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D is for Dancing - A Catkin Ficlet

Jeri sat on the rough bark, swinging her feet, ten feet up into the tree. She leaned down to whisper to Anya, who sat on another branch, her long white-blond hair gleaming in the moonlight. “I like the blonde tiger, I think.”

“He’s pretty, but look at the way the tortie moves. I think he’ll outdo the blonde.” They referred to the tomcats as if they were in their feline forms, and strangers, though neither was the case. It wasn’t tradition, exactly, but it kept the focus on the dancing, and away from the more tricky topic of feelings.

Bindi leapt to the top of the fence, her form flowing from brown fur to browner skin in mid-air. “I like the black one.” She gestured, fingers twisting in a complex sign, and was covered by cut-off jeans and a t-shirt, but her eyes didn’t leave the palest young man. He’d been courting her for several full moons, so they knew his pelt, like his hair, was deep black.

Anya sighed. “It would be nice if you’d teach me that trick, Bindi.”

Bindi laughed. “Which one?”

“Both of them. All of them.” Anya’s answer was automatic; her eyes were on the tomcats, who were stretching and posing, showing off their muscles for the queens.

There were six men in the alley; following tradition, they stayed out of the neatly swept patio until the last of the queens arrived and the competition began.

Another queen arrived in human form, hair dyed purple. She was new, and didn’t introduce herself, just leapt into a tree on the other side of the yard.

Their host, an elderly woman whose greying hair resembled the stripes of a silver tabby, came out of the house, stepped into the patio and walked around, quietly greeting the new queen, then each of the toms. She nodded at Jeri, Bindi, and Anya, and accepted their casual nods in return. Finally, she settled into her chair under the tree, not quite under where Jeri was sitting, and nodded to the men to begin.

The newest tom, a redhead with brilliant green eyes, leapt into the center of the patio and started to dance. He was strong and limber, but not, Jeri thought, as graceful as some of the men who’d danced here before.

The blonde jumped in, an acrobatic move that flowed into a somersault and then into a bit of break dancing.

Then the tortie, a short man with nondescript brown hair in human form, slid into the center, with more break-dancing.

The next two danced together, with modern dance moves, mirroring each other. It caught Anya’s attention, and Jeri caught her leaning forward, her tongue between her teeth.

The final dancer, a slender man with dark skin, started with ballet moves and then some impressive Russian folk dance moves.

After the first round, there was another round or two before refreshments, but before any of the toms returned to the patio, a new young man jumped in. He was slender, with wide shoulders and narrow hips, and combined some modern dance moves with Riverdance-style kicking and tapping. His hair was long and blonde, and his eyes—Jeri caught her breath. Despite the full moon, she couldn’t tell the color of his eyes. He was either wearing contacts or was, simply, human.

The area was warded. A normal human should not have come so close—he should have either not noticed the party or remembered he had urgent business elsewhere. But this one had walked right in and joined the event before anyone even noticed he was there.

She glanced down at their host. The old woman was looking at the new queen, and then looked up over her shoulder at Anya, Bindi, and Jeri. Her expression was not upset or alarmed, just curious. Surprised and curious.

The toms were dancing two or three at a time now, each focusing on one of the watching queens, making a few moves and then taking a short breather, before dancing again. The human spun in the middle, eyes closed.

The blonde tiger and the paired toms focused in turn on Anya; the black continued to court Bindi. The other two toms danced for each person in turn. Jeri found her eyes lingered on the human, which soon led the other two toms to take turns in front of the purple-haired woman. He was not as limber and strong as a catkin tom, but he was quite good. There was something compelling about him, not so much the dance as his essence, like he was, or would become, important to her.

The human danced closer and closer to Jeri, his eyes drawn to her. She could see lines of confusion and curiosity on his face. Reflexively, she sent a thought his way. “Who are you?”

His eyes widened, and he lost a step, but he mouthed his name, “Tom”.

His mental voice was full and rich. It rang through her mind like a bell, or like the scent or catnip. It seemed as loud as a shout, and Jeri startled, but no one else noticed the exchange. No one else seemed to hear him at all.

She found herself sliding out of the tree and reaching a hand to him. He stumbled, then walked forward.

Suddenly, the old woman stood between them, not letting them touch. She looked every bit as mysterious as a cat could. “Come, kittens, let us go inside so we don’t disturb anyone else.”

The man nodded, and Jeri stared. He was human, she was certain of that. Why had the old queen called him a kitten, a phrase normally reserved for catkin?

The old queen watched her steadily until she also nodded, then she led them inside and offered milk and pastries.

(to be continued)


Thank you to ankewehner for the prompt


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 9th, 2014 11:45 am (UTC)
This really caught my attention. I like the storyline you're hinting at here. The fact I used to be a dancer (back when I had functioning joints) has a bit to do with my interest.

Looking forward to the rest of the story.
Apr. 9th, 2014 11:49 am (UTC)
Functioning joints are important!

I'm glad you're enjoying it so far.
Apr. 9th, 2014 01:52 pm (UTC)
Oooh shiny. I enjoyed the mystery and the beginning hints of characters.
Apr. 9th, 2014 09:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Apr. 9th, 2014 04:31 pm (UTC)
nitpick: paragraph 9 (starting "Their host") is missing at least one word at the end. I assume it's just supposed to be the one word "dance" but there might be something more missing.

You have a lot going on here and have me wondering several things -- good start!
Apr. 9th, 2014 08:52 pm (UTC)
Nitpicks welcome. Thanks! Even though these ficlets are intended as worldbuilding, and are, as a result, essentially pre-first-draft, I do strive to make them excellent.

Hopefully I'll have fewer of these weird typos when I finish switching over to the newer computer, whose keyboard fits my fingers better.
Apr. 9th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC)
Interesting! Looking forward to the next section.

I note that tortoiseshell and other tri-color cats are almost always female, with the rare male being an XXY or a chimera or mosaic or other genetic oddity. (This would not have caught my attention had I not just had a tortie in residence, and been reminded about it by the vet.)
Apr. 9th, 2014 09:27 pm (UTC)

I will have to keep that in mind. Perhaps this guy is an exception to the rule, or perhaps he's intersex or transgender. Hmmmm...
Apr. 10th, 2014 03:34 am (UTC)
Or his human form and his cat form have different genders, or ... lots of possibilities. I think chimera look and function pretty much like non-chimera unless you go analyze their genetic makeup or there's some other genetic error in play in (one of) their geneset(s).
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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