Title: Through Time and Space
Pairing: Mainly ChuckLem. LemNeera as a side, for a bit!
WARNINGS: Interspecies, obviously.
Rating: 'T' for now.
Description: When Chuck is held back from Earth on Planet 51 for a whole year, him and Lem start a condemned relationship that can only end in disaster.
Additional note: I figured it improbable that reaching a whole other planet in another galaxy would take more than three weeks. A year is probably stretching it too, but I'm changing it for plot purposes.
"Yeah," Chuck sighed, sinking into a wooden kitchen chair. Lem's family all stood around the alien, the same day he was scheduled to leave—two hours after his original takeoff back home. "I'm glad I checked the gas. I don't think have enough to make it back to my planet."
"Well how are you going to get home? Will you even be able to go back?" asked Lem's father.
"I managed to send a signal back to NASA. They're sending someone up with enough fuel. It will take about a year." He said, reaffirming Lem's earlier exclamation.
"Well…don't you sweat your living arrangements," Lem's mother said kindly, after a few moments hesitation. "You are more than welcome to stay with us. We have a guest bedroom upstairs at the end of the hallway. We'll send Lem with you into town to get some clothes."
"I would appreciate that Ma'am." Chuck replied solemnly.
"Call me Carol."
"Thank you Carol. If there's ever anything I can do while I'm here…"
"Well, I may send you on some errands." She said with an approving smile. "Now, shall Lem show you to your room?"
Chuck looked to his newest friend, and Lem motioned for him to follow.
"Nice digs." Chuck commented, upon looking at his new room, which was two doors down from Lem's. There was a double bed, with a wooden nightstand resting next to it. The window looked out on the street, and there was a small TV in the corner, across from the bed. A few portraits hung on the walls. It was simple, but homely.
"Digs?" Questioned Lem, leaning against the doorframe.
"Yeah. This room is nice." Chuck reiterated. "Your whole house is."
"It was great of your family to let me stay here…" He paused a moment, and looked at Lem, considering the situation for a moment. "Hey bro, I'm sorry if I'm bugging you by being around. You've helped me out already, and you probably want me off your back, so you know, you can tell me if you would rather I leave."
"Huh?" Lem looked taken aback. "No way, Chuck! I'm really looking forward to getting to know you better, actually. You're a cool guy."
"Okay Green-Bean." Chuck grinned, bouncing back from his moment of doubt, and offering a fist to Lem, who looked at it quizzically, then looked back at Chuck. Chuck snorted. "I'll have to teach you how we do things back on Earth, I see."
"You have a lot to learn too." Lem smiled at him.
"I can hardly wait."
A few hours later, after Chuck took a long anticipated shower, him and Lem stood in the middle of the nearest clothing department store, picking through the racks for anything in the sizes extra-extra large.
"Damn Chuck. You're freaking huge." Lem muttered after finding only three shirts that would fit Chuck in the last hour.
Chuck ran his fingers through his hair. "That's what she said."
Chuck snickered, ignoring Lem's oblivion. "Sorry. You green goobers are just…tiny. On my planet, I'm considered to be average size."
"I don't want to see what extra-extra large looks like on your planet, then."
"No you don't." Chuck agreed. He swept his eyes across the store. "Hey, by the way…where's the pants section?"
"Pants?" Lem frowned at him. "What the hell is that?"
"They're things you put on your legs. They go around your waist?"
"Why would you want to do that?"
"To…" Chuck sighed, searching for the right words. "To cover up inappropriate body parts."
"Are legs inappropriate on your planet?" Lem eyed Chuck's blue space suit, which covered his whole body, including his legs.
"No," Chuck muttered, going through another shirt rack. "Just what's in between them."
"Not exactly. More of a…reproductive organ."
"…I see." Lem said after a few moments of comprehension. He turned his back to Chuck, to search through another rack. After a few awkward minutes sifting through too-small shirts, Lem finally spoke up. "Well…you could try skirts, but I should tell you that that's a girl thing on this planet…we don't have pants here."
Chuck smiled briefly, his hand cupping his chin in thought.
"Is there a way for you to make some makeshift ones?" Lem tried again.
"I was just thinking about that. Is there a material store around here?"
"Just down the street, actually."
"Okay. Do you mind stopping by there afterwards? I'll just sew a few pairs…"
"'Course not. You know how to sew?"
"Well, I can figure it out. It can't be that hard, can it?"
As it turns out, sewing is a lot harder that Chuck thought it would be. When he was younger, he would watch his mother sew all the time. Such a basic in and out movement, yet he never realized how complex it could really be. Finally, he gave up and asked Carol for help, giving her a (somewhat sloppy, but Chuck was proud of it) diagram on how it would look.
"Thanks a lot Carol." Chuck sighed, watching her finish up a third and final pair. He sucked a finger idly, which had been to war with the sewing needles in his previous attempts.
"Not a problem!" The woman beamed, laying out the last pair of Chuck's freshly sewn jeans.
When Chuck came into the kitchen, Lem looked up from his evening cereal and smirked. "'Can't be that hard, can it?'" He mimicked playfully.
"Oh shove it." Chuck took a seat next to him. "When's your bedtime kid?"
"As if!" Lem laughed. "I still have some homework to do."
"Oh the days of teenage problems…thank God I'm gone from there."
"It's pronounced 'As-tro-naut', Lem."
Lem got up, carrying his bowl to the sink. "I better get to that. My homework, I mean. Sleep well."
"Did you need any help?"
"No. Can't be that hard, can it?"
Two weeks passed with surprising ease. Lem was patient when it came to explaining things to him ("How do you work the toilets?"), and Lem himself was intrigued by how things worked on Chuck's planet, 'Earth'. ("Your food doesn't float? Huh…that sounds easy, actually.")
To Lem's relief, Chuck got along quite well with the community, though some were still weary of him. He was working closely with the Military, and a nearby Space Organization, helping them expand their technology.
Carol was delighted by Chuck's presence. Not only did she enjoy having him around the house to send on errands, she was smitten with his upbeat personality, and his very-much childlike curiosity. Eckle, along with the members of the 'Chuck Baker Party Maker Fan-club' were constant visitors in the house, playing 'alien zombie' with the amused astronaut. Carol did not mind this either—she became popular with the other mothers for her cooking skills, and found herself with tons of new friends to chat with all day. Lem's father too, liked having Chuck around. At first, he was somewhat unsure of having Chuck stay with them; however, after an afternoon of male bonding over fixing the family car, he warmed up to him.
Skiff too, was rather pleased with Chuck. After finally accepting that he wasn't out to eat Lem for dessert, he realized how cool it was to know the alien of Planet 51 personally. He asked even more questions than Lem and Eckle combined.
"It's to collect knowledge for my comic." He told Lem in a matter-of-fact tone one day, when Lem pointed this out.
Chuck himself was at ease in his temporary home planet. He quickly fell in love with the locals of the town. He loved being approached by strangers and talking with new people. Lem reckoned he just liked the attention, and often became thoroughly annoyed by the constant interruptions on simple outings. But while taking Chuck down the street to the grocery store took as long as taking a girl to a shopping mall, Lem had to find the astronaut's outgoing traits endearing. Plus, he couldn't bring himself to pull Chuck away from anyone. The guy after all, was on an entirely new planet. He would probably be the same way. Truth be told, Lem found Chuck's sheepish, apologetic smile at the end of a long conversation worth the waiting. He was wordlessly forgiven. (Though, Lem wouldn't admit to this, even if you had a gun to his head.)
However, while Lem could wait a while in a store for Chuck, he was finding it harder and harder to wait until he was finally out of school. 'Senioritis', Chuck had called it, laughing, when Lem voiced his impatience over ice cream one night.
"Is that some kind of disease?" Lem asked, pausing mid-bite to look worriedly at his friend.
"Not really. It's more of a mindset. People on my planet who get the jittery, cant-wait-to-leave feeling near the end of the school year, we just say they have senioritis. Even if they aren't seniors—but everyone knows seniors have it the worst. Hence the name."
"That sounds about right." Lem said, satisfied with the new term to play with.
Yes, things were working out very smoothly, considering an alien was living among Lem's family. Lem was grateful for having no problems, but he couldn't help but wonder if things would fall apart. It just seemed that whenever things were going good, another thing or force would come around and muck it up.
While Lem wondered though, he wasn't complaining. It's not often your life can feel absolutely perfect for more than a week, and he was nearing three. He just hoped for the best. Besides, he had everything he wanted, his girlfriend, a job, and his whole life already planned. And Chuck seemed set too.
What could happen?
"Prom is soon," announced Lem, picking up a stray flier and handing it at Skiff. "Can you believe it?"
"Yes," Skiff answered simply. "I can. It's too bad I'll never get a date. I'll be that kid standing by the punch table, stealing all the snacks."
"There will be other lonely people by the snacks." Lem pointed out. "You could bond with them."
"I guess," Skiff sighed idly, "It would still be nice to have a date though."
"Get one then. How about Starh? Or Miggie? They seem sweet and I don't think they have dates yet."
"I don't think I'd be able to ask them. And I don't think they would anyway…"
"Sure they would…try Miggie first. Just, very politely start a conversation. Then ask if she wants to go with you."
"Easier said than done!" Skiff burst. "Since when have I been able to get a date!"
"That one time, you took Vyra on a date. It didn't end well but…anyway, I'm sure it won't be that difficult, Skiff. You're overreacting...just ask someone."
"Who would go with me?" Skiff exclaimed, throwing his hands up, and knocking his wrist into a locker. "Ouch," he hissed, before continuing. "In case you haven't noticed Lem, too many people are afraid to be around me, afraid they'll catch the weird or something."
"I don't think they're necessarily afraid, Skiff, maybe they just don't know how to handle you."
"Well my point still stands that nobody wants to be around me! The only person I can think of that would want to hang around me other than you is Eckle, or Rover! And I don't need to go into how many levels of wrong those options are."
"No," Lem made a face. "I could ask Neera if she has a friend. Then we could go together. Like a double date."
"Nooo…" Skiff groaned. "That's even more pathetic than not getting a date! I think I'll just go ahead and work that night. By then the shipments of the new 'Megogar Galactic' might be in, and I can just read while I unpack those."
"Well Skiff, it's still a little less than two months away. You have time to figure it out. You're welcome to hang out with us."
"No, just…I don't think I'll go. The last thing I want to be is a cock-block."
"Okay then." Lem held up his hands. "I still think you should brave a try at asking someone out. Don't chicks come into the comic store? Surely they would be interested."
"Yeah, right! I doubt any of them would be interested."
A loud, red bell above the paused boys rang shrilly, and the two cursed.
"Fuck it…" Lem sighed, picking up his bag. "I'm already forgetting that we're still in school. These last two months suck."
"And it's only fourth period." Skiff began to walk off to his class. "Hey," he paused, turning back to Lem. "You wanna hang out tonight?"
"Tomorrow maybe?" Lem looked at him apologetically. "I'm watching a movie with Neera tonight."
"Alright man. It's fine." With that, the friends retreated opposite ways down the hall to face the rest of the day.
That night, about 5 minutes before Neera was set to arrive, Lem opened his sleepy eyes, and took a gander at the clock. With a surprised yelp, he jumped out of bed and began the scramble to clean his room. He had fallen asleep reading a science magazine, and upon waking up, realized what a disaster his room was; and that he had a very limited amount of time to fix it. There were clothes strewn on the floor and crumbs floating aimlessly on the hardwood. He hastily grabbed the clothes, throwing them in his hamper, and immediately set to vacuuming the crumbs. There were a bunch of Chuck's candy bar wrappers on the floor from when they had their late night chats. Lem stared at them for only a moment, wondering if they were vacuum safe, and sucked them up anyway.
"Hey Lem," Chuck opened the door to his room, watching the frantic boy run around. "You didn't forget about your date, did you?"
"No," Lem panted. "I fell asleep."
Chuck laughed at him. "Okay then. Your mom wants me to go to the store. Need me to pick anything up for you guys?"
"No, everything is taken care of. Thanks."
"Alright. You two play nice." He teased, and with a grin and a wink, Chuck whisked away from the bedroom, down the hallway. On his way down the stairs, he bumped into Neera on her way up.
"Hi Chuck!" She engaged him in a friendly hug.
"Hey Neera! How you doin'?"
"Other than the 'senioritis'," Neera placed air quotes around the Earthling vocabulary word. "I'm doing great!"
"Good to hear."
"Hey Chuck, by the way, my brother asked if you could drop by the house later."
"Sure I can."
"Thanks. Sorry he's all over you all the time." Neera gave him a grateful look.
"He's a cute kid. I don't mind." Chuck said. He wouldn't admit that it was a major ego boost to be admired and liked by Eckle and his flock of fan club members, even if they were just kids. "Hey, I'm just about to head to the store, so you have fun with Green-Bean."
"Alright Chuck. Have a safe walk!" Neera gave him a small wave goodbye, as Chuck went to retrieve Carol's grocery list.
"Thanks for having me over tonight Lem!" Neera said sweetly, taking a pack of snacks out of her bag. "And you know, if you want to watch something else that's fine."
"No, it's fine," Lem popped the film into the player and glanced shyly at his girlfriend. "I don't mind."
Neera smiled at him, with that smile that constantly dazzled him. He felt the corners of his mouth pull up, his face feeling hot.
"I'm going to use the restroom before we start. Be right back." She said to him, after a long moment. Lem nodded as she left the room, and allowed himself another giddy smile. He still couldn't believe it. The girl of his dreams…
After hitting the store, Chuck went to Neera's house to see Eckle. He was with him for over an hour—the excitable boy insisted Chuck read him a bedtime story about aliens invading in his 'alien invader voice'. Of course, this had only riled up Eckle more—so Chuck did the first thing that came to mind to put him to sleep. He started telling Eckle about how each ship part worked, something that even bored him to some degree. Eckle tried to stay with him, but sure enough, Eckle was on his way to dreamland in less than fifteen minutes.
By the time Chuck got back to the house, Lem's parents had gone to bed already. Chuck quietly put the groceries into their designated cabinets, and snagged himself a large purple fruit called 'Paros' that he had come to love, for dinner.
He briefly wondered if Lem was still on his 'date', as he ambled up the stairs. He didn't have to think on it for long though—as he passed Lem's doorway, he glimpsed him and Neera cuddling close, their eyes fixated on the screen. Their fingers curled together loosely, resting on Lem's lap.
As Chuck passed, he swallowed, feeling somewhat dizzy.
Back in his room, he sat by the window and dug into his paros fruit, eating halfheartedly, a newfound pit in his stomach making him not as hungry as before. He looked at all the stars in the sky, and wondered if he was feeling homesick. 'But,' he thought. 'I felt right at home playing with Eckle, and putting away groceries for Carol.' It was only when he saw Lem and Neera, that his stomach began to churn…
Feeling uneasy, and somehow unwilling to think, he turned on the small television in the corner of his temporary room, and attempted to find something to watch. He finally settled on a history channel, one of which had become his favorite in the past month. They were talking about Planet 51 mythology, which turned out to be just as crazy as Earth's. Ironically, Chuck already knew the story they were talking about. Lem had told him about it last week.
"…So Yulie took the knife and slashed her father's throat. She took his fresh blood in a jar, and disappeared into the night, to return to her house and perform the ritual that would bring her baby brother back."
"WHHAAAT?" Chuck exclaimed, a bit too loudly, and Lem shushed him, and they both listened, waited for a sign that they had once again woken Lem's parents. But nothing came. Chuck smiled slyly at Lem and waved half a Twix at him. Lem laughed quietly, and accepted it. "This story blows. Tell me a better one." He demanded.
"You're such a picky asshole." Lem muttered incredulously.
"It's pronounced as-tro-naut. Good gosh, how many times do I have to tell you?"
"Do you want a love story, then?" Lem mocked.
"Sure," Chuck looked thoughtful. "Does it involve restrictive parents and rebellious lovers?"
"Somewhat. Why? Do you have something like that in your planets mythology?"
"Pyramus and Thisbe. I'll tell you about them another time. Now, what about yours?"
"It's somewhat of a less dramatic story. Though I will say it doesn't end well. Their names are Lyria and Marthius." Lem started. "And they met one day when Lyria went to the river to get water for her family. Lyria's parents, like all the other parents of the town, had not ever let her go to the river, because they were afraid of the water spirit that supposedly dwelt there."
At this point, Chuck raised his hand, biting the inside of his lip ever so slightly. Lem eyed him exasperatedly, knowing the look already. "What?"
"Was she hot?"
"Chuck," Lem threatened halfheartedly. "Do you want to hear this or not?"
Chuck smiled, leaning back on the wall compliantly. "Sorry. Proceed."
"The people of the town only sent their oldest sons to the river," Lem began again. "But this week, Lyria's older brother was out of town. Her other brother was only five and her father had fallen ill. Her mother sent her to collect water so she could watch over her husband. She warned her many times, 'Do not dawdle. Do not talk to ANYBODY. Get the water and hurry back. The water spirit would surely try to hurt a beautiful girl like you."
"So she IS hot." Chuck interjected, earning a glare from Lem.
"So Lyria went to the river and quickly collected her water. She turned to leave, but she stopped when she saw a boy sitting on the riverbank in a patch of flowers that always bloomed there. He was a bluer green than her, or anyone else she had ever seen. She wanted to say hello, but was weary because of her mother's warnings. Just then, the boy turned and smiled at her, and his eyes were the bluest and kindest she had ever seen. She smiled back, nervous, but also enthralled by his beauty. Instead of saying something, she forced herself to look away, and went home. As she walked she turned to look back at him, but he was gone.
"Was that the water spirit?" Chuck asked.
"Duh." Lem replied, sounding annoyed.
"Legitimate question," Chuck held up a finger. "Why did the townspeople not like him?"
"Well many years before, he actually drowned few people. He didn't mean to exactly. He didn't understand the concept that they could not breathe under water. He eventually understood, and was careful, but the townspeople began to mistrust him. As generations went on, the stories escalated, until it was said that he tricked and murdered anyone he crossed paths with. Truth is, he was just lonely, and a bit misguided in the beginning."
"If they were so scared of him, why didn't they just use another river?"
"There were no others for many many miles." He explained. Chuck nodded, and Lem continued with the story.
"The next day, Lyria's family needed more water. She was sent once again, her mother a little less weary. She warned her nevertheless, and Lyria set off. When she got there, she looked around, but did not see the boy. Discouraged, she gathered her water, and turned to leave, but out of the corner of her eye, she saw him again, in the same patch of flowers. He smiled at her, and she smiled back, and this time, she went up to him."
""Hello," She said. "I'm Lyria.""
""I'm Marthius," the boy replied. "Won't you sit and talk with me?" he picked a flower from where he sat and offered it to her. Lyria was nervous, but calmed by the spirits' gentle demeanor. She accepted the flower and sat with him. They talked for a long time, until Lyria realized how long she had been gone. Her mother would be worried. Marthius was sad to see her go, but she promised him she would be back tomorrow. And she was."
"It went like this for six months. Lyria realized that Marthius was simply lonely—not conniving or murderous like she had been told all her life…and Marthius finally had a companion. It was in this way, the two fell in love. But it wasn't meant to last long. A love that would be that frowned upon just couldn't. One day, when Lyria went to see Marthius, he told her that after she had left the previous day, a group of spirit hunters came, to try and capture him, as they do every once in a while. It made him evaluate something he had been forcing to the back of his mind for a long time."
""Lyria," he said gently to her. "We can't be together. I am a spirit. Your people will never accept me. And I could never give you the life another being like you could give. Thank you, for being with me for this long. This is the happiest I've ever been, but it's time that you started working towards your own happiness.""
"Lyria begged him not to leave. But, helpless, she could only watch as he walked into the water, and disintegrated into it. She rushed over to the edge and dipped her fingertips in. "Marthius," she cried. "Please come back!" But Marthius did not return. In her grief, she threw herself into the river, and there she drowned."
Lem frowned upon finishing. "Chuck," he deadpanned. "Are you crying?"
"Hell no!" he blinked furiously. "I just have to sneeze…"
Chuck watched as representative pictures flashed on the screen of the two, and then the episode ended, in favor of something Chuck had already seen twice. Dejectedly, he turned off the TV and curled into bed, allowing his mind to wander as he fell asleep. He thought about Lyria and Marthius, and Pyramus and Thisbe. He even thought a bit about crazy Yulie. And he thought about Lem, too.
And he couldn't shake that feeling he had felt earlier when he saw Lem and Neera holding hands, no matter how hard he tried. Dizzy. Irate. Distressed.
-End chapter 1-
Important authors note: If you've read this far, thank you for staying and reading! I'm honestly nervous as ever to post this. This idea has been circulating with me ever since last summer…so almost a year. Just now, after dozens of checks and nit-picking, I'm posting it. Anyway, point is, I may be slow with updates, if you choose to watch this story. (Though of course, hopefully not as long as it took me to start!)
That being said, any feedback would be very greatly appreciated. Tell me if you think I need to improve on a certain aspect of my style, or on the characterization of any of the characters.