written and illustrated by Iron Eater
“Are you seriously one of those people who writes ‘human’ with a capital H? That’s pretty fucked up, man, especially for an academic paper.”
Zofzerit frowned. “Of course I do that,” he said. “It’s a proper noun.”
“It’s not, though,” said Seyyed. He rapped a knuckle against the sheaf of papers he held. “You’re not writing out scientific names, here, you’re just talking about regular Joes and Josephines on the street, except you’re giving species more weight than literally anything else. I get that you’re writing from an outsider’s perspective on humanity, here, and you can’t share an experience you haven’t lived, but come on, Zof, this sucks. It makes everything I’m looking at parse like a bargain fantasy novel. Bargain fantasy novels do not great academia make. You can’t expect me to take your work seriously if I have to slog through this shit to get to the meat of it.”
Zofzerit was a great guy, really he was, but he was prone to writing scripts in his head, and whenever the other people in those scripts inevitably got their lines wrong it never failed to fluster him. Getting grilled over his crimes of capitalization was proving to be one such deviation. He fluffed out his feathers with a mighty harrumph. “You’re just being pedantic,” he said.
“Yeah? How so?”
“I am clearly speaking about your species as a culture, which you’d have picked up on if you bothered to read longer than a paragraph or two,” said Zofzerit, absently twirling the weird little fingers jutting from his primary wing joint. Seyyed had yet to fully learn which gestures Zofzerit only made with his wing-digits and which ones were the domain of his far more articulated talons. Zofzerit’s clothes—Seyyed wasn’t sure how to better describe them, outside of vague terms like “robes” or “drapes”—were cut to allow for him to easily gesticulate and fluff out and all manner of other body language, though even if the rest of him had been plucked bald the little scruff of feathers that made up his beard would’ve been expressive enough on its own. Harpy anatomy was a lot.
Not that Seyyed was going to let himself be distracted by a houseguest’s physical makeup when there were bigger issues to discuss. “Since when was humanity homogeneous? I don’t know what it’s like on your side of the corridor, but over here we’re diverse as fuck.”
“I’m sure you are, but you’re ignoring how there’s a general consistency to your physical shapes. Just how much societal dissonance can you get when everyone has two arms, two legs, a head, and nothing else? You don’t have to worry about accommodating anyone who flies or breathes fire or anything. That’s so much common ground.”
“It really isn’t.”
“Yeah? How so?” said Zofzerit in an eerie mimicry of Seyyed’s own voice, albeit filtered through a layer of petty bullshit.
Seyyed pressed his lips together. “My family’s originally from Kurdistan,” he said, his tone forced into something flat and even. “You know what language my grandmother speaks? German. You know why? Because most of us don’t live in fucking Kurdistan anymore.” He paused to let his words sink in a little. Zofzerit was capable of nuance, Seyyed was sure of it, and it didn’t feel great to direct so much venom at somebody he actually liked having around. How should a bird-man from another dimension be expected to know about the Kurdish diaspora? Now that he’d made his point there was no reason not to ease off a bit. “When I tell you human beings are more complex than you give us credit for, no matter how similar our silhouettes look, how about you trust me on it?”
“Okay, okay. Sorry, Seyyed. I guess I have more research to do on that part than I realized.” Zofzerit was clearly sulking, but he was equally clearly sincere in his apology. That counted for a lot. Yelling at his friends wasn’t something Seyyed did very often, much less something he enjoyed, and Zofzerit was a genuinely pleasant person to be around when he wasn’t making misguided sweeping generalizations. There was a reason they kept inviting one another to visit! A reasonable person wasn’t going to trek all the way through an interdimensional passageway just to spend time with someone they thought was an asshole; proper friends called one another out on their faux pas, and they also trusted one another to actually improve afterwards. Seyyed had made his share of past mistakes, himself. Culture shock was a hell of a thing when your not-quite-neighbor was literally from another world.
Discovering a magical creature in his house had been the surprise of Seyyed’s life the first time it happened. The corridor—there wasn’t much reason to call it anything fancier—connected a chamber in Zofzerit’s tower (not as impressive as it sounded, since harpies handled verticality better than their strictly terrestrial neighbors) to the closet in Seyyed’s sewing room. The initial opening of the portal had nearly cost Seyyed entire months’ worth of cosplay work. After a lot of confusion he’d managed to save his costuming without hitting his surprise visitor with a chair, and upon learning that, for reasons Seyyed didn’t care to interrogate, Zofzerit could speak and understand English, things had simply evolved from there.
Zofzerit was some sort of author on his side of the corridor. Seyyed had never gotten a straight answer out of him about what he actually wrote outside of the (generally non-fiction) things Zofzerit showed to him, which probably meant there were a lot of work-for-hire gigs under that birdy belt. Whatever it was he did, it kept food on the table and lights on in the house, so Seyyed wasn’t about to go turning his nose up at the theoretical listicles Zofzerit may or may not have churned out during his workdays. Not everyone had the luxury of supporting their convention-going habit with a cushy veterinary tech position. Seyyed was more than happy to provide free entertainment for a writer trying not to go feral in the comfort of his own home.
Not that Seyyed’s motivations were perfectly platonic.
He’d tried to not get too weird about it. He’d definitely tried not to be obvious about it. Zofzerit was about the size of a duffel bag, what with being little more than a torso, a head, and a goony-bird neck connecting the two. When he visited, he had to stand on counters or sit on chair-backs to keep himself roughly around eye level. He was huge for a bird but small for a person; swapping out his talons for proportional human legs would’ve still left him on the short and compact side. One could uncharitably say it was like getting the hots for a Christmas goose. Well, maybe a Christmas pheasant; Zofzerit’s tail was certainly fancy enough for a more dignified comparison. Whatever the fowl in question, Seyyed moved bigger beasts around any given day at the animal hospital.
But Zofzerit was so charming, and his plumage was so nice. The feathers he had in place of head hair fell over his eyes in such a way that he always had a bit of an aw-shucks air to him, and the way he pulled them back into a styled ponytail was the kind of effortless cool Seyyed had never quite managed to pull off with a wig. All his different browns and blacks and occasional dapples of cream combined into a handsome package. The big amber eagle eyes weren’t that hard to get used to, either. He kept himself neat and tidy—not a guarantee with birds, in Seyyed’s experience with other people’s parrots—with rarely a stitch out of place. As near as Seyyed could tell, Zofzerit even bothered to moisturize. And then there was the way he got so excited about getting to learn things about Seyyed’s world that simply weren’t an option on the other side of the corridor. Ever since he was a kid Seyyed had been fascinated by guys who managed to be deep into nerd shit without letting themselves succumb to slovenly habits. In the face of a bookish monster-man who wore a different cologne every time they met? He was helpless.
He’d save thinking about what it’d be like to run his hands through Zofzerit’s feathers (soft, maybe?) for another day. For now he needed to make sure he wasn’t letting his friend go astray; over the course of Seyyed’s reverie Zofzerit had produced his world’s second most popular brand of smartphone and was, presumably, searching for more ways to better understand lower-case-H humanity. The other side of the corridor manufactured little rubber claw cushions to keep harpies from destroying their devices. People were just so damn clever wherever you went.
“Hey, Zof?” said Seyyed. Zofzerit looked up from his phone with puzzled interest, prompting Seyyed to thump the pages with a much less irritable knuckle than before. “You deserve the chance to edit this a little more before I can give you an honest opinion on it. How about we spend the rest of your visit doing something else?”
“Works for me. We can start by going to the park to get some fresh air.”
That sounded like a good idea. Zofzerit was always polite about it but Seyyed’s place was not made for someone him-sized to comfortably fly around, and the poor guy had to be getting a cramp given how little space there was for him to actually stretch his wings. Both sides of the corridor had their share of public parks, and since being outdoors for an hour of two didn’t have any anatomical requirements, Seyyed and Zofzerit usually spent at least a little of their visiting time getting out of the house to stretch. It wasn’t like the existence of corridors was a closely-guarded secret or anything. If the neighbors saw him out jogging with a harpy buddy circling overhead, it wasn’t too different from going out on the town with anyone else with mobility concerns. Zofzerit’s needs just happened to happen a lot higher up than most humans’.
“I’m definitely due a little more sunshine in my life,” said Seyyed. “This has been the first nice day in ages.” He stretched; it being one of his days off, he was already dressed in clothing comfortable enough for some light exercise. “Any plans for after that?”
“Do you have more episodes of that show we watched last time?”
Seyyed perked up. The easiest way to his heart was through his anime habit. “Do I!”
Talking with someone who preferred to remain in flight was trivial when phones were involved. The hardest part had been finding a mic that wouldn’t get blown out by higher-altitude winds; Zofzerit’s side thankfully sold those at the local Nest Buy (Seyyed would never admit he thought of extraplanar businesses almost exclusively in terms of bird puns instead of their actual names), so Seyyed had gifted him the money for one as a thank-you present once they verified they liked spending time together. It felt like a much better solution than a motorized perch. Sure, Zofzerit had offered to ride one to keep more or less at Seyyed’s height, but Seyyed already went jogging with a fully-stocked fanny pack and was willing to talk in public about his emotional investments in cartoon characters. Keeping pace with a glorified Segway was where he drew the line. A man could only be so outwardly dorky at a time without needing to go right back inside.
Most of their walk/flight was taken up by discussing the myriad different series they’d been following—the other side of the corridor had its own anime, of course, and it was unhinged in a completely different way than the stuff Seyyed grew up on—right up until Seyyed spotted a young kid and a parent or guardian of some sort hunting frantically through the trees lining the park path. He knew that look: someone was missing, and going by the leash held in the parental’s hand, that someone was a pet. He slowed down and waved to the older of the two.
“Everything okay?” he asked.
She gave him a strained smile. “We were getting our dog’s leash back on after letting her run in the dog park, but something scared her. I’ve never seen her jump a fence that high before.”
“Poor pup,” said Seyyed, nodding in sympathy. “I can help look, if you like.”
“Please, it’d mean the world to me and LaTonya.”
Now he had a name for the kid, at least, plus permission to stick his nose into someone else’s business. “What’s her name? What’s she look like?”
“Her name’s Rosie, bull terrier and akita mix, maybe some other stuff, too. Brindle with white markings. She’s our little rescue meatball.” The woman pulled out her phone and showed him some photos. Now there was a shelter mutt if he’d ever seen one; it warmed his heart to see how happy and healthy Rosie looked in them. “I still don’t know why she ran off. Usually she’s so good in public.”
Seyyed nodded and tapped his earpiece, the power light on the side still conspicuously lit. “I’ve got some eyes in the sky that might help us out while we scour the ground,” he said.
“You have a drone out here?”
“Not quite.” He flicked off the mute switch and raised his voice a bit to account for the wind. “Hey, Zof, mind coming down for a sec? We’ve got a situation.”
LaTonya was thrilled to see a harpy up close and personal once she was assured Zofzerit wasn’t going to carry her away to the Wicked Witch of the West. He and Seyyed spoke with LaTonya’s guardian—one Aunt Quasia, it turned out, who watched the kid during the hours between school letting out and her mom getting back from work—about where they’d last seen Rosie before splitting up. Seyyed stayed behind to get a little more information: how good was Rosie with strangers? Did she bark or bite much? Did she let people touch her? Any allergies or injuries? Did she like treats? Seyyed liked to think of himself as too cool for people who didn’t share his specific interests, and that facade dissolved instantly the minute animals got involved.
Zofzerit’s keen eyes spied Rosie after only a few minutes of soaring. The poor pooch had gotten into a storm drain, and while Quasia had assured Seyyed that Rosie was very gentle, he still approached her with all the care of a bomb squad specialist. She’d scraped herself pretty badly tumbling into the drain, and anyone else would’ve been well-served to call a vet. Seyyed, however, was frequently one of the guys his hospital dispatched when someone called in with a pet emergency, and his unfashionable fanny pack was kept stocked with creature-friendly first aid supplies. He was able to get Rosie out safely with only a little growling from her and plenty of organic dog biscuits from him. Zofzerit kept at altitude until Seyyed had tended Rosie’s injuries and carried her to Quasia’s car, at which point he landed on the trunk. If he hadn’t still been in his claw caps that paint job would’ve been toast.
“Thank you both,” said Quasia as LaTonya cuddled with Rosie in the back seat. “You two make a habit of this?”
“We were just in the right place at the right time,” said Seyyed.
“I’m from out of town,” added Zofzerit, as though he couldn’t trust human eyes to tell a carryon-sized bird-man from one of their usual neighbors.
“Well, I’m just glad my sister isn’t going to kill me for losing her dog and freaking out her kid. We’ll get to the vet’s for a checkup to make sure there’s nothing else going on once they’ve both had some time to calm down.” Quasia sized Seyyed up. “You mind if I give you my number?”
That would’ve been awkward if Seyyed had been out on his own. With Zofzerit right there he was briefly convinced he was going to die of embarrassment, which was a weird emotion to have when he didn’t even know if Zofzerit was into humans, much less male humans, but since when had emotion ever deigned to be reasonable? Seyyed was, thankfully, used to being diplomatic under pressure, be it dealing with people getting in his personal space at cons or pet owners who had no business taking care of an animal. “Sure, let me know how Rosie’s doing,” he said as they swapped contact information. “Can you send me a picture of her later? My last boyfriend got me in the habit of collecting pet pics from new people I meet.” Seyyed had dumped said boyfriend a few weeks after meeting Zofzerit, which was purely coincidental timing, but he’d found that casually dropping the bee-eff word worked wonders for making friends without leaving room for unrealistic expectations.
“Sure thing,” said Quasia, and the little blue, pink, and purple pin on her jacket told Seyyed she’d likely done this dance a few times herself. Sorry, fellow bisexual, thought Seyyed to himself, I am way too goo-goo eyed for my feathered friend to bother starting anything right now.
They chatted a bit longer until LaTonya declared she was so bored that she was going to turn into a turtle and crawl away, which saw Zofzerit returning to the air and Seyyed giving Quasia a friendly knuckle-bump before she started her car and headed off vetwards. Seyyed returned to the walking trail before calling up Zofzerit again so they could resume their debate about the merits of different warrior-princesses.
“That woman seemed nice,” said Zofzerit as he glided between thermals. “The one with the dog and the niece, I mean.”
Seyyed chuckled. “I knew which one you meant.”
“Are you going to call her later? You keep whining about how hard it is to get a date in this town.”
Shit, he had beefed about that to Zofzerit before, hadn’t he? Zofzerit himself hadn’t mentioned any of his relationships, past or present, and when Seyyed had asked if he was into anyone all he’d done was shrug good-naturedly and offer a half-smile. Neither of them had brought it up again.
It wasn’t the time to be perfectly honest with Zofzerit, but Seyyed could be a lot more open with him than with Quasia herself. “I don’t think I’m in the right place to date anybody. I’ve been putting in long hours at work and on my costume construction lately, and you know I’ve got my gym routine, and sometimes it feels like the only time I have to relax is when we’re hanging out. I’d rather not lose any of those to make room for a partner, too.”
“You could always keep it casual.”
“Dude, I am so bad at keeping things casual. No matter what I’ve tried I end up spreading myself too thin and feeling like roadkill in the end.” He jogged around another runner, exchanging nods as they passed. “It’d be rude making that nice lady balance her limited schedule around our corridor-crossings.”
“Not being able to make time for me is a dealbreaker? I didn’t know you cared,” teased Zofzerit. Seyyed was glad there was plenty of open air between them or his expression would have betrayed him instantly. “Let me get some aerobatics in and we can get back to that block of regularly scheduled hang-out time, yeah? Meet you at the playground in a few.”
When Zofzerit said he was going to be aerobatic he meant it. He flew high into the air before diving and spiraling; even with the buffers on his mic it was almost impossible to hear him in the heat of his stunt flying. Did harpies get the zoomies? If harpies in general didn’t, maybe Zofzerit did? Seyyed was impressed that none of that fancy outfit came off in the process. Now there was some craftsmanship for you! Half the time it felt like Seyyed’s own cosplays only survived a photo shoot by the skin of his teeth, and it wasn’t like he didn’t want to try more involved poses for obliging camera-wranglers. Stitches that stayed together even during the fiercest part of a dive would be perfect for upping the longevity of his costuming. Maybe Zofzerit could check out some books on harpy-proof sewing from an other-side library for him.
When Zofzerit finally flew down to perch on the jungle gym it was with a tremendous stretch of wings and spread of his tail before seating himself with a grip that would’ve destroyed Seyyed’s furniture if Zofzerit ever used it inside. Seyyed kicked himself internally. He should’ve asked sooner if Zofzerit felt cooped up during all the time they spent indoors! It hadn’t come up because of course it hadn’t, both of them being too polite to mention ignorably minor inconveniences until it was no longer possible to ignore them, but hadn’t he just been thinking about how poorly-suited for a harpy his own house was? At least Zofzerit looked happy. Flaring out his feathers like that had to feel great after a good flight. Seyyed did some light lunges and stretching while they argued over where they thought a particular show’s plot was going. If you didn’t think too hard about the two-inch talons it was just like bickering with any other fan.
Having arrived at a mutual agreement about one of many hot-blooded hero types, the pair of them took their return trip at a more leisurely pace. Zofzerit occasionally twirled overhead as he soared over Seyyed. Maybe next week Seyyed would take a little field trip down to one of the local scrap yards and look into making some harpy-friendly furniture to surprise Zofzerit the next time he visited. That was the kind of thing a good friend would do, and not just because he had a crush on his out-of-town associate. So what if it was, anyway? He liked Zofzerit, liked him enough that their scheduled hangouts were one of the few things he refused to budge on when it came to juggling shifts, and if he could make someone feel more at ease in his house during some of the precious few moments he could spare for entertaining, so much the better. Seyyed made cat trees for the animal hospital (and, more crucially, the shelter with which it was partnered) all the time. So long as he made sure to account for Zofzerit’s vice-like grip strength, it no doubt used a lot of the same techniques. It’d give him a new creative thing to do with his time until con season picked up again. He’d just have to reorganize one of a dozen other things in his life to make room for it without burning himself out, no biggie….
Maybe he’d just ask if the other side had Ikea.
Seyyed held the door open for Zofzerit when they made it back to the front door. As graceful as he could be in the air Zofzerit was not built for the ground; he could choose between hopping and a drunken-looking waddle, neither of which were high on the dignity scale, but until Seyyed figured out a skylight entrance the indignity was necessary to get everyone back in the house. Zofzerit flapped and flopped his way to his preferred seat on a leather sheet thrown over the back of the couch. He combed his plumage back in place with his wing-digits as Seyyed fetched them both glasses of iced tea. Having family in Germany had ended up meaning family in Texas, too, and while Seyyed considered himself about as Dixie-fried as a bowl of hummus, as the years went by he’d had to admit there was a lot to like about his relatives’ take on tea. Zofzerit had warmed to the stuff even faster. It was nice having something in the fridge Seyyed could rely on being a winner.
With two glasses of tea on the side console and a big bowl of pretzel rods in easy talon-grabbing range (the big ones were easier for Zofzerit to pick up, Seyyed had found), Seyyed powered up his TV, logged into his primary streaming account, and swore a particularly potent oath when the mandatory update prompt cut him off before he could so much as check what fresh hell the algorithm thought he’d like that day.
“Sorry, man,” he said, hurriedly. He usually didn’t curse around company. His outburst earlier in the day had already been pushing things, and yet here he was, his language getting bluer by the minute. “I’ve been putting off this stupid update as long as I could, but I guess Big Anime has had enough of me.”
Zofzerit crunched on a pretzel. His wings were still tucked up against his body so he clearly wasn’t too upset. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s what, a few minutes at most? I’m not going to die of boredom if you don’t jingle a bell at me every few seconds. Very common misconception. We’ve evolved past that point.”
“We’ll have to make more small talk, oh no,” said Seyyed with a smile. What would be a good subject that they hadn’t already brought up during their time outdoors? Something a bit more personal than the sort of thing Seyyed was comfortable talking about in public, maybe, but nothing too intimate. Zofzerit was a guest. Watching anime with a friend was already a minefield of potential weird horniness, and the last thing Seyyed wanted was to give Zofzerit a reason to head home early, especially after the awkwardness at the park. Maybe something about his routine would be appropriate? He was downright dapper for an academic man-bird, so paying attention to how he groomed himself would probably be the right kind of flattering. Seyyed was certainly delighted when anyone ever asked about his gym routine or how he did his hair. It felt good to have other people notice he wanted to look good.
Seyyed closed his eyes and breathed in through his nose. Yes, he could recognize some of the notes in Zofzerit’s cologne if he thought about it a little. “Are you big on vanilla?” he asked.
The crunching stopped. “Beg pardon?”
“The scents you wear. A lot of them have it as an undertone, at the least, and I’m amazed the stuff you’ve got on today didn’t blow off completely after all that flying. It’s nice.”
“So you did notice!”
He was not going to read too much into that. “Yeah, you mix ’em up a lot, but I’ve noticed you seem to favor that, leather, and tobacco notes. Is that a cultural thing or just personal preference?”
“Personal preference,” said Zofzerit. “My research indicates that humans generally like being around those, and since you’ve been ignoring the usual courtship displays, I figured I’d go for something with more sensory overlap. Glad you like it.”
That answered one question and raised others, ones which were much harder to diplomatically deflect. “You’ve been trying to court me, Zof?”
Zofzerit scratched at his chin plumage with a wing-digit. “Since the second time you walked through the corridor,” he said. “I suppose I feel a little better knowing I wasn’t getting any results because you apparently didn’t know what you were looking at. I’d hate to think I’ve lost my touch.”
“You don’t say?”
“I do say. I’ve been saying since before you even asked what I was into, and especially since you broke up with Todd.” Great, he even remembered Seyyed’s ex’s name. “Here I was thinking you were trying to give me an opening by letting Quasia down easily, but no, turns out the guy I like is clueless, sometimes.” He then spread his tail—and what a tail it was, Seyyed couldn’t help but notice—and grinned. “As for whether I’m a ‘vanilla’ kind of guy, I’d say I’m more of a size queen.”
Seyyed suddenly felt very tall, which was not something his average-sized self was used to. “How’d you figure that one out?”
“Seyyed, my friend, I know that you know that my side of the corridor has figured out the same kinds of media yours has. Porn’s one of those. There’s plenty to be sad about a well-choreographed mating flight” —Seyyed’s childhood love of birds was now helping him put two and two together about why Zofzerit had been so agile during their time in the park— “but sometimes you just want to see some cock, and primates are so much better for that, given your genital proportions and all. Interspecies videos have been great for my own personal research. Sadly, my attempts at field work haven’t panned out, and not for a lack of trying.” He sighed, looking a little wistful. “God but you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to have a human balls-deep in me.”
Pushing down every single joke about turkey stuffing his worthless inner monologue was offering, Seyyed forced himself to ask responsible questions. “And you’re sure that’d be safe?”
Zofzerit scoffed. “I own a lot of very special toys. Unless you’re packing a miracle of modern medicine in there,” he continued, gesturing at Seyyed’s pants with a talon, “I have every confidence that it’ll fit.”
“Huh,” said Seyyed. He took another long swallow of tea as he glanced at the update screen. Still far too long to go until they could so much as browse. Oh no, however would they pass the remaining time? “You’re willing to go from platonic besties to fuckbuddies this fast, huh?” So much for not swearing in front of company. At least it was a flippant, not-too-serious term, something friendly and carefree that wouldn’t risk scaring Zofzerit off if Seyyed was reading this courtship display wrong, too, and it wasn’t like the likelihood of them sleeping together was a mystery. Knowing they both wanted to jump each other’s bones made things a whole lot less stressful than trying to vibe check a cute guy standing in the same autograph line.
Thank goodness for Zofzerit’s boldness, since if he cared about the semantics, he was pretty good at ignoring it in favor of pursuing his goal. “I have been trying to get laid for months and the ice is finally broken, even if it was accidental. You’re cute, you’re interesting, you’re into men, and you know what soap is. All this and we’re practically neighbors! You don’t have to say yes, but I’m not going to say no.”
“You did not just quote Pujok Story to my face.”
“Oh, but I did,” said Zofzerit, “especially after someone wouldn’t shut up about it until I watched all twenty-six episodes with him, and gave my honest opinion on the Ji-yoo/Kang-min pairing, and sat through a truly unbelievable number of AMVs and fancams with them in there. I’m going to quote the sappy manhwa adaptation to your face and you will like it.”
Seyyed had always gotten along well with theater kids ever since high school, where he’d learned he was terrible on stage but much better at helping with props and costumes. He’d kept up the sewing hobby because it gave him an easy excuse to hang out with cute people despite his animal medicine coursework keeping him busy; cosplay helped him channel his love of nerd shit into something he could do with his hands when he was fried from yet another biochem exam and they’d already fitted all the bandanas for Oklahoma! twice over. It was harder to meet those kinds of people during his big-boy grown-up job. Sometimes he still popped down to the community troupe’s playhouse to do some volunteer costume mending just to be around that same bombastic zeal again. Now Zofzerit was coming at him with what Seyyed could only interpret as big theater kid energy and if he somehow hadn’t been on board before, he sure was now.
He tried to play it cool even though Zofzerit could probably see right through him. “Points for remembering the best scene from my favorite show, Zof.”
“And a line that you keep saying is, and I quote, ‘devastatingly romantic.’ Because that same someone has also complained at length about his exes, plural, not tolerating his anime habit, or not working with his sappy-ass temperament in mind in the bedroom, or being Todd. Hopefully I’ve proven I’m none of those things.” He sidestepped closer to Seyyed and swung his head down so their faces were level with one another. Those eyes of his were piercing when they peered through his bangs. “So, you game?”
Giving Todd the boot had left Seyyed much happier but without a cooperative sexual outlet. He missed touching and cuddling so badly, and while he didn’t mind jerking off, solo work just wasn’t the same. Browsing strangers’ thirst trap photos could only do so much. Zofzerit, on the other hand, was here, and appealing, and put up with Seyyed’s tendency to have tearful recite-alongs with animated people’s death scenes when work was being extra stressful. So what if his potential partner was a monster? It was hard not to be flattered that somebody out there thought his average-as-the-rest-of-him cock could be downright monstrous, too.
Answering aloud would risk getting tangled up in his own words again, so Seyyed chose to take Zofzerit’s head in his hands and kiss him instead. It seemed to get the point across.
“Just because I’m open to fooling around doesn’t mean I want to stop hanging out and doing nerd things, okay?” said Seyyed once they parted. He palmed his wallet from his pocket and felt for the condom he kept there as a good-luck charm. “I still want to read that paper you’re working on once you fix the, you know. Part we discussed. I’d hate to lose that.”
“Perish the thought. My social circle on my side of the corridor is lovely, but their taste in movies is dogshit. You also have the decency to know when not to heckle things.”
Seyyed gave a short, quiet laugh. “Cool,” he said. So Zofzerit wasn’t just humoring him long enough to get plowed, was he? That was fine by Seyyed. He really wasn’t good at keeping things casual, but the two of them already owned keys to one another’s places. Upgrading something serious he already had might work out a little better than making something completely new. It was time to take the initiative. “You ready for me to start stripping down and wrapping up?”
Zofzerit hopped down from the couch back—thank Christ for those claw caps—to the seat proper, somehow not sending the bowl of pretzels everywhere. He was still grinning. “How about I strip down, but you just pull down your workout pants a bit? Mostly-clothed tops are hot.”
This wouldn’t provide Seyyed as much of a chance to show off those animal-wrangling muscles he spent so long sculpting at the gym, but unless things went tremendously poorly this wouldn’t be the only time he got to stick his dick in a harpy. Mostly clothed tops were hot. He also wasn’t sure where Zofzerit’s talons were prone to going during sex, so the more of a barrier between his tender human flesh and those multi-inch murder claws, the better. “I can do that,” he said. Seyyed pulled himself out, already at half-mast, and gestured with the condom package. “Want to tell me more about your big dick philosophy to help get me the rest of the way hard?” he asked, stroking himself.
“Sure,” said Zofzerit. He was already busy getting naked, though the same tailoring that kept him looking sharp and well-dressed after energetic flight also meant he had to undo what had to be dozens of separate fasteners. It was not unlike watching someone remove the leaves from an artichoke one by one. “I just like getting stretched out, you know? My side of the corridor has a few options—like I said, we’ve figured out toys as well as porn—and I’ve owned a few ever since I had a PO box of my own to ship ’em to. Sometimes after a hard day’s work I’ll stuff myself with something your-species-sized and then lie on my back while I listen to music. It’s amazing.”
“Sounds pretty relaxing.”
A few layers of fabric slithered off the couch onto the floor; in spite of the sizable puddle of clothing this produced, Zofzerit still seemed as dressed as ever. Seyyed had never had the patience for strip-teases, so it was a good thing Zofzerit was feeling chatty. “It’s the intense kind of relaxing,” he said as he fussed with some frogging along his side. “Stretched right up to the limit, no room for anything else. I like to think of it as pushing out any thoughts not directly connected to having a big fat cock in me.”
“Guided meditation through the medium of oversized toys, huh?” said Seyyed with a chuckle. “You should write your next piece on that.”
“I’ve tried. Those cowards in the publishing world ignored me when I shopped it around.”
Seyyed laughed again. Of course Zofzerit was one step ahead of him there, why wouldn’t he be? That stubborn confidence was one of the many things Seyyed liked about him, after all, and it was a little bit thrilling to think he was about to provide a brand new primary source for yet another piece of Zofzerit’s research. Assuming the tailored matryoshka that was harpy clothing could ever be conquered, anyway. Maybe it would be worth investing in some claw-friendly zippers.
The timing ended up working in his favor: the moment Seyyed found himself wondering if he should change the pace of his stroking, Zofzerit managed to free himself from the last of his outfit. What a sight! Where Zofzerit was far shorter than Seyyed, he still carried himself with an element of bigness that was hard to ignore, framed by his flowing tail and massive wingspan. His chest bowed outwards like the prow of a ship, all flight muscles and breastbone, though Seyyed was amused to find that harpies (or at least this harpy) did have nipples. Save for a ruff of short, downy feathers along his sternum Zofzerit was smooth-skinned from neck to hips. He settled himself on his back and curled his talons inwards like little fists; those had taken Seyyed a little to get used to, since depending on how Zofzerit angled his back toe he could have typical bird feet or swing it up to use as a thumb, which was pretty weird to see, but by then Seyyed was accustomed to the way Zofzerit’s gray-brown scales would stretch or wrinkle as he switched to a new configuration. Talons now tucked away, he spread himself out invitingly on the couch cushions. Seyyed found himself appreciating the pose quite a bit.
The new angle did reveal another challenge, however.
“So I’ve only ever been with guys who keep their junk on the outside,” said Seyyed. “You’re going to have to walk me through this at first.” He brushed his thumb against the slick pink finger-length of flesh that twitched against Zofzerit’s pelvic plumage, eliciting a gasp that became a happy groan. “I’m going to assume this feels good?”
“Yeah…,” said Zofzerit.
Seyyed didn’t usually work with birds that came into the animal hospital, but he’d paid enough attention in school to have an idea of where to go next. He slid his thumb down Zofzerit’s cock to nudge at the slit from which it emerged. “And you’re going to want me in here, right?”
“As soon as fucking possible,” said Zofzerit with a kick of his balled-up talons. His head was leaning against the arm of the couch, providing a clearer view of those wide, wide eyes of his. “Don’t bother warming me up, just get some lube on you and go.”
“Just because you’re the one with knives on his feet doesn’t mean you get to call all the shots, Zof.” Seyyed made sure the condom was on snugly before applying a healthy dose of lubricant from the drawer in the side table and kneeling, his legs straddling Zofzerit’s tail. He placed his thumbs on either side of Zofzerit’s slit and pulled it open. Yep, that was a wet, pink hole, all right. Seyyed knew what to do with one of those. Lining himself up, he teased Zofzerit with a few strokes and nudges before shifting his weight to begin pushing himself inside.
Zofzerit was snug. Just getting past the glans felt precarious! Some of that was surely due to the lack of prep work, but some of that was because Seyyed was genuinely bigger than a harpy; Zofzerit’s own member was maybe half the length of Seyyed’s pinky finger. There was potential value to be had in stretching him out over Seyyed’s lap and just fingering him for a bit. That could wait for some future day, though; in the here and now, Zofzerit had demanded cock, and so cock he would receive.
It felt prudent to figure out just how far into Zofzerit he could go before hitting any danger zones, so Seyyed placed some of his weight on one arm (currently braced against the cushions to one side of that featherless goony-bird neck) and used the other to keep Zofzerit from getting scooted backwards by a circumference his species wasn’t intended to take. His pulse thudded against the thin latex barrier between them. Zofzerit had never given Seyyed the impression that he was cold-blooded, but the heat inside him was head and shoulders above any of Seyyed’s previous partners. It was pretty nice, actually, like a steaming-hot bath that gripped his cock with the ferocity of a silicone sleeve at the edge of its capacity. Every fraction of an inch further felt like a victory all its own. Zofzerit hadn’t stopped sighing and panting the entire time, so what he’d said about being able to handle it must have been true.
Tight muscles, built to perch for hours and propel a large body through the sky, relaxed around Seyyed’s cock bit by cozy bit. In time he was actually able to manage an honest-to-goodness thrust as opposed to a glorified nudge. He couldn’t see himself coming like this without a lot of additional stimulation. That was fine, though; it meant he’d have plenty of time to service Zofzerit before having to worry about a refractory period. He’d be a liar if he claimed it wasn’t fun figuring out the best angles for this sort of thing.
A scoff distracted Seyyed from his efforts. Zofzerit’s chin was tilted towards him, one eye squeezed shut and the other sizing up Seyyed with impatience. “You’re going a lot slower than I expected,” he said, his voice dangerously close to a pout.
Seyyed scoffed back. “My guy, I’m over twice as tall as you are, and I don’t have any experience fucking a dude with a single urogenital orifice. Cut me some slack for not wanting to send my off-plane pen pal to the emergency room.”
“You think you’re the biggest thing I’ve fucked myself on? You’re fine and I’m fine.” He bumped his scaled knuckles against Seyyed’s shirt. “Now come on and give it to me. Hard! I want to feel your balls slam against the base of my tail.” That was corny porno talk, not normal-people-having-sex talk, and Seyyed had watched enough pornography during his formative years (and dated enough theater kids) to be fine with it. It was kind of hot, honestly.
Two could play at the cornball game. “You want hard?” Seyyed growled. He grabbed Zofzerit’s talons by the wrists (or maybe ankles?) and pressed them down against the couch as he did his best to loom menacingly. It did not come naturally to an average-sized man. “Then you’re going to get it.”
While still more bark than bite, since he didn’t trust Zofzerit not to have eyes bigger than his asshole in the heat of the moment, Seyyed pumped the last inch or two of length in and out with ever-increasing force and speed. Zofzerit yowled between pleas to keep going, like that, that’s it, more. The feathers beneath his slit turned out to be pretty cushy; Seyyed didn’t have any trouble fulfilling Zofzerit’s request, even if it felt a little weird when the meaty nubbin part of that big, pretty tail flexed against Seyyed. He made sure to let his stomach brush along Zofzerit’s straining lipstick-tube shaft every now and then. A guy could probably have a great afternoon with nothing but anal stimulation, but until Seyyed knew whether Zofzerit was a hands-free kind of bird-man, it was only polite.
That line of thinking gave him an idea.
He thrust forward with enough force it sounded like Zofzerit had the wind knocked out of him a bit, then leaned backwards and turned so his back was against the couch, pulling Zofzerit into his lap. The weight of all that muscle and feathers caused Zofzerit to sink back down until he was flush against Seyyed’s hips. Zofzerit spread his wings in surprise even as he whooped with delight; he didn’t protest when Seyyed gripped him firmly and bounced him in place. He did get noisier, however. Once they’d established a good rhythm (and thank goodness a free-standing home meant no shared walls with neighbors), Seyyed took Zofzerit’s cock in hand and jerked it off until he felt a spatter of wet warmth against his exposed stomach. Watching someone with eyes as big as Zofzerit’s roll them back into their head was a truly unforgettable experience, for better or for worse.
Seyyed waited to smirk until he was sure it’d actually get seen. “So, was that hard enough for you?”
“Yes,” said Zofzerit, panting.
“Hope you’re not too bothered by the rubber. Perils of sex on short notice and all.”
“I’m just happy I finally got some monster cock,” Zofzerit replied, cheerfully. This gave Seyyed pause until he decided it wasn’t that unreasonable a thing to say; he’d always thought of harpies as monsters—monsters who were other people, of course, but monsters all the same—so why wouldn’t Zofzerit potentially think the inverse? Zofzerit himself clung to Seyyed’s front with his wing-digits, curling his neck around the back of Seyyed’s until his chin rested on Seyyed’s shoulder. It was surprisingly comfortable. The little scruffy feather-beard didn’t even tickle where it brushed against Seyyed’s skin. “Feels like you haven’t come yet,” he said, re-seating himself around the cock still skewering him as casually as he might have adjusted sitting on a throw pillow. “Is something wrong?”
“Nah. You mentioned liking being full, so I thought it might be nice for you to stay where you are for a bit.”
“That the only reason?”
Seyyed squeezed Zofzerit’s closest approximation of an ass. “I wanted to cuddle without pulling out. You ever had to wear one of these things too long after coming in it? It’s gross.”
“Works for me,” said Zofzerit. He seemed pretty on board with the cuddling thing, given how he didn’t let go or try to push away from Seyyed. “The update’s done, by the way. Would you mind if we watched an episode or two like this?”
“For mindfulness reasons, right?”
“Exactly,” said Zofzerit. “Also you can’t lie about not getting turned on by anything this time because I’ll feel you harden up.”
Seyyed groaned in mock annoyance. “It’s like you don’t want me to pin you up against a wall and finish inside you. You’re lucky I’m wrapped up or you’d be drowning in it.”
“Don’t go threatening me with a good time!” Zofzerit wiggled his hips and flicked his tail. “So when do we get to fuck bareback?”
“When you stop being weird long enough for me to decide if I want to be fluid-bonded,” said Seyyed, his mind already alive with thoughts of how easy it’d be to get his mouth around the entirety of Zofzerit’s length. He’d pump the brakes just long enough to make sure he wasn’t just drunk off the idea of having a possible partner again, but after that? He wanted to feel what it was like coming inside a harpy—inside Zofzerit, specifically—and see the aftermath once he pulled out. Given how flexible his neck was, Zofzerit would probably be able to get a good look at that, too. Seyyed wanted to see what those scary yellow eyes would look like when he was the one coming. And that was before they got any of those mail-order toys involved!
He both felt and heard Zofzerit cackle; having a chest move against his own while the sound came out somewhere else was another thing he’d have to get used to. “You’re already hard for the idea,” said Zofzerit. “There’s no use trying to lie to me while I have access to the Truth-Speaker, here,” he added with another wiggle.
“You keep telling yourself that, Zof.” Seyyed groped around for the remote, now that the streaming service had deigned to let him watch his shows again. “So, you want to start with more Razudendu or some Whispers in the Ash today?”
“Can’t we continue Massive Damage Is My Saintly Calling Card? It’s just about to get really good.”
Seyyed made a face. “Swear to God, dude, that’s the isekai brain disease talking. You watch too much of that crap. It’s pure wish-fulfillment.”
“What, with how it usually involves people ending up in fantastical other worlds before hooking up with hot locals? I don’t know, Seyyed. Seems to be working out okay for me.” Zofzerit clamped down around him for emphasis.
He’d known Zofzerit was like this before sticking his dick in the cloaca, and he’d had a crush on Zofzerit before sticking his dick in the cloaca, and a healthy relationship was all about constructive compromise, cloaca notwithstanding. Zofzerit was more than happy to enable Seyyed’s personal brand of workaholism and niche hobbies. That was probably worth putting up with him being an absolute gremlin of a harpy every now and then. It was going to be a shame seeing him off through the sewing room closet in a few hours, even if they’d already made plans to attend a local con together next week. A day off only had so many hours in it. The inevitable could only be delayed so much.
Then again, it wasn’t like Seyyed was about to turn into a pumpkin when the clock struck twelve. He navigated to the next episode of Massive Damage and asked, as casually as he could, “You want to spend the night?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Zofzerit, snuggling up against him. “What are you making for dinner?”
It was hard to pass up an excuse to hearken back to the silly so-sexy-it-hurt dialogue from before. “I’m going to be too busy watching TV and screwing your brains out to cook.”
“Hm. Fair. I’ll go Dutch on some takeout, in that case.”
“You want fried chicken from that shop in midtown?” asked Seyyed, already scrolling through a delivery app on his phone. Long years of experience with dogs that didn’t know they were actually horse-sized had prepared him for navigating an order page with one hand and balancing several dozen pounds of something (or, in this case, someone) else with the other. As for feeding a person who was part bird the deep-fried remains of other avians, what did people think birds of prey liked to eat?
Zofzerit perked up. “The place with the spices in the crispy parts?”
“That’s most chicken shops, but yeah, they do that.” He tapped out a few selections with his thumb. “I’ll get the same order as last time, with extra biscuits. You went feral on the last order.”
“Extra biscuits! Holy shit! You trying to prove you’re good partner material or something?” asked Zofzerit. “Because I don’t know about you, but it sounds like you’re offering for me to have a lower-case-H human for an upper-case-B Boyfriend.”
Seyyed was so bad at keeping things casual, just absolute dogwater at it, but if Zofzerit was equally bad at not getting serious early on into a relationship, maybe it could work. He tried to keep his answer light: “Depends on if you snore.”
“I am not like Todd.”
A sour expression swiftly bloomed across Seyyed’s face. “You’d better not be.”
“Then I guess we’re going to try having a Thing. Which is mostly just the thing we had before, except we actually get laid instead of stewing in unresolved sexual tension all day. I am ready to be an on-demand cocksleeve. Our houses touch, so I won’t even have to get my toothbrush.” He fluffed up in contentment. “And Seyyed?”
“You better not be lying about screwing my brains out half the afternoon.”
“I’m not.” He gave Zofzerit a meaningful half-thrust, just enough to remind them both whose cock was still where. “Want me to press you into the couch after the next episode?”
They shook on it, Zofzerit using his wing-digits to do so, before going quiet to take in twenty-one more minutes of one of the stupidest shows Seyyed had ever seen in his life. It was fine. He’d sat through worse. And if he was being honest with himself, seated there in his living room with his closest friend still perched snugly on a hard-on that had yet to die down, maybe there wasn’t anything too bad with a little wish fulfillment now and then.