I walked into the hospital bay at Alpha to find Darch sitting up and watching something on a video screen. "Hi!" I said, trying to sound cheerful. I don't know if I succeeded.
He looked up at me, then looked away. "Trianna... I don't remember much of what happened, but... "
"Darch," I said. "It's okay. Really."
"What, what happened?"
"Ember tells me that it was a small section of your brain that was damaged. The section that controlled your rage and your ability to make assessments. The part of you that reins you in, I guess. We missed it because we aren't that familiar with what a whole, adult Ritan brain looks like."
He nodded. "I'm sorry. Did I hurt you?"
I shook my head, wanting to reach out and hug the poor guy. Did he have any idea just how sexy he was? Probably not. At least, not to me. "No, you didn't hurt me. I was fine." I walked over to him and took his head in my hands. "I want you to know that I actually do like you. A lot. I wish you understood that."
"But you're a... you're a..."
"A dyke," he muttered.
I giggled. They must have cut a big collection of memories out of him. "No, I'm not! I have a girlfriend. That doesn't make me a dyke. And no, we're not interested in a threesome." It took him a few seconds to realize that I wasn't being serious. "But I'm not unreachable."
Part of me was so nervous I felt shaky. I knew that Hal had drones hovering about, part of the security system put in place since Darch's last instantiation, invisible and unseen, ready to shut him down in less than three seconds. And I did want to make him comfortable, to feel wanted. It seemed so easy, so very do-able, to just give myself to him. I wanted to. But the idea of letting him into me made me feel, well, vulnerable and afraid. I knew there was really nothing to feel vulnerable about. I was immortal, rapidly healing, braced, and under the watchful eye of AIs from the first to the latest generations.
I kept remembering Ken tell me that it wasn't my job to just fuck the poor guy. This Darch wasn't the real Darch, the one who had died back on Ritacha. This was just the body of Darch with a freshly grown brain, filled with whatever memories we could install in it, organized around a known, stable core. Well, as stable as we could make it. The first draft had gone terribly wrong. This was Darch 2.1., with even more "stock" systems in place. The memories and events he "knew" were a thin veneer of the old Darch on top of a common root code that had been allowed to iterate with a few random changes with limets not known for instability. Darch would perceive himself as Darch, but as he matured he would look back on his old life and wonder how he could ever be the kind of person he had been during the Ritacha War.
It was a special case, skirting if not flaunting the Pendorian morality of autonomy. Darch might never know the truth about himself and, while conscious, might never have the opportunity to change some aspects of himself that remained mysterious and buried. I worried about him. If the secret were out early, what would happen to him? Would he be the person he wanted to be? What of the earlier Darch?
Would we even hold a funeral for him, as we had with Errol?
I helped him out of bed. He seemed steady enough. "I... I remember..."
He shook his head. "Just things. About being frozen. About the war. About... I don't know what about." He took a deep breath. "Have I been a problem?"
"You're always a problem, Darch. But so is the other survivor, Sandahl. It's not as if we were expecting you two to not be a problem. Even if we've put you together completely, you'll always be different from the other Ritans, the new Ritans. There's a message from the Alpha team that you might be different enough to be compatible only in appearance, but not genetically."
"You mean... you mean I might not be able to have kids?"
"It might be part of the price of survival."
He looked crestfallen. His guss sagged to within reach of the floor. "Damn," he said. "I never thought about it before. I never thought about having kids before. Now that I might not be able to..."
"I can tell you all kinds of silly things, Darch, like that you get to adopt a whole generation of Ritans, and father them, and lead them to maturity, but I know that that probably doesn't satisfy you the way the idea of having your own kids would."
He nodded. "Something like that. I know about my responsibility, but... damn. I was hoping to settle down someday. Doesn't everybody?"
No, I thought, not everybody. And you weren't like that before the rebuild. I shrugged. "I guess."
"What do I do now?"
"Well, we're watching you closely. There are probably invisible security drones floating around us right now in case we missed anything a second time and need to..."
"Take me down."
"Yeah. Something like that."
"I understand," he said. "Really, I do. I'm a safety risk." He looked at me. "I don't feel like my brain is damaged. I can walk and talk." He flexed his fingers. "Everything seems to work fine."
"Different parts of the brain do different things. Motion and sensation and stuff like that, the Cutters people tell me is easy. It's the self that's so hard to fix if it goes out of line."
"I see. Am I myself?"
"You may as well be."
"I see," he said again. "Well, where do you want me to go?"
"Where do you want to go?" I asked him.
"Back down to the surface. To the beach again. And... I'm sorry."
"Like I said, don't apologize. You weren't yourself." Something about the way I said that seemed both funny and bitter at the same time. That Darch wasn't this Darch at all. The person who attacked me wasn't the self here, now.
"Who was my doctor this time?"
I took a deep breath. This would take some explaining. "Part of what we did violates Pendorian moral codes. I hope you understand that the people who did it are going to remain anonymous. You're not going to find out who fixed your brain."
"Because... because the way we think about things, you're allowed to go crazy. You didn't ask for our help in fixing your brain. Being an independent and autonomous person means being free to... to suffer in howling madness, if that's where you end up. We violated your freedom."
"Well, I'm glad you did!"
"YOU say that now, Darch. But what about the Darch who attacked me? Would he have said the same thing? Now we'll never know. In a very real way, the Darch who attacked me is dead."
"Hold a funeral, then," he said, with surprising anger, echoing what I had thought earlier. "Just don't expect me to attend. I can be a little crazy, but I'm not a... a... I'm not someone who attacks fems."
"Well, you're here and he's not. Shall we go?" I offered a hand and he accepted it. I led him down the hallway to the SDisk, and in seconds we were back at Shardik Castle.
"Trianna! Darch!" came a voice from the bowl. I looked up and saw Aaden bounding down the sides, his big feet precisely picking out places to land where he wouldn't trample any of his precious greenery on the way down. "It's wonderful to see you again!"
He was a little more cheerful than I usually saw him.. "Was Ken here?" I asked.
"You just missed him," Aaden said. "He was heading back to Alpha. I take it you just came from there?" I nodded. "You can always go back."
"No, that's okay. It's just written on your muzzle, Aaden."
"Really," he said, playing at swiping said muzzle clean. "I could have another boyfriend, you know."
"You didn't yesterday," I pointed out.
"I work quick."
"I know," I said. "It was a lucky guess." Why does he make me feel so happy when I'm around him? Is it because he still likes me after I sodomized him one night with a strap-on while my lover and his both looked on in amusement? There's something buoyant about Aaden. He's never affected a mince, like some homosexual mels I know, but he's so darn happy all the time.
I led Darch inside, watching him. We made our way into the media room, a big room with a bigger screen where the whole family can congregate to watch videos. It's also Ken's command center when things are going badly, which means it's probably been used all of once that way in its entire existence.
"I want to watch some movies from your own culture," he said. "I want to get to know Pendorians."
"But most of the media we have is borrowed," I said.
"There must be Pendorian playwrights!" he said. "Aren't there?"
"What is there to write about? The only thing in short supply on Pendor is requited love and political largess."
"Then show me those," he said.
I selected from the list two one-hour dramas, one more "comedic" than the other, both about tense situations where personal values and personal desires conflicted and where options were limited. I liked the funny one more; the outcome wasn't the best and there were elements that were unrealistic (I kept thinking that the AI should say something here-- they always do in situations like this. They may not read your mind and they may not obviously betray privacy, but they have such enormous minds they always come up with something that offers a satisfactory course of action.) but the acting was better.
"That's it?" he asked when we were done.
"That's it. What were you expecting?" I said.
He looked aside. "I don't know. Something more... dramatic."
"If you want historicals, we have thousands of those, many of them shot with live actors." I closed my eyes for a second. "I even have some very weird ones. Terran scripts with Centaur actors, for example, of their old mythologies."
He shook his head. "No, I mean, what do you people do?" he asked, standing up and stretching. I admired his form. His body was pure and original Ritan, whatever his brain was. And he wore it well. "All of the things that were important to us... aren't important to you."
"Love? Curiosity? Family? These weren't important to you?" I asked.
"Of course they were!" he snapped. "But that's not what I mean. What about country? What about loyalty? What about dedication?"
I blinked. I didn't know quite what to say to that. "Dedication to what?" I asked, not quite ready to respond. "Darch, country and loyalty are only means by which we become families. If it weren't for children, we wouldn't be here, right?"
"There has to be more to it than that," he said, looking away.
"Only because you're a romantic and want there to be more to it than that. But we've never found that to be true. It's part of what we are to want there to be more, to keep moving forward, but... learn to love just being. Otherwise you're not going to fit into the universe now."
"Maybe I don't want to fit into the universe now, whatever that means."
I walked up to him and touched his cheek. "I want you to fit into the universe," I said. "I think you're neat."
His guss drooped and he looked away. "Thank you, I suppose."
I didn't know if I could convince him. "Darch?" I asked softly. "Would you kiss me?"
He looked up. "Why?"
"Because... because I'm curious about how you kiss. I know your culture kisses. I saw it in a couple of the books and videos we recovered from the project site."
His eyes scanned over me. "You're a funny color," he said.
"And you're a funny shape to my thinking. Does that mean you can't close your eyes?"
He leaned forward, his muzzle partway open. He pressed his nose carefully to my cheek then took one delicate lick. Then another. He moved closer while I held completely still and felt his hands move up the outside of my tunic.
We were both on familiar ground. He was seducing a girl who wanted to be seduced. I was taking on a job, and a mel, I liked, and giving my all to making sure he had something to hold on to. It was important to both of us.
I ran my hands up the silken shirt he wore, touching his broad, powerful chest through the material. He had been a ground soldier, reconnaissance, infantry, and the muscles in his body were as solid as the ice out of which we had dug him. He looked down at me. "Why did you do that?"
"Because I wanted to," I said with a smile.
"Really?" he asked, suspicious.
"Really," I said. I wanted to assure him. There was only one way. Kathy and Ken had taught it to me and I wouldn't let them down. "This isn't Ritacha, Darch. You're here now. We're different from you. This is how I want to get to know you."
He reached out with his guss and let them hover about my head. I watched as one hovered close to my muzzle then stroked gently along my whiskers. "You are a strange girl," he said.
"You're in a strange land," I said. "Who are you to judge?"
He laughed. "I guess you're right." He was still holding me by the shoulders, so I reached up and took his hands, placing them on my breasts. "I keep watching your eyes drop down on these. Don't you want them?" Fah, the touch of his fingers against my body, even through my shirt, were enough to get me hot for him. Not that I wasn't hot for him before. But now it was becoming hard to control. It was a simple thing, really.
His hands caressed me awkwardly at first, but the look on his face was one of clear recognition. We closed in on one another, hungry, sure. He licked at my cheeks, his every hot breath surging through me, the predatory sounds of his breathing loud in my ears. I know it's true that some men are easy-- you offer up your body and he takes it-- but I had never before met a man who epitomized that truism quite the way Darch did.
His hands mauled my breasts and I liked that. The strong feel of his fingers kneading and testing made me want him all the more. "Oh, Fah," I whimpered as he closed his fingers about my nipples, the smooth fabric of the shirt the only thing moderating his confident touch.
"Good?" he asked with a grin.
"Yes," I said.
I felt a rush of warmth through my body, a wave rippling through me until it concentrated within my cunt. He touched my waist, his fingers gathering up the material of my shirt to pull it up over my head. I raised my hands over my head, helping him with the process, letting him take off my only article of clothing. The only thing left on me was my SDisk pendant, which I wasn't about to take off since Kathy told me the story of how she was in an evacuation incident.
Our muzzles collided in more confused kisses. His hands wrapped around my back and I felt his guss stroke gently against my cheek. "Let's go to your room," he suggested.
I took his hand and led him through the maze that is the third floor of Shardik Castle. We reached the apartment I called my own and tumbled headlong onto the tauroid mattress I kept in a corner. Amid a comforter, pillows, and teddy bears we fell onto each other. I licked at his cheeks and his hands roamed over my shirt, finding their way down under the hem and up against the fur of my chest. He grabbed a crude hold on my breasts, squeezing them in ways that would have hurt had I not wanted him so much.
I turned around, getting onto my haunches. "Mount me?" I said.
"Not yet," he growled. I turned to look at him but he put his hand on my rump and told me to "stay put." I obeyed him. He shifted around to my rear and I felt his hand against the base of my tail, moving downward. A finger entered me. "You're wet," he said.
I gasped. "Of course I am!"
Two fingers, and then three. "You're also really tight."
"You're just very well hung, Darch," I replied. "And that's part of the reason I want you." Was I lying? Even I couldn't tell.
I felt his nose press against my outer trough, my labia, and then his tongue licked at me gently. I shivered. This was not what I wanted, but it would do in the meantime. I wanted him to fuck me. But his soft, squirming tongue against my cunt made me even hotter, which was what he wanted.
I lay out lengthwise on the mattress, my haunches high, his nose thrust between them as he licked and stroked at my cunt. He found both my clitori, each one sending hot, red bursts of need through me. I didn't want to come from his tongue. I wanted to come from his cock.
He stopped, making me moan in frustration. "Make up your mind!" I snarled.
"I have," he said, and I felt the weight of him descend on my back. We stretched out together on the bed with him on top of me. I felt his cock touching my cunt, just the head of it, and then he was sliding into me. "Ohhhh...."
"Yeah," I groaned back. "Fuck me, handsome. Fuck me."
His cock hit deep within me. I had seen it on the medical reports but, fah, I hadn't been prepared for just how thick he was. A monster was stretching out my insides, a huge piston of a cock. He let it rest there inside me until I thought I was used to it, but then he began fucking me with it.
"Oh!" Fah, he felt good. I tried to turn my head to see him, but what I saw was a male with his eyes closed, his hands twisted in the bedsheets, his forepaws doing most of the work. His cockhead plunged and pummeled me from the inside and I craved every second of it. I wanted more. I hadn't felt this in years! "Yes, yes, oh yes."
"Damn, you're good," he gasped as he fucked me.
I'm good? I'm not doing anything. He was doing all the work, he was doing all the fucking. I was just lying there, taking it from him. Maybe I tightened up once or twice, but that was just habit. I just wanted him to keep fucking me until he came, or I came, or we both came, or we couldn't stop, or we couldn't go on, or anything. I just wanted more. More of that male machine that was raging in and out of me. Oh, fah, my body was alive and hungry as he pounded me, lost in his own rising need.
I came around his cock, could feel myself be the thing that lived on the end of his cock and found ecstasy impaled upon that monstrosity. Oh, fuck, it was good!
And when he came it was with a shout that we both shared, loud enough to be heard everywhere in the Castle. I could feel his cock pulsing, his come spewing into me, and I knew I had done the right thing for him, and for me.
He collapsed off of me and onto one side, tired, exhausted from the effort. "Thank you," I gasped, looking up at him with my dizzy eyes. "Thank you, thank you, thank you." I was still having little earthquakes of pleasure wrack through me. "Fuck, Darch, that was the best fuck I've had in a long time."
He looked at me. "It's not just your job to say that, is it?"
"No, really. I... I want you to do that again, if you'd like."
"Not right now!" he said.
"No, not right now. But soon. Tomorrow! As long as it doesn't interfere with your studies." I kissed his cheeks, and he was soon responding, healthy male that he is. "I really, really liked that."
He smiled. "Just doing what I do best." I laughed. He meant it as a joke, but it came off with that sexy male arrogance that I used to hate so much. I'm not sure why I don't hate it in Darch. Maybe because it's all an act. Because underneath it all he really is a lost mel looking for someone to tell him everything will be okay.
I stroked his face with the back of my hand. "It's okay. Thanks," I said.
His guss fluttered with mild embarrassment. "You're welcome."