Conversations With Girls Over Sushi

"Ew, Michael, that's absolutely gross!" Maria squealed.

Michael quirked a brow at her and continued chewing on his arm of raw squid. After swallowing, he said, "It's sushi. You're the one who keeps trying to get me to try new things. And you were right – I don't even have to put Tabasco sauce on this, the soy sauce works fine."

Maria shuddered as Michael stuffed another piece of raw fish in his mouth. "When I suggested seafood, I meant someplace where they cook it."

Michael frowned and set down his chopsticks (which Maria was surprised to notice that he actually used quite adroitly). "They do cook the food here – if you ask them to. Yours is cooked."

Maria looked down at her half-eaten plate of scallops pasta and dim sun and nodded. "Yeah, I know, it's just – every time I see sushi I'm reminded how much the evil aliens in all those movies look like some weird sea creatures and it's just…weird, you know, seeing you eat something like that."

Michael looked at her for a moment, and she felt vaguely as if she'd said something important, but couldn't quite figure out what.

Finally, he said, "Well, I'm glad to know you aren't turned on by the thought of me being a cannibal, but it is just sushi, Maria."

She blushed and picked at her food. "I know, it's just weird. I guess it just reminds me that you're never going to be safe, not for a long time." Looking up into his eyes, she continued, "I don't like to think about the Skins finding you and killing you someday."

Reaching for her hand underneath the cover of the table, Michael squeezed it compassionately. "We'll be okay, Maria. Besides, we beat the Skins, remember?"

"Yeah, but some of them could have survived," she pointed out. "And they look just like us; we would never see them coming."

"Another thing Hollywood got wrong," Michael said teasingly. "I mean, you and I know most aliens don't really look like that – the only reason most of the evil aliens in those movies have scales is because they couldn't exactly make the aliens look human, could they?"

"Well, no, but why not fur…or feathers?" she asked, feeling mildly more comfortable now that they were discussing something as abstract as movies, and not something dramatic, like the Skins.

Michael shrugged and let go of her hand – reluctantly, she thought – before going back to eating his sushi. "Most animals with scales aren't looked upon with fondness by the public. Everybody likes cute little puppies, bunnies and kittens, and most are fond of birds, so once you cut out fur and feathers, all you have left are scales. Most people don't like lizards and snakes. And while people will automatically take to ALF because he's cute and cuddly, something that looks like the Loch Ness Monster is going to scare them."

"I never really liked ALF all that much," Maria commented. "I thought the whole show was contrived. The Tanners took to him way too fast. If an alien lands in your backyard, you normally don't invite them to live with you. None of them freaked out, which was very unrealistic. And I thought the whole cat thing was way overdone."

"I don't know, I kinda liked it," Michael said. "Up until I met Max and Liz, I thought I was the only one who ate weird stuff. ALF putting non-diary creamer on his tacos made me feel better about putting pickles and jalapenos on my ice cream."

"Pickles and ice cream?" Maria said incredulously. "You sure you weren't pregnant?"

Giving his girlfriend a dagger look, Michael said in a low voice, so as not to be overheard, "I may be an alien, Maria, but I'm still a guy."

Nodding solemnly, Maria said, "And I am reminded of that fact every time I see your apartment: dirty clothes on the floor, unwashed dishes in the sink, month-old magazines on the coffee table…"

Michael snorted. "I don't like to clean. So what? Neither do you, or didn't you think I noticed that you stuffed all your dirty clothes and magazines underneath your bed when I came over the other night?"

She blushed and looked down at her pasta. Spearing a large scallop and wrapping some pasta around her fork, she said, "Yeah, well, at least I tried." She stuffed the bite of food in her mouth and began to chew.

"I know. And I appreciate that. But you've seen me at my worst, what make you think a little mess would matter to me?"

The earnestness in his voice made her look up. Swallowing her scallops, she said, "I don't, I just…sometimes I'm not sure about…us." She took a deep breath and looked away. "You told me you wanted to find out where you came from, but to do that you'd have to leave. And…I don't want you to leave. So I guess I'm trying not to get too attached."

Michael's eyes were wide with shock. "Maria, I…I didn't know you felt that way. I mean, half the time you're running hot and cold, and I don't know what to think. I don't really want to leave, but I've had these questions for so long it's hard to give it up. And you never said you wanted me to stay…"

She squirmed in her chair. "I…well, I don't really know how to do the whole relationship thing, so I guess I screwed it up. I didn't want to you to stay just because I asked…so I never did."

Taking her hand in his, this time on top of the table, Michael said, "You can always ask, Maria. Anything."

"Promise?" Maria asked tearfully.