When Cornelius “Neely” Norton first arrives on the red planet Rojo, he doesn't want to stay long. Just to complete an errand undetected by his politician father and his ex, and then he can go back to his normal life. As if normal ever had anything to offer the trans Neely with a very public life back on earth.
When Jude, a tall and handsome bartender, tries really hard to be his friend on that first night, Neely finds his passions changing. In between rounds of drinks, trivia, and a trip to the tourist traps on Rojo, Jude becomes something more than a friend. When trouble arrives -- as it always does -- Jude is forced between Neely and a decision that could have life-long consequences.
Will Neely complete what he intended to do and forget everything he's learned? Or can he and Jude work out a new way of life on the red planet's surface?
Neely disconnected the call. He shuddered when someone stepped out of their room at the end of the hallway. He could barely see who it was over the darkness, alien or human or male or female, but it didn't matter. He still felt caught, no matter how many slogans he repeated, and stepped back into his room.
Jude was awake now. He sat up in bed, arms over his legs which were tented under the sheet. When Neely had left the bed, unable to sleep the moment the night outside turned an eerie red as the star that acted as Rojo's light source created dawn, Jude had been naked. Jude grinned now, and let Neely know with a single expression that he still was.
"Good morning." Jude lazily lay back in the bed. The sheet fell down in the process, revealing all of him. "What do you want to do this fine first full day of your vacation?"
Neely looked away from the tempting display. He still had hours to wait before he could get this procedure done, but there was no way he'd be having sex again. What if they could tell? What if something happened in the interim, like his father figured out where he was because of the health card number, and --
"Hey." Jude shifted on the mattress, covering himself. His voice was no longer sultry. "What's going on? You okay?"
Neely nodded. He tried to speak several times -- just want to get breakfast, maybe do some tourist things -- but he could only focus on what was going to happen in a few hours. The protestors that might be there. His future seemed too far away, and the present until that moment unbearable. "I ... I ... I ... need a friend," he said, and then felt stupid. "I mean --"
"I'm your friend."
Neely laughed. "You're a bartender in a strange planet."
"I'm your friend."
"You got me crackers. That's not a friend."
"We had a good night," Jude said. "Doesn't that make me your friend?"
"You're my hook up."
"I was, sure. But now I'm your friend. I want to be your friend," Jude insisted again. He touched Neely's shoulder and met his gaze. Those blue eyes were so kind. They were so wonderful, and they had looked at him, all of him, the night before. He hadn't judged. He'd only pleasured. He'd only been a friend.
"Damnit," Neely said, and then told Jude everything. Every last word, every last incident, every last egg and sperm meeting inside his body, one of so many millions. So many chances to not occur, and yet, here it was. "History repeats itself, huh?" Neely said when he finished.
Jude only nodded. "Yeah, and this afternoon, it's gonna look a hell of a lot like what it used to look like on Earth. Only more photos of alien fetuses. There will be tentacles. Sorry. Just to warn you."
"Should we bring the crackers? Threaten them with cannibalism?"
Jude let out a boisterous laugh. "Oh, no. No. That'll just give them even worse ideas. Like we're eating this all as foie gras."
Neely burst out laughing now. He clapped his hands over his mouth, the insanity of the entire situation making him want to sob at the same time. When he started to cry--those damn hormones--he tried to pass it off as nothing but that. Jude slid closer to him on the bed, put an arm around him, and held him until it stopped.
And when Jude kissed him, it felt nice. Genuine. A friend, but also maybe more than that too.
"We still have some time," Jude said. "What do you want to do until then?"
He wanted to fuck. It felt good to do so. Freeing and wonderful, especially since it had already happened and it had already felt so good. But he also wanted, craved distracted. To do the touristy things. Go to the zoo or the fair or something else ridiculous. So that was what he told Jude.
He gave Neely a large, almost unbelievable smile before he said, "I have the perfect thing."