Title: Red and Pink
Author: Kate Andrews
Pairings/Spoilers: Kyle and Tess, Set about six weeks after ARCC. Nothing of importance has happened in their world since that episode.
Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual situations
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters.
Distribution: Her site-- Fictabulous Otherwise, please ask.
Thanks: To Elizabeth and Lara for their feedback, and especially to Pilar, for her patience with my hyphen issues.
She had put little red and pink hearts everywhere. They hung in garlands over the sink. Shiny foil and cardboard monstrosities covered the front porch. Dangling curtains of beads made every door into an event. Tess had magically turned their stained tablecloth into a candy colored spread that would have been at home in any seven-year-old girl's room.
But this wasn't a seven-year-old girl's room, it was Kyle's house. Before Tess had moved in last year, it had been a house with two single men, and both of them had been quite satisfied with their level of decorating flair. All that had changed, of course, with her arrival. In the last six months, he had gotten used to her feminine touches and need to nest. And vacuum every week. What was up with that?
But she only went this overboard when she was upset. A week ago, the house had been tasteful, if kitchy. But in the last few days, things had gone from cute to obscenely adorable. The evidence of her emotional state hung around all around him covered in pale pink lace, and frankly he was a little scared. Kyle rushed aside the red heart fringe that hung in the doorway to the kitchen, then grabbed a couple of beers.
A year ago, he might have taken it down and asserted his right as legitimate household member to a fluff-free environment. But it was harmless fluff, and he'd grown almost fond of the little Tess-isms everywhere. He'd come to tolerate her impossibly small and frilly underwear hung over the towel bar in the bathroom. He'd even started to enjoy her cooking experiments. Most were edible, and the ones that weren't she changed with a wave of her hand.
Now the hand waving he hadn't grown accustomed to. If she would at least do her thing with a nose wiggle, he might not get the willies. He pushed the pile of folded laundry off the couch and settled in. She'd probably give him shit for that, but so what. She knew that he'd help her refold it, and he'd get to watch her breasts move as she gave him a self-righteous speech on her contributions to this house.
These days, those speeches were mostly for show, almost a game. He would ignore her to piss her off, then she'd stand directly in front of the television yammering on about the mall or English class to piss him off.
He'd toss a pillow at her and tell her to move. She'd continue some subtext laden rant that had nothing to do with what was bothering her. He'd point out this subtext , and she'd threaten to rearrange either his body parts, wardrobe or hair while he slept. "Do you really want to see what you look like with a bald spot, Kyle?"
It was a routine, one that had become almost ritualized. During
uneventful weeks, the back and forth had been reduced to something
along the lines of:
"Humans are assholes, Kyle."
"You're a freak from another planet, Tess."
"I could turn all of your hair blue while you sleep."
"But you won't, so be a sweetheart and get me a soda."
"Blow me, earthling."
"Help me do laundry?"
Then, he'd give in and help her with whatever new chore she'd thought up. He wouldn't have believed it six months ago, but she was a part of the household now. She knew it, and he knew it, so that couldn't be what was bothering her.
As annoying as she could sometimes be, he felt for her. She tried. God knew that she tried. But no matter how upbeat and faithful she was to the "Royal Four", there was always this feeling, in the meetings he attended anyway, that she was an afterthought. But she didn't complain. Much. Okay, she complained a little, mostly to him. After all, the girl wasn't a saint.
And to be truthful, that statement was at the core of what made him okay with this. Okay with her and them and the whole paradigm shift that was supposed to come with knowing aliens existed. She wasn't a saint, she was just a girl. As far as he could tell, all of them were still human in a lot of ways. Prissy like Isabel, or self-righteous like Max or bull-headed like Michael, they were the same weirdos they were before he'd found out.
Kyle set his empty bottle on a coaster, heart shaped of course, and cracked open the second beer. Dad's note on the fridge told him not to wait up. Apparently the senior Valenti was off doing non-alien sheriff stuff, or Maria's mom, which meant Kyle had the house to himself all night.
He didn't keep tabs on the fab four, not even the one under his roof. She came and went as she pleased. And even though it was near midnight and she wasn't home yet, he wasn't worried. She always showed up. She probably had her panties in a knot after the show they'd both witnessed in fourth period, and needed time to cool off.
The ballad of Max and Liz was in the happy chorus part this week, and as far as he knew, the great leader was off humping his girlfriend. Kyle smirked. Probably not. Max was probably holding her hand and declaring his undying whatever. But from the way they kept making googly eyes at each other and touching all through history class today, he was willing to get them a room just to get it over with. Seriously, he'd pay for the Econolodge suite himself.
He'd seen the way Tess watched them in class today and tried to distract her by drawing her into an argument about the ridiculous pink and red sparklyness of their living room. He could tell she knew what he was doing, and that she appreciated it. After class, she had him convinced that she was fine. But when he got home after practice, he'd seen it. She'd been home already, made the house look like an explosion in a Hallmark factory, and left, presumably to do alien stuff.
He'd found the note from Dad, asking him to talk to her about the, "girlie shit everywhere." Dad certainly had a way with words. Kyle had meditated, studied, worked on the car and contemplated going to Denny's for dinner. But he'd found her casserole in the fridge along with a fresh case of MGD.
And now here he was, waiting for David Letterman to come on, and working his way through the beer. Kyle didn't want to think too hard on why he was sitting home alone on a Thursday night, getting slowly but inexorably drunk. It probably had something to do with the fact that words like inexorably were a part of his vocabulary now.
The whole death thing last year had brought a few things into focus, as had the whole 'aliens are real' thing. Getting healed from a gunshot by an alien, then having the ex-wife he can't remember move in with you tends to make you a bit more philosophical. Granted, he'd gotten a lot more philosophical over the summer, but after he'd gotten past the sucking chest wound-induced search for the meaning of life, he'd discovered that he enjoyed thinking about things like epistimology and ethics and truth. More than that, it had felt right. So he'd gone with it.
Not surprisingly, his new mind/body/spirit awareness didn't mesh well with the average football players, cheerleaders or ass-kissing future young republicans he used to get wasted with every weekend.
"Hey man, can your dad do anything about my DUI?"
"Sorry Brett, my dad's a little busy right now," trying to help an alien king with an identity crisis, "but maybe your arrest was a sign that you're on the wrong path, and you should rethink your methods of stress relief." Stuff like that didn't endear him to his former friends, but it was sometimes worth it just to see them blink with dull disbelief and wander down the hall.
Kyle tore his eyes from Jennifer Aniston's ass, clicked the channel to CBS to check for Paul Schaeffer and top ten list. Not yet. He grabbed the two empty bottles, clinked them into the sink, and cracked open another beer. He was considering putting the empties in the recycling bin when he heard the front door slam open and rebound off the wall.
Tess clicked through the beaded curtain and as she passed, one string caught in her limp blond curls. She tugged, cursed, and with a sharp yank, pulled the whole mess to the ground with a splash. The one string of beads still clung to her hair, and with a snarl, she tore it out. With it came a small tuft of hair. She took a deep breath, smoothed back her hair, then continued into the kitchen. Kyle didn't know whether to laugh or be very afraid.
"Good evening to you too," he tried. The usual "screw you" didn't come. Tess just bumped past him, grabbed the Wonder bread off the counter, and started to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She didn't acknowledge his presence, so he leaned back against the counter, watching her breathe quickly and rattle through the cupboards.
She made it almost a full minute before snapping, "What?"
"You might want to be careful with that knife, someone might get hurt."
"I could kill you with a thought, so I think I'm gonna be able to control myself with this scrap of metal." The knife melted and dripped in her hand, like mercury. She reformed it into a heart-shaped soap dish. He handed her a new knife and continued to watch her.
"Are you trying to scare me?"
"Do I scare you?" She didn't even look up.
"When you do shit like that, a little. Normally, no. What's up?"
"Why do you think something's up?"
He flicked at the construction paper roses that decorated the cupboard. "You've torn through three pieces of bread making that sandwich, you show up at midnight with no explanation for the third time this week, and I'm living in a freakin' Valentine's Day card."
She looked up at him, gave him the finger, then waved her hand down his body. Suddenly, Kyle's t-shirt and sweatpants were made out of pink satin.
"Hilarious, change it back."
She gestured, and everything was normal again.
"Underwear too." One of her favorite pranks was changing his boxers as they left for school. Little purple flowers didn't go over well in the locker room.
"I didn't touch your panties."
"I didn't.." she hooked a finger in his waistband and tugged. "Look for yourself." She peeked down and smiled. He realized she had his pants and underwear pulled out.
"Hey." He took a step back.
"Like I don't know what you look like naked." She grabbed her sandwich and headed for the television.
"At least I have the decency to leave when I walk in on you changing. You just stand there and keep talking."
"It's just a body, not even my body. You know I don't care if you see me naked."
Here she goes again.
"This body isn't who I am, and I won't have it much longer. We're going to go home soon."
He didn't respond. Frankly, he didn't have the energy to get into this debate again tonight, especially if she wasn't going to talk about what was really bothering her. He just sat on the couch next to her and watched Dave's monologue. As the Late Show went on, she fidgeted, and finally said to him, "I've only had it for ten years, and--"
"That must be it. See, I've been in my mortal shell for seventeen years, so I'm kind of attached. I commend you on your ability to separate the physical from the spiritual. Bravo. Now could we watch the stupid pet tricks."
That got a smile out of her. Good. She elbowed him. He elbowed her back and she gave him another grin, then turned back to the television. A llama and a monkey were doing something disturbing with a bowling ball. Kyle averted his eyes and watched Tess giggle. Her hair hung in her face, and her usual layer of makeup was gone. She looked better without it, Kyle decided. Younger, less hard.
"So, you gonna tell me what's wrong?"
She pouted. "No."
"When one's mind is clouded, one's spirit--."
"I liked you better before this whole buddhism thing."
He leaned a little closer and grinned. "I liked you just the same before this whole alien thing."
She blushed and got up.
"Tell me what's wrong."
"Liar." She ruffled her fingers through the mini-blinds, turning them pink, then red, then orange.
"Do you realize that you use your powers more when you're agitated? I think it gives you a sense of control over your environment." When she didn't respond, he pushed. "Did something happen with Max?"
She stiffened for a moment, then started to straighten up the living room.
"We live in the same house. That doesn't you my shrink."
She might snap soon. Grouchy Tess was something he knew how to handle. This was something different. She might snap, but as far as he was concerned, she needed to. He'd seen the tension build in her ever since Max and Liz got back together. She swore she didn't care. He knew she was lying. "What's wrong?"
"Do not ask me that again."
"Do I have to shut you up?"
"Do you need to?"
"Don't push me." She headed into the kitchen and started to do dishes. He followed, and put his hands on the counter on either side of her. Tess's body was trapped between his arms, but she ignored him. She continued to move the sponge through the hot, soapy water and over a plate as Kyle drummed his fingers against the countertop.
Slowly, she rinsed and dried the plate, her body bumping softly against his as she moved. Kyle inhaled quietly, catching her scent and looking at her hair, her shoulders and her hands, which moved efficiently over the dish.
They stood in the silent kitchen as she washed, rinsed and dried a second then a third plate. When she reached for the dish rack, her waist rubbed against his forearm, and when she shifted her weight, her back brushed his chest. In the window behind the sink, Kyle caught their reflection. He saw that she was watching him. They locked gazes for a second, then she looked back down at the dishes.
"If I were a normal girl, this might intimidate me."
"If you were a normal girl, I wouldn't do this."
"Do what?" she asked, turning to face him. "Try to trap me with your big, manly body and make me talk?" She planted her drippy hands on his chest and sighed dramatically. "Oh no, Kyle, I can't get away, I guess you've forced me to answer your stupid questions." She dropped the pitch of her voice back to normal. "I don't think so. Now would you stop pretending you give a shit, and move, so I--"
"Does that bother you?"
She pushed him out of her way and headed to his bedroom. Her bedroom now, he corrected himself.
"Does that bother you?"
"Does what bother me?"
"That I care."
She didn't answer, and started to reorganize her underwear drawer.
"I said, does--"
"I'm not deaf, I'm ignoring you. Leave." Her voice was starting to shake, and he thought about backing off. But he didn't. Instead, he put his hand on her arm.
She knocked his hand off and pushed him towards the door. "You don't know what I need. Leave."
"And if I don't? What, you'll use your alien powers on me?"
He watched as her face flushed. "Yes. I am a fucking alien. News flash, Kyle, I don't belong here, this isn't my world and it isn't his. And he has no right...no right to get comfortable here. This is not home. We are going home."
Kyle sat on her bed. "And?" He waited.
"Oh, for God's sake, fine. I'll vent. We're going home _and_ do you have any idea, any fucking idea what it's like to see the man who shared my bed, my life, for years...to see him...."
"I don't care if he touches her. I don't. He could screw her 'til her eyes popped out. She's a non-issue."
"So the tonsil hockey after history class didn't bother you?"
"No. We're going home, he's going to forget about her. It doesn't bother me when they act like a couple of love sick teenagers."
"They are a couple of love sick teenagers. So are you."
"He's not, and he'll realize that, soon. He'll realize that he is what I am and that we're both above this juvenile bullshit. I'm not human, and this doesn't bother me."
"You're not jealous? Not the least little bit? You don't want to kill her when she touches him?"
She finally turned and looked him straight in the eyes. He had his answer.
"So what if I'm jealous? So what if I care?"
"So, pretending you don't, pretending you're Miss Alien Thang above this all is making you crazy. When you're crazy, you make my house crazy, which makes me crazy."
She stood in front of him and put her hands on his shoulders. "If I change your stupid house back, will you leave me alone?"
"No." He squeezed his knees together, trapping her legs.
"Because I'm worried about you."
She looked down, then back up into his eyes. "Don't be, I'm going to be fine."
He smiled up at her and she smiled back, softly.
"It's sweet that you're worried about me, really, but I'm going to be fine. Really. Please just drop it." She slid a hand up and ruffled his hair. "Are you aware that you're looking at my breasts."
Busted. Oh well, might as well enjoy the view while they were six inches from his face. Curves, lord the girl did have some curves. He'd touched her bras, he knew it was all done with wires and mirrors and smoke. He didn't care if was architecture or anatomy. He just wanted to lean forward. Shit. She was saying something.
"You stare at my breasts a lot when I talk to you. All guys do."
"I don't stare. I glance."
"Frequently," she said.
He made eye contact again. "You're smiling, good, mission accomplished."
She took a step forward, and pressed her knee between his legs. "You think I'm attractive."
"You're fully aware of how attractive you are."
"So are you, apparently." She nudged him gently with her knee.
He just shrugged. "Pesky human body."
"There is some sexual tension between us, Kyle."
"Is there?" He tried to keep his voice even as she ran her fingers through his hair.
"A little." They locked gazes for a moment, and Kyle tried to remember how to breathe. Then she stepped away from him, and turned her attention back to the chest of drawers.
"You know what just occurred to me?"
That you're a cock tease? "No, what just occurred to you?"
"That I haven't gotten laid in a while."
"How long has it been for you?" she asked, like she was asking him to pass the potatoes.
"Since I've gotten laid?"
"No, since you've jerked off." She toyed with the hem of her shirt, stretching the thin cotton against her chest. Nope, definitely not wearing a bra. Jesus Christ. Her voice dropped and softened. "Wait, no, you probably did that in the shower this morning." She took a step towards him. "Were you thinking of me?"
"No," he lied. "And eight months, to answer your question."
Tess sat on his knee and put her arms around his neck. "That's a long, long time."
"Yes, it is."
"It also means you didn't sleep with Liz this fall, but I knew that."
He tried to think quickly, but a thick haze had settled over him. "You did?"
"Sure." She leaned close and whispered into his ear. "Too bad, though."
"What's too bad?"
"Liz said you were good in bed."
"And why--" he had to hold his breath as she did something warm and wet to his neck with her lips. "Why would you care how good I am in bed?"
"Don't tell me you've never thought about it?"
Kyle dropped his head to the side and exposed his throat to her. "How good I am in bed? Ow. No biting."
"You're about five seconds away from losing your chance."
She stood, then straddled him and sat on his lap. "Letting me work out my frustrations on you."
"Ah." Kyle watched as she removed her shirt with one motion. "Well, I um. . . yeah." Somehow, he maintained eye contact. "You're naked."
"Not completely. Yet. Where do you keep your condoms?"
It was then that he heard it. The anger in her voice was subtle and hard to discern above the lust that roared in his ears. But he heard it. And he saw the pain in her eyes.
"You're supposed to be staring at my breasts. Feel free."
"You've got a real romantic streak, you know that?"
She pushed him back against the bed. "You want romance, go get Liz Parker. Oh, I'm sorry, she's a little busy right now." Her fingers moved across his crotch, unbuttoning his fly. "You want to break your dry spell? Tell me where the condoms are."
He was taking advantage of her. She was hurting, and another species, and living in his house, and. . . "The condoms are in my top drawer, behind my boxers."
"Inspired hiding place. Wait here." She returned minus her pants, and carrying a strip of Trojans. As he watched, she tugged off his pants. "Shirt," she said, pointing.
He tossed it to the corner of the room and sat on the edge of his bed, heart pounding and head spinning a little from the absurdity of the situation. Her gaze drifted down his body, and landed in his crotch. "What?"
"I told you I didn't touch your underwear."
Normally he'd smile, but her voice was humorless. Almost chilling. He held out his hand. "Come here."
She tossed the condoms on the bed and stepped in front of him. The skin of her shoulders and arms was slightly darker than the rest of her body, and freckles were sprinkled across the front of her chest. Kyle slid her panties down, past her knees and she stepped out of them.
"Someone's not a natural blond."
She changed her hair color with one touch.
"Which one's real?"
"None of this is real."
He traced the arc of her chest, the slope then the peak, watching as her nipples hardened.
"What's the hold up?" she asked sharply. "I don't need any of this foreplay bullshit. I'm capable of enjoying intercourse without it."
"That's nice." When he kissed her shoulder, then her throat, goosebumps spilled down her skin.
"You're not going to get all sappy and attached to me after we do it, are you? Because that would be..."
He pulled her down to the bed and kissed her. She tore away quickly.
"You don't need to do that." She scrambled for the condoms and opened one.
He pushed her back to the bed, and tried to kiss her as he slid his palms over her chest. She turned her head to the side, hard and pulled his hand between her legs. "See? Now if you don't mind, let's skip the preliminaries." Her body was ready, wet and hot. When she moaned and arched her back, he kissed her open mouth.
She tried to twist her head away, but he cupped her face with both hands. "I don't mind." Very softly, he kissed her cheek, then her neck. Her hair was damp with sweat, and he pushed it away from her ear to whisper, "Just do it and get it over with?" He slid a knee between hers. "Is that what you're saying?"
She stared up at him, sneering. One more time, he tried to kiss her, but she shied away. An almost hysterical laugh escaped her lips. "I'm saying, if you try to psychoanalyze me right now I will hurt you, Kyle. Fuck me or leave."
He got off of her, grabbed his pants and got the hell out of that room. Letterman was still on. Her sandwich lay half-eaten on a heart shaped plate. For five minutes, he tried to watch, but he couldn't. Maybe it was some power of hers to project emotions, maybe he just couldn't shake that look in her eyes. But all he could feel was the anger, frustration, and hurt radiating off of her. Quietly, he returned to her room. The light was still on, and she lay prone, face buried in her arms, shaking.
He pushed the clattering beads out of the way, and sat on the edge of the bed. "Are you cold? Want me to get you a blanket?"
"I'm fine," she said evenly. She rolled over slowly, stretching like a cat as she turned. Her body came to rest against his, her side pressed up against him. She lay staring at the ceiling. He saw pink marks on her
chest and stomach from where the sheets had been crumpled beneath her. There was a doll-like quality to her skin. He wondered if they were all like that, healing so quickly they didn't have scars
She scratched lazily at her inner thigh, then looked up at him.
Kyle spoke first. "You do realize that you're a freak, don't you?"
She fought a smile.
"I mean completely separate from the whole alien thing, you really are a very strange girl."
"Haven't we gone over this topic before?"
"Right, right." He couldn't explain to himself why he lay down then, except to say that it felt right. He stretched out on his stomach, and Tess didn't say a word. She curled up next to him, her arm warm across his back, body pressed against his side, breath and lips against his shoulder. "Are you cold?" he asked again.
"Want me to get you a blanket?"
A pause, then, "Do you want me to stay?"
She didn't speak. But after a minute, he felt her nuzzling at his shoulder, and snaking a hand beneath him. Boneless, but insistent, she shifted against him until he knew what she wanted. He turned on his side and let her spoon against him, then curled his arm over her. He didn't stroke her or touch her or kiss her, and after a while they both slept.