really, this is a continuation of the previous scenes, but it’s still just something kinda fluffy and sweet.
And, for various reasons, Tove continued to be out and about later in the night than she had usually been—that, or, she hadn’t been feeling the need to creep into Grey’s bed in the night, in the dark.
That made it all seem way more ominous that it really should have.
(It also masked that Grey was feeling—put out? Sad? Resigned?—about Tove’s sudden disappearance from Grey’s bed.)
However, Persis kept appearing: a gentle taptaptap of a knock—shy and small, just like Persis—the door to Grey’s aerie creaking open, and the soft, near-silent pitter-patter-click of Persis’ darling little feet.
Persis was an excellent bed-mate—all warm and cuddly and wrapping around Grey with such delicate sweetness.
This was possibly going to be a problem as that Oh continued to wear away at Grey, now encompassing both Tove and Persis, and while this wasn’t necessarily an uncommon occurrence in the Venery, it was distinctly odd for Grey.
Grey had been fairly certain that they hadn’t even liked Tove, and now, Grey was having—something for Persis too?
Just—this was kinda ridiculous, and Grey wasn’t sure that they were actually okay with it?
And, then—because Grey’s life just wasn’t already complicated enough—one night Persis taptaptap-ed on the aerie door and crept through.
But, she wasn’t alone.
Slinking in behind her was Ione, changeable scales having settled into this warm, dull bronze-y brown that they always seemed to chose when Ione was with Persis seemingly as a counter-point with Persis’ own roan-y fur, succulent colored gray-green not-hair blossoming into roses and pale pinks to lay against Persis’ dull, dark red floof—again, only, always occurring when Ione was with Persis—a towering, more silent-than-silent shadow watching over Persis.
Tail a flickering threat.
Although, that oh wasn’t a Grey-specific oh, but an Ione-specific oh but, yeah, oh.
Grey had never been one for really being aware of other people’s feelings or observing them with any sort of accuracy—Grey really did have the emotional breadth and depth of a teaspoon sometimes and, really, negotiating emotions and squishy-sucking feelings just wasn’t one of Grey’s gifts—but for once, Grey felt that they understood someone else.
Well, that’s a pleasant surprise for once.
Grey was still seated where they had been when Persis had taptaptap-ed—at their desk, calculating out something complicated and wondrous with stars and music and art to it—and really didn’t have any idea what to say to the unexpected presence of Ione looking rumpled and unmoored in a clearly worn-past-propriety shirt, gleaming whitely against Ione’s bronze scales, soft pants with holes in the knees and ragged hems with Persis’ hand clutched tightly in one of Ione’s. “How are you both doing this evening?”
Okay, evidently, I’m going with the basics here. Good for me. At least, I said something.
Persis looked less wild then she usually looked when she appeared at Grey’s door—that was comforting—but she also looked determined, which was also kind of strange for one of Persis’ visits.
Ione was implacable as always: a blank, despite Grey’s sudden feeling of solidarity.
Persis tugged at the hem of her sleep-shirt—sleep-softened and a color that so closely matched Persis fur that it was difficult to see the difference if Persis weren’t tugging at it—a habit that Grey had seen more often than they hadn’t, and Persis was pulling herself straightener and looking Very Serious.
It would have been cute if Persis didn’t look like there might be some End Of The World-ness attached to that look.
“Ione is having difficulty sleeping,” Persis blurted, a look of horror stealing over Persis’ face at her own bluntness as Ione leaned over and hid her face in Persis’ hair like the softest headdesk in the History of Ever. Thing High Atop The Thing, they were cute. “I was wondering if you could do for Ione what you do for me.”
Grey blinked hard trying to suss that thought out.
“And, just what is it that I do for you, darling?”
Persis shrugged this fluid, almost full body shrug that did nothing to dislodge Ione. “Make me feel safe, like all the awfulness isn’t waiting right outside the door?”
Grey had no clue that Grey had been doing any of this but okay. Who was Grey to say what the comfort of sleeping with another person—a person who understood the sort of things that the other had potentially been through—felt like or entailed.
Grey made Persis feel like the wolves of the world would stay outside the door, and Persis made Grey feel like they would fight the world to protect her.
It was a fair trade—emotionally. Right?
“I’m not sure—” Grey started watching as Persis’ dropped, and somehow, Ione’s shoulders slumped despite her not having moved an inch from where she rested upon Persis’ head. “No, no, no, I’m not saying I won’t, but I’m not sure how I’ve done that?” Grey stood and walked across the aerie to stand beside Persis facing Ione. “I’m not sure how I can do this for you, Ione? I’m not sure how I’ve done it for Persis.” Grey smiled tiredly, trying to lessen any harshness to their words, encourage Ione to feel comfortable and as if this were a place of understanding and non-judgment. “Can you tell me what you want, what you need?”
And, that’s the thing, Grey really needed Ione’s words. Persis had communicated with Grey—albeit through not-sobs and hiccups and nods and headshakes, but there had been communication that Grey could recognize—Ione wasn’t communicating with Grey in a way that they understood because she was communicating through Persis, so Grey didn’t know what was Persis and what was Ione.
Okay, maybe I do have the gift of emotional something or other?
Ione peered out of Persis’s hair to stare across at Grey, her eyes shimmering red then gold then red again. “May I stay here tonight with you and Persis?” Ione’s voice was soft and hissed the sibilance here and there, the Ss in Persis’ name sounding as if they were being tripled.
Grey had the feeling that Ione didn’t speak much because she was so aware of those hissing sibilance.
Well, that and the entire trained assassin thing and general treatment as an object by the Court of Dreams rather than as a person.
Thing High Atop The Thing, they were a messy little group.
Reaching out slowly, making certain that Ione saw every single, tiny, twitching movement Grey made—because actual assassin—Grey’s hand hovered above Ione’s elbow and remained. “You are always welcome to stay here with me, Ione. Persis or no.” Grey tried that gentle, encouraging smile gain, a smile that Grey their self wasn’t sure they knew how to make—maybe it came from some sort of nascent empathy, or maybe it came from recognizing so much of one’s self in another—and asked, “May I touch you?”
Ione’s eyes did that strange undulation between red and gold and red again, a long moment of silence hanging between the three of them—Grey could swear that Persis was holding her breath, the darling—before Ione closed her eyes and nodded.
Grey wrapped their fingers around Ione’s elbow and tugged her away from the safety of Persis’ hair, taking Persis’ hand in their other and led them back towards Grey’s bed.
“It might be a tight fit,” Grey said examining their bed, Ione’s elbow room-cool and pebbly in Grey’s fingers. If this was going to keep up, they may have to find some way to widen it. “Do you have a preference of the arrangement?”
In Grey’s peripheral vision, Grey could see Ione shake her rose and cotton-candy pink topped head, and Grey held a sigh back.
This was going to be more difficult than Grey thought.
“How about this,” Grey began, squeezing Persis’ hand and Ione’s elbow, subtly directing Persis to move over to Ione’s other side where Persis wrapped her arms around Ione’s dangling arm with apparently no added motion from Ione; although, Grey could have sworn that they felt Ione twitch just the tiniest bit towards Persis. Interesting. “Persis prefers to sleep against the wall.” Persis nodded her head vigorously in assent, gold and aqua and midnight ear-tufts shimmering with the movement. Grey very carefully didn’t look at Ione and tried not to look like they weren’t not looking at Ione. Subtlety, they name is Grey. “So, maybe you’d like to take the middle?”
Grey felt more than saw Ione be simultaneously against that and want it desperately. Conflicted tank it was.
“You don’t have to, of course,” Grey hurried to add, trying for a smooth continuation rather than a reaction to Ione’s reaction. “But, I think Persis would feel more secure with you so close?” Grey peered around Ione to catch Persis’ guileless eyes, twitching an eyebrow up as if to say I need you to play along.
Persis must have understood on some level because Persis was again nodding her head with a vigor that made Grey’s head kind of ache. “I always feel safer with Ione.” Persis hugged Ione’s arm harder.
Grey kind of desperately wanted to ask why Persis had come to Grey instead of Ione, but Grey was certain that there was a logical reason—or, at least, logical to Persis reason.
But, that wasn’t the matter at hand. It could wait.
Grey saw Ione melt just a little, leaning into all of Persis’ sincerity, and nod her assent.
Releasing Ione’s arm, Grey made a little shoo-ing motion. “Why don’t you both go ahead and crawl in, and I’ll get the lights—”
Grey felt Ione’s always disconcertingly cool arms wrap around Grey’s shoulders and neck and heard in Ione’s silent-small voice, uncertain and almost unreal. “Thank you, Grey. I appreciate this.”
Grey put their arms around Ione’s torso—she was so very tall compared to Persis and Grey—the worn fabric of her t-shirt soft and familiar and something so very of this place that they had found themselves that Grey felt a strange buoyancy—and hugged her back with everything in Grey. “No thanks are needed.” Grey murmured into Ione’s shirt. “You’re important to me. You’re protected, and you are loved.” Grey hugged Ione hard again, waiting until Ione broke the embrace because—fuck—Ione needed so much more of this, and it was so brave of her to allow Persis to bring her to Grey, to accept help, to ask to stay, to open herself to any sort of affection from Persis or Grey, to initiate that affection in turn.
Thing High Atop The Thing, Ione was brave in a way that Grey just would never be, but Grey found themselves wanting to be that brave for Ione.
Ione’s arms relaxed, and she stepped away, staring down into Grey’s eyes. “I had not realized how true your words were until now.” Ione shifted a little—a little nervous, a little awkward, a little taken aback by herself—and bent so that she could press a soft kiss against Grey’s check. “You are important to me as well.”
Grey touched their cheek and just stood there a moment as they listened to Persis and Ione climb into Grey’s bed, and then—because, really, what was there left to do?—Grey turned off the lights and turned back to climbed into the space that was left for them.
A space much larger than Grey expected, but evidently, Persis was going to sleep on top of Ione, which was such a kitten-like thing for Persis to do that Grey chuckled just a little, seeing Ione’s closet eye look at Grey—a small, secret smile on her face—as Persis breathed in a way that made it clear that she was already completely asleep.
Such a darling.
Ione reached out her arm to Grey and motioned them to snuggle into her and Persis, and as Grey carefully clambered into her bed, they were enveloped by Ione’s arm and scent—something citrus-y and sharp—combining with Persis’ own cinnamon spiciness.
It was an awfully nice sleep.