This Is Symbiosis
by glossolalia

"At least half of the problem of memory organization appears to reside in the storage procedure."

Things changed under the alpine water.

Charlie wouldn't release Bridger, held him like a longlost toy, bobbing, as they waited and floated and hoped down there. Left Ear had to wrestle him to take his puffs of oxygen.

Points of connection, fluid systems and sympathy, froze down there and cracked apart.

Above water, in hiding, it got worse.

Charlie's face, gray and empty, in Rob's hands. Lefty across the room, turning Bridger's wallet over and over like the relic it was, like it held secrets to be read. Lyle himself just slumped against the wall, shivering, alcohol and ice in his system, making him sick. Fear frosted over his brain.

Took a year to thaw out and pretend things were back to normal.


"A symbiotic cooperation, if successful in integrating the positive characteristics of men and computers, would be of great value."

Waiting in the hotel in LA, he's got too much time to think. Waiting the whole last year, he's had too much time to think.

Way Lyle sees it, there's the abstract and the concrete. Genius comes in knowing that they're different at the same time that they're both, neither, also.

It's why their crew works so perfectly.

Why Steve won't ever hang onto the gold.

It's a world, Lyle figures, that you make. There are certain rules, pieces already in play, and the fun and the genius is in moving them around. Making them work for you.

That was the whole point of his file-sharing protocol: Take some pieces -- audio files -- and move them from user to user based on need and request. He still thinks Fanning spiked his Mountain Dew, by the way. No way would he ever just pass out like that.

Lyle's one of the abstract guys, like Charlie. Plans and systems, that's their thing. Networks of causality and use, crafted out of thin air, tweaked and honed, then set in motion.

Rob and Left Ear, now, they're the concrete men. Rob's all about manipulating metal and engines to achieve maximum speed and grace. Left Ear can mix and apply the perfect explosive mix, absolutely suited to situation and circumstance.

It all balances perfectly, two classes of input, two members each, working and combining exponentially together. Steve just threw everything off, adding nothing, detracting from everything. Stella's cool, though. Pretty, too, and she smells like metal and vanilla. She's another subclass within the concrete. Specialized, complements the specific plan Charlie's crafting.


"As has been said in various ways, men are noisy, narrow-band devices, but their nervous systems have very many parallel and simultaneously active channels."

Rob always fucks him hard and deep from behind, one hand on Lyle's hip, the other in his hair and on his neck, holding him down, hiding him, like he's an ugly woman. Never says a word but groans and curses. With Lyle, Charlie's precise and gentle. Cuddly, even.

Lyle's spied on Rob and Charlie together and they're totally different then. Rob kisses, for one thing, and Charlie's faster. Surer, like he's not afraid Rob'll break.

But now Stella's here. Charlie likes her and Rob doesn't, because Charlie does. Something like that; Lyle never paid much attention in high school, so he's fairly unclear how these things work.

He does know that the three of them are circling warily, all sorts of drama and bullshit around them like undertows.


"It will involve very close coupling between the human and the electronic members of the partnership."

Lyle and Lefty, though, lack all of that.

It's about talking with them, passing the time it takes for the plan to come together. The grin Lefty gets, wide and bright, when Lyle blows him -- those silent seconds before he laughs and comes. Like Christmas came early and he can't believe his loot.

When Lyle rides Lefty, he always sees Luke penetrating that canal on the Death Star, narrow and crafty and nervous. But then Lefty croons something, jerks him off and twitches his hips, the grin spreading, and Lyle explodes and he's the Death Star and Luke all at once, huge and fiery and medalled as a hero.

Beyond thing and idea, there's the whole point of connection. Lefty's a cyborg, the hearing aid part of him, a machine of flesh. Lyle feels like one, too, when he's really rocking, like he and the keyboard are one, the interface permeable and slippery.


"The contributions of human operators and equipment will blend together so completely in many operations that it will be difficult to separate them neatly in analysis."

"Concrete, abstract," Lyle's saying. "Combinations, iterating all the hell over the place. Swapping and complementing. It's fucking beautiful, man --"

He's almost bouncing on the bed. Left Ear, though, just turns the page in his book crisply. Deliberately. "You don't say."

"Think about it! Like, like Confucius. Some kinda Eastern shit, fortune cookies and yoga and yin-yang. All about balance and spreading, nay - sharing - influence and expertise --"

"Need your brain balanced."

"Aw, man. Fuck off." Lyle bounces once more and lets himself fall back onto the mattress. He stares balefully up at the ceiling. "Having deep thoughts here. Least you could do is pay attention --"

"Paying attention," Left Ear says. Lyle hears the book close with a quiet thump and feels Left Ear sit down at the head of the bed. "Sounds like you're going all mystic 'cause you've got nothing to do."

Lyle rolls on his side. Lefty's wearing just sharp-creased suitpants and his undershirt and the man's such a dandy that even though Lyle's grandpa has given up undershirts, it looks good. Cooler than hell good. "You look like the Hurricane in the flashback parts."

"Eh?" Lefty looks down the bed.

"Hurricane," Lyle says more distinctly. "The movie?"

Lefty taps his hearing aid. "I got that. Thanks. You look like - let's see. That little kid. The one who wants a Red Ryder 200-shot range model air rifle."

Lyle pulls himself up the bed, yanking Left Ear down by his all-too-cool pants. "I. Am. Not. Ralphie. Fucking hell, Lefty."


"Books are among the most beautifully engineered, and human-engineered, components in existence, and they will continue to be functionally important within the context of man-computer symbiosis."

Lefty gets him.

Reads Lyle like one of his first editions, touches gently and watches carefully. Looks him over until Lyle has to stop fidgeting and twitching and talking, until he chills the fuck out.

When they're screwing, or about to screw, or just finished screwing, Lefty lets Lyle sprawl on his chest, long intelligent fingers in his hair and on his back. Calls him 'baby' and Lyle doesn't even squirm.


"Most common memory systems store functions of arguments at locations designated by the arguments."

Right now they're in the hangar, in a meeting that's running long and off the rails. The laptop's crunching through various passwords, Stella's oiling her tools, and Lefty must be tired or distracted or high on the fumes, because he just said to Lyle, "Toss me that beaker, would you, baby?" and everything just - Stops.

Charlie ducks his head, sliding his eyes over to Stella.

Stella's smiling, shyly and fondly, squinting at Lyle.

Rob works his jaw. Rolls his shoulders.

Left Ear's still reaching for the beaker.

"Don't fucking need emotion here," Rob mutters. "Should know that, ya fucking fudgepackers."

Lyle squeezes the beaker, hears skin and sweat squeak on the glass.

Left Ear shrugs and licks his lips. "Sure thing, cocksucker."

He and Lyle look at Rob-Charlie-Stella as he liberates the beaker from Lyle's death grip. Brushes fingertips dry and soft on Lyle's wrist.

Rob jams his cigarette onto the table, cinders showering down.

Stella chuckles softly and damn, Lyle knows right then that if he didn't have Lefty, if Charlie somehow godforbid disappears, he could love her. All strong and blonde, sadness unfurling in her eyes when she thinks no one's looking at her. How she touches locks like she's going to stroke them open, make them feel good, better than they ever have, ever dreamed.

"Right, then," Rob says. Voice low and harsh, spitting fire as he lights another smoke. "Gonna check on Wrench. Carry on without me."

Stella's still chuckling, and Left Ear's grinning, and Lyle can't help it, he's laughing now, too.

And Charlie smiles at them all, even at Rob's hunched back as he storms away, and things are good. Better than they've been since Bridger died.


"It seems evident that the cooperative interaction would greatly improve the thinking process."

Lyle's crawling up Lefty, pushing his hands beneath the undershirt, rucking it up. Lefty's got chemical-smelling smelling palms on Lyle's shoulders and they're grinning at each other and their hips are rocking a little faster now.

And this is symbiosis, the point of connection where genius is even more than a gestalt thing. Where it's just the two of them, feeding each other on smiles and the grip of skin on skin, slide of thigh against cock, and when Lyle kisses him, Lefty groans like a blown-out bass in a lowriding car and calls him 'baby' again. Tongues dancing, sparking, coupling like wires and Lyle's zooming through hierarchies and decentralized networks, tasting Lefty's mint tea and dust of bookrot and it's abstract and concrete all in one.

Hell of a way to pass the time, and when they get the gold back? Lyle's pretty damn sure he'll like Spain.


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