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
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
—"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."
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".