Author's Note: This be the last chapter in the series. Thanks all for reading, and hope you liked it. Also, many, many heartfelt thanks to WeyrdChic, betareader extraordinaire.
The first issue they felt must be addressed, of course, was that of their bedroom walls. They were entirely too thin. On a quiet night you could hear even the most innocent rustling of bedclothes clear into the kitchen, and the sounds that Pleakley made when they were together would be enough to wake the entire 'ohana should they be foolish enough to try anything in the house. Luckily, Jumba had spent some time in his youth refitting old race cruisers, which required reliable, lightweight soundproofing in order to withstand the speed booming of atmosphere-bound racetracks, and he could synthesize the paint-like substance out of seawater and toilet cleanser. It came out a light shade of periwinkle, which worked out rather well because it was one of Pleakley's favourite colours, and the rest of the 'ohana didn't suspect anything odd when they announced they were going to put a new coat of paint on their bedroom walls.
The pull-out bed on the ship was to say the least somewhat small and uncomfortable, and though only a little bit of hilarity ensued from the times they spent there, they both agreed that they would have to find a more suitable locations for their . . . encounters.
Next, of course, was the subject of birth control. It took another week or so before Pleakley's physiology finished changing and he developed the full capacity to conceive and bear children, so they were safe for a little while until they had the chance to rush-order a supply of pills from Kweltikwaan that Jumba could take to inhibit his fertility. Back during his married years he'd gotten used to taking one every morning, so it wasn't very hard for him to get back into the old habit, but he still didn't like the occasional mood swings. It was worth it to him, both then and now, however, to be the one responsible for that particular issue. His ex-wife had tried once to get herself pregnant (which on Kweltikwaan meant a marital life-sentence), and even though both he and Pleakley had agreed that the last thing they wanted was to have any little Jumbas running around, Pleakley still sent Jumba into fits of paranoid fright every time he cooed over diaper commercials or the squirming contents of a passing stroller.
For the first few weeks Jumba didn't sleep a single night through without Pleakley climbing up into his bunk to wake him as he went through an initial phase that could only adequately be described as a frenzy of sexual desire. Jumba couldn't even take an afternoon nap without being ambushed for more, and the resulting exhaustion made those first weeks nothing but a delirious blur in his mind.
Luckily for the sanity of all involved, this phase passed, and by the second month Pleakley was better able to exercise self-control in limiting the frequency and urgency of his demands. Usually Jumba could tell now when he should be expecting another visit. Once or twice a week there would be a day when he would find Pleakley looking at him more often – stolen glances across the room, across the couch, or even across conversations with other people. Staring, when he could get away with it. Smiling when he thought Jumba wasn't watching, but Jumba could usually see him from his corner eyes.
When their gaze finally met it became a question. Jumba never denied him. Pleakley had never really had to ask, but he did now, out of respect. They would smile at each other and later that night Jumba would find Pleakley waiting patiently for him in the top bunk, covers drawn up demurely over his otherwise unclothed body.
This state of affairs was to continue for only six months.
It was foolish for them to pretend that they could go on as they had forever, not with Jumba being as he was and with Pleakley's demands of him being as they were. They both knew the risks they were taking, and the possible consequence. Somehow neither was willing to alter their chosen situation. And so, half a year after the start of their strange compromise, the inevitable inevitably happened.
They broke the bunkbed.
Jumba swore colourfully in Kweltikwaanian as he dumped the last remnants of their former bed into the kitchen re-moleculizer. He'd gotten three slivers already from the hopeless wreck of wood – this would be the fourth and it was almost not worth having recycled the stuff for the ship fuel it would synthesize. This Earth wood was just so soft – completely unsuitable for furniture, boats, houses, and everything else humans seemed to like crafting from the stuff.
Not like the trees on Kweltikwaan – now those were some trees. They were almost as good as the substance that Jumba had ordered from off-world to make their new bed with. It is an incredibly awkward and uncomfortable thing to fall through one's own bed mid-snuggle, and Jumba didn't intend for it to happen again.
"Here – let me do that." Having just come in, Pleakley set down his shopping bag and padded over to where Jumba stood uselessly sucking on his injured finger. With a few gentle squeezes he had the sliver out from under Jumba's skin and flicked it into the re-moleculizer.
With a brief smile Pleakey kissed Jumba's finger and set about putting away the fruits and veggies that he'd brought home. Nani was at work and Lilo was at school with 626 – they had the whole house to themselves for the afternoon.
"It's about time you got that done," said Pleakley. "If you'd waited any longer, the new beds would have gotten here and we'd still have that mess in the bedroom."
"Shipment did get here this morning – is why I cleaned. Is already assembled in there." Jumba gestured grumpily towards the bedroom. "What has been taking you so long?"
Pleakley jauntily tucked the last of the papayas into the refrigerator. "Oh, you know . . . I went to get the groceries and just thought I'd pop into a few boutiques in town for some window shopping, and I guess I sort of just lost track of the time. I went to Giselle's, and Chic-Chic Shoes, and Angelo Fashions . . .–"
"And Mrs. Tweedle's Fabrics, no doubt," Jumba commented. Pleakley continued as if he hadn't heard him.
" – and Le Nouveau Chapeau, that fabulous new hat store in the mall. Of course I didn't buy anything – well, I didn't buy much." Pleakley nonchalantly retrieved the small remaining bag from the table. "Did you say that you'd set up the beds already?"
Jumba nodded. "Courier arrived this morning just after you left. Benzenite must be shaped, assembled and welded together no more than a few days after it is mined, or it sets and becomes useless. There had been delay during shipping and there was not being much time left." Jumba shrugged.
"Well, that certainly was fast. I think I'll go take a look." Pleakley headed towards the bedroom.
"Pleakley, wait!" he shouted just as Pleakley left the room. Pleakley ducked back in, puzzled. For a second there it had sounded as though Jumba was angry, though he couldn't fathom why.
Jumba folded his arms. "I am not being comfortable with this. Not at all."
Pleakley stood calmly, waiting for more, but none came.
"Well, if you don't like it, we can always send it back, or throw it out, and get another one. Who cares if it's made of Benzenite, or whatever."
"Benzenite is one of five super-strong substances in galaxy – we could not just be throwing out now. And that is not what I am talking about." Jumba took a deep breath. "I am thinking we need to be having talk about. . .our relationship."
Pleakley looked at him warily. "Oh?" he finally said.
Jumba realized that he'd been wringing his hands, and stopped himself.
"There is still the question. . .I think we need to be talking about. . .what will happen. . . It is seeming to me that we have been avoiding the subject of how long we want all of this to be lasting."
Pleakley stared down at his feet, saying nothing. Slowly, he walked past Jumba and put his shopping bag back down on the table, then went to the sink to pour himself a glass of water. When he'd had a sip or two he put his glass on the table by the bag and looked up again.
"Oh," Pleakley said, sitting down. He sipped on his water. He didn't there was much to say. He had been avoiding the subject, in the most fundamental way possible. He knew it couldn't possibly last. He knew it. For the past six months he hadn't even let the barest shadow of the thought of this ending cross his mind, but he knew. He'd spent his days deliriously happy, like a terminally ill cancer patient on a last-wish vacation. Why rage against the inevitable when he could just enjoy his remaining days? There would be time enough to cry when it ended. Like now.
"Oh, my little one-eyed one." Jumba stepped forward to comfort his friend. "Shhh. . .shhhh. Do not cry." Leaning down, Jumba slipped his hand around Pleakley's waist and guided him up for a long, gentle kiss.
Pleakley did stop crying. Jumba was kissing him, so it wasn't over yet. Not yet – that's all that mattered. When they parted and Jumba smiled at him, he did his best to smile back and wipe away his tears.
"It is hasty to be crying, I think, my friend," said Jumba.
Jumba reached over brought Pleakley's shopping bag closer so he could look inside. Folded neatly on the bottom under a package of socks was a smaller bag with the word's 'Mrs. Tweedle's Fabrics' printed on the front. With an amused smile Jumba carefully lifted out the contents.
Pleakley stared down blearily at the small length of red satin that Jumba laid on his lap. It wasn't very big – maybe a few square yards. It didn't need to be, considering what it was going to be made into. There were a few other things as well – a bit of lace, some sheer nylon, black ribbon for a garter belt. Ever since Pleakley had discovered the wide, wonderful world of women's underthings, he'd become a discount-card-carrying regular at Mrs. Tweedle's, who knew her satin underwear patterns better than any woman her age probably should. Victoria's Secret didn't carry anything that met his particular specifications, but with an eye for pattern and a little determination he'd still been able to treat Jumba to a new outfit nearly every week.
"It will look good on you. The colour is complimenting your skin.," said Jumba.
Pleakley nodded in reply.
"Don't you already have red?"
Pleakley picked up the fabric. "Yes, but this one's completely different. The last one was vermillion red, this one is cherry. And this is silk-satin. See – it's shiny on one side and velvety on the other." Pleakley smiled gently. "It's soft – see?" He held the fabric up to Jumba, who took it and placed it back into its shopping bag.
"I will feel it when it is being finished.," Jumba said, handing the bag back to Pleakley, who stared at it blankly until Jumba stroked his cheek and brought him back around.
"The lace interpanels will be a little complicated. It won't be done for at least. . .two weeks." Pleakley looked up at Jumba sadly, expectantly.
"Well, then I will feel it in two weeks. Did I say we would not be together in two weeks?"
Pleakley took a deep breathe, steeling himself. "Well, if not that soon, then when? You want to talk about it. . .so let's talk. I mean. . .all the studies say that I'll probably be fine now that the first few months are over with. I might even be able to get effective treatment. If you don't want to keep on going like this, well, I would understand. I would." Pleakley looked down into his lap. "I love you. I want you to be happy. You've done more than enough already."
Jumba shook his head and lifted Pleakley's chin for a brief kiss. "Must you be always so melodramatic?"
Pleakley stuck his lip out petulantly. "Yes, I do, if you're going to be Mr. Grumpypants about everything!"
Chuckling, Jumba gathered Pleakley up in his arms and carried him towards the bedroom.
"Shipping company made mistake, I'm afraid," said Jumba as he placed Pleakley on the bed. The large, wrought-metal, single bed.
"Oh, is that what you were all upset about?"
Jumba sat down beside him and sighed. "There were not enough Benzenite rods for two beds, only one slightly larger bed. Also only one mattress and set of sheets. So, I guess, for time being, we are being stuck."
"Well, you know Jumba, if you really don't like it, we can always send it back. It was the shipping company's mistake, and the one good thing about having a sister who's the CEO of a minor galaxy is that if you want the pants sued off somebody, well mister, you just have to buy a matching blouse because those pants are yours."
Jumba laughed. "Maybe." He said, stretching out so lay down beside Pleakley. "But then we would have to send whole thing back to make claim, and we would be sleeping on floor again while we waited, and well. . .I was thinking that it would just be easier this way." He shrugged. "Besides, it seems to be ending up that you are always climbing up to sleep with me, anyways, even on nights when we are not doing. . .anything."
Pleakley reached over to stroke his wrist. "Yeah, well, I don't have to, if you don't want me to. You do have the right to sleep alone when you want to, you know."
"But you see I do not really not want you to. . . it is, well, not being so bad, sometimes. . ." Jumba closed his eyes, and suddenly pounded the mattress with his fist in frustration. "How are we going to be keeping this secret now, eh? How? 'Ohana will be guessing now for certain, and of course your mother will be finding out, and then will get back to Intergalactic Council, and may even be reaching Kweltikwaan. . ." Jumba stared at the ceiling, wide-eyed in horror, until a thought occurred to him. He frown and looked over at Pleakley. "You have not been telling ex-wife about this, have you?"
Pleakley blinked. "Um. . .noooo."
"Oh, by the great trees of Kwelta, you have!" Jumba threw his hands over his face in despair.
"I didn't tell her anything,I swear! She just rang me up to chat one day, and after we'd been talking for a little while I happened to mention you in passing, and she looked at me and went 'OH MY GOODNESS YOU HAVE BEEN SHTOOPING MY EX-HUSBAND!' I didn't mention anything about us – she just knew."
Jumba groaned. "And then what did she do?"
"Well, she just stared at me for a little while, and then, well, she started laughing. She. . .laughed a lot. I had to call her back."
Jumba dragged his hands down his face. "Yes, now I will be laughingstock of entire home planet, I am sure." He closed his eyes and took a deep, calming breath.
Pleakly was well aware that the idea of a Plorginarian and a Kweltikwaanian together wasn't only a little ridiculous, so he didn't take this statement as an insult. He reached over to stroke Jumba's elbow, and before he had the chance to say anything self-sacrificing, Jumba snorted and shook his head.
"Bah! When have I ever been caring what home planet is thinking of me? I am better than that – better than all of them. And I will shtoop whoever I am liking, you great battle-axe!" He shook his fist towards the ceiling.
Pleakley smiled and leaned his head on Jumba's shoulder. Jumba lifted his arm and tucked him closer.
"She was the one who told you how to do that thing, was she not?" he asked.
"How did you know?" Pleakley blushed.
Jumba shrugged. "Who else would have told you? You were not knowing enough on the subject to be thinking it up yourself." Jumba drummed the fingers of one hand against his belly. "Well, at least it is good to know that she is having no resentments. I never thought I would care. . .but it is good." He kissed the top of Pleakley's head and sighed. "I never did tell you what it was like for me to get married, did I?"
Pleakley shook his head.
"It was horrible. Unmitigated disaster. We were. . .young, and we were in love, for little while at least, I believe. And we were always trying to do what we thought, well, what other people had been telling us was 'correct thing to do.' We date for prescribed amount of time, we get married, we move into apartment. We try to be for each other what we have been told we should be. We try so hard, but it is all wrong. It all falls apart." Jumba shook his head. "We make each other miserable."
Absently, Jumba toyed with the hem of Pleakley's skirt. Hiking it up a little, Jumba looked down to see the colour of today's garter belt – green, to match his dress. He smiled a little and ran his finger down the soft ribbon.
"You must understand why I am being so. . .uncomfortable. This. . .whatever it is we have, was never supposed to be relationship. Was not even supposed to be affair. Was just. . .was just going to be me and you. Being friends. Being 'ohana. Living together in same little house, and sometimes sharing same bed."
Jumba frowned. "But somehow it is not being so simple. Somehow, it is relationship. It is commitment. It is responsibility to each other. It is. . .everything that made me miserable when I was married. But yet, I am not being so miserable. I. . ." Jumba swallowed hard. "The truth. . .is that you are making me very happy. And for reasons beyond even my comprehension, I am making you very happy. And we are not even trying very hard."
Jumba stared up at the ceiling in contemplation. Reaching over, he found Pleakley's hand and took it gently in his own. "I do not know how long this will last. Could be weeks, could be months. . .who knows?"
He brought his other hand up to rub Pleakley's arm. "I built this bed to last for long time – maybe forever." He murmured, almost to himself. "This is not something I wanted. I would not have chosen this situation, if I had been given the choice. It has simply been. . .thrust upon me. But I would not change it. It makes me quite uncomfortable, yes. . .but I think that is simply because I am not used to happiness being so easy."
Pleakley leaned up to kiss Jumba's cheek, his tears of joy trickling down onto his temple. Jumba smiled and held him closer.
"Somehow. . .I think I will adapt."