Twitchear couldn’t believe that Beythan had been living among his people for over two full moon cycles. The human had adapted well to living with his tribe; he spoke a few words of their language, thought Twitchear still had to translate for him most of the time when he wanted to speak to one of the other cat people. But he understood what they said in return, and he’d lost the fearful, haunted expression that he’d worn for many weeks after he’d first woken up in Twitchear’s tent.
He’d gained weight from a steady diet of good food, and wasn’t so pale or sickly looking. He’d managed to craft new hide covering for himself, including a crude tunic, leggings, and moccasins for his feet. He’d made bone needles and leather ties to craft the things he called ‘clothing’ with, and Twitchear had spent many an evening watching in fascination as Beythan bore holes in the cured hides patiently and then sewed them together to make things that he could wear over his pale, hairless body.
Twitchear could understand why the poor human needed those coverings to protect himself, since he had no coat or feet pads. His feet had gotten scratched badly sometimes when he walked around outside the tent barefoot, so Twitchear was glad that he’d made the coverings for himself.
Now he was working on heavier, fur-lined clothing for the winter. He often hummed or sang to himself while he worked, much to Twitchear’s fascination. While his people would growl or make sounds that were like chanting, they didn’t make these melodic sounds that Beythan produced from his throat.
Beythan also continued to produce baskets made of rushes or dried grasses for Twitchear’s people, and these articles were much prized. They had helped the tribe to accept this strange newcomer among them, and now most of the cat people seemed to consider that Beythan was just a sort of hairless, defenseless kitten. This bemused the human when he realized what they thought. Although he supposed that it made sense, since he was smaller than any of them except the older kittens, and he had no coat of body hair or claws or sharp teeth to defend himself with. Better a kind of protective amusement than them disliking him and wanting him to leave. Because Beythan never wanted to return to his fellow humans; the cruelty of the salvers toward him and his fellow slaves had killed any fellow feeling that he had toward other humans. Worse, he still bore a slave’s brand on one shoulder, and if any human ever saw that they’d either turn him in for a reward or try to enslave him again themselves.
Beythan liked Twitchear’s tribe. They were kind in a rough way, and they were also very honest and straightforward. There had been great shock among them when Twitchear told them what had happened to Beythan when he was still among his fellow humans, and the innocent dismay on their furry faces had made Beythan feel great relief. These creatures would NEVER consider taking slaves or treating other sentient beings in such a disgusting manner. Here, he was free. And happy, in a way that he hadn’t been since before his family was slaughtered at the hands of the slavers almost a year ago.
Twitchear crouched on one side of his fire pit and watched Beythan, who was sitting cross-legged on a small heap of furs on the other side. The human was slowly boring a hole through a piece of cured hide with a bone tool, something he called an ‘awl’. Twitchear was fascinated by the art of sewing and making clothing, since his own people had no such skills. They weren’t necessary for a race that had a fairly heavy fur coat to protect them from the elements, and also pads on the bottom of their feet to keep them from being damaged when they walked. He liked to watch Beythan, especially the human’s grave face as he concentrated on his work.
Twitchear was thinking idly about his brother, Broadpaw. He was definitely getting closer to the huntress Dewclaw, and Twitchear was really looking forward to them becoming mates and producing kittens. Since he’d probably never have any kittens of his own, it would be nice to have nieces and nephews to spoil and pet.
Thinking about just why he’d probably never have kittens of his own, Twitchear sighed almost silently. Ever since he’d had that conversation with Broadpaw, he’d been thinking about it on and off. Should he try to find another male in the tribe that attracted him as Broadpaw was attracted to Dewclaw? But what if said male wasn’t also attracted to the males? Which would be a moot question if he never found anybody he was drawn to, and that seemed more likely. His eyes had strayed over every male in the tribe at one time or other in the last two moon cycles, and none of them had really caught his eye. Maybe his brother was wrong? Perhaps he wasn’t attracted to other males? But if that were so, why had he never been drawn to females like most of the other males in the tribe were? He just didn’t know. He was utterly confused.
“What’s the matter, Twitchear?” a soft voice asked, breaking him out of his thoughts. He looked up, blinking, into Beythan’s concerned blue stare. The human had paused in his sewing, laying the awl on his lap for the moment.
He shook his head to clear it. “There’s nothing wrong, Beyshan,” he assured the human.
“Then why do you look so troubled? Is there something on your mid?”
Twitchear was rather amazed that Beythan had gotten so good at reading him already, since his expressions and body language were nothing like a human’s. “I have been thinking,” he began slowly.
“About something that my brother told me. When I asked him why I’d never been drawn to any of our females as every other male seemed to be. I worried that there might be something wrong with me.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you!” Beythan protested stoutly, making Twitchear’s lip wrinkle in his people’s version of a smile.
“My brother told me that it’s probably because I’m drawn to other males instead,” Twitchear began, wondering if he should even talk about this with Beythan, considering the bad memories the human was carrying from his experiences with a human male.
“Oh,” Beythan said in understanding. “You have that among your folk as well?”
“Apparently we do, though I didn’t know about it until Broadpaw told me,” Twitchear explained. “He said that there are even mated pairs of males and females in the village. While that lifted my worry, I don’t quite know…” His shoulders rippled in a kind of helpless shrug. “What to do about it. Also, I’ve never been drawn to any of the other males in the village, either. What if I never am? Will I always be alone, destined to never have a mate?” he said glumly.
“Oh, Twitchear,” there was compassion in Beythan’s voice. ‘That’s hard. Are you sure that you’re not drawn to any other males? Really sure?”
He thought about it. Suddenly, the strangest thing entered his head and made his eyes go wide. There was ONE male that he was drawn to, though he’d never realized it before this. And that male was sitting right across from him! How could that be?! He and Beythan were even of different races! He should be disgusted by the human’s nearly hairless body and small features, but he wasn’t. Somehow, he wasn’t. Oh, this was beyond foolish! How Broadpaw would laugh at him if he ever found out!
He surged to his feet, trembling. This was madness. Not only were he and Beythan of different races, the human had had nothing but bad experiences where being with another male was concerned. This could not work! He had to get it out of his mind immediately.
Twitchear? What is it?!” Beythan had also surged to his feet, looking alarmed by Twitchear’s laid back ears and lashing tail.
“It’s nothing,” Twitchear growled, baring his teeth.
Beythan shrank into himself. “Is it something…that I did?” he asked in a small, scared voice.
His fear brought Twitchear out of his selfish worries, and his concern focused on his human friend instead. He’d scared Beythan! He knew better than to show anger and aggression around the traumatized human, even if both those things were directed at himself and not at Beythan. He smoothed his hackles down and forced himself to speak slowly and calmly. “It’s nothing you’ve done, Beyshan. I just… realized something, and it upset me. That’s all. It’s nothing to do with you, I promise,” he lied, since it really had to do with Beythan intimately.
The anxious blue eyes studied him. “Are you sure?”
A nod. “I’m sure. Don’t be afraid. I-I need to go talk to someone. I’ll be back in a bit,” he exited the tent abruptly, striding away toward the hut of the healer Greeneye. Not that he thought that she could heal this weird affliction of his, but at least she’d lend a sympathetic ear…
Greeneye was at home, and welcomed him into her tent. She studied him, seeing his agitation, and when she asked about it he blurted out a confession. Greeneye listened intentl0y to his problem, an when he was done speaking she frowned slightly. “You do have a bit of a problem, don’t you, Twitchear,” she said. “I’ve never encountered the like before. A no-hair and one of us?”
“I know, I know!” Twitchear nearly wailed, pilling at his mane a little. “It CANNOT happen!”
“Well…that’s not strictly true,” Greeneye mused.
He blinked, taken aback. “What do you mean, Healer?”
She shrugged. “Well, kitten, if you really want this to work, and the no-hair does too, you could find a way to be a mated pair.”
“Oh, but…I don’t think that Beyshan wants anything like that,” Twitchear said uncomfortably.
She studied him. “Do you know that? Have you asked him?” she said keenly.
“No!” I don’t want to upset him, not after what that human male did to him.”
“That’s different, Twitchear. That no-hair male hurt him, but he knows that YOU never would. If he deices that he doesn’t want to try, would you ever press him on it?”
“Of course not!”
She nodded. “And he knows that, too. You have to talk to him, Twitchear. Tell him what’s bothering you. Tell him everything, and let him decide. And no matter what he does decide, accept it. It’ll be the best thing for both of you, to get it out of the way one way or another. Clear the air.”
“I suppose that I could do that,” he said. “But what if I upset him?”
“That’s a chance you’ll have to take. But I think he’ll be all right with it, Twitchear. He cares about you. He’ll understand, even if he doesn’t accept your interest in him. Go, now. Talk to him. Shoo, shoo. I’ve got some work to do, and you’ve got some talking to do.”
“My thanks, Healer,” he said as he left her tent.
“Good luck, kitten,” she called after him as he walked back toward his own tent resolutely.