“But did you have that little zero-g closet right away?” Emma asks.
Dance blinks at her, spreads his hands. “I don’t know. I only know when it starts squirming and wanting to stay out loose all the time.”
She frowns at him, and then at the tip of the new thing. It is touching her hand lightly, pushing against her fingers, as if they confuse it. “That has a pretty rough surface. Is it rubbing your legs raw if you tuck it up–”
“Yes, and scraping other things.” Dance sighs.
She looks at it. “Well, wrapping it in an adult diaper and then covering everything with another one might work for a while, if you wear bulky long shirts or jackets. But I don’t– since we don’t know how big it will get–or how long it will keep growing–”
We need someone who does know, and I’m useless at it, Drin thinks, but he doesn’t say it. He knows better than to ask if the poor man wants to go to a doctor. The shedding skin was warning enough that somebody’s expensive secrets are about to blow sky high, and very likely they’re going to be unhappy about it. He hadn’t expected to have Preacher Slick rebalance his brain like a car with new tires. He never expected the nasty surprise chunks of unpleasant knowledge that have been bobbing up ever since, provoked by equally surprising events.
Drin looks at his lovers. They need a place to hide now, a lot sooner than he’d realized.
“How are we going to tell this to the guy you want to talk to?” Dance says, adjusting things in his pants.
“Dance, just like you told me.”
“Dance, a human fetus at four and a half months has a tail like a reptile. At earlier stages it has gills. Changing the genetics isn’t even needed to find a way to make some tissues revert into earlier forms. Just proteomics, directing which parts of a genome will be turned on or not. If you have reasonable control over an immune system that might object, then you can also add genetic engineering for new parts entirely that no fetus ever saw. And you might keep the science in it a big fat secret until you’d made all your fancy high-budget military projects.”
Dance looks up. “A super soldier or something? But I don’t…” he makes that gesture again. “I’m just a musician. I just… play music.”
Drin looks at the hands that also get callused from workouts in the dojo, not just from hammering strings eight hours a day. “Thank God!” Drin says. Then he holds up one hand, and he pats Dance. “You’re not Hyphen, and you’re never going to be. I swear. Okay?”
“Okay,” Dance says.
“I might be able to find out more.” Emma frowns. “That’s what we need, more information. I’d like to see how fast it’s growing out, too, see how your general health is holding up. We’ll need to keep some records on it for that.”
Dance looks over at Drin, making a sour face. “She will want to take many pictures. Many.”
Emma can’t stifle a laugh. “Will you be okay with that, love?”
Dance nods. “Perhaps it will be difficult putting up with the tape measures, but I will be all right.”
Emma snorts. “No, you’ll bitch the whole time, but promise me you’ll do your best. We don’t know who or how it might help.” Then she looks at Drin oddly. “You seem very calm about this very… strange…”
“Yeah, I’m kind of wondering about that myself. I know I’ve seen things like that before. It’s cruel that I don’t remember enough to explain it to you, Dance. But I know you’re still who you always were, so that’s not… that’s not what matters about you, to me.”
Dance’s eyes go very wide, and shiny, and then he’s kissing Drin very hard. Drin kisses him back just as much.
Eventually Drin ends up flat on his back with his knees wrapped around Dance’s waist, and he feels that strange organ rubbing ecstatically down his inner thighs. He knows the scales are sanding away at his skin and hair, and maybe he’s going to have red marks later, and he doesn’t care. It feels wonderful.
Emma is watching Dance and his precarious backbone, holding the length of the tail gently in case Dance might need the support, and sometimes the tip is twining around her hands happily too, as if it’s wallowing in kissing her.
Drin is sprawled out on his back because it worked out faster that way, with Dance’s renewed need, and Drin’s intense desire to feel Dance as intimately as possible without pressing his weight down on the uncertain base of Dance’s spine. He needs Dance, needs to feel Dance moving with him. He knows Dance needs to be buried in his scent, he knows that Dance will be calmed by it. He knows touching Emma too is going to calm Dance.
Drin just doesn’t know how he has come by that knowledge.
rewritten excerpt from a larger chunk on googledocs by the same name