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, shiíd been struggling to get a good nightís sleep, waking multiple nights in a row from nightmares. Browneyes wasnít 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 bedroomóhowever, 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 cubís flank, before glancing back at the roomís timepiece. Unsurprisingly, it was early, but not as early as shi had been waking some nights.
Even so, Browneyes wasnít about to accidentally wake hir daughter too soonóhaving 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 Browneyesí 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; shiíd get to see Chakastraís sunrise. Living in the city it wasnít much, but it was still fairly beautiful to watch. As shi waited, Brown turned on hir PADD and strolled through hir planned dayónot 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 Ďplaní, shi selected one of the novels shi had been reading and continued with it. Perhaps after Honeymane was fed and off to school, shiíd be relaxed enough to go back to sleep, but as it stood shi was wide awake.
The novel was a classic Agatha Christieóshi simply couldnít 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 hadnít 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 wasnít 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 balconyís doorway; judging by the light, no more then half-an-hour could have passed. "Hi sweetie, youíre up early."
Honeymane nodded slowly, before climbing up on top of hir mother and giving hir a sleepy hug. "I canít sleep, mommy, I had a bad dream."
Putting down hir PADD, Browneyes returned the hug doing hir best to comfort the clearly disturbed child. "Itís 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 playiní at the park and suddenly this big wave came and swept Sugar away, mommy!"
Browneyes hmmíd to hirselfó 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 stillÖ "What were you doing before Sugar got swept away?"
Honeymane shrugged in Browneyesí 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 callÖ
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 foxtaurómore specifically, Fallingstar. "Oh! Star! Iím sorryóI only meant to sleep an hour or two."
The stellar grinned. "You must have been tired. Youíve 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. "Itís not important, hun, Iím glad you were able to get some sleep. Letís go inside and you can tell me why Iím 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 wasnít long before the two of them were sitting in the den sipping from the hot brewóor at least Star was. Browneyes was frantically trying to put away hir daughterís various toys that were scattered about the room, and tidy everything else up as well. "Iím sorry about the mess; I meant to clean up after my nap butÖ"
"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. "Iíve been to your home lots of times, and other peopleís 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 whatís bothering you?" Fallingstar asked gently, leading hir friend back to hir seat. "You seemed worried this morning when you rang."
Fallingstar had been Browneyesí psychologist and personal friend ever since they met after a rather disastrous date of Brownís. Shi wasnít 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 morningÖ" Browneyes began slowly. "Iíve been having nightmares for a few weeks now."
"A few weeks?" Fallingstar asked. Although shi wasnít writing anything down, and didnít even have a PADD out to do so, Browneyes could tell hir friend was making mental notes about the situation.
"YeahÖ 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 Iím guessing youíre concerned that you may have accidentally induced a nightmare in your daughter empathically."
"Well, itís 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 andó"
"I mean your nightmare." Fallingstar grinned, taking a drink of hir tea. "If youíre the root cause of this, then Iím going to need to solve your problem or problems, arenít I?"
"I wish I could help you." Browneyes said, shaking hir head, "but I donít remember anything but an intense feeling of dread and fear when I wake up. Iíve never been one to remember dreams, good or bad."
Star frowned and hmmíd to hirself for a moment before speaking. "Well, I donít need to tell you how useless that isÖ without something to actually discuss we canít really do much to work through your problems."
Browneyes hung hir head and sighed. "It would appear Iíve brought you all the way out here on a foolís 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 materialóeven though the material did have a bit of a nullifying effect, it was so minor that itíd only really work on a large scale. The materialís 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 citizenís 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," Brownís friend admitted. "Iím not really sure what else we could do besides dream inhibiters, but they have some rather nasty side effóoh! We could tryóbah, never mind."
"Iím about ready to try any thing Star, including shooting myself with a phaser!" Browneyes joked. "I just want a good nightís restóand 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 wasnít a very funny one." Then shi frowned, "Well, youíve 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 deprivationÖ 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 chakatís naturally empathy in psychological therapyóthe 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 youíve used the word Ďattemptí, Iím guessing it didnít 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; itís only really shown between Lifemates, and even then only lifemates whoíve been together for a long time. Itís a good idea in principle, but it ultimately doesnít 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 saidó"
Star grinned cheekily. "Everything I said is true, but Iím a powerful empath, and I have a few ideas how to get it to work for us."
"WellÖ 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 issueóbefore we go to sleep, Iíll set my mind up for the necessary empathic transference."
"Okay, now I know youíre nuts." Browneyes barked out a laugh. "Youíre not the only person with empathy training you know. Maintaining empathic forms is impossible when you sleep!"
"For a chakat or other empath, youíre 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 canÖ maintain while half your brain sleeps?"
"With difficulty, yes."
Brown nodded again, finishing hir tea. Shi wasnít 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 helpÖ itíd be far preferable to any other method. Slowly shi grinned, "Well, hun, lets try it. Iíve got nothing to lose. When should I expect you tonight?"
"Around 16:00," Fallingstar said, standing up. "Iíll stay all day if you want me to, but Iím sure you have things to do."
"Not really, I need to look for a job I guess, thatís 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 isnít looking for any more profs I guess?"
"No. Not surprising really, I guess itís a bit of a pipe dream." Brown shrugged. "Guess my whole lifeís been a waste. Twenty-Seven years old, and apparently a useless degree, cub with no mate, and the one person Iíve ever loved so much it hurt is a trillion kilometers away around some crappy star."
"Now, donít say that!" the black foxtaur exclaimed. "Itís hard to find a job sometimes, but even so youíre a wonderful mother to Honeymane and a wonderful person yourself. I know youíll see your lifemate again one day."
Brown threw up hir arms in frustration. "But shiís 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 Browneyeís shoulder. "Calm down Brown, itíll be okay, trust me. AndÖ look, I donít need to go anywhere, Iíll 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 Brownís cheek gently. "Iíll try to wrap it all up as quickly as I can."
Browneyes shook hir head. "Donít rush on my account. I donít want you to do a disservice to your patients."
"Itís fine. I donít have anyone in my care that is in need of a whole lot of attention at the moment," Brownís friend told hir. "Let me go get set up. It shouldnít take me more than an hour to get through the paperwork, and my appointments are arranged so theyíre 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 monthóit didnít 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 triedóas soon as the cub had realized theyíd be dining out, shi protested until Fallingstar and Brown found themselves eating fast food from the local ĎStackedí pancake house. Shi wasnít 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 didnít 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 wasnít 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 dayís worth of shopping.
"What?" Star asked, pulling out a lime green tank top from hir bag. "You know, I canít believe you talked me into buying this."
"Why? It goes with your fur doesnít it?" Brown responded, eyeing the garment. "You should count yourself luckily Ė everything goes with black, and youíre just covered head to toe in it."
"Itís just soÖ 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 itís okay if you join us."
Fallingstar tilted hir head to the side slightly, perplexed. "Why would shi have a problem with it? I know Iíve never done it before butÖ Well no offense, shi is a chakat."
The Calico-pelted chakat frowned. "I know, but Iíve never had a mate, and the only other people whoíve slept in the same room with us have been family."
"I hate to force this on you, but even if shi says no weíve got to try this." Star met hir friendís frown with one of hir own. "You canít simply go around not getting enough sleep, youíll 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!"
"Weíll 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 topómaking a rather large mess.
"It looks fineóHoneymane!" 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 couldóhelped quite a bit by hir Talent.
"Youíre 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? Shiís trying to help me with a problem."
Almost immediately the blonde cubís 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. "UhÖ Iím not sure... we're certainly fond of one another, of course."
The cubís eyes grew wide with excitement. "Oh! Does that mean this will be your first?"
Fallingstar laughed, suddenly catching on to the childís line of thought. "Oh little one, weíre not going to be doing that; weíre just going to snuggle together."
"Oh." The childís face fell.
"Your momma is just been having some bad dreams, sweetie," Star explained, patting the childís blonde head. "I think if I cuddle your momma enough, I can make all the bad dreams go away."
"Youíve been having bad dreams too, mommy?" Honeymane asked, turning towards hir mother.
Browneyes nodded, "Iím afraid so, Iíve been having them for a while."
"Is that why youíve 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! Iíve been hugging mommy when shi was sad and shi never seemed to get any happier."
Inwardly, Browneyes groaned. Shi hadnít 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 mommaís 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 didnít need to coerce hir like that. Shi doesnít need to be there."
"Well, I didnít really force hir to say yes," Star said slyly, before wrapping hir arm around hir friend. "Besides, I disagree. If shi wasnít there with you, youíd act like every other chakat mother Iíve had the opportunity to meet; youíd be worried even if shi was just down the hall with people you trust. The point of doing this whole thing while youíre asleep is to get you to relax."
"I guess youíre rió" Browneyes began before being cut off by a rather indignant yell from the communal bedroom.
"Arenít 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, letís 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.
"Donít leave! Please!" Browneyes tried to run after the retreating figure, but shi was too fast.
"Mommy, whereís daddy gone?" another voice called in the distance; hir daughter.
"I-I donít know."
"Mommy, why donít you love me?" the child said.
"I do love youÖ"
"If you did, you wouldnít 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?"
"Iím sorryÖ Iím so sorry," Browneyes whimpered.
"Unforgivable," Honeymane said. "You canít 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 didnít mean to screw up."
"But you did Browneyes," said Darktoes. "Itíll be alright."
"Itís time to wake up."
"Brown? Are you okay?"
"Wha-?" Browneyes opened hir eyes quickly, and stared up at the foxtaurís faceónearly invisible in the darkened room.
"Are you okay? Youíre 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."
"Itís morning?" Browneyes asked, looking over at the clock. It really was morning.
"Yup. You slept through the whole night Ė 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. Donít worry, Iím pretty sure shiís 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.
"Thatís weird," the calico chakat pronounced. "I was crying in my dream too."
"Tell me about it."
"I dunno, there were people thereÖ Darktoes, Honeymane, my mom. They were saying such terrible things, telling me how Iíd 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, "Iíd rather be kissed on the lips than kicked in the groin by a half-dreaming chakat. How do you feel?"
"Refreshed. I donít really feel any fear or such now."
"Well, itís too early to determine whether thereís been any lasting change Iím afraid," the foxtaur admitted, "but this is a promising sign."
"Even if it isnít, I feel great." Browneyes nuzzled hir friendís neck. "Thanks for your help, I oweó"
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 isnít 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."
"Youíre 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 Iím 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 shiíd just have make some more for Fallingstar. It wasnít 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 Ďspecial breakfastsí," Fallingstar said, walking in. "It looks good."
"Letís hope it tastes good too," Brown replied, placing the two bowls on the table and sitting down opposite Fallingstar. "Judging by your attitude, Iím guessing you havenít been fired."
"Nope! But letís leave that until weíre 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 Stellarís 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. "Whatís going on?"
"I could tell you, but wouldnít you rather guess?"
"No. Tell me."
"WellÖ Howíd you like to be a counselor on the Gateway?" Fallingstar asked, "I know youíve 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. "Youíre amazing!"
"Iím glad you think so." Star grinned, hugging back. "It was nothing really."
"Youíre a wonderful friend, Star," Brown said as shi gave the stellar a kiss on hir forehead. "And it was certainly not Ďnothing.í"
"Well, what are friends for?" Star asked rhetorically, pulling back slightly.
"I supposeÖ" Brown frowned before shi parted the embrace and sat down with hir friend at the kitchen table. "I havenít really had an opportunity to experience such generosity from friends in some respects."
"I mean, itís not that I donít have friends, I just donít 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 andÖuhÖ"
"Zelda." Browneyes supplied.
"Right, what about those two? Youíre always talking about them," Fallingstar asked.
"Well I was, but I guess Iíve lost touch with themÖ" the Calico chakat shrugged helplessly. "Having a kid, especially as a single mother, is not nearly as easy as the media portrays it."
"Well, Honeymaneís older now; maybe itís 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, itís a long way and its right in the middle of nowhere. What if shi gets hurt?"
"Now youíre just being silly," Star said, reaching across the table and giving hir friendís hand a squeeze. "I think visiting your friends would do you the world of good, Brown. Itíll give you the chance to just relax and hang out with people who arenít your family." Then Star grinned impishly. "Who knows, maybe youíll even get laid!"
Browneyes snorted loudly, before looking at hir friend thoughtfully. "If you think I should have sex, maybe I shouldnít waitÖ maybe I shouldÖ with you?"
"With me?" Fallingstar asked with a quizzical look on hir face.
"Yeah. I mean, youíve said it yourself Ė weíre friends, and good ones at thatÖ why look afield for something in my own backyard so to speak?"
"Well, Iím flattered, butÖ" Star frowned and looked distracted.
"ButÖ" the foxtaur looked strained. "Iím your friend but Iím also your psychologistÖ you know what would be wrong."
"Only in the sense that youíd be breaking a three hundred year old ethical code that doesnít 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 centuriesÖ 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 brotherÖ it took them forever to legalize homosexual rights too. But the times have changed havenít they?"
"Well of course, butó"
"But nothing, Iíve shown you that thereís no real problem with what Iím suggesting."
"Itís not justÖ" 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 thatís screwing up your life, and youíve been under loads of emotional stress recentlyÖ 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, itÖ it feels like rape or something."
"But Iím the one asking you," Browneyes said flatly.
"Donít get upset, Brown."
"Thatís fine to say, but it still hurts."
Star sighed heavily. "Iím sorry, Iím not trying to hurt you. How about this; we donít have sexólet me finish! We donít have sex today, because Iím still treating youÖ if you go with Honeymane to your friendís 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, Iíll take you out on a date or something."
"WellÖ" the calico smiled faintly. "Now it sounds like youíre trying to bribe meÖ"
"Please donít say that." Fallingstar said in a distressed voice. "And please donít go and visit your friends just for thisÖ reward."
"This really bothers you, doesnít it?"
"WellÖ" Browneyes thought for a moment. "Tell me what Iíll need to know about the Gateway. I donít 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 wasnít 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 friendsí 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 Iíll be along in a moment."
"ík," Honeymane murmured sleepily, before slowly sliding off hir motherís 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 condoís washroom.
Browneyes, however, had other things to do. After making sure the baggage wasnít in anyoneís way, shi quickly checked for messages on the comm system and looked to make sure there wasnít 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 oneÖ
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 patientsóand of course, shi did have a treat waiting for hir.
Browneyes couldnít stop hirself from grinning as shi tapped the Ďdoorbellí that was connected to hir friendís 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?"
"Iíll 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. "Iíll 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 couldnít 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 ĎThere!í?" Star rested hir elbows on the table and hir head on hir hands.
Browneyes just grinned in reply.
"This really wasnít what I meant, Brown," Fallingstar said sternly. "I wasnít 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 canít simply seduce me," the stellar said angrily, "Iím trying to help you deal with your problems!"
"Youíre supposed to be my friend!" Brown retorted. "Youíre making a far bigger deal out of this then it needs to be. Itís not like Iím 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 donít act like it." Browneyes bit into hir muffin with far more venom than was required. "You wonít even keep a simple promise."
"I didnít say that." Fallingstar took a sip of hir coffee. "I obviously didnít think this whole thing through as I should have, but Iíll still honor it. If thatís what you want, Iíll take you on a date."
"Oh." Browneyes looked down at hir muffin in silence for a few minutes. "Iím sorry I said you werenít a friend."
"Itís fine," Fallingstar replied softly, "Iíd rather we just put this all behind us as quickly as possibleÖ 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 donít think shiíd mind; shi enjoys sleep overs."
"Good." Fallingstar took a bite of hir sandwich. "While weíre 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, "butÖ 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. "ThenÖ 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? Youíre 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, Iím 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?"
"Itís 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 couldnít support a dedicated psychologist, places like the Gateway had to provide them. "I imagine that theyíre sending me the easy cases thus far. I know why they do it, but it seems a bit insulting."
"Donít worry, Iím sure youíll get some harder cases eventually," Fallingstar pointed out. "But if I were you, I wouldnít expect much variation in your cases."
Brown frowned, before clapping hir hands and smiling widely. "Well, a jobís a job, and moneyís money! Itís better than nothing, and I do feel like Iím making some sort of difference."
"Well you are." Star stood up and signaled for the bill. "Maybe Iíll see if I canít 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 couldnít 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 wasnít 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 shiíd have to get ready soon or shiíd 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, ĎMane, you know, the ones with chocoberries in them?"
Honeymaneís 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 donít want any cookies, I can understandÖ" 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 wasnít sure Iíd ever be able to get out of here."
"My pleasure, sweetie, Iíve 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 donít 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 didnít 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 wasnít 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 lookÖ great," the chakat said. Browneyes wasnít normally one to feel overshadowed by anotherís appearance, but now shi felt like shi should have done more.
"So do you." Fallingstar smiled. "Iíve got to thank you for the top. Youíre 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? Itís so soft!"
"Itís wonderful isnít it?" the stellar grinned. "It was a birthday gift from my mother, she got it from one of the clanís leatherworkers."
"I wouldnít mind one myself," Browneyes demurred gently.
"You might just get one for your birthday then!" Star winked, before barking out a laugh. "Come on, Iíve 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 hadnít 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 didnít know much about hir friendís 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, didnít you?"
"Of course." Star sounded bemused. "Iím afraid I have nothing to cook on, so itís replicated food for us. What would you like?"
After getting their orders, the two of them ate while chatting, mostly about one anotherís work, but after a while Browneyes managed to steer the conversation towards hir friendís 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. "Thereís just not much to tell; I was conceived as part of the Stellar program, implanted into my motherís 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 ratherÖ concise." Browneyes frowned. Looking back on hir friendship with Star, shi realized the stellar tended to shy away from talking about hirself.
"YeahÖ I didnít mean it that way. Iím just not great with giving autobiographies." The black foxtaur shrugged. "Ask me any questions, and Iíll answer them."
Browneyes paused for a moment slowly chewing on hir roast beef, before formulating a question; "You said you were implanted into your momís womb? Howíd they get her to agree to that? Iím not an expert on foxtaurs, but theyíve 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 wasnít the original plan. The directors for the program didnít 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 theyíd 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, theyíll tell you that theyíll 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 theyíd 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 Ďpotí bank account, which is meant to be used if they ever need to buy technology or whatever. However, some councils just wonít withdraw the money so that the needy vixen or tod can get her or his treatment."
"Why not?" Browneyes tilted hir head. Shi really didnít see the logic in it all.
"Most of these conservative council members donít 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 Iím also grateful for it. Without such attitudes, the Federation wouldnít have been able to get half as many foxtaurs to go along with the program, and I wouldnít 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, thatís 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.
"Thatís 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.
"Whatís 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 quarterís den. It took them a few moments to recover from the meal, and it was Fallingstar who spoke first.
"Iíve got a small gift for you Brown."
Browneyes blinked in surprise. "Really? I should have brought you something as well."
"Itís 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 didnít want to sound to harsh about it. "I donít mean sound ungrateful Star, but Iíve got PADDs."
"I know, turn it on, itís whatís on it thatís important." Fallingstar fidgeted. "Iíll be right back, need to use the washroom."
"Um, sure." Browneyes pressed the Ďoní 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.
"Iím not sure Iím understanding what this thing is talking about." Browneyes frowned at the PADD. "I know it mentions both of usÖ"
"Well, I guess I could spoil the funÖ" Browneyes heard the foxtaur sigh. "Iím 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 hadnít 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 aboutÖ this whole thing."
"And it didnít 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 donít know what to say," Browneyes sighed after a few moments. "Why couldnít you just be my psychologist and my friend, and sometimes my lover?"
"Because it doesnít 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 youíre 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 acceptÖ on two conditions."
"Yes?" Star said warily.
"One: I want you to recommend another psychologist, and not submit this resignation until after Iíve 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 donít need to give me counsel if youíd rather not, I understand, but if some emergency comes up like that again, I donít want to be between psychologists."
"And the second?"
"Even though youíre 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. "Isnít that what companions are for?"
"I suppose so." Browneyes stuck out hir tongue. "So, do you agree?"
"Good. Now, letís 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 hadnít actually heard any tone of surprise in hir friendís voice. "Just because Iím a mom doesnít mean I donít know my way around a dick."
"I would imagineÖ" Star said slowly. "Öthat such knowledge would have been the cause of your motherhood to begin with."
"I guess so!" Browneyes laughed, rubbing hir friendís belly. "You ever thought of having a kid?"
"Sometimes." The stellar smiled softly. "Perhaps when the right person comes alongÖBut I havenít found them yet."
Star nodded. "Donít take it the wrong way, hun. I do care for you lots, but just not in that way."
"Thatís good," Browneyes agreed. "Oneís enough, thank you very much!"
Star chuckled and closed hir eyes, while rubbing hir friendís 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. "Iíll 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 bedroomís doorframe.
Browneyes shrugged; shi saw no reason to lie. "Birth control pills, wellÖ theyíre more of an emergency contraceptive."
"The same sort that you took the night you and Ariston dated?" Star questioned. Browneyes wasnít sure shi was likely hir tone.
"YesÖ whatís your point?"
"My point is that youíre 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 companionís hand. "Why, Browneyes?"
"I justÖ I just donít want to have another accident." Brownís voice cracked. "I love Honeymane dearly, but I wasnít ready and sometimes I feel like Iím still not."
"Parenting is always hard." Star cupped hir friendís face. "How often do you take these pills hun?"
"Any time I have sexÖ" Brown whimpered. "AndÖ sometimes after I jerk off."
Star frowned deeply. "I think youíre addicted, BrownÖ"
"But how?" Browneyes didnít understand. "Theyíre just hormones."
"Not chemically, behaviorally." The stellar sighed. "And you should stop."
"But nothing. Look, I know parenting is hard, thatís why Iím 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 replicatorís pad, before pressing the recycle button.
Browneyes let out a little whimper as shi watched.
"Itís late. Letís get to bed, and Iíll take you to see a doctor and a psychologist in the morning." Star sighed, taking hir friendís hand and tugging hir in the direction of the bedroom.
"What about Honeymane?" Browneyes asked, although shi didnít resist. "And what about my job? Oh for fuckís sake, I suppose Iíve lost it if Iím addicted."
"Iím 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 jobÖ youíre lucky youíre a chakat, and youíre only psychologically addicted to something that doesnít have any mental side effects. You wonít 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. "Iím sorry for all the trouble Iíve caused."
"Itís alright hun," Star said as shi curled up beside hir companion and stroked hir flank. "Iím 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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