“Are you …” He paused, swallowed hard, and worked to rephrase his thoughts. “… teasing me-ow?”
So much fur that.
She peered up at him with a small smile on her face. “I thought it would help, actually.”
“You gato be kitten me. Fur-cking hell, Diana!”
She reached over and gently squeezed his leg, just above the knee. “Hear me out. Maybe if you had constant exposure to a cat, you’d become desensitized and your little tic would start to fade. I’m sure you’ve noticed the longer you go between … episodes, the more pronounced the tic is when it happens.”
“So mew don’t believe me ameowt the curse?”
With that, she broke eye contact and glanced down at where her hand still rested on his thigh. “Kids can have very active fantasy lives …”
Even though he, at times, questioned the fur-acity of his own meow-meries, her ad-hiss-ion stung a bit. Maybe some-fur-ing had happened at the cat house that embarrassed him, that he had just fur-gotten, and that re-purr-essed memory was why he lapsed into purr-uns whenever he thought ameowt them.
Jesus. Maybe she had a purr-oint. It had been, what, two mew-onths since the last time? This was ridic-purr-lous.
And that last one was just bad.
“You’ve said before that cats soothe your nerves,” she continued. “It’d be nice to have a warm bundle of fur in your lap while you’re struggling with your homework.”
“Maybe I’d rather have a warm bundle of mew in my lap,” he countered, tugging her arm gently until she settled exactly where he wanted purr. It was still a-mice-ing that she knew of his hiss-ue and wasn’t annoyed by it. She eagerly brought her lips to his, purr-essing her – fuck it, puns were already in full fur-ce – clothed pussy against his cock. His hands settled on her hips as he kissed purr neck.
“What is it ameowt the puns anyway?”
Diana paws-ed in her removal of his shirt, sat back on his knees. She brushed hiss hair out of his eyes and kissed his fur-head.
“You scared me when I met you the first time.”
His heart sunk. He had wanted to believe the look on her face was one of embarrassment, and maybe it had evolved into that, but it had definitely started as fur-ight.
“I understand, now.” She touched his face with a fur-milar caress. “After we built a life together, after all that time, having to come here and act like you didn’t know me … god, Sigma, it must have been horrible.”
“We’re here meow.” As much as he was feline impatient to have her naked, it was clearly im-purr-tent to her that she finish this.
“You’re so tall and strong, and you were so angry back in Dcom. Even … even after everything … you were a little intimidating.”
“You were still scared of me-ow? Fucking hell, these puns –”
She silenced him with a kiss. “Not scared, no. You had lived a lifetime, been to the Moon, built robots, done all these fantastic things. I think I started to build you up as a larger-than-life figure in my head, and I was just … this nurse. With baggage. Then Eric asked if the van had a first aid kit and Phi started teasing you, and you told me your story. You were embarrassed, but I saw how your expression softened when you talked about the cats and how much you loved them. For all my inherited memories, this was firsthand experience seeing that kind, soft, sensitive part of you. It reminded me that you … you were human. I know that sounds silly. But if I hadn’t already been in love with you, that would have sealed my fate.”
With that, he pulled her claws-er, tucking her head under his chin, stroking purr back. “I love mew.”
“So … you’ll consider it?”
He fur-owned. “Diana … this couldn’t be an exper-purr-ment. If we bring a cat into this home, I couldn’t just get rid of him or her if mew can’t deal with the cat-stant puns.”
She sat up, her face seri-hiss. “Of course not! They would be part of the family. I truly believe that your tic can be diminished, but even if it isn’t … you’re adora-paw-l when you make these puns. It’s not something that would drive me away.”
Still skeptical, he raised an eyebrow at her. But fur-uck, he was scr-mewed.
The tic, thankfurry, did not extend to his typing, so he was able to work on his paper with little Schrödinger in his lap and not worry that the puns would end up there. The adorable tabby had been hiding in a corner when they had come to visit; the moment she saw Sigma, though, she came dashing over. It was clear that he had been adopted.
It took some e-fur-ort to get Diana out of there. If she had her way, they would have taken home every cat in the place. One was enough. For now, anyway.
Diana was smiling at him from her seat on the couch. Smirking, actually, which he didn’t think he had ever seen her do.
“And you thought it was a bad idea.”
“I didn’t say it was a bad idea. I was just … dubious of the scientific rationale behind your argument, and … somewhat concerned that if our lives became cat-stant cat puns, you … what?”
She had her head cocked to the side, her eyebrows knit together. “Oh. You just … you almost made it through that entire sentence without any slips. When we first brought her home, it was practically every other word. I think it’s working.”
“Perhaps,” he said in response, trying to enunciate the word clearly. It seemed she might have a point; that word had always been a purr-oblem.
And there it went again.
Still, his worry that Diana wouldn’t be able to stand his tic twenty-four hours a day hung in the back of his mind; if this habituation experiment really was helping to reduce the out-purr-sts, it could only be a good thing.
They did not have a plate for Schrödinger at the kitchen table, only because Diana objected, but Sigma felt he was close to persuading her. Schrödinger didn’t seem to actually mind having her dish on the floor, but Sigma had gotten in the habit of looking forlornly at her and then back up at his wife.
“Abraham Lincoln once had his cats eat at the table during a formal White House dinner,” he said, as casually as he could.
She fur-owned at him, but her eyes were twinkling. When Diana realized they needed more salad dressing and headed into the kitchen, he leaned down and whispered conspiratorially, “I think we’re making purr-ogress.”
He had honestly thought she would balk at the idea of throwing a birthday party for Schrödinger. Diana had gotten used to toys scattered in the living room. She didn’t complain that she had to shuffle down the hallway if she had to use the bathroom at 3am, to avoid stepping on Schrödinger in case the cat was napping on the floor. Although he had promised her that he would take care of the litter box, she insisted that they share responsibility. (At least, until the day they decided to start trying for a little brother or sister for Phi.)
Diana had even helped him build the playhouse in the backyard, patiently hanging the balls of yarn before checking the perimeter fence to make sure there were no gaps or holes that little Schrödinger escape through. Even so, an actual birthday party for a cat seemed like it might be a step too far for her.
But there was his beautiful wife, snapping pictures of their cat, who was sitting in front of her plate at the table, making no effort to shake off the tiny birthday hat he placed on her head. There was an unlit candle stuck into her favorite pate, and although she pricked up her ears when the two of them began to sing Happy Birthday, she remained well-behaved until Sigma removed the candle and told Schrödinger to dig in.
He hadn’t felt this happy in a long time.
Schrödinger was napping in her bed as Sigma tiptoed out of the study, walking normally through the hallway and up the stairs to their bedroom. Diana was sitting at her vanity, brushing her hair, apparently lost in thought. She had a small almost-frown on her face.
He knew he hadn’t forgotten an anniversary. At least … not one they would actually want to celebrate.
She blinked, her head jerking slightly, as if she’d been woken up out of a light sleep. “Hmm? Yeah. Are you okay?”
He tried to focus on the – very alive – woman in front of him, rather than the memories of visiting her grave. He crossed the room to stand behind her, bending over to press a kiss to the top of her head.
“I’m fine. You just seemed sad.”
“Oh, no. Not sad.”
Something was ... maybe not wrong, exactly. But Phi was fine. Akane had good leads on the bastard they were looking for. And Diana just had two patients move out of the ICU. He felt her hand on his and met her gaze in the mirror.
“You haven’t made a cat pun in over a week,” she said, almost sheepishly.
Had it been a week? There was that slip when they were shopping for dry food … that had been last Thursday. Eight days.
“That’s … good, right?” He couldn’t keep the confusion out of his voice.
“Yeah. I … I just … miss it, a little. I didn’t think it would go away entirely.”
Sigma felt a smirk start to form on his face. “Do you have a cat pun kink?”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” she said, as her cheeks began to turn pink. “But it was cute.”
His smirk only grew as he pulled her to her feet and slid the thin straps of her nightgown off her shoulders. The silky red fabric fell to the floor, revealing beautiful, creamy skin.
“If I had known that, I would have …” Suddenly his mind went blank. Ever since he was a child, whenever his tic kicked in, the puns and misspoken words fell from his mouth easily. But now that he was trying to consciously come up with one …
“You would have what?” Diana was teasing him, but now he was determined. How hard could it be to come up with one measly cat pun? Cats had … ears. And –
“Uh, tail you how much I love you?”
Okay, that wasn’t horrible, but was that really the best he could do?
“Are you struggling? Having purr-oblems?” A rare smirk graced her face.
“This whole thing was your idea, you know,” he grumbled as he guided her to the bed and covered her body with his. Her hands went to the hem of his shirt, but before she could pull it off, he felt the familiar sting of claws on his back.
As she had a million times before, the little cat paid him no mind and climbed up to his shoulders, nuzzling his ear. At least she had done it before Diana got his shirt off.
“She does love climbing Sigma meow-tain, doesn’t she?”
With a half-groan, half-laugh, he buried his face in her shoulder, giving Schrödinger the opportunity to hop down onto the bed.
Instead, she settled in on his upper back, purring loudly, while his wife giggled underneath him.
He was a damn lucky man.