So... Your Relationship


rating: +7+x

I noticed an immediate change in the alien. His body language, his attitude, tone, inflection; it was all off.

He stopped letting me feed him. He wouldn't let me bandage the so-called 'scrapes' on his arm, nor change the bandages that he applied to himself. He wouldn't talk to me when I came into his room after he woke up from what were obviously nightmares - nightmares that he still wouldn’t admit to.

I needed him to open up to me. I needed to talk to him. I needed to know he was okay.


I was becoming too dependent on the Doctor, too vulnerable. I needed to get away from him. I needed to close off.

Sometimes I lay awake thinking about it. Sometimes I dreamt about it. Not only about what that mask had done, but also how the Doctor had reacted. I could still feel his arms around me, feel him as I wrapped myself in a blanket and hugged a pillow. I wanted to feel it again– and I didn’t want to admit it.

I wanted it to feel scary and weird when he was nice to me. But it wasn’t; it felt like taking painkillers after a lifelong migraine. It felt like waking up into a utopia. It felt like coming home. And that, more than anything, was the problem. I didn’t know how to feel happy, didn’t know how to feel relaxed. I didn’t know how to feel comforted.

I didn't want to be the huge burden I was. Always getting hurt, always needing help. I imagined he was very tired of me by now, annoyed even. He had every right to be. I was a blood-sucking parasite, a pathetic excuse for an organism. Back on my home planet, I’d have been recycled for stem cells already.

I was such a fucking idiot, getting myself into trouble like that. What had happened with the mask had been my fault, there was no doubt about it.

So it didn’t make sense how I had nightmares about it and was unable to look at my wounded arm without feeling like I was going to pass out. Like I was being wrenched by the throat, unable to breathe. Why I felt like anyone and everyone who gave me the slightest compliment had the true intentions of, well, that mask.

I wanted to keep staying in my room, staring at the wall or busying my hands with stacking pixels. But everyone kept coming to check on me, and asking me if I was okay, and did I need anything? Was I feeling alright? And I didn’t want to keep inconveniencing them by forcing them to think about me so much, so I elected to sit in one of the common rooms and stare at the wall or busy my hands with stacking pixels.

I was at 168 lines when Onyx sat down next to me.

“Hey buddy, how are ya doing?” They leaned back and rested their arms along the top of the couch I was on. Their arms were relatively long and their hand was right next to my shoulders. I hadn’t decided how I felt about physical proximity to them yet.

“I’m okay,” I mumbled.

“We never really introduced ourselves. My name’s Onyx. I survived the calamity because I’m kind of, well, mush- fungus- I’m not really human.” They smiled and exhaled out of their nose in a slight laugh. “I go by they/them pronouns. What about you?”

“Ummm,” my fingers anxiously worked the buttons on my DS. “I don’t have a name.”

I saw their eyebrows raise in my peripheral vision. “None? You’ve never ever had one?”

“Well, my real name is 5A82, but I don’t want you to call me that.”

“Okay. Is there a new name you want me to call you?”

“No.” Names were hard and I didn’t want to think about it.

“Okay. How did you survive the calamity?”

I didn’t see any point in lying. It wasn’t like they could possibly do anything worse with the information than what had already been done to me. “I’m an alien.”

“Ooh, an alien? That makes sense, you’re too cute for a human.” They seemed genuinely interested; my lips quivered and I tried to suppress a smile. “Do you want to tell me more, or are you gonna be all mysterious?”

“I crash-landed on Earth. Well, I didn’t. I was being kept unconscious in an incubation tube. I was just in the spaceship that crash-landed.”

“You have pointy teeths!” They exclaimed suddenly, pointing at me, and I flinched, almost losing progress in my game.

They dropped their hand. “Sorry, buddy, didn’t mean to scare ya. I just think it’s cool.” They paused. “Can I see?”

I hit line 200 and the DS made happy noises. After considering a little bit, I put it down next to me and sort of grimaced, pulling back the skin of my cheek so that they could view my dentition.

“Wow! Do you eat meat, little fella?”

“No. There are other people from my planet that do eat meat, and they have even bigger teeth.”

“Even bigger?” They looked amazed.

“Yeah, mine are dull– comparatively– because I don’t really need them. I get food intravenously.”

“What does that mean?”

“Uhh, well, you kind of get this fluid and you inject it into me.” I mimed pressing down a plunger on my upper chest, over my Central Venous Catheter.

“Fluid? What kind of fluid?”

“It comes in these sort of big bag things.” I gestured with my hands. “About this big. It’s clear.”

They looked slightly horrified. “Oh, that’s what that stuff is? Sorry. I left my food with it once. I thought it was melted ice packs or something.”

I covered my mouth with my hand and made a kind of ‘snrk’-y sound. “It’s okay. You didn’t know.”

They smiled. “You never answered me when I asked what your pronouns are.”

“What’s a pronoun? Like the grammar thing?”

“Yeah! Do you use he, she, they, it, something else?”

“What do you mean, ‘use it’?”

“You use ‘it’?”

“Use what?”

They smiled and shook their head. “How do you want me to refer to you?”

“Umm…” I didn’t really know.

“That big beaked fella refers to you with ‘he’.”

“I know.”

“But is that accurate for you?”

“I mean, for the language on my home planet, the closest translation of our pronouns for each other is ‘it’.”

“Do you prefer ‘it’?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“How does it feel if I say: I’m sitting next to an alien right now. She’s really good at Tetris.”

My nose crinkled up. “I really don’t like that.”

“They’re really good at Tetris?” They offered.

“I dunno.”

“He’s really good at Tetris?”

“That’s okay.”

“It’s really good at Tetris?”

“That one’s also okay. It feels the most normal.”

“Do you want me to alternate them? He’s an alien, it’s really good at Tetris?”

“No. Do one or the other.”

They smiled. “Alright. Thanks for talking to me about it.”

After a pause, I picked up the console and asked, “Can I show you my game?”

“Yeah, sure. I find it fun to watch people play Tetris. Never was much good myself, though.”

I angled myself so that they could see the screens and hit play.


It was fun talking to Onyx. They were playful and silly in a way I’d never let myself be. They also appeared to be quite the social butterfly, frequently chatting with other UnHumans and trying to introduce me to them; I didn’t really like talking to the other UnHumans, but I tried my best anyway due to a want to make Onyx happy.

But wanting to make Onyx happy backfired on me when they brought a topic– a person– I had been trying to avoid.

“So, I noticed you and, uh, Haselhurst haven’t really been talking.”

My eyes snapped to them, then away to the arm rest their hand was on.

I bit the inside of my cheek for a few seconds, then asked in a measured tone, “What makes you say that?”

“Well, I can see that you guys are close… like, really close. But it seems like you’ve been avoiding him. Not by accident or something, either. You’ll answer your bedroom door, but when you realise it’s him, you look away like you’re embarrassed.”

“Um…” Had I done that?

“Did something happen between you two?”

“What? No, he didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But… did something happen?” they pressed.

“What do you mean?”

“You know, you don’t have anything to be ashamed about if you two are, like…”

The confusion must have shown on my face. “You know, like…”

After a few seconds of receiving a blank stare, they shrugged. “Or not. I don’t mean to assume something.”

My mouth twisted but I didn’t say anything.

“So, like… Are you mad at each other?”

“What? No! Well, I’m not mad at him.”

“Is he mad at you?”

I thought about it. “I guess I always feel like people are mad at me.”

“I’m not mad at you,” They offered. “I don’t think anyone here is mad at you. Have you done something wrong?”

I bit the inside of my cheek again and slouched, tucking my hands around myself. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, no, it was a rhetorical question. You didn’t do anything wrong, so there’s no reason for anyone to be mad at you.”

“Okay.” I swallowed and shifted my gaze to my feet that were hanging off the edge of the couch. “I just feel like I’ve done something wrong.”

“Like when you ran away?”

“Ran away?”

“Well, yeah… you didn’t seem to be feeling well, and then you were gone for a really long time… and then Haselhurst was losing his mind trying to find you. He asked everyone in the building individually where you were before running off. He sounded really upset.”

My fingers dug into my sides. “He was… upset?”

“Well, yeah.” Onyx leaned forward. “He really cares about you.”

I covered my face. “Look, I- I didn’t run away. I just got into a little accident. It’s not a big deal.”

“What kind of accident?”

“Why does it matter?” I mumbled. I wasn’t mad at them, I just didn’t know how to answer the question. I didn’t know if I could talk about it without spitting words out like cinnamon.

“Well, it doesn’t have to. It just seems like it’s messing up your… relationship.”

“Yeah, I guess so.” I sighed and rubbed my temples. “Basically, I got into something really, really dumb, and he showed up before I got myself killed.”

“That sounds intense.”

“It was.”

After a long pause, they said, “I think, if something like that happened to someone I cared about, I would get very worried and want to spend a lot of time with them to make sure they’re okay.”

My fingers dug into my face and I made some stammery mouth sounds. “I guess so.” I suddenly shoved myself off the couch, gripping onto the back to keep from falling over when the blood left my head.

“Are you alright?” They looked like they were about to stand up and I waved them off, walking the short distrace to my room and closing the door behind me.

I flopped onto my bed and grabbed a pillow, groaning quietly into it. What was I doing? I just wanted to make everyone’s lives easier, and by everyone I meant specifically the Doctor.

I had a hard time wrapping my head around the caring thing. I guess it made sense– If something bad happened to the Doctor, I would stick to him like glue. Even though I was undoubtedly the world’s worst caretaker– hey, I couldn’t even take care of myself– I would still try; the want would definitely be there. I was fighting with myself because I couldn’t tell which was worse, being an inconvenience to him and forcing him to waste all his time on me, or making him worry about me and making him sad from not being around me. It was hard to wrap my head around– that someone would care enough to worry, on top of the idea that someone would actually want to spend time with me.

Rolling onto my back, I hugged the pillow to my chest. It seemed that I had more deeply-ingrained core beliefs than I thought– a concept I’d learned when an UnHuman that had apparently been some kind of therapist showed up and made me talk to her. She had been, no doubt, sent by the Doctor, and she was nice and I felt bad so I told her a few thoughts I was having. I just needed someone to listen to me, and there were a few words thrown around such as “traumatic experiences” and “inferiority complex” that I hadn’t really thought a lot about at the time. Now I was really thinking about them, processing them.

I kicked my legs against the bed over and over. It felt nice, like I was simultaneously expressing how I was feeling and moving my body in a way it was meant to be moved. I did it until my legs got tired, and after I stopped, I felt better.

It was something that felt normal to me, normal like bouncing my leg and rocking back and forth. On my planet, it was considered an atypical and deviant behaviour. You simply had to sit still, forever and always. It didn’t matter if you were bored, overwhelmed, or happy, you just had to sit still and be quiet. No exceptions.

I hadn’t realised how scared I was of being deviant until I was surrounded by other deviants. I hadn’t realised how much I needed the reassurance that maybe I wasn’t as broken as I thought; Onyx flapped their hands when they were happy, and never wore shoes so that they could walk on the balls of their feet everywhere. They liked to talk to me— in a way that could be described to an observer as 'excessive'— about the shows they liked and listened to me when I talked about mine. In some ways, I felt so much less alone.

In others, I gripped my pillow and tried to be quiet as I cried all night because I felt a kind of deep, aching void that lay heavy on my chest, the kind that could only form from a chronic lack of comfort. Problem was, nobody from when I was growing up on my home planet– or, as humans liked to call it, my “childhood”– had taught me how to actually accept comfort from a single person. You can’t exactly know how to do something you’ve never done in your entire life.


I sat on the edge of a bathtub in one of the bathrooms of the dormitory, first aid supplies laid out on top of my thighs as I peeled back the gauze on my right forearm. It stung, parts of the blue scabs peeling up along with the bandage.

I leaned over to throw it into the garbage, and in doing so, the shears that had been precariously balancing fell through the gap between my thighs and clattered to the tile flooring. I cringed, knowing the noise could be easily heard from outside the bathroom.

“Everything all right in there?” Called a voice I vaguely recognised as one of the UnHumans that lived in the dormitory.

“Y-Yeah, fine,” I said shakily, picking the shears up and using them to cut a length of gauze. I smeared antibiotic ointment on a smaller piece and pressed it on my arm, then tried my best to wrap the gauze around it. It was awkward, but the pink and white scars spanning my arms showed I had practice, and I was able to get a tight enough compression that it wouldn’t slide around.

Once I had finished, I realised how bulky the bandage was. Apparently I really overestimated the size of my arm.

I really quite overestimated the size of my whole body, I thought as I stared at my legs– I could fit my hands around the circumference of my thigh, but it still felt too big.


Sitting on the edge of my bed, my hands shook as I slowly emptied a syringe of nutritional fluid into my catheter. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew from experience I would pass out in front of everyone if I didn’t get enough in me.

It would be hard to maintain a facade of okay-ness if I kept losing consciousness in front of them.

I felt uncomfortable, not from pulling the medicine too fast; I just felt a deep-rooted sense of guilt and self disgust from intaking. It had been that way as long as I remembered, but it got especially bad when it felt like I was losing control over my life. It was my way to have control, it was my way to feel something other than ugly and disgusting.

And did I feel ugly and disgusting.


I was reading another book about robots (well, bot-human constructs) that was hitting me quite hard in whichever heart related to fictional characters when there was a loud, firm knock at my door. I paused the music I was using to squeeze out whatever amount of good brain chemicals I could and put a piece of paper I’d been using as a bookmark between the pages, then put it down on my bed.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me,” said a deep, distinctly accented voice with a slight echo. I sat up abruptly, pushing off the bed to grab a sweatshirt on the floor. I pulled it over my shoulders and zipped it up, then looked at my legs and panicked. There were bruises along my shins from the amount of times I’d almost lost consciousness getting up from a sitting position and slammed into a variety of objects, usually my bed frame. “Can I come in?”

“Ah, I- Uh,” I played out approximately six scenarios in my head of what could happen if I did or didn’t decide to rummage around for something besides for the shorts I was wearing. After a deep breath and a couple of seconds, I sat back down on my bed and decided he probably wouldn’t comment on the colourful, bluish marks on my otherwise off-white skin. “You can come in.”

The door opened and I nervously ran my hands through my hair– it had gotten quite long, and the light brown strands were soft and wavy. The Doctor stepped in, heeled boots serving the dual function of ominous footsteps and ominous looming– I didn’t know how tall he was, and at this point, I was afraid to ask.

I was looking at my feet, but I could feel the bed noticeably dip with his weight as he sat down.

The air felt heavy, like it was about to rain.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

I exhaled. “I don’t know.”

“I care about you.”

I wrapped my arms around myself, slouching slightly. “I don’t know how to feel cared for.”

“I can teach you.”

My hearts felt like they were twisting around in my chest. “That sounds scary and hard.”

“I know. It is. But it’s also important.”

“I just…” I drew in a shaky breath. “I feel like I don’t deserve it, you know?” It was weirdly raw and I clenched my fists against my ribs, this whole 'feelings' thing getting very inconvenient to me.

“Oh, you deserve the world,” he said softly. I bit the inside of my cheek and moved my hands to my lap, where I wrung them to try to get out the squirmy feeling I was experiencing.

“I appreciate that, but I don’t agree.” I responded very quietly, timidly.

“How much longer are you going to ignore your own feelings?”

“I- I don’t understand.”

“I know our species are different, but it is obvious that you feel things. I know you try to hide it; you try very very hard, but I can see you feeling things. And you are feeling really bad right now. But that is not all you feel. You feel happy, you feel excited, you feel content. I can see it.” After a pause, he added, “I want to make you feel happy. I want us to be happy together.” His hand hovered beside my leg, like he wanted to touch me but was reluctant to.

He was right and I agreed, but I also felt hopeless and pathetic and didn’t know how to respond. It was like: Wow, I needed to hear that. I really wanted to hear that. But, oh, nobody has ever told me that before, oh no, now I am having an emotion, what has my life been without you? But if I like you so much, why am I acting like this? Why can’t I just be a normal, functioning person?

I was deeply angry at myself. I felt like every bad thing that had ever happened was all my fault, and I didn’t deserve for this nice man to be comforting me right now.

I felt like I didn’t deserve anything but the kinds of things Dỳo had done.

“But I- I can’t, can’t be around you, see, I’m- I’m a m- murderer,” I blurted, on the verge of tears. “I’m horrible, I- I hate myself, and everyone hates me, and I- I deserve it, I-”

My palms were flat against my eyes, hiding the water swimming in them. My face felt hot and more than anything, I was ashamed. There was a pause, and I felt knots building in my chest, panic rising because what the fuck did I just say? What the fuck did I just admit to?

My fingers started digging into my face, hands clenching with the emotional overwhelm hitting me like an ocean wave.

The weight beside me shifted, and I felt an arm around my waist, another gently pulling my hand off my face. Surprised, I looked up at the Doctor. His yellow eyes met mine for a fraction of a second before he gently pressed his intermaxillary region against my cheek.

“And I am a serial killer.” He intertwined our fingers and ran the metacarpal of his thumb over the pad of mine. “Countless have died at my hands. I am soaked with human blood. But look,” he rotated our hands so that his was on top, in full view. “When I was created, I was endowed with the ability to end the life of any organism with a mere touch of my hand. Instead of attempting to negate this to prevent harm to others, I have used it to my full advantage. On purpose, with little regret. Until now.” He paused.

“You see our hands are touching, without a barrier. And you are alive.” I could feel his warm breath on my neck, his side pressed to mine. “I gave up that ability, one that had been so very integral to the six hundred years of my life, so that I could hold your hand in this moment.

“Six thousand one hundred eighteen, you are the first thing I decided I would never harm.”

At some point my mouth had opened in surprise, and I could taste the traces of tears in the corners of my lips.

I felt… something. It was like an untranslatable word Onyx had told me from a language they knew. The word was ‘njuta’, and I was sure feeling njuta1 at that moment.

He turned away. “It- It was a difficult decision. I… had to think about it lengthily. And it was more difficult still to figure out how to go through with it. See, most individuals still alive obtained their survival through unconventional means, and I wouldn’t call it magic, but…” he trailed off.

“You did that… for me?” My voice was hoarse and quiet, but the room was otherwise so silent you could have heard a pin drop.

“I do not want there to be even a possibility that I may injure you.” The Doctor squeezed my hand. “Besides, if another person attempts to hurt you, they will die from a lot more than a simple touch.”

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