Phobos held her midnight blue skirt up from both sides, exposing her ankles as she hurried down the corridors of the Felidae estate.
Hurrying in heels presented a problem, specially as it was her first time wearing them, having been coaxed by Ceres into the bejewelled black pair to attend the farewell banquet for Gerard who was leaving to join his father in the army along with Fiona.
She contemplated kicking them off and carrying them before continuing on as is. After all, she was a martial warrior and balancing herself on heels wasn't much of an obstacle.
Much less of an obstacle than finding where Demi had run off to.
Everything had been going well.
Ceres had been helping Husband socialize, helping him navigate the complicated web of relations both of blood and benefit that existed in the clan, a web which he had ignored for so many years and she had mastered in months. They seemed to have grown closer when she hadn't been looking.
Phobos herself had been catching up with the latest gossip. Unlike Demi and her quasi-recluse of a Husband, she had no problems with socializing and as such had a lot of friends.
Demi, meanwhile had been stuffing her face and trying to block out conversation. A move made useless by the enthusiasm of the clan members to get to know the strongest youth in the province. The young boys and girls were especially persistent, lacking the tact of their older relatives, thereby, bulldozing through her barriers into her personal space.
It was good that the girl had grown a lot due to her victory at the Tournament and could now handle herself well.
In short, everything had been going well.
Until Demi's grandfather, the First Elder, had come along and requested a few words with her. Phobos had no idea what words had been exchanged between the two but Demi had fled the room in tears.
The First Elder had left soon after.
Reaching their shared bedroom, Phobos pushed the door open. It was empty. She wasn't there.
While Mars had gone searching for the girl outside the premises, hoping to find her at her usual haunts, Phobos was in charge of searching within the estates. Ceres was holding the fort down at the banquet.
Sometimes, she could appreciate the newest addition to Husband's harem.
Pausing at the end of a corridor, she rubbed her forehead. Running through a mental list of the places frequented by Demi, she ran through them quickly, trying to guess where she might be when she was down in the dumps.
She was just about to visit the training rooms when, in a flash of inspiration, she changed her direction.
Her footsteps took her up staircases and down corridors, subconsciously slowing down as nostalgia washed over her in waves.
The now neglected wing superposed with the one in her memories and past and present collided in her mind.
She could almost hear the childish laughter that used to ring out as Demi chased her down these very same corridors not so many years ago.
Walking up to Demi's old room, she saw light shining through the crack of the door. She was there.
Gently pushing the door open, she entered and locked it behind her.
Without turning her head, Demi addressed her. "Grandpa said he was going to retire."
"What!? Why?" Phobos was confused. The First Elder had never been covert about his lust for authority. He hadn't shown any signs of wanting to retire before. This news was truly a bolt from the blue.
"He said it was for me." Demi's voice was thick with repressed emotion. She spun around and faced Phobos, giving her an unimpeded view of her reddened eyes. "The liar!"
"Does he take me for a fool! The only reason he retired was because as long as he remained in office, Lionel wouldn't be able to step up to the post of interim clan Heir during Master's absence. With his friendship with Bruno and his obligation to Master for presiding over his wedding, he is the perfect neutral candidate to fill for their post while the both of them are away on the Swayamvar.
"As the person who saved Lionel from the pits and one of the major supporters of Bruno's clique, his retirement is just a compromise to balance the scales.
"So, what does he do? He tries to milk the situation to reap maximum benefit. He just walks up to me and is brazen enough to claim that he did it for me!"
She stopped her tirade, her chest heaving in her agitation. Phobos was stunned by her grasp of the situation. Such in depth knowledge of clan politics was expected of Ceres… Demi? Not so much.
She had little interest in such things, yet she knew so much. This only went to show how much Demi still cared for her grandfather, enough to keep tabs of his situation in detail.
"Where was this concern of his when he 'sob' disowned me? Where did it go for all these years when he didn't talk to me 'sob' even once? Now that I obtained the first position in the Tournament, now that 'sob' I'm useful he wants me b-ack?"
Demi's voice broke in the end. Crouching down on the ground, she covered her face and began bawling in earnest.
Hastily stepping forward, Phobos hugged her to her chest and let her vent her grief even as she rubbed her back.
Phobos didn't know how to comfort her. Her own parents doted upon her while Husband's parents, while not as vocal in their support were always there behind her. She had never experienced familial discord. She had never been cold-shouldered by a relative.
Hesitant, she said, "Well, people are ambitious respectively. There are different things that they want. To your grandfather, his ambition is all." She paused. "To him, even family is just a tool to get ahead."
She hugged the girl in her arms tighter. "But, you'll always have us."
Demi suddenly looked up, her cheeks wet with tears. "And you? What is it that you want?"
Taken aback by the sudden interrogation, "Huh," she replied unintelligently.
Growling, Demi tackled her. Caught unprepared, she fell backwards onto the ground with Demi on top of her. Before she could speak to protest, her lips were roughly stopped up.
"Mmhmm!" Struggling, she pushed against Demi's shoulders, finally managing to get the girl off.
"Stop!" she cried out.
Leaning over her, caging her against the floor with her arms, Demi said, "No! I won't stop! Tell me Phi-Phi, why have you been avoiding me!?"
Wiping her tears with the back of an arm, she said, "When you refused to touch me during Master's first night with Ceres, I thought that it was because you weren't in the mood as Master was lying with a stranger. I didn't like that either and although I wanted you to comfort me, seeing your mood, I didn't insist.
"But, after that? Why did you always avoid me afterwards? Do you not like me anymore?"
Phobos felt Demi's warm tears splattering on her cheeks as Demi's gaze alternated between her two pupils, trying to find something in them. She noticed the hurt in her emerald eyes.
Phobos was speechless. She opened her mouth to refute her several times but closed it again as words failed her. It was true. She had been avoiding intimacy with Demi in the recent months due to the shift in her orientation.
Demi gritted her teeth. "It's her isn't it? You changed right after Ceres came. Always giving her so much of your time and attention. Even when she hurt us all so bad, you forgave her so easily. That's it. Isn't it? You forgot about me when you found your new joy."
Her hand clenched on Phobos' dress. "Even though… even though I set out a dress for you after worrying about it for so long, you wore the one chosen by her!"
Phobos watched wide-eyed and open-mouthed as Demi lowered her head and her shoulders shook with repressed sobs.
Then she began laughing. Demi recoiled like a kicked puppy, shrinking away from the laughter. Phobos didn't let her.
Grabbing the back of her head, she sat up and kissed her full on the lips, prying her teeth open with her tongue before invading her mouth.
It was long minutes before they stopped, the both of them gasping for breath as they stared into the other's eyes as they touched foreheads, Phobos' hand still holding the back of Demi's head.
That laughter hadn't been meant for Demi, she had been laughing at herself, at her foolishness. Demi had been suffering and she hadn't noticed, caught up in her own selfish notions of illusory concepts like 'orientation'.
Now, things became a lot clearer. Demi had been jealous, jealous of the new addition to the family who was hogging so much of their attention. After all, it was the only family she had.
And she was particularly jealous of how close she was growing to Ceres.
Mistaking her interactions with the vixen for sexual advances, Demi had grown resentful. That was why she was so antagonistic to the girl. Oh, her sharp intuition had played a part in it of course, allowing her to discern the discrepancy in Ceres' behaviour. But her jealousy was what had sent her looking in the first place.
Grinning suddenly, Phobos morphed, shattering her dress as she turned Feral and pinned Demi down. Yelping in surprise, Demi's eyes widened, before she too morphed and struggled out of her grasp.
The two cats were streaks of black and white as they chased each other across the room.
Every corner of the room was packed with the memories of their childhood.
The threadbare stuffed toy Phobos had sewn for Deimos on her eleventh birthday. The colourful pebbles Deimos had collected for her in return. The painting of them playing together, Deimos reaching down from the branches of a tree to help Phobos up, captured on canvas unknown to them by a clan Tamer.
Each memory was incomparably precious.
Thus, each step was trodden with the utmost care as they chased each other down memory lane.
As Phobos passed the torches, the shadows grew darker as the fires dimmed, throwing more and more of the room into darkness.
It seemed like the brightly lit portion was Deimos' domain, the portion in shadows was hers. She was winning.
Until at last, the final torch guttered out and darkness engulfed the room.
On the bed on which they had touched each other for the first time, the two girls gasped for breath, naked.
Phobos hovered over Deimos, her arms caging the shorter girl in as she lay on her back on the bed reversing the position the two of them had so recently been in.
Green eyes looked up at yellow, both of them shining as they reflected the dim light of the moon streaming in through the window.
Phobos' husky voice was heavy with lust as she set a palm flat on Deimos' toned stomach, slowly moving it up until it was cupping her right breast. "I'm not letting you sleep tonight."
Mars clutched his hair in frustration as his search of the lakeside where he had bonded Deimos came up empty. Where could the girl have gone?
Seeing that there was still no word from Phobos, she probably wasn't at the Estate. He sighed.
He would just have to search again.
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