Kita'thalla Ch. 13byBowoodstock©
No, you're not hallucinating. I'm back. And I have something for you. I know it's been over a year since the last posting of this story. A lot has happened since then, chief among them me getting married and starting a new career. I apologize for being absent for so long, but I meant it when I said I was going to finish this thing. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you continue to give such wonderful feedback.
"You sure you you can manage?"
Eric gave Kita an irate look. "For the third time, yes, I'm sure I'm well enough to do this!"
They were barely 50 feet out of the cave and already she was mothering him to death. In fact, for the past 3 days since the fight she'd been constantly on his back. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate the concern, but he was bored out of his mind. While he was stuck recovering, Kita had been exploring to familiarize herself with the local terrain. He understood that she'd never had the chance due to one thing or another, and he couldn't come with as even in an uninjured state he was too noisy, but there were only so many games of solitaire that a guy could play without losing it.
"I told you, the leg is only bruised, so while it hurts like hell it's not going to cripple me! See?" He lifted up the one crutch he was using as a walking stick. "I barely need this to even..." he winced and put it back on the ground as he tried to take a step.
"Fine then." she shrugged, raising an eyebrow in amusement. "But don't expect me to carry you anywhere."
"I don't need you to carry me" Eric replied, gingerly watching his footing as they started into the the forest. "Just...don't rush ahead, alright? I can't move as fast as normal. And what's so funny?" he asked, spotting the grin on Kita's face before she could turn away.
"This reminds me of something from a few days ago." she looked at him, still unable to get rid of the smile on her face. "I'm sure you remember well enough."
Eric rolled his eyes. "Yes, I know, though you were the one on crutches at the time."
"Mmm, funny how things change isn't it?"
"Ha. I think I see why you may have wanted to kill me so badly at the time."
"At least I haven't shot you, or stabbed you with anything sharp."
"You threatened to though!"
"Yes, and that threat still stands if you want to test me." she retorted, though she turned away and kept walking. From the tone of her voice the smile was still present.
Cursing under his breath, Eric carefully navigated the forest floor, doing his best to keep up with her at the same time. Ironically, of all his injuries, the least serious was winding up to be the biggest pain in the neck. Facial lacerations always healed quickly with care, he figured he'd be able to remove the adhesives after another couple of days. His concussion had also faded into a dull headache, and his ribs were being taken care of by the bone growth stimulants and painkillers he'd been taking since the fight.
The severe bruising on his leg however, was the kind that had a very nasty complication if not tended to correctly. An unfortunate side effect of healing accelerators when used to treat a large bruise on a limb was an increased risk of compartment syndrome. In a full medical facility he'd be willing to take the risk, as they'd have the tools necessary to accelerate draining of the injury, but out in the field like this, the prospect of facing an extremely painful and life threatening condition was not a pleasant one. He could treat it if he had to certainly...but it would hurt like hell, and it would mean even more time hobbling around on crutches. And more time under the care of....Kita?
Eric stopped and looked around. She'd disappeared. Damn it...
"Kita?" he called out, warily scanning the forest for any signs of movement. How was she able to do that anyways? It was unnerving. A little bell went off in his mind and he warily glanced around for anything that looked like a fallen tree trunk. He was dead if they ran into one of those again in the state he was in. Realizing his heart rate had picked up a little, he tried to mentally calm himself down. If all the mothering the past few days was any indication, there was no way she was going to leave him alone in a dangerous situation. In fact, it wouldn't surprise him if she was watching him right now, just waiting to get the jump on...
Eric nearly jumped out of his skin as the word was spoken just a few inches from his right ear. Stumbling as he fought to keep his balance, he finally stabilized himself before shooting a glare at Kita, who was busy metaphorically laughing her literal tail off.
"What?" she asked as she finally managed to get herself under control. "You looked too serious, I had to do something to lighten the mood"
Eric's jaw dropped open, the glare immediately disappearing along with the lousy mood he'd been stuck in for the past 3 days. That was his line. The verbal sparring and prodding, the mutual support, it was almost as if neither of them had come close to losing their life just a few days ago. He might have been a little worse for the wear but aside from that, things were back to...normal?
"Heh..." he finally let himself crack a smile. "Yeah, alright, you got me."
"Of course I did" she retorted, tapping him on the forehead. "You never pay attention to your surroundings. Now, are you going to make it to the river, or do I have to help you there?"
"What happened to not carrying me?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Being dragged by your ankles doesn't count as being carried does it? Now hurry up already."
They made it to the river without Kita having to make good on her threat, though she did continue to tease him as far as his situation. In the days since the storm, the river water level had receded considerably, although it was still higher than when they'd first arrived on planet. Eric gingerly sat himself down on one of the flat slabs of rock surrounding the small cove, breathing a sigh of relief as he was able to take some of the weight off his good leg and the arm he'd been supporting himself with. Kita in the mean time had approached the waters edge, and was staring into the pool with a pensive look on her face, a sharp contrast to the taunting he'd been enduring a short while ago.
"Something wrong?" he asked
"Mmm?" she glanced over at him, the question taking a moment to register. "Oh. No, nothing's wrong. Just a few things on my mind."
"Mind if I..." Eric started to speak, but trailed off as Kita turned and reached behind her, undoing the knot holding together her improvised top and tossed it aside. The loincloth followed soon after as Kita slowly walked into the water, gingerly testing the temperature as she waded deeper, the fur on her back visibly rippling from the chill.
"Mind if you what?" she asked, stopping as the water just reached the middle of her thighs, the lazy swishing of her tail adding to the ripples on the surface.
"I..." Eric was at a loss for words, although strangely enough, not for the expected reason. Her sudden nakedness was surprising, but as he'd seen her this way before now there wasn't nearly as much of a shock, or even more surprisingly, any kind of reaction below his waistline. Rather, it was that she was so nonchalant about it. She'd just stripped without any emotion, much in the way as some of his patients did when in an exam room. As a matter of fact, he was having a hard time reading her mood at all, as she usually only acted this way when they were talking about something important, and he wasn't really sure if they'd even started talking about anything at all in the first place.
"Am I making you uncomfortable?" she suddenly asked, her back still mostly turned as she looked at him out of the corner of her eye. It was a serious question, as he couldn't hear any sense of playfulness in her voice.
"...No. You aren't." he replied. "I did say that since we'd kind of...well...then there wasn't much point in being shy."
Kita nodded. "Yes. You did say that." She turned to face him head on. "So this doesn't bother you then."
Eric shook his head. He'd seen her like this three days ago for a moment, before she'd turned to explain the story behind her mane. It was different this time though. It almost seemed like something out of a painting, a figure, alien but unmistakeably female, standing naked knee deep in the water with woods in the background. She made no effort to hide her breasts or the lighter fur highlighting the cleft between her legs, but the pose itself was not at all erotic. Looking back to her face, the expression was serious, though not harsh. "No. Does it bother you?"
"I wouldn't have done this if it did." she replied
"Of course." Eric nodded. He raised an eyebrow as Kita narrowed her eyes. "Is everything okay?"
Kita nodded. "Yes." she tilted her head to the side a little, the curiosity evident. "You're acting very differently from all the other times you've seen this."
Eric shrugged. "All the other times I wasn't expecting it. And as a doctor, I've seen many different bodies, both male and female, I guess to a certain extent one gets used to it after seeing so many."
"I see." she said. "But aren't you just a little bit interested?"
Eric blinked. "Excuse me?"
"If I'm not mistaken, I'm probably the first female Ketral your kind has ever seen. Probably the only living Ketral that's let any of you see this much without trying to kill you." she crossed her arms. "If I know anything about you science types, it's that you're always interested whenever you encounter something different, something you're not used to. I'm guessing I fit that description, right? So what do you see?"
"You mean...compared to a human." Eric asked.
Kita nodded. "Right. A female, if that makes it any easier."
Eric took a breath, a small part in the back of his mind very curious just as to where she was going with this. "Okay." he looked her up and down. "Where should I start?"
Kita shrugged.. "You're the doctor"
"Okay..." he paused, once more trying to read her expression but getting nothing of use.
"Overall...you have a similar body structure. Two eyes, one nose, one mouth, two arms, two legs and standard mammalian characteristics. Most obvious difference is the tail, but humans still have the skeletal remnants of one, though it's completely internal"
Kita raised an eyebrow. "I fail to see how that's of much use to you. Now, what did you mean by....mahmmayleeyan?"
"Uh....well, we classify species based on traits that suggest evolutionary ancestry" Eric started. "Mammals are defined by having an internal skeleton, being warm blooded, having hair and uh..." he inadvertently paused as his eyes naturally settled on the curves peeking from behind Kita's crossed arms. "the ability for mothers to nurse their young. At least, I assume that's the case for you?"
The corner of Kita's mouth curled into a sly grin . "Yes, that is their purpose" she dropped her arms and cupped one breast with her hand. "Though I understand your people place more importance on them than just the rearing of young?"
"Ah...yes, you could say that." Eric said carefully. "They...well, they're one of the first signs in humans that a female is approaching childbearing age when they develop so..." he shrugged. "There's an instinctive attraction for males"
"Strange" she replied. "while they are certainly a trait of womanhood for us, it is scent that tells our males when we are approaching that age"
Eric nodded. "Right. Well, since humans don't have noses that are as sensitive as yours, we rely more on vision and hearing. Our cues to maturity are more focused on those senses."
"Really" Kita asked, smirking a little. "Your ears and eyes aren't much better. I can still sneak up on you easily, and since your kind are always carrying hand held lights, I assume you can't see very well in the dark."
"Hah, right." Eric rolled his eyes and ignored the cheeky look on her face. "The signs are obvious enough. In both genders, there is a deepening in voice pitch, more so in males, along with a significant change in body structure. Both grow taller in a very short amount of time relative to previous growth rates, and the body frame of each develops into their adult shape. Also...when we're young, we really only grow hair on our heads. While it's not as dense as the fur in your species, the rest of our body hair develops as we approach maturity, and men will develop thick facial hair." he stroked the stubble developing on his own chin for emphasis.
"Yes, I was wondering about that." Kita said. "Doesn't seem very useful. Offers little warmth, what's the point of growing hair in just a few places? If I recall, aside from your head there was really only one other place it was growing" her eyes shifted downward for emphasis.
"Well, as I said...it's an obvious sign that the individual is approaching reproductive age so...in that way the location makes sense." he replied, choosing his words carefully. " It also would have provided a measure of protection for what is obviously a very sensitive area, you know, before society decided wearing clothes was the norm."
"Okay, that was then. But what about now? Isn't it uncomfortable having in just a few places? I notice you remove almost all the hair on your face, or at least you did when I first ran into you. Why isn't that the case with everything else?"
"Well..." Eric shrugged. "The beard and the rest of the hair on my head is military standard... men have to be clean shaven and keep their hair short. Women have a little more leeway for social reasons, as traditionally they're allowed to have much longer hair than men. For the rest of the body hair though, It's a matter of personal choice. Some don't care about what others typically don't see, others do remove some or all of their body hair."
"Both males and females?"
"Yes, though... for humans, large amounts of body hair is seen as a masculine, er, male trait, so it's more common for women to remove most if not all of it."
"Even down there?" Kita's eyes again came to rest near his belt.
Eric gave a short laugh. "Yes, even there."
"Hmm" Kita nodded once. "And what about down there?"
Eric's brain screeched to a halt. "What?"
Kita gave him a feigned quizzical look. "Did you forget what we were talking about?" Mentally she had to fight the urge to laugh at the expression on his face.
"No..." Eric shook his head slowly. "I didn't forget. Just...maybe I didn't understand what you were asking?"
"Maybe?" she laughed. "You're the one who said it and you don't know?"
"No" he shook his head again. "I mean that there's more than one way that question could have been understood."
"Really." she gave him an amused skeptical look. "Well, I'll remind you anyways. We were talking about the differences between ketrals and humans. Between a female human and a female ketral, since that's what you've got right in front of you. And if you recall the area of conversation prior to your memory lapse, I'm now asking about the differences there." she finished by smiling ever-so-sweetly. "Do you understand the question now?"
"...well, when you put it that way..." he replied, still a little confused. It wasn't that he didn't know how to answer, but rather that her tone had gone from serious and inquisitive to that playful jabbing tone he'd heard several times when she was making fun of him. He shrugged then nodded. "Yes, I understand"
"Alright. So?" She looked at him expectantly, arms crossed. "Or did you need a closer look again?"
If he'd been drinking at the moment, it would have resulted in another spit-take. That was definitely a targeted shot against him! Never mind that the view he'd seen when he'd fallen in that first day was indelibly burned into his mind. Regardless, she was up to something, although he had no idea what it was. Though there had been that night during the storm, and the drugged make-out session that he was thankful she didn't remember, this was the first time she'd overtly talked about matters of intimate anatomy. "No, I can tell you." he replied, his mind working again. "To be honest...there isn't really much difference that I could see." he raised an eyebrow as a look of momentary surprise crossed Kita's face. "What's wrong?"
"Nothings wrong." Kita shook her head, her composure regained. "I'm just surprised that...well, you were able to tell that from..."
"Well..." Eric shrugged. "Based on your earlier comment, you pretty much know what I saw the day I fell in the water..." he paused as Kita very quickly stiffled a laugh.
She shook her head, her mouth in a thin line but eyes very clearly showing mirth. "Continue."
"Hah, alright." Eric shook his head, amused. Even he admitted that it had been funny in retrospect. He nodded down toward her nether regions. "Externally, there wasn't very much difference from a human. I'd imagine that internally there may be some differences but, on the outside you look very similar to a human female."
"...I see" she replied pensively.
"Does that answer your question?" Eric asked.
Kita cocked her head to one side. "Maybe."
Eric snorted. "Oh, now you're starting with the maybes?"
"Yes. Maybe." she replied, staring at him intently.
"What?" he asked, unsure of the look on her face.
Eric blinked. "What? Why?"
"Because you're the one who wanted to come out here, and also because you've gone 3 days without a bath, and my nose is more sensitive than yours. So you have two choices; Get undressed, and get out here, or I throw you in and you have to wait for your clothes to dry again."
"Alright, alright..." he replied, pulling his shirt over his head. "Just give me a moment okay?" Gingerly he pulled his fatigues and shorts over the bruising on his leg. Scooting to the edge of the rock ledge, he carefully entered the water, using the crutch to test the depth before sliding in. Admittedly, the cool water did help with the throbbing in his leg, so maybe this wasn't a bad idea after all. Looking back up at Kita, he stopped found her staring downward at his groin.
"Is it always like that?" she asked.
Well that was forward. "Is it always like what?" He didn't have to guess at what "it" was referring to.
"Out." she nodded to his manhood. "When it's not in use, our males are able to retract it into their bodies. Stops it from getting injured in a fight."
Eric shook his head. "Ah...no, we can't." he shrugged. "I guess, just one of those differences between species?"
"I guess." she replied, still staring. "But I assume that it works relatively the same way?"
Eric had to laugh at that one a little. "Um...yeah. We gotta piss just like you do."
"And mating?" She asked, finally looking up, her eyes meeting his.
Eric's pulse quickened just a little. "I'm... assuming that works the same way too." There was a something in her eyes that he was having a hard time interpreting. She looked serious, just as she'd been with all of the questions (save one or two), but there was something else. If he didn't know better, he'd think she was nervous about something.
Kita simply nodded at his answer and turned away, looking out across the river again.
"Is something wrong?" Eric asked. If it wasn't obvious earlier, it was now. She had something on her mind.
"Eric, I need you to answer something for me." she said, her back mostly to him.
"Okay, what is it?" he asked, unsure of the tone of her voice.
"You remember when, well, after you woke up right? After Turvan..." she stopped, and shook her head. "After that. When I ran off."
"Yes, I remember. You came back with some of the things we'd left behind."
"Yes, I did." she nodded, still not looking at him. "But...I didn't go there first. I wound up here. And...I saw something. Something that I'm not really sure I understand, and it lead me to question..." she trailed off.