The sound of Luke’s own footsteps sounded foreign to him, now – claws clicking on the linoleum despite his efforts to the contrary. It was a constant reminder of what he was now – and thus of what he’d lost. At least he could walk, now; it had been weeks before he could do so at all, and weeks more before his balance was steady. Reaching for the refrigerator, and seeing a hand clad in soft grey fur, was still jarring.

“Oh, hey.”

It was a familiar voice, and it wasn’t like there were more than a half-dozen people with access to this house, but there were elements to it now that he’d never heard before. Yet another reminder that he didn’t need… “Hey, Monica,” he sighed, grabbing the jug of filtered water.

“Sorry I didn’t hear you come in. If I’d known the doctors had let you go, I’d have come pick you up.”

Luke bit back a twinge of irrational pique. She only means well, he told himself sternly, turning to the counter and reaching up for a glass. “Honestly, I needed something I could to by myself. Finally.

“I guess I can see that,” she said cautiously, hooking an errant curl of brown hair behind her ear. Then, with a brighter tone, “It’s good to see you around again, anyway – in one form or another.”

“If I actually had a choice in the matter…” He bit his lip.

“I know, I know.” She reached up to touch his shoulder, fingers sliding along his arm. “How are you feeling? Health-wise, I mean.”

Luke finished pouring and set the jug down, taking up the glass instead. “Well,” he sighed, “I can walk around properly. I’m past the synaesthesia. I could drive if I didn’t keep catching my claws on things – balance is fine, reactions are better than human normal. I’m not short of breath, I don’t gag at the least bit of scent, and thank fucking God I’m not itching anymore.”

Monica winced. “You know, with the entire list of symptoms you just rattled through and everything else, I guess it really says something that the thing everyone who contracts PMV remembers most is the itching.

“The other things I could do something to ease. The itching never stopped.” Luke glared down at the fur he now sported. “If I was still human, I might feel like I could have a normal life again.”

“Shh…” She reached up to his cheek, tracing the outline of his musteline muzzle. “You’ll get through it. It’ll be okay.”

Luke blinked in spite of himself. “You… never seemed to be the touchy-feely type, Monica. Not that I mind,” he hastened to add.

“Well, I, uh…” Flushing a bit, she looked away. “At least you got a very, um, nice-looking form of proteomorph.”

Suddenly he felt dizzy, and it wasn’t a complication from having his body regrow itself like a mink’s. “Monica? Are you saying…?”

“I’m saying,” she said, turning back toward him, “that if you’ve had enough of being alone at the hospital… you don’t need to be tonight. You’re a good guy, you deserve better than that, and… honestly, that looks really good on you, and I’m… curious.”

“I thought you were pretty much asexual,” Luke objected.

“So did I.” Monica shrugged. “Guess I’m just not into your everyday human.”

Then she leaned in, tucked a hand behind his neck, and kissed him.