*pant pant wheeze wheeze pant*
To sort of get us in the mood I thought I’d share a teaser from Max and Renny, a couple who doesn’t get a whole lot of play on the hill, mostly because Renny is at her best when she’s non-verbal…
But they must have banter. And snark.
And claws and whiskers too.
So here’s a teaser with Max and Renny in it, just to wet your whiskers.
* * *
Cory was sulking on the couch again and Max could barely refrain from turning into a cat and rubbing his nose with his paws.
Goddammit, she smelled pregnant.
Renny walked into the kitchen as Max made their sandwiches, and Max held his breath, waiting to see what kind of mood she’d be in. Her slender arms around his waist–good. Her sweet nuzzle against his back–also good.
Max wasn’t sure what caused the change–it might have been that Cory yawned. It might have been that she started to shiver, because that’s what she did when Bracken was outside hammering out drywall. Whatever it was she did, it reminded Renny that she was pregnant and the whole hill knew it.
She snarled and raked Max’s stomach with her claws as she changed.
“Nice,” he snapped, because dammit, he was bleeding. “You’re not getting a sandwich unless you turn human.”
Her paw–delicate in proportion to her body but still the size of a saucer–snuck up onto the counter and pulled both sandwiches onto the ground. She proceeded to eat them both, onions, mayonnaise, and all.
Max was raised to be a gentleman, and a gentleman did not call one’s beloved a bitch, even when she’d just bogarted your sandwich.
“Garfield,” he swore softly, and she ran an indignant claw over his naked calf as he went back to refrigerator for more sandwich fixins.
By the time he finished making his own sandwiches, Renny was sitting up on the island. “Chips,” she said shortly, so Max grabbed a bag and opened it so they could both dig in.
“Sorry,” she mumbled through a mouthful. “”m’twitchy.”
Max couldn’t blame her. Even as a human the smell as all over the front room.
Kittens. He could smell kittens.
And mama cat was just sitting there, oblivious.
Max stuffed half a sandwich and some chips in his mouth and said, “Wanna go help Bracken?” through a full mouth.
“Jackrabbits,” she said, then shoved another mouthful in. When she had that about swallowed, she turned into a cat again. Max got to the kitchen door and let her outside so she could trot down the landing and out into the world in general.
It would probably be more satisfying if the “banging out drywall” that the men professed to do in Teague’s family house was actually what they were doing. But no–all the non-load-bearing walls had already been knocked down. What was left was actually framing walls and putting drywall back up.
It was much more of a finesse job, and Max was grateful for summers he’d spent in construction because he’d been giving Bracken and Nicky and Green pointers as they’d worked out their frustrations with the current situation.
Right now, it was just Bracken and Nicky, and Nicky was all about sitting on an ice chest and giving Bracken pointers.
“Sand it, big man. You know what Max told us–if you don’t sand it all smooth before you put the primer on it, it’s going to look like shit.”
“If I sand it any harder I’m going to sand a hole through the middle,” Bracken gritted. “Don’t we have anything I can break?”
“Sorry,” Max said, walking through the door. “But that wall is about sanded perfect. Let’s move on to framing the kitchen. We’ve got the lumber and Bracken can pound nails–“
“Which is what he excels at,” Nicky said smugly.
Max growled, almost feral.
“What crawled up your ass?” Nicky asked, following him into the middle of the house where the lumber and supplies sat.
Nicky cracked upend Max’s already crossed eyes crossed further as he tried to make that mental picture not happen.
“No, not that way. She’s just… you know…”
“Not all human,” Nicky said in sympathy. “We get it.”
“I just… I don’t know what to do to make her less… freaked out. We all know what that smell is. We all know what it means. What we don’t know is how Cory’s going to react to it, and, well…”
“That’s Renny’s job,” Nicky said with sympathy. “We get it. But apparently one does not just walk up to a girl and say, ‘You screwed up and you’re preggers.’ Or at least that’s what Green told me when I got off the plane. I seriously thought there would be a greeting card for that or a cake or something, but no. Just patience and time.”
Max grunted, out of the one and unable to waste the other.
“Bracken, brother–you’re going to need some help.”
“Then come here and help me,” Bracken ordered. “If I don’t hit something with a hammer, I’m gonna fucking lose it.”
“Word,” Nicky said. “Word.”
Bracken and Nicky went in after a couple of hours–it was hot outside, no matter how much Green tried to control the temperature and Bracken didn’t do well in the heat. Max stayed in the construction site, talking desultorily to Lambent and Hallow when they came in to help, and then working alone as the evening shadows lengthened.
He was there when Renny trotted up to him, dropping a dead jackrabbit at his feet.
He looked at the thing and tried to find pity– but he couldn’t. His father had taken him hunting as a kid, and getting to do that as a cat was one of the coolest most trippy-awesome things of his life.
He squatted in the dust of the house and scratched his wife behind the ears. “I appreciate it,” he said softly. “But we both know it’s not going to make things better.”
Penny licked his wrist, long, slow licks that rasped the skin off his arm, but he let her.
“We’ve got to be running out of jackrab–“
She meowed plaintively.
He stared at her, fascinated by her cat form as he was in her human form. She was… elusive. In their marriage bed, she was practically silk and air–right up until he climaxed, and then she was warm and human and real, holding him, laughing with him, licking his face. (Yes, in human form–he’d signed on with her in all her quirky glory, and being more cat than girl was part of that.)
Suddenly she was a girl, squatting naked in the lengthening shadows. “I was a bitch,” she said quietly. “None of this is your fault. Come run with me. We can play in the pond. The littles will run from us and pretend to be mice.” She reached out and cupped her hand on his cheek. “There’s bad shit out there,” she said, her voice drifty and almost clairvoyant. “I can smell it. But not tonight.”
Max nodded grimly, but then he cupped the back of her head and pulled her into a kiss.
She tasted like jackrabbit blood.
And wild thing.
He turned into a cat and left his clothes lying on the floor of the construction site. He had no doubts the sprits would return them to his and Renny’s room, but in the meantime, his beloved was offering him a chance to be moonlight and death.
Max watched her, stretching as she bounded across Green’s gardens, and followed her into a leaping frolic.
Moonlight and death.
What a beautiful thing to be.