PLACEHOLDER: A post-industrial fantasy story

Chapter the Second

Beast from the East

Makoto Kitsunehime-Grimes was currently on the tail end of an exhausting business trip. Dealing with her former countrymen was always a good way of reminding Matoko why she left Japan. So traditionalist! She'd been right to attend in her male form. One of the many inherent powers of the Kitsune, or spirit foxes, was shape-shifting, so gender was a rather fluid thing to them. At the moment – the last forty-five years or so – she preferred to identify as female. Specifically a 4'11" Japanese woman in her early thirties with an hourglass figure, short blond hair, fox ears popping out of the top of her head and nine luxuriously fluffy blond fox tails. She was dressed comfortably in a pair of jogging shorts, sneakers and an over-sized t-shirt upon which the phrase "Touch Fluffy Tail" was emblazoned. Much to the chagrin of the other residents of the first-class section. But it was a nine hour flight and there was no way she was spending it stuffed into the conservative suit she had worn to the meeting, which was tailored for a man two feet taller than her preferred form.

Makoto summoned a stewardess and had her drink refilled. The scotch helped calm her nerves. Having recently passed her 907th birthday, it was no stretch to say that she was set in her ways, and flying, at least in an airplane, was something she was still getting used to. Makoto could remember when such things were still the domain of wild eyed young engineers, coaxing their ramshackle assemblages of wood, wire and fabric into the endless sky. She never thought it would catch on. But that was mortals for you, always changing the system.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the pilot announcing their final approach to

Placeholder international airport. 'Thank the gods,' she thought. Makoto was more than ready to get back home. Upon disembarking she was met at the arrival gate by her husband, easily recognizable by the way he towered over the other people there like a muscular lamp post. His rather plain, round face bore a slightly bored expression under his regulation short brown haircut and ever present five o'clock shadow, which somehow never quite had the ambition to grow into a full beard. She smiled and waved to catch his attention.

As soon as he saw her the aura of bored indifference evaporated like the morning dew in the face of his broad welcoming grin.

"Welcome home," he greeted in a deep, gruff voice, engulfing his much smaller wife in an all-encompassing embrace. She let him hold her as she took in his familiar comforting scent.

"Mmm," she sighed, content. "So you missed me then?" she had a very light Japanese accent, just enough to give her words an exotic flavor.

"You have no idea," he replied with a grin.

They chatted idly as they retrieved her luggage, which he insisted on carrying despite the fact that she could easily levitate it with her magic. Unhurriedly the couple made their way to the parking area, Matoko lightly kvetching about her trip.

"Oh right," she remembered ambivalently when they arrived at their vehicle, "we live in a van."

"No," Solomon corrected. "We live in a pocket dimension."

"That's inside a van."

"You did agree to this." He definitely wasn't pouting.

"I know, just give me some time to adjust." She gave his arm a reassuring hug. It was the only part of him she could get her arms around. Solomon went around to the back to drop off the luggage while Makoto strapped herself into the passenger's seat.

"You can go back and unpack if you want, we're just heading back to HQ."

"No, I just want to sit with you for a while," she replied with a grin. "Plus I like watching you drive," she added in a sexy voice. The grin was returned as the van hummed to life.

0-0

Cassie woke up gradually, slowly ascertaining her condition. She was in a new place and part of her was excited to get up and explore, but another, lazier part was warm and comfortable and wanted to go back to sleep. In the end sloth overcame curiosity by the very thinnest of margins. She cocooned herself deeper into the tangled nest of blankets and pillows that had formed around her during the night and tried to return to the land of Nod. Unfortunately at that moment her phone started ringing. For awhile she ignored it, hoping the caller would give up and go away. This did not happen. Groaning, she slowly extricated herself from the blankets and casually rolled off of the seven foot high hammock to land perfectly on her feet. She moved over to dig her phone out of her pile of discarded underwear. Upon checking the caller ID she groaned again and finally answered.

"Hello Mom." She turned the phone away to protect her sensitive ears from the angry tirade that erupted from the speaker. "Do you feel better now?" she asked after the speech started to trail off several minutes later.

This set the matron off again and it was another several minutes before the elder female calmed down enough to listen to her daughter.

"I'm at Solomon's place, I stayed over... No, not like that, we're just friends... He's offered to let me stay here for as long as I want and I've decided to take him up on it... I keep telling you it's not like that!" No matter how much I wantit to be, she thought.

"Mom, you know I love you but I just can't stand to be around the others any longer. It's my life and I'm not trading away a promising career to squirt out kittens for one of Dad's golfing buddies! ...Yes, I'm one-hundred percent sure. I might come by to pick up some of my things later, okay? ...I will, thanks for understanding, Bye." Cassie heaved a huge sigh of relief as she hung up the phone. That had gone better than expected.

Now irrevocably awake, she went over to her scratching post and steeeeaaatchhhed like only a feline could, idly clawing on the post as her feet did the same to the extra plush carpet. She didn't hear anyone moving around so Solomon had probably gone to the airport to pick up Matoko. But wait, she was in his van, so most likely she was also at the airport. So therefore the fox could be here at any moment and she was still in her bare fur!

The beleaguered calico hadn't thought that she would need any extra clothes when she left for work yesterday morning, and had very little desire to return home to get her rather meager possessions. She just knew there would be an argument and she'd had enough of that. Sighing she donned her garments from the previous day, it was better than nothing, and made a mental note to buy some more clothes. Maybe she could invite Makoto as a gesture of some kind, a sort of bonding activity.

Having acquired a basic level of coverage, she cautiously exited her room. Her ears swiveled around, searching for any sign of the alpha predator upon whose lair she was intruding. Kitsune possessed powerful intrinsic magical abilities such as shape-shifting and mastery of fox-fire, a special type of fire magic exclusively performed by Spirit Foxes, and those who had achieved their ninth tail, such as Matoko, were Deity-level magic users as well. Any potential violent conflict would end very badly for the feline. So though they had met briefly a few times without incident, and Solomon had implied on several occasions that his wife was inordinately fond of her, Cassandra still could not help but be anxious. It was instinct, going back to her primitive ancestors fighting for survival in the African Savannah. She needed to work off some nervous energy.

Normally she would go for a run before breakfast but as she was in a van that was no doubt moving at a rapid pace, that was not currently an option. Instead, between heavy calisthenics, hanging sit ups and pull ups off of the balcony, and climbing the pole in her room, she managed to achieve a satisfying burn. But still very little peace of mind.

Her stomach rumbled at her, reminding her that she had not yet had breakfast. Setting aside her thoughts of potential interpersonal crisis, she made her way to the kitchenette, pointedly ignoring the fairy maids that just happened to be in the area and were totally not making sure she behaved herself.

"Watch yourself Outlander." they totally didn't seem to imply.

0-0

Makoto yipped in delight as Solomon power-slid his van though a series of hairpin turns. The sat-nav had revealed an extra twisty, little-used side road along the route back to MRB HQ, and Solomon was seeing how quickly he could familiarize himself with it. The van handled the task with all the gusto he had built into it. The vehicle charged squealing out of the turn, tires struggling to maintain their grip on the weathered asphalt, before finally taking hold and launching the beast out of the apex and back along the straight. Spotting a stop sign in the distance he judiciously applied the brakes and came to a juddering halt, he and his passenger's momentum hurling them against the safety harnesses that kept them firmly in their seats.

"Whoo-Hoo!" hooted the elated fox. "Again!"

With a persistent grin Solomon sedately drove back onto the main road and smoothly merged into the normal morning traffic.

"That'll wake you up in the morning!" he commented, beaming.

"Better than coffee," she replied. "Well, almost."

They drove awhile in comfortable silence, until Makoto sighed and rolled her neck..

"Are we still just going back to HQ?" she inquired.

"Unless there was somewhere else you wanted to go."

"No, just since the fun part is over, I thought I might go unpack and have a nice relaxing soak in my Jacuzzi." And check on our delicious new house-guest, she specifically didn't say.

0-0

Cassandra found herself in a moral quandary. She was very hungry. Unfortunately her species and training regimen rather restricted what she considered acceptable sustenance, and after ransacking the fridge, she had found but one option: a sushi tray laden with a mouthwatering array of sashimi and nigiri. But, as was her lot, she was unsure how to proceed, for the sushi had, tragically, already been claimed.

"Makoto's" It read. "Do not eat".

Cassie made a frustrated noise. Maybe the fox wouldn't notice? She had been away for a while; maybe she had forgotten about it? But what if she hadn't and Cassie had eaten it? That would make a terrible impression! The calico was paralyzed by indecision.

She was so focused on her food that her keen ears failed to notice the arrival of the apex predator she was so desperate not to offend.

Matoko immediately noticed the cat, however, or rather the cat's behind. The fox went directly into stealth mode and prepared to pounce on the perfectly poised and pleasingly proportioned pert posterior presented. Said posterior's equally delightful upper half was leaning into the fridge, entirely focused on something inside, it's tail standing vertically in a shallow curve, the tip twitching teasingly back and forth. Matoko stopped a moment to fix the target in her mind, cocked her arm back at struck as hard as she could:

*SMACK*!

The shocked MRB agent leapt into the air with a yowl, twisting athletically to face her attacker. The move would have been rather impressive, had the ceiling not been so low. Makoto was quite surprised that she still managed to land on her feet before falling to her knees and clutching her head.

"Owww!" she whined, both her head and her rear feeling the affects of the surprise assault. "What the hell Solo-Gah!" IT WAS MATOKO! Cassie quickly scanned the room for her partner. He wasn't there! She was on her own! She swallowed nervously.

The scary, scary fox was currently doubled over in laughter, and remained so for quite a bit longer than Cassie thought was justified. The cat waited impatiently while the fox collected herself.

"Ahem, yes. Good...heh-heh, morning a-heh, Miss Cassandra," she barely managed to get out before the calico's angry, embarrassed expression set her off again. She had to turn away in order to regain her composure. "Heh-heh, ah, whew, ahem, yes, heh-heh, I, um, heh-heh, do apologize but I could not resist such a tempting target!" Cassie's aggrieved look set off another round of giggles.

"Sorry, sorry," Makoto apologized, wiping a tear from her eye. "I presume you were looking for something to eat?" The fox moved Cassie to one side as she checked the fridge. "Ah, it looks like there's some sushi if you want it."

"Yes'm!" All slights were forgiven as Cassie snatched the offered fish from Makoto's hand. The fox surreptitiously checked to see if she still had all her fingers.

After a few moments it occurred to the younger woman that maybe she hadn't been the most tactful of guests. "'ank 'ou," she mumbled around a mouthful of fishy goodness.

"Think nothing of it," replied her bemused host. This couldn't have gone better if Matoko had planned it herself. She had taken the newcomer down a peg, establishing herself as the dominant female, but had also been magnanimous in victory, gaining the beta's gratitude. Now to solidify her position…

"Now that you've eaten, why don't you join me in the bath? I could use someone to scrub my back."

"Mm?" The unwary youngster had been focused on her food and not paying proper attention. "Sure?" she answered uncertainly before being dragged off by an enthusiastic fox.

0-0

Bathing has a special place in Japanese culture. Communal bathing has been practiced for centuries as a way of fostering togetherness and social harmony. "Everyone is equal in the bath" was the sentiment, allowing the different social classes to mingle and build bonds of trust. Matoko, while not a traditional kitsune by any means, broadly approved of this sentiment and was all for establishing trust. But it should be made clear that certain parties were a bit more equal than others. Or to be as blunt as possible, she was top bitch, or vixen rather.

It is a little known fact that house cats, Cassie's distant forebears, would establish group hierarchies via grooming, the groomers being dominant. So as Matoko slowly peeled away each item of Cassie's clothing, letting her fingers tease through her soft, silken fur as she exposed the kitten's nubile charms, (for a proper scrubbing mind, nothing untoward here,) she was actually further cementing her position as dominant female – no matter how much it looked like she was enjoying herself.

"Oh my, Miss Cassandra, you have such a good physique," Makoto complimented as she ran her fingers through the soft fur of Cassie's taught abs before wetting it with a warm gentle spray from the detachable shower head.

"Uh, thanks. I exercise a lot."

The fox continued with her ministrations, thoroughly dowsing her junior with warm water.

"Ah, Solomon does as well." She poured a generous dollop of shampoo into her palms before rubbing them together to work up a good foam, then proceeded to agitate it into Cassie's fur. The fox explored every inch of toned, lithe muscle as she methodically worked the shampoo into the cat's fur.

For her part the calico agent found herself of two minds. On one hand, this was clearly inappropriate. On the other it felt really, really good. Without a doubt this was the most sensual experience of her young life. There didn't seen to be any malice behind it, just a gentle reminder who was ultimately in charge. Plus she was a guest; it wouldn't do to complain. So she simply released the tension in her muscles and let herself get lost in the sensations.

Makoto smiled to herself as Cassie finally loosened up and relaxed into her ministrations, reveling in her mastery of the young cat's body. Her unconscious purr and hooded eyelids gave ample testament to the fox's skill, as well as Cassie's natural sensitivity. Matoko was sorely tempted to devour (metaphorically) such a delicious morsel right then and there, with or without the kitten's consent. It would not be the first time in her long and sordid history. It would be a simple thing to use her power to impose her will upon the kitten's mind. She could even make Cassie think it was her own idea, to make the cat her (and Solomon's) willing plaything. But ultimately her better nature won out. That wasn't who she was anymore. And besides, Solomon would be cross with her. So she finished off her exploration in Cassie's mop of short black and ginger hair, giving her ear a friendly tweak before rinsing her off with a cascade of warm water - accompanied by a final rubdown, purely to ensure that all of the shampoo had been washed away, of course.

"There you go, all clean," she announced, turning off the spray from the shower head and setting it aside.

The calico blinked several times as she emerged from the sensual haze in which she'd been so pleasantly lost.

"Oh," she paused. "That felt really good."

"It pleases me to hear that you enjoyed my humble services. The Shogun, I forget which one, was also complimentary of my skills. Perhaps we could make this a regular occurrence?"

"O-okay..." Such a bold proposal overwhelmed the young catgirl. "I-I think I would like that…"

Heavens, this kitten was adorable! "Now be a dear and help me with my tails," she handed Cassie the shampoo and turned her back, "I can never quite reach."

Cassandra tentatively took up the sprayer and attempted to replicate Makoto's gentle technique, though to less than stellar results. The fox sighed, wincing occasionally when Cassie encountered a tangle. She was clumsy, but her earnestness in her desire to please the mighty nine-tails was endearing. With practice and careful supervision, Makoto decided, Cassie would make an excellent concubine for Solomon and herself. She would do her best to convince them both of this fact.

0-0

Having reached his destination, Solomon parked his van in the MRB employee parking garage and headed back to the living area. He didn't hear any fighting, so either they were getting along or they had killed each other.

"Hey," he inquired of a passing fairy maid. "Where did they go?"

She mimed taking a shower and pointed upstairs.

"Ah, I see, thank you very much," he replied with a polite nod, to which the fairy performed a curtsy.

He made his way up the stairs to the main bathroom and knocked on the door.

"Hello?"

He heard some rather urgent whispering followed by Makoto's voice at a normal volume: "Well, he's going to see eventually so I don't see the point of making a-, you look nothing like a drowned rat! A drowned cat maybe- Come in dear!"

He entered and took in the scene. The front part of the bathroom was a typical western bath, sink, toilet, mirror, toothbrushes, etc. but past that was a mostly empty area containing a stool and detachable shower head with a long flexible metal hose clipped to the wall. There was a drain in the floor, which was roughened to prevent slipping. And at the far end was Makoto's precious Jacuzzi, in which sat the two most important women in Solomon's world. Cassie was crouched down with only her head above the waterline, her wet fur plastered to her body. It was rather cute in a wet kitten kind of way. He tried very hard not to smile.

"If I'm interrupting I could…" he started to back out of the room. But the nine-tail wasn't having any of that. She rose from the tub and, shamelessly nude, stomped over to her human and grasped the hem of his shirt.

"You're both being absolutely ridiculous." She glared at Solomon's token resistance to her impromptu disrobing and he immediately surrendered, letting her take his clothes off and lead him over to the shower for a good scrubbing. Cassandra sneaked a guilty peek at Solomon's muscular frame being fussed over in a way she recognized from her own recent experience, but even more flirty. The way the fox pressed her body into his, it was almost like she was showing him off. Her eyes widened and an unintentional little purr stirred in her chest at the sight of soap and steam framing those broad shoulders and bulging muscles, sliding in foamy streams down chiseled abs and trim cut hips and … Cassie swallowed hard, ears flattening, and tried very hard not to stare.

Upon finishing the pre-soak cleansing, the fox led her paramour over to the tub and sat him in the middle, right next to Cassie – who at this point was blushing so hard you could see it through her fur – before squeezing herself in on his other side and prompting him to put his brawny arm around her. She rewarded his initiative by doing something Cassie didn't see below the waterline that made him sit up a little straighter. The calico was torn between curiosity and mortification. Solomon shot her an apologetic look. She remained frozen in place, having no idea how to behave in this situation. Makoto, clearly agitated by her timidity, gave a frustrated little growl before reaching across her much-too-patient lover, smooshing the globes of her breasts like warm marshmallows against his chest as, with surprising force, she bodily dragged her struggling junior into an identical position under Solomon's other arm. The catgirl was clearly uncomfortable with this and tried desperately to curl up into her own sparse cleavage.

Solomon shot the misbehaving fox an irritated glare. What was she trying to do? Okay, it was pretty obvious what she was trying to do. For a 900+ year old, she was insufferably childish at times. He wouldn't be surprised if...yep, there she went. Cassie had abruptly risen from the tub and was well on her way out the door before he could say a thing.

"Oh dear…" remarked Makoto, brow furrowing in petulant confusion. "What's gotten into her?"

"Nothing yet, 'Koto" Solomon sighed, giving her a significant look. "Therein lies the problem."

"Oh…" Makoto's confusion lasted a moment longer, then melted into a surprised giggle. "Oh!" Then a deviously speculative expression came over her face. "Ohhh…I hadn't considered that. It's kind of cute."

Solomon sighed. "While I'm not exactly opposed to what you're trying to do," he conceded - it was at least part of the reason he had invited Cassie to stay with them, not that he would ever admit it, "...you might want to be a bit more subtle about it." Having said his peace he rose and started to go after his partner.

"Wait a second." She snapped her fingers and Solomon was suddenly completely dry. "And take these." Matoko levitated a towel, hair dryer and a brush over to him.

"Ah, good thinking." He sent her a reassuring smile to show he wasn't mad before donning a robe and heading out the door.

Makoto decided she would soak a little while longer and think on how she could make this up to her new friend.