Honeymane carefully opened the condo’s door, trying to probe out the location of hir mother before shi was seen. Unfortunately shi’d never been all that good at it, and hir mother was both more skilled and trained in the talent than shi was. All shi was getting from hir mother was a diffuse sort of feeling, which could mean anything really; including just wanting to be left alone for intimate activities. Walking slowly and carefully, shi entered the condo and looked around; the television entertainment system was on, so perhaps shi was watching television. If shi could get to that vidphone and ‘fix’ hir grades, shi’d be home free, literally. Shi’d use the one in the hir mom’s personal bedroom.
Shi dropped hir bags as silently as shi could, and turned towards the bedroom hall, only to run smack-dab into hir mother. Glancing up, shi could tell hir mother had likely been standing there the whole time shi tried to sneak in. "Hi Mom."
"Sneaking in, are we?" Browneyes asked rhetorically, with a half smile of having caught someone red-handed.
"W-what?" Honeymane’s mine raced to come up with an excuse. "I…I thought you and Star were… having some personal time together! Didn’t want to disturb you, that’s all."
The calico chakat smirked. "Communication technology is not yet to the point of telepresencing sex."
Honeymane mentally groaned. Of course Star was away on some remote starbase where they had recently had some sort of psychotic breakdown. "Well… uh… you might have been jerking off or something so—"
"Why would I be doing that when I’d be so eager to see how my child’s done in hir schooling for hir block?" Browneyes folded hir arms under hir breasts. "Imagine my surprise and disappointment to find they’re not as I had hoped from my bright, young chakat."
"Oh." Honeymane frowned and looked at hir handpaws. "I… was hoping you had forgotten."
"I’m a mother; your mother, Honeymane. I enjoy seeing you grow up. There’s little chance I would have forgotten." Browneyes sighed. "Care to explain why you’ve failed your Talents class?"
"I dunno." Honeymane lied while pawing the ground. "I’m not very good at it."
"That’s not an answer." Browneyes frowned and put hir hand on hir daughter’s shoulder. "Come on, Mane, I know you’re lying."
"I just…" Honeymane shrugged. "I don’t like the teacher."
"I see," the elder chakat said. "Why?"
"I dunno…Hy’s mean." Honeymane avoided eye contact.
"How so?" Browneyes asked.
"I dunno…" Honeymane said evasively.
"Honeymane…" Hir mother rubbed the bridge between hir eyes. "Do I need to call hym myself?"
"No!" the blonde cub exclaimed. "Please don’t."
"Then tell me what’s going on!" The calico threw hir arms up in the air in frustration with the evasive child.
"I just don’t like hym. Hy’s not very nice," Honeymane explained. "Hy keeps insisting that I’m part of ‘House Bluepaw’."
"I see… Hy certainly shouldn’t be trying to force hys culture on you, but Skunktaurs do get that way sometimes." Browneyes shook hir head. "But that’s still not explaining why you’re doing so poorly."
"It’s just hard is all!" the blonde cub insisted. "And it’s not any fun anymore. Not since…"
Honeymane nodded slowly. "I miss hym."
"I know, hon." Browneyes’ face softened, as shi leaned down and gave hir daughter a hug. "You really loved hym, didn’t you?"
The child chakat nodded again.
"However…" Browneyes’ face grew stern again. "That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do better in hys class."
"But nothing. If you had a conflict with the teacher, you should have came to me and I would have had you transferred to a different teacher." Browneyes crossed hir arms. "Which I’ll do now, for the next year."
"Mom…" Honeymane said hesitantly.
"Couldn’t I just… drop it?"
Browneyes tilted hir head, staring at the cub as shi tried to put on a winsome smile. "No. You need this training."
"But why?" Honeymane’s smile vanished in an instant. "I’m not doing well and I don’t like it and I don’t get—"
"—all of which can be solved with a class change and you—" Browneyes poked hir daughter’s chest gently with a finger, "—applying yourself properly. Besides sweetheart, you need this training. You know you can seriously injure yourself or others if you’re not careful."
"But I am careful." The blonde cub began counting items off with hir fingers. "I haven’t moved anything by accident in years, I’ve never lashed out at someone accidently, and I don’t drop things when I do use them…"
Browneyes sighed and shook hir head. "You’re upset right now and–"
"No!" Honeymane exclaimed, then looked embarrassed at hir outburst before continuing. "No. No I’m not. I’ve put a lot of thought into this, Mom."
The elder chakat sighed and looked at hir daughter intensely, an expression Honeymane knew to mean shi was examining hir emotions. After a moment, Browneyes frowned as if finding something shi hadn’t expected. "You’re not lying."
"Of course I’m not lying," Honeymane replied crossly.
Browneyes shook hir head. "I’ll think about it." Which made Honeymane grin widely. "As for your punishment…"
"Punishment?" Honeymane yelped. "For the grade?"
"No. The punishment is for trying to stop me from finding out." Browneyes frowned and tapped hir jaw thinking. "A week’s worth of grounding."
"But Mom!" Honeymane protested desperately. "I was going to go camping with Sugarback in two days! It’s not fair to punish hir too."
Hir mother flinched and Honeymane knew shi had won. Hir mother had been the one to make the suggestion, when the discussion the adults had had about Sugarback’s ‘weight problem’ had came up. Personally shi didn’t see what the problem was, but evidently hir parents, Spadespot and Dancer, thought it was a problem, and the others had chimed in about them needing more "fresh air", whatever that meant. It didn’t really matter to Honeymane, of course; it wouldn’t be the first time camping, and shi enjoyed the outdoors when shi did go out. But Honeymane was pretty certain shi wasn’t supposed to have overheard that discussion between the adults, so shi tried to keep hir expression smooth and hir head clear.
"Fine. When you get back, you’re grounded." Browneyes shook hir head. "Have you picked a spot?"
"Yay!" Honeymane exclaimed as shi practically bounced up and down with glee. "We’ve been thinking about the Dorado National Park."
"No! Absolutely not," the calico said as firmly as shi could.
Honeymane came to a stop. "Why not?"
Brown frowned and began counting off hir list with hir fingers: "First, it’s many kilometres from here. Secondly, the Dorado National Park is a nature preserve; it’s not like one of the local parks you’ve been to before. Finally, it’s not monitored! There are all kinds of wild animals living there."
"But nothing, Honeymane," Browneyes said sharply. "You’re too young to be going out into the wilderness on your own. Maybe in a few years, we’ll see, but for now I want to stick to the safer areas; alright?"
"Yes, Mom." Honeymane sighed, before looking up at hir mother’s face "Can I go now?"
"I swear, I don’t know what’s gotten into hir!" Browneyes exclaimed shaking hir head. "I still can’t believe shi tried to hide hir grades from me."
Fallingstar took a sip of hir drink before replying. "Shi’s growing up, Brown; it’s only natural that shi’d start trying to seek out a greater degree of autonomy and privacy in hir life."
The two of them were lying in Browneyes’ bed, both messed from the sort of frenzied love-making that only happens when two individuals are separated for a length of time. It was the night before the kid’s camping trip, and the stellar foxtaur had only been ‘home’ for about half an hour, but with the only children in the condo playing quietly in the den area, and unlikely to disturb them, their more carnal urges took over easily. However, their physical and more fundamental emotional needs taken care of, Browneyes found hirself needing to get a good rant off hir chest.
"I understand that, but this… this was more like a direct lie! Shi wanted to stop me from knowing hir grades altogether." Browneyes sighed and rolled onto hir backs. "It’s just not something I expected hir to do, or have the desire to do. It hurts."
"If I remember correctly, Honeymane has always been one for good marks. It’s possible shi just didn’t want to disappoint you," Fallingstar said, putting aside hir drink and giving hir lover a belly rub.
"Do you think I’m putting too much pressure on hir?" Browneyes asked, turning hir head to look at the black foxtaur’s face. "I want hir to do good, but I don’t want hir to be afraid of me, or admitting failure."
Fallingstar stopped stroking hir mate’s belly and gave hir a hug and a lick-kiss. "I don’t think so, sweetheart. Stop worrying. So shi lied – it’s not as if it was about something all that important."
"I suppose…" Browneyes returned the lick-kiss with a full kiss. "Shi says shi wants to drop that subject now."
"Yeah," Browneyes nodded and snuggled close to the foxtaur. "What do you think? It seems foolhardy, but maybe shi’s right; if shi’s not planning on going into that kind of work, and shi’s not enjoying the classes, perhaps dropping it wouldn’t be a problem."
"But I’m worried shi’ll end up hurting hirself if shi doesn’t know how to handle hirself," Browneyes concluded. "What do you think? You know more of this stuff than I do."
The black foxtaur licked hir lips before replying. "Well, at hir age and with the training shi’s received, shi’s unlikely to harm hirself, on the other hand, if shi does drop it, shi might find careers in the future closed to hir. All Talented individuals tend to be in high demand, and if shi has the talent, shi might find hirself being expected to know how to use it." Fallingstar nuzzled hir mate’s neck. "I don’t think shi should drop it, but I might be able to find hir a friendlier teacher, if you’d like me to look?"
"Could you? I know you have more skunktaur friends than I do."
"Hmm" Brown said smiling, cupping hir lover’s breast playfully. "I was lucky to find someone like you. How about some thank-you sex?"
"That sounds n—" Fallingstar began before being interrupted by a knocking on the bedroom door.
"Mommy! What’s for supper?" the muffled voice of Honeymane came through the door.
"I guess no sex for now," Browneyes sighed in a half whisper. "Motherhood calls!"
"You could order a pizza," Fallingstar suggested with a smirk. "And we could have a quickie."
"It’s not the same," Brown pointed out. "I wanted something slow and sweet."
"Mommy?" Honeymane asked attentively, opening the door and sticking hir head in.
"Yes, Mane. What would you and Sugarback like?"
"Pasta!" Sugarback’s voice ran out from somewhere behind the door. "Please?"
"Alright." Browneyes smiled. "I’ll be out in a minute."
The blonde-haired cub nodded and left, leaving the door ajar. Browneyes stretched and rolled off the low mattress onto hir feet as the Starwalker did the same. Neither of them were much for clothing, so they each grabbed a brush and started to groom out the worst knots in the other’s fur caused by their fun. Once they had cleaned themselves up best they could, they fixed the bed’s pillows and left, with Browneyes headed for the kitchen to put on the water needed to make the dish, and Fallingstar to keep an eye on the children, who were now watching some program while they waited for supper.
The earlier morning sun rise saw the children practically quivering with excitement, and their adult parents bleary-eyed and looking forward to curling back up in bed with their mates after fulfilling their obligation to send the children off. Despite their tiredness, Browneyes, Spadespot and Dancer all made sure to double-check that the children had everything they needed before summoning one of the PTVs to pick the children up and take them to the park where they’d spend the next two nights camping. Finally, after piling the child-sized knapsacks and sleeping bags into the back of the vehicle (while yelling at it to go to hell over its insistent "I need to go somewhere" beeping), Sugarback’s two parents, and Honeymane’s sole parent, gave them their farewell kisses and hugs, and watched them be taken away by the computerized vehicle.
Once the PTV was around the corner, Honeymane made hir move. Leaning over the center console, shi hit the ‘select new destination’ option and selected one.
"What are you doing. ’Mane?" the slightly chubby chakat sitting next to hir asked.
"I’m sending us on an adventure!" shi exclaimed.
"Well, you know how we both wanted to go to the Dorado? We are!" Mane looked over at hir compatriot and grinned.
"I thought your mom said no?" Sugarback asked hesitantly. "And that we were going to one of the local parks?"
"Well… shi did. But!" the blonde pre-teen interjected to cut hir friend off. "Shi’s obviously just being overprotective."
"I don’t know…" Sugarback said hesitantly. "I think we ought to listen to hir, ’Mane."
"Oh don’t be such a worrywart. We’ll be fine, and we’ll have a great adventure!" Honeymane said as the PTV adjusted its lane selection to the one heading out of the city and into the heart of the continent.
"I… suppose." Sugarback frowned. "But won’t we get in trouble?"
"How will they ever find out?" Honeymane asked of hir friend. "You won’t tell, I won’t tell; it’s not as if they have spies spying on us."
"What if one of us gets hurt?"
"We could get hurt going to a local park too; we’ll just have to pass it off like that. Besides, I’m already grounded when I get home," Honeymane pointed out. "Mom can’t punish me twice."
"Shi could extend it," Sugarback replied pointedly. "And what about me?"
"Pff!" the blonde cub said dismissively. "Even if shi did, I doubt shi’d be able to stand punishing me for that long. As for you… Well Dorado was your idea." Honeymane reached over and put hir arm around hir friend’s shoulders. "Don’t you want to go?
Sugarback half shook hir head and looked out the window. "I do, I guess… I want to see those caves…"
"Now that’s the Sugarback I know and love! It’ll be fun, I promise." Honeymane grinned. "In the meantime, let’s just kick back and relax. It’s going to be a long ride."
As shi predicted, the ride was indeed fairly long, taking well over two hours to reach their destination. By the time the PTV came to a halt outside the Park’s walk-in entrance, both of the pre-teens were sore, hungry, and in bad need of a washroom. After removing their bags and letting the vehicle be on its away, they quickly attended to their various needs. About half an hour later, with recently bought hamburgers filling their stomachs, they set off. They continued carrying their partly finished crownfruit smoothies with them to ward off the summer sun’s heat, which was fairly oppressive as they began heading down the multi kilometre trail. Provided they stuck to it, it’d send them by several of the main tourist attractions on their way into the deep secluded heart of the massive nature preserve.
One of the more interesting natural attractions of the Dorado park are the Spectre Caverns. Like many tourist attractions, the outside and interior of the cave was studded with plaques giving information to the reader about the things around them. This one gave the history of the site, (Found during a geological survey by early colonists), that one gave the general structure of the cave and provided a number for the crystals (like a giant geode, with thousands of crystals, some nearly three meters long). The two of them read out what was on ‘their’ plaque to one another. Honeymane would read about how the gentle glow coming from the water below them was from some sort of fungi thing, while Sugarback read out how volcanic processes had formed the cavern over millions of years. Eventually the two of them grew bored of reading, they had just finished school after all, and wandered down the observation walkway into the heart of the cavern, marvelling at the gentle blue glow. Looking over the edge of the walkway, Sugarback wondered out loud what it’d be like to swim in such a thing, whereas Honeymane pondered what it’d be like to exist for more than a million years, and hir relationship to it.
The natural wonder of the caverns had made the caves a tourist attraction to see, and normally it’d be jammed packed. However, by the time the two friends had reached the caverns, most of the tourists had left for the day, and, other than some couples and triads using the darkness and romantic atmosphere of the place to cuddle, they had it to themselves.
However, the lack of tourists also worked against them, and before long they had seen it all and were rather bored. Luckily the caves weren’t the only attraction, and after leaving them, they spent the afternoon browsing and viewing the natural wonders, such as the lake in the center of the park and the falls that fed it. However, as the sun began to set, the pair of them totted off the beaten path looking for somewhere to spend the night. Eventually they settled on a small clearing by a very small creek. The tent went up, and as the star set and the two moons arose, they roasted hotdogs and marshmallows over a small camp fire.
"It sure is beautiful up here." Sugarback said, looking up at the nearly clear sky, and the many stars.
"Yeah." the blonde preteen replied, between bites of marshmallow. "Glad we came?"
"I wish we hadn’t lied to get here… but it was definitely worth it." Sugarback said, before cracking a yawn. "Ohhh my. I think we better turn in."
Mane grinned, "Tired already? It’s not even been a full day!"
"Well you know you," Sugar stuck out hir tongue, "very tiresome."
"Hey!" Honeymane plucked the last of hir marshmallow off and tossed it at hir companion. "I am not!"
"Ew!" Sugarback exclaimed, as the half white, half blacked marshmallow bounced off hir shoulder. "I don’t want it in my fur."
Honeymane hopped to hir feet and chased hir friend around the fire with the sticky twig shi had been using, both of them giggling madly as the fire shrank and sputtered out, at which time the two collided with on another and fell to the ground. Once they had managed to stop laughing, the two of them poured water onto the fire and mixed it to make sure it was out, before retiring to the tent to sleep.
It was still fairly early in the morning when Honeymane awoke, the cool morning air and the thin fabric tent walls allowed light in, so it wasn’t much of a surprise, but after a few moments, Honeymane realized it was like Sugarback’s attempts to untangle hirself from the sleeping pile of limbs, pillows, and blankets that had disturbed hir. After a moment of sleepy thought, shi shifted hirself, and helped the brown chakat free, before asking what was going on.
"It’s early." Honeymne moaned. "whattsup."
"Sorry." Sugarback said, sounding it. "Didn’t mean to wake you - just have to use the washroom."
"Have fun." Honeymane murmured as shi rolled over.
"Uh, sure." Sugarback replied; one could almost hear the eye-roll in hir voice.
Despite the chill and the light, after a few moments of shifting around in the bedding, Honeymane found hirself drifting off to sleep again. After what seemed like a long time, but was probably only a few moments, shi heard Sugarback shriek, and felt a stab of fear and alarm emanating from hir.
Bolting upright, Honeymane scrambled to untangle hirself from the bedding, before practically leaping out the tent’s entrance to see what the matter was. Across the clearing, near where they had chosen to relieve themselves, was Sugarback, and she wasn’t alone. On the other side of the tree-like plant shi was using to shield hirself with was a large shaggy furred beast, larger than either of the young chakats. Although it was mostly hidden by the shadows of the tree line, Mane could make out the large frontal teeth on it: a scimitar cat! Honeymane froze in shock, as it leapt, lightning fast, around the trunk of the tree-like plant. The cornered chakat wasn’t slow either, dodging around the other side and catching sight of hir friend.
"Help!" Sugarback yelled, dodging another lunge. "Help me!"
Honeymane didn’t know what to do. Shi tried to think but hir brain seemed to be as slow as molasses. Hir eyes going wider than they were as Sugarback dodged another lunge, and started backing up slowly towards the tent. "I-I’ll call for help!" shi exclaimed, as shi tried to find the tent without turning hir back on the scene.
Sugarback opened hir mouth to say something, when the cat took advantage of hir momentary distraction and surged forward, jaw open. At the last second shi threw hirself to the side, only for the jaws to close on hir left hind leg, hir bones snapping with a sickening sound, mingling with a shout of pure agony. Blood began to flow from the wounds caused by the teeth, slowly coating the leg’s fur with dull redness. As quickly as hir pained roar began, Sugarback suddenly seemed to go limp like a ragdoll, sending a sharp knife of pure horror into Honeymane’s hearts; surely shi hadn’t seen hir best friend die before hir eyes?
"NO!" Honeymane roared in a panic, throwing hir own safety away, as the beast started to drag the chakat away. This caught its attention, it turned its vaguely feline head towards hir, its terrible eyes focusing on hir like the predator it was.
Impulsively, as hir adrenaline took over, shi picked up the stick from last night and hurled it with all hir might at the thing, only for it to bounce harmlessly off its head. It obviously hadn’t hurt it, but it did piss it off. Opening its jaws, dropping Sugarback’s prone body to the ground with a thud. Slowly it started to advance on hir.
Honeymane looked around, trying to think; shi couldn’t run from it, adult Scimitars were too fast, and even so that’d mean leaving—
It bounded forward and leapt toward hir, its jaw wide. Without thinking, Honeymane reached out and pushed away from it, knocking it back telekinetically, causing it to roll over before getting to its feet. Shi blinked, hir mental grasp still on the confused animal’s head; shi could feel every muscle, every hair. It shook its head and turned back towards hir, obviously determined to win. Honeymane squeezed.
The creature, like most animals, didn’t have a very expressive face, but Honeymane could swear a flicker of fear washed over it as the creature gave out a half-hiss, half yelp sound, and fell to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut. Honeymane panted, feeling tired as shi watched to see if it would get back up; it still was breathing, but its eyes seemed glassy, and its mouth was half open, drooling. What had shi done? Before Honeymane could think further, shi felt a stab of fear as hir friend let out a whimper of distress.
Quickly, shi dashed into the tent and looked through the first aid kit, before grabbing it, the communicator, and the blankets. Sugar’s face was streaked tears and hir leg was matted with blood. Hir mouth was open, but Honeymane couldn’t hear anything besides a dull, distant roar. Honeymane looked at the leg; it was a mess, twisted and bent in ways shi didn’t think possible, with bones seemingly erupting from the darkening red fur, Distantly, Honeymane thought shi hadn’t anything like it, not even that time the two of them had snuck into that restricted horror movie months ago. Pushing that aside, shi popped the kit open and began to work. Shi didn’t know much about first aid, but shi did know to try and apply pressure to the wounds, which elected a sharp cry that seemed to pierce hir soul. Somehow the blanket seemed to cut itself up and next think shi knew hir friend’s leg was bandaged.
"It’ll be okay, stay with me!" Honeymane said, sounding oddly fake. Maybe because it felt like something a hero might say on a TV show.
Sugarback’s mouth was closed now, as were hir eyes, just a low trembling of hir lip.
Honeymane nodded to hirself, for some reason, feeling oddly satisfied shi had done all shi could. The world seemed to move slowly as shi hit the emergency button on the communication device. After a single ring it was answered by a calm, computerized female voice. "Please state the nature of the emergency situation."
"uh—uh, Medical!" Honeymane said, in a strangely hoarse voice. It sounded like shi had been yelling at the top of hir lungs for hours. "My friend was attacked by a scimitar cat."
There was a pause that stretched on forever. "Stand by."
Moments passed before the well known buzz and crackle of transporters rematerializing their passengers alerted Honeymane as four people appeared in the clearing. One was a chakat, while the other three were morphs of various sorts; two of them, including the chakat, were decked out in full triage medical equipment, and looked almost mechanical to a degree, while the other two, with the look of police officers about them, wore armoured vests and carried rifles of some sort. Upon stepping out of the beam, the two officers darted to the side, one of them quietly approaching the prone cat to check on it, while the other officer covered him. Honeymane found hirself gently shoved aside as the medics began to asset the state of Sugarback.
Shi found hirself shaking as shi watched. Shi felt like shi should do something, be helpful, shi felt lost, incredibility helpless. And then… then the world seemed to lurch forward at a brutal pace, as the realization of the situation finally washed over hir and threatened to pull hir under and drown hir. Shi began to cry. One of the officers placed his hand on hir shoulder, and shi seemed to be able to breathe again, even though shi couldn’t remember stopping, as if a weight had been lifted. He asked hir questions. About who shi was. Who Sugarback was. How this had happened. He never seemed to ask why but shi knew shi couldn’t answer even if he had asked.
After what seemed like forever, the medics stood up and hit their communicator, requesting a transport. Sugarback’s leg had been encased in some sort of hardened foam and shi appeared to be hooked up to some sort of blood supply located in the chakat medic’s triage suit. They melted away into a shower of sparkles.
"W-where did you take hir?" Honeymane choked out, asking the interviewing officer.
"Likely the hospital in Amistad, We’ll take you there ourselves in a few moments, once we’ve finished up here. You should pack your things" The officer motioned to the other one, who tagged the body of the cat with something, which then dematerialized itself, before surveying the area one last time while the interviewing officer helped the blonde preteen quickly dismantle the tent and pack the various items up. Once they were finished, the two hirself and the two officers were also transported, the clearing dissolving before the distressed child’s eyes.
Although no one in the family could make any serious argument that they were strangers to parenting, the lack of children was, if only for a short while, a relief. All six of them had taken sometime off from their work, and had planned a romantic, adult weekend, with each couple or triad taking time for their selves to relax with their significant others. At the late afternoon of the first day, the six of them split up, with Browneyes and Fallingstar heading up to visit some of Star’s sisters, who were only in system for a while, Sky deciding to visit one of hir other companions, and Dancer, Seeker, and Spadespot taking up residence in a luxury suite at one of the fancier hotels in Amistad.
The rooms were very luxurious, with wooden panelling, high-end data systems, an anti-gravity bed built to hold five taurs, and all manner of the high-life offerings. All of which were reflected in its pricing, something Dancer was understandably reserved about; however Seeker’s short career in chakker was certainly generating the income to support their stay, and more. However, that didn’t stop Dancer from feeling as if shi was in a china shop and could break any of the very expensive items if shi breathed too hard. Nevertheless, as the sun dropped below the horizon, and the three of them consumed the "chakat special" fine wine and a few drunken kisses later, none of the three could deny shi was having a good time.
The next morning, however, was a different matter. While none of the were young, and none (except perhaps Seeker) could be accused of living a half-life, none of them had ever been drunk before, and none of them had ever had the pleasure to experience a hangover. Most alcoholic drinks they had consumed either had no effect, or if special additives had been added, very mild effects. These additives counteracted the metabolic enzymes that would normally neutralize alcohol’s, or any other drug’s, effects, but because of their warbeast genetic heritage, they had enzymes to counteract those additives, so even with high concentrations of it in one’s drink, a chakat could barely feel the effects. The other route would be to consume large amounts of alcohol quickly, and few had the patience for that. Chakat specials, on the other hand, contained alcohol in extremely high concentrations, enough to overcome the enzymes and get the drinker as drunk as shi wanted. The concentration was what added to the cost - special precautions had to be taken to prevent any non-chakat (or another approved species) from drinking it, since one shot would be enough to kill anyone not similarly protected as they were.
So, as the sun rose and peaked in their suite’s windows, the three of them found themselves ordering hangover suppressants from room service - the person on the other end sounded abused, the cheeky bastard! While they waited, the three of them flopped in various areas of the room, trying not to make too much noise. They didn’t wait long, and they didn’t spare any time before swallowing their relief. Thankfully the drug kicked in quickly and they soon found their troubles dissipating. With it dissipating, the three of them were soon joking about the night before and looking to get some eats.
"What do you recommend Seeker?" Dancer asked.
"Something small I’d imagine, we can go out for brunch." Seeker chuckled, "although frankly I don’t know if I should take you two anywhere; I’ve never seen such overindulgence!"
The three of them laughed, with Spadespot’s trailing off rather quickly. Looking over, Dancer could see a frown developing.
"I hope I didn’t offend you, Spade." Seeker began gently, "It was only...."
"It’s not that." Spadespot cut hir lifemate off midsentence. "Sugarback is scared."
Dancer mirrored hir denmate’s frown, and searched hir empathic connections. As the sire, shi couldn’t hold a candle to the empathic connections hir child’s mother could, and at this distance, shi’d need to concentrate to bring it to the fore. Sure enough the child was scared; damned scared if Dancer was any judge.
"Shi’s in danger!" Spadespot exclaimed, a wild look developing in hir eyes. "I can feel — ARGGHHH!" the rest of hir sentence was drowned out by a roar as a wave of pain rippled through the link. The chakat mother went rigid, and hir left hind leg twitched. For a moment all was still; then, in a flash, shi ran, out of the room. Looking at one another, Seeker and Dancer took a moment to consider what had happened, before following. An enraged chakat mother wasn’t just a danger to others, shi was also a danger to hirself. The two needed to catch hir and calm hir down.
Once out in the hallway, it was obvious, through their links, that shi had taken the stairs. The two of them called for an elevator and rapidly were taken to the lobby — had Spadespot been thinking straight, should would have realized that was the shorter option, but waiting in one spot when one was in such a panic was somewhat out of the question. After shouting a warning to the other people in the lobby, the two positioned themselves at the stairwell doors, feeling hir get closer and closer. As shi burst through the doors, shi stumbled, and both of hir mates pounced, forcing hir to the floor with a thump.
"Argh!" Letmego!" Spadespot growled as shi struggled, swinging a freehand out and raking Dancer across the nose.
"Ouch! Damnit, Spade, calm down!" Dancer swore and told hir friend. At that moment, as if by a miracle, Spadespot stopped and hir head shifted from the west to somewhere more northern. Dancer had felt it too - Sugarback had temporarily broken the link and moved from hir distant location, to somewhere much, much closer. Luckily for Seeker and hir, the momentary break had also broken the "mother’s rage" that had been possessing Spade. Nodding to Dancer, the two of them got off hir and helped hir to hir feet. Shi was calmer, but still jittery.
"Shi’s been transported to the hospital, Spade." Dancer panted, "Honeymane is a responsible cub, shi’s obviously called for help. Let’s put something on and go to the hospital."
Spadespot tensed, as if shi was going to make a run for it, but then relaxed and turned to hir and Seeker. "Do what you want, I’m going, and I’m going now."
The other two chakats shrugged. It wasn’t as if they needed clothing, but even so. Seeker went off to the front desk to explain the situation and order a PTV to take them to the hospital, while Dancer tried to catch hir breath. Shi wasn’t as fit as Seeker was, and shi hadn’t the maniacal energy of an angry mother-chakat. Once shi felt shi had caught hir breath enough, shi fingered hir nose - it was bleeding slightly, but it was already clotting and the cuts didn’t seem deep, so scarring was unlikely. The reprieve caused hir to examine the empathic feelings - Sugarback was hurt badly, somewhere about hir left hind leg for sure, but how badly, shi couldn’t tell. They must have given hir drugs for the pain, but the sensation was unlike anything Dancer had experienced in hir life, but it echoed of when Sugarback had broken hir leg. Yet it was much more intense. Dancer felt like crying out, and part of hir was surprised shi wasn’t clutching hir own leg, or weeping, or both. It wasn’t until Seeker returned and lick-kissed the salty liquid off hir cheeks that shi realized shi was.
The trip to the hospital didn’t take much time, and soon they were inside the big white building. Like many of Chakona’s buildings, the hospital was planned from the start, and the funds that helped build it had also helped beautify the exterior. But even so, the building was remarkably utilitarian and plain compared to other buildings in the city. None of the three really noticed however, as they rushed in. Spadespot practically pranced on the spot.
"Give me a moment," Dancer said tensely as hir own emotions seemed to run hot. Shi might not have felt the distress before, but shi could now, and the pain, fear, and worry were overwhelming and was beginning to wonder whose emotions were whose. But both of them seemed to keep it together for Dancer to ask where to go. Because Chakat parents tended to know right away when their child was hurt, the nurses manning the front desk weren’t surprised in the least and were able to direct them to a waiting room next to the operating room. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Honeymane was sitting on one of the taur couches, looking utterly terrified, with hir cheeks streaked with tears and hir fur all a mess. When shi saw them enter, shi jumped to hir feet and ran to them. Dancer picking hir up and hugged hir as if shi was a life preserver. Shi was crying too, and judging from hir cheeks, had been for sometime. Yet, somehow, comforting hir helped steady hir own emotions, but it didn’t do much for hir mate.
Spadespot began pacing while Seeker excused hirself and went to find a public comm with which to call Browneyes and inform hir of the situation. Although it seemed like hours, rationally Dancer knew very little time had passed, when a chakat wrapped in a smock, with obvious evidence of surgery, emerged from the operating room wing and approached them, looking at the child first, before nodding to hirself. "You’re the parents of Sugarback I assume?"
"Yes!" both Dancer and Spade said in unison, before Spade took over. "Where is shi? Is shi okay? Can I see hir? I—"
The surgeon chakat held up hir hand to cut the panicked mother off so shi could speak. "Your daughter is stable, but shi’s still in surgery."
"Shir, please. I know you’re frightened but let me explain." The doctor said, putting hir hand gently on Spadespot’s arm. "Shi’s stable, but the scimitar cat’s teeth and dragging have done a number on hir leg." Shi sighed heavily. "Right now you have two options. We can do the best we can to reconstruct the leg, but given the damage it’s unlikely that shi’d ever regain full function of the limb…" Dancer grunted, as shi put hir free arm around hir mate, while trying to suppress a cry of horror, something hir mate couldn’t; and who could blame hir? On hir shoulder, Honeymane began weeping gently. "…the other opinion is to remove the leg, amputation." Spadespot couldn’t contain hirself, and began crying, leaning against Dancer, who didn’t exactly feel all that stoic hirself. When no one else did, shi took a deep calming breath and replied. "What then?"
The doctor paused, as if weighing something in hir mind. "Once the limb is removed, two things can happen. Firstly, shi’s young enough that shi could regenerate the limb once it’s gone, but shi’s also at the age where shi’s not going to be as quick or good at it. There are treatments we can do, that’ll help, but it might not regenerate at all. We’ll fit hir with a prosthetic temporarily while it regrows, but if it doesn’t regrow or fails to complete, we’ll have to fit a cybernetic limb."
Dancer nodded, feeling as if shi might throw up at any second. "How long do we have until we need to make a decision?"
"I know it’s a big one, but I wouldn’t wait any more than a few minutes. I’m sorry." Shi finished finally, retreating back down the hallway to the watering machine and for their privacy.
Dancer let go of Spadespot and put the young cub down; luckily at that moment, Seeker re-entered the room with Browneyes and Fallingstar in tow, and shi darted over to the comforting arms of hir mother, while the two spoke. "I think we should go with cutting it off and letting hir body try to regrow it." Dancer said simply.
"Why?" Spadespot asked, as shi dried hir tears — the other empaths in the room were likely projecting a calming sensation. "Shi might…"
"It’s a gamble, for sure." Dancer thought, trying to come up with an explanation for hir gut feeling. "But I’d rather gamble and lose, than say we never tried at all."
Spadespot gulped, with an expression that seemed to alternate between a frown, sorrow, and stark fear, before numbly nodding hir head in agreement. Quickly Dancer waved the surgeon over and told hir the decision. Shi nodded and gave hir word to do hir best, before disappearing behind the O.R. door.
After a few moments of almost silence, Browneyes spoke up. "What happened, exactly?"
"I don’t know." Spade broke hir mate’s grasp and flopped onto the couch dejectedly. When it was clear shi wasn’t going to say more, Dancer took over. "I don’t know either, but the doctor mentioned a Scimitar…"
Browneyes frowned and turned to the now silent and stiff as a board chakat in hir arms. "Do you know something about this, Honeymane?"
Slowly the preteen cub nodded, and began to explain what had occurred.
It wasn’t until later that night that Honeymane got to see Sugarback again. The surgery had gone off without a hitch, but the doctors wanted to limit the number of visitors to only hir parents, which was understandable, when shi thought about it, given the nature of the injury shi had suffered. And, privately, although shi felt even terrible for the thought- shi was glad the two were gone. Every time they looked at hir, shi could feel a stab of red hot anger from them, spiking out above the background levels of fear, sadness, and anger. Oh, shi had screwed up bad. Of course, that didn’t stop it completely - hir mother was still there, and shi was still mad as hell, something shi could feel most acutely. It had been that way ever since shi had explained how it was that hir younger aunt could have been attacked by a Scimitar in a city park. And besides simple commands, or statements, they hadn’t spoken much since then. When Aunt Spadespot and Grandma Dancer had came out, however, they were obviously very happy, if still quite upset.
Visiting Sugarback was even more painful for hir than visiting Starhands, but unlike Starhands, shi knew hir friend wasn’t dead. Of course, shi was very tired from all the stress, and Honeymane only got to be with hir for a little while before shi began to feel drowsy, at which time hir and Browneyes were ushered out of the room by the orderly. Before shi could walk back over to the couch shi had been using before, shi felt hir mother’s hand on hir shoulder. "Let’s go for a walk." A walk was code for talk, and shi knew it. Even so, they walked about the hospital until they came to windowed room overlooking the streets below. Sitting down, hir mom motioned for hir to take a seat across from hir.
"I hope you see now what you’ve done..." Shi began with a sigh. Honeymane nodded hir head; of course shi did. Did shi think shi somehow didn’t see hir friend nearly killed because of hir suggestion?
"Why did you disobey me, Honeymane? I’m your mother." The calico chakat sighed, shook hir head and leaned back.
After a moment Honeymane realized shi was looking for a response. "Uh… well… I don’t know."
"You don’t know?" hir mother nearly growled, the sensations of anger and disappointment were replaced with only anger. "You nearly got my sister, your best friend killed, and you don’t know why you disobeyed? Did I not say it was dangerous? Did I not say you were too young?"
Honeymane didn’t know what to say. Did shi think shi wasn’t upset, that shi didn’t care? That shi didn’t realize shi had screwed up? Shi could feel hirself getting angry hirself.
"First the bad grades, then the lying, and now this, how did you get—" the elder chakat stopped as Honeymane stood up, twitching with some kind of possessive, angry energy.
"Maybe it’s because you’re a terrible mother!" Honeymane growled out.
Honeymane wasn’t sure what had made hir say that, but it felt just so right the words began to flow on their own, as if some demon has taken control of hir mouth. "Maybe if I had a father I wouldn’t be such a damn disappointment to you, mother, but I can’t have one apparently because you’re too cowardly to tell hir you were pregnant!"
"You won’t even call hir up and tell hir now, while shi’s far away and you couldn’t possibly pull hir away from hir dream. What about my dreams? Do they matter nothing to you? Do you think I go to school and not see other kid’s dads picking them up, doing things with them? I-I’m." Honeymane stuttered trying to find the words that had been there in hir grasp just moments ago.
The Calico chakat looked and felt sad now. "I’m sorry. You know I love you..."
"Yeah. Right." Honeymane finished lamely. The comment seemed to crash upon hir mother like a wave, but shi pushed the emotions coming in from hir link away, as shi turned and stalked off. Behind hir, shi thought shi heard a sob.
Browneyes half moaned, half sighed, blinking at the early afternoon sunlight peaked through the blinds, which were only half closed. Shi didn’t really feel like getting up, rather shi preferred to just stay in hir private bedroom all day, as shi had more or less done every day since the incident at the hospital. Shi knew hir cub had only said what shi had said in anger, but it didn’t make it any less hurtful, or, as shi was ashamed to admit, any less truthful. What Honeymane had said, whether shi had meant to hurt hir or not, had cut hir deep, mostly because shi had held those fears close to hir heart ever since shi had realized shi was going to have a child. Having them out in the open… Needless to say, Browneyes was hardly in the mood to be social. However, all this extra rest was starting to give hir a headache. Browneyes sighed again and rolled off hir bed, putting hir four paws firmly on the ground, before padding over to the closet and looking in the top shelf’s locked storage bin. Entering hir code, it popped open and shi rummaged around until shi found what shi was looking for — chakat rated pain killers. Twisting the bottle open shi shook out one, before replacing the bottle and shelf and gulping down the capsule.
Before shi could hop back into the bed, the door opened, with Makrana at the handle. "A-ha! I thought I heard you up."
Browneyes sighed and flopped back onto the bed. "Only for a moment. Sorry to disappoint you."
"Oh for-" Makrana began, before checking hirself and entering the room hirself, the door swinging half closed behind hir. "Brown, I’m sick of this; you can’t spend the rest of your life in here moping because of a fight you had with your kid."
"It’s not just the fight… what shi said, it’s all true!" Browneyes said, starting to feel as if shi might cry once more. "I’m probably the worst mother in the history of motherhood."
"Oh cut the crap." Makrana replied firmly. "So you’ve screwed up. You’ve only screwed up two relationships a little compared to some people do with their lives. And you can hardly be the worst mother. Before Federation contact, Rakshani used to make whole shrines out of the bones of the children they lost in their lifetimes. They didn’t even name the poor mites before their second birthday." Makrana placed hir hand on hir sister’s lower back. "Honeymane said what shi said in anger, even if shi felt that way sometimes, it means nothing. Shi still loves you and thinks the world of you."
Browneyes barked a laugh. "Really? Then why the lying? Why the sneaking around? Why did shi disobey? Shi obviously thinks I’m an idiot."
"Brown, for a psychologist, you seem pretty dense." Makrana gave a small smile. "Shi’s a teenager. Everyone goes through a phase like this."
"Shi’s too young for that…" Brown started, before Makrana put hir finger on hir lips to stop hir protest.
"Then shi’s precocious." Makrana countered. "I don’t know about all of our family, but, uhm, I certainly was. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stellars in general grew up more quickly than one might expect, so it could be a double whammy."
Browneyes thought for a moment before burying hir head in the pillows and sighing "I don’t know, maybe…"
"Well I do know, and I know I’m not leaving until you’re out of this bed and out there." Makrana said firmly. Shi stood up, making as if shi was about to rip the covers off the bed, before sighing hirself. "Listen, Brown, if you’re feeling so bad about this, why don’t you just call up Darktoes and tell hir? Or visit hir?"
"I can’t." Browneyes replied flatly.
"I don’t believe you."
"Believe it. Communications with the planet are pretty much restricted to only those overseeing the project; same with visiting. I can send a letter, but I’d be on knives for months and months. And…" Browneyes paused, looking hir sister in the face, nearly whispering, "What if shi rejects me, or Honeymane?"
"You love this foxtaur, and from what you’ve told me of hir, shi loves you back, yes? I can’t see hir rejecting you, hon, not if shi truly loves you." Makrana paused as the front door to the condo was heard opening and closing, along with several people talking. From their voices, it sounded like the children and Makrana and Brown’s parents. "Listen Browneyes, I can’t tell you what to do, but I know that if you continue like this, you will ruin your relationship with your daughter. Don’t do that."
Browneyes’ eyes narrowed as shi obviously thought it over. Slowly shi nodded to hirself. "I think… I think maybe you’re right, Makrana. I can’t change the past, I can only make the future better." Shi picked hirself up and looked around the room, which looked, and smelled, like shi had been there a week, and shi very nearly had been. Shi gave hir sister a hug and opening the window to let in warm, but fresh, air, before grabbing a brush off the nightstand and beginning to brush hir coat.
Makrana grinned and headed for the door. "Do you want me to send Honeymane in?"
"Could you?" Browneyes said grimacing at a particularly tough knot was brushed out. "Give me a few minutes to freshen up first though." Shi waited for hir sister to nod, before holding hir back again. "And Makrana - thanks."
"No problem sis, I’m always ha—"
"Actually, come to think of it, shouldn’t you be at work?" Browneyes frowned. "I’ve not been in here so long I’ve forgotten the day of the week, you know."
Makrana laughed. "I’ve been promoted to Commander Second Class. I was sent home so I could get dressed up for the ceremony this evening. You’re invited of course."
"Oh. Oh! Congratulations." Browneyes blinked. "I’ll be there."
"I certainly hope so!" Makrana chuckled to hirself as shi left, closing the door until it was just ajar.
Browneyes worked quickly. Hir fur was quite matted, and the best shi could do was a quick smooth down. Looking in the mirror, shi could tell hir head hair was a complete disaster, but nothing could be done about it. Taking a hair band, shi put it into a ponytail, making it look halfway decent. And, after a quick search of hir closet, shi found a decent looking top, and put it on. Glancing at the wall mirror for one last check of hir appearance, shi smoothed the covers out on the bed and thought of what shi was going to say.
The trip to the local park had, by Honeymane’s estimation, been both a success and a failure. Ever since Sugarback had gotten injured, it had felt like they had spent far too much time indoors, and getting fresh air was refreshing to say the least. However, despite the temporary ‘leg’ replacing Sugar’s missing hind one, it wasn’t terribly flexible or seemingly reliable. Shi walked very slow now, and any attempt to move at a pace faster or more spontaneously than the leg could do, led to Sugarback stumbling, and once having hir trip up and fall onto hir side. Mane felt bad about that, shi hadn’t been watching as closely as shi should have, and although Sugarback had laughed it off, shi still felt responsible. However, Sugarback had remained upbeat ever since shi had woken up from hir surgery, a sort of optimistic attitude Honeymane couldn’t quite grasp. Nor could shi understand how shi could call hir a hero for saving hir life when it had been hir own foolishness that had endangered it to begin with. But perhaps shi had good reason to be optimistic; the doctors they had visited yesterday seemed to be, and they had scans that showed the leg stump was starting to regenerate. Even so, as they walked into Honeymane’s home so that Dancer by the Sea and Spadespot could make another attempt to bring hir mother back "into the living" as they said, shi made sure shi was there to catch the younger chakat if shi stumbled.
Shi felt bad for what shi had said to hir mother as well. Shi hadn’t expected that sort of reaction, but looking back shi wasn’t sure shi expected anything; the anger seemed to take hir and made hir say things shi shouldn’t have, things shi didn’t even think were true, things designed to hurt. It seemed to hir that shi had an awful lot of things to feel bad about.
While everyone was milling around, Honeymane helped Sugarback onto the softest taur-pillow they had, before picking up the channel changer and asking whether or not shi wanted any refreshment, but before shi could reply, a complexly patterned hand laid itself on hir shoulder. Looking up, shi could see the smiling face of hir Aunt Makrana. "Hi Auntie."
"Call me Makrana, hon, I’ve said so before." Shi smirked. "Your mom would like to talk to you."
Honeymane blinked. Neither hir or hir mother had really spoken to one another at any length since the fight, and truth be told shi hadn’t been speaking to anyone, despite the many attempts by the other adults in the family. "Oh… okay."
"Just give hir a moment or two to make hir self presentable, before you go in." Makrana said, before laying down on the floor beside Sugarback, "I think I’ll spend some time with my sister while you do. How ya doing kiddo?"
Honeymane didn’t hear the reply, not because shi hurried to hir mother’s private room, but because shi wasn’t sure what shi was going to say, or what would be said. Shi hoped shi wouldn’t get angry again. When shi arrived at the door, shi didn’t bother waiting, shi just pushed the door open a bit more and looked in. Hir mom was dressed and laying on the bed, and shi smiled when shi saw hir at the door. Gently shi patted the bedding beside hir motioning for hir to sit on it. "Come. Sit." Shi said in a soft but firm voice. Honeymane mentally braced hirself but tried not to show it externally as shi sat beside hir mother, their eyes locking.
"Mane…" shi began. "I want to apologize to you."
In spite of hirself Honeymane blinked. "Why?"
Hir mother didn’t say anything for a moment, looking at hir hands. "A lot of what you said was true, I—"
"No it’s not." Honeymane said crossly. "You’re a great mom, it’s my fault that all this happened, not because I don’t have Darktoes here."
"So I’ve been told…" Browneyes smiled a bit, but with a hint of sadness in hir eyes. "But it is true. No one should have to grow up without a father if it can be helped. Sometimes it’s unavoidable but I could have easily avoided this, had I been a stronger character. I thought I was doing the right thing by not telling hir, but…" Hir mother frowned and put hir arm around Honeymane’s upper torso, pulling hir close. Quietly shi returned the hug and snuggled close. "Honeymane… one of the biggest disappointments about growing up is coming to realize your parents are fallible. I know when I was growing up, I once came home from school and found my parents having a fight, something at the time I didn’t think they were capable of doing with one another. They ended up hurting one another that day, and it shattered my illusions of them." Hir mother shrugged and sighed. "The point is, I’ve made mistakes, and you’ve had to live with them, and been affected by them, and for that I’m truly sorry. I’ll make good by you one day, I promise."
Shi nodded and squeezed hir mother’s torso harder. After a moment of silence shi found hir tongue. "I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have disobeyed or lied."
"I know you are sweetie." Browneyes bent down to kiss Honeymane on the forehead. "I should probably still ground you or something."
Honeymane grimaced, but nodded. Shi did deserve it.
"But I suspect punishment you’ve put yourself through yourself is enough." Browneyes smiled softly, patting hir kit’s flank. "But Honeymane?"
"Don’t do that sort of thing again. Please." Hir mother’s voice suddenly taking a stern, commanding tone that booked no disagreement.
"I won’t" Honeymane promised solemnly, and shi meant it.
The two of them sat in a quiet sort of understanding, which was relaxing for both mother and daughter but produced thoughts and questions in Honeymane’s mind, and after a few moments shi voiced them. "Mom… what do you mean by ‘making good by me’?"
"I mean I’m going to try and fix what I’ve done, with not telling Darktoes." Browneyes sighed heavily, "but not soon I’m afraid."
"Why not?" Honeymane asked, slightly annoyed.
"It’s very difficult for anyone to contact anyone on Arisia," Browneyes frowned as shi tried to explain. "Contact to new colonies tends to be sporadic to begin with, but the Federation has special seals on this planet, since it’s suppose to be a test site."
"You could send a letter…" Honeymane suggested.
"I could. But…" Browneyes sighed, "I’d want to do this in person I think, not in an impersonal fashion like a letter. And…"
"Honeymane you have to understand something. I love Darktoes. If I do this, if I tell hir and shi doesn’t reject me, I’m probably going to move to Arisia if I can, and a colony world is no place for a cub." Browneyes stroked hir child’s cheek. "A new world like Arisia is going to be full of things like Scimitar cats."
Honeymane frowned, wondering how much of that was bull.
"But I promise you. When you’re thirteen, we’ll go, both of us." Browneyes said. "For better or for worse, we’ll go."
To be continued in No Turning Back.
Chakats and other concepts © 2011 Bernard Doove
Browneyes, Darktoes, Spadespot, Dancer, Makrana and other characters are copyright me, Honeymane
Feedback is greatly appreciated. Please send your questions, comments, etcetera to HoneymaneFeedback@gmail.com
Return to the Forest Tales main page.
Return to the Chakat's DenTM main page.