Strawberry Jamming Smiles
by Pirate Turner
He still doesn't understand why his Earthling friends look at him so strangely when he eats. Having a mouth with which to chew food and truly taste every succulent bite is a blessing that they've taken for granted for too many years now. Ax swears he'll never take it for granted. He ignores their comments and laughter as he stuffs his human face full of food and grins around the sweet cinnamon buns at the mall, the pizza at their favorite restaurant, and all the other wonderful foods he tries to share in their laughter as they tease him.
Yet, one day, he's noticed the laughter has faded. They're still taking their own mouths for granted, but now, it's as though his friends have also forgotten how to use them to talk. He knows they are in dark times, but still, they need to talk and eat. They need this communion time not just as warriors but as friends and as the family they have become to him.
He takes his time with his food, carefully chewing not to stay quiet but rather to make as much noise as he possibly can. Even smacking his fleshy lips in Marco's ear, however, doesn't bring any laughter or yelling, and at this point, Ax would be pleased with either sound. He just wants things to go back to normal, for his friends to be the same, silly, human kids they were when he first met them.
But they have changed. The world around them has changed. Ax's happy face falls, and for the first time since he's been on Earth, he's unable to take comfort even out of his favorite food, the delicious cinnamon buns whose name is almost as much fun to pronounce as they are to eat.
He doesn't notice that he has caught one of his friends' attention, however. Cassie sits across the table, boldly holding Jake's hand. When they first started to date, she worried over the looks they received, but now she doesn't care. Life is too short to go through it, holding back and away from love, out of fear of what others might think, especially when you, your beloved, and your best friends are risking your lives on a daily basis for those very same people who might condemn you.
Cassie looks around the table at the sullen faces around her. Only Ax has been smiling for the last several days, and even his smile is gone now. Rachel won't eat whereas Marco eats too much, belches loudly, and still doesn't receive a complaint. They're all stuck in their thoughts of what's about to happen, of the last battle that they will inevitably fight, of the time that will come when one of them doesn't return.
Cassie looks down at her own untouched burger and fries, still thinking. Ax has tried to get the others' attention. That's why he's been so noisy with his food. It hasn't worked, but he's right. They need to pull out of this funk. "Hey, Ax," she calls, looking up, "you enjoying those cinnamon buns?"
"Oh, yes." She can practically see his tail whipping about in glee, despite his human form. "Yes! These cin-na-a-mun bun . . . bunzuh are quite good!" He smacks his lips loudly.
Marco rolls his eyes but doesn't say anything. Rachel snorts, then turns her gaze away. Tobias' gentle squeezing of Rachel's hand doesn't go unnoticed by either girl.
"You should try this." Cassie hands Ax a French fry.
"Your fried potato strips are good, Cassie, but you know I do not particularly care for them when compared to other foods, such as the cin-nah-a-mun bunzzzzzzuh."
"I know." Cassie's beginning to smile now for she's hatched a plan that's sure to get every one's attention. "But I know how you like them too." She reaches into her pocket. "I still have some strawberry jam left from those Hardee's biscuits this morning."
She opens the packet and squeezes the jam out on a napkin. Every one's watching her now as she dips a fry into the jam and hands it to Ax. Ax eagerly accepts the fry and swallows his last bit of cinnamon buns. He grins widely. "What is that phrase you humans say?"
"Sh!" Rachel hisses, her eyes darting wildly around to make sure no one overheard him. Cassie's smile grows. It's the first sound her best friend's made in hours. "You're human, too, now, remember?"
"Oh, yes, but what is that phrase? You know what I like?"
"Dude, you're seriously not going to eat that!" Marco eyes Ax. "Are you?"
"Of course I am! These French fries in strawberry jam are delicious!"
The true humans around him sit and gawk as Ax slowly dips each fry in the jam and nibbles it down. Only Cassie isn't staring at him. She's watching the others, instead, and smiling as they groan, moan, and make other noises of disgust. Then, Marco laughs, and slowly, the others follow suit until they're all chuckling.
Cassie's eyes meet Ax's across the table. She winks at him. Ax looks confused, but then she mouths, "We did it," and he smiles. They have done it. So far, at least. Their friends are still with them, and they're still, at heart, the same kids they were when he first came to this blue planet. He swears to do all in his power to keep them that way.