Authors: Kyell Gold
I hate to say it, but the rest of the lunch is really pretty pleasant. We talk about our classes and stuff we never talk about in bed, and by the time he gets up to run to his World Civilizations seminar, I don’t even blink when he says, “Next week?” I just nod.
I watch him leave, and as I’m putting my tray on the conveyor belt and thinking about our lunch, I remember the smile he gave me, the one when he called me his boyfriend. I would’ve thought he would be wearing his possessive smile, or his I’m-saying-something-to-shock-you smile, or his cocky, cleverer-than-you smile, but it was none of those. It was, as far as I could tell, a genuine, full-on, I’m-happy smile, and as I stroll out into the crisp fall air, I wonder if my little fox has some secrets of his own.
I want to go to the play by myself, but Randy is all curious about why I want to see something called “The Square Room,” and I can’t stop him from coming along. He looks dubious when we get there and see the hand-painted signs and the hand-painted bunny handing out flyers. She, on the other paw, doesn’t blink an eye, just smiles with both teeth and hands us the playbill, a folded-over photocopy.
Randy looks even more dubious when mine doesn’t follow his into the trash can just inside the doors. I don’t notice his look until I’ve found the name “Wiley Farrel” on the cast list. Then I see him looking at me out of the corner of his eye, and I shove the paper casually into my pocket.
My fox is not the lead in the play, but he’s the main supporting character, and he’s good. I wish I knew more about theater so I could tell him that, the way he knows about football. All I know is if I hadn’t read his name in the program, I wouldn’t know it was him. Even in the dress.
Randy sits quietly through the first act, in which the main characters fight and the wife retreats to her bedroom. My fox plays the teenaged daughter, and I think I understand why he is playing a girl: the parents are both foxes. There must be a shortage of vixens in the troupe, and the wife is the larger part. She’s not bad, but my fox is great.
In the second act, Randy gets restless and starts fidgeting, then whispering things to me like, “Why did she only brush part of her tail?” and “Is that supposed to be a lemon pie?” and “Why does he put up with her? If it was me, I’d break the door down!” I try to ignore him, but I find myself agreeing with him. When my fox isn’t on stage, my attention wanders, and I can’t honestly say I understand the bleak ending. But we clap along with the rest of the crowd when it’s over and ignore the whispers of the people around us who were offended by our talking. Hey, if the play were better, they’d be able to tune us out.
We go down to Smokey’s afterwards, a bar for drinking, not a meat market. Randy slurps his Coors and I get a Miller, and he grins at me. “So that’s it, huh?”
“What?” It looks like he thinks he’s figured out something.
“You’re seeing that vixen, huh? That’s who the phone calls are from?”
I get a cold shiver. It takes me a couple seconds to remember that there were two vixens in the play, because I can only think of my faux-vixen. “Which one?” I ask cagily.
“Hey,” he says, “It’s okay with me if you wanna get serious outside your species. No worries about cubs or anything, right?” Good old Randy, always getting right to the heart of the matter.
The good thing is, he just wanted to know. And now that he does, or thinks he does, he’s content. He knows something the rest of the team doesn’t. I figure I’ll take him to a couple more plays, keep him happy, hopefully stop him from asking too many questions. Let him think he knows my secret. He’s closest of anyone, and still not close enough that I’m worried.
Until two weeks later, when I return to the room to find him sitting on his bed, talking to my fox in blouse and skirt.
I stop dead in the doorway, muzzle hanging partway open. Randy’s tail is wagging, making thumping sounds against the bed. “Hey,” he says, grinning so wide I expect to see canary feathers sticking out of his muzzle. “I ran into Lee outside the theater and invited her back to the room. You should bring her round more often.”
“Yes, dear,” he says, and I can see from the glint in his blue eyes that he’s enjoying this. “You have such a charming roommate.”
I look around. “I’m sorry,” I say, stalling while I think of how to get him out of here without Randy getting suspicious. “Did you mean the wolf there who once tried to fart Beethoven’s Fifth?”
“Oh!” Lee feigns interest. At least, I hope he’s feigning. “He has a taste for the classics.”
“The taste of Old Hilltown.” I cross to my bed and sit down.
Randy hadn’t been quite sure how to take my remark, but he’d grinned throughout. The mention of beer restored his confidence. Now he gestures to the little fridge we have. “I’ve got a couple left, if you want…”
“That’s okay,” Lee says. “I’m sure it’s better in my imagination.” He turns to me and gives me a smile. “No kiss?”
Oh, god. He wants to kiss in front of Randy. I look back at him and watch his smile curve up a little bit more. It seems impossible that Randy won’t notice the things I can’t help seeing: the slightly broader, male muzzle; the way the hips don’t quite flare enough; the roughness around the base of the claws. But I can’t think of a good excuse not to go over, and Randy’s still grinning that I-found-you-out grin. So I walk over and lean down, intending to give him a soft, quick peck on the muzzle.
I get a muzzle full of fox tongue and an instant hard-on. We don’t hold the kiss as long as we normally do, but it’s plenty. I pull back and sit down hard on my bed, only dimly hearing Randy’s “Wooooo!”
Lee’s licking his lips and smiling. I can’t believe there’s no bulge under his skirt like there is in my jeans. Randy rubs his paws together. “I see what you see in her, Dev. Woof! I wish I could find a nice bitch to kiss me like that.”
“Oh, I bet there’s more than just bitches would kiss you like that,” the fox says nonchalandy. My claws sink into the bed. Why is he doing this?
“Sure,” Randy says, so calmly I can’t believe it. “But I don’t really like goin’ outside my species. Just me personally,” he says hurriedly. “Dev here, he likes sleepin’ around. That’s cool with me.”
he?” Lee says, and turns to me. I still can’t believe Randy didn’t pick up on what he meant by the last comment. Fortunately, Randy is more worried about what
“Oh, I mean, he used to. But not this year. He doesn’t come to the Fang no more. That’s why I thought he was seeing someone seriously. I dunno why he didn’t introduce us before.”
“Yes, Dev, why on Earth didn’t you?” The fox smiles.
“Because I wanted to keep you all to myself,” I say through gritted teeth.
Randy slaps his knee and grins. “He’s always like that,” he says. “Won’t let me copy off him in History class either.”
The fox’s ears flick, and I see the beginnings of trouble in his eyes. “I didn’t think you had trouble passing classes anyway,” he says. “Doesn’t your coach take care of that?”
“Sure,” Randy says, to demonstrate his one big talent besides football: saying exactly the wrong thing. Then he actually follows that up with something half-reasonable: “But we’re all jealous of guys like Dev who don’t need any help.”
“Hey,” I say, heading off the next biting comment from the fox, “how about we go grab something to drink? Or eat?” We decide on the local pizza place, which in retrospect turns out to be probably the worst idea I’ve had in a long time.
Lee just gets a soda. Diet, of course. Randy and I get our favorite: two slices with everything. We’re chowing down, and the conversation is at least not as pointed as it had been getting in the room, when another plate flops onto the table next to me and three hundred pounds of bear slams down into the plastic chairs, which are much sturdier than they look. “Hey, Dev, hey, Randy.”
“Hey, Jack.” Jack is the anchor of our defensive line. And if he’s here, then the other three are not far behind. I watch Lee’s eyes as the other bear, the elephant, and the stallion pull chairs up to our table. They all want to meet Lee, and I introduce her as my World Cultures tutor, with a warning glance at Randy. He gives me a broad wink that only a mole—or four football players gorging on pizza—could miss.
The fox, meanwhile, is keeping his cool, but after a few minutes I notice that he’s sitting a little too straight, his ears keep flicking ever so slightly around, and his tail is bushier than normal. I keep half an ear to the conversation while I try to remember where I’ve seen that before. And it comes to me as I finish the last of my pizza.
The rapid ear-flicks and the bushy tail, at least, I remember from the time I barged into his building, wild-eyed, a week after our first night together, when he’d tricked me into bed. He didn’t know whether I was going to kiss him or beat him up, and though he had a brave face on, as he does now, it was clear that he was a little scared. Once I realize it, it’s as obvious to me as all the signs that he’s male.
“Hey, Lee,” I say, and his muzzle snaps over to me. “Didn’t you say you have an early class tomorrow? Come on, I’ll walk you home.”
He looks like he wants to argue, especially when Jack says, “Ah, just sleep through it,” but I reach out and take his paw, and he gets up.
“Awfully nice to meet you all,” he says, the brush of his tail going down and his ears settling as well. “Hope we can do this again sometime.”
Outside, he walks stiffly beside me, the chill of the wintry air nothing to what he’s giving off. “So how did you—” I finally start, trying to make conversation, and he interrupts.
“Rescued the poor, helpless fairy from the big, mean, football players,” he said. “That what you’re thinking?” He’s not using his vixen’s voice, which is a little disconcerting.
“Didn’t I tell you that I could take care of myself?”
“What, tonight?” I’m thoroughly confused. I thought I was doing something nice by helping him out of a scary situation. I can’t figure out what I did wrong.
“I certainly don’t need your help to protect myself from a bunch of primitive jocks like that.”
“Hey,” I say. “They’re not all that bright, but they’re not bad guys.”
“Sure,” he says, “if you need a pickle jar opened or a faggot beaten up.”
“Is that what this is about? I told you, those guys aren’t on the team any more. We don’t hang out with them.”
“Oh, like it makes a difference which specific guys it was. They’re all the same.”
I stop, paws on my hips, and for a moment I think he’s not going to stop. Then he does, a few steps further, turns and looks at me. “Well?”
“What about me?”
Blue eyes narrow in the yellow light of the street lamp. A raccoon walks past us and we endure his nervous glances as he walks between us, not wanting to get in the middle of our quarrel. Whether he heard the vixen talking with a tod’s voice, we can’t tell, but he disappears around the corner and then Lee talks, more quietly, but no less passionately.
“Well, I’ve been a good influence on you, haven’t I?”
Now I’m the one raising my voice, and he walks away. “Hey! Don’t… Listen, I…” I’m incoherent, sputtering, trying to form the thoughts into words, and I don’t want to run after him because I know that’s what he wants me to do, and I curse my paws as they take me down the street and around the corner he’s just turned.
“Listen, Doc,” I say, “I am who I am, and… and don’t take credit for how I act just because you think you’re clever. It’s not because of you that you didn’t get beat up that night when I came back. It’s because of me.”
“Oh,” he says in his smug voice, the one that sets my fur on end, “I think it had something to do with me.”
“Christ!” I explode. “You can be such a fucking bitch sometimes!”
A white fox on the opposite side of the street turns at my words and looks at us for a moment, clearly wondering if he should intervene and hoping he won’t have to. I wave him on, growling, “Sorry. It’s okay,” and a moment later he wraps his leather jacket around himself and moves on.
“And you, stud,” Lee hisses, “can be a tremendous idiot.”
He walks on. I clench my fists, willing myself to just turn around and go home. Don’t follow him, I tell myself.
“Look,” I say, striding alongside him. He lifts his nose just a bit and doesn’t look at me. “I got you out of there because it looked like a bad situation. I was just trying to help!”
“I’ve told you, I don’t need your help,” he says.
“I know,” I say. “You keep repeating yourself.”
“Apparently it takes a few tries to get you to understand some things,” he says tardy.
“You know,” I say, “You go on about how football players like to beat up faggots and how we’re just primitive jocks and yet you seem happy to sit there at a table with a bunch of them, just begging for trouble. Why would you do that, huh? Why not just leave them alone?”
“Leave them alone,” he snaps. “Easy for you to say. Why don’t they just leave us alone?”
For a moment, I think he means me and him, not the collective non-football-playing gay population. Things come into focus, slowly. “Why can’t you let that go?”