Freeze Frame: A Christmas Tale


Part 1

Chapter 1

I stared at the four items in front of me and thought, 'Is it going to be the blue thong, the black satin thong, the purple lace number, or the red frilly knickers?'

It was nearly Christmas and here I was still trying to work out what to get Caitlyn as a present. While our relationship was becoming closer and more cosy with each passing day, with the same spark that had brought the two of us together still there, I really wasn't very good at the whole dating a girl thing. I was always hopeless at buying people presents anyway. I rubbed my chin thoughtfully with one hand while using four of the remaining ones to hold up my present options.

On reflection maybe sexy underwear was more of a present for me anyway. Though I suspected that wouldn't upset my little Caitlyn so long as I was suitably appreciative of her wearing them. Still I wanted our first Christmas together to be special and so I put the little sexy panties back on the rack of undies for girls with tails.

There was a thump behind me and I turned to see the owner of the shop Charlie stacking up some new photo boards with promotional fashion shots featuring a very striking looking brunette partial snake or lizard hybrid. Charlie liked to use local talent to advertise her wares and the girl looked familiar, probably one she had used before. More than once she had asked if I would be willing to model for her but my old insecurities made flaunting myself in front of a camera still a bit much for me.

With my somewhat unique clothing requirements I had been a frequent visitor to her shop 'Wings and Tails' over the months and the two of us had become friendly. She also had an engineering background, which most of her staff lacked, and so we two could talk shop.

She waved and trotted over, her wings flicking then folding away “How's my favourite customer? You still haven't made up your mind?”

“No I can't seem to decide what to get Caitlyn. It's our first Christmas as a couple I want it to be perfect,” I replied.

“Well if your lass is anything like my fella then just being with you is more than enough. Any gift is just icing on the cake.”

“I know but I still want to give her some sort of a token to show how much I love her.”

“Well if that's the case I think you're shopping in the wrong aisle sweetie,” grinned Charlie.

I blushed and gave a little giggle, “I guess so, I'm so lousy at these things that most of the presents I get for people are just left gathering dust on a shelf somewhere or returned.”

“Well maybe just look for something she really needs or you could go for something from the heart.”

“Yeah, well I guess I'll keep looking.”

“Chin up, I'm sure you'll find something.”

“Well I better get back, I'm meeting Nat for lunch.”

“See ya later Em.”

“Bye Charlie.”

I gave her a three handed wave and then headed out ignoring all the stares as best I could. Even in a place like 'Wings and Tales', founded for those changed by MORFS, I tended to stand out. Since my change some months back I had gotten a lot more used to it and found that simply ignoring people was the best course.

It was the usual pre-Christmas rush with people all over the place shopping for presents and food. The sheer number of people rushing to and fro seemed to diminish my normal shock value, with people just too busy to take the time to stand and stare.

I walked over to the nearby food court and looked around for my friend Nat. I soon picked out her head of blonde hair amongst the throng of people grabbing lunch. I queued for a short while at one of the stands and got a sandwich then strolled over in her direction.

We were no longer roommates but still best friends and now we were sharing a house with our partners. I was glad we had found a place that suited the four of us and while it still felt a bit odd living with Caitlyn I was enjoying it.

“Hey Em, any luck?” Nat asked as I sat opposite her.

“No, I still don't know what to get KittyCait for Christmas.”

“You were looking at the panties again weren't you?” Nat said with a wicked grin.

I blushed right down to my toes, “I might have taken a quick glance.”

“Hehehe I'm only kidding Em. You should hurry up though, you've got not much time left.”

“I know,” the end of term was looming over me like a dark storm. I suspected Caitlyn would probably be spending Christmas with her aunt, who had raised her after her parents kicked her out due to her being a hybrid. She had spent the summer break there and it had been a strange few weeks without her. After being together only a short while but sharing so much I felt I would burst from my longing for her. She had felt much the same and it had made our reunion quite fun.

Now we were faced with another holiday and I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet. I still needed to find that perfect gift.

“Did you work out what to get Shaun for Christmas?” I asked changing the subject.

“Oh I got him some game he was after. I found he's getting me that action film boxset, so maybe I should buy him something else too.”

“How do you know that?”

“He's no good at hiding things and nowhere near as sneaky as he thinks. He was sounding me out about it for weeks, stopping short of just asking me if I wanted it but only just. Poor dear, subtlety is not one of his strong points.”

I nodded, “I thought about trying the same with Caitlyn but she's too quick for that sort of thing she'd see me coming a mile off.”

“Yeah, hmm maybe your present idea for Caitlyn would work for Shaun,” Nat giggled.

“I'm sure he'd look lovely in those frilly knickers,” I said grinning.

Nat burst out laughing and nearly fell off her chair. When she could speak again she gasped out, “You are wicked! Good job I didn't have a mouth full of drink or you would have gotten a shower of milkshake.”

I smiled and tucked into my sandwich turning my mind back to the problem at hand. What to get Caitlyn for Christmas? Clothes were what I had first thought of, she liked to look nice and have nice clothes. I had considered jewellery but Caitlyn didn't really wear a lot. The good stuff was also usually out of my price range and jewellery that stains your skin green where the "gold" rubs off isn't the most romantic of gifts. I had thought about some sort of book or something but that seemed a bit boring and predictable as a present, I wanted something fun and unexpected.

I was still pondering this puzzle when Nat suddenly sat bolt upright in her seat, “Hell's Beans! Look at the time! We're going to be late for engineering mathematics and I've still got most of my lunch to eat!”

“I could zap it for you to keep it fresh,” I suggested helpfully.

“Yeah last time you did that I forgot and my bag was suddenly full of cold ice cream when the stasis wore off a few days later.”

“That was a bit messy,” I agreed.

“I'll have to eat as we run.”

“You'll get indigestion.”


We grabbed what was left of our lunch, I had mostly finished and it was fairly portable food anyway. We tidied our trays and did our best to calve a path through the ranks of lunch time shoppers to make our way out. I drank the rest of my drink and helped Nat by holding some of the parts of her lunch with my spare hands while she tried to sort out her bags and food with two hands only.

We stormed up the hill and made it onto campus with just enough time that we could walk to the lecture theatre rather than run. The weather was getting pretty cool now, all the leaves had fallen off the trees and I wished I had brought my big jacket to ward off the chill. I was glad to get out of the cold to warm up a little. We made it just as the lecturer was entering the room so we quickly sat ourselves down.

Throughout the lecture I found my mind wandering back to Christmas presents. I thought of all the things Caitlyn liked and tried to think of something that I could do that would show her how much I loved her. It was a tall order to fill really but I kept trying, my little KittyCait was worth it.

By the end of the lecture I still had no idea what to get as a present and, due to not paying attention, I hadn't learned anything during the lecture. It was a double loss but it was nearly Christmas. A lot of the students, and even the lecturers, had sort of checked out for the year already. The approaching holiday was so close that they couldn't concentrate instead feeling a sort of child like excitement.

Nat and I made our way across campus to our next lecture. On the way I waved to a few of the Crystal club people I passed. Going there with Caitlyn had really helped me feel more outgoing. Being among friends who understood what it was like, let me feel more comfortable just being me. That in turn made me feel more able to be myself outside those groups, I was still a little shy when I was on my own but I had come on in leaps and bounds since the early days at Uni.

After another lecture, where I failed to think up a good gift for Caitlyn but I managed slightly better at the learning aspect of the process, it was time to head home.

Nat, Shaun, Caitlyn and I all lived in a small four bedroom house a short way from campus. We had decided after long consideration that getting a place where we could each have a bedroom would be the most sensible course of action since at the time our relationships were pretty new and we were not used to sharing rooms. So far we hadn't needed the other two bedrooms, instead using them as spare rooms. It meant we had more space for other things so Nat set up a little workshop in one of the rooms for the two of us. There were a couple of benches, computers, various bits of electronics, and tools. That way we could work on projects in the comfort of our own home. Caitlyn and Shaun got the other room. Shaun had set up one of his games machines there and Caitlyn had a desk with all her language stuff.

Downstairs the house had a nice large living room with enough space for us all to sit and relax around the telly. Further back was a nice kitchen. When we walked in the front door there was a wonderful smell coming from there. We wandered inside and discovered Caitlyn wearing an apron (I think Shaun had bought that one since it had “Head Steak Chef!” written on it) obviously in the middle of cooking something.

“Hey how are my favourite engineers!” she said scampering over to meet us. She had some flour on her nose and her tail.

I gave her a long kiss and a hug, “All the better for seeing you.”

“Hi Cait. Smells wonderful, what are you making?” Nat asked.

Caitlyn gave me a playful tickle with her tail then went back to the kitchen where she was rolling out some sort of pastry, “Pie, a sort of leftover pie with some leftover meat and assorted veggies and a tin of condensed soup to round it off. There should be enough for everyone.”

“Yay,” I said giving a gleeful six hand clap to show my appreciation.

Nat smiled and looked in my direction then her smile broke wider and she gave a little giggle, “Em you have something on your nose.”

I rubbed my nose with one of my hands and discovered some flour that had obviously transferred from Caitlyn during our enthusiastic greeting. I stuck out my tongue at Nat, “Well I'm going to dump my bag.”

I headed up stairs to the room me and Caitlyn shared and dumped my stuff. The room was a bit of a mess with clothes all over the floor including the bedcovers. We had dumped them there this morning when we started the day with an impromptu tickle fight. I was very ticklish and Caitlyn's tail was a fearsome weapon but my multiple hands compensated for that a little.

Dumping my bag out of the way I headed back downstairs to see if there was anything I could do to help with dinner. Caitlyn was chopping some carrots when I got back.

She looked up and gave me a grin, “So did you have a good day at school sweetie?”

“Not so bad, little boring but you know how it is,” I replied. “Can I do anything to help.”

“Could you do me some onions please.”

“Right ho,” I grabbed some onions out of the vegetable bin in the fridge then proceeded to peel and them,

“How do you want them?”

“Rough chunks please, nothing too fine.”

I grabbed a chopping board with one hand opened the drawer with another and selected a knife with a third. Using my remaining hands I could hold the onions and the board still while I chopped. Soon I had a board filled with rough cut bits of onion, “Where do you want these Honey?”

“Just dump them in the pot there, thank you Em.”

“Anything else I can do to help?”

“Nope you just sit back and relax Sweetie,” Caitlyn said giving me a kiss.

I put the onions in the pot and then did a bit of tidying up the things I'd used. With that out the way I took a seat at the table and watched Caitlyn work. It was one of the things I liked to do, watch her doing things. She wore a little preoccupied smile as she worked and would hum snatches of tunes. Her tail would dance about behind her doing its own thing, she had learnt to control it a bit better from my example with my hands but still if left unattended it seemed to have its own agenda.

She caught sight of me watching her and cocked her head with a little grin, “What?”

“Nothing I just love watching you work,” I said with a smile, which earned me another kiss.

Nat came traipsing into the kitchen just as we finished our kiss, “That's scandalous! Get a room you two,” she said with a grin and wandered over to the fridge.

“Oh yeah because we'd never catch you and Shaun kissing like that Natalie,” Caitlyn shot back.

“Never we are pure and virtuous,” said Nat pulling a beer out of the fridge. “Beer Em? Cait?”

We both nodded grinning and Nat retrieved another two bottles, opened them and then handed them to us.

“So where's our favourite Rugby player?” I asked taking a sip of my beer.

“He's got some club thing tonight, not sure when he'll be back,” Nat replied taking a seat at the table with me.

“Well more leftover pie for us,” said Caitlyn ladling soup into the pot.

She began moving her pie crust pastry across to where the pot full of stuff was waiting when she slipped. The pastry slid off the board and headed for the floor. Without thinking I reached out and zapped the falling pastry with my powers.

“Oh no!” Caitlyn cried out not spotting that I had managed to zap the pastry before it hit the floor.

“It's alright KittyCait I managed to zap it,” I said picking up the pastry that was now like a solid disk due to the stasis field encasing it.

“My hero,” she grinned taking the solid pastry disc off my hands and running it under the tap. Dirt didn't tend to stick to the field for some reason but it was still a worthwhile precaution. Caitlyn dried the disk off then took it over to the pot and held it over the top, “OK de-zap it.”

I reached over and popped the field, the pastry went from solid disk back to floppy pastry. It instantly sagged down across the dish and Caitlyn tucked it in, did the edges and a few holes at the centre. She popped the pot in the oven and then turned and hugged me.

“My sweet Emily, you're always there to save the day,” she beamed giving me several kisses. I was probably grinning like an idiot at that. She broke our embrace took off the apron and then grabbed her beer, “Well ladies that will be about half an hour, shall we adjourn to the living room while we wait.”

“Sounds like a pretty good plan,” grinned Nat.

I nodded and the three of us walked into the living room. Nat flopped down in one of the armchairs while Caitlyn and I opted for cuddling up on the sofa. We sat there watching some TV, drinking beer, kissing, and cuddling while we waited for the timer to go off. When the pie was ready Caitlyn served us platefuls of steaming hot leftover pie, which we sat in front of the telly to eat. After we were done we had a couple more beers and some more cuddling. I felt a bit bad that poor Nat was left out of the kissing and cuddling but hopefully Shaun would make it up to her later.

As we sat there cuddling up Caitlyn began to nod off snoring gently and feeling a little tired myself I decided to call it a night. “Well Nat I'm going to head up to bed and take my snoring beauty with me. See you in the morning.”

“Right ho, I think I'll stay up a bit longer and wait for Shaun, my own snoring not so beauty. Good night Em,” she said.

“Night,” I said and tried to wake my sleepy girlfriend, “Come on KittyCait time for bed.”

She stirred slightly made a grumbling noise and then snuggled up even closer against me. Shrugging I scooped my little girlfriend up in my arms and carried her upstairs to bed.

Chapter 2

The next morning I was woken up when Caitlyn jumped back into bed and snuggled up to me cold from having been downstairs for a bit. I shivered and jerked awake.

“Oh sorry Emmie I didn't mean to wake you but you're so nice and warm,” she said apologetically and gave me a kiss.

Rubbing the sleep from my eyes I checked the clock. It was still ages till I needed to get going, “What are you doing up at this time,” I grumbled sleepily.

“I couldn't sleep so I decided to put the coffee on to be ready when you’d wake you up sleepy head.”

“Oh well I forgive you then.”

We cuddled for a little while then Caitlyn went off to get the coffee from the fancy coffee machine Nat had insisted on. Nat demanded the good stuff when it came to coffee. When we first moved in she caught Shaun using instant and had made him throw the jar out.

While Caitlyn was downstairs I wrapped the duvet around me to keep the warmth in. The house had reasonably good heating as places went but given the time of year it was getting colder in the mornings. Perhaps it was time to adjust the thermostat settings maybe set the timer to start earlier in the day.

Caitlyn returned a while later with two mugs, handed one to me, slipped back into bed then took back some of the duvet. Her feet were cold again.

'Maybe I should get her some slippers for Christmas to keep her feet warm,' I wondered briefly quickly dismissing the thought as a new low in presents idea. It might do for a little something extra but not as a main present. Well not unless they were magic flying slippers that made tea, coffee, and a full English breakfast automatically then fetched it all without you leaving the bed.

Sipping my coffee I sat further up and started to think a bit more clearly.

“So Em, what are you doing for Christmas?” Caitlyn asked catching me a little of guard as I was still imagining fanciful slippers that would accomplish all manner of household chores yet still be stylish.

“Ah … Oh … Going home I guess, I've not really thought about it,” was my startled reply.

“My Aunt is in Australia visiting relatives there so I guess I'm going to be staying here over Christmas.”

“Oh … Well maybe you could come back with me,” I said still half asleep.

“That would be really nice. I'd get to meet your family. It seems every time they've been about I've been either too busy to come meet them or away myself.”

I suddenly realised I had invited my girlfriend back to my parents’ place for Christmas with my family. Two things hit me at once. One, I intellectually knew that my parents would probably be fine with that, maybe even happy to meet Caitlyn. Two, the other part of me, the part that was still the old Emily started jumping up and down screaming in terror at what I had done. Although I hadn't been intentionally keeping Caitlyn away from my family, although they knew at least in abstract about her and that we lived together, they had never met her due to chance circumstances.

“What is it? You look worried,” Caitlyn said regarding me, “If you're not ready to introduce me to your family I understand.”

“No it's not that,” I protested. She gave me a knowing grin and raised an eyebrow, “OK it's not all that, I want you to meet my family but it's just … there's this part of me that still feels odd about the idea.”

“I'm not going to rush you sweetheart. I can stay here over Christmas, it'll be fine,” said Caitlyn giving me a kiss.

I smiled at her, she was so wonderful and understanding about my silly old Emily worries. I returned her kiss, “No I'm going to call my parents and ask if there is space for you to come. I'm not sure what their plans are but if there is the possibility we can spend Christmas together then I'm going to make it happen. The only way to get past the remnants of the old me is to be bold.”

She beamed at me and I felt a burst of love for my wonderful girlfriend. We sat there beaming at each other for a bit when we were interrupted by Nat's voice from the doorway which Caitlyn must have left open when she was getting coffee.

“Hey enough of the lovely dovely mushy emotions at this time of morning. I can sense them from across the hall and they're putting me off my breakfast,” she grinned at us.

Caitlyn and me both gave her the same response and stuck our tongues out at our housemate. Nat padded off down the stairs with a wave probably to get her own coffee while me and Caitlyn sat finishing ours.

“Well sweetie why don't you use the shower first, I don't have a lecture till four” Caitlyn said.

“Bah! I've got lectures non-stop! Life's just not fair,” I complained.

“Oh poor baby,” Caitlyn responded, “You should have gone for an arts degree.”

“Yeah well at least I don't have those thousands words essays to do every few weeks and then more for extra projects.”

“Ah yeah, well nothing’s perfect I guess.”

I gave Caitlyn a kiss on the forehead then got out of bed and made my way over to the bathroom.With lectures this morning I only had time for a quick shower. Clean and a bit more awake I put on my clothes, grabbed my bag and gave Caitlyn a goodbye kiss before heading downstairs.

I found Nat sitting at the kitchen table enjoying her morning coffee. Grabbing some bread I put a few slices in the toaster.

“So what time did Shaun get in last night?” I asked.

“Oh really late, his rugby club did some sort of quick drinks thing that turned instead into a pub crawl,” Nat replied sipping her coffee.

“So he rolled in drunk with a half eaten kebab.”

“Oh yes he was quite a sight and judging by the groans I heard from him when I was getting up he's suffering for it this morning.”

The toast popped up so I grabbed a plate put the slices on it and got some jam to spread over them, “Hehe, well can't say I feel sorry for him.”

“Quite so,” she downed the rest of her coffee, “Well I’d better get ready and say goodbye to lover boy. Just for kicks I think I'll invite him to come and work out with us later.”

I smiled and bit into a slice of toast, “He's never come along with us since that bench press incident. Besides he can't keep up with us when he's at his best, hung over he doesn't stand a chance.”

“Exactly but in his befuddled state he might agree then feel too macho to back out,” grinned Nat evilly.

“Well have your fun torturing him,” I said with a mouthful of toast spraying crumbs everywhere.

“You've got to take pleasure in the little things in life or you'll miss out Em. I'll be down in a few minutes.”

I waved to Nat then finished off the rest of my toast. Grabbing the plate and knife I'd used I gave them a wash. I'd found that if we didn't do the washing up then and there it tended to pile up. That just meant more work so I tried to be tidy, the emphasis was on tried as most of the time I failed.

I went into the living room and flumped down in one of the chairs to wait for Nat. Checking my watch I decided to give Dad a call, he'd probably have been in the office for hours by this point. He got there ridiculously early and didn't leave till late, he wasn't really a workaholic as far as I could tell, he was just very serious about his work.

“Mr Owen’s office,” Dad's secretary said.

“Hello can I speak to Mr Owen please, this is his daughter,” answered.

“Oh hello Alice, I'll put you through.”

“It's Emily.”

“Oh I'm sorry dear I keep mistaking you two, I called your sister Emily the other day. I'll connect you now,” she said with a little chuckle.

There was a brief pause then a ringing noise and a few rings later Dad's voice came over the phone, “Hello sweetheart, bit early for a call is there anything wrong?”

“No nothing wrong, I have a rather full day ahead and I wasn't sure I'd have the time to call you later and I knew you'd be at work by now.”

“Well you know me sweetheart, in at 7 at the latest,” he chuckled. “So what did you want to talk about.”

“Well it's about Christmas. I was wondering …,” I paused plucking up my courage, “I was wondering if it would be alright if Caitlyn came over for Christmas.”

“Well I don't see why not. I'll check with your mother but I should think it would be fine.”

I was a bit surprised that it had been that easy so it took me a moment to think of an answer, “Great.” Well, it wasn’t a great reply but I was caught short by his ready acceptance.

“It'll be nice to finally meet my girl's mysterious sweetheart.”

“Yeah it'll be great to introduce her to the family,” I said internally picturing all manner of disasters that could happen.

“Good, good, well I've got to get off Emmie, I've got a meeting in five. I'll have your mother ring you about Christmas. Take care sweetheart.”

“Yeah, you too Dad, Bye.”

“Bye love.”

The phone went dead and I put it away wondering what I had gotten myself into. Old Emily was running round my head screaming about what a disaster this would be. So much so that I didn't hear Nat come back downstairs and announce she was ready to go.

“Hey Earth to Em?” she said waving a hand in front of my face snapping me out of my daze. “Come on quickly we need to get to lectures. Hey you OK? You look worried.”

I grabbed my bag and followed Nat out the door, “Yeah just working myself up over nothing.”

“You want to talk about it?” Nat was once again playing my very own little cross between a therapist and an agony aunt.

“I've invited Caitlyn home for Christmas and now I'm worried it will all go wrong.”

“I'm sure it will be fine Em, you're just still a bit new to the whole bringing your girl home to meet the parents thing.”

“Yeah I guess it's just what with it being Christmas it won't just be my parents and Alice, we'll probably see all sorts of other relatives and I'm less sure how they will react.”

Nat shrugged, “You can't anticipate everything like that Em. Besides look at it this way, so what if some relative you see very rarely doesn't agree with the choices you have made, it's your happiness that matters.”

“I know and I know I'm being irrational but I can't help it. I just feel like I'm somehow going to spoil Christmas for my family and even for Caitlyn which is the last thing I want.”

“It'll be fine Em. Trust me.”

I sighed and tired to push my worries away, I had work to focus on. It might be the end of the year but come summer when I was going to be examined on this stuff they wouldn't take 'but it was Christmas' as an excuse.

I soldiered on through our lectures and eventually lunch time was approaching on the horizon. But first we had our gym session to do. We came in regularly enough and I looked odd enough that most of the staff seemed to know Nat and me by name. A blonde girl behind the desk smiled and gave us a warm greeting as we walked in. I tried to remember if I knew her name or not and failed. I settled for smiling back.

We got changed in the thankfully fairly empty changing room and went out to get started. While we were doing our warm up stretches I saw a familiar figure emerge from the men’s changing room.

“Hey Shaun, decided to join us?” I asked cheerfully.

Shaun blinked at me a few times with heavily lidded bloodshot eyes as if unable to recognise me. Eventually he croaked, “Oh, hello Em, I didn't realise you two were here today. My gym partner strong armed me into this.”

“I did tell you we were going this morning,” said Nat, “But I guess you were still too fuzzy to hear.”

Shaun just nodded and looked like he would have preferred being asleep or at the very least lying down. “Yeah well see you two later if I survive.”

I gave him a wave and me and Nat wandered over to one of the machines to do a bit of light jogging to get warmed up. While we jogged we watched Shaun and his partner get going on their workout. Shaun was shambling about like he was one of the living dead but his partner was quite the opposite. He was one of the other rugby chaps by the look of him, the same beefy construction, barrel chest, square jaw and short hair. From the way he was throwing himself into the exercises, with the sort of enthusiasm usually reserved for small children opening presents, it was safe to assume that he either didn’t take part in last night’s pub crawl or at least exercised moderation when it came to drinking. Shaun on the other hand was looking greener by the moment.

We finished our warm up and started on some of the machines ourselves. Finally we ended on a weight machine next to Shaun and his partner who were using the bench press.

“You don't look well,” I said to Shaun as I was waiting for my go, he was gently swaying back and forward. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah I'm fine,” he said staring into space.

“You wear yourself out now and you'll be no fun tonight,” said Nat slapping him playfully on the rear.

I giggled and went to do my turn on the machine. For obvious reasons arm exercises always took me three times as long as they did Nat. It was a teensy bit annoying at times.

“Hey stop distracting him!” Shaun's partner said giving us a serious look, “If he's not in the right frame of mind he's never going to be able to drive through and excel."

“Nat this is Alan from the rugby club, Alan this is Natalie my girlfriend. Over there is Emily, Nat's best friend and our housemate,” Shaun introduced us.

“It may be all fun and games to you but this is supposed to be serious time. Goggling at your girlfriend and her friend in their lycra while they lift their little weights is not going to help you succeed,” Alan said poking Shaun in the shoulder.

Nat bristled at his words. He probably hadn't meant to be dismissive like that, rather trying to get Shaun to focus but still he could have worded that better, "Are you two done with the bench press yet?" She asked with steel in her words.

Alan nodded dismissively and the moved to another machine. Shaun perked up perhaps hearing the tone in Nat's voice that someone who didn't know her might well might have missed. Nat reached down to the machine and put it on its maximum weight.

'Oh dear here we go,' I thought to myself.

"I think we should do some nice easy reps to start Em, weak little girls that we are."

She did ten reps at full weight with fierce determination showing on her face. Then it was my turn to do my ten times three reps. It was hard work but manageable, I just hoped Nat wasn't going to max the weight on everything to one up the guys as it would leave me worn out and achey.

Shaun watched with a slightly shocked expression as we did our exercises while his partner did his exercise. When he finished he looked annoyed that Shaun was still watching us but did a double take when he saw what we were up to. He sat there with his mouth open while Shaun did his turn.

When Shaun finished he turned to him with a twinkle in his previously tired eyes, "Come on Alan stop ogling my girlfriend and housemate and get focused, this is serious time."

I giggled a little at that, we spent the rest of the session following Alan and Shaun around the gym. Every machine they used we would take after them and do more weight than them. This seemed to completely destroy Alan's boisterous attitude and leave him shocked and subdued. Shaun seemed to find the thing very amusing. The pain began to show though as Alan was obviously pushing himself hard to try and outdo Nat and me and it was getting a bit too much for Shaun. He began to drop the weight down a bit too much to Alan's disgust, causing a spark of the previous Alan to flare up.

"You have to push yourself man or you'll never extend your limits!"

"There is a difference between pushing yourself and going to your absolute maximum just for ego’s sake. I know I can't beat Nat or Em in these sort of games and I'd rather I didn't spend another week in agony with a body full of pulled muscles for attempting to prove otherwise," Shaun replied.

I remembered when he had tried to beat Nat before, it hadn't been pretty. He was in pretty good shape but he couldn't really keep up with our MORFS enhanced bodies that were only getting stronger with practice. Nat had been very apologetic when she saw how much it had hurt him though, but she couldn't back down from a challenge intended or otherwise.

It didn't look like Alan was going to back off though so Shaun gave a theatrical sigh and walked over and began whispering something in Nat's ear. She got a big grin on her face and started giggling like a school girl then turned to me and said, "Come on Em let's do some rowing."

We wandered away from Shaun and Alan towards the rowing machines.

"So what was that about? Why the truce?" I asked Nat.

"Shaun promised to make it up to me with a special bedroom treat," she replied blushing.

"So am I going to need to put my ear plugs in tonight lest you offend my delicate sensibilities."

"Not tonight, I think we nearly broke him again today the poor dear. He's going to need a day or two to recover his strength then it'll be party time."

"Right, I'll mark it in the calendar, alert the neighbours, and put up signs in the street so passing motorists don't call the cops again."

Nat stuck her tongue out at me and we got down to rowing.

An hour or so later we were done with our work out and lunch was looking very tempting. We had a nice hot shower and changed then headed over to one of the restaurants. I opted for a quick and easy sandwich and drink, while Natalie got some sort of pasta dish. We found ourselves a table and sat eating our meal. A short time later an even more tired looking Shaun slid into the seat next to Natalie.

“I hope you two are happy with yourselves you've completely destroyed Alan's self confidence,” he said with a grin.

“Yes very happy,” said Nat and I nodded giggling.

“He's a broken man, literally as well as figuratively since he didn't give up the race like me. He's pulled all his muscles and aggravated some old knee injury and will be out of the running for this week’s rugby match.”

“What a shame, I guess someone will have to take his place. Maybe Em could, she's good at catching things.”

“I don't have the necessary level of beer stamina to qualify for the rugby team though,” I said smiling.

“I guess someone else on the team will just have to be captain. Possibly someone who is in a good condition and who didn't ruin himself trying to out lift his sexy little girlfriend and her best friend.”

“Hehe,” clapped Natalie, “So we eliminated your competition for you, I think I deserve extra bedroom treats for that.”

“Oh we'll see. What about Em though she helped, does she get to join in the fun.”

“I'm not sure Caitlyn would like that,” I said blushing.

“You'll have to do something nice for Em that doesn't involve bedroom antics,” grinned Nat then turned to me, “Really though Em all he's good for is in the bedroom, I wouldn't bother otherwise.”

“Well, what can I do my Caitlyn is the jealous type, she doesn't understand the whole favours system you have going on,” I replied with a shrug.

“Maybe he can do manly things for you, like carrying heavy objects, putting up some shelves or sitting around all day in a dressing gown drinking beer while watching football.”

“Hmm not sure I have any need for those things but I'll keep it in mind.”

We went back to talking about the rugby club a bit. A while back Shaun had gotten badly injured and had to drop out losing his place in the line-up. Alan had been one of the people who had usurped him in his absence. When he was better he had thrown himself into it trying to win back his slot and gain the captain’s rank, while still maintain his focus on his final year’s studies. He had managed to get back to reasonably high up the line up quite quickly as a lot of the guys were very friendly with him and saw it as only fair that he should return to his previous position but a couple of the people who had gained by his departure were less willing and made things even more difficult for him.

As it turned out one of those was Alan, a fiercely competitive first year who had through skill and guile made it to the captain’s slot that was usually reserved for older players. Our little run in had effectively got rid of him for long enough that Shaun could reclaim the top slot and so long as he didn't screw up too badly he would likely hold it for the rest of his time at university.

To celebrate Shaun bought us both cake. I had a slice of my beloved chocolate cake and Nat had some carrot cake. It put us both in a good mood and made the afternoon lectures that much more bearable.

When we finished for the day it was still fairly early so I decided to have another go at finding something special for Caitlyn. The town was already festooned with Christmas lights and decorations. All the shops had their Christmas displays out, most were trying to sell various bits of tat to the public at large. The streets were packed with people out shopping and everything was much busier than normal. Several times people bumped into me or I nearly got flattened by somebody not looking where he was going.

I wandered the streets looking for something to get Caitlyn, but nothing caught my eye. Everything was either not special enough or just didn't seem like something Caitlyn would like. I swung by Wings and Tails and said hi to Charlie but the Christmas rush was in full swing there as well so I didn't stay long to chat as Charlie was rushed off her feet.

Before I left I eyed the lingerie section again, maybe I should get her something saucy as an additional secret present. If she was coming home with me for Christmas that wasn't something I would want her opening under the tree so I would still need to get her something else anyway. But having something like that would make for our own little private Christmas.

I got her a sexy black satin thong and bra set made for a lady with a tail. Charlie gave me a wink when she saw me buying that and I felt myself blush. I put the bag away in my backpack then wandered back out into the cold winter evening to try and find a present that would be more suitable for public consumption.

I looked at music and films but nothing caught my eye.

'Maybe if I think more logically about it I will find something,' I reasoned.

Caitlyn was a language student and she loved words and language so maybe a book would do the job but what to get her. I made my way to the nearest bookshop and looked around for something that might fit the bill. Skipping the fiction sections I began exploring the more esoteric areas more aimed at students.

I had no idea what to pick and was getting a bit disheartened when a lady's voice said behind me, “Are you alright dear? You look a little lost.”

I span to find myself facing a very powerfully built woman who was some sort of big cat hybrid. Her rather fearsome appearance was offset a little by the fact that she was wearing a very flowery dress and had ribbons in her hair.

“Oh yes, well a little, I'm looking for something for a present but I don't know what to get,” I replied to the woman. “I'm a more techie girl and she's into languages and I'm hopeless at picking things out.”

“Is she studying languages?”

“Yes, she's specialising in German mostly.”

“Hmmm perhaps I can help you find something she might like, I did my studies in languages. Does she like poetry?”

“Yes, she does.”

“Well then perhaps this volume here would do the trick. It has some wonderful German poems and it's only just come out so it's unlikely she will have read it already.”

“Oh that sounds perfect, thank you very much.”

“You're quite welcome my dear, I hope your friend enjoys the gift.”

I smiled at the lady and picked up a copy of the book she had recommended. It was a nice thick tome with a nice binding and inlaid cover. It looked very fancy, flicking through some of it revealed loads of pages of German that my atrophied school level skills baulked at. Still it seemed like a good idea, something special she could appreciate and enjoy. It might even be useful for her in her studies.

I took the book to the counter and paid for it waving to the helpful woman as I left. My successful purchases hidden away in my bag I made my way home buoyed and happy that I had finally gotten some gifts for Caitlyn. On my way back home I swung by a small shop, one of those places that sprang up around the Christmas period in empty stalls and were probably illegally there and only sold Christmas stuff. They had some sparkly paper which I bought to wrap my gifts up nicely.

I got in and found Caitlyn and Shaun in the kitchen chatting over some tea.

“Hi guys,” I said taking a seat with them at the table.

“So Shaun's been telling me that you and Nat broke a man today,” Caitlyn said with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

“Yeah he made some dismissive comment in Nat's hearing and so we had to destroy him,” I replied grinning.

“Poor fool.”

“He was also Shaun's competition for the captaincy so now that he is eliminated Shaun can take up the role again. As a result Nat and I now have credits in the Shaun bank. Nat is using hers for sexual favours.”

“Too bad I'm a fearsomely jealous woman or you could do the same,” chuckled Caitlyn.

“Yes maybe they are exchangeable for other things, money, or cuddly toys, or a set of steak knives.”

“I could do dinner for you girls how’s that?” Shaun suggested.

“What do you think Cait is that a worthy trade?” I asked.

“Sure I'm too worn out to do cooking tonight,” she replied.

“Ok we accept your gracious offer, make us something to eat!” I commanded.

“As you wish milady,” Shaun said giving a mock bow. He then reached into his pocket pulled out a phone pressed a few buttons and spoke into it, “Yes, I'd like two large pepperoni pizzas.”

“I think we've been conned,” said Caitlyn.

“Look on the bright side, if this is how he does a dinner who can tell who he would have called in for the sexual favours option. Maybe a plumber or an electrician, depends who's next on speed dial.”

Caitlyn burst out laughing, “Could have been his twin sister, that would be good she's pretty hot.”

“I'm not sure her fiancée would be too happy with that,” Shaun said putting the phone down.

“We'd let him watch most guys would be pretty ok with that.”

Shaun just stared at her for a bit then shook his head.

“Well, while Shaun slaves over the hot mobile phone making us dinner I'm going to go and dump my bag,” I said and stood up taking my bag with its secret packages with me.

“Hurry back sweetie we can tease Shaun some more,” said Caitlyn grinning at me her tail giving me a playful stroke as I went past her.

I headed upstairs then checking that I hadn't been followed I retrieved my gifts. Now I needed a place to hide them where Caitlyn wouldn't find them.

'Where to put them, my underwear drawer maybe?' I wondered.

Shaking my head I dismissed that idea, it would be the first place someone looking for hidden packages would try. Plus Caitlyn liked to pick out things for me to wear for her. I looked around and eventually decided on my box of notes from the first year. It would hold no interest for Caitlyn and could sit happily undisturbed till time came to hand out the pressies.

I disposed of any evidence of what I had been doing then headed back downstairs.

“You got lost?” asked Caitlyn with a grin.

“No just remembered something I meant to make a note of in lectures earlier and had to jot down before I forgot again,” I lied hopefully fairly convincingly.

“Well in your absence there's been no progress on the food. Shaun doesn't seem to be up to satisfying our appetites,” Caitlyn said grinning roguishly.

“Poor Nat this must be what she has to put up with,” I said joining in.

“No wonder she's hitting the gym so hard she's frustrated.”

“Not getting her needs met, her body hungry.”

“She'll probably ask us to help her soon.”

“She'll need our help to satisfy her urges.”

“We'll give her what she needs … all … night ... long.”

Shaun turned bright red and burst out laughing.

Caitlyn laughed and held up her hand, “High five we got him.”

“You're too good at teasing him,” I said using one of my hands to clap hers.

“And you're learning well my student, soon you will have learnt all I have to teach.”

I gave a bow all six hands palms together, “Yes sensei.”

“Your master requires more tea!”Caitlyn commanded.

“As you command,” I said and took her cup. As I passed her she gave me a pinch on the bum I just grinned back at her. “More tea Shaun?”

He tried to answer but just kept laughing and eventually just nodded and handed me his cup tears in his eyes.

“Dear oh dear it wasn't that funny,” said Caitlyn with a bemused smile.

I put the kettle on the cooker and cleaned out the teapot. Just then Nat came in.

“Hey Nat, tea?”

“Oh please, that'd be lovely Em.”

I added a cup for Nat and me.

Nat regarded the still hysterical Shaun, “What's got into him?”

“Oh he offered to feed us but so far he's not able to satisfy our appetites,” Caitlyn chortled.

Nat raised an eyebrow and looked at me, “We've been teasing him,” I explained.

Nat nodded and looked back at Shaun who was trying to get a grip on himself, “He is a bit of an easy mark.”

“True,” replied Caitlyn, “but we take what we can get.”

The kettle boiled so I warmed then filled the pot and added the tea. I sat back down while I waited for it to mash. Caitlyn slipped her arm around me and I slipped a couple of mine around her.

“How was your day,” I asked her.

“Oh tiring I still have those essays to finish before the end of term and I had a lecture in the afternoon. I spent most of the day looking up references in the library.”

“Poor baby, they work you so hard,” I said grinning and cuddling her closer.

“We can't all have it as easy as you and Nat, some of us have to put a decent days work in,” Caitlyn teased in return giving me a kiss on the nose.

We cuddled for a bit then it was time to pour the tea, I distributed the mugs and milk then returned to my place at Caitlyn's side.

“So what are we doing for dinner,” asked Nat.

“Shaun is cooking,” I said.

“Really?” asked Nat incredulously.

“Well if by cooking you mean ordering pizza then yes,” said Caitlyn.

“Ah that sounds more like him,” grinned Nat.

“I can cook,” Shaun put in looking hurt.

“Beans on toast doesn't count,” Caitlyn said.

“Why I thought it was a good idea to move into a house with three girls I'll never know,” sighed Shaun theatrically.

“Oh it has benefits,” said Nat sliding up next to him and giving him a toe curling passionate kiss.

“Yes I remember now,” he said grinning, “though a little extra reminder just to be sure wouldn't go amiss.”

Nat laughed and kissed him some more.

The door bell rang, “Ah that will be the food,” Shaun said reluctantly breaking off his kiss with Nat.

“Hurry us women folk can't hold back their almost insatiable hungers much longer!” Caitlyn cried after him eliciting a chuckle from Nat and me.

Shaun returned a short while later with pizza and we all tucked in. Once again Nat and I ate the lion’s share of the food, our enhanced metabolisms burning off food like nobody’s business. It had been something I had learned to deal with over the months following my change. It was a subtler change than the more obvious things like my arms. My body needed more fuel than before especially with some of the extensive exercise Nat put me through. I had to learn to snack more, have a bit of food every now and then rather than just eat more at meal times. If I didn't then I would get very hungry and as a result drained and depressed well before meal times. By eating regularly I could mitigate that and keep myself on a more even keel.

Healthy food was also more the rule, it was easier to stay thin the way I was but still you are what you eat. Scoffing down cream cakes all the time, tempting though it was, to keep my hunger at bay would have led to other issues in the long run. Not that pizza was that good for you but still you had to live a little now and then.

We finished the two pizzas off swiftly then retired to the living room to watch the telly. This time Nat and Shaun had the sofa, Caitlyn and me snuggled up in the armchair with Caitlyn sitting in my lap.

We watched some series or other that Nat was into, some cheesy MORFS themed superhero show with a heroine running around in her undies. It was low brow entertainment but Nat seemed to love it. I was more content to cuddle Caitlyn while her treacherous tail gently tickling me.

Just as the TV show’s masked baddie was revealing his true identity the house phone rang and Shaun leaped up to deal with it.

“Emily Phone!” he called from the corridor a short while later.

I stood up lifting Caitlyn easily into the air then turned around and plonked her gently back down in the armchair. “Coming,” I called.

I wandered out into the corridor where the house phone was, “It's your Mum,” said Shaun handing me the receiver.

I thanked him and put the headset to my ear, “Hi Mum.”

“Hello Emily dear, your father tells me you'll be bringing your girlfriend back for Christmas,” Mum replied.

“Well yes I'd like to … if there's room that is.”

“Oh we can manage something don't you worry dear we can always make room. There's the spare bedroom it's got a double bed for you two and then there's your room if someone wants to stay over. I was just calling to ask if you wanted us to pick the two of you up at the same time when you finish for the year?”

“Oh yes that'd be good,” I hadn't really considered the logistics of getting us both back home.

“OK well we'll see you both the weekend after next then. Bye bye sweetheart.”

“Yes, see you soon then Mum,” and she rang off.

I had forgotten the end of term was so close, I had been more focused on what to get Caitlyn for Christmas than anything else. Old Emily was now running around in my head screaming and pulling her hair out that I was going to be taking my girlfriend back to see my parents in only a few days time and complaining about what a disaster that would be. I wandered back into the living room in a daze hoping I hadn't made a big mistake.

“Who was that?” queried Caitlyn as soon as I got back.

“It was Mum, she wanted to know if they could pick us both up this weekend to come for Christmas. Is that alright?” I asked realising I probably should have checked before just agreeing.

“Yeah that sounds great I can't wait to meet your family. It's going to be a blast!” Caitlyn said looking very pleased.

“Shhh Dr Clive Danger is about to reveal his plan to turn all the worlds pigs into killer sharks!” Nat said riveted to the TV screen.

Caitlyn rolled her eyes and then looked at me again, “Hey, you ok with this? I don't mind waiting a bit if you're not comfortable.”

“No it's OK,” I said not very convincingly. Caitlyn stood up and clutched my waist reassuringly.

“If you're worried about putting off your family. I can just claim some unexpected relatives invited me and I couldn't turn them down. I don't want to ruin your Christmas.”

I looked at her and said earnestly, “Oh KittyCait you could never ruin my Christmas, not ever and I've been thinking for days that Christmas was going to be no fun without you. So I'm glad you're going to be there, I really am.” My face fell and I just stared at my shoes embarrassed at my fears, “I'm just being a silly worrywart, a useless muddle headed shy girl again.”

Caitlyn moved in closer and gripped my chin raising my face so my eyes met hers, “Oh my beautiful sweet Emmie you're too hard on yourself, you're taking a big step and it's always scary. You're a brave and wonderful girlfriend and I wouldn't change you for the world.”

She pulled me into a kiss and I felt so happy to have my forgiving patient girlfriend who put up with my foibles and forgave me for my flaws. I loved her so much.

“Please your tender touching moment with all that mushy emotions is ruining the climactic battle between Violet and Dr Clive's evil ally, the Prawn King ruler of all lesser shellfish and his army of cybernetic shrimps!” protested Nat.

Caitlyn giggled and pulled me closer whispering in my ear, “Come on let's go upstairs and give these two some privacy. Then we can have some quality time together where the only emotions we're broadcasting will come with a triple x rating.”

I went bright red from head to toe at the thought but let Caitlyn pull me by the hand upstairs for a little fun.


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