They push their clumsy hands through the thick, heavy hair on their head. They feel the rich texture, the silky smooth feeling where it cascades in curly shapes around their shoulders, rub at their scalp where they can feel the roots against the sensitive tips of their fingers. They scratch at the skin with their fingernails, barely long enough to be of any use, but enough to feel a slight sting, setting their nerve endings alight for a split‐second and eliciting a gasp – their mouth falls open without their say‐so, lungs sucking in the atmosphere, a mere reflex compelling them to do so.
Oxygen. Many of Earth’s species require oxygen to live, including humans, they know that.
Focusing on their lungs, they realize that they’ve been breathing it in this whole time, chest expanding and deflating at a steady rhythm, but only now that it’s inexplicably sped up do they notice it. They can feel their new heart beating, too, pumping blood through their body at a faster pace than before.
Physical exertion increases the required amount of oxygen intake, they remember from their studies, but they didn’t think that raising their arms was enough to count. They wonder idly if the overwhelming sensation of feeling their own hair was enough to increase the need for oxygen, then.
It certainly felt like it.
With careful movements, they push themselves up to stand only on their two feet, then put one in front of the other to walk, a human’s preferred method of mobility. It’s a balancing act, they figure out, and finally, intimately understand why it takes a human's offspring so long to master it.
After a while, it gets easier, movements coming more instinctively, more fluid. They find they can walk along the path, arms stretched slightly to the side to help balance their body, and focus on other things at the same time.
Like the feeling of soil and dried leaves under their soles.
Or the air moving around them in a breeze, caressing their body in waves.
Or the trees looming above them, filtering the sunlight, branches swaying slightly, rustling and whooshing noises reaching their ears. Auditory perception. They didn’t think it would be like this, hearing with human ears.
They begin to make sounds, too, then. It takes a while to figure out how to push vibrations through their throat, but after the first breathy hmms and aahs, a feeling of joy spreads through them as they recognize the distinct pattern of the human voice they spent so much time studying. They can shape their throat and mouth and tongue to produce all the syllables and words they couldn’t, in their old form, finally able to generate the right noises to speak like a human. It’s marvellous.
It's a while of walking along the path through the forest, getting ever more used to their body and sure in their movements, the sun creeping behind the horizon, darkness making it difficult for their human eyes to make out anything, before they come across a human settlement.
A lone house stands in the middle of a clearing, windows lit from inside, drawing them nearer.
There must be humans here, they think, excited to finally meet one, and, remembering the studies of human customs, they walk up to the door and knock loudly to announce their arrival.
There's some scuffling from inside, then the door is opened to reveal – a human.
"Can I help…" the human starts, then abruptly trails off as his gaze wanders over their body.
His eyes widen, eyebrows arching in – surprise, that's surprise. Oh no. He must notice something off about their body, they realize. That shouldn't happen, they were so careful when they chose it, all the bodies in the lab on the ship were built from real DNA samples, they should mimic real humans perfectly. Maybe they shouldn't have made the decision based on the most interesting pattern of body hair – maybe the pattern is somehow wrong–
"Mate, where the fuck are your clothes?" The human's incredulous voice snaps them out of their growing panic.
Clothes. They forgot about humans' affinity for draping themselves in fabric. Was it really that important?
"Oh. I, um, don't have any."
The human stares some more. "You don't have…– Are you alright?"
"Yes," They beam, happy to be sure of the right answer this time. The stretch of a smile feels good on their face. "Are you?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm alright." The human sounds bemused, but softer than before. "Listen, why don't you come inside for a bit?"
They follow the human inside while he prattles on, his voice high and melodic, and they think they could listen to him speak for ages. “I was just making myself some tea, let me get you a cuppa, get you some proper clothes as well, we’ll sort this out, mate, don’t worry. Here, have a seat.”
They’re led through a corridor to a well lit room filled with furniture and little objects of all shapes and sizes, and the human gestures to a couch in the corner. He probably means for them to sit down, so they do. The human looks satisfied.
He leaves the room, giving them an opportunity to glance around and take everything in.
The couch they’re sitting on is soft, cushions molding to their body when they wiggle around, the fabric creating a nice sensation on the palm of their hands as they stroke it. There are several light sources – lamps – creating a soft glow around the room, softer than the bright glare of the sun or the energy they’re used to from the ship, warmer. Or maybe it’s just that the air filling the room is warmer than outside, relaxing their muscles, making their body feel more comfortable, for some reason.
Looking around, they see several things they recognize, common human artefacts like a table, several chairs, some plants, a plush and colourful carpet that thoughtlessly makes them curl their toes into it over and over again, a few very small portraits on the wall. What really gets their attention, though, is a shelf in the corner filled with objects they’ve never seen before, or can’t place, in any case. The only thing they recognize on there is the image of one of Earth’s revered deities, Amy Winehouse, propped up and displayed prominently. Maybe the rest of the trinkets are of religious significance, too.
The human returns with tea, eventually.
His face does something complicated when they reveal they’ve never had tea before, but it smooths over quickly, and he seems willing to instruct them on how to prepare it for drinking, with sugar and milk and exhaling on it in a specific way to lower its temperature.
He also brings them fabric to cover up most of their body. A bathrobe. It’s fluffy and soft on their skin, so even though they don’t understand why they need it, they don’t mind.
“So,” the human says and lets out a heavy breath. He seems more relaxed, now that they’re both sitting down, clothed, with a cup of tea. “I’m Louis. What’s your name?”
“Oh… I don’t have one,” they say. “I know it’s common for humans to identify each other like that, but we don’t have names.”
“And you’re not human.”
“...Right.” The human – Louis – looks skeptical. They don’t know how, but they can tell he doesn’t believe them, which makes sense, because their body is clearly human. And even though the concept of extraterrestrial life forms is well established in his culture, the factuality of it seems to be disputed.
Well. They didn’t necessarily plan on revealing themselves, but they’re realizing they might need help adjusting to this planet and its customs. They’re stuck here for good, after all. Willingly, but stuck nonetheless.
And Louis seems to genuinely want to help them, and that’s not going to work if he doesn’t believe them, so.
There’s only one way to make him understand.
“I know I look human – well, I am human, right now, but. This isn’t… Um. Just, hold on,” they stutter. They close their eyes and then try to close their ears, too, but having no success, resort to pressing the palms of their hands against them, blocking out as much sensory stimulation as possible, and concentrate, concentrate until they can feel the shift.
Everything dulls, and fades, and slows down as their body resumes their original form for as long as they can hold it, then snaps back into place when they let go, overwhelming human senses in place once again.
They’re panting, back in their human body.
Switching back is strenuous and energy‐depleting, once the fusion is complete. Not that they regret it, even less so now that they know how much better, brighter, more it feels to have a human body.
Louis, meanwhile, is standing upright, several paces from the couch. He must have bolted across the room while they were in their other form, escaping their notice.
He looks… frozen. Confused? Worried? Maybe all of it at once.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to… surprise you?”
Louis gulps in a few breaths, gradually relaxing and taking a tentative step closer. “Holy shit,” he says, staring at them. Pinches the skin of his arm between two fingers, for no apparent reason. “Holy shit, holy shit, you’re an alien. You’re actually an alien. I picked up fucking E.T.”
They’re starting to feel a bit bad for blindsiding him like that. “Um, sorry?”
“No, no, it’s fine. I guess. Fuck.” He crosses the room and sits back down on the couch next to them, takes a deep breath, and seems to calm himself down very deliberately. “Okay, okay, I’m fine. So. If you’re an alien, then, sorry to ask, but why are you here? Wait, where do you even come from? Wait, are there more of you here?”
They interrupt him before he can come up with more rapid‐fire questions, slightly overwhelmed, and do their best to answer him. To explain everything, as well as they can, although much of it is impossible to describe in any human language beyond vague concepts.
So they talk, slowly, prompting more questions from Louis and more vague answers. They tell him about their species, try to describe the differences, how they were part of a colony on a non‐invasive assignment to study humans. Their species are scientists, is the best analogy they can come up with, seeking only knowledge, avoiding any contact. They try to explain what they can’t even really explain to themselves – their growing desire to interact with humans, to connect, to live as a human, to experience something… more.
Louis listens intently as they describe what they did when the assignment came to a close. How they fused with one of their lab‐grown human bodies, a process normally reserved for research purposes, how they snuck into the transportation unit and used a teleporter to get to the ground, right before the ship set course to leave this solar system.
“But won’t you miss them? Your family?” The question is quieter, this time, but no less invested.
They shrug. “We don’t have family. We don’t… bond. Between us. Like other species do. There’s no one to miss.”
“That sounds lonely.”
They look at him, really look at him, and think about tea, and bathrobes, and names. “Well. Maybe that’s why I left.”
Maybe they craved the connection that humans seemed to find with each other. Now that they’re here, of course, now that they’ve considered all the differences between their species from a human’s perspective, for once, they’re not sure they’ll ever get to experience that. But maybe they can learn.
“Well,” says Louis, “you can stay here for the night. Maybe I can show you around town tomorrow.”
“Thank you.” They smile, and Louis smiles back.
“You need a name, though. You can always change it later, but I don’t wanna go and call you E.T. the whole time. How about John?” He begins ticking off on his fingers. “Chris? James? Harry? Tom–”
“Hairy?” They perk up and hold up their arm for inspection. “I’m hairy.”
A delighted laugh spills from Louis’ mouth as he lifts his hand to tousle the curls on their head. “Yes, you are that!” he says, but they’re to distracted by the sensations the sudden touch causes them.
This is the first time Louis is touching them, it must be, they would have noticed if it happened before because it feels amazing. So much better even than touching themselves with their own hands. Their scalp is tingling.
They didn’t realize they closed their eyes until Louis abruptly pulls his hand away and stammers out an apology. When they open them again, their lids feel heavier than before, and their breathing picked up. They’re starting to think that this might just be a regular response to having their hair touched.
They want to ask Louis why he stopped, ask him to continue, but he’s already getting back on track.
“Not hairy – Harry. H-A-R-R-Y. It’s just a name.”
Well. They try to ignore the lingering shivery feeling, and test out the name. Harry. Harry. They like it. “I like it,” they say around a smile.
Louis shoots them a wide grin, and it’s mesmerizing. “That’s settled, then. Harry.”
And they – Harry – Harry feels something warm bloom in their chest. They have a name. And Louis knows their name. They know each other’s names.
“Can you,” Harry starts, cautiously, not sure what the appropriate human etiquette is, here, but asking seems like a good start. “Can you touch me? Again?”
Louis obliges, and puts first one, then both his hands into Harry’s hair, slowly running through the locks, tousling them, rubbing at their scalp, and oh, it feels so good, the sensation so overwhelming, leaving that same tingly feeling behind that Harry’s come to crave.
Sitting like this, Louis is so close, barely any distance between their faces, and his eyes are roving over Harry’s face, as if taking in every detail of their reaction.
He makes a fist in Harry’s hair, then, slowly, and gently pulls at the strands. It makes their nerve endings light up for just a split-second, enough to elicit a small, breathy sound from their throat.
Louis bites his lower lip, and Harry stares at his mouth. His lips look so soft. So plush. Inviting. They know about kissing, but it had never seemed like an appealing concept until now. Slowly, they bring their hand up to Louis’ lips, trace them lightly with their thumb, then lock eyes with Louis, who’s looking at them intently. “How do you… kiss?” Louis lets out a little sound, but doesn’t speak, so they continue. “I know what it is, I mean, I think. I know that humans do it sometimes. But…”
“You want that?”
“I think so. Is it nice?”
“Yes, but,” Louis hedges, “it’s… sexual. Or, well, romantic. Usually.”
Harry nods. “We’ve studied human reproduction extensively.”
Louis chokes out a laugh, but doesn’t seem to be entirely convinced that Harry knows what they’re asking for. To be fair, they might not. They’ve gotten other things wrong, too, so they can’t be sure, but they just, they want to try. Louis is still stroking through Harry’s hair, soothing them.
“Okay, look,” Louis says, “if that’s what you want, I’m well up for it. I just need to be sure I’m not doing anything you don’t want.”
“You won’t. I want it.”
“Yes, but if I do, I need you to tell me. Immediately. Promise?”
“I promise. Just – kiss me. Touch me. Please.”
And Louis does.
He kisses them slowly, achingly soft at first, and it’s better than anything else Harry has felt in this body so far, or ever, really. Their lips are so sensitive. The wet slide of Louis mouth against theirs, every light touch of his tongue making them want more, more, more. Louis lets his teeth graze over Harry’s lower lip, then sucks on it, and Harry moans, can’t hold back anymore.
They’re letting their hands roam all over each other, Harry leading, exploring Louis’ body with his fingertips, memorizing all the different textures, the way his hair goes from short and prickly on his cheeks to long, silky-smooth on his head, to fuzzy on his arms, to coarse on his legs when Harry reaches down. Louis follows, mirrors Harry’s movements, lets them guide him for now, every new touch leaving Harry shivering pleasantly.
It’s a heady feeling, to touch, and to be touched, and to feel so much, all at once.
“Can I try something, love?” Louis asks, his voice as breathless as Harry feels, like he’s just as affected by this as they are, affected by Harry, and oh, Harry likes that thought, likes that they’re making Louis feel good, too.
They nod frantically, keen to know what more Louis could possibly do to them, and let themselves be guided down until they’re lying on the couch, back pressed into the cushions.
After another questioning glance, he opens their bathrobe, lets the fabric spill to the side to reveal their body.
It’s a nice body, Harry knows, they picked it themselves after all. It has a nice pattern, smooth skin interspersed with patches of hair on his chest and leading down in a line from his belly button to a thick, dark bush of hair nestled between his legs, surrounding his dick, which is hard now, and they’re only just noticing because everything else has been so overwhelming. It’s like their human brain isn’t equipped to handle this much input at once, except it doesn’t feel bad, or wrong, doesn’t feel like they’re not processing adequately, it just feels like. Like there are so many little good things happening that it builds up into one big, incomprehensible good feeling, crashing over them in waves.
And then Louis straddles their legs, and slides his hands over Harry’s torso, following the lines of their body, until he reaches their crotch, and rests them there. His fingers tangle in the hair, and Harry bucks their hips at the feeling, keening, and reaches down.
Their fingers join Louis’ in playing with their pubes. The hair is a shade darker than the one on their head, a different kind of curly, too, and more coarse, adding wonderfully to the variety of textures on their body.
If anything, though, it’s even more sensitive.
Every stroke, every caress sends a shockwave through Harry’s nervous system as they both continue to play with it. They can’t lift their hips with Louis sitting on their legs, effectively holding them down, and the inability to chase or escape the feeling only seems to intensify it further, and all the can do is lie there, twitching, moaning under their joint ministrations.
“Fuck, you’re so sensitive. Responding so beautifully. Look at you, you like this so much, it’s so hot,” Louis rambles, the words clouding Harry’s head, who can’t remember any other words in the human language than yes and please.
Louis nudges Harry’s hand to the side to give himself more room. There’s a glint in his eyes when he looks up at their face and back down to where he tangles his fingers firmly in the curls.
Another glance to check Harry’s reaction, and then he tugs on it.
Harry’s dick twitches.
Louis tugs again, this time stronger, eyes on their face, expression focused, his mouth falling open when Harry lets out an overwhelmed “oh.”
“Louis,” Harry moans. “Please. Feels so good. So much.”
This time, when Louis’ fingers get a good grip in the patch of hair, his other hand takes hold of their dick.
He begins to stroke it in tandem with the tugs on their hair, rhythmically, and it feels so good, so intense they think their brain might melt, a crescendo of sensations climbing higher and higher towards some elusive peak, and just when they can’t take it anymore, just when they want to beg for something more, Louis tightens the grip in their hair and pulls. The sharp sting curses through their body, heightening every feeling, and Harry sees stars explode behind their eyelids as their release crashes over them so heavily they can barely hear their own shout over the rush of blood in their ears.
It takes a while to come down, to grasp onto a coherent thought through the floaty feeling, Louis stroking them through it, gently, now, until the stimulation becomes too much even for Harry’s greedy senses.
Harry catches their breath, sweat cooling on their skin, Louis above them, panting just as hard.
“That was…,” Harry tries to find the words, any words at all to describe what they’re feeling, but there are none.
Louis seems to understand, though, because he’s already nodding as he flops down onto the couch, half on top of Harry, and says, “yeah, it was, it was.”
He laughs breathlessly against Harry’s neck, and he sounds so happy, so content, and Harry feels just as happy, and just as content, no need to say anything more, and they can feel a wide grin spread across their own face as they lie there, arms around each other, holding each other, close, connected.