"No!" Garth came to consciousness with a start, the nightmare of drowning fresh in his mind. He ran his hands over his body, checking to make sure it was indeed his body. He found his chest, stomach, groin... all familiar, all the same. He was still himself, still a Katckin.
He was lying in a bed, which filled most of the bedroom he found himself in. A desk against the opposite wall was made of some dark wood, stained cherry perhaps. The walls were papered in a faded off-white color with small flowers printed in rhythms down the walls. He rose out of bed and looked in the mirror that hung over the desk. "I'm still me."
Someone had apparently heard his shout, because a knock on his door caught his attention. "Garth?"
"Hello?" he replied. The voice sounded familiar. "Who's there?"
The door opened and a short femMarten looked up at him. "Are you okay?"
"Kiza!" he said, rolling out of bed onto his feet and crossing the room. He pulled her close, using her as a brace against the sudden exhaustion and dizziness he felt. He finally managed to say, "What are you doing here?"
"Mom and Dad found you!" She grinned at him. "Guess the Hall works in pretty strange ways sometimes."
"But... where am I?"
"You're in my home town of Callinbar. Mom found you yesterday by the river, unconscious. The doctor thought you might have drowned. We were really scared." She shook her head. "But he said there was no water in your lungs."
"I... The Hall tried to drown me."
"No, I think that was really just your test. Sometimes the tests the Hall gives are a little extreme."
"A little," Garth agreed. "I think I need to sit down."
"Just, just a little dizzy." He rubbed his stomach. "I think I'm hungry."
"I hope you do more than 'think,' Garth, 'cause Mom makes pretty huge meals."
"What time is it?"
"Sometime in the late afternoon. Almost time for supper." Her black eyes smiled at him. "I'm just glad you came back."
"Does... does Skii know where I am?"
"He should. The AIs were told to inform us when you surfaced again. Nickolai too, but he got away with it by coming out somewhere beyond the AInet."
A new voice came through the door. "Kiza?"
"In here, Mom!"
Another Marten poked her head around the door. A little thicker in the middle than Kiza, whiskers slightly droopy but the same bright eyes. "Ah, he is awake. You perhaps would like dinner with us, then? Kiza tells me your name is Garth."
"Ah, I am Naiza," the Marten said. "My mate is named How. And you already know my daughter."
Garth nodded. "Thank you."
"It's nothing," Naiza said, looking away. "We are not used to finding handsome young men washed up on the side of our aqueducts."
"Still, thank you for a place to recover."
"You are hungry?" Naiza asked. "Kiza, get your young friend some clothes. I am sure he must feel terrible being naked; humans are so much used to dressing."
"I'm fine, really," Garth replied, embarrassed by the sudden attention of two Martens, even if one of them was interested only in seeing to his more mundane needs. He grinned sheepishly as Kiza reached into a curiously shaped pack and handed him suitable clothing. He put on a loose pullover and then a kilt held in place with velcro. Kiza found the idea of easy-tear clothing entertaining.
"Come," Naiza said, interrupting Kiza's teasings. "We have food downstairs." Garth enjoyed the sound of her voice as it lifted up and dipped downwards with the progression of her sentences, as if her pitch followed a slow sine curve.
He followed them down stairs that were too small for him; he felt like he teetered on the brink of falling down with every step. Fortunately, the downstairs was built more to his scale, and the door was positively enormous. Like much of Pendor, it had apparently been built to the scale of the largest species that used the 'indoors,' Centaurs.
Garth found his hunger as she set down a plate of food before him. Meat, potatoes, corn... real food. The meat stunned him; he had almost never seen that much red meat in one place. He ate with gusto while Naiza and Kiza did the same, but they also watched him closely. Another Marten with a deeper voice came into the room behind Garth. "How, he is awake."
"I see, I see, Naiza," the other Marten said. "It is good to see you moving again, young mel. We were worried about you."
"His name is Garth," Naiza said.
"Hush, Naiza. Let him speak."
"I'm glad someone was worried about me. My last memories were of drowning in the Great Hall."
"Yes," How said. "Kiza here told us you were walking the great Hall." He examined Garth closely. "I thought people didn't do that any more."
"Most people don't," Garth agreed.
"You are still a Katckin," How observed.
"Yeah, the Hall has changed. No more changes for people going through."
"Really?" How asked, surprised. "That's interesting. I have not read news in months. When did this happen?"
"About three weeks ago."
"Hmm. After the time I stopped reading, too. Interesting. I wonder if it will affect the political balance between Pendor and Terra. Not that I care much; there is no reason for us to fear. Pendor is strong, and we here in the outback care little for the ways of politics. My daughter here, she wants to be an engineer; she lives back in the civilized zones. Goes to school."
"Garth?" Kiza asked, blushing slightly under the reminders her father tossed in her direction, "Can you ride a horse?"
"Ride a...? I've never ridden one before."
"Then getting you home is going to be interesting. Horses are our most common method of getting around out here. The SDisk is far out in the FTS grain fields."
FTS! Garth realized he was in the midst of one of the largest charity organizations in the galaxy. Feed The Stars had a reputation for being as much a political tool as a humanitarian effort, but its effect could not be denied; whole colonies existed solely off the efforts of FTS. And Kiza grew up as a farmer for FTS? "I guess I'll have to learn," he said. "Naiza, How, thank you for being so kind."
"We like having visitors," Naiza said. "They are so rare."
"That is because most Pendorians are lazy, Naiza. They have no appreciation of a real day's work."
"Now, How," Naiza said. "You know that is not true."
How didn't reply, and Garth got the feeling he was listening to a very old argument. He finished the dinner and Naiza placed another plate in front of him, and within a short while he had finished that off too. "Oh, my fah! At that rate, I should slaughter more sheep," How observed.
"Sorry," Garth said, abashed.
"Pfah!" How laughed. "Eat as much as you need, Garth. I don't slaughter my sheep just so that they may rot and not feed your stomach. Eat!"
Garth blushed and finished off the second plate. "No more, Naiza, thank you. Just one more roll."
"You like my cooking?"
"Delicious," Garth agreed.
Kiza touched the back of his hand. "Kolya is climbing the walls. He loves you, you know. We've been trying to keep ourselves occupied, but we were so worried. Even Shardik commented that you had been gone a long time."
"Friends in such high places," How muttered. "She talks to Shardik. Kiza, where do you meet such people?"
"I don't know, Daddy," she said solemnly. "I just sort of fell in with the right crowd." She turned back to Garth. "I missed you too."
"I... I haven't had enough time to miss you, except the first day of the walk. I hope you don't think that's awful."
"No," Kiza said. "Not awful at all." She looked over his shoulder. "Daddy, do you think we can spend the night here and go in the morning?"
"Of course!" How said. "Why not? It is good to have you in the old farmhouse again, Kiza."
Kiza started asking questions about the condition of the farm and the animals. Garth found keeping up with her hardgoing; there was something to her life here that he, as a Londoner, was just not privy to. It bothered him a little. And the more he thought about it, the more it bothered him. It had nothing to do with her, really; more that her life and his weren't meant to be compatible. Even when she was an engineer, she was an earthy female with her own, grounded life.
"Come," How said. "Kiza, would you like to do a reading?"
"Yes!" she said. "Oh, yes!"
Garth was surprised at what happened next as How, Naiza, and Kiza led him into the living room. "What will you have?" How asked.
Kiza walked to one wall that was thick with books. "Oof!" she grunted softly as she pulled a huge red tome down from the wall and opened it until she was nearly at the back. Garth's surprise grew when she began reading from Shakespeare's sonnets.
Her voice carried across the room, and Garth found himself listening first with idle boredom, then with rapt fascination. Her reading touched him; sometimes she seemed to be talking right at him, and sometimes she seemed to be wishing for someone not here.
Time flew as she read, and Garth found himself suppressing yawns. He felt exhausted. And the last straw came when he awoke suddenly to find Kiza shaking him on the shoulder. "Garth?"
"Huh?" he said, looking up.
"You want to go to bed? You look exhausted."
Garth nodded slowly. "Yeah, I think I should go to bed." She led him up the stairs into the room he had awakened in just a short time earlier, then turned around and pulled on the rope holding his tunic shut. "You look good," she said.
"I feel tired," he sighed. "I don't think I'm up for this."
"Nonsense," she said. "Here, pull that thing off." She reached down and tugged at the velcro; his kilt fell to the floor. "I knew I was going to like that feature." She discarded the kilt into a corner. "Now, sit down on the bed." Garth obeyed. She stood before him and stripped off her jumpsuit, looking at him. "Garth?"
"You're not bothered because I... I think I'm gay, are you? I don't know what to call it. I've had one relationship that lasted, you know? It was with Furry, and now she's got someone more important to her than I am, and I understand that. I understood it even when our relationship began. But I still like mels, only just as friends and... I just can't imagine living with you."
At a loss for words, Garth just stared at her. He found his tongue fast enough to say, "I, um, I don't..."
"Do you want me to stay?" she said. "There's another room. I could go there."
"No," he said. "I... wanted to tell you that I don't think you're what I'm looking for either. And it has nothing to do with your being gay. You just aren't." She nodded, her face flat and unmoving. "I still think it was nice that we spent those nights together in bed."
"Yay!" she said, jumping next to him and making the bed creak slightly. She pushed him back onto the bed, and they tumbled together onto the sheets. "Kiza, wha?"
"Shhh..." she said, her hands reaching between his thighs. Her fingers caressed his ballsac softly, and he squirmed and whimpered slightly at the ticklish sensations she created. "I want to show you how much I appreciate your being here."
"But you... you just said..."
"Garth," she whispered, kissing his neck. "When I said I thought I was a lesbian, I meant to say that I can only imagine myself settling down with a fem, living with one. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate your company. I do."
"Oh... okay..." he said. Experimentally, a little put-off by her confession, he ran his fingers over the fur of her side, touching her. She moaned softly. "Yes, I like when you touch me like that," she said. "Press a little harder.
His hands rubbed against her fur, pressing down against the flesh. He could feel her ribs underneath as his hands caressed her chest. She didn't have visible breasts, and he felt a little abashed as he touched her flat chest, as if he were caressing someone who was either too young, or of the wrong gender. In any event, it felt peculiar to him. But she seemed to like it.
Her hands stroked up along the length of his shaft, touching the tip and playing with the head of his penis within. He squirmed, giggling more. "Dammit, Kiza!" he breathed.
"You're ticklish there?" she asked, surprised. "Oooh!" Her finger stirred in his foreskin playfully, and he giggled at her merciless intrusion. "Stop!" he demanded.
"Okay," she said. "But I can see it got you excited for me to do that." Her fingers stroked his erection, not half out of its sheath, and it surged more fully to life. Her hands pulled and tugged on his sheath, pulling it up over the head of his penis, then letting it go. He moaned softly; she was starting to pull so hard it almost felt like it hurt.
He returned the favor, reaching down between her thighs and finding a pair of tiny ridges, the lips of her vulva. They were so small he had first wondered if she would be able to take his cock. He knew now that she could.
He rose up on one arm, pushing her down to the bed on her back, then slid down the length of the bed until he lay with his head between her legs. He wanted to lick her but he also wanted to look at her cunt, to see the soft pink of it.
His arms rested on her thighs as his hands gently pried her lips apart. From this angle she looked impossibly small, but he had seen his cock go in there before. He lowered his head to her vulva and ran his most unfeline tongue along the length. Kiza moaned softly as he made small circles around her clitoris. Her breathing became short as he licked her, tasting her juices. Her hands gripped the bedsheets as if she were fighting something. He wondered if her tension came because he was male, or because she was already close to climax. Unable to tell and with no clear word from her, he continued licking her tiny cunt, his tongue brushing against the top of the hood and tugging it up, exposing but not quite touching the clitoris underneath. She groaned softly as he licked at her. "Against my clit."
He lowered his tongue against her clitoris and immediately she went into a frenzy. "Oh, yes! Garth, ohhhhh yes. Harder. HARDER!" Garth pressed down with his muzzle, licking until his jaw ached. It began to burn harder, and just when he thought he had no more strength to give, her body tensed irrevocably and she came, moaning, her legs thrashing.
She smiled up at him. "Your turn," she said.
"My turn for what?"
"Your turn to come," she replied. "Fuck me, Garth."
Garth rose to his knees and unsurely positioned himself between hers. She reached up with both arms, a big smile on her face. "Go ahead," she said. "I don't bite."
"I don't know that," he smiled.
"I haven't yet," she said. He slid forwards, his cock nudging up against her vulva. He pushed downwards, and suddenly slid into her.
He gasped. She was tight, so tight he could barely move. He felt her body shiver under him as he slid deep into her. Her hands pulled him down until his chest touched hers. She licked his cheeks softly as he buried his cock deep within her, fucking her softly.
"Harder," she whispered. His hips complained as he slid into her deeper. He pushed himself up on his arms and began making love to her with more intent, stroking harder. He looked down; he could see her tiny lips gripping his cock as he buried himself completely into her cunt and his sheath was pulled back to the root of his cock. "Like that?"
"Yessss..." she hissed. "Like that." He began to push harder and faster, speeding up as his cock slid in and out of her. Her cunt was incredibly slick as well as tight, and only that slickness kept him from being held to a standstill within her. His body felt tight and he began panting as his cock insisted he was about to explode. He felt it coming, felt so close, and...
He came! He felt himself coming within her, could feel the walls of her cunt holding his cock as his semen spurt into her cunt. "Yes!" he growled, pushing against her. Then it was over.
He blinked, smiling down at her. "Hi," he said.
"Hi," she replied back. She reached up and pulled him down again, and again they tumbled on the bed, rolling. In the course of things, he slipped out of her. "That was nice."
"Just nice?" he asked.
"Just nice," she agreed. The she registered the look on his face. "I hope you're not upset with me because I'm glad you were nice to me."
He shook his head. "No, it's just a little weird. Usually people treat sex as if it means something."
"It does mean something! It means you like me, and I like you, and I was nice to you, and you were nice to me. Does it have to mean more than that?"
Garth smiled, embarrassed again. "I guess not."
"See? Now, are you tired?"
"I'm exhausted, Kiza. I was exhausted even before we started."
"Then lets get some sleep. Turn over, close your eyes, that's it. You'll be asleep in no time."
Garth did turn over onto his side, and she was right. His memory of the day stopped there.