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Authors: Octavia E. Butler

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BOOK: Bloodchild
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Yet I undressed and lay down beside her. I knew what to do, what to expect. I had been told all my life. I felt the familiar sting, narcotic, mildly pleasant. Then the blind probing of her ovipositor. The puncture was painless, easy. So easy going in. She undulated slowly against me, her muscles forcing the egg from her body into mine. I held on to a pair of her limbs until I remembered Lomas holding her that way. Then I let go, moved inadvertently, and hurt her. She gave a low cry of pain and I expected to be caged at once within her limbs. When I wasn't, I held on to her again, feeling oddly ashamed.

 

"I'm sorry," I whispered.

 

She rubbed my shoulders with four of her limbs.

 

"Do you care?" I asked. "Do you care that it's me?"

 

She did not answer for some time. Finally, "You were the one making choices tonight, Gan. I made mine long ago."

 

"Would you have gone to Hoa?"

 

"Yes. How could I put my children into the care of one who hates them?"

 

"It wasn't… hate."

 

"I know what it was."

 

"I was afraid."

 

Silence.

 

"I still am." I could admit it to her here, now.

 

"But you came to me… to save Hoa."

 

"Yes." I leaned my forehead against her. She was cool velvet, deceptively soft. "And to keep you for myself," I said. It was so. I didn't understand it, but it was so.

 

She made a soft hum of contentment. "I couldn't believe I had made such a mistake with you," she said. "I chose you. I believed you had grown to choose me."

 

"I had, but…"

 

"Lomas."

 

"Yes."

 

"I have never known a Terran to see a birth and take it well. Qui has seen one, hasn't he?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Terrans should be protected from seeing."

 

I didn't like the sound of that-and I doubted that it was possible. "Not protected," I said. "Shown. Shown when we're young kids, and shown more than once. Gatoi, no Terran ever sees a birth that goes right. All we see is N'Tlic- pain and terror and maybe death."

 

She looked down at me. "It is a private thing. It has always been a private thing."

 

Her tone kept me from insisting-that and the knowledge that if she changed her mind, I might be the first public example. But I had planted the thought in her mind. Chances were it would grow, and eventually she would experiment.

 

"You won't see it again," she said. "I don't want you thinking any more about shooting me."

 

The small amount of fluid that came into me with her egg relaxed me as completely as a sterile egg would have, so that I could remember the rifle in my hands and my feelings of fear and revulsion, anger and despair. I could remember the feelings without reviving them. I could talk about them.

 

"I wouldn't have shot you," I said. "Not you." She had been taken from my father's flesh when he was my age.

 

"You could have," she insisted.

 

"Not you." She stood between us and her own people, protecting, interweaving.

 

"Would you have destroyed yourself?"

 

I moved carefully, uncomfortably. "I could have done that. I nearly did. That's Qui's 'away.' I wonder if he knows."

 

"What?"

 

I did not answer.

 

"You will live now."

 

"Yes." Take care of her, my mother used to say. Yes.

 

"I'm healthy and young," she said. "I won't leave you as Lomas was left-alone, N'Tlic. I'll take care of you."

BOOK: Bloodchild
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