"We'll be commencing docking procedures in three hours. All hands, to your stations. Repeat, all hands to your stations," the intercom blared.

Gildedtongue's eyes fluttered, blinking the sleep from hir eyes as shi pulled hir body up. The sound of an annoyed snore startled hir as shi froze; an eye slowly rolled in the dim light towards the badger sleeping next to hir. It had been two weeks since they started sharing their quarters officially, or semi-officially. Gildedtongue still had hir own room down the hall and used it for work often, but the bed had been gathering dust there.

Gildedtongue watched Saldura sleep, the biped's chest rising and falling under the sheets. Hir face was soft, at peace for the moment, not a worry in the world. The chakat settled back into the bed, looking over hir new lover's face, seeing how the stripes on hir muzzle meshed, and the flaring of hir nostrils among hir quiet snores. The chakat's eyes rounded up to the closed lids of Saldura. The fur around the eye moved wild, exposing the open augmentation ports on the badger's face. Gildy turned hir head, trying not to look too closely at the openings for fear of getting sick. There were less visible and more streamlined and pretty types, but on Saldura's budget, shi could only afford tech that dated back to the end of the Gene Wars. Gildedtongue lifted hir hand to gently run through the badger's long hair, making hir green eyes slowly open, "Nnnnngmmph, Morning." Saldura muttered through hir dry mouth.

Gildedtongue kissed hir forehead. "Morning. Guess we're docking today," shi purred, slipping out of the bed.

Saldura stretched under the covers, not looking like shi was interested in getting up. "Mmmmmph, no, docking was what we did last night..." shi smirked, knowing Gildedtongue was blushing, though shi could only see the back of hir head, "but, yes, the ship certainly is. That means I'll be busy with the captain all day, and I doubt I'll be back tonight." Saldura sat up from the covers, stretching once again, "Actually, you'll probably not see me much throughout the stay on the station, though I'll try to make some time for you."

Gildedtongue nodded, turning back to gently kiss Saldura on the snout before getting on hir shirt, "Well, hope things go smoothly for you, Sal. Guess that means I've got to make sure that Thallon doesn't get into mischief when we're there?" the chakat asked with a smirk.

The badger returned the smirk, reaching to scritch over Gildedtongue's covered shoulder. "That'd be the idea, Gildedtongue. And as you've learned, that will be quite the project indeed. Hope you feel up to it." Saldura chuckled, continuing to touch over Gildedtongue. The chakat nodded in acceptance, both of them staring into each other's eyes in silence.

"Well, guess I should let you get dressed and ready. I'd better do the same and, well, check up on the other fuzzball." Gildedtongue chuckled to hirself. Saldura nodded and watched the chakat step out of hir room, sighing softly to hirself, getting hir cleanest uniform out of a drawer and ready for hir workday.

Gildedtongue stopped for a light breakfast – a grain cereal in milk with a few fruits, as well as a large mug of breakfast blend. The food wasn't much but the hot caffeinated drink helped hir open hir eyes up just a hair's breadth wider. The cafeteria was mostly empty, missing the usual hustle and bustle of the crew chatting and getting their meals. Aside from the chakat, three humans, a wolf morph and a lemur morph all sat around a table – the various members of the kitchen staff, Gildedtongue recognised. They were sharing a meal and watching the lemur and a human in a heated game of Othello. The chakat's crunching of hir cereal meshed well with the sound of discs clacking loudly on the playing board and yelps of victory and growls of defeat.

Shi retreated back to hir room, taking a bottle of tea with hir. Most of the crew were in the engineering bay, the bridge, or the cargo bay, making the chakat feel unusually alone in the spine, increasing hir feeling of vertigo staring down the corridor. The same voice on the intercom called out, "We'll commence docking procedures in forty-five minutes."

The chakat stepped into hir quarters, halfway glad that shi didn't have anything to do at this time, letting the other members squirrel about doing things the teacher had only a passing knowledge of. Shi gathered up a fresh blouse, trying to look hir best for the new area. Lying on hir counter was a small, palm-sized cylinder. Gildedtongue didn't recall bringing any of hir credsticks on board the ship. Shi plugged the device into hir PADD, hir eyes going wide at the contents, seeing several thousand credits on it.

Shi quickly unplugged the stick, clutching it in hir hand. Something like this found in hir room would certainly raise questions, and now hir fingerprints were all over the thing. Shi swallowed dryly, trying to calm down. Shi had access to the room, as did Saldura, and Thallon. Perhaps a cleaner left it in hir quarters? A quick look around showed that the clean, but untidy room was not professionally cleaned, nor would there be one for private quarters on a ship of a little over a hundred hands.

A cold sweat ran down hir forehead; an electronic lock wouldn't be impossible to compromise, given the right talent. Perhaps it was planted to make hir look bad. Shi exhaled, figuring shi'd get to the bottom of this, stepping out of hir room and into the spine once more. The armoury, holoroom, and security complex would be the best place to start, shi figured. Worst case scenario is that shi gave hirself up for a crime shi didn't commit.

"Docking procedures in thirty minutes," the friendly voice chimed once more throughout the ship. The voice was giving Gildedtongue a slight headache, recalling the last time that shi heard her was when the ship was taking off, and shi was concussed. The train of thought nearly made hir miss hir exit when shi almost passed up the door.

Gildedtongue coughed into hir fist, adjusting hir blouse over hir breasts, trying to make them look even with one another before shi opened the door. The security detail was mostly seated, filing paper work and keeping their noses to their desks. Saldura wasn't anywhere to be seen, undoubtedly on the bridge at the moment. Shi made hir way to the nearest officer, holding up the stick. "Sorry, I'd like to report a found credstick. It has quite a bit on it, so, I'm sure someone's looking for it."

The seated person, a Caucasian human in his late twenties, looked back up at Gildedtongue, then at the stick before opening a new file on his PADD. "Alright, where'd you find it, shir?" he asked in an exasperated tone. The guy probably had a lot on his plate and time seemed to be running out for him. Shi tried hir best to get things done as painlessly as possible.

"It was in my room, and I found it in there this morning after breakfast. It wasn't there when I left last night."

"I had figured that," the officer responded, sighing quietly, "Who else has access to your room?"

"Just myself, Shir Holbock, and Mr. Rosefur, as far as I know," Gildedtongue said. Hir annoyance was beginning to rise up before the human leaned back in his chair, letting out a small chuckle. "What's so funny?"

He shook his head, "Nothing. You're new on board, shir Wanderer. The day before we make contact with any station or planet is payday. I figured you knew about it, but..." he trailed off and shrugged. The ears on hir head flattened and hir body was crestfallen, looking much like a kitten found making mischief. "I take it that explains it?"

"Except how it got there, yes, that would do it." Shi nodded, then reflected, "Still, don't recall anyone mentioning payment." The officer shrugged before getting back to his paperwork. The chakat walked out into the corridor once again, a large weight off of hir shoulders that allowed hir to start whistling to hirself.

Making hir way back to the medical bay, the intercom chimed out, "Docking with Epsilon 3056 in five, four...." Gildedtongue tried to not panic, looking around hir before shi saw a pipe outcropping along the wall of the spine. Grabbing a hold, shi put hir weight against it, hearing, "Two, one. We've made docking. Normalizing ship's life support with the station complete. Have a nice day."

Muttering a "thank you", Gildy let go of the pipe. The docking being much less hazardous than the lift off made sense since shi was simply going from space to space. The chakat started to walk again, quickly falling on hir four feet and tumbling to the ground. Blushing sheepishly, shi checked around hir for anyone who might have seen that. Hir footfalls came down heavier while shi made hir way down the corridor.

A few technicians walked out of engineering on the other end of the corridor, finished with their docking and leaving the crew on deck to perform maintenance and repairs. The ship never seemed to sleep, even in safe harbour. Heavy doors of the Purgatorio's bay doors echoed throughout the whole ship as they yawned open. Machines started up and readied the transfer of goods to the station.

Gildedtongue walked into the medical bay. Eight medics were taking final stock of their inventory while Dr. Wu and one other were tending to Thallon, slipping him from his bed to a gurney. "Remember, this is coming out of your pay cheque, you dumb fox." Wu always seemed to have perfect bedside manners. "What I'd do for even a quarter of the equipment I had back at the University." She sighed and rolled her eyes, nodding over to the oncoming chakat. "Suppose you're here with lover-boy, eh? Well, come on. Help me push this and you can see him get stitched up."

A shy wave was shared between the chakat and the foxtaur. The roguish creature made a few kissing faces to both the doctor and his mate as Gildedtongue grabbed hold of the rolling bed. Wu lead Gildedtongue as shi pushed the floating bed to a lift in the back of the bay. "This would have been useful earlier." Gildedtongue smirked to hirself as they made their way to the bottom of the cargo bay.

Wu didn't say anything for a few moments, her brain running through a number of comebacks before resorting simply to: "Well, I just figured that you needed the exercise."

Both centauroids groaned, rolled their eyes and offered their boos to the doctor. "Hey, you can't expect all of them to be winners." They shrugged slightly, exited the lift and ventured into the enormous bay of the station. At least seven more Purgatorios could fit inside the enormous structure and still leave room for people to work.

Epsilon 3056 was one of thousands of communication and deep space research stations around explored space. If a direct call was to be sent from Terra to another planet, it would be beamed and relayed from station to station, many thousands of times faster than the speed of light. The process, while quick and efficient, had considerable expenses to it. The power to send packets of data that fast put a heavy drain on the station's power supply, so they were usually saved for a particular hour of the day, save for Federation official purposes. The stations themselves becoming small colonies and cities on their own, scientists needing their families, and their families needing something more to do.

An ambulance was waiting for Thallon, its rear hatch opened up and the paramedics quickly looked over the downed foxtaur. Wu handed them a PADD that one nodded at and signed off on. "So, who here is riding with us?" asked a young feline morph female while Thallon was being loaded into the vehicle.

Wu sighed a bit, "If my services aren't needed there, I'd much rather go back to my own work. Take hir along with you though." Wu smiled slightly. "Shi'll be good for a holding hand."

The medic nodded to the doctor, pointing Gildedtongue into the back of the ambulance. Shi turned to wave back to Wu, but she was already making her way towards the ship.

"Don't worry. She's not all bad." Thallon chuckled, watching Gildedtongue climb into the vehicle and the paramedics closing the door behind hir. Shi reached to grab hold of Thallon's black furred hand, squeezing lightly. "Ugh, all this fuss over a broken leg. I swear, you're treating me like a cub."

The one holding Thallon's medical history turned back to the foxtaur, "All this fuss over a shattered leg. You're a lucky son-of-a-vix, Mr. Rosefur. Even considering the weaker gravity, that was quite the drop." Thallon groaned and shrugged slightly, looking back at his mate who just gave a bit of a shrug. It was in the past, no need to continue punishing the tod for anything.

It wasn't long until they made it to the hospital and Gildedtongue was asked to leave to the lobby. Thallon smiled, his roguish confidence letting Gildedtongue calm down a bit more as he waved playfully to hir. Shi looked around at the signs in the back of the medical building before walking towards the front entrance.

The station wasn't like something from a science fiction novel – no huge transparent domes or views into the nothingness of space. The walls had holographic clouds and skies emblazoned, but a careful and focused eye could see the metal behind the illusion. A huge tower ran through the centre of the living area, leading up towards the observatory and down to the communications array. The whole system not only did its job, but also kept enough social health for the scientists and technicians to keep sane out in the black of deep space.

The front doors slid open for the chakat as shi stepped inside. The lobby held a sterile smell befitting the function of the building. Several plastic plants broke up the beige walls and a receptionist sat behind the cut window on the opposite wall, a chakat, younger than Gildedtongue, with a bored look in hir eyes as shi was going through something on the computer. Shi was a Maine Coon patterned chakat, and lifted an eyebrow seeing the incoming stranger. "Well, hello, haven't seen you around here before."

The lobby was dead, a testimony of the general health of the station. Gildedtongue nodded hir head, "Ah, yes. Our ship just docked about half an hour ago. We're here to drop off some supplies and head out again."

The Maine Coon's face fell slightly, "Mmmm, a shame, here I was hoping to get to see more of you. Ah, not professionally, of course." Shi shook hir head. "I'm sorry, can I help you?"

"Not really. I came in with the foxtaur; he's being treated for a shattered foreleg in back," Gildedtongue said, hir eyes darting around the walls of the lobby, seeing several paintings hung up, looking as bland as the walls around them. Obviously a neutral air was being pumped into the space.

"Mmmmm, I see. I suppose he shouldn't be blamed too much, such an early prototype model," the chakat said, typing into hir computer once again, looking up someone, then nodded. "Yes, he's been put in the medbay right now, I'm sure he'll be right as rain soon." Shi leaned over the counter, smiling up at Gildedtongue, "So, what's your name?"

"Chakat Wanderer, child of Ebonyheart and Trueair," Gildedtongue said, offering hir hand through the portal in the wall. The other chakat looked at the hand then shook hir head, stepping out from hir desk, and out the door to the side where shi went over to wrap Gildedtongue in a hug.

"I'm Chakat Platinumsong, daughter of Harvestsun and Twilight," shi returned the greeting, hir arms not leaving surrounding Gildedtongue. The leonine chakat's pulses both picked up, feeling hir anxiety rise with hir discomfort of some stranger hugging hir like that. Hir personal space getting encroached on more as shi felt something start to poke and prod hir discomfort, a numbing agent digging right into hir soul. "It's okay, Wanderer, I'm a class 3 empath. I know you're worried about your friend, let me help you."

Hands gripped Platinumsong's shoulders as shi gave hir a firm push away; Gildedtongue's eyes opened wide in hir astonishment. The other chakat looking just as confused at the disengagement. "Ah, look, I think I had better go. Um, yeah. When do you think I'll be able to see Thallon?"

The nurse blinked again, then went to look over hir desk at hir computer, "Ah, well, probably three hours or so," shi said, turning back around to look at Gildedtongue, "You don't have to leave you...?" shi trailed off. By the time shi turned around, Gildedtongue was already stepping out of the hospital and into the station proper.

The general air had a pleasantly natural musk to it, unlike the sterile atmosphere of the hospital; Gildedtongue could feel the other occupants of the station with each breath shi took. It was apparently early morning for someone as shi smelled the frying of bacon and eggs through one open kitchen window, and late night for someone else as the rich odour of a pot roast being baked came from another home. Was one not already aware that one was in space, one could easily find the station's world its own little Earth.

As shi smelled the foodstuffs, Gildedtongue noticed hir breathing getting faster and hir hearts' rates increasing. Shi knew shi was out of shape, but shi managed to walk the length of the Purgatorio's spine three times a day without much issue. Shi passed a small café and chalked up hir fatigue to a lack of eating, having only had a small breakfast.

The ceiling, walls, and floor were all an unfinished wood, giving the place a highly rustic feeling to it. Shi wasn't sure if it was real or not, but, in a world of replicators, what does define real? A sign inside the door told hir to seat hirself as shi made hir way to a small table, moving a chair to one side. The menu doubled as a place mat, laminated and mostly clean, an exceptionally tough gravy stain covered some of the dinner items, and hir claw wasn't enough to clean it off.

"Hello, stranger, welcome to the Mesa Verde Café! Can I start you off with a drink?" She was a human, about sixteen, with a prize-winning smile and an eagerness to please. Gildedtongue felt a little out of place, usually seeing young people not in any particular hurry to help hir out. Then again, shi was in some place new, not the Kingdom. Shi should calm down. Maybe shi shouldn't have been so off put by Platinumsong.

"Ah, yes, please. Um, what's the tea flavoured with?"

"Well, today we've got mango passionfruit flavoured tea," she offered helpfully.

"Okay, I think I'll have a cola, then, thank you." Gildedtongue smiled back as she took down hir order.

"Right, I'll be right back with that and give you some time to look over our menu." She walked out with a slight bounce to her step as Gildedtongue mulled over hir options. Out of habit, shi began to "right hand order," looking over the prices of the options, the most expensive option costing only nine credits, shi let out a small breath, figuring shi had more than enough money to live comfortably during the docking. After deciding, shi leaned back to look over the place.

A small family of four raccoons was in one corner, talking and laughing with each other, or, at least shi assumed they were a family. Two male raccoons were sitting next to each other, contently nestled against one another while two young children sat opposite of them, talking about something that happened today. It was not the first time shi had seen a same-sex couple, but shi would have to admit being slightly surprise to see a full family. Shi decided not to consider the logistics of the arrangement as shi continued to look around.

A stand-up piano sat in the corner unused, a computer screen atop of it was turned off, and on the raised stage, a group of Caitians was singing and playing foreign instruments, their song in their alien Cait tongue. Shi could hear the sadness in their song without understanding a word of it. Shi made a note, seeing a sign advertising a collection of their music to pick up a copy. Several pictures, aged purposefully of the construction of both the station and of the dining establishment.

"Made up your mind?" the waitress asked, setting down the soft drink in front of the chakat, condensation already running down the sides, making a ring on the wooden table.

"Ah, yes, I think I have. I'll have the Big Black Frontier burger, well done, and with the steak fries," Gildedtongue responded as she wrote it down on her notepad again, repeating the last three words. "Thank you very much," the chakat added, and she gave another grin before stepping out again.

Shi drank in the relative quiet, feeling lost within hir theatrical role. A middle-aged teacher from the very apex of the Federation's asshole, trying to pass off as an adventurous space-farer. That was not going to fly for very much longer, but no one had called hir on it. Hir mind wandered to the other chakat shi met. Shi certainly seemed pretty enough, but shi seemed a bit off-putting in personality. Then again, it could just be that shi was new and shi was overexcited about meeting someone. Shi would more than likely meet up with hir again to see Thallon.

Shi felt bad for not feeling too concerned about Thallon's current hospitalisation, but since he had been on a medical bed for so long, shi could barely remember his bouncy, free motion self from earlier. Shi hoped that he was doing all right, though he certainly was in good enough hands.

The sandwich was delivered hot with the potatoes, another smile was offered to the chakat and shi returned it, trying to calm down. People certainly were friendly out here. Shi ate the large meal quietly, letting the half-pound of beef roll across hir tongue. The spices and the sauces certainly helped the taste, but the meat certainly was replicated, having the sameness taste of foods coming out of that technology. A bad apple might ruin the bunch, but it at least made the finer apples taste all the sweeter.

The waitress, whose name was Carole, checked in twice during the meal, asking how everything was, and the second time, Gildedtongue requested hir cheque. Carole sat down the P.A.D.D. before Gildy, who inserted hir credstick into the item, adding a generous tip.

Carole looked it over, blinking slightly, "Um, you didn't have to do that, shir, but, ah, thanks."

Gildedtongue blushed at the faux pas, but since the moment passed, shi wasn't about to back-pedal now. Shi went over to the band, looking at their display, paying for one of their albums. A Caitian gave a low bow in the middle of his performance before resuming. Gildedtongue tucked it away before returning to the streets with a full belly, and hir brain better sorted out.

The chakat was rather lost. Shi peered down the footpaths, seeing several people merely milling about, but no sign of the hospital. Shi mentally swore to hirself, had shi not been so flustered, shi wouldn't have been moving so headstrong. A cough rallied hir courage to go ask one of the locals for directions.

"Oh? Um, just two blocks down that way, take a left, and straight three blocks, you can't miss it. I hope that's right. Tail, um, high," the male German Shepherd morph pointed. His confusion and lack of confidence didn't quite make Gildedtongue too trusting of the pathway, but it was better than what shi had. Shi checked hir chin and shirt, perhaps some red food stain might have set him off, but shi was clean.

The hospital was in view when Gildy saw one of the cabs whizzing around, carting three people, a quick reminder that shi could have had someone else take hir here. When shi approached the door, hir breathing was slightly laboured and hir pulse was pulsing in hir neck. Shi couldn't understand how shi became so out of shape. A human was seated in the receptionist station, allowing Gildedtongue to breathe a sigh in relief, not in the right mindset to deal with Platinumsong once again.

"Hello, I'm here concerning Thallon Rosefur, the foxtaur from the transport vessel Purgatorio." Gildedtongue started, smiling to the nurse.

"Mr. Rosefur? He should be in recovery right now, and probably good to leave before the evening's done." The nurse typed on the computer, "Room 314, just to your left from the lift, you can't miss it!"

After thanking the man, Gildedtongue quickly made hir way up the lift and to hir mate's room. Thallon was again on a bed, but on his belly rather than on his side or backs. A nurse was holding onto his paw. "All right, Thallon, keep pushing, keep pushing. Great. Seems like the muscles haven't atrophied too much." Thallon caught sight of his mate, waving hello as Gildedtongue stepped inside. The nurse still focused on her patient. "Okay, moment of truth time. Grab a hold of the side of the bed and push yourself onto your three legs, then let's see how you can hold your weight."

Thallon did as he was instructed, slowly pressing down on his foot. He was wincing a little bit, but managed to hold off any yelps. After several minutes of changing the pressure, the nurse nodded in satisfaction. "You'll probably be walking with a limp, considering you paid for our cheapest services, but, you'll be completely mobile. Since you work in a low-G environment, I doubt you'll even notice it."

The foxtaur nodded and thanked the nurse, walking over to Gildedtongue. "Think you could ever love a gimp like me?" he asked cheekily, batting his grey eyes at the chakat. Gildedtongue could only snicker back at him, hugging his upper torso and gave him a shoulder to lean on.

"C'mon, Thallon. Let's blow this joint."

"My, my. The schoolmarm has the mouth on hir!" Thallon joked, leaning on Gildedtongue for support as they made their way out of the building. "Jeez, does it feel good to walk," he chuckled. "Granted, I could have probably hobbled, but Wu was having none of that."

They basked a moment in the artificial sun. A little extra heat and a little bit of UV radiation help the space-stuck individual keep both healthy and sane. A PPTV slowed down next to the two taurs, offering them a lift. Gildedtongue readily accepted, especially in Thallon's condition. "Where to?"

Gildedtongue shrugged, looking at Thallon. "Take us to the gardens. Should be looking nice." The vehicle started to speed away to its destination. Gildedtongue's hands moved to rub hir foreleg paws while seated.

"Ugh, I don't know what's wrong, but today I've just been exhausted and sore for some reason." Hir soles were showing calluses and wear that shi hadn't seen in weeks. Hir companion snickered.

"You're getting your grav legs back, Gi- Wanderer. Most stations, like this one, can afford and often keep at one-Gee. So like a seaman coming to port, you've got to relearn to walk again." Thallon chuckled and rubbed over Gildedtongue's shoulders and back slowly, "Give it a few landings and it'll get easier."

"I hope so, Thallon." shi muttered, resting against hir lover's side. His fingers ran through hir red mane, tickling the grey hairs prematurely peppering the mess of locks, rewarded by the throaty purr coming from the chakat. Both muttered and whispered quiet assurances of their feelings, more interested in watching one another than the passing cityscape.

The ride was over far too quickly for the two as the cabbie parked before a large glass building. He leaned over the front seats, pointing towards the P.O.S. system. "That'll be 67 creds, folks. Hope you two have a good day."

The machine had a port for a Federation I.D. Scan, a credstick, and even slots for physical money. Gildedtongue paid off hir bill and got out, going to open the door for Thallon and helped him out, looking back in to the driver, "Thank you so much. Have a good one!"

The chakat gave the foxtaur some room to walk on his own, but remained close in case he needed hir. His limp was slight, but it didn't seem to slow him down much thanks to his three remaining good legs. The garden was an enormous greenhouse, filled with plants from nearby planets. Streaks of purple and gold ran through a green backdrop cut through by winding dirt paths. The amount of oxygen being pumped in the one room made one's head dizzy after growing accustomed to recycled atmosphere usually filtered and pumped into ships and stations.

The lovers held hands, walking through the botanical garden. Neither of them familiar with any of the species displayed, but were mostly enjoying time with one another than anything. Gildedtongue blushed, feeling Thallon's thumb run slow circles over the back of hir hand, making hir clench his all the tighter. "Can't say any of these are familiar." Thallon snickered, giving a light shrug as they walked.

"So, where are you from, Thallon? I'm guessing you're from Terra, considering your species and all." Gildedtongue chuckled, looking into the foxtaur’s grey eyes.

"Oh, well, my village is located in the valley at the base of the Big Sheep Mountain Range. Not quite sharing it with the Wolftaur clans, but, certainly close enough to be neighbourly." Thallon chuckled a bit to himself, rubbing his repaired foreleg gently. "Heh, quite the irony that my mother also broke her leg when she met my father." The two stopped by a small alcove off the pathway.

"Mmmm, I see. Warning to your children, don't fall in love, or you'll end up with broken limbs." Gildedtongue chuckled a bit. Thallon joining in, slowly running his hand over Gildedtongue's shoulder, letting the chakat rest against his bigger frame.

"I guess so, yeah. Didn't really know my father, though, not that that's uncommon for any foxtaur, just the way things are." Thallon shrugged and smiled warmly. His fingers running along Gildedtongue's spine to the joining where hir upper and lower one met up. This caused the leonine chakat to mewl slightly, pressing hir body against his hand. "Heh, I found a good spot?" Gildedtongue could only blush and nod, cuddling closer to the male, his scent weak from his long periods of time in hospital, shi kinda missed his musk.

"So, how did you find yourself out in space? I mean, thought most foxtaurs clung to their land and all?" Gildedtongue asked, cocking hir head to one side, continuing to stroke over Thallon's covered chest.

"Ah, yes, the Foxtaur’s homesickness, the Territorial Attachment Syndrome. Heh, humans trying so desperately to retain control of our beings by messing with the wiring in our brains on a genetic level." The tone in Thallon's voice sounding more disappointed than venomous, and Gildedtongue hirself couldn't help but agree in some respect, being denied certain emotions, and meant to act a certain way because two scientists decided to play God. Not that shi was a perfect chakat by any means. Gildedtongue always figured if shi met the Turners, they'd probably shake their heads and go back to the boards to see where they went wrong.

Thallon continued, "Anyway, no, I'm thankfully free of that," he snickered, "Rather, I think I've got the Wanderlust. I left the village when I was fifteen, and spent a lot of my time travelling the wilderness. My mother was a huntress, so I had learned plenty of survival skills. I found my way to a small city, bartering pelts and handcrafted goods for awhile, renting a small apartment, doing small jobs and still, I needed to move on. Spent a year going from city to city in the northern area of the G.N.A., when I finally got a job at a space port. Real hard work, but utterly rewarding seeing all sorts of people coming in and out from different planets and places. Learned to drive a lifter there and the Purgatorio offered me a job when they saw me. Travel, room and board, and payment..." Thallon mimicked being in deep thought, "Yeah, that was a no-brainer. Gets a bit boring en route to places, but otherwise I think I'm doing okay."

Gildedtongue leaned over to kiss Thallon's cheek, purring lowly to hirself as shi listened to him, "Well, I'm certainly glad you found your happiness there. So, what's the deal with you and Saldura? How'd that come about?"

The two resumed walking through the garden, eyes wandering between the flowers and leaves, feeling the cobblestones beneath their feet. "Oh, I think you know how that came about. Shi takes a liking to someone... well, they're gonna know about it fast enough." Gildedtongue chuckled and nodded. "So, about a month after coming aboard the vessel, I kinda moved out of my room and into hirs, and the rest is history. We've been together a good five years, and hope that there'll be more."

They made their way around the full circle of the garden, the quiet of the plants intercepted by the gurgling of Thallon's stomach. "Guess I haven't eaten yet. Should we head back to the ship?"

"Actually, I found a rather nice little place near the hospital. How about we stop there for dinner? Nothing too fancy, just a greasy spoon, but certainly tasty enough." Thallon nodded and smiled, petting Gildedtongue's shoulder. They flagged down another cab and it drove them to the Mesa Verde Café.

The place was considerably busier than before, most tables were filled with occupants; the din of conversations filled the wooden building. Luckily one corner table near the piano was open and the two intercepted it, dodging patrons in their own tables and lethal hand-gestures. "So much for a quiet dinner." Gildedtongue blushed slightly.

"Bah, I love a good crowd." A young skunk female came to take their drinks, writing them down on her notepad. Thallon turned his head to look at the piano playing itself behind him, "Ah, miss? Can anyone use that?"

"Well, only people that know how, shugah," she responded with a wink, "An' it's five creds fer fifteen minutes, but, yeah." She gave another smile before walking off to get their drinks. Gildedtongue's foreleg paw reached out to stroke Thallon's good leg, the foxtaur churring happily, leaning closer to his companion.

Their drinks came shortly, two beers from the café's own microbrewery, cold and in bottles. Thallon ordered a double serving of their biggest burger, and Gildy, not to seem cheap or skimping, did the same. The beer's flavour was rich and tasted like how cedar wood smoke smelled, lingering on the tongue a few moments as if stealing an additional bow.

"They had some live entertainment here this afternoon. I bought one of their albums if you'd like a listen later." Gildedtongue started the small talk, hir tail curled up around hir rump to keep out of the wait-staff’s and busser's ways. Thallon silently nodded, his grey eyes looking into the chakat's blue ones. Gildedtongue had to blush slightly, hir gaze averting towards the table. "You're making me feel like some adolescent."

"Well, a bit of immaturity would do you good," the male snickered as the plates were placed down, a basket of chips, coleslaw, and crisps between the two diners. "This looks wonderful! Thank you..." Thallon's eyes darted to the skunk's chest and her name tag, "...Marge. A meal as lovely as yourself!"

She giggled and performed a playful curtsy before getting back to her job.

Gildedtongue snickered slightly. "Can charm the paint right off the wall, I see." Gildedtongue paused, muttering a silent prayer over the meal before doing a quick sign of the cross, picking up one of the large hot sandwiches.

"Certainly a benefit of being on a date with a chakat. You can get away with that sort of thing." Thallon said plainly before doing the same.

The small jab and realisation ground against Gildedtongue's ribs. He was right; shi couldn't get jealous about it. Shi knew he wasn't seriously flirting, but the call to simple scientific fact did cause a small hurt. Thallon's demeanour darkened slightly while Gildedtongue thought. "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking."

Damning hir empathetic leakage, Gildedtongue coughed into hir fist, feeling like a kitten caught next to a broken vase. "It's okay, really. I guess I've got some things to learn about being a chakat myself. I guess it's never too late." Shi smiled, eating hir meal quietly, mulling over something. "So, you would know these benefits first-hand?" shi asked curiously.

Thallon held up a finger while he chewed on a mouthful, swallowing it down with a swig of beer. "I've shared company with two chakats. You, and one back on Terra. Seashimmer was hir name. It was a summer thing, we both knew it, and neither of us cared. I was a randy twenty-year-old, and hir mate had to do a job off-world. I had rented the empty room, and as we talked one night that June in the parlour, the conversation took us to hir bedchamber." Thallon laughed slightly, "Considering our location, I'll just say that shi made me hir pet project, teaching me a lot of things I didn't know about myself."

That certainly made Gildedtongue one curious kitten, but the tod was right, it wasn't the right place for such conversation. Thallon patted his shirt and jacket, blushing to himself, "Ah, I'm going to sound like an idiot, but I don't have any money on me. Mind terribly if I borrow that stick for a moment?"

Gildedtongue nodded, pulling it out of hir own pocket. Thallon blew off the lint before getting up from the table, walking right to the piano.

"Okay, computer, I want to impress this person, romantically. Give me a good playlist for a guy trying to make a nice gal feel at ease." Thallon clicked through some menus, grumbling to himself, "Look, I can't speak Cait, just give me something in Terranglo." The tod looked slightly defeated, "Something from the Twentieth Century? You've got to be kidding me? You want me to grunt and pound rocks together? Okay, okay." Thallon put the stick in, making the transaction. The café's speakers hummed with a low, seductive horn section. The notes for Thallon scrolling on the monitor as he played the piano part, and in a dark baritone voice he sang:

You've got no time for me,
You've got big things to do.
Well my sweet chickadee,
I've got hot news for you!

Thallon looked over his shoulder, grinning at the chakat, continuing to tickle the ivories, his own teeth glistening in a predatory smile.

I've got your number and
I know you inside out,
You ain't no Eagle Scout,
You're all at sea...

Oh yes you'll brag a lot,
Wave your own flag a lot!
But you're unsure a lot,
You're a lot like me, oh...

Shi couldn't help but blush, looking around at the other patrons. They were having a fun time watching the foxtaur serenade a show tune to his date, and despite hir embarrassment, Gildy had to admit having a fun time hirself.

I've your number, and
What you're looking for, and
What you're looking for
Just suits me fine!

We'll break those rules a lot
We'll be damned fools a lot!

Belting at the top of all four lungs, Thallon was eating up the attention, his tail wagging as if to put out a fire. Then he hunched over, singing lowly and conspiratorially, building up to a crescendo.

But then why should we not,
How could we not
Combine, hey!

I've got your number, and
I've got that glow you've got,
I've got your number, and

Baby, you know...
You've got mine!

Thallon left the keys, going to his table, pulling the chakat from hir seat as the two started to dance. The machine picking up where the foxtaur stopped, horns trumpeting through the small café. Neither of them knew how to swing, nor were their bodies built for such dancing, but they let the music flow through their bodies. Sweat dropped down both centauroids' faces while they moved in the bright lights. A pre-programmed voice finished the song, repeating the last few versus, pitch perfect but without the soul Thallon gave the song. The trumpets wailing in their finale as Thallon pulled Gildedtongue into a deep kiss.

The patrons applauded their bit of entertainment. Thallon bowing low to them as Gildedtongue blushed, offering hir audience a shy wave before shi and the foxtaur sat down again. Thallon winced visibly, rubbing his leg, "God, I'm an idiot." he muttered.

Gildedtongue could only smirk at him, "Serves you right, trying to show off right after surgery." shi then offered a consoling rub on his shoulder, "Should we get out of here?" Thallon nodded and Gildedtongue signalled for hir cheque, and some packaging for their uneaten food.

Marge was quick to come by, placing the uneaten burgers and sides into boxes, smiling at the two, "After a performance like that, it's on the house. You both have a wonderful night, and come back any time!"

Gildedtongue blushed hard, accepting the boxes, and helped Thallon's arm over hir shoulders, carrying him out of the restaurant, smiling back at the grinning patrons.

"So..." Thallon smirked as they waited for another cab, "did my plan to show off and impress you work at all?" The male wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, making Gildedtongue laugh out loud.

"I think you'll find that out later this evening, you goof." Shi leaned to kiss his cheek. "Though, sure you can with your leg in pain like that?"

Another large grin came from the foxtaur as a vehicle slowed to a stop before them, a door opening up to let them inside. "I won't need that leg too much for that." Another chuckle rolled off his dark tongue before turning to the driver, "To the docks, my good madam. As close to the Purgatorio as you can!"

Gildedtongue got in through the other side before the cab whizzed through the streets to its destination.

Thallon needed some help getting up the long, winding stairs, opting to not use the medical lift and avoid the ire of the good doctor. Gildedtongue's chests and stomachs were all aflutter with butterflies, knowing where this was going, and knowing that shi really wanted it. The wayward glances from the foxtaur were calmer, but the fires were still present.

Gildedtongue's room was closer and the two slipped inside. The food placed on the dresser before Thallon moved in on the attack. Both centauroids kissed and suckled on each other's lips, their hands roaming each other's bodies, unable to leave them as if held magnetically. Gildy didn't know when hir top was removed, but soon Thallon's lips were on hir nipples, suckling hard, drinking up hir milkwater.

Hir lowered sensitivity couldn't let hir climax from the nursing, but it certainly brought hir deeper into hir arousal. Thallon gave a coy smile, lifting his head to kiss Gildedtongue deeply, letting hir taste hir own slightly bitter milkwater. Shi clutched onto his upper torso before he pulled away, climbing slowly onto hir backs. "I love you, Gildedtongue. You're a very beautiful and kind person. You've saved my life asking for nothing, so let me give you my heart." Gildedtongue relaxed, feeling Thallon penetrate hir slowly.

Thallon's good leg had wrapped around hir forehips, keeping hir close while his mending one lay at hir side. His rear hips starting a firm, slow rhythm inside of hir, causing hir to mewl quietly. His lovemaking a wonderful balance between Dreamweaver's eagerness and Saldura's calculations. A black-furred hand massaging over the chakat's spinal join, petting hir onward towards hir bliss. Hir body kneading in its neediness.

Thallon's pace quickened, his breath ragged, wetly and warmly cascading over hir shoulder and breast while his phallus pistoned in hir sacredness. The thickness inside of hir causing hir moans and mewls to grow in intensity. "O-oh God, Thallon. Yes, Thallon!" shi shouted out in hir bliss. Thallon offered one final shove within his lover before howling in a bout of atavism. Shi felt the warm liquid silk start in hir belly and the heat rolling outwards through hir body, outwards to hir toes and fingers. Hir hymenal sphincter clutching behind a thick bulge inside of hir. Hir eyes opening up wide as shi felt it, clenching hir insides to feel around it some more. Something wrong on a foxtaur, shi had seen enough porn to know how they were shaped there. No, there was one word for this: knot.

The male's tongue was lolled out of his muzzle, panting hard in his exhaustion, having given his lover his all in one go. Gildedtongue's eyes were wide as shi turned hir head towards the male, panting hard, "Wh-what's that?" shi muttered uncomfortably, a bit confused as to what to do.

Thallon pulled his tongue back before giving a giggle in his euphoria. "S-something my father gave me. Lets me spend my afterglow close with my lovers."

"Y-you're a... ooooh, foxtaur, though. They don't have, nnngh, knots. Did you augment yourself?" Gildedtongue's mind was still swimming in the endorphins from hir climax, trying to figure out what had just happened. Thallon adjusted himself, grunting as he was tied fast, stroking along Gildedtongue's belly.

"Half true, love. I was born to be a foxtaur, I was raised a foxtaur, given a foxtaur name and a foxtaur life. My father, though, was a wolftaur, which would make me a folf'taur, or a wolfox'taur would be more accurate, I guess." He smiled, nuzzling Gildedtongue's cheek, "Probably responsible for my lack of T.A.S., and my wanderlust. I still think of myself as a foxtaur, even if I guess I'm not."

Gildedtongue nodded quietly. "A-and you didn't know your father. I see. So... when did you know?"

Thallon chuckled, grunting as he felt himself get a bit looser. "Fifteen. Plenty of young hormones and Yolinda, my oldest friend and I were putting them to good use. Never saw another tod's cock, so I just thought it was normal. Heh, that vixen let out a scream when I couldn't pull out, and damned if her dad was about to do me in, a freak fucking her little girl." Thallon finally pulled out, nuzzling Gildedtongue, "Though, still gives me a bit of a thrill, people not knowing how I'm built until it's too late," he whispered in Gildedtongue's ear, making the chakat shiver slightly.

"Well, that explains the lack of warning." Shi caressed hir lover's chest, giving him a kiss. So, you're a lot like me is pretty accurate, eh?" Thallon blushed and nodded as shi quoted the earlier song. "Just a couple of freaks. I'm feeling a bit more comfortable with that." Thallon nodded, kissing the chakat as both climbed into the bed, needing to cuddle close to stay on the mattress, not that either complained.


The next day Thallon was back at work, and even with a mending leg, he was performing admirably. Gildedtongue took some time to watch him work from up on the catwalk. Shi made hir way down the stairwell before leaving the docks, heading into the city proper once again. With the amount of cash shi had, shi was hoping to pick up some books, hoping that shi could find some physical tomes way out here in space. The cab driver took hir to an antique shop, the closest thing he could think of at the moment.

A bell rang as Gildedtongue made hir way inside. A weasel morph in an apron waved to the new customer. "Welcome to Gulliver's Relics. Anything I can help you find?" He looked eager to please, and Gildedtongue was certainly eager to pay. He led hir to the back; several hardcover and softcover books were stacked up, making the chakat purr loudly. Kidnapped, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy (all five books!), Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Three Musketeers. Their 21st century selection was small, as paper tomes became more and more out of vogue, but shi did grab a copy of The Horn of the End, one of the last physically published books from the first half of the century. Recently with replicator technology had books become in style again, but still most new material was digital, much to the chagrin of bibliophiles.

Hir credstick lighter and hir saddlebags heavier, Gildedtongue made hir way through the streets of the space station. Shi could always hail a cab if shi was lost, so shi decided to take in the sights. The homes had enough variety to make hir feel like shi was getting somewhere. Some had a Santa Fe style, some Victorian, many were postmodern and 21st century designed. Hir mind was occupied elsewhere when a familiar voice rang out behind the chakat. "Ah, Wanderer! There you are! I'm sorry I didn't get to see you again after my shift!"

Gildedtongue turned around to see Platinumsong bounding towards hir. Gildy crossed hir arms defensively as the Maine Coon had hir arms open for a hug. Shi stopped a few feet short, cocking hir head to one side as Gildedtongue nodded in greeting, "Good morning, Platinumsong. I hope the day is greeting you well."

Shi blinked at the odd nature of the stranger, but shrugged, "I suppose so, thank you, Wandy. Been thinking about you a lot. So what were you up to when you left in such a hurry?" Shi looked concerned, and Gildedtongue knew shi had to start lightening up. Shi took a deep breath, trying to adjust hir demeanour.

"I was just distraught with my mate being hurt. I just needed time to myself to collect my thoughts," shi lied, not the best way to start a relationship, but it wasn't one shi was expecting to last anyway. "I'm sorry I pushed you away like that, Platinumsong."

"It's okay, but, you know, I'm a chakat, right? We're made to help each other out, you know. No one better than us!" shi said with glee.

Cocking hir head to one side, Gildedtongue said a slow, "Riiiiiight. Anyway.... So, how are you doing? What brings you out and about?"

"Well, it's my day off, so I like to just walk around. My lifemate, Trinity, is working today." Shi stuck hir tongue out, then shrugged with arms and forelegs, "So, I'm on my own. What about you, Wandy?"

Gildedtongue couldn't really figure out how shi felt having hir name shortened so cavalier, since it wasn't hir name, so shi remained neutral. "Oh, me? Just went out for some book shopping. Gulliver's place had quite a selection."

"Huh, didn't know any chakat used such outdated things any more. PADDs are just so much easier to carry around and don't slash and burn trees or anything."

Gildedtongue rolled hir shoulders in a shrug, "I guess so, but they've yet to fabricate one that matches the smell and texture of an old tome." Shi chuckled slightly. "Besides, some people just like the outdated things, you know?"

"Oh, speaking of which, how's that foxtaur doing? Talon, was it?"

'I'm not sure how I was speaking of that,' Gildedtongue thought. "Thallon? He's doing better, thank you. In fact he's back at the port working already. You all did a great job fixing him up."

"Yeah, I guess the people there are okay, you know, considering." Platinumsong made a dismissive gesture under a bored look.

"Considering what?" Gildedtongue asked, hir curiosity piqued.

Platinumsong leaned closer to Gildedtongue, "Well, considering that they're, you know, human. I mean, you know how they are, their history and all. It's not their fault, though. They were made out of random happenstance, not through scientific logic and perfection as ourselves, or our skunktaur brethren."

Gildedtongue could tell that shi wasn't going to like this person. Shi had been taking the dogma about hir species right to heart and made it swell hir head. "Well, you know, Dr. Charles and Dr. Katherine Turner were very much human. Certainly have something to thank humanity for."

"Possibly, but not like humans thank the apes they evolved from. We're just... better, you know? Physically, mentally, perceptively, emotionally, some of us even have Talents. Oh how I would love to have one of those, especially telepathy." Platinumsong purred, smiling a bit wider. "Certainly would feel better if I could just read people's minds, knowing when they might turn on me in their jealousy."

"Sounds like it has happened to you often before." Gildedtongue sat down on hir haunches, seeing this conversation to be taking some time.

"Ugh, more times than I wish. Seems every other month there's some morph that's envious of our species, or some Humans Firster out there," shi muttered in disgust.

"Humans Firster?" Gildedtongue questioned. Platinumsong responded with a look of 'you've-got-to-be-kidding-me.' "I've been out in space for some time. I don't always get the bulletins."

"Well, on Terra, there's the Earth for Humanity movement, trying to drive off the morphs and the like off of that old polluted rock, and as far as I'm concerned, they can keep it. But, elsewhere there are still humans who think just because they made us, they're better than us and can do what they will to us."

'Unlike yourself who thinks you're better because you were made by the other people.'

"Anyway, even out in some nowhere station like here, there's... those kind that spring up." Platinumsong thought for a moment. Then asked, "Wandy? Where are you headed, anyway?"

"Oh, Chakona..." Gildedtongue let slip. Platinumsong's eyes went wide and hir purring increased tenfold as shi nearly pounced on the older chakat.

"Oh, take me with you! I'm sure you can convince your captain to let me on, unless you're the captain, I bet you are. Oh please! I need to get out of here."

Gildedtongue grunted in the tight embrace, trying to pull out of the younger centauroid's grip. "You said you've got a lifemate here, though. Wouldn't shi feel bad if you left?"

Platinumsong loosened hir grip, sighing slightly, "I guess shi would. Ugh, damn this! Why can't I have some happiness in the universe?"

Gildedtongue was amazed how the chakat's emotions were jumping around. Maybe something was wrong with hir that shi wouldn't agree to. "Ah, look, I've... got to go. It's been nice talking to you, Platinumsong." Gildedtongue turned around when the other felitaur grabbed hir hand tightly.

"Please, stay with me some more, Wandy. Why don't we go back to my place? I can make you some lunch, and maybe we'll go back to my room..." shi trailed off and licked Gildedtongue's cheek, hir hand reaching to grab hold of one of the chakat's lopsided breasts.

"Thank you but no. Look, I really ought to go, Platinumsong. Good day!" Shi tugged at hir hand, feeling the grip from the younger chakat tightening even more. Gildedtongue wrenched hir hand free and started hir rapid retreat. It didn't take a "Class 3 Empath" to feel, or even hear the crying behind the chakat as the Maine Coon didn't get hir way. Gildedtongue trekked four blocks before hailing a cab back to the docks. Hir hands were trembling, feeling the adrenaline running out of hir system on the ride over. Shi slowed hir breathing slightly to try and relax. A payment and a tip to the driver was hir silent farewell as shi made hir way to the cargo bay of the spaceship, and up its stairwell to the spine.

Saldura was walking towards hir quarters, looking exhausted when shi saw the chakat, offering hir a weak smile, "Hey, love. You look like you've had a day already. Want to come in?"

Gildedtongue nodded, following Sallie into hir quarters. Neither of them spoke as they shed their clothing and crawled into bed together, getting a nap to unwind. Neither moved as Thallon came into the room, joining them in the cuddling pile.

***

Lyrics from the song "I've Got Your Number" by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, from the musical Little Me, used without permission under the Fair Use Doctrine.

 


 

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