The tall and elegant Vulpin smiled down at Marane', who grinned back at her. "Da!" the little Markal said softly, swiping a hand across the space in front of her eyes. She found the Vulpin's hand and desperately waved her head back and forth, looking for the offered finger.
"She gets furballs if anyone other than Nickolai does that," Furry said with a grin. "If that happens, don't worry about it. We had a special nanochine cooked up to handle it."
"I'll be careful," the Vulpin said.
"Nix said your name was Syn?" Furry asked. "In Anglic--"
"It's Nordic, I'm told. It means 'to speak the truth.'"
Furry nodded. "I see." She adjusted the sleeves on her dress, looking at herself in the mirror and enjoying what she saw. Furry wore a white dress that went all the way from her shoulders to the floor. Her shoes were excessively high-heeled and embedded with the hardware needed to make them balance and go where Furry meant rather than where her inexperienced feet pointed. That didn't stop them from hurting, but the look was worth it. Her fur was perfect and she had found an elegant diamond earclip that showed off the dark stripe of fur on her ears' leading edges nicely.
Despite all this work, Syn managed to intimidate her. The vulpin's informal clothes for babysitting consisted of crisp, perfectly pressed set of pants and vest, dark green to highlight her reddish fur, and a green vest with gold trim around the edges. "Are you sure you're going to be okay?"
Syn laughed, and Furry found herself responding to the laugh in a curious way... a way she hadn't felt in years. "I'm going to be fine," Syn said. "Really. Nix will call you if I have a problem. You'll be just an SDisk away. Go have fun, and I'll make sure Marane' gets to sleep on time."
Nickolai stepped out of the bedroom, pulling a jacket over his shoulders as he did so. It was the first time since Marane had been born that Furry had seen him dress up and she thought he looked utterly dashing. It was the Nickolai she had first met, the one she had fallen in love with, and she was happy to see him again. Maybe he looked even better now, now that is dress was his choice and not something imposed upon him by the school and culture from which he had come. "Ready?" he asked her, rousing her from her brief reverie.
"Ready," she replied. "Kolya, this is Syn, our babysitter." Syn waved briefly, flashing him a smile. "Nix picked her."
"Well, Nix asked, and I was available." She picked up Marane', who was beginning to fuss. "Go have fun. There's a little piece of Pendor up there," she said, pointing out the window. "Go enjoy it."
Reluctantly, Furry led Kolya out of the room. "I can't get worrying about the little one out of my head," she admitted to Nickolai.
"I'm sure they'll both be fine with one another," Nickolai sighed. "Come on, my love. It's the first time since the baby was born that I've had a night out with you, and the Ille is up there, restaurants, hot tubs, and dance halls, all waiting for us."
She grinned. "Okay, I'll try."
Furry tried hard not to think of Marane', her firstborn, her child, in the hands of two people, one a complete stranger and the other one her oldest friends, the AI who had made himself the companion of her mother and father, someone she had known most of her life and whom she trusted with her life. She supposed that she should trust Nix with Marane', but she didn't know how to.
Nickolai led her by the hand to the SDisk and up to the starship Curio Pendoro, which Nickolai, with his newfound linguistics skills thought one of the silliest names he had ever heard. "I'm not going to say that to the AI, though," he whispered to her. "Is there an AI listening?" he asked.
"The name is Mariaadiyaperumal. Maria will do just fine," said a deep, masculine voice.
Nickolai said, "Pleasure to meet you. Where is restaurant row?"
"Down one floor, turn left, take the second doorway, down a half block. Do you need directions?"
"We're archaeologists," Nickolai said. "I don't think so."
They found it, a long, high-ceilinged hallway with restaurants along both walls. They picked one that served Dim Sum, which was one of Nickolai's favorite food traditions. Dinner was perfect, an orgy of soft baked rolls filled with sweet beans, hand-rolled meats and vegetables, and the alien appearance of Pendorian coastal shrimp, tasting nothing like Terran shrimp, deep-fried and battered. Furry tried several times to think of something to talk about with her husband, but nothing would come up. It was as if they had long ago finished saying to one another everything that needed to be said. But Furry felt that was also wrong; that they would always have something to say to one another. She kept seeing Nickolai glancing at her, is if he too were looking for something to say.
But it wasn't until they got to the dance floor and she started to press her body against Nickolai's that her cares started to melt away. "I love you," he whispered.
"I love you too," she said in her ear as they circled close. They deftly dodged another couple. "Thank you for Marane'."
He grinned. "What else could I do?" he asked. "It isn't as if I could ever deny you what you want for yourself." He tightened his arms around her shoulders. "I've always loved you, Furry."
"I know," she sighed, "But the last year has been hard for both of us, and I just wanted to make sure that you knew how much I still cared about you."
"I do know," he said. "I know it very well."
After an hour of dancing, Nickolai was clearly flagging. All of the exploring in the past months had been interspersed with long periods of library research, none of which had proved very conducive to exercise. Despite their enhanced genome and nanotech support mechanisms, neither one of them was in the best of shape.
"Hot tubs," Nickolai growled.
"Mmm," Furry agreed. Holding her hand, he led out of the bar and down the hall. A huge, circular concourse opened up before their eyes, three levels of recreation and entertainments designed to keep their minds off of the relentless work awaiting them back on the surface. When they had started there had been less than a thousand people down-planet. By now, the number was creeping upward toward a hundred thousand. To Furry, the noise suggested that every last one of those people was here, unwinding from the depressing and stressful work of disinterring the Ritan, who had blown themselves up one bright and sunny afternoon.
"Maria? Which way to the hot tubs?" Furry asked.
"Down one flight, third door on the left, and down the hallway. I'm sure you can find it."
Furry let Nickolai lead her to the relaxation area. The place had a strangely seedy feel to it, as if what went on there was something that needed to be hidden away or otherwise not talked about openly. The actual facility consisted of one large central room with a hallway running all the way around it. Along the outer edge of the square-running hallway were the private rooms. Nickolai and Furry had room number two reserved for an hour. The femMephit at the counter was quite adamant about their being out on time. The Curio had just pulled into orbit yesterday and the archeology crews were clamoring for rec time.
They left their clothes neatly folded in the private room and made their way to the central pool. It qualified more as a swimming pool than a hot tub, despite the temperature, as it seemed to be holding nearly twenty people with plenty of space between them. The water was crystal clear without a trace of chemical scent and Furry saw small, silvery fish darting underneath the churning surface. "Are those real fish?" she asked the ceiling.
"They're maintenance robots," Maria responded calmly. "They're one layer of the cleaning system."
Reassured that she wouldn't be attacked by mindless, organic creatures, Furry dropped into the warming water, sighing loudly as the heat penetrated fur and fell and fat and muscle and bone. "Hey," Nickolai said softly. "Don't go to sleep on me."
"I won't," Furry reassured him. "It's just so warm. I haven't felt this warm in months. It's so cold down there."
Nickolai nodded understandingly. "I know how you feel," he assured her. "It's a good job, with great pay, but the location's lousy."
She smiled, reached up with one wet hand, and pulled him down toward her. "I want you to know how much I love you," she whispered, reaching between his thighs, hidden under the warm water, and finding his dangling ballsac. She smiled as she heard him whimper with her touch, her hands journeying over his groin to cock, which was trying to become erect in the hot water and not really succeeding.
"I know how much you love me," he said. "But do we have to do this here?"
"We have a private room, if you'd like to use it," she told him. He was looking around at the crowd of people to see if any of them appeared to notice, but none of them did. Most of them were neck-deep in the octagonal pool; two or three hovered about the edges, sitting on the tiled rise that bordered the water, cooling off.
"It's a bit early, isn't it?"
"It's never too early," she said with a grin. "C'mon."
"You lead the way," he agreed. She climbed out of the shallow pool, with its different sizes and rises of chairs, meant to accommodate all but the largest of Pendorians, and even then it could probably reformat itself to meet the needs of Centaurs and Han, if not a full-size dragon, of whom there were exactly none in space. They made their way out of the room, Kolya dragging a towel around his waist to hide his growing erection, and into the private room.
This hot tub was meant to accommodate two but was otherwise the same as the one in the main room, complete with its own compliment of silver, fish-shaped robots scanning the water and consuming the remains of any couple's passions. It also had a bed, or at least a padded platform that may as well have been a bed, set at an angle against one wall, behind it a shelf with spare towels and bottles of water. Furry also noted a pair of breath mints, individually wrapped. "I wonder if those are for before sex or afterward?" Nickolai said as they fell onto the bed, giggling.
"Who cares?" Furry said. "It's you I'm here to consume."
"Oh, goody," Nickolai laughed as Furry ran her tongue down the length of his dripping body, her mouth finding his cock. She loved the feel of his cock against her tongue; washed clean by the water, it was a sweet shaft of delicate flesh that tasted of paradise. Nickolai's hands were on the back of her head, almost holding her down, and part of her thought it would be wonderful if he did while another appreciated that he didn't.
She bobbed her head back and forth, sucking him down, holding the head of his cock against the back of her throat. She had grown skilled at this over the years and she knew just how good she had become at bringing Kolya off with her mouth. She suckled hard on the root of his manhood, then pulled back, creating powerful suction with her lips, pulling at him. She loved watching him struggle, his face all twisted with the intensity she could provide, watching as he came closer and closer to climax.
His thighs grew tight, his fingers unconsciously curling against the fur on the back of her head, looking for a grip that they wouldn't find, that she knew Nickolai wouldn't let them find. He came with bucking hips and a muffled roar as his salty, wonderful seed filled her mouth. She swallowed every drop. She liked doing that.
"Oh, God!" Nickolai gasped as he sagged back against the bed. "You haven't done that to me... since... "
"Since morning sickness set in," she giggled. "I'm sorry. It's just hard to do when you feel like throwing up all the time."
"I'm sorry," he said. "I know I've been a heel all this time, but it wasn't on purpose."
"I know, and I forgave you," she said, kissing his cheek.
He took a deep breath and let it out. "Whew," he gasped.
Furry grinned and slid up beside him. "You haven't been paying enough attention to me, either," she said, her voice taking on a playful hardness. He watched her closely as she crawled up and then straddled his head. "Eat me."
"Your wisfff...." His voice was cut short as she spread her legs wider and dropped her muff against his mouth. She wondered if that wasn't too quick as his teeth pressed against her labia, but then his tongue buried itself into her and found her clit instantly. She moaned, reaching down to grab twin handfuls of his short hair and hold him in place.
He was still as good as ever. His tongue found her hot spots and tickled her, licked her, had its way with her. She could feel the juices streaming out her, bathing his tongue and mouth with her smell. She moaned softly. "Eat me, Kolya. Eat me good. How you love to eat the mousie..." she whispered as her first climax trembled through her body. He didn't let up, knowing perfectly well how many she could be good for if he kept going. "More, Kolya... Mousie what you love to nip..." Another, harder orgasm crackled through her, hot, fast, wonderful. "Oh, Fah... Oh, yes... Yes, Kolya... Eat me. lick my flowing juicy..." Her third climax tore through her, making her lose her grip on his hair and fall forward... "Nibble on my tiny clit.... Oh!" One final orgasm exploded inside her, a hot, white convulsion of pleasure that left her trembling and weak as she fell to the bed beside him.
"Wow," she gasped softly. "I... you... "
He smiled. "You're silly. That didn't even rhyme."
"It's hard to think when you do that!" she objected. "What was I supposed to come up with? A sonnet?"
He kissed her on her cheekruff and grinned. "Might have given me some warning before smothering me." He lay back on the bed again. "Would have been a nice way to go, though."
She laughed. "I love you."
"I love you too," he said, pulling her down and holding her close. "Is it always going to be like this? For the next twenty years, I mean. Sneaking away to make love?"
"Hopefully just long enough for her to get her own room," Furry said. "A few years. A few hundred babysitters. It's not so bad." She reached down and stroked his legs. She loved the smooth, delicate feel of his skin, so unlike her own fur. She was still perplexed about what there was to her fur that he liked so much.
She found his cock lying against his thigh. She stroked it idly until it stood up once more, the head exposed from within that tight, narrow sheath of skin. She avoided touching the head, knowing that at this point it was probably too sensitive to touch directly. "Kolya?" she murmured.
"Yes, my love?"
She leaned close to his ear and said, "Would you fuck me? Please?"
"Yes." Furry shimmied toward the middle of the bed, on her back, and bent her legs to expose herself to him. She watched as his broad, strong body maneuvered between her knees, his hips lying against thighs as he lowered himself to her. She looked up to see his face as his cock touched the lips of her cunt, found the slick labia. Nickolai jabbed gently against her opening, spreading her rich juices about the head of his erection, until he was wet enough to slip inside her. She felt him fill her, felt the leading tip of his cock parting her inner walls, opening her up to him. She felt him become a part of her.
And then he was moving inside her. She had felt him love her like this a thousands of times before and yet none of that diminished the power of their lovemaking. She felt him fill and empty her, in and out, his hips moving to a tempo with his breathing. She was pushing back, wanting more of him, thrusting her hips up to meet his in rhythm. His arms trembled at her sides, his mouth open, his eyes closed. He was going faster and faster still, her body alive with him, her soul on fire with him. She felt their mutual need growing more and more powerful, and suddenly she felt a climax, different, final, wonderful, flow through her so hard that she let out a low, singing moan. Nickolai heard her, felt her, knew her well, and his own crescendo came one beat later, one final thrust that merged the two of them into a single, exhausted animal, together, complete.
Nickolai held her tightly. She returned his desperate grasp, holding onto him as they recovered their breath. Furry's body hummed with experience, alive with love for this mel, her soulmate. She thought of how far they had drifted and how little it had mattered. In the end, they had come together and made themselves whole once more.
"Oh, Furry," Nickolai gasped as he rolled off of her. He was holding onto her more than usual. "Oh, sweetheart, thank you. I could never... never forget just how wonderful you are. Something... like that is a reminder... of how much... how..."
"Kolya?" He was crying and Jofuran didn't know why. She held him close, feeling his heaving body as he recovered his breath and let out long, tired sobs of pain. "Are you okay, Kolya?"
"I... I'm sorry," he said. "Sorry that I caused you so much pain the past year. Sorry that I was so selfish, so blind--"
"It's okay," she said. "I forgave you a long time ago."
He took a deep and ragged breath, letting it go with one gasp. "I know. I just wish I had seen it before."
"You saw it fine," she said, "Once someone pointed it out to you. Liz was right, you do have a bit of a thick head from time to time."
He chuckled weakly against her shoulder. "I guess," he said. He looked up at the clock. "We have fifteen minutes left. We should clean up."
"There's a shower over there," she said, pointing. A broad outlet hung from the ceiling, offering a cascade of water to anyone who stood underneath. A transparent wall shielded the shower from the rest of the room. "I wonder why there's a partition?"
"To keep the soap out of the tub, probably," Nickolai said. "Very small molecules, hard to keep track of, hard to filter out."
"Oh," Furry said. "I guess that makes sense." She looked down between her thighs where the results of their lovemaking seeped out of her. "I should use it."
"Ladies first, then," Nickolai said.
Furry smiled and rose to use the shower. The water cascaded down her head and back and with the handsoap dispenser she washed off as much as she could before turning the waterfall over to Nickolai. While he washed she dropped into the private tub. Quickly the water proved too hot for her in her overheated state and she ended up sitting on the edge, dangling her feet.
"Better?" she asked him as he emerged from the stall. She liked looking at his body. Despite his earlier complaints about being out of shape, she liked the way he looked, with his short, black hair that sprouted from his head and from about his sex. His beautiful cock had retreated back into its sheath and dangled, looking more like the absurd appendage it could be than the object of desire and pleasure it so often was. What was it about her wiring, and that of every fem, that made such a silly-looking thing such an object of beauty? Furry wondered if the answer could be found in the phrase "just hormones" after all.
They dressed and told the girl behind the counter that they were leaving. They passed a well-dressed Tindal couple on their way in, obviously a little tipsy, obviously here for the same reason they had come. Furry smiled at them as they passed and silently wished them well. "Home?" Nickolai asked.
"Home," Furry agreed without having to clarify. They made their way back to a SDisk center and found themselves back on the planet, back at the University. Through the ancient halls warmed with the most modern of technologies they made their way back to the apartment they had claimed.
Syn was asleep on the couch and Nix informed them that Marane' had fallen asleep hours ago, on time and without complaint, in Syn's arm. Kolya and Furry crept into the bedroom where the faint light from the hallway showed Marane' sleeping peacefully, curled up, blankets kicked off as always. Furry felt her heart swell with pride, love, and comfort; Kolya had come back to her fully, she felt, and given her a beautiful gift in the meantime.
They undressed for bed and climbed in beside one another. Furry cuddled up to him and hugged him. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Thank you, Furry," he said. "For everything. I do love you."
"I know. And I'll never forget it."