Chakat Goldstripe lay on hir bed enjoying life to its fullest. Shi had propped hir upper torso up on a pillow and hir elbow, and shi purred softly as shi looked down upon the young woman beside hir. Her shoulder length red hair was draped over her pillow as she snuggled close to Goldstripe even in her sleep.
Goldstripe was tempted to kiss her good morning, but had decided to wait a little longer. ‘Frederike seems so at peace in her sleep’ Goldstripe thought. Shi closed hir eyes for a moment, taking in the feelings radiating from the woman beside hir. The feelings of security, warmth, love…and the feeling of belonging. Shi also felt her soft breath in hir fur as she snuggled with her face buried in hir upper belly fur.
Goldstripe opened hir eyes when shi sensed Frederike was about to wake up.
"Mmmm…..good mmmorning honey," Frederike mumbled and hugged Goldstripe sleepily.
"A very good morning indeed," shi answered and hugged Frederike back.
They lay for a short while together. Frederike had crawled up to be closer to Goldstripe, and shi had lain down again to be face to face with her. "How about I go make some coffee, huh?" Goldstripe asked.
"Mmmmnnnnoo…..not yet," Frederike said, and hugged hir again.
"My-my…and here I was thinking that I was the affectionate one," Goldstripe said with a laugh and returned the hug. "Would my dear denmate like some breakfast perhaps?" shi tried. Though there was nothing shi’d rather do than lie in bed and cuddle with Frederike all day, shi was starting to get really hungry. As if to emphasize hir last sentence, hir lower stomach started to growl loudly.
"Oh, is it that bad?" Frederike said with a laugh. "Okay, I won’t have your mum tell me I’m making you starve. So how about you head for the shower first, and I’ll make breakfast?"
"I’ve got a better idea, dear. How about we make breakfast together, and then head for the shower…together?" Goldstripe asked with a grin.
"That sounds like a very good way to start the day," Frederike said and kissed hir.
Shi kissed Frederike back, and finally they got out of bed.
After an enjoyable breakfast, they went to the bathroom and showered together.
Frederike felt Goldstripe vibrate beneath her hands as she massaged hir lower back in the shower. Goldstripe was purring and purring, and shi had hir eyes closed in ecstasy from the wonderful massage shi was getting.
"You know, we might want to start moving some furniture around today…we probably won’t have time for it tomorrow when classes starts again" Frederike said.
"Mmmmyeahrrrrr. I guess you’re right," Goldstripe managed and opened hir eyes and turned hir upper torso to look at hir mate. "Graymuzzle’s office is open, I think," shi continued, "I suppose we should get rid of your old bed and then turn your room into an office?"
"My thought exactly" Frederike answered. "I don’t think we need a replacement for your bed. I think it fits us nicely, don’t you?" She smiled at Goldstripe.
Shi returned the smile and gently slapped her on the butt. "You’re such a bad girl," shi said.
"Hey, I have a Chakat for a mate… what’d you expect?" she answered with a laugh.
"Hey! No stereotypes here!" Goldstripe said in mock annoyance.
Frederike stuck out her tongue at Goldstripe, and shi in turn started tickling Frederike, who then tickled back. Soon they lay on the floor, and tickling was replaced by hugs and kisses until the doorbell interrupted them.
Frederike quickly put on a bathrobe and answered the door.
Outside was a smiling Ashley. "Hiii! Happy New Year! Caught you at a bad time?" she said.
"Hi Ashley, and Happy New Year to you too. Well…I was sort of in the shower…"
"Then why didn’t you let Goldstripe answer the door…or isn’t shi home?"
"Um….shi’s also in the shower," Frederike answered and turned pink.
"Oh…wauu," Ashley said with a teasing smile and lifted an eyebrow.
"Wau indeed." Frederike paused and realized that they’d been standing in the door a bit long now. "Come on in" she said.
"Thanks. I think I smell a good story." Ashley got in and leaned against the wall and looked at Frederike with anticipation in her eyes. At the same time Goldstripe opened the bathroom door. "Happy New Year, Ashley…I’m afraid I can’t give you a hug…my fur is still soaked," shi said.
"Happy New Year, Goldstripe. That’s okay…what is that I hear about you two showering…together?" Ashley said with a smirk.
"Well…we’ve become denmates," shi said.
"Oh-REALLY?!" Ashley said. "Congratulations you two! Oh, I’m so happy for you…that’s…fantastic!"
"Yeah, that’s about how we feel" Frederike said. "We wanted to tell you and your wonderful boyfriend. But now that you’re here….we’d talked about celebrating just the four of us this evening at Pepe’s. Are you two free for tonight?"
"Of course!" Ashley gave Frederike a hug. "I’ll go get him and tell him….what time are we leaving?"
"Oh, somewhere around six," Goldstripe said.
Ashley promised that they’d meet Frederike and Goldstripe by the bus stop at six o’clock, and left them to find Bhaskar.
Bhaskar and Ashley sat on the bench by the bus stop, enjoying the setting sun as they waited for their two friends. Ashley leaned against her lover, who affectionately nuzzled her ears, something she enjoyed tremendously.
"You know, if I was a Chakat like Goldstripe, I think I would purrrrrr" she said and snuggled against his chest.
"I bet you would," he said with a laugh. "Oh…here’s our newly mated now."
They got up to greet their two friends, and soon after the bus arrived.
When they arrived at Pepe’s Cantina, they were greeted by the proprietor himself who welcomed them with his usual enthusiasm.
They enjoyed their evening thoroughly, and afterwards they decided that they definitely needed a goodnight drink.
They found a small bar nearby called Danny’s Pub that they hadn’t tried before, and opened the door. Inside they found themselves a small table. The bar wasn’t particularly busy; only two small groups of humans were there, and the bartender of course. Frederike announced, that this was her round, them celebrating that she and Goldstripe had become mates and all, and she walked up to the bartender.
"Four large beers please," she said with a smile.
The bartender looked at her, then leaned over the bar and looked at her with a grim expression. "We don’t serve their kind here," he said.
"What?" she looked from the bartender to the table where the others sat.
Bhaskar noticed her distress and walked up to her. "Is something the matter?" he said.
"As I said, we don’t serve their kind here," the bartender repeated sourly.
Then Bhaskar noticed the small badge on his leather vest. It looked so innocent. A green badge with white writing on it. A capital H and the number 1.
Bhaskar swallowed. "You know that’s illegal, don’t you?" he said angrily.
Frederike didn’t know what this was all about, but she knew trouble when she saw it.
"Behind you!" she yelled as she saw one of the men from one of the other tables rise with a bottle in his hand.
The man swung the bottle at Bhaskar’s head as he wheeled to face him. For the first time in his life he was happy for all of the torturous training imposed by Quicktail. He parried the strike while punching the man in the belly. The man gave an "Omph" as the air left him, and he flew through the air in a judo throw, and scrambled into some bar stools.
Goldstripe and Ashley got up as they heard the fight start. Ashley ran towards her boyfriend as the two groups of humans all rose to their feet, clutching bottles and other improvised weapons.
Ashley never made it to Bhaskar’s side. She only just heard Goldstripe yell a warning, when one of the other guests stopped her by smashing a chair in her face.
She went down without sound. Frederike and Bhaskar ran towards her, but some of the men cut them off. "If you can’t control your animals, we’ll help teach y’all some manners!" one of them said with a sneer, and attacked them.
Goldstripe was met by a man with a broken bottle. "You’re so gonna go to HELL animal!" he growled and swung his broken bottle at hir.
Shi parried, and punched him in the face, making hir superior strength obvious as he flew backwards and slammed into the floor. "You first, buddy" shi said with a snarl. Shi saw one of the others – the man who knocked Ashley out – lift the chair again to smash it against the unconscious vixen on the floor.
With a roar shi threw hirself towards him. Shi grappled the chair just as he swung it towards Ashley. Shi ripped the chair out of his hands with hir true-hands, and then slashed him down his chest with the claws of one of hir handpaws. The man screamed and drew backwards, clutching the wound.
Another man swung a bottle towards Goldstripe’s head from behind, but was stopped by Frederike’s arm as she parried his attack. She then grappled his hand, and with a judo throw that would have made Quicktail proud sent him to the floor.
"Thanks!" Goldstripe managed.
"Hey, for better or worse, right?" Frederike said, and was about to smile when the bartender jumped towards her with a baseball bat he’d been hiding under the bar desk. He managed to strafe Frederike’s arm as she tried to jump aside. Then he raised the bat once again, his eyes glowing with white-hot hatred. But unfortunately for him, he didn’t know all the tricks of a Chakat, as Goldstripe’s tail came at him from below, and wound itself around his neck like a python snake. Shi squeezed hard, and the man dropped the bat in mid-blow.
Bhaskar took down another attacker with a spin-kick, and then only three remained.
"Stop, or I’ll break his neck!" Goldstripe snapped and gestured towards the bartender, whose face was red from Goldstripe’s constricting tail.
Everyone in the room froze in place. The three men hesitated, but didn’t put down their weapons. Two of them held beer bottles, that last one had drawn a knife.
"It’ll be easy," Goldstripe hissed between gritted teeth, "like snapping a toothpick!"
The men cursed and threw down their weapons. Goldstripe loosened hir grip on the bartender, who gasped for the little air shi allowed him to get.
"Frederike, call the cops!" shi said. Frederike looked at Goldstripe openmouthed for a second. She was surprised at seeing her mate like this. This was so unlike the otherwise gentle and loving Chakat she’d fallen in love with….but then she shook herself and found her communicator.
Frederike, Goldstripe and Bhaskar sat in the waiting area of the local police station. None of them had said anything since they’d gotten there.
It was Frederike who first broke the silence between them.
"Goldstripe…um….that was some fight, huh?" she started.
"Yeah…but not one that I’d hope to ever repeat," shi answered.
"I’m glad to hear that. Me neither." She looked at Goldstripe and hesitated a little. "Goldstripe… I… was a little shocked. I didn’t know you had such um…ferocity in you."
"Neither did I."
"Um….I gotta know… would you really have broken that man’s neck back there?" she said after another short pause.
Goldstripe looked at her again. "No….of course not," shi said, and then smiled wryly. "But they didn’t know that. I’m just glad they didn’t call my bluff."
Frederike let out a relieved sigh. She knew that this was also something they’d been trained for – all of them – but she was still surprised to see what shi could do…and now that she thought about it, what they could all do. She finally hugged Goldstripe, and sighed again.
Goldstripe returned the hug, and for the first time since the fight had begun, they relaxed again. They then remembered the silent Indian man beside them, and Goldstripe drew him into a three-person hug.
"By Shiva…I hope Ashley is all-right. Dammit, why couldn’t they just have let me go with that ambulance?" he whispered with tears running down his cheeks, even though he knew why. They had to be debriefed by the police first, just as the others who didn’t require medical attention.
"Yeah, I hope she’s all-right too" Goldstripe and Frederike almost chorused.
A Wolftaur police officer approached them. Goldstripe looked at her, and she looked back at hir and the others. Shi could see her nametag, that read Tiponi, and her face looked friendly.
"Ms Weismann, would you please follow me?" she said.
She looked up, nodded, and then let go of Goldstripe and Bhaskar to join the Wolftauress.
Frederike knew just about what she would ask, but dutifully answered all her questions. Then they took Goldstripe in for questioning, and finally Bhaskar.
After a short while, the officer returned to the three friends. "Okay, we’re finished here for tonight. We’ll drive you back home, if you wish. You’re free to go, although I must ask you not to leave town the next few days."
"Um…what about…" Bhaskar began but had to stop to swallow.
"Oh, your friend? She got a mild concussion. She’ll be driven home from the hospital. I guess you’d like to be there when she comes home. The doctors said she was relatively lucky. She’ll just need a week’s rest, and then she’ll be fit for fi-…uh, I mean back on her feet" the officer said and blushed at her unintended pun.
"Thank you" Frederike managed to say for the three of them.
None of them said anything on the way back to the academy. Again it was Frederike who broke the silence as they got out of the patrol car in front of the academy gates.
"I never understood why they attacked us…why did they hate us so much, and what did the bartender mean by ‘their kind’?"
Goldstripe and Bhaskar looked at each other, and finally Goldstripe answered.
"There are some humans who don’t like morphs. Some of them really hate morphs. And some of those people – like those at the bar – join a group called Humans First. I’ve read about them sometimes in the news. They were thought to have ceased to exist, but now the organization is popping up again. Some of them just won’t deal with morphs, and others...well…they’re like the ones we met tonight…or worse. Two years ago, there was a large uprising in Australia, where Humans First activists went amok. I remember they even killed a small innocent cub, and last year they caused an explosion in a Star Corps transporter. It nearly killed a young man."
"That’s…horrible," Frederike managed.
"Yes it is," Bhaskar said. "Fortunately these bastards are rare, but Ashley and I have once or twice had to leave a restaurant where the owners were Humans First sympathizers. But now we’re used to check for the little H1 sign. Fortunately they are very few, but even a few is too many."
Frederike sighed. "And here I was, thinking all was right with the world."
"Aw….it’s not that bad," Goldstripe said and gave her a smile. "It’s got it’s quirks, but all in all I think the good things outweigh the bad."
"True. most of the people I’ve met are nice."
They stayed up to chat until Ashley came home. Frederike and Goldstripe walked Ashley and Bhaskar home, and then they went back to their own dormitory. They went straight to bed, almost without a word.
Frederike lay in bed, arms around Goldstripe, thinking about the things that happened that evening. She looked at Goldstripe, and found that shi too was awake.
"Can’t sleep either?" shi said.
"No…I can’t help but think about what happened."
"I feel the same way," Goldstripe admitted, gently stroking hir mate’s hair.
"I….I don’t know…I…" Frederike paused. "I think that after what I’ve seen tonight…I mean….I feel kind of ashamed to be a human."
"Don’t be," Goldstripe said and kissed her forehead. "You didn’t hit Ashley over the head with that chair."
"I know, I know, but still. I thought that my kind had learned something since my time. I thought that hate and bigotry were things of the past. But I guess it’s in our nature to hurt and destroy."
Goldstripe felt the sorrow and despair emanating from Frederike, and winced mentally at the empathic shelling hir mind was receiving. "But your kind also created many beautiful and amazing things. I mean, you made the pyramids. You’ve ventured into space. You’ve even created new species…like me," shi tried with a careful smile.
"I suppose that’s true." Frederike hugged Goldstripe. "Mmmm…you know, I really don’t deserve someone as wonderful as you."
Goldstripe hugged her back and murmured soothing words of reassurance.
For a long while, they just lay there, hugging and comforting each other, until sleep finally overtook them.
Sgt. Tiponi stood at the reception area of the police station. "Yes, Ms Kowalski, we will do our best to find your cat." She said with a gentle smile to the old woman in front of her. It was the umpteenth time that Ms Kowalski was reporting her cat missing, and Tiponi was sure that just like the oh-so-many other times, she would come back either the same afternoon or early next morning, and inform her that her cat had returned safely. The old woman was finally satisfied that a suitable amount of the local police force’s resources would be used to find her bellowed cat Lincoln. Tiponi sighed, and said "Next please."
A man walked up to her. He was probably in his late fifties or early sixties if Tiponi was to take any guess (it was always hard to guess a human’s age for her), and he wore a black suit and the white collar of a catholic priest. Though the man smiled at her when he said, "Good morning, Officer", she still felt a shiver running down her spine. For a second, she looked into his eyes and saw only blackness. If she had believed in the spirits like her tribe, she would have said that she looked into the eyes of Evil itself. But yet here he stood, smiling gently at her, wearing the sign telling her, that this was a man of God…a man of good.
Tiponi shook herself as she realized she had been staring, and blushingly replied. "Good morning, Father."
"I understand that you have a group of men in custody, who were arrested for violence last night at a small bar called Danny’s Pub?"
"Well, you see I work with them. They’re troubled young men, and I’m trying to help them stay away from violence and the like, and find a better life with God. Could I please talk to them?"
Tiponi arched an eyebrow, and was about to comment of his apparent lack of success, but the memory of his eyes made her decide against it. After a moment of hesitation, she said "Of course, Father. Could I please ask for your name and some ID?"
"Certainly," he said and found his ID card. "I am Reverend Edward Archibald Hughes. I work at the Center for Rehabilitation of Former Criminals."
They walked together down to the cells. Though he looked calm on the outside, Hughes was fuming inside with white-hot rage. But he concealed it well.
They reached the cell block, and Tiponi signaled the warden as they passed by. They walked inside, and the warden opened the cell door. "Do you want me to go with you? They’re a rough bunch" Tiponi said.
"No thank you, Officer. That will not be required. This will help me" he said, holding up a bible.
As soon as the door had closed behind him, the priest’s mask of calm fell, and he glared angrily at the men inside.
"You dimwits!" he snarled as they sat up on the prison bunks. "I told you to lie low. To wait. And then you pull a stunt like THIS!"
"But Father Hughes, they…" the bartender began.
Hughes whirled and grappled the man by the collar with surprising strength. "No buts here, Danny!" he spat. "If you want to do God’s work and cleanse this sinful place of these thrice-damned abominations, you’d better do as I say! Now listen up, my sons, here’s how things are going to work…."
Frederike dropped her bag of PT gear as she entered the dorm room that she and Goldstripe shared. She let herself drop to the chair in the small dining area of the room and sighed. Quicktail had been in hir more sadistic mood that day (at least according to Frederike and the other cadets), and she had trouble remembering when she last had run this much.
"Honey I’m home" she managed with an exhausted sigh.
The sound of paws padding on the floor behind her made her smile though, and Goldstripe moved up to hug her from behind.
"So…how’s my little denmate today? Has the big, bad Physical Torture Chakat been after you, hmmm?" shi said and kissed hir tired mate.
"Yeah, I’m toasted" Frederike said and leaned into Goldstripe’s embrace and turned her head to return the kiss.
"Oh…poor little you," Goldstripe said with a smile. "Then it’s good you have a loving mate, who will now do hir magic and cheer you up. First of all, take off your clothes. You need a shower and a good rub. And then I’ll tell you some really good news." And to emphasize hir words, Goldstripe threw off hir own top, and helped Frederike to her feet so shi could help her undress too.
Frederike sat on a small plastic stool in the shower, enjoying the wonderful sensation of being massaged by Goldstripe’s soft, strong hands. While shi worked her shoulders with hir hands, hir tail was busy with one of her legs.
"Mmmm…this is so wonderful, honey," Frederike said and leaned against Goldstripe under the hot shower. "Nothing like having a Chakat in the house. Every household should have one," Frederike said teasingly. Goldstripe slapped her on the part of her butt that wasn’t on the stool, and they both laughed, and Frederike tilted her head back to kiss Goldstripe again.
"You said you had some good news?" Frederike said.
"Mmm-hmmm. I just got off the comm. when you came home. My mum and sire are coming over this Easter. And they’re bringing Beetail too. Summerwind has to stay at home to work, though, and little Suncatcher isn’t old enough to travel. Mum also said they’d bring Snowpelt." Shi paused shift hir tail to Frederike’s other leg, and saw her smile at the mentioning of hir youngest sister. "I knew you liked the idea of them bringing the Little Terror" shi continued.
"That sounds nice, although I’d hoped they would bring Beetail’s wonderful mate…but when will they be here?"
"They plan to arrive the weekend before Easter, and stay until the weekend after Easter, giving them two weeks total. They haven’t decided yet…they wanted to bring Lightpaws too, but shi has to ask hir boss at the spaceport if shi can have the time off."
"Sounds like quite the family reunion. What about hir mates and cubs?"
"Some of the cubs are at school, and Grayspot has to head back to Space. Star Fleet can’t let hir stay on Earth too long."
"Oh-hooo…so Bearstalker is stay-at-home dad?" Frederike said with a laugh.
"You could say that. But given his new job at John Forrest National Park, he’s actually not sitting that much at home. But he can be home for the children when they get back from school. He’ll try to come for the holidays, though, if he can."
"I look forward to seeing your family again, Goldstripe" Frederike said, and let her fingers slide through the fur on Goldstripe’s flank.
"Mmmm…me too," Goldstripe said. Shi wanted to say something more, but decided against it. There would be time.
Starnight stretched as shi got up from hir seat. "Next time I’ll see if I can make the company pay for this trip. Damn, we’re so not going to fly monkey-class again," shi grumbled.
Sunfur gave a laugh. "Oh, come on, dear, isn’t a bit of suffering worth it when we’re about to see our daughter and new daughter-in-law again?"
"Of course, honey. You’re right as always," Starnight said and kissed hir mate, and let hir tail caress Sunfur’s lower belly lovingly.
Behind them Beetail made faces of someone being henpecked, and Lightpaws snickered.
"I saw that," said Starnight. "Honey, I think we’ll have lots of space in the hotel tonight – it appears that our two daughters would prefer to sleep outside."
Sunfur laughed again. "Come on you two scoundrels. Help your mother and sire get our carry-ons while I get your little sister."
When they’d gotten their luggage, they went to find Goldstripe and Frederike, who stood in the Arrivals area like many others waiting for their friends and loved ones.
"There they are!" Lightpaws exclaimed, and pointed at the two waving people.
They all padded over to meet them, and were greeted with the traditional Chakat hug of welcome.
"It’s so good to see you again," Frederike said as she hugged Starnight.
"How have you been, Pumpkin?" Sunfur said as shi hugged hir daughter.
"Mum!" Goldstripe said, a little embarrassed at hir mother’s expression.
Frederike released Starnight and was about to lead them outside, when a little white blur jumped at her. Snowpelt had patiently waited hir turn, but now the wait became too much for the little cub. Shi jumped into Frederike’s arms, and she only just managed to hold on to the little Chakat. "Auntie ‘Rike" shi said started purring as shi felt Frederike hold hir.
Frederike nuzzled the little cub, and everyone grinned and aaaww’ed at the little one’s affection.
"I’ll go talk to the guys at the car rental" Sunfur said. "I can see our youngest daughter is in good hands now."
They drove to the hotel together, and the trip was over surprisingly fast, as everyone chatted all the way. Snowpelt had fallen asleep in Frederike’s lap, and she gently carried the cub inside as the grown-up Chakats carried their suitcases upstairs.
When they’d finished, Snowpelt woke up again, and shi started exploring the hotel room, sniffing all corners until Sunfur said it was time to go.
"So, where are we going?" Goldstripe asked hir mother as they left the hotel.
"First of all we’re going to stop by your dorm room so we can all see how you two live, and then….Starnight, dear, would you tell our kids where we’re going?"
"Gladly, Love." Starnight turned to look at the others. "See, today is actually our anniversary day. Today it’s 35 years since we declared ourselves lifemates. We’d like you all to celebrate it with us, first at the very place I asked Sunfur to be my lifemate: a restaurant called Tadich Grill. It’s very old –originally even before your time, Frederike, I believe. It was damaged during the Gene Wars, but the owners rebuilt it. It’s a very nice place and they specialize in grilled seafood. I asked for Sunfur’s hand in there over a candlelight dinner and a 2289 Veuve Clicquot Champagne exactly 35 years ago today."
"That sound very romantic," Beetail said and looked at hir parents.
"It was," Sunfur said with a dreamy look in hir eyes. "I’ll never forget that night."
Starnight gave hir mate a kiss on the cheek. "Mmmm…me neither. Do you remember where we went afterwards?"
"Yeah, he he…I do. It was wonderful, and it gave us Lightpaws 312 days later."
"Ahem…I meant before that."
"Oh…right. Why don’t we go there again if they’re still there?"
"I checked. They are still there."
"What’s that other place?" Lightpaws asked.
"You’ll see. Suffice it to say, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it, and I trust you’re ready to dance."
"Sure," Goldstripe said for all of them, "but what about Snowpelt? Shi might not appreciate being in a nightclub…." Hir voice trailed of as shi looked at hir sister, who once again lay in Frederike’s lap, snuggling against her stomach and purring to hir heart’s content.
"That has also been taken care of. As luck would have it, the proprietor of our hotel is an old friend of mine from when I was a foreign exchange stu…" Starnight said, but was interrupted by hir mate.
"An old drinking buddy from your younger and wilder days, you mean" shi said with a laugh.
"Hey, who’s telling the story here? I swear my mate has become naughtier since shi became pregnant again." They all laughed at that, and then Starnight continued. "Anyway, he and his wife have agreed to baby-sit hir after dinner."
They all went to see the dorm room of Frederike and Goldstripe, and everybody agreed that they seemed to have gotten the most out of the relatively small dorm room.
"Isn’t that bed a little on the smallish side for the two of you, sis?" Beetail said to Goldstripe.
"No, we like it that way," shi answered, with a smile. Frederike blushed at the remarks, even though that she knew that according to the Chakats, there was nothing to be ashamed of.
"I’d like that too if I was you," Lightpaws said, and put hir arm around Frederike’s waist. "Goldstripe, I hope you won’t keep your mate to yourself all the time," shi continued and gave Frederike a naughty smile.
Frederike blushed, but decided to give her sister-in-law a taste of hir own medicine. "It sounds as if someone is too far from hir mates and at the peak of hir male phase," she said and gave Lightpaws a squeeze.
"Ah, touché. I think you’ve started to think like a Chakat, dear," Beetail said with a smile.
"I try my best all the time," Frederike said with a small bow.
"Speaking of time. We’d better leave now, so we won’t miss our reservation," Starnight interrupted.
On the way back to the car, they met Bhaskar. He was introduced to Goldstripe’s family, and they asked if he and Ashley would join them later for dancing and partying. Bhaskar said, that they’d love to, and they agreed to meet in front of the hotel that the Chakats stayed in.
Sunfur carried hir sleeping cub inside. Snowpelt had been nodding off after dessert, and when they’d walked past Bay Bridge Memorial Park, Sunfur had had to carry hir. The park lay where Colonel Redmuzzle and his fellow morphs had held out against an entire tank division with support units with (in the end) only an under-strength company at his command, and thus saving more than eight thousand civilians from certain death.
Starnight gave the hotel manager and his wife a hug each, and Sunfur let them take care of Snowpelt. They stayed to chat a little until Ashley and Bhaskar showed up. Then they went back to California Street, and Sunfur and Starnight led them through the streets until they finally stopped outside a place called Foxy Tunes. A holographic vixen swayed on each side of the sign, apparently to the tunes of the music pouring into the street.
The Foxy Tunes nightclub turned out to be a nice place that combined a cozy bar with small tables with candle lights and a dance floor that was reasonably sized, even by taur standards. A scene with musical instruments told that they sometimes had live music, Frederike noticed. She commented on it, and Sunfur turned and said. "Yes, that’s why we liked it so much. I’m glad they haven’t changed that habit."
They found some tables, and while Starnight bought them all some drinks, Lightpaws turned to Frederike. "Would my sister-in-law care to join me on the dance floor?"
"Certainly, Lightpaws. I’d love to!" Frederike answered, and they went out to join the other dancers. Frederike and Lightpaws were soon joined by Ashley and Bhaskar, and when Starnight returned, shi put the drinks on the table, and told Goldstripe and Beetail to hold on to the table. "Sunfur, my pretty lifemate! Let’s join hands and tails and show these youngsters how to really dance!" And with that shi grabbed hir mate’s hand, and pulled the not exactly unwilling Sunfur to hir feet and out on the dance floor to the tunes of the Fiery Foxtaurs (who according to Frederike sounded a bit Country & Western like).
"Hey my pretty vixen, come ‘n’ dance with me. Hey baby be my Foxy Lady tonight. Foxy Lady yeah, come let me hold you tight. Foxy Lady yeah, until mornin’ light."
Frederike found, that Lightpaws was a very skilled dance partner, and she greatly enjoyed their dance together. "Damn, I think that now more than ever I understand why my sister fell for you," Lightpaws said while shi held Frederike in a close dance.
"I just wanna be your lifemate for ever ‘n’ ever, yeah pretty vixen, ask me if I’ll ever leave you, and my answer will be ‘never’…" the music continued.
"You’re both pretty, sweet and you dance well. Lucky hir," shi continued.
"Thanks," Frederike said and blushed in the semi-darkness of the dance floor. "You know, we sort of have you to thank for it."
"You were the one to counsel me on Chakat customs, remember?"
"Yeah," Lightpaws said and smiled. "Well you’re both welcome. And I think I speak for everybody when I say that you’re definitely a very good addition to our family."
"Oh, you’re so sweet, Lightpaws," Frederike said and hugged hir. Shi hugged her back. "You know, I’ve never felt so welcome as I did when I visited you last Christmas."
They stood for a short while looking at each other, the music forgotten.
They hugged one last time, and Lightpaws gave her a kiss on the cheek, and then they walked back to the table. They each got one of the (taur size!) drinks that Starnight had bought, and Frederike immediately poured down a third of the one liter glass. Frederike closed her eyes for a second, enjoying the sweet drink. She could taste some cranberry juice, and something else she couldn’t quite decide. She opened her eyes again at Sunfur’s hand on her own. "These drinks are called hurricanes. You can drink all you want, dear, but I think I’d better warn you. Apart from a little cranberry juice and some ice, it’s mostly a mix of different kinds of rum," shi said with a smile.
"Okay, thanks Sunfur. I consider myself warned. I guess I better not try to keep up with you guys, or I’ll end up unconscious in the emergency room," Frederike answered with a laugh.
"But now that you’ve had something to drink, maybe then it could be my turn to dance with my newest daughter-in-law?"
"I’d be honored," Frederike said, and held out her hand for hir to take.
Goldstripe was dancing with Bhaskar, and Starnight had taken Ashley out on the dance floor. Everybody was having a good time, and Frederike was enjoying the dance to the fullest.
"It was nice of you to invite Ashley and Bhaskar along, Sunfur" she said as Sunfur and she started dancing to a slow tune.
"Oh you know how we are, dear. The more the merrier, right? But speaking of which – how are they coping? I can’t forget that time when you two called us to tell about that horrible event."
"They are still a bit careful, but mostly they’re doing fine now. In the beginning, Bhaskar was very protective about her, but she’s told him that she won’t change her habits, and also reminded him that given our chosen profession, we’re all going to end up in similar situations every now and then. I think that Goldstripe’s help has been doing both of them a lot of good too. Especially after I talked to Shiroi."
"Ah, yes, it was nice of hym to travel all the way from Britain," Sunfur said.
"Hy was visiting hys family anyway, but yes, it was nice of hym to come by. Hys also talked to our local shrink. Shiroi is a good friend, we like hym quite a lot."
"Yeah, I hope we’ll meet hym one day. But speaking of like; I think Goldstripe is not the only one of our daughters who likes you," shi said with a smile.
"Yeah, but I like Snowpelt too. Shi’s so adorable and affectionate."
"Ah…I wasn’t just thinking of hir. I think Lightpaws has taken a shine to you as well," shi continued and gave Frederike a squeeze with the arm shi’d dragged around her waist.
Frederike stopped and looked at Sunfur. "Um…’a shine’…as in, um…"
"Shi likes you. And I mean more than just as a sister in law."
"O-okaaaay…." Frederike said and looked Sunfur in the eyes.
"Even though shi has two wonderful mates, shi’s always been shy about actually asking someone."
"Um…okay…I…Sunfur I think I’m on thin ice here. What should I do? I don’t want to cause any trouble, and most of all I don’t want to come between Goldstripe and hir sister."
Sunfur gave a laugh. "You won’t, dear. I think you keep forgetting that jealousy isn’t a Chakat trait. But I’m more curious about how you feel about hir?" shi said with a more serious look.
"I like hir a lot. I like all of you, but um…to be honest, I haven’t thought about hir that way. I think I need to think this through, and I need to talk it through with Goldstripe too."
"Fair enough. Now, they’ve just put the Fiery Foxtaurs back on. How about you show your mother-in-law that hir daughter’s denmate is as good a dancer as my little Goldstripe has told me, hmm?"
Frederike smiled at hir. "I’d like that. Just tell me if we’re going too fast, right?"
Sunfur laughed and grappled hold of Frederike again. "Let’s see who gets tired first, you silly girl!"
They laughed and danced for a long time, until Frederike had to admit that, even as fit as she was, she still couldn’t match the stamina of a Chakat, not even one that was more than three months pregnant. She sat down on her chair, gasping for air, but noted that Sunfur was also panting as shi lay down on the floor next to her.
The others joined them shortly after, and Starnight bought another round of drinks for everybody.
They were interrupted by the D.J., who announced that the band, Dire Wolves, would be on the scene shortly. The band consisted entirely of wolfmorphs, and Beetail immediately dragged Lightpaws off and announced that shi’d be on the dance floor as long as the band would play.
"Goldstripe, my fair mate, would you care to join me in a dance?" Frederike asked in an attempted ‘old English’ accent.
Goldstripe laughed and played along. "Aye, Pretty Flower, that I will," shi answered and, giggling, they joined the other dancers on the now quite cramped dance floor.
Neither Frederike nor Goldstripe could remember when they’d last had this much fun.
All of them were dancing and dancing, stopping only for a quick drink or to swap dance partners.
It was three in the morning when they finally headed home. They were mostly quiet on the way back, everybody being exhausted from the dancing. Bhaskar was snoring while he leant against Ashley’s shoulder, and Sunfur was purring as shi leant against hir mate, who nuzzled hir affectionately.
"Happy anniversary, Love," Starnight said gently.
"Thanks. And thank you for all the wonderful years and cubs we’ve had so far. May there be many more of both to come," Sunfur answered and kissed hir deeply.
It was half past four when the bus finally pulled up at the stop across the street from the academy, and Ashley woke Bhaskar up. Goldstripe smiled at his sleepy "Whuzzup?", but shi thought that it kind of summed up how they all felt. ‘Good thing it’s weekend’ shi thought as they all staggered through the gates to the academy.
The next morning Frederike and Goldstripe showered together, massaging each other’s aching legs.
"Honey, there’s something I need to talk with you about," Frederike said.
"Oh? Sounds serious for a Saturday morning," Goldstripe answered with a smile, opening hir eyes that had been closed in ecstasy from the massage Frederike had been giving hir hind legs.
Frederike got up and looked at hir. "Last night when I was dancing with your mum shi told me something. Um…and I think we need to discuss it before we meet up with the others today."
"Well…in short, I think Lightpaws has a crush on me,." she continued, and held her breath for Goldstripe’s reaction.
She was relieved when her mate just smiled. "I know. Actually – and by this I don’t mean to sound crude – what shi feels for you is mostly a physical attraction. Shi likes you as a person, and shi wants to add to that with some physical intimacy." Goldstripe said. Frederike was a little surprised at how lightly shi took it. She’d known about the whole Chakat thing about love and how it should be multiplied rather than divided, but it still baffled her.
"So it doesn’t bother you?"
"Of course not, honey. If you want a night with hir, go right ahead" Goldstripe said, and continued with a wink. "Just as long as I get all the juicy details afterwards!"
"O….kaaaayy….but um…I still think it would feel…wrong somehow."
Goldstripe turned and embraced Frederike. "Because you think that you’d be unfaithful to your denmate, right?"
"Yes, that’s part of it."
"But I won’t take it that way, dear. Besides, didn’t you do something similar with your fiancée’s sister? If you desire hir, go right ahead and…"
"Yes, well, I like hir, but I don’t want to…I mean I’m not prepared for…you know…"
"Yes. But I don’t want to hurt hir either."
"Then tell hir what you told me – that you like hir, just not in a physical way."
"Shi’d still be hurt, I’m afraid."
"Possibly, depending on the situation and how you say it. Just promise me that you’ll be good to hir."
"Of course I will."
"I know…" Goldstripe said and kissed her.
"I intend to ask hir, if shi would like to spend a night with me. Just sleeping together. No sex, just some hugging, nuzzling and a little kissing."
"I think shi’d like that. And I’m sure shi’ll understand."
"Good. I mean, I love all of your family. But to me, you are the one I denmated with. I don’t know how it’ll be in the future, but at least right now I’m not ready to share that other part with anyone but you. It’s all still so new to me."
"It’s all right, honey. You know, you’re a very nice person. But you’re also not a Chakat, and we – especially Lightpaws – just have to remember that."
Frederike sighed. "Just as long as I don’t step on any toes or tails. You and your family have given me everything. Love, warmth, a family…"
"And you have given me your heart, and you’ve given all of us your love. I wouldn’t ask for more."
They hugged again, and stood there for a long time, just enjoying each other. Finally they decided that they had to get ready so they could meet up with the others, and they finished up, had a quick breakfast, and left their room to head for the gate where the others would pick them up.
They all spent the day seeing various tourist attractions: Bay Bridge War Museum, The (reconstructed) Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown and of course a trip to some of the major shopping areas.
They were walking on one of the piers, enjoying the view of the sea. Frederike walked next to Lightpaws. "So, are you enjoying San Francisco?" she started.
"Oh, absolutely" Lightpaws answered. "I’ve only been here once before, visiting Goldstripe after hir first semester. We didn’t have so much time then, so it’s good to be back. And of course, it’s good to see the two of you."
"Yeah, I’m happy you all came. Too bad your mates aren’t here though. They’re good people too. I look forward to see Bearstalker again when he arrives for the holidays."
"Me too. Good thing I at least have Beetail to snuggle with."
"Yeah. Umm… I wonder… how would you like it if shi and I… swapped places one night?" Frederike said, and looked at Lightpaws.
"I’m sure shi could be persuaded. Shi has said something about having missed hir sister." Shi paused to look back at Frederike. "I’d like that very much," shi continued and took her hand.
"Yeah, me too… I think it would be nice to spend a night with you" she said and blushed. "But um… I think it will only be a snuggle, I uh…"
"…am not ready for more, right?" shi finished for her.
"Yes. I mean I like all of you a lot. Especially you for what you did for us. But um…"
"I know. It’s okay. I’d still like it very much."
Frederike sighed with relief. "Me too. Uh, I was afraid that you’d be disappointed or hurt."
"Not at all. Besides, I talked to Goldstripe, and shi warned me that you might react that way. Heck, shi spent half a year getting close to you. Actually, I hadn’t hoped for even this….and I didn’t dare ask, because I wasn’t sure if you wouldn’t be too shocked by the mere suggestion, and I didn’t want to damage or come between your relationship with my sister." Shi paused and they looked at each other. They started to smile at each other, and soon they started giggling. "Come here, my dear sister-in-law," shi said, and opened hir arms. Frederike embraced hir, and they stood for a while, hugging and giggling at their mutual shyness.
"I hope that Beetail won’t mind a tight squeeze with Goldstripe," Frederike said.
"I don’t think shi’d mind at all. As I said, shi’s missed hir," Lightpaws said.
That evening they all went to bed early after a satisfying meal at Pepe’s Cantina. Everybody was a little foot- or pawsore from all the walking, and thus they agreed to retire early.
Lightpaws enjoyed the feeling of Frederike next to hir, and hir empathic abilities told hir that the feeling was mutual. They’d started out with some hugging and undressing, and Frederike had proceeded to take hir to the shower and giving hir a massage, telling hir that this was what she used to do for Goldstripe when shi was tense after a hard day. Lightpaws had enjoyed it thoroughly, and had returned the favor. They’d then gone to bed and had just enjoyed lying next to each other, whispering in the darkness and holding each other. Lightpaws had let Frederike lead, as shi didn’t want any awkward moments – this was supposed to be a very enjoyable evening for both of them.
Goldstripe had also enjoyed the night. Though shi loved hir denmate above all others, shi had also enjoyed being with one of hir own kind. Beetail had been good to hir, and they’d renewed their bond as only Chakat sisters could.
The bed was very small for two adult Chakats, but they didn’t mind. That was just a good excuse for them to snuggle close all night.
Shi was brought out of hir half-unconscious state by the comm. Shi grunted, and Beetail mumbled something about letting it ring. Goldstripe was tempted to do just that, but decided against it. It might be the others informing them about a change of plans for the coming day. Shi answered the comm. with a sigh. The image on the screen brought hir to full alertness, though.
"Good morning, Goldstripe. Hope I didn’t wake you up," the well-known smiling vixen said from the comm..
"Dailada! Good to see you. Well, you did me wake up, but it’s okay. What can I do for you?" shi said with a smile.
"If you’re not too busy in the holidays, you could take that two-legged denmate of yours and visit us during Easter," Dailada said with a smile.
"I’d love to. But um…would you mind if I brought more than just Frederike? My family is here on a short vacation."
"Not at all. You’re all welcome. We’ll make room, or else we’ll find other accommodations for you, depending on how many you are."
They all went to the airport to greet Bearstalker and the cubs. Snowpelt was very excited to have hir playmates back, and when they left to head for the Foxtaur village, the cubs was all piled up in the back of the car. The other cubs was just as excited to have hir back, and soft purring could be heard from them all. Lightpaws had taken a seat next to Bearstalker, and was leaning against his broad chest as the car sped towards the city limit.
Starnight turned control of the vehicle over to the AI, which gave hir an ETA for the time shi’d need to take over the controls again in its usual calm voice.
"So have my little kitties behaved, honey?" Lightpaws asked. Hir eyes were closed and the deep rumble of hir purring could be heard as he nuzzled hir upper belly fur.
"Of course, dear. Our children always behave, right?" he said with a smile.
"Right," shi said with a smile.
"Bullshit," Beetail said between fake coughs.
"What’s that supposed to mean?" Lightpaws said in mock annoyance. As if on cue, there was a wail from Snowpelt. "Muuuum, Desert’s pulling my taaaaiiil". Lightpaws and Starnight both turned around. "Play nicely, Desertstorm," Lightpaws said.
As they drove, the cubs soon fell asleep, and the rest of the trip was uneventful. Bearstalker told Frederike and Goldstripe about his new job as a park ranger, and Goldstripe asked him if he’d take them all out for a hiking trip next time they were in Australia, which he said he’d gladly do.
Starnight took control of the PTV as they left the interstate, and shi swung it down the road to Dailada’s village.
Shi parked the PTV in the underground garage, and they all walked from there to the den Dailada and her fellow hunter vixens shared.
The vixens were delighted to see them, and eagerly hugged them all in a Chakat-style welcome.
"It’s so good to see you all" Shina said as she hugged Goldstripe.
"I’m so glad you came," Dailada said after she’d hugged Sunfur.
Laita was still holding Frederike’s hand after a hug, and turned so she could face them all. "Now, I hope you’re all hungry. We’ve made deer a la Marani. Marani is Shina’s mother, and she makes the best deer roast in the village. We hope to, if not outdo her, then at least make something just as good."
There was a general murmur of appreciation from the guests, and Snowpelt was already sniffing the air and licking hir muzzle in anticipation. They helped arrange the dinner table, or rather tables as they’d had to borrow an extra table from one of the neighbors.
The food was everything it was promised to be, and they all dug in with gusto.
"Tomorrow we will go to the market place. Though we don’t celebrate Easter as a religious holiday, there will be lots of Easter stuff," Dailada said during dinner.
"Yeah, all kinds of crafts will be showing and selling their handiwork. And," Shina added and reached for Desertstorm and nuzzled hir sand colored ears, "there will be Easter eggs and other goodies for the children and those of us who still have our inner child or just a sweet tooth."
"That sounds great," said Beetail, and the others gave similar approvals.
Desertstorm looked at Snowpelt, and it was clear that both of them had definitely gotten the part about there being candy.
As they finished dinner Laita noticed that their Chakat guests had started to yawn. "I take it that we’d better talk about sleeping arrangements. As our den isn’t too big, I’ve made arrangements with my parents to have some of you over. They are out of town but will be back tomorrow afternoon, but you’re all welcome to sleep there." She paused to take a sip of the wine that Sunfur and Starnight had brought as their way of saying "thanks for letting us stay with you".
Shina continued "We have two sleeping dens here, and there are two more at the other den for you. A murmur spread across the table, as they started talking about who should sleep where. Lightpaws and Bearstalker claimed one of the rooms at Laita’s parents’ den, while Sunfur and Starnight claimed the other. Beetail said that shi’d sleep with the cubs, and Frederike and Goldstripe was offered to join Dailada and her fellow vixens.
The next morning Frederike woke from her mate’s good morning kisses. Goldstripe looked down at hir tired denmate.
"Mmm…morning, honey," she managed.
"A very good morning indeed. The sun is shining, Shina and Laita are cooking up breakfast, and all the others have returned from Laita’s parents’ den."
Frederike sat up, and noticed that the vixens had indeed left the sleeping den.
After a good breakfast with fresh eggs, hash browns, bacon and other good stuff – all of it homemade – they headed out for the market area. Like at the harvest festival, there were several small booths selling everything from leather clothing over hunting equipment to food. The cubs were quickly fascinated by the painted Easter eggs, and were left with some of the local Foxtaur kits in a special area where they could all paint their own Easter eggs. Some vixens supervised and helped the young ones, and told the Chakat parents about the tradition of painting the eggs and then rolling them down a nearby hill.
With the cubs thus entertained, the adults left them in the care of the vixens, promising to come back at lunchtime. The egg rolling would take place after lunch, and they promised the cubs to attend the game.
Bearstalker quickly tired of the others’ browsing of the small shops.
"You know, I think I’ll leave you girls to do what girls do best – shopping" he said with a wolfy smile. Lightpaws swatted him on the rump. "All right, big boy, go have fun and swap manly stories with the local tods."
Bearstalker trotted off and joined up with some of the locals. As a park ranger, he had a lot to discuss with the locals, and he was quickly offered some of the local beer.
He was laughing heartily at a joke that one of the tods at his table had told, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned with a smile and a laugh to face the vixen who had disturbed him. He recognized her from the Easter egg painting, and his laugh died on his lips as he saw her worried face. "What’s the matter?" he said.
She looked at him and at the tods. "Some of the little ones are missing. Litah, Roran, Jaliana…and one of your cubs…the sand colored one…um…Desert, right?" Bearstalker stiffened. "Yeah…Desertstorm….um…are you sure?"
"I’m afraid so. I am so terribly sorry. I…" she started, but was interrupted by Bakkor, one of the older tods. "Never mind whose fault it is. Come on lads, let’s check the area out. Bearstalker, get your Chakat family, I believe they’ve got better senses than we do."
Starnight spotted Bearstalker running between customers and booths at top speed and alerted the others. He stopped in front of them, panting. "Some of the cubs are missing, and Desert’s among them," he managed.
Lightpaws didn’t hear the rest of his words as shi ran like a bat out of hell back towards the Easter egg painting area. The others followed as fast as they could (Frederike being hopelessly outrun by the taurs).
When the others (Frederike excepted) arrived, Lightpaws had already taken off again. A very confused vixen looked at them, ears dropped back. "S-shi ran that way," she managed.
"What exactly happened?" Goldstripe said with a voice that radiated authority. Shi saw some of the locals sniffing the ground, looking for tracks and the like. And elderly tod came over to hir. "Some of the cubs are missing. We think they wandered off."
"How could that happen?" Starnight asked angrily.
"A moment’s carelessness I’m afraid," he said and gave one of the vixens a sour look.
The Chakats started sniffing the area and listening for the cubs.
"I think they went that way," Sunfur said just as Frederike arrived, gasping for air.
"I agree," Bearstalker said, looking at the paw prints in the earth.
The path was the same as Lightpaws had taken, but they had to make sure. They followed as fast as they could until they found Lightpaws looking very confused at the river bank.
Shi was about to jump in when the others stopped hir. Bakkor looked hir in the eyes. "Listen to me, they didn’t jump in here. There are some step stones that way. Our kits know that." Lightpaws didn’t look convinced, and just to make sure, they decided to split up. Bakkor, Goldstripe, Sunfur and Bearstalker ran towards the step stones, and the others ran the other way.
Frederike saw them split up, and decided to follow Goldstripe’s group. They reached the promised step stones, and Bakkor and Sunfur crossed the river first. "I smell them over here!" Sunfur said after a short while. They all sighed in relief. At least they hadn’t drowned. They all joined them at the other side. "What’s up that hill?" Bearstalker asked and pointed in the direction of the small path leading away from the river.
"If you walk far enough, some marshland. But this area isn’t too good. There are a lot of small caves and holes in the ground. We try to keep the kits away from here, but as with all children, what’s forbidden is also interesting," Bakkor said.
Some of the locals had joined them, and Bakkor dispatched one of them to find the other search party. They progressed slowly, as there was a lot of loose rubble, and they went even more slowly as they had to leave the path. Bakkor warned them to look out for holes in the ground.
"Some of them are small enough to break a leg in, others can swallow and adult Quange!" Bakkor said. They moved single file through the high grass, Bearstalker and Goldstripe taking the lead.
Goldstripe stopped again to listen. Shi put hir hands behind hir ears to increase their surface area, and reared up on hir hind legs, standing for a few seconds, silent, listening.
"I think I can hear voices!" shi exclaimed. They moved forward as fast as they dared. Bearstalker stopped with a "Whoa!" as he was about slide his legs down a hole in the ground. Little voices could be heard from the hole.
"Help help!" cried one of the Foxtaur kits.
But the worst of all was Desertstorm’s continuous wail of pain and horror.
Bearstalker produced a flashlight from his belt pouch, and tried to see down the hole. Goldstripe moved in beside him, and with hir keener senses, shi could see one of the Foxtaurs holding on to an edge.
"Hold on, we’ll get you," Bearstalker said. He looked around for something useful, but at the same time the local paramedics arrived to his great relief. They found a rope, and lowered it down to let the little Foxtaur hold on. They managed to haul the scared kit to safety, and other than a few bruises and bumps, he was fine.
"We need to dig the rest of them out," said one of the Foxtaurs from the rescue team. "We can’t get down that hole, it’s too narrow for an adult Foxtaur."
"Yeah, but it might cave in if we try," said one of the others.
"Then lower me down" Frederike said. They all turned to look at her.
"Do you know anything about first aid or SAR operations?" one of the paramedics asked skeptically.
"First aid is part of the training on the police academy, yes," she answered.
"All right. That will do," he said. Since their harness was made for a taurform, they had to make a lasso and put it under her armpits. Bearstalker and Goldstripe volunteered for holding the rope, and they gently lowered her down the hole.
At first the hole was a very steep and rocky earth tunnel, but later the earth was replaced by rock. The tunnel was very narrow, and Frederike feared that she might be stuck at some point, but luckily, that didn’t happen. The tunnel split in two, and Frederike had to decide which way to go. She tried to use the flashlight and she thought she saw something move down the right of them. She signaled for the others to lower her further down, and after a while she stood on a rock floor. She found two small forms, both of them lying very still. In the sparse light of the flashlight she could see blood oozing from one of them. She quickly found the medkit she’d strapped to her belt before going down. She touched both of them and drew a sigh of relief. Both were breathing, but the one that lay in a pool of her own blood only barely so. Both of them were little vixetaurs, and Frederike feared what might have happened to Desertstorm, who had stopped crying shortly after Frederike started her descent. She patched up the little vixetaur, and carefully grabbed one in each hand, putting their bodies on her arms. She turned so she’d have her back towards the cliff, and hoped to be able to use her legs to keep her free of the rock while at the same time protecting the kits. She then signaled for Goldstripe and Bearstalker to pull her up.
The trip to the surface seemed like an eternity, but a last she could see the welcome daylight shining down from above her. As soon as she came up, the paramedics were ready to take care of the two little vixens.
"What about Desert?" Bearstalker said.
"The tunnel forked further down. I think shi fell down the other one," Frederike said. She noticed Lightpaws lying in the grass near the hole. "What happened to hir?"
"They had to sedate hir, I’m afraid" Sunfur said. Shi had tears in hir eyes.
Frederike nodded and turned to Goldstripe. "You two, lower me into the hole again."
Once again, Frederike went down the narrow shaft. This time she took the other tunnel, and after a while, it turned vertical to her horror. ‘My God. I pray that shi survived this, though I’m afraid it must be nearly impossible,’ she thought. To her relief, she reached the bottom shortly after. She used the flashlight to search the rocky floor as she had in the other cave.
Finally, she found what she was looking for. She gasped in horror as she saw the pool of blood that soaked Desertstorm’s fur. She knelt down beside the little Chakat, and started examining hir while taking out the first aid kit again. The little cub was unconscious, but given that shi’d cried out earlier, Frederike had to assume that hir head wasn’t too damaged. At least there was no blood near the head. The blood came from hir right hind leg, that was bent at an impossible angle, and she saw bone protruding through hir skin.
Frederike did her best to stop the bleeding, and she made sure to check hir breathing regularly as she worked. She had tried to wake Desertstorm up, but without luck. ‘Shi has lost a lot of blood. I hope it’s not too late,’ she thought as she signaled for the others to pull them up.
There was a sigh of relief as they finally surfaced, and as before the paramedics were ready to take care of the cub. They examined hir quickly, and ordered the airlift unit to return as soon as it had dropped off the other two patients.
They’d also put Lightpaws on a stretcher, and when they airlifted Desertstorm out, they brought hir along.
The mixed group of Foxtaurs, Chakats, a single human and a single Wolftaur sat quietly in the waiting area of the hospital. Lightpaws was still sleeping, as the doctors had decided the mental stress would be too much for hir if shi awoke now.
A serious looking vixetaur in surgery outfit entered the room. "Jaliana’s regained consciousness. You can see her now," she said to her parents. They smiled and sighed with relief. "She’s had a concussion and one of her lower torso ribs is broken, but other than that she’s fine."
"What about the others?" Sunfur said and put a hand on the vixen’s arm.
"They are still in surgery. Litah had a fractured skull and two broken legs. We think she’ll make it. But um…Desertstorm is another case. Shi has lost a lot of blood, and one of hir hearts stopped on the way to the hospital."
The room was dead silent.
"I…I should have taken the other tunnel first," Frederike said, and tears started running down her cheeks.
"No, if you’d done that, Litah would have definitely died," the vixen said. "Don’t blame yourself, you did an admirable job on all of them."
"B-but Desertstorm…" Frederike sobbed, and Goldstripe moved over to hug her.
"…would also have been dead on arrival if you hadn’t done what you did. Even though you couldn’t see both of them at the same time, it was the right choice, if that is any consolation," finished the vixen for her.
She then excused herself and went back to her patient and Jaliana’s parents.
A Foxtaur tod entered three hours later. His graying fur told of his advanced age, and he looked at them with gentle eyes. He then turned to Litah’s parents. "Your daughter has just come out of surgery. She’s had some mild brain trauma, but nothing we couldn’t repair. She’ll be unconscious for a while longer, but she will be fine. You can see her now if you wish."
"Thank you," Litah’s mother whispered. She hugged her mate and also gave Frederike a lick-kiss. "Thank you for saving our daughter. I hope your cub will be fine too," she said with tears running down her cheeks.
The doctor then turned to the others. "We are finishing up on Desertstorm. Shi’s lost a lot of blood and we had to help hir hearts a little, but that is the worst of it. Other than that, shi has a broken leg and some of hir ribs have been bent a little. We believe shi’ll survive. I’ll come back when I know more."
A sigh of relief came from the rest of the group.
The mood was a little lighter in the room, but time still seemed to stand still. After what seemed like an eternity, but really only was half an hour, the doctor returned.
"You can see Desertstorm now. But you must be quiet, shi needs lots of rest."
"Thank you, doctor," Bearstalker said. They let him go in first, and then they followed him into the room where Desertstorm rested.
Bearstalker walked up to the bed where the bleary-eyed cub lay. "Hey there, squirt," he said, but had to stop to wipe tears from his eyes. He swallowed. "Are you hanging in there, honey?"
Shi nodded, and he bent down to give hir a gentle kiss on the forehead.
They all took turns hugging Desert. Goldstripe and Bearstalker sat on each side of the bed when the doctor returned.
"I think you’d better give hir some rest. One of you can remain if you wish. We’ll bring Lightpaws in here in a moment, so shi can see hir cub when shi wakes up," the doctor said.
They left Bearstalker with his cub and mate, and Sunfur promised to come back later to relieve him.
Sunfur, Goldstripe and Frederike entered the hospital in the late afternoon. They entered the room they’d been in earlier, and found Bearstalker holding Lightpaws’ hand. Desertstorm was sleeping, but woke up at the sounds of the newcomers.
"How’s everyone?" asked Sunfur.
"Much better, thanks," said Lightpaws. Shi was out of bed, and smiled at Sunfur and the others. "The doctors say we might be able to take hir home tomorrow."
Desertstorm was still a little groggy, but shi was feeling good enough to like being nuzzled and in general being at the center of everybody’s attention.
The door opened again to reveal the elderly Foxtaur doctor, who smiled at them. "Ah, I see most of the family is here now. Good," he said and paused to move up to the bed where Desertstorm lay. He took out a medscanner and examined hir while giving hir a nuzzle and some soothing words. He finally nodded in satisfaction and put his scanner back in a small pocket on a small saddlepack he wore. "There, I think you’ll be up and about soon enough," he said and patted hir one last time on the head. "It never ceases to amaze me, how fast you Chakats heal. I must say the Turners were real geniuses," he continued as he turned towards Lightpaws and Bearstalker. "I intend to keep hir until tomorrow for observation just to be on the safe side, but then you can take hir home. Shi will need absolute rest, so no jumping around."
"Thank you, doctor," Lightpaws said.
The rest of their stay in the Foxtaur village went more peacefully. After two days, Desertstorm was up and about, and even though shi slept more than usual, shi was already well enough to complain about not being able to run out and play with the other cubs.
They all bought some souvenirs, and Bearstalker, Lightpaws and Beetail bought some presents for those who had had to stay in Australia. On the third day Desertstorm even got hir appetite back, and Dailada and the other vixens decided to celebrate with homemade raspberry tart for dessert.
The last evening before Goldstripe’s family would return to Australia was spent the Chakats’ hotel room. They’d eaten at the hotel, and Sunfur had asked Goldstripe and Frederike to join them in their room after dinner. Though Frederike wasn’t an empath like her mate, she sensed that Goldstripe was a little tense during dinner.
When they’d eaten and said goodnight to their hosts, they all walked up to the hotel room. Snowpelt was put to bed, and this time shi didn’t complain about it, as they’d been out shopping all day, and shi was quite tired. Frederike helped Starnight tuck hir in, and when they returned she saw that all the Chakats were gathered in a circle. "Go over to your mate," Starnight whispered and put a gentle hand on her shoulder.
She did as requested, and stood beside Goldstripe.
Shi then took a deep breath and said. "Frederike, dear heart. Though we Chakats are not so big on big ceremonies, there’s one that I’d like you to partake in tonight." Shi paused and took her hand. "When we officially welcome new members into our family, it is in a way not too different from when we welcome a new cub into the world. A new cub is given the love and care of the family and shi is given the life-giving milk of hir parents and other family members lactating. Thus one might say, that to us, the milk is a symbol of life and family. So when someone is adopted into our family, we share our milk with that person, so as to symbolize that the new member of our family will become one with us." Shi paused to look at Frederike, who looked attentively at hir. Shi then started to open hir halter. "So as your denmate and the one to bring you into this family, I formally ask you: Frederike Weismann, will you drink of me?"
Frederike was a little stunned, but also honored. She didn’t know what to do, but Beetail was there to help. "Just answer as you see fit," shi whispered.
Frederike took a deep breath. "Goldstripe, my dear mate. You have given me everything. Your heart is the most valued of those gifts. I am honored to be asked to be part of your family, who have given me so much too. Yes, I will drink of you." She turned a little pink at having to do something she considered very personal in the presence of others, but she also understood how important this was to Goldstripe and hir family. She lowered her head and drank of each of hir breasts. As she did so, she felt the vibration through her mate that came from hir purring. When she’d taken a mouthful of each breast, she stood up and kissed Goldstripe.
Shi then continued hir little speech. "As you can all see, Frederike has now shown her wish to join our family. I will now leave the word to the one who will speak as head of our family."
"I claim that right," Starnight said.
"Then I bring before you my denmate, Frederike," Goldstripe said, and ushered Frederike over to stand in front of Starnight. "I have both sired and borne mine and Sunfur’s cubs. I have loved and nurtured them all, and they have all become well-functioning individuals. This has been my duty as parent, just as it has been my duty as head of family to ensure the well-being of this family unit. I will offer you that same love and caring. Frederike, will you drink of me?"
"I would be honored to, and I will help you share those duties, to help continue the well being of this family and all its members." And with that, Frederike repeated the drinking procedure as she’d done it with Goldstripe. She tried not to feel a little awkward, and firmly told herself, that to the Chakats, there was absolutely nothing awkward about the situation.
"I hereby accept your request to join our family. Who will speak for the security of this family?" Starnight asked.
"I claim that right," Sunfur said. "Like my lifemate, I too have both borne and sired cubs. I have made sure that they lacked neither food nor shelter, and I have protected them from harm. As I have done for Goldstripe and hir sisters, I ask you now, Frederike, will you take it upon yourself to do the same for Goldstripe and for all of our family?"
"Yes, I will. I will protect your family as if it was of my own by blood," Frederike said.
"As you have clearly shown, when you rescued Desertstorm. Then I welcome you into our family. Will you share milk with me?" Sunfur said.
Frederike repeated her actions on Sunfur as she had done with Goldstripe and Starnight.
"And now," Sunfur paused and smiled at Frederike, "please take off your top."
Frederike turned even more pink, but did as requested. Sunfur then symbolically suckled on each of Frederike’s breasts. She found it a little kinky and also quite strange to do this kind of thing with her mother-in-law, but she didn’t say anything, as she felt this was something very important to Goldstripe and hir family. ‘I have promised myself to fit into this strange new world, haven’t I?’ she thought. Her train of thought was interrupted by Sunfur’s voice.
"Now, who will speak for Goldstripe?" shi said.
Lightpaws and Beetail looked at each other. "We both claim that right," Lightpaws said and took Beetail’s hand.
"We have seen how much you care for our sister," Beetail started, "and we’ve also noticed how much you care for our family. Your willingness to risk yourself for Desertstorm showed that clearly."
"Yes, I will be forever grateful that you saved my daughter," Lightpaws said and paused to wipe away a tear. "I remember when you came to me for advice on Chakat customs. I remember how sincere you were, both from your choice of words and from what my empathy told me. And I also remember how you wanted to do this the right way. How you wanted it to be perfect for Goldstripe. And most of all, I remember how much love that radiated from you," shi continued.
"We have known Goldstripe all our lives, and we have loved hir and shared both happiness and sorrow with hir. Though we already think we know the answer, we still ask you: will you do the same for hir?"
"Yes. That I will. As it said in an old psalm from my time – if I can remember and translate the words correctly: ‘It is so beautiful to walk together, for two people who like to be with each other. Then you will be with happiness twice as happy and only carry half the heavy burden of sorrow.’"
"That was beautiful. Now, will you share milk with us?" Lightpaws said.
"Yes, I will" Frederike said.
She then repeated the ceremony as she had with the others. Beetail and Lightpaws both purred as they felt her suckle, and they eagerly returned the favor.
When they’d finished, Starnight spoke up again. "Now that you have partaken in the ritual and shared the life-giving milk with us, you are now a true part of this family, and are considered such of our family and clan. Congratulations, and once again, welcome in our family!"
There were hugs of congratulations and welcome, and Goldstripe gave Frederike a huge lick-kiss. Everybody was chatting and enjoying themselves, and Starnight took a bottle of champagne out of the mini-bar fridge, that shi’d ordered earlier.
"This isn’t Chakat tradition" shi said as shi opened the bottle. "But it is our little family tradition." Shi then poured some for each of them, and they made a toast for Goldstripe and Frederike’s denmateship.
Nobody noticed the silent creak as one of the doors opened ever so slowly, and a small figure slid through.
Frederike sat next to Goldstripe who squatted on the floor like the other Chakats, and she leant into hir embrace. She suddenly felt a light touch on her leg, and at first she thought it was Goldstripe. But when she turned to look, she saw Snowpelt with hir handpaws on her thigh and hir ears tucked back. Shi had an expression of someone doing something shi wasn’t allowed to as shi looked up at Frederike.
"Why hello there little one," she said.
The others stopped their chatting to look in Frederike’s direction.
"Shouldn’t you be in bed?" Starnight asked Snowpelt, who ducked down behind Frederike.
"Aww, let hir stay," said Goldstripe.
"Yeah, shi’s so cute" said Frederike, and reached down to pet hir.
"All right, then," Starnight said. Shi was a little amused at the little one’s affection, and decided to let discipline rest for tonight.
Snowpelt then smiled happily and crawled up to lie on Frederike’s lap, hugging her belly with hir arms and handpaws.
When they finally decided to call it a night, Frederike and Goldstripe gently carried the now sleeping Snowpelt back to hir bed. They then said their goodnights, and Goldstripe promised that they’d be back the next morning to see them off.
Lt Paul Chang looked at the assembled cadets in front of him. Behind him, the sounds of shots being fired on the shooting range could be heard. "Ready for inspection!" he commanded, and the cadets moved their weapons as to comply with his order.
As always, weapons was inspected when arriving at or before leaving the range as to ensure that no one would be carrying a loaded weapon where they weren’t supposed to.
He examined each weapon thoroughly, and to his satisfaction, everything seemed to be in order. He then commanded them to stand at ease, and brought out his clipboard.
"And now, Gentlefolk, it is time to let you know your results," he said and paused to look at them. "I can tell you, that each and every one of you has passed." He looked up and gave a smile at the sigh of relief that came from the young officers-to-be in front of him. "Some of you even passed well enough to receive an award," he continued and smiled.
"Malarky, Linda; Singh, Bhaskar; Chakat Whitetuft; please step forward." He paused to let them do so. "You’ve shown extreme skills today, and thus will receive the Gold Rifles. Congratulations!" The other cadets applauded while he gave them their medals.
Bhaskar took a quick look at his after he’d shaken Lt Chang’s hand. It was a gold ring hanging from a red ribbon. On the ring were the words "To Serve And Protect", and on top of the ring were two ancient rifles in a cross.
"The following people will receive the Silver Rifles: Abrahams, Vladimir; Chakat Goldstripe; Jefferson, Berlinda; Matsumi, Daniel; Weismann, Frederike. Please step forward." He shook the hands of each of them as he had the others, and they received their medal. It was similar to the other one, except it was made from silver. Again the rest of the cadets applauded.
"One final thing: tomorrow is of course graduation day. I am to tell you from the Old Man, that you are of course expected to arrive in mess dress uniform, and to appear spotless. I know most of you want to celebrate tonight, and you should. You’ve earned it." He paused to give them a smile. "But do try to be sober tomorrow morning. After all, you’d like to appear your best in front of friends, family and the local press, right?"
There was laughter and a silent murmur from the cadets at Lt Chang’s last comment.
"Very well. Dismissed" he finished.
The cadets cheered and left the shooting range in small groups. This was their final exam, and now only the official ceremony of the next day remained.
"I can’t believe this. I mean, tomorrow, we’re real officers!" Bhaskar said as he left with Ashley, Goldstripe and Frederike.
"Yeah…that definitely calls for a celebration" Goldstripe said. "How about Pepe’s?"
"Naw, how about something a little more stylish?" Frederike said and put her arm around hir.
"Ahem. We just bought tickets for Perth yesterday, remember?" shi said. "We’re not exactly made of money, right?"
"Of course, honey. Ashley?"
Ashley and Frederike looked at each other and smiled.
"Frederike and I have planned a little ahead," Ashley said. "We’ve saved a little money during this semester, and well… I’d say we’ve got enough that the four of us could go to Al Forno and then perhaps get a drink and some dancing at Foxy Tunes."
"Really?" Bhaskar said, a little surprised. Al Forno was an Italian restaurant, and was famous for making supreme Italian dishes. It was also known to be a bit expensive.
"Yes, I took the liberty of reserving a table for four for tonight," Ashley continued.
They continued towards their dormitories in merriment. Bhaskar couldn’t help but take another look at the medal he’d won.
"I think it’ll look good on you, honey," Ashley said.
"Thanks," he said and kissed her.
"Damn, and I almost got myself a set of Silver Rifles. I just needed five more points. Five points!" Ashley said.
"Aw you did well. And besides, you aced several other things. Law: best in class. Crime scene investigation: second best in class… heck, you’ll be in Homicide while the rest of us are still doing traffic control," Goldstripe said.
The inside of Ashley’s ears turned pink as she blushed. "I know… I’m the bookworm… but five points!"
They agreed to meet at the gates at six, as Ashley had made the reservation for seven thirty, and they agreed that they’d like to walk a little around in San Francisco before dinner.
The major topic that evening was everybody’s plans for the future. Not that the topic hadn’t been up before, but now things really counted. They would all have some vacation after graduation, but then they were supposed to have found themselves jobs.
"So I take it, that the two of you will try to find something in Australia?" Bhaskar said as he poured some more of the Chianti Rufina wine for all of them.
"Yes, that is the plan. However, there are no promising openings in or near Perth at the moment," Goldstripe said.
"Yeah, so we were thinking of applying for San Francisco like you guys" Frederike continued.
"That sounds great," Ashley said. "It’ll be nice to have you two around some more. I know we’ll miss you whenever you do head for Australia."
"You know, you’re always welcome to join us," Goldstripe said.
"No thanks. We’ve found that we like this area," Bhaskar said. "It is not as hot as India, but not as cold as Canada and we’ve also made a few friends here."
"Yeah, especially after you two introduced us to Dailada and her fellow hunter vixens," Ashley added.
"Ah, yes. Apart from you, I think that Dailada, Shina and Laita are what I will miss most when we move to Australia," Frederike said.
Goldstripe put hir hand on Frederike’s. "But you do want to go, right honey?" shi asked.
"Of course, muffin. And I hope we can find an apartment close to either your parents’ house or else near where Lightpaws and hir mates have moved," Frederike answered.
"After all, I’m part of your clan, which mean I’m also part responsible for Snowpelt and the other cubs, so just try and keep me away," she added with a smile.
Goldstripe sighed with relief. "I was just suddenly afraid that…"
"Don’t be," Frederike said and gave hir a kiss on the side of hir muzzle. "You’re so sweet when you worry," she said with a laugh.
"You are one very caring and loving mate, Goldstripe," Ashley said. "Frederike is very lucky to have found you."
Goldstripe blushed a little.
"Yeah, I do consider myself very lucky," Frederike said and suddenly looked serious. "Every morning and every night I remind myself how lucky I am when I fall asleep in your arms and know I’ll wake up there the next morning," Frederike said, and she and Goldstripe looked each other deeply in the eyes.
"I think it’s time we found our way to Foxy Tunes," Bhaskar said with a smile and signaled the waiter. "Check please!".
They all enjoyed the evening at Foxy Tunes, and Frederike and Goldstripe was happy that the band that played that night mostly played slow tunes – those that were good for slow and close dancing.
They all agreed upon submitting their request together for the job openings in San Francisco. But that was all Ashley and Bhaskar got out of Goldstripe and Frederike that evening.
"Sweetie, have you seen my white gloves?" Frederike said.
"They’re near the mirror, right where you left them yesterday so you could easily find them, honey," Goldstripe answered with a smile.
"Right. I guess I’m just a little bit stressed this morning," Frederike said with a sigh.
"It’s okay," Goldstripe said and put hir arms around her. "I think we both are."
"Did your mum comm this morning?"
"Yes. Shi’s on hir way from the airport. Shi called when you were in the bathroom."
"Good. Too bad the others couldn’t be here too. I’d love to have had them here as well."
"Me too. But my sire promised a big party when we come to Perth. Shi said shi’s already bought the coal for the barbeque. And Beetail and Summerwind have started to make the house ready. Summerwind is trying to make the whole house shine while Beetail uses all hir free time in the garden. I think they look forward to seeing us again."
"Mmm, and I look forward to seeing them again too," Frederike said and gave Goldstripe a kiss. They stood for a moment, hugging each other. The only sound was Goldstripe’s purring, and they both enjoyed being able to put the stress away, even if only for a brief moment.
They finished putting on their mess dress uniforms.
"How do I look?" asked Goldstripe.
"Ready to take on the world," Frederike said. "And me?"
"I think I shouldn’t look too much at you, otherwise I’ll have to lie down a lot," shi said with a smile. Frederike laughed. "You naughty kitty," she said and gave hir one last kiss before they left their dorm room.
They only just had time to say hello to Sunfur, and then they had to line up for the graduation ceremony.
Rudolph Blackfoot walked up to the podium and adjusted the microphone. "Gentlefolk. It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you all on this very special day. Today marks the end of your time here with us and the beginning of your life as fellow police officers." Blackfoot paused to smile at them. "I must say, that I am proud of each and every one of you, and I believe that you will all make a fine addition to the Terran police force."
Frederike stood beside Ashley and she smiled and listened to Blackfoot’s speech. Bhaskar stood on Ashley’s other side, and they all looked stunning in their mess dress uniforms. Goldstripe stood a little further forward with the other taurs, and she could see hir neck and noticed hir ears turned a little.
"….and to those who have come to see their mate, child or friend this day I say: be proud of them, support and love them. You are all the lifeline of these young officers that they must hold on to when the going gets tough. That will keep them strong and alert, and will help them do their job even better…"
Sunfur had gotten a good place to sit, and shi could see both hir daughter and daughter-in-law. They both looked good in their uniforms, shi thought, and shi looked forward to celebrating with them. But most of all shi looked forward to having them with hir back in Australia. Starnight had wanted to come too, but shi’d had a very important business meeting with some big shots from one of the company’s major Caitian customers.
"…and finally, before I give you your well-deserved diplomas, I’d like to once again say: congratulations, all of you!" Blackfoot finished.
They all cheered and clapped. Then they were called up one at a time to receive the envelope with their diploma.
Goldstripe was very excited as shi stepped up to Blackfoot on the podium, and hir tail was raised in happiness.
"Congratulations, Shir Goldstripe," Blackfoot said as he shook hir hand and gave hir the envelope.
"Thank you, Sir," shi said and smiled.
Shi then walked back to hir place, and left room for Summersong, a calico Chakat who had been in line behind hir.
Frederike stood behind Ashley in the line, and she saw Bhaskar and her receiving their diplomas. Then finally, it became her turn.
"Congratulations, Ms Weismann. Good to be back in the blue, eh?" Blackfoot said with a smile as he shook her hand and handed her the envelope.
"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir," she said and blushed.
She was so happy when she walked back towards her place next to Ashley that she felt her heart was about to burst. She smiled at Goldstripe as she passed hir, and shi smiled back.
When everybody had received their diploma, Blackfoot turned back to the microphone. "Good luck officers! Dismissed!" he said, and everybody cheered and threw their caps up in the air.
Frederike hugged Ashley and Bhaskar, and then found her mate. Goldstripe swept her into hir embrace and they kissed passionately.
Then they found Sunfur, who hugged and lick-kissed both of them. "Oh, I’m so proud of both of you!" shi said and hugged them both again.
That evening they partied like they never had before. They danced and laughed and everybody was enjoying themselves.
Elsewhere in the city, an elderly man walked down a dark, narrow alley. He looked quite out of place in his nice, black suit. In one hand, he held a briefcase, and in the other he held a bible.
Reverend Hughes knocked on a door, and an unshaven man opened the door for him. "’Evening, Father" he said as he let the priest in.
"Good evening, my son" Hughes said and stepped in. He smiled, because tonight he would initiate his plan. Tonight, they would start to do God’s work, which would help cleanse Earth of the furred abominations to God that people called morphs.
Frederike stretched in bed, but was a little sore. She had a hangover on the way, and most of her muscles ached. Some of it was from the dancing and partying, and the rest was from the intense lovemaking that she and Goldstripe had done when they came back to their dorm room for their last night there.
She noticed Goldstripe had opened hir eyes too. "’Morning muffin," Goldstripe said with a slight strain in hir voice.
"Good morning my pretty mate," Frederike managed. She looked at the clock on the wall and sighed. "You know, in a little less than an hour, you mum will be here to help us pack, and in six hours, we’ll be on our way to the airport."
"I know. Damn, I guess that even my superior metabolism can be stretched to its limit. I don’t know how much tequila those wolftaurs gave me, but it was too much," Goldstripe grumbled. "I’ll find the painkillers," shi sighed and dragged hirself out of bed. Shi didn’t usually drink this much, and shi swore shi’d never do it again.
Frederike and Goldstripe were just about back on their feet as Sunfur arrived, and Frederike blessed the science of modern medicine. At least hangovers could be cured more efficiently today.
They helped each other pack all of Frederike and Goldstripe’s belongings. Some would be put in storage, and some would go with them to Australia. Frederike and Goldstripe met up with Ashley and Bhaskar to submit their applications together and to say goodbye.
Finally they grabbed a quick lunch and then they headed for the airport.
The flight to Perth was uneventful, but went relatively fast as Sunfur had brought a deck of cards and they spent the time chatting and playing a friendly game of poker.
Starnight picked them up at the airport, and when they arrived at hir and Sunfur’s house, everybody was there to celebrate. Starnight did hir famous magic with hir barbeque sauce, and Grayspot had brought some very special Chakonan wine with hir from hir tour of duty, with special greetings from Goldstripe’s aunt Sandrunner.
"Shi said to say thank you for sending hir a nice group of Foxtaurs for Christmas. Shi didn’t convince any of them to stay, but shi asked me to tell you to give ‘hir favorite foxy lady’ Shina a hug and a lick-kiss next time you see her."
"Ah, so that’s what Shina meant when she talked about how amazed she was about Chakat stamina,." Goldstripe said with a laugh.
That night they partied until four in the morning. Goldstripe and Frederike fell asleep between Lightpaws and Beetail, and Snowpelt squeezed hirself in to sleep between Goldstripe and Frederike and only stopped purring when shi finally fell asleep.
To be continued in Part 3: In The Line Of Duty.
Chakats and the Chakat universe are Copyright © Bernard Doove. These are used with permission. The rest of the characters belong to me. I’ll try to add references to owners of other characters in the following parts. Should I forget some, please tell me, and I’ll correct it.
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