A FOREST TALE 36: In The Family Way
By Bernard Doove © 2011
Goldfurís ears pricked up at the sound of something not typically heard near their home. Shi made hir way to the front door in time to see two motorcycles pull into the yard. The rare noise of internal combustion engines died as the riders turned off their motors, dismounted, and pulled off their helmets. The nearest one, a very tall black panther morph, strode up to the door while the other leaned up against their motorcycle.
The panther smiled down amiably at Goldfur. "Gíday! Iím looking for Forestwalker. Would I be right in guessing that youíre hir sister, Goldfur?"
Goldfur grinned back up. "You would be correct, and the only black panther herm that shiís told me about would be Rik from the Double H Club."
"Right first time."
"Then that would make the Rakshani over there, Shamara." Although the rider resembled a tiger morph, the long, thick tail was a dead giveaway, even if shi could not smell hir alien scent.
"Right again. So is Forest home?"
"I sure am," Forestwalker said from behind Goldfur. "I was out the back, playing with the cubs, otherwise Iíd have been out here sooner. What brings you two out here? Decided to take up my invitation and check out the place at last?"
"Nope, although I will do that one day. Shamara and I are headed off down to Phillip Island for the Moto Grand Prix, and we were wondering if you or Leanna would be interested in joining us down there?"
"Iím not really interested in motorcycle racing, and Leanna and I have our hands full with the new kits anyway."
Rik slapped hirself on the forehead. "Doh! Of course Ė how could I forget how gravid shi was last time I saw hir? So when did it happen?
"Shi gave birth to Opal back on September 29, but our mate, Trina, gave birth to Mica, the kit that Leanna sired, just a few days ago on October 7. Why donít you come out back and meet the new additions?"
"Iím not exactly the parent type, but Iíll give Leanna my congratulations." Shi turned to Shamara. "Come on in and meet the family."
"OK. Umm... what about our boots?" Shamara enquired.
"No problem," Forestwalker assured hir. "We have tiles in the passageway."
They found Leanna and Trina seated on a garden bench, enjoying the Spring sunshine. Leanna was breastfeeding a sandy-red kit, while Trina was just cradling an off-white kit with soft brown markings who was fast asleep.
"Hi, Rik!" Leanna called out when shi spotted hir. "Come to see my kits? Oh! Shamara too! Hi Sham! This is my mate, Trina."
"Gíday Leanna, Trina. I confess that I hadnít even realised that they had been born yet. Congrats on the cute kits, by the way. However, we came for a different reason, but itís obvious that you wonít be going anywhere for a while."
"Not at short notice anyway. I heard your motorbikes Ė doing a bit of riding in the hills here? Or perhaps going to the Moto Grand Prix?"
"No fooling you, is there? Yeah, weíre off to Phillip Island for the weekend."
"Iíve entered into one of the amateur races," Shamara added.
"Good luck with that. So whatís been happening with the group lately?"
"Thatís the other thing that we wanted to tell you since you havenít been to the Double H for a few weeks Ė for obvious reasons. Theyíre holding a costume party for Halloween. I thought that you might like to join in because the rest of us intend to go. Itís being held at the Double Date, so non-herm partners are just as welcome," Rik added, looking pointedly at Trina.
"Hmm. I think that I could get a babysitter or two for that night. How about it, Trina? Think youíd be up for it?"
"Sounds like fun. We havenít had the chance to do much lately, so itíll be good to get out and socialise a bit. Itíll give me the opportunity to meet all those herm friends of yours that youíve been telling me about."
"Great!" Rik enthused. "Just let Francine know how many will be coming. Shiíll let you know the details like time and cost." Rik looked to Forestwalker. "What about you? Want to bring along someone else besides Leanna?"
"Iím not sure if I can go. I have a cub due on October 25."
Rik blinked in surprise. "Funny Ė you donít look pregnant."
Forestwalker rolled hir eyes. "Idiot. Itís my lifemate, Midnight. Weíll be holding a birthing party for hir on the 26th, as long as Star Fleet doesnít screw things up for us. Want to come see my latest cub being born?"
Rik shook hir head emphatically. "No thanks Ė cubs really arenít my thing."
"How about you, Shamara? Want to share in a bit of chakat culture?"
Shamara grinned. "Iím with Rik on this one. If I have a child some day, itíll be years from now. Right at the moment I am trying to build a career in bike racing, and thatís not compatible with being a mother at the same time. Thatís one thing that I like about my relationship with Rik Ė weíre not genetically compatible because Iím not a Terran morph, so thereís no chance of pregnancy."
"The best kind of contraceptive," Forestwalker admitted. "Anyway, with the Halloween party just five days after the birth, it might be a bit soon for Midnight."
Goldfur interjected, "I dunno Ė I reckon that shiíll be glad to have an excuse to take a break from being a mother for a few hours. Shiís not quite as enthusiastic about motherhood as you are. And you know Quickpaw will be glad for an excuse to look after hir newest niece."
Forestwalker threw up hir hands in surrender. "Alright Ė put us down for a definite maybe. Iíll leave it up to Midnight to decide."
"Great. Weíd better get going," Rik said. "This little detour was nice, but we have to get down to the island as soon as we can. Now that weíve tracked down where you live though, we may pay a proper visit sometime soon."
"Youíre always welcome Ė both of you," Forestwalker assured them as shi saw them to the front door.
Chakat Midnight arrived on October 23, late Sunday afternoon, aboard Admiral Klineís shuttle which settled down in its usual place in the back yard. Forewarned of their arrival, Forestwalker had ensured that the yard was clear of cubs and toys. Shi waited eagerly for the shuttle door to open, anxious to see hir mates again. It seemed like an eternity, but it was really a brief wait before the hatch opened to reveal a raven-black chakat in Star Fleet Security uniform. Shi carefully stepped down, mindful of hir gravid body, then found hirself enveloped in a passionate hug from Forestwalker.
"Itís good to see you too, Love." Midnight then kissed hir deeply to emphasise hir point.
A moment later they were joined by Boyce who claimed a kiss from Forestwalker also. Last to disembark was MíLai who had Ember in tow. They both got cuddles, of course.
"Sorry to be a day late," Midnight explained as they headed inside, "but duty comes first. The bad guys just have no consideration for us expectant mothers."
Forestwalker grinned back at Midnight. "It would have been awful to have been late for your own birthing party. Still, you made it with a day to spare."
"I would have been very annoyed if Iíd had to have the cub on board Pegasus without you there." Midnight looked around with both eyes and empathic sense. "Whereís everyone?"
"Goldie and Garrek are doing maintenance at various Star Corps sites. Swiftwalk is teleporting them around between time that shi and Dale are on some alien world somewhere. Lupu and Avi are visiting their pack while Dale is away. Malena is visiting her mother. Leanna has taken hir kits out in the stroller along with Trina and Kris. Iíd be with them if I hadnít been waiting for you. That just leaves Lorene whoís in the kitchen preparing dinner, and of course all the cubs. Speaking of which... All clear, kids! You can play outside until dinner!"
There was a small stampede from the bedrooms. "Hi, Auntie Midnight!" a couple called as they dashed past. Two latched onto Midnight though.
"Daddy!" they cried out in delight, nuzzling and purring loudly.
"Oho! You two little terrors are growing up so fast!" Midnight picked up Snowcloud and Patchwork, tucking one under each arm and giving them big lick-kisses. The cubs squealed in delight and gave hir many little licks back.
"Itís good to be able to relax, forget about Security for a while, and just be a parent again," Midnight purred.
"Speaking of which, how has Ember been doing?"
"Quite well, actually. Iíd been a little worried that shi would miss the presence of other young chakats, but it seems that the other children on the ship have been enough, and of course I give hir a lot of attention whenever Iím off-duty."
Boyce added, "Shi likes to sleep with hir Daddy, which is convenient when Midnight needs to spend time with MíLai or Sparks. I like it usually, except when shi gets the urge to sleep on my chest. Shiís gotten a bit too big for that nowadays."
"Just think Ė youíll soon have another niece who might like to sleep on you also," Forestwalker pointed out.
"Oh joy," Boyce lamented. "My bridge crew are going to have to keep waking me up."
Everybody laughed. Some things never changed.
About noon the next day, three chakats, two cubs, and a foxtaur appeared out of thin air into the living room. The cubs immediately streaked away in search of the others, while the adults took stock of their surroundings. They spotted Midnight lying on the sofa, hir gravid body comfortably propped up with pillows.
"You look comfy," Goldfur observed.
"Iím being pampered Ė and loving it," Midnight replied with a grin.
"Too right, shi is!" came Forestwalkerís voice as shi walked in with a mug of tea and a fruit bun which shi placed on the table beside Midnight. Shi then turned to Goldfur and gave hir a hug. "Hi, sis. Howís work?"
"Interesting, as always, but it feels strange to be flitting from planet to planet like that. You just get used to one atmosphere and gravity and boom Ė youíre in another completely different one."
"And those are only the worlds that Iím familiar with," Swiftwalk noted. "After I do that planned slowpoke tour of Star Corps sites, Iíll be able to take you to so many places, you wonít be able to tell where you are anymore."
"Theyíre not overworking you again, are they?" Forestwalker asked with concern.
"Nah. We renegotiated the contract to give me a more manageable workload."
"And I stood over both sides to ensure that shi worked out a good arrangement," Dale added. "I donít want my mate overdoing things again, especially now that shiís pregnant. Goldendale stroked the flanks of hir mate, whose belly was now visibly bulging.
"Shi worries too much," Swiftwalk demurred, and kissed Dale. "Gotta go, hon. Midnightís mother still needs to be picked up from Chakona, and Malena from her village. Have a cuppa ready, will you?" With that, shi was gone once again.
"The kettle has just boiled," Forestwalker told Dale, who nodded and headed off to the kitchen.
"Iím headed for the shower and a change of clothes," Goldfur announced. "Garrek, are you coming?"
"Sorry, Love, but Iím going to surprise Lorene and work a bit of tension out of my system."
Goldfur nodded understandingly and left for the bathroom.
"Whereís Lorene?" Garrek asked.
"Hear the vacuum cleaner? Thatís her cleaning the bedrooms in preparation for our visitors."
"Perfect! Donít come looking for her or me for a while."
Garrek found Lorene in one of the guest rooms. She was diligently getting to the dust bunnies under the bed, and didnít notice him arrive. He grinned broadly, closed the door, walked over and goosed her. With a surprised yelp, she spun around with an outraged look on her face, which suddenly turned to joy when she saw who it was. She flew into his arms and kissed him, which he willingly returned. However, he quickly broke it off, grabbed her wrists and pulled her over to the bedpost where he tied one wrist with a cable tie that he pulled from one of his many vest coat pockets. He repeated it with the other wrist to the other bedpost, then both forelegs to the base of each of the posts. He then fingered her collar while she looked at him with great expectation.
"You are mine to do with as I please," he reminded her.
"I am yours," she affirmed. "Take me!"
And he did, long and hard, and her cries of ecstasy failed to be drowned out by the noise of the forgotten vacuum cleaner.
Malena groaned and collapsed onto some lounging cushions. "I donít think I can stand another couple of weeks like this!" shi complained for the tenth time that day. The triplet foxtaur kits that filled her grossly swollen abdomen weighed as heavily on her as sextuplets on a biped, and they just wouldnít keep still. "Itís not a playground in there!" she scolded them, to zero effect.
"You asked for it!" Jaleth said smugly, never missing an opportunity to make her point.
"Give it a rest, mom! Pot meet kettle, remember?"
The reminder usually stopped the snarky comments for a while. Malena had not regretted coming for a visit, and her mother had been generally supportive and helped Malena cope with her extreme gravidity. However, between the burden in her belly and the digs at her, Malenaís patience had worn thin.
Just then, Swiftwalk appeared.
"Thank the Makers Ė Iím saved," Malena murmured.
"What was that?" Swiftwalk asked.
"Nothing. Iím ready to go home. My bagís all packed."
Jaleth came over to hug her daughter, the snide remarks forgotten now that she was leaving. "Donít hesitate to call me if you need help with my new grandkits."
"Thanks, mom. I expect that Iíll have plenty of help, but Iíll keep you in mind." She lick-kissed her mother, and then Swiftwalk laid a hand on her arm and teleported her away.
Guests started trickling in soon after lunchtime. Midnightís mother, Sharpears, had joined them for the meal, delighted to be able to attend the birthing party of hir next granddaughter, despite the birthing taking place many light-years away from hir home. Forestwalkerís parents were next to arrive, then Sparks got shore leave from the Pegasus after getting an invitation from Midnight. Rosepetal arrived in time for dinner. A few of Forestwalkerís aunts also made it in time for the meal. With the cub not due until the next day, that evening was just for socialising.
The event came a little earlier than anticipated the next morning. Swiftwalk was despatched to fetch Quickpaw, who had threatened mayhem if shi was left out. When they íported into the living room, Quickpaw was laughing so hard that tears were coming out of hir eyes.
"Okay, sis Ė whatís so funny?" Goldfur asked.
"Swift appeared out of nowhere, right in front of Sasha. You have never seen a funnier sight than a huge tiger morph jumping six feet in the air with hir fur all frizzed out in shock."
"Shiís going to kill you when you get back," Goldfur reckoned.
"I know. Itíll be worth it." Shi still couldnít stop chuckling though.
"Better head over to the bedroom now," Goldfur reminded hir.
"Right!" Quickpaw eagerly bounded away, with Goldfur and Swiftwalk following at a more leisurely rate.
Swiftwalk found hir mate with the others, nude as was traditional, but not self-conscious about it as shi had been the first time when shi had witnessed Forestwalker giving birth. However, hir attention was not on Midnight, but instead focused on one of the other people in the room. Swiftwalk followed hir line of sight, then grinned. Both Rosepetal and MíLai had joined everyone else to witness the birth, but while the former was still clad in her civvies, MíLai had elected to honour the chakat tradition, and was just as nude as the rest of the people in the room, and seemingly unfazed by it. Dale was certainly getting an eyeful of the Caitianís exceptionally generous endowments.
"Itís a good thing that we chakats donít get jealous," Swiftwalk murmured in Daleís ear.
Dale felt hirself blush with embarrassment at being caught ogling MíLai, hir ears practically burning. "I.. I just..." shi stammered.
"Oh, hush Ė Iím just teasing you. Heaven knows Iím getting an eyeful too."
Dale didnít need hir nose to tell that hir mate was in high male phase, pregnancy notwithstanding, and shi heaved a sigh of relief.
The witnesses did not have to wait for long as Midnight seemed determined to have a very quick birthing. A little under an hour from hir first contraction, Midnight held hir newborn cub, with Forestwalker looking on proudly.
As usual, speculation began on what to call the cub. Shi was white-furred, with orange tiger stripes, and suggestions flew based on those markings, but none appealed to the parents.
Suddenly the cub gave voice. Instead of the typical cries or mewlings of a newborn cub, shi gave a very long yowl.
Sharpears smiled and commented, "Quite the little roar shi has there."
Midnight grinned. "Yeah Ė hey, thatís it! Shi turned to Forestwalker and asked, "What do you think of Littleroar as a name?"
"I like it," Forestwalker agreed. "What do the rest of the family think of it?"
There was plenty of support for the proposed name. At a nod from Midnight, Forestwalker took the cub and held hir up in presentation.
"May I present to you Littleroar Ė child of Midnight and Forestwalker."
There was a big cheer in response, which startled the cub, who promptly lived up to hir new name.
If this had been a normal chakat birthing party, celebrations would have continued on until late at night, with half the guests not leaving until the next morning. Murphy decided to stick his foot in it though.
Garrek was being attentive to Malenaís needs, and the vixen was very grateful for it. The less that she had to move, the less discomfort that she had to endure. Not that there was ever a really comfortable way of coping with her grossly gravid form, but she was willing to settle for tolerable. A moment later, she yelped.
"Whatís wrong, Malena?" Garrek asked with concern.
"I... I just had a contraction."
"What? But itís way too soon. Youíre not due for weeks."
"I know it is, but I had one anyway."
"But itís too soon!" Garrek repeated.
"Look Ė Iíve given birth before; I know what a contraction feels like."
By now they had attracted Goldfurís attention. "What happening?"
Garrek said, "Malena thinks that she just had a contraction."
"No," Malena denied. "I know I had a contraction."
"But itís too soon!" objected Garrek.
"Youíre really stuck in that rut, arenít you?" Malena said with a roll of her eyes.
"Itís not unusual for multiple births to occur early," Goldfur interjected. "Itís possible that the excitement of the evening has triggered it off now. If more contractions happen, then I think we may have another birthing to attend today."
"Please, Goldie Ė I really donít want everybody hanging around while I try to deliver three kits."
"Okay, Love, weíll keep it to a minimum. Or would you prefer to go to a birthing clinic?"
I coped with Blaze, so I think I can cope with these three with Brightsongís help, but do you think that you can fetch mom? Sheíll want to be here for the birth of her grandkits."
"Okay, Iíll ask Swiftwalk, but let me know if you change your mind about the clinic."
As it turned out, more contractions did come, but not so quickly that Malena had to be retired to one of the bedrooms until after midnight. With Garrek, Goldfur, Lorene and Jaleth in attendance, along with Quickpaw assisting the midwife, Brightsong, Malena finally delivered the first at 12:44am.
"Itís a male," declared Brightsong. "Congratulations, Malena."
The second waited until after one oíclock to come out, but the third followed almost immediately.
Malena was tired but pleased that the deliveries had gone reasonably quickly. However, she was dismayed that she could not breastfeed any of her kits because her milk had not come in yet. Fortunately, they not only had the services of a professional wet nurse Ė Quickpaw Ė but Garrek had ordered Lorene to get the medicine that stimulated lactation before she moved over to Australia, and her four breasts were already amply filled with the essential nourishment.
Garrek and Goldfur left while the kits were getting their first feed, to announce the arrival of three healthy foxtaur kits. Garrek was dancing with excitement due to the fact that they were all male Ė identical triplets it seemed.
By now, most chakats would normally be in bed. However, the interest in Malenaís triplets meant that not one had done so yet. All of them were hoping for the opportunity to see the kits and to congratulate the mother.
Upon being informed of this by Goldfur, Malena rolled her eyes. "Chakats! Youíre all obsessed! Okay, let them in and get this over with so that we can all get some sleep."
"How are you feeling?" Goldfur asked with some concern for hir mate.
"Much lighter. Iím glad that they came early and theyíre doing fine. I just need a lot of rest right now."
The chakats took turns to visit mother and kits so as not to overwhelm them all at once. Naturally one of the inevitable questions was Ė ĎHave you thought of names for them yet?í Unlike chakats who preferred their cubs to be born before they started considering names, Malena and Garrek had already decided what to call them, and had names ready for either males or females.
"Their names are Rikkal, Jallor, and Mallek."
"Which is which though?"
"Theyíre identical triplets Ė until I get some way of identifying them, even I wonít be able to keep track of whoís who."
"But you wonít be able to tell who is firstborn."
"I donít want to know. I donít want one to think that he is more special than the others just because he came out first."
Eventually everyone had congratulated Malena and cooed over the kits. Swiftwalk returned Jaleth to Mountain Glade, and Quickpaw to hir dorm room, then gratefully crawled into the common sleeping room to snuggle up to Dale. Finally, peace and quiet descended upon the home.
Rik returned to hir room at the Double H Club after the Double Date closed its doors for the night, to be greeted by the odd sight of Shamara waiting for hir in the bedroom. It wasnít the fact that the Rakshani was in hir room Ė shi had moved in with Rik soon after the poker night incident. Hir courier job took hir away from Melbourne more often than not, and seeing as shi resided at the Double H Club and they spent much of the time that shi was in Melbourne together nowadays, shi thought shi might as well not bother with a room of hir own that shi didnít get to use half the time, much to Rikís delight. No, it was odd because of the peculiar attire shi was wearing.
"What on Earth have you got on?" Rik queried.
Shamara was wearing a pinstripe suit and fedora, and had a lit cigar between the fingers of hir right hand, and a fake tommy-gun tucked under hir left arm. The only thing that really looked out of place was the lack of shoes which were a necessary concession to hir digitigrade feet.
"Like it? The costume shop person said that this was a... what was it she said...? Oh yeah, a gangster outfit from the early 1900ís. Iíll be wearing it to the Halloween event."
Rik grinned. "Well, I think it suits you, but when did you take up smoking?"
Shamara looked at the cigar. "I havenít Ė Iím just using it as a prop. I donít know what you see in them."
"I suppose you have to grow up with them. So, why are you wearing that outfit now? The dance is a few nights away as yet."
"I wanted to show it off before I left. Iíve got another job that will keep me away until the day of the dance."
Rikís face fell. "Damn Ė that means weíll miss the weekend for riding."
"Canít be helped. Until I turn professional, my courier job comes first. However, as a consolation, you get to find out what Iím wearing underneath."
That perked up Rikís interest. "Oh? What goes under a gangster outfit?"
"Well at first the shop assistant was looking at doing me up as a gangster... er... moll, I think she called it. She showed me some interesting outfits, but none of them clicked with me Ė too fem. Then it occurred to us that because Iím a herm, maybe there was a compromise." With that shi put the cigar aside on an ashtray and shrugged off the coat. Then shi unbuttoned the shirt to reveal a lacy black bra and garter belt. Undoing the belt, shi dropped the trouser to show that shi was wearing a pair of black stockings that didnít let the fur stick through them, held up by garters.
Rik leered at hir. "This is what she wanted to you to wear to the dance?"
Shamara laughed. "No Ė this is whatís left of the moll outfit after I picked out the bits that I wanted to get a reaction out of you. Would you like to take off the bra for me?" Rik did so and then shi climbed onto the bed. Shi posed sexily for Rik, with a growing erection.
Rik had already scented that shi was in heat, and that had probably affected hir choice of outfit when normally shi preferred dressing masculine. Not that shi objected because it was sure turning hir on! Shi started undressing. "My dear Shamara, I believe I want to learn a bit more about gangsters and molls," shi said with a grin as shi joined the Rakshani on the bed.
"I look silly," Leanna complained.
"Itís not supposed to be serious," Forestwalker replied. "Besides, these costumes were never designed for taurs, so how do you think I look in this?"
"Well I think mine suits me fine." Trina spun around to show it off.
"I think you all look great," Kris commented, then put the long-stemmed rose he was holding in his teeth, and posed. "Perfect companions for Tuxedo Mask!"
Leanna looked him over. "Okay Ė you look dashing, but I donít know why I let Garrek persuade me to wear this... sailor suit."
"Because Sailor Moon needs her cohorts, and you go together so well," Garrek insisted.
When Forestwalker had mentioned that shi didnít know what costume to wear to the Double H Clubís Halloween party, Garrek had been quick to point out some suggestions from his collection of old 20th and 21st Century anime. "You four can go as a theme," he enthused. "Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts, and the one male in the group as Tuxedo Mask Ė itíll be great!"
Kris was hooked, and Trina was intrigued, but the others had to be won over. However, because they had run out of time, and they still couldnít think of another common theme for the four of them, they decided to go with Garrekís suggestion.
"Well, I think you look cute, Love," Midnight commented.
"Yeah? Then why didnít you get into one of these?" Forestwalker asked.
"Oh, come on! Black fur Ė feline Ė Halloween Ė of course Iím going to go as a witch cat!" shi replied smugly. Dressed in a robe, cape, and pointy witchís hat, shi certainly looked the part.
"Itís too late now in any case," Kris interjected, "So letís get this show on the road. Quickpaw has the cubs under hir watchful eyes, so thereís no excuse for not relaxing and having a bit of fun. Now out to the PTV! Move it!"
"Yes, slavedriver!" Leanna replied ironically, but with a smile to show that shi was amused.
"Avast ye lubbers! Where do ye think yer goiní without the capín of this vessel?"
Forestwalker burst out laughing at the sight of Goldfur dressed up in pirate captainís costume, complete with eye-patch and a plushie parrot attached to one shoulder. "Such a terrifying sight! Goldbeard, is it?"
"Aye, and it seems Iím just in time to stop a mutiny. Tryiní to leave without me, were ye? Iíll see ye swing from the yardarm for that!"
"Would you settle for a hug and an apology?"
"Iíll be settliní for no less than a kiss from ye, fair maiden!" Goldfur grabbed hir sister and put action to words.
When they parted, Forestwalker pretended a swoon. "Oh dear! I have been ravaged!"
"Keep it up, and Iíll let me First Mate have ye too," Goldfur threatened.
"Think youíre up to it, handsome?" Forestwalker asked Garrek, whose own piratical outfit made sense now that Goldfur was there.
"I think youíre all hams, and you can save it for the party. Now get into the PTV," he said with exasperation. Everyone obeyed, but with impudent grins on their faces.
Upon arrival at the Double Date, they encountered a steady stream of costumed party-goers headed inside.
"Looks like this is a popular event," Trina observed.
"Should make it loads of fun then," Kris replied.
"Thatís the general idea, isnít it?" Forest asked, then noticed the bouncer at the door. "Hey, look! Itís Rik dressed as a circus strongman."
Rikís ample bust did nothing to detract from the fact that shi had the muscular build to do justice to the cliché strongman outfit. Shi even had prop old-fashioned barbells to complete the outfit.
When they reached the door, Forestwalker said, "Hi, Rik! Your costume looks great."
"Gíday, Forest. Glad to see that you and Leanna could make it." Rik fingered the strap of hir costume. "I figured that if I had to be on duty tonight, I might as well look like some kind of tough guy."
"Hopefully youíll only have to look the part, not actually be one. Is Shamara here already?"
Rik frowned slightly. "Shi should be, but I havenít laid eyes on hir since this morning when shi got back from overseas. Iím not sure where shi is right now."
"Iíll keep an eye open for hir. Iíd better move along Ė I think my mates are getting antsy."
"Iíll catch you later, Forest."
The others had been exchanging greetings with various club members while they waited. They all proceeded inside, presented their tickets, and were shown to their table. A band was on stage, playing some nice quiet tunes to add to the atmosphere without drowning out conversation. Orders were placed for drinks, and then they went out to mingle. Forestwalker and Leanna tried to spot their friends in costume. Some were easy, but others were hard to pick by sight alone. They found Tavitiana dressed as a medieval wench, along with hir mate, a handsome male husky named Sven, which didnít go along with his strong Aussie accent.
"Blame my parents for that," he said with a grin. "Born and bred in Sydney, before I moved down to Melbourne and met Tavi."
The evening proceeded quite well, with dinner accompanied by a show put on by the Double H Clubís amateur performers Ė Halloween themed, of course. That was followed by the ĎNo Talent Questí where people competed to be the least worst at performing songs of various genres randomly drawn from a list. A lot of good sports provided much hilarity. Then when desserts had been finished, the dancing started.
Forestwalker had just finished a dance with Kris when Rik approached hir. "Forest, could you come with me for a few minutes, please?"
"Sure, Rik. Whatís up?"
"A little crisis, and Iím out of my depth."
Forestwalker wondered what kind of crisis could throw a professional bouncer. Rik led hir outside, and Forestwalker could see that another bouncer had taken over Rikís place. "Whatís the problem, Rik?"
As they continued past the café and into the Double H Clubís foyer, Rik replied, "Itís Shamara. Shiís up in our room."
For once there was someone other than Francine at the desk Ė a fox morph whose named escaped Forestwalker. Shi looked up, nodded in acknowledgement, then went back to watching whatever was on the screen in front of hir. They headed through the double doors into the club proper.
"Our room?" Forestwalker repeated. "You two seem to be getting very close. Will we be hearing about a mating soon?"
"Shamara moved in with me not long after the poker night incident. Or at least thatís where shi stays when shiís in town and not on courier duties. It suits us both. Donít know about being mates though."
"So what is Shamaraís problem?" Forestwalker asked as they stepped into the elevator.
Rik hit the button for the accommodation level. "I donít know. I went looking for hir when shi didnít show up for the Halloween party, and found hir crying on the bed. Shi wonít say whatís wrong."
Forestwalkerís ears pricked up. "Oh my! I can feel hir distress already. Shiís really miserable."
"Talk to hir, Forest. See if you can get hir to tell you what has upset hir so much."
"Iíll do my best."
Rik let Forestwalker into hir apartment where they found Shamara face down on the bed, sobbing softly.
Forestwalker put hir hand on Shamaraís arm, empathically projecting calming feelings. "Shamara Ė itís Forestwalker. Tell me whatís wrong, dear."
For a long moment, Forestwalker was afraid that Shamara was not going to respond to hir either. Eventually though, Shamara turned hir face to Forestwalker, who could see that copious tears had left hir face fur a sodden mess.
"I... I havenít been feeling well lately... so I went to the NTMC today."
"Whatís the NTMC?"
"Non-Terran Medical Clinic. Not many doctors know Rakshani physiology, or have the facilities to deal with those kind of problems."
Forestwalker could feel that hir attempts to calm the distraught Rakshani were working. "Is it serious?" shi asked with deep concern.
"Forest, Iím... Iím pregnant!" shi wailed.
"What!" exclaimed Rik. "But how? Did you meet another Rakshani on one of your courier trips? You can tell me, Sham Ė I wonít mind."
Shamara was now clinging to Forestwalker like a lifeline. "You donít understand Ė I havenít been with any other male or herm recently but you, Rik; not even my wolftaur boyfriend in the GNA. Iíve been happy with the way things have been between us. I donít need anyone else."
"But... weíre not compatible. Iím Terran and youíre Rakshan Ė we canít interbreed."
"I tell you Ė itís just been you. Nobody else. Deities! This is impossible!"
Shi was about to burst into tears again, but Forestwalker redoubled hir efforts to calm hir tumultuous feelings. What Shamara had just exclaimed though had got hir thinking. "Shamara, you told us how you felt that the Rakshan deities had made you this way Ė is it possible that thereís more to it than just being a herm?"
"What... what do you mean?"
"I have a human lifemate, and he has sired cubs not only in me, but also in his Caitian and Rakshan mates also. He was gifted by one of your Rakshan deities with hyperfertility at one of the Fertility Festivals. He can literally interbreed with any mammalian species. Perhaps thatís true of you also?"
Shamara thought for a moment, then replied, "Iíve had sex with other species before while Iíve been on heat, and never got pregnant. Having an alien lover is the next best thing to a Danzhouken to satisfy my needs without the risk of pregnancy."
"Oh yeah, Zhane has mentioned those to me Ė the infertile males. I still think itís likely that itís a gift from your gods."
"Gift? Whatís supposed to make this a gift? I didnít want a child now Ė I have a career to think of! I canít be racing motorcycles on the professional circuit and being a mother at the same time. I donít even know if I can be a good mother."
Forestwalker sighed. "I was lucky Ė I wanted Boyceís child, but Midnight was the one who found out the wrong way that Boyce could get hir pregnant, and shi had a career also. Shi wasnít prepared to be a mother yet, but shi adapted and coped. Iím not saying that it will be easy, but Iím sure that you can do it."
"But I donít want to do it! Iím not ready for this."
"Shamara Ė you donít exactly have much choice here. Itís either have the baby, or have an abortion." Even just saying that word left a bad taste in Forestwalkerís mouth.
Shamara snorted. "Did you know that abortion is a capital crime on Raksha?"
"No, I didnít. I guess it has something to do with the high child mortality rate. But hasnít that come down a lot in the past decades?"
Shamara nodded. "Yeah, and if you can get two doctors to sign an affidavit to say that itís absolutely vital to terminate the pregnancy to save the motherís life, then the law has relaxed enough to allow it. Otherwise though, itís still a huge crime."
"Well, this is Earth, and the laws are different, but I still urge you not to do it. Everyone who is a mother for the first time is never quite ready for it Ė not even I. But we have the help and support of our loved ones to help us through the rough spots. You have me, and you have your friends at the club." Shi turned hir face to look at the big panther standing at hir side. "And hopefully youíll also have the support of the sire. How about it, Rik? Are you prepared to be the father of this cub?"
Rik was looking dumbstruck at what shi was hearing. Forestwalker nudged hir and said, "Well?"
"I... Iím not sure... Iím just as unprepared to be a dad as Shamara is to be a mother."
"You have nine months Ė or however long a Rakshani pregnancy is Ė to get prepared. Are you going to let Shamara down?"
"No! But... weíre not even mated."
"Youíve been in a de facto relationship for months. By law, you have some responsibility. However, nobody wants to force you to do something that you donít want to do. Itís hardly your fault that Shamara is interfertile with you, despite the fact that it would normally be impossible. But do you care enough about hir to take that responsibility?"
Forestwalker was amazed at how small and helpless that big, strong panther looked right now, and hir heart went out to Rik in sympathy. Maybe it was that last empathic touch that pushed Rik to make a decision. Shi straightened up and Forestwalker could feel hir resolve firm. Shi took Shamaraís hand and looked hir in the yes.
"Shamara Ė whatever you choose to do, Iíll be there for you. If itís our destiny to be parents, well, letís be the best parents that we can be."
Shamara looked back with some uncertainty still. "What about my career though?"
"It will be on hold, not forgotten. You have the talent to do well, whether itís now or a year or two in the future. Besides, you heard Forest Ė weíll have help. Shi just volunteered to babysit the cub while youíre out practicing."
"Hey!" Forestwalker exclaimed in mock outrage.
Shamara barked a short laugh, and for the first time there was a hint that the gloom was lifting.
Forestwalker let go of Shamara and got up. "Iím going to leave you two to discuss this, but if you need me again, just call." Shi pulled out hir comm from a concealed pocket in hir dress. "Iím sending you the contact for Chakat Redears, the doctor who worked out what was happening with Boyceís hyperfertility. I suggest that you consult with hir and confirm what we suspect, and then you might be able to plan this better."
"Thanks, Forest," Rik said as shi took Forestwalkerís place at Shamaraís side.
As Forestwalker left Rikís room, shi noticed that the panther was tenderly holding Shamaraís hand while the Rakshani had hir head pillowed on Rikís chest. ĎMaybe youíll surprise yourselves,í shi thought as shi left the two alone.
Four days later, Forestwalker had just gotten home from work when shi heard the sound of a motorcycle approaching. Shi got to the front door in time to see Shamara pull into their property, with a few excited cubs who had been playing in the yard, racing over to check out the bike and rider. Shamara dismounted close to the door, and took off hir helmet. Forestwalker was relieved to see that shi was smiling.
"Gíday, Shamara. Good to see you again so soon. How are you doing?"
Shamara pulled a face. "Well, Iíve gotten over feeling so sorry for myself, if thatís what you mean. Iím still not thrilled that this is happening, but Iím coping."
"Thatís great news. I was about to make tea and a snack Ė want to join me?"
"Sure. I came here to chat a bit anyway." Shi put hir helmet on the bikeís seat, removed hir riding gloves, and then followed the chakat inside.
Forestwalker invited Shamara to sit on the sofa while shi made the drinks and snacks. After handing over a steaming mug to the Rakshani, shi settled down on a lounging rug. By that time, several of the other residents had come out to say hello and find out what was happening.
After taking a few swigs from the mug, Shamara sighed in satisfaction. "Ah! That settles the dust nicely. Anyway, I know youíre all dying to hear what has happened since Halloween. I made an appointment with Redears as you had suggested. Shi was very keen to learn about another potential Rakshan deity intervention, so shi fitted me into hir schedule almost immediately. Rik and I saw hir on Wednesday."
Shamara paused to take a bite from the fruit bun that shi had been given. "Hey Ė this is great!"
Lorene smiled and said, "Thank you. I just baked them this afternoon."
Shamara took another mouthful, stretching out the anticipation of what shi had learned. "First of all, shi confirmed that the foetus was sired by Rik, which I already knew it had to be because as I said, Iíve only had sex with Rik lately. However, the point is that shi could confirm it because shi could easily identify Rikís genetic markers in it. Thatís different from your cub, Forest. Whereas your admiralís sperm adapts to the mother and produces a child of the motherís species, apparently my ova hybridised with Rikís sperm. Our cub will be a mixture of panther and Rakshani."
"Different deity with a different approach?" suggested Midnight.
Goldfur nodded. "Iíd agree. It would be interesting to see what would happen if you had a child by various other species."
Shamara shook hir head emphatically. "Uh-uh! Not going to happen. Besides not being a test subject for your curiosity, apparently Iím not universally fertile. Redears did tests similar to the ones that shi ran on the admiral, and found out that the only species that are interfertile with me are all felinoid."
"What? Thatís odd. Is Redears sure?" Forestwalker queried.
"Yes. When shi got the odd results, shi ran many more. Every feline species worked, but every non-feline species failed. I suggested one other Ė Caitians. Theyíre as felinoid as the Terran morphs. To hir surprise, and despite our considerable size difference, I could become pregnant to a Caitian also."
The group thought about that for a while before Forestwalker said, "I have an hypothesis. You told us that you had difficulty finding a Rakshani lover, right?"
Shamara nodded hir head in agreement.
Forestwalker continued, "Perhaps the deity who was responsible for what you are, foresaw this happening, and gave you the ability to interbreed with species similar to Rakshani in order to increase your options in finding a mate?"
Midnight added, "Or else another deity saw your difficulties later and bestowed the ability then to compensate."
"Both good hypotheses," Shamara admitted. "Of course weíll never know the truth because no deity has ever explained their actions."
"The bottom line is that you can have safe sex with any species except a felinoid one. Wait Ė does it work both ways? Could you get Rik pregnant?"
"Yeah, we tested for that too, and yes, I could get hir pregnant. My sperm adapts for a hybrid in exactly the same way as my ova, and only with felines once again."
"Then it was sheer chance that you caught first?"
"Mostly, but not completely. Because shi was the one who proved hirself to me, shi became the dominant one in our relationship, and because shiís masculine biased, shi mounted me more often than I hir. Also, come to think of it, I kept being called out on courier duty when one or the other of us was on heat. I remember being frequently irked that I could not get Rik to deal with my urges. I suppose all those jobs just delayed the inevitable though," shi sighed.
"I wonder how Rik would have reacted if shiíd been the one to get pregnant instead of you?" Leanna commented.
Shamara grimaced. "As much as I hate being caught unawares like this, Iím glad that Rik didnít get pregnant. Hir personality is too masculine dominant, and I think shiíd cope worse than I am."
"Take it from me," Midnight interjected, "shiíd be shattered. Virtually the same thing happened to me, and people were dealing with me like they were walking on eggshells for a while. It took me weeks to get back to something resembling normality, and many months to completely accept it. You seem to be coping better than I did."
"Donít let my calmness fool you. I said that Iíve stopped feeling sorry for myself, but I still have to resolve a number of things. Iíve also got my future to re-plan, and figure out how to be a mother."
"So, is Rik going to help with that as shi said," Forestwalker asked.
"Yes. In fact shi proposed to me last night. Shi told me that shi had fallen in love with me the first time that shi laid eyes on me, and wanted me to be hir mate."
"Congratulations! Thatís great news," Forestwalker enthused.
"I havenít accepted yet. Iím still thinking about it."
"But why? You two seem to be perfect for each other."
"Forest, my life has been a series of mishaps and hasty decisions. Donít you think I should take my time and get this one right?"
"When you put it that way, youíre right, of course. Still, I think youíve got a good thing going there."
Shamara smiled. "Yeah, so do I, so Iím going to try extra hard not to screw it up." Shi finished hir drink and stood up. "Thanks for the drink and snack, but Iíll be going now. I just dropped by to let you know the latest news."
"You need to get back home?" Forestwalker asked.
"Nope. Going to ride around for a while. I do my best thinking while Iím riding, and this is a lovely area to do it."
Forestwalker let Shamara out the front door. "Feel free to drop by any time, Shamara, whether you need to talk or just want a cup of tea. Our home is open to you."
"Thanks, Forest. Iíll keep that in mind." Then shi spotted a cub on hir bike, pretending to ride it while awkwardly perched on a seat made for a biped. "Hey! Mind if I have my bike back?"
Eudora hastily got off. "Aw! Wanna ride!"
"Sorry, hon, but itís not safe for you, and your mother would kill me if I tried." Shi picked up hir helmet, put it on, and mounted the bike. The engine started with a roar, and Shamara spun the bike around and took off.
Midnight came out, holding Littleroar in hir arms, and they both watched the Rakshani head up the road and into the surrounding forest. "So, whatís the verdict? I know you would have been sensing hir feelings while shi chatted with us."
Forestwalker didnít bother denying it. "Shiís walled off the pain, but it feels like shiís letting it out bit by bit. I think these rides of hirs do more for hir than all our kind words. Shiís begun to deal with it on hir terms, and I think thatís for the best."
"Just as I had to eventually. I can enjoy being a mother now," shi said as shi nuzzled their cub. "But I had to learn how to do that while still being true to myself. It was worth it."
"Shiís strong, íNight. Shiíll be okay Ė Iím sure of it."
"Good to hear. And now that thatís been sorted, your mates want some of your attention."
Forestwalker smiled and hugged the raven-black chakat. "Yes, dear," shi said as they walked back inside.
More stories to come in Forest Tales #37.
Shamara is the creation of Chakat Blackwater, and is used with permission.
Rosepetal and Admiral Kline are the creation of Boyce Garald Kline Jr, and are used with permission.
All other characters and this story are copyright © 2011 Bernard Doove.
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