A FOREST TALE 28: Disastrous Decision
By Bernard Doove © 2006
"I said, ‘Do you support the proposal, Thayla?’" repeated Freesia, the elder foxtaur vixen who was chairing the meeting.
Thayla collected her thoughts into coherency before replying, "Yes, yes I do."
"Good. Let the records show that the proposal was passed by five votes to two against." Freesia rapped her gavel. "This meeting of the Mountain Glade council is now concluded. I’ll see you all back here in four weeks for the next regular meeting." She then continued with a concerned tone in her voice as she spoke just to Thayla. "Are you feeling okay, Thayla? You seem to be having trouble focusing lately."
Thayla nodded in agreement, and then said, "I haven’t been feeling completely well lately, I must admit. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me though."
"Time to visit the doctor then," Freesia recommended.
"Yes, I really should have done so sooner."
Some time later, Thayla exited the doctor’s surgery. "This changes everything," she murmured to herself. "How is my new denmate going to react?" She trotted off home, her world turned topsy-turvy, and started making new plans for Garrek’s upcoming visit.
Goldfur, dripping with seawater, shook hirself vigorously, sending spray in all directions.
"Hey!" exclaimed Forestwalker indignantly. "Can’t a person laze in the sun in peace?"
Goldfur grinned unrepentantly and sprawled onto the sand next to hir sister. "Nope! We’re going to arrange a game of beach volleyball in a few minutes, so you need to start getting your blood pumping."
"The twins have already worn me out," protested Forestwalker, "and besides, I told Leanna to leave the cub-watching to me so shi could have some fun. In fact I insisted, otherwise shi might never have let hirself go ‘off-duty’ and enjoy this trip to the beach."
The sisters watched Leanna for a while. Right now, shi had hir arms about the shoulders of Kris and Trina, swinging between them, giggling like a little girl. Earlier, shi had splashed in the waves, built a sandcastle, and threw a Frisbee, just like the children.
Goldfur said, "It’s at times like these that we get reminded just how young shi really is. Shi has an adult body, adult needs, and an adult sense of responsibility, but when shi is relieved of all of that, she can really show hir true age."
"Yeah," Forest agreed. "Shi never had a childhood, having been raised artificially to maturity, but you can’t easily take away the need to play. Normally shi sublimates it into her sex-play, but deep down it seems that shi’s just as needful of child-like games as any person of hir real age."
"Kris and Trina know that, don’t they?"
"Sure, but you know them – they work hard, and they play hard when work is done. They like Leanna’s energy and sheer sense of fun." Forest laughed as they watched the foxes throw Leanna into the gentle surf, only to have hir swim under water and pull them both off balance to join hir. Wild splashing ensued, accompanied by shrieks of laughter.
Goldfur grinned. "See? That’s where you should be."
Forest shook hir head. "No, I want those three to be together as much as possible."
Goldfur gave hir sister a keen look. "Is your den-mating with Leanna not working out as you thought it would?"
"Oh no, that’s not what I meant. I just want them to get more familiar with each other and get used to the idea of they being a triad. They match each other so well in so many ways, just as I thought that they would originally."
"So you’re not concerned that Leanna might have proposed to you simply out of a sense of misplaced gratitude?"
"Give me a little credit, sis. I was well aware of that possibility, but so far all hir feelings have been 100% genuine. I can sense that much clearly. It’s still early days though, and if hir feelings for me should fade, shi will still have Kris and Trina. In the meantime, I’m quite enjoying having hir as a mate, and I reckon that the most likely outcome is that we’re going to end up as a comfortable foursome. Besides, when Midnight is at home, I can devote more time to my lifemate without worrying about neglecting Leanna."
"Shi deserves happiness," Goldfur said. "Shi does so much for everyone in the family, always thinking of others first, especially the cubs."
"I agree. Did you know that the other day when we were all out of the house except Leanna and Trina working in hir office, Leanna discovered just how inundated Trina was in paperwork which was slowing down her real work on projects. Leanna was feeling a bit bored and asked Trina if shi could have a go at taming it. Shi had that office totally organised in just a few hours, and now Trina wants to officially hire hir as a part-time secretary. I found out that Leanna used to do much of hir former master’s office work also. Apparently it amused him that the pleasant female voice that fielded his calls and dealt with customers was actually supposed to be a moronic sex slave. It was his private joke on them."
"Not much of a joke, if you ask me. How did Leanna feel about doing that work?"
"Grateful, actually. A person of hir intelligence would get bored easily, and although it wasn’t very challenging, it kept hir mind occupied. It’s true still. Aside from these rare times when shi lets go and just plays, shi always has to be doing something. Even when shi’s resting, you notice that shi likes to engage in deep conversations. Frankly, I think we might get a shock if we accurately measured hir IQ."
Goldfur grimaced wryly. "I know what you mean. I’m grateful that shi’s taken our children under hir wing. I think this is going to be an all-round win for them, hir and us. Right now though, I think that’s shi’s got the right idea, and it’s time that you got up and chose your team-mates because I’m ready to thrash you at volleyball!"
"In your dreams, Goldie!" Forest laughed as shi surged to hir feet.
The adults paired up with the cubs who, while not very skilled, made up for it in enthusiasm. Leanna had never played the game before but, true to hir nature, soon was playing like an expert. Forestwalker wondered if shi could be encouraged to join up in some formal competitive sport, but shi noticed the fennec favouring the cubs on both sides during the game, and suspected that Leanna might lack the killer instinct needed to be truly successful. Time would tell, shi decided.
After the games, everyone cooled off in the water again. Eventually Forestwalker announced that it was time for tea, and everyone headed to the beach showers to rinse the salt from their fur. The first ones done went to their PTV to grab the picnic gear, and they set it up on the grass on the foreshore. Several other families had had the same idea, and soon all the various children – morph, human and taur – were all playing together with balls, Frisbees, and even a kite. Leanna was keeping a watchful eye on hir charges even as shi helped with the preparations, and was instantly on the spot when Eudora collided with a human boy as they each chased their respective toys. Goldfur wasn’t far behind, but hir empathic sense had already told hir that neither had incurred more than a head bump, so shi didn’t rush. Shi was in time to hear the boy speak as he picked himself off the grass.
"Oof! Next time you go first!" he said dizzily.
Eudora untangled hir limbs and got to hir feet. "Okay by me," shi replied.
"Hey, we want to have a game of beach cricket, but don’t have enough people. Wanna play?"
"Sure! Oh, wait, we’re about to have a picnic."
"That’s okay, we can wait. I’m Keith. My family is just over there." He pointed them out.
"Great!" Eudora replied enthusiastically. Then shi belatedly remembered something. "Is it okay with you, mum?" shi asked hopefully.
"Sure, ‘Dora, as long as the other cubs can join in also," Goldfur assented.
Eudora looked at Keith who replied, "Sure thing. We need a few more."
"Cool! I’m Eudora, but you can call me Dora too. See ya soon!"
Shi fetched the Frisbee that shi’d been chasing, and headed back to the picnic, with Leanna and Goldfur bringing up the rear.
"What’s wrong, Leanna?" Goldfur asked hir in puzzlement. "You seemed to react very strongly to a minor incident, and even now you’re very agitated."
Leanna attempted to relax as shi explained. "Back on my home-world, if a morph collided with a human, that morph would have been punished for carelessness. I was so worried for Eudora!"
Goldfur grinned at hir to ease the tension. "This isn’t a perfect society, but usually the children can still bump heads without causing huge dramas. Sure, his parents could still have been irate, but I overheard one say ‘Keith’s just bowled over another kid’ in an exasperated tone, so I don’t think we’re going to have any problems."
Leanna was relieved, but it would still be a long time before shi would stop worrying so much when humans and the cubs intermixed.
In the end, Marcus, Kayla, Snowcloud, Stonefur, Patchwork and Eudora joined with several human children, plus a few morphs to have a lively game. The parents joined the chakats to chat while watching their progeny play. Only the late setting of the summer sun brought their day to a close, and the families said goodbye and left for their respective homes.
Garrek found himself under water and completely disoriented until his paws found the bottom and he stood up, gasping for breath. Where was he? He looked about and saw that he was surrounded by pools of water, and he was standing in one of them. They looked strangely familiar. As he panted for breath, he noticed that his shirt was strangely tight. He looked down and was startled by the sight that met his eyes. Ripping his shirt open, he confirmed the awful truth – two very large breasts! He was a vixen! He had fallen into the cursed springs, into the pool of the drowned foxtaur vixen!
"Nooooooo!" he wailed.
A very hard thump on the shoulder rattled him, and he looked into the face of his bleary-eyed lifemate.
"No more 20th Century anime marathons for you," Goldfur said crossly, then settled down to go back to sleep.
The very embarrassed (and very male) foxtaur settled back down beside hir to get some much-needed, and hopefully dreamless, slumber.
"He did what?" asked Forestwalker in amused disbelief.
"Garrek thought that he’d been transformed into a vixen by this magic pool like that Ranma character in those old animation shows," Goldfur explained, in a much better humour now that shi was rested.
Forestwalker laughed. "I never understood what he sees in those type of shows. The girls are all two thirds leg and their eyes are enormous."
Goldfur shrugged. "Whatever his reasons, it’s a fairly harmless hobby. I won’t let him go on a viewing binge like that again if it’s going to give him nightmares."
"Especially as we’re preparing to visit his village for the New Year’s Festival," Forestwalker agreed.
"He wanted to show off his collection of antique recordings to Leanna and the others. I don’t know how impressed they were, but once he gets started, he has a hard time stopping. I practically had to drag him to bed."
A mischievous smile grew on Forestwalker’s muzzle. "I think that I’m going to have to pull a prank on him for this."
"Be my guest. Just let me know when you’re going to do it so that I can watch the fun!"
The sisters laughed and went back to work.
Leanna had virtually nothing to pack, so shi helped with the cubs’ stuff, then kept them out of the adults’ way. Mostly though, shi had been instructed to play hard with them in order to wear them out quickly. Then they would have an early dinner and be put to bed. They would be woken in the early hours of the morning to be transported, courtesy of Boyce’s shuttle, to California where it was several timezones later in the day. It was crowded, even in that capacious spacecraft, but it saved them a lot of time and expense.
Although Boyce had been to Mountain Glade previously to deliver or pick up passengers, he hadn’t had the opportunity to stay before, so this was to be a new experience for him, as well as his Caitian mates and Leanna. He’d had to park the shuttle well away from the village though because the foxtaurs didn’t want his craft causing a disturbance in their community. However, they were met by the clan’s mini-bus which was capable of carrying all of them, plus their baggage.
The newcomers loved the snow-covered scenery and the picturesque community, and were made to feel warmly welcome when they arrived at Garrek and Malena’s den. As always, Jaleth had been cooking up heaps of hot food for the visitors, and they were treated to a hearty lunch.
Soon after they had arrived, Garrek’s denmate, Kassi and Zendak, his best friend and co-mate, had come to the den, soon followed by Thayla, the elder vixen who had also become part of Garrek’s family. The joy in their reunion was readily apparent, and the dining room was filled with animated conversation as they all caught up with the news.
"I have a very important piece of news," Thayla announced. When she had their attention, she continued. "I had reason to visit the doctor a few weeks ago. I have not been feeling right lately."
"Oh no!" exclaimed Garrek. "Is it serious?"
Thayla smiled reassuringly at her concerned mate. "Don’t worry. It’s something that I’ll get over in about six months."
Quickpaw was the first to catch on. "You’re pregnant!" shi exclaimed.
Garrek looked startled as Thayla nodded in confirmation. "But I thought you were… well… too old to have kits anymore?" he queried.
"So did I, but the doctor chastised me for forgetting my lessons, but it’s been a very long time since I was a young vixen learning about sex. He reminded me that the cessation of overt heats didn’t mean that I wasn’t fertile anymore. It’s only a symptom of the oncoming of menopause. Bottom line, Garrek dear, is that I apparently had a ripe egg waiting the last time that we made love. The doctor confirmed that I had been suffering from mild morning sickness. That stage has passed now though."
Garrek absorbed this news, then said, "How do you feel about this? We didn’t plan on a kit at all."
"My love, I consider it a gift. I told you that I considered our mating as the start of a new chapter in my life, and the only lack would have been children. The doctor says that I am very lucky, and probably will never be fertile again after this one, so this will be a very precious child for me."
"For both of us, darling. Are you hoping for a tod this time?"
"I honestly don’t care, Garrek. If he or she is half the person their sire is, I’ll be very satisfied."
"Congratulations, Thayla," Goldfur said, and the rest of the family echoed hir statement. Garrek had tears of happiness welling in his eyes as he hugged and nuzzled the elderly vixen. Malena joined him, then Kassi and Zendak completed the foxtaur branch of the extended family.
Goldfur smiled fondly at hir lifemate. He was so dedicated to all his denmates! Shi had missed them also. However, shi was still waiting for two more to join them. It was about mid afternoon, while the adults were lounging around the fire, conversing, when a familiar howl announced their imminent arrival. Stepping outside, Goldfur and the others saw two familiar figures walking out of the forest and leaving fresh tracks through the snow. Many of the cubs who had been playing outside, rushed to meet them. Goldfur noted with surprise a third figure following behind. The first two were a wolftaur and a chakat, and the mysterious third person was another wolftaur. When they came close, the lead wolftaur bounded up to Goldfur and gave hir a huge hug.
"It’s so good to see you again, Goldie!" she exclaimed.
"I’ve missed you a lot too, Lupu," Goldfur replied as shi hugged and nuzzled the wolftaur bitch.
Then the chakat joined them, and shi and Goldfur faced each other as almost mirror images, clothing aside.
"It’s great to see you also, twin sister," Goldfur said. "It looks as if the time spent with the pack has been good to you. You look strong and toned."
Goldendale grinned. "You get that way when you have to hunt for your meals every day. I must say that I’m glad to be back with the family again though." Shi exchanged hugs with Goldfur and the rest of the others, and was introduced to Leanna. The fennec was startled by the absolute identicalness of the two chakats even though shi had been forewarned. Only their hair length differed – Goldfur in hir typical ponytail, and Dale in a shoulder length style.
"I see that your hair has returned to its normal colour," observed Forestwalker.
"Yeah, there isn’t much in the way of hair-care products out in the middle of the forest. I might or might not dye it again."
"So, who is your wolftaur friend?" asked Goldfur. "Did he guide you back to the village?"
Dale looked a bit embarrassed. "No, I remembered the way okay. Goldfur, meet Avissavaunte, my new denmate."
Goldfur was very surprised. "You took another mate? A male? Do you mean to tell me that in just a few months, you’ve become so accustomed to being a chakat that you’ve gone from being hysterical over the thought of being mounted, to actually mating?"
Dale gave hir a lopsided grin. "Yep. Surprised the hell out of me too, I must admit. However, I think that I made a good choice, and he, Lupu and I make a great triad."
"Please tell me that you’re not pregnant," Goldfur pled.
"What? Good grief, no! I’m not ready for that yet; not for a long while at least. I definitely plan to do so in the future, but I have a lot more growing as a chakat before I commit to such a big step."
"Thank heavens for that, at least," Goldfur said with relief.
"Goldie, stop being rude and talk to Avi," insisted Dale.
Goldfur looked embarrassed and offered a greeting hug to the wolftaur who had been shyly hanging back. He accepted it, and the two briefly embraced.
"My apologies, Avissavaunte," Goldfur said. "I’m just really concerned about my twin sister. Shi’s rather inexperienced about many things, and I worry about hir welfare."
Avissavaunte replied, "Just call me Avi, please, and I understand your concern. After Dale explained hir origins to me, I felt the same urge to protect the person with whom I was falling in love."
"You’re going to have to explain how that happened," Forestwalker said, pretty much voicing the thoughts of everyone who had been familiar with Dale.
"It’s a long story," Dale said.
"They’re the best kind, and we have plenty of time," Goldfur said, putting an arm around both Lupu and Dale, and then steering them into the den. "We’ve got a roaring fire, and Jaleth has laid on plenty of nibblies."
"Things were a bit awkward for the first few days," Dale began after they’d settled in. "The hunters let me join them though, and my old human skills were good enough to keep me out of trouble, and even bring in some game. I quickly grew familiar with the wolftaur style of hunting, and the hunters eventually conceded that I was as good as any of them, and wasn’t going to be a burden on the pack. Lupu started practicing her old skills, and we managed quite well. I even started making some friends. We had been there only a couple of weeks though when an odd offering was left at the mouth of our den….
"Lupu! Do you know why there’s a bracelet hanging off a stake out here?" Dale called back into the den.
Lupu padded out to have a look, and her eyes widened in surprise. She picked up the bracelet which she noted was skilfully made from grass and dried seeds. "It’s an expression of interest. When a male is interested in a female, he will sometimes leave her an anonymous gift of a bracelet like this. If she isn’t interested, she will leave it where it was found. However, if she is interested in a possible boyfriend, she will wear it so the male can see it in public. Then usually follows more gifts to show that the male is serious, and to let the female change her mind without publicly embarrassing her suitor. Then, if all goes well, the male will turn up with a bracelet matching the first, and the female will make a final decision to date him or send him away."
"So some male in the pack has the hots for you?" Dale asked. Shi knew that had shi been human, shi probably would have felt jealous, but as a chakat, all shi felt was curiosity.
Lupu grinned evilly. "Not me, hon. You!" She held up a broad leaf attached to the bracelet. On it was written roughly – ‘GOLDUNDAIL’. The spelling was bad, but there was no ambiguity as for whom it was intended.
"ME?!" Dale was incredulous. "Some guy wants to date me?"
"Uh-huh," Lupu confirmed, amused by hir predicament.
"But I’m a chakat – why would he chase after me?"
"Perhaps he likes what he sees," Lupu replied as she hugged and caressed the bewildered chakat. "Just like I do," she added.
"I know that I said that I intended to explore my female side and eventually seek out some male company, but this is way sooner than I had planned."
"If I know you, you’d leave it until it was almost too late. I promised Goldie that I would help you be a chakat when these kind of circumstances occurred, so here’s my first piece of advice – Don’t reject it without looking into it further. There’s no commitment at this point."
"You sound as if you’re eager to have your denmate go off with the first person who propositions hir!"
"Dale, my love, I may not be a chakat, but having been part of a chakat family for some time now, I know them a hell of a lot better than you do, even though you are one. A chakat is happiest when shi’s interacting with several people on a very close basis, and I don’t necessarily mean on a sexual basis. However, it’s in their nature to be promiscuous, but they nevertheless are particular about with whom. So, even though I was a mere third mate to Goldfur, I felt very much loved. Now I’m first mate to you, and I feel secure and happy as well as loved. So, not only don’t I object to you being interested in others, I don’t feel threatened, and I know that it’s best for you in the long run."
Dale hugged Lupu appreciatively, and then said, "Thanks, but this still makes me nervous just thinking about it."
"I’d be surprised if it didn’t. Just let it happen naturally. Don’t force it or fight it. If it’s meant to happen, it will."
Dale took the bracelet and held it up to have a good look at it. "Such a simple thing, yet so full of potential. Okay, I’ll give it a chance. God, I hope he’s at least not one of those crude ones!"
Dale wore the bracelet the next time that shi left the den. Shi strained hir untrained senses to try to detect one of the males reacting in pleasure, but all shi managed to pick up were a few surprised people, both male and female.
Life went on normally for a few days. Dale left in the morning with the hunting pack, getting more adept with the wolftaur-style hunting bow. Hir previous training as a planetary surveyor for the Star Corps, and the associated field survival skills needed to do the job, had let hir adapt quickly, and shi made hir fair share of the kills. Each evening though, when shi came back to the den, some other gift was waiting as Lupu had predicted. A necklace matching the bracelet was first, then cold season fruits and hoarded nuts. When a well-made leather pouch was left, Dale was impressed.
"This guy is really serious!" shi said to Lupu as shi showed it off.
"He sure is," Lupu agreed as she examined its quality. "In fact, with something this good, I’m betting that he’ll soon make his approach. Are you ready for him?"
"As ready as I’ll ever be, I reckon. I must admit that there’s something to be said for this method. Curiosity has raised my anticipation for the real thing. I’m dying to know who wants me as his girlfriend this bad!
Lupu was correct again. Instead of another gift, waiting for Dale when shi returned the next evening was a youthful and quite handsome male wolftaur. As shi approached, he held up his arm to show a bracelet that was the twin to the one that Dale wore.
‘Here we go!’ Dale thought to hirself and stepped forward. ‘I wonder which of us is more nervous?’ Then shi realised that shi had indeed been sensing his nervousness, although outwardly he seemed calm.
"I am Avissavaunte, and I would like to have the privilege of courting you," the young wolftaur said formally.
"Avissa-vaunte," repeated Dale, trying to pronounce it correctly.
"That’s right, but if you wish, you can call me just Avi."
"Well, Avi, we’ve done all this so far the wolftaur way. However, I’m not a wolftaur, so I’m going to change the script a bit. Come inside the den and let’s talk."
Rather than being worried about this variation to the wolftaur courting practices, Avi seemed relieved that Dale was willing to go further. They stepped inside where Dale saw Lupu waiting, and shi suspected that she had known about Avi standing out there, and had been eagerly awaiting Dale’s return.
"Lupu, darling, this is Avissavaunte, my potential suitor."
"Yes, I know Avi. Shy and awkward around the bitches. A very talented artisan though."
Dale could feel Avi’s embarrassment at Lupu’s blunt assessment. "Avi, you must already know that I’m a hermaphrodite, and happily mated to Lupu. Tell me your reasons for wanting to court me in spite of those facts."
"Goldendale, I think that you are very beautiful," Avi started.
"Thank you," replied Dale, startled that shi did indeed feel flattered. Shi’d never been the type to put much stock in hir looks, at least not before the change. "There must be plenty of attractive bitches though. Why prefer me over them?"
"Because I like new and different things. The pack is too hidebound to embrace new things. Many barely tolerate you for the most part. I, on the other hand, find you exotic and sexy."
Dale could hardly begrudge him for his tastes, and frankly the feelings that he was unconsciously projecting as he explained himself were turning hir on. Shi would not let that influence hir unduly though. "So basically you think that I am pretty, sexy and exotic. You could still have a lot of fun with a young wolftaur bitch."
"None of them are interested in me," he stated flatly.
That surprised Dale. Even shi could see how physically attractive he was, and he had certainly been talking well so far. "Why not?" shi queried.
"Because he’s an oddball," interrupted Lupu. "He doesn’t have the pack mentality, and that makes the others uneasy."
"You don’t have to think like the pack in order to serve it," he replied defensively. "Just because I have my own thoughts and dreams doesn’t make me worthless."
"No, but it makes you undesirable to them." Then Lupu gave him a big friendly grin. "But you’re a lot like me, and I like your attitude."
Strangely enough, so did Dale. Shi had been a bit concerned about having one of the typical males because of their greatly different attitudes and pack-mind. Shi was suddenly a lot more interested in him. "Avi, I intend to rejoin my family at the end of the year, and probably go back to work. If you really want a relationship with me, what will you do then?"
He was silent for a long moment as he considered that seriously, then he looked hir in the eyes and said earnestly, "Can I come with you?"
"I don’t belong here. As Lupu said, I don’t have the pack mentality. I have dreams and ambitions that I can’t pursue while I live with the pack. Here, I barely started to read before I was told to stop wasting my time on such frivolous things and work at something useful. I’m stifling here!" He realised how loud and excited he was getting, and cut himself off.
Dale considered what he’d said, then asked, "So, did you see me just as a means of getting out of here?"
"No!" he exclaimed. "Well… yes, I thought of that at first, but I genuinely do find you attractive. You’re a breath of fresh air in this stultifying atmosphere. You’re pretty, sexy, and the most exciting thing to happen around here, including when your twin sister visited briefly. When I thought about asking you to take me with you, my thoughts kept turning to… well… more physical things if you know what I mean?"
Dale was certain that shi did indeed know, and decided to cut that off before he got more detailed, and shi got more embarrassed. "Okay, I believe you, and I sure can’t blame you for wanting more out of life. I must say that you have me intrigued, and I find you a more interesting person for wanting to improve yourself.
Avi began to look hopeful. Dale made a decision then. "If anything is going to develop between us, we’re going to have to be truthful with each other. You’ve told me your full motivations; now I’ll tell you a few startling things about myself that may change your mind. First though, I need you to give me your word that you won’t tell anybody what I’m about to tell you."
Avi eagerly agreed, not willing to risk his best chance ever.
Dale said, "Make yourself comfortable, Avi. This is a complicated story." And so shi related hir true genesis, with Lupu occasionally interjecting with extra details. Avi listened in astounded silence until Dale concluded, "… and that’s how I came to be here with the pack."
Avi was silent for a while as he absorbed these facts. Then he said with wonder in his voice, "I had no idea such things were possible. I so want to see these things for myself!"
Dale was amused. "What? Nothing about having a former male human as a girlfriend?"
"Huh? Oh no! You’re a chakat now, and that’s what attracted me. In fact I like it better because I don’t feel so odd anymore. We are actually a good match in that respect."
Dale grinned. "Yeah, I suppose we are. Well, Lupu encouraged me to find a boyfriend, and I really want to develop my female side and grow fully as a chakat, so I think that I will accept your advances."
Avi looked relieved and happy. "Thank you, Dale. Ummm… how do you want to start this? I’m rather new to this stuff from here on."
"That makes two of us, Avi, so let’s take it easy for now. For starters, let’s give you a reading lesson. I’m not having a boyfriend who can’t spell or write properly!"
"You mean to tell us that you started dating by giving Avi spelling lessons?" Forestwalker asked incredulously.
"Yep!" Dale agreed with a grin. "Each evening, Avi would come over and we would read one of the books that I’d brought with me. Not the best of school books, but Avi still learned quickly."
Avi spoke up. "I’ve always wanted to be able to read and write properly, so I was highly motivated. In return, I taught Dale some of my crafts."
"I’m working on a very nice necklace at the moment," Dale said. "Anyway, we got to know each other better and our friendship grew deeper. Then one night, it just happened. I don’t recall exactly how it started other than being very close to Avi as I showed him something, then suddenly we were hugging and fondling each other, then it developed into kissing intimately, leaving us breathless and excited. Avi then asked me if I wished to go all the way, and I said yes without hesitation. All the fear and doubt were finally gone, and I was ready to make love."
"So, what was it like, sis?" Goldfur asked.
Dale gave them all a big goofy grin as shi recalled the moment. "Glorious!" shi summed it up.
"You couldn’t have torn them apart," Lupu commented with a grin. "Two virgins discovering just how good sex is! I should have had some popcorn while watching the show."
Dale threw a cushion at the cheeky wolftaur bitch. Some things never changed!
Goldfur put hir arm about Dale and gave hir a big hug. "Congratulations! You did it right. You were true to yourself and still behaved in a chakat manner. Not much more to go before you will feel that you were destined to be a chakat."
"I believe you, Goldie," Dale said. "More and more, the memory of what it was like being human is becoming unreal to me. Getting past that last hurdle has made me completely comfortable with myself. I truly think that Avi will make a great mate for us, and he’ll be a good sire when I’m ready to have a child."
"As I’ve said, take your time. You’ll know when you’re ready, just like you knew when you were ready to be mounted for the first time. However, you said ‘a great mate for us’. I thought Avi was courting only you."
"He was, but when I decided to make our relationship formal, I insisted that it would be on chakat terms if he was going to join our family. Lupu is his co-mate, and I expect that he and she will keep each other company when I go back to work."
"Neither of us were averse to the idea," Lupu added.
Avi said, "I hadn’t expected that because wolftaurs are often monogamous, but Lupu is as unusual as the rest of us. So I went from having no mates, to having two. I’m still overwhelmed. I can’t believe how my luck has turned around."
"Stick with us, kiddo, and you’ll still get overwhelmed on a regular basis, but you’ll have a damn lot of fun in the meantime," Lupu predicted.
"So you’ve decided to go back to work with the Star Corps?" Goldfur asked.
"Yeah, I’m ready now, and aside from having to adapt a few things, my skills are still valid. I don’t intend to live off the Star Corps’ generosity for much longer."
"I’m sure that they’ll be delighted to hear that. I have one question though. Are you aware that there’s a rule that if there’s a chakat amongst the crew, there must be at least two, preferably more, or none at all?"
"No, I wasn’t. Why is that? Do they… we… need the company?"
"Broadly speaking, yes. We chakats are extremely social creatures, as you have learned. We actually need the company of others for our mental health, far more than any other species. In particular, we need the company of other chakats for some empathic interaction. In the short term, we can get by with the company of other species, especially if they are emotionally close to us, such as our denmates, like you just did with Lupu. However, for longer periods such as lengthy Star Corps missions, we have to have at least one chakat with whom we can socialise."
"That probably accounts for why I’ve been feeling a bit antsy lately, and why seeing you and Forest again was so much on my mind lately," Dale conjectured. "I had put it down to a touch of home-sickness or the like. I’ve never had that before though, so it was a bit odd."
"Well, we can’t know exactly how much your transformation has affected you psychologically, but yes, it could be a factor. That’s not the end of the story though. You already know that we are very tactile creatures, and we tend to express ourselves sexually a lot. During times of heat and rut, we need some company, preferably a chakat’s, to deal with them. Stress relief is the common euphemism, but an accurate one. No chakat ever died from lack of sex, but none would willingly do without if they had another option."
"So you’re saying that I’d be expected to provide ‘stress relief’ to any other chakats aboard?" Dale asked uncertainly.
"Yes, although I must emphasise that that isn’t compulsory. It would only be expected because it’s not something that would normally bother a chakat. Recreational sex is a favourite form of socialising for us. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement with no obligations. We make it a point to get to know any new chakat that we meet on a mission well before we would need their services, so we can do so as familiar friends, and not just as a convenient sex partner. That’s how I met Midnight, in fact. We don’t have enough in common to be interested in being mates, but we enjoyed the times that we spent together. Other chakats have met their lifemates that way. Of course, I fell for this hunky foxtaur instead!" Goldfur said as shi gave Garrek a cuddle.
"Well, I’m not in the market for another mate, thanks!" Dale said adamantly. "However, I can see the necessity of the practice. Ummm… do you think that I could arrange that my first mission back is on the same ship as you, Goldie?"
"I’m reasonably sure that they’d be happy to arrange that. Anything to get you back up to speed and being a useful member of the Corps again. So you think that it would be easier to deal with me rather than a new chakat?"
"Oh yes! In fact I almost asked you to be my first lover with me in the female role before I left with Lupu."
Goldfur’s eyebrows raised in surprise and curiosity. "Not that I would have said no, but why me? Why not someone like Midnight who prefers hir male side?"
"It’s simple, really. Anyone else in this family could not help see me as you. Intellectually they might know that I’m Dale, but their sight, smell, hearing and touch would tell them it’s you. In the heat of passion, I want to be appreciated for myself, not Goldfur. You, on the other hand, would not see me as yourself. You could treat me as a unique person."
"That makes a lot of sense," Goldfur agreed, "and I’m a tad disappointed not to be your first male lover. Why didn’t you ask?"
"I wasn’t quite ready then. The time spent with Lupu’s pack plus Avi’s courting were what I need to get me in the proper mood. Only then was I ready to explore my female side."
"Then you did everything right. I’m proud of you, twin sister. I’ll be pleased to be able to count on you on a mission, and I promise to make it as pleasant as possible for you too. There’s just one possibility left – there could be more than just we two chakats on board. I’ll be happy to deal with any others, but there’s always the chance that that might not work out."
"I don’t expect miracles, Goldie. I’ve coped with everything so far, and I’m certainly not fragile anymore. I just want to get back to my career, and now that Avi is here to help keep Lupu company while I’m away, I won’t have to fret over her. Or at least not nearly as much!"
Goldfur looked at Avi. "You don’t intend to travel with Dale? You’re entitled to do so as hir mate, you know?"
Avi looked embarrassed. "I know that I said that I intended to go out and experience new things, but that’s a bit too much for me so soon. Maybe after I learn more about the world outside of the pack, I’ll be ready to travel with hir."
"Fair enough." Goldfur conceded. "It’s a big universe out there, and you need to be able to face it confidently."
Forestwalker added, "And we’ll be delighted to have you around and get you ready for that day." There were murmurs of agreement from all present.
"Thanks, everyone," Avi said. "Dale and Lupu both told me that I would like it here with you, and could count on you to help me. I’m so excited about all this. In the space of a few weeks, I’ve gained a mate, a new family, and a brand-new life. This is all a dream come true for me!"
"One thing that we can promise, Avi – it will never be boring with us!" Forest added with a grin.
Strata was glad to finally be at the foxtaur village. The stay with Forestwalker’s family had been very pleasant, but shi had been feeling like fifth wheel lately, even though shi had tried to help with the chores. It was pleasant to meet so many foxtaurs, but it had made hir even more eager to meet the person that Forest had said would likely make a good match for hir. Lunch had stretched hir anticipation to the breaking point, but at last it was over, and Malena had left to visit her friend and find out if she was still potentially interested in a herm mate. When Malena returned, she had a big grin on her face.
"Fellana thought that I was teasing her when I told her that a herm foxtaur was eager to meet her," Malena told Strata. "When I finally convinced her that I was serious, she nearly chased me out of her den. She told me to go fetch you while she readied herself. She’ll meet you in the glade next to her den. If you’re ready, I’ll take you there now."
"Ready? I’ve been ready since Forest told me about your friend! Lead on!"
Malena took Strata as far as the edge of the glade, then came to a halt and said, "Fellana should be waiting for you there. Good luck, Strata."
"Thanks, Malena. However this comes out, I’m grateful for the efforts of you and your family."
Malena nodded and smiled, then let the Stellar Foxtaur go meet her friend alone.
Strata hesitated. Now that the moment was here, shi had an attack of nerves. What if this person didn’t like what she saw? What if shi had been deluding hirself with unrealistic expectations? What if… What if shi got off hir rump and found out! Shi stepped down the trail and it opened into a small grassy glade with a tiny creek flowing through it. The overhanging trees and the sunny aspect had combined to keep much of the snow out of there, so it didn’t have the same wintry aspect of much of the village. Strata hardly noticed though, because waiting for hir was a gorgeous red-fox vixentaur with a tail that was two thirds black fur. She wore a simple but attractive blue top and an ornamented hip pouch, plus a few other decorative baubles. Strata, as per usual, wore nothing, but the vixen was running her eyes over the Stellar with equal admiration.
"Fellana Blacktail, I presume?" Strata asked.
"Yes, and you would have to be Strata. You’re the first Stellar Foxtaur I’ve ever seen, or heard of to be honest."
"We’re not commonly found on Earth," Strata explained.
"So, what are you doing here on Earth then?" Fellana asked curiously.
"I’m seeking a mate," Strata answered bluntly.
"That’s funny, so am I," Fellana replied with a big smile. "Malena says that you prefer your male side, so that’s why you’re looking for a vixen?"
"That’s right. Are you interested?"
"I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that I wasn’t. Want to be my partner for the New Year’s Eve party tonight? We can get to know each other better."
"Definitely! But have you anything else to do before then?"
"Nothing that can’t wait. Want to get started sooner?"
Strata reached out to take Fellana’s hands. "My dear gorgeous vixen, I’m been waiting for long enough. I need to know if we are right for each other, and the sooner the better."
Fellana gazed into Strata’s eyes. "You’re like someone out of my wildest fantasies. I should be sensible and learn more about you first…." Her voice trailed off as she got caught up in the emotion of the moment. "I… never believed in… love at first sight," she said in a very small, disbelieving voice.
Strata leaned in and replied in a matching tone, "Neither did I." A few seconds later, and the two were hugging and fondling each other while kissing as if they had been building up to this moment all their lives. The intimate encounter lasted until they finally broke apart, panting heavily to regain their breath.
"I don’t *pant* believe that *pant* I did that!" Fellana said when she could spare the breath to speak.
"Me neither, *pant* but I’m glad *pant* that I did!" Strata admitted.
"Me too! *pant* I’m so glad *pant* that I waited *pant* for you to come *pant* into my life."
"And I’m glad *pant* that I found you!"
Strata hugged the vixen while they both recovered their breath. Fellana returned it with enthusiasm. Then she started exploring the Stellar with her hands. When she reached hir breasts, shi cupped one with her hand. "You have lovely firm breasts, like a chakat’s, I think."
"Yes, you’d be right there, but I’d rather you didn’t explore my female attributes now."
"Why not? Even if you are male-dominant like Chakat Midnight, I desire you as a whole. I want to fondle the entirety of you, even when you mount me. You are going to mount me, aren’t you?"
"If you hadn’t noticed already, I have an erection that is insisting on being used."
"Oh, I noticed," Fellana said with a grin, "and that’s the male part of you that I want to play with now. You just let me play with your tits when I want, and I’ll be happy to wait until you come into heat to play with the rest of your feminine side."
That was a compromise that Strata could live with. In fact shi most eagerly did so. No one shi had ever been intimate with had ever excited hir as much as this vixen had done so in the very short time that they’d been together. It was absolutely ridiculous! It was deliriously wonderful!! "Deal!" shi declared, and things got decidedly steamy from there.
"You’re a hopeless voyeur!" Malena scolded Forestwalker.
The chakat grinned with chagrin as shi sat just outside of the glade, letting hir empathic senses tell hir how well the meeting was going. Malena had discovered hir there as she had left the glade.
"I had to find out how successful our match-making was," Forestwalker explained.
"So, how are they doing?" Malena asked, curious in spite of herself.
"It’s a good thing taurs don’t wear pants. It’s a great time-saver." Forestwalker’s grin grew larger.
"What? No, no! They can’t be at it already – they just met! I know that Fellana has a fascination for herms, but that is like something out of a badly written romance novel!" Malena exclaimed disbelievingly.
"Yeah, I know, but whether you call it love at first sight, wish-fulfilment, or they just simply haven’t gotten laid in far too long – right now those two are radiating enough mutual lust to excite a village full of chakats."
"I can tell. You’re showing, dear."
"Heh! Yeah, I’d better try to ignore those two, or I’ll be walking around with a stiffy all afternoon." Forestwalker got up and started walking back to the den with Malena, going slowly to allow hir time for hir erection to subside. "I’ll say that we can call this mission accomplished."
"Yeah. Lucky them." Malena sounded a bit frustrated, and Forestwalker wondered why.
It was so unfair! Everyone was getting what they wanted with no effort at all. Strata and Fellana seemed destined for each other. Thayla had gotten pregnant to Garrek without even trying. Yet every time that she had even started hinting at the subject of a kit over the past months, Garrek had steered the conversation away. She was his denmate now – she had the right to have a kit by him! By accepting her as his mate, he had forfeited his argument against procreative sex, hadn’t he? After all, it was a well known fact that one degree of inbreeding posed no risk whatsoever for foxtaurs, and she knew that she’d be able to give them both a perfect child. If only she could get past those blinkers of his! Worse yet, she was coming into heat, and the combination of hormones and frustration was making her so… so… arrgh!!!
Suddenly a thought occurred to Malena, and she paused her pacing and silent ranting. With the hormones also came pheromones. Maybe there was a way to induce Garrek after all. Not tonight though. He would be spending that with Kassi and Zendak, and she had no intention of getting between them. Besides, a bit more time spent in preparation would make it even more effective. She smiled to herself. "Tomorrow night, brother-mate, you’re going to be mine!"
The village had outdone itself this year. Strings of lanterns of various colours gaily lit the snowy landscape. A small sliver of moonlight barely added anything to the illumination. A couple of bonfires added local areas of extra light and warmth to the common, and musicians had set themselves up beside one. The crisp chill night air was already filled with conversation and laughter as the community gathered to socialise and dance. The meeting hall had also been set up, both as a precaution against bad weather, and as a refuge from the cold. The foxtaurs, however, had their winter fur, and they hardly needed the jackets or other clothing that they wore. Between the fires and dancing, many were quite toasty, unlike the visitors from Australia who had just come from Summer. Everyone from there only had their thin summer-length fur coats, so even the chakats opted to wear woolly pullovers for extra warmth. Boyce and Leanna wore more also, and the Caitians, whose natural climate tended to be hot, were really well rugged-up.
The cubs had been made to take afternoon naps so that they could stay up longer and enjoy the New Year’s Eve party. Their parents let them join the foxtaur kits romping in the snow, taking full advantage of the unusually late bedtime. The adults were then free to talk, sing, dance, or partake of the huge feast that had been prepared. Tables laden with food were scattered around the common, and a couple of spits spread delicious smell of cooking meat to add to the appetites of those present.
Aside from the usual group of vixens who didn’t like any strangers in the village other than foxtaurs visiting from other clans, the denizens of Mountain Glade made their visitors very welcome. The Caitians proved to be very popular because they would share tales from an alien world. M’Lai was regarded with a touch of awe due to her size. Boyce wondered what they would make of Zhane!
The festival was a grand excuse for the foxtaurs to liven up the dull wintry days, and they didn’t bother setting a specific agenda. People did what they wanted, when they wanted, and for as long as they felt like doing so. A few temporary partners would enjoy the festivities together, then head off later for more private activities. Several tods visiting from other villages virtually guaranteed that there would be a couple of ‘festival kits’ conceived this night. Forestwalker spotted Strata and Fellana a few times, and while they did participate in some of the activities, it was obvious that they were mostly interested in each other. Shi was careful to keep hir empathic senses away from the pair. Shi suspected it might result in some embarrassment if shi didn’t.
At the stroke of midnight, a short fireworks display began, and the revellers cheered and toasted in the year 2332. Not long after, adults with kits started heading back to their dens. A while later, the musicians finished their last sets and packed their instruments. Garrek had joined them with his flute for a few songs, especially with one that he had been practicing especially for the festival. He carefully put it away in its padded case until the next occasion. He gave Goldfur and Malena a goodnight hug and kiss before heading off with Kassi and Zendak for the night. Midnight bade a similar goodnight to Forestwalker before leaving with Dilenna, the hunter vixen with whom shi’d had a close relationship for a long time. The rest of the family headed back to the den, as the remaining foxtaurs also walked, or staggered their way home, leaving the lanterns to burn out. One by one, they ran out of fuel, and the common sank into darkness.
Goldfur elected to spend that night with Lupu, Dale and Avi in a private sleeping den, while Boyce, M’Lai and Rosepetal were given the use of another. Jaleth and Rikandor spent the night in the communal sleeping den, along with Leanna, Trina, Kris and all the cubs. Malena had asked for Forestwallker’s company for the night. The chakat was a wonderful bed companion, but tomorrow night, Malena had more important plans.
"Phew! It’s a bit stuffy in here," Forestwalker commented when they woke. "You left the windows and door closed all night. With you in heat, I’m getting terribly aroused. A pity that I can’t do much about it. I don’t want to accidentally impregnate you!"
Malena smiled. The concentrated effect of her mating scent was her primary tool towards achieving her goal. However, while Forest wasn’t the intended target, that didn’t mean that they couldn’t have some fun.
"We don’t get many opportunities to make love," Malena told the chakat, "so no sense in letting my Companion’s erection go to waste. Besides, I know you’ll like this."
She proceeded to pleasure Forestwalker’s cock orally, and the chakat was reminded how she first did that in order to experience the feeling through Forest’s Talent. "Practice makes perfect," shi said, and once again the lovers shared the pleasure with the intimacy only achievable through an empathic link.
Eventually they were most pleasantly done, and Forest said, "I need a shower. Do you want to go first?"
"No, you go first. In fact, don’t wait for me at all. I’m still tired from yesterday, not to mention that little stunt. I think I’ll rest some more. Close the door behind you when you leave, please."
"Okay. I suggest that you open the windows a bit. It’s cool, but you need the fresh air in here."
"Good idea. See you later, Forest."
The chakat left in a good mood after a very enjoyable start to the day. Malena, who had been moving towards the windows as Forestwalker left, stopped and went to the door instead and locked it. Foxtaurs almost never locked their doors, and this one was stiff from disuse. However, a locked door was a silent demand for privacy that was never violated. She intended to spend most of the day here, and she didn’t want anyone spoiling her preparations. Making love to Forestwalker had helped it get off to a good beginning, with the exertions adding more pheromones to the air. Malena towelled herself down, concentrating on the areas where her scent was strongest, then left the towels spread over the bed. She dug out the stash of food and drink that she had prepared the previous day and breakfasted on that. The rest of the day was occupied with reading and personal projects, interspersed with periods of vigorous exercise. She had no idea how much of that was useful or necessary, but she wasn’t leaving anything to chance.
Forestwalker let the others know that Malena was resting longer, so eventually no one even thought about where she was the rest of the day. Shi, Goldfur and Quickpaw then said farewell as the chakats took their youngest sister back to hir college. They intended to spend a day together, just the three sisters renewing their bond. The rest continued their holiday at the foxtaur village. At first though, they pitched in to help with the clean-up, although even that was a bit of an excuse to socialise while the cubs played, and they got to eat the leftovers too. It was a pleasant and relaxing day for all.
Well, not quite all. Malena was a bit tired from her continued exertions, and a little tense as she wondered if anything might go wrong. Before he’d left with Kassi and Zendak last night, Garrek had told Malena that he intended to visit Thayla’s den for lunch, and then be back before dinner to spend more time with the family, and asked her to let the others know. She agreed, but had no intention of doing so. It fit in too perfectly with her plans. She asked him to stop by her room as soon as he got home because she had a surprise for him. Hopefully curiosity would bring him to her before he saw any of the others, but as they would also be out socialising until late, her chances were good. Her ploy worked.
About four in the afternoon, Garrek returned from his tryst with Thayla, feeling good after spending special moments with the elderly vixen who had captured a place in his heart. They’d talked about the kit, and made plans to help Thayla care for it while Garrek was absent. It wasn’t something that he’d ever expected to need to do, but he found that he’d been excited about it, and even Thayla was caught up in his excitement. So many things were working out so well, Garrek was feeling top of the world. He recalled Malena’s request to see her when he got home, and he thought it would also be a good time to talk with her about future matters. Of course, he was also curious about the surprise.
Malena’s door had a note pinned on it: ‘Garrek – knock and I’ll let you in’. He wondered why she had felt the need to lock the door at all, but did as the note instructed. She opened the door mere moments after he knocked. She was nude and dishevelled, and had an air of excitement about her.
"Come in, Garrek," she said cheerfully.
Garrek stepped inside. "So what is it you… whoa! Your room reeks! What on Earth have you been doing in here?"
"Just something to help you get in the mood," She replied obliquely.
"In the mood?" Malena, are you talking about making love? You’re on heat, so we can’t go all the way." Nevertheless, even as he said that, he was beginning to feel very aroused.
Malena had firmly closed the door behind him and stood between him and the door. "And why not?" she asked. "I’m your denmate, aren’t I?"
Garrek had thought about just that on several occasions, but still wasn’t convinced that having a child by his sister was a good idea, although his resolve on that matter had been considerably diminished. However, for some reason, he was having a hard time organising his thoughts to argue the point. Worse yet, he was getting a hell of a hard-on. "You’re my sister," was all that he managed to get out.
"And you’re my beloved brother-mate. I want your child, Garrek. I’ve wanted a kit by you for almost as long as I knew that I loved you, but you’ve never listened when I tried to ask."
Suddenly one thought managed to clarify in the befuddled tod’s head. "Your mating scent! That’s what this room reeks of! You’re trying to get me so randy that I can’t think straight." He started for the door, but Malena blocked his way.
"Garrek, let it go. We’ll make beautiful love, and if we’re blessed, we’ll have a kit to show for it."
Garrek was too confused to consider the pros and cons though. All that he could think about was to get outside, but that was quickly drowning in the sexual urges flooding over him. He tried pushing Malena aside, but she was a strong vixen, and was braced for the attempt. His exertions made him breathe deeper of the pheromone-laden air, and the desires kept getting ever stronger. His voice degenerated into a lustful growl, and his struggles to get past the determined vixen finally stopped.
Malena stepped back and watched him standing there, panting. He had a full erection displaying his impressive endowment, and Malena felt a thrill of anticipation. "Come on, Garrek. Join me on the bed and I’ll show you the best that I can do for one whom I love so much…." Her voice trailed off as his face turned to look at her. His eyes were totally devoid of intelligence, and a gutteral animal growl of lust came from his throat. Before she could react, he pounced on her, pinning her arms as he mounted her. Without the slightest hint of care or playfulness, he slammed his penis into her.
Malena squawked in dismay and discomfort. "Garrek! What are you doing? Stop that! Let me go!"
But the tod heard nothing, and cared for nothing except thrusting into the vixen that was so deliciously on heat. He bit down hard where her neck met her shoulder, and she cried out in pain. She struggled hard to get out of his grip, but it was like trying to escape steel clamps. As if she hadn’t tried anything at all, his pounding continued without missing a beat.
‘He’s gone completely feral! Oh, Makers! What have I done?’
She felt his thrusts intensify as he orgasmed, filling her with the semen that she had sought from him, but not in such an awful manner. Everything had gone terribly wrong. Hoping that his climax had relaxed Garrek, she tried again to break free. It was futile effort. All she achieved was to make him shift his grip. He clutched one of her breasts painfully and resumed his thrusting – relentless, remorseless, and utterly without love. Malena wept uncontrollably. The coupling was uncomfortable to the point of being painful, but it was the dawning realisation that she may have destroyed their relationship that truly hurt. She had just done worse to him than Ketta ever had. How could she have been so stupid and selfish? She railed at herself as Garrek built himself up to another climax. She repeated her efforts to break free with the same lack of results. Garrek again bit down on her shoulder, causing her to yelp in pain. Incredibly, he began to tirelessly thrust into her again and again. Despite being drained of semen now, the overpowering flood of pheromones would only allow him one course of action – he would mate with her until he collapsed from exhaustion! She struggled to move towards the window. If she could open it and clear the air, perhaps he would come to his senses. Her best efforts only caused them to overbalance. There was a momentary flurry of limbs flailing everywhere, then when Malena got reoriented, she found herself on her backs with Garrek still buried within her, only now he was face to face. This was worse! She could now see the horrible emptiness in his eyes as he mindlessly fucked her. She closed her eyes, unable to bear the sight. She yelled for help, but nobody was there to help her. Her chakat mate and companion were also out of empathic range, so no rescue would be forthcoming from them. She pleaded with Garrek, begged him to stop, hoping that she would get through to him, but it was utterly futile. She may as well have been giving him encouragement, for all the difference that it made. Each time he paused, she tried to escape, but his unnatural strength always exceeded hers. When Malena finally lost consciousness due to shock and exhaustion, her brother was still pounding away at her aching loins.
When Jaleth returned from a pleasant dinner spent with friends, she noticed that Malena was still absent. "Rik, could you go see if Malena is still holed up in her den?"
Rikandor said, "OK," and headed for Malena’s room. The door was closed, so he knocked and called Malena’s name first. Receiving no response, he tried again more loudly. Again there was no reply, so Rikandor slowly opened the door. His nose was assaulted by smells – sweat and rutting were chief among them. Almost instantaneously, he felt the beginnings of an erection. At the same time, he noticed his two eldest offspring, both unconscious, Garrek sprawled on top of Malena, still intimately coupled with her. Rikandor recoiled in horror as he recognised what had happened here, and he hastily backed out of the room, slamming the door and breathing deeply of the clean air outside. Then he called out to his lifemate urgently.
"Jaleth! Come here now!"
His yell was loud enough and so frantic in tone that Jaleth ran to his side. She saw that he was sporting a full erection, but his face had nothing of sexual playfulness about it.
"Rik, what’s wrong?" she asked with great concern.
"Go into Malena’s room and see for yourself. I can’t go in there again."
Curious and worried, she opened the door as Rikandor got well away from the area. She saw what her lifemate had seen, and also recognised what must have happened. The mating scent that was so heavy in the air, it was having a physical effect on her too, but unlike with the tods, it was not overwhelming her. Instead, fury possessed her. She went to the windows and threw them fully open, letting the cold evening air flood into the room. She could do nothing more for now. Only time would work this out of Garrek’s system. She left the room, closing the door behind her so none of the pheromone-laden air would get blown into the den, causing more mischief. Then she went to Rikandor to help ease his unbidden lust. They would have words with their daughter later, but for now they worried about how their son would react when he woke… and remembered.
The first thing that Malena noticed when she woke was how cold it was in her room, and she realised that clean air had replaced the haze that had overcome Garrek. Her brother was still lying intimately close to her, but was still but for the rise and fall of his chests as he breathed normally. Hopefully the clean air would keep him asleep while she extricated herself from the entanglement of limbs. Of course she realised that the open window meant that her mother was home and knew most of what had happened. Facing her was going to be almost as bad as what she had just gone through. Nevertheless, she would face the consequences of her actions.
Garrek showed no signs of waking as she got out of the embrace and pulled her legs from under him. She put a pillow under his head to replace the shoulder it had been resting upon, and drew a blanket over him to keep him warm. She rubbed the injured shoulder, wincing in pain as she aggravated the bite. She picked up all the towels and cloths that she had used to sop up her sweat and scent in the effort to increase its potency in the room, and threw them out the window in disgust. She then headed to the bathroom to clean herself thoroughly. As much as her mother would be wanting to yell at her, it would be worse if she turned up in this condition, and Malena couldn’t bear herself this way either. She walked stiffly, her hindquarters hurting abominably. Her body ached, her breast was bruised terribly and the bites were bloody and painful. She showered for ages. She felt as if she could never feel completely clean again. When she finally got out and dried off, she put on a modest clean top, whimpering as she brushed against the abused breast. She brushed her hair, but realised that she was just delaying the inevitable.
It was very late, and everyone had gone to bed in the communal sleeping den, even her father who was curled up protectively around her young sister. Malena knew that her mother would not be amongst them, however. She would be waiting, no matter how long it took, and she would be waiting where there would be the least chance of disturbing their family and guests. Malena headed for the kitchen.
The cold stare with which Jaleth greeted her daughter made the winter landscape outside seem positively tropical. She didn’t need to be an empathic chakat to tell that her mother, although outwardly calm, was seething with anger. Malena squatted in front of Jaleth.
"Mom, things went badly wrong tonight," Malena said.
"Wrong? You raped my son! This goes way beyond wrong."
"That wasn’t my intention, Mom! I just wanted to get him in the mood."
"Moonlight walks, hugs and kisses, making him treats, quiet talks – these are things that you do to get tods in the mood. Instead you baited a trap and hit him where he was totally vulnerable. You used him, you ripped away his mind and free will, you turned Garrek into nothing more than a rutting animal, and that’s your idea of getting him in the mood?" Her voice had been getting more and more icy, and each word stabbed Malena like an icicle.
"But I didn’t know that would happen!" wailed Malena.
"Didn’t know? DIDN’T KNOW?! Were you asleep during your lessons? Every vixen is warned not to overexpose tods to our mating scent!"
Malena started to reply, but paused with her muzzle gaping when she realised that she hadn’t remembered that at all. Had she really not been paying attention? She quailed inside when she recalled her rather wild youth. She’d done a lot of things then that she later regretted and worked hard to make up. However, you can’t make up for things that you did not know that you’d missed. In a very small voice, she replied, "I don’t remember."
"Obviously not. Even so, if you’d been aware of that problem, it was still your intention to force Garrek to breed with you before he was ready. I supported your mating because you’d been Garrek’s constant reliable friend throughout your life, and helped him when he needed it the most. You were as good as denmates already, so I had no misgivings when you formalised it. But Garrek has only recently gone through an Obligation that has seen profound changes in his life, including gaining new denmates. This is a time when he most needs some stability and understanding. Instead at every moment, you took the opportunity to pressure him to impregnate you. I know that he has brushed off the subject several times with you. Couldn’t you get the hint? No means no!"
Malena was weeping copiously once more. She brushed the tears from her eyes and said in a voice cracking with emotion, "I was blind and selfish."
Jaleth nodded in agreement. "Yes you were, and more. A fat lot of good that will do to get you what you really need. I have no idea how Garrek is going to react when he wakes and remembers, but it won’t be good. And he will remember. In fact he won’t be able to forget because it will be seared into his memory. What do you reckon he will think when he sees the result of this in ten months? Is he going to love them, or loathe them because they will remind him of the night that he was raped?"
"Garrek would never do that!" said Malena, shocked by her mother’s words. Then something occurred to her. "What do you mean by ‘them’?"
A horrible grin that said, ‘You deserve this’, crossed Jaleth’s muzzle. "You really weren’t paying attention at all, were you? For some reason, the hyper-stimulation of feral copulations almost always results in multiple births. You may expect the discomfort and inconvenience of bearing twins!"
Malena buried her face in her hands. "Oh, Makers!" she groaned. While carrying a child was easier for a taur than a biped, twins were much harder because of their size and extra limbs. On top of that, she had made plans that included only one new child, not two. To cope with them, she was going to need all the help and good will from her family that she could get, especially her mother. Right now though, Malena didn’t even know if she was even going to be welcome in this den anymore. While Jaleth loved all her children, her first-born son was her favourite. And if word got out to the elders, what would they do? It was too much for her to cope with, and she broke down into heart-rending sobs.
Jaleth got up, ignoring her daughter’s distress. "You may not sleep with the family tonight, and Garrek will be left undisturbed to recover as best he can from exhaustion. You can sleep in the spare den tonight. Tomorrow we will decide on any further punishment after we find out Garrek’s state of mind."
With that, Jaleth dismissed her errant daughter, and went to join her lifemate and the rest of her family. For a foxtaur, sleeping alone at night was unpleasant and very undesirable. Being deliberately denied the company of others was a very harsh punishment, and yet it was the least that Jaleth felt Malena deserved for her actions.
Malena continued crying for several minutes before she regained some self-control. She felt very little self-pity because she recognised that she had only herself to blame, but she still wished for the comfort of a hug. Instead she headed to the spare den to spend a lonely night by herself. Her misery was complete.
Little Blaze knew that there was something wrong with hir mother, but couldn’t understand what. It had started yesterday while shi was with the family’s friends. Hir undeveloped Talent had sensed something that had made hir uneasy and unhappy, but hir family had put that down to other factors. Now though, shi knew that hir mother was very unhappy, although shi didn’t know why. Nevertheless, the little chakat’s hugs seemed to be making her feel better, so shi did it a lot.
Malena had taken the cub to the common to play with the kits there while she stayed away from the den and the recriminations of the others. Even her beloved Goldfur had been hard pressed to restrain hir anger when shi had returned that morning and learned what Malena had done to hir first lifemate. In fact, if it wasn’t for Forestwalker calming hir down, things could have turned out much worse. Malena felt like dirt and, if it wasn’t for Blaze, she might have been inclined to do something foolish. Instead, she stewed in her own misery as the same thoughts raced through her head again and again.
"Goldfur will forgive me eventually, and I think Mom will too if Garrek pulls through this okay. If he doesn’t, she may kick me out of the den. And even if he does, will he ever forgive me?" She tried to put herself in his place, and could not think of a way that she could forgive herself. Just then, she spotted Garrek running through the far side of the common. "He’s woken up! Where’s he going? He can’t be looking for me. Maybe I should try to talk to him?" But as she dithered, he disappeared from sight. She sighed at possibly missing an opportunity, but she really didn’t know what she could have said, and he seemed to be headed in the direction of Thayla’s den. Perhaps she could help him where nobody else could.
Thayla had been shocked when Garrek had burst into her den in such a distressed state. It took her a long time to calm him down enough to begin explaining.
When he had awakened, at first all Garrek had felt was a deep, aching tiredness and a lot of confusion. He struggled to recall why he would feel this way, until memories of the previous night crashed in on him. He whimpered as he recalled how the inexorable wave of raw lust had subsumed him – the relentless drive to copulate, the violent attack on Malena, and his mindless mania to do it all again and again and again….
He became aware of someone holding him, attempting to soothe him, but he shrank away from the contact with horror. He did not want to be touched; did not want to touch back in fear of the return of the madness. He blindly scrambled to his feet, completely unaware that it was his chakat mate, and not his sister, who was desperately asking him to calm down. Last he knew, shi was still away with hir sisters. He shook off hir grasp and exited the den hastily. His first thought was to seek out his parents, but he quailed at the idea of facing them and explaining what he had done. He then thought of his best friend and co-mate, but even as he started out of the den, he remembered that Zendak and Kassi were out of the village on business today, and on second thought, he didn’t really want to tell them what happened anyway. Then the image of Thayla crossed his mind. Mature and experienced – she would know what to do!
So he had bolted for Thayla’s den and into the arms of the startled vixen. Here was one person who had loved him completely without the thought of children. She had started a new life built around him. She was now his rock, his anchor, and when he was coherent enough to do so, he poured out his troubles to her.
Outside, Goldfur was listening to every word with her keen hearing. Shi desperately wanted to join him, but Jaleth had intercepted hir to let Garrek unburden himself and calm down before trying again. Malena, having spotted the two in pursuit of Garrek, joined them. Despite the glares given to her, she stood her ground. Just because she had made a horrible mistake, didn’t mean that she wasn’t as concerned as they were.
Thayla had seen and heard many things in her life, but this was a new twist. She had let Garrek complete his explanation without interruption, and then he had started crying in catharsis while she just held him and murmured soothing sounds and words.
"It’s alright, Garrek. It was not your fault. Malena was extremely foolish, but she could not have meant this to happen. It’s a tragic consequence of youthful ignorance, and you must realise that she is suffering for her mistake also. I know that she loves you deeply and would never have done this to you if she had known what would happen. You and she still have issues to work out because she tried to unfairly influence you. Right now though, just relax and put those thoughts out of your mind. Focus on us for now, my love. I’m here to protect you. I’ll be here for as long as you need me."
She held him gently, stroking his head as the tension, remorse and anger ebbed from him. She noticed Goldfur and Jaleth discreetly peering in the door, and she nodded silently at them. When she judged that the moment was right, she said, "Your first mate, Goldfur, will want to help soothe you. Are you ready to see hir yet?"
Garrek felt a wash of shame, but Thayla’s calming words and actions had helped get his perspective back. "Shi must be worried about me. Yes, I think I’m ready."
"Then let hir join us now." Thayla inclined her head to indicate to Goldfur to join them. The chakat padded inside and laid down next to the two. Shi gently placed hir hand under Garrek’s chin and guided his head to look at hir. His eyes glistened with spent tears as they met hirs filled with compassion.
"Peace, beloved. No one blames you. We just want you back with us, back with your family who loves you." Shi backed hir words with all the strength of hir empathic talent, radiating reassurance and love. Shi wished that shi had the strength of talent as hir sister, but made up for it as much as shi could with the depth of hir feelings for him. The last vestiges of his shame and fear crumbled before the overwhelming compassion and love, and he reached out to Goldfur with both his hands and his heart. His two mates held him close as he relaxed and fell into a therapeutic slumber, with Goldfur’s mental presence reassuringly there at all times.
Jaleth took Malena by the arm and led her away with some reluctance. "I think that he’s going to be okay, but you will probably need to avoid approaching him for a while. I know that you want to express your remorse, but you are going to have to wait until he’s ready to face you and approaches you first."
Malena didn’t want to leave Garrek like that, and she desperately wanted to apologise to him, but she knew that her mother was right. "OK," she replied.
"Don’t think that this is almost over, daughter. You are still banned from sharing the den with us until further notice, unless Garrek indicates he wants you there. Be grateful that I don’t do more. Also, if the elders find out what you have done, you may have to face censure from them and the whole community."
"Are you going to tell them?" asked Malena.
"I won’t tell them, but neither will I cover this up if they ask. Maybe Garrek will say something, but it’s more likely that Thayla, being an elder herself, might bring this up with the council. She may have to balance that against the effect it might have on Garrek. Right now, I will back her against you."
Malena realised how angry her mother still was with her despite the outward calm. Their family was very close-knit, and for Jaleth to reject her like this was unprecedented. Malena resigned herself to feeling miserable for a long time.
Goldfur stayed overnight with Garrek at Thayla’s den. Malena would have slept alone but for Blaze refusing to settle down with the rest of the family, and insisting on joining hir mother.
A pall had been thrown over the family’s visit, and they decided to pack up and go home a bit sooner than originally planned. They were virtually ready to leave when Garrek arrived along with Goldfur.
"Good," said Goldfur when shi saw the luggage. "I was going to suggest the same thing. Give us a moment to grab a couple of things, and then we can head out. We stopped by Kassi and Zendak’s den and found them home, so we’ve said our goodbyes to them already. There shouldn’t be anything else to hold us up."
Garrek had said nothing, heading straight for Jaleth’s workshop where he found his mother and baby sister, Neesha. Jaleth immediately downed tools and walked into her son’s welcoming arms.
After a lengthy hug, Jaleth asked, "How are you feeling, son?"
"Still touchy, I admit, but far better than yesterday. I’ll be okay, mom. I just need a bit of time to bury the memory of the worst of the experience, and to come to terms with the rest."
"What about Malena?"
"She and I will have a heart to heart talk about what brought this about, but not yet. I can’t deal with that so soon. Please leave the rest to me though. When I come back from my next assignment, I will be ready to resolve the issue. Let her stew with the consequences in the meantime."
"As you wish. What about Thayla? Will she pursue this officially?"
"I asked her not to. This is a personal issue, not a public one, and I’d feel worse if my actions were exposed to public scrutiny, even if I was not responsible for them. I suspect that Malena will be beating herself up enough over this anyway."
"Very well. Take it easy, Garrek. Never forget that I love you, no matter how far from home that you go."
"I never do, Mom." He hugged her fiercely, then gave Neesha a gentler hug and departed.
Back in the common room, Garrek said his farewells to his father and brother, then put on his backpack. Malena thought that he was going to leave without saying anything to her, but just before he left, he turned to her and said, "Malena, I love you…, but at the moment, I don’t particularly like you." He then walked away without a backward glance.
Tears welled in Malena’s eyes once more.
Several days later, Malena stepped out of the doctor’s office. A few years back she had gone to him to confirm being pregnant to Goldfur, and that had been a joyful day. Today however, she hadn’t gone to confirm a pregnancy. Both she and Garrek had been proven fertile, so the chance of her not conceiving was tiny. She needed to know if her mother had been right and whether she could expect twins. The very suspicious doctor had decreed that she didn’t have twins – he had detected three fertilised eggs growing within her. Triplets! Malena was shattered. She had planned for one child, feared getting two, but was now told to expect three.
"I can’t handle three," she mumbled to herself. "Mom was prepared to help with another kit, but she doesn’t have the time and resources to deal with three, and neither do I. Makers! Just carrying them to term is going to be hell."
"What’s wrong, Mommy?" Blaze asked plaintively. It seemed that hir mom was always upset lately, and it made the little cub unhappy.
"Sorry, darling. Mommy just got some bad news. But how would you like more sisters?"
"More playmates?" Blaze asked hopefully.
Malena sighed. The foxtaur kits of hir age were proving unable to keep up with the chakat kitten, and it had been bothering hir. It seemed that the only playmates that were ideal were the part of the family that lived in Australia. Perhaps that was the solution for both of them. "Yes, dear, more playmates."
Blaze smiled happily.
Malena continued, "I wanted to bring you up in the foxtaur community, but that’s looking impossible now, so I’m going to ask to move over with the rest of the family." Blaze just looked confused. "You’ll get to play with Snowcloud and Patchwork and the others all the time," Malena clarified for the child.
"Yay!" exclaimed Blaze and shi danced excitedly.
"Whoa there! Not yet, dear," Malena said with a laugh. ‘I wonder when they’ll get over being mad at me?’ she thought more soberly. ‘And it will mean the end of my intended career in this community. I wonder if I can migrate my studies into a related career? *sigh* So many problems caused by one really stupid mistake. One thing’s for certain – our lives will never be the same again. I suppose I’d better tell mom the news and get the "I told you so" out of the way. She’s just going to love this!’
Malena said to the expectant kitten, "C’mon, I’ll race you home!"
Blaze mewed in excitement and took off. Malena followed close behind to make sure shi didn’t end up in trouble.
"Home?" Malena thought sadly. "Probably not for too much longer."
Admiral Kline and Rosepetal Silpurr are the creations of Boyce Garald Kline Jr and are used with permission.
All other characters and this story are © 2007 Bernard Doove.
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