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Birds, Bees, Other Things

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Kon spoke: "What are they doing?" His mouth twisted.

M'gann glanced at the television. HBO, a man and a woman bared to their flesh and embracing: ah! She brightened.

"They're mating," she stage-whispered; then she giggled.

Kon squinted. His brow wrinkled. A riot of wet, fleshy sounds rose from the speakers. The woman moaned. M'gann dug around the popcorn bowl, scraping together the dregs of salt and butter and crunchy kernels.

"Mating," he said. "You mean sexual intercourse."

She nodded and sucked the salt from her thumb. Her toes curled; she wiggled her knees in pleasure. Salt, salt, salt. Oh, she loved salt.

The woman moaned again, louder now. Humans were so noisy. The thought of the mind-mate, ever near as M'gann coursed through her own adolescence, tickled her belly. She sucked harder at her fingers.

Kon shifted. His frown had deepened, the skin between his thick eyebrows furrowed. "Is it supposed to hurt her?"

M'gann tipped her head. The woman looked pleased, she thought; but then the woman's lips drew down, her teeth flashing. The man grunted.

"Well," she said, hesitating, "either she's very happy or she's very upset."

"How can you tell?" He looked ill at ease, his fingers twitching on his thigh. Thick, square fingers, his broad thigh tensed, the muscles bold beneath the denim--

M'gann stared intensely at the TV and sucked at her finger as she thought. She popped the knuckle free of her teeth.

"I'm not really sure," she admitted.

Kon drummed his fingers on his leg, indignation rising as the woman cried out again and beat the man about the shoulders.

"I don't like this," he said suddenly. He stabbed the remote. The screen flickered and then darkened. New shadows surrounded them.

M'gann reshaped her eyes to see into the dark. Beside her, Kon ticked restlessly at his thigh. A muscle in his jaw leapt. She smoothed her skirt over her own thighs, her skin malleable beneath her fingers and nearly fluid. The second of her hearts beat quicker than the first.

"Um," she ventured after a moment, "I think she liked it. I don't really have much experience with, um, you know." Oh, gosh.

Her belly knotted. He was warm next to her, always so hot to M'gann who had grown on dry, cold Mars so far from the heat and light of the Sun. At the edges of her mind, a little whisper caught at her: a note of curiosity that was not hers. She picked at her skirt and tried again.

"I know that on Mars, for my people, um, intercourse isn't really..." She gestured to the silent television. "It's not, um, as fleshy."

He was still a moment. Then he turned to her, the weight of his strange blue eyes a brand on her neck. She pulled at her hair.

"We, uh, it's more of a meeting of minds. A literal meeting of minds." She meshed her fingers together, demonstrating. Her thumb was still sticky. "And the bodily part is about, uh, meeting the other, or others, in a symmetrical display, and oh, gosh," she broke off, laughing nervously, "I'm not explaining this very well."

A silence, then he said, "No, that makes sense. I just don't understand." Frustration dragged at his voice. "Why would they do that? Are they reproducing?"

"They could be?" M'gann hedged. She tugged at her hair again, pulling it over her ears. "Humans can be kind of weird about mating. But," she said slowly, "I think humans mate for a lot of the same reasons why my people mate. Because they want to or to reproduce, or to show affection for someone they care a lot about." Perhaps they did it to be close.

The corner of his mouth pinched. His fingers twitched and were still. Superboy looked down to his hand on his leg. He spread his thumb, tracing the curve of muscle. Earth was so warm, the air so thick with heat. M'gann drew breath.

"Cadmus didn't really teach me anything about that," he said to his knee. "Where do they--" He made an irritated sound, breath harsh through his teeth. "How do you know if someone wants to? Show affection. Any affection."

The hems of his jeans were worn at the heel, white threads pulled loose from the weave. His long toes curled against the carpet. Like human, but not. She trailed her fingertips through her red hair. Like human.

His knuckles paled, his fingers tightening on his thigh. M'gann slid her fingers along the back of his hand. She rested her palm on his wrist. Her face burned. The heavy bones in his hand flexed, then his fingers relaxed; his wrist curved into her touch.

"Usually," she said, "you can start by asking."