"Marco, come /on/…"

"No, I'm serious!" the Hispanic boy protested, throwing up his hands. He and Erek were sitting with their backs against a large oak tree watching the blacktop in front of them. Jake and Tobias were currently attempting to teach Ax the ancient art of basketball.

And failing miserably.

Marco and Erek had been helping in the beginning, but Marco's short fuse and Erek's inability to realize how much he was hurting someone got them both kicked out before the first quarter was over.

"Marco," Erek tried again with exaggerated patience, "this is not a dream."

The other boy made a rude sound that distinctly told Erek exactly what he thought of that statement. "Well, it isn't real life," he insisted. He pointed at the current basketball players and stared at Erek with an expression that dared the Chee to question his evidence. "This is normal to you? My best friend is trying to teach an alien teenager to play basketball, with the help of a red-tailed hawk. Oh, wait, wait, wait, wait!" he cried dramatically, smacking his forehead with the palm of one hand. "I forgot to mention that both the alien teenager and the red-tailed hawk are currently human thanks to the /morphing/ capabilities given to us by a blue box given to us by the alien teenager's older brother, who is also a prince." He looked at Erek. "Is that better?"

The Chee smiled tolerantly. "Well, at least you have your facts straight."

Marco sighed in annoyance and scooted down the grass to flop backwards onto it. Tilting his chin slightly, he stared at Erek, though the other boy was watching the basketball game intently. "It must be weird to be dreaming for several thousand years."

"Yes, it is."

"You'll have to tell me how you do it sometime."

"No, no. Ancient Chee secrets are not to be revealed."


Erek just smiled again, seemingly at peace with Marco's babble. "You realize, of course, that you're also one of these morph-capable persons you're describing?"

"Yeah, but that's kind of the point," Marco said, sitting up again. He crossed his legs and turned to face the other boy.

"How?" Erek ignored the gaze and remained focused on the blacktop.

"Because that's how it works," Marco protested. "See, Superman always has the dream that he's a normal human and it's cool for all of five seconds before he realizes that his life has gone horribly wrong. And then he wakes up and is grateful for his powers. See, morphing was cool for, like… two seconds. I'm ready to wake up now. Clark sucks, I'd like to go back to being Ka-El."

"Spiderman could kick Superman's butt!" Jake called suddenly.

Marco's head whipped so fast, his shaggy hair continued moving after he'd stopped. "Jake, you're a lying whore and a crappy basketball paper!" he shouted, before turning back to Erek as if nothing at all had happened.

The Chee was used to that sort of exchange between Marco and Jake – as were the rest of the Animorphs, actually. He just smiled tolerantly again and patted Marco's knee. In a patronizing tone, he said, "Aw, is poor little Marco feeling a little bewildered?"

A look of pure un-amusement crossed Marco's face as he lifted Erek's hand from his knee and frowned. Erek did note, however, that the Hispanic boy did not release his hand.

"You left out some other crazy things," he reminded Marco.

"Oh, you're damn right I did. I just didn't know if you'd listen long enough."

Erek shrugged for an answer. He could watch the game and talk to Marco at the same time, of course. From the corner of his eye, Marco looked near-ecstatic at the prospect of extended-whining.

"Okay, so," he began, clapping Erek's hand between his own in a tune that only he could hear. "In our little team of animal-morphers, we also have Xena, only she's blonde and even more insane than actual Xena. Oh, and she won't wear leather because she's a cruel, cruel mistress."

"A /real/ mistress would wear leather," Erek interrupted.

"Yes, but just try telling her that and she will /show you/ who's boss. We also have a tree-hugger, which I guess comes with the part about animals. She tries to give us morals all the time and, I'm sad to say, just might be the sanest one of us all. Pathetic, isn't it?"

"Terribly. I feel sorry for you."

"As it should be. And then we have our hated enemies, who are slugs. They crawl into people's brains and take over and try to kill us. It kind of sucks."

"It sounds like it might."

"You have no idea. Except you do because you're there a lot. Which brings me to our allies. We have walking salad-shooters, for one, though we're never quite sure if they're going to help us or kill us. And then we have dog-robots that are as helpful as they can be, without actually helping us fight, except once and no one ever wants to see that again."

Erek's expression dropped, if only for a second, and the pressure on his hand changed from clapping to a gentle squeeze.

"Then there's the relationships in our group. There's our Fearless Leader and our tree-hugger – they love each other. Then there's the Bird-Boy and Xena. They love each other, too, and I think it's because they both eat raw meat. The teenage alien is in love with soap operas and cinnamon buns. Oh, and yours truly? I'm with a dog-robot. Which doesn't sound like fun, but it is."

Erek smiled, all remnants of his last expression vanishing. "Is it, now?"

Marco nodded philosophically. "Yeah, kinda. But only because the dog-robot has never been with anyone other than another dog-robot, so everything I do makes him excited."

"You wish."

"I don't /need/ to."

Erek just grinned, watching the game but not really paying attention to it. From the corner of his eye, he watched Marco grin and turn his gaze to the game, too. They had a comfortable silence together, amplified, Erek thought, by the fact that Marco had yet to let go of his hand.

This was made more evident when Marco suddenly yanked on the appendage, tipping Erek's balance enough that he slammed into the Hispanic boy. Laughing, the Chee straightened and turned to look Marco in the eyes. "What?"

Marco grinned back and lifted his chin a little. "Well, /duh/," he said with a laugh. "Kiss me."

Erek made a quick face of disgust and while Marco was laughing at that, leaned over the next few inches to rest his lips on the other boy's.

It was a quick kiss – simple, though not without passion. They were in public, after all, in front of their friends, and Marco, for one, knew what it was like to watch people make out and not be able to join in on the fun. There was no reason to flaunt what they had. Not unless they /really/ wanted to anyway.

They separated, but Marco then proceeded to throw an arm around Erek's chest and draw him in to the his embrace. Okay, maybe a /little/ flaunting, since they were still facing the blacktop and watching the game.

Erek accepted the embrace happily, leaning an arm over Marco's legs to rest on the grass, effectively holding and being held at the same time. "You know," he began suddenly, "if the dream-you is this demanding, maybe dream-me will have to stop following those demands."

"Well, then it wouldn't be a dream," Marco replied, sounding as if the answer was obvious.

"Oh yeah? What would it be, then? Real life?"

The Hispanic boy made a noise of disbelief. "Of course not." His head moved to rest on Erek's shoulder and he lightly pressed his lips to the boy's neck. "It'd be a nightmare," he finished quietly.

A small shudder, hopefully not noticeable to Marco, swept through Erek at that kiss, but he smiled anyway. "Are you always this trite in your dreams?"

"As much as possible."


"Prince Jake, I missed the loop!"

"One, it's a hoop, two, don't call me Prince, and three, I'd be more worried about the fact you just hit Tobias in the face with a basketball."

Marco sighed against Erek's shoulder. "I forgot the part about how Tobias is really Ax's nephew, and my mother is Visser One, and Jake's brother is high-ranking Controller, and Rachel's used-to-be best friend's father is a high-ranking Controller and-"

"Marco?" Erek interrupted amiably, still smiling. "Enjoy the sun and the game and the dog-robot. And shut up."

"Yes, sir."