Protocol 56-C
By Nan00k


-is shot-

Apologies all around, y'all. I do agree that this fandom needs more fics…namely more of this pairing, but that's just me. ;3 I don't normally do one-shots, so I'm sorry if it's a little…awkward.

Warnings: minor foul language, slash (no more than wishful thinking, however), a minor in love?
: I own nothing you'll find here.


Life has a funny way of turning things around on you. It is even funnier when it happens to someone else and suddenly, everyone is left hanging without a clue. As much as he knows he should feel bad for his friend and the situation, Lem can't make himself feel all that upset.

No more than half an hour after Chuck left, the self-proclaimed "astronaut" comes back down. Turning that capsule around was probably difficult, but what's harder is coming down its solid steel steps and staring back at the wide-eyed crowd with a look of anger, shock and bewilderment.

"Kennedy told me to stop the ship," he says when Lem and the others approach him in confusion. Chuck looks as numb and shocked as Lem feels. "They…told me to stay. To follow protocols."

Protocol 56-C explicitly stated that when having encountered an intelligent alien species of unknown origin, any space travelers were to remain where they are. To leave for Earth, no matter if the species in question is docile or violent, was a danger that the rest of the Earthling species would not tolerate. To protect themselves, there could be no chance that the astronauts would lead the intelligent aliens back to earth. So, in short, Chuck cannot go home, at least, not until another mission was made for the Planet.

No offense to Chuck or his home, but this Kennedy fellow seems like an ass.

Lem is grateful that the whole alien-induced-panic is over, otherwise he couldn't imagine the military or townsfolk to approach the matter the way they do. Grawl understands the purpose of the protocol, almost too well. He commends Chuck as a "true astronaut," though Lem doubts he knows what that really is. Grawl says he has to talk to his own command, but for now, Chuck could stay in the town. Chuck doesn't say much but a quiet, "Thanks."

Everyone is talking and whispering at once, but Lem doesn't really hear anything else. Chuck looks out at nothing with a look of bitterness, and if Lem could guess, fear. He is probably too proud to admit to any of those feelings, even as Grawl and the other adults tried to figure out what to do with him.

All Lem can do is reach up and pat the taller creature on the back with a neutral face. He doesn't dare say anything or do anything else. Inside his chest, shame burns brightly, because no matter how much Chuck would curse or rant or cry, Lem really, really can't feel upset over this turn of events. If Chuck ever found out what Lem actually felt…Lem really doesn't want to know what his dear friend would say.

So, instead of giving him kind words, Lem sets about trying to help his friend figure out the next best step.

& & &


Lem's mother doesn't easily accept strange things, but she warms up to Chuck pretty fast. The military offers to take the stranded human in, but Lem's mom downright refuses to let the "poor thing" go anywhere but their house. Lem immediately vouches for the arrangement as well; he had spent the last week trying to keep Chuck away from the military. The idea of letting the man go anywhere with them doesn't sit well with any of them, really.

Chuck politely refuses at first. He points out he'd already taken up a lot of their time and he had no idea how long this situation would last. It could take years for "Kennedy" to send another mission out, if they were going to, that is.

At the word "years," Lem's heart speeds up behind his knee. Chuck would be around for that long…?

He nearly jumps up in excitement when his mother suggests that they share a room; Chuck at first declines. It'd be too small for the two of them and there was no way he is going to survive another night on the couch. But Lem's mother will hear none of it. They get a second bed and somehow fit it in Lem's room. It is ultimately up to him, everyone but Lem tells Chuck as a comfort. He is welcome anywhere he'd like to go, but Chuck just smiles and says he'd stay there.

"Might as well stay with friends," he tells the leery government officials who stop by every other hour in the beginning. He claps Lem's shoulder and Lem bites his lip and looks away.

Chuck humors the idea of just staying in the capsule, still parked on their lawn, but the town authorities are less than enthused with the idea of the craft remaining so visibly in a residential area. It's moved out of the town's limits, after Chuck gathers all his necessary equipment from it, and he watches it be carried off with a bittersweet look that makes Lem feel guilty again.

Chuck is tall for the house, but he says he'll get used to it—for however long he's going to stay, he adds quickly. Lem shows him the entire house and the two finally get a chance to catch their breath. Chuck just sits in the kitchen downstairs and stares out at nothing again. Lem just sits there and watches. Saying anything felt like the wrong thing to do.

When everything quiets down and both get into their individual beds, Lem listens. Chuck takes deep breaths and lays awake for a while. Lem falls asleep after him, the sound of the human breathing a slow, hypnotic sound. He feels guilty when they get up and Chuck looks terrible and tired—but Lem never felt so rested.

After a few weeks, Chuck becomes less restless at night, but Lem still listens to his breathing. And every once in a while, Lem wonders what it would be like to lay his head on the human chest to hear the breathing even closer and louder—and he quickly squashes the thought.

& & &


Professor Kipple shows up the day after Chuck announced his semi-permanent residence. He offers his "scientific support." Chuck promptly refuses the offer and Lem couldn't agree more. They tell both Kipple and Grawl to essentially back off. But Kipple raises a good point about the future: how do they take care of an alien?

"I need to figure out how to survive here," Chuck admits as they crowd around the living room. "I don't have a limitless amount of food, you know."

It will not be an easy transition, warns Kipple. Chuck believes him and Lem reluctantly does as well. So they experiment.

Their water doesn't kill him, at least not right away, but Chuck is less than pleased with their floating food. Lem can't imagine what kind of food doesn't not float; Earth must be a strange place indeed.

They have to be careful trying the food, regardless. Chuck is afraid of an allergic reaction and Kipple supports that concern, which makes Lem afraid. But after two days of "candy bars," Chuck is willing to try.

Samples of basic foods go down without a problem. Chuck can't stand the taste, though, but he suffers in silence after awhile. They experiment, then wait a little, hesitating for signs of illness or reaction. Nothing happens as they try variety of different local samples.

When Chuck suddenly starts to choke after eating a piece of fruit, however, Lem freezes up with fear. He runs for water while Skiff pounds on Chuck's back. Everyone enters a frantic state, and for a moment, Lem can barely think.

But after a terrifying moment, Chuck inhales loudly and coughs, alive. He starts to laugh. Lem wants to smack him for doing so, but Chuck manages to tell them that he simply choked on a too-big piece.

Lem offered to cut up the food next time, but Chuck just laughs and lays his hand on Lem's head, thanking him, but he could manage.

When his strangely pale hands rub against his antennae, Lem feels his heart pick up again and he rushes off to get something else for Chuck to try, too jittery to stand there any longer.

& & &


Lem has to go to school eventually and Chuck tells him its okay. Lem feels a little bad leaving the poor alien alone at home, but Chuck says he likes being alone sometimes. He doesn't venture outside very often alone, though. Curious eyes could be burdensome and Lem couldn't agree more.

But as much as Chuck came off as an un-academic, Chuck assures Lem that to be an astronaut, you had to be trained. Chuck is a physicist, or at least he had been. He knows a lot about space, way more than Lem does. When Chuck begins to complain about lounging around the house in boredom while Lem was at school several weeks later, Lem thinks of a solution.

The curator at the planetarium is not happy about having the alien around, but it becomes clear that Chuck has a lot to offer the institute. Lem feels safe leaving his friend at his work during the week, even though Chuck and the curator would get into more arguments than scholarly debates when discussing the origins and actual magnitude of the universe. It is fun to listen in, anyway.

Lem enjoys hearing Chuck talk about the depth of space, of Earth and all that Earth scientists have already discovered. The universe is expanding. It is trillions and trillions of miles across and there are countless galaxies and solar systems. Black holes, asteroid belts, super novas, light speed—it's all complex and alien, but fascinating nevertheless. When Chuck explains to him, or to the curator, or to the numerous new crowds of visitors dying to see the alien in person, Lem feels like he can be a part of that strange world of space.

Chuck brings a lot of new visitors to the planetarium with his lectures and talks, but its at home, in the security of their own room, where Lem likes listening to Chuck the most. Chuck would practices his lectures there and Lem would listen with an awestruck mind. Chuck could bring the whole universe down into their small room and make everything seem so touchable.

Most of all, Lem likes to hear the human's voice. Chuck could talk for hours and his voice sounded…happy. Lem enjoys that happiness dearly, after weeks of watching the human staring out with sadness and anger in his strange eyes. If talking made him feel better, and if astronomy was the key to keeping Chuck happy, Lem could listen to him forever.

& & &


"Let's go into town," Chuck began to say after a while. He claims he has "cabin fever" and needs to "stretch his legs."

After reassuring Lem several times that "cabin fever" was just a phrase and he wasn't really ill, Lem reluctantly agrees that the human needed to get out a little. The media wasn't as vicious as it had been to catch his story and the townsfolk were beginning to accept the idea of their alien resident. Chuck had to get out eventually.

They sneak around most of the town without drawing a lot of attention. Most residents are thankfully the type to stare from a distance. Chuck comments that it's a lot nicer to do some sight seeing now without being chased by the government. Lem laughs and agrees.

Chuck brightens up as they spend the day looking around. Lem enjoys explaining his world and all that's strange in it to Chuck, because the scientist in Chuck seems to emerge as he learns more about their world. The scientist is far happier than the ordinary Chuck, who still spends a lot of his time staring out windows or up at the sky with sadden eyes. If Lem can distract him with discoveries, he'd do what he could do make Chuck's day full of surprises.

Lem makes the mistake of accepting Skiff's invitation to a game of hover bowling, however. Skiff insists on bringing Rover…and a few school friends. Not to show off the human, he repeatedly claims as Lem gives his best friend a death glare. The curious and wide-eyed classmates behind them, staring at the sheepish Chuck without shame, had to be irritating, but Chuck just laughs it off and says, "The more the merrier."

It's hard to play a game when there are so many people. Lem sits in a chair and watches his peers pester and question Chuck, who is trying his best to focus on learning how to play the game (which is strangely not unlike one back on Earth) and answer dozens of questions. Lem scowls and wants to intervene, but holds back. He doesn't want to seem overbearing or—

"Hey, Lem," Chuck calls out suddenly.

Lem looks up, surprised. Chuck holds up one of the hovering balls and nods with his head.

"Skiff's chasing Rover again," he says, smiling his alien, but strangely pretty smile. "Why don't you finish teaching me how to play this?"

Holding back a smile is tough but Lem somehow manages to force back his sudden giddiness as he almost runs over to Chuck. He forgets himself as he has to grab Chuck's arm to show him how to properly throw the levitating object and almost stops completely when Chuck gives him a warm smile. He's a terrible teacher, but Chuck seems to have more fun trying to do it than anything else.

When they get ready for bed that night, Chuck thanks him for the day and asks if they could do it again sometime. Lem pretends to roll over in bed, to hide his goofy smile, and agrees.

& & &


When winter comes around, Chuck's been there for a few months. He marvels at the rocks that fall when it rains and the ice-covered ones that fall in the winter. It's not as cold here as on Earth, Chuck claims, if this was really their winter weather.

Four months after Chuck was stranded here, Lem informs him of an impending family gathering of his.

"It's a holiday," he explains.

Chuck almost starts laughing as he explains that around this time, Earth celebrated a holiday too. "If it's about a fat guy in red coming down chimneys to give toys to good children, I'm going to really start to question whether or not I've become apart of a Planet of the Apes movie," he says, chuckling.

Lem doesn't know what an Ape is or what a fat man has to do with anything, but he assures Chuck that the holiday is for a famous member of his own species and if it correlated with a holiday on earth, it was just coincidence. Chuck is easily intrigued by the holiday itself, though, and asks if he could observe it. Lem was already going to invite him, but just nods and says, "We'd love if you did."

The whole neighborhood puts on a big show this year and there's a lot of effort put into decorations and activities, probably because people wanted to impress their inter-galactic guest. Lem shows the awed Chuck around and tries to explain their culture and the reason for the holiday. Chuck just nods and takes everything in silently.

They get back home and settle down for a large dinner, which Chuck compliments at the delight of Lem's mother. Skiff and Rover come for dinner and Neera and her family stop by for desert. The whole house is full, but when Lem gets away from the kitchen after doing the dishes, he sees Chuck over by the living room window alone.

"I was never expecting missing Christmas," Chuck explains when asked, though Lem doesn't know what a Christmas is. It had to be important, or Chuck wouldn't look so sad. "It's a holiday that you spend with family and close friends." He sighs. "But I should count my blessings as they are, you know? I'm sure I'll be back for next Christmas."

Lem stares up at him and frowns at the man's distress. "Do you miss your wife and kids then?" he asks, although he's almost afraid to.

Chuck stares down at him, frowning slightly. "Wife…?" he repeats, confused. Then, he laughs. Lem still marvels at the fact that he laughs just like them. "Oh—that. Uh, I kind of exaggerated a little back then, kid. I, uh, was kinda desperate for some help. I'm not married, or have kids."

"Really?" Lem asks, trying to sound neutral. In reality, his heart is beating faster again.

Chuck smirks and that's reassuring; his previous melancholy seems forgotten. "I'm not a guy to get tied down easily," he says, as if that was a great skill. He sighs wistfully and looks back at his drink. "I suppose I should be grateful now. If I had been, this whole thing would be a whole lot worse."

Lem nods. "Yeah," he says, looking away. Again, he feels ashamed. But his heart doesn't stop beating, and he repeats an unspoken, I'm glad, in his mind.

& & &


One day, Lem comes home from school and Chuck's not there. Curiosity turns to panic after Lem realizes that no one knows where Chuck is. The first place other than home Lem can think of the human going to would be the planetarium. He looks all over the lecture halls and first and second floors of the building, but Chuck isn't there.

Inspiration hits as the same time as desperation, and Lem climbs up to the observation deck—and finds Chuck sitting along the roof platform they had once sat at when they were fugitives.

Lem marches up, ready to yell or scold, or to just hug, this stupid human man, but stops short of speaking at all once he looks down at the seated alien. Chuck is staring out at nothing again, but the look in his eyes is different. Lem swallows hard and sees the same look in them as they had had the day he learned of his exile to Planet 51.

So, Lem says nothing and just sits down. He watches Chuck carefully and just waits. He doesn't have to wait long before Chuck sighs softly and seems to deflate just slightly.

"Kennedy finally responded to my inquiry about the status of my return."

Lem nods stiffly and tries not to look away. It's hard, because he doesn't want to hear what Chuck says next, but he remains firm and manages to listen further, for his friend's benefit.

Chuck shifts in his seat, uncomfortable. "They'll be sending another team, this time equipped with special medical gear, to check me out before sending me home. There's no way you guys are a threat to anyone, 'cause you're not space travelers yet, but my bosses still want to be careful. Once the other team confirms you guys are harmless, then we can all go back."

Chuck stops and sighs again, running his hand through his strange mop of hair. Lem stares at him guardedly, or at least he hopes he was, because inside, he was burning again. He wants to say something, but knew it would be wrong. He wants to tell Chuck that he was glad that the second mission would take that long. He wants to tell Chuck that he really, really likes him.

Suddenly, the words come out of nowhere and Lem is rambling faster than he can think.

He tells Chuck that he's glad—glad he's there for that much longer. He tells him that he doesn't mind, that it's okay if he does stay, because he liked having him around. He could work as long as he wanted at the planetarium and Lem's home would always be open to him. He tells Chuck that he liked having him there and that it'd be terrible if he left, not so soon.

"I like you a lot, Chuck. I…I know this is selfish of me to say…but I'm glad you came here," he says while trying not to think of what he's saying, even though his tongue goes numb. "I hope you get home and get happier than you are here, but…I'm…"

He means to tell him he's not sorry and that he wished that he could stay forever, but those words die in his throat. They aren't right to say. Even if Chuck was only here for another two years, Lem doesn't want to ruin their friendship. He wants Chuck to be happy, and if Chuck is happy, Lem is happy.

Lem looks up stiffly and sees Chuck looking at him. There's surprise—maybe a little shock—and Lem prays that there is no anger. They sit like that for a while and Lem searches Chuck's face for any signs of disgust or rage.

But there's nothing there. Chuck is just watching Lem like Lem is watching him. For a long second, Lem dares to breathe again. And then Chuck smiles.

"You told me I saved your life," Chuck muses. He turns, smiling out at nothing. "But you know, kid…? I never would have made it this far without you. You're the only reason I'm still trying to keep going."

Those words make Lem's mind reel and he can't speak.

"This might not be Earth," Chuck continues, his voice quieter but strangely stronger, "but I can call it home. It is home…even for just a while. It's time I appreciated that fact."

He looks over at Lem and smiles gently. Lem's heart stops.

"Thanks for being my friend, Lem," he says and he sounds like he means it.

Lem swallows hard and meets Chuck's gaze, his heart pounding, but his guilt gone. Instead, he feels like he was full of air. Warm, gentle air.

"I like you a lot, Chuck," Lem repeats. His throat burns, but not from shame.

"I like you, too, Lem," Chuck says quietly. He means it.

The two sit there for a while and the sun begins to set. Lem stares up at the larger man, and as quietly as he can, gets up. He doesn't wait for Chuck's approval, or his own, for that matter. He grabs Chuck by his arms and just half-kneels there in front of him, breathing in Chuck's scent and waits.

Chuck lifts his hand and places it on Lem's head. Suddenly, everything becomes clearer.

Two years is a long time.

Lem bends his neck and rests his ear against that broad chest and listens.




-"Planet of the Apes" – a bunch of explorers think they land on an alien planet but its actually Earth in the farrrr future
-I tried to play off Lem's age a bit here. Socially awkward and definitely awkward when it comes to inter-species relationships!

lolololol I really should lay off the fandoms, guys. Hope someone out there liked it!