Howard B. Conducts Further Explorations

… And Vince joins her. A narrative following the events of ‘Pea: or, the Rediscovery of Howard B. Moon’, in which Howard’s transition continues apace, and her romance with Vince takes on a new dimension.



Characters: , ,

Pairing: ,

Genre: , , ,




Length: words

Notes: Originally started back in May as part of the Merry Month of Masturbation challenge at derangedficrecs. Obviously it took rather longer than anticipated. Like Pea, it quickly grew out of all expectation.

Shout out to Susan’s Place Transgender Resources for being a valuable research tool.

Howard B. Conducts Further Explorations by Culumacilinte

‘There’s something I wanted to tell you.’

As soon as it came out, Howard thought with an internal wince that she might have done a better job of not making it sound like she had some world-shattering pronouncement to make. Vince, who’d been idly rearranging displays, froze, and looked like he was trying not to seem as warily alarmed as he felt.

‘It’s nothing important,’ she reassured him hastily, and then grimaced. ‘I mean, it is important, it’s very important, actually, but it’s nothing bad.’ Vince unfroze, but only marginally. ‘You can stop bracing yourself,’ she concluded wryly, and he huffed a faintly embarrassed little laugh.

‘Right on. What’s up?’

‘I’ve, uh, I’ve got another appointment with Beryl next week.’

Vince’s brow screwed up. ‘What for?’

Howard rolled her eyes. ‘What do you think?’

Vince was good at acting thicker than he actually was, but in this instance, he seemed to be genuinely clueless. He shook his head. ‘You’ve… run out of potion? I didn’t think you needed to keep taking it.’

‘No, you berk,’ she snapped. ‘I’m getting my, you know–’ she gestured vaguely, ‘my downstairs bits done.’

Before, Vince had laughed at her squeamish reticence to refer to her bits as a cock or a dick or any other of the usual terminology. Once, he’d even given himself an illustrative grope and laughed, waggling his hips in Howard’s direction. ‘It’s just a cock, Howard! We’ve all got one; nothin’ to be shy about.’ Now, he didn’t say a word about it. Instead, after a moment, blank confusion gave way to understanding, and briefly, Vince’s face lit in a grin that made Howard’s stomach jolt weightlessly. ‘Oh!’ he exclaimed, and then shrugged. ‘Well, I didn’t know if you were gonna, did I? You never said, and I didn’t wanna ask. Would’ve been well rude.’

She sniffed. ‘Yes, well, I am.’

Vince’s face still looked like it wasn’t quite sure which expression would be the most appropriate for the situation. It settled, after a few confused wobbles, on a grin. ‘How much’re you lookin’ forward to not havin’ to tuck anymore? That shit hurts like a motherbitch after a whole day of it.’

‘Oh my god, am I. You don’t even know.’

Back when he’d first started making clothes for her, Vince had offered to show her how to tuck. He’d had to learn how for some of his tinier drainpipes, he’d said, and then laughed. ‘And the miniskirts, natch.’ Howard had gone bright red and said vehemently that she thought she’d do perfectly well looking it up on the internet, and Vince… had left it at that, and not inquired about the state of her genitals since.

Now he was looking at her with a sort of hesitant curiosity. ‘Did you… want me to come with you?’

‘Not much of a date, is it?’

Vince gave her a wry look. ‘I’ll take that as a no, then.’

It was a no, although truthfully, Howard wasn’t entirely sure why. It wasn’t like Vince hadn’t seen her naked before, but that was before, and it gave her an uncomfortable squirm to think of it happening now. She knew Vince didn’t give a toss; his attitude towards genitals and gender seemed to be much the same as his attitude towards facial hair, and he was about as picky as a roulette wheel about what equipment his partners came with, but that didn’t stop Howard herself caring.

‘You’ll lemme know when the big day is this time?’ Vince prompted with a sort of gentle amusement, and Howard smiled crookedly.

‘What, so this time you’ll have time to plan a proper celebration bash?’

Vince stuck his tongue out at her, and Howard contemplated taking advantage of its presence with a kiss. It was slightly astonishing to her, how little time, relatively speaking, it had taken for thoughts like that to become entirely natural; panic and confusion and self-recrimination had seemed slightly pointless when the thing became not just possibility, but reality. After a moment, she became aware of Vince giving her an odd look, and realised that her contemplations might have been a bit obvious. She looked hastily away for something to be suddenly engrossed in, and the first thing her eyes snagged on was a nail in the wall, naked without the picture that usually hung there, a casualty of a satsuma fight which had got rather out of hand and made its way all the way down into the shop. Howard tried to give the impression of finding it unusually interesting; Vince laughed.

‘I know subtlety’s s’posed to be your thing, Bea, but you might wanna work on that.’

Howard didn’t sleep for about three days before her meeting with Beryl, wired on nerves and adrenaline and anticipation. She buzzed and bounced and sat at the keyboard composing increasingly incoherent new songs at four in the morning, and by the end of the third day, she suspected both Vince and Naboo were about ready to kill her.

This particular ritual involved, in addition to the hair and blood of last time, a palmful of glittering dust and a magical lake, and Howard’s buzz plateaued as Beryl shooed her into the alarmingly green and glowing water. By the time she clambered dripping onto the shore to be wrapped in a towel, she found herself suddenly and encompassingly exhausted. She swayed on the spot as the orange shaman applied another towel to her dripping hair and gave it a firm rub.

‘There you are, pet; everything ought to be in working order. Just you let me know if you’ve any questions, or anything seems other’n it ought, yes?’

Howard opened her mouth to agree, and instead yawned so hard she heard her jaw crack in three separate places. She didn’t even think there were that many joints in a jaw to crack. Beryl chuckled warmly.

‘Naboo, get your short arse over here! This one needs a bed before she collapses on the spot.’

‘I’m perfectly capable of standing up on my own, thank you,’ Howard tried to say. It came out with… rather fewer syllables than she’d intended.

Naboo, whose approach Howard had somehow manage to entirely miss, rolled his eyes. ‘Should’ve brought Bollo. I’m not carrying you if you pass out before we get back, come on.’

Considerately, Beryl saved Howard the effort of trying to wrangle fine motor control of her fingers and re-dressed her with a wave of her hand, and Howard didn’t pass out on the carpet ride home. She was pretty sure she didn’t, anyway. She couldn’t be buggered with pyjamas before collapsing facefirst onto her bed, and was stickily unconscious within seconds.

She woke up in a panic twelve hours later because her alarm hadn’t gone off. It took her a few sleep-muddled moments to remember that she had the day off, thanks probably less to her own wheedling than to a vague recollection of Beryl telling Naboo that she’d be having words with him if he sent Howard straight back to work when she needed to sleep off the aftereffects of a piece of powerful magic.

She could, if she’d been so inclined, have spent the rest of the day in bed, and while Vince had (admittedly not untruthfully) accused her of being lazy in the past, it wasn’t really that kind of laziness. Besides which, she didn’t trust Vince to run the shop by himself; she might as well have a cup of tea and go check in on him.

Howard had figured out soon after getting her breasts the correct approach to bra-wearing in bed (which was: don’t. With underwires it just wasn’t worth it in the morning), but she’d been too tired the day before to bother with taking off any clothes, and she winced as she pulled the elastic out of where it had attempted to burrow into her ribcage.

It was after she’d put on a fresh bra and was in the process of buttoning up her shirt that it occurred to her… that that was all she needed to do. Trousers and pants, and she’d be perfectly decent to go downstairs; it wouldn’t take longer than two minutes.

She’d known, of course– more than known, she’d been looking forward to it– but the thought was suddenly as shiny and shocking as if it had never crossed her mind before. Just pull on her clothes and go; no tucking or stuffing or checking her angles in the mirror to make sure everything was correctly contained and convincing, or the long years before that of constructing effortful and awkward counterfeits of manliness. She didn’t even have to wear underwear if she didn’t want to (though of course she would; it didn’t seem quite hygienic to go without). The weight of the realisation came crashing down on her– or perhaps lifted off her– and she sat down with a bump at the foot of her bed, and started to laugh. It hiccoughed out of her with the accumulated hysteria of three days of no sleep, and a heady, helpless satisfaction, and she laughed until her cheeks and gut ached.

She was still laughing when Vince poked his head around the lintel, eyeing Howard bemusedly. ‘Your thing went well, then?’

All Howard could do was nod, half dressed and helplessly listing against the bed, still wheezing. Vince continued to hang there in the door, and in the glimpses Howard caught of him through her watering eyes, she pieced together the impression of expression of immense, baffled fondness. Vince ducked his head and ruffled his hair, and slowly Howard got her laughter under control, gulping in deep breaths and wiping her eyes.

‘Yeah, yeah, I’m– I’m good. It went well. Just a bit–’ she waved a hand in vague illustration, and Vince nodded knowingly.

‘S like after an adventure. Or that one long weekend I spent in Ibiza; it all builds up and then drops out, woomph! Leaves you a bit giddy.’

Howard, to whom the thought of a long weekend in Ibiza sounded like a special kind of torture, just nodded. As usual, Vince more or less got the important things, he just… conceptualised them in his own fashion.

He was still standing there in the doorway with that look on his face, and after another moment, this struck Howard as odd. She blinked up at him. ‘What’re you doing here? Why aren’t you down in the shop?’

‘Oh.’ Vince scuffed his heel against the carpet. ‘Naboo said I might as well have the day off as well; said he didn’t trust me to run the shop myself. Imagine that!’

Howard experienced a little glow of satisfaction; Naboo had certainly changed his tune, hadn’t he? And then Vince continued. ‘Said something about looking after you, too; make sure you didn’t do anything stupid. Something about how a hangover from a big magic like that makes you a bit– woo-ooh~’ He wiggled his fingers at his temple, popping one eye in playful grotesquerie. The glow fizzled somewhat.

‘I am not–‘ Howard mimicked Vince’s face, and he snickered.

‘Says the lady having hysterics on the floor in her pants.’

And Howard had to concede that he might have a point.

Later, she locked herself in the bathroom with one of Vince’s little hand mirrors to check out the results of Beryl’s spellwork. She’d done her research, she knew how everything was supposed to look. And indeed, there it all was; mons pubis, two sets of labia, clitoris, vaginal entrance, etc and so on, all present and correct, everything fully transmogrified (transmogrified, she thought, with the mental equivalent of fingerguns; hah, that’s one of mine). The thin skin was sensitive, of course, as she poked around, but not in an inherently sexual way, which she found inexplicably comforting. It was just another part of her body, like her feet or her stomach; it belonged there.

She’d tried hard not to build this particular piece of her transformation up in her head, not to put too much weight on it so she wouldn’t be disappointed when having a vagina didn’t magically solve all her issues, no-matter how much actual magic had been involved in acquiring it. It was a step, not an end, and that was fine. There was no denying, though, that it opened up certain avenues of exploration which hadn’t been there before, and one of those, to be crass, was masturbation.

It wasn’t that Howard hadn’t masturbated before; sometimes one had to. It wasn’t even that it had been unpleasant; she’d never experienced the violent revulsion and dysphoria that some trans people did, at least according to what she’d read online. But it had always felt a bit like a chore, something to be done quickly to get it over with, and she’d always felt a vague and uneasy sense of shame afterwards. Before– before-before, when she hadn’t yet figured out she was trans– she’d just chalked it up to a combination of middle-class British repression and good old fashioned prudery and body shame. When she’d finally admitted it to herself, all of that suddenly made rather more sense.

Certainly she’d never felt the desire to explore, purely for the sake of pleasure and curiosity, to make a wank more than just a means to a necessary end. But when it came about that there was a day when everyone was out of the flat– Naboo and Bollo on clandestine shaman business and Vince off at some music festival with his trendy mates– she rather thought she might.

Now, there was no point doing these things half-heartedly. If she was going to have a sort-of first orgasm, a first New Orgasm, so to speak, she might as well go properly full on. So she tarried for a few moments over her record collection, fingers skipping over familiar sleeves and trying to figure out what the right mood music for masturbation was.

She didn’t want mellow, and visceral and sultry though it undoubtedly was, it would have just been weird having it off to Mingus in the background; she felt vaguely like that would have been sacrilegious somehow. Eventually she settled on The Mahavishnu Orchestra; something a little wild, a little raw, full of electricity and unpredictable syncopation, heavy on the bass to get right under the skin and judder around in there. That felt appropriate.

Part of her felt a little silly, like she was trying to woo herself, like she needed persuasion with jazz and soft touches before she could get herself into bed. She sniffed at that part. ‘It’s not like I wouldn’t be listening to jazz anyway, with Vince out of the house.’ There was no response from the empty room, which Howard was reassured by. One never knew when wall calendars or throw pillows were going to decide they wanted in on goings on in the flat.

She undressed without ceremony, folding her clothes and laying them over Vince’s bed before laying herself out over hers, feet planted and toes wiggling into the bedding. Where to start? She’d never before been faced with the proposition of having to… juice herself up, so to speak, before actually getting down to the business of getting off. It was a bit like having to woo herself, she supposed. Idly, she drummed her fingers up and down her ribcage, arching her back a little to feel the way everything moved together.

Well, she knew she liked it when Vince touched her breasts, so perhaps best to start there, eh? After only a slight, awkward hesitation, she cupped one in her palm, kneading the soft weight of it. She plucked at the nipple. Her brow furrowed slightly. The feeling was less intense than when Vince did it, and he was working through two layers of clothing; that couldn’t be right, could it? But she kept at it, gently pinching and twisting, and after some moments, she did feel something. It wasn’t the sudden sharp jerk of being touched by Vince, but something subtler, a gradual, restless ache, like an invisible string from her nipple down to some point between her hips, curiously nebulous.

Experimentally, she sucked her fingers into her mouth for a moment and then returned them to her nipple. The cool dampness was a shock against the warm afternoon air, and the nebulous feeling contracted, a little pulse of concentrated pleasure.

‘Hah!’ Howard breathed, grinning up at the ceiling. Victory! She’d known it couldn’t be that difficult.

She frowned again when she slid her hand down between her thighs; the skin of her genitals (she really would have to figure out what to call her new bits sooner or later) was sensitive, but it wasn’t any more damp than it had been the first time she’d inspected it, and that didn’t seem right either. Howard had done her research; she was fairly certain natural lubrication was supposed to come into matters at some point. A brief rub against her clitoris proved startling, but the friction made it nearly uncomfortable.

She bit her lip thoughtfully and let her hand slide a bit further, finding the entrance to her vagina and pushing one finger in. It was warm, sort of damp and clutching, the skin smooth in some places and in other curiously ridged, like uneven internal gills. Which was interesting, to be sure, but not exactly arousing. John McLaughlin jammed in the background as she twisted her finger this way and that, looking for– well, she wasn’t sure what exactly, but something. It was almost there, she could feel it, like having an itch on your foot and trying to scratch it through your shoe, not sure exactly what you were aiming for.

She added a second finger, curling them both together, and suddenly there it was, a throb way down deep in her bones that startled a breath out of her: ‘Oh!’ So she did it again, and again, and it was something, it felt good, but it wasn’t enough.

She tumbled over the bed to where she knew Vince kept a little tube of KY Jelly in his nightstand (along with magazines and several tubes of glitter glue, which just seemed like asking for a horrible mixup), snagging the bottle and squeezing a blob out onto her fingers. When she returned her hand to where it had been, the slick made all the difference. This time, the press of fingers over her clit had none of the unpleasant tug of before, just a melting swoop of pleasure that cut right up through her belly.

And from there, everything started to make sense. Some angles felt better than others, and she fiddled around experimentally; circling, tapping, rubbing, giddily gauging the way each touch made new muscles clench, or sweat break out on the backs of her knees. With a kind of determined carelessness, she allowed herself to make little noises when little noises wanted to be made instead of stifling them. When she wrangled her other hand down there as well, twisting two fingers up inside herself again, that in conjunction with the clitoral stimulation nearly made her eyes cross. Howard stumbled a little over co-ordinating the movement of her two hands, like an immensely dirty version of patting her head whilst rubbing her stomach, but managed it eventually, laughing dizzily through her catching breaths.

The music wasn’t just a nice soundtrack, either; she could feel the scream of the electric violin right down in her gut, the skitter-patter of delicately plucked guitar over her skin like fingertips, timed her strokes– long, slow, deep, fastfastfast– to the rhythm. It was– it was fucking amazing, frankly, and as the music crescendoed so did she. At some point it had ceased to be mere curious exploration and she’d got caught up in her own momentum. The orgasm was there now, a tangible goal, building and tightening under her skin, a feeling like being filled, inexorably, and just wanting to burst.

It was like there was some barrier she was straining against, and she wasn’t sure exactly what she was straining with, only that she was. Her breath was locked up in the back of her throat now, her mouth open, and she pushed, clenching down around her fingers, her other fingers on her clit speeding, and then the barrier– dissolved. It felt like waves, a sonic boom wash that rushed up her spine and twisted along her limbs and it was all she could do to keep her hands where they were, because she didn’t want it to stop. It was like the pleasure-pain prickle of feeling returning to frozen limbs, like coming back from the Arctic, only more, and it jerked her hips helplessly up, her head thrashing to the side and her throat raw from the noise she must have been making.

An indeterminate amount of time later, she blinked stickily to find herself half-hanging off the bed, hair all over her face. The tingling was still happening, but more gently, ebbing into the points of her hipbones, and she couldn’t quite catch her breath, and she felt good. Her skin was tacky with sweat and her heartbeat was crowding all the ambient noise out of her ears, and her hands (one had gone flailing off to the side, one lay still cupped over her mound) were sort of slimy, which should have been disgusting, but utterly failed to be so. She provided a pause, just in case, but no shame came sneaking in, no creeping itch to go scrub her hands. She just… felt good.

‘Huh,’ she breathed vaguely. ‘Is that what that’s supposed to feel like.’

And because she could, because no-one else was home (that being the point of this whole exercise, after all), she just flopped there for a little while, listening to her breathing slow down and her heart relax its frantic tattoo. And then, because she was after all a little bit sticky and disgusting, she did go for a quick shower.

She and Vince had been engaged in, well, a physical relationship of some sort, since the night Howard had got her breasts. They’d got champagne-drunk and, giddy with alcohol and pleasure, had snogged on the couch, and since then it had largely consisted of much of the same. They shared Vince’s bed more nights than not, and days would be sporadically interrupted by kissing sessions on the couch, or in the stockroom, or against the refrigerator. It all felt… bizarrely normal, even if Howard’s heart did race when Vince got a bit handsy. A few times, she’d dared return the favour, and his shameless little murmurs of pleasure had made the racing worse, some strange combination of exhilaration and terror.

Vince called it ‘a bit of a kiss and a cuddle’, which made it sound absurdly innocent, Howard thought, like they were characters out of an Enid Blyton novel.

But it had been, somehow, because Howard had never really been able to consider the possibility of wanting more. Oh, she’d considered Vince wanting it, that had been easy enough, had herself wanted Vince in the abstract, but her brain simply… hadn’t believed in the reality of wanting to do things, concretely. It had no reference point. Now, though, suddenly it did. She’d started to let her mind wander when she masturbated, and invariably it wandered to Vince, to his hands on her bosoms and the noises he made into her mouth when they kissed, and all the sudden devilish possibilities those presented. It was somehow both terrifying and beguiling.

So it had been on her mind of late, and especially so when a slow Tuesday afternoon turned into lazy necking on Vince’s bed. It was no more heated than other kisses had been, really, only Howard’s mind kept running her a filthy slideshow of what they could be doing, and she could feel the empty, needful ache between her thighs. Vince’s gently kneading hand on her breast was not nearly enough, but she had no idea how to even begin broaching that topic, and so… she didn’t. Which seemed like a perfectly tenable solution, until one of them shifted, and suddenly, unmistakably, there was Vince’s erection pressed into her hip.

They both stilled. ‘Um,’ said Vince, and pulled back to sit on his heels so Howard could see how flushed he was, cheeks stained a pretty pink, hazy-eyed and bashful. He laughed a little awkwardly, which Howard found stupidly charming. ‘Sorry about that.’

Howard swallowed. ‘No, that’s– did you… wanna?’

She nodded at the bulge in Vince’s skinnies, and he blinked, and then gave her a look like he suspected her of having been sneakily replaced by a pod person. ‘Do you wanna?’

And that was the thing. Howard wanted something, but she wasn’t sure she wanted that just yet. She was fiendishly turned on, but the thought of any amount of sexual touching below the belt gave her an uncomfortable squirm.

‘Um,’ she started, not at all sure how she was going to continue, ‘maybe we could just–‘ Howard gestured vaguely, and then blushed, and then scowled in annoyance when suitable words weren’t forthcoming. She tried again. ‘Just, uh, you know, both… have a wank? Together, I mean! Mutually. But… separately.’

And instead of falling in disappointment, Vince’s expression went slack and dark for a moment, and then he grinned hugely, and very nearly bounced on the mattress. ‘Yeah? Yeah, genius! How d’you wanna–?’

He gestured at the space between them, and Howard blinked in some alarm. Why was he asking her? She’d only just come up with the idea; Vince was the one who knew what he was doing here, not Howard. This was not the kind of situation she was built for off-the-cuff thinking in. But he was just sitting there with his shirt rucked up at the side and that bulge in his jeans, looking at her with (apparently) entirely guileless blue eyes, waiting for her to tell him what she wanted. She wet her lips, mulling it over. She didn’t think she’d be able to manage just… sitting across from Vince and doing it; she’d never be able to meet his eyes.

‘Just… lying next to each other, maybe?’ she tried, and Vince’s grin turned dirty around the edges.

‘Like we were just going to bed?’ he picked up the thought. ‘Only we’d got a bit worked up, yeah, had to have a bit of a cheeky wank under the covers before we could fall asleep. But we both know the other one’s doing it…’ He went a bit glassy-eyed as he spoke, like he’d accidentally stumbled across a fantasy in the middle of his sentence.

Howard harrumphed. ‘I should hope we’d know, sharing a bed. It’d be a bit creepy if we didn’t.’

But Vince just laughed. Part of Howard was baffled by his reaction; Vince was used to getting laid on first dates, wasn’t he? It didn’t make sense that he’d seem so delighted about just the prospect of getting himself off after months drawn out of nothing more than snogging and groping like teenagers. Another part of her, though, a not insignificant part, twisted in pleasure at having made Vince laugh, and a different pleasure, this one with a distinct edge, at the gleeful wanting in his face. She’d done that; it was for her, as much as Vince’s stiffy was. It was a strange thought.

‘We should… get undressed, then,’ Howard offered, when Vince made no further move to chivvy things along. ‘That seems, you know, an important part of proceedings.’

‘Definitely important,’ Vince agreed, half mocking. Howard ignored him.

Wiggling out on her back, she went to shuck her trousers, but her fingers seemed to have turned to jelly, thick and useless as she fumbled at the button.

‘Did you, uh, want some help with that?’

There was mirth in Vince’s voice, but also something else, a trembling undertone of unusual awareness. This whole thing with Vince had so far seemed to alternate between ludicrously easy familiarity, like nothing was different at all, and moments like that, weightless open-air instants like not knowing the moment before impact whether your foot’s going to come down on the next step or not.

Howard jerked her chin up, trying at nonchalance. ‘All right, then.’

But Vince didn’t simply reach over and pop the button for her. Instead, he rolled over and leaned down to press a little kiss to her belly, nuzzling with his flat nose. His chin nudged against her softly when he looked up at her, dark fond eyes under his fringe, his head a mad rock and roll mop bent over her, and Howard felt his gaze in a tingling rush all the way up from her feet.

Vince grinned a little, lip-bitten and soft, and cast his eyes down for a moment, slipping his fingers under the waistband at her hips and sliding slowly in to meet each other under the button, tugging just a little. The fingertips themselves were caught between the fabric of her trousers and pants, but Vince’s knuckles brushed against the skin of her belly, and the ache of arousal sitting heavy in her gut twisted into what felt like a ludicrously complex sailor’s knot.

Howard had the scarily wonderful suspicion that if he’d really wanted to, Vince could have had her spread out on her back and begging for it in five minutes flat. Honestly, she wasn’t sure why he hadn’t. Part of her had half expected him to jump her as soon as the ritual had been performed, but aside from that first grinning remark the day after, he’d not said a thing. Not that she wasn’t appreciative of that, but Vince wasn’t patient. Vince was impulsive and in-the-moment and when he saw a shiny object, he had to have it immediately; it was hard to get much more shiny than brand new genitals.

Even now, when she could see how turned on he was, he’d turned to her for direction and suggestion. The most obvious answer as to why made Howard feel a little dizzy.

The tension gave when Vince finally popped her trouser button, and Howard’s lower back relaxed onto the mattress. She hadn’t even realised it had been arched, hips lifting up into Vince’s touch. The realisation was somehow both embarrassing and inexplicably hot, and she flushed. Vince grinned up at her. His eyes were still dark and his cheeks still glowed pink, but his expression was entirely guileless. None of the sly, dirty seduction that had been there for a moment, just pure pleasure and delight, and Howard felt it in a clutching hitch just under her lungs.

Something must have shown in her face, because Vince’s smile stretched even wider for an instant, and then hitched oddly off over to the side. He gave her a little swat on the hip. ‘C’mon, off with you.’

He hopped off the bed to peel off his own ludicrously tight drainpipes and little-boy pants, while Howard tried to figure out if there was a way to sexily take off your trousers when you were already lying down. The answer, she decided, was no.

And then she and Vince were lying there, absurdly clothed from the waist up, and Howard was ridiculously aware of the cold of air on her thighs, the sound of her own heartbeat. She cleared her throat. ‘We seem to have lost track of the momentum.’

The mattress shook with Vince’s laughter. ‘Well, we just gotta find it again, that’s easy enough.’

She was about to ask how, exactly, when Vince rolled over to suck her earlobe into his mouth, and that answered that question. Her eyes fell shut, and she shuddered a little, exhaling a soft, nasal little noise when Vince’s teeth trailed teasingly over the shell of her ear.

‘You make the hottest fucking noises, you know that?’ Vince murmured. Howard’s skin was already several degrees hotter than normal, but she was pretty sure she could still feel herself blush anyway.

‘Dirty,’ she chided, and Vince’s answering chuckle was, and Howard couldn’t think of a thing to say to that. So she closed her eyes, and against the comforting darkness of the inside of her eyelids, skimmed her hand down over her belly. Vince’s shoulder was pressed against her, and his breath was an uneven breeze against the side of her face.

Howard’s breath caught when she slid her fingers between her thighs, and she felt the pause in Vince’s breathing. ‘Mm?’ he hummed, a wordless question, and Howard swallowed, her hips shifting restlessly as she stroked two fingers between her labia.

‘I’m– I’m really wet, Vince.’

Vince’s sudden sharp inhalation was cool against her skin. ‘Yeah?’


It shouldn’t have been that different from masturbating on her own, but it was; she hadn’t been wet like this until afterwards, the delicate skin hadn’t felt so hot and sensitive, the trembling coil of arousal already there in some indefinable deep place under her pubic bone, like it’d take hardly anything for her to come. And then there was the heat of Vince next to her, the little shudders of his breath prickling the hairs on her neck and the backs of her knees. Howard sucked in a steadying breath, and then let it all out helplessly when she dragged her fingers up to rub a firm little circle against her clit.

Next to her ear, Vince’s breath did a funny wobbling thing. ‘Tell me about it?’

There was a pause, and then, ridiculously, Howard giggled.

‘What?’ Vince sounded slightly hurt, and Howard laughed again, a helpless little hiccough that turned into a whimper at the end because she hadn’t stopped moving her fingers.

‘If you think you’re getting some kind of… pornographic dirty-talking thing here, Sonny Jim, you’re gonna have a while to wait.’

She tried her best to make her voice firm, but it came out altogether too breathily for that to work, and then Vince was laughing too; not his daft, high-pitched cackle, but something softer, down in his chest so Howard could feel the vibrations of it. ‘Fair enough,’ he admitted, and when she looked over at him, he was just… smiling. It was an expression which Howard’s brain told her ought to have been unfamiliar, but which wasn’t, and that was the thing that made it the most strange.

Vince was lazily stroking his cock with one hand, the other rucked up under his shirt, knuckles pressed like miniature mountain ranges against the fabric where he was clearly fiddling with a nipple. His cock was– well, it was a cock, Vince’s cock, no great mystery. On its own, she was sure, it would have been simply absurd, or even ugly; like this, Vince toying with it, the way she could see his touches reflected in little twitches and clenches and sighs of the rest of his body, it made her mouth go dry.

Vince ducked his head a little under her attention, looking for all the world as if he were shy. Howard would have nearly believed it, but for the way he stretched like a basking cat, toes fanning out and lower lip indenting soft and white under his crooked teeth as he twisted his fist. She swallowed, and pushed her fingers into herself hard, curling up with enough force to send her head thudding back into the mattress. She closed her eyes again. Watching Vince was… enticing, in a nearly uncomfortable way. This felt easier.

That went on for a while, the warmth and shifting and sounds of Vince next to her, occasional little sighs or awkward half-giggles, the dirty wet noise of his hand moving. Howard kept her eyes shut tight, fingers circling hard against her clit, dipping into herself to draw out the slipperiness, smearing it up and over the hot flesh, urging herself on. Though she’d fantasised whilst wanking before, it was something entirely different to have actual live-action stimulation going on next to her, and she felt it in occasional, sudden leaps of arousal when Vince made a particular noise or his arm brushed against hers. It was like trying to keep braced on the deck of a ship in a storm, unpredictable and exhilarating.

‘Hey, Howard?’

She was unprepared for the strained, breathy quality of Vince’s voice, and it hit her strung-out nerves like an unexpected lurch out of gravity. The rhythm of her hand faltered even as her lower belly gave a helpless little jerk.

‘Yeah?’ She let her head fall sideways, to see Vince lying in much the same attitude, eyes wide and dark and fringe flopping sideways over his forehead. His lips were obscenely pink; he must have been biting them.

‘Reckon you could manage kissing on top of this? I dunno–‘ he took a breath, ‘dunno if that’s cheating with the whole sneaky bedtime wank thing–‘

‘That was your dirty little fantasy, not mine.’

‘–only kissing feels genius when you’re all worked up like this, like your whole body’s buzzing–‘

Howard kissed him. All his babbling seemed to bunch up against the back of his teeth in a confused jumble of consonants for a moment, and then they all melted into a moan. He kissed back hungrily, panting into her mouth, and it was– well, it was pretty genius. It was hardly even kissing, really, just both of them breathing into each others’ mouths, the tingly backwards-nap rub against her moustache, tongues brushing clumsily and teeth catching on lips, but Howard’s whole body sang with it. It was all wet and warm and soft flicking tongue and, Christy, the vibration of every little noise Vince made, quivering right down her throat to flush her with heat.

Her orgasm came on her quicker than she was expecting, sweeping up from her gut in a shuddering sunburst moment that jerked her helplessly out of the kiss on a violently indrawn breath. Her forehead knocked into Vince’s as she rocked back, and his breath was humid on her cheek when he gasped, ‘Fuck, Howard.’

Floundering around in the shallow end of her orgasm, Howard agreed. ‘Fuck,’ she breathed raggedly, laughing for no reason she could discern as she collapsed back like a heap of noodles. Her head span.

The knocking of Vince’s shoulder against hers sped after a moment, and she twisted to see him jerking himself frantically, face red and creased around an agony of pleasure. It was utterly undignified; it should have been vaguely revolting, maybe, but instead it was just fascinating. The lines that accumulated between Vince’s furrowed brows and screwed-shut eyes, the tense twitch of long thigh muscles, the slack gape of his mouth as he babbled.

‘Ohh, nearly, nearly– fuck, Howard, Bea— a-aah!’

His voice cracked, and his shoulders curled up, and he came all over his hand.

Howard didn’t have it in her to move as they both came down. It was a combination of wanting to bask in the feeling, and simply… not knowing what she ought to do. She supposed other people learned before they were thirty-six the correct way to handle being post-coital and in bed with someone, but all she knew was out of films, and no film she’d ever seen quite applied to this moment, not even the artiest pseudo-softcore Scandinavian ones. Which was appropriate, really, she thought, and found herself smiling at nothing in particular

She nearly didn’t register Vince’s fingers on her wrist until suddenly there was hot, wet suction around her fingers, and a confused noise strangled in her throat. Vince was sucking on her index and middle fingers, eyelashes cast down and expression giving every indication of bliss, and Howard clenched, feeling a skittering aftershock that almost felt like another, very small orgasm of its own.

‘What’re you–? Vince, that’s disgusting!’

His laugh buzzed around her knuckles, and he drew back with a cheeky lick to her fingertips, grinning over at her all wet-lipped. ‘No it’s not, it’s nice! Mm, bit sexy too.’

‘But that’s my–‘ what? She wasn’t actually sure what the right word was. Come didn’t seem right. Juices made her sound like a fruit or a piece of raw meat. Fluids was unbearably clinical. She faltered, and Vince laughed again.

‘That’s sorta the point, Howard.’ He paused, his gaze flicking away. ‘I just… wanted to see what you taste like, is all.’ It should have sounded like something out of porn, but the way Vince said it made it sound like he was admitting something altogether more intimate.

Howard bit her lip. The thought still made her a bit squeamish, but she couldn’t deny that she was curious now, and that tone of Vince’s voice– ‘What does it taste like?’

He laughed again. ‘It’s your pussy, see for yourself.’

Howard frowned vaguely; she still hadn’t managed to settle on any terminology other than the technical terms, but she wasn’t at all sure how she felt about ‘pussy’. It sounded rather juvenile, and not a little pornstar. Still, she was fairly sure now wasn’t the time to have that conversation. So she dipped her fingers down and, after a dubious look, hesitantly licked them. Her nose wrinkled. ‘It’s sour.’

Vince grinned open-mouthed. ‘Good thing it’s not you who’s gonna be–’ he himself off abruptly, looking faintly embarrassed. ‘I mean, you know, maybe. Whenever.’

Howard mightn’t know much about sex, but she was fairly sure she knew what Vince was talking about, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that either. She opted to tuck it away in a mental drawer for later consideration, and turned her attention to the present, rather than the hypothetical future. ‘That was, uh, that was all right for you, then?’

She felt a bit stupid asking, but when Vince’s expression switched from awkward bashfulness to the kind of giddy, sunshiney grin that felt like getting whacked in the head with a cricket bat made of glitter, she couldn’t bring herself to regret it.

‘Yeah! That was hot as fuck. You are hot as fuck,’ he added after a moment, wriggling in to tuck his head against Howard’s shoulder.

Vince had always been cuddly and tactile; it had annoyed Howard before, unable to get rid of the creeping paranoid suspicion that he was doing it just because he knew she didn’t like to be touched. Since starting her transition and experiencing the epiphany that that kind of touch could be not only bearable but actually enjoyable, she’d realised how much Vince had actually been holding back before. It was still revelatory to be able to hook an arm around Vince when he went in for a cuddle and feel it like a hazy afternoon of dust motes and sunbeams somewhere inside her ribcage.

‘Good for you too?’ Vince asked after a moment, not pulling away, just craning up to look at Howard from where he was still pressed against her shoulder. She had to squish her chin down into her neck to get a glimpse of his uncertain eyes, peering up at her. ‘Not too much?’

Absurdly, Howard could feel her ears tingle in a blush, and her moustache twitched. Why she should find that embarrassing when she’d just wanked herself off in front of Vince she had no idea.

‘Yeah,’ she said, and then, ‘I mean no. I mean, yeah it was good, no it wasn’t too much.’

Vince giggled a little, and the crooked enamel of his teeth punctuated the kiss he pressed to her arm where her sleeve ended. ‘Good.’ After a moment, he continued in a softer voice, butting his forehead into the crest of her shoulder. ‘Cos, y’know, that was well brilliant and all, but you don’t– I mean, if you don’t wanna, you know, just ‘cos I’m a randy bastard, you don’t hafta–‘

Howard, whose blush had perked up with interest and spread from her ears down across her cheeks, shut him up with a hand firmly clamped across his mouth.

‘Mmnph,’ Vince said

‘It was– different,’ Howard settled on after a moment. ‘And you don’t need to worry about me… succumbing to peer pressure or whatever; I’m not fifteen.’

Vince’s mouth twitched under her hand, but he looked relieved. Rather more relieved, Howard suspected, at not having to have that particular conversation. Frankly, she couldn’t blame him. Taking her hand off his face, she gave his hair a faintly chiding ruffle. He wrinkled his nose, but didn’t object, just exhaled a little sigh and snuggled closer. His cock, soft now, flopped against her hip with the movement, and Howard gave it a sideways glance that was half obscured by her own cheekbone. It was shinily wet with semen, as was Vince’s stomach where his shirt had ridden up.

‘You’re not falling asleep like this,’ she said sternly. Or as sternly as was possible under the circumstances.

‘M’not!’ Vince protested, but he didn’t move.

‘It’s the middle of the afternoon; you can’t just… decide to go to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. Besides, you’re all messy.’

‘Just a little sleepie, c’mon. It’s well continental; you’re the one who’s s’posed to be Spanish, aren’t you?’

Truthfully, Howard wasn’t tired, but she did feel warm and floaty and content enough that it didn’t seem such a bad thing to lie there with Vince cuddled up to her until his breathing evened out into occasional, snuffling little snores. He smelled warm, chemical sweet from hair product and spicy from cologne and sort of musky from something Howard supposed must be sex, and it was… nice. More than nice, really. A swelling ache bloomed just under her sternum as she looked down at him, face slack and eyeliner smudged into the creases of his eyelids, and that was strange as well, except it wasn’t. To look at Vince and feel that– it was a familiar feeling, long known, creased and folded and frayed around the edges. Of course she loved Vince; there was nothing new or shocking about that. Sometimes that seemed terrifying in its enormity, and sometimes it was a peculiar comfort. Just now, she mostly felt baffled, and lucky, and warm.

She nosed down into his hair for a while, absently enjoying the ability to do so without him preening and fussing, and only shifted away when her arm started to fall asleep. Vince whined a sleepy, complaining mutter when she extracted her arm from under his head and slipped off the bed, and Howard huffed a little breath through her nostrils. ‘Oh, shoosh, you. Like a bloody koala.’

Vince, still mostly unconscious, gave no indication that he’d heard, and Howard went to go clean herself up.

She felt, as she briskly rubbed herself down under the shower, like perhaps she ought to feel… changed, somehow. Sex was supposed to change a person. But then, she’d been going through a lot of changes lately, so perhaps this one had felt like it could skip out on the party without being missed. Mostly she just felt loose and pleased and satisfied. Satisfaction was becoming a whole lot more common these days, and Howard was learning to actually trust the feeling.

Of course, the odds were decent that she’d have a freakout about it at some point, but she accepted that with a sort of shrugging inevitability. It almost felt like a luxury, knowing that yes, she might have a moment of panic, but that it would pass sooner rather than later; the satisfaction sat underneath the anxiety now.

Vince was still sprawled out over the bed by the time she’d got herself cleaned up and dressed, snoring faintly with his mouth open. Howard’s mouth twitched, and she leaned down to give him a few good shakes. ‘Hey, up with you, Napping Nancy.’

Vince blinked as he came properly awake, peering down at himself. His unconscious shifting about had pushed his shirt all the way up under his armpits like the world’s skimpiest crop-top; he looked like he half expected one of those navel jewels to complete the look. ‘I’m all naked!’ He grinned up at Howard, shoving the wild wings of his crumpled fringe out of his eyes. ‘You been pervin’ on me in my sleep?’

‘You were the one who couldn’t be bothered getting properly dressed like a decent person before taking your little sleepie.’

‘Bit late to start talking about decency,’ Vince snickered, and then he wrinkled his nose, poking at the dried mess on his stomach. ‘Probably shoulda cleaned myself up a bit first, huh? Feels like bein’ fifteen again!’ Howard tutted at him, and Vince snorted. ‘G’on, there’s no way you’re still all uptight after that.’

‘Maybe I’m not uptight,’ Howard said loftily, ‘maybe you’re just a lazy little monkey. You fancy takeaway tonight?’

Vince stretched and yawned. ‘Mm, yeah, that’d be gorgeous.’

‘Well, it’s your turn to call; so you can get yourself cleaned up and then order us dinner.’

‘Howaaaard,’ Vince protested, and for a moment he sounded exactly like he had back at the zoo, all of twenty years old and whinging about having to shovel ape dung or stay up for night watch, and Howard was suddenly so overcome with fondness that she could do nothing but burst out laughing. Vince blinked, looking pleased but confused.

‘You–‘ Howard shook her head, and then bent down to smack a kiss on Vince’s unresisting mouth. ‘You are something, little man.’

Vince ordered them dinner, and smiled an odd, crooked little smile around every mouthful. Howard mostly succeeded in ignoring it, otherwise she’d choke around her couscous, which Vince laughed at her for, and then proceeded to pull ridiculous faces to see if he could make her do it again. By the time they were binning their cartons and cheap tin tureens, the feeling of satisfaction was still there, and it remained, more or less, as she and Vince half-dozed on the sofa to the dulcet tones of David Attenborough educating them about cuttlefish.

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