"Dynamic Balancing Acts"
In autumn, when everyone else
was eagerly preparing for migration,
Fwil and Srii clung to each other and
wished they didn't have to go.
Even their chick Jeet picked up
on their anxiety and became fretful.
When they saw the humans
preparing for a supply run, though,
that gave Fwil a new idea.
"What if we went with them?"
Fwil asked, turning to Srii.
"Go with whom?" Srii said.
"The humans," Fwil said.
"Ensign Zaveri and Ensign Yom
migrate with their daughter Twee.
Perhaps they would allow us
to come with them this time."
Srii looked at the females
gathering in a tight-knit flock.
"It has to be better than here."
So they asked the humans
about migrating together.
"We'd love to have you --
I'm sure it would be good for
Twee to have Fifer company on
the way -- but it's not our decision,"
said Ensign Zaveri. "That would
be up to Captain Judd."
The captain was not always
sympathetic, but in the end
he agreed to let them come.
It was the strangest migration
that Fwil and Srii had ever been on.
They climbed into the shuttle with
their son Jeet and watched their world
grow small and fall away beneath them.
The stars shone bright and steady
in the black ocean of space, with
the human ship hanging there
like a courting pebble.
It felt strange to migrate
without flying, without effort,
and yet it was so relaxing that
Fwil and Srii couldn't complain.
The chicks were excited
at first but soon lost interest
in the way of young things.
It was, indeed, good for them
to have each other to play with
and learn from on the trip.
Fwil and Srii watched the stars
go past like schools of silver fish.
They looked at each other and knew
that if nothing else, this sight alone
had changed them forever, even if
they never came this way again.
Fwil thought he would want to,
though -- it was like living a legend.
They also got more time to watch
the humans who lived in couples
and try to figure out how they
managed to make it work.
At home, it was hard, but
maybe that was because
nobody else was doing it.
Eventually, Ensign Zaveri and
Ensign Yom came to them
in the stargazing lounge.
Twee and Jeet promptly began
playing some game that they had
invented based on a human toy
consisting of paper squares with
dots for the chicks to peck.
"We hear that you're trying
to figure out a binary relationship,"
Ensign Yom said to Fwil and Srii.
"Yes," said Fwil. "We don't mean
to stare, but there is no one at home
for us to learn from, and you two
seem to get along so well."
Ensign Zaveri laughed. "Oh,
you wouldn't say that if you
ever heard us fighting!"
"You fight?" Srii said,
her feathers bushing up
in surprise. "We thought
we were the only ones,
because we're perverts."
"Srii, everyone fights, it's just
that most people try not to do it
in public," said Ensign Yom. "When
you disagree in private, then it's
easier to patch up later."
Fwil thought about that.
They didn't have much privacy
at home, because he wasn't an aleph
and couldn't hold a territory, so they
kind of lived on the fringes the way
that the beth males usually did.
It wasn't like being in the midst
of a flock where everyone helped
to work out disagreements, either --
they had to do it all on their own.
"We will try arguing in private,"
he said. "Perhaps that will help."
"We know how hard it can be
when your tastes don't agree with
everyone else's," said Ensign Yom.
"We'll support you as best we can."
"People don't like your family
because of Twee?" asked Srii.
"No -- well yes, that too now,"
said Ensign Yom. "Among humans,
it's not usual for two women to be mates.
Most people accept it now, but some don't,
and they can be very rude about that."
They may as well complain about
males and females mating, because
of course females would get together.
How else would the modors ever
get in the mood otherwise?
Fwil didn't say that out loud,
though. Humans were peculiar,
and one had to make allowances.
"You do so well together," he said.
"I hardly ever see you tripping over
each other the way Srii and I do."
He knew how to move in a flock,
or in a three or a five, but with
just the two of them hovering
around the same chick, it was
hard to keep from colliding.
"Have you ever thought about
the stars?" Ensign Zaveri asked.
"What about them?" Fwil said,
looking outside at the glittering dark.
"Stars are like dynamic balancing acts
between two forces, fusion and gravity,"
said Ensign Zaveri. "Too much fusion
and a star explodes; too much gravity
and it collapses under its own weight."
"That's so sad," Twee said, looking up.
"No, it's just the way stars are,"
said Ensign Zaveri. "They need both.
It's much the same in a binary system.
If the stars get too close, they will collide
and burn each other up; too far away, and
they will fly apart to lose each other in space."
"That's not much better," Fwil muttered.
He didn't want to lose the sense of beauty
and serenity that he got from the stars.
"It's the same in a relationship,"
Ensign Zaveri explained. "You have
this give and take, like dancing."
"This relationship is nothing
like dancing," Fwil protested.
Dancing was about displaying
your skills for each other, not
moving together. How could
you pay attention like that?
"Well, ours is a bit different
than yours," Ensign Zaveri said.
"Would you like to see an example?"
"If you don't mind showing off for us,
then I would like to see," said Srii.
Ensign Yom got up and did something
with the computer in the wall, which
gave out a sweet, unfamiliar song.
Then the two women cuddled up
to each other as if they were about
to mate standing up with their clothes on --
and then they danced.
There was no other word for it,
even though it looked nothing like
any dance that Fwil had ever seen.
They held onto each other's bodies
and swayed together and stepped
between each other's feet, and
somehow they moved along at
the same speed as the song.
Even though they were humans,
this was much more erotic than
watching an aleph flirt around
with his beths and even a faeder.
The chicks ignored it, of course,
being only chicks -- but Fwil could
feel his ruff puffing out and Srii's knees
were shaking like she wanted to crouch
even though it was entirely the wrong season.
"Well, that was exciting!" Srii said breathlessly
when the song ended and the women sat down.
"I will never forget the sight of that in all my days."
Neither would Fwil. He could almost, almost
understand what they'd been saying about
stars and relationships and dancing, if
he could quiet his body long enough
to think it through all the way.
But Srii was laughing and
tugging him toward the room
that the humans had given them
to nest in, so it would have to wait.
They left Jeet with Twee and
her mothers. It wasn't quite like
having a flock, but it was close.
A flock wouldn't have shown them
the stars, or that feather-lifting dance.
All in all, Fwil preferred this dynamic balance.
* * *
"Stars are like dynamic balancing acts between two forces: fusion and gravity."
-- Evan Gough, "Chance Discovery of a Three Hour Old Supernova," Universe Today, February 14, 2017
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