Of Men and Mice

There! I faced the tussock of grass that had rustled and crept toward it. The full moon had hidden behind a cloud so I could not see what was hiding in the long grass, but I knew something was there. I lifted my foot and placed it down as slowly as I could, easing my weight forward. Each step was as silent as I could make it as I moved in imperceptible increments. My full attention was focussed on the tussock and the hidden rustler.

I was so close, so very close. I didn’t even breathe deeply in case my exhaled breath gave away my position. I was almost close enough to smell the rustler, tantalising hints of warmth and food. I began to gather myself to pounce, flexing my muscles and settling my balance.

A flurry of cool air disrupted my pounce and a feather brushed my nose making me sneeze as a damned barn owl snatched my mouse and soared away with it. I gave chase yipping my disapproval. The owl settled on a low branch of a tree and I skidded to a halt below it.

The only sign of my mouse was a long tail hanging from the owl’s beak. The owl looked down at me and then stretched its neck and tilted its head back. The tail vanished and the owl shook its feathers back into place before peering down at me again.

That was my mouse, I bared my teeth at the thieving bird, but all it did was blink at me before launching from the branch to skim across the field behind me. Damned feather brain had ruined my hunting. I wouldn’t find anything else in the field after charging across it like that and even if I did the damned owl would snatch it from right under my nose again. I trotted along the hedgerow aiming a silent snarl at the stupid bird as it shrieked from the far side of the field.

I headed for the High Street giving up on a fresh dinner and settling for fast food again. I avoided the Indian take-away because I remembered how much I’d suffered the last time I foraged there; curry did not agree with my digestive system, apparently. The Chinese restaurant was always slim pickings and had a particularly aggressive cat so that was out too. That left me with a choice between burgers, kebabs, pizza or chicken; or maybe a selection from each.

I felt a pleasant fullness by the time I headed home even if the tang of pickle was lingering on my tongue beating the anchovies easily. I had avoided the temptation of fresh rat as all the food places put out rat bait and that didn’t agree with me any better than curry. The feral cats were all unharmed as well because they were tough and stringy, and I had a personal rule against hunting cats.

The moon was flitting in and out of the patchy cloud making it difficult to stay in the shadows, not that the street lighting and passing cars left much shadow anyway, but I could pass as a large cat or small dog to a fleeting glance. A longer look would let people see one of the growing population of urban foxes and most would watch me go on my way without interfering.

Home at last. I toured the garden checking for intruders and renewing my scent marks. Next door’s fat, lazy Persian cat had been in again and left its calling card right in the middle of the back lawn. Maybe I should bend my personal rule and deal with it in a permanent fashion, but for now I’d employ the old-fashioned method and cover its scent with my own.

Garden secure I could relax and go inside. I approached my small dog flap in the back door, no way would I call it a cat flap, and sneezed. There was a large, soft, white feather laying in my way. Damn bird. As if it wasn’t enough to steal my mouse it had to go dropping feathers in my territory.

I held my breath and used a paw to scrape the feather out of my way before slipping through my flap. I sneezed again, but felt myself relaxing as the familiar smells surrounded me. My claws clattered on the tiles and wooden floor as I trotted from the kitchen to the bathroom.

I ignored the man lounging on my settee, even if he was all but naked and slightly damp from the shower. He smelt better than anything I’d eaten tonight, but I wasn’t going to let that distract me from my sulk.

The bathroom was still slightly steamy, but there was a fresh, dry towel on the rack. I nosed the door shut and glanced at my reflection in the full length mirror. I snarled at the bedraggled red fox looking back at me and hopped into the shower before shifting back to my human form. The water ran warm from his shower when I turned it on. Damn man was difficult to ignore.

I scrubbed the shed fox hair and the night’s detritus from my skin and human hair. There were many things that I’d do in my fox form that made my human form shudder, so I tried not to think about what the fox form got up to while in human form and vice versa. I was still close enough to the fox to find showering and covering my scent with artificial perfumes offensive.

My human form countered with mild disgust over my fox form taking a dump in the middle of the lawn. I did my best to ignore the internal bickering and enjoy the hot water. It always took a little while to settle into a form. When I first shifted I’d worried that I was going mad, suffering split personalities or whatever, but it made sense in a way that each of my forms would have different priorities and reactions.

And it wasn’t as though I could seek professional help for the problem. I’d be on heavy medication the minute I mentioned shifting; if not locked up in the local mental ward. I’d coped by myself and done it well enough to function in my mixed up world.

By day I held down a job that paid enough to keep a roof over my head and food on the table most of the time. So what if I spent a few nights a month on four feet rather than two? It wasn’t as if I was the only one doing that.

My family had been fox shifters for centuries as far as I could make out. It wasn’t a large community and they tended to stick together. Carrying on with a human or a wild fox was frowned upon, and other species of shifters weren’t considered much better.

That made me a double embarrassment to my relatives; not only was I involved with another species of shifter but a male shifter at that. My parents and sisters accepted it, but quite a few of my other relatives weren’t so accommodating. That was their problem, not mine.

Thinking about my family wasn’t improving my mood. I switched off the water and wrapped myself in the warm, dry towel that was waiting. I rubbed a hand over my jaw feeling the bristles rasp against my skin. A shave would be a good idea and give me a bit longer to settle into my human skin.

I looked at my reflection to try and speed the process. I saw dark brown hair and blue eyes, a wide square jaw and olive skin. To match my fox I should have been several inches shorter, much slighter with freckles and russet hair. Most of my family looked like that and I was glad I didn’t. There was a rumour of wolf blood on my father’s side of the family and I seemed to prove it.

I knew I couldn’t hide in the bathroom forever, tempting as the idea was, but I wanted to be as human as possible before venturing out. I imagine that there are plenty of niggles in a normal human relationship to provoke arguments, without adding inter-species disagreements.

Shave complete, teeth brushed, drains unclogged and time to be civilised. I wrapped the towel around my waist more securely and left the bathroom.

“Cup of tea, Rey?” James asked as soon as I appeared. “Did you want supper? A snack?”

“You stole my mouse!” So much for calm and civilised. “And you left one of your damned feathers outside the door!”

“I’m sorry.” James looked upset for a second, but walked over to wrap his arms around me and plant a kiss on my cheek.

It would have been my mouth if I hadn’t turned my head away. I was still annoyed with him, but that didn’t stop my arms from wrapping around his waist and pulling him closer.

“I couldn’t help myself with the mouse.” James snuggled in and talked to my chest with his head tucked into my neck. “There didn’t seem to be much prey out and about tonight. I only meant to fly over to see how you were doing, but the mouse moved…”

I knew how that went. Sometimes it only took a twitch to trigger the kill and eat reflex. Not that I was going to forgive him that easily, despite how good he felt in my arms.

“And I didn’t mean to leave a feather outside. I thought I’d cleared them all up.” He nibbled on my neck for a moment before continuing, “I know they make you sneeze and I do try to keep them under control. You know I do.”

The feel of him in my arms, the press of naked human skin against naked human skin was distracting me from the annoyance of mouse and feather. James was beautiful whichever form he was wearing, but I couldn’t enjoy his owl form this closely. Barn owls aren’t cuddly toys anymore than foxes are, even if the feathers wouldn’t have made me sneeze.

James looked similar in both forms, which sounds stupid, how can a man look like an owl? But James managed it. As an owl he was tall and slender with long legs and large dark eyes in that distinctive heart-shaped face; his front was white and his back was pale brown with dark speckles.

As a human he was tall, just over six foot, slender with wiry muscles and long legs that seemed to go on forever; his face was triangular with a pointed chin and large dark brown eyes; his skin was pale, a creamy white without blemish, he did not tan or freckle. His hair was the same pale brown as his owl feathers and as soft. He didn’t have speckles in his hair, but otherwise he had the same proportions and colouring in both forms.

Unlike me. I was a couple of inches taller than James and more heavily built.

“Yes, I know you do try,” I responded at last as I rubbed my face against his hair inhaling his scent as well as the artificial ones’ of shampoo and shower gel. “But you still ate my mouse.”

“Let me make it up to you.” He pressed closer in case I was in any doubt about how he wanted to make amends.

I ran my hands over the smooth skin of his back as he mapped my chest with his lips. His hands were busy at my waist and my towel slipped away as his mouth drifted lower. He sank to his knees and my hands slid to his shoulders.

He hummed an approving sound and I looked down to see him lick his lips as he stared at my cock. The way he looked at me was always a big turn on. One glance from him across a room could make me hard, and when he was this close it was almost enough to make me come all over his face.

I groaned as that image drove me even closer to climax and I thought of mice and beaks and ice — anything to dampen my excitement. James didn’t help when he chose that moment to lick the length of my cock from base to tip. His hand wrapped around the base of my erection in a firm grip that helped me keep control, but then he played with my foreskin, tongue and lips working the sensitive flesh.

My hips bucked trying to thrust into his mouth and end the delicious torment. James wasn’t taken by surprise and rode out the thrust without letting me gain my objective. I groaned and would have begged if I could’ve formed the words.

James continued his slow exploration of my foreskin, wriggling his tongue to tease my slit. My cock grew harder than I thought possible and felt as though it would burst if I didn’t come soon. I was riding the edge between pain and pleasure and rocked my hips again.

This time I slid into James’ hot mouth and couldn’t stop myself looking down to watch my cock move in and out of his glistening lips. I loved the way his pale pink lips turned red when he was aroused, and his nipples would turn into rubies when I sucked them — not that I’d had chance to even touch them yet.

Watching his head bob and his lips stretch around my shaft was too much when coupled with the sensations of him sucking and licking. It only took a few seconds for me to come. James pulled off and let the last of my release splash across his face as I had imagined. My body clenched and another jet hit his cheek.

My knees gave way and I collapsed onto the settee in an ungainly sprawl. James grinned and stood up moving between my splayed legs to rub his prick against my lips. I opened and let him thrust into my mouth. He had one arm braced against the back of the settee and the other guided his cock.

I found enough energy to suck and move my tongue, but I was still too far gone to be an active participant. James didn’t seem to mind doing all the work and it wasn’t long before he filled my mouth with his own bitter, salty come.

He collapsed onto me by degrees and we lay tangled together on the settee for several minutes as we both recovered. I groped for one of the abandoned towels and wiped the worst of the stickiness from our skins.

“I need another shower,” James muttered when I dropped the towel back on the floor.

“No you don’t.” I didn’t want him washing off my scent. I wasn’t sure if it was a fox thing or a human kink, but I liked him smelling of my come.

“Can we at least move to the bedroom?”

“Bedroom sounds good. Can you walk yet?”

James waved an arm. “Shit. Wrong form,” he groused and tried to sit up which made us fall off the settee.

I landed first with James on top of me so I was mashed onto the cold boards with a damp towel under my left shoulder and another under my right thigh. James’ knee came rather too close to ending my fun for the evening and jabbed my left inner thigh. His elbow caught me under the chin and snapped my teeth together.

“Let’s do this carefully,” I suggested. “Bed’ll be much safer.”

“Maybe. We fell off the bed the other night.”

“We’ll just have to be careful in bed as well, once we get there.”

Untangling took a little while as James insisted on checking me for bruises and kissing them better. The trip to the bedroom was quicker than I’d originally intended, but neither of us fell over on the way. We’d both recovered enough to make full use of the comfortable flat surface of the bed.

“You’ve been eating pickles,” James complained as I was dozing off.

“You ate my mouse, what did you think I was going to eat?”

“Stupid furball.”

“Thief.”

I was nearly asleep when James burped loudly and reached for the tissues on the bedside table.

“Did you want your mouse back?” James asked.

“Not after you’ve had all the good bits.” I shuddered at the thought. My fox form mightn’t have been as picky, but I was almost fully into my human form by now and not the slightest bit interested in an owl pellet even if it was the remains of my mouse.

“Don’t say I didn’t offer. I’m going to brush my teeth again.”

“I might be up for a counter-offer by the time you get back.”

“Hah! We’ll see about that.” James crawled out of bed and headed for the bathroom.

Even in my human form there was enough light for me to watch him walk across the room and as a shifter my powers of recuperation were excellent. I was up for round three before I heard the bathroom door close.

My fox form might still be sulking about the lost mouse, but my human form was enjoying the benefits of the apology and was more than willing to lose every mouse my fox form could find. James was worth a lot more than any mouse and I should let him know that.

Or maybe I’d just enjoy the apologies tonight and let him know how much I loved and appreciated him tomorrow when we were both thinking in human terms.

***

Sometimes our relationship was complicated by our other forms and sometimes not. James bought me a white sugar mouse the next day to make up for the furry one and I ate it all, except the string tail.

This owl and fox have more than mice in common.

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