The stars twinkled like tiny gems on a black canvas over the green pastures of the English countryside. Massive green expanses of forest and grassland were broken up by the occasional hill. A small clump of trees stood at the peak of one such rolling giant. To most, this was just another hill. For one band of travellers, it was a safe haven for the night.
Each of the animals of Farthing Wood lay at peace. While the smaller ones dreamed of days to come, of safety and peace at White Deer Park, Adder dreamed of tasting the locals. Badger's dreams were of his younger days in Farthing Wood, surrounded by friends and family who had long since passed from the world of the living. The small old tunneller patted his tummy in his sleep as worms, juicy, succulent worms passed his gullet in his favourite kind of dream. Weasel dreamt of the perfect creature, whom she was singing a wonderful duet with. Her fans cheered as she finished, calling for more and with her signature laugh, she obliged.
Two sets of paw prints were followed by a small mob of kits prints in the snow. The leader's mate of the rag-tag band of animals dreamt of the family life she now had to look forward to. A life that up until that afternoon could never had existed. The weary red fox wriggled around in her sleep till she came to rest snuggly, back to back with her mate.
Water. A slow flowing current of unstoppable wetness carried the bright orange creature toward his doom. Fox fought against the current but found himself powerless, trapped in it's grasp. Twin pointy triangles flapped as their owner fought to clear his senses as water invaded his nose and ears. His eyes stung as droplets impacted with the sensitive surface that was his gateway to the world of beauty. A world that now threatened to swallow him whole and end him.
Panic welled up inside as his limbs continued to paddle uselessly. A fait roar rapidly became deafening thunder. Fear warped into sheer panic as the trapped fox turned to face his doom.
A waterfall. Normally a thing of beauty and wonder. A centrepiece of the landscape around it. Now this indomitable part of the landscape filled him with dread.
Fox doubled his efforts, tripped his efforts. Yet they proved to be in vain as the current effortlessly sucked him onwards.
The world disappeared into a haze of water and fear. Fox felt himself go weightless as his body was dragged over the edge of the waterfall. A scream escaped as the normally level-headed creature fell. He twisted to face the water below. Time appeared to slow as he neared the water. Fox closed his eyes, unable to bear the sight of the massive body of water that was about to swallow him whole.
A bone shattering explosion erupted on the surface of the stream. The overpowering force of the waterfall forced Fox beneath the surface and there it kept him.
Bubbles tricked to the surface as more and more of Fox's breath escaped. Limbs kicked out weakly in a pathetic attempt at reaching the surface.
Down and down he sunk with only a trail of overexcited bubbles in his wake.
This was it.
A watery grave was assured.
Suddenly the dying fox felt a warm presence press up against his side. It calmed his panicked mind and washed every fear away.
The deadly water vanished.
Fox jumped in surprise. He was now on dry land.
Better yet, the red fox found himself In a den with a beautiful vixen. Not just anyone female either. It was Vixen. His Vixen.
Just being near her filled his entire body with a wonderful toasty warmth. A rare kind of heat that made him want to snuggle closer.
A faint tinkle of water became audible from somewhere outside the den. As the pair of foxes snuggled up together it gradually became a waterfall. With Vixen at his side he felt oddly contented, kept safe thanks to her love for him.
A pang of pain lanced through his lower body.
"Waterfall. Really big waterfall." The pain that wracked his lower body caused Fox to quickly recover his senses. He rolled to his feet, only to realise that the warm, safe feeling in his dream was his mate who had pressed herself up against him in her sleep. He cringed as she flopped onto her back and her eyes burst open.
Vixen gazed up at her mate in a state of groggy confusion, her limbs splayed out in the air. "Fox…?"
"I'll be back. I just gotta go…"
The sleepy vixen blinked after her mate as he disappeared behind the tree line. She forced herself to roll over and from there she unsteady found her way up onto her paws. With a sleep-clouded head that continued to slowly clear, she followed after her new mate.
"Go?" Vixen spotted her mate as he lowered his back leg and sighed blissfully. "Oh… go."
"Yes. I'm sorry about waking you up my dear," a shudder wracked the relieved creature's system before he gazed at Vixen.
"It's okay, you need your sleep more than I do anyway," Vixen meandered over to her hero and offered a shy nuzzle.
Fox happily reciprocated and soon found himself faced with a set of eyes that shone like gems under the light of the moon. "What did I ever do to deserve such an amazing creature…?" the lovestruck male softly wondered aloud.
"You saved my life… But it goes deeper than that too." Vixen chucked lightly, "I knew you were special the moment I saw you there in my earth."
"And yet you still told me I had to earn the right to become your mate," Fox's gaze gained a playful element as he continued to admire her in the moonlight.
"Well you did. After an upbringing such as mine, I could only accept a mate who would stick with me for life," Vixen replied softly.
"Then I should thank your parents for raising such an amazing creature," complimented Fox with a slow nuzzle.
The pair enjoyed the sweet moment, relishing the soft press of the other's muzzle, the way whiskers brushed together. Right at this moment, their love felt fresh and invigorating as when they had shared a nuzzle in front of Fox's 'family' of travellers.
After a small eternity it was over, both parties drew away with stars in their eyes.
"Should we head back to sleep?" suggested Vixen.
"No. I don't think I could sleep if I tried…"
"I…" Fox's gaze fell to his paws, unable to meet his mate's gaze. Should he tell her? Would she assume he was a wimp and abandon him just after becoming his mate?
Vixen lent forward once more and her muzzle brushed slowly against her companions. "I'm here for you. As your mate you can trust me with everything. I don't want there to be any secrets between us."
"I had a nightmare…" the words fell out of Fox's mouth before he could stop himself. "Remember how I told you the story of how I came to be sleeping in your earth? How I went over that waterfall?"
"I remember… yes," Vixen's tone was soft, it gave comfort to Fox and helped him to somehow find his voice.
"Well… I- I found myself back in that river. I went over that edge again, but this time… I sank." Nasty shivers raced across the red fox's lean form. "But then your presence saved me. I… I think I found myself in a earth of our own."
"That reminds me of my dream," Vixen smiled blissfuly despite the dark undertone of her mate's story. "All I can remember was… small paw prints in the snow behind our set of bigger ones."
It took a moment for Fox's downcast brain to catch up to his companion's words. As soon as his mind put the pieces together his heart leapt, "you were dreaming of cubs?"
"Our cubs," corrected Vixen. With a hopeful smile she slunk off and disappeared with a swish of her tail.
Fox's brain almost short-circuited at the sight of what was revealed beneath that tail. That was not a sight any grown creature would just show off. That was a view only one's mate should ever be graced with.
In a sudden burst of excitement, Fox hurried to catch up and found his mate slowly making her way down the hillside. This was not the way they had come, running from the hounds of doom with the late day sun beating upon their backs. They were on the other side, void of any and all bad memories they may have.
Vixen took off at an easy run and the pair traveled side by side, two lovers together in the night. Past bush and tree they flew on the wings of love. The few nocturnal creatures who happened upon the couple could spot the hearts wafting from them into the night sky. But to the Farthing Wood fox and his Vixen, they may as well have been alone in the world. All thoughts of their friends were temporarily banished, hidden behind a veil.
Fox brushed against his new mate every chance he got. In return, she ticked his side with her tail. They laughed and played together under the dim light of the moon. He tackled her side as they reached a small hill and in a mess of limbs and bushy tails they disappeared over he edge.
With a soft squelch they landed in a bundle of love and joy. They lay for a moment, tummy to tummy on their sides. Neither fox could see past the other's bright smile.
With a laugh, Vixen swatted her mate's exposed side with her tail. He jolted in fright as his brain remembered there was more to the world than just the beauty before him.
With a light hearted chuckle, Fox slowly unwrapped his forelegs from his companion and gave her a kiss on the nose. From there he stood, towering over his gem with a playful gleam in his eyes.
Vixen's muzzle tingled and her mind buzzed with an overwhelming torrent of joy as she gazed up into the face of her friend, her hero, her mate. Her heart rate spiked as she felt the warm soothing breath of her new love wash over her face. He was leaning closer again! Just as she thought his tongue was going to meet her cheek for another playful kiss, his muzzle continued to migrate. Black met orange as Fox ran his nose along the bridge of her nose and right up between her ears. The sensation caused Vixen to throw back her head and arc her back. She rolled over fully onto her back and threw her forepaws up in the air.
Fox took the action as an invitation and collapsed slowly onto his mate in a protective position his underside pressed crossways against her own. One foreleg settled on either side of her head in the soft terrain they found themselves on. His hindquarters came into contact with her side as he settled further into the embrace. Fox smiled as he felt his bushy tail brush against his mate's as they wagged eagerly in the night. The leader of the animals of Farthing Wood smiled radiantly down at the most amazing creature he had ever met. Forget the beautiful moon that hung overhead, to Fox she might as well have been the sun. She smiled shyly up at him, unsure of his intent. While Vixen wasn't in season yet, she knew that would not stop either of them if things continued.
In a swift, decisive motion, Fox licked just behind his lover's ear. The contact sent a sharp yet pleasant tingle through her body. "You... Had a bit of berry mushed into your fur there... I-I was just cleaning it for you."
Vixen continued to smile up at her lover. "I'm sure. What next, more kisses? Or maybe you're considering finding a nice den and really making me your mate?"
Now that suggestion caught Fox's attention. His ears perked, his tail wagged harder and his eyes almost fell out. Did she just suggest what he thought she did? From the smile on her face, it was clear Vixen caught his eager reaction. Her sudden, pure smile caused him to crack a nervous one in return.
"I- I…" the red fox stuttered. "You're not in season are you?"
"No. My mother always told me the first time is painful, if pass that milestone before mating season-" before she could continue in her hushed, tone filled with nervousness, her lover cut her off.
"I could never hurt you," Fox stressed his point by adding a slow nuzzle. He poured all his love into the gesture, hopeful that she would understand that he could never break such a promise.
"I know, and I could never leave you now. Which is why I want you to know… when you are ready… I would gladly take that final step to becoming your mate. I want us to be together, forever."
Together. Fox knew that not every female was interested in long lasting love. It filled the Farthing fox with pride to know that this beauty, his Vixen was different. As he continued to gaze into the doorway to her soul he knew in his heart that she had already made her choice and that he had made his. No matter what they faced tomorrow or any day after that, they were together. A team. Fox felt his tummy explode into a million nervous butterflies. Was it possible to go from single to mated forever in a day? He had never even stopped to consider such possibilities in his solo life in Farthing Wood.
It was only when Vixen withdrew that Fox realised he had frozen in thought for too long. As his mate began to turn away, unsure of herself, Fox pressed forward once more.
"I'm sorry… I would love to have you with me forever. I just never thought I would find a creature anything like you. In all my life at Farthing Wood, I never seriously thought I would ever find a mate at all," Fox said, eager to eager to recapture his lover's gaze.
"You never chose to seek out a mate?" surprise radiated across Vixen's beautiful face. Surely a male in his prime must have ventured out in search of a companion at least once in his life.
"Well… no," admitted Fox. "I never thought I would find someone, so I never looked. I was happy with my friends."
"Then what made you choose me?" Vixen smiled up at her lover, delighted that she was the first to claim him.
"It was just… you… I mean…" a sigh escaped the mammal on top. "Oh how do I say this…"
Fox fought to come up with the words to properly express his feelings. After all those long days leading the rather strange band of animals he called friends. All those meetings and times he had to call the shots. How had words suddenly failed him when faced with his mate? As his mind wandered back to the first meeting with the amazing creature below him, Fox gently booped his mate on the nose with his own. Her warm breath washed up over his face as he held his nose to hers. The tingles that accompanied the toasty feeling made it both harder to think and easier at the same time.
"You're just… the most amazing creature I've ever met," the expectant look upon his mate's face prompted him to continue. "You're beautiful… kind… and you accept me… a fox who has a badger, an owl and all kinds of other creatures for friends. I also realised... I-I fell in love with you almost as soon as we met."
Vixen relaxed under the hold of her protector, happy with his answer. She knew more would be said later as he continued to find the words to express what was in his heart. He loved her. The great Farthing Fox loved her. Her heart raced as she continued to repeat that fact to herself.
Fox grinned playfully down at his companion. He once again allowed his nose to traverse the soft surface of his lover's muzzle. He headed toward her ear at a sedate pace, relishing the heightened sense of tingly joy that accompanied the contact.
"You know the one thing I would change about you?"
"What?" Vixen asked, her heart torn between wanting to hear his request and wishing he would keep such a thing to himself.
"Nothing at all my dear."
A sudden rush hit Vixen's system harder than any adrenaline boost she had ever experienced. She could feel her mind become even more clouded with want for her handsome fox on top. Now if only she could better her position...
Vixen placed her mouth to her lover's ear to whisper a reply of her own before she lost too much of her mind to her mate, "you are one of a kind Fox. But if you mate with me, you will be mine forever and I won't share!" Her tone grew rather loud as Vixen stressed the last part.
"Yes dear," Fox smirked at his lover. "I somehow think I'll be too busy looking at you to see where I'm going, so don't worry about me ever noticing another vixen ever again."
"I'm only a normal fox silly…" Vixen downplayed herself wishing for a rise out of her mate.
"No, you're not," argued Fox with a dopey, lovestruck smile. "You're special to me and I love you more than anything else in this world."
This was it. Vixen could feel her entire being demand to get her wish granted to her right now! Her wish for them to become mates in every way and be together forever. It didn't matter that they had berry splattered across their backs. It didn't matter that their friends were on a hill far from where the couple could offer help should a threat appear. It didn't even matter to Vixen that it was outside of mating season.
A loud rumbling gurgle filled the night. The vulpine couple froze as it happened again. The third one stuck and with great dismay, Vixen realised it was nothing other than Fox's tummy rumbling. He was hungry. What an anticlimactic way to end such a monumental moment. Perfect timing there dear…
Before Vixen's complaints spilled out in words, her Fox broke her train of thought with an ashamed stutter. "S-sorry about that. Seems my system is still trying to catch up after so many days without food."
Vixen continued to pout as her mate fought to contain any further unwanted grumbles from his stomach.
The mammal on the bottom sighed. "It's okay… I guess this means we have to go hunting. Once you have had your fill we can find a nice place to spend some alone time before we return to your friends."
Fox slowly stood, unsure of what to say but disappointed by his starved system for betraying him at what was a perfect moment.
Instead of immediately joining him, Vixen first made sure to give her mate one last good look at her underside as she lay with her back pressed to the earth.
"Um… Vixen?" words failed the male as his eyes swept over his beautiful mate from her face all the way to her bushy tail that twitched occasionally with annoyance.
Vixen enjoyed the way her mate's golden eyes glistened in the moonlight as they traveled slowly back up past her tummy to meet her own gaze. With her body still alight with the fire of love she forced herself to stand. Before he could lead off she gave a quick nuzzle. Vixen promptly pulled away before either could fully enjoy the action. She wanted him to know that she would get her fox before the night ended.
The pair took off at an easy run together. Each wore silly, lovestruck smiles upon their muzzles. Without anything needing to be said, they began their search for a quick meal.
Two glowing red foxes moseyed toward the hill where their friends slumbered peacefully.
"Do you still consider this party of animals as a nuisance?" Vixen eyed her mate, enjoying the way his coat ripped in the moonlight as he wandered along.
"Well..." Fox seemed to be battling with himself inside. "Don't get me wrong, they are my friends. But, they are a nuance. The bigger animals always have to go slower for the smaller ones. But the mice, voles and toad... We are always going too fast for them," all hint of annoyance dropped from Fox's tone as he glanced at his breathtaking mate. "But I think with you here, everyone will be better off."
"Why? Because you will be too busy looking at me to see where we are going?"
"There's that…" conceded Fox with a playful smile. "I think you are just what we need to get me to slow down. It will also be nice having another animal who can protect the smaller ones. We've lost so many friends already. I can only imagine how much better off we would have been if we had you with us this whole time. If I had you this whole time…"
"You did your best. Now is the time for me to prove that I am a worthy addition to your odd family," Vixen smiled, hopeful that her mate would join her.
"Thanks Vixen," Fox said softly.
Fox gave a quick nuzzle to his mate. Before she could respond, the leader of the strange band of travellers took off.
Delighted that she had managed to lift the mood, Vixen raced off, determined to catch her tease of a mate.
The run back was quick and joyful. The pair of lovebirds ran side by side, their footsteps in sync as they easily loped back up the hill.
Tails entwined, the glowing pair reentered the camp only to abruptly stop. Right there, in the middle of the clearing stood Weasel.
"Gone off into the night to make some little ones are we?" The sharp, teasing tone of Weasel ruined the otherwise peaceful night.
"No. We just went for a walk," corrected Fox defensively. The annoying creature before them quirked an eye in disbelief.
"Hey, what do I care?" The small annoying creature grinned up at the pair who stood together, embarrassed. "I'm sure your cubs will still be able to move much faster than the mice anyway."
"Be quiet Weasel! Other animals are trying to sleep," Fox commanded as quietly as he could.
However, Weasel being Weasel, such words only served to heighten her delighted cries, "our leader's in love! Ahahahaha!"
Vixen sensed her mate was about to explode and quickly cut him off. "You can make as much fun of us as you like in the morning, but for now please go back to sleep. We've both had a very hard day."
The excitable animal shot over and stood right in the faces of the couple,"oooh! Is that a promise?"
Fox sighed in defeat. Vixen took over once more, "only if you leave my mate alone right now."
"Fine, fine!" Weasel stalked back off to where she had been sleeping. The pair of foxes heard disgruntled murmurs about how nobody ever appreciated her.
"She'll be okay," Fox exiled a breath, relieved the pest of the pack had now left them alone. "I just hope that didn't wake anyone up."
The leader of the animals of Farthing Wood moseyed over to the place he had suffered his nightmare.
"You had better be careful in the morning. She is sure to enjoy making fun of us," Vixen whispered softly to her mate as she lay by his side.
"I'm sure we'll be fine," the Farthing fox placed his chin on the soft neck of his new mate. "I hope you don't mind me sleeping like this… just for tonight."
"Okay. But only for tonight. Besides... we don't want you getting any more nightmares now do we?" Vixen replied as she allowed her eyes to fall closed. She wriggled closer and closer till they were wrapped up in a big ball of cuddly red fox.
One tail wagged till its partner snagged it together they slowed it to a peaceful stop. Fox couldn't help but grin to himself as tingles shot up his tail as the bushy appendage wrapped around it shifted in Vixen's sleep. He had a creature better than anything he could ever dream of wrapped a¶round him.
The fox of Farthing wood raised his head to gaze down at his new mate one final time for the night. The moonlight lit her form, it gave extra sparkle to the tips of her ears and a made her coat look like it belonged to a real angel. His angel. Fox nuzzled the top of his partner's head, his nose brushed against her ears for a few moments as he searched for best place to rest his weary head.
After such a long, hard day and full on night, Fox at long last allowed his eyes to fall closed. For whatever the future may bring, Fox knew he would never need to face anything alone ever again. He had his vixen and she had him.