Ioan Bălan — 2326
There comes a point in every relationship, Ioan supposed, when the thing stops feeling new and starts feeling like routine. Ey even looked it up one point, shortly after ey and May Then My Name Die With Me and gone on a brief dive into the whole concept of limerence and new relationship energy. It was an afternoon’s diversion, and then ey had mostly forgotten about it.
Besides, it seemed to apply most heavily to crushes, infatuation, dating. All those things that ey had forever forgotten about or skipped or just plain missed by virtue of happenstance.
But this relationship hadn’t started with a crush. It hadn’t started with infatuation or any sort of dating that ey could put eir finger on. It had just…started. Ey had realized one day that perhaps ey and May were already in a relationship and the fact had just never been acknowledged.
So ey asked, and she had said, “What do you think? Are we?” and suddenly they were in a relationship.
Or had been for months. Whatever.
Thinking back before that, there had been so many anxiously dismissed what-ifs and idle musings on emotional entanglement. On one notable moment, ey had let play forward a tape of who ey might become if ey backed away from her in parallel with a tape of what might happen if they drifted closer together, fallen helplessly in love. Perhaps that was the moment. Perhaps that had been the moment ey had fallen in love and simply not recognized it yet.
Ey had been, as ey was now, sitting on one of the beanbags that had found their way scattered throughout the house. Or as close as one could get to sitting in the slumpy things.
She had been, as she was now, curled against eir side, with both of them working on their own things, ey on tidying up eir interviews and her on her mythologizing. Ey on a sheet of paper and lap desk with one of eir nice pens, her in her head, dreaming, dreaming, dreaming.
And ey had, as ey did now, set aside eir paper and desk and pen to rest eir eyes and placed a kiss atop her head, right between her ears — a friendly gesture, one that had at first been too packed with meaning for em to return, but finally one that ey gave once, then twice, and eventually, more freely than that — and curled toward her, where she fit so nicely against em.
They lay there for who knows how long, in silence and in comfort, while ey brushed eir fingers through the thick fur on the back of her neck.
Ey didn’t know why ey did this then, and ey did not know why ey did it now. Something in the moment or in her closeness or within em simply required that ey gain some more of that closeness that May was so willing to provide. More than usual. Closer than usual.
“May,” ey said. Ey had said that then, too.
“What does it feel like to have fur?”
She laughed, though the sound was muffled against eir front. “And here I thought you were going to ask another silly question.”
“Isn’t asking you how it feels to have fur a silly question?”
“No.” She tilted her head forward and poked her nose against eir chest. “You do not have fur. The other question was silly because you already knew the answer. You have never had fur, though, have you?”
Ioan laughed, shook eir head. “No, though I do sometimes wonder if you shed enough that I might.”
Ey received a tug at eir shirt from where May Then My Name had captured it between her teeth. “I do not!”
“You do not, but when there’s eight of you running around…”
“I have not had that many forks around and you know it!”
Of a sudden, eir question was answered. While ey had been teasing and taunting, ey had been petting, combing eir fingers through May’s soft fur, and while ey had been doing that, she had apparently been thinking up the best way to answer. She did so in the most Odist way possible.
Of a sudden, a tingle ran up eir spine as May shared a sensorium message with em. Ey had slowly gotten used to the things, at least as much as ey was able, but they always caught em unawares. Ey swore that they knew that, to the last, and always got a laugh out of it.
Of a sudden, though, ey knew. Ey knew just what it felt like to have fur, as May sent em the sensation through that message. Ey knew what it felt like to have fingers brush through it.
Ey knew, also, what it felt like to curl against one that you love from the other side of the equation. Ey knew what it felt like to feel eir own heart beat beneath eir shirt, eir skin, eir chest.
“Oh.” It was not eloquent, but ey was too taken in the moment to figure out anything beyond that syllable.
“Keep petting, jerk.”
And then ey know what it felt like to speak with a muzzle, and what it felt like when ey laughed against her head while she was curled against em.
So ey kept on petting. Ey brushed through the fur on the nape of her neck and felt another of those shivers down eir spine. Ey stroked fingertips up along the backs of her ears and marveled at a sensation that walked the border between ticklish and something ey could not place.
All of this was overlaid atop the feeling of her fur slipping through eir fingers, the soft fur at her nape and the softer atop her ears, her warmth beneath that fur.
She made soft noises of contentment, tilted her head up, and poked her nose up against the underside of eir chin. On a whim, ey shifted the sensorium from one way to two, and the skunk laughed. “Tricksy.”
“I am not the least bit tricksy and you know that,” ey mumbled, careful not to bump her nose around too much.
“No, you are not,” she said. “You never told me that this tickles, though.”
“A little. Mostly when you’re super light bout it.”
“It occurs to me,” she murmured against eir chin, and ey heard it twice over. “That this way, we can know where is best to touch.”
“May Then My Name Die With Me of the Ode clade, are you being tricksy?”
She laughed and licked against eir neck, then shivered at the shared sensation. “If you call me by my full name again tonight, I will quit right here. Do not test me, Mx. Ioan Balan.”
They fell into giggles.
The soft, shared touches continued, and Ioan found that May’s whiskers were too ticklish to touch, that along her jaw there were nerve endings ey had never imagined, that when ey brushed eir thumb over her cheek, it made her eyes sting with tears in the most pleasant way and ey did not know why, and when ey tilted eir chin down to touch eir nose to hers look at her proper, she had a far-away, dreamy look about her as she ran her fingers along eir side.
“Ioan,” she said.
“May I be tricksy?”
Ey hesitated, for, though it had been months of them exploring romance, years of living together, the topic of anything sexual had failed to come up in any meaningful way, and ey had a guess as to this affection-with-direction. How very like me, ey thought. I’d forget my body exists if I wasn’t so firmly attached to it.
And ey did as ey always had and always would, and analyzed that feeling, analyzed that anxiety, analyzed that excitement and fear so thoroughly intertwined. If May’s existence was rooted in the desire to feel, then she was doing admirably, and if her desire was to induce feelings in em, then she succeeded that as well. She would ever do as she was meant to, and now, ey would be here with her.
“Close your eyes.”
With the darkness, with the way ey sank into the beanbag, the intensity of the shared experience increased. Ey discovered the way that ey smelled through mephit senses, the way ey tasted against her tongue as she touched it to eir chin again. Ey saw, through half-lidded eyes, the way that ey smiled, and then saw that smile grow even as the sight registered.
And then even that vision was cut off, and in that shared moment, ey did not know who touched whom or how, for ey was no longer just Ioan, ey was Ioan and May, and she was no longer just May, she was May and Ioan, and whoever’s fingers touched whoever’s body did not matter, and who it was that found the best places to touch on whichever body was not the correct question to ask, and their breathing fell in time together, and when one of them felt pleasure, so to did the other, which meant that the first felt it in turn, and perhaps there was some sense of new relationship energy, for at that point, Ioan, if ey was still only Ioan, felt a love so hard and so fast that ey felt the need to cling to May, to hold her ever closer, to take her beneath eir tongue or vice versa, to dissolve together, and while technicalities promised that only sensoria were mingled in that moment, ey knew in eir marrow that May felt the same.
It was a long time before either of them moved, despite the occasional itch or tickle or cramp, and Ioan did not notice when May’s side of the shared moment began to blur with sleep, for ey was already there with her.