38 time for a cuppa

“Where’d you find him?” Jesse asked slowly.

“I didn’t, he came recommended, and I can’t otherwise speak about him because of some elaborate promises I made.”

“You weren’t really born on Earth, were you,” Jesse said.

George grinned. “Oh yes, I was. That part I’m quite sure of.”

Jesse got up to boil water for tea.

“Are you angry with me?” George said.

“Would you care if I was?” Jesse asked softly.

“I respect you. I like you. I can tell you’re angry, but I can’t tell what is making you feel thwarted, or lower on the hierarchy, which is what usually makes humans mad. So I’m asking because I’m curious, and it will affect what I say next.”

Jesse, unlike most people, tried to think before he spoke.  George, unlike most people, gave him the space to think.

“No,” Jesse said. “I’m angry because I feel ignorant. I want to know more than you can tell me.”

“I’ve made a lot of promises. Some of them you’d approve of, and some of them would likely —“ and here he paused.

“Piss me off,” Jesse supplied.

“No doubt,” George said, his tone broadening into derision. “I’ll tell you what I can, when I can.”

“What role do I play in your plans?” Jesse said, lingering over each syllable.

“What, you think I’m going to tell the cabbie to pull over so I can eat you? This isn’t a Supernatural episode; I have real world problems.”

“It is a Supernatural episode.  You don’t eat.”

“I’m physiologically different from other … Sixers.”

Jesse took a deep breath and said, “Show me what you really look like, because I know you don’t look like —“ and he waved his hand, fingers splayed.

“You really did figure it out faster than anybody I ever met,” George said. “And you kept your mouth shut.  Smart and discreet don’t always go together. You can laugh if you want to, but you’re my coworker reference.”


“I need to have a coworker, so I can prove I can behave appropriately, provide customer service, put other people’s needs ahead of my own, be useful, show compassion, entrepreneurial drive and all those behaviours which placate various people. Also, I was told to do it by one of the people I made a promise to.”

“I don’t know, George, it sounds like you’ve made a lot of promises.  Why not just take what you want?”

George laughed.  He said something, probably in Greek, that sounded like a song and a moan. Jesse raised his eyebrows.

“Because I can’t.  I can’t take what I want, even if I thought I was justified in so doing! I need human help to get what I want, and I can’t do it in secret, because as limp and meretricious as contemporary journalism is in most places, I cannot keep it secret. All I can do is make the day it’s no longer a secret one of my choosing.”

“You think I’ll keep your secret?”

“Yes. Let me ask you a question.  When did you guess?”

“Weeks ago,” Jesse said. “I wanted more evidence.”

“Wise, and able to put off immediate gratification. Unusual. As for our secrets, for you know of three of us now, I know you will keep them, unless we do something violent or truly barbaric. Have you told Raven?”

“No,” Jesse said heavily. “She thinks I have mental health issues already, and she’s right. She’d march up to you and demand proof, and I don’t think I wanted to see what you might do to keep her quiet. You announcing ‘We’re here!’ could start a nuclear war.”

“I won’t mock you. I know that’s true,” George said.

“As for barbaric, don’t you think infecting me with something is barbaric? Or was that Michel putting you on the spot and I was just the way he could do that?”

“He’s testing both of us. I am very sorry he chose to be such an ass about it.”

They looked at each other for a while.

“It would be best,” George said, “If you didn’t expect Michel to apologize.”

“I’m used to that,” Jesse said.

There was another long pause.

George pulled at his nose, or pretended to.  “I’m not human.”

“Are you hideously ugly?”

“Not to my mates,” George said, and stopped whatever internal processes allowed him to generate his appearance.

The white man in Edwardian garb disappeared, and a blob, roughly the shape of a human, sat in his place.

“Hoo boy,” said Jesse.

George was naked. There appeared to be nothing that could be called eyes, nose or face; no external genitalia, no nails, fingers or toes. His skin was mottled; some patches were grey, some beige, trending to pink, and some cream, trending to white. The patches moved, slowly and steadily, as if his surface was a sped up map of tectonic plates moving above and below each other.

The only thing that seemed human was his hair. It, too, was moving, and it did not rest on his skin, but stuck up and out like one of those optical fibre fountains you see in Chinese restaurants sometimes. It was dense, and dark, and it was hard to see what colour it really was.