! Sozont #24: Showing Inner Animals

24.  Showing Inner Animals

Sunday finally arrived.  Marth came to Sozont's lair.  Her vulpine body-form looked good.  Sozont thought they made a nice couple, in a "Beauty and the Beast" sort of way.  Sozont started up the "Be Your Totem Animal" program.  His body changed.  He became a jaguar!  Somehow that seemed quite appropriate, although not what Sozont would have guessed.  And Marth had become a...
     —"Marth, you're a bear!"
     —"Yeah.  Guess I don't need brass claws now."  She was a huge grizzly bear, at least four times as big as Sozont's jaguar.
     —"This lair doesn't feel right.  We should go out someplace."
     —"Um, I sort of don't want other furs to see me like this."
     —"Okay, I'll redecorate."  Sozont invoked an isolation field, disconnecting his lair from the rest of Furry Fairytale Land.  He created a wetlands scene, lush with spring growth.  It cost some credits, but this was a date-like thing and surely Sozont should spend money on that.
     —"Hey, pretty good!  But a bit too hot for my taste."  Oh yeah, bears like it cooler than jaguars do.  Sozont created two bubbles in the isolation field, keeping the humidity high near himself but low near Marth.
     —"How's that?"
     —"Nice!  How about some music?"
     —"Oh, I never know what to pick."
     —"Well, I can help with that!"  Suddenly the air was filled with Kansas' Dust in the Wind.
     —"Good choice!"
     —"Thanks.  I just love Kansas."
     —"Frankly, my dear, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."
     —"Really?"
     —"No, that's just a line from W.C. Fields."  Sozont wondered why he'd made that joke.  He still *felt* like himself in this jaguar form, but maybe it made him want to say different things than he usually did.  "You sure are a very LARGE bear."
     Marth looked at the ground.  "I don't really think of myself as being this big."
     —"Actually, I never think of myself as being a jaguar at all.  I just am."
     —"I often think about being a bear when I'm working.  Sometimes I really want to cuff a customer!"
     —"Thankfully I don't have to work with the public in my job."
     —"Yeah.  This scenery is very creative."  A frog hopped across the marsh.  Had Sozont invoked that?  He hadn't been paying attention to all his invocations.
     —"I've been working on Fairytale Land for a few years now.  I know the kernel programming fairly well."  Suddenly the music changed.  Now it was Carly Simon's You're So Vain.  "Okay Marth, so I'm vain; is that a problem?"
     —"Oh!  Sorry."  Marth changed the music to the Doors' Riders on the Storm.  "I'm so used to picking songs, sometimes I don't even pay attention to what I'm picking anymore."
     Marth's Inner Animal does her own invocations, without conscious thought!  That's my kind of girl, thought Sozont.  He moved towards Marth while making a flehmen grimace, but without thinking about what that meant.
     Marth seemed a little uncomfortable.  "Um, I thought this was supposed to be a spiritual journey, not a sexual one."
     —"Uh huh.  In these bodies, I don't think our mating parts would even fit together."
     —"Good.  Because I've had some problems in the past with guys who claimed they wanted to rut, but they would only ever do it in VR.  So now I insist on RL yiffing before I'll do anything in VR."
     —"I've, um, never—actually—done it in RL.  I'm hoping you'll be my first."
     —"Oh.  Um, I'll try to make sure it's a good time for you."
     —"Thanks."  Sozont had a thought.  "So, what about at Soapy Lake?  What would have happened if I hadn't been so bashful?"
     —"Well, after I'd gotten you all hot and bothered, I'd have told you that we had to switch to RL if you wanted to score."  Marth giggled at her own naked admission.
     She's a troll.  The thought bounced around in Sozont's head while he tried to get a grip on it.  She's a troll.  For an instant all of Marth's behaviors made sense to Sozont.  She's a troll!  Suddenly Sozont began to believe that this whole rutting thing might actually work out.  Spending 18+ years with her raising young?  Yeah, that could happen!  The thought, oddly enough, made him hungry.
     —"Hey Marth, are you hungry?"
     —"I could eat."
     —"Hmm.  Grizzly brear...  eats salmon!"
     —"I suppose you can make a wriggling fish suddenly appear in my paws?"  She sat on her haunches and held out her forepaws.
     —"I can do better than that!"  Sozont invoked a creek that started from noplace, ended up noplace, but somehow was stocked with fish.  Hang the expense, he thought, I'm on the road to WINNING the dating game!
     —"Ooh!  Those fish are huge!"  In the middle of her sentence, the music changed to Bette Midler's The Rose.  Must be another animal invocation, thought Sozont.  Her Inner Bear is trying to tell me something.
Some say love, it is a river
     Marth put her forepaws in the water and clawed a fish.  She ripped the skin off the wriggling thing and took a big bite.  "Ooh," she squealed, "this is delicious!"
     —"Oh course!  It's unisex salmon.  I don't kid around."
     Sozont extended his claws and grabbed a fish, but the thing was a fighter and almost got away, so Sozont put his head into the water and used his jaws to crush the salmon's skull, in self-conscious imitation of typical FFJ6 hunting style—which really wasn't all that different from Sozont's usual "bite the head off" approach.
     Sozont sat down to eat his fish.  It really was very good.  Marth was still standing while eating hers, which made her tower over him.  Was he really going to win with her?  "Maybe we should go out for dinner and a movie.  Do the normal dating thing."  There was that word normal again.
     —"Sounds good.  What movie?"
     Sozont giggled.  "I don't even know what's playing these days."
     —"There's Star Trek XCIX: Endless Rehash.  It'll be around for a few more days.  I haven't seen it yet."
     —"That could be good.  And Joey's Steakhouse is good."
     —"Okay."
     —"Let's do it, right now!"
     —"Um, I don't think I can go to dinner right after eating this salmon."
     —"Oh, yeah.  Well, tomorrow then?"
     —"There's no way I can get Red out of my apartment tomorrow.  It will have to be Tuesday."
     —"We could use my apartment.  I've got a mattress.  I know, it's not much."
     —Fear.  "I think I'd rather use my apartment, for our first time."
     —"Oh, should I be afraid of what devilments you have hiding in your lair?"
     —"Generally speaking, it is the female who is expected to be afraid during mating."
     —"Yeah, I suppose."  Bette Midler was still singing:
It's the dream, afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
     Sozont decided that he *wasn't* afraid of waking from this dream, and he *would* take the chance.  He sprang onto Marth's back and rubbed her tail-flap with his inguinal region.  She stopped eating and stood motionless and silent, but her scent was positive.  He crawled along her back and started chewing her ears.  She took two steps, then sat down—Sozont jumped off and landed on four paws.  Marth rolled over on her side.  Sozont nuzzled her belly and imagined his kits growing inside her.  He looked up at her face, seeing something for just a moment, but then Marth rolled back and stood up.
     —"Like I said, RL first."
     —"Let's go, now!"
     —"Tuesday.  9 PM."
     Why was she holding back?  Perhaps it was the wrong time of the month?
     —"So, what monthly cycle day are you on now?"
     —"Oh, um, today is day 16."  So that wasn't it.  Hey, wait a minute!
     —"So... at the hot tub... that was a fertile day?"
     —"Well, yeah."
     —"Don't you think you should have told me that?"
     —"I was going to... but the early closing screwed up my plans...  Anyway we never really got started on doing anything."  Marth's eyes were wet, which was out of character.  Bears don't cry; that's a primate trick.  Sozont rubbed her side with his.
     —"I'm not asking for much.  I just want to finally do the regular Rutting Season thing this year, that's all.  But that means all practice matings beforehand have to be on non-fertile days."
     —"Okay.  But my cyles are irregular—my body doesn't take well to estrous synchronization.  I wouldn't want to base my plans on having any fertile days during Rutting Week."
     —"Well, I would still like to plan on it, but it's okay if the plan fails."
     —"Okay.  And remember that even if do I ovulate on cue, I probably won't get pregnant.  I've never succeeded before."
     —"What about that off-plan medical treatment idea?"
     —"A reputable doctor won't treat me until I've been trying with the same partner for six months.  So, um, do you still want to rut with me?"
     This plan was quite far from the ideal that Sozont had had in mind, but it was still tons better than the no-chance-at-all he'd had during previous years.  And she was still a troll and he was still on the road to winning.  He looked her in the eyes.  "Yeah."
     —"Tuesday, 9 PM, Joey's Steakhouse?  Dinner, movie, then popping your cherry?"
     When she put it that way, it made Sozont nervous.  Did he really want to yiff this girl for real?  She had already shown herself to be extremely dangerous.  Would he actually go through with this?  Hmm...  Yes, he would!
     —"I'll be there."  Sozont terminated the isolation field and the "Be Your Totem Animal" program.  They were back in his lair, a tigrihippostrich and his vixen.  But there was something odd about his perception.  The spot where Marth was standing had some sort of annotation attached to it, suggesting that it was the most important location in the world.  He moved around a bit—the annotation stayed with her.  Was this a Fairytale Land effect or was it in his own brain?  Sozont wasn't sure.  He had never had a rutting commitment before—various bits of never-before-used brain tissue were now activating.  He went to Marth and gave her a hug.  She hugged him back.  He rubbed the base of her neck, like last time.  She put a paw below his belt and rubbed under his hippo-tail, which Sozont supposed was okay considering what he had recently been doing to her tail-flap.  It felt... really nice.  Sozont was still finding it hard to believe that he was actually going to win with her.  And Marth was a troll like him; he could be himself with her.  Sozont startled when he realized that he had been standing there motionless, staring into Marth's eyes while she stroked his ass.
     —"What's the matter?"
     —"Nothing.  I...  really liked that."
     —"Yeah.  It'd be fun to try that totem program again someday."
     —"Yeah."
     —"Well, I should go now.  See you Tuesday."
     —"Okay!  And Marth...  I, um, love you."
     She gave him a piercing stare.  "I love you too, Sozont."  Marth tried to scamper out of the lair, but she was too full.  "And you've *got* to stop overfeeding me like this!"  She walked slowly away.  Sozont watched until she was out of sight.

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