It's an early morning in Paris, right after the !@#$ hit the fan, and SPYGOD watches his man get dressed from their large hotel bed.
He's not exactly pretending to be asleep, but he's not saying anything, either. He just likes to watch Straffer as he puts his clothes on -- methodically hiding his lovely, new body with each piece of clothing. Black socks, loose plaid boxers, tightly-pressed grey pants, a shirt so dark blue it's almost black.
And then the tie -- that tie. The one that practically screams 'I'm in !@#$ing charge, here, and don't you ever !@#$ing forget it.'
His Space Service tie. The one he wore every day on Deep-Ten.
"So you are taking them up on their !@#$ offer?" SPYGOD asks, a little piece of his heart falling away like a chunk from an iceberg.
"I think so," Straffer says, carefully selecting a jacket to go with the ensemble: "That'll depend on how things go, today."
"No," he says, making his choice -- excellent, as always -- "Today I see what we still have to work with, out there. Who we can rely on, who's on the fence, who's completely out."
"So you have !@#$ing thrown in with them," SPYGOD sighs, sitting up.
"It makes sense, hon," Straffer says, turning and kneeling down, so they're at the same eye level: "The Space Service was an always intended to be an international effort. And right now, whether we like it or not, the big international player is the TU. They're making the connections and getting the resources-"
"Aw, !@#$," SPYGOD snorts, putting a hand over his face: "Christ on a !@#$ing rocketship-"
"Hey now, lover, you know it's true," Straffer says, poking his man in the chest: "I don't like it any more than you do. I'd rather America was in a better position to get a planetary defense system back up and running, again, all by itself, and lead the others. But right now, with everything that's going on back at home, and the problems we're having there, we might need someone else to take the lead for a while-"
"!@#$!" SPYGOD shouts, slamming his other hand into the headboard. It breaks like balsa, causing the bed to shiver and lose some of its balance.
"Is that on your card or mine?" Straffer asks, after a moment. The way he says it completely defuses the moment, and the two men laugh, however ruefully.
There's a slight silence between them, and then SPYGOD sighs, mutters, and admits: "I don't trust these !@#$ers."
"We've !@#$ing talked about this."
"We have, yes."
"So why do you want to !@#$ing throw in with them, knowing all that?"
"I don't," Straffer says, getting up and sitting next to his lover on the bed: "But it's the only game in town, right now."
"It's going to be a rigged game. You !@#$ing know that."
"I know that. But I also know that, sometimes, the giant has to be kicked in the !@#$ to get off its seat and lead."
"What do you-"
"You know what I mean, hon. You were there for it, remember? The Space Race? We blink and suddenly the Russians have a satellite in orbit, and then a man in a can floating around the world?"
"I was a little !@#$ing busy at the time," SPYGOD sighs: "But yeah, I !@#$ing remember that. The whole !@#$ing conversation changed, then."
"Right. And we got off our butts and surged ahead, just so we wouldn't have a red Moon and a communist-controlled NEO. And look what happened?"
"A couple decades of us versus them in !@#$ing orbit, followed by a bunch of !@#$ about Star Wars when we !@#$ing inherited Deep Ten. And then, after the Soviet Union collapsed, we got a decade or so of shaky cooperation-"
"And that's what we need, right now," Straffer insists: "Cooperation. All the nations we can get together working to make us ready for what's coming. Unless you're planning on going up there in the mother of all jetpacks and trying to shoot (Unintelligible Concept) down all by yourself?"
"It's !@#$ing tempting."
"I know," Straffer says, putting a hand on SPYGOD's chest: "But it wouldn't work, and you know it. Not everything is solved by shooting it."
"What if I get a big enough gun...?"
"God I love you," Straffer says, smiling: "You really would go and try, wouldn't you?"
"For America? For my friends and my people? The man I love?" SPYGOD asks, reaching up and running his hands through his lover's hair: "I would. Even if it !@#$ing killed me a million times over, I'd say I got the better part of the deal."
"Then let me do this," Straffer says: "This can't be any worse than that."
"It'll be !@#$ing imperfect as !@#$."
"I'm sure. But this is one of those times when you need an imperfect thing to work perfectly. That means you need the right people in the wrong places. And unless you can think of anyone better suited to make those !@#$ers do one thing right, when it matters the most?"
SPYGOD has nothing for that, so he nods: "And you're the best !@#$ right person to be in this wrong place at the right !@#$ing time, I guess."
"You better more than guess," Straffer says, bending over and kissing him for all its worth. And for a moment, there's no world, no politics, and no oncoming space monster -- just the two of them.
That moment must end, though, and it does so leaving SPYGOD wanting more. Especially today, when he really needs his man beside him with the others, and in Court, and when deciding what to do about the nasty and complicated situation in Israel.
But by the time he can think of something else to say, his lover has gotten ready, kissed him goodbye, and headed out the door.
* * *
"You are ready, Msr?" the man in the dark blue uniform asks as Straffer walks out of the hotel. As he does, he straightens up and tosses away the balto he was smoking.
"I am," Straffer says, extending a hand to shake: "It's good to meet you, Disparaître."
"We have met before," the man says, giving the hand a careful shake: "You may not remember me."
"Well, you'll have to remind me," Straffer says: "We have a whole day to-"
"I do not like to talk too much," the man interrupts: "Nothing personal."
"No problem," Straffer says, having already figured as much: "I'm ready if you are."
"Have you traveled like this before?" Disparaître asks, putting a hand on Straffer's shoulder.
"Actually no. What's it like?"
"Confusing, at first," the man hedges, a slight smile at his lips: "A little frightening, perhaps. It takes longer than you think, and sometimes people think I have lost them. But I never do, and there is nothing to fear. Trust me."
"I think I do," Straffer says, putting his hand on the man's shoulder in turn: "Let's go recruit some astronauts?"
The man nods. There's a bright light, and then nothing.
And so it begins.
(SPYGOD is listening to Do What You Can, For Peace on Earth (The FIXX) and having a l'amalthee)