Note: This is set after 'Because You Are With Me', though it was probably written when that story only existed in scene fragments and a vague plot in my brain.

Winging it

Alex made his hand into a fist, examining his knuckles. It was a habit long ingrained into him, something he did when he got nervous. And it was a time to be nervous - but it was also a time to get answers.

Hard to believe he and Marianne were officially mated now. Rosemary had been accurate as far as the actual mating was concerned. It was strange to know that he had touched the life-to-be that was his child, and he couldn't wait the nine months that it would take until he could see that child in reality.

But there were other things to take care of in the meantime. Things like the people he'd inherited when he and Marianne had become mates. Ra'das and Michelle weren't strangers to him, true, but things had changed since the moment that Marianne had introduced her other mate and their daughter. At that time, he and Marianne had been planning to go back to Earth and live their normal lives. Now the two of them weren't just Mari's family, they were his, chosen in the moments where he decided to stay and when he'd slept with Marianne.

And he was determined to know what he'd gotten himself into. Ra'das might not know of his familial status yet, but the Kimera had answered a lot of his questions before - why not do so now?

The door opened and Alex looked up. "Alex, you wished to see me?" Ra'das asked, standing in the doorway to the room Alex was sharing with Marianne.

"Yes, I have a few questions," Alex replied. "You seemed the best one to ask them. But if you don't have time, I'll understand."

The Kimera smiled, or seemed to, as he moved out of the doorframe and let the door close. "I 'cleared my schedule'. Some things are more important than daily duties."

"Thanks," Alex replied, somewhat relieved. "It's just that... well, things have changed, and Marianne's understanding of Kimera customs leaves a little to be desired."

"She has focused more on her human side, true, but even she should be able to retrieve an understanding of her own ancestors. Still, I'm glad you came to me instead of her. I haven't had a chance to get to know you or Marianne as well as I should, and as you know, I've made some mistakes."

"Including a doozy of one," Alex commented.

"Yes. I've learned from that one," Ra'das said. "I'm slowly learning about Marianne's differences from her siblings. The differences are very good, if they make her a little bit difficult to live with."

"Marianne was very good at hiding what she really was," Alex replied. "So much of her real ancestry was on the surface, but nobody really saw what it was."

"She is more Kimera than she thinks. I am still trying to convince her that this is a good thing."

"She's afraid," Alex said, drawing upon what he remembered from his and Marianne's meeting of minds. "She's afraid she'll be lost."

"Yes. We must be her anchors, you and I. One on each side of her. I'm pleased that she's chosen you. I hope you won't mind when I say that I've been wating for you two to become bonded."

Alex blinked. "Bonded?"

"When you mated with her. You haven't noticed this yet?"

He blinked again. "Her mom told me what would happen, but... how did you know we mated? We haven't told anyone yet."

"I came to bring more of Marianne's things, and I saw you two sleeping together. And I touched you to make sure I was right."

"Marianne's not going to be thrilled," Alex commented. "I don't know if this makes my questions harder or easier."

"Easier, I would hope. I wish you to know that you should feel free to ask me questions at any time. After all, family looks after each other."

"Family looks after each other... we are a family, aren't we..."

"We are. Marianne bonds us together. Eventually, we will have children together, bringing us closer, but that will wait. I'm sure that this might not be easy to comprehend at first, but it is true."

"I know it's going to take a while," Alex said. "I think I'll eventualy figure it out. If you'll explain things to me."

Ra'das nodded. "This is what I'm here for."

"Good. Let's leave some of the technical aspects out of it, since sleeping with Marianne is enough for one day, and tell me what I'm in for now that I'm a part of your family."

The Kimera was silent for a moment. Then he looked over at Alex and said, "Normally, when a Kimera mates a native of another planet, they stay with the mate until two children are produced. The Kimera assumes the role of one of the non-carrying partners, for we do not have a true sex when dealing with non-Kimera. Of the two children, one is left to live in the native society, passing the Kimera genetic code into that gene pool, while the other child is brought back into the Kimera in order to pass their codes into our gene pool. However, our current circumstances are different."

"In other words, you're winging it, too."

"Yes," Ra'das said, seeming to smile. "The revitalization of our species has dictated that things have to change. Any interspecies mating has its interesting points anyway. In our case, it's not usual to have a long-term native mate such as you, especially a non-child-bearing one. Also, Marianne may be Kimera, but she is far past the age where we would normally claim a hybrid child, so it is almost like having two native long-term mates."

"So, we'll all be feeling this out as we go along, basically."

"Yes. I do know some things, however, from knowing Marianne. If she is afraid of losing herself to one species or another, we must be here to remind her that she is no less herself for it."

"I have a feeling that won't be easy," Alex said.

"Based on what I've observed, and what her father has said to me, I do not expect it to be easy. However, to me, it is worth it. A Kimera, but yet a native. A normal second-generation child would either be Kimera, with some remaining native characteristics, or native, with some remaining Kimera characteristics. Most of her half-siblings become increasingly Kimera as they age, making them almost like the children we take along. Marianne would seem to be more like a native-raised one, except she is too Kimera to really be that."

"If you weren't trying to revive yourselves, she would have been left on Earth?"

"Exactly. Because of the limited way we bred with humanity, her generation would have been called upon to fulfil the first generation role - some Kimera, some native - but all are needed. My original plan was to treat her somewhat as a full native, breeding the child, and then let her go back to Earth and be what she wanted to be. But I got to know her, and through her, you. And any plans went out the window."

"Helped by Michelle, I'm sure," Alex observed.

"Helped by Mish'ele... and Marianne's own actions, but I knew I could not give her up before that."

"She's easy to love, sometimes. Sometimes."

"If I had known... I would not have done what I did."

Alex restrained an urge to pat the Kimera on the back. "Y'know, I don't blame her for her reaction to what you did, because it's just not done by people on Earth. I'd be angry too, but if this is how things are done here, this is how things are done. All I'd say is next time, you better ask."

"I think I will," Ra'das said, humor lacing his tone. "Of course, I now have you to help me not make these mistakes. As I begin to know her, maybe I will understand you, and those parts of her that remain human... and as you begin to know me, you will begin to understand those parts of her that are Kimera. Between the two of us, we will be able to quell her fears."

"Family looks after one another," Alex said, shrugging. "Of course, I would have done it even without. Probably failed miserably, but...."

"In some ways, you are the mate she needs, not me. If she was not my mate, I would have left her well alone to live out her life by her choices."

"I don't like seeing people in pain, and she *is* in pain," Alex said. "I would just do what I had to do. Maybe that's why I was drawn to her."

"We were drawn to her for different reasons," Ra'das replied. "And she chose both of us for different reasons. But... now, we must take what we were given and do something with it."

"For all our sakes, yes," Alex replied. "I guess you're right - we will be winging it."

"And I know now that we will succeed, you and I," Ra'das said. "I was unsure, at first, but you can handle her in ways that I cannot, and I can do the same for her in other ways. I know that now."

"Then we'll just have to do the best we can. It's all we can do."

"Yes," Ra'das said, sounding thoughtful. "Yes."


Note: another "Because You..." followup. Dearest Marianne this time, whining.

Never Going Home Again

People forget I'm human.

On Earth, nobody knew what I was. I hid it well. Now that I'm gone, what must people think? But I would have been gone anyway. Had to hide even more. There are ways, you know, ways of disappearing, even for those of us whose DNA tends to give us away.

Ah, to have been on Earth when the order came down. I could have taken an item or two and fled, hacking myself a new identity. It's one of those things my Dad taught me, you know, and something I expanded upon as I got older. I could have found myself a small little town, of no interest to the Taelons, and settled down. I've made my contribution to the genetic pool with Michelle's birth, so I doubt I'd have any more kids.

Of course, the whole purpose of the Taelons' booting of the Kimera was to remove their direct genetic influence from Earth, wasn't it? Well, I could go along if it meant home.

But now, instead of Earth, I've got metal, instead of the sky, space. There are trees and plants here, but it's not the same. It's not home. It will never be home, even if my family is here. This is not my home. This is my family's home, nothing more. Worse, I have dragged Alex into my family, away from the Earth that is our right...

I shall be forever paying for that. The only fortunate thing is that he seems to be adapting well, Michelle and Ra'das taking care of him where I cannot. He is blessed to be with my family. I do not deserve him, or them.

I feel like a ghost, trapped in a world that is no longer mine. Familiarity surrounds me but does not touch me. I am alone. If only there was a way to shed my Kimera self... but that is only for the fast-growers, not an option for me.

So, I guess I am stuck with myself, stranded far from home, with nobody who understands. And I must go on alone.


Earth: Final Conflict fics