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TV taught me how to feel

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M'gann learns many things from her time studying Earth's television.

Her uncle has warned her not to take it at face value, but she's not sure how to tell what to take away and what to leave behind when she turns it off, so she soaks it all in and assures herself that it's fine, she can simply sort through it later.

She learns about schools, and cheerleading. She doesn't think she'll find the time for either but the shows seem to hold the ideas in such high regard that she thinks she probably ought to at least know about them. School mostly seems to consist of complicated social gatherings she enjoys challenging herself to keep up with, interspersed with highly specific displays of affection between couples.

They appear very particular about who is paired with who on that planet, she thinks as she watches raptly. It's all so new and somewhere between exciting and terrifying. She knows there's no way she could ever hope to fufill everything that seems to be demanded of her perfectly, but M'gann is determined to try.

She watches the favourite of her shows and examines the lead actress closely. It's weird, taking somebody else's face, and she hasn't mastered changing her skin from its cool green to the strange colours that humans have yet- but the actress seems to be what people think is pretty, and M'gann wants to make a first impression, with no way of judging these things for herself.

At least, the character's boyfriend is always calling her that, and M'gann wants to have a shot at trying everything that humans do when she goes to Earth, including boyfriends.

(She does come to think that the boyfriend has a point after a while. Her new form is exciting, she thinks.)

*

She continues watching the shows once she's settled into the base.

After their semi-disastrous first mission together, Superboy tries to make things up to M'gann and hovers around her a little, trying to make conversation awkwardly. She doesn't mind. It was lonely when she first arrived and he spent most of his time in the training rooms. She likes Superboy- he's the only one as confused by the rest of the teams' behaviour as she, even if he expresses it slightly differently. And more violently.

One day she's curled up watching TV when he sits stiffly beside her, eyes on the screen.

"Oh! Hello, Superboy," she says encouragingly. "I didn't know you liked this show too!"

"I don't," he says, and then he shrugs and amends, "I've never seen it. I don't really watch... TV." He says the word just a little too precisely, unfamiliar sounding in his mouth. M'gann wonders if Cadmus thought it was worth teaching him about.

They watch together, and she sneaks a few glances at his face throughout. He isn't the most expressive person but she thinks he looks puzzled, and M'gann hides a smile at the memory of her own confusion when she had first started her studies. She has to hastily cough into a fist when they get to the romantic scenes at the end of the episode to keep from giggling, though. Superboy looks somewhere between sure that the kissing must have been a mistake and nauseated.

"What's wrong?" she asks when she's certain her voice won't betray any laughter.

"Why are they... doing that?" he asks, and a little curiosity has crept into his voice.

This is something M'gann knows about, she thinks. She can teach him about it, and the thought seizes her. It's complicated and strange and she thinks she'd like to make it a little easier to understand for somebody else. M'gann wishes that she'd had somebody to teach her things like this, after all. She sits up straight and smiles.

Superboy looks taken aback at her enthusiasm.

"It's how people on Earth have relationships! You see-"

*

Her first hint that she doesn't know everything about these matters herself is when Black Canary jokes about how she doesn't know how Megan puts up with Wally pretending to be some lady-killer. None of the boys on TV had acted like that and M'gann had thought Wally just acted a little... strangely. The idea is unfamiliar and she starts to worry about what else she might have missed.

*

Her second hint is when Artemis arrives and suddenly she's flirting. None of the girls on her shows flirted. She can't help but feel a little surge of protectiveness when Artemis broadcasts her thoughts for everyone to hear, remembering an evening spent puzzling over a confusing human culture together and her resolution to help. She wonders if it's jealousy, and is excited at the thought. Then she feels a little ashamed because hello, Megan, jealousy is bad! But jealousy seems to mean that you like someone, that you like someone the way humans like people, and Megan appreciates the feeling of finally wrestling the confusing edges of this foreign culture into their correct places.

Appreciates the feeling that maybe this is where she starts to get it.

M'gann finds Artemis changing into her normal clothes back at base. The other girl's body language is firm when she sees M'gann. Defensive. M'gann hasn't seen many girls who look like Artemis does now since she came to Earth- just a couple of older League members, perhaps. It had taken her a while to feel she knew how to read the other girl without having to intrude on her privacy. She can definitely see that she and Artemis look very little alike, and the way Artemis is stood, suspicion in the lines of her legs and anxiety in the tense muscles so much more prominent in her arms than M'gann's are, only emphasises that.

It's interesting. She'd always thought humans looked so similar to one another before she came to Earth.

"I wanted to apologise," she starts before Artemis can get out the remark that she just knows is coming, and the other girl almost manages to hide her surprise. "I didn't mean to be so rude earlier. I'm not really used to how people communicate on Earth yet. But I mean what I said. About wanting to be your friend. I thought maybe..."

Her thoughts trail off along with her voice. Practice is a bad way to put what she's asking for. Artemis simply looks at her blankly for a second, and then shrugs and smiles easily.

"It's fine. Don't worry about it."

An arm is slung over M'gann's shoulder, and it's at just the right height to be comfortable, she thinks. Her tentative reciprocation is met with a broad grin.

"We can work on it together," Artemis responds, "-right?"

"Right!" Artemis squeezes her shoulder encouragingly, and M'gann follows suit, skin warm under her palm. Artemis tenses a little, but before M'gann can ask if she's feeling okay the girl is steering her to the door and asking to see her room here.

*

The subject is more or less dropped by unspoken agreement until Artemis brings Superboy into the kitchen two days after they get back from Bialya, whispers something into his ear and waves as she leaves. M'gann tries hard to ignore the emotion pouring off her in waves because it is impolite, and instead focuses on the fact that Superboy is really stood very close to her, and-

Oh, she thinks, as she brings her hands up to his chest and tries to work out how to stand at such an uncomfortable angle.

He pulls away after only a few moments, and his face is impassive. M'gann smiles encouragingly at him. Her mouth feels strange and the desire to make any kind of emotional proclamation is entirely lacking, she finds.

They stare awkwardly for a minute or two. But that's okay, she thinks absently, we do that all the time, it's normal.

"...Artemis said that I like you," Superboy finally says, "but I don't think that's how this is supposed to go. Not that I don't like you, but-" he breaks off with obvious frustration, mouth thinning.

She interjects hurriedly before he starts to get upset and try to break things.

"No," M'gann replies, biting her lip. "No, I think- I'll talk to her. Okay?"

Superboy nods. She considers for a moment, and then wraps him in a hug. He responds as awkwardly as he does everything but it feels nicer, she thinks, than the kiss did.

This is the third indicator that she has not learned all she wants to know yet.

*

M'gann finds Artemis in the training rooms, shooting at a target with mechanical precision. She hovers on the sidelines, smiling anxiously until Artemis fires off a last shot and turns to acknowledge M'gann.

"So," Artemis starts, with a grin that M'gann quietly doesn't notice does not match her thoughts, "how'd it go?"

"It didn't," seems to be the simplest way she can say it, and Artemis' smile falters slightly. She looks almost put out and M'gann quickly shakes her head. "Thank you. I mean, for doing that for me. I know you meant well but I don't think it's- a very good idea," she trails off nervously.

"What? Are you kidding?" Artemis looks angry, and she seems to realise that she's overstepped herself a little because M'gann can see a muscle pulling in her neck as she grids her teeth and tries to keep her temper. "C'mon, it's perfect!"

"No, it's not," M'gann says. "Why are you so upset?"

"I'm not upset." Artemis folds her arms. Unfolds them and picks up her bow again. Fiddles with it. Slings it over her back. M'gann just watches, unsure of what to say and unwilling to tread this line without that certainty.

Artemis doesn't give her the chance to collect her thoughts before she sighs and storms out the door.

*

M'gann has some of her favourite episodes recorded, stacked neatly beside the TV. When she pauses one of them on a frame of the girl she has taken on the face of, it jumps slightly, but she can still make out the features of the woman's face. When she puts her finger to the screen, it distorts a little, and she thinks she'd rather it be real skin she touches.

(The character's boyfriend had definitely had a point.)

*

Artemis opens the door with a sense of dread. M'gann tries nervously to tamp down on that, tries not to feel it, but it takes enough effort to avoid nervously lifting off the ground or turning back to green or anything at all, to stay still when her skin is thrumming with nerves, or maybe it's the flesh and bone under them that shakes. Humans have an expression, something like to the bone, and she wonders if it would be appropriate.

"Hi, Megan," Artemis says after a moment. She clenches a fist, unclenches.

"I'm sorry," is the first thing out of M'gann's mouth, and Artemis look surprised.

"What?"

"I didn't mean to upset you," she presses on, and she struggles to remember the words she had practised all the way here, "and I'm sorry if I'm not doing things right or if I don't understand. But I don't want to kiss Superboy. And Superboy says he doesn't want to kiss anybody because he thinks it's disgusting, so if he doesn't mind, why do you?"

Artemis twists her mouth sideways.

"But why don't you want to? Anybody would. Have you seen that boy?"

"Well... I don't. Is that not right? When I was studying Earth I thought it would be what would happen, and it seemed fine at first."

"But you don't like him."

"Of course I do!"

"No, I meant- you don't want to date him?"

M'gann shakes her head mutely.

"What about Wally?" and M'gann can't help but make a face at that. Artemis giggles, and the sound is a relief; if Artemis is giggling it can't be that bad.

"I already told you, no. Not him, not Kaldur, not Superboy, nobody like that."

"Come on. I'm trying to do you a favour here, Megan, give me something to work with."

"Um, I thought the girl on one of my shows was pretty?" she ventures, "but none of the shows said that-"

Artemis slams the door in her face, and she jumps back and up without thinking before remembering where she is. Setting herself back down on the ground quickly, she stares at the door for a minute and wonders whether she should knock or leave Artemis alone. The other girl doesn't seem to want her to stay, but M'gann hates the idea of leaving without at least finding out how she had upset Artemis and trying to make amends. Even if it feels that most of her relationship with Artemis consists of doing just that sometimes.

It doesn't matter in the end. Artemis opens the door again, and before M'gann can so much as blink she's being dragged inside, the door shut behind her.

"What you said before," and Artemis is staring at her so intently M'gann takes a step back, and suddenly she remembers that for all the jokes and sarcasm Artemis is the one that they can never get answers from- "about the girl. What did you mean?"

"Artemis-"

"Look, this is important, okay?"

"I don't know! I just thought she was pretty. That's why I picked her."

"...Picked her?"

"To look like. I needed somebody to base my human form on, and she looked interesting."

She watches as Artemis' mouth does the thing where it screws up again, and smiles nervously. "A bit narcissistic, I suppose? Hello, Megan, you're probably not supposed to do that!"

"I like it," Artemis says, interrupting M'gann's babble in a quiet voice that sounds out of place from her. The admission, and it does feel like an admission M'gann thinks, takes her by surprise. "She is. You are. Pretty, I mean, you're pretty. This is- oh, dammit."

Artemis sits down suddenly, and she looks torn between laughter and frustration. And something else that M'gann can't pinpoint, something that she doesn't think she's ever seen on a human face before but that M'gann thinks she likes. So after a moment she sits gingerly next to the other girl, and Artemis surprises her by leaning on a freckled shoulder. She's a warm, heavy weight, and after a minute M'gann puts an arm around her, because she thinks she should do something and she wants it to be something that lets that warmth stay.

"I set you up with him because I thought it would be easier," Artemis says, still quiet. "I thought you were too perfect." M'gann opens her mouth to ask what she means, mind recalling every clumsy moment of not knowing how to say this or do that as a rebuttal, but Artemis takes a deep breath and goes on.

"You're pretty, you like baking, all that stuff. I figured you're supposed get together with our resident bad boy and be annoying and adorable and that would be that. And it was hard watching you take so long so I thought a little push... if you would just get it over with I could shrug and say hey, that's life, and... because you were always there. Right there. Being pretty."

M'gann tucks her legs up and hums thoughtfully. "You really think so?"

"Hey, you picked her for a reason, right?"

"Mmm. But I didn't know this would happen. Things are much more complicated than I thought they'd be and I still don't understand. I'm sorry," she adds hopelessly for what feels like the millionth time.

"It's my fault. I should have just said that-" and Artemis is pushing away now, leaving an imprint of warmth where she was, straightening up to look M'gann in the eye. The breath she takes sounds loud in the quiet room, and M'gann likes it, she thinks. She likes how Artemis' voice returns to its normal strength even more.

"-that if you want to, I'd like to make things a little simpler." M'gann nods, and stands up, offering Artemis a hand. Artemis smirks a little as she takes it. Her palm has callouses and fits neatly over M'gann's as she leans in.

It takes a moment to work out where to put the other hand, and she spends a moment terrified that she's going to accidentally bite Artemis or anything ridiculous and clumsy like that, but after a moment it settles into something she thinks she has more or less right. Something she thinks feels right.

It's not softness, Artemis isn't soft, but her hand finds the curve of Artemis' waist and it fits just perfectly. The height being a little more equal helps. A hundred little things that M'gann will absolutely, definitely take note of as soon as she finds the brainpower to focus again, she determines. A hundred little things that make so much more sense.

When they break away, though, her mind is made up on at least one thing, and she gently dodges Artemis' attempt to lean in again before her resolve breaks.

"I want to hear why nobody said," she insists, firmly. "Not from a screen. From you. I want to hear why you didn't say."

Artemis nods once, and clasps M'gann's hand tighter. "Okay," she responds, and M'gann thinks yes, it is.