! Sozont #13: Martha Skritches

13.  Martha Skritches

As Sozont passed by Soapy Lake, he saw Martha Stewart on a pier, washing a spot on her hindleg.  He froze, with his thigh facing her.  She looked up, waved to him, and went to Rinsing River.  Sozont did not know what to do.  If he turned to face her, he would be making a genital display.  If he continued toward his belt, he would be rudely walking away from her.  He neck hurt from trying to look at her walking to the river, so he switched to a quadruped stance.  That moved some of the stress from his neck to his back.
     She finished rinsing and walked towards him.  "I noticed that you friended me.  I friended you back."
     —"Great!  Thanks."  Sozont started crawling on all fours towards his belt.
     —"I sent you an email."
     —"Thanks.  I haven't checked my mail yet today."  Actually he had spent the entire night refusing to let himself check his email, because it would have been so disappointing had there been none.
     She was gaining on him.  There was no way he would make it to his belt in time.  What should he do now?
     She caught up to him.  A new plan was needed, right now, but there was no time to think.  Sozont turned to face her, crouching lower, arching his neck to look at her.  His posture was ridiculous, but he couldn't think of anything else.  Well, he *could* say something.
     "I was going to call you, but I haven't killed another deer yet."
     Marth laughed.  "That was a lot of food!  A tray of voles with a side dish of small and cut fruits would be better for my figure."  Sozont made a mental note of the serving suggestion.
     —"I'm glad we got to talk about rutting season.  It's so rare that I ever talk to anyone about, um, personal stuff."
     Marth kneeled in front of him.  Sozont did some panicked calculations about line-of-sight down his abdomen and crouched even lower.  His fur touched the grass.  Well, if he was almost sitting, he might as well sit.  Sozont settled his belly on the ground.  For just this moment he wished he didn't have a hippo segment, as it made the usual sitting position for Order Carnivora uncomfortable for him.  He closed his hindlegs together and straightened up his back, kneeling almost face-to-face with Marth.  He was fairly certain that his private parts were covered, but willed himself not to look.
     —"I never get to talk to anyone about the things that really matter."  Marth scratched behind Sozont's ear.  A response was called for, but Sozont was very uptight.  In fact, he noted, his back was so tense it was actually trembling.  He felt like a military cadet on parade review.  He forced himself to pet her thigh a bit.  Maybe some more words?
     —"I was talking to a friend of mine recently.  He's a dad.  He says a lot of furs spend too much time in VR and don't cuddle their cubs enough."  Her eyes sparkled!  He must have scored a point or something.
     —"Yeah.  Babies need a lot of care."  She ran a claw from his shoulder down his foreleg.  He raised a paw to touch her, but it was shaking uncontrollably.  She looked concerned.  "Are you okay?"
     —"I haven't eaten in a long time.  I'm famished."
     —"You seem really tense.  Is there something you want to tell me?"
     "The only females I do it with are food animals!" shouted his mind, but Sozont could not say that.  What if Marth disapproved?  Sozont looked at the ground and said, "I'm just really uptight about, um, touching and stuff."
     Marth kissed him on the mouth.  He started to relax.  For an instant he got a whiff of the dust and mold of his apartment, which was strange—he almost never got perceptual bleed-through in his nose.  She stood up, but Sozont could not bear to do the same.
     —"You'd better go get some food," she said.  She started to walk away.
     —"Yeah.  And... I'd really like to see you again."  Sozont used his paws to turn his body around, then went back to quadruped stance and started crawling towards his belt.
     —"We should, like, have a date or something."
     —"Yeah."
     Marth turned a corner and was out of sight.  Sozont reached his belt, stood up, and put it on.  He turned around to see that Marth had poked around the corner again and was looking at him.  He smiled and waved.  She did the same.
     As he left the bathing area, Sozont could sense, in the back of his mind, bits and pieces of plans trying to put themselves together into something that could be called a "date".

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-- Pyesetz the Dog