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Strange New Ways

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Kon's lips are flat and very warm. M'gann wriggles closer and turns her head just so, in imitation of the women in the shows she has watched. His fingers flutter at her wrist, his touch light. She leans forward into the heavy crook of his shoulder. Shyly, he skims his hand up her arm to her elbow. His palm is broad, the skin unmarked. He smells faintly of salt and fainter still of the honey he spoons into his drink.

Perhaps if she were not so tentative? Experimentally she touches her tongue to his teeth. His breath catches. Cradling her elbow, his fingers tighten; his thumb twitches. The scrape of his thumbnail in the fold of skin inside her elbow runs through her as the line of his teeth against her lip does not.

M'gann withdraws. Their noses brush; his breath rushes moist over her cheek. Kon stares at her, his eyelashes delicate stubs rimming his eyes. M'gann drops her eyes. She tucks a long hank of shaped hair behind her ear.

He swallows.

"I'm sorry. Did I...?"

She looks up so suddenly her hair flashes loose again, spilling over her shoulder. "No. No, you didn't do anything wrong."

He takes his hand from her elbow. His touch lingers, hot upon her skin. Gently, he presses his thumb to her temple and so sweeps her hair behind her ear again. Such an alien intimacy. Her gut coils about itself, and she shivers.

Kon reddens. He drops his hand. The ghostly brush of his fingertip down the ridge of her cheek echoes in the bone.

"Then why? If you want to stop--"

"I don't want to stop," she says. She twines her fingers together, pulling at the bones so they thin like taffy. "It's just, kissing isn't really something my people do."

"I liked it," he says defensively, then he looks down to her hands. "You didn't?"

She presses her hand to his knee. "Oh, it was nice. I didn't mind."

The corners of his eyes wrinkle: he frowns. Beneath her hand, his thigh tenses. For a fragile moment he is quiet, his shoulders tight, then he says gruffly:

"I don't want you to not mind it. If you don't want to kiss--"

"I do," she says quickly. "It's interesting. How humans express affection for each other. It's not what I'd prefer, but it's not bad."

He tightens his fingers, then relaxes them, then tightens them again. Kon looks up to her and his brow, dark over his eyes, eases.

"So what do you prefer?"

Her hearts stutter, then she feels the color exploding in her face, the sudden wild violence in her chest. She cannot-- She could not ask of him--

A muscle in his thigh trembles. Like a perfume spilling out of a cracked bottle she scents him: the salt on his skin, the distant murmur of his mind, all of him beckoning to her.

M'gann touches his cheek. The bones in his face are strong, solid as the rest of him. She slides her fingers from his cheek to his ear where it juts, to the short, dark hairs at his temple. The corner of his jaw twitches. Her skin crawls; she itches.

"I've never actually done this before," she tells him. "But on Mars, for my people, we--" She pauses, thinking of the words. "We link a piece of our minds to share our o'uza, our feelings. Our h-hearts."

He stiffens beneath her hands, his jaw setting, his thigh taut. Of course. Of course. She should not have thought to suggest a thing. M'gann's chest thickens, her hearts too heavy, the one before the other.

"But it's okay," she says glibly. "It's not a big thing. We don't have to do it, I mean, hello, Megan, knock it off with the whole psychic thing, right?"

Then he turns. His cheek fits to her palm. His breath tickles the cool inside of her wrist. He touches his fingers to the back of her hand.

"Don't," he says. "You don't have to stop."

She swallows. Her mouth is very wet. Silly. A child's nervous reaction. She isn't a child.

"I know you don't like it. Telepathy." She pets his temple and cradles his cheek. "I don't want to upset you." The nuances of English escape her. She does not wish to cause him aosila: unease, pain of mind, life; illness of spirit.

He rolls his lips. His throat works. Still his fingers remain at her hand. The whorls on his fingertips are tiny maps pressed into her flesh. Her own fingers are smooth upon his skin.

Kon leans towards her. His eyelids sling low. He breathes out and the trembling of his breath whispers over her lips, then he presses his lips to hers. A small crease forms between his eyebrows. M'gann blinks once and again.

He sits back. His ears show pink. His mouth draws down at the ends.

"I'll be fine," he says shortly.

She says, "If you don't want to--"

He kisses her again. The warmth of his lips trickles through her. Now when he sits back he looks down between them. His frown has deepened.

"I want to."

M'gann smooths her hand up his thigh and down again. She smiles and her skin shivers with the force of it. She touches her lips to his brow, as she has seen lovers do.

"If you want to stop at any point," she says, "for any reason, just think STOP."

Kon nods curtly. His hand on her arm is steady now. He grips her hand close.

She cards her fingertips through his hair and whispers, "Please trust me."

M'gann waits for the answering whisper, the unvoiced affirmative that creeps from his mind to hers, cast out between them. She closes her eyes. He exhales. His fingers spasm on her arm.

She thinks, Trust me, and in that first jolt of connection, as the dense spread of Kon's mind first opens then begins to close, she throws out her line.

Kon, she thinks. Kon. The breadth of his hands. The unguarded kindness of his smile. Her name in his mouth. How he trusts her on the field, and how he reaches for her hand as they watch the classics movie channel late at night. The honey he stirs into tea and milk and citrus drinks. How his eyelids fold when he smiles so his teeth show. Her hearts swell. She throws this to him, all this: the sweetness in her chest, the warmth in her bones, the adolescent wetness of her mouth when she thinks of Kon. Kon.

The breath runs out of him. His thigh quivers. He says, "M'gann."

A lightness fills her, a new and hesitant happiness that pops one two three in her chest, in her throat, in her head. His o'uza.

M'gann. M'gann. M'gann.

Fiercely she thinks, Kon, and she wraps her arms about him and she presses her mouth to his, and now it is not so bad to kiss in the way humans do. The warmth of him suffuses her. He cups her shoulders and she ripples; her flesh parts and reshapes, molding to the hot touch of each finger.

Kon leans into her and M'gann takes him.