Demi-Human Apartment Life: A Wintery Introduction

Apartment 302

Lacie groaned at the sudden influx of cold around her body, half way waking up due to the temperature change. “Noooooo, Seri come baaaack.” The small girl mumbled in her sleep. A hand groped about over her partner’s side of the bed, finding the big furry appendage she was looking for. She attempted to grab on to pull herself closer but her unfocused grip ensured that it would slip away. “Seri, please come back to bed…” She mewled out again only to be rebuked by her girlfriend. “Oh, I see how it is, you only want to cuddle when you get something extra out of it.” A blatant lie that Lacie decided she had to set straight. “What are you talking about, I always want to cuddle!” Lacie protested, opening her eyes and propping herself up on her forearms. It was only at the very last second that she realized she was playing directly into her girlfriend’s hands, figuratively speaking. The smaller girl let out a huff as her face took on a distinctive pout, her golden furred ears turning flat against her head. “Ok I’m awake, now come back to bed and warm me up!” She protested, only to let out a yelp moments later as she was buried in a pile of blankets. Serena would have loved to stick around to watch her girlfriend flounder and dig her way out, only to deposit a second load on top of her, but there was a big apartment event today and she didn’t want either of them to miss it.

After a few minutes Lacie burst from the blanket pile, lungs gasping for fresh air. “Serena!” She shouted, though not at the top of her lungs, not wanting to bother the neighbors with their playful fight. A quick scan around the room told her that she had more or less been left for dead by her girlfriend. She wrapped herself in three of the softest, warmest blankets that were littered on and around the bed. She had the unfortunate genetic predisposition to basically never put on any fat, and that combined with her active lifestyle meant she was lean and lithe all year round. She started complaining the minute the temperature dropped beneath 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Her heart had also decided that she was going to fall in love with a snow leopard girl who basically couldn’t even cope with the AC being switched to heat, even once winter had begun in earnest, so she was doubly shit out of luck. She had worn a lot to bed and still the cold had reached her thin skin. Thigh high socks, pajama bottoms, a long-sleeved shirt and a pullover hoodie along with ten blankets in addition to the sheets and covers, and even then, without Serena’s body heat and tail fluff to finish the job, she would have spent the entire night shivering.

She got out of bed and walked over to the bedroom door which had been left slightly ajar. There were only the faintest vestiges of a limp in her gait, though the compression brace she had to wear around her left ankle at pretty much all times was the real permanent reminder of her leg injury. A star athlete her entire life. A three-time Olympic athlete. A medalist, even if it was only bronze. In the year leading up to be her fourth time at the Olympics she had been on fire. It seemed like every day she would shave just a bit more time off her PB. She could feel it, nothing could keep her from gold this time. But it seemed fate had other plans, as just days before the qualifiers she got into a pretty bad car accident. She was lucky not to have been killed. She had received some cuts and scrapes on her arms and face along with a minor concussion. Her left leg had taken the brunt of the damage, and for a while was basically just held together with steel rods and a plaster cast. Her chances for ever being able to walk unassisted again were slim, but she had beaten the odds and had taken well to physical therapy. It’s been 5 years since the accident and she had regained nearly full mobility, except for running and jumping, since both put so much strain on her ankle.

She stepped out into the living room and was met with the sizzle and smell of frying bacon that filled the space. She passed by the wall where the proof of her and her girlfriend’s achievements hung. Her framed bronze medal and Serena’s framed doctorate for electrical engineering. She had only recently put the medal back up, within the last year or so. It just hurt too much to look at, a painful reminder of the limit that was forced upon her for something she had spent her whole life pursuing. But she had shifted her thinking about it around recently, it was also a reminder that she had the talent and work ethic required to compete on such a grand global stage, to be recognized as one of the best in the world. For a while she had considered putting up a collage of the hundreds of get-well cards she had received while she was in the hospital, from friends, family, fans, rivals, even people she’d never directly competed against. There were so many heartfelt messages that they had been one of the driving factors in her not simply giving into despair and losing all hope. But if they were stuck behind a frame then she couldn’t just pull out the bin they were all stored in and reread a few when she was feeling down, so ultimately, she had decided against it.

The girl passed through the living room into the kitchen, where Serena was softly humming as she made breakfast. In contrast to the layers Lacie had wrapped herself in, Serena was comfortable enough in little more than her underwear, a T-shirt and an apron.  Rather than make her presence known verbally, Lacie instead opted to spiral her blonde, short furred tail around Serena’s much larger and fluffier tail before pulling it back around her body. “I could have suffocated you know.” She complained, still pouting. “Lacie, you went to sleep with that many blankets covering your head, if it was going to kill you, you’d already be gone.” Serena replied, turning her head to regard her girlfriend. There was a major height difference between them. An entire foot, with Serena being 6’5” and Lacie being 5’5”. They were commonly mistaken for mother and daughter instead of a couple, a problem exacerbated by Lacie’s hyperactive energy excess and Serena’s calm, patient demeanor. This was much to Serena’s amusement and Lacie’s chagrin. Even taking their sizes out of the equation, they had always been an odd couple. The genius and the athlete, the only obvious similarity between the two was an appreciation for hard work, and they were both part feline, but pointing out something like that was a good way to get labelled a speciest, considering that one was a house cat and the other was a big cat.

Lacie huffed, crossing her arms beneath her chest and turning her head up and away from Serena. She was only able to hold this stern façade for a few seconds however, as Serena took advantage of the girl’s obsession with being ensnared by her tail and began to flick the tip of her tail against Lacie’s oh so helpfully exposed neck. Lacie managed to stifle the first few laughs as her girlfriend’s luxurious fur tickled at her sensitive flesh. She wasn’t able to muffle the somewhat involuntary revving in her chest as Serena’s ministrations got her purring, and soon she was a giggling mess. She tried desperately to defend her weak point as well as go on the offensive, attempting to catch the wily tip beneath her chin. Unfortunately, the cat and cat game had to be cut short, as the bacon fried to the perfect degree of crispiness and the eggs were made mostly firm.

“Looks like I’m 2 for 2.” Serena teased as she transferred the food to a pair of plates, unwrapping her girlfriend from her tail’s embrace. She picked up the plates and carried them over to the place settings made on the coffee table, the couch being the pair’s preferred dining space when they didn’t have company. As a consolation prize for enduring the teasing, Lacie got to ogle the woman’s flawless, expansive and bare legs as they so effortlessly carried her weight. It wouldn’t technically be inaccurate to call the woman fat, though it would be pretty fucking rude. Instead of having fat pool so heavily in certain places of her body, it was more evenly distributed and harder to even notice if you weren’t familiar with her biology. It acted as a layer of insulation between her skin and muscle, an evolutionary anomaly that allowed her species to live in the colder climates of their genetic donors, even lacking the full body fur coat. Thankfully for her girlfriend she wasn’t wholly devoid of human fat distribution, so she still had all the expected womanly assets, by gosh did she have them.

Of course, Lacie had plenty of opportunities to drink in her girlfriend’s form, and not wanting to fill up before breakfast, she just took a small snack of a glances before turning and grabbing a bottle of orange juice from the fridge and a pair of glasses from the lower cabinets. They both enjoyed cooking so to save Lacie the embarrassment of having to get up on a stepladder to access the taller cabinets, they just kept half the dishes in the bottom drawers and cabinets, and the other half in the top. It was times like these that her old injury really bothered her. She couldn’t run or sprint or hop her way over to her girlfriend anymore, but instead had to walk in a steady, gentle pace around the couch instead of over it before being able to snuggle up against Serenas’ side.

Serena turned on the TV to the local news while Lacie started eating, eager to get some warmth in her tummy ASAP. It was just going to weather as she flipped to it, explaining what only needed to be told to those without eyes or a sense of touch. The first snow fall of the season had arrived the night before. A pristine blanket of white covered the sidewalks and the rooves as far as the eye could see when gazing out of their living room window. Only the roads had been cleared off, leaving two banks of fluffy white sand separating a frozen river of oil. The first snow fall meant a lot of things. It meant that they could start decorating for the holidays and it gave Lacie an excuse to litter the apartment with even more blankets than usual, a task she had already gotten a head start on the night before. Of course, there was also the big Apartment-wide event that would be occurring today. There were also the smaller things, like dosing off, laying on the floor beside each other, watching the scores of beautiful crystals tumble down to join their brethren from the comfort of their own home, mugs of hot chocolate nearby, and the occasional make-out to just be the red nosed cherry on top of a frosty winter cake.

“I forgot how clingy you get in winter.” Serena teased, though she was clearly enjoying the extra attention, if the low rumble of her purring was to be believed. “Maybe I need to keep this up all year long, just so it doesn’t come as a such a shock then.” Lacie replied as soon as her mouth was empty. Serena laughed. “Blessings no, it’s cute in short, three-month stints but if I had to put up with you being like this every day, I think I’d go insane.” Their tails mingled together behind them, an elaborate dance of push and pull that bigoted humis had decided was somehow pornographic or at least something that should only be done in the bedroom, despite how chaste and innocent it actually was. It just so happened that as an expression of love, it tended to happen during sex too, and there was a pretty big overlap of people who wanted to police demi behaviors and people who still only saw demis as fetish fuel and living props in porn. It was really just a way for demis to keep their tails occupied when they didn’t have anything to do with them.

With the advent of demis, a lot of old social conservatism found a new home in the persecution of hybrid species, including the demons and yes, even to a lesser extent angels. Tail hugs became a good umbrella idea to pile criticism on. It took on the degeneracy idea of public hand holding and kissing that had been leveraged against queer couples. It also was seen in the same taboo light as breastfeeding in public, since a lot of parents had taken to keeping track of their children through tail holding, since it kept their hands free. As a small silver lining, they were at least in the fifth or sixth generation now, so the brunt of “Cover your ears” and “Hide your tails” rhetoric had mostly died off by now, and the vast majority of humis saw the varied hybrid species as more or less just a different skin color, with all the benefits and baggage that came with that.

Once they had finished eating Serena was the first to get up, stretching a bit. “Think you can keep yourself from getting hypothermia for a little bit while I take a shower?” she asked, getting dibs on shower because she had made breakfast. This left Lacie with the chore of doing the dishes. “Only if you promise not to use up all the hot water.” Lacie replied as she gathered up the plates, glasses, silverware to take to the sink and the bottle of orange juice to return to the fridge. “If you’re worried about anyone leeching all of the apartment’s warm water this morning, I feel like Des should be at the top of the list.” Serena said, stopping and lingering in the doorway to the bedroom to quirk an eyebrow at her girlfriend. “I mean, nothing I say is going to keep him from taking a boiling, half hour-long shower, and for all we know it’s already happened.” Lacie sighed, her ears, shoulders and tail all dropping in unison. “I’ll put a towel in the dryer to warm one up for you, just in case.” Serena said, perking the smaller girl back up. “Have I ever told you that you’re the absolute best, Seri?” she said with a smile. “Once or twice, times a thousand.” Serena answered as she disappeared back into the bedroom.

 

Apartment Penthouse

 

Luckily for the other residents of the building, Des had not even so much as stirred from his slumber yet. The crimson cutie had piled even more blankets than even his best friend had, mostly because he could since warmth and heat didn’t make him feel uncomfortable. That was probably why he had missed his first two alarms, because there were over a dozen layers of fabric between his phone and his pointed ears. He always did claim he needed as much beauty sleep as he could get, but in all the years that Lacie had known him, he had remained the exact same level of adorable throughout. That probably had more to do with him already being an 11 on a cuteness scale that went out to 10, so maybe all that sleep was just to maintain his perfection. It was with a hesitant groan that a head of snow-white hair reined in by a pair of jet-black horns finally emerged from the mountain of blankets. His horns were the most, and perhaps only threatening thing about the demons’ appearance. Crude, ridged growths of tough black bone that bulged from the sides of his forehead. He covered his emergence points with his hair, for as flawless as the rest of his skin was, the points where his skin gave was to the hardened bone weren’t exactly pretty and required application of a prosthesis for him to even consider styling his bangs differently. They swept back from the emergence points, hugging the sides of his head closely before curving around the back of his head. The two horns nearly touched, a mere two-centimeter gap separating them before the tips curved upward. They framed his head like a terrible crown, but he typically offset their threatening appearance with bows and ribbons.

He groped sightlessly around his massive circular bed for a few minutes before his hand came to rest on his buzzing, blaring phone. His soft fingers wrapped around the device as he rolled over onto his stomach, finally opening his eyes. In contrast to the vibrant scarlet of his skin, sitting in the inky sea of his black sclera were a pair gorgeous pink diamonds, or at least the closest thing to replicating the shimmer and luster of a flawless gemstone one could conceivably possess for irises. He shut off the alarm first lest it give him a migraine, and then checked the time. He mouthed out a curse; he’d overslept so much that he was only left with five hours to get ready. He crawled out further from the blanket cocoon, moving over to the edge of the bed and swinging his legs down onto the floor. He stretched out his back and gave his cute little wings a few wake-up flaps as he moved onto his arms, pushing each towards his chest until they made a satisfying pop. He only usually wore panties to bed when he didn’t have anyone spending the night, in those cases it was typically full on lingerie. Today though, just a simple pair of plain-ish panties with minimal lace was keeping him something close to decent, but not quite there. Extending down from the base of his spine, just above his to-die-for butt, was a thin, long tail capped by an upside-down heart. Most people would describe it as a spade, but heart was much more on brand with him, plus it fit better with his red skin tone.

Des was a bit of a diva when it came to getting ready, despite how down to earth he usually was. It was almost paradoxical considering that he was a self-made multi-millionaire, not that he ever really acted his net worth. Well besides the time he had bought and converted the entire top floor of the building into his own personal studio penthouse, mostly because he needed the insane amount of closet space; it was certainly a need, not a want, and no one was going to tell him otherwise. Even still he was living considerably below his means. It wasn’t like the building was in a shitty neighborhood or anything, quite the contrary really, and rent for the other residents wasn’t cheap, but his type were supposed to live in mansions or the top floors of skyscrapers, not in a converted 4th story penthouse.

The only reason he had moved there to begin with was to stay close to his bestie, even if they weren’t going to be roommates anymore. The story of how he and Lacie met was quite the tale, but he was short enough on time even without reminiscing, so a recounting of that story would have to wait for another day. Whatever his reasons for moving there had been, it didn’t change that he would be hard pressed to move away now. The community and friendships he had developed with his neighbors was worth more than any amount of money. He had turned down no less than six contracts that would have required him to move out to larger metropolitan areas, opportunities to go from a semi-well known celebrity to a household name. Three of the offers were also just flat out rejected, since he refused to work for humi owned agencies or companies, which was also a factor in his niche popularity among standard humans. Everything within his brand, be it make-up or clothing, was designed with demi needs in mind first and foremost. Make-up was a bit more universal, since the majority of demis had human skin tone. Despite falling under the umbrella term of demi human, demons and by extension angels were in no part human. Their arrival on Earth was directly related to the application of human-animal gene splicing. Since they also possessed non-human traits in the end they had got lumped together for classification and legal purposes. The popular opinion was that it was actually for the best, since demons, angels and demis didn’t have to campaign separately for civil rights but were able to act as a united front. Of course, getting angels and demons to get along hadn’t exactly been an overnight thing; nothing had been overnight where demis were concerned.

It was sort of miraculous that civilization had survived what many still referred to as the end times. The meddling of man had doomed all three realms. By playing god there was the widespread belief that humanity had in effect killed the creator, prompting the evacuation of heaven and the peaceful invasion by the demons. The world went through a period of stagnation and upheaval, constantly teetering upon the brink of the forth world war for more than a century. The era between 2074, the day the first demi human was born, and 2205, when the Global Demi Bill of Rights passed in the United Nations, was known as the new dark age. Nothing was lost in terms of knowledge or technology; people weren’t plunged back into caves with nothing more than fire to keep the darkness at bay. But technological advance had been halted, the visions of glimmering future cities lost to the void. For all intents and purposes, even now in 2245, civilization hadn’t advanced much further than early projections for the late 21st century.

Des, and the majority of the other residents of the apartment were members of the first generation to be born with the inherent guarantee that they would be treated equally to humans in the eyes of the law. The landlady was the only one to have been alive in a time before the GDBoR had been passed and had some stories about being a kid in those times that kept her tenants from taking their equality for granted. And then they had one resident who was from the next generation, so she had grown up with even less persecution. Things had only been very briefly militantly hostile according to history books, from 2074 to 2076, when people were still screaming about the apocalypse. There had been parallels to the post emancipation United States in the following 50 years, with segregation, demis being treated as second-class citizens at best the world over, a lack of political representation for demis, and rarely litigated human on demi and demi on demi violence. Humanity tried to turn a blind eye to those it had created. But slowly, glacially slowly for those that had to live through those times, humans were forced to come to the realization that the demis wouldn’t just up and vanish so long as enough people pretended they didn’t exist. Canada had been the spark to set off the wildfire of change that would envelop the world. They were the first to grant full citizenship to all demi humans, rather than the selective citizenships that had been afforded to angels in particularly religious countries.

Des poured himself a bowl of cereal, accidentally flicking the tablet remote embedded into the side of the counter with his tail. It was still on news and of course he had to turn it on right when his dad was on. Both he and his older sister had basically no contact with their parents at this point. It was more to do with not being on speaking terms with their mom and if that meant the destruction of their relationship with their father as well, that was a price they would happily pay. It was made all the more obnoxious by their dad being a national news anchor. He shut the TV back off as soon as he could, taking a few deep breaths so as not to let this completely ruin his mood. It was the real beginning of his favorite season and he finally got to break out his new collection. He opened up the messaging app on his phone and went to the apartment-wide group text. “Has everyone gotten the chance to shower yet?” If he had woken up earlier he probably wouldn’t ask, but since it was now what could be considered a more normal time to wake up, he didn’t want to actively steal hot water from everyone else. “Ahh! Hold on, I’m just about to get it, give it like 10 mins K?” came the sole negative response, and of course it was Lacie. “KK, I still have to eat and go through second to last outfit planning, so everyone has 30 minutes.” He replied, setting his phone down to actually eat his breakfast. He swiped his tail against the remote screen, pushing it from television to the radio and tapping it on, filling the penthouse with jingly, bright holiday music.

Despite the tentative death of god and arrival of the biblical angels and demons, a lot of old religions had managed to stick around, gaining a new, new testament for the big three monotheistics; as such Christmas was still around, and all the old classics still lingered like the decrepit corpses that they were. And Des loved them. A strange circumstance of not having a real “End of Days” war between demons and angels was that a lot of the animosity between the diametrically opposed species kind of just died off. At the end of the day they were all just people, and with the paths to heaven and hell closed off they couldn’t exactly just turn the earth into a desolate wasteland. He hummed along to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” as sung by an actual angel as the sugary bits of shaped grain product hit his stomach, waking him the rest of the way up. Once he was done, he set the bowl and spoon down in the sink, joining a few of their brethren in the somber wait to be cleansed. Des was a serial procrastinator when it came to housework yet still refused to get a maid. With dishes not taken care of he made his way over to his vast, store-like closet. At the center of what Lacie had lovingly deemed “The Showroom” were three fully dressed mannequins, clad in the final three contenders for the distinguished honor of “First Outfit of Winter”.

They were three very distinct flavors of Des. The femme, the androgynous, and the masculine. Though, it wasn’t hard to discern that even the masculine choice was still entirely made up of traditionally women’s clothing. It was more of an honorable mention than a serious contender at this point, just something to round out the three-mannequin display. The main piece of the outfit was a long, midnight trench coat, going down just past the knees rather than ending at the last quarter of the thigh. It had grey embroidery along its edges, intricate and bold yet somehow muted and subtle. Lacie had described him wearing it as “dashing” and “The closest I’ve ever seen you come to looking like a boy”. It was a tempting prospect, since he knew that he’d get a huge reaction from the other residents if he wore this. It had been fun to pose in the mirror in it, trying to find any sharpness to his round features and even putting on a short haired wig. But at the end of the day, it just really wasn’t him. It would surely get some use at least once this season, as was the custom for his masculine fashions.

That left the two real contenders. The focal piece of the feminine outfit was a massive scarf/shawl/throw blanket. The body of it had a two-tone faded green checkered pattern with tassels at the ends. It was the solution for people who loved to wear a blanket around the house and wanted that same comfort outdoors, without looking like a hermit. Since it was largely impractical as a scarf, the preferred way of wearing it being wrapping it around the upper back, something made even easier because of his wings, and then draping it over the elbows so that it covered the majority of the upper arms, and then the excess hung loose, close to the body, to help prevent it catching on things. Next came a cute puffed turtleneck sweater in black. Instead of hugging tightly to the neck, it flared out and the way it pooled around the neck made it look like a loosely wrapped scarf. As an added bonus it could be pulled up to cover the mouth and nose, a hidden drawstring making it so the loose fabric could be tightened as necessary. Beneath it was just a simple graphic tee, well… not simple, it was a limited run by one of his favorite artists and was honestly one of the most expensive single garments he owned. Luckily it was incredibly soft and comfortable. Next came a grey skirt made of a thin, dreamy fabric. Messy pleats helped to convey the design that swirled along the hem. It was meant to look like an overcast evening sky, with embroidered stars, made with both golden and sparkle laden thread. Beneath the starry sky was a lace finish with a snowflake motif. Continuing with the snowflake theme were a pair of thigh high white wool stockings. The pattern they had been knitted with created a trail of beautiful snowflakes, each rendered unique to their siblings. Not wanting to obscure any part of the fine craftsmanship, he had opted for short heeled booties with a tasteful amount of fake fur lining the tops.

Then there was the more androgynous outfit, categorized as such because it actually had pants. For this outfit the focal piece was a gorgeous cloak. It made a bit less of a statement than the massive shawl of the other outfit despite the bolder colors. A dark navy blue for the outer side and a soft crimson lining. He typically shied away from wearing reds, since they blended with his skin, but winter was the season of coverage, so he could get away with having red showing on his arm and torso wear so long as the arms themselves were covered up. The cloak had a double row of buttons that went from the tall collar, which was a bit shorter than the pulled-up height of the sweater’s neck, but stiffer, so as long as he kept his head lowered the bottom third would be completely hidden, to breast height. Beneath it he’d opted to go for a simple white long-sleeved blouse with vertical folds stitched in. The cufflinks were custom, shining silver snowflakes each with a plump sapphire set into them. The pants were grey with a faintly olive tint to them. It was a tiled pattern, with thin borders of a lighter grey separating the squares. Rounding the outfit off was a cute pair of what could be best described as a bastardization of riding boots and snow boots. They rose three quarters of the way up the calf. They had the smart, sophisticated shape of riding boots, but were lined with warm faux fur of the highest quality, so that they wouldn’t shed on whatever was lining the demon boy’s legs.

There still wasn’t a clear winner in his eyes. Both outfits were just delightful, and whichever fell short of the today’s spotlight would still likely have the honor of adorning his lithe form tomorrow. Depending on the lighting and season, Des was most often described as either perfectly twinkish or impossibly feminine. He was healthily slim with his weight only lightly fluctuating depending on the season. His extremes were very faintly toned in the summer and thin layer of pudge at the height of the winter months. Since it was only the beginning of winter, he had only shed the hints of musculature which had vanished over the course of the fall but had not yet began to put on the additional few pounds, so he was currently just slim and soft. Of course, none of that had anything to do with gorgeous work of art that was his ass, perfect, flawless, plump, and heart-shaped come rain or shine, snow or hail, 365 days a year. It came with such rave reviews as “spankable”, “a wonderful pillow”, “good cushion for some pushin ;)”, and rather bluntly “VERY FUCKABLE”.

Despite being an incubus, Des only had a list of partners half a mile long, rather than a city long scroll of names. There were two major contributing factors to this. The first being that while nearly all demons were polyamorous with Des not being an exception, he was considerably less inclined to have an entire harem at his beck and call. Instead he preferred only to be actively dating at most four people at the same time, though he was currently single. The second factor was that while he certainly enjoyed having sex and being intimate, he wasn’t in love with it. He got enough indirect emotional energy from people who got off to his photo sets and videos to act as sustenance, which was the reason so many demons got into the porn or modeling industry at some level, from anonymous amateur to award winning professional, and every step betwixt. He still got more than the average person, but by demon standards he was almost chaste in his conduct. On average he either got laid or did the laying about three times a week, a far cry from the nightly fuckfest he imagined his sister got up to. Not that he imagined his sister having sex, because that would be fucking weird (not that he’d have to imagine it were he so inclined, since her tits were usually plastered over the front pages of most porn sites (as well as being plastered with, ahem… moving on)).

He gave each outfit another long, appraising look before letting out a sigh. This was a battle that wouldn’t be decided until the very last moment it seemed. He pulled his phone out from the waistband of his panties and found that the time he had given for Lacie to take her shower without the fear of turning into a catcicle had passed. He stepped out of the closet and made his way over to the master bathroom, slipping out of his underwear somewhere along the way, kicking it off behind him into what could best be described as a graveyard of fallen underwear, a field of frills, a carpet of cute, or a layer of lewd. Yeah, he REALLY needed to get a maid.

 

Apartment 302

 

Lacie was understandably hesitant to unwrap the machine warmed towel from her torso once she had hastily wrapped it around herself and sat down on the bathroom rug, pulling her knees in tight to conserve as much body heat as possible. She really didn’t want to move to actually dry herself, afraid to let any of the cold air into her fortress of warmth. But the creeping cold would inevitably sneak in through chinks in her armor, turning the beads of moisture on her skin to piercing barbs of ice(dramatization) and transform her dripping hair into a sculpture of agony, threatening to shatter it all away with just the slightest of touches(dramatization). There was a gentle knock on the open doorframe, followed by the appearance of her fully dressed girlfriend. “Frostbite check.” Serena chimed, her eyes searching the space for Lacie, only to find her curled up, static, in the corner of the room. The half snow leopard let out a sigh. “You know it’s a bad idea to sit down as soon as you get out of the shower, right?” She asked rhetorically, quirking an eyebrow at the smaller girl. Lacie in turn just puffed out her cheeks and said nothing. “I guess my towel plan backfired then.” Serena commented as she entered the bathroom. “Could you just plug the blow drier into an extension cord and bring it over to me?” Lacie requested, dropping the playful tone from her voice. “Of course, babe, just a sec.” Serena nodded, picking up on the change in atmosphere and putting a halt to her teasing.

The line that they walked when teasing each other about their inabilities to cope with very mild temperature changes, while quite robust, was about as thin as the range of temperatures they were both comfortable in. Serena opened up the cabinets beneath the sink and pulled out the cord that was kept there for such an occasion as this. She made sure everything was dry before plugging the cord into an outlet and plugging the blow dryer into the other end of the cord. She brought it over to the curled-up form of her girlfriend, placing the device in the outstretched hand that the girl had wormed out of her towel cocoon. “Is there anything else you need right now?” Serena asked, since the heat from the blow dryer was going to make the bathroom a no-go zone for her for a while. Lacie thought that over for a few seconds before smiling. “How about a kiss, to help warm me up on the inside?” With the crisis of impending hypothermia averted, the girl’s voice returned to its usual playful lilt. Serena rolled her eyes but couldn’t hide her own smile. “Alright, but only because I’m sure you desperately need it.”

Serena got down onto her knees in front of Lacie, effectively cornering the smaller girl. Lacie could feel her heart begin to race, her pupils were dilating, encroaching on the golden rings that surrounded them. Conversely, Serena’s eyes revealed more of the silver color of her irises while her pupils narrowed into tall, thin slits. Serena gently placed her fingers on Lacie’s cheeks, directing the girl’s head upward and steadying it as she leaned in for the smooch. It was only a short kiss, a bit longer than a peck, but cut off before it could blossom into a full-on make-out. When Serena pulled back, she couldn’t help but chuckle. “Well, looks like that’s already having an effect.” She teased, Lacie’s cheeks now burning a bright red. Serena pushed herself back up to her feet and exited the bathroom, closing the door behind her as Lacie turned on the blow dryer.

She returned to the kitchen to fill and turn on their electric kettle before setting onto the couch and turning the TV back on. It was on the sign-off for the national news program that Des’ father anchored. “…And I hope that with the first snowfall of season in both of the cities that my kids live in, that they’re both staying warm…” Serena’s eyes trailed up towards the ceiling, as though she could see through to her upstairs neighbor. Stripped of all other means of communication with his kids, Des’ dad had taken to sending well wishes to them in his sign offs, though she doubted that Des or Connie ever actually saw them. Once the sign off was complete there was commercial break before the next program started, a round table talk show. Serena wasn’t really paying any attention to it, it was just there for slightly less monotonous background noise than the sound of the dryer or of water boiling while she brushed her tail.

She only made it half way down her fluffy length before Lacie emerged from the bedroom. It was taking Serena so long because she frequently stopped to add to the growing ball of shed fluff that sat beside her, rolling it so that the fur was cohesive to prevent it from getting all over the couch. What they were wearing for the day was along the same vein as what they wore to sleep, Serena dressed for a mild, regular day and Lacie bundled in at least two layers for her legs and torso. Serena was wearing a comfortable but thin top with sleeves that only extended half way down her forearms as well as a sleeveless duster cardigan, with a split for a tail rather than just a hole. For bottoms she was wearing jeans, a cut that followed her curves but didn’t cling to them, and some sneakers with decent traction. Lacie had shed some of the trappings of her overdramatic performance from earlier in the morning. It was less of an act at night when things got very cold, but with the hesitant rise of the sun, so too did her tolerance. She was a lot more fashionable than once might at first assume, but she had had a fashion icon as a roommate for 3 years, and for everything besides underwear Lacie and Des were usually the same size, so she got first pick of stuff he was getting rid of.

Her top layer was pullover hoodie that was both fashionable and functional. It was warmer than its thin fabric would suggest, for reasons that flew over Lacie’s head when Des had been gushing over it. It hugged her shape pretty well, ensuring that one’s silhouette wouldn’t be hidden by the garment, but it wasn’t form fitting. The cord that adjusted the hood was more of a small rope than a fat shoelace for a bit of added flare. Her pants were a little bit bulky, since the insides were lined with a layer of soft flannel in addition to being pulled over a pair of thick knit stockings. “I heated some water up in the kettle in case you wanted to make hot chocolate.” Serena informed her girlfriend as she continued to work at her tail. “I don’t deserve you.” Lacie replied, hurrying over to the kitchen. “We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one, darling.” Serena laughed.

 

Apartment 202

 

Emma was running on fumes. Well, not fumes, per say, more like, chemicals. One specific chemical really, caffeine. Emma could best be described as a workaholic. Her plump, pudgy form, kind features and gently drooping ears may give off the impression of someone who is laid back and chill, but when she was awake, she was busy. It was actually such a problem that she’d been mandated to take the rest of the year off from her daycare job because her coworkers were worried that she was overworking herself. The secondary, unspoken reason for the long vacation was that she should use some of the free time to try and find herself a man. She was a hopeless romantic, emphasis on hopeless, at least in her mind. She’d tried it all, going to cafes, going to bars, going to clubs, blind dates, speed dates, dating sites and even hook up apps; It wasn’t like she was casting a line but not getting any bites. She was the epitome of a plus sized beauty, great with kids, a marvelous baker and cook in general, and pretty good in bed to boot. She just couldn’t keep a relationship going past the third date. She’d usually either lose interest in the guy or get so caught up with her jobs that she would just go off the radar for a while; only to remember she had a boyfriend a few days later, when she wouldn’t have one anymore. As much as she wanted someone who she could come home to and unwind with, it wasn’t her top priority at the moment. Unfortunately, she was decently comfortable with where she was in her life and that was unlikely to change anytime soon.

In addition to working at a day care, she was also part owner and manager of a bakery. A lot of the food industry was 24 hours now since a significant portion of the population was hard-wired to be nocturnal. This hadn’t created a massive societal paradigm shift; it just added more conveniences for the people who had trouble adjusting to “regular hours”. Emma had enforced a pretty irregular schedule on herself. A normal day for her started at six in the afternoon usually, which is when she woke up. She managed the bakery from ten at night until four in the morning and then worked at the day care from 6 AM until noon, though she usually stayed until one or even two some days. This left her with an average of about three hours of sleep each day during the week followed by a hard crash on Saturday and then a free Sunday. Now she was looking at a month and a half without one of those jobs. The other owner of the bakery had even switched shifts with her, so instead of working graveyard she would be going from 8 AM until 3 PM.

She got back from her last late night shift a few hours earlier; it was Friday, so she wouldn’t be working again until Monday. She had to put off her inevitable crash for a few more hours so that she wouldn’t miss today’s party. To busy herself, because of course she couldn’t just sit still, she was whipping up a baker’s dozen of sheets of cookies. It was a good excuse to have a regular alarm that could wake her up if she dozed off. Even though it was around what would typically be the midpoint of her day she had trouble warding away her drowsiness when she wasn’t accountable to someone else. It’s why she threw herself into two full time jobs every day of the week; without purpose she drifted pretty hard into laziness. She wished that she could blame her parents for her problems, since they hadn’t seen her insomnia or habit of overworking herself in a negative light; they just assumed that she was studious and had opted not to even bring up the topic of seeking professional help with her. She couldn’t shoulder them with all the blame, since she’d been on her own for nearly two decades now and still didn’t have a regular therapist. Her attempts at finding someone to help her work on her mental health were a lot like her attempts at dating; she’d go to three sessions before deciding that things weren’t working and then just wouldn’t schedule a fourth.

A knock on her door roused her from a small lull in baking. She jerked awake, nearly flinging freshly whisked dough all over her countertop. There was a second round of knocking as Emma let her heart return to a steadier pace. “Oh, uh… Coming!” she called as she set down the bowl and whisk. She hurried over to the front door and briefly glanced through the eyehole before unlocking and opening the door. “Oh! You are home!” Lacie chimed, turning her attention from her girlfriend to her neighbor. Emma nodded. “Mandatory vacation again.” Emma sighed. She must have looked as tired as she felt since the expressions of the two cat women shifted nearly simultaneously to concern. “So, how can I help you, ladies?” Emma bluffed, standing up a bit straighter and doing her best to perk up her own sullen expression. She was a few inches taller than Lacie though her usual posture made it seem like they were the same height.

“We just wanted to stop by and see if you were going to be able to make it to the party later.” Serena explained. “I hope we didn’t wake you.” She added apologetically. Emma waved a hand dismissively. “No, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I’ve been baking. And yes, I am planning on coming… but if I’m not there on time just send someone up to knock on my door, you know how easy it is for me to lose track of time.” She laughed, but it ended up ringing pretty hollow. “Are you two going out?” Emma asked, noting that the two women were dressed more appropriately for a trip outside than to just hang out around the apartment building. Lacie nodded. “We’re going to swing by our storage unit to pick up our holiday decorations.” “Ah, well, be safe then.” Emma replied, doing her best not to look towards Lacie’s ankle as she spoke. She said her good-byes to the couple and shut the door.

First Floor Lobby

Lacie and Serena emerged from the stairwell into the building’s common space. It had originally been a hotel lobby, before the building had been converted to college dorm and from there into an apartment complex, though apartment simple might be a better way to put it. Even though it was now just a regular, albeit small, apartment building the lobby had retained its use as a shared space. It really helped to foster the sense of community among the small list of tenants, since it was a place where people could meet up for a meal and chat or watch a movie together or just hang out. It was also the space where a variety of events were hosted, some related to actual holidays and some just apartment traditions. Currently Angela, their middle-aged land lord, Lisa, the most able bodied but least personable resident, and Amber, the youngest and most social resident were setting up folding tables and moving boxes out of storage closets. Most of the usual furniture had been pushed back up against the walls to make way for what would be the space’s centerpiece until spring. Three pairs of ears all swiveled in the direction of the heavy door as its old hydraulics squeaked shut. It was almost less conspicuous to use the elevator than the stairs; at least the elevator was oiled and well maintained. They actually had taken the elevator down to the second floor, since Lacie’s ongoing physical therapy regimen called for one flight of stairs a day.

“You two lovebirds weren’t planning on sneaking out and finally eloping, were you?” Angela’s half-sarcastic, half-serious voice carried over to the pair as three sets of eyes joined the orientation of their ears. Both Lacie and Serena’s cheeks filled with red as they looked off in separate directions, trying to find a good spot in the middle distance to stare off to. “No Ms. Angie, we were just going to head out for a bit. And come on, we aren’t even engaged yet, and we wouldn’t think of having a wedding without all our friends around.” Lacie giggled. “Pass.” Lisa huffed as she set down a heavy looking box and starting back towards the closet, already having lost interest in the unfolding exchange. Angela just sighed, shrugged and shook her head. “I don’t understand why you two don’t just tie the knot already.” Amber’s dull orange eyes lit up, and she was far enough from Lisa that she was able to get her quip out before being interrupted. “I mean, there isn’t really a knot to tie, since they’re both cats and all.” Amber easily had the dirtiest mind in the building, beating out the literal sex demon, though Des was almost comically pure, so it wasn’t very difficult to be more perverted than he was.

Truth be told it was something of an awkward question for the two women. Serena had been holding onto a ring for over two years and Lacie for a year and a half, with neither being aware of the other’s desire to be the one to propose. They were both waiting for the perfect opportunity, and that didn’t just mean a nice time or a good time, but the be-all, end-all, perfect proposal. So far, neither had found a time that ticked every box that they wanted to be ticked, and so they were both trapped in engagement limbo. Since they had started living together there hadn’t been a doubt in either of their minds that they would be spending the rest of their lives together, and marriage was just an inevitability at this point.

Angela rolled her eyes. “If you two aren’t engaged by this time next year, I’m doubling your rent.” It was impossible to tell if she was being serious or not, but it certainly placed a weight on the two women’s shoulders. “Well, we’ll do our best then…” Serena said, trying to laugh it off as a joke. “While we’re out do you need us to get anything for the party?” She added, not wanting to end on such an awkward note. “Beer.” Lisa’s suggestion was curt and to the point. “I’m running dangerously low on weed-” Amber was cut off by Lacie. “No and no. What about you Angela? Do you need anything?” The older woman thought for a few moments. “Some apple cider would be nice, add a bit more variety than just hot chocolate, coffee, and tea for warm drinks.” Lacie nodded. “Sure, I think we can handle that. It’s not going to be hard cider though.” She shot a glare at the recovering alcoholic who rarely seemed that interested in recovering from her addiction. “Yeah, yeah, it was just a joke.” Lisa huffed, breaking eye contact and silently counting to ten. At least it seemed like the anger counseling was going well. “Alright, we’ll be off then, try not to get things started before we get back, unless we’re very late.” Serena said as the two made their way over to the building’s entrance before they went out into the cold.

Apartment 201

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t my fourth favorite demon boy…” Elizabeth’s eternally teasing voice drifted out past her lips as she leaned seductively in her doorframe in little more than a black satin robe. “Oh come on, I have to be at least in your top two.” Des pouted, crossing his arms. “Sorry darling, you’re a bit too vanilla to be in my winner’s circle, and I tend to prefer my men a bit… beefier… But you should be honored, you’re the only person who I don’t fuck on at least a bimonthly basis to get as high as an honorable mention, and I’ll give you some credit; you eat me out almost as well as a girl would, you’re leagues above the majority of men I’ve been with in that regard.” She winked at him, simultaneously reaching out a finger to boop him on his cute little button nose. “Something tells me you didn’t drop by just to contest your placement within my social hierarchy though; so why don’t you tell me what it is I can help you with?” She asked as she drew herself up to her full height, standing an impressive six feet even.

Elizabeth was half demon herself, though really, she was closer to five eighths. All winged demis were the product of splicing animal genes with angel or demon genes. In most cases the divine or demonic gene would be dominant, causing animal ears to grow alongside horns and making tails and wings a crapshoot. Then there were the rare instances where the animal gene would be dominant, overpowering the wing gene and overwriting the horn gene. Vampire bat, when applied to the demon genome, was one such example of animal dominance. Elizabeth was second generation, her mother being full demon and her father being a half bat. Her wings were large but thankfully they grew from points on her back rather than stretching from the underside of her arms to her torso, so buying clothing wasn’t a total nightmare. She wasn’t in possession of true horns, but she did have a pair of bumps on her forehead that didn’t break the skin, usually kept hidden behind her bangs. Her ears were large and sensitive, both to sound and to touch. Her apartment was soundproofed to keep outside sounds from getting in as well as to stop the sounds of her profession from bothering the other residents.

“I was wondering if you could help me with my hair?” Due to how his horns hugged his head, it was rather difficult for Des to style his hair on his own. Luckily for him one of his neighbors went to school to be a hair stylist, even if she dropped out to become a professional dom. “If you don’t have a client with you right now that is.” He added in, having to be more cautious about these things after the third time she had neglected to inform him that she had an exhibitionist in her bed. “It’ll be just us. I assume you’ll be wanting to add this to your tab, considering that we don’t exactly have the time to tie you up today.” They had worked out a mutually beneficial relationship, and funnily enough both the give and take tended to involve some amount of tying on Elizabeth’s part. In exchange for getting his hair styled, Des submitted to being Elizabeth’s rope dummy. She got her fill of being the dominant from her job so most of her non-professional relationships had her playing the sub, if they had any BDSM elements at all, giving her precious little time to practice her techniques. And that’s where Des came in; sexually they had a strictly professional relationship and in all other aspects their relationship was simply platonic. He had a lot of experience being posed and having to hold still for long stretches of time, so he didn’t have any trouble being patient as she worked through some new knots. He was androgynous enough that his feedback could be taken into consideration when working with men or women, and his feedback was really what made him such a good test dummy. He didn’t get off on being tied up, he’d spent so much time naked or in just lingerie around camera crews that the thrill of being exposed to others had worn off long ago and he wasn’t overly sensitive anywhere, so he could tell her what was and wasn’t working in real time without arousal clouding his judgement.

“So, how do you want it?” Elizabeth asked as she sat Des down at her vanity. “I was thinking a headband braid, to complete my crown, with loose bangs.” Des answered. “So, the usual?” Elizabeth teased as she began to comb his hair, separating out the strands she was going to use for the braid by laying them over one of his horns while she moved any stray hairs beneath the growths. “So, I heard through the grapevine that you and Annie broke up.” Elizabeth started up the small talk on what could potentially be a sore subject. “We didn’t break up, we’re just… taking an extended break.” Annie had been Des’s longtime girlfriend, probably the most serious he’d ever taken a relationship. Maybe even a bit too serious for what he was looking for at this time in his life, hence the split. They had both noticed that their other romantic relationships were suffering as a result, a hint of jealousy here, a dash of possessiveness there, scattered attempts at monopolizing time. It had become clear that for things to work they would have had to become more monogamously devoted to each other, and that was choice that neither of them wanted to make. Even being otherwise single hadn’t swayed Des into wanting to abandon his polyamory. They loved each other a lot, but not enough to stop loving anyone else.

“I hope you aren’t going to try and leverage this towards offering to be my mistress again.” He sighed. “Of course not, I wouldn’t even dream of it. Besides, that offer is always open.” He was the only one she had ever offered to dom in her off hours, he was just that cute in bed, and he pulled off chokers so well that she was dying to see him in a collar. “Buuuut, that being said, I could set you up on a few dates if you’re interested.” She had finished sorting out his gorgeous and well-cared-for hair and was getting started on the braid. “Regular dates?” Des asked, wanting clarification, but his interest was certainly piqued. “Mhm, please darling, I know your preferences; I wouldn’t try and set you up with a massive kinkster, give me at least that much credit.” “Alright, fine, I’ll give it a shot. So, who exactly did you hear about this from?” Des followed up with. “As per our agreement, I cannot say.” Elizabeth answered, though her refusal to speak was itself damning evidence. “Couldn’t you have just said Lacie told you? By bringing that up at all you’re just admitting it was my sister.” Des sighed. “You can’t fault Connie for being worried about you.” Elizabeth returned, finishing off the braid and securing it with a clip that was hidden behind a horn. “I’m not faulting her for anything, I just think it’s weird that she talks about me when she’s having sex with one of my friends.”

“I’ll be sure to let her know the next time I see her. Now then, is there anything else you’d like me to do with your hair?” She asked after giving the body of it a few fluffs and then stepping back to survey her handiwork. “Oh, yeah.” He said, looking himself over in the mirrors from a few different angles. He produced a trio of ribbons from his sweater pocket and handed them to Elizabeth. The ribbon itself was a gradient between a soft baby blue and a muted pink, like fairy tale sunsets. At both ends a lace snowflake had been sewn into the ribbon. “All three along the left horn, spaced apart by a ridge each, please.” He instructed, turning his head so she’d have easier access to the desired horn. “Princess bows?” She asked, wrapping the ribbon around the onyx bone, careful to keep it within the space that he had filed down to prevent any jagged bits from catching on the fabric. Des grinned. “Of course.”

The Unveiling

At long last 3 pm arrived. Pretty much everyone had made their way to the lobby, save for Amber and Des; even Emma had made it down early after enlisting Lisa and Elizabeth’s help in carrying down the boxes of cookies she had baked. She had also completely drained the coffee pot once and had started up a new pot. Lacie and Serena had gotten back just in the nick of time, as the second snow of the season had begun to fall just as they were parking. The elevator dinged and when the doors opened a slightly sulking Amber stepped out. Lisa had once again put the kibosh on the fox girl’s plans to vlog the apartment get-together by refusing to be filmed, and as obnoxious as Amber could be, she wasn’t the type of person to disregard someone’s decision on the matter of being filmed. Her mood picked up as the playful tune of holiday music reached her tall, pointy ears. And that left only Des.

“So, which outfit did he end up going with?” Lacie asked, approaching Elizabeth hoping she could get at least a small clue out of the woman. “Do you really think I’d give it away so easily? I don’t want to deprive you of the surprise, so my lips are sealed.” She grinned at the short girl. “Though I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s more taken by how you look, I think you pull that outfit off better than he did.” A quick wink. Lacie had to stifle her laughter, covering her mouth with a hand to muffle the snort that still managed to escape. “Yeah in my dreams maybe. But come on, I’ve already seen him in the outfits, so it won’t be that much of a surprise for me anyway.” Elizabeth chuckled. “Lacie, you’re even worse at keeping secrets than I am, if I tell you now, by the time he gets down here half the internet will know what he’s wearing.” There was a whirring sound as the elevator’s motor started back up, pulling the car up towards the one who called for it. “Besides, you’ll only have to wait for another minute.”

Everyone kept to their conversations as the elevator rose, only stopping when they heard the motor reverse. Everyone turned their head to the elevator. It felt like there should have been fanfare or a drumroll, but it was just their friend coming down. Des’ excitement around fashion was infectious and somehow even just putting on a new outfit for a change in the seasons had become something of a miniature event. Inside the elevator cabin Des could feel his heartbeat climb at a practically inverse rate to his body descending. He had never been one for stage fright, and he could strut down a catwalk in nothing but lingerie, stockings and heals without a hint of shame. But something about showing off to his friends gave him a bit of a rush. These people were almost family to him, and he valued their opinions more than any fashion columnist or professional stylist. The actual photo shoot for the start of winter wasn’t until Sunday and that didn’t even phase him compared to the butterflies he was nurturing right now.

There was a ding as the electronic display flashed a 1, and a second later the car had come to a halt. Des took a deep breath before pushing himself off the handrail he had been leaning on. The doors began to open. All eyes were on him as he stepped out. Amber was the first to break the ensuing silence. “Oh, shit Des, that’s mad cute.” He had gone with the more feminine outfit and based on the nods of approval that followed Amber’s comment it seemed to have been the right choice. Lacie and Elizabeth were still standing back at the refreshments table, both grinning from ear to ear. Elizabeth pulled her phone out and snapped a quick shot. “For Connie.” She assured Lacie, sending the photo to the boy’s sister before deleting her copy. Lacie couldn’t help but think back to college, when she was the only one around to gush over her roommate’s wardrobe. Sure, they still did that when Des was putting outfits together, but seeing him surrounded by so many friends never got old, and still warmed her heart so much she almost felt like removing her hoodie.

The fawning over Des lasted maybe a couple minutes before Angela cleared her throat. They weren’t all gathered here just to appreciate Des’s style. In the center of the room a large, thin cloth was draped over a low table, veiling what laid beneath even though everyone already knew what it was. “I would like to move things along before the food I made gets cold, unless you’re all fine with getting cold stew.” The mention of Angela’s home cooking brought everyone in line and got things back on track as they gathered around the covered table. “So, who gets to do the honors this year?” Angela asked, looking around at her tenants. “I don’t think Amber has gotten the chance yet, and she did help set up this year.” Serena posited, prompting everyone to turn towards the fox girl.

“I mean… if that really okay?” She asked, balking under the attention, bringing her tail into her hands and nervously straightening her fur. She had only been a resident here for two years, and the smallest age gap between her and another resistant was 11 years, since she was 22 and both Lacie and Des were 33. “Just pull the damn sheet would ya?” Lisa half growled as she forced a corner of the thin linen into Amber’s hand. “It’s not like you have to say a speech or anything.” There weren’t any voices of protest so Amber let out a sigh and picked up another corner of the fabric. “Ok then, I’ll pull on three.” The other residents counted up and she tugged the sheet away, to reveal the low table beneath.

It was a kotatsu. Des had donated it to the apartment a couple years ago since he got a nicer model for his penthouse. He had fallen in love with the heated tables in the months he had spent studying Japanese fashion abroad and couldn’t live without them during the colder months. This had been great for Lacie when they had been living together, but she couldn’t exactly have one in her and Serena’s apartment due to Serena’s sensitivity to heat. But it was perfect for the common area. Due to the way that the place was built, adding heating to the first floor of the building would have required a massive renovation that would have made the apartments inaccessible for a few weeks, so for a long time the community space just been largely abandoned during the winter. It was large enough that it could fit three people on each side, so everyone could sit comfortably without squeezing in. Serena took up the spots of two people since she had to sit with her legs off to the side.

It was already plugged in, so it was very tempting for both Lacie and Amber to just sit down, slip their legs beneath the blanket and bask in the warmth straight away, but then they couldn’t get any food. Lisa and Angela headed off to the communal kitchen to fetch the stew, the dog girl coming back with a large pot in her arms while Angela carried a basket of bread. They set the food down on the refreshments table, plates and bowls and mugs already set out. Angela pulled the lid off the pot, causing whispy tendrils of steam to come spilling out, carrying the hearty aroma of beef, vegetables and potatoes to the waiting nostril of the gathered girls and boy. “Help yourselves.” Angela offered, nay, commanded, a smile tugging at her lips as she watched everyone’s faces light up at the smell of her cooking. She had beat Des yet again it would seem.

A couple of minutes later everyone was seated around the table, a bowl of stew before them and their beverage of choice in their hands. Angela raised her mug of warm cider. “To a safe and warm winter.” She cheered, the sentiment echoed by the others. The next several hours were spent enjoying the finer things in life, good food, good drink, and good company. Laughs and shouts and conversation drowned out the whistling wind that raged outside. The gentle blanketing of snow from the night before had just been a prelude to the blizzard that was hitting today. Thankfully it wouldn’t last, and gentle snow clouds were predicted to push away the storming darkness by this time tomorrow. Even Lisa managed to crack a few smiles as the afternoon wore on into evening, though bringing up such things at a later date would be a surefire way to piss her off.

Drowsiness had set in around 7. At some point Serena had migrated from sitting beside her girlfriend to sitting behind her, letting herself be the dosing girl’s backrest as she read on her tablet. Her big tail was wrapped loosely around Lacie’s torso, drawn-out, barely-awake breaths occasionally disturbing the girl’s fur. Emma had barely made it to five before crashing, the comfort and warmth overtaking the caffeine. Someone had eased her head onto a pillow and draped a blanket over her upper half in the meantime. Angela, Amber and Lisa had all returned to their rooms. Des was about as awake as Lacie. He leaned against Elizabeth, resting his head against her shoulder as he tenuously clung to consciousness. She had wrapped a wing around his side to keep him from falling onto the ground or table. A rare moment of peace and quiet for the apartment. “We should probably be getting the kids to bed.” Elizabeth joked to Serena who was faced with the same plight of caring for a petite cutie. “You’re probably right. But what do we do about Emma?” Serena whispered back, looking over her shoulder. “I’ll come back and wake her up when I get Des back to his room.” Elizabeth hefted Des onto her back, barely even rousing him. Lacie let out some unintelligible mumbling as Serena lifted her up bridal style but was similarly out for the count. Elizabeth bid Serena good night as the snow leopard stepped out of the elevator. Before long everyone was asleep in their beds, comfortably wrapped in as many blankets as necessary to stave off the winter cold.

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