C H A P T E R 5
L U N C H
T’kri, as Eyrin finds, is remarkably fond of soft things. At least, judging by the way they crawl into bed and swaddle themself in all the blankets once Eyrin’s done showing them around the guest room.
Despite himself, Eyrin finds it oddly… endearing.
Come on, Eyrin, he thinks to himself. They’re an alien that might cause the end of the world. You’re being ridiculous.
Regardless, he tells T’kri to get some rest and goes back to his own business. Not that he has that much business at the moment. He could go back to working on the radio, or maybe… he could try drawing again. It’s been a while since he last drew anything.
Eyrin sits himself on a beanbag next to the glass windows overlooking the lake, tablet in hand. It’s partially cloudy—thick enough to keep the sun’s rays from reaching the shifting waters of the lake, but sparse enough that he can see the light gleaming in the thinner gaps. He pries the stylus away from the side of the tablet, pulling up his drawing application.
What to draw, though? After a moment of contemplation, Eyrin finds his thoughts drifting to T’kri. Their original form, that is—sleek and with its own alien beauty, unlike anything on Earth. He wonders what they would look like without being bogged down by injuries, exhaustion, anything else. He wonders what they would look like standing tall—and how do they stand, anyways? On all six of their arms? Only the back four?
Maybe.. Eyrin could draw them lying down. Or sitting. He sketches a simple serpentine form with its back facing the viewer, sitting in some undefined space. He can’t recall how many spines T’kri has—maybe four? And then the three at the tail end. The luminescent markings he haphazardly guesses the placement of.
He starts adding tone, volume, shading. The sketch becomes a painting, and he loses himself in the curves and strokes, letting time slip away, letting all his doubts and worries fade to the back of his mind. There is nothing else for this span of time, and oh, how he’s missed this. He hasn’t had anything inspiring for weeks.
Eyrin’s only pulled out of his haze when there’s a surprised sound behind him. Instinctively, he holds his tablet to his chest, jerking his head towards the sound to see—T’kri, leaning over him, hands folded behind their back.
They blink at Eyrin’s sudden movement, straightening. “You… draw,” they say. “And you were drawing… me?”
Eyrin bites his lip. It’s not the first time he’s drawn someone he thought looked pretty, and usually he’d ask but be too shy to share it afterwards anyway. Sometimes he does, though, and this time… he gives a small nod.
“May I see?” T’kri asks, tilting their head.
Eyrin nods again and then lifts the tablet from his chest, angling it so T’kri can look. They bend down further, lowering themself to their knees. “Hmm,” they hum over Eyrin’s shoulder. “It is quite good. Most of the details are correct, and aesthetically, I do find it rather pleasing.”
“Ah… thanks,” Eyrin mumbles before hiding the screen on his chest again.
“Why do you hide it?” T’kri pulls away, and Eyrin can see them tilt their head out of the corner of his eye. “There is no shame in an artistic pursuit. Many on Srykta do pursue it as a leisure activity.”
“I’m not ashamed, I’m just—shy,” Eyrin manages. He looks up, then, to meet T’kri’s eyes. “Srykta? Is that your planet?”
“Yes,” they answer. “The name of which is approximated using the sounds of your language, of course. It is the home planet to myself and my kind, which you can refer to as… hm… ‘Sryktorians.’”
“Sryktorians,” Eyrin repeats, testing the sound on his tongue. “I see.” He locks his tablet screen, sinking into his seat. Only to straighten a moment later with a realization: “Oh, do you need anything?”
“Ah. Yes, well. I wished to ask if you had any sustenance I could partake of…?” Their tone lifts in a question as they tilt their head slightly.
Eyrin blinks slowly. “I…. completely forgot about showing you, didn’t I.” He sighs and stands, stretching his arms out with a quiet, “Mmm.” He tosses his tablet onto the beanbag before gesturing towards the hall leading to the kitchen. “The kitchen’s this way. Follow me, please.”
T’kri nods, and Eyrin makes his way to the kitchen. He can hear the soft padding sounds of T’kri’s socked feet hitting the floor as they follow Eyrin down the hall.
The kitchen is fairly spacious and modern, just like the rest of Eyrin’s house. A full-length window with a view of the lake takes up one side of the room. Cabinets line the wall left of the entrance, and the kitchen counter starts on the right and goes around to the other side of the room, surrounding an island with a stovetop. About a third of the room is taken up by the dining area to the left, consisting of a glass table with two black metal chairs, each with a cushion on the seat.
Once they get inside, Eyrin shows T’kri where he keeps all his snacks, his frozen food, his pots and pans—anything they might need. “I could show you how to cook some things, too? I mean, I have to cook lunch at some point—” Eyrin glances at the digital clock in the kitchen and smiles wryly, “—which is now. So you can just watch?”
T’kri nods again, and Eyrin stands awkwardly for a moment before going through his cabinets to find something to cook. He figures spaghetti is easy enough—he just needs to boil the noodles and throw some sauce on top. He likes to cook the sauce sometimes, too, but there are days during which he is just too lazy for that. Today is one of those days.
He fills a pot with water and sets it on the stove to boil, before he gestures to the dining table. “It’ll take a bit to boil, so we can just sit for a bit.”
Another nod from T’kri. It doesn’t seem like they talk much when they don’t need to. So, without another word, Eyrin pulls out one of the chairs at the dining table and sits down; T’kri shortly follows suit.
The alien sits perfectly straight while Eyrin pillows his head on his arms, looking somewhere off to the side. Mostly so he’s not staring awkwardly at T’kri. He feels like they don’t have the same reservations—Eyrin can almost feel their gaze burning into him.
Luckily, it isn’t long before he hears the water start to boil. “I’m going to add the noodles,” Eyrin mumbles and slides out of his seat to do so. He gets rather absorbed in estimating the amount of noodles he wants to use from the box, eventually ending up deciding to use half of it. He dumps it in the pot and grabs a set of chopsticks to jab at it until it’s all submerged, and then he tells the kitchen clock to set a timer for eight minutes.
“Timer set for eight minutes,” it replies obediently, and Eyrin backs away from the stove—only to bump into a very solid body. He feels hands land on his biceps, and he realizes that he just backed up into T’kri. “I—sorry,” he says, quickly stepping away and turning around. “I didn’t notice you there.”
T’kri hums, letting their hands fall back to their sides. “No harm was done. My apologies if I startled you.” They walk closer to the stove, watching the pot bubble as the noodles are cooked. “It seems humans have many different ways of preserving food… this is dried, I presume?”
“I guess?” Eyrin stands next to T’kri, also watching the surface of the water churn violently. “Never thought about it that much. What’s food like for you?”
“I suppose calling us vegetarians would not be incorrect,” T’kri says. “On our home planet, many types of vegetation can be eaten raw or cooked. Our ancestors hunted, but we are far beyond those times now. Seeing as we do not have much of a sense of taste, it only matters for us to get the nutrients we need—many of us, particularly those of us who travel the galaxies, use nutrient vials instead—supplements, essentially, that can power both our biological and augmented functions.”
“That’s… fascinating.” Eyrin laces his hands behind his back. “Do you have those with you? Or were those on your ship?”
T’kri nods. “I do have them with me—we can carry small objects internally. However, consuming them while I am not in my natural form can cause unpredictable issues, as I am mimicking the biology of different creatures while I am shapeshifted.”
“Oh.” That’s inconvenient. “Would it be better for you to be in your actual form in general?”
This earns him a huff. “Of course. In very few situations would it be physically better for me to assume a form besides my own.”
“Then why don’t you just…” Eyrin gestures at them vaguely. “You know, take your natural form?”
T’kri raises an eyebrow at him. “I believe there would be other issues for me to walk around as an alien entity on your planet.”
It’s at this moment that the timer rings, and Eyrin calls out, “Timer, off.” The tone ends, and then Eyrin murmurs, “Excuse me,” as he sidles closer to the pot.
T’kri blinks. “Excuse you for… ah, I see,” they say, and then step aside so Eyrin has full access to the stove.
Huh. That might’ve been one of the first times T’kri was tripped up by a language thing. For having learned it yesterday, they know how to use it quite well. Eyrin puts the thought out of his mind, though, as he attends to the food. He grabs some towels to protect himself from the hot handles, puts on the pot’s cover, and drains the water in the kitchen sink on the counter. Then, he pulls out two plates, using the same chopsticks he used earlier to split the noodles onto them, before grabbing a jar of marinara sauce in his cabinet, struggling with the lid briefly, and dumping a generous amount of sauce onto the plates. He goes to grab another set of chopsticks before thinking better of it and grabbing a fork instead, jabbing it into one of the jumbles of noodles. That done, he makes his way to the table.
Eyrin sets the plates down before taking a seat, and T’kri joins him at the table. “This is probably one of the easiest options for a somewhat proper meal,” Eyrin says. “I have instant ramen, too, but that doesn't really count.”
“You can eat whatever food you want, really.” Eyrin shrugs, using his chopsticks to lift up a bunch of spaghetti. “Not like I’m hurting for money or anything. If you want to know how to cook something, you can ask me or I can show you how to use the internet. Do you have something like the internet—?” He stops when he realizes T’kri is blinking at him, eyes wide with what he can only assume is bewilderment. “Oh, sorry. Is there something you’re confused about?”
T’kri blinks again. “I… yes. Why… ‘hurt for money’?”
“Oh. That’s a figure of speech,” Eyrin explains. “If I’m hurting for money, it means that I’m in need of money. It’s a bit like an emotional hurt.” He lifts the spaghetti into his mouth.
“I see.” T’kri pulls their arms onto the table from where they were folded in their lap. “Regarding ‘internet’… we do have something similar, yes. A network of information. Augments can access it in their minds directly.”
Eyrin nods, swallowing his mouthful. “Huh. Do you think your technology could interact with ours?”
“With a bit of work, I do not doubt it. For now, it may be best for me to interact with your technology using more primitive interfaces.”
Interesting. Eyrin hums in acknowledgement, and then goes back to his spaghetti. T’kri watches him for a bit longer before noting, “The utensils you use are different.”
“Oh, yeah,” Eyrin says, lifting up his left hand to make a grabbing motion with his chopsticks. “These are chopsticks, which I use a lot since it’s what I’m used to, my family always used them. They’re commonly used in… I think East, South, and Southeast Asian countries? If that means anything to you.” He gathers more spaghetti as he speaks. “Forks are more common in Western cultures, and I figure they’re more straightforward and would be easier to use for you.”
“I would be able to replicate your movements, having seen them,” T’kri says, “but I suppose I have used the fork before. I will attempt your chopsticks next time. Generally, it would be easier for me if there are opportunities to replicate your actions.”
Eyrin’s not sure that confidence comes from actual ability to copy Eyrin or—actually, it probably makes sense that they can, considering they’re human-shaped and not flailing around in a confused lack of motor coordination.
“As for the ‘countries’ you speak of,” T’kri continues, “I believe I have absorbed sufficient knowledge to understand to an extent, though my own society has no such divisions within our species’ civilization.”
“Huh.” That sounds… nice? Maybe? To have that kind of unity would probably make running society easier, at least.
T’kri then proceeds to pick up their fork and attempt to stab a bunch of the noodles. They lift it up, mildly successful in acquiring some of the sauce-coated noodles.
“Oh, uh,” Eyrin gestures vaguely towards their fork. “It’s sometimes easier if you twist the fork around. Might be able to get more of the noodles that way.”
T’kri nods, lowering their fork and making a second attempt, this time twirling their fork, and succeeds in getting more of the spaghetti. They then try to stick it in their mouth with some success—but not without getting a trail of sauce on their chin. “This is… messy,” T’kri says around the noodles, before chewing them slowly with a deeply ponderous look.
Eyrin chuckles a bit. “I guess it’ll take some getting used to, huh?” He grabs a napkin from the holder on the table and holds it out to T’kri. “You can use this to wipe it off.”
“Oh. Yes. Thank you.” They take it and proceed to do so before fully swallowing their mouthful. “This is… I think it is good. I like the eggs and bacon more, however.”
Eyrin gives a breathy laugh. “Yeah, me too. It’s not as healthy, though.” He pauses. “Not that pasta is really healthy.”
The rest of the lunch is fairly quiet, and T’kri quickly learns how to eat spaghetti without making a mess of themself. Eyrin then shows them how to wash the dishes, and they copy Eyrin’s movements rather exactly as they sponge their plate clean, rinse it off, and slot it right next to Eyrin’s on the drying rack.
“Are you going back to sleep now?” Eyrin asks as he’s toweling his hands dry.
T’kri hums. “Yes, I believe I shall. Thank you for your hospitality.”
Eyrin turns around to see T’kri bowing their head at him, shortly followed by them raising their head. “It’s… just being decent,” Eyrin says, looking away. “Not like I’d leave you to die. Or starve. Or get captured and experimented on or killed.”
There’s a touch on his head, and he jumps slightly, surprised. He jerks his head up to meet T’kri’s eyes, only to get a sudden feeling of warmth and—gratitude. And, somehow, wordlessly: you are very kind. You do far more than necessary.
Eyrin blinks, dazed, and T’kri moves their hands to Eyrin’s arms to stabilize him. “Wh…” Eyrin starts, “What was that?”
“We can directly transmit thoughts and emotions,” T’kri explains. They’re very close—Eyrin can make out the details in their eyes, steely blue with streaks of lighter shades that almost seem to almost glimmer in the afternoon light. “The purest method of communication for our kind.”
“Oh.” Eyrin blinks, gathering himself. “You’re… welcome,” he eventually says.
T’kri watches him for a moment longer before nodding. Then they let him go and pad away, moving down the hall.
Eyrin feels oddly bereft. Is he that touch-starved? He raises his arms to hug himself, right where T’kri held him.
It doesn’t feel the same.