Chasing a HarebyKikori©
Kneeling down, I saw the traces of three clear paw prints, the fourth seeming to drag every couple inches. The prints seemed to fade and show in the mud hidden beneath the grass as I tracked, following quarter-sized footprints through the shadow-blanketed woods. The only thing that kept me worried was the worry for the little rabbit that was probably close to collapsing from a heart attack.
See, my family is extremely animal oriented. They both work at a vet closer to the city, and since our house is in the fringe of the woods, we get our share of animals that are hurt and either needed attention then, or could do with attention at home without the need of anything professional. This includes everything from deer to raccoons (lord knows we keep them securely placed) to small "roadkill" animals to birds. It just so happens that a nice little hawk that got pretty mauled, probably by a Blue Jay mob, decided to wake up and give its "I've found my target" screech out at a rabbit with its cage door open.
The hawk tried to fly, and hit the ground hard. I had to get dad out to tend to the hawk while I went out looking for a needle in a haystack. Luckily, it was damp outside, so I had tracks to follow... though, somehow, the little rabbit made it this far out with one leg in a splint. "Why was I cursed with caring too much?" I couldn't help but wonder why I didn't just let the little guy go and become food for another hungry animal.
I hit the point of possible no return, an odd point where four clearly cut paths seemed to cross around a large oak tree. The surrounding area seemed to just be four of the exact same thing, so one wrong turn could literally send me miles out into nowhere. I marked for probably the eighteenth time on the tree which way I came from and went scouting around the trunk for another track, hop—"Gah!"
My foot caught the trunk, and I fell. Like the hawk before me, my head nailed the wood, and I think I was out. No dreams, just... comforting darkness for what felt like a few minutes. That comfort was soon gone by a pound that felt so hard, I was probably headbanging. Seething and gasping at the throb, I held a hand to my head while the other gripped blindly at the tree for support as I stood up. My hand felt... oh, god, red. Blood. I cared about animals, but I had to get out of there. Six feet and strong enough to hold down a doe still wouldn't save me from blood loss.
"Think, think... Which side?" Somehow, through feeling the pain, I felt numerous scrapes on the tree and set off in the direction it pointed. The woods only seemed to get thinner, but the trees were getting thicker as I went, and the shadows were gone; there was light. There wasn't supposed to be light. Oh, god... "Hello!?"
One shout was all I had in me. I fell forward, almost fetal upon landing. I didn't hear the approaching footsteps. I could barely feel my hair being parted and my head pressed against until warmth seemed to surround me. It took me another few minutes in my mind to open my eyes and realize I was still alive. The first thing I saw were a pair of bright brown eyes and very light brown, fluffy hair hanging from a very worried face. "Are you okay?"
Sound... I really was alive. And, oh god, it still hurt! I held a hand to my head again, and felt the bandages that were wrapped around the wound. Biting back a groan and trying to breathe normal, I looked up again to try to see who had saved me. "You rescued me...? Or are you waiting for someone else to come back?"
Her face, relieved that I was alright, broke into a shining smile as she nodded vigorously. "Mm-hmm! It was me! I'd have gotten you home to sleep, but you're too big for me to carry."
Her attitude made me smile until I saw it on her head; she had some kind of headband with bunny ears. Interesting choice, but her energy at least matched a normal rabbit's. Brushing aside the insult (or joke?) about my weight, I sighed and let out a grown as my vision blurred again. "I wouldn't bother?"
She shook her head, locks wiggling around as happily as her face smiled. "Not a bit, silly. Can you walk?"
I closed my eyes and tried sitting up. I got about halfway until her hands pressed softly, helping me up until I could stagger on my feet. She caught my arm and tucked herself under it to start leading me slowly forward. I wobbled like a drunk the first couple of steps, but finally got it straight. The blood loss wasn't helping me see straight, but I knew I was okay. I just had to trust this lady to mean well, and she had helped me before...
The house finally came into view. It wasn't mine, but it looked pretty well-made. One of those red, brown, brick houses with grey cement. To my delight, the back door was the closest, and one doorway from the bed I was set in. I didn't think I'd make it to that kind of comfort, but I was asleep halfway into my wound being cleaned and the bandages changed.
Some hours later, I was woken up in the pitch black of night. The pain was still there, just far less. My stomach was about to hurt from hunger, but whoever was caring for me probably woke me up due to my hunger. I finally got a chance to talk, though, which was a relief. "Who are you?"
"Samantha. Samantha Lynn Hares. You need food... we'll talk in the morning." She coaxed me back onto the pillows, only needing to open my mouth and take in the food. To my surprise, it was a salad I was being fed, with cool water every couple bites. "I'm glad you made it."
I smiled without facing her and swallowed the bite I had taken. "I'm glad someone caring found me. I still probably wouldn't have—" Another bite was held to my lips, which I took respectfully. A giggle found my ears, overshadowing the crunch of lettuce and carrot. A hand gently stroked through the inch-long blonde hair I had, calming me from the inside out.
"Let's not think of you not making it. You're alive now, and recovering. Okay, silly?" She tried grouping the last contents of her bowl as I swallowed and nodded. Whoever she was, she was definitely pure and optimistic... The thought made me smile and a little more eager to repay her kindness with obedience as I took the last bite. "I'll be back soon."
I turned my head to try and see her as she walked out. She had the same headband on, and a small puffy tail to match on the back of her shorts. I swallowed the last of the food and saw her come back in, smiling enormously. It seemed to make her face shine; there was literally something glinting on the sides of her cheeks. Her hair seemed to be wavy down her back until it hit chest level with a curl. That's all I got to; my eyes closed to drink as she held the nearly-drained glass to my lips. Taking down the last drop, she stroked my head's unwounded side as I felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper into the bed until another wave of comforting blackness overtook me.
Birds chirping seem to wake me far before the light did, and the throb in my head was very dull compared to before. I was able to lie comfortably for a bit, trying to go over what had happened. Home animal shelter, rabbit ran away, bonk on the head, girl helped me to her house... Wait! I was at some stranger's house while that rabbit was still out?
I tried jerking up, but a weight against my side only let me get halfway until arms let go of my chest and stomach. I heard her giggling again as I looked around. "About time you woke up, sleepy head. Someone's feeling better."
I finally looked to her again, this time without the bump on the head averting my eyes. She was about my height, nearly six feet, with a very petite frame from the waist up but with plump legs and swollen breasts hid by a thin shirt. Her skin was fair, as though she never stayed inside but couldn't really tan well, and she still seemed to be wearing the same rabbit accessories from last time. I swallowed and finally caught her eyes, twinkling in amusement at my sight. "I don't think I've thanked you yet... for saving my life. I'm Andrew Valentine, and I kind of came here trying to find a hurt bunny that ran away. Halfway grown, splint on the hind left leg, creamy brown fur? You dress like one, so... I thought you might like them and have saw them, since I wasn't far behind it."
Her head tilted curiously at my comment of her dressing like a rabbit. But she composed herself from whatever confusion she had and pointed at the bedroom floor. Indeed, the little bunny was meandering about. "You mean Riku? I noticed he was hurt and took him in to help, but didn't really know who had put his leg in that splint... until I found his scent along with yours." She turned back to me, hair and whiskers—wait, whiskers? Whatever they were, they bounced in place as she smiled. "You smell like a lot of animals, and blood, and medicine. I'm guessing you help them out, which is really nice of you. But what's a monkey doing out here? This isn't the jungle."
"A... monkey?" It was my head tilting out of confusion then.
She nodded again, this time without that happy enthusiasm, as her hands travelled to my ears. "These certainly aren't cat ears, or dog, or anything around here. The only thing I can think of is some kind of ape. What brings you here?"
My face frowned a little bit as I thought... Wait. She thought I was some monkey person? "What about your ears and tail, though? Aren't those just accessories on clothes, like some girls who clip cat ears in their hair?"
"Um, honey?" She bent her head forward and parted the hair that was hiding the root of the ears on her head... no band. They were real. My hand raised up and felt the fuzz and fur on her head travelling up the ear. Somehow, I was too amazed to be freaked out by the genetic impossibility. "Heehee, that feels nice!" Her head tilted into my hand and, instinctively, my fingers were trailing around at the base of her ears. "So you're not a monkey? What are you, then, Andrew?"
"Ah, well... a human. You're saying everyone around here is part human, part animal, and just labelled as whatever animal they share traits with?"
Her tail started wiggling around as she nodded again, this time with her hair bouncing around as playfully as she spoke. "Yup! The cats are usually kind, the dogs are loud but really playful, fish keep to themselves, birds love to sing, rabbits are paranoid party animals, rodents—"
This time I was the one who interrupted with a small laugh. "Okay, okay, I get it, Samantha."
She looked up, brown eyes reflecting more light than existed as they gazed up at me. "Call me Lynn, okay?"
I nodded and smiled. "Alright, Lynn. But... where am I, then? I've never heard of a place where people are merged with animals like this except in cartoons."
"Cartoons?" She dismissed it with a shrug and another, large smile. Her happiness was contagious. "Well, Riku was hurt, so I found him and brought him here, then came back when I felt that you needed help. My home's just near a tree that seems to let me go to places I didn't know existed. One time I kind of went somewhere that everyone was dead and still moving around... So I try to not let anything through the woods."
Sounded like some kind of different dimension. It may not be Star Trek or anything, but... seeing her, it was definitely real. Her head tucked up under mine as her arms wrapped around me again. "You're so warm, and I can feel it, you're kind... I wanna kidnap you!" Her face shot up to look at mine again with a really warm smile that made me grin in return.
"Heh. I have family waiting on me, though..." Her face turned to immediate disappointment as she slowly started to look down. "Though, I could stay until my head heals, at least." Trying to keep her from feeling hurt, I gave her a tender squeeze. She squeaked and went tense until she relaxed again. "You okay?"
She nodded and sighed. "I haven't had anyone hug me in probably eighty years. I forgot how comfortable it is to be isolated in someone's arms like that is all, so tight spaces and squeezes kind of make me claustrophobic."
She lost me at 'eighty years'. "How... old are you?" God, she didn't look a day over seventeen.
Her head tilted back with another smile. "One hundred ninety two years, four months, and two days. Why, what about you?"
"Uh... Nineteen years, and seven months..." How could she be so old? She was like a child.
"You're probably confused. Here, everyone stops actually really aging once they decide they're at their prime. I chose when I was nineteen, like you. You'll find very few people here who get really old. And... if you want to stay, that means I get to cook for you, and help your head heal, and care for you while you're here!" She immediately threw herself from bed, running out the room with her shirt flapping in her speed, revealing a lack of undergarments as she dashed into what was probably the kitchen.
I heard a faint "Oh!" as she dashed back in, far faster than I could hope to move. "I forgot. What do you like to eat? How much? Do you eat meat? Please don't tell me you've ever eaten ra—"
"Relax, please. I'm not going to be able to remember ten questions at once. I'm not picky, I eat a lot but can settle for a little, not often, and if you meant rabbits, no. Just poultry, fish, and very rarely beef." She nodded and ran away before I had a chance to respond. Yeah, definitely a rabbit's energy. Shaking my head slowly, I crawled out and followed the sounds to the kitchen until I saw her hustling about, pulling out pots and utensils quickly.
Looking at her, she did resemble a rabbit's frame. Her lower body was thick and strong, but her upper body was deceptively frail... I say 'deceptively' because of how effortlessly she pulled out an entire stack of pans to get one in the middle. "Um..." God, what could I say? Her body looked beautiful, she was kind and seemed to be eternally happy, was so willing to help... How do you tell someone that kind of stuff when they're that...
"I don't know why you're so exotic to me, Andrew." That was the word... wait, I was it, too? "You're sweet, and more affectionate than most men I've seen, care about animals while not being one, and despite lack of a cotton tail are extremely attractive. I don't know... I just feel like I want you around." Her face turned to mine, and I saw one of the few small, calm smiles out of her. Unlike the previous, this one was beautiful. It really topped off her gorgeous body, and my body got shot by a wave of icy nervousness before warm attraction.
I stepped over, trying to ignore the bulge in her shirt that probably showed breasts as sweet as her smile, and gave her a soft hug. "We'll see. I promised to stay until my head heals, so we'll see how things go. Okay?" A nod and a kiss on the cheek was my answer. Her tail was wiggling left and right the entire time she turned around and went through the cabinets for a few potatoes. I couldn't help but stare, since she was uncovered from the waist down; the only thing that kept me from staying glued to the sight was my urge to not be a burden. "Is there any way I can help?"
She turned around with a knife and a potato in hand. "Sure! Cut these up how you like, sweetie." Handing them carefully to me, she gave her waist an affectionate rub over my hip as she walked by to what looked like an old-fashioned fridge. Looking around, the technology around seemed to be limited to what we had a few decades ago. Odds are, if they had television, it was the antenna type with just black and white, probably no sound.
The clatter of utensils got me back to earth as I cut a couple potatoes roughly into tenths. Behind me, I heard the sounds of a pan starting to dry on a stove, with chicken wafting into my nose. As soon as I finished, I turned around to ask what Lynn wanted done, but she was reaching up into a spice rack, a couple inches short of a small tube of... something. Stepping over, I reached up past her hand and fingered the thing into her waiting hand. She didn't take it immediately; her face looked up at mine and her head tucked into my chest for a second.
Playfully bumping me away, and giggling at the closeness, she uncapped whatever spice it was and sprinkled it both onto the chicken and into the oiled pan before capping it and sliding past me to the potatoes. With one swift, careful motion, they were onto being stir-fried among a few greens, and the chicken pan was capped for everything to cook.
With nothing left to do, Lynn backed her tail against my waist and nestled against me, leading my arms around her in a soft hug. I complied happily, giving her another soft squeeze, this time without a squeak. Instead, she turned around and raised on her toes, kissing my lips gently. The first touch seemed to set it off; the entire time the food was cooking, our lips were smooching and sealing together in soft, playful kisses until she took my cheeks and held me still for a sweet embrace that lasted no less than two minutes.
Almost like a timer in her head, Lynn pulled back when the food was finished cooking and laid out our two plates on her table. As soon as she finished slicing quickly through the chicken and spreading it among the rest of the stir fry, our plates were loaded and we were off eating and talking. She learned about my life, lack of demi-humans like her, and what kind of animals I looked after, how many... everything about that, for sure. Meanwhile, I learned about her kind and nature, life story (which, for nearly two centuries, was surprisingly playful and carefree), and interests. I also found out that the stereotype of rabbits and carrots was only half true. Purebred (meaning our normal) rabbits just enjoyed them as vegetables, but adding someone like Lynn's taste buds, and they drool over carrots.
The food didn't last long; I was hungry due to the salad not exactly filling much, and Lynn seemed to really love everything she cooked. A hundred years would probably do that, but still, her enthusiasm was about as contagious as her smiles and giggles. I couldn't ever do anything BUT smile around her... and, that made me happy. "Isn't that love...? When someone's very personality makes you happy, let alone what they do for you?" I half-realized I had said it aloud, but it was out, and I didn't regret it.
Her eyes opened in shock before she nodded slowly, standing up to step to my side. "I've felt love. I haven't been happy because there's always that one tiny thing that is a pin in the side, always stabbing and hurting no matter how the affection masks it. It's always something about someone's face, how they act and just behave when normal, that makes you not want to stay forever. Call it high standards, but... if I'm to live forever with someone, those pins can't exist in love."
Her eyes were hopeful. That's one thing about anyone you can read; when they want something to work. "And, so far, if I'm around you, the only possible problem is feeling too grown-up compared to the nearly childish optimism and playfulness... but, what about me?"
She straddled over my lap, settling in as her arms draped over my shoulders. "I can't smell any malice. I can't sense any intention to hurt anyone." She wrinkled her nose. "These whiskers can't feel anything, at all, that says I should be afraid of you. I... want to try." Her face scrunched in a smile until she tilted forward and pressed our lips together again. Letting instinct direct my body, our mouths opened together and my tongue pressed out to find hers, swirling and brushing gently as her arms tugged at me tighter by the second.
A light gasp came from me when the squeeze became too much, which caused her to slide off, keeping our lips sealed as she tugged me gently up with her, backing to her room and leading me with kisses while our fingers intertwined. It wasn't until she bumped against her bed that she broke the kiss, leading me to sit on the bed as she started tugging at my clothes, wanting them off but not being used to buttons. Smiling, I took her lips for my own again and helped her fingers start removing the few buttons on my shirt. It only took one until every button on my body was removed swiftly by her hands, and the clothes taken off.