LOST IN THE WILDERNESS
— by Ted R. Blasingame
Travis Tyndall sat up against the firing range backstop out on the perimeter of the clearing near the back side of the Institute complex, the end of his shaved tail lying across his lap. The stitches across his face and neck had been removed earlier that evening, and although the scars still stung, he was glad to be rid of the bandages.
Ever since the Furs had returned to the Institute, he had refrained from interacting with his housemates – not that anyone wanted anything to do with him – although for the sake of harmony in the Wing, Ellie had at least attempted to be civil to him; despite this, he closed himself away even from her.
He was frustrated with everything and everyone, and most specifically with himself. He had worked so hard to gain Kristen's trust and then he had ruined it all in one moment by letting his hormones loose at the first opportunity, which had never been his plan. His spontaneous reaction to her unintentional tail baring had surprised even him. He had reacted without conscious thought, as if his animal instincts had taken over completely in that instant.
He knew he would never get another chance with her – or with any other female here for that matter. His only hope for a companion now lay in the hopes that he could befriend someone in the next class to follow. From the director's announcements, it looked like it might be quite some time before a Canis colony was approved, with the next two being Ursis and Vulps, so he would have to bide his time and hope there were a few women in the upcoming Class Seventeen he could befriend. Should that opportunity present itself, he would have to be on his best behavior, no matter what his hormones wanted him to do.
He sat in the dark, his legs crossed and his PBJ turned off at his side. He had let the sun disappear behind the mountains and now the stars were out with just the sliver of the waxing crescent moon. With mosquitoes buzzing around his ears, Travis knew he should probably head back inside to his room, so he gathered up his dual screen tablet and got to his hind feet.
Also out in the night air was Rose Fleur. Her confidence had been shaken ever since she'd broken up with Kevin over an issue that should have been minor. Unfortunately, Rose had let her temper get the best of her and now her young ex-boyfriend had been spending his free time since their return sitting with the other fennec fox in the hospital wing. She didn't fault Erin for getting injured, but she was still miffed that Kevin was spending so much time with her. Rose felt he should be trying to patch up his own relationship with her instead.
The young vixen paced around the walking trail that circled the small lake on the grounds, and although there were no lights along the path, she could see well enough with the starlight and a bit of moonlight.
When she recognized Travis walking toward her in the dark, her first reaction was a rush of adrenaline from a brief spike of fear, but then her mind took over and calmed her. Although the German Shepherd could be rude and impulsive, she recognized him as someone who was probably just lonely and only wanted a companion. This was something she understood about herself, and instead of fearing Travis, she suddenly had pity for him. Perhaps they could help each other.
As they neared one another, the canine stepped off the path to put a little distance between her and himself, but otherwise he didn't speak or acknowledge her. He did, however, pull his shaved tail out of sight to hide it beneath the hem of his furman robes. To his surprise, however, the vixen did not avoid him as everyone else typically did when around him.
“Hello, Travis,” she said courteously.
He paused in mid-step and looked over at her cautiously. “Hello, Rose,” he mumbled in return.
“How are you doing?” she asked in a pleasant voice. Travis was suddenly on his guard. No one who talked nice to him was just nice to be nice…
“I'm getting better,” he replied quietly. “Got my stitches out today.”
“I'm glad to hear it,” Rose said. She stepped closer to him and he instinctively backed away. His sandal caught on a stone that bordered the path and he flung his arms out as he fell. Rose snared his wrist and pulled him back upright, but when she didn't let go of him, the canine's eyes locked with hers in the darkness.
“Uhm, thanks,” he murmured, unused to someone coming to his aid.
“You're welcome,” the vixen said quietly. She pulled his arm forward and then threaded hers around it. “Come on, we'll walk together to make sure you're stable.”
Travis was about to retort that he didn't need any help, but as she began walking with him arm in arm, he swallowed the words and nodded. “Thank you,” he acknowledged again. “I've been a little unsteady lately.” He didn't know what game she was playing at, since Rose had never shown even the slightest interest in him before, so he was on his guard against some kind of trap.
While they walked, the vixen looked over at him with a smile. Her eyes roved over his profile, and although it was marred by his injuries, his canine features were far from homely. His furman development had given him a prominent, angular nose, a thin face and good black and brown coloring in his facial fur. Even his wavy brown human scalp hair fit in nicely between a pair of upright triangular ears. She had always felt that he looked nice, even back when he was fully human, but his attitude had long distracted her from looking deeper.
Travis returned her gaze, his brownish-gold canine eyes peering into her reddish-orange vulpine eyes. He'd always thought that a fox's eyes resembled those of a cat more than a dog, and their color fascinated him even in the dark. Even though he enjoyed her attention, he was wary of her
“Rose…” he began quietly, “what are you doing?”
“What do you mean?” she replied innocently.
He raised their elbows together slightly as they walked. “This, and you're being nice to me.”
“You don't like me being nice to you?”
Travis blinked and shook his head. “Yes, I like it, but I'm not exactly everyone's favorite Fur right now,” he replied. “It's probably better if you kept your distance.”
The vixen shrugged her shoulders and she chuckled. “I think you're okay,” she told him. “I've just never had an opportunity to get closer to you before now.”
“Yes, really,” Rose replied. “I think what happened with Kristen was a mistake, and I figured that you could probably use a friend about now.”
Travis raised an eyebrow. He really wanted to believe her. “Yes, I could use a friend,” he admitted. “Thank you.”
She chuckled and then playfully swatted his behind with her tail. The canine narrowed his eyes at her and tentatively pulled her closer with their interlocked arms. There was no resistance and she leaned into his shoulder with a smile.
Unknown to either of them, there was another silent shadow in the darkness that followed a short distance behind and downwind of them. Dahlia padded along the path on all fours, keeping her head down and her eyes locked upon her sister in the presence of the enemy of all women, be they human or furman. She could not hear their quiet conversation from her position behind them, but she suspected that Travis had somehow sweet-talked her sister into walking with him.
The trailing vixen scowled at the thought of the would-be rapist getting familiar with her sibling and she quickened her pace to get nearer.
Rose was privately surprised with herself. She was familiar with Travis' reputation and knew about his recent trespass against her mountain lioness friend, yet he was being courteous and even receptive to her open flirting. In all her dreams, she would never have approached the canine this way, but her emotions were still a little raw from her breakup with Kevin and despite his transgressions, the canine furman seemed a decent guy when he wasn't openly leering at someone.
“Travis,” she said quietly, “I've heard that you prefer plump women, but do you think I'm attractive?”
Travis gave her his best charming smile. “Since you've asked my opinion, yes, I do think you are attractive. Quite the fox, actually,” he answered, chuckling at the intended pun.
Rose stopped and turned to look at him with an open smile, and was pleased when he leaned in to give her a brief kiss on the side of her muzzle. There was a momentary look of uncertainty on his face as though he thought she might slap him, but when she only grinned back at him, he became optimistic.
From Dahlia's vantage point behind them where she could not hear the words of their conversation, it appeared as if Travis was coming onto her sister. She snarled quietly and snuck closer. It was apparent that neither of them had noticed her presence.
Encouraged by Rose's expectant gaze, Travis pulled his arm free of their elbow lock and then slipped his hand up her shoulder, matching it with his other hand to gently pull her toward him. She willingly leaned closer with no resistance, so he kissed her again, this time right on the lips. Kissing this way was not as easily done as it would as a human, but was no less pleasurable.
Before Rose could really respond, however, there came a loud angry shriek from behind them. Both of them started in surprise, but Dahlia didn't give either of them time to react. The older vixen pushed them apart and then slapped Travis hard across the face, right upon the tender scars of his nose and cheeks. The canine yelped in surprise and pain, and then Dahlia punched him hard in the stomach, all before Rose could stop her.
Travis doubled over, falling to his knees, and Dahlia grabbed her sibling by the arm; she pulled her away at nearly a run, trying to put distance between them before Travis could get up.
“Come on!” she commanded. “We've got to get away from him!”
“Stop!” Rose squeaked, but her sister wasn't listening to her. The younger vixen pulled against her, and although Dahlia felt the resistance, she picked up the pace.
Nearly unseen in the darkness, the vulpine sisters passed Norman. The bear had heard Dahlia's shriek and had come running, arriving just in time to see the fox slap and punch the German Shepherd.
Growling beneath his breath and sure that the lecherous dog had just tried to attack yet another female Fur, he rushed forward to the lake path. Travis was on his knees with an arm across his middle, but when Norman reached his side, the bear hit the canine against the side of his head with a large fist. Travis bowled over in the grass toward the lake, having not even seen his new attacker; he came to rest against a large rock surrounded by cattails at the edge of the water.
Norman picked him up by the scruff of his neck and Travis struggled to get to his feet. The brown bear grabbed the dog's robe top and then shoved their noses together.
“You have the nerve to attack another woman after what just happened to you?” he growled at the canine, meaning the embarrassment of Travis' shaved tail.
“I didn't!” the German Shepherd bellowed. “I'm innocent!”
“Yeah, right!” Norman growled. He grabbed one of Travis' arms in a vice-like grip and tugged him toward the director's office. Travis kicked at him and yelled at him proclaiming his innocence, but the bear tuned him out all the way across the grounds to the administrator.
All the shouting and commotion from Travis had alerted Marcelo before they'd even reached his office. The director had just been closing up for the night, but when he saw who it was that Norman was dragging to him, he scowled and held the door open for them. Travis continued to kick at the bear all the way inside, adding many choice insults with scathing profanity.
When Norman shoved the canine into one of the seats in front of the director's desk, Marcelo picked up a wooden axe handle from a spot behind the door. He shoved one end of it in Travis' face and leaned forward angrily.
“What have you done now, Tyndall?” Marcelo asked with the wooden handle up against the canine's nose.
“Nothing!” Travis shouted back at him. “Rose and I were having a quiet walk around the lake when—”
“Shut it!” Norman growled, shoving on the canine's shoulder. “I saw Dahlia save her sister from your clutches!” He turned to Marcelo. “She slapped him and then stomach punched him to get Rose away from him!”
“Travis, is this true?”
The canine bared his teeth at the bear. “You've got it wrong!” he seethed. “Dahlia attacked me! I wasn't doing anything wrong!”
“Why would she attack you if you'd done nothing wrong?” the director countered with a sneer.
“I dunno!” Travis shouted loudly. “Maybe she was jealous that I kissed her sister!”
“So you did go after Rose!” Norman interjected. “What did you try to do to her?”
The German Shepherd was furious that the whole situation had been turned around against him. “She was being nice to me!” he yelled back. “She encouraged me to kiss her!”
“You're so egotistical to think any female here would ever want to kiss you after what you did to Kristen!” Norman roared at him. He rushed forward again, but Marcelo put the blunt end of the axe handle against his chest.
“Norman, don't,” he warned.
“I've done nothing wrong! I swear it!” Travis complained loudly. “Ask her! Just ask Rose!”
The youngest of the Fleur sibling sat on the couch in the pit of the Vulps Wing, her head down in her hands. Both Jasmine and Dahlia were simultaneously ranting at her for allowing herself to get that close to a rapist, but no matter how much Rose tried to defend Travis, neither of them would listen to what they knew were delusions.
She finally stood up at screamed at them both. “He! Did! Not! Attack! Me!” she yelled in clipped words. “I encouraged him!”
“No you didn't!” Dahlia shot back. “I saw what he was about to do to you!”
“You saw nothing!” Rose exclaimed. “I wanted his attention!”
“Not him!” Jasmine said angrily. “Not Travis!”
“Yes! I! Did!”
When both Dahlia and Jasmine shouted back at her for insanity, Rose balled up her fists and yelled at them, “Stop it! Just stop it!” and then she jumped up out of the pit and ran for her room. She slammed the door behind her and lunged for her bed amidst the tears of anger and frustration.
Marcelo arrived a few minutes later; Jasmine and Dahlia set upon him immediately, but he brushed them off and went to Rose's door.
“Rose,” he called out to her. “I need to speak to you about Travis Tyndall.”
“Go 'way!” she screamed through the panel. “Go away!”
Marcelo turned away in frustration and saw both of the young vixen's sisters standing nearby, both with their arms crossed in anger.
“What happened?” he asked Dahlia. “You were there.”
“I was!” she assured him. “Rose wanted to join us when we went to the cafeteria for a late snack, so I went out looking for her. She likes to walk the lake trail at night, so when I went out there to find her, I saw Travis trying to take advantage of her.”
“How? What did you see?”
“He was forcing her to walk with him, his arm locked in hers, and then he grabbed both her shoulders and forced a kiss on her!”
“Travis claims that she was being nice to him and encouraged him.”
“Yes, I'm sure he would say that!” Dahlia spat out. “If I hadn't been there, you'd probably be filing another rape attack on him!”
“I need to talk to Rose,” the director said calmly.
“She's too distraught,” Jasmine replied. “She won't talk to anyone right now.”
Marcelo turned to Dahlia. “Will you sign a sworn statement as to what you just told me?”
“I'll sign it right now! He's guilty, I swear it!”
“Travis Tyndall,” Marcelo stated in the presence of Avon, Dr. Aristotle, Dr. Ramirez and Professor Flynn in a locked room of the hospital wing, “according to a sworn statement, you have been implicated in yet another rape attempt, this time upon Rose Fleur. This is only days since your transgression against Kristen Eisenberg and this kind of action will no longer be tolerated at this Institution. Have you anything to say for yourself?”
Travis bared his teeth at the lot of them. “She set me up,” he growled. “She convinced me that she felt sorry for me and that I should be given another chance, but she had her sister and that bear waiting for me to fall for her trap! I'm innocent – this time! I admit I screwed up with Kristen, but I did nothing wrong against Rose!” his voice rose in pitch as he shouted in rage, “I was set up!”
Marcelo merely rolled his eyes at what he thought were Travis' theatrics and he turned to Professor Flynn.
“Angelina, I hate to do this to you, but I'm turning Mr. Tyndall over to you for sensitivity counseling,” he said calmly. “It will be mandatory daily until further notice.”
“I swear to you that I will get even with Rose and everyone else involved with this!” Travis shouted. “This wasn't my fault! She led me on and you all believed her because of my record! I promise you that I'll get even!”
The professor looked back at the canine's face contorted with rage and then she crossed her arms. This was not going to be a pleasant assignment.
— NEXT CHAPTER —
Unless otherwise noted, all material © Ted R. Blasingame. All rights reserved.