Nyota watched the playback of her presentation and growled. After a moment, she deliberately spread her fingers and hunched her shoulders up, a gesture of annoyance among the Skexy.
She could see from the recording that her movements were wrong. There was difficulty, always, in translating the gestures of a species with wings, prehensile foot claws, and double eyelids to a human's body. But there were accepted glosses and normative gestures, typical substitutions. She made those gestures oddly and she failed to connect them in the sharp, staccato fashion that approximated the Skexy's stillness and sudden motion.
Nyota's Skexin looked fluid, and rhythmic, like she was at a club looking for a partner. It looked…far too human.
Gaila was surfing in an ocean of n-dimensional space, deep into an article speculating on the design of Romulan warp drives. She was in a comfortable place where everything was explained in mathematical relations, symbols, the movements and stillnesses the symbols symbolized. It left her feeling disembodied and abstracted, almost like chewing ralnak root.
The noise of her roommate's entry grounded her, pulled her back to three dimensional space and forces that worked at a single g, acceleration far slower than the speed of light. She blitned surprise, solitude, contentment.
Nyota missed the entire pheromone wash, limited as she was to only five senses. She said…she said a short sentence, in a distracted, off-hand manner.
Gaila couldn't understand or speak Standard at the moment; her thoughts were in her hands, her intan, her body. She didn't respond to Nyota's words.
Nyota spoke again, more sharply this time, and finally looked in Gaila's direction. Gaila shook her head and shrugged at the same time.
Nyota smiled at Gaila, and Gaila smiled back instinctively, mirroring Nyota, sat up in bed.
Nyota shook her head, smile still in place, then waved her PADD suggestively and sat at the desk.
Gaila tried to settle back with the Journal of Warp Physics, but the trance was broken. Her eyes hurt and her neck was stiff in the way that meant she had kept one position too long. She stood and stretched, bent and twisted, and pushed her body through a couple of traditional telku.
She'd finished the fourth one, and decided against pushing for a fifth, when Nyota asked "Are you back?"
Gaila pressed her lips together no and said, "Never left. Were you saying something important or…?"
"I'm not going out tonight. And," she looked up at Gaila through her eyelashes, mouth pursed just a little, "I wouldn't say no to a back massage."
Gaila croaked amusement at her and said, "Maybe after dinner. I'm starving."
"Your roommate can help you," said Professor kTsa'a'ah.
Nyota looked at the hen. "I'm sorry—."
"Gaila Uxnahoe is a gifted kinesthetic communicator," said the hen, bobbing her head in a Betelgeusian gesture of emphasis. "As a humanoid, she may be able to explain stillness to you in a way you seem not to understand from avians."
Nyota bowed her head to look at the floor and bent her knees a little.
Professor kTsa'a'ah snapped her beak several times and hissed. "Mammal! Bending your knees doesn't make you look smaller and less threatening, it makes you look like you're about to launch." She turned sideways and preened the wing on the far side from Nyota, just a moment. "Your roommate is the tutor that I recommend. Her grasp of the material is excellent and your anatomies are quite similar."
Gaila covered her nose and mouth in disagreement. "You don't want me to teach you."
Nyota's response came a little too slow, but she said, "No, I do. I really need your help." She spread her hands and sat on the bed, leaned forward a little. "I have to get certified in at least one kinesthetic language." She tilted her head. "I asked around, and you're astounding. If they could, Communication division would seduce you from Engineering."
Gaila croaked and said, "I like Engineers better; they're not afraid to get dirty."
Nyota wrinkled her nose and laughed back. "Everyone wants to get dirty with you, and you don't discriminate between divisions."
"No, but I arranged life to encounter more engineers." Gaila leaned back on her bed and scratched her stomach. "What are you offering?"
"What am I offering?" asked Nyota slowly, each word dragged out and examined for meaning.
"For me to help you with your Skexin. " She opened her mouth and breathed deep, giving Nyota her full attention.
"Oh!" said Nyota. "You're being mercenary. Okay." She hummed a little, the way that meant she was thinking about something for the first time.
Gaila wriggled out of her uniform, placed the skirt and top in a heap by her head. She was assessing how much Nyota wanted this, because it was going to be painful for both of them.
"You lift your leg gant," said Gaila, slow and lilting, nearly singing. She moved her arms, and Nyota didn't know if her arms were an example of gantly movement or not. Was gant a direction or a manner of movement or some other quality? Was it even Orion?
Nyota looked at Gaila's face, trying to read her expression. It had taken her nearly a year to realize that slow and warm was Gaila speaking as if her listener were stupid and hormone-befuddled. But the liquid quality of her tone here was different, and Nyota didn't know what it meant.
"I can see that I am doing it wrong. I can't see how I'm doing it wrong. Just…just move me the right way."
Gaila whirled, arms down, and she was further away from Nyota when she stopped traveling the floor, although she didn't stop moving. "I can't teach you that way." She gave the full body shimmer that Nyota had finally learned to interpret as a sign of impatience. "If you'd just let me nyath you, this would be so much simpler."
Nyota shook her head and looked away. They'd discussed biochemical manipulation a lot when they had first moved in together. They didn't need to argue about pheremones again.
She wasn't expecting it when Gaila danced up on her and knocked into her shoulder, pushed past her. "You're not balanced and weighted," Gaila sang out. "What's wrong with your body?" She turned back and pushed her head forward and back, a Skexy motion that signaled 'investigation.' "I know you have good gross motor control; I've seen you dance for pleasure."
"It's not a dance!" said Nyota. She threw up her hands, an extremely offensive personal insult among the Skexy, but pure frustration for her. "It's a language, but I can't use my ears and my tongue." She closed her eyes, shook out her hands and arms. "Maybe I should try the class study group instead. Thanks for trying."
Gaila closed the door to the practice room and switched the privacy lock from Physical Communication (Humanoid)/Rehearsal/Observers and advisors welcome to Undisclosed Activity/Participants and observers unwelcome. It took her the usual fumbling to figure out the setting; if she had been with anyone besides Nyota, she'd have selected Sex (Humanoid)/Females/Participants and observers encouraged. She didn't like to do things in rooms no one else was allowed to enter. But Nyota feared being made to look foolish, and Gaila suspected that was from where the misunderstanding came.
But she got it sorted out and turned back to face Nyota. "Breathe in," she said.
Nyota breathed normally, looking at Gaila for so long that Gaila started to turn back to the door. She stopped when she heard a deep inhale from behind her. She turned back to Nyota and said, "Breathe out. And again. Keep it going."
Gaila fell into the rhythm of Nyota's breaths, breathing with her, swaying with it. This was going to take a while, to get Nyota down deep into her body, break her of words. It would be so much easier if she could nyath Nyota, or if they had sex, and blitn trust and connection. How any species could communicate without an intan, Gaila didn't know.
Nyota caught sight of Professor kTsa'a'ah, whose head feathers were raised high, from the corner of her eye. She didn't wince, because that would have turned her confused wobble about the education of chicks in the egg into nonsense, but she did sigh, loudly and unashamedly.
Which was not to say that the work with Gaila had not helped; her form was better now. (Better meaning painful, unnatural, conforming to a logic that Gaila swore made sense if you were coldblooded.) But her rhythm was still off, her muscles still moved fluidly instead of sharply gantly.
She drew to a close as quickly as she could when she saw that one Tellarite in the back of the room had his eyes closed, had stopped watching her completely. She crossed her arms to indicate completion, then turned to face the professor for her critique.
"Much improved from last time, Cadet," said kTsa'a'ah.
And Nyota might have believed her, if the hen hadn't spoken Standard.
Gaila watched Nyota get out of bed and head to the bathroom. When Nyota came back out, Gaila said, "Sleep with me?"
"You're just using me for my body temperature," said Nyota, but she got into Gaila's bed and Gaila wrapped herself around Nyota's warmth.
"I'm just biding my time until I can get a Tellarite to sleep with me," Gaila muttered into Nyota's shoulder. "What's wrong?" she asked, because she was half asleep. She couldn't stop herself from reading muscle tension and smell and pheromones to get an emotional read on people, but she could keep quiet about what she knew.
"Skexy monologue was today."
Gaila licked Nyota's shoulder. "You want help with your next assignment?"
Nyota made a soft, agreeing noise and then yawned. "I looked at the playback, and it's still not good. I have to be good at this."
Gaila licked Nyota's shoulder again, then closed her eyes for sleep. I can take you to good enough, she thought.