My Brother's Keeper
.blood covering the floor. . .the walls. . .the ceiling. A Tank reeling backwards, blood
steaming from a slashed throat. Another, eyes torn out, screaming mindlessly. A head, torn
off raggedly, being thrown into the face of someone only half-seen. A figure. .
.broad-shouldered and sturdy. . .leaping from foe to foe with a deadly grace. . .an insane
joy in the maniacal grin he wore and blood covering him head to toe. Eyes, teeth, hands
gleamed red. . .
McQueen came awake abruptly, already flailing out
with a vengeance. His right hand hit something and a familiar voice howled in his ear.
"Owwww!!! You hit me!" Gary wailed and
McQueen became completely aware, staring dumbly at the man sitting up next to him. Gary's
hand was pressed against his reddening cheek, his eyes wide.
"Oh, damn." McQueen muttered, sitting up.
"I'm sorry, Gary. I was having a nightmare. A bad dream." He reached out to
gently grip Gary's shoulders, relieved that the other man didn't flinch away.
Gary stared at him for a moment, rubbing his cheek
absently. "I have bad dreams sometimes." He said solemnly then leaned into
McQueen. Thrown off-balance, McQueen fell backwards onto the bed. He ignored the pain that
flared in his side as Gary curled up next to him, head resting on his shoulder.
McQueen looked around as best he could. He was in
the room behind the pool hall, laying on the low bed. The lights were dimmed for
comfortable sleeping. He and Gary were alone in the room, the door firmly closed.
He looked down at the other man who was now idly
tracing the scars on McQueen's chest. Every now and again, Gary would murmur a soft 'ouch'
and McQueen wondered if he was referring to the slap he'd received or to the old injuries
he was finding on his brother's body. He took a guess.
"They don't hurt, Gary."
"Not at all?"
"Sometimes. In cold, wet weather. But not right
"Good." Gary raised himself up onto an
elbow, still tracing the scars with his fingers, his eyes dreamy. Slowly he leaned down,
to trace the scars again, this time with the tip of his tongue.
McQueen's breath caught and he watched as Gary made
his way from scar to nipple to scar and downward. His intentions were obvious and McQueen
reached down to grab Gary's head, pulling him back up so he could look into his eyes.
"Gary. . ."
His words were abruptly caught off as Gary covered
his mouth with his own. For a moment, McQueen almost succumbed. . .it had been far too
long. . .then he steeled himself and pushed Gary gently away.
"Gary, no." He said firmly.
Gary threw him a look that was half-hurt and
half-reproach. "Why not?"
"Because. . ." Why because? InVitros had a
very hard time understanding the complicated rules concerning sex that humans had managed
to bind themselves up with.
And speaking of hard. . ..
McQueen wrenched those thoughts away as Gary's hand
wandered back down his body. "It feels good." Gary murmured as he leaned down to
kiss McQueen's throat. "I like feeling good."
"Does. . .does Alvin make you feel good?"
McQueen tried to ignore the feel of Gary's lips against his skin.
Gary laughed deep in his throat, the vibrations
sending shivers through McQueen. "Alvin makes me feel real good." Gary made his
way back up his brother's body. "Will you make me feel good, Ty?" And his lips
settled lightly on McQueen's once again. "Please?" He breathed.
"Oh, hell." McQueen murmured before
reaching up to gently lift Gary's head and stare into his eyes. "Gary, no." He
actually managed to say it firmly, ignoring the hurt that flared in eyes so much like his
"Why not?" Gary pouted.
"Because. . .because brothers don't do that.
Not with each other." McQueen said in a sudden fit of inspiration and hoping Gary
won't ask why not.
"Oh." Gary frowned, obviously thinking
this over before laying his head on McQueen's shoulder.
McQueen forced himself to relax. "Gary, are
there others who. . .who make you feel good?"
"No. Jes' Alvin. I don' see many people."
"Do you really want to?"
Gary frowned, once again idly tracing scars.
"I. . .I don' know. People scare me sometimes. Alvin don' scare me. An' you don'
"I'm glad I don't. But Gary, listen. It isn't a
good idea for you to ask people to. . .to make you feel good. There's some bad people out
there who might only want to make themselves feel good and not you. Okay?"
Gary frowned in confusion. "You mean only with
McQueen swallowed hard. The thought of an AI having
sex with anyone was nauseating. The thought of Alvin with Gary, even more so but it was,
most likely, the safest route. And, in his own way, Alvin did care for Gary. "Yes.
Only with Alvin."
"'kay." Then he smiled shyly. "I love
Alvin lots." He admitted. "He's my bestest friend."
"Good." McQueen stroked Gary's hair
gently. "How did I get here, Gary?"
"Twonky brung you. You was hurt." Gary
touched his wrist and McQueen noticed for the first time that both wrists were bandaged.
Apparently the wires had done enough damage to warrant it.
"And Twonky? Was Twonky hurt?" McQueen
"Twonky don' get hurt." Gary grinned.
"That isn't all Twonky is," McQueen
muttered then fell silent, absently rubbing Gary's back as the other man hummed to
himself. He was wondering in bemusement if this was what it felt like to have a child when
he once again slipped into sleep.
When McQueen woke again, it was to an empty bed and
the low murmur of voices. One voice was Gary's, the other, to his surprise, was Commodore
"Come on, Gary, what is it?" Ross was
"Mooooo." Came Gary's reply and Ross
"Gary. . ."
"Jesse!" Gary hooted.
A meow came from where the two men were.
"No, this isn't Jesse. Jesse doesn't moo."
"He do if you squeeze him hard enough."
"Anything'll moo if you squeeze it hard enough.
Stop squeezing Jesse, Gary. His eyes are starting to bug out. Now what is this?"
"Jesse! It look like Jesse!" Gary
"Gary. . ." A long pause. "Now that
you mention it, it does look like Jesse. We need a new picture of a cow."
"Cow!" Gary howled then started to chant.
"Cow, cow, cow!!"
"Owwww. . ." Gary said worriedly.
"Don' that hurt?"
McQueen opened his eyes and turned his head to see
Gary and Ross sitting at the table, an open book in front of them. Ross' head was
currently on the table next to the book where he had obviously slammed it down in
McQueen began to laugh.
Gary's head snapped around. "Ty!" Dropping
the cat he still held, he jumped to his feet and ran to the bed, flinging himself down
next to his brother. "You awake again!"
McQueen sat up gingerly. "Yeah, I think so.
Easy, Gary. I'm a bit sore." He looked down at himself, wincing at the massive bruise
on his side. More minor bruises covered his chests and arms. "Commodore."
"Ty. You all right?"
McQueen met his friend's eyes, seeing the concern in
them. "Gary, where's Alvin?"
"Out in the pool hall." Gary playfully
stroked McQueen's chest and McQueen hastily caught his hand.
"Go out there with him for awhile, Gary. I want
to talk to the Commodore."
Gary pouted. "'kay." He said. He walked
past the table to pick up his raccoon and smile shyly at Ross before walking from the
McQueen threw off the sheet and swung his feet over
to rest on the floor. "How long have you been here, sir?"
"A couple hours. Taking a little liberty of my
own." His dark eyes wandered from bruise to bruise, his forehead furrowing with
concern. "Ty, what happened?"
McQueen looked down at himself, grimacing at the
suggestive bruising on his hips and thighs and launched into an outline of what had
occurred since his return to the Bacchus, leaving out nothing. By the time he
reached Twonky's apparent abandonment and the attempted gang-rape, Ross' eyes were
narrowed to slits and his breathing harsh but he didn't speak until McQueen was finished.
"And you don't remember anything after you
. . .blood on
ivory. . .splattering over walls and floors and ceiling. . .
McQueen shook his head clear, wondering where he'd
gotten that nightmare from. "Not until I woke up here." He paused then rushed
on, his voice miserable. "I screwed up, sir. I should have worked with the station
security. Or. . .hell. . .stayed out of it totally. I don't know. . ." He paused,
blinking in surprise as the other man began to laugh.
Ross sobered at the look on McQueen's face.
"Welcome to the human race, Ty." He shook his head. "You reacted just like
any other person who's brother was being threatened. No, don't tell me that, technically
or legally, he isn't your brother. That doesn't matter. What matters is what you think.
What you feel." He leaned over to tap McQueen's chest lightly. "You were
thinking with your heart, Ty. Not your head. The way you do with them kids
McQueen flushed and Ross marveled at actually seeing
the normally ice-calm InVitro flustered.
"Now, your liberty almost up. You got maybe 2
hours left and I can't extend it."
"Yes, sir. Understood." He stood,
flinching at the aches. "What about the 58th? Their liberty. . .?"
"Jaeckel is still in sickbay, of course. He'll
be fine, by the way. Talisman's hearing is coming back but the doctor insisted she stay on
the Saratoga. The others came back over hours ago."
"Alvin recommended I bring you some clothes.
Here. I'm gonna get a drink." Ross turned to walk from the room but McQueen heard his
muttered, "And have a little talk with Twonky." as he exited the room.
McQueen took the offered bundle and stood, walking
over to the a door and opening it to see a very large, very nice bathing area. Turning on
the shower, he turned to look at the mirror, grimacing at the many cuts on his chest where
someone had worked out the splinters. His wounds seemed to consist entirely of small cuts
and bruises. And punctures. He leaned forward to peer at a neat series of punctures on
both sides of his neck, looking as if. . .as if someone with. . .with. . .
. . .ivory nails.
. .long and sharp, tearing apart human flesh
as if it were paper. . .
McQueen jerked himself away from that thought and
his eyes away from the mirror. Dropping the clothes on a counter, he stepped into the
circular shower, sliding the door firmly closed.
minutes later, he walked from the bathroom to see Alvin waiting there,
looking odd in a t-shirt and jeans. McQueen paused, frowning, wondering.
"I didn't instigate it."
"What?" McQueen said, thrown off-balance.
Alvin looked at him with those odd eyes.
"That's what you're wondering, isn't it? Whether or not I instigated sex with Gary
the first time? Well, I didn't. Gary did."
"I. . ." McQueen paused then sighed.
"Yes, I was wondering. And I'm not too surprised. Gary's the stereotyped In Vitro,
oversexed and with no discretion whatsoever. You do know he tried to seduce me?"
"Yes. He told me." Something flashed in
the AI's eyes, quickly suppressed.
"Jealous?" McQueen said jestingly then
frowned as the AI abruptly turned away. "My God, you are." He said, half in
"Am I? I've never felt this way before."
Alvin reached for a denim jacket, his back to McQueen.
"You mean, like the urge to tell me that Gary's
yours and knock me through the nearest wall?"
Alvin paused with the jacket half on, looking at
him. "Yes. Exactly. What a stupid thought. Gary doesn't belong to me, to anyone but.
"I understand." McQueen couldn't believe
he just said that. "Even if you don't. . .yet."
Alvin looked at him for a long moment. "Are you
planning on trying to take Gary away?"
"No." There was no hesitation in McQueen's
reply. "He's safe here. . .well, as safe as possible. He's happy. And. . .and you do
care for him, as hard as that is for me to believe. Just. . .just take good care of him.
Or I'll personally take you apart and turn you into a radio."
Alvin's lips quirked. "Deal."
McQueen turned away, walking for the door. He opened
it, glancing out before actually entering.
Gary, his back to him, was standing at one end of a
pool table, his raccoon sat at the other. The man was solemnly explaining something to the
raccoon, waving one ball after another in demonstration. Ross was sitting at the bar,
talking with Twonky. The commodore's face was blank. . .a sure sign that he was pissed.
Twonky's back was to McQueen.
McQueen caught a glimpse of something tucked under
the bar, the ever-present barkeeper's helper. In this case, it appeared to be a cricket
bat. Thoughtfully, he reached for it, weighing it speculatively. He was aware of Alvin
standing behind him but the AI said nothing, though he must have reasoned McQueen's
"Twonky," McQueen said softly, so as not
to attract Gary's attention.
"Hmmmm?" Twonky was half-turned when the
bat hit him hard in the side then swung around in a vicious arc to slam into the side of
his head. The man fell to the ground, stunned. "You could have warned me, you
bastard," he said coldly, tucking the bat back into its place.
"What happened?" Gary cried, eyes
flickering around frantically and Alvin hurried around to stand next to him, hand resting
lightly on Gary's arm.
"It's okay, Gary. Twonky. . .Twonky just had an
accident. He'll be all right."
"Oh. Okay." Gary smiled at Alvin and
returned to whatever it was he was explaining to the raccoon.
McQueen heard this explanation with only
half-an-ear, intent as he was on Twonky. The man was glaring at him, blood dripping from
his cut mouth. Red flickered in his eyes. . .
. . .red. . .red dripping
from walls and nails and teeth. . .flaring in a pair of eyes. .
Then the red faded and Twonky was wiping away the
blood with a black-gloved hand. "Yes," he finally said reluctantly. "Yes, I
should have warned you but what you don't know you can't give away."
McQueen hesitated before finally sighing.
"Understood. Not liked but understood." He offered his hand to Twonky.
"Consider us even." After a moment, Twonky took the offered hand and McQueen
pulled him to his feet.
"On the other hand," Ross said. "If
that little. . .party had progressed further, I would've had to kill you."
"I was killing them as fast as I could!"
Twonky snarled. "Fix yourself a drink, McQueen. I'll get cleaned up before Gary
notices." Twonky vanished, not into the back room but out of the pool hall entirely.
McQueen found the bottle of scotch Twonky had poured
from earlier and filled the bottom of a glass, making his way around the bar to sit next
to his friend. As he sat, Ross nudged his arm, nodding toward Gary and Alvin.
"What do you think?"
McQueen sighed. "I don't know. I really don't.
But I don't see any other option then to leave Gary with Alvin."
Ross opened his mouth then closed it without saying
a word. McQueen was right. There weren't many options open for InVitros, especially one
that's brain-damaged. Instead, he changed the subject. "I notice that you haven't
asked what happened to the InVitros who attacked you."
"I don't think I want to know."
Ross laughed without humor. "Let's just say
that none of them can be found."
"Good." McQueen said savagely, remembering
Rocks' plans for Gary.
"Figured you say something like that.
Well." Ross drained his glass before setting it on the bar. "I have nine hours
of liberty left and plans as to how to spend it. You have to get back to the 'Toga.
Go to sickbay when you get there. According to the doc here, you're just bruised up but it
doesn't hur. . ."
Alarms echoed through the Bacchus, shrill
"Shit!" Ross jumped to his feet, scowling.
"There goes that idea. Say your good-byes, Ty."
But McQueen was already gone and at Gary's side. At
the first sound of the alarms, the man had begun to shake, eyes wide. Alvin had his arms
around Gary, holding him gently, talking to him soothingly.
"Gary. Gary, I have to go. I have to go back to
work. . ."
Gary's hand reached out to clench his tightly.
"Go? No! Stay!"
"I can't. I've got a duty. . .but I'll be
McQueen hesitated. "Promise. Not right away but
as soon as I can."
"'kay." Gary said reluctantly but his hand
did not release McQueen's.
McQueen gently pried his hand loose then reached up
to put a hand on each side of Gary's face. "I'll write, okay? Alvin can read them to
you. . ."
"I'm learnin' how to read." Gary muttered,
seemingly unaware of the tears welling in his eyes.
"Good. Then you'll be able to read them. And
write back, too. You just. . .just listen to Alvin, okay? And be good."
Gary nodded, leaning against the AI. McQueen stroked
his cheek gently before letting his hands dropped. He looked at Alvin.
"Take care of him "
"Could I do any less? Take care, McQueen."
McQueen turned and hurried to where Ross waited
impatiently. Together, the two men ran for their shuttle.
It was hours before an exhausted McQueen finally saw
his cabin. Actually, all he wanted to see was his bed, long enough to fall into it. But
there was already something there.
Frowning, McQueen picked up the sealed envelope and
tore it open, pulling out another copy of the information O'Rielly had gotten on Twonky.
He frowned at it, thumbing through the pages and trying to figure why his aide had left it
Then he reached the last page.
There, written on the bottom of the page in bright
red were the words, "According
to a top secret file (don't ask how I got it!), the town of New Minyaka was reportedly
abandoned in 2015 and never repopulated."
2015. Years before Twonky was supposedly born in
that town. What the hell was going on?
McQueen shoved the papers into a locked drawer of
his desk and pulled off his clothes, collapsing into bed, too tired to really try and
think about it now.
His dreams that night and for many nights after
that, were filled with blood and ivory and eyes that flared red.
There is a
now available at this site.
The sequel to this story is
Christmas Time on the Bacchus
also available at this site.