Quickpaw, The College Years #3:
A Matter Of Viewpoint
By Bernard Doove © 2009
The Christmas break passed far too quickly for Quickpaw. Being with hir family for those precious few weeks had been like food to a starving person. From the moment that shi had arrived at Forest and Goldfur’s den, shi had thrown hirself back into every aspect of family life with great enthusiasm, no matter whether it was fun or chores.
Shi listlessly unpacked hir travelling bag in hir student dormitory room. It was all gone now, and shi had several months of study ahead of hir, a third of the way around the world from hir family. It never got any easier.
Shi didn’t even have a dorm buddy with whom to commiserate. Hir former dorm-mate, Rathi, had been doing a completely different course which had concluded the previous semester. One of the last things that shi had done before leaving for Australia was to attend hir roomie’s graduation ceremony. Shi barely had time to congratulate the Labrador morph before his family had arrived to pick him and his possessions up and disappeared. He had been an excellent roommate, but now shi was left with the uncertainty of a brand new dorm room assignment.
Quickpaw didn’t really feel in the mood to go out and try to find any acquaintances right then, so shi decided to hang around for the new person’s arrival. Dorm rooms were always full, so there was no chance that shi would have one to hirself, but that didn’t mean that the student would turn up this day. Not all courses started the next day, so it depended on which the student would be doing. Nevertheless there was still a very good chance that it would be today. Shi checked in with the maternity ward of the teaching hospital but shi was informed that shi would not be required until evening shift. That left hir little to do besides twiddle hir thumbs in the meantime. Shi decided to play a computer game to pass the time.
It was nearly 5:00pm when somebody rapped on the door, and Quickpaw paused hir game to answer the knock. When shi opened the door, shi had to crane hir neck a little to look up at the tall tiger morph standing there. The newcomer and the chakat sized each other up. Either Bengal or Siberian, Quickpaw decided. 190cm tall powerfully muscled yet feminine body, long white hair the same colour as the fur but with a streak of orange on each side of the head, blue eyes, medium-size breasts in a tube-top, and quite a large bulge in the front of the jeans. ‘A herm this time?’ Quickpaw thought. ‘Makes sense, I suppose.’
The tiger asked, "Are you Quickpaw?"
Quickpaw replied, "Yes, that’s me. Are you my new dorm roomie?"
"Yeah," shi replied unenthusiastically. "Call me Sasha. Can I come in?" Shi had a slight but distinct Russian accent.
Quickpaw shrugged. "If you have been assigned this room and have a key, then this place is as much yours as mine. Need any help?"
"No, I’ll be fine," shi said brusquely, hauling on the luggage cart piled with hir belongings.
Quickpaw moved out of the way and pointed to the unoccupied bedroom. "That one’s yours." Each dormitory had two very small bedrooms with a bathroom between them, all joined by a common room. The whole thing was fairly well appointed for a student dorm.
Sasha acknowledged hir with a grunt, towed the cart into hir room and closed the door.
Quickpaw was nonplussed. The tiger was either anti-social or simply didn’t like chakats, and shi suspected the latter. Quickpaw’s empathic sense was only an average E3, but practice in the hospital had honed it well. The moment that Sasha had laid eyes on hir, shi had reacted negatively with a mild sense of disgust and resignation. It sure wasn’t hir gender at fault this time though. Quickpaw sighed and fervently hoped that there wouldn’t be friction between them. Hir final year of studies was going to be hard enough without having to live in a hostile atmosphere.
Sasha spent about forty minutes unpacking and settling into hir room before shi came out to leave a few items in the common room. Quickpaw tried another attempt at having a conversation.
"So, where are you from, Sasha?"
Sasha seemed reluctant to speak at first, but then said, "My family comes from Arkhangelsk in Russia."
Quickpaw said, "I’ve never heard of it. Should I?"
"It’s a small city by the White Sea."
"You seem to have only a slight Russian accent though," Quickpaw pointed out.
"That is because my family moved to GNA when I was six. We have lived near Vancouver since then."
"Why did you move over?" Quickpaw asked curiously.
Sasha suddenly grew coldly distant. "That is none of your business," shi replied curtly.
"Sorry, I wasn’t trying to pry," Quickpaw hastened to say, wondering why the question had upset the tiger. "I come from Melbourne in Australia. I’m here because this college has one of the best teaching hospitals in the world and it was recommended to me for my career choice. I’m studying nursing with emphasis towards midwifery."
"You chakats can’t seem to keep your mind off cubs, can you? Well, I’m here to study and get a degree. I’m not interested in your hang-ups, and I want you to leave me alone. Got it?" Sasha then turned and marched into hir room, practically slamming the door behind hir.
Quickpaw stared at the door, hir mouth agape in shock. "What the hell brought that on?" Shi could still sense Sasha’s anger, and yet shi could not work out how shi had triggered that response. "And what did shi mean by that crack about cubs? I hope that I haven’t been lumbered with a loony room-mate!"
Quickpaw sighed and decided to get out of the dorm. Shi called hir friends to find out if they had arrived as yet. Minutes later shi left to meet both of them at The Green Leaf – an Irish pub at the heart of the campus.
Darren and Silverlight had grabbed an empty table before Quickpaw got there. Shi waved to them as shi made hir way through the crowd. It seemed like all the students who were back for the semester had had the same idea, and the place was boisterously loud with the voices of reunited friends. The grey wolf and arctic vixen were Quickpaw’s two best friends, and shi was happy to see them again.
When shi reached them, Quickpaw put an arm around each and pulled them into a three-way hug. "G’day! Am I glad that you’re here! What have you two been up to? You haven’t gotten engaged yet, have you?"
Silverlight laughed. "Gawd! You’d think we’d been away for months, not just a few weeks. You know darn well that we both went home to spend Christmas with our families."
"What? All the holidays?" Quickpaw said disbelievingly. "You must be slipping."
Darren smirked. "Of course our families live only an hour and a half away from each other."
"Yes!" Quickpaw said triumphantly. "I knew it! So answer my question."
Silverlight said, "No, Quick, you know that we’ve already decided that if we become mates, it won’t be until after we’ve got our degrees."
Quickpaw shrugged. "It’s your lives. I get to work my nefarious wiles upon you until you do though."
"Ever consider that might be why we haven’t as yet?" Darren asked with an exaggerated leer.
"But you never follow through, you horrible teasers!" Quickpaw protested.
"Listen to hir, Dar," Silverlight said to the wolf. "Not back a day, and shi’s already trying to get into your pants."
"Yours too," he reminded her with mock alarm.
Their words reminded Quickpaw of what Sasha had said though, and the chakat’s grin faded. "Guys, let me tell you about my weird new roomie."
"Uh-oh! Sounds serious. Get yourself a drink and tell us all about it," Silverlight advised.
Besides alcohol, the pub also served coffee, tea, and various other refreshments and snacks. Quickpaw ordered a café latte and a slice of cake, and brought them back to the table. Darren already had a beer, and Silverlight had Irish coffee. Quickpaw never had alcohol while shi was at college however, because of hir wet-nurse duties. Although the chakat body could deal effectively with the alcohol, Quickpaw prided hirself in giving the best possible quality milk.
While they drank, Quickpaw described Sasha’s appearance and the tiger’s peculiar reactions. When shi was done, Silver said, "If shi wasn’t a herm also, I would have said that it was a typical reaction of someone who is uncomfortable with dual-gendered people."
"Sounds more like shi has something specifically against chakats," Darren said. "I have to wonder if shi had a bad experience with one."
Quickpaw said, "We’re really not very well known outside of Australia. Sure, there are tens of thousands of us, but we’re spread so thinly all over the world that there isn’t even another one here at this college. It’s hardly a surprise that there’s a lot of misinformation about us."
"That’s no excuse for being rude," declared Silverlight.
Quickpaw shrugged. "Give hir a few days to settle in and shi might mellow."
"And if that doesn’t work, I’ll get hir drunk!" Darren said with a grin and downed the rest of his beer.
Quickpaw couldn’t really tell if hir room-mate was mellowing. After several weeks, shi had barely seen hir. Sasha would walk straight into hir room, close the door, and not come out again at all except to go to the bathroom. The few times that Quickpaw had attempted to talk to Sasha, the tiger had continued on as if shi had not even heard the chakat. It was evident that Sasha did use the common room in Quickpaw’s absence, but as their schedules were very different, shi never got to see what hir odd roomie did at those times.
Six weeks into the semester, one of Quickpaw’s lectures was postponed, so shi left for the dormitory early. Shi had barely stepped inside when the bathroom door opened and Sasha emerged, totally nude, and Quickpaw got an excellent eyeful of Sasha’s powerful but curvaceous form. Shi also got a very good view of hir male genitalia. Shi had no sheath but instead, aside from a fine fuzz of fur on hir scrotum, it could all have easily belonged to Quickpaw’s human Companion, Boyce. The penis was slightly larger than average, but well in proportion to the large tiger morph. Shi was beautiful and sexy, and Quickpaw immediately felt a strong physical attraction to hir.
Sasha, on the other hand, after shi got over hir surprise at Quickpaw’s unexpected presence, grew angry and hastily entered hir bedroom and slammed the door.
Quickpaw was puzzled by Sasha’s reaction. Shi had not sensed any embarrassment, so Sasha did not seem to be body shy. Shi had only sensed deep anger. For some reason that shi wouldn’t explain, the tiger seemed to resent any interaction with the chakat, but especially anything even marginally of a sexual nature. Quickpaw had no intention of approaching Sasha in that regard, and the unfairness finally raised hir ire.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" shi shouted at the closed door. "What gives you the right to be so damned rude? I’ve never done anything to deserve this treatment!"
However there was no response from Sasha, and little change in the emotions leaking from the room. Quickpaw turned away from Sasha’s bedroom in disgust, threw hir books onto hir bed, then stormed out of the dorm.
Shi headed across the campus, unconsciously going in the direction of the quarters of hir mentor, Peter McKeller. For the second year of hir course, shi had been assigned a mentor to assist hir. Quickpaw had been pleased at how helpful the human was, and how adept he was at clarifying subjects that shi was having difficulty with. Shi wished that shi’d had his help in previous semesters, but he was making a marked difference already. What shi hadn’t anticipated however was the strong attraction shi had on him, and vice versa. After two weeks of working with hir, Peter had asked Quickpaw to stay back for supper. Shi had accepted but hir empathic sense told hir what he was truly feeling. So in the simple and honest manner of chakats, shi had made hir own feelings clear by kissing him lengthily, and they were making love not long after that.
They had been lovers ever since. Both knew that this was no deep romance, but they fulfilled each other’s needs very well. Peter was completely bisexual and happy to please both sides of Quickpaw’s nature, while shi was happy to be able to obey hir older sister’s instructions to take greater care of hir sexual needs for hir mental health while at the same time giving Peter a wonderful experience in bed. Right now though, shi simply needed the comfort of his arms and the warmth of his sympathy.
Peter opened the door, surprised to see Quickpaw there without forewarning, but when he saw hir expression, he quickly ushered hir inside and wrapped hir in his arms, projecting a sense of caring as best he could. He had no special Talent, but his genuine concern for the chakat was more than enough to soothe hir frayed nerves. Shi sighed with relief and snuggled up against him.
"Feeling better now, hon?" he asked.
"Uh-huh," shi replied.
"Good. Come – I’ll make you some tea and you can tell me all about what has upset you."
Two days later, Quickpaw had put the incident out of hir mind. Shi had gone to the maternity ward as usual to give hir services as a wet nurse for a deer morph infant. As usual, shi did this at the bedside of the mother, chatting with the doe, discussing her plans for her family, and offering emotional support. Many of the mothers who had difficulty producing milk for their babies felt shame and distress at not being able to do so, while others suffered from post-natal depression. Feeding infants was the easy part of Quickpaw’s job, and a very pleasurable one, but often the more important part was the empathic support shi would give to the mothers while the children suckled. In fact, part of the chakat’s studies was a course on psychology dealing with these kind of problems, and Quickpaw was proud of the help that shi was able to give those troubled fems.
However, not all problems were so straightforward. Quickpaw was handing over the deer’s replete infant when the head of the ward, a middle-aged human named Amelia Grant, entered the room.
"Quickpaw, I’m glad that I caught you before you left," Amelia said. "We’ve just had another birth and the mother’s milk won’t start. If you’re able, we could use your services right now."
"No problem, Amelia," Quickpaw replied with a smile. Shi followed her to another ward room where a human was cradling her newborn. She looked weary but delighted with her child.
Amelia went up to her and said, "I’ve got good news, Mrs Fielding. I was able to catch our best wet-nurse before shi left. We’ll soon get your son his first feed."
Mrs Fielding looked up and her expression changed to one of disgust. "You’re not going to feed my son some animal’s milk! Surely you have a real wet-nurse available?"
Amelia was surprised and dismayed at Fielding’s reaction. "I assure you, Shir Quickpaw’s milk is the best available. Your boy couldn’t be in better hands."
"I thought this was a hospital, not a veterinary clinic. Don’t you dare suggest something like that again!" She clutched the infant protectively, glaring at the chakat.
Quickpaw’s empathic senses were being battered by the woman’s antipathy towards hir and shi knew that there would be no persuading her. Sadly shi said, "I had better leave, Amelia. You’re going to have to find a human wet-nurse for Mrs Fielding’s baby." Shi gave Amelia a sympathetic glance, knowing full well that only one of the wet-nurses on staff was human, and the lady was probably in bed at the moment because she did the early morning shift.
Amelia gave hir a glum smile – partly due to the predicament she faced, but largely because she was embarrassed at the treatment that Quickpaw had been given. The two had been working with each other since Quickpaw’s first year at the college, and while they’d had their share of reluctant mothers, they’d never encountered such outright prejudice before.
Quickpaw waved to Amelia as shi left, trying not to let Mrs Fielding upset hir. It wasn’t the first time that shi had run into such bigotry, and shi was certain that it wouldn’t be the last, but it still stung to have hir services so summarily rejected.
Quickpaw breathed deeply of the chilly night air in an effort to calm hir upset nerves. Shi broke into a trot to get back to hir dorm room quickly and relax. Despite the distance, shi was back at the dormitory block within minutes, and shi stepped inside with relief. There was one task left to do before shi could take a break however. The drawback to being a wet-nurse was keeping hir breasts full of milk, but all that milk wasn’t needed that day, shi needed to drain the rest to make way for the milk that was constantly being produced. If shi didn’t, shi would wake up in the morning with over-full and aching breasts. Shi got out hir trusty breast pump and then made a snack to munch on. Shi ate and did hir homework while the pump did its job, the pleasant feeling actually making the studies easier. As usual, shi went to put the milk into the little refrigerator to be used later. No milk was ever wasted, and shi normally put it on hir breakfast cereal whenever shi had excess so as to recycle the nutrients. Shi got a surprise when shi looked for the previous jug. It was almost empty, and Quickpaw knew that shi hadn’t used all of that. Then hir muzzle split into a grin. There was ample evidence that Sasha used their basic kitchen facilities in Quickpaw’s absence, and the fridge had some of the tiger’s food in it also. It appeared that shi had used some of the milk without realising its source. Quickpaw purred in amusement at the thought. "I wonder how Sasha would react if shi learns that shi has been drinking chakat milk?" This greatly helped wipe out the distress of the hospital incident, and Quickpaw was able to go to bed with a light heart.
Quickpaw’s workload was the heaviest it had been since shi had first come to the college, but shi found that between hir determination and Peter’s coaching, shi was handling it all very well. Shi had great optimism for this year, but one thing that shi still had trouble with was a problem peculiar to chakats. Shi could still hear Goldfur’s words reminding hir just before shi left Australia weeks ago – "Chakats need other chakats! Remember to not neglect your needs this time. My schedule won’t allow me to visit you for a few months, so you need to make an effort to find some chakat company if there aren’t any at the college again this year."
"Yes, sis! I’ll remember. I promise – okay?" shi had replied firmly. Shi hadn’t found any chakat company however, and the need had started to get strong – too strong to ignore, and it was starting to distract hir from hir studies. This time however, shi had a plan.
On Saturday morning, shi took a bus to the nearby city of Big Sur, getting off close to where the interstate highway intersected with the main road which took you into the city and the nearby New Canaveral Spaceport. Located there was the popular diner known to its patrons as Carol’s Gulp ‘n Gallop. Shi headed inside, hoping that hir timing was right.
Quickpaw nearly ran nose first into one of the persons shi had come to see.
"Whoa there, hon! I’ll have you seated in a moment." Ketta the foxtaur vixen led Quickpaw to a far corner booth where a grey and white-speckled chakat was already seated. "Look who’s dropped in, darling," Ketta said to her lifemate.
Stargrey smiled in recognition. "Hello, Quickpaw. What brings you here today?"
Quickpaw was a little surprised that Stargrey didn’t get up to give hir the customary greeting hug, but shrugged it off. "I’m here to see you two, actually, but you in particular, Stargrey. I need to talk to you both though, so can you spare me a moment, Ketta?"
"Give me two minutes, Quickpaw. I’ll be back after I finish serving someone else."
"No problem," Quickpaw assured her. "I’m in no hurry."
Ketta left then, and Quickpaw seated hirself opposite Stargrey. "I wasn’t totally sure that you would be here, Star, but I was pretty sure that Ketta would be doing the lunch shift."
Stargrey said, "I always come here for lunch whenever Ketta is on duty. I like spending time watching my mate." Hir gaze was locked onto the vixen.
Quickpaw looked back over hir shoulder to see Ketta’s rear end with tail swishing. ‘Heh! She’s showing off to hir even as she works,’ shi thought. ‘Star mentioned that shi liked the sight of Ketta’s hindquarters the first time that shi met Ketta.’ To Stargrey, shi said, "Why don’t you sit closer rather than all the way back here?"
Stargrey grinned. "This is Ketta’s half of the diner to serve, and I can see her almost everywhere from here. Besides, it’s a lot more discreet."
"Discreet? What do you mean by that?"
"Look under the table," Stargrey suggested.
Quickpaw ducked hir head down to have a look. And Stargrey shifted hir forelegs apart. Quickpaw immediately realised what Stargrey meant when shi saw that shi was sporting a full erection. Quickpaw lifted hir head back up with a smile. "You really do like Ketta’s arse, don’t you?"
Stargrey’s grin grew even wider. "Gets me every time. Ketta reserves me this booth so that I can get over it without any of the public noticing. We only need to be apart for a few hours and I get this reaction when I see her again."
"After all this time as mates, you still get that turned on just from being apart for a short time?" Quickpaw asked with a smile.
"Heh! More than ever, actually. She’s a sexy vixen, and I adore her."
"Works for me," Quickpaw agreed. "I hope to find a mate that good one day."
"I’m sure you will. Some day quite unexpectedly, you’ll find hir, just as Ketta appeared here one day. She made my life complete. She’s pregnant again, y’know?"
"Congratulations! When is the cub due?" Quickpaw asked eagerly.
Stargrey smiled. "I thought that would interest you. However you’re going to have to wait a bit over nine months before the birth."
"You’ll let me know though, won’t you?" Quickpaw asked earnestly.
"Of course. You’re godmother to Nikol, so you’re virtually family anyway."
"Thanks! So when do you plan to have a cub yourself? I know that you’re masculine biased, but we all succumb to the urge sooner or later."
Stargrey’s smile faded a bit. "It’s not that simple. Ketta can’t impregnate me, of course, and neither of us want a third party involved, at least not for the foreseeable future."
"Fair enough, but there’s a fairly simple solution, as long as you can persuade Ketta to agree to it."
"There is? Why would Ketta in particular need to agree?"
"Because it involves medical intervention, and foxtaurs are big believers in totally natural conceptions."
"Yes, I see. So what is your solution?"
"Wait until your cycles synchronise so that you’re both on heat at the same time. Impregnate Ketta, but have the fertilized egg transferred to your womb. You then get to experience the entire pregnancy, and be the mother to a cub who is 100% the child of you two."
"Of course, I see now. It is pretty simple, and I also see what you mean by persuading Ketta. I think that I’ll be able to manage that when the time comes though. Thanks, Quick."
"You’re welcome. You can do me a favour in return however."
"Sure! What is it?"
"We need to wait for Ketta first."
"She’s coming now," shi said with a nod in Ketta’s direction.
Ketta arrived with a plate laden with a salad for Stargrey’s lunch. Putting it in front of her mate, she asked, "Did you want to order something, Quickpaw, or is this just a social visit?"
"Both. I’d like a super vegeburger, please, and a very big favour."
Ketta replied, "I believe that we still owe you a favour, so what can we do for you?"
"Well, Ketta, you know how Stargrey needs to spend time with another chakat occasionally?" Quickpaw asked.
Ketta nodded. "Something to do with the empathic feedback, I understand. Shi spends the night with Daisychain, Talltale and Flicker every couple of months."
"Who are they?" Quickpaw asked curiously.
"They’re a chakat triad who lives in the same apartment complex as us. They cubsit Nikol for us regularly. That’s where shi is now, playing with their cubs."
"That’s handy. Anyway, that’s the problem that I am facing. I neglected my needs too much last year, and Goldfur has insisted that I take better care of myself this year. However, like last year, there doesn’t appear to be another chakat student at my college, Goldie is still away on a mission, and my need is becoming more urgent right now."
"So you want to borrow some time with me?" Stargrey asked.
"If it’s convenient, and Ketta doesn’t object," Quickpaw confirmed.
"Well, love?" Stargrey asked as shi looked at hir mate.
Ketta didn’t answer immediately, but after a bit of thought, she said, "I swore that I would do my best to understand and deal with the needs of chakats after I mated with Star, and I suppose there’s little difference between your needs and hirs, so I can hardly begrudge you the request. How long do you need though? Am I not going to see my mate until tomorrow like when shi goes to visit Daisy and the others?"
"Oh no," Quickpaw demurred. "While an overnight stay is ideal, a couple of hours intimate physical and empathic interaction is quite enough to deal with the need for a while. Certainly until Goldfur comes to visit again."
"Okay, I can live with that. If Star wants to, you can do it right now and be done with it by the time that I get off my shift. That way you don’t take away any time between me and Star."
"Perfect!" Quickpaw exclaimed. "I really didn’t want to disrupt your lives in spite of my needs. By the way – congratulations!"
Ketta looked puzzled. "For what?"
Quickpaw grinned. "The pregnancy, of course!"
Ketta glanced over at Stargrey. "Someone blabbed, I see." Star gave hir an unrepentant grin. Ketta continued, "I suppose you’re going to want to be involved with hir birth too?"
"Well, I won’t graduate for another year, but I already know most of what’s important for childbirth," Quickpaw explained hopefully.
"We do still have a midwife back at my village," Ketta pointed out drily. At Quickpaw’s crestfallen look though, she added, "We’ll see what the situation is like when the time comes, okay? No promises!"
"That’s fair enough," Quickpaw acknowledged.
"And I need to get back to work," Ketta said. "You’ll have your vegeburger soon."
Quickpaw’s meal was indeed there soon, and shi and Stargrey continued to converse as they ate. Then the grey chakat took a moment to kiss and nuzzle hir mate farewell. Fortunately for hir, as intended, hir erection had subsided. The two chakats strolled leisurely to Stargrey’s apartment. There was no rush because the needed interaction had begun as soon as Quickpaw had sat down in front of Stargrey. The only difference was that the two held hands as they walked, which gave them the strongest empathic link through physical contact. Quickpaw had started to feel more relaxed even as shi ate, but this maximised the benefit of being together. Of course it worked both ways and Stargrey was benefitting from the empathic feedback also.
They stopped at another apartment first where Nikol was playing. Flicker, a cheetah-patterned chakat, opened the door, expecting that Stargrey was there to pick up hir child. After explaining Quickpaw’s presence, Stargrey went outside to the playground where Daisychain, whose brown fur was liberally spattered with yellow flower-like spots, was watching over Nikol at the same as their cubs, Blitz and Bouncer. As soon as Nikol saw hir sire, hir face fell.
"Wanna play!" shi said emphatically.
Stargrey grinned. "So you want to stay with Blitz and Bouncer a bit longer?"
Nikol nodded hopefully.
"Okay. Have fun, dear."
Nikol mewed in pleasure and resumed hir game with the others. At Daisychain’s quizzical look, shi said, "Ask Flicker. I’ll be back in a couple of hours."
"No problem, Star," Daisychain replied.
Stargrey then took Quickpaw across to the other side of the complex and up to hir apartment on the second floor.
Quickpaw looked around. "Nice place," shi commented.
"Yeah, we like it, although we may have to consider moving if we have a third cub. It would get a bit snug then."
"I dunno – I like it cosy. Our home is pretty crowded at the best of times, but we like it that way."
"Not everyone likes it that crowded, although Ketta reckons that she doesn’t mind. It reminds her of foxtaur dens. Anyway, we’ll see what the situation is like when the time comes. Now let me show you our bedroom."
The apartment had obviously not been built with taurs in mind, but Stargrey and Ketta had converted the bedroom into a comfortable sleeping den for themselves and their cub, with a huge round mattress and several very large pillows suitable for propping up a taur comfortably.
Stargrey invited Quickpaw onto the bed. Because they weren’t lovers, they forewent any intimate foreplay and went pretty much straight into some recreational sex. Although both chakats had masculine dominant personalities, Stargrey allowed Quickpaw to take the lead as shi was the one with the greater need. They spent about an hour of mutual pleasure followed by a nap in each other’s arms. Even while they slept, they got the empathic feedback they required for their mental health.
When Quickpaw woke, shi felt both physically and mentally refreshed. Shi gave Stargrey a quick lick-kiss and said, "Thank you, Star. That was very enjoyable."
"You’re very welcome, Quick. I was just about due to spend some time with Daisy and the others anyway, so I am sure that Ketta will be happy to put off losing me for a night this month."
"Has she ever joined you four?" Quickpaw asked.
"We invited her, but she declined. While she understands the need, and foxtaur vixens are used to the need to share the tods, she still doesn’t feel comfortable with several chakats being intimate with me in her presence."
"I suppose it would be too much to ask her to be completely chakat-like in this matter. Anyway, I’d better be going. I’ve got friends to meet up with a little later, and I don’t want to keep them waiting," Quickpaw said as shi got up and padded over to the bathroom to freshen up. "Please thank Ketta for being so gracious as to lend you to me for a while."
Stargrey grinned. "I’ll do that. Ketta goes to great lengths nowadays to be as fair as possible, and it sure doesn’t hurt to show her how much you appreciate her efforts."
Quickpaw nodded. "Especially if I need to do this again a few times before I graduate."
"How often do you think that you’ll need to do this?"
"As pleasant as this was, I hope not often. It depends a lot on my sister’s schedule, or if the chakat situation at the college changes. Goldfur never knows too far in advance what the next tour of duty will entail, or how the timing will affect me. This time it was just too long until shi comes back."
"What about your other sister, Forestwalker?" Stargrey pointed out.
"Forest would like to help, but besides disruption to hir own work, flying over here frequently would be excessively costly. You see, Goldfur takes advantage of hir Star Corps contract to get a free lift over here, so it doesn’t cost the family. Personally I’m glad, because as much as I love Forest, Goldie’s my favourite sister. Shi has always made sure that I’m doing okay, and shi was quick to scold me when she realised that I had been neglecting myself in hir absence."
Stargrey grinned. "That sounds like my sister, Grace. My sire had a job that took hir away from the family frequently, and Grace would help mom with the rest of us cubs."
"Any chance that I’ll meet hir some day?" Quickpaw asked curiously.
"Not likely. Soon after the last of us reached adulthood, Grace fell in love and emigrated to Chakona with hir new denmate. I miss hir a lot sometimes."
"Our family is considering a move to Chakona also."
"Oh? Why is that?" Stargrey asked, intrigued, as they headed for the door and left the apartment.
"Part of it has to do with the growing Humans First movement. Goldfur has never been able to put the death of Greypaw completely out of hir mind, and shi fears for the entire family."
"Is it really that bad in Australia?" Stargrey asked with some concern. "I’ve seen H1 activity here, but I didn’t think it was that much of a problem."
"Aside from that riot in which the cub was killed, no it hasn’t been that bad, but I suppose any activity is too much after something like that happens. I must admit that I completely sympathise with Goldie on this one. My niece was adorable, and then shi was gone in a moment in an event that should never have happened, but did," Quickpaw said sadly.
Stargrey hugged Quickpaw sympathetically. "I understand, and I’ll bear that in mind for our cubs. So what other reasons do you have for the move?"
Quickpaw brightened. "All our family are the adventuresome type. Chakona is still a frontier planet in many ways, and there are lots of opportunities for people like us. I’m kind of excited already, so if Goldfur goes ahead with these plans, I’ll help in any way that I can."
They crossed the parkland between the apartments, heading back to where Daisychain was watching the cubs. Stargrey thought about what Quickpaw said, then replied, "It sounds good, but I think our future is here. This is where our families are, and I don’t like the idea of being light years away from them."
Quickpaw grimaced. "I admit that that’s a drawback, but we have a very large and diverse family unit, so that will lessen the blow. And sometimes one has to make sacrifices for the betterment of the future. We each have our paths to follow."
"That’s true," agreed Stargrey, "and for now this is where our paths diverge. I’ll pick up Nikol and get back home to prepare for Ketta’s return."
"Thanks again, Star. Let me know how Ketta’s pregnancy goes, okay?"
Stargrey laughed. "Don’t worry – I’ll do that. Tail high, Quickpaw!"
"Tail high, Stargrey!"
Quickpaw retraced hir steps to the bus stop. Shi had a twenty minute wait for hir bus, and while shi waited, shi opened up hir senses fully to take in a total sensory impression of the township. After a couple of minutes shi relaxed and murmured to hirself, "This is an interesting and vibrant community, but it’s not for me. Still, I wish Stargrey and Ketta all the best for the future. They may need all the good will they can get if the pessimists are right."
It was a couple of weeks later in March that Goldfur turned up to visit and tell hir what had been happening both at home and afar. Shi was pleased that Quickpaw had found a solution to the lack of chakat company, but that didn’t stop the sisters from enjoying some intimacy anyway.
Sasha arrived back at the dorm just as the sisters were saying their farewells and having one last hug. The tiger looked at them briefly and scowled, then went into hir room, firmly closing the door behind hir.
Goldfur said, "I see what you mean. Shi certainly has a chip on hir shoulder about something. Are you sure that you don’t know why?"
"Not a clue, sis. Shi’s been like that since shi first laid eyes on me. However, shi doesn’t hassle me, so I leave hir alone."
Goldfur shrugged. "Hir prerogative. You’ve got your friends and lovers, so you’re doing fine. Time for me to get back to other people who need me more," shi finished with a grin.
Quickpaw swatted hir on the rump. "Go on! Get outta here!" shi said with exasperation.
Goldfur departed with hir tail waving jauntily.
Being empathic meant never being totally alone. The emotions of dozens of people nearby quietly ebbed and flowed within the consciousness of every chakat. No matter how effective the noise insulation was between rooms, it had zero effect on the perception of the mood of the people on the other side of the wall. This was something that Quickpaw was so used to that shi barely noticed on most occasions. Sometimes it was more noticeable than others however. The bedrooms of adjacent dorm rooms butted up against each other, and when the occupants of that room got amorous, Quickpaw got a strong dose of the emotional overflow. On those occasions, depending on the circumstances, shi would either put up a mental block and ignore it, or let it suffuse hir thoughts as shi drifted off to sleep, or masturbate along with them. Shi was equally aware when hir roomie masturbated, but Quickpaw never felt the slightest bit inclined to fantasise with the obnoxious tiger.
Not long after Goldfur’s visit, Quickpaw was returning to hir dorm, but well before shi reached hir room, shi knew that something was wrong. The closer that shi got, the more intense the feeling became, and when shi entered the dorm room, shi was nearly overwhelmed by the intensity of the sexual need emanating from Sasha’s room. Quickpaw cursed and tried to block it out – shi needed to work on assignments on hir personal workstation, and shi couldn’t afford the distraction. However, such was the strength of the emotional output that hir concentration was constantly failing.
Swearing under hir breath, shi dug into hir personal emergency supplies and pulled out a packet of herbs. Shi then boiled the kettle and made a brew with the herbs. Pouring some into a mug, shi walked over to Sasha’s room and pounded on the door.
"Go away!" came Sasha’s muffled voice, edgy with both annoyance and sexual need.
Quickpaw pounded on the door again. "Open up, you rutting bitch!"
That achieved results. Sasha quickly opened the door, dressed only in a robe hastily thrown on and held closed with one arm. The tiger’s expression was furious. "What the hell do you want?" shi growled menacingly.
Quickpaw thrust the mug at Sasha. "Drink this!"
"You disturbed me for a drink?" Sasha responded angrily. "I ought to…."
"SHUT UP!" Quickpaw snarled. "DRINK THIS! NOW!"
Sasha was taken aback, not expecting this kind of reaction from the chakat. Shi scowled suspiciously at the hot beverage, then looked at Quickpaw’s face. Hir determined expression convinced hir. "What the hell," shi said and drank some. Shi pulled a face at the taste.
"All of it!" Quickpaw insisted.
Sasha finished it off, then thrust the mug back at Quickpaw. "There! Satisfied?"
"Yes," Quickpaw said as shi took the mug.
"Well I’m not. Would you care to explain what this is all about? You invade my privacy, abuse me, make me drink some vile concoction, and then you… then… ohhhh…." An enormous sense of relief swept over the tiger as the intense sexual rut suddenly abated. Shi looked at the empty mug and asked, "What on Earth was in that drink?"
Quickpaw walked back to the kitchenette bench, saying, "We chakats sometimes have a rut or heat that’s a bit stronger or distracting, so we have this special herbal medicine to calm things down a bit. I made some up for you because I could tell you desperately needed it. Of course I had to make it a bit weaker for you – about a quarter strength."
"A quarter? Are you saying that your ruts are four times stronger than mine?" Sasha asked incredulously.
"Not at all," Quickpaw denied. "In fact we don’t usually get anywhere near as bad as you were. However, we chakats are extremely resistant to drugs, and so it takes a very potent dose to work on us. If I gave you the same dose as I would normally take, you probably wouldn’t be able to get it up for a couple of days. Probably other side effects also."
Sasha shuddered, "No thanks!" Then something suddenly occurred to hir. "Hey! How did you know that I needed that? Were you listening at my door or something?"
Quickpaw stared at Sasha in disbelief. "You’ve had a chip on your shoulder from the moment that you realised that your roomie was a chakat, and yet you don’t know such a basic thing like that we’re empathic? I could feel you from all the way down the hall!"
Sasha’s inner ears reddened and shi folded them down in acute embarrassment. "Really?"
"Yes, really. I’ve never experienced anyone so sexually aroused before."
"My species has a very strong annual rut-heat period that lasts about three days."
"Kind of your mating time?"
"Yes, if you wish to reduce it to purely animalistic terms."
"We’re all animals, Sasha. Civilised ones, hopefully, but still animals." Quickpaw frowned in thought. "If this is a regular annual thing, why didn’t you have your own medications?"
Sasha looked very uncomfortable. "I… forgot it."
"You forgot it? How could you forget something that important?"
"When it only happens once a year, it tends to slip your mind," Sasha said defiantly.
"I’d still have it on my list of essentials, but oversights do happen," Quickpaw admitted. "Still, we have a hospital right here. Why not get some more?"
"Have you tried walking across the campus with a full erection and every movement inflaming your sexual desires?"
"Than ask somebody! For heaven’s sake, I’m your roomie, but you won’t even talk to me!"
"It would have been too humiliating," Sasha said sullenly.
Quickpaw rolled hir eyes and said, "Many of the morphs on this world are descended from sex slaves. Do you realise how many of them need medical intervention even in this age? That’s hardly an excuse."
"Look, I don’t want to talk about it," Sasha replied.
"You owe me, Sasha," Quickpaw pointed out.
"Oh, here it comes! So what does the chakat demand of me?" the tiger asked angrily. "Couldn’t wait for an excuse to get your hands on me, could you? I knew it!"
"What in the Makers’ names are you talking about?"
"I know about you chakats, how you always want sex and are constantly fondling everyone indecently. If you think I’m going to do that with you, think again. I want nothing to do with that."
Quickpaw gaped incredulously at Sasha, rendered speechless for a few moments. Eventually shi said, "Is that what you truly think of us?"
"I know so," Sasha affirmed.
"Then you know nothing!"
Sasha was startled. "What?"
"Look, I admit that generally speaking that we are a promiscuous species, but if you think that’s all that motivates or interests us, then you are incredibly ignorant."
That stung Sasha. "So you’re claiming that you have no desire to have sex with me? I saw how you looked at me the day you saw me come nude out of the bathroom. That wasn’t the look of someone uninterested in sex."
"So you’re one of the most physically attractive two-leggers that I have ever met," Quickpaw admitted, "but your other aspects are a total turn-off. I’ve never had the slightest desire to have sex with you. You’re rude, hostile and prejudiced. No chakat would ever be interested in you."
"That still doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t want to have sex with me if I hadn’t been hostile to you."
"Not without getting to know and like you first. We’re empaths, as I seem to have to keep reminding you. We have no desire to be intimate with anyone who doesn’t feel an attraction to us in return. It’s a complete turn-off. We never even think of sex unless the other is already willing."
"And then you’ll fuck anyone! You seem to have no sense of morals or decency."
"By whose standards? We, and many other species, reckon that we are an exceptionally tolerant and decent species."
"Who was that chakat who was here with you a few days ago?" Sasha asked suddenly.
"That was my sister, Goldfur," answered Quickpaw.
"Do you have sex with hir?"
"Not that it’s any of your business, but yes. We’ve made love several times, and I hope that we will many more times in the future."
"And you see nothing indecent or sinful in incest?" Sasha asked scornfully.
"Sinful? Is that what this is about – religious bigotry? Incest is just a word that describes sexual relationships between closely related people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with me having sex with my sister as long as we avoid conceiving a cub, which is the sole genuine reason behind avoiding incest. And while some species might have psychological reasons for not doing it, religious dogma has no relevance except for how it gets abused to screw with people’s heads."
"Ha! That’s what I’d expect to hear from an atheist like you!" Sasha snarled.
Quickpaw was getting heartily sick and tired of these accusations. "You’re crazy, you know that? Who the hell told you that I’m an atheist? Or any chakat for that matter? I know for a fact that some chakats are very religious, and yet they still can maintain chakat customs. I suppose like any other group of people, there may be atheists also, but like the majority of chakats, I’m agnostic – we believe in a god, but not in religion."
"You have no faith – that’s almost as bad."
"What religion do you follow?" Quickpaw asked.
"Russian Orthodox," Sasha replied.
"A Christian," Quickpaw observed. "What of the Hindus? The Buddhists? How about those who follow Islam? Are they also lacking faith because they follow different religions? On top of that, it never fails to amaze me how religious zealots frequently fail to practice the tenets of their own faith."
"What would you know of that?" Sasha accused.
"For starters, our family follows many of the principles of Christianity. Secondly, one of my Companions is a human who has a strong Christian faith which he is happy to expound. I don’t know how Russian Orthodox differs from the version that I’m familiar with, but I know about how Jesus was asked 'what is the greatest commandment?' and he replied 'to love God with all your heart and soul, and the second greatest is to love your neighbour as yourself.' You profess to the first while ignoring the second. You can’t pick and choose if you truly call yourself a Christian."
That really hit Sasha, and shi hesitated before saying, "Do you really believe it’s as simple as that?"
"No, I don’t, but to make any headway, you have to discuss your issues, and you start off with civility and an open mind. That’s what you owe me, Sasha, not sex."
"You just want to talk?"
Quickpaw nodded. "That’s all. I know nothing about you. When my sister asked about you, I kept having to say ‘I don’t know’. If we talked, maybe we can sort things out between us."
Sasha snorted contemptuously. "Shows what you know."
Quickpaw slammed hir fist on the table. "Exactly! I don’t know, and I’m sick of this. All I know is that you were born in Russia and moved to Greater North America when you were six."
Sasha regarded the chakat for a long moment, then sighed in resignation. "I still feel no obligation to open up to you, but as I do owe you a favour, I will tell you a few things in exchange. This does not make us friends."
Quickpaw nodded, willing to accept this as a start.
Sasha continued, "As I told you before, I was born in Arkhangelsk which is a northern township near the White Sea. Its major industries are wood, paper, microbiology, and a major genetic engineering facility. That is where my species was created, and the town has a large population of herm Amur tigers because of that.
"Amur Tiger?" Quickpaw said in a questioning tone.
"What you call Siberian Tigers. I was baptised Alexandr Evgenevich Ermakoff, but Sasha is my common name. My family moved to Coquitlam, a township just east of Vancouver. One of the things that our family learned was that over here, herms are usually named in the feminine fashion by default, and we changed our names from their masculine forms to fit in. My formal name was changed to Alexandra Evgenevna Ermakova. However, my common name is the same for both genders. My mother’s name is Valentina and my sire’s name is Evgeniya. I have two younger sisters – Ruslana who is a year younger than me, and Valeriya who is four years younger. My sire works for a transport company as a logistics manager, and my mother is a laboratory technician. I am here to study microbiology with a goal to work at that same laboratory. There – is that enough to satisfy you?"
"Well, that wasn’t exactly a conversation, but it’s a start."
"It will have to do. We’re even now," Sasha said as shi headed back to hir room.
"Sasha, one last thing…" Quickpaw said.
"Yes?" Sasha said irritably.
"If you need more of that brew, there’s some in this flask," Quickpaw said as shi held it up.
Sasha nodded acknowledgement and then went into hir room and closed the door.
"Ungrateful wretch," Quickpaw muttered to hirself. Nevertheless shi was glad that Sasha’s need had given hir the excuse to demand some information from the tight-lipped tiger.
Weeks passed that were a blur of classes, study, wet-nursing, and some precious time spent socialising. The status quo with Sasha remained the same, and Quickpaw learned nothing more new about hir until one Saturday afternoon at the Green Leaf. Silverlight and Darren had met Quickpaw for coffee as usual, and they were engrossed in conversation when Quickpaw noticed Sasha.
The Amur Tiger was chatting up someone whom Quickpaw recognised from hir own class – a Bengal Tiger named Menjula. A slow grin spread over the chakat’s face.
"What’s so funny, Quick?" Darren asked when he noticed the chakat’s expression.
"Things are about to get interesting," Quickpaw replied. "Take a look over at the bar."
Both Darren and Silverlight looked, and Darren went, "Ooh!" while Silverlight giggled.
"Our Russian friend is in for a shock," Quickpaw commented.
"Want to make a bet on how quickly it happens?" Darren asked.
"Nah! I’m just going to sit back and enjoy this."
"That’s not very nice of you, Quick."
"I don’t see you jumping up to warn hir. Besides, you know better than to believe that cliché that my kind is invariably sweetness and light."
Silverlight snickered. "Yeah, that’s for sure!"
The tigress looked very interested in Sasha’s advances. Menjula was well known to be a raging lesbian, so it was hardly surprising that she found another female tiger interesting. Of course Sasha wasn’t just female, but Menjula didn’t know that… yet.
The two tigers wandered over to a booth that was close to Quickpaw and company. Sasha had hir attention on Menjula and didn’t notice that fact, but their proximity allowed Quickpaw’s empathic Talent to get a good reading on them both. Unsurprisingly, there was a fair degree of lustfulness on the part of them both. When they were seated, Quickpaw could just see Menjula but not Sasha. Conversation seemed to be going well, and Quickpaw felt that it wouldn’t be long before the inevitable happened. Sure enough, shi felt a huge spike of outrage and disgust, and the Bengal tigress jumped to her feet.
"How dare you, you perverted sexual deviant!" she yelled. The whole pub fell quiet as all eyes focused on the two tigers. "Don’t ever come near me again, you disgusting freak!" Menjula then stormed off.
"Wow!" Silverlight said. "That was even more than I expected."
Darren replied, "Menjula was taken by surprise, which probably exacerbated her reaction."
"You’re right," Quickpaw confirmed. "She was feeling really attracted to Sasha until she learned the dreadful truth." Quickpaw got up to all fours. "’Scuse me for a moment."
Shi walked over to where Sasha was sitting, still in shock from Menjula’s extreme reaction. Quickpaw could feel hir humiliation as shi stopped in front of hir.
"It’s not so nice when people have such bigoted hateful preconceptions about you, is it?" shi asked Sasha.
The tiger looked at hir, wounded by hir words. Shi got up and rushed out of the pub without replying.
Quickpaw felt a little bad then. The drawback of the empathic Talent was that it was hard to ignore the other person’s feelings, even if they richly deserved their cause. Shi wandered back over to hir friends and said, "I’m not in the mood for this any more. I’ll catch you tomorrow."
"Okay, Quick," Silverlight replied, guessing how shi felt.
Quickpaw headed back to hir dorm room. Unsurprisingly shi found Sasha there. Despite the closed bedroom door, shi could tell that the tiger was crying. Shi tapped on the door and called out, "Sasha! Come out, please."
"Go away!" came the muffled response.
"Sasha, I’m not going away. You need to know something."
A moment later, Sasha yanked open the door. "Come to rub it in?" shi snarled.
Quickpaw shook hir head. "I made my point, and I won’t belabour it. I just thought that you should know that Menjula has a real psychological problem with males, or to be totally accurate, with penises. The first day of classes last year, she saw me before I noticed her, and she made a point of warning me not to bother her because she can’t stand herms, even more than males. You took her badly by surprise, so her reaction was more extreme."
"You think that makes up for being humiliated in front of everyone in the pub?" Sasha demanded.
"Tough! Suck it up, Sasha. If you can’t take it, then don’t dish it out. I only came to let you know the full story, not to make everything all good for you again. If you want a friendly shoulder to cry on, first you need a friend."
Quickpaw then turned and went to hir own room.
"Well fuck you very much!" the tiger yelled at hir and then slammed the door.
While Quickpaw had hoped that Sasha’s attitude towards chakats might be changed after being a victim of unreasonable prejudice hirself, Quickpaw wasn’t terribly surprised when nothing much changed afterwards. The chakat could only surmise that there was some deep-rooted reason for the resentment. The answer eventually came, but not from Sasha.
One weekend a few weeks after the incident in the pub, Quickpaw was relaxing, listening to some music while reading a novel. There was a loud knock at the door, and Quickpaw put the book down to answer it. Shi was startled to be confronted by several Amur Tigers – two adults and a teenager.
One of the adults said, "We were told that this is the dorm room of Alexandra Ermakova." Hir speech was very strongly Russian accented.
Quickpaw nodded. "It is. I’m Sasha’s roomie, Quickpaw."
"Ah, good. My name is Evgeniya Ermakova, and this is my life-mate, Valentina. We are Sasha’s parents. We are here to visit hir."
"I was unaware of your visit, but come in anyway," Quickpaw said with a little trepidation, not knowing how the parents would feel about hir. "Sasha isn’t here at the moment, although I believe that shi’s due back in about an hour."
Evgeniya smiled, a genuine feeling of pleasure at meeting hir that was completely at odds to hir daughter’s attitude. Valentina smiled too and Quickpaw ushered them in, but their daughter gave the chakat a big grin.
"Hi, I’m Valeriya, but you can call me just Lera. You’re only the second chakat that I’ve ever met. Mind if I give you a hug? You chakats like hugs, don’t you?"
Hir voice had barely a hint of a Russian accent, and Quickpaw figured it had to be because shi had spent almost hir entire life in the GNA. Shi was stunned by the difference between Lera and hir sister, Sasha. Shi blinked in surprise, and then said, "Sure! I’d like that."
Valeriya flung hir arms around Quickpaw and gave hir a quick but enthusiastic hug. Quickpaw’s empathic sense told hir that shi took genuine pleasure in meeting hir.
Evgeniya smiled indulgently at hir daughter, and Quickpaw couldn’t help grinning also.
"Can I offer you a drink? Coffee, tea or fruit juice?"
"Thank you – coffee please," Valentina replied.
"I would like coffee also," Evgeniya said.
"Got a Coke?" Valeriya asked hopefully.
"No problem," Quickpaw replied. Shi started the coffee-maker – a gift from Boyce – and then got out a can of Coke from the fridge. Shi gave the can to Valeriya and asked hir parents how they liked their coffee. Shi then proudly made them to a nearly professional standard. When they sipped their coffee, they were delighted with the result.
"This is excellent coffee," Valentina said.
"Thank you. My Companion, Boyce Kline, supplied me with both the coffee beans and the maker. Our family is rather spoiled when it comes to good coffee."
"Then you must thank your Companion on our behalf," Valentina told hir.
"I’ll do that. Anyway, is this a surprise visit, or is Sasha expecting you?"
"Shi is expecting us, but not this early," Valentina explained. "Our flight was rescheduled and we are ninety minutes early. Did shi not mention that we were coming?"
"Not a word, although I am forced to admit that we don’t talk much."
The faces of both adults fell, and Quickpaw could sense their disappointment and sympathy.
Valeriya spoke up. "Let me guess – shi’s treating you like crap?"
"Daughter! Have a little respect for your sister!" Evgeniya admonished.
Valeriya shrugged. "You know how shi is."
"I take it that you realise that shi has a problem with all my kind?" Quickpaw asked.
Evgeniya sighed. "Not so much your kind, but any species that has a liberal sexual attitude."
Quickpaw frowned in thought. "You mean that shi particularly has something against incest? I’ve managed to drag that out of hir."
Both parents looked uncomfortable at that, but the daughter laughed derisively. "Ha! Shi gets crazy nuts about that."
"Daughter!" Valentina said sternly.
"Oh, come on, Mom! Quickpaw deserves to know if shi has to put up with Sasha all year."
Valentina looked set to argue, but Evgeniya touched hir on the arm and drew hir attention. "Lera is right, and I believe a chakat would understand."
Valentina hesitated, then nodded acquiescence.
Evgeniya said, "Please be very discreet about what I am about to tell you."
Quickpaw replied, "I promise."
Evgeniya put hir arm around Valentina and said, "My beloved life-mate is also my sister."
Something clicked inside of Quickpaw’s head. "Oh! I get it now. It’s shame that motivates hir attitude."
Evgeniya nodded, and Valeriya said, "My sister is an idiot."
Valentina frowned at hir daughter. "Enough of that, Lera!"
"Oh, for heaven’s sake, mom – shi wouldn’t even exist if you two hadn’t conceived hir. None of us would, and I’m very happy to be alive, thanks!"
"It still seems to be a bit extreme a reaction though," Quickpaw commented hastily, trying to calm things down a little.
"If you make us another cup of this wonderful coffee, I will tell you our whole story while we await Sasha, if you wish," Evgeniya said.
"Evgeniya, you have a deal!" Quickpaw declared.
"Good. And please call me Zhenya. I think we will be talking of too intimate things to be too formal."
Valentina added, "And call me Valya, dear."
Quickpaw grinned as shi started hir preparations. "They call me Quick for short."
"Quick for short? You are being funny, are you not?" Valentina said.
"I sure hope so, but it’s true nevertheless," Quickpaw confirmed.
Shi soon had three mugs of coffee ready, and shi handed them out and settled down to listen to what they had to tell hir.
Evgeniya began, "We are the youngest of four children. Ours is just one of the many families of Amur tigers that live in Arkhangelsk in Russia." Shi looked at Quickpaw to see if shi recognised the name.
Quickpaw said, "I looked the place up after Sasha mentioned it."
Evgeniya continued, "Our community belongs to the Russian Orthodox religion which has accepted marriage between hermaphrodites as it does between male and female."
Quickpaw said. "I already figured out that there’s also a religious reason behind Sasha’s views."
"Correct. While marriage is acceptable, incestuous relationships are not, and Sasha is an exceptionally religious person. When shi learned the full truth about our relationship, it created a great amount of conflict within hir."
"That explains a lot, and yet it still seems insufficient."
"That could be because of the circumstances of hir conception. Sasha was not a planned child. Are you aware of our mating urge? Sasha should have had hirs while here."
Quickpaw nodded. "Yes, I know. Sasha forgot hir medication and I supplied hir with something of my own to help hir out. In fact that’s the only reason that I know anything about hir at all."
Evgeniya looked surprised. "Sasha forgot hir medication? I hope that our foolish child gained a greater appreciation of how difficult it is to control."
"I doubt it. I think that shi mostly resented that it was a chakat who helped hir when shi was in that condition," Quickpaw opined.
"You are probably right. Anyway, it was back when Valentina and I were still living with our parents. I was eighteen and shi was seventeen. We two were visiting a relative at hir home outside of town. It was winter, and there was the usual amount of snow, but the roads were always kept clear and we had no trouble getting there. Winter was a favourite time for us for we loved to play in the snow, and the open fields of our relative’s property were much nicer than the crowded streets of the city. One day while we were there, our aunt had to make a supply trip into Arkhangelsk, and shi left us by ourselves. That was not unusual – we were certainly old enough to look after ourselves for a while. Unfortunately, that day we were hit by a once in a century storm that inundated the area with massive falls of snow, and our relative was stranded in town. The snow ploughs could barely cope with keeping the main road passable, and getting the minor road out to our aunt’s property was a very low priority."
"Is that when you also went into your mating period?" Quickpaw guessed.
"Correct. We had not thought to pack the medication, but normally that would not have been a problem. It’s readily available from any pharmacy due to the whole Amur Tiger adult population needing it. Unfortunately, we could not get to a pharmacy, and our aunt was old enough not to go into rut any more, so shi did not keep any on hand either. I went into rut while Valya went into heat. We both tried ignoring it until the snow cleared, but the storm continued, delaying the ploughs still further. We were desperate by the second day, and I tried to walk out."
Valentina spoke up then. "The fool nearly got hirself killed. By the time that shi realised that shi had no hope of getting through and turned back, shi nearly froze to death. I spent a lot of time warming hir back up by rubbing hir legs and arms to get hir circulation going again, and holding hir in my arms in front of the fire. Without either of us being conscious of it, that turned into intimacy which led to us making love. By the time we regained awareness of what we were doing, it was too late."
"You were sure that you were going to get pregnant already?" Quickpaw asked.
"Intercourse during a mating period will almost always result in conception. Yes, we knew that I would be pregnant."
"So you never intended to be lovers at all?"
"No. We loved each other as sisters, but had never dreamed of having sex. That was much too contrary to our religious upbringing."
"Did you consider abortion?" Quickpaw asked gently.
Evgeniya shook hir head. "While the church views incest dimly, it is nothing compared to their aversion to abortion."
"And did you resent the cub? Did Sasha feel that shi was an unwanted child?"
"No, it was the opposite, actually. Despite the problems, we were very proud of our child. Hir birth catalysed the growing feelings between us, and we decided that we wanted to get married and be a real family. Of course the church would not marry sisters, so we formally declared ourselves mates instead, much to the dismay of our parents."
Valentina said, "Nevertheless they supported us, and they were even understanding when Zhenya decided to have a cub also. They helped to conceal the truth of our relationship from the community, but after a few years, our secret somehow got out. Pressure from both the church and the community eventually forced us to leave Arkhangelsk when Sasha was six years old. We decided to move to Greater North America where the mating laws are a lot more free and we could be legally recognised as a family."
"Yeah, but Sasha was pissed off," Valeriya commented.
"Enough! You were little more than a baby when it happened, Lera," Evgeniya scolded. To Quickpaw, shi said, "However, as our daughter so inelegantly put it, Sasha was indeed upset at the move. Shi had made some good friends that shi had to leave behind, and shi did not like being forced to being fit into a new society. Shi has always resented us for that, and then later when we told hir about the circumstances of hir birth, shi was even more angered. For some reason shi has always been an extremely religious child, far more than ourselves, so when shi realised that shi was not only the child of an incestuous union, but we hir parents had deliberately chosen to continue that relationship, shi was badly torn between hir faith and hir family."
"Now I understand," Quickpaw said. "That’s why shi doesn’t like chakats in particular. Sexual relationships between siblings isn’t unusual for us, although shi had the wrong idea about us having cubs with each other. Add to that hir strict religious stance combined with misinformation about chakat religious views, and that puts us on top of hir hate list."
Valentina said, "Sasha is a very angry young person, but shi doesn’t really hate you."
"For a chakat, it makes little difference. We feel all the negative emotions, and it wears one down over the weeks."
"We regret the distress that our daughter has caused you," Evgeniya said.
"Not your fault," Quickpaw demurred. Shi looked over to Valeriya. "Though it seems Lera is completely different."
Valeriya grinned. "I was a baby when I was brought here. I never knew what Russia was like, and I don’t give a toss that Dad and Mom are sisters. I’m cool with my life. Sasha needs that stick removed from up hir ass."
"Valeriya!" Evgeniya said in a long-suffering tone.
Valeriya was completely unabashed. "If I was a couple of years older, I’d really go for you," shi told Quickpaw.
"If you were a couple of years older, I’d enjoy the experience," Quickpaw admitted with a wink. Turning back to the parents, shi asked, "Is your second daughter like Sasha or Lera?"
Valentina said, "Shi was a bit too young to get attachments back in Russia, and Ruslana is a quiet child, not at all like Lera here."
Valeriya poked hir tongue out cheekily. "Dad and Mom have threatened to send me to stay with my grandparents for a few weeks to teach me good Russian values."
Quickpaw grinned. "You’d probably end up corrupting them."
Valeriya laughed. "Yeah, I might."
Quickpaw turned back to hir parents. "Thank you for telling me all this. It helps me a great deal in comprehending Sasha’s attitude towards me, and perhaps it will help in dealing with that."
"It was nothing compared to some of what we have had to experience. I am happy to have helped in any way," Evgeniya said.
"Could I offer you something to eat? I’m not sure how much longer Sasha will be, but I expect that it will be soon."
"No thank you. We plan to take Sasha out to lunch…."
Just then the dorm room door opened and Sasha stepped inside. Shi stopped in surprise at the sight of hir family there with Quickpaw.
"What are you doing here so soon?" shi asked in an accusatory tone.
"Our flight was rescheduled," Valentina said as shi got up to hug hir daughter.
Sasha endured the hug, but Quickpaw could feel the embarrassment and irritation flowing from hir, especially as hir father followed suit.
"We have been chatting with your room-mate while we waited," Evgeniya informed hir.
"Oh, you have, have you?" shi asked suspiciously while looking sharply at Quickpaw.
"I’ve given them drinks while we waited for you. You have very nice parents and a great sister."
Sasha grunted noncommittally.
"Come, daughter," Evgeniya said, "We have a meal to eat and lots to talk about."
Evgeniya started herding hir daughters out the door. Valentina hung back and then to Quickpaw’s surprise, leant over and gave the chakat a quick motherly kiss on the cheek. "Thank you for your understanding and forbearance." Shi then hastened to join the others.
Quickpaw stood there bemused for a moment before shi closed the door. Shi had much to think about.
Sasha did not return until early evening. Quickpaw was still there, reading hir book. Shi looked up and asked, "Did you and your folks enjoy yourselves?"
"What business is it of yours?" Sasha snapped.
"Your parents and sister were polite and friendly enough to talk about their past. I now understand why you don’t like me."
"My parents should not talk so much!" Sasha said angrily.
"And you should stop being such a selfish, ungrateful baby!" Quickpaw shot back.
"Who do you think you are, passing judgement on me?" Sasha demanded.
"I’m the person who has never done anything to you, yet you treat like shit. I’m the person your parents confided in because they sympathised with me. I’m the one who can see that you have never done anything but put yourself first your whole life!" Quickpaw growled at hir.
"You have no idea what I’ve been through!" Sasha yelled back.
"Like hell I don’t!" Quickpaw shouted back. "While your parents talked, I sensed their love and their desperation, their concerns, their hopes and their fears. They did their very best for the good of you and the family. When I talk with you, all I ever sense is self-interest, contempt and self-loathing. You have a wonderful thing with your parents and sisters, but all you ever do is twist it with your hate."
Sasha stalked over to Quickpaw, hir fangs bared and claws extended, and shi loomed over the chakat as shi hissed, "How dare you?!"
While this was meant to be intimidating, nevertheless it was a mistake. While the tiger was many centimetres taller than the chakat, that was only because much of Quickpaw’s body was horizontal in the taur fashion. Shi reared up onto hir hind legs, and it was hir turn to loom over the tiger, hir paw-hand claws fully extended. Chakats also massed a lot more than any tiger morph. Sasha was outweighed, smaller, and had two limbs less. Quickpaw snarled back at hir, "Let me tell you one more misconception that you might have about chakats – we may not like fighting, but we’re very good at it when we do!"
Sasha glared up at Quickpaw, seething with anger. Quickpaw could sense hir considering hir options, and the chakat was ready to defend hirself at an instant’s notice.
Instead, shi was shocked when Sasha burst into laughter. Quickpaw allowed hirself to sink back onto all four paws as Sasha backed off. The tiger went over to the couch and slumped heavily upon it.
"Well said, chakat," Sasha said. "You are the first person who has ever stood up to me so determinedly. If my parents have any real fault, it is that they are too kind and lenient with me."
"You’re aware of your shortcomings?" Quickpaw asked suspiciously, not yet ready to believe that shi had won this battle of wills.
"Ha! I haven’t liked myself for years. How could I not be aware?"
"Then what’s to stop you from changing? Do you like being unhappy?"
"No, but I am conflicted. I can respect you, but I still don’t like some of the things that you represent. That remains true of my parents also."
"I have news for you, Sasha – that’s true of just about everyone. I hate Doctor Sanglin, one of my lecturers, but I respect him because he’s a very good teacher. I love my best friends, Darren and Silverlight, but he has too quick a temper, and she frequently goes way too far with teasing. Their good qualities far outweigh their bad though. Ask them, and I’m sure that they’ll be able to tell you what they don’t like about me. Nobody’s perfect, Sasha – not me, not you, not your parents, but you’re never going to be happy until you confront those things that conflict with you and deal with them."
Sasha grimaced. "More easily said than done."
"Yeah, but you have to start somewhere."
"I bet I know one thing that your friends don’t like about you," Sasha said.
Quickpaw arched an eyebrow. "Oh? What?"
"You’re too preachy!"
Quickpaw laughed. "Perhaps. My sisters are worse. Anyway, that’s my cue to shut up. Would you like some coffee?"
Sasha nodded. "Yeah. I think I could do with some. Do you think that you could make it with that nice milk that you keep in the jug?"
Quickpaw stifled a giggle. "Sure! You like that stuff?" shi asked as shi got the coffee-making process under way.
"Yes. I tried it once when I ran out of my own supply. It has a unique and pleasant taste. I hope that you don’t mind that I’ve been using a bit?"
"Not at all. If I had, I would have said something ages ago."
"What kind of milk is that? I’ve drunk goat’s milk, and it’s nothing like that."
Quickpaw heated the milk as the coffee brewed. "It is a special milk that is high in vitamins and has a very creamy texture. I use it in everything from coffee to breakfast cereal. However, it’s in limited supply."
"I didn’t realise, sorry," Sasha said in hir most contrite tone yet.
"I really don’t mind," Quickpaw assured hir as shi poured the milk into two coffee cups. Shi then carried them over to the coffee table and put one in front of Sasha who picked it up and sniffed it.
"It smells delightful," shi said.
"Did you want sugar?" Quickpaw offered.
"No, thanks." Shi took a sip. "Perfect! You still haven’t told me what kind of milk it is though."
"Silly me," Quickpaw said. ""It’s A-grade chakat milk."
Sasha practically snorted the coffee out of hir nose. "What?! You’re kidding me?"
Quickpaw grinned. "Nope. I’m a wet nurse, and any milk that I have left over at the end of the day, I pump out and put into that jug. You’ve been drinking my breast milk for weeks."
Sasha shook hir head ruefully. "That will teach me not to touch other people’s stuff. You really got me there, Quickpaw. You know I’m going to have to get even with you for this?" shi asked with a wicked grin.
"You can try!" Quickpaw challenged.
"You bet I will!" Sasha declared, then sipped more of hir hot brew. "In the meantime, I think I’m going to enjoy this. You make good coffee."
"Thank you. I’m thinking of calling it Café au Chakat."
"How about Café Chakaté?" suggested Sasha.
"It has possibilities," admitted Quickpaw.
And so their friendship finally started, as many do, over a cup of coffee.
Of course it wasn’t quite as smooth as that. Over the following weeks there were several bumps in the road to friendship, some leading to arguments. None however were as heated as that first time. Quickpaw adjusted what shi could so as not to aggravate Sasha, and the tiger learned to tolerate the chakat’s ways even if shi did not agree with them.
At the end of the year, just before Quickpaw was going home for the Christmas holidays, the chakat was sitting in the Green Leaf with Darren, Silverlight and Peter, chatting amiably. Quickpaw had been watching the door, and shi noticed when Sasha walked in, dressed to impress. Quickpaw said to hir friends, "Sasha’s here. Looks like our night out can begin."
Silverlight turned and waved to Sasha who waved back and headed their way.
Quickpaw had realised that Sasha still needed companionship, but there didn’t seem to be any other tigers at the college besides Menjula. However, the chakat had sensed the growing attraction that hir friends had for Sasha, although they hadn’t publicly admitted it. Quickpaw had taken a leaf from Forestwalker’s book and had practically shoved them together.
"Sasha," shi said, "these guys have the hots for you. Don’t let Silver get away with trying to tease you." Shi then left the dumbfounded trio alone. Surprisingly it had worked, and the threesome frequently spent time together.
"Are you ready to go?" Sasha asked as shi reached their table. Shi was stunningly dressed in formal hermwear.
"I sure am," Silverlight replied. Shi drank the dregs of her coffee and got up. The vixen was equally well dressed, and both looked out of place in the pub. In fact, all five were dressed for a night on the town to celebrate the end of the college year and good exam results. The pub just happened to be a convenient rendezvous point for them all.
"I’ve got a table for five booked for seven o’clock, so we had better get moving," Quickpaw said. Shi put hir arm about Peter’s waist and he put his around hir shoulders, then they led the way out to the public PTV rank. Sasha put hir arms around both Darren and Silverlight, and they followed the others out to begin their evening.
It was a pity that they had not stayed five minutes longer, as a petite Siamese patterned chakat stepped into the pub, looking for company. Chakat Blackear had come to check out the college before actually starting tuition there next semester. Shi had narrowly missed encountering the calico chakat on several occasions, and as fate would have it, that trend would continue for all the following year – two kindred souls oblivious to each other.
Carol & the "Gulp 'n Gallop" are the creations of Roy D. Pounds II and are used with permission.
Darren, Silverlight, and Blackear are the creations of Christian Neumann and are used with permission.
All other characters and this story are © 2009 Bernard Doove.
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