User:Jetfire/Auld Lang Syne
|Paradise story universe|
|Works by Jetfire on Shifti|
Auld Lang Syne
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Ah Christmas. With Liz living out west, it was a bit rough. It was the first Christmas that all four of us were not together. So it fell upon me to pick up the slack of Christmas knickknack-buying that Liz normally does for mom. Still, the dinner was fantastic, the surprises were great (Damn Adam for sending me the jumbo bag of catnip. I'm surprised the box made it over the border), and we all had a good time.
We were in our post-Christmas dinner stupor when some guests dropped by. Though they were technically Liz's friends (two were Liz's ex's at that), they remained close enough to the family that the Christmas visit was traditional, even without Liz.
Dad and I were in the TV room, him dozing in the La-Z-Boy and supposedly watching TV and me fiddling with a new game on my DS and half watching IRC conversations. Mom was upstairs in the living room reading in the light of the tree. Outside, Triton began to bark his fool head off, and I soon heard the crunch of footsteps walking up the porch steps, followed by a knock at the front door.
Before I could call out, I heard mom stand up and go to the door. I pulled my ears back a bit as she loudly greeted the new comers, herding them into the house. Cold air drifted from the doorway down the stairs to me, bringing the scents of the guests. I sniffed and sorted the scents out, two humans and one somewhat musky scent that could only be a Furry.
I lowered the laptop screen and folded the DS and headed upstairs. Mom had already dragged the guests into the living room and was looking around the tree for their gift bags.
"Hi Mike, Jenn, MD," I greeted them with a smile. I nodded to the two humans, but it was Mandy I focused on. It was the first time I'd seen the 'pine since he had changed. He had a slight muzzle, with brown fur around his face. His fur was longer towards the back of his head a mix of short winter undercoat and longer guard furs that hid the regrowing quills down his neck. He wore thick jeans and a sweater over a blouse and was carefully sitting on the couch next to Jen. His pants had a wide slit for the tail, the fur and quills carefully clipped back to a stubble.
"Hi JF," he answered quietly, giving me as good a stare down as I was giving him. I smiled understandably and flicked my tail around my side a moment before sitting down in one of the other chairs.
We talked into the night, gossiping and finding out what people were up to. MD's ghost seemed to be somewhat Gothic now, with dark spiky hair, though she wasn't playing it up too much here. We did verge on some difficult topics occasionally, but MD clearly had gotten a lot of practice in diverting conversations. After the initial greeting, we shifted back to first names, to avoid confusing the others.
He caught me in the kitchen at one point, while we were preparing a snack. "I never had the chance, but thanks for being there last August. And for sending AT my way," he said quietly.
"I'm glad I was able to be there. It's not nice to go through alone if you can help it," I answered, filling a glass of water. "Need any help with anything?"
He chuckled quietly. "Only if you can find a changed Optometrist. I seem to have caught the 'pine's near sightedness and I don't dare go to a Norm eye doctor to get glasses. I can get by, but I can't drive."
"I haven't heard of one, but put a call out and maybe one can be found."
He nodded and grabbed a couple of plates, carrying them into the dining room. I grabbed the other plates and set them on the table for people to pick at as they wanted.
"So when are you two going back to Halifax?" Mom asked while we snacked on left overs.
Jenn swallowed a forkful of stuffing. "I think we're going back on Friday. Assuming we can survive living with the parental units that long."
"Well, if it gets too much, you two know you can always crash here. We're running Joe back home tomorrow so we'll have a spare bed and lots of room in general," mom invited them.
Mandy smiled. "We'll think it over. I'm sure we'll be back out before we head back down anyways."
I chuckled and thought for a moment. "How much room do you think you'll have in your car? I'm planning to spend New Years with AT and some friends and was going to take the bus, but if you guys are going down then too, I'd split the gas costs."
Jenn and MD exchanged glances and thought a moment before nodding. "Sure, we should have room," Jenn said. "Just don't bring too much if you can. The trunk will be pretty full as is."
I grinned back, "I travel light, especially if it's only for a few days. Thanks. Five-ish on Friday isn't too late is it?"
MD shook his head. "Not at all."
They stayed for a few more hours, talking and telling stories until calls started coming in from their families to find out where they were. Regretfully, they left, promising mom they'd be back before going back to the city.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Work today seemed to take an unnaturally long time to go by. With about three quarters of the office taking vacation time, there weren't many of us around, and those of us who were around weren't in the mood to do much actual work. Most of the afternoon, I ended up talking MMO's with Chris, the cubicle dweller behind my own desk.
Five o'clock finally arrived, and I was able to update my time sheets and escape to Jenn's waiting car. We made a quick stop to pick up my gear, and hit the highway. MD was seated in the back seat, behind shotgun, and he insisted I take the front seat, claiming he was more comfortable in the back. I never even thought they were setting me up.
Catching up on the week gone by took us past Oromocto and onto the dark highway that cut through CFB Gagetown's training grounds. The conversation lulled while Jenn focused on the road. Traffic was steady, but not heavy, mostly truck traffic trying to get their loads to their destinations before the holiday.
That was when Jenn dropped her bombshell. "So do you wear a bra?" Jenn asked innocently, still staring ahead.
Behind me, I heard MD sputter and try to muffle himself. I swung my head and tried to stare at her, but the lights from the other lanes of traffic were playing havoc with my night vision, leaving her as a shadowed blur. It didn't keep my jaw from dropping to the console. "Whah-wha-what?" I finally got out.
"It's a simple question, do you wear a bra?" she asked again, turning her head a little to glance at me then refocusing on the road.
Behind me, the 'pine seemed to be going into some sort of self-inflicted seizure, but the angles were wrong for me to see what was happening to him.
"No, I don't wear a bra! I'm a guy! Why would you ask that?" I shouted indignantly.
Jenn's smirk turned into a wide smile that was obvious even in the darkness. MD's seizures broke out into full scale laughter. I stared at the driver in confusion, realization slowly dawning on me.
"That's not what MD says, JF," Jenn added with a wink I couldn't miss.
I twisted around in my seat, the belt tightening painfully around my chest. "You told her?" I glared accusingly at the laughing 'pine.
"Well, despite her and AT's efforts, all those quills and fur around the apartment aren't exactly easy to hide," Jenn explained while MD tried to calm down.
"You could've warned me," I growled back to the pine.
He grinned back. "And ruined your reaction? It was perfect. I just wish we had a dash-cam to record your reaction."
"I suspected back around Thanksgiving, and confronted her... him... whatever, around Hallowe'en. He told me everything, including about you."
I oh'ed softly and nodded. "So what do you make of all this?"
She shrugged a bit focusing on the road while we crossed the big bridge over the St John River. "Honestly? I'm not sure what to make of it. If I didn't see his prints, and get poked more than a few times from his quills, I'd dismiss it entirely. But Mandy, Alex, Darren, and now you. I've met so many now, I can't deny it. I KNOW it is happening. I just don't know why."
I faced forward again and adjusted the belt so it wasn't digging into my breasts as much. "None of us know why. That's the 6 billion human question lately."
The car fell silent with that sobering thought. We were passing by Cambridge Narrows when I broke the silence. "So, since you're the first who knows who hasn't changed... How do I look?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you're the first person I've met who knows about us and who hasn't changed. So you can see my... well my ghost, my unchanged face. I haven't seen it in years now, and I'm just wondering what it looks like now."
Jenn checked the highway, and reached up and flicked on the map light on my side of the car. She waited a moment for our eyes to adapt, then looked over at me. I made sure I faced her.
"Well, hard to say. You look like You, like you did before. Different hair colour, but the same face. Your hair seems a bit longer maybe, but not too long." She glanced back at the road. "Though knowing that you're a girl now, I can sort of see signs of it too. You've got a softness to your face, less masculine, no beard shadow, little things like that. Nothing that makes you look like a girl, but if you know what to look for, it seems obvious."
I rubbed my muzzle a bit. "Anything else?"
"Not really, you're in really good shape. Maybe a softness in the upper chest but like your face, nothing obvious. I can't even see your tail or the hole in your pants that Mandy says is there."
I thought it over a bit and twisted enough to just see Mandy. "Must be handy, to have someone who can see what everyone else sees."
He nodded. "It is; she's stopped me many a times when I went out dressed the wrong way, or with my bra too low and stuff. Wish I could get rid of it, but not yet."
That set the tone for the rest of the trip. We chatted about what the unChanged saw, and didn't see and the problems it caused. It made for a fun and surprisingly relaxing conversation.
We crashed AT's apartment around 9. To my slight annoyance, she already knew Jenn was a Knowing, but we got past it quickly. We continued our conversations from the car, and segued to the upcoming party. Just about everything was ready to go, but there was a lot of stuff to pick up at various stores around the city, which fell on me. AT, Jenn and MD all had to work for most of the weekend.
After one final go through of the plans, and all of the directions I needed to follow to get to all the places, MD and Jenn left and we were able to crash, her in her own bed, me in the spare room.
Monday, January 1st, 2007
OK, I'd be lying if I didn't say I was a little disappointed we weren't able to get on TV last night, but having a convention room for us to gather in worked extremely well in the end.
Saturday found me driving around town gathering everything that didn't need to stay refrigerated and tossing it all in AT's apartment. I picked her up at the end of her shift, and we ended up spending most of the rest of the night trying to inflate balloons. Claws plus inflated latex are not a good combination. By the time we'd filled and tied off the last of the balloons, we estimated we had had a fifty percent pop rate, and considered it a success. (MD offered to help but even if she didn't have quills on her arms, there was no way we couldn't see that as a recipe for a pop-tacular disaster).
Sunday, I dropped AT off at work, and Jenn and I began to ferry all the supplies to the Hotel's Convention room. We also did the last bit of running around to gather up the food and drink supplies for the evening. Once most of the driving was done, we dropped AT's car off at the Casino, and Jenn took me back to the hotel. If we needed any more driving, she'd be the errand girl.
By three, I was becoming a mess of nerves, trying to coordinate the decorating, and keep track of early arrivals, checking them off the guest list and putting those who wanted to work to work. Jenn was out grabbing all the cheese and crackers she could find in the local grocery stores. We had ordered coldcut trays and veggie trays, but we had completely forgotten to get cheese and crackers.
"Hey JF, our music has arrived," MD called leading a new furry into the room from the back doors.
He was a short furry, who looked mouselike but didn't have a mouse's ears. He had slate gray fur and a thin foot-long tail. His whiskers twitched in the air as he looked around the room. I padded over to him and held out a paw.
"JF, this is Darren. Darren, this is JF. Darren's the amateur DJ I mentioned," MD introduced us. Back in November, MD and Jenn had been at a party and discovered the shrew handling the music.
"Hey there, welcome to the party. So you don't mind spinning the tunes for us?" I said, shaking his paw.
He twitched nervously and nodded. "Sure, one gig is the same as any other, and the chance to do it among other furres, well I ain't gonna pass that up."
"Good to hear. Pick a spot and if you need any help with anything, just grab someone."
He grinned and his nervousness seemed to fade. "Sure, I think setting up over there would be best. My van's parked by the back door. If I could get a few arms to haul it in, that'd be great."
"Sure 'nuff," I flagged down a couple early arrivals and sent them with the shrew-DJ.
Around five, Natalie flagged me down. I had passed the checklist on to her once she arrived. "The Front Desk wants you to head up there," she told me.
"Any idea what for?" I asked, glancing around to make sure there were no emergencies that needed immediate attending to. Darren had soft music playing already, quiet enough to not interrupt the preparations still going on, but loud enough to start putting people in a party mood.
"They said there's someone up there to see yah," the mare said.
"OK, hold the fort down here." I left the conference room and jogged down the hall to the front desk. A familiar young tabby was standing there with a couple about my age.
"Hi Richard, good to see you again," I greeted him, holding out my paw. The older couple seemed to be enough to keep him serious, since his eyes never drifted south of my neck. He introduced me to his aunt and uncle.
"We just wanted to make sure he was going to be in good hands when he was up here," his uncle explained, shaking my paw. Richard was only in Grade 12 and a bit young to be with us, but based on my own reputation and my mom's reputation, his parents had given him permission to come, as long as I kept him out of trouble. It turned out, mom had taught his mother back when she taught in Hartland, a fact that made me feel Capital-O Old.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a plastic band. I motioned for Richard to lift his arm and I put it around his wrist. "He'll be fine. I've made sure to warn everyone to make sure nothing alcoholic touches anyone with these bands," I explained, showing the band around my own wrist. "And I'll personally be watching him like a mother cougar watches her cubs. He'll probably be the only dry Grade 12er in the province tonight."
I made sure to watch him when I gave the cougar warning. His face fell a bit as he caught the implication. I nodded to him and looked back at his aunt and uncle.
They exchanged looks and nodded. His uncle spoke up. "That satisfies us. We'll pick you up tomorrow sometime. You've got our numbers and you know our motel up here. Have fun!"
We said our farewells to them and I lead Richard back to the room. "I'm serious about the bands. I've warned everyone, if I smell alcohol on anyone with the bands on them, I'm going to have their hides," I flexed my claws with the warning to make sure he knew I was serious. There were certain advantages to being one of the alpha predator types in the group, and I certainly wasn't above using them to my advantage.
"OK, I got yah... Wow!" he looked into the room and looked around. There were about 30 people in the room so far; we were expecting about 60 total, 45 furres and 15 Knowers, from around the Maritimes and beyond. Probably one of the biggest gatherings of real Furres the region ever saw, at least until next year.
"Go introduce yourself, mingle and so on. Just stay away from the bar." I warned him, stepping around and back into the room. I checked my watch and frowned. "Has anyone seen AT yet? Her shift ended thirty minutes ago," I shouted out.
"No sign of her yet," someone shouted back.
I grabbed some cold cuts and cheese off a tray and munched on them going back to helping get the party going.
Around six, I was greeting Claude and Annette, a new fur from Bathurst, when I saw a hotel worker standing at the door. I sent the French furres off into the crowd and made my way to the worker. "Can I help you?"
The worker looked around nervously, blinking a lot. The room lights were dimmed a bit and some strobes were flickering near Darren's table. "I just needed to check and see if there were any animals around here. Some of the workers have reported strange smells, and after what we heard you guys did to that room last year.... I was sent to remind you that animals are not allowed here."
I turned my head and smirked a bit. "They must be mistaken. Look around, no animals around here," I said, swinging my arm around to indicate the crowd.
It was then I noticed there was a bit of commotion at the back of the hall. The Known reacted first, with various reactions, mainly startled. Some of the Furries noticed next and began to step back, creating an alley through the crowd. I caught sight of the source and my eyes widened in surprise.
"Oh my, I didn't realize any of you were into that," the worker said quietly before catching himself and trying to act more professional. I let his comment go unanswered.
She was dressed, almost overdressed all things considered, in a silky evening gown that clung to her very nicely, and showed off her form like a super model. MD and Jenn exchanged looks and smiled. "Excuse me a moment," I told the worker and met AT half way. She paused, facing me, twitching her tail uncertainly.
"It looks good on you," I told her, giving her a warm smile.
She looked at me, then looked away. "Thanks. Jenn and MD picked it out for me, got the adjustments made and stuff," she said quietly, the most nervous I have ever seen her.
"They did an excellent job then."
She nodded. "I know, it's so nice to be in something that actually fits well for a change. But next year I think I'll just go for a blouse and slacks." We chuckled a little and she felt around in the pocket of the jacket she carried over her arm, finally pulling out a set of car keys. "Could you move my car please? I parked by the back doors so not too many would see me coming in, but I don't want it to be towed."
I twitched my tail towards the hotel worker. "Sorry, need to defuse a small problem first. But just a sec." I turned and found Jenn and MD in the crowd. "Hey Jenn, Catch!" I called out, lobbing the keys to her. "Since you dressed AT up, you can move her car for her."
She snapped them out of the air and grinned. "Sure enough, Jo. But to warn you, you're in our sights for next year's make over."
"Yeah yeah whatever. Gotta catch me first." I turned back and gave AT a quick, careful hug. "Coat rack's by the door. I'll talk to you later," I whispered before stepping back and returning to the worker.
The situation was quickly handled, and I was able to shift from organizer to just participant for the most part. I did make sure to keep an eye on the bar area and had to shoo Richard away from it more than once. Unlike our music source, we hadn't been able to find a Changed or Known bar keeper, so it was a serve yourself bar, somewhat watched over by myself and the designated drivers.
Darren proved to be an excellent DJ. He managed to find the perfect volume level so those who wanted to dance, could knock themselves out, while those who wanted to talk could talk at the other end of the room without shouting. And talk there was a lot of. Everyone had stories to exchange, close calls to share, tips to give, and just relishing the openness they had here. I tried to listen in on a few of them, but found myself getting a pounding migraine from accent overload. Newfie Engilish, Caper English, Acadian Franglais, Gaspe French and even New England dialects from some American couples all mixed in the air in a linguist's wet dream, or, considering the amount of booze in play adding its own twist to speech, a linguist's worst nightmare.
At eleven thirty, we did a count down and a quick toast for the two couples over from Newfoundland.
At ten to, I motioned for Darren to quiet the music and borrowed a microphone. AT, Michael and Natalie were moving through the crowd, passing out flutes and filling them with champagne. I had a flute of grape juice beside me to be ready for the toast. AT caught my eye lifting the bottle as she stood next to Richard. He looked pleadingly at me, already holding an empty glass. I pretended to think it over, then nodded. "Just the one," I called to him. I had cleared permission for the New Years toast with his mother ahead of time, but he didn't need to know that.
Soon enough, everyone had a drink (or two) in hands and paws, and were looking towards me. Darren swung a spot light around to light me up more, to my embarrassment. I gulped to swallow my unease and flicks the microphone on, tapping it with a claw. To one side of the crowd we had a TV set up, tuned to ATV. I kept an eye on their own countdown and tried to pace my semi-prepared speech.
"I... I'm not much of a public speaker, and I only have about five minutes left, so I'll make this brief. First of all, I wanted to share some thank yous. Thank you for our DJ, Darren here for providing the entertainment for tonight. You can be sure you'll be booked for us again next year," I grinned at him and waited for a round of applause and a bit of hooting, even a howl or two.
"I'd like to also thank the Hotel here for renting us this meeting room and only charging an arm and a leg for us, leaving our tails alone... For this year at least." I grinned and waited for the chuckles to die.
"And I'd like to thank the Haligonian Furres and Known who did all the leg work, in finding this place and helping get everything organized locally. Without the help of people like AT, MD, Jenn, and everyone else I'm forgetting, this wouldn't be possible."
I waited out the applause and hooting a few moments, then raised my hand for silence. "And finally, I wanted to thank all of you for coming. The transportation networks in this region are not the best on a good day, and for people with our... conditions, it can be even more difficult."
"Horns do NOT work well on those little Dash-8's they fly around here!" someone shouted.
"You think horns are bad? Try a rack of antlers," someone else countered, to the laughter of the group.
I glanced at the timer and held my hands up for silence. "In any case, it's been quite the year for all of us. Shocking for most, difficult for all. I'm glad to see everyone is handling it well though and I hope we can maintain the momentum we have going into the coming year and beyond.
"There is a supposedly old Chinese proverb, some say a curse, that applies to us extremely well. 'May you live in interesting times'. Well, I find it hard to imagine how the times can be any more interesting than we have now. And now, we are at the dawn of a new year. Let's welcome it in, and hope it is interesting in good ways for all of us. In Ten... Nine... Eight..."
I reached down and picked up my flute of juice and rejoined the crowd in the countdown. "Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Happy New Year!!".
I turned and found AT next to me. We clinked our glasses and took a sip. I waited for her to lower her glass, then leaned in and gave her a kiss.
"That is wrong in so many ways," she whispered, giggling softly.
I grinned back, twitching my ears back as Darren pipped the TV audio through his speakers for singing Auld Lang Syne with the broadcast. "Three ways by my count," I whispered back. "Man to man, woman to woman... or cat to dog. Any one of those is bound to damn us, if you're into that sort of thing."
She grinned back and gave me another peck before slipping away, joining in singing the last verse.
The TV was muted and Darren restarted the music and the party continued. We paused once more to count in the Eastern Time Zone and watch the ball drop in New York, and just partied well into the night.
Some people retired to rooms in the hotel itself, or to other places. Most of us crashed in the room itself till morning, to the annoyance of the hotel staff. Come morning, we groggily helped Darren pack up, and the group slowly separated, making our own ways home, most nursing headaches of various degrees. I made sure Richard was picked up and left the last of the cleanup in AT's paws. My bus home left too early for me to stay and help with all the cleanup and damage payoffs, to my sincere regret.
In any case, I'm home now, and AT's let me know that everything's going fine back in the City, setting my concerns at ease. Even though it was good to see everyone like that, getting home is a huge relief as well. I just hope I can catch enough sleep to be somewhat functional for work tomorrow.
A Rolling Stone Gathers No Veil
|The Veil (A Paradise Series)
(First: Holes in the Veil)