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Midnight Blue
- A Fornax Story
 
  2001 By Philip .J. Eggerding
Fornax Characters 1999-2001 Matt J. McCullar
 
 
    
    Blue Fornax awoke with a horrible start. She had been alone and in pain; her sisters gone, her life in ruin. Quickly looking around her, she realized she was still in the hospital bed, surrounded by her sleeping sisters. Blue fell back on the pillow, relieved. Her sors had not left her.
    It was only a dream.
    But not so long ago, it had been all too horribly real.
    Her sisters had accused her of being pregnant, and she had indeed displayed the symptoms. But she knew it couldn't be true. Unfortunately, the ensuing arguments had nearly destroyed them all.
    In the end Blue had been proven right - but at a terrible cost. Her false pregnancy had actually been a devastating infection that nearly killed her.
    Blue looked about the hospital room and shuddered. Her death had been so close. Then, as her heartbeat slowed from the fright, she felt the head resting in her lap stir. Looking down, she saw her sister Yellow's billowing areole of white hair. She had fallen asleep next to the bed with her head resting on Blue's middle. Her eyes were closed in sleep, but they looked sad, and they were leaking tears. She stirred again, whimpering softly, clutching at the bedclothes. Blur reached out a paw to stroke her hair. She tried to hum a few bars from a comforting lullaby they all knew from childhood, but her voice hadn't yet recovered enough for singing.
    "Don't cry. I didn't die," she finally said, in a soft, hoarse whisper. "I forgave you. I can't say I would have acted differently were our places switched. I just wish this hadn't happened."
    It had all started so innocently after their LaMesa concert.
    "Well, perhaps not so innocently," thought Blue, as she recalled that night three moons ago.

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    It had been a fantastic concert.
    It was over now, but even so, the thrill had not diminished. The smiling, shouting, pushing fans all wanted her paw print, and Blue was spinning herself dizzy, happily giving it out to anyone within reach. Looking up, she could see fans in the aisles nuzzling, kissing and caressing each other with almost wanton abandon. There would be some tail twisting done tonight for sure! Fornax concerts could affect folks that way. Even as a band member, Blue was not immune.
    Yes. This night was far from over!
    As she continued to work her way along the edge of the crowd, she grinned to herself. Her grin, however, was not just because of the concert, nor were her movements random. She was on a mission of passion. Glancing up again, she saw her target - the newest member of the Band Fornax security team.
    D'Mago Leistung.
    Blue and her other sisters in the band, Yellow, Green, Violet, and Pink, had given D'Mago a job with their band's security team only two weeks ago, and he was gorgeous. Green had spotted him working at a construction site in the last town they'd played, and in a whirl of tails and white hair, they'd dashed over and hired him on the spot.
    The best part was that he was a honey badger, like themselves. The girls saw few enough of their own species as it was. To find one this good looking was doubly fortunate. He stood a head taller than any of the other ratels on the Fornax security team, and his powerfully muscled torso had tree trunk arms that could crush steel. But the best part was his tush! Blue gave a wicked smirk as she padded yet another paw print. She knew what she'd like to do with D'Mago's buns - as well as some of his other body parts.
    Problem was, D'Mago was playing hard to get. No matter the ploy used, the sisters had failed to corral him so far.
    Maybe it was because he was married.
    Blue made a face. She was recalling D'Mago's wife, Mira. They'd met her only once, but once was enough. Goddess! Mira was such a skinny drainpipe of a female - small and almost ratty looking. She also had a voice that could curdle milk. How, under the suns, had she lassoed a hunk like D'Mago? He deserved better.
    Blue's grin grew a bit wider. She intended to be the 'better' that he was going to get. And it was going to happen tonight.
    Finally reaching him at the edge of the stage, she leaned into him, feigning weariness.
    "D'Mago, hon, I'm beat. It's been a long night and it's just too crazy here." She waved to a crowd that looked like it would be sticking around for a while yet. "Could you take me back to the hotel?"
    D'Mago nodded, but looked confused. He pulled out and thumbed through his copy of the band's tour procedures. "I think I'm supposed to contact Kiv if you're going to be leaving the stage area," he mumbled.
    Blue took the procedure book from him and slipped it back into his chest pocket, making sure to give him a caressing pat in the process.
    "Don't worry. Kiv will know where we are. He always does. Come on."
    She led him off stage and chuckled to herself. D'Mago was so new that he didn't realize he was supposed to be leading her, not the other way around. But that was all to the good.
    It was a short ride to the hotel, and when they arrived, Blue was first into the elevator.
    "What floor are you on?" she asked, trying to sound innocent. "I'd like to stop by your room first. We girls like to make sure the hotel is taking care of everyone in the Fornax crew properly."
    D'Mago told her, and soon, they were alone in his room. Again, Blue smiled. This was going just as she had planned. Looking like she was inspecting the place, she wandered about the room before absently closing the door to the hallway and turning around to face him. Before he had a chance to question that, Blue was on him.
    Hers was a lingering, passionate kiss - all tongue, clicking teeth, and groping paws. It was a kiss that Blue knew would stiffen the tail of anything that wasn't a corpse. It was certainly stiffening hers. Finally, she broke the contact and drew back.
    "Now, isn't that better than anything Mira could ever do?"
    Blue felt D'Mago's paws clench where he gripped her by the shoulders, but the look in his eyes was far from passionate. It was not a look of surprise either. What Blue saw stunned her.
    D'Mago's eyes had become narrow slits and his mouth was curled into a snarl. His breathing had speeded up, and suddenly, his claws sprang out, digging painfully into her skin.
    Blue found herself trying to pull away from him now. Confusion and a growing fear tumbled through her mind. This was not the reaction she'd expected. Why was D'Mago doing this? She tried again to squirm from his grasp, but his grip was like iron. She felt trapped.
    "Please. Your hurting me," she whimpered, truly scared now.
    But he still didn't respond.
    Then she noticed that he wasn't even looking at her. It was as if he were looking right through her. For another heart-stopping moment, they just stood there. Then D'Mago seemed to come to himself.
Quickly, he let go and stepped away looking embarrassed and a bit frightened.
    "I'm sorry, Miss Blue. I didn't mean to do that. It's... it's just what you said to me."
    Blue rubbed her shoulder where D'Mago's claws had pierced the skin. He didn't look at all frightening now, but the whole episode had thoroughly doused Blue's passion. Shaken, she looked at him questioningly.
    "It's what I just said? What do you mean by that?"
    D'Mago looked down and Blue could see his fist clench one more time before he looked up, the worry on his face warring with anger and embarrassment.
    "It's what you said to me right after you kissed me. That's exactly what Jolene said to me."
    That did it. Something was going on here, and Blue was totally clueless. Wasn't his wife's name Mira? And how had this Jolene's words wrecked what had been such a promising start to a fun evening?
    "Who's this Jolene?" she asked with a snap in her voice.
    D'Mago winced and looked down, even more embarrassed.
    "She's just someone I met when I was young."
    He had taken off his uniform cap and was now twisting it nervously in his paws - which was very hard on the cap, considering the size of the muscles in his arms. However, he looked so thoroughly abashed that Blue found her anger and fear dissipating. What remained, was a growing curiosity.
    "Uh. Why don't we sit down and talk about this."
    D'Mago looked up, nodded, and then sat down quickly in one of the hotel chairs, which creaked under his weight. Blue did the same, and for a moment, an awkward silence pervaded the room. Finally D'Mago spoke.
 
      "I really am sorry about what I did. I was hired to protect you. I ain't supposed to hurt you." Again he looked down and seemed at a loss for words.
    "It's all right," Blue said, with a wave of her paw. "No harm done. I've gotten considerably worse from my own sisters at times. So, who's this Jolene?" Blue tried to sound reassuring, and it must have worked because the big ratel stopped twisting his cap and seemed to relax.
    "Well, she has a lot to do with me and Mira," he said. "You'd understand if you knew more about how it is with Mira and me." D'Mago looked at Blue as if asking her permission to continue and she nodded. He took a deep breath.
    "You don't think much of Mira, do you?"
    Blue sat back, startled. She wasn't expecting a question like this. But then, it hadn't really been a question. D'Mago had stated it like a fact. Perhaps he wasn't as oblivious to what folks were saying as he appeared. Most members of the Fornax team had made their opinion of D'Mago's wife quite plain. Blue bit her lip nervously. She didn't want to say anything that might set him off again.
    "Um. Well... Mira was a bit touchy when we met her, and she's, well... she's not the epitome of beauty."
    "She's ugly, you mean."
    Blue winced at his interpretation of her words, but D'Mago seemed not to take offense. Instead, he reached into a bag next to the closet and took out a picture. For a while, he looked at it.
    "You know that song your band sings 'What's Beautiful Never Dies'?" he finally said. "Well, what's beautiful ain't always pretty, either." He set the picture aside and looked back at her, nervously.
    "I... I know Mira's not pretty like you girls. She was always kinda scrawny, but that was the least of her problems. Like I said to the others who bothered to ask, I've known her all my life. I know what it was like for her. We was neighbors, you see - in the poor section of town. Everyone was poor there, but Mira was even worse off."
    D'Mago ran his paw through his short-cropped hair and looked down. This was obviously not easy for him, but Blue could also see that he needed to tell someone.
    "My parents told me her patra was a no-good drunk, and he beat on her and her matra somthin' awful. My folks could hear the hollerin' all the way from our place. And when Mira was only five he left 'em. Just up and left his wife for some pretty tail and never came back. Then, when Mira was six, her matra died unexpectedly. No warning at all."
    "So, Mira had no parents?" asked Blue, when D'Mago hesitated. "What happened to her?"
    He sighed and continued.
    "Couple of her relatives moved in and took her on. Sure, Mira's place wasn't much of a den but it musta been better than the one her relatives came from. Mira's whole family was poor. Problem was these relatives were a right ungrateful lot. Always favorin' their own kit and leavin' Mira out of everything."
    Blue could see D'Mago's fist clench once again, but this time she knew his anger wasn't directed at her. Her looked up and gave her cold stare.
    "How would that make you feel - rejected by your own kin?"
Blue couldn't imagine a time when either her parents or her sisters had not been with her. D'Mago looked back down at his paws and continued.
    "Anyway, that's why she started spending time at our place. We was the only ones who wanted her around. And she had the same problem at school. Nobody liked her there either, 'cept me. Course she was always getting into fights and wasn't all that friendly to begin with, but it was different with me. We did everything together. We just seemed to fit each other. I was big and clumsy and she was small and quick. She could do lotsa things I couldn't, and she said the same about me. And we had fun."
    The big ratel paused and a small smile crept over his muzzle, as though he was remembering some fun time. But then the smile faded.
    "Me and Mira was in our last year of school when Jolene came."
    Another emotion rippled through D'Mago's oversized frame, but it was too complex for Blue to read. When he continued his voice had become quieter and colder.
    "Jolene was from a big city and she was different from the other girls. She was a looker and she talked so nice. I don't know what got into her to go after me, but she did. The other girls in school thought I was just a big, dumb guy from a poor family. I guess they were afraid of Mira, too, cuz none of 'em had ever came on to me. Jolene was the first."
    Considering his looks, Blue doubted this, but then realized that there probably weren't that many honey badger girls to begin with. Other species rarely had intimate relations with ratels. Most were simply too afraid of them.
    "When she took a likin' to me,' D'Mago continued, "I was really excited. Nobody ever talked to me like she did, and it made me feel important. I started spending a lot of time with her. I didn't even think of Mira anymore."
    Uh-oh. Considering her only experience with Mira, Blue knew where this was leading.
    "Well, it finally blew apart when Jolene invited me to a party with some of the richer school kids. I thought it was great. I was finally movin' up in the world and I had a pretty girlfriend, too."
    D'Mago shook his great head as if this had been the stupidest thing he'd ever thought.
    "Somehow, Mira found out and crashed the party. I tried to talk to her, to get her to calm down and leave, but Mira wouldn't listen. She starts callin' Jolene all sorts of foul names and spittin', tellin' her she was hustling me. All the other guys were laughin, but Jolene wasn't. She just asks me if I actually knew this foul-mouthed tramp. I didn't like her callin' Mira names, but I couldn't deny I knew her, and that's when Jolene did it. She grabs me by the ears and lays a kiss on me just like you did. Right in front of Mira and everybody. And I swear she said 'Now, isn't that better than anything Mira could ever do?'
    The look D'Mago was giving Blue almost dared her to contradict this. She had no intention of doing so, but she was beginning to understand his reaction to her words.
    "Anyway," he continued. "That's when Mira lost it. She went wild and flung herself on Jolene tryin' to tear her apart. Then I got mad. I thought 'who was Mira to tell me who I could see?' I liked Jolene an' she liked me! That is, at least until Mira showed up to spoil things. Mira was embarrassing me in front of everybody. So I pulled her off and was going to show her the door when what does she do? She rounds on me, claws sprung, and tries to take my head off."
    Suddenly, D'Mago became very quiet. Blue could see he was struggling with some great emotion, but it wasn't rage.
    "Then I did somethin' I never thought I'd do," he whispered. He looked down, and Blue was startled to see a black tear forming in his eye.
    "I hit her back."
    Blue felt a cold chill sweep over her. Whether it was from the fear of what D'Mago could have done to Mira, or from the guilt that now washed over his features, she didn't know. He scrubbed at his eyes and sniffed before looking back.
    "I never even yelled at her before, and here I'd gone and knocked her clear across the room! But by then, I was so mad I didn't care. I was ready for a fight. I expected her to pop up and come after me again like I always seen her do in other fights, but... but she didn't."
    D'Mago gave Blue an almost pleading look. "She... she just lay there, and that's when I got real scared. Sure, we'd had a few arguments before. She'd even taken swipe at me once or twice, but I never yelled at her, and I never hit her back because I knew what might happen if I did. And now she just lay there like she was dead."
    D'Mago looked away, and Blue could tell that he'd never told this to anyone before.
    "But . . . she wasn't dead," Blue said, trying to sound like she understood.
    D'Mago looked up and a big black tear rolled down his face.
    "No. She wasn't. But I could have killed her. I could have!" He scrubbed at his face with a big paw and looked down before continuing.
    "I heard all the other guys laughin and hootin, but I was scared. I rushed over and nearly cried when I saw that she was still breathin', and her eyes were still open. I knelt down and asked if she was all right, but its like she wasn't listening to me. Then I saw the black tears rollin' down her cheeks, but she wasn't making any sound. I thought at first she was just tryin' to be brave, like she always was, but the look in her eyes told me different. I could almost see what she was thinkin'. I was runnin' out on her just like everyone else in her life had done, and it hurt so bad she couldn't even cry. It was like life had finally beaten her into the ground for the last time, and I was the one who had done it to her. Me! Her best friend! I can't tell you how bad I felt."
    He didn't have to tell Blue anything. She could hear his pain in his quavering voice.
    "Jolene just didn't matter anymore. I didn't care what she or any of the others thought. I just gathered Mira up and started telling her I loved her and that I was sorry. One of the guys made some snide remark about pity not being love. But dammit! I wouldn't be no friend to Mira if I didn't feel something when she was hurting. But it wasn't just that. I also began remembering lottsa times feeling good when she felt good - and that's when I finally figgered it out."
    D'Mago finally looked up.
    "Mira was a part of me. Always had been. There was nothin' she did that didn't affect me in some way. And that's when I knew I didn't want to hurt her ever again. I wanted to make her happy."
    D'Mago reached over to where he had set down the picture of his wife. He picked it up and looked at it, a totally different expression crossing his features now.
    "I also knew I wanted to be more than just her friend." He looked back at Blue.
    "I picked Mira up and carried her outta there and never looked back. I just kept tellin' her how sorry I was and that I'd make it up to her and that I loved her. And then, the look on her muzzle when she finally heard what I was saying was pure gold. It was like she had come back to life. She... she actually smiled at me. It was a sad and happy smile at the same time, and I knew. Don't you see? I just knew! Her looks didn't matter. Nothing mattered 'cept that she was supposed to be mine, and I was hers.
 
      He looked back at the picture he held.
    "Yeah, she ain't pretty, like you girls, but she's part of me - and now she's my wife."
    For a long time he gazed at the picture with an expression that Blue could only think of as true love, and she realized then that she could never compete with that. Finally he looked back up.
    "You wouldn't cut off your arm just because it didn't look as nice as the other one, would you? It's part of you. Just like Mira's part of me. And now we're gonna have a kit. Can you believe it? We're gonna be a family!"
    Slowly, D'Mago ran a big, clawed finger along the picture frame.
    "Gods, I miss her. I wish she could believe that, but I guess it's hard for her to forget all the folks who's left her or told her she's ugly. I do my best. I try to tell her I love her at least once a day. I try to get her to smile. You never saw, but Mira's got really pretty smile. See?"
    He turned the picture around and Blue leaned closer. It was actually two pictures. The one that filled the frame looked like a formal pose, and as with all such pictures, Mira had an artificial smile on her muzzle. However, she also had a steely look in her gray eyes that spoke volumes about her opinion of most of the rest of the world. Tucked in one corner of the frame was another, smaller photo. This one was a candid, and it was of D'Mago and Mira looking at one another. The difference was astonishing.
    In this picture, there was a softness and vulnerability about Mira that Blue would have never thought possible. Her smile almost reminded Blue of how her own parents would smile at each other. Blue then thought of her childhood. Like D'Mago and Mira, the Fornax family had been dirt poor, but there had always been love. It sounded as though D'Mago's family had been that way, too. No wonder Mira wanted to spend as much time with them as possible. Thinking of her own childhood, a memory flashed across Blue's mind, and she spoke it without thinking.
    "Did you and Mira ever play 'spit into the wind' when you were kids?"
    Instead of giving her a reproving look for such childish nonsense, D'Mago's face lit up with a winning smile that would have melted Blue's heart on the spot if it had been meant for her. But he was obviously thinking of Mira.
    "Yeah, we played that," he said, grinning even more. "But I let her win most times."
    "I was never so lucky," laughed Blue.
    And suddenly they were talking about all sorts of things.
    In fact, for the rest of the evening, that was all they did.
    Mostly, D'Mago talked about Mira, but some of it was about the other things he had done in his life. As he rambled on, things he said caused other images from Blue's past to swim through her mind - happy memories of her sisters and her parents - the trials of adolescence - the successes and tragedies of young adulthood. It was so pleasant just to converse with someone other than her sisters about these simple things. It was a welcome respite from the craziness of going on tour. In fact, Blue enjoyed it so much that she completely forgot about the time.
    Her body, however, had not forgotten. For all its enjoyment, this had been a long, grueling day. Blue lay on her stomach on the second bed in D'Mago's room, her chin propped in her paws, looking at him. She was finding it hard to stay awake now, and her eyelids drooped.
    She yawned and chuckled to herself. She had started out to seduce this great hunk of ratel, but instead, she'd spent the evening talking with him about his wife. Blue had tried. She had tried her best, but D'Mago would not be tempted. Sleepily, she wondered if Mira would ever realize how fortunate she was. Her husband's love for her was as immutable as the law of gravity. Would Blue ever be lucky enough to find a mate like him?
    Looking back at D'Mago, she saw that he had fallen asleep in the other bed with Mira's picture cradled in one of his huge paws. He was smiling. Blue laid her head down as well and sighed. Some things were just meant to be, and no power in the universe would change them.
    She had one last thought before the haze of slumber overtook her, and her world disappeared into a dream. Her sisters would never believe she had spent the whole night with this gorgeous ratel - and kissed him only once.
    She would not know until later how terribly right she was.

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    Blue looked around the hospital room at her other sisters before her eyes finally came to rest once more on Yellow.
    "We should have left him alone," she whispered, slowly shaking her head. "We thought it was such fun, but we were ruining his life."
    And because of that, D'Mago had finally left. Their incessant pursuit of him, the nasty rumors that this had caused, and his separation from Mira, had taken the joy out of his life. It was similar to the way her own sisters' disbelief had destroyed the joy in Blue's life. At least D'Mago had been able to do something. He could quit, go home to his wife, and show her he still loved her.
    Blue hadn't been able to do anything.
    "That's why I was so angry," she thought as she gently stroked Yellow's hair. "That's why it hurt so much. All I saw was my family deserting me. I was losing the ones I loved, and I could see no way to stop it."
    Perhaps she could have done something, but it seemed so pointless at the time. She could have told her sisters how it really was with D'Mago and Mira.
    So, why hadn't she?
    Because, along with everything else, no one would have believed her. Even Blue hadn't believed that anyone who looked like D'Mago could love someone who looked like Mira.
    But he did. He most certainly did.
    It was strange to think he'd nearly abandoned the one person in his life that had always been dear to him - just for a pretty face named Jolene. It was almost as strange as Blue nearly losing her sisters, and her life. They loved each other too. Yet, in their single-minded pursuit of something they wanted, they had nearly destroyed that which they already had.
    Finally, it began to make sense.
    No matter how much fame she accrued or how much wealth she possessed, there would be some things in Blue's life, like D'Mago, that would forever be beyond her grasp. But then, true happiness never came from getting what you thought you wanted, anyway. If that were the case, happiness might never arrive.
    No. Happiness came from cherishing the things you already had. Hadn't Blue's parents said that over and over again? Whenever Blue and her sors felt deprived, hadn't Matra told them to simply look around at the beauty of the love that already surrounded them all?
    'What's beautiful never dies.'
    That was so true.
    Still, folks could easily lose sight of the beauty in life if they let the pursuit of the 'pretty' things blind them to it, just as D'Mago had let Jolene distract him from his Mira.
    Blue caressed the head that rested in her lap and reached out to touch her other sisters in their slumbers. She'd forgiven them for what they'd done to her. How could she not?
    They were a part of her.
    And that was beautiful.


 
 

2001 by Philip J. Eggerding
Fornax Characters 1999-2001 Matt J. McCullar
Do not redistribute without authors' permission.

 

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