Place: A bar, New Bangkok, Barbary
Go out into the stars, they said. Once you're interstellar past Sol system, prejudices vanish, they said.
Mac scowled into the tiny beer the bartender had brought him. They'd either had no practical knowledge of other planets or they'd lied, Mac's instructors and supervisors. Now here he was, a journeyman engineer serving on the massive S-class hauler, Valstead, and he'd nearly been arrested twice for walking while nephilim on his first planetary leave.
Nice bar. Dark and cozy. Good beer, though a little pricey for such small, human-sized servings. He'd purposefully picked a place that catered to the non-hetero crowd but hadn't even considered whether the establishment would be non-human friendly. Mac's end of the bar had cleared out quickly once he arrived as if the other patrons had instinctively set up a contamination zone around him.
Irritating but he'd be damned if he was going to hide on the ship every time it came into port. All of his crewmates took planetside leave. Mac wasn't going to let a little bigotry keep him hiding in orbit.
"I'll figure it out eventually," he muttered to his glass.
"Hey there, big fella." A willowy human with short green hair slid onto the barstool beside him. "Looking for a nephie?"
Great. Just great. A groupie. While Mac usually found non-binary people attractive, the nephie thing was a deal killer. Fetishists who were often just as bigoted as the people who crossed the street to avoid him, he'd never encountered a self-proclaimed nephie of any gender who didn't make him feel nauseous and uncomfortable.
Mac figured he'd try the polite route first. "No, thanks. Just came in for a beer."
The nephie leaned forward to peer at Mac's glass. "And they gave you a thimble. That's not right." They leaned over the bar, waving at the bartender. "Oi! Fergie! Taking advantage of the spacer boys again?"
"Knock it off, Mik," the bartender growled. "Can always have you tossed."
"Uh-huh. Uncle Levi would have a fit. Now bring my friend the right size beer."
Grumbling, the bartender snatched away the pint glass he'd served Mac previously and brought a full mug large enough that Mac could actually fit his fingers around the handle. Uncle Levi must've owned a sizeable chunk of the business.
"Thanks." Mac regarded his uninvited companion sideways. "You didn't have to do that."
Mik waved dismissively. "I don't like seeing anyone taking advantage of. And I got off wrong-footed there. You don't sound like—"
"If you even think about saying I don't sound like a nephilim, we're done here," Mac snarled and didn't much care that he was scaring the other patrons.
"Nooo." Mik's smile had grown cautious but he hadn’t moved from the barstool. "I was going to say you don't sound like the security nephilim we get in here sometimes. Let me see… Ship's uniform but not one that screams bridge crew. Scarred hands. A bit of something you couldn't get out from under your thumbnail. Engineering?"
"I really just came in for a beer. That's it. I appreciate your interest. It's flattering. But no."
"You don't even need company?" Mik's grin was one green hair shy of impish. "Scintillating conversation?"
Mac decided it was time to stop beating around the question. "I'm not going to fuck you. If that's why you came over here, I don't pick up strangers in bars."
"Touchy." Mik twirled their glass in both hands. "Have you ever felt safe anywhere? Anywhere at all?"
"That's a strange question." Mac sipped, thinking back anyway. At home? No. His stepfather had hated him. In school? Hell no. At jobs? Not often. He tried to bury himself in work and keep to himself but someone was always pulling out the dangerous nephilim crap. "No."
"Right then." Mik poked a finger at the bar top. "You come here when you want to feel safe. Right here and talk to me. Anytime."
"You live in a bar?"
Mik shrugged. "As good as. I'm the bar's social floorwalker."
"I'm not familiar with… What does that mean?"
"My job's to try to head off fights before they get up a head of steam. Look out for predators with bad intent. Swoop in for conversation when someone's too persistent and their target is signaling for help. Provide a shoulder sometimes since the bartenders are busy."
"So you're not a nephie?"
"Oh, I am." Mik snickered. "Everyone has their preferences, right? But not all nephies are entitled jerks. You said no. It's no."
For a long moment, Mac watched and sipped, considering. "All right. I'm not interfering with your job?"
"You're part of my job. I'm here for you as much as anyone else here." Mik shot him a wink. "And I'm a good multitasker."
"Works for me." Mac raised his mug and waited for Mik to clink glasses. "To not all nephies."
"And not all nephilim."
Maybe the spacer life wouldn't be so bad after all.