Alien nation 3 body an.., p.3
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       Alien Nation #3 - Body and Soul, p.3

           Peter David
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  Her face fell. “You didn’t like it.”

  “No, I did! Really! It was just different, that’s all. Different doesn’t mean bad. I mean . . . look at you. You’re different. You’re not bad. In fact . . . you’re pretty good.” And he grinned broadly.

  His smile was infectious. She looked down, charmingly embarrassed. “Well . . . I’m glad you liked it, Matt.”

  “What was—if you don’t mind my asking—what did you mix in there? There was some ingredient in there I couldn’t quite place.”

  Her hairless brow wrinkled for a moment, and then brightened. “Oh. That would probably be the sour cream.”

  In a masterpiece of poker face, Sikes didn’t flinch. “Sour cream.”

  “Yes.” She started to gather up the dishes. “The recipe seemed a little bland, so I decided to add something that would give it some kick.”

  A swift kick, he thought bleakly.

  “Oh,” she said, as she placed the dishes in the sink. “Can you keep Saturday the fourteenth open?”

  “The fourteenth.” He frowned. “What’s the fourteenth?”

  She walked back to him, her delicate hands waving excitedly. “A grateful patient,” she said, “actually managed to get me two tickets to the most sold-out show in town, Phantom of the Opera.”

  “No kidding.”

  She sighed. “I hear that Foghorn Leghorn is supposed to be magnificent in it.”

  He raised an eyebrow. “It’s a cartoon?”

  She looked at him, confused. “Of course not.” She leaned against the video cabinet and said incredulously, “Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of Foghorn Leghorn? The single greatest musical performer in Tenctonese theater?”

  The light began to dawn. “This is a Tenctonese version of Phantom.”

  “Of course. Didn’t I mention that?”

  “No.” He laughed. “No, you didn’t. Sorry. I thought you were talking about the other Foghorn Leghorn.”

  “There’s another Foghorn Leghorn?”

  He paused. “Uhm . . . this may sound like a silly question . . . but Yosemite Sam isn’t costarring with him, by any chance?”

  “Of course not!”

  “Oh. Okay.”

  “Yosemite Sam is in the other national touring company.”


  Sikes sighed and leaned back in the chair. Every so often he was still caught off guard by the prank that had been perpetrated upon the 300,000 Tenctonese who had landed in Los Angeles several years ago. When they’d been processed through immigration, the agents had to come up with names for them, since their natural names were by and large unpronounceable for humans.

  The first Newcomers, like Cathy, had gotten fairly normal names. Names that were neutral, or even vague transliterated approximations of their own names. But as hours had turned into days, and wave upon wave of Newcomers had passed through the processing offices, the folks in immigration either started to get (a) punchy or (b) resentful, depending upon whose version of the story you believed.

  And the names of the Newcomers had started getting . . . exotic. Even downright weird.

  Sikes had run into all kinds. Eleanor Roosevelt. Rudyard Kipling. Art Deco. Johnny B. Good. And even his own partner, George Francisco, had originally been tagged Sam Francisco. Francisco, like most of the Newcomers, had been unaware of the derivation of the names and that humans were sharing a collective joke at Newcomer expense. Refusing to join in the joke, Sikes had arbitrarily rechristened him George Francisco, naming him in honor of Sikes’s personal favorite space man, George Jetson.

  Rather than dwell on it, he shifted his focus to the date under discussion. “The fourteenth . . . that’s familiar. Oh! Can’t do it.” He shook his head. “Got a dinner.”

  “A dinner date?” She arched one of her nonexistent eyebrows.

  “Huh?” Was it his imagination or did she sound, just for a moment, a bit jealous. “Oh. No. It’s a . . . whattaya call it . . . testimonial dinner, for this guy, Jack Perelli. He’s retiring next month and, well . . . he was kind of a mentor of mine.”

  “Really?” The idea seemed to amuse her, and he frowned slightly.

  “What’s so funny?”

  “Oh, nothing, Matt. Really. It’s just that . . . well, you’re always so . . . don’t take this wrong, but you’re always so sure of yourself and so singularly positive that you know the answer to everything, that it’s hard for me to picture you just . . . just learning from someone. I mean, that you would hold anyone in enough esteem that way.”

  He tried to take offense at the observation, but he couldn’t. He had to admit there was a lot of truth in what she said. He smiled gamely. “What can I say? I was young. It was back before I learned everything there was to learn. I was partnered with him for a while, and the stuff he taught me . . . I mean, what can I say? It was . . . well, actually, it was a pretty rough time for me. My marriage was falling apart. My work habits had gotten sloppy. And he pulled me through a lot of that, and helped focus me. And there’s this dinner now to honor him, and naturally I should be there.”

  “Oh. All right.” She paused. “Well, maybe I’ll just sell the tickets. Better yet . . . I know someone I can give them to . . .”

  “Whoa, wait! Why don’t you just go alone? Or . . . or take somebody else?”

  She shrugged—a human gesture that she’d picked up from Sikes. “It wouldn’t be the same, that’s all.”

  He tried to hide his astonishment. That single comment from Cathy had just gone a long way toward completely blowing all of his earlier conceptions out the window. Maybe she actually . . .

  But no. There was nothing in that remark that implied any sort of sexual attraction. She just meant . . . well, she could have meant a lot of things. She . . .

  She seemed to be staring at him expectantly. And he abruptly realized that the whole dinner question was still open. Because, of course, he could bring a date.

  He stared at her. Stared at the Newcomer woman who was smiling at him.

  And he thought about Perelli.

  “Uhm . . . y’know . . . I wish I could bring you along,” he said slowly. “But it’s, uh . . . it’s pretty tight seating. Spouses are okay, but otherwise they’re asking that you don’t bring dates . . .”

  She knew. She must have known that he was lying. Sikes felt as if he were the world’s worst liar. As if the moment a blatant untruth passed his lips, his hair changed color or fireworks went off, or maybe, in the best tradition, his nose grew. But Cathy didn’t react in the slightest, other than to say simply, “That’s quite all right, Matt. I still doubt I’ll go to Phantom. It’ll be playing for a while.”

  “Well . . . whatever . . .”

  Cathy seemed to shift uncomfortably, and then abruptly, as if anxious to get on to a new topic, she suddenly turned toward the videotapes that were stacked up on the cabinet. “Are you interested in watching something?”

  “Uh . . . yeah. Sure.” Watching TV was a convenient out. It helped to put a tape into the machine when conversation was moving in a direction that made either Sikes or Cathy uncomfortable. He was beginning to sense that there was a lot that made them uncomfortable, because there was a lot that each wanted to say or do, and neither was ready for those things to be said or done.

  She took down a tape that was in a blue and white plastic case. “That nice Mr. Chafin, the manager over at Blockbuster, said that this was a good one. I told him I wanted something about football.”

  “Football?” He tried not to laugh. “Since when are you interested in football?”

  “Well, it seems to preoccupy you a great deal. And I thought that . . . well, I thought maybe that I should try and see what you find so interesting about it.”

  “Baby, you’re the greatest.”

  She pointed in recognition. “ ‘The Honeymooners,’ right?”

  “There’s hope for you, Cathy. There’s real hope.”

  She smiled gratefully and bobbed her head slightly in appreciation as she
popped the tape into the player. She pressed the Play button, and then dropped down next to Matt on the couch. Matt took notice of the sleeveless blue dress she was wearing and the sleek curve of her shoulders.

  This business about thinking of her only as a friend didn’t seem to be working out, especially as he became more acutely aware of her presence as a female. Not an alien. Not a nonhuman. But a female, with the allure that just seemed to come with the territory.

  He forced his attention back to the screen.

  The title came on, and his jaw dropped.

  “The Cheeky Cheerleader?”

  “Yes,” she said. “The description on the box made it sound like a great deal of fun. Romping and excitement and such. There weren’t all those technical terms that you’re always tossing around.”

  “Yeah, but Cathy . . .”

  But Cathy was no longer paying attention to him. She was staring at the screen.

  And staring.

  And staring.

  The intrepid cheerleader on the screen had crawled between the legs of the small circle of football players on the field and was in the process of performing some acts that were causing the players to shake in their cleats.

  Sikes cleared his throat. “Uh, Cath . . .”

  She looked at Matt. “Is this what normally goes on in the huddle?”

  “No. No, not really. I mean . . . y’know, if it did, I doubt they’d do anything but huddle. It’d be a . . . well, a very different game.”

  “I should say.” She looked back at the screen. “No wonder so many people like the sport better than baseball.”

  Sikes held his face in his hands, embarrassed on behalf of his entire species.

  When he dared to look up, the scene had shifted to a bedroom. The intrepid cheerleader was now on a bed with a single football player, which was the closest thing to restraint the film had, apparently. The lights were low, much like the lighting in Cathy’s living room, Sikes realized.

  He watched her carefully, waiting for some indication that she was repelled by what she was seeing on the screen. Repelled, or maybe amused.

  But no. She was staring at the film, apparently fascinated by what she was seeing. Sikes couldn’t believe it. As he had learned the details of various Tenctonese mating and reproduction patterns (particularly during the conception and birth of George Francisco’s youngest child) he had had to fight down his initial shock and/or repulsion in every instance. Cathy, on the other hand, seemed eminently fascinated. Maybe it was because she was a doctor.

  The cheerleader was kissing the football player passionately, having worked his shirt up and over his head. Her hands played across the well-formed pectorals.

  Cathy was enthralled.

  And it was at that point that all of Sikes’s meticulously formed rationale over how they were going to be just friends went completely out the window.

  He tried to be as nonchalant as he could. Just in case Cathy reacted in a negative fashion, he wanted to be able to quickly chalk it up to only the most casual of misunderstandings. He draped an arm around her, allowing his hand to rest on her far shoulder. He was amazed at the warmth of her. Also, holding her this close, he was aware of a faint natural, musky scent that arose from her. Nothing unpleasant. Quite the contrary. He found it enticing.

  Cathy snuggled closer to him, but her attention was still fully on the television. He wasn’t sure whether she was getting closer to him reflexively, or was actually fully aware of his proximity . . . and perhaps even his thoughts.

  The cheerleader and football player were locked in a passionate embrace. Cathy’s eyes widened in what could only be described as awe.

  “They kiss so well,” she said.

  Sikes wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or not, but her voice sounded slightly hoarse to him. It was as if she were having trouble getting the words out.

  “Yeah,” he said. He pulled her a bit closer and, emboldened by the moment, said, “All it takes is practice.”

  He waited to see her reaction, wondering if she would pick up on the unspoken message.

  She turned and looked right at him. Her face was close to his, so close. Her eyes seemed to sparkle in the dimness of the room, where the primary illumination was the flickering of the TV screen.

  He leaned forward and kissed her.

  Her eyes went wide for a moment in surprise, and then, all at once, she seemed to relax against him. Her eyes closed to narrow slits. Sikes, who had kept his eyes open since he desperately wanted to see her reaction, felt the tension starting to drain out of him only to be replaced by another sort of tension. Now his eyes fluttered closed as he relished the touch of her, the feel of her. Her lips were slightly drier than a human woman’s, but the taste was not unpleasant.

  Cathy, for her part, opened her eyes again, and stared at the TV screen.

  Aware that she was on very uncertain ground, she became slightly panicked and suddenly felt the need to acquire pointers wherever she could. And the cheerleader seemed to be quite the expert in these matters.

  The cheerleader was running her fingers through the man’s hair.

  This seemed a little strange to Cathy. Having no experience with hair, she wasn’t sure whether this was a particularly sensual, or sensitive, part of the human male anatomy. But she was game for anything at this point, feeling herself swept along in the rush of emotion, and not wanting to risk dampening it through her inexperience.

  She slid her fingers through Matt’s hair. She liked the shape and texture of it. There was something exciting, even slightly forbidden, about it. She nuzzled it, and the motion brought her throat up against Sikes’s mouth.

  Sikes started to nibble at her neck, his tongue playing along her throat just under her chin. It was a move that other women had reacted to rather well, but Sikes quickly became aware that he might as well be licking a block of wood. Cathy wasn’t responding to it at all.

  Don’t be a macho jerk a voice inside him warned. Ask for help or you’re going to lose the momentum. It was the same voice that earlier had been telling him that there was nothing physical between him and Cathy. Nice to know that inner voice was willing to change its tune at a moment’s notice.

  He murmured low, “What do you like?”

  Cathy paused, and for a moment Sikes was certain that he had blown it. That by asking such an overt question, he had reminded her of just what was going on and what they were getting involved in.

  But Cathy’s breath was coming in short, steady gasps. It was quickly apparent that she was becoming as caught up in the heat of the moment as he. She hesitated only a moment, and then she offered him the crook of her arm.

  Once upon a time, Sikes would have been brought to a screeching halt by this apparent non sequitur. But he had long since become accustomed to the concept that the Newcomers were structured radically different from humans. That their points of sensitivity did not always match up.

  And so, unfazed, Sikes took Cathy gently by the arm and lightly ran his lips across the inside of her elbow.

  He wasn’t precisely sure what he expected, but what he got completely surpassed whatever might have occurred to him. Cathy gasped, and her back arched, lifting her buttocks off the couch. Sikes thought, Wow. When these people are sensitive, they’re really sensitive.

  It was incredible. With the other women Sikes had known, it had always been something of a guessing game. Rarely did any of them know so precisely what it was that turned them on. But Cathy not only knew, she was completely wired in to her entire system. And Sikes was about to be an electrician.

  His kisses moved slowly up her arm. He was moving into uncertain territory, so just to play it safe, he kept massaging the crook of her arm with his thumb. It had the desired effect. Sikes didn’t know whether Cathy was aware of what his mouth was doing or not. Ultimately it didn’t matter, because he knew that he was savoring the taste of her, and she was certainly enjoying herself.

  All because of the crook of her arm.

bsp; Boy, one case of tennis elbow for these women and it’s good-bye, sex life, he thought, as his mouth moved over the smoothness of her shoulder.

  He saw the spots that trailed down over the nape of her neck. For a long while, he had secretly wondered about the texture of the Newcomer spots. Whether they felt different from the nonspotted portions of the skin, whether they were in any way distinguishable.

  His lips moved over the uppermost spots on her neck.

  He wasn’t at all prepared for what happened. If he’d thought that Cathy had reacted strongly to his kissing her elbow, that was nothing compared to what happened when his lips brushed her spots.

  She let out a shriek of ecstasy so loud that it nearly deafened him. Her body twitched and writhed spasmodically, and from the way her eyes rolled up in her head, he thought she was going to pass out.

  He drew back, a bit intimidated by the intensity of the reaction. My God, that had been just a light kiss. He had a feeling that if he’d sucked on the things, it might have blown the top of her skull off.

  It was as if what she felt, in addition to filling her with euphoria, had also been the equivalent of a bucket of cold water. Her eyes cleared momentarily, and she placed a hand against his chest. “We . . . we can’t . . .”

  He couldn’t believe it. He was so pumped up he was ready to chew the furniture. He had been woefully wrong earlier—clearly she was hot for him. He knew that he was for her. All of his repressed desire, his fascination, his (admit it now) curiosity, were bubbling over. He had been responsive to what she wanted. So responsive that he thought this creature from the stars was liable to go nova any moment. He wanted to say, What the hell do you want from me? but he got as far as “Wha—?”

  She placed a hand lightly over his mouth. He wasn’t sure whether it was to stop him from talking, or to stop him from kissing her, or just to keep his face at a distance. The passion in her eyes indicated that if his face got close enough to hers, she might tear it off with her teeth. “We’re going too far,” she said.

  She spoke with the air of a guide in those adventure movies where the hero has ventured into the sacred stronghold of some ancient race, and all sorts of booby traps were about to spring if another step was taken. Indiana Sikes, daredevil explorer. Part of him wanted to laugh, and say, Quick! You throw me the idol, I’ll throw you the whip!

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