The door flew open as four little giggling balls of fur and energy ran into the house.
Art sighed a little as he prepared to clean the kitchen before his wife came home.
Vanessa and Art had finally decided to make good on her promise to Sakaali and Graham to watch Anippe while they went out of town for a romantic getaway. Art wound up picking Anippe up from school with Eva and the twins so the Graham and Sakaali could get as much time out of their extended weekend as possible. Art listened to the thuds coming from upstairs as he dampened a rag and prepared to scrub the counters. Turning around, he saw a little Anubis resting her chin on the counter, her tail wagging gently behind her.
“Hey uncle Art!” She said enthusiastically
Art smiled a little “Hey kiddo, don’t you wanna go play with the girls?”
“Sure- but I wanted to see what you were doing first.”
Art dropped the wet rag down on the countertop “Nothing fun, just cleaning the kitchen before Vanessa gets home”
Anippe tilted her head slightly “Want me to help you?”
Art chuckled a little “Aww, you don’t need to do that”
Paying Art’s words little heed, the anubis pup began searching the kitchen drawers for a rag or something else suitable to clean the countertop with.
“If there’s two of us then things will go twice as fast!” Anippe reasoned as she found an old dishtowel that she quickly ran under the faucet after climbing up on a stool to reach the sink. “Besides, you looked kinda tired on the drive home, I want you to be able to take it easy!”
The Anubis girl tried reaching the tall counter at first by hopping, but that didn’t seem to work.
Art smiled as he resumed scrubbing the counter while his new found helper climbed up a stool next to the countertop so she could get to work. If the little Anubis pup had some energy to burn, perhaps it was for the best she decided to help out with some household chores.
Maybe this weekend wouldn’t be such a hassle after all Art reasoned.
The pup’s tail was swishing back and forth as she was humming an indistinct tune. Art didn’t recognize it, but Anippe would punctuate it once in awhile with “Go Go, Neboo!“.
Art slung the rag over his shoulder as he looked and his newly cleaned kitchen, Art looked down at Anippe and gave her head a little pat “You were right- that didn’t take much time at all. Thanks for your help”
Anippe’s tail started to wag even faster “You’re welcome!”
Art bit his lip and pondered for a moment before telling the little Anubis “Have a seat, I think you should have a little something for helping me”
Anippe took her seat on the stool she was using to help clean the counter while Art fished around in the fridge and freezer, eventually producing a pint of vanilla ice cream and a can of orange soda. Anippe watched from her stool as Art put a few scoops of ice cream into the glass and emptied the contents of the can into it as well. Art then stuck a straw in the mixture and slid it to the little anubis.
“It’s a tiger float!” He proudly announced “The girls love these, and since you helped me clean, you get one all for yourself!”
Anippe simply stared at the glass as her ears dropped slightly.
“What’s wrong?” Art asked
“M-mama wouldn’t want me having sweets before dinner…”
Art smirked a little “Well how about we just keep this between you and me?”
Anippe’s ears perked up “Y-you mean it?!”
Art smiled wider “Course I do” he said with a little wink
Anippe’s tail turned into a blur as she slowly slipped from her float.
“It’s good!” she observed as she took another sip.
“I thought you might like it.” Art said. “You earned it, kiddo!”
The anubis’ ears twitched as she looked towards the entryway, moments later the door opened and Anippe was off like a shot
“Auntie V!” She called as she wrapped herself around the jinko’s leg the second the front door closed behind the jinko.
Looking down, Vanessa laughed “Well hey there stranger! What brings you here?”
Anippe giggled “I’m spending the weekend here! Remember?”
“Of course I do!” Vanessa said as she gently pulled the anubis off her leg.
Art rounded the corner and pulled his wife into a hug “Hey you!”
Anippe stood on her tiptoes and gently pushed her ear against Vanessa’s slightly rounded stomach after Vanessa was embraced by her hubby.
“Hey Claire, how are you doing?” she asked the little bump.
While her name wasn’t set in stone yet Anippe had fallen in love with one of the possible names that Art and Vanessa were considering.
“You get everything taken care of?” Art asked his wife.
“Yep, and you know what I could really go for right now?”
“A paw rub”
Art sighed “Of course you could, want me to get the lotion?”
“What do you think?”
Without another word Art made his way to the bathroom and fished the bottle of lotion out of the medicine cabinet “specially formulated for paw pads” read a blurb on the bottle. Art neared the living room and heard giggles “Anippe what are you doing?”
Art entered the room and saw Anippe trying to rub Vanessa’s massive feet with her little paws. Chuckling at the sight, Art kneeled down next to the anubis pup as his wife continued to giggle.
“Eeny meenie miney moe- Looks like someone caught a tiger by the toe.” Art joked.
“It’s all right, Anippe. I’m sure the girls are waiting for you.” Vanessa spoke up.
“But I wanna help.” The little Anubis half-pouted.
“Anippe, you’ve already done way more than you’ve needed to do today, go ahead and play with the girls.”
Anippe looked at Art “But uncle Art I want to make sure Auntie V is happy, if she’s happy then Claire will be happy. This is serious business! We’re talking about my little striped cousin here!”
Vanessa laughed and leaned forward, placing her paws on Anippe’s shoulders.
“I appreciate the thought, kiddo- but you’re our guest and we both want you to have have some fun while you’re here. Go play with the girls, aunties orders.”
“Oh…..before I forget.” Anippe said as she picked up her backpack and began rifling through it. “Mommy wanted me to give you this.”
After some searching, the little she-wolf produced an ornate-looking scroll.
“What is this?” Vanessa asked.
“It’s a list of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ while I’m here.”
‘Hoo boy- the list is probably longer than Anippe herself’ Art mused, familiar with the rather fussy disposition of his friend’s wife. However, his jaw dropped when- true to his prediction- Vanessa held the list about chest high and it scrolled all the way to the floor.
However, both Art and Vanessa noticed something out of the ordinary about the instructions left behind. They couldn’t read any of it- Sakaali had written down nearly all of the instructions in Desert Kingdom hieroglyphics.
“Anippe, sweetie? Can you read any of this?” Art asked.
“Umm…..a little bit.” the pup said bashfully.
“Can you tell us what this says?”
“Well- this part right here says ‘Be sure to let Anippe stay up late since it’s not a school night. Also give her lots of treats like peanut butter cookies and ice cream sandwiches’…..” the little pup began.
“Anippe….” Vanessa said a little more sternly this time.
“Would you like to tell Auntie V and Uncle Art what this really says?”
“I…..I can’t- mommy didn’t teach me the complex High Row Griffins yet.” the guilty-looking Anubis girl said as her ears drooped.
“The only thing on here I can understand is the contact information for the resort they’re staying at this weekend.” Art pointed out. It appeared to be the only thing on there written in English.
“I’m sure we’ll figure it out.” Vanessa reassured the pup. “But in the meantime, I bet the girls are waiting to play with you.”
Anippe pouted a little and stood up “Ooookaaay… But call me down if need help with anything else!”
“Will do, kiddo.” Vanessa said as the pup turned to leave.
“Don’t forget- you still have some of your tiger float left in the kitchen.”
“Oh, right!” the pup said as her eyes widened with the realization that she still had nearly half of her sweet, refreshing treat waiting for her in on the counter.
Anippe disappeared into the kitchen and Vanessa began to chuff as her husband rubbed her paws.
“That little anubis is something else, isn’t she?”
Art smiled a little as he rubbed the center pad on Vanessa’s foot “She sure is. It’s almost like she can’t wait to have another jinko playmate.”
Vanessa let out a contented sigh as her husband continued applying pressure to the big squishy paw-pad.
“This feels so nice, Art.” she exhaled, feeling the tension and soreness simply disappearing with Art’s attentive fingers on her pads.
“Anything for my big tuff chuff…” Art chuckled. Normally Vanessa bristled at that nickname, but she was so relaxed that she hardly paid it any mind.
“Less nicknames, more rubbing…” the expecting tiger mom sighed happily.
Anippe had finished her float and rinsed off the glass before heading upstairs to rejoin the cubs. Although Anippe wasn’t trying to be sneaky, she still was so quiet that neither Art or Vanessa would’ve noticed her if she didn’t speak up.
“Don’t mind me….just passing through….” a little voice spoke up.
Vanessa was going to say something to the Anubis pup before realizing she should just follow Anippe’s advice.
“Mmm….what’s for dinner?” Vanessa asked drowsily as her husband continued to work his magic on those tiger toes.
“Zesty seared lemon pepper chicken….”
“Oooh- is it going to have those green things again?”
“Capers? I can put some on if you want.”
“Mm….I would like that very much.” the jinko was practically salivating now.
“Consider it done.”
“Hey- you think there will be enough for the girls and our guest?” Vanessa asked.
“I’m going to make some loaded baked potatoes too.”
Vanessa let out a happy, involuntary gasp upon hearing that.
“Ohhh…With sour cream and chives? That sounds so good.” she sighed wistfully. “Don’t forget- I’m eating for two now.”
“I know, I know….” he chuckled.
Art spent a few more minutes tending to his wife’s feet and toes, although for Vanessa it felt like the blink of an eye before he spoke up.
“Looks like I better get back to work on dinner.” he remarked as the delightful pressing and rubbing on Vanessa’s sore feet abruptly stopped.
Vanessa wanted to pout, but Art had already done plenty by agreeing to pick up the girls from school, tidy up around the house, massage her feet and now getting started on dinner.
“Would you like some help?” she asked her husband.
“I think I’ll be all right- you just take it easy for now.”
Secretly, Vanessa was glad he had said that. After helping a client work out with some weights, the only time she had a chance to get off her feet was during her checkup at the doctor’s office, and that wasn’t what she would consider relaxing by any stretch. It felt nice to zone out like this.
The expecting jinko began drifting off into a light sleep.
Out in the mountains, a solitary pickup made its way up a narrow, twisting one lane road.
“Are you certain we’re heading the right way?” Sakaali asked impatiently for at least the fifth time. “Perhaps we should check the GPS-“
“Don’t bother.” Graham cut her off. “The website for this place said cellphone and GPS devices would be useless since there’s no signal out here.”
“But how do you know if we’re heading the right way?” the Anubis asked.
“I don’t- I’ve never been here before, so this is all new to me.” he said as he cautiously rounded a bend. On the climb up, the topography was more reminiscent of the old cartoons with the road runner and coyote. Red rocks, steep cliffs, odd rock formations and a narrow road that he could just picture a cartoon coyote riding a rocket down before it sputtered and sent him down one of the steep chasms.
Something caught his attention on as he continued on the narrow road hewn from a mountainside.
Coursing down the sheer mountainside above before crossing the road in a little culvert.
It wasn’t a lot of water, but it caught Sakaali’s attention as well.
“I think this means we’re getting close.” he said to his wife, nodding at the little stream.
While still narrow and twisting, the surface of the roadway smoothed out considerably as the truck made its way to the top of the grade. There, the road before them began a descent into a valley between two mountain faces- one almost pastel red and the other a mix of stratified reds, greys and earth tones depending on how deep down the layer was.
Although the floor of the valley wasn’t exactly verdant, there were ribbons of cottonwoods and aspens radiating out below them. Alongside the cluster of trees, Sakaali could see a creek along with a ranch house and some smaller structures nearby.
“This must be the place.” Sakaali remarked as she peered out the window.
“Oh ayuh. Sure looks like it”
The two of them saw a wooden sign that read ‘Welcome to Rancho Hojas Oro’ as they rolled past.
She wasn’t sure how long she had been out, but she snapped awake when the doorbell rang.
“Be right there!” Art called out from the kitchen.
A groggy Vanessa stirred as she got up. Right away she noticed a tremendous commotion from upstairs and it was only getting closer.
The girls- all four of them- were clamoring down the stairs.
“We heard the doorbell….” Gabby began.
“I’ll get it!” Eva called out as her grabbers were almost on the doorknob.
The jinko cub almost threw the door open and was greeted by a petite wolf girl with a bag next to her on the doorstep and a little bundle in each arm.
“Well hi, girls!” the werewolf said, her tail swishing back and forth.
“I remember you! We met in the park….” Layla said, still unable to remember Amanda by name.
Eva was the first to see that the wolf-girl was cradling a pup in each arm.
“Is your mom home? We had something we wanted to give her…” Amanda said.
“Right here.” Vanessa said groggily as she raised herself out of her comfy chair.
“Oh my goodness! Such a cutie….” Layla squealed with delight as the two pups were quietly taking in their surroundings.
“Who are these little sweeties!?” Anippe asked eagerly.
“Girls- this is Ash and this is Mimi.” Amanda said.
The werewolf pups were oblivious to the introductions as the one with the light grey fur was absently chewing on its paw-digit.
“Oh hey, Amanda!” Art called out upon seeing his visiting co-worker. “Is Jerry with you?”
The werewolf shook her head ‘no’.
“My big Jerry-Berry had diaper duty last night, so I thought he’d like to catch up on his sleep while I took the girls out today.”
Art winced in apparent sympathy for Amanda’s hubby. “Oof- I’ve pulled that duty a couple of times before- pardon the expression.”
He shifted his attention to the two little pups in Amanda’s arms. “Hey you two! Are you being good little pups for your momma?”. This was not the first time Art had seen them- his wolf girl co-worker brought them by the office shortly after returning from maternity leave. “My goodness….you two are growing like little weeds since momma took you to the office.”
Vanessa smiled a little bit. Art adored kids and it wasn’t just the cubs he would dote over. Anippe was Exhibit A and the little baby wolves in Amanda’s arms were Exhibit B.
“This is unexpected- what brings you out this way, Amanda?” Vanessa asked.
“W-well, Art told us the big news. So, me and Jerry were tidying up around the place and I found some of my maternity stuff- not the clothes, obviously….” she chuckled nervously at the jinko who towered over her. “But I have this yoga mat, some weights, some DVDs on workouts while you’re expecting….”
Now that she inventoried the contents of the box she brought to Vanessa’s, it seemed like Amanda was hauling the proverbial coals to Newcastle. Or secondhand fitness equipment to a personal trainer.
“Aw..That was very thoughtful, but you didn’t have to come all the way out here for me.”
“Well- I guess you’ve done this before, but still….” Amanda said. “If you need anything from me and Jerry, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Vanessa smiled. She was certain the proud mama was chomping at the bit to show off her new cubs- who was she to deny her?
“Come on in- the girls and I would love to meet your little ones.”
Vanessa took a quick glance at the little pups in the she wolf’s arms and smiled
“May I… Hold them?”
Amanda smiled a little and gently passed the pups to the jinko who cradled them in each arm. It only took the little pups a few seconds to adjust to their new holder before they made themselves comfortable, nestling into the crook of Vanessa’s muscular arms and resting their heads against her biceps. The jinko giggled slightly as she gently bounced the pups in her arms
“My, these two sure are friendly”
Amanda chuckled “Yeah, I guess they get that from me”
Vanessa looked Amanda in the eyes and sighed a little.
“Hey, listen Amanda.” Vanessa bit her lower lip before continuing. “I uhhh… Just wanted to say sorry for the way I’ve acted towards you in the past. I might’ve mistaken you being friendly for something else, and it was rude of me and unjustified”.
Amanda’s tail began to wag a little as she listened to the Jinko. “But I can’t help it if your hubby is such a sweetheart, Vanessa! After all- He’s the one who introduced me to my big old Jerry Bear.”
“It was actually a company orientation meeting-” Art bashfully explained.
“If it wasn’t for Art, I wouldn’t be with my husband and have these two wonderful little pups of ours.”
“I just know that after this little one is born, I bet the three of them will be the best of friends and I’d love to set up some play dates with you.” Vanessa continued.
Amanda said nothing further and instead launched into a big hug, her snow white tail a blur behind her. It was a bit awkward for the big jinko, but Amanda’s joy almost seemed infectious. Still, Vanessa was looking for a way out of the hug when one of her daughters tapped Amanda on the leg.
“Umm, c-can we hold them?” Layla asked. “Pleeeeease?”
“Sure!” Amanda said eagerly as she broke the hug.
With the she-wolf’s approval, Vanessa carefully handed off one pup to an eager Eva and the other to Layla.
“Who’s a cutie boo boo!? You are!!” Layla baby-talked Ash.
“Aren’t you just the sweetest?” Eva cooed at Mimi.
“Hmmm…” Anippe looked as though she was pondering something as the looked at
Eva and Layla with the cubs. “Maybe I can teach them to howl.”
“Anippe, I don’t think that’s a good-” Vanessa began before Amanda cut her off with a gesture.
“Do you even howl, Anippe?” Gabby asked her friend.
“S-sometimes.” the pup stammered nervously.
“Let’s see you teach them, then.” Layla said as she carefully handed off Ash to Anippe.
The little Anubis looked nervous, but quickly cradled the wolf pup against her.
“OK….on three, follow my lead.” she said instructed the wolf pup with light grey fur.
Anippe seemed to be a little more fidgety as she could feel the eyes of the grown ups and jinko cubs on her now.
Here goes nothing, she said to herself.
“One, two, three……awoooooooooo!” Anippe howled using her indoor voice.
Ash remained completely silent, but Anippe could see that she suddenly perked up upon hearing the young werejackal ‘howl’.
“C’mon girl…….you can do it!” Anippe encouraged the twin pups. “Awooooo….”
Ash looked like she was following the Anubis girl’s lead as she closed her eyes and tilted her head back.
“That’s a girl! Awwwoooo!” Anippe mock-howled.
For a moment Ash was silent as the girls gathered around for a closer look. The pup’s tiny ears twitched a bit.
Anippe was positively beaming, certain that the little werewolf pup was set to follow her lead.
Then the werewolf pup let out a tiny sneeze.
Amanda could see the disappointment on the little Anubis girl’s face.
“Aww- don’t worry. I bet she’s just saving up her energy for the next full moon.” Amanda chuckled.
“Yeah….I guess that’s it.” Anippe said, certain she had been so close to coaxing a howl out of the little wolf pup.
“Ow! Ow! That’s not a toy…” Eva admonished Mimi as the pup was tugging on a pawful of the young Jinko’s hair.
“Here….let me.” Amanda said as she extracted Eva’s locks from the curious wolf pup’s grabby paw with the surehanded skill of a neurosurgeon performing an operation.
The petite werewolf had effortlessly scooped up both pups, one now in each arm.
“Oh most wise and honorable Anubis-sensei, you have imparted great wisdom in the ways of awoo-ing, but I am afraid the time for my nap draws near.” Amanda said as she held up Ash in front of Anippe and spoke in a less-than-convincing imitation of Mr. Miyagi.
The werewolf mother’s antics drew giggles from Anippe and Layla.
“Girls, it’s been a blast, but as Ash said- it’s time to head home for naptime.”
“Bye Miss Amanda!” Anippe waved.
“Bye, little Anippe” the werewolf mom called out. “Maybe someday I can get you to babysit these two.”
“Really!? That would be awesome.” the Anubis girl marvelled, her tail wagging at the mere prospect.
“Bye Ash! Bye Mimi!” Gabby said, waving her little grabber at the pups. She was a little sad to see them go since she hadn’t had as much opportunity to play with them nearly as long as her sisters or Anippe did.
“I thought for sure I could get them to howl.” Anippe sighed.
“Don’t worry, kiddo. It will only be a matter of time with such an enthusiastic teacher….er….sensei…” Vanessa chuckled, remembering the wolf-woman’s Mr Miyagi act on her way out.
“You think so?”
“Yeah- those things take time, though.” Art said before heading back to the ktichen.
“Me….a teacher?” the Anubis pup pondered.
“Just so you know, I’m not bringing you an apple every day.” Eva spoke up.
“Welcome to Rancho Hojas del Oro- my name is Chyasa!” a dark skinned woman cheerily greeted Graham and Sakaali as they got out of their truck.
The woman appeared almost human, save for what looked like a curtain of milky liquid levitating around her person, obscuring some of her arms as well as her lower legs.
She also appeared to be quite fidgety as she was swaying back and forth, occasionally spinning in a complete circle.
“Check in is at the front desk in the main house…” she pirouetted before pointing to the large ranch house immediately behind her.
“You quarters will be in those cabins over there.” she continued as she shimmied and elegantly pointed to some cabins beyond a couple of cottonwood trees.
It finally dawned on Graham that he was speaking to an Apsara. Even though he didn’t hear any music, just through sheer force of habit their greeter was rhythmically swaying her hips and moving her arms with a tangible and almost nervous energy.
“The stables and spa are closed for the evening, but you’re just in time for dinner, which will be served shortly in the picnic area by the gazebo over there….” once again Chyassa pointed to a small structure beyond a barn that Graham and Sakaali assumed were the stables.
The door to the farmhouse opened and a sturdy-looking minotaur emerged, climbing down the short stairway on the front porch.
“Hey there- y’all need a hand with your bags?” she asked in a somewhat hoarse sounding voice.
They were actually travelling pretty light- but neither Graham or Sakaali said ‘no’ as the two of them followed the Apsara and dark-haired minotaur inside the ranch house so they could check in.
As they were tidying up the kitchen, the doorbell rang again.
“Could that be Amanda?” Art asked out loud.
“Maybe she forgot something.” Vanessa said as she headed for the door.
However, Anippe was closer and she quickly bounded to the front door.
“I’ll get it!” she called out to Art, Vanessa and the cubs still in the kitchen.
Upon opening it, she was greeted by a tall, voluptuous ursine figure.
“Well hi there, Sweetie Pup!” Belle drawled as she saw the little Anubis greeting her. “Is it just me or are ya gettin’ bigger every time I see ya?”
“Hiya Belle Bear!” the werejackal pup called out eagerly.
Vanessa and the cubs headed to the front door to see who Anippe was talking to.
“And who do we have here?” the voluptuous grizzly asked as she eyed the cubs.
“Your mama told me y’all were the apples of her eye, but I never had the pleasure of meeting you in person.”
“Hi! I’m Eva.” Vanessa’s oldest daughter said proudly.
“This is Gabby…”
“…and she’s Layla.” the twins said, finishing up their introduction for one another.
The trio of cubs each held out their little grabbers, expecting a hearty handshake from Belle. They were caught off guard when the gregarious grizzly stooped down and spread her arms, squeezing all three of them in a big bear hug.
Eva struggled a bit before she realized their rubenesque ursine visitor smelled alot like cookies- plus she was so soft and warm.
Layla was thinking the same thing as she tried returning the hug as best she could.
“Did you bring cookies?” she asked abruptly.
“Layla! Manners…” Vanessa hissed impatiently. The cub looked up apologetically at her mother.
“I’m sorry.” the jinko cub moped. “It’s just that Miss Belle smells kinda like cookies.”
“Yeah…” Anippe added as she sniffed the air. “Peanut Butter cookies- my favorite!”
“Don’t you little honeystripes worry none!” she reassured Layla as she tousled her hair. “I put in a double shift at the bakery today, so I probably smell like all sorts of goodies. And y’all are in for a treat….”
The grizzly reached back onto the front doorstep and picked up a foil-covered platter. Peeling off the foil, she revealed dozens of cookies and little pastries to the eager cubs and increasingly interested grown-ups present.
“Oh, hey! Didn’t know we’d be so popular tonight.” Art said as he rounded the corner.
“Belle- this is my hubby, Art.” Vanessa said matter-of-factly.
“Hi there- my wife’s mentioned you before, but I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced.” Art said, sticking out his hand. The less said about Graham’s nanny-cam and their looking in on Sakaali’s lingerie party, the better.
Just like the cubs, Belle ignored the hand and went straight for a tight bear hug that caught Art off-guard.
For some reason, Art could envision a tiny, impish alter-ego of Graham on his shoulder telling him “Told you so…” with a smirk as he quietly marveled at both the strength and warmth of the ursine woman’s embrace.
The jinko’s husband returned the embrace, but had to stop himself from reaching further down to caress the soft and alluring bear woman’s ample backside. Even if he wasn’t able to stop himself from reaching down a little further, Vanessa was right there to put an end to that if need be.
“So you’re the proud papa of these little honeystripes? I bet the little darlin’s can be a handful sometimes.”
“Oh yeah….comes with the territory.” Art said as he let go of the bear-woman. He was so used to Vanessa’s tall and sturdy muscular frame- Belle’s plump and curvaceous body presented a rather appealing contrast.
“You girls excited about your new little sis?” Belle asked as she turned back to the girls.
“Mm-hmm!” each of the three jinko cubs nodded.
“We can’t wait!” Gabby added for emphasis.
“You know, Belle- if you don’t have anything else planned for tonight, the five…..six…..seven of us were going to watch a movie.” Vanessa said as she belatedly remembered to count Anippe and the cub who was most likely going to be named Claire among those in attendance. “You’re more than welcome to join us.”
The curvy grizzly’s eyes lit up.
“Yeah.” Art added. “The more the merrier.”
After checking in, the husky minotaur had shown Graham and Sakaali to their cabin while effortlessly carrying their luggage.
The interior of the cabin was very quaint and rustic- if Graham and Sakaali had arrived here by stagecoach instead of a pickup, it wouldn’t have looked much different. Although there were some signs of modern conveniences like lamps and indoor plumbing, the electrical outlets were carefully concealed by things like the drapes and décor.
On her way out, the minotaur let them know that dinner would be soon. The Anubis and her husband did a little unpacking before heading back out.
Waiting at the gazebo were some other guests also waiting for dinner.
Sakaali couldn’t help but roll her eyes as Graham immediately went over and struck up a conversation. At times, she could barely coax a monosyllabic grunt from Graham on the four hour ride over here, but here he is talking to random guests out of the blue.
Sakaali wasn’t sure if it was a human trait, or a human male trait, or a predominant trait among human males from New England, but it wasn’t long before her husband was bragging about the excellent time they made from their home to this getaway in the mountains.
“So how did you come over?” Graham asked another couple- a about the same size as Graham and his stoic looking golem wife.
“Oh, we took the 40 to Holbrook, then-“
“Oh nice! Did you get to see any of old Route 66?” Graham interrupted.
The golem’s husband nodded.
“Sabra and I actually live in Albuquerque, so we have Route 66 running right through the middle of downtown.”
“Wow- really? I mean- I’ve been living out here for almost a decade, but I don’t get to see that much of the old Mother Road.”
The golem appeared every bit as quietly exasperated as Sakaali, but said nothing right away. The two of them made eye contact and Sakaali could only apologetically shrug.
“Sabra and I wanted to see the Painted Desert on our way out here, too.” her husband said. “So we worked in a stop along the way.”
“Oh nice- that’s somewhere I always wanted to take the girls.”
“Oh yeah- this stunning creature here is my wife Sakaali and our little pride and joy is spending the weekend with some friends.” Graham almost beamed as he hooked his arm around his wife’s waist and pulled her close, much to Sakaali’s surprise.
“Oh? You have a daughter?” Sabra asked the Anubis. “I wouldn’t have known just by looking at you. If you don’t mind my asking, how did you manage to lose the weight?”
“Sabra and I have been thinking about starting a family.” the husband added, somewhat embarrassed by his wife’s direct questioning.
However, Sakaali didn’t seem to mind- well aware that the Golem was paying her a compliment.
“I suppose it’s a little bit of a cheat, but one of my good friends is a personal trainer.
We work out together several times a week.”
“Although even when you had some of that extra baby-fat, it was in all of the right places.” Graham almost purred as he leaned in and playfully nibbled on his wife’s right ear.
“Ah…Graham!” Sakaali almost squeaked as she tried squirming away from him, nearly dropping her beverage in the process.
Before Graham could continue playfully nibbling on his wife’s ear, the four of them were distracted by a loud metallic banging immediately behind them, followed by a noticeable heat radiating from the area around the grill.
They all turned to see a woman with short, reddish hair as she pulled the heavy grill off of the large, trough-like barbecue that was fashioned from what looked like some 55 gallon drums split in half vertically, reinforced and lined together to make what appeared to be a trough.
“Don’t mind me, folks.” the ignis spoke up as she scooped up a metal pail filled with black chunks. “Just making preparations for dinner. Hope y’all like pork cutlets!”
The four of them could see that she was grabbing the black chunks out of the pail with her bare hands and tossing them into the trough-like grill. Once they were in the grill, each of them could see that the ‘chunks’ were now glowing red.
It wasn’t until they say the minotaur carrying out a plate of pork cutlets that Graham and Sakaali realized how hungry they were.
The movie in question was a trilogy- a re-imagined version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where Captain Nemo was romantically paired with the kraken that had been pursuing the Nautilus. Despite the sultry, lavender-haired romantic lead, it was a surprisingly family-friendly movie and won accolades from both human and mamono critics.
Art, Vanessa, Belle and the girls piled onto the couch and were engrossed in part one. Anippe was on one side of Vanessa whispering various plot developments to Claire while Eva was sitting on an armrest, eventually reclining against Belle’s ample bosom. The twins each staked out a spot on either side of Belle, although about halfway through the second installment, they began to get weary and slump a little.
Belle’s goodies from the bakery were put on a platter and were almost gone by the time Volume One was finished.
By the time part two rolled around, Anippe had ceased giving Claire a play-by-play of events on the screen and was quietly snoring into Vanessa’s mane.
The jinko looked over at her girls and saw that they were dozing off as well, each of them taking up a different position on their ursine guest.
Art noticed this as well and was glad the girls had drifted off by the time the love scene in the second installment was being shown- it took place inside the a cloud of ink the Kraken let loose and he could hear Belle and Vanessa debating whether it was CGI lighting or the lead actress’ own bioluminescence.
“They say she did all her own scenes, including this one.” Belle insisted.
“Yeah- but this kind of clarity even though it’s filmed through a swirling cloud of Kraken’s ink? I think they had some help from the computers.” Vanessa said.
It looked as though Part Three of the trilogy would have to wait for another night, since the grown-ups in the room were feeling a little sleepy themselves and figured they should put the girls to bed instead of having them doze off on the couch all night.
“You fell asleep during the second act, kiddo.” Vanessa told the Anubis pup. “But that’s OK- it will be a surprise for our new arrival when she gets around to seeing it.”
“I…I wasn’t sleeping…” the Anubis pup protested. “I was just resting my eyes and pretending I was listening to an old-timey radio broadcast.”
“Of course you were….” Vanessa smirked.
It seemed the little Anubis didn’t have anything further to add- she was already beginning to drift back to sleep after the brief exchange with Vanessa.
The twins hardly stirred as Belle effortlessly lifted both of them up. Meanwhile, Art had scooped up a dozing Eva.
“OK girls….time to brush your teeth and then you can tuck in for the night.” Art announced to the cubs and pup when they all arrived at the girls’ room.
“Aww….” Layla pouted. “Figures the one night we get to stay up late and everything, we end up drifting off to sleep anyway.”
“Don’t you fuss now, sweetie- at least you had fun, right?” Belle reassured her.
“Y-yeah….when we were awake, at least.” the little jinko conceded.
The sleepy little cubs trudged off to the bathroom where they brushed their teeth and changed into their pawprint patterned pajamas.
Anippe was rummaging through her backpack, looking for something. Vanessa could see that she had a toothbrush and comb shaped like a little cartoon Anubis in a detective hat.
“Aw…..I forgot my Detective Neboo nightlight.” the little pup pouted before something occurred to her. “But…I’m sleeping over at a jinko’s house, so I bet I’m still good and safe.” she said as she went off to join the others in the bathroom in her pyramid pajamas.
Before long, fangs were brushed and paws were washed before the weary girls marched off to the twins’ room.
The group entered the bedroom and saw that a little pillow fort had been set up, a little sticky note was attached with most of the note was taken up by hieroglyphics. A tiny subheading underneath it in parentheses reading “The temple of Ra” Anippe and the cubs had already slipped inside- Art beckoned Vanessa and Belle closer. This little ‘fort’ must’ve been what they had been working on before dinnertime.
The jinko’s husband crouched down and lifted the covers revealing Anippe safe and sound in between the twins while Eva was curled up next to her sisters and the pup. He invited his wife and the visiting grizzly to take in the sight. Belle placed her paws over her chest and smiled.
Very quietly, the three exited the bedroom and made their way to the front door.
“Well, that was lots of fun! Thank you both for havin’ me.” Belle said as she reached the thresshold.
Vanessa put her arm around her husband “It was our pleasure, feel free to stop by anytime.”
Belle squeezed her paw a little and looked at the couple “Say… I’m sorry if I’m oversteppin’ my bounds here but… Do you two ever have second thoughts about havin’ kids?”
Vanessa chewed on her lower lip a little “Well, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days I thought we were in over our heads, but otherwise no.” Vanessa squeezed Art a little tighter “It was one of the most rewarding decisions we’ve ever made, why do you ask?”
Belle squeezed her paw again “Well havin’ your little darlins’ fallin’ asleep on me got me thinkin’ that maybe I’d like to have some cubs of my own one day.” Belle laughed a little “Although I probably wouldn’t be any good at bein’ a mama”
“Belle, let me ask you something-” Vanessa said “Those treats you brought over….would you say you made them with tender loving care?”
“I reckon so….why do you ask?”
“Because those were just cookies. If you dedicated that much care and effort into snacks, I’m sure you’ll do great with cubs of your own”
The grizzlies eyes lit up at the jinko’s words “Ya really mean it?”
“Of course I do”
Belle sighed happily “Well, you two have given me a lot to think about, see ya later!” Belle took a few steps down the walkway before stopping and putting both paws on her hips. “Watch out world, mama grizzly’s on the prowl!” She proudly announced.
“Imagine being the lucky bastard that she ends up dragging back to her cave” Art mused.
“What was that?” Asked Vanessa
Someone else was in the bedroom- someone besides Art, who was wrapped up in her arms and lightly snoring.
Was it a prowler?
It seemed unlikely, as a human prowler wouldn’t have made it this far undetected by either her or the cubs.
It didn’t take anywhere near as long for the tiger woman’s eyes to adjust to the darkness and the first thing she could tell about this uninvited visitor was that she was short and had dark hair.
Kind of like…..a certain Anubis pup who was spending the weekend.
As the little were-jackal crept closer, Vanessa could see that she had something in each of her little grabbers.
Cups and…..a slip of paper?
Anippe didn’t seem to notice that Vanessa was awake as she quietly set down one of the glasses on the nightstand adjacent to the jinko’s bed.
“………and one for you.” the Anubis pup murmured softly as she set the second glass down.
The little werejackal pup stood there for a moment as though in quiet contemplation before she set a little slip of paper down by each glass.
“Good night, Claire. Good night, Aunty V.” Anippe almost whispered before she quietly began backing out of the room.
Vanessa tried her hardest to supress a mighty chuckle- it seemed as though Sakaali and Graham’s pup had no idea she was awake for almost the whole time.
Fumbling for her little reading light, she got a better look at the slips of paper Anippe had left behind with the two glasses.
It was water. And accompanying each glass was a slip of paper with a little, crudely drawn tiger.
One read ‘FOR CLAIRE’ while the other read ‘FOR ANTY V’.
The jinko chuckled lightly as she absently reached out to take a sip from one of the glasses of water.
After sleeping in (and spooning), it was agreed that he and Sakaali would participate in some different activities in the afternoon. His wife had expressed an interest in an equestrian trail while Graham thought he’d try his hand at some trap shooting.
Twenty two out of twenty five clays with a $7000 imported Italian shotgun on loan from the resort’s pro shop. It was considerably different from qualifying with the M-4 carbine in his Army days. Both were long-ish firearms, both shot out little pieces of metal at a high rate of speed, but the similarities pretty much ended there.
Still, not bad for a beginner.
Graham also had to admire the ranch’s resourcefulness and ingenuity. They apparently had a dorome that worked at the resort’s spa who fashioned clay and mud into little discs before they would be baked dry by the ignis and not only used in-house at the retreat’s skeet range, but they would also sell them to other ranges or gun clubs.
He was confident Sakaali would be impressed if she was there to see it for herself before realizing the loud, repetitive ‘BANG’ of a shotgun and an Anubis’ ears don’t necessarily go well together.
He had been successfully fighting the urge to check his phone all day, remembering that Rancho Hojas de Oro was in a dead zone where no cellphone signals could reach. Graham hoped his little Wag-a-Muffin was doing all right.
It was beginning to get late and he wondered if Sakaali was back from her trail ride yet.
Although the resort spared no expense for many amenities, the dining arrangements were surprisingly informal. Just like the first night there, Guests would line up for an array of barbecued meats on a giant grill with some wooden picnic tables set up in an open air pavilion. Supposedly this was done to encourage guests to intermingle among one another, but the more likely reason was that the ranch’s more permanent kitchen was currently being renovated.
Graham’s meandering thoughts were interrupted as the door to their room opened.
It was Sakaali.
However, Graham did a double-take as his wife walked in.
“Ah- there you are.” she said. “It’s getting late- shall we head out for dinner?”
Graham was speechless. His wife was poured into an impossibly snug pair of tan riding pants while wearing a not-quite-as-tight white scoop necked top that also highlighted the curves on the Anubis’ upper body.
“Sakaali….what is….?” he couldn’t quite finish the question and instead, waved his hand at her.
“Oh- this? It’s some horse riding apparel the stable outfitted me with…” she playfully did a turn. “Why? Do you like it?”
Her husband’s jaw was still on the floor.
“Do….do you get to keep it?” he asked.
“What kind of question is….?” she stopped herself when she saw for herself how aroused Graham was.
“Oh- my desert knight appears to be quite randy now, doesn’t he?” she teased as Graham wrapped his arms around her.
“Babe…those jodhpurs leave almost nothing to the imagination” he almost growled in his wife’s pointy ear. “And I…..freakin’…… love it….”
“My my….I’ve already spent much of today astride a magnificent stallion.” she growled back while playfully nipping at his neck. “I suppose I could make time for one more.”
Earlier in the day, Vanessa could overhear the girls playing one of the board games Graham’s parents got them for Christmas- she was pretty sure it was Pyramids and Plunder given how enthusiastically Anippe was expalining the rules to Eva and the twins.
“And then…when you spin the wheel and land in the catacombs, you say ‘Oh no! You plundered my pyramid!’….”
“Do I have to?” Layla almost sighed.
“Well….it’s not like its mandatory.” Anippe clarified.
That drew a quiet chuckle from Vanessa as she left to brew a fresh pot of coffee.
She took her time and when she returned to check on her girls and Anippe, it seemed something else had their attention.
They looked as though to be done with the board game now and were watching something on TV.
Vanessa cocked her ears. She was certain she could hear more than one voice now.
Anippe and one of the twins.
And they were…..singing?
“♩ ♪ ♫ Figthing Crime for me and you ♩ ♪ ♫”
“♩ ♪ ♫ Always knows the right thing to do ♩ ♪ ♫”
“♩ ♪ ♫ Go go, Neboo! ♩ ♪ ♫ “
“♩ ♪ ♫ Cracking the case with even the tiniest clue….♩ ♪ ♫
“♩ ♪ ♫ It’s time for the Great Anuby-Chan Detective Neboo!♩ ♪ ♫”
She could no longer hear her daughter or the Anubis pup, but rather the TV.
“Tonight’s episode- Kekhet Springs Her Trap!” the narrator announced.
“Come on you guys…” Layla said as she finished off a bowl of cereal. “All the episodes are the same. Some treasure goes missing, Neboo and her partner are called in, they follow the clues and find the purple snake did it. She springs a trap, they get out, track her down and she escapes, but not before they recover the treasure.”
Anippe’s ears drooped. The Anubis pup thought everyone loved watching The Adventures of Detective Neboo as much as she did, but Layla’s cynical and disinterested desription of pretty much every episode seemed to indicate otherwise.
“But Neboo’s partner is so cool and smart!” Gabby countered. “She helps the main charachter and usually uncovers a hidden clue….all while speaking in rhymes.”
“Yeah!” Anippe followed up. She never thought of it like that, since she was so focused on the titular charachter- being a dilligent Anubis herself.
“Nya- I don’t know about getting pie a-la mode. But I think we should watch another episode!” Gabby said to Anippe, trying her best to mimic the Sphinx on the show.
“Gabby….don’t….” her twin almost pleaded with wide eyes. However, she knew it was too late and Anippe would only encourage her horrendous attempts at rhyming.
“Brilliant deduction, Gabby!” Anippe said, sounding much more like her favorite series puffed up and confident protagonist.
“I have this feeling in the pit of my tummy that my sister is just being a jealous dummy, Nya…” Gabby said as she continued imitating the show’s Sphinx sidekick.
“Fine…I’ll be outside.” Layla sighed as she took her leave.
Vanessa spotted Layla forlornly moping on the jungle gym in their backyard.
“Hey kiddo- what’s wrong?” Vanessa asked.
“It’s just that Gabby’s being wierd. Whenever Anippe shows her that goofy show, she starts speaking in rhymes and calling me ‘clueless’.”
“I take it you’re not a fan.” her mother chuckled.
“Nah- every episode is the same. Find the treasure and the purple snake gets away….” Layla sighed.
“But your sister doesn’t seem to mind, does she?”
“I guess not.”
“Can I let you in on a little secret, Layla?” Vanessa asked as she sat next to her daughter.
The little jinko cub’s eyes twinkled with anticipation as she looked up at her mother.
“You remember that movie we were watching the other night?”
“The one with the submarine and the captain and the pretty squid lady?”
“That was actually based on a book that’s nearly 200 years old.”
“What? No way!” her daughter said incredulously.
“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.” Vanessa continued. “Your dad says it’s one of the earliest examples of modern science fiction- they just tweaked the plot a little bit to include some aquatic mamono. But you saw how much me, your dad and Miss Belle were enjoying it…..”
“Even though we all knew what was going to happen next.”
The cub’s eyes brightened as she considered her mother’s words.
Vanessa playfully tousled Layla’s hair. “I know you’re twins, but you and your sisters aren’t always going to like the same things, kiddo- and that’s OK. Just because you think you know what happens next doesn’t mean others can’t enjoy it…. even if they know how it ends, too.”
“I…I guess that makes sense.”
“We should probably head inside before your sister and Anippe end up binge-watching the whole series.”
“Where’s dad?” Layla asked.
“Oh…he and Eva went out to run some errands. They’ll be coming back with pizza.”
“Pizza?” the tigress cub’s ears perked up.
“You bet- wanna help me set the table?”
“Sure!” Layla nearly chuffed.
“Where are we going this time of night?” Graham almost whispered.
Sakaali was leading him by the paw down a rocky path.
“You’ll see.” She said. Graham was certain she was smirking.
Besides their own footsteps, the only other sound the two of them could hear was the occasional screech of an owl overhead and water gurgling from a stony creek adjacent to the footpath.
“I was out on horseback earlier when I saw something you might like.” Sakaali said.
That was as much as Graham had gotten from her since she insisted the venture out at one in the morning. Although Sakaali had good night vision, Graham was using the flashlight on his cellphone to keep up with her.
“Can’t it wait until daytime?” he pouted.
“I suppose so, but then we wouldn’t have it to ourselves.”
“What is ‘it’, exactly?”
“You’ll see…” the beautiful Anubis tittered. “We’re almost there.”
Graham didn’t say anything else, but continued following Sakaali down the darkened path.
After a few minutes, Sakaali stopped.
“We’re here.” she announced.
Graham could see that the moon was beginning to rise as he put away his cellphone. At first, he wasn’t sure what Sakaali was talking about but then he listened to his surroundings. Earlier he could hear water from the nearby creek trickling over rocks. Now it seemed to be trickling over and into…..more water.
The rising moon briefly ducked behind some clouds, but when it re-emerged, Graham could see a body of water before the two of them vaguely illuminated by the moon’s silvery glow.
“Oh wow…..too bad I didn’t bring my swim trunks.” Graham mused as he took in the sight.
“Mmm…given the hour, I don’t think we’ll need any swim apparel.” Sakaali flashed him a rather coy grin.
“But how come you didn’t bring…..?” Graham began to say before trailing off. He was starting to read between the lines of what Sakaali was telling him.
His normally fussy and uptight wife was inviting him to go skinny dipping with her.
In the blink of an eye, Sakaali had managed to shimmy out of her shorts and remove her tank top. The corner of her lip curled upward in a sensual and inviting grin- in the darkness she could see that she had her husband’s undivided attention as she was much more methodical about removing her black lacy bra and panties.
Immediately, Graham started undoing his belt.
“Uh-uh…..” Sakaali admonished her husband. “Where are your manners? Ladies first.” she said as she slid out of her bra, making a show of turning her back to
Graham and folding her arms across her caramel breasts.
Now it was time to take off the panties. With a small ‘rrrip’ from the velcro fastener above the tail, Sakaali hooked each of her thumbs into the waistband and bent over in an exaggerated manner, giving Graham quite the show as she slowly pulled her panties further and further down. When they were low enough, she merely stepped out of them and gracefully made her way towards the water.
To Graham, it looked as though she was almost gliding into the spring.
“You have my permission to join me.” Sakaali cooed sensually as she was now hip-deep in the spring.
In contrast to his wife’s slow and sensual striptease, Graham almost immediately ripped off his clothes and threw them in a crumpled heap on the ground.
Sakaali smirked as she headed deeper into the springs- deep enough that she began swimming. It pleased her that she could still drive her husband wild like a horny teenager. However, when she turned around, she saw Graham hesitating at the water’s edge. She could see that he was still very much aroused, but was perplexed why he hadn’t jumped in to join her. It wasn’t as though he had a fear of water or swimming.
In the pale moonlight, she could see that he was…….laughing?
As she swam closer to him, he began laughing harder.
“Oh god….ha ha….I’m sorry…..I…I just….Ha ha ha…..I thought I was seeing things at first.”
“Wh-what are you talking about, husband?” Sakaali asked. The water was shallow enough that she could now stand up.
“It’s just…….” He wiped his right eye as he tried collecting himself. “It’s just that….you’re so refined and self-assured that I thought you knew something other than the doggie paddle.”
“I mean….I see you doggie paddling around and I just want to give you some water wings or a kick pad….” Graham said as he stepped into the water, finding it cool and refreshing.
Sakaali clenched her fangs.
“You incorrigible boor- if you wanted a proficient swimmer, perhaps you should’ve married Micheal Phelps or a mermaid.” the Anubis harrumphed as she folded her arms and turned her back towards her husband.
“Aww…c’mon. Don’t be like that, babe.” Graham pouted as he moved through the water closer to her. “If I married one of them, then we wouldn’t have our sweet little bundle of sunshine and wags, would we?”
That was playing dirty- bringing up the light of their lives out of the blue like that.
“Ohhh…..I do hope my precious Anippe is doing all right.” Sakaali pouted as her paw reflexively found her way over her heart.
She felt a strong pair of arms slide around her from behind.
“I don’t think we need to worry too much- she’s in the very best of hands….or paws.” Graham reassured her.
“Mmm…..Graham, love?” Sakaali asked, her eyes half-lidded and looking up at the moon.
“What is it?”
“How would you feel about another daughter?”
This evening had been so magical and perfect up until now. Was it a mistake to even bring it up tonight? The longer Graham went without saying anything, the more uncertain she was about mentioning it tonight.
Suddenly she felt a pair of lips on her neck.
“I would love that….” her husband whispered.
The morning of Anippe’s final day with Vanessa, Art and the cub sstarted with her and Gabby doing each other’s hair.
With a little flourish, Anippe had finished styling Gabby’s hair, using a combination of hair clips, braids and the odd clothespin she had finally gotten the look she wanted. Anippe stood back and admired her handiwork with a confident little smile on her face.
“And there you have it! Mommy told me this style was really popular back home.”
Gabby said nothing and simply stared into the mirror, sitting motionless with her legs crossed.
“Gabby?” Anippe gave the cub a little shake only for Gabby to flopp over and lay on her side.
The jinko cub had completely gone limp.
Anippe’s eyes went wide with worry “A-auntie V!!! Come quick!”
Moments later Vanessa stormed into the room “What’s wrong?!”
Anippe wrapped herself around the jinko’s leg and began to cry “I-I broke Gabby! I broke her and I don’t know how to fix her!! I didn’t mean to, I-I want four jinko sisters, not three and a broken one!!” Anippe continued to sob into Vanessa’s leg while the jinko mother investigated her “broken” cub
“Gabby?” Vanessa said as she gave her a gentle shake, nothing.
Vanessa gave her daughter a once over and noticed the clothespin pinching the back of her neck. Sighing a sigh of relief Vanessa chuckled and pat Anippe on the head “Oh, you didn’t break her, you uhhh…how can I put this? You just found her ‘pause’ button”
Vanessa removed the clothespin from the back of Gabby’s neck and the cub sprang up almost immediately, admiring her new hairstyle.
“I love it!” She excitedly announced, seemingly unaware of what just transpired. “And you said this was really popular in the Desert Kingdom, huh?”
Almost immediately she was set upon by a little Anubis uttering an increasingly incoherent string of apologies.
“Oh thank goodness you’re OK, Gabby! I thought I did something to break you, and Claire would never get to know her big sis! I’m sorry….I’m sorry…..”
Gabby tried her best to comfort the little pup as Vanessa did the same.
“D-do you have a ‘pause’ button, Aunty V?” Anippe asked as she dried her tears.
“Not really. The older a jinko gets- the harder it is to find that ‘pause’ button. It’s mostly so that cubs won’t wander off too far from their momma.”
“D-did you have to use that for Eva or Layla?” the sniffling little Anubis pup asked.
“Only all the time…” Vanessa said as she gently tousled Gabby’s hair. “My goodness you two were a handful.”
“You mean we’re not right now?” Gabby asked, her ears perking up.
“Well, now you’re just putting words in my mouth.”
“I’m not so sure about this…” Graham almost pouted.
To say he had his misgivings would be an understatement.
“Just get in, you big baby.” Sakaali prodded.
Already, the Anubis was reclining and relaxing in a mineral-rich mud bath.
“I mean I already showered this morning- wading into a big old pit of mud seems kind of counterintuitive….” he sighed.
“Sir- I assure you that everything’s fine.” a woman to his right spoke up.
At first glance, it appeared she was covered in mud, but a closer look at her body and lower appendages- particularly when she moved- indicated that she was actually made from mud or earth.
“Why do people do this again?” Graham asked, trying to forestall what seemed inevitable.
“I use a proprietary blend of mineral rich earth and twice filtered springwater to create the perfect blend that will leave both human and extraspecies users feeling rejuvinated and detoxififed.” Dora the dorome exclaimed proudly. “It’s one of the several amenities offered at Rancho Hojas de Oro at no extra charge to our guests.”
The pricetag wasn’t what had Graham so hesitant, though.
“Husband…..get in.” Sakaali sighed, doing little to conceal her exasperation. Her hair was up in a towel that was wrapped in such a way that her pointy canine ears were still visible.
Graham stuck his toe in.
The ‘mud’ felt surprisingly warm and smooth. But still- he was a husband, father and United States Army veteran. Wasn’t he too old to be playing in the mud?
“Something the matter, husband?” Sakaali asked, her voice taunting. “It seems as though you had plenty to say about my swimming the other night, but here you are too scared for a mere mineral bath….”
“That seems to be more your thing, babe.”
“Oh? You two discovered Full Moon Springs?” Dora asked.
“Indeed. It came to my attention during a ride on the equestrian trail.”
“Damn it….now she’s going to want a pony.” Graham muttered, gradually making his way into the warm and smooth muck.
“I already told you, husband…” Sakaali said as she leaned back. “As much as I enjoyed venturing out on my prior equine excursion, there’s only one magnificent beast that I deem worthy to be astride of.”
“You sure know the right things to say to a fella…” Graham said as he waded closer to his wife.
“See- that isn’t so bad, is it?” Dora said to Graham.
“I…I guess not.” he replied begrudingly as he sat down next to his wife.
“See- aren’t you glad you’re joining me, you big baby?”
It took some getting used to, but Graham had gotten comfortable and was starting to relax in the warm and smooth mud. Maybe there was something to this proprietary blend that the dorome was bragging about. Graham had just thought mud was mud.
Seeing that both of her guests were comfortable, the Dorome excused herself and briefly left the two of them alone.
“Sakaali, babe?” Graham asked.
“Hmm?” She barely sounded awake.
“You realize that almost as soon as we’re done here, we’re gonna have to rinse off, check out and hit the road.”
“I know….” she sighed.
“Our little wag-a-muffin is waiting for us.”
“Mmm…” Sakaali said dreamily. “I hope our treasure is having fun and doesn’t miss us too much.”
“Still- I gotta admit, this was a pretty nice weekend.”
“Are you all packed, Anippe?” Eva asked.
The little Anubis nodded. She knew this would be her last day at her friend’s place and her parents were on their way to pick her up later on.
“I just wish we had more of those cookies Belle bear gave us the other night.” Anippe sighed. “The peanut butter ones were the best.”
“But any cookie can be a peanut butter cookie if you try hard enough.” Gabby remarked.
“You’re right!” the Anubis agreed after giving it some consideration.
A thought occured to the twins. Somewhere in the pantry was some plain sugar cookies. They knew that there was some peanut butter in the cupboard, too.
“Lets give this a try!” Gabby said as she found the cookies in the pantry.
“Yeah- I wanna try this too. I bet it will be pretty good.” Layla said as she shoved a chair up alongside the counter and climbed up, opening up the cupboard.
Before long, the peanut butter jar’s top was unscrewed. Spread across the countertop were the cookies and silverware as the Anubis pup and jinko cubs began availing themselves of cookies slathered in creamy peanut butter.
The girls weren’t completely unspervised today.
Art had to go to work for a few hours, but would be home a bit earlier than usual. Until then, it was Vanessa’s turn to watch the girls, and the jinko mother was in the living room. She started working on a wool cap for the baby, complete with little earholes for the cub- however, she quickly found herself drifing in and out of sleep as her chair was situated in a sunny spot.
“Oh wow! We should do this more often!” Gabby said to Layla and Anippe.
“C-can I try?” Anippe asked shyly.
“Sure- I mean you’re the one who gave us the idea, after all.”
Anippe gingerly picked up a little cookie slathered in peanut butter and proceeded to bite it in half.
“Mmm!” she licked her chops. “It’s good!”
“Yeah- this sure beats a PB&J.” Layla added as she bit into her own cookie.
“I like peanut butter and jelly (lick lick)….” Anippe began. “But this (lick lick)….is MUCH better.”
Anippe took another bite of the peanut-butter slathered cookie. At first she didn’t notice anything, but it dawned on her that Eva and the twins had grown quiet.
“What is it? (*lick lick*) Is something wrong? (*lick lick*)?”
“N-nothing….” Layla said, not quite able to stifle a giggle.
“I don’t….(*lick lick*) have something on my face (*lick lick*), do I?” the Anubis pup asked self-consciously.
“Don’t worry, Anippe- you don’t have anything on your face….” Eva began to say before her face dropped.
“What is it, Eva?” Anippe asked, managing to get through her query without licking the roof of her mouth.
“Girls….” a male voice spoke up from behind Anippe. Gabby, Layla and Eva looked terriied while Anippe merely looked bewildered.
“I have a modest proposal.” Art said to the girls. “You start cleaning up this mess right now and your mother doesn’t have to know what you’ve been up to while she was resting.”
Anippe looked at Art, and then Eva and the twins wordlessly scrambling about the kitchen, haphazardly trying to put cookies back in a box and clean up the counter.
“S-sure thing, dad…” Eva said nervously as the twins were using paper towels to clean up crumbs.
Truth be told, Art didn’t have the energy to scold them. Even though they were making a mess, there were worse things the girls could get up to besides making their own peanut-butter slathered cookies. And Anippe had been an almost ideal guest this weekend.
“When you’re finished up in the kitchen, please help Anippe double check your room to make sure she isn’t leaving anything behind.” Art continued as the Anubis pup bit down on the other half of her improvised peanut butter cookie.
“Anippe- I heard from your parents and they’re on their way over to pick you up.” Art said as the little Anubis made quick work of her cookie.
“I’m all packed up and everything, Uncle Art.” Anippe said proudly as her tail lazily swished back and forth.
Yet again, the doorbell rang- although this time everyone inside had a pretty good idea of who it was.
“Mommy! Daddy!” The Anubis pup called out as she bounded across the living room.
“There’s our treasure!” Sakaali gushed as she scooped up Anippe into her arms. Even for those that knew her, it was quite a sight to see the normally guarded and stern Anubis affectionately gush over her daughter. “Did you miss us?” she asked, giving Anippe a kiss on the forehead as she picked her up.
“Mm-hmm!” she nodded.
“Did you and the girls get to do anything fun?” Graham asked his girl as he leaned in for a kidd on the cheek.
The pup nodded again.
“This girl from Uncle Art’s work came by and she had wolf pups- they were sooooo cute! (*lick lick*) Then we got to watch a movie about a Kraken and a submarine (*lick lick*)- oh! And Belle Bear came by and watched it with us (*lick lick*)….and she brought cookies! Then we played Pyramids and Plunder (*lick lick*). And Gabby and I are all caught up on season two of Detective Neboo…..”
“Anippe, dearest? Are you all right?” Sakaali asked.
“I’m fine, mommy (*lick lick*).” Anippe tried reassuring her mother while licking the roof of her mouth.
“Anippe….did you have anything to eat just now?” Graham asked. “Some crackers and peanut butter, maybe?”
His daughter fidgeted a little and looked away.
“Daddy won’t be mad at you, I promise.” he reassured her.
“I had a peanut butter cookie.” the little anoober confessed.
“Art- I can’t believe this! Giving my girl peanut butter? What the hell were you thinking!?” Graham said suddenly.
“Oh- Graham….I’m so sorry. Does Anippe have allergies? I didn’t know…” Art wasn’t so eager to throw his daughters under the bus for an honest mistake.
Graham reached out and put a hand on his friend’s shoulder before leaning in and speaking in a low, barely audible whisper, trying to stifle a laugh.
“I’m sorry….that’s just fucking hilarious, but I have to act all upset in front of Sakaali.”
“Daddy…..(*lick lick*)…..you’re not mad at (*lick lick*)…..Uncle Art…..(*lick lick*)….are you?” Anippe asked innocently.
“We’re….uh….just discussing grown up things, my little wag-a-muffin.” Graham reassured her daughter as she absently continued licking the roof of her mouth.
“I heard that, Husband.” Sakaali admonished Graham with an agitated growl.
“Graham….don’t laugh.” Art told his friend. “Because if you lose it, then I’ll end up losing my shit and our wives will get mad at us.”
Art didn’t want to admit it, but the thought of the little pup licking the roof of her mouth all afternoon was both adorable and hilarious.
“I can’t help it….I mean- look at her!”
The two men were caught in Sakaali’s withering glare, but turned their attention to the doorway when another voice spoke up.
“Ah! There’s our perfect little houseguest.” Vanessa said as she emerged from the kitchen. “I got you a little going-away present for being such a good girl.”
“Oh boy (*lick lick*)! What is it (*lick lick*) Aunty V?”
The jinko mother said nothing, but held out a tall, frosty glass of milk for the pup.
It was an unconventional parting gift, but the little Anubis eagerly took it with both of her little grabbers and began drinking the chilled beverage. Almost as soon as she took her first big sip from the tall glass of milk, she had stopped licking the roof of her mouth.
“Oh- Vanessa! Are you sure you should be moving around…?” Sakaali asked her friend, suddenly forgetting her building anger at her husband.
Before the jinko could reassure her friend that she was fine, Sakaali leaned in and began speaking to Vanessa’s baby bump.
“And how are you, little one? Have you been doing well?” she asks.
“Now I see where Anippe gets it from.” Art mused.
The little Anubis’ ears perked as she looked up from her glass of milk at the mention of her name. After a moment, she resumed drinking with her little tail lazily swishing back and forth.
“I never had a doubt.” Vanessa said to her husband before turning to her Anubis friend. “Sakaali, I’m fine….I mean I’m only a couple of months in- I can still walk around on my own. You should know this isn’t my first rodeo…..”
“C’mon, Sakaali…..’baby bump’ doesn’t mean that you gotta baby her bump now.” Graham spoke up.
“But Graham….aren’t you worried about the well being of your little future striped niece?” the grown Anubis pouted.
“Not really- it’s like Vanessa said. Look at Eva and the twins. She’s told you herself that this isn’t her first jinko rodeo….” the Anubis’ husband reassured her.
“I…I suppose you have a point.” Sakaali conceded with a quiet mumble.
“N-not that I don’t appreciate your concern.” Vanessa was quick to add. “Just all this attention would be better suited closer to the due date, wouldn’t you say?”
Suddenly, a sharp part yip, part whimper pierced through the parents conversation. Art, Graham, Vanessa and Sakaali all turned to look at the culprit- a rather embarrassed Anippe.
“S…sorry HIC!….” the little Anubis said as everyone in the kitchen was looking at her. “I…I think I might’ve drank that too fast.”
Sure enough, she did.
As if to confirm this, the pup let out another yip/whine/hiccup with all eyes on her.
“Anippe, beloved….you shouldn’t drink so fast like that, otherwise you’ll-“
“…..end up with a bad case of the hiccups.” Sakaali finished her sentence, well aware that her warning wasn’t in time for her daughter.
“Unless….” Graham pondered out loud.
“I know what you’re going to do HIC!….and it’s not going to work, daddy.” the little Anubis pouted.
“Graham- you better not try and scare our daughter.” Sakaali chastised her huband as she was absently rummaging through her purse. “A clever and dillegent Anubis is basically immune to such simplistic tactics of trying to scare them. This has been proven time and again with precedent being set back in the era of Nokuhoutim the First when-“
Before Anippe knew what was happening, there was a purple snake lunging at her face and her mother was shouting.
“Look out, Anippe!! Kheket the Devious has found you!!” Sakaali yelled.
The frightened pup let out a little shriek and took two steps backwards. Only after a moment or two was she able to calm down and see that the ‘Apophis’ that was lunging at her was merely a plush version of the villainess from her favorite show.
“Hiss hiss…..I got you good, S-s-s-s-sweetie” Sakaali fake lisped as she shook the snake plushie in front of her daughter.
“Mom!” the Anubis pup pouted indignantly.
“I think the million dollar question is ‘Why are you walking around with a plush apophis in your purse?’, babe.” Graham asked after an awkward silence.
“Yeah, Sakaali. This part of some new excercise regimen you’re not telling me about?” Vanessa teased her friend.
The nervous Anubis mother stammered as everyone’s attention shifted to her.
“C’mon- spit it out, nerdwan.” Graham chortled, savoring his wife’s predicament.
“N-no….it’s just sometimes her lower body makes for a good neck pillow, and you see…” the Anubis mother trailed off. Nobody else in the kitchen was buying it.
“If that’s the case, why didn’t you just get a normal neck pillow?” Art asked.
“It was left over from when I was using it as a visual aide to instruct Anippe on how to spot potentially hostile lamia.” she continued.
Art, Vanessa and Graham looked to Anippe for confirmation. Instead, the little Anubis had a bewildered expression on her face as if she didn’t know what her mother was talking about.
“F-fine…..” Sakaali moped. “I….I won it in an online auction on MofuBay.”
Graham was about to ask how much of Anippe’s college fund went towards the purchase of that particular bit of Detective Neboo memorbilia when he heard multiple footsteps scrambling down the stairs.
“We heard screaming- is everything OK?” Eva asked before she was even in the kitchen.
“Y-yeah. Anippe has the hiccups….” Graham began to explain before he realized he hadn’t heard one of his daughter’s distinct, yipping hiccups since Sakaali gave her a scare. “But it looks like she’s done for now.”
“You’re welcome.” Sakaali said with a smug grin.
“We just wanted to say goodbye, Anippe.” Layla said as the gave the little Anubis a quick hug.
“Yeah- it’s been real fun this weekend!” Eva said, giving Anippe a little hug of her own.
“I’m real sorry to see you go, Nya
But thanks for sharing with me your favorite show….” Gabby said as she clasped Anippe’s paws.
“Hee hee…you make a good Sesuha, Gabby!” Anippe said as she gave her friend a hug.
The jinko looked as though she pondered what she was going to say next.
“I’ve heard you say this many times, Nya
I still think I need to work on my rhymes…..”
Sakaali seemed to recognize that Gabby was play-acting as her favorite TV detective’s sidekick, and although she didn’t say anything right away her tail began to lightly swish back and forth.
“No!” Vanessa said suddenly and with a bit of uncharechteristic urgency as Layla’s eyes widened and she was shaking her head ‘no’.
“Well…..while you’re here, Vanessa….” Sakaali began. “If you and Art want to take a romantic getaway of your own, we would be happy to watch the girls.”
“How’s that sound, girls? You think you’re up for another sleepover with Anippe?” Graham asked the cubs.
“Yeah!” the three of them shouted out in unison followed by a ripple of little chuffs and Gabby giving Anippe’s paw a squeeze before letting go.
“Girls- it was good seeing you. Thank you for taking such good care of my little wag-a-muffin here.” Graham said to the cubs as he scooped up his daughter.
“D….daddy…” the little pup fussed, clearly still embarrassed at her nickname. However, Graham paid her no mind right away as he held out his left hand in front of Gabby, Layla and Eva. After staring at it for a few moments, they realized he was expecting a high-five from each of them.
“Like Sakaali said- you gals are welcome at our home anytime.” He told them as he felt warm squishy paw-pads impacing with his open palm.
“Thank you for taking such good care of my daughter.” Sakaali said to each of the cubs. “Let us know if you’d like to come over for another sleepover.”
The trio of cubs nodded quietly as Graham scooped up his daughter.
“Who knows? Maybe your Aunt Sakaali will let you play with her Apophis plushie.” Graham teased, only to receive a playful bop from his wife’s balled up grabber.
“Bye Aunt Sakaali! Bye Uncle Graham cracker!” the three of them said as they waved at the Anubis family on their way out.
But not before Art, Vanessa and the cubs clearly heard Graham ask his daughter a question.
“How would you feel about being a big sister, Anippe?”