For what was unfortunately not the first time in the past few weeks, Browneyes awoke with a start, drenched in cold sweat. Panting, shi glanced around the room getting hir bearings, before moaning in frustration. Another nightmare. Ever since Darktoes had called and shi had been cut off, shi’d been struggling to get a good night’s sleep, waking multiple nights in a row from nightmares. Browneyes wasn’t completely sure what the dreams had been about. All shi could recall upon awaking was a deep-seated dread and fear. Thankfully that emotion was rapidly draining away, and being replaced with a great deal of frustration.
After a few moments of holding hir head, Browneyes glanced around the room again. Like many taurs, Brown slept in a communal bedroom—however, the only other occupant of the room was hir four year old daughter, Honeymane, who, unlike hir mother, was evidently sleeping fairly peacefully. Gently, Brown reached over to stroke the curled up cub’s flank, before glancing back at the room’s timepiece. Unsurprisingly, it was early, but not as early as shi had been waking some nights.
Even so, Browneyes wasn’t about to accidentally wake hir daughter too soon—having started school only recently, Honeymane needed all the sleep shi could get. Gently, Brown eased hirself out of bed quietly, and opened the bedroom door carefully, and walked into the rest of the condo. After a few moments shi had whipped up a herbal tea for hirself and wandered out onto the balcony to drink the tea with a PADD containing various programs and devices. Not to Browneyes’ surprise, it was still quite dark out, with only the barest minimum of sunlight peaking through the skyline. Shi grinned to hirself as shi stretched out on one of the sunning chairs and slowly sipped hir tea; shi’d get to see Chakastra’s sunrise. Living in the city it wasn’t much, but it was still fairly beautiful to watch. As shi waited, Brown turned on hir PADD and strolled through hir planned day—not that shi had a great deal to do. Having finished up hir studies (at least for now) shi really had not much to do, other then attempt to land a job and get hir daughter ready for school, which was a job in and of itself.
Having finished going through the ‘plan’, shi selected one of the novels shi had been reading and continued with it. Perhaps after Honeymane was fed and off to school, shi’d be relaxed enough to go back to sleep, but as it stood shi was wide awake.
The novel was a classic Agatha Christie—shi simply couldn’t stand modern whodunits. Modern technology had made most crimes instantly solvable, and had to rely on bizarre and improbable plot-points to make them work with the existence of tricorders and such. Not that the Golden Age authors of mystery novels hadn’t also done the same sort thing; shi just found their solutions more satisfying. Shi never really had much interest in pre-Gene Wars culture outside of the novels, unlike some people shi had met. It wasn’t long before shi was deeply engrossed in the plot, and almost completely unaware of hir surroundings.
Brown started and looked up at the small cub standing at the balcony’s doorway; judging by the light, no more then half-an-hour could have passed. "Hi sweetie, you’re up early."
Honeymane nodded slowly, before climbing up on top of hir mother and giving hir a sleepy hug. "I can’t sleep, mommy, I had a bad dream."
Putting down hir PADD, Browneyes returned the hug doing hir best to comfort the clearly disturbed child. "It’s alright hun, it was just a dream. Do you want to tell me about it?"
The cub nodded and slowly relaxed. "Sugar and me were playin’ at the park and suddenly this big wave came and swept Sugar away, mommy!"
Browneyes hmm’d to hirself— hir daughter had always had a rather strange fear of the ocean, and this could be just a normal run-of-the-mill nightmare for hir, being hir age and all, but still… "What were you doing before Sugar got swept away?"
Honeymane shrugged in Browneyes’ arms. "We were just playing."
Browneyes frowned to hirself, before brightly smiling and reassuring hir daughter it was only a dream. It was too late for hir to send hir daughter back to bed, so Brown led the child back into the condo and quietly played with hir until it was time for breakfast and for hir to head off to school, after which Browneyes retired to the balcony for a short nap in the sun. But not before placing a call…
The calico chakat grunted, rolling over on hir sunning pad.
"Browneyes!" The voice was much sharper this time.
"What?" Browneyes forced out, rolling over and looking up at the blurry shadow standing over hir. After a few blinks, shi realized it was a Starwalker breed Stellar foxtaur—more specifically, Fallingstar. "Oh! Star! I’m sorry—I only meant to sleep an hour or two."
The stellar grinned. "You must have been tired. You’ve slept several, hun."
Browneyes rolled to hir feet and rubbed hir head. "I guess so."
Star giggled, and stuck out hir to hand for the chakat to take. "It’s not important, hun, I’m glad you were able to get some sleep. Let’s go inside and you can tell me why I’m here over some tea."
Tea was a simple affair, and quickly made too, as Fallingstar had already put the kettle on and had it near a boil. It wasn’t long before the two of them were sitting in the den sipping from the hot brew—or at least Star was. Browneyes was frantically trying to put away hir daughter’s various toys that were scattered about the room, and tidy everything else up as well. "I’m sorry about the mess; I meant to clean up after my nap but…"
"Browneyes, calm down," the all-black foxtaur said, placing hir tea on the coffee table and standing up, before reaching over and grasping the frenzied chakat by hir shoulders. "I’ve been to your home lots of times, and other people’s homes, and seen worse. No one is going to fault you for your kid making a mess of the place, least of all me, your friend."
Brown let out a sigh and nodded while giving the stellar a hug.
"How about you tell me what’s bothering you?" Fallingstar asked gently, leading hir friend back to hir seat. "You seemed worried this morning when you rang."
Fallingstar had been Browneyes’ psychologist and personal friend ever since they met after a rather disastrous date of Brown’s. Shi wasn’t completely sure why, but the two of them had connected on a very deep level and Brown enjoyed hir company. Part of hir suspected that it was because both of them came from the same profession, but their friendship certainly extended beyond a merely professional one.
"Well, I woke up with a nightmare this morning…" Browneyes began slowly. "I’ve been having nightmares for a few weeks now."
"A few weeks?" Fallingstar asked. Although shi wasn’t writing anything down, and didn’t even have a PADD out to do so, Browneyes could tell hir friend was making mental notes about the situation.
"Yeah… ever since Darktoes called." The calico looked down at hir handpaws sadly.
"I mostly called about Honeymane though," Brown said quickly, before hir friend could ask any more questions. "After I woke up from my nightmare, shi woke up too with a nightmare of hir own."
"Okay." Fallingstar tilted hir head to one side, seemingly trying to empathically feel out hir friend. "So I’m guessing you’re concerned that you may have accidentally induced a nightmare in your daughter empathically."
"Well, it’s certainly uncommon, but you may be right," the foxtaur said, in hir slightly Russian accent. For a moment shi paused and clearly was thinking, before speaking. "Tell me about the nightmare."
"Oh Mane and Sugar were playing and—"
"I mean your nightmare." Fallingstar grinned, taking a drink of hir tea. "If you’re the root cause of this, then I’m going to need to solve your problem or problems, aren’t I?"
"I wish I could help you." Browneyes said, shaking hir head, "but I don’t remember anything but an intense feeling of dread and fear when I wake up. I’ve never been one to remember dreams, good or bad."
Star frowned and hmm’d to hirself for a moment before speaking. "Well, I don’t need to tell you how useless that is… without something to actually discuss we can’t really do much to work through your problems."
Browneyes hung hir head and sighed. "It would appear I’ve brought you all the way out here on a fool’s errand then."
"Nonsense!" the stellar exclaimed, "I always enjoy spending time with you, Brown. I just wish there was more I could do to help. I could get you some of those drugs Makrana took, if you want."
"You mean those drugs that nearly killed hir empathically?" Brown asked rhetorically, sticking out hir tongue. "No thank you."
Fallingstar grinned before continuing, "You could try those skunktaur headbands."
"You and I both know that those bands do nothing." It was a bit of an open secret within the psychologist community that the headbands actually worked more on a placebo effect rather then any actual physical property of the material—even though the material did have a bit of a nullifying effect, it was so minor that it’d only really work on a large scale. The material’s effects could be amplified with the uses of a gigawatt current which was the basis for Talent shielding, but the actual material was nearly inert. However, the Federation realized the need for such a device, if only to help alleviate their citizen’s fears, and had asked the psychologists to develop such a device. "And so does Honeymane. I bought hir one a year ago and shi was moving stuff around with it on like it was nothing."
"True," Brown’s friend admitted. "I’m not really sure what else we could do besides dream inhibiters, but they have some rather nasty side eff—oh! We could try—bah, never mind."
"I’m about ready to try any thing Star, including shooting myself with a phaser!" Browneyes joked. "I just want a good night’s rest—and more importantly I want Honeymane to sleep soundly as well."
Fallingstar gave the calico-pelted chakat a glare at hir comment about shooting hirself.
"What? It was a joke! Now tell me your idea."
"Uh huh," Fallingstar shook hir head. "It wasn’t a very funny one." Then shi frowned, "Well, you’ve heard of the Kierkegaard-Pawglider Transference?"
"Vaguely," Browneyes snorted, "I suspect I should remember it, it sounds so familiar."
Star frowned, looking extremely concerned. "The inability to recall memories is a sign of sleep deprivation… you should have called me earlier."
Brown nodded glumly, and waited for hir friend to elaborate.
"Anyway, the Kierkegaard-Pawglider Transference was one of the first attempts to really use a chakat’s naturally empathy in psychological therapy—the idea was that, given the right frame of mind, and a natural trust between two people, that emotional stability could be obtained. Negative emotions could be traded for positive emotions while the negative thoughts were in play, resulting in those thoughts no longer producing those emotions."
"Okay." Browneyes said, "But given you’ve used the word ‘attempt’, I’m guessing it didn’t work?"
"No, it did work, and it still does. The problem is the issue of trust." Fallingstar took a sip of hir tea before continuing. "Very few people actually have that sort of trust between them; it’s only really shown between Lifemates, and even then only lifemates who’ve been together for a long time. It’s a good idea in principle, but it ultimately doesn’t work in practice, where not everyone has a chakat or other empath for a lifemate."
"So why bring it up?" Brown asked, rubbing hir forehead in frustration.
"We could try it."
"But you just said—"
Star grinned cheekily. "Everything I said is true, but I’m a powerful empath, and I have a few ideas how to get it to work for us."
"Well… we sleep together," the foxtaur said with a laugh. "Not sex! When you sleep, your mind relaxes, which will help us get around the trust issue—before we go to sleep, I’ll set my mind up for the necessary empathic transference."
"Okay, now I know you’re nuts." Browneyes barked out a laugh. "You’re not the only person with empathy training you know. Maintaining empathic forms is impossible when you sleep!"
"For a chakat or other empath, you’re right." Star drank the rest of hir tea, before continuing. "But one of the adaptations that my designers gave us is the ability to sleep unihemispherically. I think I told you of this before."
Browneyes nodded. Shi had, in fact been told before, but had forgotten. "And you can… maintain while half your brain sleeps?"
"With difficulty, yes."
Brown nodded again, finishing hir tea. Shi wasn’t really sure if Fallingstar would be able to help hir, it did seem to be a bit of a long shot, but if it could help… it’d be far preferable to any other method. Slowly shi grinned, "Well, hun, lets try it. I’ve got nothing to lose. When should I expect you tonight?"
"Around 16:00," Fallingstar said, standing up. "I’ll stay all day if you want me to, but I’m sure you have things to do."
"Not really, I need to look for a job I guess, that’s it," Brown admitted, half hoping hir friend would stay. Shi had friends for sure, but few were as close or intimate as Fallingstar, and the ones shi did have on that level were several hundred kilometers away.
"Still looking for a job?" Fallingstar questioned rhetorically. "The university isn’t looking for any more profs I guess?"
"No. Not surprising really, I guess it’s a bit of a pipe dream." Brown shrugged. "Guess my whole life’s been a waste. Twenty-Seven years old, and apparently a useless degree, cub with no mate, and the one person I’ve ever loved so much it hurt is a trillion kilometers away around some crappy star."
"Now, don’t say that!" the black foxtaur exclaimed. "It’s hard to find a job sometimes, but even so you’re a wonderful mother to Honeymane and a wonderful person yourself. I know you’ll see your lifemate again one day."
Brown threw up hir arms in frustration. "But shi’s not even my companion, I never even asked hir to be, I was so fucked up, in a daze after finding myself pregnant, that I never even thought to ask. For all I know, by the time I see hir again shi could have great grand-children, and as many mates as shi had years!"
Star placed hir hand on Browneye’s shoulder. "Calm down Brown, it’ll be okay, trust me. And… look, I don’t need to go anywhere, I’ll do the paperwork I need to finish up here, and do everything else via phone, if you have a private or semi private area I could work from?"
Browneyes leaned into hir friend, allowing Star to place a comforting arm around hir. "I have a comm in my bedroom you can use."
"Alright," Fallingstar said, nuzzling Brown’s cheek gently. "I’ll try to wrap it all up as quickly as I can."
Browneyes shook hir head. "Don’t rush on my account. I don’t want you to do a disservice to your patients."
"It’s fine. I don’t have anyone in my care that is in need of a whole lot of attention at the moment," Brown’s friend told hir. "Let me go get set up. It shouldn’t take me more than an hour to get through the paperwork, and my appointments are arranged so they’re one every third-fourths of an hour, okay?"
Browneyes nodded, before showing the foxtaur to the room and helping hir get set up.
It was, by all accounts, one of the few times a day that had started genuinely rotten had turned out so well for Browneyes. As Fallingstar had promised, shi had managed to finish hir work fairly quickly, and as soon as Honeymane had showed up from finishing schooling for the day, shi had offered to take the two of them out shopping, and for dinner. Brown had never really been into such girly things as shopping unless the mood struck hir, but for some reason shopping with Fallingstar made it seem like less of a dreary task, and something to be enjoyed. Besides, Honeymane was in need of several new tops. Children of any species grew quickly, but chakat children could, at times, be even worse, out growing clothing in a month—it didn’t help that they developed small breasts at an early age, a sudden spurt of growth in that alone could make a whole wardrobe obsolete.
After wrapping up their shopping spree, Fallingstar took them to a semi-formal restaurant. Or at least, shi tried—as soon as the cub had realized they’d be dining out, shi protested until Fallingstar and Brown found themselves eating fast food from the local ‘Stacked’ pancake house. Shi wasn’t really fond of the atmosphere of the place, but they did make an excellent burger in addition to their pancakes, and Honeymane was rather fond of the fries. So, while Fallingstar and Browneyes sat shifting uneasily from side to side trying not to catch the eye of any of the patrons or waitresses, the cub munched happily on hir meal.
Thankfully, it didn’t take them long to finish their meal, and Browneyes found hirself in the comfort of hir own home. It was late, but thankfully hir daughter only had some minor homework to work through, which wasn’t terribly time consuming, but it did give Brown some much needed alone time to discuss the arrangement over with Fallingstar.
"I think we should ask," Browneyes stated flatly to hir friend as they were looking through their prizes from the day’s worth of shopping.
"What?" Star asked, pulling out a lime green tank top from hir bag. "You know, I can’t believe you talked me into buying this."
"Why? It goes with your fur doesn’t it?" Brown responded, eyeing the garment. "You should count yourself luckily – everything goes with black, and you’re just covered head to toe in it."
"It’s just so… loud," the black foxtaur replied, before folding it and placing it back beside the bag. "Anyway, what were you saying? Who are we asking for what?"
"I was saying that we should ask Honeymane if it’s okay if you join us."
Fallingstar tilted hir head to the side slightly, perplexed. "Why would shi have a problem with it? I know I’ve never done it before but… Well no offense, shi is a chakat."
The Calico-pelted chakat frowned. "I know, but I’ve never had a mate, and the only other people who’ve slept in the same room with us have been family."
"I hate to force this on you, but even if shi says no we’ve got to try this." Star met hir friend’s frown with one of hir own. "You can’t simply go around not getting enough sleep, you’ll turn into a zombie."
Browneyes opened hir mouth to make some witty remark, when the subject of their discussion came gleefully tearing into the den, and waved a school-owned PADD around wildly. "All done mommy! It was easy!"
"We’ll see about that," Brown said teasingly, taking the device from hir daughter and looking over its contents. As shi waited, Honeymane dived into one of the bags and rummaged through all the clothing, picking one of the various tops that had been bought for hir out of the bag every now and again and trying them on, before jumping around the room hyperly and discarding it for another top—making a rather large mess.
"It looks fine—Honeymane!" Browneyes remarked sharply. "What have I told you about making messes? And with your new clothing too!"
"Sorry mommy." Honeymane stopped bouncing and began picking up the articles as quickly as shi could—helped quite a bit by hir Talent.
"You’re getting quite good at your Talent there, Honeymane," Fallingstar observed, handing the cub one of hir tops that had fallen close to the foxtaur.
"Thank you shir Fallingstar. Shir Starhands says I need lot more work though," the cub said, carefully putting the various garments back in the bag.
Fallingstar grinned. "Skunktaurs can get a bit anal when it comes to perfection and Talents." To which the cub giggled.
"For good reason," Browneyes cut in edgewise before the conversation could go any further. "We have something to ask you. Would you be alright if Fallingstar stayed the night? Shi’s trying to help me with a problem."
Almost immediately the blonde cub’s hand shot up, as if shi was trying to ask a question in class, and had to be called on. "Are you two in love?"
Browneyes and Fallingstar exchanged a startled, confused look, before Browneyes fielded the question. "Uh… I’m not sure... we're certainly fond of one another, of course."
The cub’s eyes grew wide with excitement. "Oh! Does that mean this will be your first?"
Fallingstar laughed, suddenly catching on to the child’s line of thought. "Oh little one, we’re not going to be doing that; we’re just going to snuggle together."
"Oh." The child’s face fell.
"Your momma is just been having some bad dreams, sweetie," Star explained, patting the child’s blonde head. "I think if I cuddle your momma enough, I can make all the bad dreams go away."
"You’ve been having bad dreams too, mommy?" Honeymane asked, turning towards hir mother.
Browneyes nodded, "I’m afraid so, I’ve been having them for a while."
"Is that why you’ve been so sad, mommy?" Before Browneyes had a chance to reply, shi turned to Fallingstar and remarked dolefully, "You must have some extra-special super hugs! I’ve been hugging mommy when shi was sad and shi never seemed to get any happier."
Inwardly, Browneyes groaned. Shi hadn’t thought hir emotional state had really been all that visible, but clearly shi had been wrong.
"That is exactly what I have," Fallingstar replied with a smile, "But I can always use some back up. What do ya say? Want to help me chase your momma’s bad thoughts away with lots of hugs?"
"YES!" Honeymane practically ran out of the room, apparently to get ready for bed.
After a moment, Brown spoke. "You didn’t need to coerce hir like that. Shi doesn’t need to be there."
"Well, I didn’t really force hir to say yes," Star said slyly, before wrapping hir arm around hir friend. "Besides, I disagree. If shi wasn’t there with you, you’d act like every other chakat mother I’ve had the opportunity to meet; you’d be worried even if shi was just down the hall with people you trust. The point of doing this whole thing while you’re asleep is to get you to relax."
"I guess you’re ri—" Browneyes began before being cut off by a rather indignant yell from the communal bedroom.
"Aren’t you coming?!"
Browneyes grinned. "Well, regardless of how tonight turns out, I guess I can thank you for getting my daughter excited about going to bed for once in hir life. Come on, let’s get ready before shi wakes the whole building."
"How could you keep this from me," Darktoes said. "How could you lie to me?"
"I-I was trying to protect you! I love you too much to take away your dreams," Brown gasped.
"I could never love a liar," Darktoes said, as shi walked away.
"Don’t leave! Please!" Browneyes tried to run after the retreating figure, but shi was too fast.
"Mommy, where’s daddy gone?" another voice called in the distance; hir daughter.
"I-I don’t know."
"Mommy, why don’t you love me?" the child said.
"I do love you…"
"If you did, you wouldn’t have lied to daddy." Honeymane came closer, suddenly shi started to bleed from hir nose and ears. Brown tried to pick hir up and help hir, but shi could not grab the child.
"You never were a good mother," another voice said, stepping out of the shadows; Dancer by the Sea. "Or a daughter. What sort of daughter gives up an offer from Star Fleet for psychiatry?"
"I’m sorry… I’m so sorry," Browneyes whimpered.
"Unforgivable," Honeymane said. "You can’t make up for your failures as a mother."
"As a daughter," Dancer added.
"Or as a mate," Darktoes snarled, reappearing.
Browneyes started to cry. "I didn’t mean to screw up."
"But you did Browneyes," said Darktoes. "It’ll be alright."
"It’s time to wake up."
"Brown? Are you okay?"
"Wha-?" Browneyes opened hir eyes quickly, and stared up at the foxtaur’s face—nearly invisible in the darkened room.
"Are you okay? You’re crying."
Brown suddenly leaned up and kissed hir friend, before realizing shi was no longer dreaming. "Oops."
"Uh huh." Fallingstar smiled sheepishly. "And a good morning to you too."
"It’s morning?" Browneyes asked, looking over at the clock. It really was morning.
"Yup. You slept through the whole night – congratulations," the foxtaur told hir friend, grinning. "In fact, Honeymane was up before you. Shi tells me that super-special hugs work better with a super-special breakfast in bed afterwards. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure shi’s just making toast."
Browneyes nodded, before reaching up and feeling hir wet face. "Did you say I was crying?"
"Yeah, just before I woke you up," Star explained.
"That’s weird," the calico chakat pronounced. "I was crying in my dream too."
"Tell me about it."
"I dunno, there were people there… Darktoes, Honeymane, my mom. They were saying such terrible things, telling me how I’d failed," Brown recalled, laying back on the pillows and snuggling close to hir friend. "Sorry about the kiss. I guess I was just relieved to see a friendly face."
Fallingstar grinned, "I’d rather be kissed on the lips than kicked in the groin by a half-dreaming chakat. How do you feel?"
"Refreshed. I don’t really feel any fear or such now."
"Well, it’s too early to determine whether there’s been any lasting change I’m afraid," the foxtaur admitted, "but this is a promising sign."
"Even if it isn’t, I feel great." Browneyes nuzzled hir friend’s neck. "Thanks for your help, I owe—"
Just then Honeymane poked hir head into the room, "Shir Fallingstar? Someone is on the comm for you."
"Did they say who they were, little one?" Fallingstar asked, sitting up.
"Add-moral fishy," the blonde cub shrugged. "Fishy is a silly name isn’t it?"
"Oh. You mean Admiral Fisher," Star corrected, before looking at hir friend. "Sorry Brown, I need to take this. I guess cuddle time is over."
"You’re not in trouble are you?" Browneyes said, as shi rolled to hir feet and followed hir friend out of the room.
"I hope not." The Starwalker grinned widely. "But just in case I’m out of a job, save me some toast will ya?"
Breakfast provided to be a rather burnt, poorly buttered and/or jammed (there appeared to be little consistency) stack of toast, that Browneyes found to be absolutely wonderful, tasting magnificent in hir mouth, if only because shi knew each piece had been handcrafted lovingly by hir own daughter. They were so good, in fact, that Browneyes ate all of them, and assured the eager cub that it was okay because shi’d just have make some more for Fallingstar. It wasn’t lying when Browneyes told the child that hir efforts were greatly appreciated and as wonderful as they had turned out, it was best if Honeymane got ready for the looming school day. So, by the time Fallingstar returned, Brown was just putting the finishing touches on two fruit salads.
"I guess we know where Honeymane gets hir fondness for making ‘special breakfasts’," Fallingstar said, walking in. "It looks good."
"Let’s hope it tastes good too," Brown replied, placing the two bowls on the table and sitting down opposite Fallingstar. "Judging by your attitude, I’m guessing you haven’t been fired."
"Nope! But let’s leave that until we’re stuffed with fruit," Star commented, picking up a piece of a sweet-tasting Niro fruit and biting it. "And until you can get that kitten off to school."
Taking the Stellar’s wise words to heart, the two ate quickly. While Fallingstar collected the dishes, Browneyes finished dressing and equipping hir kitten for hir school day, and sent hir on hir way. When shi had finally gotten that task completed, shi returned to find hir friend sitting at the kitchen table, apparently waiting for hir return, with a grin on hir face.
"Okay," Browneyes tilted hir head, trying to solve the puzzle before hir. "What’s going on?"
"I could tell you, but wouldn’t you rather guess?"
"No. Tell me."
"Well… How’d you like to be a counselor on the Gateway?" Fallingstar asked, "I know you’ve been going through a lot of trouble finding a job, so yesterday I did some poking, seeing if I could get you anything."
"What? Really?" Browneyes exclaimed, taking two massive bounds and hugging hir friend fiercely. "You’re amazing!"
"I’m glad you think so." Star grinned, hugging back. "It was nothing really."
"You’re a wonderful friend, Star," Brown said as shi gave the stellar a kiss on hir forehead. "And it was certainly not ‘nothing.’"
"Well, what are friends for?" Star asked rhetorically, pulling back slightly.
"I suppose…" Brown frowned before shi parted the embrace and sat down with hir friend at the kitchen table. "I haven’t really had an opportunity to experience such generosity from friends in some respects."
"I mean, it’s not that I don’t have friends, I just don’t have many who are very close or thoughtful enough to think of me like this." Browneyes sighed slightly, fiddling with a salt shaker.
"What about Molly and…uh…"
"Zelda." Browneyes supplied.
"Right, what about those two? You’re always talking about them," Fallingstar asked.
"Well I was, but I guess I’ve lost touch with them…" the Calico chakat shrugged helplessly. "Having a kid, especially as a single mother, is not nearly as easy as the media portrays it."
"Well, Honeymane’s older now; maybe it’s time to reconnect? Maybe take a vacation and go and stay with them a few nights?" Fallingstar offered, tapping hir fingers on the desk.
"I guess I could... the country air might be good for hir anyways," Browneyes began. "But I dunno, it’s a long way and its right in the middle of nowhere. What if shi gets hurt?"
"Now you’re just being silly," Star said, reaching across the table and giving hir friend’s hand a squeeze. "I think visiting your friends would do you the world of good, Brown. It’ll give you the chance to just relax and hang out with people who aren’t your family." Then Star grinned impishly. "Who knows, maybe you’ll even get laid!"
Browneyes snorted loudly, before looking at hir friend thoughtfully. "If you think I should have sex, maybe I shouldn’t wait… maybe I should… with you?"
"With me?" Fallingstar asked with a quizzical look on hir face.
"Yeah. I mean, you’ve said it yourself – we’re friends, and good ones at that… why look afield for something in my own backyard so to speak?"
"Well, I’m flattered, but…" Star frowned and looked distracted.
"But…" the foxtaur looked strained. "I’m your friend but I’m also your psychologist… you know what would be wrong."
"Only in the sense that you’d be breaking a three hundred year old ethical code that doesn’t even make sense in the modern day and times." Brown cocked hir head. "I mean look at how much has changed in the last few centuries… the people in the latter part of the 20th century were so prudish that it was illegal to sleep with a cousin, much less a sister or brother… it took them forever to legalize homosexual rights too. But the times have changed haven’t they?"
"Well of course, but—"
"But nothing, I’ve shown you that there’s no real problem with what I’m suggesting."
"It’s not just…" Star closed hir eyes and rubbed hir temples for a moment before continuing. "Look at it from my point of view, Brown. You come to me with a problem that’s screwing up your life, and you’ve been under loads of emotional stress recently… and now you want to have a very intimate relationship with me. I like you, Brown, and I care about you deeply, but the situation the way it is, it… it feels like rape or something."
"But I’m the one asking you," Browneyes said flatly.
"Don’t get upset, Brown."
"That’s fine to say, but it still hurts."
Star sighed heavily. "I’m sorry, I’m not trying to hurt you. How about this; we don’t have sex—let me finish! We don’t have sex today, because I’m still treating you… if you go with Honeymane to your friend’s farm and stay there for a few days, and come back feeling like you still want that sort of friendship, that sort of relationship with me, I’ll take you out on a date or something."
"Well…" the calico smiled faintly. "Now it sounds like you’re trying to bribe me…"
"Please don’t say that." Fallingstar said in a distressed voice. "And please don’t go and visit your friends just for this… reward."
"This really bothers you, doesn’t it?"
"Well…" Browneyes thought for a moment. "Tell me what I’ll need to know about the Gateway. I don’t want to be tossed in the brig or what not."
Fallingstar looked obviously relieved at the change in topic, and began explaining all the details of station life.
Browneyes sighed in relief as shi crossed the threshold of hir condo and deposited hir bags in the entryway. It had been a long week. The first few days had been spent traveling back and forth from the Gateway for basic, and not so basic, training related to working on a space station. All in all shi was fairly happy with hir new job, even if it wasn’t what shi had originally planned on. Plus, the office shi was assigned to had a pretty nice view!
The second part of the week had been a fairly relaxing trip to hir friends’ farm. Of course, being a mother to a fairly young child, saying that it was relaxing was something of a lie. Still, as hyper-stimulated as Honeymane had been, shi did eventually tire hirself out enough playing with hir new friend that, when the sun finally went down, the two of them nodded off to sleep. This, of course, allowed the adults more than enough time to chat and socialize, among other things.
"Time for bed I think, hun," Browneyes said, glancing back at the small cub who was clinging, half asleep, to hir back. "You go get ready and I’ll be along in a moment."
"’k," Honeymane murmured sleepily, before slowly sliding off hir mother’s back. After a few moments of fumbling around in the pockets of hir bag for hir personal hygiene items, shi trotted off in the direction of the condo’s washroom.
Browneyes, however, had other things to do. After making sure the baggage wasn’t in anyone’s way, shi quickly checked for messages on the comm system and looked to make sure there wasn’t any stray mail that needed reading. Finally, shi recorded a short message and sent it to Fallingstar.
Once shi was certain that shi had fulfilled all hir duties, shi too brushed hir teeth and retired to the bedroom, to find to hir amazement that hir daughter was already fast asleep. Thankfully, sleep came just as quick for the much older chakat as it did for the younger one…
Although Browneyes was required to go through all the normal safety training that any other personnel had to go through in order to work on the station, shi still found hirself plunged headfirst into the daily grind of counseling. And by noon Browneyes already felt like hir head was spinning. But it was the good sort of stress that came from doing something shi enjoyed doing.
Still, the lunch break was a welcome reprieve from hir patients—and of course, shi did have a treat waiting for hir.
Browneyes couldn’t stop hirself from grinning as shi tapped the ‘doorbell’ that was connected to hir friend’s office. After a few moments the door slide open, and Browneyes was face-to-face with hir black furred muzzle.
"Hi," Fallingstar said, slightly exasperated and slightly amused. "How was your trip?"
"I’ll tell you over lunch," Browneyes said implishly. "Shall we meet at the Café in five minutes? Or should I wait and walk you there?"
"I think I can find my own way." The stellar was obviously trying to resist rolling hir eyes. "I’ll see you soon."
True to hir word, Browneyes only had to wait a few minutes before Fallingstar showed up. Shi said down opposite the chakat, and both made their orders before either of them spoke.
Finally, Browneyes couldn’t stand the silence anymore and broke it. "Well? Did you get my message?"
"You mean the one sent at one in the morning from a very tired-looking chakat, which said, more or less ‘There!’?" Star rested hir elbows on the table and hir head on hir hands.
Browneyes just grinned in reply.
"This really wasn’t what I meant, Brown," Fallingstar said sternly. "I wasn’t intending for you to scoot off to your friends place for the minimum amount of time and hop back just because I promised you what I did."
"Oh come on!" Brown exclaimed as their food arrived, interrupting hir train of thought for a moment. Once the waitress had left, shi continued with a wink and a somewhat seductive tone. "Besides, you did promise."
"Brown, you can’t simply seduce me," the stellar said angrily, "I’m trying to help you deal with your problems!"
"You’re supposed to be my friend!" Brown retorted. "You’re making a far bigger deal out of this then it needs to be. It’s not like I’m asking for your child or some crap."
"I..." Fallingstar frowned, before shaking hir head. "I am your friend, Browneyes, a friend who cares about you very much and is only trying to help you."
"You sure don’t act like it." Browneyes bit into hir muffin with far more venom than was required. "You won’t even keep a simple promise."
"I didn’t say that." Fallingstar took a sip of hir coffee. "I obviously didn’t think this whole thing through as I should have, but I’ll still honor it. If that’s what you want, I’ll take you on a date."
"Oh." Browneyes looked down at hir muffin in silence for a few minutes. "I’m sorry I said you weren’t a friend."
"It’s fine," Fallingstar replied softly, "I’d rather we just put this all behind us as quickly as possible… so, on that note, are you free tonight?"
The Calico chakat thought for a moment. "I think I can get mom to take Honeymane for the night. I don’t think shi’d mind; shi enjoys sleep overs."
"Good." Fallingstar took a bite of hir sandwich. "While we’re here, I thought you were going to tell me about your trip?"
"Well, it was a bit more tiring than relaxing," Brown said with a laugh, "but… you were right, it was good to spend time with friends. Their daughter is just the sweetest! Before you ask, yes, I did get laid. We had a threesome actually."
Fallingstar frowned. "Then… why?"
"Why do I still want go out on a date with you?" Browneyes finished hir muffin as hir friend nodded. "Has it occurred to you that maybe I just like you for you? You’re a wonderful friend, Star, and I like being close to you. Besides, it gives me an excuse to get out of the condo and do something."
"Ah." Fallingstar frowned in thought before smiling brightly. "I wish you had explained that sooner, I’m only Empathic you know, not a mindreader!"
"Ah well, I thought you knew."
The black foxtaur ate a bit more of hir sandwich, before glancing at hir watch. "I guess we better hurry, our next appointments are in fifteen. How are you finding this whole thing so far?"
"It’s not too difficult." Browneyes shrugged. Most of the work Browneyes had found hirself doing was more or less grief counseling. Even in this day and age, space travel was a dangerous thing to do, and even the safest ships sometimes lost crewmembers. Given the close relationships crews formed with one another, such losses were quite hard. Because many smaller ships couldn’t support a dedicated psychologist, places like the Gateway had to provide them. "I imagine that they’re sending me the easy cases thus far. I know why they do it, but it seems a bit insulting."
"Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get some harder cases eventually," Fallingstar pointed out. "But if I were you, I wouldn’t expect much variation in your cases."
Brown frowned, before clapping hir hands and smiling widely. "Well, a job’s a job, and money’s money! It’s better than nothing, and I do feel like I’m making some sort of difference."
"Well you are." Star stood up and signaled for the bill. "Maybe I’ll see if I can’t get a few interesting cases thrown your way."
They split the bill evenly, and soon parted, but not before promising to get in contact after the work day was done and arrange for their outing. Browneyes couldn’t be happier.
"But I wanta come!" Honeymane stomped hir foot with a look of indignation on hir face.
"Next time sweetie, I promise," Browneyes pleaded. Shi wasn’t quite sure why Honeymane was so upset, but shi suspected shi might be missing hir new friend. Glancing at the clock however, Browneyes knew shi was running out of time, and shi’d have to get ready soon or shi’d never be ready in time.
"But I wanta go now!" the cub persisted. "I wanta!"
Dancer leaned down until shi was eye level with the child. "But I thought we were going to make nommy cookies together, ‘Mane, you know, the ones with chocoberries in them?"
Honeymane’s eyes grew wide. Chocoberry cookies were hir favorite sort of cookie. Now the cub was quite conflicted, and looked back and forth between the two adults, somewhat bewildered as to what to do.
"If you don’t want any cookies, I can understand…" Dancer began.
"NO!" Honeymane exclaimed. "I wanta cookies!"
Dancer grinned. "Wonderful! Do you think you could get the bowls out for your old Grandmommy kitten?"
The small blonde cub was gone before Dancer could finish hir sentience.
"Thanks, mom." Brown gave the older chakat a big hug. "I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to get out of here."
"My pleasure, sweetie, I’ve been rearing kits for a long time, you pick up on these things." Dancer gave hir daughter a kiss on hir forehead. "I was planning on making some cookies anyways. Now go! You don’t want to be late."
"Yeah." Browneyes nodded, and grabbed the articles of clothing shi had laid out, before smiling at hir mother. "Save some for me too, please."
Despite chakats not having any sort of nudity taboo, and Browneyes having started off nude, shi opted to get dressed in one of the bedrooms so shi could make sure shi looked good in front of a mirror. It didn’t take hir long, but by the time shi finally emerged from the room, it was very nearly time to go. Hurriedly, shi strapped hir pocket belt around hir waist, waved goodbye to Honeymane, Sugarback, and Dancer (all three of whom, shi noted, seemed to be covered head to toe in flour) before rushing out the door.
Fallingstar had decided to meet Browneyes at the transporter pad on the station, but that meant Browneyes had to take a PTV to the ground station, get screened, and finally get beamed up. Shi just hoped shi wasn’t going to be too late.
Finally, shi materialized on the receiving pad on the station. As expected, there was Fallingstar, looking absolutely stunning in a lime-green tanktop, with a soft brown leather vest to compliment it.
"You look… great," the chakat said. Browneyes wasn’t normally one to feel overshadowed by another’s appearance, but now shi felt like shi should have done more.
"So do you." Fallingstar smiled. "I’ve got to thank you for the top. You’re right, it does go with my fur."
"I told you!" Browneyes grinned, before walking up to hir "date" and giving hir a hug. After parting, Browneyes found hirself feeling the vest Star was wearing. "Is this real leather? It’s so soft!"
"It’s wonderful isn’t it?" the stellar grinned. "It was a birthday gift from my mother, she got it from one of the clan’s leatherworkers."
"I wouldn’t mind one myself," Browneyes demurred gently.
"You might just get one for your birthday then!" Star winked, before barking out a laugh. "Come on, I’ve got my quarters all set up."
Despite the time of day, the gateway was no less busy, and the pair of them found themselves fighting through the crowds just as they would have any other time. Luckily, because they worked at the station, rather then just being civilians, they had access to a number of back hallways and shortcuts that got them out of the crowds for a while and let them arrive at their destination sooner rather than later.
Although Browneyes had always thought of hirself as being pretty close to hir friend, shi hadn’t really spent much time in hir quarters; Fallingstar enjoyed seeing Honeymane as much as Honeymane enjoyed seeing hir, and it was a bit difficult to lug the cub up to the station. Inside, the quarters were something of a fusion between Earthy primitive, and high technology. Brown didn’t know much about hir friend’s family, but shi did know shi had been born to a foxtaur vixen, and it clearly showed in hir choice of aesthetics. In the middle of the room, a table was set up, complete with candles and china plates.
"You really went all out, didn’t you?"
"Of course." Star sounded bemused. "I’m afraid I have nothing to cook on, so it’s replicated food for us. What would you like?"
After getting their orders, the two of them ate while chatting, mostly about one another’s work, but after a while Browneyes managed to steer the conversation towards hir friend’s family.
"You know, Star, you know a lot about my family, but I barely know anything about yours."
The stellar waved hir hand, before swallowing hir bite and speaking. "There’s just not much to tell; I was conceived as part of the Stellar program, implanted into my mother’s womb, grew over the next few months, was born to my mother and my Chakat father, and spent most of my younger years in a foxtaur village on Earth. Then I attended University, got my degree and the rest is, as they say, history."
"Well that was rather… concise." Browneyes frowned. Looking back on hir friendship with Star, shi realized the stellar tended to shy away from talking about hirself.
"Yeah… I didn’t mean it that way. I’m just not great with giving autobiographies." The black foxtaur shrugged. "Ask me any questions, and I’ll answer them."
Browneyes paused for a moment slowly chewing on hir roast beef, before formulating a question; "You said you were implanted into your mom’s womb? How’d they get her to agree to that? I’m not an expert on foxtaurs, but they’ve never struck me as the sort to get in vitro fertilization."
Star nodded slowly. "You have to understand that the Stellar program was put together rather haphazardly, even if that wasn’t the original plan. The directors for the program didn’t really anticipate the amount of resistance the two sides would pose to the program, and it had to be modified a bunch of times, and lot of compromises were made. Half of the foxtaurs in the program are either oddballs, such as the ones that might leave their villages to become doctors or engineers or what have you."
"And the other half of the foxtaurs were vixens or tods whose own reproductive system was otherwise broken, and they’d never be able to have children anyway. My mother was the latter sort of foxtaur."
"How does that work though?" Brown had stopped eating, and leaned forward in deep interest. "Surely the foxtaurs could have gotten their reproductive problems fixed if they needed it?"
Star laughed. "If you ask any foxtaur about their technology shunning, they’ll tell you that they’ll use technology if there are no alternatives available, and there is a need for high technology."
"Not quite." Star stopped smiling and sighed deeply. "Some foxtaur families can be quite stubborn, and some villages can be quite conservative. Most foxtaurs never get even close to the sort of money they’d need to afford the operations and treatments to fix reproductive problems." The stellar paused, as if trying to figure out what to say next. "Every village has access to a ‘pot’ bank account, which is meant to be used if they ever need to buy technology or whatever. However, some councils just won’t withdraw the money so that the needy vixen or tod can get her or his treatment."
"Why not?" Browneyes tilted hir head. Shi really didn’t see the logic in it all.
"Most of these conservative council members don’t see it as a need." Fallingstar stabbed hir food and took a bite before continuing. "My mother was denied because, in the words of one council member, the village as a whole was growing fine, and there was no need to spend money to make one vixen fertile."
Fallingstar smiled softly, "It is, but I’m also grateful for it. Without such attitudes, the Federation wouldn’t have been able to get half as many foxtaurs to go along with the program, and I wouldn’t be here. If it makes you feel any better, after they got the foxtaurs on board with the program and heard their complaints and reasons for joining the program, the Federation pressured the GNA, who in turn pressured the Foxtaur nations and their account holder, and now any foxtaur with a valid medical problem can withdraw money to get treatment."
Browneyes smiled and turned back to eating as shi formulated hir next question; "And your father?"
"Ah, that’s much easier to explain." The Stellar winked at the chakat. "My father, on the other hand, was actually one of the embraceries that the Federation had sent to the various villages to help find volunteers. Shi met my mother and after many months of working together, shi and she had fallen madly in love."
"Sounds like a romance novel." Browneyes giggled.
"That’s what my dad would say." Fallingstar laughed. "Shi talks lots about writing it down one day and trying to get it published."
"One final question, if I may?" Brown asked, as shi finished hir meal.
"What’s for desert!"
After eating a rather excellent oversized Voxxan Mountain, the two of them retired from the table, and stretched out on the pillows and low seats that made up the quarter’s den. It took them a few moments to recover from the meal, and it was Fallingstar who spoke first.
"I’ve got a small gift for you Brown."
Browneyes blinked in surprise. "Really? I should have brought you something as well."
"It’s alright." Star tilted hir head for a moment, before reaching into hir vest and withdrawing a flat, thin object wrapped in brown paper, and handed it to hir date. Not missing a beat, Browneyes took the parcel and examined it, wondering what it could possibly be.
Seeing no reason to wait, Browneyes ripped the paper off to reveal a PADD. Naturally, shi was a bit disappointed, but didn’t want to sound to harsh about it. "I don’t mean sound ungrateful Star, but I’ve got PADDs."
"I know, turn it on, it’s what’s on it that’s important." Fallingstar fidgeted. "I’ll be right back, need to use the washroom."
"Um, sure." Browneyes pressed the ‘on’ button and waited for the system to boot up. After a few moments, the PADD displayed a rather long document. It took hir several minutes to read it, and shi was still trying to figure out the legalese of the document when shi felt Fallingstar return.
"I’m not sure I’m understanding what this thing is talking about." Browneyes frowned at the PADD. "I know it mentions both of us…"
"Well, I guess I could spoil the fun…" Browneyes heard the foxtaur sigh. "I’m resigning as your psychologist."
"What? Why?" Browneyes looked up for the first time in several minutes, and saw for the first time that hir friend had shed hir top and vest and was wearing nothing but a half smile. Not that Browneyes hadn’t seen hir friend au natural before, but there seemed to be something special about this occasion.
"At lunch, you said some stuff that really got me thinking," Fallingstar said. "I realized maybe I was wrong about… this whole thing."
"And it didn’t really help. I still felt it would be wrong to have that sort of relationship with you while you were still under my care."
"So you quit?"
"Yes." The foxtaur paused, and looked down at hir feet. "I realized I also liked you for you and wanted a relationship with you."
"I don’t know what to say," Browneyes sighed after a few moments. "Why couldn’t you just be my psychologist and my friend, and sometimes my lover?"
"Because it doesn’t feel right," Fallingstar said forcefully, hir voice rising a little. "I care for you, Brown, but it's damn hard to express those feelings when you feel like you’re doing something wrong."
Browneyes opened hir mouth to reply, before closing it again. Did shi really need to argue this out? Finally shi formulated what shi wanted to say. "Alright hun, I accept… on two conditions."
"Yes?" Star said warily.
"One: I want you to recommend another psychologist, and not submit this resignation until after I’ve become comfortable with the replacement." Browneyes raised hir hand to stop hir friend from speaking. "Just in case I have some sort of episode like this nightmares thing. You don’t need to give me counsel if you’d rather not, I understand, but if some emergency comes up like that again, I don’t want to be between psychologists."
"And the second?"
"Even though you’re not going to be my psychologist anymore, I still want to be able to share those sorts of feelings and emotions with you."
Fallingstar grinned. "Isn’t that what companions are for?"
"I suppose so." Browneyes stuck out hir tongue. "So, do you agree?"
"Good. Now, let’s see what color your member really is."
"Mmm," Browneyes purred softly, basking in the afterglow.
"Mmm," Fallingstar agreed, "That was good."
"You sound surprised," Browneyes teased, although shi hadn’t actually heard any tone of surprise in hir friend’s voice. "Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean I don’t know my way around a dick."
"I would imagine…" Star said slowly. "…that such knowledge would have been the cause of your motherhood to begin with."
"I guess so!" Browneyes laughed, rubbing hir friend’s belly. "You ever thought of having a kid?"
"Sometimes." The stellar smiled softly. "Perhaps when the right person comes along…But I haven’t found them yet."
Star nodded. "Don’t take it the wrong way, hun. I do care for you lots, but just not in that way."
"That’s good," Browneyes agreed. "One’s enough, thank you very much!"
Star chuckled and closed hir eyes, while rubbing hir friend’s back. Browneyes did the same and the two of them cuddled in silence for a few moments. After a few minutes, Browneyes disentangled hirself from hir friend and rolled to hir feet. "I’ll be right back."
Star frowned but nodded. Satisfied, Browneyes grabbed hir pouches, and headed into the main quarters to get a glass of water. Once shi had obtained it from the replicator, shi fingered through hir pouches until shi found the small bottle shi was looking for. Shi popped the top and extracted a pill, before quickly placing it into hir mouth and chasing it was a gulp of water.
"What was that?" Fallingstar asked. Brown turned; hir friend was leaning against hir bedroom’s doorframe.
Browneyes shrugged; shi saw no reason to lie. "Birth control pills, well… they’re more of an emergency contraceptive."
"The same sort that you took the night you and Ariston dated?" Star questioned. Browneyes wasn’t sure shi was likely hir tone.
"Yes… what’s your point?"
"My point is that you’re not in heat."
"How could you possibly know that, Star?" Browneyes demanded hotly.
"Isr-Worf doctrine." The Stellar said simply. "I had to keep track of your cycles as part of my counseling work."
"Oh." Browneyes was quite at a lost of what to say.
The foxtaur walked across the room and gently took the bottle from hir companion’s hand. "Why, Browneyes?"
"I just… I just don’t want to have another accident." Brown’s voice cracked. "I love Honeymane dearly, but I wasn’t ready and sometimes I feel like I’m still not."
"Parenting is always hard." Star cupped hir friend’s face. "How often do you take these pills hun?"
"Any time I have sex…" Brown whimpered. "And… sometimes after I jerk off."
Star frowned deeply. "I think you’re addicted, Brown…"
"But how?" Browneyes didn’t understand. "They’re just hormones."
"Not chemically, behaviorally." The stellar sighed. "And you should stop."
"But nothing. Look, I know parenting is hard, that’s why I’m trying to be there for you, first as your psychologist, but now as your friend and lover." Fallingstar embraced the chakat. "But I need you to be honest with me. I want you to give up these pills."
"Now." Fallingstar reached behind Browneyes and placed the bottle on the replicator’s pad, before pressing the recycle button.
Browneyes let out a little whimper as shi watched.
"It’s late. Let’s get to bed, and I’ll take you to see a doctor and a psychologist in the morning." Star sighed, taking hir friend’s hand and tugging hir in the direction of the bedroom.
"What about Honeymane?" Browneyes asked, although shi didn’t resist. "And what about my job? Oh for fuck’s sake, I suppose I’ve lost it if I’m addicted."
"I’m sure your family is more than capable of handling a single cub," Star said with a smile, as shi closed the bedroom door behind hir. "As for your job… you’re lucky you’re a chakat, and you’re only psychologically addicted to something that doesn’t have any mental side effects. You won’t get fired, provided you do as I ask and get treated as soon as possible."
"I will." Browneyes curled up in a ball on the taur-sized bed. "I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused."
"It’s alright hun," Star said as shi curled up beside hir companion and stroked hir flank. "I’m here for you."
To be continued in Starhands.
Chakats, Stellar Foxtaurs and other concepts © 2010 Bernard Doove
Browneyes, Darktoes and other characters are copyright me, Honeymane
Feedback is greatly appreciated. Please send your questions, comments, etcetera to HoneymaneFeedback@gmail.com
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