"A piglet," Matt said. He was too hot; his head was pounding, his stomach felt like it might decide to start dancing the samba again any moment now, and he was generally not having a good day.
Which might be what he deserved after calling in sick two days ago with nothing worse than a mild sniffle but, well, he'd been working really hard. He'd needed it. He'd earned it.
George would be able to hold down the fort by his lonesome just fine for a couple of days.
And George had, in fact, been able to do just that, as far as Matt knew. George had been very understanding, very concerned (to a point where Matt had nearly started to feel a tiny bit guilty after all) and now he was here. With a piglet.
"Yes." George frowned slightly. His 'I am bracing myself to be baffled by your human customs' sort of frown. "You don't like it?"
"It's - " Matt decided he needed a drink. A bit of lying down, possibly. "It's a very nice piglet, George."
George's expression brightened. "I thought so, too."
"Dinner?" Matt asked without much hope. Sure, it might just be that Susan was working late and had thus asked George to pick up some fresh meat for dinner - some real fresh meat, but Matt didn't think so.
He couldn't possibly be that lucky.
George's frown was back. "This is our - " and he made some strange noises ending with a cluck.
"Yeah," Matt said. "Okay. English, please?"
"It is - when someone is ill, we give them a present. To help them get better, and to show that we share in their suffering in some way. You really do like it?"
Me and my big mouth, Matt thought. "It's uh. Sure. Nicest piglet I've ever seen. Nicer than every other piglet people have been given me by way of get well soon gifts."
George's face fell. "You have more? I am sorry; I was so hoping to be original."
"Uh," Matt said.
"Well, perhaps it's just as well," George said. "You know what they say: 'the more, the happier'."
"Merrier." Matt considered fainting. On the one hand, if word got out, his reputation at the station would be down the drain. On the other hand, George might go away. "And I don't think they mean piglets."
"Well, it's a good thing I came by, then." George lifted a heavy, well-filled bag. "You're sick, Matt. You should be in bed, not up and about taking care of your - " Cue same strange noises as before.
Matt sighed. "Look, George. I don't have any ... what you just said."
"But you just told me - "
"I was being sarcastic." And paying a heavy price for it, clearly. "A joke, George. I was making a joke. Look, just ... come inside, all right? I'm ... probably not contagious. I hope."
George took two steps inside, then stopped walking and stared around with his 'I am very dismayed by what I am seeing frown' - and, fine, maybe it was a bit messy. Give a sick man a break, all right?
"Matt, this is - "
"Yeah, yeah." Matt tried to feel annoyed. He liked feeling annoyed. "I know." Right now, he mostly felt nauseous.
"This is an outrage," George said, his tone as righteous as if he was talking about the Bill of Rights here. "Do you have no family, no friends at all?"
"Sure, I've got friends." Dobbs and some of the guys had sent him a fruits basket. Matt had figured he might pass it on to Cathy. She might actually eat that sort of junk.
"Well," George sputtered. "Then I must say that I consider their care of your well-being very poor."
"What are you talking about?" Matt asked. "Mr 'I'm busy right now, so I'll come visit you some other day'. Real nice, George. Way to make me feel the love."
George turned red. "If I had known - " Matt arched an eyebrow, daring him. "Well, never mind. I am here now. I will make amends."
"Great," Matt said.
"I would have thought though that Cathy at least - "
"Cathy," Matt broke in sharply, "has been here mornings, lunch breaks and evenings. She's brought me food, done the dishes and got me some really great new books."
"Books," George said flatly. "She got you books."
"I like books," Matt said.
"Well, that's just - " George said, and then he added a string of what Matt figured really weren't nice, civilized words at all, which seemed rather uncalled for, considering, but still made him feel better, in some odd way.
Matt had figured George's visit would be, well, a visit. A 'hey, how you doing - sorry I didn't come earlier, but you know what a workaholic stick-in-the-mud I am' type of affair.
Instead, he seemed to have gotten a live-in nursemaid, with complementary piglet.
"I have explained the situation to Susan," George declared, when questioned. "She fully agrees with my decision." Which was all fine and good, but nobody'd thought to ask Matt. "Besides, having been in contact with you, I may very well be carrying bacteria that might prove harmful to the pod."
That was definitely fighting dirty, Matt decided. What was he supposed to say - 'go home already; not my problem if your kid dies because you brought home some icky human virus?'.
"Just ... no cleaning crusade, all right? This is my apartment. I live here." George muttered something. Matt tried to look stern. It gave him a headache. "I like it the way it is."
"Looking like a pig's nest?" George asked. It might have been a better shot if the piglet hadn't chosen that precise moment to come running out from under the couch, squealing.
"You're the one who brought the bacon, George."
"Very well." George looked resigned. "I shall do nothing more to reduce the utter disorder of your home."
"Good," Matt said, before he had quite processed the exact words of George's statement. "What do you mean: nothing more?"
Cathy came by to drop off a copy of Wuthering Heights, which Matt had foolishly admitted to never have read without adding the disclaimer that that was because it was a chick book.
Matt figured that meant she owed him some sympathy for the whole thing with George.
He probably should have known better.
"Well, he is your - " Cathy said. The last word sounded like a sneeze.
Matt wished people would stick to English. It was a perfectly good language; nothing wrong with it. A lot of very fine books had been written in English - and if they hadn't been written in it originally, then you could generally get a perfectly good translation.
"Your partner," Cathy said, and Matt thought: there, was that so hard?.
"He's a pain in my ass," he muttered.
"Are you using enough lubricant?" Cathy asked, which was such an utter non-sequitur it took Matt a few seconds to realize that she was still speaking English.
"What would I be using lubricant for?"
She blinked. Matt vaguely recalled something about Tenctonese doing that only when they had a cold or something, but she didn't seem to be ill, so he probably didn't remember that one right.
"Never mind, I don't want to know." That, Matt was fairly sure, was nothing but the honest-to-God truth.
"I know George cares about you a great deal, Matt," she said. "Just talk to him."
"As if my headache wasn't bad enough already."
"You smell better," George said, looking pleased.
It had been three days of being fed chicken soup, having his pillow fluffed and generally being pampered in a way that was as luxurious as it was annoying.
"Well, excuse me for stinking, before," Matt snapped.
"I meant it as a comment on your well-being, not on your body odor," George said, looking very faintly offended. "Although if you wanted to take a shower, I'd be happy to assist you. A nice bath, perhaps?"
"George, what are you doing here?"
George looked surprised. "You're my friend, Matt."
Well, at least he hadn't said he was just standing around, waiting for Matt to give him the go-ahead to prepare a bath. As far as answers went, coming from George, that was a pretty straight one.
"You've got a family, George. I mean, it's swell that you think of me as a friend and all, but, you know. Family first?"
"Susan, Buck and Emily have each other. You have no one. Thus, for the moment, your need is the greater and must take precedence," George said, looking way too serious.
"I don't have no one," Matt protested.
"Exactly," George said. "I believe it may be due to the fact that you are often abrasive and impulsive. You're a good guy, Matt. It's just that to some people, you may seem a little ... gung-ho. It's a personality trait I occasionally find bothersome as well, but I have learned to embrace it with your other flaws, being as it is one of the things that make you who you are."
"Funny, isn't it, how love makes us embrace the very things we would despise in ourselves?" George smiled.
"Um," Matt said. "Yeah. Real funny. Look, maybe you don't know, but when humans say 'love', we kind of mean it as this big, huge thing. You know?"
"As in Alien Heart," George said.
"Yeah." Well, close enough. "Like that. Except with, you know, sex. Unless it's family." Matt considered. "Well, and food. Sports teams. Shoes, if you're a woman."
George nodded. "I am aware that the subject of sex makes humans uncomfortable. I simply thought that, now that you are mostly recovered, it might be an opportune time for me to mention my availability."
"Your ... availability?" That probably didn't mean what it sounded like it meant.
"It is well-known that in situations like these, good sex may speed the process of recovery," George said. "I have read up on the subject matter of the male human body. I am confident you would find the experience stimulating."
"Stimulating," Matt echoed. Not the first word that came to mind at the mention of sex, let alone sex with George. Let alone sex with George after George had read up on it. (Matt wondered what sort of book he meant by that.)
Of course, there had been that section on male Tenctonese on the video Cathy had lent him. It had all been very ... science-y. Informative. Nothing dirty about it. Probably, it wasn't the tape's fault he'd caught himself mentally undressing George a few times after watching it. They were partners and George was a good looking guy; it happened.
"There are certain precautions to be taken, of course," George said cautiously.
Matt held up a hand. "Look, George. It's a kind offer, but I'm not that sort of guy, all right?"
George stood a bit straighter. "What sort of guy would that be, Matthew?"
Matt sighed. He could see the way this might play out - with him saying he liked his partners human, or female, or maybe both. With George knowing it wasn't true, but choosing not to push the issue, because Matt was still sick.
Probably, the topic would never come up again. Easier for everyone.
"The sort of guy who has sex without going on a date first. You want to get in these pants, you better be ready to work for it."
"Hm." George didn't quite smile, but the corners of his mouth twisted just a bit. "That almost sounds like a challenge. Also, I note that you don't seem to feel that I should be making you work to be getting into these quite fine pants?"
"You know me, George." Matt shrugged. "Lazy bum."
"I do know you, Matt." This time, George did smile. "Very well. As you say: it is up."
"On. It's on, George."
"So it is."