Era: Post Zero Hour
Summary: Because I am absolutely fascinated by the ‘touch me, and I might let you pick which organ you lose’ pissyness of Brainy, in contrast with his ‘I’m soft, pet me!’ hair and ‘I’m in pain, hug me!’ woobieness. And because anytime I see the sleepnet, I’m sure that being denied that closeness has a lot to do with Brainy’s numerous emotional problems.
Querl finished keying in the set of protocols before he responded to Lyle’s monosyllabic attempt to gain his attention. “Mm?”
“Why do you hate being touched, anyway?”
He actually looked up from his console at that.
The other legionnaire had finished his data entry tasks and was now fiddling with some kind of game, a cube covered with colored dots. “I mean, is it all Coluans? Or just you?”
“This is not a useful area of discussion.”
“Brainy~!” nagged Lyle.
Fantastic. The human was bored, and was determined to waste both of their time by annoying him with pointless questions. “I don’t hate being touched. I dislike it, generally, but I don’t hate it. You’ll note that I actually refrain from instantly washing clean any part of my person contaminated by any of you and your hands-on approach to interaction.” He turned back to his console with a barely noticeable toss of his head, considering where to begin with the next set of protocols.
“It’s just a little odd. Most species seem to have an instinctual positive response to touch. It’s a basic mechanism to just about any carbon based lifeform; touch is a way to form and reinforce interpersonal bonds.”
Brainy listened with half an ear.
“I know you have a superiority complex, given how often you like to refer to us as ‘primates’ and so forth…”
He couldn’t argue with that.
“But still, you flinch away when anyone gets near you. Why is that?”
He granted Lyle another level of attention, though the human wouldn’t recognise it as such. “It’s…”
“Hmm.” Lyle had turned his chair sideways, leaning one shoulder onto the backrest. “So, is it societal? Coluans think that touch is unseemly?”
“Touch is only for certain times. It reduces the significance of physical contact to be touching all the time.” He was still looking at the console, not at Lyle, but he let his shoulders turn a little towards the other youth, to acknowledge the discussion.
“So that contact is diminished when it shouldn’t be.”
Lyle smiled. “I’m gonna have to drag this out of you word by word, aren’t I?”
With an exasperated sigh, Brainy looked up. “Coluans attach as much significance to touch as do humans, and most other species. However, since we passed the stage of intellectual evolution where mutual grooming was necessary to prevent irritation from skin pests, it has not been necessary to reinforce social bonds through touch. These bonds are reinforced in the sleepnet. That’s where Coluans get most of our tactile requirements satisfied. Therefore, it is not considered efficient to touch excessively while conscious. The time could be spent more productively. Therefore, physical touch is considered unseemly.”
“Oh.” Lyle turned another facet of the cube, bringing colored dots into a new line.
“But you’re not on Colu, you’re here. There’s no sleepnet here.”
Best to start with a set of three trials. More could be run later if the data set indicated that was necessary.
“And weren’t you banned from the sleepnet, anyway?”
Trials to run for forty-eight hours, at forty, fifty and sixty percent solutions. Perhaps he should run multiple sets of each to increase result accuracy.
“Brainy, don’t you get… lonely?”
Five sets should be sufficient for the time being. Fifteen trials should still be readily manageable.
The test programs were entered into the console, but he would need to prepare more solution. He had adequate 50% solution, but should don his protective equipment before diluting the raw product to the other necessary concentrations.
“Yes! Grife! Leave me alone!”
Scooting his chair closer, Lyle persisted, “Yes, acknowledgement of my presence? Or yes, you get lonely?”
“Sprock it all!” muttered Brainy furiously. Then jumped, startled, at the feel of Lyle’s hand resting on his arm.
Lyle fought the instinct to retreat. He left his hand sitting just below Brainy’s elbow, ignoring the way that his friend tensed up hugely for several long seconds, before visibly deciding to relax and disregard his presence. He watched the way purple-clad shoulders dropped back into normal posture.
The Coluan took a deep breath, and another, before pulling his keyboard closer to him and continuing to type.
“Maybe I could… I could put my head on your shoulder sometimes. Or in your lap. You could touch my hair. Maybe it would help.”
It was a long, long time before Brainy responded.
If Lyle hadn’t been watching very hard, he might not have seen the tiny nod. Smiling, he laid his cheek on the blade of Brainy’s shoulder.