by Atira Kei
Sometimes it is a subtle thing...
a thing created in spite of reason
rather than because of it...
It was a mistake. He knew it as soon as he walked into the squad room. They were all staring at him. Human and Newcomer. They all knew. Every single one of them; and they were just waiting for the shit to hit the fan.
"Good morning, Matt."
Sikes nodded in response, refusing to look up. Dammit, I'm ashamed! Why? I didn't do anything to be ashamed of! Did I?
"Matthew? Anything wrong?"
George Francisco's voice was soft, concerned. Matthew started fiddling with his CRT. "I'm okay, George. Just a little tired. Didn't get a lot of sleep last night."
"Are you ill?"
"No, George. I'm fine." His fingers hit the keyboard a little harder. "I was just a little distracted." He stopped, shocked by the words that had tumbled out. He wasn't handling this well at all.
"Matthew, something's happened." A statement of fact. The Newcomer leaned closer to his partner. "Was it Cathy? Did you two--"
"No, it wasn't Cathy!" Matthew shouted, then regretted it as every head turned in his direction. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one older man approach, an unwelcome grin spreading across the rounded face. Detective Alan Meiers, the oldest man in the unit. When he wasn't planning out his retirement six month ago from now, he was making Matthew's life hell by keeping old rumors alive.
"What's the matter, Francisco? Havin' trouble waking your partner up this morning? Not surprised." He stopped by Sike's desk. "He probably got a little... busy last night, eh guy?"
"Go to hell, Meiers!"
Meiers casually sipped at his coffee. "You know, I was out last night. Just getting a sandwich from around the corner." He bent, bringing his face closer to the younger man. "Wanna know what I saw?"
Matthew's heart pounded. Dammit, he saw us! "I don't know what you're talking about."
"I'm talking about your and your boyfriend, Matty," he whispered evenly. "I saw you two comin' out of that new *Batman* movie." He grinned, giving Sikes an all-knowing wink. "Was it any good, or were you two too busy to notice..."
"Shut up!" Matthew ignored the surprised expression on George's face as he glared at the older detective. "You don't know shit!"
"Don't I?" Meiers straightened. "I remember when that sla- When that guy came in here last month. He was ready to fuck you into the floor then!"
Francisco's voice was quiet, but full of warning. Meiers hesitated, staring at the alien with contempt. "This isn't your fight. Stay out of it."
George's face hardened, his hand rested on Matthew's shoulder. "He's my friend."
"What... this pansy?" Meiers looked him up and down. "Heard you guys had no sense of morals. Heard the ladies got it all over you men, even making you have their babies for them."
It was the wrong thing to say. George started to look away, ready to ignore the narrow-minded human. But Matthew launched himself, throwing Meiers to the ground, punching him once in the face before George and another Newcomer were able to pull him off. "God-damn son of a bitch!" he screamed, struggling against the hold they had on him. "Let me go!"
"You're crazy, Sikes!" Meiers nursed a bloody nose as he picked himself up off the floor. "Out of your mind!"
Matthew yanked himself free, eyes scanning those around him. Humans and Newcomers were gathering, expressions of disgust forming on their faces. He turned. George was behind him, hands ready to grab him again, the same expression on his face. It was all over. "Dammit!"
"No!" Fear and self-loathing was all consuming. Sikes ran, plowing through anyone who stood between him and the exit. He had to get away.
A new voice... a familiar voice. Matthew saw the Newcomer standing in front of him. Marvin Gardens. He skidded to a halt. "Get away from me!" he cried out, backing away. "Just get out!"
Marvin took a step forward, then stopped, confusion warring with concern. "Matthew, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Nothing!" Matthew continued to move away. "I don't want to see you! Get out of here!"
He ran again, in the opposite direction. But there was no way out, not without going through the squad room again. In desperation, he turned into the men's room, stopping only when he met the white tiled wall. Breathing hard, he slowly sank to the cold, hard floor, drawing his knees up against his chest, hoping some crazed escapee from lock-up would find him and put him out of his misery.
The door swung open slowly. Soft footsteps entered. Matthew tensed, too scared to look up and see who it was.
George. //Go away, George. Fun's over!//
"Are you all right?"
//Yeah, George, I'm fine. Can't you tell?// He shook his head.
The other presence drew closer, knelt before him. "Meiers is in Grazer's office."
"Does he want me there, too?" Sikes asked, still holding his head against his legs. He didn't want to face anyone, least of all his superior, but if Grazer ordered it...
"No, he wanted you to go home."
"No, Matt. Meiers is. He provoked it."
"Yeah, but I gave into it."
"You had reason. Grazer heard all of it."
Great! Just great! "Bet he did. Now everyone knows."
"Knows what I am."
"I don't understand. What do you think you are?"
"Didn't you hear?" Matthew brought his head up, looking up at George, surprised by the compassion he saw there... or was it pity? "I'm gay, George... a freakin' homosexual!" His eyes widened as the other's expression remained unchanged. "Doesn't that bother you?"
"Should it?" George turned himself, sitting cross-legged on the floor, facing his friends. "Why should it bother me if you prefer intimate relations with someone of your own gender?"
"Because..." Matthew sighed, clenching his hands into fists. "Because it's not normal! I'm suppose to like women!"
"Don't you? You like Cathy... and Susan..."
"Jesus, don't be dense! You know what I mean."
"Yes I do, Matthew." The tone was quiet and gentle. "Some of us had... problems when we started living among humans. Our choice of companionship was sometimes scorned and ridiculed because of strong opinions humans have about what is male and what is female. At first, we thought it was something inherent in being human. But later we learned that it was cultural, a restriction imposed upon the general population no matter what an individual's natural desire might be."
Matthew took a moment, considering the words, his thoughts and emotions wandering. "So you really don't care?"
"I care that you're so upset... that Meiers was able to hurt you with something so natural..." Pause "Matthew, what he said about Marvin. Is it true?"
Sikes stiffened as the name was spoken. He bowed his head, his cheeks burning. Fleeting images came and went from his mind. "Yeah. He and I went to a movie last night."
"I thought you didn't want to see him."
"I didn't--" Matthew shifted uncomfortably. "Look, I don't want to talk about it. Okay?"
"What happened last night?" George insisted.
"You had sex with him."
"We made love!" Matthew corrected before he realized what he was saying. "Shit!"
"You love him?"
"Dammit, George, I said I didn't want to talk about it!"
"Were you hurt? Was he?"
Images wafted through Matthew's mind; memories from the night before. Two men faced each other, totally nude, each alien to the other. At first, they touched with gentle curiosity, seeking to know what would pleasure the other. But soon the touches became caresses. Contact and controlled passion followed. He'd always wondered what it was about humming that excited them. Now he understood. But it wasn't right. He had done it for all the wrong reasons, and with the wrong person. And it was too late to undo the damage. "It was good, George," he said finally, breaking the silence. "I'm fine."
There was a release of breath... relief. "Matthew, Marvin is outside in the lobby, very upset. He thinks he hurt you."
Matthew let out a laugh, a hollow, painful sound. "Hurt me!" His eyes met George's. "He didn't hurt me! I've hurt him! And he doesn't even realize it yet!"
Lines appeared on the Newcomer's face, creasing together in puzzlement. "What are you talking about?"
"The sardinac, George. Don't you remember? That stuff started this, got him hooked on me. You know, the aphrodisiac of the century? I tried to keep him away, tried to make him understand. But he just kept showing up at my doorstep. He was in so much pain... So I made a deal with him. Told him he could visit until the stuff wore off, but that we couldn't... do it."
Matthew stared at him in amazement. "Why! Because we'd be bonded! Cathy said--"
"You've talked to Cathy about this?"
"Yeah... when it all started." She asked if we'd had sex, too... All very casual, like she knew... "She said if we had sex, we'd be bonded permanently. I didn't want that. It wasn't right. Not for me, and not for him. So we just hung out together. Got him hooked to the Three Stooges." Matthew smiled, remembering the sound of Marvin's laughter, the comfortable feeling he began to have each time the Newcomer came, the one time he actually missed the other's presence when unexpected work kept them apart one weekend.
"After awhile, I got used to him being around."
"You fell in love."
Matthew shrugged. "I guess. He's not a bad guy. We have a lot in common. I mean, it's almost like we don't have to talk to each other. We just know." He stared at his fingers. "But it was just the drug, George. It wasn't real. I know that. But now I've committed him. When I woke up this morning... I could feel him here!" Matthew tapped his chest. "That's the bonding, isn't it?"
George raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Yes, that's a common feeling when bonding has taken place." He scrutinized the human. "Tell me, do you feel him now?"
Sikes started at him, then concentrated on himself. Deep inside, he felt a mixture of anguish and confusion. Not his own feelings, but Marvin's. "Yeah. He's upset." Matthew shook his head, clearing it. "Is that how it is, George? Is that how it is with you and Susan?"
"No. Most of us never reach that level, not without the sardinac. And even then it's artificial. There's never a true sharing."
"But how come--"
"I don't know. The human word is empathy. As a race, we seem to be more empathic than humans, some more than others. The stronger the ability, the greater the bonding will be. But, Matt, you have a saying that goes: it takes two to tango."
"Meaning that I'm psychic or something?"
George smiled a little. "You have a 'sixth sense', Matthew. I've noticed it many times."
"Then there's nothing I can do." The detective rubbed his face, forcing back tears that threatened. He was tired and angry. Angry at himself. "I've committed him."
"Committed him? You make it sound as if no one would *want* to be committed to you. Ever since I've known you, you've been like this. Reaching out to others, but drawing back if they should reach out to you." George grasped Sikes' arm, squeezing lightly. "Why?"
The human shut his eyes and tried to pull, away, but the hold on him only firmed, allowing no escape. Matthew sighed. George wanted an answer, and he deserved one. "It's just a lot of bad baggage. When you get the crap beaten out of you every other day and told you're not worth shit all the time, you start to believe it."
"You father?" George asked, remembering several remarks the younger man had let slip over the past months.
"Yeah." Bastard's been lying half-dead in a coma for twenty-five years and still he can touch me.
"I'm truly sorry, Matthew. But why deny yourself now? Marvin care for you--"
"It's the drug!" Sikes yelled. "It's only the god-damned drug! He doesn't give a shit about me! It was all a mistake. He was there to see that woman, not me! He doesn't want me!"
"How do you know that?"
Matthew heard the question, but the voice was very different. Marvin was here. He could sense his presence.
"Matthew, answer me."
The human withdrew, letting his universe narrow up. He didn't want to face this. He couldn't. Beside him, George moved, his hand briefly brushed the side of Sikes' head, trying to reassure. There were words - alien words - spoken between his partner and his lover. He couldn't understand, not all of it, but the tone was calm, almost soothing. Then George touched him once more before going, leaving them alone. Matthew remained still, preparing himself for what might come next.
"Poor ba'shu," Marvin whispered softly. "I never knew."
"You won't even look at me. Have I hurt you so much?"
"You're not to blame."
"I am if you think what I feel for you has anything to do with the sardinac."
Matthew sensed truth in that statement and raised his head. Marvin stood, hands on hips, studying him closely. A feeling fluttered from his stomach to his groin. "You can't want me," he insisted.
"I do." Marvin knelt in front of him, both hands coming up to brush back Matthew's hair. His warm fingers grazed over Sykes' temples.
Matthew closed his eyes, groaning as a small shock passed through his body. "Marvin."
"Shhh..." The Newcomer's fingers continued to stroke lightly. "Relax. Doesn't it feel good? I'm told most humans don't react to this at all. Only the sensitive ones..."
"Stop!" Matthew grabbed the other's wrists, holding them away, ending the torture before he could fall under its spell.
"Why? Because it's not real?" Marvin easily pulled his hands away. "The sardinac is gone, Matt. It wore off almost two weeks ago. What we feel for each other is very real."
Shocked, Matthew could only stare. "What? How do you know it's gone? I mean--"
Marvin smiled. "It's gone, ba'shu. Gone."
"but you were at a woman's apartment. You were--"
"I was desperate for contact, Matthew. I didn't care who I had that contact with." Marvin looked away. "I had a... companion on the Ship. He and I.. were bonded. But he didn't survive. Until a month ago, I'd been lost, not really caring about anything, or anyone."
Sikes felt an overwhelming grief pass through Marvin into himself. Without thought, he caressed the other's cheek. "I had someone, too, after I got divorced. We were together awhile, then there was an earthquake. He was driving on the freeway when it collapsed..."
Marvin winced, as if he were witnessing the sight of tons of concrete and steel sandwiched together. Then he blinked, focusing moist eyes on his lover. "You're a survivor, too, then."
Matthew shrugged. He was still alive. Donald's crushed remains were long buried and gone.
"I love you."
Matthew opened his mouth, ready to deny it, then stopped. He loves me. He really loves me. It's not the drug, it's him. I know it. I can feel it. "Dammit, Marvin! Why didn't you tell me the stuff had worn off?"
"I didn't think it was important." The Newcomer's hand returned to the human's head to massage the pulse points there. "We'd already started to bond. I thought you understood it then. I thought you were aware of what was happening."
"I only knew I liked having you around." Matthew groaned, caught in the sensations sweeping through him. "I only knew that I was falling in love with you."
"And that's why we bonded, ba'shu. We were open to one another, and we had the energy. That's uncommon. In fact, no one thought it was possible between Newcomers and humans."
Sikes acknowledged the statement with another moan. His body was slowly turning to fire. He caressed the soft, smooth surface of Marvin's head, letting his fingers skim over the spots, smiling as his lover responded, humming with pleasure. It was so easy. Matthew felt his groin tingle with anticipation. But then, suddenly, he gathered himself, pulling them apart. "I hate to get practical," he said, apologizing. "But I think we should get out of here. Someone's bound to come in on us."
Marvin sighed, looking around as if he suddenly realizing where they were. "You're right, ba'shu." He stood up, holding out a hand to his bonded mate. "George told me to take you home."
Home... Matthew wondered which home Marvin was referring to then realized that he didn't care. Right now, all he wanted to do was share with this man, finish what they had started last night. He nodded, tightening his grip on Marvin's hand. "By the way," he said, stopping their progress towards the door. "What's a bashu?"
"Ba'shu," Marvin corrected, pronouncing it with that subtle clicking sound common to Newcomer speech. He smiled. "On our world, it was a small, shy animal. A cross between a spider monkey and a domestic cat." A hand briefly played through the human's hair. "You remind me of one."
"Yeah?" Matthew grinned. "Does that mean I get a saucer of warm milk?"
Marvin stared at him with a blank expression fro a moment, then laughed as he understood the reference. "I think we can do better than milk, Matthew. Don't you?"