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Five Ways Fleetwood Didn't Kiss a Co-Worker

1. Taz

The first time Shelley Fleetwood met Taz, he wanted to fuck her.

Of course, Taz Corazon was a stripper, which meant half the male population of Kismet wanted the same thing.

It was a little disconcerting to find that she was approachable and nice and easy to talk to. According to Fleetwood's personal guidebook of life, this meant that she was virtually off limits for sexual purposes. He had few enough friends and confidantes that he wanted to keep her around for a while, and sex tended to — no pun intended — screw things up in a major way. He'd been able to have casual sex with male friends, but never yet with a female friend without it wrecking the whole dynamic. Besides, he couldn't figure out a way to bring it up with her, especially after watching her burn through a whole string of loser boyfriends and the occasional loser girlfriend. The last thing Fleetwood wanted was to be the latest person who broke Taz's heart.

So he provided a comfy shoulder to cry on, offered her a series of temporary jobs in Customs during the various times in her life when she wasn't able to make ends meet as a dancer, and wondered what it would be like to kiss her without ever actually working up the nerve to ask.

About the closest he ever came was the one time he told her that the green lipstick looked good on her, the color matching the current stripe in her hair. What he really meant was It makes me want to take your bottom lip in my teeth and suck on it and run my tongue over it and taste you until I finally let you go all swollen and hot ... But those weren't the words he said, and they weren't the words she heard, so he pushed it away. Again.

2. Zack

Zack Boundary was a straight experimenter.

Fleetwood knew the type. Zack wasn't gay, wasn't even bi, or at least didn't consider himself so. He just wanted to try the other side for a little while — going inbound on the outbound transit tube, as they said.

And Fleetwood certainly didn't mind. Sex was sex, after all, and sex with Zack was pretty good: not mind-blowing, but better than average. It also came refreshingly unencumbered by a lot of the emotional baggage that he'd been dealing with lately in his more serious love affairs. They got along well when they weren't having sex, and that wasn't something that could be said of Fleetwood's typical partners.

It wasn't until after the whole affair, if you could call it that, was over, and they'd gone back to being "just friends", that Fleetwood realized how completely Zack had compartmentalized the whole thing. They hadn't kissed, for example. Not even once. There had been very little talking during their infrequent periods of intimacy, and no eye contact either. It was as if Zack had had to completely separate Fleetwood the sexual being from Fleetwood the male friend, by way of maintaining his own non-gayness in his own head.

It was, Fleetwood thought, kind of sad, really. It was doubly sad because he really wanted to know what kissing Zack would taste like, and now that Zack was getting serious about Ruvidaiyah Sweeney (straight, female) he suspected he'd never find out.

"Call," Zack said, tossing a handful of chips into the pot, and added, "Token for your thoughts."

Fleetwood dealt Zack one card and himself three, wondering all the while if Zack had the slightest idea how sexy it was when he nibbled on his lip in that particular way, or if he even noticed that he did it. "Nothing important."

3. Ambrosia

Ambrosia was a temp who worked for Customs occasionally when they really, really, really couldn't find anyone else.

Upon initially meeting Ambrosia, Fleetwood could not guess his or her gender at all. This wasn't entirely unusual, and it wasn't like he cared all that much, but what intrigued him on further exposure was that he could swear it actually changed on a regular basis. Couldn't ze make up zir mind?

He later learned, from talking to people that Ambrosia had slept with — which eventually encompassed about two-thirds of the Customs staff — that ze was a switcher. Not intersex, and not born in a body of the wrong gender — switchers had both sets of equipment surgically built in, and were able to switch as desired.

"How the hell does that even work?"

His information source — Taz Corazon — shrugged. "I have no idea, because I've only ever slept with him as a guy. You'd have to ask someone else."

Fleetwood figured he could do one better than that, and just find out at the source. After all, Ambrosia was downright notorious for sleeping zir way through the staff. As the Customs employee with the leading sexual record, until Ambrosia's arrival, he figured that it was his responsibility, even his duty to contribute to Ambrosia's sexual education.

The idea that Ambrosia might not want to have sex with him had never crossed his mind.


"You're not my type," Ambrosia explained, delicately nibbling a carrot stick in the Customs control booth.

"You have a type? I thought 'bipedal' was your type. Up to and including very generous definitions of the term."

"Look, it's nothing against you. I just don't find you all that attractive, that's all. No hard feelings?"

No hard feelings? Just because the biggest slut in Customs, possibly in Kismet, wouldn't sleep with him? Fleetwood was used to rejection — considered it a part of his everyday life, in fact. But being rejected by someone who'd slept with Gil ... that was intolerable.

He started off by playing hard to get. Unfortunately, since Ambrosia wasn't interested to begin with, avoiding her, or him, turned out to be a highly ineffective means of seduction.

He then tried playing the "why YES, I collect antique brass doorknobs too!" card. His goal in life came to be finding out every single one of Ambrosia's hobbies and interests, then ostentatiously displaying them in front of him. "You watch zero-gee combat bowling? You don't say! Me too! So how about those Hustlers this year?"

This strategy, at least, actually got Ambrosia to notice him, and led to some stultifyingly boring conversations, both with Ambrosia and with other co-workers who turned out to be closet fans of whatever he was pretending to like at the moment. It did not, however, result in Ambrosia tearing off his clothes and flinging Fleetwood down onto the Spacedock B catwalk to be ravished, more's the pity.

Feeling slightly dirty, though apparently not dirty enough, he tried slipping the occasional roofie into the office coffeepot. This resulted in some notably strange behavior from various Customs employees, but unfortunately none of it was directed at him — not by Ambrosia, at least.

Shortly after the "Incident" involving Gil, Taz, a few cups of coffee, a bucket of golf balls and one very traumatized supervisor, Ambrosia cornered Fleetwood outside the control booth. He couldn't help thinking, Finally!

"Don't think I can't see what you're trying to do," she said — and she was female today; he checked for a bulge and didn't find one. "And the strange thing is, I appreciate it, really, in a ... slightly creeped-out kind of way. But, Shelley, I am not interested. Not now, not ever."

"I'm free next Tuesday," Fleetwood said hopefully.

"Shelley ..." Ambrosia reached forward, cupped a hand behind his neck and drew his head downward until their foreheads were nearly touching. Her lips were full and wet and inviting; her high cheekbones had a masculine sharpness that made him ache. She pulled him forward until their lips were nearly touching and whispered in a husky voice:

"Not even if you were the last man or woman in Kismet."

Then she let him go and strolled away, leaving him staring after her in disbelief.

Later that day he superglued her butt to her chair. It was the least he could do.

4. Therion

Fleetwood couldn't ever remember meeting someone who radiated gayness the way that Therion did, without showing any evidence of actually being gay.

Not that Therion was necessarily straight either. In fact, Fleetwood was convinced after a while that not even Therion knew what his sexual orientation was. He'd seen the kid wander into straight bars, gay bars, S&M bars, all without apparently understanding the social dynamics or even noticing that one wasn't like another. To Therion, it was all new and different and interesting, just part of his grand tour of the galaxy.

In his younger days, Fleetwood would have been a lot more enthusiastic, and insistent, about getting to the bottom of things, so to speak. The newer and (relatively speaking) more mature Fleetwood, however, found himself having odd second thoughts about consorting with the people he supervised, especially with someone as young and naive as Therion appeared to be. It just didn't feel right, at least not unless Therion was the aggressor, and he found that highly unlikely. If Therion were to walk up to him and say, "Hey, Fleetwood, let's run off behind this girder and have sex," he would have set new speed records for tearing off his clothes. But he wasn't holding his breath waiting for it to happen.

This didn't mean that he couldn't enjoy watching the kid. Therion was definitely easy on the eyes, and spent quite a bit of time starring as the main attraction in Fleetwood's fantasy life. Pure fantasy, of course, and unlikely ever to be anything else. But if fate ever did hand him a double serving of Therion with a cherry on top, he planned to be ready for it.

The two of them were the only ones in the Customs booth when Therion leaned over and said in a slightly embarrassed voice, "Have you ever wondered if you were gay?"

For a moment Fleetwood just stared at him. If that was a serious question, then Therion was far, far more clueless than Fleetwood had ever suspected. After all, how many boyfriends had visited him at work, anyway? A lot, that was how many.

"No," he said after a moment, quite honestly. He'd really never wondered ...

Therion made an "mmm" kind of sound, and Fleetwood kicked himself mentally. If that had been a very amateurish, very clumsy attempt at chatting him up, then he'd just let naked Therion slip through his fingers, and not in a good way.

After a moment Therion said, "The reason why I ask, see ... it's this friend of mine. He thinks he might be gay, but he isn't sure."

Holy shit, Fleetwood thought, he IS chatting you up. Once again his "protect the newbies" instinct found itself at war with some of his baser, hindbrain instincts. "Really?" he inquired, casually. "What makes your, er, friend think that?"

A light blush crept up Therion's pale cheeks. "Well, I assume that he ... you know. Men. Is attracted to."

"Anyone in specific?"

Therion licked his lips nervously. Fleetwood found his eyes drawn to that small pink tongue-tip. "One of his co-workers. It's put him in a difficult situation. He asked me for advice, you see, and I wasn't sure what to tell him." He cleared his throat. "I was raised to believe it's a sin, you see. But I'm starting to think ... I mean, since coming here, I've met a lot of different kinds of people, a lot of different ways of doing things. I don't want to tell him not to do something that's right for him. And I don't want to lose a friendship because of ... you know. Saying or doing the wrong thing."

Fleetwood nodded, mesmerized by Therion's lips. God he was hot. "Y—He should go for it."

"Do you really think so?"

"Hell yeah. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, like they say." And right now he was about two seconds from venturing right into Therion's personal space and attacking Therion's oh-so-inviting lips with his own. After all, Therion could hardly get more obvious without coming right out and saying I'm hot for you.

Therion nodded slowly, and leaned back in his chair. "We're having dinner tomorrow evening, he and I, so I guess I'll talk to him then. I'll think about what you said. Thanks for the advice. I hope you don't mind me asking you."

"Er, no, not at all," Fleetwood said, blinking, with a feeling not unlike mental whiplash as the conversation did a 90-degree turn from where he'd expected it to go.

"You know what else?" Therion asked, his blush returning.

"What?" Fleetwood was very slowly and unwillingly grasping the idea that Therion really was as transparent as he appeared, and when Therion said A friend asked me ... he was not, in fact, speaking metaphorically.

"Colette, the day shift girl? She's ... cute. Really cute. I've been thinking about asking her out."

And, just to make matters worse, it was starting to appear that Therion was both considerably less naive, and less gay, than Fleetwood had thought.

"Yeah, go for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?" And he went off to take a cold shower. That was the trouble with Customs uniform pants: they revealed everything.

5. Colette

Fleetwood was not — he assured himself from time to time — a sex addict. He was simply a healthy adult male. He'd read somewhere that the average male thinks about sex every seven seconds. He was above average, then, but not by much.

Being equal-opportunity and not very picky about sexual partners also meant that nearly everyone he met in the course of the day could, and did, figure in his fantasies at some point. There were very few people Fleetwood did not want to fuck, even if not on a wholly conscious level.

Colette Novak, née Renata, was one of them.

He'd met her when she was six, and that was certainly part of his utter lack of libido for her, but not all of it. She wasn't six now, and there were plenty of people he'd known from childhood who had grown into very fantasy-worthy adults. And Colette was quite attractive, even beautiful, despite the fact that she didn't think so.

He also did not consciously think of her as family. For one thing, family for Fleetwood brought mostly connotations of confusion and annoyance, more than warm fuzzy feelings. The best years of his childhood had been the ones that he'd spent living with a mentally unstable, alcoholic hitwoman.

Over-thinking relationships tended, in his experience, to lead to bad things, so he simply let his friendship or whatever with Colette be what it was. She was a female friend, and he loved her but didn't desire her, and that made her very nearly unique in his world. On certain occasions when things went bad with her and Fithian, she'd come and crash on his couch for a day or two. He understood that theirs was a marriage of convenience and that things were strange, deep and sometimes very screwed up between Fithian and Colette, and that was all he understood, because as much as she talked to him, she didn't talk about that.

So, when she showed up in the middle of the night carrying a small bag with that dark, dead look in her eyes, he opened the door and made coffee and threw a blanket on the couch. They sat side by side and talked about sports and holovids and the latest upgrades to the ISC weapons testing range. When she seemed to have worked out whatever she had to exorcise and was ready to sleep, Fleetwood got up to return the cups to the kitchenette. Coming back, he found that she'd already fallen asleep, half-dressed with the blanket across her lap. Her long hair lay in swatches across her face, and she looked very vulnerable and very young.

Fleetwood turned out the light, and then he leaned over her, and very nearly brushed her forehead with his lips. He pulled away at the last moment because it just felt too strange. Paternal, maybe. He wasn't a paternal sort of guy; just ask his kids, if you could find them.

Kissing, any kind of kissing, implied intimacy. Physical intimacy was one thing ... that, he could handle. But he didn't desire to be physically intimate with Colette, and so, kissing her would mean admitting to a whole different kind of intimacy that he had no wish to let into his life or his heart.

Instead, he turned away without touching her and went upstairs to his own bed. But he lay awake for awhile before finally falling asleep.

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