Freeze Frame: A Christmas Tale


Part 3

Chapter 6

I was woken by a gentle knock on the door. After taking a few moments to untangle my limbs from the various odd positions they wound up in I pushed myself up in bed, discovering in the process that Caitlyn was cuddled up against me. She was awake enough to grab the duvet and pull it over herself snuggling closer to me as she did so.

"Yes?" I asked.

The door opened and my mum peaked in, "I thought you girls might want coffee so I brought you both a cup."

"Oh lovely," I said and heard Caitlyn make enthusiastic noises and felt her nod under the covers.

Mum offered me the two mugs which I grabbed with my top hands while using my middle ones to hold myself up which caused Caitlyn to grumble about me jostling her.

"Thanks Mum," I replied.

She wandered out closing the door behind her and I shifted backwards careful not to spill hot coffee over the bed. As I settled back Caitlyn curled round me again burrowing deeper into the covers.

I sipped my coffee and gently shook Caitlyn's shoulder with one of my lower hands.

"Coffee KittyCait?" I asked.

She made more noises then stuck a hand out from under the duvet. I handed her the cup and it disappeared under the duvet. A short while later the hand re-emerged again, this time handing an empty coffee cup back to me. I took it off her and she went back to her slumber still cuddling up to me. I drank my coffee more sedately and by the time I was done the coffee she had gulped down must have had some effect as she emerged out from under the cover with tousled hair and blinking sleep from her eyes.

I put my right arms around her as we lay against the pillows, "Feeling better?" I asked

"Yeah," she said groggily, "What time is it?"

I checked the clock, "Just coming up to 11."

"Oh I slept in big time then," she said.

"Maybe too much wine," I teased.

"Hell it's Christmas, gotta live a little Em," she shot back at me then went back to lying against the pillow with her eyes closed.

"Well while you live it up here, I'll go and take a shower," I teased some more and gave her a kiss on the nose which raised a small smile.

Once I was out of the bed she pulled the duvet back over her head covering everything but her tail which was idly flicking about. I grabbed some clean clothes then headed out to the bathroom. A quick shower later I was dressed and ready to face the world. I poked my head in on Caitlyn and asked if she wanted some breakfast but the hand which emerged from under the cocoon of covers waved me away.

I padded downstairs and grabbed myself some toast and another coffee. I found mum and dad in the living room reading the papers.

"Good morning Em," Dad said, "How are you this morning."

"I'm good, thanks Dad, I think Caitlyn's a little the worse for wear though," I replied taking a seat on the sofa.

"She was enjoying herself quite a lot last night," Mum observed.

"Yes and now she's paying for it in the morning poor dear," I said.

"Is she suffering terribly?" asked Mum.

"Well she's hiding under the covers so maybe a little, perhaps I should get her a painkiller," I thought aloud.

"There's some in the bathroom cabinet, next to where Alice keeps her vitamins."

Alice had a whole shelf of vitamins and supplements she was sure did her lots of good, I wasn't so sure. Mostly those things did nothing but you had to be careful, in some cases too much vitamins could be bad for you. Alice didn't believe me though.

"Right ho," I left my half drunk coffee and went to the bathroom to get a glass of water and painkillers then went back to our room.

"KittyCait, do you feel like a painkiller," I asked.

The bundle of bedding made a noise and a hand popped out, I put the pill on it and then the glass of water when it returned. There was a noise that could have been thanks and then she held out the empty glass.

I took it and kissed her hand, "Get better sweetie," I said and made my way out, careful not to bang the door.

Returning to my seat on the sofa I finished my coffee and looked through the Christmas TV guide to see if there was anything worth watching. Sometime later just as I had decided there wasn't anything good on, a rumpled figure joined me on the sofa and snuck under my arms for a cuddle.

"Hello KittyCait, feeling better?" I asked.

"Yeah much," she croaked, "What time is Charlie coming?"

"I don't think it was till the afternoon."

"Oh good," she said and slumped against me again.

"Don't forget we are off to Aunt's Fiona Christmas party tonight," Mum reminded me. It was a traditional family get together, we'd all come round Auntie Fiona's house and have a sort of pre-Christmas Christmas since we tended to do the actual Christmas more as just close family.

"Oh so we need to be all razzle dazzle," Caitlyn asked.

"If you like, it's just family," Mum replied. "Something nice would go down fine but you don't need to dress up to the nines."

"Gotya," said Caitlyn, "and no wine for me tonight."

"I thought you were all for living a little given it's Christmas," I teased her.

She stuck her tongue out at me and tickled me with her tail.

I made to stand up to go and get some more coffee, "Where are you going?" asked Caitlyn.

"Just to get some more coffee," I replied.

"Oh but you're comfy," she pouted and then let me go. She rubbed her eyes and looked about, she seemed to be getting a lot better.

"Would anyone like another?" I asked.

Both my parents nodded so I collected cups and wandered into the kitchen, set the machine to make more coffee and stood watching the garden. There was some snow on the ground and not much was out and about, most animals having found warmer places to be. A couple of hardy robins were pecking away at the bird feeder. The bleep of the coffee machine alerted me that it had finished so I sorted out the coffee and headed back to the living room.

"Where's Alice?" I asked as I handed out cups.

"Oh, she's off with one of her friends, she'll be back for the evening," Mum replied.

"Convenient, we won't have to conceal Charlie's visit," smirked Caitlyn when I returned to the sofa.

We had a mostly quiet day with a light lunch a bit later and then in the afternoon I read one of my books while Caitlyn dozed off her hangover. It was coming around to four or so when the door bell rang.

"That's probably Charlie!" said Caitlyn going from snoozing to motion in a flash, she was halfway to the door before I had even gotten out of my seat.

As I got into the corridor I saw a familiar figure standing in the doorway.

"Hello Charlie," I said.

"Heya Em! How's life," she said coming in out of the cold.

"Pretty good thanks," I replied, "Would you like a drink, we have tea, coffee, some fizzy stuff?"

"Ooo, a cup of tea would hit the spot," she replied as Caitlyn took her coat. She took a moment to unfurl her wings and get the kinks out then took a package out of a pocket and handed it to Caitlyn, "There you go my dear some fancy smancy running socks."

"Excellent, thanks a lot Charlie this will do wonderfully, what do I owe you?" Caitlyn asked.

"Oh call it a tenner special Christmas discount seeing all the business your girlfriend is drumming up for me. Even got a call the other day from some chap round these parts after some tail friendly trousers, who mentioned a helpful six armed lady," winked Charlie.

"Could have been some other six armed lady," I said with a grin as Caitlyn handed over a ten pound note to Charlie.

"Well, I'm sure whoever this mysterious other silver haired six armed lady is she won't mind you getting the credit just this once."

I led Charlie through the living room where my parents were sitting.

"Charlie this is my Dad and you've already met my Mum," I said indicating my parents.

"Nice to meet you Mr Owens, and good to see you again Mrs Owens, how's things," Charlie said.

"Good, thank you Charlie," Mum replied and Dad nodded in greeting.

"I'm making tea," I said.

"We're all set thank you sweetheart," Mum said.

I nodded and led Charlie into the kitchen where I put the kettle on for some tea.

"How's business been?" I asked

"Oh absolutely Choc-a-block, people everywhere couldn't hear myself think and orders coming out the you know what," she replied fluttering her wings in agitation, "Don't get me wrong it's good for business but blimey is it tiring. I'm glad I'm off for a bit to be frank."

"So, you left the minions in charge?"

"Yeah they can handle it. I reckon that a bit of responsibility would be good for some of them and as for the rest, well hopefully they won't burn the place down before I get back."

I put some tea bags in the pot and set it to mash.

"It always gets so busy this time of year," Caitlyn said.

"Yeah, it's when a lot of the money is made, some outfits live all year long on the Christmas takings, course the downside is you get a tight year and you're shafted," Charlie replied.

"I guess at least you don't have this problem as you get a lot of year round stuff."

"Yeah pretty much, course being in essentials and a niche supplier at that keeps us busy, but we still get a boost from all those MORFies buying fancy togs for their loved ones for Christmas," she said smirking at me and glancing at Caitlyn. I did my best not to blush and busied myself with the teapot.

"Milk, sugar?" I asked.

"Milk please."

"Do you want one Cait?"

"Yes please Emmie," Caitlyn replied grabbing a cup form me.

I poured the tea, handed out the cups and then led Charlie into the living room. Charlie settled herself into an armchair while Caitlyn and me took the sofa.

"So, how is the shop doing?" Mum replied.

"Oh it's all go, I'm glad to have a break to be honest."

"So you're the one responsible for all the fine clothes Emily is wearing nowadays," Dad said.

"Most of them, she doesn't need the trousers I make but most of her tops come from me," Charlie replied sipping her tea, "She's one of my best customers and a walking advertisement all in one."

"Maybe she should model for you for a discount," Dad suggested with a smile.

"Oh I've suggested it plenty of times but she's still a bit shy for that."

"She has always been a little shy, has our Emily."

"A lot of MORFies have body image issues, it's a common problem that kids think themselves ugly 'cos they're different. One of my models is this beautiful partial lizard hybrid but she's very hard to convince, she thinks she's hideous because that's what her parents taught her, poor kid. I think having actual MORFS survivors as my models sets a good example, helps the kids that visit the shop feel more normal. Let's them think it's OK to dress up a bit and look fancy."

"So you see your models as part advertisement part role models?" asked Mum

"Yeah pretty much, plus it works better to sell to the market directly, MORFS survivors wearing clothes for MORFS survivors. Lot of places that do stock MORFS adapted clothing put it in a corner out the way like it's something they don't really want people to know they stock. At my place that's all we stock so it's right up front."

"So you want my Emmie to join your squad of rampaging role model girls fighting for justice one sexy top at a time," grinned Caitlyn.

"Something like that," said Charlie chuckling.

"You make it sound like something out of that Violet show Nat is mad for," I said.

"Well you would look good in tights," teased Caitlyn.

"I'm not wearing my knickers on the outside of my clothing," I replied.

Caitlyn whispered in my ear," What if I asked especially nice and it was just the two of us."

I felt my whole face light up, I was saved from trying to work out how to respond to that by hurricane Alice breezing in. She flung the door shut with a bang and scattered her coat and gloves all over the floor stomping her way to the centre of the room. She stopped dead with her mouth open when she saw Charlie.

"Hey kid, it was Alix Andrea Ariel or something wasn't it?" Charlie asked.

"Alice," she replied.

"Ah yeah close enough."

Alice looked a bit miffed at that and was about to say something when Charlie started talking again.

"So you're Emily's little sister, still in school I'll bet."

"I ... "

"Sporty type from what she's told me, you look it."

"Well ..."

"You should lose the gym teacher look though, it's not very flattering, nice dress or something like that would suit you better."

"I ..."

"Not much of a talker are you," Charlie said and turned away sipping her tea.

Alice stood there flabbergasted and I had to stifle a giggle, it was the first time I'd seen someone else manage to do her favourite trick back to her and she didn't look very happy about it. She seemed to be winding up for a tirade.

Charlie knocked back her tea, "Well I'd best be off, it was lovely to see you all but I've got a few more miles to get under my belt before it gets too dark."

"Pleasure to meet you Charlie," Dad said.

"Yes, you drive safe dear," Mum put in.

"Indeedy, well Merry Christmas everyone."

Caitlyn and I stood up to see Charlie out, she retrieved her coat then gave us both a quick hug, "I'll see you girls in the new year, Merry Christmas to you both."

She opened the door and strode off waving goodbye as she went. We waved back for a bit then went back inside.

"Right then, wrapping time," grinned Caitlyn.

"I'll go get the scissors and what not. I'll meet you up in our room in a tick," I replied.

Caitlyn bounded off up the stairs while I located the various necessities for present wrapping. Once I had tape, scissors, paper, and pen to label things I headed up. I found Caitlyn waiting for me hands behind her back looking mischievous.

"What's up?" I asked warily.

"Lookie what I found, someone hid that under our bed," she said and showed me the bag I had put her presents in.

"Give me that, you'll spoil the surprise!"

"Nope," Caitlyn said dashing away from me, "I can't wait, I want a peek now!"

I chased her round the room she was giggling like mad as she escaped my clutches. The chase continued longer than it should have in such a small room, Caitlyn could move quite quickly when she wanted to.

"Got you!" I cried grabbing her causing yet another gale of giggles. I tried to pry the parcel from her grip but she deployed her secret weapon, tickling me with her tail so she could escape again this time diving under the bed and curling up out of reach.

"Ha ha I win! Now to claim my prize!" she tried to open the bag and then looked confused when the plastic stayed where it was and wouldn't move, "Oh pah you zapped it so it can't be opened. You sneaky cow!"

"Says the girl hiding under the bed trying to get a look at her present ahead of time," I replied, "You know Santa doesn't come for people that are naughty like that."

"And I'm very naughty," Caitlyn stuck her tongue out and scooted her way out from under the bed. "Well I'd better do the wrapping on your sister's pressy."

She handed me the parcel which I put amongst my things while I got the paper ready. We wrapped up the various things we had and then it came time to do Caitlyn's gifts. I was going to head somewhere quiet to do that in secret but Caitlyn had obviously been waiting for this moment.

"Aha, now I have you trapped you'll have to unzapp the present to wrap it and I'll be waiting to find out what it is," she grinned at me blocking the doorway.

She really was determined but so was I, this was our first Christmas and she wasn't going to see her gifts till Christmas day, but how to get past her. I got a sneaky idea but first I needed a distraction.

"Oh, but I can make it worth your while to move," I said and gave her a kiss.

"Nope, I'm made of stone, nothing can persuade me! Though keep trying, just in case," she said with a smile.

I gathered my energies to me and prepared myself. I leaned forward giving her a very passionate kiss and just as I finished and our lips were about to part I hit her with a blast of stasis. My finesse had improved a great deal and she hadn't even felt it coming. I gave a quick check and sure enough she was frozen solid as a statue. I needed to work fast though 'cos I could only draw a little energy otherwise she would have spotted it, so I had only a short space of time.

I unzapped the bag and wrapped up the contents neatly. Then I gave Caitlyn another kiss unfreezing her .

"It's no use, you won't get past me," she said unaware I'd frozen her.

"Well it's too late, I've already wrapped them," I told her and handed her the parcel.

"Hey, how did you manage that?"

"Trade secret," I grinned and gave her a kiss.

"Ok, sneaky lady you win this round," she said eyeing up the packages, "I guess we can put these under the tree."

"Yeap, " I said completely forgetting in the excitement the fact that one of the packages was the saucy undies.

We arranged them with the others round the tree in the living room all the shiny paper and lights made a very festive scene.

"So you girls got everything wrapped up?" asked dad.

"Yep all ready for Christmas, we can just relax now," said Caitlyn slumping down on the sofa.

"It's nice to have everything ready like that," Dad smiled.

I sat down next to Caitlyn, "It is a relief to have all the stuff ready."

"You can say that again sweetie, you wouldn't believe how long it took me to find something for you."

"Really? I've had the same trouble."

"I guess we're just complicated people with no easy present options."

"I guess so."

We spent some more time having a rest and then it was time to get ready for the party. I put on some of my more fancy clothing, Charlie's best work naturally, a nice red and silvery top that went with my hair and a pair of black jeans. Caitlyn had her hair up in pig tails with ribbons and a very nice flowery dress. She even had me add a ribbon to her tail to complete the look.

She looked smart and sexy in her outfit which made me smile and blush just a little. Prettied up we headed downstairs and waited for the rest of the house to finish up. We didn't have to wait all that long. Dad was soon downstairs in a casual suit, mum followed him in a very nice looking black dress. It was odd to see mum out of her usual sportswear, but when she did take the trouble she always looked amazingly glamorous. Alice clomped down the stairs in her usual attire her only concession to the occasion being the odd bit of make-up and earrings which didn't really go with the rest of her outfit.

We bundled into the car, it was a bit of a squeeze but we all fit in with some effort. Caitlyn, Alice and I sat in the back, with Alice and me on the sides and Caitlyn in the middle. Once we were all belted in there was little room to move but thankfully we weren't going too far.

We rolled up to Auntie Fiona's house, slotted our car into a space fairly nearby and trudged over. I was feeling fairly nervous. While introducing Caitlyn to the family had gone quite well, this was the extended family most of whom hadn't seen me since I'd gone through MORFS, let alone knew I was dating a girl.

Mum had knocked on the door and soon it was flung open by my Auntie Fiona who was a dynamo of a woman despite being barely 4 feet tall.

"Hello hello hello, come in out of the cold everyone!" she said.

"How are you Fi," mum said giving her a kiss on the cheek.

"Oh you know me busy busy busy," she said and turned to the rest of us ushering us into the house.

"So who do we have then. Ah Alice looking more and more like your mother, and whose this pretty young thing," she said coming to me.

"You remember my eldest Emily, she went through MORFS a while back," mum said.

"Oh of course, what lovely hair you have," Auntie Fiona said.

"And this is her girlfriend Caitlyn," mum continued.

"A pleasure to meet you. Well then let's get you all some drinks!"

She led us out into the garden area where a converted barn served as a party room. It was one of the reasons we all met at Auntie Fiona's, she was the only one with sufficient room plus she was a wiz at organising things.

We all grabbed drinks. I stuck to soft drinks, getting hammered in front of my family and making a fool of myself was a recurring nightmare of mine. There was the usual turn out of maybe 20 or so people half adults, half kids. Some people drawing together others staying apart due to some feud or other. Most of the kids stayed together in a group. My multi armed form got some glances as did Caitlyn who wasn't recognised. My parents and Alice were noted and then dismissed as usual features.

I could see some of my cousins hanging around in one of the corners. It was one of those times when people that had gone through MORFS had a chance to present themselves to the family at large for the first time. After I had gotten away with it for so many years I was beginning to think I wouldn't be one of them but no such luck.

I followed Alice over to where the rest of the younger people were congregating, Caitlyn followed behind me. I felt pretty nervous about the whole thing and Caitlyn must have picked up on that as she squeezed my hand reassuringly.

Alice was already saying hello to everyone, "Merry Christmas etcetera, etcetera."

"Hey Alice," Eddie, one our cousins greeted her, "Who're six arms and cat girl?"

"Oh that's Emily and her girlfriend," Alice said indifferently.

"Emily! Your sister?"

"Yeah, so you still doing basketball or what?"

He looked at her and then turned to me, "Wow, you look different."

"That's an understatement," I replied.

"Wow look at the freak!" cried Johnny a younger cousin of mine.

I bristled and glared at him.

"Look at her she's like some monster from TV," he said and reached out prodding me.

"Hey, hands off buddy," Caitlyn growled.

"Whoa touchy," Johnny said.

"Learn some manners Johnny," said Nicky, a female cat hybrid standing behind him. She was more of an absolute hybrid than Caitlyn with fur all over. She was also one of my more remote relatives who I didn't know too well.

"Yeah, leave my sister alone idiot!" Alice said and shoved Johnny out of the way.

Alice sticking up for me was a bit of a surprise but it made me smile. I guess sometimes I forgot that even with our differences we were still family and Alice wouldn't stand for someone putting me down.

"Come with me, the rest of the family's MORFS survivors would love to meet you," Nicky said and waved us off into another corner of the room.

I turned to follow her but Eddie stopped me, "I'm really sorry about Johnny he's a jerk, Merry Christmas Emily."

I smiled and nodded but continued to follow Nicky, it would be nice to go and talk to some of the others in the family a bit like me. I had always been friendly to our MORFS survivors relatives but there had always been a distance there, a sense that I could never quite grasp what they had been through. I wondered if that would be different now.

As we made our way over to the group Caitlyn grabbed me and made me stop.

"What? What is it?" I asked.

She pulled me close and pointed upwards, "Look."

Hanging above us was a sprig of mistletoe.

"Pucker up sweetie, it's traditional," said Caitlyn and she pulled me into a very passionate kiss.

She giggled a little at my spaced out response to a fantastic kiss then dragged me along after Nicky, who I saw was standing with a group of three other people all of whom were staring at me and Caitlyn. By the time we got over to them I felt like the whole room was watching me and was blushing furiously.

"I take it you're not just friends then," Nicky said with a smirk.

"Well that depends, we are friends but we are also more than friends," I replied clutching my girlfriend's hand like a life line.

"Well you make a cute couple," Nicky said, "Anyway these are the other MORFS survivors in the family. Well, those that we know of, maybe some have kept it secret, you know how it is."

"Hi I'm Ricky, I used to be Catrina," a handsome young man in his early twenties said shaking my hand.

"I'm Jane," a partial dog hybrid said holding out a hand which I took with one of my others without letting go of Ricky's.

"And I'm Alan," said a young looking guy maybe my own age, who looked fairly unremarkable.

I took Alan's hand as well and did my signature multiple handshake which raised some smiles.

"I'm Emily and this is Caitlyn," I replied.

Caitlyn shook some hands and we got some hellos.

"So Emily, how long since you changed?" asked Ricky, "I remember you a bit from before and I'm pretty sure you were unchanged last year so I'm guessing not that long ago."

"Oh I think it's 8 or so months since I changed," I replied thinking back, it felt like a lot longer for some reason. I guess a lot had happened since then.

"Any powers?" asked Nicky.

"Oh I can sort of freeze things."

"You mean like in ice?"

"No in time."

"Hmm, never heard of that before must be rare."

"What's with the multiple arms, are they all fully functional?" asked Jane.

"Yeah it took a lot of work but I eventually got full control," I replied. "Initially they just did random things and flapped about, it was a pain."

"Yeah they used to do things like slap people or grab things," Caitlyn said.

"Mischievous devils," I agreed, "But I got them whipped into shape eventually."

"Must be a pig to get clothes, I have enough trouble with my tail," said Nicky.

Caitlyn grinned at this, "Plug time you should definitely try for a cut or something."

"There's this shop called Wings & Tails, they specialise in MORFS survivor clothing. I get almost all my tops made there."

"Oh I've heard about that place, I always suspected it would be too pricey though," Jane said.

"It's not the cheapest of places but not super expensive either. Depending on what you want and how custom it is the price can be either standard high street end or up to more fancy places. For the more common alterations like tails they have stuff just off the rack. My stuff has to be custom made but the owner Charlie has this cool robot to do that."

"Robot? Like a android tailor?" asked Nicky.

"No, it's more industrial in its design," I replied.

"Cool, I'll have to check them out," Jane said, "Anyway clothing aside how are you coping with being changed?"

"Not too bad these days. It was a hell of a shock at first, though in some ways it was one of the best things to happen to me as without it I might not have met Caitlyn. It also let me learn some things about myself and made me change the way I did things which, while good, was quite scary."

"Yeah it really shakes things up. Shows you things about yourself and the people around you."

"How did your family take it?" Ricky asked.

"They've been great, supportive, helpful, and just there for me. Though it was my friend Nat that really got me through the initial shock of it. We were roommates at Uni in the first year, she helped me through the strangeness, got me back on my feet. I'm really lucky to have her as a friend."

"Nat is great," grinned Caitlyn, "Gorgeous too, it's a shame she doesn't like girls we could have had a threesome."

My blush this time was positively incandescent. While I was trying to think of some sort of reply my mother wandered over, "So this is where you are hiding. You should go and say hello to your grandparents and aunties."

I nodded and made my way over to where grandma Owen was sitting, Caitlyn following behind.

"Hello Grandma," I said.

She speared me with a critical gaze, "So here's my granddaughter, well come over here so I can get a look at you."

I walked closer and she examined me reaching out lifting my arms and poking me here and there.

"Hmm I see now, I've been trying to knit you a jumper and it's been very difficult to make it with only descriptions," she said as if meeting six armed girls was a daily occurrence for her, "And who's this?"

"This is Caitlyn my girlfriend," I said clutching her hand.

Grandma looked over her glasses at Caitlyn, "Well, she's a pretty young thing, how are you dear."

"I'm good thank you," Caitlyn replied.

"How did you meet Emily?" She asked and I cringed internally wondering what my grandma would make of our first meeting.

"I rescued her from a nasty stalker and she was very grateful," said Caitlyn proudly giving a relatively placid rendition of our first meeting.

"Well I sure she would be," chuckled grandma.

"Oh yes, she was grateful enough to show her appreciation by kissing me and the guy who helped out," giggled Caitlyn. Which caused grandma to roar with laughter and me to turn bright red again. "I won that contest in the end though," Caitlyn said giving me a squeeze.

"Where's Granddad?" I asked trying to change the subject onto something less blush worthy.

"Oh, he's off watching some rugby match with your father, you know how they are," Grandma said rolling her eyes.

By now Dad and Granddad would be sitting somewhere in front of a big TV with Uncle Roger, Auntie Fiona's husband, shouting at the set and drinking beer. Alice would have probably joined them too, assuming she had found out that was what they were up to. As it happened Aunt Fi was just as fanatical about the sport, it was just that she was too good a host to go off and leave everyone else to their own devices.

"So how are you Grandma?"

"Oh you know me dear, I don't complain though it's been hard to get around recently because of my knees. I've got an appointment in the new year to get them looked at by a Medical Bioelemental. They've going to have another go at the joint, see if they can reduce the discomfort I've been having. If all goes well, I'll be as spritely as you girls again."

"That'll be good, you'll be able to get around the garden more," I replied.

Grandma's garden was her pride and joy but as she had gotten older and her knees had given her trouble she had more difficulty dealing with it. Now they had a man come once a week to do the big jobs but Grandma liked to keep her hand in a little. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Auntie Fi and Auntie Mary chatting away nearby.

"Well, I better go say hello to Auntie Mary, see you later Grandma."

"See you late Emily and nice to meet you Caitlyn," she said pulling me into a hug.

I started over towards Auntie Fi but Caitlyn pulled my arm," I need to go use the little girl's room."

"Oh, it's over there through that door down the corridor and then the door at the end on the left," I pointed.

"Right ho, be back in a bit," she said giving me a squeeze.

While Caitlyn went to find the bathroom I walked over and said hello to my Aunties, both Auntie Fiona and Auntie Mary were there. As I had already found out Auntie Fiona's husband Uncle Roger was tucked away watching rugby but Auntie Mary had her partner there. She was a slim mouse hybrid called Dena who I'd met at various family gatherings before.

"Hi Auntie Fiona, hi Auntie Mary, hi Dena," I said.

"Hello Emily," Auntie Fiona said, "Are you having a good time?"

"Yes thanks."

"Where's that girl of yours? You should introduce her to Mary and Dena."

"She's just gone to find the bathroom, she'll be back in a minute."

"So Emily, how's university?" asked Auntie Mary.

"Hard work but good fun, it's nice now that we are getting to some of the more in-depth stuff."

"How are you coping with your changes," asked Dena.

"Getting there, it was a shock to wake up like this and then there was all the time learning to control my new limbs. But I had lots of help from friends and other MORFS survivors."

I saw Caitlyn looking for me and waved her over. She came up behind me and put her arm around me.

"Caitlyn this is Auntie Fiona, Auntie Mary, and Dena Auntie Mary's partner," I said.

Caitlyn smiled and greeted each of them in turn but when she got to Dena the atmosphere changed and it was like some sort of spark shot between Caitlyn and Dena. Caitlyn made a strange growling noise and took a step towards Dena, who squeaked and jumped back. Caitlyn growled again and looked like she was about to pounce. I grasped her firmly holding her still with all six of my arms and even then she was tensed against me as if trying to get to Dena, who was now hiding behind Auntie Mary.

"Caitlyn!" I cried.

She sort of shook herself like she was waking from a dream and relaxed into my arms.

"Whoa, that was a bit of a shock. Some cat bit of me suddenly made me want to chase the mouse. I'm really sorry about that Dena," she said sounding shaken.

She leaned against me and I gave her a kiss on the forehead.

Dena edged her way back out from behind Auntie Mary still looking a bit wary of my girlfriend despite the fact that my little Caitlyn was half her height.

I kept Caitlyn close which calmed her and Dena. Pretty soon we were laughing about the whole incident with Caitlyn and Dena chatting happily with whatever strange primal instinct the two of them had been caught by damped down.

At some point the other MORFS survivors in the family drifted over to join us

We talked on into the night about this and that, some of it related to us being MORFS survivors other not. When it was time to go I got all their emails so we could keep in touch more often.

It had been a pleasant evening and we went home happy and in some cases quite tired. Caitlyn fell asleep on my shoulder on the drive home purring gently as we drove back. When we reached home she was still fast asleep so I had to carefully extract her from the car and carry her in.

"Well that was a fun evening, always good to see the family," Dad said.

"What little you saw of them, you spent half the night in the TV room," Mum replied with a smirk.

"It was a really gripping game though Mum," Alice put in.

"Indeed, so who's for a night cap? Glass of hot milk for you Alice it is white after all," Dad said.

"Milk! It's full of artificial hormones and massive amounts of gamma radiation from pasteurisation!"

"There's no radiation in pasteurisation it just involves heating and cooling," I said.

"That's what they want you to think!"

I stopped and stared at her for a short while not sure what she was on about.

"Water then?" said Mum trying to defuse a potential argument.

Alice just nodded then jumped looking surprised, I spotted Caitlyn's tail off on one of its tickling trips. I carefully curled it around one of my arms to keep it busy.

"I think I'd best get my sleepy kitty to bed, goodnight everyone."

Everyone wished me goodnight and I carefully carried my sleeping beauty off to bed.

Chapter 7

The next morning was Christmas Eve and the echoes of childhood excitement for all things Christmas were stirring to life again. I found Caitlyn's side of the bed empty so assumed she had already risen. When I got downstairs I found her munching breakfast cereal.

"Mor'nin Em," she said with her mouth full.

Seeing there was a nearly full cafetière standing ready I poured myself a nice hot cup of wake up juice.

"I was going to let you sleep in you looked pretty tired," she continued after swallowing her cereal.

I gave her a morning kiss. She tasted of sugar, milk, and some sort of wheat. "That was nice of you."

I took a seat and just sipped my coffee slowly waking up enjoying the slow start to the day.

"Your dad was sorting out the presents under the tree, looks like you got a good haul this year," Caitlyn grinned.

"Really? I wasn't expecting much."

"I can't wait till you open mine," Caitlyn giggled, "it's going to be great!"

"Should be great, our first Christmas together," I said with a smile.

"Hehe, I'm looking forward to it," she said and gave me a kiss.

I finished my coffee and then went to put the cup in the sink. Outside the window I could see it snowed slightly overnight and the green of the grass was frosted with a sprinkling of pure white snow. It looked very pretty.

"It's looking fairly christmasy out," I said.

"Yeah maybe it'll be a white Christmas."

"Very traditional," I said with a smile, "we could make snowmen, play snowballs, and go prancing in the snow."

"Just like our own Christmas Special."

"Hehe, well I'm going to go get dressed see ya in a bit."

Caitlyn waved and I headed upstairs, I pulled out a new outfit, a nice green and red ensemble which seemed fairly Christmassy. I bounded back down the stairs feeling on top of the world.

The excitement of the approach of Christmas Day was building and to be traditional I settled down on the sofa to watch all the Christmas films. A short while later Caitlyn joined me still in her pyjamas, we cuddled up and watched a run of family comedies. Alice joined us at some point and I asked her where our parents were.

"Gone off to get the last bits for Christmas Day," she shrugged.

"It'll be madness in town, they probably won't be back for while," I observed, "Every year it's the same, last day before Christmas people go nuts and strip the shelves thinking they won't be able to get bread or milk or the essentials when the shops are shut for barely half an hour and then the new year sales start."

"Yeah Granny always buys up huge stocks of UHT milk and long life bread, enough for weeks. I guess it used to be that things were closed for all of Christmas but now they only close for a little and even then there are a couple of places that stay open through it," Caitlyn said.

"Yeah it's madness. Speaking of milk, tea?" I asked and Caitlyn nodded enthusiastically, "Some of your water Alice?"

Alice gave a sullen nod, obviously remembering my tap water incident.

I made the tea poured Alice some 'water' and then returned with the drinks in hand. While I was away another Christmas film had started it was a Christmas Special based on the Violet Dawn character Nat liked so much. She was trying to save a bunch of MORFS kids in an orphanage from nefarious forces trying to close their home and steal their Christmas presents. It was all very over the top with lots of silly action and the titular Violet dressed in fairly risqué Santa's little helper outfits.

"I can't see why Nat likes this show," I said.

"I can check her out in that outfit, rrrrrrrrrraaar," Caitlyn said giving a mock roar.

"OK, so I can see why you'd like this, but I doubt that does much for Nat," I said grinning.

"What are you two talking about?" Alice said looking confused.

"I was suggesting that the actress playing Violet is a bit of a fox," Caitlyn said with a sweet smile.

"She's not a fox at all she doesn't even have fur," Alice replied looking even more confused, "One of the kids looks like they might be a fox ... that one the fat one."

"No, she meant she thinks ... well that is to say ... the woman is very ... um how should I put this," I said bumbling around the issue embarrassed I had started this conversation.

"I meant she's hot, as in gorgeous, as in she's got a killer body, as in very sexy," Caitlyn filled in giggling.

"Oh," said Alice, "Well why didn't you just say so and what's that got to do with her roommate Natalie liking the show, I thought she wasn't into girls."

"That's what I was suggesting, why without that would she want to watch this stuff," I said wishing I'd stayed quiet.

"Hmm," said Alice then rolled her eyes, "Maybe she's just weird like you."

I sighed, "Perhaps."

"Nat just likes action stuff, maybe it's because she's all super strong. Like you sweetie," Caitlyn said giving me a kiss and nibbled my ear causing me to giggle.

"You're not super strong! Are you?" Alice asked sounding a bit put out.

"Yeah, little bit," I said shrugging.

"Oh come on baby, don't be so bashful, you and Nat go round lifting loads of weights at the gym. They make a habit of emasculating men by lifting loads more weights than they can," Caitlyn said.

"Well, I wouldn't say we make a habit of it," I replied.

"Doesn't seem fair that I have to work out to get fit and strong but then some people just get super strength after a nasty cold," moaned Alice.

"I thought you liked working out?" queried Caitlyn.

"That's beside the point," sniffed Alice.

"Well, for every person that say, gets super strength there are many more who don't or who even lose strength or get other changes they don't want it's not like this is a risk free proposition," I explained.

"Meh," said Alice dismissively and we went back to watching TV. I wasn't sure Alice really understood what it was like to suddenly wake up different like me or Caitlyn or even Nat. I guess you couldn't grasp it or even imagine it until it happened to you, it was just too much outside normal experience.

It was one of the things I enjoyed at the club for MORFS survivors me and Caitlyn went to. There was that unspoken bond, a shared understanding that everyone had experienced the same event. While not all changes were equally difficult to get used to, it was still something that bonded this group of otherwise strangers and made it a friendly place. At least for people with obvious changes, they wouldn't let people like Nat in who has also gone through the same thing but through a quirk of fate had ended up looking normal. It bothered me a bit 'cos just because you looked normal didn't mean a change like that couldn't really affect you and leave you needing to talk to someone else who just understood what it was like to see a different face in the mirror from the one you grew up with.

'Maybe I should try and do something about it' I wondered idly. Then I cuddled up to Caitlyn, grand plots to take over the crystal club could wait till after Christmas.

As the day progressed Caitlyn became more and more excited, she was like a spring wound tighter and tighter and as evening approached she was so keyed up, she was like a super ball bouncing off the walls.

"Calm down KittyCait," I said restraining her with a cuddle for the fifth time.

"I can't, Christmas always makes me super excited!" she said and I had to hold on tight to stop her bounding off round the room like a mad woman. She stated humming Christmas tunes as she bobbed about.

"I've never seen anyone get so worked up over Christmas," Dad observed.

"Maybe a nice cup of mulled wine would calm her down," Mum suggested.

"Ah capital idea, what do you say girls how about that, anyone fancy a cup? It's a traditional Christmas beverage."

"Sure sounds good," Caitlyn said and went back to humming Frosty the Snowman.

"Yes please," I nodded.

"Blergh!" exclaimed Alice.

"Is that a yes or a no Alice? It's so hard to tell," Dad asked.

"No," Alice replied grumpily.

Sometime later Dad returned with steaming hot mugs of mulled wine.

This succeeded in temporarily calming Caitlyn who sat on my lap sipping her wine. The hot spiced mildly alcoholic drink was perfect for the time of year warming you through and through. I smiled at Caitlyn as she settled a bit relaxing against me. Dad turned on the TV and we all watched another Christmas film while we drank our mulled wine and pretty soon it was time for bed.

As we headed upstairs and got into bed, Caitlyn was tossing a turning, "It's no use, I can't sleep, I'm too excited!"

"Well you had better, Santa won't come if you're not asleep," I teased using the line my parents had used on me and Alice when we were little and eager for Christmas.

I gave Caitlyn a couple of relaxing strokes and slowly she calmed and drifted off to sleep. I cuddled up and was soon drifting off myself wondering what tomorrow would bring and hoping Christmas Day would be as good as I hoped.

Chapter 8

I was woken by Caitlyn using the bed as a trampoline, "Wake up it's Christmas!" she cried and bounced around probably not doing the mattress' springs any good.

I grumbled and tried to pull the covers over my head to which Caitlyn cried, "No sleeping! Christmas!"

She pulled the duvet off the bed in one swift move tossing it on the floor. "Come on, wash, dress in Christmas finery, breakfast, and then presents!"

It was hard to sleep with no covers and a hyper kinetic cat girl bouncing on the bed so I grumpily levered myself up and got washed and dressed. I picked my most Christmassy outfit, a bright red top with white trim and a green pair of trousers. My Christmas crazy girlfriend had on a knitted jumper with a reindeer on it and a pair of black jeans. She handed me a Christmas scrunchy for my hair which had snowflakes on it and she put on small snowman earrings. The she dragged me down the stairs for breakfast.

Mum and Dad were there eating their breakfast with the radio playing Christmas songs. Both of them were looking very Christmassy themselves with Mum in a snowman jumper and snowflake earrings in her ears and Dad in a red and green parcel motif cardigan.

"Merry Christmas!" cried Caitlyn bounding into the kitchen.

"Good morning Em, good morning Caitlyn, Merry Christmas," he replied.

"Merry Christmas girls, you're both looking very festive," Mum added.

"Well tis the season and all that," grinned Caitlyn while I poured us both some coffee.

I handed Caitlyn a cup and sat down next to her drinking my coffee feeling much more human as the magic beverage did its work. A short while later Alice came thumping down the stairs with a face like a thunder cloud, she was dressed in pink pyjamas.

"Good morning Alice, Merry Christmas," Caitlyn said happily.

Alice grumbled something then yawned dramatically, "Bloody waking me up with your bedroom antics! Can't you two give it a rest all that crazy sex woke me up!"

"What?" I asked a bit taken a back.

"I could hear your bed banging on the wall, have you two no shame!"

"We weren't doing ... that," I said feeling myself blush bright red, "That was just Caitlyn jumping up and down on the bed to wake me up."

"Yeah right!"

"My lovable boiled lobster is telling the truth," grinned Caitlyn throwing an arm around me, "If we'd been at it I would have woken the whole street not just you!" she said sticking her tongue out then collapsing into giggles.

I was mortified and must have blushed so bright I was probably radioactive. Dad and Mum were grinning and chuckling a little and Caitlyn was still giggling looking from me to my sister.

"Hehe, I can't help it, your face sweetie!" she said laughing uproariously. "You blush so easily and get shocked by the simplest things it's so adorable! Come here my little Christmas tomato," and she pulled me into a kiss which made me smile, Caitlyn was a terrible tease but she knew how to placate me.

Alice continued to mutter but sat down at the table and began munching some sort of cereal bar.

Once we were all done eating Mum turned to Alice and said, "Why don't you go get changed then we can have open the presents."

She made a face but stomped back upstairs to get dressed. We made our way into the living room for the present giving and waited for Alice to return. She returned in one of her trademark tracksuits the only vaguely Christmassy thing about it was that it was red.

"Righty ho then," Mum said and went over to the tree, "Ok, looks like this is for you Alice and this is for me ..."

She went on distributing the presents till we all had little piles of stuff to open balanced on our laps with the only presents remaining under the tree left there for various relatives.

"OK, off we go!" Dad cried and began tearing open his present which looked like it was the one Caitlyn had got for him.

I began opening things finding a check and a box of chocolates from my grandparents, a book I had asked for from Alice, some nice smelling perfume from mum, and a choice of fancy coffee's from my dad. I reached the last box which was from Caitlyn and prepared to open it.

"BACHENMAUR NEO SILK GRADE 5 COMPOSITE RUNNING SOCKS!" Alice cried from across the room, it seemed she had gotten to Caitlyn's gift too.

"Oh did you get some too?" asked mum, "Emily got me a pair as well."

"Caitlyn got her the socks, I got her some book she wanted," I explained.

"WHAT! How did you two get two pairs of these, they're almost impossible to get hold of!" Alice cried holding the socks in front of her like they were some amazing precious item.

"We know people," said Caitlyn tapping her nose in a mysterious fashion and winked.

"We know Charlie," I giggled.

"Oh sweetheart you're spoiling my mystique!"

"Sorry KittyCait," I replied giving her a cuddle.

"Charlie?" Alice responded incredulously.

"Yeah you met her quite a few times, she owns Wings and Tails," I replied.

"How come she can get these when no-one else can?"

"Well, they are designed primarily for MORFS survivors and since that's who Charlie caters to she naturally has a load in stock," shrugged Caitlyn.

"They do look like nice socks," Mum said examining hers.

Alice was staring at the packet reverently as if it contained some sort of religious artefact.

I turned back to see Caitlyn start to open one of my gifts and just as she was about to tear into it I realised it was the bra and saucy knickers. I opened my mouth to say something but it was too late and she'd ripped it open.

"Oh I say," giggled Caitlyn holding up the racy black underwear for everyone to see.

"Oh dear I meant to give that to you later ... in private," I muttered.

"Cool, fancy undies with proper tail compatible knickers! I'll have to make sure they fit ... later," Caitlyn said and kissed me.

I opened the parcel from Caitlyn and found a box inside with a Wings and Tails logo on top. I opened it and inside there was some sort of tissue paper protecting the contents. After a few seconds of digging I found something silky and yet stiff. I reached in and pulled out what looked like a corset or a bustier but designed for someone with six arms, it was made of very silky yet strong material with some sort of mesh giving it structure.

"I thought you don't have a lot of fancy underwear and I decided to get Charlie to whip up something special for you," Caitlyn said with a grin. "If you look deeper there's something to wear over it."

I dug deeper into the box and came across some more slinky fabric, pulling it out I found it was a wonderful midnight blue sparkly shoulder less dress. Well on a normal person it would have been shoulder less with me it was more the top shoulders that were bared so I guess it was a 1/3 shoulder less dress. With the new underwear and dress I would look pretty stylish. It was a fancy party dress that's for sure, the sort of thing one would wear prancing down the red carpet or giving an award speech, of course assuming I could breathe in the thing, it looked fairly confining.

"Thank you this is just lovely, a wonderful dress for special occasions," I said and gave her a kiss.

"You're welcome Emmie, thank you for the sexy thong and bra," she turned back to her remaining present, "So what's this, ooo another one from you. I know it's a sexy nurse outfit to wear over the thong! Or perhaps a whip!"

"It's neither of those," I said my thought suddenly full of Caitlyn in a sexy nurse outfit.

She pealed the package and stared at the book inside, she went completely quiet then turned to me surprise written across her face.

"Wow Emmie, how did you know?"

"Know what?" I replied.

"That I really wanted to get a copy of this, it's been out of print for ages my tutor has been raving about it. All you can get nowadays are parts of it photocopied from a copy someone borrowed from a rich collector."

"Well I was looking in the poetry section and this lady helped me. I told her what you were into and she recommended this."

"Wow it's an amazing present Emmie, you're the best girlfriend ever!"

"Hehe, I think I'm joint first in the world with you sweetie."

Caitlyn gave me several passionate kisses and I heard Alice groan, "They're at it again!"

"Oh hush dear they're just in love, I think it's very sweet," Mum said.

"Pah, you didn't get woken up by them going at it like rabbits!"

I wanted to correct her but Caitlyn was still thanking me, or I was thanking her, either way there was a lot of thanking going on and that precluded the ability to talk. We broke our lip lock a short while later and I must have sat there grinning like an idiot.

"Well then, I'd best make a start on lunch," Mum said getting up.

"Can I do anything to help?" Caitlyn asked.

"No we've got this," she replied indicating Dad, "Why don't you girls tidy up here, come along dear."

Mum and Dad headed back into the kitchen while Alice, Caitlyn, and I cleared up the torn up paper. Soon we had all the paper packed up for recycling and I had put my small stack of presents up in mine and Caitlyn's room.

We headed back downstairs and did what we could to help cook lunch but Mum and Dad had things pretty well under control so we did the odd bit of chopping and peeling here and there but for the most part we kept out of the way wary of the old adage about too many cooks spoiling the broth.

Soon the food was ready and we were sitting at the table with Christmas crackers and food galore laid out. Even Alice had put aside her crazy diet for the traditional Christmas fare. Like every year the food was delicious and copious. Later we sat there stuffed wearing flimsy paper hats and telling stupid jokes we got from the crackers laughing even if they weren't funny. When we all had more than enough and we had tidied things up Caitlyn and I collapsed on the sofa in the living room still wearing our hats sleepy from too much good food.

Caitlyn snuggled up to me her head against my chest. We drifted off to sleep with the TV showing Christmas classics like The Great Escape and Dam Busters. A wonderful meal with people I loved and then a nap cuddling up to my girlfriend, what more could a girl want.

As we began to drift off Caitlyn looked up at me and smiled, "Merry Christmas Emily."

And she was right it was indeed a Merry Christmas. All my worries about having my first Christmas with Caitlyn and my family had been unfounded. Mum and Dad seemed to like her and even Alice seemed to get along with her. It seemed silly now that I had been so wound up about bringing her home.

Welcoming my girlfriend and treating her as one of the family was probably the best gift my parents had given me this Christmas. Sitting there with Caitlyn snuggled up to me on the sofa with my family around me it occurred to me that this was the true magic of Christmas. Not some religious message or the rampant consumerism but that at a cold, dark and otherwise depressing time of the year families get together to show their appreciation for each other, putting aside the squabbles and worries of the rest of the year to spread a little joy in the dark and look forward to the coming new year.

I leaned down and planted a kiss on Caitlyn's forehead, "Merry Christmas to you too."

Whatever the new year would bring I was happy I was going to face it with my friends, family, and my adorable KittyCait. Because with their love and support there didn't seem to be anything I couldn't accomplish.


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