Making Contact - A Dreamspinner Press Anthology [MultiFormat]
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eBook by JL Merrow & Cari Z. & Sue Brown
eBook Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
eBook Description: Everyone knows that love can turn your world upside down, but it can also be literally out of this world! In this selection of M/M science fiction short stories, there's romance among the shooting stars, love that matches the glory of the spheres, and passion that burns like the largest of suns, and making first contact takes on a whole new meaning.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2010, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2010
14 Reader Ratings:
Better Than Cola
"Summer Storms, I appreciate your punctuality. Please sit down."
Summer Storms maneuvered carefully around the table and pulled out a chair. The act of sitting required even more concentration than walking, so they were silent until they had settled the awkward human envelope into the chair. "Thank you, Falling Rocks. We are honored to be given this opportunity--"
"Sorry I'm late!"
Summer Storms twisted their neck round to look at the newcomer. They were--no, he was--a tall, dark-haired human dressed much like Summer Storms themselves in standard male business attire. Summer Storms had noticed that more colorful clothing, such as Falling Rocks wore, appeared to be reserved for the female of the species. Perhaps humans, too, needed some kind of visual stimulus to aid them in the use of those confusing pronouns?
"Summer Storms, this is Nathan Chambers. He has been seconded to the embassy by his government to assist new staff in acclimatizing to Earth." Falling Rocks were smiling, and Summer Storms admired their control of the tricky facial muscles. Then the smile faltered. Summer Storms' mind buzzed. Had they committed some breach of etiquette already? Rise. They should rise to meet the human.
Conscious of their lack of grace, they did so. "Nathan Chambers, we are honored to meet you."
The human gave a broad smile that took up much more of his face than Falling Rocks' had. "Likewise, Summer Storms." And then he extended his hand toward them.
Too shocked to make a sound, Summer Storms instinctively pulled in their arms. Then their fists clenched in embarrassment. They had been warned of this. But they had not been told that it would happen in front of their superior!
"Hey, don't worry about it," Nathan Chambers said, mercifully pulling back his hand. "For now, at any rate. But you can take this as the first lesson: humans are going to expect to touch you. Often. And in public. You just have to accept that it doesn't mean what it does to a Melliti, that's all." He turned to Falling Rocks. "Hey, Rocks, can I borrow you for a sec?"
Summer Storms felt their fingernails dig painfully into their palms as Falling Rocks and Nathan Chambers shook hands right in front of them. The sight was unavoidably arousing, and to their horror Summer Storms felt the human body reacting to it, the male member rising and stiffening. No wonder Falling Rocks, who had had their envelope grown to their specifications, had chosen a female form, where sexual excitation was much less visible! New and lowly members of staff had to accept whatever envelope was offered, but Summer Storms were still mortified to show so little restraint in front of their superior.
"We will leave you now," Falling Rocks announced curtly, letting Nathan Chambers's hand fall. Summer Storms' mind buzzed, noting the uncharacteristic pronoun slip. The human watched as Falling Rocks exited the room, which Summer Storms vaguely recognized as another rule of courtesy. To see someone to the door. It seemed a little absurd, in such a small room. Falling Rocks were hardly likely to get lost on the way.
Nathan Chambers shut the door behind Falling Rocks and pulled down the blind. "Okay, now that we've got some privacy, do you feel up to giving it a go yourself? Oh, and by the way, what would you rather I call you? Summer Storms is kind of a mouthful in everyday conversation, so would you prefer Storms or Summer for short?"
"Whichever you find preferable," Summer Storms answered, reining in their agitation over what they had witnessed.
"Okay, Summer it is. And I'm Nathan. Now, I want you to try and relax. Remember that casual physical contact is just a part of human culture and doesn't imply anything sexual. Okay? Now, pretend we've just met: I'm going to shake your hand." He extended his hand once more, and Summer Storms felt their own limb drift up toward it. Feeling very daring, they opened their hand and grasped Nathan's.
The touch was... disappointing. Nathan's hand was warm and dry, but Summer Storms felt no tingle of electricity at the touch. "Oh!" they said. "It is... it is not at all like when we mingle."
Nathan grinned. "And that's the second lesson: the first lesson isn't half as bad as you think it's going to be. For humans, casual contact like this isn't erogenous."
"May we try that again?" Summer Storms thrust out their hand, daring the human to repeat the touch.
"Hey, you're a quick learner, Summer." He met their grasp, this time holding on a little longer. Summer Storms felt the envelope's groin stir once more. Perhaps it was malfunctioning? They would mention it to Falling Rocks later, perhaps.
"Uh, we don't usually hold on quite that long, though. Brief contact, that's the norm." Nathan's face appeared a little redder in color.
"And the third lesson?" Summer Storms were aware of undercurrents they were ill-equipped to deal with.
"The third lesson is... can I get you a cola?"
Summer Storms' mind buzzed. They had tasted cola in Melliti form before, only once. They had gotten swiftly, embarrassingly drunk on the sweet, caffeinated liquid. But in this envelope, they would be able to drink it with safety. "That would be very kind. Thank you."
Nathan was smiling once more. "I swear... the reason half you guys come here is to get hold of that stuff. There's a machine in the lobby they have to refill twice a day. I'll be back in a couple of minutes, okay?"
Summer Storms' limbs moved restlessly as they waited for his return. To calm themselves, they went over what they had learned. Casual contact--but brief. And there were no connotations of mingling. And the third lesson... it was indeed a lesson, they realized. The offering of refreshment was an important part of human social behavior. But Nathan had ignored the coffee machine in the corner of the room to indulge their Melliti taste for cola. Was that also normal courtesy, or did it imply special regard on Nathan's part? There was so much, they realized, that they would have to learn.
When Nathan returned, they pulled their lips up into a smile.
"Hey, good work! I know you guys find expressions difficult, but you're not far off, there!" He opened the canned beverage and placed it in front of Summer Storms. Escaping gases carried its aroma to their nose, and they grabbed it with embarrassing eagerness to take a sip.
The thrill of being able to consume the cola without fear of inebriation almost made up for the disappointing flatness of the taste to their human tongue. They should have expected this, of course; human sense organs were so different.
Perhaps they might save some--just a little--and drink it later, in true form.
Nathan took a drink from his own can and sank into a chair, disconcertingly close to Summer Storms. "Okay. Time to start the lessons again. And this is something you need to know before you start work. You're going to have to be prepared for people you don't know coming up to you, greeting you like a friend, maybe even touching you, that kind of thing. That envelope of yours has had a lot of previous owners, and when people see a familiar face, they tend to forget it might not be the same guy inside."
Summer Storms had read of the humans' reliance on visual cues to recognize their fellows. "It seems strange to us, that a human would not know the difference between acquaintance and stranger."
"Well, once you started speaking they might realize something was off. When Rocks got here, she had a problem with her first envelope and ended up renting the one you're in as a stopgap for a couple of weeks, until they fixed her up with that classy chassis she's in now. But I'll tell you now, her in that body was nothing like you."
He ceased speaking abruptly and drew back from them, picking up his cola can. Summer Storms had not been aware until then how close they had allowed him to lean in. Confused, they picked up their own can and took a careful sip of the liquid. On second taste, it did not seem so flat. Perhaps they were adjusting. They drank some more.
"I've never really got this business with the human envelopes, anyway," Nathan continued. "Melliti can survive just fine in their own form on Earth. So why don't you?"
Summer Storms pressed their arms to their body. "We understand that our true form is repugnant to humans. And communication is more difficult without organs for human speech."
"Yeah, I guess so. The communication thing, I mean. I don't see why you have such a complex about being seen, though." He leaned back in his chair, one ankle resting on the knee of the other leg. To Summer Storms, he looked relaxed, but they were aware that might be a misreading.
"If we were to tell you that on our world, mammals were seen as vermin and routinely exterminated, would you be so keen to visit in your human form?"
Nathan laughed. Odd, that such a discordant sound should seem so pleasant. "Okay, Summer, you got me there." He frowned, leaning forward once more. "Hey, you don't exterminate mammals, do you?"
Summer Storms' fingers fluttered helplessly. "Caught you!"
Their hands lifted of their own accord as Nathan laughed again, then dropped in confusion. They would certainly not have behaved in such a forward manner with their own kind. Perhaps the cola--but no. They were not intoxicated. It was simply that this form, although physically restrictive, allowed them a level of social freedom to which they were unused.
For which they were apparently not yet prepared. They reached for the cola can and were disconcerted to find it already empty.
"Hey, you okay?" Nathan's voice was soft. It did nothing to lessen the confusion Summer Storms felt.
"We are... tired?"
"Shit. Of course you are. I forget what it's like when you've only just got here. It's a hell of a lot to take in, what with a whole new body to drive as well. Come on. I'll walk you back to your quarters."
Summer Storms wrapped their arms around their body. "Yes. We think that is wise."
They were silent on their way through the wide corridors of the embassy, and Nathan did not speak beyond what was necessary, either. Summer Storms found that they missed his tones, but they did not know how to encourage him to speak once more. "So. This is it for today, I guess," Nathan said as they stopped at Summer Storms' door.
They felt a strange reluctance to let him leave. "There is a human custom, we think? That involves the offering of refreshment?"
"You're asking me in for coffee?"
Summer Storms remembered that a rising tone in his voice must be indicative of surprise. "It is not necessary that you accept."
Nathan looked at them, his head slanted at an odd angle. "Uh, you ought to know... there's all kinds of expectations built into going in for a coffee after two humans have been out on a date. Not that I'm expecting anything--but you ought to know. For future reference."
"But we have been working together. A date is a social engagement with the expectation of mingling, yes?"
Nathan laughed. "Okay. You got me there. Right, I'm invited in for a coffee, but I shouldn't expect any mingling. I can do that."
Their arms feeling light, Summer Storms opened the door.
* * * *
"Wow. This is big," Nathan said, whirling around in the center of the room, arms spread wide. Summer Storms' fingers fluttered once more. Any Melliti who behaved like that would risk getting the worst kind of reputation. "I guess you guys like your personal space, huh?"
"We do. Although our personal dwelling back home is not so large as this. It is intended as a place of retreat from the pressures of the human world."
"Isn't it done up kind of, well, human, then?"
There was a bed, for the comfort of the human envelope, and a kitchen area, stocked with human refreshments. Summer Storms had had the importance of keeping the expensive envelope healthy drummed into them before they had been allowed even to see it. Then there was a lounge area containing the latest in human entertainment systems. To further aid cultural integration, Summer Storms presumed. Thick drapes hid the window with its view of a disconcertingly blue sky.
"This is the main room. For when we wish to retreat fully, there is also this room." Summer Storms played the unlocking sequence in their mind and opened the door to the sanctum. Soft lighting recreated a summer evening on their home planet, and the room was furnished only with a settle. Melliti story-artworks with their intricate swirls adorned the walls in pleasing geometric arrangements. Music could be obtained with a thought.
"Wow," Nathan repeated, stepping up to the wall. "I'll be honest with you. I've seen Melliti art before, but these are incredible." He reached out with a finger to trace the tactile patterns. "The detail is amazing. And you can read them?"
Summer Storms' fingers curled a little. "We created them."
"You're serious?" Nathan whirled. "What are they about?"
"They are... personal," Summer Storms admitted, nails digging into their palms once more. Perhaps they were already beginning to adjust to this world; certainly they would never have allowed other Melliti with whom they were merely casually acquainted to view these works. "They tell the story of a mingling."
"It's a love story? Hey, you have, like, a partner or something back home?"
"No." Summer Storms marveled, inside, at the ease with which they could tell him this. "We had once, but they are no more."
"They died? Shit, I'm sorry, Summer."
"They were older than us, and facing decay. They found others who were compatible, and combined."
"That's harsh, Summer."
"It is our way. And it is an old pain. The artworks bring us happiness, not sorrow."
Nathan's head tilted to one side. "But I'm guessing you haven't done a whole lot of mingling since then, right?"
Summer Storms hesitated. "We have read that for humans, mingling is simply a furtherance of social contact?"
"Well, kind of." Nathan smiled. "For some. But a lot of us do it your way--wait to find that special person and really get to know them before we, uh, mingle."
There was a strange sensation in the region of the envelope's stomach. "Do you have a special person, Nathan?"
"No." His hand ran through his hair, although it did not seem in need of tidying. "I guess I spend too much time at the embassy. Ordinary human conversation seems kind of dull, after spending all day with you guys."
Summer Storms' mind whirled at the compliment. "But you still mingle with other humans?" Their fists clenched at having asked such a personal question.
"I, uh, yeah. I still mingle. It's... yeah."
"The question was improper?"
Nathan smiled. "Damn, you're a quick study, Summer. Not improper between friends. But not the sort of thing you'd ask a business acquaintance."
"But we are friends?"
"I'd like to think so, Summer."
Summer Storms curbed the impulse to let their arms drift upward and reach toward him. "Then we will also answer. No, we have not mingled for a long time. For us, to mingle is to risk combination. To combine is to lose self, to become other. We are not yet ready to become other."
Nathan nodded. "Yeah, I know the drill. One minute you're a couple of consenting adults getting frisky, then bang! You've turned into quadruplets. Kind of gives a whole new meaning to 'risky sex'." He smiled. "So do you ever know? I mean, you see a hot Melliti; do you ever get ready to mingle and then think 'whoa, this one's a combiner'?"
Summer Storms wriggled their fingers, amused. "No. That is why we all are so careful not to risk mingling by accident."
Nathan nodded. "And why, when you do mingle, it means something, right? You know, uh...." He paused and looked at the floor. There did not appear to be anything on it which might have distracted him. "You'd be safe with a human, wouldn't you? No risk of combining there."
Summer Storms considered his words. The factual question was not the only one, they thought. "You would wish to mingle with us? You find this envelope sexually attractive?"
"The envelope? Uh, no offense, Summer, but not really. It's kind of been around the block a few times. You're, what, the sixth Melliti I've known wearing it? No. It's what's inside that interests me. You, Summer."
Summer Storms could feel the human body reacting to the thought. They were both aroused and shocked. To mingle with someone they had known less than a day? But Nathan was right: there would be no risk of combination. They might take their pleasure with no fear of a death of the self. It was an attractive proposition. Nathan was an attractive proposition. "But you are a man," they said aloud. "And this envelope is also male. Is that not a problem?"
"Not for me, Summer. Humans aren't divided up into neat little male/female couples. Some of us only like our own sex, and some of us swing both ways. And anyway, I told you: it's you I've got the hots for. Not that envelope." Nathan laughed. "Although you'll be relieved to hear I've got plenty of experience with male equipment."
"You have mingled with both males and females?"
He looked away from them. "Uh, I guess you saw me checking out Rocks' ass earlier, right? Yeah, I go for guys and girls."
Summer Storms' fingers stiffened. "You have mingled with Falling Rocks?"
"No. Really, really... no." Nathan shook his head slowly from side to side, but he was still smiling. "I'm going to have nightmares about that thought, you know? No, I haven't, uh, mingled with any Melliti before." His eyes were of a brown color that was most appealing, Summer Storms noticed as Nathan's gaze locked upon their face. "Never wanted to, till I met you."
"Why? Uh, that's kind of hard to explain. You're just... I don't know. More open. More expressive. Like... with Falling Rocks, you're not even sure there is a personality in there. But you... I kind of feel like I know you. Even though we've only just met. But I want to know you more, if that makes sense."
It had been a long, long time since Summer Storms had mingled. Their limbs felt light even at the thought of it. And that Nathan was human did not seem so very strange, upon this planet where all was strange. Their envelope did not find his form displeasing; its member was rising and hardening of its own volition.
"Look, I'm sorry, Summer. I guess that was out of line--"
"We would like to mingle with you," they told him as he dropped his gaze once more to the floor. It snapped back up to their face at their words, and the smile returned to his face.
Summer Storms found it hard to analyze the feelings that smile engendered in both them and the envelope. But they were good feelings. "What do you intend to do?" They knew little of nonreproductive human sexual behavior but simultaneously hoped and feared it would involve contact with their rigid, aching member.
"Would you let me put my mouth on you?"
"This is a normal part of human mingling, yes? To kiss?"
"Yes," Nathan said softly, leaning in to touch his lips to theirs. This, Summer Storms decided, was much better than the handshake. They felt a tingle along their lips, and as Nathan teased at their juncture with his tongue, the pressure in their groin grew almost painful.
Then it stopped. Summer Storms' mind buzzed as Nathan drew back. "We did not excite you?"
"You did. Believe me. But that wasn't what I meant by 'put my mouth on you'. I'd like to, uh, put my mouth here." He drew one finger along the length of the bulge in Summer Storms' trousers.
The sensation forced a gasp of surprise from Summer Storms' throat. So concentrated.
So addictive. "Yes. We wish you to put your mouth there, Nathan Chambers." Their fingers curled up a little, shocked by their own daring.
Nathan smiled. "Then we'd better get those trousers undone, hadn't we?"
They were grateful for his human dexterity. Within seconds Summer Storms felt cool air on their erection. Nathan's fingers seemed to burn as they wrapped around its length, and Summer Storms gasped again. So much sensation, in just one part of them. It was too much.
And then Nathan's lips closed around them, and there was a brief moment of blinding ecstasy followed by a stabbing pain much higher up. "The envelope is breaking down!" Summer Storms were on the verge of panic, fighting to keep their limbs from flailing. They were losing control of their form and could feel its tissues shutting down. Dying.
"Shit! I mean, it's okay," Nathan said, his tones at first high and then more soothing. He struggled to hold Summer Storms' body as it sank to the floor. "It's an old envelope; it was bound to happen sooner or later. Don't worry, okay? We'll keep you contained and get them to fix you up with a new one, that's all."
"But you will see us!" Summer Storms' fists clenched tight for a brief moment before they felt the envelope collapse irretrievably. Seething in misery, they swarmed out of the useless body to fizz helplessly in front of Nathan.
"Wow," he breathed, the force of his speech buffeting those of Summer Storms that were nearest to his face, sending them tumbling through the air. "You're--fuck, you're beautiful, Summer. Like fireflies on a summer night, you know?"
Summer Storms' motion calmed as they felt the unexpected caress of his words.
They were beautiful?
"Can I--can I touch you?"
Instinctively they drew inward, but as he made no move to touch without permission, they grew bolder. Stretching out like tendrils, groups of Summer Storms reached toward him. He raised his hand--and this time, the spark of mingling was there. Summer Storms enveloped his hand, his wrist, but it was not enough. Agitatedly they burrowed under the fabric of his clothing, desperate for more contact.
"Oh, fuck, Summer! That's--shit, let me get my shirt off...." He fumbled one-handed with the buttons. Summer Storms buzzed their frustration at being unable to help and drew back grudgingly to allow him to shed the garment. He flung it to the floor and immediately started undoing his trousers. Summer Storms swirled impatiently as he stripped and lay down upon the settle.
They hovered for a moment, taking in the sight of his naked body, the forest of hairs surrounding his erect member. Slowly they drifted down to land gently upon his skin and extended their feeders.
Nathan's body jerked convulsively, and Summer Storms scattered. "Shit! Sorry, that was intense! Like an electric shock or something. Hey, are you all right, Summer? I didn't--" He began to search his surroundings. "I didn't hurt any of you, did I?"
Summer Storms floated in a soothing pattern around his head, and he was still. Some of them came gently to rest upon his forehead. None have died. But had they done so, others would have been born. The self would endure.
Nathan's eyes opened wide. "Is that your true voice, Summer?"
Is it pleasing?
He nodded--and laughed as his motion dislodged some of those upon him. "Sorry. Yes, it's very pleasing."
But the mingling, that was not pleasing?
"I think... I think we need to try that again. Now I know what to expect. If that's okay with you?"
He lay down, first checking that he would not crush any of Summer Storms with his weight. The considerate gesture caused strange ripples in their flow, and it was a moment before they were ready to settle once more.
This time, they did not hurry. They enjoyed the scent of him first, salty and animal, and the heat of his flesh. They felt contented to be with this human, but the need to mingle was also strong. Cautiously they extended their feeders once more.
Nathan groaned, a long, drawn out sigh that tumbled some of Summer Storms upon his chest.
It is not good? A few of Summer Storms lifted in agitation.
His smile calmed them. "Oh, it's good, all right. Different--hell yeah--but good. Don't stop."
The taste of him was heady, the texture of rough hair and oil, and Summer Storms knew that they would soon be glutted, even intoxicated. It was strongest at his groin, and Summer Storms remembered the differences in human physiology. They whirled around his member, willing a vortex of pressure into being.
"Summer!" He gasped and thrashed. The aroma intensified, and Summer Storms spun faster. A few of them landed upon the tip of his member--and were sent flying as jets of warm liquid spurted out of it to land upon his belly. Without conscious thought, Summer Storms descended upon the liquid, gobbling it up as if starved, the compulsion to feed not fading until every last drop was gone. It warmed them from within, the heat persisting long after it should have been assimilated.
"Damn, and I thought it was only cola you guys went for that way!" Nathan's voice sounded weak, but the smile upon his face was reassuring.
Summer Storms fought the urge to draw in with embarrassment. They had mingled: there need be no shame here. It is not at all like cola, they admitted.
"But still good, huh?"
Summer Storms rippled before settling upon his warm, damp skin once more.
* * * *
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read natural sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
When not writing she enjoys reading, martial arts, and surprising people who judge a book by its cover. Stories by JL Merrow have been published by Dreamspinner Press, Torquere Press, MLR Press, Reflection's Edge, and Ravenous Romance.
Visit JL's web site at www.jlmerrow.com/ and blog at jl-merrow.livejournal.com.