April 11, 2013 by Lyn
Saturday, March 13, 2004, after Chapter 31
“Okay.” Kheper looked at Curry. “Rule one. No making any of your stupid comments at any of the girls. Rule two. No yelling at me for the way biology works. Got it?”
The tree-boy (maybe-boy, Kheper mentally amended) shifted from foot to foot. “You don’t want to teach me.”
“I don’t want to end up with the girls in the crew angry.” They were standing in the doorway to the suite; Kheper was speaking as quietly as he could, and Curry was imitating him.
“I’ll try not to make anyone mad. I promise.” He squirmed. “I don’t understand what’s going on and I think I gotta. Or at least I wanna. Everyone’s laughing at me.”
“Everyone isn’t laughing at you.” Kheper sighed. “Okay, come on in. Well, I mean.” He looked over his shoulder. “Cya?”
“Come on in, Curry, if you mean me or mine no harm.”
“Always formal.” Curry made a sulky face as he stepped into the suite.
“Always cautious. We’ve survived three and a half years here that way.” Cya stepped forward long enough to look at Curry. “I’d suggest you learn the same. Have fun, boys.” She patted Kheper’s shoulder. “I’ll be in my room if you need me.”
Kheper breathed out a sigh he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Fun. Sure.” At least he didn’t have to worry about Cya getting angry while he tried to teach Curry about the birds and the… um… bees.
“All right.” The Library had, perhaps unsurprisingly, some kid’s books on biology. Finding a book on tree biology had been interesting, but the Librarian – he assumed that the invisible hands and the helpful cards had been the Librarian and not, say, the Addergoole Ghost (Although he wouldn’t put anything past this school) – had pulled out a couple. “I’m going to try to explain this, and you are going to try to understand without getting stupid, all right?” He gestured at the couch. “Sit down.”
“I’m not stupid.” Curry sat, sulking.
“Okay. I’m willing to stipulate that. Will you agree you get pretty dumb about sex sometimes?”
“That’s just how everyone else talks.”
“Man, you need better friends.”
Kheper held up both hands. “Sorry. I just meant – maybe Thorburn and Basalt talk like that, although they seem like decent guys normally. But I can promise you, not everyone talks like that.”
“You can’t promise anything.” Curry looked smug.
“I can, it’s just not magically binding. Look, do you want to argue about making stu – inappropriate sex jokes, or do you want to learn how you got lit on fire and ended up with babies in pots?”
“Are they really babies?” Good, Curry was easily distracted.
“Yeah. Or, at least, they will be.”
“They look like plants.” Curry seemed unconvinced.
“Well, so do you.” Kheper was beginning to regret this already.
“Easy, easy. Like I look like a beetle. Like Cya looks like a mink and Leo looks like a deer.”
“Mmmf. And Basalt looks like a rock. Okay.”
Curry, at least, was easily mollified. Kheper opened up the bio book. “And sometimes, I mean, it doesn’t affect that much biology, although it does change our brains, I guess. Like, Leo sometimes gets really male-deer-like, and Cya gets mink-like. And I think that’s what Valentina meant about you being sort of like a twelve-year-old.”
“Hey. I’m not a kid.” Curry didn’t seem completely convinced, though.
“Not entirely, but a little bit kidlike. It’s okay, I think you’re just going through a lot longer maturity period than the rest of us.”
“Because trees grow slow?”
“More or less, yeah. Because you grow slow and long. I mean, we’re all fae, so I’m not sure how that works. But I think that’s why she said you were a dryad, too.”
“I’m not a chick.” Less and less and less certain. “Am I?”
“Welllll…. maybe more like Reese, really. Because I think you provided both sperm and egg for the babies. It’s like this.” He pointed at the diagram. “Well, actually, let’s back up a bit. The whole lighting on fire thing.”
“That felt good.”
“Yeah. Sorry, still not doing it again.” He changed the subject quickly. “Okay, so there’s this thing called fire ecology. That means a plant – that’s you – requires fire to grow, reproduce, or spread, or all three. There are lots of different species of pines that this is true for, but judging by your spikes I saw yesterday, you’d be a lodgepole pine or something. The idea is that after fires you take advantage of a dearth of other vegetation to get in on the ground floor and have lots of kids to take up all the available light.
“I’m not going to try to explain alternation of generations to you in detail, because you don’t care, but basically you’re a gymnosperm – that’s pines and stuff – which means you should have pollen and cones both, but I guess not. You seem like you have a prothallium, instead – which, don’t even say it, it isn’t dirty. It means your sexual phase is – okay, it’s kinda dirty.”
“So it’s dirty but not really?” Curry looked totally lost.
“Well, in short, you make baby trees, sexually – if there had been another tree person around, you could have shared seeds with them, but there wasn’t, so you fertilized your own seeds…”
“I had kids by masturbating?.”
“More or less, yes.”
“Man, that’s fucked up.”
Kheper couldn’t help but agree.
Two large green leaves, shiny and veinless, were growing out of four pots. They were growing up and together, hiding their contents.
If you petted them, lately, you could feel something kick. Valentina liked petting them, although she was very careful about it. The leaves were strong, but they weren’t as strong as a human skin, and she didn’t want to risk damaging the seed-children.
They were fascinating. Valentina had been dealing with plant-based fae-forms for most of her life – was, herself, somewhat of a water-plant hybrid – but she had never before had the opportunity to study such interesting specimens, and certainly not from conception on. “Idu Huamu Tlacatl moró.” It was becoming her favorite Working in recent weeks. “How are you doing, my little seedlings?”
“Mom? Talking to your plants again?” Valentina didn’t need to turn around to identify that voice; for one thing, there was, at the moment, only one male who called her Mom.
“Hello, Vlad, honey. Come on in. These aren’t quite plants, come and see.”
Her son – Mask down, in deference to his mother’s picky preferences – stepped up next to her. “I’ve seen plants before.”
“Of course you have. You’re my son. Here, gently.” She took his webbed hand and placed it, ever so carefully, over the one she had nicknamed Butterfly, for its tiny, rapid kicks. “See?”
“It feels like Min did, when ‘Lisha was pregnant.” Vlad’s voice changed tone, getting that slightly-awed voice that he always did, when faced with children. “Ytha and Ras kicked more, but Min did little kicks like this. Mom, are you growing babies?” Vlad had the little crooked smile that meant he was joking, but the one-raised-eyebrow (a trait of his father’s that Valentina had never learned, despite the fact that Vlad had never met his father), that eyebrow indicated that he wasn’t actually sure he was making any sort of jest.
“I am, I hope, growing babies.” She confirmed it with a smile, so that they could keep pretending it might not be real. “One of the Eighth Cohort has a sort of tree Change…”
“I always wondered how that would mix with another sort of Change for making babies. ‘Lisha and I had babies that looked normal as babies, but if I’d been fishier, or she’d been buggier… Mom, please don’t ever tell ‘Lisha I called her buggy.”
“Never, darling.” Valentina petted the seed casing again. “But in this case, Curry did this all by himself.”
“Curry? I remember hearing something about him – a dud of some sort?”
“Now, Vlad, that’s not nice.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” His shoulders hunched, and, good boy that he was, he really was sorry. “But he… self-fertilized like a tree, then?”
“You were paying attention in Biology.”
“Sometimes.” He shrugged. “I liked it better when we were talking about the sea.”
“Of course you did.” She patted his shoulder. “I doubt you could have helped that, truth be told. It’s in your Change.”
He wiggled his webbed fingers. “I’m beginning to learn that. How much our Changes shape everything. This tree-kid… is it messing him up, Mom?”
Valentina pursed her lips. That was a very good question.
“I’m not sure. Well, that’s not true. I’m not a mind-reader or a soul-healer, but Curry’s definitely got some arrested development going on.”
“He’s aging like a tree?”
“Well, not that slow, but I would have chosen to bring him here in, say, six or twelve years, instead of now.”
“Hunh. But he’s…” Vlad touched the leaves of the baby-plants. “He’s clearly adult enough in some ways.”
“Technically, humans are ‘adult enough’ far before they’re adult enough.” Valentina frowned at her son. “As I’m sure you know.”
“Yeah.” He squirmed. “But, I mean, that changes with every person.”
She patted Vlad on the arm, giving him a pass. “And Alisha seemed more mature than she was, I know. How are you two doing?”
“I really have no idea.” He studied the plants. “What’s going to happen with the babies?”
“Well, I think they’re going to mature as per a normal human fetus, more or less. The research I could find says most fae children who are conceived a bit abnormally do.” She allowed her son the courtesy of changing the subject when he wanted it. This time. They’d have to talk about his issues with his children’s mother eventually. “Then they will probably be ‘born’ and need a wet-nurse or formula, as I doubt Curry is going to produce milk. After that…” She shrugged again. “Like any Addergoole child. We’ll see if Curry wants to raise them, of course, since he’s the mother…”
“I’d say ‘poor kids,’ but they’re in your capable hands.”
Valentina smiled. “They’ll be all right. We’ll take care of them – and their mother-father.”
“Mother-father. Now I’ve heard everything.”
Valentina laughed, and gave her son a great big hug. “You know better than to say that, son.” There was always something weirder around the next corner. It was part of the beauty of being Ellehemaei.
This story was written in response to Rix’s donation and request for the scene between Kheper and Curry, and something regarding the babies. Thanks to Wysteria for bio research once again.
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