II:

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"Here I grew guilty, and no one was at fault, frightened by the power of every innocent thought." –Carly Simon, Boys in the Trees

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Human sexual activity is significantly different from Andalite sexual activity. From what I am told, Andalite climax lasts up to half an earth hour and is described as a very pleasant warm sensation throughout the body. Typically, after climax, Andalites enter a peaceful state of mind for several hours, very close to a short hibernation. Our body temperature lowers and we enter a dreamlike state. It is believed that this effect has led to our valuation of privacy surrounding the act, as we would not wish to be incapacitated where predators may find us. However, Andalites have not had predators in many generations.

At least, that is what I was told from my anatomy and biology class. I had been young at the time and thus not very interested, though approximately a year later I found myself wishing I had paid more attention to our reproductive instruction segment.

By contrast, the human "orgasm" I had just experienced had lasted less than thirty seconds, and had felt significantly more intense than I imagined a "very pleasant warm sensation" to be. And currently I was very far from a dream state. But I did feel very relaxed, and somewhat tired. I shivered slightly in my thin artificial fur, made colder by the sweat. For the moment, I decided to stay in my human morph.

Had this been a television show such as Days of Our Lives, Marco and I would be engaging in what humans call "cuddling". Yet when I attempted this, Marco pushed me off and quickly said "we're not a couple, man". So instead, we returned to watching television. A series of programs under the name Nick at Nite were beginning to play. I had studied some of them to understand the typical human family unit, although I had been unable to determine which members of the family were providing the off-camera laughter.

Marco stood up suddenly and started to pace. "You know not to ever tell anyone else about this, right?"

"I did not know." I said. "Why? Iiih."

"We just can't, okay? Sex is just a really private thing. Nobody else ever knows about this."

Marco was exhibiting many expressions of anxiety, pacing, running his hands through his hair and exhaling heavily. I wondered if this was typical of humans after sex.

"Television portray sex as an acceptable topic for discussion in friendly situations. I believe many of the males on General Hospital would not have approached Liz if she had not discussed her relationships with many partners," I said, still not understanding.

"Yeah? That's different. Liz is a girl and all those guys are guys."

I realized it, then. Marco's anxiety was not typical of humans after sex, at least, not usually. I felt suddenly sick, as if a heavy weight had been pressed on my stomach.

"Marco, have we just done something humans would consider shameful?"

He nodded. "I guess you could put it that way, Ax."

For an instant I was disbelieving. All my efforts to understand humans, all of my extensive readings and memorizations, the days spent studying every nuance of the sitcoms, all of it had been for nothing. In a moment of weakness I'd done something shameful, something that would stand as a testament to my misunderstanding of humans. My ability to observe from the outside, but to make blunders when immersed.

I demorphed. I did not want to be in this body anymore, not if I was going to be such an obvious imposter. Both of us stayed silent as I did so, though Marco ripped some grass from the ground and began mashing it with his hands, a destructive form of fidgeting.

{Why didn't you tell me?}

"I didn't – I wasn't – I wasn't thinking. I was just caught up in the whole thing, I wouldn't have – I mean it's not like I'd ever judge – God, I-" Marco stammered, having uncharacteristic difficulty expressing himself. "Look, we just can't tell anyone about this. Anyone."

I stared at him solemnly. {Marco, I cannot withhold information from Prince Jake.}

"Like hell you can! This is none of Jake's business, none! You don't tell him a thing about this!" Marco yelled, his face turning red again. I had rarely seen Marco emotional about any scenario not involving Visser One, and even then he had always seemed as if he was trying to exert restraint. "You don't tell anyone about this!"

I tried to repeat calmly, {Marco, I cannot withhold information-}

"No. You can. There is no reason for Jake to know about this. None. So he doesn't, got it? Look, I did you a favor teaching you how to do it. Now you have to do me the favor of never telling anyone."

I didn't say anything. I focused all four eyes away.

"Ax, please. Please don't tell anyone." Marco said quietly. "Please."

My shoulders sagged. It was true that Marco had done me a favor, though I now felt angry with him for it. He hadn't told me what it would entail. He hadn't warned me that it was an act I should be embarrassed over, or that he would request me to keep silent about it.

What a failure I was. What a fool. To now make such mistakes after years of being with the humans, and now to make a promise that would compromise my honor. I would be a disgrace of a warrior, to hold back information from my prince. And yet it was obvious Marco feared some repercussion if others knew of this, and as angry as I was with him, I couldn't force someone to face that had they done me a favor, in good faith. And I did believe he hadn't intended to trick me.

Human sexual politics are much too complicated and much too restrictive. Andalites do not hide their interactions. There is never any need to. Homosexual activity exists and it is treated as just another end to satisfaction, not as some transgression.

{If Prince Jake asks me directly, I cannot lie to him. But I will not say anything about this unless Jake himself asks me about it.}

Marco sat back down on the couch, exhausted. "I guess that's a compromise. I mean, what are the odds he's going to ask you if we've been getting freaky in the woods?"

He still appeared to be upset, however. I shared his sentiment. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, he muttered that he should be returning to the valley and left without once glancing in my direction.

{Ax-man! What's up? Where'd Marco head off to?} Tobias braced his wings and landed on the back of the couch. {Do we finally get some peace and quiet out here?}

{Marco has returned to the Hork Bajir Valley. I believe we will have peace and quiet for quite some time now.}

{Ax? Something the matter? You sound kind of pissed.} Tobias asked, with genuine concern. Tobias, my shorm, possibly the only one on this planet who cared for me as more than a means to an end. Possibly the only one who would ask me if I was angry and be truly interested in the answer.

I returned my main eyes to the television screen. {No, Tobias. Nothing is the matter.}