By Bernard Doove © 2009

Foreword: This interlude takes place shortly before the end of Episode #29.

Chakat Goldendale stretched languorously, enjoying the afterglow of the love-making with Swiftwalk. It was two weeks now since they’d escaped the tsunami with the benefit of Swiftwalk’s teleportation Talent, and all was right with Dale’s world. Shi had a world to explore, denmates whom shi had visited and found to be happy together, and a chakat partner on hir exploration team.

Dale propped hirself up on one elbow to look at Swiftwalk. Hir skunk-patterned fur made it hard to see hir in the night-darkened tent, but chakat night-vision could still see the contented smile on hir muzzle as shi dozed off. They worked well together – better than most other scouts – but they also got along excellently as friends. Perhaps getting to be more than friends?

Dale caressed hir bed-mate’s hair. Shi knew it wasn’t just about the sex, although they were well matched there. Despite hir acceptance of hir dual gender, Dale still had a distinct masculine bias. However, Swiftwalk had a feminine bias just as big, and they indulged each other frequently, so sex was very satisfactory. However, Dale had learned better than to think that sex was the most important thing in a relationship.

It wasn’t just how they worked together. They were both very experienced planetary scouts and, working in tandem, they were able to anticipate and deal with problems quickly and easily. Despite covering difficult territory, they made excellent progress while shepherding their charges. It was almost a crime to be paid for doing this work that shi loved so much.

It wasn’t just how good friends they had gotten to be. Swift knew all of Dale’s secret origin as a chakat, and Swift had trusted hir with the secret of hir Talent well before shi was forced to reveal it. They had both opened up more since their secrets were exposed, and they found that they liked what they learned about each other. They discovered shared interests and future goals. They had become comfortably familiar with each other, and Swift had never thought the less of Dale for not having been born a chakat. Shi treated Dale as any normal chakat, and the former human had learned a lot of the minutia of hir new species just from the normal everyday interactions with hir partner.

No, it was not any of those things that attracted Dale to Swiftwalk – it was all of them. It created the one dilemma that shi had. Shi was already happily denmated to two wolftaurs, but as both Goldfur and Forestwalker had told hir – chakats need other chakats. Shi thought that hir mind having once been human might not feel the same way, but there seemed to be a physical component to that need. When shi had stayed with the wolftaur pack, shi had come to realise that shi desperately wanted to see Goldfur and the other chakats again. There was a feeling of comfortable completion in the presence of another chakat. The empathic ability that Dale had yet to master nevertheless told hir that the other chakat felt the same way.

Dale had had no intention whatsoever of looking for a chakat mate. In fact, shi surprised hirself when shi accepted Avi’s suit, even though he filled another need in hir that shi had been repressing. While shi didn’t have any problems with other chakats taking multiple mates, shi had always thought that they were a little bit self-indulgent. One or two at the most should be acceptable to anyone. And yet, here shi was contemplating what it might be like to take a third!

While far from perfect, chakats had a straightforward way of thinking that many species envied. Shi was still learning to think like a chakat though, so shi didn’t always trust the answers shi was getting. Hir instincts told hir that Swiftwalk was gaining from the relationship also and, unlike Dale, shi was still unmated. If shi was right, Swift only needed to get completely over hir self-imposed isolation to realise that shi needed a mate, and an ideal one was already sharing hir life. Perhaps like Dale, shi needed time to learn what shi really needed, and if Dale wasn’t deluding hirself, shi genuinely desired Swiftwalk as a third Denmate.

Self-doubt still stopped hir from expressing hirself to hir Companion however, and in the end shi decided to let Swift make the first move. Right now shi had everything else that shi needed or wanted. This could wait until the time was right. Shi snuggled up to Swiftwalk, eliciting a sleepy purr from hir. Yes, this seemed so right to hir. Shi fell asleep as contented as any chakat could be.


Swiftwalk usually woke up before Goldendale, and today was no exception. Shi found hir partner comfortably entangled with hir, which was also quite normal. Shi carefully disengaged hirself from Dale and stretched as only a feline could do justice to. Then shi sat up and regarded Dale’s sleeping form.

This voyage had changed so many things for hir. The exposure of hir secret Talent had made many changes to hir habitual secrecy and self-imposed solitude. Never had shi dared to relax so much in the presence of another chakat. Damn, it was nice to be able to let hirself go! Still, it was probably a good thing that it was with Dale rather than some other chakat. The transformee probably couldn’t tell when shi was socially clumsy due to lack of practice, or particularly needy due to the isolation shi had kept up for so long. Swiftwalk was glad just to have a chakat to be with on a daily basis, but one who was an excellent scout with common interests was a bonus. It was so good to have a friend.

Sometimes Dale made hir laugh when shi did something inappropriate for a chakat. Shi enjoyed playing teacher to hir, and Dale always maintained a good sense of humour about hir slip-ups. Once they’d broken up into uproarious laughter to the puzzlement of the rest of the group. Swiftwalk hadn’t enjoyed such easy camaraderie since shi had left hir family to join the Star Corps.

Of course not everything that Dale did was funny. Shi had worried so much about hir denmates, and whether shi had done the right thing by leaving them behind and spending so much time with Swiftwalk. Even though shi had been reassured that casual sex was quite normal amongst chakat partners, shi still felt guilty, and that emotion had tainted their early times together. Teleporting hir home to see hir Denmates was one of the best things that Swiftwalk had ever done. Everyone was so much happier after that, and the sex had been great! Shi considered hirself lucky that shi had gotten a chakat partner who balanced hir out so well. Shi was going to regret the end of this tour of duty.

Maybe they could both be reassigned to this project? Maybe shi could put in a request for them to put the pair together on whatever other job they needed done? Shi had never tried something like that before. As far as shi knew, only mated couples or triads got any particular preference. Shi snorted at the thought. As if Dale would want a third mate! Shi recalled how Dale had told hir how shi had an overabundance of lovers after being a chakat for less than a year. Two wolftaur Denmates and a vixen Companion were certainly more than adequate. No, shi couldn’t expect anything like that.

But shi could dream.

Dale’s eyes fluttered open and Swiftwalk brought hirself back to the job. "Good morning, Dale. Time to stir your lazy tail. We’ve got another great day of exploring to get started."

An unexpected rumble of thunder heralded a torrential downpour moments later.

Swiftwalk shrugged and said with chagrin, "Or maybe not. Got any better ideas?"

Dale gave hir a sly grin. "Oh, I reckon I can think of something!"


Characters and story are copyright © 2009 Bernard Doove.

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Back on Earth, we check in to see what is happening with Leanna Meanwhile.

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