I looked around Kashkah's voluminous family home. Cold rain was falling hard on the darkened crystalline dome overhead, filling the space between earth and glass with a gentle sussuring sound that was not as loud as it should have been. It was one of those things about Pendor that I had grown accustomed to-- noises were almost never too loud, voices reached my ears from far too far away and with far too much privacy. Much of the tribulations of life were simply missing.
I had also learned the hard way that this wasn't always true. My arm was currently in a sling, the result of a fall down a hillside. I had slipped while I chased after some small prey animal that the Uncia had told me was edible, and the resulting fall had resulted in a broken hand and wrist. I didn't heal as fast as the Pendorians. The doctor who had treated me had been surprised by the length of time for the cast indicated by his diagnostic machines.
I sighed and looked down at my PADD, looking through my current collection of lessons, the history of Pendor 0300-0700, a quiet period in which not much had happened. Pendor went through no great crises; no other species were discovered in that time; no medical breakthroughs occurred to destabilize Pendor. The birth rate declined a bit, two new species were "released" by the Alpha team. Most of the really difficult subjects seemed to have happened back on Terra, where immortality became an option for the wealthy and the tension between Terra and Pendor mounted as a battle between haves and have-nots.
One month left to go. I was having trouble concentrating on the PADD, which was not unusual. As winter mounted over Kashkah's family valley, I found myself less interested in studying and more interested in just waiting, waiting for the day when I would get to be just one among many, a Ritan once more, a person with the possibility of a family and a life. Even if I couldn't have children of my own, as the Pendorians had pointed out, I could still help raise kids.
Kashkah was trying her best not to interfere in my life even as the days ticked down to the thing they called Decant. I had started calling it what everyone else called it, and I felt no contradiction in that. I had seen the tubes on Alpha, seen the forms within, and felt... something. Some connection. They were like me. Like me in a way Kashkah wasn't.
And I suppose that's why I felt so terrible about the whole thing. I liked Kashkah and I didn't want to upset or lose her, and so I tried my best to reassure both myself and her that I wasn't about to disappear on Decant and she'd never hear from me again.
I tossed the PADD aside and walked back toward the bed we had shared for almost a year now. A year... great God, I couldn't believe that I had been with this fem for almost a year. It felt like no time at all, and it felt like it had been almost forever. I lay down on the bed and curled up.
I raised a guss and confirmed that it was Kashkah looking for me. "Guinness said you might be feeling unwell. Do you want some company?"
"I'm not sure." I raised my head to look at her, then lowered it back to the bed, turning over to look up at the ceiling. "Kashkah, what is going to happen on the first?"
"Decant," she said. "You'll get to be one with your people again."
"Does that bother you?" I asked.
She lay down beside me, her body curled up against mine, her warmth seeping into my fur. "That depends on why you think it should," she said. "Pendorians don't expect to stick together forever. Ken and his partners are weird. Good examples, but examples of a kind of mindset that few other people have. Maybe that'll change in the future, but right now the idea of lifelong monogamy is... weird." She looked up at me. "Why?"
"So you won't be upset if I just... disappear?"
"You won't," she said. "I don't believe you will. You might for a few days, and I'll understand that. But you haven't done anything to upset me and I haven't done anything to upset you, so I don't see any reason why you should disappear out of my life forever." She grinned. "C'mon, Sandahl. What happened to you back at HOMOS? That was fun!"
I grinned. "I liked the demonstration you did with the swords. Very impressive."
She kissed my cheek. "I thought so too. Almost nicked myself with one of them, too. It scratched across the leather on my arm-- one centimeter lower and I would been in hospital."
"You didn't tell me that!" I said.
"No harm done, and you didn't need to know. You were just another person in the audience." Her voice was low even as the lights overhead slowly darkened, telling us that the communal night period was coming on. "I know what's bothering you. Sandahl, do you love me?"
"I don't know," I admitted. "I want to say yes, and I don't want to say yes. I want to say it because, well, because I'm a romantic who thinks I should only sleep with someone I love. And I want to say no because, well, because I don't want to be tied to you."
"Then don't be tied to me." She kissed my shoulder. "I'm not sure I love you. I like you. You're an interesting person. I love the tales you tell of your world."
"You said you never wanted that to happen to you."
"That doesn't mean I can't enjoy the story or the skill of the storyteller!" she objected. "Sandahl, you lived through a terrible time in your people's history, and you came to us with that story. I'm proud of the way you handled yourself. Given the circumstances, you came from a very... moral... group of people, and you handled yourself in a way that we could all admire if we found ourselves there. There's nothing to regret in that."
I looked away, wishing I could agree with her. I realized that I probably did love her, after all, and that that wouldn't be enough to keep me around when the first Ritans started to come off the assembly line. Hah. Even the Alphas called it that.
I wanted to roll into Kashkah's arms and accept the tenderness she always seemed to have for me. The big, bad, predator who had always been so good to me. I did.
She wrapped her arms around me, her bed automatically providing the extra space for her arm underneath me, and held me close. "It's okay," she said. "Really."
"I don't... I don't want to seem ungrateful."
"You don't. That's what I'm trying to tell you, Sandahl. Even if you disappeared tomorrow, you couldn't possibly seem ungrateful. You have been a good friend and a good lover. I was scared furless by what I was getting into when I first started being your lover. It was a responsibility I didn't want at all. But I knew what I was getting into. I never expected it to last past Decant."
"We don't have much in common, do we?"
"No," she agreed. "But you don't have much in common with Pendorians of any species. You had to make contact with Pendorians somehow, and I could be that contact as well as anyone, I suppose. I'm just glad I didn't leave you in Shardik's clutches. I'm sure he would have done as good a job as anyone could, but he's an institution, and Alpha is an institution. I don't think you're ready to be institutionalized. I just wanted you to see the real us." She kissed my muzzle. It felt very tender. "I'm sad too. I don't want to lose you. But I have to accept that very soon you'll move on to other things. I'll just have to know that ours was a relationship well-loved."
I sighed and kissed her back. She giggled. "What?" I asked.
"I've heard it said that end-of-relationship sex is always the best. Want to find out?"
"I would love to," I said, my hormones speaking for me. I kissed her cheek again, feeling the ruffle of her whiskers against my fur as my guss bent upward and hovered over her, giving me a feel for the entire length of her body, so differently shaped from my own. I still wondered what it was about her that I liked so much. Aside from the friendliness in her voice and the tightness between her legs, we had absolutely nothing at all in common.
But like her I did, and my heart raced as her hands found their way down my torso. I always wondered about that little gesture from her. It was clearly something intended for those of her own species. It didn't do a thing for me, but I understood what she meant by it and appreciated it. She kissed my cheeks and my throat, taking command as she always did. She liked to be the one in charge. I didn't object. I felt her body ease up against mine, her warmth and strength up against me. I was getting hard already. I wanted her. I could feel the lust radiating off of her with my guss.
She changed her position and took my cock into her mouth. "Too fast," I gasped. She ignored me, and the incredibly powerful sensations seized up within me, making me claw at her bed as gobbled the length of it down into her muzzle. "Oh, fuck, Kashkah," I groaned. "Please..."
She sucked me down hard, leaving me to twist myself about on the bed, not sure if I wanted to escape what she was doing to me or demand more of it. All I knew was that it was good, it was too much, and if she kept that up I was going to come for too soon for my own happiness. I let her keep going anyway, enjoying every lick.
But then she pulled away, leaving me there, my cock chilling in the cool air, a little driplet of saliva cascading down her chin, to look at me. I growled, and she growled right back. I pounced on her. We'd done this before. She liked teasing me. I liked it when she did because it meant she didn't think of me as fragile. We went falling across the bed until she was face-down, her ass in the air. I positioned myself there between her legs and found my way into her cunt. Even as the head of my cock slid up her hot channel she clamped down with the muscles in her belly and held on. "Urgh!" I remembered saying. She pushed back, forcing my too-hard erection up into her tight passageway, pushing and grunting until the two of us were attached, completely, docked together like animals. I took two deep breaths and then began to withdraw, a silent snarl written on my lips as I tried to tamp down the overpowered pleasure coming from between my legs. She arched her back, pushing me up, and I got up on all fours and began fucking her for all I was worth.
It was her turn to claw at the bedsheets, to gnaw at the mattress, as I fucked her sweet, friendly body. She was so strong, her body thrashing as she came. I lost control somewhere in there, my hips thrusting with a mind of their own, my cock burrowing deeper and deeper into her willing body. I couldn't hold back. I couldn't go on. With a satisfied roar I let loose inside her, coming so hard that for a moment all I saw was a bright, white, furred light, as if my lover were glowing.
It took me longer than usual to recover. I felt dizzy, which was weird, and tired, which was annoying. I don't usually get dizzy. "Maybe you're right," I said as I collapsed next to her.
She turned and grinned. "About what?"
"About breaking up sex being better than normal." I kissed her. "But let's not break up."
"Let's not get too hurt if we do," she replied. "I'm not looking forward to Yestar and Decant, Sandahl. You are. You should. If you come back and visit from time to time, that would be wonderful. But the whole reason that you're with me will be blown away when there are Ritans in the world." She touched my cheek gently again. "I will miss you. I do--" She looked away. "I do love you. But that's not the only thing life is about."
"I understand. I think I do. I guess it just bothers me to know that you accept it so easily."
"It's not easy. It's realistic. It's not the right thing, it's the necessary thing. Sometimes they aren't the same thing. Your people will need you. You will need them. For me to hold on to you is selfish."
I sighed and cuddled up against her. "Kashkah?" I whispered.
"Don't say it just because we fucked," she said.
"I'm not. I don't think I am. I love you. And... thanks. For being right."
Her arms tightened around my shoulders. "I'm a cop. It's my job to protect people. Sometimes even from themselves. Or myself." Her muzzle brushed against mine. "I love you too, Sandahl."