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Morphic

For more information on this story and a full list of chapters and extras, click here. Please note that Morphic is rated R (M if you prefer Fiction Ratings) for strong language, violence and other sensitive subject matter.

Extra: Dave and Mia Discuss Relationships

There were a lot of things that puzzled Mia about people. She had learned to accept it long ago, of course, and she didn’t lose any sleep over it, but it frustrated her because she liked understanding things, and there were a lot of things that involved people behaving in puzzling ways that she didn’t entirely understand.

Today, for instance, she had noticed two girls in her class discreetly holding hands under the table and sitting a little closer to one another than they normally did and kissing behind the school building during recess, and that made her ask Dave, “What are relationships for?”

“It’s a sexual exclusivity thing,” he answered after a moment. “In our ancestors, because human kids are helpless as all fuck for several years after being born, it was advantageous for fathers to help raise their children to make sure they survived to adulthood, only they don’t know it’s their kid unless the mother was only sleeping with them. Because it’s the mother’s kid too and she wants it to reach adulthood just as much, she also wants the father to stick around instead of just running off to fuck somebody else. Pairing off into couples who mostly have sex with one another turns out to be a win-win, genes for latching onto one person of the opposite sex and being jealous start to dominate the gene pool, and here we are.”

“But there are two girls in my class who are in a relationship together.”

Dave raised his eyebrows, his lips curling into an amused smile for some reason. “Well, the beauty of evolution is that once you get past how brilliant it is, you realize it’s really pretty terrible at its job. That applies doubly to evolved behavior of any kind. The falling-in-love mechanism doesn’t know it’s supposed to be ensuring you have kids; it just makes you fall in love, and as a society we’ve advanced to the point where we don’t really give a damn what it was actually supposed to do anymore.”

Mia considered this. “So humans are still sexually exclusive even when they’re both girls or not having kids or can just have paternity tests and it doesn’t make sense.”

He tilted his head a little. “Well, it still makes sense, in a different way. People want to be happy, and evolution works on behavior by programming us to feel good and be happy when we do something it thinks is correlated with having more offspring, like being in monogamous relationships. What they feel doesn’t change just because we know why.”

Mia nodded, satisfied. People wanting to be happy made sense. A lot of bizarre things really boiled down to people trying to be happy.

Then she furrowed her brow, because on second thought this didn’t quite make sense either. “My mom slept with you even though she was with my dad, though.”

“Jesus Christ,” Dave said, suddenly defensive. “When are you going to shut the fuck up about that?”

Mia frowned, looking out the window. Dave usually made sense to her, but whenever she brought this up he seemed to clam up in the stupidest way and act as if it wasn’t true when it obviously was. “Are you jealous because she’s also having sex with my dad?” she guessed after a pause.

“No!” he replied exasperatedly. The curious strain in his voice told her that was somewhat closer to the truth than he let on.

“I don’t think my dad’s jealous. He doesn’t act weird around her the way you do.”

“He has no reason to be jealous because he doesn’t – as far as I know – just, for fuck’s sake, stop thinking about this.”

It irritated her when he got upset over stupid things, because she liked him and he was usually better at making sense than most people. Of all the times when people were puzzling it bothered her most when it was him. He was supposed to know better.

“Why would she sleep with you when she already had my dad and people are jealous and happier in monogamous relationships?”

Dave made a strange face somewhere midway between pained and amused that then turned into a stiff wince. “You tell me.”

Mia watched him with interest, starting to catch on. Dave was just confused because her mom didn’t make sense. That explained a lot. “Is it like a love triangle?” she asked after a pause, and suddenly Dave burst out laughing, in a bitter, hollow way.

“No. The only guy she loves is your dad, love triangles are a horrible plot device in bad movies, and I’d be very grateful if I never, ever had to hear that phrase out of the mouth of a half-Scyther again.”

She frowned again. “But then why bother having sex with someone else?”

Dave chuckled spitefully. “Maybe your dad has a small dick.”

She looked blankly at him and couldn’t imagine why that would be relevant.

“That was a joke,” he said, waving a hand at her. “Maybe. I don’t even know. Fuck.”

“Love seems very impractical,” she said after a moment. “There’s no point in it if it’s one-sided. There should be a mechanism to make you fall in love with the next best choice if the first one is unavailable, instead of being hung up on the same one.”

“Well, people generally do just that after some time,” Dave said, a little reluctantly.

“Why haven’t you, then?”

There was silence. She cocked her head, waiting for an answer, watching his reactions: his fingers clutching the steering wheel just a little tighter, the muscles and tendons in his neck tensing a little. Her eyes locked onto the throbbing pulse near his throat, and she felt her senses automatically tuning themselves and reaching out and noticing the smell of the blood rushing through his body and the fact he was not looking in her direction right now and was really very vulnerable.

He sighed, glancing at her. “Uh, hotdogs?”

She nodded. That would be nice. She was kind of hungry.

She noticed his brow furrowing ever so slightly, warily, before he looked away from her again. “Mia, uh,” he said after a moment, hesitantly, “what are you thinking right now?”

“I’m hungry,” she replied, shrugging.

“Right,” he said, still wary. He gave her a couple more concerned glances out of the corner of his eye before he opened his mouth again. “Just so we’re clear here, when you say ‘hungry’ you mean ‘let’s get hotdogs’, not ‘I want to tear Dave’s throat out and eat him’, right?”

“Both,” she said.

She watched him raise his eyebrows slowly and take a very deep breath. “Okay,” he said, in the slightly slower, carefully leveled voice that he used when he was pretending not to be nervous, “you remember when we talked about self-control?”

“I won’t eat you,” she said, mildly irritated; she had told him this many times before. “I like talking to you more than I’d like eating you.”

“That’s great,” he said, still in the same voice, “but you can’t eat people you don’t like, either.”

“I know,” she said.

“Tell me why.”

“Because it would be found out, I’d go to jail and it wouldn’t pay in the long term.”

He nodded, slowly, without looking at her. “Never forget, all right?”

It was a stupid question. She didn’t forget.

Dave parked the car outside the hotdog stand, but didn’t open the door immediately, which usually meant he wanted to say something. She waited and watched him swallow before he turned to her, but even then he didn’t actually speak; he just sat there for a while, looking at her in silence, his eyes very open and concerned. She stared back at the wild blue patterns of his irises and her reflection in his pupils and the shadows of the people on the street moving indistinctly behind her.

“Mia…” he said finally, leaning slowly back and relaxing a little in the driver’s seat as he squeezed his eyes shut. He took a breath, again like he was going to say something, but then changed his mind. Mia, getting impatient, reached for the handle on the passenger-side door.

“Please don’t let me down,” he said, turning towards her again, and she wondered why he would keep repeating that when she had gotten it the first time.

After a moment he turned away, and they exited the car. He stopped by the front to wait for her and offer her his hand, like he always did. In his eyes and his posture and the barely noticeable tremble to his fingers, she could see the subconscious fear that wanted him to stay a safe distance from her and the pure suicidal willpower that refused to back away, and she smiled.

He didn’t always make sense, and he didn’t always answer her questions, and he didn’t always buy her hotdogs. But he was always willing to make these small gestures to show that he believed she wouldn’t hurt him, and though she didn’t know entirely why she found that so satisfying, she did.

She took his hand and together they walked towards the hotdog stand.

Page last modified July 14 2017 at 16:44 GMT