[Wasn’t sure if the Explicit tag was intended for language, but there’s some cursing in this chapter, including the dreaded R-rated word.]
Time passed, and Knight and Hope adjusted well to domestic life. Although they still balked a bit at using the litterbox, they used it nevertheless. Of course, there were accidents, especially since Hope was almost entirely immobile, and Knight couldn’t help much, since his leg was still weak from the time spent dislocated and unused. Sam was understanding and didn’t mind cleaning up after the pair that much, although after a few days she bought dog training mats make cleaning up quicker.
One of the adjustments that had come as a pleasant surprise to the pair was the weekly tradition of Sketti Day. Given that they were ferals, even normal kibble had seemed like ambrosia to them, and although they were aware of what spaghetti was on a conceptual level, the thought that they would ever be able to eat any hadn’t occurred to them. After their first Sketti Day, and the assurance that more Sketti Days would come, they’d gained a lot more optimism about the future, as is often the case when given something to look forward to.
Behaviorally, Sam had no complaints regarding the pair. True, the pair still had night terrors, which seemed to be a regular thing, but it was something to be expected after what they’d been through. But they became more and more relaxed and trusting as they adjusted to the new lifestyle and began to unlearn years of fear from their lives on the streets. As their fear subsided, “munstah wady” had given way to “nice wady,” which had in turn become “mummah.”
Soon, Hope reached a size when Sam estimated it would be only a few more days before the foals were born, although Hope’s size seemed to increase rather slowly for a soon-mummah nearing the end of pregnancy. This worried Sam a little, but she figured that it probably was just related to the long-term lack of food that the mare had suffered through. She’d talked to friends who were more knowledgeable on the subject, and had been comforted to hear that it was perfectly normal and nothing to be worried about. Apparently, sometimes fluffy gestation length could be hard to predict.
It ended up being a Saturday afternoon when the foals were born. Sam had been working in her office when she heard the unexpected cry of “BIGGEST POOPIES!” from the saferoom, and had dashed into the saferoom. Usually fluffy birth took care of itself, but it was still best to be present on the off-chance something went wrong. But Sam was a bit concerned, as based on Hope’s size she’d have expected another couple of days at the least. Still, she’d been prepared just in case and had an incubator set up to help premature foals.
The first foal born was a female yellow alicorn, with a stubby horn rather unlike Knight’s longer, pointed horn. She had a beautiful orange mane, and overall had an elegant appearance for a fluffy. The second foal was a blue unicorn, with a longer horn like her father’s, and an aquamarine mane. Both seemed healthy, as was confirmed by Hope after she cleaned them both.
There was no third foal, much to Sam’s and the fluffies’ surprise. A litter of two wasn’t something you often saw, and it somewhat renewed Sam’s worries. Perhaps there was something wrong after all, some sort of medical issue with Hope that hadn’t been apparent so far. Sam decided to check, and called an old friend.
Mikhael was as much of a fluffy expert as it was possible to find outside of a laboratory. He was also the epitome of a hugboxer: kind, patient, and caring not just for fluffies, but for other creatures as well. Through his drive and passion, he’d managed to create not one, but three local no-kill shelters, two for fluffies and one for other pets. Sam hadn’t talked to him since taking in Knight and Hope, due to feelings of shame she still felt for her past behavior, feelings that he’d maybe merely tolerated her as a faux-hugboxer.
“Sammy!” He roared happily, causing her to almost drop her phone. “It’s been a while! How have you been?”
“I’m good, Mik, how are you?”
“I’m doing wonderful! I just managed to get that shelter I’ve been talking about funding. You know, the one for habilitating abused fluffies?”
Sam was shocked, not at Mikhael but that the shelter had been given the go-ahead. One of the darker realities of animal shelters is that much of the public interest in them comes from the idea of saving cute animals, an idea that clashes with the gruesome truth of fluffy abuse. Many believed that even if they were rehabilitated, abused fluffies were too ugly or needy to ever find a loving home. Some even proposed euthanasia as the default alternative.
“Well, to be honest I didn’t think it was possible,” Sam was almost lost for words. " I don’t know how to congratulate you enough."
“Don’t worry about it!” Mikhael bellowed cheerfully. “The truth is, for a while there I didn’t think it was going to happen either. Now, did you call with something in mind or did you just want to hear my glorious voice?”
“I…” Sam gulped, a little uncertain as to how to continue. “I adopted some new fluffies and need some advice.”
“I see.” Mikhael’s voice was almost imperceptibly dampened.
“How long did you know? About how I was taking out my own problems on my fluffies?”
“Since before you adopted MIlly.”
“Holy shit…why didn’t you stop me?”
“I…think I was too afraid of making things worse. I was hoping you’d realize on your own.”
“Look, Mik, I know I was being a total bitch to MIlly and Arch, but this time I swear I’m trying to work through my problems on my own.”
“I’m sorry, I just don’t know what to say. I’m glad you’re trying to be better, but I know how hard these things can be to work through. I know you’re trying, but I don’t know if you can keep it from affecting your new fluffies. I’m telling you this as a friend, because I know I’d want to hear the hard truth myself, no matter how much it hurts, but for now, I think it’d be best if you brought those fluffies to a shelter instead.”
Sam felt tears creeping down her cheeks. She knew that too, of course, she’d known since the first day Hope and Knight had shown up that they’d be better off in a shelter, even if they didn’t trust other fluffies. That keeping them isolated from other fluffies was only going to make this distrust worse.
“I didn’t want to hurt you like this, dammit.” MIkhael muttered in a subdued tone that Sam had never heard him take. “Look, I’ve done things like that in the past. I used fluffies in place of the therapy I desperately needed when my life was falling apart, and they suffered because of it. Because of me. So as hypocritical as it is, I want to prevent that from happening again.”
“I understand what you’re trying to do. Thank you for that, but also fuck you for making this even more painful.”
“I deserve that. I think we both deserve that, Sam. Well, if you insist on keeping those fluffies I won’t try to stop you. Just…don’t make my mistake. As much as I love them, I’ve grown to understand that fluffies aren’t…can’t be…emotional support in the same was as a person is.”
“I know, Mik. I’ve already made plans to start talking with a therapist. I need to stop hiding from the scars Blueberry’s foals deaths left.”
“What’s with that tone?”
“Nothing. So, what was it you wanted to consult me on?” Mik changed suddenly changed to a much cheerier voice, as if he was pretending the earlier conversation hadn’t happened.
“The mare just had foals, but there were only two. I thought normally they had between four and eight foals. Should I be concerned?”
“Was she starving when you adopted her?”
“Yeah, a bit. Why?”
“Well, you know how fluffies will sometimes stop feeding some of their foals if there’s not enough food to keep them all alive? The same thing can happen if a pregnant mare goes too long without food, some of the developing foals can stop receiving nutrients and won’t survive. It’s a bit of a baffling design decision, but what part of fluffies isn’t?”
“So there’s nothing to worry about?”
“Well, if they’re feral I’d still take them to the vet or at least a shelter clinic to get them checked. There are a lot of hard-to-spot fluffy diseases and it’s better to catch them early, especially if they’ve been living off garbage. That and getting them their vaccines is best if you intend to let them see other fluffies. Still, I wouldn’t be too concerned unless she starts exhibiting strange behavior.”
“Well, for now they seem to have trust issues with other fluffies. They said a herd tried to make the stallion, Knight, into the herd’s “poopie fluffy” and the mare Hope, into an enfie mare. So it’ll probably be a while before I can convince them to even consider spending time around other fluffies. I’ll take that into consideration, though. Thanks for the advice, even the…hard advice.”
“No problem. If you have any worries please don’t hesitate to call me.”
Mikhael set down his phone gently on the table with a quivering hand. Now that he no longer had to keep up the facade, his breath came in ragged gasps, his chest tightening. Suddenly, he slammed his fist down on the table, over and over, the loud banging catching the attention of his current foster fluffy, Rose.
GOD FUCKING DAMMIT! His thoughts were in shambles. Had Sammy forgotten everything, or what she just pretending that the events of that night had never happened? His hand drifted to the long, jagged scar that ran down his face, nightmarish memories rushing through his mind once more. If his suspicions were correct, things had just gotten a lot more complicated.
“Am somefing wong, daddeh?” Rose asked, a worried look on her face.
“Don’t worry, Rose. Everything will be fine.”
Even as he said it, he knew it was a lie. But, the beginnings of a plan were glimmering in his mind. It might just be possible to salvage things yet.
Part Five and a Half (Controversial)