Chapter 1: Valentine's Day
February 13th, morning, Maren
Since I had missed Gabe in our morning walk to school, I was now looking in the college library for him. At first I didn't see him, but walking around a bit provided me with the view of him sitting with a girl at a table. They were talking and laughing together. 'Who is she? What are they doing?'
Okay, so I'm a bit jealous. I hadn't spent as much time with Gabe in the past month as I had liked. We were both busy with college and work. He was getting more and more involved with the day to day operation of the restaurant while I had been working on my Thrusters after hours at the college workshop. I had to do my work mostly in private, since it had been classified and restricted.
Now I was seeing Gabe in the company of some girl and he hadn't even mentioned anything about her in our brief conversations walking to school earlier in the week. I was ready to go barging into their little get together, but just as I was about to go over, the girl leaned over to him and kissed him on his cheek. 'That does it! I'm done with him. That two timing dog... !' I didn't finish my thoughts about him, but just got the hell out of the library. Walking back to classes I reflected back to I came to be into this situation.
Less than two years ago I had been a boy myself. I had been sickly with a short life expectancy and really didn't like my life. After I had gotten MORFS, I changed into a healthy exotic beautiful hybrid girl. For a while I stumbled around trying to find out what my sexual preference would be. Then I had met Gabe and I was convinced that I was going to be a heterosexual girl. I had even thought about living the rest of my life with him, but now I had doubts about it. Oh, I wasn't questioning my girlhood anymore, and girls didn't attract me in the least. But wasn't it a given that the first crush or love interest never panned out?
A class later I was on my way to my next lecture, when Gabe showed up next to me. He sounded really casual saying, "Hi Maren. I'm sorry about this morning, but Paco made a problem that I needed to fix before coming to school. So, what do you say about dinner later today?"
I huffed and walked on quickly to my next class. Gabe still followed me, puzzled to my reaction. He asked, "Is there something the matter, Maren?"
Regally I replied, "Nope, nothing. I'm just busy, is all. Excuse me I'm almost late for class."
I left Gabe standing in the hallway perplexed, while thinking, 'Maybe I shouldn't have acted like that to him. But he should've explained to me about that girl.'
February 13th, morning, Gabe
Staring at a disappearing Maren walking away from me, I wondered, 'What is her problem? Did I do something wrong? I already apologized for missing her this morning. Why is she reacting like that? I haven't even told her that I'm tutoring Harriet on her Geography.' It never occurred to me that I should have told her that first. I really didn't think that it would be such big news. I mean, I had helped several people in the school with some problem or something they struggled with.
It got me thinking about how I had gotten here in this situation. 'I changed from a full hybrid into an almost non-hybrid and with the hidden hybrid traits at that. Maren changed from a boy with poor health into this beautiful girl. Maybe the gender change is catching up with her now. Should I give her some breathing room? Then again, I didn't take those secret dance lessons just for the fun of it. Though I still suck at dancing I could now at least make an appearance on the dancefloor. Why did I agree to start dancing lessons anyway? I will never be as good as Maren.'
I was still thinking about it when I got into workshop. I needed to finish my special project, a trinket for Maren for tomorrow. I didn't tell her about it, because I wanted it to be a special surprise.
February 13th, noon, Maren
I met Gabe again during lunchtime. I sat down on the seat that he had kept for me and started on my salad. I was trying to keep my figure because I had noticed that I had started to put on some weightThere was a dance contest at the end of the month, so I needed to be in shape and wear the nice dress for it.
Gabe didn't say much of anything to me, and I was wondering if he was mad at me for giving him the cold treatment this morning. My mood had lifted some, so I started, "So, Gabe? What are your plans for tomorrow?"
He looked at me innocently and asked, "Why? Is there something special tomorrow? It's February 14th isn't it? Nope, I've got nothing planned except a dinner in the evening with you.
Oh, I could hit him over the head; he could be so infuriating sometimes. He thought there was nothing special about tomorrow. Well, I should show him. I dug into my salad and didn't speak for the rest of the meal. I didn't notice the faint smile on Gabe's face, though if I had, I might have done things differently.
February 13th, noon, Gabe
I almost blew it, seeing Maren getting upset with my casual answer. I couldn't let her know that I had three surprises waiting for her. Maybe I should have given her some clues, but I decided not to. My mistake.
Maren didn't speak at all to me the rest of lunch and left in a hurry for her next class. I tried to follow her, but she quickly got out of sight as a student asked me something. I vowed to make it up to her, but you know how it goes with the best laid plans, something always happens to screw it up.
After classes I went to the dance classes that Maren was in. Well, she was less of a student than an assistant teacher, helping out the actual dance instructor, though she mostly used the time to practice with Lance for contests. I arrived a bit too early and watched them all dance. It was a little depressing; I would never be that good at dancing. Then I saw Lance grab Maren's ass in an inappropriate manner. I was expecting Maren to hit him or something, but instead she stood on her toes and seemed to be kissing him. I started thinking, 'Is she so mad at me that she is looking for another boyfriend? I thought she said she didn't like Lance that way. I better get out of here before she sees me; I don't want to talk to her right now. Besides I need to get to work.'
Februari 13th, afternoon, Maren
During dancing in class, Lance suddenly grabbed my ass. Maybe I should've zapped him, but instead I rose up on my toes and whispered to his ear, "If you don't get your hand away right now, you're going to lose it forever."
Lance quickly put his hand back to the small of my back and apologized, "Sorry Maren, I slipped with my hand. It won't happen again, I promise."
"Damn right it won't happen again, you know I'm not interested in you romantically. You're getting off with a warning this time, but next time I'm using my power on you."
Lance swallowed hard and just kept on dancing with me. I smiled inward, I scared him good.
After dance class ended I was looking around for Gabe, but didn't see him anywhere. Was he upset with me for my second cold treatment at lunch? Normally he would never hold a grudge, and certainly not this long. I was really disappointed that he wasn't there to take me home.
Lance offered to take me home, but I said I was taking the public transportation. I was so distressed that I didn't even see the mugger waiting for me as I walked to last part towards home before he suddenly appeared in front of me. He was a very big hybrid man, possibly a hybrid of a bear or something. He stuck out his hands with vicious looking claws towards me and growled, "Hand over your purse girly, or I'll maul you to pieces."
I simply pointed my left hand at him and powered up a lot by disintegrating a several air-molecules around my hand. I zapped him with my patented maser-lightning and give him a huge jolt. He twitched for several seconds with his hair and fur spiking out from his skin before falling down like a log. He was still sizzling as I stepped past him. "You shouldn't threaten girls like that. Some can take good care of themselves," I sneered at him.
Arriving back home, I was still upset enough that my family noticed. Well, Isabel always notices of course, she's an Empath, so she can sense any mood I'm in. She kept quiet about it, though I was certain that she would ask me all about it later. Mom definitely noticed, but she didn't say anything, just raising her eyebrow at me.
"So, why are you ready to kill someone?" asked my sister when we were alone in my room. "I could sense it from across the street."
"It's nothing," I tried to dismiss it.
"You're not getting out of it that easy. I know there is something bugging you." Isabel pried on.
"I can't get out of this, can I?" I asked.
Isabel shook her head. "Well, if you must know, I think Gabe and I are drifting apart. We had a bit of an argument and he wasn't waiting there to take me home. On top of that I almost got mugged on the way home."
"Dare I ask if the poor sap needs to be buried or just ended up in the hospital." Isabel said with fear all over her face.
"He was still breathing when I walked past him, so I think hospital. I just didn't care enough to call 911."
Isabel put her arm around me for a hug and I leaned in to her. "Why are men such idiots?" I murmured.
Isabel answered me softly, "They are men. That's all the explanation you need. You were one of them not too long ago, you should know. Though I think Gabe is one of the exceptions to the rule. I know that he cares a whole lot for you, just give him a chance to explain and apologize. I think you both just need to sit down and talk things out."
"Thanks Isabel. So, how are your studies for being a councilor coming along?"
She screwed her face, "Don't remind me. I think they want me to be a doctor first and a shrink later. You've got it easy with your engineering study."
"Don't count on it; I've got my own problems with that."
Later I thought things over while waiting to fall asleep. 'Isabel is right; I should sit down with Gabe and talk it out. I know he's not the kind of guy to cheat on me.'
February 14th, Valentine's Day, morning, Maren
In the morning I had another disappointment. Gabe wasn't at our usual meeting point. I walked by myself to school and was nearly there when Gabe came running up from behind. He said a bit out of breath, "Sorry for not being on time..."
I looked at him, his hair was still wet, so I guess he worked out and had a shower. "Did you have a nice workout?"
"Yeah, I did. I had to get something out of my system. I think..."
I interrupted him, "We need to have a talk about things. Soon."
Gabe looked at me, "I agree, but we're almost late for class, can this wait till lunch? Don't forget that we have the dinner appointment tonight."
I was about to answer when the first bell rang and we had to hurry to get to class. The professor was a bit annoyed at the late arrivals. Another girl was in late with me and we both got the 'very annoyed' look from the professor. He really had it in for us that class, asking us questions all the time. Fortunately I had prepared the lesson and answered everything correctly.
Near lunchtime I looked for Gabe and I found him alright. He was talking to that same girl again and this time she did more than just talking. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him full on the mouth. I watched it for a second before turning around and running out of the building. I was so mad that I even drained the batteries of the present I had made for Gabe.
A little later I was sitting on a bench and a familiar voice sounded behind me. "There you are. I've been looking all over for you."
I turned around towards Gabe. "I bet you have. What lame lie are you going to put on me? No, save it, I don't even want to hear. Some of my friends were right. We are not compatible. You're a dog hybrid and I'm a cat. We don't belong together. I don't want to see you anymore." With that I powered up and gave him a large jolt of electricity, completely forgetting that it only fueled his power as an electrical elemental.
I left him standing there and ran away with tears in my eyes. I didn't want him to see that I was crying. I was hurting inside from my own words, I had really loved Gabe, and now I practically told him to stay away from me. I skipped the rest of the classes and went for a long walk and some Ice-cream. The Ice-cream from the mall wasn't as good as Everybody's Place, but I didn't want to talk to any of Gabe's co-workers or even worse, Gabe himself if he was out of school early.
I had just finished my Ice-cream, when my eCom started vibrating. Caller ID said that it was Gavin, so I picked up, "Hello Gavin. How can I help you?"
"Maybe the question is how I can help you." Said a cheerful sounding Gavin. "I got a report of a big Kodiak bear hybrid found severely injured on the street. He was identified as a mugger by several people, so the police are happy to have him out of action. Did you by any chance happen to run into him?"
I sighed, "Yes, he tried to mug me. I was in a foul mood and just tasered him. I felt really upset at the time, so I didn't act on it any further."
Gavin chuckled, "Well, next time call 911 or me or even your stepfather. He was on the scene when I got the call, and we both had a thought that it might have been you. You should know that if he wasn't as strong as a 'ahem' bear, he might not have made it alive."
I sighed again, "I'm really sorry Gavin, but like I said, I was really upset at the time. His attempt to mug me was just too much and I lost it for a moment. Next time I'll call 911 and have the mugger picked up."
Gavin laughed, "Okay, well I just needed to tell you. It wasn't a big deal, just be a bit careful and make up with Gabe if you can. You really shouldn't be fighting so much."
"How did you ... You promised not to look into my head." I sputtered.
"I didn't need to read your mind Maren, it was easy to guess. Besides, I have other sources that keep me informed you know."
Lance also reported to Gavin I remembered. "Oh, well, okay then, but please keep out of my personal life, please with a cherry on top."
Gavin laughed again, "Sure, as long as you don't Taser every guy that bothers you on the street."
"I don't..." I quit talking as I heard his laughter. "Fine, I'll keep it down a bit."
Gavin wished me a good day before hanging up. I thought about what he had said. I considered asking Gabe what it was all about, but then I thought about him kissing that girl. I was ready to hurt him badly, but I also still loved him. 'What am I going to do about this?'
I got back into school just after classes ended. I knew that Gabe would be out already, he needed to get to his job. I still had work to do on my thrusters; I was close to understanding why my thrusters worked against hard surfaces, but not against water or air molecules. I really needed to fix that. Robin Gazarra had delivered on his promise to send me some new materials from DARPA and I needed to do some tests on them. Maybe one of those would solve the repulsing thrust against water or air, or even both.
As I walked through the deserted hallways towards my restricted workshop, I heard some faint noise. It sounded like someone was crying. Since I wanted no one near me when I was about to enter my restricted workshop, I started towards the sound. I found a girl sitting on the floor in a corner hiding her head in her arms. She was still crying a bit when I was nearing her position, so I guess she didn't hear me coming.
"Hello, is there something the matter? Do you need any help?" I asked in a comforting tone.
The girl looked up at me and I recognized her. She was the girl that I had seen kissing Gabe. I wanted to yell at her for stealing my boyfriend, but she was crying, and that would be cruel.
"I don't want to trouble you." She said in between sobs.
I felt a bit guilty, so I took her with me to an empty classroom. On my insistence, she sat down on a chair and I asked her, "Why don't you tell me what is troubling you. Why are you crying?"
She took the hanky that I offered her and blew her nose. She said, "You wouldn't understand. I'm not a regular girl. I morfed quite recently."
I sat down next to her, "You'd be surprised how much I understand. Please tell me what's bothering you. What's your name?"
"Well," she started, "my name is Harriet, or at least it is now. A couple of months ago I was a boy named Harry. I got MORFS and I changed into this body with hidden dog hybrid traits."
Now I knew why I had an adverse reaction to her, my cat hybrid instinct reacted to her dog hybridism. I didn't let her notice it, but said to her, "Well, that's not that uncommon, it sure doesn't seem like a reason to cry."
"There's more, I had some problems adjusting to college here and a young man noticed and started to tutor me a little and was very nice to me. I tried to get him interested in me, but he kept a distance. I even tried to kiss him, but he blocked me and said that he already had a girlfriend. I feel so awful that I tried to get him to cheat on her. I'm not even sure about my feelings. I mean, I'm all girl now, but my head and heart still need to make up their minds. I think I'm going too much towards my feminine side. I don't want to, but I notice all those cute boys looking at me. You would be used to that, but I haven't been a girl that long."
Grabbing her shoulders I made her look at me, "I do know how you feel. Let me tell you my secret. Up till some two years ago I was a boy myself and I also changed into a full girl. I even got my cat eyes and tail along with it, that's why I was feeling a bit hostile to you earlier."
Harriet interrupted, "I didn't notice any of that, but now that you mention it, I can see your cat eyes, they look really beautiful. Do you hate dog hybrids?"
I laughed, "No, I don't hate dog hybrids. I do feel some tension around them, but I'm dating a dog hybrid."
Harriet looked at me, "Please don't tell me that you're the girlfriend of Gabe Kramer. I don't think that I can handle it if the girl I was trying to steal a boyfriend from was sitting here being nice to me."
With a painful expression I answered, "Sorry, but I am Maren, Gabe's girlfriend. I was very angry at you for seeing you with Gabe, and I took it out on him already. Now I know that he was just being helpful and chivalrous, like always. I've wronged him, but since I know why now, I hope I can make it up to him. If you hadn't talked to me about your problems I would still be angry with Gabe and maybe I would even have broken up with him. Then you'd feel even more upset, wouldn't you?"
Harriet just nodded at my words. I think she really was sorry for all that she had caused. I felt really awful myself, I had judged Gabe on what I had seen and thought what happened. I shouldn't have doubted him. I decided to cancel my plans for testing the materials and go over to our planned dinner early. To Harriet I said, "I'd like it if you would be my friend, as well as Gabe's friend. I know it isn't all your fault; you have all those hormones screaming inside your body, and they make you all girly now. I know, because I had the same after I had changed. With some help you can get over it and find stability in who you are. So, what do you say?"
Harriet looked up at me, "You really mean that? I would love to have you as a friend, I think. Can I ask you to help me adjusting to my new life? Maybe I'm asking too much, I don't want to bother you."
Hastily I interrupted her, "It's not a bother, I'd be happy to help you. If you want help with your feelings though, I have to refer you to my sister; she's an Empath and is studying to be a counselor. On the other hand if you want some help integrating in society and getting to know other people, I'd recommend dancing. You do know that this college has a dance class?"
"I did see some notification, but I'm not good at dancing. Do you know anything about it?" Harriet asked.
Laughingly I told her, "I should, I am an assistant teacher here. My mom has a dance school in the city, and with my partner Lance I've won a few contests."
Harriet looked puzzled at me, "Your partner Lance? But I thought you said you were Gabe's girlfriend."
I explained, "Gabe is my boyfriend, but Lance is my dance partner. Gabe is a terrible dancer, even he himself says so. Lance and Gabe tried fighting over me, but I made it clear to them that I was Gabe's girlfriend and only danced in contests with Lance. They are both happy with the solution, I think."
"Oh, okay then. I have to think about it though." Harriet said thoughtfully.
"No rush, just keep it in mind. Now, I need to go find Gabe and apologize to him."
Harriet said goodbye to me and took off, while I thought, 'I need to take my present with me as well. Oh no, I drained the batteries. Do I still have time to recharge them?'
Arriving at the home of Gabe's uncle, I checked if I had everything I needed. Little black dress, check. Present, check. Smile, I put a smile on my face and stepped up to the door to ring the bell.
Just after one ring the door opened and a casual dressed Gabe answered. He said, "Yes? Anything I can do for you, miss Johns?"
My face fell, 'He is still angry with me? Have I really blown it with him? I really need to apologize.' "Uhm, we're still on for dinner aren't we? I have a present for you, although I think the batteries are dead."
Gabe smirked at me, "I was just teasing you, Maren, of course dinner is on, come on in. Here let me take your coat."
As he hung my coat up, he commented, "You look really nice in that dress. Now, what kind of batteries and how many do you need for your present?"
"Uh, two triple-A batteries." Then I got my mind back in order "Thanks for the compliment, I really don't deserve it. I said some things that I shouldn't have, please let me apologize."
Gabe interrupted, "No apology needed just yet. Have a seat, I'll get the food."
I sat down and waited for things to come. Gabe put on some trays with covers on the table. He sat down himself and said, "Shall we eat first?"
Stunned into silence, I let Gabe serve me and ate his exquisite food with pleasure. He really had out done himself on it. It wasn't in great volumes, but it was filling me up very well. As we got to dessert, he waited for a moment. He said, "This is special for today." He lifted the cover and said, "You're my Valentine and this is my special gift number one for you."
I looked at the hart shaped cake with a strawberry frosting and couldn't find any words to express myself. Then I remembered my present and gave it to Gabe. "You are my Valentine, Gabe and I made this for you."
He unpacked it, and found the heart shaped media player. He turned it around and put in fresh batteries. After selecting a song on it, he pulled me up from the chair and said, "Care to dance?"
I was perplexed. 'Was this Gabe? He never would have asked me to dance. He didn't know how to.' "I'd love to, but I thought you didn't know how to dance."
"Oh, I managed to talk your mom into giving me some secret lessons. My special gift number two."
I was about to say something, but he kissed me on my mouth, which shut me up quite well. He started dancing and I went along. He still was very rough in his dancing and wasn't even close to Lance's performance, but he did his best and I really enjoyed it. The song ended and he sat me down on my chair again.
I was about to say something, but he shushed me with, "Please, let me continue. I made this for you as well. My special gift number three."
He pulled out a small box and gave it to me. I opened it with trepidation, inside it was a heart shape locket. I opened it and found both our pictures in it. I got up and kissed him long and hard.
After we had some of the cake, I said softly in a wavering tone, "Please hear me out, Gabe. I saw you with Harriet and made some wrong conclusions. I said some things I didn't mean." Gabe was about to say something, but I shushed him and continued, "I had a talk with Harriet earlier and now I know that you kept her at bay. She felt bad at trying to get you interested in her. I offered her our friendship and I think she'll take it. Please, forgive me for being such a..."
Gabe interrupted me, "There is nothing to forgive. I knew that it would have been a misunderstanding. Besides I'm at fault as well, I should have told you about my tutoring Harriet, and then I made things worse in my attempts to keep all of this a secret. I love you Maren, nothing will ever change that."
I replied with a throaty voice, "I love you too and nothing will ever change that. Happy Valentine's Day."