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Foxy: Chemicals Between Us
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2012 Stephanie Burke
"I feel pretty!" The high, cheery voice warbled over the sounds of splashing water. Slim limbs kicked in the hot mineral water as the singer tossed back yards of wet, black hair and threw his head back, basking in the bright, warm sun. He sang on -- he wasn't just pretty, he was also witty and gay.
"Like that last is a surprise to anyone."
"Atka!" The singer squawked, spinning around and glaring at the slim man who stared down at him, disapproval in every line of his body.
"Don't Atka me, Iluq," the white-haired man complained. "You woke me up and managed to scare away any good hunting for miles around in the process. Who told you that you could sing, anyway?"
"I never said I could." Iluq sniffed, splashing water in his elder brother's direction before a sly smile slid across his face. "But you're just jealous because I am prettier than you."
"We're twins." Atka snorted, wiping water from his face and chest, looking down at the droplets with disdain before shaking them away. "We look exactly alike."
"Not exactly," Iluq countered, running his hands through his wet locks. "My hair is not as uncommon as your own whiteout mane."
"Just wait until you fall in love and then lose your heart." Closing his eyes for a moment, Arka breathed out a pained sigh before he shook his head and glared at his twin. "Yours will turn white too."
Knowing he had inadvertently caused his twin pain, Iluq let out a small whine, his gaze dropping to beg forgiveness. Then, before his brother could react, he slammed his hands into the water, totally soaking the white-haired male.
"Iluq!" Arka bellowed, holding his hands out to the sides, water dripping from his naked form, his hair lying flat against his head, his pointed ears twitching madly. "This means war!"
With a yowl of challenge, Atka dove into the pool, nearly drowning his brother in a wave of hot mineral water.
Iluq emerged, choking and gasping, looking like a sodden rat with his long, soaking black hair covering his face.
Sputtering, he reached up and pulled fistfuls of the silken mass out of his eyes to glare at his brother, his red eyes looking very much amused. "You win."
"Always." Atka chuckled, pulling hanks of his own silver-white tresses from his face and spitting out water. "I am the elder brother, after all."
Iluq snorted at his brother's claims, then froze.
"What --" Atka began, but Iluq waved him to silence. Iluq lifted his head and gave another hard sniff.
"There is -- is something --"
Instantly, Atka was on the defensive, his eyes narrowing as he scanned the immediate area looking for danger. But Iluq, almost as if in a trance, rose from the pool and crawled to the snowline at the end of their cleared area, his nose in the air, sniffing like he had just smelled the most wonderful scent ever.
Before Atka could stop him, his twin shifted forms and took off through the snow, kicking up tufts of white snow as he ran.
"Iluq!" Atka roared, shifting forms and taking after his brother. He had no idea where Iluq was going, but there was a strange scent in the air, and impulsive Iluq would not heed the dictates of caution.
Atka caught up with his brother as he stopped near the edge of their property. The Triganniaq Clan, the Arctic Fox clan, had its own property within the Last Chance Preserve. Although it was part of the larger Arctic Fox clan, the Triganniaq were known for being unique in a group of unique people. Their magic affected their appearance more than any other skulk members in recent history, and nothing they did could hide their odd red eyes and unusual hair color.
For the members of the Triganniaq clan, black hair was the norm in human form, no matter what magics were applied. While in their more comfortable fox form, their fur adjusted to the seasons like any other, but their human hair remained black until they met their true mate and fell in love. Then it turned as white and pure as their love was reported to be. Like other Arctic Foxes, they mated for life and were, for the most part, monogamous. But in certain circumstances, like when their mate died or played them false, like in Atka's case, their white hair turned silver, the color of frozen tears.
His mate's cheating had left Atka a more cautious and often cynical man, nearly unheard of in his clan of jokers and tricksters. But Atka had changed, and now he dedicated his life to protecting his energetic twin. Which was why he felt no compunction in chasing after him and the unusual scent he claimed he could smell.
He caught up with Iluq as the wily fox paused, his nose in the air.
"Atka, do you not smell it?" he asked, his whole body quivering.
"Smell what? What, Iluq? I don't smell a thing."
"Try harder," Iluq demanded, his eyes narrowing as he stared out into the timberline.
Sighing in frustration, Atka closed his eyes and lifted his head, expecting to smell one of the other foxes in heat or pregnant. But what he smelled -- what was that intriguing scent?
It was rich and spicy, earthy in a way with a hint of -- of flowers and tall grass? "What --? Is it --?" he began, but a wicked smile crossed Iluq's vulpine face as his upper body lowered and his rump rose high in the air.
"Oh, yeah," his younger half cackled. "Neighbors."
"But --" It was more than that. Atka stared, his heart racing in his chest, his eyes wide in shock. He -- he didn't know how this could happen! This could not be true.
Where Iluq saw new neighbors to torment and tease, Atka felt -- well, it couldn't be true, but -- he felt his mate.