Wendy and Bebe held hands on the empty mag-shuttle to the docking bay. Sitting against white benches, Bebe was looking up at the stars through the ceiling and Wendy was looking down at Kepler-452b through the floor.

"What's on your mind, Wends?"

"Thinking about snow."

Traveling from home to new places used to mean staring out the window into a seemingly infinite plane of whirling white that kept everything weighted down. Less than five people to a vehicle, following the road, tasked only with finding something to listen to on the radio.

Traveling to new places meant something different now. Staring out into an ever-expanding abyss of ink black, dotted with sparkles of fires lit long ago and far away, propelling yourself through it blindly, weightless, tasked with keeping everyone on-board alive.

"You never know how much you love something until its gone, huh?" Bebe leaned her head against Wendy's. "What about the holodeck?"

Wendy tucked in against Bebe's shoulder. "It can't be a program manipulating what I feel. It has to be real."

"Maybe we'll find the real thing out there," Bebe said.

"Maybe," Wendy replied.

Stan and Kyle left the bar in such a rush, Kyle didn't know where he was going, and Stan was still reeling from Kyle taking him by the hand so suddenly to begin with.

Stan had been asked out right in front of Wendy, which was definitely awkward, Stan and Wendy used to date. He should have mentioned that to Kyle by now, but the timing was all wrong. They walked hand in hand down the promenade in silence, unaccompanied, lights glowing on the floor, stars twinkling above.

Kyle looked down at Kepler-452b. It wasn't like Earth. It wasn't a true substitute for Earth. He knew that. He knew someone in the crew had to hate Joozians for what happened to create Earth Remnant. He thought it was an injustice and he was doing what he could to help these humans up to a platform to represent themselves. Of course, he had to be careful not to get full of himself. This was just a diplomatic mission. He didn't have a fetish for humans either. He just really liked this one. That's all. Did Stan like him at all? He had looked hesitant before. Maybe this was only his begrudging acceptance bringing him along. Patronizing the alien, taking him for a play-date.

Kyle and Stan were both mired in unproductive thought while dropping points of conversation. They talked about their jobs. Stan was the chief medical officer and mental health counselor. He admitted that he used to be squeamish around blood and viscera , and close to mental disorder, but he'd gotten used to it.

For a human that was admirable, to endure pain until it no longer effected you. For Kyle it was a frightening prospect. What did Kyle do for work? He hadn't needed the same training to fly on a deep-space ship like the humans had, Joozians were naturally suited to enduring more extreme forces of gravity. He was mostly studying other aliens' biology in his academic hours. Human biology he studied in his private hours, but Kyle kept that to himself. He also studied in theoretical physics, which Ike had taken a shine to. Kyle's father works as a lawyer and his mother works as a lobbyist, both of them championing civil causes that called for better treatment of marginalized planets.

Stan's parents were separated. It was like they were always waiting for some cataclysm to uplift them from each other. No more pretense needed to live a normal life if life was no longer normal. His dad studies alien rocks, and his mother works for a plastic surgeon.

Kyle mentioned he'd thought about getting work done on his nose, what did Stan think?

Stan didn't think he needed it. It made Kyle happy, but he couldn't help but think his nose would get in the way if they were to press their faces together and kiss each other a lot.

Stan hasn't kept contact with his sister. He never cared for her much because she beat him.

Kyle appreciated that the two of them were becoming more open, even if the conversation was kind of low-energy and at times dipped toward depressing.

"Are relationships among crew-members common?" Kyle landed on it, the question.

"Yeah," Stan explained in a word. "Things are a bit complicated as a result. It's just sorta what happens?"

Kyle laughed. Humans were fine without specific answers to some things. 'It just sorta happens' doesn't mean anything. What did it really mean that crew-member relationships were common and complicated? The ages of the crew lined up with sexual maturity he supposed, and though moral regimes declared monogamy the human norm during the course of civilization toward nuclear families, humans weren't biologically programmed with that to begin with. Maybe it was too soon to ask Stan about his history just yet, a risky point of conversation to say the least.

He may have made things complicated himself by being in such a rush, but this is the last chance they'd have before being in 'work mode', spending day and night on a ship together with expectations to remain professional and maintain standard operations. Workplace relationships had to be handled delicately. Wendy had picked her words carefully and allowed him to have a date. Was it just because he was a guest on the ship?

They came to the end of the promenade after a long walk. Neither knew where they were going.

"Where will we go?" Kyle asked.

"We can go to my dorm. It's pretty bare, but it has the utilities still running."

They were both thinking of being private together, all the better to feel this out and know if it was worth pursuing, though Kyle was already sold on it and just felt that he had to bring Stan around. They walked among the dorms until they found Stan's, and they went inside to find it stripped bare, recently cleaned, it was a temporary posting during his vacation, and more often he'd spend the night elsewhere.

"Are your quarters aboard the ship more personalized?" Kyle asked, hoping to see more of Stan's style and personal effects.

"Yeah, that's where I've been spending most of my time. You'll see tomorrow. I mean, you could."

Kyle took that to heart as a good sign. "Do you cook?"

"I cook some," Stan said modestly.

"Cook for me," Kyle requested.

"I've gotten used to using the replicator," Stan mumbled. Why cook when you can 3-D print a finished spaghetti dinner? It was one of the alien machines that really took off with humans, no more dehydrated and flash-frozen junk on missions. Amino acids and various nutrients synthesized and printed. At first they looked like simple plastic shapes dumped on a plate, but inside the sealed printing area it was pressure cooked, steaming the glassy viewing window, finishing with a hot plate that tasted consistently alright.

Kyle had had this a few times, though human palette and menu cartridges were niche import products that barely made it past Joozian food advisors, with the human palette enjoying multiple items considered profane to the Joozians.

Ultimately, the replicators couldn't replace a cook in the same way that a robot can't replace a piano player. Imperfection and inconsistency has its own value and artistry. There is effort, passion, and a context behind individual performance. It would be grossly inefficient for machines to replicate that, so they did not. They could not.

"Please?" Kyle pleaded.

"What should I make?" Stan relented. He could at least print the ingredients and then combine them by hand. There wasn't really a green grocer he could buy from. Growing your own food was more of a home-world thing. Plants were grown on the station for air filtering and beautification, but a garden was not worth the resources.

"Whatever you liked eating most when you were young. Don't worry, I've taken a universal enzyme supplement that will safely break down the foods you humans commonly eat."

"I guess that's uh, pizza."

Stan used to eat pizza once a week, usually over the weekend, and having pizza for your birthday was the norm among his circle of friends. It was one of those foods that got tied to happy memories so he'd eat it again when he needed a pick-me-up.

"Oh! Pizza always looked so good on television!" Crispy, crusted flat pies with tomato sauce, cheese, and any topping you could dream of- cut into big triangle pieces drooping with the weight of melting cheese and dripping with grease.

"It's really not much better than pizza you can get anywhere." Stan printed out the raw ingredients for dough and sauce, as well as cheese, pepperoni, and black olives. That was Stan's go-to. Kenny liked fruit on his pizzas, and Cartman preferred the meat lovers'. Everyone had their own pizza preferences, and only really got to enforce them on their birthdays.

"I don't know, I think it will taste better if you make it." Kyle was certain of it. And if it wasn't, maybe that was an indication their tastes didn't align? He was really reaching. If you like his home-made pizza, you're destined to be? Stan would have to be the one to cook. Kyle's fine eating human food, but he's guessing Stan isn't interested in eating Joozian food. He could sympathize. It was a lot of mashes of colors and creatures. He was a very picky eater growing up, and his mother would encourage him by mashing joozian ingredients into human recipes. The results horrified Ike when he visited, and though he tried he could not keep down the meal.

Stan had combined a number of dry ingredients and water into a glass bowl and made a lump of dough. Popping it into the machine it rose and settled in a fraction of the time it would otherwise. He was able to take it out and start working at it with his hands. Kyle was watching closely.

"What are you staring at?" Stan asked bashfully, looking up from his flour-dusted hands on dough.

The action of Stan's hands kneading firmly into the dough...It was strangely erotic. Fingers digging in over soft lumps; gripping, squeezing, curling, nice and firm...Kyle felt a bit heated as his imagination ran off on it's own.

"Nothing," Kyle assured with a bold lie."What do you drink with pizza?" he asked.

"Root beer," Stan answered with his own bold lie. That was what he had as a kid, but he knew the best compliment to a hot pizza pie was a cold beer. Couldn't have any of that anymore. He was doing pretty well now staying away from it. The Academy tried to ban alcohol outright, but students quickly found a way to hack the replicator into fermenting all the juices on tap into basic wines. Nasty, but they could get you drunk.

Liquor was an old friend of mankind. Who were they to turn their back on a friend? Stan's relationship with it was more complicated, somewhat predetermined by his fathers' and his grandfathers' predilections to it. He knew if he used it as they did he'd wind up a mad fool too.

Kyle asked Stan to describe what he was doing some more, eager to hear his commentary.

"This is a basic crust," Stan began, "I don't like it too buttery or too chewy, but it can't be too salty or dry either." He rolled the dough out into a disc shape, preparing to roll the edges over. "Wet the crust at the edge, roll it in, brush with oil." He ladled red sauce over dough. "This is the pizza sauce. There's tomato and spices in it, basically." What Stan was saying wasn't so important as him just saying something for Kyle to listen to, that he enjoyed.

"This is mozzarella cheese," he introduced, tossing shreds of white onto the sauce. "It's smooth and mild, so it mellows out the toppings. I'm putting on pepperoni, which I like to be spicy, and black olives, which are salty."

Inside the 'oven' of the replicator, the arranged pizza puffed up in an instant, baked on a printed sheet of stone with simulated brick-style heat. Keeping it resting on the hot stone, Stan cut it into triangles and served them each a drippy slice on printed disposable plates. Kyle touched it gingerly, finding it hot and oily to the touch. He wanted to sponge the excess oil off the top, but he didn't want to offend. Using a knife and fork might not be approved of either. Stan was eating it with his hands. Kyle picked up a slice with a napkin guarding his pale yellow finger tips and took a bite, having to slurp up cheese that threatened to drip away.

"It's delicious!" Kyle was relieved. "Because you made it."

"What sort of thing would you put on here as a topping?" Stan asked.

Kyle punched in settings on the replicator to produce two root beers, as well as a green slug thing. He tossed it onto Stan's pizza, causing him to jump back in his chair. Kyle encouraged him to try taking a bite. Stan retrieved a knife and fork for himself and Kyle snuck a pair after him, knowing that cutlery was now considered okay.

Stan poked at the plump green morsel. He sliced it open to reveal a brown interior of filleted channels like an anchovy's flesh on the inside. Stan lurched away.

"That's no way to react!" Kyle laughed. He picked up one of the halves Stan had just cut and ate it.

Stan plucked his off the pizza and shoved it into his mouth. Stan grimaced harder and shook his head vigorously, spitting the thing out and drinking down a glass of root beer. "I'd have puked."

Kyle feigned a wound. "You hardly tried it."

"Does Ike eat that stuff?"


After eating pizza the two of them sat on the couch and talked for hours. It wasn't always very interesting or amusing. Becoming close with another person took time, and over time you built a language together. Stan was trying to kick old habits and Kyle was trying to bridge a cultural gap of many light-years.

Kyle name-dropped every piece of human media that he could to try and impress Stan with his knowledge. Stan wasn't a fan of all of them, but he really reacted when Kyle mentioned Terrence and Philip, which surprised him. His parents thought it was such a vulgar show. Two men fart on each other. That's the joke. Every single time. They're cowboys, priests, soldiers, detectives; they're on a train, in a car, on the moon; all situations lead to one of them getting farted on. What's so funny about it? He'd like to ask Stan, but then it might seem as if he didn't get it. Kyle had his theories. It could be the dissipation of suspense. You know the fart is coming, but it's been done so many times they can play on expectations. Maybe it was the fact that it was so juvenile, and that when someone said farts weren't funny, they became funny for causing such a fuss.

Something he was unclear on was why the Queef Sisters performed so poorly compared to Terrence and Phillip in terms of viewership. It was the same joke, wasn't it? Maybe it's the fact that a fart sprays shit particles and a queef sprays something else. Also, there isn't a pronounced smell, and the noise isn't as percussive. Humans farting on each other hadn't come up much in his research, so perhaps the taboo is part of the humor?

The X-Files also got a rise out of Stan. It was popular in South Park because visitors were a big deal there. He said one of his friends was abducted in passing but didn't comment anymore on it after that.

Before the cancellation, the majority of humans were oblivious to the presence of aliens on Earth.

"I wish I could have been there. With all of you," Kyle mumbled.

"Yeah, me too." Stan wouldn't have minded another friend. His gang wasn't the most popular at school. He played sports, his girlfriend was class president and captain of cheer squad, but he hung out with the wrong people and so he got lumped in with them. Maybe someone like Kyle could have kept things on the straight and narrow more often. He could sort of imagine it, and when he did he wished it could have been.

The pair of them locked eyes and imagined how life may have been if they had always known each other.




"No one's looked at me like that in a while." Stan mumbled, both of them getting quiet and anxious.

"It's real," Kyle said. "I feel something when I look at you. When you look at me, how do you feel?"

"It's uh, something," Stan said, unsure.

"And not nothing?"

"It's not nothing." Stan said this more surely. They shifted on the couch, closer together. It was difficult to say, but given the need for protocol thus far, Kyle stated his newly-formed intentions. "Would you like to fool around a bit?"

That made Stan move in his pants. "Yeah." He wanted that to sound more relaxed than he said it. He hadn't gotten any in a while. When he missed it he'd try to pound it off and forget about it, but at night what he missed about coupling most was just being with someone.

Stan chastised himself. He was already mentally leaping from a little fooling around to sleeping together. He'd give fooling around a go, and if Kyle didn't say anything in his typically honest manner, he would have to be the one to do so. Kyle crawled on top of his lap on the couch and pulled a quilt over the top of them, mostly shrouded in darkness with gaps in the fabric letting in light. Kyle threaded his arms around his shoulders and kissed Stan. It felt good, so they continued kissing. It was a bit awkward to navigate Kyle's ridges and features and the angle needed was taxing on the neck so they were regularly shifting and leaning, pressing more firmly into each other each time. Stan didn't know what he was expecting down there, but as Kyle started grinding over his lap he felt some kind of smooth and heated mound on Kyle that filled him with perverse curiosity.

"Do we have to hide under this quilt?" Stan asked, finding his breath growing hot and shallow.

"I like it to be dark, is that okay?"

Stan shut off the lights and negotiated that at least their heads went uncovered so he could breathe. They each pulled off their tops and set them aside. Feeling along Kyle's smooth hips he found little dips in his flesh like moist navels.

"What are those?" Stan's finger twitched back and away, but then pressed again inquisitively.

"That's one of my thrushers." Kyle said. "They used to be used for water filtration tens of millions of years ago. Now they're just sorta there."

"Does it feel good if...?" Stan applied a little more pressure.




"Don't push, be gentle..." He heard of guys that really jammed their fingers in, but he had only kinda tickled them a few times during masturbation when he felt like he was in heat and had the time alone.

Stan pressed against Kyle's thrushers. "Your antenna are, uh, getting hard," he noticed.

"There, on my shoulder too." Kyle bid Stan through his embarrassment, guiding him to grope and feel parts of him the human didn't know about. "That's my jagon." Two fleshy ball and nub-tipped appendages jutting up from his shoulders. It was common for Joozians to rub these against each other during the mating dance. "That feels good...Can I touch you too?"

"Uh, yeah," Stan consented.

Kyle was very eager to try feeling a human male's penis. Kyle held Stan's in his palm, mentally calculating its weight, but it sprung up out of his palm of its own accord, curving upward. Kyle held it between his fingers to keep it from getting away and squeezed, two of his hands moving to weigh Stan's balls.

"Woah, uh," Stan groaned. The flesh of Kyle's palm was very smooth, moist even, and his hips hitched up into his firm squeezing.

"How is that?" Kyle asked.

"Good. Really good. Try..." He moved his hips up into Kyle's grasp, humping at his clasped hand. After a few strokes Kyle understood to tug on his flesh the same way, to hold him and then slide his hand up and down. The tip of Stan's cock leaked a clear fluid indicating that he was preparing for release.

"How can we, uh?" Stan asked and Kyle synched. They each visualized the two of them joined in congress.

"Do you have a bath?" Kyle asked.

"Just a shower." Stan was groping now too, cupping a hand over Kyle's crotch before slipping down the front.

Kyle guided him."This mound here. No, not there...Yeah. And at the same time, if you..."

"I only have two hands," Stan grunted. Kyle devoted a pair of hands to spreading himself for Stan.

"If you took it into your mouth..." as Stan crooked in against his shoulder Kyle suggested he put his mouth on his jagon, which he did.


Questions back and forth; probing, touching, pushing, squeezing, and gasping. Kyle was making a mess over Stan's lap and Stan reared back from the threat of premature release.

"Let's go to your shower."

Kyle danced obscenely in the shower for Stan. Arms behind his back and presenting himself, swaying his hips from side to side. He guided Stan to his knees before he sat across his face and rode him like a bike seat, Stan nudging him with his nose and digging with his tongue. In short order Kyle's body rocked with a series of convulsions as frothing spherical heads and wriggling jelly tails poured over Stan. Kyle collapsed down into the corner of the shower stall where they lay in the mess of it all.

Stan wasn't finished, gently rubbing hands over his thighs. "Do you think my uh, my penis could go in there?"

Kyle could only nod, it was too obscene for him to ask out loud, just moving to wrap his legs around Stan's waist. Stan hugged him and kissed him and pushed him against the wall to slide forward to his hilt, finding a slick, elastic interior. Stan had him the way he wanted him, thrusting away doggedly toward his release and Kyle was just glad to be along for the ride. He thought he was done, but in response to Stan's swift internal ejaculation, Kyle shrieked and withdrew himself with a wet popping sound as more backed-up spermataphores spilled out from his mound, clogging the drain.

"My hair is going to stay wet all night," Kyle complained afterwards, still slumped in the corner of the shower. "My products are in the bag Ike took back to the ship. I knew I should have gotten that fanny pack at the gift shop."

"Blowdryer?," Stan suggested.

"Dry heat would be terrible for my hair and my scalp."

"My conditioner?"

"Your hair is too different. It's nice though." Kyle stroked through Stan's hair.

"It's past curfew, we need to turn in," Stan sighed. "Wendy is very strict about being on time."

"Do they have a bath on the ship? It'd be more comfortable for me." Kyle already had a mind to think of next time.

Stan began, "Yeah, there's a bath, but-"

"Great," Kyle interrupted, "can you help me up?"

Stan carried Kyle to bed and fell in with him, crowding their faces over a pillow with a towel spread over it.

"No fooling around in the morning, we definitely have to be on time."

On-board the Streisand, back in the Captain's quarters, Bebe and Wendy's first order of business was pulling off their dress boots. They looked great, and once you break them in they stop breaking you, but it's hard to relax with them on. Neither could pull theirs off on their own, turning to each other to sharply tug and free one foot at a time with exerting grunts terminating in sighs of relief. Nylons came off next, cast aside on the floor and forgotten like a snake shedding its old scale coating. Breeches, jackets; off. Wendy put her beret onto a hat stand as Bebe went to the bathroom in her dress shirt and panties to take out her contacts.

There was a bucket of ice, champagne, and a card on Wendy's nightstand. Wendy read the card aloud. "Captain Testaburger, here's to another safe tour under your command. From Pip and the stewards."

"What is it?" Bebe called from the bathroom, delicately 'removing her eyes', as she was fond of saying.

"The cleaning crew sent champagne," Wendy answered, turning the bottle in her hands. She appreciated the gesture, but she recognized the champagne; it had been earmarked to be at the break room welcoming party she canceled.

"I want to pop it off!" Bebe cried out urgently, cleaning her face once she'd taken out her contacts.

"You're not doing it over my bed again," Wendy warned, begrudgingly bringing a pair of long-stemmed glasses and the champagne bottle to the bathroom, dripping a trail of icy water on the floor.

"You got the glasses?" Bebe asked, patting her face dry.

"Yes," Wendy confirmed, but had more to say. "Frankly I find it presumptuous for them to have given me two glasses."

Bebe turned to Wendy and stepped closer to bring her blurry image into focus. "Pip is nothing if not attentive."

"I'll say."

Bebe took the bottle and popped it open with a holler, pouring the two glasses full before drinking directly from the bottle.

"Bebe!" Wendy exclaimed, left holding a drink in either hand.

Pleased with the reaction she got, Bebe stopped her swilling and took a glass, putting the bottle back in the bucket.

"How are you feeling?" Bebe asked in bed.

"Tired," Wendy sighed. "You?"

"I'll get there," Bebe said, leaning on her elbow with her cheek in hand, drinking champagne.

"It seems that I still get the pre-flight jitters," Wendy admitted, sipping from her glass.

"You're fine after the first FTL jump," Bebe assured her.

"Yeah, I know."

Out of the humans settled on Kepler-452b, few volunteered to go into space, and fewer volunteered to go into deep space. Studying for years. Training for years. The forces exerted during takeoff are strong enough to keep blood from reaching the brain. The forces exerted during a jump faster than light were many times stronger, and the calculations were many times more complex.

Everyone in her grade wanted to join the Academy once they were re-settled in Kepler. It was a surprise to her parents that Wendy wanted to, because airplanes frightened her as a young child. On the occasions that they traveled by plane, every moment up to take-off was full of tense anxiety for her. During her first flight, neither of her parents, and none of the stewardesses could explain how a heavy metal plane flied to her satisfaction, so she decided to go to the library when she got home. She asked Stan to go with her, not expecting that he would say yes. He traced pictures of fighter planes for a while as she read. He drew the two of them in a biplane together, and then he drooled on the corner of the drawing when he fell asleep on the table.

"Maybe if you had taken some more time to relax."

Wendy took a deep breath and exhaled through her nose. "Let's talk about something else."

"So, about Stan and Kyle," Bebe prefaced. "What odds are you taking?"

"Excuse me?"

To have brought them up in the first place was a surprise for Wendy, but the mention of odds left her degrees more confused. Bebe explained, "there's a betting pool going around on whether or not Stan and Kyle are gonna go steady."

Wendy sat upright in a hurry. "That is obscene!," she declared, "who organized this?"

"...I did?"

Bebe had received multiple texts immediately after Kyle approaching Wendy with Stan at the bar, and after some back and forth texting she inadvertently established the betting pool.

Wendy was aghast. "Unbelievable. Under no circumstances are Stan and Kyle to find out about this."

"If you wanted to bet against it you could make some good money."

"Stan and Kyle not going steady are the long odds?"

"Once Ike bet on them going steady it really stacked, yeah."

Ike had known Kyle for a year and passed for the expert in this situation. Before Ike weighed in, people were betting based on theories as flimsy as astrological signs, made all the more useless considering they saw different constellations in this part of the galaxy. That said, prospects were good for Libra Stan and Gemini Kyle being compatible.

Wendy asked, "In the context of the bet, what does 'steady' mean?"

"Steady means they're still together at the end of the year. 1:4 says they don't."

Wendy let the bubbles of the drink fizzle and pop down her throat with a slow gulp. She just didn't see them making it that long. "I'll take those odds."