The door to the apartment slid open with only the slightest whisper, but Ember heard that whisper and slammed the book in her lap shut quickly, looking up to see who had entered.
Her guilt at being caught intensified. "P'raine!" she said.
P'raine walked in silently, shaking her head. "What are you doing in here?" she asked.
"I was just... I mean... I just... Oh, damn. I was feeling lonely, so I decided to come in here and just... be alone."
"That's not a very good cure for loneliness, kiddo. Wha'cha readin?"
"It's just a book. I thought I'd get caught up."
"Let me see."
"It's just a book."
"Bawr, you may well be five hundred years old, but I'm still your friend. I know better than that. Give it here."
Ember's muzzle fell, her nose flaring with more than a little embarrassment as she turned over the gray hardcover to P'raine. P'raine turned it over and read the title. "The Journal Entries of Kennet R'yal Shardik, Personal Threads, 148."
She put the book down on the mildly dusty coffee table and sat next to Ember. "Still hurts, doesn't it?"
Ember nodded, miserably. Tears welled in her eyes and she said, "He's not dead. He can't be dead."
"They've been missing for nearly fifty years, sweetheart. If they're out there, it'll be a long time before we find them. The last report we had was of a Sinox attack on their location, but Ian told me they swept that area pretty hard."
"Rainy, you can't kill someone like Kennet Shardik. It just doesn't happen. Not by some sub-adolescent species with oversized nostrils. The Sinox did not kill my grandfather, and I know it!"
Rainy put her tens around her best friend's shoulders and said "I know, Bawr, I know. They're my parents, trust me, I know." Ember buried her head in Rainy's chest and began crying. She cried for a long time, loud sobs shuddering through her every once in a while, sometimes accompanied by a little peal, a little prayer.
"I want him to come home," Ember said in her little voice. "I want him to come home and hold me, take me to bed and play with me again. I want to touch him and hold him and kiss him and bite him." P'raine grinned gently. "I want to feel his tongue against my clit, and his cock inside my pussy again. I miss him, and it's not fucking fair!"
P'raine stroked Ember's fur. "No, it isn't. Over there on that wall is Dad's proof that life isn't fair," she said, pointing to the picture of Donna. "Sometimes people die. Sometimes they just leave."
"But not Ken, not Ken, he couldn't just leave without saying good-bye. He couldn't just die somewhere out there, among the stars. Why'd he want to leave Pendor anyway?"
P'raine shrugged slightly. "He liked the stars, and he liked to travel. He once joked that the was the ultimate tourist, and he had built the ultimate place to see." She smiled.
Ember smiled through her tears, still crying gently. "It's still not fair."
"No, it isn't. But maybe he'll come back. Maybe it'll be soon. You could wake up tomorrow and find him and mom and Aaden and maybe even Rowan moving right back in."
"Probably not," Ember said.
"No, probably not," Rainy agreed. "But it could happen."
Ember smiled slightly and said, "I know." She brushed at the tears that had flowed down onto her fur and said, "I just wish. Why'd you come here?"
"I grew up in here," Rainy said. "This is my home. Remember when you used to baby-sit me?"
Ember nodded, her face cheering just a little. "And I remember you throwing up all over me when you were fur."
P'raine stuck out her tongue at Ember and said, "I told you I didn't feel good that night." They sat on the couch and laughed. "You know," Rainy said, "you're very privileged. Or we are, I guess."
"What do you mean?"
"Nobody knows these are here," P'raine said, tapping the cover of the Journal Entry. "Castle Shardik people can read these all they want, but the ones in the public domain are all five hundred years old or so."
"That one's in the public domain," Ember said.
"Yeah, but not this one," Rainy replied, leaning over to the bookshelf and pulling down '477. She flipped through it to Shardik's birthday, finding the day before and the day after. She showed it to Bawr, who quickly scanned the pages with her eyes. She laughed a little at some of it, and said, "I didn't know that was in there."
Rainy shrugged. "I'm glad some people don't know, too. But it's okay if you do."
"Hey," Rainy said, "what are friends for?" She was silent for a few seconds. "Actually, I came back because I wanted to visit."
Ember looked up. "Visit who?" she asked.
"Ghosts, I guess. Dead or alive, he's missing, but my home hasn't changed. It's still the same. The rug's a little faded, the walls a little dusty. I got used to all the plants, and now Aaden's moved. He isn't at Rhysh; nobody seems to know where he is. The door to my old bedroom's closed shut again, but the living room's the same. New bookshelf next to the old ones." She sighed. "You know, I miss him, too. But not the way you do. I've read 'The Kitten'n,' sweetheart." Bawr's fur crested with embarrassment. "So I know how well you and Dad got along. But I miss other things about him. I miss the scratchy beard he had when I was growing up. I miss watching him turn the crank to make ice cream. I miss his fission chili."
Ember smiled a little wider. "I know. I miss those things too. I miss throwing him into the pool. I mean, I threw Maha in the other day, but it just wasn't the same."
"Isn't Maha your father?"
"Yeah, but he wasn't the one who I grew up with. I grew up with your dad, with Ken. Dad, my dad, was always busy, always out doing things. Now that I'm grown up, he's just another mel, really."
Rainy nodded. "That was before Mom and he moved in together."
Ember jumped up and said, "I'm gonna go talk to some of your ghosts." She walked to the bedroom portal and jumped. The gravitics lowered her quickly to the bed, and she grabbed the pillows, wrapping herself in them. Ken had always had large pillows on the bed, and if she concentrated real hard, she could just barely make out his scent on them, mingled with others.
The scent just deepened her depression, making it hurt all the more. She barely noticed when Rainy landed on the bed. "That's not going to make you feel any better," Rainy said.
"I know," Ember said, her voice cracking. "But I need to feel this. I need him."
Rainy knelt on the bed next to her curled-up friend. "Ember," she said. "Close your eyes." Ember did so, and Rainy slowly placed her mitt against the back of Rainy's back. "Close your eyes and dream."
Ember sobbed gently, her eyes closed and her head buried into the pillow. "Think about Ken, Ember. Try to remember him. Think of his long hair. Brown eyes. Strong chin and nose. Remember?"
"Uh-huh" Ember said.
"Just imagine his hands, touching you, like this," Rainy spoke slowly, running her mittens down her back. "You remember how he used to like to scratch you?" Ember nodded. "And remember how he used to tickle you?" Rainy circled her mitt lightly over Ember's sides, trying to tickle her friend. Ember giggled and squirmed. "Do you remember his kiss?"
Rainy bent over and kissed Ember lightly, just behind the ear, making it flicker gently, just as a cat's will. Ember sighed softly. "And sometimes he'd move a little further down. Remember... He used to love to kiss your neck." She moved down and kissed the back of Ember's neck, baring her teeth just a little to get through the fur. "Do you remember?"
"Uh-huh," Ember said again, this time a little more breathlessly.
Rainy pushed herself away just a little and put her mittens on Ember's shoulders. "He used to love to rub your shoulders, just like this." Rainy smiled as Ember's sighed broke. "You miss him, I know, but he's still here, still alive." She eased her way down Ember's back, carefully trying to touch every knot and care. Although she lacked her mother's psionic talent for knowing exactly what was wrong where, she knew where her friend hurt; she could feel it, and she sometimes thought she could see it.
And as her mittens reached Ember's butt, Rainy realized she was going to have to go through with her intentions. She took a deep breath and said, "Remember how annoying he could be, waking you up at ten lome' because he couldn't sleep and his hands would wander, and where would they wander to?" Her mittens slid along the furry cleft of Ember's ass, easing their way towards Ember's cunny. Ember moaned as Rainy's palm slid over her pussy.
"I rrememberrrrr," Ember said, her voice falling into a deep and pronounce Felin accent. "But he wasn't always annoying," she said.
"No, he wasn't," Rainy agreed, her smile broadening. "Sometimes, you would wake up from a great dream, remember? A hot and sexy dream, and there he was, touching you, and he was so much better than a dream, wasn't he?"
"Yeahhhhh..." Ember purred. "So much betterrr. He was so sweet."
Rainy's mitten slid down, caressing Ember's cunt where it pouted out from between her legs. "And his hands would go everywhere," she said, reaching over Ember to stroke her nipples. "You remember what he called you, didn't he? 'My Kitten.' My kitten." She flexed her palm between Ember's labia, sliding it deeper against the flesh. Ember mewled a low moan of pleasure, turning over onto her back. "It meant everything to you, didn't it, to be possessed by him. More than his silly friends, he owned you, didn't he?"
"Yessss..." Ember moaned, the confession startling even her. Rainy continued her explorations, rubbing the soft fur of Ember's belly. Ember spread her legs a little wider, and Rainy accepted the invitation, laying down between her friend's legs and taking her first, tentative licks of Ember's pussy. Ember's purr was loud and soulful, and Rainy accepted it for the permission it was, licking a little deeper, using both mittens to spread Ember's vulva just a little wider, taking a careful look before sliding her tongue into the tiny pink slit of flesh.
Ember put her paws on Rainy's head gently, urging her on. "I rememberrrrr..." she purred, her body tensing with pleasure as Rainy dove in deeper, feeling the pleasure course up her spine and down her legs. She felt her toes curl. She could see the deep blue fur of the top of Rainy's head between her thighs, but it mattered little to her... It felt so good!
Rainy had a little fight with the muscles of her smile, trying to concentrate them on Ember and having trouble marshaling them. She shook her head there between Ember's thighs, laughing gently into the warm and delicious cunny before her, licking the tiny labia of her best friend, working her way towards Ember's hooded clitoris, pressing gently above it with her lips, exposing the little pink-white nub to her. Ember yowled aloud like a soul found as she slid her tongue over that nub ever-so-gently, caressing her evermore carefully, evermore urgently.
Rainy began gently grazing Ember's clit up and down, savoring the juices that dripped in tiny pulses from her cunny, and Ember growled softly, "just a little harderrr, pleaserrrr.." Rainy pressed down with a little more force, but just as slowly, and Ember breathing grew strong as she dug in just a little more. "Morrrrre." Rainy sped up just a little, and Ember shuddered, her legs pressing against Rainy suddenly, and Rainy knew Ember had just come.
But that was no reason to stop, and she simply backed off, nipping at Ember's outer lips with her teeth, eliciting little growls as she did. The smile returned, and she fought it back- her lips had more interesting things to do. The mottled black-and-white of Ember's fur reached between her legs and ran down the left side of her groin, except for the labia itself, the fur of which was white on one side and a tawny orange on the other- the only place on Ember's body that showed her mother's fur color.
Rainy admired the view of her friend's beautiful cunt for a short time before diving in again, slowly licking around and closing in on the clitoris again, driving Ember slowly towards her second orgasm.
And Rainy decided to tease this time, pushing even slower. "Faster," Ember breathed, and Rainy slowed down. "Slower," Ember said, and Rainy slowed down.
"Stop teasing me..." Ember moaned, mournfully, groaning. Rainy slid one of her tens down between her own legs and into the silk pants she wore, stroking her own cunt, not at all surprised to find it dripping and soaked. She smiled, playing with herself but concentrating entirely on Ember, and finally she relented, speeding up as Ember wished, kissing and licking until Ember yowled aloud, climaxing with tiny thrashes on the bed.
Rainy pulled her mitten out of her pants and crawled up to hover over Ember. "Do you remember?" she asked, the smile returning.
Ember nodded, her eyes fluttering open. "I remember. I also remember how much of a tease he was!" She threw her arms up and wrapped them around Rainy, hauling her friend down onto the bed with her. "Thank you so much," she said.
"Anything for you," Rainy said. "You're family, and don't you ever forget it."
"I won't," Ember sighed. The two of them curled up for one more night in Shardik's bed.