Coming to grips

by Christian O'kane

"Misha, please. You promised," Caroline said, blocking the fox's movement down the corridor.

He stopped and looked the otter square in the face. "I said when you were ready I would let you back on duty."

"I am ready!" she countered.

"Are you?" He asked.

She held up both hands and flexed her fingers. "I'm completely healed."

"It wasn't your hands I was thinking about," he said coldly.

It was several moments before she spoke again. "Misha, I'm tired of wandering around the Keep, playing the invalid," she explained. "I'M BORED!!!!!" she shouted.

"All right," Misha said reluctantly. "We'll do a little weapons practice up in the practice room."

The otter brightened immediately. "Great! Lets go," she said and dragged the fox down the corridor.

The room was empty, and the walls and floors were covered with padding. The only furniture was a small rack of weapons and shields by the door. Misha paused and looked at the rack. All of the weapons were practice weapons, the swords were made of wood, and the mace had a rubber head with no spikes.

The fox choice a wooden long sword and a small plate sized shield called a buckler. Caroline chose just a short sword. The otter started going through a range of motions as she walked to the center of the room.

For Caroline it felt good to exercise her muscles after being idle for so long. The old maneuvers and training moves came back to her swiftly. She lightly danced around the room swinging and slashing the sword like it was an old friend.

Behind her she heard Misha cough. Turning around she found the fox standing near the doorway looking at her warily.

"You ready?" she asked.

He nodded slowly. "I guess so." Misha approached Caroline his sword and buckler held at the ready.

His first swing was slow and Caroline had no trouble blocking it. "Oh come on Misha, you're not trying." The otter lashed out with a lightening fast blow, catching the fox on the side of his face.

"Oh" he yelped and rubbed the bruise. "All right lady. I'll give you a work out," he said in an ominous voice. He launched himself at her in a flurry of blows that the otter was hard pressed to block.

She was forced backward, step by step to keep from being hit. As she fought the fox, old memories flooded back to her.

It was a warm night and the woods rang loudly with the sounds of desperate combat. Caroline and Craig fought back to back against the horde of lutins attacking them. Caroline dodged the spear point aimed at her chest and stabbed the lutin in his chest. No sooner had he fallen then two others took his place jabbing and slashing at her.

She drew the dagger from her belt and parried with it as she attacked with her short sword. Dancing and twisting back and forth she fought against the lutins pressing against her. More lutins joined the two already attacking her and she was forced to step backward to keep from being overwhelmed. One of the lutins slipped past her defense and cut a wound deep across her stomach. A second one jabbed a knife into her side and she stumbled and fell to the ground. Behind her she heard Craig scream in pain and Caroline saw his body tumble to the ground next to hers. He looked at her for a long moment. The prairie dog morph was dying and he knew it. His lips pulled back in a brief smile and he grasped her hand squeezing it gently. Then he died. Caroline saw movement out of the corner of her eye and turned in time to see a mailed fist coming at her face.

Caroline woke up slowly. She expected to find herself bound and gagged in a cell, instead she was lying comfortably in a nice, soft bed. A warm blanket was pulled up to her chin and her head rested on a large pillow. Looking around she realized that she was in Misha's room. There was something comforting in being there. Misha and her had so many good times there.

"Glad to see you're awake."

Turning she saw Misha sitting in a chair next to the bed. Sitting up she hugged her beloved tightly, feeling his warm body against her. She breathed in his wonderful scent and let it wash away all her fears and bad memories.

"Oh. Why the hug?" he asked holding her tight.

She kissed him. "I love you."

"I love you too," he answered softly.

It was a long time before they broke the embrace. "Are you all right?" he asked.

She sat on the edge of the bed and stood up. "I feel all healthy, except my muzzle hurts." She touched it and found it was badly bruised.

"I did that. I had to," Misha admitted sheepishly. "You went berserk. It was like you were really trying to kill me," he said with shock in his voice.

Caroline looked away from the fox. "I'm sorry. All the memories of that night with Craig came back to me. Suddenly I was back in those woods fighting for my life." She started to cry.

Misha touched her on the shoulder and then turned her to face him. He kissed her, longer and more passionately then before. "I understand. I was afraid something like this would happen."

"You knew it would happen?" she asked, surprised.

"I had a nephew who suffered the same thing," the fox explained. "Your mind is still trying to come to terms with what happened that night and afterward. It's called a flashback."

"Can you get rid of them?"

"With time and effort, we can make them stop," Misha explained.

"Does this mean I can't go back on duty?" she asked.

"No it doesn't. It just means that it will take a little longer. We need to work up slowly. Tomorrow we'll start with some exercises and an easy sparing session."

Relieved Caroline relaxed.

"Now if you'll get dressed, I'll take you to lunch," Misha said.

Caroline realized she was naked, before putting her to bed he had stripped her out of her clothes. She wrapped both arms around him and pulled him down onto the bed. "I have a better idea."