Christmas Time on the Bacchus

Part One
of two

T.C. McQueen paused outside the pool hall, not too surprised to find it closed. It was, after all, Christmas and if there were those who'd find it surprising, what with the proprietor being an AI, that it would close on this human holiday, well, to hell with them. McQueen swung the duffel he carried up on his shoulder and pushed the door open to step inside.

The pool hall was its usual dim-lit self. And empty, which it normally wasn't. McQueen let the door swing closed and walked around the bar to the door behind it. He dropped the duffel into the shadows and reaching out to open the door, only to pause at the sounds within. Cautiously, he eased the door open to peer inside, grinning broadly at what he saw.

AlvinAlvin was at a counter, folding laundry with quick, efficient movements, one eye on what he was doing, the other on the silver-haired man by the bed. Gary was making the bed in his own unique way, talking nonstop. At first, McQueen thought he was talking to Alvin or maybe that toy raccoon of his propped up on a nearby chair, but then he realized that Gary was speaking very seriously to a rather large lump under the covers.

"Gary," Alvin said suddenly, and the man in question threw him a furtive look.

"Yes?"

"You know better than to make the cat into the bed."

Gary frowned. "But he won't get out! See?" He thumped the bed next to the lump. Sure enough, the lump didn't move.

"Gary." Alvin sighed, setting the last folded shirt in the appropriate pile, and walked over to the bed, undoing the covers enough to reveal the big cat underneath. He reached down to lift it up and off the bed.

"Awwwwww. Poor Jesse." Gary reached for the cat but Alvin held it out of reach.

"Make the bed up, Gary."

"But you took it apart!" Gary pouted. Alvin just stared at him until, still pouting, Gary remade the bed. Alvin shook his head and turned away, pausing at the sight of McQueen standing in the doorway. He stared at him for a long moment before nodding in welcome. Glancing down to confirm that the bed was once again made, Alvin gently touched Gary's shoulder.

"Gary. Look who's here."

Gary blinked at him then looked over his shoulder. His face lit up. "Ty!" He jumped to his feet, running to his brother. McQueen braced himself, catching the man in a fierce hug. "You did come!"

"Was there any doubt?" McQueen said, smiling. "You look good."

"I feel good." Gary looked around with a puzzled frown.

"Gary!" Alvin said sternly. "Behave."

"Where you got my present hidden?" Gary demanded of the AI.

"Present? What present?" Alvin said serenely.

"Ohhhh . . . you mean!" Gary scowled.

Alvin patted Gary's back as he passed them. "I'll be back in a minute."

"'kay." Gary took McQueen's hand, leading him to the table where the remnants of wrapping paper were strewn. "Alvin's bein' mean." He said. "Won' tell me where my presents are."

"Well, it isn't time to open them." McQueen sat down. "Later. How are you doing, Gary?"

"I'm doin' good. Alvin's teaching me how to count but I ain't very good yet."

"You will be." McQueen glanced around. The murals on the walls had changed once again, going from wildlife back to fantasy. Gary did have a vivid imagination. "So. . . got anything you want to tell me?"

Gary looked at him, lowering his head to rest on the table.

"Alvin treating you okay?" He asked.

"Why do you always ask me that? Alvin never hurts me exceptin' that . . . " His voice faded and he rolled his head until he was looking away from McQueen and at the table.

McQueen frowned as he studied his brother intently. Gary. Has Alvin told you not to tell me things?" He asked.

Gary pretended not to hear and McQueen's frown deepened. He reached out to gently cup Gary's chin, lifting his head, but the other man refused to meet his eyes. "Gary . . . "

"No. He says I should tell you anything I want. That I don' need to be scared to tell you what I want to."

"Has Alvin ever hurt you?" McQueen repeated.

Gary raised his eyes to look at McQueen then looked away. "Once." He muttered. "But it was a long time ago an' he didn' mean it."

McQueen felt anger surge through him, quickly stifled as Gary shifted uneasily. The other man was remarkably good at picking up on his moods. "When, Gary? What happened?"

Gary frowned, tracing unseen images on the table top with a fingertip. "We was havin' some fun. Y'know, makin' each other feel good . . . "

McQueen's eyes narrowed. For Gary, "feeling good" was a euphemism for having sex.

"An', Alvin, he wanted to do somm'un new. He wanted to . . . to be inside me but I didn' like it none an' I told him to stop an' he did an' . . . an' . . . don' be mad, Ty." Gary started to shiver.

McQueen realized that he was clenching his hands into tight fists and forced himself to relax. "It's all right. I'm not mad at you . . . "

"Don' be mad at Alvin neither. He didn' mean to hurt me none. An' . . . an' he really didn' hurt me. He jes' scared me. A little."

Scared him. Gary had few memories of his days in the mines but McQueen figured that he had some reflexive reactions to certain situations. After undoubtedly having been raped in the mines, Gary's reaction to anal sex could only have been bad, to say the least. Of course, McQueen suddenly realized, he'd always thought that was the type of sex they were having.

"It didn' feel good none an' Alvin was real sorry. He never done it again."

"And I won't either." said a low voice from the doorway and McQueen looked up to see Alvin standing there. The AI stepped into the room and over to where Gary sat, resting his hands on the man's shoulders. "Go get washed up and changed, Gary. The others will be coming soon."

"'kay." Gary said uncertainly as he stood, eyeing McQueen in concern. "You still mad." He said distrustingly

"Gary, it's okay." Alvin murmured. "Go along. McQueen and I are just going to talk. Go on."

Gary hesitated, finally picking up his raccoon and making his way toward the bathroom.

"And don't wash Rikki this time."

"'kay." Gary vanished into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

McQueenMcQueen stared at Alvin, anger a cold hardness in his stomach. The AI looked back, just as coldly impassive.

"Say what you're thinking, McQueen. Say it and be done."

McQueen glared at him. "Damnit, how could you! My god, after what he went through in the mines . . . ?"

The AI laughed bitterly, without humor. "What he went through? Do you honestly think InVitros were the only ones being bent over in the mines? Don't look so surprised. That's what we Silicates were created for." He turned away, staring blindly at the wall. "What do you want, McQueen? Do you want to know what happened?"

McQueen hesitated but Alvin didn't wait for his reply. "Gary, the first year after the accident he was pretty much out of it. Wasn't even able to take care of himself. Infantile level, really. And like an infant, he liked to explore. His surroundings and himself and, on the long cold nights, me. He figured out what made him feel good and he found out what made me feel good."

And Alvin found himself back there, stretched out next to Gary under a swelter of blankets. It was cold outside but so warm inside with the young man pressed against him, moving insistently; kissing, stroking, rubbing, mouthing . . . He tore his thoughts away from the past and back to the present.

"When Gary talks about feeling good, he is referring to sex. Sex as he knows it. Maybe just cuddling. Or kissing. Hands and mouth. It was just that for years as he relearned everything. Went from infant to toddler . . . relearning . . . then, one day . . . " He paused, leaning against the wall. "You were born full-grown, McQueen. You know what it's like to tiptoe through new emotions. Created abruptly with no idea what to do with them. That was I, McQueen. A machine, suddenly blessed . . . or cursed . . . with the ability to feel. And Gary . . . I took care of Gary. Then I started to care for him. And, yes, believe it or not . . . " He turned to look at McQueen. ". . .eventually love him."

McQueen eyed the AI. He wouldn't have believed what he was hearing a year ago but that was then. This was now and he had seen AIs, this one in particular, do things he'd never thought possible.

"One night, we were . . . having fun, would be the way Gary would put it. No different from many nights before but that time . . . that time . . . "

And he was there again, curled around Gary with the feel of fur underneath his side and the man's body pressed against him. He caressed the warm skin wonderingly, listening to Gary as he mumbled and writhed under the AI's wandering hands. The unusual sensations that Alvin had been feeling for so long were surging through him, stronger then ever. It seemed strange to him to be happy just watching Gary, watching him be happy. What did it mean . . . ?

Then Gary was crying out, jerking against Alvin, his gray-blue eyes wide as he clung to the AI. Alvin watched his face, reveling in the pleasure he saw there. It meant something for him to enjoy Gary's pleasure as much as his own and one day . . .one day, he'd figure it out. Not tonight though. He had his own pleasure to attend to now.

He leaned forward to kiss Gary gently, parting his lips with a nimble tongue and rubbing against him. He wanted to . . . to . . . memories flooded him and with a sigh he sat up, gently urging Gary to lie on his stomach and moving to kneel between his legs, hands roaming over the smooth, pale skin. He'd never done this before but the humans who had done it to him seemed to enjoy it. His hands moved more insistently, his breathing harsh, feelings surging through him he's never experienced before. Caught up in the wild turmoil of these new, unfamiliar emotions, Alvin didn't notice the sudden tension of the body under him, the violent shivering that had nothing to do with the cold.

Kissing Gary's neck lightly, Alvin braced himself, slowly, gently forcing his slick hardness into the man, so caught up in the new sensations he didn't realize that Gary was crying until he was buried deep within him. The AI froze, startled into stillness as he realized that Gary was speaking for the first time since the accident.

"No, no, no . . . " Gary was whimpering, his voice hoarse from disuse. "I don' wanna. It hurts. Please . . . please don' make me . . . " Tears ran down his face as his hands clutched the furs beneath him.

"Gary?" Alvin lifted himself off Gary, all thoughts of pleasure driven from his mind at the sound of dull resignation, fear and self-loathing he heard in the young In Vitro's voice. He stretched out next to Gary, staring into those wide, horror-filled eyes. "Gary . . . " He reached out to touch the man's cheek, a gesture that froze when Gary scrambled away, cowering against the wall, shoulders shaking with the force of his sobs. "I'm sorry, Gary. I'm so sorry." He whispered, filled with disgust and loathing, emotions he'd never felt before but somehow knew the name of. And there was another emotion . . .

"Shame." Alvin gave McQueen a twisted, bitter smile. "I was ashamed of myself and I didn't understand why. At the time, I didn't realize how what had happened in the mines could have affected him. Had affected him. I could only go by my experiences and it hadn't affected me but then I wasn't . . . aware as yet. The only good thing that came out of it was that Gary started to talk again."

"I'm surprised he ever let you touch him again." McQueen said.

"He didn't for several weeks. It took a very long time for Gary to trust me again. When we had sex the next time, it was because Gary had instigated it. I never tried to sodomize him again. And I won't either." The AI took a half-step to the small refrigerator and opened the door, lifting out two bottles of beer and tossing one to McQueen. The man stared first at it then at Alvin in surprise.

Alvin grinned at the look McQueen gave him. "Foster's. I like the taste. I don't get a buzz from it but . . . I like the taste. Twonky's fault, that." Alvin sat down across from him, opening the bottle he held. "It wasn't until we returned to Earth that I began to understand. Gary went to the hospital, to Dr. Streiger . . . you know about that . . . and while he was there, I went to the local medical library to look up everything I could about abuse. Child abuse. Sexual abuse. The type of thing that went on at the mines. Frankly, after what I read, I'm surprised any InVitro made it out of them sane."

"Who said we did?" McQueen muttered, taking a deep swallow of beer.

Alvin's lips quirked. "No comment." He rolled the bottle between his palms then said suddenly. "Did you ever notice that the IVA seemed to attract the worst element of natural-borns? Child abusers, rapists, sadists?"

McQueen grunted. "Probably because they could do anything they wanted to us and not be held accountable."

"Probably." The AI agreed then he frowned, glancing toward the bathroom door. "What is taking him so long?" Alvin set the bottle on the table and rose, moving to open the door. "Gary!"

"He fell in!" Gary's voice howled. McQueen choked on his beer, slamming the bottle on the table as he doubled over coughing. "Honest!" McQueen finally managed to climb to his feet, wiping at the beer that came out of his nose, and made his way to where Alvin stood. He looked over the AI's shoulder and into the spacious bathroom.

Gary stood, wide-eyed and naked, next to the sunken tub, Rikki the raccoon in one hand, a towel in the other. All three were dripping wet.

"Well," Alvin muttered to McQueen. "It beats last time's excuse. Last time, Rikki jumped in." He reached over for a thick towel and stepped to Gary's side. Gently he worked Rikki loose, tossing toy and towel to McQueen, who grimaced at finding himself with an armful of sodden stuffed animal. "I'm going to get that thing scotch-guarded."

"Think it would help?" McQueen reached for a drier towel than the one currently wrapped around the toy.

"Probably not." Alvin began to deftly dry Gary off.

"I didn't mean to . . . he really did fall in." Gary said as Alvin worked his way up the man's body.

"Yes, I know, Gary." He dried the short silvery hair briskly, cutting off whatever it was Gary was trying to say. "Next time, don't set him so close to the edge."

"But he likes it!" Gary managed to gasp out then once again his words were cut off. When next he could speak, it was to wail. "You doin' tha' on purpose!"

"Doing what?" Alvin said serenely as he started to dry Gary's back. The man didn't answer, just turned abruptly to hug the AI close. Alvin threw McQueen an uncomfortable look but even his obvious unease didn't stop him from returning Gary's embrace. He patted the man's back gently. "Time to get dressed, Gary. I've got to go check on the food."

"'kay." Gary turned away, catching sight of himself in a mirror. "Ack! My hair! You got my hair all messy!" He reached for a comb. "Rikki need to be combed too. He's messy too."

McQueen glanced down at the raccoon he was trying unsuccessfully to dry. Yes, he was a tad messy.

"I'll take care of Rikki, Gary. You just get dressed." The AI's eyes met McQueen's for a long moment as he took the toy from him. McQueen had a suspicion that if he hadn't been here, the drying session would have taken a very different direction.

"Okay." Gary drew the comb through his short hair. He waited for Alvin to leave the room before turning to stare appraisingly at his brother. "You not mad at Alvin no more." It was more a statement then a question.

"No, I'm not mad at Alvin no . . . anymore." McQueen corrected himself with a grimace. "I just . . . I just don't want anyone to hurt you or do anything to you that you don't want to do."

"Alvin wouldn't do that. Alvin would never hurt me." He reached for a pair of cut off jeans, pulling them on. "That time was an accident . . . "

"I know, Gary. Alvin explained it to me."

Gary looked at him for a long moment then down at the floor shyly. "I told him, once, that if he wanted to, he could . . . " He paused, obviously reluctant to continue.

McQueen frowned, expression sharpening. "When . . . ?"

"I don' know. After the last operation." Gary touched the side of his head absently. "But he said he didn' wanna do it unless I really, really wanted to and he could tell that I really didn' wanna. That I was scared."

McQueen stood very still, reflecting that he had, once again, very badly underestimated the AI. "He was right, Gary. You should never do, or never have to do, anything you don't want to do. Alvin . . . Alvin cares for you too much to make you unhappy. In any way."

Gary smiled broadly. "I know that. I jes' wanna make sure you know that."

"I'm beginning to understand. Now I'm going to see how Alvin's doing with the food. You finish getting dressed." He turned to walk from the bathroom, pausing when he heard Gary call his name.

"Make sure Alvin don' put Rikki in the oven again. Rikki don' like the oven none."

"Okay." McQueen grinned as he walked from the room and made his way to the pool hall. After that, he just followed his nose to the kitchen set to one side of the bar. Once there, he paused in the doorway, blinking at the sight of Alvin standing in front of the oven, a distrustful frown on his handsome face. He glanced up at the InVitro.

Part Two

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