A FOREST TALE 32: A Swift Decision
By Bernard Doove © 2009
The birth of a chakat cub was never a small affair. However, the fact that this was Goldendale’s first made it an extra special occasion. Shi was just as nervous as hir mate, Lupu, was calm, but of course the wolftaur had birthed chakat cubs before. That time though she had been bearing twins, so she found being pregnant with just one cub far more comfortable and easy.
Goldfur was happy that Garrek had been able to conclude his business back at Mountain Glade so promptly, because it meant that they were back home for the birthing party. This was entirely due to the services of Swiftwalk whose teleportation ability got them around so quickly. Goldfur took hir aside to try to thank hir for all shi had done, but the skunk-patterned chakat had dismissed it as trivial.
"Honestly, Goldfur, I really enjoyed doing this for you, and it’s not as if I didn’t get anything out of the trip also. Hiding my Talent all these years hasn’t exactly been fun, but now that my secret is out, why not help out my friends? I’ve been having a great time, so don’t worry about it."
Goldfur replied, "We try never to take things… or people… for granted in this household. As the head of the family, I want you to know that not only are we grateful, we would like you to consider this your home whenever you are staying on Earth. We know that you can teleport to your real home on Chakona at a whim, but we enjoy your company and we’d like you to stick around more often for things like this birthing party. I know that Dale really wants you to be there."
"I wouldn’t miss my scouting team partner’s first cub for anything," Swiftwalk reassured Goldfur.
"You do realise that you have been much more than just a partner to hir?" Goldfur asked. "I believe that hir close association with you over all those weeks has been very helpful for hir continuing adjustment to becoming a chakat. It’s been less than a year since shi used to be a man, and yet shi has become very comfortable with hir new species and all the physical and mental changes that have come with it. It’s a remarkable change from those first days."
"You underestimate your own role," Swiftwalk demurred. "We just had a normal working partnership for two chakats."
"But that’s just it – you did everything that is normal for chakats but not for other species. That’s what shi needed. Dale fell deeply in love with Lupu due to their empathic bond, and as for Avi, as much as I like him, Dale’s choice of him had more to do with hir unrequited need for male attention. Luckily shi made a good choice, but shi still badly needed a more balanced influence more suited to hir needs. In other words, shi needed a chakat to be a good role model, and that’s what you have been."
Swiftwalk grinned. "Believe me, it’s been a pleasure. We get along excellently. Shi may be your physical duplicate, but mentally shi’s a lot different, including a strong male bias. However, I’m female biased, so that makes our relationship very comfortable and balanced."
"I thought as much. That leaves me with just one important question," Goldfur said seriously.
Swiftwalk cocked hir ear in curiosity. "What is it?"
"When are you going to ask hir to be your denmate?"
Swiftwalk’s jaw dropped in surprise. "Denmate? Are you serious?"
"Perfectly," Goldfur assured hir. "Chakats your age are usually mated long before this. I bet that you have been avoiding close relationships in an effort to keep your Talent a secret."
Swiftwalk cast hir eyes down. "Yeah, I have to admit that I was just so paranoid about keeping the secret that I frequently broke up some good friendships because of it. It’s… been lonely sometimes."
"Well since your Talent is now known, you don’t need to keep distancing yourself from others. I think you already know this inside yourself. Your relationship has been ideal on all fronts, and you admit to being both mentally and sexually compatible. You also have a great career as partners in the Star Corps. My matchmaking sister, Forest, saw your potential as mates soon after shi met you. Heck, even Garrek reckons you belong together. Last but not least, I care very greatly about the welfare of my adopted identical twin, and I want very much what is best for hir, and I believe that means you. So what are you going to do about it?" Goldfur emphasised the challenge in hir voice.
Swiftwalk just stood there mulling over everything that Goldfur had just said. Shi was forced to admit that hir life had been pretty much in a rut for a long time before shi had met Dale. Shi had spent too much time on hir career with only a few casual flings to break it up until Dale had become so involved in hir life. If shi was completely honest with hirself, shi hadn’t been this happy in decades. However, there were others to consider. "What about Lupu and Avi? I don’t want to upset Dale’s relationship with them."
"For starters, you couldn’t hurt hir relationship with Lupu. As I said, they’re empathically bonded. She will always be number one to Dale. However, Lupu is a smart bitch, and she understands how chakat relationships work better than Dale does, and knows how they work best. That’s why she encouraged Avi’s relationship with Dale. She and I had some intimate talks about the time spent with Dale in the wolftaur pack, and she gave me added insight into Dale’s needs and desires. We’ve come to the conclusion that what is best for their relationship with Dale is a chakat mate to balance things out. When circumstances subsequently threw you two together, I was thrilled, and I was even happier when time showed that you were good together." Goldfur smiled in fond reminiscence. "That’s how I found my true love. I say – don’t fight destiny. You were meant for each other."
Swiftwalk hesitated, trying to absorb everything that Goldfur had just told hir. "I– I suppose you could be right. I’m not used to being this indecisive."
"Then let me add one more thing to my argument. You need us. You’ve been a loner for too long. What you need is a family. If you become Dale’s mate, you will gain everybody in this wonderful madhouse of ours. Everyone likes you, right down to the youngest cub. We all want you to be a bigger part of our lives."
"I’m flabbergasted… and honoured." Swiftwalk then gave Goldfur a grin. "And it would make my parents very happy too. They’ve been getting very frustrated with me. They’ve even been trying to set me up with various people. Talk about awkward!" Shi stopped and thought a bit more, hir grin fading back to seriousness. Shi reached a decision. "Damned if I don’t feel a bit shy about this, but I promise to think hard over your proposal and talk about it with Dale sometime soon. Definitely before we go on our next mission. You’ve convinced me that we need to formalise our relationship one way or the other before having to leave Lupu and Avi behind again."
Goldfur smiled in satisfaction. "Great! But not today. This is definitely Lupu’s day to shine."
"Of course. Speaking of which, I promised to fetch your sister, Quickpaw, for the party. It’s about time that we left, I think."
Goldfur looked at hir wristwatch. "Hmm, you’re right. Let’s go."
Swiftwalk put hir hand on Goldfur’s arm while the cougar chakat brought up a mental picture of hir sister’s dorm room for Swiftwalk to lock onto. Moments later, they vanished.
This wasn’t Dale’s first birthing party. Shi had experienced Forestwalker’s eleven months ago, and shi knew most of what to expect. What shi didn’t expect were two familiar human faces. Right after Swiftwalk dropped off Quickpaw, the Teleporter disappeared again, only to reappear with a late middle-aged man and a woman a couple of minutes later.
Dale’s eyes bugged out in shock. "Dad? Mum?" shi gasped.
Edward and Rose Perkins smiled in delight at the surprise they had given their child. Edward said, "Well, no need to check which one is our son, right, Rose?"
Rose merely nodded as she stepped up to the surprised chakat and gave hir a hug. Dale was rigid in shock at first, worried about how they were going to react. Shi had talked to them via an expensive videocom link on a couple of occasions, so they knew what to expect, but despite them seeming to take the situation relatively well, Dale had continued to worry about how they felt about their son now being a herm felitaur. Now though, hir empathic Talent working its best in direct contact with hir parent, shi could tell one thing with absolute certainty – hir mother loved hir still! Dale’s arms wrapped the woman in a tight hug and both started weeping tears of happiness.
Edward waited patiently for the two to part, then walked up to Dale and held out his hand. "Good to see you, Son."
Dale shook his hand, resisting mightily the chakat impulse to hug him also. "Same here, Dad, although I’m not exactly your son any more."
Edward grinned. "You’re part male, so that means you’re still my son. Don’t see much of the family resemblance in you though, I must admit."
Dale laughed. "You haven’t changed a bit, Dad. I’m so glad that you’re here though. I admit that despite the times we’ve talked on the videocom, I wasn’t sure how well you’ve been taking my change. Now I can sense it for myself, and it’s a load off my mind."
Edward put his arm around Rose’s shoulder. "Your mother and I talked about this for a long time after we were informed about your accident. Believe me, the relief that you survived at all overwhelmed our concern for your change of species. However, Mars is a pioneering world, and everyone there works hard together for the betterment of all, and the majority of the population consists of morphs, including chakats. We get along well together – you have to under those conditions – and so we had no problem liking another chakat. It just took a bit of getting used to one being our son. However, that was a while back, and today we’re here to see our grandchild’s birth. What better way of spending our reunion with you?"
Rose spoke up for the first time. "You have to thank this lovely chakat, Swiftwalk, for offering to bring us here for the birth."
Dale looked at the skunk-striped chakat. "How did you do that anyway? You told me once that you haven’t been to Mars, and you can’t sense that far to jump without a ‘lock’."
"Simple enough," Swiftwalk replied. "I went to Star Corps HQ and looked for anyone who had been to Mars. I got lucky and found a chakat whose parents also are pioneers there. I got hir to do Goldfur’s trick of mentally envisioning a suitable location and I was able to get an empathic lock. We teleported there, and while shi paid a surprise visit to hir parents, I tracked down yours. We made arrangements for me to pick them up today, and the rest is history."
Dale padded over to Swiftwalk and gave hir a huge hug. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Swift."
Swiftwalk looked a little sheepish but gratified. "It was nothing, partner," shi replied.
"No, definitely more than nothing," Dale said firmly. Shi then turned back to hir parents. "Mum, Dad, come with me. It’s time that you met your daughter-in-law in person. Son-in-law too, actually. We have a lot to talk about." Shi took one of the hands of each and then led them off to the room where Lupu was resting.
Goldfur looked at Swiftwalk and gave hir a knowing smirk when shi caught hir eye. Swiftwalk’s inner ears pinked with the blush that shi felt.
Lupu had gone into labour late in the afternoon, right on schedule. Unfortunately the wolftaur bitch was not as well designed as chakats for easy births, and the labour went on for hours. Dale lay behind hir mate, supporting her as best shi could. For all that time, shi was trying to use hir innate empathic ability as shi had been taught in order to calm and soothe Lupu. Apparently shi was doing a reasonable job, as the wolftaur hadn’t tried to claw hir to pieces as yet. It was still a bit unnerving to have a roomful of naked people watching and sharing the experience, but after a while shi grew used to it, especially when shi realised that the empathic abilities of the chakats were in tune with hirs, lending them both strength. Fortunately, hir parents remained clothed, sparing Dale the awkwardness of that particular scenario. At last the moment arrived and the cub came into the world. Then came the moment that Dale knew was inevitable but still embarrassing – the milk-sharing. Lupu only gave the hungry cub half a feed, with Quickpaw giving hir the other half in order to supply the essential CKF component of chakat milk that the wolftaur milk lacked. Then came Lupu’s turn, and she drank Dale’s breasts dry of their milkwater, the chakat having long ago weaned hirself. Dale then took a token suckle of Lupu’s breast, but it was once again Quickpaw who supplied the mouthful of chakat milk needed to stimulate the production of mother’s milk to refill Dale’s breasts. Fond memories of the times that shi had fed Goldfur’s cub made hir look forward a lot to doing the same for hir own child.
Finally everything was completed and the last of the witnesses left Dale and Lupu alone with their new child. They gazed lovingly at their new child, hir silvery grey puma patterned fur revealed as it had dried. The light of the young moon fell through the window to illuminate the cub’s face with a soft glow. After a few minutes, the cub started a singsong mew in hir sleep.
Dale smiled as a thought occurred to hir and shi said to Lupu, "Can I suggest a name?"
"Of course, love. Shi’s your cub."
"How about Nightsong?"
Lupu thought about it, then nodded in approval. "I like it."
"Thank you, dear. Nightsong it is then. Shall we tell the others now?"
"Not just yet. Both shi and I need a bit more rest," Lupu said tiredly.
"That’s okay. I doubt that anyone will be leaving early."
About an hour later, the two came out with Dale carrying their newborn child, with Lupu leaning a little on the chakat for strength. The crowd quieted and listened for an announcement.
Dale said with pride in hir voice, "Friends and family alike, my lifemate and I are delighted to present to you – Nightsong, child of Lupukshawteanae and Goldendale."
A cheer went up, waking the cub who started to wail.
"Let’s hope hir singing improves," quipped Trina.
There was much laughter and lots of congratulations followed. Dale felt shi was truly a full member of the family from then on.
A couple of days later, Goldfur answered the videocom that had rudely interrupted the family’s lunch. "Goldfur speaking," shi said to the ocelot morph fem on the screen. She wore a Star Corps badge, so Goldfur assumed that it was business.
"Shir Goldfur, your comm was given as a contact for Shir Swiftwalk. Would shi be there? We have been unable to reach hir by personal comm."
‘Not surprising,’ thought Goldfur. ‘Shi doesn’t want to be bugged by people wanting hir to join their teleportation research program.’ Shi asked the ocelot, "What do you want hir for?"
"Official Corps business, Shir Goldfur. If shi wishes to discuss it with you later, that’s fine, but for now I need to talk to hir about possible changes to hir next mission."
Goldfur nodded begrudgingly. The Corps was their employer and had a right to ask. "Okay, I’ll fetch hir."
Swiftwalk came to the videocom with Goldfur whom shi asked to accompany hir just in case. "Swiftwalk here. What’s this about the next mission? I’m still on leave for another couple of weeks."
"Shir Swiftwalk," Began the ocelot, "My name is Naomi Sands. I wish to discuss restructuring the exploration of Sylvania with your unique Talent in mind."
"In what way?" shi asked suspiciously. "I’ve already made it plain that I like my present career, and have no intentions of changing that."
"And we have no intention of changing your job either. In fact, you will be able to spend more time on it if you wish."
"Alright, now you have me intrigued. What did you have in mind?"
"Could you come into the office so that we can discuss the proposal, and sign any contracts that you may agree to?"
"Certainly. When did you want to do this?"
"The sooner the better, please. We have a lot of reorganising to do if you agree to the new arrangements."
"Very well." Swiftwalk used the image on the screen as a focus for hir Talents to get a ‘lock’ on the location, and a moment later shi disappeared, only to reappear instantly beside the ocelot woman.
Naomi gave a small shriek of surprise at the unexpected arrival.
Swiftwalk grinned – that made up for the interrupted lunch. Shi could hear Goldfur laughing in the background of the videocom on the desk. Swiftwalk said, "You can hang up now, Goldie. Save some food for me."
"OK, Swift. See you later."
"Now, Ms Sands," Swiftwalk said as the ocelot recomposed herself, "Let’s hear your pitch."
It was about an hour and a half later when Swiftwalk reappeared in the kitchen. Several adults were seated around the big kitchen table, drinking tea and having a conversation that centred on speculation on what the Star Corps wanted with the teleporting chakat.
Goldendale said, "Okay, Swift, what’s giving you that grin that’s plastered all over your face?"
Swiftwalk went to pour hirself some tea. "I’ve just signed an agreement that’s going to give me a huge pay raise."
"So what have you agreed to do?" Dale prompted.
"You know how we have to waste so much time just travelling to and from the worlds that we explore? Well, the Star Corps wants me to provide a shuttle service for the personnel. The idea is that while most of the supplies and equipment still travels by starship, all the teams can be teleported to the base camp, and teleported home again after they have spent a specified period there, depending on the work that they do. I’d make myself available once a week to take people back and forth and, other than emergencies, the rest of the time I can concentrate on the job that I love. I actually get to spend a lot more time doing that even after I deduct the time spent teleporting people, and there won’t be any long, boring periods wasted on the starship. Best of all, they’ve written into the contract that they won’t push me to take part in teleportation research. They will also let me go home whenever I feel like without having to receive approval, although they do require me to keep them informed, which is quite reasonable. This is a win/win situation all round!"
"Wow! Sounds like they were bending over backwards to get you to sign up," Dale remarked.
Swiftwalk grinned. "Wouldn’t you if you could save tonnes of money and time by doing so? I held all the cards and they knew it. Whee! I’m so happy, I could explode!"
"Quite a bit of a turnaround from the paranoid chakat that we knew," Goldfur remarked to the others.
"Okay, no need to rub it in, Goldie," Swiftwalk said with a chagrined grimace.
Dale said, "So when do you start?"
"On the day we were originally scheduled to leave by starship. It’s too late to amend the leave time of the other personnel, and besides, they have to re-appraise logistics before then."
"Makes sense," Dale said. "It’ll be strange being able to go home for the weekend, so to speak."
"Suits me fine, darling," Lupu said as she draped her arms over Dale’s shoulders and nuzzled hir.
Later that afternoon, Dale was lying in the shade of one of the tall eucalypts in the back yard, breastfeeding Nightsong. Swiftwalk came out of the house, flanked by Lupu and Avi, and they walked over to Dale. The skunk-patterned chakat looked nervous for the first time that Dale could recall, but Avi had a smile, while Lupu was grinning from ear to ear. Dale tried to use hir empathic Talent to try to figure out what possible mischief the wolftaur was up to, but shi could only sense a chaotic mess and gave up.
Swiftwalk hesitated until Lupu poked hir. Shi blurted out, "I have a proposal for you."
Lupu rolled her eyes and said, "That was terrible. Try again!"
Swiftwalk took a deep breath and said, "Goldendale, will you do me the honour of being my denmate?"
Dale grinned and said, "It’s about time that you asked."
Dale couldn’t help hirself. Shi always felt so good while breastfeeding hir cub, and combined with Swiftwalk’s comical expression, it made hir burst into laughter. Shi stopped hirself quickly and said, "I’m sorry, Swift, but it was such a funny moment." Shi became serious then. "Swiftwalk, while we were on that mission, I knew I would need someone to take care of my chakat needs. I thought it would be Goldfur who would be doing that, but when we started working together so well, I knew that you were actually a better partner, and in more ways than one. You were still hung up on your secret then though, so that’s all we were for a while. After our escape from the tidal wave though, you finally let your guard down. Those days we spent together were almost as wonderful as the times I spent with Lupu."
Swiftwalk smiled in happy memory. "Yeah, I have to admit that I’ve never felt so relaxed and happy with someone before. My own fault for pushing people away until then."
Dale continued, "Now I’m not stupid – I’d finally learned enough about being a chakat to realise that there was something more to us than just being partners. For a while I agonised over how Lupu and Avi would feel about my relationship with you while we were on Sylvania. Once I sorted that out, I began to look at us through the lessons that I had learned, and I already came to the conclusion that you and I would make a good Companions. When we got home, Lupu made some unsubtle hints about how chakats needed other chakats, but I was determined to wait until you realised for yourself that we would be good together. I also needed you to confirm that my conclusions were right and that you really cared for me. I’m still learning how to be a proper chakat, and I really didn’t want to make a huge mistake. However you’ve been going out of your way to make me happy lately, including bringing my parents here for Nightsong’s birth. I no longer have doubts."
"So… that’s a yes?" Swiftwalk asked.
Dale got up and gently detached the nearly replete cub from hir nipple, then handed hir over to Lupu. Shi then put hir arms around Swiftwalk and kissed hir passionately. When they parted lips, shi said softly, "Yes, partner, that’s a definite affirmative, and now I feel like this mateship is really complete." Shi beckoned Lupu and Avi over to join the hug, then continued, "We four are now one, and we are all the stronger for it."
Lupu said enthusiastically, "You bet! Now shut up and go screw hir brains out!"
Dale shook hir head in mock despair. That was so typical of the wolftaur bitch – blunt to the point of crudity. "Yes, dear," was all shi said though.
Dale put hir arm around Swiftwalk’s waist and steered hir towards the back door of the house. "What made you ask now?" shi inquired curiously.
Swiftwalk replied, "Goldfur had already pointed out that we needed each other, and I was going to have a talk with you anyway, but when this new job arrangement came up and all its advantages, I knew that I could arrange things so that we could remain together as long as we wanted, and still give you more time with your other mates. It just seemed like perfect timing to me."
"Works for me, Hon. Just one thing though…."
Swiftwalk looked at hir questioningly. "And that is…?"
"Don’t expect me to get pregnant. I’m still not ready for that!"
Swiftwalk smiled and laid hir head on Dale’s shoulder. "Don’t worry, my love, I’ve got that covered."
The two disappeared inside to celebrate their union. As Lupu and Avi watched them leave, Lupu said, "I’m going to enjoy this."
Avi looked at the bitch in puzzlement. "Huh? Why? I don’t think they’re planning to invite you to join in."
Lupu gave him a big grin. "In a way, they are. You forget that we’re empathically bonded. That means that not only can shi sense me, but I can also sense hir, despite not having any particular Talent. Why do you think that I get so turned on when shi has sex with you? You’re virtually fucking two people at one time, you stud!" she said with a broad wink.
"I’ll be damned!" Avi said as the implications set in.
"That isn’t what I had in mind for you," Lupu said mischievously as she urged him into the house.
"Umm... isn't it a bit soon after giving birth? It's only been a couple of days and won’t you be a bit… tender?" Avi said solicitously.
"You're right, but I think you can be a bit imaginative in other ways," Lupu said, undeterred.
"Now you’re talking!" Avi replied with an eager grin.
"Hey, Leanna!" Lupu called out as they passed through the house.
Leanna popped out of Trina’s office where shi had been doing some work. "What’s up, Lupu?"
Lupu held out her cub. "Could you look after Nightsong for me for while?"
"No problem. It’s about time that I finished up here anyway."
"Thanks, dear! Come on, lover. Our mate is already getting me turned on."
The two hastened off to a private room while the fennec morph just grinned. Shi looked at the dozing cub in hir arms. "And I thought I was supposed to be the one suffering from a sex compulsion! You’re going to have lots more siblings at this rate."
Leanna took the cub to the nursery where other cubs were napping, and put the child in with them. Shi was heading back to the office to finish up for the day when shi heard a PTV pull up outside. They weren’t expecting anyone then, so Leanna went to investigate. Grabbing a pair of shorts that shi kept handy for when it wasn’t appropriate to answer the door in the nude, shi put them on and got to the door just as the doorbell rang. When shi opened the door, shi found two Star Fleet officers there – a male human and a female jaguar. The latter spoke up.
"Leanna Fennec, Star Fleet and the Stellar Federation would like to request your services," she said without preamble.
Find out what happens with Leanna in the next story And The Children Shall Lead.
Return to the Forest Tales main page.
Return to the Chakat's DenTM main page.