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Remember Here When You Are There · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
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Skink, Skank, Skunk
"How is it fair?" Skink scurried across the apartment floor, snagging discarded plastic forks, damp towels, and even damper undergarments in her claws. "I'm the one who has to work early! So why do I have to be the one who cleans up?"

No answer came. No answer ever came when Skink talked to herself, but, well, that was only to be expected, she supposed. If she'd had the answers, she wouldn't have needed to ask the questions.

And it wasn't as if she had anyone else she could talk to about these things. Oh, sure, she could talk to Skunk, but all Skunk ever did was tell her not to worry so much.

Dropping the forks into the kitchen trash, she rushed down the hall to the bathroom hamper with the other items and tried not to stop and listen at the bedroom door, tried very hard not to hear the delicate in-and-out of Skunk's breathing, tried very very hard not to imagine Skunk's sweet curves and her thick fur and the gorgeous things her lips and paws did when she and Skink were—

The alarm on Skink's phone trilled in the inner pocket of her blazer, snapped her out of her reverie staring at the bedroom door, spun her around to drop her bundle into the hamper, and sent her out the condo door into the 6AM darkness. Fortunately, her S-class had heated seats, or Skink didn't think a cold-blooded person like her would've made it all the way downtown in the morning crawl.

Work was quiet—the end of the year meant mostly busy work in the company's mergers and acquisitions department—but that just gave Skink a chance to stew, her interior monologue going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth all day long. Of course, as always, no answers came to any of her silent questions, but that didn't stop them. It didn't even slow them down.

Because, yes, Skunk was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to Skink, but she was also where most of the exasperation in Skink's life came from. During the course of the two years, five months, and eleven days since Skunk had asked, cuddled up with Skink on the sofa of her old apartment, if Skink might like a roommate with whom she could move into a better place, the two sides of the "amazing-exasperating" equation had balanced pretty well. But lately—

"OK, Skink," her boss, Mr. Salamander, called from somewhere. "See you and Skunk tonight!"

Skink started at her desk, blinked at her office door, saw Mr. Salamander there grinning. Memories clicked around inside her like ball bearings—the end of the year also meant the office party—and she aimed an automatic smile at him. "Wouldn't miss it!" she said, more details poking through the haze she'd been wrapped in for the past however many hours.

Five o'clock, the lower corner of her computer screen said, and that meant quitting time. The party then started at 8PM back here at the office, which gave her just enough time to get home and find out if she'd actually mentioned this to Skunk. Unless Skunk had gone into work early tonight. She did that sometimes.

Not that Skink could ever figure out Skunk's schedule. Or even what she did, for that matter. She'd asked Skunk about her job a few times during their first months together, but Skunk would always change the subject—often with a kiss or a stroke of that heavenly tail along Skink's flank. It was yet another thing on the "exasperating" side of the scale, but the way Skunk usually came through with her half of the rent every month sat squarely on the "amazing" side, the "wonderful" side, the side where an extraordinary creature like Skunk shared Skink's life, home, and bed.

"OK!" someone said again, and Skink had to do some more blinking, Mr. Salamander moving away down the hall outside Skink's window.

Shaking her head, Skink shut down her computer, got her coat from the hook on the back of the door, and scampered down to the parking lot. The evening traffic inched her homeward, and she tried not to fret, tried not to worry about what she would do if Skunk was gone—or if Skunk wasn't gone. Skink didn't much care for parties in the first place, and going without Skunk beside her was the only thing Skink could think of that would be more stressful than going with Skunk beside her...

She finally pulled her S-class into the condo lot, some of her innards relaxing to see the light on in the living room window while other parts of her tightened. Fumbling with her keys on the front stoop, she got the door open and called, "Skunk? You here?"

"Where else?" came the reply as soft as dandelion fluff, and Skink froze in the doorway, her gaze drinking in the sight of Skunk at the end of the front hall.

Skunk's dress clung to her, and with that black and white fur, red was definitely her color: of course, every color was her color as far as Skink was concerned. A smile pulled at Skunk's perfect lips, and she did a slow turn in place, her arms slightly spread. "From your expression," she said, facing forward once more, "I'd guess that you approve."

"Guh," Skink said. She wanted so very much to be more articulate—even just a slightly breathless Do we really have to go? would've worked nicely—but instead, here she was, making random squeaky toy noises...

After a deep swallow, she at least managed to get out, "You're incredible." So that was something...

With a laugh, Skunk became suddenly both less and more: less a nearly supernatural female figure and more real, more approachable, more marvelously touchable. "You don't know the half of it, Inky," she said, waving one manicured hand toward the kitchen. "I put together a little pasta so you won't be starving by the time we get to the party." She cocked her hip, and looking at her then, Skink couldn't have managed a swallow if she'd wanted to. "Because I am just that good." Skunk pronounced the last three words as if they were each their own individual sentence, and Skink found herself nodding in absolute agreement.

The pasta was delicious, too, though Skunk kept insisting that she'd just taken the bag of spaghetti and the jar of sauce and followed the instructions. Unable to look away from her, Skink sucked the pasta down and made a joke of it, bringing up an increasingly ridiculous list of ingredients—nutmeg, abalone, parsnips—that she swore she could taste in the concoction.

Of course, Skunk had left the dirty pots and pans in the sink, but only the grouchiest little slice of Skink's mind was noticing that...

Instead, she let herself relax, and Skunk seemed to relax as well. Not that Skunk was ever what Skink would call tense. Skunk just had a way about her, a sparkle in her eye and a laugh on her lips, that made everything so much better. Skink smiled at her and couldn't understand why she'd been so nervous about the office party.

Finishing her supper, Skink put the dishes in the sink, but Skunk pulled her away before she could begin washing them. "Those'll wait," Skunk said, and the feel of that strong but gentle hand propelling her down the hallway made Skink shiver, especially when Skunk directed her into their bedroom.

But it was the simple yet elegant black dress hanging on the rack over the front of the closet door that Skunk pointed her toward. "With your coloring and your figure, this is exactly what you'll need for tonight." Her fingers trailed up Skink's arm as she turned for the hall again. "I'll wait outside while you get changed, then you call me so I can come in and do your make-up." She stopped in the doorway and gave Skink a look that made her face heat up. "Because if I see you undressed, we'll never get to that party."

Skink's blush warmed her through the whole process: slipping out of her pant suit, letting her fingertips trail over her smooth, shiny scales while imagining that it was Skunk touching her, then slithering sinuously into the dress, and calling, "All right, Skunk." Turning and trying to copy Skunk's stance from earlier, Skink half closed her eyes. "I'm ready for you."

The door opened, and the glow that came into Skunk's widening eyes gave Skink the savoir faire to actually ask aloud, "Do we really have to go?"

Skunk's rush across the room made Skink feel like she was glowing, the glorious warmth of Skunk's arms and her fur and her whole perfect body enveloping Skink. She tilted her head back so she could meet Skunk's lips, and the whole rest of the world went away for a timeless time.

Then Skunk was pulling away just enough to say, "You tempt me, Inky, but showing up at the party's good for your career." Another kiss spun Skink dizzyingly—or so she thought till a chair caught her backside and she blinked to see herself blinking in the dresser mirror, Skunk beautiful and smiling behind her. "We'll stay an hour maybe," Skunk was going on, reaching around Skink to open some of the little make-up containers Skink usually ignored. "I don't think I can last any longer without wanting to peel you out of that dress. And besides—" Her voice got all sing-songy. "They'll have petits fours."

As always, Skink was amazed at the things Skunk could do with a few strokes of eyeliner, the tiniest dabs of blush. "You're so good to me," she muttered, turning so she could see Skunk's actual face instead of the reflection in the mirror.

The smile that spread beneath Skunk's delicate black whiskers threatened to squeeze Skink's throat closed. "Could be that I love you," Skunk said softly.

Why? Skink wanted to ask, but she knew she really didn't want an answer to that. Besides, it was so much easier to tell the truth and say all stammering and hackneyed, "I love you, too."

That took Skunk's smile to a whole new level, and when she held out the long, elegant digits of her paws, Skink rested her own stubby little claws in them without hesitation. Skunk pulled her to her feet, slipped her arm around Skink's shoulders, and marched her out of the bedroom. "Party first," she announced. "Snuggles later."

At the least the traffic was more reasonable at this hour, and Skink pulled into her regular parking spot in the structure under the building with the "exasperating" side of her inner scale practically empty. Clambering out of the S-class, she was a little too late to open Skunk's door for her, and she had to reach up just a little to link her elbow to Skunk's. But Skunk's chuckle made it all worth the effort. "So gallant," Skunk said.

"Of course," Skink replied, a confidence flooding her that she usually only felt when she was displaying her impeccable fiduciary reports in a corporate boardroom.

Inside, she greeted Mr. Salamander and the co-workers she actually knew, got greetings in return, and felt absolutely at ease. It helped as always that Skunk was perfect, knowing when to smile and when to laugh, able to become a part of any conversation, some sixth sense seeming to tell her when Skink was foundering to make small talk with whomever they'd found themselves standing with. The food was excellent—especially the petits fours—and when Mr. Salamander singled Skink and her team out for praise during his remarks forty minutes or so after she and Skunk had arrived, Skink started thinking that maybe she could manage to stay more than an hour.

But during the applause that followed Mr. Salamander's remarks, Skunk leaned down and whispered, "I am so turned on right now." And Skink started thinking that she might not be able to manage the drive home before the urge to get Skunk out of that dress overwhelmed her.

Skunk's claws were doing incredible things along the back of Skink's neck. "Another petit four," Skunk murmured, "then we'll head out to enjoy a more private sort of delicacy." She turned for the dessert table, her tail—and several related parts—swaying deliciously.

And a cat guy that Skink vaguely recognized—he'd just started a week or two ago in accounts payable, she thought—came up beside her. "Skunk!" he said, and the way it bubbled out of him told Skink how drunk he was. "I thought that was you!" He blinked blearily at Skink, a smile squirming across his snout. "You got good taste, Ms. Skink! Skunk here's the best! The very best! I've only had her twice, but—" He gave a low whistle and wobbled around to face Skunk again. "I've been saving up, though, so you got any spots open after the first of the year?" He reached a paw for her arm.

The look on Skunk's face was aimed at him, not at Skink, but she shivered anyway. For his part, the cat guy seemed to freeze solid except for his tail: it puffed up like multiple dandelions. "This is not," Skunk said, every word as sharp and cold as an icicle, "the proper way to contact me. You know my established channels. Use them! Is that understood?"

The cat backed half a step away. "Yeah! Yeah, sure! No problem!" Ears folding, he swung away, marching off with a hissed, "Skank!"

The word echoed in Skink's head, and a number of questions about what Skunk did for a living suddenly had answers.

That Skink left the party only became obvious to her when she shivered again and realized she was down in the parking garage looking at her S-class in its space. Her claws were shaking too much as she reached for her purse to actually get the clasp undone, and judging by the loud panting sounds she was hearing, she didn't imagine she would be calming down anytime soon.

But it couldn't be true! How could it be true? The guy was drunk! He didn't know Skunk, couldn't possibly have anything to do with her, hadn't meant anything when he'd said he'd had her twice! It was all a terrible, terrible—

Except that Skunk hadn't denied it, hadn't told him he was mistaken, hadn't said—

"I should've told you," came that velvet soft voice from behind her.

Skink spun, Skunk standing with face downcast in front of the elevator. "Told me?" Skink asked, thoughts and emotions jittering through her like sparks. "Told me what? That you were a—" So many terms that were synonymous with the word the cat guy had used, but Skink couldn't make herself say any of them. "And what does that make me?" she blurted, her brain careening off in another direction. "Your pimp? Another john? Your sugar daddy?"

"The love of my life," Skunk muttered, her gaze still fixed on the concrete of the parking lot floor. "It's always been you for me, Skink. Always."

"Except when you're working nights!" Heat burbled and blorched inside Skink. "Is that it?"

"Hey!" Skunk head came up, her teeth clenched, her eyes narrow. "You go to work and talk all day, right? But how much sense would it make if I demanded you never talk to anyone but me ever again? Huh? How is what I do any different?"

Skink stared at her. "What?"

"Guh!" Doubling over like she'd been punched in the stomach, Skunk brought her forearms up to cover her face. "I know, I know! It worked in my head, but I'm—!" She took several deep shaky breaths. "I'm so terrified right now, Inky, I can't even think. I always knew this day was going to come if I didn't tell you the truth, but I...I—" She fell to her knees. "I only do guys and mammals 'cause they don't mean anything to me, and the house where I work's the best in the city: maybe the best in the state. I clear a thousand bucks a night even after the house takes their cut 'cause I'm good at it. Real good. But—" A few more breaths shook in and out of her, but she didn't move her arms away from her face. "It's you I love, Inky. Always and forever."

Memories flashed though Skink like lightning, exquisite images and sensations from when she and Skunk were together, horrible imagined scenes from when they were apart.

"I'm super careful," Skunk was going on, her voice a sobbing wreck, "and the house is super protective! That guy in there, I just hafta give 'em his name, and he never steps inside again! They've all been wanting to meet you, Inky, 'cause I've told 'em how great you are, but I didn't— I couldn't— I'm such an idiot..."

"It's okay," Skink heard herself say, and she had to force herself not to slam her hands over her own mouth. "I mean, it's not okay, but it...it is okay! Okay?"

Skunk was still shivering where she crouched on the garage floor, but her arms parted just enough for Skink to see her mascara-stained face. "What?" Skunk asked.

"I don't know!" Part of her tried to tell her not to, but Skink pushed her legs to move, staggered over to Skunk, dropped to kneel beside her. "But I do know that I love you, and we...we need to talk, not...not throw away what we have just because...because—"

Because my girlfriend is a whore, she didn't say. Instead, she reached out to touch Skunk's shoulder. "Let's go home."

For another eternal instant, silence hung over them. Then— "You mean it?" Skunk whispered.

Skink nodded. "It's exasperating," she said, "but everything amazing about you balances it out."

Dropping her arms and straightening, Skunk blinked her big wet eyes. "Is anything either of us ever says again going to make sense?"

Not able—and not wanting—to stop the laugh that burst out of her, Skink shook her head. "We're all kinds of messed up, but if we work together, we can fix it. I know we can."

Skunk's smile twitched more than a little, but when she lunged forward to wrap Skink in her arms, Skink had never felt anything as solid. "I know we can," she murmured into Skunk's hair. "I know we can."
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#1 ·
The writing is the real draw here, as the characters come alive very well. It's not exactly a new plot, and it's fairly noncommittal about whether it comes to a conclusion. Definitely still open-ended but with a particular direction firmly suggested, at least in a plot sense. Though this is more about their emotional engagement, and that comes to a less definite direction. I almost feel like it's glib in the end, Skink just saying of course everything will be alright and nothing hinting a possibility of otherwise, even though they have yet to start working their way through this. So, great character work and language use, but the plot doesn't go anywhere I didn't expect it to, especially as hinted at by the title. And that title initially had me wondering if this would have something to do with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."