The snow fell gently as the rented minivan rolled on towards its destination, trees flew by and mile markers passed as Art kept his eyes on the road. It was late in the afternoon and the overcast had turned a distinct shade of blue. Ever since the move to Arizona snow was something Art and his family had come to miss. Even though it was a hassle to shovel and sometimes made driving perilous Art couldn’t deny that he loved it. Sitting in the living room underneath a warm blanket watching the snowfall made him feel so relaxed. Speaking of relaxed, Art looked in the rear view mirror and saw his three little balls of fur sound asleep in their seats. He then looked over at the massive ball of fur next to him. She was snoring gently and using her sweatshirt as a makeshift pillow. “I’ll drive the second half of the way.” He whispered mockingly, thinking back to the conversation he had with his wife on the airplane. Art rolled his neck and flexed his hands. “You’ll be driving on the way back.” The highway eventually gave way to normal roads as Art took an off ramp. He took the opportunity to gently flick Vanessa, the jinko’s ear twitched and she slowly opened her eyes before groaning a little. “Hey sleepy head, we’re getting close.” Vanessa stretched out her arms and yawned. “You feeling alright?”
Vanessa closed her eyes again and folded her paws. “Yeah, just a little nervous.”
Art smiled. “Don’t be, she’ll be glad to see us.”
Vanessa grinned a little and rubbed Art’s arm. “She’ll probably find a way to make me nervous.” It was a small town, but it was the place Vanessa called home. There was never much happening but sometimes that’s just what you needed. Art drove slowly down the main drag and gave Vanessa the chance to point things out as they went, pointing out her mother’s favorite store for buying knickknacks and the old fire station, still in use after all these years “I know I say we should go out to breakfast every time we come but I really do mean it this time, their pancakes are really good.”
Art smiled. “Of course you do.”
Vanessa giggled and punched his shoulder. “What’s that supposed to mean?!”
Art smiled again. “Nothing.” Normal roads soon gave way to back roads and eventually forest paths as they approached their destination. Surrounded by trees and hidden by an easy to miss path sat Vanessa’s parents house. It was a decent sized house, only as big as it needed to be. Vanessa’s parents were of the waste not want not variety. On clear nights you could see the stars from the porch and get an even better view out on the lake. Fishing, hunting and long walks were always on the summer schedule and in the winter that changed to baking, storytelling and napping. Art was looking forward to the napping part of this trip. As much as he enjoyed going on excursions with Vanessa’s father, he had to admit he loved sleeping in that old cozy bed with the tacky moose quilt while the sounds and smells of Vanessa’s mother’s cooking filled the house. Eventually, they reached the house, it was a beacon radiating gold from its windows against an increasingly dark blanket of blue.
Art parked the car and looked over at Vanessa. She looked over at him and rested her paw on his leg. “You ready for this?”
Vanessa smiled and grabbed his hand. “Yeah, let’s do it.” With that, Art unbuckled his seat belt and got out of the car and opened the side door. He smiled at the adorable sight of Eva sleeping before gently poking her nose. The cub yawned and sleepily looked at him.
Art gently pat her head. “Wake up your sisters while me and mommy get the suitcases.” Eva groggily nodded her head and unbuckled her seat belt. Art made his way around to the back of the van and popped the trunk retrieving Vanessa and his suitcases before the cubs came excitedly bounding around to retrieve theirs. The family made their way to the front porch and stopped at the steps, Art turned around and looked at his daughters. “Girls… Promise me you won’t tackle grandpa.”
The cubs responded in unison. “We promise.” They made their way up the steps and Art rang the doorbell, a few moments later Vanessa’s dad answered the door.
That was as far as he got before he was tackled by three little fur covered ballistic missiles. “Grandpa!” Vanessa’s dad fell to the ground with an “oof”
“Girls! What did I just say?!” Art tried to scold his daughters before he was stopped by a big laugh.
“Ahhh, don’t worry about it Art. I’ve suffered much worse at the hands of jinkos.”
Vanessa sighed a little. “Gee, thanks dad.” Art extended a hand and helped him onto his feet before pulling him into a hug.
“It’s good to see you Alex.”
Alex gave him a big pat on the back. “It’s good to see you too, son.” Alex let Art go and moved over to his daughter. “Hey sweetie, glad you guys could make it.” Vanessa pulled her dad into a big hug and planted a small kiss on his cheek.
“It feels good to be home, dad.”
A voice came from the kitchen. “Is that them?!”
Vanessa responded. “Yes mom!” A few moments later a pair of silver ears peaked around the corner, followed by an aged face with dulled orange eyes and little glasses that sat on the bridge of her nose. She was clad in a tiger striped apron covered in flour. A big smile formed on her face when she saw what was in the entryway.
“Grandma!” The cubs dashed towards the elderly jinko. While the years may have left her fur silver they had done nothing to her strength. She squatted down and opened her arms, managing to stay upright despite the force of the impact. The elderly jinko held the cubs in a tight hug, grinning ear to ear as the trio squired and hugged back, tails thrashing.
“How are my little darlings?!” Little chuffs could be heard and were the only answer she needed. Eva crawled onto her shoulders and wrapped her arms around her grandmother’s neck “I hope you three are hungry! Because grandma made something special just for you!” The cubs all cheered before taking off and running around the house. Vanessa’s mom stood and brushed off her apron a little before making her way over to her daughter. The two jinkos looked at each other silently for a moment before hugging. “It’s good to see you dear.” Vanessa rubbed her paw up and down her mom’s back. “It’s good to see you too mom. Sorry we weren’t here for Christmas.”
The jinko looked at her daughter and smiled. “It’s alright, I’m just glad that you all could make it.” Vanessa planted a small kiss on her mother’s lips before letting her go. Art was almost around the corner before a voice pulled him back. “Aaaaaart~ don’t think I’ll let you stay in my house without giving me a hug.” Art backpettled a little before turning to face Vanessa’s mother. Without another word the jinko had him in a bone crushing hug. “Ohhhhh! How’s my favorite son-in-law?!”
Art managed to strain out a response. “V-very well, it’s good t-to see you J-Jess.”
“Mom! Don’t break my husband!” Vanessa laughed.
“What have you been feeding him?! He’s all skin and bone!”
“Lean meats and vegetables! Plus we exercise a lot.” Jess released Art from her grasp and placed her paws on his shoulders. “Has she been treating you well?” Art looked over at Vanessa then back at Jess.
“Aside from the rigorous exercise routines she has me on I’ve never been treated better.” There was a loud thud followed by an “I’m ok!” from somewhere inside the house. Jess giggled and looked back at Vanessa.
“Still rambunctious as ever I see.”
Vanessa sighed. “Yep… Hey dad, there’s still a little bit of light left outside. Do you mind helping the girls burn off some energy while me and Art do some unpacking?” Alex smiled. “Not at all.”
Vanessa called out. “Girls go play outside with grandpa!” A moment later the sliding glass door to the back porch flew open and the girls were outside playing in the snow, Alex put on his hat and boots and joined his granddaughters outside. Art began to make his way to the guest room but was stopped by a paw on his shoulder.
“Art? Where are you going?”
“Ummm, to the guest room?”
“Art, you and Vanessa get the guest room every time you come here… Don’t you think you should let the girls have it for a change?”
Art slumped his shoulders. “But the bed in there is so comfy!”
Jess patted the top of his head. “I know, I know, how about you two sleep in the attic? The bed up there is plenty comfortable and you get a nice view of the woods.” With shoulders slumped and head hung, Art made his way to the trap door and gave the chord a gentle tug. He unfolded the ladder and slowly made his way up, he dropped his suitcase at the foot of the bed and flopped on his back. Vanessa followed up soon after and looked out the window. A sea of trees as far as the eye could see, on the shore was Alex and the girls making snow angels. Vanessa smiled a little before dropping her suitcase and joining Art on the bed.
Art poked his stomach a little. “Am I too skinny?” Vanessa rolled onto her side and pulled him into a hug, she buried her face into his hair and kissed the back of his head.
“Not at all, you know how she is. No one ever eats enough in her mind.” Vanessa sighed a little and rested her cheek against his head. “I’m glad that we’re doing this.”
Art smiled. “Say, your mom’s gonna be pretty busy with dinner right?”
A small chuff escaped Vanessa as a lewd grin formed on her face. “You up for a quickie?”
Art looked back at her and planted a small kiss on her cheek. “Always.” Vanessa nibbled on his ear a little and got on top of Art, she peeled off his shirt and rubbed his chest with her paws.
Art smiled and hummed happily. “What did I do to deserve a woman like you?” He put his hands on her waist and slowly slid her shirt up, revealing her toned stomach and light blue bra doing its best to hold back her ample chest.
Vanessa’s stooped her head down next to his ear. “I guess you could say you caught me by the toe.” She chuffed again and planted a long kiss on his lips. The two were so enamored with each other that they failed to hear Jess making her way up the ladder. The elderly jinko popped her head through the trapdoor.
“Dinner will be-” Vanessa was busy fiddling with her bra straps while Art lay pinned underneath her. She looked back and froze.
“Oh! Um, ah m-mom!” Jess looked at her daughter for a moment before holding up a furred digit and descending the ladder. Vanessa looked down at her husband before looking back at the trapdoor. Moments later Jess poked her head back in and presented a heavy blanket. She tossed it to Vanessa and grinned.
“It gets pretty cold up here.” The elderly jinko winked before heading down the ladder and going back into the kitchen to finish dinner preparations.
Dinner consisted of shepherd’s pie and homemade biscuits. Creamy mashed potatoes baked till a perfect golden brown, covering a layer of decadent gravy complete with tender meat and vegetables. The cubs were barely keeping awake as they sleepily poked at their food. The long car ride combined with the time outside with Alex had left them completely drained. Art peeled one of Jess’ homemade biscuits apart, watching the steam gently waft up before catching his wife’s eye, both of them smiling. A silence hung over the room and the only sounds that could be heard were chewing and the clicks of silverware against porcelain. While he’d never say it in front of his wife, Jess’ cooking beat Vanessa’s by a landslide. Art took a bite of the biscuit in his hand and looked around the table, he cleared his throat and spoke up.
“Sooo… Anything new with you two?”
Alex looked at Art and smiled. “Oh you know, same old house, same old town. I actually went skiing recently and found a fantastic trail that leads to a clearing where you can get a nice view of the lake. There are some extra skis out in the shed so remind me to take you while you’re here.”
Jess spoke up. “How has Arizona been for you two?”
Vanessa responded. “Aside from the occasional sweltering day, very nice actually. We have some friends we’d love for you to meet when you guys come down to visit us.”
“I don’t know if I could handle the heat.” Jess fretted.
“We have an A/C, mom, everyone does.” Vanessa reassured her.
Alex tried to move things along. “Tell us about these friends of yours!”
Art spoke up. “Their names are Sakaali and Graham. We met them at a daycare we were volunteering at.” Art was careful to leave out the head butting that occurred. “Their daughter is the little anubis in the picture I sent you of the pyramid.” Art looked over at the cubs. “The same one these little fur balls spent Christmas with.”
“The same one who was the meat in that sleepy jinko sandwich?”
Art thought back to the most recent photo dump that he sent to Vanessa’s parents. “Yep, that’s the one!”
Vanessa chimed in. “She’s the sweetest little thing. She’s always so polite and gets so excited when she sees the girls.”
“What do her parents do for a living?” Alex asked.
“Well, Graham drives trucks and Sakaali handles the paperwork. Since she’s an anubis those kind of things come naturally to her.”
Art pat his wife’s leg. “Vanessa and her became fast friends after we all met, Vanessa is actually her personal trainer.”
“How that anubis manages to keep up with my exercise plans and still find time to work will always remain a mystery to me.”
“She even made some cards for the personal training business.” Art waved his hand. “Predator Fitness: Join the apex.”
Alex giggled a little “Clever.”
“Remind me to show you the cards sometime, Sakaali really went all out.” Alex looked over at the cubs. Layla had her head on the table, Gabby was fighting to keep her eyes open and Eva was resting her cheek on her paw while lazily poking her food,
Alex looked back at Art. “I think these three are ready for bed.”
Art laughed a little. “Yeah, along with the flight we’ve been driving all day. Sleeping the whole way really takes a lot out of you…” Art shot Vanessa a look. “Plus they ran around outside with you.” Art got up from his spot and walked over to the cubs, he knelt down and let Eva hop onto his back before taking a twin in each arm. “I’ll be right back.” Art moved the girls to the guest room and helped them get changed into their PJ’s. Matching pink ones for the twins and a pair of red ones for the oldest. The girls hopped into bed and Art pulled the covers up over them. “Alright you little chuff puffs, grandma made me give you three the comfiest bed in the entire house!” He mockingly scolded. “You three better appreciate it!” Gabby and Layla were already sound asleep, snuggled up to Eva on either side.
The eldest cub responded sleepily. “Don’t worry dad, we will.” Eva yawned and shut her eyes, Art smiled and headed towards the door.
“Goodnight my loves.” The only response he received was the sound of three jinko cubs gently snoring away. Art flicked off the light and made his way back to the dining room where he overheard the sounds of an argument.
“Mom, just tell me what’s bugging you.”
Jess sat with a calm but stern look on her face and folded her paws. “I said that I’ll tell you tomorrow, it’s a big topic and right now I want you to enjoy your first night here, stress free.”
“Mom I’m just going to be anxious about it tonight.”
Art cleared his throat a little and tried to politely interrupt. “Umm… I think I’m going to head off to bed.”
Vanessa looked back at her husband. “I’ll join you in a little bit, would you mind getting my book out of my suitcase?” Art wrapped his arms around her shoulders and planted a kiss on the top of her head.
“Not at all.” Art gave Alex and Jess a small wave before leaving the dining room and heading towards the ladder.
“Sleep well dear!”Jess called after him. Art began his ascent and reached his destination with little trouble. He flicked on the bedside light and fished around in his suitcase for his pajamas before moving to Vanessa’s and produced a book titled “Building muscle (Mamono edition).” There was a little tiger striped bookmark sitting in the book. Art flipped to the marked page and took a quick glance. “Chapter 3: Developing your biceps and arms.”
Art chuckled a little. “Any more muscle on her arms and she’d break me clean in two.” He flicked on the light on Vanessa’s side of the bed and laid the book on her pillow. He flicked off the light on his side and slipped under the covers. A few minutes later he heard the latter creak and crack as the 320 pound bodybuilder made her way up it. Vanessa huffed and mumbled to herself as she got changed. Art decided to leave things for now and focused on sinking into the second comfiest bed in the house. Vanessa slipped under the covers and started reading, the way she shifted and sighed made it obvious that she was still agitated by the conversation downstairs. Art sighed a tired sigh, sleeping would have to wait, for now his wife needed some help calming down. Art slowly rolled over and placed his hand on Vanessa’s paw. The jinko looked away from her book and down at her husband, one half of his face buried in the pillow. “Wanna talk about it?” Vanessa sighed and closed her book before putting it on the bedside table. She rolled on her side and scooched closer to Art.
She smiled wryly and gently tapped his nose with her finger. “There’s not much to talk about really.”
Art smiled back and gently tapped her nose with his finger. “Well, tell me about what there is.”
Vanessa took a deep breath. “She’s upset and anxious about something but she won’t say what, at least not yet.”
Art gently stroked her paw and looked into her warm amber eyes. “Any idea what she’s worried about?”
Vanessa gently shook her head and looked into his cool blue eyes. “It could be any number of things, she always has a million things on her mind.”
“Probably the move, it’s a long way from here to Arizona. Or maybe it’s just her worrying about getting older.”
Art yawned and rubbed his eye a little. “Feeling any better?”
Vanessa shrugged. “Kinda.”
“Wanna cuddle the rest of it out?”
Vanessa touched her nose to Art’s and closed her eyes. “I’d love to.” She slowly wrapped her arms around her husband and pulled him into a tight hug, gently resting his face in her mane. Art slipped his arms under her’s and started to gently rub her back. He pushed his face deeper in her mane and took a few appraising sniffs.
“You’ve been using that ginger shampoo, haven’t you?”
Vanessa giggled a little. “I know how much you like it.” Vanessa rubbed Art’s back with one paw and gently massaged the back of his head with the other. Art never could get over how amazing his wife’s paws were. Soft, warm, fluffy and comfy all at the same time, they could turn any man to mush in an instant.
Art yawned again and closed his eyes. “You’re the biggest and toughest chuffer I know, you’ll make it through this.”
Vanessa smacked Art on the back of the head. “I hate you.”
Art smiled. “I love you too dear.”
Vanessa planted a small kiss on the top of Arts head and rested her cheek against it and yawned. “Goodnight, my warm hearted husband.”
“Goodnight, my warm furred wife.” The snow danced and twirled as it fell gently in the night. The light in the attic flicked off as the two slowly slowly drifted off to sleep. Safe, warm and happy in each other’s arms.
Art awoke to an empty space next go him and the muffled sound of voices emanating from downstairs. Art tried to fall back asleep but found the bed to be too cold. Art had gotten used to warm beds over the years since his wife basically functioned like an enormous heated blanket/space heater. In pinches Vanessa could even be a fantastic mattress, complete with two soft built in pillows. Art slipped down the ladder and made his way to the dining room, where he found Vanessa and Jess having a discussion over coffee. Vanessa had her paw over her mother’s and a sympathetic look on her face.
“I-it’s just that it’s not getting any easier for me to travel, and you’re all so far away. I’m sorry about last night, I just didn’t want to trouble you, that’s all…”
Vanessa rubbed her mother’s paw. “It’s okay mom, I understand. If it means anything I wasn’t too excited about moving, but we had too because of Art’s job. If we could have stayed I promise you we would’ve.” Art heard sleepy little foot falls and turned to see Eva rubbing her eye.
“Is grandma ok?” She asked, Art smiled wryly and scooped up his daughter and planted a kiss on her cheek.
“Grandma’s just fine, how’d you sleep?”
“Good, Gabby and Layla are still sleeping, I woke up because I’m hungry.” Eva’s stomach let out a little growl,
Art chuckled. “Of course you are, let’s see if we can fix that.” Art walked into the dining room and Jess smiled as soon as she saw them.
“Good Morning you two!”
Eva hopped out of Art’s arms and hopped onto her grandmother’s lap before planting a kiss on her cheek. “Good Morning grandma!”
Art stretched out his arm above his head and waved at Jess. “Morning, that little one just told me that she’s hungry.”
Jess gasped a little. “Oh! Well that just won’t do!” She said as she gave Eva a squeeze. “Art, would you be a dear and beat some eggs and fry some bacon? I still need to talk to your wife about a few things.”
“Sure thing.” Art gave Jess a little pat on the shoulder. “Take all the time you need.” Art walked into the kitchen and retrieved the items from the fridge and heated a pan on the burner, he mixed the eggs and smiled as he brought the bacon over to the pan. “Time to wake the other two up.” He dropped a strip into the pan and a minute later the twins came bounding into the kitchen, the scent of pork filling their nostrils.
Jess walked into the kitchen and laughed at the sight of the cubs crowding around the stove. “Oh my, it looks like these three are hungry!” Jess stooped down and whispered in Art’s ear while the cubs were preoccupied with watching the bacon cook. “Why don’t you and Alex take the girls for a walk after breakfast, there are still a few things I’d like to discuss with Vanessa.”
Art took a quick look at the house as he marched further into the woods with Alex and the girls.
“Is Jess doing alright?” Art asked,
Alex smiled a little and sighed. “Yeah, no terminal illness she hasn’t told you about if that’s what you’re implying.”
Art chuckled a little. “I wasn’t trying to, but that’s good to hear.”
“Yeah, you know how she gets, it’s been getting harder for her to move around as of late so of course she thinks she’s dying.” Alex laughed. “Of course this is all by jinko standards! So she can still haul firewood and even pick me up.” Layla squealed as her twin sister tackled her into the snow. Alex sighed again. “Regardless, it’s good she’s having those talks with Vanessa even though she’s still got plenty of good years left in her.”
Art sighed a little. “I need to have those kind of conversations with my parents at some point…” Eva packed a snowball whipped it at her sisters, who deftly dodged it.
Alex put his arm around Art. “How have your parents been doing?”
Art shrugged. “Couldn’t say, they never return my calls.” Art looked down at his feet. “It’s funny, you’d think marrying a jinko would have been the last straw for them, but nope it was having kids. I guess they just didn’t like the idea that the family tree would be filled with stripes from now on. They didn’t even come to see Eva after she was born…” Art frowned and closed his eyes,
Alex gave him a little pat on the back. “I-I’m sorry I brought that up…”
Art waved his hand a little. “It’s ok, I’d just rather not talk about them right now.” The two stopped for a moment and watched the snow fall through the trees, the pines seemed to stretch on forever. Art watched his daughters romp and frolic through the snow, Eva trying to lose her status as being it in their game of tag. Art smiled a little. “You should have seen those three at Christmas, it was hard to get them back inside, especially since they were able to play with their best friend. It really would be great for you to meet her and her parents sometime, I have a feeling they’d really like you and Jess.”
Alex smiled. “I’ll work my magic and try to convince her, we’ll get out to see you all eventually.”
“Think we should head back now?”
“Let’s give them just a little bit longer, besides there’s a really beautiful clearing just up ahead.”
Alex and Art returned to the house, girls in arm. Eva was riding on Art’s shoulders while each twin rode securely in Alex’s arms. The five entered the house and kicked off their boots, Art slipped his off and walked into the living room, Vanessa and Jess were sitting on the couch looking through a photo album. Vanessa had her head against her mothers shoulder and smiled a little every time she turned to a new page, happy memories being remembered and reinforced. The cubs dashed past Art and hopped onto the couch.
Vanessa looked up from the giddy cubs currently snuggling up to her and smiled at Art. “Hey dad, could you come in here? I have some late gifts I wanna give out.” She called out, everyone took their place and Vanessa handed out her gifts. For Alex it was a box of brand new fishing lures, for Jess it was a cookbook that she had been dying to get her paws on and for Art… A small box.
Art looked at the box for a moment then up at Vanessa. “Did you forget to give me this during Christmas?”
Vanessa fidgeted a little. “You could say that…” Art lifted the lid off the box and found a tiger striped rattle.
Art chuckled a little “Aww, is this one of the girls old toys?”
“Nooo~” Vanessa bit her bottom lip.
“This is brand new? Why’d you buy a rattle? It’s not like-” Art’s eyes widened and he slowly looked up at Vanessa, who had a massive grin on her face.
Art sprung from the couch and embraced his wife. Vanessa wrapped her arms around him and spun around. The two stayed in the middle of the living room, laughing and shedding tears of joy.
Jess stood up and embraced her daughter. “I’m getting another grandkid!” She said between a chuff, the cubs ran up and filled in any empty spaces.
“We’re gonna be big sisters!” The twins said in unison, Eva wrapped herself around Vanessa’s leg and simply chuffed, and in the center of the group hug was Art. He sighed happily and shut his eyes, listening to the chuffs around him, never wanting this moment to end.
Art ascended the ladder and flopped down next to his wife before scooching in behind her and laying his hand over her stomach. Vanessa smiled a little as Art began to rub gently.
“Man, what a day” Art said between a yawn.
Vanessa laid her paw over his hand “You ready for another one?”
Art chuckled. “As long as it’s just one. I swear to god if it’s triplets I’m running away.” Vanessa chuckled and Art rested his nose against the back of her head. The two began to fall asleep but were interrupted by a creak coming from the ladder, the two looked and saw three pairs of ears peeking up from just beyond the trapdoor. Eva raised her head, followed by Gabby and Layla.
“There are some weird sounds coming from grandma and grandpa’s room, can we sleep up here?”
“Sounds like she can do more than just carry you Alex.” Art muttered to himself,
Vanessa smiled at her daughters and pat the bed. “Of course you can.” The cubs eye’s lit up and they dashed to the bed, Eva flopped down on Vanessa’s chest while Gabby and Layla pinned Art’s leg and arm. Art laid his free hand on the bed and Vanessa placed her paw over it,
Art smiled and gently squeezed it. “We should go out for pancakes tomorrow.”
Vanessa smiled back. “That would be fantastic.” The two rolled their heads back and shut their eyes. The snow fell gently as it twirled and danced in the night, the attic light flicked off and the six fell asleep, safe, warm and happily, as a family.
pic by Gyarusatan