When Alana gets back with dinner, the windows of the closed-up house are dark. She and Marko do their living by natural light these days. She goes around to the side and fiddles with the faulty latch until she hears a click, and then she pushes the door in. “Home,” she calls softly. Marko doesn’t answer. Second floor, then. She finds the staircase by memory and makes her way up, taking each step with care. At the top, she calls again, “Home.”
“Alana.” His voice is so warm, so happy that’s she there. It gives her tingles still, sometimes, even after a month of sponge baths and scrounged bedding.
“They had yellow-stuffed trillbugs!” Now that her eyes have adjusted to the dark, she can see a little by the light of the city, shining in the room’s one window. Marko is seated on the mattress they found below and dragged up stairs. He knees are folded almost to his chest. She sits cross-legged next to him and offers him one of her two paper sacks.
“I don’t know what a trillbug is.”
“They’re insects,” Alana says, unwrapping hers.
Alana shrugs. Marko’s translation rings make life way easier, but they do have their quirks. “They were kind of junk food, back home. When me and my cousins pestered my mom too much, she’d give us money and send us to the bugmonger.” She snaps off a crispy leg and crunches it between her teeth. “Oh my god, these are even fresh.”
“It’s an insect.”
Now Alana hears something in his tone. “Try it, it’s good!”
“Back home, we kept insects as pets. I had an iru.”
Sometimes, the rings didn’t even try. “Whatever an iru is, it’s probably not like a trillbug, because live trillbugs are the most annoying creatures on the planets. They make a racket like you would not believe. Anyway—” Suddenly, just like that, her good mood is gone, and she is deserter Alana, Private First Class, huddled in an abandoned building on a mattress that smells of must and sometimes gives her a headache. “Anyway, it’s the only food I got tonight. Sorry.”
It’s quiet for a moment. Then, beside her, she hears the rattle of paper being unwrapped. “Do you eat the whole thing?”
She attempts a smile, not that Marko can see it. “Just like a juicy donut.”
“I’ll take that as a yes.” A moment later, she hears the bug go crunch. After a few moments’ chewing and an audible swallow, Marko says, “I guess that’s not so bad.”
“See?” she says, even though not so bad isn’t quite the reaction she was hoping for when she bought the bugs. She takes another bite herself and thinks of home. Even now she doesn’t really miss it except for its ready supply of, for example, soap, and during moments like this, reminding her with a pang of a life she hadn’t liked much at all as it was happening.
Marko swears some untranslatable moony curse.
“What? What is it?”
“It just squirted guts all over me.”
“Guts?” Alana blinks. “Oh, that’s the yellow! I told you they were yellow-stuffed. And juicy.” She leans around to catch a glimpse of his face. Yellow drips from his chin, glistening darkly in the gloom. She can’t help a snorfle of laughter. Marko rolls his eyes.
“Aw,” Alana says, swiping his cheek with her finger and licking the yellow off. “See? Tasty.”
“Mm,” Marko says. When Alana moves her finger, his gaze swings around to follow it.
Oh ho. “I can clean you off,” she says. She leans in and licks across his bristly chin and on down his jaw.
“I think you got it,” Marko says.
“Mm, I wouldn’t want to miss any.” She nibbles at his neck and smiles as he shudders against her. He’s so easy, when he’s not too busy overthinking things. She’s helping him with that. Now, for instance.
“No, Alana, we have to be quiet—”
“You’re the one who’s talking,” she whispers. An idea strikes her. She pulls back, and with calm deliberation she slides the ring he gave her off her finger and onto his. She can just make out his squint of confusion. “Talk all you want,” she says. “I have no idea what you’re saying.”
The reverse isn’t true, of course; she knows about half a dozen words of Blue, all filthy, but he’s pretty good at Local. They wouldn’t be here otherwise.
That adorable wrinkle remains between Marko’s eyebrows. Then Marko’s teeth flash white, and the next moment Alana is pinned on her back, Marko looming over her with a grin that in the half-light borders on manic. “Talk dirty to me,” Alana says. Pleads. “Tell me what you’re going to do me.”
Marko leans down and growls something to her in Blue’s lilting, rocking cadences – ill-suited for growling, but the contrast sends chills down her spine. Marko’s fingers push her hair back from her face. His tone softens into one she recognizes; it goes with that particularly soppy look he gets sometimes.
Impatient, Alana pushes up at his shoulder. “Dirty,” she demands. But then she hears one of those six Blue words she knows. Cuni. Then she hears it again. She catches another flash of Marko’s teeth in the dark, and she laughs, and then she rolls her hips up to meet him. As he starts to rut against her, he keeps talking, spilling into her ear a winding, splashing stream of words unknowable. Foreign. Moony. This is what the moonies sound like on the news feeds, shouting in the streets, their prime minister speaking from his podium: this uneasy patter of uncertain consonents and slantwise vowels, like sounds torn loose in a storm.
They’re forbidden; they’re wrong. Marko’s wronger than she’s been ever been before. The wrongness throbs hotly through her clit, wetly from her pussy. She reaches for a horn and grips it, slides her hand over the concentric rings of growth and all the way to the tip, just shy of Marko’s cheek. He huffs at her. She surges up against him: remember me? Remember this?
How many of the girls back home would ever hold living horn in their hand?
Marko’s breath is hot on her shoulder, his clothed dick firm against her thigh. She shifts until he’s rubbing right up against the seam of her jeans, and she rubs back. It’s an erratic rhythm they make, but before much longer he comes with a grunt and a puff of hot air. “Don’t you dare stop talking,” she tells him. So he mumbles into her shoulder, exotic words spoken straight into her bones, and she bites off a cry as she comes.
Marko collapses then, half on top of her, and they breathe together for a while. His belt buckle presses into her belly. She reaches up and rubs the sweet spot behind his ear - exactly like the goat at the carnival petting zoo back home, which she is never, ever telling Marko. Finally he rolls off of her and tucks her up against his side, the same he’s done every single night: her Marko. Her very own moony, although now that she’s gotten off it’s harder to remember why that part’s important.
“I’ll eat the rest of your trillbug tomorrow,” she says. “If you don’t want it.”
“I want it,” he says, and pulls her closer.