Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Talk

Alex shifted from one foot to the other, jaw set as his hand hesitated over the control panel of his parents front door. He had determined it would be best if he spoke to his parents alone at first, leaving Carbon with the shuttle. He thought it would best to ease them in to the idea of their younger son being married to an alien. They'd always been understanding, accepting people. They would deal well with this. He was sure of it.

He still found it very hard to ring the doorbell, nearly jumping at the sound of the chime as his outstretched finger brushed the panel on accident. No turning back now.

The door shushed open into the wall, an unexpected face greeting him. "Well, look who’s decided to grace us with his presence. Got tired of rubbing elbows with the aliens, little brother?"

"Oh, shit." Alex cleared his throat and his face twisted into a nervous grin at the sight of his older brother. "Yeah, you might say that, Pete."

Peter stepped back and let Alex in, closing the door behind him with a wave of his hand. “Looking pretty good for someone with severe plasma burns.”

“Mediboards do some pretty impressive stuff.” His parents had been told that a small explosion from a plasma conduit was what had injured him on the Sword of the Morning Light in lieu of telling them that someone had tried to assassinate him. Alex followed him through into the living room. “Hey Dad!”

“Alex, you’re just in time. Milly and Jason are coming over in a bit, we’re all going out to dinner.” His father waved him into a chair. “Good to see you no worse for wear... Did you get your ears pierced?”

“Yeah, I did.” He sank into the same overstuffed chair he’d been sitting in a week ago. Milly and Jason were Peter’s wife and son... looks like the entire family would be here before too long. “It was unexpected. Lot of unexpected stuff happening lately.”

“Tell me about it. Did you watch the news at all?”

“No, I’ve had a pretty busy week.”

“Rassmussen’s been acting uppity all week. He talks like he wants to secede, but who’s he going to trade with? Nobody needs Io that much anymore except for tourists, and they barely go.”

If there was one thing Alex’s father liked, it was stellar politics. “Wow, weird. So when are Milly and Jason showing up?”

Peter checked his phone. “They left Monterey a little bit ago, maybe an hour. Hour and a half at the most.”

Alex’s leg bounced as he started to second guess himself. His mother finally came out of the back room and greeted him with a hug before heading towards the kitchen. His jaw tightened as he resolved to say what he needed to say. He wasn’t going to come all this way just to act like nothing had changed and Pete was going to find out eventually anyway. “Mom, hang on a second... Come have a seat. I need to talk to you guys.”

That changed the demeanor in the room instantly. His mother sat down between Peter and his father, all three of them watching him with concern. That was something. “Go on, Alex. What is it?”

“Ah, alright. Some big stuff has happened in the last week. ” He stared down at his hands, knuckles pulled white. “You know that I came back from my tour early... Some things happened and the situation got pretty dire for a while and my relationship with Shipmaster Tshalan became, uh, romantic.”

They didn't say anything for several seconds, his mother the first to break the silence. She picked her words carefully, the question delicate. “You two... are involved romantically? Like you are dating?”

“Oh, we were. I was going to tell you guys last time I was here, but that visit got cut short.”

The care she had taken with her first question rapidly gave way to confusion. “So you’re not involved with her anymore?”

“I am, but there’s more. I had this all laid out in my head on the way down.” He pursed his lips and went with the biggest item first. “We’re actually married now. Entwined, in their language, basically the same thing. It was sort of a shotgun wedding, unplanned or I’d have told you guys sooner.”

He could hear them breathing as he waited for someone to say something. His father’s brow furrowed and he started and stopped several times. “When you say shotgun wedding... She- You didn’t... She’s not pregnant, is she?”

“No! It’s not like that. Humans and Tslao can’t reproduce. I think. I know for sure that we’re not compatible at a genetic level.” At least, his body went through hyperacute rejection of Tslao tissue. He imagined that fertilization was pretty much out of the question. “Shouldn’t be, anyway.”

“Well then, what possessed you to get married?” His father didn’t exactly raise his voice, but his hands were starting to get animated.

“That’s the other thing. I am marked for death by a group of Tslao isola-”

“You’re what?!” His parents blurted it out at the same time, his mother horrified while his father had a particular gleam in his eye that indicated he might be inclined to go set someone straight.

“Marked for death. There are some isolationists who wish to break any alliance between our races. Since Carbon is a member of the royal family, I am now afforded the same level of protection as she is. These guys aren’t screwing around, but apparently you all should be safe. Earth is just too heavily defended and it’s considered beyond the pale to attack someone’s family anyway, no matter how much you hate them.” That came out much more nonchalantly than he was expecting. When had he become used to that idea? Maybe Eleya was starting to rub off on him...

His father leaned back into the couch, nodding. “I assume they are doing everything they can to protec-”

“She’s a member of the royal family?” His mother burst out, this apparently the most surprising thing he’s said so far.

“Yes, the Empress is her aunt. Though, according to their rules of succession, we’re next in line now.” That was more matter of fact than he expected as well. He pointed at his ears. “That’s what those are about. They show rank in the family and are symbolic of the commitment to the Tslao people and always carrying one’s duty.”

“You’re a member of the royal family?”

“Effectively, I am the crown prince. The Empress thinks it’ll play well back home.” He neglected to mention the various other reasons that he has heard used to justify his marriage and title.

“Goodness.” She seemed to have settled on being proud of that.

His father cleared his throat. “As I was saying... They’re doing everything they can to protect you now?”

“Now, yes. There was a little... hiccup at first, right when everything had been set up.”

“Which means?”

Alex looked at his hands and tapped his fingertips together. “There was no accident, an attempt was made on my life shortly after I arrived.”

His father sort of bristled at that, but otherwise kept his cool. “I assume they caught the bastard?”

“Yeah. Yeah, they caught him and another guy working with him. He was executed yesterday.”

Eyebrows went up all around, but his father voiced the question. “They executed him?”

“Like I said, everything had been set up. When I was attacked, I was a member of the royal family. That’s high treason. I’m not exactly happy about what happened, but I didn’t have any say in it.” Eleya had made it clear that she was still calling the shots, as it were, at the execution.

“Well, none of that was what I was expecting.” His father still looked a bit like he was going to pick a fight with someone, but his expression had softened. “How are you doing?”

“Pretty good. Aside from the almost dying, it’s been really interesting. And confusing. Weird a lot of the time, too.” He managed a laugh and a smile but didn’t get his hopes up too much. All of this was still new and they hadn’t had much time to process it yet.

“And this thing with Carbon... You’re OK with this?”

“Yeah, I am. When we got back, I wasn’t sure how I’d react - like I said, it was a pretty intense situation. It’s not all smooth sailing, we are both alien to each other but we communicate well and we’re a pretty good fit for each other. I don’t even think of her as alien most of the time anymore. I just love her.”

“I- Still not what I was expecting. But if she makes you happy and you’re happy with your situation, I’m happy for you. For both of you.” His father elbowed his mother gently, “you liked her, didn’t you?”

It took his mother a moment to get up to speed. “Yes, she was very pleasant and this does explain why she brightened up so much when she saw you. I had thought that maybe there was more than respect there, but I hadn’t expected that kind of relationship.”

“I really was going to tell you guys before... I guess it wouldn’t have changed too much considering how everything played out.”

“So far, I approve of her. Seems very intelligent and polite.” His mother got a sort of wry smile. “How was the ceremony? Did you at least get some nice pictures since we wern’t invited?”

“No, the ceremony was...” Profoundly invasive? Terrifying? “You didn’t miss anything. Mostly it was just some paperwork.”

His father rolled his eyes as she continued. “That’s a shame, I would like to see their ceremonies and all even if it isn’t much to look at. I notice you’re not wearing a ring... Do they do that?”

“Not... sort of.” He pulled the collar of his shirt to the side to expose the edge of his bite mark. “It’s a pretty permanent gesture.”

They all recoiled at that but his mother continued, otherwise undaunted. “I assume we will be meeting her parents at some point, as well?”

Alex balked at that. “That’s still up in the air. Her father didn’t take the news as well as you guys did.”

“What about her mother?”

“She died in the disaster. Most of her family did, actually. All she’s got left is her dad and aunt now.”

“Oh, poor girl. You let her know she’s welcome here. Speaking of, why didn’t you bring her?”

“She’s with the shuttle. I expected you guys to be accepting, but I wanted to make sure. She took her dad’s disapproval really hard, I didn’t want her to get a second dose of that.”

His mother shook her head. “Well, go get her. If she’s part of the family she had better start acting like it.”


  1. Aww, get her in there and join the family. Good to see that the family are more accepting then her father.

  2. Nice tension build up and gentle understanding.

    In the Rassmussan paragraph you have a "lo" that confused me, probably just and oversight.

    Good chapter, I hope Alex's family doesn't accidentally do a taboo.

  3. Nevermind, its Io, not lo... stupid, small, minute cell phone screens!

  4. archnemesis: I'm glad his family is more accepting too... And really, they live in Berkley. Damn hippies always being nice to their children when they do unexpected things.

    Tummy: Thanks! In retrospect, using Io in a sans serif font isn't the best idea either.

  5. Just don't use Comic Sans. While our marriage can withstand anything on this planet, I don't think it could withstand that. ;o)

  6. Correction: universe. Re-reading that, planet seems...insignificant.