Nickolai sat at an ancient table and pored over an equally ancient book. From her vantage point on the balcony overlooking the library, Jofuran watched him with a painful mixture of anger, frustration, love, and concern knotted behind her breastbone. The past four months had started out reasonably well, but the past three weeks had aroused her greatest fears about Elizabeth. She felt even more convinced than ever that she was losing him to the human woman who would bear his child in a little more than five months. She had given him that permission and had blessed their relationship. She had taken Elizabeth at her word and had allowed the two of them to continue to sleep together even after Liz had become pregnant.
She couldn't help but want to give Nickolai one more chance. He said Liz's name in his sleep, what few times she actually saw him in their bed these days. That he preferred to sleep with one of his own species over her, whom he had lived with for nearly a century, gnawed at her affections for him and made her question the whole century-long relationship. She had dragged him to more than one hellish world; he had pulled her into a few tight corners himself. On one of the most explored worlds in explored space, Hyzen, she had been blinded by an autonomous robot that had never been found again; a few months later on the same world he had broken an arm.
She tried to release her grip on the railing and discovered that she had been clamping down so hard on it her fingers had become almost frozen in place. She sighed. She wondered if it really was that bad; if there was a time and a place where she should just be herself again, alone, an individual, not a part of "Kolya and Furry." She hadn't been an individual her entire adult life; she had met Nickolai when they were both just sixteen.
Yet she loved him. She wasn't quite sure she could put into words why she did. She had tried with Nionad, the in-place counselor for the expedition, to say why. Nickolai had been good to her, had stood by her, had held her through the toughest classes and the dreariest scut. And she had put her heart into him as he had vented, frustrated yet again that despite all his education, his learning, and his desire he had never revealed some inner skill that made him stand out.
And now it was showing itself. Nickolai had managed to puzzle out the language of the Ritans faster than the two AIs on the team together. After only four months he already read the local dialect like a native. He had gotten past the academic and proceeded directly to enjoying what he was reading. His first talent had taken root and shown itself. Like most Pendorians, she knew that this happened over and over in a lifetime as people got bored, as different connections forged in the brain, as people changed. But Nickolai's current changes asked her to bear more than she wished.
She walked down the switchback staircase to the main floor and walked up behind him. With a smile to mask her ache she leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Hi, Kolya."
He shrugged her off indifferently. "Hi, Furry."
"You've been reading for a while," she said.
"It's an interesting book," he offered.
"Do you want to have dinner together tonight? I know we've both been so busy recently."
He finally turned to regard her. "I can't. I promised Liz I'd be at her place tonight."
There was that word again. Promised. Nickolai had never been one to give his promises casually before and now he almost seemed to use the word unconsciously to describe what he said to Elizabeth. It angered her. "All night?" she asked.
"Yeah, all night. You said it was okay if I saw her, right?"
Furry glanced around. They had the library to themselves. She regarded her erstwhile coimelin and tried to concoct a response. Her sense of honor dictated that she had agreed. She had said he could spend time with her. It was just She nodded. "Right. Excuse me, Nickolai. I'm sorry for interrupting you." She fled the library, running down the main staircase to the basement. An archival room had been found there, and she threw herself into it, shutting the door behind herself before screaming her anger at the ceiling, the floor, the walls, the shelves. "Fuck her!" she screamed. "Fuck him! Fuck the whole universe!"
A few deep breaths later, her anger returned with a more purposeful direction to it. She opened the door. "Nix?"
"Yes, Jofuran," a voice said, coming from the pentagonal broach on her chest. "Do you want any help?"
"Just tell me where she is."
"She is currently in the advanced electronics laboratory building. Do you know where that is?"
"Should I alert security to your intentions?" Nix asked.
The words stopped her. Had she been contemplating violence against her competition? She didn't think so; she had never expressed her anger physically, at least not against another living thing. "No, Nix. That won't be necessary."
She grabbed her jacket, adjusted the air supply, and walked out into the subzero Hades that covered the planet Ritacha. In a matter of a decade the temperature would start to ease as the weather control units due to arrive from llerkin in a couple of months worked their fusion- powered magic. She wondered if she would still be here to see that day. She didn't know. Right now she didn't care. She walked to the lab Nix had indicated, taking her disciplined time to hang up the jacket. In the basement she found the young human woman hunched over a bench, two PADDs propped up on wire frames, a Ritan book and a large steel case filled with circuit boards and wires between them. Her pregnancy was starting to show. She was tapping her nose with a stylus as she regarded the circuits, saying "Let's try it this-- Furry!" She seemed genuinely pleased to see the other fem standing in her doorway. "What's the sit?"
Furry tried to hold onto anger, but it slipped away as surely as Nix's well-placed comment had intended. "Furry?" Elizabeth asked again.
"Here," Furry said, twisting the ring off her finger. "It's yours. You win. You deserve it." She dropped it on the desk and turned to leave.
"Wait!" Liz cried. "What is this?" She picked up the ring with the mounted black diamond and examined it closely. "A ring? Like one of those old commitment rings? It... it's beautiful. Why are you giving this to me? What do you mean, I win?"
"For Nickolai. You win. I can't compete with you, Liz. You're everything he wants. You're human, you have skin, you have a family on Earth, you can give him the children he now says he wants. He sees you more than he sees me. He says your name in his sleep!" Tears welled in her eyes and ran down the short, dense fur that covered her cheeks. She shook her head. "Take him."
"Furry, I don't want him."
Furry wasn't sure she'd heard correctly. "You don't?"
"No!" Elizabeth laughed. "I'm about to have a baby, Furry. Having two people to care for would just be redundant."
Despite her anger, Furry found herself smiling at the comment. "Then..."
"I suspect we have someone to talk to," Elizabeth said, glancing out the door. "Nix. Tell Nickolai to meet me in his quarters. Now."
"Done," Nix replied without a hint of amusement.
"And you," she said, turning to Furry, "Put this back on right now." She handed back the ring.
Nickolai was pacing when they arrived. "Liz, what's this all about..." He spotted Jofuran behind her. "What's happening?"
"What's happening," Elizabeth said with a touch of anger in her voice, "Is that you are about to get a nasty shock. We are not sleeping together anymore."
"What?" He actually sounded distraught. "Why?"
"Because you have been ignoring your marriage." Elizabeth pointed to Furry. "She just came to me and tried to give me your commitment band. I don't know what you did to her to make her so distraught earlier, but whatever it was it apparently didn't register on your callous hide." She walked over to him and touched his face with her finger. "I love you, Nickolai. But I don't want you as a mate. I came here to get pregnant, not to get a... what's the word? A husband. And I definitely didn't come here to break up a relationship I knew one hundred and twelve years ago was meant to last forever. Don't make a liar out of me, Nickolai."
He blushed. "Have I really been that bad?" he asked Furry.
"Worse," she blurted suddenly through her tears. "You acted like you didn't care!"
"I didn't know anything was wrong! I thought you understood..."
Liz put her hands on both of their shoulders as they faced one another. "Hey. It's over. I came here five months ago to only spend a year here. And I'm not taking either of you with me. Got that?" She smiled at Nickolai. "Maybe I was too quick to say never again. You're one lucky fem, Furry-- I can't remember the last time I was in bed with anyone as good as Nickolai." Nickolai blushed visibly. "I mean it, Nickolai. It's been years since I was with anyone who could make me come from just intercourse. I hope I find someone as good as he is when I leave here, or I'm going to be lonely for a long time. But no more two nights in a row, no more. No more than once a week, and preferably less. I've got great hands, Nickolai. I can keep myself from getting too desperate. In the meantime, you pay attention to her." She turned to face him directly. She was an imposing figure; although shorter than he, her training had been at the hands of military and it showed. Although now a civilian the discipline and steel of her martial life shone through. When Nickolai and she had first met she was a terror of the fencing track; now she was equally proficient with guns, powered armor, even weapons of mass destruction. "Clear?"
"Like polygarmor," Nickolai gulped.
"Good. Now, a couple of things. First, Furry, I need a few minutes alone with Nickolai. And then I'm going to leave and you two are going to talk about what you--" She pointed directly at Nickolai-- " can and can't do with me when. This is your marriage, Nickolai, and to see you ignoring it this way really tears me up. Furry?"
"I'll be next door," Furry said. "Give me a shout when you're done." She closed the door behind herself and left them alone.
"You're mad at me," Nickolai observed.
"You're damn tootin' I'm mad at you," Elizabeth said. "How could you not see how badly you were hurting her? Are you that damned insensitive?"
"I didn't think anything was wrong. She never said anything was wrong."
"And you didn't think to ask, either, did you? It's your job just as much as it is hers, Kolya, to check in on your loved ones. Especially when things are getting a little hairy, as they have to be when you're also about to father my child." She touched his face. "Oh, Kolya, I do love you, but not the way you think, and certainly not the way life might have happened if it hadn't been for Jofuran. She's so much like you in so many ways it's no surprise that you two have done so well together. Don't destroy that just because you're suddenly getting laid by someone else, okay?"
He nodded, abashed. "Okay," he replied, his voice barely above a whisper.
"When Furry came to the lab she said that I could have you because I, quote, 'can give him the children he now says he wants.' Is that really true, Kolya, that you want kids?"
"Yeah," he said. "I hadn't thought about it until you came along but I've been giving it a lot of thought and I think it would be a wonderful thing if Furry and I could have children of our own. But she's never talked about it and I haven't brought it up before."
"Maybe it's time you did. Both of you." She kissed his cheek softly. "So," she said, "Do you like me pregnant?"
"I think it's exciting, actually."
"Really?" she purred. "Well, since we're going to have to limit the time you can spend with me, I would say that your best bet would be to get Furry pregnant. That way, by the time I'm ready to leave she'll have the belly and the glow and the morning sickness and the bad back and all the joys of pregnancy you could ever wish for." She laughed, then rose to go to the door. "I'll leave you two alone for a little while. You have a lot to talk about."
Furry replaced Elizabeth at the door, closing it behind her. "So," she said.
"I... I don't know what to say."
"Oh, Kolya. I wasn't sure when I was going to give up on you, but the time was coming fast. You have no idea how much it hurt me to have you just ignore me like that. I was getting so angry every night. I'm not used to sleeping alone and you were making me do it every night for the past week!"
"I thought... I thought we could last nine months like this."
"I can't, Kolya. I have to ask you not to do this to me, to limit your time with her and show me the attention and love you've always given me before. Elizabeth seems to think you still love me all the same."
"I do!" he said. "It's just..."
"She's human and she's pregnant with your child."
He nodded. "Furry, do you want children?"
She looked up at him, surprised. "I never thought you'd ask, Kolya. Of course I want children!" Then she amended, "eventually."
"I mean, now."
"Now?" She asked. "You mean, like, get pregnant in the next week or so? We'd have to find a donor, and..."
"There are two hundred samples up on the ship, and the doctor tells me they're taken at random from several million donor samples."
"How do you know that?" Furry asked, surprised and suspicious.
"I asked the doctor when we found out Elizabeth had taken. I was thinking about it then."
"So " She said. "What do you want, Kolya?"
"I don't know, Furry." He smiled to hide his frustration. "All I know is, I've made a big mistake out of the past couple of weeks and I don't know how to put it all back together again."
"Well, I know one change you can make," she said with a whisper. "You can change back to the Kolya who used to want to make love to me every night."
Nickolai smiled. "Now?"
"Now," Furry said, insistent. "I've missed you, Kolya. I'm tired of waiting."
Nickolai pushed himself back onto the bed and started taking his boots off. She grinned and pulled the zipper down on her jumpsuit, tossing it aside to let it land on the ground in a heap. As she finally tore off her underwear, she looked up to see Nickolai looking across the bed at her, his eyes roving across her body. "Kolya?"
"I'll never get tired of looking at you, Furry. I'm so sorry for all the pain I've been putting you through."
"Just don't do it again," she said as she crawled up the bed to nestle down beside him. His body always gave off a warmth she craved. His lanky, human body had so many fascinating angles to it. She giggled.
"What?" Nickolai asked.
"Guess I'm too much of an archaeologist, Kolya. I want to explore you."
"Oh, Furry. You can explore me all you want."
"Can I exploit what I find?"
"Only for a good cause," he grinned back.
"Then I should start with the exploration." She craned her neck forward to kiss him, her muzzle touching his lips. His tongue flicked across her thin muzzle, tickling her briefly before they both opened their mouths. His tongue touched hers and she felt that familiar old electricity run between them, that undefinable sensation that started in her head and ran through her body to reach a wetness between her thighs. She wanted to touch herself there but she also wanted for Nickolai to touch her there. She knew how lucky she was to have such a skilled love in her life. Elizabeth had known about that.
She kissed his neck, wondering how Elizabeth put up with the stubble he seemed to always have there. She asked him to shave every day as he had so far avoided installing depilatory nanochine into his face. Although both medicine and testimony upheld that it didn't feel any different, some humans were just opposed to it.
As her tongue licked around one of his nipples he took in a deep breath and released it as a whimper. She liked getting that kind of reaction out of him, and appreciated that he was so responsive to her. She often wondered what he felt when he was making love to her because she didn't make nearly as much noise as he seemed to.
She found his cock with her hand. "You're not hard?" she said, mock-hurt.
"I'm sure you can fix that," he said with a smile that seemed to hold something back.
"Kolya," she stopped. "What's wrong?"
He thought before answering. "I guess I just feel a little guilty about letting you down like that. I'm not even used to you anymore. I feel strange being in bed, naked like this, with you."
"I can change that," Furry replied with a smile, taking his soft cock into her mouth. His body tensed as she swallowed his member whole, taking it down to the root. Her tongue swept over the yielding mass of his penis until it began to harden. It grew stronger under her ministrations and she started to feel the familiar texture of his hard cock under her tongue. It grew to the point where she couldn't keep the whole thing in her mouth all the time, not without blocking her breathing, and she began to stroke it firmly, allowing her tongue and the roof of her muzzle to caress his manhood to its full length. Her hands caressed the root of his cock and his balls as she applied herself to his pleasure.
She stopped to look at him, aware even as she did so of a stream of spittle trailing off her chin to his hardness. "You really like doing that, don't you?" Nickolai gasped.
"Uh-huh," she said.
"You used to not to."
"Some things you just have to grow into," she said with a grin. "I didn't know how much you liked it until I did it a few times."
He rolled his eyes. "It's only melkind's favorite activity."
"You mean, you'd rather not put this wonderful toy inside me?" she said, looking down at his cock with a pout.
He grabbed her by the shoulders and rolled her down onto the bed. "I would rather do whatever would make you happy. Would it make you happy if I ate you?"
"Uh-huh!" she giggled.
Nickolai smiled and eased himself down between her legs. She spread them willingly, allowing him a good look into her vulva. She worried, like she always did, about the taste and the smell. Nickolai's enthusiastic growl and headfirst dive into her cunt made her worries disappear and replaced them with jolts of pleasure as his tongue found the area around her clitoris and flickered in slow, tight circles over the hood. She moaned, tilting her hips upward to give him better access. His warm mouth massaged her lips and his tongue probed under her clitoral hood, making her shudder with pleasure. Her hands grasped at his hair as he licked at her nub, making her want to scream and making her hold it down. "Wait, Kolya, wait."
He looked up. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing!" she gasped. "But I want to do something else. I want to give you something else. Something Liz has given you but I've always been afraid to."
"Furry, you don't have to give me anything different. What are you thinking?" he asked.
Her voice took on a low, husky tone. "I'm thinking about giving you my ass."
"Furry, you've always been against that."
"You said Liz liked it."
"She does!" he agreed. "But..."
"If she does, then maybe so will I. I want to try, at any rate, Kolya. Please?"
He nodded. "How do you want to do this?"
"How does Liz like it?" she asked.
"She usually likes to be on her belly with her hands between her legs."
Furry rolled over. "Like this?" she asked, waggling her butt in the air, her thin tail sweeping over her greyfurred cheeks. Inside, she was trembling and nervous. She tried to imagine what it would be like, to have something that big within her backside. She wanted it to feel good, to feel utterly wonderful. She hoped it would.
"Something like that," he agreed, kneeling between her parted thighs. With one hand he lifted her tail and with the other gently pried her cheeks apart. His tongue touched her nether hole briefly and she squirmed, unsure of what to do with that kind of contact. It felt strange. But not in a bad way. His tongue pressed against her hole and the sensation made her feel funny. She was nervous, but he was so warm and tender with his tongue, so gentle, that she didn't know if she should enjoy it or not. He seemed to be enjoying himself. "Ready for more?" he asked.
"If you are," she said.
"Okay," he replied. She felt wetness against her opening and then the blunt touch of his fingers against her buttcheeks. He touched her hole with one finger, his smallest finger, and she felt him delicately massaging her, touching her wrinkly asshole. She tried to relax and let him in. Suddenly, she noticed that he was inside her but she had never felt the actual penetration. What had happened?
"Kolya?" she gasped.
"When did you put your finger inside me?"
"Just a few seconds ago. Didn't you notice?"
"No!" she gasped. "It feels funny, though. Not bad. More?"
"More," he agreed. She felt his finger slide out of her only to have it replaced by a larger one. She gasped. She could feel her muscles stretching to accommodate that finger and she suddenly felt she could take his cock. She didn't know if she would enjoy it yet. But she knew that she could take it all inside her. "Kolya," she whispered. "Fuck me."
"Now?" he asked.
"Now," she agreed. "No better time."
"Okay," he said, sliding up behind her. She felt more of the wetness between her cheeks and then felt the blunt head of his cock against her hole. She arched her back to give him better access and tried to relax. Her fingers caressed her clitoris, distracting her from the feeling of her hole being stretched open until it was big enough to let him in. She moaned softly, pushing back, and Kolya pushed forward gently until the head of his cock popped into her.
He held still. "Furry?" he asked, his voice small and concerned.
"I'm okay, Kolya. Fah, it feels so big!"
"Does it hurt?"
"No," she gasped. "No, it doesn't hurt. Not sure how it feels."
His cock seemed to prow its way into her, pushing her insides apart. When he entered her normally she felt that she understood her body was meant to take him in that way. Her asshole was telling her something different. It felt like she was being invaded. His hips touched her buttocks and she felt his cock buried deep inside herself, deeper than he'd ever touched her before. She was thrilled to be able to give it to him but also scared, worried that any second something inside her might break.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
"Good," she sighed.
He pulled his cock out of her just as slowly, and then returned. She felt her insides adjust to his probing erection, felt herself give just enough to accommodate all of him. His thrusting began to grow in strength. "How does it feel to you?" she asked.
"Oh, God, Furry, it's so different. Tighter, smoother. Like being wrapped in warmth."
She nodded, placing her head down on the bed and letting him have what he wanted from her. Her fingers danced over her clitoris and she tried to distract herself, but no matter what she did couldn't help but feel afraid. He wasn't hurting her. His thrusts were very gentle compared to some of the lovemaking they did. He was trying his best not to hurt her. "Furry," he gasped, interrupting her thoughts.
"Already?" she gasped. His thrusting became just a little more intense.
"Yes. God, you're so hot. So special!" His last word came as a shout and she felt his cock throb within her guts, spurting his come inside her. She couldn't feel it, yet, but she knew she would soon. He gave one last, gentle thrust into her and then pulled out. His hands were all over her suddenly, pulling her close, his lips on her chin, her muzzle. "Thank you, thank you so much."
She giggled. "You're welcome, Kolya."
"So," he said between breaths, "What did you feel?"
"I don't know," she said. "I was so scared I didn't get a chance to try and enjoy it." She felt a twinge in her belly and placed her hand over it. "Mmph. I think I'm going to need the bathroom in a second."
"Probably," he agreed. Her needs became more urgent and she got up. He joined her, stepping into the shower to wash himself off. After he was done, she took his place, rinsing herself clean.
"So," he asked her a few minutes later as she lay in his arms, "Do you think you'll want to do it again?"
"I don't know," she said. "Maybe. I just don't see what Liz gets out of it."
"I don't either," he admitted. "She said that she just liked it because it was so different. Socially unacceptable." He laughed. "Not that we've done it recently. With her pregnancy so underway, the pressure on her insides is making her irritable." He hugged her close. "But you don't have to worry about that."
"We still have to talk about the limits we're going to put on your seeing her."
"We will. Nix, remind me in the morning. We're not to leave until that's done."
"I will remember," the AI warned him.