A FOREST TALE 17:  Transformations - Part Two
By Bernard Doove © 2001

Dale woke from a marvellous dream, one of those that you can't remember but know that everything is just perfect. He stretched languorously, all limbs extended, getting the kinks out after a long sleep. It felt so pleasant to just take his time and feel his body awaken. He took the time to take pleasure in the sensation of curling his fingers and toes, claws fully extended, stretching his arms, his forelegs, hind legs… HIND LEGS???!!!

Dale's eyes flew open; a half-strangled yelp coming from his throat before the memories of the previous day's events came back to him. His hearts thumping, he breathed deeply, trying to regain self-control. After about a minute, he started taking stock of himself. No, he hadn't dreamed about the accident that had befallen him. This wasn't even a nightmare. This was a very harsh reality. Yes, he was still trapped in the unfamiliar body of a chakat. Then he remembered the stretch and how, for a few brief seconds, he could feel every part of his new form, and knew with a strange impossible familiarity where everything was and how it worked. He attempted to get up and half-succeeded. Unfortunately, that fleeting knowledge had not miraculously given him the ability to cope with his new form, but it did seem to have helped a bit. He closed his eyes and tried to recapture those moments of stretching and how the muscles felt as he used them. He then tried again, this time getting to all fours with almost creditable smoothness.

"Another step in the right direction," he murmured to himself. "I'll get used to this yet!" He straightened out the T-shirt he was still wearing, grunting in resignation at the sight and feel of his breasts restricting the movement. Then his long hair fell in front of his eyes and he grabbed a brush from the chest of drawers next to the bed and tried to tame it, grumbling and wondering why anyone would want to put up with hair that was waist-long. As he was doing so, he caught sight of his reflection. A full-length mirror adorned the door of the wardrobe and Dale could not resist the urge to look at himself. It wasn't as if he didn't know what he looked like because he was now Goldfur's exact double, but looking at hir just wasn't the same. He took his time examining the new form that an amazing accident had bestowed upon him. A cougar taur stared back at him from the mirror. The lower torso was that of a powerfully built feline, not too different from that of one of the big hunting cats, although a little longer in the legs. The tail was exceptionally long though, and prehensile as well. Dale waved it a bit, proud of his mastery of that little feat. The paws on the forelegs had exceptionally long digits, capable of acting as another pair of strong, though crude, hands. The upper torso was very humanoid in shape, although still covered in the dense golden brown fur that gave his doppelganger hir name. The upper torso was joined to the lower torso at about where the neck should otherwise be. The head was plainly feline, with a broad, powerful muzzle full of dangerous-looking teeth, and above the muzzle was a pretty pair of bright gold-green eyes. The whole lot was topped with human-like light golden hair which he was forced to admit looked really attractive at that length. All up, it was a very good-looking body, but one thing kept making him uncomfortable. Or should he say two things? He pulled off the T-shirt, put his hands on the generously sized breasts and hefted them a little. They were very firm and he judged that they were also very milk-filled, in need of emptying once again. Any female would be proud to have these breasts, although Dale's preferences tended towards a size smaller. The problem was that Dale wasn't a female. Until yesterday, he had been an average human male quite satisfied with his current body. Now he was stuck with a new form, one that had the wrong sexual equipment, the wrong number of limbs, and the wrong reflexes to use them.

Dale suddenly realised that he was still staring at his tits, startled to find that he was turning himself on! He dropped his hands and tore his eyes off the image before him. However, the stirring in his loins was not so easily quelled. He tried to clear his mind but it seemed chakat bodies were even more sexually responsive than humans and he had no real success, so instead he gave up and decided to check this out properly while he had privacy. "Well, Forest did say to look at the more positive aspects of the situation, so let's see what I'm like in the male department." He manoeuvred himself in front of the mirror then, with some difficulty, lifted the hind leg nearest to his reflection. The sight that greeted his eyes made him gasp. His penis had quickly swollen and slid out of its sheath, once again in plain sight. This time though, he could see it, not just feel it. He had not realised that chakats were so… large! The exposed shaft was very human-like despite being adapted for a sheath, only a little longer than the average human's, but it was at least half again as thick. "Must be in proportion to their larger body mass, I suppose," he said wonderingly. He sure didn't feel short-changed with this studly cock! For the first time since getting this body, he felt good about something. "I think that ought to please the ladies," he said confidently.

"I know that it's given me a good deal of pleasure," came a husky female voice from behind him.

Dale whirled around, mortified at having been caught out like that. He saw the lean form of a female wolftaur, Lupu, leaning against the doorway, grinning ear to ear. "How long have you been there?" he demanded.

"Long enough to see you get all excited and put on a show for me," Lupu replied, a small smirk on her face. That expression was instantly wiped from her face as the hairbrush hurtled at her and she had to duck to avoid it.

"GET OUT!" Dale roared at her, his shame, uncertainty and fear all combining to crack his self-control.

"But, I just…" Lupu tried to begin, then beat a hasty retreat as she saw him reach for the bed lamp. She closed the door protectively behind her and Dale just stood there staring at it for several long seconds, the lamp still in his hand. Then with a cry of anguish, he threw it aside and collapsed onto the mattress and started bawling in huge, racking sobs.

Both Forestwalker and Goldfur came bounding up to Dale's bedroom, only to be stopped by Lupu. "What's going on in there?" demanded Goldfur.

"I made a bad mistake," Lupu admitted. "I think it's best if we just leave Dale alone for a little while. Please let me deal with this. I want to try to undo my blunder."

Forestwalker said, "Shi's radiating enough misery to upset any chakat within range. You'd better get hir calmed down soon."

"I know! I know! I think Dale just needs to get all this out of his system. He was very restrained last night, but it's only just really hit him this morning. I triggered it off with my ill-timed arrival and words, but I reckon that he'll be ready to listen again soon."

The chakats noticed how Lupu kept referring to Dale as ‘he' while they had continued to use the herm pronouns. Both wondered about this but neither could think of a reason for her to stop doing so. Goldfur nodded to Lupu. "Okay, but remember that shi has to see some Star Corps people today and shi needs to be ready for their arrival. I don't think it will be very productive if shi spends all hir time crying and moping. We need to get hir feeling better about hir situation."

"I know that, Goldie. It's not exactly easy though. Give me some time and I think I can manage though," Lupu said determinedly.

Goldfur was about to add something more when Forestwalker put a hand on hir arm. A moment of understanding passed between them, then Forest said, "Go for it, Lupu. Call us if you need help, but we'll leave him with you for now."

Lupu smiled gratefully. "Thanks! You won't be sorry."

It was another twenty minutes though before Lupu timidly knocked on Dale's door. By now, Dale had cried himself out and was merely wallowing in self-pity. He was completely uncaring about anything and he barely roused himself out of his apathy long enough to say "Come in!" just so the annoying knocking would stop.

Lupu peered cautiously inside, then entered when she realised that she wasn't going to be assaulted. Stopping by the bedding, she gave Dale an appraising look, then said, "I'm very sorry, Dale. I realise now that I made a mistake. I keep forgetting that you're basically still human, despite your body, and you aren't used to our informal ways. Or my blunt manner either."

Dale merely grunted, barely acknowledging her words. Lupu decided that at least he didn't seem likely to throw another fit, so she persisted. "It hadn't been my intention to spy on you, so what I saw was completely accidental. However, it's not as if I haven't seen it all before many times. It's just your innocent reaction to it all that fascinated me. Believe me, you have nothing to be ashamed of. If I had a new body, I'd want to explore it too."

Just when Lupu was about to give up on expecting a reply, Dale murmured, "Why did you come, Lupu? I was expecting to be left in peace until I was ready."

Lupu was relieved. "We have left you in peace! You've been asleep for nearly twelve hours and slept half the morning away. I just came by to see if you'd woken yet, and I arrived just as you… well, you know. I should have knocked; I realise that now. I'm just too used to moving freely throughout the den without having to worry about that sort of thing." A loud gurgling from Dale's stomach interrupted Lupu. "I was supposed to tell you that it's the last chance to grab breakfast. I don't think I need to ask if you're hungry.

Again Dale remained quiet for a long period before he replied. "It seems my body is going to fight me even over this. *Sigh* What about the… er… milk situation?"

Lupu held up the box she had under her arm. "I thought of that. The breast pump equipment is in here. Set yourself up like we did last night. I'm sure you can manage by yourself, so I'll let you have the privacy you need. In the meantime, I'll arrange some breakfast for you." With that, Lupu trotted out of the room, leaving Dale distracted by the task of relieving himself of the mother's milk his breasts had produced overnight. Lupu knew that there would have to be more work done to get Dale back into a positive frame of mind, but at least this was a start.

When Dale finally showed up in the kitchen, Lupu had his breakfast ready. "Park your butt at the table and I'll serve you a meal to keep you going all day!" she said with a smile and served up a large helping of scrambled eggs on toast with plenty of bacon and a huge mug of tea to help wash it down.

"I can't possibly eat all that!" Dale protested, then surprised himself by finishing it all quite easily, feeling the better for it.

Lupu noticed that Dale seemed to have far less difficulty getting about this morning and was pleased that he seemed to be adapting. She was also relieved that he seemed to have gotten over the worst of his attack of depression. She speculated that it might be his chakat physiology influencing him. She took away the dirty plates and cutlery, then sat down next to Dale. "I want to say again how sorry I am for the incident in your room. I never intended to cause you any embarrassment. In fact, I'd like to get to know you a bit better."

Dale quirked an eyebrow at her. "Why?" he simply asked.

Lupu looked a little disconcerted. "I'm not really sure. I mean, I'm a pretty sociable person normally, but I find you in particular rather interesting."

"Not often you get a freak like me, hey?"

"No! That's not what I meant. Dale, I admit that your resemblance to Goldfur has something to do with it, but I've felt something more than that since I gave you that hug yesterday, before I knew who you were. I mean, it was like something lit up inside of me. Why do you think I've been trying to help you so much?"

Dale couldn't think of an answer to that, so he just shook his head.

Lupu snorted exasperatedly. "Oh, come on! Surely you felt something?"

"You mean aside from getting an erection?"

"Of course I mean aside from that! Oh, forget it!" Lupu felt frustrated. She wanted to get to know a little bit more about Dale's background so that she could help him. She also found herself drawn to him in a way that she had only experienced with Goldfur before, something that disconcerted her because she didn't know the reason why. She was racking her brains for another way to approach the subject when Goldfur entered the room with Stonefur in tow.

"Good morning, sleepyhead!" shi greeted hir guest brightly. I hope you're feeling better now, taking present circumstances into account?"

"I'm feeling fine, I guess," Dale replied. "Ummm, what do I do with this?" he asked, holding up the container of milk he'd recently relieved himself of.

"Put it in the fridge to cool, of course." Goldfur took the jug from Dale's hands and did just that, pulling out another similar one and pouring the contents into a mug, then handing it to hir cub. Stonefur started drinking it thirstily.

Dale stared, then stuttered, "You… you mean… that's… my milk shi's drinking?"

Goldfur looked at him curiously. "Of course! You don't think we tipped out good milk, do you? We certainly don't buy cow's milk when fresh chakat milk is available. Not only is it tastier, but it's better for cubs than cow's milk."

Dale gaped, his mind a mass of confused emotions. He couldn't refute Goldfur's logic, but even so he found it very hard to accept the concept of children drinking milk that had come from his body.

Goldfur sensed his state of mind and tried to allay his worries. "I suppose I should have realised that you might not have expected that, but providing our spare milk to the cubs is completely normal for us. If I wasn't nursing a cub already, I'd be feeding that to any of the other older cubs too. Don't let your unfamiliarity with your new body and our customs disturb you. It's a completely natural thing. Heck, even humans do that!"

Dale forced a grin. "You're right of course, but I'm going to get this weird picture in my mind every time I empty these things," he said, indicating his breasts. He then took his mind off the subject and concentrated on finishing his mug of tea instead. Goldfur wisely decided that the subject was closed and moved on with the task shi was doing before the incident. When Dale was finished, he leaned back on his haunches with a sigh of satisfaction.

Lupu was about to try initiating a conversation again when the comm started beeping. With a sigh of resignation, she went to answer it. Dale could hear her speaking with another female voice which sounded familiar and he got up and started heading for the comm, only to be met halfway by Lupu with a troubled look on her face. "It's your girlfriend, Sharon. She was informed about your accident and now wants to talk with you."

Dale was both eager and hesitant to talk to Sharon. He enjoyed spending time with her when he was in port, but frankly didn't know how she was going to take his present circumstances. Still, just standing there wasn't going to help him, so he went to the comm to talk with her. He recognised her image on the screen before she realised that the approaching chakat was going to be talking to her. "Hello, Sharon. It's good to see you."

"Dale?" she asked incredulously.

"In the transformed flesh, believe it or not. I know it's hard to comprehend, but underneath this fur is the same Dale that you've always known."

Sharon looked shaken. After a long pause, she said, "The people at the Star Corps had told me that you had been in a transporter accident and been transformed, but I didn't quite believe them until now. I'm still have difficulty believing." Her expression looked strained, repressing feelings that this situation evoked.

Dale looked grim. "If that's how you feel, think how this must be affecting me. I've been swept up in events since it happened yesterday. I'm glad to see a familiar face at last. Do you think you can come over and talk for a while?"

Sharon's mouth opened as if to say something, but then she just stood there, a panicked look on her face. After a lengthy interlude where Dale was beginning to think that she wasn't going to say anything, she started shaking her head in denial. "No. No, I just can't deal with this. My Dale is a human, not this furry pretending to be him!"

Stunned, Dale began to protest, "But it is me! I can prove it. Ask me anything!"

"NO! I don't care what you say! Even if part of you was once Dale, you're not my boyfriend now! You don't think I'm going out with a freak like you, do you? Don't call me again!" With that, Sharon switched off, leaving Dale staring at a ‘Caller has disconnected' message.

Dale just stood there, absolutely shocked to the core. His mind refused to work. He had seen a potential island of stability, only to have it disappear forever. The word ‘freak' echoed through his thoughts over and over again. He stood rooted to the spot until finally Lupu came over and switched off the comm's screen. It was like turning off Dale also. He sank to the floor in shock. Lupu settled down next to him and drew him into a consoling hug. Without even thinking about it, Dale allowed himself to be gathered in her arms. After a short time, she felt the tears begin and silent sobs made his body shudder. Lupu waited until she felt the crying ease up before attempting to say anything.

"Forgive me if I seem to have been eavesdropping, Dale, but I couldn't help but hear what happened. We wolftaurs have good hearing, you know. I didn't know your girlfriend was a furphobe."

"Neither did I… until now," Dale eventually replied.

Encouraged that he was at least responding, Lupu persisted to try to draw him out of his misery and deal with his setback. "You didn't realise this after going with her for several months? How couldn't you? From the moment that I answered the comm, her attitude struck me like that."

"Don't you see? After losing Mary-Anne to Star Fleet, I wanted to have someone as normal as possible, someone who wouldn't give a damn if I worked in space. Someone who wouldn't remind me of Mary-Anne. I never brought up my past, and avoiding any reminder of it was okay by me. I didn't realise that she was avoiding morphs for any other reason simply because I didn't want to see!"

"I'm sorry that this had to happen right now, just when you most needed someone at your side. I can help you there, if you'll let me," Lupu said earnestly.

Dale shrugged his shoulders uncaringly. "Why not? Things can't get much worse from here. What did you have in mind?"

Lupu surged to her feet and began to tug Dale to his too. "Nothing fancy. I just want to talk. Get to know the real Dale."

"Didn't I tell you enough last night?" he asked.

"Hmmph! I heard mostly about your travels. I don't want a travelogue; I want a biography!"

"Is that all?" he asked sarcastically, then shook his head. "Sorry, I didn't mean that. Okay, if that's what you want, I'll see what I can do to cure your curiosity. You sure you don't have any feline blood in you?" He gave her a quizzical look, arching an eyebrow.

"Curious as a cat, you reckon? No, but I'm a female, the next best thing!" Lupu grinned broadly at him.

Dale almost smiled at that and allowed himself to be led off to the living room where Lupu parked him on a lounging rug, then settled down in front of him. "Where do you want me to start?" he asked.

"Oh… tell me about your parents and your teenage years."

"That's going way back. Oh well, if that's what you want. My parents have farming in their veins. They grew wheat and other grain on a very large property in New South Wales. Aside from the occasional drought, they did very well and we never lacked for anything. They had only two children, and I'm the younger of two boys. My brother, Nick, was a chip off the old block and took to farming enthusiastically, whereas I was a bit of a dreamer and wanted to travel. I had the exploring bug and would spend hours looking into every corner of our property. When I wasn't out in the fields, I had my nose in a book, looking up some peculiar insect that I found, or an interesting rock."

"So your career with the Star Corps basically started as a childhood hobby?"

"Yeah, I suppose so. Anyway, I certainly wasn't much interested in the farming. I knew that Nick would inherit the farm, not just because he was the eldest, but because that lifestyle was in his blood but not in mine. As I got older, I got more and more dissatisfied with the small town life. It was my relationship with Mary-Anne that helped me through those days. We found that we shared the same interests in discovering things, trying to find out what they were and whether they were useful. She saved me from getting bored out of my mind, and later she confessed that I did the same for her. You can gather that the social life in that township was pretty much non-existent."

"Obviously! But didn't you do some more typically boy/girl stuff? You couldn't have been a pair of bookworms, could you?"

"Hell, no! She liked traipsing over the countryside with me, but we also liked to spend time playing our music collections. For some reason she liked the old late twentieth century stuff, and it wasn't long before I acquired a taste for it too. Ever hear of Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, or The Rolling Stones?"

Lupu shrugged helplessly, totally ignorant of what he was talking about.

Dale looked slightly disappointed. "I suppose it's an acquired taste. Anyway, we'd also go out to the movies, go out to restaurants together, and other stuff that lovers might do. Her departure to Star Fleet Academy was a huge blow to me. The last straw though was when my parents announced that they were leaving the farm in the hands of Nick and going to Mars to join the colony there. They were always eager for a challenge. I just hadn't realised that they would go for such a big one! However, while I wanted to see Mars, I didn't want to live there."

"Didn't your parents consult you on that decision? Or did they just shove it on you?"

"Oh, they'd mentioned the possibility before, but I'd never taken it seriously. It stunned me when it was clear that they weren't kidding. When I asked them what they expected me to do, they basically told me that I was old enough to make my own decisions and choose my own path. Seeing as I couldn't join Mary-Anne at the Academy though, I chose the Star Corps as a means of achieving my goals. I trained as a planetary surveyor, a job that required a broad range of skills rather than the specialist ones that required the higher marks that would have gotten me into Star Fleet. Since I graduated, I've been flitting around the stars and seeing what I can see. I love being out in the field, and I have even lived off the land in a few places. Not too unlike your wolftaur pack, I suppose, though there are times when I wished I could have had your fur to keep me warm!"

Lupu grinned at this. "I can imagine. Humans are so vulnerable! You know, you're much better equipped now to spend life on the move. In fact, you'd probably fit in well in a pack."

Dale grimaced. "Maybe so, but it hasn't exactly been in my plans. Anyway, I visit my parents occasionally, but I base myself in a small house on the outskirts of the suburbs. I suppose growing up on the farm made me prefer having elbow-room. I met Sharon fairly recently on one of my shore leaves. She helped fill that void left by Mary-Anne, but obviously I never really got to know her too well. The rest of my life story is pretty dull though, aside from the travel adventures that I told you about last night. Would you like me to tell you about a few more of those?"

"Perhaps later. I find it hard to believe that your life can be summed up in so few sentences though."

"I already said that I my life was pretty dull. Why don't you tell me about yourself instead? How did a wolftaur, a species renowned for living in packs isolated from almost everyone, end up being part of a chakat family?"

Lupu was a bit startled. She hadn't anticipated him turning the tables on her. She was a private person and didn't talk about her past too much. After thinking about it for a moment though, she decided to tell him. "I've not told all these details to everyone, but I think I can trust you, and you deserve to know after telling me about yourself. I'm the youngest of three daughters born to the alpha male and female of my pack, the Eshcranel. While that didn't automatically give us a greater status amongst the pack, it was still quite an advantage."

"Don't you have any brothers?" Dale asked curiously.

"Oh yes, I have three of them. However, they don't have a significant role in what I'm about to tell you. My oldest sister, Clelna, earned her status, and was looking likely to be a successor to the alpha female, our mother, when she stepped down. That would not be for a long while yet, but in the meantime Clelna honed her hunting and leadership skills. I was not the hunting type, but I had learned a few skills that were valuable about the pack. I especially liked working with the leather that the hunters provided from the skins of their kills. I was popular amongst the other members of the pack and was content to take my place behind my oldest sister. Our middle sister though, although a reasonably good hunter, did not enjoy the same popularity. Umfay seemed to delight in gaining advantage by cunning or trickery, rather than more straightforward methods. She had her adherents also, but she would never be popular enough to displace us. It seemed that our destinies were pretty much written. Then one day, my Clelna was found dead. That it was murder was never in doubt because they even found the weapon, conveniently left next to the corpse. It was a knife, one that I used for my leatherwork. Of course, that threw suspicion directly onto me."

Dale looked shocked. "The pack thought you were trying to gain the top spot by assassination?"

Lupu nodded glumly. "Yes, that was the first thing some of them thought of, yet many realised that I simply did not have this ambition. And also, the knife was circumstantial evidence. Anyone could have taken and used it. A few precautions to avoid having their scent on it, and the strong smells associated with working with leather would drown out any other scents but that of the person who used it constantly: me. Of course, some people thought of the possibility of my Umfay having done the deed, especially considering her nature, but she had a number of people to give her an alibi, while I did not. My father was forced into the unenviable position of having to judge me. His decision was that there was insufficient evidence to blame me for the murder, but inevitably this still weakened his position with the pack. Some felt he was too lenient because I was his daughter. Others had already condemned me on the strength of the use of my knife alone. My life was ruined either way. I was too young yet to have authority, my status was compromised, and trust in me had dropped considerably. My life in the pack became miserable. Eventually I chose to leave rather than endure the taunts and accusations."

"Wait a minute!" Dale interjected. "Isn't it obvious that this was all planned? With your sister dead, your status destroyed, and the alpha male's position compromised, that could cause a leadership spill."

"Of course. It shouldn't be a surprise to you that one young ambitious male with high ranking was one of my sister's supporters. If he could wrest the control of the pack from my father, he'd become alpha male, and Umfay could become alpha female."

"Then what happened? Why are you here now? Why wasn't Umfay hounded as badly?"

"You don't fully understand wolftaurs. We're always jockeying for position within the pack. Members are always striving to increase their status, and the position of alpha is always under threat. This is an expected part of our way of life, and it certainly isn't unacceptable for us. My sister may be extremely ambitious, but that isn't wrong in the eyes of a wolftaur. Murder is though, but the only one that could be directly linked with that was me. So I bore the brunt of it until I couldn't do so any more. I also did not want my father to suffer the consequences either, so I asked him to expel me from the pack."

"What? You mean you can never go back?"

"No. It was not complete banishment. In fact I have been back recently in an effort to regain my place in the pack. I'll be going back again soon to pursue that goal. However, by expelling me, Chrisen, my father, reconsolidated his position. He had managed to hang onto the position of alpha despite what had happened because he's an unusually strong person, both mentally and physically, but this move stabilised the whole pack by bringing some sort of acceptable resolution to the crisis."

"I see. And how did you end up with Goldfur?"

Lupu looked a little embarrassed. "As I said, I wasn't much into hunting. In fact, after I was expelled, I came close to starving because I wasn't skilled at it. I did have one stroke of fortune though. At the time, my pack was camped not too far away from the village of the Mountain Glade foxtaur clan. When I stumbled upon their community, I was too proud to ask for food though, so I took to raiding for it. The foxtaurs don't lock their doors, so I had ready access to their kitchens and pantries."

"So, rather than beg for food, you became a thief? How did that satisfy your pride?"

Lupu looked genuinely ashamed now. "It's easier to justify yourself when you don't have to come face to face with anybody. Anyway, it turns out that I wasn't too good at that either however. I made too much noise, and was caught one evening when someone heard me and came out to investigate. That someone was Goldfur. I might have gotten away if I hadn't been so surprised by seeing a chakat for the first time. I certainly didn't know their capabilities, especially that prehensile tail. After shi lassoed my legs and I fell flat on my face, shi waited for me to calm down and invited me to dinner. Ha! I still can't believe it. Just like that, shi took me in. Now I realise that it was hir empathic sense that told hir much about me, as well as my skin and bones physique, but then I was left wondering why anyone would take a thief into their family. Shi didn't even tell hir foxtaur relatives that I had been stealing food, only that I was a friend in need whom shi had invited over for a meal. I stuffed myself until I was nearly ill, and even then Goldfur saw to it that I had somewhere to sleep it off."

"That sure sounds like something shi'd do, considering what shi did for me. Shi didn't hesitate a moment to try helping me out either. I knew the chakats tend to be sociable and helpful, but it seems that goes deeper than I originally realised. Must have come as a bit of a shock to you though, having no experience with them before."

"You got that right! If someone had come raiding my pack's supplies, they might have been ripped apart! Instead, she fed me and gave me shelter. Heh! Shi even made me take a bath, and saw to it personally. That's also when I learned that shi's a hermaphrodite, a concept that I hadn't even heard of before, but I was immediately fascinated. Shi contained all the qualities of both my father and my mother rolled into one. I found this extremely attractive and I wanted to stick around to learn more. Goldfur offered me a deal. If I would take on cub-minding and other duties to free up hir time, I could stay on with hir family. I don't think either of us counted on me falling in love with hir."

"I find it surprising that you fell in love so quickly. You sure that it wasn't just a case of hero-worship?" Dale asked thoughtfully.

"I wasn't sure either when I offered Goldfur a cub in gratitude, but I don't regret that decision. We weren't sure that I'd get pregnant though, but it turns out that many taurs have some degree of compatibility. However, shi wouldn't accept without formalising the relationship. Unlike the wolftaur pack where the alphas have full breeding privileges with any other member of the pack, chakats won't have children with anyone unless they are a declared mate, even when they are the alpha of their family like Goldfur is. It startled me when shi asked me to become hir den-mate, but I happily accepted. I proudly bore hir twins."

Dale frowned in puzzlement. "Twins? I don't recall seeing a second besides Stonefur."

Lupu looked infinitely sad for a moment before she shook herself and turned the memory away. "Greypaw was killed in the Humans First riot last year."

"Oh! I'm so sorry, Lupu!"

"It's okay, Dale. I'll always miss my cub, but I've mostly put that behind me now."

"Does it give you any problems that I am… was a human?"

"No, dear. I have some very good human friends, and I certainly don't blame all humans for the acts of some bigoted fools. Anyway, you've been hurt by those same people."

"Huh? How do you mean?"

Lupu looked surprised for a moment, then the realisation dawned. "Oh! You never heard the news. The Humans First movement has been blamed for the sabotage of the transporter. The Star Corps is one of the biggest targets for these terrorists due to the large number of morphs employed by them."

Conflicting emotions consumed Dale. He felt rage because this had been a deliberate act of sabotage that had resulted in his plight, but also shame that it had been his own kind that had perpetrated this heinous act. Then there was the irony that the only one that they had managed to directly harm was a fellow human! Dale trembled for several seconds while Lupu watched him with concern, then he visibly deflated. All his anger and humiliation helped him not one bit, and so he tried his best to calm himself. Eventually he regained control, and he turned to Lupu and said, "Thank you for telling me this, Lupu."

Lupu nodded. "Now that you've heard my story, perhaps you can tell me more about you?"

Dale was glad to get his mind off the latest revelation. "I suppose that's only fair, but I really don't know what I could tell you. My life was dead boring in comparison. I mean, that's why I left the farm life in the first place, because it was so dull. Maybe you'd like to hear more about my travels?" he asked hopefully.

Lupu was going to ask him instead for more details about what he and Mary-Anne found interesting to do together, when Forestwalker walked into the room.

"Ah! There you are! I just wanted to warn you that a couple of Star Corps specialists are going to be arriving soon. We called them earlier this morning to tell them that you were sleeping soundly and we didn't want to disturb you, so they deferred their visit until a little later. However, they couldn't let it go too long or they wouldn't make it today, so they're actually due any moment."

"Thanks, Forest. I should have remembered that they were going to send some people to see me. Umm, there's one other thing that you could help me with…"

Forestwalker immediately realised what he meant. "Okay. Do you want to attend to it now?"

Dale nodded, getting up onto all four paws. He turned to Lupu and said, "Thanks for the talk, Lupu. You've helped me a lot, believe me."

"You're welcome, Dale," she replied with a smile.

Dale then left with Forestwalker, declining the offer of support, preferring instead to practice walking on his own. They made their way to the bathroom where Forestwalker helped him out again.

While he had been assuaging his hunger and talking with Lupu, the household had been going about its normal activities. Trina could be found hard at work on one of her architectural projects. Goldfur had been going over the details of hir work on the space station with Midnight, who in turn had been apprising hir of upcoming Star Corps and Star Fleet projects which could be of interest to hir and Garrek. Forestwalker had been splitting hir time between all the various cubs and doing household chores, many of which had been left waiting for quite some time while the chakat sisters had been busy with their careers. In other words, everyone was doing normal, everyday things in an effort to cope with the current extraordinary events. However, Goldfur knew that Dale's situation would probably get worse before his steps forward exceeded his set-backs. When he wandered into the study where shi and Midnight were talking, shi knew that it was time to let him know about the latest news in regards to the visiting Star Corps specialists.

"You seem to be walking a little better this morning, Dale," shi started off conversationally.

"A little," he agreed. "An odd half-dream this morning seemed to… well… put me more in touch with this body." He promptly stumbled over his own tail, showing that his gain had been minor indeed. He grunted in annoyance and plonked down heavily on his rump.

Goldfur winced a little, then sighed to hirself. "I'm glad that you woke up when you did. Forest told you about the specialists who are coming to see you?

"Yeah. So who am I to expect?" Dale asked.

"The psych evaluator that you have an appointment with is coming first. Then some medical specialists."

Dale grimaced. "Sounds like fun," he said sarcastically.

Goldfur couldn't think of anything to say to that, so shi continued on with hir news. "I did get a call from a physical therapist who heard about your situation. A skunktaur called Queznal has been working on a radical new technique and wants to try it out on you."

"So I'm to be guinea pig now too?" Dale said acerbicly.

"Don't take it like that, Dale. I checked into hys background and found out that hy has been doing some ground-breaking work in physical therapy. I reckon that you could do a lot worse than to see if hy can help you help you with this new technique."

Dale's ire deflated and he sighed. "Okay. I don't suppose I really have much choice anyway, and if I'm going to be stuck in this body, then I'd like to get it up to speed as soon as possible." Then another thought crossed his mind. "Hy? Hys? What sort of words are those?"

"Don't you know anything about skunktaurs?" Midnight asked. "Goldfur and I have worked with them a number of times on various Star Corps projects."

Dale shook his head. "I suppose my line of work didn't bring me into contact with them. I've heard about them, but haven't really learned much about them. I thought they all lived on Chakona?"

"Most do nowadays," Midnight answered, "But there are still some to be found on Earth. Their kind doesn't exactly have a love for humans, considering their history. The ones that do live or work on this planet are usually the more forgiving or open-minded ones. Anyway, that doesn't answer your question. The words "hys" and "hy" are the pronouns created for the skunktaurs. You see, they're a dual sex race also."

"They're herms like the chakats? Why don't they use the same pronouns as them then?"

"Well, they're not exactly like us," Goldfur said. "While we're both sexes at the same time, skunktaurs shift sexes mostly at will, so they're either male or female, but not both simultaneously. So people came up with a new set of pronouns to match their unique situation. It drives people crazy in languages where they don't have that flexibility though!" shi added with a grin.

Dale was about to make another comment but the door chime rang just then. Midnight jumped up and started trotting to the door, saying, "I'll get it. It's probably our expected visitors." Moments later, shi led two humans into the room, one male, one female. Steering them to Dale, shi introduced them. "Dale, these are Dr Gladstone, the psych evaluator, and Dr Kirrawong, a med tech expert."

Dale held out a hand to shake that of the others. As he did so, Dale looked them over. Gladstone stood a little taller than Dale's new height, about five feet ten inches tall he estimated. Dale noted his short, brown, neatly cut hair, soft features, and hazel eyes that regarded him warmly without seeming to stare. He dressed neatly in a sports jacket and Dale was amused to see that his tie had Ludwig von Drake upon it. He guessed that Gladstone carefully cultivated this comforting air for the benefit of his patients. Kirrawong gave a strikingly different impression. Judging by her broad, dark features and hair, she was quite obviously of Australian aboriginal descent. She dressed neatly but rather casually. Dale had heard of her and knew that she was a well-respected leader in her profession, so he presumed that she did not much care if people judged her by her looks because her achievements spoke for themselves.

"Pleased to meet you, I think," Dale said. "I thought that just the psych evaluator was coming first?"

Kirrawong smiled. "He's a little bit late and I'm a little bit early, but we'd both like to see you together for a couple of minutes, if that's okay with you?"

Dale shrugged. "It's not as if I have anything better to do. Do what you need to do. Just tell me that any of it's going to be of any use."

Gladstone spoke up in a calm and reassuring voice. "You know already that we will be trying everything possible, and it certainly hasn't come to the point of no hope. It's important that you keep this in mind."

"Yeah, yeah," Dale agreed cynically. "Let's just get this over and done with, hey?"

"Certainly," Gladstone nodded. He turned to Goldfur. "Shir Goldfur, is there are room we may borrow for the examination?"

Shi nodded. "This way," shi said as shi started padding off in the direction of a room that wasn't presently being used. Opening the door shi ushered them inside. "Just call if you want anything."

Kirrawong patted the sophisticated sensor unit slung over her shoulder. "I've got everything that I need right here, thank you."

The three were together in the room for about ten minutes before Kirrawong came out again. Goldfur and Midnight looked up from the paperwork on the table in mild surprise. "Done so soon, doctor?" Midnight inquired.

She smiled reassuringly. "Yes. I was mostly after some readings to check whether anything that we brainstormed last night would be of any use, and to check whether his condition was stable. The good news is that he seems to be a normal healthy chakat. The bad news is that not one of our ideas is worth a pinch of bulldust, so it's back to the drawing board."

"I thought as much," Goldfur said. "I'm familiar with transporter equipment, but I couldn't think of anything to undo this without Dale's original pattern."

Kirrawong lost her smile for a moment as she nodded in agreement. "We tend to agree, but it wouldn't be fair to Mr. Perkins to not try."

"So we'd best concentrate on getting him to accept his new form?"

"Well, there's always the chance of giving him a new human form. Even if it's not his original one, he may find that preferable to being stuck in a totally different and uncomfortable form, no offence meant."

"None taken," Goldfur replied. "I understand what you mean. As fond as I am of my bipedal friends and family, I certainly don't want to be one."

Kirrawong's smile returned. "Then I'd better get back to the lab and see what we can do. A pleasure meeting you two."

Goldfur saw to Kirrawong's departure, but it was quite a while before they could do the same for Gladstone. A couple of hours passed before he and Dale emerged from the room. Gladstone looked exactly as he had when he went in, but Dale looked very tired. Goldfur tried to gauge his state with hir empathic senses. Shi detected a calmness about him that hadn't been there previously which gave hir much relief. Evidently, while the interview had been tiring, the effort had been worth it. He shook hands with Gladstone before excusing himself and heading off to his room. When he was out of earshot, Goldfur asked, "So how is shi? We've been concerned about how shi's been coping with all this."

"Without violating confidentiality between me and my patient, I can tell you that Mr. Perkins is young and tough. I think he'll cope, but it's up to all of us to see that he makes the best of his circumstances as possible. Right now, his self-image is severely shaken and the less anyone does to affect the fragile new balance, the better. Your question is a perfect example. You refer to Mr. Perkins as shi and hir, but he does not see himself as a hermaphrodite despite his new body. We are all more than our gender, but an important part of it is wrapped up in that and he still pictures himself as a male. I would get into the habit of thinking and speaking of him as a male in future. It's a small thing, but one that might have rather great repercussions at this stage."

Goldfur nodded slowly, thinking of the problems ahead. "That sounds fair enough, but what happens when hir... umm… his body does utterly female things? He has already been subjected to lactating, and he will soon be coming into heat. Male self-image isn't going to stop that."

"I agree, but there may be ways of ameliorating the effects. Is there someone female, not a herm, who may be close to him?"

Goldfur gave him a sour look. "Not that we know of. He had a girlfriend whom we had hoped might be of assistance, but almost as soon as she heard about what had happened to him, she disassociated herself from any further relationship with Dale." Goldfur's expression told volumes about what she thought of a person who would do this to someone with whom she was supposedly intimately involved. "We don't know of anyone else…" Shi was interrupted by Midnight touching hir on the arm to get hir attention.

"What about Lupu?" Midnight asked. "She seems to like him, and she's all female. I think Dale likes her too after he got over their initial troubles."

Goldfur blinked, then slowly nodded. "You may be right." Turning back to Gladstone, shi said, "Lupu's a wolftaur bitch who's my denmate. Does it matter that she's not human?"

Gladstone replied, "While the human former girlfriend would have been better, any kind of female will do if there's at least something they share between them. I would observe them closely, use that empathic talent of yours and try to judge whether their association is helping Dale. If Lupu can see him as a male and treat him that way, it would bolster his battered ego a lot. And by the way, don't forget that he now also has the physical equipment to sense things empathically, only he hasn't had the upbringing and training on how to use it. At the moment it's mostly a wide open door and everything just pours in. Dale brought up the embarrassing first encounter with Lupu, although he didn't give me much background on her. He was just detailing the difficulties he had been having at the time. It's obvious now that Lupu, a non-empath with no training to control her emotional output, virtually buried him in a flood of affection and sheer sexual desire. He had no way of shutting it off, nor controlling it. It's hardly any wonder that he reacted so strongly to her. I wouldn't be surprised if some sort of bond might have occurred as a result of that inadvertent intimacy."

A light dawned on Goldfur. "Would this have been going both ways?" shi asked.

"Quite possibly. Chakats project as well as receive."

Goldfur looked at Midnight who nodded, knowing what shi was thinking. Shi turned back to the psych tech. "That would explain why Lupu has been acting the way she has lately. Shi's been having her own difficulties too, and has been showing some dissatisfaction with her current circumstances. Now suddenly she's become as excited as a puppy whenever Dale is mentioned. I think she's formed an empathic bond with Dale. Many know about our empathic gifts, but few realise how far-reaching they can be. When we have very strong feelings for someone, we sometimes form this bond, and once it has come into existence, it never breaks. I have such a bond with my lifemates, and especially my sister, Forestwalker. I can still sense hir even when I'm far off in space somewhere. Now Dale and Lupu might both be sensing each other's emotions without even realising it."

"You could be right. I'd hesitate to confirm it without a much longer period of observation, but if you're right, Lupu could indeed be the best thing for him right now, and possibly for her too. Are you going to have a problem with this? She is your denmate after all."

"Lupu has always been free to do whatever she decides is best for her. I care for Lupu a lot, but she isn't a soulmate like my beloved first lifemate. It remains Lupu's choice. I won't try to influence her either way."

"Fine. Continue letting them associate as much as possible and monitor Mr. Perkin's responses. Be as discreet and understanding as possible when dealing with unavoidable female issues, although I dare say I don't really need to tell you that. I'll be in regular contact to monitor his progress, and don't hesitate to call me in the event of a crisis."

"Thank you, Mr. Gladstone," Goldfur said, shaking his hand and starting to lead him to the front door. "I'll admit that psychology isn't my strong suit, so I'll be most grateful for your assistance when necessary."

"You're welcome, Shir Goldfur. I must admit that this will be of great personal interest, so it's not a great disruption to my usual routine," he added with a quiet smile, the first Goldfur had seen on him.

Goldfur smiled back as shi opened the door and let the doctor out. Shi met Midnight coming back from the direction of Dale's room who reported that shi had found their guest sprawled out on the bedding, fast asleep.

"I reckon that he was pretty much exhausted by that session," Midnight said. "How long before this Queznal person turns up?"

"Hy said hy would be able to come out early this evening, if that wasn't inconvenient."

"Fine by me. We can get some work done on our projects in the meantime. I mean, they might be still paying you to keep an eye on our guest, but that doesn't get any of your work done, nor are they paying me for that time. If we're going to be able to afford a new den that's big enough for both our families, we need to turn in these projects on time."

Goldfur nodded mutely in agreement. Midnight had the more practical mind of the two, and Goldfur valued hir dedication to the job at hand, especially when shi got hirself into situations like this current one. Shi had gone back to work so soon after giving birth to Tailstalker because of their need for as much income as possible. They were paid well but a new home that was big enough for a horde of chakats and other morphs would not be cheap, even splitting the costs with hir sister's family. However, it was obvious to all that the need to re-unite their families increased with every new cub. They had always been happiest when sharing this place, but the growth of their families had forced them to split up. The biggest problem with that though was that they no longer had as ready access to a cubsitter as they used to. Lupu had been a marvellous help, even after she had added her own cubs to the family, but she wouldn't always be available. It was worse for Forestwalker though. While Trina liked to play with the cubs, she too was a career person and they were proving to be too disruptive. Her seemingly inexhaustible energy was being stretched to the limit, and Forestwalker knew that it was unfair to impose more duties on her, despite the fact that one of the cubs was her own. The best and most popular solution was to merge their families again which would enable them to spread the cub-minding duties more effectively. However, they were all still young and, despite their well-paid jobs, not yet quite able to invest in a very large place without a bit of financial strain. Therefore, they all had to concentrate as best they could on their projects whenever they got the opportunity.

It was about six o'clock when a slightly bleary-eyed Dale stumbled into their office. "Umm, sorry about just disappearing like that. That session with Gladstone was rather tiring."

"No need to apologise, Dale. Would you like something to eat?" Goldfur asked. "Lupu's been cooking up a nice stew."

Dale's ears perked up at the sound of that, although Goldfur wasn't sure whether it was the mention of food or the wolftaur that prompted that response. "I'll check it out, I think," he said with a smile. Goldfur watched him go with a small grin on hir muzzle.

"Hi Lupu," Dale greeted the wolftaur.

She looked up from the pot that she was stirring, her face lighting up in pleasure. "Dale! How are you feeling? Would you like some stew? I make it to a wolftaur recipe and this hungry horde seems to like it."

"I'd love some!" he replied fervently.

""Then just park your butt over by the table and I'll serve you up a dollop." She put action to words and ladled out a generous portion, padding over to the table to place it under Dale's muzzle. The intensity of the smell startled him until he realised that his new senses were far keener. He'd already started drooling in anticipation as he grabbed a fork to start eating. A little self-consciously, he licked the drool from his lips before taking a mouthful. The taste practically exploded on his tongue. It was magnificent!

Lupu was watching his reactions and smiled when she saw his face light up. "It's all in the herbs. They really bring out the flavours."

Dale mumbled a nearly incomprehensible agreement as he started shovelling the food in. He was hungry, but adding the delicious taste, he became nearly ravenous. Lupu grinned in satisfaction with his reaction. It didn't take him long to finish off his serving. He looked at the empty plate, wondering if he should ask for more.

"Leave some for the others," Lupu laughed. "If there's any left over, I'll give you seconds."

"Thanks, Lupu," Dale said, handing the large plate back to her. "I hope you make this again soon."

Taking the plate to the sink, Lupu replied, "What? You don't want to try my other recipes? I know a few more culinary tricks, you know?"

"Oh no! I mean, of course I want to try your other recipes…" He came to a stop as he realised that Lupu was laughing.

"I'm just teasing you, dear. Of course I'll make this again if you'd really like it. It's one of my favourites too, as a matter of fact." She trotted back over and put her hand on his arm, suddenly semi-serious again. "So how are you feeling now, Dale?"

"Better for the food, and the talk with the psych evaluator. At least a little more optimistic. Now if only I can get this body to work for me the way I want it to, then things'll be even better."

Lupu gave him a hug. "Patience, Dale. I think you're already doing a lot better than you were yesterday when I met you. I think you'll do fine." She paused, looking at him for a moment, a little bit puzzled why she felt so strongly about him, then shrugged mentally. She liked him, and that was all that mattered. The fact that he resembled her denmate helped, but it was his different attitude that she found refreshing. She decided she wanted to spend a bit more time with him. Just then, Goldfur came into the dining area with Forestwalker. Shi had just arrived home from an outing with hir cubs and was a little tired. Shi licked hir lips with anticipation as shi smelled the delicious aroma of the stew.

"Is dinner ready, Lupu?" Forest asked hopefully.

"Sure is! Go unbury Trina from hir computer and I'll have the meal served by the time you get back."

"Will do! Back in a jiffy!" Forest hurried off in the direction of Trina's office. Midnight arrived first though, but it took surprisingly little time for Forest to retrieve hir lifemate, although the smell of the stew permeating the house probably had something to do with hir alacrity. The cubs were served first, then the adults sat down to enjoy their meal. Kris turned up when they were about halfway through, slightly miffed at them not waiting for him.

"You don't really think that you can hold up this bunch of hungry chakats, do you, love?" Trina inquired after giving him a greeting cuddle.

"No, but I'd like to get home for once before I have to scrape the pan for the dregs!" Kris replied wistfully.

Lupu plonked a full plate in front of him. "Oh, cut the theatrics and dig in!"

Kris looked up at her with a grateful grin. "Thanks, Lupu. I knew you wouldn't let me starve." This statement caused him to be bombarded with napkins from the rest of the family, laughing at his antics.

Queznal turned up about 7:30pm. Hy was a typical skunktaur, similar in size, although not in weight, to a chakat. Hys build was lighter, but otherwise similar to a chakat's, right down to the digitigrade hind feet. Anyone who was familiar with natural skunks would know that they're plantigrade, but the geneticists who created the skunktaur race had basically stolen the base coding from the progenitors of the chakat race, so they stuck with the digitigrade feet. They had not retained the chakats' forepaws however, and they had normal feet instead of their chakat kin's handpaws. The most striking difference however was their fur. While their patterning might vary, they all had the deep black, long fur with white markings that were distinctive to skunks. The tail was huge and bushy and quite attractive. Queznal's was no different, and hy sported a spotted patterning with only modest striping on hys tail. One other feature that set the skunktaurs apart was the paw shaped mark on their right breast. It came in only three colours: black, red and blue, denoting not only clan, but also hys particular Talent. Queznal had a red paw mark, denoting that hy was a telepath. This could be clearly seen as hy wore no clothes except for a light open vest that was evidently just for show. Hy had a belt around his waist in which hy housed such things as a lightweight tricorder and hys personal effects.

Queznal was in male phase at this time, something that Goldfur felt could only be of benefit when dealing with Dale and his problem. Shi idly wondered if hy had shifted sexes specifically for the occasion. It took some time to accomplish it, which might explain why hy had put off the encounter until this evening. Chakats had always considered skunktaurs their brethren and shi greeted hym in the manner in which shi usually greeted a new chakat: a brief but heartfelt hug and a full introduction. "I am Chakat Goldfur, child of Longstripe and Desertsand."

"A pleasure to meet you, Longstripe's daughter. I am Queznal of House Redpaw, child of Marky and Vannen."

"Come in and make yourself at home, Queznal," Goldfur said with a smile. "Can I get you anything?"

"Thanks. I'd like to get straight to work if I can, although I could do with a cuppa tea if possible," hy replied hopefully.

"No problem. I'll get you one in a moment." They walked into the living room where Dale was lounging on the floor, talking with Midnight, exchanging tales of what each had done on various planets. "First I'll introduce you to your patient. Dale, this is Doctor Queznal."

Dale got up to all fours with only trifling unsteadiness and held out his hand. Queznal shook it solemnly, not offering a hug because he realised that he was dealing with someone who was a chakat in body only. The two exchanged pleasantries until Goldfur returned with a large mug of tea.

"Help yourself to milk or sugar," shi said, indicating the jug and bowl on the coffee table.

"Thanks, Goldfur," Queznal said appreciatively, pouring only a little milk but spooning three lots of sugar into the mug. Hy took a long swig and aahed in pleasure. "I needed that." Hy then put the mug down and switched moods slightly. "Right, let's get this under way. Basically, I'm developing a radical new means of dealing with paraplegics. Despite our ability to repair a lot of nerve damage, we still have problems rehabilitating the patients due to the complexity of the nervous system, especially the spinal cord. You, Dale, are the perfect subject for a test run because you possess a perfectly healthy chakat body, although one that you don't properly control. I believe that I can get you doing everything just like a normal chakat in a very short time, especially as Goldfur is here to help."

"Me?" said Goldfur, startled. "How can I help?"

"I need your empathic ability a bit, but mainly because you're Dale's identical twin, so there's no unknowns to spoil the results. You are going to supply the correct feedback for Dale so that he will know how to do something without having to think about it."

"And how am I supposed to do that?" shi asked.

"That's the essence of my new treatment." Queznal paused to finish drinking hys tea and put the mug down on the table. Hy gestured to the red-coloured fur on hys chest. "As you should be able to tell by my clan mark, I am a telepath. My Talent rating is T6."

This impressed Goldfur a lot, but Dale was forced to ask, "What exactly does that entail?"

"It means that I have abilities over and beyond those of most telepathic skunktaurs. Not only is my ability stronger than usual, but I have subtle talents that almost no others do. I'm trying to put those abilities to use in my profession. To make a long story short, I plan to link you and Goldfur to provide physical and mental feedback. You are going to learn which muscles do what directly from the owner of the original template!"

"You're going to read my mind? Dale asked uncertainly.

"No. That is unethical and I would never do that without your permission. I'm just going to act as a conduit between you two and I'll be instructing you how to use this link."

Goldfur spoke up. "Perhaps it would be best if we get straight into it and you can explain as we go?"

"I was about to suggest the same," hy replied with a smile. "Do you want to do it here, or is there a more suitable place?"

"We'll use the room that the others used when checking Dale," Goldfur replied, getting up to lead the way. Shi ushered in the other two then closed the door behind them.

"Good, this will do perfectly," Queznal said. "Now, would the two of you please stand on either side of me, facing in the same direction as I am."

They complied, and the three of them were quickly lined up in a short row. Queznal took out his tricorder and switched it to voice recording mode. Hy spoke loudly and clearly, "I am about to initiate a telepathic link between myself, Dale Perkins and Chakat Goldfur for the purposes of physical therapy. Do you, Dale, consent to this procedure?"

Dale nodded slowly, then said, "I guess so. Anything that will help me to get about in this body better will be a bonus."

"And you, Goldfur, do you also consent?"

Goldfur said without hesitation, "I do."

Queznal switched modes on the tricorder to monitor the work hy was about to do. "Okay, that takes care of the formalities for the ethics committee. Let's get some real work done." Hy lifted hys arms and put a hand lightly on their heads. "I am about to initiate a link between your minds, with myself as the conduit and controller. Goldfur, you shouldn't feel anything. I'll just be using you as a data source essentially. Just follow any instructions that I give you, please. Dale, I am going to ask Goldfur to make a series of movements which I'm going to have you try to imitate. While you try, I will feed you the same neural impulses that Goldfur creates to make the muscles move in the desired manner. What I hope to achieve is for your mind to associate those impulses with the appropriate movement. Please don't be concerned if you feel yourself doing something that you don't expect because this will only be the result of the feedback that I will be channelling to you. Are you ready?"

"Just get on with it," Dale replied a little irritably. Goldfur just nodded.

"Okay. Goldfur, please lift your right forepaw until it's about twenty centimetres off the floor, then put it down again. Dale, you try to do the same." Goldfur did so, Dale jerkily imitating. "No, you're resisting me. Here, let me show how it should go."

Dale's forepaw quickly lifted up into position and then down again.

"Whoa!" Dale exclaimed. "That felt weird. You were in complete control of my leg for a moment there, weren't you?"

"Yes, I was. However, that's not what I want to achieve. I want you to feel what Goldfur is doing through me, not me imposing it on you. Let's try again."

And so they did, several times, until Queznal was satisfied, then he switched legs and started again. Then they worked on the hind legs, getting Goldfur to move them in various ways. Dale started getting the hang of the procedure and responding to the prompts first time. Without realising it, he opened up fully to Queznal who could then fully "teach" his mind to link actions with certain parts of his brain. The session went on for hours until such time as all the participants were feeling close to exhausted. By this time, virtually every muscle in Dale's lower anatomy had been prodded into action. Queznal broke the connection and Dale sank gratefully to the floor to rest. Queznal moved a little apart before hy too sat down on a lounging rug. Goldfur, who had the least to do, offered to fetch some refreshments for all, to which they both gratefully nodded. Shi brought back a jug of orange juice and some cake and they all quietly sated their thirst and hunger.

Eventually, Queznal broke the silence. "How are you feeling now, Dale?"

"Tired, but a good kind of tired. I can really feel those muscles now, and know what they do." He held up a handpaw and put his tailtip into it. "It's both weird and wonderful." He released his tail then got up and walked around the room without a stumble. Perhaps it wasn't as graceful as Goldfur would have done, but a stranger would have been hard pressed to pick a problem. He stopped in front of the skunktaur and said with great sincerity, "Thank you, Queznal. I don't know if I could have coped too much longer without your help."

Queznal smiled back, enormously satisfied with hys efforts. "No, thank you, Mr Perkins. You've provided me with a lot of data for my research. I'm only too glad to have been of help. If you wish, I can come back for a couple more sessions so that we can fine-tune your control."

"I'd like that. I can't tell you how much better I feel now that I'm more in control of my body again." Just then, the consequences of a long period without break plus a big drink started impinging on Dale's consciousness. He was about to ask to be excused when he remembered something. Then another thought crossed his mind and Goldfur clearly felt a wave of embarrassment come from him as he started asking Queznal a question. "Ummm, could I ask you one favour though?"

Although Queznal wasn't empathic like Goldfur, hy did note the telltale flush of pink inside Dale's ears and realised something was bothering him. "Go ahead, Dale. What is it?"

"Well, there's one group of muscles that we didn't try out, one that I really need to know..." He stopped, beginning to feel truly foolish.

Goldfur suddenly guessed what he was trying to say. Forest had told hir about Dale's problem last night and shi realised that gaining control over this function was just as important to him as the ability to walk straight, maybe even more. Shi decided that being blunt about it was the best approach. "I think he's talking about being able to control his penis to urinate properly."

Dale wanted to sink into the floor from embarrassment, but nodded in agreement. Queznal was sympathetic though. Hy said, "Dale, I quite understand. My work brings me into contact with paraplegics and quadriplegics all the time, and simple little things like that are of huge importance to them too. My work is intended not only to repair their bodies, but to restore their independence and pride also. I can see how this would be of importance to you and I'm certainly the one to ask. If you feel up to it, I'm prepared to give you one last quick session to help you in this."

"Thank you. I can handle it. I want to get this out of the way as soon as possible."

"Then assume the same positions again and we'll get it over in a jiffy," Queznal smiled.

They did so, and soon Dale was hoping that no one would walk in at that time. Both chakats felt extremely silly practicing extruding their penises, and even the normally clinically-detached skunktaur wasn't unaffected by the bizarre scene. Fortunately it didn't take too long. Dale was highly motivated and quickly got the hang of it. Queznal finished the session gratefully, his Talent having been worked hard this evening. He prepared to depart.

"I'll be in contact with you soon, Dale. I want to follow up on this session and see how you're doing. If necessary, we can have another if there are any problems. Right now, I suggest getting as much practice as possible with what we have covered already, but don't be afraid to experiment. You've actually responded better than I had expected, and I can only hope that bodes well for my other patients too. However, unlike you, they have physical damage that needs to be overcome also, but that's why this work with you was so important. Everything I learn from you will be put into my research into helping these people."

"Then I'm glad my misfortune might help others. Thanks again, Doctor," Dale said.

"Just Queznal, please," hy said with a smile. "You're very welcome. However, now I must go. Here are my details if you need to contact me." Hy handed a smart card to Dale, then turned for the door. Goldfur opened it for hym and accompanied hym to the front door. "Thank you for your hospitality, Shir Goldfur. It's been a pleasure meeting you. Give my regards to your lifemate, Garrek."

"I'll do that, Queznal. Thanks again!" Goldfur replied and closed the door behind hym. Moments later shi realised that shi had never even mentioned Garrek while hy had been there.

Dale wasted no time in taking advantage of his newly acquired ability to go to the toilet by himself. He decided he'd never again take for granted such a simple thing as being able to have privacy in such circumstances. After that, he again had to milk himself. "This could get old real fast," he thought to himself. After taking the milk to the kitchen, he showed off his ability to walk about and keep his tail out of doors to Forestwalker, Midnight and especially Lupu. The latter gave him a congratulatory hug which made him feel even better.

"I have some good news, Dale," Lupu said after finishing the lengthy embrace.

"I could do with some, Lupu," he replied.

"We got a call from the Star Corps. They've managed to contact your parents on Mars at last. Took them long enough!"

Dale gave her a grimace. "They chose one of the more challenging frontiers. There's no subspace communications facilities out there. That means they'll have to make there way into one of the main settlements in order for us to have a conversation. That's one of the reasons I don't visit as often as I'd like. It's just too difficult getting there. Anyway, did they give you a time?"

Lupu nodded. "They've scheduled a contact for you at ten o'clock tomorrow morning. They told me tell you that they've been fully briefed on the accident, so you won't have to try to explain that."

Dale felt relieved. He hadn't been relishing the prospect of trying to explain to his parents that their son was now not even human. Of course, he had no idea how they were reacting to that news already, nor what path the conversation would take. He needed to talk to them though, so he prayed that this conversation would be better than the last he had on a comm.

Dale wanted to stay and chat with Lupu a bit longer, but a jaw-cracking yawn reminded him how tired he was after that session. Lupu chased him off to his bedroom, insisting that he get right to sleep, then ended up staying with him there for over an hour just talking. They told each other more about their families and friends that they hadn't shared before, and their hopes for the future. For the first time since the accident, Dale wasn't bitter about that and started looking at things a tad more optimistically. He found he enjoyed talking to the wolftaur. It helped that she was young, vivacious and, yes, quite sexy. However, tiredness soon overcame even this and Lupu decided to let him sleep, but not before she gave him a long cuddle and a lick-kiss goodnight. Dale found himself grinning in pleasure as he settled down to sleep.

Dale abruptly woke up early, his hearts pumping, his body tense, screaming out a need for something that he didn't understand. He got to his feet and opened the door, intending to head for the bathroom to try to splash himself with water, or anything that might help, only to encounter Midnight passing through. Shi gave him a cheery "Good Morning" and headed for the kitchen. Dale got a whiff of hir scent and the feeling of desire exploded within him. Although he didn't realise it, he could smell hir pheromones, and shi was in male phase. To his horror, he was feeling an intense sexual desire for hir, and it was not as a male. Involuntarily, a howl of mixed anguish, confusion and frustration broke from his throat. Within moments, several of the inhabitants of the house were at his side, but that only served to make things worse. Goldfur knew immediately what the problem was though and, after a quick word to Forestwalker, shi immediately shooed off everybody else and guided Dale back to his room.

"Just lie down to try to relax, Dale. Forest will be back in a moment with something that will help you," shi started saying.

"What's happening to me?" Dale interrupted. "I feel like so strange. Part of me aches for something. God help me, I smelled Midnight and all I could think of was I wanted hir to mount me!" Dale's voice was climbing into hysteria.

"Calm down, Dale. You've gone into heat, that's all. Forest is bringing a herbal drink that will lessen the effects."

"Into heat? That's all? How can I be in heat? I'm a heterosexual male! I can't be in heat and wanting to be mounted. I just can't!"

Goldfur realised that he wasn't thinking clearly and was reacting badly to this new development. Shi put hir arms around him and tried using hir empathic gifts to soothe him, but such was the depth of his feelings that shi had very little effect. Shi sighed in relief when Forestwalker arrived with a mug of what looked like herbal tea. Shi took it from hir, then tried to get Dale to drink the contents.

"You must drink this, Dale. It's a very strong suppressant. It's about the only thing that works on chakats because of our immunity to most poisons and drugs. It will help you though."

Dale finally got it through his hormone-soaked thoughts that this would alleviate his problems and he almost frantically snatched the mug from Goldfur and drained the contents virtually in one gulp. Although the effects weren't instantaneous, the herbal mix did work quickly and it wasn't long before the rampant physical effects were brought down to a bearable level. Both Goldfur and Forestwalker worked on empathically calming him all the while until he was ready to talk again.

Forest said, "Tell us what happened when you woke up, Dale. Just take it easy and calmly."

Dale explained as best he could. When he mentioned Midnight, both chakats cursed softly. He looked quizzically at them. Goldfur started explaining, "Midnight has just hit the height of male phase and hir scent is at its most potent. Shi was the worst possible person to meet this morning when you were vulnerable and didn't understand what was happening. One whiff of hir pheromones was more than enough to set you off."

"But if I'm on heat, that means you should be too. Why aren't you affected too?"

"I am affected. However, I've had the benefit of training and years of experience in dealing with it. All chakats learn about these things from an early age because they need to. Even so, the first time is the hardest. However, we'll do our best to help you through this."

"How?" Dale asked sceptically. "It's not as if I'm a real chakat and don't mind the thought of having sex that way."

"I know, it's not going to be easy," Forest said, "But we'll do what we can. Lie down and try to relax. Let the herbal drink do its work. We'll be back soon to try some things."

For lack of any better ideas, Dale agreed and settled down. The sisters walked out of earshot and then Goldfur turned worriedly to hir sister.

"I don't like this, Forest. It's hitting him far harder than I expected. You felt his emotions? He was just about ready to charge through us to get to Midnight, and the realisation of this was tearing him up inside."

Forestwalker glumly nodded. "You're right, Goldie, but you said it yourself: the first time is always the hardest."

"But he's got my body, and it has already made the transition. It shouldn't be as bad as this!"

"You're forgetting something though. First Heat isn't just a matter of physical maturity for us. It's also the time when we make the mental transition from an academic point of view about sex to a genuine need for sexual intimacy. We knew what to expect, but not only doesn't Dale know that, he doesn't want to make that change. He's going to fight it all the way, only he can't win, and that's going to rip him apart psychologically."

"Oh, hell! I think you're right. I never thought about it as a First Heat situation. Maybe we should give Dr Gladstone a call…" Goldfur was interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat.

Lupu was standing in the doorway, apparently having been listening to the conversation. When she had the chakats' attention, she walked up to them and said, "Let me have a try."

Both sisters were a little surprised. Goldfur said, "We know you like Dale a lot, but what makes you think that you can help where we can't?"

Lupu's jaw dropped in a wolfish grin. "It's because you're herms and you just aren't used to thinking in single sex terms. Despite his body, Dale is a heterosexual male, and you keep thinking of his plight in herm terms. He's not one mentally though and what he wants is a female, even if his body is telling him otherwise. I reckon I know a way to satisfy both his needs."

Goldfur and Forestwalker looked at each other. At this close range, their empathic senses were clearly telling them that Lupu had an extra motive also. Not that it came as a surprise to them because they'd already figured out that Lupu and Dale had bonded. They gave each other a nod of agreement and Goldfur said to Lupu, "Okay, go for it! I'll hold off calling Gladstone for now, but if it doesn't work, let us know as soon as possible."

"Thanks! Just give me a moment to grab something and I'll get to work straight away." Lupu bounded off to her den, emerging moments later carrying a small box with her to Dale's room. Goldfur gave a start of recognition, then grinned and shook hir head, chuckling.

Forest noticed his sister's reaction and demanded, "Spit it out! What's so amusing?"

"Oh, just a little something that Lupu sometimes likes to try with me. Y'know, I think it just might work."

Lupu entered the room with a mixture of excitement and uncertainty. She was about to take a big step, both for herself and for Dale, and she hoped that she didn't muck it up. She still wasn't even sure why she was so overwhelmingly attracted to Dale, but she could literally feel his need and wanted to do her best to fulfil it. She saw that Dale was curled in on himself, apparently trying to get comfortable. "Dale? Are you awake?"

Dale rolled over and got up to his feet. Despite trying to relax, his body was far too keyed up to do so. Lupu's arrival though added to his excitement in one way, but calmed him down in another. He felt much better in her presence than he had with the chakats. "Hello, Lupu. I hadn't expected you. Ummm, I didn't disturb you with that racket that I made earlier, did I?"

"No, dear. I was already up. However, I do know about your problem and I'd like to help you if I can."

Now there was nothing better that Dale wanted to do than spend some time with this beautiful wolftaur bitch, but in his current condition, he didn't know how he'd feel or react, and so he hesitated a long time before answering. "Can you really help? Despite that drink they gave me, I still feel like crawling up the walls and doing something that I might regret."

Lupu put her hand on his cheek. "Do you trust me, Dale?" she asked.

Dale stared into hir dark eyes, feeling once again the strange attraction to her that he didn't want to resist. "Yes, I think so. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to soothe your physically desires, of course!" she said with a grin, then her expression became serious again. "I think I know what you are, Dale. From the moment we met, although I didn't know it at the time, I was attracted to your maleness. You're not like Goldfur; you project a different attitude, and it's one I like. Is there any doubt in your mind that I, a female, find you very attractive?"

Dale was a little surprised by the suddenness of this admission, and her candidness, but her words jibed with his own unspoken feelings for her. "No. No there isn't, and I'll say right now, although I don't understand why I have this overwhelming need for you, I feel the same way. But how's this going to help me with my problem?"

She patted the box she was holding. "Something in here is going to help with that. I just first wanted to establish how we stand together. I want you to know first that I'm thrilled to pieces that you like me as much as I like you." She paused to give him a hug and a quick lick-kiss. "Now, I asked you if you trusted me. I want to do something that will relieve you of the female cravings, but you must think of the process as you doing it to me."

Dale was completely puzzled. "I don't understand, Lupu."

"I know, I'm sorry. I just don't want to shock you. Let me show you and give me a chance to explain." She opened the box and pulled out the device within. There was a plastic-looking tubular object that was bent near the middle and tapered quickly at both ends. A leather harness was attached to it near the bend.

Dale quickly recognised what it was despite the odd shape. "Isn't that a sort of strap-on dildo?" he asked in concerned fascination.

"Yes, a very special one designed for taurs. I've used it when Goldfur has been in female phase and in the mood. It's double-ended so that we both are pleasured at the same time. The harness is attached in such a way that as I thrust it into hir, it pivots on the connection and pushes more deeply into me at the same time. Dale, I want to use it on you."

"What? No! I keep telling people that I'm not a herm. I'm not a female either despite what's happening to me. I... I can't stand the thought of that thing being pushed inside of me."

"But you haven't heard what I intend to do yet. When I do use it, I want you to concentrate on how each thrust is actually going into me too, pleasuring me as only a male can. I want you to make love to me! Don't think of it as dildo, think of it as a fun way of coupling with me. I want you as a male to make love to me as a female, and at the same time we can relieve the needs of your new body. Will you do this for me, Dale? I want this so much!"

Lupu's arguments still hadn't convinced Dale. The idea of being penetrated even with this device was an alien thought to him. "I'm sorry Lupu, I just can't do it. Or at least, I can't do it yet."

Lupu felt as if he had given her a body blow. The proud wolftaur felt the stirring of anger within her because he had so readily rejected what she had offered. "Why won't you try?" she demanded. "Nobody else can do anything for you, and here I am offering myself to you and it's not good enough for you? In fact, everybody has been trying to help you and you keep responding by making things as hard as possible for them."

"What??!!! I never asked anyone to help me. If Goldfur hadn't interfered in the first place, I wouldn't be in this position now."

"So what?" Lupu asked heatedly. "Do you expect people to just stand by and let others die? You deserved every chance at life, even if the results aren't what you might have wanted. Then there's your family. It's bad enough that they will have to cope with your change almost as much as you do. How much worse would it be for them to have lost you entirely? How could you be so selfish as to not consider their feelings?"

"Don't bring my family into this, Lupu. I've been a grown boy for years now, and I sure don't need my parents leading me around by the hand anymore."

"You could have fooled me. I've offered you the best solution available and you refuse to even try. And don't give me that crap about it being hard to accept. I know it's hard, but nothing major is ever achieved without some sacrifice." Lupu's demeanour softened for a moment. "Heaven knows that I made my own mistakes there. I should have stood up for myself back when I was accused of murdering my sister. Instead I took the easy way out and left the pack. At least I'm trying to correct that now, but it's a long and difficult process. That won't stop me from working at it though. I could use some help, however, and I'm no longer too proud to ask for it. What about you? Are you going to let your fears and pride overcome common sense?"

Dale's ire abated. It was true. Only his fears about being penetrated were holding him back. It was the pleading look in Lupu's eyes that settled it for him though. He found himself wanting to please her and any excuse to be with her was good. He mustered up some confidence and gave her a slight smile. "Okay, let's give it a try."

Lupu gave him a huge hug. "Thank you, Dale! You won't regret this, I promise!"

"Umm, what do I do?" he asked uncertainly.

"Leave the rest to me, lover. Just make yourself comfortable on the mattress... yes, that'll do. Move your tail over a little if you can. Perfect!" She laid down next to him, turning to face him, put her arms around his back to pull him closer and gave him a kiss.

Dale responded eagerly, delighted to finally fulfil a need that he hadn't even realised that he had, one that had preceded his current dilemma. He had been so in need of a true companion ever since he was forced to part with his vixen former lover, but had covered it up and buried himself in his career and bachelor activities. Now he had a beautiful female in his arms again, one who wanted him for what he really was and not what he had become. He felt a surge of desire and a release of his pent-up frustrations. His eyes filled with tears from the intensity of the emotions and he nearly crushed the slender wolftaur bitch against his breasts.

Lupu didn't struggle against it. Instead she revelled in it. Once again, Dale was broadcasting all his feelings empathically, still not able to control this new talent. However, this time Lupu knew what was happening, understood his feelings and reciprocated with her own which he in turn picked up. They remained locked together for a couple of minutes, immersing themselves in the pleasure of the shared feelings. Eventually though they had to break and they panted hard for a while, smiling knowingly at each other.

Dale was the first to speak. "I thought that you intended to use that thing and mount me straight away?"

"I told you that I wanted you to make love to me, not just screw me. I think you preferred it this way, no?"

"Yes!" Dale replied emphatically. "I never thought that I'd find someone to replace my Mary-Anne. I hope that maybe you can be that one."

"Gladly, Dale!" Lupu said, hugging him again.

Dale laughed, the first honest and joyful laugh since this whole episode had begun. Experimentally, he lick-kissed Lupu, finding it both strange and wonderful. She responded immediately and soon they were trading licks at a furious rate, interspersed with delighted giggles. Then their hands started roaming over each other's body, seeking out the pleasure spots. Lupu drew in a sharp breath as his hands stroked hir sensitive nipples and Dale grinned knowingly. He lowered his muzzle to one breast and licked the nipple into rigidity before sucking on it. Lupu whined in pleasure. With one hand, she pulled his head harder to her breast while the other hand sifted the fur at the junction of Dale's upper and lower torsos. Dale revelled in the feelings her attentions elicited and was startled to find himself purring. The two continued this for several minutes, unwilling to wind up this moment of mutual pleasure. Lupu reluctantly brought it to a halt though, feeling that the most propitious moment had arrived.

"Do you think you're ready now, Dale?" she asked.

He paused for a few moments to compose his thoughts, then replied, "No, not really, but I doubt that I could ever be truly ready. Let's give it a try. What do we do next?"

Lupu gave him a mischievous grin. "Why, the fun starts right away, of course. I want you to put the harness onto me first." She handed him the strap-on and turned so that her hindquarters were facing him. She lifted her tail invitingly. Dale grinned back, his mind finally taken off his own body and firmly onto hers. Lupu lifted one foot. "Slip one loop over my leg… yes, that's the way. Now the other. Can you guess what's next?"

Dale realised that the final securing strap could not be tightened into place until one end of the dildo was out of the way. His eyes widened. "You mean…?" Lupu nodded eagerly, knowing what he was going to ask. He went on, "Are you quite, well, wet enough?"

"Hell! I've been wet enough since that big kiss! Now do it! Please!!"

She almost pleaded with him, and he complied delightedly. He carefully put the tip of the dildo between her labia, then gave it a push. It slipped in with only modest resistance, accompanied by a slight gasp of pleasure from the wolftaur. Dale grinned as Lupu looked back and gave him a wink. He then tightened the final strap. "What now?"

"The hardest part, for you. Make yourself comfortable on the mattress and lift your tail out of the way. I'm sure you can imagine what I mean."

Dale all too clearly did know but he nevertheless did so. However, another attack of nerves hit him when he looked back to see Lupu getting into position behind him, the artificial erection of the dildo clearly visible between her hind legs. "Lupu, I'm not sure about this."

Instead of proceeding with the mounting, Lupu came beside him and gave him a cuddle. "I know, love. Remember, think of it as making male love to me in an imaginative way. I want this first experience to be a good one so that you won't have the same problems the next time. I'll try to be as careful as I can though. Shall we give it a try? You must be willing to accept me. Chakats cannot be penetrated sexually unless they make a conscious decision to allow it, even when they're on heat."

Dale nodded wordlessly, then braced himself. Lupu grabbed his tail, lifting it out of the way, and straddled his prone lower torso. It wasn't easy to do it by herself, but she managed to put the tip of the dildo against Dale's slightly swollen femsex, eliciting a small gasp from him as a thrill raced through his body.

"Relax, Dale. You're too tense." Lupu waited until she could sense him relax enough to allow her inside, then she thrust the dildo firmly and buried its shaft halfway into his vagina. Dale yelped loudly, startled by the feeling of something intruding within his body. His repressed fears exploded upon him and he started shaking violently. Lupu settled down on his lower torso and reached around his upper torso to hug him. She murmured soothingly, not doing anything more about the dildo until he calmed down. Finally, the attack abated and Dale looked over his shoulder, tears streaming from his eyes.

"I'm okay now," he said shakily.

"Are you sure, dear? We can take this as slowly as you want."

"I'm sure. Let's do it!"

"Okay." Lupu drew back slightly, then pushed the dildo the rest of the way into Dale's vagina.

He had tensed, but a moment later realised that pleasure signals from that area were overcoming the feeling of violation. Lupu's efforts to prepare him for the event had not been in vain and he began to relax completely. Lupu looked at him with concern but was reassured by a wink and a small smile from Dale. She decided to go ahead with her efforts. Drawing back again, she gave him a few experimental thrusts, the resistance it encountered serving to pivot the other end deeply into her own vagina. The two shared a groan of pleasure.

"Ooh! I can feel your presence in me, Dale. Push back against my thrusts and pleasure me more!"

Dale gladly complied and for a few minutes they thrusted and moaned in mutual rapture. Having finally accepted the pleasure that being mounted could give him, Dale would have gladly continued doing just that for a lot longer, but his newly acquired body had other ideas. With a speed that caught him unawares, orgasm descended upon him with a vengeance. A long yowl burst from his throat as his limbs stiffened in response to the enormous wave of ecstasy that burst from the area of his vagina and spread through his body. For seconds that seemed like ages, he was in the grip of the most incredible physical pleasure that he had ever known. Finally the wave broke and he was left gasping. Panting hard, he could only stare at Lupu in incredulous wonder as she grinned back at him.

"Felt good, didn't it?" she said. You were broadcasting your orgasm so strongly that I could feel it too. You made me come at the same time, lover, although I don't know whether you could have noticed it in your condition."

At last Dale had enough breath back to say, "That was… incredible! Is sex always like that for females?"

"Hmmm, a bit hard to say, but I reckon it was that strong for you because you're in heat and it was your very first experience. However, I can say that I always get a real blast out of it. You outdid me this time, but I intend that there be many more opportunities to try my luck."

"I'll gladly give you those opportunities!" Dale said fervently, his fears having been completely wiped out by the intensity of the experience.

"Then I want one right now!" Lupu demanded.

Dale laughed and complied with delight. The next twenty minutes or so was spent in mutual gratification of their desires. Eventually, after several slightly lesser orgasms, Dale declared that he had had enough. Lupu crawled into his arms and the two lovers spent several more minutes just enjoying the afterglow of their efforts. Finally Lupu asked, "How do you feel now? Is being in heat still a problem?"

Dale laughed. "Nope. You took care of that nicely. I suppose the desire will come back, but for now I'm a contented kitty." He paused a moment, then continued, "Thank you, Lupu. Thanks for not letting me give in to my fears. Thanks for tending to my needs when I most needed it."

"You're truly welcome, Dale. Chakat heat lasts for most of two days. I know that it will come back at least once, probably twice before it's over. If you need me again, don't hesitate to ask."

"Oh, I won't, believe me! In fact, I think I need you right now!"

Lupu was a little puzzled. "I thought you said that you were satisfied?"

"What I meant was that my female cravings have been taken care of. Now that my mind is reasonably back to normal, my original libido is reasserting itself. My gorgeous wolftaur lover, how would you like be really mounted?"

Lupu's face split in a huge smile. "Oh, yes! If you're up to it, so am I!"

"Oh, I'm up to it alright!" Dale replied.

Lupu didn't need further explanation to know exactly what was up. She turned around to let Dale get at the harness that she still was wearing. It took only moments to get it off and she eagerly waved hir backside at Dale. He wasted little time in taking up her offer. Only his unfamiliarity with the way his new form handled slowed their coupling, but soon they were one, and Dale got to put his new male equipment to the test. Suffice to say that the results satisfied them both!

"How are things going in there?" Goldfur asked Forestwalker. The two had been concerned about how Dale was taking Lupu's ministrations and Forest had settled down in the room next door. Shi had a higher empathic Talent level than Goldfur and was easily able to monitor their guest's emotional state from there.

Forest gave hir sister a lascivious grin. "He's doing more than fine. Hell! Between them, those two have given me a case of raging horniness! Whatever exactly Lupu did, it was just the right thing. He's no longer bothered by being in heat, and both are very happy right now."

Goldfur nodded and smiled. "In that case, I think that you can stop checking on them now. As for being horny, I think I can help you out there. Don't forget that I'm on heat too!"

Forestwalker got up and gave hir soulmate sister a cuddle. "Thanks, Goldie. What'll we do about Dale later though? Should we tell Dr Gladstone about this?"

"I think that Lupu is doing a better job of helping Dale than we are right now. I propose that we leave it that way for the moment. As for Gladstone, I think that's purely up to Dale to decide. In fact, I think we've intruded enough on his and Lupu's privacy as it is. Let's go to my den and have some personal time of our own. I think I may have lost a denmate today and I need a little cheering up too."

Arm in arm, the two walked down the hall to Goldfur's room. Goldfur may have indeed lost Lupu to Dale this day, but both knew that neither would ever lack for love and caring while the other lived.

As for Dale, another hurdle had been overcome and he now saw that new possibilities were opening up. Perhaps they weren't ones that he had ever considered or liked, but the future no longer looked so bleak to him, not with the possibility of having Lupu by his side to help him through. As he laid next to the wolftaur, cuddling up to her after their lovemaking, he couldn't help wondering though how she'd feel about having a human mate if events in the future brought that to pass. By her cleverness and her genuine affection, she had finally managed to get him to accept this chakat form for now, with all the physical differences that implied, but he had not completely buried his hopes that he would one day walk on two legs again instead of four.


Lupu is used with the permission of her Player.
All other characters and this story are © 2001 Bernard Doove.

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To be continued in Forest Tales #18.

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