could say this was the weirdest conversation he’d ever had but there were a few that topped it. Like the one where he and Eric were trying to figure out what to do with an injured alien Eric found in an abandoned store. Or the one where he had to explain to all their friends that Eric had run away to outer space with the love of his life, but it was fine because Eric was bringing the alien back to meet them all the next time everybody went on the annual camping trip. Ugh.
Eric laughed harshly, drawing Will’s attention back to him. “Yeah, there is that.”
“See? My plan makes perfect sense. Are we going or what?”
Eric groaned, rubbing one hand over his dark curly hair. “We’re going. Where’s your stuff?”
“I left it in the truck. I wasn’t hauling a month worth of luggage up here if I wasn’t sure I was going.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.” Eric looked annoyed, now.
“The closest place Ticheck could drop me off was right next to your truck. You could have just met us in the parking lot.”
“You made me hike two miles into the middle of nowhere for no reason.”
Will winced. “Sorry?”
Eric rolled his eyes and started down the trail they had been standing in the middle of while they argued. “It’s fine. It’s a pretty walk. But what the hell, man? You know better than to make us land the shuttle in parking lots.”
Will pointed east as he followed Eric. “There’s a clearing two hundred feet that way,” he said indignantly. “I checked when I was up here in the fall and it’s plenty big enough.”
“Well it’s spring now, and there are trees in it.”
Eric nodded. “Big ones. They’re blocking the whole thing. It looks like one of them decided to go in one of the winter storms and took out a bunch of others.”
“Damn it. Sorry, Eric. I’m surprised Ticheck didn’t make you jump, though.”
“Eet thought about it.” Eric laughed. “But eet said eet didn’t want to risk damaging the ramp by letting it down unsupported. And I quote: ‘It’s not a fucking military ship. I can’t hover like a fucking ichik.’”
Will snorted. “Eet said that?” he asked, using the same genderless pronouns Eric did to talk about Iska people like Keeska and Ticheck. Eet and ta, the singular nonpossessive and possessive Iska pronouns, were so familiar to him now he didn’t really have to think about it anymore. He just used them automatically.
“More or less.” Eric shrugged. “The cursing doesn’t quite translate.”
“What’s an ichik?”
“A really weird bird thing. Looks kind of like a parrot crossed with a hummingbird and dipped in neon paint. Aeka has been keeping one as a pet. It’s loud. Kasc and Kek are threatening to make it live in one of the lesser used cargo holds.”
“Your life is weird.”
Eric nodded. “Definitely. Still coming?”