Nuzzle & Cuddle
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Gigantic apologies for the massive *checks notes* 9 months hiatus there!!! That was something else. Gosh, the first words I've put on paper for this story are nearly two years old by now. I've learned so much about writing since, there is a massive amount of stuff I need to go back and fix to make this story the best it can be. Soon, I suppose! And, hopefully sooner still, chapter 25. I definitely don't plan to let that story wait this long for a new chapter ever again.

    Sam carried Anna to the living room, crashing onto the couch and turning on the TV for some background noise. 

    Anna stretched for a moment before following their lead, snuggling against them. 

    “Hey Monica,” they shouted towards the kitchen, “can you order pizzas for us?”

    The reply came sounding clear. “Sure lil’ sib, your girlfriend has any preference?”

    Anna thought for a minute, trying to remember everything that was on her new potential allergies list. “Oh, uh… Maybe have a secondary dish just in case? I’m not sure I can eat bread anymore…”

    “Fine by me, I’ll eat whatever you leave behind, be it pizza or pasta!” the big sister replied before adding a hearty laugh.

    After a moment, Anna sighed. “I know you said tonight was for relaxation but I can’t help but worry… What if Qelhatat goes ahead with her plan and takes my body over?”

    “I wish I could help, but...” Sam crossed their arms, shaking their head solemnly. “I can only make the wish that if it does happen, a way to revert it exists somewhere.” They grabbed the remote and started flipping through the channels, looking for something they could watch together. “Let’s not worry about this for now, okay? You still have a few hours before that could happen, and I want you to spend them taking it easy on yourself.”

    Anna lowered herself until her head rested on Sam’s thighs. She brought up her hand and touched their dress. It seemed to be either satin or something similar to it, very soft and pleasant to the touch. She looked up at their face, which was starkly pointed towards the television, avoiding her gaze - a behavior she knew well from their silent years. An issue was on their mind but they would not talk about it. “Is something troubling you, Sam?”

    “I’m fine. Please just relax, okay?” they replied.

    She dropped the topic, knowing she wouldn’t get an answer for now. She closed her eyes for a second, kneading the fabric of Sam’s dress in her hand.

 

    Anna must’ve dozed off for half an hour or so. She was awoken by the smell of tomato and cheese slowly making its way from the front door to the kitchen. Looking up at her partner, she saw them type a message on their phone before setting it down.

    “I’ve got to say, one thing I’m on board with regarding the whole cat thing is the purrs,” they said with a smile.

    Anna grinned. “That’s the feedback I get from everyone.” She stretched herself off of them with a yawn.

    “Your food’s here, lovebirds.” Sam’s big sister announced, standing against the door frame with the pizza and pasta boxes in her hands. 

    “Yep, I could smell it from there!” the catgirl stated, standing up to fetch them before giving them a sniff. “Smells good, I’m hopeful I can still eat some.”

    “As long as you keep some for me!” Monica replied, walking away.

    Anna sat back down and opened the boxes, carefully selecting a slice amongst the eight at her disposal. She turned her head towards Sam who was doing the same. “You know, I’m still surprised that I hadn’t met your sister until now.”

    They did a bit of thinking while chewing their slice. “Well, I never had a reason to invite you nor Jules over until now.”

    Anna shrugged. “I could’ve helped you with your homework.” She tentatively took a bite out of her food, and audibly sighed in relief, before digging in earnestly.

    They nodded noncommittally, crunching down the crust of their first slice.

    The lack of an answer let Anna’s thoughts wander for a bit. As she felt herself think about her impending last meeting with Qelhatat, she decided she really needed to keep the conversation going. “Say, if you were turned into an animal person like me, what would you choose if you could?”

    “Uuuh…” Sam scratched the back of their head. “Is human an option? I don’t know, I like myself like this. Definitely don’t need any improvement on this.” They flexed to illustrate, showing off their androgynous beauty. They had much less muscles than in their last body for sure, but what was still there was lithe and toned. “Why the question?”

    “Hmm. I dunno, now that I’ve tasted being half cat, being this…” She gestured at herself. “I really, really don’t want to turn back. It feels like it fits me too much. I guess I was just wondering if everybody felt like that, or just me?”

    Sam chuckled, crossing their arms. “I think that’s just you, Anna. Well, you’re probably not alone, but I wouldn’t say it’s that common a feeling either.”

    Anna didn’t reply, focusing on her meal and the movie she had missed the first half hour of.

 

    The second break came about an hour later. Anna stretched herself up and yawned. The TV indicated it was almost 10pm, and Sam had dozed off, catching a nap of their own, their phone dropped next to them on the couch.

    She lifted the empty pizza boxes, bringing them to the kitchen to throw them in the trash. Monica was there, munching on the pasta they had ordered as Anna’s plan B. When she saw the catgirl enter, she gestured for her to drop the boxes on the ground. “Oh, put these next to the door. Gonna bring them to the recycling bin tomorrow morning.” 

    Anna nodded and did as ordered, but Sam’s big sister beconned her to take a seat before she went back to the living room. “Yes?” Anna queried, sitting on one of the stools next to Monica (huh, they had stools rather than chairs, odd).

    “Just wanted to thank you for being there for my sib’.” She ruffled Anna’s hair amicably. “They were a tough nut to crack, I’m glad they’re letting themselves be who they wanna be now. Can’t say I didn’t have an inkling.”

    “I wish they’d told me sooner…” Anna mused.

    “I’m sure they wish that too,” Monica replied.

    Anna’s ears perked up. “What do you mean?”

    “I’ll be damned the day I can’t read what’s going on in that head of theirs.” Monica threw her plastic fork into the empty takeout box and stood up. “I won’t hold you up too long.” She left the kitchen and headed upstairs.

   

    Anna returned to the living room to find Sam deeply asleep, their phone buzzing next to their hand. The screen read it was a text message from Jules. “Hey, I’m looking into Anna’s situation on the Internet but I can’t seem to find anything.” The text trailed off after this.

    She picked it up and the phone opened by itself as the accelerometer picked up on the movement. Urgh. Smartphones.

    Sam had apparently scrolled quite a ways up their conversation with Jules last they had this screen opened, showing Anna a text message from last night. Monica was right.

    “urgh i was dumb. shouldve done this years ago. why did i even wait until i had my perfect body to come out? i felt like i had to, that it wasnt okay to proclaim myself nonbinary until after i had achieved my androgyny goals, that i didnt have a claim to the word until i was my best me. to be honest even the fact my goals were pure androgyny i feel guilty about in retrospect. like theres so many ways to be nonbinary and thats the one i chose??? hindsight is 20/20 on the internalized shame and standards i guess. ill be experimenting more soon. feeling tired, sam”

    Not wanting to intrude more than she already was, Anna scrolled by the rest of the conversation. She understood Sam still had some baggage to sift through, and she wanted them to tell her on their terms.

    Finally, she scrolled to the new message. “Hey, I’m looking into Anna’s situation on the Internet but I can’t seem to find anything. The cover-up is really thorough, and on top of that we’re literally dealing with something out of this world. I don’t think even the whatever org that’s hiding magic would know any stuff. Also, I still don’t trust that Qelhatat lady, you know.”

    Anna sighed. Jules… Seems like he was worrying after all. Yet someone else that hid it, she supposed. She typed in a reply and sent it. “anna here, tks 4 ur concern jules i rlly appreciate it bt pls just focus on the birthday stuff okies? 4 me? leave the cat queen 2 me. im strong u know! :3”

    The three dots indicating an incoming reply from Jules came in quickly. Some thirty or so seconds later, the phone buzzed with a new text. “Yeah, you’re right. There’s no way some old grandma could have you beat, I have faith in you on that. I’ll focus on selecting the perfect fighting game then. Prepare to have your butt whooped tomorrow!”

    Anna smiled and dropped the phone back where she found it.

 

    Then, she sat cross legged on the sofa and closed her eyes, preparing herself for her last meeting with the queen.

 

https://www.patreon.com/Taxouck

With thanks to Amelia, Eirenliel, Florence and Elysia for being $5+ patrons! Florence is the author of A Familiar Tale of Sheep and Magic, which I greatly recommend you check out!

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