One morning before the start of the early shift, Jin was sitting at the table in his quarters with his back to the rest of the room, when his roommate, Cor’ryn, walked up beside him causing him to nearly jump out of his seat.
“It is not too late to request a new room assignment.” Cor’ryn said as this is the fourth time he has jumped when she walked up beside him.
“That is not necessary. I am just having a hard time rewiring a million years of evolution, but I will get used to it… Unless you want me to leave? Am I offending you or making you uncomfortable?”
“No, I do not want to cause you stress. We studied how, and why, humans have different levels of arachnophobia and I understand your uneasiness.”
“I do not usually have an issue, it is just a reflex action. With more familiarity it will go away.”
“Familiarity?” Cor’ryn asked, not sure which of the two options her translator gave her was what he intended.
“We have been so busy that we do not see each other much. As things settle down and we have more free time, we will probably be around each other more.”
“Oh. I understand.” she replied, knowing he meant familiarity in a visual and presence manner and not in a physical sense.
“Hey, tonight after my shift I am going to meet with some others and hit the gym, but afterward I was going to come here and watch a movie. Would you want to watch it with me?”
“Would you not want to watch it with your friends?”
“Nah, It is a feel good family movie and the other guys are only interested in action movies. I have been feeling homesick, so I wanted to watch something that reminds me of my family and home. Plus it will help you see how human families interact.”
“Alright, I will plan on being here.” she replied in earnest.
Later that evening as they watched the movie, Jin explained the dynamics of a human family, why grades were so important, and why the guy on the hoverbike was no good for their daughter. As the daughter was in her room sulking about how her parents didn’t understand true love, the pet cat jumped on the bed and the girl started stroking it as she lamented her situation.
“That is a pet, correct?” asked Cor’ryn.
“Yes, that is a cat.”
“Why is it making that noise?”
“That is purring. They make it when they are happy.”
“And it is happy because the girl is touching it?”
“Yes, it is called petting.”
Cor’ryn watched the cat and how it reacted to the petting, and when the girl stopped, it prodded her to continue. She wondered why it was so adamant for the human to continue touching it.
A little later in the movie, the son went outside to play fetch with the family dog while expressing his frustration at his sister getting to do anything she wanted and he wasn’t allowed to go to a friends house for an unsupervised party.
“That is another pet, correct?”
“Yes, that is a dog.”
“It seems even more enthusiastic about being petting.”
“Yeah, dogs are more sociable than cats and need more direct contact with their family.”
Cor’ryn wanted to ask why they “needed” the contact, but she was afraid he would be mad if he found out she had not read all the preparatory material she was given on humans. But at over seven thousand chapters, there was too much to go through in the short time she had available.
When the movie was over, Jin said “Thank you for watching that with me.”
“I hope I did not interfere with your enjoyment with all the questions.”
“No, not at all. It actually helped me relate with the characters more.”
“I learned a lot about human families, it was very informative.” Cor’ryn replied not wanting to let on that she still had questions.
“I am glad you liked it. We can do it again in a couple of days if you are interested?”
“That would be nice.” she replied, knowing that it would give her some time to learn more about humans and pets.
Cor’ryn spent some of her free time trying to find out more information about humans and petting, but was unable to locate any in time so she decided to ask the doctor her questions directly. She enters into the infirmary to see Dr. Mak’ari talking to two human doctors.
“Doctor Mak’ari, can I talk to you privately for a moment?”
“Sure, come into my office.” he replied as he led her down a hallway. He entered his office and climbed the ramp up to his desk and motioned for Cor’ryn to follow. “What can I do for you?”
“I was watching a human movie with my roommate and there was a family that had pets. The human family members would stroke the pets with their hands and the pets would delight in it, and if the humans stopped the pets would prod them to continue. I was wondering if humans produced a pheromone or some other kind of chemical that the pets would be drawn to?”
“You did not read all the material on humans did you?” the doctor scolded her.
“I have read… most of it… but could not find anything about pets. I did not read the three thousand chapters on human mating rituals.”
“That is why you could not find it. When we first started studying the humans, we did not understand their customs and our researchers grouped a lot of them in the mating ritual category. Pets, for instance, were observed being instrumental in allowing some people to meet each other and then form relationships. Mating rituals became the default category for customs that had many other purposes due to humans proclivity toward sex and mating, so you will have to read those chapters.”
“Okay.” she replied with a resigned sigh.
“But, to answer your question, no, humans do not secrete any substance that cause pets to react that way, they just like the contact.”
“We do not know, more study is needed.”
“Oh… but their touch would not cause any harm, would it?”
“No, it would be safe. Why? Are you interested in being touched?”
“I was just wondering why the pets were so adamant about being petting, so I thought I might ask my roommate, I wanted to make sure it was safe first.”
“If their touch was not safe, there would have been warnings. But if you do, make sure to tell me about it so we can document it.”
“Okay, I will.”
That night Cor’ryn and Jin watched another family oriented movie that takes place on a farm. During one morning in the movie, the youngest daughter would pet each of the chickens as her mom fed them, then as the mother was feeding the pigs, the little girl pet them too. As her mother and sister were feeding the pigs, the older daughter was walking by the cow pen and one of the cows trotted over to her. She stuck her hand through the fence and started petting and stroking its head.
“Those animals are livestock, or have I misread our manuals?”
“Yes, they are livestock.”
“Why is the family petting them? Are they not food?”
“Well, on a small farm like the one shown here, people will treat their animals with more compassion even if they will eventually become food.”
As the movie continued, there were several cases of the family members interacting with the family pets, and with each one Cor’ryn would turn a little bit and look at Jin. After the third time, Jin took notice and asked “Is there something you want to ask?”
“I wondered why earth animals wanted humans to touch them?”
“I don’t know. I guess they just like the contact. I know Aran’ha do not have pets, but do you not touch each other?”
“We do, but very rarely, mostly to get one’s attention.”
After a couple more interactions with pets in the movie and Jin noticing Cor’ryn looking at him each time, he finally asked “Would you like me to touch you?”
Jin laughed a little as Cor’ryn moved closer to be within reach. He reached over and placed his hand on her head which is about the same size as a human head, just flatter. He slowly made short strokes down, going along with the natural direction of the short and sparse hair on her head, picking up his hand to restart to keep from going against the grain. After thirty seconds or so, he asked “So, what do you think?”
“It is pleasant. Your hand is warm, which is nice, and it conveys a sense of calm and peace.”
“How does this feel?” Jin asked as he started lightly scratching her head.
“Oh, that feels nice…ooooh, oooooooooh that spot is…” Cor’ryn replied as he hit that one spot that everyone has that is bliss when scratched.
After a minute or so, Jin asked “Do you want me to move to your back?”
“Yes please.” Cor’ryn replied in a trance like state.
Jin stroked his hand down her head and continued past the faux crease that delineated her head and back and further down her back, stroking a few times before starting to scratch lightly around her appendage connections causing her to exclaim. “Ooooooohhhhh, I did not know I could even feel there.” Jin worked his way around each joint along her back inciting different sounds of contentment with each area worked on. Once he had gone over each joint, he asked “Should I continue to your abdomen?”
Cor’ryn replied “Yes, if it feels half as good as the rest it will be wonderful.”
Jin moves his hand down and starts stroking down her abdomen, with Cor’ryn cooing at each stroke. After a short bit, Jin moved his hand down and stroked the side of her abdomen causing her to chittle loudly which sounded like a hyper chipmunk. This surprised Jin causing him to remove his hand and asked “Are you ok? Did that cause some discomfort?”
Cor’ryn replied “Nnnnoo, that was just… unexpected and intense. I… I think that is enough petting for tonight.” She did not realize the translator did not exactly convey her meaning.
“Ok.” replied Jin and he sat back and continued to watch the movie. After a short time, Cor’ryn excused herself saying she was tired and going to go rest, leaving Jin to finish the movie alone.
In the morning, Jin was surprised to find Cor’ryn already up and gone. Normally she would just be getting up since she does not have a morning ritual of showering and getting dressed to get ready. He wondered if she was alright and would try to check up on her later.
Cor’ryn had awaken earlier than normal due to going to bed early, and she wanted to talk to Doctor Mak’ari before starting her shift, so she left before Jin had completed his morning rituals. When she arrived at the infirmary, she found him in his office. “May I talk to you for a minute?” she asked as she stood in the doorway.
“Sure, come on in.” The doctor replied and she scurried up the ramp onto the desk. “What can I do for you?”
“Last night I… I asked Jin about petting, and… well, I let him try it with me.”
“What did you find?”
“His hand was warm and his touch soft and it was quite… comforting. It felt very soothing and calming. Then he started lightly scratching and that felt wonderful. It is like you did not know you had an itch until he was done and it felt relieved. I can see how it helped with domesticating wild animals, it gives off a feeling of appreciation and a sense of belonging.”
“Interesting, you make it sound like I would want to try it. Anything else?”
“Yes. He started stroking my abdomen, first on top, but then he slid his hand to the side and I chittled. It was intense, more so than I have ever experienced before. I had him stop after that.”
The doctor taped on his data pad and replied “You are up to date on your suppressor shot.” He grabbed a scanner and passed it over her. “You have not started a reproductive cycle, so you should not have had a reaction.”
“I was worried that I had started a cycle without realizing it, so that is a relief. I would not want to get sent home.”
“For you to have a reaction means… something, but I am not sure what. All the petting and scratching may have put you into such a relaxed state that you reacted. I think more testing would be needed to make any definite conclusion.”
“I would not mind trying again, you know, for science.” she replied, followed by a quiet “Though it was quite pleasurable.” as she walked down the ramp.
“If you do, let me know.”
“I will.” Cor’ryn replied as she left the office.
A few nights later, Cor’ryn and Jin were having their movie night and as the movie progressed, Cor’ryn would slowly inch over toward Jin. When she was nearly within reach, Jin took notice and looked at her smiling and asked “Would you like me…”
“Yes.” she interrupted him, “I seem to be a bit anxious and petting was very relaxing so I thought it would help.”
Jin reached down and started softly stroking his hand down her head and back. “Why are you so anxious?” he asked, noticing that she seemed almost jittery.
“I was wanting to try petting again, but I did not know how to ask and I was afraid that you would not like me asking.”
Jin smiled and replied “I do not mind at all.” As he continued petting and scratching her during the movie, she became more relaxed and calm. He continued as he had the last time and when he got to her abdomen and stroked down the side, she chittled again causing him to stop.
“I was expecting it this time and I still reacted.”
Jin laughed, thinking he found a ticklish spot on her.
The next morning, Cor’ryn told the doctor what had happened and how she was expecting his touch but still chittled.
“Interesting. It was not a reaction to an unexpected touch, but must be a response to the petting stimuli. I wonder if it would happen if he touched you there before the other petting? That would confirm if it was caused by the stimuli or if it is just his touch in that spot.”
“I could not ask him to do that.” she demurred.
“Does he not know this is a research experiment?”
“No. I have not indicated as such, I just told him I was curious about petting and it is actually quite enjoyable.”
“I will have a talk with him and explain everything.”
“No, that would be too embarrassing or he might be mad at me for not telling him.”
“Nonsense, he is a scientist, he will understand.” he stated dismissively.
“I hope so.” she replied knowing she is not likely to get him to change his mind.
Later that day, Doctor Mak’ari entered the mess hall and saw Jin sitting down with a few other crew members eating lunch. He approached and asked “You are Cor’ryns roommate Jin, correct?”
“Yes I am.” Jin replied.
“She has been telling me about your petting sessions while you watch movies and how she was having a reaction to your touch.”
“So that is why you skip out hanging with us, you have been engaging in some heavy petting with your roommate.” Tom interjected poking an elbow into Jins ribs.
“No.” Jin replied flatly giving Tom a death stare. “Just regular petting.”
“What is heavy petting?” Doctor Mak’ari asked.
“It is a human idiom that means foreplay, or acts that precede mating.” Jin answered.
“That would be appropriate in this situation.” the doctor said causing Tom to bust out laughing before trying to stifle it, but not fully succeeding. The doctor continued, “You must not have read all the preparatory material on Aran’ha.”
“I didn’t read ‘that’ part.” Jin replied shaking his head and rubbing his face in an effort to try to hide from embarrassment.
“You will want to read that section before your next session because we would like to perform a test.” He then took notice of Jin’s red face and recognized it as embarrassment so he finished with, “I will let Cor’ryn explain the details to you.” so as to not continue embarrassing him. He then turned around and left, leaving Jin just sitting there still shaking his head in his hands and Tom still laughing next to him.
That evening, Jin went straight to his quarters after his shift, sat on the sofa and started reading the section of the Aran’ha manuals he had skipped. In it he found that an Aran’ha female will enter a reproduction cycle each spring based on the region they are from on their home planet. When they enter a cycle, they will choose a partner, if they did not already have one, to give her a genetic packet to fertilize the eggs. When ready, she will present her abdomen to the chosen male and he will stroke his front appendages along the sides. If her body will accept the male she will involuntarily chittle, a noise that sounds like a hyper chipmunk, signifying to him that he can continue. The male will then produce a genetic packet and place it into her epigyne with one of his front appendages. Only one in three males will be successful at making a potential mate chittle, and without it, her body will not accept a genetic packet from him. Their scientists do not understand the mechanisms behind it, but they think it is to insure genetic diversity.
After he finished reading, he sat and started pondering the actions of the ‘petting sessions’, as the doctor put it, when Cor’ryn entered. “I need to apologize to you.” he said before she had any time to speak first.
“What for?” Cor’ryn asked confused as she climbed onto the couch.
“For inappropriately touching you. I had not read the section on reproduction so I did not know what touching you on the side of your abdomen meant.”
“There is nothing to apologize for, you did not do anything inappropriate.”
“But you chittled, didn’t you?”
“Yes, which is why I talked to Doctor Mak’ari, I should not have had that reaction. We verified that I was not starting a reproductive cycle and have no idea why I chittled, especially the second time when I was expecting it.”
“I am still sorry. If I had read the section on reproduction, I would not have touched you there. I should have read it.”
“You are not the only one who did not read all of the manuals on each other. I still have a lot to read myself.”
“The doctor told me you wanted to perform a test?”
“We wanted to determine if the petting relaxed me enough to have the reaction or if it was the touch by itself.”
“So, you want me to touch you on the side of your abdomen first before any other petting?”
“Now will be ok.” Cor’ryn answered as she moved closer.
Jin reached down hesitantly not sure about causing her a reaction that is definitely sexual in nature, but goes ahead and started stroking down the side of her abdomen.
After several strokes, Cor’ryn said “I appears it only happens after I have relaxed from the other petting. This feels nice, but definitely not intense enough to cause a reaction.”
“So, whats next.”
“Tomorrow I will tell Doctor Mak’ari what we found, but for tonight, if you do not mind, I would like for you to start at the beginning.”
Jin laughed and replied “I do not mind at all” before calling up the guide to pick out the movie for that night’s heavy petting session.